BAGHDAD (AP) — An Islamic State suicide bomber killed two Iraqi army generals on Thursday as they led forces against IS positions in the turbulent Anbar province west of Baghdad, military officials said.
They said the bomber drove his explosives-laden vehicle into the advancing troops north of Anbar’s provincial capital, Ramadi, killing the two generals and three soldiers. A military spokesman said on state television that 10 other soldiers were wounded. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The IS group captured Ramadi in May and also controls the nearby city of Fallujah.
A military statement read on Iraqi state television identified the two generals as Maj. Gen. Abdul-Rahman Abu-Regheef, deputy chief of operations in Anbar, and Brig. Gen. Sefeen Abdul-Maguid, commander of the 10th Army Division. The two were later given a military funeral at the Defense Ministry in Baghdad with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi leading mourners.
An IS statement posted on Twitter accounts run by supporters claimed responsibility for the attack, but gave a different account, saying six fighters in four explosives-laden vehicles and armed with two heavy machine-guns carried out the attack.
Tens of soldiers were killed, including the two generals, it said without giving precise figures. The operation was designed to avenge the killing of a local commander in Anbar it identified as Abu Radi al-Ansari.
The Associated Press could not immediately verify the authenticity of the statement, but its language and phrasing is consistent with past IS claims of responsibility.
In neighboring Syria, meanwhile, IS militants seized five villages from rebel groups in the north as part of an advance toward the strategic town of Marea near the Turkish border. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other activist groups said the IS carried out a suicide bombing on the outskirts of Marea amid fierce fighting in the area.
The Turkish Dogan news agency also reported renewed fighting between IS and rebels across the border from Kilis and said the U.S.-led coalition bombed IS targets in the region. Dogan video footage showed a large plume of smoke rising from across the border.
The IS advance is in the northern countryside of Aleppo province, near the area where Turkey and the United States have agreed to establish an IS-free safe zone.
Iraq’s government forces and allied Sunni and Shiite militiamen have been battling IS militants in Anbar for months but have only made modest gains against the group in the vast province that stretches west of Baghdad.
Speaking on state television, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya al-Zobeidi sought to play down the psychological effect of the loss of the two generals. “We will not stop our operations and we will continue to advance,” he said.
The IS group controls about a third of Iraq and Syria. A U.S.-led coalition has been staging airstrikes against IS positions in both countries over the past year.
Government forces and allied militiamen are coming under mounting pressure from IS militants in the oil refinery town of Beiji, north of Baghdad. Government forces retook Beiji late last year, but the IS militants are on the offensive there again and now control about half of the town and the refinery.
Al-Abadi said this week that winning the ongoing battle over Beiji is key to defeating the IS group in Iraq.
Associated Press writers Zeina Karam in Beirut and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Iran is broadly complying with agreements on curtailing its nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Thursday in its first update since last month’s deal between Tehran and world powers. It noted concern, however, with an Iranian military site where nuclear weapons work may have occurred more than a decade ago.
The U.N. agency said Iran’s current level of uranium enrichment, nuclear research and development and other activity is in line with its declarations. The 21-page report covers Iran’s nuclear program in the run-up to the landmark accord on July 14 and its first steps toward implementing that agreement. A copy of the document was obtained by The Associated Press.
The agency noted that it received information from Iran about allegations of past nuclear weapons work on Aug. 15.
But it offered reservations about the military base of Parchin. Western intelligence agencies say Iran used the site for explosives tests and other experiments related to the development of nuclear weapons. Iran argues the evidence is fraudulent; the IAEA is supposed to clear up the allegations by mid-December.
The IAEA said it recently observed through satellite imagery the presence of vehicles, equipment and probable construction materials at the site. And it warned, “The activities that have taken place at this location since February 2012 are likely to have undermined the agency’s ability to conduct effective verification.”
Last week, the AP published the details of a previously undisclosed side deal between Iran and the IAEA for investigating Parchin.
It allows Tehran to take its own environmental samples from the site and provide videos and photos to the agency, “taking into account military concerns.” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has said the arrangements are “technically sound” and consistent with long-established practices.
The U.N. probe runs parallel to the much bigger nuclear pact Iran reached with the U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. That deal will potentially provide Iran hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions in exchange for 15 years of strict controls on its nuclear program.
Congress plans to vote on a resolution of disapproval of the deal, but Republican opponents don’t appear to have enough votes to block the accord.
ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — Alison Parker seemed destined for the anchor chair. Adam Ward was upbeat, the kind of cameraman everyone wanted to work with in the wee hours of the morning.
The two young journalists were killed on live television Wednesday by a disgruntled former reporter they once worked with at WDBJ-TV. They were doing an innocent story about the 50th anniversary of a reservoir known as Smith Mountain Lake when the gunman walked up to them and fired. The chilling images of Parker running away were captured on Ward’s camera as he fell to the ground.
Like young journalists across the country, the pair was eager for a story, chomping at the bit to cover big news and active on social media. In Roanoke, the nation’s 67th largest media market, Parker and Ward were also something else: hometown kids who became local celebrities.
“They grew up in this area,” Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton said. “They were part of our community.”
They were also part of a close-knit family of TV station employees who watched the killings unfold on the air and grieved publicly. And both had found love in the newsroom.
Ward, 27, was engaged to producer Melissa Ott, who watched the shooting unfold from the control room. Her last day was supposed to be Wednesday because she had accepted a new job at a station in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Parker, 24, was dating Chris Hurst, an anchor at the station. They had just moved in together.
Outside the station Thursday, Hurst talked about the couple first realizing they liked each other at WDBJ’s Christmas party. Their first date was New Year’s Day at a Mexican restaurant, which was a favorite of Parker’s. They didn’t eat though because they were so nervous.
Before her shift Wednesday, Hurst made scrambled eggs and a smoothie for Parker and packed her lunch.
“I’d never done that before for any woman, for anyone, but I wanted to do it for Alison because I loved her so much and I just took so much joy in something so minor as cutting strawberries for her and packed for her lunch.”
Like many young couples, they exchanged texts when they got to work. He worked at night. She worked in the mornings.
Her last message to him was “good night sweet boy.”
“It’s the last that I ever heard from her,” Hurst said. “I saw it before I went to sleep. And then a few hours later I woke up to some calls telling me to come to the station.”
Parker and Ward worked as a team for the station’s “Mornin'” show, a time-slot where many broadcast journalists get their start. They covered everything from breaking news to stories about child abuse.
They were “like brother and sister,” Hurst said.
A native of Martinsville, about 45 minutes from Roanoke, Parker said in a promotional video for the station that the “most thrilling” thing she ever did was take a trip to the Grand Canyon with her family and ride horseback down the canyon. She enjoyed the arts, playing trumpet and French horn in high school. And she loved Mexican food.
“The spicier, the better,” she said in the video.
She graduated from James Madison University and interned at a few stations, including WDBJ.
Parker was a highly motivated reporter who was perhaps destined to be a network anchor. She was proactive and good at making connections that help boost a reporter’s career.
“She was wise beyond her years. She was just dedicated. She lived and breathed news. You don’t find that every day,” said Ashley Talley, who was assistant news director at WCTI-TV in New Bern, North Carolina, when she hired Parker right out of college.
Talley said she talked to Parker on Tuesday.
“We were talking about the future,” Talley said, noting that Parker said, “I’m always looking ahead. But you know, the time is going to sneak up me.”
Ward played high school football. He was a devoted fan of his alma mater, Virginia Tech. He rarely, if ever, missed a Hokies game.
He was a “happy-go-lucky guy” — even during the early morning hours.
“He was the kind of guy you wanted to be around, especially at three in the morning,” said Jay Webb, a former meteorologist at WDBJ.
Drew reported from Collinsville, Virginia.
Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Florida, Skip Foreman in Charlotte, North Carolina; Larry O’Dell in Richmond, Virginia; David Dishneau in Harrisonburg, Virginia; and Brock Vergakis in Hardy, Virginia, contributed to this report.
BEIJING (AP) — A sinkhole in a northeastern Chinese city swallowed five people in a dramatic scene that was captured on security video and shared widely on Chinese social media.
A provincial broadcaster said four people were injured in the Saturday incident in the provincial capital of Harbin.
The surveillance camera video shows pedestrians walking or standing on the sidewalk when it suddenly gave in.
Three people fell straight into the hole, while a woman clung to pipes just underneath the sidewalk. Another person standing on the edge fell sideways into the hole.
Heilongjiang Network Broadcasting Television said the people were probably waiting for a bus because it occurred at a bus stop. The bus sign also was swallowed by the sinkhole, the broadcaster said.
Passers-by pulled the victims from the hole, which was about 3 meters (10 feet) deep, the broadcaster said.
It said four received minor injuries to their feet, legs, arms and shoulders.
It was not immediately clear what caused the sidewalk to collapse.
NEW YORK (AP) — Samsung’s new smartphones and tablets might not offer enough to entice current iPhone and iPad users to switch, but they keep Samsung at the head of the class among Android gadget makers.
The new Galaxy devices come weeks before comparable updates from Apple are expected. In a sense, if Samsung can’t beat the competition in sales, it can at least beat it to store shelves.
Samsung has been facing competition not just from Apple but also from Android manufacturers such as Motorola and Xiaomi, which offer good-enough features while keeping prices low. Consumers will have to decide whether the premium features in the latest Samsung devices will be worth the premium price tags.
The Galaxy S6 Edge Plus and Note 5 phones arrived last week, while the Galaxy Tab S2 tablets come out next Thursday.
Here’s a closer look at the devices:
Samsung pioneered jumbo phones with the original Note in 2011, but lost its edge after Apple came out with its own, the iPhone 6 Plus. Samsung’s new 5.7-inch phones seek to restore some of that edge.
Of the two, the Edge Plus is likely to appeal to more people. The screen’s left and right edges are curved like a waterfall and blend into the phone’s aluminum casing. You get a better grip and a more immersive viewing experience, even from an angle.
As with the smaller S6 Edge phone from this spring, you can access frequent contacts and have the edge light up in a different color, depending on who’s calling. With your phone face down, you know whether the caller’s important enough to interrupt a meeting. The Edge Plus model adds quick access to frequently used apps. The side screen also displays headlines and clock functions.
The Note 5 model comes with a regular, flat screen and is notable mostly for its stylus. It will appeal primarily to professionals who do a lot of note-taking and messaging. You can write instead of type an e-mail or reminder. Software converts the handwriting — even my chicken scratch — into computerized text. You can jot down a note even with the screen off, so you don’t lose your train of thought in turning on the phone and opening an app first. You can also annotate documents and Web pages to share with others.
Both phones have great screens with vivid colors, though colors sometimes look unnatural. Faces appear too orange at times, for instance. The cameras are excellent, but have color challenges, too. Grass at a baseball game appeared yellowish rather than green. On the other hand, many people want photos to look stunning rather than accurate, judging by the popularity of Instagram filters that do just that.
The phones have great battery life — 13 to 15 hours of Hulu video, while the included wall charger gets you a quarter charge in 15 minutes and more than 85 percent in an hour.
The new phones borrow a number of features from the iPhone. They use metal and glass just like the latest iPhones, while earlier Samsung phones used plastic. And like the latest iPhones, Samsung phones will be capable of making card payments by tapping a store’s payment terminal. Samsung Pay will debut next month.
So why don’t I believe these new phones will entice iPhone users to switch? Being just as good isn’t enough. They need to be much better, given that switching means buying new apps and learning new ways to do things. The pen and the edge screen help, but they won’t appeal to everyone.
Samsung has a better chance at luring back some Android users — at least those willing to pay $696 to $740 for the Note 5 and about $75 more for the Edge. Decent Android phones are available for a few hundred dollars less — without the pen or edge screen features.
Compared with the original Tab S, the Tab S2 update sheds bulk and weight, akin to what Apple has done with the full-size iPad Air and Air 2. But Samsung also scaled back on some features to make that happen.
The $500 full-size model is now 9.7 inches rather than 10.5 inches, while the $400 mini version is 8 inches instead of 8.4 inches. Samsung also dropped the camera flash, something rare in tablets to begin with. Battery capacity is reduced, though you don’t need as much power to light up a smaller screen. In any case, the 12 to 14 hours promised for video should be enough for most flights or evenings at home.
As with the Samsung phones and the original Tab S, the new tablets use Amoled screen technology for vivid colors. This type of screen is rare for tablets because it’s expensive to produce at such sizes. Colors are amazing when watching streaming video, as long as you overlook the occasional unnatural tone.
One excellent change: The dimensions are now 4:3. Android tablets, including the original Tab S, have typically used a wider, 16:10 aspect ratio, which is great for video but bad for just about everything else. The 4:3 ratio, which the iPad has long had, is better for photos, magazines and Web browsing.
Samsung is ahead with multitasking features that let you view multiple apps side by side, though similar features are coming to the iPad soon with the iOS 9 software update.
Again, I don’t see Apple users switching. But just as an iPad can be a good companion for iPhone users, a Samsung tablet is great for Samsung phone owners. A feature called SideSync lets you receive calls, texts and notifications on the tablet. You can make calls and send messages, too. If you have a recent, higher-end Samsung TV, you can have the tablet display whatever’s on the TV, so you can go check the grill or use the toilet without missing a scene.
Alison Parker and Adam Ward’s colleagues at TV station WDBJ saved their tears for off the air.
The news became personal for the CBS affiliate in Virginia when reporter Parker and cameraman Ward were fatally shot during a live broadcast Wednesday, forcing co-workers to balance the stunning tragedy with professionalism.
Their grief was evident during the newscasts that followed, but so was their restraint.
“This is a hard day for all of us here at WDBJ7. We are mourning Alison and Adam, but it is our job to find the facts,” anchorwoman Melissa Ganoa said during the 5 p.m. EDT newscast, less than 12 hours after the shooting by a fired station employee, Vester Flanagan, who died later of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
What unfolded was familiar to any TV viewer: A recounting of the crime; news conferences with updates from authorities, and reaction from those who knew the victims. A third person, a local chamber of commerce executive who was being interviewed by Parker, was shot and wounded.
The station in Virginia’s Roanoke-Lynchburg media market, however, left it other outlets to dwell on the footage from WDBJ’s unwitting broadcast of the shooting and, in a bleakly modern twist, apparent “selfie” video posted online by the alleged gunman.
An estimated 40,000 viewers saw it unfold live, untold numbers watched it afterward. The station received calls for interview requests from media outlets in Russia and Australia, among others.
“We are choosing not to run the video of that (the shooting) right now because, frankly, we don’t need to see it again. And our staff doesn’t need to see it again,” Jeffrey Marks, WDBJ’s president and general manager, said on air soon afterward. “But we will do full reporting on it later. Our teams are working on it right now, through the tears.”
In sometimes shaky voices, Marks, reporters and anchors shared tender memories of Parker, 24, and Ward, 27, as kind friends and dedicated colleagues. They also provided sketchy details of the shooting. Then Marks, his hair disheveled but his emotions in check, put a stop to it, at least in those early, freshly painful moments.
“We should probably go back to regular programming now, rather than prolonging this. But rest assured, we’ll come back on the air as more information becomes available,” he said.
In an age when video of crashes, shootings, fires and other tragedies is readily available and endlessly replayed, it was a decision — albeit it one influenced by personal loss — that other outlets often fail to make and for which they are roundly criticized.
WDBJ news director Kelly Zuber was asked in an interview whether the station planned to air the selfie video. In it, a hand holding a gun is seen behind Ward for several seconds and then squeezes off shots at Parker.
“At this point we don’t,” she said Wednesday evening. “We’ll review that as we go. It’s pretty raw right now in our newsroom. And we will continue to process the journalism, and if that piece of video is important to what we do, we’ll include it. But for right now, no. No.”
Lee Wolverton, managing editor of The Roanoke Times, expressed the newspaper’s sympathy for the victims and its intention to provide complete coverage. The paper’s website Wednesday night included a screen grab of WDBJ’s broadcast of the attack, labeled with a viewer warning, but not the selfie video.
“We recognize how important this story is in the life of our community and have strived to deliver the same kind of fullness and context we seek in every story,” Wolverton said in an emailed response, adding that the Times’ reporting would be thorough and presented in “a manner appropriate for the circumstances.”
Elber wrote from Los Angeles. Associated Press writer John Raby contributed to this report from Roanoke, Virginia.