Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 5:17 am
Updated 5:09 a.m. Wednesday:
U.S. officials say the video showing the beheading of a second U.S. journalist by militants of the Islamic State is authentic. "The U.S. Intelligence Community has analyzed the recently released video showing U.S. citizen Steven Sotloff and has reached the judgment that it is authentic," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement Wednesday.
Originally published on Sun August 31, 2014 10:43 am
Iraqi security forces backed by Shiite militias and U.S. airstrikes have reportedly entered the northern town of Amerli, where Islamic State militants have laid siege to the town for weeks, prompting fears of a sectarian massacre.
Reuters and BBC report that Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters entered the town on Sunday after defeating the Sunni rebels, also known as ISIS or ISIL, east of the city. The Islamic State, which claims to enforce a pure version of Islam, has apparently targeted Amerli because of its large Shiite Turkmen population, seen by them as apostates.
Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 7:29 pm
Sgt. 1st Class Tom Albert is with the Army's 2nd Engineers at the massive Bagram Air Field north of Kabul, and he's overseeing operation Clean Sweep here. It's a huge job, because American troops and equipment are scheduled to be out of Bagram and other bases by the end of the year.
The U.S. and Afghanistan are still trying to work out a deal that would allow nearly 10,000 military personnel to stay, but even that would be just a fraction of the force that's been here for the past 13 years.
Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 3:14 pm
A report presented by the United Nations today paints a pretty grim picture of Syria.
It tells the story of a country mired in a ruthless civil war in which all sides are indiscriminately killing and torturing civilians. It presents a laundry list of human rights violations and war crimes undertaken by both the forces of President Bashar Assad and non-state armed groups, such as the Islamic State, that are fighting to topple the regime.
Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 1:38 pm
The heyday of "war tourism" was probably the 1930s, when a host of intellectuals and artists left the U.S. to bear witness to the Spanish Civil War. Ernest Hemingway wrote about it. George Orwell, just to name another, actually fought in it.
Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 1:29 pm
(This post was last updated at 12:47 p.m. ET.)
After seven weeks of intense fighting that's killed more than 2,000 people, Hamas and Israel have announced a long-term cease-fire deal.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made the announcement in Ramallah on Tuesday, saying both sides will return to the negotiating table to deal with other demands. Abbas suggested he wanted an outcome that ends the cycle of war in the region.
Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 4:05 pm
Libya's political crisis deepened today when the outgoing Parliament picked a new Islamist-backed government, leaving the country with two rival Parliaments and leaders, each with their own armed supporters.
The development comes just days after Islamist militias captured Tripoli's airport after weeks of fighting, and on the same day Libya's neighbors — despite calls for an intervention — urged the factions to sort out their differences three years after the ouster of President Moammar Gadhafi.
Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 3:21 pm
As the U.S. juggles multiple crises in the Middle East, it's a good time to look at the map.
Find Libya. Head east across North Africa through the Middle East and all the way to Pakistan in South Asia. The journey covers eight troubled lands, side by side. In seven, Sunni Islamists are pressing for power in various stages of revolt. The eighth is Iran, where Shiite clerics have long ruled.
The U.S. has opposed Muslim fundamentalists in every one of these cases, but American involvement has not produced any resolutions.
Originally published on Sat August 23, 2014 3:15 pm
Updated at 3:10 p.m. ET
The United Nations is calling for action to prevent what it's describing as a possible massacre in Iraq's northeastern city of Amerli, which has been under siege for two months by Islamic State militants.
The city's population is largely Turkmen Shia, seen as apostates by the hard-line Sunni Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 3:27 pm
Updated at 3:25 p.m. ET
One day after an Israeli airstrike killed three of its senior military leaders, Hamas says it has executed more than a dozen people in the Gaza Strip, after concluding that they had been spying for Israel.
A four-year-old Israeli boy was also reportedly killed in a mortar attack near the Gaza border.
From Jerusalem, NPR's Jackie Northam reports:
"Hamas confirmed that there were two separate rounds of executions in Gaza for people suspected of collaborating with Israel.
Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 4:00 pm
During the nearly two years that journalist James Foley was held hostage in Syria, before he was killed by the Islamic State this week, Phil Balboni worked hard to get him released.
Balboni is the co-founder and CEO of the online international news company GlobalPost, which Foley was freelancing for at the time of his capture, in November 2012. Foley also was freelancing for GlobalPost when he was captured in Libya by dictator Moammar Gadhafi's forces, in 2011, and held for 44 days.
Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 11:37 am
One of the most heralded "success stories" of post-Taliban Afghanistan has been the growth of its independent media. Afghan and international news organizations in Afghanistan have largely enjoyed press freedoms rivaling those of many Western nations.
But today's expulsion of New York Times correspondent Matthew Rosenberg calls into question how much progress Afghanistan has made in terms of rule of law and press freedoms.
Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 1:56 pm
There’s been no shortage of people mourning the killing of James Foley by Islamic State militants. President Obama interrupted his Martha’s Vinyard vacation Wednesday to recall Foley -- who disappeared two years ago in Syria -- and to condemn his killers.
“People like this ultimately fail,” Obama said. “They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy. The world is shaped by people like Jim Foley and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him.”
Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 1:51 pm
The extremist group that carried out the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley engages in "cowardly acts of violence" and "has no place in the 21st century," President Obama said Wednesday, referring to the videotaped execution carried out by militants with the Islamic State.
Obama also said the group attacks women and minorities, "for no other reason than they practice a different religion."
Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 4:40 pm
This post was updated at 2:25 p.m. ET.
A video that was released online Tuesday in which the extremist group the Islamic State claimed to behead American journalist James Foley is authentic, according to U.S. intelligence analysts. Foley was abducted in Syria in 2012.
The video was uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday afternoon and later removed; since then, it has resurfaced elsewhere online. The images show Foley kneeling next to a masked militant and reciting comments against the U.S. before being killed.
Originally published on Sun August 17, 2014 4:29 pm
With the clock ticking on the expiration of the latest cease-fire in Gaza, representatives of Israel and Hamas resumed talks in Cairo today but appeared divided over an Egyptian proposal to ease the closing of the territory.
As NPR's Jackie Northam reports from Jerusalem, at the heart of the talks is the seven-year blockade of the Gaza Strip. "Hamas is demanding a full lifting of the blockade; Israel says it's only willing to ease some restrictions, allowing easier passage of goods and people in and out of Gaza."
Originally published on Thu August 14, 2014 9:27 am
So far, a five-day extension to a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas appears to be holding, NPR's Jackie Northam reports from Jerusalem.
She says, "There were a few tense hours before the ... extension was announced — rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel, and the Israeli military responded with airstrikes. But it's been quiet since, as both sides prepare to return to Egyptian-brokered negotiations aimed at creating a long-term truce."
Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 7:50 pm
Citing the persecution of religious minorities in Iraq, France says it will deliver weapons to Kurds fighting the extremists of the Islamic State. The news comes as thousands of Yazidi refugees have escaped their plight on Mount Sinjar, crossing into a Kurdish-controlled portion of Syria.
Here are the developments we're seeing today out of Iraq:
Originally published on Mon August 11, 2014 6:11 pm
Iraq's president has asked the parliament's deputy speaker to form a new government, after members of the Shiite coalition that had backed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki nominated the deputy, Haider al-Abadi, to the post Monday.
The Pentagon said military strikes have begun against advancing Islamic militants operating near U.S. personnel in northern Iraq. That announcement comes after President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes and humanitarian aid in the region.
Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 9:03 pm
(This post was last updated at 8:44 p.m. ET.)
The U.S. military conducted several strikes against Sunni extremist militants near Irbil in Iraq Friday, in what the White House calls a limited engagement.
"Military officials say unmanned aircraft struck a terrorist mortar position," NPR's Tamara Keith reports, "and then when the fighters returned, they were attacked as well. Later, four FA-18 aircraft struck an ISIS convoy and another mortar position using eight laser-guided bombs."
Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 9:54 am
Just as the latest cease-fire expired, rockets flew into Israel from Gaza and Israel responded by ordering airstrikes in Gaza.
And just like that, a three-day negotiated peace came to an end. But NPR's Jackie Northam, who is reporting from Jerusalem, tells us it's still unclear if this renewed fighting is a sign of something broader.
Originally published on Thu August 7, 2014 12:08 pm
The Afghan soldier who fatally shot a U.S. major general on Tuesday had no sympathy for the Taliban, and his motives for the shooting are far from clear, according to his fellow soldiers.
Afghan officials have identified the attacker as Rafiqullah, who, like many Afghans, goes by one name. He opened fire on a delegation of NATO officials who were visiting the Marshal Fahim Military Academy outside Kabul. He killed Maj. Gen. Harold Greene and wounded 15 other NATO service members who were visiting the compound. Four Afghans were also wounded.
Originally published on Wed August 6, 2014 8:39 am
The Department of Defense confirmed the death of Major General Harold Greene, killed yesterday in Kabul after an apparent member of the Afghan security forces turned on him. Major General Green was born in Albany and is a graduate of RPI. He was commissioned in 1980 after graduation. He served as an Army engineer and rose to the rank of two-star general. An investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death will be undertaken. His remains will be sent back to the United States, although the timing of that flight is still undetermined.
Originally published on Tue August 5, 2014 8:02 am
After nearly a month of fighting, a negotiated, three-day peace has taken hold in Gaza.
As NPR's Emily Harris reports, Israel has also ordered all of its troops out of Gaza. But this may not mean the end of the current conflict, because the Israel Defense Forces said its troops would maintain a defensive position and respond to any attacks.
Case in point: By morning just before the truce started, Emily said she heard rocket fire out of Gaza. But things have calmed down and the AP reports that in Gaza "traffic picked up and shops started opening doors."