Jared Kushner subject of FBI Russia investigation: reports

Donald Trump’s son-in-law is reportedly being investigated for meetings with the Russian ambassador and a sanctioned bank. He failed to disclose the meetings when applying for White House security clearance.

Washington Jared Kushner (Getty Images/AFP/N. Kamm)

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, US news outlets reported Thursday.

Meetings between Kushner and Russian officials in December have come under scrutiny as part of an investigation into potential Russian meddling in the US election, newspaper “The Washington Post”and broadcaster NBC reported.

Kushner, a key White House adviser who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, reportedly met late last year with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Russian banker Sergey Gorkov.

“The Washington Post” cited anonymous “people familiar with the investigation,” who said the FBI investigation did not mean Kushner was suspected of a crime.

Gorkov, is chairman of VneshEconomBank, a state bank under US sanctions since July 2014.

Kushner intially failed to declare the meetings in forms required to obtain security clearance to serve in the White House. His lawyer later said it was a mistake, telling the FBI that he would amend the forms.

“Mr Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings,” Jamie Gorelick, one of his attorneys, said in a statement.

“He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

Kushner is the only current White House official known to be considered a key figure in the FBI probe, which is targeting other members of Trump’s campaign team.

Joe Lieberman out of leadership run

Joe Lieberman, a former US Senator and vice presidential candidate, withdrew from consideration as the next director of the FBI on Thursday due to a potential conflict of interest.

Lieberman currently works at a New York City law firm led by Marc Kasowitz, whom Trump hired to represent him against collusion investigations by the Justice Department and Congress, which are being conducted concurrently with that of the FBI. The law firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, has represented Trump on many occasions over previous years.

Former US Sen. Joseph Lieberman departs the White House after meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump (Getty Images/W. McNamee)Joe Lieberman, a favorite to head the FBI, has removed himself from the running

“With your selection of Marc Kasowitz to represent you in the various investigations that have begun, I do believe it would be best to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest,” Lieberman wrote in a letter to Trump on Wednesday, which was made public on Thursday.

Lieberman was considered a top candidate to become FBI director. Trump said last Thursday that he was “very close” to selecting a new director. The White House did not release an immediate comment on Lieberman’s withdrawal.

Trump fired previous FBI director James Comey on May 9. In his role, Comey led the FBI’s campaign collusion probe. Trump and Russia have both denied the accusations.

Lieberman served as a Senator from Connecticut from 1989 until he retired in 2013. He was the Democratic vice presidential candidate during the 2000 US presidential election, but later left the Democratic party to serve as an independent.

aw, kbd/kl (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

Watch video00:57

Trump: ‘no collusion’ with Russia




The Afghan security problem

The Taliban is now stronger than at any point since the international mission to Afghanistan began 16 years ago. The US and NATO are considering sending more troops to stabilize the security situation.

Afghanistan Königspalast Darul Aman (DW/S. Petersmann)

A quiet side street in Kabul is ringed with trees. The Afghan capital is teeming with heavily armed personnel of all kinds, from military to private security forces, but on this street nothing appears amiss. Three young girls in summery clothing play outside. A white-bearded man sits cross-legged on a red carpet in his bakery. He passes fresh bread out of the window to a customer. The two men joke with each other, laughing.

Springtime in Kabul can be magical, and the little street here suggests nothing of the terrorism and fear that has become a part of daily life. There have been seven major attacks around the city this year, and the abduction industry is booming. Recently, an Afghan guard and a German relief worker were killed in what appears to have been a failed kidnapping. A bombing at the start of May killed eight civilians. The relentless violence defies the city’s wisespread security apparatus.

Afghanistan Abdul Satar (DW/S. Petersmann)Kabul carpenter, Abdul Satar

Deceptive silence

The seemingly peaceful side street is part of a Kabul neighborhood that used to be home to many international aid workers. Many of them left at the same time as the international strike force. Abdul Satar, a 54-year-old carpenter from the neighborhood, earns 200 euros a month. That income needs to support his wife and seven children.

“I am afraid for my wife and children,” he said. “In Kabul, there is always the risk of being in a bombing.” He does not believe that more foreign troops will solve the problem. “Afghanistan must solve its own problems.”

His boss, Nazir Ahmad, nodded in agreement. With most international forces gone, the economy that built up around their presence evaporated, and his business is suffering. “What did NATO bring us?” he asked. “At one stage, there were more than 130,000 foreign troops in the country and the war kept on going, anyway.”

Today, that number is down to about 15,000, mostly from the US, who are responsible for counterterrorism operations. Remaining NATO troops are charged with training the country’s 350,000 own security personnel. The divided training and combat missions have become  intertwined as the security situation has worsened.

Afghanistan Schreinermeister Nazir Ahmad (DW/S. Petersmann)Master carpenter, Nazir Ahmad

Unemployment and discord

Afghanistan is in turmoil, and civilians keep getting killed – nearly 11,500 dead or wounded last year, according to the United Nations. Of the country’s 34 provinces, 31 are under attack. In the first four months of 2017, 90,000 Afghans became internally displaced, adding to the 600,000 in 2016. The situation has further deteriorated this year since Iran and Pakistan have deported up to 200,000 refugees. Many find themselves in Kabul, which the city is unable to cope with.

The Afghan government is to blame, Ahmad said. “They fight over money and power, rather than looking after people.” His neighbor, Nurullah Tarkan, said poverty and unemployment are the greatest threats. “When people can work, they don’t fight.”

Afghanistan Parlament (DW/S. Petersmann)Afghanistan’s parliament building, behind a defensive wall

Country of warlords

Since the American-led invasion in 2001, Afghanistan has become a country of warring factions. Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum left for Turkey to avoid kidnapping, torture and rape charges of his political rivals. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, known as the “Butcher of Kabul”, had been on a UN terrorism list until a peace agreement was reached that will allow him to hold a political office in the future.

Fraud tainted the 2014 presidential election and the 2015 parliamentary elections never took place. The political vacuum has been exploited by the Taliban and as many as 20 international terror groups, including the so-called “Islamic State”, as well as foreign powers such as China and Saudi Arabia.

Security problems

“Foreign troops are not a solution to the situation anymore,” said Maulawi Mohammad Qasim Halimi, a former Taliban official. “Foreign troops have 99 percent of the people against them. Afghan soldiers have far fewer.”

US forces put Halimi in the Bagram prison for a year after the Taliban fell. Today he is a part of the government, serving as spokesman for the Afghanistan Islamic religious council. “Training and advising are ok,” he added. “But foreign combat troops don’t help us. We have had a terrible experience with them. They are always killing civilians.”

Afghanistan Maulawi Mohammad Qasim Halimi (DW/S. Petersmann)Maulawi Mohammad Qasim Halimi, spokesman for the Afghanistan Islamic religious council

Political vision missing

He declined to comment on internal government disagreement regarding dealing with former Taliban members, but he said most would rather negotiate than fight, given what he knows from his own history with the Taliban. However, today the Taliban is itself split, suffering from internal power struggles and external pressure.

Both the Taliban and the Afghan state are dependent on international assistance. A military solution has failed, but a political one has yet to firmly develop. National and international agreement on how the country can reach a peaceful future remains elusive, but for the girls playing outside and residents like Abdul Satar, it is necessary to ensure that terror and violence are not lurking around the corner to destroy the quiet of their small street.

Watch video03:15

People in Kabul live with danger



ISIS rigged explosives to home where 100 civilians died in US-led airstrike, military says


The Islamic State lured the U.S.-led forces into conducting an airstrike in March that killed over 100 civilians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, a top American military official said Thursday.

An investigation into the March bombing found that the terror groups rigged a house with over 1,000 pounds of explosives, put civilians in the basement, and employed two ISIS snipers on the roof to bait the U.S.-led coalition to attack.

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Matthew Isler, the investigating officer for US Central Command, told Pentagon reporters that the bomb used by the American jet, a GBU-38 (500-lb bomb), would not have caused the type of damage associated with the destruction of the building.

The probe found that the U.S. bomb triggered secondary explosions from devices clandestinely planted in the lower floors of the concrete building, Isler said. He said neither the Iraqi troops nor the Americans who authorized and conducted the airstrike knew civilians were in the building or that the explosive materials were present.

More on this…

Isler added that the home’s 30-inch concrete walls were “completely pulverized,” but the GBU-38, which has a 192-pound warhead, could not have caused such destruction.  The GBU-38 is designed to take out enemy combatants on roof tops, not collapse entire structures.

The American bomb “wouldn’t even dent any of the surrounding walls,” he added.

How ISIS managed to smuggle in half a ton of explosives remains in question, but Isler said bad weather over two days prior to the airstrike hampered the U.S. military’s ability to conduct drone reconnaissance over the target area in Mosul and that the weather combined with intense fighting led to “multiple opportunities” for ISIS to smuggle in both the explosives and the civilians into the building.

“We don’t know when it was moved to the residence,” Isler said.  “No one saw ISIS move explosives into that area.”

Isler said Iraqi forces suffered casualties hours after the strike as they attempted to recover Iraqi civilians killed in the strike and rescue others wounded and trapped under the rubble. Some 101 civilians in the building were killed, and another four died in a nearby building, while 36 civilians remain unaccounted for.

The airstrike was likely the largest single incident of civilian deaths since the U.S. air campaign against ISIS began in 2014. The deaths represent about a quarter of all civilian deaths associated with U.S. airstrikes since the air campaign began in 2014.

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this piece.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

Social media reveals chaos in Philippines as ISIS battle government forces (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

Social media reveals chaos in Philippines as ISIS battle government forces (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)
Photographs and videos shared across social media platforms are revealing utter chaos in the Philippines city of Marawi as government forces and militants linked to Islamic State battle for control.

Marawi, which is colloquially known as the ‘Islamic city’ is the focal point of a dramatic outbreak of violence on the archipelago’s southern island of Mindanao.

Heavily armed insurgents laid siege to a prison, seized hostages in a church and paraded through the streets in Marawi in a show of force.

The crisis spurred Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to invoke martial law on the entire island of Mindanao and the city was subject to a blackout Tuesday as government forces engaged with militants and snipers patrolled the streets.

A photo posted on Twitter shows a mosque, the Saduc Masjid, silhouetted by a fire in the background, which the user says is “allegedly” the nearby prison in the aftermath of the attack.

My cousin saw this from their home; allegedly the Marawi City jail. All detainees were freed by ISIS.

Another photo, widely shared Wednesday, shows a man clad in black raising a black flag on a building beside the same mosque.

Photos posted to Facebook and Twitter show the Islamic State-linked fighters, many clad all in black, parading through neighborhoods in flat bed trucks and on foot.

The militants seized fire engines and government vehicles and decked them out with the Black Standard, the flag associated with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). Photos also show them operating checkpoints in the city.

A video of militants attacking the prison – originally posted on a Twitter account associated with jihadists – was also widely shared. The account has since been suspended by the platform however copies are in circulation.

READ MORE: Gunmen take priest, churchgoers hostage in Philippines, vow to kill captives

The video shows the heavily armed insurgents firing guns as they travelled in a truck waving black flags.

Marawi resident Chico Dimaro Usman described the situation in a Facebook post. “The Truth of what happen [sic] in Marawi City will never be covered up by anybody,” he said before claiming that the militants took control of most of the city.

“Let us accept that ISIS controlled the center of the city (80 to 90%). Government Fire trucks are driven by them with ISIS Flag, Police Car also and even Ambulance. In our street… the ISIS is everywhere.”

Long lines of vehicles, and people on foot, attempting to leave the city were pictured Wednesday, with the images widely shared online.

#PrayForMarawi is trending on Twitter following news of the disturbing situation.

READ MORE: ‘Don’t f**k with me about ISIS’: Duterte invokes Eastwood, Jesse James in anti-militia pledge

Duterte made an passionate and forceful speech in which he warned that the country could “implode” if the threat from militants is not squashed immediately.

“I have always said do not force my hand into it because if I start to declare martial law, I will solve all the problems of Mindanao connected with law and order,” he stated.

“The remaining five years of my time, it will be remembered as an administration that did nothing in the face of violence… I will not accept that kind of s**t.”

Bomb blast at Bangkok hospital wounds more than 20

Thai authorities say a bomb has exploded at a hospital in the capital, Bangkok, wounding at least 21 people. The explosion hit on the third anniversary of a 2014 military coup.

Thailand Explosion in einer Klinik in Bangkok (picture-alliance/AP Photo/S. Lalit)

Thai police said on Monday that a bomb blast has injured 21 people at a hospital in Bangkok that is popular with retired military officers. Local media spoke of mostly “slight” injuries.

“It was a bomb. We found the pieces that were used to make the bomb,” Kamthorn Aucharoen, commander of the police’s explosive ordnance team, told Reuters news agency. “Right now, authorities are checking out closed circuit cameras.”

Thailand Explosion in einer Klinik in Bangkok (picture-alliance/AP Photo/S. Lalit)Traces of batteries and wire were found at the scene

Earlier reports had spoken of the explosion at the Phramongkutklao Hospital as being possibly caused by a gas leak or an explosion of an air-conditioning compressor.

Local media said the device went off in the hospital pharmacy, and that all those injured had received treatment.

Frequent political unrest

A hospital official, Lt. Gen. Saroj Kiewkajee, said one person was severely injured, while 13 had been discharged soon after the explosion.

Earlier reports had put the casualty toll at 24 or 25.

Monday’s incident occurred as Thailand marked the three-year anniversary of the May 22, 2014, coup that brought the current junta to power. The military government has promised general elections in the politically unstable country in late 2018.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the blast. However, small bombs have been used several times in the past by a range of political and militant groups, often coinciding with major anniversaries.

The most serious bomb attack since the 2014 coup killed some 20 people near a popular Hindu shrine in the capital in August 2015.
Read: Little hope for Thailand’s democracy

tj/rt (Reuters, AP)


‘Cosa Nostra still here’: Mafia don assassinated while biking in Sicily

‘Cosa Nostra still here’: Mafia don assassinated while biking in Sicily
Legendary crime kingpin, Guiseppe Dainotti, who was released from prison last year, was shot dead in broad daylight in a Palermo street by two killers, according to Italian police.

When some people claim the mafia no longer exists or has been destroyed, something always happens to confirm it is still there,” said Palermo prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi in a statement to the media. “When necessary, it shoots again, in a clear and symbolic way.

Photographs circulated on Monday showed a blood-splattered white bicycle lying on the ground, following what police said was the first mafia don slaying in Sicily for three years.

I heard two shots, it was 07:50. My children had just left for school. It sounded like fireworks, they let them off at all hours around here,” said an eyewitness, as cited by the Repubblica newspaper. “I looked out and I saw a man on the ground losing blood from his head. There was no one else around. Once I realized it was a murder, I was petrified.”

Dainotti, 67, was released after spending over two decades in jail for murder – with police officers among his victims – drug trafficking and robbery.

Italian media reported that Dainotti was a “dead man walking,” after a rival ordered his killing in 2014.

Following a maxi-trial that indicted hundreds of mafia members in the early 1990s, the power of the Cosa Nostra has waned in favor of the Napoli-based Gomorrah and other mainland gangs. However, Palermo police commissioner Renato Cortese warned earlier this month of a possible revival, spurred by the mass release of mobsters who had served their jail terms.

There is always the fear that if Cosa Nostra can find a rational head that can bring together the disparate souls, it could become as dangerous as it used to be,” Cortese warned.

Manchester Arena blast: 19 dead and about 50 hurt

Media captionManchester Arena incident after Ariana Grande concert

Nineteen people have been killed and about 50 injured in a suspected terror attack at Manchester Arena.

The blast happened at about 22:35 BST on Monday following a pop concert by the US singer Ariana Grande.

The cause is unknown but PM Theresa May said her thoughts were with those affected by “what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack”.

British Transport Police said the explosion was in the arena’s foyer.

Manchester explosion: Latest updates

BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Daniel Sandford said senior counter-terrorism officers were assembling in London and liaising with the Home Office.

Unconfirmed reports from two unnamed US officials suggested the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.

The BBC’s Tim Ashburner, who is at the scene, spoke to some volunteer paramedics who treated the injured for “shrapnel-like injuries”.

Media captionDashcam appears to capture the moment of the blast

Shortly after the blast Manchester Victoria station, which is close to the concert venue, was closed and all trains cancelled.

Greater Manchester Police carried out a precautionary controlled explosion in the Cathedral Garden area of the city at about 01:32. The force confirmed it was not a suspicious item.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said her thoughts are with the victims and families of those affected in “what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack”.

Greater Manchester metro mayor Andy Burnham said: “My heart goes out to families who have lost loved ones, my admiration to our brave emergency services. “A terrible night for our great city.”

Media captionManchester Arena incident: Eyewitness describes ‘explosion’

‘Screaming and running’

A number of eyewitnesses have described the confusion in the aftermath.

Andy Holey, who had gone to the arena to pick up his wife and daughter who had been at the concert, said: “As I was waiting, an explosion went off and it threw me about 30ft from one set of doors to the other set of doors.

“When I got up I saw bodies lying on the ground. My first thought was to go into the arena to try to find my family.

“When I couldn’t find them, I went outside with the police and fire and looked through some of the bodies to try and find my wife and daughter.

“I managed to find them eventually and they’re OK.

“It was definitely an explosion and it was some force. It happened near the box office at the entrance to the Arena.”

Media captionFootage shows a string of emergency services vehicles rushing to the scene

Emma Johnson said she and her husband were at the arena to pick up their daughters, aged 15 and 17.

“It was definitely a bomb. It was definitely in the foyer,” she told BBC Radio Manchester.

“We were stood at the top of the stairs and the glass exploded – it was near to where they were selling the merchandise.

“The whole building shook. There was a blast and then a flash of fire afterwards. There were bodies everywhere.”

Media captionPeople can be seen running through Manchester Victoria Station

At the scene: Tom Mullen BBC News

The police activity around the arena has been huge. There are blue flashing lights and cordons seemingly on almost every street corner.

A wide area around the venue itself has been completely taped off, and the crime scene appears to be widening, with police pushing people further and further back.

I’ve spoken to people who are shaken, scared and often tearful. One thing that’s apparent is there are many, many young people, some of them with parents or guardians. One mother told me her priority was simply to get her daughters home.

Other people have been more candid and have described seeing people covered in blood, or being treated by paramedics. There’s still a huge sense of confusion and people are constantly searching for information while letting their families know they’re safe.

Josh Elliott, speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, said he was shocked by news of the fatalities.

“A bang went off and everyone stopped and screamed… we basically hit the deck,” he said

“It was bedlam… it was horrific.

“We got up when we thought it was safe and got out as quickly as possible.

“People were just crying and in tears… police cars were everywhere.

“We just wanted to get out as quickly as possible because we didn’t know what was going on.”

The background – Ian Youngs, BBC News entertainment reporter

Manchester Arena, formerly known as the MEN Arena, is the biggest indoor venue in the city with a capacity of around 18,000 for concerts.

The arena foyer connects with Victoria train and tram station, a major hub on the northern edge of the city centre.

The arena regularly hosts concerts by major stars like Ariana Grande – a 23-year-old American TV teen actress-turned-pop star.

She’s a big draw for young fans, with hits including Problem, featuring Iggy Azalea, which hit number one in the UK in 2014; and Side To Side, featuring Nicki Minaj, which reached number four last year.

She’s currently on a European tour – she’s already played Birmingham and Dublin and is due to be at the O2 Arena in London on Wednesday and Thursday.

Michelle Sullivan, from Huddersfield, was attending the concert with her daughters, aged 12 and 15.

“It was really scary,” she said. “Just as the lights have gone down we heard a really loud explosion… Everybody screamed.

“When we got out they just said ‘keep on running, keep on running’.”

Pat Carney, Manchester City Council’s spokesman for the city centre, said the city’s thoughts were with the families of those killed and injured.

“It’s a very easy target – a concert hall where young people are enjoying music,” he said.

“The public are really co-operating by staying away from what is basically now a crime site.

“The world we live in, police and the council have emergency procedures that we practise all the time.

“Obviously everyone in the city is shocked, having seen how young some of these people are

“The police are treating it as a live site, we don’t know if this is the end or there are other incidents in that area… we don’t know at the moment.”

Within an hour of reports of the incident emerging, people began offering spare rooms and beds to people stranded in the city using the hashtag #RoomForManchester.

Hundreds of tweets offering places to stay are being shared and re-tweeted thousands of times.


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