The extremist Islamist group ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, shocked the world this week by conquering the northern city of Mosul, one of Iraq's largest cities and home to some 2 million people.
ISIS is also a key player in the Syrian civil war, fighting both the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and more moderate rebel forces.
The group is made of Syrian, Iraqi and foreign fighters who slide back and forth between the two countries for attacks on opponents or to take safe haven in the territory they control. Mosul is by far their biggest conquest yet.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
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And I'm Audie Cornish. Iraq seems to be breaking apart at the seams. Sunni extremists have taken more territory as government troops abandon their posts. Today, President Obama said Iraq needs help to counter the extremist group known as ISIS - Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
We now return to NPR's Michele Kelemen on how the White House is weighing its options in aiding Iraq and its Confrontation with ISIS extremist and finding limited options.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: For those experts who argued that the U.S. should have tried harder to reach an agreement with Iraq to leave some troops there rather than pull out completely in 2011 this is their nightmare scenario. Retired Army officer Rick Brennan did a study for the RAND Corporation that showed that Iraqi security forces just weren't ready.
U.S. relations with Russia are at their lowest point since the Cold War thanks to the crisis in Ukraine. Russian defense officials are talking about a new doctrine of subversive warfare between major world powers. They accuse the West of using popular uprisings to topple unfriendly governments. And some analysts say Moscow itself is employing that strategy in eastern Ukraine. More from NPR's Corey Flintoff.
I'm not sure that cities like Miami and Rio de Janeiro truly appreciate the sun. They clearly enjoy the sun, what with their beach volleyball games and their fruity cocktails. But to really appreciate the sun, I think you have to live in a place that gets dark by 4 p.m. in the winter. A place where a typical summer day involves drizzle. A place, in short, like London.
U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio after a flight from Ramstein Air Base in Germany, according to a Pentagon spokesman. He will receive medical treatment and will be reunited with his family.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
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And I'm Audie Cornish. In Iraq, swaths of the country of fallen to Islamist militants. They took the largest city of Mosul earlier this week. Now they're heading south. Today there are reports the militants have taken the city of Tikrit, an hour's drive from the capital, Baghdad. NPR's Alice Fordham has the latest.
Days after some 100,000 people marched in Hong Kong to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, China has issued a policy paper making it clear that the former British colony's autonomy only goes so far.
The release of the 14,500-word "white paper" sparked protests on Wednesday in the territory, which has been known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, or HKSAR, since it reverted to Beijing in 1997.
In capital cities across Europe, taxi drivers took to the streets without passengers Wednesday afternoon. They slowed to a snail's pace in what Parisians called "Operation Escargot." Horns blared around Trafalgar Square in London. In Berlin, taxis massed at the Central Station. All to protest the smartphone app Uber.
"We've opened Frankfurt last week, we've opened Lille in France, which is our third city this week. We opened Barcelona a couple weeks ago, and there's many more cities to go," Uber's Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty says.
As refugees stream out of Mosul after the Iraqi city was captured by forces of the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, NPR's Deborah Amos passes along reports that Tikrit, the hometown of the late dictator Saddam Hussein, has also been overrun.
The Associated Press says "soldiers and security forces [in Tikrit have] abandoned their posts and yielded ground once controlled by U.S. forces."
With the 20th FIFA World Cup men's soccer tournament opening this week in Brazil, it's hard to imagine a time when the world's eyes weren't fixed, every fourth summer, on which nation would be next to hoist the famous gold trophy. But from 1938 until 1950, the young event took a 12-year hiatus due to World War II, and it may have been permanently sidelined were it not for a couple of key assists — including one from this year's host nation.
There are dramatic developments in Iraq where an extremist group, that's taken over large parts of Syria, has stormed into the major Iraqi city of Mosul. Leaders there are saying that this Al Qaeda offshoot, which is called the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria, may even be pushing south in the direction of Baghdad. NPR's Alice Fordham joins us now from northern Iraq for more. And tell us, what exactly the situation is there, in Mosul.