Looming rain was one of the main enemies of the operation, threatening to flood the cave complex in mountainous northern Thailand, although a bewildering array of other dangers could also doom their safe return.
Surge of clashes in Syria on eve of Geneva peace talks Fresh offensive by Assad forces may threaten a truce that has largely held since February.
This week's round of talks will be the second since the Assad government and rebel forces agreed to a partial truce brokered by Moscow and Washington, which has largely held since February De Mistura, who will host the talks, said the negotiations would focus on aspects of a peace roadmap that calls for a transitional government, a new constitution and, eventually, elections.
But the fate of Assad is still a major stumbling block. But concern has been mounting that a spike in violence focused mainly in Aleppo province, which borders Turkey, is putting intense strain on the ceasefire.
Pro-government forces were on Tuesday pressing an advance against the town of Al-Eis, held by fighters from al-Qaeda's local affiliate, Al-Nusra Front, and allied rebels, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
Government planes carried out "unprecedented" air strikes in recent days on the rebel-held eastern parts of Aleppo city, according to the Observatory, which relies on a broad network of sources inside Syria. Government forces, backed by Russian air power, pressed a similar offensive around Aleppo city during a previous failed round of talks at the end of January.
Western powers blamed that escalation for the breakdown of those talks. Al-Nusra and allied rebel groups were also pushing their own offensive on the town of Khan Touman near Aleppo city, the Observatory said.
Washington has expressed worries that an assault against Al-Nusra in Aleppo may spread to moderate rebel factions, which could cause the truce to collapse and derail peace efforts.
The ceasefire brought relative calm to parts of northern and central Syria, allowing increased humanitarian aid deliveries and a significant drop in daily deaths.
Despite the talks, the government will go ahead on Wednesday with parliamentary elections in the areas it controls. The UN does not recognise the vote and it has been dismissed by Assad's foreign and Syrian opponents as illegitimate. De Mistura travelled from Syria to Iran on Tuesday to meet with senior officials in Tehran, which along with Moscow is one of Assad's key international backers.
As well as providing economic aid, Iran has sent military advisers from its elite Revolutionary Guards to Syria, dozens of whom have been killed.
Moscow launched a wave of air strikes in support of the government last September, though last month Moscow ordered the bulk of Russian forces to withdraw.Sydney (AFP) - 09/05/ - Australia's economy strengthens as consumers lift spending. Washington (AFP) - 09/05/ - IMF's Lagarde: Making progress on strengthened Argentina loan.
A ninth round of U.N.-sponsored peace talks ended in Vienna on Friday without result BEIRUT, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Bombardment of the rebel-held eastern Ghouta area of Syria continued early on.
How applying MIT's System Dynamics to historical generations of countries around the world predicts the future. Kolenda talks about the pursuit of peace with the Taliban as an obligation, not an afterthought or a pipe dream. “I’m responsible for the death of hundreds on hundreds on hundreds of these dudes.
The Taliban, fighting to restore their version of strict Islamic law, have rejected President Ashraf Ghani ’s offer of peace talks, demanding that foreign forces leave Afghanistan. Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning political dissident Liu Xiaobo, arrived in Berlin on Tuesday, in news welcomed by rights groups who had long pressed for China to let her.