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Merkel, Putin to meet in Moscow amid growing Middle East tensions

NAIROBI/WASHINGTON: Three Americans — one US military servicemember and two contractors — were killed by Somalia’s Al-Shabab militant group during an attack on Sunday on a military base in Kenya used by both US and Kenyan forces, the US military said. The military’s Africa Command confirmed the deaths and said two other Americans who work…

Merkel, Putin to meet in Moscow amid growing Middle East tensions

NAIROBI/WASHINGTON: Three Americans — one US military servicemember and two contractors — were killed by Somalia’s Al-Shabab militant group during an attack on Sunday on a military base in Kenya used by both US and Kenyan forces, the US military said.

The military’s Africa Command confirmed the deaths and said two other Americans who work for the US Department of Defense were also wounded in the attack on the Manda Bay Airfield in Lamu county, close to the Somali border.

“The wounded Americans are currently in stable condition and being evacuated,” Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement.

The attack presents another crisis for Washington just as the Pentagon grapples with a rapidly escalating standoff with Iran following a Friday US drone strike in Baghdad that killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

Tehran and Washington have traded threats and counter-threats following the strike, stoking fears of open conflict.

The assault by Al-Shabab, which has been fighting for more than a decade to overthrow the Somali government and impose strict Islamic law, began before dawn and lasted around four hours, witnesses and military sources told Reuters.

A Kenyan police report seen by Reuters said the militants destroyed two planes, two US helicopters and multiple American military vehicles during their assault.

The Kenyan military said five militants had been killed in the attack. There were no immediate reports of Kenyan casualties.

In a statement earlier on Sunday, Al-Shabab claimed it had destroyed seven aircraft and three military vehicles, without providing other details. It also published pictures of masked gunmen standing next to an aircraft in flames.

AFRICOM said fewer than 150 US personnel had been at the base, where they provided training and counterterrorism support to East African forces.

“Alongside our African and international partners, we will pursue those responsible for this attack,” said US Army General Stephen Townsend, who leads Africa Command.

Kenyan military spokesman Col. Paul Njuguna said the base had been secured.

“This morning at around 5:30 am an attempt was made to breach security at Manda Air Strip. The attempted breach was successfully repulsed,” he said in a statement.

“Arising from the unsuccessful breach a fire broke out affecting some of the fuel tanks located at the airstrip. The fire has been put under control.”

In the operation to repulse the attack, at least five militants were killed and weapons including four AK47 rifles were seized, Njuguna said.

There was no indication the militants had managed to enter the base. The airfield is separate to another on Manda Island used by commercial flights to Lamu.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 after a spate of cross-border attacks and kidnappings. They were later absorbed into an African Union peacekeeping force, now 21,000-strong, which supports the shaky, Western-backed Somali government.

Independent investigator Benjamin Strick, who analyzes satellite imagery for open-source investigation websites such as Bellingcat, said the photos of gunmen next to a burning plane published by Al-Shabab matched satellite images of buildings and a distinctive aircraft apron adjacent to the base but outside its perimeter.

Residents on nearby Lamu Island, a haven for wealthy tourists and visiting European royalty, said a loud explosion jolted them awake before 4 a.m.

Abdalla Barghash said he later saw a large dark plume of smoke rising from the Manda Bay mainland, where the airstrip and base are located.

Lamu county, which is far more impoverished than the island, is frequently targeted by Al-Shabab with roadside bombs and ambushes on travelers or attacks on isolated villages.

The insurgents killed three passengers when they attacked a bus in the county on Thursday.

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Prince Harry’s wife Meghan returns to Canada amid royal storm

LONDON: Prince Harry’s wife Meghan has returned to Canada following the couple’s bombshell announcement that they were quitting their frontline royal duties, their spokeswoman said on Friday. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent an extended Christmas break in Canada with their baby son Archie, before returning to break the news that has rocked the…

Prince Harry’s wife Meghan returns to Canada amid royal storm

LONDON: Prince Harry’s wife Meghan has returned to Canada following the couple’s bombshell announcement that they were quitting their frontline royal duties, their spokeswoman said on Friday.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent an extended Christmas break in Canada with their baby son Archie, before returning to break the news that has rocked the royal family.
“I can confirm reports that the duchess is in Canada,” the couple’s spokeswoman told AFP, without providing further details.
The Daily Mail newspaper reported that the royals left eight-month-old Archie with his nanny in Canada when they flew to Britain earlier this week.
It said Meghan, a former US television actress, headed back to rejoin him on Thursday and “she may stay there for the foreseeable future.”
An unnamed source was quoted as saying by the domestic Press Association news agency the duchess had traveled to the UK “to attend some meetings” before returning to Canada
Senior royals were caught off guard by Wednesday’s announcement that the couple wanted to “step back” from their roles.
Queen Elizabeth II reportedly held crisis calls on Thursday involving Harry, his brother Prince William and their father Prince Charles, the heir to the throne.
William, Harry and their wives have been viewed as the modern face of the royal family, hailed for bringing fresh energy into the institution.
But Harry and Meghan last year admitted to struggling with the spotlight following their wedding at Windsor Castle in May 2018 and Archie’s birth a year later.
The couple have lashed out at negative news coverage — Harry calling some of it racist — and taken several papers to court.
The prince also confirmed he was growing apart from his brother, who is second in line to the throne.
The couple said they wanted to forge “a progressive new role,” split their time between Britain and North America and become financially independent.
A palace source on Thursday said the queen had instructed aides to work “at pace” with Meghan and Harry and the government “to find workable solutions.”
Key questions include whether they will keep their royal titles and how much of their funding — mostly from Prince Charles — they will maintain.
The couple’s decision follows a turbulent year for the wider royal family.
Prince Andrew announced he was retiring from public duties after a disastrous TV interview about his friendship with the late US sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
 

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Deadlock over Nile dam as Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan look to Washington for talks

LONDON: Prince Harry’s wife Meghan has returned to Canada following the couple’s bombshell announcement that they were quitting their frontline royal duties, their spokeswoman said on Friday.The Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent an extended Christmas break in Canada with their baby son Archie, before returning to break the news that has rocked the royal…

Deadlock over Nile dam as Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan look to Washington for talks

LONDON: Prince Harry’s wife Meghan has returned to Canada following the couple’s bombshell announcement that they were quitting their frontline royal duties, their spokeswoman said on Friday.The Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent an extended Christmas break in Canada with their baby son Archie, before returning to break the news that has rocked the royal family.“I can confirm reports that the duchess is in Canada,” the couple’s spokeswoman told AFP, without providing further details.The Daily Mail newspaper reported that the royals left eight-month-old Archie with his nanny in Canada when they flew to Britain earlier this week.It said Meghan, a former US television actress, headed back to rejoin him on Thursday and “she may stay there for the foreseeable future.”An unnamed source was quoted as saying by the domestic Press Association news agency the duchess had traveled to the UK “to attend some meetings” before returning to CanadaSenior royals were caught off guard by Wednesday’s announcement that the couple wanted to “step back” from their roles.Queen Elizabeth II reportedly held crisis calls on Thursday involving Harry, his brother Prince William and their father Prince Charles, the heir to the throne.William, Harry and their wives have been viewed as the modern face of the royal family, hailed for bringing fresh energy into the institution.But Harry and Meghan last year admitted to struggling with the spotlight following their wedding at Windsor Castle in May 2018 and Archie’s birth a year later.The couple have lashed out at negative news coverage — Harry calling some of it racist — and taken several papers to court.The prince also confirmed he was growing apart from his brother, who is second in line to the throne.The couple said they wanted to forge “a progressive new role,” split their time between Britain and North America and become financially independent.A palace source on Thursday said the queen had instructed aides to work “at pace” with Meghan and Harry and the government “to find workable solutions.”Key questions include whether they will keep their royal titles and how much of their funding — mostly from Prince Charles — they will maintain.The couple’s decision follows a turbulent year for the wider royal family.Prince Andrew announced he was retiring from public duties after a disastrous TV interview about his friendship with the late US sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. 

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Australia bushfires flare as heatwave brings renewed misery

LONDON: Britain’s royal family is hurt and disappointed by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s surprise announcement that they will step back from their senior roles and spend more time in North America, a royal source said.Harry and Meghan’s decision to step away from royal duties sent shock waves through the royal family as neither…

Australia bushfires flare as heatwave brings renewed misery

LONDON: Britain’s royal family is hurt and disappointed by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s surprise announcement that they will step back from their senior roles and spend more time in North America, a royal source said.Harry and Meghan’s decision to step away from royal duties sent shock waves through the royal family as neither Queen Elizabeth nor Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, had been consulted on the announcement, made on Instagram.Elizabeth, who has devoted her life to the public duty of monarchy since she became queen in 1952, and other senior members of the family felt hurt and disappointed by the move, a royal source said.“We have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution,” Harry and Meghan said in their statement.“We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family, and work to become financially independent.”They said the decision was taken after months of reflection and discussion, and that they would split their time between the United Kingdom and North America to allow their family the space it needs.Cast by the couple as an exciting next step, it was not immediately clear how the couple will become what royal biographers said was akin to being a “half royal” — and who will pay for their transatlantic lifestyles.No senior royal has yet commented on the decision. British tabloids said the announcement had left senior royals such as Prince Charles and Harry’s brother, Prince William, incandescent with rage.Buckingham Palace said discussions with Harry and Meghan were at an early stage and that such complicated issues took time to work out.“MEGXIT” read The Sun’s front page headline. The Daily Mail said Queen Elizabeth was furious about the move.While the manner in which Harry and Meghan have tried to exit the spotlight cast on the world’s most famous family drew criticism, Prince Charles has long sought a slimmer and leaner royal family.The haste of their decision, though, raises questions for a family which had in Elizabeth’s words a “quite bumpy” year that included her son Prince Andrew’s decision to step down due to his relationship with disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein.Royal commentators drew parallels with the abdication crisis of Edward VIII who gave up the throne in 1936 to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson and lived out his life in France.Opponents of the monarchy were scathing and even supporters questioned how one could be a part-time royal.“This really is wanting to have your cake and eat it,” said Graham Smith, head of Republic which wants to abolish the monarchy.“They have said they will dip in and out of royal duties as it suits them but won’t stop taking public money until they find other sources of income.”Meghan, known for her role in the TV legal drama “Suits”, could return to acting in the United States though it is unclear how that would be viewed by the Palace.“Perhaps she’d have to be careful about what roles she’d do because she is a member of the royal family, so she couldn’t do too many racy sex scenes for instance,” said Royal biographer Penny Junor.Harry and Meghan, an American divorcee, met on a blind date but fell in love in Botswana. They married in May 2018 in a lavish ceremony in Windsor Castle that was heralded at the time as a sign of a more modern monarchy.Yet their relationship with the media turned sour as they struggled to deal with the intense scrutiny it brought.Educated at the exclusive Eton College, Harry’s teenage years were overshadowed by negative headlines. Harry and his brother disliked the press because of the way it had hounded their mother, Princess Diana, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997 while being chased by paparazzi.There have been negative stories criticizing Harry and Meghan’s use of private jets while promoting environmental causes and the 2.4 million pound ($3.08 million) taxpayer-funded renovation of their new home.The couple, whose titles are the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, began legal action against some tabloid newspapers in October over historic phone-hacking and invasion of privacy.Harry described the treatment of his wife as “bullying,” and likened it to that of his mother before her death.

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