By Ahmed Rasheed, Saif Hameed and Isabel Coles BAGHDAD/MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi troops who briefly seized a Mosul hospital believed to be used as an Islamic State base were forced to withdraw from the site, but managed to establish a base for army tanks nearby after days of fierce back-and-forth fighting, residents said. The rapid advance into the Wahda neighborhood where the hospital is located marked a change of tactic after a month of fighting in east Mosul in which the army has sought to capture and clear neighborhoods block by block. The ferocity of the fighting reflects the importance of the army's push from southeast Mosul towards the center, their deepest advance in a grueling seven-week offensive to crush Islamic State in Iraq's largest northern city. The soldiers seized Salam hospital, less than a mile (just over 1 km) from the Tigris river running through central Mosul, on Tuesday but pulled back the next day after they were attacked by six suicide car bombs and "heavy enemy fire", according to a statement by the U.S.-led coalition supporting Iraqi forces. Coalition warplanes, at Iraq's request, also struck a building inside the hospital complex from which the militants were firing machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, it said. The soldiers involved in the action are at the spearhead of a U.S.-backed, 100,000-strong coalition of Iraqi forces including the army, federal police, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and mainly Shi'ite Popular Mobilization forces battling to crush Islamic State in Mosul. In another part of Mosul already recaptured by government troops, Iraqi police fired shots in the air and threatened to whip crowds with a hose as residents tried to overrun the first distribution of aid by UN agencies inside the city. The distribution aimed to reach 45,000 people in total at several locations. As word of the aid spread, residents of the Zuhour neighborhood flocked to a boys' primary school chosen as a distribution point. Hundreds surged forward against just a handful of men pushing to close the gate. They burst through, and began climbing over the walls and pushing in through the exit until the police, firing shots in the air and wielding long sticks, managed to regain control. Saad Salih, 56, came in an electric wheelchair, pushed by a neighbor because there was no electricity in Mosul to charge it. "We need everything," Salih said. "GATES OF HELL" Defeating the militants in their Iraq stronghold would mark a major step in rolling back the caliphate declared by the jihadists in parts of Syria and Iraq when they took over Mosul in mid-2014. But with two years to prepare themselves, retreating fighters have waged a lethal defense, deploying hundreds of suicide car bombers, mortar barrages and snipers against the advancing soldiers and exploiting a network of tunnels to ambush them in residential areas. Soldiers from the army's Ninth Armored division were left exposed on Tuesday after punching into the Wahda neighborhood. "When we advanced first into Wahda, Daesh (Islamic State) showed little resistance and we thought they had fled," an officer briefed on the operation told Reuters by telephone. "But once we took over the hospital, the gates of hell opened wide." "They started to appear and attack from every corner, every street and every house near the hospital," said the officer, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media. He said insurgents may also have used a tunnel network reaching into the hospital complex itself. A nurse at the hospital said that when the Iraqi army approached on Tuesday, Islamic State guards removed the militants being treated there, including some field commanders. Staff and civilian patients took shelter in the basement as fighting erupted around the hospital half an hour later. A resident who lives just 300 meters away, a veteran of Iraq's eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s, said he had never seen such fierce fighting. "It was very violent warfare - they used all sorts of weapons, it's not traditional war. There were explosives, suicide attackers, mortar barrages and planes, everything," he told Reuters by telephone. After three days of fighting, Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles had managed to assemble at a site in the Wahda neighborhood, a resident said. "LIKE GHOSTS" The statement by the coalition said Iraqi troops "fought off several counter-attacks and six VBIEDs (car bombs) ... before retrograding a short distance, under heavy enemy fire". The Iraqi officer said that when the troops were inside the hospital complex, fighting off the militants, they came under attack from suicide bombers who he said either infiltrated through tunnels or had been hiding in the hospital grounds. "We don't know, they were like ghosts," he said. Iraq does not give casualty figures or report on its equipment losses, but the officer said 20 soldiers were killed and around 20 armored vehicles were destroyed or damaged. Those figures could not be confirmed. Islamic State's Amaq news agency said more than 20 military vehicles were destroyed and dozens of soldiers killed. It showed a picture of a smoldering tank, its turret blown off, next to a crater. Around 280 km (175 miles) southwest of Mosul dozens of people, mainly civilians, were killed on Wednesday in air strikes which hit a western Iraqi town close to the border with Syria, local parliamentarians and hospital sources said. They said the strikes hit a busy market area in the Islamic State-held town of Qaim, in the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim province of Anbar. Among the victims were 12 women and 19 children. An Iraqi military statement said Iraqi air force planes conducted air strikes "on a terrorist hideout" in the area shortly after noon on Wednesday, as well as a second attack on an unspecified location. It said at least 50 terrorists were targeted in the air strikes. It gave no details of civilian casualties, but said that the region - and all information coming out of it - was controlled by Islamic State. (Writing by Dominic Evans, editing by Peter Millership and Peter Graff)
- The Independent
‘I'm not going to worry about people that their only worry in life is to be re-elected,’ says Enrique Tarrio
It is the latest in the spate of mass kidnaps in Nigeria. On Saturday, 42 people, including 27 students, were freed by gunmen after 10 days.
- Associated Press
Mike Smith made 32 saves for his second shutout of the season and 41st overall as the Edmonton Oilers beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-0 on Thursday night. “Shutouts are hard to get, especially now with how many power plays there are," Smith said. Alex Chiasson and Jesse Puljujarvi had power-play goals to help the Oilers win their fifth straight and improve to 14-8-0.
- The Independent
Republican gathering began in 1974 and sees American conservatives debate social worries but has struggled with position on 'alt-right' in recent years
- The Independent
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- USA TODAY
'We're done with that lifestyle': Jessica Watkins, Ohio woman charged in Capitol riot, renounces Oath Keepers
Jessica Watkins, 38, says she has disbanded her local armed group and is canceling her Oath Keeper membership after her arrest.
- The Telegraph
Lady Gaga is poised to hand over a $500,000 reward to a mystery woman who returned her beloved French bulldogs kidnapped in a violent street robbery near her home in Hollywood. Koji and Gustav, thought to be worth up to $10,000 dollars each, were given in at a downtown LAPD Police Station by an unnamed woman late on Friday night. Authorities believe the woman who handed the dogs in was "uninvolved and unassociated" with the attack - but she is still eligible for the "unconditional" $500,000 and is said to be in contact with Gaga’s representatives. “If you bought or found them unknowingly, the reward is the same,” Gaga had said in a post confirming the hefty sum before the dogs were handed back on Friday. The violent abduction on Wednesday saw the singer’s dog-walker and close friend Ryan Fischer shot in the chest. Gaga's third dog named Miss Asia escaped the attack and was later found by police. The singer, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, has kept silent since the dogs were handed into police. But her reward offer has raised eyebrows.
- Business Insider
Trump supporters and right-wing reporters wouldn't stop heckling CNN's Jim Acosta during second day of CPAC
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- National Review
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) on Friday urged the New York State legislature to open an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Governor Andrew Cuomo brought by his former staffer, Lindsey Boylan. The progressive congresswoman told reporters that survivors “deserve to be heard” and noted that the “process for hearing this allegation falls squarely in the state legislature.” Meanwhile, New York attorney general Letitia James is reportedly reviewing a letter from state Republicans who have also called for an investigation into the allegations against the governor, according to Fox News. Lindsey Boylan, the former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to Cuomo, on Wednesday published an essay detailing alleged sexual harassment she endured while working for the governor, including unwanted kissing and touching. She wrote in the essay that Cuomo, with the help of top female aides, “created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected.” She also detailed an increasingly uncomfortable relationship she developed with the governor, in which he sought her out and set up one-on-one meetings with her. Boylan recounted a flight she shared with the governor from an event in October 2017 in which Cuomo allegedly said, “Let’s play strip poker.” On another occasion, Boylan says the pair met one-on-one for a briefing when Cuomo allegedly kissed her. “We were in his New York City office on Third Avenue,” she writes. “As I got up to leave and walk toward an open door, he stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips. I was in shock, but I kept walking.” Boylan later resigned on September 26, 2018.
The actor says his childhood insecurities were “exacerbated” by years of public mockery, and he doesn’t want kids to endure the same fate.
- USA TODAY
GOP congresswoman's husband, whose truck had Three Percenters decal, says he never heard of armed group before
Illinois state Rep. Chris Miller said he was given the sticker featuring the armed group's logo by a friend "who said that it represented patriotism."
- USA TODAY
Nearly two dozen Republicans attending CPAC in Florida have designated a proxy to vote on their behalf, citing the "ongoing public health emergency."
- Business Insider
Decades ago, 9 Russian hikers mysteriously fled their tent and froze to death. A new study sheds light on the cold case.
In 1959, nine hikers fled their tent in Russia's snowy Dyatlov Pass and froze. A new study suggests a slab avalanche crushed their tent in the night.
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Martin hosted The Russ Martin Show on 97.1 The Eagle.
- Business Insider
Ted Cruz engages in an online spat over Biden's HHS secretary nominee who sued the Trump administration more than 100 times
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- Business Insider
Kelly Pichardo, 30, and Leeza Rodriguez, 29, were charged with disorderly conduct and Pichardo also faced an additional assault charge.
Jill Biden said on "The Kelly Clarkson Show" that she and President Biden have a dinner date ritual before he goes back to work and she grades papers.
- Business Insider
Go back to the place you got your first shot if you lose your paper card, and make sure to take a photo of the vaccine card after your first dose.
- The Guardian
Artist Tommy Zegan reveals figure was constructed in country the former president has assailed and demonized Sculptor Tommy Zegan polishes his statue of Donald Trump at CPAC. Photograph: John Raoux/AP A golden statue of Donald Trump that has caused a stir at the annual US gathering of conservatives was made in Mexico – a country the former president frequently demonized. The statue is larger than life, with a golden head and Trump’s trademark suit jacket with white shirt and red tie. Video and pictures of the tribute being wheeled through the halls of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, went viral on Friday. The conference is seen as a vital gathering of the Republican right, and this year has become a symbol of Trump’s continued grip on the party, despite being cast out of office after two impeachments, seemingly endless parades of scandals and a botched response to the coronavirus pandemic that has cost half a million lives in the US. Now the artist behind the huge statue of Trump – Tommy Zegan – has revealed that the object was made in Mexico; a country that has been the target of much Trump racist abuse over his political career, and somewhere he has literally sought to build a wall against. “It was made in Mexico,” Zegan told Politico’s Playbook newsletter. Zegan, who lives in Mexico on a permanent resident visa, described the transport of the monument to CPAC in full to Playbook. Politico reported: “Zegan spent over six months crafting the 200lb fiberglass statue with the help of three men in Rosarito. He transported it to Tampa, Florida, where it was painted in chrome, then hauled it from there to CPAC.”
- The State
“Her daddy got to heaven just before she did.”