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UK to send 250 troops to Mali for dangerous peacekeeping mission | World News

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The UK is to send 250 troops to Mali in the biggest peace-keeping deployment since Bosnia and potentially the most dangerous mission for British forces since Afghanistan.

The soldiers will form a long-range reconnaissance task group, specifically chosen for their ability to operate in small teams and in violent, contested areas of the country.

They will be asked reach parts of Mali that most militaries cannot, to feed on-the-ground intelligence back to the mission headquarters in Gao. They will arrive in the country early next year.

A UN armoured vehicle
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A UN armoured vehicle

“They will do the part of the heavy lifting. They will do the operations in very contentious areas… where we have a great deal of uncertainty. They will do operations where we face threats to us and to the civilian populations,” the UN Force Commander Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporre explained.

Although wearing the distinctive light blue UN helmets and deployed with a peace-keeping mandate, it’s privately acknowledged that they will likely be targeted by extremist groups fighting for power in one of the world’s poorest and most dangerous countries.

The British deployment comes as security in Mali and the wide Sahel region has deteriorated rapidly in recent months, causing thousands of people to be displaced and a dramatic spike in deaths.

A range of violent factions – some allied to al Qaeda – are vying for influence, and Islamic State in West Africa has successfully established a foothold in Mali.

Such is the concern within the British government that a Joint Sahel Task Group has been established in London to address the potential threats from what is known as the G5: Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

Guard at a checkpoint outside Gao in eastern Mali
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Guard at a checkpoint outside Gao in eastern Mali

A regional hub has been set up in Dakar and two new British embassies will open in Niger and Chad. Close to £10m will be spent on security and humanitarian initiatives in the region this year.

Albeit relatively small, the deployment has been welcomed by the UN in New York and is being seen in the British government as one of the most significant military commitments since Afghanistan and the fight against Islamic State.

Two RAF Chinooks flying low over Mali delivering troops and equipment to French forces
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Two RAF Chinooks flying low over Mali delivering troops and equipment to French forces

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt travelled to Mali to make the announcement in person.

She said: “In one of West Africa’s poorest and most fragile regions it is right that we support some of the world’s most vulnerable people and prioritise our humanitarian and security efforts in the Sahel.”

France, with historical links in Mali, is the biggest military force in the country with more than 4,500 troops fighting Islamist extremists. The Paris government has paid a heavy toll for the five-year commitment, losing 15 soldiers and many more injured.

River Niger running through Bamako
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The River Niger running through Bamako

Three RAF Chinook helicopters and around 100 personnel have been operating with French forces in the north of the country since 2018, in a non-combat role. The Chinooks have provided valuable heavy-lift to the mission, a capability the French don’t have.

That commitment was recently extended by a further six months to June 2020, viewed as a gesture of Anglo-French goodwill post-Brexit.

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50 US troops suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iran retaliation attack | World News

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The US has confirmed 50 of its service members suffered traumatic brain injuries after Iran’s missile strike on its Iraqi air base.

The airstrike was launched in retaliation to the US drone strike which killed Iran’s most powerful general Qassem Soleimani.



Rockets lunched from Iran against the US military base in Ein-al Asad in Iraq







Iran fires missiles at US bases in Iraq

Donald Trump had said no Americans were harmed after the strike, on Ain al-Asad airbase but the number has been raised by the Pentagon three times.

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesman, said there were 16 additional service members diagnosed with an injury, taking the new total to 50 from the 34 announced last week.

Of those 50, 31 have returned to duty.

A picture taken on January 13, 2020 during a press tour organised by the US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group, shows US soldiers clearing rubble at Ain al-Asad military airbase in the western Iraqi province of Anbar. - Iran last week launched a wave of missiles at the sprawling Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq and a base in Arbil, capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, both hosting US and other foreign troops, in retaliation for the US killing top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad on January 3. (Photo by Ayman HENNA / AFP) (Photo by AYMAN HENNA/AFP via Getty Images)
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Of the 50 injured, 31 have returned to duty

The injuries can be varying degrees of concussion, impairment of thinking, memory, vision, and hearing. Severity and duration of the injuries can vary widely and they have become a bigger concern for military in recent years.

The chief Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said last week that a lot of TBI symptoms develop late and manifest themselves over time.

On Friday, he said: “The symptoms can get better. They can get worse.

“So we may see those numbers change a little bit. This is a snapshot in time.”

Last week, another Pentagon spokesman said eight US service members who were sent to Germany were then taken to the United States.

After the Pentagon reported on 17 January that service members had been taken out of Iraq with concussion like symptoms, Mr Trump said: “I heard they had headaches and a couple of other things … and I can report it is not very serious.”

A picture taken on January 13, 2020 during a press tour organised by the US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group, shows US soldiers clearing rubble at Ain al-Asad military airbase in the western Iraqi province of Anbar. - Iran last week launched a wave of missiles at the sprawling Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq and a base in Arbil, capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, both hosting US and other foreign troops, in retaliation for the US killing top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad on January 3. (Photo by Ayman HENNA / AFP) (Photo by AYMAN HENNA/AFP via Getty Images)
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Donald Trump initially said there were no injuries

But William Schmitz, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said on Friday he “expects an apology from the president to our service men and women for his misguided remarks”.

Many of the soldiers were in bunkers before nearly a dozen Iranian missiles exploded in the attack.

The attack on the US airbase has so far been the end of military escalation between the two sides.

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Coronavirus: Mainland China cases now exceed SARS as death toll hits 132 | World News

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The coronavirus death toll in China has risen to 132 and the total number of confirmed cases has reached just shy of 6,000, making it more widespread on the mainland than the notable SARS outbreak of 2002 and 2003.

Twenty-six people have died in the last 24 hours, health authorities said on Wednesday – and there has been been an increase in confirmed cases of 1,459, taking that total to 5,974.

The latest figures emphasise just how quickly the virus has spread in mainland China, where severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) infected 5,327 people and killed 349 between November 2002 and July 2003.

Passengers take measures to protect themselves in Tokyo
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Passengers take measures to protect themselves in Tokyo
Face masks are becoming a more common sight at Heathrow airport
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Face masks are becoming a more common sight at Heathrow airport

All but one of the newly recorded deaths came in Hubei province, which is where the city of Wuhan is located.

Wuhan is the epicentre of the virus and was placed under lockdown by the Chinese government, prompting other countries including Britain and the US to start evacuating their nationals from the city.

Governments around the world are advising people not to travel to China as uncertainty remains over how dangerous the mystery virus is and how easily it spreads between humans.

It is from the same family as the common cold as well as more serious illnesses like SARS.

There have been confirmed cases in countries across Asia, North America and Europe, although there have been no fatalities outside China.

Despite spreading, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not classified the virus as a global emergency.

There are confirmed cases of the virus in Macau
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There are confirmed cases of the virus in Macau
There have not been any fatalities outside China so far
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There have not been any fatalities outside China so far

On Tuesday, UK health officials said 97 had been tested for the virus but all were negative, but England’s director for health protection later warned it may still be present in the country.

People who have recently returned from Wuhan recently have been urged to “self-isolate”.

Some nations are taking more drastic action than others in their bid to avoid any major outbreaks among their citizens, with the Philippines having issued a temporary blanket ban on tourist visas for Chinese nationals.

Hong Kong will cut all rail links to mainland China and halve the number of flights, South Korea will send a plane for its citizens and many other governments have also planned evacuations.

Australia is among them, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said those who are flown out of Hubei province will be quarantined on Christmas Island.

British officials believe up to 200 citizens currently in Wuhan will want to return to the UK, and the Foreign Office is advising people in other parts of China to “make decisions based on their own personal circumstances”.

The first new hospital will provide around 1,000 bed when it opens
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The first new hospital will provide around 1,000 bed when it opens
New hospitals are being built in Wuhan
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New hospitals are being built in Wuhan

Wuhan is one of 17 cities in Hubei province that China has cut off access to, trapping more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease control measures ever imposed.

Wuhan is building two hospitals in a matter of days to add 2,500 beds for treatment of patients with the virus, with authorities having warned that the virus is getting stronger and that they are unclear on its potential to mutate.

China responded similarly to the SARS outbreak, which eventually killed nearly 800 people around the world.

Australia has been welcoming people back from Wuhan
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Australia has been welcoming people back from Wuhan
Governments are working to evacuate their nationals from Wuhan
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Governments are working to evacuate their nationals from Wuhan

While anxiety continues to grow in tandem with the number of confirmed cases, there is already hope among some scientists that there could be a vaccine in the offing.

Researchers from The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne have said they have grown a version of the virus that could be used to develop a vaccine.

It was grown from a patient sample received last week and will be used to generate an antibody test, which allows detection of the virus in patients who have not yet displayed any symptoms.

Dr Julian Druce said: “The virus will be used as positive control material for the Australian network of public health laboratories, and also shipped to expert laboratories working closely with the WHO in Europe.”

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Airbus takes €3.6bn hit to settle bribery and corruption claims | Business News

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Airbus has agreed to settle bribery and corruption allegations by UK, US and French authorities in a deal that will cost it €3.6bn (£3bn).

The European aeroplane maker, based in Toulouse, disclosed the scale of the financial hit hours after confirming that it had reached an “agreement in principle” with authorities in each country.

Court hearings will take place in each of the three jurisdictions on Friday to give final approval to the deal.

Airbus said it would book a €3.6bn provision for the penalties in its annual accounts for 2019.

It did not give a breakdown in its statement of how much would go to each country or what part of the total was accounted for by other costs.

Still, the scale of the provision makes it likely that the settlement surpasses the £671m penalties handed to Rolls-Royce for similar allegations two years ago.

Airbus said its case related to “allegations of bribery and corruption and to inaccuracies in filings made with the US authorities pursuant to the US international traffic in arms regulations”.

In Britain, the Serious Fraud Office confirmed in a separate statement that it had reached a deferred prosecution agreement in principle with the company, subject to court approval.

It said no further information could be provided until after the hearing.

The SFO and the French financial prosecutor’s office had begun investigating Airbus in 2016 with the US Department of Justice joining in 2018.

The allegations related to irregularities concerning third party consultants.

Airbus employs more than 130,000 people worldwide including 13,500 in the UK at sites in Bristol, north Wales, Newport, Portsmouth and Stevenage.

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