U.S. charges another Oath Keepers associate in Capitol riot probe

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department this week charged another associate of the anti-government Oath Keepers militia over his alleged role in storming the U.S. Capitol.

Joshua A. James, 33, of Arab, Alabama, is at least the 11th person associated with the far-right militia to face charges in connection with the deadly Jan. 6 siege.

Nine of the group’s alleged associates are charged in a superseding indictment with conspiring to storm the Capitol as far back as November.

James is at least the second Oath Keepers associate who was captured in photographs providing security for Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime friend and ally, who spoke at political rallies leading up to the attack.

Earlier this week, Roberto Minuta, 36, was also identified as providing security to Stone before he allegedly stormed the Capitol. He is also facing criminal charges.

The photographs of Stone’s Oath Keepers security detail were published in the New York Times last month, and the article is referenced in the charging documents for both Minuta and James.

Stone, in a statement earlier this week, denied knowing Minuta, and said he had no advanced knowledge the Capitol would be attacked.

According to the charging documents, James was captured in photographs on Jan. 6 wearing tactical gear with Oath Keepers insignia.

“Publicly-available video also captured James inside the Capitol building,” the complaint says.

James is due to appear in a federal court in Alabama on Thursday for a detention hearing. His public defender declined to comment.

More than 300 people have been charged so far in connection with the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and the FBI has been increasingly focused on suspects with ties to right-wing extremist groups.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Baby powder helping fund Islamic State in Afghanistan: report

FILE PHOTO: Afghan National Army troops prepare for an operation against insurgents in Khogyani district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan November 28, 2017. REUTERS/Parwiz/File Photo

KABUL (Reuters) – Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from illegal mining of talc, much of which ends up in the United States and Europe, advocacy group Global Witness reported on Tuesday.

About 500,000 tonnes of talc, used in products ranging from paint to baby powder, were exported from Afghanistan in the year to March, according to Afghan mining ministry figures cited in the group’s report.

Almost all went to Pakistan, where much of it is re-exported. Pakistan provides more than a third of U.S. imports of talc and much also ends up in the European Union, it said.

“Unwitting American and European consumers are inadvertently helping fund extremist groups in Afghanistan,” Nick Donovan, Campaign Director at Global Witness, said in a statement, calling for stronger checks on imports.

Illegal mining of gemstones and minerals such as lapis lazuli is a major source of revenue for Taliban insurgents and the report said Islamic State was fighting for control of mines in Nangarhar, the province where it has its stronghold.

Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan, has large deposits of talc as well as minerals such as chromite and marble, and sits on major smuggling routes used for drugs and other contraband.

The report quoted a senior Islamic State militant commander as saying that wresting control of mining assets from other armed groups in Nangarhar was a priority: “The mines are in the hands of the mafia … At any price we will take the mines.”

Security officials in Afghanistan have long been concerned about the uncontrolled traffic in Nangarhar of commodities like talc and chromite, which the Global Witness report said “may be the least glamorous of conflict minerals”.

It said that while it was difficult to estimate the value of the trade to Islamic State, revenue from mining in Nangarhar could amount “anywhere from the high tens of thousands to the low millions of dollars a year”. Somewhere in the hundreds of thousands was a plausible mid-range estimate, it added.

The sum did not appear very high, it said, but the U.S. military estimated the strength of Islamic State in Nangarhar at somewhere between 750 to 2,000 fighters, meaning the funds would be a significant source of revenue to the movement.

An Afghan mining ministry spokesman said a special committee had already been established to coordinate approaches to the issue with security and intelligence services. The ministry planned a news conference this week to address some of the specific issues raised in the report.

(Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Mark Heinrich)