IS advances near Syria's Aleppo despite Russian strikes BEIRUT (AP) - Islamic State militants captured a string of villages near Aleppo on Friday in a lightning attack that brought them closer to the prized city in northern Syria, despite a major increase in Russian airstrikes that Moscow insists are targeting the extremists. The surprise advance that brought the IS group to within a few miles of Aleppo was the most significant in months, following what has largely been a summer of stalemate in the war against the extremists. It comes amid a wave of intense Russian airstrikes that have targeted insurgents fighting to topple President Bashar Assad, and a ground offensive by the Syrian army in the country's central region.
Pentagon giving up on building new Syrian rebel force LONDON (AP) - The U.S. is abandoning its goal of having America's military train a new force of moderate Syrian rebels, turning its focus to equipping, arming and supporting established groups already fighting against the Islamic State group inside Syria, officials said Friday. The change reflects the failure of the current approach, which has produced only a handful of combat-ready moderate rebels and drawn widespread criticism in Congress. Officials said the new approach focuses heavily on equipping and enabling Kurdish, Arab and other rebel groups that the U.S. has been coordinating with in recent months rather than recruiting and vetting a new cadre of moderate rebels, pulling them out of Syria for training in Turkey or Jordan and re-inserting them as an infantry force into Syria.
Pressure builds on Paul Ryan to run for House speaker WASHINGTON (AP) - The pressure is on Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2012, to run for House speaker in the chaotic aftermath of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's sudden decision to abandon his campaign for the post. "I've talked with Paul Ryan. He's talking to people. I think he'd make a great speaker," McCarthy, R-Calif., said Friday morning as he entered a closed-door Republican meeting. "It's a big decision. He's got to talk to his wife and everybody else, and it's got to be his decision." Ryan has insisted he's not interested in the post, preferring to focus on his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee.
Watch Top News Video
Nobel Peace Prize boosts struggling Tunisian democracy TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) - It was the fall of 2013 and Tunisia's newfound democracy was in grave danger. The assassination of a left-wing politician had prompted the opposition to walk out of the constitutional assembly. The government was paralyzed, the constitution unfinished and the country on the brink of war. In nearby Egypt, which had followed Tunisia in a democratic revolution, a coup had just overthrown the Islamist government, and some sectors in Tunisia wanted to follow suit. Then four civil society groups - the main labor union, the bar association, the employers' association and the human rights league - stepped into the fray.
Mideast unrest spreads to Gaza as stabbing attacks continue GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian demonstrators along the Gaza border on Friday, killing five of them, as a rash of stabbing attacks in Israel and the Palestinian territories, including the first apparent revenge attack by an Israeli, raised fears of wider unrest. Recent days have seen a string of attacks by young Palestinians with no known links to armed groups who have targeted Israeli soldiers and civilians at random, complicating Israeli efforts to contain the violence, which has been linked to tensions over a sensitive Jerusalem holy site. The violence spread to Gaza on Friday, with five Palestinians killed during clashes between stone-throwers and Israeli forces along the heavily guarded border, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
AP Exclusive: Saudi hajj crush was deadliest tragedy ever DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - One survivor of last month's crush and stampede at the hajj in Saudi Arabia recalled seeing so many bodies that he couldn't tell how many there were. The Associated Press sought to answer that question, arriving at a death toll of at least 1,470. That made the Sept. 24 disaster the deadliest accident ever at the annual pilgrimage. And hundreds remain missing. The AP count is 701 higher than Saudi Arabia's official tally of 769 killed and 934 injured in the Sept. 24 disaster in Mina, a few miles from the holy city of Mecca.
North Korea readies massive anniversary celebration PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) - North Korea is holding what is expected to be one of its biggest celebrations ever Saturday for the 70th anniversary of its ruling party's creation, an attention-getting event that is the government's way of showing the world and its own people the Kim dynasty - now in its third generation - is firmly in control and its military a power to be reckoned with. The military parade kicking off the celebrations could hold some surprises for analysts abroad who will be watching its display of weaponry, particularly its growing fleet of drone aircraft and long-range missiles, very closely.
AP Photos: Portraits of refugees along Europe migrant trail Shortly after a dinghy overloaded with refugees from Syria and Iraq reached the Greek island of Lesbos, Mahmoud Naoura stood and raised his hands, chanting "Thank you God, we are safe." Once ashore, he held his shivering daughter Huda, 5, who was injured and lost some of her sight in a government airstrike that destroyed their home in Aleppo, Syria, in 2012. He's hoping that somewhere in Europe they will find a cure. "I just want to cure my daughter. Huda will see again, inshallah, and when she will open her eyes, I want her to see a safe environment," Mahmoud said.
Egypt to restore King Tut mask after botched epoxy job CAIRO (AP) - The restoration of King Tutankhamun's world-famous golden mask will begin Saturday, over a year after the beard was accidentally broken off and hastily glued back with epoxy, Egypt's state-run news agency said Friday. A German-Egyptian team will remove the mask from its display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and repair it in another area of the museum, MENA reported. The 3,300-year-old burial pharaonic mask was discovered in Tutankhamun's tomb along with other artifacts by British archeologists in 1922, sparking worldwide interest in archaeology and ancient Egypt. The beard became detached during work on the relic's lighting in August 2014 and then was hastily reattached with epoxy.
AP WAS THERE: 20 years ago Million Man March drew many to DC WASHINGTON (AP) - EDITOR'S NOTE: Two decades ago, the "Million Man March" in Washington, D.C., wanted to show the world that black lives matter. It was at the dawn of the Internet, before hashtag activism took hold, but the effort drew tens of thousands of black men on Oct. 16, 1995, to the National Mall who sought to promote self-help and self-respect. Speakers included Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who organized the event, poet Maya Angelou, Jesse Jackson and Rosa Parks. The exact turnout was in dispute, with one estimate of around half a million. Organizers said the turnout was significantly higher, at 2 million.