British soccer teams scrap events amid security threat

They won the English Premier League, but Chelsea’s players will not take to the streets for a victory parade following the Manchester bombing.

The club says it would be “inappropriate” to celebrate with fans near its Stamford Bridge ground in south London Sunday and is loathe to “divert important resources” given the increased security threat following Monday’s tragedy.

“Everyone associated with Chelsea Football Club offers our heartfelt condolences to those affected by Monday’s terror attack in Manchester,” said the club in a statement.

“Our thoughts go out to all the victims, and their families and friends.”

Black armbands

Arsenal has also canceled a planned screening of Saturday’s FA Cup final against Chelsea at their Emirates Stadium in north London.

The club also says it will not hold a victory parade should it win the FA Cup, given the Government’s escalation of the national security threat to “critical.”

“We are sorry for any disappointment this causes but it is in everyone’s best interests,” said Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis in a statement.

The final between the London rivals will still go ahead at Wembley Stadium.

Chelsea announced its players would wear black armbands “as a mark of respect” in the FA Cup final, as well as donating to the fund to supporting the victims of the attack.

The Europa League final between Manchester United and Ajax in Stockholm is scheduled to take place Wednesday.

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Duterte says he had to declare martial law to fight ISIS

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said his martial law declaration for the country’s restive south was necessary in order to fight militants there.

“I had to declare martial law in the Mindanao group of islands,” Duterte said at a news conference Wednesday. “It is our constitutional duty to enforce the law and provide security.”

Duterte’s order — which covers both the city of Marawi and the wider island of Mindanao, of which Marawi is a part — came after deadly clashes broke out between Filipino government troops and Islamist militants Tuesday.

If the terror threat spreads, Duterte said he’s not afraid to go further.

“If I think that the ISIS has already taken foothold also in Luzon and terrorism is not really far behind, I might declare martial law throughout the country to protect the people,” said the President, who cut short a visit to Russia to come home to deal with the violence.

Fighting between government forces and the Maute group, an Islamist militant organization based in Mindanao, began in Marawi, a city of about 200,000 people.

ISIS’ media wing, Amaq Agency, put out a statement announcing that “fighters of the Islamic State launch a wide-scale offensive on positions of Philippine troops in the city of Marawi.”

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella confirmed that the fighters had taken over several government buildings in the city, and had torched others, including a church, a school and the city jail. It was not clear from his statement how damaged the buildings were by the arson.

Mindanao is home to a sizable Muslim population, in contrast to the remainder of the country, which is overwhelmingly Catholic.

The militants also reportedly took over a medical center and replaced the Philippines flag with a black, ISIS-style banner.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera said that Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, which has pledged allegiance to ISIS, was among the armed men.

Casualties

Three government troops died in the fighting, said Abella, and 12 were injured. Martial law was declared about 10 p.m. Tuesday night, and reinforcements were expected.

“Our operation is still ongoing in Marawi City and sporadic fighting is still continuing,” a statement from the Armed Forces of the Philippines said.

“The joint AFP-PNP team that is after Isnilon Hapilon and his cohorts is determined to finish him off,” the statement said.

Residents were sheltering in their houses overnight, said Abella. Social media users in the city posted photos online that claimed to show residents attempting to evacuate the city Wednesday morning.

Russian weapons to fight Philippines militants

The violence prompted Duterte to cut short a visit to Moscow, during which one of his top priorities was to acquire Russian-made precision armaments to use against the militants in the Southern Philippines. It’s highly unusual for a US ally to purchase arms from Russia, an adversary, though Duterte said in October he planned to “break up” with the United States and turn to Russia and China.

Speaking from Moscow, Philippines Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said that the violence in Mindanao, one of the Philippines’ southernmost islands, was Duterte’s priority, despite the high-profile visit to Moscow and St. Petersburg.

“(The Russians) understand that the security of the Filipino people, especially in Marawi and in Mindanao, is a priority,” Cayetano said. “I will be staying behind. The agreements will be signed.”

Extended martial law

Martial law will be in effect on the Muslim-majority southern Philippines island for 60 days “to suppress lawless violence and rebellion and for public safety,” said Abella, according to PNA.

Under the 1987 constitution, the president has the ability to place the country under martial law, though Congress has the ability to revoke the proclamation. The period should not last more than two months

However, Duterte says martial law in the southern Philippines could last a year.

“If it would take a year to do it, then we’ll do it. If it’s over within a month, then I’d be happy,” Duterte said in a video posted on Facebook by Mocha Uson, the assistant secretary to the Presidential Communications Operation Office.

The country suffered 14 years of martial law under former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was ousted in a peaceful revolution in 1986.

During those 14 years, perceived opponents of Marcos were subjected to numerous human rights violations, including imprisonment, forced disappearances and torture. Extrajudicial killings carried out by Marcos’ secret police were also common.

Many young Filipinos have little or no knowledge of the period under Marcos, and of life under martial law.

Duterte praised the use of martial law by Marcos, calling it “really good” at his news conference.

Authorities have accused the Maute of involvement in a bombing in Duterte’s hometown of Davao in September that left 14 people dead.

Terrorism has been a persistent problem in the southern Philippines, where Maute and Abu Sayyaf are based.

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Melania Trump minds Vatican protocol in veil decision

Melania Trump has dutifully considered every outfit she has worn during her first trip abroad as first lady — her visit with Pope Francis on Wednesday was no exception.

With Vatican protocol in mind, the first lady arrived to meet the Pope on Wednesday wearing a black veil and long-sleeved Dolce and Gabbana black dress draped down to her calf. President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, wore a similar outfit with a larger veil.

“Per Vatican protocol, women who have an audience with the Pope are required to wear long sleeves, formal black clothing, and a veil to cover the head,” Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, told CNN.

Days earlier, during her visit to Saudi Arabia, a strictly conservative Muslim theocracy, the first lady eschewed the customary headscarf but stepped foot in the birthplace of Islam wearing a black jumpsuit reminiscent of the abaya worn by most women there. Despite not covering her head, the first lady’s outfit earned her rave reviews from the local press, who praised her attention to the country’s culture.

When asked why she wore a veil at the Vatican but eschewed a head covering in Saudi Arabia, Grisham said there was no request or requirement for her attire from that country.

The first lady also displayed some local flair during a visit to a children’s hospital in Rome, where she spent time speaking in Italian with some of the children at the Bambino Gesu hospital, a White House official said.

“She personally wrote a letter to the Pope asking to go. Princess Diana and Mother Teresa have both visited as well,” Grisham said.

Melania Trump has prepared extensively, with the help of State Department officials, on the proper protocol and customs for each of the stops on the foreign trip, according to sources familiar with the preparations. She wanted to ensure a smooth debut on the world stage as first lady and avoid any embarrassing missteps.

The former model-turned-first lady styled most of the outfits herself, a source said, and her ensembles have drawn rave reviews from local news outlets along the way.

Her sky-high heels have caused heartburn for some her hosts who fretted about her stability on cobblestone streets in Jerusalem. But aides good-naturedly laughed off the concern, noting that she grew up in Slovenia and is hardly a stranger to navigating bumpy terrain in stilettos.

In contrast with his wife, the President spent relatively little time focused on local customs and courtesies. In the weeks leading up to the trip, Trump took part in briefings with his national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who played a pivotal role in the planning the trip.

Those briefings were “almost entirely focused on the issues and deals,” rather than local protocols, a senior administration official said.

But behind the scenes, Melania Trump worked to ensure the President was prepared. She has made a habit of packing for her homebody husband when he goes overseas. Prior to this jaunt abroad, a source said she briefed staff members on how to pack for the President’s foreign travels.

The first lady’s strategy was to pack a separate bag for each stop of the trip, taking every stop as a separate focus.

Her outfit choices on this trip are so far in line with former first lady Michelle Obama, who also donned a black veil while meeting Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. Obama also chose not to wear a headscarf in Saudi Arabia and at the time, the President criticized the decision tweeting: “Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted. We have enuf enemies.”

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