2016-10-31 10:31




October 27, 2016

From Washington, this is VOA news. I'm David DeForest reporting.

The International Organization for Migration says more than 10,000 Iraqis have been displaced since the start of an operation to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants.

General Stephen Townsend, a top general leading the coalition military operation in Syria and Iraq, says a Syrian rebel group will soon move to isolate the Iraqi city of Raqqa. That rebel group includes a significant number of Kurdish YPG fighters, something that is sure to anger key U.S. ally Turkey.

But Townsend says the group is the only force capable of moving quickly toward the city.

Townsend said coalition intelligence shows Raqqa is the center of IS planning for external attacks.

"We actually aren't sure how pressing it is, and that's what's worrying us. So we are not sure. We know they're up to something. And it's an external plot, we don't know exactly where, we don't know exactly when."

Townsend spoke to reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference Wednesday.

French authorities Wednesday declared the squalid refugee camp known as "the jungle" empty.

Large parts of the camp near Calais went up in flames Wednesday as migrants set fire to shelters before being forced to leave.

French authorities conducted the operation to clear what has become a symbol of Europe's refugee crisis and resettle migrants who had lived in dire conditions in the camp.

French authorities say about 4,000 people have been transported to reception centers across France.

Officials say militants have seized their first big town in the Puntland region of Somalia.

Extremists supporting the Islamic State group moved into the Red Sea town of Qandala without any confrontations.

Officials from the Puntland government have left the town.

This is VOA news.

The Russian embassy in Madrid said Wednesday Russia has withdrawn its request for Spain to refuel warships expected to take part in an air operation in Syria.

Britain had expressed concern that NATO ally Spain was considering refueling the Russian ships.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance will have to give a response to Russia's aggressive actions around the world.

"NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia. We don't want a new cold war and we don't want a new arms race and therefore what NATO does is defensive and it is proportionate. At the same time, NATO has to react when we over a long period of time have seen a substantial military build-up by Russia."

Jens Stoltenberg spoke Wednesday at the end of the first day of a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Wednesday cut a ribbon to officially open his new luxury hotel located just a few blocks from the White House in Washington.

"Our agreement with the government required completion of the project by 2018. We were dramatically ahead of schedule on this project and under budget. We turned a property that had been neglected for decades, and which was losing huge sums of money for the federal government, into a major revenue producer and job creator."

Trump is trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton in opinion polls 13 days before the U.S. election.

Clinton, meanwhile, campaigned Wednesday in the key state of Florida.

For the first time, the United States has abstained from a U.N. resolution urging the lifting of Washington's nearly 60-year old economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba. Margaret Besheer has more.

It is an annual exercise that the U.N. General Assembly has taken up for the past quarter century, urging the United States to end its cold war economic blockade on Cuba. Last year, only the U.S. and Israel voted against the measure.

With the process of normalizing relations between the two countries under way for nearly two years now, this year saw a slight but significant shift in the U.S. position.

Cuba's foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, welcomed the abstention, saying it is a positive step for the future of relations between the two countries, but that the U.S. needs to fully lift the blockade.

Margaret Besheer, the United Nations.

Two earthquakes shook central Italy Wednesday night not far from the area struck by last August's quake.

A 5.4-magnitude quake was followed about two hours later by a stronger 6-magnitude temblor. They were centered near the town of Castelsantangelo sul Nera.

No deaths are reported but officials in several small towns say older buildings and churches that were damaged in the earlier quake collapsed in this one.

From the VOA news center in Washington, I'm David DeForest.

That's the latest world news from VOA.

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