iStock/Thinkstock(ISTANBUL) -- The US government and Turkey have agreed on a new partnership to fight ISIS in northern Syria along the Turkish border that involves flying armed US aircraft out of Turkey for the first time in this war and creating a ISIS-free zones along the border region to provide relief for refugees and rebel-fighting forces.
The Pentagon said Monday it hopes it can use the strategic air bases to create “ink blots on the map” where ISIS does not exist and over time grow those safe areas in size and number.
"There are going to be different places where you will see ISIL driven out and peaceful, moderate … people moving in,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said Monday, using another word for ISIS. “And we want those areas of land to grow.”
The administration made clear that this new agreement with Turkey won’t involve the creation of military “no-fly zone.” State Department spokesman John Kirby said there would be little use in that around the border region. “There is no opposition in the air, when coalition aircraft are flying in that part of Syria,” Kirby said. “The Assad regime is not challenging us; ISIL doesn't have airplanes.”
The Pentagon would not speculate about a scenario in which Assad’s aircraft fly into one of these safe zones or ink blots, but it made clear again that the US will not be there to fight Assad nor is that part of the deal with the Turks.
The partnership could put the Obama administration in a difficult position because of Turkey's recent attacks on Kurdish militant groups, some of whom are allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS. In recent days Turkey bombed a Kurdish militant group known as the PKK in retaliation for suicide attacks it launched against Turkish soldiers.
But both the Pentagon and State Department said Monday that Turkey has the right defend itself against the PKK, which the US has designated a foreign terrorist organization.
Davis said the Secretary of Defense Ash Carter could decide to begin flight operations out of Turkey within the coming weeks.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia) -- President Obama kicked off his first full day in Ethiopia as he heads into the second half of his historic trip to East Africa.
Obama arrived on Monday morning at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, where he was greeted by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. The two men shook hands and exchanged pleasantries in the sunlit courtyard, where the Ethiopians had prepared an elaborate arrival ceremony.
The leaders stood at attention in front of their delegations while the American then Ethiopian national anthems were played. On either side of the palace stood enormous portraits of both leaders.
The president was then led by an officer, upright sword in hand, to inspect the honor guard. He walked on a square red carpet past rows of Ethiopian troops as ceremonial cannons fired in the distance.
The two sides then held a bilateral meeting, sitting across from each other at an elegantly set table complete with dozens of red roses.
Obama also met with Ethiopia’s president Mulatu Teshome. Although he’s technically the head of state, the Ethiopian presidency is mainly a ceremonial position.
After his meetings, the president held a press conference with Desalegn, during which they expressed continued cooperation between their countries on trade and economic partnership, counter-terrorism and intelligence, and democratization. Terrorism was an especially pertinent topic after a deadly bombing in neighboring Somalia killed 15 people Sunday.
"Yesterday's bombing in Mogadishu reminds us that terrorist groups like al-Shabaab offer nothing but death and destruction and have to be stopped," said Obama, calling the mix of U.S. assistance and regional and African Union forces fighting the group a "model" and Ethiopia, an "outstanding partner." "We have to now keep the pressure on," he said.
Obama and the prime minister also discussed freedom of the press. Ethiopia has been criticized for jailing journalists and stifling opposition. In its most recent election, the ruling party won 100 percent of the vote, causing some to question the result's legitimacy.
"I don’t bite my tongue too much when it comes to these issues," said Obama, saying that the two had a "frank discussion" about the improvements that Ethiopia needs to make while noting their progress so far.
South Sudan has also been a focus of the president's trip. He met with regional leaders to discuss the ongoing crisis there that has killed thousands of people, displaced over a million and pushed the country to the brink of famine. The group agreed the two parties in South Sudan must reach a peace plan agreement by Aug. 17, but they differed on what steps to take if they did not.
South Sudan is the world's newest nation, after it voted to break away from Sudan in 2011 in a referendum supported by the U.S. -- one reason America has a "special responsibility" to stabilize the country, said Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.
The president also came face-to-face with a 3.2 million-year-old piece of history at the National Palace.
He viewed -- and even touched -- the skeleton of "Lucy," the female Australopithecus afarensis discovered by an American anthropologist in Ethiopia in 1974. Lucy is an early hominin, the most complete skeleton of a human ancestor discovered to date, and one of the most significant breakthroughs in the study of early humans.
Obama was given rare access to the skeleton; Ethiopian officials and scientists said they could not recall a time the bones were displayed uncovered, let alone touched by a visitor.
"Extraordinary people have extraordinary access," said Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged, an Ethiopian paleoanthropologist and head of the California Academy of Sciences.
After his stop with Lucy, the president attended a State Dinner with Prime Minister Desalegn and President Teshome, where he toasted to "another century of friendship" between the two countries and highlighted Ethiopia's most important gift to the world: coffee.
"We're large consumers of coffee in the White House," he said. "Thank you, Ethiopia."
Sunday, the president wrapped up his historic two-day visit in Kenya, his father’s homeland, where he was received with much fanfare and adoration. Supporters spilled into the streets of Addis Ababa as well, holding American flags and photos of Obama.
There was even a rainbow on the tarmac as the president arrived Sunday evening.
Obama is set to address the African Union Tuesday, the first U.S. president to do so.
iStock/Thinkstock(BEIJING) -- An American Airlines Dreamliner suffered damage Monday during its flight from Beijing to Dallas due to weather.
“American Airlines Flight 88, a flight from Beijing Capital International Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, returned to Beijing due to damage sustained by weather in flight,” American Airlines said in a statement to ABC News.
The aircraft was in flight for 44 minutes before it had to turn around. There were 209 passengers and a crew of 13 on board.
The nature and extent of the damage is unclear; American Airlines said the plane is currently being evaluated by their maintenance team.
Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia) — President Obama met with regional leaders in Ethiopia Monday to discuss the crisis in South Sudan and counterterrorism efforts in Somalia.
According to senior administration officials, the assembled leaders, which included the president of Uganda, president of Kenya, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, chairman of the African Union and the foreign minister of Sudan, agreed the two parties in South Sudan must reach an agreement to a peace plan by Aug. 17. But if they fail to reach an agreement, the parties differed in what the next approach should be.
Some of the options under consideration include “substantially increased sanctions and pressure to the possibility of a regional intervention force,” according to one official. The “regional intervention force” was not proposed by the U.S. and the official wouldn’t characterize what the U.S. stance is on that option.
The officials said all parties expressed a “resounding and collective loss of patience” in the situation in South Sudan.
On Sunday, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said the U.S. has a “special responsibility” to ensure South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, succeeds.
“Yes, that’s absolutely the case. And look, the United States of America, broadly, I think has a special responsibility. The Bush administration did very good work in terms of developing a comprehensive agreement between North and South Sudan that led to the scheduling of a referendum. We did extraordinary amounts of work in the early years of the administration to make sure that that referendum could go off peacefully and that you could have South Sudanese choosing an independent course. And the fact that this has now spiraled into a civil conflict, I think, does call upon the United States to play a unique role,” Rhodes said.
“Look, you can’t fix everything in a country that has been so torn by conflict for so many decades, but I think we have an obligation to try to bring the parties to a better place and to give the people of South Sudan an opportunity for peace,” he said.
Pete Souza/The White House(KISUMU, Kenya) — Obamamania may have seized Kenya over the weekend, but for some, the frenzy will now be life-long.
A handful of children born during the President’s visit to his father’s homeland have been named after him, his family — and even his airplane.
That’s right: Baby AirForceOne.
The boy’s full name is “AirForceOne Barack Obama,” and he’s one of three babies born Friday in the city Kisumu with Barack Obama variations in their name.
"I have been told that it is the best aeroplane because it carries a very powerful leader of America who is also a Kenyan," one mother told the AFP.
Naming people, places and things after the first African American — and first Kenyan American — president is nothing new to the country. There are two schools named “Senator Obama” after the then-freshman senator visited his father's village in 2006.
Several children born at that time share the name as well — and they’re now 7-year old students at Senator Obama Kogelo Primary School.
State Department photo(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State John Kerry formally released the State Department’s annual report on human trafficking Monday with a message of thanks to those who are fighting the issue abroad and in the U.S.
“It’s a battle against money. It’s a battle against evil,” Kerry said Monday. “It’s quite remarkable that in the year 2015, we face a modern version of slavery.”
The State Department is facing criticism about the report this year, however, for upgrading Cuba and Malaysia on the list. This year’s report boosted the two countries from the worst-ranked of those categorically failing to respond.
Anti-trafficking groups are calling it a transparent political move that puts the report’s impartiality in question.
Meanwhile, Kerry said the U.S. is not only pointing the finger at nations abroad.
“Like every nation, we have a responsibility to do better — a better job of protecting those who live within our own borders, whose passports are taken away from them, who are imprisoned for labor purposes or for sex trafficking,” he said.
Guinness World Records(MANILA, Philippines) -- More than 12,000 people have officially crushed the Guinness World Record for the largest Zumba class ever to dance.
The event, which took place on July 19, was organized by the city of Mandaluyong in the Philippines and was part of Mayor Benhur Abalos' birthday celebrations.
Abalos, who recently won a United Nations Public Service Award, launched a health care program that encourages a healthier lifestyle, Guinness said.
"More than being a record-breaking event, it highlighted the importance of having a holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle," Abalos said in a statement to Guinness. "It is not enough that you eat healthy food. You must also exercise regularly"
As for the 12,975 participants, Abalos said, "They all [participants] want to champion a healthy lifestyle. You can't bring in that such huge number of crowd unless they believe in the advocacy."
A total of 84 licensed Zumba instructors from the Philippine Zumba Network practiced for two months to prepare for facilitating the record attempt.
According to Guinness, the largest Zumba record was first achieved on Jan. 1, 2011 by 638 participants at an event organized by the Greater Wichita YMCA in Wichita, Kansas.
The current record set in the Philippines marks the 10th time it’s been broken.
iStock/Thinkstock(MOGADISHU, Somalia) -- An Islamist group claimed responsibility for a deadly explosion in Mogadishu Sunday.
BBC News reports that Islamist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place at a hotel and left at least ten dead. President Barack Obama was leaving Kenya for Ethiopia on his African trip at the time of the attack. Obama had noted al-Shabaab as a threat earlier in the trip.
The White House issued a statement condemning the "abhorrent attack...which purposefully and cruelly targeted innocent civilians." The administration called the attack "yet another reminder of the unconscionable atrocities that terrorist groups continue to perpetrate against the people of Somalia."
The U.S. State Department said in a statement that "through these murders, al-Shabaab once again has demonstrated its brutality and its complete rejection of a Somali society free of violence and oppression."
Gemini-Create/iStock/ThinkStock(PARIS) -- Police in Paris say they're searching for a vehicle that hit a cab and ran into barriers set up near the Tour de France finish line on Sunday morning.
There was a simple accident between two cars and one of the cars tried to get away. The car tried to force its way through a police road block that was set up because of Sunday's final stage of the Tour de France.
A policeman at the scene then fired a couple of shots toward the car, but the car managed to get away.
Authorities are currently looking for the driver of the car and not much is known about why this incident occurred.
A statement by the Paris police spokesperson said that although this happened near where the Tour de France was going to happen, there was nothing to indicate that it was linked to terrorism.
Authorities speculate that it was a minor road accident where the person was trying to escape from police.
Ramin Talaie/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The nation’s top law enforcement official says the threat from ISIS is so great because the terror group's technologically advanced tactics are “still new to us," and the U.S. government is “still trying to determine the scope” of efforts to radicalize Americans and others around the world.
“It's as serious -- if not more serious a threat -- than al Qaeda,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch told ABC News’ Pierre Thomas in an exclusive interview. “It is a dangerous, high-tempo threat environment.”
That threat environment comes from ISIS’ unprecedented social media campaign on Twitter and elsewhere, using slick advertising and online messaging to encourage followers worldwide to launch attacks at home.
“They've got over 20,000 English-language Twitter followers,” Lynch noted.
Even with federal investigators looking at potential homegrown terrorists in every state, Lynch warned that new technology is making it harder than ever for authorities to identify and determine “who is going to succumb to the propaganda."
“As people get drawn more and more into the rhetoric, they move off of [more mainstream] platforms … into encrypted platforms into which we don't have visibility,” she said, adding that federal authorities call it the “going dark” problem.
Even without that added challenge, Lynch acknowledged it’s difficult for the FBI to detect every so-called “lone-wolf” out there. She pointed to the recent attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where 24-year-old Mohammad Abdulazeez gunned down five military personnel.
“I think that the fact that he was not on law enforcement's radar illustrates the concern that we have of individuals who are outside the mainstream yet tap into these strands of thought or schools of thought that lead them to violence,” Lynch said.
She also cited a potential new threat from ISIS and others looking to harm the United States: a cyber-based terrorist attack.
“That is the thing that keeps me and many of my colleagues in law enforcement up at night,” Lynch said.
PeterHermesFurian/iStock/ThinkStock(ISTANBUL) -- Turkish officials say a car bomb killed two soldiers and wounded four others during an attack on a military convoy in the country's south.
No one has claimed responsibility, however, local officials are blaming the attack on a Kurdish rebel group known as the PKK.
The PKK has blamed Turkey for not doing enough to combat the Islamic State.
Violence attributed to the extremist group recently spilled over into the Syrian-Turkish border.
A recent bombing in a predominantly Kurdish region of Turkey blamed on the Islamic State left 32 people dead. A few days later, hardline fighters shot and killed a Turkish soldier in a cross-border skirmish.
In response, a Turkish warplane targeted the Islamic State in Syria. They also hit PKK positions in northern Iraq.
ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House had no warning that ISIS had murdered American journalist James Foley before a video showing the brutal execution appeared online, to the horror of Obama officials, according to a top White House counter-terrorism official.
"I was sitting in my office on the ground floor of the West Wing... I was actually on the phone with [Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications] Ben Rhodes, who was traveling with the President... when one of my staff came in to say that this video had appeared," said Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism Lisa Monaco. "We didn't have advanced warning of it."
Monaco said she was "sick to her stomach" as she watched the video, describing it to Rhodes so that Rhodes could tell Obama.
"It was a horrific thing to see," she told the audience at the Aspen Security Forum. "It was gut-wrenching and horrible and the videos that came after it were equally so."
After her talk, Monaco told ABC News that until the video appeared, the White House was unaware Foley had been killed, much less that he had been the subject of a highly-produced and edited ISIS video.
"At the time, we had very little insight into what was going on in Syria," Monaco told ABC News, which she blamed on the lack of U.S. "presence" in Syria or that of willing intelligence partners. She said every effort has been made to improve U.S. intelligence capabilities there.
James Foley was beheaded by a black-masked figure in a video released online in August 2014. Several execution videos followed in the next weeks, showing the murders of American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers.
"It [the Foley video] galvanized us even more to take a hard look" at what the U.S. government "could do better" in hostage situations, Monaco said.
The U.S. military launched a complex special operations mission deep into Syria to rescue American and Western hostages a month before the Foley video appeared, but U.S. officials said the hostages had moved before the American commandos got there.
During the Aspen talk, Monaco also addressed allegations by the families of American hostages, as reported by ABC News, that they felt threatened by U.S. officials when it came to potentially paying ransoms to the terror group for their loved ones' safe return. President Obama announced in June he was "updating" the hostage policy: While the U.S. would not make concessions to hostage-takers, no one will threaten families over ransom.
On Saturday, Monaco said, "No family should ever be threatened with prosecution."
After the death of an another American hostage, Kayla Mueller, in February, ISIS is not believed to hold any additional American hostages.