PARIS TERROR: Police Officer Killed, Two Wounded In ISIS Attack In Paris


By Julien Pretot and Emmanuel Jarry

PARIS, April 20 (Reuters) – A French policeman was shot dead and two others were wounded in a shooting in central Paris on Thursday night before the gunman himself was killed by officers, police and the Interior Ministry said.

The Islamic State group claimed the shooting, days before French presidential elections, via its Amaq news agency, naming the attacker as Abu Yousif the Belgian. President Francois Hollande said he was convinced it was a terrorist attack.

A second suspect who might have been involved in the incident on the Champs Elysees shopping boulevard may still be on the loose, authorities said. The famous wide street that leads away from the Arc de Triomphe that had earlier been crowded with Parisians and tourists enjoying a spring evening remained closed off hours after the incident.

France has lived under a state of emergency since 2015 and has suffered a spate of Islamist militant attacks, mostly perpetrated by young men who grew up in France and Belgium, and that have killed more than 230 people in the past two years.

Interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said it was too early to say what the motive of the attack was, but that it was clear the police officers had been deliberately targeted.

“A little after 9 PM a vehicle stopped alongside a police car which was parked. Immediately a man got out and fired on the police vehicle, mortally wounding a police officer,” Brandet said.

Officers at the scene said they were searching for a potential second assailant, and Brandet said it could not be ruled out that there was another or others involved.

Officers also conducted a search at the home in eastern Paris of the dead attacker.

“I came out of the Sephora shop and I was walking along the pavement…. A man got out of a car and opened fire with a kalashnikov on a policeman,” witness Chelloug, a kitchen assistant, told Reuters.

“The policeman fell down. I heard six shots, I was afraid. I have a two year-old girl and I thought I was going to die… He shot straight at the police officer.”

Police secure the Champs Elysees Avenue after one policeman was killed and another wounded in a shooting incident in Paris, France, April 20, 2017.© REUTERS/Christian Hartmann Police secure the Champs Elysees Avenue after one policeman was killed and another wounded in a shooting incident in Paris, France, April 20, 2017.



Police authorities called on the public to avoid the area.

TV footage showed the Arc de Triomphe monument and the top half of the Champs Elysees packed with police vans, lights flashing and heavily armed police shutting the area down after what was described by one journalist as a major exchange of fire near a Marks and Spencers store.

The incident came as French voters prepared go to the polls on Sunday in the most tightly-contested presidential election in living memory.

“We shall be of the utmost vigilance, especially in relation to the election,” said President Francois Hollande, who is not himself running for re-election.

Earlier this week, two men were arrested in Marseille who police said had been planning an attack ahead of the election.

That incident brought issues of security and immigration back to the forefront of the campaign, with the anti-immigration National Front leader Marine Le Pen repeating her call for Europe’s partly open borders to be closed.

A machine gun, two hand guns and three kilos of TATP explosive were among the weapons found at a flat in the southern city along with jihadist propaganda materials according to the Paris prosecutor.

Candidates in the election said they had been warned about the Marseille attackers. Francois Fillon, who is the conservative candidate, said he would cancel the campaign events he had been planning for Friday. In November, 2015, Paris was rocked by near simultaneous gun-and-bomb attacks on entertainment sites, in which 130 people died and 368 were wounded. Islamic State claimed responsibility. Two of the 10 known perpetrators were Belgian citizens and three others were French.

(Reporting by Richard Balmforth; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Leigh Thomas and Andrew Callus, Ralph Boulton)


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Trump Blames Chemical Attack In Syria On Obama Administration’s ‘Weakness, Irresolution’


Pamela Engel
Donald Trump Barack Obama /&nbsp;<span>REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque</span>© Provided by Business Insider Donald Trump Barack Obama / REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Donald Trump released a statement Tuesday blaming a chemical attack in Syria on Obama administration’s policies.

Dozens of people were reportedly killed on Tuesday when a hospital treating civilians injured in chemical attacks was bombed. Activists described the attack as among the worst in the country’s six-year war.

“Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world,” Trump said in a statement. “These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution.”

Trump cited President Barack Obama’s inaction after issuing a “red line” in 2012 that suggested that the US would intervene militarily if the Assad regime used chemical weapons.

When evidence emerged that Syrian forces did use chemical weapons to attack civilians, the US declined to use military action in retaliation, instead opting to broker a deal in which the Assad regime agreed to remove chemical weapons from Syria.

“President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing,” Trump said. “The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable attack.”

But it doesn’t appear that the Trump administration is planning to urge Assad to step down. And Trump didn’t seem to want Obama to enforce the red line at the time, tweeting in 2013, “AGAIN, TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA — IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN & FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING!”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters while he was in Turkey last week that the “longer-term status” of Assad would “be decided by the Syrian people.” And US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told reporters that the Trump administration’s “priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”

The remark signaled a shift in America’s official position on the Syrian strongman. Though they were criticized for failing to act against Assad, Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry had long called for Assad to step down in a monitored transition of power.

Tillerson released his own statement on the chemical attack on Tuesday, saying the US “strongly condemns” such actions.

“While we continue to monitor the terrible situation, it is clear that this is how Bashar al-Assad operates: with brutal, unabashed barbarism,” Tillerson said in the statement, which stopped short of calling on him to leave power.

Tillerson instead shifted responsibility to Russia and Iran, two of Assad’s biggest allies, saying they “bear great moral responsibility for these deaths.”

“Those who defend and support him, including Russia and Iran, should have no illusions about Assad or his intentions,” Tillerson said in the statement. “Anyone who uses chemical weapons to attack his own people shows a fundamental disregard for human decency and must be held accountable.”

Tillerson called on Russia and Iran to “exercise their influence over the Syrian regime and to guarantee that this sort of horrific attack never happens again.”

(Business Insider)


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Islamic State Says United States ‘Being Run By An Idiot’ |The Republican News


A picture illustration of an Islamic State flag© REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo A picture illustration of an Islamic State flag Islamic State said on Tuesday the United States was drowning and “being run by an idiot”.

In the first official remarks by the group referring to President Donald Trump since he took office, spokesman Abi al-Hassan al-Muhajer said:

“America you have drowned and there is no saviour, and you have become prey for the soldiers of the caliphate in every part of the earth, you are bankrupt and the signs of your demise are evident to every eye.”

“… There is no more evidence than the fact that you are being run by an idiot who does not know what Syria or Iraq or Islam is,” he said in a recording released on Tuesday on messaging network Telegram.

Trump has made defeating Islamic State a priority of his presidency.

U.S.-backed forces are fighting to retake Islamic State’s two biggest cities – Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

“Die of spite America, die of spite, a nation where both young and old are racing to die in the name of God will not be defeated,” al-Muhajer said.

Trump is examining ways to accelerate the U.S.-led coalition campaign that U.S. and Iraqi officials say has so far been largely successful in uprooting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

The loss of Mosul, Islamic State’s last major stronghold in Iraq, would deal a major defeat to Islamic State.

U.S. and Iraqi officials are preparing for smaller battles after the city is recaptured and expect the group to go underground to fight as a traditional insurgency.


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Trump And Putin Discuss Coordinating On ISIS And Syria, Kremlin Says


Philip Rucker, David Filipov
President Trump has consistently argued that Russia, led by Vladi­mir Putin, can be a strong ally instead of a strategic ally.© AFP/Getty Images President Trump has consistently argued that Russia, led by Vladi­mir Putin, can be a strong ally instead of a strategic ally.  

President Trump and Russian President Vladi­mir Putin had their first official phone conversation Saturday, agreeing to partner in the fight against terrorism and the Arab-Israeli conflict and to forge stronger economic and political ties between their two countries, the Kremlin said.

At a moment of badly strained relations between the United States and Russia, Trump has hoped to cultivate “a great relationship” with Putin despite domestic pressures to maintain sanctions against Moscow.

Trump’s call with Putin was one in a series of conversations he had Saturday with world leaders as he seeks to develop a personal rapport with the heads of such traditional U.S. allies as France, Germany and Japan.

His conversation with Putin comes during a period of tension for the two countries brought by Russia’s role in the Ukrainian crisis and the war in Syria, as well as the conclusion by U.S. intelligence agencies that Putin ordered systematic hacking of Democratic emails to tip the presidential election in Trump’s favor have strained. The leaders agreed to have their staffs determine a possible time and place for their first meeting, the Kremlin said.

“The current international issues were thoroughly discussed, including the fight against terrorism, the situation in the Middle East, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the sphere of strategic stability and non-proliferation, the situation around the Iranian nuclear program and the Korean Peninsula,” the Kremlin said in a statement. “Also touched upon were the main aspects of the crisis in Ukraine. It was agreed to establish a partnership on all these and other areas.”

Trump spoke with Putin from behind his desk in the Oval Office, which was stacked high with papers and a glass of Diet Coke. The president was flanked by Vice President Pence, national security adviser Michael Flynn, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and press secretary Sean Spicer.

Trump began the day with a call to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss security and trade issues between the two countries and the mutual threat posed by North Korea.

“President Trump affirmed the iron-clad U.S. commitment to ensuring the security of Japan,” a White House statement said. It continued, “President Trump and Prime Minister Abe said they would consult and cooperate on the threat posed by North Korea.”

Trump and Abe also discussed an upcoming visit to Japan and other countries in the region by newly installed Defense Secretary James Mattis. Abe, who during Trump’s transition phase became the first foreign leader to talk face-to-face with the president-elect, agreed to meet Trump during a visit to Washington on Feb. 10, according to the White House.

Trump then spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. His outreach to Merkel comes after his repeated attacks on her during the campaign, during which he blasted the German policy on admitting Syrian refugees for allegedly putting German citizens in danger of terrorist attacks.

Trump and Merkel covered a range of issues including strife in the Middle East and North Africa, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as well as relations with Russia, according to the White House.

“Both leaders affirmed the importance of close German-American cooperation to our countries’ security and prosperity and expressed their desire to deepen already close German-American relations in the coming years,” said a White House statement.

After criticizing NATO during his campaign, Trump and Merkel agreed on the alliance’s “fundamental importance to the broader transatlantic relationship and its role in ensuring the peace and stability of our North Atlantic community,” the statement read.

Trump accepted Merkel’s invitation to visit Hamburg, Germany, in July for the G-20 summit, and Trump invited her to visit Washington soon, the White House said.

Trump talked later Saturday with French President François Hollande, and planned to also call Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Ahead of the call, Hollande spoke out against comments Trump made about the European Union on at the White House Friday during his joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Speaking from Lisbon, Hollande said: “When there are statements that come from the president of the United States on Europe and when he talks of the Brexit model for other countries, I believe we have to answer him.”

Hollande insisted that Europe engage Trump in “dialogue with firmness.”

In Moscow, leaders expressed cautious hope that the new American leader could forge stronger ties than former president Barack Obama did. On Saturday, Nikolai Patrushev, the influential head of the Russian Security Council, welcomed the first contact.

“We will await the results, but I believe everything will be positive,” Patrushev said Saturday, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.

From Moscow’s point of view, lifting the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration for interference in the presidential election and Russia’s intervention in Ukraine would be a good start, as would a reduction of NATO’s military presence near Russia’s borders.

Washington’s European allies, meanwhile, have expressed concern over whether Trump’s first moves with Russia will signal a reduction of the U.S. commitment to European security.

But Trump, speaking Friday at a White House news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May, said that it is “very early” to discuss lifting sanctions on Russia. May also stated her commitment to keep the sanctions in place until the Minsk Agreement, a plan to end the conflict in Ukraine, has been implemented. And she added that she continues to argue that position “inside the European Union.”

Trump’s first contact with Putin as president comes after months of speculation over the Kremlin’s role in the 2016 election — starting with Trump’s frequent expressions of admiration for Putin and culminating in the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia interfered in the campaign on Trump’s behalf.

Trump has vehemently denied allegations that his positive view of Moscow stems from business ties or blackmail by Russian intelligence, and he has sought to portray his upbeat words about Putin as a positive.

He has consistently argued that Russia can be a strong ally instead of a strategic ally, saying the two countries could cooperate on counterterrorism in general and rolling back the Islamic State in particular, as well as countering nuclear weapon proliferation. Trump has suggested that Washington can work with Moscow on the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine and that he might be ready to negotiate down NATO’s strong defensive posture on Russia’s western border.

U.S. lawmakers from both parties, and others including Trump Cabinet picks, have raised alarms or at least questioned his softer approach to Russia.

But on Friday, the president expressed more tempered expectations.

“As far as, again, Putin and Russia, I don’t say good, bad or indifferent,” Trump said. “I don’t know the gentleman. I hope we have a fantastic relationship. That’s possible. And it’s also possible we won’t. We will see what happens. I will be representing the American people very, very strongly, very forcefully.”

On a grander scale, the Kremlin seems to hope the Trump administration will relax what it sees as a policy of containment since the fall of the Soviet Union left the United States as the world’s sole superpower. In the new world order outlined by Putin, Russia would have greater influence in world affairs and, from Moscow’s point of view, feel more secure at home.

But Moscow has consistently cautioned about “excessive optimism” over what Trump’s presidency will mean for Russia, and Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stayed on script Friday. “One can hardly expect substantive contacts on the entire range of affairs from this call,” he told reporters. “Let us wait and see. Let us be patient.”

Moscow’s establishment has welcomed Trump as a pragmatist who will not try to enforce American values on the rest of the world.

“He is a businessman. He is a pragmatic person,” Andrei Norkin, co-host of a popular Russian political talk show, said this week. “I hope that his attitude to foreign policy will be like to some sort of business deal. People who will work with him will be telling him ‘Mr. President, we are taking a risk here,’ and he will agree.”

Filipov reported from Moscow. James McAuley in Paris and Karen DeYoung in Washington contributed to this report.

The Washington Post

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U.S. Troops Operating Inside Of Mosul, Official Confirms |The Republican News

Courtney Kube

Image: U.S. soldiers patrol near an Iraqi army base© U.S. soldiers patrol near an Iraqi army base on the outskirts of Mosul, on Nov. 23, 2016. Image: U.S. soldiers patrol near an Iraqi army base American troops have been operating alongside Iraqi forces inside of ISIS-held Mosul, a coalition spokesperson acknowledged for the first time Wednesday.

“They have been in the city at different times,” Col. John Dorrian said during a teleconference briefing Wednesday morning.

The American and coalition troops have been operating as advisers to the Iraqi troops, who are at the forefront of the fighting, and have stayed “behind the forward line of troops,” Dorrian said.

In the past couple of weeks, the number of advisers has roughly doubled to about 450 troops operating with Iraqi command elements, Dorrian said, adding that the increase came in conjunction with the second phase of the battle for Mosul.

Related: ISIS Bombs, Mines Pose ‘Unprecedented’ Threat in Liberated Areas Near Mosul

Dorrian described the fight for Iraq’s second-largest city as “slow going,” saying that it’s “going to take some time.”

ISIS has had more than two years to prepare and fortify their stronghold, and the Iraqis are now faced with clearing more than 200,000 buildings in the city — a process that involves clearing each one from the roof, through every room and closet, and down into the tunnels between the structures.

Dorrian described the current fight in the eastern part of the city as “extraordinarily dangerous,” adding later that once the Iraqis cross the river and enter the west it is going to be a “very tough fight there as well.” (NBC NEWS)

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