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6.3 quake strikes Gulf of California near Mexico

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A 6.3 magnitude earthquake, first estimated at 6.6, has struck the east coast of the Mexican state of Baja California, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has reported.
The quake hit within the Gulf of California Rift Zone (GCRZ). The Zone is a seismic area which lies between the opening to the Gulf and Los Cabos on the southernmost tip of the Baja California peninsula, to the San Andreas fault, which runs through the US state of California.
The earthquake struck 69 kilometers north-east of the seaside town of Loreto, known for its colonial-era architecture. 
The quake’s epicenter was ten kilometers below the surface, according to the USGS.
Last year, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in Mexico killed hundreds of people across the capital and central regions. 
Thousands more were injured and hundreds of buildings destroyed. 
It was the worst natural disaster since the 1985 quake in Mexico City, which lead to thousands of deaths.

‘Sovereignty & security violation’: Beijing outraged by US warship sailing off disputed island

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China has slammed a US missile destroyer for encroaching on the “indisputable” Huangyan Dao island in the South China Sea, warning that it can and will take “necessary measures to firmly safeguard its sovereignty.”
In this latest clash over freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea, the USS ‘Hopper’ missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Huangyan Dao, a tiny island claimed by China, on January 17. 
The vessel failed to get Beijing’s permission for entering the waters and was intercepted by the Chinese Navy, with China’s Foreign Ministry accusing the US of violating “sovereignty and security interests” as well as posing a “grave threat” to its forces stationed in the area.
“China is strongly dissatisfied with that and will take necessary measures to firmly safeguard its sovereignty,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in a statement on Saturday. 
He also warned US forces against further “provocative moves” for the sake of “China-US relations and regional p…

Moscow urges Turkey, Kurds to show ‘restraint’ amid Afrin operation launch

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Russia has expressed concerns over the Turkish military operation against Kurdish militias in Syrian region of Afrin. Moscow urged all parties to show restraint, adding it was “closely watching” the situation.
The launch of ‘Operation Olive Branch’ by Ankara against Kurdish militias controlling the Syrian region of Afrin has raised deep concerns in Russia, the Foreign Ministry said on Saturday. 
Moscow urged all the parties to show restraint and respect the territorial integrity of Syria, stressing the importance of focusing international efforts on the peace process in the country after the main forces of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) have been crushed.
Earlier Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim confirmed that aircraft bombed targets in Afrin, and that eight F-16 aircraft were involved in the operation. 
“As of this moment, our brave Armed Forces have started the aerial offensive to eliminate the PYD and PKK and [Islamic State] elements in Afrin,” Yildirim said.
Senior K…

N.Korea WILL send team to prep for Olympics in South

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Pyongyang has promised to send a delegation to South Korea on Sunday to prepare for a trip by an art troupe during the Winter Olympics. 
North Korea had raised eyebrows when it abruptly cancelled the entire visit late on Friday.
Pyongyang said it would send its seven-member team to check the venues for its proposed art performances in Seoul and Gangnueng, on the east coast of South Korea, some 260 kilometers east of the capital, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said in a statement on Saturday, as cited by Yonhap news agency.
According to the ministry, Pyongyang’s team would use a western land route and stay for two days.
The South Korean government has agreed to the visit on Sunday, Reuters reported the ministry saying.
The announcement came after the North notified Seoul late on Friday that it would suspend the team’s trip to check the venues for its proposed art performances in the South. 
North Korea agreed to send a 140-member art troupe, including an orchestra, singers and dancers, for con…

Drones are new serious terrorist threat in Syria – Russian defense minister

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Drones have turned into a new kind of terrorist threat for Syria as extremists use them for their attacks with a range of more than 100 kilometers, Russia’s Defense Minister has said.
Moscow is ready to share experience to battle drones which terrorists began using for their attacks, including in the Syrian Arab Republic, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said during his visit to Myanmar on Saturday.
“A new kind of terrorist threat – unmanned aerial vehicles – with a range of more than 100 kilometers has emerged in Syria,” Shoigu stated after the meeting with commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, Min Aung Hlaing. 
He added that Russia can share its experience in battling these “very serious threats.”
On January 6, Russian military repelled a massive drone attack, involving 13 vehicles, on its bases in Syria. 
Russia’s Khmeimim Airbase in the Syrian province of Latakia was attacked by 10 unmanned combat aerial vehicles, while three more attempted a strike against the Russian …

Russian MoD accuses US of stirring up tensions in northern Syria with arms supplies

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The US is fuelling the crisis in northern Syria and the ongoing Turkish military operation against the Kurds through reckless weapon supplies to pro-American rebel groups, Russia's Defense Ministry has said.
“The Pentagon’s uncontrolled deliveries of modern weaponry to the pro-US militants in the north of Syria, including, according to our information, contributed to the rapid escalation of tensions and prompted the Turkish special operation,” the ministry said Saturday.
The “provocative actions” of Washington – the announcement of the creation of “border forces” and other activities aimed at the “disintegration of Syrian sovereignty, and supporting armed militant groups” have triggered an “extremely negative” reaction from Ankara, the ministry noted.
The ongoing Turkish military operation has prompted Russian forces, stationed in the region, to regroup and relocate military police units and Reconciliation Center operatives to the village of Tell-Adjar to the east of the city of Afri…

Turkish planes bomb Syrian Kurdish targets as Ankara-backed rebels enter Afrin

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Turkish aircraft have bombed Kurdish targets in Syria's Afrin, according to the Turkish prime minister. 
Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters have also entered the Kurdish enclave, state media reported.
“TSK (Turkish Armed Forces) has started airborne operations,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said at a party congress on Saturday, as quoted by Hurriyet. 
Yildirim said eight F-16 aircraft were involved in the aerial sortie.
“As of this moment our brave Armed Forces have started the aerial offensive to eliminate the PYD and PKK and [Islamic State] elements in Afrin,” Yildirim said.
Turkey’s General Staff has officially declared the start of the operation, dubbing it ‘Operation Olive Branch,’ according to a statement cited by Turkish newspaper Sol.
Turkish jets have attacked the Mannagh Air Base, a military airport in northwest Syria which is under the control of a Syrian Kurdish military group, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported. 
It quoted military officials who said war…