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Nation & World in brief for June 19

US shoots down Syrian Air Force fighter

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military on Sunday shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet that bombed local forces aligned with the Americans in the fight against Islamic State militants, an action that appeared to mark a new escalation of the conflict.

The U.S.-led coalition headquarters in Iraq said in a written statement that a U.S. F-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government SU-22 after it dropped bombs near the U.S. partner forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. The shootdown was near the Syrian town of Tabqa.

The U.S. military statement said it acted in “collective self defense” of its partner forces and that the U.S. did not seek a fight with the Syrian government or its Russian supporters.

U.S. forces tangled earlier this month with Syria-allied aircraft in the region. On June 8, U.S. officials reported that a drone likely connected to Iranian-supported Hezbollah forces fired on U.S.-backed troops and was shot down by an American fighter jet. The incident took place in southern Syria near a base where the U.S.-led coalition was training Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State group.

An Army spokesman at the Pentagon said at the time that the drone carried more weapons and was considered a direct threat, prompting the shootdown.

Forest fire kills 61 in Portugal; search on for more bodies

PEDROGAO GRANDE, Portugal (AP) — A raging forest fire in central Portugal killed at least 61 people as they desperately tried to flee, charring cars and trucks as it swept over roads. The disaster — the worst tragedy Portugal has experienced in decades — shook the nation, with the president declaring that the country’s pain “knows no end.”

Almost 24 hours after the deaths Saturday night, fires were still churning across the forested hillsides of central Portugal. Police and firefighters were searching charred areas of the forest and isolated homes, looking for more bodies.

“It is a time of pain but also … a time to carry on the fight” against the flames, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told the nation in a televised address Sunday evening after the government declared three days of national mourning.

A huge wall of thick smoke and bright red flames towered over the tops of trees in the forested Pedrogao Grande area, 95 miles northeast of Lisbon where a lightning strike was believed to have sparked the blaze Saturday. Investigators found a tree that was hit during a “dry thunderstorm,” the head of the national judicial police said.

Dry thunderstorms are frequent when falling water evaporates before reaching the ground because of high temperatures. Portugal is prone to forest fires in the dry summer months and temperatures as high as 104 Fahrenheit hit the area in recent days.

President Macron’s party dominates parliamentary vote

PARIS (AP) — French voters gave President Emmanuel Macron’s upstart party a solid victory in Sunday’s parliamentary election, handing the centrist a strong mandate to reshape French politics and overhaul the country’s restrictive labor laws.

Polling agency projections suggested that Macron’s Republic on the Move! party could take 355 to 365 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, the powerful lower house. That’s far more than the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority to carry out his program.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, a center-right politician who joined Macron’s movement, said “through their vote, a wide majority of the French have chosen hope over anger.”

With 82 percent of the vote counted, the Interior Ministry said Macron’s party had 42 percent of the vote, the conservative Republicans had 22 percent and the far-right National Front captured 10 percent.

The Socialists, who ruled the nation before Macron’s independent presidential victory in May, were decimated and only won six percent of the vote.

Suspected jihadists attack spa in Mali’s capital, 2 dead

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Suspected jihadists attacked a hotel resort Sunday in Mali’s capital, taking hostages at a spot popular with foreigners on the weekends. About 30 people managed to escape though at least two people were killed as the assault continued into the evening, authorities said.

Gunfire first rang out at the Campement Kangaba on the outskirts of Bamako in the late afternoon, according to a security official with the U.N. mission known as MINUSMA. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

“I heard gunfire coming from the camp and I saw people running out of the site,” said Modibo Diarra, who lives nearby.

Malian soldiers later succeeded in entering the resort area, according to Commandant Modibo Traore, a spokesman for the Malian special forces in the former French colony.

“The operation is ongoing,” he said.

 

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