AP Top News at 11:55 p.m. EST

February 4, 2022 GMT

IS leader blows up self, family as US attacks Syria hideout

ATMEH, Syria (AP) — The leader of the Islamic State group blew himself up along with members of his family as American forces raided his Syria hideout Thursday, the U.S. said — the second time in three years the United States has taken out a leader of the violent group that has been struggling for resurgence with deadly attacks in the region. President Joe Biden announced the overnight raid by American special operations forces, which U.S. officials called a “significant blow” to the radical militant organization. The IS group at the height of its power controlled more than 40,000 square miles stretching from Syria to Iraq and ruled over 8 million people.

US strike framed to spare civilians after mounting criticism

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing criticism for civilian deaths in U.S. airstrikes, President Joe Biden targeted the leader of the Islamic State group on Thursday in an approach — a ground raid by special forces — that was riskier for American troops but intended to be safer for the innocent. Dozens of U.S. commandoes landed outside Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi’s Syrian hideout and warned people in nearby homes to stay inside, U.S. officials said. As one of their first moves, they called out to families living inside the same building as al-Qurayshi. By the time the operation ended, the officials said, 10 civilians had been led to safety.

US says new intel shows Russia plotting false flag attack

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. accused the Kremlin on Thursday of an elaborate plot to fabricate an attack by Ukrainian forces that Russia could use as a pretext to take military action against its neighbor. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the scheme included production of a graphic propaganda video that would show staged explosions and use corpses and actors depicting grieving mourners. The U.S. has not provided detailed information backing up the claims. The plan for a fake attack on Russian territory or Russian-speaking people was described in declassified intelligence shared with Ukrainian officials and European allies in recent days. It was the latest example of the Biden administration divulging intelligence findings as a tactic to attempt to stop Russian disinformation efforts and foil what it says is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s effort to lay the groundwork for military action.

The Latest: American skater Chen starts strong in team event

BEIJING (AP) — The latest on the Beijing Olympics: ___ Three-time men’s figure skating world champion Nathan Chen has delivered a strong short program to open the team competition at the Beijing Games. That gets the Americans off to a good start in their pursuit of a third straight medal in the event. Chen, who struggled in the team event in Pyeongchang, opened with a big quad flip and hit his difficult quad lutz-triple toe loop combination to deliver the highest score among the men Friday and give the U.S. the maximum 10 points. Reigning Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno was second to give Japan nine points.

Aid reaching disaster-hit Tonga brings first virus outbreak

BANGKOK (AP) — For more than two years, the isolation of the Pacific archipelago nation of Tonga helped keep COVID-19 at bay. But last month’s volcanic eruption and tsunami brought outside deliveries of desperately needed fresh water and medicine — and brought the virus. Tonga is only one of several Pacific island countries to experience their first outbreaks over the past month. There is growing concern that their precarious health care systems might quickly become overburdened, and that the remoteness that once protected them may now make them difficult to help. “Clearly when you’ve got countries that have already got a very stretched, and fragile health system, when you have an emergency or a disaster and then you have the potential introduction of the virus, that’s going to make an already serious situation immeasurably worse,” said John Fleming, the Asia-Pacific head of health for the Red Cross.

GOP now looks to censure Cheney and Kinzinger, not oust them

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Republican officials meeting in Utah advanced a watered-down resolution Thursday that would formally censure GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for their perceived disloyalty to former President Donald Trump but not seek to expel them from the party. The resolution’s passage through a subcommittee followed hours of hand-wringing over language that initially would have called on the House Republican Conference to oust Cheney and Kinzinger, the only Republicans on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. The censure resolution is expected to be voted on Friday by all 168 Republican National Committee members at their winter meeting in Salt Lake City.

Olympics a sweet, complex homecoming for Chinese diaspora

BEIJING (AP) — When Madison Chock looks outside here in the Chinese capital, the U.S. Olympic ice dancer sees glimpses of herself. “Every time I’m on the bus, I’m just looking out and studying the city and just imagining my roots are here, my ancestors are here,” says Chock, whose father is Chinese-Hawaiian, with family ties to rural China. “And it’s a very cool sense of belonging in a way, to just be on the same soil that your ancestors grew up on and spent their lives on.” She adds: “It’s really special, and China holds a really special place in my heart.” At the Beijing Winter Games, opening Friday, it’s a homecoming of sorts for one of the world’s most sprawling diasporas — often sweet and sometimes complicated, but always a reflection of who they are, where they come from and the Olympic spirit itself.

As winter storm moves across US, ice becomes bigger concern

CHICAGO (AP) — About 350,000 homes and businesses lost power across the U.S. on Thursday as freezing rain and snow weighed down tree limbs and encrusted power lines, part of a winter storm that caused a deadly tornado in Alabama, dumped more than a foot of snow in parts of the Midwest and brought rare measurable snowfall and hundreds of power outages to parts of Texas. Storm conditions also caused headaches for travelers across the country as airlines canceled more than 9,000 flights scheduled for Thursday or Friday in the U.S. The highest totals of power outages blamed on icy or downed power lines were concentrated in Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas and Ohio, but the path of the storm stretched further from the central U.S.

Greg McMichael won’t plead to hate crime in Arbery death

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — The man who initiated the deadly chase that ended in the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery has reversed course and decided to plead not guilty to a federal hate crime in the 2020 killing of the unarmed Black man, according to a legal filing late Thursday. Greg McMichael’s decision came days after a U.S. District Court judge rejected terms of a plea deal that he and his son, Travis McMichael, had negotiated with prosecutors. That deal was met with passionate objections by Arbery’s parents. McMichael’s defense attorney said in a legal notice filed jointly with prosecutors that McMichael now plans to stand trial for a second time in Arbery’s death.

World leaders: Who’s coming, who isn’t to Beijing Olympics

BEIJING (AP) — The U.S., Britain and a handful of others aren’t sending dignitaries to the Beijing Winter Games as part of a diplomatic boycott, but the Chinese capital is still attracting an array of world leaders for Friday’s opening ceremony. A look at who is attending, who is staying away and why: ___ ATTENDING — RUSSIA: President Vladimir Putin is meeting Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping ahead of the opening ceremony, underscoring closer ties between Beijing and Moscow as they both face Western criticism and pressure. — EGYPT AND SERBIA: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Serbia’s Aleksandar Vucic have growing frictions with the West over their authoritarian policies and human rights records.