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Trump: No regime should underestimate American resolve

November 5, 2017 rbksa 0
Sun, 2017-11-05 05:37

YOKOTA Air Base: President Donald Trump warned on Sunday that “no dictator, no regime” should underestimate the US, as he kicked off an Asian tour likely to be dominated by the threat posed by North Korea.
“No one, no dictator, no regime… should underestimate American resolve,” Trump told cheering servicemen at the Yokota Air Base on his arrival in Japan.
Trump had earlier described Japan as a “treasured partner and crucial ally of the US,” as Asian partners look for reassurance that Washington will back them if conflict with North Korea were to break out.
The president was speaking at the start of a marathon Asian tour that will take in five countries, starting with a trip to Japan to visit his “friend” Shinzo Abe.
Before touching down, Trump had announced to reporters on Air Force One that he was expecting to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during the trip, as the international community strives for a solution to the North Korea crisis.
“I think it’s expected we’ll meet with Putin, yeah. We want Putin’s help on North Korea, and we’ll be meeting with a lot of different leaders,” said Trump.

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Mugabe threatens to sack VP as wife booed at rally

November 4, 2017 rbksa 0
Sat, 2017-11-04 21:19

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe openly pilloried his deputy and possible successor Saturday, saying he might sack him, in a combative speech at a rally where his wife Grace was booed by some in the crowd.
The 93-year-old leader’s remarks exposed tensions in the ruling ZANU-PF party over who stands to take power after him, an event only expected when Mugabe dies but a generational change likely to prompt bitter battles.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, nicknamed “the Crocodile,” is one of the top candidates.
But Grace Mugabe — 41 years younger than her husband — has become increasingly active in public life in what many say is a political grooming process to help her eventually take the top job.
Mnangagwa has been accused by Mugabe loyalists of undermining the president and of fanning factionalism in ZANU-PF, which has already named the incumbent as its candidate for next year’s presidential election.
Mnangagwa, 75, was appointed vice president in 2014 and has been widely touted as the obvious successor to Mugabe, who has led the country for 37 years.
But a visibly incensed Mugabe unleashed wrath at his vice president, sitting nearby, when speaking in Shona in the opposition stronghold city of Bulawayo.
“We are denigrated and insulted in the name of Mnangagwa. Did I make a mistake in appointing him as my deputy?” Mugabe asked.

“If I made a mistake by appointing Mnangagwa… tell me. I will drop him as early as tomorrow. We are not afraid of anyone. We can decide even here,” he said.
“If it has come to this, it is time we make a final decision,” he added, telling Mnangagwa and his supporters they were free to leave ZANU-PF.
“You can go ahead and form your party because we honestly cannot have this. We cannot be insulted on a daily basis.”
Some rallygoers heckled Grace Mugabe, chanting at her “you know nothing” and “you are too junior” as the first lady spoke before a section of the crowd that broke into a popular local song “oyenzayo siyaizonda” which translates to “we hate what you do.”
She shouted back at the hecklers: “If you have been paid to boo me, boo, go ahead…I don’t care, I am powerful.”
She then repeated her ambition to be appointed her husband’s deputy.
“Even if I become vice president, is there anything wrong with that?“
Mnangagwa was last month stripped of his role as justice minister, in a cabinet reshuffle widely considered part of a campaign to reduce his powers and quash opposition within the government.

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US says Turkish gold trader facing Iran trial invoked Erdogan ties

November 4, 2017 rbksa 0
Sat, 2017-11-04 02:48

NEW YORK: A wealthy Turkish gold trader charged in the United States with violating US sanctions against Iran sought support from and invoked the name of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to advance his business, US prosecutors said.
The allegations against the trader, Reza Zarrab, had been detailed in a Monday federal court filing in Manhattan, but the Turkish lira fell more than 1 percent against the US dollar after Bloomberg News reported the filing on Friday.
Erdogan has not been accused of wrongdoing, but the case has complicated the US relationship with Turkey, a crucial Middle East ally.
Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer for Zarrab, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Turkish government officials could not immediately be reached.
Prosecutors accused the Iranian-born Zarrab and co-conspirators of handling hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran’s government and Iranian entities from 2010 to 2015, in a scheme to evade US actions.
Nine people have been criminally charged, but only Zarrab and a banker from Turkey’s Halkbank, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, are in US custody.
A trial is scheduled for Nov. 27.
But in a filing late Friday, Atilla’s lawyers requested a delay to January 2018, citing the amount of work still be done, “much of it” in Turkey, and the difficulty of trial preparation with Atilla housed in a Manhattan jail.
In Monday’s filing, prosecutors said “the government anticipates that the evidence introduced at trial will show that Turkish government and banking officials were integral to the sanctions evasion scheme.”
The filing detailed recorded phone conversations and documents that according to prosecutors suggest Zarrab was looking out for Erdogan’s interests.
It said one call occurred on April 16, 2013, when Zarrab spoke with another defendant about his efforts to buy a bank to establish a conduit for Iranian transactions.
Prosecutors said Zarrab and Erdogan, then Turkey’s prime minister, had spoken four days earlier at a wedding.
“I explained it that day at the wedding,” Zarrab told the co-defendant, according to prosecutors. “I will go back and will say, Mr. Prime Minister, if you approve, give me a license, I will go though BDDK (the Turkish bank regulator) even if I bought the bank anyway.”
In a separate filing, Atilla’s lawyers have said Zarrab has “essentially not participated” in the case and that Atilla might be the only defendant appearing at trial.
This raised speculation that Zarrab might be preparing a guilty plea or to cooperate, or that charges against him may change.
The case is US v. Zarrab et al, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-cr-00867.

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‘US hitting Daesh much harder after NY attack’

November 3, 2017 rbksa 0
AP, Reuters
Sat, 2017-11-04 03:00

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK: President Donald Trump said the US military has stepped up its attacks against Daesh following Tuesday’s New York City truck attack.
The alleged attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, told FBI interrogators that he was inspired by the terrorist group, and Trump tweets that the group claimed him as “their soldier.”
Trump says, “Based on that, the Military has hit ISIS “much harder” over the last two days. They will pay a big price for every attack on us!”
It is not immediately clear whether Trump approved any direct retaliatory strikes following the attack.
The president is calling Saipov a “degenerate animal.”
Daesh has claimed responsibility, without providing proof, for a truck attack earlier this week that killed eight people in the deadliest assault on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.
The militant group on Thursday described accused attacker Sayfullo Saipov, 29, as “one of the caliphate soldiers” in a weekly issue of its Al-Naba newspaper.
The Uzbek immigrant was charged in federal court on Wednesday with acting in support of Daesh by plowing a rented pickup truck down a popular riverside bike trail, crushing pedestrians and cyclists and injuring a dozen people in addition to those killed.
Saipov told investigators he was inspired by watching Daesh propaganda videos on his cellphone, felt good about what he had done, and asked for permission to display the group’s flag in his room at Bellevue Hospital.
Saipov was taken to Bellevue after being shot in the abdomen by a police officer before his arrest.
Earlier this week, Trump suggested sending Saipov to the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, where terrorism suspects apprehended overseas are incarcerated. But on Thursday, he said doing so would be too complicated.
The US president has also urged Congress to end the Diversity Immigrant Visa program under which Saipov entered the US in 2010.
The diversity program, signed into law in 1990 by Republican President George H.W. Bush, was designed to provide more permanent resident visas to people from countries with low US immigration rates.
Five Argentine tourists, a Belgian woman, a New Yorker and a New Jersey man were killed in Tuesday afternoon’s attack.
One of the two criminal counts Saipov faces, violence and destruction of motor vehicles causing the deaths of eight people, carries the death penalty if the government chooses to seek it, prosecutors said.
Saipov waived his right to remain silent or have an attorney present when he agreed to speak to investigators from his hospital bed, the criminal complaint said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has said it has located another Uzbek man, Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, 32, who it said was wanted for questioning as a person of interest in the attack.
Citing an unnamed law enforcement official, ABC News reported on Friday that Saipov placed a telephone call to Kadirov immediately before he carried out the attack. ABC News said the significance of the call was not known.

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EU refuses to get involved in Catalan leader arrest warrant

November 3, 2017 rbksa 0
Sat, 2017-11-04 03:00

BRUSSELS: The EU on Friday refused to intervene over the European arrest warrant Spain is set to issue for Catalonia’s deposed leader Carles Puigdemont, currently holed up in Belgium, saying it was a matter for the courts.
A Spanish judge is expected to issue the warrant demanding Belgium return Puigdemont, who is wanted for questioning over alleged sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds in relation to his region’s independence drive.
Catalan efforts to make the crisis an international issue have so far failed, and the EU has been steadfast in its support for Madrid throughout, insisting it is an internal matter for Spain.
European Commission spokeswoman Annika Breidthardt reiterated that support at a news conference on Friday, deflecting a barrage of questions about Catalonia with the same response.
“This is a matter entirely for the judicial authorities whose independence we respect fully,” Breidthardt said.
Puigdemont’s Belgian lawyer Paul Bekaert, who in the past has helped Basque separatists militants challenge Spanish extradition requests, told Flemish television channel VRT on Thursday his client would fight efforts to send him to Spain.
Puigdemont, sacked as regional president a week ago by Madrid after the Catalan Parliament issued a declaration of independence, has been in Belgium since Monday and calls the allegations against him politically motivated.
A Spanish judge on Thursday threw eight members of Puigdemont’s axed regional government behind bars pending potential trial, prompting a protest by some 20,000 people in Barcelona.
The Catalan independence declaration was roundly spurned across Europe, with Germany, France and Britain rejecting it and EU institutions sticking to their support for the government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
The European Commission’s powerful chief, Jean-Claude Juncker, warned after the independence declaration that the 28-member bloc “doesn’t need any more cracks, more splits,” saying he did not want the EU “to consist of 95 member states.”
Juncker will be in the Spanish city of Salamanca on Thursday to receive an honorary degree.
EU officials fear Catalonia could spark a domino effect in a continent with numerous separatist movements from Britain to Belgium to Romania, and with the bloc still reeling from the impact of Brexit, a fresh blow to unity is seen as a major threat.
But the bloc’s stance is causing disquiet among some MEPs, who see Madrid’s hard-line handling of the crisis as running counter to European democratic ideals.
“The silence of the European Institutions remains astounding,” Ska Keller and Philippe Lamberts, the heads of the Greens bloc in the European Parliament, said Friday.
“While the European Com-mission is right to assert the rule of law as a foundation of the Union, so are fairness, building bridges and democratic principles, which have to be respected in all member states.”

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Merkel optimistic on forming new coalition

November 3, 2017 rbksa 0
The Associated Press
Sat, 2017-11-04 03:00

BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that she is still optimistic about the chances of disparate parties allying to form Germany’s next government after an initial round of talks produced little visible progress.
Germany’s Sept. 24 election left Merkel trying to form an untried coalition of her conservative Union bloc, the pro-business Free Democrats and the traditionally left-leaning Greens.
Over the past 10 days, negotiators struggled to find common ground on issues including immigration and refugees, climate protection and agriculture. While Merkel has kept a low profile, prominent figures from other parties have repeatedly sniped at each other.
Merkel said there are still “difficult” discussions ahead “but I still believe that we can tie the ends together if we make an effort, and in a way that allows every partner to emphasize its identity and something good comes out of it for the whole country.”
The Free Democrats’ leader, Christian Lindner, said the parties have now set out their differing positions “and in the second phase, we now face the task of building bridges.”
“It is an opportunity if such different parties can agree on what is good for our country, but it is also difficult,” said Greens co-leader Katrin Goering-Eckardt.
Fellow Green Juergen Trittin was less diplomatic, telling ARD television earlier Friday that in four of 12 policy areas “we haven’t managed to agree what we don’t agree on.”
“We understand that others need their priorities, but we see that others apparently believe they can do this with the motto, ‘we won’t give anything away’,” he said. “And we won’t get it done that way.”
Merkel governed for the last four years in a coalition with the center-left Social Democrats, Germany’s second-biggest party. The Social Democrats are adamant that they will go into opposition after a disastrous election result, leaving a combination with the Free Democrats and Greens as the only politically feasible option.
Weeks or even months of haggling are likely to be needed, along with ballots of the Greens’ and Free Democrats’ members on an eventual deal.

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‘Pro-Daesh stragglers a threat to Marawi’

November 3, 2017 rbksa 0
Sat, 2017-11-04 03:00

MANILA: Armed stragglers supporting Daesh and hiding out among the ruins of a Philippine city after the end of a five-month battle still pose a threat to returning civilians, the military said on Friday.
The admission came after authorities arrested an armed Indonesian militant this week and killed three other gunmen in the bombed-out southern city of Marawi. “The main battle area, where most of the very heavy fighting occurred in the last few weeks prior to the liberation and the cessation of combat operation still harbors a number of stragglers,” military spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla said.
“These so-called stragglers continue to pose a huge threat to our people in Marawi as has been proven by the events of the past few days,” Padilla told reporters in Manila. Hundreds of local and foreign gunmen who had pledged allegiance to Daesh rampaged through Marawi on May 23.
An ensuing US-backed military campaign claimed the lives of more than 1,100 people including around 900 militants, displaced 400,000 residents and reduced large parts of the city to rubble.
Padilla said the authorities were trying to confirm information provided by the captured suspect that more than 30 militants continue to hide out in building basements and tunnels.

Militant leader’s widow
A Filipino militant leader’s widow, who has been arrested for allegedly calling on fighters to join a pro-Daesh group siege in southern Marawi city, also faces allegations that she recruited Indian men to fight in Syria and Iraq, Philippine officials said Friday.
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) investigator Joshua Raymundo said India has asked the Philippines to help investigate Karen Aizha Hamidon, who allegedly worked to encourage several Indian militants last year to join Daesh in the Middle East. Hamidon denied the allegation.
“They have detained several individuals who were recruited by Karen to join Daesh in Iraq and Syria,” Raymundo told reporters in Manila, adding that the arrested Indian militants identified Hamidon as their recruiter. Filipino authorities arrested Hamidon last month on suspicion of recruiting Muslims to join a deadly siege in Marawi. She faces as many counts of inciting to rebellion, they said.
Hamidon denied terrorism allegations against her. “I’m just a blogger. I am into journalistic articles, composition… and social media usage but no more, no more than that,” she told reporters after she appeared before a prosecutor at the Department of Justice.

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Niger Delta Avengers end cease-fire in oil region, says report

November 3, 2017 rbksa 0
Reuters, AFP
Sat, 2017-11-04 03:00

LAGOS/ABUJA: The Nigerian militant group Niger Delta Avengers said on Friday that they had ended their cease-fire in the oil-rich southeasterly region.
Attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta in 2016 cut Nigeria’s oil production from a peak of 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) to near 1 million bpd, the lowest level seen in Africa’s top oil producer in at least 30 years.
Nigeria relies on crude oil sales for two-thirds of government revenue and most of its foreign exchange. Attacks in the Delta helped to push Africa’s largest economy into recession in 2016. It emerged in the second quarter of this year, mostly due to increased oil production. The militants want a larger share of Nigeria’s oil wealth to go to the impoverished southern swampland region.
Cash fraud
Nigeria’s former national security adviser on Friday denied illegally channeling money meant for the fight against Boko Haram to fund Goodluck Jonathan’s failed re-election campaign.
Sambo Dasuki told the Federal High Court in Abuja that he “did not enter into an unlawful act with respect to any transaction” with Olisa Metuh, who is on trial for corruption.
Metuh, the former spokesman for Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is accused of receiving 400 million nairas ($1.1 million) from Dasuki before the 2015 vote.
The money allegedly came from defense funds earmarked to buy weapons and equipment for the Nigerian military tackling the militants in the country’s remote northeast.
Both Dasuki, who is on trial separately accused of sending the defense cash to other prominent PDP members, and Metuh have said Jonathan was aware of the transactions. But the former head of state, whose wife and other close family members are facing claims of graft, is not thought to have been questioned.

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US strikes Daesh in Somalia for first time

November 3, 2017 rbksa 0
Sat, 2017-11-04 01:30

WASHINGTON: The US conducted a pair of drone strikes against Daesh 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 fled from the area,” Jama Mohamed Qurshe told VOA.
AFRICOM spokesman Lt. 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-Daesh 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 Shabab rebel group that is aligned with Al-Qaeda, but Friday’s development marks a significant step in the ever-evolving war against Daesh.
“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 Shabab.
The militants are led by former Shabab cleric Abdiqadir Mumin, who switched allegiance from Al-Qaeda to Daesh 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.

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Italy says seizes opiates meant to finance Daesh

November 3, 2017 rbksa 0
Fri, 2017-11-03 13:21

ROME: Italy seized more than 24 million tablets of a synthetic opiate that Daesh militants planned to sell to finance attacks around the world, the head of a southern Italian court said on Friday.
The pills were seized by finance police and customs officials in the container port of Gioia Tauro, Italy’s biggest, according to a statement. The US Drug Enforcement Administration collaborated in the investigation.
A video shows police opening a container filled with boxes of Tramadol, a powerful painkiller normally available only on prescription.
With an average sale price of about 2 euros ($2.33) per tablet, the haul was worth 50 million euros, the statement said. Foreign investigators told the court in the city of Reggio Calabria that the drugs belonged to Daesh.
The drugs sales were “managed directly by Islamic State to finance the terrorist activities planned and carried out around the world,” Reggio Calabria’s chief prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho said using another acronym to describe Daesh.
“Part of the illegal profit from their sale would have been used to finance extremist groups in Libya, Syria and Iraq,” he said.
The seizure comes three days after an Uzbek immigrant, Sayfullo Saipov, drove a truck on a New York City bike path, killing eight, in the latest attack claimed by Daesh.
No details on how the illegal shipment was discovered or on its final destination were provided by the court. A similar shipment was discovered in Greece last year, and an even larger one was found in Italy’s Genoa port in May. ($1 = 0.8589 euros)

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