Turkey to reopen Mosul consulate: Erdogan

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters as he leaves from a mosque following the Friday prayers in Ankara, Turkey, on Friday, August 3, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 05 August 2018
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Turkey to reopen Mosul consulate: Erdogan

  • The consulates general in Mosul and (the southern Iraqi city) of Basra will resume operations within 100 days
  • Turkey evacuated the Basra consulate for security reasons in 2014 a week after Daesh seized the Mosul mission

ANKARA: Turkey is set to open a consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, four years after it was seized and its employees held hostage by Daesh, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.
Ankara had opened a well-staffed consulate in Mosul before the rise of Daesh there and in neighboring Syria.
But 46 Turks, including diplomats, their children, special forces officers and other Turkish employees were taken hostage by the militants in June 2014. The hostages were freed in September 2014 after a three-month ordeal.
Symbolically, the consulate building was destroyed in a US-led coalition airstrike in April 2016 carried out in coordination with Ankara. The city was retaken by Iraqi forces in June 2017.
“The consulates general in Mosul and (the southern Iraqi city) of Basra will resume operations within 100 days,” Erdogan told a meeting on government plans after his June 24 election victory.
Turkish officials had previously indicated Ankara was keen to reopen the consulate in Mosul but this was the first mention that a time frame has been evoked.
Turkey evacuated the Basra consulate for security reasons in 2014 a week after Daesh seized the Mosul mission.
The circumstances in which the Mosul consulate staff were freed remain murky, with reports at the time indicating they had been released in exchange for Daesh militants held by Turkey.
Erdogan, then premier, insisted no ransom had been paid, saying there were “only diplomatic and political negotiations” and describing the outcome as “a diplomatic victory.”
The former Turkish consul general in Mosul who was kidnapped with the other Turks, Ozturk Yilmaz, went into politics and became a deputy chairman of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and is its main spokesman on foreign affairs.


Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of FireEye, during a presentation about the APT33 in Dubai Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

  • The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.
  • Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

DUBAI: An Iranian government-aligned group of hackers launched a major campaign targeting Mideast energy firms and others ahead of US sanctions on Iran, a cybersecurity firm said Tuesday, warning further attacks remain possible as America reimposes others on Tehran.

While the firm FireEye says the so-called “spear-phishing” email campaign only involves hackers stealing information from infected computers, it involves a similar type of malware previously used to inject a program that destroyed tens of thousands of terminals in Saudi Arabia.

The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.

“Whenever we see Iranian threat groups active in this region, particularly in line with geopolitical events, we have to be concerned they might either be engaged in or pre-positioning for a disruptive attack,” Alister Shepherd, a director for a FireEye subsidiary, told The Associated Press.

Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

“Iran’s cyber capabilities are purely defensive, and these claims made by private firms are a form of false advertising designed to attract clients,” the mission said in a statement. “They should not be taken at face value.”

FireEye, which often works with governments and large corporations, refers to the group of Iranian hackers as APT33, an acronym for “advanced persistent threat.” APT33 used phishing email attacks with fake job opportunities to gain access to the companies affected, faking domain names to make the messages look legitimate. Analysts described the emails as “spear-phishing” as they appear targeted in nature.

FireEye first discussed the group last year around the same time. This year, the company briefed journalists after offering presentations to potential government clients in Dubai at a luxury hotel and yacht club on the man-made, sea-horse-shaped Daria Island.

While acknowledging their sales pitch, FireEye warned of the danger such Iranian government-aligned hacking groups pose. Iran is believed to be behind the spread of Shamoon in 2012, which hit Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas. The virus deleted hard drives and then displayed a picture of a burning American flag on computer screens. Saudi Aramco ultimately shut down its network and destroyed over 30,000 computers.

A second version of Shamoon raced through Saudi government computers in late 2016, this time making the destroyed computers display a photograph of the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, who drowned fleeing his country’s civil war.

But Iran first found itself as a victim of a cyberattack. Iran developed its cyber capabilities in 2011 after the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed thousands of centrifuges involved in Iran’s contested nuclear program. Stuxnet is widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation.

APT33’s emails haven’t been destructive. However, from July 2 through July 29, FireEye saw “a by-factors-of-10 increase” in the number of emails the group sent targeting their clients, Shepherd said.