Middle East

The militant group that calls itself the Islamic State has released a video that shows the beheading of British citizen Alan Henning.

The video is made in much the same style as the others, and shows a masked militant begin to cut the head off a man who looks like Henning.

"The brutal murder of Alan Henning by ISIL shows just how barbaric and repulsive these terrorists are," Prime Minister David Cameron said, using an alternate name for the militant group.

When militants from the self-proclaimed Islamic State swept through the Sinjar area of northern Iraq in August, they killed hundreds and kidnapped unknown numbers of men, women and children.

The fate of most of them is still unknown, but activists and those who have escaped recount horror stories of rapes and beatings. They're trying to focus international attention on those still being held.

Updated at 8:40 a.m. ET

A United Nations report out today lists what it describes as a "staggering array" of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity by the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq, including mass executions, the kidnapping of women and girls to use as sex slaves and the use of child soldiers.

It also points to shelling and airstrikes by Iraqi security forces that killed civilians and "may have violated the principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law."

Update at 9:55 a.m. ET

Afghanistan has signed a pact with the U.S. to allow about 10,000 troops to remain in the country after the end of the year, when most American forces are to be withdrawn.

The country's newly inaugurated president, Ashraf Ghani, signed the Bilateral Security Agreement, or BSA, which would leave in place the U.S. troops and a few others from NATO allies to bolster Afghan forces.

Updated at 12:25 p.m. ET

The British Parliament has voted to approve the U.K.'s participation in U.S.-led airstrikes against the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq after Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs that the extremists pose a "clear and proven" threat to British lives.

The 524-to-43 vote in Parliament came after a lengthy debate that followed the latest U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on targets of the hard-line Islamist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL. The strikes hit oil installations for a second consecutive day.

Updated at 8:40 a.m. ET

The U.S. and some of its Arab coalition partners have conducted another round of airstrikes in Syria, hitting oil refineries that have fallen into the hands of Islamic State militants, who officials say are funding themselves with the petroleum revenues.

The Pentagon says 13 airstrikes hit a dozen "modular" oil refineries in eastern Syria. The refineries are thought to produce $2 million worth of refined petroleum each day for the self-declared Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

French President Francois Hollande announced the "assassination" of a hostage seized over the weekend in Algeria by a group said to be affiliated with the self-described Islamic State. The remarks by Hollande, speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, confirm the apparent beheading of French mountain guide Herve Gourdel that is shown in a video that surfaced earlier today.

Update at 6:50 p.m. ET

U.S. officials have confirmed that a new round of airstrikes in Syria is ongoing, NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman told All Things Considered.

"We know some of the targets are oil assets, oil wells being controlled by the Islamic State. There's not a lot of detail at this time ... but it's likely around the Raqqah area, which is sort of [the Islamic State's] de facto headquarters.

whitehouse.gov

President Barack Obama said the participation of five Arab nations in airstrikes against militants in Syria "makes it clear to the world this is not America's fight alone."

The United States and its allies expanded their assault against the Islamic State on Monday, striking targets inside Syria for the first time, the Pentagon said.

In a statement, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the U.S. had used "a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles."

Kirby said that because these strikes are ongoing, he could not go into details about where in Syria the allies were attacking. But a Pentagon official tells NPR's Tom Bowman that the strikes occurred near Raqqah, an Islamic State stronghold.

Update at 2:49 p.m. ET. Officers Found At Canadian Border:

After going missing over the weekend, three Afghan officers, who were being trained in the United States, were detained at the Canadian border, a Pentagon official tells NPR's Tom Bowman.

The news was first reported by WCVB-TV's Karen Anderson. She reported that the men told customs agents at the Niagara Falls Rainbow Bridge that they were refugees.

The men, Anderson reports, will be sent back to the United States.

Updated at 7:35 a.m. ET

Kurdish fighters claim to have halted an advance by self-described Islamic State militants in an area of the Turkish-Syria border region that has seen masses of refugees fleeing the fighting in recent days.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Connecticut Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal split their votes on legislation authorizing the U.S. military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels fighting the so-called Islamic State, otherwise known as ISIS or ISIL.

The Senate joined the House on Thursday in rare bipartisanship by approving a measure to train and equip members of the Syrian opposition.

The Senate passed the measure 78 to 22; the House passed its version with a 273-to-156 vote on Wednesday. The bill now heads to the White House for President Obama's signature.

Ron Cogswell / Creative Commons

Four of Connecticut’s five members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted on Wednesday against President’s Obama’s plan to help arm and train moderate Syrian rebels in their fight against the extremist group known as the Islamic State. The measure was approved by the House by a vote of 273 to 156.

Obama Rules Out Another Ground War In Iraq

Sep 17, 2014

President Obama reiterated that he will not commit U.S. troops to fight another ground war in Iraq, adding that U.S. airstrikes, combined with expertise, would be more effective in defeating the group that calls itself the Islamic State.

"As your commander in chief, I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq," Obama said at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

The United States has begun its first-ever airstrikes in direct support of Iraqi ground forces, in the opening move of what could be a protracted fight against so-called Islamic State militants in the region.

NPR's Tom Bowman, on Morning Edition, says the airstrikes, south of Baghdad, targeted an Islamic State position after Iraqi soldiers fighting them requested the assistance.

Wikimedia Commons

On Sunday, the New York Times ran an article full of President Obama's behind-the scenes reflections and conversations about ISIS and the Middle East. From that article: "He was acutely aware that the operation he was about to embark on would not solve the larger issues in that region by the time he left office. 'This will be a problem for the next president,' Mister Obama said ruefully, 'and probably the one after that.'"

Cathy Stanley-Erickson / Creative Commons

Last week, President Barack Obama made his case for increased U.S. intervention in Iraq and Syria. His plan to continue air strikes, and increase the arming of those opposed to the so-called Islamic State, commonly referred to as ISIS or ISIL, has been met with some resistance from a war-weary public and Congress. But national security expert Scott Bates thinks that working with Iraqi Kurdish forces could be the key to defeating this extremist organization.

World leaders and diplomats from more than 20 countries have gathered in Paris to discuss strategies for defeating the Islamic State insurgency, with France's president urging that there's "no time to lose" and Iraq's new president insisting that extremists must be pursued to their sanctuaries in neighboring Syria.

"The Iraqis' fight against terrorists is also ours," French President Francois Hollande said. "There is no time to lose."

Vowing justice for murdered aid worker David Haines, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron says his killing by extremist group the Islamic State is "an act of pure evil." A video purporting to show Haines' beheading was released Saturday.

President Obama arguably won the Democratic primary in 2008 because of his strong opposition to the Iraq war. Now he's arguing he doesn't need congressional approval to ramp up a bombing campaign in Iraq and expand air strikes into Syria.

In an interview with NPR, President Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice says the United States will not be drawn into a ground war in Iraq and Syria, even if local forces are ineffective at holding gains made against the group calling itself the Islamic State.

House Speaker John Boehner, commenting on President Obama's strategy to defeat Islamic State militants, says Congress has received a request for authorization to train Syrian rebels and "we ought to give the president what he's asking for."

The prepared text of President Obama's speech, as released by the White House:

My fellow Americans — tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.

In a prime-time speech on Wednesday, President Obama said the United States plans to "take out" the Islamic State "wherever they exist."

How Far Will President Obama Go?

Sep 10, 2014

President Obama previewed his plan for dealing with the Islamic State by comparing it to counterterrorism operations in recent years and said it would not be an invasion akin to the ground war in Iraq.

As he prepares to lay out the details in a speech to the nation Wednesday night, several key factors are likely to determine the success or failure of any military mission.

The top four congressional leaders will be at the White House today to talk to President Obama about U.S. military action against the group known as the Islamic State, or ISIS. This comes just one day before Obama will address the nation and lay out his strategy for dealing with the extremist group.

The president says he wants congressional buy in, but "buy in" can mean a lot of things.

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby is calling on the organization's members for a "comprehensive confrontation" of Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria in apparent support of U.S. plans to build a coalition to stop the militants.

Elaraby said a "clear and firm decision for a comprehensive confrontation" was needed to confront the "cancerous and terrorist" groups in the region.

During a press conference to mark the end of a two-day meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Wales, President Obama said he found "conviction" among U.S. friends and allies that the international community must "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State.

Obama said the militant Sunni group cannot be contained because it is already causing so much damage.

Pages