By Ange Aboa and Joe Penney GRAND BASSAM, Ivory Coast (Reuters) - Gunmen from al Qaeda's North African branch killed 16 people, including four Europeans, at a beach resort town in Ivory Coast on Sunday, the latest in a string of deadly attacks that have confirmed the Islamists' growing reach in West Africa. Six shooters targeted hotels on a beach at Grand Bassam, a weekend retreat popular with westerners about 40 km (25 miles) east of the commercial capital Abidjan, before being killed in clashes with Ivorian security forces, the government said. "Six attackers came onto the beach in Bassam this afternoon," Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara said during a visit to the site. "We have 14 civilians and two special forces soldiers who were unfortunately killed." A French man was killed in the attack, according to a French foreign ministry spokesman. The nationalities of the other dead were not yet known, but four were European, one officer said during a briefing attended by a Reuters reporter. Ivory Coast Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko later said foreign citizens from France, Germany, Burkina Faso, Mali and Cameroon were among the victims. The reporter saw the bodies of three white people at Grand Bassam's Chelsea Hotel and another in the Hotel Etoile du Sud next door. A short drive from Abidjan - one of West Africa's largest cities with around 5 million inhabitants - Grand Bassam fills up on weekends with thousands of beachgoers. Witnesses said the gunmen followed a pathway onto the beach where they then opened fire on swimmers and sunbathers before turning their attention to the packed seafront hotels where people were eating and drinking at lunchtime. "They started shooting and everyone just started running. There were women and children running and hiding," said another witness, Marie Bassole. "It started on the beach. Whoever they saw, they shot at." Security forces moved to evacuate the area surrounding the beach. Bullet holes riddled vehicles nearby and glass from shattered windows littered the ground. The body of one of the attackers, dressed in dark trousers and a blood-covered striped shirt, lay beside the beachside entrance to one hotel, a bullet hole in his head. Beside him on the sand sat a combat vest used to carry extra ammunition. Nearby, on the ground, lay unexploded grenades. GROWING THREAT Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has carried out other recent attacks in the region, claimed responsibility for Sunday's shootings, according to the U.S.-based SITE intelligence monitoring group, citing an AQIM statement. It said the attack had been carried out by just three militants. Barely two months ago, Islamists killed dozens of people in a hotel and cafe frequented by foreigners in neighboring Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou. Gunmen also attacked a hotel in the Malian capital, Bamako, late last year. Both of those attacks were also claimed by AQIM and raised concern that militants were extending their reach far beyond their traditional zones of operation in the Sahara and the arid Sahel region. Though previously untouched by Islamist violence, Ivory Coast, French-speaking West Africa's largest economy and the world's top cocoa producer, has long been considered a target for militants. It has been on high alert since the Ouagadougou attacks, and security has been visibly bolstered at potential targets, including shopping malls and high-end hotels. By Sunday evening, Ivorian authorities had begun an investigation into the attacks. "We have a mobile phone that is now in the hands of the Ivorian scientific police that will allow us to look at all the ramifications and go back to the source," Interior Minister Bakayoko said on state-owned television. As the scale of the tragedy become evident, regional and world leaders expressed their support for Ivory Coast, which has recently emerged from a decade of political turmoil and civil war to become one of the world's fastest growing economies. President Macky Sall of Senegal, another country seen as a likely target for AQIM, called upon West African countries to step up their cooperation against terrorism and violent extremism. France's President Francois Hollande, meanwhile, denounced the shootings in the former French colony as a "cowardly attack." "France will bring its logistical support and intelligence to Ivory Coast to find the attackers. It will pursue and intensify its cooperation with its partners in the fight against terrorism," he said in a statement. (Additional reporting by Joe Bavier and Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Edward McAllister and Joe Bavier Editing by Ruth Pitchford and Jonathan Oatis)
- NBC News
First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
- The Independent
First family orders sesame bagels with cream cheese
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by Sheldon Silver, the once-powerful New York State Assembly Speaker, of his conviction on corruption charges that resulted in a 6-1/2-year prison sentence. Silver, 76, began serving his sentence last August despite being in poor health. Two conservative justices, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, said they would have taken up Silver's appeal.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Monday he will not run for a third term in the U.S. Senate in 2022, citing "partisan gridlock."Why it matters: It's a surprise retirement from a prominent Senate Republican who easily won re-election in 2016 and was expected to do so again in 2022, creating an open Senate seat in a red-leaning swing state.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.Between the lines: Portman was one of the Republican senators who said that former President Trump "bears some responsibility" for the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. His decision not to seek re-election will free him from the political constraints of voting to convict Trump in his upcoming impeachment trial, though it's not yet clear whether he will choose to do so.What they're saying: "I don’t think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done, but honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision," Portman said in a statement. * “We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are being pushed further to the right and further to the left, and that means too few people who are actively looking to find common ground." * "This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but a problem that has gotten worse over the past few decades."Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- Yahoo News Video
Israeli authorities on Monday extradited a former teacher accused of sexually abusing her former students in Australia, capping a six-year legal battle that had strained relations between the two governments and antagonized Australia's Jewish community.
- The Telegraph
The acrimonious split within Republican ranks widened over the weekend as Donald Trump made his foray back into politics, backing the re-election of a hard-line supporter as chair of the party in Arizona. His wholehearted support for Kelli Ward was seen by allies as the former president firing a warning shot across the bows of any Republican senators considering backing his impeachment. Underlining Mr Trump’s grip on the Republican grassroots, the Arizona party also voted to censure John McCain’s widow, Cindy, former senator Jeff Flake and governor Doug Ducey, who refused to back the former president’s claims of election fraud. Mr Trump’s intervention came amid reports that he is considering setting up a “Patriot Party” which would spearhead primary challenges to his opponents in the 2022 mid-term elections. The former president has already amassed a massive war chest with his Save America political action committee declaring last month that it had raked in $207.5 million in donations.
- Business Insider
Barely any time has passed since President Biden's inauguration, and Republicans have already returned to their bag of shenanigans.
California Governor Gavin Newsom's office has decided to lift the orders as ICU availability in the regions that remained under the stay-at-home order, including the Bay area and Southern California are projected to rise above the 15% threshold that triggered the lockdown measures, according https://bit.ly/3sSPOfp to San Francisco Chronicle. California has reported over 3.1 million cases and 36,745 deaths so far, a Reuters tally showed. Strict stay-at-home orders were renewed for much of California in December to avert a crisis in hospitals.
- The Week
Senate Democrats are drawing a line at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) demand that a power-sharing agreement in the 50-50 Senate include a pledge to retain the legislative filibuster. "If we gave him that, then the filibuster would be on everything, every day," Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) told NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday's Meet the Press. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered McConnell "word for word" the same power-sharing agreement used in the first half of 2001, and McConnell's insistence on adding the filibuster pledge is "a non-starter."But until Schumer and McConnell reach agreement on the Senate's operating rules, Republicans still retain much of the majority they lost last Wednesday."Without an organizing accord, Republicans remain in the majority of most Senate committees," and "veteran Democrats eager to seize the gavels and advance their long dormant agendas can only wait and wonder," The Washington Post explains. "Newly sworn-in Democratic senators cannot get committee assignments until an organizational deal is struck," leaving the old GOP-majority structures in place, and "Democrats can't unilaterally impose an organizing agreement because they would need Republican support to block a filibuster."The filibuster has evolved into a sclerotic de facto requirement for a 60-senator supermajority on all legislation. Frustration with obstruction by the minority led Senate Democrats to end the filibuster for some presidential appointees and lower-court judges in 2013, and McConnell continued eroding the filibuster as majority leader, killing it for Supreme Court nominees and further easing the confirmation of presidential appointees.A handful of Democratic centrists would prefer to keep the filibuster — for now. But there is mounting pressure from inside and outside the chamber. "There is absolutely no reason to give Sen. McConnell months and months to prove what we absolutely know — that he is going to continue his gridlock and dysfunction from the minority," said Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for the anti-filibuster liberal coalition Fix Our Senate.More stories from theweek.com Trump must be prosecuted Josh Hawley knows exactly what he's doing Moderna working on booster shot to increase protection against South African coronavirus variant
- Associated Press
Indianapolis police arrested a 17-year-old boy Monday in the killings of five people, including a pregnant woman, who were shot to death inside a home in what the city's mayor called a “devastating act of violence.” The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement that the name of the suspect in Sunday's killings was “not being released at this time since the suspect is a juvenile." As officers were investigating, police received information about 4:40 a.m. that led them to a nearby home, where they found multiple adults dead inside from apparent gunshot wounds, Sgt. Shane Foley said Sunday.
Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani on Monday seeking $1.3 billion in damages for his "demonstrably false” allegations about the company's voting machines, the New York Times reports.Why it matters: Giuliani led former President Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election and spread the baseless conspiracy theory that Dominion's voting machines flipped votes from Trump to Joe Biden.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here. * Another one of Trump's allies, Sidney Powell, is also facing a defamation lawsuit for falsely claiming that Dominion was part of an international communist plot to rig the election. * The lawsuit against Giuliani is based on more than 50 statements he made at hearings, on Twitter, on his podcast and in media appearances, including after Dominion sent him a legal notice calling on him to stop, according to the Times.This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- The Independent
Biden news - live: Scotus reportedly withdraws from Trump impeachment as third GOP senator steps down for 2022
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Drugmaker Merck & Co said on Monday it would stop development of its two COVID-19 vaccines and focus pandemic research on treatments, with initial data on an experimental oral antiviral expected by the end of March. Merck was late to join the race to develop a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus, which has so far killed more than 2 million people and continues to surge in many parts of the world including the United States. The company will record a pre-tax discontinuation charge in the fourth quarter for vaccine candidate V591, which it acquired with the purchase of Austrian vaccine maker Themis Bioscience, and V590, developed with nonprofit research organization IAVI, Merck said in a statement.
- The Telegraph
Italy’s interior minister has intervened in a row in Naples over the painting of giant murals that pay tribute to the blighted lives and violent exploits of teenage criminals. Italians have adopted a curious English phrase, “baby bosses”, to describe the young gangsters, who frequently lose their lives in confrontations with police on the streets of the southern city. Such “bosses” are said to be members of “baby gangs” – another curious Italo-English invention that denotes groups of delinquents and drifters. Authorities in Naples want to scrub out or paint over two large murals which adorn the sides of buildings. They depict two young men, Ugo Russo and Luigi Caiafa, who were shot dead in separate incidents last year by police officers during robbery attempts. A mural dedicated to Russo depicts his face and the words Verità e Giustizia – Truth and Justice. He was killed when he tried to rob an off-duty police officer last year.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), incoming chair of the Senate Budget Committee who caucuses with the Democrats, told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that Democrats plan to push a coronavirus relief package through the chamber with a simple majority vote. Why it matters: "Budget reconciliation" would allow Democrats to forgo the Senate's 60-vote requirement and could potentially speed-up the next relief package for millions of unemployed Americans. Democrats hold the the 50-50 split in the Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.What he's saying: "What we cannot do is wait weeks and weeks and months to go forward. We have got to act now," Sanders said. * "We're going to use reconciliation — that's 50 votes in the Senate, plus the vice president — to pass legislation desperately needed by working families in this country right now." * When asked if he wants a relief bill passed before former President Trump's impeachment trial begins the week of Feb. 8, he said: "We've got to do everything. This is not — you don't have the time to sit around, weeks on impeachment and not get vaccines into the arms of people."Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
- Associated Press
President Joe Biden has brought back Dr. Kevin O'Connor as his physician, replacing President Donald Trump's doctor with the one who oversaw his care when he was vice president. The White House confirmed that Dr. Sean Conley, the Navy commander who served as the head of the White House Medical Unit under Trump and oversaw his treatment when he was hospitalized with COVID-19, will assume a teaching role at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. O'Connor, a retired Army colonel, was Biden's doctor during his entire tenure as vice president, having remained in the role at Biden's request.
Tacoma Police spokeswoman Wendy Haddow said police were alerted to the street racers and a 100-person crowd blocking area streets, according to the News Tribune. When the patrol car responded, the crowd began pounding on the vehicle's windows, she told local media. “He was afraid they would break his glass,” Haddow told the News Tribune, saying the officer sped away from the scene for his own safety.
- The Telegraph
New Zealand's first case of coronavirus in the community for more than two months has been identified as the South African variant and was likely contracted in hotel quarantine, health minister Chris Hipkins said on Monday. The 56-year-old woman, who recently returned from Europe, tested positive on Saturday, 10 days after she completed her compulsory two weeks in isolation. Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure from ministers to toughen border controls to prevent new variants of coronavirus from reaching the UK. And Health Minister Matt Hancock and Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, are currently pushing for all arrivals to the UK to be quarantined in hotels. New Zealand has been widely praised for its handling of the pandemic, with just 25 deaths from 1,927 confirmed virus cases in a population of five million. The latest case is New Zealand's first in the community since mid-November and has been classified as a strain said to be more transmissible. "The strain of infection is the South African variant and the source of infection is highly likely to be a fellow returnee," said Mr Hipkins. The woman is thought to have been infected during quarantine by a person on the same floor of the hotel who tested positive two days before the woman left. The 56-year-old travelled around the Northland region near Auckland after her release from quarantine and showed symptoms for several days before being tested. Two people close to her, including her husband, have since returned negative tests and New Zealand's director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said they likely avoided contracting the illness due to the type of infection. "She didn't talk about respiratory symptoms, it was more muscle aches, so she may not have been sharing or spreading the virus much," he said. "I don't think that's peculiar to this variant, it's just how it was expressed in this woman." The World Health Organisation has said there is no clear evidence the South African variant leads to more severe disease or a higher death rate.
The will-he-or-won't-he speculation surrounding a possible gubernatorial run by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is destined to continue at least a bit longer.What he's saying: Lindell told Axios that his focus is currently on proving his (baseless) claims of election fraud. He won't make a decision until that fight is resolved.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here. * "Why would anybody want to run if they had the same machines with the election fraud?" Lindell said Friday. * "It will all get out there, and when it does, we'll see what elections are going to have to be done with paper ballots and no machines. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense to put in everybody's resources and time."Between the lines: While he's leaving the door open, Lindell's comments create a path for bowing out.Why it matters: If Lindell runs, name recognition and his ties to Trump could give him an edge among GOP voters. * Many top Republican officials and consultants think having the unpredictable pillow salesman at the top of the ticket would spell disaster for their efforts to win statewide in 2022.How we got here: Lindell has been flirting with a bid for months, but his commitment to promoting conspiracy theories about the 2020 election — including a much-covered White House visit — has triggered legal backlash and trouble for his business. * Last fall, Lindell said he'd run if Trump won another term. Then, in early January, he told the Star Tribune he was "90-95%" sure he'd jump in and would decide "once we know Donald Trump is our president."Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- The Independent
Giuliani slams ‘hate-filled left-wing’ as he responds to £1.3bn defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems
Donald Trump’s personal lawyer claims legal action is intended to ‘frighten people of faint heart’