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Bodies of 26 Migrants arrive in Italy as rescues intensify

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…As IS car bombing kills dozens of displaced in Syria: monitor***

The bodies of 26 female migrants who apparently drowned have arrived at the Italian port of Salerno as rescues intensify on the Mediterranean Sea, the U.N. refugee agency said.

The bodies were transferred to the Italian mainland aboard a Spanish naval ship carrying another 400 migrants rescued during four operations in the central Mediterranean.

Twenty-three of the dead women were on a rubber dinghy that sank off Libya two days ago, Marco Rotunno, a spokesman in Italy for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman, said. Another 60 people were pulled to safety, but more may have perished at sea, Rotunno said.

Humanitarian groups say some 2,500 migrants were picked up at sea over the last four or five days, making it the most intense period for rescues on the Mediterranean since Italy reached a deal with Libya this summer to slow departures of smugglers’ boats carrying migrants. In the same short and recent period, 37 bodies have been recovered, the Italian news agency ANSA said.

The number of migrants arriving in Italy so far this year is 30 percent lower than last year, 111,716 through Friday compared to nearly 160,000 in the same period of 2016, according to Interior Ministry figures.

The U.N.’s International Organization for Migration put the number of dead in the center Mediterranean route from Libya to Italy at over 2,600 through Nov. 1.

In the meantime, a car bombing carried out by the Islamic State group killed dozens of displaced people in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor on Saturday, a monitor said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack targeted people displaced by fighting in the oil-rich province who had gathered on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, adding that dozens more were wounded.

The attack comes as Syrian and allied forces converged Saturday on holdout IS fighters in the border town of Albu Kamal, a day after Russian-backed regime forces took full control of the provincial capital, also called Deir Ezzor, which was the last Syrian city where IS still had a presence.

“The Islamic State group targeted with a car bomb displaced people on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, killing dozens and wounding dozens of others,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

He said he could not immediately gave a specific toll of how many people were killed and wounded in the attack.

Abdel Rahman said the victims had fled battlegrounds in Deir Ezzor province, where the US-backed Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance is also on the offensive against IS.

The SDF is attacking IS on the eastern bank of the Euphrates which cuts across the province, while Russian-backed Syrian forces are battling the jihadists on the western bank of the river.

The parallel offensives have sent thousands of civilians fleeing for their lives, some straight into the desert.

Sonia Khush, Syria director at the Save the Children charity, said an estimated 350,000 people have fled the recent fighting in Deir Ezzor province, half of them children.

“The situation in the city, and surrounding countryside, has been especially bleak with civilians trapped between the fighting and all too often caught in the crossfire,” she said

The Euphrates Valley border area was the heart of the “caliphate” IS proclaimed in 2014 and is now its last redoubt, where a US-led coalition supporting the military effort said around 1,500 jihadist fighters remained.

Despite being driven out from large parts of Deir Ezzor, IS still controls 37 percent of the province and its fighters are deployed in the eastern side.

ABC with additional report from MSN

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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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