Islamic State kills dozens of civilians trying to flee Mosul – witnesses

Troops are meeting fierce resistance as militants retreat into the Old City, where street fighting is expected in the narrow alleyways and around the mosque where Islamic State declared its caliphate nearly three years ago.

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A man who spoke to Reuters via telephone said he had found the mutilated body of a relative strung up from an electricity pole in the Tenek district along with three other young men caught trying to flee by the militants.

“Their appearance was shocking. We weren’t able to get them down and they have been there for two days,” said the relative on condition of anonymity.

The Kurdistan Region security council said the number of people killed by the militants on Monday and Tuesday was as high as 140.

In the Old City, more than 40 civilians were killed when the militants caught them trying to escape, said a resident of the Farouq district where the symbolic Nuri mosque is located.

Another resident of the Old City’s Shahwan district said a family of six, including an elderly woman, had also been killed for the same reason.

A woman from the Yarmouk district said she had narrowly escaped death along with her husband and children after the militants caught them trying to flee among a group of around 30 people.

“They took our bags thinking there was gold or money in them and as they were busy checking the contents, we fled through the houses taking advantage of the pitch darkness,” said the woman, who is now in an area under the control of the security forces.

“I fear those (families) who stayed in Daesh’s grip met a terrible fate”. 

(Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Reynolds stakes claim to keep NSW spot

Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds has staked his claim to return to the NSW Origin side with a game-winning field goal in South Sydney’s 21-20 win over Penrith on Friday.

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Reynolds showed why he is one of the game’s best in the clutch, slotting over a 19-metre effort in the final minute to fire the Rabbitohs into the top eight.

In a week where fellow halfback candidate Mitchell Pearce’s field goal troubles went under the spotlight, Reynolds’ effort is sure to have caught the eye of Blues coach Laurie Daley.

Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire said he was delighted with Reynolds’ ability to step up when the game is on the line, particularly with his kicking.

“I was very pleased with Adam’s finish there. He’s done a lot of work around that area to make sure that when those times come, he comes up with the right play,” he said.

Reynolds humbly credited halves partner Cody Walker, who scored a try and set up Reynolds for another in the second half, for his role in the match-winning play.

Walker provided the speedy play-the-ball for Reynolds to steal the win.

“He found space, took it, made the right decision holding the ball, got up and played it really quick to give me a chance to take the shot. Credit goes to Cody,” Reynolds said.

“It all comes back to practice, that’s what we practise so hard at training for. If you don’t practise, 90 per cent of the time it doesn’t come off.”

While Pearce hasn’t kicked a field goal since 2011, Reynolds has nailed at least one every season since his debut in six years ago.

He kicked three in the Rabbitohs’ premiership-winning season in 2014.

“I don’t think (my percentage is) too good at the moment. I’ve kicked a few, but there’s been a few that’s gone wayward. It’s something we continually practice at training,” he said.

“We’re just trying to build momentum through our club. It’s a continual work in progress for us. We’re working hard as a spine and as a unit to gradually get better.”

South Sydney next face Canterbury in the traditional Good Friday fixture.

US strikes on Syria: How the world reacted

Against 

RUSSIA: Unsurprisingly, the main ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was robust in its opposition to the strike.

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The strikes were an “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international norms,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

The action has inflicted “considerable damage” to already “lamentable” US-Russia ties, it added.

As a first practical response, Moscow said it would “halt” its deal with the US to avoid clashes in Syrian airspace.

Russia’s military said the Syrian forces’ air defences will be boosted following the US strike.

“To protect Syria’s most sensitive infrastructure, a complex of measures will be implemented in the near future to strengthen and improve the effectiveness of the Syrian armed forces’ air defence system,” said spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

Russia also called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting following the strikes.

SYRIA: The Syrian government said it would redouble its efforts against rebel groups after the US strike which it called “foolish and irresponsible”.

“What America did is nothing but foolish and irresponsible behaviour, which only reveals its short-sightedness and political and military blindness to reality,” President Bashar al-Assad’s office said in a statement.

Syrian army spokesman on US attack

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IRAN: The Iranian regime, another Syrian ally, “strongly condemned” the strike, just as it condemned “all unilateral military action”.

It said the US action was taken under the “pretext” of the chemical strike.

For 

NATO: Syria is to blame for the US missile strikes NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said.

“The Syrian regime bears the full responsibility for this development,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.

“Any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, cannot go unanswered, and those responsible must be held accountable,” he added.

EUROPEAN UNION: EU President Donald Tusk said in a tweet that the “US strikes show needed resolve against barbaric chemical attacks. EU will work with the US to end brutality in Syria.”

Experts analyse Syrian attack aftermath

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FRANCE/GERMANY: In a joint statement, President Francois Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel said Assad bore “sole responsibility” for the US strike following the suspected chemical attack.

BRITAIN: The close American ally said it “fully supported” the strikes, judging them an “appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack”. It said the strikes were “intended to deter further attacks.”

SPAIN: The Spanish government called the US action “a measured and proportionate answer to the use by the Syrian army of chemical weapons against the civilian population.”

Pentagon footage of Tomahawk missile launch

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TURKEY: NATO ally Turkey, which is a key player in the Syria conflict and has endured choppy relations with Washington recently, welcomed the strikes as “positive” but said that more action was needed.

“I want to say that I welcome this concrete step as positive,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a longtime foe of President Bashar al-Assad.

“I don’t see this as enough… the time has come for steps for a serious result to protect the oppressed Syrian people,” he added.

Turkey called for a no-fly zone in Syria in the wake of the US strike.

And foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu repeated Ankara’s call for Assad to be removed from power, stressing: “This regime should be ousted from leading Syria at once.”

SAUDI ARABIA: A foreign ministry official hailed US President Donald Trump as “courageous” for taking action when “the international community has failed to put a halt to the regime’s actions.”

ISRAEL: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel “fully supports” the “strong and clear message” sent by the air strikes.

He added that the message should “resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere.”

JAPAN: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that Japan “supports the US government’s resolve that it will never tolerate the spread and use of chemical weapons.”

SYRIAN REBELS: A leading Syrian rebel group said one strike was “not enough”, adding that there were “26 airbases that target civilians.”

CANADA: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada supports the strike.

“Canada fully supports the United States’ limited and focused action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against innocent civilians, including many children,” he said in a statement.

ITALY: “Italy understands the reasons for the US military action, proportionate in its duration and methods,” said Italy’s Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, who called for renewed US-Russia dialogue and international engagement to bring about regime change in Syria.

Others 

CHINA: Beijing offered a nuanced reaction, saying it was “urgent” to avoid “further deterioration of the situation.” A foreign ministry spokeswoman added: “We oppose use of chemical weapons by any country, organisation or individual in any circumstance, for any purpose.”

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged restraint and said there was “no other way to solve the conflict than through a political solution.”

“Mindful of the risk of escalation, I appeal for restraint to avoid any acts that could deepen the suffering of the Syrian people,” he added in a statement.

Turnbull Government backs US strike in Syria

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons in an attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun had to be punished.

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“The use of these weapons, under any circumstance, is illegal and abhorrent. It’s a violation of international law. It is a war crime.”

United States president Donald Trump’s defence secretary phoned Australia’s defence minister, Marise Payne, this morning to let her know the strike was coming.

Australia did not participate in the execution, but Mr Turnbull says the United States has his full support.

“Australia was not involved in the strike, but we remain fully committed as a coalition partner to our ongoing military operations in Iraq and Syria.”

Nonetheless, the Prime Minister says Australia is not at war with Syria.

“We are not at war with the Assad regime, and the United States has made it clear that they are not seeking to overthrow the Assad regime.”

As is usual with military operations, Labor has offered bipartisan support.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says Mr Assad’s allies, Russia and Iran, should join in the condemnation.

“You can’t gas the citizens of your own country. That’s a war crime, pure and simple. And I think it’s time for (Vladimir) Putin and the Russians to step up.”

Malcolm Turnbull has called on the United Nations to find a solution as soon as possible.

Ceasefire talks between the Syrian government and opposition forces have repeatedly broken down.

A Middle East analyst at the Australian National University, Professor Amin Saikal, says further US attacks may be needed to force Mr Assad to the negotiating table.

“If the Americans follow their cruise missile attacks with further operations against the Assad regime’s targets, then I think that that may well really bring it home to the Assad regime, as well as to the Russians, that the only way out of this conflict is a political settlement.”

Russia warns US over Syria missile strike

Russia has warned that US cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base could have “extremely serious” consequences, as President Donald Trump’s first major foray into a foreign conflict opened up a rift between Moscow and Washington.

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The warships USS Porter and USS Ross in the Mediterranean Sea launched dozens of Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat air base, which the Pentagon says was involved in a chemical weapons attack this week.

It was Trump’s biggest foreign policy decision since taking office in January and the kind of direct intervention in Syria’s six-year-old civil war his predecessor Barack Obama avoided.

The strikes were in reaction to what Washington says was a poison gas attack by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that killed at least 70 people in rebel-held territory.

They catapulted Washington into confrontation with Russia, which has advisers on the ground aiding its close ally Assad.

“We strongly condemn the illegitimate actions by the U.S. The consequences of this for regional and international stability could be extremely serious,” Russia’s deputy UN envoy, Vladimir Safronkov, told a meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev charged that the US strikes were one step away from clashing with Russia’s military.

US officials informed Russian forces ahead of the missile strikes and avoided hitting Russian personnel.

Satellite imagery suggests the base houses Russian special forces and helicopters, part of the Kremlin’s effort to help Assad fight Islamic State and other militant groups.

Trump has frequently urged improved relations with Russia, strained under Obama over Syria, Ukraine and other issues, but in launching the attacks on Thursday night he said action had to be taken against Assad.

“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behaviour have all failed and failed very dramatically,” Trump said as he announced the attack on Thursday night from his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, where he was meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping.

US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Friday the Trump administration was ready to take further steps if needed.

“We are prepared to do more, but we hope that will not be necessary,” she told the UN Security Council. “The United States will not stand by when chemical weapons are used. It is in our vital national security interest to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was in Florida with Trump and is scheduled to go to Moscow next week, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the Russian reaction because it showed continued support for Assad.

Iran, which supports Assad and has been criticized by Trump, condemned the strike, with President Hassan Rouhani saying it would bring “only destruction and danger to the region and the globe.”

US officials called the intervention a “one-off” intended to deter future chemical weapons attacks and not an expansion of the US role in the Syrian war. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the United States would announce additional sanctions on Syria in the near future but offered no specifics.

US allies from Asia, Europe and the Middle East expressed support for the attack, if sometimes cautiously.

The action is likely to be interpreted as a signal to Russia, and countries such as North Korea, China and Iran where Trump has faced foreign policy tests early in his presidency, of his willingness to use force.

The United States is now likely to be more aggressive in pursuing intelligence about Syria’s suspected chemical weapons program. The Pentagon has also signalled interest in determining any Russian complicity.

Russia joined the war on Assad’s behalf in 2015, turning the momentum in his favor. Although Moscow supports opposing sides in the war between Assad and rebels, the United States and Russia say they share a single main enemy, Islamic State.

Tillerson said the strike took out about 20 per cent of the seventh wing of the Syrian air force and hit a fueling facility. The base’s runway was still in use.

Assad’s office said Syria would strike its enemies harder.

Damascus and Moscow denied Syrian forces were behind the gas attack but Western countries dismissed their explanation that chemicals leaked from a rebel weapons depot after an air strike.

The Syrian army said the US attack killed six people and called it “blatant aggression” that made the United States a partner of “terrorist groups” including Islamic State. There was no independent confirmation of civilian casualties.

Blues axe ex-Cat ahead of Bombers clash

Carlton have axed ex-Geelong forward Billie Smedts after just two games and will unveil yet another AFL debutant when they take on Essendon on Sunday.

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The moves were confirmed when extended squads for Sunday’s AFL matches were trimmed on Friday afternoon.

Smedts, a first-round draft pick in 2010, joined the Blues as part of the trade that saw Zach Tuohy go to Geelong during last year’s trade period.

But Smedts didn’t manage a goal in his first two outings with Brendon Bolton’s side and was dropped along with Dennis Armfield.

Midfielder Tom Williamson will be the club’s fourth debutant this season.

The 18-year-old, taken 61st overall at last year’s draft, will join Sam Petrevski-Seton, Harrison Macreadie and Jarrod Pickett in making his AFL debut for the winless Blues this season.

Former Adelaide player Sam Kerridge is the other inclusion.

Unbeaten Essendon regained important ruckman Matthew Leuenberger, Heath Hocking and Mitch Brown for the clash of traditional rivals.

St Kilda welcome back former skipper Nick Riewoldt after missing just one game with what was initially feared to be a serious knee injury.

Midfielder Jack Steven won’t play against Brisbane at Etihad Stadium after he punctured a lung in last week’s loss to West Coast.

The Lions will unveil No.3 draft pick Hugh McLuggage and 19th overall selection Jarrod Berry, with Josh Schache also returning.

Ryan Bastinac, Michael Close and Ryan Harwood have all been dropped.

Hawthorn take on Gold Coast in the last match of the round and brought in Brendan Whitecross and Kaiden Brand as they search for their first win of the season.

Grant Birchall (broken jaw) and Kade Stewart (omitted) depart the side beaten by Adelaide.

The winless Suns included Jarrod Harbrow, Brandon Matera and Brayden Fiorini.

Putin calls US strikes on Syria illegal

Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned US cruise missile strikes on Syria as illegal, warning the move would further damage already battered US-Russia relations which Moscow had hoped President Donald Trump would revive.

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US officials said they had informed Russian forces ahead of the strikes – intended to punish the Syrian government for what they say was a chemical weapons attack earlier this week – and had avoided hitting Russian personnel.

Satellite imagery suggests the Shayrat air base that was struck in western Syria is home to Russian special forces and military helicopters, part of the Kremlin’s effort to help the Syrian government fight Islamic State and other militant groups.

Russia’s main air base and a naval facility were not hit.

Moscow had been hoping to co-operate with Trump to jointly fight Islamic State in Syria, a move it was banking on to boost US-Russia ties which are at a post-Cold War low. After the US strikes, that task now looks harder.

“President Putin views the US strikes on Syria as aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the norms of international law and on a made-up up pretext,” said a Kremlin statement.

“This step by Washington will inflict major damage on US-Russia ties.”

Putin, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was holding a meeting of Russia’s Security Council to discuss the strike on Friday afternoon and the Russian Foreign Ministry called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

A foreign ministry statement said Moscow was suspending a Syrian air safety agreement with the United States originally drawn up to ensure that the two countries’ planes did not collide.

“It’s clear to any specialist that the decision to launch a strike was taken in Washington before the events in Idlib (the province where the gas poisoning took place) which were simply used as a pretext for a show of force,” the ministry said.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told reporters the US strikes had been conducted to help rebel groups fighting Assad.

Russia would keep military channels of communication open with Washington, but would not exchange any information through them, he added.

When asked whether Russia had deactivated its own anti-missile defence systems in Syria before the missile strike, Peskov declined to comment.

The Russian Defence Ministry meanwhile mocked the effectiveness of the US strikes, saying only 23 missiles had found their targets. It was unclear where another 36 had landed, it said, promising Syrian air defences would now be beefed up.

A Russian frigate armed with Kalibr cruise missiles sailed through the Bosphorus en route to the eastern Mediterranean in the early hours of Friday morning, according to pictures taken by Turkish bloggers for their online Bosphorus Naval News project.

It was unclear if that was related to the US strikes.

Mercedes galvanised after Ferrari defeat, says Hamilton

The championship battle over the last three seasons has been contested exclusively by Hamilton and retired champion Nico Rosberg, with Mercedes sweeping to 51 wins from 59 races and a hat-trick of drivers’ and constructors’ titles.

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The bitter rivalry between the former childhood friends meant Mercedes’ management often had to walk a fine line, managing the pair’s unravelling relationship while reassuring them that they were being treated equally.

But Sebastian Vettel’s win last month in Melbourne dented Mercedes’ hopes of continuing their dominant run into a fourth season and left the German outfit facing the unfamiliar scenario of having to guard against an outside threat from a rival team.

“When your battle is within a team it is very easy for a team to implode as a constant battle for the whole unit to be working together toward the same goal has a conflict of interests within it,” Hamilton told a group of reporters at a round table at the Chinese Grand Prix.

“While currently there is still a conflict of interests in that both drivers want to win, we see red ahead of us and together, collectively, we have to push forwards.”

Hamilton and Rosberg endured numerous flashpoints as they fought each other for the championship, even colliding on the track as Mercedes’ worst fears come true.

But Britain’s triple champion Hamilton, in his fifth season with the team, can expect an easier time of it this year.

New team mate Finn Valtteri Bottas, who replaced Rosberg after the German’s shock retirement and finished third behind Hamilton in Australia, is still getting up to speed.

“He has obviously got a lot of potential and growth to go,” said Hamilton.

“But it is all about finding the right balance in the team and so far Valtteri and I have a great balance and the scales weigh up nicely.”

That should allow Mercedes to pull together and put all their focus on meeting the Ferrari challenge.

“It’s cool as you would imagine a football team having to work together,” said Hamilton. “A football team playing against each other would just be running around in circles.”

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

US strikes in Syria ‘in violation of international norms’: Kremlin

Moscow slammed the United States strike on a Syrian airbase on Friday as “aggression against a sovereign state”, and suspended a bilateral agreement to help avoid clashes in the skies over the war-torn country.

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“President Putin considers American strikes on Syria aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international norms, and under an invented pretext,” said the statement by the Kremlin press service posted on the official website.

US President Donald Trump ordered the military strike on the Syrian air base at 0040GMT, in retaliation for what he said was a “very barbaric attack” Tuesday that is suspected to have contained a nerve agent.

The Syrian army has said the missile attack killed six people and caused extensive damage. It described the attack as an act of “blatant aggression”, saying it had made the US “a partner” of Islamic State, the Nusra Front and other “terrorist organisations”.

Watch: Syrian army spokesman on US attack

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Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Friday the suspension of a memorandum signed with the US in October 2015 which set up a hotline to avoid clashes between their air forces in Syrian airspace as they carried out separate bombing campaigns.

“We call upon the UN Security Council to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the situation,” the ministry said in a statement, calling the strike “thoughtless.”

Russia had sought to deflect blame from Assad over the incident, claiming Syrian jets struck a rebel arms depot housing “toxic substances” and denying that the regime has access to any chemical weapons.

Moscow, which launched a military intervention in support of Assad’s forces in 2015, said the missile strike would “inflict major damage on US-Russia ties.”

US officials and allies described the attack, which saw 59 tomahawk missiles launched from US Navy warships in the Mediterranean Sea, as a one-off that would not lead to further escalation. 

A Pentagon spokesman said the missiles targeted “aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage areas, ammunition supply bunkers, air defence systems and radars”.

The spokesman said Russian forces were believed to be present on the base and those sections were not targeted.

Related

The attack was hailed by the Syrian opposition and supported by US allies including Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

NATO ally Turkey, which is a key player in the Syria conflict and has endured choppy relations with Washington recently, welcomed the strikes as “positive”.

Beijing offered a nuanced reaction, saying it was “urgent” to avoid “further deterioration of the situation.”

A foreign ministry spokeswoman added: “We oppose use of chemical weapons by any country, organisation or individual in any circumstance, for any purpose.”

The governor of the Syrian province of Homs, Talal Barazi, said five people were killed and seven wounded on the airbase and there were also casualties in the village nearby.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said seven Syrian military personnel had been killed in the strike.

“The airbase was almost completely destroyed – the runway, the fuel tanks and the air defences were all blown to pieces,” the Britain-based monitoring group said.

In a three minute statement issued about 9.40pm in the US, Trump confirmed he had ordered the attack on the airfield from which the chemical attack was launched.

“It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” he said.

“There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the chemical weapons convention and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council.

Watch: US President Donald Trump launches strike action against Syria

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The US military said initial indications were that the strike had severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft, support infrastructure and equipment at the airbase.

This would reduce the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons, the statement said.

The Syrian National Coalition opposition group welcomed the missile strikes, a spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the SNC hoped the US would continue to order strikes to stop the Syrian government’s attack and “use of internationally banned weapons”.

Syrian state TV confirmed “American aggression” had targeted the based with “a number of missiles” and that it had “led to losses”, but gave no further details.

‘End the slaughter and bloodshed’

Trump called on “all civilised nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria”.

“We hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail,” he said. 

“It was a slow and brutal death for so many men, women and children. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.

“The refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilise threatening the US and its allies.

“To end terrorism of all kinds and all types. We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world.”

Facing his biggest foreign policy crisis since taking office in January, Trump took the toughest direct US action yet in Syria’s six-year-old civil war, raising the risk of confrontation with Russia and Iran, Assad’s two main

military backers.

Breaking: my source near by confirms Alshaerat military airport is heavily burning right now after being hit, 25 mins ago #syria #BREAKING

— Steven nabil (@thestevennabil) April 7, 2017

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused Russia of failing to carry out a 2013 agreement to secure Syrian chemical weapons.

He said Moscow was either complicit or incompetent in its ability to carry out the agreement.

“The strikes show Trump is prepared the take decisive action to respond to heinous acts,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson said the US had a “high degree of confidence” that sarin nerve gas was used in the chemical attack on civilians.

The Pentagon said the US informed Russian forces ahead of the missile strike on the airfield, but Tillerson said “we sought no approval from Moscow”.

Watch: Trump calls for support against Syria

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Chemical weapons attack response

Trump ordered the strikes just a day after he pointed the finger at Assad for this week’s chemical attack, which killed at least 70 people, many of them children, in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun. The Syrian government has denied it was behind the attack.

Trump, who was attending a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Florida resort, said earlier on Thursday that “something should happen” with Assad as the White House and Pentagon studied military options.

US military action put the new president at odds with Russia, which has air and ground forces in Syria after intervening there on Assad’s side in 2015 and turning the tide against mostly Sunni Muslim rebel groups.

Trump has until now focused his Syria policy almost exclusively on defeating IS militants in northern Syria, where US special forces are supporting Arab and Kurdish armed groups.

The risks have grown worse since 2013, when Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor, considered and then rejected ordering a cruise missile strike in response to the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s loyalists.

It’s the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Donald Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming president. 

Related reading

PM to mark 75 years since Kokoda campaign

It will be a nod to the past and a wink to the future when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull makes his first official trip to Papua New Guinea today.

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This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda Trail campaign in the Second World War.

An estimated 625 Australians were killed along the trail and more than 1600 were wounded. Casualties from sickness exceeded 4000.

Mr Turnbull will lay a floral wreath at the track and will pay his respects to Australia’s war dead at the Bomana War Cemetery, just outside the capital Port Moresby on Saturday.

He’s expected to hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill later that day.

“I look forward to reflecting on our strong shared history, and cementing the special relationship with our neighbour,” Mr Turnbull said in a statement.

The meeting will be muted given Mr O’Neill’s government is shortly going into caretaker mode ahead of his country’s elections in June.

In March, PNG made a surprise request for direct budget support from Australia to pay for schools and hospitals. But the request has been flatly rejected.

PNG is already Australia’s highest aid recipient with a program worth half a billion dollars.

Decades ago Australia directly funded PNG budgets, but the practice was halted because of corruption problems.

The PNG economy has faced severe challenges as a result of the downturn in global commodity prices. The government’s coffers are strained and it has been forced to raise taxes and cut spending.

Mr Turnbull and Mr O’Neill are likely to discuss the closure of the Manus Island immigration detention centre and the fate of refugees who aren’t accepted for a US resettlement deal.

Also up for discussion, Port Moresby is gearing up to host the APEC leaders summit in 2018 and Australia is expected to contribute a large portion of the cost.

Australia recently announced $48 million in funding to extend the presence of 73 federal police officers in PNG until after the November summit.

Officers are helping PNG police plan security arrangements.

The prime minister will also attend joint Australia-PNG entrepreneur and innovation showcase.

Mr Turnbull on Sunday will address an Australia Papua New Guinea Business Council breakfast.

Problems accessing foreign currency in Port Moresby as well as the visa processes will be among the perennial issues raised with the prime minister.

He’s then due to fly to India.