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Europe Ebola Warning, Kenyatta In Court, Typhoon Eye

Typhoon Vongfong is expected to hit Japan in the next 48 hours.
Typhoon Vongfong is expected to hit Japan in the next 48 hours.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

ISIS fighters have withdrawn from areas they had earlier seized in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani after a series of strikes from the U.S.-led coalition, Kurdish officials in the town have said, echoing previous a previous report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. But the battle for the city, which sits on the border with Turkey, continues. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned yesterday that Kobani was “about to fall,” amid criticism and frustration, including Washington’s, over inaction from Ankara.

The events unfolding in Kobani have led to violent protests from Kurdish minorities across Turkey, which left at least 14 people dead as the police tried to disperse demonstrators with tear gas and water cannons, AP reports. Similar protests also took place in Brussels and in the German cities of Hamburg and Celle, where Kurdish protesters clashed with armed pro-ISIS radicals.

West African countries, who also face a jihadist threat in Boko Haram, agreed yesterday to form a regional force that will start operating next month against the Nigeria-based group.

Fears over the Ebola virus are rising in Spain and more generally in Europe, with the World Health Organization warning that the Madrid nurse who mysteriously got infected with the virus was likely the beginning and that more cases were expected among health personnel in Europe and in the U.S.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived this morning in The Hague to appear in front of the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity, becoming thus the first serving head of state to come before the court, CNN reports. Kenyatta, who temporarily appointed his deputy as President before he left for the Netherlands, faces five charges over the ethnic massacres that followed the 2007 Presidential election in which more than 1,000 people were killed. He has repeatedly denied the accusations that he orchestrated the violence, calling the charges politically motivated. The ICC is expected to determine today whether his case can proceed to trial.


Japan is facing yet another natural disaster as Vongfong, a super typhoon believed to be the most intense storm this year is picking up speed and is expected to make landfall this weekend, AFP reports. According to a Japanese meteorologist, Vongfong is “very much similar” in strength to Haiyan, another typhoon that left nearly 8,000 people dead or missing when it hit the Philippines last year. Meanwhile, the death toll at Mount Ontake after a violent volcanic eruption a week-and-a-half ago now stands at 55, after rescuers found four more bodies.

Reporting from the Syria-Turkey border, Le Monde’s veteran war correspondent Remy Ourdan managed to speak to two former ISIS foot soldiers who recount how they’d fled the terror group after witnessing the arbitrary killing of Syrian civilians: “Maher then did something unimaginable: He shouted at his emir, a Saudi jihadist, Abu Hafs al-Jazrawi, who immediately ordered his arrest. The incident triggered a frenzied and bloody escape through the Syrian countryside. "The emir left me in a house with two guards. One had a stick to beat me up. I managed to get hold of it and I beat him until he passed out, then I beat the one standing outside the door." Maher ran through the deserted village until he reached the road, and while still in the ISIS black uniform, clambered into a civilian car with a Syrian family. Read the full article: These Two ISIS Foot Soldiers Fled In Horror - But One Wants To Return

A UN report on the human rights situation in Ukraine between mid-August and mid-September, due to be published today, shows that some armed groups and battalions under the control of Ukrainian army have violated international humanitarian law, Russian state news agency Ria Novosti reports. The 37-page document denounces the violation of “principles of military necessity, distinction, proportionality and precaution,” and in particular the “beatings, poor nutrition and lack of medical assistance” of people detained by the Ukrainian army during the months-long conflict that has killed more than 3,500 people in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin-backed agency notes however that the UN report doesn’t mention the several mass grave uncovered in government-controlled territories.

Two Americans scientists, Eric Betzig, William E. Moerner and Germany’s Stefan W Hell, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy,” a finding that “has brought optical microscopy into the nanodimension.”

In a expand=1] video uploaded to YouTube, two male kangaroos were spotted boxing it out in the streets of a suburban Australian neighborhood. Set to Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker suite, it's rather graceful.

— Crunched by Marc Alves

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

A Decisive Spring? How Ukraine Plans To Beat Back Putin's Coming Offensive

The next months will be decisive in the war between Moscow and Kyiv. From the forests of Polesia to Chernihiv and the Black Sea, Ukraine is looking to protect the areas that may soon be the theater of Moscow's announced offensive. Will this be the last Russian Spring?

Photo of three ​Ukrainian soldiers in trenches near Bakhmut, Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers in trenches near Bakhmut, Ukraine

Anna Akage

Ukrainian forces are digging new fortifications and preparing battle plans along the entire frontline as spring, and a probable new Russian advance, nears.

But this may be the last spring for occupying Russian forces.

"Spring and early summer will be decisive in the war. If the great Russian offensive planned for this time fails, it will be the downfall of Russia and Putin," said Vadym Skibitsky, the deputy head of Ukrainian military intelligence.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Skinitysky added that Ukraine believes Russia is planning a new offensive in the spring or early summer. The Institute for the Study of War thinks that such an offensive is more likely to come from the occupied territories of Luhansk and Donetsk than from Belarus, as some have feared.

Still, the possibility of an attack by Belarus should not be dismissed entirely — all the more so because, in recent weeks, a flurry of MiG fighter jet activity in Belarusian airspace has prompted a number of air raid alarms throughout Ukraine.

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