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U.S. Begins Tikrit Air Strikes in Support of Iraqi Forces

U.S. aircraft on Wednesday launched bombing raids to support Iraqi forces fighting to recapture Tikrit from the Islamic State group, after Baghdad issued a request for air power, U.S. officials said.

"Operations are ongoing. Bombs are falling," a U.S. defense official told Agence France-Presse.

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U.N. Worried by Rise in Mass Abductions of Children

Mass abductions of children by groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State are on the rise, with the practice now becoming a tactic of war, a U.N. envoy warned Wednesday.

Leila Zerrougui, the special representative for children and conflict, urged the Security Council to punish armed groups who target children with sanctions and strengthen measures to protect children in conflict.

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Egypt Stresses Nile Water Rights in Ethiopia Dam Project

Egypt's president called Wednesday for a "new chapter" in relations with Ethiopia, but nevertheless underscored his country's insistence on standing by its rights to tap Nile water.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's speech to the Ethiopian parliament marked the end of the first such official visit by an Egyptian leader in 30 years, and comes amid a major easing of tensions over Addis Ababa's controversial Nile dam project.

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Nigeria Denies Reports of New Mass Boko Haram Kidnapping

Nigeria's government on Wednesday denied reports of a mass kidnapping in the country's northeast, as Boko Haram militants flee a four-nation military offensive.

"There is no fresh kidnapping in Damasak," Nigeria's national security spokesman Mike Omeri told Agence France-Presse, referring to the town recently retaken by forces from neighboring Chad and Niger.

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Mubarak-Era Security Chief Walks Free from Egypt Jail

Former interior minister Habib al-Adly of ousted president Hosni Mubarak walked free from an Egyptian jail Wednesday after his acquittal last week of corruption charges, officials and his lawyer said.

"He has completed the procedures and he has come out," interior ministry spokesman General Hani Abdel Latif told Agence France-Presse.

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Chad's U.N. Envoy Says Boko Haram 'More Dangerous' than IS

Chad's U.N. envoy on Wednesday voiced frustration over Security Council inaction on endorsing a regional force fighting Boko Haram, arguing that the Nigerian extremists are "more dangerous" than Islamic State fighters.

Ambassador Mahamat Cherif told reporters that a draft resolution circulated last week to the 15-member council had hit a wall over a key provision invoking chapter 7 of the U.N. charter.

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Ghani: IS Terror Threat Squeezing Afghanistan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani warned Wednesday that Islamist extremists will soon "come knocking on our door," and stressed to U.S. lawmakers that the region must unite in a battle against them.

"If one story of our future history is bright, there is another, darker cloud that is making its way towards our country," Ghani told a joint meeting of Congress during his first trip to Washington as leader of Afghanistan.

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Hollande to Join Anti-Terror March in Tunisia

French President Francois Hollande will travel to Tunis on Sunday to take part in a "march against terrorism" in the wake of jihadist attacks that killed 21 people, his office said.

"At the invitation of President Beji Caid Essebsi, the president of the republic will go to Tunis for the 'grand republican march against terrorism' organized by the Tunisian authorities," Hollande's Elysee Palace office said in a statement.

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OPCW Voices 'Serious Concern' over Syria Gas Attack Reports

The world's chemical watchdog on Wednesday said it is monitoring "with serious concern" reports alleging that Damascus unleashed a chlorine gas attack in northwestern Syria earlier this month.

"We have been monitoring the recent reports suggesting that toxic chemicals may have been used as weapons in the Idlib province in Syria," Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons chief Ahmet Uzumcu said.

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NATO Welcomes U.S. Slowing of Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal

NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday praised U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to keep the current level of 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan until the end of 2015.

On Tuesday, Obama reversed plans to withdraw around 5,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan this year after talks with the country's new, reform-minded leader, President Ashraf Ghani.

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