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ISIS leader killed in Iraq by US-led coalition air strike

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A prominent ISIS leader was killed by the US-led coalition air strike on Wednesday night in Iraq’s western province of Anbar as Special Forces ramped up efforts to fight the insurgent’s remaining sleeper cells.

Since the group’s territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria, the terrorists have gone underground, carrying out various attacks across the neighboring countries where it aims to expand.

“Air strikes targeted the tunnels where the insurgents were hiding killing six terrorists including the Emir [Prince] of Wiliayat (State) Al Jazeera, Abu Musallam Al Iraqi and two of their vehicles,” commander of Al Baghdadi tribal forces that operate in Anbar, Qatary Al Samarmad, said in a statement.

The attack were conducted in the Tharthar valley, located north west of Baghdad.

The operation is part of a security program set between the Iraqi army and local tribes that aims to combat the terror group, Mr Al Samarmad said.

Iraq’s army, backed by an US-led coalition established to defeat ISIS, has recently shifted away from major combat operations to areas they believe the insurgents are hiding.

The US-led action began after ISIS took over large areas of territory.

ISIS is active in rural areas across Iraq especially in isolated lands that give them the freedom to move and plan attacks.

They are known to be in areas such as the deserts of Anbar and Nineveh provinces and the mountains that run across Kirkuk, Salah Al Din and Diyala.

ISIS was born in cities like Fallujah in Anbar province, where a dwindling economy, unemployment and anger made it a fertile environment for extremists.

By 2014, its so-called “caliphate” had spread across Iraq and Syria.

The terror group still poses a threat to Iraq and officials believe its leader, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, may be hiding in the country.

The US warned in February of an ISIS resurgence and said it is essential to maintain a vigilant operation against the group’s sleeper cells.

“Hard-won battlefield gains can only be secured by maintaining a vigilant offensive against a now largely dispersed and disaggregated ISIS that retains leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources and the profane ideology that fuels their efforts,” said the former commander of US Central Command, Gen Joseph Votel.

At its height in 2014 and 2015, ISIS ruled over a self-proclaimed “caliphate” that spanned one third of Iraqi and Syrian territory and attracted followers from all over the world.

It ruled over millions in large parts of two countries.

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Explosion causes quake near China-North Korea border

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A “suspected explosion” near the China-North Korean border caused a small earthquake on Monday, Chinese seismology authorities said, less than an hour after news broke about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s upcoming trip to Pyongyang.

According to the China Earthquake Networks Center, the 1.3-magnitude earthquake with a zero-metre depth occurred at 19:38 pm (1138 GMT) in Hunchun city in northeastern Jilin province.

It was unclear what caused the explosion.

In the past, nuclear tests by Pyongyang have caused tremors around the northern border China shares with North Korea.

But the latest incident occurred more than 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Punggye-ri, the North’s nuclear site under Mount Mantap.

Analysts played down the tremor, saying it may have been caused by a number of factors.

“Don’t be alarmed just yet folks,” tweeted Vipin Narang, a security studies professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Mining explosions, for example, can cause small tremors.”

An official at South Korea’s meteorological administration said there was “nothing in particular that can be detected through the seismic waves”, according to the country’s Yonhap news agency.

In September 2017, a test conducted at North Korea’s nuclear site at Punggye-ri triggered a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that was felt across China’s northern border.

Chinese seismologists later concluded that Pyongyang’s main nuclear test site had partially collapsed, rendering it unusable, following the massive bomb blast — which the North claimed was a hydrogen bomb test.

Experts later cast doubt on that claim, with Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies commenting that there was “no evidence” that it was unusable.

In January 2016, Chinese border residents in northern Jilin province were evacuated from buildings after feeling tremors from a North Korean nuclear test.

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Teenage Nigerian, Eniola Aluko shot dead in London

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According to UK’s Metropolitan Police, Aluko, who is from Thamesmead, died after sustaining gunshot wounds to the neck and chest.

Metropolitan Police said they were called to the scene, a car park on Hartville Road, just before 5:00 p.m. on Friday.

Aluko was found with critical injuries and died at the scene.

A post-mortem examination held on Saturday gave the cause of death as a gunshot wound to the neck and chest.

Already police have arrested an 18-year-old man on suspicion of murder.

Four other people, all teenagers, who were arrested in relation to the crime have been granted bail pending the start of trial in early July.

Detective Inspector John Marriott, said, “I am continuing to appeal for anyone who was in the area at the time, who saw or heard anything suspicious to contact police.

“The shooting took place not far from Plumstead Railway Station and I would urge anyone who was commuting to or from this station to come forward. It was also sunny at the time and a number of people would have been enjoying the weather in the area of Plumstead Gardens; I need you to come forward.

“Although we have now made five arrests I am continuing to ask for your help to progress this investigation.”

Metropolitan Police has revealed that they had informed the next-of-kin of the deceased.

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Beijing denies ‘hit-and-run’ in South China Sea collision

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Beijing confirmed Saturday that a Chinese vessel hit a Philippine fishing boat in a collision which has increased tensions in the disputed South China Sea, but denied claims it was a “hit and run”.

The Chinese trawler sailed away after the incident Sunday near Reed Bank that sank the fishing boat, sparking outrage from Philippine authorities and media.

While President Rodrigo Duterte has largely set aside the once tense stand-off with China over the resource-rich waterway, many in the Philippines bristle at Beijing’s actions in the sea.

The Chinese embassy in Manila said the crew of trawler Yuemaobinyu 42212 “bumped into” the Philippine boat and then left due to safety fears.

“The Chinese captain tried to rescue the Filipino fisherman, but was afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats,” the statement said.

It went on to say the incident was not a “hit-and-run”, as some Philippine authorities had claimed, because the trawler “confirmed the fishermen from the Filipino boat were rescued”.

However, the 22 fishermen told a very different story, saying they had spent hours in the water awaiting help.

They were eventually picked up by a Vietnamese boat and brought home Friday aboard a Philippine navy vessel.

The Philippine coast guard has started an investigation of the incident which Duterte’s spokesman branded as “outrageous and barbaric”.

Opposition lawmaker Francis Pangilinan branded China’s version of events “as fake as its territorial claims,” and called for Philippine leaders to stand up to Beijing.

“Now is the time to show real grit and toughness,” Pangilinan said. “There is never a time to be meek and submissive before a foreign power that endangers our own people.”

Duterte has yet to make any public comment but he recently criticised China’s assertive stance over the sea.

“I love China… but it behoves upon us to ask, ‘Is it right for a country to claim the whole ocean?’” he said in a speech last month.

Manila’s Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said this week that he had lodged a diplomatic protest with China over the sinking.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Thursday called the incident “an ordinary maritime traffic accident”.

Geng said it was irresponsible for the Philippines to “politicise the incident without verification”.

Competing claims over the South China Sea are a point of regional contention because trillions of dollars of goods pass through it, and rich petroleum reserves are thought to sit deep beneath its waters.

Reed Bank, an area claimed by Manila and Beijing, is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone and far from China’s nearest major landmass.

Manila won a key 2016 ruling against China’s claims in the waterway, but Duterte opted to set it aside in exchange for Chinese investments.

Opposition politicians as well as segments of the public and media charge that Duterte has bartered away Philippine sovereignty with little to show in return.

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