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Hujeiri Says Situation in Arsal 'Calm', Warns of Attempts to Involve Army in New Battles

Head of Arsal Municipality Ali al-Hujeiri described the situation in the northeaster town as “calm,” lashing out at attempts to involve the army in armed clashes by reporting rumors.

“The situation in Arsal is calm and normal, but gunmen remain scattered on the outskirts of the town,” Hujeiri told al-Liwaa newspaper published on Friday.

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U.N. Chief Slams 'Brutal' IS Killings in Iraq

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday slammed "brutal killings of civilians" by Islamic State jihadists in northern Iraq, saying the Sunni radical group was tearing apart whole communities.

The jihadists have taken control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria, and have declared a "caliphate" in the territory they control straddling the two countries.

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Obama Says 'No Strategy Yet' as IS Executes Syrian Troops

U.S. President Barack Obama admitted Thursday that he still does not have a strategy to fight Islamic State jihadists in Syria, as the militants boasted they had executed scores of Syrian troops -- the latest in a string of atrocities that have shocked the world.

Dampening hopes of imminent air strikes in Syria, Obama said he was still developing a comprehensive plan to defeat IS, which has also overrun large swathes of Iraq.

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Report: IS 'Waterboarded' Syria Captives

At least four Western hostages held by the Islamic State in Syria, including murdered American journalist James Foley, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, The Washington Post said Thursday.

Foley, whose recent execution at the hands of the extremists provoked revulsion, and the other kidnapped Westerners were waterboarded "several times," the newspaper said, citing people familiar with their treatment.

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Jihadists Post Grisly Video of Executed Syria Troops

Islamic State jihadists posted grisly video footage Thursday of scores of bodies heaped in the desert they boasted were those of Syrian soldiers they captured and executed in their latest advance.

The dead were dressed only in their underwear, stripped of any uniform, after what IS said was a mass execution of government troops following their capture of a key northern air base on Sunday.

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U.N. Confirms 43 Peacekeepers Seized in Syrian Golan

Syrian armed groups, some of whom are linked to al-Qaida, captured 43 U.N. peacekeepers on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights on Thursday and surrounded 81 others, the U.N. said.

The 43 peacekeepers from Fiji were forced to surrender their weapons and taken hostage near the Quneitra crossing, but 81 Filipino blue helmets "held their ground" and refused to disarm, the Filipino defense department said.

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'Jihad Recruiters' Arrested in Netherlands, Germany

Police in the Netherlands and Germany have arrested two men for allegedly recruiting jihadi fighters to go to Iraq and Syria, Dutch police said Thursday.

A woman was also held with the man arrested in Germany as part of a long-running investigation, police said in a statement.

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Hollande: Assad is No Anti-terrorism Partner but a Jihadist Ally

Syria's Bashar Assad is not the West's partner in the fight against terrorism but an ally of Islamic extremists wreaking havoc in Syria and Iraq, French President Francois Hollande warned Thursday.

"Assad cannot be a partner in the fight against terrorism, he is the de facto ally of jihadists," he told a Paris gathering of ambassadors from around the world.

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On Syria, Obama Faces Questions on Congress' Role

President Barack Obama faces a familiar question as he contemplates airstrikes in Syria: Should Congress have a say in his decision?

Obama was barreling toward strikes last summer when he abruptly announced that he first wanted approval from congressional lawmakers. But Congress balked at Obama's request for a vote and the operation was eventually scrapped.

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Ali Blames Lebanon's Policy for Arsal Battles, Says Syria Proposed Military Assistance

Syrian Ambassador Ali Abdul Karim Ali has blamed the jihadists' advance on Lebanon earlier this month on the country's dissociation policy and the government's alleged compliance with regional and international pressure.

The diplomat accused the Lebanese authorities of turning a blind eye to the infiltration of Syria-based gunmen from illegal border crossings and of releasing suspects who have admitted to carrying out terrorist activities in Syria and Lebanon.

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