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Middle East

A bomb exploded in Iraq's capital city on Thursday, killing at least 45 people.

It happened on a street filled with car dealerships and garages in southern Baghdad, according to Reuters. Islamic State militants claimed responsibility in a statement released on social media that said the group was targeting Shiites Muslims.

A family of Syrian refugees landed Friday at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire, completing a journey that almost never happened.

When we last heard from Philip, an Iraqi interpreter living in Minnesota, he was trying to bring his family to the U.S.

Philip came to the United States in 2013 and was living with Paul Braun, the sergeant of the company he was assigned to in Iraq. Braun and Philip spoke to StoryCorps in 2014.

"You scared me, dude," Philip says. "Your attitude in the beginning and with your Mohawk — "

UMass Amherst

Over the last several days, a UMass Amherst student from Iran has been denied access to a flight out of Tehran, where he traveled over winter break to get married.

In the U.S., protests, confusion and anger have followed President Trump’s executive order that prevents new refugees from entering the country for 120 days, suspends resettlement for Syrians indefinitely and bars travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days.

For people working to bring Syrian refugees to the United States, President Trump’s executive order is throwing those plans into chaos.

Saira Rafiee boarded a plane in Tehran this weekend on her way to New York. She had been visiting family in Iran and needed to get back to the U.S. in time for classes at City University of New York's Graduate Center, where she is a Ph.D. student in political science. But, as a result of President Trump's executive order restricting the travel of citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Iran, Rafiee says she was detained in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and, after nearly 18 hours, sent back to Tehran.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Plans for at least a dozen refugee families scheduled to arrive in New Haven in the next few weeks have been thrown into question after President Donald Trump announced his new executive order on immigration. 

Two famous ancient structures in the city of Palmyra have been destroyed by ISIS forces, Syria's antiquities chief says.

The Tetrapylon and the facade of the city's Roman theater have both been almost completely demolished, the official says, according to NPR's Alison Meuse.

"Activist Khaled al-Homsi, who is from Palmyra, shared satellite imagery to Twitter, which appears to confirm the scale of the damage," Alison reports. "The face of the Roman theater is a pile of rubble and only four of the Tetrapylon's 16 columns appear to be standing."

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Immigrants in Connecticut come from many different backgrounds. They’re white-collar or blue-collar workers; they’re artists and students. We have an occasional series on Where We Live that highlights their stories.

Updated Jan. 1 at 9:56 a.m. ET

At least 39 people were killed and 69 others wounded during New Year's celebrations Saturday after a gunman opened fire at an Istanbul nightclub. At least 16 of those killed were foreign nationals.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters that the attacker entered the Reina nightclub and began shooting at random, NPR's Peter Kenyon tells our newscast. The killer then changed clothes and left, says the minister.

Agreement Reached On Syria Cease-Fire

Dec 29, 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in Moscow that the Syrian government and Syrian opposition forces have agreed to a nationwide cease-fire to begin at midnight local time.

The Syrian army said the agreement excludes the Islamic State as well as Jabhat Fateh al Sham — the group formerly known as the Nusra Front — and all groups linked to them. Turkey's foreign ministry said the agreement excludes groups the U.N. deems terrorist organizations.

With his tenure as secretary of state rapidly pulling to a close, John Kerry made an impassioned defense for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday.

Kerry said he is concerned that some Israeli politicians are rejecting it.

"If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic; it cannot be both, and it won't ever really be at peace," said Kerry.

Evacuations continue from east Aleppo, as remaining rebels and civilians wait in freezing weather for transportation out of the city.

The end of the evacuations may be coming soon: NPR's Alice Fordham reports that regime forces might be entering the tiny enclave that has been held by rebels as early as Thursday evening.

The fall of eastern Aleppo to the forces aligned with Syrian President Bashar Assad has been a foregone conclusion for weeks now. The question was whether civilians and fighters would be allowed to leave.

Next month, a mix of Syrian and Iraqi refugees will begin arriving in Rutland, Vermont. They’ll be the first of 100 that will be resettled there over the next year. Though there's been loud opposition to the plan in the aging, blue-collar city of 16,000, proponents remain optimistic — and many have been volunteering long hours to ensure the plan succeeds.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Immigrants in Connecticut come from many different backgrounds. They’re white-collar or blue-collar workers -- they’re artists and students. We have an occasional series on Where We Live that highlights their stories.

Turkey and Russia have launched a joint investigation into the assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey at the opening of a photo exhibit in the capital, Ankara, on Monday.

The ambassador, Andrei Karlov, was gunned down as he gave a speech at an art gallery. Turkey has identified the attacker as Mevlut Mert Altintas, a 22-year-old riot police officer, who shouted to the crowd, "Don't forget Aleppo! Don't forget Syria!" He was killed by Turkish special forces at the scene.

Editor's note: An image below shows Ambassador Andrei Karlov on the ground after he was shot.

Russia's ambassador to Turkey has died after he was shot Monday evening at an art exhibition in the capital, Ankara, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in comments broadcast on Russian state television.

Updated at 7:15 p.m. ET

Evacuations of east Aleppo have resumed, after a series of false starts and broken cease-fires.

And United Nations officials said more than 100 U.N. humanitarian staffers are in place and could begin monitoring the evacuation under terms of a U.N. resolution approved unanimously Monday.

At least 25 buses entered besieged neighborhoods to evacuate rebel fighters and civilians from eastern Aleppo Sunday, Syria's official news agency says — but that was before an attack on buses elsewhere put all movement on hold.

The setback comes after the evacuation effort was halted Friday after just one day, with all sides lobbing accusations at each other.

Evacuations of embattled eastern Aleppo, which began Thursday after days of efforts to negotiate a cease-fire, have come to a halt.

Thousands of civilians and fighters have already been evacuated from the rebel-held enclave: Some 3,000 civilians were evacuated in the first few convoys, along with more than 40 wounded people, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday.

The aid group anticipated it would take days to fully evacuate east Aleppo.

President-elect Donald Trump announced Thursday he will nominate bankruptcy attorney David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel. Friedman, who has no prior diplomatic experience, is an outspoken supporter of Jewish settlement on the Israeli-occupied West Bank and has questioned the need for a Palestinian state.

After years of devastating war, days of increasing desperation and the collapse of one cease-fire, evacuations are underway in besieged eastern Aleppo.

Live images on Syrian state TV showed ambulances entering the rebel-held enclave on Thursday morning to evacuate the wounded. Aid groups confirm that evacuations have begun — despite reports of a brief burst of gunfire targeting ambulances.

Updated at 8:00 p.m. ET

A cease-fire in besieged eastern Aleppo appears to be going forward, paving the way for people trapped there to evacuate.

It's difficult to confirm exactly how many civilians remain in the small slice of Aleppo still controlled by rebel groups, but estimates put the number in the tens of thousands.

NPR's Alison Meuse reports an opposition activist in the city says the bombing has stopped.

In central Damascus, it's perfectly clear that President Bashar Assad is firmly in control. In the souks of the Old City, his face looks out of almost every shop window, pinned up next to gold jewelry or intricate rugs. No one has a bad word to say about him, at least not to a Western journalist.

In rebel enclaves nearby, forces loyal to Assad are creeping back into control. After years of siege tactics, opposition forces in the suburbs of Damascus are increasingly making deals that see their fighters heading into rebel-held areas.

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