Dhaka Courier

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper denied US troops are pulling out of Iraq

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US Defence Secretary Mark Esper denied US troops are pulling out of Iraq, after a letter from a US general there suggested a withdrawal. The letter said the US would be "repositioning forces in the coming days and weeks" after Iraqi MPs had called for them to leave. Mr Esper said there had been "no decision whatsoever to leave".

The confusion came amid threats to American forces after the US killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani. He died in a US drone strike in Baghdad on Friday on the orders of Mr Trump. The killing has sharply increased regional tensions, with Iran threatening "severe revenge". It appeared to have been sent by Brig Gen William H Seely, head of the US military's task force in Iraq, to Abdul Amir, the deputy director of Combined Joint Operations.

 

Japan has renewed its call for Lebanon to return fugitive ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn. Lebanon does not typically surrender its citizens but Japan says it can request his extradition. According to reports, Ghosn walked out of his house on 29 December before boarding a bullet train to Osaka.

He was then reportedly smuggled out of the country in a flight case, usually used to transport musical equipment. Ghosn, who ran Nissan until he was arrested on charges of financial misconduct in November 2018, was banned from seeing his wife while on bail. But, in the final days of 2019, he skipped bail to board a private jet that took him to Turkey before he travelled on to Lebanon, where he is a citizen and where his wife was waiting. Security cameras caught the 65-year old walking out of his house in Tokyo alone at around 14:30 local time on 29 December, according to Japanese media.

 

California's SpaceX company has launched another 60 satellites in its Starlink network. It brings to 182 the number of spacecraft the firm has now put in the sky as part of its plan to provide a global broadband internet service. The latest platforms went up on a Falcon-9 rocket, which left from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The new additions mean SpaceX now operates more commercial satellites in orbit than any other company.

Planet Labs, also of California, has the next biggest working constellation at just under 150. Its spacecraft are used to image the Earth's surface. SpaceX has permission from regulators to launch up to 12,000 platforms but has talked of an eventual 40,000, depending on how the project develops. Two more batches of 60 could go up before the month is out, as the firm endeavours to start offering some regional broadband links later this year.

 

Almost 2,000 houses have been destroyed in Australia's months-long bushfire crisis, officials say, as crews prepare frantically for worsening conditions. After ferocious conditions last week, firefighters are using milder weather to boost containment lines around fires engulfing south-eastern Australia. Temperatures are likely to soar again on January 10, prompting fears that two fires could form a new "mega blaze".

At least 25 people and millions of animals have died since September. Australia is fighting an unprecedented bushfire season, fuelled by record temperatures and widespread drought. New South Wales (NSW) officials said fires there had claimed 1,588 homes and damaged 653 more.

About 200 homes have been destroyed in neighbouring Victoria, adding to more than 100 lost in other states.

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