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Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’ on brink of defeat in Syria

NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria (Reuters) - U.S.-backed fighters in Syria are poised to capture Islamic State’s last, tiny enclave on the Euphrates, the battle commander said on Saturday, bringing its self-declared caliphate to the brink of total defeat. Jiya Furat, commander of the assault on the last jihadist enclave in eastern Syria, talks during a press conference near Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria February 16, 2019. REUTERS/Rodi SaidJiya Furat said the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had cornered the remaining militants in a neighborhood of Baghouz village near the Iraqi border, under fire from all sides. “In the coming few days, in a very short time, we will…

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Gunman in Illinois factory shooting killed victims after being fired: police

The exterior of the Henry Pratt valve assembly plant -- where police say Gary Martin shot fellow employees and wounded police officers -- is pictured in Aurora, Illinois February 15, 2019. Picture taken February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Robert ChiaritoAURORA, Ill. (Reuters) - A gunman who killed five fellow workers at an Illinois factory on Friday had just been terminated, and the plant manager and a human resources official were among his victims, authorities said on Saturday. Gary Martin, 45, armed himself with a pistol before reporting for a meeting where he was told he was fired, Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman told a news conference. She said most…

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Dismissed employee kills five co-workers in Illinois factory shooting

AURORA, Ill. (Reuters) - A gunman opened fire at an Illinois factory just after receiving notice of termination from his job there on Friday, killing five fellow workers and wounding five policemen before he was slain by police, authorities said. The assailant, identified as Gary Martin, 45, had worked at the Henry Pratt Company for 15 years before Friday’s violence unfolded at the firm’s sprawling facility in Aurora, 40 miles (65 km) west of Chicago, Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said. At a late-night news conference, Ziman said it was not yet clear whether the suspect, armed with a Smith & Wesson handgun, was carrying the weapon…

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Pence chastises EU, rejects Merkel’s call to work with Russia

MUNICH (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence rebuked European powers over Iran and Venezuela on Saturday in a renewed attack on Washington’s traditional allies, rejecting a call by Germany’s chancellor to include Russia in global cooperation efforts. In speeches and in private talks at the Munich Security Conference, Pence and Chancellor Angela Merkel laid out competing visions for how the West should address world crises. “America is stronger than ever before and America is leading on the world stage once again,” Pence told European and Asian officials in Munich, listing what he described as U.S. foreign policy successes from Afghanistan to North Korea, and urging support…

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Exclusive: McCarrick defrocking shows ‘bishops not above the law’ – top Vatican investigator

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The defrocking of former U.S. cardinal Theodore McCarrick is a “very important signal” to the Catholic Church hierarchy that no one is above the law, the Vatican’s top sexual crimes investigator said on Saturday. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, is seen during a Mass at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, U.S., January 26, 2017. Picture taken January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Gregory A. ShemitzMcCarrick was expelled from the priesthood after being found guilty of sexual crimes against minors and adults. He is the highest profile figure to be dismissed from the Church in modern times, as…

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Nigerian presidential poll postponed, opposition slams decision

DAURA/YOLA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigeria’s president and the leading opposition candidate urged people to remain calm after a national election scheduled for Saturday was postponed by a week just five hours before polls were due to open. However, the opposition candidate, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, later accused President Muhammadu Buhari of instigating the delay to “disenfranchise” the electorate. Early on Saturday morning, just as Nigerians began heading out to polling stations, Mahmood Yakubu, the chairman of the electoral commission said it was no longer feasible to hold free and fair elections on Saturday due to logistical problems. The vote will now be held on Feb. 23,…

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Former U.S. Cardinal McCarrick defrocked for sex crimes

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been expelled from the Roman Catholic priesthood after he was found guilty of sexual crimes against minors and adults, the Vatican said on Saturday. Pope Francis has decided that the ruling, which followed an appeal by McCarrick, a power-broker as Archbishop of Washington, D.C. from 2001 to 2006, was now final. A Vatican statement said his crimes were made more serious by “the aggravating factor of the abuse of power”. The 88-year-old, who in July became the first Roman Catholic prelate in nearly 100 years to lose the title of cardinal, has now become the highest profile…

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Nigeria commission says transport delays behind vote postponement

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria’s presidential election was delayed by a week due to delays in transporting electoral material and was not a result of external pressure, the chairman of the electoral commission said on Saturday. Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), said some sensitive election material had been distributed but all had been returned to the central bank and an audit would now be conducted. Yakubu announced in the early hours of Saturday that the vote would now be held on Feb. 23. Reporting by Camillisu Eboh, Alexis Akwagyiram and James Macharia; Editing by Gareth JonesOur Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Pence presses Merkel over Nordstream, Iran deal

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is seen outside Hotel Bayerischer Hof during Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany February 16, 2019. REUTERS/Michael DalderMUNICH (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday he told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Europe and the United States need to stand together against Iran and he reiterated Washington’s opposition to the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline. Pence told reporters he “talked about all of the issues” including the pipeline under construction between Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea, a project Washington has urged Berlin to abandon. “We cannot strengthen the West by becoming dependent on the East,” Pence said.  Reporting…

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Iran says Pakistan to ‘pay high price’ over attack, warns Saudi

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran warned neighboring Pakistan on Saturday it would “pay a heavy price” for allegedly harboring militants who killed 27 of its elite Revolutionary Guards in a suicide bombing near the border earlier this week, state television reported. Members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, gather around the coffins of their fellow guards, who were killed by a suicide car bomb, during the funerals in Isfahan, Iran February 16, 2019. Morteza Salehi/Tasnim News Agency/via REUTERSRevolutionary Guards chief Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari also accused Tehran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of supporting militant Sunni groups that attack Iranian forces, saying they could…

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