Islamic State group offshoot claims 2017 Niger attack on US

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Islamic State group offshoot claims 2017 Niger attack on US

DAKAR, Senegal

An Islamic State group offshoot is claiming it carried out the October attack in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers and four Nigerian troops and sparked questions about U.S. military involvement in West Africa’s vast Sahel region.

The Mauritanian Nouakchott News Agency reported Friday that Abu al-Walid al-Sahrawi with the self-professed IS affiliate claimed responsibility for the Oct. 4 ambush about 120 miles north of Niger’s capital, Niamey. The news agency has carried messages from the affiliate before, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites.

The U.S. Africa Command has been investigating the attack, which also wounded two U.S. and eight Nigerian troops. A final report is expected to be released this month.

A 12-member Army special forces unit was accompanying 30 Nigerian forces when they were attacked in a densely wooded area by as many as 50 militants traveling by vehicle and carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

The Pentagon has declined to release details about the commando team’s exact mission. U.S. officials have said the joint U.S.-Niger patrol had been asked to assist a second American commando team hunting for a senior Islamic State group member. The team had been asked to go to a location where the insurgent had last been seen.

France’s playful baby panda makes 1st public appearance

PARIS

France’s first baby panda has made his grand public entrance by acting like many five-month-olds – climbing all over his mother, who looked like she just wanted to rest instead.

Mostly hidden from view since his birth in August, the panda named Yuan Meng left his den Saturday for his first public appearance. BFM TV video showed him endlessly crawling over his mother, who at one point gathered the black-and-white ball of fur to her side before he escaped again to climb over her.

French first lady Brigitte Macron, considered the panda’s “godmother,” announced the panda’s name at a ceremony in December at Beauval Zoo, south of Paris, attended by Chinese officials. It means “the realization of a wish” or “accomplishment of a dream.”

Suspect in postal worker deaths to be tried in federal court

COLUMBUS

A disgruntled postal worker accused of fatally shooting his supervisor at an Ohio post office and then killing a postmaster outside her apartment will be tried in federal court.

County and federal prosecutors in Columbus said Friday that sending the case to federal court was a joint decision.

Police said 24-year-old DeShaune Stewart, of Columbus, shot and killed 52-year-old Lance Dempsey at a post office in suburban Dublin on Dec. 23.

They said he then killed 53-year-old Ginger Ballard at an apartment complex.

Authorities said Stewart was naked during both attacks.

Police said the violence appeared to be retaliation against two people involved in Stewart’s pending dismissal at work.

A message seeking a comment was left at his public defender’s office Saturday.

Girl Scouts join fight over bridge named for segregationist

SAVANNAH, Ga.

Lawmakers can expect face-to-face meetings with Girl Scouts from across Georgia next month at the state Capitol, where the young Scouts plan on treating legislators to a milk-and-cookie reception.

These girls bearing gifts of Thin Mints and Samoas will also come packing an agenda. They want to see Savannah’s towering suspension bridge renamed in honor of Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts in the coastal Georgia city more than a century ago.

The Girl Scouts saw an opening last fall when Savannah’s city council formally asked state lawmakers during their 2018 session to strip the name of segregationist former Gov. Eugene Talmadge from the bridge. Georgia Scouts are getting support from the Girl Scouts’ national headquarters in New York, which has hired a lobbyist to help sway lawmakers in Atlanta.

Rep. Ron Stephens, a Republican from Savannah, is on board with the switch. He said he plans to introduce a bill Feb. 6, when Girl Scout leaders plan to bring as many as 300 Scouts to the Capitol.

“I can’t think of a name that could go on the bridge at the Savannah River that would mean more,” Stephens said of Low, though he’s not optimistic fellow lawmakers will agree if that means rescinding an honor bestowed on a former governor.

Man convicted in beard-cutting attacks files an appeal

CLEVELAND

The leader of a breakaway Amish group in Ohio convicted in hair- and beard-cutting attacks is asking a federal judge to overturn his 2012 convictions.

Samuel Mullet Sr. is arguing in an appeal filed Friday that his former attorney made a series of mistakes during the trial and in his previous appeals.

His former attorney said in court documents that he did make errors handling the case.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided last year not to review Mullet’s appeal challenging the constitutionality of federal hate crimes.

Prosecutors said Mullet directed the hair-cutting attacks. Hair and beards have spiritual significance in the Amish faith.

Mullet is serving an 11-year sentence. The 15 other members of the eastern Ohio Amish community convicted in the case have since been released.

Research aims to predict algae blooms on lakes, rivers

TOLEDO

Researchers along the Ohio River are trying to figure out how to predict which rivers and lakes in Ohio and other states are at risk from toxic algae.

They said it could help prevent algae outbreaks and be a model for states around the nation seeing an increasing number of waterways plagued by harmful algae.

Researchers at Ohio State University are starting the multi-year project to create a classification system for waterways to say what areas are at risk.

They’ll be collecting and analyzing water samples and studying land-use in the Ohio River’s basin in southern Ohio, northern Kentucky and southern Indiana.

Another project that includes researchers from the University of Cincinnati is setting up a series of sensors along the Ohio River to detect harmful algae.

Police probe man’s claim that wife died on Graceland trip

HARTVILLE, Ohio

Police in Ohio are investigating what happened to a woman who went with her husband to see Elvis Presley’s Graceland.

The woman’s husband told police in Hartville that they were in Memphis, Tenn., just over a week ago when she died in a hotel parking lot.

Philip Snider said his 69-year-old wife was in poor health and this was to be their last trip.

He said he flagged down an ambulance after she died and rescue workers took his wife’s body. He said he returned to Ohio because he didn’t know where they took her.

But police in Hartville said Tennessee authorities don’t have a record of the woman’s body. Police told the Akron Beacon Journal that Snider’s memory might be suspect, and it’s not clear if he misled police.

Chelsea Manning files for US Senate bid in Maryland

NORTH BETHESDA, Md.

Chelsea Manning intends to run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, returning the transgender former soldier to the spotlight after her conviction for leaking classified documents and her early release from military prison.

Manning, 30, filed her statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday, listing an apartment in North Bethesda as her address.

She is running as a Democrat and will likely challenge two-term Sen. Ben Cardin in the primary. The state’s senior senator is an overwhelming favorite to win.

Associated Press

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