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13 U.S. troops killed in ISIS attacks on Kabul airport

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The bombings came just hours after defense officials warned about an increased terrorist threat from the Islamic State’s branch in Afghanistan

Thirteen U.S. troops were killed and 18 were injured on Thursday when ISIS militants set off two bombs outside Kabul’s main airport, the Pentagon said, where thousands of people have been gathering in recent days amid a massive evacuation effort by the U.S. and NATO allies.

The attacks from ISIS’s affiliate in Afghanistan were the deadliest U.S. casualty event there since 2011, and they come as the U.S. is just days away from a complete withdrawal from a country now controlled by the Taliban.

An ISIS militant wearing a suicide vest was responsible for the first bombing, two U.S. officials and a person familiar with the matter told POLITICO, detonating around 5 p.m. local time just outside Abbey Gate. ISIS gunmen then opened fire on the crowd. Three sources said U.S. troops returned fire soon after. NATO troops were ordered to leave the airport gates immediately due to the threat of additional attacks, two people said.

Videos from the scene viewed by POLITICO showed dozens of bodies strewn across a sewage canal and the surrounding banks outside Kabul’s main airport, which President Joe Biden has warned was vulnerable to terror attacks in recent days.

In remarks at the White House later Thursday, Biden said he has ordered his top military officials to attack the terror group’s assets.

“We will respond with precision at our time at a place that we choose and the moment of our choosing,” Biden said. “Here’s what you need to know: These ISIS terrorists will not win.”

The news comes just hours after defense officials began warning about an increased terrorist threat from the Islamic State’s branch in Afghanistan, known as ISIS-K. Defense officials briefed lawmakers on Tuesday about the new threat targeting airport gates and military and commercial aircraft evacuating people from Kabul, POLITICO first reported.

The explosion occurred at Abbey Gate, where U.S. personnel until recently welcomed American citizens to board evacuation flights, and the Baron Hotel, roughly 300 meters from the site of the first detonation, Pentagon spokesperson Kirby confirmed earlier Thursday. British troops had been using the hotel as a base for evacuating U.K. personnel.

“We try to push out the boundary even further so we don’t get large crowds massing at the gate,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters. “Clearly at Abbey Gate today we had a larger crowd there than we would like. Which goes to show you the system is not perfect.”

In the meantime, the evacuation flights out of the airport are still running, a defense official told POLITICO.

While the U.S. controls Hamid Karzai International Airport, the Biden administration has been coordinating with the Taliban on security measures outside the airport’s perimeter — a strategy that has proven complicated as Taliban fighters have reportedly been trying to prevent Afghans from fleeing the country. The Taliban has also not stood up effective counterterrorism measures to identify and prevent threats from groups like ISIS-K, which are sworn enemies of the Taliban.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the attacks a “devastating reminder of the dangerous conditions in which our servicemembers and diplomats are operating,” in a statement issued later Thursday.

Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), who served in Afghanistan, told reporters that lawmakers were briefed on the ISIS-K threat during a classified session on Wednesday. “So it was a credible and real threat,” he said. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring the chamber back into session for briefings and possible legislative action.

On Wednesday evening local time in Washington, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued an alert warning Americans to avoid the area “[b]ecause of security threats outside the gates of Kabul airport.”

Less than an hour before confirming the explosion, Kirby said the evacuation was continuing and that the U.S. was committed to relocating “as many people as we can until the end of the mission.”

As of early Thursday morning, the White House said the total number of people evacuated from Kabul since the operation began on Aug. 14 was 95,700, including 13,400 in the last 24 hours. Biden has drawn bipartisan criticism for sticking to an Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw all U.S. troops from the country, with lawmakers and top officials warning that Americans and vulnerable Afghans would be left behind if the mission ended prematurely.

Later Thursday, Blinken said “more than 100,000 people have been safely evacuated from Kabul.”

Before the Taliban takeover, Afghan security forces had long formed a so-called ring of steel around the capital city, with multiple checkpoints operating along main roads and a U.S.-led intelligence system tracking extremists. There have been a series of spectacular Taliban and ISIS attacks in Kabul over the years, but that old system has evaporated since the city’s fall to the Taliban, replaced by chaos and uncertainty, opening the city to attack.

No individual or group has yet taken responsibility for the attack. But Biden this week warned that ISIS wanted to strike the airport. U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence detailed some of its specifics to POLITICO, such as ISIS’s plans to detonate a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device and launch shoulder-fired rockets.

ISIS has moved fighters and materials for the bombs from Nangarhar and Kunar provinces to areas around the airport, a U.S. official said. On Thursday morning, that U.S. official added that an IED attack to breach the outer perimeter wall of the airport might come within six hours. Afterward, ISIS fighters would shoot into the crowd with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades “in hopes of reaching processing centers” at the airport, the official said.

In the last day, the Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, had denied that an airport attack had been imminent, telling The Associated Press about the warnings: “It’s not correct.”

The attack ranks as one of the deadliest days in Afghanistan for U.S. forces, coming behind two helicopter shootdowns. The largest loss of life came in 2011 when a helicopter carrying 30 Americans was shot down, killing 17 Navy SEALs, five sailors, five soldiers and three airmen. The second deadliest day came in 2005 during Operation Red Wings, when another helicopter was shot down killing eight SEALs and eight Army special operations soldiers.

Culled from the Politico 

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Court Jails Footballer, 1 Other Over Cybercrime

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Justice Sikiru Oyinloye of the Kwara State High Court sitting in Ilorin has sentenced one-year imprisonment on one of the players of Ibrafix Football Club, Ilorin, Bamidele Saoban, for offences bordering on love scam.

Bamidele, 25, was jailed alongside one Adaraloye Ezekiel for similar offence.

The duo were prosecuted on separate charges by the Ilorin zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The defendants pleaded guilty when the charges were read to them.

Following their pleas, counsel to the EFCC, Rashidat Alao, led witnesses in evidence to review the facts of the cases.

The witnesses narrated how actionable intelligence led to the arrest of Bamidele and Adaraloye, telling the court that the duo specialised in “Yahoo-Yahoo business”.

Alao urged the court to convict the defendants since there was no contrary evidence to disprove the prosecution’s claims against them.

Delivering his judgment, Justice Oyinloye said the court was convinced that the prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt .

The judge sentenced Bamidele to a term of one year imprisonment with option of fine of N150,000 and Adaraloye to six months Imprisonment with option of fine of N250,000.

Culled from the Leadership News Nigeria

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Wife of Abia Governor visits lady allegedly raped by Policemen, assures of justice

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The Wife of the Governor of Abia State, Mrs Nkechi Ikpeazu has visited the student of Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, whose alleged rape by policemen attached to the Rapid Response Squad in Aba sparked off protests by students of the institution today and assured that her Foundation, Vicar Hope, will foot her medical bills as well as ensure justice is done in the matter.

Mrs Ikpeazu who had earlier called and spoken with the victim, was represented by Dr Suzzy Nwachukwu, a medical personnel attached to the Office of the Wife of the Governor, in the visit to the medical facility where the victim was receiving treatment in Aba, condemned the action of perpetrators of the heinous crime and vowed to ensure that the matter was not swept under the carpet.

Mrs Ikpeazu further directed that the lady be moved to another medical facility within the state for better care and warned those who are still allegedly threatening her to prepare for the full weight of the law.

Meanwhile the state government has called on the commissioner of police, Mrs Janet Agbede to expeditiously investigate allegations of harassment of students and other citizens by security agents in the state. This was disclosed to newsmen by the Commisisoner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, who informed that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has directed the police authorities to ensure full investigation and prosecution of officers who are engaged in harassing law abiding citizens to serve as deterrent to others.

According to him, Governor Ikpeazu is actively monitoring the situation with the alleged harassment and rape of Abiapoly students with a view to ensuring the protection of all law abiding citizens.

Culled from the Sun News Nigeria

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North Korea Says It Successfully Tested Long-Range Missiles

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SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea says it successfully test fired what it described as newly developed long-range cruise missiles over the weekend, its first known testing activity in months, underscoring how it continues to expand its military capabilities amid a stalemate in nuclear negotiations with the United States.

The Korean Central News Agency said Monday the cruise missiles, which had been under development for two years, successfully hit targets 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away during flight tests on Saturday and Sunday.

The North hailed its new missiles as a “strategic weapon of great significance” that meets leader Kim Jong Un’s call to strengthen the country’s military might, implying that they were being developed with an intent to arm them with nuclear warheads.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military was analyzing the North Korean launches based on U.S. and South Korean intelligence.

Kim during a congress of the ruling Workers’ Party in January doubled down on his pledge to bolster his nuclear deterrent in the face of U.S. sanctions and pressure and issued a long wish list of new sophisticated assets, including longer-range intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered submarines, spy satellites and tactical nuclear weapons. Kim also said then that his national defense scientists were developing “intermediate-range cruise missiles with the most powerful warheads in the world.”

North Korea’s weapons tests are meant to build a nuclear and missile program that can stand up to what it claims as U.S. and South Korean hostility, but they are also considered by outside analysts as ways to make its political demands clear to leaders in Washington and Seoul.

The North’s resumption of testing activity is likely an attempt at pressuring the Biden administration over the diplomatic freeze after Kim failed to leverage his arsenal for economic benefits during the the presidency of Donald Trump.

North Korea ended a yearlong pause in ballistic tests in March by firing two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, continuing a tradition of testing new U.S. administrations with weapons demonstrations aimed at measuring Washington’s response and wresting concessions.

But there hadn’t been any known test launches for months after that as Kim focused national efforts on fending off the coronavirus and salvaging his economy.

KCNA said the missiles tested over the weekend traveled for 126 minutes “along an oval and pattern-8 flight orbits” above North Korean land and waters before hitting their targets.

“The test launches showed that the technical indices such as the thrust power of the newly developed turbine-blast engine, the missiles’ navigation control and the end guided hit accuracy by the combined guided mode met the requirements of designs. In all, the efficiency and practicality of the weapon system operation was confirmed to be excellent,” it said.

It appeared that Kim wasn’t in attendance to observe the tests. KCNA said Kim’s top military official, Pak Jong Chon, observed the test-firings and called for the country’s defense scientists to go “all out to increase” the North’s military capabilities.

Kim’s powerful sister last month hinted that North Korea was ready to resume weapons testing while issuing a statement berating the United States and South Korea for continuing their joint military exercises, which she said was the “most vivid expression of U.S. hostile policy.”

She then said the North would boost its pre-emptive strike capabilities while another senior official threatened unspecified countermeasures that would leave the allies facing a “security crisis.”

The allies say the drills are defensive in nature, but they have canceled or downsized them in recent years to create space for diplomacy or in response to COVID-19.

Talks between the United States and North Korea have stalled since the collapse of a summit between Trump and Kim in 2019, when the Americans rejected the North’s demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities. Kim’s government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s overtures for dialogue, demanding that Washington abandon its “hostile” policies first.

The latest tests came after Kim threw an unusual parade in capital Pyongyang last week that was a marked departure from past militaristic displays, showcasing anti-virus workers in hazmat suits and civil defense organizations involved in industrial work and rebuilding communities destroyed by floods instead of missiles and other provocative weaponry.

Experts said that the parade was focused on domestic unity as Kim now faces perhaps his toughest test with North Korea wrestling with U.S.-led economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons, pandemic border closures that are causing further strain to its broken economy, and food shortages worsened by floods in recent summers.

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