IRAQ

U.S. contractor killed in a rocket attack

A U.S. civilian contractor was killed in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk on Friday, U.S. officials said.

Several U.S. service members and Iraqi personnel were also wounded, the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State said in a statement, adding that Iraqi security forces would be leading the response and investigation into the incident.

U.S. officials said, on the condition of anonymity, that the service members were lightly wounded and believed to be back on duty.

The Iraqi military said in a statement earlier Friday that several rockets were launched into Iraq’s K1 military base, which houses U.S. and Iraqi forces. Security sources said troops found a launchpad for Katyusha rockets in an abandoned vehicle near the base.

No group asserted responsibility for the attack. One official said the United States was looking into the possible involvement of Kitaeb Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militia group.

— Reuters

AUSTRALIA

Coming days to bring another heat wave

Just a week after Australia endured one of its hottest December heat waves on record, much of the country is bracing for another round of punishing, dry heat and escalating bush-fire dangers through the weekend and into next week.

The new heat wave is forecast to be “extreme,” the most severe designation on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s forecast scale. Such heat waves pose a health “risk for anyone who does not take precautions to keep cool, even those who are healthy,” the bureau said on its website.

The hottest areas will be in inland South Australia on Saturday, while southeastern Australia, which has been severely affected by deadly, massive bush fires that have burned an area nearly twice the size of Connecticut, is forecast to heat up by Sunday into Monday.

In Sydney, the high temperature is forecast to be close to 95 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, although inland regions closer to the fires’ front lines could soar past 100.

— Andrew Freedman

Philippines bans 2 U.S. senators from visiting: President Rodrigo Duterte has banned two U.S. senators, Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), from visiting the Philippines and will introduce tighter entry restrictions for U.S. citizens should Washington enforce sanctions over the detention of a top government critic. Duterte's move comes after the U.S. Congress approved a 2020 budget that contains a provision introduced by the senators against anyone involved in the incarceration of Philippines Sen. Leila de Lima, who was charged with drug offenses in 2017 after she led an inquiry into killings in Duterte's war on drugs.

Russia deploys regiment of hypersonic missiles: Russia deployed its first regiment of hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles, the Defense Ministry said. The new system comprises a hypersonic glide vehicle mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile, officials say, and the weapon element can fly an unpredictable course and maneuver sharply as it approaches impact.

Iranian-backed groups accuse Iraqi president of U.S. ties: Iranian-supported groups blasted Iraq's president for not selecting their preferred candidate for prime minister, saying he had acted at the behest of the United States and warning him against naming anyone who could be "an agent of the Americans." In refusing to appoint Fatah-backed candidate Asaad al-Eidani, President Barham Salih said he was responding to broad opposition by anti-government protesters who have flooded the streets for nearly three months to demand the overthrow of Iraq's entire political class.

— From news services