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Pursued tanker out of sight near Syria

An oil tanker the U.S. is trying to seize disappeared from satellite-tracking not far from Syria's coast, prompting speculation the ship is about to transfer its cargo to another vessel out of the view of global ship-monitoring systems.

The last signal from the supertanker Adrian Darya 1, thought to have 2 million barrels of oil on board, was received Monday afternoon, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

Previously called Grace 1, the vessel was seized near Gibraltar by the U.K. military and Gibraltar police in early July on accusations of supplying crude to Syria. The British overseas territory released the carrier last month, saying it received assurances the vessel wouldn't sail to any entity sanctioned by the European Union.

The only obvious candidates in the eastern Mediterranean that might take the oil from the Adrian Darya 1 are Syria and Turkey, and officials in the latter country already said they hadn't bought the vessel's cargo. The location of its last signal was to the west of the Lebanon-Syria border when the ship was heading north. Three Iranian tankers have entered the eastern Mediterranean through the Suez Canal since Aug. 28.

Australia turns back more Sri Lankans

NEGOMBO, Sri Lanka -- An Australian general in charge of combating illegal migration said Tuesday that there has been an increase in the number of Sri Lankans seeking to enter Australia illegally by boat in recent months.

Maj. Gen. Craig Furini, head of Operation Sovereign Borders, said during a visit to the island nation that since May, 38 people have been returned to Sri Lanka by Australian authorities. He said Sri Lanka's navy has intercepted 41 other people in the Indian Ocean who were traveling to Australia illegally by fishing boat, and that many planned boat journeys were thwarted by law enforcement authorities in Sri Lanka.

Furini visited the Negombo fishing harbor north of Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, where some of the boats have departed from in the past.

"Before Operation Sovereign Borders in the period from 2008 to 2013, 50,000 people came illegally by boat on 820 separate boat journeys and tragically around 1,200 of them died at sea. We will never allow that to happen again," Furini said.

Since 2013, Australia has returned 865 people from 37 boats to their countries of departure or their countries of origin, he said. This includes 204 Sri Lankans from 12 boats and people from countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and some African countries, he added.

Craft avoids crash with SpaceX satellite

BERLIN -- A European space probe has performed an evasive maneuver to avoid a possible collision with another satellite after its operator, private firm SpaceX, said it wouldn't budge.

Officials at the European Space Agency said Tuesday that the maneuver didn't affect operations of the Aeolus satellite, which was launched in August 2018 to measure global wind speeds and directions, thereby improving weather forecasts.

The incident highlighted the need to improve coordination among satellite operators as Earth's orbit becomes increasingly crowded despite an absence of traffic rules, said Klaus Merz of European Space Agency's space debris office.

The agency said it was alerted some time ago by the U.S. Department of Defense about a possible collision risk between Aeolus and Starlink 44, leading it to reach out to SpaceX. The European Space Agency said it "was informed that no maneuver was planned for the Starlink satellite before the close approach."

It's unclear why SpaceX didn't offer to move out of Aeolus' way. The California company didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kurdish force joins patrol near Turkey

BEIRUT -- A U.S.-backed mostly Kurdish force in Syria on Tuesday carried out a patrol along with the U.S.-led coalition near a border town with Turkey to select fortifications to be removed as part of an agreement to set up a safe zone along the country's northwest border, a spokesman for the group said.

Mustafa Bali of the Syrian Democratic Forces tweeted that the patrol occurred near the town of Tal Abyad on the border with Turkey, which seeks to set up a buffer zone along its southern border.

The Syrian Democratic Forces announced last week that it had begun withdrawing its fighters from the border towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn as part of a deal for the so-called safe zone in northeast Syria involving the U.S. and Turkey.

Turkey has been pressing for a safe zone to ensure security on its border running east of the Euphrates River toward the Iraqi border. Turkey wants to control -- in coordination with the U.S. -- a 19- to 25-mile deep zone within civil war-ravaged Syria.

Turkey wants the region along its border to be clear of Syrian Kurdish forces and has threatened on numerous occasions to open a new operation in Syria against Syrian Kurdish forces if such a zone is not established.

A Section on 09/04/2019

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