Trump says he will meet with Rosenstein, wants transparency

Trump says he will meet with Rosenstein, wants transparency


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Donald Trump said he spoke with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Monday and would be meeting with him on Thursday when he gets back from the U.N. General Assembly.

U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a question during a bilateral meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the sidelines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

“We’ll be meeting at the White House and we’ll be determining what’s going on,” Trump told reporters on the sidelines of the U.N. gathering. “We want to have transparency, we want to have openness, and I look forward to meeting with Rod at that time.”

Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Peter Cooney



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Trump court nominee says he won't be 'intimidated' into withdrawing

Trump court nominee says he won’t be ‘intimidated’ into withdrawing


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said on Monday he would not step aside after a second woman accused him of sexual misconduct decades ago, with President Donald Trump and fellow Republicans showing no sign of relenting in their push for his Senate confirmation.

“I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process,” Kavanaugh, a conservative federal appeals court judge nominated by Trump in July for a lifetime job on the top U.S. court, wrote in a letter to the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee, which is overseeing the confirmation process.

The allegations, dating to the 1980s, have put in jeopardy Kavanaugh’s chances of winning confirmation in a Senate narrowly controlled by Trump’s party, with high-stakes congressional elections just weeks away.

The committee has scheduled a hearing for Thursday to hear from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor who last week accused him of sexual assault in 1982. A second woman, Deborah Ramirez, accused him in an article published in the New Yorker magazine on Sunday of sexual misconduct during the 1983-84 academic year when both attended Yale University.

Kavanaugh has denied the allegations by Ford and Ramirez.

Trump, himself accused during the 2016 presidential race of sexual misconduct with numerous women, remained steadfast in his support for Kavanaugh.

“Judge Kavanaugh is an outstanding person. I am with him all the way,” Trump said as he arrived in New York to attend the U.N. General assembly, calling the allegations politically motivated.

Protesters opposed to Kavanaugh’s confirmation held a series of rallies in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere. The Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein, has called on the panel’s Republican chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, to postpone Thursday’s hearing in order to investigate Ramirez’s accusations.

Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican member of the committee, blamed Democrats for the new allegation.

“No innuendo has been too low, no insinuation too dirty,” Hatch said in a statement, adding that the committee should proceed with its Thursday hearing.

“Then we should vote,” Hatch said, a view also expressed by fellow committee Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

“What we are witnessing is the total collapse of the traditional confirmation process for a Supreme Court nominee,” Graham said. “It is being replaced by a game of delay, deception and wholesale character assassination.”

The controversy over Kavanaugh is unfolding just weeks before Nov. 6 congressional elections in which Democrats are trying to take control of Congress from Trump’s fellow Republicans, against a backdrop of the #MeToo movement fighting sexual harassment and assault.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

Republicans, with a 51-49 Senate majority, can confirm Kavanaugh if they stay united. So far, no Republican senators have said they would vote against Kavanaugh.

Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, has said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982 when both were high school students in Maryland. She accused him of attacking her and trying to remove her clothing while he was drunk at a party when he was 17 years old and she was 15.

Ramirez is cited by the New Yorker as saying Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a drunken dormitory party.

‘THESE ARE SMEARS’

In his letter on Monday, Kavanaugh said of the allegations against him: “These are smears, pure and simple.”

“The coordinated effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. The last minute character assassination will not succeed,” Kavanaugh wrote.

Dozens of people were arrested in Senate office buildings adjacent to the U.S. Capitol. About 200 people gathered in front of the Supreme Court building, chanting, “I believe Christine Ford.”

“I don’t believe Brett Kavanaugh should serve on the Supreme Court. At a minimum, we need a hearing and investigations on all of the charges against him,” said protester Sarah Newman, a 44-year-old Washington resident.

Women’s March, a group that grew out of a January 2017 demonstration against Trump, was one of the organizers of the protests.

Trump made clear he considered the allegations politically motivated.

“For people to come out of the woodwork from 36 years ago, and 30 years ago and never mention it – all of a sudden it happens,” Trump said. “In my opinion, it’s totally political.”

White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said the White House took the new allegations seriously and that Ramirez should contact the committee if she also wants to testify.

But speaking on “CBS This Morning,” Conway added, “This is starting to feel like a vast left-wing conspiracy.”

Kavanaugh’s confirmation would cement conservative control of the Supreme Court and advance Trump’s goal of moving the high court and the broader federal judiciary to the right.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump talks with his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh at his nomination announcement in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Reporting by Richard Cowan, Lawrence Hurley, Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey, Andrew Chung and Gabriella Borter; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Will Dunham



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Dallas police sack officer who fatally shot man in his home

Dallas police dismiss officer who fatally shot man in his home


AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – The Dallas Police Department on Monday fired a police officer who is facing a manslaughter charge after fatally shooting a man in his apartment that the officer said she mistook for her own home.

FILE PHOTO: Officer Amber Guyger appears in a booking photo provided by the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office, September 10, 2018. Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

Officer Amber Guyger had been dismissed after nearly five years on the job for her actions on the night of the shooting earlier in September, Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall said in a statement. Hall also said Guyger had engaged in “adverse conduct” when she was arrested for manslaughter, without elaborating.

Guyger, 30, had been on administrative leave since she fatally shot Botham Jean, 26. The killing of an unarmed black man by a white officer sparked protests in the Texas city, with many calling for the officer to be fired and charged with murder.

The decision to fire Guyger came after an internal review. Guyger can appeal the decision, police said. An attorney for the officer was not immediately available for comment.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said he heard the calls to take action and supported the decision.

“The swift termination of any officer who engages in misconduct that leads to the loss of innocent life is essential if the Dallas Police Department is to gain and maintain the public trust,” he said in a statement.

A funeral for Jean was planned for Monday in his native Saint Lucia, Dallas media reported.

S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Jean family, said the police chief informed the family of the department’s decision on Sunday night and they supported the move.

“The Jean family said that this was an initial victory but are still focused on the proper indictment by the grand jury of murder, a successful prosecution and an appropriate sentence,” he said in an interview. The family is also considering suing the department and the city, he said.

The case is before a grand jury. District Attorney Faith Johnson said the panel may decide to uphold the manslaughter charge on which Guyger was arrested, or it could consider a more serious charge of murder.

Police said Guyger has told investigators she mistook Jean’s residence for her own and shot him, believing he was an intruder.

Guyger said she had mistakenly gone to Jean’s apartment one floor above her own and managed to enter because the door was slightly ajar, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Rosalba O’Brien



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Thousands urged to flee ahead of post-Florence flooding in South Carolina

South Carolinians brace for post-Florence flooding


CHARLESTON, S.C./RALEIGH, N.C. (Reuters) – Thousands of people in and around the city of Georgetown, South Carolina, were bracing on Monday for severe flooding from two rain-gorged rivers as a result of the long-departed Hurricane Florence, and officials were urging residents to evacuate.

Floodwaters of 5 to 10 feet (1.5 to 3 m) are expected to inundate Georgetown and surrounding communities this week as the Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers overrun their banks along the low-lying tidal flats where they converge at Winyah Bay, which flows into the Atlantic.

Emergency management officials began sending recorded telephone messages to residents in harm’s way over the weekend, and will probably start going door-to-door in the next few days, Georgetown County spokeswoman Jackie Broach-Akers said.

County officials on Monday said they planned to hold a news conference at 3 p.m. (1900 GMT) to update residents on the status of the rivers and possible evacuation plans.

The potential flood zone encompasses some 3,500 homes in Georgetown and the coastal resort community of Pawleys Island, Broach-Akers told Reuters.

She said the estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people who live in the area are being “strongly urged” to leave on their own, although no mandatory evacuation has been ordered.

The county opened emergency shelters at 7 a.m. on Monday, and hotels outside the flood zone in nearby Myrtle Beach are offering discounts for evacuees. Public schools will be closed until further notice, Broach-Akers said.

Flooding is seen in and around Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media on September 21, 2018. ALAN CRADICK, CAPE FEAR RIVER WATCH/via REUTERS

First responders from around the state were assisting in relief efforts. State transportation crews were working to erect temporary dams on either side of U.S. Highway 17, the main coastal route through the area, and National Guard engineers were installing a floating bridge at Georgetown in case the highway is washed out at the river.

“The water is still rising there,” said Bob Oravec, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.

STRANDED DEAD FISH

Nine days after Florence came ashore, the National Weather Service said flooding would likely persist in coastal parts of the Carolinas for days as the high-water crest of numerous rivers keeps moving downstream toward the ocean.

“All that water is going to take a good while to recede,” Oravec said. “Damage can still be done.”

The storm dumped 30 to 40 inches (75 to 100 cm) of rain on Wilmington, North Carolina, alone after making landfall nearby on Sept. 14. Heavy flooding left a commercial section of downtown Wilmington under at least a foot of water on Sunday.

Flooding in Wilmington was expected to peak on Monday along the city’s Water Street riverfront, where many businesses had stacked sandbags in advance, city spokesman Dylan Lee said.

Receding flood waters left hundreds of dead fish stranded on a highway near Wallace, about 35 miles from the nearest beach, according to the Penderlea Fire Department, which posted video of firefighters hosing the fish off Interstate 40.

Slideshow (6 Images)

About 5,000 people across North Carolina were rescued by boat or helicopter after the storm made landfall, twice as many as in Hurricane Matthew two years ago, according to state officials.

Reporting by Harriet McLeod in Charleston, S.Carolina and Gene Cherry in Raleigh, N.Carolina; additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Gina Cherelus in New York; editing by Alison Williams and Leslie Adler



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Dallas police sack officer who fatally shot man in his home

Dallas police sack officer who fatally shot man in his home


AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – The Dallas Police Department on Monday fired a police officer who is facing a manslaughter charge after fatally shooting a man in his apartment that the officer said she mistook for her own home.

FILE PHOTO: Officer Amber Guyger appears in a booking photo provided by the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office, September 10, 2018. Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

Officer Amber Guyger had been dismissed after nearly five years on the job for her actions on the night of the shooting earlier in September, Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall said in a statement. Hall also said Guyger had engaged in “adverse conduct” when she was arrested for manslaughter, without elaborating.

Guyger, 30, had been on administrative leave since she fatally shot Botham Jean, 26. The killing of an unarmed black man by a white officer sparked protests in the Texas city, with many calling for the officer to be fired and charged with murder.

The decision to fire Guyger came after an internal review. Guyger can appeal the decision, police said. An attorney for the officer was not immediately available for comment.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said he heard the calls to take action and supported the decision.

“The swift termination of any officer who engages in misconduct that leads to the loss of innocent life is essential if the Dallas Police Department is to gain and maintain the public trust,” he said in a statement.

A funeral for Jean was planned for Monday in his native Saint Lucia, Dallas media reported.

S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Jean family, said the police chief informed the family of the department’s decision on Sunday night and they supported the move.

“The Jean family said that this was an initial victory but are still focused on the proper indictment by the grand jury of murder, a successful prosecution and an appropriate sentence,” he said in an interview. The family is also considering suing the department and the city, he said.

The case is before a grand jury. District Attorney Faith Johnson said the panel may decide to uphold the manslaughter charge on which Guyger was arrested, or it could consider a more serious charge of murder.

Police said Guyger has told investigators she mistook Jean’s residence for her own and shot him, believing he was an intruder.

Guyger said she had mistakenly gone to Jean’s apartment one floor above her own and managed to enter because the door was slightly ajar, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Rosalba O’Brien



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More than 150 people stranded in Lahaul, Spiti as heavy rainfall disrupts life in Himachal

More than 150 people stranded in Lahaul, Spiti as heavy rainfall disrupts life in Himachal


Torrential rains wreaked havoc in Himachal Pradesh over the past three days. Four people were killed and several others were reported missing.

While two young men who were riding a two-wheeler drowned in the Manikaran area, a 13-year-old girl was swept away by a rivulet at Jhidi near Bajaura Pul area in Mandi district. The girl belonged to the nomadic Gujjar tribe.

There are also reports that two people were swept away with a truck on Sunday in Manali. The truck hasn’t been traced so far.

Meanwhile, in a separate incident, one person was killed in Gagret, Una after the wall of a factory collapsed.

Six people have also been rescued in Kullu. Two state Forest Department employees, who were trapped in Sorav Van Vihar area since the past 10 hours were rescued on Monday.

Kullu is the worst hit with nearly a thousand people being moved to safer places.

TOURISTS STRANDED AT LAHAUL AND SPITI

Hundreds of people are stranded at various places following the suspension of bus services. More than 150 people are stranded at Lahaul and Spiti. Out of the 150 people, 40 are in Darcha, 50 in Sarchu and 60 in Chandertal. Five of the 60 people struck in Chandertal are students from IIT Mandi. Sources said nine researchers from West Bengal have also gone missing in Lahaul and Spiti. They had left for the Gangstand glacier, but are missing since.

Telephone lines are also not working due to heavy snowfall. District administration sources, however, said that all stranded people were safe.

ROADS BLOCKED

Road traffic has also been hit in many areas due to flash floods.

Power outages have been reported in many towns including Mandi, Solan and Chamba. Sirmour district was rattled by a minor earthquake (3.7 magnitude) on Monday. However, no loss of life has been reported in the district so far.

Himachal Pradesh’s rivers are in spate and have damaged over 100 roads including some highways. NH 21 was submerged resulting in traffic snarls. The Chamba-Tissa Highway has also been submerged in flood water.

READ | Punjab issues red alert as heavy rain blocks highways, throws life out of gear in North India

Dozens of bridges have been washed away in Chamba, Kullu and Kangra. The situation was further aggravated after water was released from the hydel power project dams including Larji, Pandoh, Sanan in Mandi and Chamera in Chamba district. Traffic on National Highway 21 still remains suspended at Aut, where a road is completely submerged in water.

The closing of NH 21 has also cut off Manali from district headquarters Kullu.

FLOOD THREAT IN CHANDIGARH

After the hills, heavy rainfall is also affecting the plains. Chandigarh’s famous Sukhna lake is flowing above its danger mark and a warning has been sounded. The administration opened two spill gates of the lake.

Last time flood gates of the Sukhna Lake were opened was in 2008.

The Sukreti bridge connecting Chandigarh and Panchkula has been closed for traffic.

READ | Swollen Beas river sweeps away bus in Manali, flash floods in Himachal



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The Mueller investigation just got turned on its head by Rod Rosenstein’s removal


Rosenstein’s expected departure comes just 72 hours after The New York Times reported that the deputy attorney general — and the man overseeing the special counsel probe of Robert Mueller due to the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions — had suggested wearing a wire to record President Donald Trump and even contemplated organizing an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Rosenstein denied the story — and said, via a statement, that he did not currently think the 25th Amendment applied to Trump. Under pressure from the White House, Rosenstein issued a more fulsome statement of denial Friday night.

Rosenstein was at the White House Monday and sources say he expected to be fired. He met with chief of staff John Kelly and spoke with Trump, who is in New York. He will meet with the President on Thursday, according to the White House.

While Trump was counseled by the likes of conservative talk show host Sean Hannity to keep Rosenstein in the job, his comments in a radio interview with Geraldo Rivera over the weekend made clear that he didn’t totally believe Rosenstein. “I think it’s a very sad story,” Trump said. “We’re looking into it. It’s a very sad state of affairs when something like that can happen.” Asked directly whether he would fire Rosenstein, Trump responded: “I don’t want to comment on it until I’ve got all the facts. Certainly its being looked at in terms of what took place, if anything took place.”

We know, of course, that Trump had contemplated firing Rosenstein before. In the wake of the FBI raid on Trump’s one-time lawyer Michael Cohen back in April, CNN reported that Trump was weighing getting rid of Rosenstein as a way to curtail the Mueller investigation. And, we also know that Trump ordered the firing of Mueller last summer but was thwarted when White House counsel Don McGahn refused to carry it out, citing the blowback and damage he believed it would cause the White House. And Trump has been unrelenting in his criticism of Sessions himself, a dislike that those familiar with Trump’s thinking trace to the former Alabama senator’s decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation due to his close ties to Trump during the campaign. In Trump’s mind, Sessions’ recusal spurred the decision by Rosenstein to appoint Mueller, a former FBI director, as special counsel.
So, here’s what we know: The President of the United States has railed against the attorney general, might lose the deputy attorney general and wanted to fire the special counsel. And, of course, he fired James Comey as FBI director last year — a move the White House initially attributed to a memo written by Rosenstein that laid out Comey’s protocol breaches during the 2016 campaign but that Trump admitted in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt was really about “this Russia thing.”

And here’s what else we know: That same president would be able to control the line of succession at the Justice Department, which determines who steps up to oversee the Mueller probe because of Sessions’ recusal. While that person needs to be someone who has already been confirmed by the Senate, as of now it’d be Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who may or may not be amenable to Trump’s view of the special counsel probe as a “witch hunt” and a “total hoax.” Later, if Trump appointed and the Senate confirmed a Justice Department official to a position above Francisco’s, that Trump-backed person would take over directing Mueller.

It could be a sea change from Rosenstein who, despite being chosen by Sessions and serving as the No. 2 in Trump’s Justice Department, had repeatedly signaled that he would have no interest in removing Mueller based on the information publicly available about the investigation. In December 2017, Rosenstein, in testimony on Capitol Hill, insisted he would not fire Mueller unless there was clear evidence that the special counsel was acting appropriately. “I would follow the regulation,” said Rosenstein. “If there were good cause, I would act. If there were no good cause, I would not.”

Such a move would create the possibility that Mueller’s probe, which remains largely a black box, could be curtailed or forced to a premature end. It remains to be seen how that news would be treated by congressional Republicans who have previously urged Trump to allow Mueller to finish his work without impediment but have also grown increasingly vocal about their desire to see the probe end sometime soon.

Even before we know a) who replaces Rosenstein b) how that person will approach to Mueller probe and c) how Congress will react to whatever the person decides to do about Mueller, we do know a few things as a result of Rosenstein’s expected departure.

First, this throws the Justice Department into even more chaos as it seems to land the probe into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, potential collusion between Russia and elements of the Trump campaign and the obstruction of justice and the possibility that Trump obstructed the probe by firing Comey. The Justice Department would be without its two top officials on a probe of a foreign country actively interfering in our elections. The Justice Department line of succession would mean that Francisco would be placed in charge of the Mueller investigation, but there is a debate as to whether presidential preference could override Justice’s succession plan.

Second, it almost certainly makes the ongoing Russia probe an even more present issue in the 2018 midterm campaign. Republican strategists had openly fretted about what Trump firing Rosenstein could mean to the party’s chances at the ballot box this fall, concerned that it would create not only the appearance of chaos within the White House but also that it could make the President and his inner circle look like they were desperately trying to cover something up in regards the Russia probe.

Republicans, who are hugely supportive of Trump, are unlikely to be deeply affected by such a move. But Democratic base voters, who are already hugely fired up to vote in 43 days, will likely be even more incentivized to do so — believing that the stakes have been raised by the removal of Rosenstein. Independents and unaffiliated voters may well be turned off by the perception that Trump is meddling in an active investigation.

Third, the already-troubled confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh likely become even more so in the wake of the Rosenstein removal. Why? Because the Rosenstein news amounts to taking a boulder and throwing it into already-churning waters. Republicans are already worried about the fallout at the ballot box of continuing to push for the confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee who now faces public accusations of sexual assault and inappropriate sexual behavior as a young man. Take those extant worries and pile on the agita created by the deputy attorney general (and the guy in charge of the Mueller probe) being replaced and you have a very skittish group of Republican elected officials. And did I mention that the election is only 43 days away? The interest in defending Trump and Kavanaugh even while also answering questions about the Rosenstein’s departure and next steps for the Mueller probe will be somewhere close to zero for lots of endangered Republicans who want to just get out on the campaign trial and try to keep their jobs.

The initial shock of Rosenstein is still being felt in Washington. The aftershocks the move sets off will be shaking our political system for the next days, weeks and months.



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Kavanaugh tells senators he will not withdraw nomination

Kavanaugh tells senators he will not withdraw nomination


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday he will not withdraw his nominations because of “false and uncorroborated” sexual misconduct allegations against him.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh looks on during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

“I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. The coordinated effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out,” he wrote. “The last-minute character assassination will not succeed.”

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by David Alexander



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UN imposes sanctions on Libyan 'traffickers'

Dutch to press United Nations for more human slavery sanctions


Six men who allegedly made fortunes buying and selling vulnerable migrants were hit by UN sanctions in June in an unprecedented response to the international slave trade, following CNN reporting in Libya.
The move was followed by the United States, which issued sanctions against the six men.

Blok said Monday he would ask the United Nations for further action against countries and individuals involved in trafficking. He spoke with CNN in New York, where the UN Security Council is due to meet Wednesday,

Netherlands' Foreign Minister Stef Blok is seeking further powers to tackle human trafficking.

“The people involved very well realize that they are under scrutiny now, and their business model can’t work the way it used to work … and that they are on our target list,” he said.

“It is a horrible story,” he said. “All the members of the Security Council realized they couldn’t stand aside when those terrible things are happening, and they did agree on sanctions.”

Each year, tens of thousands of people pour into Libya — the final transit stop before a short but dangerous sea voyage across the Mediterranean to Europe.

For those involved in the smuggling and trafficking networks, it has been a lucrative business, according to the European Migrant Smuggling Center (EMSC).

In 2015, migrant smuggling networks made at least $5.5 billion trafficking people bound for Europe, according to a 2017 EMSC report. There was a sharp decline in 2016, according to the same report.

Last year, CNN reporters went undercover at a slave market in Libya to document the violation of human rights and inhumane treatment that desperate migrants have suffered.

The CNN evidence was handed over to the Libyan authorities, who immediately launched investigations into networks operating in the region.

The footage also sparked international condemnation and protests around the world.



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Iran warns U.S., Israel of revenge after parade attack

Iran warns U.S. and Israel of revenge after parade attack


LONDON (Reuters) – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday the attackers who killed 25 people at a military parade had been paid by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and that Iran would “severely punish” those behind the bloodshed.

The deputy head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards also accused the United States and Israel of involvement in the attack and said they should expect a devastating response.

In the southwestern city of Ahvaz, thousands packed the streets to mourn the victims of Saturday’s assault, many chanting “Death to Israel and America”. Twelve members of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were among the dead.

The coffins, wrapped in flags, were carried by mourners. Many held pictures of a four-year-old boy killed in the incident, one of the worst such attacks against Iran’s most powerful military force.

Gunmen fired on a viewing stand in Ahvaz where officials had gathered to watch an annual parade marking the start of Iran’s 1980-88 war with Iraq.

Fars and IRNA news agencies said on Monday five attackers were killed, not four as previously reported by state media. The body of the fifth assailant had not been identified as it was mixed up with other casualties, Fars said.

“Based on reports, this cowardly act was done by people who the Americans come to help when they are trapped in Syria and Iraq, and are paid by Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” Khamenei said on his website.

Guards Brigadier General Hossein Salami, in a speech broadcast on state TV, said: “You have seen our revenge before. You will see that our response will be crushing and devastating and you will regret what you have done.”

Tasnim news agency quoted Salami as saying the “horrific crime” exposed the dark side of an alliance that the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel had created to counter Iranian influence in the region.

The secretary of Iran’s National Security Council said Tehran needed to talk to its neighbors to avoid tensions.

“It’s essential to be fully aware and increase our constructive dialogues to neutralize the plots of enemies who want to create suspicion and disagreement among regional countries,” Ali Shamkhani said.

He also said U.S. sanctions against Iran were illegal and President Donald Trump was using them as a tool for “personal revenge”.

ANTAGONIZE

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asked by a Fox News interviewer if the United States played any role in the attack, said: “When you have a security incident at home, blaming others is an enormous mistake.”

The loss of innocent lives was tragic, Pompeo added. There has been no reaction from Saudi Arabia or Israel.

A general view shows an attack on a military parade in Ahvaz, Iran, in this September 22, 2018 photo by ISNA. ISNA/Iranian Students’ News Agency/Social Media/via REUTERS

Accusations against Gulf countries will almost certainly antagonize Iran’s regional foe Saudi Arabia. The oil super-powers are waging a war for influence across the Middle East, backing opposite sides in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon.

It is, however, highly unlikely the Guards will strike any of its foes directly and risk setting off a regional conflict.

Analysts said the violence has led to a boost in domestic support for the Guards which they could use to silence their critics, who include pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani.

Rouhani engineered Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that ushered in a cautious detente with Washington before tensions flared anew with Trump’s decision in May to pull out of the accord and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

Iran’s Intelligence Minister, Mahmoud Alavi, said a network of suspects had been arrested in connection with the attack, the judiciary’s news agency Mizan reported. He did not elaborate..

Karim Dahimi, a human rights activist in London, told Reuters local sources had said more than 300 people had been arrested in the cities of Ahvaz, Khorramshahr and Abadan in recent days, mostly from the Sunni Muslim community.

Ahvaz National Resistance, an Iranian ethnic Arab opposition movement which seeks a separate state in oil-rich Khuzestan province, and Islamic State have both claimed responsibility.

The Guard Corps was set up after the 1979 Islamic revolution to protect the Shi’ite clerical ruling system and revolutionary values. It answers to Ayatollah Khamenei and has an estimated 125,000-strong military with army, navy and air units.

Slideshow (18 Images)

Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by Angus MacSwan and Janet Lawrence



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