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Mourners viewing tributes in St Ann’s Square a week after the Manchester Arena terror attack. (PA)


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Boris Johnson has paid tribute to the “remarkable courage and dignity” shown by those who lost loved ones in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing as the killer’s brother was jailed for at least 55 years.

The Prime Minister said the sentencing of Hashem Abedi, who was found guilty of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and conspiring to cause explosions, showed the need for the values of “tolerance, community and kindness”.

The 23-year-old was on Thursday handed 24 life sentences for organising the 2017 arena bomb plot, which left 22 people dead and injured hundreds of others.

The 55-year minimum term means he is likely to die in jail, and cannot be considered for parole until the 2070s.

Abedi, who dismissed his legal team during the trial, refused to leave his cell as the sentence was handed down. 

He did not appear in court earlier this week when the testimony of victims’ families was read out.

Sentencing him at the Old Bailey on Thursday afternoon, the judge, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker, said: “Although Salman Abedi was directly responsible, it was clear the defendant took an integral part in the planning.”

He added: “The motivation for them was to advance the ideology of Islamism, a matter distinct to and abhorrent to the vast majority for those who follow the Islamic faith.

“The defendant and his brother were equally culpable for the deaths and injuries caused.

“The stark reality is that these were atrocious crimes, large in their scale, deadly in their intent, and appalling in their consequences.

“The despair and desolation of the bereaved families has been palpable.”

Speaking after the sentence was passed, Mr Johnson said: “The Manchester Arena attack was a horrifying and cowardly act of violence which targeted children and families.

“Those who were taken from us will never be forgotten, nor will the spirit of the people of Manchester who came together to send a clear message to the entire world that terrorists will never prevail.

“My thoughts remain with the survivors, and with the friends and families of victims, who have shown remarkable courage and dignity.”

And he added: “I would also like to express my thanks to the police and all those who have worked tirelessly to deliver justice for the families. 

“Today’s sentencing is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of tolerance, community and kindness – values which are fundamental to our country, and which we saw in Manchester in the face of unimaginable tragedy.”

Greater Manchester’s Labour mayor Andy Burnham said the arena attack “was an act of pure evil”.

And he said: “Today we think first of the families who lost loved-ones and everyone whose lives were changed forever by this appalling crime.

“We know today will be yet another difficult day for them and we will continue to support them in any we can, but we hope the fact that someone has at last been held accountable will bring a degree of comfort and resolution.”

The mayor added: “This attack on our city and everything it represents caused untold misery. 

“But ultimately it failed. It was meant to divide us but it only brought us closer together. And now one of those responsible is behind bars. 

“So today is a day when our city and its people can take another step forward on the road to recovery from May 2017 and mark an important victory in the fight against hate, violence and terrorism.”

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Nagorno-Karabakh: The boy who swapped his piano for a gun

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The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is over, but some families are still waiting for news of their missing relatives.

Bodies are still being counted and identified, and there is no clear information on what has happened to the missing.

Twenty-two-year-old Soghomon was fighting on the Armenian frontline against Azerbaijan. The last time his family heard from him was 1 October.

He was a soldier, but also an artist and a talented piano player.

His father and sister say they can’t give up hope that he will return.

Video by: Sofia Bettiza, Gabriel Chaim and Aren Melikyan

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Afghan car bomb kills at least 40 soldiers

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An attacker detonated an explosive packed vehicle in front of a security base in the Deh Yak district of the province.

According to a statement from the Afghan Ministry of Defense, the attacker was confronted by security forces as he tried to enter the base. No group has claimed responsibility yet.

The blast targeted a compound of the public protection force, a wing of the Afghan security forces, local officials told Reuters. It damaged civilian residences around the compound, and there could be more casualties from there, they said.

Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian confirmed that there had been a car bomb blast but did not provide further information on the target or possible casualties.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, when contacted by Reuters, did not confirm or deny responsibility.

Afghanistan has seen a spate of car bombings over the last few months, despite peace talks being under way between negotiation teams of the insurgent Taliban and the government in the Qatari capital of Doha.

Violence in the country, at war for two decades, remains unacceptably high, foreign governments and institutions say, calling for an immediate ceasefire between the Afghan government and Taliban.
Afghan President orders resumption of offensive operations against the Taliban in blow to Trump's deal

Another bombing on Sunday, in the eastern province of Zabul, targeting a top provincial official, killed at least one person and injured 23, said Gul Islam Syaal, the spokesman for the province’s governor.

Haji Ata Jan Haqbayan, head of the provincial council of Zabul, suffered minor injuries in the attack on his convoy.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack on Haqbayan, an outspoken critic of the Taliban.

The Trump administration’s peace deal with the Taliban was dealt a blow in May as the Afghan government announced it was resuming offensive operations against the insurgent group following a spate of deadly terrorist attacks.

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Incoming GOP congresswoman to take aim at AOC with conservative ‘squad’

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Malliotakis, who frequently attacked Ocasio-Cortez during her campaign against Democratic Rep. Max Rose, took aim again at her New York counterpart when asked about the future of the Republican Party.

“I think one of the reasons why we were so motivated to run is seeing the Democratic women being elected in 2018 that don’t necessarily reflect our values, particularly those who are self-described socialists,” Malliotakis said. “I think there’s just a stark contrast between what we’re offering and what people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are offering. And that’s something that needs to be debated in Washington.”

House Republicans more than doubled the number of women in their conference in November, bringing the number to at least 28 from 13. Democrats, who added a record number of women to their ranks during the 2018 election, have at least 89.

A number of House races still remain uncalled, including New York Republican Claudia Tenney’s challenge against Rep. Anthony Brindisi; Tenney’s lead has narrowed significantly to just 13 votes as of Friday.

Malliotakis, who will be the only Republican to represent New York City in Congress, credited House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Liz Cheney for their efforts in recruiting “qualified women who have something to share with the American people” for the gains.

“What we stand for are freedom, liberty. We love this nation. We want to see it prevail. We want to see it remain the land of opportunity, what has, in essence, attracted millions of immigrants from around the world, to pursue that American dream,” Malliontakis said. “Somebody like me, daughter of a Cuban refuge, I want to be there to be a part of the discussion, debate and provide a counterview.”

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