• Australia drops charge against suspected Kurdish militant

    Updated: 8 hr ago

    CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The government has dropped a charge against an Australian man accused of preparing to fight with Kurdish militants against the Islamic State movement. Jamie Williams, 28, was stopped by customs agents as he was boarding a flight to Qatar at Melbourne airport in December 2014 after military-style equipment and clothing were allegedly found in his luggage. He was charged with preparing for an incursion into a foreign country for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities. Attorney-General George Brandis said in a statement Wednesday that he had decided that prosecutors should drop the charge. He did not explain why he declined to give the consent needed for the prosecution to proceed.

  • Pope briefs priests: Don't be smug, don't judge sinners

    Updated: 11 hr ago

    VATICAN CITY (AP) — A specially-recruited group of priests received last-minute instructions from Pope Francis Tuesday before fanning out through the world to show a more merciful face of the Catholic Church to sinners. About 700 priests from around the globe, many of them using headphones for translation, gathered in an ornate hall of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican to hear Francis stress the welcoming image he wants faithful to have of their church and how priests should act when hearing confessions. The pope lamented that many people abandon confession because priests scold them or pry for embarrassing details. Confessors "aren't called to judge, with a sense of superiority" but instead welcome penitents with "open a

  • The Latest: MSF says 23,000 flee Aleppo

    Updated: 11 hr ago

    BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest developments on the war in Syria and the tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing violence (all times local): 11:29 p.m. Doctors Without Borders says some 23,000 new arrivals fleeing the fighting in Aleppo are in urgent need of emergency shelter and support near Syria's border with Turkey. In a press release issued Tuesday, the group says it has increased the number of beds in its hospital in Azaz district to 36 beds from 28 and is preparing to extend capacity if necessary. The group says it has distributed hundreds of blankets, tents, mattresses and other supplies. The group also says it has pre-positioned aid inside Aleppo in the event supply lines get cut.

  • Iraqi government says it fully recaptured Ramadi from IS

    Updated: 12 hr ago

    BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi government forces have regained full control of Ramadi after pushing Islamic State group fighters out of the city's outskirts, according to Iraqi security forces and the U.S.-led coalition. The announcement, more than a month after Ramadi was first declared liberated in December, underscores the slow nature of Iraqi ground operations despite heavy backing from U.S.-led coalition airstrikes. The governor of Anbar province praised Iraqi security forces and the U.S.-led coalition for their work to "liberate Ramadi completely," but was quick to emphasize that critical security and humanitarian issues remained.

  • US Army study: Iraq's Mosul dam at 'higher risk' of failure

    Updated: 13 hr ago

    BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's Mosul Dam has long been branded the world's most dangerous dam, at risk of collapsing and sending water crashing over millions of people. That prospect is even greater than was previously believed after the Islamic State group captured the dam briefly in 2014, according to a new report by U.S. Army engineers. Efforts to find a permanent solution for the dam, Iraq's biggest, are held up by political wrangling and the price tag of more than $2 billion, leaving the country dependent on stopgap measures that some experts fear will no longer be enough. Iraq's Water Resources Ministry says there is no imminent danger of collapse, despite the U.S. warnings.

  • Hoarding in Syria's largest city as government advances

    Updated: 13 hr ago

    BEIRUT (AP) — As government troops close in on Aleppo, some residents are preparing to flee Syria's largest city while others are hoarding food in case of a long siege, even laying out bread on rooftops to dry it out for storage. The U.N. warned Tuesday that hundreds of thousands of people could be cut off from humanitarian aid as siege conditions tighten around the rebel-controlled eastern part of the city. The threat of starvation haunts Aleppo's residents, who have seen images of emaciated children and adults from other blockaded parts of Syria. An estimated 1 million people are trapped in besieged areas, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Siege Watch project.

  • Norway investigates child abuse at asylum-seekers' centers

    Updated: 13 hr ago

    HELSINKI (AP) — Norwegian police said Tuesday that they are investigating several cases of sex offenders allegedly abusing children at asylum-seekers' reception centers in the country. Swedish police, meanwhile, arrested more than a dozen people suspected of planning an attack on a refugee center. In Norway, the abuse was reported to authorities during the autumn and winter, Axel Wilhelm Due from the National Criminal Investigation Services told The Associated Press without providing figures or details except to say that there were "several" cases. The incidents included abuse by known sex offenders visiting the reception centers as well as residents of the centers, Due said, adding that police were reviewing every alleged

  • UN urges Turkey to open border to Syrians fleeing Aleppo

    Updated: 14 hr ago

    KILIS, Turkey (AP) — Turkey must open its doors to the tens of thousands of Syrians who have massed at the border after fleeing violence, the U.N. demanded Tuesday, as an aide group said tents on the Syrian side are overcrowded and food in short supply. Turkey, already home to 2.5 million Syrian refugees, insists it has an open-door policy toward Syrians escaping conflict but has still kept the key Bab al-Salameh border crossing closed for days. Government officials say Turkey will provide assistance to the displaced Syrians within their own borders "as much as possible" and would allow them in "when necessary.

  • Son of Iraqi Kurdish leader calls for aid to battle IS

    Updated: 14 hr ago

    SALAHUDDIN, Iraq (AP) — A senior Iraqi Kurdish leader on Tuesday called for international aid to help finance the war against the Islamic State group, saying it's a "miracle" that underpaid Kurdish forces are still on the front lines. Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdish region has seen its revenues plummet because of low oil prices, a dispute with Baghdad over petroleum revenues and an economic downturn driven by the war with IS. Iraqi Kurdish forces known as the peshmerga have long been close U.S. allies, and are among the most effective ground forces battling the Islamic extremists. But Masrour Barzani, son of the regional President Masoud Barzani and head of the region's security council, told The Associated Press th

  • Turkey summons US ambassador over Syrian Kurdish forces spat

    Updated: 14 hr ago

    ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey has summoned the U.S. ambassador to "convey unease" a day after the U.S. State Department spokesman said that, unlike Turkey, Washington doesn't recognize Syrian Kurdish forces as "terrorists." The issue has strained ties between the two allies and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even called on Washington to choose between Turkey and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, as its partner. A Foreign Ministry official said Ambassador John Bass was called to the ministry on Tuesday where a senior Turkish official expressed Ankara's concerns. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because she wasn't authorized to make public statements. U.S.

  • IS car bomb in Syrian capital kills 10

    Updated: 14 hr ago

    BEIRUT (AP) — A suicide car bomber dispatched by the Islamic State group struck near a police officers' club in the Syrian capital on Tuesday, killing at least 10 people and destroying a number of cars. Syrian state TV reported the toll and showed footage of the aftermath in Damascus, including several damaged vehicles and a burnt-out car. The police officers' club was next to a vegetable market. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group that tracks the civil war, said the blast killed eight policemen and wounded 20. The IS group claimed the bombing in a statement circulated by its followers on Twitter, saying it was carried out by a fighter known as Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Shami. It vowed

  • The Latest: Norway investigating migrant child abuse cases

    Updated: 15 hr ago

    GENEVA (AP) — The Latest on the influx of migrants into Europe (all times local): 6:40 p.m. Norwegian police say they are investigating several cases of sex offenders allegedly abusing children at asylum-seekers' reception centers. Axel Wilhelm Due from the National Criminal Investigation Services says the incidents were reported to them during autumn and winter 2015-2016, but didn't provide figures or details except to say that there were "several" cases. Due said Tuesday that the incidents included abuse by known sex offenders visiting the reception centers as well as residents of the centers, adding that police were reviewing every alleged incident "very seriously." He added that generally there is "low crimi

  • Israeli military says top mission is countering Gaza tunnels

    Updated: 17 hr ago

    JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's top general said Tuesday that the military's number one mission for the coming year is to counter the renewed threat posed by militant attack tunnels from Gaza. Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said Gaza's Hamas rulers have been rebuilding the sophisticated network of underground tunnels that Israel targeted during the 2014 war. He said destroying this network is the military's top priority for 2016, adding that it's not deceived by the current relative calm along the Israel-Gaza border. "Hamas is diverting great resources to restore what it considers a pattern that allows it to enter Israel discreetly and carry out attacks," Eisenkot said at an event at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, a college no

  • Egyptian policeman sentenced to 8 years over a vet death

    Updated: 17 hr ago

    CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian court on Tuesday sentenced a policeman to eight years in prison for beating a veterinarian to death, in a case that sparked public anger over rampant police abuses. The funeral for Afifi Afifi, who was killed in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia in November, triggered protests against police violence. It was one of series of incidents that prompted President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to offer a rare apology for police abuses. Police officer Mohammed Ibrahim was found guilty of beating Afifi to death and fabricating an official document. He was also fined 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($650) for insulting Afifi's wife. Police brutality was one of the main grievances behind the 2011 uprising that toppled long

  • Turkey's Erdogan rewards cigarette quitters with reception

    Updated: 18 hr ago

    ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — He snatched away their cigarette packets and made them promise to quit. On Tuesday, Turkey's forceful President Recep Tayip Erdogan hosted a reception for some 300 people who have quit smoking, including 18 people whom he has personally persuaded to give up. Strongly averse to smoking, Erdogan is known to persuade people to stop lighting up by taking away their cigarettes packets. The state-run Anadolu Agency said some of the packets, featuring their former owners' names, were displayed at the reception. Erdogan told his guests: "There can be no such freedom as the freedom to smoke." Turkey banned indoor public smoking in 2009 and Erdogan has been leading a government drive to reduce smokin

  • Indonesia sentences 7 for IS links, as Bashir files appeal

    Updated: 20 hr ago

    JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced seven men for conspiring with the Islamic State group, the first time the country has sent anyone to prison for IS links, as radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir appealed his conviction. A three-judge panel at the West Jakarta District Court found four men guilty of violating Indonesia's anti-terrorism law by joining Islamic State jihadists and attending the group's military-style training. Ahmad Junaedi, Ridwan Sungkar, Helmi Muhammad Alamudi and Abdul Hakim Munabari were sentenced to between three and four years imprisonment. Their recruiters, Aprimul Henry and Koswara Ibnu Abdullah, were sentenced to three and four years in jail for helping them go to Syria.

  • Palestinian doctor aims to boost West Bank medical services


    NABLUS, West Bank (AP) — After Dr. Saleem Haj-Yahia performed the first-ever successful artificial heart transplant in the West Bank last month he was greeted with flowers, balloons and cheering crowds and publicly praised by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The British-educated cardiologist has become a media darling in his native land and now speaks of ambitious plans to raise the level of the entire Palestinian medical infrastructure. "I've done enough in the U.K. and now it's time to do something in my country for my people," said Haj-Yahia, 47. "In the U.K. you cannot have a bigger impact, because the system is working well while here any significant efforts can make a difference." Haj-Yahia's goal involves f

  • Syria attacks stir humanitarian response as thousands flee

    Updated: Mon, Feb 8, 2016

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N.'s emergency relief coordinator says his organization and humanitarian partners are working to provide food, water and medical aid as a Syrian government offensive in Aleppo sends tens of thousands fleeing toward the border with Turkey. Stephen O'Brien said Monday he is gravely concerned by reports that over 30,000 civilians, mostly women and children, have been forced from Aleppo and other areas of northern Syria following heavy clashes and aerial bombardment by the Syrian government and its allies. He says reports indicate that civilians have been killed in the fighting and at least two hospitals have been hit. Meanwhile, O'Brien says camps for displaced people near the Turkish border a

  • Investigators identify Syria site of possible sarin attack

    Updated: Mon, Feb 8, 2016

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has identified the Damascus suburb of Daraya as the site of a possible sarin gas attack last year, citing blood samples provided by the Syrian government. In a report to the U.N. Security Council circulated Monday, the watchdog describes an incident on Feb. 15, 2015 near the Shrine of Sukayna where government soldiers reported a strange smell and began exhibiting symptoms consistent with sarin gas. The report marks the first time that OPCW investigators have identified the site of a possible attack involving the nerve agent in Syria. "The blood sample analysis indicates that four individuals were at some point exposed to sarin or a sarin-li

  • Germany, Turkey vow diplomatic effort to end Aleppo violence

    Updated: Mon, Feb 8, 2016

    ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — As tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing violence massed at Turkey's border, Turkish and German leaders pledged Monday to redouble diplomatic efforts to end the fighting around the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo and prevent more refugees making their way into Europe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after talks with Turkey's prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, that she was "not just appalled but horrified" by the suffering caused by the bombing in Syria, primarily by Russia. Merkel said Turkey and Germany would push at the United Nations for all sides to adhere to a U.N. resolution passed in December that calls for an immediate halt to attacks on civilians in Syria.