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war

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Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

As the brutal civil war in Syria grinds on in its fifth year, it's clear that civilians have borne the brunt of the tragedy. 

Syrian and Russian armed forces are regularly criticized for bombing civilians in rebel-held areas.

That's well documented in media reports. 

But people like Michael Beshara, a Syrian American who lives in upstate New York, argue that the Western media's portrayal of the war in Syria glosses over the human tragedy in government-controlled areas.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published on Sept. 27, 2016, and is being republished with minor updates following the death of Cuba's Fidel Castro.

How's this for historical coincidence: Fidel Castro and his rag-tag fighters assembled in Mexico, navigated an overcrowded boat to Cuba, and unleashed a 1956 insurgency that spawned countless imitators in the decades that followed. On Thursday, Colombia and the FARC rebels signed a deal to end the last major leftist uprising in Latin America — one day before Castro died.

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Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

Even by the grim standards of Syria’s five-year-old civil war, the news from Aleppo has been particularly shocking in recent days. 

Syrian military forces and their Russian allies appear to be trying to wipe out whatever remains of the opposition in the northern city with an intense bombing campaign. 

Warplanes were pounding rebel-held areas of Aleppo hours after Syria's government launched a new offensive amid the collapse of a cease-fire earlier this week — and internationally renowned rescue volunteers say their centers are being targeted by the airstrikes.

The regime announced the offensive on state media Thursday. "A Syrian military official said airstrikes and shelling in Aleppo might continue for an extended period and the operation will expand into a ground invasion of rebel-held districts," The Associated Press reported, quoting Syrian state media.

A Syrian cease-fire went into effect at sundown on Monday, at approximately 11:45 a.m. EDT.

Just hours before the start of the planned cease-fire, Syrian President Bashar Assad announced on state media that he plans to "reclaim every area from the terrorists," The Associated Press reports. Assad's government had earlier indicated it would abide by the negotiated truce.

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Sara K. Schwittek JDP/Reuters

Most people over a certain age remember where they were on Sept. 11, 2001, and have a story about that day. Fifteen years later, it's practically a cliche to call Sept. 11 a day when everything changed. But for the thousands of men and women who decided to join the US military after the attack, it really did change everything.

We reached out to our online community of veterans to hear their reflections on 9/11, why they joined up, and what's happened since.

Here's what they had to say. Their responses have been edited for clarity.

Author Lawrence Wright was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, which meant he was required to do two years of what was called "alternative service." He ended up in Egypt, teaching at the American University in Cairo. And it was there that the man from Texas started his obsession with the Middle East.

Since then, Wright has written a lot about the region and about terrorism as a staff writer for The New Yorker. Now, he has compiled his many New Yorker essays into a new book called The Terror Years: From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Surrounded by shouting, he's completely silent.

The child is small, alone, covered in blood and dust, dropped in the back of an ambulance with his feet dangling off the edge of a too-big chair.

He doesn't cry or speak. His face is stunned and dazed, but not surprised. He wipes his hand over his wounded face, looks at the blood, wipes it off on the chair.

Success on the battlefield against the Islamic State won't translate into an immediate reduction in the threat from attacks in the West, the top U.S. counterterrorism leader tells NPR.

Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said the tactical gains the U.S. military and its partners are making in Iraq and Syria are a "necessary" part of quashing the danger it poses — but not "sufficient."

"We do need that success — but there'll be a lag in the benefits we accrue," he said.

The White House has declassified its procedures for approving operations against terror suspects outside of the United States, providing a window into the decision-making process for authorizing drone strikes and other forms of lethal force.

The redacted document, issued by the administration in May 2013, was released in response to a court order resulting from an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit.

During the decade before the U.S. Civil War, a different conflict made a big impact on the future of the Oregon Territory. It's known as the Rogue River Indian War. But unlike the Civil War battlefields in the eastern U.S. or American South that receive hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, you’ll be hard pressed to tour -- or even find -- those battlefields.

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Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

Bombs are raining down from the sky every day in Aleppo. 

When residents hear the buzz of planes overhead, most dash for cover.

But a group of volunteers, known as the "White Helmets," continue to rush toward the destruction. And these days it seems their work just doesn't stop. 

"The last few days were like hell," says 29-year-old White Helmet Ishmael Alabdullah. "We don't have any electricity in Aleppo city, the darkness is everywhere ... All that we have now is just bombing, bombing, bombing." 

At These Museums, Tragedy Is A History Lesson

Aug 3, 2016

Last week, NPR Ed rounded up our favorite children's museums — places dedicated to letting kids learn in kid-friendly exhibits. That got us thinking about a different kind of museum: the ones that teach about the toughest episodes of history. How do you explain what happened during the Sept. 11 attacks to a child? What about the Holocaust, or the Oklahoma City bombing? We asked leaders from three memorial museums around the U.S.

The Afghan army commander said the treacherous road to Marjah, in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand, was now safe. His forces had driven out the Taliban a few days earlier, he added.

"The road is open, so no problem," said Lt. Gen. Moeen Faqir. "Of course I hope you go there and find the reality and reflect it."

Did war change Guatemala's faith?

Jun 30, 2016
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Amy Bracken

It’s been 20 years since the official end of Guatemala’s civil war.

The 36-year conflict is generally seen as a military versus guerrilla struggle for power and land, and also a front in the Cold War. But many of the estimated 200,000 people killed were civilians, and massacres of mostly indigenous people led to widespread charges of genocide.

Miguel de León Ceto was born in Nebaj, a town in the hard-hit Maya Ixil highlands, but his family fled to Mexico when he was a baby. When he finally came back, he was a teenager, and there was something that particularly puzzled him.

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday that the U.S. and its allies are making progress on the battlefield against the Islamic State.

But then John Brennan dropped a major caveat.

Soldiers place their hats on rack just inside the mess hall doors before eating breakfast in the controlled monitoring area at JBLM.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Jeannie Yandel speaks with Sebastian Junger, author of the new book "TRIBE: On Homecoming and Belonging," about why soldiers long for war and what civilians are missing out on.

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Aliou Mbaye

The former ruler of Chad, Hissène Habré, has been found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison in a landmark trial.

The verdict was handed down Monday by an African Union-backed court in Senegal.

"It's the first time anywhere in the world, not just in Africa, that the courts of one country have prosecuted the leader of another for human rights crimes,” said Reed Brody, a lawyer from Human Rights Watch.

Brody, who has been working with the victims of Habré's regime for over 17 years, described the mood after the verdict as jubilant.

As the U.S. Army Air Corps prepared to unleash the world's first attack by an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, Japanese schoolgirl Kikue Takagi, age 12, woke up feeling sick and stayed home that day.

Her classmates were sent to Hiroshima's city center to clean up debris, doing their part in the war effort as Japan struggled to hold off the rapidly approaching U.S. military. Those students were near ground zero when the American bomb obliterated the city.

At home on the outskirts of Hiroshima, Takagi was spared.

Renewed controversy over heavy American military presence on the Japanese island of Okinawa swirled as President Obama arrived in Japan for the G7 summit. Just a week earlier, a former U.S. Marine allegedly raped and killed a local Okinawa woman, triggering protests on the island.

Updated 1:50 a.m. ET Monday:

President Obama, in Vietnam on Monday as part of a 10-day trip to Asia, confirmed the killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour. He calling Mansour's death a milestone in U.S. efforts "to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan."

In a statement, the president said in part:

Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has likely been killed by a drone strike authorized by President Obama, the Associated Press reports.

According to the Associated Press, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said the attack occurred in a remote region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

"He said the U.S. was studying the results of the attack, leaving Mansour's fate unclear," the AP says.

A second male combatant accompanying Mansour in a vehicle is also likely to have been killed.

Crucifixions, executions, food shortages, forced prayer: These are features of life in the ISIS stronghold of Sirte, Libya, according to a new Human Rights Watch report.

For decades, the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders has been known for going places many other aid groups won't. But several times over the past two years its facilities have been hit by airstrikes in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. And now the group must adapt to a more threatening world.

Airstrikes in Syria's largest city killed more than a dozen people at a well-known hospital, says aid group Doctors Without Borders, adding that the violence claimed one of the last pediatricians working in Aleppo.

"We are outraged at the destruction of Al Quds hospital," the group said in a tweet Thursday, saying that the facility included an intensive care unit and an emergency room.

A friend of the pediatrician who died told NPR's Alice Fordham via Skype that Mohammed Wassim Moaz was "very kind" and that the children in Aleppo "love him very much."

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Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Saudi Arabia's fighter jets are American.

So are its tanks.

And even though the kingdom is reliant on tens of billions of dollars in US weaponry, Washington hasn't been able to use its clout to rein in the kingdom's brutal air campaign in neighboring Yemen. 

That's according to Reuters investigative reporter David Rohde. He's written a new piece about Washington's backing of the Saudi armed forces, co-authored with Angus McDowall and Phil Stewart.

A few months ago, the U.S. military gave Zabihullah Niazi $3,000. He lost his left eye and left arm when an American AC-130 gunship repeatedly fired shells into the hospital in which he worked in northern Afghanistan.

The money was what officials term a "condolence payment," an expression of sympathy and sorrow for injuring Niazi when the U.S. military mistakenly hit the Kunduz hospital, killing 42 people.

The suicide bombing that struck Kabul on Tuesday killed at least 64 people, Afghan officials have announced — more than double the number of deaths initially announced by police.

The blast, for which the Taliban claimed responsibility, struck Afghanistan's capital city around 9 a.m. local time, during the morning rush hour. Hundreds of people were wounded.

It was the deadliest single such incident in Kabul since 2011, Reuters reports. The wire service says that according to Afghanistan's interior ministry, most of the victims were civilians.

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Courtesy of Reprieve.

Malik Jalal doesn't sleep in the same house as his family any more. He sleeps in the open, at a distance from his wife and children.

A leader of his community in northern Waziristan, Jalal thinks he is on a US drone kill list — and could be slain at any moment.

But that's not his worst fear.

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