Iraqi forces push toward Mosul, Shiite militias join battle
SHURA, Iraq (AP) — Iraqi forces pushed into a town south of Mosul on Saturday after Islamic State fighters fled with civilians used as human shields, as state-sanctioned Shiite militias joined the offensive by opening up a new front to the west.
Iraqi troops approaching Mosul from the south advanced into Shura after a wave of U.S.-led airstrikes and artillery shelling against militant positions inside the town. Commanders said most of the IS fighters withdrew earlier this week with civilians, but that U.S. airstrikes had disrupted the forced march, allowing some civilians to escape.
“After all this shelling, I don’t think we will face much resistance,” Iraqi army Maj. Gen. Najim al-Jabouri said. “This is easy, because there are no civilians left,” he added. “The big challenge for us is always the civilians.”
Lt. Col. Hussein Nazim of the militarized Federal Police, which is leading the advance from the south, said some civilians, mainly the elderly and infirm, might still be in the city, but that the use of heavy artillery and airstrikes was a standard tactic.
“We must strike like this before we move in or else we will be easy prey for Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
Syrian airstrikes on Aleppo amid intense clashes
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian opposition activists are reporting airstrikes and fighting on the edge of the contested northern city of Aleppo.
Saturday’s fighting comes a day after Syrian rebels launched a broad offensive aiming to break a weeks-long government siege on the eastern rebel-held neighborhoods of Syria’s largest city.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said warplanes are pounding areas that insurgents captured the day before, mostly on Aleppo’s western and southern edges.
The Aleppo Media Center, an activist collective, reported airstrikes and artillery shelling of areas near Aleppo.
Syrian state media said rebels shelled government-held western neighborhoods of Aleppo on Saturday morning wounding at least six people, including a young girl.
Oregon standoff acquittal sparks fears of new land disputes
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The stunning acquittal of seven people who occupied a federal wildlife sanctuary in Oregon during an armed standoff raised fears Friday that the verdict could embolden other militant groups in a long-running dispute over government-owned Western lands.
Meanwhile, a juror said the decision was a rejection of the prosecution’s conspiracy case, not an endorsement of the defendants’ actions.
Supporters of Ammon Bundy celebrated the verdict and said it could invite more confrontations. The government’s top federal land official, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, issued a statement urging all employees to “remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity.”
An activist from Boise, Idaho, who once camped by a memorial to occupier LaVoy Finicum at the site where he was shot dead by police, predicted that the verdict would encourage others to act.
“I think a lot more people will be revolting, rebelling and standing up against what we see as a tyrannical government,” William C. Fisher said in a telephone interview.
Tense oil pipeline protest subsides at least temporarily
CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) — A tense protest over the Dakota Access pipeline subsided at least temporarily after some protest leaders urged activists to leave a barricade near a state highway bridge.
As many as 50 protesters gathered Friday behind heavy plywood sheets and burned-out vehicles, facing a line of concrete barriers, military vehicles and police in riot gear. But only a handful of people, some of them observers from Amnesty International, remained on the bridge by late afternoon after protest representatives told people to return to the main encampment.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier described the protesters as “non-confrontational but uncooperative” and credited Standing Rock Sioux tribal members for helping to ease tensions on the bridge. Kirchmeier said tribal representatives were allowed onto the private property to remove teepees.
Officers arrested one person, but no details were released.
Standing Rock has waged a protest for months against the four-state, thousand-mile pipeline being developed by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners to carry North Dakota crude to a shipping point in Patoka, Illinois.
Nepal storyteller uses photos and few lines to reveal lives
KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — It started with a photograph of a smirking, young man wearing a heavy-metal band T-shirt and selling tea on the streets of Kathmandu. It has become a wildly popular blog chronicling street life in the Himalayan nation of Nepal.
Inspired by the similar project “Humans of New York ,” Nepalese photographer Jay Poudyal has posted biographies and photographs for more than 800 Nepalis including villagers, bureaucrats, schoolchildren, housewives and students since launching his blog three years ago.
“Stories of Nepal ,” with 270,000 followers and growing, has become a mission for the 37-year-old college dropout: to highlight the heroism of Nepal’s common men and women as they struggle against widespread poverty, natural disasters and a government widely seen as corrupt.
“I was searching for purpose of life,” Poudyal said in an interview with The Associated Press, admitting to past struggles with alcohol and drug abuse. “When I started doing this, it was like a calling for me.”
Each morning, Poudyal takes to the streets of his native Kathmandu to chat with people, share jokes or heart-wrenching memories, and snap their photos. Occasionally, he’ll drive his motorcycle to a nearby village, or take a bus to a community farther out along Nepal’s mountain roads.
Dylan tells Swedish Academy he accepts Nobel Prize
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Bob Dylan has accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize for literature, the Swedish Academy said, adding that getting the prestigious award left him “speechless.”
The academy’s permanent secretary, Sara Danius, said Dylan himself contacted them and said “of course” he would accept the prize. Danius told Sweden’s TT news agency that Dylan called her Tuesday evening and they spoke for about 15 minutes.
“The news about the Nobel Prize left me speechless,” Dylan told Danius, according to a statement posted Friday on the academy’s website. “I appreciate the honor so much.”