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Afghan Teen Stabbed To Death In Germany

Afghan refugees in Berlin

An 18-year-old Afghan refugee in Germany has died after being stabbed.

The unnamed victim was reportedly stabbed in the chest several times by another refugee in the city of Ludwigsfelde, outside of Berlin, late on October 2.

Police said the young man died of his injuries on the way to the hospital.

A suspect has reportedly been arrested.

The incident reportedly occurred near the migrant center where the Afghan refugee had lived since coming to Germany.

According to a preliminary investigation, the suspect and the victim had known each other but the reason for the crime is not clear.

Based on reporting by dpa and the bz-berlin.de

Iranian President Blames World Powers For Spread Of Terrorism

Iranian President Hassan Rohani addresses the 71st United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 22.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has blamed world powers for the spread of terrorism over the past 15 years and what he called a less secure world.

Rohani told the UN General Assembly on September 22 that "repression and military intervention" by unnamed countries had caused terrorism to expand and led to a more insecure world.

He also called on regional rival Saudi Arabia to "cease and desist" from divisive policies in the Middle East if it is serious about peace and security.

Rohani said that, if Saudi Arabia is "serious about its vision for development and regional security, it must cease and desist from divisive policies, the spread of hate ideology, and the trampling upon the rights of its neighbors."

Relations between leading Shi'ite power Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is predominantly Sunni, have worsened over Iranian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country's civil war and Saudi and Iranian support for the opposite sides in the conflict in Yemen, among other issues.

Rohani also praised the nuclear deal reached with the United States and five other world powers last year as a "win-win approach for both sides."

But he was quick to criticize what he called Washington's "lack of compliance" with the nuclear deal that he said should be immediately "rectified."

He also criticized a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing the families of victims from bomb attacks associated with Iran to receive financial compensation from Tehran's frozen assets in a decision that could cost Iran hundreds of millions of dollars.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP

U.S. Pays $1.2m In Landmark Payment To Drone Victim In Pakistan

FILE: A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle.

The U.S. government has paid $1.2 million to the family of an Italian aid worker killed by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in a landmark deal.

It is believed to be the first payment of its kind by Washington to the family of a drone strike victim killed outside an official warzone.

Giovanni Lo Porto, 37, was killed while being held hostage by Al-Qaeda in January 2015. American aid worker Warren Weinstein, 73, was also killed in the drone strike.

The U.S. government has offered condolence payments to the families of civilian casualties of air strikes in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the Lo Porto payment is different because he was killed in Pakistan and because there was an official apology and acknowledgement from Washington.

The payment was confirmed by the White House. It was unclear whether the Weinstein family also received payment.

The payment to Lo Porto's family was considered a "donation in the memory of Giovanni Lo Porto."

Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama admitted that Lo Porto and Weinstein were accidentally killed in a secret counterterrorism mission and expressed his regret for the deaths. It was announced that compensation would be paid to the families.

The operation had targeted an Al-Qaeda compound in Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.

Ahmed Farouq, a U.S. citizen who had become an Al-Qaeda leader, was killed in the same operation. Another U.S. citizen turned Al-Qaeda terrorist, Adam Gadahn, was killed in a separate operation in January.

Weinstein was a business development expert working in Pakistan on a contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

He was snatched from his home in Lahore on August 13, 2011, shortly before he was due to return home after seven years working in Pakistan.

Lo Porto disappeared in January 2012 in Pakistan. He had worked for an international aid group called Welthungerhilfe.

With reporting by BBC and The Guardian

U.S. Senate Committee: Pakistan Is A 'Tremendously Duplicitous Partner'

U.S. Republican Senator from Tennessee Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, listens to a speaker during a hearing on the Iran nuclear deal on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 17, 2015

Pakistan continues to be a "tremendously duplicitous partner," according to Bob Corker, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Corker, a Republican, said during a Senate hearing on U.S. policy in Afghanistan on September 15 that Pakistan was the "greatest threat to American soldiers [in Afghanistan] and certainly the greatest threat to the Afghan military and civilians.”

Corker said Islamabad was “working against” U.S. interests by supporting the Haqqani Network, a Pakistani-based militant group that has been blamed for some of the deadliest attacks against U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

Richard Olson, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said Pakistan had not done enough to tackle the Haqqani Network and the Taliban.

"We continue to urge Pakistan to take robust action against the Haqqani and against the Taliban and I think there are indications that they have taken some action, but I don't think it will be fair to say those actions were definitive," Olson told the Senate hearing on September 15.

Afghan and U.S. officials have long blamed Pakistan for supporting the Afghan insurgency, a charge rejected by Islamabad.

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Obama Praises U.S. Diversity As Country Marks 9/11 Anniversary

U.S. President Barack Obama attends a ceremony commemorating the September 11, 2001, attacks at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on September 11.

President Barack Obama praised the diversity of the United States and called on Americans not to be divided by their enemies, as he helped mark the 15th anniversary of the worst terrorist attacks to hit U.S. soil.

Speaking at a Pentagon memorial service outside Washington, Obama said the nation will never forget the those killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001, and he said he was inspired by the resilience of the victims' families.

The 9/11 attacks, in which 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners, was the deadliest terror strike on U.S. soil, killing nearly 3,000 people.

The attacks led to the U.S. invading Afghanistan, and later Iraq. Both countries are still wracked by insurgency, terrorism, and war 15 years later.

At the Ground Zero memorial, near the site of the rebuilt World Trade Center in New York City, the names of the dead were read out, as they were at a site near the Pentagon.

There was also a ceremony attended by hundreds of people in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where one of the hijacked airliners crashed after passengers overpowered the terrorists onboard.

The two politicians hoping to succeed Obama in the White House --
Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton -- also attended the commemoration ceremonies at the World Trade Center site.

Clinton left the ceremonies earlier than expected after campaign officials said she felt "overheated." A campaign statement offered no additional details, including whether the 68-year-old Clinton required medical attention.

Trump supporters have tried to make the case that she's physically unfit for the White House, citing a concussion she sustained in December 2012 after fainting. Her doctor attributed the episode to a stomach virus and dehydration.

The two have agreed to refrain from campaigning on the anniversary and are not expected to make public remarks. The two presidential candidates will also not broadcast television ads for the day.

George W. Bush, who was president at the time of the attacks, will not attend the ceremonies in New York or Washington.

Instead, his office said he will go to church in Dallas, Texas, and then attend a football game where he will participate in the ceremonial coin toss with two New York police officers who were present during the 2001 attacks.

With reporting by AP, Reuters

Germany Expects About 250,000 Refugees In 2016

Nearly 1 million refugees came to Germany last year.

A German official says the government expects some 250,000-300,000 refugees to arrive in 2016.

Frank-Juergen Weise, the chief of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), made his comments in an interview published in Bild am Sonntag on August 28.

The term "refugee" in German is usually used to refer to both accepted refugees and migrants who are seeking refugee status.

Weise also said Germany took in fewer migrants -- most of whom came from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan -- last year than previously thought because some were mistakenly registered twice and others had since left Germany.

Weise said fewer than 1 million refugees came to Germany last year, far less than the 1.1 million people who were reported to have come to the country in 2015.

Weise said some 70 percent of the migrants who came were fit for employment when they arrived but said many will have to rely on state social assistance until they are able to secure jobs.

He added that it would take time to fully integrate the large number of refugees.

Based on reporting Reuters and bild.de

Fifteen Guantanamo Detainees Sent To U.A.E.

Chain link fence and concertina wire surrounds a deserted guard tower within Joint Task Force Guantanamo's Camp Delta at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, March 2016.

Fifteen prisoners formerly held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been sent to the United Arab Emirates.

The transfer of the 12 Yemeni nationals and three Afghans on August 15 was the largest single release of Guantanamo prisoners since U.S. President Barack Obama took office on a promise to close the controversial facility.

The State Department special envoy for the closure of the Guantanamo detention center, Lee Wolosky, expressed U.S. gratitude to the U.A.E. for accepting the released prisoners.

“The continued operation of the detention facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists,” Wolosky said.

The Pentagon says there are still 61 detainees at Guantanamo. The detention center was opened in 2002 under U.S President George W. Bush to hold people suspected of links to the Taliban or Al-Qaeda.

Based on reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AP

U.S. Report Takes Aim At Blasphemy, Apostasy Laws

In Pakistan, blasphemy laws "have often been used as justification for mob justice". Many victims are from among the Christian minority.

In a new report, the U.S. State Department raises concerns over laws against blasphemy and apostasy in Islamic societies.

"Such laws conflict with and undermine universally recognized human rights," it says in its annual report on global religious freedom released on August 10.

In Pakistan, blasphemy laws "have often been used as justification for mob justice," the report says.

It also points out government actions against Sunni Muslims in Iran and against Shi'a in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, steps against Christians in China, and anti-Semitism in Europe.

The document adds that nonstate actors such as the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria and Boko Haram in West Africa continue to rank among "the most egregious abusers of religious freedom in the world."

Based on reporting by AP

Rio Olympics, Day 3

ACLU Releases Obama's Once-Secret Policy On Drone Strikes

A U.S. airman guides a US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone as it taxis to the runway at Kandahar airfield in March.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says President Barack Obama’s administration has released a redacted version of Obama's once-secret policy on drone strikes in foreign countries.

The release of the 18-page Presidential Policy Guidance document follows a lawsuit filed in 2015 under the Freedom of Information Act.

A U.S. District Court judge ordered the U.S. Justice Department in February to disclose the document, which also is known as The Playbook.

It sets out the law and rules the government must follow when carrying out targeted killings.

Published by the ACLU on August 6, the document says strikes against high-value terrorist targets can be taken "when there is near certainty" the person is present, and that no civilians will be injured or killed.

Drone strikes also must be deemed necessary to "achieve U.S. policy objectives."

The Obama administration says its use of drones is essential to fighting Al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP

Obama Expects More IS Attacks Despite Headway In Battle

Fighters of Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government fire a rocket at Islamic State fighters in Sirte on August 4.

U.S. President Barack Obama has touted progress made by U.S. and international troops against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group but said lone-wolf attacks by IS followers will continue to be a problem.

"I am pleased with the progress that we've made on the ground in Iraq and Syria," Obama said on August 4, though "we're far from freeing Mosul and Raqqa," IS strongholds in the two countries.

As IS has lost ground on the battlefield, he noted, it has stepped up efforts to inspire and organize grisly assaults on civilian targets abroad.

"They've seen the degree of attention they can get with smaller-scale attacks using small arms or assault rifles," Obama said. "The possibility of either a lone actor or a small cell carrying out an attack that kills people is real."

IS "networks are more active in Europe than they are [in the United States], but ... it's conceivable that there are some networks here that could be activated," he said.

"How we react to this is as important as the efforts we take to destroy [IS]," he said. "When societies get scared they can react in ways that undermine the fabric of our society."

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

Pentagon Withholds $300 Million In Aid To Pakistan Over Haqqani Network

The wanted poster issued by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network.

The Pentagon said it is withholding $300 million in military aid because Pakistan has not taken "sufficient action" against the Haqqani network.

The aid was withheld despite "the significance of the sacrifices that the Pakistani military has undertaken" fighting terrorism since 2014, said Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump on August 4.

The Haqqani network, labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, operates in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Congress stipulated that $300 million of the $1 billion in U.S. military aid authorized to go to Pakistan in 2016 could be transferred only after Secretary of Defense Ash Carter certified that Pakistan had made satisfactory progress against the group.

The deadline for payment was June 30, and Carter let the deadline pass without authorizing the funds.

The Washington Post first reported the decision late on August 3. This was the first time that certification from the secretary of defense was required for military aid to Pakistan.

"We have taken up the fight against terrorism," Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria said in Islamabad on August 4.

"These reimbursements enable the United States to support Pakistan's ongoing counterterrorism efforts in a manner that serves shared interests of both the countries."

Based on reporting by Reuters and Voice of America

Pakistani Expelled By Italy For Militant Plot Was Youth Cricket Coach

Italian authorities charged that Aftab Farook, 26, who had lived in Italy for 13 years, was planning to go to Syria to join the Islamic State, and expelled him from the country on August 2.

A Pakistani man expelled from Italy for allegedly plotting an attack in the name of the Islamic State (IS) group at one time captained the Italian youth cricket team, media reports say.

Aftab Farook was caught on a wire-tap talking about using a Kalashnikov or bomb to attack targets such as a wine shop in Milan or the airport of Bergamo in northern Italy in an attempt to "scare Europeans," Italian newspapers reported.

Italian authorities charged that Farook, 26, who had lived in Italy for 13 years, was planning to go to Syria to join the militants, and expelled him from the country on August 2.

Sportweek photos from 2009 show him as the captain of the under-19s national cricket team, wearing the Italian colors in international competitions.

Farook worked for the sporting-goods retailer Decathlon and was well-liked by his cricket teammates and neighbors.

But police charged that he had changed over the past year, and had begun beating his wife and forcing her to wear a burqa.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters

Washington D.C. Transit Police Officer Charged With Helping Islamic State

ic

WASHINGTON -- U.S. prosecutors said a transit system police officer in Washington, D.C. has been arrested on charges he attempted to provide material support to Islamic State militants.

It is the first time terrorism charges have been brought in the United States against a U.S. law enforcement officer.

The Justice Department alleged on August 3 that Nicholas Young, 36, had acquired codes for gift cards that were intended for the mobile-messaging accounts that Islamic State has used as part of its recruitment efforts.

Young then allegedly sent the codes to an FBI informant whom he believed to be working for Islamic State, the department said in a statement.

The department said Young also traveled to Libya and worked alongside rebels seeking to overthrow the country’s ruler, Muammar Qaddafi.

And he allegedly met with an undercover FBI agent, advising him how to evade law enforcement as he left the United States to join the militant group.

Young's initial court appearance was scheduled later on August 3.

Hostage Takers Kill French Priest In Church Attack

Hollande Says Islamic State Terrorists Killed Priest In Church
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Two attackers who claimed allegiance to Islamic State (IS) militants killed a priest with a knife inside a Roman Catholic church in France’s Normandy region early on July 26.

Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said two attackers were shot dead by the police when they went outside of the church in St.-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

Authorities said a third suspect was arrested.

French media reports said the attackers slit the throat of an 84-year-old priest namd Jacques Hamel.

Two nuns and some worshippers also reportedly were taken hostage.

The Interior Ministry said one other hostage was injured and was "between life and death."

French President Francois Hollande condemned the killing as a "vile terrorist attack" while the Vatican called it a "barbarous killing."

IS claimed responsibility, saying the killers were IS "soldiers."

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said "the whole of France and all Catholics are wounded. We will stand together."

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP and Le Monde

Hostage, Two Hostage Takers Killed In Church Attack In France

A municipal police vehicle blocks an underpass leadiing to the scene of an attack in Saint Etienne du Rouvray, near Rouen, France on July 26.

Two attackers killed a priest with a blade in a church in a town in France’s Normandy region.

The attackers were shot dead by the police, reports said.

“At one point, the two assailants came out of the church and that's when they were killed by the BRI elite force," Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told France Info radio, referring to France's specialized police group.

Their identity and motives of the attackers were not clear.

France's antiterrorist prosecution unit said it had taken over the investigation into the attack in the town of St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray.

French media reported that the attackers cut the throat of the priest. Another hostage was "between life and death", the French Interior Ministry said.

Another hostage was "between life and death", the Interior Ministry said.

French President Francois Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve were on their way to the site of the attack.

The hostages included a priest, two nuns, and a few worshipers, according to reports by French media.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressed his horror at what he called "a barbaric attack on a church."

"The whole of France and all Catholics are wounded. We will stand together," he wrote on Twitter.

The incident comes as France remains on high alert nearly two weeks after Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel mowed down a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in the southern city of Nice, killing 84.

The attack, the third major strike on France in 18 months, was claimed by the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP and Le Monde

U.S. To Release Last Russian Prisoner Held At Guantanamo Bay

Dressed in orange coveralls, alleged al-Qaida and Taliban combatants captured in Afghanistan wash before midday prayers at Camp X-Ray at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (File photo, 2002).

The United States on July 25 approved the release of a former Red Army ballet dancer who has been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for nearly 14 years.

Ravil Mingazov is the last of nine Russians held at the U.S. prison in Cuba to be freed. He was deemed eligible for release by a task force set up by the Obama administration to evaluate whether prisoners can be released without endangering U.S. security.

Authorities accused Mingazov, 48, of fighting with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. A Pentagon profile said he also was believed to have links to an Islamic group in Uzbekistan with ties to Al-Qaeda.

The ethnic Tatar was captured in Pakistan at a safe house associated with Abu Zubaydah, a "facilitator" for the terrorist organization who is also detained in Guantanamo.

Mingazov, who denied any involvement in terrorism, was never charged with a crime.

In announcing his release, the U.S parole board said it had "some concern with the detainee's failure to demonstrate sufficient candor" about activities before he was detained, but nevertheless determined he did not pose a risk because he had been a "low-level fighter" who does not "espouse anti-U.S. sentiment."

His lawyers have asked the government to resettle him in Nottingham, England, where his son and ex-wife live under political asylum. The parole board did not say where Mingazov would be sent or when he would be released.

The U.S. has held about nine Russian citizens at Guantanamo since it opened in January 2002.

The Russian government has criticized Mingazov's confinement and said he should be returned to his homeland. But the Pentagon profile said Mingazov does not want to return to Russia, possibly because he fears facing criminal charges there.

Mingazov has told officials he left Russia because of the treatment of Muslims there. Mingazov "maintains a strong disdain for the Russian government and does not want to be repatriated, claiming his treatment in Guantanamo is better than the treatment he received in Russia," the Pentagon profile said.

With reporting by AP and Miami Herald

Germany Investigating 60 Asylum Seekers For Suspected Terrorist Links

Police detain the attacker at the scene of a machete attack in Rutlingen on July 24.

German authorities are investigating 60 asylum seekers suspected of possible links to terrorist organizations, including Islamic State, the Federal Criminal Police Office BKA said on July 25.

"Considering the ongoing migration movement into Germany, we have to assume that there are active or former members, supporters and sympathizers of terrorist organizations and Islamist war criminals among the refugees," the BKA said in a statement.

The statement said police did not currently have any concrete indications of attack plans.

Police have received a total of 410 tip-offs from local authorities in Germany's 16 federal states on possible terrorists among refugees, the statement said.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere was quoted by German media as saying it would be wrong to put all refugees under general suspicion, "even if there are investigations in individual cases."

De Maiziere called for Germany's borders to be better protected without preventing refugees from coming to the country by legal and safe means — "in reasonable numbers."

Germany witnessed four armed attacks on members of the public in less than a week, three of them carried out by asylum seekers.

More than a million asylum seekers have entered Germany over the past year, many fleeing conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq.

Based on reporting by dpa, AP, and Reuters

German Official: Islamist Motive Possibly Behind Ansbach Attack

Authorities said at least 12 people were wounded, three seriously, in the explosion

Bavaria's top police official says he believes that a Syrian asylum seeker who blew himself up and injured 12 people near a festival in the southern German town of Ansbach was driven by Islamic extremism.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Hermann told the German news agency dpa on July 25 that "I unfortunately think it's very likely this really was an Islamist suicide attack."

"The obvious intention to kill more people indicates an Islamist connection," he added.

Police say the 27-year-old Syrian blew himself up near an open-air music festival late on July 24.

Hermann said the man was carrying a backpack filled with explosives and metal parts that could have killed many people.

The man, whose name has not been disclosed, had repeatedly received psychiatric treatment, including for attempted suicide, Herrmann said.

Earlier on July 25, the office of the Ansbach prosecutor said the attacker's motive wasn't clear.

"If there is an Islamist link or not is purely speculation at this point," said the spokesman, Michael Schrotberger.

Authorities said at least 12 people were wounded, three seriously, in the explosion.

Police evacuated more than 2,000 people from the music festival and cordoned off the area.

Germany is on edge following several recent incidents of violence.

Earlier on July 24 an asylum-seeker from Syria killed a woman with a machete and injured two other people in the southwestern city of Reutlingen before being arrested by police.

An 18-year-old German-Iranian shot dead nine people in Munich on July 22, and on July 18 a 17-year-old asylum-seeker from Pakistan wounded five people on a train using an ax and knife.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa

Police Detain Friend Of Munich Gunman

Mourners pay their respects at the site where an 18-year-old German-Iranian student run amok and killed nine people.

German police have taken a 16-year-old Afghan youth into custody on suspicion that he was connected to the 18-year-old gunman who killed nine people in Munich on July 22.

The Afghan youth is being held for failure to notify authorities of a criminal act.

German police say the Afghan boy knew David Ali Sonboly, the young German-Iranian man who used Facebook to lure a group of young people to the McDonald's restaurant where the shooting started.

A police statement said the Afghan youth is being investigated for his role in posting invitations on Facebook.

German authorities said on July 24 that Sonboly underwent two months of inpatient psychiatric treatment last year due to social anxiety and depression.

Thomas Steinkraus-Koch, a spokesman for Munich prosecutors, told reporters on July 24 that the 18-year-old suspect "received inpatient treatment in 2015 for two months and after that received outpatient care."

Steinkraus-Koch said the suspect suffered from "fears of contact with others" and also depression.

Bavaria police chief Robert Heimberger said on July 24 that the suspect had been planning the attack for a year.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa

Serbia Arrests Six Migrant Smugglers Near Bulgarian Border

Refugees in Dimitrovgrad, a city in eastern Serbia near border with Bulgaria, September 2015.

Serbian police said they have detained six people for smuggling 78 migrants trying to reach the European Union on July 19.

Police said they discovered the migrants in two separate incidents near the Bulgarian border -- 37 migrants from Afghanistan and Pakistan were hidden in a van intercepted on a regional road, while another 41 people from Syria were caught crossing illegally from Bulgaria.

The arrests came as Bulgaria announced it had detained 45 migrants who were trying to cross into Serbia, including 30 Afghans, 13 Pakistanis, and two Iranians.

Serbia has been stepping up efforts to stop the migrant influx, including forming joint police and army teams that will patrol the borders with Bulgaria and Macedonia. The country wants to avoid a migrant pileup after EU member Hungary recently introduced tough antimigrant measures.

The Serbian army commander, General Ljubisa Dikovic, and senior police official Vladimir Rebic jointly toured the border area with Bulgaria on July 19, the Defense Ministry said.

It said joint forces are "currently being formed" but didn't specify when they will take up positions. An army general will be in charge.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters

U.S. Congress Releases Formerly Classifed Document On 9-11 Attacks

A U.S. flag is placed on the 9/11 memorial before the ceremony to commemorate the 14th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, September 11, 2015.

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. congressional committee has released a long-classified section of the official report into the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States -- a section on the question of whether the hijackers had contacts with Saudi government officials.

The release on July 15 followed years of calls to declassify the 28-page section by some lawmakers and former intelligence officials who suspected that links between the terrorist hijackers and Saudi representatives were closer than administration officials had admitted.

The document names some people the hijackers associated with before they carried out the attacks. It also identifies individuals who helped them open bank accounts, get apartments, and receive flight lessons.

Of the 19 hijackers, 15 were Saudi nationals. Several were not fluent in English and had little experience living in the West.

The Saudi ambassador to the United States said on July 15 that he hoped the release would end persistent suspicions about official Saudi participation in the planning of the attack.

At Least 84 Dead After Truck Plowed Into Crowd In France

People react in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 15 after a van drove into a crowd watching a fireworks display. At least 80 people were killed when a truck plowed in the incident.

An attacker killed at least 80 people and injured scores more when he drove a truck at high speed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French Riviera city of Nice late on July 14.

French authorities said police shot and killed the driver, who drove the heavy, long-distance truck for about 2 kilometers into the mass of spectators leaving a fireworks display along the famed Promenade des Anglais seafront.

The man had opened fire on the crowd, Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said weapons and grenades were found inside the truck after he was killed. Several of the victims reportedly died of gunshot wounds.

"It's the most terrible tragedy in our city's history. Over 70 people died," Estrosi wrote on Twitter.

"It's a scene of horror," local member of parliament Eric Ciotti told France Info, saying the truck "mowed down several hundred people" before being stopped by police.

Officials later said the death toll had risen to 84, with dozens to hundreds of others wounded. Hours after the attack, dozens of bodies lay on the ground covered in white sheets.

The Paris Prosecutor's Office opened a terrorism investigation into the attack. The driver has not yet been identified and no group has claimed responsibility. There was no sign of any other attack, though residents of the city were advised to stay indoors.

French President Francois Hollande said the attack was clearly a "terrorist" act, the third on French soil in 18 months.

"France is horrified by what has happened, this monstrosity which is using a truck to deliberately kill dozens of people," he said in an early morning televised address to the nation on July 15.

France "will always be stronger, I promise you, than the fanatics that want to strike it," he said."Nothing will make us yield in our will to fight terrorism. We will further strengthen our actions in Iraq and in Syria. We will continue striking those who attack us on our own soil," he said, alluding to the Islamic State group.

He said he will convene a security cabinet meeting early on July 15.

U.S. President Barack Obama condemned "what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack," and said "we stand in solidarity and partnership with France, our oldest ally, as they respond to and recover from this attack."

The United Nations Security Council in a statement strongly condemned the "barbaric and cowardly terrorist attack," which it called "criminal and unjustifiable."

European Council President Donald Tusk said Europe "will stand united with the families of victims, the French people, and the government in the fight against violence and hatred."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking on the sidelines of a summit of Asian and European leaders in Mongolia, said "Germany stands in the fight against terrorism at France’s side, united with many, many others."

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May called the Nice attack "terrible" and said “we are shocked and concerned.”

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang expressed condolences and said "we strongly condemn terrorism in all forms."

Newly appointed British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he was “shocked and saddened” by the loss of life in France.

Eight months ago, Islamic State militants killed 130 people in Paris in the worst of several terrorist attacks in France and Belgium in the past two years.

But more recently, no major incidents had marred the month-long Euro 2016 soccer tournament in France despite fears of an attack on the international crowds that attended those games.

Vehicle attacks have been used by isolated members of militant groups in recent years, notably in Israel, though never to such devastating effect.

France had mobilized extra security for the national day of celebration commemorating the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789. Approximately 11,500 security personnel were on hand for the traditional military parade in Paris.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa, and BFM TV

Survey: Many Europeans Link Refugee Wave With Rising Terror Threat

Refugees from Afghanistan arrive in an overloaded rubber dinghy at the coast near Lesbos island in Greece (file photo).

A survey conducted in 10 EU member states has found that many Europeans believe there is a connection between the refugee crisis and the increased threat of terrorism in Europe.

Europe received more than 1 million migrants in 2015 -- a majority of them Muslim refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan -- with most of them applying for asylum in Germany and Sweden.

The survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center found that in eight out of the 10 countries surveyed, at least half of those interviewed believe refugees will increase the likelihood of terrorism, with Hungarians and Poles topping the list, with 76 and 71 percent, respectively.

Both countries have received a relatively small number of refugees.

The survey, conducted before the British referendum to leave the EU, also covered Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Britain, France, Spain, Italy, and Greece.

In five out of the 10 countries, at least half of those surveyed also see migrants as a potential economic burden and a threat to their jobs and social benefits.

Hungary and Poland again finished on top, with 81 percent and 75 percent, respectively.

Germany and Sweden -- by far the largest recipients of refugees -- are the only countries where at least half say migrants make those countries stronger because of their hard work and talents.

Meanwhile, the survey said, right-wing populist parties in the EU successfully increased their numbers by campaigning against Muslim migrants, including the National Front in France, the U.K. Independence Party, the Alternative for Germany, and Austria's Freedom Party.

U.S. Transfers Two Guantanamo Detainees To Serbia

U.S. military guards move a detainee to an undefined facility inside Camp Delta in the Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay (file photo).

Two detainees at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are being transferred to Serbia -- leaving 76 detainees at the facility.

Officials from the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon on July 11 confirmed that the transfers were taking place.

A State Department official named the detainees as Muhammadi Davlatov of Tajikistan and Mansur Ahmad Saad al-Dayfi of Yemen.

The State Department said it's the first time that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were being transferred to Serbia.

Davlatov was approved for transfer about six years ago after his case was reviewed by six U.S. government departments and agencies -- the Departments of Defense, State, Justice, and Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Pentagon said in a statement that Dayfi was approved for transfer in October 2015 by a review board that determined his detention was no longer necessary for U.S. national security.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP

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