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Fighting is raging on several fronts amidst U.S.-led airstrikes on Iraq and Syria. At least 16 fighters with the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front were reportedly killed Sunday after attacking a Hezbollah position inside eastern Lebanon, close to the Syrian border. A female Kurdish suicide bomber reportedly killed a number of Islamic State fighters in the besieged Syrian town of Kobani. But the Islamic State is reportedly threatening to capture Kobani after several weeks of fighting, sparking fears of a massacre if it takes control.
The latest violence comes as video was posted online showing an Islamic State member beheading British aid worker Alan Henning. He is the fourth Western hostage to be beheaded by the group in just over a month. In the video, the Islamic State issues death threats against another captive, U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig. In a statement, Kassig’s mother Paula appealed for his freedom.
Paula Kassig: “Please know that we are all praying for you and your safe return. Most of all, know that we love you, and our hearts ache for you to be granted your freedom so we can hug you again and then set you free to continue the life you have chosen, the life of service to those in greatest need. We implore those who are holding you to show mercy and use their power to let you go.”
According to McClatchy, one of the first targets of U.S. airstrikes in Syria last month was a former French intelligence officer who defected to the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. The officer is said to be al-Qaeda’s highest-ranking defector. He reportedly survived the attack.
Vice President Joe Biden has apologized after saying U.S. allies in the Middle East funded and armed extremist rebels in Syria. Biden made the comments in a speech at Harvard University last week.
Vice President Joe Biden: “Our biggest problem is our allies. Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks were great friends, and I have a great relationship with Erdogan, which I’ve just spent a lot of time with. The Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”
Over the weekend, Biden directly apologized in phone calls to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and then to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates. The White House says Biden expressed regret “for any implication that [U.S.] allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of [ISIS] or other violent extremists in Syria.”
Sierra Leone has recorded one of its deadliest days since the Ebola disease broke out earlier this year. Figures released Saturday show 121 deaths and 81 new infections in a 24-hour period. The overall death toll has topped 3,400, but the actual number is likely far higher. As the crisis continues, the United States has ordered an additional 1,000 troops to West Africa, bringing the current deployment to around 4,000.
The first Ebola patient diagnosed inside the United States is said to be in a fight for his life. Thomas Frieden, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, discussed Thomas Eric Duncan’s condition.
Thomas Frieden: “We’ve seen a lot of understandable concern because of the deadly nature of Ebola, and we’re really hoping for the recovery of the patient in Dallas. We understand that his situation has taken a turn for the worse. We know that Ebola is a very serious disease, and we’re hoping for his recovery.”
On Friday, four members of Duncan’s family were finally moved out of the apartment where Duncan had been staying. The relatives had been forced to remain there under quarantine. But the sheets and dirty towels used by Duncan remained inside, as authorities struggled to find a company to take them and no federal officials intervened. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the family has been moved to a private residence made available by a donor.
Judge Clay Jenkins: “They are good people, kind people, people who care about their community, and they’re obviously worried about their own health. They’re concerned about your health, as well. And our hope is that they can have some peace and that they can be left alone for a few days, at least, in that undisclosed location. And our hope is that the people who live around the apartment complex that they were in, that their lives can get back to normal.”
An American cameraperson who contracted Ebola in Liberia is expected to return to the U.S. today. Ashoka Mukpo of NBC News will reportedly be treated in Nebraska.
Pro-democracy protesters have pulled back after more than a week of rallying in Hong Kong. Demonstrators camping out in front of government buildings eased their blockade today, allowing workers to pass through. The move follows a government threat to use “appropriate force” to break up the sit-in. Students taking part in the protests have also begun resuming classes, but many are vowing to return. Hong Kong’s Federation of Students is set to hold talks with the city’s second-top official, although city leaders have already ruled out major concessions. The protests erupted last month over China’s plan to select candidates in Hong Kong’s 2017 elections.
A mass grave has been discovered in the Mexican state of Guerrero with at least 34 bodies inside. Authorities say they are checking if they are among a group of more than 40 students missing for over a week following an alleged police ambush. Witnesses say both police and unknown gunmen attacked buses carrying students from a rural teacher’s college and players from a soccer club. Around six people were killed in the initial attack, with survivors allegedly loaded into police vehicles. Around 30 people have been detained in the case, including 22 officers. Prosecutors say they conspired with gang members to kill the students after a wave of protests. On Sunday, hundreds of students blocked a major highway in Guerrero in protest of alleged government complicity and calling for their colleagues to be released alive.
Brazil’s presidential race is headed to a runoff after Sunday’s vote failed to end the race. President Dilma Rousseff took first place with 41 percent, not enough to avoid a second round against pro-corporate candidate Aécio Neves, who took 33 percent. Environmentalist Marina Silva took just 21 percent of votes.
Sweden has become the first European country to recognize the state of Palestine. In an interview, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström said recognition of Palestinian statehood will help advance the cause of peace.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström: “We believe that this is an important step towards a two-state solution. We hope that this will inspire and hopefully give some new energy into the negotiations. And we of course know and expect that there will be both applause and criticism, but we will engage in a dialogue and in talks with our partners and other countries from both camps.”
The move was one of the first announced by Sweden’s new center-left government after the Social Democratic Party won national elections last month.