A US aircraft carrier-led strike group has set course for the western Pacific Ocean close to the Korean peninsula amid growing fears over the North’s weapons tests.
According to the US’s Pacific Command, the strike group, dubbed Carl Vinson, has set sail for the Western Pacific after departing Singapore on Saturday.
“We feel the increased presence is necessary,” said an unmanned official who was speaking on condition of anonymity.
The strike group will be operating in the Western Pacific until further notice instead of partaking in a series of previously planned Australian port visits.
Last week, North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan just days after it warned the global community of retaliation over sanctions.
- N Korea to deliver ‘ruthless blow’ to US provocation: Pyongyang
- North Korea launches another missile into Sea of Japan
- North Korea may be preparing to conduct new nuke test: South Korean sources
The test came after US President Donald Trump threatened unilateral action against Pyongyang over its missile tests.
Last month, two high-ranking US intelligence officials claimed that North Korea is capable of killing millions of Americans by launching a nuclear attack.
In February, North Korea also simultaneously launched four ballistic missiles off its east coast, three of which landed close to Japan. In August, it also successfully tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile some 500 kilometers off the coast of Japan, in a move which the North’s leader Kim Jong-un hailed as the “greatest success.”
Residents of Syria’s Shayrat village targeted in a recent US missile strike on a nearby airfield with the same name say the aggression has killed civilians and destroyed or severely damaged their homes.
Standing next to a missile crater and holding the shrapnel of the American missiles, villager Assad al-Khodr recounted how rockets landed 40 meters from his house during the Shayrat Airbase’s shelling,
The attack caused casualties among the civilians in Shayrat and nearby villages and damaged homes, he told French news agency AFP on Saturday.
“This shameless aggression, which was conducted by the Americans, which their terrorists – which are supported by them – were not able to do it for them in the area, caused the panic of children and civilians and massive damage in this village and the other surrounding villages, broken glass and shop facades,” another resident said.
The resident, however, was pleased that the airfield which is a frontline combat center in Syria’s battle against foreign-backed militants had resumed operation.
“This is a huge challenge to America and their allies and we gave martyrs and will keep giving martyrs. We will never hesitate in giving more martyrs for our country,” he pointed out.
US warships in the eastern Mediterranean launched a barrage of 59 Tomahawk missiles against Shayrat Airfield in Syria’s Homs Province on Friday. Six Syrian soldiers and nine civilians were reported to have been killed in the assault.
The Russian Defense Ministry assessed the efficiency of the US strike as “quite poor” and said only 23 out of 59 Tomahawk missiles had reached their target while the points of impact of the remaining 36 missiles were unknown.
US President Donald Trump said he had ordered the strike and alleged that the airbase was the origin of Tuesday’s suspected chemical attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria’s Idlib Province.
Washington has failed to provide any proof that the Syrian government was behind the purported gas attack, with Damascus categorically denying the US accusation.
The US attack came in the wake of the Syrian army advances against foreign-backed militants on different fronts and ahead of fresh push for peace talks, while President Bashar al-Assad is widely seen as holding the balance of power in the talks, as well as on the battlefield.
4th group of militants quit Homs
On the battle ground, a fourth group of militants and their families left the last militant bastion in the Syrian city of Homs on Saturday under a Russia-backed agreement reached recently with the government.
Syria’s official SANA news agency reported that at least 242 militants had left al-Waer along with their families.
Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi said as many as 400 militants and their relatives were expected to leave on the day, noting that the evacuations would continue until the end of the month.
The first and the second phases of the evacuation process took place in March while the third one happened this month. The evacuees were transported to militant-held areas in Syria.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that a total of 12,000 people, including 2,500 militants, will leave al-Waer under the deal struck between Syria’s warring sides on March 13.
The agreement allows safe passage for the militants and their families from al-Waer and paves the way for Damascus to retake the state institutions there.
At least 11 people have been killed and 35 others injured in a bomb blast that hit a church in Egypt’s northern city of Alexandria, state TV reports.
No group or individual has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.
Egypt’s officials say the casualty figure may rise as some of the injured are in critical condition.
According to a report by Egypt’s state television, the explosion has been caused by a bomber, who set off his explosives at the site of the attack.
A nearby house has been also destroyed in the blast.
The blast occurred a few hours after another bombing, which rocked a Coptic church in Tanta in Egypt’s Nile Delta, killing at least 26 people and injuring 71.