Sunday, 24 March 2019

Isil 'totally eliminated' in Syria: Caliphate destroyed in final stronghold

Isil 'totally eliminated' in Syria: Caliphate destroyed in final strongholdThe last pocket of Islamic State territory has fallen, Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Saturday, marking the end of the group's "caliphate" four-and-a-half years after it was declared. "Total elimination of (the) so-called caliphate", Mustafa Bali, the SDF spokesman, wrote on Twitter. "The military victory against Daesh has been accomplished." The SDF had Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) cornered in a patch of land smaller than one-mile-square in the eastern Syrian village of Baghuz, before finally dealing them defeat. A small number of Isil fighters, most of them foreign, refused to surrender and fought to the last.  Fighters of the SDF dance as they celebrate near the Omar oil field in the eastern Syrian Deir Ezzor province after announcing the total elimination of Isil Credit: AFP An unfathomable number of people - mostly women and children related to Isil members - have streamed out of Baghuz in the past weeks. The Kurdish-led SDF said its fighters were surprised by the amount of civilians - which in the end totalled more than 60,000 and forced them to slow their advance. For the last week, the SDF and US-led coalition has been pummeling the Baghuz pocket in the hope of bringing the battle to an end. Syrians on social media criticised the coalition for its heavy use of air strikes, after graphic photographs emerged purporting to show the charred bodies of women and children, as well as piles of corpses littering Baghuz. Isil had been given several chances by the SDF to evacuate out of safe passages. Those left at the end had rejected the offers and had effectively been using their families as human shields. There is no accurate estimate of how many were killed in the final stand. The end of Isil | Read more The battle took 1,737 days - four times longer than the liberation of western Europe from the Nazis. It took 100,000 bombs, two national armies, a band of militias, the might of the US, British and French air forces and a coalition of nearly 70 countries to defeat the jihadists. During their height they controlled territory spanning two countries that was roughly the size of Britain, imposing a radical and unforgiving interpretation of Islam over nearly 10 million people. Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared an end to modern countries and called on supporters to join their jihadist utopia. Tens of thousands from all over the world came to live in the self-declared caliphate - the first in modern times. Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gesture the "V" for victory sign as they come back from the frontline in the Islamic State group's last remaining position in the village of Baghuz Credit: AFP Isil used their base in Syria and Iraq as launchpad for attacks around the globe, including the Paris attacks in 2015 which killed more than 130 people. At the same time, they began terrorising those they ruled over, carrying out large-scale massacres and public executions. While the battle may be over, questions still remain; such as the whereabouts of Baghdadi and the fate of a number of high-profile hostages including captured British journalist John Cantlie. There are rumours Baghdadi could be hiding out in the Anbar desert in western Iraq. While Isil has now lost all the urban territory they once held, it continues to have a presence in the desert of both Syria and Iraq. Photo Dispatch: The final days of the Isil caliphate Isil declared in an audio message from its spokesman this week that the group would not be weakened by any defeat in Baghuz and urged its followers across Syria to attack the SDF elsewhere in the country. "Avenge the blood of your brothers and sisters.. set up the )explosive) devices and deploy the snipers," said Abu Hassan al-Muhajir. The SDF too has warned the end of the physical caliphate did not mark the end of Isil. Isil sleeper cells have stepped up attacks on SDF forces in recent weeks, attacking areas where once they controlled. Local Syrian Kurdish and Arab forces fear a return of Isil once the US withdraws most of its 2,000 forces in April. US intelligence agencies have warned that the jihadists would likely resurge in Syria within six to 12 months and regain limited territory if sustained pressure is not maintained. Gen. Joseph Votel, who oversees US military operations in the Middle East as commander of Central Command, told Congress earlier this month that extremism in Iraq and Syria is a "generational problem." Iraqi Special Forces soldiers surveyed the aftermath of an Isil suicide car bomb that managed to reach their lines in the Andalus neighbourhood, one of the last areas to be liberated in east Mosul Credit: Ivor Prickett/The New York Times  Indeed it is not one that will likely be solved quickly. Tens of thousands of Isil suspects and their families are in prisons and camps in Iraq and Syria. Many have not been formally accused, others have been deemed guilty by association. It was in overcrowded camps like these that Baghdadi and a cadre of like-minded extremists formed a group that would later morph into Isil. The last to leave the final holdout expressed few regrets about how their jihadist project turned out, many continuing to pledge allegiance to a ruined caliphate they had already reconciled to losing. "Don't think we are surrendering," one woman leaving Baghuz told the Telegraph, "we are saving ourselves to rise again."




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Mueller report: 'No indictments' after special counsel delivers report on Trump-Russia probe

Mueller report: 'No indictments' after special counsel delivers report on Trump-Russia probeSpecial counsel Robert Mueller has submitted a report to the attorney general’s office, signalling the end to a two year investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election. Mr Mueller did not recommend any further indictments, a senior Justice Department official said. Although no specific information from the report has been made available yet, this announcement may suggest no more criminal charges against Donald Trump associates from the investigation.




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Pompeo says it's 'possible' President Trump raised to 'save the Jewish people'

Pompeo says it's 'possible' President Trump raised to 'save the Jewish people'Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was asked whether Trump was raised to "save the Jewish people." He answered, "I certainly believe that's possible."




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Wild videos show cruise ship chaos as rough seas prompt an evacuation

Wild videos show cruise ship chaos as rough seas prompt an evacuationIncredible videos shared on Twitter are showing the wild rough seas that have led to the evacuation of 1,300 people from a cruise ship off the coast of Norway. The ship, Viking Cruise's "Viking Sky," sent a distress signal Saturday afternoon local time, reporting "engine problems in bad weather," according to CNN. And videos from both inside the cruise ship and from the shore show how bad the seas are. The BBC reports that at least one of the ship's engines was successfully restarted, enabling the Viking Sky to move a bit further from the rocky shore. Not surprisingly, the BBC also notes, "The area is known as the Hustadvika and is reportedly one of the most dangerous stretches of Norway's coast."SEE ALSO: El Niño has arrived. What does that mean for weather in 2019?Multiple ships and helicopters are taking part in the evacuation; the Joint Rescue Centre for Southern Norway shared video of the rescue to YouTube.To complicate matters, a cargo ship with nine people on board hit the same rough waters as the Viking Sky and some of the rescue helicopters had to be diverted for assistance.> Cargo ship w / 9 persons onbord went down close to VikingSky . Rescue helicopter sent to save crew. pic.twitter.com/Ebu0TIhlIE> > -- Tore (@potifar66) March 23, 2019A member of the rescue crew told Reuters that eight people had suffered minor injuries and that the rescue attempt will take a while, continuing into the night and maybe even into Sunday. Photos of passengers waiting for their turn at evacuation also hit social media. > Passenger on board VikingSky Crew is doing a good job. Evacuation is slow. Seas rough. One muster station had a door blow in, injure pax and flood. Moved to midship pic.twitter.com/ndvEaJew8L> > -- David Hernandez (@oxman78) March 23, 2019Mashable reached out to Viking Cruises for a statement and updates on the ongoing rescue and received the following message in response:The statement also added that anyone with questions or concerns about specific guests aboard the Viking Sky can find more information right here. WATCH: Pedal across the ocean surface with this breezy board




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Luxembourg PM Backs New Referendum If Brexit Deal Fails Again

Luxembourg PM Backs New Referendum If Brexit Deal Fails AgainLuxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel gave Theresa May’s Brexit deal 50-50 odds of passing the British Parliament and said the best outcome if it fails again would be a second referendum that results in the U.K. remaining in the European Union. If the House of Commons doesn’t endorse May’s deal next week, the leaders gave her until April 12 to decide whether to leave without an agreement or request a much longer extension. “It’s the best possible deal for the U.K. also for Europe,’’ Bettel said of the negotiated withdrawal agreement that the U.K. Parliament has rejected twice.




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Subpoenas, sentencings and Stone: What will become of the special counsel’s unfinished business?

Subpoenas, sentencings and Stone: What will become of the special counsel’s unfinished business?The Mueller probe’s formal end leaves questions about several ongoing legal proceedings, including the prosecution of Roger Stone, a former adviser to President Donald Trump.




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Priyanka Chopra Jonas laughs off rumored beef with Duchess Meghan

Priyanka Chopra Jonas laughs off rumored beef with Duchess Meghan"Are the rumors true that you were upset that Meghan Markle skipped your wedding to Nick Jonas?" a bold caller asked Priyanka Chopra Jonas.




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North Korea abruptly withdraws staff from liaison office

North Korea abruptly withdraws staff from liaison officeSEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea abruptly withdrew its staff from a liaison office with South Korea on Friday, a development that is likely to put a damper on ties between the countries and further complicate global diplomacy on North Korea's nuclear program.




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The political battle over Robert Mueller’s report is just beginning

The political battle over Robert Mueller’s report is just beginningWhile Mueller’s report has been the subject of almost feverish anticipation, it is not clear the public will see anything beyond Barr’s letter to Congress. According to the rules, Barr can decide what, if anything, from Mueller’s report will be made public.




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Mideast anger over Trump's Golan vow 'breaking international law'

Mideast anger over Trump's Golan vow 'breaking international law'Syria, its allies, and fellow states in the region Friday condemned US President Donald Trump's pledge to recognise Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights slamming the move as a violation of international law. Trump said Thursday it was time for Washington to recognise Israel's sovereignty over the strategic territory, which it seized from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and annexed in a move never recognised internationally. Any such move would break with UN Security Council resolutions and with more than half a century of US foreign policy, which treated the Golan as occupied territory whose future would be negotiated in talks with Syria on a comprehensive peace.




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New Zealand reopens mosques that were attacked; many 'march for love'

New Zealand reopens mosques that were attacked; many 'march for love'At the Al Noor mosque, where more than 40 of the victims were killed by a suspected white supremacist, prayers resumed with armed police on site, but no graphic reminders of the mass shooting, New Zealand's worst. Aden Diriye, who lost his 3-year-old son, Mucad Ibrahim, in the attack, came back to the mosque with his friends. Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, who visited the Al Noor mosque, said the attack assailed human dignity.




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JetBlue pilots who drugged and raped flight attendants continued working for airline without repercussion, lawsuit says

JetBlue pilots who drugged and raped flight attendants continued working for airline without repercussion, lawsuit saysThree female flight attendants claim they were drugged and two of them raped by two JetBlue pilots during a layover in Puerto Rico, a new lawsuit filed this week in New York federal court has claimed. At least one of the female flight attendants said she was forced to work with one of the accused pilots after the alleged rape. After making their way to a beach in Puerto Rico near the hotel they were staying during their layover in May of last year, the women were offered sips from one of the flight attendant’s alcoholic beverages.




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White House Announces End to Islamic State-Controlled Territory in Syria

White House Announces End to Islamic State-Controlled Territory in SyriaControlling territory gave the group room to launch attacks around the world




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