Italy PM: Apparently no deaths from triple quakes
ROME (AP) — Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni says it seems there were no fatalities from the three strong earthquakes that rocked the same area of central Italy that was devastated by quakes last year.
Gentiloni said today was a “difficult day” for Italy. Central Italy has been buried under 3 feet of snow in recent days, with some areas without electricity, complicating the arrival of emergency services.
Speaking in Berlin after a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Gentiloni said his thoughts were with those who were suffering through another round of temblors.
Official: Russia could end ban on US adoptions
MOSCOW (AP) — The speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament says Moscow is willing to open discussion with Washington about rescinding the ban on Americans adopting Russian children.
The ban was imposed in 2012, prompted by a U.S. law sanctioning some Russians identified as human-rights violators.
Russia was a popular country for prospective adoptive parents who could not find suitable children in the United States. More than 1,000 adoption attempts were estimated to be in progress when the ban took effect.
Russians had long bristled at the implication the country could not care properly for its children and complained about children who died after being adopted.
Gambia leader’s term extended as tourists are evacuated
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Gambia said today its legislators have voted to extend President Yahya Jammeh’s term by three months, just hours before his mandate was set to expire. The president-elect has vowed to take office regardless of whether Jammeh leaves. Amid the uncertainty, tourist evacuations began.
In a sign of mounting international pressure, Nigeria confirmed a warship was heading toward Gambia as a “training” exercise as regional countries prepared a possible military intervention.
As the crisis deepened, more than 1,000 mainly British and Dutch tourists were evacuating the tiny West African nation on specially chartered flights.
Airbnb, others sued in France for alleged unfair practices
PARIS (AP) — A group of French hoteliers and real estate agents has launched a lawsuit targeting accommodation-rental platforms, including Airbnb, arguing that their practices amount to unfair competition.
Lawyer Guillaume Navarro said they want French authorities to impose the same rules on them as those regulating the traditional rental market.
The group, which targets other vacation rental portals like HomeAway and Wimdu, is accusing the platforms of offering a string of tourism services, including tour operator and insurance services, without authorization.
Turkey rounds up 27 people linked to suspected nightclub gunman
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish police rounded up 27 people linked to the suspected gunman in Istanbul’s New Year’s Eve nightclub attack and the justice minister said today that the capture of the suspect will lead to a better understanding of the Islamic State group’s operations in Turkey.
The suspect, identified as 34-year-old Abdulkadir Masharipov, was caught late Monday in a police operation in Istanbul. Authorities identified him as an Uzbek national who trained in Afghanistan and staged the attack for the IS.
IS claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 39 people.
Turkish authorities say the suspect has confessed.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told the state-run Anadolu Agency that the arrest would reveal “important information” on IS’ modes of operation and increase the government’s ability to thwart attacks. He said there was no doubt the attack was the work of IS.
Anadolu said Turkish anti-terrorism squads had raided seven addresses in simultaneous operations in the northwestern city of Bursa, arresting 27 suspects from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan as well as from China’s minority Muslim Uighur community. Fifteen of them were women.
Police also took 29 children into protective custody and seized 40 passports and 15 mobile phones set up with fake identity cards found at an empty house.
Anadolu said that address was connected to a Tajik national identified by the initials of M.S. The report described him as an Islamic State group facilitator for foreign nationals.
Other Turkish media reports fleshed out details about the alleged killer and his IS-sanctioned mission on the night of Dec. 31.
The Hurriyet Daily News, citing security sources, said the Istanbul shooter had received orders directly from Raqqa, the IS’s main bastion in Syria.
The report, citing Turkish authorities and police investigations, said the original target of the attack was Istanbul’s famous Taksim Square. But the plan was modified in response to boosted security there, according to the report, which cited an account of events allegedly given by the suspect.
Masharipov reportedly arrived into Turkey on Jan. 16, 2016, through Iran after receiving orders to join the war in Syria. He initially settled in the central Turkish city of Konya.
“While there, I received the order from Raqqa … to carry out an attack on New Year’s Eve in Taksim,” he was quoted as saying in the Hurriyet report.
In preparation, Masharipov travelled to Istanbul on Dec. 16, staying first at an IS house in the neighborhood of Basaksehir.
But on New Year’s Eve, he was quoted as saying it didn’t seem possible to carry out the attack in Taksim due to intense security measures. Masharipov then contacted his handler, who told him to find a new target. He spotted the Reina night club at 10 p.m. while traveling by taxi on the banks of the Bosporus.
He suggested the new target to his handler, who approved. The alleged shooter then went to collect his weapon from the neighborhood of Zeytinburnu, where he went two days before the attack.
The gunman took out a security guard outside of the nightclub and another civilian before entering Reina and letting loose a salvo of bullets on people who were celebrating New Year’s Eve.
Turkish officials say the attacker, who switched clothes at the nightclub, melted into the crowd of survivors and escaped the premises.
The Hurriyet report claimed police came close to apprehending Masharipov the day after the attack, spotting him on the back seat of a car. Police were fired on and the suspect escaped.
He reportedly arrived at the address where he was apprehended, a luxury residence in the Istanbul neighborhood of Esenyurt, on Jan. 6. An Iraqi man, the renter of the apartment, and three women were caught in that operation. The women allegedly planned to join IS and did the shopping.
Masharipov had received arms training from al-Qaida in Iraq, according to Hurriyet. Turkish officials have said he trained in Afghanistan.
Turkey’s private Dogan news agency, citing security sources, said Masharipov had studied physics in Uzbekistan.