Air Force agents raid military landlord’s Oklahoma office, seize computers

By M.B. Pell

(Reuters) – Air Force investigators raided the Oklahoma City offices of a major military landlord Tuesday morning, seizing computers and other material, in what the company said was part of an investigation into asbestos contamination.

The landlord, Balfour Beatty Communities, has been the focus of Reuters reports describing how it falsified maintenance records at several bases, allowing the company to collect millions in incentive bonus payments while military families awaited repairs. One of the bases Reuters described was Tinker Air Force in Oklahoma, the subject of Tuesday’s raid.

Linda Card, chief of public affairs for the Air Office of Special Investigations, confirmed the raid took place in cooperation with other federal agencies, but said she had no further details to share.

In a statement, Balfour Beatty said the federal action was related to a subpoena issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The investigation is connected to the matter of asbestos flooring removal that was reported in September 2019. When that event occurred, BBC promptly and voluntarily reported the incident to the local Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality,” it said. “The company will continue to cooperate fully with the investigation.”

At Tinker, Reuters in June documented how one family was left for months with deteriorating asbestos flooring even as Balfour Beatty’s maintenance records said, incorrectly, that the problem had been quickly fixed.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations have been investigating allegations of fraud at Tinker and two other Air Force bases where the company is landlord, John Henderson, the Air Force assistant secretary for installations, told Reuters last year. They are Travis in California and Fairchild in Washington State. Air Force agents are investigating additional fraud allegations at Mountain Home in Idaho and Lackland in Texas.

Balfour Beatty said it has hired an outside lawyer and auditor to examine the allegations.

Balfour Beatty Communities, based in Malvern, Pennsylvania, runs the military housing unit of Balfour Beatty plc, a London-based infrastructure company with annual revenue of $10.7 billion. The company earns $33 million in annual profit on its military housing operations, Balfour Beatty Communities President Chris Williams told Congress in February. The company operates 43,000 housing units at 55 Army, Navy and Air Force bases across the United States.

(Reporting by M.B. Pell in New York. Editing by Ronnie Greene)

Islamic State vows revenge against U.S. for Baghdadi killing

Late Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is seen in an undated picture released by the U.S. Department of Defense in Washington, U.S. October 30, 2019. U.S. Department of Defense/Handout via REUTERS

Islamic State vows revenge against U.S. for Baghdadi killing
By Hesham Abdulkhalek and Yousef Saba

CAIRO (Reuters) – Islamic State confirmed on Thursday that its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a weekend raid by U.S. forces in northwestern Syria and vowed revenge against the United States.

Baghdadi, an Iraqi jihadist who rose from obscurity to become the head of the ultra-hardline group and declare himself “caliph” of all Muslims, died during the swoop by U.S. special forces.

Islamic State (IS), which held swathes of Iraq and Syria from 2014-2017 before its self-styled caliphate disintegrated under U.S.-led attacks, had previously been silent about Baghdadi’s status.

It confirmed his demise in an audio tape posted online and said a successor it identified only as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi had been appointed.

Aymenn al-Tamimi, a researcher at Swansea University focusing on Islamic State, said the name was unknown but could refer to a leading figure in Islamic State called Hajj Abdullah whom the U.S. State Department had identified as a possible successor to Baghdadi.

An IS spokesman addressed the United States in the tape.

“Beware vengeance (against) their nation and their brethren of infidels and apostates, and carrying out the will of the commander of the faithful in his last audio message, and getting closer to God with the blood of polytheists,” he said.

Baghdadi’s death is likely to cause Islamic State to splinter, leaving whoever emerges as its new leader with the task of pulling the group back together as a fighting force, according to analysts.

Whether the loss of its leader will in itself affect the group’s capabilities is open to debate. Even if it does face difficulties in the leadership transition, the underlying ideology and the sectarian hatred it promoted remains attractive to many, analysts say.

GUERRILLA ATTACKS

Islamic State also confirmed the death of its spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir.

“I think they’re trying to send the message, ‘Don’t think you’ve destroyed the project just because you’ve killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the official spokesman’,” Tamimi said.

Islamic State has resorted to guerrilla attacks since losing its last significant piece of territory in Syria in March.

Since Baghdadi’s death, it had posted dozens of claims of attack in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

H.A. Hellyer, senior associate fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International peace, said the group, also known as ISIS or Daesh, would have picked the name Quraishi for Baghdadi’s successor to suggest ancestry from the Prophet Mohammad’s tribe.

Baghdadi’s “caliph” name also ended in Quraishi.

“ISIS is trying to show to its followers it respects that tradition, but Muslims more widely aren’t likely to care very much, considering the wide violations of Islamic law that ISIS has clearly engaged within,” Hellyer added.

In his last audio message, released last month, Baghdadi said operations were taking place daily and urged freedom for women jailed in Iraq and Syria over their alleged links to the group.

He also said the United States and its proxies had been defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the United States had been “dragged” into Mali and Niger.

(Reporting by Hesham Abdulkhalek, Yousef Saba and Ulf Laessing; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Pravin Char)

Islamic State silent on Baghdadi death as it searches for successor

Islamic State silent on Baghdadi death as it searches for successor
By Ulf Laessing and Omar Fahmy

CAIRO (Reuters) – Islamic State supporters have responded with silence and disbelief days after the death of their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, suggesting a breakdown in the command structure of the Sunni militant group trying to agree on a successor.

There has been no official statement or mourning on Baghdadi on Islamic State’s (IS) official Telegram channel since U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Sunday his killing at the hands of special operations forces in northwestern Syria.

Its Amaq news agency Telegram has been continuing business as usual, posting since Sunday more than 30 claims of attacks in Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan and Iraq praising its fighters.

There has also been less chatter among jihadist supporters on social media compared to the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011 and other militant leaders.

Analysts said the remains of Islamic State’s leadership were in a state of shock probably trying to keep the group together and agree on a successor before confirming Baghdadi’s killing.

“There is probably right now chaos inside what is left of the leadership. Key aides have been killed and documents destroyed,” said Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi expert on militant groups.

“They will want to agree on a successor before announcing the death,” he said, adding that a split of the group could delay this.

The group might also need to rebrand itself since using Baghdadi’s declared Islamic caliphate was no longer appropriate having lost the swathes of Iraq, Syria and Libya its fighters used to control until 2017, analysts said.

Many of Baghdadi’s followers were also killed, Trump said on Sunday.

On Tuesday, he wrote on Twitter the U.S. military had likely killed the person who likely would have succeeded Baghdadi as Islamic State leader. Trump did not specify who he was referring to, but a senior State Department official on Monday confirmed the killing of Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, Islamic State spokesman and a high-ranking IS figure, in an operation separate from the one that killed Baghdadi.

It took al Qaeda, another Sunni militant group following a similar ideology which carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, several days before it confirmed the killing of Osama bin Laden in a U.S. raid, said Aymenn al-Tamimi, a researcher at Swansea University focused on Islamic State.

About six weeks passed before the group announced a successor to bin Laden.

“Islamic State could announce the death in their weekly news letter which could come out on Thursday if they were able to agree on a successor,” said Tamimi.

He said Hajj Abdullah, a deputy of Baghdadi, was his likely successor, provided he was still alive.

There had been conflicting reports before whether Baghdadi was still alive after the Islamic State lost its last significant territory in Syria in March, resorting since then to hit-and-run guerrilla tactics.

His last audio message was in September.

DEFIANCE

There has been less chatter online among supporters of militant groups compared to times when militants were previously killed.

Social media platforms such as Twitter are now quicker at deleting accounts linked to militants, while several Arab countries have stepped up online surveillance. That forces users to constantly change encrypted accounts.

Of those Islamic State supporters who went online after Trump’s announcement following an initial stunning silence, many voiced disbelief or dismissed the news as fake.

A Telegram account linked to IS warned supporters not to believe an alleged image announcing the death. The message ended with “God almighty preserve him (Baghdadi)”, suggesting the poster still believed Baghdadi was alive.

Other supporters seemed ready to embrace his death, urging supporters to continue the jihadist fight in any case.

“Whatever happens the jihad convoy moves forward and will not stop even if the state is annihilated,” one supporter wrote on a personal Telegram account.

Tamimi said there was not much mourning as many militant supporters were glad to see Baghdadi dead because he had in their view damaged the jihad project by his group’s cruelty by meting out punishments such as amputations of legs and hands.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Sunni group formerly known as the Nusra Front and which dominates Idlib in northwestern Syria where Baghdadi was killed, praised his death.

“The only regret they had was that they hadn’t killed him instead of U.S. forces,” said Tamimi.

In contrast to Islamic State, supporters of al Qaeda quickly accepted Baghdadi’s death, according to the U.S.-based SITE Intel Group which monitors jihadist websites.

“How much blood has been shed in the name of his imaginary Caliphate?” posted Sirajuddin Zurayqat, a former official in a former al Qaeda-linked group, Brigades of Abdullah Azzam, SITE said.

Late on Monday, hardline Saudi Sunni cleric Abdullah al-Muhaysini also published an 18-minute video praising Baghdadi’s death, urging followers to quit IS.

“For some, Baghdadi’s death might be the final straw to quit the group and go back to al Qaeda,” said Elisabeth Kendall, senior research fellow in Arabic and Islamic studies at Oxford University.

(Additional reporting by Yousef Saba; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Chinese raids hit North Korean defectors’ ‘Underground Railroad’

Photo sheets of the North Korean refugees helped by the North Korea Refugees Human Rights Association of Korea are displayed in Seoul, South Korea, June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Josh Smith

By Josh Smith and Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) – A decade after leaving her family behind to flee North Korea, the defector was overwhelmed with excitement when she spoke to her 22-year-old son on the phone for the first time in May after he too escaped into China.

While speaking to him again on the phone days later, however, she listened in horror as the safe house where her son and four other North Korean escapees were hiding was raided by Chinese authorities.

“I heard voices, someone saying ‘shut up’ in Chinese,” said the woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect her son’s safety. “Then the line was cut off, and I heard later he was caught.”

The woman, now living in South Korea, said she heard rumors her son is being held in a Chinese prison near the North Korean border, but has had no official news of his whereabouts.

At least 30 North Korean escapees have been rounded up in a string of raids across China since mid-April, according to family members and activist groups.

It is not clear whether this is part of a larger crackdown by China, but activists say the raids have disrupted parts of the informal network of brokers, charities, and middlemen who have been dubbed the North Korean “Underground Railroad”.

“The crackdown is severe,” said Y. H. Kim, chairman of the North Korea Refugees Human Rights Association of Korea.

Most worrisome for activists is that the arrests largely occurred away from the North Korean border – an area dubbed the “red zone” where most escapees get caught – and included rare raids on at least two safe houses.

“Raiding a house? I’ve only seen two or three times,” said Kim, who left North Korea in 1988 and has acted as a middleman for the past 15 years, connecting donors with brokers who help defectors.

“You get caught on the way, you get caught moving. But getting caught at a home, you can count on one hand.”

The increase in arrests is likely driven by multiple factors, including deteriorating economic conditions in North Korea and China’s concern about the potential for a big influx of refugees, said Kim Seung-eun, a pastor at Seoul’s Caleb Mission Church, which helps defectors escape.

“In the past, up to half a million North Korean defectors came to China,” Kim said, citing the period in the 1990s when famine struck North Korea. “A lot of these arrests have to do with China wanting to prevent this again.” 

DIVIDED FAMILIES

Kim Jeong-cheol already lost his brother trying to escape from North Korea, and now fears his sister will meet a similar fate after she was caught by Chinese authorities.

“My elder brother was caught in 2005, and he went to a political prison and was executed in North Korea,” Kim told Reuters. “That’s why my sister will surely die if she goes back there. What sin is it for a man to leave because he’s hungry and about to die?”

Reuters was unable to verify the fate of Kim’s brother or sister. Calls to the North Korean embassy in Beijing were not answered.

Activist groups and lawyers seeking to help the families say there is no sign China has deported the recently arrested North Koreans yet, and their status is unknown.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, which does not typically acknowledge arrests of individual North Korean escapees, said it had no information about the raids or status of detainees.

“We do not know about the situation to which you are referring,” the ministry said in a statement when asked by Reuters.

North Koreans who enter China illegally because of economic reasons are not refugees, it added.

“They use illegal channels to enter China, breaking Chinese law and damaging order for China’s entry and exit management,” the ministry said. “For North Koreans who illegally enter the country, China handles them under the principled stance of domestic and international law and humanitarianism.”

South Korea’s government said it tries to ensure North Korean defectors can reach their desired destinations safely and swiftly without being forcibly sent back to the North, but declined to provide details, citing defectors’ safety and diplomatic relations.

When another woman – who also asked to be unnamed for her family’s safety – escaped from North Korea eight years ago, she promised her sister and mother she would work to bring them out later.

In January, however, her mother died of cancer, she said.

On her death bed, her mother wrote a message on her palm pleading for her remaining daughter to escape North Korea.

“It will haunt me for the rest of my life that I didn’t keep my promise,” said woman, who now lives in South Korea.

Her 27-year-old sister was in a group of four defectors who made it all the way to Nanning, near the border with Vietnam, before being caught.

“When you get there, you think you’re almost home free,” she said. “You think you’re safe.”

INCREASE IN ARRESTS

There are no hard statistics on how many North Koreans try to leave their country, but South Korea, where most defectors try to go, says the number safely arriving in the South dropped after Kim Jong Un came to power in 2011.

In 2018 about 1,137 North Korean defectors entered South Korea, compared to 2,706 in 2011.

Observers say the drop is partly because of increased security and crackdowns in both North Korea and China.

Over the past year, more cameras and updated guard posts have been seen at the border, said Kang Dong-wan, who heads an official North Korean defector resettlement organization in South Korea and often travels to the border between China and North Korea.

“Kim Jong Un’s policy itself is tightening its grip on defection,” he said. “Such changes led to stronger crackdowns in China as well.”

Under President Xi Jinping, China has also cracked down on a variety of other activities, including illicit drugs, which are sometimes smuggled by the same people who transport escapees, said one activist who asked not to be named due to the sensitive work.

North Koreans who enter China illegally face numerous threats, including from the criminal networks they often have to turn to for help.

Tens of thousands of women and girls trying to flee North Korea have been pressed into prostitution, forced marriage, or cybersex operations in China, according to a report last month by the non-profit Korea Future Initiative.

“SMASH UP NETWORKS”

An activist at another organization that helps spirit defectors out of North Korea said so far its network had not been affected, but they were concerned about networks being targeted and safe houses being raided.

“That is a bit of a different level, more targeted and acting on intelligence that they may have been sitting on to smash up networks,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect the organization’s work.

Y. H. Kim, of the Refugees Human Rights Association, said the raids raised concerns that Chinese authorities had infiltrated some smuggling networks, possibly with the aid of North Korean intelligence agents.

“I don’t know about other organizations, but no one is moving in our organization right now,” he said. “Because everyone who moves is caught.”

(Reporting by Josh Smith and Joyce Lee. Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and David Brunnstrom in Washington. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

German police raid flats in hunt for G20 rioters

German police raid flats in hunt for G20 rioters

BERLIN (Reuters) – Police raided apartments across Germany on Tuesday, hunting for evidence on anti-capitalist protesters who clashed with officers during July’s Group of 20 leaders summit in Hamburg.

Officers searched 23 properties believed to be used by “Black Bloc” anti-capitalist group in eight German states, the Hamburg force said. They seized 26 computers and 36 mobile phones, but made no arrests.

Around 200 police officers were hurt in July in scuffles with the left-wing group, named after its members’ black hoods and masks.

Police described how 150-200 people separated themselves off from peaceful marches, donned scarves, masks and dark glasses, then grabbed stones from the pavement and projectiles from building sites to hurl at police.

“We are talking about a violent mob, acting together … Whoever participates in this is, in our view, making themselves culpable,” Jan Hieber, head of the police Special Commission, told reporters.

“The militant action was not accidental. There must have been a degree of planning and agreement,” he said.

Police said nearly 600 officers raided properties in states from Hamburg and Berlin to western North Rhine-Westphalia and southern Baden-Wuerttemberg.

They also carried out searches in the southern city of Stuttgart and Goettingen in northern Germany – home to well-known centers of left-wing activism.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Catherine Evans and Andrew Heavens)

Egypt security forces kill 11 suspected militants in raid

Egypt security forces kill 11 suspected militants in raid

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian security forces have killed 11 suspected militants in a shootout near the Sinai, the interior ministry said on Tuesday, just days after more than 300 people were killed in an attack on a mosque in North Sinai.

The shootout occurred during a raid on a suspected militant hideout in the Sinai-bordering province of Ismailia, the ministry said in a statement.

It said the area was being used by militants to train and store weapons and logistical equipment for attacks in North Sinai.

Militants detonated a bomb and then gunned down fleeing worshippers in last Friday’s mosque attack, the deadliest in Egypt’s modern history.

No group has claimed responsibility for the assault, but Egypt’s public prosecutor linked Islamic State militants to the attack, citing interviews with wounded survivors who said militants brandished an Islamic State flag.

Six suspected militants were arrested as part of the operations, which also included a raid on an additional suspected militant hideout in the 10th of Ramadan, an area just outside of Cairo.

Since 2013 Egyptian security forces have battled an Islamic State affiliate in the mainly desert region of North Sinai, where militants have killed hundreds of police and soldiers.

The interior ministry statement on Tuesday did not directly link the suspected militants targeted in the operations to last week’s mosque attack.

(Reporting by Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Greek police raids find explosives, nine held over links to banned Turkish group

Greek police raids find explosives, nine held over links to banned Turkish group

By George Georgiopoulos

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek police found bomb-making equipment and detonators in raids in Athens on Tuesday and were questioning nine people over suspected links to a banned militant group in Turkey ahead of an expected visit by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan next week.

Eight men and a woman thought to hold Turkish citizenship were being detained after morning raids at three different addresses in central Athens.

Earlier, police officials told Reuters the individuals were being quizzed for alleged links to the leftist militant DHKP/C, an outlawed group blamed for a string of attacks and suicide bombings in Turkey since 1990.

The police found materials available commercially and which could potentially be used in making explosives were found, they said in a statement. They also retrieved digital material and travel documents.

Witnesses saw police experts in hazmat suits and holding suitcases entering one address in Athens. Tests on an unknown substance found in jars were expected to be concluded within the day.

Turkey’s Erdogan is widely expected to visit Greece in December, although his visit has not been officially announced. It would be the first visit by a Turkish president in more than 50 years.

Another official told the semi-official Athens News Agency that the case was unconnected to domestic terror groups or militant Islamists, and described those questioned as being of Turkish origin.

DHKP/C, known also as the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front, is considered a terrorist group by the European Union, Turkey and the United States.

(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and Hugh Lawson)

Exclusive: FBI agents raid headquarters of major U.S. body broker

Exclusive: FBI agents raid headquarters of major U.S. body broker

By John Shiffman and Brian Grow

PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) – Federal agents have seized records from a national company that solicits thousands of Americans to donate their bodies to science each year, then profits by dissecting the parts and distributing them for use by researchers and educators.

The search warrant executed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation at MedCure Inc headquarters here on November 1 is sealed, and the bureau and the company declined to comment on the nature of the FBI investigation. But people familiar with the matter said the inquiry concerns the manner in which MedCure distributes body parts acquired from its donors.

MedCure is among the largest brokers of cadavers and body parts in the United States. From 2011 through 2015, documents obtained under public-record laws show, the company received more than 11,000 donated bodies and distributed more than 51,000 body parts to medical industry customers nationally. In a current brochure, the company says that 80,000 additional people have pledged to donate their bodies to MedCure when they die.

FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele confirmed the day-long search of the 25,000-square-foot facility, but declined to comment further because the matter is under seal. A person familiar with the matter said that FBI agents took records from MedCure but did not remove human remains.

The search warrant, though sealed, signals that an FBI investigation of MedCure has reached an advanced stage. To obtain a search warrant to seize records, rather than demand them via subpoena, FBI agents must provide a detailed affidavit to a U.S. magistrate with evidence to support probable cause that crimes have been committed and that related records may be on the premises.

“MedCure is fully cooperating with the FBI, and looks forward to resolving whatever questions the government may have about their business,” said Jeffrey Edelson, a Portland attorney who represents the company. “Out of respect for the integrity of the process, we do not believe that further comment is appropriate at this time.”

It is illegal to profit from the sale of organs destined for transplant, such as hearts and kidneys. But as a Reuters series detailed last month, it is legal in most U.S. states to sell donated whole bodies or their dissected parts, such as arms and heads, for medical research, training and education.

Commonly known as body brokers, these businesses often profit by targeting people too poor to afford a burial or cremation. Reuters documented how people who donate their bodies to science may be unwittingly contributing to commerce. Few states regulate the body donation industry, and those that do so have different rules, enforced with varying degrees of thoroughness. Body parts can be bought with ease in the United States. A Reuters reporter bought two heads and a spine from a Tennessee broker with just a few emails.

MedCure, founded in 2005, is based outside Portland, Oregon, and has offices in Nevada, Florida, Rhode Island and Missouri, as well as Amsterdam, the Netherlands. At some locations, including the one near Portland, MedCure provides training labs for doctors and health professionals to practice surgical techniques. MedCure also sends body parts and technicians to assist with medical conferences across the country.

MedCure is accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks, a national organization that primarily works with transplant tissue banks. The broker is also licensed by the state health departments in Oregon and New York, among the few states that conduct inspections. According to Oregon state health records, officials renewed MedCure’s license in January, following a routine on-site review.

The Reuters series, “The Body Trade,” can be read at https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-bodies-brokers/

(Edited by Michael Williams)

FBI raided former Trump campaign manager Manafort’s home in July

FILE PHOTO: Paul Manafort, senior advisor to Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, exits following a meeting of Donald Trump's national finance team at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City, U.S., June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Sarah N. Lynch and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – FBI agents seized documents and other material last month at the Virginia home of Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, as part of a special counsel’s probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a spokesman for Manafort said on Wednesday.

The predawn raid was conducted at Manafort’s home in the Washington suburb of Alexandria without advance warning on July 26, a day after Manafort had met with Senate Intelligence Committee staff members, the Washington Post reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the probe.

The search warrant was wide-ranging and FBI agents working with Robert Mueller, the special counsel named by the U.S. Justice Department in May to head the investigation, departed the home with various records, the Post said. Investigators were looking for tax documents and foreign banking records, the New York Times reported.

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni confirmed the raid had taken place.

“FBI agents executed a search warrant at one of Mr. Manafort’s residences. Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well,” Maloni said in an email.

The raid was the latest indication of the intensifying of Mueller’s probe, which Trump has derided as a “witch hunt.” Allegations of possible collusion between people associated with Trump’s campaign and Moscow have dogged the Republican president since he took office in January.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered in the presidential race, in part by hacking and releasing emails embarrassing to Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, to help him get elected.

Manafort has been a key figure in the congressional and federal investigations into the matter. Mueller’s team is examining money-laundering accusations against Manafort, poring over his financial and real estate records in New York as well as his involvement in Ukrainian politics, two officials told Reuters last month.

Congressional committees are looking at a June 2016 meeting in New York with a Russian lawyer organized by Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who released emails last month that showed he welcomed the prospect of receiving damaging information about Clinton at the meeting. Manafort attended the meeting.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation did not immediately return a request for comment on the raid. Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, declined to confirm the raid.

Manafort has been cooperating with the congressional committees in their Russia probes, meeting with staff members behind closed doors and turning over documents. He also has been in talks with them about testifying publicly.

He met with investigators from Senate Intelligence Committee staff last month and has been negotiating an appearance before the Judiciary Committee.

Committee leaders said they wanted to discuss not just the campaign, but also Manafort’s political work on behalf of interests in Ukraine. Russia’s aggression in Ukraine was one reason the U.S. Congress defied Trump and passed new sanctions on Russia last month.

Manafort previously worked as a consultant to a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine and helped support the country’s Kremlin-backed former leader, Viktor Yanukovich. According to a financial audit reported by the New York Times, he also once owed $17 million to Russian shell companies.

A Senate Judiciary Committee aide said the panel on Aug. 2 received approximately 20,000 pages of documents from Trump’s presidential campaign that it requested for its own Russia investigation, as well as about 400 pages of documents from Manafort the same day.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch, Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Will Dunham)

Israeli forces raid home of Palestinian attacker, arrest brother

Medics evacuate an Israeli woman who was injured during a knife attack in the Jewish settlement of Neve Tsuf at the West Bank, at a hospital in Jerusalem July 21, 2017. REUTERS/Emil Salman

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli security forces on Saturday raided the home of the Palestinian attacker who stabbed to death three Israelis and restricted movement for Palestinians from his West Bank village, the military said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said security forces “surveyed the house of the assailant in the village of Khobar, searched for weapons and confiscated money used for terror purposes. The brother of the assailant was also apprehended.”

“Movement out of the village will be limited to humanitarian cases only,” she said.

Six people died on Friday in the bloodiest spate of Israeli-Palestinian violence for years.

Three Israelis were stabbed to death in a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, hours after three Palestinians were killed in violence prompted by Israel’s installation of metal detectors at entry points to the Noble Sanctuary-Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s walled Old City.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered the suspension of all official contact with Israel until it removed the metal detectors at the site, where Muslims pray at al-Aqsa mosque.

He gave no details, but current contacts are largely limited to security cooperation.

The three Israelis stabbed to death and a fourth who was wounded were from the fenced-in West Bank settlement of Neve Tsuf. The attacker, 20-year-old Omar Alabed, was shot and taken to a hospital for treatment, the military said.

Alabed posted a note on Facebook prior to the attack, writing: “I am going there and I know I am not going to come back here, I will go to heaven. How sweet death is for the sake of God, his prophet and for Al-Aqsa mosque.”

Palestinian worshippers had clashed with Israeli security forces before Friday’s attack. Tensions had mounted for days as Palestinians hurled rocks and Israeli police used stun grenades after the detectors were placed outside the sacred venue, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said three Palestinians died of gunshot wounds in two neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, some distance away from the epicenter of tension. It later reported a third Palestinian fatality

Israel decided to install the metal detectors at the entry point to the shrine in Jerusalem on Sunday, after the killing of two Israeli policemen on July 14.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Nidal al-Mughrabi and Ali Sawafta,; Editing by Edmund Blair)