US air strike ‘kills 60 militants’

US air strike ‘kills 60 militants’

Al-Shabab militants in 2012 (archive photo)

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The US says it is committed to eradicating al-Shabab safe havens in Somalia

The US military says it believes some 60 al-Shabab militants were killed by one of its air strikes in central Somalia on Friday.

The “precision” strike around Harardere did not injure or kill civilians, it added in a statement.

The US said the attack was carried out as part of a joint effort with Somali forces to hit the al-Shabab group.

This was the deadliest air strike since November 2017 when 100 militants were killed, the statement added.

Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, has not yet commented.

“Alongside our Somali and international partners, we are committed to preventing al-Shabab from taking advantage of safe havens from which they can build capacity and attack the people of Somalia,” the US Africa Command said.

The US military has conducted more than two dozen air strikes, including drone strikes, in Somalia this year, the Associated Press news agency reports.

US President Donald Trump expanded military operations against al-Shabab in March 2017.

Traditionally, US presidents have been wary of intervening in Somalia since 18 special forces soldiers died fighting militias in the capital Mogadishu in 1993, a battle dramatised in the film Black Hawk Down.

Al-Shabab was forced out of Mogadishu in August 2011 following an offensive spearheaded by African Union (AU) troops.

But it still has a strong presence in regions around the capital.

The port town of Harardere was the hub for piracy in the region when the hijacking of ships off the Somali coast was at its peak in 2009-2011.

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Trump calls Stormy Daniels ‘horseface’ in his reaction to dismissal of her suit

Trump calls Stormy Daniels ‘horseface’ in his reaction to dismissal of her suit

President Donald Trump lashed out at adult-film star Stormy Daniels and her attorney Tuesday morning, vowing to “go after” the pair, who he referred to as “Horseface and her 3rd rate lawyer.”

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The tweet from Trump comes a day after a federal judge in California handed the president a rare legal victory in his ongoing legal battles with Daniels.

Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti – who has been teasing a possible run for president against Trump in 2020 – wasted little time in responding in kind to the insults, calling Trump a “disgusting misogynist and an embarrassment to the United States.”

“Bring everything you have,” Avenatti crowed, “because we are going to demonstrate to the world what a complete shyster and liar you are.”

Also firing back on her (usually) not-safe-for-work Twitter feed, Daniels wrote, “Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present your president.”

“[H]e has demonstrated his incompetence, hatred of women and lack of self control on Twitter AGAIN!” Daniels wrote.

The barrage of Twitter barbs follows a ruling Monday by US District Court Judge S. James Otero that dismissed Daniels’ defamation claim, one of two lawsuits she filed against the president.

Otero ruled that a tweet Trump sent earlier this year mocking Daniels’ credibility was free speech protected by the First Amendment.

PHOTO: Stormy Daniels attends an event in West Hollywood, Calif., May 23, 2018.Steve Granitz/WireImage via Getty Images, FILE
Stormy Daniels attends an event in West Hollywood, Calif., May 23, 2018.

The judge noted that Daniels had “sought to publicly present herself as an adversary” to Trump, and that to deny him the ability to engage in responding to her allegations “would significantly hamper the office of the President.”

An attorney for the president, Charles Harder, characterized that ruling in a statement as “a total victory for President Trump and a total defeat for Stormy Daniels.”

The court also ordered Daniels to pay Trump’s legal fees and costs associated with defending the lawsuit. The amount has yet to be determined.

Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti quickly filed a notice of an intention to appeal the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The dismissal of the defamation claim has no bearing on Daniels’ separate lawsuit challenging the validity of the non-disclosure agreement she signed in 2016 to keep quiet about her allegations of a sexual tryst with Trump in 2006.

Trump has denied her allegations.

The defamation claim from Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, was originally filed in New York federal court earlier this year. The lawsuit claimed Trump acted with “actual malice” and “reckless disregard for the truth” when he posted a tweet mocking her claim that she was threatened by an unknown man to stay silent. The case was later transferred to federal court in California.

In an April appearance on ABC’s “The View,” Daniels and Avenatti released a sketch of the man she claims menaced her and her toddler daughter in 2011 in a Las Vegas parking lot shortly after she granted an interview to In Touch magazine about her alleged relationship with Trump, then a real estate mogul and reality-TV star.

Daniels alleges the man told her to “leave Trump alone” and to “forget the story.”

The magazine didn’t publish its story about Daniels claims until January of 2018 – after the Wall Street Journal published the first accounts of a non-disclosure agreement signed just weeks before the 2016 election.

In interviews with The View and on CBS’ 60 Minutes earlier this year, Daniels intimated that either Trump or his then-personal attorney, Michael Cohen, must have been behind the alleged threat.

To date, no evidence has emerged to support the claim.

One day after Daniels revealed the sketch – Trump ridiculed the claim on Twitter as “a sketch years later about a non-existent man.” He called it a “total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools.”

PHOTO: This artists drawing released by attorney Michael Avenatti, purports to show the man that the adult film actress Stormy Daniels says threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 to remain quiet about her affair with President Donald Trump. Michael Avenatti via AP
This artist’s drawing released by attorney Michael Avenatti, purports to show the man that the adult film actress Stormy Daniels says threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 to remain quiet about her affair with President Donald Trump.

In deciding in favor of the president, Judge Otero – who is also overseeing Daniels’ pending lawsuit over her non-disclosure agreement – ruled that Trump’s tweet “constitutes ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ normally associated with politics and public discourse in the United States.”

“Any strongly-worded response by a president to another politician or public figure could constitute an action for defamation,” Otero wrote in his opinion. “This would deprive the country of the ‘discourse’ common to the political process.”

“Such a holding would violate the First Amendment,” Otero ruled.

Otero also denied Daniels’ efforts to engage in what he called a “fishing expedition” to seek evidence that Trump was aware of the alleged threat.

Otero has scheduled a hearing for early December on Trump and Cohen’s motions to dismiss Daniels’ other lawsuit, which seeks a court ruling that the $130,000 non-disclosure agreement she signed in late October 2016 in invalid. Those proceedings have been on hold for months, following the April law-enforcement raids on Cohen’s law office and residences in New York.

Trump initially denied having any knowledge of where the money to pay Daniels came from, referring reporters’ questions in April to Cohen.

He subsequently acknowledged reimbursing Cohen for the costs of the deal but has maintained he learned about the arrangement only after the fact.

In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felonies, including one count of violating campaign finance laws in connection with the deal with Daniels. At a plea hearing in federal court in Manhattan, Cohen told the court that he had acted “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” referring to then-candidate Trump.

“I participated in this conduct for the principal purpose” of influencing the election, Cohen said.

Cohen is due to be sentenced in December.

Last month ABC News reported that Cohen is cooperating with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, sitting for multiple interview sessions that were also attended by prosecutors for the Southern District of New York.

Cohen and Trump have recently abandoned their opposition to Daniels’ lawsuit, effectively conceding that the non-disclosure contract is void, and they have each asked Judge Otero to dismiss the claim.

Avenatti, Daniels’ attorney, has countered that the case should continue because the public deserves to know why a candidate for president and his attorney were so determined to silence his client.

“I have been practicing law for nearly twenty years,” Avenatti tweeted last month.

“Never before have I seen a defendant so frightened to be deposed as Donald Trump, especially for a guy who talks so tough,” Avenatti wrote. “He is desperate and doing all he can to avoid having to answer my questions. He is all hat and no cattle.”

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62 cases of AFM confirmed across 22 states: CDC

62 cases of AFM confirmed across 22 states: CDC

There are now 62 confirmed reports of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, across 22 states in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Sept. 20, the CDC had confirmed 38 cases in 16 states, which aren’t required to report AFM cases to the CDC. This year’s numbers are similar to 2016 and 2014.

Since 2014, 386 cases have been confirmed, the CDC said on Tuesday. Currently, 127 patients are under investigation.

The average age of those afflicted is 4, and 90 percent of those with AFM are 18 or younger, the CDC said.

PHOTO: A doctor is pictured with a patient in this undated stock photo.STOCK PHOTO/Shutterstock
A doctor is pictured with a patient in this undated stock photo.

Acute flaccid myelitis is a rare condition that affects the spinal cord and can cause partial paralysis. It mostly afflicts children and young adults and can be caused by toxins in one’s environment, genetic disorders or viruses such as poliovirus, West Nile virus or adenovirus.

Symptoms of AFM are similar to a severe respiratory illness along with a fever, but those progress into neurological symptoms. Some who contract AFM will feel weakness in their arms or legs, a loss of muscle tone or slower reflexes. The most severe symptom is respiratory failure.

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Freed US pastor says he’s ‘one of the most hated men in Turkey’

Freed US pastor says he’s ‘one of the most hated men in Turkey’

Pastor Andrew Brunson, the American who was detained in Turkey for two years before his release over the weekend, said he is “one of the most hated men” in the country where he had lived and worked for more than 20 years because of the Turkish government’s accusation that he spied and was linked to terrorism.

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“At this point I’m one of the most hated men in Turkey, probably,” Brunson told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” Tuesday.

Brunson, 50, was a Christian evangelist in Turkey for more than 20 years before he was arrested in October 2016 and accused by the Turkish government of espionage and ties to terrorist groups. He, his lawyers and the U.S. deny those charges.

“Our purpose in going to Turkey was to tell people about Jesus Christ. We did that very openly, and we were never involved in anything political,” Brunson told Stephanopoulos. He said he and his wife were shocked by their inital arrest, which happened on their oldest son’s birthday.

Prior to his release over the weekend, Brunson’s case had created a deep rift in U.S.-Turkish relations, with the Trump administration heavily committed to securing his freedom and punishing its NATO ally with economic penalties for not doing so. An evangelical Christian pastor, he had also become a rallying cry for religious freedom advocates in the U.S.

The Turkish court sentenced him Friday to three years and one and a half months, but given his time served and that it was his first arrest, his house arrest and travel ban were lifted. He was flown out of the country that Friday on a U.S. military aircraft, stopping in Germany for a medical evacuation before landing in Washington on Saturday. There, he met with President Trump in an Oval Office welcome celebration, where he prayed with the president.

“My wife and I pray for every president — and we’ve just never had the chance to do it in the Oval Office,” he said with a laugh.

For Brunson, that emotional moment was also how he survived his time in prison: “The way I survived that was by just spending hours in prayer, just to keep my sanity.”

He was initially held in solitary confinement and later with 19 other prisoners in a cell meant for only eight, he said. Isolated by language, culture, and religion, he said he grew increasingly concerned about his physical safety, given the accusations against him.

Still, the entire experience may have yielded some good, he said.

“Even though this caused us a lot of hurt, I think that God is using this, was planning to use this to bring blessing to Turkey. Now, there are millions of people who pray for Turkey,” he said.

After their 23 years in the country, “working… in obscurity,” he said he and his family still love Turkey.

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Elephants, drones and cologne employed in hunt for tiger blamed in 13 deaths

Elephants, drones and cologne employed in hunt for tiger blamed in 13 deaths

The crackle of wireless phone static merged with the buzzing of jungle flies as a group of seven men in olive green uniforms combed through the forests around the Indian village of Pandharkawada.

The men, most armed with batons and one with a gun, could have been mistaken for an army platoon. But these men weren’t military, they were working for India’s forest department and their operation was to find “T1,” a 6-year-old female tiger officials believe is responsible for the deaths of 13 people.

PHOTO: Authorities in Yavatmal, India, are searching for a 6-year-old female tiger, named T1 and photographed by a camera trap, believed to be responsible for the deaths of 13 people.Maharashtra Forest Department
Authorities in Yavatmal, India, are searching for a 6-year-old female tiger, named “T1” and photographed by a camera trap, believed to be responsible for the deaths of 13 people.

“A sequence of human killings was noticed from June 2016 onward. In the beginning, our staff did not think that this is a very serious thing,” AK Misra, principal chief conservator of forests, told ABC News. “We took the first few cases as routine, the cases that sometime occur as a result of human-animal conflict.”

However, the animal-inflicted deaths turned out to be anything but routine. They were the first in a chain of human killings in the region called Yavatmal, usually known for its cotton plantations and abundant sunshine.

PHOTO: Officials have used a paraglider to try and find a tiger named “T1” that is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 13 people, in the Yavatmal area of India.Maharashtra Forest Department
Officials have used a paraglider to try and find a tiger named “T1” that is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 13 people, in the Yavatmal area of India.

The hunt for T1 commenced in earnest about a year ago. Officials said they underestimated the scale of the task at first.

PHOTO: Officials have used elephants in their search for a tiger named “T1” that is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 13 people, in the Yavatmal area of India.Maharashtra Forest Department
Officials have used elephants in their search for a tiger named “T1” that is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 13 people, in the Yavatmal area of India.

“She is a very clever tigress. She is killing the baits, but if the slightest disturbance is there, she doesn’t come there at all,” Sunia Limaye, the additional principal chief conservator of forests, who has been working closely on the operation, told ABC News.

The tiger has strayed away from the areas that are usually exclusive forest areas to an area that has a “honeycomb” layout in Pandharkawada, officials believe. In this area, it is hard to tell where forest land ends and farmland begin.

The killings have struck fear in the hearts of people in the more than 25 villages in the area, many of whom are cattle herders and cotton farmers.

Ram Krishna Lonkar, a farmer from one of the neighboring villages, showed ABC News the site of the last killing.

PHOTO: Officials have employed thermal imaging drones to try and find a tiger named T1 that is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 13 people, in the Yavatmal area of India.Maharashtra Forest Department
Officials have employed thermal imaging drones to try and find a tiger named “T1″ that is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 13 people, in the Yavatmal area of India.

“I was returning home from the fields and saw a crowd had gathered here, right at this spot,” he said. “The tigress had attacked a farmer and killed him.”

Other farmers described how the tigress dragged the man’s body from one side of the road to another.

“In the beginning, it may have accidentally killed some people,” Misra said. “But in the last three to four cases, we have noticed that, in one case, it dragged the human body for quite a long time. Then in another case, it ate up almost 60 to 70 percent of the body. That’s when we thought ‘This is not the normal behavior of the tiger.'”

What’s made the operation even more complicated is the presence of two cubs. Camera trap images have revealed that the tigress gave birth to the two cubs over the past year. Officials estimate they are 9 to 10 months old and she has become more elusive in that time.

PHOTO: Authorities in Yavatmal, India, are searching for a 6-year-old female tiger, named T1 and photographed by a camera trap, believed to be responsible for the deaths of 13 people.Maharashtra Forest Department
Authorities in Yavatmal, India, are searching for a 6-year-old female tiger, named “T1” and photographed by a camera trap, believed to be responsible for the deaths of 13 people.

Over the past few weeks, the operation has come under a lot of pressure as officials have tried many tactics to trap the tiger and failed. The forest department has deployed 104 camera traps, specialized sniffer dogs, a paraglider to try and see the tigress from the air, elephants and thermal imaging drones. Some reports said they even tried designer cologne.

“We are also using PIPs, or pug impression pads,” Misra said. “An area of land is cleared and if any animal moves across that area, its foot impression is recorded.”

A special hunter from the Indian city of Hyderabad was also called in to help manage the situation.

Animal right advocates have named the tiger Avni and have been protesting the operation to capture or kill her, creating campaigns on social media under the name “Let Avni Live.” Actors, politicians and locals in cities like Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai have weighed in and posted videos on Facebook urging authorities not to shoot the animal.

India’s Supreme Court, the country’s highest court, ruled that it would not interfere if authorities were forced to shoot the tigress while trying to capture her.

“My order says tranquilizing efforts should be made,” Misra said. “If all the tranquilizing efforts fail, then shooting. So it is a very guarded order.”

Many of his colleagues at the makeshift base camp being used as a command center for the operation expressed support for the plan. As the sun set over the large forest, guards said they were hopeful all of this would be over soon.

“The season is on our side,” one guard said.

As the rainy season passes giving way to a drier harvest season, the Lantana plants in the area will slowly become less dense and other vegetation will likely recede giving authorities better visibility in these areas. Authorities believe it will be easier to find the tiger when the area is clearer.

Until then, the central India district remains on high alert for the most-wanted animal.

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