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story.lead_photo.caption Families hold photographs of people killed in 1972’s Bloody Sunday as they march Thursday in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Russian ruling to keep American in jail

MOSCOW -- A Russian court has upheld an earlier ruling to keep a former U.S. Marine in a Moscow jail for three more months as he faces espionage charges.

Michigan resident Paul Whelan, who also holds British, Irish and Canadian citizenship, was arrested in a hotel room in the Russian capital at the end of December.

The Moscow City Court on Thursday upheld the ruling that ordered Whelan jailed at least until the end of May.

Whelan's lawyer has said his client was handed a flash drive that had on it classified information he didn't know about. He confirmed Thursday that Whelan is accused of spying for the United States.

A spying conviction in Russia carries a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

After fight, many ISIS holdouts give up

BAGHOUZ, Syria -- U.S.-backed Syrian fighters said Thursday that a "large number" of Islamic State militants and their families are surrendering a day after intense fighting in the last speck of land the extremists still hold in eastern Syria.

At the edge of Baghouz, the village where the militants are still holed up, men, women and children climbed a road that winds along a cliff overlooking what remains of a tent encampment, heading out. Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces said they searched the evacuees as they reached the front lines.

Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Mustafa Bali said after an intensive offensive Wednesday from multiple fronts, "a large number" of militants and their families "started to surrender" early Thursday.

The U.N. said in a report Wednesday that some 7,000 new evacuees are expected to arrive at an already overpopulated camp to the north over the next few days.

The Syrian Democratic Forces said the militants took advantage of dusty and windy conditions a day earlier to open counterattacks. The U.S.-backed forces fought back, repelling the offensive and apparently triggering the latest evacuation.

Some fighters have surrendered in recent weeks, but hard-core militants, including many foreigners, are still holed up in the shrinking space along the eastern banks of the Euphrates River. Since early February, more than 10,000 civilians were evacuated from the Islamic State-held pocket, most of them family members of militant fighters.

U.S. says embassy staff out of Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the last remaining American diplomats in Venezuela have left the country.

Pompeo said in a statement Thursday that he knows it is a "difficult moment" for the diplomats. He said the United States remains committed to supporting opposition leader Juan Guaido, who wants to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and hold elections.

A convoy was seen leaving the U.S. Embassy in Caracas in the morning, and the American flag is no longer flying outside the embassy.

Pompeo tweeted earlier this week that the diplomats would be withdrawn because they had become a "constraint" on U.S. policy. The Venezuelan government disputed Pompeo's account, saying it had instructed the U.S. diplomats to leave.

Ex-U.K. soldier charged in 1972 killings

LONDON -- A former British soldier faces charges in the slayings of two civil-rights protesters 47 years ago on Bloody Sunday, one of the deadliest days of the decadeslong conflict in Northern Ireland.

The ex-paratrooper, identified as "Soldier F," will face prosecution in the killings of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted killings of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O'Donnell on Jan. 30, 1972, in Londonderry, the prosecutors in Northern Ireland said Thursday.

Prosecutors said there wasn't enough evidence to charge 16 other former soldiers and two alleged members of the Official Irish Republican Army who were investigated over their roles in the shootings, which killed 13 people and injured 15 others.

The charges announced Thursday come more than two years after police referred their findings to prosecutors and almost nine years after the conclusion of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, which was to determine what happened but not to file criminal charges.

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry found that the British soldiers had opened fire without justification at unarmed, fleeing civilians and then lied about it for decades. Those findings rebutted an initial investigation that took place soon after the slayings, which branded the demonstrators as Irish Republican Army bombers and gunmen.

"I wish to clearly state that where a decision has been reached not to prosecute, that this in no way diminishes any finding by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that those killed or injured were not posing a threat to any of the soldiers," Stephen Herron, the director of public prosecutions for Northern Ireland, said as he announced the charges. "We recognize the deep disappointment felt by many of those we met with today."

Paul Whelan, an American who faces espionage charges in Russia, attends a court hearing Thursday in Moscow.

A Section on 03/15/2019

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