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Huge bomb in sewage tanker kills at least 80, wounds hundreds in Afghan capital

A powerful bomb hidden in a sewage tanker exploded in the morning rush hour in the center of the Afghan capital on Wednesday, police said, killing at least 80 people, wounding hundreds, damaging embassies and sending clouds of black smoke into the sky.

The bomb, one of the deadliest in Kabul and coming at the start of the holy month of Ramadan, exploded close to the fortified entrance to the German embassy, killing a security guard and wounding some staff, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Twitter.

RELATED: Photos from the deadly blast

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“Such attacks do not change our resolve in continuing to support the Afghan government in the stabilization of the country,” he said.

Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for city police, said the explosives were hidden in a sewage tanker but suggested that the German Embassy might not have been the target. “There are several other important compounds and offices near there too,” he told Reuters.

The blast, which shattered windows and blew doors off their hinges in houses hundreds of meters away, was unusually strong.

The NATO-led Resolute Support (RS) mission in Kabul said Afghan security forces had prevented the vehicle from entering the heavily protected Green Zone that houses many foreign embassies as well as its headquarters, suggesting it may not have reached its intended target.

A public health official said at least 80 people had been killed and more than 350 wounded. The victims appear mainly to have been Afghan civilians.

The French, Turkish and Chinese embassies were among those damaged, the three countries said, adding there were no immediate signs of injuries among their diplomats. The BBC said one of its drivers, an Afghan, was killed driving journalists to work. Four journalists were wounded and treated in hospital.

Video shot at the scene showed burning debris, crumbled walls and buildings and destroyed cars, many with dead or injured people inside.

Graphic on Kabul blast:

At the Wazir Akbar Khan hospital a few blocks away, there were scenes of chaos as ambulances brought in wounded and frantic relatives scanned casualty lists and questioned hospital staff for news.

“It felt like an earthquake,” said 21-year-old Mohammad Hassan, describing the moment the blast struck the bank where he was working. His head wound had been bandaged but blood still soaked his white dress shirt.


Another lightly wounded victim, Nabib Ahmad, 27, said there was widespread destruction and confusion.

“I couldn’t think clearly, there was a mess everywhere,” he said.

Later, frenzy broke out outside the hospital as ambulances and police trucks began bringing in the bodies of those killed. Some bodies were burned or destroyed beyond recognition.

India and Pakistan condemned the blast.

“India stands with Afghanistan in fighting all types of terrorism. Forces supporting terrorism need to be defeated,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet.

The Taliban denied responsibility and said they condemned attacks that have no legitimate target and killed civilians. Islamic State, the other main militant group active in Afghanistan, has carried out high profile attacks in Kabul, including an attack on a military hospital in March that killed more than 50 people.

Wednesday’s attack provided another clear demonstration that Ramadan, which began at the weekend, would provide little respite from the violence across Afghanistan.

The Taliban have been stepping up their push to defeat the U.S.-backed government and reimpose Islamic law after their 2001 ouster in a Washington-backed invasion.

Since most international troops withdrew at the end of 2014, the Taliban have gained ground and now control or contest about 40 percent of the country, according to U.S. estimates, though President Ashraf Ghani’s government holds all provincial centres.

U.S. President Donald Trump is due to decide soon on a recommendation to send 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to bolster the small NATO training force and U.S. counter-terrorism mission now totaling just over 10,000.

The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, told a congressional hearing this year that he needed several thousand more troops to help Afghan forces break a “stalemate” with the Taliban.

(Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Emmanuel Jarry in Paris, Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Madeline Chambers and Michelle Martin in Berlin; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Sean Hannity fans call for Rachel Maddow boycott

Hannity lost a handful of advertisers last week over his pushing of the the Seth Rich conspiracy theory on his Fox News program “Hannity,” even though Fox News has retracted a story about Rich.

The call for a counter-boycott against Maddow was organized by the Media Equality Project, an organization launched by conservative commentators Brian Maloney and Melanie Morgan.

The #StoptheScalpings campaign is described as a way “to push back against the attempt to silence those who dare to ask tough questions and pursue the truth.” Hannity has shared the campaign on his website and Twitter.

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The organization says “the DNC, mainstream media, George Soros, and Media Matters” have attempted “to silence [Hannity’s] voice, because it does not speak in unison with their own.”

“To counteract these fascistic tactics, #StoptheScalpings has decided to fight fire with fire,” the Media Equality Project said in the post on its website announcing the campaign. “As long as Media Matters continues to attack conservatives, we will return them the same kindness. We begin with Rachel Maddow who has been the biggest purveyor of lies and propaganda in the media today.”

The post goes on to call Maddow “an outright liar, and someone who deceives the public and defames conservatives on a daily basis.” The companies that advertise on her MSNBC show are listed on the site, along with contact information for their representatives.

“While we prefer not to be involved in this type of effort, we need to be on equal footing. We will continue to announce the advertisers that finance these efforts and support these hosts who allow lies and conspiracy theories to permeate the airwaves. If Media Matters ceases these type of assaults, we will do the same.”

Hannity’s advertiser loss came just weeks after Bill O’Reilly was ousted from the network amid a sexual harassment scandal. Hannity said on his show early last week that he would drop his pursuit of the Seth Rich conspiracy “at this time” before leaving for an extended Memorial Day weekend vacation on Wednesday.

He is expected to return to the show tonight, and according to the Associated Press, the USAA financial services firm, one of the businesses that halted its advertising, plans to resume it.

Read original story Sean Hannity Fans Call for Rachel Maddow Boycott At TheWrap

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After Portland killings, mayor wants to cancel ‘alt right’ rallies

Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler on Monday called on the organizers of two “alt-right” events next month to cancel them and allow the city to mourn after two people were killed protecting a Muslim teen in what he called a bias attack.

“Please back off and give the families and give this community the space it needs to mourn and process this horrific crime of hate and bigotry and terrorism,” Wheeler said, addressing the right-wing groups, during a news conference.

Federal authorities have said it isn’t clear yet if the Friday afternoon killing of Rick Best, 53, and 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, were acts of domestic terrorism or a hate crime, but Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, was charged with allegedly stabbing them to death aboard a train.

A third person, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, was also injured in the attack and remains hospitalized.

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The men were stabbed after they confronted Christian as he was in the middle of an anti-Muslim outburst targeting two girls, one of whom was wearing a headscarf, authorities said.

On Monday, President Donald Trump weighed in on the killings, saying on his official Twitter account: “The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.”

Related: Portland Murder Suspect Appears Unlinked to Northwest’s Racist Groups

Wheeler said the organizers of next month’s events were “coming to peddle a message of hatred and bigotry.” Their opinions might be protected by the First Amendment, Wheeler added, but “hate speech is not protected. As the mayor it’s my job to protect the safety of everybody in the community.”

Wheeler asked the federal government, which he said is responsible for permits at Terry Schrunk Plaza, where the events are planned, to revoke a June 4 permit and deny a second one scheduled for six days later.

A spokesman from the mayor’s office, Michael Cox, said the Federal Protective Service was likely responsible those permits. An agency spokesman couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The organizer of the June 4 event, real estate investor Joey Bishop, told NBC News that he had no plans to cancel what is being billed as a “Trump Free Speech Rally,” and he disputed Wheeler’s characterization of the event.

“I think he needs to sit down and take a minute and listen to me speak and hear what I have to say,” he said. “What he said is completely false.”

Christian attended a previous free speech rally, held on April 29 and also organized by Bishop, and was captured on video giving a stiff-arm salute. But Bishop said that “Christian has nothing to do with us.”

“I think Mayor Wheeler is trying to pin Jeremy on us and our movement,” he said.

Bishop said the June 4 rally will promote standard conservative ideas about lowering taxes and battling gun laws and other elements of the “nanny state.”

It will also feature Kyle Chapman, a self-described “American nationalist” whose takedown of an “anti-fascist” protester in Berkeley, California, earlier this year vaulted him to cult status on the far right — with the moniker “Based Stickman” — as noted in a New Republic profile published in March.

An image posted on Chapman’s Facebook page last month showed what appeared to be a crude painting featuring the Muslim Prophet Muhammad and activist Linda Sarsour, who helped organize the National Women’s March on Washington and has received repeated death threats over a planned commencement speech at the City University of New York, the New York Times reported.

Related: How Berkeley Became a New Battleground for Free Speech

“We took our Mohamed/Sarsour meme to Times Square and turned it into an art exhibit,” Chapman wrote. “The local Muslims were beside themselves hah hah!”

A “march against Sharia” is scheduled for the same plaza on June 10. The event’s organizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon actually criticized the mayor on Monday, saying in a statement on Twitter that “the government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period.”

A group behind a planned counter-demonstration on June 4, called “Rose City Antifa,” also said it had no plans to cancel.

“As a group focused on the community, our efforts are centered in the community, not the mayor’s office,” the Rose City group said in a statement to NBC News. “The Portland community is clearly opposed to this rally occurring, and on June 4th, we will stand against it.”

During the news conference, Wheeler also said he hoped to memorialize the attack’s three victims. The transit center where the crime occurred was already replete with dozens of bouquets of flowers and moving tributes written in chalk, according to NBC affiliate KGW, but Wheeler said he wanted to make their sacrifice permanent.

“This is a seminal moment in this state’s history and certainly in this community’s history,” he said. “The names of those three men, Rick and Taliesin and Micah, they’ll be up there with the greats. I don’t want future generations to forget that.”

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