Archive for May, 2016

IS jihadists pull out of several Iraq towns: officers

Baghdad (AFP)

March 13, 2016

Islamic State fighters retreated from several western Iraqi towns and towards the Syrian border on Sunday as security forces worked their way up the Euphrates Valley, officers said.

The jihadist organisation’s leadership ordered its fighters out of Hit, Kubaysa and Rutba, prompting thousands of civilians to take to the road to meet advancing federal forces while others enjoyed their first hours of freedom in months.

“The majority of Daesh (IS) fighters in Hit, Rutba and Kubaysa have fled through the desert to other regions,” Yahya Rasool, Iraq’s top security spokesman, told AFP.

Hit, around 145 kilometers (90 miles) west of Baghdad, was one of the main towns in Anbar province that was still held by IS.

Kubaysa is a smaller town to the west of Hit while Rutba is a desert outpost on the road to Jordan about 390 kilometers (245 miles) west of the capital.

“There is an operation to hunt them down with Iraqi aircraft,” said Rasool, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command coordinating the fight against IS in Iraq.

“Hit is surrounded by Iraqi forces from the south and north,” he said. “Thousands of families have fled the area to meet our forces.”

Iraqi government forces have yet to enter Hit and no security source would immediately confirm whether any holdout IS fighters remained.

However, residents reached by AFP said no jihadists were visible on Sunday following a pullout that began on Saturday.

One resident said IS’s local military leader was killed in an air strike as he tried to escape on Saturday.

“Ahmed Mashaan Abdelwahed al-Batran was killed when an air raid destroyed his boat — he was trying to cross the river with his family,” he said.

“Since yesterday, the Hisba (Islamic police) has vanished from the streets. Before they withdrew, Daesh (IS) fighters booby-trapped houses, roads and government buildings,” he added.

– First cigarette –

Another Hit resident said one of the first things the men did after IS pulled out was to light a cigarette.

“The young people in Hit are smoking on the street and they also changed back into their normal clothes,” he said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

“There are women in the street without the niqab (full veil) for the first time” since the town fell to IS in October 2014, he said.

Witnesses and officials said IS leaders — many of them from the city of Mosul or foreigners — tried to slip out of Hit by blending in with fleeing families after shaving their beards.

“Yesterday there was not one razor blade left in the markets of Hit,” the second witness told AFP.

The top regional army commander, 7th division chief Noman al-Zobaie, overflew the city to assess the situation, senior officials said.

Naim al-Kaoud, leader of the local Albu Nimr tribe, said tribal fighters in the area were close to Hit but awaiting government coordination to move in.

“The decision to retake control of Hit has to come from the leadership of the security forces. It is when they go in that the recapture of Hit will be complete,” he told AFP.

In Rutba, “Daesh’s armed men started pulling out last night and completed their withdrawal this morning,” a major general told AFP on Sunday.

He said they all moved towards Al-Qaim, a jihadist bastion on the border with Syria, further north in Anbar province.

After launching a final push against IS in provincial capital Ramadi late last year, Iraq’s security forces established full control over the city last month.

They have since been securing areas east of Ramadi, further isolating the jihadist stronghold of Fallujah, which is only 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Baghdad.

The US-led coalition that has been carrying out air strikes against IS for more than a year and a half has said that the jihadist group was stretched increasingly thin.

Iraqi forces have in recent weeks been trying to flush out jihadists from vast areas around Lake Tharthar, which straddles Anbar and the province of Salaheddin.

In several of its strongholds, IS is reported to have forcibly recruited children for checkpoints duty as it sends adult males into combat.

Source: Space War.


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Jordanians to replace UAE forces in war on Yemen: Report

Thu Apr 14, 2016

Jordanian military forces and advisers will be replacing UAE troops fighting in the Saudi war on Yemen, following reports of serious disputes among the few “coalition” members, a report says.

Yemen’s Khabar news agency, citing informed sources, reported on Thursday that the decision had been made following a recent visit by Saudi deputy crown prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud to Jordan.

Prince Mohammad, who is the Saudi defense minister, met King Abdullah in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba and signed a package of agreements, including on development of military cooperation.

The report said the deployment of Jordanian forces will now be coming after the United Arab Emirates withdrew the bulk of its military force from Yemen’s Ma’rib following a series of military setbacks.

The Saudi crown prince also traveled to the UAE in an effort to mend fences after reports of significant frictions between the two allies over the war on Yemen.

Emirati authorities are reportedly angry with a Saudi decision to dismiss a former general with close ties to the UAE.

In February, the Saudi kingdom sacked Khaled Bahah and appointed Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar to lead the fight against Yemen’s Houthis.

Ahmar has been based in Saudi Arabia since the Houthis took over Sana’a in 2014.

Jordanian military forces reportedly took part in the Saudi operation in Aden last July following the flight of Saudi-backed militiamen loyal to former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Early on Thursday, Saudi military aircraft carried out a fresh round of aerial assaults against the Nihm district of Sana’a Province, though there were no immediate reports of possible casualties and the extent of damage caused.

The development came only hours after Saudi-backed militiamen fired a barrage of artillery rounds at Dhubab, Harir and al-Jumhuri districts in Yemen’s southwestern province of Ta’izz and Ghorab and al-Madaniyah neighborhoods in the provincial capital city of Ta’izz.

Saudi Arabia launched its military aggression against Yemen on March 26, 2015, in a bid to bring Hadi — who is a staunch ally of Riyadh — back to power and undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

More than 9,400 people have been killed and at least 16,000 others injured since the onset of the aggression.

The Saudi strikes have also taken a heavy toll on the country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.

Source: PressTV.


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Iraqi protesters breach Green Zone, storm parliament

April 30, 2016

BAGHDAD (AP) — Hundreds of protesters climbed over the blast walls surrounding Baghdad’s highly-fortified Green Zone for the first time on Saturday and stormed into parliament, carrying Iraqi flags and chanting against the government.

The breach marked a major escalation in the country’s political crisis following months of anti-government protests, sit-ins and demonstrations by supporters of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The Green Zone is home to most ministries and foreign embassies and has long been the focus of al-Sadr’s criticism of the government.

Earlier Saturday, al-Sadr accused Iraqi politicians of blocking political reforms aimed at combating corruption and waste. While al-Sadr didn’t call for an escalation to the protests, shortly after his remarks his supporters began scaling the compound’s walls. A group of young men then pulled down a section of concrete blast walls to cheers from the crowd of thousands gathered in the streets outside.

Cellphone video uploaded to social media showed dozens of young men running through the halls of parliament, chanting slogans in support of al-Sadr and calling for the government to disband. “We are all with you (al-Sadr),” one group of men yelled as the entered the building’s main chamber.

Increasingly tense protests and a series of failed reform measures have paralyzed Iraq’s government as the country struggles to fight the Islamic State group and respond to an economic crisis sparked in part by a plunge in global oil prices.

A broad-based protest movement last summer mobilized millions and pressured Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to submit a proposal to reduce the size of the Cabinet and replace political appointees with independent technocrats.

But that proposal has been stalled in the face of Iraq’s entrenched political blocs, and in recent months al-Sadr’s movement has come to monopolize the protests. Earlier on Saturday, a bombing in a market filled with Shiite civilians in Baghdad killed at least 21 people and wounded at least 42 others, according to police and hospital officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

IS claimed the attack, saying it used a three-ton truck bomb. The extremist group regularly carries out attacks targeting the security forces and the country’s Shiite majority.

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Iran state media: Moderate bloc wins more seats in runoff

April 30, 2016

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s moderate-reformist bloc secured more than 30 more seats in parliamentary runoff elections, according to a Saturday report on state TV. The bloc, which supports President Hassan Rouhani and a nuclear deal the country reached with world powers last summer, will have to dominate the remaining unannounced seats in order to secure an outright majority in the 290-seat legislature.

State TV on Saturday morning announced winners for 60 of the remaining 68 seats being contested. Among them there are 32 moderate-reformist candidates, with the rest divided between hard-liners and independent candidates.

Final results are expected later on Saturday. In February, the moderate-reformist bloc dominated the vote in Tehran, securing all 30 seats there. But their support is less dominant outside the capital.

The bloc needs to win 40 seats in the runoffs to control the parliament, which will begin its work in late May.

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