(DoD photo)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he will send about 1,500 American troops to the Middle East, mostly as a protective measure, amid heightened tensions with Iran.

However, the Republican leader played down the potential for military conflict in the region, saying he believed Iran did not want a confrontation with the United States.

"We want to have protection in the Middle East. We're going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective," Trump said as he left the White House for a trip to Japan.

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(Associated Press photo)

(Reuters) - John Walker Lindh, the American captured in Afghanistan in 2001 fighting for the Taliban, was released early from federal prison on Thursday, the Washington Post reported, citing Lindh's lawyer.

Lindh, who was 20 years old when he was captured, left prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, on probation after serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence, the newspaper said.

Now 38, Lindh is among dozens of prisoners to be released over the next few years after being captured in Iraq and Afghanistan and convicted of terrorism-related crimes following the attacks on the United States by al Qaeda on Sept. 11, 2001.

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A Sukhoi Su-24M of the Russian Air Force inflight over Russia in May 2009. (WIkimedia Commons/Alexander Mishin0

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. fighter jets intercepted several Russian bombers in international airspace off the coast of Alaska on Tuesday, in the fourth and fifth such incursions this year, U.S. military officials said on Wednesday.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hundreds of members of the U.S. Congress signed a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday arguing that the United States should remain engaged with the conflict in Syria, saying they were "deeply concerned" about extremist groups in the country.

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ISIS

DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Three prison guards and 29 inmates were killed in a prison riot in Tajikistan that the government blamed on Islamic State militants.

Tajikistan's Justice Ministry said the riot broke out late on Sunday in the prison in the city of Vakhdat, 10 km (six miles) east of the capital Dushanbe, as militants armed with knives killed three guards and five fellow prisoners.

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The U.S. Embassy in Iraq (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A rocket was fired in Iraqi capital Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies, but caused no casualties, the Iraqi military said on Sunday.

A blast was heard in central Baghdad on Sunday night, Reuters witnesses said and two Baghdad-based diplomatic sources also said they heard the blast.

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