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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.

When the last remaining hospital in besieged eastern Aleppo crumbled under a wave of artillery strikes on Nov. 18, one of the casualties was 25-year-old nurse Kefah.

"The last time he called me was one night before he was killed," says Dr. A.M. — an intensive care specialist based in Detroit who, for the past four years, has been providing training and support via Skype and WhatsApp to medical staff in Aleppo. He asked that we only use his initials because the Syrian government has persecuted doctors — and their families — for treating rebels.

Guillaume Flament / flickr creative commons

Colin is back, and we've got some questions, and we're guessing you do too.

Foreign journalists' access to Syria is severely restricted, but this week, the regime of Bashar Assad extended an unusual invitation to a group of Western reporters to visit Damascus, the capital. NPR's Peter Kenyon and Alison Meuse are among the foreign journalists who've been granted visas to Damascus this week. For Kenyon, it's the first time back since 2008, before the 2011 uprising that led to Syria's war. He spoke with Morning Edition host Renee Montagne about the visit.

ISIS fighters launched attacks on police Friday in the city of Kirkuk, as Iraqi security forces continued a massive military offensive to try to pry Mosul, one of Iraq's largest cities, from the militant group.

"The fighters struck [Kirkuk] before dawn, with suicide bombers hitting four police stations and gunmen killing police," NPR's Alice Fordham reports from Irbil, Iraq, though the number of casualties wasn't immediately clear. "A curfew is imposed in Kirkuk, but eyewitnesses say fighting continues."

The battle for the ISIS-held city of Mosul, now in its second day, is expected to drag on for weeks or months. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces approach the city, aid groups in the region are preparing for a humanitarian crisis.

Fighting has lulled in some areas, but is continuing in others, and airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition continue, NPR's Alice Fordham reports from Kalak, Iraq.

"The Iraqi army is fighting its way toward the city from the south: a spokesman said they are facing resistance but moving," Alice says.

An attack on a funeral hall killed 90 people and wounded more than 560 in Sanaa Saturday, Yemen's rebel government says. The Saudi-led coalition has promised to conduct an immediate investigation into the airstrikes.

"We're mobilizing to support health facilities deal with the influx of dead and wounded," the Red Cross delegation in Yemen says, adding that it's sending 300 body bags and medical supplies to help cope with the violence's effects.

Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia, was awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize for his "resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end."

The surprise announcement comes less than a week after Colombian voters delivered a shocking blow to the peace process, and the award notably excludes any leaders of the FARC guerilla group, the other side of the negotiating table.

The Colombian government and the FARC rebel group have spent four years negotiating a peace deal to bring an end to more than 50 years of war.

Terms were agreed on, a deal was finalized, the accord was signed — and then, in a stunning turn of events, the people of Colombia voted against the agreement in a national referendum Sunday.

So. What now?

In an interview with The Associated Press, Syrian President Bashar Assad blamed the U.S. for the collapse of a fragile cease-fire earlier this week and denied carrying out well-documented human rights abuses, such as besieging civilians or using chemical weapons against them.

At least five emergency medical workers were said to have been killed in airstrikes near the northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday, following the collapse of a fragile cease-fire in Syria.

The Syrian military announced Monday it is no longer observing a cease-fire brokered by the U.S. and Russia to allow food and medicine into besieged areas.

Seven days after the agreement was reached by Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar Assad, and the U.S., which backs anti-Assad rebels, the regime blamed the truce's collapse on the rebels, and unilaterally declared that the cease-fire is over.

NPR's Alice Fordham reports this about the cease-fire:

Women Warriors

Sep 13, 2016
Wikimedia Commons

There is still a debate about whether women belong in combat. It's been more than a year since Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered all branches of the military in 2015 to allow women on to the front lines of combat and generations since women silently fought alongside men in the Civil War.

A Syrian cease-fire went into effect at sundown on Monday, at approximately 11:45 a.m. EDT.

Just hours before the start of the planned cease-fire, Syrian President Bashar Assad announced on state media that he plans to "reclaim every area from the terrorists," The Associated Press reports. Assad's government had earlier indicated it would abide by the negotiated truce.

The 10,000th Syrian refugee is set to arrive in the U.S. on Monday, fulfilling a goal set by the Obama administration one year ago.

The U.S. Ambassador to Jordan, Alice Wells, made the announcement after she met with families bound for California and Virginia. The group of several hundred fleeing violence in Syria will depart from Jordan in the next day, she said, according to The Associated Press.

Marxist rebels and the Colombian government met in Havana on Wednesday night to sign a historic peace accord, marking the end to a guerrilla war that has seethed for more than half a century.

The brutal conflict has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions.

Gunmen attacked the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul on Wednesday evening, as students and staff hunkered down in place or fled for their lives, witnesses say.

Hospital officials say at least one student was killed and at least 14 injured, as Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, tells our Newscast unit.

"Right now there are dozens of Afghan police, security forces, special forces. They've surrounded the campus," Glasse says. Here's more:

A U.S. service member was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan's restive Helmand province Tuesday — the second U.S. combat death in Afghanistan since January.

The service member was conducting "train, advise, assist activities" with Afghan forces when the explosive device went off, according to the U.S. Defense Department. Another American service member and six Afghan soldiers were wounded in the attack near the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

Surrounded by shouting, he's completely silent.

The child is small, alone, covered in blood and dust, dropped in the back of an ambulance with his feet dangling off the edge of a too-big chair.

He doesn't cry or speak. His face is stunned and dazed, but not surprised. He wipes his hand over his wounded face, looks at the blood, wipes it off on the chair.

Dominic Chavez / World Bank

A New Haven based refugee resettlement agency is set to welcome a record number of families. That’s due in part to the Obama administration’s goal to accept 85,000 refugees this year, with 10,000 from Syria. 

Rilind Abazi

Rilind Abazi was only a baby when he and his family fled Kosovo for Macedonia during his country's war in the late '90s.

"We were received by a family of strangers. We didn't know them, but we've become family friends," he said. Now he's trying to return the favor.

The Pentagon says U.S. warplanes began attacking Islamic State targets in Libya today at the request of the U.N.-backed Libyan government. The airstrikes are in the city of Sirte, which is controlled by ISIS.

American aircraft destroyed a tank and two ISIS vehicles that the Pentagon says posed a threat to Libyan fighters trying to retake the city.

World Affairs Council of Connecticut.

On July 14, 2015, Iran agreed to a nuclear deal with the U.S and other world powers that would keep the country from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Since that time, the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran has complied with initial requirements to reduce its stockpile of uranium. In return the U.S. and the international community have eased many economic sanctions that have stifled Iran for years. But critics say there’s no guarantee that Iran will maintain the agreement long term and they question what happens 15 years from now when the deal expires. 

fuoco999 / Creative Commons

The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington is in full swing. 

After seven years, the British have released the findings of inquiry into the Iraq War.

NPR's Lauren Frayer says that the 6,000-page report, the result of an investigation led by retired civil servant John Chilcot, found that Britain rushed to war before all peaceful means were exhausted. Lauren filed this report for our Newscast unit:

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