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A former US special forces captain has been arrested on charges of espionage, the US Department of Justice says.

Peter Debbins is alleged to have passed classified information to the Russian military intelligence agency (GRU) over a period of more than 10 years.

A DoJ press release says during several visits to Russia in the 2000s he had contact with GRU agents, who knew him by the code name Ikar Lesnikov.

Capt Debbins, 45, faces life imprisonment if convicted.

The Gainesville, Virginia, man is charged with conspiring to provide US national defence information to agents of a foreign government.

“Debbins violated his oath as a US Army officer, betrayed the special forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying special forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said.

“Our country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponised it against the United States.”

‘Son of Russia’

Capt Debbins’ mother was born in the former USSR, the press release said, and partly for this reason he developed an interest in Russia, travelling there numerous times between 1994 and 2010.

He married the daughter of a Russian military officer he met in the city of Chelyabinsk in the 1990s.

The press release says he frequently expressed loyalty to Moscow to his Russian handlers and described himself as a “son of Russia”.

“The Russian intelligence agents allegedly encouraged him to join and pursue a career in the special forces, which he did,” the DoJ said.

He was on active duty in the US Army from 1998 to 2005, serving in chemical units including in South Korea before joining the special forces as a captain in Germany in 2003.

A year later he received top security clearance and was deployed to Azerbaijan, but was investigated for a security violation and removed from his command.

He received an honourable discharge in November 2005 and served in the reserve until 2010.

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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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