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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Russian security agents on Thursday arrested three people suspected of links to a suicide bomber accused of attacking the city's subway and deactivated an explosive device in the apartment where they lived.

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AMSTERDAM (AP) — Hundreds of people walked hand-in-hand through Amsterdam on Wednesday to show solidarity with two gay men who were badly beaten over the weekend in the eastern city of Arnhem.

The peaceful march was part of a national outpouring of emotion over the beating of the married couple by a group of youths.

The men told police the confrontation started because they were holding hands.

Five suspects, all in their teens, will be charged Thursday with causing serious bodily harm, prosecutors said, adding that they are still investigating the motive of the attack.

Marcher Marion van Hees, 68, said she campaigned for gay rights during the 1960s.

“I thought we were finished with it, that we had achieved it. But that is not the case, and that is very sad,” she said. “So I’m going back onto the barricades.”

Sjag Kozak, 42, an Israeli who married his husband in Amsterdam and has lived in the city for 21 years, said he wanted to show solidarity with the beaten men, but also “to show the world that it is possible to walk hand-in-hand in Amsterdam.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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BEIRUT (AP) — The death toll from a suspected chemical attack on a northern Syrian town rose to 72 on Wednesday as activists and rescue workers found more terrified survivors hiding in shelters near the site of the harrowing assault, one of the deadliest in Syria’s civil war.

According to a Syrian opposition group, renewed airstrikes hit the town of Khan Sheikhoun a day after the attack that the Trump administration has blamed on the government of President Bashar Assad, saying that his patrons, Russia and Iran, bore “great moral responsibility” for the deaths.

The Damascus and Moscow governments denied they were behind the attack. A Russian Defense Ministry statement later said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel arsenal.

The U.N. Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday in response to the strike and in Brussels, officials from 70 nations gathered for a major donors’ conference on the future of Syria and the region.

The attack on Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people on Tuesday, leaving residents gasping for breath and convulsing in the streets and overcrowded hospitals. Videos from the scene showed volunteer medics using fire hoses to wash the chemicals from victims’ bodies. Haunting images of lifeless children piled in heaps reflected the magnitude of the attack, which was reminiscent of a 2013 chemical assault that left hundreds dead and was the worst in the country’s ruinous six-year conflict.

Syrian doctors said a combination of toxic gases is suspected to have been released during the airstrikes, causing the high death toll and severe symptoms.

The World Health Organization said victims of the attack appear to show symptoms consistent with exposure to a nerve agent.

In a statement, the agency said “the likelihood of exposure to a chemical attack is amplified by an apparent lack of external injuries reported in cases showing a rapid onset of similar symptoms, including acute respiratory distress as the main cause of death.”

Pope Francis said during his general audience that he was “watching with horror at the latest events in Syria,” and said he “strongly deplored the unacceptable massacre.”

Earlier, President Donald Trump denounced the attack as a “heinous” act that “cannot be ignored by the civilized world.” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called on Russia to endorse a planned Security Council resolution condemning the attack.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said “all the evidence” he had seen so far in the latest chemical weapons attack in Syria “suggests this was the Assad regime … (that) did it in the full knowledge that they were using illegal weapons in a barbaric attack on their own people.”

Syria’s government denied it carried out any chemical attack. But early on Wednesday, Russia, a major ally of the Syrian government, alleged a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel arsenal, releasing the toxic agents.

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement that Russian military assets registered the strike on a weapons depot and ammunition factory on the town’s eastern outskirts. Konashenkov said the factory produced chemical weapons that were used in Iraq.

Wednesday’s renewed airstrikes hit not far from the location of the suspected chemical attack, said Ahmed al-Sheikho, of the Idlib Civil Defense team. He said the strikes did not cause any casualties because the area had been evacuated following Tuesday’s attack.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 children and 17 women were among the 72 killed. Abu Hamdu, a senior member of the Syrian Civil Defense in Khan Sheikoun said his group has recorded 70 deaths.

He said his team of rescuers was still finding survivors, including two women and a boy hiding in an underground shelter beneath their home.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — As the residents of Russia’s second-largest city try to regain their nerve in the wake of a fatal subway bombing, officials announced Wednesday that six people have been arrested on suspicion of recruiting terrorists.

Wednesday’s statement from the Investigative Committee gave few details, but said those arrested came from Central Asian countries that once were part of the Soviet Union. Officials have said the suicide attacker behind Monday’s blast that killed 14 people in St. Petersburg was a native of the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan.

There was no immediate information tying those arrested with the suspected bomber, identified as 22-year-old Akbardzhon Dhzalilov. Fifty-five people wounded in the blast remain hospitalized, deputy mayor Anna Mityanina said Wednesday.

The predominantly Muslim Central Asian states are seen as a prime recruiting ground for Islamic militants.

Meeting with the heads of security services from a regional alliance that includes most of Russia’s Central Asian neighbors, President Vladimir Putin warned that terrorism remained a threat to all in the region.

“We see that, unfortunately, the situation is not improving,” he said. “The recent tragic events in St. Petersburg are the best confirmation of this. We know that each of our countries, practically every one, is a possible and potential target of terrorist attacks.”

Earlier Wednesday, the Investigative Committee said in a statement they searched the home of Dhzalilov in St. Petersburg. They also examined CCTV footage from outside Dzhalilov’s home which shows him leave home with a bag and a backpack.

The bomb went off on a train under Russia’s second-largest city on Monday. Another bomb, hidden in a bag, was found and de-activated at another St. Petersburg station just half an hour before the blast. Dzhalilov’s DNA was found on the bag.

After the attack, several Russian politicians have called for ending the moratorium on capital punishment. But parliament speaker Vyacheslav Volodin dismissed the statements as attention-getting devices and upbraided the politicians, saying “One must not use a tragedy to promote oneself.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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BEIRUT (AP) — A suspected chemical attack in a town in Syria’s rebel-held northern Idlib province killed dozens of people on Tuesday, opposition activists said, describing the attack as among the worst in the country’s six-year civil war.

Hours later, a small field hospital in the region was struck and destroyed, according to a civil defense worker in the area. There was no information if anyone was killed in that attack.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group put the death toll from the gas attack at 58, saying there were 11 children among the dead. Meanwhile, the Idlib Media Center said dozens of people had been killed.

The media center published footage of medical workers appearing to intubate an unresponsive man stripped down to his underwear and hooking up a little girl foaming at the mouth to a ventilator. It was not immediately clear if all those killed died from suffocation or were struck by other airstrikes occurring in the area around the same time.

It was the third claim of a chemical attack in just over a week in Syria. The previous two were reported in Hama province, in an area not far from Khan Sheikhoun, the site of Tuesday’s alleged attack.

Tuesday’s reports came on the eve of a major international meeting in Brussels on the future of Syria and the region, to be hosted by the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini.

There was no comment from the government in Damascus in the immediate aftermath of the attack, which activists said was the worst since the 2013 toxic gas attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta that killed hundreds of civilians. That attack, which a U.N. report said was an attack by toxic sarin gas, was the worst in Syria’s civil war.

In the wake of the 2013 attack, President Bashar Assad agreed to a Russia-sponsored deal to destroy his chemical arsenal and joined the Chemical Weapons Convention. His government declared a 1,300-ton stockpile of chemical weapons and so-called precursor chemicals that can be used to make weapons amid international outrage at a nerve gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus.

Those weapons have been destroyed, but member states of the OPCW have repeatedly questioned whether Assad declared everything in 2013. The widely available chemical chlorine was not covered in the 2013 declaration and activists say they have documented dozens of cases of chlorine gas attacks since then.

The Syrian government has consistently denied using chemical weapons and chlorine gas, accusing the rebels of deploying it in the war instead.

Tarik Jasarevic, spokesman for the World Health Organization in Geneva, said in an e-mailed statement that the agency is contacting health providers from Idlib to get more information about Tuesday’s incident.

The Syrian American Medical Society, which supports hospitals in opposition-held territory, said it had sent a team of inspectors to Khan Sheikhoun before noon and an investigation was underway.

The Syrian activists claimed the attack was caused by an airstrike carried out either by Syrian government or Russian warplanes. Makeshift hospitals soon crowded with people suffocating, they said.

Mohammed Hassoun, a media activist in nearby Sarmin — also in Idlib province where some of the critical cases were transferred — said the hospital there had been equipped to deal with such chemical attacks because the town was struck in one chemical attack, early on in the Syrian uprising.

The wounded have been “distributed around in rural Idlib,” he told The Associated Press by phone. “There are 18 critical cases here. They were unconscious, they had seizures and when oxygen was administered, they bled from the nose and mouth.”

Hassoun, who is documenting the attack for the medical society, said the doctors there have said it is likely more than one gas. “Chlorine gas doesn’t cause such convulsions,” he said, adding that doctors suspect sarin was used.

Hussein Kayal, a photographer for the Idlib Media Center, said he was awoken by the sound of a bomb blast around 6:30 a.m. When he arrived at the scene there was no smell, he said.

He found entire families inside their homes, lying on the floor, eyes wide open and unable to move. Their pupils were constricted. He put on a mask, he said. Kayal said he and other witnesses took victims to an emergency room, and removed their clothes and washed them in water.

He said he felt a burning sensation in his fingers and was treated for that.

A Turkey-based Syrian man whose niece, her husband and one-year-old daughter were among those killed, said the warplanes struck early, as residents were still in their beds. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for the safety of family members back in Syria.

The province of Idlib is almost entirely controlled by the Syrian opposition. It is home to some 900,000 displaced Syrians, according to the United Nations. Rebels and opposition officials have expressed concerns that the government is planning to mount a concentrated attack on the crowded province.

The Syrian Coalition, an opposition group based outside the country, said government planes fired missiles carrying poisonous gases on Khan Sheikhoun, describing the attack as a “horrifying massacre.”

Photos and video emerging from Khan Sheikhoun, which lies south of the city of Idlib, the provincial capital, show limp bodies of children and adults. Some are seen struggling to breathe; others appear foaming at the mouth.

A medical doctor going by the name of Dr. Shajul Islam for fears for his own safety said his hospital in Idlib province received three victims, all with narrow, pinpoint pupils that did not respond to light. He published video of the patients on his Twitter account.

Pinpoint pupils, breathing difficulties, and foaming at the mouth are symptoms commonly associated with toxic gas exposure.

The opposition’s Civil Defense search-and-rescue group, which released photos showing paramedics washing down victims, has not published a casualty toll.

The activist-run Assi Press published video of paramedics carrying victims from the scene by a pickup truck. The victims were stripped down to their underwear. Many appeared unresponsive.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused the Syrian government of conducting at least eight chemical attacks using chlorine gas on opposition-controlled residential areas during the final months in the battle for Aleppo last year that killed at least nine civilians and injured 200.

A joint investigation by the United Nations and the international chemical weapons watchdog determined the Syrian government was behind at least three attacks in 2014 and 2015 involving chlorine gas and that the Islamic State group was responsible for at least one, involving mustard gas.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is cutting off U.S. funding to the United Nations agency for reproductive health under an abortion-related provision in law that Democratic and Republican administrations have used as a cudgel in the global culture wars.

The U.N. Population Fund will lose $32.5 million in funding from the 2017 budget, the State Department said, with funds shifted to similar programs at the U.S. Agency for International Development. The administration accused the agency, through its work with China’s government, of supporting population control programs in China that include coercive abortion.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the U.N. fund would also lose out on tens of millions of additional dollars it has typically received from the U.S. in “non-core” funds.

By halting assistance to the U.N. Population Fund, the Trump administration is following through on promises to let socially conservative policies that President Donald Trump embraced in his campaign determine the way the U.S. government operates and conducts itself in the world. Though focused on forced abortion — a concept opposed by liberals and conservatives alike — the move to invoke the “Kemp-Kasten amendment” was sure to be perceived as a gesture to anti-abortion advocates and other conservative interests.

The policy change comes days before Trump is set to host Chinese President Xi Jinping for a highly anticipated meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. In a shift from President Barack Obama’s approach, Trump has avoided elevating human rights concerns in diplomacy, with White House officials saying those issues are most effectively advanced by raising them with foreign leaders in private.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was notified of the move by the State Department in a letter received Monday. The letter followed a formal designation by Tom Shannon, the State Department’s undersecretary of political affairs, that said the fund “supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”

Under a three-decade-old law, the U.S. is barred from funding organizations that aid or participate in forced abortion of involuntary sterilization. It’s up to each administration to determine which organizations meet that condition. The U.N. Population Fund has typically been cut off by Republican presidents and restored when Democrats control the White House.

In a lengthy memorandum obtained by The Associated Press, the State Department said the U.N. fund partners with China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, responsible for overseeing China’s “two-child policy.” It said the U.N. collaborates with the Chinese agency on family planning. Still, the memo acknowledged there was no evidence of U.N. support for forced abortions or sterilization in China.

The U.N. Population Fund, known as UNFPA, said it regretted the U.S. move and argued it was “erroneous” to suggest it was complicit in China’s policies.

“UNFPA refutes this claim, as all of its work promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination,” the agency said in a statement.

Starting in 1979, China had a “one-child policy” enforced in many cases with state-mandated abortions. But the policy was eased over the years, and now allows married couples to have two children, in a nod to the aging population in the world’s most populous country.

The designation was the latest move by the Trump administration to prioritize traditionally conservative issues in the federal budget. The Trump administration has vowed to cut all dollars for climate change programming, and also restored the so-called global gag rule, which prohibits funding to non-governmental groups that support even voluntary abortions.

The Trump administration has also signaled that it no longer sees a need for the U.S. to so generously fund U.N. and other international organizations. The White House has proposed cutting roughly one-third from the State Department’s budget, with much of it expected to come from foreign aid and global organization dollars, although Congress is expected to restore at least some of that funding

The U.N. agency’s mission involves promoting universal access to family planning and reproductive health, with a goal of reducing maternal deaths and practices like female genital mutilation. The cut-off funds will be “reprogrammed” to USAID’s Global Health Programs account to focus on similar issues, said a State Department official, who wasn’t authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity.

The Kemp-Kasten amendment, enacted in 1985, led to some of the U.N. agency’s funding being initially cut off, then restored by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1993, USAID said in a report. Republican George W. Bush’s administration reversed the decision in 2002, but President Barack Obama — a Democrat — gave the funding back after taking office.

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Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Russian investigators have identified a 22-year old Kyrgyz-born man as the suicide bomber in Monday’s blast on the St. Petersburg subway.

The Investigative Committee said in a statement on Tuesday that they believe Akbardzhon Dzhalilov set off a bomb on a train that killed 14 people and wounded dozens. It was unclear if the figure of 14 included the bomber.

The investigators also said that forensic experts found Dzhalilov’s DNA on a bag containing a bomb that was found and deactivated at another subway station in St. Petersburg on Monday.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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