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34 dead in twin bombings in Libya’s Benghazi

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…As Isis claims attack on Save the Children office in Jalalabad***

Twin car bombs outside a mosque frequented by jihadist opponents in Libya’s second city Benghazi killed at least 34 people and wounded 87, hospital sources said on Wednesday.

The eastern city has been relatively calm since military strongman Khalifa Haftar announced its “liberation” from jihadists in July last year after a three-year campaign, but sporadic violence has continued.

The bombers struck after evening prayers on Tuesday, blowing up two cars 30 minutes apart outside the mosque in the central neighbourhood of Al-Sleimani.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the mosque is known to be a base for Salafist groups which fought the jihadists alongside Haftar’s forces.

The city’s Al-Jala hospital received 25 dead and 51 wounded, its spokeswoman Fadia al-Barghathi said.

The Benghazi Medical Centre received nine dead and 36 wounded, spokesman Khalil Gider said.

Ahmad al-Fituri, a security official for Haftar’s forces, was among those killed, military spokesman Miloud al-Zwei said.

Libya has been gripped by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, with two rival administrations and multiple militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.

Haftar supports an administration based in the east of the country. A UN-backed unity government based in the capital Tripoli has struggled to assert its authority outside the west.

UN efforts to reconcile the rival administrations have so far produced no concrete result.

In the meantime, gunmen have stormed the Save the Children office in Jalalabad, killing at least three people and wounding 26 in an attack claimed by Islamic State.

The latest assault on a foreign charity in Afghanistan began just after 9am when a suicide car bomb was detonated outside the office. The attackers then used rocket-propelled grenades to blast their way inside.

Afghan security forces swarmed the area and were still engaging the gunmen on Wednesday afternoon, said Attaullah Khogyani, a provincial government spokesman.

At least 45 people were rescued from the basement of the building as fighting continued on the floors above, a member of the Ningarhar provincial goverment, Sohrab Qaderi, told the Guardian.

Local media claimed up to 25 more people may have been in the building at the time of the attack but Save the Children has not released any official counts.

The incident was claimed by Isis, which has established a foothold in eastern Nangarhar province. The group said in a statement it was targeting British and Swedish groups in the region.

Khogyani said two security guards and a civilian had been killed in the attack. One insurgent carried out the suicide bombing, a second was killed by police and a third was still fighting, he said. Initial information suggested the attackers had been wearing military uniforms, he added.

Television footage and video shot by onlookers showed thick smoke billowing from a burning car outside the complex and fire burning on at least one floor of the building.

Guardian NG with additional report from Guardian UK

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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’

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The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin

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Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel

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A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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