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military

Egypt announces reshuffle in top security ranks

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appointed a new armed forces chief of staff on Saturday, and the interior ministry dismissed several high-ranking officials in an apparent reorganisation of the country s security command.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends a news conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 24, 2017 . REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

No reason was given for the reshuffle, but the interior ministry decision came a week after a deadly attack on a police operation in a western desert area of Giza Province, in which the ministry said 16 police were killed after coming under heavy fire.

Egyptian forces have been fighting several armed Islamist groups, mostly in the northern part of the Sinai peninsula, since Sisi helped lead the military overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.

Hundreds of members of the security forces have been killed in attacks by militants in recent years . A local Islamic State affiliate has been the main foe of the security forces in the north Sinai.

A statement from the presidency said Gen .

Mohamed Farid Hegazy would replace Gen . Mahmoud Hegazy, who has been made the president s adviser for strategic planning and crisis management.

In a separate statement, the interior ministry announced that it had replaced several high-ranking officials, including the head of homeland security, assistant to the minister for security in Giza province, the director of Giza s security and director of operations for central security.

It gave no further details on the shakeup . No militant group has yet claimed responsibility for last week s attack on the police in a remote desert area of Giza, about 130 km (80 miles) southwest of the capital Cairo.

Thirteen militants were killed in a raid on a farm hideout in the region on Friday . State news agency MENA quoted a security official as saying it was revenge for the blood of the men who were martyred last week in the oasis .

The vast western desert region has always been a security headache with arms flowing across the frontier with Libya, where militant groups have found shelter since the country fell into chaos after the 2011 end of Muammar Gaddafi s rule.

Sisi is a former military commander elected by a landslide in 2014 and presents himself as a bulwark against Islamist militancy . He is widely expected to run for re-election next year.

Reporting by Mostafa Hashem; Writing by Arwa Gaballa; Editing by Patrick Markey and Andrew Roche

Sixteen police die in clash in Egypt’s Western desert

CAIRO (Reuters) – At least sixteen police officers were killed in a shoot-out during a raid on a suspected militant hideout in Egypt s Western desert, two security sources said on Friday.

A number of suspected militants were also killed and security forces are continuing to comb the area, a statement by the Interior Ministry said.

Egypt is facing an Islamist insurgency concentrated in the Sinai peninsula from two main groups, including an Islamic State affiliate, that has killed hundreds of security forces since 2013.

Islamist militants have launched several major attacks, most recently targeting churches in Cairo and other cities with the loss of dozens of lives.

The security sources said authorities were following a lead to a hideout deep in the heart of the desert thought to house eight suspected members of Hasm, a group which has claimed several attacks around the capital targeting judges and policemen since last year.

The number of dead was expected to rise, the security sources said.

The suspected militants tried to flee after the exchange of fire, the sources said, and continued to fire from higher ground at a second security unit called in for backup . They also detonated explosive devices.

Two security sources said 8 security personnel were injured in the clashes, while another source said that four of the injured were police officers and four others suspected militants.

Egypt accuses Hasm of being the militant wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group it outlawed in 2013 . The Muslim Brotherhood denies this.

The Islamist insurgency in the Sinai peninsula has grown since the military overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013 following mass protests against his rule.

The militant group staging the insurgency pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2014 .

It is blamed for the killing of hundreds of soldiers and policemen and has started to target other areas, including Egypt s Christian Copts.

Reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, Additional reporting by Mostafa Hashem; Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Ralph Boulton

China’s leadership gathers for secretive summit amid tight security

For a seaside resort where nothing is officially happening, the town of Beidaihe in northern China has a lot of security. There is an armed police checkpoint on the outskirts. We’re stopped again for another passport check further on. Uniformed officers are stationed at regular intervals along the roads, their plainclothes colleagues, identifiable by plastic earpieces, standing nearby. By the beach, among tourists carrying rubber rings, we saw armed paramilitary police.

Image: Communist Party villas near public beaches

No one will confirm it, but they are here to protect China’s Communist Party leadership, thought to be holding its annual secretive summit at the resort. Mao Zedong started the tradition in the 1950s, with the party elite decamping to the coast to escape the stifling Beijing summer heat, to decide the country’s future in private. For all the appearance of modernisation in China, in 2017, this is still how power is exercised in the “People’s Republic” – behind high walls and carefully guarded gates. There is no mention of the meeting in state media. The only indication it has started is the sudden absence of senior officials from evening news bulletins, and the simultaneous appearance of heavy security on the streets of Beidaihe. On one side of a long fence is the crowded public beach – on the other, the manicured, private sands of the Communist Party villas.

Image: Black cars sweep through at speed

At intervals, black cars sweep through at speed, as ordinary traffic is halted to let them pass. But then we were ordered to stop filming . When I asked why, I was told: “Because we are police.” More plainclothes security agents followed us along the street, before stopping and questioning us about what we were doing there, and taking our names and passport details.

Image: Sky’s Katie Stallard was stopped by officers

This is a crucial year for General Secretary Xi Jinping, who appears to be consolidating his personal control ahead of an important party congress this autumn, which will determine the country’s leadership for the next five years. He may also signal whether he plans to step down in line with the recent convention of serving two terms, which would end in 2022, or intends to stay in power. At a military parade1 to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army recently, President Xi appeared, unusually, as the only civilian on the podium, and reviewed the troops in combat fatigues.

Image: China’s President Xi Jinping

“Xi was wearing his commander-in-chief hat both literally and figuratively,” Andrew Polk, co-founder of Trivium China explained. “This is a very clear signal that Xi is in charge of the army, which is part and parcel of being a powerful leader.

“The message is: I’m in charge of domestic politics, I’m in charge of the military apparatus, the nation is strong, and I am the leader of that strong nation.” Back in Beidaihe, we found more clues to who was in town on a roundabout, where red characters spelled out: “The Party is in my heart, welcome the 19th Congress.” There were more warm words for the Party’s leadership on the beach.

Image: One of the packed public beaches in Beidaihe

“I think it’s quite normal that the government take some measures and they have the right to do this their own way . They do that for our country’s safety and people’s happiness,” one man assured us. Soaking up the sun nearby, another man told us: “China has thousands of years of history . It needs time to develop, but I think China is getting better and better.”

If Xi Jinping could have heard him on his side of the fence, he would have approved.

References

  1. ^ military parade (news.sky.com)