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Islamic Radical Group Boko Haram Expands Raids into Niger, Kidnaps 15 Girls

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Islamic terror group Boko Haram has expanded its deadly raids into the country of Niger, killing seven workers at a mining company and kidnapping 15 girls from nearby villages, Christian Post reports.

The radicals, who since 2009 have been active in Nigeria but have also attacked neighboring Cameroon, reportedly killed seven people at the French mining company FORACO in the Diffa region in Niger last week. Later in the week the terrorists raided the villages of Blahardé and Bandé in the municipality of Toumour, kidnapping 15 girls, Fides News said.

Boko Haram is renowned for kidnapping masses of schoolgirls throughout Nigeria, including many Christian girls, and attempting to force them to renounce their Christian faith and marry jihadi fighters. Politicians in Diffa responded to the latest raid by calling on the Army to locate and rescue the hostages.

“We ask the government, despite all the efforts already made, to take urgent measures to find the abducted women, and return them to their families,” parliamentarians said in a statement.

“Other events could occur: if we do not anticipate the deadly actions of Boko Haram, we will live more difficult situations. We ask the government to consider our requests, not only as elected officials in the Diffa region, but also on behalf of the peoples of the region who are experiencing moments of extreme difficulty,” they warned.

There had been hopes that the terror group is being defeated under the presidency of Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, but attacks in several countries have continued and increased in the past few months. AFP reported that Buhari is planning on visiting with military troops fighting the Islamic State terror group-affiliated rebels, in the wake of clashes that have left scores of soldiers either dead or missing. As many as 100 soldiers are believed to have been killed during a massive Boko Haram raid on a base in Metele village near the border with Niger on Nov. 18.

“There is need for a change in the war strategies. Our troops should be more proactive rather than reactive. We have to find out why the insurgents have more superior firearms than our soldiers. What has happened to our huge defense budget?,” said security consultant Don Okereke to AFP.

More than 27,000 are believed to have been killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria since the start of the attacks in 2009, with thousands of women and children held in captivity and used for ransom.

The story of 15-year-old Leah Sharibu who was kidnapped from a school in February has drawn international attention, as the Christian girl has refused to convert to Islam to gain her freedom. Boko Haram has demanded a ransom payment of $275 million for Sharibu’s release, and has warned they will hold her captive and use her as a slave for life if their demands aren’t met.

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Iran Blocks Nearly All Internet Access

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Iran imposed an almost complete nationwide internet blackout on Sunday one of its most draconian attempts to cut off Iranians from each other and the rest of the world as widespread anti-government unrest roiled the streets of Tehran and other cities for a third day, The New York Times reported.

The death toll for the three days of protests rose to at least 12; hundreds were injured; and more than 1,000 people have been arrested, according to semiofficial news agencies like Fars News.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last word on all state matters, called the demonstrators “thugs” and endorsed the government’s decision to raise prices it sets for rationed gasoline by 50 percent as of Friday and by 300 percent for gasoline that exceeds ration limits. Even after the price hike, gasoline in Iran is still cheaper than in most of the rest of the world – now the equivalent of about 50 cents a gallon.

In a speech on Sunday, Khamenei said he would support rationing and increasing gas prices because heads of three branches of government had made the decision.

Khamenei also acknowledged that Iranians had taken to the streets to protest and that some had died – however, he blamed the protests on monarchists and opposition groups trying to destabilize Iran, the Times added.

The widespread discontent on display across the country marked yet another crisis for the country. Iran has been struggling with an economic crisis after the United States exited a nuclear deal and reimposed harsh sanctions that ban Iran’s oil sales.

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HASC Chairman Claims Legislation to Create a Space Force in 2020 ‘Still Possible’

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House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said last week that negotiations on the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act are “proceeding reasonably well” but he expressed doubt that the NDAA will include language to authorize a Space Force as a separate military branch, SpaceNews reported.

“It’s still possible but by no means guaranteed,” Smith told reporters on Capitol Hill last week. When asked for specifics, Smith said, “I don’t think it would be helpful for me to make predictions.”

The biggest sticking point in the NDAA negotiations is language in the House version of the bill that restricts the use of military funds to pay for the wall that President Trump wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border, SpaceNews adds.

There are other dealbreaker issues. The authorization of a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces is one of them, Smith said. Other contentious matters include extending the “war powers” legislation that authorizes the president to use military force, and allowing transgender people to serve in the military.

Smith said the House and Senate NDAA conference in recent weeks worked on compromise language on hundreds of provisions and “reduced the stack significantly, and we’re down to a few really contentious issues.”

Smith characterized the Space Force as a “higher echelon” issue that is proving divisive. Both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate continue to have reservations about the administration’s Space Force proposal, said Smith. “There is bipartisan concern on the proposal and bicameral concern about the specifics of that proposal.”

The House version of the NDAA creates a Space Corps and is closer aligned with what the administration proposed. The Senate bill would rename the Air Force Space Command the U.S. Space Force and does not specifically authorize a sixth branch of the armed forces.

Smith noted that the House has been a proponent of a military space branch since 2017 while the Senate had adamantly opposed it. “In their bill they didn’t have the same language that we did. But the president has persuaded them to look at it differently.”

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Gunman Kills Four at California Backyard Party

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Police in the California city of Fresno were investigating a mass shooting at a football game party on Sunday in which at least 10 people were shot, killing four, with five others left in critical condition and another wounded, Reuters informs.

Three men died at the scene and another died at a hospital, Fresno Deputy Police Chief Michael Reed said in a late night news conference. Six more were hospitalized, he said.

“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this thing,” Reed said. “This was senseless violence. We’re going to do everything we can to find out who the perpetrators were and bring them to justice.”

A gunman walked into a backyard and started shooting at a south Fresno home, where a gathering of about 35 family and friends was watching a football game before 8 p.m., said Reed. Neighbors soon flooded 911 dispatchers with calls for help, Reuters adds.

The suspect fled the scene and police were combing the neighborhood for witnesses and possible security camera footage, police said. Police did not release further information about the shooting in the city about 200 miles (320 km) north of Los Angeles, except that the dead were men between the ages of 25 and 35.

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