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Bahrain Dissident Gets 3 Years for Tearing Up King's Photo

A Bahrain court has sentenced an opposition figure to three years in prison for insulting the king by tearing up a photograph of him, Amnesty International said Thursday.

Zainab al-Khawaja, the daughter of prominent rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is serving a life term, was also fined 3,000 dinars (about $8,000/6,450 euros), said the London-based rights watchdog.

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Pentagon Confirms U.S. Troops Tried to Rescue American Hostage in Yemen

U.S. and Yemeni forces recently tried unsuccessfully to rescue an American journalist held by al-Qaida, which has now threatened to execute him, officials said Thursday.

President Barack Obama last month approved the rescue operation to free a number of hostages, including U.S. national Luke Somers, held by Al-Qaeda in Yemen, the White House and the Pentagon said.

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At Least 30 Dead, 67 Hurt as Blasts Rock Baghdad, Kirkuk

Car bombs exploded Thursday on two busy streets of a Shiite neighbourhood of Baghdad, killing at least 15 people and wounding 47, police and medical sources said.

The blasts went off at around 6:30 pm (1530 GMT) near markets in two different parts of the sprawling northern district of Sadr City that are usually bustling with people on Thursday evenings.

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U.S. Diplomat Back in Bahrain after Expulsion

A top American diplomat was back in Bahrain on Thursday five months after being declared "unwelcome" by the Sunni-ruled U.S. ally after he met with the Shiite opposition.

The official BNA news agency said Tom Malinowski, U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, was received in Manama by Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa.

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EU Offers 180M Euros for Syria Refugees in Lebanon, Jordan

The EU offered 180 million euros Thursday to help Lebanon and Jordan cope with a massive influx of refugees from Syria, where there is no end in sight to the civil war.

The European Commission said the aid package would help deal with the longer-term problems of the 1.1 million refugees in Lebanon and 630,000 in Jordan.

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Iran Reported Strikes on IS Highlight Determination to Defend Regional Role

Iran's reported air strikes against the Islamic State group in neighboring Iraq further underline Tehran's determination to defend its regional interests and ward off the threat from jihadists.

When IS launched its lightning offensive in northern and western Iraq in June, Iran moved swiftly by arming Iraqi Kurdish fighters and supporting Baghdad with military advisers.

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Families Mourn Pakistani Drug Mules Beheaded in Saudi

Every morning, Pakistani grandfather Haji Abdul Haq wakes up wondering whether his son has been beheaded. Not by the Taliban, al-Qaida or the Islamic State group, but by the Saudi Arabian government.

Haq's son is on death row in the ultraconservative kingdom, waiting for his name to be added to the growing roll of Pakistanis executed this year by the Saudis for heroin smuggling.

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Al-Azhar Urges Mideast Christians Not to Flee Jihadists

Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most prestigious center of learning, on Thursday urged Christians in the Arab world to stand firm in the face of jihadist violence and not flee into exile.

The call, made at a Cairo conference organized by Al-Azhar, came just days after Pope Francis pressed the world's Muslim leaders to condemn terrorism carried out in the name of Islam by groups such as the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaida, and called for an end to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

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Egypt to Try 31 People over 2013 Murders of Shiites

Thirty-one defendants are to go on trial in Egypt later this month on charges related to the 2013 killings of four Shiites outside Cairo, a court statement said on Thursday.

The four, who included a cleric, were killed on June 23 last year when a hostile mob attacked a house where they had gathered in the village of Abu Mussalam in Giza province.

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UAE Arrests Suspect in U.S. Teacher Death, Foiled Bombing

UAE authorities said Thursday they had arrested a woman for the "unprecedented" murder of an American teacher in a shopping center and a foiled plot to bomb a U.S. doctor's home.

Police said the suspect was a 38-year-old Emirati whom they have dubbed "The Reem Island Ghost" after the location of the mall where the attack by a suspect in a veil took place on Monday in the ladies toilets.

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