Trump advisers: US seeks to fight IS and oust Syria’s Assad
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s national security adviser on Sunday left open the possibility of additional U.S. military action against Syria following last week’s missile strike but indicated that the United States was not seeking to act unilaterally to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In his first televised interview, H.R. McMaster pointed to dual U.S. goals of defeating the Islamic State group and removing Assad. But he suggested that Trump was seeking a global political response for regime change from U.S. allies as well as Russia, which he said needed to re-evaluate its support of Syria.
“It’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime,” McMaster said. “Now, we are not saying that we are the ones who are going to effect that change. What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Russia should ask themselves …Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population?”
After last Tuesday’s chemical attack in Syria, Trump said his attitude toward Assad “has changed very much” and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said “steps are underway” to organize a coalition to remove him from power.
But as lawmakers called on Trump to consult with Congress on any future military strikes and a longer-term strategy on Syria, Trump administration officials sent mixed signals on the scope of U.S. involvement. While Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, described regime change in Syria as a U.S. priority and inevitable, Tillerson suggested that last week’s American airstrikes in retaliation for the chemical attack hadn’t really changed U.S. priorities toward ousting Assad.
Suicide bombers kill 44 at Palm Sunday services in Egypt
TANTA, Egypt (AP) — Suicide bombers struck hours apart at two Coptic churches in northern Egypt, killing 44 people and turning Palm Sunday services into scenes of horror and outrage at the government that led the president to call for a three-month state of emergency.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the violence, adding to fears that extremists are shifting their focus to civilians, especially Egypt’s Christian minority.
The attacks in the northern cities of Tanta and Alexandria that also left 126 people wounded came at the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter, and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit.
Pope Tawadros II, the leader of the Coptic church who will meet with Francis on April 28-29, was in the Alexandra cathedral at the time of the bombing but was unhurt, the Interior Ministry said.
It was the single deadliest day for Christians in decades and the worst since a bombing at a Cairo church in December killed 30 people.
10 Things to Know for Monday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday:
1. U.S. AIMS TO FIGHT ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS, OUST SYRIA’S ASSAD
Trump’s national security adviser stresses that Washington isn’t seeking to act unilaterally to remove the Syrian president from power.
2. SUICIDE BOMBERS KILL 44 AT PALM SUNDAY SERVICES IN EGYPT
The Islamic State group claims responsibility for the violence, adding to fears that extremists are shifting their focus to civilians, especially the nation’s Christian minority.
Tillerson’s Russia trip highlights emergence from shadows
WASHINGTON (AP) — Criticized for his low-profile diplomacy, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is emerging from the shadows with a leading public role in shaping and explaining the Trump administration’s missile strikes in Syria. And, he’s set for an even higher-profile mission, heading to Moscow under the twin clouds of Russia’s U.S. election meddling and its possible support for a Syrian chemical weapons attack.
Since taking office in February, the former Exxon Mobil CEO has admittedly shunned the spotlight and the press. Yet, Tillerson was surprisingly visible during last week’s announcement of the response to the gruesome chemical attack, fielding questions from reporters on and off camera, and then captured in an official White House photo seated next to President Donald Trump as they heard the result of the 59 cruise missiles that struck a Syrian military base.
Tillerson was a prominent fixture during the most important foreign policy period in Trump’s young presidency: a two-day summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping that coincided with the strikes against Syria. He was by Trump’s side during his meetings with Xi and spoke publicly multiple times to address both issues.
It was Tillerson who delivered the Trump administration’s first blistering condemnation of Russia in the hours after the strikes. Standing in a cramped conference room alongside national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Tillerson said Moscow had “failed” to live up to its obligations under a 2013 agreement to strip Syria of its chemical weapons stockpiles. “Either Russia has been complicit or Russia has simply been incompetent in its ability to deliver on its end of that agreement,” he said.
On Sunday, he made his first network television interview appearances. In one interview, Tillerson said he sees no reason for retaliation from Russia for the U.S. missile strikes. Russia maintains a close political and military alliance with President Bashar Assad’s government and has been accused of supporting its attacks against Syrians opposed to Assad’s rule — something Moscow adamantly denies.
Suspect’s status as failed asylum-seeker saddens Stockholm
STOCKHOLM (AP) — Swedes questioned their country’s welcoming immigration policies with pride and pain on Sunday after learning that an asylum-seeker from Uzbekistan was allegedly behind the truck rampage that killed four people, Stockholm’s deadliest extremist attack in years.
The Swedish capital was slowly, but resolutely, regaining its normal rhythm as details about the 39-year-old suspect in the attack emerged. Police said he had been ordered to leave Sweden in December because his request for a residence permit was rejected six months earlier.
Instead, he allegedly went underground, eluding authorities’ attempts to track down and deport him until a hijacked beer truck raced down a pedestrian street and rammed into an upscale department store on Friday.
“It makes me frustrated,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told Swedish news agency TT on Sunday.
The suspect, who has been detained on suspicion of terrorist offenses, was known known for having “been sympathetic to extremist organizations,” Jonas Hysing of Sweden’s national police said.
Sergio Garcia wins the Masters, ends drought at the majors
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Sergio Garcia tugged the lapel of his green jacket with both hands, proud of his prize and how he earned it.
His hopes were fading Sunday in the Masters — two shots behind with six holes to play — when his tee shot bounced off a tree and into an azalea bush, the kind of bad luck he had come to expect in the majors. Instead of pouting, he figured out how to make par.
Five feet away from winning, his birdie putt peeled off to the right. Usually resigned to fail, Garcia proved to be more resilient than ever.
He was a new man with a new title: Masters champion.
New York derailment highlights US infrastructure concerns
When a train jumped the tracks this past week at New York’s Penn Station, the seemingly minor accident led to a cascade of exasperating delays for hundreds of thousands of commuters.
When a flood forced authorities to condemn a one-lane, century-old bridge in rural Ozark, Missouri, it was no less frustrating for the residents and business owners cut off from their shortest route into town.
The two episodes highlight a reality about the U.S. transportation system — it is aging, congested and so vital that when things go wrong, big and costly disruptions can result for which there is no quick fix.
Though President Donald Trump has promised a $1 trillion infrastructure-rebuilding program, not all of that may go toward transportation. Even then, it would fall well short of the many trillions needed to fix the country’s web of roads, bridges, railways, subways and bus stations.
The commuter train in New York derailed because of a weakened railroad tie. No one was seriously injured. But the incident shut down eight of the station’s 21 tracks, disrupting Amtrak service in the Northeast from Boston to Washington, as well as delaying commuter trains in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut for the better part of a week.
Hawaii LGBT couples seek equal access to fertility treatment
HONOLULU (AP) — Sean Smith and his husband paid more than $20,000 for a fertility procedure when they decided to have a child using a surrogate mother. They did not know at the time that if they were a heterosexual couple, they might have saved that money.
Now, Smith and other members of Hawaii’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are lobbying for equal access to the financial help married, heterosexual couples enjoy under state law.
They are pushing legislation that would require insurance companies to cover in vitro fertilization for more couples, including making Hawaii the first state to require the coverage for surrogates, which would help male same-sex couples who must use a surrogate.
“Now that marriage equality is the law of the land and is accepted, now let’s turn to family building, and let’s figure out how we fix all these inequities that exist,” said Barbara Collura, president and CEO of Resolve, a national organization that advocates for access to fertility treatments.
Hawaii is one of eight states that require insurance companies to cover in vitro fertilization, a costly procedure where a doctor retrieves eggs from a woman, combines them with sperm from a man and then implants an embryo into a woman’s uterus.
Female athletes get a trio of wins in equality fight
In a matter of days, female athletes around the globe scored a trio of wins in their fight for equality after decades of work.
The U.S. women’s national soccer team struck a new collective bargaining agreement with their federation, ending more than a year of at times contentious negotiations, with players seeking comparable compensation to the men’s national team.
It followed the U.S. national hockey team’s deal with USA Hockey after players threatened to boycott the women’s world championships over wages.
The quest for better pay and conditions even extended across the Atlantic to Ireland, where the women’s national soccer team there threatened to sit out of an exhibition match this week.
“It’s pretty incredible what the women’s hockey team did and they were courageous in their fight. There were differences between our battle and their battle, but they were inspirational,” U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe said. “For us and them, we were able to inspire other teams.”
Somalia’s new army chief survives car bomb that kills 13
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Somalia’s new military chief survived a suicide car bomb attack Sunday just moments after he was sworn in with a mandate to launch a new offensive against Islamic extremists. Thirteen people were killed the attack.
Gen. Mohamed Ahmed Jimale had just been sworn into office and was traveling in a convoy with senior military officials when the bomb exploded near Somalia’s defense ministry compound in Mogadishu, police say.
Five soldiers and at least 8 civilians travelling in a passing minibus were killed, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior Somali police officer.
Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack.
A huge cloud of smoke billowed over the scene and heavy gunfire was heard in the area. The wreckage of the minibus destroyed by the powerful bomb was in the street, with a pool of blood under the vehicle. Burning debris littered the scene.
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