Happy Tuesday! And, if you’re a procrastinator, best of luck getting your taxes done this morning!
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced Monday that a helicopter raid in northeast Syria killed an ISIS leader, Abd-al-Hadi Mahmud al-Haji Ali, who the military believes was responsible for planning attacks in the Middle East and Europe. Two other “armed individuals” were killed in the attack, a CENTCOM spokesman said, and no U.S. personnel were injured.
- The FBI arrested two U.S. citizens on Monday who the Justice Department alleges were operating a Chinese police outpost in New York City’s Chinatown aimed at intimidating Chinese dissidents on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party. They’ve been charged with obstructing justice and conspiring to act as agents of the Chinese government. The DOJ also announced charges against 34 Chinese officials allegedly operating a “troll farm” tasked with harassing opponents of the Chinese government online.
- China last week upheld the death sentence of American Mark Swidan, who has been in Chinese custody since 2012 after his arrest on drug-related charges. The State Department considers Swidan wrongfully detained and condemned the ruling. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Swidan’s home state, called on the Biden administration to use “every tool available” to free Swidan.
- A U.S. warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday after China performed live-fire exercises around the island in retaliation for a meeting between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California earlier this month. The move took place amid a meeting in Japan of the Group of Seven’s top diplomats, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who collectively vowed to stand up against Chinese “coercion” in the vital waterway.
- The State Department on Monday endorsed a $259 million deal to upgrade Turkey’s existing F-16 fighter jet fleet, which would bring the jets up to par with those of other NATO allies and improve their compatibility with other member states’ air forces. The sale—which is separate from Turkey’s bid to purchase new F-16s—will now go to Congress for official approval. President Joe Biden has supported both F-16 deals but has met opposition in Congress.
- U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy visited detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on Monday, the first time Russia has allowed embassy officials to see Gershkovich since he was arrested and charged with espionage almost two weeks ago. Tracy said the reporter is “in good health and remains strong” and reiterated calls for his immediate release.
- Germany retired its final three operational nuclear power plants over the weekend, in accordance with a 2002 law requiring the phaseout. The move was delayed by the war in Ukraine, which highlighted Germany’s dependence on Russian natural gas, and the country may now rely more heavily on coal and natural gas—or energy exports from nuclear-reliant neighbors like France—until it can transition fully to renewables.
- 85-year-old Andrew Lester was charged with two felonies Monday after Kansas City, Missouri prosecutors alleged he shot an unarmed black teenager, Ralph Yarl, in the head and arm Thursday night. Yarl, 16, reportedly rang Lester’s doorbell by mistake while trying to pick up his brothers from a friend’s house on the next block. A warrant has been issued for Lester, who was held briefly Thursday night before being released. Yarl, who his family says suffered a cracked skull and a traumatic brain injury, was released from the hospital Monday and received a phone call from President Biden.
- In upstate New York, 65-year-old Kevin Monahan was charged with second-degree murder on Monday after he allegedly shot at a car that mistakenly pulled into his driveway, killing 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis. A group of four friends were in the car, reportedly trying to find the home of another friend.
- Democratic Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania returned to the Senate Monday after being hospitalized in February to receive treatment for clinical depression. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 81, also returned to the Senate Monday, his first time back at work since he fell and suffered a concussion at a fundraiser in early March.
Guns Talk in Sudan
Residents of Khartoum, the capital city of Sudan, were shaken Saturday by the sound of fighting as troops exchanged gunfire. Fighter jets scythed low over rooftops and black smoke blotted out swathes of the city as satellites recorded burning government buildings and wrecked airplanes.
The attacks haven’t stopped. “The fighting is going on and we can hear bullets and bombing all around us,” said Islamic Relief’s Sudan Country Director Elsadig Elnour. “Buildings are on fire and smoke fills the sky. People are trapped in their homes and scared about what is going to happen in the coming days. Life is paralyzed, everything is closed, and food supplies are running out.”
Four years after a popular uprising ousted Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir and opened the door to democracy, a power struggle between Sudan’s two top military leaders has erupted into fierce fighting in the capital and around the country. Western negotiators had hoped the two would finalize a power-sharing agreement earlier this month and begin returning the country to civilian rule, but the conflict now threatens to escalate into a full-blown civil war.