Islamic State

AP Photo

Since the start of the Syrian war, a remarkable 100,000 people have gone missing - a distinct figure from the estimated 400,000 confirmed killed.

Of the missing, some may be alive and held secretly in prisons controlled by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Most are probably dead, and their bodies are often buried in unmarked mass graves in territory controlled by Assad or until recently, the Islamic State.

But with the Islamic State nearing defeat in Syria and Iraq, investigators are gaining access to more and more of these graves. That raises the prospect that the massive task of identifying the thousands of bodies of they contain will soon start.

This is important work as it not only gives resolution to families of the missing, but can also provide important evidence of war crimes.

On this edition of Global Journalist: a close look at the challenges of finding and identifying Syria’s disappeared.


European Press Agency

In April, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's air force dropped bombs containing sarin nerve gas on a rebel area in northern Syria. Around 100 people were killed and hundreds more injured, including a number of children.

The slaughter highlighted the renewed threat of chemical and biological weapons. Both Assad's forces and rebel groups have used chemical weapons in Syria, demonstrating the dangers of proliferation. Meanwhile new gene editing technologies allow for the creation of more virulent and deadly bio-weapons.

On this edition of Global Journalist, a look at the history and future of chemical and biological weapons.


AP Photo

The Islamic State’s attacks in Europe earlier this year made headlines around the world. But there’s another terrorist group that by some estimates has killed more civilians over the past few years than ISIS.

That’s Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, which killed more than 6,000 people last year.

It’s a group known for tactics like using child suicide bombers, striking churches at Christmas and kidnapping schoolgirls, like the 276 taken from the town of Chibok in 2014.

The violence has caused a humanitarian crisis that could lead to more people dying of starvation than bullets. About 2.5 million people have been forced from their homes by its attacks.

On this edition of Global Journalist, a look at a murderous terror group that has thrived for 14 years despite the efforts of Nigeria and its neighbors to defeat it.


European Press Agency

One of the hardest regions of the globe to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is the Arab world. In Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the punishment for the crime of sodomy is death by stoning, and many other countries impose prison sentences.

Also challenging is the fact that the stigma associated with being LGBT is so great, many people feel they can’t come out even to their family or closest friends.

On this edition of Global Journalist, a look at the uncertain lives of LGBT people in Arab nations.


AP

For many Americans, the Islamic State was first burned in our minds as a threat back in August 2014.

That’s when the terror group released chilling video of American journalist James Foley being beheaded by a black clad man who condemns U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. Foley of course was much more than a victim of terror or a martyr for press freedom.

He was also a son, a brother, a colleague, and a friend.

On this edition of Global Journalist we’re going to talk more about the life of James Foley. We’ll also look at what his death tell us not only about him but about how news organizations operate and how the U.S. government handles hostage situations. 


AP

The fight against the Islamic State isn’t just taking place on the ground or in the skies of Iraq or Libya. It’s also on the internet.

The Islamic State has used apps like Twitter, WhatsApp and Telegram to recruit new jihadists, instill fear in opponents and even provoke strangers to launch lone-wolf terror attacks in the U.S. and elsewhere.

But could it also hack our electrical grid or our checking accounts?

On this edition of Global Journalist, a look at the new war against the Islamic State being fought on laptops and smartphones.


European Press Agency

After Muammar Gaddafi was ousted from Libya in 2011, there was hope for a peaceful and democratic future in one of Africa's largest oil-producers.

Five years later, the country is divided among warring militias. Amid the power vacuum, the Islamic State has gained a foothold from which to launch terror attacks and human traffickers have made Libya a major transshipment point for migrants to Europe.

On this week's edition of Global Journalist, a look at how Libya came apart and how it may be put back together.


AP

The Arab Spring toppled long-ruling autocrats across the Arab world. But with Libya in chaos, Egypt back under military rule and Syria and Yemen engulfed in war, only Tunisia has fulfilled the promise of its revolution.

With a new constitution, successful elections, and a Nobel Peace Prize for pro-democracy groups, there is much to celebrate. Yet Tunisia also faces major economic challenges and a growing threat from the Islamic State's Libya outpost.

On this edition of Global Journalist, a look at the lone democracy to emerge from the Arab revolutions of 2011 and 2012.

AP

The conflict in Syria gets the headlines, but 2,000 miles south in Yemen a separate civil war has brought an already impoverished country to its knees.

More than 80 percent of the country's population is in need of humanitarian aid - aid many can't get because of the fighting.

As Shia rebels backed by Iran have battled the country's Saudi Arabia-backed Sunni government, al-Qaida and the Islamic State have taken advantage of the chaos to expand their influence.

On this edition of Global Journalist, a look at the humanitarian and political crisis in Yemen and the threat posed by international extremist groups in the country.


AP

The sharp decline in oil prices over the past 18 months is good news for consumers in many countries. But in oil exporting countries in the Mideast it's leading to layoffs, higher taxes and sharp cuts in government services.

On this edition of Global Journalist, a look at the losers from the 70 percent drop in oil prices over the past two years.


U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt criticized the president for his lack of leadership during a stop in Kansas City Tuesday. At the same time, President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande held a joint press conference and called for increased cooperation to fight the Islamic State.

“What happens when the United States fails to provide leadership in the world is bad things and more disruptive things fill that leadership vacuum,” says Blunt.

AP

Christianity might have gotten its start in the Middle East, but the region’s Christian minority is finding the area more and more dangerous when it comes to practicing their beliefs.

The rise of the Islamic State has only exacerbated the problem. When ISIS captured the mainly Christian city of Qaraqosh in northern Iraq last year, the remaining civilian population was given the choice: convert to Islam; pay a special tax; or face execution. Other Christian settlements were given the same choice.

Since the start of the Syrian civil war, about one-third of that country’s 1.8 million Christians have fled. In Iraq there are perhaps 500,000 Christians remaining, down from 1.5 million in 2003.

On this edition of Global Journalist, a look at the future of Christianity in the Middle East.

There have been mixed results in the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS. Iraqi government forces and their Iranian allies are fighting to retake the central city of Tikrit, but it's unclear how much longer this will take.

Meanwhile, ISIS has established a foothold in Libya. They also recently accepted the allegiance of Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist organization.

Eight months after a notorious group of fighters in Iraq and Syria became regular characters in the news, NPR still begins most of its reports with words such as these:

-- "Self-declared Islamic State."

-- "Self-proclaimed Islamic State."

-- "The group that calls itself the Islamic State."

Updated at 4:19 p.m.

Kayla Mueller, the American woman taken hostage by the self-declared Islamic State, has died, her family and the White House said in separate statements.

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

The White House has confirmed that a video released by the self-declared Islamic State that shows the beheading of hostage Peter Kassig, an American aid worker in Syria who was kidnapped in 2013, is authentic.

The radical jihadist group posted the video on social media early Sunday.

President Obama said in a statement that he offered his condolences to the family, describing the beheading as "an act of pure evil."