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WASHINGTON, Nov 4, (Agencies): The US conducted a pair of drone strikes against Islamic State fighters in Somalia on Friday, the first time America has hit the jihadists in the Horn of Africa nation, officials said. The strikes occurred in northeastern Somalia and killed “several terrorists,” the US military’s Africa Command said in a statement.

According to Voice of America, which cited the chairman of the town of Qandala in the semiautonomous region of Puntland, six missiles hit an IS base in Buqa village, 60 kilometers (35 miles) away. “Local residents and pastoralists were shocked and fl ed from the area,” Jama Mohamed Qurshe told VOA. AFRICOM spokesman Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo said no civilians were in the vicinity of the strikes. “They struck their intended targets,” he told AFP, noting these were the first anti-IS air strikes in Somalia.

The first strike occurred around midnight Somalia time (0300 GMT) with the second strike coming at about 11:00 am (1400 GMT). In recent months, the US has repeatedly hit Somali jihadists from the Shabaab rebel group that is aligned with al-Qaeda, but Friday’s development marks a significant step in the ever-evolving war against IS.

“US forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats,” AFRICOM said. IS claimed its first suicide attack in Somalia in May, killing at least five people as it stepped up activities in a region dominated by the Shabaab.

The militants are led by former Shabaab cleric Abdiqadir Mumin, who switched allegiance from Al- Qaeda to IS in October 2015 and was named a “global terrorist” by the US State Department in August. Mumin was born in Puntland and lived in Sweden before moving to the UK in the 2000s, where he was granted British citizenship.

The United States has ordered all non-essential employees of its mission to Somalia to leave the capital, Mogadishu, because of “specific threat information” against them. Saturday’s statement says the information relates to Mogadishu International Airport. Somalia remains one of the world’s most dangerous countries. The US hasn’t had an embassy there since 1991 and calls security “extremely unstable.”

Yemen's Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for an explosion in Riyadh, saying they fired a long-range ballistic missile that travelled more than 800km over the border with Saudi Arabia.

A spokesman for the rebels told Al Jazeera they launched a Burkan 2-H missile towards Riyadh late on Saturday, a Scud-type missile with a range of more than 800km.

"The capital cities of countries that continually shell us, targeting innocent civilians, will not be spared from our missiles," the spokesman said.

Al Masirah, a TV network run by the Houthi rebels, also claimed responsibility for the attack on their social media account.

According to videos published on social media, smoke could be seen rising from an area near Riyadh's King Khalid International Airport.

The official Saudi news agency, SPA, quoted Colonel Turki al-Maliki as saying, that at exactly 20:07 (local time) a ballistic missile was fired from Yemeni territory towards the kingdom.

Maliki said Saudi forces used a surface-to-air Patriot missile to destroy the missile in an uninhabited area east of King Khalid International Airport.

He added that there were no reported casualties.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the reports.

In an interview to Al Jazeera earlier this month, Mohammed Abdul Salam, a spokesman for the Houthi rebels, threatened to to escalate operations on the Yemen-Saudi border and target deep inside the kingdom.

"The Saudis started the war. Our response will continue and increase, whether it's targeting deep inside Saudi Arabia, targeting military positions where Saudi jets fly from or military bases inside Yemeni territory," Abdul Salam said.

"Abu Dhabi and others that target Yemen, are as far as we're concerned, are a fair military target. Any country that targets Yemen will be struck by our missiles."

The war in Yemen, the Arab region's poorest country, started in 2014 after Houthi rebels seized control of the capital Sanaa and began pushing south towards the country's third-biggest city, Aden.

Concerned by the rise of the Houthi rebels, believed to be backed by regional rival  Iran , Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Sunni Arab states launched an intervention in 2015 in the form of a massive air campaign aimed at reinstalling President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government.

Since then, more than 10,000 people have been killed and at least 40,000 wounded, mostly from Saudi-led air strikes.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

President Donald Trump departed Washington for an almost two week trip to Asia on Friday, leaving a trail of invective and scandal that risks overshadowing efforts at top-level diplomacy.

Trump left Joint Base Andrews bound for Hawaii — where he will receive a briefing from United States Pacific Command — before travelling on to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

But before climbing the steps of Air Force One, Trump unleashed a Twitter barrage, pillorying his own Justice Department and calling for his former political opponents to be prosecuted.

"A lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me," Trump later said, complaining they were probing his campaign's ties to Russia but not adequately investigating his former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

 

"There was no collusion, there was no nothing. It's a disgrace, frankly, that they continue."

Read: Do Trump's tweets and outspoken comments affect the US legal system?

His comments dealt a fresh blow to the traditional barriers between the executive and the judicial system, breaking the taboo over presidential interference with investigations.

Trump will meet China's Xi Jinping, Japan's Shinzo Abe and other Asian leaders with his standing at home dramatically weakened by series of indictments against former campaign aides.

Ties to Russia

His week started with special counsel Robert Mueller — who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election — indicting Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on money laundering charges.

Mueller also revealed that a Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos had lied to the FBI about his contacts with Kremlin-connected officials, but then turned informant.

Trump said he did not recall a campaign encounter with Papadopoulos, during which the young aide proposed a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I don't remember much about that meeting, it was a very unimportant meeting. Don't remember much about it," Trump said.

'Crooked Hillary'

The president, who was elected one year ago, may be leaving Washington, but news from the US capital is likely to trail him.

New indictments are rumored to be on the way, perhaps within days.

While he is away Republican lawmakers will also be working furiously to pass tax cuts that are make-or-break for his legislative agenda.

And there will also be gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey seen — in part — as a gauge of his popularity.

Trump tried to seize on Democratic infighting ahead of those votes, fired up by explosive revelations from a top Democratic operative that the 2016 presidential primaries were tipped in Clinton's favor.

"Crooked Hillary Clinton, rigged the Primaries! Lets go FBI & Justice Dept," he tweeted.

Trump's trip itself had already promised to be anything but easy.

The main foreign policy item on the agenda will be efforts to contain or roll back North Korea's ballistic and nuclear missile programs.

It is the longest presidential tour of Asia since George H.W. Bush visited in late 1991 and early 1992.

That culminated in the 41st president fainting and vomiting at a banquet in Japan.

Trump used his departure to announce that the already marathon trip will be extended to include an East Asia Summit in the Philippines, which he had been slated to miss.

Investigators inspect a truck following a shooting incident in New York on Oct 31. Eight people were killed and numerous others injured in New York when a suspect (inset)Saipov plowed a vehicle into a bike and pedestrian path in Lower Manhattan, and struck another vehicle on Halloween, police said. (AFP)

NEW YORK, Nov 1, (Agencies): An Uzbek immigrant suspected of killing eight people in New York City followed plans laid out by the militant Islamic State group and planned the attack weeks in advance, US investigators said on Wednesday. Police said they had interviewed Sayfullo Saipov, 29, who was shot and arrested by police moments after the rampage in lower Manhattan on Tuesday, in which a rental truck was driven down a riverfront bike path.

“It appears that Mr Saipov had been planning this for a number of weeks,” New York Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller told a news conference. “He did this in the name of ISIS (Islamic State) and along with other items recovered at the scene were some notes that indicate that,” said Miller. “He appears to have followed almost exactly the instructions that ISIS has put out on its social media channels to its followers.”

In Kuwait, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on Wednesday sent a cable to US President Donald Trump expressing condolences and sympathy over the victims of Manhattan terrorist attack that killed eight people and wounded dozens others.

His Highness expressed condemnation of this criminal act, which targeted lives of innocent, breaching divine laws and human values. His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah both sent similar cables to the American president. No Kuwaiti was hurt after a truck rammed into crowds in southern Manhattan Tuesday, Kuwait’s delegation to the United Nations has assured. In a press statement to KUNA, the delegation stated that initial contacts with local authorities indicated that so far, no Kuwaiti was among the victims of the attack. For their safety, the delegation urged nationals in New York to stay away from the attack scene and to follow the instructions of relevant local authorities.

In case of emergency, nationals are also advised to contact the delegation on the following numbers: +16462622882 and +16466515230. The attack was the deadliest on New York City since Sept 11, 2001, when suicide hijackers crashed two jetliners into the World Trade Center, killing more than 2,600 people. A further 12 people were injured, some critically, in Tuesday’s attack. Similar assaults using vehicles as weapons took place in Spain in August and in France and Germany last year.

The suspect allegedly swerved the pickup onto a path filled with pedestrians and bicyclists on a sunny autumn afternoon, mowing down people in his path before slamming into the side of a school bus. He then exited the vehicle brandishing what turned out to be a paint-ball gun and a pellet gun before a police officer shot him in the abdomen. The suspect underwent surgery for gunshot wounds at Bellevue Hospital, where he has been interviewed by police, Miller said. Saipov reportedly lived in Paterson, New Jersey, a one-time industrial hub about 25 miles (40 kms) northwest of lower Manhattan. He had rented the pickup from a Home Depot Inc hardware store which was located in Passaic, just south of Paterson. US Senator Lindsey Graham urged authorities to treat Saipov as an enemy combatant, a move that would allow investigators to question the man without him having a lawyer present. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that Saipov had been radicalized while living in the United States. “He is a depraved coward, is what he is, and he was associated with ISIS, and he was radicalized domestically,” Cuomo said in an interview with CNN.

The majority of the 18 Islamic Stateinspired attacks carried out in the United States since September 2014 were the work of attackers who developed radical views while living in the United States, said Alexander Meleagrou- Hitchens, research director at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. Six victims were pronounced dead at the scene and two more at a nearby hospital, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said. Five of the dead were Argentine tourists, visiting New York as part of a group of friends celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation, the government there said. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said police will be out in force to protect the city’s marathon on Sunday, one of the world’s top road races, which draws some 51,000 runners from around the globe.

Source: Arab Times

مقامی میڈیا کے مطابق پولیس نے گذشتہ ہفتے ایک فلسطینی شخص کو اس وقت گرفتار کر لیا جب انھوں نے فیس بک پر عربی زبان میں گڈ مارننگ لکھا تاہم ترجمے کی غلطی کی وجہ سے عبرانی زبان میں اسے ان پر حملہ کرناپڑھا گیا۔

 

اسرائیلی پولیس نے تصدیق کی ہے کہ تعمیراتی ورکر کو اشتعال دلانے کے شبہے میں کچھ دیر کے لیے حراست میں رکھا گیا تاہم ترجمے کی غلطی معلوم ہونے پر اسے رہا کر دیا گیا۔

 

اخبار دی ٹائمز آف اسرائیل کے مطابق مقامی عربی زبان میں کسی کا خیر مقدم کرنے اور کسی کو کوسنے کے لیے جو الفاظ ہیں ان میں صرف ایک ہی حرف کا فرق ہے۔اطلاعات کے مطابق مذکورہ فلسطینی شخص کی گرفتاری سے پہلے کسی عربی زبان بولنے والے اہلکار سے مشورہ نہیں کیا گیا اور صرف فیس بک کے خودکار ترجمے پر ہی انحصار کیا گیا۔ فیس بک پر مذکورہ پوسٹ کو ڈیلیٹ کر دیا گیا ہے۔ 

US President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on hurricane recovery efforts with Texas Gov Greg Abbott (second from left), on Oct 25 in Dallas. (AP)

WASHINGTON, Oct 26, (Agencies): The House has approved bipartisan legislation to slap new sanctions on Iran for its pursuit of long-range ballistic missiles without derailing the 2015 international nuclear accord that President Donald Trump has threatened to unravel. The bill passed Thursday 423-2.

The bill, sponsored by Reps Ed Royce and Eliot Engel, requires the Trump administration to identify for sanctions the companies and individuals inside and outside of Iran that provide support to Tehran’s ballistic missile programs. Royce, a California Republican, is the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman. Engel, who is from New York, is the panel’s top Democrat. Both opposed the nuclear agreement when it was forged two years ago, but neither lawmaker wants the deal ditched now.

Lawmakers are aiming to hold Iran accountable for what they say is reckless, destabilizing behavior. The House also approved bipartisan legislation Wednesday to block the flow of illicit money to Iran-backed Hezbollah militants and to sanction the group for using civilians as human shields as lawmakers took aim at what they called Tehran’s leading terrorist proxy. The measures were approved by voice vote.

The bill targeting Hezbollah’s finances, sponsored by Reps Ed Royce and Eliot Engel, directs the Trump administration to sanction the people and businesses engaged in fundraising and recruitment activities for the group.

Hezbollah is a member of Lebanon’s coalition government and the House measure touched off alarms in Beirut, where officials feared major damage might be done to the country’s banking sector if the bill is signed into law.

But Joseph Torbey, head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, told reporters earlier this week that US officials have reassured a Lebanese banking delegation that visited Washington recthe sanctions won’t target Lebanese banks as long as they abide by American regulations. Washington considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization and has previously imposed sanctions on the group and its top commanders.

The expected new sanctions come at a time when the Trump administration is increasing pressure on Iran, Hezbollah’s main backer that has been supplying the group with weapons and money for more than three decades. Legislation sponsored by Reps Mike Gallagher, R-Wis, and Tom Suozzi, D-NY, calls on the president to push for the UN Security Council to impose international sanctions against Hezbollah for the group’s use of civilians as human shields. A separate House resolution that also passed Wednesday urges the European Union to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization.

The measure says the EU in 2013 gave only the terrorist designation to the group’s so-called “military wing.” Hezbollah “continues to conduct illicit narco-trafficking, money laundering, and weapons trafficking throughout Europe,” according to the resolution. “These critical measures will impose new sanctions to crack down on Hezbollah’s financing, and hold it accountable for its acts of death and destruction,” Royce said.

Meanwhile, Israel is willing to resort to military action to ensure Iran never acquires nuclear weapons, the intelligence minister said on Thursday in Japan where he is seeking backing for US President Donald Trump’s tougher line on Tehran.

Trump said on Oct 13 he would not certify Iran is complying with an agreement on curtailing its nuclear programme, signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, opening a 60-day window for Congress to act to reimpose sanctions. “If international efforts led these days by US President Trump don’t help stop Iran attaining nuclear capabilities, Israel will act militarily by itself,” Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said in an interview in Tokyo. “There are changes that can be made (to the agreement) to ensure that they will never have the ability to have a nuclear weapon.” Israel has taken unilateral action in the past without the consent of its major ally, the United States, including air strikes on a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007 and in Iraq in 1981.

A strike against Iran, however, would be a risky venture with the potential to provoke a counter strike and roil financial markets. An Israeli threat of military strikes could, nonetheless, galvanize support in the United States for toughening up the nuclear agreement but it could also backfire by encouraging hardliners in Iran and widening a rift between Washington and European allies. So far, none of the other signatories to the deal — Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, Iran and the European Union — has cited serious concerns, leaving the United States isolated.

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK: The CIA has launched a new “hunt and kill” mission in Afghanistan, targeting Taliban militants across the country, the US media reported on Monday.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said last week that the United States wants to beat the Taliban in the battlefield first to force them to negotiate peace with the government in Kabul. This is also a key component of the policy US President Donald Trump announced in his address to the American nation on Aug 21.

“President (Trump) has made it very clear. We are going to do everything we can … to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table in Afghanistan with the Taliban having zero hope that they can win this thing on the battlefield,” Mr Pompeo told a US think-tank in Washington last week.

The New York Times was the first to report that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is sending small teams of highly experienced officers and contractors to hunt and kill Taliban militants across the country. Other media reports added that these teams will operate with official Afghan forces but may not have official US troops with them.

The reports claim that US President Donald Trump has decided to give CIA an “increasing integral” role in his efforts to end the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, which is already America’s longest military engagement ever.

The reports noted that while the agency was involved in drone attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the ground it primarily focused on combating Al Qaeda and helping the Afghan intelligence service but now Washington has decided to give it a greater role.

The US military, the reports added, would focus on conducting large-scale operations and the CIA’s paramilitary division will perform these “hunt and kill” operations. The agency is already fighting the militant the Islamic State group in Afghanistan.

“The expansion reflects the CIA’s assertive role under its new director, Mike Pompeo, to combat insurgents around the world,” NYT observed.

“The agency is already poised to broaden its program of covert drone strikes into Afghanistan; it had largely been centered on the tribal regions of Pakistan, with occasional strikes in Syria and Yemen,” the newspaper added.

The report also said that the new CIA mission is a tacit acknowledgement that to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, the United States will need to aggressively fight the insurgents.

In his Aug 21 speech, President Trump also vowed to loosen restrictions on hunting terrorists. “The killers need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms,” he said. “Retribution will be fast and powerful.”

Mr Pompeo not only supported this strategy but also criticized Pakistan for not helping the US in eradicating militancy from the Pak-Afghan region.

In his remarks at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Washington, he urged the Trump administration not to have high-expectations from Pakistan.

“I think, history would indicate that high expectations for the Pakistanis’ willingness to help us in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism, should be set at a very low level,” he said. “Our intelligence would indicate the same, that is, I think, we should have a very real conversation with them about what it is that they are doing and what it is that they could do and about the American expectations for how they would behave.”

The CIA director acknowledged that Pakistan was an important country in a strategically sensitive region and that’s why it could not be ignored.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2017

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