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Monthly Archives: June 2016

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Report: Turkish raids target Islamic State group, 13 held

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ISTANBUL (AP) — Police on Thursday conducted simultaneous raids on 16 locations in Istanbul, rounding up 13 people suspected of involvement in a devastating attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport in which the Islamic State group is the prime suspect.

A senior official said three foreigners were among the suspects detained, but did not provide any information on their nationalities. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations.

Earlier, the state-run Anadolu Agency said the raids were carried out in Istanbul’s Pendik, Basaksehir and Sultanbeyli neighborhoods, which span the city’s Asian and European sides.

Authorities say all information suggests the shooting and suicide bombing attack by three assailants late Tuesday on one of the world’s busiest airports was the work of the IS group.

The official said “extensive soft-tissue” damage had complicated efforts to identify the attackers. “A medical team is working around the clock to conclude the identification process,” he told journalists.

The attack killed 42 people, including 13 foreign nationals of whom three were dual nationals. More than 230 people were hurt in the attack. Thursday marked a second day of funerals and mourning.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility by the militant group, which used Turkey as a crossing point to establish itself in neighboring Syria and Iraq. IS this week boasted to have cells in Turkey, among other countries.

In separate large-scale police operations, nine suspects believed to be linked to the IS group were also detained in the coastal city of Izmir. It was not clear if the suspects had any links to the carnage at the airport.

The Izmir raids unfolded simultaneously in the neighborhoods of Konak, Bucak, Karabaglar and Bornova neighborhoods, according to Anadolu Agency. Police seized three hunting rifles and documents relating to IS.

The report said the suspects were in contact with IS militants in Syria and were engaged in “activities that were in line with the organization’s aims and interests,” including providing financial sources, recruits and logistical support.

Days before the Istanbul attack, on June 25, security forces killed two suspected Islamic State militants who were trying to cross the border illegally and ignored orders from security forces to stop, according to local media reports.

One of the two militants was wanted by Turkey on suspicion that he would carry out suicide attacks in the capital Ankara or in the southern city of Adana, Anadolu said.

Turkey shares long, porous borders with both Syria and Iraq, where IS controls large pockets of territory. The government has blamed IS for several major bombings over the past year, including in the capital Ankara, and on tourists in Istanbul.

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Family members of victims cry outside Bakirkoy State Hospital in Istanbul, Wednesday, June 29, 2016. Suicide attackers killed dozens and wounded more than 140 at Istanbul’s busy Ataturk Airport late Tuesday, the latest in a series of bombings to strike Turkey in recent months. Turkish officials said the massacre was most likely the work of the Islamic State group. Turkish authorities have banned distribution of images relating to the Ataturk airport attack within Turkey.(AP Photo/Omer Kuscu) TURKEY OUT

CIA director: Istanbul attack bears hallmarks of IS

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WASHINGTON (AP) — CIA Director John Brennan said Wednesday that the attack in Istanbul has the earmarks of strikes by Islamic State militants and that the group is likely trying to hit the United States in the Middle East and on U.S. soil.

He said Tuesday’s attack at Istanbul’s busy Ataturk Airport that killed 41 people and wounded hundreds “bears the hallmarks of ISIL’s depravity.”

“If anybody here believes the U.S. homeland is hermetically sealed and that ISIL would not consider that, I would guard against it,” Brennan said, using another acronym for the group.

Earlier this month, Brennan told Congress that the U.S. battle against the Islamic State has not yet curbed the group’s global reach and that they are expected to plot more attacks on the West and incite violence by lone wolves. He said IS has a large cadre of Western fighters who could potentially act as operatives for attacks in the West.

On other issues, Brennan said Britain’s vote to leave the European Union means Europe is entering a period of uncertainty, but that intelligence sharing with Britain would not be affected.

He chided Russia, saying that Moscow could do more to help end the conflict in Syria. Brennan has said that Russian military forces have bolstered Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and are carrying out attacks against the U.S.-backed forces trying to unseat him. According to Brennan, Assad is in a stronger position now than he was a year ago.

Brennan said the greatest threat of nuclear proliferation comes from North Korea. He said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un mistakenly believes the international community will not be able to stay united in keeping North Korea from being a nuclear state.

“He seems to be exceptionally stubborn and not a very good listener,” Brennan said, at an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

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FILE – In this June 16, 2016 file photo, CIA Director John Brennan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Brennan said Wednesday, June 29, 2016, that the attack in Istanbul has the earmarks of strikes by Islamic State militants and that the group is likely trying to hit the United States in the Middle East and on U.S. soil. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

US to reveal drones’ civilian toll

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(PhatzNewsRoom / Reuters)    —-     WASHINGTON — Not long after a U.S. drone strike killed his brother-in-law and a nephew in a village in central Yemen, Faisal bin Ali Jaber received a phone call from a Yemeni government official.

The man invited the engineer to Sanaa, the capital, to discuss why a drone had targeted and killed five men meeting under a palm tree in Khashamir after dark on Aug. 29, 2012.

Jaber appeared at the government building, but he was given no explanation or apology. Instead he was handed a plastic bag with $100,000 in sequentially marked $100 bills, he said — a relative fortune in the Arab world’s poorest country.

“They told me, ‘We are not authorized to tell you where this money came from, but take it,’” Jaber, 58, said via an Arabic interpreter in a phone interview from Montreal, where he now lives. “I knew it must be the American government, so I wondered, ‘Why they would do this? Why would they pay this blood money in secret?’”

President Barack Obama is expected to disclose as early as Friday that U.S. military and CIA drone strikes inadvertently have killed about 100 civilians since 2009 in countries where the United States is not officially at war, according to U.S. officials who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The long-awaited report focuses on the so-called shadow wars in Yemen, Pakistan, Libya and Somalia and only during Obama’s tenure. It covers about 500 drone attacks in all.

An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft flies by during a training mission at Creech Air Force Base on November 17, 2015 in Indian Springs, Nev. © Isaac Brekken/Getty Images An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft flies by during a training mission at Creech Air Force Base on November 17, 2015 in Indian Springs, Nev. The tally does not include civilian casualties for Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, where U.S. forces have launched thousands of air attacks as part of wars and where the Pentagon formally investigates allegations of civilian deaths.

Obama plans to issue an executive order that would call on his successor to annually disclose the number of civilians killed in drone strikes, officials said, a goal he announced in 2013 but met only in his last year in office.

He also is expected to disclose parts of the classified legal framework behind the drone program. Known as the Presidential Policy Guidance, it sets legal standards for deciding whom to kill, where and under what circumstances.

“It has been a long road to get this information out there,” one U.S. official said. “There have been concerns from nearly every agency within the government on what to reveal and fears about revealing too much.”

The official tally is far lower than the death toll claimed by human rights and other groups that monitor America’s growing use of combat drones. Their estimates range from 200 to more than 1,000.

“The White House’s accounting of civilian casualties is unlikely to be worth the paper it’s printed on,” said Jennifer Gibson, an attorney at Reprieve, a human rights and advocacy group based in London. The group says local news reports, interviews and other sources suggest drones have killed at least 1,147 civilians.

“We need real transparency from this president — not just numbers, but the definition of who counts as a civilian, the rules for taking such strikes and the procedures for investigating mistakes afterwards,” Gibson said.

Obama promised greater transparency and oversight on drone strikes in a May 2013 speech at National Defense University. It marked a shift for Obama, who had vastly expanded the targeted-killing program begun by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

“Unless we discipline our thinking and our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states,” he said at the time.

Until now, the administration has provided few details of how the drone program is structured, what legal restrictions apply, and what oversight or accountability is involved. The Pentagon has acknowledged only a few civilian deaths.

Officials argue that combat drones, which typically are piloted from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, allow policymakers a way to target terrorists or other potential enemies without involving U.S. ground troops.

They say drones are less likely to cause civilian casualties than manned aircraft, because they can watch a potential target for months.

The CIA, the Air Force and Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command fly combat drones. All are required to assess potential civilian casualties before firing a missile, with a sliding scale of what is permitted, officials said.

The U.S. will accept the risk of several civilian casualties when attacking a senior militant leader, for example, but a single civilian death could be considered excessive if the militant killed poses no threat.

The varying numbers, called the noncombatant casualty cutoff value, are secret and are approved by the president or the defense secretary.

The military and CIA use software simulation programs to project the likelihood of causing innocent deaths. These simulations are then added to a computer-generated map to predict whether a missile blast could hurl fiery debris into a home or onto a roof.

Yet the limits of U.S. intelligence and remote-controlled air attacks have been visible for years. At least eight Americans have been killed by drone attacks, for example, but only one — Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida leader in Yemen — was specifically targeted.

T. Mark McCurley, a retired drone pilot who commanded an MQ-1 Predator squadron, said releasing civilian casualty numbers is not “necessarily a good choice,” considering “there is no standard methodology for counting the dead.”

Until recently, the Obama administration admitted only a handful of civilian deaths because officials counted any military-age male killed as combatants unless evidence showed they were not after the fact, according to former military and intelligence officials.

The White House is not expected to release names, geographic locations or dates of civilians killed. It thus will be difficult to check the government’s data against those collected by independent groups.

Most of those killed die in relative anonymity. After the 2012 airstrike in Yemen, however, Reprieve, the British group, helped Jaber, the engineer, sue the U.S. government for wrongful death.

The lawsuit was dismissed this year.

Jaber said he thinks his brother-in-law, Salem, a Muslim imam, and his nephew, Waleed, a police officer, were mistakenly targeted.

Jaber said Salem had given a sermon in Khashamir to denounce al-Qaida’s ideology. Days later, he met several men who came to the village, and brought Waleed in case anything went wrong.

Four missiles exploded as they talked under a palm tree. Jaber believes the visitors were al-Qaida members, and his family was collateral damage.

“The American government says it will provide transparency into the drone program,” Jaber said. “The fact is innocent people don’t want to die, whether or not the government provides transparency.”

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© REUTERS/Josh Smith A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone sits in a hanger at Creech Air Force Base May 19, 2016. The base in Nevada is the hub for the military’s unmanned aircraft operations in the United States.

Istanbul airport attackers seized on chaos to cause carnage

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ISTANBUL (AP) — It was an attack that echoed the carnage earlier this year at the Brussels airport, down to the taxi that carried the men to their target: Inciting panic and then taking lethal advantage, three suicide attackers unleashed a deadly tide of bullets and bombs at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, leaving 42 dead.

Authorities blamed the Islamic State group for the blood bath late Tuesday, a coordinated assault on one of the world’s busiest airports and on a key NATO ally that plays a crucial role in the fight against the extremist group.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility by the militant group.

Although the attack took a heavy toll, the assailants were initially thwarted by the extensive security on the airport’s perimeter, Turkish officials said.

“When the terrorists couldn’t pass the regular security system, when they couldn’t pass the scanners, police and security controls, they returned and took their weapons out of their suitcases and opened fire at random at the security check,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.

One attacker detonated his explosives downstairs at the arrivals terminal, one went upstairs and blew himself up in the departure hall, and the third waited outside for the fleeing crowd and caused the final lethal blast, two Turkish officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak about the investigation publicly. None of the attackers were Turks, a third official said.

As the chaos unfolded, terrified travelers were sent running first from one explosion and then another. Airport surveillance video showed a panicked crowd of people, some rolling suitcases behind them, stampeding down a corridor, looking fearfully over their shoulders.

Other surveillance footage posted on social media showed one explosion, a ball of fire that sent terrified passengers racing for cover. Another showed an attacker, felled by a gunshot from a security officer, blowing himself up seconds later.

Cihan Tunctas had just disembarked from a flight from Azerbaijan when he heard the sound of gunfire.

“Then the bomb exploded. We were at the exit and … the roof collapsed on our heads,” Tunctas said. The group tried to escape, but their path was blocked by the arrival of a second attacker.

“Two of the security guards noticed him. They walked toward him. Just as they were walking toward him, I turned that way. They just caught him and at that moment he detonated the bomb.”

Investigators later found a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a handgun and two grenades on the bodies, according to the state-run Anadolu news service. Raids at two addresses also uncovered encrypted organizational documents and computer files, the news agency said.

Although the government quickly blamed the Islamic State, there was no immediate claim of responsibility by the extremist group, which did not mention the bloodshed on its social media sites Wednesday. However, an infographic released to celebrate the second anniversary of its self-proclaimed caliphate claimed to have “covert units” in Turkey and other countries.

Islamic State, however, rarely claims attacks in Turkey. One possible reason is a reluctance to be seen as killing fellow Muslims, said Anthony Skinner, director of the analyst group Verisk Maplecroft. Another is its desire to exploit the violent rift between Turkey and Kurdish rebels, he said.

“It very clearly meets Islamic State’s strategic objectives to leave this ambiguity,” Skinner said.

Yildirim, the Turkish prime minister, also suggested the attack could be linked to steps Ankara took Monday toward mending strained ties with Israel and Russia. Late Wednesday, he told the Turkish public the authorities were increasingly convinced that the Islamic State group, also known as Daesh, was responsible for the ghastly attack.

“Our thought that it is Daesh, continues to gain weight,” Yildirim said.

A key partner in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group, Turkey faces an array of security threats from other groups as well, including ultra-left radicals and Kurdish rebels demanding greater autonomy in the restive southeast.

The country shares long, porous borders with both Syria and Iraq, where IS controls large pockets of territory, and the government has blamed IS for several major bombings over the past year, including in the capital Ankara, and on tourists in Istanbul.

“The reality is that Turkey is situated in a very vulnerable situation, geographically speaking,” Skinner said.

Victims in Tuesday’s attack included at least 13 foreigners and several people remained unidentified Wednesday. The Istanbul governor’s office said more than 230 people were wounded and dozens remained in critical condition.

Among the dead was Muhammed Eymen Demirci, who had just landed a job on the airport’s ground services crew after more than a year of unemployment: “I got the job bro!” the 25-year-old texted a friend in May.

He died while waiting for a bus after his shift. A childhood friend who had helped Demirci get the job was devastated. “He was such a friendly person, a man who fought for his ideals,” Deniz Dogan told The Associated Press. “Now I wish he hadn’t gotten the job.”

“So, what can we think? We cannot think anything,” said Ali Batur, whose brother also died. “A terror attack might happen everywhere, it does happen everywhere.”

Dozens of anxious friends and relatives waited Wednesday outside Istanbul’s Bakirkoy Hospital.

“You can hear that people are wailing here,” said Serdar Tatlisu, a relative of a victim. “We cannot cope anymore, we can’t just stay still. We need some kind of solution for whatever problem there is.”

Funerals for some of the victims began Wednesday as Turkish authorities sought to put together an attack timeline, going through surveillance footage and interviewing witnesses. A Turkish court imposed a media ban on any information not officially released by the government.

The devastation at Istanbul’s airport was a reminder of the March 22 attack on the Brussels airport, where two suicide bombings ripped through check-in counters, killing 16 people. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack, as well as an explosion the same day at a Brussels subway station that killed 16 more people.

As dawn broke Wednesday, workers were removing debris from the Istanbul airport and mere hours after the terminal erupted into chaos, it reopened to flights. It took 12 days for flights to resume in Brussels, and more than two months for the terminal building to fully reopen.

Turkey has suffered a series of attacks that have frightened away visitors and devastated its economy, which relies heavily on tourism.

The government has stepped up controls at airports and land borders and deported thousands of foreign fighters, but has struggled to tackle the extremist threat while also conducting security operations against Kurdish rebels. Turkish airports have security checks at both the entrances to terminal buildings and before the entrances to departure gates.

This year alone, a Jan. 12 attack that Turkish authorities blamed on IS claimed the lives of a dozen German tourists visiting Istanbul’s historic sites. On March 19, a suicide bombing rocked Istanbul’s main pedestrian street, killing five people, including the bomber, whom the authorities identified as a Turkish national linked to IS.

Last October, twin suicide bombings hit a peace rally outside Ankara’s train station, killing 103 people. There was no claim of responsibility but Turkish authorities blamed it on an Islamic State cell.

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Fraser reported from Ankara. Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul; Lori Hinnant in Paris; Bram Janssen in Istanbul, Desmond Butler in Washington, D.C. and Scott Mayerowitz in New York contributed. Family members of victims cry outside the Forensic Medical Center in Istanbul, Wednesday, June 29, 2016. Suicide attackers killed dozens and wounded more than 140 at Istanbul’s busy Ataturk Airport late Tuesday, the latest in a series of bombings to strike Turkey in recent months. Turkish officials said the massacre was most likely the work of the Islamic State group. Turkish authorities have banned distribution of images relating to the Ataturk airport attack within Turkey.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) TURKEY OUT

US-led strikes pound Islamic State in Iraq, kill 250 fighters

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WASHINGTON, June 29 (Reuters) – U.S.-led coalition aircraft waged a series of deadly strikes against Islamic State around the city of Falluja on Wednesday, U.S. officials told Reuters, with one citing a preliminary estimate of at least 250 suspected fighters killed and at least 40 vehicles destroyed.

If the figures are confirmed, the strikes would be among the deadliest ever against the jihadist group. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the operation and noted preliminary estimates can change.

The strikes, which the officials said took place south of the city, where civilians have also been displaced, are just the latest battlefield setback suffered by Islamic State in its self-proclaimed “caliphate” of Iraq and Syria.

The group’s territorial losses are not diminishing concerns about its intent and ability to strike abroad though. Turkey pointed the finger at Islamic State on Wednesday for a triple suicide bombing and gun attack that killed 41 people at Istanbul’s main airport.

Smoke rises after an airstrike by U.S.-led coalition warplanes as Iraqi security forces advance towards Shuhada neighborhood of Fallujah to retake the city from Islamic State militants, Iraq, Friday, June 3, 2016. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed): <span style="font-size:13px;">Smoke rises after an airstrike by U.S.-led coalition warplanes as Iraqi security forces advance towards the Shuhada neighbourhood of Fallujah to retake the city from Islamic State militants, Iraq, Friday, June 3, 2016.&nbsp;</span> © AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed Smoke rises after an airstrike by U.S.-led coalition warplanes as Iraqi security forces advance towards the Shuhada neighbourhood of Fallujah to retake the city from Islamic State militants, Iraq, Friday, June 3, 2016. 

CIA chief John Brennan told a forum in Washington the attack bore the hallmarks of Islamic State “depravity” and acknowledged there was a long road ahead battling the group, particularly its ability to incite attacks.

“We’ve made, I think, some significant progress, along with our coalition partners, in Syria and Iraq, where most of the ISIS members are resident right now,” Brennan said.

“But ISIS’ ability to continue to propagate its narrative, as well as to incite and carry out these attacks — I think we still have a way to go before we’re able to say that we have made some significant progress against them.”

On the battlefield, the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State has moved up a gear in recent weeks, with the government declaring victory over Islamic State in Falluja.

An alliance of militias has also launched a major offensive against the militant group in the city of Manbij in northern Syria.

Still, in a reminder of the back-and-forth nature of the war, U.S.-backed Syrian rebels were pushed back from the outskirts of an Islamic State-held town on the border with Iraq and a nearby air base on Wednesday after the jihadists mounted a counter- attack, two rebel sources said.

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BEIRUT (AP) — Islamic State militants on Wednesday pushed back U.S.-trained Syrian rebels from the outskirts of a town on the Iraqi border, in a setback to a budding offensive that aims to sever the militants’ transit link between the two countries, a rebel spokesman said.

The Islamic State-linked Aamaq news agency said IS militants repelled the New Syrian Army from an air base which the rebels had briefly captured earlier in the day. IS said it seized 15 hostages and ammunition, and was still advancing against the rebels.

Earlier Wednesday, the Pentagon-trained force entered the Hamdan air base — northwest of the border town of Boukamal — following intense clashes, rebel spokesman Mozahem al-Saloum said.

He said airborne fighters were dropped from coalition helicopters on Boukamal’s southern edge, helping the rebels advance. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on local activists, confirmed the account.

The Observatory’s chief, Rami Abdurrahman, said foreign airborne fighters were also dropped to the north, enabling the takeover of the base. The rebels were heavily backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and were coordinating their fight with Iraqi tribesmen and forces on the other side of the border, al-Saloum said.

The U.S.-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against IS in Iraq and Syria since 2014 and 300 U.S. Special Forces are embedded with a Kurdish-led militia in northern Syria. It was not immediately clear whether U.S. forces were involved in the Boukamal offensive or what other nations might be taking part in it. The U.S. Central Command said coalition jets carried out several airstrikes on IS targets in the Boukamal area.

Col. Chris Garver, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Baghdad, said the U.S has provided advice and assistance to the New Syrian Army as well as airstrikes in both Syria and Iraq in support of the operation.

He told The Associated Press there was a “very tough fight” around Boukamal and that the New Syrian Army suffered a “setback.” He denied that fighters had been brought in by helicopter.

The Observatory said several hundred rebels from different factions were involved in the offensive, which began on Tuesday. It said IS fighters have dug trenches and planted land mines south of the town.

Al-Saloum acknowledged that the New Syrian Army forces were unable to keep the base and other outposts to the south, near the Qaim border crossing with Iraq, but said the offensive would continue.

Wednesday’s setback was another blow to the rebel group. Two weeks ago, Washington accused Russian aircraft of bombing the rebels near the Iraqi border. Russia has been carrying out airstrikes in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces since September.

IS seized much of the Iraq-Syria border in its 2014 blitz, along with large swaths of territory in both countries, declaring an Islamic caliphate. But IS has in recent weeks been losing ground, both in Iraq and in Syria.

The U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led forces have besieged Manbij, an IS stronghold in northern Syria, while Iraqi forces have taken Fallujah, in Iraq’s western Anbar province, from the Sunni extremist group.

Meanwhile, aid was delivered to the besieged Syrian towns of Zamalka and Irbin for the first time since 2012, when the two rebel-held areas east of Damascus were besieged by government forces. The 37-truck convoy organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the U.N. and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent carried enough food and medical aid for 20,000 people.

Further north, another joint convoy carrying food and medicine was delivered to the besieged suburb of west Harasta, which has a population of about 12,500, according to ICRC spokeswoman Ingy Sedky.

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Associated Press writer Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report. This photo released on Tuesday June 28, 2016, provided by the New Syrian Army anti-government rebels, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows U.S.-backed Syrian rebels of the New Syrian Army run in an unknown place in Syria. Islamic State militants on Wednesday pushed back U.S.-trained Syrian rebels from the outskirts of a town on the Iraqi border, dealing a setback to a budding offensive that aims to sever the militants’ transit link between Syria and Iraq, a rebel spokesman said. (The New Syrian Army via AP)

Other Europeans unhappy with EU could seek to follow UK out

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Disenchantment with the European Union is not limited to British voters who opted to leave the bloc.

Across the continent, anti-EU sentiment is bubbling up, fueled by far-right movements and others unhappy about government spending cuts, the influx of migrants and other policies overseen from the 28-nation bloc’s headquarters in Brussels.

Some political parties are offering to fight the cause of those disgruntled voters in upcoming national elections — while a few far-right groups are demanding a ballot in their own countries on whether to follow the United Kingdom out of the EU door.

That prospect is sending a shudder through top EU officials because it could propel a process where the bloc breaks up or collapses as fast as an Arctic ice sheet, wrecking Europe’s delicate postwar balance. “Will Britain’s shock vote to leave the (EU) embolden populists elsewhere in Europe? That has become the key question for Europe,” Holger Schmieding, the chief economist at German bank Berenberg, wrote in an analysis.

France’s far-right National Front lost no time in claiming that the U.K. referendum outcome was an emphatic endorsement for the proposals it has been putting forward for years. The nationalist party’s leader, Marine Le Pen, posted a Union Jack photo on her Facebook page when the result came out last week, saying, “The United Kingdom has started a movement that will not stop.”

She told the European Parliament on Tuesday: “I believe the consequences (of the U.K. vote) can only be positive … the people can only gain from getting back their independence, a democratic process and control of their destiny.”

Le Pen predicts that Europe’s future shape will now be a central issue in campaigning for the French presidential election in about a year’s time. Numerous polls have shown her reaching a runoff against a mainstream candidate.

The British decision to leave was also met with joy by Dutch firebrand lawmaker Geert Wilders, whose anti-Islam and euroskeptic Freedom Party is riding high in polls ahead of a general election next year.

“We want to be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy,” Wilders said, pledging to hold a referendum on EU membership if he takes power. “Let the Dutch people decide.”

Eager to nip such talk in the bud, EU leaders are taking a tough line with the British government — refusing to hold any talks on future ties with Britain until London formally notifies Brussels it is leaving.

“No notification, no negotiation,” EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Tuesday — also sending a signal that leaving the bloc won’t be painless.

It’s not hard to find European politicians disaffected with the EU. They might not want to quit the bloc, but they do want it to do some things differently and now they are finding public support.

Earlier this month, an anti-establishment party founded by a comic triumphed in Italian mayoral runoff elections, upending the established order of municipal politics in Rome and Turin. The 5-Star Movement candidates trounced Italian Premier Matteo Renzi’s mainstream rivals.

“We want a Europe that is more a ‘community’ and not a union of banks and lobbies,” the 5-Star Movement’s founder, comic Beppe Grillo, wrote on his blog after the British vote.

“The European Union must change, otherwise it dies,” he wrote. “There are millions and millions of European citizens ever more critical, who don’t recognize themselves in this union, made of banks and economic blackmail.”

Grillo was apparently referring to the deeply unpopular austerity measures designed to cut government debt in Europe after the continent’s financial crisis. Although the immediate threat of a disintegration of the 19-nation eurozone that uses the euro currency has eased, the budget cuts have stayed.

So has the resentment of them.

Since a general election in Portugal last year, an anti-austerity Socialist government has been kept in power by an unprecedented alliance with the Communist Party and radical Left Bloc. While Portugal has won too many benefits to want to leave the EU, the government’s reversal of austerity measures is a clear act of defiance against Brussels.

EU nations such as Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and others have also defied EU officials in Brussels by refusing to accept the principle of sharing the refugee load among all EU members and helping hard-hit Greece and Italy.

Even in Germany, a bedrock EU member, there are stirrings of dissent against the bloc.

Although Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc is easily the strongest political force, its ratings have sagged over recent months amid the huge surge of migrants to Germany and the fierce debate about how to respond.

At the same time, the 3-year-old nationalist Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, has surged in the polls and hopes to enter the national parliament next year. It opposes the EU becoming a “centralist federal state” and demands that the EU go back to being a community of “sovereign, loosely connected individual states.”

If the EU doesn’t scrap its “quasi-socialist experiment of deeper political integration, more European people will win back their sovereignty the British way,” AfD leader Frauke Petry said.

And even the wealthy countries of Northern Europe have not been immune from the anti-EU malaise, with the U.K. referendum result encouraging euroskeptic parties there as well.

The nationalist Sweden Democrats reiterated their calls for a similar anti-EU referendum in Sweden, while the leader of the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, said Denmark should wait to see what kind of exit deal Britain gets and then hold its own referendum.

Britain’s impending departure from the EU — which is apparently is going to be a much longer process than EU officials want — has not triggered a groundswell of other countries eager to follow suit.

Still, it has given European leaders a lot to think about.

“Obsessed with the idea of instant and total integration, we failed to notice that ordinary people, the citizens of Europe, do not share our euro-enthusiasm,” EU President Donald Tusk said.

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Elaine Ganley in Paris, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Frances D’Emilio in Italy, Michael C. Corder in The Hague and Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this report. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, leaves an EU summit in Brussels on Wednesday, June 29, 2016. European Union leaders are meeting without Britain for the first time since the British referendum to rethink their bloc and keep it from disintegrating after Britain’s unprecedented vote to leave. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Business: Asia up as markets get over Brexit shock, Europe loses gains

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TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were mostly up Thursday as markets continued to gradually get over the shock set off by Britain’s vote last week to leave the European Union. European indexes lost some of their recent gains.

KEEPING SCORE: France’s CAC 40 lost 0.8 percent in early trading to 4,162.90 and Germany’s DAX edged down 0.7 percent to 9,549.08. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.5 percent to 6,327.08. U.S. shares were also set to drift lower with Dow futures slipping nearly 0.2 percent at 17,590.00. S&P 500 futures were down 0.4 percent at 2,059.60.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 edged up 0.1 percent to finish at 15575.92, while South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.7 percent to 1,970.35. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 1.8 percent to 5,233.40. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 1.5 percent to 20,734.77. The Shanghai Composite was little changed, inching down nearly 0.1 percent to 2,929.61.

BREXIT: Post-“Brexit” worries are easing in recent sessions. Last week, Britain voted in a referendum to leave the European Union, sending stocks reeling. But Britain’s stock market has recouped its losses. The worries are shifting from short-term worries to long-term worries, analysts say.

THE QUOTE: “The Brexit is only four market-days old, and equities are right back where they’ve been all year — running sideways,” according to a report by the Group Strategic Marketing & Communications of DBS Bank in Hong Kong.

ENERGY: In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude dipped 69 cents to $49.19 a barrel in New York. It had added $2.03 to close at $49.88 a barrel Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 44 cents to $50.88 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The yen, seen as a safe haven, strengthened sharply after the British referendum, but the volatility has since settled. The dollar was trading at 102.56 yen, up from 102.30 yen. The euro rose to $1.1108 from $1.107.

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Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/yuri-kageyama

‘Move on’ from Benghazi? Republicans say it’s unlikely

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Clinton says it’s “time to move on” after a congressional report on the deadly 2012 Benghazi attacks accused the Obama administration of lethal mistakes, but produced no “smoking gun” pointing to wrongdoing by the former secretary of state.

Not likely, especially in an election year with Clinton’s presidential rival — Donald Trump — lashing out.

An 800-page report by a special House committee makes no direct accusations of wrongdoing by Clinton, who was secretary of state during the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Still, Republicans point to Benghazi as a major failure by the administration and by Clinton during her tenure leading the State Department. The issue is likely to shadow Clinton as she continues her bid for president.

“Four Americans died, yet no one has been fired. No one even missed a paycheck,” said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Americans – including all our men and women serving overseas – deserve better.”

Clinton, now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, said the report by Republicans on the House Benghazi Committee took more than two years and $7 million but “found nothing to contradict” the findings of earlier investigations.

“I’ll leave it to others to characterize this report but I think it’s pretty clear it’s time to move on,” Clinton said a campaign stop in Denver Tuesday.

Republicans were not ready to let the issue go, especially with an election that will decide who occupies the White House and which party will control the House and Senate. The Benghazi panel has scheduled a July 8 meeting to formally adopt the report — 10 days before the Republican National Convention begins in Cleveland.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican facing a tough re-election race, said the administration “ignored a deteriorating security situation” in Benghazi, “and the State Department disregarded repeated requests for increased security.”

Trump was uncharacteristically quiet on the topic Tuesday, but he has repeatedly blamed Clinton for the deaths in Benghazi.

Even after issuing the report the committee’s work is not over. On Wednesday the panel will interview a witness who posted on Facebook that he was a crew chief based in Europe on the night of the attacks. A committee spokesman said the interview would be posted on the panel’s website and any information he provides can be added to the report.

Democrats called the interview ridiculous.

The Libya attacks have been political fodder from the start, given their timing in the weeks before President Barack Obama’s re-election, and that has not abated despite seven previous congressional investigations. There has been finger-pointing on both sides over security at the diplomatic outpost and whether Clinton and the White House initially tried to portray the assault as a protest over an offensive, anti-Muslim video, instead of a calculated terrorist attack.

The prolonged investigation into the attacks has also been marked by partisan sniping. Republicans accuse the administration of stonewalling important documents and witnesses, while Democrats say the panel’s primary goal is to undermine Clinton’s presidential bid.

Republican insistence that the investigation was not politically motivated was undermined last year when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., suggested that the committee could take credit for Clinton’s then-slumping poll numbers. His statements helped dash McCarthy’s chances of becoming House Speaker.

The committee interviewed more than 100 witnesses and reviewed some 75,000 pages of documents, but an almost accidental discovery by the panel last year has shadowed Clinton’s candidacy. The committee disclosed that she had used a private email server to conduct government business while serving as secretary of state, a practice that has drawn widespread scrutiny, including an FBI investigation.

Already bitterly partisan, Tuesday’s release of the report exposed divisions within Republican ranks.

Reps. Mike Pompeo of Kansas and Jim Jordan of Ohio issued a separate report slamming Clinton and the Obama administration, with Pompeo telling reporters that the former first lady and senator was “morally reprehensible.” Clinton’s public comments casting the attack as a possible protest over the anti-Muslim video differed sharply from her private assessments to family members and diplomats, Jordan and Pompeo said.

The panel’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., deflected questions, saying the report “is not about one person.”

The GOP report severely criticizes the military, CIA and administration officials for their response as the attacks unfolded, and their subsequent explanations to the American people.

Hours after the attacks began, “Not a single wheel of a single U.S. military asset had even turned toward Libya,” Gowdy complained. U.S. military leaders told the committee they thought an evacuation was imminent, slowing any response.

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House Benghazi Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., discusses the release of his final report on the 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where a violent mob killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republicans on the committee harshly faulted the Obama administration for lax security and a slow response to the deadly 2012 attacks at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya. But they produced no new allegations about then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

US-backed forces enter IS bastion in Syria amid clashes

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BEIRUT (AP) — The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces pushed into the outskirts of the Islamic State group’s stronghold of Manbij in northern Syria on Thursday and were advancing slowly to the center of town, an adviser to the predominantly Kurdish force and a monitoring group said.

The town lies along the only IS supply line between the Turkish border and the extremist group’s self-styled capital, Raqqa. If Manbij is captured, it will be the biggest strategic defeat for IS in Syria since July 2015, when it lost the border town of Tal Abyad.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighting was taking place between IS fighters and the SDF on the southwestern edge of Manbij.

Rami Abdurrahman, the director of the monitoring group which relies on a network of activists in Syria, said the SDF seized two squares on the western side of the city, then advanced toward a third square with air support from the U.S.-led coalition.

An adviser to the SDF, Nasser Haj Mansour, said troops had moved into the town from its northern edge on Wednesday, close to grain silos, prompting clashes with IS militants. He confirmed that other troops entered Manbij from the west.

Journalist Mustafa Bali, who accompanied the SDF fighters on the front line Wednesday, said it was only a matter of time before the silos are taken. They are separated from the city by a main highway, he said, estimating that the SDF are about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the city center and only 2 kilometers (1 mile) from the main city hospital.

“There are intense clashes on all the city’s edges,” Bali said.

Abdurrahman said IS still controls the silos.

The U.S. Central Command said in a statement Thursday that the fighters of the Syrian Arab Coalition, which is part of the SDF, “have consolidated their position around Manbij in anticipation of the next phase of operations.”

The U.S. has embedded 300 Special Forces troops with the SDF. France has also confirmed it is providing training to the SDF.

The Observatory said around 63 SDF fighters and 458 IS militants, including field operators and foreign fighters, have died in fighting in the Manbij campaign, which began on May 31. Thousands of civilians have fled the town and surrounding areas, though some are beginning to return to their villages as they are cleared of IS fighters, according to the U.S. central command.

The international coalition has since conducted more than 233 airstrikes in the vicinity of the town, according to the command.

The Islamic State’s news agency Aamaq said the group’s militants repelled an SDF advance from the town’s north, adding that a suicide attack against the retreating forces killed many fighters.

Mansour, the SDF adviser, said suicide bombings are no obstacle to advancing on Manbij.

“The tactic and their moves have become known and ineffective, particularly when there is always air support,” he said.

Also Thursday, at least eight civilians were killed in Syria’s Aleppo when airstrikes and mortar shells struck different neighborhoods in opposite sides of the divided city, anti-government activists and Syrian state media reported.

In past months, Aleppo has witnessed some of the fiercest fighting and bombardment, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of people on both sides of the contested city. Partial cease-fires have failed to hold in the city that has been divided between rebel and government areas since 2012.

In Geneva, the U.N.’s special adviser to Syria said he aimed to resume peace talks between the government and the opposition in July, though he stressed a return to talks would require the cooperation of Russia and the U.S., which back opposing sides in the war.

The last round of talks ended with the opposition walking out in April, citing the Syrian government’s civilian siege tactics and its unwillingness to negotiate the release of political prisoners. Violence had escalating sharply around the country, as well, spelling the end of a partial cease-fire that came into effect in late February.

Staffan de Mistura said there was “substantial improvement” to humanitarian access to besieged areas in June, but indicated prospects of a truce remain distant.

“Looking at the cessation of hostilities in Idlib, Aleppo and other places, we are not getting good news,” he said, calling on Russia and the U.S. to help in bringing parties back to the negotiating table.

Humanitarian aid adviser Jan Egeland said officials were “very concerned” about the situation in the towns of Zabadani, Madaya, Foua, and Kafraya. The towns, two besieged by the pro-government forces and two besieged by rebels, have not received aid since April.

Pro-government forces have not allowed baby milk to civilians in Madaya in five months, according to local media activist Abdel Wahhab Ahmad. “We’re facing a severe crisis,” he said. Ahmad and other activists also reported that pro-government forces were burning farmland around Madaya and Zabadani.

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Associated Press writer Philip Issa in Beirut contributed to this report. Staffan de Mistura, left, UN Special Envoy for Syria next to Jan Egeland, right, Senior Advisor to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, speaks about the International Syria Support Group’s Humanitarian Access Task Force at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, June 23, 2016. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

Jordan widens IS crackdown; signs of home-grown extremism

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AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Two dozen men charged with supporting the Islamic State group squeezed into a cage in Jordan’s state security court. After brief questioning from a judge, they filed back out, and guards ushered in the next group of accused militants.

The court’s heavy load is part of a widening domestic crackdown on the extremist group.

Hundreds have been sentenced to prison, are awaiting trial or are being held for questioning about links to IS. Under toughened anti-terror laws, even liking or sharing the group’s propaganda on social media can land someone a prison sentence.

Some say the crowded court rooms — along with recent attacks — signal that the pro-Western kingdom has a more serious problem with home-grown extremism than it has acknowledged in public.

“We have an extending of the network of IS in Jordan,” not just among the poor, but also the middle class, said Mohammed Abu Rumman, an expert on extremists. “It is a minority but it is very dangerous.”

The extremists underscored their reach last week when they launched a suicide attack from Syria, detonating a car bomb near a Jordanian border post and killing seven soldiers in the deadliest attack in the kingdom in years.

The Islamic State group’s 2014 capture of large parts of neighboring Syria and Iraq sent jitters through Jordan. The U.S. spent millions of dollars to help the kingdom fortify its borders, and Jordan joined the U.S.-led anti-IS military coalition.

Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed Momani said that extremism is a global problem and that “Jordan is at a level just like any other societies in the world.” The challenge is to reach and prosecute extremists and “make sure we have enough awareness in the society against these elements,” he said.

For the West, any sign of instability in Jordan, a key ally, would be of great concern. This would include rising support for jihadi Salafism, the violent version of Sunni Islam that underpins IS and its precursor, al-Qaida.

U.S.-based analyst David Schenker said that while it’s difficult to measure jihadi activity, the recent uptick “points to a threat that is not insignificant.”

Abu Rumman estimated that there are more than 10,000 jihadi Salafists in Jordan, most loyal to IS, and that about 2,000 of them are fighting in the ranks of IS and al-Qaida in Syria and Iraq.

Jordan’s domestic jihadi Salafi movement goes back almost three decades when Jordanians returning from Afghanistan spread the extremist message at home. Jordan’s movement produced a spiritual leader of al-Qaida, Abu Mohammad al-Maqdisi, and the network’s first chief in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed by the U.S. in 2006.

Over the years, jihadi recruitment has been fueled by high unemployment, restrictions on political expression and the perception that the world stands by as Sunnis are being slaughtered in Syria’s civil war and the Sunni-Shiite conflict in Iraq.

In Jordan, militant strongholds include poor urban areas, remote tribal towns and decades-old Palestinian refugee camps, where some feel like lesser citizens.

The support was on display recently in one stronghold, Zarqa. Hundreds attended the funeral of Nasser Idreis, a resident convicted of IS support who died in prison from complications of a liver infection.

Clean-shaven intelligence agents mingled with the mourners, and didn’t try to blend in. One even introduced himself to a journalist as “mukhabarat” — intelligence — and asked why she was taking photos.

Some mourners wore Salafi attire — short robes or pants that stop above the ankle — though that didn’t necessarily mean they belong to the jihadi strain of Salafis that supports violence. Bearded men hugged each other outside a mosque, among them a leading local jihadi Salafi known as Abu Bandar.

Abu Bandar said the government has stepped up pressure in recent months, including with preventive arrests, “because they are concerned that something might happen.”

Idreis’ family denies he had ties to IS.

In 2011, dozens of Zarqa residents were arrested after clashes between local Salafis and security forces — including Abu Bandar, who was one of the last of the group to be released, about six months ago. Dozens of those have since left and joined the IS “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, said Moussa Abdallat, a lawyer who represented many of them.

In response to the rise of IS, Jordan toughened anti-terror laws, criminalizing social media support for the group. Sharing IS material on social media can bring one to five years in prison, and involvement in an actual plot far more.

The Jordanian intelligence agency closely monitors social media with an “electronic army,” said Abu Rumman. “Anyone they find sympathizing with IS, they send him to court,” he said.

Abdallat said about 300 Jordanians have been sentenced or are on trial, most for social media support. About 300 more are being held for questioning, though the number changes frequently, he said. Most are in their late teens and early 20s.

“There is a notable increase in the number of detainees,” he said.

Court officials would not provide statistics.

During a recent session, a judge presided over a courtroom crowded with defense lawyers and family of the accused.

In the defendants’ cage, the men stood tightly packed. Some hugged new arrivals. Among them were five young men accused of being part of a cell plotting attacks on security installations, a charge their lawyer denied.

In recent months, other reports of such alleged plots have emerged, along with actual attacks.

In November, a police captain opened fire in an international police training facility, killing two Americans and three others. In June, a gunman killed five Jordanians in an attack on an intelligence agency branch in the Palestinian refugee camp of Baqaa.

The government has portrayed the police captain as troubled and clamped a news blackout on the June attack. Abu Rumman said he believes both attackers were inspired by IS.

In March, Jordanian commandos and suspected IS supporters exchanged fire during an arrest raid, leaving seven militants and a member of the security forces dead. The IS cell had allegedly plotted to carry out attacks in Jordan. More than a dozen suspects arrested after the gun battle were charged in the security court this week, Abdallat said.

Jordan defends its anti-IS strategy, saying it is part of a broader counter-radicalization program involving 13 government agencies. Critics say the focus on jailing IS sympathizers is counter-productive.

Prison creates more bonds among jihadis, while a security-centric approach risks neglecting other causes of radicalization, said Schenker, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

A survey among Jordanians, published last week by the U.S.-based International Republican Institute, found a sharp rise in discontent with Jordan’s economy and political institutions. The poll also showed that 89 percent of Jordanians consider IS a terrorist organization, while 4 percent disagree and 7 percent are not sure — the same as in 2015.

As jihadi Salafism continues to spread in the region, Jordan will have to adapt, Schenker said.

“Ultimately, you are going to have more Salafists, and the king can’t lock them all up,” he said.

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Associated Press writers Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, Layla Quran in Amman, Jordan, and Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.

US official says anti-Islamic State forces gaining momentum

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. representative to the anti-Islamic State coalition told Congress on Tuesday that morale inside the extremist group is plummeting, as the forces arrayed against it are gaining momentum.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk said the Islamic State’s days in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, are “numbered” as lawmakers called for the Obama administration to move faster to defeat the extremists.

The Islamic State remains firmly in control of Mosul, which was once home to a million people. Iraqi leaders have pledged to liberate Mosul this year. But McGurk said the U.S. won’t put a timeline on the Mosul operation.

“Whereas (the Islamic State) once promised lavish pay for recruits, and free services in its ‘caliphate,’ it is now slashing pay, cannot provide services, and is facing internal resistance,” McGurk said. “We know from other sources, as well, that (IS) fighters are panicking on the battlefield, foreign recruits are now looking to return home, and leaders are struggling to maintain discipline, even despite the threat of execution for disobedience.”

McGurk’s testimony comes two weeks after a lone gunman who pledged solidarity with the Islamic State killed 49 people and injured 53 at an Orlando nightclub. McGurk said no direct link has been found between the Orlando gunman and the Islamic State.

Five weeks after a military operation began, a senior Iraqi commander on Sunday declared the city of Fallujah in Iraq had been “fully liberated” from the Islamic State, giving a major boost to the country’s security and political leadership in its fight against the extremists. Fallujah was the first city to fall to the Islamic State group more than two years ago.

The committee’s chairman, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., questioned whether progress on the battlefield in Iraq could result in the Islamic State seeking to increase the number of attacks against Western targets.

McGurk said that more “lone wolf” style attacks such as the one in Orlando are possible as the Islamic State loses territory, but he told the committee that the Islamic State “has been talking about attacking us for years.” But he acknowledged that the “lone wolf attacks are very difficult to stop.”

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., criticized the Obama administration for failing to come up with a game plan that actually leads to the Islamic State being defeated. He compared the administration’s anti-Islamic State campaign to poking a beehive and succeeding primarily in making the bees angrier.

McGurk said the U.S. and its allies are moving as quickly as possible and said that no significant territory liberated by coalition-backed forces has been reclaimed by the extremist group.

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Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, as Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk, the U.S. representative to the anti-Islamic State coalition, testified before the committee. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

Follow Richard Lardner on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rplardner

Business: World stocks up as worries from Britain’s EU leave vote ease

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Global stock markets were sharply higher Wednesday as worries eased about stepping into an era of uncertainty following Britain’s referendum on EU membership. The British pound rose.

Europe got off to a strong start. The FTSE 100 jumped 2 percent to 6,261.39 in early trading and Germany’s DAX advanced 1.6 percent to 9,597.63. France’s CAC 40 gained 2.1 percent to 4,176.64. Futures augured a positive start for Wall Street. Dow futures added 0.4 percent and S&P futures also rose 0.4 percent.

Investors appeared to have set aside their anxiety over Britain’s vote, encouraged by solid data on the U.S. economy and housing market.

But analysts said market volatility could return any time and it is too early to say that investor appetite for risk has made a full comeback.

Despite the solid performance of stock markets, “it’s likely that markets will leave a Brexit risk factor in pricing for a while yet,” Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said in a commentary.

“Stock markets may find it difficult to return immediately to the levels seen before last week’s vote with buyers being wary about being too aggressive in what may yet be just another volatile swing.”

Global financial markets were rattled last Friday after results showed that Britons had voted to leave the EU. Global ratings agencies slashed their top-shelf credit rating for the U.K., and the pound plunged to its lowest level in 31 years.

In Asia on Wednesday, Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 1.6 percent to 15,566.83 and South Korea’s Kospi gained 1 percent to 1,956.36. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index added 1.3 percent to 20,436.12, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.8 percent to 5,142.40. Stocks in mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia also were higher.

The British currency recovered some of its losses this week but remained near its 31-year low. On Wednesday, the pound rose 0.4 percent to $1.3402. In other currencies, the yen, which strengthened sharply after the British referendum, extended its gains. The dollar weakened to 102.574 yen from 102.632 yen. The euro weakened to $1.106 from $1.108.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 65 cents to $48.50 per barrel in New York. The contract added $1.52, or 3.3 percent, to close at $47.85 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 58 cents to $49.84 a barrel in London.

Breaking News: 23 Turkish citizens, 13 foreign nationals among dead in Istanbul airport attack

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(PhatzNewsRoom / AP)   —  -ISTANBUL (AP) — Suicide attackers killed dozens and wounded more than 140 at Istanbul’s busy Ataturk Airport, the latest in a series of bombings to strike Turkey in recent months. Turkish officials said the massacre was most likely the work of the Islamic State group.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 36 people died Tuesday as well as the three suicide bombers, who arrived at the airport in a taxi and blew themselves up after opening fire. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said 147 were wounded.

Yildirim said in a press statement early Wednesday that air traffic had returned to normal and “our airport has been opened to flights and departures from 02:20 (local time) on.”

There were conflicting accounts of the attack.

A Turkish official said authorities are going through CCTV footage and witness statements to establish a preliminary timeline and details of the attack. “It is a jigsaw puzzle” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol.

The Haber Turk newspaper reported that one attacker blew himself up outside the terminal, then two others opened fire at the point where the X-ray machines are. One attacker was shot at while running amid fleeing passengers, then blew himself up at the exit. The third attacker went up one level to where the international departures terminal is, was shot by police and blew himself up.

Airport surveillance video posted on social media showed the moment of one blast, a huge ball of fire, and passengers fleeing in terror. Another appeared to show an attacker, felled by a gunshot from a security officer, blowing himself up seconds later.

The recent attacks on a key partner in the U.S.-led coalition against IS and a NATO member have increased in scale and frequency. They have scared away tourists and hurt the Turkish economy, which relies heavily on tourism.

As dawn broke over the destroyed terminal, workers began removing debris left by the blast. The airport partially reopened, but an information board inside showed that about one-third of scheduled flights had been canceled, with a host of others delayed.

Earlier, the hundreds of passengers who fled the airport in fear were left sitting on the grass outside. Several ambulances drove back and forth, and security vehicles surrounded the scene.

Adam Keally, from Boston, said he heard gunfire followed by several explosions, then saw people “very badly injured.”

Hevin Zini, 12, had just arrived from Duesseldorf, Germany, with her family and was in tears.

“There was blood on the ground,” she told AP. “Everything was blown up to bits… if we had arrived two minutes earlier, it could have been us.”

Yildirim, speaking to reporters at the airport, said all initial indications suggested the Islamic State group was behind the attacks.

“The findings of our security forces point at the Daesh organization as the perpetrators of this terror attack,” Yildirim said, using the Arabic name for IS. “Even though the indications suggest Daesh, our investigations are continuing.”

Another Turkish official said two of the attackers detonated explosives at the entrance of the international arrivals terminal after police fired at them, while the third blew himself up in the parking lot.

The official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations, cited interior ministry information and said that none of the attackers managed to get past security checks at the terminal’s entrance.

Turkey shares long, porous borders with Syria and Iraq, war-torn countries where IS controls large pockets of territory. Authorities have blamed IS for several major bombings over the past year, including on the capital Ankara, as well as attacks on tourists in Istanbul.

Turkey has stepped up controls at airports and land borders and deported thousands of foreign fighters, but has struggled to tackle the threat of IS militants while also conducting vast security operations against Kurdish rebels, who have also been blamed for recent deadly attacks.

The devastation at Istanbul’s airport follows the March attack on Brussels Airport, where two suicide bombings ripped through check-in counters, killing 16 people. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack, as well as a subsequent explosion at a Brussels subway station that killed 16 more people.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on Twitter: “Our thoughts are with the victims of the attacks at Istanbul’s airport. We condemn these atrocious acts of violence.”

Turkish airports have security checks at both the entrance of terminal buildings and then later before entry to departure gates.

South African Judy Favish, who spent two days in Istanbul as a layover on her way home from Dublin, had just checked in when she heard an explosion followed by gunfire and a loud bang.

She says she hid under the counter for some time.

Favish says passengers were ushered to a cafeteria at the basement level where they were kept for more than an hour before being allowed outside.

Two South African tourists, Paul and Susie Roos from Cape Town, were at the airport and due to fly home at the time of the explosions.

“We came up from the arrivals to the departures, up the escalator when we heard these shots going off,” Paul Roos said. “There was this guy going roaming around, he was dressed in black and he had a hand gun.”

The prime minister called for national unity and “global cooperation” in combatting terrorism.

“This (attack) has shown once again that terrorism is a global threat,” Yildirim said. “This is a heinous planned attack that targeted innocent people.”

He suggested that the attack was linked to what he said was Turkey’s success against Kurdish rebels, as well as steps Ankara took Monday toward mending strained ties with Israel and Russia.

“It is meaningful that this heinous attack came at a time when we have become successful in the fight against separatist terrorism … and at a time when we started a process of normalizing ties with our neighbors,” Yildirim said.

Yildirim said there was no security lapse at the airport, but added the fact the attackers were carrying weapons “increased the severity” of the attack.

Turkish airports have security checks at both the entrance of terminal buildings and then later before entry to departure gates.

Asked whether a fourth attacker might have escaped, Yildirim said authorities have no such assessment but are considering every possibility.

Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in Turkey said at least seven Saudis were injured in the attack and all are in stable condition.

Dozens of anxious friends and relatives waited early Wednesday outside Istanbul’s Bakirkoy Hospital, where victims were taken.

“You can hear that people are wailing here,” said Serdar Tatlisu, a relative of a victim. “We cannot cope anymore, we can’t just stay still. We need some kind of solution for whatever problem there is.”

Turkey is beset by an array of security threats, 26, including from ultra-left radicals, Kurdish rebels demanding greater autonomy in the restive southeast, and IS militants.

On Jan. 12, an attack that Turkish authorities blamed on IS claimed the lives of a dozen German tourists visiting Istanbul’s historic sites. On March 19, a suicide bombing rocked Istanbul’s main pedestrian street, killing five people, including the bomber, whom the authorities identified as a Turkish national linked to IS.

Last October, twin suicide bombings hit a peace rally outside Ankara’s train station, killing 102 people. There was no claim of responsibility but Turkish authorities blamed the attack on a local cell of IS.

Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport was the 11th busiest airport in the world last year, with 61.8 million passengers, according to Airports Council International. It is also one of the fastest-growing airports in the world, seeing 9.2 percent more passengers last year than in 2014.

The largest carrier at the airport is Turkish Airlines, which operates a major hub there. Low-cost Turkish carrier Onur Air is the second-largest airline there.

The independent Dogan news agency reported that a plane carrying Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama was arriving on an official visit at the airport when the attack occurred. The prime minister and his entourage were safely taken to an official residence.

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http://interactives.ap.org/2016/turkey-airport-attack/

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Fraser reported from Ankara, and Soguel from Sanliurfa, Turkey. Associated Press writers Bram Janssen in Istanbul, Will Lester in Washington, D.C. and Scott Mayerowitz in New York contributed to this report.

Istanbul Ataturk Airport

— It’s the 11th busiest in the world in terms of terms of passenger traffic (2015)

— It’s Europe’s third busiest airport (2015)

— Almost 62 million passengers pass through each year

— There are two main passenger terminals

— Terminal 1 is older, smaller and handles domestic travel

— Terminal 2 is the newer, bigger international terminal

— There is a vehicle checkpoint at the entrance to the airport compound

— There is also an X-ray security checkpoint before entering the terminal

— The airport is roughly 15 miles from the city

Source: Airports Council International/CNN

— Ataturk Airport is “one of the most secure airports in the world,” CNN senior law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes says. But the airport has been “very overwhelmed for several decades with terrorism from PKK.”
— The U.S. embassy in Ankara, the Turkish capital, is sending consular officers to the airport to account for any potential U.S. victims. But there are no indications of any American casualties at this point, a senior State Department official told CNN’s Elise Labott.
— The attacks happened on a warm summer night at the airport, east of Istanbul, that is the 11th busiest in the world in terms of passenger traffic. CNN’s Ali Veshi says it is a modern, sophisticated airport. “There are all of the major European and American boutiques there,” said Velshi, who has traveled through Turkey many times. “… You see people of all shapes and colors, in all sorts of dress. If you want to target the cosmopolitan nature of Istanbul, this is possibly the most cosmopolitan, heavily populated part. You can target tourist areas, but this is the part where the world comes together.”
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Two explosions and gunfire rocked Istanbul Ataturk Airport Tuesday, Turkey’s semi-official news agency Anadolu reported.
The report referenced multiple injuries, but the exact number was not immediately clear.
Turkey has been rocked by a string of terror attacks over the past year as it weathers bombing campaigns carried out both by ISIS and Kurdish militants.
As part of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, Turkey allows coalition planes to fly raids on ISIS targets in neighboring Iraq and Syria from its territory.
And last year Turkey resumed hostilities with the PKK, Kurdish militant separatists, in earnest after a two-year cease fire broke down.
The PKK, or Kurdistan Worker’s Party, has been in an armed struggle with the Turkish government for decades and is considered a terror group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
In March, at least 37 were killed when a car bomb detonated near a bus stop in the Turkish capital, Ankara, in an attack claimed by a Kurdish militant group.
Six days later an ISIS suicide bomber detonated himself on one of Istanbul’s main streets, killing four.
 TK bombing
Ataturk Airport

 

A month earlier, 28 were killed in a blast targeting military vehicles in central Ankara. A Kurdish group claimed responsibility.
And in January, at least 10 German tourists died in a suicide bombing in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square that Turkish authorities linked to ISIS.
The violence has had an impact on Turkey’s tourism industry, a key sector of the national economy.

 

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Eversley reported from New York. Contributing: Jabeen Bhatti in Berlin and Jim Michaels in McLean, Va. / Turkish police block the road Tuesday after a suicide bomb attack at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul.(Photo: Sedat Suna/epa)

 

26 Countries Gather In Hawaii For Massive War Game

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(PhatzNewsRoom / Huffington Post)    —-    As summer visitors flock to Hawaii for sun, sand and surf, the militaries of more than two dozen nations will be in and around the islands for five weeks of war games. The Rim of the Pacific exercise, hosted every two years by the U.S. Pacific Fleet, claims to be the world’s largest international maritime maneuvers. The Navy says the exercise, best known as RIMPAC, provides a unique training opportunity that fosters relationships vital to “ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.”

The massive exercise also comes with controversy, drawing fire from Hawaii residents and environmental groups who say the games harm the ocean and marine life. Many of the activities will be far offshore, and won’t noticeably affect tourists.

This year’s exercise — the 25th since its inception in 1971 and the largest yet — kicks off Thursday and continues until Aug. 4. It will include 26 nations, 45 ships, more than 200 aircraft, five submarines and 25,000 personnel in and around the Hawaiian islands and in Southern California.

Rochelle Rieger, a Navy spokeswoman, told The Huffington Post that RIMPAC 2016 includes for the first time Denmark, Germany and Italy, an advanced submarine rescue exercise, and a harpoon missile launch from a U.S. Navy littoral combat ship. (Brazil, facing multiple crises as it prepares to host the Olympics later this summer, was supposed to join, but backed out due to “unforeseen scheduling commitments.”)

Participants will practice disaster relief, maritime security operations, sea control and complex war-fighting, the Navy said in a statement. Two drills will involve sending a pair of retired U.S. ships — the former USS Thach and former USS Crommelin — to a watery grave at the bottom of the Pacific. The exercise, which the military calls SINKEX, involves towing decommissioned vessels out to sea and shooting at them with missiles and torpedoes until they sink.

© Provided by The Huffington Post

Rieger noted that 70 percent of the planet is covered by water, 80 percent of the world’s population lives on or near a coast, and 90 percent of international commerce travels by sea. “The global maritime environment is too large and too complex for any one nation to safeguard,” Rieger wrote in an email.

The war-gaming comes at a price for whales, dolphins and other mammals.

David Henkin, an attorney at Earthjustice who represented environmental groups in the organization’s 2013 lawsuit against the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service, told HuffPost there is “no longer any scientific debate” about whether RIMPAC and similar Navy trainings harm whales and dolphins.

“They do,” Henkin said, citing the Navy’s own estimates that trainings off the coasts of Hawaii and Southern California over a five-year period may inadvertently kill 155 marine mammals and injure approximately 2,000.

© Provided by The Huffington Post

In a historic settlement last year, the Navy agreed to limit its use of sonar and explosives in critical habitats for whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. The agreement came several months after a federal judge ruled that the Navy severely underestimated the threat of its trainings.

Henkin called it a “compromise.” The Navy limits activities in sensitive areas, but not in others, including RIMPAC, which he said continues to threaten marine life.  Earthjustice will continue pushing the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service to do away with war games altogether.

“We have specific concerns about RIMPAC,” Henkin said. The exercise in 2004 likely caused a mass stranding of 150 to 200 melon-headed whales on Kauai, he said. “The only way to prevent similar tragedies in the future is for the Navy to keep its deadly activities out of sensitive marine mammal habitat.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was unable to conclusively determine if the stranding was a result of RIMPAC. “While causation of this stranding event may never be unequivocally determined, we consider the active sonar transmissions of July 2-3, 2004, a plausible, if not likely, contributing factor in what may have been a confluence of events,” the federal agency wrote in a report.

© Provided by The Huffington Post

In addition to the Earthjustice lawsuit over RIMPAC, conservation groups, including the Sierra Club and Basel Action Network, filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency in 2011, alleging the agency failed to prevent the SINKEX program from polluting the sea with toxic materials.

To minimize the potential impact of RIMPAC exercises on marine life, Rieger said participants receive training and are required to follow protective measures. Those measures, she said, include posting trained lookouts, monitoring for marine life before and during the use of sonar and explosives, establishing safety and exclusion zones, and “reducing or ceasing sonar transmissions when marine mammals are detected within prescribed distances.”

This year’s exercise, themed “Capable, Adaptive, Partners,” also includes forces from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, People’s Republic of China, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga and the United Kingdom.

China’s return to RIMPAC — its second time participating — comes amid growing tension in the South China Sea. In March, Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii) called on Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to bar China from participating in RIMPAC, saying the country’s behavior is “polar opposite of U.S. objectives in the region.”

Kremlin says it will take time to mend ties with Turkey

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MOSCOW (AP) — The spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday it will take time to mend ties with Turkey after the November downing of a Russian military jet.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent a letter of formal apology to Putin on Monday, seven months after Turkey shot down the Russian jet on a mission in Syria, triggering a slew of Russian sanctions that have dealt a severe blow to the Turkish economy.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday called the apology “a very important” step but added that the ties between the two countries would not go back to where they were overnight.

“Together we will have to take more than one step to meet each other,” Peskov said. “One shouldn’t think that everything will be mended overnight. We will keep up our work in that direction.”

Putin will talk to Erdogan by telephone on Wednesday, which will be their first one-to-one chat since the jet was shot down, Peskov said.

Putin denounced the downing of the Russian warplane at the Syrian border on Nov. 24 as a “treacherous stab in the back.” Russia rejected the Turkish claim that the plane had violated its airspace, and responded by deploying long-range air defense missiles to its base in Syria, warning that they would destroy any target posing a threat to Russian aircraft.

The plane’s downing came amid a rift between Moscow and Ankara over Syria, where they backed the opposing sides in the conflict.

Moscow moved swiftly to ban the sales of package tours to Turkey, which had depended heavily on the Russian tourist flow; banned most of Turkey’s food exports; and introduced restrictions against Turkish construction companies, which had won a sizable niche of the Russian market.

In contrast to Peskov Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday that the ties are already getting better: “We can say that the ice has melted and that the process of normalization has started.”

Along with the formal apology Moscow said it expected Ankara to pay compensation to the family of the killed pilot.

Asked about the possible compensation, Yildirim said in comments carried by the Anadolu news agency on Tuesday that “there is no such thing. We only expressed our regrets, we shared their grief.” He added that Turkey will go ahead with the prosecution of the men responsible for the pilot’s death.

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Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses people gathered for a traditional “Iftar” feast at his palace in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, June 27, 2016. Erdogan has apologized to Russia, expressing his “sympathy and deep condolences” to the family of the killed pilot for the downing of a Russian military jet at the Syrian border, Dmitry Peskov spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday. (Murat Cetinmuhurdar, Presidential Press Service, Pool via AP)

Airport security fix: better training _ for humans and dogs

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GLYNCO, Ga. (AP) — Covering their ears, 192 future airport security officers watched from a grandstand as Larry Colburn detonates a plastic-explosives device like the one carried by the underwear bomber in a failed attempt to blow up a plane on Christmas Day 2009.

A tremendous boom was accompanied by a plume of black and gray smoke. A wave of blast pressure ripples through the air, hitting the spectators.

Colburn, a former Memphis police bomb squad commander, tells his audience that a very small amount of the explosive, PTEN, can do tremendous damage.

“That is an eye-opener,” says Betsy Bueno. “That makes you want to do the job.”

Bueno is joining the Transportation Security Administration, the agency responsible for protecting the traveling public from terrorists. Many travelers associate the TSA with long lines and uncomfortable pat-downs. Critics say the agency gives the appearance of airport security without doing much to make air travel safe.

Screeners performed dismally in tests last year involving mock weapons and bombs being smuggled through checkpoints. The TSA suffers from understaffing, low morale and high turnover. Peter Neffenger, the agency’s sixth and current administrator, wants to hire more enthusiastic agents like Bueno and train them better, and also make greater use of bomb-sniffing dogs as ways to improve TSA performance.

Since January, almost all new hires have gone through a two-week course at a sprawling federal installation in Georgia. And TSA recently opened a new facility in Texas to train more dogs in bomb detection. The Associated Press took a look behind the scenes at both operations.

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TSA was built on the fly after the September 2001 terror attacks. Since the agency’s inception, screeners have been trained piecemeal at airports around the country. Neffenger decided to centralize and standardize training at a former naval air station in Glynco that is used by more than 90 other law enforcement agencies. TSA said it spends $2,400 per trainee on travel and lodging for their nine-day course at Glynco.

“By bringing them here to the academy, we’re sure that all of the officers are getting the exact same training, the exact same procedures,” says Douglas Yates, who worked at Palm Beach (Florida) International Airport and is now an instructor at the Georgia center. Under the airport-based approach, he says, “there is always the possibility that some of the local things might creep in that are not proper or not according to the program.”

There is classroom instruction on reading X-ray images, detecting explosives and other weapons, methods that terrorists use to conceal weapons, and handling hostile travelers. The heart of the academy is a fully equipped TSA checkpoint.

On a recent morning, two dozen candidates practiced screening people and bags. Classmates played the role of travelers carrying infants, using wheelchairs, requesting to bypass the millimeter-wave screening machines or presenting other challenges.

Instructors say the hardest part for trainees is interpreting X-ray images. That could explain screeners’ poor performance in audits — according to published reports, screeners working at airports across the country missed banned objects 67 out of 70 times in one test, a 96 percent failure rate.

New hires take up to 20 hours of classroom instruction with the screening machines and are drilled to ask for a supervisor’s opinion if something looks suspicious.

Some threats are obvious on screens in the mock checkpoint — a handgun left in a bag. Others are ambiguous — a jumble of wires that could be part of a bomb or just the accoutrements of modern, connected life.

Trainees must pass written and hands-on tests during the course to be hired. The washout rate is remarkably low, just 1 percent. An instructor, Elaine Wilson Harrison, says that is partly because trainees get remedial help if they fail part of the course.

Anthony Roman, an aviation-security expert who runs an investigative consulting firm, says recent audits like the one with a 96 percent failure rate prove that TSA training has been poor. He says the creation of a central academy was a good first step.

“I don’t think nine days is long enough, but we need many, many more TSA officers and we need them now,” he says.

Roman says he already sees signs that better training is paying off. He says TSA’s pat-downs are better and more military-like, more bags are being rescreened, and screeners are quicker to call a supervisor over to take a second look at an X-ray image.

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At the academy, new hires are taught about TSA’s history — an effort to make them feel special and less likely to quit. The work of airport screeners is often boring, adding to the agency’s retention problem.

TSA veterans say, however, that they do important work and that it’s not a dead-end career.

“I myself started out part-time and I worked my way up the ranks,” said Wilson Harrison, who began at Memphis International Airport and moved up to Miami International before become an academy instructor. “Some of them do use it as a stepping stone to go to other agencies, but the majority of the students say that they would like to stay with TSA and make it a career.”

Crystal Champagne, a 28-year from Minneapolis who worked for TSA in 2013 and is returning after a stint as a caregiver, says retention is tied to respect.

“We’re all working together to keep our country safe,” she says. “If we continue to show officers that’s what this is about and it is truly necessary — and not to listen to media — I think we’ll do well and we’ll stay.”

A TSA spokesman says full-time screeners start at $25,000 to $30,000 a year. On the federal government’s jobs website, slightly higher salaries are listed in some high-cost areas. The vast majority of listings, however, are for part-time jobs paying $15 to $22 an hour.

Screeners must be at least 18 years old and hold a high school degree or the equivalent or have one year of full-time experience in a related field such as airport security or reading X-rays. Some new hires are in their 50s. The average new hire is 32, and 17 percent of screeners are veterans, according to TSA.

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Halfway across the country, at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, TSA handlers at a new $14 million facility are training more dogs to sniff out explosives.

Ford Rinewalt keeps Sylvia, a 2-year-old German shorthaired pointer, on a short leash while they moved briskly up and down aisles in a cargo-filled warehouse. As they turn a corner, Sylvia suddenly stops and focuses on a large box inside which trainers had hidden explosives-dusted bait.

“Good dog! Good dog!” Rinewalt exclaims as he rewards the dog with belly rubs and a toy.

“There is no way you can trick the dog if it is trained well,” says Rinewalt’s supervisor, Robert Grauel, who keeps a close eye on the handler and the dog from a few paces away. Drug smugglers have tried everything from ground coffee to layers of plastic, but the canine sense of smell is too keen, he says.

Dogs speed up the checkpoints because travelers who pass the canine smell test can be moved to expedited-screening lanes where they don’t have to remove shoes, belts and jackets or take laptops out of their bags.

The dogs’ usefulness goes beyond convenience. TSA officials believe that dogs, along with uniformed police officers, are a deterrent. And if dogs help move passengers through checkpoints faster, that could eliminate long lines that are themselves a target for terrorists.

Part of the cabin of a widebody airliner has been reassembled so the dogs can be trained to search a plane. There is also a mock airport gate, complete with “passengers” hired for the day from a temp agency.

Once the dogs are taught to find explosives they are paired with a trainer who must learn to lead the dog on methodical searches so that no area is missed, and to interpret the animal’s behavior.

The training costs $30,000 to $55,000 per dog and, officials said, is constantly tweaked to keep up with changes in the materials and methods used by terrorists.

TSA has about 320 dogs to sniff cargo at airports and train stations; about 140 are also trained to work on people. Neffenger said recently that his agency could use 500 dogs if it had the money, and before Memorial Day he moved more dog teams to the busiest airports to help reduce lines.

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In this Thursday, June 9, 2016, photo, Transportation Security Administration dog trainer Mitchell Brown works with Atilla, a bomb-sniffing dog, in a makeshift luggage area at Lackland Air Force Base training facility in Texas. Short-staffed and often criticized, the TSA aims to improve training for airport screeners. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Follow David Koenig at http://twitter.com/airlinewriter

EU pressures UK to trigger exit talks

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BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union ratcheted up pressure Tuesday on the U.K. to trigger negotiations to leave the bloc and end the uncertainty that has rattled stock markets.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she will use “all her strength” to prevent the EU from drifting apart in the wake of Britain’s decision.

At an emergency session in the European Parliament hours ahead of a summit of EU leaders, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Britain to clarify its future, after Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that exit talks might not be launched before October.

“I want the U.K. to clarify its position. Not today, not tomorrow at 9 a.m., but soon. We cannot allow ourselves to remain in a prolonged period of uncertainty,” Juncker told EU lawmakers.

Juncker said that he had banned policy commissioners under his command from holding any secret talks with Britain on its future until London triggers the exit clause known as Article 50 that launches negotiations on Britain’s departure.

“No notification, no negotiation,” he said, hours before EU leaders begin a two-day summit in Brussels to hear Cameron’s position and chart the way forward.

Once Article 50 is triggered, the U.K. would have two years to negotiate its exit, unless all remaining 27 EU nations agree to extend that period. The talks would take into account the future relations envisaged between the EU and Britain, but a new round of negotiations, potentially years long, would be required to finalize that new relationship between them.

In an address to the German Parliament before heading to Brussels, Merkel said she expected that Britain would want to maintain “close relations” with the EU once it leaves, but also warned that it could not expect a business as usual approach.

“Whoever wants to leave this family cannot expect to have no more obligations but to keep privileges,” she said. Some in Britain are hoping that the nation could still enjoy all the perks of the seamless EU internal market for business, while being able to deny EU citizens entry to Britain at will.

“We will ensure that the negotiations are not carried out with the principle of cherry picking,” Merkel said.

She joined Juncker in underlining that there can be no talks with Britain on leaving the EU until Britain starts formal procedure to leave.

While acknowledging the need for haste, the EU’s Dutch presidency called for some patience, given the political chaos the exit referendum has caused in Britain, dividing both the governing and opposition parties and sending the pound plummeting.

“No one, no one, will benefit from a period of prolonged limbo. The ball is in London’s court,” Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told the EU lawmakers, but she warned: “Cool heads must now prevail.”

Lawmakers paid tribute to Britain’s commissioner in Brussels, Jonathon Hill, who resigned after last week’s vote and wept in the parliament Tuesday as he received a standing ovation.

During the unprecedented session, lawmakers are set to call for Britain to trigger the exit process immediately.

A draft resolution drawn up by party leaders says the process should be launched as soon as Cameron notifies the outcome of the British referendum to EU leaders. The non-binding resolution could be modified before it is adopted.

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David Rising in Berlin contributed. German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the German parliament Bundestag with a so-called Government Declaration about the British vote to leave the EU, in Berlin, Tuesday, June 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Taiwan ‘to test-fire missiles in US’ as China tensions rise

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(PhatzNewsRoom / AFP)    —-    Taiwan plans to test-fire its newest anti-missile system for the first time in the United States next month as relations with rival China deteriorate, a defence source and media reports said Monday.

Relations between China and Taiwan have cooled rapidly under the island’s new Beijing-sceptic president Tsai Ing-wen, who took office in May, ending an eight-year rapprochement.

The test of the US-made Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) system will be launched at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, in early July, a defence ministry source told AFP, in a move likely to irk Beijing even though it was arranged before Tsai took the helm.

According to the source, the test will be conducted in the US to avoid China collecting information about it, and due to space restrictions in Taiwan.

The American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy, would not comment on the test, which was also reported in Taiwan’s Liberty Times newspaper.

Despite having no official diplomatic ties with Taipei after recognising Beijing in 1979, the US is still Taiwan’s greatest ally and main arms supplier.

The missile system was purchased in 2008, well before Tsai’s leadership, and the test was approved by the US last year, according to the Liberty Times.

Taiwan bought three earlier model PAC-2 systems in the 1990s and also tested them in the US. They were deployed in the densely populated greater Taipei area.

It then bought the new PAC-3 — a system designed to intercept incoming ballistic missiles near the end of their trajectory — as part of a $6.5 billion arms sale by the US in 2008, which infuriated Beijing at the time.

The system is already partly operational and will shield Taipei, as well as central Taichung and southern Kaohsiung from any Chinese missile attacks, according to the defence ministry.

The Taiwanese missile unit involved in the July drill will fire two missiles to intercept a missile launched by the US military, which simulates an incoming Chinese ballistic missile, the Liberty Times reported.

Japan has also tested the PAC-3 on US soil.

In the latest setback for cross-strait ties, China said Sunday that communications with Taiwan had been suspended after the island’s new government failed to acknowledge the concept that there is only “one China”.

China still insists self-ruling Taiwan is part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war.

According to Taiwan’s defence ministry there are 1,500 Chinese missiles aimed at the island.

China launched ballistic missiles into waters off Taiwan in 1995 and 1996 in an attempt to deter voters in the island’s first democratic presidential elections.

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© REUTERS/Richard Chung FILE – Taiwan soldiers on duty at Wanli army base in northern Taiwan October 22, 2004, where the military has deployed eight Patriot Advanced Capability-2 anti-missile launchers.

Business: World stocks stabilize as investors’ ‘Brexit’ anxiety eases

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HONG KONG (AP) — World stock benchmarks stabilized Tuesday after days of stomach-churning swings as investors started shaking off the jitters from Britain’s vote to quit the European Union and its messy aftermath.

European benchmarks rose in early trading, with France’s CAC 40 up 1.2 percent to 4,084.22 and Germany’s DAX up 2.2 percent to 9,469.34. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 2.2 percent to 6,110.54. U.S. stocks were poised to open higher. Dow futures climbed 1.2 percent to 17,194.00 and broader S&P 500 futures were up 1.2 percent to 2,008.20.

Uncertainty and anxiety over the outcome of last week’s vote roiled global financial markets, sent the pound to its lowest level in three decades and prompted ratings agencies to slash their top-shelf credit rating for the U.K.

However, selling pressure was easing as British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has signaled he might not trigger a clause setting in motion the U.K.’s exit from the EU, headed to Brussels on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the situation with European Union lawmakers.

Asian markets bounced back from early losses as leaders signaled they were ready to step in with support policies. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed officials to take steps to reassure markets, Kyodo News agency reported, while South Korea’s government unveiled a 20 trillion won ($17 billion) stimulus package and backup budget for big infrastructure projects.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index climbed 0.1 percent to 15,323.14 while South Korea’s Kospi added 0.5 percent to 1,936.22. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China climbed 0.6 percent to 2,912.56 while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.7 percent to 5,103.30. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia rose.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was a laggard, losing 0.3 percent to 20,172.46. It was dragged down by companies with high exposure to Europe, such as billionaire tycoon’s Li Ka-shing’s CK Hutchison Holdings, which has British retail, ports and telecom investments and fell 1.7 percent.

“When you pull a spring, after you let it go it oscillates up and down for a little while and that’s still what we’re seeing in the markets,” said Andrew Sullivan, a sales trader at Haitong Securities. “This is nothing about individual companies per se, this is about the effect of forex on their earnings,” he said.

In currencies, the British pound regained some lost ground after falling the day before to a new 31-year low. It rose to $1.3320 from $1.3239 in late trading Monday.

The yen eased slightly against the dollar, though it was still hovering near its strongest level in two years. The dollar rose to 102.20 yen from 101.90 in late trading Monday. The euro strengthened to $1.1072 from $1.1020.

Benchmark U.S. crude rebounded $1.04 to $47.38 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract slid $1.31, or 2.7 percent, to settle at $46.33 a barrel on Monday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose $1.01 to $48.17 a barrel in London.

Analysis: Syria memo shakes up Washington but unlikely to shift policy

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WASHINGTON (AP) — State Department officials shook up America’s generally obedient diplomatic establishment this week with an internal memo urging U.S. military action against Syria’s government with the goal of pressing President Bashar Assad to accept a cease-fire and gaining the upper hand on him in future talks on a political transition.

Reasons abound for why an intervention is improbable, not least the vague military objective and risks for U.S. service personnel. Most significant, President Barack Obama is opposed.

Even the diplomats who signed the “dissent channel cable” aren’t calling for U.S. forces to push Assad out of power immediately or make him surrender territory to opposition groups — more typical goals for military campaigns. Instead, they say targeted U.S. attacks could increase leverage over the Syrian leader in diplomatic negotiations that have repeatedly failed so far.

Intervening would plunge Washington into an unpredictable and deadly conflict. The Syrian opposition includes scores of rebel formations jostling among rival ethnic groups and U.S.-designated terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State. Russia’s air force, Iranian troops and paramilitary units are fighting alongside Assad, crowding the skies and the battlefield.

And American priorities are elsewhere. Despite calling on Assad to step aside five years ago, Obama is focused on defeating the Islamic State in Syria and not regime change. His administration wants to preserve Syria’s state and army for a future “transition government” that could restore order and help tackle IS. It wants Russia and Iran to help in that effort.

Here is a look at what frustrated State Department officials called for and why a policy shift is unlikely:

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WHITE HOUSE RESISTANCE

The now classified cable was transmitted through an official channel for dissenting views. Fifty-one mostly mid-level department officials who work on America’s Syria policy signed on. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal quoted from copies they reported seeing or obtaining.

The document expresses clear frustration with a White House-driven response to a conflict that has killed perhaps a half-million people and contributed to a worldwide refugee crisis.

“The moral rationale for taking steps to end the deaths and suffering in Syria, after five years of brutal war, is evident and unquestionable,” The Times quoted it as saying.

The sentiment isn’t new in Foggy Bottom. Obama’s last two secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, pushed for intervention, as has a former defense secretary and CIA director. But the commander in chief has the last word, and nothing has swayed him thus far.

When Assad crossed Obama’s “red line” in 2013 by using chemical weapons, the U.S. president backed down from his threat of retaliatory strikes. And ongoing chaos in Libya, where the U.S. helped overthrow dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, is only making him more reticent.

“None of the options are good,” Obama said in Saudi Arabia in April. Any “Plan B” without a political settlement risks extending the war for years, he said.

“The president has always been clear that he doesn’t see a military solution to the crisis in Syria, and that remains the case,” White House spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman added Friday.

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MANY UNKNOWNS

Apart from defeating IS, Obama’s Syria strategy has three stages: forcing Assad into a cease-fire and “political transition” talks, pressing him to leave power, then uniting his army and moderate forces to join the counterterrorism effort.

After five years of civil war, the chain of events hasn’t yet started. Fighting rages despite numerous partial cease-fires between Syria’s government and opposition groups.

And without leverage, the dissenters noted, Assad will never feel pressure to stop bombing and negotiate.

Military action can “drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process,” they said, shifting “the tide of the conflict” and sending a “clear signal to the regime and its backers that there will be no military solution.”

But if airstrikes are limited, would they scare Assad into peace talks or make him more determined to dig in? If the U.S. ultimately hopes Assad will negotiate his own departure, what new incentive would he have?

“The threat of strikes brings dramatic results,” Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said approvingly of the memo. “This isn’t about invading Syria or another Iraq. It’s about punishing Assad for his violations of the cessation of hostilities. And it could, if backed up with resolve, change Assad’s increasingly rigid negotiating position.

The memo says doing that would address the lack of support among Syria’s Sunni majority for the U.S. goals of isolating and defeating IS. Sunnis are leading the fight against Assad, a member of Syria’s Shiite-linked Alawite minority.

But if Libya is an example, U.S. intervention doesn’t always play out that way. A year after Gadhafi’s overthrow, militants attacked the American diplomatic outpost in the city of Benghazi. Washington has no diplomatic presence inside the country today.

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RUSSIA

“We have been arguing from the beginning of the Syrian crisis that there should be more robust intervention,” Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir of Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally, said Friday.

But if planning an intervention was complicated early on, it became harder after Russia’s foray into the conflict in September.

Attacking Assad’s forces now would risk escalating a proxy war with Moscow, which has been hitting U.S.-backed rebels. The prospect of accidental confrontation grows if the two militaries end coordination on avoiding each other’s forces in their separate counterterrorism campaigns.

The dissenters acknowledge these risks, but say Russia, too, must be serious about halting violence and negotiating a political transition.

“I don’t think it’s very realistic,” said Stephen Biddle, a George Washington University professor who has advised U.S. commanders in the Middle East.

“If we start using airstrikes against the regime, Russia is almost certainly going to increase the tempo of their operations against the rebels,” Biddle said. Given Russia’s deep engagement in Syria, he said, the American public wouldn’t support the U.S. commitment needed to force a settlement through military power.

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Associated Press writers Josh Lederman, Deb Riechmann and Robert Burns contributed to this report. In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks in Damascus, Syria, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. State Department officials shook up America’s generally obedient diplomatic establishment this week with an internal memo urging U.S. military action against Syria’s government with the goal of pressing Assad to accept a cease-fire and gaining the upper hand on him in future talks on a political transition. (SANA via AP)

Breaking News: Supreme Court strikes down Texas abortion clinic regulations

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court struck down Texas’ widely replicated regulation of abortion clinics Monday in the court’s biggest abortion case in nearly a quarter century.

The justices voted 5-3 in favor of Texas clinics that had argued the regulations were a thinly veiled attempt to make it harder for women to get an abortion in the nation’s second-most populous state.

Justice Stephen Breyer’s majority opinion for the court held that the regulations are medically unnecessary and unconstitutionally limit a woman’s right to an abortion.

Texas had argued that its 2013 law and subsequent regulations were needed to protect women’s health. The rules required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and forced clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.

Breyer wrote that “the surgical-center requirement, like the admitting privileges requirement, provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.”

Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Breyer.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Thomas wrote that the decision “exemplifies the court’s troubling tendency ‘to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue.'” Thomas was quoting an earlier abortion dissent from Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February.

Abortion providers said the rules would have cut the number of abortion clinics in the state by three-fourths if they had been allowed to take full effect.

When then-Gov. Rick Perry signed the law in 2013, there were about 40 clinics throughout the state. That number dropped to under 20 and would have been cut in half again if the law had taken full effect, the clinics said.

Texas is among 10 states with similar admitting privileges requirements, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. The requirement is in effect in most of Texas, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee. It is on hold in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

The hospital-like outpatient surgery standards are in place in Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and it is blocked in Tennessee and Texas, according to the center, which represented the clinics in the Texas case.

Texas passed a broad bill imposing several abortion restrictions in 2013. Texas clinics sued immediately to block it claiming it impermissibly interfered with a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. The clinics won several favorable rulings in a federal district court in Texas. But each time, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the state, at first allowing challenged provisions to take effect and then upholding the law with only slight exceptions.

The Supreme Court allowed the admitting privileges requirement to take effect in most of the state, but put the surgical center provision on hold pending the court’s resolution of the case.

The justices split largely along liberal-conservative lines in their emergency orders, with the court’s conservative justices voting repeatedly to let the law be enforced.

Separate lawsuits are pending over admitting-privileges laws in Louisiana and Mississippi, the other states covered by the 5th circuit. The laws are on hold in both states, and a panel of federal appellate judges has concluded the Mississippi law probably is unconstitutional because it would force the only abortion clinic in the state to close.

A separate appeal is pending at the Supreme Court from Wisconsin, where federal judges have struck down that state’s admitting privileges law.

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Activists demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, June 27, 2016, as the justices close out the term with decisions on abortion, guns, and public corruption expected. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) –The Associated Press

EU’s founding members say talks on UK exit needed urgently

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BERLIN (AP) — Foreign ministers of the European Union’s founding members on Saturday urged quick negotiations about Britain’s departure from the bloc, saying the other 27 countries in the union need to move ahead and think about the future.

“There is a certain urgency … so that we don’t have a period of uncertainty, with financial consequences, political consequences,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said.

He spoke alongside counterparts from the other five founding members of what has become the EU — Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

The leaders also accepted a degree of criticism that the EU in recent times did not show the energy and braveness needed to work together on such important topics as migration, unemployment and terrorism.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said negotiations on a British exit, or Brexit, should begin “as soon as possible” and added that “intensive European discussions” are needed.

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said he hoped there would be no “cat and mouse” game now and that Britain would invoke Article 50 of the EU charter, which would officially start the exit process.

“There must be clarity,” Asselborn told reporters. “The people have spoken and we need to implement this decision.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking at a different press conference in Potsdam, outside Berlin, also prodded for British action.

“To be honest, it shouldn’t take forever, that’s right — but I would not fight over a short period of time,” Merkel said.

The British side is much more relaxed. Prime Minister David Cameron is resigning and says his successor, to be chosen by October, should start the formal exit process.

All six foreign ministers agreed that Europe needs to do more to solve pressing issues like the migration crisis, unemployment and security concerns following the terror attacks in France and Belgium.

“We did not have the energy, the power, and perhaps the braveness, to make the necessary decisions and this we must now show in Europe —that we are in a position to make decisions, especially in difficult fields like migration,” Steinmeier said.

In a joint statement, the leaders said they need to find ways to better deal with the different levels of ambition in regard to the European integration and that they need to make sure that Europe will be better at fulfilling the expectations of all citizens.

Ayrault urged the remaining 27 EU countries to return to “the spirit of the founders” of European unity, forged to prevent conflict via trade after World War II.

“It is up to us to recreate this spirit,” he said, noting all the European countries that subsequently joined after overthrowing dictatorships and embracing democracy.

However, the leaders did not present a concrete plan on how to tackle the union’s many pressing issues and how exactly they will react to the citizen’s worried and EU-fatigue.

The head of the EU’s executive Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, warned in German daily Bild on Saturday that other countries may also call for referendums to leave the EU.

“The populists will not leave out this opportunity to promote their anti-Europe politics with much noise,” he said.

At the same time, he said the consequences the British people may now face could put a stop to such sentiment.

“It should show quickly that Great Britain did better in the EU — economically, socially and when it comes to foreign politics,” Juncker said.

___

David Rising contributed reporting. Foreign Ministers from EU’s founding six, from left to right, Paolo Gentiloni from Italy, Didier Reynders from Belgium, Frank-Walter Steinmeier from Germany, Jean-Marc Ayrault from France, Bert Koenders from the Netherlands and and Jean Asselborn from Luxembourg, pose for a group photo prior to a meeting in Berlin, Saturday, June 25, 2016. Top diplomats from the European Union’s six founding nations met in Berlin on Saturday for hastily arranged talks following Britain’s stunning vote to leave the bloc. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Netanyahu: Deal with Turkey promotes ‘stability’ in Mideast

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has reached a reconciliation deal with Turkey to end a bitter six-year rift between the Mideast powers, an official said Sunday.

Relations between the former close allies imploded in 2010 following an Israeli naval raid that killed nine Turkish activists, including a dual American citizen, who were on a ship trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Following the incident, Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel and greatly scaled back military and economy ties. But relations were never broken completely.

Turkey’s move toward rapprochement with Israel comes amid its deepening isolation in the region following a breakdown of ties with Russia and Egypt as well as the turmoil in neighboring Syria.

The Israeli official confirmed the details of the agreement on Sunday. He spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on an official visit to Rome, is expected to announce details on Monday, and the two sides plan to sign the agreement on Tuesday. Turkey’s new prime minister, Binali Yildirim, was also scheduled to make an announcement in Ankara.

Netanyahu also called Vice President Joe Biden to thank him for encouraging the normalization talks with Turkey, according to a statement released by Biden’s office. It said Biden congratulated Netanyahu “for progress toward reconciliation with Turkey, noting the significant positive security and economic benefits for both countries and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region.”

The Israeli official said the impending deal would include $20 million in Israeli compensation for families of those killed in the raid, an end to all Turkish claims against Israeli military personnel and the state of Israel over the raid, and the mutual restoration of ambassadors.

A senior Turkish official said that under the agreement, Turkey would deliver “humanitarian aid and other non-military products” to Gaza and engage in infrastructure investments, including the construction of residential buildings and the completion of a 200-bed hospital.

Turkey would also be involved in projects addressing energy and water shortages in Gaza, the official said, adding that “the amount of electricity and drinking water to Gaza residents will increase and new power plants will be constructed.”

The official, who cannot be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the deal, said the agreement did not make any reference to Turkey’s ties to Hamas, saying “Turkey will continue supporting the Palestinian state and the people of Palestine.” The militant Islamic group Hamas controls Gaza.

The Israeli official said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to a separate document instructing all relevant Turkish agencies to help resolve the issue of Israel’s missing citizens, apparently referring to the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war which are believed to be held by Hamas. An Israeli of Ethiopian descent and a Bedouin from Israel’s Arab minority are also believed to be held in Gaza.

Families of the soldiers had urged the government to hold off on any reconciliation deal until their plight is addressed. Relatives of one of the soldiers, Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, set up a protest tent outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem.

__

Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

____

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talks with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu, left, during their meeting at Villa Taverna, U.S. Embassy, in Rome, Italy, Monday, June 27, 2016. (Giuseppe Lami/ANSA pool via AP)

Former Afghan warlord scuttles peace deal with Kabul

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ISLAMABAD (AP) — A former Afghan warlord announced Monday that a much-touted peace deal between his militant group and the Kabul government was effectively “dead.”

The comments by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar came after the armed wing of his Hezb-i-Islami party effectively scuttled the deal, drafted weeks ago, with new demands that included the dissolution of the Afghan Unity Government, calling it a U.S. concoction.

In his lengthy diatribe against the Kabul government in the Daily Shahdat magazine belonging to his group, Hekmatyar said the Afghan administration negotiated in bad faith and made demands it could not meet.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government had hoped an agreement with Hekmatyar would be an incentive for other insurgent groups to come to the negotiating table.

But in recent weeks, Hezb-i-Islami made additional, impossible-to-meet conditions, including the dissolution of the government, the scrapping of Kabul’s current security pact with the United States and a public timetable for the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan.

Hekmatyar, writing under his pen name Haqpal, said Afghan government negotiators called the security pact with the United States “a red line that we cannot cross.”

Hekmatyar said only a handful of his group’s demands were met in the draft agreement, yet last month when his representatives left Kabul they said they had a final deal that needed only Hekmatyar’s signature. Instead Hekmatyar returned the agreement with the additional demands.

He sent the revised deal in a letter his son was to deliver to Ghani. In that letter, Hekmatyar made his demands and said further negotiations should be restricted to the two leaders. His proposals were rejected.

Hekmatyar’s military strength pales in comparison to the Taliban and is largely limited to the east and northeast of the country. Hekmatyar also has differences with the Taliban and his fighters have clashed with them on several occasions in eastern Afghanistan.

____

FILE — In this Feb. 13, 1996 file photo Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Chief of Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan addresses a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan. The former Afghan warlord has announced that a much-touted peace deal between his militant group and the Kabul government is effectively “dead.” (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

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