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Thursday, Jul 31st

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Sunni militants capture northern Iraqi town

Sunni militantsSunni militants captured the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar early on Monday, its mayor and residents said, the latest blow to the nation's Shiite-led government a week after it lost a vast swath of territory in the country's north.

The town, with a population of some 200,000 people, mostly ethnic Shiite and Sunni Turkomen, was taken just before dawn, Mayor Abdulal Abdoul told The Associated Press.

The ethnic mix of Tal Afar, 420 kilometers (260 miles) northwest of Baghdad, raises the grim specter of large-scale atrocities by Sunni militants of the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, who already claim to have killed hundreds of Shiites in areas they captured last week.

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U.S. evacuates embassy as bombs, fighting rock Iraq

US Embassy in IraqThe United States said Sunday it was evacuating some staff from its embassy and beefing up security as deadly explosions rocked the Iraqi capital and advancing militant Islamic insurgents released graphic images appearing to show its fighters massacring captured Iraqi soldiers.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that an undisclosed number of staffers will be moved to Amman, Jordan or U.S. consulates elsewhere in Iraq not immediately threatened by the insurgent group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

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Israeli raids target Hamas members as Netanyahu accuses group of kidnapping

Israeli raids target HamasIsraeli troops have arrested some 80 Palestinians, including dozens of members of Hamas, in a raid in the West Bank as the prime minister accused the Islamic militant group of kidnapping three teenagers who went missing nearly three days ago.

The crisis escalated already heightened tensions between Israel and the new Palestinian government, which is headed by President Mahmoud Abbas but backed by Hamas.

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Pakistan air strikes in North Waziristan 'kill 80 militants'

Pakistani air strikesPakistani fighter jets have carried out raids on suspected militant hideouts in the tribal North Waziristan region in response to an audacious attack on the country's busiest airport a week ago.

Nearly 80 militants, mainly ethnic Uzbek fighters, were killed in the air assault on Sunday in the region bordering Afghanistan, where some of Pakistan's most feared militants and al-Qaida commanders are based, intelligence sources said.

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Insurgent advance slows in Iraq as images of mass killing spread online

Iraq civil warAn offensive by insurgents that threatens to dismember Iraq seemed to slow on Saturday after days of lightning advances as government forces regained some territory in counter-attacks, easing pressure on the Shia-led government in Baghdad.

As Iraqi officials spoke of wresting back the initiative against Sunni militants, the Islamic militant group that seized much of northern Iraq has posted photos that appear to show its fighters shooting dead dozens of captured Iraqi soldiers.

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Petition with 150,000 signatures calls on France to grant Snowden asylum

Edward SnowdenA petition has gathered more than 150,000 signatures as of Friday urging President Francois Hollande to grant whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum in France after his asylum status in Russia expires in July.

“We intellectuals, philosophers, researchers, essayists, journalists, and above all engaged citizens ask Francois Hollande … to welcome [Snowden], without delay, as a political refugee in France, the country of human rights and freedom of the press,” said the petition, which was published in French news magazine L’Express on June 3.

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U.S. Relocates Carrier as Iraq Sectarian Battle Lines Harden

US relocates carrier to GulfThe U.S. ordered an aircraft carrier to head into the Persian Gulf as President Barack Obama weighs options on how to aid Iraq’s Shiite-led government in its fight against Sunni militants threatening to re-ignite sectarian conflict in OPEC’s second-largest oil producer.

The Pentagon in dispatching today the USS George H.W. Bush, which has been in the North Arabian Sea, said its new location “will provide the commander-in-chief additional flexibility should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq.”

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