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Trump Caps Eventful Week on Florida Golf Course

U.S. President Donald Trump went to one of his golf courses on the Florida Atlantic coast Sunday for a second consecutive day, following an eventful week that included his much-scrutinized summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which he ordered cruise missiles launched at a Syrian airbase.

White House officials were tight-lipped about the president’s activities Saturday and Sunday, which were known to have included time on the golf course and a long phone call, the second in a span of four days, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In the most recent conversation, which lasted 45 minutes, Abe told reporters he and the U.S. president “frankly exchanged opinions about North Korea and Syria following Thursday’s U.S. Navy strike on a Syrian airfield that was believed to be the launch site for last week’s chemical attack on civilians in rebel-held territory that killed dozens, including children.

The two leaders “completely agreed on the importance of solidarity among the United States, Japan and South Korea regarding North Korea’s increasing ballistic missile and nuclear weapons development threats,” Abe said.

The White House, in its statement released Sunday about the previous day’s call, said Trump thanked Abe for his support of the U.S. missile strikes and they “also agreed to further cooperation on a range of regional issues, including the threat posed by North Korea.”

Dispatching navy forces to Korean peninsula

The U.S. Defense Department announced late Saturday the Pacific Command had ordered a U.S. Navy strike group (USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier) to head towards the Korean peninsula.

This is “a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific,” a command spokesman, Navy Commander Dave Benham told VOA.  “The number-one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.”  

The diversion of the naval strike force from a scheduled cruise to Australia, following a port call in Singapore, comes after several recent missile test firings into the eastern waters of the Korean peninsula by North Korea and amid preparations for what would be the isolated and impoverished nation’s sixth underground nuclear weapons test.

Trump, according to administration officials, informed President Xi during their meetings last week that if China was not successful in dissuading North Korea from further provocative actions, the United States is prepared to take action on its own.   

According to data compiled by The Washington Post, Trump, who repeatedly criticized his predecessor for golf outings, has been on the fairways once every 5.3 days, compared to Barack Obama’s pace of every 8.8 days.

Despite repeated inquiries from VOA and other news organizations traveling with the president, the White House issued no detailed information on Trump’s activities during his five hours both Saturday and Sunday at the Trump International Golf Club.  But a CNN videographer spotted the commander-in-chief on the links on Saturday.

A source told VOA that Trump played 18 holes Saturday.  On Sunday, Trump was seen leaving his Mar-a-Lago estate clad in a white polo shirt and a red cap with “USA” lettering.

While at the golf club, Trump, on his personal Twitter account, said he was “so sad” to learn of the lethal Palm Sunday bombings of two churches in Egypt, adding he had great confidence President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi “will handle the situation properly.”

The Egyptian president ordered military deployments to guard “vital and important infrastructure” following the attacks, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

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Trump Wants Options to End North Korea Nuclear Threat, Security Aide Says

U.S. President Donald Trump has asked officials to give him options for removing the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Sunday.

As a U.S. Navy strike group steamed toward the Korean Peninsula to send a message to North Korea, McMaster told Fox News, “This is a rogue regime that is now a nuclear-capable regime. … So the president has asked us to be prepared to give him a full range of options to remove that threat to the American people and our allies and partners in that region.”

McMaster described the U.S. decision to send the Carl Vinson Strike Group to safeguard U.S. interests in the Western Pacific as “prudent.” He said that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed at their summit in Florida last week that Pyongyang’s “provocative behavior” developing nuclear weapons was unacceptable.

“Presidents before and President Trump agreed this is unacceptable, that what must happen is the denuclearization of the peninsula,” McMaster said.

A South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman said Monday the deployment of the Carl Vinson to the Western Pacific region was in response to the “serious situation on the Korean Peninsula.”

Moon Sang-gyun said it is understandable that the U.S. and South Korea are “fully preparing for possible provocations by North Korea, considering that possibilities of Pyongyang’s strategic provocations, including nuclear and missile tests, are increasing.” 

North Korea has been trying to develop a long-range missile carrying a nuclear warhead that is capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, a distance of about 8,000 kilometers. It has staged five nuclear tests so far and could be preparing a sixth.

North Korea last week conducted a ballistic missile test in spite of U.N. Security Council resolutions banning such launches.


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, without directly naming North Korea, told ABC News, “If you violate international agreements, if you fail to live up to commitments, if you become a threat to others, at some point a response is likely to be undertaken.”

The Carl Vinson Strike Group was making a port call in Singapore and was scheduled to sail for Australia when the U.S. Pacific Command ordered the ships to sail north instead.

“Third Fleet ships operate forward with a purpose: to safeguard U.S. interests in the Western Pacific,” Commander Dave Benham, Director of Media Operations for the U.S. Pacific Command Third Fleet, told VOA.

“The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible, and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability,” Benham said.

The strike group includes its namesake aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, as well as three guided-missile destroyers.

Pyongyang’s reaction

Pyongyang has repeatedly defied international warnings about conducting missile launches and testing nuclear devices.

On Sunday, a North Korean Foreign Ministry official was quoted on state-run media as vowing to step up the country’s defenses to protect itself from airstrikes like the U.S. carried out against Syria last week.

The unidentified official told the Korean Central New Agency the airstrikes were “absolutely unpardonable,” and proves Pyongyang is justified in having nuclear weapons.

While Trump has not set out a clear strategy for dealing with the isolated nation, he has criticized the administration of former President Barack Obama for its policy of “strategic patience,” in the face of North Korea’s ongoing efforts to develop long-range nuclear strike capability. Trump has also called on China, North Korea’s strongest ally, to take stronger action to curb those nuclear ambitions.

Unilateral action?

Earlier this month, Trump suggested the U.S. might take action unilaterally if China wasn’t willing to do more.

“If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will,” Trump told The Financial Times on April 2. “China will either decide to help us with North Korea or they won’t. If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.”

Tillerson said that Xi, at his summit with Trump, signaled a willingness to do more to rein in North Korea.

“They have indicated that they will and I think we need to allow them time to take actions,” Tillerson said of China.

VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.

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Pakistan: US Participation a Must in Russia-initiated Afghan Talks

Pakistan says that Russia-sponsored international talks on Afghanistan must involve the United States for bringing peace to the war-riven country, because Washington is the “biggest stakeholder” there.

Moscow plans to host this week (April 14) a new expanded round of multi-nation “consultations” it has recently launched with the stated goals of developing a “regional approach” for promoting Afghan security and a government-led national reconciliation with the Taliban.

But the U.S. administration has already refused to take part in the conference, questioning Russian intentions and motives.

Speaking to a local television station before the Moscow talks, the Pakistani prime minister’s foreign policy aide, Tariq Fatemi, stopped short of admitting the absence of Washington will not allow the multi-nation process to achieve its mission.

“They [U.S] have their troops present [in Afghanistan], they have invested one trillion dollars there, they are the biggest stakeholder, they have lost hundreds of their soldiers, so they have their interests there,” Fatemi explained.

While Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, China, India were represented in the last round of talks in Moscow earlier this year, former Soviet Central Asian states have been invited for the first time to attend the April 14 conference.

“We hope and desire that when any such peace initiative will enter into a next stage, America will have to be made part of it,” Fatemi told Aaj TV when asked whether the Russian-initiated process could bring peace to Afghanistan without Washington.

Pakistan believes Russia is “positively” using its influence with the Taliban to encourage them to join peace talks and Islamabad is supportive of any such efforts, Fatemi insisted.

“Russia has told us its major concerns are that if civil war conditions are there in Afghanistan, it can become a center for terrorist organizations like Islamic State, or Daesh, who will then try to infiltrate into bordering Central Asian states,” the Pakistani official explained.

The Taliban’s attacks on rival IS fighters in a bid to prevent them from establishing a foothold in the country apparently encouraged Russia to support the insurgent group. But Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday again warned Moscow against maintaining contacts with the Taliban.

“Anyone who thinks they can help themselves by helping the enemy of their enemy is mistaken. Anyone who thinks that they can differentiate between good and bad terrorism is mistaken,” Ghani said.

Speaking at a news conference in Kabul, Ghani acknowledged Russia is also threatened by terrorism and sympathized with victims of recent terrorist attack in that country.

“We have an intense dialogue with all our interlocutors because a stable Afghanistan is to everybody’s benefit and unstable Afghanistan hurts everyone,” Ghani said when asked whether Kabul plans to attend Moscow talks on Friday. He added he wants Afghanistan “as a center of cooperation” in all efforts aimed at stabilizing his country.

The Russian foreign ministry, while regretting Washington’s refusal to attend the coming talks, had also underscored the United States is an “important player” in settling the Afghan conflict.

“So [the United States] joining the peacekeeping efforts of the countries of the region would help to reinforce the message to the Afghan armed opposition regarding the need to stop armed resistance and to start talks,” it maintained.

Meanwhile, Fatemi said Pakistan has also stepped up diplomatic efforts to ease tensions with Afghanistan and is seeking implementation of a proposed mechanism the two sides agreed to in talks last months that were mediated by Britain.

The mechanism, he explained, would allow establishment of a “channel of communication at different levels” between Islamabad and Kabul to help remove “any misunderstanding” and deal with any terrorist incident on either side of their shared border.

“Talks [between the two countries] at the Army level and at different other levels are currently underway, and at a final stage, if needed, foreign ministers of the two countries will also engage in frequent meetings,” Fatemi said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan each deny allegations they harbor and support anti-state militants engaged in terrorist attacks on their respective soils. Tensions have lately risen because of Islamabad’s unilateral border security measures to prevent terrorist infiltration.

Kabul disputes portions of the 2,600-kilometer border between the two countries and is opposed to fencing them, saying it will further add to problems facing divided families.

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У Єгипті стався другий вибух у церкві: загальна кількість жертв перевищила 35

В Єгипті стався другий протягом дня вибух у коптській церкві. Цього разу нападу зазнав храм у місті Олександрія, загинули 11 осіб і поранені 35.

Цей вибух стався через кілька годин після нападу на храм у місті Танта, кількість жертв там зросла до 21, поранені 60.

Таким чином, загальна кількість жертв від нападів на церкви у Єгипті цього дня становить, за повідомленням и на цей момент, щонайменше 36 осіб.

Вибухи сталися, коли християни саме святкували Вербну неділю.

Церква у місті Танта

Християни становлять близько 10 відсотків населення Єгипту і неодноразово були мішенню ісламських екстремістів.

У грудні 2016 року через вибух неподалік коптського собору у столиці Єгипту Каїрі загинуло 25 людей, нападники кинули вибухівку в церкву Святого Петра, що поруч із собором Святого Марка – центром коптської православної церкви в Єгипті.

Коптська православна церква – офіційна назва християнської церкви у Єгипті.


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Фігурантам бахчисарайської справи «Хізб ут-Тахрір» на місяць продовжили арешт

Суд в окупованому Росією Криму продовжив на місяць термін арешту фігурантам бахчисарайської «справи Хізб ут-Тахрір». Про це 9 квітня в коментарі Крим.Реалії заявив адвокат Еміль Курбедінов.

«Судове засідання проходило одночасно по всіх затриманих, всі четверо обвинувачених перебували в клітці. Обвинувачення представило якісь оперативні дані, що на території (материкової – ред.) України ці люди визнані політв’язнями. Сторона звинувачення стверджує, що це є підстави не відпускати їх, тому що Україна сприятиме переміщенню обвинувачених на свою територію», – заявив Курбедінов.

Адвокат додав, що протягом трьох днів буде підготована апеляційна скарга.

Суд проходив в закритому режим і на нього не пустили нікого, крім адвокатів.

12 травня 2016 року в Бахчисараї російські силовики провели серію обшуків в будинках мусульман, а також в місцевому кафе. В результаті були затримані четверо бахчисарайців: Зеврі Абсеітов, Ремзі Меметов, Рустем Абільтаров та Енвер Мамутов. Вони були затримано ФСБ за підозрою в участі в організації «Хізб ут-Тахрір», що визнана в Росії терористичною.

Представники Міжнародної ісламської політичної організації «Хізб ут-Тахрір» називають своєю місією об’єднання всіх мусульманських країн в ісламській халіфат, але вони відкидають терористичні методи досягнення цього і кажуть, що піддаються несправедливому переслідуванню в Росії. Верховний суд Росії заборонив «Хізб ут-Тахрір» у 2003 році. Цю заборону Москва поширює і на територію України в окупованому Криму.

Раніше фігурантам ялтинської «справи «Хізб ут-Тахрір» Мусліму Алієву, Рефату Алімову, Енверу Бекірову, Арсену Джеппарову, Емір-Усеїну Куку і Вадиму Сіруку суд продовжив арешт на два місяці, до 8 червня. 

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У Білорусі відбувся мітинг проти «декрету про дармоїдів»

У білоруському Бобруйську 9 квітня відбувся дозволений владою мітинг, учасники якого вимагали скасування декрету «Про попередження соціального утриманства», а також звільнення затриманих під час попередньої акції активістів.

Люди зібралися о 12:00 на майданчику перед входом на стадіон фабрики «Слов’янка» у Бобруйську, вони принесли плакати з написами «Баста», «Народ вимагає поваги», «Щось не так», «Нам потрібно робота на батьківщині», «Бобри не раби», повідомляє Білоруська служба Радіо Свобода.

Учасники мітингу висловлювали обурення діями співробітників МВС, які затримували людей 26 березня в Бобруйську.

«Ми не віримо в доопрацювання і зміни цього декрету. Ми вимагаємо повного його скасування, – зазначила заявниця акції, профспілкова активістка Галина Смирнова. – 26 березня тільки в Бобруйську було затримано близько 40 осіб. Ми хочемо, щоб влада вибачилися перед ними».


Декрет Олександра Лукашенка «Про попередження соціального утриманства» у народі прозвали «декретом про дармоїдів». Проти нього підписали петицію 60 тисяч громадян. Білорусь – єдина у світі країна, де з безробітних беруть податок на тунеядство. Закон не поширюється на зареєстрованих осіб, які шукають роботу, домогосподарок, фермерів і осіб, що працюють в Росії. Чиновники кажуть, що лише близько 10 відсотків з 430 тисяч білорусів до цього часу заплатили податок.

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За добу на сході поранено четверо бійців ЗСУ – Мотузяник

За добу в зоні бойових дій поранено четверо військових Збройних сил України, загиблих немає, повідомив на брифінгу речник Міністерства оборони України з питань АТО Олександр Мотузяник.

На Донецькому напрямку найбільш напруженою була ситуація в Авдіївці, де обстріли з перервами тривали близько 5 з половиною годин, повідомляють у Міноборони. Ввечері бойовики випустили 12 мін по позиціях Збройних сил. Обстріли відбувалися також біля Кам’янки та шахта Бутівка. На Світлодарській дузі основні бойові дії велися у Троїцькому, де стався один мінометний обстріл. Також бойовики порушили режим тиші у Луганському. У Зайцеві застосовувалось лише легке озброєння, у Верхньоторецькому – міномети і бронетехніка. Біля Донецького аеропорту бойові дії ведися в Опитному та Пісках, де між 18 та 21 годиною відбувся потужний обстріл із застосуванням мінометів, бронетехніки, легкого озброєння, сепаратистами було випущено 18 мін. Як заявляють у штабі, це був найпотужніший та найтриваліший обстріл з боку підтримуваних Росією сил на всьому Донецькому напрямку.

На Маріупольському напрямку найбільша кількість обстрілів припала на Водяне і Широкине. На ділянці фронту Павлопіль – Широкине сепаратисти обстрілювали майже кожен опорний пункт українських військ, епізодично застосовували міномети та БМП, інформують у штабі. 10 обстрілів сталось поблизу Мар’їнки, зокрема, 2 мінометних. Під вогнем також були Новотроїцьке і Новогригорівка.

Найспокійнішим протягом доби був Луганський напрямок, лише ввечері бойовики двічі обстріляли Станично-Луганський та Попаснянський райони. Важке озброєння при цьому не застосовувалося, повідомляють у Міноборони.

Проросійське незаконне збройне угруповання «ДНР», у свою чергу, заявляє про 52 обстріли з боку ЗСУ за добу та одного пораненого бойовика зі свого боку. «ЛНР» заявляє про 2 випадки порушення режиму тиші з боку ЗСУ, луганські сепаратисти також повідомляють про поранення цивільного.

Учасники Тристоронньої контактної групи на засіданні у Мінську 29 березня домовилися про перемир’я на Донбасі з 1 квітня. Проте обстріли у низці місцевостей на лінії зіткнення на Донбасі продовжуються. І українські силовики, і бойовики заперечують свою вину. Сторони конфлікту звинувачують одна одну у порушеннях і провокаціях.

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Апеляційний суд залишив у силі вирок екс-бійцю батальйону «Крим»

Апеляційний суд Вінницької області відхилив скаргу кримчанина, екс-бійця добровольчого батальйону «Крим» Рідвана Абілєва, якого СБУ звинувачує в організації незаконного переміщення мігрантів через державний кордон України, і залишив у силі вирок суду першої інстанції – 7 років позбавлення волі. Про це повідомляють Крим.Реалії.

«Вирок вступив в законну силу», – повідомив адвокат Абілєва Володимир Саушкін. Він додав, що його клієнт має намір подавати касаційну скаргу. Захист Абілєва наполягає, що звинувачення базувалося на неякісному аудіозапису допиту одного з громадян Росії, якого, на думку слідства, Абілєв переправив через українсько-польський кордон. За словами адвоката, Абілєв залишається в слідчому ізоляторі Вінниці.

СБУ звинуватила 30-річного екс-бійця добровольчого батальйону «Крим» в організації незаконного переміщення мігрантів через державний кордон України. До оголошення вироку він перебував на волі під заставою в 121 тисячу гривень. Абілєв не має статусу учасника бойових дій, проте відомо, що він брав участь в АТО на території Донецької області.

Добровольчий батальйон «Крим», сформований з кримських татар, брав участь в бойових діях на сході України в 2014 – 2015 роках, а потім був розформований.

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Report: Chinese, Indian Navies Thwart Somali Pirates

Chinese navy ship supported by an Indian navy helicopter thwarted an attack on a Tuvalu-flagged merchant ship by suspected Somali pirates, India’s defense ministry said Sunday.

The OS 35 was reported to be under attack Saturday.

“An Indian Navy helicopter undertook aerial reconnaissance of the merchant vessel at night, and at sunrise, to sanitize the upper decks of the merchant ship and ascertain the location of pirates, if still on board,” the defense ministry said in a statement.

“Subsequently … a boarding party from the nearby Chinese Navy ship went on board the merchant ship, while the Indian Naval helicopter provided air cover for the operation.”

Cargo ship boarded


The OS 35, which can carry nonliquid cargoes like grain or iron ore, is registered by Oldstone Cargo Ltd, which lists its business address in Tripoli, Lebanon, said the International Maritime Organization. The OS 35 is Oldstone’s only ship registered with the U.N. Oldstone could not be immediately reached for comment.


The pirates managed to board the ship Saturday evening near Yemen’s Socotra Island despite resistance from the crew, Somali pirate, Bile Hussein, told The Associated Press.


The armed pirates were steering it toward Somalia’s northern coast, said an official with the ports ministry in Somalia’s northeastern semiautonomous state of Puntland, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Piracy resurgence


Somali pirates in recent weeks have hijacked at least two vessels with foreign crews in the waters off Somalia and Yemen, marking a return of the threat after five years.

Piracy off Somalia’s coast was once a serious threat to the global shipping industry. It has lessened in recent years after an international effort to patrol near the country, whose weak central government has been trying to assert itself after a quarter-century of conflict. In December, NATO ended its anti-piracy mission off Somalia’s waters.


But frustrations have been rising among Somali fishermen, including former pirates, at what they say are foreign fishermen illegally fishing in local waters. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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A Marathon Like No Other: Foreigners Race Through Streets of Pyongyang

A horde of foreign fun-runners took to the streets of Pyongyang Sunday for an annual marathon that has become one of the North Korean capital’s most popular tourist events.


Officially called the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon, the race became an instant hit with tourists looking to run in possibly the world’s most exotic locale when it was opened up to amateur foreign runners in 2014.


Like everything else in North Korea, the race has a political backdrop.

Part of April 15 festivities

First held in 1981, it is part of nationwide festivities leading up to the April 15 “Day of the Sun,” a national holiday marking the birthday of the late Kim Il Sung, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the country’s “eternal president.”


Later this week, North Korea is expected to open its doors to foreign journalists to further publicize the holiday and show a new residential area of Pyongyang with several high-rise apartment buildings. The country is expected to put on a major parade April 15, and North Korea watchers are on the lookout to see if it will display its new long-range ballistic missile.


A bucket list run

But for many a devoted marathoner, running in Pyongyang is more about bucket lists than politics.

This year, more than 1,100 foreigners took part in the full road race, the half marathon or the 10-kilometer (6-mile) run.


The course took them past such Pyongyang landmarks as Kim Il Sung Square and the recently completed Scientists’ Street high-rise district. All runners finished in Kim Il Sung Stadium before tens of thousands of cheering North Koreans. While the runners were off on the streets, the crowd in the stadium was kept entertained by a soccer match. 


“I don’t know if you would say it was on my bucket list, but it was certainly something out of the ordinary,” said Philippe Sacher, a 38-year-old from Munich, Germany, who ran the half marathon. “I want to see for myself.” 

Major tourism event


Curious Pyongyang residents lined the streets to look at the colorfully clad foreign throngs.


Many yelled “Hurry! Hurry!” as the runners passed by.


“I think many of them only know what they have seen in their media and have a mistaken image,” said Pyongyang retiree Choe Yong Su. “But seeing is believing.”


The marathon also includes a race for elite runners recognized as a bronze label competition by the International Amateur Athletics Federation. 


Just a handful of elite runners joined this year, mostly from Africa, and North Koreans won the men’s and women’s marathon golds. 


To the delighted roar of the crowd, the first runner to enter Kim Il Sung Stadium was Pak Chol, who finished in 2 hours, 14 minutes, 56 seconds. Jo Un Ok, who took the bronze in last year’s Beijing Marathon, won the women’s race in 2:29:23. 

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Afghan Violence Leaves 13 Afghan, 1 US Soldiers Dead

Insurgents have killed at least 13 Afghan security forces in separate attacks, officials said Sunday, as the country struggles to contain a long-running Taliban insurgency and combat a growing threat from a local Islamic State affiliate.


Munir Ahmad Farhad, spokesman for the governor of the northern Balkh province, said a roadside bomb killed nine security forces and wounded several others Saturday night in the Chimtal district, where they were waging an ongoing operation against the Taliban. He said five insurgents have been killed and dozens wounded.


In a separate incident, Islamic State militants attacked the Darzab district headquarters in the neighboring Jawzjan province Saturday night, and gun battles were still underway, said Mohammad Reza Ghafori, spokesman for the provincial governor.


“We have asked for reinforcements as well as air support to battle the IS militants there,” he said.


Four Afghan reinforcements, including a unit commander, were killed in an ambush as they raced to the scene of the clashes, he said.


Afghan forces have struggled to combat the Taliban since the U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission more than two years ago and shifted to a support and counterterrorism mission. The Taliban have seized a number of districts across the country, and the fighting is expected to intensify as warmer weather sets in.


The U.S. military had earlier said an American soldier was killed in combat in the eastern Nangarhar province. The soldier was a member of U.S. special operations forces helping Afghan forces battle IS militants in the Achin district, the statement said.


The Islamic State group has a growing presence in eastern Afghanistan, where it has battled both Afghan forces and the much larger and more powerful Taliban. 


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Dalai Lama Says China Cannot Decide His Successor 

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has said it is up to the Tibetan people to decide whether the institution of the Dalai Lama will continue and that China cannot decide on his successor.

He said he will organize a conference to discuss the issue of the next Dalai Lama before the end of this year.

The Buddhist monk spoke Saturday at a news conference during a visit to the northeast Indian town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh state, which borders China. His weeklong visit has sparked anger in Beijing, which claims a chunk of the remote Himalayan state.

Question of successor

The question of who will replace the 81-year-old spiritual leader has gained prominence with Beijing having asserted that its communist leaders have the right to approve the next Dalai Lama as a legacy inherited from China’s emperors.

But the Dalai Lama said Chinese officials have no role in identifying his successor because they are atheists and do not believe in the concept of religion. 

“That’s frankly speaking quite nonsense,” he said. “In order to (for the) Chinese government taking responsibility for reincarnation in general, particularly me, first Chinese communists should accept theory of rebirth.”

The Tibetan religious leader said nobody knows where the next Dalai Lama will be born or come from. 

“I think at the time of my death, maybe some indication come, (but) as of this moment no indication,” he added.

Tibetan Buddhists believe the soul of a senior lama or Buddhist monk is reincarnated in the body of a child on his death.

Fate of the institution

Saying that a final decision on the fate of the institution would be taken when he reaches his late 80s or 90, the Dalai Lama said he wanted to convene a meeting of senior monks this year to start a preliminary discussion on his succession. He said the continuation of the tradition depends on the people. 

“If concerned people feel now this institution (is) no longer relevant, then this institution [will] cease,” he said.

He did not rule out the possibility of the next Dalai Lama being a woman.

Importance of Tawang

The Dalai Lama’s visit to the sensitive border town of Tawang, home to a famous Buddhist monastery, is not his first. But Chinese objections have been far more strident this time with Beijing accusing New Delhi of arranging a platform for the Tibetan leader to “hold anti-China and separatist activities” and lodging an official protest. It has warned that the visit would hurt ties with India.

The Dalai Lama and Indian officials call his weeklong Tawang stop purely religious. The Tibetan monk said he wished a Chinese official had accompanied him to know the reality.

Jayadeva Ranade at New Delhi’s Center for China Analysis and Strategy believes the strong Chinese reaction stems from the fact that Tawang was the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama. 

“The Chinese seem to be linking that with the next reincarnation and the location where the next reincarnation may be found. These are the reasons why they are getting more concerned,” he said.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed Chinese uprising, resides in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala. China denounces him as a dangerous separatist.

He gave a spiritual discourse to tens of thousands of devotees and is scheduled to give more in the coming days in Tawang.

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Indonesia: Militants Killed in Standoff Planned to Attack Police

Six suspected Islamic militants killed in a standoff with police were planning to attack police officers in Indonesia’s East Java province to seek revenge for the arrest of a radical leader, authorities said Sunday.


The men were cornered in a village in Tuban district Saturday after attempting to shoot a traffic police officer who was approaching them when he saw their car stopped along the roadside, said national police spokesman Rikwanto.


The six refused appeals to surrender during a standoff that lasted several hours and were fatally shot by police, said Rikwanto, who goes by a single name.


On Friday, counterterrorism police arrested three suspected militants who were allegedly planning to attack a police station in East Java. Among those arrested was Zainal Anshori, a senior figure of Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, an umbrella group of Indonesian extremists that claims allegiance to the Islamic State group.


Rikwanto said that Anshori had orchestrated Saturday’s planned attack.


“They had acted on Anshori’s order as a revenge of his arrest,” said Rikwanto, citing police interrogation of other arrested militants.


Police said they seized dozens of rounds of ammunition, several firearms, knives, jihadi books and a car used by the men.


Muslim-majority Indonesia has been cracking down on militants since the 2002 Bali bombings by al-Qaida-affiliated radicals that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners. A new threat has emerged in the past several years from Islamic State group sympathizers.