Trump denies all ties to attack in Venezuela
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the United States had nothing to do with an alleged incursion into Venezuela that landed two U.S. citizens behind bars in the crisis-stricken South American nation.
Trump said he had just learned of the detention of the pair, accused by Venezuela of being mercenaries. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said they were part of an operation to kill him that was backed by neighboring Colombia and the United States.
“Whatever it is, we’ll let you know,” Trump told reporters in Washington before departing from the White House to Arizona. “But it has nothing to do with our government.”
Authorities in Venezuela identified the two men as Luke Denman and Airan Berry, both former U.S. special forces soldiers associated with the Florida-based private security firm Silvercorp USA.
A third U.S. ex-Green Beret and Silvercorp founder, Jordan Goudreau, claimed responsibility for leading “Operation Gideon,” which was launched with an attempted beach landing before dawn on Sunday. Officials said Tuesday that six suspected attackers were killed, giving a revised figure from the eight previously reported.
The two ex-U.S. soldiers were detained Monday dozens of miles from the first attempted beach landing in the fishing village of Chuao. Authorities say they’ve confiscated equipment.
Goudreau said the operation was designed to capture — and not kill Maduro. He said he carried it out on a “shoestring budget” after signing an agreement with U.S.-backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who Goudreau accuses of failing to pay him.
Goudreau did not respond on Tuesday to requests for comment from The Associated Press.
Kenya questions deadly plane crash in Somalia
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Somalia’s president has promised his Kenyan counterpart a “thorough investigation” into the deadly crash of a Kenyan plane carrying medical supplies in Somalia, while one Somali official asserts that the aircraft was shot down. Six people on board were killed.
The Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority on Tuesday said the twin-engine plane with African Express crashed Monday afternoon on approach to Bardale “under circumstances we are yet to confirm.”
A projectile fired from the ground hit the plane as it approached the airstrip in Bay region, Ahmed isaq, a local official with the Southwestern State regional administration, told The Associated Press.
The airstrip is a base for the Ethiopian military under the multinational African Union mission, which is combating the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group. The group controls parts of rural southern and central Somalia.
There was no immediate comment from Ethiopian authorities Tuesday.
The plane had left Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, and stopped in Baidoa before going on toward Bardale, the Kenyan statement said. Kenyan authorities said they were in contact with the Somali Civil Aviation Authority.
Somalia’s transport ministry called the crash “a terrible accident” and said the government was investigating.
Somali President Abdullahi Mohamed Abdullahi in a phone call with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta offered his support and condolences, Somalia’s foreign ministry said.
Virus returns long-banned drive-in movies
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The new coronavirus pandemic has brought back something unseen in Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution: a drive-in movie theater.
Once decried by revolutionaries for allowing too much privacy for unmarried young couples, a drive-in theater now operates from a parking lot right under Tehran’s iconic Milad tower, showing a film in line with the views of hard-liners.
Workers spray disinfectants on cars that line up each night here after buying tickets online for what is called the “Cinema Machine” in Farsi. They tune into the film’s audio via an FM station on their car radios.
With stadiums shut and movie theaters closed, this parking-lot screening is the only film being shown in a communal setting amid the virus outbreak in Iran, one of the world’s worst. Iran has reported more than 98,600 cases with over 6,200 deaths, though international and local experts acknowledge Iran’s toll is likely far higher.
“It was very fascinating, this is the first time this is happening, at least for people my age,” said Behrouz Pournezam, 36, who watched the film along with his wife. “We are here mostly for the excitement to be honest, the movie itself didn’t matter that much. I didn’t care what movie it is or by whom or which genre.”
The film being shown, however, is “Exodus,” produced by a firm affiliated with Iran’s hard-line Revolutionary Guard. The film by director Ebrahim Hatamikia focuses on cotton farmers whose fields die from salt water brought by local dams. The farmers, led by an actor who appears to be the Islamic Republic’s answer to American cowboy stand-in Sam Elliott, drive their tractors to Tehran to protest the government.
There is precedent for this anger. Iran had built dams across the country since the revolution — especially under hard-line former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — that environmentalists blame for damaging waterways and farmland. But this film instead involves “a peasant protest against the local authority that symbolically resembles President Hassan Rouhani’s government,” the state-owned Tehran Times said.
Rouhani, a relative moderate in Iran’s Shiite theocracy, has increasingly faced hard-line criticism amid the collapse of his nuclear deal with world powers. Those allied with his administration have criticized the film.
Moviegoer Atefeh Soheili, however, was glad just to enjoy entertainment outside of her home.
“Now I’m sitting here with clean hands and if I want to eat something or relax I don’t need to worry about distancing from other people,” she said.