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Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick

Disgraced former US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been expelled from the Roman Catholic priesthood following allegations against him, including sexual abuse of minors, the Vatican said on Saturday.

McCarrick, who in July became the first Roman Catholic prelate in nearly 100 years to lose the title of cardinal, has now become the highest profile church figure to be dismissed from the priesthood in modern times.

The defrocking was announced ahead of next week’s meeting at the Vatican between the heads of national Catholic churches to discuss the global sexual abuse crisis.

McCarrick had appealed the decision but it was upheld and Pope Francis said no further appeal would be allowed.

The allegations against McCarrick date back to decades ago when he was still rising to the top of the US church hierarchy.

McCarrick, who became a power-broker as Archbishop of Washington, D.C. from 2001 to 2006, is living in seclusion in a remote friary in Kansas.

He has responded publicly to only one of the allegations, saying he has “absolutely no recollection” of an alleged case of sexual abuse of a 16-year-old boy more than 50 years ago.
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Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) dance along a street in Raqqa

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will capture Islamic State’s last tiny enclave in eastern Syria “in a very short time”, the battle commander said on Saturday.

Jiya Furat said the SDF had cornered the remaining Islamic State militants in one tiny neighbourhood of Baghouz village, under its fire from all sides.

With the help of US air strikes and special forces, the SDF, led by the Kurdish YPG militia, has marched into the pocket east of the Euphrates river near the Iraqi border.

Mostly foreign jihadists are making their last stand in Baghouz, SDF officials say. Many hundreds of civilians streamed out escaping the violence this week alone.

Furat, the SDF offensive’s commander, said the jihadists only held 700 square metres now. But his fighters were moving cautiously because of civilians and hostages in Islamic State captivity.

“The village is under the fire of our forces … but thousands of civilians are still trapped there as human shields,” he said.

“In the coming few days, in a very short time, we will spread the good tidings to the world of the military end of Daesh.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitoring group, said earlier the SDF had taken control of the Baghouz pocket after the jihadists still there surrendered.
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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has apologised to Riyad Mahrez for the winger’s lack of game time in recent weeks, saying the Algerian’s form is not to be blamed.

Mahrez, who arrived at the Etihad Stadium from Leicester City for a club record 60 million pounds ($77.36 million) at the start of the season, has not started for City in the Premier League since the victory at Southampton on Dec. 30.

The 27-year-old has impressed Guardiola by making the most of his opportunities but the form of Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Bernardo Silva has prevented him getting an extended run into the side.

“I am the reason (he has not played). He is absolutely not guilty,” Guardiola told reporters. “I am sad because he is training incredibly.

“We have incredible players, like for example Bernardo and Raz (Sterling) in top, top form and that is the only reason why. There’s no particular reason, like being upset or something like that.

“He is a guy we are happy with but unfortunately I am not kind with him. In fact, I cannot give him the minutes he deserves, so I’m sorry. That’s all I can say.”

Mahrez is set to be involved in City’s FA Cup fifth-round trip to Newport County on Saturday, where the winger will aim to add to his nine goals in all competitions this season.

Guardiola expects Mahrez to get his share of regular first-team football during the season run-in, with City still fighting for four trophies.

“Give him five or six games in a row playing and he is going to play at the level of Sterling or Bernardo, or the players who play,” the Spanish manager added.

“Just keep going, not complain too much, move forward and fight more and more. His time is coming and I’m pretty sure he is going to play good.”
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President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to return to Abuja on Saturday following the postponement of the elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

The President concluded his nationwide rallies of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory with Katsina State on Thursday, and later proceeded to Daura, his country home.

He had been scheduled to vote on Saturday in Daura before returning to Abuja on Monday.

The News Agency of Nigeria reliably learnt that all arrangements for the return journey of the President to Abuja had been completed.

The President is expected to preside over various meetings involving stakeholders following the sudden postponement of the elections by INEC.

The INEC had, on Saturday, shifted the conduct of the presidential and National Assembly elections to February 23.

The governorship, House of Assembly and FCT area council elections were also shifted from March 2 to March 9.

The INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, attributed the decision of the Commission to logistic and operational problems.

He said the postponement would afford the Commission the opportunity to address the identified challenges in order to maintain the quality of Nigeria’s elections.