Leela Jacinto is an award-winning international news reporter who has doggedly pursued stories across the globe. Along the way, she has harangued some officials, wined and dined with others, but has always kept her eyes on what’s in it for ordinary folks. A graduate of New York University, Leela has previously worked for ABC News in New York before joining FRANCE 24. In this blog, she provides insights on things you don’t necessarily see in the news bytes.

A new brute takes over Palmyra’s notorious Tadmur Prison

Situated in Palmyra, near some of the world’s most beautiful ancient ruins, Syria’s notorious Tadmur Prison has fallen from one brutal boss to another.

If the Taliban is hooking up with IS, who’s talking peace in Qatar?

Afghan officials say Taliban insurgents are linking up with Daesh (ISIS) militants in Kunduz while thousands of miles away in a Gulf seaside resort, some Taliban honchos are talking peace. So, what exactly is going on?

Jordan’s warrior king ‘suits up’ to fight ISIS – on Twitter

Photographs of Jordan’s King Abdullah suited up in full combat gear, apparently ready to personally take on ISIS, appeared on Twitter this week. They seemed too good to be true – and they were.

The King Is Dead, Long Live His Geriatric Brother

In conservative Saudi Arabia, where change comes glacially, the new king has extended the royal succession line to a new generation. And that’s a big deal by Saudi standards – even if it really isn’t.

Al Qaeda wins this round against Daesh, but what’s with the rival claims?

Al Qaeda’s most dangerous branch, AQAP, has claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack, edging arch jihadist foe Daesh (IS) for the moment. So why were there rivals claims in the Paris two hostage crises?

Lessons from the Peshawar army school attack

The year that saw Malala Yousafzai win the Nobel Peace Prize is drawing to a close with a horrific attack on schoolchildren in Peshawar. So much for our dreams of a world where kids can go to school without fear.

Why Turkey’s ‘Kasimpasa man’ can’t get tough with Putin

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also known as the “Kasimpasa man” after the tough Istanbul neighborhood of his childhood. But when it comes to tough man of the region, Vladimir Putin, the Turkish leader can be surprisingly soft.

Unraveling the mystery around the ‘French agent' turned bin Laden cohort

From a seaside French town to the badlands of Pakistan and Syria, David Drugeon rose up the jihadist ranks. This we know for sure. But was he a French agent and is he dead or alive?

Two days, three leaders and a tricky transition for Burkina Faso

In 48 hours, Burkina Faso went through three leaders following Blaise Compaore’s ouster, including rival claims to power by two military men for a few hours. In the end, the junior officer won. But can he steer the country on the road to democracy?

From Nigeria to Iraq, jihadist sexual enslavement of women rises – with a twisted justification

Jihadists have sexually enslaved women from Algeria in the 1990s to Nigeria in 2014. Now the group that calls itself the Islamic State has produced a sinister admission and justification of its grotesque treatment of Yazidi women and girls.

Jailed for refusing to serve in Israel’s Gaza offensive

On Aug. 11, Gilad Halpern will turn 33, but he won’t be home for his birthday. He will mark that milestone in an Israeli prison. That’s the price he’s willing to pay for being a conscientious objector.
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So, if France is not an anti-Semitic nation, is it an Islamophobic one?

The banning of recent Gaza protests in and around Paris has enflamed passions and exacerbated tensions in France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish communities.

Ignoring the Syrian side of the Sykes-Picot line

ISIS delivers a multilingual, postcolonial, post-national, proto-caliphate jihadist message to beat all prior propaganda ploys. So, why are we divorcing Iraq from Syria? And why do we always ignore a battlefield to rush into Iraq?

Kenyatta’s al Shabaab denial inflames Kenya’s divisive discourse

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta dragged Kenya’s whodunit into dangerous terrain when he insisted “politically motivated ethnic violence” – and not al Shabaab – was responsible for recent deadly attacks.

Maliki’s wrong: ISIS is so rich, it doesn’t need Saudi money

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has blamed Saudi Arabia for funding Islamists. But ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria) is also a threat to the Saudis and for once, Saudi money does not talk.

‘Blowback’ from Syria strikes Belgium, rattles France

The main suspect in the dealy May 24 Brussels Jewish Museum attack is a Frenchman who fought in Syria, marking Europe’s first case of a much-dreaded blowback from the Syrian conflict.

Old suspicions dog joint Nigeria-Cameroon Boko Haram fight

The West Africa Twittersphere was buzzing in the lead-up to the May 17 Paris summit on Nigeria’s security. Would he personally show up or would he simply send a representative?

Hollande issues ‘probable death’ notice – and everyone’s perplexed

It’s not often that the leader of a major Western European nation issues an official statement declaring someone "probably dead". That’s exactly what happened this week here in France.

A Tale of Two Indias

Two stories emerged from India this week. One was the case of two Indian women in New York from two contrasting backgrounds being treated very differently in the media. But there’s just one issue in all thess dichotomies...

Sharif goes to Washington, and the drone drama is scripted

A day before Nawaz Sharif met Barack Obama, news editors were reading from the same script – written by human rights groups. The day after, a carefully planted leak in a US daily supplied the other side.