Syria map

A map of Syria from world factbook

On to Raqaa

The fighting to retake ISIS’ de-facto capital has begun. “A second front against Islamic State militants has been announced, with US-backed Kurdish and Arab forces in Syria declaring that they have begun an operation to recapture the Syrian city of Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital. Defence analysts say the attack ratchets up pressure on the militant group at a critical moment, with its fighters already battling an offensive in their Iraqi stronghold of Mosul. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance of Kurdish, Arab and Christian forces said it had set up a command centre to coordinate with the US-led coalition in the operation, code-named Euphrates Rage. In a press conference in the Syrian town of Ain Issa, a town about 60 kilometres northwest of Raqqa, an official read a statement saying 30,000 fighters would take part, and the US would provide air cover. Residents were urged to vacate the city and avoid areas where the militants were present so as to avoid harm.” (NPR

UN investigating US Bombing in Afghanistan…The United Nations said it was investigating an incident in which more than 30 civilians were killed in U.S. air strikes called in support of a special forces raid on suspected Taliban militants in northern Afghanistan on Thursday. The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said at least 32 people had been killed and 19 wounded in the strikes in Buz Kandahari near Kunduz, the vast majority women and children. The deaths add to a growing civilian casualty total in Afghanistan, where 95 have been killed and 111 injured in the past week alone, according to U.N. figures. (Reuters


A UN peacekeeper from Togo was killed and two civilians seriously wounded Sunday when a mine exploded as a military convoy passed through central Mali. (AFP

Police in Guinea-Bissau’s capital used tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters demanding fresh elections on Saturday as a regional mission pushed for the implementation of a deal to end a year-long political crisis. (Reuters

South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will be charged this year over a surveillance unit at the tax agency he once ran, the City Press reported on Sunday, six days after separate charges were dropped against him. (Reuters

A week-old ceasefire between the forces of two semi-autonomous regions of Somalia broke down on Sunday as fighting over a disputed border area erupted again, killing at least 20 people, army officials on both sides said. (Reuters

A U.S. citizen who believes his computer was hacked by the Ethiopian government is appealing for the right to have his case against a foreign government heard in a higher U.S. court. (VOA


Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) fighters have claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings that have killed at least 21 people and wounded dozens in two cities in northern Iraq. (Al Jazeera

A former Marine detained in Yemen for more than a year was released Sunday after diplomatic negotiations, senior American officials said. (NYT

Libyan pro-government forces fighting the Islamic State group in Sirte evacuated 14 civilians from a battleground district of the city, they said on Sunday. (AFP

Libya’s coastguard said it rescued 115 migrants on Sunday who had been aboard a rubber boat that broke down off Tripoli, and that one migrant had drowned. (AFP

President Bashar al-Assad claimed Western powers are “becoming much weaker” in Syria, in a confident interview published in The Sunday Times. (AFP

Lebanon’s newly elected President Michel Aoun has vowed to uproot corruption and strive for nation-building in the deeply divided country. (AP


Hong Kong police fired pepper spray and protesters threw bottles and road cones in clashes near China’s representative office on Sunday night where activists had gathered to demonstrate against Beijing’s attempts to stop a fledgling independence movement. (Reuters

Unknown gunmen kidnapped a female Australian employee of a non-governmental organization in the Afghan capital, Kabul, Afghan police said Sunday. (AP

Officials in the Indian capital shut down schools, halted construction activity and closed a coal-fired power plant temporarily as alarm bells were sounded about the deadly haze of air pollution that has shrouded the city this past week. (VOA

South Korean prosecutors arrested two former top presidential aides Sunday in a snowballing influence-peddling scandal which has seen tens of thousands of people take to the streets to demand President Park Geun-Hye resign. (AFP

A Pakistani provincial minister says his administration should intervene with the central government to prevent a world-famous Afghan refugee from being deported. (VOA

Police in Bangladesh have arrested dozens of people following fresh violence against Hindus, a senior officer said on Sunday, after a spate of attacks prompted concerns the authorities were not doing enough to protect the country’s biggest minority. (Reuters

Two Indonesians were kidnapped from fishing vessels in waters off Malaysia’s Sabah state in two separate incidents on Saturday, Indonesia’s foreign minister said, the latest in a string of abductions in the region. (Reuters

The Americas

If upcoming Vatican-backed talks between Venezuela’s bitterly antagonistic government and opposition fail, the result could well be “bloodshed,” a papal envoy warned Saturday. (AFP

…and the rest

More than 2,200 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean on Saturday as they tried to reach Europe and 10 bodies were recovered, Italy’s coast guard said in a statement. (Reuters

The German Interior Ministry wants to stop migrants ever reaching Europe’s Mediterranean coast by picking them up at sea and returning them to Africa, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday. (Reuters

Kosovo police say an opposition party member in detention has died under still unclear circumstances. (AP

Efforts to build a new global deal to tackle climate change were for many years criticized for moving at glacial pace. But this week climate negotiators meeting in Morocco find themselves facing an entirely new problem: a deal that, astonishingly, has come into effect more than three years ahead of schedule. (Reuters


Fred Bauma: On the front lines of Congo’s fight for democracy (Humanosphere Podcast

Liberia is Currently Under an Unprecedented Cyber Attack. This is how much it costs countries–rich and poor—when their Internet is down (UN Dispatch

Cholera 101: Why An Ancient Disease Keeps On Haunting Us (NPR Goats and Soda

Every tobacco death is an avoidable tragedy. The epidemic must stop here (Guardian

Five facts on the jihadist-held Syrian city of Raqa (AFP

The Perils of Writing about Toilets in India (IPS

Challenging gender inequality: in conversation with UN Women Asia and the Pacific (DevPolicy

Egypt’s All-Woman Roller Derby Team Is Skating Past Stereotypes (NPR Goats and Soda

Learning how to ‘get stuff done’ — skills for a humanitarian career (Devex

Editor’s take: Can UN peacekeeping be fixed? (IRIN

Why the way we vote matters for fighting poverty (Global Dashboard

Do unskilled migrants push down living standards in the OECD? (DevPolicy