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Iraqi Forces Battle IS for Strategic Town

Iraqi forces battled the Islamic State group in the strategic town of Dawr on Friday as they pressed a major offensive aimed at retaking Tikrit from the jihadists, officials said.

The town lies along one of the main roads that Iraqi security forces and allied fighters are taking to reach the city of Tikrit, and needs to be captured for the anti-IS offensive to move forward.

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EU Borders Chief Fears a Million Migrants Headed from Libya

The head of the EU's borders agency fears as many as a million migrants could try to reach Europe this year from Libya alone.

"Sources tell us there are between 500,000 and one million migrants ready to leave Libya," Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri said in an interview with Italy's Ansa news agency that was published Friday.

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'Hell Awaits' Tajiks Fighting in Syria, Says Leader

Post-Soviet Tajikistan's authoritarian President Emomali Rakhmon said Friday that Tajiks fighting in the ranks of ISIS and other extremist organisations in Iraq and Syria would burn in hell.

Rakhmon, whose secular government is frequently accused of cracking down on religious believers, spoke in the capital Dushanbe ahead of International Women's Day on March 8, which Tajikistan renamed the Day of the Mother in 2009.

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Reporters Group Slams Morocco for Suppressing Media

Reporters Without Borders on Friday condemned the suppression of media freedoms in Morocco, saying journalists are under pressure to avoid "sensitive" subjects.

The Paris-based organization, which monitors media liberty around the world, said three laws that could free up journalism in Morocco have been stalled in parliament.

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7 Killed as Egypt Train Crashes into School Bus

A train crashed into a school bus east of the Egyptian capital on Friday, killing at least seven people including children, police and health officials said.

The collision occurred at an unauthorized railway crossing on the Cairo-Ismailiya desert road, police said, adding that the bus had failed to stop at the crossing and was hit by the moving train.

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U.N. Shrinks Food Aid to Syria Refugees in Turkey as Cash Low

The United Nations food agency said Friday it had been forced to withdraw aid from nine Syrian refugee camps in Turkey due to a lack of funds, calling on donors to step up.

"Unfortunately, in February, we were forced to ask the Turkish government to take over assistance in nine camps where we could not continue providing aid because we lack funds," said World Food Programme spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs.

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EU Hits Syria with Fresh Sanctions

The European Union imposed additional sanctions against Syria on Friday, targeting backers of President Bashar Assad as the bloody conflict gets worse with no prospect of a peace deal.

"Seven persons and six entities providing support to the Syrian regime as well as benefitting from it have been targeted," a statement said.

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Top Qaida Leader, Commanders Reported Killed in Syria

The military chief and several top commanders of the Al-Qaida-affiliated Al-Nusra Front have been reported killed in northwestern Syria, where the jihadist militia has been making major gains in recent months.

Syrian state media, a monitoring group and a local activist reported that Abu Hammam al-Shami had been killed, but provided contradictory information on the circumstances of his death.

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After Gaza War Losses, Islamic Jihad Bounces Back

In a tunnel dug deep underneath the besieged Gaza Strip, masked gunmen from Islamic Jihad ferry rockets and mortars back and forth, preparing for the next conflict with Israel.

Six months ago, the Palestinian militant group emerged battered and bruised from a 50-day conflict with Israel, where it fought alongside fellow Islamist movement Hamas, which controls Gaza.

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Italy's Renzi Seeks Key Role for Russia in Libya Crisis

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Thursday Russia could play a decisive role in resolving the crisis in Libya, during a rare visit by a European leader to Moscow.

Renzi held talks with President Vladimir Putin in a visit that also focused on the conflict in Ukraine and Russia's chilly relations with the European Union over its backing of  separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

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