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US launches air strikes on IS rebels near dam, Amerli

The US military launched new strikes on Islamic State forces in Iraq, using fighter and attack aircraft to carry out strikes near the Mosul dam and Amerli, the Pentagon said on Sunday. "The strike near Amerli damaged an ISIL tank and the strike near Mosul Dam destroyed an ISIL armed vehicle. All aircraft exited the strike area safely," a US Defense Department statement said, referring to the IS forces also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). "The strikes were conducted under authority to protect US personnel and facilities, support humanitarian efforts, and support Iraqi forces that are acting in furtherance of these objectives," added the statement put out by US Central Command, based in Tampa, Florida.

'Hundreds' of Americans linked to IS: lawmaker

Several hundred US citizens may have had contact with Islamic State jihadists in Syria, the chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee said Sunday. Republican lawmaker Mike Rogers, a former FBI agent, told "Fox News Sunday" he was concerned about efforts to keep track of Americans who had links to the group. The US State Department has previously estimated that more than 100 US citizens had traveled to Syria to join radical groups such as the Islamic State. He also raised concerns about the estimated 500 British citizens and "several hundred" Canadians believed to have traveled to Syria, noting that passport holders from those countries could both enter the United States without a visa.

Putin seeks 'statehood' talks on east Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday raised the stakes in the Ukraine conflict by calling for the first time for statehood to be discussed for the restive east of the former Soviet state. The remarks came just hours after the European Union gave Moscow -- which the bloc accuses of direct involvement in the insurgency -- a week to change course or face new sanctions. "We need to immediately begin substantive talks... on questions of the political organisation of society and statehood in southeastern Ukraine," the Russian leader was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying. Moscow has previously only called for "federalisation" that would grant greater rights to the eastern regions of Ukraine, where predominantly Russian-speakers live.

As Ukrainian troops retreat, separatists celebrate new offensive

The town of Komsomolske, to the south east of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, has seen two rulers in the last three days. By Sunday, it had fallen to the rebels, like many other towns in the region after the separatists launched a lightning offensive. The rebel stronghold of Donetsk, just north of Komsomolske, was encircled by Ukrainian forces for a month, but now rebels are lifting away the last roadblocks from the south east of the city.

Libyan armed faction takes over U.S. Embassy annex in Tripoli

By Mark Hosenball and Matt Spetalnick WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Members of a Libyan militia have taken over an abandoned annex of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli but have not broken into the main compound where the United States evacuated all of its staff last month, U.S. A YouTube video showed the breach of the diplomatic facility by what was believed to be a militia group mostly from the northwestern city of Misrata. Libya has been rocked by the worst factional violence since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi, and a Misrata-led alliance, part of it which is Islamist-leaning, now controls the capital.

US embassy in Tripoli safe, not ransacked: ambassador

The US Embassy in Tripoli is being safeguarded and has not been ransacked after Islamist militias moved into an annex of the complex, America's ambassador to Libya said Sunday. US Ambassador Deborah Jones said on Twitter that there was no indication the complex, which has been mothballed since staff were evacuated last month, had been damaged.

Syria's Assad swears in government, urges reconstruction

Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad swore in his new government on Sunday, saying security and reconstruction would be top priorities and urging ministers to tackle corruption. The new government, appointed earlier this week after Assad's June re-election, takes office as the death toll in the country's conflict since March 2011 soars past 191,000. Assad urged the new government to "provide a new vision," state news agency SANA reported, and to avoid the "negatives of the previous stage." He said the government's success would depend on "earning the trust of citizens through transparency and credibility," SANA said.

Thousands flee Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria for Cameroon

Yaoundé (AFP) - Sustained Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria's far northeast have forced thousands of people from their homes, swamping towns in the north of neighbouring Cameroon, authorities said on Sunday. "We've been flooded here in Mora by Cameroonians and Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram," a police officer in the northern town told AFP on condition of anonymity. The number of internally displaced people in Nigeria and those who have crossed its borders into Cameroon, Niger and Chad because of the militant violence has been increasing, with no end sight to the insurgency. The United Nations' humanitarian office (OCHA) said on August 5 that Boko Haram attacks have forced nearly 650,000 people from their homes in the northeast states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.

Obama faces bipartisan criticism over his foreign policy

By Andrea Shalal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama faced criticism over his foreign policy from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Sunday as he wrestled with crises in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Ukraine. Republican lawmakers seized on Obama's comment on Thursday when he said, "We don't have a strategy yet" for confronting the Islamic State militant group, saying it suggested indecisiveness. On Sunday, influential Democrats chimed in with their own critiques of Obama's foreign policy, chiding him for being "too cautious" on Syria, and urging him to do more to help Ukraine resist Russian advances.

Top US senator urges weapons for Ukraine to fight 'invasion'

The head of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee called Sunday for supplying Ukraine with weapons to fight what he called a "direct invasion" of the country by Russia. "We should provide the Ukrainians with the type of defensive weapons that will impose a cost upon (Russian President Vladimir) Putin for further aggression," Robert Menendez told CNN's "State of the Union" talk show.

'Recruiter' for Syrian jihad arrested in France

A 22-year-old man suspected of acting as a recruiter for jihadist groups in Syria has been arrested at an airport in the south of France, the interior ministry said Sunday. The man, who is said to be of Chechen origin, was stopped at the Nice airport on Saturday and taken into custody. He is suspected of having paid in cash for a 16-year-old girl to fly to Turkey with the intention of then crossing the border to Syria, a statement by Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said. Unconvinced by the girl's explanation that she was planning on visiting her grandmother in Istanbul, Turkish Airlines contacted French border police, who then called the security services.

Mozambique rivals to meet to cement ceasefire

Mozambique President Armando Guebuza and his rival Afonso Dhlakama will meet face-to-face this week to cement a peace deal aimed at ending two years of hostilities and clear the way for elections. Dhlakama, head of the main opposition and revived rebel group Renamo, has agreed to come out of hiding from the central Gorongosa mountains to campaign in upcoming polls, according to the Italian embassy, which is acting as a mediator. The announcement came on the opening day of parliamentary and presidential election campaigning, and just a few days after negotiators from Renamo and the Frelimo-led government signed a peace deal. "Dhlakama showed his availability to return to Maputo on Thursday to ratify the agreements reached with the President of the Republic Armando Guebuza and start his election campaign," the Italian embassy said in a statement.

U.S., foreign fighters in Syria pose 'very serious threat' to U.S.: lawmaker

Hundreds of U.S., British and Canadian citizens who have trained with Islamic State fighters trying to carve out their own state in Iraq and Syria pose a "very serious threat" to the United States, a top Republican lawmaker said Sunday. Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, urged the Obama administration to aggressively prosecute U.S. He said an attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels in May had shown a new push by extremist groups to carry out attacks on Western targets, and growing efforts to recruit backers on social media. "I'm very concerned because we don't know every single person who has gone and trained and learned how to fight," Rogers told "Fox News Sunday." The United States carried out three air strikes on Saturday against Islamic State fighters near the besieged Shi'ite town of Amerli in northern Iraq and airdropped more than hundred additional bundles of humanitarian aid to civilians trapped there, the Pentagon said.

42 children killed in string of Syria attacks: NGO

At least 42 children have been killed in government air strikes and shelling across Syria in the last 36 hours, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said Sunday. The Britain-based Observatory said 25 children had been killed between midnight on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, with 17 more killed between Friday and Saturday night. The deaths came in regime shelling and air strikes across the country, though most took place in the northern province of Aleppo and northwestern Idlib, Observatory director Rami Abdul Rahman said. Among the dead on Sunday were at least five children killed along with five adults in a barrel bomb attack on the town of Hobait in Idlib province, said the monitor.

21 dead as Shiites battle pro-government forces: Yemen tribes

At least 21 people were killed in weekend clashes between Shiite rebels and pro-government tribesmen in the north of Yemen, tribal sources said Sunday. The fighting comes as the Zaidi Shiite rebels, also known as Huthis or Ansarullah, have been pressing for the government to step down and its fuel price hikes to be scrapped. The clashes have rocked the Majzar region straddling the northern province of Al-Jawf and Marib, southeast of Sanaa, since Friday night, the tribal sources said. The pro-government tribes are trying to "stop the rebels from advancing on Sanaa," a tribal chief told AFP.

Regional powers to hold Lesotho crisis meeting

Regional ministers were set to told talks to resolve the political crisis gripping Lesotho on Sunday, as the country's fugitive prime minster remained in South Africa after an apparent coup. Top diplomats from the Southern African Development Community were set to meet in Pretoria, the South African government said, as it remained unclear who was in control of the small mountain kingdom. Prime Minister Tom Thabane was forced to flee across the border to South Africa after what he has labelled a "military coup" on Saturday -- a charge the armed forces deny. "This is a meeting called by South Africa... to discuss the latest developments in Lesotho," foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela told AFP.

13 killed in bomb attacks on Iraq forces in Ramadi

Two suicide bombers detonated explosives-rigged vehicles near positions of security forces in the city of Ramadi on Sunday, killing 13 people and wounding 17, Iraqi police and a doctor said. One blast hit an under-construction building manned by Iraqi special forces in the city west of Baghdad, while the second struck a joint special forces-police checkpoint, the sources said. Iraqi forces have struggled to regain control of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, from militants who have held shifting areas of the city since early this year. Fallujah, a city east of Ramadi, has been completely out of government hands since January, while militants also seized other parts of Anbar during a sweeping jihadist-led offensive launched in June, when they overran chunks of five provinces.

Libyan Islamist militiamen move in to US embassy

Islamist militiamen have moved in to the American embassy compound in the Libyan capital after it was evacuated last month, an AFP photographer said on Sunday. Members of the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) group said they had gone in to secure the complex of several villas in southern Tripoli to prevent it from being looted. Washington evacuated its embassy staff on July 27, with Secretary of State John Kerry warning the mission had faced a "real risk" from fierce fighting between armed groups for control of Tripoli's international airport. Fajr Libya won the battle for the airport, seizing it on August 23 from nationalist fighters from Zintan, southwest of Tripoli, who had held it since the overthrow of long-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

Bahrain jails photojournalist, detains rights activist

Sunni-ruled Bahrain upheld a 10-year jail term for a photojournalist on Sunday and detained a human rights activist, as it presses a crackdown on Shiites over a 2011 uprising. Bahrain's appeals court decided Sunday to uphold a jail term handed down to award-winning photojournalist Ahmed Humaidan despite appeals by rights group for his release. "Throwing photographers in jail isn't going to keep either the protests or the accounts of what happens in Bahrain out of the world's sight," Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch said in June. Authorities, meanwhile, have arrested Maryam al-Khawaja after she flew into Bahrain to visit her jailed father, leading activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, his lawyer said.

Catalan anti-independence enclave clings to Spain

Red and yellow Spanish flags fly proudly in the town of Badalona as thousands flock to watch the national basketball team play. Separatist urges may have surged here in the northeastern Catalonia region, where leaders are vowing a vote on independence, but this is one corner that clings to Spain. "I feel proud to be Spanish and proud to be Catalan," said Javier Vargas, a 41-year-old engineer. The mood in Badalona stands in contrast to many nearby towns where the striped Catalan flag prevails, hung by those who want Catalonia to break away from the rest of the country.