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US to send additional military forces to Poland

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The US intends to transfer additional military forces to Poland, where it already has 4,500 of its troops stationed, announced US President Donald Trump after a meeting with his Polish colleague President Andrzej Duda.

As part of the declaration to expand military cooperation signed by Trump and Duda on Thursday in Warsaw, a contingent of an additional 1,000 US troops will be sent to Poland, as well as a squadron of reconnaissance drones.

A new military airfield will also be built “for training purposes or for unforeseen circumstances”, and a specialforces division headquarters will be deployed “to support aerial, ground and maritime” activity, the declaration states.

“Russia is once again showing its unkind, hostile imperial face,” said Duda during a joint press-conference with Trump, and added that Moscow “has always sought to take Polish territory”.

The US deployed troops in Poland as part of the NATO 2016 agreement in response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Russia will not neglect to respond to the new transfer of US troops, promised Vladimir Shamanov, head of Russian parliament’s Defense Committee.

“Of course, as our President Vladimir Putin has said before, we will be compelled to take countermeasures, and we have these in our arsenal,” Shamanov noted.

He remarked that “the world is gradually sliding towards the precarious border of the events of the Caribbean Crisis, because attack-class unmanned aerial vehicles are compatible with intermediate range missiles according to their specifications, and this means that they are capable of carrying nuclear weaponry”.

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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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7 men die cleaning hotel septic tank

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Seven people have suffocated to death while cleaning a hotel septic tank in western India without safety gear, police said Saturday.

The hotel owner has been charged with causing death due to negligence following the incident Friday night in Gujarat state’s Vadodara district, a police official said.

Four of those who died had been called to clean the tank while three others were hotel employees who were assisting.

Hundreds of thousands of mostly low-caste Indians are employed as “manual scavengers” who clear underground pipes and septic tanks without any protective gear or masks.

“One person first entered the tank, but when he did not come out and did not respond to calls, three other cleaners went inside to help him,” said Vadodara fire officer Nikunj Azad who was leading the rescue operations.

When all four did not emerge after some time, the three hotel employees entered the tank, all seven of them losing their lives in the process, Azad added.

“Their bodies have been brought out and sent for postmortem,” he said.

Deaths from asphyxiation in sewers full of noxious gases are frequently reported across the country.

Last year five people died in New Delhi while cleaning a sewage treatment tank.

Indian legislators have passed several laws aiming to stamp out the age-old practice of manual scavenging, the latest in 2013.

But many scavengers are still used through sub-contractors, making it difficult for authorities to fix responsibility.

In rural areas, women “scavengers” clean out primitive non-flush toilets with basic tools, although the practice is now on the wane.

There is no official data but independent surveys indicate that some 1,370 lose their lives every year during the hazardous work.

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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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