Countries that back Ukraine in bombing Russia may find themselves to be a target Russia warns

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • Moscow says it CAN strike military sites in Britain and other NATO countries and may target our diplomats in Kyiv with ‘retaliatory strikes’ after UK minister’s ‘provocative’ backing for Ukraine bombing Russia
  • Moscow warned it could target UK diplomats with bombs as they return to Kyiv following Russia’s failed siege
  • The Kremlin also warned it could strike NATO sites in countries like Britain over their support of Ukraine
  • The escalation comes as Russia agitates over the West arming Ukrainian forces in their resistance of Putin
  • The Kremlin’s defense ministry made the remark after James Heappey backed Ukrainian air strikes on Russia

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Officials say 1,000 civilians take cover in theater as Russia targets it

Revelations 6:3-4 “ when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • Russia, Ukraine war photos: Rescuers pull Mariupol theater survivors from rubble as Kremlin forces wreak havoc
  • The airstrikes from Wednesday night had left a large section of the grand, 3-three story theater building in the center of Mariupol
  • Inside, hundreds of men, women and children — up to 1,000 according to some officials — had taken shelter in the basement, seeking safety amid Russia’s strangulating 3-week siege of the strategic southern port city.
  • 726 people had been killed, including 674 adults and 52 children, United Nations says
  • Meanwhile, 1,174 people were injured, including 63 kids, the office said.

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Reports of Disabled Care Home being shelled 48hrs after bombing Maternity Hospital

Revelations 6:3-4 “ when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • Now Putin bombs a disabled care home: Ukrainians claim Russians are killing MORE civilians than soldiers and have destroyed 48 schools – but Kyiv says it’s breaking stranglehold on cities as another helicopter is blown out the sky
  • Russia has today blown up a disabled care home near the city of Kharkiv, Ukrainian officials have said, as Vladimir Putin’s troops stoop to a new low just 48 hours after shelling women as they gave birth in a maternity hospital.
  • 63 of the home’s 330 residents have been evacuated, whilst fate of other 267 is currently unknown
  • US and Europe could impose additional penalties on Moscow because ‘the atrocities that they’re committing against civilians seem to be intensifying’
  • Kyiv may soon be encircled with Russian forces moving on areas north and west of the capital, the Ukrainian military says
  • Zelensky says about 100,000 people have evacuated from areas surrounding Kyiv, Sumy and Izyum
  • UN Security Council will meet Friday after Russia says biological weapons are being developed in Ukraine, in what is feared to be pre-text for a potential use of the weapons by Moscow

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Damascus bomb kills 14, then army shells fall on rebel area killing 12

DAMASCUS/AMMAN (Reuters) – A blast on an army bus in Damascus on Wednesday killed 14 people, state media reported, the deadliest bombing in the Syrian capital in years, quickly followed by army shelling in rebel-held Idlib which rescue workers said killed 12 people.

The bus carrying troops was blown up near a bridge in the center of Damascus. A military source quoted by state media said two bombs had been attached to the vehicle in advance. Army engineers defused a third.

Syrian state TV posted images of the charred bus, and rescue workers could be seen removing body parts. A number of people were wounded, state media said.

About an hour after the bus blast, shells rained down on Ariha in Idlib in the northwest of the country, one of the last areas still held by rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad.

Four children and a teacher on their way to school were among those confirmed killed, the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, called it the deadliest attack on Idlib since March 2020. Rescue workers said at least 30 people were wounded.

“The numbers of children injured and killed continue to increase,” UNICEF said in a statement.

In an apparent third incident, Iran’s state-run Al-Alam TV reported a blast during maintenance at a Syrian army ammunition depot that killed five people and injured four on the road between the cities of Homs and Hama. It did not identify those killed. Iranian forces have backed the Syrian government.

A decade of conflict in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people, although major fighting has mostly died down in recent years with the government of Assad now in control of nearly all major cities and towns.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Damascus bombing, and the Syrian army and state media were silent about the subsequent shelling of Idlib.

Attacks in Damascus have been rare since the army crushed rebel enclaves around the city with backing from Russia and Iran-backed forces in 2018.

Dozens of people were killed in Damascus in 2017 in several suicide attacks claimed by jihadists, including two against police stations which Islamic State said it carried out.

Islamic State militants still operate in the deserts of central and eastern Syria, where they have mounted several attacks this year on army vehicles.

U.N.-backed efforts to reach a political settlement to the war, which have so far made little progress, took a step forward on Sunday when the U.N. envoy said the government and opposition had agreed to draft a new constitution.

(Reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman and Jonathan Spicer in Turkey; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli/Tom Perry; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Colombia arrests 10 over bombing, shooting of president’s helicopter

By Oliver Griffin

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia arrested 10 people accused of involvement in attacks on a helicopter carrying President Ivan Duque and a military base last month that officials said on Thursday were planned by former FARC rebel leaders based in Venezuela.

The car bombing at the base in the northeastern city of Cucuta, home to the army’s 30th brigade, wounded 44 people, including two U.S. military advisers. Later in June, a helicopter approaching city with Duque and other officials aboard was strafed by bullets.

The 10 people captured in Norte de Santander province are former FARC rebels who reject a 2016 peace deal, Attorney General Francisco Barbosa said in a press conference broadcast via social media, and belong to the dissidents’ 33rd front.

Three took part in the planning and execution of both attacks and have been detained and charged, while another is a retired army captain, Barbosa said.

Orders to carry out the attacks came from former FARC leaders who are operating from Venezuela, Defense Minister Diego Molano said during the conference.

He said the incidents demonstrated the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sheltered FARC dissidents, calling them “terrorists”.

“It’s clear that this attack against the president, against the 30th brigade, was planned from Venezuela,” Molano said.

The Venezuelan government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Colombia’s government has long accused Maduro of turning a blind eye to the presence of Colombian rebels on his country’s territory. Maduro, in turn, has said Venezuela is a victim of criminals from Colombia.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin in Bogota; Additional reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Editing by Joe Bavier)

Days after bombing, Afghans despair at three-day limit to ceasefire

KABUL (Reuters) – An announcement by the Taliban that they would cease fire for three days for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr has been met by many Afghans with little but despair, just days after a bombing that killed at least 80 people, most of them schoolgirls.

The insurgents said late on Sunday they were offering the pause in fighting so Afghans could celebrate Eid in peace. The truce is meant to come into force on Thursday morning, at a critical moment with U.S. forces in the process of withdrawing after 20 years.

But many Afghans described the short holiday pause in fighting as a fruitless gesture. The Taliban observed a similar truce last year.

“If a ceasefire had been declared some days ago, perhaps these schoolgirls would have been alive and celebrating Eid with their families,” said Shah Wali, a Kabul shopkeeper, referring to Saturday’s bomb attack on a girls school mainly attended by Shi’ite Muslim members of the Hazara ethnic minority.

“It is a good and appropriate action, but not only on the three days of Eid… we want a permanent ceasefire,” he told Reuters.

The Taliban have condemned Saturday’s bombing, which U.S. officials suspect may have been the work of a rival militant group, such as Islamic State.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment about Afghans calling for a longer ceasefire in the wake of the bombing.

University student Shugufa Azaryoon, 22, said she did not welcome the ceasefire at all. Previous ceasefires had been used by Taliban fighters only to regroup and launch attacks after Eid, she said.

PERMANENT CEASEFIRE HASHTAG

The Afghan government wants the Taliban to agree to a more comprehensive ceasefire to promote political talks. The Taliban say they want to lay down their arms, but cannot do so permanently until a political settlement is reached.

Meanwhile, the hashtag “AfghansWantPermanentCeasefire” trended in Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter in the lead up to Eid, which marks the end of the Ramadan holy fasting month.

Facebook user Sadaf Jamali wrote: “I kill people in Ramadan, I don’t kill people in Eid, but after Eid I will (kill) them again…This is Taliban’s logic #AfghansWantPermanentCeasefire”.

A day before the ceasefire was to begin, Taliban insurgents launched an offensive and took control of a key district located an hour’s drive from the capital Kabul.

Washington, which is pulling its remaining troops out of Afghanistan over the next four months, had long said its withdrawal was conditional on the Taliban reducing violence, but now says it is leaving no matter what.

U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad welcomed the announcement of the three-day ceasefire, but said on Twitter that “Afghans deserve much more: a political settlement & a permanent ceasefire.”

Government employee Saifullah Khan said the three-day ceasefire did not leave enough time to travel to spend the holiday with his family, who live in a village two-days’ journey away.

“I wish they had announced a longer ceasefire,” he said. “Like hundreds of thousands of other Afghans I have to wait for a real and permanent ceasefire…only a miracle can make this possible.”

(Reporting by Kabul newsroom; Editing by Peter Graff)

In first for Europe, Iran envoy sentenced to 20-year prison term over bomb plot

By Clement Rossignol and Robin Emmott

ANTWERP, Belgium (Reuters) – An Iranian diplomat accused of planning to bomb a meeting of an exiled opposition group was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Thursday in the first trial of an Iranian official for suspected terrorism in Europe since Iran’s 1979 revolution.

Assadolah Assadi was found guilty of attempted terrorism after a foiled plot to bomb a rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) near Paris in June 2018, Belgian prosecution lawyers and civil parties to the prosecution said.

The third counsellor at Iran’s embassy in Vienna, he was arrested in Germany before being transferred to Belgium for trial. French officials said he was running an Iranian state intelligence network and was acting on orders from Tehran.

Assadi did not attend his hearings, which were held behind closed doors under high security, and neither he nor his lawyer have commented.

In March, Assadi warned authorities of possible retaliation by unidentified groups if he was found guilty, according to a police document obtained by Reuters. The courtroom was heavily guarded, with armored vehicles outside and police helicopters overhead.

In a statement carried by Iranian state television, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said: “Unfortunately, Belgium and some European countries, under the influence of the hostile atmosphere of a terrorist group, have taken such an illegal and unjustifiable action.

“Therefore,” he said, “they must be held accountable for the gross violation of the rights of our country’s diplomats.”

Prosecution lawyer Georges-Henri Beauthier said outside the court in Antwerp: “The ruling shows two things: A diplomat doesn’t have immunity for criminal acts…and the responsibility of the Iranian state in what could have been carnage.”

COMMERCIAL FLIGHT

Investigators assessed that Assadi brought the explosives for the plot with him on a commercial flight to Austria from Iran, according to Belgium’s federal prosecutor.

Then-U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani gave the keynote address at the rally, which was attended by diplomats from many countries.

The ruling came at a sensitive time for Western relations with Iran. New U.S. President Joe Biden is considering whether to lift economic sanctions on Iran re-imposed by Trump and rejoin fellow world powers in the historic 2015 accord with the Islamic Republic aimed at containing its nuclear program.

While the European Union has imposed human rights sanctions on Iranian individuals, Brussels has sought closer diplomatic and business ties with Tehran.

But it says it cannot turn a blind eye to terrorism, including the two killings in the Netherlands and a failed assassination attempt in Denmark, blamed on Iran.

“This case is not an aberration but rather is part of a pattern of the Islamic Republic’s terrorism in Europe and around the world,” said Toby Dershowitz at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a nonpartisan think-tank in Washington D.C.

Three other Iranians were sentenced in the trial for their role as accomplices, with 15-, 17- and 18-year sentences handed down respectively by three judges who did not comment on Thursday. One of their lawyers said he would recommend an appeal, although it was not clear if Assadi would do so.

In an interview with Reuters, NCRI chief Maryam Rajavi called the ruling a turning point as it proved Iran was carrying out state-sponsored terrorism. She said the EU could not stand by without reacting even if some in the 27-nation bloc were pushing for more dialogue with Tehran.

“Silence and inaction would be the worst policy and embolden the regime in its behavior,” she said, speaking through an interpreter, calling for EU sanctions on key officials, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who heads up nuclear diplomacy with the major powers.

“The European Union and governments must hold the regime accountable,” Rajavi said.

The EU declined to comment. French officials did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The Islamic Republic has repeatedly dismissed the charges, calling the attack allegations a “false flag” stunt by the NCRI, which it considers a terrorist group.

(Reporting by Clement Rossignol in Antwerp and Robin Emmott in Brussels with additional reporting by John Irish in Paris and Parisa Hafezi in Dubai; Editing by Marine Strauss, Philippa Fletcher and Mark Heinrich)

Authorities still searching for motive in Nashville blast

(Reuters) – Federal, state and local law enforcement officers on Monday were searching for the motive behind a bombing that rocked Nashville on Christmas morning, with evidence pointing to the 63-year-old suspect on a suicide mission that took only his life.

The FBI on Sunday identified the suspect as Anthony Q. Warner and said he died in the blast, which damaged more than 40 businesses in downtown Nashville, Tennessee’s largest city and the United States’ country music capital.

Warner’s motor home exploded at dawn on Friday moments after police responding to reports of gunfire noticed it and heard music and an automated message emanating from the vehicle warning of a bomb. Police hurried to evacuate people in the area, and Warner is the only person known to have died in the blast.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper has said that local officials felt there had to be some connection between the bombing, which occurred near an AT&T Inc transmission building on the city’s busy Second Avenue, and the building.

But officials have maintained it was too early in the investigation to discuss the suspect’s motives.

Council Member Freddie O’Connell, whose district includes Second Avenue, said officials have been reluctant to speculate about motive or to label the bombing an act of terrorism because it was still unclear whether Warner was driven by any ideology.

“It may be some time before we get even close to having some of these questions answered,” O’Connell said.

The explosion injured three people and damaged businesses, disrupting mobile, internet and TV services across central Tennessee and parts of four other states.

Investigators searched Warner’s home on Saturday and visited a Nashville real estate agency where he had worked part-time, providing computer consulting services.

Speaking to Fox News on Monday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee described the damage in Nashville as “enormous” and said he expected President Donald Trump would shortly grant his request to declare a state of emergency to assist the state.

“It was a indescribable blast and it’s destroyed businesses all up and down that downtown block,” Lee said.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Susan Heavey in Washington; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

U.S. charges Libyan man in 1988 Pam Am Flight 103 bombing

By Mark Hosenball and David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Monday unsealed criminal charges against a third alleged conspirator in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed 270 people.

The Boeing 747 exploded and killed 190 Americans. “No amount of time or distance will stop the United States and our Scottish partners from pursuing justice in this case,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr told a news conference Monday.

The suspect, Abu Agila Mohammad Masud Kheir Al-Marimi, a former senior Libyan intelligence official, is charged with two criminal counts related to the bombing. He is in Libyan custody, Barr said Monday, and U.S. officials are hopeful that Libya will allow Masud to be tried in the United States.

The Justice Department said Masud worked in various capacities for Libyan intelligence, including as a technical expert in building explosive devices from approximately 1973 to 2011. It also alleged Masud was involved in the 1986 bombing of the LaBelle Discotheque in West Berlin, Germany that killed two U.S. service members.

In 1991, two other Libyan intelligence operatives were charged in the bombing: Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah.

Megrahi was found guilty in Scotland of the Lockerbie bombing in 2001 and freed in 2009 on compassionate release grounds before dying of cancer in 2012.

Barr said the breakthrough that led to Masud’s charges came after law enforcement learned in 2016 that the third alleged conspirator “had been arrested after the collapse of the Qaddafi regime and interviewed by a Libyan law enforcement officer in September 2012.”

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball and David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell)

Bombing kills 18 in Afghanistan on eve of Eid ceasefire

A member of Afghanistan's Special Forces unit jumps from a wall during patrol in Pandola village near the site of a U.S. bombing in the Achin district of Nangarhar, eastern Afghanistan, April 14, 2017. REUTERS/Parwiz

KABUL (Reuters) – At least 18 people, including Afghan security forces personnel, were killed in a suspected car-bombing in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, hours before a three-day ceasefire was to begin in the country for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, officials said.

The ceasefire, announced by the Taliban, comes at a time violence has risen across the war-torn country as U.S.-brokered peace talks between the militant group and an Afghan government-mandated committee await the completion of a prisoner exchange between the two sides.

The Taliban denied responsibility for the bombing in a statement from spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

The explosion targeted Afghan security forces in Pul-e-Alan, the capital of the eastern province of Logar and civilian casualties are also feared, according to Shahpoor Ahmadzai, the spokesman for the provincial police.

He added it was unclear whether it was a car or suicide bombing, but that security forces had gathered for duty in the city to prepare for security measures for Eid al-Fitr, which will be celebrated in Afghanistan on Friday.

The head of the province’s council, Hasib Stanekkzai, told Reuters it was a car-bombing and put the toll at 18 dead and 22 injured.

Since the U.S.-Taliban agreement in February, 3,560 Afghan security forces personnel have been killed in attacks by militants, according to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a report this week that more than 1,280 Afghan civilians had been killed in the first six months of the year, mainly as a result of fighting between Afghan government forces and the Taliban.

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was in Kabul on Wednesday to discuss the need to keep violence down by all sides after the ceasefire and the completion of the prisoner exchange, according to a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul and Ahmad Sultan in Nangarhar; Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Mark Potter)