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The Islamic State remains at the top of the headlines.
First, a ray of good news amid the terrible: on Sunday, American journalist Peter Theo Curist, kidnapped in October 2012 and reportedly held by the al-Nusra front or affiliated splinter groups, was released to UN peacekeepers in Syria following Qatari mediation; here are details from Al Jazeera. His family has released a statement expressing gratitude to the U.S. and Qatari governments. On Sunday the British ambassador to the United States, Peter Westmacott, stated in an interview with CNN that British counterterrorism officers were "close" to identifying the young militant who beheaded American journalist James Foley on a video released last week by the Islamic State. The New York Times reports that identification of the killer could give intelligence officials insight into the kidnapping cell currently holding other hostages, including another American journalist, Steven J. Sotloff.
The Washington Post cites U.S. officials who say that an American offensive in Syria against the terrorist group would likely be constrained by intelligence gaps, and that American spy agencies do not yet have the capabilities to target Islamic State leaders using air strikes. Over the weekend, the Times editorial board issued an editorial calling for "an organized, longer-term response involving a broad coalition of nations, including other Muslim countries" to defeat the threat posed by the Islamic State: "Creating a regional military force may be required, including assistance from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Turkey. It certainly will require money, intelligence-sharing, diplomatic cooperation and a determined plan to cut off financing to ISIS and the flow of ISIS fighters between states."
On Sunday, the Islamic State captured a major air base in Syria, the last foothold for forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the northeastern province of Raqqa. The Wall Street Journal reports that Assad supporters are blaming the military and security leaders for abandoning soldiers to brutal deaths at the hands of Sunni militants.
Dar el-Ifta, the top Islamic authority in Egypt, launched an Internet campaign on Sunday to stop the extremist group in Syria and Iraq from being called the "Islamic State," on the grounds that the group's criminal acts tarnish the image of Islam. The AP reports that the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Allam, will advise foreign media to instead call the group "the Al-Qaida Separatists in Iraq and Syria" (QSIS).
A suicide bomber killed 13 people inside a Shiite mosque in Baghdad on Monday, just after the country's prime minister-designate called for national unity at his first official news conference, reports the Times. Reuters reports that today UN human rights chief Navi Pillary condemned the ongoing human rights violations by Islamic State forces in Iraq, which have included mass executions and ethnic and religious cleansing.
Thousands of supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTF) are camping outside the Parliament building in Islamabad, reports the Pakistan Tribune, in a demand for the ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The AP cites anonymous aides of President Mahmoud Abbas who say that the Palestinian leader is expected to unveil a proposal for the international community to set a deadline for Israel to end its occupation of lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war, as part of a "day after" plan following the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian teenager, Ahmed Jamal Abu Raida, says that Israeli soldiers who assumed he was connected to Hamas detained him for five days last month, mistreated him, and forced him to dig for tunnels in his village near Gaza's eastern border; the Times has his account of what would, if true, would constitute international law violations but have not been independently confirmed.
On Sunday, Iran's Revoluntary Guards claimed that the country's elite forces had shot down an Israeli stealth drone, and accused "the Zionist regime" of intending to penetrate Natanz, Iran's main uranium enrichment site; the Guardian notes that the claims have not been confirmed. Iran's state TV aired footage purporting to show the downed drone on Monday, says the AP, by way of ABC.
The Times reports that Russia plans to send another "humanitarian aid" convoy to east Ukraine this week; the announcement comes a day before a summit meeting in Minsk, where Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin are set to meet for the first time since early June. The AP reports that a column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles has crossed into southeastern Ukraine, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has claimed no knowledge of the incursion. On Sunday Ukraine celebrated its independence day with a military march-past in Kiev, reports Reuters, only to have pro-Russian rebels respond by parading captured Ukrainian troops through separatist-held Donetsk.
The Times reports that fighting between militias, tribes and towns has destroyed Tripoli's airport, and hundreds of people have been killed, in a regional struggle that threatens to become a prolonged civil war.
On Friday the Pentagon accused China of making threatening passes at a U.S. military aircraft in international airspace. The Post reports that the U.S. has filed a formal complaint with China about the incident, which occurred last Tuesday 135 miles east of Hainan island.
On Friday, the Miami Herald reported that an unidentified Navy nurse who refused to continue force-feeding hunger strikers at Guantánamo has been sent back to the United States and, according to Army Col. Greg Julian at the U.S. Southern Command, could be facing court martial.
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