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WHO declares Nigeria free of Ebola

GENEVA — The World Health Organization declared Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, officially free of Ebola infections on Monday, calling the outcome the triumphal result of “world class epidemiological detective work.”

The announcement came 42 days after the last reported infection in Nigeria’s outbreak, twice the maximum incubation period for the Ebola virus.

The Nigerian response was upheld by the WHO as an example of the measures other countries can take to halt the spread of the epidemic, which is concentrated in the three West African countries Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“This is a spectacular success story that shows that Ebola can be contained,” WHO said in a report on its website. But it also expressed caution that Nigeria cannot relax its defenses against the deadly virus.

More than 9,000 people have become infected and more than 4,500 people have died in the epidemic, and the number of infections is still doubling every month, WHO has reported.

Still, Nigeria, like Senegal, which was declared free of Ebola on Friday, is susceptible to new cases by virtue of its proximity to the West African epicenter, health authorities warn.

Nigeria also is at risk of becoming a victim of its own success. WHO’s representative in Nigeria, Rui Gama Vaz, said Ebola patients in the epicenter may now seek entry to Nigeria in an effort to get lifesaving care.

“Many desperate people in heavily affected countries believe that Nigeria must have some especially good — maybe even ‘magical’ — treatments to offer,” a WHO statement said.

—Nick Cumming-Br

US airdrops weapons and supplies to Kurds fighting in Kobani

WASHINGTON — Escalating its assistance to Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State in the Syrian town of Kobani, U.S. military aircraft on Sunday dropped ammunition, small arms and medical supplies to resupply the combatants, officials said.

The United States and its Arab allies have conducted more than 135 airstrikes in and around Kobani in the past two weeks to help slow the advance of hundreds of Islamic State fighters on the town along the Turkish border.

But in a sign of the symbolic significance of the town to both sides, three U.S. C-130 transport planes for the first time dropped 27 bundles of supplies provided by Iraqi Kurdish authorities to help the Syrian Kurds continue to resist the militant attempts to seize it, U.S. officials said late Sunday.

The aircraft flew without fighter escort, faced no hostile ground fire, and left the airdrop zone safely, U.S. officials said.

“There was an urgent need to resupply,” a senior Obama administration official said in a hastily organized conference call Sunday night. “This was the quickest way to get the job done.”

When Kobani first came under attack several days ago, U.S. officials said the fight for the town was not part of the coalition’s strategic campaign to weaken the Islamic State by attacking its oil refineries, headquarters and arms depots in Syria — all a part of the militant group’s ability to sustain its fight in neighboring Iraq. U.S. officials appealed in vain for Turkey to deploy its sizable force just across the border to help.

But in the past few days, the Islamic State has poured heavily armed reinforcements into Kobani, providing allied warplanes with an array of targets — tanks, artillery and armed vehicles, Pentagon officials said.

Combined with resistance to Islamic State on the ground, U.S. officials said, the airstrikes had slowed the militant advances into Kobani, killed hundreds of fighters and destroyed or damaged weaponry and fighters’ positions.

—Eric Schmitt, The New York Times