The U.S. military on Saturday acknowledged that it carried out air strikes in West Mosul last week, when as many as 200 Iraqi civilians were reportedly killed. The U.S. Central Command said in a statement late Friday that “an initial review of strike data ... indicates that, at the request of the Iraqi security forces, the coalition struck (IS) fighters and equipment, March 17, in West Mosul at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties.” An investigation has now been opened to “determine the facts surrounding this strike and the validity of the allegation of civilian casualties.” Col. John J. Thomas, a spokesman for the United States Central Command, told the New York Times the military was hoping to determine whether the civilians were killed by the air strikes or a bomb placed by the Islamic State. “It’s a complicated question, and we’ve literally had people working nonstop throughout the night to understand it,” Thomas was cited as saying, adding that the incident had “gotten attention at the highest level.” Residents said up to 200 civilians were killed by air strikes, and if that figure is confirmed to have been caused by an air strike, it would be the highest civilian death toll caused by U.S. operations since the war in Iraq began in 2003.
Las Vegas police are investigating an armed robbery of a retail store inside the Bellagio Hotel and Casino that caused panic early Saturday. In a statement released hours after the incident, police said three people were involved in the robbery, and one of the suspects fired gunshots upon entering the store. No one was injured and one suspect is in custody. Initial reports of the incident circulating on Twitter said an active shooter was in the casino, though police later refuted that account. An eyewitness said one of the robbers wore a pig mask during the incident, and photos posted on Twitter showed a man dressed in all black wearing a pig mask and wielding a gun. Parts of the casino are closed while investigators work at the scene.
An immigration judge on Friday granted asylum to an 18-year-old blogger from Singapore being held in a U.S. detention center since mid-December. Amos Yee, who had been jailed twice in Singapore for posting critical comments online, was detained by authorities upon arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in December. He will now be eligible for immediate release. In a 13-page opinion by Judge Samuel Cole on Friday, Yee was described as a “young political dissident.” “The evidence presented at the hearing demonstrates Singapore's prosecution of Yee was a pretext to silence his political opinions critical of the Singapore government,” Cole wrote. Cole’s ruling went against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which had fought against Yee’s asylum request, arguing that the Singaporean government had legitimate reasons to arrest Yee. Yee has been jailed twice in Singapore for posting critical comments about Singapore’s former prime minister, and about Christianity and Islam online, and his situation has been a driving force in the debate over free speech and censorship in the Southeast Asian city-state.
A 56-year-old man was arrested late Friday on suspicion of killing two adults and two children at a Sacramento home. Although police have not released the identities of the victims, a neighbor interviewed by the Associated Press said an 11-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl were among the dead. The suspect, identified as Salvador Vasquez-Oliva, was detained in San Francisco, about 90 miles from the crime scene, before being formally arrested on Friday. Police discovered the four victims’ bodies on Thursday after a relative called to report that something might be wrong. No details have been released on how or why they were killed.
A police officer in Marksville, Louisiana was found guilty of manslaughter by a jury late Friday in a 2015 shooting that left a six-year-old autistic boy dead. Marksville deputy marshal Derrick Stafford had been indicted on charges of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder after he and another officer opened fire on a car in November 2015 after a car chase. The shooting left six-year-old Jeremy Mardis dead and his father, the driver, critically wounded. Police body cam footage later showed that the boy’s father, Christopher Few, had his hands raised inside the car when the officers fired. Stafford, who reportedly cried Friday when shown photos of the slain boy, said he didn’t see that Few’s hands were raised in the car and he only fired shots because he thought Few was going to back up into his partner. His partner, Norris Greenhouse Jr., also faces second-degree murder charges in a separate trial due to begin in June.
The evacuation of Syrian rebels from Homs was delayed on Saturday due to renewed fighting between rebels and regime forces in the nearby Hama province. The evacuation, part of a Russian-backed deal to surrender the rebels’ last stronghold to government forces, will resume again on Monday, Homs Province governor Talal Barazi said, according to Reuters. Rebels first began leaving the area last weekend as part of the evacuation plan expected to be the largest of its kind. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said between 10,000 and 15,000 people are expected to depart the area each week. Under the deal, rebels are allowed to leave the area, along with their families, with light weapons.
Italy’s justice minister has ordered an investigation after a court acquitted a man accused of rape because his alleged victim didn’t scream during the attack. The ruling by the court in Turin last month has triggered outrage in the country, with many questioning the court’s treatment of the alleged victim. Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper reported that the accuser said she was forced into sex acts by a superior at work, who allegedly threatened to stop giving her work if she didn’t comply. The accuser, who was not identified, reportedly said, “Enough!” during the act, but a judge ruled that her reaction had not “betrayed the emotion that a violation of her person had to inspire in her.” The judge also said the alleged sexual assault she described was “unlikely” and “did not exist,” according to the BBC’s translation of the Corriere della Sera report. In court, the alleged victim said she had not responded more strongly because “with people who are too strong, I just freeze.” Prosecutors said she was a victim of abuse by her father when she was a child. Justice Minister Andrea Orlando has ordered ministry inspectors to review the case, which centered on incidents in 2011. The alleged victim is now facing charges of slander for her accusation.
Authorities in North Carolina have accused a 30-year-old man in Fayetteville of stabbing his infant and toddler daughters to death. Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin identified the suspect as Tillman Freeman III, saying the two children were stabbed multiple times with what appeared to have been a hunting knife, local media reported. The bodies of 4-day-old Genesis Freeman and 2-year-old Serenity Freeman were found early Saturday in a car near a wooded area. The children had been reported missing a day earlier by their mother following a domestic dispute with Freeman. Freeman was charged with child endangerment and child abuse in connection with their disappearance, and he later hinted to police during questioning that he’d harmed them, setting off the search for their bodies. He faces two counts of first-degree murder.
Police in Belarus on Saturday detained hundreds of people protesting President Alexander Lukashenko’s rule in Minsk. Demonstrators condemned the government’s controversial tax on the unemployed—dubbed a law against “social parasites”—and the country’s falling living standards, with many calling for Lukashenko’s ouster after nearly 25 years of rule. The protest came after Lukashenko echoed Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week, accusing critics of acting as a “fifth column” and seeking to overthrow him at the behest of foreign forces. Police dragged away protesters shouting slogans and holding up banners, and Reuters reported seeing at least 10 journalists detained, along with passersby. Police were also reportedly blocking off access points to the square where the protest was held in a bid to squash the unrest, with nearby metro stations closed and water cannons kept nearby to use against protesters. One protester at the rally said he’d initially supported Lukashenko but had grown disillusioned. “I voted for him (Lukashenko) but now I tell Lukashenko—leave,” Lubov Sankevich was cited as saying. “I'm afraid but how long we can be afraid? Why should I be afraid of prison if I'm already in prison?”
French police have jailed and put under formal investigation two men suspected of helping a man who attacked soldiers at France’s Orly Airport earlier this month, Reuters reported Saturday, citing a judicial source. The men, who have not been identified, are accused of helping 39-year-old Ziyed Ben Belgacem obtain the air pistol he allegedly used in the attack. Belgacem was shot dead by French soldiers after attacking another soldier and trying to steal her assault rifle last week. Belgacem reportedly shouted that he was there to “die for Allah” during the incident, renewing fears of a terrorist attack in a country that is already on high alert following a spate of attacks.