Mogadishu, Sep 30 (AP/UNB) — Somalia's Islamic extremist rebels on Monday launched two attacks on U.S. and European military targets, officials said.
In the first attack, an estimated 25 fighters of the al-Shabab rebel group were killed when they attempted to storm the Belidogle military airstrip which hosts Somali and U.S. forces, said a Somali intelligence officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The attack started with suicide bombings at the gate and around the airstrip and were followed by heavy gunfire across the air base in the Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia, said Gen. Ahmed Yusuf, a senior Somali military officer based in Lower Shabelle region.
Al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaida, have claimed the responsibility for the attack.
The U.S. military uses the Belidogle airstrip base to launch drones that attack al-Shabab targets and to train Somali troops.
"This attack, though ineffective, demonstrates the direct threat al-Shabaab poses to Americans, our allies, and interests in the region," said Maj. Gen. William Gayler, U.S. Africa Command director of operations, in a statement released later Monday.
The U.S. Africa Command carried out two airstrikes and used small arms fire to target al-Shabaab fighters fleeing the airstrip, killing an additional 10 rebels and destroying a vehicle, according to the statement.
The second attack was by a suicide car bomber targeting Italian peacekeepers in Mogadishu. The explosion missed a convoy of the European Union peacekeepers but injured Somali civilians who were nearby, according to reports.
Moscow, Sep 30 (AP/UNB) — The Kremlin said Monday that transcripts of calls between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin can only be published by mutual agreement.
The White House has severely restricted the distribution of memos detailing Trump's calls with foreign leaders, including Putin.
Asked about Congress' push for the publication of Putin-Trump calls, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded that "the publication is possible only on mutual accord."
"If we receive some signals from the U.S., we will consider it," he said in a conference call with reporters.
Peskov noted that the "diplomatic practice doesn't envisage such publications," adding that the issue is U.S. internal business.
The rough transcript of Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which was released by the White House, is now the focus of a U.S. impeachment probe. It showed Trump urging Ukraine to "look into" his Democratic political rival Joe Biden.
The publication of the call, in which the presidents made critical comments about German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, has hurt Ukraine's efforts to forge closer ties with the European Union and drawn acerbic comments from other Russian officials and lawmakers.
Speaking Sunday on state television, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the release of Trump-Zelenskiy call by the White House should put other heads of states on guard in conversations with the American president.
"Everyone understands after this scandal that it's dangerous to make calls and conduct talks with Washington," she said.
The Democrats' push for the publications of Trump-Putin calls comes amid a bitter strain over Russia's meddling into the U.S. 2016 presidential election, which the Kremlin has squarely denied and Trump has sought to play down.
Putin and his lieutenants derided U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Kremlin interference in the 2016 presidential election, casting it as a failure and shrugging off Mueller's exposure of evidence of Russian meddling in the vote.
Mueller found that there wasn't enough evidence to establish a conspiracy between Trump's campaign and Russia, but he charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with breaking into Democratic Party computers and the email accounts of officials with Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Kyiv, Sep 30 (AP/UNB) — Ukraine's president says his country can't be pressured into opening an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden or his son.
And both Ukraine and rival Russia are pushing back at the White House for releasing a transcript of a private phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and another world leader.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is trying to contain damage at home and abroad after the world learned last week that Trump pushed him to "look into" Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a troubled Ukrainian gas company.
"We cannot be ordered to do anything. We are an independent country," Zelenskiy told reporters Monday during a visit to a Ukrainian military base, when asked about Trump's request.
"We are open, we are ready to investigate, but it has nothing to do with me. Our independent law enforcement agencies are ready to investigate any violations of the law," he said. He didn't elaborate on what could trigger an eventual probe.
The Ukrainian president reiterated his criticism of the White House decision to release a rough transcript of the July phone call in which Trump discussed the Bidens with Zelenskiy. The call sparked a Congressional impeachment inquiry now dominating the U.S. political landscape.
Zelenskiy said Ukraine would probably not release its own transcript of the call, because "there are certain nuances and things that I think would be wrong to publish."
The Kremlin — accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election in Trump's favor — appears to agree.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said Monday that transcripts of calls between him and Trump can only be published by mutual accord. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "diplomatic practice doesn't envisage such publications."
The political furor over the Trump-Zelenskiy call has come as a severe test for Zelenskiy, a comedian who promised to uproot Ukraine's endemic corruption and end fighting with Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's east. The transcript portrays Zelenskiy as flattering Trump and trying to stay in his good graces.
A top Ukrainian presidential adviser, Andriy Yermak, insisted that Ukraine wants to maintain good relations with both Democrats and Republicans, and doesn't want to get tangled up in U.S. political tensions.
"What is happening there is internal U.S. political doings, and we will not take part in this in any way," he said on Ukraine's 1+1 television Sunday night.
He noted that Ukraine wants to retain good relations with both sides because it needs U.S. support — no matter who is in charge of the White House or Congress.
"We see the U.S. as our friend, our strategic partner," he said.
Yermak met with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani earlier this year, as Giuliani pressed Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
Zelenskiy sought to play down the situation involving Biden and his son's activities in Ukraine, calling it just one of many similar cases he discusses with foreign leaders.
The head of Ukraine's Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office said last week that Ukrainian authorities have not yet seen information that would signal possible wrongdoing by Biden or his son or a reason to question them.
Meanwhile, Zelenskiy sought Monday to show he is taking control of his domestic political problems by firing his national security chief, Oleksandr Danilyuk. The move came after infighting among camps in Ukraine's power structures.
Manchester, Sep 30 (AP/UNB) — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson battled to fend off allegations of improper patronage and groping a woman as he prepared a final push Monday to fulfill his pledge to lead his country out of the European Union in just over a month — and, he hopes, move British politics beyond its fracture over Europe.
Johnson sought to energize Conservative members and lawmakers — weary after three years of Brexit gridlock — at the party's annual conference, but he was forced to deny a journalist's claim that he had grabbed her thigh at a private lunch two decades ago.
Sunday Times columnist Charlotte Edwardes said the incident took place when she worked at The Spectator, a conservative newsmagazine, while Johnson was its editor.
Asked if the allegation was true, Johnson said: "No."
Edwardes stood by her story, tweeting: "If the prime minister doesn't recollect the incident then clearly I have a better memory than he does."
Johnson also is under scrutiny for claims that an American businesswoman, Jennifer Arcuri, received money and perks from London coffers while Johnson was mayor of the capital between 2008 and 2016.
He denies any wrongdoing involving Arcuri, who was given grants and places on overseas trade trips for her small tech startup, saying everything was done "with full propriety." The case has been referred to Britain's police watchdog, which will decide whether to investigate Johnson for misconduct in public office.
Johnson, who took over as Conservative leader and prime minister from Theresa May two months ago, has vowed that Britain will leave the European Union on the scheduled date of Oct. 31 with or without a divorce deal governing future relations with the bloc. His foes in Parliament — who include some longtime members of his own party — are determined to avoid a no-deal exit, which economists say would disrupt trade with the EU and plunge Britain into recession.
Legislators have already passed a law that compels the government to seek a delay to Brexit if it can't strike a deal with the EU by Oct. 19. But with Johnson saying he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than postpone Britain's departure, opposition parties are seeking ways to make sure he complies.
Opposition leaders held a strategy meeting Monday in London, with no definitive conclusion. They ruled out an immediate attempt to topple the government with a no-confidence vote. That could trigger an election, but not until after Oct. 31.
Jo Swinson, leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats, said the parties would continue to meet "to plan out different scenarios and different options, including the possibility of an insurance option of a government of national unity" if Johnson's government was brought down by lawmakers.
The personal allegations against Johnson overshadowed the Conservative Party's four-day annual conference in the northwestern England city of Manchester, where Johnson is trying to rally the party — and prepare for an election that could come within weeks — under the slogan "Get Brexit Done."
Billboards around the cavernous Manchester convention center promised a bright future in which Britain is no longer consumed and divided by Brexit: "Get Brexit done — invest in schools and police."
In a keynote speech, Treasury chief Sajid Javid promised many millions in new investment, and pledged to raise the minimum wage, currently 8.21 pounds ($10) an hour, to 10.50 pounds ($13) within five years.
The Confederation of British Industry welcomed the speech, although the business group said Javid had avoided the elephant in the room: Brexit.
"It feels like there was a page missing from his speech," said Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn. "It was silent on how the government and the Treasury would respond to the serious rupture caused by failing to secure a deal with the EU — and the implications for the investments he announced today."
Johnson denied that the claims of misconduct were a distraction from the message he was trying to convey.
"I think what the public want to hear is what we are doing to bring the country together and get on with improving their lives," he said.
The Conservative conference follows a tumultuous week for Johnson. Last week the U.K. Supreme Court declared that Johnson's attempt to suspend Parliament for five weeks was illegal. He cut short a trip to the United States, racing home to face the House of Commons, where lawmakers greeted him with cries of "Resign!" He then lost a vote on a normally routine matter — a request to adjourn for a week so that Conservatives could attend their conference.
Johnson was also accused of inflaming tensions in Britain with populist, people-versus-politicians rhetoric. He branded an opposition law ordering a Brexit delay as the "Surrender Act" and said postponing the country's departure would "betray" the people who voted in a 2016 referendum to leave the EU. He also dismissed the complaints of some opposition lawmakers who reported they have received death threats.
Johnson later claimed he had been "a model of restraint."
The allegations cut little ice with many Conservative delegates, who cheered and shouted "Boris!" as Johnson walked into the conference center from a nearby hotel.
"Is your conference ruined?" a journalist shouted.
Johnson made no reply.
Javid said he had "full faith in the prime minister," adding: "I don't think it's a good idea to get drawn into personal allegations."
But some Conservatives expressed unease. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he knew Edwardes and "I entirely trust what she has to say."
And Justine Greening, a former Conservative minister who was expelled from the party in Parliament for backing opposition attempts to stop a no-deal Brexit, said the allegations were "deeply concerning."
"They go to the heart of this question about character and integrity of people in public life and what standards the electorate have a right to expect," she said.
New York, Sep 30 (AP/UNB) — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a television interview that he takes "full responsibility" for the grisly murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but denied allegations that he ordered it.
"This was a heinous crime," Prince Mohammed, 34, told "60 Minutes" in an interview that aired Sunday. "But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government."
Asked if he ordered the murder of Khashoggi, who had criticized him in columns for The Washington Post, Prince Mohammed replied: "Absolutely not."
The slaying was "a mistake," he said.
Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey on Oct. 2, 2018, to collect a document that he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee. Agents of the Saudi government killed Khashoggi inside the consulate and apparently dismembered his body, which has never been found. Saudi Arabia has charged 11 people in the slaying and put them on trial, which has been held in secret. As of yet, no one has been convicted.
A U.N. report asserted that Saudi Arabia bore responsibility for the killing and said Prince Mohammed's possible role in it should be investigated. In Washington, Congress has said it believes Prince Mohammed is "responsible for the murder." Saudi Arabia has long insisted the crown prince had no involvement in an operation that included agents who reported directly to him.
"Some think that I should know what 3 million people working for the Saudi government do daily," the powerful heir told "60 Minutes." ''It's impossible that the 3 million would send their daily reports to the leader or the second-highest person in the Saudi government."
In an interview Thursday in New York, Khashoggi's fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, told The Associated Press that responsibility for Khashoggi's slaying "was not limited to the perpetrators" and said she wanted Prince Mohammed to tell her: "Why was Jamal killed? Where is his body? What was the motive for this murder?"
Prince Mohammed also addressed the Sept. 14 missile and drone attack on Saudi oil facilities. While Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi rebels claimed the assault, Saudi Arabia has said it was "unquestionably sponsored by Iran."
"There is no strategic goal," Prince Mohammed said of the attack. "Only a fool would attack 5% of global supplies. The only strategic goal is to prove that they are stupid and that is what they did."
He urged "strong and firm action to deter Iran."