Month: September 2021

Senior al Qaeda leader killed in drone strike in Syria, US defense officials say

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A senior al Qaeda leader has been killed in a drone strike in Syria, U.S. defense officials confirmed to Fox News Thursday.
Salim Abu-Ahmad was killed in a U.S. airstrike near Idlib, Syria on Sept. 20. He was responsible for planning, funding, and approving trans-regional al Qaeda attacks.
A U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), carrying a Hellfire missile flies over an air base after flying a mission in the Persian Gulf region. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
“There are no indications of civilian casualties,” U.S. defense officials said.
The Associated Press reported Sept. 20 that a drone strike hit a vehicle traveling on a rural road in rebel-controlled northwestern Syria, killing at least one person.
The Civil Defense team, known as White Helmets, said the unidentified body was lifted from the car along the Idlib-Binnish road east of Idlib province.
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U.S. Central Command said American forces had conducted a “kinetic counterterrorism strike” near Idlib province targeting a senior leader of the militant group al Qaeda.
“Initial indications are that we struck the individual we were aiming for, and there are no indications of civilian casualties as a result of the strike,” said Navy Lt. Josie Lynne Lenny in a statement.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the vehicle had been carrying a militant linked to al Qaeda.
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The U.S. has carried out attacks in Idlib before, targeting al Qaeda militants and the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was hiding in the province after fleeing from eastern Syria.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader, promoted to top ruling body

close Video Who is Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un's potential successor in North Korea? Kim Yo Jong is North Korea's potential next leader. Description There is speculation, Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of current North Korea president Kim Jong Un will take over the leadership role in the country. Kim Jong Un's is rumored to be very ill, which would put his younger sister on the path to becoming North Korea's ruler.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s influential sister Kim Yo Jong has become even more powerful — after being promoted to the Hermit Kingdom’s top decision-making body.
The 34-year-old woman — who served as a deputy director in the ruling party — was named Thursday to the State Affairs Commission, the country’s top government body headed by her older brother, CNN reported, citing the state-run KCNA.
Yo Jong’s profile has risen in recent months, leading some to speculate that she was being groomed to succeed her sibling, whose health has been a source of much speculation.
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“Kim Jong Un has raised Kim Yo Jong’s status,” Shin Beom-chul, a researcher at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, told Agence France-Presse.
Yo Jong, one of three children born to Kim’s predecessor Kim Jong Il and former dancer Ko Yong Hui, was educated in Switzerland along with her brother and shot up the ranks once he inherited power after their father’s death in 2011.
She has often been seen at Kim’s side, including at his summits with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in and then-President Donald Trump.
In December, the strongman’s sister slammed South Korea’s foreign minister for his “reckless remarks” about Pyongyang’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic — warning the top diplomat that she might have to “pay dearly.”
She also made bellicose remarks aimed at Seoul and Washington, particularly ahead of the North blowing up a liaison office on its side of the border last year that the South had built and paid for.
VideoThere is “no doubt” that the North Korean leader has a very close relationship with his sister, Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul told AFP.
“Jong Un and Yo Jong spent much of their lonely childhood overseas together — I think this is when they developed something that is similar to comradeship, on top of sibling love,” he told the outlet.
Meanwhile, KCNA reported Thursday that Kim said he is willing to restore inter-Korean hotlines next month but accused Washington of proposing talks without changing the “hostile policy” by the US.
The leader made his remarks at the Supreme People’s Assembly, which gathered for a second day to discuss the government’s political, economic and social agenda, according to Reuters.
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As he expressed a willingness to reconnect the hotlines, Kim criticized South Korea’s “delusion” over what it calls North Korean military provocations.
“We have neither aim nor reason to provoke South Korea and no idea to harm it,” Kim said, according to KCNA.
The rogue regime severed the hotlines in early August in protest against joint South Korea-US military exercises, just days after reopening them for the first time in a year.
To read more from the New York Post, click here.

COVID cases spike in Australian state of Victoria, government blames people watching sports at home

close Video Americans should be concerned about Australia's lockdowns: Australian scholar Gideon Rozner breaks down the COVID regulations in Australia and how these regulations can spread to other countries on 'Tucker Carlson Tonight'
The Australian state of Victoria on Thursday reported a more than 50% jump in daily COVID-19 cases, and the government is blaming people who breached pandemic regulations to attend house parties to watch a football match.
State capital Melbourne traditionally hosts the annual grand final, which the football-obsessed city celebrates with a long weekend. Because of Melbourne's nearly two-month lockdown, two Melbourne teams played for the national premiership on Saturday in the coronavirus-free west coast city of Perth.
People cross Bourke Street in Melbourne, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. (Daniel Pockett/AAP Image via AP)
Contact tracers found a third of Victoria's 1,438 new infections reported on Thursday had broken pandemic rules by attending social gatherings on the Friday public holiday and on game day, officials said.
Melbourne's lockdown is set to end on Oct. 26, when 70% of the state's population aged 16 and older is expected to be fully vaccinated. Residents are becoming frustrated by the city's sixth lockdown.
State and territory leaders agreed in July that lockdowns would no longer be necessary after 80% of the population had been vaccinated. But with the delta variant stretching hospital resources in Sydney and Melbourne, some leaders have suggested they might maintain border restrictions until 90% of their populations are fully vaccinated.
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Victoria on Thursday reported five COVID-19 deaths in the latest 24-hour period. The state on Wednesday reported 950 new infections and seven deaths, which were both daily records.
Roughly half of Victoria's target population is fully vaccinated, partly because the state has delayed second doses to make more vaccines available for first doses.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, a Melbourne resident, said the city had become despondent due to lockdowns, the latest beginning in early August.
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“Melbourne tragically and sadly has gone from being the most livable city in the world to the most locked-down city in the world,” he said, referring to an Economist Intelligence Unit index that ranked the city at the top of its livability table for seven consecutive years until 2017.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tajikistan beefs up military presence on Afghan border as tensions rise, Russia urges calm

close Video Afghanistan drone strikes were 'purely for headlines': Joey Jones Fox News contributor Joey Jones reacts to testimony from Pentagon officials on the Afghanistan withdrawal and slams the New York Times' proposed redesigns of the American flag.
Tensions have been mounting in western Asia following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last month, with Tajikistan reportedly beefing up its military presence on the Tajik-Afghan border in response.
The Russian foreign ministry said Thursday it has been made aware of reports that Tajik military troops have been stationed along the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan and urged a calm resolution.
“We observe with concern the growing tensions in Tajik-Afghan relations amid mutually strong statements by the leadership of the two countries,” ministry spokesman Alexei Zaitsev said Thursday, according to Reuters.
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The Tajik government has exchanged blows with the newly instated Taliban regime in recent weeks, condemning the insurgent group’s lack of diversity in the Taliban’s interim government and expressing concerns over stability in the region.
“Recent developments in Afghanistan, linked to the political and humanitarian crisis and governance, pose a serious threat to regional security and stability,” Tajik President Emomali Rahmon said in an address to the U.N. General Assembly last week. “The current situation is a humanitarian catastrophe.”
“The growing intensity of fights between the ethnic groups and tribes in Afghanistan is another factor further destabilizing the political and security situation in our neighboring country,” he added.
In exchange, the Taliban warned the Tajik government against interfering in its internal affairs.
The insurgent group has additionally sent “tens of thousands” of fighters to the Takhar province in northern Afghanistan – which borders Tajikistan, Reuters reported Thursday.
Tajikistan also hosted a military parade this week in a southern province near the Afghan border.
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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday expressed concern for U.S.-trained Afghan allies who fled to Tajikistan following the collapse of Kabul to the Taliban.
The Biden administration has faced fierce backlash for its handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation that followed.
The U.S. evacuated over 124,000 Americans and Afghan allies by Aug. 30, but the State Department was not able to complete the evacuation of all Afghan allies and now lawmakers are demanding answers.
“We have gotten no assistance at all from the State Department to move them,” Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., told Austin.
Scott said Afghans who fled to neighboring counties like Tajikistan, have yet to receive any assistance from the administration.
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“We had people in Uzbekistan – the State Department ignored them as well and said they would get to them when they got to 'em,” Scott said. “We have a lady in Tajikistan that's nine months pregnant. That's one of our pilots. And we need help removing them.”
Fox News could not immediately reach the State Department for comment on the escalating situation in western Asia.

Russian authorities seek to detain prominent journalist

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Russian authorities are seeking to detain a prominent investigative journalist, in another sign of increased government pressure on independent media, opposition supporters and human rights activists.
Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, issued a statement Thursday accusing Roman Dobrokhotov, founder and managing editor of The Insider news site, of illegally crossing the Russian border into Ukraine last month, “bypassing the established checkpoints.”
The FSB said it plans to put Dobrokhotov on a wanted list “with the goal of his detention and criminal prosecution.” If charged and convicted, Dorbokhotov could face up to two years in prison.
Roman Dobrokhotov, chief editor of The Insider, walks surrounded police officers and journalists, in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
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Dobrokhotov’s lawyer Yulia Kuznetsova told the independent Russian TV channel Dozhd that the journalist has been on the FSB’s wanted list since Sept. 23.
Russian media reported on Thursday morning that police raided the homes of Dobrokhotov and his parents. According to lawyer Kuznetsova, the journalist's wife was taken in for questioning. Dozhd reported that Dobrokhotov's father was taken in for questioning, too.
Two months ago, apartments of Dobrokhotov and parents were again raided — in connection with a defamation case. These searches came several days after The Insider was declared a “foreign agent” — a label that implies additional government scrutiny and carries strong pejorative connotations that may discredit the recipient.
The Insider, a Russian news outlet registered in Latvia, has worked with the investigative group Bellingcat on high-profile cases such as the nerve agent poisonings of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
In recent months, the government has designated a number of independent media outlets and journalists as “foreign agents” and raided the homes of several prominent reporters. The publisher of one outlet that released investigative reports on alleged corruption and abuses by top Russian officials and tycoons close to Putin was outlawed as an “undesirable” organization.
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Two other news outlets shut down after authorities accused them of links to “undesirable” organizations.
The Kremlin, however, has denied that it is stifling media freedoms and insists that the “foreign agent” designation doesn’t bar outlets from operating.

Police officer who murdered Sarah Everard given life sentence

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A British judge has sentenced London Met Police Officer Wayne Couzens to life in prison for the murder of Sarah Everard.
Couzens, 48, falsely arrested Everard, 33, as she was on her way home from a friend’s house on March 3. He raped and strangled Everard before burning her body.
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Her death provoked a strong public outcry, which the judge noted during the sentencing.
“You betrayed your family and there’s no evidence of genuine contrition,” Lord Justice Fulford said. He described the circumstances of Everard’s death as “grotesque,” the BBC reported.
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“The misuse of a police officer’s role such as occurred in this case in order to kidnap, rape and murder a lone victim is of equal seriousness as a murder for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause,” Fulford added.
Couzens pled guilty to the charges, the severity of which Fulford argued warranted a life sentence.
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Everard’s family said they were “outraged and sickened” by Couzens’ actions, but found “some relief” knowing he will be imprisoned “forever,” The Independent reported.
“It is almost seven months since Sarah died and the pain of losing her is overwhelming,” the family said in a statement. “We miss her all the time. We hold her safe in our hearts.”
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The case has significantly impacted the public trust in police and how they vet officers. Some have criticized Scotland Yard for not doing enough to protect women and girls and tackle allegations of sexual violence.
Couzens had been accused of indecent exposure at least twice before he murdered Everard. An investigation will determine whether police properly dealt with the allegations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Former Nazi camp secretary in German trial, 96, on the run

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A former secretary for the SS commander of the Stutthof concentration camp was being sought on an arrest warrant Thursday after skipping the planned start of her trial in Germany on more than 11,000 counts of accessory to murder, officials said.
The 96-year-old woman left the home where she lives in a taxi on Thursday morning, heading for a subway station on the outskirts of Hamburg, German news agency dpa quoted Itzehoe state court spokeswoman Frederike Milhoffer as saying. Her destination wasn't known.
Presiding judge Dominik Gross said the court had issued an arrest warrant, and it remained to be seen whether she would be caught.
Prosecutors argue that the woman was part of the apparatus that helped the Nazi camp function during World War II more than 75 years ago.
The wooden main gate leads into the former Nazi German Stutthof concentration camp in Sztutowo, Poland. An elderly secretary of the former SS commandant of Stutthof was going on trial Thursday in Germany on charges of more than 11,000 counts of accessory to murder. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, file) (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
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The court said in a statement before the trial that the defendant allegedly “aided and abetted those in charge of the camp in the systematic killing of those imprisoned there between June 1943 and April 1945 in her function as a stenographer and typist in the camp commandant’s office.”
Despite her advanced age, the German woman was to be tried in juvenile court because she was under 21 at the time of the alleged crimes. German media identified her as Irmgard Furchner.
Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s office in Jerusalem, said the defendant had claimed in a recent letter to the court that she was too frail to appear for trial.
“Apparently, that’s not exactly the case,” he said.
“If she is healthy enough to flee, she is healthy enough to be incarcerated,” Zuroff told The Associated Press. Her flight, he added, “should also affect the punishment.”
The case against Furchner relies on German legal precedent established in cases over the past decade that anyone who helped Nazi death camps and concentration camps function can be prosecuted as an accessory to the murders committed there, even without evidence of participation in a specific crime.
Two lawmakers stand next to an empty seat of the accused at the courtroom, prior to a trial against a 96-year-old former secretary for the SS commander of the Stutthof concentration camp at the court in Itzehoe, Germany, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. The woman is charged of more than 11,000 counts of accessory to murder. Prosecutors argue that the 96-year-old woman was part of the apparatus that helped the Nazi camp function more than 75 years ago.(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, Pool) (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, Pool)
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A defense lawyer told Der Spiegel magazine that the trial would center on whether the 96-year-old had knowledge of the atrocities that happened at the camp.
“My client worked in the midst of SS men who were experienced in violence — however, does that mean she shared their state of knowledge? That is not necessarily obvious,” lawyer Wolf Molkentin said.
According to other media reports, Furchner was questioned as a witness during past Nazi trials and said at the time that the former SS commandant of Stutthof, Paul Werner Hoppe, dictated daily letters and radio messages to her.
Furchner testified she was not aware of the killings that occurred at the camp while she worked there, dpa reported.
Initially a collection point for Jews and non-Jewish Poles removed from Danzig — now the Polish city of Gdansk — Stutthof from about 1940 was used as a so-called “work education..