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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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Trump To Address Nation After US Shootings Leave 29 Dead

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US President Donald Trump will address the nation on Monday after two shootings left 29 people dead and sparked accusations that his rhetoric was part of the problem.

The rampages turned innocent snippets of everyday life into nightmares of bloodshed: 20 people were shot dead while shopping at a crowded Walmart in El Paso, Texas on Saturday morning, and nine more outside a bar in a popular nightlife district in Dayton, Ohio just 13 hours later.

Trump will again find himself in the role of consoler-in-chief after a tragedy — which he has struggled with in the past — when he speaks at 10:00 am (1400 GMT).

Following the shootings, Trump said “hate has no place in our country,” but he also blamed mental illness for the violence.

“These are really people that are very, very seriously mentally ill,” he said, despite the fact that police have not confirmed this to be the case.

“We have to get it stopped. This has been going on for years… and years in our country,” he said.

In Texas, 26 people were wounded, and 27 in Ohio, where the shooter was killed in roughly 30 seconds by police who were patrolling nearby.

100-round drum magazine

Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl told a news conference that the quick police response was “crucial,” preventing the shooter from entering a bar where “there would have been… catastrophic injury and loss of life.”

Biehl said the shooter wore a mask and a bullet-proof vest and was armed with an assault rifle fitted with a 100-round drum magazine.

Police named the gunman as a 24-year-old white man called Connor Betts and said his sister was among those killed. She had gone with him to the scene of the shootings.

Six of the nine people shot dead were black, but Biehl said Betts’ motive was still unclear.

In Texas, police said the suspect surrendered on a sidewalk near the scene of the massacre. He was described in media reports as a 21-year-old white man named Patrick Crusius.

He was believed to have posted online a manifesto denouncing a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas. El Paso, on the border with Mexico, is majority Latino.

 ‘Amplifying and condoning’ hate

Seven of the 20 people killed in the El Paso shooting were Mexican, the country’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said Sunday.

Ebrard, who will travel to El Paso Monday, said Mexico was looking at legal action which could lead to extradition of the gunman.

“For Mexico, this individual is a terrorist,” he said.

The manifesto posted shortly before the shooting also praises the killing of 51 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March.

Police said the suspected shooter has been charged with murder offenses that can carry the death penalty, and a federal official said investigators are treating the El Paso shooting as a case of domestic terrorism.

At the Walmart in El Paso, terrified shoppers cowered in aisles or ran out of the store as gunfire echoed.

Most of the victims were inside the store but some were also in the parking lot outside, police said.

“Shooting kids and women and men, to him it mostly mattered that they were Hispanic,” said Manuel Sanchez, a resident of the city.

These were the 250th and 251st mass shootings this year in the US, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an NGO that defines a mass shooting as an incident in which at least four people are wounded or killed.

Despite a string of horrific mass shootings in the US, where gun culture is deep-rooted, efforts to strengthen firearms regulations remain divisive.

The latest two shootings ended a particularly tragic week for gun violence in America: three people died in a shooting at a food festival last Sunday in California, and two more Tuesday in a shooting in a Walmart in Mississippi.

On Twitter, Trump described the El Paso attack as “an act of cowardice.”

But critics said the president’s habit of speaking in derogatory terms about immigrants is pushing hatred of foreigners into the political mainstream and encouraging white supremacism.

“To pretend that his administration and the hateful rhetoric it spreads doesn’t play a role in the kind of violence that we saw yesterday in El Paso is ignorant at best and irresponsible at worst,” said the Southern Poverty Law Center, a major civil rights group.

It cited Trump actions like calling Mexican migrants rapists and drug dealers and doing nothing when a crowd at a Trump rally chanted “send her back” in reference to a Somali-born congresswoman.

The Republican mayor of El Paso, Dee Margo, seemed to discount any race element to the Texas shooting, telling Fox News the gunman was “deranged.”

But multiple Democratic presidential hopefuls said Trump bears some of the blame for the violence.

“Our president isn’t just failing to confront and disarm these domestic terrorists, he is amplifying and condoning their hate,” Mayor Pete Buttigieg tweeted.

“Mr. President: stop your racist, hateful and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Your language creates a climate which emboldens violent extremists,” Senator Bernie Sanders wrote on Twitter.

AFP

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President Putin signs law suspending INF Treaty

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Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a federal law to suspend the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty – an arms control treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (and its successor state, the Russian Federation).

A relevant document was posted on Wednesday on the official legal information website.

“To suspend the Treaty Between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles signed in the city of Washington on December 8, 1987,” the document says.

The INF Treaty, formally Treaty Between the U.S. and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles; was an arms control treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (and its successor state, the Russian Federation).

U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signed the treaty on Dec. 8, 1987.

The U.S. Senate approved the treaty on May 27, 1988, and Reagan and Gorbachev ratified it on 1 June 1988.

The INF Treaty banned all of the two nations’ land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and missile launchers with ranges of 500–1,000 kilometers (310–620 mi) (short medium-range) and 1,000–5,500 km (620–3,420 mi) (intermediate-range). The treaty did not apply to air- or sea-launched missiles.

By May 1991, the nations had eliminated 2,692 missiles, followed by 10 years of on-site verification inspections.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced on 20 October 2018 that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the treaty, accusing Russia of non-compliance.

The U.S. formally suspended the treaty on 1 February 2019, and Russia did so on the following day in response to the U.S. withdrawal.

Russia, which denies the allegation, later followed suit. Moscow accuses the United States of breaking the accord itself, a claim rejected by Washington.

The INF Treaty was the first of its kind to eliminate an entire class of missiles.

It banned the United States and Russia from developing, producing, and deploying ground-launched cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

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Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, others sign new OPEC Charter Saudi

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The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the non-member countries of the organisation (OPEC+) on Tuesday signed a draft Charter of Cooperation’ in a bid to further strengthen their partnership. 

The charter now replaces the `Declaration of Cooperation’, which was reached in Dec. 2016 between the two groups.

Speaking at the end of the 6th OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meeting in Vienna, Mr Salvador Fernandez, President of the bloc’s Council  reaffirmed the continued commitment of the member countries to a stable market as stipulated in the cooperation.

“Participating producing countries are committed to promoting the interest of  producing nations.

“The efficient, economic  and secure supply to consumers and a fair return on invested capital as well as the return of confidence and investment to the oil industry,” Fernandez said. 

Fernandez, who is also the Venezuelan Petroleum Minister, said that the meeting focused on recent oil market developments and immediate prospects as well as collaborative efforts by members. 

Mr Alexandra Novak, Russia’s Energy Minister and Co-chair of the meeting, described the charter as not only “historic, but a basis for solidifying cooperation.

“It is not only a historic document which solidifies our cooperation, but also a solid foundation for future analysis of the market and basis for decision-making to stabilise the market.’’

Novak, who noted the successes achieved through the Declaration of Cooperation, said that the market was currently in a better shape than it used to be.

“To further stabilise the market, we have decided to significantly intensify monitoring in bid to forestall potential uncertainties that could destabilise the market,” he said.

The new agreement is seen as a move by the bloc to remain relevant in the oil market which has been transformed by booming U.S. shale oil output.

Nigeria and 13 other OPEC member nations as well as some non-member countries have already signed the charter. 

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