Chinese bomber approaches Taiwan in latest fly-by near island

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Chinese air force jets, including at least one bomber, briefly entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Monday, before being warned off by its air force, the island’s military said, the eighth such encounter in two weeks.

The encounter came on the day President Tsai Ing-wen oversaw a test flight of a new locally-developed advanced trainer jet as she pushes to boost democratic Taiwan’s defenses, particularly as China ramps up its own military modernization.

Taiwan’s air force named the Chinese aircraft involved as the H-6 bomber and J-10 fighter jet but did not say how many planes in total flew into the identification zone to the island’s southwest.

The Chinese air force received verbal warnings to leave via radio, and patrolling Taiwanese fighters also “proactively drove off” the aircraft, Taiwan’s air force said in a short statement, without giving details.

The H-6 is a nuclear-capable bomber based on an old Soviet design that has participated in several such drills near Taiwan, including what China calls “island encirclement” exercises around the Chinese claimed-island.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has previously said its drills near the island are routine and designed to show Beijing’s determination to protect its sovereignty. Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by autocratic China.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Taliban attacks kill 48, Afghan leader unhurt as bomber targets rally

KABUL (Reuters) – Taliban suicide bombers killed 48 people in two separate attacks in Afghanistan on Tuesday, the deadliest taking place near an election rally by President Ashraf Ghani, though he was unhurt.

The attacks happened 11 days before Afghanistan’s presidential election, which Taliban commanders have vowed to violently disrupt, and follow collapsed peace talks between the United States and the insurgent group.

Ghani, who is seeking a second five-year term in voting on Sept. 28, was due to address a rally in Charikar, the capital of central Parwan province, when a suicide bomber attacked the gathering.

The blast killed 26 people and wounded 42, said Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the interior ministry.

“When the people were entering the police camp, an old man riding a motorcycle arrived on the highway and detonated his explosives, causing casualties,” said Parwan province’s police chief Mohammad Mahfooz Walizada.

In the wake of the attack, bodies littered the dusty ground as smoke rose from the site of the explosion, a giant blue billboard bearing the face of Ghani’s running mate Amrullah Saleh looming over the scene.

With sirens wailing, rescuers rushed to lift the wounded into the backs of pick-up trucks for evacuation.

“Women and children are among them and most of the victims seem to be the civilians,” said Abdul Qasim Sangin, head of Parwan’s provincial hospital.

The president was nearby but unharmed, and later took to Twitter to condemn the bombing at the rally.

“Taliban tried to break this unity by targeting innocent civilians,” he wrote. “They shamelessly accepted responsibility at a time when they’re cloaking acts of terror as efforts for peace.”

“PEOPLE WERE GIVEN WARNING”

In a separate incident, a man on foot blew himself up in the center of the capital Kabul, sending ambulances and Afghan forces rushing to the blast site.

“I was waiting at the entrance of the recruitment center,” said Mustafa Ghiasi, lying on a hospital bed after being wounded in the explosion. “I was behind two men in line when suddenly the blast struck.”

Twenty-two people were killed, and 38 were wounded, said Rahimi, the interior ministry spokesman. Most of the dead were civilians, including women and children, though six were security force members.

The Taliban said it carried out the two attacks, and a statement issued by a spokesman for the insurgents said they were aimed at security forces.

“People were given warning,” the statement said.

“Do not take part in the puppet administration’s election rallies, because all such gatherings are our military target,” said the statement. “If, despite the warning, someone get hurt, they themselves are to blame.”

Addressing the Kabul attack, Afghanistan’s president lashed out at the Taliban as the “coward enemy” for targeting civilians.

“I offer my heartfelt condolences to victims of today’s tragedies in Kabul and Parwan and pray for speedy recovery of those who were wounded,” Ghani wrote on his official Twitter account. “We stand united in this hour of grief.”

Pakistan, which denies accusations that it shelters the Taliban, also condemned the attack.

“We offer our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families,” it said in a statement.

Security at rallies across the country has been tight following threats by the Taliban to attack meetings and polling stations. The group has vowed to intensify clashes with Afghan and foreign forces to dissuade people from voting in the upcoming elections.

Last week, peace talks between the United States and the Taliban collapsed. The two sides had been seeking to reach an accord on the withdrawal of thousands of American troops from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the insurgents.

The negotiations, which did not include the Afghan government, were intended as a prelude to wider peace negotiations to end more than more 40 years of war in Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Hameed Farzad, Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by William Maclean and Alex Richardson)

Investigators seek clues whether Austin bomber worked alone

A law enforcement member is seen down the street from the home where Austin serial bomber Mark Anthony Conditt lived in Pflugerville, Texas, U.S., March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Federal investigators were on Friday seeking clues about what motivated the 23-year-old man they say was responsible for the deadly Texas bombing spree and whether he had help building or planting his bombs.

Mark Conditt, an unemployed man from the Austin suburb of Pflugerville, was behind bombings that killed two people and wounded five others over three weeks before he killed himself as police officers moved in on him on Wednesday, police in the Texas capital said.

Police said Conditt confessed to the bombings in a 25-minute video made on his cellphone hours before he blew himself up. The video showed a troubled young man, police said, but did not outline a clear motive for the attacks that began March 2.

As law enforcement officials continue to search for Conditt’s motive, they remain anxious to learn whether anyone assisted him build or plant his bombs.

“Even though the bomber’s dead, our focus is to ensure that he wasn’t working with anyone else,” said Michelle Lee, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s San Antonio office.

Investigators sought further clues on Thursday from the Pflugerville home Conditt shared with his roommates. Bomb-making material was found in a room there and investigators questioned and released two of Conditt’s roommates, police said.

Conditt’s bombs primarily targeted Austin. Three were left as parcels outside victims’ homes, one by a sidewalk with a trip-wire mechanism attached and two shipped as FedEx parcels, which helped investigators unmask the bomber’s identity.

The second and third bombs went off while Austin was hosting its annual South by Southwest music, movies and tech festival, which draws about half a million people.

Conditt and his three siblings were home-schooled through high school, his mother wrote on Facebook. He attended classes at Austin Community College between 2010 and 2012, but did not graduate.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Alison Williams)

Texas serial bomber made video confession before blowing himself up: police

Law enforcement personnel investigate the scene where the Texas bombing suspect blew himself up on the side of a highway north of Austin in Round Rock, Texas, U.S., March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Loren E

By Jon Herskovitz

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (Reuters) – The serial bomber whose deadly attacks terrorized Austin, Texas, for weeks left a 25-minute video “confession” on a cell phone found after he blew himself up on Wednesday as officers closed in to make an arrest, police said.

Texas blast suspect Mark Anthony Conditt. Austin Community College/via REUTERS

Texas blast suspect Mark Anthony Conditt. Austin Community College/via REUTERS

Mark Conditt, 23, an unemployed man from the suburb of Pflugerville, detailed how he made all seven bombs that have been accounted for – five that exploded, one that was recovered before it went off and a seventh that he detonated as officers rushed his vehicle early on Wednesday.

But the video failed to reveal a coherent motive for the attacks spread over the past three weeks, police said.

“He does not at all mention anything about terrorism, nor does he mention anything about hate, but instead it is the outcry of a very challenged young man, talking about challenges in his personal life,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters.

“I would classify this as a confession,” Manley said.

Conditt, who had never before been in trouble with the law, killed two people and wounded five with a campaign of violence that began on March 2, authorities said.

Based on their search of the suspect’s home and his video statement, authorities said they felt confident that there were no other bombs and that the public was safe from further harm.

FBI special agent Christopher Combs said investigators believe the suspect would have continued his attacks had he not been apprehended.

Police recovered a “target list” of addresses for future bombings, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing U.S. Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Even so, the video gave no explanation for the individuals and addresses singled out as recipients of the bombs that were planted or shipped, Manley said.

Police previously said they had considered the possibility that the attacks were racially motivated, noting that the first several victims, including the two who died, were either African-American or Hispanic.

Conditt likely recorded the video between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Tuesday. According to Manley, Conditt said he believed police “were getting very close to him,” and he was right. Authorities filed a criminal complaint and issued an arrest warrant around that time.

A surveillance image shows the serial bombing suspect inside a FedEx office store in Austin, Texas, U.S., which was given to law enforcement and obtained by TV station, WOAI/KABB, March 21, 2018. Courtesy of WOAI/KABB/Handout via Reuters

A surveillance image shows the serial bombing suspect inside a FedEx office store in Austin, Texas, U.S., which was given to law enforcement and obtained by TV station, WOAI/KABB, March 21, 2018. Courtesy of WOAI/KABB/Handout via Reuters

By Wednesday morning, police had tracked Conditt to a hotel and were waiting for the arrival of tactical units and equipment before they planned to make an arrest, Manley said. But then Conditt drove away.

Police followed and decided to stop him before he got on the highway. Just as officers approached the vehicle, the explosion went off, Manley said. There was also some police shooting.

“This can never be called a happy ending, but it’s a damn good one for the people of this community, the people of the state of Texas,” Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore told reporters.

Residents in Austin, a city of 1 million people and a liberal enclave of university students and tech companies, voiced relief that the hunt for the serial bomber was over.

“I am going to be leery and extra careful tomorrow at work, but I feel relieved now,” said Jesus Borjon, 44, an employee of parcel delivery firm UPS, who lives in Pflugerville.

Austin was hosting thousands of out-of-town visitors for its annual South by Southwest festival of music, film and technology when the first bombings occurred.

Law enforcement personnel investigate the surroundings of a house linked to the bomber in Pflugerville, Texas, U.S., March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

TRAIL OF CLUES

The trail of clues leading hundreds of investigators to the serial bomber ranged from store receipts and fragments of booby-trapped packages to surveillance video of the suspect in a hat and wig.

Experts scoured the suspect’s home for further evidence on Wednesday, removing explosive materials and bomb components.

“I wouldn’t call it a bomb-making factory, but there’s definitely components consistent with what we’ve seen in all these other devices,” Fred Milanowski, special agent in charge of Houston office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told reporters.

Investigators evacuated a four-block radius around Conditt’s house while they searched the home, which Conditt shared with two roommates who had been detained for questioning. Conditt moved in a year ago after leaving his parents’ home about a mile (1.6 km) away, public records showed.

One law enforcement official involved in the investigation but speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that some of the materials found in remnants of the bombs were traced back to where they had been sold.

The source also said investigators, once they had identified Conditt as a potential suspect, obtained a warrant to monitor his Google search history.

Surveillance video showed the suspect in a hat and a blond wig, as he prepared to ship one of two booby-trapped packages he was known to have sent through FedEx Corp’s delivery service, according to the source.

He used the alias “Kelly Killmore” to ship those packages, ABC News reported, citing unnamed law enforcement sources.

Conditt, who was home-schooled, described himself as a conservative but said he was not politically inclined, according to blog posts he wrote as part of a U.S. politics class at Austin Community College. He attended from 2010 to 2012 and had no record of any disciplinary actions, the school said.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Mark Hosenball in Washington, Jonathan Allen and Gina Cherelus in New York and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Peter Cooney & Simon Cameron-Moore)

Serial bomber suspected in deadly Austin explosions: police

Police maintain a cordon near the site of an incident reported as an explosion in southwest Austin, Texas, U.S. March 18, 2018. REUTERS/Tamir Kalifa

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – A serial bomber is suspected of planting four bombs detonated this month around Austin, Texas, that have killed two people and injured four others and unnerved residents of the Texas capital.

“We are clearly dealing with what we expect to be a serial bomber at this point,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told a news conference on Monday. “We have seen similarities in the devices that exploded here last night and the other three devices.”

Two men were injured on Sunday by the latest bomb, which police said may have been activated by a trip wire across a sidewalk, a more advanced design than the previous bombs that were set off when victims handled packages left on doorsteps.

The men, 22 and 23 years old, were taken to a hospital with what police described as “substantial” but not life threatening injuries.

Manley said that more than 500 federal agents were involved in the investigation, including from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

On Sunday agents swept the relatively affluent neighborhood called Travis Country where Sunday’s bomb exploded and asked residents for home surveillance videos.

“It’s scary,” Thad Holt, a 76-year-old retiree, said in an interview, recalling that he and his wife had strolled near the bomb site about half an hour before the explosion. “It’s one of those things … that happens elsewhere.”

Austin, with a population of nearly 1 million people, is home to the University of Texas and a plethora of tech companies and has been one of the fastest growing major U.S. cities.

MOTIVE UNKNOWN

Investigators were trying to identify the person or persons responsible for three parcel bombs that exploded in three east side neighborhoods, killing a man and a teenage boy, both black and leaving a Hispanic woman fighting for her life.

Police said the fourth bomb had similarities to the three parcel bombs. They said whoever was responsible was trying to send a message and should contact authorities to explain.

Chief Manley has said police were also investigating the bombings as possible hate crimes, but cautioned on Monday that the theory may not hold up as Sunday’s attack did not appear to have targeted specific people and both victims were white.

The first parcel bomb on March 2 killed Anthony Stephan House, a 39-year-old black man. A bomb last Monday morning killed Draylen Mason, a 17-year-old African-American teenager and budding musician, and injured his mother, whose name was not made public. A few hours later, a third bomb injured a 75-year-old Hispanic woman, who has not been identified.

Police have received more than 700 calls about suspicious packages since the three parcel bombs, but authorities have not found any that posed a security risk, Manley said.

A reward of $115,000 has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty, Toni Reinhold)

B-1B bomber joins U.S.-South Korea drills as tensions escalate

B-1B bomber joins U.S.-South Korea drills as tensions escalate

By Christine Kim and Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – A U.S. B-1B bomber on Wednesday joined large-scale U.S.-South Korean military exercises that North Korea has denounced as pushing the peninsula to the brink of nuclear war, as tension mounts between the North and the United States.

The bomber flew from the Pacific U.S.-administered territory of Guam and joined U.S. F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters in the annual exercises, which run until Friday.

The drills come a week after North Korea said it had tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States, as part of a weapons program that it has conducted in defiance of international sanctions and condemnation.

Asked about the bomber’s flight, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing in Beijing: “We hope relevant parties can maintain restraint and not do anything to add tensions on the Korean peninsula.”

North Korea regularly threatens to destroy South Korea, the United States and Japan. Its official KCNA state news agency said at the weekend that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration was “begging for nuclear war” by staging the drills.

It also labeled Trump, who has threatened to destroy North Korea if the United States is threatened, “insane”.

KCNA said on Tuesday that the exercises in which the bomber took part are “simulating an all-out war”, including drills to “strike the state leadership and nuclear and ballistic rocket bases, air fields, naval bases and other major objects…”

U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Sunday urged the Pentagon to start moving U.S. military dependants, such as spouses and children, out of South Korea, saying conflict with North Korea was getting close.

The U.S.-South Korea drills coincide with a rare visit to the isolated North by U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Pak Myong Guk met Feltman on Wednesday in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, and discussed bilateral cooperation and other issues of mutual interest, KCNA said.

Feltman, a former senior U.S. State Department official, is the highest-level U.N. official to visit North Korea since 2012. The State Department said on Tuesday he was not carrying any message from Washington.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in will visit China next Wednesday for a summit with his counterpart Xi Jinping, Seoul’s presidential Blue House said. North Korea’s increasing nuclear and missile capability would top the agenda, it said.

The military exercises, called “Vigilant Ace”, are designed to enhance joint readiness and operational capability of U.S. extended deterrence, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

North Korea has vehemently criticized the drills since the weekend, saying the exercise precipitates U.S. and South Korean “self-destruction”.

China and Russia had proposed that the United States and South Korea stop major military exercises in exchange for North Korea halting its weapons programs. China is North Korea’s lone major ally and fears widespread instability on its border.

Russia also has communication channels open with North Korea and is ready to exert its influence, the RIA news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov as saying on Tuesday.

North Korea has tested dozens of ballistic missiles, two of which flew over Japan, and conducted its sixth and largest nuclear bomb test in September.

It says its weapons programs are a necessary defense against U.S. plans to invade. The United States, which has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, denies any such intention.

(Reporting by Christine Kim and Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the UNITED NATIONS, Arshad Mohammed and David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON, Vladimir Soldatkin in MOSCOW, and Michael Martina in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Russia sends nuclear-capable bombers on mission near South Korea, Japan

A Tupolev Tu-95MS strategic bomber, the carrier of nuclear rockets, lands at the Yemelyanovo airport near Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, June 8, 2011. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers have flown over the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea, prompting Japan and South Korea to scramble jets to escort them, Russia said on Thursday.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said in a statement the Tupolev-95MS bombers, code named “Bears” by NATO, flew over neutral waters and were accompanied by Russian Sukhoi-35S fighter jets and A-50 early warning and control aircraft.

It gave no details about the overall number of aircraft that had taken part in what it called a pre-arranged flight and did not say when or why the mission took place.

The TU-95MS bombers were refueled in mid-air during the mission, the ministry said.

During parts of the route, the bombers were escorted by South Korean and Japanese military jets, it added.

Russia, which shares a border with North Korea, has repeatedly voiced concerns about rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula caused by Pyongyang’s nuclear missile program, and has complained about Japan’s plans to deploy a U.S. anti-missile system on its soil.

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

Suicide bomber in Pakistan’s Lahore kills 25, many of them police

Rescue workers and policemen gather after a suicide blast in Lahore, Pakistan July 24, 2017.

By Mubasher Bukhari

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – A suicide bomber killed at least 25 people, many of them police, in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Monday, officials said, an attack which shattered a period of relative calm in Pakistan’s second-largest city.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack which wrought carnage near the Lahore Technology Park in the center of the city. Police deployed to clear street vendors from the area had been targeted, a police official said.

“We suspect that he (the suicide bomber) came on a motorcycle and he rammed it into a police checkpoint,” Lahore police operations chief Haider Ashraf told Reuters.

Rescue workers shifted the wounded to hospital and police officers cordoned off the bomb site as army troops also arrived at the scene.

“The death toll we have now is 25 dead and 52 are wounded,” said Jam Sajjad Hussain, spokesman for the Rescue 1122 service.

A wounded man sitting on the roadside was shown crying in pain on television amidst cars and motorcycles mangled by the blast.

The bombing was claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, in a message sent to the media by spokesman Muhammad Khurassani. The Pakistani Taliban are loosely allied with Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents but focus their attacks on the Pakistani government.

Bomb blasts by militants are common in Pakistan, especially in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, but attacks in Lahore have become less frequent in recent years.

Haider Ashraf, deputy inspector general of Punjab police, said the blast was a suicide attack and “police were the target”.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the majority of those killed and wounded were police and warned the death toll could rise.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the blast in a statement and directed medical efforts for those injured.

In early April, a suicide attack on an army census team that killed at least six people and wounded 18 in Lahore was also claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.

After a series of attacks in February, including two in Lahore that killed over 20 people, Pakistan’s powerful military began a nationwide crackdown on militants.

 

(Additional reporting by Saud Mehsud; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Nick Macfie and Richard Balmforth)

 

Russian fighter intercepts U.S. bomber over Baltic Sea

U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber flies during the annual recurring multinational, maritime-focused NATO exercise BALTOPS 2017 near Ventspils, Latvia June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

By Andrew Osborn and Dmitry Solovyov

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia scrambled a fighter jet on Tuesday to intercept a nuclear-capable U.S. B-52 strategic bomber it said was flying over the Baltic Sea near its border, in an incident that had echoes of the Cold War.

The appearance of the B-52, a long-range bomber that first went into service in the 1950s, irked Moscow. A Russian Foreign Ministry official said the plane’s appearance in Europe would not help ease tensions between the West and Russia. A former Russian Air Force commander called the move “disrespectful.”

Russian air defense systems detected the U.S. bomber at around 1000 Moscow time as it was flying over neutral waters parallel to the Russian border and sent a Sukhoi Su-27 jet to intercept it, the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement.

“The Russian SU-27 crew, having approached at a safe distance, identified the aircraft as an American B-52 strategic bomber and escorted it” until such time as it changed course and flew away from the border area, the ministry said.

Russia said the SU-27 took off from its Baltic Fleet air defense unit, which is based in the European exclave of Kaliningrad.

The U.S. military said its aircraft was in international airspace and declined immediate comment on the Russian plane’s actions.

“We can confirm that the U.S. Air Force B-52 was operating in international airspace but we don’t have any information to provide at this time regarding the behavior of Russian aircraft,” Air Force spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder said.

NATO members such as Britain regularly report scrambling jets to intercept Russian nuclear-capable bombers flying close to their air space. It is less common for Russia to report using its fighters for the same reason.

In a separate incident, Russia said an MiG-31 jet fighter had intercepted a Norwegian patrol plane over the Barents Sea. Russia’s Defence Ministry identified the plane as a P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft.

The Russian Defence Ministry complained that the Norwegian plane had flown close to Russia’s state border with its transponders switched off. The Norwegian military confirmed the encounter, but said it was “normal.”

Moscow was more put out by the B-52’s appearance.

The state-backed Sputnik news agency cited a Foreign Ministry official, Mikhail Ulyanov, as saying Moscow believed a number of U.S. B-52s had recently been transferred from their base in Louisiana to Britain to take part in military exercises.

“The fact that NATO forces are converging near Russia’s borders and carrying out military exercises supported by strategic bombers from the USA capable of carrying nuclear weapons hardly helps de-escalate tensions in Europe,” Sputnik quoted Ulyanov as saying.

U.S. forces are engaged in various exercises with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and other partner nations as part of the Saber Strike war games. The United States is also taking part in the annual BALTOPS naval training exercise in the Baltic Sea which runs until June 16.

Pyotr Deinekin, a former Russian Air Force commander, was cited by the Interfax news agency as saying that he could not recall the last time a B-52 had flown over the Baltic Sea and that the incident raised troubling questions.

“Such behavior does not deserve respect,” said Deinekin, who said Russia needed to establish what weaponry the B-52 was carrying.

The B-52 was designed to attack Moscow’s most vital targets via the North Pole in the event of a nuclear war when the Soviet Union still existed, Deinekin said.

“Strategic bombers should not fly so close to our land borders,” he said.

(Addiotnal reporting by Jack Stubbs in Moscow, Camilla Knudsen in Oslo and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Editing by Larry King and Leslie Adler)

Accused New York, New Jersey bomber to be tried in New York

Ahmad Rahimi, 28, is shown in Union County, New Jersey, U.S. Prosecutor's Office photo released on September 19, 2016. Courtesy Union County Prosecutor's Office

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – An Afghan-born man charged with setting off bombs in New York and New Jersey will be tried in New York after a federal judge rejected his lawyers’ argument that he could not get a fair trial in the city where he is accused of injuring 30 people.

At a hearing in Manhattan federal court on Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman denied a motion to move the case against Ahmad Rahimi to another federal court, saying an impartial jury could be assembled in “one of the largest and most diverse districts in the country.”

Lawyers for Rahimi, a U.S. citizen, had proposed Vermont and Washington, D.C. as possible alternative venues.

Rahimi, 29, is facing federal and state charges in New York and New Jersey after authorities said he detonated bombs in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan and in the coastal New Jersey town of Seaside Heights last September.

The bomb in New York injured 30 people but the explosion in New Jersey hurt no one.

According to prosecutors, Rahimi also left behind unexploded bombs in New York and in Elizabeth, New Jersey, before he was captured in Linden, New Jersey, following a shootout with police in which two officers suffered minor injuries.

In their motion to transfer the case, Rahimi’s lawyers argued that media coverage of the case would make it impossible to assemble an impartial jury. But Berman said Monday that robust questioning of potential jurors would be enough to ensure fairness.

Berman also noted that other high-profile cases had been tried in the Manhattan court before, including those of Mohammed Salameh and Ramzi Yousef, convicted of helping plan the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Sabrina Shroff, a lawyer for Rahimi, said after the hearing the motion could be renewed once questioning of potential jurors begins.

A judge in New Jersey state court, where Rahimi faces separate charges, has also refused to move the case.

Motions like Rahimi’s are rarely granted, even in high-profile cases. For example, federal judges refused to move the trial of the Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, despite massive pretrial media coverage.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)