Nearly 20 people have been killed in multiple bomb blasts in a busy market in the Iraqi capital, police said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Iraqis look at the aftermath following a double blast in a busy market area in Baghdad’s Sinak neighborhood
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At least 19 people have been killed and 38 others wounded on Saturday when two bombs exploded in a busy market in central Baghdad, according to Iraqi police.
Baghdad has been rocked by several bomb attacks in 2016, which have often left dozens killed and scores more injured.
The bombs went off near car spare parts shops in Sinak during the morning rush hour. One was triggered by a suicide bomber and another was a planted explosive, an interior ministry official told Reuters news agency.
Baghdad has been put on high alert since October, when Iraqi forces launched a military campaign to liberate Mosul from the “Islamic State” militant group.
Backed by the US-led coalition against the “Islamic State,” Kurdish forces and Shiite militias, the campaign has slowed due to fierce resistance from the militant group.
Although Raqqa in Syria is considered the militant group’s de facto capital, Mosul represents one of its most important strongholds. In June 2014, “Islamic State” leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the creation of the group’s so-called “caliphate” from Mosul.
Saturday’s attack marks the biggest in the Iraqi capital since the beginning of the Mosul operation. However, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
WHAT IS THE ‘ISLAMIC STATE’?
Where did IS come from?
Islamic State (IS) – also known as ISIL, ISIS and Daesh – is an al Qaeda splinter group with militant Sunni Islamist idealogy. It emerged in the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The group’s goal is to create an Islamic state, or “caliphate”, across Iraq, Syria and beyond.
Iraq’s military says it has restarted its campaign to drive “Islamic State” (IS) militants from their northern bastion of Mosul. It hopes to move to within a few hundred meters of the city’s eastern limits on Monday.
“The target is to retake Bazwaya and Gogjali, the last two villages before Mosul,” a lieutenant colonel with Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency on Monday.
Iraq forces launch operation to cut Mosul off from Syria
Paramilitaries in Iraq have launched an assault on the town of Tel Afar, which was mainly Shiite before it fell to Sunni jihadis. The Iran-backed Shiite militia have promised not to advance into majority Sunni Mosul. (29.10.2016)
The recapture of Mosul will not mean the end of ‘IS’
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‘IS’ committing massacres in Mosul as Iraqi forces push forward, says UN
UN: IS abducts thousands from Mosul to use as human shields
The Joint Operations Command coordinating Iraq’s war on “Islamic State” (IS) said CTS and army forces had launched a drive “to advance toward the left bank of the city of Mosul from three axes.”
AFP described how a coalition aircraft struck a suspected IS mortar position in the distance, while a convoy of Humvees sprayed gunfire toward an industrial area still held by jihadists.
IS resisting advance
The Associated Press (AP) said car bombers were trying to stop the advance, citing Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil, who said troops aimed to enter the eastern outskirts of Mosul later on Monday.
The coalition drive to retake the city began exactly two weeks ago. IS militants captured the city in June 2014 as they seized vast swathes of land in Iraq and neighboring Syria as part of their declaration of a caliphate, a state governed by strict Islamic law.
Last week Iraq’s elite counterterrorism unit had paused its advance on the city with a population of 1.5 million to allow forces advancing more slowly on other fronts to close the gap.
Advances have been slower in the south, with government forces still 20 miles (35 kilometers) from the city.
On Sunday, a new player joined the battlefield, as a coalition of roughly 5,000 Iran-backed Shiite militias – known as Popular Mobilization Forces– headed north towards Mosul in gun trucks and Humvees.
Military officials said they were not headed directly for the IS-held city, but had set their sights on the town of Tal Afar to the west, the retaking of which would help cut supply lines between Mosul and the Syrian border.
Once Iraqi forces, including the Kurdish peshmerga, reach Mosul, they are expected to besiege the city on all sides, attempt to open safe corridors for civilians, and then take on diehard jihadists in street battles.
On Sunday, five bombs rocked Shiite neighborhoods of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, killing at least 17 people and wounding over 60, police said.
Local media speculated that the attacks were likely carried out by IS in retaliation for Shiite fighters joining the Mosul offensive.
No group has claimed responsibility but Iraqi officials warned the group “Islamic State” (IS) has become increasingly desperate as it loses ground. Previous attacks have targeted civilian areas.
At least forty people were killed and a further 60 were wounded following twin explosions in downtown Baghdad, police and medical sources told German news agency DPA on Saturday. The double car bomb attack took place just before midnight on Friday near the popular Nakheel shopping mall.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but officials have warned that as IS fighters lost ground in Iraq and Syria, they were likely to carry out many smaller-scale terror attacks on civilians.
The first blast came from a parked car, authorities said, followed by an explosives-laden vehicle driven by a suicide bomber. An interior ministry spokesman said that none of the victims had been inside the mall but outside in the busy neighborhood surrounding it.
Reports of casualties varied according to the different sources immediately after the blasts. Doctors from the local hospital said they expected the death toll to rise further.
Last Tuesday, IS carried out a similar attack near a hospital in the bustling Karrada district, killing seven people. Karrada was also the site of the Iraqi capital’s deadliest-ever single bombing, which claimed the lives of 300 people in July.
es/jm (dpa, AFP, Reuters)
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Iraq has hanged 36 men convicted over the massacre of hundreds of soldiers near the city of Tikrit in June 2014.
Most of the victims are believed to have been young Shia recruits who were based at Camp Speicher when Tikrit was overrun by Islamic State militants.
It is estimated that up to 1,700 people died in one of the worst atrocities committed in Iraq in recent times.
Photos and videos published by IS at the time showed soldiers being lined up and shot at various locations.
Some bodies were pushed into the River Tigris, while others were buried in mass graves that were found after government forces recaptured the city a year later.
“The executions of 36 convicted over the Speicher crime were carried out this morning in Nasiriyah prison,” a spokesman for the governor’s office in Dhiqar province told Agence France-Presse news agency.
Some 400 of the army recruits who were killed were from Dhiqar province.
The spokesman said that Justice Minister Haidar al-Zamili was present at the executions.
After a suicide truck bomb attack in Baghdad killed more than 300 people last month, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said that he wanted to speed up executions of those convicted of terrorism.
Those executed on Sunday, all believed to be Iraqi citizens, had been sentenced to death in February.
Some of the defendants said they had not been near Tikrit at the time of the massacre, while others said they had been denied access to lawyers, or had been forced to confess under torture.
BAGHDAD — Iraq’s military and U.S.-backed opposition forces in Syria are advancing on the Islamic State’s key strongholds with a new confidence not seen since the militants routed Iraqi forces two years ago, U.S. military commanders said.
“It’s fair to say we have the initiative,” Army Lt. Gen.Sean MacFarland, the top coalition commander here, said in an interview at his headquarters. “The momentum is growing.”
He said Iraqi forces in recent weeks have made rapid advances toward the city ofMosul, while U.S.-backed opposition forces in northern Syria are advancing on Raqqa, the militants’ de facto capital.
“We’re closing in on both of them,” MacFarland said about Mosul and Raqqa.
MacFarland and other top leaders acknowledge that tough fighting lies ahead. Both cities are home to thousands of civilians, and the U.S.-backed forces will face a complex urban battlefield, making it difficult to use airstrikes against the militants.
Commanders declined to predict about timing, but any final assault is at least still months away. Raqqa will likely take longer.
Inside look at U.S.-led coalition’s deadliest single attack on ISIL
Militants have had two years to build a network of defenses in and around Mosul, and Iraqi forces are just now arriving at the outer belts. The coalition estimates between 5,000 and 6,000 fighters are inside the densely populated city.
“We expect that the fight will get more and more difficult the closer we get to Mosul,” Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky said.
The progress of recent weeks has given an air of inevitability to the campaign in both Iraq and Syria, as airstrikes and ground fighting have worn down the Islamic State.
Iraq’s military, much of which collapsed when the Islamic State swept into Iraq from Syria two years ago, has had a string of successes, including the recapture ofFallujah and Ramadi. Last month, U.S. and Iraqi airstrikes decimated a militant convoy attempting to flee Fallujah, killing more than 400 militants.
Quick Fallujah victory bodes well for Mosul
As Iraqi forces were driving the Islamic State from Fallujah, other forces advanced on Mosul in a series of complex maneuvers that highlighted the progress Iraq’s military has made both in capabilities and willingness to fight.
Iraq’s 9th armored division and a brigade of Iraqi special operations forces spearheaded an advance of more than 50 miles up the Tigris River Valley. Iraqi forces also built an expeditionary bridge across the Tigris while fighting militants.
“This is a different Iraqi army than what was here a year ago,” Volesky said.
The bridge and the Qayyarah West air base, about 39 miles south of Mosul, will ensure secure supply lines for the Mosul offensive and have disrupted and isolated militants in the area south of Mosul.
In Syria, U.S.-backed opposition forces have circled the town of Manbij and seized parts of the city, including a hospital where militants had set up a headquarters.
Capturing the city would consolidate territory held by U.S.-backed forces in northern Syria and also prove the worth of a growing number of U.S.-backed Arab fighters who will be essential for taking Raqqa, about 70 miles south of Manbij.
The U.S. military backs a force of about 30,000 opposition fighters in Syria. The U.S. has deployed about 300 special operations forces to the region to help organize and recruit opposition fighters willing to take on the Islamic State.
Still, much of the success in battling the Islamic State in northern Syria has been the work of Kurdish forces, who have pushed the militants out of their territory. The United States has attempted to build a coalition of Arab forces who can expand the fighting beyond Kurdish-controlled areas.
Earlier this year the White House authorized an additional 250 special operations forces to deploy to Syria, largely to expand Arab involvement in the Syrian Defense Force.
Manbij is a key test of those efforts. “We’re learning a lot about how to work with theSyrian Arab Coalition in the Manbij fight,” MacFarland said. The U.S.-led coalition has refined its ability to coordinate airstrikes with the forces fighting in Manjib, providing the opposition with a key advantage over the militants.
The fighting has been difficult, since the militants defending Manbij put up a more determined resistance than many of their counterparts in Iraq.
“They are more inclined to trade space for time in Iraq,” MacFarland said. “They’re less able to do that in Syria, because Syria is really their core holding.”
But the opposition force, most of whom are part of the Arab coalition, continued to press into the city, raising hopes it will be capable of expanding and taking on militants in Raqqa.
“It has been building by building, block by block fighting,” he said of Manbij.
Commanders expect to see similar resistance in Raqqa. “The enemy will probably fight harder in Raqqa than they will in Mosul,” MacFarland said.
The Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, is increasingly turning to terror attacks on civilian targets around the world as it has lost territory in Iraq and Syria.
“When Mosul falls, it’s not going to be like ISIL is just going to disappear,” Volesky said. “They are going to go out and try to maintain relevance.”
The U.S.-led coalition will need to continue pressuring the Islamic State even if it loses its self-proclaimed caliphate, officials said.
“Destroying ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria is necessary, but it’s not sufficient,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said. “ISIL’s influence and activities continue to pose a threat.”