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At least 45 people died in multiple blasts at a shrine near Syria’s capital city, Damascus. The Iowa caucus, the first nomination contest of the U.S. presidential election, is tonight and BuzzFeed News is covering the story on the ground. And puppies who are training to be guide dogs look adorable in their mini harnesses.

Posted on February 1, 2016, at 9:15 a.m. ET


Boko Haram torched a village in Nigeria on Saturday night.

At least 86 people died as militants firebombed huts in the village of Dalori, near the city of Maiduguri. The attack lasted almost four hours, the Associated Press writes. Three female suicide bombers blew themselves up as people tried to flee the scene.

“Boko Haram has been attacking soft targets, increasingly with suicide bombers, since the military last year drove them out of towns and villages in northeastern Nigeria,” the AP reports.

Jossy Ola / AP

One survivor told the Associated Press that he hid in a tree to escape the carnage.

And a little extra.

Boko Haram is the deadliest terror group in the world. In 2014, Boko Haram militants killed a total of 6,644 people, surpassing ISIS, according to a Global Terrorism Index report.

The group wants independence from authorities in the capital, Abuja, and the establishment of an Islamic state under strict Sharia law, BuzzFeed News’ David Mack writes.

Boko Haram has also displaced tens of thousands of people and was responsible for the abduction of some 300 Nigerian schoolgirls in 2014.

At least 45 people died in multiple blasts close to a Shiite shrine near Syria’s capital, Damascus.

Attackers detonated a car bomb and explosive belts at a bus station, BuzzFeed News’ Alicia Melville-Smith writes. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Louai Beshara / AFP / Getty Images

The shrine where the attack took place contains the grave of one of the Prophet Muhammad's granddaughters and is a site for Shia pilgrims, according to BBC News.

What’s next?

The attacks come as peace talks between the Syrian government and the United Nations are taking place in Geneva, Switzerland. The goal of the peace talks is to end the civil war that has been ongoing in Syria since 2011, Melville-Smith reports.

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Americans in Iowa are voting tonight in the first nominating contest of the 2016 election cycle.

Iowans will head to their caucus stations (churches, school gyms, public libraries, etc.) where they’ll listen to representatives for each candidate make a speech, and then cast their support for a particular candidate.

The process of caucusing — the time commitment, visibility of support, and level of involvement — is completely different for Democrats and Republicans. BuzzFeed News reporters are covering the story from Iowa.

A little extra

Two candidates in particular — Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump — are hoping that new caucus-goers will help catapult them to victory, and both campaigns have released videos for new voters about “how to caucus,” BuzzFeed News’ Evan McMorris-Santoro writes.

More debates are coming. The Clinton and Sanders campaigns have agreed to hold four more debates, but the details about when and where are still unclear.

We will have the results of the caucuses in tomorrow’s newsletter. Until then, you can follow our reporters on the ground for live updates: McKay Coppins, Rosie Gray, Ruby Cramer, Evan McMorris-Santoro, Jim Waterson, and BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith.

Rick Majewski/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock/Lucian Perkins/The Washington Post/Win McNamee/Charles Ommanney / Getty

From left: Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Donald Trump.


America’s quiet crackdown on Indian immigrants.

The U.S. government has moved quietly and aggressively to prevent undocumented Indians from entering the United States, many of whom are Sikhs fleeing political repression or economic collapse at home. BuzzFeed News’ David Noriega and John Templon have the story.

The number of Indian nationals trying to cross the U.S.–Mexico border has exploded in recent years — 1,200 people arrived in 2010 compared to about 200 the year before. Many of them are Punjabi Sikhs fleeing political repression, economic collapse, environmental degradation, and a drug epidemic, Noriega and Templon report.

The U.S. government has responded to Indian immigrants with exceptional harshness. They are incarcerated and sometimes jailed at higher rates than any other nationality, according to an analysis of federal data by BuzzFeed News.

“This policy is connected to the widespread belief among immigration authorities that the smuggling networks bringing Sikhs to the border are training them to file false asylum claims and disappear into the interior of the country. The government also fears these networks could be used by terrorists,” Noriega and Templon write.

David Noriega / BuzzFeed News

In 2013, 83% of Indians facing deportation were imprisoned — a larger percentage than immigrants from any other country, including Mexico.

Quick things to know:

  • At least 10 people were killed and 20 others were injured after a suicide bomb attack outside a police station in Kabul, Afghanistan. (BuzzFeed News)

  • All three maximum-security inmates who escaped from a jail in Southern California last week have been captured. (BuzzFeed News)

  • The World Health Organization is holding emergency talks in Geneva to discuss the “explosive” spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus that has been linked to a brain defect in babies. (BBC News) And for pregnant Brazilian women, the reality of dealing with the Zika virus is completely different depending on whether they’re rich or poor. (Associated Press)

  • The African Union has abandoned a plan to send 5,000 peacekeepers to help restore stability in East African nation Burundi. At least 439 people have died and 240,000 people have fled the country since last April, according to the United Nations. (BBC News)

  • Australian Open update: German Angelique Kerber defeated six-time champion Serena Williams in three sets to win the title. (BuzzFeed News) And Novak Djokovic won his sixth Australian Open title after defeating Andy Murray in the men's final. (BuzzFeed News)

  • Greek soccer players sat down for two minutes during a match to protest refugee deaths. (BuzzFeed News)

  • Myanmar’s democratically elected government has kicked of a new parliamentary session, ending 50 years of military-only rule. (BBC News)

  • Sir Terry Wogan, a famous British television and radio presenter, has died. He was 77. (BuzzFeed News)

  • It’s (almost) Groundhog Day (again): British TV network Sky Comedy is showing cult comedy Groundhog Day 13 times in a row tomorrow to celebrate the Pennsylvania holiday. (BuzzFeed)

  • It’s awards season: Spotlight and Idris Elba were the two big winners at Saturday night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards. Elba won for his roles in Beasts of No Nation and Luther, the first time a single performer has won two awards for two different roles in the same night. (Vox)

Rich Polk / Getty Images

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to diverse TV,” Elba said at the SAG Awards, making fun of the Oscars’ lack of diversity.

Happy Monday

Take a look at this ~adorable~ system for training budding guide dogs: mini puppy harnesses. At the Southeastern Guide Dog school in Palmetto, Florida, tiny harnesses are placed on Labrador, Golden Retriever, and Goldador (Labrador and Golden Retriever mix) puppies so they can get used to the feel of the harness that connects them and their owner. They’re just so fluffy and cute.

The Southeastern Guide Dogs

Doesn’t this just melt your heart?

This letter was edited and brought to you by Natasha Japanwala and Claire Moses. You can always reach us here.