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Mother of London Bridge attacker says the internet hardened, radicalized her son

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LONDON — The youngest of the London Bridge attackers pleaded with his mother to settle with him in Syria but instead moved to Britain where his extremist views hardened and he fell into the company of a bloodthirsty gang that launched the latest attack on British streets, his mother said Wednesday.

Valeria Khadija Collina last spoke with her 22-year-old son, Youssef Zaghba, by telephone just two days before he and two other men plowed a van into a crowd near London Bridge and went on a stabbing rampage. Eight people were killed and dozens wounded. All three of the assailants were shot dead.

Zaghba, an Italian national of Moroccan descent, initially told his mother that he wanted to go to Syria to start a family in a religious Islamic climate — not to fight. But he changed, she said, when he went to Britain about a year ago and was seduced by radical views propagated on the internet.

“Last year … when I went to England, he was … more rigid,” Collina, an Italian convert to Islam, told reporters in a series of interviews at her home in Bologna, Italy. “From his face, from his look, I could see there was a radicalization, as you say. And this happened in England, absolutely.”

The other two attackers were identified as Khurum Butt, a 27-year-old whose extremist views had been reported to police, and 30-year-old Rachid Redouane, also known as Rachid Elkhdar, a pastry chef who claimed to have dual Moroccan-Libyan citizenship.

It was not immediately clear how the three knew each other, but Collina said one of her son’s friends recognized one of the other attackers, though it wasn’t clear which one that was.

Butt, who was born in Pakistan and moved to Britain as a child, had worked in 2015 in the office at Auriga Holdings Ltd, which manages some Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises in Britain. Company officials said they had no evidence that either of the other attackers worked at any of the franchises.

Both Butt and Zaghba were known to British law enforcement, raising questions about whether anything could have been done to prevent the assault.

Italian authorities said Zaghba was stopped at the Bologna airport in March 2016 and questioned, but never charged with a crime. Italian officials said suspicions about him were shared with British authorities and his name was listed in the Europe-wide intelligence-sharing system. He was also stopped at London’s Stansted airport in January, but let go.

Collina said police called her after her son was stopped at Bologna airport and asked if she knew he was going to Turkey. Collina said she urged them to detain her son and prevent him from going.

“When they asked him what he was going to do in Istanbul, rather than saying ‘tourist’ he said ‘terrorist,'” Collina told The Associated Press and other media, calling that a “mental lapse” and not a sign of intent. However, she said she and the police assumed he wanted to eventually go to Syria, given he only had a one-way ticket to Istanbul and a small backpack.

His passport and cellphone were seized, but he got them back after a court determined there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest him.

Collina said Zaghba was monitored by Italian intelligence agents each time he came to Italy to visit her after that initial run-in with authorities. She said she told her son to be careful about anything he did after that, including surfing the internet, adding that she didn’t approve of his London friends and never felt comfortable in his London neighborhood.

Although news of her son’s death came as a shock, she said she could only share the pain of the victims’ families. “It’s something that has no sense, for any religion, or any ideology,” she said, choking back tears and calling her son’s actions a “deviation of terror.”

Seated cross-legged on cushions on the floor of her modest Bologna home, her head veiled, Collina said her last phone conversation with her son was “sweet.”

“He had gone to live in an outside building in the garden and was happy because he said it was bigger and when he opened the door there were trees,” she said. “And after I thought that these images of a garden were similar to the images of paradise.”

British security and law enforcement officials are investigating Butt as the potential ringleader of the cell, according to a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the ongoing details.

Several people had alerted police to Butt’s extremist views and he also appeared last year in a documentary, “The Jihadis Next Door,” in which he is shown unfurling a black-and-white flag associated with the Islamic State group.

Butt’s family said Wednesday they were “shocked and appalled” by his actions. “Now, more than ever, we need to work together to stop the actions of the mindless few who claim to be acting in the name of Islam,” they said.

Both British authorities and Ireland’s Police Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan have said they had no evidence Redouane was involved in any terror cell during his time in both countries. Two people believed to have documents linked to Redouane were arrested in Ireland, though only one remained in custody Wednesday.

Redouane had previously been refused asylum in the UK in 2009. However, his 2012 marriage to Charisse O’Leary, a British citizen, allowed him a European Union identity card that granted him easy travel between Britain and Ireland. British officials declined to comment on why his asylum request was denied.

O’Leary said Wednesday she broke up with Redouane six months ago. They had a young daughter.

“I am deeply shocked, saddened and numbed by the actions of my ex-partner who has killed and injured so many innocent people,” O’Leary said in a statement. “My thoughts and efforts now are with trying to bring up my daughter with the knowledge that someday I will have to try and explain to her why her father did what he did.”

Although Redouane was born in Fez, Morocco, his father was Libyan. In 2011, the younger man allegedly went to fight Moammar Gadhafi and joined a militia that sent fighters on to Syria, according to British media reports that could not be immediately confirmed with Libyan or British authorities.

Salman Abedi, the man behind the Manchester bombing last month, also had Libyan connections. His family had sought asylum in Britain but later returned to Libya, where authorities say his father belonged to a militant group backed by al-Qaida. Abedi’s younger brother was being held for questioning in Libya.

Saturday’s attack — the third in three months in which suspects had been on the radar of security officials — has prompted Prime Minister Theresa May to call for tougher counterterrorism laws even if it means changing human rights protections.

Reaction to the attack has dominated the final days of campaigning before Thursday’s general election in Britain. Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and others have criticized May for cutting police numbers by roughly 20,000 during her tenure as home secretary.

Since the attack, the number of racist incidents has spiked, according to London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan. Police have made 25 arrests for hate crime offences since the attack.

“I’m calling on all Londoners to pull together, and send a clear message around the world that our city will never be divided by these hideous individuals who seek to harm us and destroy our way of life,” Khan said.

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Experts: North Korea latest ICBM test puts much of US in range

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PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea on Friday test-fired its second intercontinental ballistic missile, which flew longer and higher than the first according to its wary neighbors, leading analysts to conclude that a wide swath of the U.S., including Los Angeles and Chicago, is now within range of Pyongyang’s weapons.

Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the missile, launched late Friday night, flew for about 45 minutes — about five minutes longer than the ICBM North Korea test-fired on July 4. The missile was launched on very high trajectory, which limited the distance it traveled, and landed west of Japan’s island of Hokkaido.

“We assess that this missile was an intercontinental ballistic missile, as had been expected,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said in Washington.

Analysts had estimated that the North’s first ICBM could have reached Alaska, and said Friday that the latest missile appeared to extend that range significantly.

David Wright, a physicist and co-director of the global security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in Washington that if reports of the missile’s maximum altitude and flight time are correct, it would have a theoretical range of at least 10,400 kilometers (about 6,500 miles). That means it could have reached Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago, depending on variables such as the size and weight of the warhead that would be carried atop such a missile in an actual attack.

Bruce Klingner, a Korean and Japanese affairs specialist at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, said, “It now appears that a significant portion of the continental United States is within range” of North Korean missiles. Klingner recently met with North Korean officials to discuss denuclearization, the think tank said.

Washington and its allies have watched with growing concern as Pyongyang has made significant progress toward its goal of having all of the U.S. within range of its missiles to counter what it labels as U.S. aggression. There are other hurdles, including building nuclear warheads to fit on those missiles and ensuring reliability. But many analysts have been surprised by how quickly leader Kim Jong Un has developed North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs despite several rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions that have squeezed the impoverished country’s economy.

President Donald Trump has said he will not allow North Korea to obtain an ICBM that can deliver a nuclear warhead. But this week, the Defense Intelligence Agency reportedly concluded that the North will have a reliable ICBM capable of carrying a nuclear weapon as early as next year, in an assessment that trimmed two years from the agency’s earlier estimate.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the launch a “serious and real threat” to the country’s security.

Suga, the Japanese spokesman, said Japan has lodged a strong protest with North Korea.
“North Korea’s repeated provocative acts absolutely cannot be accepted,” he said.

A spokesman for Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday that Dunford met at the Pentagon with the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. Harry Harris, to discuss U.S. military options in light of North Korea’s missile test.

The spokesman, Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, said Dunford and Harris placed a phone call to Dunford’s South Korean counterpart, Gen. Lee Sun Jin. Dunford and Harris “expressed the ironclad commitment to the U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance,” Hicks said, referring to the U.S. defense treaty that obliges the U.S. to defend South Korea.

Prime Minister Abe said Japan would cooperate closely with the U.S., South Korea and other nations to step up pressure on North Korea to halt its missile programs.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile reached an estimated height of 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) before landing at sea about 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) away. It appeared to be more advanced than the ICBM North Korea previously launched, it said.

The “Hwasong 14” ICBM test-fired earlier this month was also launched at a very steep angle, a technique called lofting, and reached a height of more than 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) before splashing down in the ocean 930 kilometers (580 miles) away. Analysts said that missile could be capable of reaching most of Alaska or possibly Hawaii if fired in an attacking trajectory.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile was launched from North Korea’s northern Jagang province near the border with China. President Moon Jae-in presided over an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, which called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council and stronger sanctions on North Korea.

There was no immediate confirmation of the launch by North Korea. The day’s broadcast on state-run television had already ended when the news broke at around midnight Pyongyang time.
July 27 is a major national holiday in North Korea called Victory in the Fatherland Liberation War Day, marking the day when the armistice was signed ending the 1950-53 Korean War. That armistice is yet to be replaced with a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula technically in a state of war.

North Korea generally waits hours or sometimes a day or more before announcing launches, often with a raft of photos in the ruling party newspaper or on the television news. Kim Jong Un is usually shown at the site to observe and supervise major launches.

Late night launches are rare. North Korea usually conducts its missile and underground nuclear tests in the morning. It’s likely the North launched the missile at night and from the remote province of Jagang to demonstrate its operational versatility. To have a real deterrent, it’s important for North Korea to prove it can launch whenever and wherever it chooses, making it harder for foreign military observers trying to detect their activities ahead of time.
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Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo. Associated Press writers Robert Burns in Washington, Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, and Eric Talmadge in Pyongyang, North Korea, contributed to this report.

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Shell is preparing for life after oil

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LONDON — Royal Dutch Shell is planning for the day when demand for oil starts fading as major economies move away from oil and increasingly turn to electric-powered cars, Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said Thursday.

Van Beurden welcomed recent proposals to phase out passenger vehicles powered by fossil fuels in Britain and France, saying they are needed to combat global warming. Shell is looking at “very aggressive scenarios” as it makes plans to remain competitive in a world that gets more of its energy from renewable sources and less from crude oil, or “liquids,” he said.

“The most aggressive scenario – much more aggressive than what we are seeing at the moment, by the way – with maximum policy effect, with maximum innovation effect, can see us peaking in liquids consumption somewhere in the early thirties,” he said as Shell reported second-quarter earnings. “If there are a lot of biofuels in the mix, that may mean that oil will peak in the late twenties, but then everything has to work up.”

Van Beurden’s comments come amid increased focus on the future of the industry after the Paris climate agreement saw governments commit to tougher action on emissions and shareholders push for more long-term plans.

Britain this week pledged to ban the sale of new cars and vans using diesel and gasoline starting in 2040 as part of a sweeping plan to tackle air pollution. France announced a similar initiative earlier this month.

Car makers are also moving in this direction. Volvo says that by 2019 all of its cars will be powered by electricity or hybrid engines.

“It’s not a surprise that the international super-majors are starting to accept a future with the question of just how much oil and gas is needed,” said David Elmes, an energy industry expert at Warwick Business School. “They realize that is now in their planning horizons and therefore needs to be discussed with shareholders because it is influencing the decisions today, and one might argue that has been prompted by shareholder activism.”

Shell has already begun to respond to changing energy demand by increasing its focus on natural gas, van Beurden said. But the company also needs to get involved in electricity and renewable energy and expand its petrochemicals business, he said.

Van Beurden also stressed that while developed nations are moving away from gasoline- and diesel-powered passenger vehicles, the world will continue to depend on these fuels for many years.
Developing nations don’t yet have the money or electricity networks needed to shift away from fossil fuels, and aviation, shipping and trucking can’t easily shift to non-hydrocarbon energy sources, he said.

“As far as oil and gas are concerned, and certainly as far as oil is concerned, you have to bear in mind that if we have a peak and then go into decline, this doesn’t mean that it is game over straight away,” van Beurden said.

Shell’s discussion of the future came as it said second-quarter earnings more than tripled due to cost cuts and recovering oil prices.

The Anglo-Dutch energy giant said profit adjusted for changes in the value of inventories and excluding one-time items rose to $3.60 billion from $1.05 billion in the same period last year. Net income rose 31 percent to $1.55 billion.

The earnings reflect efforts to restructure the business to cope with lower oil prices and the purchase of natural gas producer BG Group. Shell’s oil price averaged $45.62 a barrel for the quarter, up 16 percent from a year earlier. Prices were above $100 a barrel as recently as 2014.

“The external price environment and energy sector developments mean we will remain very disciplined, with an absolute focus on the four levers within our control, namely capital efficiency, costs, new project delivery, and divestments,” van Beurden said.

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Report: Scaramucci has more than $50m in assets

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NEW YORK  — He vows to be a fresh voice in the Trump administration, but in one way he is like many of the others: He is wealthy, with a vast and complicated array of assets.

New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci owns property and businesses worth more than $50 million, according to a financial disclosure report filed with the government’s chief ethics agency. The biggest source of his wealth is an ownership stake in an investment fund he founded, SkyBridge Capital.

The fund is in the process of being sold to a division of Chinese company HNA Group, a deal that has drawn scrutiny and dashed Scaramucci’s hopes to move to the White House much earlier in the year. He was turned down as chief liaison to the business community in February.

“In any administration there are always some really extraordinary wealthy individuals, but in this White House, there are so many,” said Don Fox, who stepped down as general counsel at the Office of Government Ethics in 2013. “Their finances, their potential conflicts, become exponentially more complicated to manage.”

Scaramucci joins a long list of former Goldman Sachs employees in the administration, including economic adviser Gary Cohn, chief strategist Steve Bannon and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

SkyBridge accounted for a bulk of his income. In the nearly 18 months from the start of last year through June 27, Scaramucci took in about $10 million in salary and other income from the investment fund.

The financial disclosure also shows Scaramucci earned $88,461 as a contributor to Fox Business News.

Scaramucci expressed frustration on Thursday with the scrutiny of his personal holdings, and the conflict they may pose.

“I sold SkyBridge. I don’t work there anymore,” he told CNN’s “New Day” on Thursday morning.

“There’s residual profits that once the sale occurs I am going to receive, but I am not on salary. I do not have a W2 there. What do you want me to tell you?”

SkyBridge announced it struck a deal to sell to HNA Capital and RON Transatlantic in January. A call to SkyBridge’s spokesperson was not immediately returned.

Another issue raised by Scaramucci’s holdings involves the treatment of taxes on gains from the SkyBridge sale. Federal officials are allowed to file a so-called certificate of divestiture to defer paying taxes if they are being forced to sell an asset because of potential conflicts with their public job.

Since Scaramucci announced the SkyBridge sale long before he took his job, that raises the possibility he will fail to qualify, putting in doubt perhaps millions of dollars of profit for him.

Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics and a big critic of the Trump administration, has tweeted that Scaramucci should have waited for a ruling about whether he needed to sell before entering into a deal to do so.

He tweeted on Tuesday, “U don’t qualify for employee tax relief by entering into a deal & then go looking for a job that may or may not necessitate closing the deal.”

But Richard Painter, former chief White House ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush, isn’t so sure. He said that Scaramucci may be able to qualify if owning SkyBridge is deemed a conflict before the sale is complete.

“They don’t take away the certificate of divestiture because you thought about selling before,” Painter said.

Scaramucci’s lawyer, Elliot Berke, said in an email Thursday that his client had been advised to sell SkyBridge to avoid conflicts before he stuck a deal to do so. “Throughout the review, career nonpartisan officials have recommended he be granted a certificate of divestiture, as has the White House Counsel’s office,” Berke wrote.

Scaramucci has vowed to shake up the administration in part by rooting out those who leak information to press, and the release of his personal finance report on Politico on Wednesday stoked his anger.

He took the Twitter with a vow to contact investigators.

“In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony,” he tweeted, “I will be contacting @FBI and the @JusticeDept #swamp @Reince45.”

In fact, the report wasn’t leaked. It was released after a public records request by a Politico reporter to the Export-Import Bank, where Scaramucci had been employed at a senior level since mid-June.

The Associated Press subsequently obtained the same financial disclosure Thursday. A reporter filled out a publicly available form, turned it in at the bank’s office and was emailed a copy of Scaramucci’s financial disclosure about 30 minutes later.

The report shows that Scaramucci owns several residential properties and businesses. A stake in the New York Mets and property in the Hamptons on Long Island are each worth at least $1 million.
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AP writer Daniel Trielli contributed to this report from Washington.

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