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Showing posts from February, 2017

Iraqi officers find Islamic State members hidden among refugees fleeing Mosul

A few hundred men who had scurried across front lines in a refugee exodus from Mosul sat on the ground in neat rows before an Iraqi intelligence officer who scanned the crowd for hidden militants.

The officer pulled a teenager onto a raised platform and asked the group if he belonged to Islamic State (IS). 
Muffled groans were followed by nods and muttered comments.
The youth was then dragged off to a pickup truck and his arms tied behind his back. 
He confessed to a three-month membership in IS and spending a week in a training camp, but said he had only been a cook and never carried a weapon.
As growing numbers of residents flee fighting between insurgents and Iraqi military forces seeking to recapture the IS-held western half of Iraq's second largest city, security units have been transporting civilians to government-run camps and weeding out IS infiltrators.
Just over a week into the offensive on the militants' last urban bastion in Iraq, some 14,000 inhabitants have slipped out…

Islamic State militants being killed at level they cannot sustain: UK general

The U.S.-led coalition effort against Islamic State is killing the group's fighters more quickly than it can replace them, a senior British general said on Tuesday, with more than 45,000 killed by coalition air strikes up to August last year.

On Tuesday, U.S.-backed Iraqi forces continued their offensive in Mosul, where several thousand Islamic State (IS) militants, including many who traveled from Western countries to join up, are believed to be based.
"We are killing Daesh at a rate that they simply can't sustain," said Major General Rupert Jones, deputy commander for the Combined Joint Task Force coalition, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
"The enemy cannot sustain the attrition that they are suffering and therefore they lose terrain, they lose battles."
The top American commander in Iraq said earlier this month he believed U.S.-backed forces would recapture Islamic State's two major strongholds - Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq - within the n…

Russia says U.N. move on Syria sanctions negative for Geneva talks

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Tuesday a U.N. Security Council resolution put forward by Western powers to punish Syria's government over its alleged use of chemical weapons would harm peace talks in Geneva.

The resolution, vetoed by Russia and China, amid U.N.-led peace talks between the warring Syrian parties, had aimed to ban the supply of helicopters to the Syrian government and to blacklist Syrian military commanders.
"It is counter-constructive," Gatilov told reporters. 
"The climate will be negative, not because we veto it, but because this resolution was put forward."
Salem al-Muslet, a spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee, said that the opposition regretted Russia's seventh veto on Syria, but planned to meet Gatilov and hoped that Russia would pressure its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"We hope that they come here having something in mind to push the political process here in Geneva, because with this reg…

France arrests four teenage girls for links with jihadists in Syria

French authorities arrested four teenage girls on Tuesday on suspicion of communicating with jihadists in Syria via the encrypted messaging app Telegram, a judicial source told Reuters.

In a chatroom the suspects discussed the possibility of preparing violent attacks, the source said, without elaborating.
Three of the four girls are minors, aged between 15 and 17 years, and the fourth is 18 years old.
French TV channel France 3 reported that one of the girls was in contact with Rachid Kassim, a French Islamist militant who is suspected of having inspired some of the recent attacks in France.

The U.S. military said in early February it had targeted Kassim in a strike near the Iraqi city of Mosul.

EU should pay more to return African migrants home from Libya, Malta says

The European Union should step up funding for the United Nation's migration agency to return migrants stranded in Libya to their home countries further south in Africa, the bloc's current president says.

The proposal by Malta, a frontline state for migrants, was presented to the other 27 members of the bloc earlier in February, and seen by Reuters on Tuesday.
Some 1.6 million refugees and migrants reached Europe via the Mediterranean in 2014-2016. 
Italy, as well as Malta, bears much of the immediate burden of dealing with African migrants who leave the lawless Libya on unfit boats.
Malta's proposal comes ahead of a summit of the bloc's 28 national leaders next week who will look at putting into practice agreements on new steps to stem African immigration.
The U.N.'s International Organization for Migration (IOM)estimates there are between 700,000 and one million migrants in Libya. 
It aims to help 7,000 people stranded there go back home this year, more than doubling it…

Man killed in clash at Palestinian camp in Lebanon

At least one man was killed on Tuesday in clashes between Islamist militants and the Palestinian Fatah faction at a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon where a power struggle has fueled days of violence.
The Ain el-Hilweh camp, on the outskirts of the southern coastal city of Sidon, has often seen factional disputes spiral into violence. 
Medical sources said the man killed was a civilian. Three other people, including a child, were wounded.
Gunmen from Fatah, the party of West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, have regularly clashed with Islamist militants in the camp, including supporters of Islamic State and al Qaeda.
Palestinian activists inside the camp urged people to protest against the violence, in which machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades have been used.
A loudspeaker on a mosque implored the warring sides to stop shooting to avoid civilian casualties, as gunfire rang out.
Shops and schools nearby closed as stray bullets landed in the area around the camp.
The la…

New Trump travel order will aim to short circuit legal challenges

In formulating a new executive order limiting travel to the United States, President Donald Trump has promised to make the directive harder to fight successfully in court than the one he issued in January.
One way the administration will likely try to do that, legal experts say, is to shape the order more narrowly to undercut the opportunity for states and other opponents to sue by showing courts they have "standing," or the ability to argue the president's order causes them harm.
But legal experts said a new order, which a White House source said was likely to be announced on Wednesday, was unlikely to fully eliminate the ability of challengers to pursue legal actions.
More than two dozen lawsuits were filed in U.S. courts against the initial travel ban, which temporarily barred travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. 
In one case, which ultimately got the order temporarily suspended, the state of Washington claimed standing in part because the ba…

Trump plan to slash State, foreign aid spending has foes in Congress

U.S. President Donald Trump's proposal to slash funding for the State Department and foreign aid faces stiff opposition in Congress, which must pass any spending plan, not just from Democrats, but also from many of his fellow Republicans.
Trump administration officials said on Monday they sought to increase Pentagon spending and offset that with sharp cuts in other areas. 
One official familiar with discussions about the State Department budget said the agency could see spending cut by as much as 30 percent.
Other officials have speculated that the total cut in the combined budgets of the State Department and the Agency for International Development could be as great as 37 percent.
"I am very concerned by reports of deep cuts that could damage efforts to combat terrorism, save lives and create opportunities for American workers," said U.S. Representative Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.
Royce said his panel would &qu…

Russia, China block U.N. sanctions on Syria over gas attacks

Russia on Tuesday cast its seventh veto to protect the Syrian government from United Nations Security Council action, blocking a bid by Western powers to impose sanctions over accusations of chemical weapons attacks during the six-year Syrian conflict.
China backed Russia and cast its sixth veto on Syria. 
Russia had said the vote on the resolution, drafted by France, Britain and the United States, would harm U.N.-led peace talks between the warring Syrian parties in Geneva, which began last week.
Nine council members voted in favor, Bolivia voted against, while Egypt, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan abstained. 
A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, France, Russia, Britain or China to be adopted.
Russian President Vladimir Putin described the draft resolution on Tuesday as "totally inappropriate."
"For my friends in Russia, this resolution is very appropriate," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the council after the vote.

Fed's Williams says March rate hike up for 'serious consideration'

With the U.S. economy at full employment and inflation moving back up toward the central bank's goal of 2 percent, the Federal Reserve could raise borrowing costs again as soon as next month, San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams signaled on Tuesday.
"In my view, a rate increase is very much on the table for serious consideration at our March meeting," Williams said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce. 
"We need to gradually ease our foot off the gas in order to avoid a 'too hot' economy that in the end isn’t sustainable."
The Fed lifted interest rates last December for only the second time since the financial crisis, and last month left them unchanged to give the labor market more room to improve.
With unemployment now at 4.8 percent, a level many economists say is consistent with full employment, and with inflation only a few tenths of a percentage point below the Fed's 2- percent goal, more Fed …

Trump intelligence nominee supports probes on Russian interference

President Donald Trump's nominee to be the director of national intelligence pledged on Tuesday to support thorough investigation of any Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, seeking to reassure lawmakers worried that partisan politics might interfere with a probe.
"I think this is something that needs to be investigated and addressed," former Republican Senator Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee during his confirmation hearing to be the top U.S. intelligence official.
Coats, 73, a former member of the intelligence panel, also promised that it would have full access to all of the documents and other materials needed for an investigation.
"I have no intention of holding anything back from this committee," Coats said.
Trump denounced intelligence agencies for their assessment that Russia sought to influence the election on his behalf, prompting concerns about his support for them. 
Trump has also repeatedly praised Russian Presiden…

TransCanada's $15 billion U.S. Keystone XL NAFTA suit suspended

TransCanada Corp (TRP.TO) has suspended a $15 billion NAFTA suit filed against the United States over the Keystone XL pipeline, the company said on Tuesday, after U.S. President Donald Trump approved the project last month.
The monthlong suspension of the challenge under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came after Trump signed an executive order smoothing the path for Keystone XL, inviting the company to reapply for a permit after the administration of former president Barack Obama had rejected the project.
If operational, Keystone XL would bring more than 800,000 barrels per day of heavy crude to the Gulf Coast from Canada, which holds the world's third-largest reserves but lacks the infrastructure to move it easily.
The project has received regulatory approval and government backing in Canada, but in the United States, environmentalists had campaigned against it for more than seven years.
In an entry dated Monday, the website of the International Centre for the Settle…