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Friday, Dec 19th

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4 Blackwater guards convicted in Iraq killings

Balckwater guards guiltyFour former employees of the US security company Blackwater have been convicted of almost every charge related to the shootings of more than 30 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad seven years ago.

The jury in Washington found Nicholas Slatten guilty of first-degree murder, and the three other ex-security guards - Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard - were convicted on Wednesday of committing multiple counts of voluntary manslaughter at a Baghdad traffic circle in 2007.

The trial focused on the killings of 14 Iraqis and the wounding of 17 others.

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IS fighters seize weapons airdrop meant for Kurds

Isis seize weapons meant for KurdsISIS fighters seized at least one cache of weapons airdropped by U.S.-led coalition forces that were meant to suppy Kurdish militiamen battling the extremist group in a border town, activists said Tuesday.

The cache of weapons included hand grenades, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, according to a video uploaded by a media group loyal to ISIS. The video appeared authentic and corresponded to The Associated Press' reporting of the event. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the militants had seized at least once cache, but may have seized more.

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U.S. Air-Drops Arms to Kurds in Kobani

US air drops to KurdsdTurkey said on Monday it would allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to reinforce fellow Kurds in the Syrian town of Kobani, while the United States air-dropped arms for the first time to help the defenders resist an Islamic State assault.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington had asked Ankara to help "get the peshmerga or other groups" into Kobani so that they could help defend the town on the Turkish frontier, adding that he hoped the Kurds would "take this fight on".

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Rights group: Airstrikes on IS oil facilities killed civilians

Air strikes kill civiliansAt least 10 civilians were killed when U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State targets struck an oil facility and a gas processing plant in Syria on Friday, an observer group reports.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said seven civilians were killed at a Konoco gas factory in Der-Ezzor province, and three were killed in similar strikes on oil fields in the countryside around Shadadi. One was reportedly below age 18.

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Turkey denies new deal reached to open airbases to US in fight against Isis

Turkey denies bases agreement with USTurkey has not reached a new agreement to let the US use its Incirlik airbase in the fight against Islamic State (Isis) militants, and talks are continuing on the subject, the Turkish prime minister’s office has said, in comments that run contrary to a statement made by US national security adviser Susan Rice on Sunday.

The prime minister’s office said an agreement had been reached to train moderate Syrian rebels on Turkish soil, but it was not yet clear “where [and] in what way” that would happen.

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Billions set aside for post-Saddam Iraq turned up in Lebanese bunker

Paul Bremer in IraqMore than $1bn earmarked for the reconstruction of Iraq was stolen and spirited to a bunker in Lebanon as the American and Iraqi governments ignored appeals to recover the money, it has been claimed.

Stuart Bowen, a former special inspector general who investigated corruption and waste in Iraq, said the stash accounted for a significant chunk of the huge sums which vanished during the chaotic months following the 2003 US-led invasion.

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Battle for Kobane: Islamic State tries to isolate the town

Battle for KOBANEAt least 553 people are said to have died in a month of fighting for Kobane, the Kurdish town just inside Syria under Islamic State (IS) attack.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based Syrian opposition body which monitors the conflict, counted 298 IS fighters among the dead.

US aircraft have bombed IS positions as Kurdish fighters cling on to the town's vital border crossing with Turkey.

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