Live Blog

Today's News: April 13, 2017

“Mother of All Bombs” dropped in Afghanistan, North Korea’s nuclear program, and more from the United States and around the world.

Reuters

—The U.S. military says it has dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS target in Afghanistan—the first time the so-called “mother of all bombs” has been used. More here

—New satellite images suggest North Korea could be preparing for another nuclear test. More here

—An airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS in Syria resulted in the deaths of 18 rebels from a pro-U.S. rebel group. More here

—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4).

Updates

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The U.S. Drops the 'Mother of All Bombs' in Afghanistan

An Afghan boy plays with a used bicycle tyre in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, May 1, 2016. (Parwiz Parwiz / Reuters)

The U.S. military says it has dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS target in Afghanistan—the first time the so-called “mother of all bombs” has been used. “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K,” General John W. Nicholson, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said in a statement, referring to the ISIS-Khorasan group, the Islamic State’s branch in Afghanistan. The device in question is the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), which because of its initials is referred to as the “mother of all bombs.” It contains 11 tons of explosives. The ISIS target was reportedly in Achin district of Nangarhar province, which is on the border with Pakistan. U.S. officials estimate there are about 800 ISIS fighters left in Afghanistan, and the group’s capacity is nowhere close to the most potent non-governmental fighting force in Afghanistan. That distinction goes to the Taliban, which since its ouster after the attacks of September 11, 2001, has remained a major irritant and security concern. ISIS, however, has carried out a series of deadly and indiscriminate attacks on targets inside the country—attacks that even the Taliban have criticized. The MOAB bomb, because of its capacity, was at one time expected to be used against an underground nuclear facility in a place like Iran or North Korea.

Passenger Dragged Off Flight Will 'Probably' Sue United Airlines, Lawyer Says

People protest the forced removal of Dr. David Dao from a United Airlines flight at Chicago’s O'Hare International Airport on April 11, 2017. (Kamil Krzaczynski / Reuters)

The lawyer representing the passenger who was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight said at a news conference Thursday he would “probably” seek legal action against the airline. As the Associated Press reports, Thomas Demetrio, Dr. David Dao’s attorney, said the incident left the 69-year-old with a concussion, a broken nose, and two lost teeth, adding he will likely need reconstructive surgery. United Airlines faced widespread backlash for its role in calling law enforcement to remove Dao from what was thought to be an overbooked flight (it was later revealed that it was not) after he refused to give up his seat. Oscar Munoz, the airline’s CEO, apologized for what he called a “system failure,” promising the airline would no longer use law enforcement to remove “booked, paid, seated” passengers from its flights. Crystal Pepper, Dao’s daughter, said the family was “horrified, shocked, and sickened” by the incident.

Coalition Airstrike Mistakenly Kills Allied Rebels in Syria

An SDF fighter walks inside Tabqa military airport after taking control of it from ISIS fighters on April 9. (Rodi Said / Reuters)

An airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS in Syria resulted in the deaths of 18 rebels from a pro-U.S. rebel group, U.S. Central Command said Thursday in a statement. The rebels were from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group that includes Kurdish fighters, and were facing off on April 11 against ISIS south of Tabqah, Syria. The area is west of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de-facto capital that is the focus of coalition operations in Syria. Central Command called the strike “tragic.” The incident is at least the third this month in which airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition is said to have killed allies or civilians. Two previous strikes—one in Syria and the other in Mosul, Iraq—killed dozens of people. The Pentagon is investigating those incidents.

Syria's Assad Says Chemical Attack That Killed Dozens '100 Percent Fabrication'

Reuters

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called this month’s chemical-weapons attack on the rebel-held city of Khan Shaykhun a complete “fabrication” by the United States to justify its missile strikes on a Syrian air base. “Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists,” Assad told Agence-France Press in an interview. “They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack. It wasn’t an attack because of what happened in Khan Shaykhun.” Assad’s government is accused of striking the rebel-held city in Idlib province last week using sarin gas, a nerve agent. At least 58 people were killed in the attack, and more than 160 injured. The move prompted outcry from the international community, including President Trump, who ordered the targeting of Syria’s al-Shayrat military airfield in response. This is not the first time Assad has been accused of using chemical weapons in Syria’s more than six-year civil war, though he has denied the charges, noting the country agreed to have its chemical-weapons stockpile destroyed by international monitors in accordance with an agreement struck between the U.S. and Russia in the aftermath of a chemical attack in 2013 on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, in which 1,000 people were killed. “We don’t have any chemical weapons,” Assad said, adding: “Even if we had them, we wouldn’t use them, and we have never used our chemical arsenal in our history.”

German Authorities Say Dortmund Attack Suspect 'Linked to IS'

Police officers patrol the stadium in Dortmund, Germany, on April 12. (Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters)

German authorities requested an arrest warrant Thursday for an Iraqi national who is alleged to have ties to the Islamic State. The suspect, who Deutsche Welle reports has been identified as 26-year-old Abdul Beset A, was previously suspected of involvement in the the bomb attack Tuesday on Borussia Dortmund’s bus ahead of the soccer team’s match in Dortmund. There were no casualties, though one player was injured. German prosecutors have since said they have “no proof that the suspect had taken part in the attack,” but they have requested a warrant to keep him in custody due to his alleged ties to a “foreign terrorist organization.” Under German law, authorities can only hold him for 24 hours. A judge is expected to rule today on whether or not to issue the warrant.

First Black Woman to Serve on NY High Court Found Dead

Mike Groll / AP

Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first black woman to serve on New York state’s highest court, was found dead Wednesday in the Hudson River.* She was 65. Authorities said Abdus-Salaam was found fully clothed and was pronounced dead on the scene. The New York Police Department said her cause of death is still under investigation, adding there were no signs of criminality. A Washington, D.C., native, Abdus-Salaam made history in 2013 when she was named to New York State Court of Appeals, making her the first black woman appointed to the bench. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who nominated Abdus-Salaam for the post, called her “a trailblazing jurist and a force of good.” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said she was “a humble pioneer.”


* This article originally referred to Abdus-Salaam as the first Muslim woman to serve as a U.S. judge. A New York State Court of Appeals spokesperson has since told The New York Times that she was not Muslim. We regret the error.

North Korea Reportedly Prepares for a Nuclear Test

Military trucks carry soldiers through central Pyongyang on Thursday as North Korea prepares to mark the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founding father, on Saturday. (Damir Sagolj / Reuters)

Satellite images reportedly show North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear test—its sixth—a move that is likely not only to anger its neighbors, but its main ally in China, as well as the Trump administration. A test could come as soon as Saturday, when the North marks the “Day of the Sun,” to commemorate the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung, its founder. The North typically carries out such actions—in defiance of international norms—on significant days in its history, but the move also comes after the U.S. ordered an aircraft carrier and warships toward the Korean Peninsula, a show of force that’s also intended to reassure U.S. allies in South Korea and Japan; the two countries are likely to suffer if North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program goes beyond testing mode. In Washington, President Trump, who has criticized China for what he says is its insufficient role in curbing North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, praised the Chinese leadership yesterday. “We have a very big problem in North Korea,” he said. “And, as I said, I really think that China is going to try very hard, and has already started.” That change of heart came apparently after his meeting last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Wednesday, he’d told Xi China could easily solve the North Korea problem. “After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” Trump said. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power … but it’s not what you would think.” China maintains that its influence on North Korea is limited, and fears any second-order effects on its border should the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un be destabilized.

Trump Appears to Reverse Himself on Trade, Economy, Foreign Policy

(Carlos Barria / Reuters)

Over the past week, President Trump has reversed many of his closely held positions during the campaign. It began with the strike last week in Syria after Trump was apparently moved by images of children affected by the chemical-weapons attack in Idlib province. This week, Trump offered assessments of NATO (“not obsolete”) China (“They’re not currency manipulators”), low interest rates (“I do like” them), and the Export-Import Bank (“It’s a very good thing”). The reasons for the president’s change of mind is unclear, but they are likely to be U.S. policy for at least the near term. David Graham and Gillian White wrote last night about these changes in policy. David’s piece here; Gillian’s here