By James Pearson and Ju-min Park SEOUL (Reuters) - U.S. ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert underwent two-and-a-half hours of surgery after he was slashed in the face by a Korean nationalist in an attack at a breakfast forum in Seoul on Thursday to discuss Korean reunification. Doctors said later his condition was stable after "very successful" surgery that required 80 stitches in his face as the White House expressed optimism for his quick return to his duties. In 2010, Kim tried to attack the Japanese ambassador to South Korea by throwing a piece of concrete and was given a suspended jail term, according to police. The attack was a protest against joint military exercises by South Korean and U.S. troops, which Kim said interfered with reconciliation between North and South Korea, according to police following an interrogation.
By Saif Hameed and Dominic Evans BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Islamic State militants have set fire to oil wells northeast of the city of Tikrit to obstruct an assault by Shi'ite militiamen and Iraqi soldiers trying to drive them from the Sunni Muslim city and surrounding towns, a witness said. The witness and a military source said Islamic State fighters ignited the fire at the Ajil oil field to shield themselves from attack by Iraqi military helicopters. The offensive is the biggest Iraqi forces have yet mounted against IS, which has declared an Islamic caliphate on captured territory in Iraq and Syria and spread fear across the region by slaughtering Arab and Western hostages and killing or kidnapping members of religious minorities like Yazidis and Christians. Black smoke could be seen rising from the oil field since Wednesday afternoon, said the witness, who accompanied Iraqi militia and soldiers as they advanced on Tikrit from the east.
By Angus McDowall and Amena Bakr RIYADH/DOHA (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia is pushing for Sunni Muslim Middle East countries to set aside differences over political Islam and focus on what it sees as more urgent threats from Iran and Islamic State. Its new monarch, King Salman, has used summits with leaders of all five Gulf Arab states, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey over the past 10 days to reinforce the need for unity and find a way to work around disagreements over the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia's deep-seated mistrust of the Islamist group is unchanged, diplomats say.
By Darya Korsunskaya and Gabriela Baczynska MOSCOW (Reuters) - It may have been the last note Boris Nemtsov ever wrote, a hurried scrawl in blue pen on a plain white sheet of A4 paper. A day before he was shot dead near the Kremlin last week, the Russian opposition figure and his close aide Olga Shorina were discussing a sensitive investigation he was preparing into Moscow's backing for separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine. Since last summer, reports have been circulating inside the country that many serving Russian troops have died in combat in eastern Ukraine, where the separatist war has killed more than 6,000 people. Despite what Ukraine and its Western allies say is overwhelming evidence, Moscow adamantly denies sending arms or troops to the region, saying any Russians fighting in Ukraine are volunteers.
By Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets KIEV (Reuters) - One Ukrainian soldier was killed and another wounded fighting pro-Russian separatists in the east, a military spokesman said on Thursday, as Kiev accused rebels of increasing violations of a ceasefire deal. President Petro Poroshenko, whose initiative to boost the armed forces by a third 250,000 personnel was passed easily in parliament, has called the ceasefire the last chance for peace with the pro-Russian rebels. Some 6,000 people have been killed in fighting since separatists took up arms last year in Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland in response to the overthrow of the Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich in Kiev. Another military spokesman said rebels had attacked Ukrainian troop positions or civilian targets 40 times in the previous 24 hours, including 17 artillery attacks.