Jane Arraf

Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Cairo, Egypt.

Arraf joined NPR in 2017 after two decades of reporting from and about the region for CNN, NBC, the Christian Science Monitor, PBS Newshour and al-Jazeera English. She has previously been posted to Baghdad, Amman, and Istanbul, along with Washington, DC, New York, and Montreal.

She has reported from Iraq since the 1990s. For several years, Arraf was the only Western journalist based in Baghdad. She reported live the war in Iraq in 2003; covered the battles for Fallujah, Najaf, and Samarra; and was embedded with US forces during the military surge in Iraq. She has also covered India, Haiti, Bosnia, and Afghanistan and did extensive magazine and newspaper reporting and writing.

Arraf is a former Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Her awards include a Peabody for PBS Newshour, an Overseas Press Club citation, and inclusion in a CNN Emmy.

Arraf studied journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa and began her career at Reuters.

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Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has emerged as the biggest winner in parliamentary elections, limiting the chances for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to form another government and setting the country on an uncharted course.

Iraqi election results are showing a surprising setback for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, with a political list backed by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr making a stronger showing.

Election officials Sunday night released results for ten of Iraq's 19 provinces, accounting for more than half the vote. Sadr's political list Sa'iroun (Moving Forward) was either leading or in second place in almost all of them.

Updated at 7:10 p.m. ET

Iraqis voted Saturday in the first parliamentary elections since defeating ISIS.

Iraqi officials had worried that security concerns would keep voters from the polls. But as polling centers closed, it was apparent that many voters stayed away from apathy rather than fear.

With more than 90 percent of the votes in, Iraq's election commission announced voter turnout of 44.5 percent. The figure is down sharply from 60 percent of eligible voters who cast their ballots in the last elections in 2014.

In Baghdad's Qishla square, where the British crowned Iraq's first king almost a century ago, a young paramilitary fighter in a camouflage tent shows off a tabletop model of Iraq's recent battles against ISIS.

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Before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Gen. Najm al-Jabouri would stand at the border crossing with Turkey and look longingly across the gate.

"As an officer, I had a dream to travel outside of Iraq," he says, sitting in a garden in Saddam Hussein's former palace complex in Mosul. "Sometimes I would go to Ibrahim Khalil gate just to see outside Iraq — to see whether the ground outside Iraq was different from inside Iraq."

In 2003, as U.S. forces entered Baghdad, Muqtada al-Sadr was a young Shiite Muslim cleric, little known to the American troops who toppled Saddam Hussein and ushered in a tumultuous new Iraq.

As liberation turned into occupation, Sadr, the son of a revered grand ayatollah killed for opposing Saddam, compiled a militia that presented such a serious challenge to American forces, the U.S. vowed to kill or capture him.

A couple of years later, his Mahdi Army was embroiled in Iraq's bitter sectarian war.

Navine, 15, could pass for a typical teenager. Her delicate face is framed by dark brown hair pulled back with carefully curled tendrils in front. She wears sweatpants and a slouchy striped sweater.

Then she pulls up the sleeve to reveal a tattoo — a crude letter N. Her mother had Navine and her brother tattooed with ashes and a nail when they were being held by ISIS.

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is set to coast to a sweeping victory in Egypt's third presidential elections since the 2011 revolution. For many Egyptians going to the polls starting Monday, it will be a vote of support for Sisi's hard-line rule five years after he led a military coup toppling the country's first democratically elected leader.

Egypt has a presidential election starting Monday, but the winner is almost certain already: Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. And tight restrictions limit discussion of other options.

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Ziad Abdul Qader came back to his house in the Iraqi city of Mosul recently to find a pile of charred human bones in the courtyard. He'd seen the bodies of the two ISIS fighters when he came to check on the house months ago and hurriedly left. When he returned in mid-February, they had been set on fire.

"A group was going around burning bodies because they were worried about disease," he says.

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Before she went to New York last fall to speak to thousands of people, Najla Hussin had never been more than a few hundred miles from her village in northern Iraq.

Hussin, 20, is from Sinjar in northern Iraq, where ISIS swept in four years ago to kill and enslave members of the ancient Yazidi religious minority.

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist for girls' education, met Hussin and other young Yazidi women during a trip last summer to the Kurdistan region of Iraq. She invited Hussin to speak on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

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Abdullah Shrim's phone almost never stops ringing. Most of the calls and messages are from other Yazidis asking for help to find their relatives. Others are from people threatening to kill him.

Shrim, a gregarious man with a ready smile, so far has rescued 338 members of the Yazidi religious group held captive by ISIS — almost all of them from Syria. It's a long way from his background as a beekeeper and businessman.

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Farah Khaled stands in front of the scorched and twisted steel beams of the destroyed Mosul University library. Red and green ribbons stand out against the blackened metal — remnants of a book drive Khaled and other students organized.

"Their aim was to destroy our culture," Khaled, 22, says about ISIS. "To destroy every ancient thing, every beautiful thing."

But they didn't destroy Khaled, who is irrepressible.

Hammoudi laughs and gurgles as a cooing caregiver picks him up from a crib. It's clear from the attention he is getting that he's the darling of the orphanage.

The 7-month-old baby is dressed in a white jumpsuit. One sleeve hangs empty where he is missing an arm.

Sukaina Ali Younis, the founder of this Mosul, Iraq, orphanage, describes what happened to him as one of the "biggest crimes of ISIS."

"ISIS left him on the ground as bait to lure Iraqi soldiers," she says. "Three soldiers went to rescue the child and a sniper shot and killed them all."

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At the main cemetery on the west side of Mosul, Iraq, kids play among the makeshift headstones sticking out of freshly dug mounds of red earth.

Some of the markers are broken slabs of concrete painted with the names of the neighborhoods where the bodies were found. "Boy and girl" reads one from the Zinjali district. In other places, a single headstone gives no indication of the multiple bodies buried underneath.

But the gravediggers remember everything.

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Iraq is celebrating the defeat of ISIS. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi over the weekend declared December 10 the country's newest national holiday. He presided over a huge military parade in Baghdad with troops and tanks.

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Ammar is standing near a crowded bridge in Mosul, shivering in the sunlight. He's a thin 16-year-old with haunted eyes. But he's not worried about himself. He says he has come to try to find help for his sister.

She's nine, and the ISIS attack that killed their parents as they tried to flee Mosul in June left her paralyzed.

"We were walking and they were firing from a building," Ammar says.

ISIS wanted to stop the civilians they used as human shields from leaving. There was a wall a few hundred yards away.

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In Iraq, authorities are trying to deal with one of the complicated legacies of ISIS. With many fighters dead or in prison, it's unclear what should happen to their wives and children, many of them citizens of other countries.

Updated at 6:36 a.m. ET Saturday

A terrorist attack that targeted a mosque in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has left at least 305 people dead and more than 120 wounded Friday, according to the public prosecutor's office.

The death toll makes it the deadliest attack in the country's recent history.

At least 27 of those killed were children, according to the prosecutor's office.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

At least 235 people have been killed in an attack on a mosque in Egypt's northern Sinai region. The Egyptian government has declared three days of mourning. NPR's Jane Arraf covers Egypt, and she joins us now. Hi, Jane.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Hi, Noel.

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