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Iraq

Syrian Conflict Endgame Presents Dizzying Picture of Temporary Deals

Voice of America - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 20:09
The latest phase in the long-running Syrian conflict is presenting a dizzying picture of strange bedfellows and temporary battlefield deals as sectarian groups, President Bashar al-Assad and overseas powers, including the United States, Russia and Iran, maneuver to gain an edge or to steer the war to a resolution. U.S. officials said this week that Turkish-backed Syrian rebels fired on American troops who were working with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in northern Syria. The...
Categories: Iraq

Muslims Begin Annual Haj Pilgrimage in Mecca

Voice of America - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 16:52
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims began the annual haj pilgrimage on Wednesday, donning traditional white garments and heading to a tent camp outside the holy city of Mecca in an itinerary retracing the route Prophet Muhammad took 14 centuries ago. Nearly 2 million worshippers, from nearly every country, arrived in Saudi Arabia this week for the five-day ritual, which is a once-in-a-lifetime religious duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it. Some prayed at the Grand Mosque...
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UN Chief Appeals for Humanitarian Aid in First Visit to Gaza

Voice of America - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 15:18
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for large-scale humanitarian aid to Gaza on Wednesday in his first visit to the isolated territory as U.N. chief and ordered the immediate release of $4 million from the world body's emergency relief fund. Speaking at a U.N.-backed elementary school in the northern Gaza Strip, Guterres also called for unity among the Palestinians' warring factions - Hamas, which rules Gaza, and Fatah, which rules parts of the West Bank. "The...
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U.S. Airstrikes Block Convoy Transferring ISIS Fighters

NY Times Iraq - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 15:02
American airstrikes stranded a convoy of 670 ISIS militants in the middle of Syria, as other warplanes bombed fighters coming to their rescue.
Categories: Iraq

Many Shades of the U.S. at War

NY Times Iraq - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 11:21
Visits to key military bases create contrasting impressions, including between service members and their commander in chief.
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Ancient Board Game Helps Unite Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem

Voice of America - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 08:55
An ancient board game has helped bring some Israelis and Palestinians together at Jerusalem's first backgammon championship. VOA's Deborah Block reports.
Categories: Iraq

Paintings Capture Islamic State's Unspeakable Crimes Against Kocho Girls

Voice of America - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 08:55
A few months before Islamic State came, there was a wedding in Kocho, Iraq. It was one of the village's last celebrations before IS slaughtered the men and older women, and kidnapped hundreds of girls. Through his original paintings, Lukman Ahmad of VOA's Kurdish Service, tells the stories of these young women and girls who were beaten, raped and sold as sex slaves. This VOA Special Project was written by Amish Srivastava and narrated by Paul Alexander.
Categories: Iraq

Turkish Security Officials Indicted for Attacking US Protesters

Voice of America - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 03:55
A grand jury in Washington has indicted 19 people, including 15 Turkish security officials, in connection with a brawl that broke out during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to the U.S. capital in May. The indictments, announced Tuesday, charge the defendants with attacking peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador's residence.  All 19 are charged with conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, a felony punishable by a statutory maximum of 15 years in...
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'Gates of Hell': Iraqi Army Says Fighting Near Tal Afar Worse Than Mosul

Voice of America - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 03:47
Iraqi forces are battling to retake the small town of al-Ayadiya where militants fleeing Tal Afar have entrenched themselves, saying on Tuesday the fighting is "multiple times worse" than the battle for Mosul's old city. Hundreds of battle-hardened fighters were positioned inside most houses and high buildings inside the town, making it difficult for government forces to make any progress, army officers told Reuters. Iraqi government troops captured the town of Mosul from...
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Iran Rejects US Demand for Inspection of Its Military Sites

Voice of America - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 03:40
Iran on Tuesday dismissed U.S. demands for the inspection of Iranian military sites by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, shrugging off a request by America's ambassador to the U.N. as only a "dream." Iran's government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht told reporters that the demand by Ambassador Nikki Haley wasn't worth any attention. Iran will not accept any inspection of its sites and "especially our military sites," he said. In remarks broadcast by state TV,...
Categories: Iraq

For First Time, Saudi Women Step into Hajj Emergency Role

Voice of America - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 02:58
Seven women sit in front of computer screens fielding distress calls from across Mecca ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage this week, in a first for Saudi Arabia as it tries to expand participation in the workforce. The seven, almost all wearing the black niqab over their faces, form the first women's section of an emergency call center in the kingdom, which has begun offering more education and employment opportunities to the half of the population that has traditionally stayed at...
Categories: Iraq

US Forces Come Under Fire in Syria

Voice of America - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 02:15
American troops returned fire last week after being repeatedly shot at by rebels in areas of northern Syria controlled by Turkish-backed forces. Defense officials told VOA that U.S.-led coalition forces came under gunfire "on multiple occasions" from "unknown groups." Army Colonel Joe Scrocca, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said there were no casualties or damage to equipment during the incidents. "We are engaged with Ankara and other parties to address this...
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World Bank: Tackle Middle East Water Scarcity to Save Money, Boost Stability

Voice of America - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 01:39
The Middle East and North Africa region loses about $21 billion each year because of an inadequate supply of water and sanitation, the World Bank said Tuesday, warning that urgent action is needed to prevent ripple effects on stability and growth. Poor management of water resources and sanitation in the world's most water-scarce region costs about 1 percent of its annual gross domestic product, with conflict-hit states losing as much as 2 to 4 percent each year, the bank said in a...
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In Syrian Skies, US Pilots Learn How Fast Air War Can Morph

Voice of America - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 01:10
U.S. Air Force pilot Jeremy Renken knew that whatever happened next might escalate the war in Syria. The lieutenant colonel, 40, was flying his F-15E StrikeEagle fighter jet in a "racetrack" pattern around an Iranian-made drone, which had just tried to kill U.S.-backed forces and their advisers on the ground. After the drone's first shot failed to detonate on impact, it was positioning to strike again. So, on June 8, in what was an unprecedented move in the U.S. air...
Categories: Iraq

Iraq's Kirkuk Province to Vote in Kurdish Independence Referendum

Voice of America - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 00:08
Iraq's oil-producing Kirkuk region will vote in a referendum on Kurdish independence on September 25, its provisional council decided  Tuesday, a move that could increase tension with Arab and Turkmen residents. The ethnically mixed region is claimed by both the central government in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq. The vote is "definitely happening" on September 25, Kirkuk Governor Najmuddin Kareem told Reuters after a...
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Syrian Schools Grow Edible Playgrounds to Boost Diets of Hungry Children

Voice of America - Tue, 08/29/2017 - 23:33
School playgrounds across Syria are being transformed into vegetable gardens where children whose diets have been devastated by six years of war can learn to grow — and then eat — aubergines, lettuces, peppers, cabbages and cucumbers. Traditional Syrian cuisine is typical of the region, and rich in vegetables. Its mainstays include hummus, minced lamb cooked with pine nuts and spices, varied salads, stews made with green beans, okra or courgettes and tomatoes, stuffed cabbage leaves and...
Categories: Iraq

Jordan Border Crossing With Iraq to Reopen in Major Boost to Ties

Voice of America - Tue, 08/29/2017 - 23:26
Jordan will open its main border crossing with Iraq on Wednesday for the first time since 2015, now that Iraqi forces have gained control of the main highway to Baghdad from Islamic State militants, officials said Tuesday. Iraqi troops pulled out of the Tureibil post, on the 180-km (110-mile) border, in the summer of 2014 after the militants secured nearly all the official crossings of the western frontier as they swept through a third of the country. Commercial traffic continued for a...
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Lebanon Calls on UN to Renew Peacekeepers' Mandate

Voice of America - Tue, 08/29/2017 - 23:15
Lebanon's foreign minister said on Tuesday he supported renewing the mandate of U.N. peacekeeping forces in the country for another year, despite U.S. and Israeli criticism that the peacekeepers should do more to stop Hezbollah from gaining arms. "Preserving the mandate of @unifil is necessary for peace and stability, otherwise will jeopardize efforts of @UN," Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said on Twitter. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrols...
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Source: Barcelona Attackers' Suspected Supplier Arrested in Morocco

Voice of America - Tue, 08/29/2017 - 22:54
Moroccan authorities have arrested a man suspected of supplying gas canisters to a jihadist cell that carried out a double attack in Catalonia earlier this month that killed 16 people, a source from the Spanish investigation said. The cell accumulated around 120 canisters of butane gas at a house in a town south of Barcelona with which, police say, it planned to carry out a larger bomb attack. Police believe the cell accidentally ignited the explosives on Aug. 16, the eve of the...
Categories: Iraq

Saudi Security Forces Brace for Hajj; No Militant Threats Detected

Voice of America - Tue, 08/29/2017 - 22:51
More than 100,000 members of the Saudi security forces will help protect the 2 million worshipers expected to participate in the annual Muslim hajj pilgrimage this week, but no specific militant plots have been detected, a senior spokesman said Tuesday. The world's largest annual gathering of Muslims has in the past seen deadly stampedes, fires and riots, with authorities sometimes struggling to respond. Saudi Arabia, which stakes its reputation on its guardianship of Islam's...
Categories: Iraq