US hostage status: 18 months in FARC captivity
A new diplomatic cable released today shows the US government had no leads on where three American military contractors were being held after being kidnapped by the notorious narco-terrorist group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) 18 months after their single-engine Cessna crashed in the Colombian jungle.
In what can only sound like an extremely dire situation for the hostages, US intelligence suggests there were no leads as to the hostages whereabouts and that they may be used as “human shields” should any rescue operation not go to plan”:
“The limited intelligence we get on the hostages seems to have a short life. We believe they are moved frequently, so intelligence on their whereabouts would be of limited value unless we could react instantly. Consequently, Post recommends that preparations begin for a U.S.-led operation that could act on intelligence quickly.”
The hostages were eventually rescued in a joint US-Colombian mission on July 2, 2008, by would have to wait another four years before they were set free. The US and Colombian governments flew 3600 reconnaissance flights searching for the men, logged 17,000 flight hours and spent $250 million searching for them.
Thin-skinned Mbeki will require deft handling
Not long after Thabo Mbeki replaced Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa, the US diplomats expressed concerns about the new leader’s “shrillness and defensiveness” and that government officials meeting with Mbeki should be “prepared to recognize his defensiveness and high sensitivity to criticism”.
Written in 2001, two years after Mbeki’s rise to power, US ambassdor Delano Lewis expressed strong reservations about the propensity of the “hypersensitive” Mbeki to attack the press when criticised for his handling of the AIDS epidemic, his failure to speak out against Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and a contentious arms deal.
Lewis recommended that government officials invite Mbeki to Washington before Nelson Mandela in order to placate the “fragile ego” of a “brilliant, prickly” leader.
Nigeria: Kano businessman alleges Yar’Adua corruption
A real estate entrepreneur and long-time mission contact, whose name has been redacted, told the embassy officals in Nigeria that former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was involved with a rumored smuggler named Dahiru Mangal, who acted as a “Mr Fix It” and would take care of “anything filthy” that the president needed doing — such as smuggling items for wealthy Nigerian businessmen. In return Mangal received lucrative government contracts for his legitimate businesses.
Another unnamed embassy source collaborated the initial contact’s allegation, except they said that Mangal no longer went by the “Mr Fix It” moniker, as he was now an official adviser to Yar’Adua. This, the source said, showed that Yar’Adua wanted to “at least appear like he respected the rule of law”.
In another allegation, the initial source said that a person purporting to represent President Yar’Adua’s wife had approached him for a $US2 million bribe for a housing development deal. The embassy was not able to confirm the allegations, however they did note the source was reliable and that rumours of corruption had circled around the president, the first lady and other ministers in the government for some time.