U.S.-led coalition pulling out of 2nd base

The U.S.-led coalition Thursday started pulling out of a second base in Iraq, in line with a planned drawdown of troops, hours after two rockets hit inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.

The attack in the Green Zone, home to the U.S. Embassy, was the first after a brief lull in violence in the capital. Iraqi officials also said the United States renewed a sanctions waiver enabling Iraq to import gas and electricity from Iran, but with a shorter deadline.

The pullout from Qayyarah West airfield in northern Iraq is in line with plans to withdraw from bases nationwide and consolidate coalition forces in Baghdad and at Ain al-Asad air base in the country’s west.

Coalition spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III said that several hundred troops would depart the Qayyarah base in the coming days and that $1 million worth of property would be transferred to the Iraqi government. Last week, coalition troops withdrew from the al-Qaim base on the border with Syria.

In the Green Zone attack, the two projectiles struck near the Baghdad Operations Command, which coordinates Iraq’s police and military forces, a military statement said. The command center is a few hundred yards from the U.S. Embassy, which is a regular target of rocket attacks.

There were no casualties, according to an Iraqi official.

— Associated Press


New Libya sea patrols to begin next month

The European Union will launch a new Mediterranean naval and air mission in April to stop more arms from reaching warring factions in Libya, E.U. diplomats said Thursday, with Greece agreeing to take in any migrants rescued at sea.

The decision followed warnings by E.U. foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell that the bloc risked becoming irrelevant if it could not act, potentially leaving Libya’s fate to Turkey and Russia.

Greece has allowed rescued migrants to disembark at its ports, according to an E.U. diplomat involved in the negotiations, adding that other European governments agreed to help cover the harbor costs.

The new mission, named Irini, will replace the European Union’s current mission, known as Operation Sophia, which stopped deploying ships a year ago after Italy, facing an anti-immigrant backlash, said it would no longer take migrants rescued at sea.

With hundreds of thousands making the perilous crossing from North Africa each year and thousands dying at sea, E.U. ships are required under international law to rescue those in trouble.

Operation Sophia’s mandate expires at the end of March.

— Reuters

Mali opposition leader abducted with campaign team: The leader of Mali's political opposition and members of his campaign team have been taken hostage by unidentified gunmen in the north, a spokesman for his party said. Soumaïla Cissé's bodyguard died of injuries suffered in the abduction, and two other people were injured, the spokesman said. The kidnapping took place in an area controlled by extremist groups linked to al-Qaeda.

Sri Lanka's leader pardons soldier convicted in civilian deaths: Sri Lanka's president freed a soldier sentenced to death for killing eight civilians during the country's civil war. Sunil Ratnayake was among a group of soldiers who knifed to death eight people, including a 5-year-old. He was sentenced to death in 2015, and the country's highest court upheld the conviction. Nationalists among the majority Sinhalese protested the sentence, calling it a betrayal of soldiers who fought the minority Tamil rebels in the 26-year war. The military defeated the rebels in 2009.

German court convicts man in ricin bomb plot: A court in Germany convicted a Tunisian man of planning a ricin attack in the name of the Islamic State. The Düsseldorf court found Sief Allah H. guilty of manufacturing a biological weapon and preparing an attack, sentencing him to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors accused the man, whose surname was not released because of German privacy rules, of buying thousands of castor beans to produce the highly toxic ricin. The defendant and his wife also bought 250 steel bearings and manufactured explosives before their arrest in June 2018. A verdict in the case against the wife is expected soon.

China accuses professor at Japanese university of spying: A Chinese citizen working as a professor in Japan has been detained in China for alleged espionage and has confessed to spying and other wrongdoing, Beijing's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. A ministry spokesman said the case against Yuan Keqin was backed up by "conclusive evidence." Yuan was a professor of East Asian political history at the Hokkaido University of Education in Japan. He has not been heard from by colleagues since June, after he left for his mother's funeral in China the previous month.

— From news services