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Mapping Obama's Strategy to Defeat ISIS in Iraq


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration's strategy for defeating ISIS in Iraq envisions the Islamic terror group squeezed on three sides and from the air, making their grip on northern Iraq "untenable."

The strategy was laid out Tuesday by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a Senate hearing.

The plan includes:

  • Training a force of 5,000 moderate Syrian rebels to take the areas that border Iraq, although Dempsey acknowledged it may take a force of 12,000 to wrest the area from ISIS forces. If the U.S. trained rebels were attacked by Syrian government forces, the U.S. would help them, Hagel said.
  • Advise Iraqi troops for an offensive that would launch northward from west and north of Baghdad.
  • Kurdish forces in the north of Iraq would push south into areas held by ISIS.
  • Combined with U.S. air power, the multi-pronged attack would put ISIS “in an untenable position,” Dempsey said.
  • Get help from Arab countries that hopefully will provide special forces, trainers, tankers and strike aircraft.

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Independent Scotland? Cases Made Before Thursday Vote


iStock/Thinkstock(GLASGOW, Scotland) -- The Scots are about to decide their destiny.

With a mixture of raucous argument, romantic nostalgia, economic number-crunching, and hair-raising suspense, millions of Scots are bracing for the vote Thursday. The urgency in the air is palpable.

What is striking is how vital and universal this debate is. Everyone you meet is talking, canvassing, dreaming, fighting and playing the bagpipes -- or at least it seems that way, sometimes. An astonishing 97 percent of Scots eligible to vote have registered for this referendum.

The most recent polls show that those who want Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom have a very slight lead -- but one within the margin of error.

In these last 24 hours, it seems, those who will vote "no" to Scottish independence have finally roused themselves and found their passion and their voice.

In Glasgow, Scotland, Wednesday morning, speakers young and old, professional politicians and ordinary citizens, poured out their hearts before a fired-up crowd, urging a rejection of separation from London.

"We are Clyde-built," said one shipbuilding worker, referring to the river that this proud industrial town bestrides. "And what we've built together in the U.K., we will keep."

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scotsman from Kirkcaldy, seemed almost overcome with emotion as he summoned the ghosts of the United Kingdom's war dead down through the centuries, "Scotsmen, Welshmen, Englishmen and Irishmen lying side by side."

"We who vote no love Scotland," Brown said.

But on the other side, there is plenty of passion, too. And there is hope that a dream long deferred is about to come true.

"Freedom!" hollered David Bell, a taxi driver, in a pub in Edinburgh, Scotland, last night.

Holding up a 10-pound note with a portrait of Queen Elizabeth on it, Bell savagely crumpled it up in his fist, saying, "Take that!"

The pro-independence movement goes deeper than all that, though. At the heart of the argument for separation from London is a bitter dissatisfaction among many Scots with a trend in the United Kingdom since Margaret Thatcher towards a more market-based conservatism than people in Scotland want. Scots have come to see themselves as more European, more socially democratic, and less reflexively pro-American in foreign policy than the establishment that governs them from London.

There are all kinds of practical problems with independence: Would Scotland use the pound sterling as its currency? What would happen to the U.K. national debt? Would the Union Jack, the flag that combines English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh elements -- need to be changed?

But in the end, the question for the voters here is simple and profound: What does it mean to be Scottish?

It's rare that a people get to ask that sort of question so clearly and so formally as they will Thursday. And after all the arguing and the speechifying and the bagpiping, the Scots are ready to give their answer.


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Ancient Skeletons Found Holding Hands in England


University of Leicester Archaeological Services(LONDON) -- Archaeologists with the University of Leicester uncovered remains of two skeletons holding hands and believed to have been resting that way for at least 700 years.

University of Leicester Archaeological Services has so far excavated 11 skeletons, dated to the 14th century by radiocarbon, under the "lost chapel of St. Morell," which overlooks the small village of Hallaton in Leicestershire, England.

The archaeologists, who said there are likely to be more skeletons in the ground, were not certain why the people were buried there rather than in the main church in the village. They said it was possibly a special place of burial for pilgrims.

Among the other skeletons was an older male apparently killed by a sharp implement, such as a pole axe, to the head. A young male was buried in a pit with his legs raised to his chest, which archaeologists said was possibly the result of a disease.

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Video Shows Airplane Passengers Revolting over Late VIPs


iStock/Thinkstock(ISLAMABAD, Pakistan) -- In a country where the ruling elite are accustomed to a life of privilege -- everything from special lounges at airports to evading taxes -- call it a case of the 99 percent getting a bit of revenge.

A series of videos posted online show two high-profile Pakistani politicians being forced off a plane by a mob of angry passengers after the plane’s takeoff was delayed for more than two hours while the flight crew waited for the two VIPs to arrive.


Rehman Malik thrown off flight by passengers... by minator90210

“We’ve taken this for too long,” one passenger yelled at the flight crew, standing at the tunnel door that connected the plane to the Karachi airport terminal.

The first to arrive was Ramesh Vankwani, a member of the country’s national assembly. As he arrived, the angry mob surrounded him, yelling at him and telling him to get off the plane.

“I was just sitting outside,” he said. “They’re waiting for someone else.”

Standing inside the plane, the crowd pushed Vankwani to reveal his name, but he refused, referring to himself only as Dr. Ramesh. After he managed to push through the crowd to get to his seat, he eventually admitted that he was a government official. At that point, the angry crowd -- many of whom were recording the episode on their mobile phones -- started yelling, “Shame, shame.”

“Get out. Out, out out!”

The angry crowd didn’t stop until Vankwani was forced to leave the plane in disgrace.

The next to arrive was the country’s former interior minister, Rehman Malik, who gained a reputation for his flamboyance while in office.

He arrived to the door of the aircraft, but didn’t get much further.

“You should apologize to these passengers,” one of the angry men demanded. As Malik noticed the crowd with mobile phones blocking the entrance to the aircraft, he quickly retreated back down the tunnel.

But the crowd followed him.

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” one yelled.

“You’re not a minister anymore. You’re not a minister anymore. And even if you are, we don’t care anymore. You people have to become humans.”

“Shame on you you, stupid dog.”

The plane was scheduled to take off from Karachi, Pakistan, and land in Islamabad, the country’s capital and home to its ruling elite. On his Twitter account, Malik denied being behind the flight’s delay.

“The flt was announced to be delayed at 6pm till 830,” he tweeted. “i suffered equally.i reached at 835.it is wrongly thought that delay was b/c of me.”

Malik said he’s demanding an inquiry.

An official with Pakistan International Airlines told local Pakistani media the plane was delayed because of a technical fault and not because the crew was waiting for the arrival of the VIPs. The airline has suspended two of its Karachi-based managers as a result of the delay.

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7.1-Magnitude Earthquake Strikes off of Guam


US Geological Survey(EWA BEACH, Hawaii) -- A 7.1-magnitude earthquake was reported off the coast of Guam Wednesday, but no tsunami is expected due to the earthquake’s depth -- more than 100 miles.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, the earthquake was located “too deep inside the earth” to generate tsunami concerns.

The earthquake was reported about 25 miles northwest of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.

The U.S. territory is located about 4,000 miles west of Hawaii and 1,600 miles southeast of Japan.

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Ukraine Approves European Union Deal, Grant Autonomy for Breakaway Regions


sigurcamp/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KIEV, Ukraine) -- Ukrainian lawmakers on Tuesday voted to grant greater autonomy for breakaway regions in the east and immunity for those who've taken up arms, while also integrating further with Europe.

The decision to grant autonomy is part of an effort to bring the fighting in eastern Ukraine to an end. While Tuesday's actions create further opportunity for division at the hands of Russia, the Ukrainian government also ratified a deal to further integrate itself with the European Union. That deal was opposed by the Kremlin, and was the same deal that was dismissed by the former Ukrainian president last year, prompting street protests.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf offered congratulations to the people of Ukraine for "making history" on Tuesday. She added that the new laws approved on Tuesday, "highlight the Ukrainian government's continuing commitment to resolve the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine peacefully."

The U.S. continues to call on Russia to reciprocate and pull its military forces and equipment from inside the Ukrainian borders and end support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

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Bill Clinton Offers Take on Scottish Independence Referendum


ABC/Randy Holmes(NEW YORK) -- Former U.S. President Bill Clinton offered support for a unified United Kingdom on Tuesday, offering his stance on the Scottish independence referendum.

The Scottish people will vote on Sept. 18 whether they want to separate from the United Kingdom, or remain part of a unified nation. "With so much turmoil and division across the globe," Clinton said, "I hope the Scots will inspire the world with a high turnout and a powerful message of identity and inclusion.

With the vote upcoming, there are questions over what will happen next if the Scottish people vote for independence. The Royal Bank of Scotland has said that it would move its headquarters to London, while maintaining its Scottish employee base. Questions have been raised, however, over whether the flag of Great Britain would be forced to change, as it contains the St. Andrew Cross representing Scotland.

"Unity with maximum self-determination sends a powerful message to a world torn by identity conflicts," Clinton said. "This is the great challenge of our time. The Scots can show us how to meet it."

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Top Syrian Warns Congress 'Moderate' Rebels May Sell Weapons


iStock/Thinkstock(BEIRUT, Lebanon) -- In letters addressed to the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, the Syrian speaker of parliament calls on the United States to refrain from arming and training so-called moderate Syrian rebels and from entering into a coalition with countries whose religious ideologies, the speaker says, has fueled the growth of ISIS.

Speaker Jihad al-Lahham also writes that one of the two American journalists beheaded by ISIS was sold to the militant group by the moderate forces.

"What is called moderate opposition sold to ISIL the innocent, beheaded U.S. journalist," Lahham writes to House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, using an alternative acronym for ISIS. "There is nothing to prevent those groups from selling the U.S. weapons to ISIL as it is their proven common practice."

Lahham doesn't name the journalist, but it's the same accusation made by a spokesman for the family of Steven Sotloff, whose execution video was posted online by ISIS earlier this month.

In his letters to the U.S. Congress,  Lahham argues that there is no such thing as moderate rebels and arming and training those selected groups "is a nonreversible action that will trigger a global negative chain reaction."

Lahham also singles out Saudi Arabia, one of the United States' closest allies in the anti-ISIS coalition the administration is building. He says the "core engine generating jihadi terrorist[s]" stems from the puritanical interpretation of Islam practiced and enforced in Saudi Arabia. He points out that the beheadings that ISIS has become infamous for "is a government legal practice in Saudi Arabia."

The White House is lobbying Congress to authorize $500 million to arm and train "vetted" moderate Syrian rebel groups to fight ISIS. The CIA has already been covertly training certain rebel groups fighting the Assad regime in countries bordering Syria, but this would be an expanded program. Saudi Arabia has already agreed to allow rebels to train in the country, according to U.S. officials.

The Obama administration has long resisted arming the moderates on a large scale with small and heavy weapons out of fear that arms given to the relatively weak and very fractured forces would fall into the hands of extremists. Moderate Syrian forces say the West's reluctance to arm them over the past three years of Syria's civil war has given rise to the radical Islamist elements in Syria whose wealthy patrons from the Gulf have funded more sophisticated weaponry.

The U.S. has carried out over 160 airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and has warned that it will begin to target the group inside Syria where it has its base in the northern city of Raqqa. The Obama administration has said it is not coordinating with either the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, nor Iran, Syria's main backer.

Syria has warned that an American assault against ISIS inside Syria without coordination would violate their sovereignty.

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US Military Airstrikes Hit Multiple ISIS Targets in Iraq


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. military conducted five more airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets in Iraq, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said Tuesday.

Two of the strikes were northwest of Irbil. Those "destroyed an ISIL armed truck and an ISIL fighting position," CENTCOM said in a statement, using one of several acronyms for the militant Islamic group.

The remaining strikes were southwest of Baghdad and "damaged an ISIL truck and destroyed an ISIL anti-aircraft artillery piece, a small ISIL ground unit and two small boats on the Euphrates River that were re-supplying ISIL forces in the area," according to CENTCOM.

The fighter aircraft used in the strikes all managed to exit the area safely.

Since Aug. 8, CENTCOM says it has conducted 167 airstrikes across Iraq.

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How US Military Will Combat Ebola in Africa


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon is sending 3,000 people to West Africa -- more than twice the number currently stationed in Iraq -- to help expand U.S. efforts to help fight the deadly Ebola virus, President Obama plans to announce Tuesday.

Military personnel will not directly provide health care to the thousands of patients, but they will help coordinate efforts of the U.S. government and various international relief organizations to contain the epidemic, according to a statement from the White House.

“It is so important that the U.S. is taking a leadership role in responding in West Africa,” said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical editor.

Besser said that with so few healthcare workers in the region, it’s unclear who is going to care for the sick if the U.S. doesn’t help. The president's plan only outlines care for ill health care workers, so there will be a big gap left unfilled, he said.

The U.S. military personnel will also help build additional Ebola treatment units in affected areas and recruit and organize medical personnel to staff them. Some of the facilities they help build will be used to train up to 500 healthcare providers a week who will directly deliver care to infected patients.

The United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps will also deploy 65 officers to Liberia -- including administrators, clinicians and support staff -- to manage and staff a previously announced Department of Defense hospital to care for stricken health care workers, the statement said.

The president has called the Ebola outbreak a national security priority. He will outline the new steps to address the crisis during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

As of Tuesday, there were 4,985 probable, confirmed and suspected cases in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, with 2,461 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The countries affected are Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. It has been called the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

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WATCH: Mob Turn Ukrainian Lawmaker into Piece of Trash


iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- An angry mob tossed a Ukrainian lawmaker into a dumpster outside the parliament building in Kiev Tuesday, taunting him and shouting obscenities.

As police looked on, the protesters flipped pro-Russian Vitaly Zhuravsky into the trash bin, then held him down and threw a car tire and water onto him before he was finally able to escape.

Zhuravsky is a prominent former member of ousted President Viktor Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions.

The incident took place before a set of controversial votes Tuesday. The first granted greater autonomy to two breakaway regions in east Ukraine that have been home to intense fighting by Russian-backed rebels.

Fighters who have not committed war crimes were also granted amnesty. The move was a concession to Russia, but also intended to reinforce a fragile cease-fire.

Another vote ratified a trade association agreement with the European Union. That deal had been shelved by Yanukovich last year after pressure from the Kremlin.

The move backfired, however, leading to street protests that ultimately forced Yanukovich to flee the country in February.

 

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Eight Scottish Things Britain May Be Sad to Lose


iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Scotland might soon be an independent country.

Scots are voting Thursday on whether to secede from the United Kingdom, a decision that would grant Scotland independence but separate it from the rest of Great Britain, which also includes England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If that happens, Britain will no longer be able to claim great Scottish actors, foods and landmarks as its own.

Here's what the British may miss the most if it loses Scotland:

1. Scotch

Scotch, by definition, only comes from one place: Scotland.

2. Sean Connery

Perhaps Scotland's most well-known Hollywood star, Sean Connery is also the original James Bond. He played Agent 007 in the first five Bond films and also in two later movies. Connery has also made it clear he's pro-Scottish independence and supports "the core democratic value that the people of Scotland are the best guardians of their own future."

However, the U.K. does have its own James Bond connection -- Roger Moore and Daniel Craig are both from England.

3. Susan Boyle

The Scottish singing sensation doesn't want to part ways with the U.K., telling the Scottish Sun newspaper that "we have still been able to retain our proud identity whilst being a part of Britain."

No word on whether they'll revoke her title as Britain's Got Talent winner if Scotland secedes.

4. Edinburgh Castle

Brits will no longer be able to point out the Edinburgh Castle as one of its most impressive sights if Scotland becomes independent. The historic castle is a famous tourist attraction in Edinburgh.

5. Haggis

Haggis is a traditional Scottish meal made of minced sheep's liver, lungs and heart mixed with oatmeal and encased in the animal's stomach lining.

6. Gerard Butler

Another famous Scottish actor, Gerard Butler isn't so sure about Scottish independence.

"I used to be totally pro-independence, I was massively in favor of it, but no my feeling is that we should be about coming together rather than separating ourselves," Butler told a Scottish publication in May.

7. Braveheart

This isn't the first time Scotland has fought for independence, as anyone who has seen Mel Gibson's 1995 blockbuster knows.

8. Loch Ness Monster

The mysterious lake creature comes from the Scottish Highlands, and some people are even questioning whether the monster has been making an appearance to voice its opinion on the independence vote.

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Pope Rejects Extra Security on Trip Despite Potential ISIS Threat


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(VATICAN CITY) -- Pope Francis will have no additional security when he travels to the predominantly Muslim country of Albania this week, despite reports that the pontiff is a target for ISIS terrorists.

The pope will use the same open-topped Jeep he uses at the Vatican during his single-day trip Sunday, a spokesman confirmed Monday.

“There is no reason to change the pope’s itinerary,” the Rev. Frederico Lombardi said in a briefing Monday, explaining that there were no specific threats or concerns. “We are obviously paying attention but there is no need for concern or a change to his program in Albania.”

The pope, 77, will use the open-topped vehicle because he prefers to be unhindered, Lombardi said.

Recent unsourced Italian media reports claim the pope is a target for ISIS terrorists.

Iraq’s ambassador to the Holy See has also publicly expressed concerns.

"The Pope is indeed a target,” Habeeb Al Sadr told Italian newspaper Il Messaggero late last week. "We know very well how these terrorists think…I would not exclude that ISIS would arrive to strike him.”

Pope Francis told reporters last month the world would be justified in using force to stop ISIS aggression.

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Scotland Independence Vote Raises Specter of Ununited Kingdom


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Of all the many crises this summer -- from ISIS, to Ukraine, Ebola to Libya -- who'd have thought jolly old England would be on that list?

Technically, it’s the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. But for how much longer? On Thursday, after 307 years, Scotland may vote for independence and with it, potentially change the world order that has lasted since the end of the Second World War. Decisions taken across the highlands and lowlands of Scotland will echo far beyond the shores of a disunited kingdom.

Fifty years ago, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson declared that Britain had "lost an empire but not yet found a role." He may have been premature. During two decades of war -- in Iraq (twice), Afghanistan and elsewhere, Britain chose the role as America's "ally-in-chief." British and U.S. troops fought and died together, from Basra to Helmand and beyond. Half a century after he dismissed “Great” Britain, on Sept. 18, the Britain Acheson spoke of, may cease to exist.

A Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland would continue. But Britain would be partitioned -- not for the first time. In 122 AD, the Roman Emperor Hadrian built a wall, stretching 75 miles to keep “barbarians” of Scotland out of England. Two millennia on, a vote for independence would consign Great Britain to the same history books as Hadrian. The implications would be profound -- not just for the rump of the United Kingdom, but for the United States and the Western Alliance.

While Scotland makes up just 8 percent of the U.K. population -- its GDP of $235 million puts it just behind Connecticut ($240 million) -- it is also home to the 58 Trident nuclear missiles leased by Britain from the United States and the four nuclear submarines that carry them.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond -- the man who has led the march to independence -- has promised to remove the missiles and the submarines from their current base on the west coast of Scotland during the first term of parliament following independence. The consequences for Britain and NATO would be grave. No other port in the U.K. is equipped to house the missiles, raising the potential prospect of Britain’s “independent” nuclear deterrent being based in France, or at the U.S. naval base at King’s Bay in Georgia, home to America’s own Trident submarines.

And then there’s the flag. The Union Jack is made up of the flags of the U.K.’s constituent parts -- the red St. George’s Cross for England, the red diagonal Irish cross of St Patrick, and Scotland’s blue white and blue Saltire. Officially, it’s even called the Union Flag -- so without a Union, what to do? It’s not just the UK that will need a rethink. Four other countries also have the Union Jack in their flag (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tuvalu) as well as Britain’s overseas territories like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. Even the state of Hawaii has the Union Jack in its design, as do the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario.

Next year the United Nations marks its 70th birthday. Across seven decades -- for all of Acheson’s doubts -- the U.K. has been one of just five “great powers” to be permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, alongside the United States, Russia, China and France. But there are many who covet Britain’s UN chair. India and Brazil have been pushing for Security Council reform. This week, even the former British Prime Minister, Sir John Major, warned that should Scotland vote for independence, the U.K.’s place as a member of the permanent five of the United Nations “would no longer be viable.” Others warn that it could lose its place in the G7 group of Nations. The IMF ranks the U.K. as the world’s sixth biggest economy. Without Scotland, the U.K. would be overtaken by Brazil.

Many of Britain’s nearest neighbors are also watching closely. The European Union says an independent Scotland would leave the E.U. and need to reapply for membership. Each of the E.U.’s 28 member nations has a veto on new members. Many have their own separatist movements. Spain would be unlikely to encourage Scottish independence for fear that Catalonia might be next.

While warning of the risks to the U.K.’s place in the UN, former Prime Minister Major also warns independence would enhance the risk of Britain’s exit from the E.U. As if one in/out referendum isn’t enough, David Cameron has promised another -- in 2017 -- on whether the U.K. should leave the European Union. But that would follow Scotland’s exit. And with more voters in Scotland pro-E.U. than in the rest of the U.K., those fighting to keep Britain in Europe fear it could tip the balance towards the rump of the U.K. leaving the E.U. -- the United States’ largest trading partner.

Five million Americans can claim Scottish ancestry, almost as many people as live in Scotland today. This time next year -- on Sept. 11, 2015 -- Queen Elizabeth will become Britain’s longest reigning monarch, passing Victoria’s record of 63 years and 216 days, an anniversary she will spend at Balmoral, the Scottish Castle where she is said to feel most at home. Through her mother, the Queen is a direct descendant of the legendary Scottish warrior Robert the Bruce. It would be a bitter irony if it was Britain’s most Scottish monarch ever who presided over the break-up of her United Kingdom.

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Three Foreign Troops Killed in Suicide Attack in Afghanistan


File photo. Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images(Kabul, Afghanistan) -- Three foreign troops were killed Tuesday in a suicide attack near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, authorities said, with the Taliban claiming responsibility for the attack.

The Afghan interior ministry said 16 civilians were also injured in the morning rush-hour attack.

The attacker targeted a foreign forces convoy.

The blast shook Kabul's busy airport road, bringing chaos to a beautiful morning and leaving the roadway covered in leaves, shrapnel and debris. Thick smoke rose from the site of the attack.

International Security Assistance Force members were among the victims, the ISAF confirmed. The identities of the victims have not been released, though a U.S. official confirms that two of the three were Americans and the third was Polish.

American forces stood guard following the attack, cordoning off the area and inspecting the damage.

Afghan and ISAF officials are reviewing the incident.

Three ISAF personnel were killed in a bomb attack in Kabul today.  A US official confirms that two of the three were Americans and that the third was Polish.  They died in a suicide bomber attack near a passing coalition convoy.

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