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Top Islamic State Leaders Killed in Airstrikes


In this file photo on Nov. 17, 2014, smoke rises from the Syrian city of Kobani, following an airstrike by the US led coalition. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

In this file photo on Nov. 17, 2014, smoke rises from the Syrian city of Kobani, following an airstrike by the US led coalition. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)


Three top Islamic State leaders were killed in a series of targeted airstrikes in Iraq, a senior U.S. Defense Department official said Thursday.

The official said the recent killings, conducted between mid November and early December, will reduce the militant group's ability to command and control areas it occupies in Iraq and Syria.

But a top commander warned the fight is far from over, adding that it might take at least three years to defeat the Islamic State militants.

U.S. not ruling out White House visit by Cuban President Raul Castro

The United States says it is possible Cuban President Raul Castro could some day visit the White House to meet with President Barack Obama.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday, "I would not rule out a visit from President Castro."

The two leaders announced their countries’ plan to normalize relations after more than 50 years of diplomatic split that began during the Cold War. Mr. Earnest said it was also possible Mr. Obama could visit Havana, as the two countries open embassies in their respective capitals.

The major easing of tension between the two countries, however, has not erased all conflict.

Mr. Obama told a television interviewer that the United States will "speak out forcefully" for the freedom of the Cuban people.


Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnap over 100 women, children

Local residents and officials in northeastern Nigeria said Thursday suspected members of the Boko Haram militant group killed 32 people and kidnapped more than 100 others in a raid on the village of Gumsuri.

The attack took place Sunday, according to residents who fled to the city of Maiduguri. News of the attack took several days to emerge because the area's mobile phone network was damaged in earlier attacks.

Gumsuri is near the village of Chibok, where Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 girls from a school in April.

Putin says Russia’s economy will improve in two years

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he is confident the country's economy will rebound within two years.

At a end-of-year news conference, Mr. Putin said central bank and economic officials are making "suitable and correct" decisions to stabilize the value of the currency.

He predicted better times ahead for Russia, just not immediately, even if world oil prices remain low or fall more.

Mr. Putin said Western economic sanctions -- imposed on Russia because of its involvement in Ukraine -- are 25 to 30 percent responsible for the current financial crisis.

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