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Prime White Home Official Went to Syria for Hostage Talks

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A high White Home official not too long ago traveled to Damascus for secret talks with the Assad regime, marking the primary time such a high-level U.S. official has met in Syria with the remoted authorities in additional than a decade, in keeping with Trump administration officers and others aware of the negotiations.

Kash Patel, a deputy assistant to President Trump and the highest White Home counterterrorism official, went to Damascus earlier this yr in an effort to safe launch of a minimum of two Individuals believed to be held by President Bashar al-Assad, the officers mentioned. Officers aware of the journey declined to say who Mr. Patel met with throughout his journey.

The final identified talks between White Home and Syrian officers in Damascus occurred in 2010. The U.S. lower off diplomatic relations with Syria in 2012 to protest Mr. Assad’s brutal crackdown on protesters calling for an finish to his regime.

U.S. officers are hoping a take care of Mr. Assad would result in freedom for Austin Tice, a contract journalist and former Marine officer who disappeared whereas reporting in Syria in 2012, and Majd Kamalmaz, a Syrian-American therapist who disappeared after being stopped at a Syrian authorities checkpoint in 2017. At the very least 4 different Individuals are believed to be held by the Syrian authorities, however little is thought about these circumstances.

Ibrahim Kamalmaz, one in all Mr. Kamalmaz’s sons, welcomed Mr. Patel’s journey as a optimistic step in attempting to deliver his father dwelling.

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Majd Kamalmaz, a U.S. assist employee detained at a checkpoint in Damascus, Syria, in 2017.



Photograph:

MARYAM KAMALMAZ

“This administration is dedicated to our dad’s case, and we proceed to talk with officers on the highest ranges of the U.S. Authorities to deliver dad dwelling,” he mentioned Sunday.

A State Division spokeswoman declined to remark. White Home officers didn’t reply to requests for remark. The Syrian mission to the United Nations didn’t instantly reply to a request for touch upon the go to.

Each the Trump and Obama administrations labored to isolate Mr. Assad, who has enlisted assist from Russia and Iran to suppress fashionable protests and armed resistance that has unsuccessfully sought to drive him from energy. The almost decadelong conflict has fractured the nation and left almost a half-million individuals lifeless. Earlier this yr, the Trump administration imposed punishing new financial sanctions on Syria which have additional marginalized the Assad regime.

In March, Mr. Trump wrote Mr. Assad a personal letter proposing a “direct dialogue” about Mr. Tice, and administration officers have tried a wide range of methods to barter a deal.

Final week, Lebanon’s high safety chief, Abbas Ibrahim, met on the White Home with Robert O’Brien, the White Home nationwide safety adviser, to debate the Individuals held in Syria, in keeping with individuals concerned within the talks.

Mr. Ibrahim, head of Lebanon’s Common Safety company, has served as an important mediator between the U.S. and Syria. Final yr, he helped to safe the discharge of Sam Goodwin, an American traveler held for greater than two months whereas visiting Syria as a part of an try to go to each nation on the planet.

Mr. Trump has boasted in latest months of his administration’s efforts in marketing campaign rallies, and the Republican conference featured a video of Mr. Trump assembly with Individuals who had been held in India, Iran, Syria, Turkey and Venezuela.

Final week, Mr. Patel helped dealer a deal that led to the discharge of two Individuals held by Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen in change for the return of greater than 200 Houthi loyalists caught outdoors the fractured Center East nation.

The Trump administration can also be attempting to press Venezuela to launch six oil executives held since 2017. Two different Individuals had been arrested in Might after coming into Venezuela to allegedly participate in an tried coup to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.

The households of each Mr. Tice and Mr. Kamalmaz imagine that the 2 males are alive, however Syrian officers haven’t supplied definitive proof.

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From left, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), White Home Social Media Director Dan Scavino and Nationwide Safety Council Senior Director of Counterterrorism Kash Patel on the White Home on Oct. 27, 2019.



Photograph:

Andrew Harnik/Related Press

Talks with the Assad regime haven’t gotten very far, in keeping with individuals briefed on the negotiations.

The Assad regime has repeatedly demanded that the U.S. withdraw all its forces from Syria. A number of hundred American forces assist defend oil fields within the northeastern a part of the nation as a part of an effort to forestall Islamic State from regaining a foothold within the nation.

Considerations in regards to the destiny of each males was heightened by the loss of life of Layla Shweikani, a 26-year-old Illinois native, who human rights teams mentioned was detained, tortured and executed by the Assad regime in 2016 after working as an activist and assist employee in Syria.

Mr. Trump has taken a private curiosity in attempting to safe Mr. Tice’s freedom, mentioning his case in a March information convention and issuing an announcement on the eighth anniversary of his disappearance.

Write to Dion Nissenbaum at dion.nissenbaum@wsj.com and Jared Malsin at jared.malsin@wsj.com

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VP Mike Pence’s shut adviser assessments optimistic for COVID-19

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An in depth adviser to Vice President Mike Pence examined optimistic for the coronavirus earlier this week, in keeping with reviews on Saturday.

Marty Obst — who’s Pence’s senior political adviser, although not a authorities worker — examined optimistic for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Bloomberg reported.

He was final across the vp a couple of week in the past, although not in shut proximity.

It wasn’t instantly clear if Obst had developed signs of the virus. He declined to remark to Bloomberg.

Obst isn’t the primary individual within the veep’s orbit to catch the bug.

A spokeswoman for Pence, Katie Miller, examined optimistic for COVID-19 in Might and later recovered.

Her husband, Stephen Miller, who’s President Trump’s chief speech author and home coverage adviser, examined optimistic earlier this month.

The virus has unfold by means of the White Home since at the very least September, infecting the president, the primary woman and several other prime aides.

Pence — who was in Tallahassee, Fla., on Saturday night time for a marketing campaign occasion — has up to now dodged the sickness.

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Suicide assault kills 18 in Afghanistan; al-Qaida just lately chief

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The dying toll from the suicide assault Saturday in Afghanistan’s capital has risen to no less than 18 killed and 57 folks wounded, together with college students, the inside ministry mentioned.

Afghan safety officers individually introduced on Saturday {that a} senior al-Qaida commander had been killed in a current operation within the nation’s east.

Saturday’s explosion within the capital struck outdoors an training middle in a closely Shiite neighborhood of western Kabul, Dasht-e-Barchi.

Inside Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian says that the attacker was attempting to enter the middle when he was stopped by safety guards.

In accordance with Arian, the casualty toll might rise additional as members of the family of victims of the suicide bombing are nonetheless looking the a number of totally different hospitals the place the wounded have been taken.

No group claimed fast duty for the bombing. The Taliban rejected any reference to the assault.

An Islamic State affiliate claimed duty for the same suicide assault at an training middle in August 2018, during which 34 college students have been killed. Inside Afghanistan, IS has launched large-scale assaults on minority Shiites, Sikhs and Hindus, whom it views as apostates.

Lots of of Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan fled the nation in September after a gunman loyal to the militant group killed 25 members of the shrinking neighborhood in an assault on their share a spot of worship in Kabul.

Afghan men look for their relatives at a hospital after a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan. Afghan men look for their relatives at a hospital after a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Afghan males search for their relations at a hospital after a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan.REUTERS

In the meantime, the Afghan intelligence service mentioned in a tweet that particular forces killed al-Qaida’s quantity two commander for the Indian sub-continent, Abu Muhsin al-Masri, in a current operation in japanese Ghazni. The Nationwide Directorate of Safety didn’t instantly share extra particulars in regards to the operation.

Al-Masri was listed among the many most wished terrorists by the U.S. Division of Justice in 2018.

The U.S. signed a peace cope with the Taliban in February, opening up a path towards withdrawing American troops from the battle. U.S. officers mentioned the deal additionally aimed refocus safety efforts on combating the Islamic State, which is a rival of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

There was an upsurge in violence between Taliban and Afghan forces within the nation just lately, at the same time as representatives from the 2 warring sides start their very own peace talks in Doha to finish the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan.

Earlier Saturday a roadside bomb killed 9 folks in japanese Afghanistan after it struck a minivan filled with civilians, a neighborhood official mentioned.

Ghazni province police spokesman Ahmad Khan Sirat mentioned {that a} second roadside bomb killed two policemen, after it struck their automobile that was making its method to the victims of the primary explosion.

Sirat added that the bombings had wounded a number of others, and that the assaults have been beneath investigation.

Nobody instantly claimed duty for the assaults. The provincial police spokesman claimed the Taliban had positioned the bomb.

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Trump and Biden commerce COVID-19 assaults on the marketing campaign path

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President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden traded COVID-19 barbs on the marketing campaign path Saturday.

As Trump hopscotched by means of three totally different battleground states — North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin – Biden skilled his hearth on Pennsylvania, which he goals to take again for the Democrats after Trump’s shock 2016 win there.

However at two drive-in rallies within the essential swing counties of Bucks and Luzerne, Biden was met with scores of Trump followers who lined the roadways with marketing campaign flags and shouts of “Go house, Joe!”

“We don’t do issues like these chumps on the market with the microphones, these Trump guys,” an irritated Biden instructed his supporters at Bucks County Neighborhood School — all of them ensconced inside about 130 automobiles to stop the unfold of coronavirus.

Trump, at a non-socially-distanced rally in Lumberton, N.C., ridiculed his rival’s “tiny little crowds.”

“There have been so few automobiles, I’ve by no means seen an viewers like this,” Trump stated. “You simply heard a few horns going ‘honk honk.’ It’s the weirdest factor.”

Biden defended his limited-capacity occasions.

“I don’t like the concept of all this distance, nevertheless it’s obligatory,” he instructed the Bucks County crowd. “We don’t need to develop into superspreaders.”

However Trump dismissed Biden’s doom and gloom.

“No, we’ve bought to have spirit, our nation,” the president stated. “We’re uninterested in all of these items. We’re uninterested in such negativity.”

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