Middle East

Islamic State
5:38 am
Wed September 3, 2014

U.S. Authenticates Video Showing Sotloff's Beheading

American journalist Steven Sotloff (left) talks with Libyan rebels on the Al Dafniya front line on June 2, 2011, in Misrata, Libya. Sotloff was kidnapped in August 2013 near Aleppo, Syria.
Etienne de Malglaive via Getty Images

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.

Original Post:

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Iraq
10:20 am
Sun August 31, 2014

Iraqi Forces Reportedly Enter Besieged Northern City Of Amerli

In Amerli, people try to board an Iraqi Army helicopter aid flight bringing in supplies to the town on Saturday. The town, which includes some 20,000 Shiite Turkmen, has been surrounded by Sunni Islamic State fighters for two months.
AP

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.

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Military Personnel
5:21 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

Before Leaving Afghanistan, U.S. Troops Must Declutter

A construction excavator demolishes a B-hut at the huge Bagram Air Field north of Kabul. The military used the structures as bunks and offices during the 13-year war but is tearing them down as most of the military prepares to leave by year's end.
Sean Carberry NPR

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.

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Human Rights
10:28 am
Wed August 27, 2014

U.N. Says Assad Regime, Islamic State Are Committing War Crimes In Syria

An injured man sits after being treated at a medical center following shelling in the city of Douma, Syria.
Abd Doumany AFP/Getty Images

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.

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Middle East
3:39 am
Wed August 27, 2014

U.S. Officials Try To Gauge Threat From American Fighters In Syria

American Eric Harroun threatened Bashar Assad on Facebook and YouTube. He spent six weeks fighting with a rebel army, a journey that did not end well for him.
ABC News YouTube

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.

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Middle East
10:29 am
Tue August 26, 2014

Hamas, Israel Reach Long-Term Cease-Fire Deal

Palestinians inspect the damage to the Italian Complex following several late-night Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on Tuesday.
Khalil Hamra AP

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.

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Middle East
6:49 am
Tue August 26, 2014

Reports: U.S. Authorizes Surveillance Flights Over Syria

Fighters from the Islamic State during a parade in Raqqa, Syria.
AP

Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 3:41 pm

President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, The Associated Press and The New York Times are reporting this morning, citing unnamed U.S.

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North Africa
3:46 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Rival Leaders, Rival Governments In Libya As Crisis Deepens

An airplane damaged by shelling at Tripoli International Airport on Saturday. Unidentified warplanes attacked targets in Libya's capital, Tripoli, on Sunday, residents said, hours after forces from the city of Misrata said they had seized the main airport.
Reuters/Landov

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.

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World
10:56 am
Mon August 25, 2014

America's Middle East Scorecard: Many Interventions, Few Successes

An armed man waves his rifle inside the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012. Four Americans were killed that night, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. U.S. airstrikes helped topple dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, but Libya has descended into chaos since then.
AFP/Getty Images

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.

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Middle East
10:33 am
Sat August 23, 2014

U.N. Warns Of 'Possible Massacre' In Northeastern Iraq

Members of Kurdish security forces take part during an intensive security deployment after clashes with militants of the Islamic State, in Jalawla, Diyala province, on Friday.
Reuters/Landov

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.

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Middle East
9:19 am
Fri August 22, 2014

Hamas Executes Suspected Informants After Deadly Israeli Strike

Palestinian mourners carry the body of three senior commanders of the Hamas military wing in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, after they were killed in an Israeli airstrike. Hamas executed more than a dozen people it says were spying for Israel.
Khalil Hamra AP

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.

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Islamic State
4:44 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Islamic State 'Beyond Anything We've Seen,' Hagel Says

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (left) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey during a Pentagon briefing on Thursday. Hagel said Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria posed a threat "beyond anything we've seen."
Yuri Gripas Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 7:59 pm

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel describes a failed U.S. mission into northern Syria earlier this summer to rescue Americans believed held there — including a journalist who was executed earlier this week — as "flawless" despite not recovering the hostages.

"This was a flawless operation, but the hostages weren't there," Hagel told journalists at a Pentagon briefing with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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Middle East
4:17 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

GlobalPost CEO Shares Details Of Fight To Save James Foley

GlobalPost co-founder and CEO Phil Balboni says what he'll remember about Foley (above) is the way he showed "such incredible courage" as his captors took his life.
Steven Senne AP

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.

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Journalism
12:04 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Afghanistan Expels 'Times' Reporter Over Article About Potential Coup

New York Times correspondent Matthew Rosenberg stands at his desk at the paper's office in Kabul on Wednesday. Afghanistan gave Rosenberg 24 hours to leave the country.
Massoud Hossaini AP

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.

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New Hampshire
8:55 am
Thu August 21, 2014

Hometown Grapples With Death Of Journalist Jim Foley, Killed By Islamic State Militants

Sheri McSheehy put up a display in downtown Rochester, mourning the death of international journalist and Rochester native, Jim Foley.

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.”

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Islamic State
1:17 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

President Obama Says Militants Who Beheaded American Are 'Cowardly'

President Obama said Wednesday that 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."
Kevin Lamarque Reuters/Landov

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."

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Middle East
1:11 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

President Obama "Appalled" by Islamic State Murder of U.S. Photographer

President Barack Obama speaking on Wednesday from Martha's Vineyard.
White House

President Barack Obama said the United States will continue to confront Islamic State extremists despite the brutal murder of journalist James Foley. 

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Islamic State
8:01 am
Wed August 20, 2014

U.S. Authenticates Video Of Militants Beheading American Journalist

James Foley in Aleppo, Syria, in September 2012.
Manu Brabo/freejamesfoley.org AP

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.

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Middle East
3:55 pm
Sun August 17, 2014

Israel, Palestinians Still Far Apart As Truce Nears End

Palestinians carry belongings from their homes, destroyed by Israeli airstrikes, in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday. The devastation could resume if a cease-fire is allowed to expire at midnight on Monday.
Sameh Rahmi EPA/Landov

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."

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Middle East
8:46 am
Thu August 14, 2014

Gaza Quiet After Israel, Hamas Reach Cease-Fire Extension

Part of a tunnel exposed by the Israeli military is seen on the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border on Thursday, as a five-day extension of a cease-fire deal goes into effect.
Amir Cohen Reuters/Landov

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."

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Iraq
7:41 am
Wed August 13, 2014

Iraq Update: France Will Arm Kurds; More Refugees Leave Mountain

Iraqi children from the Yazidi community wave to Kurdish peshmerga forces near Dohuk, the Kurdish region of autonomous Kurdistan in Iraq. The children fled with their families from their hometown, which was attacked by Sunni militants from the Islamic State.
Ahmad Al-Rubaye AFP/Getty Images

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:

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Iraq Crisis
4:27 pm
Mon August 11, 2014

President Obama Speaks About Developments in Iraq

President Barack Obama talks with National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice following foreign leader phone calls, from Chilmark, Mass.
Credit Pete Souza / White House

President Barack Obama congratulated Iraq's prime minster-designate in a statement on Martha's Vineyard during his vacation.

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Iraq
9:30 am
Mon August 11, 2014

New Leader Of Iraq Is Nominated, But Maliki Insists He'll Stay In Office

Iraqis chant pro-government slogans and wave flags in a show of support for embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a demonstration in Baghdad Monday. Maliki says he will file a legal complaint against the country's newly elected president.
Hadi Mizban AP

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.

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ISIS
1:49 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Sen. Murphy Urges Caution on U.S. Intervention in Iraq

Sen. Chris Murphy in a WNPR file photo.
Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

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.

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Iraq
9:50 am
Fri August 8, 2014

U.S. Military Strikes Sunni Extremist Fighters In Iraq

Displaced Iraqis wait for aid Friday at a mosque on the outskirts of Irbil in northern Iraq.
AP

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."

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Middle East
6:43 am
Fri August 8, 2014

In Gaza, Cease-Fire Expires As Rockets Fly

Smoke rises over Gaza City on Friday as Israel and Gaza militants resumed cross-border attacks after a three-day truce expired.
Lefteris Pitarakis AP

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.

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The Two-Way
8:52 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Obama Authorizes Limited Airstrikes In Iraq

Iraqi Christians who fled violence in the village of Qaraqush rest upon their arrival at the St. Joseph church in the Kurdish city of Irbil.
Safin Hamed AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 8:23 am

This post was updated at 9:45 p.m. ET.

President Obama has authorized targeted airstrikes against Islamic militants where needed and if militants advance toward American personnel in northern Iraq, he said Thursday night.

The president also said American planes have dropped aid and supplies to religious minorities in Iraq who have fled the extremist group the Islamic State.

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Afghanistan
11:18 am
Thu August 7, 2014

The Murky Motives Of The Afghan Soldier Who Shot A U.S. General

U.S. Maj. Gen. Harold Greene was visiting an Afghan military training academy Tuesday when he was shot dead by an Afghan soldier, who was subsequently killed. Afghan troops who knew the attacker say he disliked the Taliban and they aren't sure what his motive was.
U.S. Army Getty Images

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.

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WAMC News
10:44 am
Wed August 6, 2014

Major General, Albany Native And RPI Grad, Killed In Afganistan

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. 

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Middle East
8:10 am
Tue August 5, 2014

As Truce Takes Effect, Israel Withdraws Troops From Gaza

A Palestinian searches for salvageable items from the rubble of his house that was destroyed in Israeli strikes.
Adel Hana AP

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."

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