Sept. 11 Families Sue Saudi Arabia Over 9/11 Attacks

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hundreds of relatives of those killed on Sept. 11 have sued Saudi Arabia, joining many others who have tried to hold the kingdom responsible for the attacks.

Like other recent actions, the lawsuit filed Monday capitalizes on last year’s decision by Congress to let victims sue Saudi Arabia.

Eight-hundred 9/11 victims’ families and 1,500 first responders filed the suit accusing the government of Saudi Arabia of knowingly providing material support and resources to al Qaeda in facilitating the attacks.

The lawsuit is the first to take direct legal action against the Saudi government. It seeks unspecified damages.

Earlier attempts to hold Saudi Arabia responsible over the past 15 years have failed. Fifteen of the 19 attackers who hijacked planes to carry out the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania were Saudis.

The 9/11 Commission report found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” the attacks. But the commission also said there’s a “likelihood” that Saudi-government-sponsored charities did.

Lawyers for Saudi Arabia did not immediately comment.

Last fall, then-President Barack Obama vetoed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA. The law allows terror victims to sue foreign states for any alleged involvement in attacks, which paved the way for this and similar lawsuits.

Obama opposed the law, saying U.S. citizens and corporations could be open to suits.

Congress overrode the veto.

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French school shooting: 3 people injured, armed 17yo student detained in Grasse

Three people have been injured in a shooting at a school in Grasse, southern France, according to the interior ministry. A 17-year-old student carrying a rifle, two handguns, and two grenades has reportedly been arrested over the incident.

The teenager opened fire with the rifle, shooting and injuring three people, according to the interior ministry.

The school's headmaster was among those injured.

Five other people are in shock following the incident at the Alexis de Tocqueville school, according to interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet.

France: Police rush to school after student shooter injures several

Witnesses recalled the moment the teen began shooting to French broadcaster BFM TV.

"It was total panic," a student by the name of Achraf said. "The gunshots were at four to five meters from where we were. We thought the gunman was coming towards us. We heard him shouting."

"I just know the gunman by sight. He was gentle and low-key key, not a nasty guy," he continued.

Image from scene of the shooting in Grasse, France.

The teen reportedly carried out the attack after watching mass shooting videos.

"The first investigations suggest he had consulted American-style mass killings' videos," Brandet said, as quoted by Reuters.

A police source told the news outlet that the teen "does not seem to be known by police."

French newspaper Libération reported that a review of the shooter's Facebook profile found that the teen had published images of the two shooters of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in July. 

The teen's Twitter account consisted of just four tweets, one of which was a video of last year's deadly truck attack in Nice.

Libération reported that the teen is the son of a local politician. 

A police official told AP that there does not appear to be any other suspects, but that authorities are working to "remove all doubt." Previous reports suggested there could have been a second suspect.

Authorities have confirmed the incident is not terrorism related. 

Following the first reports on the shooting, local emergency services urged residents via Twitter to stay indoors, while the French government launched a terrorist attack warning over the Grasse incident through a telephone application.

The attack comes despite France having some of the strictest gun laws in the world. Citizens are banned from owning automatic weapons, while many other guns require government authorization and a medical exam, along with a permit from a hunting or sport shooting federation.

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Trump Carries on Obama's Legacy with First Drone Deaths

During his presidential campaign, Trump said that he would continue drone use against terrorist targets and even their families.

U.S. President Donald Trump appears to be continuing Barack Obama’s legacy of using deadly unmanned drones in territories where the U.S. is not officially fighting a war. On Thursday, two men were reportedly killed while riding on a motorcycle in northern Pakistan. Al-Qaida also confirmed a drone killed one of its senior leaders in Syria.

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Two men were struck by a missile from a what was believed to be a U.S. drone in a village in the Kurram Agency close to Pakistan’s northern border with Afghanistan. The area is known as a tribal area with a weak government presence where Islamist insurgents, including the Taliban and al-Qaida, have been operating for years.

Speaking anonymously to AFP, a local government official said that two “militants” were killed in the strike, but their bodies were beyond recognition so they had not yet been identified. A second official said that “the drone came from Afghanistan and returned after firing two missiles on the motorbike.”

A senior Taliban commander said that the two men killed in the attack were from the Haqqani network, a separate group with a complicated alliance with the Taliban. He identified them as Haqqani commander Saqib Ullah and guard Qari Abdullah.

Drone use in Pakistan has been highly controversial. It has been criticized as a blatant violation of state sovereignty by the U.S., as well as a violation of human rights in the form of extra-judicial killing.

Meanwhile, al-Qaida said in a statement Thursday that a U.S.-led drone strike killed its leader Abu al-Khayr al-Masri on Sunday near Idlib in Syria. Al-Masri had been wanted by the U.S. for close to 19 years.

Over 400 attacks have occurred in Pakistan since the drone program was initiated under President George W. Bush in 2004. Drones have been used to attack targets of the Islamic State group, al-Qaida and the Taliban, along with other groups across Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia. While many militant targets have been killed, civilians have commonly been victims.

According to monitoring organization Reprieve, the U.S. has “used drones to execute without trial some 4,700 people,” and civilians deaths are thought to have reached more than 1,000.

RELATED: Iraqi Army Captures Mosul Airport Ahead of Full Offensive

The attack is the first reported drone attack in Pakistan since Trump was sworn in as U.S. president in January. U.S. officials have yet to comment on Thursday’s strike.

While Obama significantly ramped up the drone program in his first presidential term, Trump has said little about U.S. policy in regard to Pakistan. During his election campaign, Trump boasted that he would continue drone use against terrorist targets and even their families.

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US defense, intel warn against designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as terrorist group – media

Top military officials have cautioned the White House against designating Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist group, arguing the move would endanger American troops in Iraq, where the Corps is also fighting Islamic State, US media revealed.

The concerns were raised recently by defense and intelligence officials at the highest levels, according to the Washington Post, citing unnamed sources in the administration. 

The news comes amid emerging reports that the White House is preparing to list Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) – by far the most powerful national security and defense entity in Iran – as a terrorist organization. The proposal, possibly coming in the form of an executive order by the Trump administration, would prohibit any material support or other kinds of contact with the sanctioned entity.

Given the extraordinary nature of the proposal and its potential impact on Middle Eastern affairs, the issue was still under debate, a senior administration official told the newspaper.

Despite pressure from hardliners in the Trump administration who champion a tough stance against Iran, dissenting voices are still making themselves heard. “I don’t think it’s so much defense and intelligence; I think it’s ourselves,” the official said.

“There are so many second, third and fifth order of facts with every decision, as we see it, and so I think that this is an area where, rightly so, we have to be very smart,” the official added. “This all has to do with [Iran’s] behavior. What we have to do is figure out what are the right things to consider. We consider a lot of things. What we actually decide to do is different.”

White House spokesman Sean Spicer declined to comment on the report, telling journalists on Wednesday that “there is no one who can question the president’s commitment to fully attacking and addressing the threat that we face from radical Islamic terrorism… The first step is knowing and proclaiming who the enemy is.”

With that in mind, US defense officials are concerned that the designation could affect the uneasy contact the US military maintains with Shiite militias in Iraq that are organized by the Quds Force unit of the Revolutionary Guards.

According to the Washington Post, there is a tacit agreement – negotiated through the Iraqi government – between the US contingent in Iraq and the Shiite militias, allowing them to avoid clashes. However, the agreement is fragile and could possibly lead to attacks on American forces, officials said.

While the designation could favor rulers in the Gulf – with many of them accusing Tehran of forming a ‘Shia crescent’ to undermine the Sunni monarchies – it would also strengthen Iranian hardliners in their internal dispute with moderate President Hassan Rouhani, whose cabinet negotiated the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal with several major world powers, including the US.

If issued, the executive order would create the first known instance of designating a foreign government institution as a terrorist entity. The IRGC is the guardian of Iran’s internal security and a powerful yet independent military organization that includes its own army, navy and air forces as well as special forces and intelligence units.

Created by Ayatollah Khomeini shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to safeguard the ruling regime, the Corps is said to comprise more than 120,000 active personnel. Throughout the past years, the Revolutionary Guard has been deployed abroad, including in neighboring Iraq and Syria, where it is engaged in fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

The Corps’ elite Quds Force has already been designated as a terrorist organization by the US Department of Treasury, prohibiting transactions between the group and US nationals, and freezing any assets under American jurisdiction. While little is reliably known about the Quds Force, the group is believed to conduct high-risk intelligence, sabotage and special operations against Iran’s adversaries.

Last week the US administration imposed new sanctions against 25 Iranian nationals and entities in response to a ballistic missile test. Iran itself is one of three countries on the State Department’s notorious list of so-called ‘state sponsors of terrorism.’ The other nations on the list are Sudan and Syria.

Somewhat ironically, Iran is contributing military advisers, troops and materiel to the armed forces of Syria, where a bloody war against Islamist extremists has been raging since 2011.

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New CIA Deputy Director Linked to Torture 'Black Sites'

Haspel has been a key figure in a secret U.S. torture program, which Donald Trump has called an effective way of gathering intelligence. 

U.S. President Donald Trump named Gina Haspel, who has been accused of running a torture “black site” for suspected terrorists, as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

RELATED: Denying Feud Over Russia Hacking, Trump Vows Support to CIA

Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent “war on terror” launched by then-President George W. Bush, Haspel was a key figure in helping launch a network of secretly operated “black sites.”

Haspel allegedly ran a secret prison called “Cat’s Eye” in Thailand where suspected terrorists belonging to al-Qaida were subject to controversial torture techniques such as waterboarding.

The 60-year-old has worked as an intelligence officer for the majority of her career and was believed to be present in the torture of at least two suspected al-Qaida members Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri, according to an investigation by the U.S. Senate. 

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According to declassified CIA cables released in January, Zubaydah was subjected 83 times to the waterboarding torture technique, sleep deprivation and had his head struck into walls.

According to information from U.S. officials leaked to the media, Haspel was also responsible for carrying out the destruction of video footage in 2005 which showed suspects being tortured.

RELATED: How Trump Continues Obama's Legacy by Killing 8-Year-Old Girl

Trump has controversially said that torture works as a means of gaining intelligence, saying that, “We have to fight fire with fire.” When asked about his stance on torture in a press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May last week, Trump said that he would leave the decision up to Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA director Mike Pompeo. 

A draft executive order requesting a review into reopening foreign CIA prisons and revisiting interrogation methods not considered torture is being considered by the White House, but it remains unclear if it will be signed.

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23 killed, dozens injured as twin blasts rock Kabul

Two explosions have rocked the Afghan capital of Kabul. Up to 27 people have been killed and 70 others injured, according to conflicting figures cited by media outlets.

The first explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber, according to AP. It was quickly followed by a car bomb near the same area.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi confirmed that there are casualties, but said the exact numbers are so far unclear.

Meanwhile, a health official cited by Reuters stated that 23 people had been killed and more than 20 others injured, while TOLO News reported that 27 had been killed and 70 wounded.

@TOLOnews - ministry of health confirms at least 40 wounded in Kabul that targeted convoy of officials leaving parliament offices

The blasts were likely targeting an area which includes government and lawmakers' offices, according to Sediqqi.

: Twin explosion (suicide bomber and car bomb) hit outside parliament offices in ; Gunfire heard in the area

 

TOLO reported that the blasts were targeting a convoy of officials leaving parliament offices.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group was responsible for the attacks.

@TOLOnews - eyewitnesses indicate casualty toll of dead and wounded in twin blasts on parliament offices could be as high as 50

Earlier on Tuesday, a suicide bomber killed at least seven people in southern Helmand province, according to provincial police chief Gen. Agha Noor Kemtoz. He said the target of that attack was a guesthouse used by a provincial intelligence official.

No one has claimed responsibility for the earlier attack, but the Taliban frequently uses suicide attacks and roadside bombs to target government officials and Afghan security forces.

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Syrian President: Ready to Negotiate End of Conflict

Paris, Jan 9 (Prensa Latina) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad today expressed his willingness to negotiate to end the conflict in his country, but it must be with the real opposition, he told to the French media in statements released today.

'We are ready to negotiate everything: the end of the conflict, the future of Syria ... Everything is open,' he said in the interview with France Info, RTL and LCP.

However, the president warned that the success of the negotiations, scheduled for the end of the month in Kazakhstan, depends on who will represent the other party.

Regarding the current situation in the Middle East nation and the declared truce, he said that it must be fully respected so that the peace talks can move forward.

The president said in this regard that a ceasefire is viable when all parties stop the fighting, but this is not the case in many Syrian regions, where groups such as Al-Nusra or the Islamic State continue hostilities.

The French media that carried out the interview published yesterday a fragment in which the president said that 'we are on the road to victory,' and that it will be achieved when the territory is free of terrorists, he added.

Yesterday, the Syrian president received three French deputies who visited the Middle East nation: Thierry Mariani, Jean Lassalle and Nicolas Dhuicq.

During the meeting, participants discussed the harm done to the Syrian people by armed organizations, often supported by states in the region and Western countries.

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Syria: 21 Civilians Killed by Terrorists in Aleppo

Damascus, Dec 26 (Prensa Latina) Syrian authorities are currently trying to identify 21 bodies of civilians killed by terrorists before the city of Aleppo was evacuated.

The director of the Department of Forensic Medicine in Aleppo, Zaher Hajjo, reported that a preliminary investigation confirmed that the remains of five children and four women have been found.

According to the data, the corpses were found in the prisons of extremist groups in al-Sukkari and Kallasa and the victims had been shot at close range.

Following the recent liberation of the city, Syrian army units have found numerous ammunition and weapons depots and interrogation rooms in public schools and buildings.

Extensive demining work by Russian and Syrian specialists continues in the city.

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