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More Than 100 Civilians Reported Killed by Coalition Airstrikes on Raqqa

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 17:40
Top U.S. defense officials are pushing back against allegations of a significant spike in the number of civilian casualties in the Syrian city of Raqqa. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 100 civilians have been killed in coalition airstrikes over the past 48 hours.  That number includes at least 42 people, 19 of them children, killed Monday when strikes destroyed buildings sheltering families. Residents of the de facto capital of Islamic State in Syria...
Categories: Iraq

Senegal Reinstates Qatar Ambassador, Hopes for End to Gulf Feud

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 17:34
Senegal has reinstated its ambassador to Qatar in a bid to encourage the resolution of a dispute between Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies and Doha, the Foreign Ministry said. Senegal recalled its ambassador three months ago along with other African countries such as Chad and Niger who followed suit and also expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia, whose charities funnel millions of dollars in aid money to the region. "With this act, Senegal strongly encourages efforts to peacefully...
Categories: Iraq

Report: Iran says Twitter Ready to Talk on Unblocking Site

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 15:40
Iran's new telecommunications minister says Twitter is ready to talk about unblocking access to the microblogging site.   The state-owned IRAN newspaper quoted Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi on Tuesday as saying Twitter has "officially announced readiness to talk with Iran for resolving the problems."   San Francisco-based Twitter declined to comment.   Iran blocked the site, along with Facebook and YouTube, after mass protests and violence over the 2009...
Categories: Iraq

Commander: Iraqi Troops Reach First Urban Areas of Tal Afar

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 15:06
Iraqi troops on Tuesday reached the first urban areas of the Islamic State-held northern town of Tal Afar on the third day of a multi-pronged operation, said a military commander.   U.S.-trained elite forces, known as the Counter Terrorism Service, entered the al-Kifah neighborhood on the southwest edge of town, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Rasheed Yar Allah, who commands the operation, said in a statement. He didn't give more details.   Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil, of the Iraqi...
Categories: Iraq

Mattis Visits Iraq Amid Push to Rout Islamic State, Look Toward Future

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 11:10
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on an unannounced visit to Iraq Tuesday that significant progress has been made in ousting Islamic State from the country. "Cities have been liberated, people freed from ISIS," Mattis told reporters in Baghdad referring to the militant group. "They (IS militants) have been shown to be unable to stand up to our team in combat and they have not retaken one inch of ground that they've lost." Before flying to Baghdad, where...
Categories: Iraq

Yemen Blames Iran for War, Says It Can't be Part of Solution

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 06:15
Yemen's foreign minister blamed Iran and its support for Houthi Shiite rebels on Monday for causing the country's civil war and said it can't be part of the solution.   Abdulmalik Al-Mekhlafi said at a press conference that Iranian weapons are still being smuggled into Yemen.   Saudi Arabia's U.N. ambassador, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, whose country supports Yemen's internationally recognized government, said Iran isn't a neighbor or part of the Arabian...
Categories: Iraq

Egyptian Coptic Christians Celebrate Virgin Mary Feast Day

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 05:40
Every August, tens of thousands of Egypt’s Coptic Christians and Egyptian Muslims take buses and trains to the Virgin Mary Monastery in Assiut. The monastery is believed to have been visited by the holy family when they fled Israel out of fear of persecution by King Herod. Only a few thousand people were able to visit this year after authorities suspended the traditional celebrations for security reasons and also banned Muslims from attending the event. Hamada Elrasam reports.
Categories: Iraq

ICRC: First Major Aid in Three Years Reaches Iraq's West Mosul

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 01:37
People in the western part of Iraq's devastated city of Mosul have received their first major delivery of aid since Islamic State militants captured the city in 2014, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Monday. The agency began distributing food and other essential items last week and aims to reach more than 64,000 people in West Mosul, which was recaptured by Iraqi forces on July 10. Much of West Mosul has been destroyed by fighting. Homes, roads, bridges,...
Categories: Iraq

Russia’s Top General to Visit Ankara Amid Turkish US Tensions

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 23:30
Russia’s armed forces chief staff, General Valery Gerasimov, is due to visit Turkey this week in the latest step in bilateral regional coordination efforts on Syria. Ahead of Gerasimov’s visit, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusolgu took a swipe at NATO ally the United States, saying Russia better understood Turkey's concerns about the Syrian Kurdish rebel militia, the YPG. Washington’s strong backing of the YPG in its fight against Islamic State in Syria continues to strain...
Categories: Iraq

Fight or Flee: Families Scattered in Syria War

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 22:30
“If you refuse to join, IS militants take you away by force,” said Ahmed Ali, 29, a former farmer in Syria's northeastern countryside.  “We don't actually know where they take people. But they don't come back.” Surrounded by more than 20 other young men in a sweltering tent, Ali described fleeing Islamic State militants three nights earlier, paying a series of smugglers $1,000 to get him to the relative safety of a camp in the town of Ain Issa.   A week ago,...
Categories: Iraq

Devotion to Mary in Assiut, Egypt

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 22:10
Every August, tens of thousands of Egypt’s Coptic Christians and Egyptian Muslims take buses and trains to the Virgin Mary Monastery in Assiut. This year, Muslims were banned from attending the event by the Egyptian authorities. The monastery is believed to have been visited by the Holy family when they fled Israel out of fear of persecution by King Herod.
Categories: Iraq

Militants Counterattack as Airstrikes Pound Raqqa

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 21:05
Islamic State militants continue counterattacking from their remaining strongholds in Raqqa, Syria, as coalition-backed forces advance to recapture the city. Families fleeing the fighting often have no place to go but to camps desperately short of clean water, food and medicine. VOA's Heather Murdock is on the scene in Raqqa and in the Ain Issa Camp in Syria.
Categories: Iraq

Iraqi PM Warns Militants 'Leave or be Killed'

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 15:15
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has sent a message to Islamic State to either leave Tal Afar, a city about 50 kilometers east of Mosul, or remain to be killed. Abadi gave a televised speech Sunday, as Iraqi ground forces began advancing on the city still held by the militants. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Categories: Iraq

Pope: Rights of Migrants Trump National Security Concerns

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 14:47
Pope Francis is demanding countries to greatly improve their welcome to migrants and stop any collective expulsions, saying migrants' dignity and right to protection trumps national security concerns.   Francis' politically pointed message Monday was for the Catholic Church's 2018 world refugee day, celebrated Jan. 14. It comes amid mounting anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe following waves of migrant arrivals and Islamic extremist attacks.   In the message,...
Categories: Iraq

Sudanese Children of IS Militants Released in Libya

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 03:35
Four children from Sudan whose parents are believed to have been killed fighting for Islamic State in the Libyan city of Sirte last year were handed over to the Sudanese consul on Sunday for return to their country. Sirte was a stronghold for Islamic State from 2015-2016, when Libyan forces backed by U.S. air strikes ousted the ultra-hardline group. Hundreds of foreign militants joined Islamic State in Sirte. Dozens of women and children detained towards the end of the fighting have...
Categories: Iraq

Lebanon Prepares for Syria's Post-war Construction Windfall

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 02:45
The port of Tripoli in northern Lebanon wants the world to know it's ready for business.   British safety managers are training local hires to operate heavy machinery and Chinese technicians are running diagnostics on two new container cranes that tower over the harbor, just 28 kilometers (18 miles) from the Syrian border.   After six years of civil war in Syria, markets across the Middle East are anticipating a mammoth reconstruction boom that could stimulate billions of...
Categories: Iraq

Palestinians Await 'Clear Vision' From US on Peace Talks

Sun, 08/20/2017 - 22:17
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says the Palestinians are still waiting for a "clear vision" from the United States on resuming peace talks with Israel as President Donald Trump's envoys are set to visit. Nabil Abu Rdeneh says Abbas "wants clarity" on the two-state solution, the cornerstone of international diplomatic efforts for the past two decades. Trump's adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, envoy for international negotiations Jason...
Categories: Iraq

3 Lebanese Soldiers Killed During Offensive Against IS

Sun, 08/20/2017 - 18:46
Three Lebanese soldiers were killed during an offensive to take back areas along the Syrian border from Islamic State, the military said Sunday. A landmine exploded under one of the advancing armored vehicles of the army a day after it launched its biggest military operation yet against IS. "An army vehicle was hit by a landmine on the al-Ajsa road roundabout in Jurud Arsal at noon today, killing three soldiers and injuring one soldier seriously," the army said in a...
Categories: Iraq

Official: Iraq's Kurds Might Put Off Independence Vote in Return for Concessions

Sun, 08/20/2017 - 17:50
Iraq's Kurds may consider the possibility of postponing a planned Sept. 25 referendum on independence in return for financial and political concessions from the central government in Baghdad, a senior Kurdish official said. A Kurdish delegation is visiting Baghdad to sound out proposals from Iraqi leaders that might convince the Kurds to postpone the vote, according to Mala Bakhtiar, executive secretary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Politburo. The United States and...
Categories: Iraq