US airstrike kills 18 Al-Shabab after US attacked in Somalia

In this Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011 file photo, hundreds of newly trained al-Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18 km. south of Mogadishu, in Somalia. (AP)
Updated 22 September 2018
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US airstrike kills 18 Al-Shabab after US attacked in Somalia

  • No US or Somali forces were killed or injured in the attack
  • The confrontation occurred about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of the port city of Kismayo

JOHANNESBURG: A US military airstrike has killed 18 Al-Shabab extremists after US and local forces on the ground came under attack in southern Somalia, the US Africa Command said Saturday.
No US or Somali forces were killed or injured in the attack, an AFRICOM spokesman, Nate Herring, told The Associated Press. The airstrike was carried out Friday in self-defense after extremists were “observed maneuvering on a combined patrol,” while the US also responded with “indirect fire,” the spokesman said.
The confrontation occurred about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of the port city of Kismayo, the US Africa Command statement said. Two other Al-Shabab extremists were killed by Somali forces “with small arms fire during the engagement,” it said.
The operation was Somali-led, the AFRICOM spokesman said. There was no immediate comment from Somali authorities.
The US has carried out more than 20 airstrikes this year against the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in sub-Saharan Africa.
US military involvement in Somalia has grown since President Donald Trump early in his term approved expanded operations against Al-Shabab. Dozens of drone strikes followed. Late last year the military also carried out its first airstrike against a small presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State in northern Somalia.
Since the expanded operations, two US military personnel have been killed in Somalia.
A service member was killed in May 2017 during an operation about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Mogadishu. And in June, one US special operations soldier was killed and four US service members wounded in an “enemy attack” as troops with Somali and Kenyan forces came under mortar and small-arms fire in Jubaland.
The US currently has about 500 military personnel in the Horn of Africa nation.
Al-Shabab, which seeks to establish an Islamic state in Somalia, was pushed out of Mogadishu in recent years but continues to control rural areas in the south and central regions. Its fighters continue to attack the bases of a multinational African Union force that remains largely responsible for security as Somalia’s fragile central government tries to recover from decades of chaos.
In the next few years Somali forces are expected to take over responsibility for the country’s security as the AU force withdraws. Concerns about their readiness remain high, and the UN Security Council recently voted to delay the handover’s target date to December 2021.


Case dropped against US actor accused of hate attack hoax

Actor Jussie Smollett speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago after prosecutors dropped all charges against him, Tuesday, March 26, 2019. (AP)
Updated 27 March 2019
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Case dropped against US actor accused of hate attack hoax

  • Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the deal “a whitewash of justice” and lashed out at Smollett for dragging the city’s reputation “through the mud” in a quest to advance his career
  • Authorities alleged that Smollett, who is black and gay, knew the men and arranged for them to pretend to attack him

CHICAGO: Infuriating Chicago’s mayor and police chief, prosecutors abruptly dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett on Tuesday after the “Empire” actor accused of faking a racist, anti-gay attack on himself agreed to do volunteer service and to let the city keep his $10,000 in bail.
Authorities gave no detailed explanation for why they abandoned the case only five weeks after filing the charges and threatening to pursue Smollett for the cost of a monthlong investigation. Prosecutors said they still believe Smollett concocted the assault. Smollett insisted he told the truth all along.
The dismissal drew an immediate backlash. Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the deal “a whitewash of justice” and lashed out at Smollett for dragging the city’s reputation “through the mud” in a quest to advance his career. At one point he asked, “Is there no decency in this man?“
Smollett’s attorneys said his record was “wiped clean” of the 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was assaulted by two men. The actor insisted that he had “been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.”
“I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I was being accused of,” he told reporters after a court hearing. He thanked the state of Illinois “for attempting to do what’s right.”
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Cook County prosecutors’ office said the dismissal came “after reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case.” Tandra Simonton called it “a just disposition and appropriate resolution” but said it was not an exoneration.
When dropping cases, prosecutors will sometimes insist that the defendant accept at least a measure of responsibility. Outside court, neither Smollett nor his legal team appeared to concede anything about his original report in January .
Defense attorney Patricia Brown Holmes said Smollett was “attacked by two people he was unable to identify” and “was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator.”
Authorities alleged that Smollett, who is black and gay, knew the men and arranged for them to pretend to attack him.
Emanuel, who is in his final weeks in office after two terms, said the hoax could endanger other gay people who report hate crimes by casting doubt on whether they are telling the truth.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson stood by the department’s investigation and said Chicago is “is still owed an apology.”
“I’ve heard that they wanted their day in court with TV cameras so that America could know the truth. They chose to hide behind secrecy and broker a deal to circumvent the judicial system,” Johnson said at a graduation ceremony for new police cadets.
Chicago’s top prosecutor, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, recused herself from the investigation, citing conversations she had with a Smollett family member.
Many legal experts were surprised by the dismissal, especially since it did not include any condition that Smollett apologize and admit he orchestrated the attack.
“This situation is totally bizarre. It’s highly, highly unusual,” said Phil Turner, a Chicago defense attorney and former federal prosecutor with no ties to the case.
He said it would be wrong to argue leniency on the grounds that no serious harm was done.
“The damage done was worse than a broken arm or money lost in a fraud,” Turner said. “The reputation of the city has taken a tremendous blow.”
Because Chicago was the primary victim, Turner argued, it would have been appropriate for prosecutors to consult the mayor and the police chief in advance.
“That prosecutors didn’t seem to do that is an insult to the city and police,” he said.
Smollett reported that he was attacked around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 in downtown Chicago. Investigators said he made the false report because he was unhappy with his pay on “Empire” and believed it would promote his career.
The actor plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox TV show, which follows a black family as they navigate the ups and downs of the recording industry.
He reported that he was assaulted on his way home from a sandwich shop. Smollett said two masked men shouted racial and anti-gay slurs, poured bleach on him, beat him and looped a rope around his neck. He claimed they shouted, “This is MAGA country” — a reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. He asserted that he could see one of the men was white because he could see the skin around his eyes.
Police said Smollett hired two men, both of whom are black, to attack him. Smollett allegedly paid the men $3,500.
The men were brothers Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, and one of them had worked on “Empire.” An attorney for them has said the brothers agreed to help Smollett because of their friendship with him and the sense that he was helping their careers.
Holmes refused to answer questions about whether Smollett’s team would seek legal action against the two.
Before the attack, police said, Smollett also sent a letter threatening himself to the Chicago studio where “Empire” is shot. The FBI, which is investigating that letter, has declined to comment.
Smollett said he wanted “nothing more than to get back to work and move on with my life.” But his future with the show was unclear. Shortly after the charges were filed, producers announced that his character would be removed from the final two episodes of the season.
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