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May 15, 2021

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Islamic State conflict voted top AP news story of 2015

National and world stories included array of violence

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Smoke rises from Islamic State positions Friday following a U.S.-led coalition airstrike as Iraqi forces advance during their drive to retake the Islamic State-held town of Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, Iraq.
Smoke rises from Islamic State positions Friday following a U.S.-led coalition airstrike as Iraqi forces advance during their drive to retake the Islamic State-held town of Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, Iraq. (Associated Press) Photo Gallery

NEW YORK — The far-flung attacks claimed by Islamic State militants and the intensifying global effort to crush them added up to a grim, gripping yearlong saga that was voted the top news story of 2015, according to The Associated Press’ annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors.

The No. 2 story was the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that led to legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. But several of the other stories among the Top 10 reflected the impact of the Islamic State, while another group of major stories related to fatal shootings in the United States.

Among the 100 voters casting ballots, first-place votes were spread among 17 different stories. The Islamic State entry received 37 first-place votes and same-sex marriage 13. The No. 3 story — the deadly attacks in Paris in January and November — received 14 first-place votes.

A year ago, the top story in AP’s poll was the police killings of unarmed black people in Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere, with the investigations and protests that ensued. In this year’s poll, a similar entry, with more instances of black people dying in encounters with police, placed fifth.

The first AP top-stories poll was conducted in 1936, when editors chose the abdication of Britain’s King Edward VIII.

Here are 2015’s top 10 stories:

1. Islamic State

A multinational coalition intensified ground and air attacks against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, including expanded roles for Western European countries worried about IS-backed terrorism. For its part, IS sought to demonstrate an expansive reach by its operatives and supporters, claiming to have carried out or inspired the bombing of a Russian airliner, attacks in Beirut and Paris, and the deadly shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

2. Gay marriage

Fifteen years after Vermont pioneered civil unions for same-sex couples, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in June enabling them to marry in all 50 states. Gay-rights activists heralded it as their movement’s biggest breakthrough, but there were flashes of disapproval. A county clerk in Kentucky, Kim Davis, spent a few days in jail after refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in her jurisdiction.

3. Paris attacks

The first attack came just a week into the new year. Two brothers who called themselves members of al-Qaida barged into the offices of the satiric newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and later attacked a Jewish market, gunning down 17 people in all. Nov. 13 brought an even deadlier onslaught: Eight Islamic State militants killed 130 people in coordinated assaults around Paris. Targets included restaurants, bars and an indoor rock concert.

4. Mass shootings

Mass shootings brought grief and deepened frustration to communities across the U.S. There were 14 victims in San Bernardino; nine at a Charleston, S.C., church; a professor and eight students died at an Oregon community college. In Chattanooga, four Marines and a sailor were killed by a Kuwaiti-born engineer; three people, including a policeman, were shot dead at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.

5. Deaths in encounters with police

In Baltimore, riots broke out after the death of Freddie Gray, a black man loaded into a van by police officers. In Chicago, in Tulsa and in North Charleston, S.C., fatal police shootings of black men prompted resignations and criminal charges. The incidents gave fuel to the Black Lives Matter campaign, and prompted several investigations of policing practices.

6. Terrorism worries

Fears about terrorism in the U.S. surged after a married couple in California — described by investigators as radicalized Muslims — carried out the attack in San Bernardino that killed 14 people. The rampage inflamed an already intense debate over whether to accommodate refugees from Syria, and prompted Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump to call for a ban on Muslims’ coming to the U.S.

7. Presidential campaign

A large and varied field of Republicans launched bids for the presidency, with billionaire Donald Trump moving out to an early lead in the polls and remaining there despite a series of polarizing statements. He helped attract record audiences for the GOP’s televised debates. In the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders surprised many with a strong challenge of Hillary Clinton, but she remained the solid front-runner.

8. Climate change

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries reached a first-of-its-kind agreement in Paris on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Many questions still remain over enforcement and implementation of the accord. But elated supporters hailed it as a critical step toward averting the grim scenario of unchecked global warming.

9. Church shooting

A Bible study session at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., suddenly turned into carnage when a white gunman opened fire, killing nine black worshippers, including the pastor. The alleged killer’s affinity for the Confederate flag sparked debate over the role of Civil War symbols in today’s South. In less than a month, the flag was removed from the South Carolina State House grounds.

10. Europe’s migrant crisis

Fleeing war and hardship, more than 1 million migrants and refugees flooded into Europe during the year, overwhelming national border guards and reception facilities. Hundreds are believed to have drowned; 71 were found dead in an abandoned truck in Austria. The 28-nation European Union struggled to come up with an effective, unified response.

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