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“First chemical attack” in Mosul battle injures twelve

Twelve civilians have been injured in Mosul in what appears to be the first chemical weapon attack in the battle for the IS stronghold.

An 11-year-old boy has severe respiratory and skin problems and a month-old baby was also injured.

The injuries were apparently caused in two separate incidents when mortar fire hit houses in east Mosul and victims complained of a foul smelling chemical.

The victims’ symptoms suggested exposure to a “blistering chemical agent”, ICRC Middle East director Robert Mardini said. They included blisters, redness in the eyes, irritation, vomiting and coughing.

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UN: Syria talks in Geneva end with clear agenda

Syria’s warring sides have agreed to future negotiations at the end of a fourth set of talks in Geneva, a mild breakthrough after a week of stalled discussions and a steadily failing ceasefire.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy for Syria, announced on Friday the conclusion of the intra-Syrian talks in the Swiss city having secured a finalised agenda for another round.

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Less damage to ancient Palmyra than feared, Syrian antiquities chief says

Damage to the World Heritage site of Palymra by Islamic State militants may be less than earlier believed, Syria’s antiquities chief said on Friday.

Maamoun Abdulkarim told Reuters that video from Palmyra after it was recaptured by the Syrian army has shown less damage than archaeologists feared when pictures emerged at the beginning of the year suggesting Islamic State had smashed more monuments.

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Lavrov compares White House Russia scandal to a witch-hunt

The scandalous claims that several members of the United States government had contact with Russian officials during Donald Trump’s election campaign was described on Friday by Russia’s foreign minister as a witch-hunt.

Sergey Lavrov was speaking at a press conference alongside his Salvadoran counterpart Hugo Martinez, who was on a visit to Moscow.

“I cannot not refer to a quote spread in the media today: all this looks very much like a witch-hunt. Or the days of McCarthyism, which we thought had long passed in the US,” said the Russian statesman.

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Macron gets presidential poll boost as Fillon crisis deepens

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron cemented his status as favourite to win the French presidency on Friday as pressure mounted on his conservative rival, Francois Fillon, to pull out because of a deepening financial scandal.

For the first time since the line-up of candidates became clear, an Oxoda poll showed Macron finishing ahead of far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the opening round. That came a day after he promised a blend of fiscal discipline and stimulus to strengthen a feeble economic recovery.

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May tells Scottish nationalists that “politics is not a game”

The prime minister of the United Kingdom warned the pro-independence Scottish government on Friday that politics was not a game.

Theresa May was addressing the Scottish Conservative Party conference in Glasgow.

The UK Conservative party leader accused the Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party government of being “obsessed” with pushing for the independence of the country.

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Trump administration considering separating women, children at Mexico border

Women and children crossing together illegally into the United States could be separated by U.S. authorities under a proposal being considered by the Department of Homeland Security, according to three government officials.

Part of the reason for the proposal is to deter mothers from migrating to the United States with their children, said the officials, who have been briefed on the proposal.

The policy shift would allow the government to keep parents in custody while they contest deportation or wait for asylum hearings. Children would be put into protective custody with the Department of Health and Human Services, in the “least restrictive setting” until they can be taken into the care of a U.S. relative or state-sponsored guardian.

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Al-Qaeda confirms coalition strike killed top leader in Syria

Al-Qaeda has confirmed that top leader Abu Khayr al-Masri, believed to be the organisation’s number two, was killed in a drone strike by the US-led coalition in Syria.

Two branches of the global jihadist group, including the powerful Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), announced Masri’s death in a statement dated Wednesday.

Calling him a “hero,” the statement said Masri “was killed during a Crusader drone strike” in Syria.

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Ancient city of Palmyra swings back to syrian government control

Palmyra, the storied ancient city that was among prewar Syria’s leading tourist attractions, swung back under government control on Thursday, state media reported, as soldiers and their allies evicted Islamic State militants who had made a sport out of pilfering the city’s antiquities.

This was the fourth time in the past two years that control of Palmyra, a Unesco World Heritage Site, changed hands between government forces and Islamic State fighters, who vandalized the city’s historic sites and used its famed Roman stone amphitheater for public executions.

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Accelerating Yemen campaign, US conducts flurry of strikes targeting al-Qaeda

The United States conducted a series of air strikes on al-Qaeda targets in Yemen on Thursday, the Pentagon said, in another sign of the Trump administration’s expanding counterterrorism campaign there.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement that the air attacks targeted “militants, equipment and infrastructure” associated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in three Yemeni governorates: Abyan, Bayda and Shabwah.

A defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss information that has not officially been made public, said there was a total of 25 strikes by manned and unmanned aircraft, far more attacks in a single night than the U.S. has conducted in recent history.

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