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US military advisers begin 'limited' mission in Iraq

The first of up to 300 US military advisers began their mission in Baghdad Tuesday to help the Iraqi army, but the Pentagon said the American troops were not taking on a combat role. The primary task of the advisers was to evaluate the state of the Iraqi forces and not to turn the tide against militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which have swept across western and northern Iraq, the Pentagon's press secretary said. "This isn't about rushing to the rescue," Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters. "These teams will assess the cohesiveness and readiness of Iraqi security forces ...and examine the most effective and efficient way to introduce follow-on advisers," Kirby said.


US: Mexico should do more to ease youth migrant wave

President Barack Obama's administration said Tuesday that Mexican cooperation was crucial for stopping children illegally crossing the border, as US lawmakers demanded Mexico and other governments take stronger action to stem the crisis. With the number of underage, unaccompanied migrants rushing to make it into the United States more than doubling in the last year, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Congress that Mexico and Washington must beef up cooperation to meet their "shared border security interests."


US cuts more Thailand aid, considers moving exercises

The United States said Tuesday it has suspended more assistance to Thailand in response to a military coup and was considering moving a major regional exercise out of the kingdom. Washington has blocked $4.7 million in security-related aid to Thailand, which accounts for roughly half of its $10.5 million in annual assistance to the longtime ally, State Department official Scot Marciel said in testimony to Congress. The United States swiftly rebuked Thailand's military after it defied warnings not to intervene in the political chaos. The State Department announced that it had frozen $3.5 million a day after the May 22 coup.


Boko Haram abducts 60 women, girls in northeast Nigeria

Suspected Boko Haram militants have abducted more than 60 women and girls, some as young as three, in the latest kidnappings in northeast Nigeria and over two months since more than 200 schoolgirls were seized. Analysts said the kidnapping, which happened during a raid on Kummabza village in the Damboa district of Borno state, could be an attempt by the Islamist group to refocus attention on its demands for the release of militant fighters. Boko Haram has indicated that it would be willing to release the 219 schoolgirls that it has held hostage since April 14 in exchange for the freedom of its brothers in arms currently held in Nigerian jails. Nigeria initially refused to sanction any deal but efforts have since been made to open talks with the group, with a possible prisoner swap part of discussions.


France, Italy join forces against 'high priests of austerity'

The left-wing leaders of France and Italy launched an offensive Tuesday against strict EU budget policies, warning two days ahead of a key summit that austerity was holding back economic growth. Top austerity promoter Berlin however showed no sign of backing down, as European Union leaders prepare to gather in Brussels from Thursday to name the 28-nation bloc's top officials. France's Socialist President Francois Hollande and Italy's popular new Prime Minister Matteo Renzi have been leading a charge against the rigid application of a rule requiring that budget deficits not exceed three percent of annual gross domestic product.


Palestinian landowners win wildcat settlement payout

An Israeli human rights watchdog hailed as unprecedented Tuesday a court order for the state to pay compensation to Palestinians prevented from farming their land by a wildcat Jewish settlement. The court awarded six Palestinian landowners a total of 300,000 shekels ($85,700) in compensation for their losses from the presence on their land in the northern West Bank of the Amona settlement outpost, which even the Israeli government regards as illegal.


Egypt's Sisi to visit Algiers Wednesday on first state visit

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will travel to Algiers on Wednesday for his first trip abroad since being elected in May, the office of his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced. Algeria called for a "peaceful transition" in Egypt after Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the then army chief in July last year. Sisi won a crushing majority in May's presidential poll, a month after Bouteflika was overwhelmingly re-elected for a fourth term in office, despite his age and poor health. During Sisi's brief visit, the North African leaders will discuss "issues linked to the situation in the Arab world and Africa," Bouteflika's office said.


Cochran, Rangel struggle for political survival

WASHINGTON (AP) — Veteran lawmakers in peril, Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York struggled against younger challengers on Tuesday, hoping their seniority and Washington clout could win over voters at home in elections churned by race.


US: Sudan has not re-arrested freed Christian woman

Washington (AFP) - The United States said Monday that it had received assurances a Sudanese Christian woman has not, as reported, been re-arrested, one day after a court annulled her death sentence for apostasy.


NTSB faults pilot 'mismanagment' in Asiana flight

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mismanagement by the pilots of Asiana Flight 214, including confusion over whether one of the airliner's key controls was maintaining airspeed, caused the plane to crash while landing in San Francisco last year, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded Tuesday.


Senate measure proposes $2 entry fee hike

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate panel has moved to increase by $2 the fee paid by travelers who enter the U.S. by commercial sea and air carriers.

Freed Christian woman arrested trying to leave Sudan

A Sudanese Christian woman was arrested Tuesday at Khartoum airport a day after a court annulled her death sentence for apostasy and released her from prison, a source familiar with the incident said. "The National Security took her and Daniel," said the source, referring to Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, 26, and her American husband Daniel Wani. The couple were detained, for reasons that are unclear, at about 1100 GMT as they tried to leave Sudan, said the source. He could not give more details except to say they were taken to a facility of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).


Judge lifts New Mexico village's ban on criticism

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge came down hard on a New Mexico village after officials tried to ban residents from saying anything negative at Council meetings.

Mississippi GOP runoff headlines busy primary

WASHINGTON (AP) — Veteran lawmakers in peril, Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York struggled against younger challgers on Tuesday, hoping their seniority and Washington clout could win over voters at home in elections churned by race.


Palestinians hurt when Gaza rocket fire 'goes wrong'

Four Palestinians were wounded Tuesday, two of them seriously, when a militant rocket or mortar fired at Israel from Gaza fell short and struck inside the enclave, witnesses and medics said. Earlier, two rockets fired at southern Israel from Gaza were intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system, an army spokeswoman said. According to the army, more than 200 rockets have been fired on Israel since the beginning of the year. Attacks on Israel and retaliatory air strikes by the Jewish state's forces have increased recently amid tensions over the disappearance of three Israeli youths in the West Bank.


First US military advisers working in Iraq

The first teams of up to 300 US military advisers have begun their mission in Baghdad to assist the Iraqi army in its fight against Sunni extremists, the Pentagon said Tuesday. Admiral John Kirby told reporters that "we have begun to deploy initial assessment teams" and two teams of about 40 troops "have started their new mission." The first two teams were drawn from the US embassy in Iraq, and an additional 90 troops had arrived to set up a joint operations center in Baghdad, Kirby said. "These teams will assess the cohesiveness and readiness of Iraqi security forces, hire headquarters in Baghdad, and examine the most effective and efficient way to introduce follow-on advisers," he said.


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