By Arshad Mohammed and Chine Labbé WASHINGTON/PARIS (Reuters) - Citing "increased terrorist threats" from militant groups in various regions of the world, the U.S. State Department issued a global alert on Monday for Americans planning to travel following deadly militant attacks in France and Mali. As millions of Americans prepare to travel for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, the agency said potential attackers could target private or government interests. The department did not advise people against travel but said U.S. citizens should be vigilant, especially in crowded places. The State Department has regularly issued such worldwide travel alerts since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. A State Department official said the latest alert, which expires Feb. 24, effectively updated past warnings. In the statement on its website, the State Department said: "Current information suggests that (Islamic State), al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions." Although it did not mention the Nov. 13 Paris attacks claimed by the Islamic State group in which 130 died, the department noted that militants had carried out attacks in France, Nigeria, Denmark, Turkey, and Mali during the past year. "Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of (Islamic State) return from Syria and Iraq," it said. "Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis." France and Belgium have launched a manhunt following the attacks in Paris, with a focus on Brussels barkeeper Salah Abdeslam, 26, who returned to the city from Paris hours after the attacks and is still at large. Abdeslam's mobile phone was detected after the attacks in the 18th district in the north of Paris, near an abandoned car that he had rented, and then later in Chatillon in the south, a source close to the investigation said. Detectives were examining what appeared to be an explosive belt found in a litter bin in the town of Montrouge, south of the capital and not far from Chatillon. The source said it was too soon to say whether the belt had been in contact with Abdeslam, whose elder brother blew himself during the gun and suicide bomb attacks. One theory was that Abdeslam had intended to blow himself up in the 18th district but had abandoned the plan, although it was not clear why. "Maybe he had a technical problem with his explosive belt," a police source said. Fearing an imminent threat of a Paris-style attack, Belgium extended a maximum security alert in Brussels for a week but said the metro system and schools could reopen on Wednesday. "We are still confronted with the threat we were facing yesterday," Prime Minister Charles Michel said. Potential targets remained shopping areas and public transport. Belgium has been at the heart of investigations into the Paris attacks since French law enforcement bodies said two of the suicide bombers had lived there. Three people have been charged in Belgium with terrorist offences, including two who traveled back with Abdeslam from Brussels. SOLDIERS PATROL BRUSSELS As authorities tried to establish Abdeslam's movements and whereabouts, a source said he traveled through Italy in August with a companion, but his presence caused no alarm because he was not a wanted man at the time. His companion was Ahmet Dahmani, a Belgian man of Moroccan origin who was arrested in Turkey last week on suspicion of involvement in the Paris attacks, the investigative source said. In Belgium, prosecutors said they had charged a fourth person with terrorist offences linked to the Paris attacks. They released all 15 others detained in police raids on Sunday. Two of five people detained on Monday were also released while the other three had their custody prolonged. Soldiers patrolled the streets of Brussels, the bustling European Union capital, which has been in lockdown since Saturday. On the Grand Place, a historic central square that usually draws crowds of tourists, an armored military vehicle was parked under an illuminated Christmas tree. NATO, which raised its alert level after the Paris attacks, said its headquarters in the city were open, but some staff had been asked to work from home. EU institutions were also open with soldiers patrolling outside. Interior Minister Jan Jambon told RTL radio, however, that the capital was still operating. "Apart from the closed metro and schools, life goes on in Brussels," he said. Workers were also setting up stalls for the city center Christmas market, which is due to open on Friday, and organizers of the Davis Cup tennis final between Belgium and Britain in the city of Ghent, 55 km (35 miles) from the capital, said it would go ahead this weekend. AIRCRAFT CARRIER French jets from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier struck Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria on Monday, while Britain offered France the use of an air base in Cyprus to hit the militants behind the Paris attacks. French President Francois Hollande met British Prime Minister David Cameron in Paris as part of efforts to rally support for the fight against Islamic State. Hollande is also due to visit Washington and Moscow this week. The French president and U.S. President Barack Obama will hold a joint news conference on Tuesday morning, the White House said. French jets taking off from the country's flagship in the eastern Mediterranean destroyed targets in Ramadi and Mosul in Iraq on Monday in support of Iraqi forces on the ground, the French armed forces said in a statement. In the evening, a raid was carried out on Islamic State's Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, where the French armed forces said planes destroyed several facilities including a command center. (Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels, and Matthias Inverardi, Gerard Bon, David Clarke and John Irish; Writing by Giles Elgood and Peter Cooney; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Lisa Shumaker)
- The Daily Beast
Erin Schaff/ReutersThe acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police just came with the receipts.Testifying before a House Appropriations subcommittee about the catastrophic breakdown that allowed thousands of MAGA rioters to breach the Capitol, Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman revealed that her predecessor called the House sergeant-at-arms, Paul Irving, at 12:58 p.m. to request the National Guard as rioters breaching the building and forced lawmakers into hiding.Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the riot, called Irving again seven minutes later, according to phone records pulled by Pittman—and then called him at least three more times until 1:45 p.m.“When there’s a breakdown you look for those commanders with boots on the ground to provide that instruction,” Pittman said. “That did not happen, primarily because those operational commanders at the time were so overwhelmed, they started to participate and assist the officers… versus providing that guidance and direction.”First Capitol Riot Hearing Only Raised More Questions About Jan. 6The receipts–which support the narrative that a series of unanswered calls, withheld information, and conflicting orders led to complete malfunction—directly contradicted Irving’s testimony.On Tuesday, Sund testified that he asked for National Guard backup just after 1 p.m. But Irving insisted that was wrong. He said he did not remember the conversation with Sund and claimed he didn’t get an official request until “shortly before 1:30 p.m.” Troops were not approved to help overwhelmed officers at the Capitol until 2:10 p.m.“Mr. Irving stated that he was concerned about the ‘optics’ of having the National Guard present and didn’t feel that the intelligence supported it,” Sund said Tuesday. Irving, who resigned in the wake of the riot, said that was “categorically false.”On Tuesday, Irving said that if Sund, Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael Stenger, or any other leaders concluded ahead of Jan. 6 that unarmed National Guardsmen were needed, he “would not have hesitated” to ensure the reinforcement was ready.Pittman’s testimony—and her insistence that Capitol Police did everything possible to contain the insurrection—was just the latest twist in a series of finger-pointing between the top law enforcers in charge of securing the Capitol. During hearings before lawmakers this week, officials have blamed one another for the widespread failures.One failure, Pittman conceded on Thursday, was that nobody in law enforcement knew the mob would be so violent.She told lawmakers that they were prepared for militia groups, white supremacists, and other extremists to be present, but the small organization was not prepared for thousands of “everyday” Americans “who took on a mob mentality.” (Acting D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee revealed on Tuesday that the FBI intel consisted merely of an email sent on Jan. 5.)Officials believe over 10,000 demonstrators were at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and that 800 breached the building. About 1,200 police officers responded, Pittman said.She also made the stunning admission that since Jan. 6, Capitol Police have maintained heightened security because they learned that militia groups have chatted about plans to “blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible” in connection with the State of the Union, which has no scheduled date yet. “We know that the insurrectionists that attacked the Capitol weren’t only interested in attacking members of Congress and officers. They wanted to send a symbolic message to the nation as [to] who was in charge of that legislative process,” Pittman said. On Tuesday, Irving insisted that Capitol Police were privy to intelligence provided by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security that “did not support” the likelihood of a coordinated assault at the Capitol.An NYPD Cop’s Road From Terror ‘Victim’ to Capitol Rioter“The department was not ignorant of intelligence indicating an attack of the size and scale we encountered on the sixth. There was no such intelligence,” Pittman said Thursday. “Although we knew the likelihood for violence by extremists, no credible threat indicated that tens of thousands would attack the U.S. Capitol. Nor did the intelligence received from the FBI or any other law enforcement partner indicate such a threat.”Pittman added that because officers at the Capitol were not prepared for a violent mob, lockdown procedure was not properly executed. She added that some officers were also not sure when to use lethal force, and that radio communications between law enforcers were not robust.Five individuals died during the violent riots. Four were pro-Trump protesters, including Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed by a police officer after attempting to break into the Speaker’s Lobby. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died after allegedly clashing with rioters. In the days after the siege, at least two officers died by suicide.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
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- Associated Press
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- USA TODAY Opinion
I was assaulted by a Proud Boys supporter in a foreshadowing of the hate to come. I saw that same look on the faces of those who ravaged the Capitol.
- The Independent
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- Associated Press
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- Business Insider
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- WCVB - Boston
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- The Independent
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The first big real-world study of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be independently reviewed shows the shot is highly effective at preventing COVID-19, in a potentially landmark moment for countries desperate to end lockdowns and reopen economies. Up until now, most data on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines has come under controlled conditions in clinical trials, leaving an element of uncertainty over how results would translate into the real world with its unpredictable variables. The research in Israel - two months into one of the world's fastest rollouts, providing a rich source of data - showed two doses of the Pfizer shot cut symptomatic COVID-19 cases by 94% across all age groups, and severe illnesses by nearly as much.
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Bahrain’s crown prince spoke with the Israeli prime minister on Thursday about the return to nuclear talks with Iran, Bahrain’s state-run news agency reported, as the U.S. administration tries to revive the tattered 2015 nuclear accord. Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, also the country’s prime minister, stressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “the importance of the participation of regional countries in any negotiations on the Iranian nuclear file” to support “security and stability in the region,” according to the official Bahrain News Agency.
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Jill Biden offers comforting advice to Kelly Clarkson, telling the singer and talk-show host who is going through a divorce that things happen for the best and that life will eventually “look better.” The first lady — a divorcee herself — also reveals what she looks forward to when COVID-19 clears up and explains why women should take time for themselves every day, as she does. Clarkson recently brought her show to the White House for a socially distant conversation with Biden in the East Room.
- Business Insider
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