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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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Bangladesh starts Pfizer vaccination program for workers bound for Saudi Arabia and Kuwait

Draghi confirms Italy’s support for Iraqi government’s fight against terrorism ROME: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi confirmed his country’s “commitment and support” to the Iraqi government, which he called a “key ally” in the fight against international terrorism. Draghi had a long meeting in Rome with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, which was attended also…

Bangladesh starts Pfizer vaccination program for workers bound for Saudi Arabia and Kuwait

Draghi confirms Italy’s support for Iraqi government’s fight against terrorism

ROME: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi confirmed his country’s “commitment and support” to the Iraqi government, which he called a “key ally” in the fight against international terrorism.

Draghi had a long meeting in Rome with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, which was attended also by several ministers of both government.

The meeting was a “fruitful discussion focused on strengthening the historic bilateral partnership and on the main regional challenges,” an Italian diplomatic source told Arab news.

“Italy’s commitment … to ensure the stabilization and socioeconomic development of the country and the Middle East was reaffirmed, starting with the fight against international terrorism and crisis resolution processes,” the source added.

Italian Business and Enterprise Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti told Arab News: “We will soon organize a joint Italian-Iraqi forum with firms from both countries. We are ready to offer our expertise to Iraq in every possible field, and we know that cooperation is possible.”

Italian diplomatic sources said that Draghi confirmed a “significant contingent” of the Italian military will remain in Iraq “in respect of Iraqi sovereignty and in full agreement with the local government,” in order to help the country deal with terrorism.

Al-Kadhimi was also received by Pope Francis in the Vatican. During the meeting, the first following his historic visit to Iraq last March, Pope Francis evoked “the moments of unity experienced by the Iraqi people.” 

The pair went on to highlight the importance of protecting the historical presence of Christians in the country with adequate legal measures, and the significant contribution they can make to the common good, highlighting the need to guarantee them the same rights and duties as other citizens.

According to Vatican sources, the pope also noted “the efforts made by Iraq, with the support of the international community, to re-establish a climate of trust and peaceful coexistence.”

Al-Kadhimi gave the pontiff a leather reproduction of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece “The Last Supper,” made by a female victim of Daesh during her imprisonment, and a wooden cross from the church of Mar Addai in Karemlash. He then had a bilateral meeting with the Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister.

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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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