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Scale of Russian mercenary mission in Libya exposed

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A BBC investigation has revealed the scale of operations by a shadowy Russian mercenary group in Libya’s civil war, which includes links to war crimes and the Russian military.

A Samsung tablet left by a fighter for the Wagner group exposes its key role – as well as traceable fighter codenames.

And the BBC has a “shopping list” for state-of-the-art military equipment which expert witnesses say could only have come from Russian army supplies.

Russia denies any links to Wagner.

The group was first identified in 2014 when it was backing pro-Russian separatists in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Since then, it has been involved in regions including Syria, Mozambique, Sudan, and the Central African Republic.

Wagner’s fighters appeared in Libya in April 2019 when they joined the forces of a rebel general, Khalifa Haftar, after he launched an attack on the UN-backed government in the capital, Tripoli. The conflict ended in a ceasefire in October 2020.

The group is notoriously secretive, but the BBC has managed to gain rare access to two former fighters. They revealed what type of person was joining Wagner – and its lack of any code of conduct.

There is little doubt that they kill prisoners – something one ex-fighter freely admits. “No-one wants an extra mouth to feed.”

This supports other parts of the TV documentary – Haftar’s Russian Mercenaries: Inside the Wagner Group – by BBC News Arabic and BBC News Russian. Its other revelations include evidence of suspected war crimes, including the intentional killing of civilians.

A Libyan villager shows images of a relative who was killed. The villager says he survived himself by playing dead

One Libyan villager describes how he played dead as his relatives were killed. His testimony helped the BBC team identify a suspected killer.

Describing another possible war crime, a Libyan government soldier also recalls how a comrade, his friend, surrendered to Wagner fighters but was shot twice in the stomach. The soldier has not seen him since, nor three other friends taken away at the same time.

The Samsung computer tablet also provides evidence of the mercenaries’ involvement in the mining and booby-trapping of civilian areas.

Placing landmines without marking them is a war crime.

Just hours after the release of the BBC’s report into Wagner’s activities in Libya, the deputy public prosecutor at the Libyan Military Prosecutor’s Office, Mohamed Gharouda, announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for the son of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

According to the order, which was released internally last week, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is wanted on charges of war crimes committed by the group during Gen Haftar’s offensive against the capital Tripoli.

He was arrested during the 2011 uprising in Libya and later sentenced to death in absentia over violence against protesters. In 2017, however, he was released by the militia holding him.

Saif al-Islam has long been suspected of having connections to Russia and the Wagner group, and is believed to be Moscow’s favourite candidate to rule Libya.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi

The revealing Samsung tablet

The tablet was left behind by an unknown Wagner fighter after the group’s fighters retreated from areas south of Tripoli in spring 2020.

Its contents include maps in Russian of the frontline, giving confirmation of Wagner’s significant presence and an unprecedented insight into the group’s operations.

There is drone footage and codenames of Wagner fighters, at least one of whom the BBC believes it has identified. The tablet is now in a secure location.

Military maps on the Samsung tablet

Military maps in Russian on the Samsung tablet

The ‘shopping list’

A comprehensive list of weapons and military equipment is included in a 10-page document dated 19 January 2020, given to the BBC by a Libyan intelligence source and probably recovered from a Wagner location.

The document indicates who may be funding and backing the operation. It lists materiel needed for the “completion of military objectives” – including four tanks, hundreds of Kalashnikov rifles and a state-of-the-art radar system.

A military analyst told the BBC that some of the weapons technology would only be available from the Russian military. Another expert, a specialist on the Wagner group, said the list pointed to the involvement of Dmitry Utkin.

He is the ex-Russian military intelligence man believed to have founded Wagner and given it its name (his own former call-sign). The BBC tried to contact Dmitry Utkin but has received no reply.

And in our visual breakdown of the “shopping list” and another document, the expert says the words Evro Polis and General Director suggest the involvement of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a rich businessman close to President Vladimir Putin.

The US Treasury sanctioned Evro Polis in 2018, calling it a Russian company contracted to “protect” Syrian oil fields that were “owned or controlled” by Mr Prigozhin.

Investigations by Western journalists have linked Mr Prigozhin to Wagner. He has always denied any link to Evro Polis or Wagner.

A spokesperson told the BBC that Yevgeny Prigozhin has nothing to do with Evro Polis or Wagner. Mr Prigozhin commented that he had not heard anything on the violation of human rights in Libya by Russians: “I am sure that this is an absolute lie.”

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the BBC it is doing “its utmost to promote a ceasefire and a political settlement to the crisis in Libya.”

The ministry added that details about Wagner in Libya are mostly based on “rigged data” and were aimed at “discrediting Russia’s policy” in Libya.

What is Wagner? Its ex-fighters speak

Officially, it does not exist – but up to 10,000 people are believed to have taken at least one contract with Wagner since it emerged fighting alongside pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

About 1,000 Wagner men are estimated to have fought with Gen Khalifa Haftar in Libya from 2019 to 2020.

The BBC in Russia asked one of the ex-fighters to describe Wagner. He replied: “It is a structure, aimed at promoting the interests of the state beyond our country’s borders.”

As for its fighters, he said they were either “professionals of war”, people looking for a job, or romantics looking to serve their country.

The other ex-fighter told the BBC there were no clear rules of conduct. If a captured prisoner had no knowledge to pass on, or could not work as a “slave”, then “the result is obvious”.

Andrey Chuprygin, an expert working with the Russia International Council, said the stance of the Russian government was – “let them join this thing, and we’ll see what the result is. If it works out well, we can use it to our advantage. If it turns out badly, then we had nothing to do with it”.

Map of Libya

Map of Libya

Libya – a decade of turmoil

Downfall of Gaddafi in 2011: Col Muammar Gaddafi’s more than four decades of rule end in an Arab Spring uprising. He tries to flee but is captured and killed

The country splinters: After 2014, major competing factions emerge in the east and west

The advance on Tripoli in April 2019: Gen Haftar, leader of the eastern forces, advances on Tripoli and the UN-backed government there. Both sides get military and diplomatic support from different regional powers, despite a UN arms embargo

Ceasefire in October 2020: Then in early 2021 a new unity government is chosen and sworn in, to take the nation to elections in December. Foreign fighters and mercenaries were supposed to have left, but thousands remain



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A Colorado hiker lost for 24 hours ignored rescuers’ attempts to reach them because they didn’t recognize the phone number

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A stock image of a cable car in the mountains. Getty Images

  • A hiker set out to trek Colorado’s highest peak for 24 hours on October 18.

  • They were reported missing, and a search-and-rescue operation was carried out through the night.

  • While the search was underway, the person ignored calls; they didn’t recognize the phone number.

A Colorado hiker who got lost on a trail ignored calls from search-and-rescue officials who tried to locate him for 24 hours, because they didn’t recognize the number repeatedly calling them, according to the New York Post.

In a Facebook post, Lake County Search and Rescue officials described the ordeal, which happened on Mount Ebert, Colorado’s highest peak.

According to the officials, the hiker set out at 9:00 a.m. on October 18, and by 8 p.m. that evening, they began searching for him when an individual reported that he had not returned from his hike.

“Multiple attempts to contact the subject via their cell phone were unsuccessful,” the post said.

The officials said that first, a team of five set out at 11 p.m. to search for the missing hiker and stayed out until 3 a.m. on October 19. A team of three picked up the search a few hours later, at 7 a.m., looking in areas that hikers typically get lost.

But by 9:30 a.m. the following day, the search was called off.

“At approximately 0930 the reporting party reported the subject had returned to their place of lodging. All personnel were out of the field by 1000,” the post said.

The officials said the individual “lost the trail around nightfall and spent the night searching for the trail, and once on the trail, bounced around onto different trails trying to locate the proper trailhead.”

The missing hiker reached their car the next morning and 24 hours after they set out for the day hike, and had no idea a search and rescue operation was underway because they declined calls coming in from the officials.

“One notable take-away is that the subject ignored repeated phone calls from us because they didn’t recognize the number,” the officials said. “If you’re overdue according to your itinerary, and you start getting repeated calls from an unknown number, please answer the phone; it may be a SAR team trying to confirm you’re safe!”

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Police: 2 dead, 4 injured in Boise, Idaho, mall shooting

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Police: 2 dead, 4 injured in Boise, Idaho, mall shooting



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When Should You Drink Your Last Coffee of the Day?

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ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

Replay official Carl Madsen died at 71 on Sunday

The NFL announced that replay official Carl Madsen died on Sunday at the age of 71. Madsen died on his way home after working the Week Seven game between the Titans and Chiefs. He had spent the last 12 years as a replay official and had previously spent 12 years as an on-field official. “Carl [more]



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A fire broke out on a cargo ship after about 40 shipping containers fell overboard due to rough seas off the coast of Vancouver Island

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Imagery captured of located containers from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles helicopter. US Coast Guard

  • Around 40 shipping containers went overboard when a cargo ship hit rough seas on Friday.

  • A fire broke out Saturday on the same ship, the Zim Kingston, while anchored near Vancouver Island.

  • US and Canadian officials are monitoring the situation, including some containers with “hazardous materials.”

A fire broke out Saturday on a cargo ship, known as the Zim Kingston, that had lost around 40 shipping containers off the coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island the day before, officials said.

The US Coast Guard said in a tweet Friday they were monitoring adrift shipping containers that went overboard after an inbound vessel en route to Canada encountered rough seas. Photos shared by the coast guard showed some of the shipping containers afloat in the open ocean.

The US Coast Guard said Friday 35 floating containers had been located. As of Saturday, five had still not been located, and officials were warning other vessels to be extremely cautious in the area as the containers “may be partially submerged and not visible,” the Vancouver Sun reported.

The Canadian Coast Guard told the outlet some of the containers that fell held hazardous materials, and that the agency would assess for any “pollution threats and hazards.”

A day after the containers fell from the Zim Kingston, a fire broke out on the ship while it was anchored near Victoria, according to the Canadian Coast Guard. The agency told CHEK News reporter Jasmine Bala the fire started in damaged containers that were still onboard.

The Canadian Coast Guard told Bala two of the six containers that are on fire contain “hazardous material.” They also said 10 crew members were evacuated while 11 remain on the ship, with no reports of injuries.

In a warning to other vessels, the Canadian Coast Guard established an emergency zone around the Zim Kingston, saying: “The ship is on fire and expelling toxic gas. Two fallen containers are floating in the vicinity of the vessel. Caution.”

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Obama criticizes Youngkin in Va. governor’s race

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Reuters

Obama fires up Virginia crowd for governor’s race he calls a U.S. “turning point”

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) -Former U.S. President Barack Obama urged Virginians to re-elect Terry McAuliffe as governor at a rally on Saturday, emphasizing the race’s significance as an indicator of the country’s political direction and a reflection of its values. Obama and McAuliffe, who served as the state’s governor from 2014 to 2018, spoke before a cheering crowd at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond with just 10 days to go before the closely watched, tight Nov. 2 election. Obama told the crowd the Virginia election represented a national “turning point,” where Americans could either become more embattled in the divisive politics that characterized Republican Donald Trump’s presidency and which culminated in an attack by Trump’s supporters on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, or “pull together” to “solve big problems.”



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Fans can’t get over Will Poulter’s transformation as he prepares for Marvel role

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Will Poulter is surprising fans with his buff new look.

The former child star is preparing for his role as Marvel superhero Adam Warlock in director James Gunn’s upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” — and it’s no exaggeration to say Poulter is looking muscled up in his latest Instagram video.

The “Dopesick” actor’s fans are taking notice of his physical transformation, with one admirer posting a video on TikTok featuring before-and-after shots of Poulter. “I can’t believe this glow-up,” the fan wrote.

More fans responded to celebrate Poulter’s new chiseled look on Twitter, with one wondering, “sorry when did will poulter get sexy????”

“Holy moly. It *is* true. Will Poulter got jacked,” gushed another.

“omg he looks like hemsworth, someone else chimed in.

Poulter found fame at age 15 after playing Lee Carter in the 2008 movie “Son of Rambow.” After appearing alongside Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston in the 2013 comedy “We’re the Millers,” the London-born actor went on to star in the sci-fi flick “The Maze Runner” (2014). He also turned in notable performances in “The Revenant” (2015), “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” (2018), and the critically acclaimed horror movie “Midsommar” (2019).

Gunn confirmed on Twitter that Poulter had won the role of Adam Warlock in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” writing on Oct. 11, “As you guys know I often strike down false rumors, so … um … Welcome to the Guardians family, Will Poulter. He’s an amazing actor and wonderful guy.”

Poulter responded to say he was thrilled to appear in the movie, which is scheduled to hit theaters in May 2023. “Thank you, James. It’s a genuine honour to play this role and to work with you. I’m very excited to get to work,” the English actor wrote.

Just one week later, a reporter for the movie and entertainment blog Flip Your Wig asked Poulter if he was ready to “flex” some serious superhero muscle.

“I better get ready, I guess,” he responded, adding, “Working on it, working on it.”

CORRECTION (Oct. 23, 2021, 1:15 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the age Poulter found fame. He was 15 when the 2008 movie “Son of Rambow” was released.

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Video emerges of Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ co-star Jensen Ackles speaking about the production’s firearm training days before fatal set shooting

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Actor Jensen Ackles. Leon Bennett/WireImage

  • “Rust” actor Jensen Ackles discussed firearms training days before a fatal on-set shooting.

  • In a video, Ackles said he was asked by a prop master to fire “off a couple of rounds” on the set.

  • Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot on the “Rust” set on Thursday.

A video depicting Alec Baldwin’s “Rust” co-star Jensen Ackles discussing the firearms training he received on the film’s set days before the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot during filming has surfaced online.

In the video, which has now been deleted in many places but remains available on Youtube and TikTok, Ackles describes a brief training session he had with the film’s armorer – the technical crew member responsible for prop firearms.

The clip was filmed between Oct. 15-17 when Ackles’ appeared at a fan event in Denver for his show Supernatural, according to Deadline.

“They had me pick my gun, they were like, ‘Alright, what gun would you like?’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know,'” Ackles can be seen saying in the view.

He continued: “The armorer was like, ‘Do you have gun experience?’ I was like, ‘A little.’ And she’s like, ‘Okay, well, this is how you load it, this is how we check it and make sure it’s safe.'”

Ackles added that the armorer said she was “going to put some blanks” into the gun. He was then instructed to practice for his scene by firing “off a couple of rounds” into the distance.

“I walk out, and she’s like, ‘Just make sure you pull the hammer all the way back and aim at your target,’ I was like, ‘All right, I got it,'” he said.

No information has been released by authorities that links Jensen to the fatal shooting on the film’s set. It is also not clear whether the same armorer Jensen referenced in the video had worked with Alec Baldwin, who discharged the prop gun that killed 42-year-old cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Multiple reports have confirmed that the gun Alec Baldwin discharged on the film’s set held “live rounds.” According to an affidavit, Baldwin was handed the gun by an assistant director, who said “cold gun,” The New York Times and the Associated Press reported. The term refers to a gun that is not loaded with live rounds.

In a statement given to Insider on Friday, Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, reacted to his wife’s death.

“I don’t think there are words to communicate the situation,” Matthew Hutchins, 38, said. “I am not going to be able to comment about the facts or the process of what we’re going through right now, but I appreciate that everyone has been very sympathetic.”

He added, “I think that we will need a little bit of time before we can really encapsulate her life in a way that is easy to communicate.”

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