At least 27 killed in Baghdad twin suicide attacks

A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up in central Baghdad early Monday, killing 27 people and injuring much more in the second attack in the Iraqi capital in three days.

“Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in Tayyaran Square in central Baghdad,” said General Saad Maan, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command, which includes the army and the police.

The attackers struck during rush hour at the place which is a bustling centre of commerce and usually crowded by labourers seeking work. The second explosion came less than 10 minutes later.

There was no immediate claim for the bombings, which came just as electoral coalitions began taking shape this week ahead of expected national elections in May. Previous elections have also been marked by such terrorist activities. Monday’s violence raised concerns that despite the military victory over ISIS, this campaign season would be no different.

In December last year, the government had announced the “end of the war” against IS, expelling it from the Baghdad region and other urban areas of Iraq that it earlier controlled.

Sources – Financial Express, The Washington Post

Iraqi forces attack last IS stronghold along Syria border

As per reports Iraqi forces have launched an operation to recapture the last stronghold of Islamic State in the western desert of the country.

According to the information conveyed by a military source to BBC, soldiers, Anbar provincial police and Sunni Arab tribal fighters, had started advancing on the town of Ana on Tuesday morning after being initially set back by many booby traps.Ana is a Iraqi town located 90km (55 miles) from the Syrian border. It is one of three Iraqi towns in the Euphrates river valley held by IS who still have control over a great part of the neighboring Syrian province of Deir al-Zour. Here too the IS is facing retaliation from the Syrian pro-government forces and a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.

Reportedly, the Iraqi forces had help from US-led coalition air strikes and military advisers on the ground to carry out the attack. Shortly after the commencement of the operation the coalition warplanes succeed in destroying an explosives-packed car driven by a suicide bomber.

Following the completion of this operation, the troops will target Rawa, 12km (7.5 miles) to the north, and then al-Qaim, the last town before the border with Syria.

The Ana attack is the latest of a series of blows suffered by the IS in Iraq recently, with the government declaring that the second city of Mosul had been recaptured in July.

Sources: BBC, Business Standard

Islamic State blows up historic Mosul mosque

 The Islamic state blew up the famous ‘Al-Nuri’ mosque and its leaning minaret in Mosul, Iraq on Thursday where its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a rare public appearance, declared a ‘caliphate’ in 2014. The mosque was situated in the Southern part of the Old City, the final ISIS stronghold left in Mosul. The Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi called the bombing an “official declaration of defeat” by ISIS, on the other hand, released an official statement on their news service ‘Amaq’ blaming a US airstrike for the destruction caused to the mosque but the US-led coalition denied the allegation. A spokesperson for the coalition clearly stated that they were not carrying out air strikes in the area.
The grand al-Nuri mosque, Mosul’s most famous Sunni mosque, was first built in the early 12th century and went through several renovations over the years. It was known for its leaning minaret ‘Al-Hadba’ (Hunchback) and had become a heritage site. ISIS fighters first attempted to attack the minaret in 2014 because they believed the structure was against their interpretation of Islam. But, during this time, the people of Mosul gathered in the area and formed a human chain to protect it.

“This is a crime against the people of Mosul and all of Iraq, and is an example of why this brutal organisation must be annihilated. The responsibility of this devastation is laid firmly at the doorstep of ISIS, and we continue to support our Iraqi partners as they bring these terrorists to justice,” said Major General Joseph Martin, commanding general of the US-led coalition fighting IS. The fight to reclaim Mosul from the ISIS militants began 8 months ago which led to the displacement of several people.  Many observers believe that blowing up the mosque was the militant group’s final act of defiance as they continue to lose their grip on the city of Mosul.

Sources: BBC,Reuters

Image sources: Reuters

Iraq excluded from US travel ban list

According to American president Donald Trump’s new immigration order, Iraq will be removed from the list of countries who face a temporary travel ban to the US. Trump will sign the executive order on Wednesday.

The Independent reported that four US officials told Associated Press, the decision was an outcome of pressure from the Pentagon and the State Department which triggered the White House to think about excluding Iraq given its significant role in fighting the ISIS.

Citizens of six other Muslim countries, namely Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen will remain on the list. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to reveal anything before the order is signed. The ban stands effective for 3 months.

The new order will include other changes as well such as the categorisation of the Syrian refugees under an indefinite ban will now include them under a general, 120-day suspension of new refugee entries.

The original order was signed in January which sparked outrage and caused panic and confusion among travelers. Some of them were sent back after being detained at U.S airports and others barred from boarding flights at foreign airports.

SOURCES-

  1. INDEPENDENT- http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-muslim-ban-immigration-reform-change-iraq-countries-a7604926.html

2. INDIA TODAY-http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/donald-trump-immigration-order-iraq-travel-ban-list-us-officials/1/893989.html

3. IMAGE SOURCE- Alaraby

Iraqi forces retake Mosul airport after intense battle

Iraqi forces retook most of Mosul’s airport on Thursday, achieving a crucial victory in the broader offensive to reclaim the western half of Iraq’s second-largest city. The push to take the Mosul airport, which has been spear-headed by the federal police of Iraq, is an encouraging start to what is anticipated to be a bloody fight to drive out the Islamic State from Mosul.

Iraqi forces fought for close to a hundred days to retake the eastern half of Mosul, an operation that decimated Iraqi forces. The United States Central Command head, Gen. Joseph L. Votel, who landed in Baghdad on Thursday, claimed that about 500 Iraqi armed forces personnel had been killed and close to 3,000 had been injured in that operation.

The Iraqi offensive was preceded by seven days of American-led airstrikes, in which 158 bombs were deployed on 33 targets, including the Islamic State headquarters from which commanders were thought to be operating. The air-strikes also targeted areas which were known as centers for the production of car bombs.

Iraq’s federal police retook Abu Saif, a small town that is located on high ground overseeing the airport, before launching their offensive on the airfield itself. American planes, including F-15E Strike Eagles, AV-8B Harriers and French warplanes, provided air support for the ground troops. American drones, and Apache helicopters also aided the Iraqi advance. Once secured, the Ghazlani military base and the airport will be put to use as the launch-pad for the last stage of the attempt to remove IS from western Mosul, its last remaining stronghold in Iraq.

SOURCES-

1.SKY NEWS-http://news.sky.com/story/iraqi-forces-recapture-mosul-airport-from-islamic-state-10779508

2.CNN- http://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/23/middleeast/western-mosul-offensive/index.html

3.REUTERS

Gunman shot 10 people dead in Jordan

A gunman attacked the city of Karak, a popular tourist spot in Jordan killing 10 people, including one Canadian.Before the forces could catch him, a dozen was already injured.The attackers who were hidden in the castle were killed, after an exchange of fire which lasted several hours.

The Jordan Tourism Board has described the Karak citadel which was built in the 12th century to be a maze of stone-vaulted halls and endless passageways. Several tourists were trapped in the passageways before being rescued by the security forces. The Canadian embassy issued an alert in Jordan urging them to avoid travelling to Karak.

Earlier the gunmen had fled into the castle after carrying out attacks against two police patrols. Seven of those killed were security personals. Footages which came on the social media showed the armed police vans moving inside the castle in order to rescue the tourists.Jordan interior minister, Salamah Hamad said that the attackers had suicide vests on themselves. He also told that an investigation is still in the way in order to know their nationality.

Jordan interior minister, Salamah Hamad said that the attackers had suicide vests on themselves. He also told that an investigation is still in the way in order to know their nationality.

He also told that an investigation is still in the way in order to know their nationality.

Jordan is a member of the US-led coalition which has carried out airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. U.S.A has also trained Syrian rebels as well as Iraqi security forces in Jordan. IS has earlier threatened off to attack Jordan.

Sources – BBC, Guardian, The Telegraph

Image sourced from -Arab News

US to shell out $25 million for information on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

In yet another announcement regarding tackling the Islamic State menace, United States promises to pay $25 million as a reward for information about Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Friday. The reward amount promised is more than twice the amount ($10 million) announced in October 2011.

The US State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program announced the increase as they believe that Baghdadi poses a major threat to the world peace and security. This is an attempt to seek information that will help the US authorities to identify, search and arrest the head of the terror group. The rise in the number of conflicts in West Asia is the major reason United States is desperately seeking him.

The current location of Baghdadi is unclear. However, speculations are rife that he is either near the Syrian border or into a hiding in Mosul, Iraq. Baghdadi is an Iraqi whose real name is Ibrahim al-Samarrai had declared himself the Caliph of the Syrian region under the Islamic State.

Kurdish officials believe that the convict and his top lieutenants are into hiding as there is a growing pressure from military coalition assault that took place in the city of Mosul.

 

SOURCE: Scroll.in, DNA

IMAGE SOURCE: Reuters