Pompeo presses Turkey to release American pastor Andrew Brunson
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed Turkey on Friday for the release of detained American pastor Andrew Brunson, warning that the issue was “very serious.”
Pompeo met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of a Southeast Asian security conference in Singapore. “Brunson needs to come home, as do all the Americans being held by the Turkish government,” Pompeo told reporters before the meeting. “It’s pretty straightforward. Pastor Brunson is an innocent pastor and they need to let him a return to the United States.” He added: “We are going to work to see if we can find a way forward; I am hopeful that we can.”
Brunson, 50, was arrested in 2016 on charges of "committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member" and espionage.He was recently released from prison and put under house arrest but still faces a sentence of up to 35 years if he is convicted at his ongoing trial. The evangelical pastor, who is originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, has lived in western Turkey for 23 years. “The Turks were on notice that the clock had run and it was time for Pastor Brunson to be returned and I hope they’ll see this for what it is, a demonstration that we’re very serious,” Pompeo said. “We consider this one of the many issues that we have with the Turks.”
Syrian conflict: Government scientist killed in blast
The head of a suspected chemical weapons' research centre in Syria has been killed in a car bombing, pro-government and opposition media report. Aziz Asber was the head of a facility belonging to the government's Syrian Scientific Research Centre.
Western intelligence agents have said the organisation is linked to a Syrian chemical weapons programme.
Asber and his driver both died when the car they were travelling in exploded late on Saturday, according to the UK-based monitor The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The opposition Abu Amara Special Missions group claimed responsibility for the killings, which pro-government outlets described as an "assassination".
The research centre that Asber led in the western city of Masyaf has previously been targeted by air strikes. The Syrian government has blamed Israel for these attacks, including one that took place two weeks ago.
Syria has denied owning or using chemical weapons, but the US and the Syrian opposition accuse the government of carrying out a chemical attack on former opposition stronghold Douma near Damascus that reportedly killed 40 people in April this year.
Iran launches military drill in Persian Gulf — US
The exercises come at a time of increased tension between Iran and the United States, which has pulled out of a historic nuclear pact and is slapping fresh sanctions on Tehran on Monday.
Iranian leaders have threatened several times in recent weeks to close the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for the renewal of sanctions.
US officials in recent years have accused both the regular Iranian navy and the IRGC of routinely harassing American warships in the Gulf. But so far this year, to the befuddlement of some military officials, there have been no such incidents.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps is a paramilitary force that answers directly to the Islamic republic’s supreme leader.
In January 2016, the Iranians briefly captured the crew of two small US patrol boats that strayed into Iranian waters. The 10 US sailors were released 24 hours later.
51 Taliban insurgents killed in Afghan army operation in Kunar province
KABUL: At least 51 Taliban insurgents were killed and six were injured during an ongoing operation by Afghan forces in eastern Kunar province, Khaama Press reported.
The sixth phase of Qahr Silab-2 operation kicked off on Friday night and is currently being conducted with the help of the artillery and close air support, a statement by the Silab Corps said.
The statement elaborated that 51 Taliban militants including three of their key leaders were killed and at least six others sustained critical injuries.
Senior Taliban leaders who were killed during the operation have been identified as Sultan Mohammad, the shadow district military chief of the group for Asmar, Mawlavi Hazrat Ali, the group’s shadow district chief for Asmar, and the group’s shadow district chief for Ghaziabad, Mawlavi Imran Ghazi.
A DShK heavy machine gun, a 75mm rocket launcher, and some of the hideouts of the militants were also destroyed during the operations, the statement added.
US military airstrike in Somalia kills 4 al-Shabab fighters
The U.S. military says it has carried out an airstrike in Somalia that killed four members of the al-Shabab extremist group.
The U.S. Africa Command says this is the 19th such airstrike this year against the Somalia-based al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in sub-Saharan Africa.
The U.S. also has carried out a number of drone strikes against a small presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State organization in northern Somalia.
Friday's statement says the latest airstrike was carried out Thursday about 74 miles (119 kilometers) northwest of the capital, Mogadishu. Al-Shabab often targets the capital with deadly attacks.
The U.S. says it assesses that no civilians were killed. Somali officials and residents at least twice in recent months have alleged that civilians were killed in airstrikes.
Death Toll Rises From Afghan Mosque Bombings
The death toll from twin suicide blasts at a Shi'ite mosque in southeastern Afghanistan has climbed to at least 35.
Raz Mohammad Mandozai, the police chief of Paktia Province, said two suicide bombers detonated explosives inside the Khawaja Hassan mosque in the provincial capital of Gardez on August 3.
There was no claim of responsibility, although similar attacks in the past have been claimed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, which has a presence in eastern Afghanistan.
The Sunni extremist group has frequently targeted Afghanistan’s Shi'ite minority, which IS calls "apostates."