Turkey has intensified its shelling of Kurdish militia in northern Syria, ahead of a threatened ground offensive aimed at driving them out of the area.
The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) said 70 shells were fired overnight.
Turkey has for months said it would clear YPG fighters from Afrin, under Kurdish control since 2012. Turkey regards the YPG as a terrorist group. Syria has warned against an incursion, threatening to shoot down Turkish jets.
Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli said the shelling was the “de-facto start” of a planned invasion of Afrin. Rizan Habou, of the Syrian Democratic Council in Afrin, said that residents were seeking shelter. “When the villages in Afrin are shelled, the civilians [including] women and children are forced to leave their houses and go to the relatively safer surrounding open space and farmland till the shelling stops,” he said. “The YPG and the civilians will defend Afrin to the last moment.”
Turkey’s military and intelligence chiefs are in Moscow to try to get Russia’s agreement to allow Turkish planes to use the Russian-controlled airspace above Afrin.
Russia’s acquiescence will be essential for any Turkish operation. It is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has a contingent of soldiers at the airport in the centre of Afrin. Turkey has intermittently shelled and carried out air strikes against the YPG in the Afrin area, from where fighters have fired rockets into Turkey.
Seven TV crew members have been arrested at a US airport after allegedly trying to film the smuggling of a fake bomb through security.
The incident happened on Thursday at Newark Liberty in New Jersey. Transport officials said a bag carrying an item with “all the makings of an improvised explosive device” was found before it had cleared security.
US media say the crew were part of a reality show being made by a production company for CNBC. The production company, Endemol Shine North America, issued a statement saying it was investigating the incident and co-operating with the authorities. “We sincerely apologise for any disruption caused,” the statement said.
Endemol Shine produces the show, Staten Island Hustle, which CNBC has taken up. CNBC has not yet commented. The crew reportedly wanted to covertly film themselves going through a security checkpoint with the fake device.
Thirty-three people have been arrested in Italy on suspicion of being members of the Chinese mafia, police say.
The early morning raids targeted a group accused of controlling the transport across Europe of products made in China and by Chinese in Italy.
The “China Truck” operation was part of an investigation which started in 2011. The arrested suspects are accused of links to a criminal organisation. Police say 21 other people are under investigation.
The group started its operations in the Tuscan city of Prato and extended its influence to the capital Rome and also to Florence, Milan, Padua and Pisa, police said in a statement (in Italian).
They also acted in France and Spain, and were believed to be involved in other illegal activities such as prostitution and drug trafficking.
An extra £44.5m is to be spent beefing up Channel border security, the UK government is to say later.
It will be spent on fencing, CCTV and infrared detection technology in Calais and other border points. It comes as French President Emmanuel Macron visits the UK for a summit with Theresa May.
Britain is also expected to commit to taking more migrants from Calais, especially unaccompanied children. He added that while Britain and France were heading in different directions as a result of Brexit, both governments are keen to show that they will continue to work closely together.
Other commitments being unveiled include the deployment of three RAF Chinook helicopters in Mali, where French forces are fighting Islamist militants, and France sending more troops to reinforce a British contingent in Estonia on Nato’s border with Russia.
German special police teams have searched flats linked to 10 suspected Iranian state spies.
The searches were triggered by German counter-intelligence. The Iranians, still at large, are suspected of spying on Israeli and/or Jewish targets.
Germany’s Focus news said the raids took place in Berlin, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg.
In 1997 a Berlin verdict linked top Iranian politicians to the killing of four Iranian Kurdish dissidents. German investigators concluded that the assassination at Berlin’s Mykonos restaurant in 1992 was the work of Iranian secret service agents.
Western intelligence officials accuse Iran’s secretive Quds Force of carrying out assassinations abroad. The Iranians in the latest German case are thought to be Quds Force agents, Focus reports.
The force carries out special operations abroad for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and has links to Lebanese Hezbollah militants and the Palestinian Hamas movement. Investigators have not yet ordered any arrests in connection with the police raids.