On the edge of a Lithuanian forest, the stone and redwood building blends into the pines, as mysterious as the US agents who allegedly used it to interrogate suspected al-Qaeda members.
About 20km from the Baltic state’s capital, Vilnius, a former riding school in the hamlet of Antaviliai purportedly hosted a secret CIA facility in 2004 and 2005.
Locals are far from surprised by allegations about the site’s role behind the scenes in the US “war on terror.”
“The trucks were coming and going non-stop, there were people who spoke English, black men working there,” retiree Ruta Boreikiene said.
Lithuania’s minority population is minuscule, so the men’s ethnicity caught residents’ eyes.
In August, citing unnamed former intelligence officials and logs of flights between Afghanistan and Lithuania, the US channel ABC reported that the former Soviet state had hosted a CIA facility. The move, ABC was told, was a trade-off for Washington’s staunch backing for Lithuania’s 2004 NATO entry.
The Lithuanian government has acknowledged that flights refueled in the country, but denied the prison claims.
Last month, however, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said she had “indirect suspicions” about a lock-up. She was not in power when the alleged site was in operation, having been elected this year.
Lithuanian lawmakers launched a formal probe earlier this month. The findings are scheduled next month.
“We’re conducting our inquiry and we’re examining all possible sites,” inquiry chief Arvydas Anusauskas said on Thursday. “Details of our investigation will not be made public until we have completed it.”
The Lithuanian branch of the Baltic news agency BNS said the inquiry team visited the site last week. Anusauskas refused to comment.
On Wednesday, ABC had beefed up the allegations. Citing unnamed Lithuanian officials and a former American intelligence operative, it spotlighted the Antaviliai site.
The government hit back on Thursday, with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas saying there were “more important things in Lithuania than spending two days denying the gossip of ABC journalists.”
“We have to follow hard facts rather than rumors and wild tales,” he told BNS, saying Lithuania’s reputation was being tarnished.
“Therefore it is vital that we conduct an investigation and clear any doubts,” he said.
Officials at Lithuania’s national property registry said the building was constructed in 1992, a year after Lithuania won independence from the crumbling Soviet Union. It was sold in 1999 to two Lithuanian women who turned it into a riding school and cafe.
In March 2004 the site was purchased by Elite LLC, a firm registered in the US state of Delaware, Panama and Washington — which ABC claimed was a CIA front. Information showed it was sold for two million litas (US$863,000).
The new owners reportedly constructed a “building within a building,” where, according to ABC’s sources, suspects were interrogated using torture techniques such as sleep deprivation.
No planning applications involving the site have been made since 2002. But locals remember the apparent scale of the US owners’ work.
“Given the amount of earth they dug up and trucked out and the tonnes of concrete that was brought it, it seemed obvious to me that there was some serious construction going on,” said fortysomething resident Viaceslavas, who did not give his last name.
The register shows that the Lithuanian state bought the property in January 2007.
BNS said it has since served as a Lithuanian intelligence training center.
The Lithuanian security department refused to confirm that.
A dozen cars were parked inside the fenced-off property when AFP visited. There was no plaque identifying its current function and no one was visible at the site.
Former communist US allies Romania and Poland have faced similar claims about secret US sites in the past, denied by their governments — although the head of a Polish parliamentary inquiry said he had “justified suspicions.”
India has moved additional troops along its northern border as it prepares for an extended conflict with China, after several rounds of talks failed to ease tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. China has already placed about 5,000 soldiers and armored vehicles within its side of the disputed border in the Ladakh region, an Indian government official said, asking not to be identified, citing rules. India is adding a similar number of troops as well as artillery guns along the border to fend off the continuing incursions by the Chinese army, the official said. The standoff began on May 5, when troops clashed
CLOSELY TRACKED: A US officer said that the warplanes were watched as they flew from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya and were photographed multiple times The US Africa Command flatly rejected Russian claims that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on Friday that the 14 aircraft flown in reflect Russia’s long-term goal to establish a foothold in the region that could threaten NATO allies. US Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director of intelligence, said that the US tracked the MiG-29s and Su-24 fighter bombers flown in by Russian military, passing through Iran and Syria before landing at Libya’s al-Jufra air base. The base is the main forward airfield for Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army, which has been waging an
Singapore’s otters, long adored by the city-state’s nature lovers, are popping up in unexpected places during the COVID-19 lockdown, but their antics have angered some and even sparked calls for a cull. With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping center, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey fish stolen from a pond. While many think of tiny Singapore as a densely populated concrete jungle, it is also relatively green for a busy Asian city, and has patches of rainforest, fairly clean waterways and abundant wildlife. There are estimated to be about
Indonesian officials are forcing people who break social distancing rules to recite Koran verses, stay in “haunted” houses and submit to public shaming on social media as the country battles to contain surging novel coronavirus infections. The Southeast Asian archipelago began deploying about 340,000 troops across two dozen cities to oversee enforcement of measures aimed at halting transmission of the disease, such as wearing masks in public. However, provincial leaders are buttressing these efforts with their own zealous campaigns to fight the coronavirus. Police in western Bengkulu Province have assembled a 40-person squad to find lockdown scofflaws and force them to wear