Central America worries about more gang deportations from US

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — Attorneys general in Central America expressed concern Thursday over comments from their U.S. counterpart suggesting increased deportations of gang members by the United States.

El Salvador Attorney General Douglas Melendez said his country, Honduras and Guatemala need to be prepared to deal with more gangsters. Transnational gangs like Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, are already blamed for staggering violence in those so-called Northern Triangle countries.

Melendez spoke at a news conference after a gathering of the region’s top law enforcement officials. He said he and his counterparts recently met with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Palestinians ask Red Cross to
intervene in
hunger strike

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Palestinians asked the International Committee of the Red Cross on Thursday to intervene in a hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners pressing for “legitimate rights” which they say are being denied by Israel.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, told the Security Council that a peaceful effort is needed to compel Israel to comply with international law and respect human rights “to avert the dangerous consequences of deterioration of this situation.”

“We believe that the ICRC can play a positive, facilitating role, and urge all necessary efforts in this regard,” he said.

Mansour saluted the more than 1,000 prisoners on hunger strike and said they were protesting what he called their “inhumane treatment and torture by Israel” and calling attention to the over 6,500 Palestinians imprisoned or arbitrarily detained.

Pentagon chief: US won’t reveal
‘mother of all bombs’ toll

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The ear-splitting explosion from America’s “mother of all bombs” has been followed by calculated silence about the damage it inflicted.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday he does not intend to discuss damage estimates from last week’s use of the military’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an Islamic State stronghold in Afghanistan.

The April 13 attack on an IS tunnel and cave complex near the Pakistani border marked the first-ever combat use of the bomb, known officially as a GBU-43B, or Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb. U.S. military officials have said the 11-ton bomb effectively neutralized an IS defensive position.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, however, called the use of the weapon “an immense atrocity against the Afghan people.”

The Afghan government has estimated a death toll of more than 90 militants. It said no civilians were killed.

China launches its 1st unmanned
cargo spacecraft

BEIJING (AP) — China on Thursday launched its first unmanned cargo spacecraft on a mission to dock with the country’s space station, marking further progress in the ambitious Chinese space program.

The Tianzhou 1 blasted off at 7:41 p.m. atop a latest-generation Long March 7 rocket from China’s newest spacecraft launch site, Wenchang, on the island province of Hainan.

Minutes later, as the spacecraft cleared the atmosphere, the mission was declared a success by administrators at ground control on the outskirts of Beijing.

It is programmed to conduct scientific experiments after reaching the now-crewless Tiangong 2, China’s second space station. A pair of Chinese astronauts spent 30 days on board the station last year.

China launched the Tiangong 2 precursor facility in September and the station’s 20-ton core module will be launched next year. The completed 60-ton station is set to come into full service in 2022 and operate for at least a decade.

Communications with the earlier, disused Tiangong 1 experimental station were cut last year and it is expected to burn up on entering the atmosphere.

China was excluded from the 420-ton International Space Station mainly due to U.S. legislation barring such cooperation and concerns over the Chinese space program’s strong military connections.

Chinese officials are now looking to internationalize their own program by offering to help finance other countries’ missions to Tiangong 2.

Since China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, it has staged a spacewalk and landed its Jade Rabbit rover on the moon. A mission to land another rover on Mars and bring back samples is set to launch in 2020, while China also plans to become the first country to soft-land a probe on the far side of the moon.

The two-stage, medium lift Long March 7 is expected to form the backbone of China’s rocket fleet, and burns a fuel combination that is safer and more environmentally friendly.

It is tasked with the launch of the Shenzhou capsules that have carried out six crewed missions and, along with the heavy lift Long March 5, is key to the assembly of the Tiangong 2.