Syria

Putin speaks with leaders

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke Wednesday with key players in the Syria conflict, including President Bashar Assad, ahead of a U.S.-Russia-engineered cease-fire, as the opposition voiced concerns that the truce due to begin later this week will only benefit the Syrian government. Government troops backed by Russian warplanes waged fierce battles to regain control of a strategic road southeast of Aleppo from the Islamic State group. The extremist group seized the town of Khanaser and surrounding hills on Tuesday, cutting the main land route to Aleppo.

Austria

Nations OK tighter borders

Overwhelmed by a wave of refugees and what they call indecision in the European Union, Austria and its southern neighbors along the Balkan migrant route agreed to tighter border controls at a meeting Wednesday — and warned that sooner or later they will have to shut their doors entirely. Greece, the first point of landing for most of the migrants arriving by boat from Turkey, was not invited to the meeting and responded angrily by threatening to block decisions at a forthcoming EU migration summit if sharing of the refugee burden is not made obligatory for member states.

Iraq

Bomb components traced

The Islamic State group relies on commercially available components for most of its bombs, with some parts coming from as far away as the United States and Japan, according to a report released Wednesday by a London-based arms research group. Conflict Armament Research says most components — such as chemicals and detonators — come from companies in Turkey and Iraq, which may not know the parts are being bought by the extremists. Many components are also used for civilian purposes, such as mining, making them relatively easy to get.

Cuba

Mobilization against Zika

Olive-clad soldiers are going door-to-door across Cuba, filling houses with mosquito-killing fog in a nationwide mobilization to keep the Zika virus out of one of the last countries in the hemisphere without it. President Raul Castro announced this week that he was throwing 9,000 military personnel and hundreds of police into what he called Cuba’s “inadequate” fight against the mosquito that carries the virus linked to birth defects and paralysis elsewhere in Latin America.

Compiled from wire reports