Archive for June, 2019

19 June
Comments Off on Dozens of IS hostages rescued from ‘imminent execution’ by US and Iraqi forces

Dozens of IS hostages rescued from ‘imminent execution’ by US and Iraqi forces

Sixty-nine hostages were rescued in the action, which targeted an Islamic State prison around 7 kilometers north of the town of Hawija, according to the security council of the Kurdistan region, whose counterterrorism forces took part.


Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said at a news briefing the operation did not mark a change in US tactics in the war on Islamic State militants, who pose the biggest security threat to Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

“I would not suggest that this is something that is now going to happen on a regular basis, but I do think it is symbolic of the kinds of efforts that we are taking on behalf of our partners,” he told reporters.

It was the most significant raid against Islamic State since May, when American special operations forces killed one of its senior leaders, Abu Sayyaf from Tunisia, in a raid in Syria.

The US rescue mission unfolded amid mounting concerns in Washington over increasing Russian intervention in the Middle East.

The hostages rescued in the raid were all Arabs, including local residents and Islamic State fighters held as suspected spies, a US official said on Thursday.

The official told Reuters that around 20 of the hostages were members of Iraqi security forces.

“Some of the remainder were Daesh (Islamic State) … fighters that Daesh thought were spies,” the official said. “The rest of them were citizens of the local town”.

More than 20 Islamic State militants were killed and six detained, the security council said.

Islamic State called the operation “unsuccessful” but acknowledged casualties among its fighters.

In a statement distributed online on Thursday by supporters, it said US gunships had shelled areas around the prison to prevent the arrival of reinforcements, then clashed with militants for two hours.

The statement confirmed US claims that some guards had been killed and others detained in the operation.

“Dozens” of US troops were involved in the mission, a US defense official said, declining to be more specific about the number.

“It was a deliberately planned operation, but it was also done with the knowledge that imminent action was needed to save the lives of these people,” the US defense official said.

The US serviceman was shot during the mission and taken to the Kurdistan regional capital Erbil, where he died, the US defense official said. He was the first American serviceman killed in ground combat in Iraq since the United States withdrew its forces in 2011.

US Army Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for US-led coalition in Iraq, said the possibility that Americans were among the hostages was not a consideration in carrying out the operation.

Some of the rescued people said Islamic State militants had told them they would be executed after morning prayers, Warren said.

The US forces were acting as advisors then were sucked into the battle when Kurdish fighters came under heavy fire, he explained.

“They were pinned down and they were beginning to take casualties, so the Americans in the heat of battle made a decision,” he said.

Cook said he was not aware at this point that there were any Americans among those who were rescued. “My understanding is there was no indication there were specifically Americans present here.

“The understanding was that there were a number of hostages, although we were not sure exactly who was among that group, but that they had been held there for some time and again the information we had received … was that those hostages did fear for their lives, that there was the threat of a mass execution perhaps within hours.”

He said the mission had been requested by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Sources in the Hawija area said they heard blasts and gunfire overnight and that Islamic State militants had withdrawn from view after the raid, apparently relocating their bases.

Five US helicopters launched from Erbil were involved in the mission, and the United States was providing helicopter lift, intelligence support, air strike support, and advisory support to the peshmerga, the US defense official said.

Air strikes were launched before and after the mission to block approaches to the prison and destroy it afterward, the US defense official said.

Hawija is a stronghold of Islamic State militants who have captured several dozen Kurdish peshmerga fighters in battle.

Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has been for more than a year the target of daily air strikes in Iraq and Syria by a US-led coalition.

The United States’ former Cold War foe Russia has been conducting airstrikes in Syria against opponents of its closest regional ally Bashar al-Assad, as Iraq questions American resolve to fight militants on its soil.

Russia has also joined a Baghdad-based intelligence cell along with Iran, Iraq and Syria that has provided information on Islamic State targets.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi faces intense pressure from the ruling coalition and powerful Shi’ite militias to request Russian air strikes on Islamic State, which controls a third of the major OPEC oil producer.

(Additional reporting by Yeganeh Torbati and David Alexander in Washington and Stephen Kalin in Baghdad; Editing by Michael Georgy, Toni Reinhold)

19 June
Comments Off on European master paintings come to Australia

European master paintings come to Australia

Some of the world’s most significant old master paintings are on display at the Art Gallery of NSW – with many works appearing in Australia for the first time.


From Titian’s Venus rising from the Sea or a classic by Boticelli, Michael Clarke the director of the Scottish National Gallery said in a busy world the collection encouraged us to simply stand still.

“Where as so much flits across in the world of social media, film, TV, in front our eyes in a matter of instants, these are things you can stand infront of for 15 to 20 minutes and really analyse and think about,” he said.

The exhibition brings together more than 70 of the paintings and drawings from a collection held by the National Galleries of Scotland.

With the exception of two paintings, it’s the first time most of these works have been exhibited in Australia.

The work covers a period of 400 years from the Renaissance to Impressionism and the biggest names in Western art from Rembrandt to Monet to some of the greats of Scottish art, which has a special section dedicated to it.

The room replicates the Scottish National Gallery’s interior where octagonal rooms and sumptuous red fabric line the walls.

Ms Clarke said it was a tradition replicated in many European countries.

“For centuries it’s been a traditional colour for displaying old master paintings,” he said.

“From the Piazza De Pitti in Florence or somewhere like that. It’s a colour that works very well for old masters.”

As for what the old European masters offer contemporary Australia Michael Brand, the director of the Art Gallery of NSW, said some things never get old.

“Every few years someone says painting is dead,” he said.

“Painting is an extrordinary artfrom, it’s magical, and this exhibition – the cool brushstrokes of Boticelli, to Titian right through Monet – [has] just superb examples of great painting.”

The exhibition opens on Saturday and runs until February, 2016. Tours are available in Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese well a special lecture in Spanish. 

19 June
Comments Off on Stocco manhunt area widened

Stocco manhunt area widened

Detectives have confirmed a vehicle that rammed a police car in northern Victoria on Thursday afternoon was that of father and son fugitives Gino and Mark Stocco.


It was the same Toyota LandCruiser that Gino, 58, and Mark, 35, had stolen in the NSW town of Holbrook on Sunday or Monday, police say, although its number plates had been switched.

Decals had been added to the vehicle in an additional attempt to disguise it.

Police also have a new confirmed sighting of the pair entering a supermarket in Bairnsdale about 10.30am on Wednesday.

The latest developments come as police said they have widened the search zone for Australia’s most wanted men.

“It’s believed the men remain in the northeastern corner of Victoria and the police presence in areas surrounding Yea, St James, Wangaratta and Bairnsdale will be increased,” Victoria Police said in a statement late on Friday.

The public are urged to report any sighting but to not approach the men, who are armed and dangerous.

They are carrying a high-powered rifle and fired at police in country NSW while evading arrest.

The LandCruiser had Victorian number plates (ZUE632) when in Bairnsdale and these same plates were on the vehicle when it rammed a police car at St James on Thursday.

They are also known to be carrying the number plates NSW BV70WP, Vic YHS085 and SA 415AZL.

The manhunt has focused this week on the rural town of Yea about 100 kilometres north of Melbourne.

A chef at a cafe on Yea’s main road told AAP he was not taking any chances.

“I’m not really worried, but at night I do make sure the doors are locked,” Tony Zhao told AAP.

The father-of-two said he doubted the pair would approach the town centre but there were concerns.

“I am worried that they might threaten a local or grab a local person and use them as a hostage against police,” Mr Zhou said.


Oct 16 – Shoot at police in Wagga Wagga

Oct 18 or 19 – Steal a Toyota LandCruiser with NSW plates from Holbrook

Oct 19 – Refuel at a petrol station in Euroa

Oct 20 or 21 – Steal three sets of number plates from an address in Tumbarumba

Oct 21 – Seen entering a supermarket in Bairnsdale

Oct 22 – Ram a police car near St James

19 June
Comments Off on Wallabies delay naming team to play Argentina

Wallabies delay naming team to play Argentina

The Wallabies were due to name their team on Friday morning but held back the announcement until the afternoon so they could conduct a full-contact training session.


Number eight David Pocock, fullback Israel Folau and prop Scott Sio have skipped almost all of this week’s practice runs but coach Michael Cheika said they would have to complete a full session to be considered for selection.

“We’ll run them out today and see how we go,” Cheika told a news conference.

“It’s a World Cup semi-final so it’s not like we’re keeping anyone for next week.”

Pocock, who is suffering from a calf problem, and Folau, hampered by an ankle injury, both missed last weekend’s quarter-final win over Scotland.

But Cheika said he remains optimistic both will play.

“Nothing’s changed. Like I’ve said before, they’re on the improve,” he said.

“The goal will be for them to play to get out on the paddock today and have a bit of a run around, finish the full session and see how they go.”

Sio is more doubtful. The loosehead prop, who has played a big role in improving Australia’s scrum, started against the Scots but left the field early with a badly swollen elbow.

“He ran a little bit the other day. It all depends on how much the swelling comes down in his elbow,” Cheika said.

“Obviously it’s important for him for scrummaging in particular so that will be the main issue there.”

James Slipper is the most likely replacement for Sio if he is not passed fit.

Ben McCalman, who started at the back of the scrum last week, would keep his place if Pocock was ruled out with Kurtley Beale likely to continue at fullback if Folau is not fit.

(Reporting by Julian Linden. Editing by Patrick Johnston)

19 June
Comments Off on Police search homes in mum-daughter murder

Police search homes in mum-daughter murder

NSW Police have searched homes in the ACT and South Australia as their investigation into the muders of Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson and her daughter Khandalyce ramps up.


Speaking to the media on Friday, NSW homicide squad boss Detective Superintendent Mark Willing said Strike Force Malaya had been formed to co-ordinate the multi-jurisdictional investigation.

“We’ve searched a number of homes in the ACT and South Australia of people we suspect are connected with Karlie and Khandalyce and those searches have been very productive,” he said.

“We’re speaking to people we suspect have actual knowledge of what occured to this young mum and her little girl.”

A police spokeswoman told the media the homes that were searched were not related to possible suspects were are currently serving unrelated sentences for violent crimes in NSW prisons.

The remains of the 20-year-old single mum and her little girl Khandalyce, were found five years and 1200km apart.

Karlie’s body was discovered in the Belanglo State Forest, south of Sydney, in 2010 while her daughter’s bones were found in a discarded suitcase beside a highway near Wynarka, in South Australia’s southeast, in July.

The police spokeswoman said the car Karlie was driivng at the time has since been re-registered from the Northern Territory to NSW plates.

She said the last registered owner of the car had been discounted as a suspect but had given police a new lead in the investigation.

Detective Superintendent Willing said police had been overwhelmed by support from the community and the media, and he asked that the support continue.

“There is every indication that friends or associates – people Karlie may have met or been in contact with while travelling between 2006 and 2010 – hold the key to their deaths,” he said.

“This is now a multi-jurisdictional investigation, which spans at least two states and two territories over a time period of up to 10 years.

“Our focus is gathering evidence and building a solid case. 

“We want to charge those responsible and ensure a conviction for what can only be described as the brutal murder of a young mum and her little girl.”

Karlie was 20 when she was last seen driving near Coober Pedy with then two-year-old Khandalyce in November 2008.

“(We are) appealing for people from across the country who may have seen this young mum and this little girl at any time in the last 10 years so we can piece together their moments,” Detective Superintendent Willing told the Seven Network.

Landlords and operators of hotels, motels, caravan and cabin parks are being urged to check their records for any sign of Karlie.

Meanwhile family say the pair will be laid to rest in Alice Springs thanks to funds raised by the public and the help of the local government.

An online campaign, which kicked off on Wednesday, raised nearly $4000 in two days.

On Thursday afternoon, $1060 short of the $5000 target, the campaign ended after an offer of help.

“With your help this campaign was brought to people’s attention and we have now been offered some assistance from local government with costs,” a post from someone who appeared to be family of the deceased said.