Morning Security Brief: Fatal Mudslide, Malaysia Flight, Russian Threat, and Israeli Counterterrorism
Search in Washington state continues, Possible Malaysian plan wreckage, Russian threatens while Ukraine retreats, Israeli shootings threaten peace talks
► The search for signs of life after a massive mudslide in Washington state continued, where at least 18 people are feared missing. On Sunday, a local fire district chief said the body of the fourth victim was found buried in mud at the site about an hour's drive north of Seattle, according to USA Today . The mudslide, which came on Saturday, destroyed as many as 30 homes and forced evacuations of nearby areas out of fears of flooding. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee described the scene as "a square mile of total devastation" after flying over the disaster area Sunday. He assured families that everything was being done to find their missing loved ones. "There is a full-scale, 100 percent aggressive rescue going on right now," he said. The mud was so thick and deep that searchers turned back late Saturday after attempting to reach an area where voices were heard crying for help.
► A Chinese military aircraft scouring the southern Indian Ocean for possible wreckage from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane MH370 reported seeing objects in the water on Monday, after data recorded by a French satellite gave credence to the view that Flight 370 might have fallen into the sea there, far off the coast of Western Australia, the New York Times reported. Also Monday, an Australian Air Force P3 Orion search aircraft located two objects in the search area about 1,550 miles southwest of Perth, one a gray or green circular object and the other orange and rectangular, according to Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister. He said the objects were different from the debris spotted by the Chinese searchers. He said that Australian, American, and Japanese aircraft were en route to the area to continue the search. As the search area grows bigger, authorities are also increasing their scrutiny of the pilots, searching their homes in the quest for clues. That items taken for analysis include a flight simulator from the captain's home.
► American and Ukrainian officials warned Sunday that Russia may be poised to expand its territorial conquest into eastern Ukraine and beyond, with a senior NATO official saying that Moscow might even order its troops to cross Ukraine to reach Moldova, the Washington Post reported. The warnings came while Russia was finalizing its takeover of Ukrainian military bases in Crimea, as the Ukraine ordered its troops in the region to retreat. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya, appearing on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” said the prospect of war with Russia is growing. And in Brussels, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Europe, said that Russia had assembled a large force on Ukraine’s eastern border that could be heading for Moldova’s separatist Transnistria region, 200 miles away. “There is absolutely sufficient force postured on the eastern border of Ukraine to run to Transnistria if the decision was made to do that, and that is very worrisome,” Breedlove said.
► Israeli forces shot three Palestinian militants dead on Saturday in a counterterrorism raid on a home in the occupied West Bank, Reuters reported. The Palestinian Authority denounced the violence, and said it threatened U.S.-brokered peace talks ahead of a looming April deadline set by Secretary of State John Kerry. A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Washington to take steps "to prevent a collapse" of negotiations. An Israeli military spokesman said its forces raided a home in a refugee camp in Jenin and shot and killed a Hamas militant, Hamza Abu Alhija, after he opened fire Palestinian officials confirmed that besides Alhija, two others from Hamas were killed.