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SDF take Raqa hospital from IS

Monitoring Desk

DAMASCUS: The United States backed forces e back the Raqa hospital from the Islamic State militants as it was one of stronghold in Syria.

Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) told media on Tuesday that national hospital of Raqa was retaken from the IS militants in which 22 IS gunmen were killed.

It added that the clashes with the IS fighters continue near the municipal stadium as it was the other main position still in IS holds.

The SDF, backed by a US-led coalition are on the verge of seizing Raqa after having taken around 90 percent of the group’s former de facto Syrian capital.

As of late Monday, only around 300 IS fighters were believed to remain in the devastated city.


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India, Russia to hold first ‘tri-service’ war games

NEW DELHI (AFP): India and Russia will hold large-scale military exercises engaging their armies, navies and air forces for the first time, the defence ministry in New Delhi said Monday.

The two countries have held annual naval exercises since 2003 but this is the first occasion that both will combine all military services.

They come on the back of regional tensions, with New Delhi and China ending a months-long military stand-off at a strategically important disputed area in the Himalayas in August.

India has a longstanding territorial dispute with its northern neighbour, which is also expanding its naval presence.

The October 19 – 29 joint war games will kick off in the eastern military district of Russia, the ministry said in a statement.

“The year 2017 marks a major milestone as this exercise has been upgraded to involve all the three services of the armed forces (Army, Navy & Air Force),” the statement said.

The games “will provide an opportunity to the armed forces of both countries to train in counter-terrorism operations in a multinational scenario in a joint tri-service environment”.

India will send 350 personnel from its army and 80 from the air force, and military hardware including two aircraft and a frigate, while Russia will have about 1,000 troops.

Apart from anti-terrorism drills, the exercises will include professional interactions and establishment of joint command and control structures.

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Mogadishu attacks: Death toll rises to 300

Monitoring Desk

MOGADISHU: The death toll reached to 300 from twin bomb explosions in Mogadishu, as the friends and relatives were searching their love one in hospitals after a deadliest attack in a decade.

The twin bomb explosions were occurred in two busy junctions in the heart of the city on Saturday but still no organization claimed the responsibility till Monday morning.

Abdikadir Abdirahman, the director of the city’s ambulance service told international media on Monday that we have confirmed 300 people died in the attack and feared that the death toll may be higher because some people are still missing.

Aden Nur, a doctor at the city’s Madina hospital, said that as many as 160 of the bodies could not be recognized, they were buried by the government yesterday. The others were buried by their relatives. Over a hundred injured were also brought to hospital.

Saturday bomb attacks were the deadliest since militant group al Shabaab began an insurgency in 2007.

The militants were driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 and have been steadily losing territory since then to the combined forces of AU peacekeepers and Somali security forces.

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US diplomacy with North Korea to continue until ‘first bomb drops’: Tillerson

WASHINGTON (AFP): Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that President Donald Trump had instructed him to continue diplomatic efforts to calm rising tensions with North Korea, saying “those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops.”

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Tillerson downplayed messages that President Trump had previously posted on Twitter suggesting Tillerson was wasting his time trying to negotiate with “Little Rocket Man,” a derogatory nickname Trump has coined for North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump “has made it clear to me to continue my diplomatic efforts,” Tillerson said.

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14,000 lone children among Rohingya refugees: Bangladesh

COX’S BAZAR (AFP): Nearly 14,000 children who have lost one or both parents are among the more than half a million Rohingya refugees who crossed in Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar, an official said Sunday.

The UN says 536,000 mainly Rohingya refugees have arrived from Myanmar´s strife-torn Rakhine state since August 25, the majority of them children.

Bangladesh´s social services department said 13,751 children without a parent or parents were identified in a survey of the crowded refugee camps along its border, where charities warn that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding.

“The majority of them said they lost one or both parents in the violence in Rakhine,” Pritam Kumar Chowdhury, a department deputy director, told AFP.

“Others said they didn´t know what happened to their parents, and they came to Bangladesh with relatives.”

The UN has described the violence in Rakhine as a textbook case of ethnic cleansing, with displaced Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh describing whole villages being razed, gang rapes and massacres.

Those who survived and fled to Bangladesh include an estimated 320,000 children, one-third of whom are under five years of age.

Bangladesh is building the world´s largest refugee camp — a sprawling three thousand acre (1,200 hectares) settlement — capable of housing 800,000-plus Rohingya.

Last month a junior minister asked that 200 acres be set aside in the camp for children´s facilities.

Chowdhury said an orphanage would be built for unaccompanied minors, and those without a parent would be given extra assistance and familial support.

Aid agencies have warned there is a real concern that vulnerable children could be victims of abuse or trafficking

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Around 700,000 Iraqis still displaced: NRC

Monitoring Desk

BAGHDAD: The Norwegian Refugee Council on Sunday claimed that despite the recapturing the Mosul and surrounding areas in June from the terrorists, still around 700,000 still displaced.

It said that more than 673,000 Iraqis fled from Mosul and others areas after government forces took action against them to take back the area from the area and after one year of battle in the area, the residents of area were remain displaced and unable to go back to their destroyed neighborhoods.

Humanitarian group added that more than half of them may have lost their official civil documents — from birth certificates to property deeds which will make rebuilding their lives even harder.

NRC demanded from the international community to assist the displaced Iraqis and pressurized the government for the rehabilitation of these people.



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Somalia truck bomb death toll hits 137: police

MOGADISHU (AFP): The death toll from Saturday´s truck bombing in a shopping district in the Somali capital Mogadishu surged to at least 137 with 300 people injured, police said on Sunday.

“We are getting different numbers in terms of the casualty from the medical centres, but we have confirmed so far 137 (dead), most of them burned beyond recognition, police official Ibrahim Mohamed told AFP.

“The death toll could be higher because there are more than 300 wounded, some of them seriously.”

The blast struck on Saturday afternoon at a busy road junction, reducing buildings to heaps of rubble and leaving vehicles in flames.

Officials said it was one of the worst-ever bombings in this war-torn east African country.

“This is the deadliest attack ever,” Mohamed said.

“It is very difficult to get a precise number because the dead bodies were taken to different medical centres and some of them (were taken) directly by their relatives for burial.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The Shabaab, a militant group aligned with Al-Qaeda, has carried out dozens of suicide bombings in its bid to overthrow Somalia´s internationally-backed government.

Rescuers were digging through the rubble at the junction in Hodan, a bustling commercial district of shops, hotels and businesses in the city´s northwest.

“What I have seen at the hospitals I have visited is unspeakable,” Mohamed said.

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4 die as French army-chartered plane crashes off Ivory Coast

ABIDJAN (AFP): Four Moldovan nationals were killed on Saturday when a transport plane chartered by the French army crashed off Ivory Coast, firefighters said.

Another six people were injured in the crash of the Antonov aircraft which had 10 people on board, firefighter Colonel Issa Sakho told local television.

Four French nationals were among the injured, a French military source said, indicating that the plane had been chartered as part of the anti-jihadist Operation Barkhane.

“There were 10 people on board, Moldovans and French people. The four victims who died are Moldovan nationals,” Sakho said.

The plane had taken off from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and crash-landed in the sea near Abidjan, breaking in half, he explained.

Local forces were hoping to secure the wreck before it drifted away “so investigators can do their job”, he said.

A French military source said the Antonov was chartered as part of Barkhane, under which France maintains a 4,000-man mission in the region.

The operation aims to shore up fragile Sahel countries against jihadists who have carried out a wave of bloody bombings, shootings and kidnappings.

Cause of crash unclear

The French military base in Abidjan provides logistical support for the operation which is headquartered in N´Djamena, the capital of Chad. French special forces are stationed in Ouagadougou.

Every year, around 100 sorties are flown out of Abidjan airport as part of Barkhane, often by former Soviet army pilots in Ukrainian-made Antonovs.

The planes frequently carry French military personnel and sub-contractors accompanying their cargo.

There was a heavy storm over Abidjan early Saturday, but it was unclear whether the heavy weather was the cause of the accident.

France keeps around 950 military personnel in Ivory Coast as part of the FFCI force based in the biggest French army base on Africa´s Atlantic coast. Other bases are in Libreville, Gabon and Dakar, Senegal.

One of their key missions is to extract French or other western civilians in case of trouble in Ivory Coast or neighbouring countries.

Abidjan is strategically well-placed in the region as most French-speaking African countries can be reached by air in under three hours.

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Afghan Taliban killed infant, raped US wife, says rescued Canadian man

TORONTO (Reuters): A US-Canadian couple freed in Pakistan this week, nearly five years after being abducted in Afghanistan, returned to Canada on Friday where the husband said one of his children had been murdered and his wife had been raped.

American Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, were kidnapped while backpacking in Afghanistan in 2012 by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network. They arrived in Canada with three of their children.

“Obviously, it will be of incredible importance to my family that we are able to build a secure sanctuary for our three surviving children to call a home,” Boyle told reporters after arriving at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, wearing a black sweatshirt and sporting a beard.

Pakistani troops rescued the family in the northwest of the country, near the Afghan border, this week. The United States has long accused Pakistan of failing to fight the Taliban-allied Haqqani network.

“The stupidity and the evil of the Haqqani network in the kidnapping of a pilgrim … was eclipsed only by the stupidity and evil of authorizing the murder of my infant daughter,” Boyle said, reading from a statement, in a calm voice.

“And the stupidity and evil of the subsequent rape of my wife, not as a lone action, but by one guard, but assisted by the captain of the guard and supervised by the commandant.”

He did not elaborate on what he meant by ‘pilgrim’, or on the murder or rape. Coleman was not at the news conference. Boyle said the Taliban, who he referred to by their official name – the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – had carried out an investigation last year and conceded that the crimes against his family were perpetrated by the Haqqani network.

He called on the Taliban “to provide my family with the justice we are owed”. “God willing, this litany of stupidity will be the epitaph of the Haqqani network,” said an exhausted-looking Boyle.

He did not take questions form reporters. The family traveled from Pakistan to London and then to Toronto.

Boyle provided a written statement to the Associated Press on one of their flights saying his family had “unparalleled resilience and determination.”

AP reported that Coleman wore a tan-coloured headscarf and sat with the two older children in the business class cabin. Boyle sat with their youngest child on his lap. US State Department officials were on the plane with them, AP added.

‘Helping villagers’

One of the children was in poor health and had to be force-fed by their Pakistani rescuers, Boyle told AP. Reuters could not independently confirm the details.

They are expected to travel to Boyle’s family home in Smiths Falls, 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Ottawa, to be reunited with his parents. Canada has been actively engaged with Boyle’s case at all levels and would continue to support the family, the Canadian government said in a statement.

“At this time, we ask that the privacy of Mr Boyle’s family be respected,” it said. The journey home was complicated by Boyle’s refusal to board a US military aircraft in Pakistan, according to two US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Boyle instead asked to be flown to Canada. But Boyle said he never refused to board any mode of transportation that would bring him closer to home.

Boyle had once been married to the sister of an inmate at the US military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay. The marriage ended and the inmate was later released to Canada.

The families of the captives have been asked repeatedly why Boyle and Coleman had been backpacking in such a dangerous region. Coleman was pregnant at the time.

Boyle told the news conference he had been in Afghanistan helping “villagers who live deep inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan where no NGO, no aid worker, and no government” had been able to reach.

The Taliban and Haqqani network share the same goals of forcing out foreign troops and ousting the US-backed government in Kabul but they are distinct organizations with separate command structures.


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Pakistan, US heading towards ‘a much better relationship’: Trump

WASHINGTON (AFP): US President Donald Trump said early Saturday morning he wants to express his gratitude to Pakistan and its leadership for their “cooperation”, something that came as a stark contrast to the scathing comments he had made in August this year during the unveiling of the American strategy in South Asia.

In a new sign of thaw in the frosty relations between Pakistan and the United States, President Donald Trump said Washington is starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders.

In a message posted on Twitter on Saturday morning, he also thanked Pakistani leaders for their cooperation on many fronts.

“Starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders. I want to thank them for their cooperation on many fronts: Trump said.

Earlier on Thursday, Trump praised Pakistani security forces for securing the release of an American woman, her Canadian husband and their three children from Taliban captivity. He praised the Pakistani government and armed forces for the cooperation to rescue the family in an operation.

The US leader said Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle’s release was a “positive moment” for US relations with Pakistan. Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu said: “On this I agree” with Mr. Trump. “Pakistan is a critical ally in fighting against terrorists,” he said in a tweet.

Earlier in the day, US Vice President Mike Pence also praised Pakistan in helping the US secure the release its citizens. Mr. Pence’s comments on Pakistan came as he listed out some of the key achievements of the Trump administration at the international stage.

“The president is achieving real results on the international stage, as well,” he said. “Just this week, Pakistan took an important step to answer the President’s call to do more in the fight against terrorism, as they helped secure the release of an American family that had been held hostage for more than five years,” the Vice-President said.