The world saw a tumultuous 2014, from clashes in Ukraine, to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, to the global response to the Ebola virus.
ISIS Strikes Terror in Iraq & Syria
A group formerly known as ‘Al Qaeda in Iraq’ took center stage during 2014 as it rebranded itself as ‘The Islamic State’, better known as ISIS here at home.
Armed with weapons and cash, the group seized control of areas in Syria and Iraq, seeking to establish a Middle Eastern territory governed by Sharia law.
ISIS also broadcast videos of westerners being beheaded. Among them were Americans Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and New Hampshire native James Foley.
In September, the U.S. began airstrikes against ISIS strongholds in northern Syria and in November a U.N. commission determined ISIS and its leaders had committed war crimes.
Russia and Ukraine Clash
Weeks of violent unrest in Ukraine came to a head in late February, just days after the end of the winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to seize sections of the Republic of Crimea, within Ukraine.
Violent clashes continued through the summer and more than 4,000 lives have been lost.
The conflict is believed to have been the cause of the deadliest shooting of an airliner in history, when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 went down over Ukraine in July, killing all 298 people on board. Intelligence sources said pro-Russian separatists were to blame.
Malaysia Airlines Plane Disappears
The shooting of MH 17 was the second disaster for Malaysia Airlines after another one of the airline’s 777s went missing in March.
Flight 370 was headed from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and was last heard from over the South China Sea.
Underwater searches continue for the aircraft and the recovery of the flight data recorders. All 239 people on board are still missing and presumed dead.
South Korea Ferry Sinks
In South Korea, cell phone video showed the scene inside the ferry Sewol as it capsized and sank in April.
More than 300 people, including as many as 250 school children on a field trip, died.
In November, the captain was given a 36-year prison sentence for negligence and abandoning his passengers.
Boko Haram Kidnaps Schoolgirls
Clashes with Boko Haram, a radical Islamist terror group in Nigeria, claimed more than 10,000 lives in the past 12 months.
The group has claimed responsibility for kidnapping nearly 300 schoolgirls, which sparked a global campaign centered around the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag on Twitter.
Ebola Ravages West Africa
In West Africa, the first reports of the deadly hemorrhagic fever Ebola surfaced in March
By July, there were more than 1,000 cases and 600 deaths. Since then, the countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have been hardest hit.
To date, this is the largest Ebola outbreak in history and has killed more than 7,000 people worldwide. The CDC reports nearly 20,000 cases and experts say the epidemic is “far from over.”
The World Health Organization said the survival rate is about 50 percent. Scientists are studying the blood of Ebola survivors to develop drugs that will combat the spread of the virus.
President Obama Opens Cuban Relations
President Obama ordered the restoration of full diplomatic ties with Cuba, ending more than 50 years of Cold War trade embargo. News of the policy change coupled with word that a U.S. embassy would be opening in Havana prompted celebrations for the nation 93 three miles off the coast of Florida.
Rosetta Mission Lands on a Comet
From international to intergalactic, in November, the European Space Agency conducted the first-ever soft landing of a spacecraft on the surface of a comet. The Rosetta mission, which launched 10 years ago, traveled almost 4 billion miles to land on Comet 67-P. The comet is only 2.5 miles wide and is moving 40 times faster than a speeding bullet.
Scientists are learning from it already. In recent days, data has shown the water on the comet isn’t like anything on earth.