Can former Boko Haram terrorists be rehabilitated? This program aims to change their lives


    
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    GOMBE, Nigeria — Aminu Usman sat facing his interrogators and answered questions thrown at him about his life as a Boko Haram terrorist.

“We were told that we were in the service of God,” said Usman, 35, a laborer and father of five. “That if we die, we would go to paradise.”

Read more at USA Today

Why Kurds' vote for independence could disrupt U.S. campaign to defeat ISIS


    
b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRQ150318aa001.jpegIRBIL, Iraq — From the scrappy town of Zakho on the Turkish border to the gleaming new office towers of this provincial capital, the Kurdistan flag is flown throughout northern Iraq on apartment balconies, storefronts and construction cranes.

Demonstrators wave it at the almost daily rallies to support a yes vote in Monday's controversial referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq.   

Read more at USA Today

Depth of war carnage comes into focus as Syrians start long struggle to rebuild their lives


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CAIRO — In a grim irony, as a series of cease-fires in major portions of the country take hold in Syria, local activists around the country say the de-escalation of violence is revealing for the first time the scale of destruction wreaked by the 6-year-old civil war and the massive needs of the survivors to rebuild their homes and their lives.

But amid the carnage are signs that the slow business of rebuilding has begun.

Read more at The Washington Times

Rush-hour bombing near embassies kills 90, wounds hundreds in Kabul


    
b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRQ151130aa01.jpegKABUL — At least 90 people were killed and hundreds wounded Wednesday when a massive explosion rocked a diplomatic area near the presidential palace in Afghanistan's capital.

Public health ministry spokesman Ismail Kawasi told the Associated Press that 400 people were injured in the bombing, which happened near Zambaq Square in the center of Kabul during rush hour.

Read more at USA Today

Who's fed up with sex assaults on Egyptian women?


    
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CAIRO — Munir Tawab admits he added to Egypt’s reputation for catcalling and groping women on the street.

But a new movement led by one man to combat sexual harassment — considered the norm in this country — has changed Tawab's actions.

Read more at USA Today

English speakers from Cameroon are joining Syrian refugees on migrant boats


    
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Ngomba Lucas has given up on his education this year.

The 18-year-old has not attended school since January, when teachers walked off the job to protest the central government’s treatment of Anglophone Cameroonians in the largely French-speaking West African country. He’s missed so many classes, he couldn’t pass national exams anyway.

Read more at PRI

Syrian rebels cheer U.S. missile strike on Assad's airbase

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SYR120911AA001a.jpegCAIRO — Syrian opponents of President Bashar Assad cheered the U.S. missile strikes on a Syrian regime airbase Friday, saying it's about time the United States responded to the Syrian strongman's brutality.

"Hitting regime targets which have been used to launch attacks against Syrian civilians for six years is welcome news," said Issam Elrayaes, 41, a captain in the Free Syrian Army, one of many rebel groups waging a civil war against Assad's rule.

Read more at USA Today

Like a phoenix, Egypt economy is rising from ashes

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY130828AA002.jpegCAIRO — At first glance, software engineer Ahmed Elhaz, psychiatrist Mohammed El Shami and furniture maker Mahmoud Shaaban have little in common: One writes computer code, another provides counseling and the third uses carving tools to ply his trade.

Yet all three are benefiting from an unexpected turnaround in Egypt’s long-suffering economy.

Read more at USA Today

Pakistan wants millions of Afghan refugees gone

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_PAK151515aa001.jpegIn the bustling border town of Peshawar, Pakistan, the lines form early these days at this government office that processes residence permits. That's because Afghan refugees now live in constant fear of officials separating them from their loved ones or deporting them to their war-torn native country that many no longer consider home.

“The government of Pakistan has already deported my husband and my eldest son to Afghanistan,” said Afghan refugee Laiba Zeb, 27, who waited in line for hours at the registration office with her other remaining children.

Read more at PRI

Young Arabs have a message for their leaders: Security is about more than war and terrorism

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY130705aa003.jpegPARIS — A bloody day in the heart of the City of Light left some of France’s best-known journalists dead and police tracking down the native Islamist terrorists suspected of carrying out the murders to avenge what they said were insults to the founder of their faith. One suspect surrendered and two others were missing.

The well-coordinated early-morning attack on the editorial offices of the Charlie Hebdo targeted the editor of the bitingly satiric weekly, Stephane Charbonnier, nine colleagues and a security guard, all murdered in cold blood by masked assailants who reportedly called out the names of their victims as they were shot.

Read more at PRI

Egyptian Copts finally fulfilling ‘dream’ of traveling to Jerusalem

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY130305AA002.jpegAL-KOSHEH, Egypt (RNS) For decades, merchant Refaat El-Sayeh, a Coptic Christian, wanted to see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and visit the Church of the Nativity in nearby Bethlehem. But mostly, he wanted to feel closer to God.

For years, those pilgrimages for Egypt’s Coptic Christians, like El-Sayeh, were discouraged.

Read more at Religion News Service

As the Syrian conflict turns 6 years old, conditions remain unbearable

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SYR130328PT002.jpegCAIRO — Bombs rained down on the Al-Waer neighborhood in western Homs in Syria six times one recent day. As they fell, Abu Mahmoud remembered how his 13-year-old son, Mahmoud, and brother-in-law, Hotheifah, 22, died in a similar barrage.

"I was next to them in the house," said Mahmoud, 35, a farmer. "They didn’t have time to run away."

Read more at USA Today

Mood in Benghazi optimistic as authorities slowly defeat militants

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_LBY130208AA002.jpegBENGHAZI, Libya — Gunshots didn’t distract Nizar Al-Magrebi from the book he was reading in a cafe. The teenager was determined to better himself.

“The war made it clear to me how important it is to study hard to have a better life,” said Mr. Al-Magrebi, 18, who dreams of becoming an aeronautical engineer. “Cousins of mine died fighting the terrorists. I cannot give up. I should build a peaceful future in their tribute.”

Read more at The Washington Times

Pakistanis defy Valentine's Day ban with hearts, flowers and love

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_PAK151515aa001.jpegLAHORE, Pakistan — Usman Shahid didn’t want to break his wife’s heart by not celebrating Valentine's Day with her, so he decided to break the law instead.

Shahid and many other Pakistanis are outraged over a court's ban on celebrating Valentine's Day because it is considered 'unIslamic.' They vowed to press forward with hearts, flowers and love.

Read more at USA Today

Separated Iraqi families hold emotional reunions in liberated eastern Mosul

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_131108ROMaa001.jpegDIYALA, Iraq — After pleading with Iraqi soldiers to let him pass through a checkpoint and proceed to his neighborhood in eastern Mosul, Ahmed Al Ta’ee finally reached home.

No one was expecting him, not even his wife. When he called out to her and his two daughters, they were too afraid to answer. He found them huddled in a back room.

Read more at USA Today

Libyans understand Trump’s motive behind order for travel ban

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_LBY130208AA003.jpegCAIRO — With a population of 6 million and historically the most prosperous of the seven majority-Muslim nations on President Trump’s contentious executive order curbing travel and refugee flows, oil-rich Libya stands out as the smallest and the wealthiest country in the group.

But after three years of civil war that left an opening for penetration by Islamic State terrorists and with rival governments in its eastern and western sectors — neither with full control of state agencies or the country’s borders — some Libyan leaders say they can readily understand what drove the new U.S. president to hit the pause button.

Read more at The Washington Times

Iraqi translators who served the US military are desperate for an exemption to Trump's travel ban

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRQ150318aa001.jpegRefused entry under the provisions of President Donald Trump’s executive order Friday restricting travel to the US for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, Hameed has been staying up late at night in a Baghdad apartment watching cable news.

He's been looking for a sign that he'll be able to travel to the US after the Pentagon submits a new list of Iraqis who translated for and fought with the Americans after the 2003 invasion. On Sunday, an officer from the Department of Homeland Security refused passage to Hameed and his pregnant wife as they were about to board a Qatar Airways flight to Atlanta, where his sister Nour already lives with her two children.

Read more at PRI

Israel’s Muslims fear worst as Netanyahu eyes curbs on mosque prayer calls

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_ISR130226AA001.jpegIKSAL, Israel — In this Galilean village three miles south of Nazareth, the muezzins’ chants from atop three mosques are as much a part of the landscape as the olive groves that ring the town.

“It’s not a noise,” said Mohammad Darawshe, a 53-year-old Iksal resident who lives about 500 yards from the city’s largest mosque, a poured concrete structure whose domed, blue-tile top serves as the village’s dominating landmark. “It’s been part of the scene here for 1,400 years.”

Read more at The Washington Times

2 Egyptian Universities Start Religion-Blind Admission

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_1111.jpegCAIRO—Ain Shams University administrators and others will no longer ask students about their religious affiliations on academic forms, a move that follows last year’s policy change by crosstown rival Cairo University.

The reforms at Egypt’s two largest public universities reflect a push toward non-sectarianism in higher education as Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi cracks down on Islamists throughout Egyptian institutions. In addition, the country’s minority Christian community continues to complain of discrimination in academia, and Christians are on edge after 28 church members were killed in a suicide bombing at a church mass in December.

Read more at Al Fanar

Battle for Mosul: 'I miss everything there'

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRQ151130aa01.jpegBAGHDAD - Karam Hassawy has Mosul on his mind. For two years in enforced exile in Turkey, he has frequently thought about every street, every smell and every sound of the place he calls home. He hopes against hope that everything will be the same when he returns.

"I have not forgotten Mosul - since the moment I left the city, I wander in its streets and alleys every day in my mind," Hassawy, 25, told Al Jazeera. "Whenever I feel nostalgic, I go for a walk in its old alleys and smell the famous Mosul food that I have not tasted for more than two years.

Read more at Aljazeera

Two months into fight for Mosul, more than 100,000 flee the Iraqi city

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_GAZ180714aa001.jpegBAGHDAD — Two months into the battle for Mosul, more than 100,000 people have fled Iraq's second largest city as the military makes slow progress against entrenched Islamic State fighters, the International Organization for Migration said Sunday.

Iraqi military forces in the tens of thousands have seized control of about a quarter of the city since the operation began Oct. 17, but they still encounter pockets of stiff resistance from the militant group that seized Mosul two years ago.

Read more at USA Today

Arson attacks on Israeli settlements raise fears of Palestinian ‘Fire Intifada’

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_GAZ90714aa002.jpegHEBRON, WEST BANK — Abu Rayyan, a 36-year-old nurse at Hebron’s main public hospital, treated severe lacerations to the chest of an elderly woman bitten last weekend by a military patrol dog while an Israel Defense Forces platoon searched a home for weapons.

“We couldn’t just treat her wounds and let her go,” he said. “The bites are so bad she has had to remain here under observation.”

Read more at The Washington Times

Mosul treasures survived millennia, only to be destroyed by ISIL

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRQ150410aa001.jpegBAGHDAD — Since its takeover of the city of Mosul two years ago, the Islamic State has been destroying dozens of statues, friezes, manuscripts and other artifacts that date back several millennia, according to archeologists and residents.

Now, as Iraqi forces move closer to recapturing Mosul, archeologists and exiled residents are bracing themselves for what they will find left of an illustrious past that is deeply embedded in the city's identity.

Read more at USA Today

Hellish conditions engulf east Aleppo, while life goes on in the west

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SYR130328PT002.jpegAll four hospitals in east Aleppo are shuttered, so physician Mohammed Kaheel can’t care for Syrians injured from unrelenting bombardments and chemical weapon burns. There's no anesthesia, antibiotics or bandages.

“People are fleeing from one neighborhood to another," seeking treatment and shelter, he said in a phone interview as bomb blasts from Syrian government and Russia jets pounding the rebel stronghold exploded in the background. "We lack everything: medications, food, water and fuel.”

Read more at USA Today

Iraqi commander: Could take months to take control of Mosul from ISIL

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRQ150318aa001.jpegBAGHDAD — Iraqi forces face a dilemma as they push farther into Mosul: How to draw out entrenched Islamic State fighters while protecting residents who’ve been hunkered in their homes for weeks.

“We are advancing steadily,” said Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, a commander in Iraq’s elite counterterrorism forces. "We are taking in civilians fleeing (Islamic State-controlled) areas while prioritizing protecting residents inside the city.”

Read more at USA Today

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