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American Jihadi Killed in Syria Fighting, White House Says

American Jihadi Killed in Syria Fighting, White House Says

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ALEPPO, Syria) –  A Chicago-born jihadist has been killed while fighting in Syria, the White House said Tuesday — purportedly for the terrorist group ISIS.Douglas McArthur McCain, a 33-year-old rapper, was among several ISIS militants the Free Syrian Army claimed on Twitter had been killed over the weekend in fighting for the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo. Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said the administration was “aware” McCain was in Syria and “can confirm” his death.“We continue to use every tool we possess to disrupt and dissuade individuals from traveling abroad for violent jihad and to track and engage those who return,” Hayden said.The McCain family had been notified of the death by the State Department Monday, CNN reported. Jen Psaki, a State Department spokesperson, declined to comment on the matter earlier Tuesday “out of respect for the family,” telling reporters, “There’s typically a process that needs to be gone through before any confirmation can be made.””I really don’t understand why and how and I have no words,” says a Facebook post by Lisa Roland, who identifies herself as McCain’s sister. “I never thought this will be the way we say goodbye… This is absolutely unreal to me I love you big brother.”McCain was born in Chicago, and spent many years in Minnesota before moving to San Diego, according to public records. More than a decade ago, McCain shared a Minnesota home address with a classmate, Troy Kastigar. A young man by the same name reportedly was killed in 2009 in Somalia while fighting with an al-Qaeda group there.“If you guys only knew how much fun we have over here – This is the real Disneyland. Come here and join us,” Kastigar said in a recruitment video for the terror group al-Shabab before his death. On Facebook in 2013, McCain paid tribute to Kastigar.A Twitter feed attributed to McCain says that he converted to Islam a decade ago, which he called the “best thing that ever happened to [him].” In June, the account retweeted another ISIS supporter who said, “It takes a warrior to understand a warrior. Pray for ISIS.”NBC News first reported McCain’s purported death in the conflict, citing the FSA as well as pictures posted on Twitter that appear to show McCain after he was killed. The FSA tweet claimed two Americans had been killed in the same bout of fighting, but the second American has not been identified.McCain is not the first American to die in the brutal fighting in Syria. U.S. officials say Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha blew himself up in a coordinated suicide attack in Syria in May. Abu-Salha was reportedly fighting for al-Nusra, a rival rebel group to ISIS.More troubling to U.S. officials, Abu-Salha was able to return to the U.S. for months after receiving training in Syria, before he went back to the front lines.U.S. and European security officials have been sounding the alarm for months over their citizens traveling to the conflict in Syria and Iraq, receiving terror training and potentially returning home to wreak havoc. U.S. officials have estimated more than 12,000 foreign fighters have joined extremist groups in Syria, some 100 of them Americans.
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Israel Accepts Cease-Fire Plan to End War Against Hamas

Israel Accepts Cease-Fire Plan to End War Against Hamas

iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) — After 50 days of fighting in Gaza, both Israel and Hamas have agreed to a new open-ended cease-fire that began at noon eastern time on Tuesday.Shortly after the truce began at 7 p.m. local time, a number of rockets were fired onto Southern Israel, but now the attacks have stopped and Israeli is holding its fire.The strongest indication that this conflict may have finally ended is the reaction on the streets of Gaza — thousands of Palestinians have poured into the streets, singing, and waving flags, celebrating what Hamas is calling its “victory.”  
At the State Department, spokesperson Jen Psaki says the United States “strongly supports” the move.”We call on all parties to fully and completely comply with its terms,” Psaki said. “We hope very much that this ceasefire will prove to be durable and sustainable. That it will put an end to rocket and mortar attacks and that it help to bring about an enduring end to the conflict.”
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UK Police Ask Public to Help Identify Potential Homegrown Terrorists

UK Police Ask Public to Help Identify Potential Homegrown Terrorists

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(LONDON) — Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley of the Metropolitan Police Service in London said on Tuesday that there have been five times as many terrorism-related arrests made in the U.K. in 2014 than at this point last year.In an appeal to the public to “help identify aspiring terrorists” who may be traveling abroad, returning, or “showing signs of becoming radicalised,” Rowley referenced the death of American journalist James Foley — the video of which was posted on the Internet earlier this month — noting the apparent British nationality of Foley’s killer.The MPS is working to identify individuals who may be susceptible to radicalization and also hopes to have extremist material removed from the Internet when found.
In addition to the terror arrests, high-priority operations — particularly those involving potential attack plans — have “increased greatly,” while port stops and cash seizures have jumped by about 50 percent, Rowley said.
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Pentagon Confirms Incident Between US Coast Guard and Iranian Fishing Boat

Pentagon Confirms Incident Between US Coast Guard and Iranian Fishing Boat

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby confirmed on Tuesday that the U.S. Coast Guard had fired a single shot at a small Iranian fishing boat.Kirby said at Tuesday’s briefing that the Iranian boat, a small dhow, had been the subject of a brief incident. The crew of a U.S. Coast Guard boat, which regularly patrols the Persian Gulf, spotted the dhow, and saw a “machine gun or small arms weapon” pointed at the Coast Guard boat, Kirby said.The Coast Guard then fired a single shot at the dhow in response. Kirby could not confirm whether the shot was a warning shot or if it hit the vessel, but said that the Iranian boat “pulled away” and that “nobody was hurt.”
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US Military Conducts Two More Airstrikes Against ISIS in Iraq

US Military Conducts Two More Airstrikes Against ISIS in Iraq

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ERBIL, Iraq) — U.S. military forces conducted a pair of airstrikes against militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on Tuesday, bringing the total number of strikes in Iraq since Aug. 8 to 98.The strikes were confirmed by U.S. Central Command on Tuesday evening. Centcom says that the two strikes utilized attack aircraft and destroyed two of ISIS’ armed vehicles and damaged a third.The latest strikes were part of the ongoing effort to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense forces. Centcom also says that the strike also served to protect critical infrastructure, U.S. personnel and facilities.
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Hagel Announces Increased International Aid to Kurdish Forces in Iraq

Hagel Announces Increased International Aid to Kurdish Forces in Iraq

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD, Iraq) — On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that a number of nations, in addition to the U.S., will commit to providing aid to Kurdish forces in need of arms and equipment in the battle against militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.Hagel commissioned a working group about two weeks ago in an effort to resupply the Kurdish forces in northern Iraq. Among the foreign nations now committed to supplying aid are Albania, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Italy, France and the United Kingdom. Operations involving aid from those seven nations “have already begun,” Hagel said Tuesday, “and will accelerate in the coming days with more nations also expected to contribute.”Hagel also praised “the determination of the Iraqi people and the international community to counter the threat posed by [ISIS].”
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ISIS Demands $6.6M Ransom for 26-Year-Old American Woman

ISIS Demands $6.6M Ransom for 26-Year-Old American Woman

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A third American hostage held by ISIS has been identified as a 26-year-old American woman who was kidnapped a year ago while doing humanitarian relief work in Syria. The terror group is demanding $6.6 million and the release of U.S. prisoners for the life of the young woman, who the family requested not be identified.She is the third of at least four Americans who were known to be held by ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. American journalist James Foley was executed by the group in a video that appeared online last week. Another writer, Steven Sotloff, was seen alive but under duress in the same footage.In addition to the multi-million dollar ransom, the terror group has also demanded that the U.S. release Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT-trained neuroscientist who was convicted by the U.S. in 2010 of trying to kill U.S. officials two years before, according to a supporter of Siddiqui who has been in contact with the hostage’s family.Siddiqui’s release has been a regular demand of groups critical of U.S. policy in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, but on Monday, Siddiqui’s family spoke out through supporters to say they were “very distraught” Siddiqui’s name was invoked with the ransom request and sought to distance themselves from ISIS.“If the issue is true, we would like to state that our family does not have any connections to such groups or actions,” reads a letter written by Siddiqui’s family. “We believe in a struggle that is peaceful and dignified. Associating Aafia’s name with acts of violence is against everything we are struggling for.”“While we deeply appreciate the sincere feelings of those who, like us, wish to see the freedom of our beloved Aafia, we cannot agree with a ‘by any means necessary’ approach to Aafia’s freedom. Nor can we accept that someone else’s daughter or sister suffer like Aafia is suffering,” the letter says.The Siddiqui family has been “traumatized by the thoughts that someone else could be harmed in the name of Aafia,” said Mauri Saalakhan of the Peace and Justice Foundation, who held a sparsely attended press conference Monday and spoke on behalf of the Siddiqui family.“They’re opposed to it. In their letter to ISIS they made it very clear, this is not the way, these are not the conditions under which we want our loved ones released,” Saalakhan said. “Nor did they want harm to come to anyone else’s loved one in the name of Aafia…They conveyed that message loud and clear.“The most important message that I could convey to ISIS or whoever it is that’s holding these innocent people captive abroad is that at the end of the day, this type of approach in response to an injustice that you feel, is not only not the inappropriate way to go, but, properly understood, it is a violation of the tenets of the faith that we claim to believe in,” he said. “We just have to do the right thing because it is the right thing, without any strings attached. And the right thing would be to let this young woman go back to her family, go back to her life. And the right thing for America to do, for our government… would be to do the same with Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.”The details of the ISIS ransom demand and the abduction of the young aid worker were disclosed by Saalakhan and a close friend of the unnamed hostage family in statements to ABC News Monday.Each of the three known surviving American hostages in ISIS’ hands have been threatened with death since Foley’s execution, sources have told ABC News. In the video that showed Foley’s death, a masked militant said that Sotloff’s fate rested in President Obama’s hands — an apparent demand that the U.S. stop airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq.The day after Foley’s execution video emerged online, the U.S. military announced it had continued bombing runs against ISIS in Iraq and overnight, The New York Times reported President Obama has approved surveillance flights over Syria, what the paper called a potential precursor to airstrikes there.
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Search Underway for American Student Missing in Israel

Search Underway for American Student Missing in Israel

iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) — A large search is underway in the Jerusalem Forest for an American student who never came back from a hike on Friday. Police units, search and rescue teams and dozens of volunteers are fanning out across the forest to try to find Aaron Sofer, a 23-year-old Orthodox Jew from Lakewood, New Jersey.Sofer had come to Jerusalem to study in a Yeshiva, or Jewish seminary. He disappeared Friday while hiking with a friend who told Israeli Police the two had split up to take different paths down a steep incline.  Given that the forest is where three Orthodox Israelis burned a Palestinian boy to death last month, police are concerned that Sofer may be the victim of a nationally-motivated crime. So far, there is no evidence that is the case as the search enters its third day.
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Iraq Explosion Kills At Least 10

Iraq Explosion Kills At Least 10

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) — Police confirmed to ABC News on Tuesday that a car bomb exploded in eastern Baghdad.
At least 10 people were killed and 34 more were injured.
Violence in Iraq has jumped staggeringly in recent months as militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have taken over a number of cities in northern Iraq. It was not immediately clear whether ISIS was involved in Tuesday’s attack.
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Former Archbishop Accused of Sex Abuse Loses Diplomatic Immunity

Former Archbishop Accused of Sex Abuse Loses Diplomatic Immunity

iStock/Thinkstock(ROME) — The Vatican says a former archbishop and ambassador it defrocked after he allegedly paid for sex with children has lost his diplomatic immunity and could be criminally tried in the Dominican Republic, where he’s accused of the crimes.Last summer, Bishop Josef Wesolowski was caught paying for sex with children in the Caribbean country. Months later, he was found guilty under canon law by a Vatican tribunal and defrocked.The former archbishop also faces a criminal trial in Vatican city — a first such trial for sex abuse charges in its own territory.
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Gen. Dempsey Says Military Might Alone Won’t Beat ISIS

Gen. Dempsey Says Military Might Alone Won’t Beat ISIS

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — U.S. military might alone won’t defeat the Islamic State, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters that any long-term strategy to defeat the extremist group now operating in both Syria and Iraq must involve Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.Dempsey says given the brutality ISIS has demonstrated against the Iraqis and U.S. journalist James Foley, other governments should become “willing partners” to “squeeze ISIS from multiple directions in order to initially disrupt it and eventually defeat it.”The nation’s top general says that American airstrikes have slowed the radicals’ momentum but it will take more than bombs to crush ISIS.Since the group has enlisted Sunnis disenfranchised with the direction of the Iraqi government, Dempsey urged both political and diplomatic solutions to convince the country’s minority that “ISIS is not the path to their future.”
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Israel Keeps Pounding Hamas Targets in Gaza

Israel Keeps Pounding Hamas Targets in Gaza

iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) — There were no signs that Israel and the militant group Hamas were scaling back hostilities Monday as the two sides attacked the other with Israel doing far more damage to the already devastated Gaza Strip.Although Hamas lobbed 115 rockets at Israel, most fell harmlessly while Israel responded with airstrikes that leveled a school and two mosques.According to the Israeli military, the buildings were being used to either fire rockets or store weapons. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Hamas targets are fair game and warned Palestinians to leave facilities the militant group is using.The Israelis said one of the airstrikes is believed to have killed Hamas’ top financial official in charge of “terror fund transactions.”Over the past seven weeks, more than 2,100 Palestinians have been killed while 68 Israelis have died, all but four of them soldiers.As the fighting continues, the Egyptian government is asking Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to return the bargaining table in Cairo although little progress was made when the diplomats were called back by their respective governments last week.
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Could This Be the Face of James Foley’s Executioner?

Could This Be the Face of James Foley’s Executioner?

Obtained by ABC News(LONDON) — As British authorities focus on neighborhoods in East London in hopes of learning more about the apparently England-raised militant who appears in a mask in the gruesome video of James Foley’s execution, computer science experts across the Atlantic have created an image that may show a likeness of his face.
The image was created by American facial recognition specialists who consult with the U.S. government based on the purported ISIS member’s eyes and the area just around the eyes not covered with the black cloth.
British authorities said they are close to identifying the man in the video who appears to begin killing Foley, though Foley’s actual death is not shown in the video. Earlier reports emerged identifying a young British rapper as the prime suspect, but sources told ABC News he is not believed to be the man in question.The execution video has undergone intense analysis by intelligence agencies, private companies and amateur sleuths online, all looking for any clues that could be helpful in identifying Foley’s killer or finding other hostages held by ISIS.Several U.S. military imagery analysts told ABC News that the movement of Foley’s shadow throughout the course of the video indicated the footage was shot over a period of time in the morning, perhaps less than a couple hours.An amateur analyst writing for the new site Bellingcat deduced by landmarks in the video that it was possibly shot near Raqqah, Syria, near where U.S. special operations forces launched a failed rescue mission for American hostages in July.After Foley, at least three other American hostages are believed to be held by ISIS. All three have been threatened with execution.
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USAID Airlifts Medical Supplies to Liberia to Battle Ebola

USAID Airlifts Medical Supplies to Liberia to Battle Ebola

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MONROVIA, Liberia) — The United States Agency for International Development says it has airlifted over 16 tons of medical supplies to the capital city of Liberia and will continue to provide equipment and supplies in the African nation’s battle against the spread of the Ebola virus.The most recent shipment arrived in Monrovia on Aug. 24, and contained 10,000 sets of personal protective equipment, two water treatment systems, two portable water tanks that can hold up to 10,000 liters each and 100 rolls of plastic sheeting. That shipment came from the USAID facilitiy in the United Arab Emirates.”The U.S. is committed to working with the Liberian government,” Jeremy Konyndyk, Director of USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance said, “…to ensure that those working on the front line of this crisis get the medial supplies, training, and support needed to safely do their jobs.”USAID says it has committed over $14.5 million to the Ebola response.
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State Department Declines Comment on Reports of Airstrikes Conducted in Libya

State Department Declines Comment on Reports of Airstrikes Conducted in Libya

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. State Department declined to comment on Monday on reports of airstrikes conducted in Libya by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. “We believe outside interference exacerbates current division and undermines Libya’s democratic transition,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “and that’s why our focus remains on urging all factions to come together to peacefully resolve the current crisis.” Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with the Egyptian Foreign Minister on Sunday, the State Department said, but there was no indication of what was discussed.Psaki noted that the United States has a working relationship with both Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and that the countries exchange a “range of information.”The New York Times reported the airstrikes occurred twice within the last week.
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Ebola Outbreak: Looking for Hope in a Hot Zone

Ebola Outbreak: Looking for Hope in a Hot Zone

Dr. David Kaggwa and Dr. Richard Besser at an Ebola ward in Monrovia, Liberia. (Courtesy Dr. Richard Besser)REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK by ABC News’ Dr. Richard Besser(MONROVIA, Liberia) — Walking through a makeshift Ebola ward, it’s hard to believe that anyone could survive.Four men sit on plastic chairs waiting to be tested for the disease. Surrounding them are confirmed Ebola patients, walking around the packed dirt square getting exercise. One man collapses on the ground, unable to walk and appearing near death. Leaning against the wall is a woman who just died.Those admitted to the unit who don’t have Ebola will surely catch it. Those already diagnosed with the disease are just waiting to see if their bodies will fight it off. I met a young woman who had been in the ward for nine days. When I asked when she would be going home, she smiled, did a little dance and said, “Today!” She is one of the lucky ones.This Ebola outbreak is like no other. It’s urban rather than rural, and therefore faster moving. It’s occurring places where there is profound distrust of the government and where basic healthcare infrastructure was among the poorest in the world before the outbreak hit. In Liberia, there were roughly 50 doctors for a country of more than 4 million people. Some of those doctors have now died from Ebola and many clinics have closed. I’m traveling at the same time as Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Tom Kenyon, director of Global Health for the agency; and a couple other CDC staff. The group is on a fact-finding tour of the region. They will visit Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — the three countries hardest hit by the outbreak — hoping to bring attention to the global health crisis and rally support from the international community.While Ebola is the disease making headlines in the region, the outbreak’s impact on other health problems is believed to be staggering. The number of women who give birth without a trained attendant, the number of children with malaria who go untreated, and the number of people who die from trauma because there is no hospital willing or able to take them is unknown.

They are suiting up to go into to #Ebola ward. Have to make their own hoods. Ran out of real ones. pic.twitter.com/8KEBcAZYtR
— Richard Besser (@DrRichardBesser) August 25, 2014

At JFK Medical Center, the largest hospital in Liberia, it’s a tale of contrasts. The emergency department — usually a frenzy of activity — is shut down. Ambulances are parked in the lot, going nowhere. There are not enough doctors and other health care workers to staff the emergency room, and it’s too dangerous to let patients walk in off the street. Someone with fever might have malaria, but they also might have Ebola.
The makeshift Ebola ward is down a little alley from the hospital in a concrete building that used to house the hospital’s cholera treatment center. It was converted nine days ago and has already reached capacity with nearly 60 patients, some sleeping on mats on the floor. Six of the patients have been health care workers.Dr. David Kaggwa, a Ugandan pediatrician working as an expert consultant to the World Health Organization, took us into the treatment center. As I suited up to enter, I knew that any mistake could be costly. Each layer was important: boots, scrub suit, plastic apron, outer gown, mask, goggles and two pairs of gloves. An expert in protective gear made sure we were properly covered. Every time we entered or left a room, we’d step in a pan full of bleach and wash our hands with bleach — basic precautions performed with military precision to avoid spreading Ebola.

To enter/exit the #Ebola treatment Unit you wash your boots in bleach. I’ll take you inside tonight on @ABCWorldNews pic.twitter.com/XKNTv1bYBV
— Richard Besser (@DrRichardBesser) August 25, 2014

Inside the center, there were two parallel paths separated by a two-foot high red mesh screen: one leading to the isolation ward, the other to the triage tent. The triage tent was about 100 square feet separated down the middle by a low wall. On our side, three nurses and physician assistants sat at a table, getting information from patients. No physical contact with the patients was allowed. If a patient collapsed, they would have to wait until someone in proper gear was available to help.
While we were there, over a course of 20 minutes, three patients were evaluated. All of them had contact with someone with Ebola and all now had symptoms consistent with the disease. They were admitted as suspect cases and would be tested.Behind the triage tent was the isolation ward, where patients were waiting to die or survive. The scene was apocalyptic. I asked the security guard if he was scared. “No,” he replied. If an Ebola patient comes near him and tries to touch him, he runs. He showed me where he once knocked down the fence running to escape.Dr. Kaggwa believes that with more resources, more beds and more protective gear, more patients with Ebola will be cured and fewer health care workers will get sick. For now, the outbreak toll continues to tick up, with no end in sight.
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ISIS an ‘Incredible’ Fighting Force, US Special Ops Sources Say

ISIS an ‘Incredible’ Fighting Force, US Special Ops Sources Say

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — With the Obama White House left reeling from the “savage” slaughter of an American journalist held hostage by ISIS terrorists, military options are being considered against an adversary who officials say is growing in strength and is much more capable than the one faced when the group was called “al Qaeda-Iraq” during the U.S. war from 2003-2011.ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has been making a “tactical withdrawal” in recent days in the face of withering U.S. airstrikes from areas around Erbil in northern Iraq and from the major dam just north of Mosul it controlled for two weeks, according to military officials monitoring their movements.”These guys aren’t just bugging out, they’re tactically withdrawing. Very professional, well trained, motivated and equipped. They operate like a state with a military,” said one official who tracks ISIS closely. “These aren’t the same guys we fought in OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) who would just scatter when you dropped a bomb near them.” ISIS appeared to have a sophisticated and well thought-out plan for establishing its “Islamic Caliphate” from northern Syria across the western and northern deserts of Iraq, many experts and officials have said, and support from hostage-taking, robbery and sympathetic donations to fund it. They use drones to gather overhead intel on targets and effectively commandeer captured military vehicles — including American Humvees — and munitions.”They tried to push out as far as they thought they could and were fully prepared to pull back a little bit when we beat them back with airstrikes around Erbil. And they were fine with that, and ready to hold all of the ground they have now,” a second official told ABC News.ISIS didn’t necessarily count on holding Mosul Dam, officials said, but scored a major propaganda victory on social media when they hoisted the black flag of the group over the facility that provides electricity and water to a large swath of Iraq, or could drown millions if breached. U.S. special operations forces under the Joint Special Operations Command and U.S. Special Operations Command keep close tabs on the military evolution of ISIS and both its combat and terrorism — called “asymmetric” — capabilities, officials told ABC News. A primary reason is in anticipation of possibly fighting them, which a full squadron of special mission unit operators did in the Independence Day raid on an ISIS camp in Raqqah, Syria.”They’re incredible fighters. ISIS teams in many places use special operations TTPs,” said the second official, who has considerable combat experience, using the military term for “tactics, techniques and procedures.”In a press conference Friday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said ISIS has shown that it is “as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen.”“They’re beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded,” he said. “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen.”Prior to ISIS’ recent public successes, the former chairman of the 9/11 Commission, which just released a 10th anniversary report on the threat of terrorism currently facing the homeland, said he was shocked at how little seems to be known inside the U.S. intelligence community about the Islamist army brutalizing Iraq as it has Syria.“I was appalled at the ignorance,” former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, who led the 9/11 Commission, told ABC News last week.Kean, a Republican, who with vice chairman Lee Hamilton, a Democrat, recently met with about 20 top intelligence officials in preparation of the commission’s latest threat report, said many officials seemed both blind-sided and alarmed by the group’s rise, growth and competency.“One official told me ‘I am more scared than at any time since 9/11,’” Kean recounted in a recent interview.A spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence defended the intelligence community’s tracking of ISIS, saying officials had “expressed concern” about the threat as far back as last year.“The will to fight is inherently difficult to assess. Analysts must make assessments based on perceptions of command and control, leadership abilities, quality of experience, and discipline under fire — none of which can be understood with certainty until the first shots are fired,” ODNI spokesperson Brian Hale said.Where did ISIS learn such sophisticated military methods, shown clearly after the first shots were fired?”Probably the Chechens,” one of the U.S. officials said.A Chechen commander named Abu Omar al-Shishani — who officials say may have been killed in fighting near Mosul — is well known for commanding an international brigade within ISIS. Other Chechens have appeared within propaganda videos including one commander who was killed on video by an artillery burst near his SUV in Syria.Earlier this year, ABC News reported on the secret history of U.S. special operations forces’ experiences battling highly capable Chechen fighters along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border since 2001. In addition, for decades, Chechen separatists have waged asymmetric warfare against Russian forces for control of the Northern Caucasus.In the battle against ISIS, many within American “SOF,” a term that comprises operators from all branches of the military and intelligence, are frustrated at being relegated by the president only to enabling U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. They are eager to fight ISIS more directly in combat operations — even if untethered, meaning unofficially and with little, if any, U.S. government support, according to some with close ties to the community.”ISIS and their kind must be destroyed,” said a senior counterterrorism official after journalist James Foley was beheaded on high-definition ISIS video, echoing strong-worded statements of high-level U.S. officials including Secretary of State John Kerry.But asked when the Obama administration would attempt to confront ISIS, the official declined to answer.Ben Rhodes, the president’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, told reporters Friday that President Obama is currently focused on protecting American lives, “containing” ISIS where they are and supporting advances by Iraqi and Kurdish forces.“Our military objectives in Iraq right now are limited to protecting our personnel and facilities and address the humanitarian crisis,” Rhodes said. The “ultimate goal,” Rhodes said however, was to “defeat” ISIS.“We have to be clear that this is a deeply rooted organization… It is going to take time, a long time, to fully evict them from the communities where they operate,” he said. “In the long term, we’ll be working with our partners to defeat this organization.”
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Russia to Send Second Convoy to Ukraine

Russia to Send Second Convoy to Ukraine

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — Russia is set to send a second aid convoy into eastern Ukraine, according to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The announcement follows Friday’s decision to deploy a convoy without a Red Cross escort or permission from Ukrainian authorities. The trucks left Ukraine less than a day later, but the U.S. warned it could lead to more punishment for the Federation. Officials claim the humanitarian situation in south eastern Ukraine demanded action after a week of delays, while Ukraine called the incident an invasion. Distribution of Russia aid will begin Monday in Luhansk. During a press conference Monday, Lavrov said the country is ready to participate in settling the crisis with Ukraine through any means, according to Interfax. “Basically, we are prepared — as was repeatedly stressed by President Putin — for any format, as long as there is a result and movement from the military confrontation, for the civil war in Ukraine towards a national dialogue,” Lavrov said. President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet with Ukraine’s president in Minsk on Tuesday to discuss the conflict.
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Congo Reports First Ebola Cases as Outbreak Continues

Congo Reports First Ebola Cases as Outbreak Continues

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Ebola continues to spread in Africa and ignite fears with the Democratic Republic of Congo reporting its first cases over the weekend.
The Congo is hundreds of miles away from the nearest affected country, but officials there say they suspect they’ve had more than a dozen Ebola deaths.At last count on Friday, the virus had killed at least 1,427 people and sickened 1,188 more — numbers thought to “vastly underestimate” the outbreak’s true toll, according to the World Health Organization, which is expected to release updated case counts soon.The outbreak emerged in March and quickly became the deadliest on record. An estimated 48 percent of all Ebola deaths recorded since the virus’ discovery in 1976 have occurred in the last five months, according to WHO data.
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Pope Sends Letter of Condolence to James Foley’s Family

Pope Sends Letter of Condolence to James Foley’s Family

Buda Mendes/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Francis extended his condolences Sunday to the family of James Foley, the American journalist executed by ISIS. During a mass of remembrance held for the reporter in Rochester, New Hampshire, the Bishop of Rockeville Centre read a message from the pope:

“The Holy Father, deeply saddened by the death of James Wright Foley, asks you kindly to convey his personal condolences and the assurance of his closeness in prayer to James’ loved ones.  He commends James to the loving mercy of God our Father, and joins all who mourn him in praying for an end to senseless violence and the dawn of reconciliation and peace among all the members of the human family.  Upon the Foley family, and upon his friends and colleagues, he invokes the consolation and strength borne of our hope in Christ’s Resurrection.”

The letter was sent from the Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on behalf of Pope Francis, Vatican Radio reports. Last Thursday, the pope phoned Foley’s parents to offer comfort after a video appearing to show the brutal murder of their son circulated online.
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