Top News Stories for Today – October 21, 2016
Battle of retaking Mosul
A US service member was killed by a roadside bomb in northern Iraq on Thursday in the first American combat death in the Iraqi offensive aiming to drive the Islamic State out of the country’s second largest city, Mosul. The improvised explosive device blew up as some of the 100-plus American advisors in the area accompanied local forces advancing toward Mosul.
Islamic State commanders, including founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, are huddling in bunkers in Mosul, where they are directing the defense against an Iraqi-led offensive to retake the city, Iraqi military intelligence officials say. Rumors of Baghdadi’s death surfaced recently. But allied intelligence officials say they now believe he is still in Mosul.
Nearly a week after the military operation to recapture Iraq’s second city of Mosul from the Islamic State, the anticipated exodus of civilians has unfolded precisely as top United Nations officials warned. A UN run camp in Al-Hasakah, Syria is trying its best to provide food, shelter and a safe place for thousands of Iraqis who risked their lives to leave Mosul. Many more are expected to arrive in the coming days.
Kurdish and Iraqi forces advancing on Mosul are finding a trail of destruction left by the Islamic State (IS) as the two forces retake villages that have been under IS control for more than two years. At least 13 villages have been retaken since the offensive began Sunday, according to commanders. They describe finding miles of trenches and tunnels used by IS members to hide during airstrikes.
Islamic State (IS) militants have mounted a ferocious counter-attack in north Iraq, killing at least 19 people in and around the city of Kirkuk. They attacked government buildings, killing at least six police officers, and a power station under construction, where 13 employees died, officials say. Twelve IS fighters also reportedly died and fighting seems to be continuing. Foreign Policy, The Associated Press, The Week, VOA, BBC
Powerful earthquake shakes western Japan
The 6.6-magnitude quake with a shallow depth of 10 kilometers struck Tottori, a prefecture on the Sea of Japan, Friday afternoon. The earthquake’s severe shaking caused a power outage to tens of thousands of homes.
“It shook quite violently,” said Koji Nakahara, a town hall official in coastal Hokuel. There are no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage. Meteorologists say there is no danger of a tsunami. VOA
Filipinos favor US aid, leery of China
Filipinos largely continue to support US military aid despite a string of anti-America comments from their new president, polls and interviews show, and some worry about his proposal for an alliance with China in light of a territorial dispute.
Some people in the Southeast Asian country, however, are prepared to give China a chance as their president, Rodrigo Duterte, visits Beijing this week to discuss economic aid for his impoverished country. Duterte said Thursday he would separate from the United States militarily and economically. The moves follow US criticism of suspected extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.
But a new survey this week from the Philippine-based nonprofit research institution Social Weather Stations shows some of the highest trust ever for the United States, which colonized the Philippines from 1898 to 1946. People on the ground say they still want help from the Western superpower in resisting Muslim rebels as well as Chinese vessels in waters off its west coasts. VOA
Syrian rebels refuse to leave Aleppo
Rebels in Aleppo said they will not leave the areas they hold in the east of the Syrian city as a humanitarian pause announced by Russia aimed at allowing civilians and rebels to depart entered its second day Friday.
Rebels in the city said the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and its ally Russia aim to clear eastern Aleppo of civilians so they can take control of the entire city, Al Jazeera reported. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country was “alarmed” by the refusal of rebels from Jabhat al-Nusra to leave, Russia’s Tass news agency reported. USA Today
Russian warships pass through English Channel
A flotilla of Russian warships is passing through the English Channel en route to Syria. Two British naval ships are shadowing the vessels. The Ministry of Defence said they would be “man-marked every step of the way” while near UK waters. A Russian tug, believed to be in convoy with the taskforce, entered the channel first off the coast near Ramsgate.
EU leaders have strongly condemned Russia’s involvement in bombing the Syrian city of Aleppo. The ships are within international waters but Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the UK would “be watching as part of our steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe”. BBC
US Presidential election
Donald Trump’s anti-Clinton jokes draw boos at Catholic charity dinner: A night after verbally sparring at their final presidential debate, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton sat on each side of Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the Al Smith Dinner in New York City on Thursday night, each taking their turn to poke fun at themselves and each other at the white-tie Catholic charity event. Trump went first, starting off strong but then drawing increasingly loud boos after attacking Clinton as “corrupt,” finally losing the room when he said, “Here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics.” Clinton hewed a little closer to the traditional goodnatured spirit of the event, named after the first Catholic presidential nominee, but she did get daggers from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump advocate, when she roasted him. Clinton and Trump did interact a bit, but Dolan, for his part, called his seat between them “the iciest place on the planet.” The Associated Press, CBS News, The Week
Trump’s national political director ‘steps back’ from campaign: With only 19 days left until the election, Donald Trump’s national political director said he has decided to “take a step back from the campaign.” In a statement to Politico, Jim Murphy said he has not resigned, but for “personal reasons” is taking a lesser role. Murphy is a longtime Republican Party operative who joined the Trump campaign in June, and has been establishing field programs in battleground states and serving as a point man between Trump and the Republican National Committee. Trump is behind in several key states, and some Republicans worry that in swing states, he doesn’t have the same exposure as Hillary Clinton. The Week
Obama says Trump’s claim of rigged election is no laughing matter: President Obama says Trump’s insistence that the November 8 election is rigged against him is “no laughing matter.”Campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Miami on Thursday, Obama said Trump’s shifting stance on whether he will accept American voters’ verdict on the presidential race next month was “dangerous” for democracy. Trump’s latest position, which he enunciated Thursday, apparently in jest to fervent supporters, was to say he absolutely would accept the outcome of the election, as long as it showed he was the winner. VOA
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