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U.S. casualties in war on ISIS

U.S. military killed in the 19-month-old campaign against the Islamic State:

October: Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, 39, of Roland, Okla., was killed during a Special Operations raid to free prisoners of the Islamic State in the northern Iraqi town of Hawijah.

Saturday: Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin of Temecula, amid enemy rocket fire at a base in Makhmour, southeast of the Iraqi city of Mosul.

Louis F. “Louie” Cardin was the second-youngest of seven siblings, who as a child always wanted to follow the older kids around. He even followed one of his older brothers, Vincent, into military service.

Cardin, who graduated from Chaparral High in Temecula in 2006, joined the Marines that year as a field artilleryman and deployed to Afghanistan three times.

Staff Sgt. Cardin’s latest deployment, to Iraq, ended tragically Saturday, March 19, when he and several other members of his unit were hit with enemy rocket fire at a base in Makhmour, a town southeast of Mosul. The attack happened near the front line with the Islamic State. Cardin’s death was the second in the campaign against the militants, according to the U.S. military and Iraqi officials.

A senior Iraqi army officer in Makhmour said two rockets landed about 8:20 a.m. Saturday on the U.S. camp, a small, closely guarded facility where American advisers have been based for several months helping Iraqi army and peshmerga forces battle Islamic State fighters nearby and preparing for an offensive to recapture the key Iraqi city of Mosul. “Several” other Marines also were injured in the rocket attack, according to a Pentagon statement.

Cardin had been assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Pentagon officials said Sunday. A defense official told The Washington Post that a company of Marines from that unit arrived in Iraq about a week ago. They are providing force protection for coalition military advisers in the region.

Vincent Cardin, 33, of Hemet, recalled his younger brother, who would have turned 28 on April 27, as a funny man. He said he most recently heard from his brother March 10 via a Facebook message, when the siblings discussed getting their mother a ring for her birthday containing all of their birthstones.

The kids grew up in Anza and Aguanga before moving to Temecula, Cardin said. Louis Cardin was not married and had no children.

Vincent Cardin, who was serving in the Army when Louis Cardin joined the Marines, said there were a lot of good-natured jokes at the family table about two brothers serving in the two different services.

An American flag and a Marines flag hung outside the Temecula home of Cardin’s sister, Polly Lyons, on Sunday.

Louis Cardin was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, three Afghanistan Campaign medals, an Iraq Campaign Medal and three Sea Service Deployment ribbons, according to Stars and Stripes, a U.S. Army-owned newspaper.

ISLAMIC STATE TARGETED

Cardin’s death “reminds us of the risks our men and women in uniform face every day,” the Pentagon statement said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the service members involved, their families and their coalition teammates who will continue the fight against ISIL with resolve and determination,” it added, using an acronym to refer to the Islamic State.

Cardin’s death has drawn attention to the deployment of Marines and sailors from Navy ships in the Middle East in the military campaign against the Islamic State.

The defense official, who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said Marines from the expeditionary unit have moved on and off the ships into Iraq for months. They are traveling with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, a three-ship Navy unit that includes the USS Kearsarge, the USS Arlington and the USS Oak Hill. It arrived in the Middle East in October. The U.S. troop presence in Iraq is capped at 3,780.

U.S. officials did not specify the precise role of the Americans serving on the base. But elite Marine Raiders are deployed in Iraq with a mission similar to that of the Special Operations forces there.

The base lies within a larger peshmerga facility and next to an Iraqi army base on the outskirts of Makhmour, a town 30 miles south of Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital, which the Islamic State seized briefly in 2014.

Makhmour is expected to become a major focus of any offensive to retake Mosul, and Iraqi army reinforcements have begun arriving there in recent weeks in preparation. The Iraqi officer said that mortar and rocket fire frequently hit the Iraqi army base, making it unclear whether the attack that killed the Marine was targeting the Americans.

Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy to the coalition formed to fight the Islamic State, last week declined to predict when the offensive might take place, but he said it had effectively begun, with operations elsewhere aimed at severing supply routes and isolating the city. “It’s already started. . . . It’s a slow, steady squeeze,” he told a forum at the American University of Iraq at Sulaymaniyah.

He indicated that a full-scale offensive may take time. “It’s going to be a long campaign,” he said.

Staff writers John M. Blodgett, Brian Rokos, The Washington Post and City News Service contributed to this report.

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Story highlights

  • Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam was captured in Brussels last week after more than four months in hiding
  • The Belgian capital’s Molenbeek district has become notorious as a hotbed of violent jihadist ideology
  • Belgium has the highest number of foreign fighters, per capita, in Syria of any Western European nation

According to police, the carnage of the Paris attacks was plotted here, and it was in these streets that fugitive Salah Abdeslam hid out in an apartment after abandoning his mission, dumping his suicide belt in a Parisian street and calling friends for help, after apparently driving his co-conspirators to their deaths.

That Abdeslam was caught at all appears to have been an enormous stroke of luck. Despite a massive security operation, the trail appeared to have gone cold, until police, initiating a search for evidence at Abdeslam’s safe house on Tuesday, encountered a barrage of gunfire which tipped them off that something — or someone — important was inside.

Abdeslam and another man are believed to have escaped while a fellow suspect distracted police; he was eventually shot dead but by then Abdeslam had fled, across the rooftops.

Forensics officers examine a house where Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam is thought to have hidden out

Forensics officers examine a house where Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam is thought to have hidden out

Three days later, on Friday, officers finally cornered him in a daring daytime raid on another apartment, bringing to an end an international manhunt that had lasted more than four months.

But authorities here still don’t know what if there are any other terror plans in the works, even with Abdeslam himself finally captured alive and charged, awaiting extradition to France.

READ: Salah Abdeslam, Europe’s ‘most wanted’

Hotbed of jihadist ideology

Belgium remains wary and on edge, its alert level stuck at “grave” — the second highest stage — with security forces warning of a very real threat of attack.

In the past several weeks, CNN went to Molenbeek, a working-class district that has found notoriety as a hotbed of violent jihadist ideology, to find out what — if anything — had changed since the bloodshed in Paris four months ago.

It took months to coax people to meet with us. Many had received threats from self-proclaimed extremists directly to their mobile phones, warning them against speaking to the media.

Belgian officials have been unable to quell the flow of fighters traveling to ISIS territory, and — perhaps more worryingly, authorities are terrified the fighters will bring another Paris-style attack — back to Europe.

Brussels is just a short drive away from a host of major cities: Paris, of course, but also Amsterdam, Cologne, Strasbourg, Frankfurt, Berlin; hop into a car or onto a train and almost anyone can travel between any number of European cities within a few hours. Only recently, especially after the Paris attacks, did some European nations begin implementing immigration checks.

Per capita, Belgium has the highest number of foreign fighters in Syria of any Western European nation. Experts say nearly 500 men and women have left Belgium for Syria and Iraq since 2012.

At the same time, they say more than 100 Belgians have returned home from ISIS territory– many facing immediate arrest.

But everyone CNN spoke to admits these numbers err on the conservative side; no one knows for certain exactly how many have gone and how many have returned.

READ: From Antwerp to Aleppo — and back

ISIS recruiting new members

Belgium’s Interior Minister Jan Jambon told us the security forces’ work to counter terrorist threats is having an impact, but admits ISIS recruiters are still able to ply their extremist trade in Belgium.

“Recruitment continues — at a much lower level than we were used to, for example two years ago — but yes, it continues,” he says. “It is difficult to find the people that are [responsible] — you can do it in a small room in every house.”

Family and community members brave enough to try and stop the radicalization open themselves up to threats — and the possibility of worse.

Imam Sheikh Sulayman Van Ael says he must speak out against ISIS

Imam Sheikh Sulayman Van Ael says he must speak out against ISIS

“We live in an era where everybody that tries to speak out and stand up for the truth will find people trying to stop him from doing so,” says Belgian Imam Sheikh Sulayman Van Ael.

For Van Ael, a convert who is outspoken on the issue of jihadism, the dangers are very real; we meet in secret, his bodyguard hovering nearby throughout our conversation.

But he insists: “I am not afraid … I am taking precautions, but I don’t hide — I get out, I walk around. Whatever has to happen will happen. It’s not a nice feeling knowing that people are like that. But it doesn’t frighten me.”

Imams, he says, must be willing to contest the Islamic justifications being used by ISIS and their ilk.

READ: Arrest of Abdeslam is turning point

Sense of marginalization

Geraldine Henneghien also took the risk to speak to us. Her son Anis is one of those who was recruited to the ISIS cause; he was later killed in Syria.

For her the threats have become a reality of life like any other; when we ask whether she’s afraid, she laughs bitterly: “What else can I lose? I’ve already lost my son. They can’t do anything more to me.”

Geraldine Henneghien's son Anis was killed in Syria in 2015

Geraldine Henneghien's son Anis was killed in Syria in 2015

Henneghien says recognizing the clues that someone is being radicalized is not easy.

“Every sign is different, and when you look at them separately they don’t look like signs of radicalization,” she explains. “But when you see the whole picture, you realize that these are signs, that they are part of the recruitment process.”

Ali (not his real name) agreed to speak to us on condition of anonymity. He sobbed as he told of how two of his brothers, members of radical Islamist group Sharia4Belgium, made the trip to Syria, where one was killed on the front line.

He believes discrimination and a “lack of opportunities” in Belgium has driven many young men into harm’s way because they simply don’t feel accepted at home — jihadi recruiters exploit this sense of marginalization.

“The Belgian state rejects children and young people; they say, ‘They are all foreigners, why should we give them a job?’ They fill us with hate, and they say we aren’t of any use, so when young people see what’s going on over there [in Syria], they think ‘Well OK, let’s go there and be useful.'”

READ: Mapping ISIS attacks around the world

Turning a blind eye

Ali believes the Belgian security services are turning a blind eye to people going to Syria as a way of getting rid of them: “They wanted to get rid of these youngsters by letting them go.”

He accepts that his brothers were ultimately responsible for their own actions, but thinks more could have been done to stop them.

A woman holds a piece of paper reading "Molenbeek" during a candlelit vigil to the victims of the Paris attacks in Brussels.

A woman holds a piece of paper reading "Molenbeek" during a candlelit vigil to the victims of the Paris attacks in Brussels.

Henneghien says she went as far as reporting her own son to the police in an attempt to block him leaving the country — to no avail.

“Two weeks before he left, I went to the police and said ‘My son is going to catch a plane on this particular day to leave for Syria,'” she told us.

Concerned he could be a member of a terrorist network, a magistrate added Anis to a watch list, but he still managed to get out of the country.

“The day my son left, I went to the police to tell them and they didn’t do anything,” Henneghien recalls clearly. “They told me: ‘Your son is not a minor, so we can’t do anything … He is allowed to go wherever he wants, whenever he wants.'”

Anis was 18 when he left Belgium in 2014. The following year, she says, she was told he had been killed in Syria.

Nothing can bring her son back, but Henneghien argues that Belgium should be doing more to encourage other young men and women like him to return home.

“The message of the authorities is: ‘OK, you left so do not come back.’ They don’t help us recover our children, they just leave them there,” she says.

“Instead of telling them, ‘We will talk to you while [you’re] in prison about your motivation … and later we will help you be part of this society again,’ we give them the message, ‘No, do not come back — if you do, you will be imprisoned forever.'”

Jambon insists the government is working hard to prevent radicalized youngsters leaving the country, but admits it still has work to do.

“One-and-a-half years ago, we had 15 persons per month leaving for Syria or Iraq, now it’s less than five. Five is too much, I am aware of that … If you see that people are still leaving to join ISIS, we didn’t do enough. That’s clear. The aim, the goal, is zero people.”

But Montasser Al De’emeh, founder of a Brussels-based deradicalization center, says there’s only so much anyone can do to stop someone truly determined to leave.

“You can’t stop people from leaving by force,” he says. “It’s impossible for this to be the solution. There are people who were barred from leaving and jailed; after eight years they were released and they managed to leave.”

Instead, he says, “You stop people from leaving by helping them build a future, by helping them understand who they really are.”

READ: How the ISIS fight went global

Heavy-handed response

Ali’s surviving brother did eventually return to Belgium, where he was jailed. But Ali says the entire family has been left feeling like criminals after armed police investigating the pair’s radicalization raided the family home as his wife, children and mother slept.

“It was like a hold-up, like something from the movies … There were 10 of them, maybe more, and they aimed guns at us all … Why so much violence? They found nothing, no weapons, no explosives, nothing. But the way they came into our house was as if we were armed from tip to toe.”

He says the security forces heavy-handed actions have been counterproductive, turning the family and their friends and neighbors against the authorities: “This has only filled us with hate.”

Student Yassine Boubout says he was arrested at gunpoint simply because he looked like someone else

Student Yassine Boubout says he was arrested at gunpoint simply because he looked like someone else

Yassine Boubout, too, says the actions of the police and security personnel are provoking more and more Belgian Muslims to act against their own country. The 18-year-old student says he was the victim of racial profiling, treated “like a terrorist,” and arrested at gunpoint as he tried to buy lunch.

“I grabbed my meal and before I got to the register they held a gun, a military weapon, in my face,” he recalls. “They commanded me, ‘Get on your knees now!’

“I kept asking ‘What’s happening? Why am I here? Please put the gun out of my face.’ It was ready to fire, the [safety] was off and the finger was literally on the trigger — one little move that would scare them and I am pretty sure I could be shot … I was scared for my life.”

After 20 minutes on his knees in the store, where he was a regular customer, Boubout says he was thrown into a police cell for more than three hours before being released without charge — and without an explanation. A week later, he says he was told he’d been arrested because, “I looked like a suspect … I fit the description and that was enough.”

Boubout says such treatment “gives those people who recruit a weapon to use; they can [say] ‘See, this society is a racist society, they don’t want you here.’ That’s a key factor for them that they use.”

READ: Belgium — fertile ground for terrorism?

Racism a push factor

Members of Molenbeek's Muslim community attend Friday prayers at Attadamoun Mosque.

Members of Molenbeek's Muslim community attend Friday prayers at Attadamoun Mosque.

Jambon says the majority of young Muslims are well integrated into Belgian society, but admits his government has more to do to make some feel “at home” in their own country, given that a sense of alienation can leave them open to the threat of radicalization.

“We’re talking about third- and fourth-generation [immigrants]; these youngsters are born in Belgium, even their fathers and mothers are born in Belgium, and still they are open for these kind of messages. This is not normal — in the U.S., the second generation was the President; here, the fourth generation is an IS fighter — so that is really something we have to work on.”

Van Ael says Belgian Muslims must also do their part.

“There is no reason why you shouldn’t feel Belgian — this is the country you were raised in. This is the country where you have been fed, where you went to school, where you had your friends, where you practiced your sports. So why all of a sudden you don’t feel Belgian?” he asks.

“There is no reason to feel like that. I believe that it is part of our Islam that we protect the country we were raised in and that we try to make the country we live in prosper.”

But for those left behind by would-be jihadis, Ali has a stark warning. He says his brothers’ decision to go to Syria — and the Belgian authorities’ treatment of those they left behind — has “destroyed” his family.

“This has broken everything,” he says, sobbing. “Our future looked bright but now nothing is left.”

For those at the front lines of this battle everything is at stake.

CNN’s Bryony Jones, Fred Pleitgen, Mick Krever and Paul Cruickshank contributed to this report.

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HAVANA (Reuters) – President Barack Obama arrived to small but cheering crowds on Sunday at the start of a historic visit to Cuba that opened a new chapter in U.S. engagement with the island’s Communist government after decades of hostility between the former Cold War foes.

The three-day trip, the first by a U.S. president to Cuba in 88 years, is the culmination of a diplomatic opening announced by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in December 2014, ending an estrangement that began when the Cuban revolution ousted a pro-American government in 1959.

“It’s a historic opportunity to engage directly with the Cuban people,” Obama told staff at the newly reopened U.S. Embassy who were gathered at a hotel, his first stop after arriving in the afternoon.

Groups of Cubans watched the motorcade from balconies and backyards as Obama was driven downtown, where a small crowd of Cubans braved a tropical downpour and tight security. They chanted: “Viva Obama, Viva Fidel,” as the president and his family left after eating dinner in a rundown neighborhood.

Obama, who abandoned a longtime U.S. policy of trying to isolate Cuba, wants to make his policy shift irreversible even if a Republican wins the White House in the Nov. 8 election.

But major obstacles remain to full normalization of ties, and the Democratic president’s critics say the visit is premature. U.S. officials concede the trip may not yield immediate concessions from Cuba on rights and economic freedom.

On Sunday, one bystander shouted: “Down with the blockade,” in reference to the U.S. embargo in place for 54 years that remains the top irritant for Cubans. Obama, who responded to the shout by raising his right hand, has asked Congress to rescind the embargo but has been blocked by the Republican leadership.

Underscoring the ideological divide that persists between Washington and Havana, Cuban police, backed by hundreds of pro-government demonstrators, broke up the regular march of a leading dissident group, the Ladies in White, detaining about 50 people just hours before Obama arrived.

AIR FORCE ONE IN CUBA

Obama arrived at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport in Air Force One, the presidential jet with “United States of America” emblazoned across its fuselage, a sight almost unimaginable not long ago on the island, just 90 miles (145 km) off the coast of Florida.

He was met by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, the top Cuban official present. The formal welcoming ceremony will be on Monday when Obama meets the Cuban president at the presidential palace.

U.S. officials appeared unfazed by Castro’s absence from the airport welcome, even though he personally met and greeted Pope Francis in September. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump tweeted that Obama’s visit was a “big deal” but that he got “no respect.”

Obama will hold talks with Castro – but not his brother Fidel, the revolutionary leader – and speak to entrepreneurs on Monday. He meets privately with dissidents, addresses Cubans live on state-run media and attends an exhibition baseball game on Tuesday.

The trip carries both symbolism and substance after decades of hostility between Washington and Havana.

Traveling with first lady Michelle Obama, her mother and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, Obama took in the sights of the colonial-era neighborhood and was given a tour of Havana’s 18th century cathedral by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who played a role in secret talks that led to the rapprochement 15 months ago.

The Obamas dined at the San Cristobal restaurant, run by an Afro-Cuban as part of a cautious opening to private enterprise since Fidel Castro handed power to his brother in 2008.

The trip makes Obama the first sitting American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge arrived on a battleship in 1928 and may help chip away at barriers to U.S.-Cuba trade and travel.

Since rapprochement, the two sides have restored diplomatic ties and signed commercial deals on telecommunications and scheduled airline service.

Obama has used executive authority to loosen trade and travel restrictions to advance his outreach to Cuba, one of his top foreign policy priorities along with the Iran nuclear deal.

Cuba still complains about U.S. control of the naval base at Guantanamo Bay under a 1934 lease agreement that Havana says is no longer valid and that Obama has said is not up for discussion. Havana is unhappy with U.S. support for dissidents and anti-communist radio and TV programs beamed into Cuba.

Speaking to reporters, Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment minister Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz said before the U.S. president’s arrival that Obama’s regulatory moves “go in the right direction.” But he added: “We can’t reach a normalization of relations with the blockade still in effect.”


YURI CORTEZ via Getty Images

‘¿QUÉ BOLÁ CUBA?’

The Americans in turn criticize one-party rule and repression of political opponents, an issue that aides said Obama would address publicly and privately.

Obama’s critics at home accuse him of making too many concessions for too little in return from the Cuban government and of using his trip to take an unearned “victory lap.”

Obama’s first words to the Cuban people came in a message on Twitter, a social media service that few Cubans can use regularly because of government restrictions on Internet access.

“¿Qué bolá Cuba?” he said, using Cuban slang for “what’s up?”

“Just touched down here, looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people.”

¿Que bolá Cuba? Just touched down here, looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people.

— President Obama (@POTUS) March 20, 2016

Little progress on the main issues is expected when Obama and Castro meet on Monday or at a state dinner that evening.

Instead, the highlights are likely to be Obama’s speech on live Cuban television on Tuesday, when he will also meet dissidents and attend an exhibition baseball game between Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays and Cuba’s national team.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason aboard Air Force One, and Frank Jack Daniel, Marc Frank and Nelson Acosta in Havana; Editing by Mary Milliken, Alan Crosby and Peter Cooney)

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A suicide bomber struck the heart of Istanbul’s tourist district on Saturday, killing at least four people and injuring 39, including many foreign nationals, authorities said.

The target, a bustling central avenue frequented by foreign visitors, suggested that the bombing was the latest attempt to undermine Turkey’s crucial tourist industry.

Late Saturday, Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported that the dead included a pair of dual U.S.-Israeli nationals. Twenty-four of the injured were foreigners, the state news outlet said, quoting Istanbul Gov. Vasip Sahin.

It was the latest in a string of attacks that have rocked Turkey and raised questions about internal security here.

The attacker Saturday ran down busy Istiklal Street, a main pedestrian thoroughfare, before he detonated a suicide vest, according to closed-circuit video obtained by local media.

The attack came as Turks were already on edge from a bombing last Sunday in the capital, Ankara, that killed 37 people in a crowded public square and spread fear that more attacks were imminent.

Security forces had been deployed across Istanbul to protect foreign consulates and areas known to draw large crowds. Some reports said that Saturday’s bomber was intending to target a larger crowd near the entrance to busy Taksim Square, but that a heavy police presence there apparently dissuaded him.

Within minutes of the blast, hundreds of police along with plainclothes officers strung yellow tape along Istiklal Street, which sees more than half a million pedestrians each day.

“Close it up, go home, no one is going to come today,” the owner of a seafood restaurant on Balik Passage, blocks from the bombing site, told fellow businesses owners.

Many shopkeepers and restaurants in the area did just that. At the few businesses that remained open, waiters sat at empty tables watching live news coverage about the bombing.

“What can we do about this?” asked Kemal, a waiter at a restaurant off Istiklal Street who didn’t want his last name used. “Anyone can just walk by and throw a bomb at you.”

He speculated that the bombing was the work of the Islamic State group, which controls stretches of territory in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

As of late Saturday, no one had publicly taken responsibility for the attack, and authorities had not named the bomber or any affiliation he may have had. Several armed factions currently operate in the country.

Recent bombings have been linked both to Islamic State and one of its enemies, the secular Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has waged war against the Turkish state for more than three decades.

An offshoot of the latter group claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack and in a statement said it had “hundreds of members ready to conduct suicide attacks” in crowded places across the country.

In the nation’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, an informal cease-fire between government forces and Kurdish guerrillas fell apart last year, and fighting has picked up in recent months.

More than 350,000 civilians have been displaced, but the conflict gets relatively little coverage by media outlets in Istanbul and Ankara. Authorities periodically impose news blackouts and crack down on the independent press.

Saturday’s attack was not the first in Istanbul that seemed aimed at the tourism industry, a major source of revenue. In January, a suicide bomber allegedly linked to Islamic State killed 10 people, most of them Germans, in the Sultanhamet district, another major tourist hub.

Among those injured on Saturday, authorities said, were six Israelis, two Irish nationals and citizens from Germany, Iceland, Iran and the United Arab Emirates.

For weeks, foreign embassies in Turkey have been warning of possible attacks. In the days before Sunday’s attack, the U.S. Embassy had told Americans to avoid part of Ankara. The German Foreign Ministry said it had specific information of a possible attack and closed its embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul — along with several German schools — on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Saturday’s bombing occurred just a few minutes’ walk from the German Consulate in Istanbul.

Celebrations of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, marked by Kurds were scheduled for Sunday and Monday, but authorities have said such gatherings would not be allowed, citing the threat of attacks by Islamic State, which has killed scores of civilians in bombings targeting Kurdish events over the last year.

Government officials and experts have pointed to the difficulties of stopping suicide attacks in a free, largely open society like Turkey.

“In all fairness, it’s practically very difficult in city like Istanbul, of 15 million people, to stop every person and check them for suicide vests or IEDs,” said Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based counter-terrorism expert with the Silk Road Institute, using an acronym for improvised explosive devices. “But obviously there is a shortage of good intelligence among Turkish authorities.”

Over the last six months, scores of suspected militants, the vast majority thought to have ties to Kurdish groups, have been detained in raids across Turkey. Saturday’s bombing seemed certain to spark fresh roundups of terrorism suspects.

“After every attack we see mass arrests, and maybe some of those arrested are guilty,” Jenkins said. “But we have to ask why the arrests are happening after, and not before, the attacks.”

Farooq is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Patrick J. McDonnell in Beirut contributed to this report.

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  • Dozens of protesters block traffic near a Donald Trump event in Arizona
  • Demonstrators march in New York City

The protesters in Arizona parked vehicles sideways on Shea Boulevard, blocking both lanes of traffic into Fountain Hills, where Trump held a rally Saturday afternoon, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joaquin Enriquez told CNN.

Enriquez described Shea Boulevard as the main artery into the area and the protesters’ actions were causing motorists to drive into oncoming traffic as they tried to get around them. Traffic was backed up for miles due to the blockage.

“This is causing huge issues for us,” Enriquez told CNN. He added, “We obviously have to get this road open.”

Enriquez later told CNN that three protesters were arrested and two cars were towed from the boulevard. The deputy emphasized that the arrests were due to protesters blocking the roadway, not because of the protest itself.

Protests at Trump rallies increasingly have become more contentious in recent days. Friday night, protesters outside a Trump rally in Salt Lake City, Utah, tried to breach the venue’s doors, causing police officers and Secret Service officers to abruptly shut them as Trump was speaking. And last week, scuffles between protesters and supporters in Chicago led Trump to cancel a rally there.

Trump on Saturday appeared with former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who endorsed the GOP front-runner in January. Arpaio rose to conservative fame with his aggressive roundups of undocumented immigrants and attention-grabbing tactics like clothing inmates in pink underwear.

Speaking to CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield earlier in the day, Arpaio said authorities are “going to do everything we can to continue to have this rally,” adding that authorities are “ready for any problems.”

“We’ll do everything possible to make sure we have free speech in this country. Donald Trump has a right to speak out and the people have a right to go in there and hear him speak,” Arpaio said. “If certain groups don’t like it, that’s OK. They have freedom of speech, but they’re not going to violate any laws. They’re going to have to pay the consequences.”

At the rally, Trump touched upon many of the themes that are familiar in his stump speeches — including bringing jobs back to the U.S. from overseas, tariffs on products made in Mexico and criticism of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy — but particularly focused on illegal immigration, a major issue in Arizona.

“So much crime. Drugs pouring though the border. People are now seeing it. And you know what? We’re going to build the wall and we’re going to stop it. It’s going to end,” Trump said.

He added, “Unless you have a border, you don’t have a country. Remember that.”

Trump also criticized Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, his main GOP opponent, once again calling him “Lyin’ Ted.” And Trump kept up his attacks on 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney — who has led the charge to deny Trump the delegates he needs to win the nomination — saying “he choked like a dog” in the last presidential cycle.

While he was speaking in Tucson later Saturday, dozens of protesters crowded outside the Tucson Convention Center, chanting, “No more hate” and “Trump the racist.”

As he made his remarks, Trump was repeatedly interrupted by protesters, some of whom engaged in physical altercations with supporters. Behind Trump, a standoff between security and about two dozen demonstrators in the bleachers took place.

At one point, Trump turned around at the podium as he watched protesters escorted out of the venue.

“These are not good people folks,” Trump said, adding, “They’re not really protesters, they’re agitators.”

When the Tucson rally concluded, a public address announcement told supporters to exit via the back of arena due to the protests out front that were still ongoing. One night earlier in Salt Lake City, supporters had been given a similar directive due to crowds of protesters outside the arena.

March in Manhattan

While the protest in Fountain Hills was underway, crowds of demonstrators gathered in Manhattan to march from Columbus Circle near Central Park to Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.

A small skirmish erupted when protesters started throwing water bottles at police, who were trying to keep them from impeding traffic. Three people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, a New York police spokesman said.

Protesters clash with NYPD officers while they take part in a protest against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on March 19, 2016 in New York City.

Protesters clash with NYPD officers while they take part in a protest against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on March 19, 2016 in New York City.

Along the march, tourists stopped to snap photos.

Protesters carried signs with messages such as “#CrushTrump” and shouted, “Hey, hey / ho, ho / Donald Trump has got to go.”

The march was organized by groups that included immigrant-rights activists and the “Cosmopolitan Antifascists.” A Facebook page for the group said it stands for “inclusion, diversity and human rights.”

One protester, Malu Huacuja, who is Mexican, said she was protesting Trump’s rhetoric on immigration.

“I am not a drug dealer,” she said. “I am not a criminal. I am not a rapist … Hatred is a very dangerous poison in the soul of humanity.”

CNN’s Linh Tran, Ray Sanchez, Keith Allen, Noah Gray and Sara Sidner contributed to this report.

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After a bullet in the leg ended his four-month flight from the law, Salah Abdeslam started a legal fight Saturday against his extradition from Belgium to France, where the president and the families of 130 victims want the top suspect in the Paris attacks to stand trial.

In Paris, prosecutor Francois Molins said during an interrogation session on Saturday that Abdeslam told Belgian officials that he had “wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France” on Nov. 13 but that he backed out at the last minute. Molins did not say what caused the 26-year-old purportedly to change his mind.

Abdeslam was shot Friday along with a suspected accomplice when they were captured by Belgian police during a massive anti-terror raid in Brussels. He was found at an apartment a mere 500 yards from his parents’ home, where he grew up.

On Saturday, he was discharged from the St. Pierre hospital in Brussels, questioned by authorities lying down because of his gunshot wound, and then officially charged with “participation in terrorist murder” in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks. France quickly issued a new European arrest warrant with more charges to speed up his extradition to a June 18 deadline.

French President Francois Hollande made it clear he wanted Abdeslam back in Paris, the city he fled after the November carnage. The suspect’s Belgian lawyer made it clear he would fight extradition.

Lawyer Sven Mary said since there was a criminal investigation in Brussels, “we don’t need him in France. We need him in Belgium.” He said any hasty extradition would be motivated by a sense of guilt since the attacks were prepared and coordinated in Belgium and several attackers came from Brussels.

“Perhaps we should tone down our groveling to compensate for the sense of guilt we feel toward France,” Mary said after he and Abdeslam met with a Belgian investigating magistrate.

Abdeslam’s capture in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek after four months on the run brought relief to people who have seen his “wanted” poster all over the two European countries for months.

Hollande warned that more arrests will come as authorities try to dismantle a network involved in the attacks that they now say is much larger than originally suspected. The Islamic State group had claimed responsibility for the Paris carnage.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called Abdeslam’s arrest a “major blow” to the Islamic State group in Europe, but warned that the threat of new attacks remains “extremely high.”

Belgium’s prime minister also said “the fight is not over.”

Molins, the Paris prosecutor, said Abdeslam is suspected not only of being a “key actor in the action” last November in the French capital but also of the logistical planning for the deadly attacks. He said French authorities suspect him of bringing numerous “terrorists” to Europe in the months leading up to the attacks and conducting multiples trips around Europe.

Often using false identities, Abdeslam rented cars starting last July, Molins said, travelling north from Greece and Italy, hitting Hungary in August, Austria in September, and Germany and the Netherlands in October.

Investigators believe Abdeslam drove a car carrying gunmen who took part in the Nov. 13 shootings, rented rooms for them and shopped for detonators. Most of the Paris attackers died on the night of the attacks, including Abdeslam’s brother Brahim, who blew himself up.

Abdeslam will appear before a pretrial court on Wednesday, which will decide whether he stays in jail for up to another month.

“If he starts talking, then I presume it will mean he stays longer in Belgium,” Belgian federal prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt told The Associated Press.

A 2002 agreement among European Union nations speeds up the extradition process — and for especially grave crimes such as terrorist acts the procedure goes even faster.

“Firstly, the legality of the arrest warrant, the European arrest warrant, has to be checked carefully,” said Mary, the defense lawyer.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told a news conference that his government has no “political objections” to handing Abdeslam over to the French, but wants to fully respect Belgian judicial procedures.

Belgian prosecutors said they were not sure of the identity of the presumed accomplice arrested with Abdeslam and also charged with “terrorist murder.” They said he is believed to have used fake Syrian and Belgian documents in two different names.

Meanwhile, two others detained with Abdeslam were released on Saturday, while a third was charged with belonging to a terror group and hiding criminals.

Two other people believed linked to the Paris attacks are still being sought, including fellow Molenbeek resident Mohamed Abrini and a man known under the alias of Soufiane Kayal.

Samia Maktouf, a French lawyer for several survivors and relatives of Paris attack victims, urged Abdeslam’s immediate extradition.

“Apart from his (medical) condition, I don’t see what might delay his extradition,” she told the AP.

After the bloodbath, Abdeslam evaded a huge French dragnet to return to Brussels. He was believed to have slipped through police fingers multiple times despite an international manhunt. At one point, Belgian authorities locked down their capital for several days in November but failed to find him.

Associated Press

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All 62 people aboard a passenger jet flying from Dubai to southern Russia were killed when their plane crashed on its second attempt to land at Rostov-on-Don airport on Saturday, Russian officials said.

Russia’s emergencies ministry said the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800 operated by Dubai-based budget carrier Flydubai, crashed at 03:50 (0030 GMT). Most of those aboard were Russian.

“The aircraft hit the ground and broke into pieces,” the Investigative Committee of Russia said in a statement on its website. “According to preliminary data, there were 55 passengers aboard and 7 crew members. They all died.”

The plane’s wing hit the ground on its second landing attempt and burst into flames, the Rostov region emergency ministry said in a statement.

The region’s governor, Vasily Golubev, said bad weather – strong, gusting wind in the Rostov area – was the primary line of investigation for the crash, but Zhanna Terekohova, an adviser to the Russian transport minister, said pilot error could also be a factor.

The plane came down inside the airport’s perimeter, about 250 meters (yards) short of the start of the runway.

Grainy pictures from a security camera pointing toward the airport, which were broadcast on Russian television, showed a large explosion at ground level, with flames and sparks leaping high into the air.

A representative of Rostov’s emergency ministry said at a briefing that flight recorders have not yet been recovered.

“We are doing all we can to gather information as quickly as possible. At this moment our thoughts and prayers are with our passengers and our crew who were on board the aircraft,” Flydubai said in a statement.

“We will do everything we can to help those who have been affected by this accident,” said the carrier, which is owned by the Dubai government.

Six of the crew were non-Russians, Russian emergency ministry said in a statement on it website, but it did not reveal the citizenship of the crew or passengers aboard.

Governor Golubev said on state television that there were seven children aboard.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly, Noah Browning and Omar Fahmy; Writing by Christian Lowe and Lidia Kelly; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Hulk Hogan, Terry Bollea

Hulk Hogan, Terry BolleaAP Photo/Steve Nesius, Pool

Today, a jury awarded former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan (real name Terry Bollea) a whopping $115 million in his legal case against Gawker Media, however, as we know by now, that doesn’t mean Hogan is collecting $115 milly.

Hogan, who sued the media company for $100 million back in 2012 accusing the website of invasion of privacy and other torts for posting 101 seconds of a sex tape featuring the wrestling icon and his ex Heather Clem, was awarded $55 million for economic injuries and $60 million for emotional distress, according to CNN.

And there’s a possibility for some more money on top of that, as the jury will reconvene next week to consider punitive damages on top of the $115 million already awarded. 

But attorney Troy Slaten, who is not connected with this case in any way, tells E! News that after all is said and done, Hogan will probably get less than half of the judgment.

Here’s how it all breaks down…

MORE: Hulk Hogan Awarded $115 Million in Sex Tape Lawsuit Against Gawker

“Let’s say he gets $115 million dollars and that stood. The attorneys get 40 percent off the top and then he also has to pay out the cost of the litigation, which means not the attorneys’ hourly fees, but all the cost of the investigators, experts, witnesses. So you can assume in a case this big that the cost of the attorneys is going to be $1 million, and their paralegals and research and transportation and all the cost that will go along with it,” Slaten explains.

“And then there’s taxes. The IRS treats personal injury awards like this differently depending on the character of the claim. If you are being compensated for a physical injury like broken bones, you can’t eat, nausea, physical injuries—those are not taxable. If it’s for lost wages then, yes, it’s taxable as if that money was wages.

“If it’s purely an emotional injury that does not have a physical component to it, then that is taxable—the government gets like half of that portion that is purely emotional. Just like Erin Andrews, Hulk will have tax attorneys working hard on this and they will make the argument to the IRS that he suffered physical manifestations of the emotional injury—that he couldn’t sleep, he is having nightmares, he is suffering PTSD, erectile dysfunction, he can’t have appropriate relationships, sweats, all the things he could possibly have.”

RELATED: Here’s how much of Erin Andrews’ $55 million judgment she’ll actually get

So with all that said, we’re looking at roughly $46 million in attorney fees, another $2 million in litigation fees, and assuming the remainder $67 million is taxable (which means half is getting cut), Hogan is left with—drum roll, please—$30-40 million. And yes, that is still a chunk of change, but definitely not $115 million.

Then again, there are the punitive damages, which Slaten couldn’t even begin to ball park. “It could be anything. God knows what it will be. I couldn’t even start to speculate on that. Frankly I’m shocked at the $115 million dollar compensatory verdict for showing a video for nine seconds.”

However, there’s a big chance Gawker is going to appeal, which then throws another monetary curve ball into the mix.

“This is a very large verdict and it’s going to have to be appealed,” Slaten tells us. “In this case, Gawker is going to appeal because Hulk doesn’t want to appeal it, he’s thrilled he got more than he was asking for—so, Gawker is going to appeal and they will have to put up a bond for $50 million, in case they lose and that money is there for Bollea.”
 
He continues, “That is one of the most difficult things in a lawsuit. You can win a judgment, but that doesn’t mean the money just automatically flows into your bank account…He will not see the money for a while—even years.”

MORE: Erin Andrews Feels at Peace With $55 Million Verdict in Peeping Tom Lawsuit

Additionally, “an Appeals court could easily decide the jury was wrong and cut the award in half. If they felt that no reasonable juror should have ruled that way. Cases get overturned on appeal all the time,” Slaten tells us, explaining that they could end up just settling for the $50 million instead.

“And if Hulk and the attorneys are OK with that, the attorneys are walking away with $20 million-plus and Hulk gets $30 million, then maybe they would do it. I don’t know. It would depend on what the attorneys think is how viable the claim on appeal is.”

Regardless, the large judgment raised a lot of eyebrows today, especially coming after the $55 million awarded to Andrews in her Peeping Tom case against the Marriott hotel in Nashville. And it definitely sparked some interesting conversations on the Internet:

So, here are the comment sections after Hulk Hogan received his verdict, compared to when Erin Andrews did. pic.twitter.com/NNDAvxQIAO

— Travis Johns (@T_BJohns) March 18, 2016

Slaten tells E! News that the main difference (aside from the actual case) between the two judgments is who they were targeting. “It’s different in the Erin Andrews case in that there’s just one defendant, and the defendant is a large company that theoretically has deep pockets. Meaning Lots of money.”

“In the Erin Andrews case, the judgment was split between Marriott and the peeping tom. The peeping tom had no flow, no dough. He had no money and so you can’t get blood from a turnip. But in this case, Gawker is a major publishing outlet and they theoretically have assets and even insurance to cover lawsuits.”

All in all, Slaten believes Hogan and Gawker should try to reach a settlement. “I think that is what they should do and that is what usually happens. You never know, you never know what another court can do. The judges that are looking at this might think that’s ridiculous like most lawyers, every single lawyer that I’ve talked to thinks this award is outrageous.”

PHOTOS: Court Appearances

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Story highlights

  • Belgian prosecutor’s office says five people detained in raid, including Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam
  • Abdeslam was taken to a hospital after being shot in a leg, officials say
  • Prosecutors identify another person arrested as Monir Ahmed Alaaj, also known as Amine Choukri

Abdeslam was wounded in a gunbattle with authorities in an anti-terror raid in the Brussels’ suburb of Molenbeek. Four other people were arrested.

A man named Monir Ahmed Alaaj — also known as Amine Choukri — also was wounded and hospitalized, prosecutors said.

Belgian federal prosecutor’s office spokesman Eric Van der Sypt said the others detained included three members of a family who helped hide Abdeslam.

Earlier, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters that Abdeslam, a Belgian-born French citizen, and another person were wounded in the raid. Abdeslam had a minor leg wound, Van der Sypt announced.

French President Francois Hollande said Paris prosecutors will urgently request the extradition of Abdeslam. Hollande told reporters he is confident Abdeslam will be sent to France for trial.

“I know the Belgian authorities will respond quickly and favorably to our request for extradition,” Hollande said.

Officials said as of Friday night no more suspects were in the building where the raid took place.

After the news broke, many others joined in with laudatory messages, including Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, where Abdeslam allegedly took part in the carnage that left 130 dead.

“Congratulations to the police on the arrest of Salah Abdeslam,” Hidalgo tweeted.

Lieve Reynebeau, who works on the street where Abdeslam was captured, said she heard loud noises and then looked out to see police all around the scene. She managed to leave the area like others — “all of us safe” — by foot.

Armed and heavily protected police, with helmets and shields, converged on the area. Three explosions were heard there later Friday, CNN French affiliate BFMTV reported, though it wasn’t clear if those were controlled blasts or part of a continuing operation.

And gunshots rang out shortly after 7 p.m. in the same area.

Police continued to conduct operations in Molenbeek into Saturday morning.

Molenbeek focus of ‘foreign fighter problem’

Molenbeek, an impoverished Brussels suburb, has a reputation as a hotbed for jihadism. Several members of its large, predominantly Muslim population — many of whom are first-, second- and third-generation immigrants from North Africa — have been linked to terror plots and attacks.

Last fall, Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens cited Molenbeek as a place where more needs to be done to address what he called Belgium’s “foreign fighter problem.”

And in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks, authorities conducted raids there and detained numerous individuals. One was Mohammed Abdeslam, the brother of the wanted man captured Friday, who was taken into custody and later released.

Mohammed Abdeslam told Belgian state broadcaster RTBF that he thinks Salah at the “last minute … decided to reconsider” carrying out an attack himself November 13 — ones that ended, in the other cases, with the assailants dead.

One of those who did follow through was another brother, Ibrahim Abdeslam, the suicide bomber who detonated explosives outside a cafe on Paris’ Boulevard Voltaire.

1 killed in Tuesday raid

Earlier Friday, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office revealed that the 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam’s fingerprints and DNA were found in a Brussels apartment raided three days earlier. One person was killed and two people escaped that operation, according to authorities.

The man killed by a special forces sniper was Mohamed Belkaid, an Algerian who used the name Samir Bouzid, and who is believed to have directed the Paris attackers via calls from Belgium, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Belkaid is believed to have helped Abdeslam travel prior to the attacks and transferred money to a female cousin of Paris ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud following the attack, the Belgian senior counter-terrorism official told CNN in January.

Authorities believe Abdeslam was using the apartment as a hideout following the Paris attacks, according to the Belgian counter-terrorism official.

His possible escape spurred an intense manhunt in a country already on guard after last fall’s attacks in the French capital.

Van der Sypt noted earlier this week — prior to Friday’s raid — that authorities had searched more than 100 houses and arrested 58 people as part of the post-Paris probe. Another 23 people have been arrested “in linked investigations,” he said then.

Suspect thought to have dropped off Paris bomber

Investigators think Salah Abdeslam may have been the driver of a black Renault Clio that dropped off three suicide bombers near the Stade de France, one of the attack sites near Paris. They also believe he had worn a suicide belt found on a Paris street after the attacks.

He is believed to have called friends to take him to Belgium after the attacks. They passed through police checkpoints, but Abdeslam had not yet been identified as a suspect and they were allowed to continue on their way.

Surveillance video emerged of him and another man at a gas station near the Belgian border the day after the attacks.

He has eluded authorities ever since.

In January, authorities found traces of explosives and Abdeslam’s fingerprints in another Brussels apartment.

Some theories suggested he had returned to Syria following the attacks.

CNN’s David Williams, Steve Almasy and journalists Chris Burns and Laila Benallal contributed to this report.

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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Phoenix. (AP/Ricardo Arduengo)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Thursday called a controversial Arizona sheriff a bully and accused him of engaging in “un-American and uncivilized” law enforcement tactics.

Sanders’s comments at a campaign rally here were directed at long-serving Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who prides himself on being “America’s toughest sheriff” and operates an infamous “tent city” jail where inmates endure extreme outdoor heat.

Sanders’s appearance was part of a series of stops planned ahead of Tuesday’s primary in Arizona, which he hopes will help him regain traction in a Democratic nominating contest he is losing to Hillary Clinton.

[Not continuing to run would be ‘outrageously undemocratic,’ Bernie Sanders says]

Thursday night’s rally was held at a Navajo casino, and the senator from Vermont focused heavily on issues facing Native Americans as well as Latinos.

Arpaio, also known for aggressive enforcement of immigration laws, has endorsed Republican front-runner Donald Trump in the presidential race.

Sanders recounted for his audience, estimated at 2,800 people, a trip that his wife, Jane, took earlier this week to the “tent city” as part of a separate campaign swing through Arizona on behalf of her husband. Upon learning of Jane Sanders’s plans, Arpaio showed up and offered the candidate’s wife a tour, and she asked him a series of pointed questions about the jail and immigration enforcement.

Sanders told the crowd at the rally that Arpaio “kind of ambushed” his wife.

[Bernie Sanders tells supporters he sees a winning streak coming]

“She asked him about racial profiling and he didn’t have an answer,” Sanders said. “She asked him about conditions in tent city and other abuses that he has perpetuated, and he didn’t have an answer. You know what, he cannot have an answer because what he is doing is un-American and uncivilized.”

“It’s easy for bullies like Sheriff Arpaio to pick on people who have no power, but if I’m elected president, the president of the United States does have the power,” Sanders said. “Watch out, Joe!”

His crowd broke into chants of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”

Sanders was introduced at the rally by Katherine Figueroa Bueno, a 12-year-old who said she saw television coverage of her undocumented parents being arrested by Arpaio when she was 9.

“If elected president, we are going to pass comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizenship, whether Mr. Arpaio likes it or not,” Sanders said shortly after taking stage.

He also vowed to address the “appalling levels of inequality and systematic injustice” faced by Native Americans.

And Sanders put in a plug for changing the name of Washington’s football team.

“Washington has a very good football team but it doesn’t have to be called the Redskins,” Sanders said.

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