Suicide bombers kill 26 at Iraq wedding celebration

Two suicide bombers attacked a celebration being held the night before a wedding north of Baghdad, killing 26 people, a police officer and a doctor said on Thursday.

The bombings in the Al-Hajaj area, north of the city of Tikrit, also wounded 25 people, the sources said.

“The first blew himself up at 8:30 pm (1730 GMT on Wednesday) amid men who were dancing during the celebration,” while the second attacked a few minutes later, a police lieutenant colonel said.

A doctor at a local hospital confirmed the toll.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State jihadist group carries out frequent suicide bombings targeting both civilians and members of the security forces in Iraq.

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad, including swathes of Salaheddin province, where Wednesday’s attack occurred, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes and other support have since regained most of the territory they lost.

Iraqi forces are now fighting to retake west Mosul, the largest urban bastion still held by the jihadists in Iraq.

But recapturing Mosul and the other remaining parts of the country still held by IS will not eliminate its threat, and the group may increasingly turn to bombings such as those in Al-Hajaj if it no longer holds territory.

 

Source: The Guardian

Trump’s Travel Ban Discriminatory — Obama

A former US President, Barack Obama, has criticised President Donald Trump’s executive order to curb immigration, backing protesters who have taken to the nation’s airports to express their displeasure.

Obama, in a statement on Monday by his spokesperson, Kevin Lewis, said Trump’s immigration policy was discriminatory.

“The (former) President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion,” CNN quoted Lewis as saying.

Lewis added that Obama perceived the protests as “exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.”

This is the first time Obama, who ceded power to Trump 10 days ago, would criticise the current President, breaking an unwritten rule that former presidents should refrain from criticising the current White House occupant.

Trump had on Friday banned seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days and suspended the admission of all refugees.

Trump’s order temporarily banned immigration from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia and indefinitely stopped Syrian refugees from coming to the United States.

 

 

Source:

http://punchng.com/trumps-travel-ban-discriminatory-obama/

 

US to halt visa applications from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen for 30 days

President Donald Trump is on Thursday poised to suspend the US refugee program for four months and to halt visas for travellers from seven Muslim countries, according to US media.

A draft executive order published in the Washington Post said refugees from war-torn Syria will be indefinitely banned, while the broader US refugee admissions program will be suspended for 120 days as officials draw up a list of low risk countries.

Meanwhile, all visa applications from countries deemed a terrorist threat — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — will be halted for 30 days.

Alongside this, the Pentagon will be given 90 days to draw up a plan to set up “safe zones” in or near Syria where refugees from its civil war can shelter.

It is unclear whether the published draft is the final version, or when Trump will sign it, but it would make good on his campaign promises.

Trump told ABC News late Wednesday that his plan to limit the entry of people from Muslim countries was necessary because the world is “a total mess.”

“No it’s not the Muslim ban, but it’s countries that have tremendous terror,” Trump said. “And it’s countries that people are going to come in and cause us tremendous problems.”

Trump refused to say which countries were on the list, but he did say he believed that Europe “made a tremendous mistake by allowing these millions of people to go into Germany and various other countries,” describing it as “a disaster.”

Trump was asked if he worried that the limits would anger Muslims around the world.

“Anger? There’s plenty of anger right now. How can you have more?” he said.

“The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets. What, you think this is going to cause a little more anger? The world is an angry place. … We went into Iraq. We shouldn’t have gone into Iraq. We shouldn’t have gotten out the way we got out. The world is a total mess.”

– Playing into IS hands? –
Trump’s hardline attitude towards what he calls “radical Islamic terrorism” was one of the most controversial themes of his election campaign.

Rights groups have accused him of stigmatizing a global faith, and some experts warn that offending America’s Muslim allies will hurt the fight against extremism.

“Turning our back on vulnerable refugees doesn’t protect the United States,” said Michael Olsen, former director of the US National Counterterrorism Center.

“In fact, it plays into ISIS’s false narrative that we are at war with all Muslims instead of terrorist organizations,” he told watchdog Human Rights First.

Trump also vowed to “eradicate ISIS from the face of the earth”, which proved popular with US voters.

Ryan Crocker, former US ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, told the group that the executive order would threaten refugees who risked their lives to help US troops.

“Banning the admission of Syrian refugees contradicts American values, undermines American leadership and threatens American security by making the ISIS case that we are at war with Islam,” he argued.

– No ‘major negative’ in Trump refugee plan –
Other former officials, however, were not worried by the pending order — suggesting that while it has little use as a security measure, anger would blow over.

James Jeffrey, who was deputy national security adviser under former president George W. Bush, said: “I don’t think there’ll be much of a change in anything.”

Jeffrey argued that even under former president Barack Obama, the United States had allowed in very few Syrian refugees — only 18,000 since the war began in 2011.

Meanwhile, allies in the Sunni Muslim world are far more concerned by the immediate threats posed by Iran and the Islamic State group than by US visa law.

“So I don’t see a major negative in foreign affairs from this,” said Jeffrey, now a fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“We had a bad reputation no matter what we did even when we were being at our very very tippy-toe best with Barack Obama. It doesn’t matter,” he told AFP.

“In populations there is a great deal of skepticism about the United States. It’s hard-wired, regardless of the president, no matter what we do.”

The possible draft signing on Thursday would be the latest in a daily series of executive orders rolled out by Trump’s administration since he took office on Friday — touching on national security, immigration, and health care.

Also Thursday, Trump is to speak before Republican lawmakers at their winter retreat in Philadelphia — an opportunity for him to reassure some of his party faithful about the actions of his provocative first week at the White House.

Ten years after, CIA agent who grilled Saddam Hussein says US was wrong about him

I had been up for 27 hours and was flat-out exhausted, but the news sent jolts of adrenaline through me like I’d never experienced before.

A Special Forces team hunting the man we called High Value Target No 1 had pulled someone from a hole in the ground. He answered the description.

And my bosses at the CIA were grilling me, the expert.

Could this burly, unkempt man truly be Saddam Hussein, the ruthless dictator of Iraq? The most wanted man in the world?

 Could this burly, unkempt man truly be Saddam Hussein, the ruthless dictator of Iraq? The most wanted man in the world?

Could this burly, unkempt man truly be Saddam Hussein, the ruthless dictator of Iraq? The most wanted man in the world?

It was December 13, 2003, and I’d been in Iraq for eight weeks – a CIA analyst looking for leads that might take us to Saddam and his notorious henchmen. That was when I was called to see Buzzy Krongard, the CIA’s executive director.

The war to topple the regime had been going for nearly nine months, yet when it came to Saddam, all we’d turned up were ‘Elvis sightings’, as we called them. Until, that is, troops searching a farm near Saddam’s home village of Tikrit found a large bearded man concealed in a tiny underground bunker.

Now a group of senior officers were quizzing me in Krongard’s office; how, they asked, would I make a definitive identification? I told them about the tribal tattoos on Saddam’s right hand and wrist, the bullet scar on his left leg and that his lower lip tended to droop to one side, something I picked up from studying videotapes.

Krongard interrupted me: ‘We need to make sure this is Saddam and not one of those body doubles.’

The myth – and it was a myth – that Saddam maintained multiple lookalikes was a source of wry amusement to those of us who worked in intelligence, but I decided silence was the better part of valour and started compiling a list of questions only the dictator could answer.

The military was flying the putative Saddam to Baghdad airport that night and it was decided we’d make the identification there.

In late 2007, I was summoned to give a detailed presentation to George W. Bush at the Oval Office. What kind of a man had Saddam been, he asked me?

In late 2007, I was summoned to give a detailed presentation to George W. Bush at the Oval Office. What kind of a man had Saddam been, he asked me?

At midnight, after a long wait, the convoy was ready. Men in night-vision goggles drove us at 100mph down the Airport Road, a no-go zone at night. At the airport, a side road led to a series of low-slung blockhouses that once housed Saddam’s Special Republican Guard. Inside, I found pandemonium and another wait until finally a GI said, ‘OK, guys. You’re up.’

Suddenly the door opened and I immediately found myself sucking in air. There he was, sitting on a metal folding chair, wearing a white dishdasha robe and blue quilted windbreaker.

There was no denying that the man had charisma. He was big – 6ft 1in – and thickly built. Even as a prisoner who was certain to be executed, he exuded an air of importance.

I spoke first through a translator. ‘I have some questions I’d like to ask you, and you are to answer them truthfully. Do you understand?’

Saddam nodded. ‘When was the last time you saw your sons alive?’

I expected Saddam to be defiant, but I was taken aback by the aggression of his reply: ‘Who are you guys? Are you military intelligence? Mukhabarat [civilian intelligence]? Answer me. Identify yourselves!’

I noted his tribal tattoos and that his mouth drooped. Now I needed to see his bullet wound.

There was so much we wanted to know. How had he escaped from Baghdad? Who had helped him? He would not say, answering only the questions he wanted to.

‘Why don’t you ask me about politics? You could learn a lot from me,’ he barked. He was especially vocal on the rough treatment he’d received from the troops who brought him in, launching a long diatribe.

I was incredulous. Here was a man who didn’t think twice about killing his own people complaining about a few scratches. He lifted his dishdasha to show the damage to his left leg. I saw an old scar. Was it the bullet wound, I asked him. He assented with a grunt – the final piece of proof. We’d got him.

Capturing Saddam was all very well, but now we had to get to the truth about his regime, and in particular the weapons of mass destruction that had been the pretext for the invasion. His response was simply to mock us.

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein moments after his capture by US forces

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein moments after his capture by US forces.

‘You found a traitor who led you to Saddam Hussein. Isn’t there one traitor who can tell you where the WMDs are?’ He warmed to the subject, saying Americans were a bunch of ignorant hooligans who did not understand Iraq and were intent on its destruction.

‘Iraq is not a terrorist nation,’ he said. ‘We did not have a relationship with (Osama) bin Laden, and did not have weapons of mass destruction… and were not a threat to our neighbours. But the American President [George W Bush] said Iraq wanted to attack his daddy and said we had ‘weapons of mass destruction.’

Ignoring his goading, we asked Saddam if he’d ever considered using WMDs pre-emptively against US troops in Saudi Arabia. ‘We never thought about using weapons of mass destruction. It was not discussed. Use chemical weapons against the world? Is there anyone with full faculties who would do this? Who would use these weapons when they had not been used against us?’

This was not what we had expected to hear. How, then, had America got it so wrong?

Saddam had an answer: ‘The spirit of listening and understanding was not there – I don’t exclude myself from this blame.’ It was a rare acknowledgment that he could have done more to create a clearer picture of Iraq’s intentions.

Was he playing with us, twisting the truth to spare his pride?

Debriefing The President: The Interrogation Of Saddam Hussein, by John Nixon, is published on December 29 by Bantam Press at £16.99

Debriefing The President: The Interrogation Of Saddam Hussein, by John Nixon, is published on December 29 by Bantam Press at £16.99

I asked about his notorious use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish city of Halabja during the Iran-Iraq war. He became furious. ‘I am not afraid of you or your president. I will do what I have to do to defend my country!’

Then he turned to me and sneered: ‘But I did not make that decision.’

We decided to close the briefing. As Saddam left the room, he glared at me. I have annoyed quite a few people in my life, but no one has ever looked at me with such murderous loathing.

My superiors were delighted at the progress we were making, yet something nagged at me about the exchange. My gut told me that there was some truth in what Saddam had said. He was incensed about Halabja. Not because his officers had used chemical weapons – he showed no remorse – but because it had given Iran a propaganda field day.

It was not the only thing that would surprise me. For example, in my years studying Saddam, I never doubted the received wisdom that his stepfather in Tikrit beat him. Many eminent psychiatrists who had analysed him from afar said this was why Saddam was so cruel and why he wanted nuclear weapons.

Yet, in the course of my further interrogations, Saddam turned our assumptions upside down, saying his stepfather was the kindest man he had ever known: ‘Ibrahim Hasan – God bless him. If he had a secret, he would entrust me with it. I was more dear to him than his son, Idham.’

I asked about the CIA’s belief that Saddam suffered great pain from a bad back and had given up red meat and cigars. He said he didn’t know where I was getting my intelligence, but it was wrong. He told me he smoked four cigars every day and loved red meat. He was also surprisingly fit.

The CIA profile of Saddam suggested he was a chronic liar, yet he could be quite candid. Our perception that he ruled with an iron grip was also mistaken. It became clear from our interrogations that in his final years, Saddam seemed clueless about what had been happening inside Iraq. He was inattentive to what his government was doing, had no real plan for the defence of Iraq and could not comprehend the immensity of the approaching storm.

Saddam was quick, too, to deny involvement in 9/11. ‘Look at who was involved,’ he said. ‘What countries did they come from? Saudi Arabia. And this [ringleader] Muhammad Atta, was he an Iraqi? No. He was Egyptian. Why do you think I was involved in the attacks?’

Saddam had actually believed 9/11 would bring Iraq and America closer because Washington would need his secular government to help fight fundamentalism. How woefully wrong he had been.

During our talks, we often heard muffled explosions. Saddam inferred things were not going well for the US forces and took pleasure in the fact. ‘You are going to fail,’ he said. ‘You are going to find that it is not so easy to govern Iraq.’ History has proved him right. But back then, I was curious why he felt that way.

‘Because you do not know the language, the history, and the Arab mind,’ he said. ‘It’s hard to know the Iraqi people without knowing its weather and its history. The difference is between night and day and winter and summer. That’s why they say the Iraqis are hard-headed – because of the summer heat.’

THE ONE SUBJECT THAT MADE HIM CRY

Doting dad: Saddam and Rana

Doting dad: Saddam and Rana

The only time Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein showed any emotion during my interviews was when we discussed his daughters, Rana and Raghid.

His eyes became watery and his voice quivered. ‘I miss them terribly,’ he said. ‘I enjoyed a wonderful relationship with them. They loved me very much, and I loved them very much.’

Saddam also said he was proud of his murderous sons Uday and Qusay, but realistic about their shortcomings. He sometimes found it necessary to punish them.

Uday was a particular problem for him. He said he was incensed when he learned that Uday kept a fleet of Bentleys, Jaguars and Mercedes in a garage protected by Republican Guard soldiers, saying: ‘What kind of message are we sending to the Iraqi people, who must suffer under sanctions and do without?’

Saddam had the cars torched after a drunk Uday shot and wounded Saddam’s half-brother Watban at a family party.

The altercation prompted the 1995 defection of Hussein and Saddam Kamel, the husbands of Saddam’s two daughters, to Jordan.

He chuckled and added: ‘Next summer, when it is hot, they might revolt against you. The summer of 1958 got a little hot. In the 1960s, when it was hot, we had a revolution. You might tell that to President Bush!’

It was several years and several more postings to Iraq before I could explain the realities of Iraq to the President, face to face. By now, Saddam had been tried and executed, finally dispatched in late 2006.

But in late 2007, I was summoned to give a detailed presentation to George W. Bush at the Oval Office. What kind of a man had Saddam been, he asked me?

I told him that he was disarming at first and used self-deprecating wit to put you at ease.

The President looked as if he was going to lose his cool. I quickly explained that the real Saddam was sarcastic, arrogant and sadistic, which seemed to calm Bush down.

He looked at Vice-President Dick Cheney and their eyes locked in a knowing way. As I was leaving, he joked: ‘You sure Saddam didn’t say where he put those vials of anthrax?’ Everyone laughed, but I thought his crack inappropriate. America had lost more than 4,000 troops.

Several months later, I was asked to go back to the White House. This time, the President looked annoyed and distracted and asked for a briefing on the Shia cleric called Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army, then engaged in dangerous insurgency against the coalition. This was not on the agenda.

Trying to gain a few seconds, I said: ‘Well, that is the $64,000 question’ Bush looked at me and said: ‘Why don’t you make it the $74,000 question, or whatever your salary is, and answer?’ What an a***hole!

In his 2010 memoir, Bush wrote: ‘I decided I would not criticise the hardworking patriots of the CIA for the faulty intelligence on Iraq.’ But that is exactly what he did. He blamed the agency for everything that went wrong and called its analysis ‘guesswork’ while hearing only what he wanted to hear.

I do not wish to imply that Saddam was innocent. He was a ruthless dictator who plunged his region into chaos and bloodshed. But in hindsight, the thought of having an ageing and disengaged Saddam in power seems almost comforting in comparison with the wasted effort of our brave men and women in uniform and the rise of Islamic State, not to mention the £2.5 trillion spent to build a new Iraq.

BREAKING: Bomb near Baghdad kills more than 70 people, most of them Iranian Shia pilgrims.

At least 70 Shia pilgrims have been killed in a truck bomb attack at a road stop in Iraq, officials say.

 

The blast struck at a petrol station and restaurant near al-Hilla, some 100km (60 miles) south of Baghdad.

 

The road stop was full of people returning from the Arbaeen pilgrimage in the city of Karbala. Iranians and Bahrainis were among the victims.

 

The Islamic State group said it carried out the attack, and claimed the death toll was more than 80.

Iraq Executes 36 Men Convicted In Massacre Carried Out By ISIS

On Sunday, the Iraqi government hanged 36 of those convicted of perpetrating the massacre, officials and activists said, in what was seen as the first measure of that long-sought justice, even as human rights activists raised concerns about the trials that convicted the defendants.

The mass execution was announced by Iraqi Justice Minister Haidar Zamili in a statement from the city of Nasiriya in Dhi Qar province, according to the online news outlet Arabi21. The provincial governor as well as families of those killed at Speicher were also in attendance at Nasiriya Central Prison.

“There were viewing areas for the families, the women on one side and the men on another. A man came and said, ‘I came today to tell you that the souls of the martyrs will rest,’” said Thaer Saadoun, a journalist with the local television station Ahwar who witnessed the executions.

“Some women ululated, and others immediately went on their knees and started praying right there. For the last two years, the families didn’t know where to go and to whom to complain, and they had gotten no response from the Iraqi government. The executions managed to mollify them a little,” he said in a phone interview.

Saadoun added that those executed Sunday were Iraqis, and some were from Dhi Qar.

Forty convicts were sentenced to death in February, and an appeals court this month upheld the sentences of 36. Four remain on appeal.

The massacre at Camp Speicher, a former U.S. military base outside Tikrit and roughly 100 miles northwest of Baghdad, occurred during Islamic State’s blitz offensive in June 2014 that saw the group take over wide swaths of northern and central Iraq.

Read More: LAtimes

Iraq Bans Poultry Imports From Nigeria, 23 Other Countries

Iraq has extended a ban on imports of frozen and live poultry products to its country by certain countries which includes Nigeria, their government disclosed today.

“The import of poultry and birds of all kinds … as well as both types of eggs (table and hatching), feathers and all products that use poultry or their products … is prohibited,” a government statement said.

The affected exporters are Nigeria, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Bhutan, China, Egypt, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Laos, Libya, Myanmar, Mexico, Nepal, Niger, North Korea, Palestine, South Africa, South Korea and Vietnam who are believed to be going through avian flu threat.

Baghdad last month restricted poultry imports from France, where an outbreak of avian flu has been reported.

Iraqi Security Forces Discover 18 Children’s Dolls Filled With Explosives

A plan to target children from Shia community was thankfully foiled by Iraqi security forces as 18 booby-trapped dolls which were part of an ISIS bomb plot against Shia pilgrims were reportedly seized. Security forces discovered the booby-trapped bombs in al-Husseiniya-a predomnantly Shiite suburb in northeastern Baghdad.

18 explosives which were hidden inside the hollow bodies of the doll toys, before dressing them in doll clothes were later dismantled and destroyed. According to Press TV, the terror group ISIS had planed to scatter the doll-bombs on the road between Baghdad and Karbala; the same route which will be used by millions of Shia Muslims during their annual pilgrimage for Arbaeen next month. Arbaeen, a Shia religious observation that occurs forty days after the Day of Ashura to commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, will be held on December 3.

Iraq Claims ISIS Chief Baghdadi Hit In Air Raid

Iraq claimed Sunday to have struck a convoy carrying Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an air raid near the Syrian border but said his fate was unknown.

 In Syria, meanwhile, regime troops backed by Russian air strikes made progress on two fronts but were battling other rebel groups.

And Syria’s opposition National Coalition said it will boycott UN-proposed peace talks, citing the Russian air strikes among a list of grievances.

Iraqi aircraft hit Baghdadi’s convoy as it was “moving towards Karabla to attend a meeting of the Daesh (IS) terrorist leaders,” an Iraqi security statement said.

Read More: AFP

Boko Haram Members Surface In Iraq, Killed During Training

At least five Boko Haram members have been reportedly killed in faraway Iraq by Mosul Youth Resistance Movement on Wednesday, May 13.

This is the first report of the presence of Boko Haram militants in Iraq following the sect’s allegiance to deadly ISIS and ISIS’s acceptance of Boko Haram’s allegiance.

According to reports by Basnews.com, the Boko Haram insurgents were attacked in the Dargaza neighbourhood of eastern Mosul.

Saed Mamuzini, Mosul’s spokesperson was quoted by BasNews as saying, “The Nigerian Boko Haram militants were in Mosul to take part in a military training course conducted by Islamic State (IS).”

Boko Haram has abducted  and killed thousands of people within the North-East region of Nigeria.

Creditpremiumtimesng

Syrian, Iraqi Girls Shipped Naked After Being Sold At ISIS Slave Bazaars- UN

The United Nations says  ISIS terrorist group has been offering Syrian and Iraqi girls for sale by putting them on show “stripped naked” in “slave bazaars.”

Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura made the harrowing revelation on Thursday while briefing journalists on her “scoping mission” to Syria, Iraq and some other countries in the region in April.

“Girls are literally being stripped naked and examined in slave bazaars” of ISIS, Bangura said, adding that the girls were “categorized and shipped naked off to Dohuk (Province) or Mosul or other locations to be distributed among ISIS leadership” and militants.

Bangura visited Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan from April 16 to 29 and interviewed girls and women who had escaped ISIS captivity and survived sexual violence.

“Women and girls are at risk and under assault at every point of their lives,” Bangura said, stressing that they are in danger at “every step of the way… in the midst of active conflict, in areas under control of armed actors, at check-points and border crossings, and in detention facilities.”

Read More: presstv

ISIS Runs Out Of Oil, Loses 3 Oilfields In Iraq

ISIS has lost control over “at least three large oilfields” in Iraq where the army is carrying out operations to expel the militants, a report says.

German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung made the announcement on Thursday, citing German federal intelligence services. Now, the militants have only “five percent” of the extraction capabilities across the country, the paper said in reference to Baghdad’s biggest victory on the heels of the liberation of the city of Tikrit over a week ago.

The ISIS has lost “at least three large oilfields”, the daily said, adding that satellite images from last month show the militants set fire to two of them — the Himrin and Ajil fields — in the face of the advancing counteroffensive against the Takfiris.

“In the eyes of the BND (German foreign intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst), that is proof that ISIS itself does not believe in a quick recapture (of lost territory),” the newspaper said.

Read Morepresstv

Iraq Needs More Air Strikes To Dislodge ISIS In Tikrit, Say Officials

Iraq said on Monday it had put its Tikrit offensive on a hold and senior officials called for more air strikes to dislodge the Islamic State militants who have laid explosives across Saddam Hussein’s home city and still hold its central districts. Reuters have more:

The offensive, the largest yet against insurgents who swept through northern Iraq in June, has been stalled for four days after Iraqi security forces and mainly Shi’ite militia pushed into Tikrit last week. They have struggled to gain further ground against the militants who are holed up in a vast complex of palaces built when Saddam was in power.

Military officials in Tikrit said there was no fighting on Monday in the city that was home to more than 250,000 people before it was overrun last year.

Government forces are in control of most of the northern Qadisiya district as well as the southern and western outskirts of the city, trapping the militants in an area bounded by the river that runs through Tikrit. Though Iraqi forces and allied militiamen may have the insurgents in a chokehold, officials are increasingly citing air power as necessary to drive out the remaining insurgents.

“We need air support from any force that can work with us against IS,” Deputy Minister of Defense Ibrahim al-Lami told Reuters, declining to say whether he meant from the U.S.-led coalition or Iran, which is playing a role in the assault.

ISIS Trafficking Human Organs, Iraq Tells UN

A top Iraqi diplomat told world leaders that ISIS is harvesting the organs of its victims to fund it murderous operations, the latest charge of barbarity in a list that already includes mass beheadings, burning people alive, crucifying children and throwing people off of buildings.

The shocking new claim was presented by the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, who said bodies have turned up in mass graves bearing surgical incisions and missing organs such as kidneys. Ambassador Mohamed Alhakim leveled the charge as he asked the Security Council to investigate whether harvesting and selling the organs of those it executes. The claim followed an unconfirmed report late Tuesday that as many as 45 people captured by the Islamic State in the Anbar Province town of al-Baghdadi had been rounded up and burned alive.

“We have bodies,” Alhakim told his international counterparts. “Come and examine them. It is clear they are missing certain parts.”

Read More: foxnews.com

See “Imprisoned Sister” ISIS Demands for Japanese Hostage

Rishawi has been held by Jordanian authorities since 2005, and has not been seen publicly in about nine years. She was arrested and later sentenced to death “for conspiracy to carry out terror acts” after a triple bomb attack on the Radisson SAS hotel in Amman, the Jordanian capital, in November 2005.

Now believed to be in her early-40s, Rishawi was arrested four days after the attack, in which her husband, Ali Hussein al-Shammari, and two other Iraqis, blew themselves up. In a television confession after her arrest, she said that she too had tried but failed to activate her explosives at a wedding reception. Sixty people died in the attack.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor to ISIL, claimed responsibility for the bombings. “A group of our best lions launched a new attack on some dens … After casing the targets, some hotels were chosen which the Jordanian despot turned into a backyard for the enemies of the faith,” a statement on a website usually used by the group said.

ISIS has released several videos of executions of captured enemy fighters, activists and journalists. The armed group has taken large parts of Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate in territory under its control in June. Since then it has fought the Syrian and Iraqi governments, other armed groups and Kurdish forces.

Credit: Aljazeera

Woman Detained in Lebanon Not ISIS Leader’s Wife, Says Iraq

Iraq says a woman detained in Lebanon is not the wife of the Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Lebanese officials said on Tuesday that the army had picked up a woman named Saja al-Dulaimi after she tried to enter from Syria with forged papers. But the Iraqi interior ministry said on Wednesday that while Ms Dulaimi was from a family of known militants, she was not married to Baghdadi.

Unofficially, the Lebanese army says it still thinks it is holding his wife. A source told the BBC it believed the woman was a current or former spouse of the IS leader. The Iraqi interior ministry said Baghdadi’s wives were believed to be named Asma Fawzi Mohammed al-Dulaimi and Isra Mahal al-Qaisi.

Credit: BBC

I. S. ‘Retreating’ Kobane

Islamic State militants are retreating in parts of the strategic Syrian town of Kobane, a Kurdish official has said.

Idriss Nassan told the BBC IS had lost control of more than 20% of the town in recent days.

US defence officials say hundreds of militants have been killed around Kobane as US-led air strikes intensify.

The news came as US President Barack Obama and European leaders agreed on the need to do more to stop the IS advance in Iraq and Syria.

In a video conference, Mr Obama and the leaders of the UK, France, Germany and Italy agreed to step up support for an “inclusive political approach” in Iraq and training for local forces in Iraq and Syria, a statement by UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said.

Read More on: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29629357

Kurds Hold off I.S. in Kobani as Fighters Strike in Iraq

 Kurdish defenders held off Islamic State militants in Syria’s border town of Kobani on Sunday, but the fighters struck with deadly bombings in Iraq, killing dozens of Kurds in the north and assassinating a provincial police commander in the west.

The top U.S. military officer suggested that Washington, which has ruled out joining ground combat in either Iraq or Syria, could nevertheless increase its role “advising and assisting” Iraqi troops on the ground in the future.

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said in a television interview that Turkey agreed to let bases be used by coalition forces for activities inside Iraq and Syria and to train moderate Syrian rebels in the fight against Islamic State.

A U.S.-led military coalition has been bombing Islamic State fighters who hold swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria, countries involved in complex multi-sided civil wars in which nearly every country in the Middle East has a stake.

After days of Islamic State advances, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said Kobani’s Kurdish defenders had managed to hold their ground. The Observatory said 36 Islamic State fighters, all foreigners, were killed the previous day, while eight Kurdish fighters had died. The figures could not be independently verified.

 

ISIS Seize Parts of Key Syrian Town

Islamic State jihadists pushed into the key Syrian town of Kobane on the Turkish border, seizing three districts in the city’s east after fierce street fighting with its Kurdish defenders.

Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, has become a strategic battleground between the IS group and its opponents, who include the United States and its Western and Arab allies.

Fresh air strikes by the US-led coalition on Tuesday hit positions held by Islamic State jihadists in the southwest of Kobane, according to an AFP journalist just across the border in Turkey. Taking Kobane would give the IS organisation control of a long stretch of the Syria-Turkey border.

The jihadists launched their latest assault on Kobane after a three-week siege with a wave of suicide bomb attacks, Mustefa Ebdi, a Kurdish activist from the town, said on his Facebook page.

After penetrating the city, they waged street battles against Kurdish defenders, sending hundreds of civilians fleeing towards the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“They have taken the industrial zone, Maqtala al-Jadida and Kani Arabane in eastern Kobane after violent combat with Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters” who had far fewer men and arms, said the Observatory.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said street battles were now being fought in the south and west of Kobane.

IS jihadists had “retreated by a few streets in the eastern areas they seized yesterday, but the fighting has now spread to the south and west of the town,” Abdel Rahman said.

He said IS fighters had seized a number of buildings in the south and west of the town, including a hospital under construction on the western outskirts of Kobane.

Kobane activist Mustafa Ebdi said the latest air strikes had little effect.

“The strikes hit the Mishtenur area,” he said, referring to a plateau south of Kobane.

“But they (IS) aren’t gathered there. There are other places they should be hitting,” he said.

Kurdish fighters meanwhile ordered all civilians to evacuate Kobane, Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for Kurds in the city, told AFP, adding that some 2,000 people had left the city.

Kurds battle ISIS for Key Syria Town

Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes battled Islamic State jihadists for control of a key Syrian town Sunday, while Turkey evacuated some border areas as mortar fire spilled over.

ISIS fighters seized part of a strategic hill overlooking the town of Kobane late on Saturday, a monitor said, but their progress was slowed by new strikes from the coalition of Washington and Arab allies.

A Kobane local official, Idris Nahsen, said ISIS fighters were just one kilometre (less than a mile) from the town and that air strikes alone were not enough to stop them.

He complained of a lack of coordination between the coalition and Kurdish fighters of the ground.

The dusty border town has become a crucial battleground in the international fight against ISIS, which sparked further outrage this weekend with the release of a video showing the beheading of Briton Alan Henning.

Turkey Backs Action Against ISIS

The Turkish government won parliamentary approval to deploy troops against the Islamic State group as Australia announced on Thursday that it was joining combat sorties against the jihadists in Iraq.

The vote by Turkish MPs came as IS fighters pressed an assault on a Syrian frontier town, whose capture would give the jihadists unbroken control of a long stretch of Turkey’s more than 900 kilometre (560 mile) border with Syria.

An AFP correspondent on the frontier saw huge plumes of smoke above the town of Kobane as outnumbered and outgunned Kurdish militia put up a desperate resistance.

Early Friday, the town’s defenders destroyed two IS armoured vehicles which had reached less than two kilometres (little more than a mile) from the town, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Australia Joins Fight Against ISIS in Iraq

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Australia became the latest nation to join the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS on Friday, as its Cabinet authorized airstrikes by Australian military jets in Iraq and the use of its special forces.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, speaking at a joint press conference with defense chiefs, said ISIS had “effectively declared war on the world” and posed a threat to Australia and its people.

ISIS must be disrupted and degraded, he said, and “it is absolutely in Australia’s national interests that this mission go ahead.”

The Cabinet authorized the deployment of Australian Special Forces into Iraq to “advise and assist” Iraqi forces, Abbott said, subject to final legal approvals from Iraq. Australian aircraft already began flying support missions over Iraq this week.

Australia’s decision to join the military campaign came only hours after Turkey’s Parliament voted overwhelmingly to authorize military force against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.

Denmark Joins Coalition Against I. S.

 The Danish government says it is joining the U.S. led coalition to strike at the Islamic State extremist group, sending seven F-16 fighter jets to take part in airstrikes against the group in Iraq.

Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt says her left-leaning government has a parliamentary majority backing the deployment of four operational planes and three reserve jets along with 250 pilots and support staff.

She said Friday a vote in Parliament is planned and is considered a formality. However, no date was immediately set for the vote.

The Netherlands has already agreed to join the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. Neither country plans to deploy in Syria.

Denmark has already contributed a transport plane to a U.S.-led humanitarian operation in northern Iraq.

France Strikes I. S. in Iraq after U.S.-led Strikes in Syria

French fighter jets struck targets in Iraq on Thursday and the United States and its allies stepped up air raids in Syria against Islamic State militants who have taken over large areas of both countries.

France’s strikes were its first since Sept. 19 when Paris joined the United States military action against Islamic State in Iraq and followed the beheading of a French tourist, reported late on Wednesday, in Algeria in retaliation.

French government spokesman gave no details of the French raids on Iraq, and France has so far ruled out joining raids on Islamic State in Syria.

But Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian opened the door to possibly joining strikes in Syria, hours after a French tourist was beheaded by an Algerian Islamist group citing Paris’ military action against Islamic State in Iraq.

The death of French tourist Herve Gourdel, who was beheaded in Algeria 24 hours after an ultimatum was given to France to halt attacks in Iraq, appeared on toughen Paris’ resolve.

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“The opportunity is not there today. We already have an important task in Iraq and we will see in the coming days how the situation evolves,” Le Drian told RTL radio.

More Air strikes in Syria Hit Islamic State at Iraqi Border

U.S.-led forces carried out at least 13 air strikes in Syria close to the Iraqi border on Wednesday, a second day of targeting Islamic State militants who have seized land on both sides of the frontier, a group that tracks the Syrian war said.

Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Reuters the raids had hit the border town of Albu Kamal and surrounding areas.

Albu Kamal, on the main Euphrates River valley highway, is one of the most important border crossings between Iraq and Syria, along a frontier that Islamic State wants to erase after seizing territory both sides and declaring a caliphate.

It links Islamic State’s de facto capital Raqqa in Syria with strategic front lines in western Iraq and militant-held territory down the Euphrates to the western and southern outskirts of Baghdad.

Al Qaeda Urges Branches to Unite Against US-led ‘War on Islam’

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Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb urged their “brothers” in Iraq and Syria to “stop killing each other and unite against the American campaign and its evil coalition that threatens us all.”

Powerful Al-Qaeda branches in Yemen and North Africa issued an unprecedented joint statement Tuesday calling for jihadists in Iraq and Syria to unite against the common threat from a US-led coalition.

AQAP and AQIM also called on the people of 10 Arab countries that have joined the coalition against the Islamic State group to prevent their governments from acting against IS. And it promised “dark days” to the “alliance of infidelity and evil”.

Al-Qaeda’s leadership under Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egypt-born successor to group founder Osama bin Laden, has disavowed IS, which has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria. And it has its own branch, the Al-Nusra Front, fighting in Syria.

But the joint statement, released on two jihadist Twitter accounts, called for differences to be set aside in the face of the growing coalition.

“Make the unity of the infidel nations against you a reason for your unity against them,” it said, accusing Washington of “leading a Crusader campaign against Islam and all Muslims… Stop the infighting between you and stand as one against America’s campaign.”

The statement adds, “we call upon our people in… all the nations of this Satanic alliance… to stand before the face of their agent governments and prevent them — by all legitimate means — from going to war against Islam under the excuse of fighting terrorism.”

It also urged Syrian rebels to keep up their fight against President Bashar al-Assad, warning them to “beware of being tricked by America… and thus being diverted from your path” and becoming its “pawns”.

Both Yemen-based AQAP, seen by Washington as the network’s most dangerous branch, and AQIM have rejected IS’s declaration of an Islamic caliphate in June and said they remained loyal to Zawahiri.

Syrian Warplane Shot Down by I. S.

A group monitoring the civil war said said, Islamic State fighters have shot down a Syrian war plane using anti-aircraft guns on Tuesday,  which is the first time the group has shot down a military jet since declaring its cross-border caliphate in June.

According to a resident, the plane came down outside Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa city, 400 km (250 miles) northeast of Damascus, during air strikes on territory controlled by the group.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group which gathers information from a network of activists on the ground, reported five air raids on Raqqa on Tuesday. Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the organization, cited sources close to Islamic State as saying the plane had been shot down.

The Syrian air force has been bombing Islamic State-controlled territory in the provinces of Raqqa and Deir al-Zor on a near-daily basis since the group seized the Iraqi city of Mosul in June.

19 Killed in Baghdad Serial Explosions

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A chain of car bomb explosions has claimed the lives of at least 19 people and injured dozens more across Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad. Iraqi security officials say the serial blasts occurred minutes apart in a Shia neighborhood in southeastern Baghdad on Wednesday.

Sources say the attacks started when an explosive-laden car rammed into a checkpoint manned by traffic police in the volatile area. At least five people were killed in the first deadly attack. Seconds later, a car bomb explosion at nearby markets killed 14 people. Sources say at least three traffic police officers are among the victims.

Medical sources say more than 30 people have been also wounded in the terrorist attacks, while several cars and nearby building were damaged in two blasts.

No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but the attack bore the hallmarks of Takfiri militants fighting the Iraqi government.

The blasts occurs as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Iraq on his first visit after the formation of a new Iraqi government.  He made an unannounced visit to Baghdad at the start of a Middle East tour aimed at building support for the fight against the ISIL terrorist group.

Battle On Terrorism – UK Sends Arms To Iraqi Government To Tackle ISIS

Heavy machine guns and ammunition are being donated to Iraq to help fight Islamic State militants, the Ministry of Defence says.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the equipment was worth about £1.6m, and there would be an estimated £475,000 in transport costs.

He said the UK is committed to assisting the Iraqi government and to help Kurdish forces defend themselves.

The equipment is due to arrive in Iraq on Wednesday.

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The “gifting” of the equipment is being sent at the request of the Iraqi government, including the Kurdish regional government, Mr Fallon added.

The news comes after Iraq created a new government, sharing posts between the Shia Arab majority, Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

The Islamic State jihadist group has taken control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria and in June declared the creation of a “caliphate”, or Islamic state.

Mr. Fallon said the UK wanted to offer help to the Iraqi authorities by “alleviating the humanitarian suffering” of those Iraqis targeted by IS.

He also said Britain wanted to promote “an inclusive, sovereign and democratic Iraq” that can push back on IS advances and restore stability and security across the country, while working with the international community to tackle the broader threat it poses to the region and countries around the world, including the UK.

He added: “The Kurdish forces remain significantly less well equipped” than IS and the UK was responding to help them.

He said IS was “guilty of shocking brutality”.

“I am pleased that we will supply weapons to the Kurdish forces who are at the front line of combating their violent extremism.”

 

Iraq Air Strikes ‘Kill Top I.S Members’

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A top I. S military commander has been reportedly killed in an airstrike on the northern city of Mosul. Iraq’s defence ministry also reports that a top aide to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed in a strike on Mosul, but neither death has been confirmed.

Iraqiya TV quoted defence officials as saying Abu Alaa al-Iraqi, head of the IS military council in the city of Tal Afar, had died in an air strike. Prior reports on social media had suggested that Al-Baghdadi himself had been killed in a separate strike on Mosul. But the defence ministry said intelligence suggested the strike had killed one of the leader’s senior aides instead.

It is however unclear whether the latest strikes were by US or Iraqi forces.

David Cameron Reacts to ISIL’s Threat.

After the release of a gruesome video, showing another American beheaded by ISIL terrorist on Tuesday; the group also threatened to kill, David Haines, a British Captive.

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Reacting to their threat, British Premier, David Cameron said, the ISIL Takfiri militants pose a threat to the British people, adding that,

“As I have said consistently over the last few weeks, ISIL terrorists speak for no religion. They threaten Syrians, Iraqis, Americans and British people alike and make no distinction between Muslims, Christians or any other faith…”

Last month, a footage showing the decapitation of US journalist James Foley by ISIL was released in retaliation to US airstrikes against the Takfiri group in Iraq. The video also warned that the group would slay Steven Sotloff, who was being held hostage by the militants, if the US president did not halt the airstrikes.

ISIL has executed Sotloff and posted the video displaying his beheading on the internet, the SITE Intelligence Group, a research organization that tracks terrorist web postings, said on Tuesday.

“If verified, this is a despicable and barbaric murder,” Cameron said, adding that he would hold a Cobra emergency meeting on Wednesday to “review these latest developments.”

The British Premier also added that the Bristsh government would do all it could to protect its people from the ISIL terrorists.