A deadly explosion last year that killed seven Marines and wounded eight more happened because a Marine accidentally double-loaded rounds in a mortar tube, an investigation has concluded.
The incident occurred in March 2013 at the Hawthorne Army Depot in the Nevada desert during a nighttime live-fire training exercise with 60-millimeter mortars.
The 19-page investigation report, along with hundreds of pages of accompanying interviews, shows that human error was to blame, though some responsibility was attributed to poor training and a lack of familiarity with the weapons system, according to the Marine Corps Times, which obtained the document through a Freedom of Information Act request.
“At no time did I have a feeling that something was off or we shouldn’t be doing this,” said one unnamed officer who participated in the exercise, according to the Times. “In my opinion, we were doing all right … It was just a freak accident.”
The Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, had just returned from a four-month deployment to Kuwait. The first time they had conducted the mortar training was two months earlier in January, but witnesses said they were highly trained, competent, and ready for the exercise, the Times notes.
The investigation concluded that four factors contributed to the tragedy: inadequate training and preparation for the complexity of the exercise; improper mortar gunnery commands and firing procedures; a “perceived sense of urgency and resultant haste” within the mortar section during the exercise; and a systemic lack of supervision of the mortar section during the exercise and in the months prior to it.
The report also says the blast was not the result of misconduct on the part of any of the victims, though it called for two other Marines to be reprimanded for failing to ensure safe conditions, proper training, and proficiency.
Iran’s recent diplomatic breakthrough with the United States has invaded the comfort zone of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council and forced it to embrace unification of militaries as well as true political and economic union. Rising suspicion of the Saudi push for closer solidarity could be linked to aggressive Iranian lobbying of several Gulf countries in recent months.
And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause? —1 Samuel 17:29
In 1990 the atrocities committed against the people of Kuwait roused our nation to righteous indignation. President George Bush announced, “This aggression-.-.-.-will not stand.”
While the Iraqi army continued laying mine fields and stringing barbed wire, armaments and supplies began arriving from America, Europe, and Africa, accompanied by soldiers, ships, and aircraft. Differences in uniforms, languages, customs, and manners faded as the soldiers became Desert Shield. The world had seen the outrages, and now the world had a cause.
In these last days, multitudes of nations are again gathering behind a shield. Differences in dress, language, customs, songs, and worship fade as the remnant church of Jesus Christ unites behind the shield of faith. We are preparing to go forth into battle against the devil’s forces. The church has seen the outrage, and the church has a cause.
You have a cause. It is not to make others righteous. It is not to change the world, though your cause will do all of that. Your cause is Jesus. Make Him your cause today.
Jesus, You are the reason for every season
in my life. You are my life and my
life’s cause. Amen.
Earlier this month, news reports surfaced out of Saudi Arabia that raised the red flag for Christians.
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs USA, says, “The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia—the top Islamic official in the country of Saudi Arabia—has declared that it is ‘necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.'” Nettleton goes on to note that the report hasn’t surfaced anywhere except on the Council on Foreign Relations Web site, which was then picked up by The Atlantic.
As Saudi Arabia is ranked second on the Open Doors World Watch List (a compilation of the 50 countries where persecution of Christians is most severe), the news is not really a surprise. There is no provision for religious freedom in the constitution of this Islamic kingdom.
All citizens must adhere to Islam, and conversion to another religion is punishable by death. Public Christian worship is forbidden; worshippers risk imprisonment, lashing, deportation and torture. Evangelizing Muslims and distributing non-Islamic materials is illegal. Muslims who convert to Christianity risk being subjected to honor killings, and foreign Christian workers have been exposed to abuse from employers.
Sheikh Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, created an implication with his assertion. Nettleton explains, “This was in a meeting with Kuwaiti officials who came to Saudi Arabia. They were asking this Islamic official, ‘What should we do about the churches?’ His statement was, ‘There should be no Christian churches on the Arabian Peninsula.'”
According to the report, the delegation wanted to confirm Shariah’s position on churches. Essentially, Nettleton says, “If you have churches in Kuwait, which they do, they should be destroyed. The interesting thing about this is that there are no churches in Saudi Arabia. There are no church buildings that are allowed to exist there. So he clearly wasn’t talking only for his own country. He was trying to export this ideology to the surrounding countries.”
This proclamation could affect churches in Kuwait, Oman, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Nettleton observes that “in most of these countries, we’re not talking about a lot of churches; we’re talking about a few that are allowed to exist primarily to serve foreigners that are living in that country.”
However, the U.N. Human Rights Council has yet to take a stand on such blatant violations of freedom of religion. How the governments implement this declaration is yet to be determined.
“Most of these countries would consider their native population to be 100 percent Muslim,” says Nettleton. “We could see more persecution. We could see churches closed or destroyed. We just kind of wait to see now.”
The concern raised by this view has not escaped the notice of the U.S. government, though. The most recent International Religious Freedom report (annually issued by the State Department) remarks, “Freedom of religion is neither recognized nor protected under the law and is severely restricted in practice. … The government officially does not permit non-Muslim clergy to enter the country to conduct religious services, although some do so under other auspices and are able to hold services. These entry restrictions make it difficult for non-Muslims to maintain regular contact with clergy. This is particularly problematic for Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, whose faiths require that they receive sacraments from a priest on a regular basis.”
For the most part, says Nettleton, the Mufti’s statement will be buried in the mainstream media. However, he’s encouraging believers to ask God to continue to intervene. There are Christ followers in Saudi Arabia who “take great risk to follow Jesus Christ,” he says. “They take great risk to even talk about their faith with another person. We can pray for God’s protection over them. We can pray for encouragement.”
What’s more, ask God to continue His intervention. While the Arabian Peninsula isn’t a place for the more traditional approach to sharing Christ’s story, there are still many who are encountering the gospel.
“Pray that Muslims will come to know Christ,” Nettleton says. “One of the things that’s happening, not only in Saudi Arabia but across the Middle East, is Muslims encountering Christ through dreams and visions and other supernatural ways.”
BAGHDAD(AP) — Iraq‘s Transportation Ministry says that country’s airline will resume commercial flights to Kuwait for the first time since Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded the Gulf nation in 1990.
A statement posted on the ministry’s official website said Monday that flights between the two “brotherly countries” is due to start next Wednesday for the first time in more than 22 years.
The decision follows an agreement designed to end a long-running dispute over reparations for Kuwaiti airways. Baghdad agreed to pay $500 million in compensation to Kuwait’s national carrier for damage caused during the occupation.
Kuwaiti authorities said earlier that the flights would start at the beginning of this month.
Although the airline dispute appears settled, other disputes over war reparations remain. U.S.-led forces drove Iraqi troops from Kuwait in early 1991.
The dispute comes as the UAE shows increasing unease about possible Arab Spring-inspired political challenges, including a widening crackdown on perceived dissent that includes 94 people charged with coup plotting.
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, co-director of the Kuwait program at the London School of Economics, said Saturday he was denied entry in Dubai and returned to London.
He said no reason was given. There was no immediate comment from UAE authorities.
In response, the London School of Economics pulled out of the planned Sunday conference on the Arab Spring and its aftermath, co-hosted by the University of Sharjah.
DOHA (Reuters) – Qatar has given $100 million in aid to Syrians stricken by their country’s civil war, Qatar’s state news agency said on Thursday, the first tranche of at least $900 million pledged by Gulf Arab states.
Four million people inside Syria need food, shelter and other aid, and more than 700,000 are estimated to have fled to countries nearby, the United Nations says. About 70,000 people have been killed during the two-year-old conflict, it says.
Qatar’s government has been among the most vocal regional supporters of Syria’s rebels, and has called for an Arab force to end bloodshed if international diplomatic efforts fail.
Led by a ruling family that does not shy away from taking controversial positions on world affairs, the gas-producing Gulf Arab state was a major supporter of Libya’s NATO-backed rebels.
Donor countries meeting in Kuwait last month pledged more than $1.5 billion to aid Syrians affected by the civil war, with about $1 billion earmarked for other countries in the region hosting refugees and $500 million for humanitarian aid to Syrians displaced inside the country.
However, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said last month that international aid to Syria was not being distributed equally, with government-controlled areas receiving nearly all of it, and opposition-held zones getting only a tiny share.
(Reporting By Regan Doherty; Editing by Pravin Char)