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Daily Brief: U.S. Special Forces Killed in Niger Ambush

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October 5, 2017

Daily News Brief

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U.S. Special Forces Killed in Niger Ambush

The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) confirmed that three U.S. Army special forces were killed in an ambush on Wednesday, the first deaths of U.S. personnel by hostile fire under a mission in Niger.

The troops came under fire while on patrol near the border with Mali, where militants affiliated with al-Qaeda (NYT) are active. However, there had been no claims of responsibility as of late Wednesday. AFRICOM, which assists Nigerien forces (Reuters) with intelligence gathering and surveillance, has 645 personnel (BBC) in the country. Five Nigerien soldiers were also killed in the attack, according to Reuters.


"[The U.S.] acknowledgement that the troops in southwest Niger were carrying out a 'joint patrol' with local forces is being explained as the U.S. providing 'security assistance' but it is not clear how broadly this assistance is defined," Tommy Oladipo writes for the BBC.

"Mr. Trump's top military officials have shown few signs that they want to back away from President Barack Obama's strategy to train, equip, and otherwise support indigenous armies and security forces to fight their own wars instead of deploying large American forces," Eric Schmitt writes for the New York Times.

"Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has maintained a presence in the Mali-Niger border area, despite a multi-year French-led military counterterrorism effort, Operation Barkhane, which began in 2014," Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne, and Brad Lendon write for CNN.


Seoul, Washington to Renegotiate Free Trade Deal

U.S. and South Korean trade officials have agreed to begin talks to amend a five-year-old free trade agreement (WSJ) that has been criticized by U.S. President Donald J. Trump. The United States has a deficit in goods trade (Korea Times) but a surplus in services trade with South Korea.

CHINA: China's environmental protection minister said the country will face "huge difficulties" meeting its pollution-reduction targets (Reuters) this year. China had pledged to cut hazardous smog by 15 percent compared to last year in twenty-eight northern cities.


Bangladesh Destroys Boats Used by Rohingya Refugees

Bangladeshi border authorities have destroyed some twenty vessels that carried Rohingya refugees fleeing neighboring Myanmar in what a border guard commander said was an effort to combat trafficking of humans and methamphetamines (Reuters). Refugees reported they were beaten at the border.

AFGHANISTAN: President Ashraf Ghani said he expects that NATO troops will be able to leave Afghanistan within four years (BBC). Some fourteen thousand troops from the defense alliance are now in the country.


UN May Blacklist Saudi Arabia for Child Killings

The United Nations included Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition carrying out a bombing campaign in Yemen, on a draft list of countries that kill and maim children during conflict (NYT). The Arab nation is a major donor to the international body.

SYRIA: Traces of sarin gas were found in the northern town of Ltamenah (AP) following a March 30 attack that injured fifty people, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The finding disproves earlier claims that an April 4 chemical weapons attack was the first of its kind in Syria since 2013 (DW).


Rwandan Opposition Activist Charged With Insurrection

Rights activist Diane Rwigara, who was barred from running for president in an August election won by incumbent Paul Kagame, has been charged with forgery and insurrection (Guardian). Rwigara has accused Kagame, in power since 2000, of stifling dissent.


Forty Sentenced for Assassination Attempt on Erdogan

Forty men, including top military officers, were given life sentences (NYT) on Wednesday for trying to kill Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a resort hotel in the town of Marmaris during a failed coup attempt last July.

RUSSIA: Saudi King Salman arrived in Moscow on Wednesday (VOA) for a four-day visit, the first ever by a Saudi monarch to Russia. King Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to discuss oil prices (Guardian) and a peace deal in Syria.


Canada's Parliament Moves to Sanction Russia

Canadian lawmakers unanimously passed legislation on Wednesday that would ban visas for officials (RFE/RL) from Russia and other nations accused of human rights abuses; the bill also calls for freezing their assets. The Russian embassy in Ottawa warned that such a law would be met with "reciprocal countermeasures" (NYT).

MEXICO: Mexico has officially concluded its search and rescue operation (LAHT) following a 7.1-magnitude earthquake on September 19 in which 369 people died. 


Puerto Rican Mayor Lashes Out at Trump

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz referred to a Tuesday meeting (BBC) between U.S. President Trump and officials from the storm-ravaged island as public relations. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said Wednesday that Puerto Ricans deserve "consistency and compassion" (Newsweek) from the Trump administration.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson affirmed his support for President Trump (NYT) in a Wednesday news conference, denying reports he has considered resigning from his post.

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