White House communications director Michael Dubke resigns amid tensions

Dubke is the latest White House staffer to leave this administration as scrutiny intensifies over contacts Trump staffers may have had with Russian government officials during the campaign and transition period.

Dubke’s hiring was intended to lighten the load on Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, who had also been handling the duties of communications director during Trump’s first month in office.(AFP File Photo)

A top White House communications staffer has resigned as President Donald Trump considers a major staff overhaul.

The departure of Michael Dubke, Trump’s communications director, comes as aides say Trump has grown increasingly frustrated by allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and revelations of possible ties between his campaign and Moscow.

“It has been my great honor to serve President Trump and this administration,” Dubke wrote in a statement. “It has also been my distinct pleasure to work side-by-side, day-by-day with the staff of the communications and press departments.”

Dubke’s last day has not yet been determined.

A Republican consultant, Dubke joined the White House team in February after campaign aide Jason Miller — Trump’s original choice for communications director — withdrew from the White House team. Dubke founded Crossroads Media, a GOP firm that specializes in political advertising.

Dubke is the latest White House staffer to leave this administration as scrutiny intensifies over contacts Trump staffers may have had with Russian government officials during the campaign and transition period.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Dubke resigned before Trump left for his international trip earlier this month, suggesting that his departure is not linked to any pending shake-ups.

But his departure raises questions about whether previous Trump loyalists are headed to the White House. Trump has entertained formally bringing back his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and former deputy campaign manager, David Bossie.

Bossie told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” that the Trump administration has reached out to him but hasn’t offered him a job yet.

“They have talked to many people, including me,” Bossie said. He later added: “It’s an ongoing conversation and that’s a fair way to put it.”

In an interview on Fox News on Tuesday, Conway said Dubke “made very clear that he would see through the president’s international trip, and come to work every day and work hard even through that trip because there was much to do here back at the White House.”

Dubke’s hiring was intended to lighten the load on Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, who had also been handling the duties of communications director during Trump’s first month in office. Trump has privately pinned some of the blame for his administration’s rough start on the White House’s communications strategy.

While overseas, Trump’s longtime lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, joined a still-forming legal team to help the president shoulder the intensifying investigations into Russian interference in the election and his associates’ potential involvement. More attorneys with deep experience in Washington investigations are expected to be added, along with crisis communication experts, to help the White House in the weeks ahead.

The latest revelations to emerge last week involved Trump’s son-in-law and top aide, Jared Kushner. Shortly after the election, Kushner allegedly discussed setting up a secret communications channel with the Russian government to facilitate sensitive discussions about the conflict in Syria.

The intent was to connect Trump’s chief national security adviser at the time, Michael Flynn, with Russian military leaders, a person familiar with the discussions told the AP. The person wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss private policy deliberations and insisted on anonymity.

Flynn handed in his resignation in February after it was revealed he misled top White House officials about his contacts with Russian officials.

The disclosure of the back channel has put the White House on the defensive. Just back from his nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe, Trump dismissed recent reports as “fake news.”

Iraq: Islamic State using women fighters in Mosul

Clashes have intensified in recent days between the US-backed Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants in the vicinity of the Old City of Mosul, where an estimated 200,000 civilians are trapped.

As Iraqi forces launched a broad offensive to re-take western and northern areas of Mosul still held by the Islamic State, the jihadist group has begun to use women to defend its last holdouts in the city after losing many of its men in the battle, a local news site reported Monday.

Major General Maen al-Saadi, chief of the Iraqi second anti-terrorism special operations, confirmed that IS is now using women fighters in Mosul, Ara News said

“After having lost many of its men, IS began to use women in the fight,” Saadi said, quoted by Ara News.

“In a bid to impede the Iraqi forces’ progress, Daesh (IS) terrorists began to spread out snipers in the Old City of Mosul, beside using suicide bombers and car bomb attacks,” Ara News cited the Iraqi general command as saying on Sunday.

Clashes have intensified in recent days between the US-backed Iraqi forces and IS militants in the vicinity of the Old City, where an estimated 200,000 civilians are trapped.

The winding streets, blind alleyways and densely-packed buildings makes military progress especially difficult, but Iraqi commanders are adamant that the city will be re-taken by June 10.

The Joint Operations Command said Iraqi aircraft dropped thousands of leaflets on the IS-held areas of the Old City and al-Shifaa, al-Zanjili and al-Saha districts on Monday, urging to civilians to leave their homes.

The Save the Children charity said it is “deeply concerned that any calls to leave west Mosul will mean that civilians, particularly children, are in significant danger of being caught in the crossfire”.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled Mosul amid the fighting while hundreds more have been killed or wounded.

The offensive to recapture Mosul - Iraq’s second largest city - began more than seven months ago in mid-October and several previous deadlines for its liberation have passed.

IS overran Mosul, 400 km north of Baghdad, in July 2014 during a lightening campaign when it captured swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria and established a so-called ‘Islamic Caliphate’ there.

Pakistan tells its lawmakers to forcefully defend its position at ICJ in Jadhav case

Islamabad: Pakistan will forcefully defend its position in the Kulbhshan Jadhav case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on June 8, National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said on Tuesday. The speaker chaired a meeting of Parliamentary Committee for National Security where Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua briefed parliamentarians from different parties on the issue of Indian national Jadhav. The lawmakers were told that the legal team was working on the case and will present its case with full vigour at the
next hearing of the ICJ.

The government also came under criticism from the Opposition parliamentarians for the “poor handling” of the case at the court. The lawmaker were informed that the Attorney General will also be part of the legal team that will plead Pakistan’s case at the ICJ against Jadhav. The speaker later told media that Pakistan will pursue Jadhav’s case at the ICJ with full preparation on June 8. Ayaz also said that all members of the parliamentary committee discussed the case beyond their political affiliation. He said the next meeting of the committee on the issue will be held on May 30 when the judicial process of the case will be discussed in more details. Jadhav, 46, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of “involvement in espionage and sabotage activities” against the country.The ICJ on May 18 stayed the execution of Jadhav and also endorsed Indian request for consular access to him. The Pakistan government has come under a lot of criticism for its “mishandling” of the case at ICJ. Jadhav’s case is the latest flash-point in the tensions between Pakistan and India. The two countries last faced off at the ICJ 18 years ago when Islamabad sought its intervention over the shooting down of its naval aircraft.

Donald Trump calls N Korea’s Kim Jong-Un ‘madman with nuclear weapons’

Washington: President Donald Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un a “madman with nuclear weapons” during a telephone call with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, according to a transcript of the conversation released by US media yesterday.

A White House readout of the April 29 call characterized it as a “very friendly conversation.” Days after the conversation, Trump said publicly that he would be “honored” to meet with Kim. But in the call, Trump hinted at a possible dramatic escalation on the Korean Peninsula.

“We can’t let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20 — but we don’t want to use it,” the US leader said, citing “two nuclear submarines” the Pentagon sent to the area last month. Transcribed by the Philippine government, the conversation was released by The Washington Post and The Intercept.

Trump also queried Duterte about whether he believed Kim was “stable or not stable.” The Philippine leader responded that their North Korean counterpart’s “mind is not working and he might just go crazy one moment.” Kim has a “dangerous toy in his hands that could create so much agony and suffering for all mankind,” he added.

But Trump appeared reassured that North Korea’s recent missile tests had failed, saying that “all his rockets are crashing. That’s the good news.” Turning to China and its ability to counter the nuclear threat, Trump pressed Duterte to call Chinese President Xi Jinping to exert pressure.

“I hope China solves the problem. They really have the means because a great degree of their stuff come through China,” Trump said, adding: “But if China doesn’t do it, we will do it.” Duterte agreed. However, he cautioned, starkly, that “the other option is a nuclear blast, which is not good for everybody.”

Philippines President declares martial law in Mindanao amid clashes

Manila: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in entire southern region of Mindanao following deadly clashes erupting between government troops and Islamist militants on Tuesday, local media reports said.

Duterte had to curtail his visit to Russia over the situation in the southern province of Mindanao.

The state-run Philippines News Agency quoted Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella as saying that the martial law will be in effect for 60 days to suppress lawless violence and rebellion and for public safety.

Two soldiers and a police officer were killed during the clashes between government forces and the Maute group, an Islamist militant organisation based in Mindanao.

Terrorism has been a persistent problem in the southern Philippines, where Maute and militant group Abu Sayyaf are based.

India considering punitive actions against Pakistan: US official

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday announced ex gratia of Rs two lakh for the next of kin of each of those killed in a bus accident in Uttarakhand.

“My prayers and solidarity with those who lost their loved ones in the unfortunate bus accident in Uttarkashi. May the injured recover soon,” Modi said in a tweet.  He also announced Rs 50,000 from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund for those seriously injured.

At least 24 persons were killed and eight others injured when the bus carrying pilgrims from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, plunged into a deep gorge late on Tuesday.  The accident took place near Nalupani when they were returning from the Gangotri shrine.

Washington, India is moving towards isolating Pakistan diplomatically and is considering punitive actions against Islamabad for its alleged support to cross border terrorism, a top American defence intelligence chief has told lawmakers.

“India has sought and continues to move to isolate Pakistan diplomatically and is considering punitive options to raise the cost to Islamabad for its alleged support to cross- border terrorism,” Lt Gen Vincent Stewart, Director, Defense Intelligence Agency told members of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing on worldwide threats.

His statement came a day after Indian Army launched “punitive fire assaults” on Pakistani positions across the Line of Control, inflicting some damage.

India, he said, is modernising its military to better posture itself to defend New Delhi’s interests in the broader Indian Ocean region and reinforce its diplomatic and economic outreach across Asia.

Bilateral relations between India and Pakistan worsened following several terrorist attacks in India, he said.

“Continued threat of high level terror attacks in India, violence in Kashmir and bilateral diplomatic recriminations will further strain India-Pakistan ties in 2017,” he said.

Following a terrorist attack on an Army base Kashmir last September, New Delhi conducted a highly publicised operation against militants across the Line of Control, he added.

“In 2016, Indian and Pakistani forces exchanged some of the heaviest fire in years along the Line of Control in Kashmir, and each expelled a number of the other’s diplomats amid growing tension,” Stewart said.

He also told lawmakers that in 2017, Islamabad is likely to slowly shift from traditional counterinsurgency operations along Pakistan’s western border to more counter terrorism and paramilitary operations throughout the country, which have had some success in reducing violence from militant, sectarian, terrorist, and separatist groups.

“Anti-Pakistan groups probably will respond to this sustained pressure by focusing their efforts against soft targets,” he said.

Noting that Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile continues to grow, Stewart said the US is concerned that this growth, as well as an evolving doctrine and inherent security issues
associated with Pakistan’s developing tactical  nuclear weapons, presents an enduring risk.

“Islamabad is taking steps to improve its nuclear security and is aware of the extremist threat to its program,” Stewart said.

Observing that China has long identified the protection of its sovereignty and territorial integrity as a “core interest,” he said in the South China Sea, China has embarked on a multi year, whole-of-government approach to securing sovereignty, principally through maritime law enforcement presence and military patrols.

In 2016, China rejected the international arbitration ruling on its excessive South China Sea claims, built infrastructure at its man made outposts on the Spratly Islands, and for the first time, landed civilian aircraft on its airfields at Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef, and Mischief Reef.

“China will be able to use its reclaimed features as persistent civil-military bases, which will enhance its presence and its ability to control the features and nearby
maritime space. Beijing recognises the need to defend these outposts and is prepared to respond to any military operations near them,” he told the lawmakers.

Stewart said a key component of PLA strategy in a regional contingency is planning for potential US intervention.

The PLA Rocket Force has given priority to developing and deploying regional ballistic and cruise missiles to expand its conventional strike capabilities against US forces and bases throughout the region.

“In addition to the Rocket Force’s fielding of an anti ship ballistic missile, China is fielding an intermediate range ballistic missile capable of conducting conventional and
nuclear strikes against ground targets in the Asia-Pacific region as far away as Guam,” he said.

Timeline of major terror attacks in UK

Police deploy at scene of a reported explosion during a concert in Manchester, England, on May 23, 2017. British police said early May 23 there were "a number of confirmed fatalities" after reports of at least one explosion during a pop concert by US singer Ariana Grande. Ambulances were seen rushing to the Manchester Arena venue and police added in a statement that people should avoid the area. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS
London: Nineteen people have been killed and about 50 injured in a suspected terror attack at the Manchester Arena.

The blast took place on Monday night during a pop concert performed by the American singer Ariana Grande.

Following the attack, British Prime Minister Theresa May has suspended her general election campaign.he Prime Minister said, “We are working to establish the full details of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack. All our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those who have been affected.”

Terror attack at Manchester Arena is just the latest in a long list of terror attacks on Britain since 9/11.

Also Read: 19 killed in suspected terror attack during Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in UK

Here’s a rundown of major attacks in London since 2001.

Timeline of major terrorist attack in UK since 2001

  • August 3, 2001, Ealing Broadway


    Seven people were injured after a car bomb exploded just after midnight in Ealing Broadway, west London. This was the last known attack carried out in the capital by the “Real IRA,” a rogue faction of the Provisional IRA who did not accept the terms of the 1998 peace agreement. Four men were arrested and later sentenced in connection with the blast.

  • 7 July 2005, London Underground trains

    On July 7, 2005, a series of suicide bombings in London killed 52 people and wounded more than 770. The attackers targeted the city’s transport system, detonating bombs hidden in their backpacks on three London Underground trains. Around an hour later, a fourth attacker blew himself up on a double-decker bus.

    The incident was one of the worst terror attacks in British history. Four British attackers linked to al Qaeda were found to have carried out the bombings, and all of them died in the blasts. On July 21, a similar plot failed when unexploded bombs were found on three subway trains and a bus.

  • March 7, 2009, Northern Ireland

    On 7 March 2009, two off-duty British soldiers of 38 Engineer Regiment were shot dead outside Massereene Barracks in Antrim town, Northern Ireland. Two other soldiers and two civilian delivery men were also shot and wounded during the attack. An Irish republican paramilitary group, the Real IRA, claimed responsibility for the incident.

    The shootings were the first British military fatalities in Northern Ireland since 1997. Two days later, the Continuity IRA shot dead a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer, the first Northern Irish police officer to be killed by paramilitaries since 1998. These attacks marked the beginning of the most intensive period of “dissident republican” activity since the start of their campaign.

  • May 22, 2013, Woolich

    Lee Rigby, a 25-year-old British soldier, was killed in a terror attack in Woolwich, southeast of London, on May 22, 2013. Two assailants rammed Rigby with a car before stabbing and attempting to behead him on a street outside his army barracks. Horrified bystanders witnessed the attack, which was also caught on video.

    The killers were two British Islamist extremists in their 20s who said they killed Rigby as an act of war. Both men were arrested at the scene and later convicted for murder. The violence of the attack shocked Britain, and prompted numerous memorials for Rigby.

  • December 7, 2015, Leytonstone Station Stabbing

    An attacker stabbed multiple people in the Leytonstone Underground station in East London on Decmber 6, 2015. Muhiddin Mire, a 30-year-old taxi driver diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, randomly targeted people in the station in what he later claimed was an act of revenge for Western airstrikes on Syria.

    In footage of the attack, commuters can be heard screaming at Mire to put down his knife. One man calls out “You ain’t no Muslim, bruv.” People on Twitter later took up the phrase as a way to emphasize that Mire’s actions didn’t represent Islam.

    Mire was convicted for attempted murder and multiple counts of attempted wounding. Two doctors who reviewed the case disagreed on whether his mental illness, as opposed to his extremist beliefs, could be considered the cause for the attack.

  • March 22 2017, UK Parliament

    London attacker Khalid Masood mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing two men and two women and injuring many others.

    He crashed his car into the railings outside Parliament, got out and ran into New Palace Yard where he stabbed a police 

Ariana Grande ‘broken’ after UK concert terror attack

London, US pop star Ariana Grande said today that she was “broken” and at a loss for words over the deadly terror attack at her concert in the British city of Manchester.

“Broken. From the bottom of my heart, I am so so sorry. i don’t have words,” she tweeted hours after a powerful blast ripped through a crowded arena hosting her concert, killing 19 people and injuring over 50 others.

Eyewitnesses said the explosion was heard outside the auditorium after the artist had finished her show and left the stage.

Grande, a 23-year-old American TV teen actress-turned-pop star, is a big draw for young fans, with hits including Problem, featuring Iggy Azalea, which hit number one in the UK
in 2014, and Side To Side, featuring Nicki Minaj.

She is currently on a European tour and has already played in Birmingham and Dublin and was due to be at the O2 Arena in London tomorrow and Thursday.

However, following the blast there was no clarity on whether she will continue with her tour.

Her current ‘The Dangerous Woman Tour’ is in support of her third studio album, ‘Dangerous Woman’ which released last year on May 20. The tour began on February 3, in Phoenix, Arizona.

The album is the follow-up to her 2014 studio album ‘My Everything’ and features guest appearances from Minaj, Lil Wayne, Macy Gray and Future. The lead single “Dangerous
Woman” was released on March 11, 2016.

Manchester attack: Local Gurudwaras offer shelter to blast victims, stranded survivors

London [UK]: Gurudwaras in Manchester are offering shelter to those affected and stranded by Tuesday’s deadly Manchester Arena blast.

“Sikh Temples in Manchester, UK offering food & accommodation. They are open for ALL people. #PrayForManchester #ManchesterArena #England,” tweeted Harjinder S Kukreja along with the address of the four Sikh temples located in the vicinity.

The Gurudwaras are Sri Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara Educational & Cultural Centre located at 57 Upper Chorlton Rd, Manchester M16 7RQ; Gurdwara Sri Guru Harkrishan Sahib located at 12 Sherborne St, Manchester M3 1FE, Dasmesh Sikh Temple located at 98 Heywood St, Manchester M8 0DT and Central Gurdwara Manchester located at 32 Derby St, Manchester M8 8RY.

The locals in the area also took to Twitter to offer shelter to those affected.

 #RoomForManchester: Locals open their homes for those stranded post blast
“#roomformanchester. Anyone needing help or a place to stay tonight we are 10 minutes walk from the Manchester arena. Spare room and 2 sofas,” said a Twitter user.

“If anyone needs a sofa, a charger, a brew-please dm. Located just off Piccadilly Gardens #roomformanchester @GMPCityCentre #ManchesterArena,” said another.

In what could be described as one of the worst terror attack in Britain, at least 19 people were killed and dozens of other injured as a suspected suicide bomber carried out a carnage during an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England.

The explosion occurred near the foyer area of the arena in what is being reported as a “nail bomb attack”.

A man found dead at the scene is thought to be the probable suicide bomber, according to reports.

Last England saw such a deadly terror attack was in 2005 when on July 7, terrorists carried out a series of coordinated suicide bomb attacks in central London which targeted civilians using the public transport system during the rush hour.

Fifty-two people were killed and over 700 more were injured in the attacks.

Also, in 2009, the Manchester police had thwarted a major terror bid to attack Manchester’s Arndale shopping centre on the busy Easter bank holiday weekend.

With up to 90,000 shoppers in or near the shopping centre at the time, police believe an attack would have killed hundreds and maimed thousands.

A student identified as Abid Naseer, 29, who plotted the mass suicide bomb attack was jailed for 40 years in 2015.

Pleased to meet Nawaz Sharif: Donald Trump

Riyadh: United States of America President Donald Trump had a brief encounter with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday and said he was pleased to meet him. The interaction took place before the Arab Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Conference Centre in Riyadh, GEO News reported. The US president shook hands with PM Nawaz and exchange of pleasantries took place between the two leaders.

During the brief meeting, Trump said that he was very pleased to meet PM Nawaz to which the premier responded that the feeling is mutual. King Salman Bin Abdulaziz also warmly welcomed the PM. Trump addressed the summit which was attended by leaders from 55 countries. PM Sharif arrived in Riyadh to attend the summit on the invitation of King Salman Bin Abdulaziz. After departing Islamabad in the morning, the premier arrived along with his delegation, which comprises several government officials and media persons, including foreign affairs’ adviser Sartaj Aziz and lawyer Akram Sheikh. The summit is being attended by around three dozen leaders of Islamic countries, including the prime ministers of Bangladesh and Malaysia, and presidents of Afghanistan, Egypt, as well as Trump.

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