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IN THE NEWS - White House Confirms Death of US Hostage in Syria

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(FILE)This undated photo from the Mueller family and the office of U.S. Senator John McCain shows 26-year-old Kayla Jean Mueller.
(FILE)This undated photo from the Mueller family and the office of U.S. Senator John McCain shows 26-year-old Kayla Jean Mueller.

U.S. officials have confirmed that an American woman held hostage in Syria is dead. Twenty-six-year old Kayla Mueller was kidnapped in August of 2013 while doing aid work.

Islamic State militants claimed Ms. Mueller died in a Jordanian airstrike in the Syrian city of Raqqa. Jordan was targeting Islamic State militants in the attack February 6. The airstrike was in response to the Islamic State's killing of a Jordanian pilot.

However, the U.S. questioned the claims made by the Islamic State that Ms. Mueller died in the airstrike. U.S. officials said there was "no evidence of civilians in the target area."

Ms. Mueller's parents wrote in a statement they were "heartbroken" over their daughter's death. They called her a humanitarian who, in their words, "dedicated the whole of her young life to helping those in need of freedom, justice, and peace."

Deadly fighting in Somali town

Reports from central Somalia say at least 12 people were killed in fighting Tuesday. Witnesses say Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama'a group fighters attacked government bases in the town of Guri-El.

A VOA reporter in the area said locals told him the town is under "full control" of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama'a. The group is considered moderate. It has helped the Somali government in fighting the Islamist militant group al-Shabab. However, the two sides are disputing the group's representation in the local and national government.

Egypt and Russia sign military, economic, nuclear deals

Russia and Egypt signed several agreements Tuesday to strengthen military and economic ties. The two countries also signed a deal to help Egypt develop its nuclear power abilities. The agreements came after a two-day visit to Cairo by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

At a news conference Tuesday, President Putin said he and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi had agreed to increase cooperation in several areas, including Russian investments in Egypt, tourism, and cooperation in the battle against terrorism.

Obama calls Putin to discuss Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by phone to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. He called to discuss the increasing violence in eastern Ukraine and Russia's support for the separatists fighting there.

Mr. Obama urged the Russian leader to support a peace deal for Ukraine at a four-country meeting in Belarus this week. Leaders from Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine will meet in the Belorussian capital of Minsk Wednesday to review a possible peace deal.

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Words in the News

response – n. something that is done as a reaction to something else

dedicated – adj. having very strong support for or loyalty to a person, group, cause, etc.

moderate – adj. having or expressing beliefs that are neither very liberal nor very conservative

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