Weekend: September 19 – 21

Have a great weekend!

 

 

September 19th, 2014
05:08 AM ET

Scotland Votes 'No' to Independence in Historic Referendum

Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom - along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland - following a historic referendum vote.

A majority of voters rejected the possibility of Scotland breaking away and becoming an independent nation.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed Scotland's decision in a televised statement outside 10 Downing Street, saying it was a clear result.

"Like millions of other people, I am delighted," he said.

Cameron said he would have been heartbroken to see the United Kingdom broken up - but paid tribute to the efforts of both sides in the campaign.

"We hear you," he said to those who voted for independence, adding this was an opportunity to change the way people in the United Kingdom are governed, and "change it for the better."

His government has delivered on devolution in the past and will deliver on it again, Cameron said.

A "new and fair settlement" will be created for Scotland and the other countries of the United Kingdom, he said.

See more on this story on CNN.com

Scotland Goes to the Polls
September 18th, 2014
07:03 AM ET

Scotland Goes to the Polls

Scotland's voters are heading to the polls Thursday to cast their ballots in the country's landmark independence referendum.

There, they will face a straightforward yes/no question: Should Scotland be an independent country?

More than 4.2 million people have registered to vote, the largest electorate ever in Scotland, and turnout in the referendum is expected to be high.

A vote for independence would mean Scotland, with its population of about 5.3 million, splits from the rest of the United Kingdom, made up of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Voting can take place from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. local time (2 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET) at more than 5,500 polling stations across 32 districts nationwide, from the remote highlands and islands to the big cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Voting was brisk at one polling station in Glasgow as the polls opened, with many people voting on the way to work or before taking their children to school.

Results from the different areas will come in overnight into Friday morning local time, with Chief Counting Officer Mary Pitcaithly expected to announce the outcome "around breakfast time."

Bad weather or the sheer volume of votes cast could slow down the counting process. However, the weather forecast appears good so far - important when some ballot boxes must be collected by helicopter, plane or boat from polling stations on distant islands.

See more on this developing story at CNN.com 

Feds: N.Y. Store Owner Funded ISIS
September 17th, 2014
05:40 AM ET

Feds: N.Y. Store Owner Funded ISIS

A man who owns an upstate New York food store funded ISIS, tried to send jihadists to Syria to fight with the terrorist group and plotted to do some killing himself - by gunning down U.S. troops who had served in Iraq - federal authorities alleged Tuesday.

Mufid A. Elfgeeh, 30, was arrested on May 31, though federal officials didn't outline the case against him until Tuesday. According to an indictment, he faces three counts of trying "to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization" (namely, ISIS), one count of attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States, two counts of having an unregistered firearm silencer and one for possessing guns or silencers "in furtherance of a crime of violence."

The public defender representing Elfgeeh, Mark Hosken, said Tuesday that he had seen the indictment and will enter a plea of not guilty when his client appears in court on Thursday morning.

The federal investigation into Elfgeeh began in early 2013 and a world away from the Middle East, where ISIS (also known as ISIL and the Islamic State) has waged a brutal campaign in recent years. Citing the terror group's threat to the region and gruesome tactics - such as the recent beheadings of two American journalists - the U.S. government has struck ISIS targets from the air in Iraq and threatened to go after it in Syria as well.

A look at Twitter suggests that Elfgeeh didn't stand with his adopted country in this fight, according to an affidavit in support of a search warrant in his case.

He allegedly wrote in one tweet: "Al Qaeda said it loud and clear: we are fighting the American invasion and their hegemony over the earth and the people." In another message, Elfgeeh purportedly stated ISIS "will one day rule the world with the will of Allah."

The affidavit alleges that he urged people to donate a third of their salary or, at least, "#Five_thousand_dollars_from_every_household" (as stated in one tweet) - stressing the importance of supporting groups like ISIS financially.

But the Yemeni-born owner and operator of Halal Mojo and Food Mart, dubbed Mojoe's by some, in Rochester may have wanted to be more than just a financial supporter. Court documents state that - if he couldn't sell his store - Elfgeeh wanted to export "those who are fed up (and want) to go to war and be jihadists."

The FBI informants were among those Elfgeeh actively recruited to join ISIS as jihadists, the affidavit states. He helped them by doing things like paying one of their passport costs, coordinating travel arrangements and setting them up with contacts in the terror group under the guise of going "to the university," which was code for joining ISIS.

Court documents, citing Western Union records, allege that Elfgeeh also sent $600 to a Yemeni man that he believed wanted to join the terrorist group.

See more on this developing story on CNN.com

Posted by
Filed under: ISIS
September 16th, 2014
05:12 AM ET

U.S. Airstrike Hits ISIS Target Near Baghdad

A U.S. airstrike near Baghdad on Monday marked a new phase in the fight against ISIS.

The airstrike southwest of the city appears to be the closest the U.S. airstrikes have come to the capital of Iraq since the start of the campaign against ISIS, a senior U.S. military official told CNN. And U.S. Central Command said in a statement that it was the first strike as part of "expanded efforts" to help Iraqi forces on the offensive against ISIS.

Monday's airstrike destroyed an ISIS fighting position that had been firing at Iraqi forces, Central Command said.

It occurred about 35 km (22 miles) southwest of Baghdad, another U.S. official said.

The United States began targeted airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq last month to protect American personnel and support humanitarian missions. Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama said new airstrikes would aim to help Iraqi forces on the offensive against the Islamist militants.

Obama also said airstrikes would include ISIS targets in Syria. And last week he also asked Congress for authorization to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels.

The authority comes under Title 10 of the U.S. code, which deals with military powers, and Congress could vote on granting it this week. Approval also would allow the United States to accept money from other countries for backing the Syrian opposition forces.

A senior administration official told reporters Monday that Obama has been making calls to Democratic and Republican members of Congress, asking them to pass the authorization.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry courted Middle Eastern leaders over the weekend to join a coalition in the fight against the Islamist militant group, which calls itself the Islamic State.

More than two dozen nations, the Arab League, the European Union and United Nations met in the French capital Monday, calling ISIS a threat to the international community and agreeing to "ensure that the culprits are brought to justice."

The United States has conducted more than 150 airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS, and Kerry has said nearly 40 nations have agreed to contribute to the fight against the militants. But it remains unclear which countries are on that list and the precise roles they'll play.

See more on this developing story on CNN.com

Posted by ,
Filed under: ISIS
September 15th, 2014
06:02 AM ET

What is the World Going to do About ISIS?

After the beheading of another Western captive by ISIS, an international conference convened Monday in Paris to talk about how to tackle the threat posed by the Islamic extremist group.

The Sunni jihadist group underlined its barbaric credentials over the weekend, posting a video showing the beheading of British aid worker David Haines and threatening the life of another hostage from the United Kingdom.

It was the third videotaped killing of a Western hostage released in less than a month.

The latest killing, ISIS said, was "a message to the allies of America" - a direct challenge to the United States.

President Barack Obama announced last week that the United States would lead "a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat," and that U.S. airstrikes against ISIS would expand from Iraq into Syria.

The United States has said nearly 40 nations have agreed to contribute to the fight against ISIS, which has seized control of large areas of northern Iraq and Syria. But it remains unclear exactly which countries are on that list and what roles they'll play.

The Paris conference Monday is being hosted by French President Francois Hollande and his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Masum.

At the start of the event, Hollande said there was "no time to lose" in international efforts against ISIS.

See more on this developing story on CNN.com

Posted by
Filed under: ISIS
September 12th, 2014
04:37 AM ET

Pistorius Found Guilty of Culpable Homicide

A judge found Oscar Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide, the South African term for unintentionally, but illegally killing a person. In three other weapons charges, he was found not guilty of two.

See more on this developing story on CNN.com


Filed under: Oscar Pistorius • Pistorius verdict
September 11th, 2014
05:39 AM ET

Obama: We Will Degrade and Destroy ISIS

It was a speech that Barack Obama - a war-stopping, Nobel Peace Prize-winning President - never wanted to give.

A year after he pulled back from threatened military attacks on Syria over chemical weapons, Obama told America he now would launch airstrikes against ISIS targets in the country wracked by civil war.

The nationally televised address on Wednesday night, which lasted less than 15 minutes, promised far-reaching impact that could embroil the nation in another Middle East conflict.

"This was a very difficult speech for him," CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger said of a President who campaigned on ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "He's inserted us into the middle of a Syrian civil war."

"Tremendous turnaround"

The plan to "dismantle and ultimately destroy" the Sunni jihadists who have taunted America by beheading two captive U.S. journalists calls for what CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto described as a "tremendous turnaround" in Obama's previous policies in the region.

After previously rejecting calls from top advisers to arm and train some of the Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad and ISIS, Obama now seeks specific congressional approval to do so.

He also threatened airstrikes on ISIS targets in a major expansion of a campaign in Iraq previously limited to protecting U.S. advisers working with Iraqi forces and preventing the slaughter of minority groups by the extremists also known as ISIL and the Islamic State.

"I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are," Obama said. "That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven."

In addition, 475 more U.S. military advisers are headed to Iraq, raising the total of American forces there to 1,700 for a mission originally described as limited.

See more on this developing story on CNN.com

Posted by
Filed under: ISIS • President Obama
September 10th, 2014
05:23 AM ET

Most Russian Troops in Ukraine Have Withdrawn, Ukrainian President Says

Some 70% of the Russian troops believed to have been in Ukraine have withdrawn back across the border, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said, according to the national news agency Ukrinform.

"This is another hope that peaceful initiatives have a good perspective," Poroshenko is quoted as saying during a Cabinet meeting in Kiev on Wednesday.

The remarks came several days into a shaky ceasefire deal between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia rebels.

Moscow has repeatedly denied sending any Russian troops over the border into Ukraine.

See more on this developing story at CNN.com

Posted by ,
Filed under: Russia • Ukraine
September 3rd, 2014
06:09 AM ET

ISIS Beheading Video is Real, U.S. Says

A video showing American journalist Steven Sotloff being beheaded by terror group ISIS is authentic, U.S. officials said early Wednesday.

The Islamic militant group released the video Tuesday.

It shows the second beheading of an American journalist in two weeks, and blames President Barack Obama's decision to conduct airstrikes against the militant group in Iraq for the killing.

"The U.S. intelligence community has analyzed the recently released video ... and has reached the judgment that it is authentic," said Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council. "We will continue to provide updates as they are available,"

In the video, Sotloff kneels in the desert, dressed in an orange prison-style jumpsuit. A masked "executioner" lords over him, wielding a knife.

The journalist speaks; the executioner speaks.

And then the horrific happens: the victim is beheaded.

"It is almost the exact same choreography," said Peter Neumann, a professor at King's College London, comparing ISIS videos showing the deaths of journalists Sotloff and James Foley. A video of Foley's execution was released last month.

The executioner appears to be the same person. The location of the two killings also appears to be similar.

Neumann suspects they took place in or around the Syrian city of Raqqa, one of the safest areas for ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State.

See more on this developing story on CNN.com

Posted by ,
Filed under: ISIS • Obama • Steven Sotloff
September 1st, 2014
05:40 AM ET

Exclusive: Americans detained in North Korea speak to CNN

Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions Monday in an exclusive interview with CNN.

Kenneth Bae, Matthew Todd Miller and Jeffrey Edward Fowle met with CNN's Will Ripley at a hotel in Pyongyang. Each was given five minutes for an interview.

Bae, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for "hostile acts to bring down its government," said he is working eight hours a day, six days a week at a labor camp.

"Continue to pray for me," he asked of his friends and family.

Despite what he called "hard labor," Bae said he has been treated "as humanely as possible."

Miller pleaded for help from the U.S. government during his interview.

"My situation is very urgent, that very soon I am going to trial, and I would directly be sent to prison," Miller said.

MORE on CNN.com.

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Filed under: North Korea
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