In West Africa, the push to prevent militant Islamists from expanding beyond their base in northern Mali is shifting into a ground war. French and Malian troops are now directly engaging al-Qaida linked rebels in combat. They've surrounded a desert village that jihadists overran when they began pushing south toward Mali's capital. This escalates the battle that began last week, when France sent in fighter jets to attack the rebels.
In southern Algeria, Islamist militants are holding scores of Western hostages who were kidnapped from an oil refinery. The militants say the kidnappings are in retaliation for French intervention in the Mali crisis.
In Syria, the staple of most meals is a thin, round, flat bread that we would probably call pita.
Back in November, as fierce fighting raged across Syria, people started to run out of this bread. Government forces were attacking bakeries in rebel-held areas and cutting off electricity so mills couldn't grind flour. By late last year, Syrians were desperate.
Investigators are trying to figure out why a helicopter crashed in Central London today. Two people were killed including the pilot. Yet the death toll could have been much, much worse. As NPR's Philip Reeves reports, the aircraft came down in the heart of the British capital during rush hour.
ROBERT SIEGEL: The head of the United Nations has harsh words for whoever carried out an attack on Syrian University students, as they were taking exams. Two explosions at the university in Aleppo killed more than 80 people yesterday and injured some 200. Today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said such heinous attacks are unacceptable. And he added that deliberate targeting of civilians constitutes a war crime. But who carried out that attack is very much in question.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
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In Afghanistan today, Taliban militants staged a brazen attack in the heart of Kabul. Their target was the headquarters of the National Directorate of Security or NDS - it's Afghanistan's equivalent of the FBI.
As NPR's Sean Carberry reports, the attack began with a suicide bombing, then five militants tried to storm the compound.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
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Algerian Islamists attacked an oil and gas field at dawn this morning in the desert on the border with Libya. They claim to have taken nearly 200 people hostage. In addition to Algerians, they claim to hold seven Americans, as well as French, British and Japanese citizens.
NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris reports the hostage-taking appears to be the first act of retaliation for France's actions in Mali.
Two high-profile cabinet nominations go before the Senate soon. Senator John Kerry is expected to face little opposition to become the next secretary of state. Former Senator Chuck Hagel may have more problems. But as mentioned earlier, his nomination as secretary of defense is also expected to win approval.
As President Obama prepares to start another term next week, Morning Edition has asked NPR's international correspondents to gauge worldwide expectations for the president's next four years. We begin in Mexico, where Mexicans hope to change the conversation between the two countries from drugs and violence to economics and prosperity.
Originally published on Wed January 16, 2013 4:27 am
As the Middle East faces one of its harshest winters in decades, Syrian refugees are facing a humanitarian disaster. In the Zaatari refugee camp on the Jordanian border, heavy snow and rain flooded hundreds of tents last week.
We are also following a story in Japan that strikes a blow at one of the world's great aircraft makers. Japan has grounded its entire fleet of 787 Dreamliners. This move came after an electrical problem forced an All Nippon Airlines 787 to make an emergency landing. Here's NPR's Wendy Kaufman.
The situation for Syrian refugees is getting dire. Much has been reported about the worsening conditions for hundreds of thousands of Syrians taking up shelter just outside the country's borders, but inside Syria, the numbers are even higher. The United Nations says some 2 million people have been displaced from their homes in Syria, and most of them end up squatting in mosques and schools. NPR's Kelly McEvers spent a night in one of those schools, in Syria's largest city, Aleppo, and sent this report.
The French defense minister says France is preparing for a possible land assault in Mali, so it plans to increase its troop levels to 2,500. Back home in France, authorities are girding for possible terrorist attacks in response to their intervention. Eleanor Beardsley has that story from Paris.
The government of Turkey is vowing to push ahead with efforts to end its long-running conflict with Kurdish militants. That's despite the killings last week of three female Kurdish activists that were shot in Paris. The murders are seen as an effort to derail the peace talks before they gain traction.
As NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul, Turkey, Turkey has pushed for peace before. But many wonder if the lessons from past failures have been absorbed.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Celeste Headlee in Washington. The anxious eyes of world leaders are now focused on three areas. In Mali the French continue their airstrikes in the northern part of the country in hopes of stopping the advance of armed Islamist rebels. In Syria, the death toll rises, and the conflicts between the government and opposition enter what the International Rescue Committee calls a staggering humanitarian crisis.
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, if saving money is one of your new year's resolutions, then our next guest will probably interest you. He says saving is not just about what you buy, but when you buy. He's written a book called "Buy Shoes on Wednesday and Tweet at 4:00" - and we'll hear from him in just a few minutes.
The ancient city of Aleppo in northern Syria has been the scene of heavy fighting. Many homes that have survived have inscriptions above the doorways that note the owner has made the pilgrimage of Islam's holiest site, Mecca.
Credit Kelly McEvers / NPR
The black stone structure, or Kaaba, at the center of the Sacred Mosque in Mecca is often represented in the drawings.
Credit Kelly McEvers / NPR
A pilgrim's doorway in Aleppo.
Credit Kelly McEvers / NPR
Aleppo is Syria's largest city and dates back centuries.
Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 10:37 am
Aleppo's storied old city, which dates to the 12th century, has suffered much in the fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels over the past few months. But parts of the city remain intact, as I saw on a recent walk through the winding, stone alleys on the way to the front line.
Centuries ago, it took Muslims from this area months in a caravan to make the pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, which is now part of Saudi Arabia.
Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 5:07 am
France has intervened in the conflict in the West African nation of Mali, but why does that conflict affect the United States? Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has offered the most basic take on America's interest in Maili: al-Qida is there.
Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 4:43 am
After careening from back-to-back crises — recalls and the tsunami — Toyota is No. 1 in worldwide sales again. Toyota says it sold at least 9.7 million vehicles in 2012. General Motors reports it sold 9.3 million. Both companies say it doesn't really matter which one is in the top spot.
Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 5:03 am
The French military continues its bombing raids in Northern Mali, where extremists, including an al-Qaida affiliate, have taken over. The French have pummeled rebel positions from the air, backing up Mali's beleaguered army on the ground.
French President Francois Hollande talks about the situation in Mali on Saturday at the presidential palace in Paris. Backed by French air power, Malian troops Friday unleashed an offensive against Islamist rebels.
Credit Jerome Delay / AP
French troops gather in a hangar at Mali's Bamako airport. French forces led an all-night aerial bombing campaign against armed Islamist extremists Tuesday.
Credit Thibault Camus / AP
A boy holds a poster reading "Do not touch the civil marriage" during a demonstration in Paris on Sunday as thousands of protesters mobilized against the French president's plan to legalize gay marriage.
Since last weekend, France has been fighting Islamist radicals across Africa. In the west, it's sending troops to help overthrow rebels in its former colony, Mali; in the east, French special forces staged an unsuccessful but bold operation to free a French hostage in Somalia. While the fighting is far from over, French President Francois Hollande's show of force is producing some collateral benefits for him back home.
The U.S. is mulling over ways to help France, as the French military continues its bombing raids in Northern Mali. The State Department says it shares the French goal of restoring order in part of that African country which is now overrun by extremists, including an al-Qaida affiliate. But the U.S. has long argued that the solution needs to be African-led, so the Obama administration — while offering France some "limited logistical support" — is also trying to speed up efforts to train an African intervention force for Mali.