BAGHDAD/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Iraqi forces recaptured territory from advancing Islamic State militants near the recently-fallen city of Ramadi on Sunday, while in Syria the government said the Islamists had killed hundreds of people since capturing the town of Palmyra. The fall of Ramadi and Palmyra, on opposite ends of the vast territory controlled by Islamic State fighters, were the militant group's biggest successes since a U.S.-led coalition launched an air war to stop them last year. The near simultaneous victories against the Iraqi and Syrian armies have forced Washington to examine its strategy, which involves bombing from the air but leaving fighting on the ground to local forces in both countries.
Syria's air force carried out at least 15 strikes in and around the central city of Palmyra early on Monday, targeting buildings captured by Islamic State, a group monitoring the war said. Fighters from the militant group overran the ancient city, the site of some of the world's best preserved Roman ruins, last week. This was in addition to at least 300 soldiers killed by Islamic State in fighting leading up to the city's capture, according to the Observatory's toll.
The general in charge of Iran's paramilitary activities in the Middle East said the United States and other powers were failing to confront Islamic State, and only Iran was committed to the task, a news agency on Monday reported. Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force responsible for protecting the Islamic Republic's interests abroad, has become a familiar face on the battlefields of Iraq, where he often outranks local commanders. "Today, in the fight against this dangerous phenomenon, nobody is present except Iran," the Tasnim news agency quoted Soleimani as saying on Sunday in reference to Islamic State.
By Praveen Menon WANG KELIAN, Malaysia (Reuters) - Malaysian authorities have found 139 graves, and signs of torture, in more than two dozen squalid human trafficking camps suspected to have been used by gangs smuggling migrants across the border with Thailand, the country's police chief said on Monday. The dense jungles of southern Thailand and northern Malaysia have been a major route for smugglers bringing people to Southeast Asia by boat from Myanmar, most of them Rohingya Muslims who say they are fleeing persecution, and Bangladesh. "It's a very sad scene... To us even one is serious and we have found 139," Malaysia's Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters at a news conference in the northern state of Perlis.
China said it had lodged a complaint with the United States over a U.S. spy plane that flew over parts of the disputed South China Sea in a diplomatic row that has fuelled tension between the world's two largest economies. Friction in the region has grown over China's land reclamation in the Spratly islands. China last week said it was "strongly dissatisfied" after a U.S. spy plane flew over areas near the reefs, with both sides accusing each other of stoking instability.
By John O'Donnell and Axel Bugge SINTRA, Portugal (Reuters) - Celebrated among Europe's elite as a model of how to reform an economy after a debt binge, Portugal's enthusiasm for change has waned as Europe loses its appetite for further belt-tightening. With Greece's future in the euro uncertain, after its leftist government all but tore up a reform-for-aid deal, Europe's policy setters are putting an extra shine on other countries that were bailed out - in part to avoid a spillover. "l compared the case of Portugal to the film 'Match Point'," Jose Manuel Barroso, the former president of the European Commission, and one-time prime minister of Portugal, told Reuters, referring to Woody Allen's film.
About 40 people were wounded Monday when a Taliban suicide bomber detonated a truck carrying around a tonne of explosives at the gate of a government complex in southern Afghanistan, officials said. Women and children were among those injured in the attack on the complex in Zabul province, which includes several government buildings including the provincial council. "Around 40 people were wounded in the suicide attack on the complex" in the provincial capital Qalat, local police chief Mirwais Noorzai told AFP.
Syrian government aircraft launched at least 15 strikes in and around the ancient city of Palymra on Monday, following its fall to the Islamic State group, a monitoring group said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the raids were the most intense since the jihadists overran the city on Thursday. "Since this morning, government aircraft have carried out at least 15 air strikes in Palmyra and the areas around it," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
ADEN/CAIRO (Reuters) - Heavy artillery clashes between Yemen's dominant Houthi rebel group and local fighters shook the southern cities of Taiz and Dalea on Monday, residents said, and a Yemeni official said U.N. peace talks set for Geneva later this week had been delayed. Militiamen seized the main security directorate and strategic mountaintop buildings from the Houthis in Dalea, a bastion of a secessionist movement in Yemen's formerly independent south, much of which has been destroyed in more than two months of fighting. In the southern city of Taiz, Houthi fighters pushed back tribal and Islamist militiamen amid heavy street combat, and Arab air raids hit a military base loyal to Houthis in the capital Sanaa on Monday.
Flash flooding from record rains in Texas and Oklahoma left at least three people dead and destroyed hundreds of homes, authorities said Sunday, warning of more wild weather to come. In the Texan city of San Marcos, residents were ordered to evacuate their homes in the early morning as flood waters rose menacingly around them, following torrential rain that turned normally bone-dry streets into meandering rivers. As many as 400 homes in the surrounding area had been destroyed, authorities said, and San Marcos opened temporary shelters to host residents who could not return home.
LONDON (AP) — With its classic red phone booth, pub, and medieval church, Harmondsworth's center looks quintessentially British. But the search for a twee English village isn't what brings millions of people within a stone's throw of its boundaries.
A Chinese millionaire and self-confessed Star Trek fan has boldly gone where no man has gone before with the design of his company headquarters, erected in the shape of the USS Enterprise. It was built by "Trekkie" Liu Dejian, the boss of mobile Internet app developer NetDragon Websoft, at a cost of $160 million, the newspaper said. "An informed source at NetDragon told reporters that the building is called 'Enterprise'," the report added.
A Jerusalem court sentenced former prime minister Ehud Olmert to eight months in prison on Monday, after convicting him of corruption in a March retrial, Israeli media reported. Lawyers for Olmert, who served as premier from 2006 to 2009, immediately announced they would appeal. The 69-year-old already faces a six-year prison sentence handed down in a separate bribery case which is currently the subject of an appeal to the supreme court.
The United States and Turkey have agreed "in principle" to give air support to some forces from Syria's mainstream opposition, Turkey's foreign minister said, in what if confirmed could mark an expansion of U.S. involvement in the conflict. There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials on the assertion -- though Washington has so far refrained from committing to enforcing a "safe zone" for Syrian rebels, as it could be seen as a declaration of war on the Syrian state. The air support would protect Syrian rebel forces who have been trained by a U.S.-led program on Turkish territory, said minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Malaysian police said on Monday they had found 139 grave sites and 28 abandoned "detention" camps capable of housing hundreds of people, laying bare the grim extent of the region's migrant crisis. National police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said authorities were exhuming the remains and it remained unclear how many bodies may lie in the pits, located in a remote and hard-to-reach area of mountainous jungle along the Thai border. "(Authorities) found 139 suspected graves.
PARIS (AP) — Someone has been appearing more and more often alongside French President Francois Hollande on official visits abroad and in high-level meetings in Elysee Palace. It's no ordinary someone — it's Segolene Royal, the president's ex-partner and mother of his four children, and one of his most prominent government ministers.
By Amy Sawitta Lefevre BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai police said on Monday there were no human trafficking camps left in southern Thailand following a month-long crackdown and the discovery of seven camps in mountainous jungle near the Thai-Malaysian border. The comments came hours after Malaysia's police said they had uncovered 139 graves thought to contain the remains of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh scattered around more than two dozen suspected trafficking camps near the border with Thailand. Earlier this month, 36 bodies believed to be of migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar were found in Thailand's southern Songkhla province.
The government's new legislative programme, including a referendum bill on leaving the EU, will be announced by Queen Elizabeth II Wednesday as parliament gets down to business after the Conservatives' election win. The mood of Westminster's grandest day is likely to be sunny as the queen comes to parliament in full ceremonial regalia and Prime Minister David Cameron's party basks in this month's surprise outright win over Labour, who are now hunting for a new leader.
The corn farmer said Friday's gunfight that killed 42 criminal suspects and one federal police officer made him even more afraid of working his plot of land in the violent region. The ranch was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles in nearly a decade of drug conflicts in Mexico, with burning vehicles blowing up and assault rifles echoing across corn fields. The shootout took place in Tanhuato, Michoacan state, near the border with Jalisco.
PARIS (AP) — When Frances Tiafoe steps on Court 5 at the French Open for his Grand Slam main-draw debut Monday, he'll be the first 17-year-old American man to play in the clay-court tournament since 1989, when Pete Sampras and Michael Chang did it.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced Monday to eight months in prison for unlawfully accepting money from a U.S. supporter, capping the dramatic downfall of a man who only years earlier led the country and hoped to bring about a historic peace agreement with the Palestinians.
WANG KELIAN, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian authorities said Monday they have discovered 139 suspected graves in a series of abandoned camps used by human traffickers on the border with Thailand where Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar were believed to have been held.
SYDNEY (AP) — The man who took 18 people hostage at a Sydney cafe last year was educated and erratic, secretive about his own life and public about his many grievances, and a self-obsessed fabulist who grew increasingly defiant as he edged closer to launching his deadly attack, lawyers told an inquest Monday.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia on Monday moved to increase cooperation between its security agencies against the threat of Islamic State group militants by appointing two new counterterrorism coordinators.
KUALA CANGKOI, Indonesia (AP) — It was just the two of them, brother and sister, out on the open ocean with hundreds of other desperate migrants, mostly Rohingya Muslims fleeing their homes in Myanmar. For nearly three months, the siblings comforted each other when rolling waves thrashed their boat, when their empty bellies ached and when they were beaten for trying to stand up to stretch their legs. As the oldest, Mohammad Aesop - just 10 years old - knew it was his job to keep his 8-year-old sister safe. But with the Thai crew wielding guns and threatening to throw troublemakers overboard, he felt helpless.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece will continue paying its debts, after its ruling Radical Left Coalition narrowly rejected a call by party hardliners to miss its next International Monetary Fund loan payment.
The operator of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has jointly won a large power and water infrastructure contract in the desert state of Qatar, it said Monday. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and Japanese trading house Mitsubishi Corp have been selected by a company backed by the Qatari government to build and operate power and water plants for 25 years, in a project worth some $2.5 billion. The announcement will be welcome news for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has led the drive for Japanese companies to sell their technology abroad and represents TEPCO's biggest foreign commercial success since the triple meltdowns at Fukushima in 2011.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine aircraft will continue to fly their usual routes over disputed reefs in the South China Sea, the country's president said Monday, defying China's challenges to its planes and those of the United States.
Australia head coach Ange Postecoglou named Monday the bulk of his Asian Cup champions squad to face Kyrgyzstan in the opening 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Bishkek on June 16. There are no uncapped players and 19 members of the AFC Asian Cup winning squad from January, with Postecoglou declaring the group as the "core of the squad that will take us through to the next World Cup". Tim Cahill, Matthew Spiranovic and Eugene Galekovic return after missing the recent matches against Germany and Macedonia with Aaron Mooy, Adam Federici and Luke Devere left out.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Islamic State group's takeover of the Iraqi provincial capital Ramadi has prompted criticism from U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and raised new questions about the Obama administration's strategy to defeat the extremist group.
By Larry Fine NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tampa Bay Lightning stood firm on defense before striking with two brilliant second-period goals to move within one victory of the Stanley Cup Finals with a 2-0 road win over the New York Rangers on Sunday. The victory lifted Tampa Bay into a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals with the series heading back to Florida on Tuesday. Tampa Bay, who led the National Hockey League in scoring, weathered four New York power-plays before taking charge at Madison Square Garden.
KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Thousands of villagers in northwestern Nepal were able to return to their homes Monday after a mountain river swept away debris from a landslide that had blocked it, allowing waters to flow normally again.
The outbreak of violence that plunged the Central African Republic into chaos in 2013 has left a legacy of suspicion, fear and hatred that still plagues places like the southern mining town of Boda. It's as if we're in prison," says Bouburori Bindowo, deputy mayor of the town of around 11,000 people, whose Muslim residents, of whom he is one, live segregated from the often hostile Christian majority. The violence erupted after the 2013 coup that ousted president Francois Bozize and pushed the country into a conflict that took on an unprecedented religious dimension, pitting sections of Christian and Muslim populations against one another.