Amy Held

Police have launched an investigation after a woman working at the British Embassy was found strangled on a roadside outside the capitol city of Beirut on Saturday, Lebanese officials said.

NPR's Ruth Sherlock has confirmed with the embassy that the victim is Rebecca Dykes, a British national.

"We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Rebecca," her family said in a statement, released by the Foreign Office. "We are doing all we can to understand what happened. We request that the media respect our privacy."

As was her habit, 22-year-old Bethany Stephens took her dogs for a walk in the woods near her childhood home in Goochland, Va., about 30 miles outside Richmond. But when she did not return home by Thursday night, her father grew concerned and called police, who made a terrible discovery. Stephens had been attacked and killed by her own pit bulls, police say.

As the year winds down, three new crew members are set to begin a mission aboard the International Space Station. Early Sunday, an American, a Russian and a Japanese astronaut blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in a Soyuz spacecraft.

Tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes, thousands of acres scorched and hundreds of buildings reduced to ash. It hasn't even been one week since the latest string of wildfires broke out in Southern California, but the toll is staggering.

Even so, by Saturday, some bright spots began to emerge in the fire-ravaged region.

Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State Saturday after its forces drove out the group from its final area of control along the Syrian border, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told a conference in Baghdad.

"Our heroic armed forces have now secured the entire length of the Iraq-Syria border," Abadi later tweeted. "We defeated Daesh through our unity and sacrifice for the nation. Long live Iraq and its people."

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