Morning mail: US raid kills al-Baghdadi, conservation plea, bird of the year

<span>Photograph: AP</span>
Photograph: AP

Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 28 October.

Top stories

The Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been killed in a raid by US special forces on his Syrian safe house, Donald Trump has announced, ending a years-long manhunt for one of the world’s most wanted terrorists. Trump said the “impeccable” two-hour operation had been conducted on Saturday night in the province of Idlib, one of the last areas of the country still outside Syrian regime control, and that US officials had confirmed that Baghdadi, 48, was among those killed. “US special operations forces executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid in north-west Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style,” Trump said, adding that Baghdadi had detonated a suicide vest and killed himself and three of his children. “He died like a dog, he died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place.”

More than 240 conservation scientists have called on Scott Morrison to drop his opposition to stronger environment laws and seize a “once-in-a-decade opportunity” to fix a system that is failing to stem a worsening extinction crisis. With the federal government due to announce a legislated review of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, scientists have signed an open letter to the PM urging him to increase spending and back laws to help protect the natural world. The letter says three native species have become extinct in the past decade and 17 others could follow in the next 20 years.

Fifty birds. Eighteen days. Only one winner. Bird of the year is back. In partnership with BirdLife Australia, Guardian Australia is running a poll to determine which of our feathered friends is considered No 1 in the eyes of the public. While this sounds like a popularity contest (it is), there is a greater goal. “This is to draw attention to the birds we all love,” Samantha Vine, head of conservation at BirdLife Australia, says. “Everyone has a bird story. Everyone, perhaps without even noticing it, will have birds in their life. They’re one of the most beautiful, colourful, sometimes cheeky, parts of nature we interact with.” You can vote today from a list of 50 birds.


A third of all children with disability have been restrained or secluded at school, while half have been bullied in the past year, according to a government-funded report that reveals “severe neglect and abuse” of young people and calls for “special schools” to be phased out.

The Labor senator Pat Dodson has blasted Scott Morrison for his absence at last night’s celebrations of the closing of the climb at Uluru as “more than an insult” to First Nations people.

A Perth mother has been charged with murdering her two young daughters. The bodies of six-year-old Tiana Djurasovic and her 10-year-old sister, Mia, were found about 6pm on Friday. The girls’ mother, Milka Djurasovic, was charged with two counts of murder by police.

The world

A demonstrator carries a boy
A demonstrator carries a boy during a protest over corruption, a lack of jobs and poor services in Baghdad. Photograph: Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

Thousands of Iraqi protesters occupied Baghdad’s central Tahrir square yesterday, defying a bloody crackdown that killed scores at the weekend.

A man detained at Dublin Port on Saturday is the haulier who delivered a trailer to Zeebrugge before it was found in Essex with the bodies of 39 people inside, according to Belgian authorities.

The UK government could try to force a pre-Christmas election via a simple majority for a parliamentary bill, Downing Street has said, after a Liberal Democrat-devised plan to try to end the House of Commons impasse.

An tiny early Renaissance masterpiece found in a French woman’s kitchen during a house clearance has fetched more than €24m (A$39m) at auction, making it the most expensive medieval painting ever sold.

Recommended reads

The faces of Ivan Milat&#x002019;s known murder victims
The faces of Ivan Milat’s known murder victims. Photograph: Reuters

Ivan Milat’s murders still haunt Australia. “When British backpackers Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters were found brutally murdered in the Belanglo state forest in September 1992,” writes Michael McGowan, “the Sun ran the headline: ‘Beast of the bush: Brit girls victims of Oz serial killer.’ The newspaper speculated that the killer ‘could be a fiend responsible for the disappearance of 20 people in the area over 20 years’. Ivan Milat, who has died of cancer aged 74, was convicted in 1996 of the murder of seven people, aged 19 to 22, who disappeared while hitchhiking south of Sydney. But his death means his suspected involvement in several other disappearances may never be resolved.”

In the doctored document saga, it’s worth reading Angus Taylor’s statements very carefully, writes Anne Davies. “Taylor raised a whole new crop of questions with his Friday statement on how he came to rely on an incorrect version of the City of Sydney’s annual report when the attacked its lord mayor, Clover Moore, over her carbon emissions. First, a word of warning about how Taylor uses the English language. It isn’t as you or I would but rather like a lawyer, with every word precisely chosen.”


The climate crisis is a complex issue. So how do you explain it to kids? For children living on Tuvalu it’s an unavoidable conversation. How do you create hope when your island will be unliveable in their lifetime? And here in Australia, how much should we be telling kids about the potential scale of the problem? The Guardian Pacific editor, Kate Lyons, with the help of Tuvaluan and Australian children, sits down with Laura Murphy-Oates to discuss.


Makazole Mapimpi of South Africa and Leigh Halfpenny of Wales during the Rugby World Cup semi-final
Makazole Mapimpi of South Africa and Leigh Halfpenny of Wales during the Rugby World Cup semi-final. Photograph: Gallo Images/Getty Images

South Africa will face England in the Rugby World Cup final after beating Wales 19-16. “A match that contained more kicks out of hand than it did minutes was appropriately decided by the boot,” writes Paul Rees.

As a demonstrative statement, the Sydney derby was the very best of the A-League, writes Richard Parkin.For a footballing community too often riddled with insecurity, quick to play the victim card, and constantly anxiously looking over its shoulder, Saturday night’s match was the perfect demonstration that Australian football has the goods – if only it dared to place trust in itself.”

Media roundup

“Police get power to kill rogue drivers,” is the front-page splash on this morning’s Age, which explains that Victoria police “have been authorised to shoot and kill drivers who deliberately or recklessly risk the lives of the public.” The watchdog that oversees the ATO has launched an investigation, following a “$7bn blowout in unpaid taxes,” the Australian reports. And the Sydney Morning Herald reveals that the NSW Office of Local Government has concluded that vital pieces of water infrastructure in the state’s central west, including bores and dam upgrades, “were left unfinished because of personal grievances and ‘an inability to make necessary decisions’.”

Coming up

The trial of the Chinese film star Yunxiang Gao and producer Jing Wang accused of raping a woman in Sydney is due to begin.

And if you’ve read this far …

Environmental scientists have released an analysis of methane emissions from Oktoberfest. They found that the event emitted nearly 1,500kg of methane – 10 times the amount that wafted off Boston, Massachusetts, in the same period. The scientists attribute most of Oktoberfest’s emissions to leaks and incomplete combustion in cooking and heating appliances. Though an appreciable part of the rise in the gas, about 10%, was attributed to the flatulence and burps of the revellers.

Sign up

If you would like to receive the Guardian Australia morning mail to your email inbox every weekday, sign up here.