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Tuesday 21 January 2020

In Brief: Suicide bombing kills 66, raising fears violence could drive Iraq to civil war

Associated Press

A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of Shi'ite pilgrims in Baghdad and another detonated his explosives inside a cafe north of the capital, the deadliest of several attacks in Iraq yesterday that killed 66 people.

The killings, which also included attacks on journalists and anti-extremist Sunni fighters, have raised fears that the country is falling back into the spiral of violence that almost led to civil war after the 2003 US-led invasion.

WESTERN FORCES STRIKE AT AL-SHABAAB

WESTERN special forces have raided a town in southern Somalia controlled by al-Shabaab, in a strike aimed at senior commanders of the radical Islamist movement that was behind last month's Kenya shopping centre massacre.

The assault took place shortly before dawn on the coastal town of Barawe, 110 miles south of the capital, Mogadishu.

The British and French government said none of its soldiers was deployed. America has not yet said if it was involved.

Meanwhile Kenya's government said a Sudanese man trained by al-Qa'ida was among the leaders of a raid on The Westgate shopping mall that killed at least 67 people.

Al-Qa'ida-linked group al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the assault, saying it was an act of revenge for Kenya's military campaign in Somalia. A Kenyan military spokesman yesterday named four of the attackers, saying they also included a Kenyan Arab and a Somali.

ASSAD ADMITS HE HAS MADE 'MISTAKES'

SYRIA'S President Bashar al-Assad has admitted that he has made mistakes and that no side in his country's civil war is entirely free of blame.

In an interview to be published today, Der Spiegel also quotes Assad as saying he does not believe in a negotiated peace with armed opposition groups. Assad also repeated his claim that government forces were not responsible for the chemical weapons attack in Damascus on August 21.

IRAN LEADER'S US TRIP 'INAPPROPRIATE'

Iran's top leader said yesterday that some aspects of Hassan Rouhani's trip to New York last month were "not appropriate", but reiterated his crucial support for the president's policy of outreach to the West.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments came after hard-liners criticised a 15-minute phone conversation between Rouhani and US president Barack Obama, a gesture aimed at ending decades of hostility between the two countries.

A diplomat based in Tehran said Khamenei's carefully calibrated comments looked like an effort to play down expectations from negotiations in the near future.

"There have already been sceptical signs and in a way these comments are not that surprising," the diplomat said,

15 DIE IN RAID ON LIBYAN MILITARY POST

GUNMEN yesterday attacked a Libyan military post southeast of the capital, Tripoli, killing 15 soldiers.

The attackers rode vehicles topped with machine guns. The raid took place at Wishtata, 60km from the entrance to Bani Walid – one of the last strongholds for supporters of Colonel Gaddafi in the country's 2011 civil war.

BROCKOVICH SAILED BOAT 'INTOXICATED'

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich has pleaded no contest to operating a boat while intoxicated. She had been due for court tomorrow. She paid a $750 (€550) fine.

Brockovich, the subject of film starring Julia Roberts, was arrested in June at a marina on the Colorado River after a game warden noticed her struggling to moor a motorboat.

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