By Isabel Coles and Stephen Kalin ERBIL/BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. and Kurdish special forces who raided a compound in northern Iraq were acting on intelligence that Kurdish fighters were being imprisoned there by Islamic State, a source in the Kurdistan Region Security Council said on Friday. Kurdish counter-terrorism forces planned and led the raid which rescued 69 people early on Thursday, supported by U.S. forces, Iraqi Kurdistan's U.S. representative said. One U.S. commando was killed, the first American to die in ground combat with Islamic State militants. Four Kurds were wounded. Such rescue attempts are rare. The joint operation highlighted the status of Kurdish peshmerga fighters as key allies of the U.S.-led coalition against the militants, also known as ISIL, who control large swathes of Iraq and neighboring Syria. "The intention was to rescue peshmerga taken hostage by ISIL," said the source in the Security Council of Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq. "We had solid intelligence that peshmerga were being held in that compound," the source told Reuters. The raid was led by forces from the Directorate-General for Counterterrorism of the Kurdistan Region Security Council, said Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, Kurdistan's diplomatic representative in Washington D.C. U.S. Special Forces commandos participated in the raid, Rahman said, and U.S. airstrikes and helicopter operations were launched as part of the operation. "We share in American's grief for its fallen soldier, Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler," Rahman said. According to Kurdish media, the raided facility was an estate or compound formerly owned by an Iraqi government judge. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a news briefing on Friday that U.S. troops had not planned to enter the compound, and were there only to advise and assist the Kurdish fighters. None of the captives freed by the raiders were peshmerga, suggesting that Kurdish prisoners may have been moved by militants to another location, a Kurdish source added. The freed detainees were Arabs and included around 20 members of the Iraqi security forces. The others were local residents and Islamic State fighters that the group had accused of spying or treason, said U.S. and Kurdish officials. The prisoners were about to be executed and dumped in four mass graves, the official said. Islamic State militants attacked Kurdish positions on the frontline in Gwer, south of the region's capital, overnight on Friday, after the raid. An Islamic State statement circulated online by the group's supporters said "dozens" of peshmerga had been killed in the attack carried out by a suicide bomber. But Qader Hassan, a peshmerga on the frontline, said only two people had been killed, and they belonged to an Iraqi army unit based there. MISSING FIGHTERS U.S. forces accompanied the peshmerga as advisers in the Thursday's mission but were drawn in to fighting as the Kurds began to incur casualties, said Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, which has been bombing Islamic State militants for more than a year. Some 62 peshmerga have gone missing in battle with the militants and several have been beheaded in Islamic State propaganda videos. Islamic State holds hostages in detention centers across the sprawling lands it controls. It also regularly executes people it accuses of spying for the Iraqi state or foreign powers. Iraqi government forces, Shi'ite militias and the Kurds are all fighting Islamic State but coordination can be difficult in a country deeply divided along sectarian and ethnic lines. Iraq's Defence Ministry said earlier on Friday it was not informed about the raid, which took place just north of the Islamic State-controlled town of Hawija. "We just heard this from the media, we didn't know about it," ministry spokesman General Tahsin Ibrahim Sadiq told Reuters. "It was just the peshmerga and the Americans, and the Ministry of Defence didn't have any idea about that." The mission was the most significant raid against Islamic State in months, and Warren said it had been requested by the Kurdistan Regional Government. The Pentagon said it did not mark a change in U.S. tactics, and a CIA spokesman declined to comment on the suggestion that the rescued hostages had connections to the U.S. government. U.S. officials denied the rescued hostages had any connection to the United States. But senior Iraqi Shi'ite politician Ayad Allawi said he suspected there must have been significant figures among the hostages to warrant a risky intervention by U.S. special forces. "I think this would have happened only if there were some useful assets," he said. (Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Christian Plumb)
- Yahoo News
These are the issues the Biden administration will be dealing with on the foreign policy front.
- The Independent
Judge denies release for 26-year-old accused of taking part in the deadly Capitol attacks then returning to Washington on Inauguration Day
- Associated Press
Canada said its officials have met online with former diplomat Michael Kovrig, who has been held in China for more than two years in a case related to an executive of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. Canada’s Foreign Ministry said officials led by Ambassador Dominic Barton were given “on-site virtual consular access” to Kovrig on Thursday. Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor have been confined since Dec. 10, 2018, just days after Canada detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecommunications equipment giant.
- Yahoo News
On Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki described a multipronged approach to combating domestic extremism.
A Turkish appeals court on Friday overturned the acquittal of nine people, including philanthropist Osman Kavala, in a case related to nationwide protests in 2013, according to court documents seen by Reuters. The case had ended with the surprise acquittal of nine defendants last February due to insufficient evidence. The trial was followed closely by Turkey's Western allies and rights groups, who said it was symbolic of what they saw as a crackdown on dissent under President Tayyip Erdogan.
- Associated Press
Iran's capital and major cities plunged into darkness in recent weeks as rolling outages left millions without electricity for hours. With toxic smog blanketing Tehran skies and the country buckling under the pandemic and other mounting crises, social media has been rife with speculation. Within days, as frustration spread among residents, the government launched a wide-ranging crackdown on Bitcoin processing centers, which require immense amounts of electricity to power their specialized computers and to keep them cool — a burden on Iran's power grid.
- The Telegraph
British families returning from foreign holidays will have to pay for an extra 10 days in an airport hotel under heavy guard, in plans backed by the Home Office. Senior Cabinet ministers are likely to approve a plan to force people returning from overseas to quarantine in a hotel to ensure that they cannot bring variants of Covid-19 back into the UK. The chief dispute at Cabinet level is whether the hotel quarantine rules apply to all visitors or just to those returning from coronavirus hotspots. Downing Street sources confirmed that hotel quarantining was likely to form part of the “next steps”, after Boris Johnson made clear at his press conference on Friday that more would have to be done on securing the borders. The plans will be thrashed out at a meeting of the Government’s Covid-Operational committee, chaired by Mr Johnson, the Prime Minister, on Tuesday. Home Secretary Priti Patel and Health Secretary Matt Hancock are understood to back tougher measures while Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Chancellor Rishi Sunak support a more targeted approach. Ms Patel is understood to be pushing for all returning travellers, including Britons, to spend 10 days in a designated hotel near an airport or port on returning. Talks are already underway with hotel chains including Holiday Inn-owner IHG. Taxpayers would cover the cost of security guards to ensure they did not attempt to leave the hotel or go home. One Home Office source said: “You have to do it for everything or it makes it pointless.” One source said: “Officials are sounding out which chains would be interested. They are empty. It makes sense for a lot of them. “It is working out what it looks like in practice, that is what is happening over the weekend.” The hope is that the current numbers of arrivals (around 10,000 a day) will slow to a trickle of several thousand visitors a day once the measures are adopted. The quarantine plan is favoured to Australian-style border closures which could leave Britons stranded and force the Government to fund an airlift operation to bring them home.
- The Independent
Rioters who entered Capitol building may not be charged if they didn’t engage in violence, report says
Federal officials do not want to crush court system with hundreds of cases
- Associated Press
Someone in Michigan bought the winning ticket for the $1.05 billion Mega Millions jackpot, which is the third-largest lottery prize in U.S. history. The winning numbers for Friday night’s drawing were 4, 26, 42, 50 and 60, with a Mega Ball of 24. The winning ticket was purchased at a Kroger store in the Detroit suburb of Novi, the Michigan Lottery said.
- National Review
Tulsi Gabbard, the former Democratic representative from Hawaii, on Friday expressed concern that a proposed measure to combat domestic terrorism could be used to undermine civil liberties. Gabbard’s comments came during an appearance on Fox News Primetime when host Brian Kilmeade asked her if she was “surprised they’re pushing forward with this extra surveillance on would-be domestic terror.” “It’s so dangerous as you guys have been talking about, this is an issue that all Democrats, Republicans, independents, Libertarians should be extremely concerned about, especially because we don’t have to guess about where this goes or how this ends,” Gabbard said. She continued: “When you have people like former CIA Director John Brennan openly talking about how he’s spoken with or heard from appointees and nominees in the Biden administration who are already starting to look across our country for these types of movements similar to the insurgencies they’ve seen overseas, that in his words, he says make up this unholy alliance of religious extremists, racists, bigots, he lists a few others and at the end, even libertarians.” She said her concern lies in how officials will define the characteristics they are searching for in potential threats. “What characteristics are we looking for as we are building this profile of a potential extremist, what are we talking about? Religious extremists, are we talking about Christians, evangelical Christians, what is a religious extremist? Is it somebody who is pro-life? Where do you take this?” Gabbard said. She said the proposed legislation could create “a very dangerous undermining of our civil liberties, our freedoms in our Constitution, and a targeting of almost half of the country.” “You start looking at obviously, have to be a white person, obviously likely male, libertarians, anyone who loves freedom, liberty, maybe has an American flag outside their house, or people who, you know, attended a Trump rally,” Gabbard said. The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021 was introduced in the House earlier this week in the aftermath of rioting at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month that left five dead. “Unlike after 9/11, the threat that reared its ugly head on January 6th is from domestic terror groups and extremists, often racially-motivated violent individuals,” Representative Brad Schneider (D., Ill.) said in a statement announcing the bipartisan legislation. “America must be vigilant to combat those radicalized to violence, and the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act gives our government the tools to identify, monitor and thwart their illegal activities. Combatting the threat of domestic terrorism and white supremacy is not a Democratic or Republican issue, not left versus right or urban versus rural. Domestic Terrorism is an American issue, a serious threat the we can and must address together,” he said.
- The Week
Trump's team fired the White House chief usher right before Biden took office, maybe at Biden's request
When President Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden arrived at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, there was no chief usher to greet them. He had been fired at about 11:30 a.m., half an hour before Biden was sworn in as president, The New York Times reports. Former first lady Melania Trump had hired the chief usher, Timothy Harleth, from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., in 2017, after the previous chief usher, Angella Reid, was dismissed a few months into Donald Trump's term.The White House chief usher is in charge of the first family's residence, overseeing everything from personnel issues to budgets. It is typically an apolitical job, and ushers typically stay through several administrations. Reid, hired in 2011, was only the ninth chief usher since 1885, though she was the first woman hired for the job. The Bidens had communicated to the White House counsel that they intended to bring in their own chief usher, a person familiar with the process told the Times. A Biden White House official told CNN that Harleth "was let go before the Bidens arrived," though CNN reports it was the Bidens who gave him the ax.Harleth was already in hot water with Trump's team, though. He "had found himself in an untenable position" since the election, "trying to begin preparations for a new resident in the White House, even as its occupant refused to concede that he would be leaving the premises," the Times reports. And Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was "unhappy" with Harleth "for trying to send briefing books about the residence to the Biden transition team in November." Harleth "had worked with Jill Biden's staff for weeks to organize the move of household belongings," The Washington Post adds.The absence of a chief usher was one manifestation of the chaotic transition period, but it doesn't entirely explain the curious breach in protocol where nobody opened the doors for the BIdens when they arrived at the White House, the Times notes. The doors, which awkwardly stood closed for about 10 long seconds as the Bidens watched, are typically opened by Marine guards.Once the Bidens passed through the doors into the newly sanitized White House, things got better, the Post reports. "Awaiting Biden in a room adjacent to the Oval Office were two trays stacked with chocolate chip cookies, each one in plastic wrap with a gold presidential seal."More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit McConnell is already moving to strangle the Biden presidency 'No way' McConnell has had a post-Trump 'epiphany,' political scientist says
- NBC News
Attorneys for Rittenhouse did not object to the changes. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two amid protests last year.
- The Independent
Infowars founder claimed shooting was 'a giant hoax’ and that grieving parents were actors
- FOX News Videos
The Judge highlights the agenda of the new Biden presidency
- Associated Press
Syrian state media said Israeli warplanes fired several missiles toward central Syria early on Friday, killing a family of four — including two children — and wounding four other people. There was no immediate comment from Israel on the claim. Separately, the Israeli military said it downed a drone that had crossed into Israel from Lebanon.
- The Week
President Biden reeled in a record-breaking $145 million in so-called dark money from anonymous donors during his presidential campaign, topping the $113 million that went to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) before his failed presidential bid in 2012, Bloomberg reports.It's not surprising that Biden set the mark given that the $1.5 billion he hauled in overall was the most ever for a challenger to an incumbent president, but it's notable in large part because Democrats have been at the forefront of a movement to ban dark money in politics since it means that supporters can back a candidate without scrutiny. Plus, Bloomberg notes, anonymous donors "will have the same access to decision makers as those whose names were disclosed, but without public awareness of who they are or what influence they might wield." As Meredith McGehee, the executive director of campaign finance reform advocacy group Issue One, told Bloomberg, "the whole point of dark money is to avoid public disclosure while getting private credit."Still, it seems the Democratic Party was willing to embrace the strategy in the hopes of defeating former President Donald Trump, who only brought in $28.4 million from anonymous donors. Read more at Bloomberg.More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit McConnell is already moving to strangle the Biden presidency 'No way' McConnell has had a post-Trump 'epiphany,' political scientist says
- Architectural Digest
“The materials and colors took center stage,” said David Lucas when it came to the design of the home.Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest
Australia believes Tse Chi Lop's syndicate controls up to 70% of narcotics entering the country.
- The Independent
Former police officer who climbed over fences to get into Capitol during riot claims he was there to see art
Regular phone camera roll shows no images from January 6 but ‘deleted’ folder filled with images and videos of officer inside Capitol building during riot
- Associated Press
Mongolia’s prime minister has resigned following a protest over a hospital’s treatment of a new mother who tested positive for the coronavirus. Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh, whose Mongolian People’s Party holds a strong majority in the parliament known as the State Great Khural, stepped down Thursday night after accusing President Khaltmaagiin Battulga of the Democratic Party of orchestrating a political crisis. A small protest broke out in the capital Ulaanbaatar Wednesday after TV footage appeared of a woman who had just given birth being escorted in slippers and a thin robe from the maternity ward to a special wing for COVID-19 patients while holding her newborn.