In brief: Islamists team up to fight Assad, Syria
Beirut – Al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq and the most powerful rebel extremist group in Syria have officially joined ranks against President Bashar Assad to forge a potentially formidable militant force in the Middle East.
The merger of the Islamic State in Iraq and Jabhat al-Nusra forms a new entity that could be an even stronger opponent in the fight to topple Assad and become a dominant player in what eventually replaces his regime.
The new group, called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, underscores the growing confidence and muscle of Islamist radicals fighting on the rebel side in Syria’s civil war. It also bolsters the Syrian government’s assertions that the regime is battling terrorists and that the uprising is a foreign-backed plot.
Helicopter crash kills two American troops
Kabul, Afghanistan – Two American troops died in a helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, military officials said.
The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force said it was investigating the cause of the crash, which took place in a field, but early indications were that there was no hostile activity nearby.
The latest deaths bring to nine the number of Americans killed this month, including three civilians, and to 25 the number killed this year, according to a tally by the Associated Press.
Gunman kills 13, shoots self in Serbia
Velika Ivanca, Serbia – A 60-year-old veteran gunned down 13 people in a predawn, house-to-house rampage Tuesday in Serbia, killing his mother, his son and a 2-year-old cousin before shooting himself and his wife, police and hospital officials said.
The man, identified as Ljubisa Bogdanovic, used a handgun in the shooting spree at five houses in Velika Ivanca, a village 30 miles southeast of Belgrade, emergency hospital spokeswoman Nada Macura said.
Twelve people were killed immediately between 5 and 5:30 a.m. and one person died in a Belgrade hospital, Serbian police Chief Milorad Veljovic said. The motive for the killings was unclear, he said.
The dead included six men, six women and the boy, police said. The man and his wife were both severely injured by the shootings and another person was also injured, Macura said.