Nation and World briefs for January 17

By Associated Press | Thursday, January 17, 2019, 12:05 a.m.

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Syria attack kills 4 Americans, complicates withdrawal plan

WASHINGTON — A suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State killed two U.S. soldiers and two American citizens in northern Syria Wednesday, less than a month after President Donald Trump declared he was pulling U.S. forces and that IS had been defeated.

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The attack, which also wounded three U.S. service members along with other people in the strategic northeastern town of Manbij, complicates what had already become a messy withdrawal plan, with Trump’s senior advisers disagreeing with the decision and then offering an evolving timetable for the removal of the approximately 2,000 U.S. troops. And it underscores Pentagon assertions that the Islamic State is still a threat capable of deadly attacks.

As many as 16 were killed, including a number of fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces, who have fought alongside the Americans against the Islamic State, according to officials and the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

U.S. Central Command said one of the civilians was employed by the Defense Department and the other was a contractor. The names of the American victims were being withheld until their families could be notified.

Vice President Mike Pence repeated Trump’s claims about the Islamic State Wednesday, saying the “caliphate has crumbled” and the militant network “has been defeated.” His comments in a speech at the State Department came shortly after the U.S. military announced that American soldiers were among those killed in Manbij.

May wins no-confidence vote, but still is beset by Brexit

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament on Wednesday to remain in office — but saw more of her power ebb away as she battled to keep Brexit on track after lawmakers demolished her European Union divorce deal.

May won a narrow victory, 325 votes to 306 votes, on an opposition motion seeking to topple her government and trigger a general election.

Now it’s back to Brexit, where May is caught between the rock of her own negotiating red lines and the hard place of a Parliament that wants to force a radical change of course.

After defeating the no-confidence motion, May said she would hold talks “in a constructive spirit” with leaders of opposition parties and other lawmakers in a bid to find a way forward for Britain’s EU exit.

She appeared outside her 10 Downing St. residence after meeting the leaders of several smaller parties. The prime minister named the parties in a statement in which she called on opposition politicians in Parliament to “put self-interest aside” and find a consensus on Britain’s path out of the EU.

American anchor for Iranian TV is arrested on visit to US

NEW ORLEANS — A prominent American anchorwoman on Iranian state television has been arrested by the FBI during a visit to the U.S., the broadcaster reported Wednesday, and her son said she was being held in a prison, apparently as a material witness.

Marzieh Hashemi, who worked for the network’s English-language service, was detained in St. Louis, where she had filmed a Black Lives Matter documentary after visiting relatives in the New Orleans area. She was then taken to Washington, according to her elder son, Hossein Hashemi.

The FBI said in an email that it had no comment on the arrest of the woman who was born Melanie Franklin of New Orleans and has worked for Iran’s state television network for 25 years. She lives about half the time in Colorado, where her children live, and half the time in Iran, according to a brother.

“We still have no idea what’s going on,” said Hashemi, a research fellow at the University of Colorado who was interviewed by phone from Washington. He also said he and his siblings had been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.

The incident comes as Iran faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual nationals and other people with Western ties. Those cases have previously been used as bargaining chips in negotiations with world powers.

Death toll in Nairobi attack climbs to 21, plus 5 attackers

NAIROBI, Kenya — The death toll from an extremist attack on a luxury hotel and shopping complex in Nairobi climbed to 21, plus the five militants killed, police said Wednesday in the aftermath of the brazen overnight siege by al-Shabab gunmen. Two people accused of facilitating the attack were arrested.

The number of those killed at the DusitD2 complex rose with the discovery of six more bodies at the scene and the death of a wounded police officer, said Joseph Boinnet, inspector-general of Kenyan police. Twenty-eight people were hurt and taken to the hospital, he said.

In a televised address to the nation earlier in the day, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that the all-night operation by security forces to retake the complex was over and that all of the extremists had been killed.

“We will seek out every person that was involved in the funding, planning and execution of this heinous act,” he vowed.

In an attack that demonstrated al-Shabab’s continued ability to strike Kenya’s capital despite setbacks on the battlefield, extremists stormed the place with guns and explosives. Security camera footage released to local media showed a suicide bomber blowing himself up in a grassy area in the complex, the flash visible along with smoke billowing from the spot where he had been standing.

Trustee: Engler set to resign as Michigan State’s president

DETROIT — Former Gov. John Engler will resign as interim president of Michigan State University amid public backlash over his comments about women and girls sexually assaulted by now-imprisoned campus sports doctor Larry Nassar, a member of the school’s Board of Trustees said Wednesday.

Joel Ferguson told The Associated Press that board members expected to receive a letter Wednesday from Engler spelling out the reasons he would step down and the effective date of his resignation.

“Yes, John is going to resign,” he said.

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Engler had resisted earlier pressure to resign. His sudden reversal tops off a stormy period for the university under Engler and is the second time a Michigan State president left during the Nassar scandal.

The final straw for the university’s Board of Trustees came last week when Engler told The Detroit News that Nassar’s victims had been in the “spotlight” and are “still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition.”

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