News Briefs – September 8, 2017

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U.S. says drone strike kills 3 al-Shabab extremists in Somalia

A U.S. military drone strike has killed three members of the al-Shabab extremist group in Somalia, the U.S. Africa Command said Sept. 6.

The airstrike was carried out the morning of Sept. 5 local time in the Bay region, about 75 kilometers (45 miles) west of the capital, Mogadishu, the U.S. statement said.

“We assess no civilians were anywhere near the site,” a spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command, Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo, told The Associated Press. He said he did not have the identities of the extremists killed.

The al-Shabab members were operating “in close proximity to” Somali army forces and African Union forces in the area “and were deemed as a credible threat,” Falvo said.

The U.S. military has carried out several airstrikes against fighters with the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab in the Horn of Africa nation since President Donald Trump approved expanded military operations against the group.

That includes more aggressive airstrikes and considering parts of southern Somalia areas of active hostilities.

A 22,000-strong multinational African Union force known as AMISOM has been helping to support Somalia’s fragile central government after more than two decades as a failed state. Both it and the U.S. military are trying to prepare Somalia’s armed forces to take over the country’s security before AMISOM’s planned departure by the end of 2020. AP
 

VA watchdog finds some problems at Colorado benefits office

A federal watchdog agency says a Denver, Colo.,-area office of the Veterans Affairs Department made mistakes on some benefit claims and processed others late, but no system-wide problems were found.

The VA’s Office of Inspector General said Sept. 5 it reviewed 60 claims processed by a Veterans Affairs office in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.

The agency says the Lakewood office correctly processed 28 of 30 claims for traumatic brain injury and 26 of 30 claims for two other types of benefits.

The review found overpayments totaling about $51,000 and underpayments totaling about $19,000.

The inspector general also reviewed 30 newly filed claims and found incorrect information in 19. The agency blamed inexperience and ineffective oversight. AP
 

Albania gets U.S. military Humvees to bolster its army

Albania’s Defense Ministry says that the United States has provided the first light trucks to bolster its military capacities.

A statement Sept. 5 said that the first six out of 248 Humvees have arrived in Albania, as part of a $12 million aid package. The tiny Western Balkan country will support their transport and maintenance.

U.S. Ambassador Donald Lu said Albania is one of four NATO allies in Europe to get these vehicles so that it “has an infantry group fully modernized, operational and autonomous until 2019.”

Albania joined NATO in 2009, and since then has been replacing outdated weaponry with new material in line with the alliance’s standards.

It has regularly provided small army units in international peacekeeping missions or NATO operations. AP
 

Boeing, Airbus raise alarms over United Tech, Rockwell deal

Airplane makers Boeing and Airbus raised concerns Sept. 5 about the proposed tie-up of industrial company United Technologies and aerospace parts maker Rockwell Collins, saying that the deal could raise costs or slow the production of planes. Boeing and Airbus both buy equipment from United Tech and Rockwell Collins.

The comments from the two companies came a day after United Tech announced plans to buy Rockwell Collins for about $22.75 billion. The deal would create an aerospace giant that makes plane seats, landing systems and flight control decks for commercial and military planes.

United Tech said that after the deal is completed, which it expects to happen within a year, it would combine its aerospace unit with Rockwell Collins and rename it Collins Aerospace Systems. That unit is expected to bring in more than $23 billion in sales a year.

Chicago-based Boeing, however, said it will take a “hard look” at the proposed acquisition but is skeptical that it would be in the best interest of its customers and industry.

“Should we determine that this deal is inconsistent with those interests, we would intend to exercise our contractual rights and pursue the appropriate regulatory options to protect our interests,” Boeing said.

Airbus said it is focused on delivering planes and that it hoped the deal would not “distract” United Tech.

United Tech declined to comment. But earlier in the day, its CEO, Gregory Hayes, said the deal would “be good for the industry” and that it would allow it to reduce costs.

Besides its aerospace business, Farmington, Connecticut-based United Tech also makes Otis elevators and Carrier air conditioners. But Hayes said that the company is open to selling some of its business units.

“There’s always pieces of the pie that might not fit as well as others, so we’ll look at that,” he said.

United Tech said Sept. 4 that it will pay $140 per share in cash and stock for Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Rockwell Collins. Including debt, the companies said the acquisition is worth $30 billion.

United Tech said it expects $500 million in pretax savings related to the deal, and it reaffirmed its 2017 profit estimates.

The acquisition needs to be approved by regulators and shareholders of Rockwell Collins. AP