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Iraq's Yazidis facing 'attempted genocide': UN

Iraq's Yazidis facing 'attempted genocide': UN

22 October 2014 | 02:40 | FOCUS News Agency
New York. Iraq's Yazidi minority is facing what may amount to an "attempted genocide" at the hands of Islamist fighters, a senior UN rights official said Tuesday after visiting northern Iraq, AFP reports.
"The evidence strongly indicates attempt to commit genocide," UN Assistant Secretary General Ivan Simonovic said after meeting with officials and displaced people in Arbil, Baghdad and Dohuk during the week-long visit.
Simonovic told reporters at UN headquarters that the atrocities perpetrated by Islamic State fighters over the past four months may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In the case of the Yazidis, he said the killings could be qualified as an attempted genocide because there was evidence of an intent to exterminate them if they refuse to convert.
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Britain to arm Iraqi Kurds with heavy machine guns

Britain to arm Iraqi Kurds with heavy machine guns

9 September 2014 | 16:42 | FOCUS News Agency
London. Britain is to ship heavy machine guns to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State jihadists in Iraq, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced Tuesday, AFP reported.
The arms shipment, worth £1.6 million ($2.6 million, two million euros), will arrive in Iraq on Wednesday.
"The Kurdish forces remain significantly less well equipped than ISIL (Islamic State) and we are responding to help them defend themselves, protect citizens and push back ISIL advances," he said in a written statement to parliament.
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Obama sending 350 more troops to Iraq; pledges no combat role

Obama sending 350 more troops to Iraq; pledges no combat role

3 September 2014 | 05:14 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. resident Barack Obama is sending 350 additional troops to protect the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and its support facilities, with the move coming Tuesday in the wake of an escalating threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL or ISIS, Chicago Sun Times reports.
The White House issued a statement about the troop build-up as Obama was flying to Estonia and then Wales for a NATO summit where the U.S. will try to build an international coalition to battle the Islamic State.
The Obama administration on Tuesday stepped up its response even though officials were not yet confirming that the Islamic State beheaded a second U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff.
The White House says in a statement that the State Department had asked for the additional military personnel to help protect U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel in the Iraqi capital. The Defense Department reviewed the request and recommended the additional troops. The extra soldiers "builds upon previous embassy security deployments announced on June 15 and June 30 and will bring the total forces responsible for augmenting diplomatic security in Iraq up to approximately 820," the Pentagon said.
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Australia PM says 'extreme force' justified against IS

Australia PM says 'extreme force' justified against IS

2 September 2014 | 08:49 | FOCUS News Agency
Sydney. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday said "extreme force" was justified in battling Islamic State militants, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the extremists' reign of terror "totally unacceptable", AFP reported.
Australia will "in coming days" join ally the United States in an international effort to transport weapons to Kurdish forces fighting IS extremists in northern Iraq.
It has also been conducting humanitarian air drops to the town of Amerli, where thousands of people were trapped for more than two months until Iraqi forces broke the siege on Sunday.
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West drops aid to Iraq town under jihadist siege

West drops aid to Iraq town under jihadist siege

31 August 2014 | 11:39 | FOCUS News Agency
Kirkuk. Western warplanes dropped desperately needed aid on Sunday to an Iraqi Shiite town under blockade by jihadists for well over two months as preparations to break the siege dragged on, AFP reported.
The aid drops were accompanied by US air strikes and were the furthest south that US forces have intervened in Iraq, barring reconnaissance flights, since their withdrawal in December 2011.
The mainly Turkmen residents of the Salaheddin province town of Amerli, where the United Nations has warned of the risk of sectarian massacre by the besieging Sunni Arab extremists, have been running desperately short of food and medicines.
Thousands of Shiite militiamen and Kurdish fighters have been massing for days for an operation to break the siege, alongside the Iraqi army, which was left in disarray by the lightning offensive the jihadists launched in second city Mosul in early June.
Washington launched air strikes in support of Kurdish forces in northern Iraq on August 8.
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Australia to join US in arming Kurds in Iraq

Australia to join US in arming Kurds in Iraq

31 August 2014 | 09:50 | FOCUS News Agency
Sydney. Australia said Sunday it would help the United States in an international effort to transport weapons to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq, AFP reported.
"The United States government has requested that Australia help to transport stores of military equipment, including arms and munitions, as part of a multi-nation effort," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement.
"Royal Australian Air Force C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster aircraft will join aircraft from other nations including Canada, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and the United States to conduct this important task."
The announcement came as Australia joined the US military in dropping humanitarian aid to the besieged Iraqi town of Amerli, where thousands of Shia Turkomen have been cut off by jihadist rebels from receiving food, water and medical supplies.
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Suicide bomber targets Iraqi forces, killing seven

Suicide bomber targets Iraqi forces, killing seven

30 August 2014 | 13:46 | FOCUS News Agency
Baghdad. A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle at a checkpoint south of Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least seven security forces members, security and medical officials said, AFP reported.
There was no immediate claim for the attack in Yusufiyah, which also wounded 23 people, but suicide bombings are a hallmark of Sunni extremists, including those from powerful jihadist group the Islamic State (IS).
Security forces and allied Shiite militiamen are battling militants in several areas south of the capital, the southern front in the fight to regain ground lost to an IS-led offensive that overran large areas of Iraq in June.
While the militants' relentless advance has since been checked, Iraqi forces are struggling to push them back, and there is no resolution to the crisis in sight.
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Jihadists behead Iraq Kurdish fighter: monitor

Jihadists behead Iraq Kurdish fighter: monitor

29 August 2014 | 10:13 | FOCUS News Agency
Baghdad. The jihadist Islamic State group has posted video of the execution of a captured Kurdish fighter, in a warning to Iraqi Kurdish leaders to end military cooperation with Washington, a monitoring group said, AFP reported.
The United States has carried out a wave of air strikes against the jihadists in northern Iraq, helping Kurdish forces to claw back ground lost to the militants earlier this month.
The video, titled "A message in blood to the leaders of the American-Kurdish alliance," opens with 15 men in orange jumpsuits standing around the IS flag.
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US, UK eye rapper as British-born militant who beheaded journalist James Foley

US, UK eye rapper as British-born militant who beheaded journalist James Foley

25 August 2014 | 10:17 | FOCUS News Agency
London. American and British intelligence officials are eyeing a British-born rapper as the militant who beheaded journalist James Foley, Fox News reported.
A senior Western intelligence official told Fox News that 23-year-old London rapper Abdel Majed Abdel Bary is the suspect believed to be Foley's executioner.
U.S. intelligence officials are not commenting publicly on the reports, but a well-placed source told Fox News that Bary's Egyptian-born father was extradited from London to the United States in 2012 for his alleged connection to Usama bin Laden and the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa.
Bary traveled to Syria last year to fight with ISIS, the source said.
The Sunday Times and Sunday People identified Bary as a member of a group of at least three British-born ISIS fighters known among former hostages as "The Beatles."
The Sunday Times reported that MI5 and MI6, Britain's two major intelligence agencies, had identified the man who did the brutal deed, though he had not been publicly identified.
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British 'close' to identifying Foley killer: envoy

British 'close' to identifying Foley killer: envoy

24 August 2014 | 17:30 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. British authorities are "close" to identifying the hooded Islamic State jihadist who beheaded American journalist James Foley, the British ambassador to the United States said Sunday, AFP reported.
"I can't say more than this but I know from my colleagues at home that we are close," said Ambassador Peter Westmacott.
The Sunday Times newspaper, citing unnamed senior government sources, reported that intelligence services MI5 and MI6 have identified the fighter suspected of killing Foley but the sources did not divulge the suspect's name.
The jihadist, who was shown on video executing Foley and then threatening to kill a second US hostage if President Barack Obama did not change course in Iraq, spoke English with a British accent.
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Foley killing an 'utter betrayal': British foreign secretary

Foley killing an 'utter betrayal': British foreign secretary

24 August 2014 | 15:56 | FOCUS News Agency
London. Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Sunday that the killing of US journalist James Foley by a man speaking with an English accent was an "utter betrayal of our country", AFP reported.
There is growing concern in London that British passport holders who travel to fight in Iraq and Syria could return to commit attacks on British soil.
The Islamic State (IS) jihadist group posted a video on Tuesday in which a masked militant with a London accent is seen executing Foley, who had been missing since his capture in Syria in 2012.
The Sunday Times newspaper, citing unnamed senior government sources, reported that intelligence services MI5 and MI6 have identified the fighter suspected of killing Foley but the sources did not divulge the suspect's name.
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Up to twenty more Westerners held hostage by Isil: AFP

Up to twenty more Westerners held hostage by Isil: AFP

22 August 2014 | 06:26 | FOCUS News Agency
London. Up to 20 Western hostages are being held by the jihadi group that beheaded journalist James Foley, The Telegraph. , Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil) reportedly hold another journalist, Steven Sotloff, and a number of aid workers, including Italians Vanessa Marzullo and Greta Ramelli.
Three aid workers employed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are also being held hostage after they were abducted last October.
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Hollande: France armed Syrian rebels 'a few months ago'

Hollande: France armed Syrian rebels 'a few months ago'

21 August 2014 | 16:03 | FOCUS News Agency
Saint-Pierre. President Francois Hollande said on Thursday that France had delivered weapons to rebels battling the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad "a few months ago”, AFP reported.
The deliveries took place "a few months ago, when the Syrian rebels had to face both the armies of the dictator Bashar al-Assad and this terrorist group Islamic State," Hollande told reporters on a tour of the French island of La Reunion.
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EU deplores 'outrageous' Foley killing: AFP

EU deplores 'outrageous' Foley killing: AFP

21 August 2014 | 15:18 | FOCUS News Agency
Brussels. The European Union on Thursday deplored the "outrageous" beheading of US journalist James Foley by Islamist jihadists calling the murder a brutal denial of "universally recognised values", AFP reported.
"We strongly condemn this outrageous murder," said Sebastien Brabant, spokesman for Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief.
"This brutal act, like the many other human rights violations which are perpetrated by the Islamic State, denies universally recognised values and rights including freedom of press for which Foley risked his life several times," he said.
"Such forms of terrorism constitute one of the most serious threats to international peace and security and the EU is more committed than ever to support international efforts to fight terrorism."
Last week, EU foreign ministers met in a rare summer meeting to coordinate the bloc's response to the jihadist onslaught in huge areas of Syria and Iraq.
At the meeting, ministers gave their unanimous approval to the arming of Iraqi Kurd forces by individual member states that wished to do so.
"The commitment of the EU is very clear" on the crisis in Iraq, Brabant said, with another meeting of foreign ministers scheduled for next week in Milan.
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Foley's killer will be caught: former UK anti-terror chief

Foley's killer will be caught: former UK anti-terror chief

21 August 2014 | 14:58 | FOCUS News Agency
London. The suspected British killer of US journalist James Foley will be found and brought to justice "sooner or later", Britain's former anti-terrorism chief said Thursday, AFP reported.
Richard Barrett, former head of counterterrorism at foreign intelligence service MI6, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that those who knew the suspect would be so appalled by the grisly online video of the killing that they would contact police.
"Ultimately they'll be able to identify him," he said. "He will have had many friends and acquaintances and family in the UK, and those people will wish to see him brought to justice."
The video of Foley's execution was posted online by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group on Tuesday, prompting global condemnation.
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US military tried but failed to free Foley

US military tried but failed to free Foley

21 August 2014 | 11:07 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. A US secret military mission had tried but failed to free US reporter James Foley and other American hostages in Syria, US officials have said, BBC reported.
Their comments come after a video of Foley's beheading by Islamic State (IS) militants appeared on Tuesday.
IS said Foley's death was revenge for US air strikes on its fighters in Iraq.
US President Barack Obama condemned the killing as "an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world".
He compared IS militants, who control large parts of Syria and Iraq to a "cancer" and said the group's ideology was "bankrupt".
The UN, UK and others have also expressed abhorrence at the video.
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Interpol urges multinational response to 'barbaric' Foley murder

Interpol urges multinational response to 'barbaric' Foley murder

21 August 2014 | 10:42 | FOCUS News Agency
Lyon. The head of the international police organisation Interpol on Thursday condemned the beheading of US journalist James Foley and called for a global response to the threat posed by Islamic extremists, AFP reported.
"The barbaric murder of James Foley by the Islamic State group underlines the depths of its depravity as it wages its campaign of terror across Syria and Iraq," Interpol chief Ronald Noble said in a statement.
Noble called on the world to remember the other innocent people held by "bloodthirsty terrorists who know neither compassion nor mercy."
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Parents of US journalist Foley praise their 'fearless' son

Parents of US journalist Foley praise their 'fearless' son

21 August 2014 | 08:57 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. Friends, relatives and colleagues have paid tribute to American journalist James Foley, executed by Islamic State jihadists, with his parents praising their "fearless" son, AFP reported.
Condolences and shocked messages poured in after the Islamist group released a video of Foley's beheading late Tuesday, including from French journalists who revealed they had been held alongside him in the past year.
Foley, 40, had been missing since he was seized in Syria in November 2012.
"We're very proud of him. He was a courageous, fearless journalist, a very compassionate American. He was just a hero," Foley's mother Diane told reporters outside their New Hampshire home.
"It haunts me, how much pain he was in and how cruel this method of execution is as opposed to so many others," said his father John. "We believe he was a martyr, a martyr for freedom."
French journalists Didier Francois and Nicolas Henin, who were released by Syrian jihadists earlier this year, revealed on Wednesday they had been held alongside Foley.
"He was an extraordinary guy, an extremely nice companion in detention, very solid," said Francois of Europe 1 radio, who was held with Foley from October 2013 until his release in April.
"This was someone who never fully submitted to the kidnappers. He was always thinking of others during the whole detention, notably asking for food for everyone."
Henin of L'Express magazine said Foley had faced particular abuse from their jailers because he was American and his brother is in the US air force.
"He was a guy of great bravery," said Henin. "He became the whipping-boy of the jailers ... but remained unperturbed."
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Obama warns of jihadist 'cancer' as US reveals failed rescue

Obama warns of jihadist 'cancer' as US reveals failed rescue

21 August 2014 | 08:13 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. US President Barack Obama demanded Wednesday the world take action against the "cancer" of jihadist extremism in Iraq, as Washington revealed it had failed in an operation to free US hostages in neighboring Syria, AFP reported.
It came a day after the so-called "Islamic State," which has seized much of eastern Syria and northern Iraq, released a video showing a masked militant beheading US reporter James Foley, provoking worldwide revulsion and condemnation.
As US jets continued to strike IS targets in Iraq, despite a threat to kill a second American reporter, Obama said: "When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what's necessary to see that justice is done."
Shortly after he spoke, the State Department asked for 300 more US troops to be sent to Iraq to protect US facilities.
US forces had tried but failed to rescue Foley and other US hostages held in Syria by the IS, officials and reports said.
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Germany, Italy say prepared to send weapons to Iraq's Kurds

Germany, Italy say prepared to send weapons to Iraq's Kurds

20 August 2014 | 18:01 | FOCUS News Agency
Berlin/Rome. Germany and Italy joined Britain and France on Wednesday in saying they would arm Iraqi Kurdish security forces fighting Islamic State militants in northern Iraq, in close coordination with the Baghdad central government, Reuters reported.
Islamic State, which posted a video on Tuesday purporting to show the beheading of an captive American journalist , poses a threat to the world and Europe cannot simply stand by, Germany's defence and foreign ministers said.
Besides humanitarian aid and military equipment such as body armour and helmets, "we can also imagine providing further equipment, including weapons," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
"In close agreement with our European and international partners we will do this in such a way that it boosts the peshmerga's [semi-autonomous Kurdish security forces] ability to defend themselves," Steinmeier said. "We see the risks attached to this, and we will therefore show a sense of proportion in the nature of what and how much we deliver."
Sending arms into conflict zones is a major departure for Germany, which has often shied away from direct involvement in military conflicts since World War Two due to its Nazi past. Berlin opposed the U.S.-led 2003 Iraq war although it later took part in the international military mission in Afghanistan.
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France slams 'barbaric act' of apparent US journalist execution

France slams 'barbaric act' of apparent US journalist execution

20 August 2014 | 14:29 | FOCUS News Agency
Paris. France on Wednesday lashed out at the apparent execution of American journalist James Foley at the hands of Islamic State jihadists, labelling it a "barbaric act", AFP reported.
Government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told reporters: "This is a barbaric act that plays on fear." Separately, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius described it as a "disgusting assassination."
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Germany says ready to send arms to Iraqi Kurds

Germany says ready to send arms to Iraqi Kurds

20 August 2014 | 14:12 | FOCUS News Agency
Berlin. Germany is ready to send weapons to support Iraqi Kurds in their battle against jihadist militants of Islamic State, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Wednesday, AFP reported.
After other European countries said they would send weapons, "we are ready to do the same," he said at a joint press conference with Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen.
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Jihadists claim beheading of US journalist

Jihadists claim beheading of US journalist

20 August 2014 | 01:49 | FOCUS News Agency
Beirut. Jihadist group the Islamic State on Tuesday claimed to have executed American journalist James Foley in revenge for US air strikes against its fighters in Iraq, AFP reports.
The Islamist group released a video showing a masked militant purportedly beheading the reporter, who has been missing since he was seized by armed men in Syria in November 2012.
"Find James Foley," the campaign run by his family to secure the 40-year-old freelancer's release, posted a public message online following the release of the video asking for time "to seek answers."
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UN announces emergency aid for 500,000 northern Iraqis

UN announces emergency aid for 500,000 northern Iraqis

19 August 2014 | 15:53 | FOCUS News Agency
Geneva. The UN refugee agency said Tuesday it was poised to mount a massive aid operation for 500,000 Iraqis driven from their homes by jihadist rebels, AFP reported.
"In response to the deteriorating situation in northern Iraq, UNHCR is this week launching one of its largest aid pushes aimed at helping close to half a million people who have been forced to leave their homes," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters.
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FAA bans US airlines from flying over Syria

FAA bans US airlines from flying over Syria

19 August 2014 | 04:25 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. The US aviation regulator Monday ordered airlines based in the United States to stop flying over Syria, citing a "serious potential threat" to civil planes, including armed groups with anti-aircraft weapons, AFP reports.
"Based on an updated assessment of the risk associated with such operations and the lack of any requests from operators wishing to fly in this airspace, we believe it prudent to prohibit US operators from flying into, out of and over Syria," the US Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
The FAA's previous so-called Notice to Airmen had strongly advised US operators against flying over Syria.
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Obama promises 'long-term' strategy against IS

Obama promises 'long-term' strategy against IS

19 August 2014 | 00:27 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. President Barack Obama said Monday that the United States has embarked on a long-term mission to defeat the insurgents of the so-called "Islamic State" fighting in Iraq, AFP reports.
Ten days after ordering air strikes against the jihadist fighters, Obama warned that IS remains a threat to Iraq and the wider region, telling Baghdad "the wolf is at the door."
Previously, Obama has been at pains to describe the US operation as limited but, as American jets pound IS positions outside Mosul, he said it would form part of a broader political strategy.
"We will continue to pursue a long-term strategy to turn the tide against ISIL by supporting the new Iraqi government and working with key partners in the region," he said, using one of the group's acronyms.
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Kurds in Iraq advance against militants with U.S. help: Reuters

Kurds in Iraq advance against militants with U.S. help: Reuters

18 August 2014 | 02:15 | FOCUS News Agency
Mosul. Kurdish fighters pushed to retake Iraq's largest dam on Sunday in an attempt to reverse gains by Islamic State insurgents who have overrun much of the country's north, officials said, cited by Reuters.

Islamic State militants have seized several towns and oilfields as well as Mosul Dam in recent weeks, possibly giving them the ability to flood cities or cut off water and electricity supplies. Asked about a Kurdish push to dislodge the militants on Sunday, a Kurdish official said they had not retaken the dam itself but had seized "most of the surrounding area".

Islamic State militants have told residents in the area to leave, according to an engineer who works at the site. The engineer said the militants told him they were planting roadside bombs along roads leading in and out of the facility, possibly in fear of an attack by Kurdish fighters who have been bolstered by U.S. airstrikes.

U.S. planes - deployed over Iraq because of the Islamic State's advances for the first time since the U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011 - had been striking targets near Mosul Dam over the last 24 hours, peshmerga spokesman Halgurd Hikmat said.
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Iraqi Kurds retake country's main dam from jihadists: officials

Iraqi Kurds retake country's main dam from jihadists: officials

17 August 2014 | 21:04 | FOCUS News Agency
Baghdad. Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces backed by US air strikes on Sunday retook the country's largest dam from jihadist militants who seized it the previous week, officials said, AFP reported.
"Mosul Dam was liberated completely," Ali Awni, an official from Iraq's main Kurdish party, told AFP, adding that fighting was now taking place in the nearby Tal Kayf area.
A peshmerga officer and another political party official also confirmed that Kurdish forces were in control of Mosul Dam, which provides electricity and irrigation water for farming to large areas of Iraq's northern Nineveh province.
The recapture of the dam marks the biggest major prize won back from the Islamic State jihadists since they launched their sweeping offensive in northern Iraq in early June.
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Air raids kill 31 jihadists in Syria's Raqa: NGO

Air raids kill 31 jihadists in Syria's Raqa: NGO

17 August 2014 | 16:48 | FOCUS News Agency
Beirut. At least 31 Islamic State militants were killed in Syrian air force raids Sunday in the northern province of Raqa, a stronghold of the jihadist fighters, a monitoring group said, as cited by AFP.
"The regime carried out 13 raids on the city of Raqa and 11 on the town of Tabqa in Raqa province, killing at least 31 jihadists and wounding dozens of them," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
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Germany against Iraq's Kurds forming independent state

Germany against Iraq's Kurds forming independent state

17 August 2014 | 13:34 | FOCUS News Agency
Berlin. Germany is opposed to the formation of an independent state by Iraq's Kurds, who are currently battling Islamic State jihadists with Western help, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Sunday, AFP reported.
"An independent Kurdish state would further destabilise the region and trigger new tensions, maybe with the neighbouring Iraqi state as well," he told the Bild newspaper in an interview.
The aim, he added, "was to manage to preserve Iraq's territorial integrity".
Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, is already an autonomous region. Its fighters are being backed by US airpower and Western arms deliveries in the fight against Islamic State jihadists.
Steinmeier, who returned from the region on Saturday, welcomed the looming change of government in Baghdad as "maybe the last chance for the unity of the Iraqi state".
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US confirms airstrikes near Mosul dam, Arbil

US confirms airstrikes near Mosul dam, Arbil

17 August 2014 | 02:03 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. The US military confirmed it conducted nine airstrikes Saturday near Arbil and Iraq's largest dam in an effort to help Kurdish forces retake it from violent extremists.
US Central Command said fighter jets and drones had destroyed or damaged four armored personnel carriers, seven armed vehicles, two Humvees and an armored vehicle.
CENTCOM "conducted these strikes under authority to support humanitarian efforts in Iraq, as well as to protect US personnel and facilities," it added.
"All aircraft exited the strike areas safely."
Kurdish forces attacked the Islamic State (IS) fighters who wrested the Mosul dam from them a week earlier, a general told AFP.
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Kurds fight to retake Iraq's largest dam after 'massacre'

Kurds fight to retake Iraq's largest dam after 'massacre'

16 August 2014 | 23:46 | FOCUS News Agency
Baghdad. Kurdish forces backed by US warplanes battled on Saturday to retake Iraq's largest dam from jihadist fighters, a day after militants carried out a "massacre" of dozens of villagers, AFP reports.
Two months of violence have brought Iraq to the brink of breakup, and world powers relieved by the exit of long-time premier Nuri al-Maliki were sending aid to the displaced and arms to the Kurds.
Kurdish forces attacked the Islamic State (IS) fighters who wrested the Mosul dam from them a week earlier, a general told AFP.
"Kurdish peshmerga, with US air support, have seized control of the eastern side of the dam" complex, Major General Abdulrahman Korini told AFP, saying several jihadists had been killed.
Buoyed by the air strikes US President Barack Obama ordered last week, the peshmerga fighters have tried to claw back the ground they lost since the start of August.
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IS killed more than 700 Syria tribe members in 2 weeks: NGO

IS killed more than 700 Syria tribe members in 2 weeks: NGO

16 August 2014 | 21:24 | FOCUS News Agency
Beirut. Islamic State jihadists have killed more than 700 members of a tribe in eastern Syria in two weeks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday, AFP reported.
Among the members of the Shaitat tribe killed were 100 fighters, but the rest were civilians, the monitoring group said. They were killed in several villages in the mainly IS-controlled eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
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Roadside bomb kills team repairing key Iraq bridge

Roadside bomb kills team repairing key Iraq bridge

16 August 2014 | 21:06 | FOCUS News Agency
Samarra. A roadside bombing Saturday killed the engineer tasked with repairing a key bridge on the main highway north of Baghdad, which jihadists destroyed last month, army and medical sources said, as cited by AFP.
"Three people were killed and 11 others wounded by a roadside bomb explosion targeting their bus," a senior army officer told AFP.
"All of them were technicians from the roads and bridges department in Samarra," he said.
They were repairing a bridge just south of Samarra, whose destruction cut a vital supply line for the army, crippling operations farther north.
"Among the killed was the engineer supervising the repairs," a medical source said.
The July 29 attack on the bridge left the army and allied Shiite militias with only a secondary road that passes over Samarra dam bridge and is not suitable for the heaviest military vehicles.
Samarra, 110 kilometres (70 miles) north of Baghdad, is a mainly Sunni city but also home to the Askari shrine, one of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam.
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Kurds battle to retake Iraq's largest dam: general

Kurds battle to retake Iraq's largest dam: general

16 August 2014 | 19:40 | FOCUS News Agency
Sulaimaniyah. Kurdish troops backed by US warplanes launched a bid Saturday to recapture Mosul dam, Iraq's largest, from jihadists, a senior Kurdish military official said, as cited by AFP.
"Kurdish peshmerga, with US air support, have seized control of the eastern side of the dam" complex, Major General Abdelrahman Korini told AFP.
"We killed several members of Daash. We are still advancing and in the coming hours should announce welcome news," he said, using the old Arabic acronym for the Islamic State jihadist group.
Witnesses said the air strikes started early in the morning and reported that fighting was ongoing in the afternoon.
Peshmerga forces lost control of the dam on August 7 as IS fighters were sweeping the region, conquering one village after another and seizing other key infrastructure such as oil wells.
The dam on the Tigris river, on the southern shores of Mosul lake about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of the city, provides electricity to much of the region and is crucial to irrigation in vast farming areas in Nineveh province.
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Britain to keep up Iraq surveillance flights

Britain to keep up Iraq surveillance flights

16 August 2014 | 15:33 | FOCUS News Agency
Nicosia. Britain is to keep up its surveillance flights over northern Iraq to try to stop more minority groups coming under jihadist attack, Defence Minister Michael Fallon said on Saturday, AFP reported.
Fallon was speaking on a visit to Cyprus from which Britain has been making its aid and surveillance flights over Iraq out of its sovereign air base at Akrotiri on the south coast.
Britain dropped more than a hundred tonnes of tents and water to Yazidi Kurds trapped in the Sinjar mountains of northwestern Iraq earlier this month by the advancing jihadists.
"We are continuing surveillance of northern Iraq so we can have a better picture of the humanitarian needs there," Fallon said, after talks with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades.
"We are flying aircraft over Iraq so we all have a better understanding of where the next threat is coming from and whether there are other minority groups that face the kind of barbaric terrorism that we have seen," he said, according to a statement released after the meeting.
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UNSC takes aim at jihadist supporters in Iraq and Syria

UNSC takes aim at jihadist supporters in Iraq and Syria

16 August 2014 | 09:17 | FOCUS News Agency
New York. The United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution condemning radical Islamists in Iraq and Syria and their supporters. Six prominent extremists were placed on a UN blacklist, Deutsche Welle reported.
"The Security Council [...] expresses its readiness to consider blacklisting individuals, groups, undertakings and entities providing support" to Islamic State (IS), including those who finance, arm, plan or recruit for the groups, the resolution, adopted Friday, read.
The resolution imposes sanctions on six men for recruiting foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria and calls for the "immediate disbanding and disarming" of all al Qaeda-linked groups there.
The six individuals, according to the UN, are prominent jihadists with ties to IS or its rival al-Nusra Front, two groups perpetrating violence throughout Iraq and Syria. The UNSC said it "deplores and condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist acts of [IS] and its violent extremist ideology, and its continued gross, systematic and widespread abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law."
The resolution was drafted in response to the recent advances by IS fighters, who have taken control of significant parts of eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq, brutalizing civilians and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee. The violence has sparked the first US air strikes in Iraq since American troops pulled out of war-torn country in 2011.

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UN moves against Iraq Islamists amid reports of massacre

UN moves against Iraq Islamists amid reports of massacre

16 August 2014 | 08:46 | FOCUS News Agency
Baghdad. The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at weakening Islamists in Iraq amid reports of Islamic State jihadists killing dozens of residents in besieged ethnic Yazidi areas, AFP reported.
Western media reported dozens of men from the Yazidi faith were massacred in the village of Kocho, 45 kilometres (30 miles) from the Kurdish-held town of Sinjar.
Some reports spoke of residents being told to convert to Islam or face summary execution.
While details of the latest incident were not immediately confirmed, such attacks in the past have led the US military to take action.
US President Barack Obama said a first week of air strikes had broken the siege of the northern Sinjar mountain where civilians had been hiding from jihadists for more than 10 days.
The US carried out more air strikes on Friday, the military said, after receiving reports that Islamic State "terrorists were attacking civilians" in the area.
As aid groups tried to cope with the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Islamist advances in northern Iraq, ingredients of a fight-back began falling into place.
In New York, the UN Security Council passed a resolution aimed at weakening Islamists in Iraq and Syria by cutting off funding and the flow of foreign fighters.
And EU ministers agreed at an emergency meeting in Brussels to back the arming of Iraqi Kurdish fighters.
Iraqis and foreign powers meanwhile voiced relief after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's decision on Thursday to step down.
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Islamic State fighters take Yazidi town

Islamic State fighters take Yazidi town

16 August 2014 | 04:33 | FOCUS News Agency
Dahuk. Extremist fighters swarmed into a besieged Yazidi village Friday and killed or captured dozens of residents, according to Yazidis and Kurdish commanders, offering a reminder that the ancient minority sect is still in danger despite President Obama’s conclusion that the risk had passed for a group stranded on Mount Sinjar, The Washington Post reports.
Islamic State militants surged into Kocho, on the nearby Sinjar Plain, after a week-long siege in which the al-Qaeda-inspired group demanded that residents convert to Islam or face death, said the reports, which could not be independently verified.
The men were rounded up and executed, while the women were taken to an undisclosed location, said Ziad Sinjar, a commander of the Kurdish pesh merga militia based on the edge of Mount Sinjar, citing the accounts of villagers nearby. He put the number of dead at 42 and said 80 women and children had been transported out of the village.
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Iraq crisis: Sunni leaders propose deal with new PM

Iraq crisis: Sunni leaders propose deal with new PM

16 August 2014 | 01:05 | FOCUS News Agency
Baghdad. Some leaders of Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority have said they may work with the new prime minister, a move that could help break political deadlock, BBC reports.
The mainly Shia Muslim government is locked in a fight with Islamic State (IS), an extreme Sunni group leading an insurrection in the north.
Late on Friday, reports emerged of IS militants killing at least 80 men and taking women and children captive.
In New York, the UN Security Council has imposed sanctions on IS members.
Six people associated with IS or the Syria-based Nusra Front will now be subject to an international travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo, while backers of the two groups may also face sanctions.
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EU ministers back arming Iraqi Kurd fighters: diplomat

EU ministers back arming Iraqi Kurd fighters: diplomat

15 August 2014 | 17:28 | FOCUS News Agency
Brussels. EU ministers agreed Friday to back the arming of beleaguered Iraqi Kurd fighters by key bloc member states, a diplomat told AFP.
"This is strong and sends the desired political message," the source said after foreign ministers from the 28-nation EU met for over three hours to achieve unanimous approval for the shipment of weapons to forces fighting Islamic State jihadists.
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Germany to send aid to north Iraq Friday: report

Germany to send aid to north Iraq Friday: report

15 August 2014 | 10:26 | FOCUS News Agency
Berlin. German air force planes will deliver humanitarian aid to northern Iraq on Friday, media reported, as Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin was also considering sending weapons to help the embattled country, AFP reported.
Four German Transall C-160 military transporters, carrying 36 tonnes of mostly medical and food supplies, will fly via Turkey to the Kurdish city of Arbil, reported national news agency DPA.
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said this week that Germany may also send non-lethal military hardware such as armoured vehicles, helmets, security vests and night-vision gear.
Many prominent lawmakers have demanded that Germany also aid the embattled Iraqi state and Kurdish forces in the north with weapons to help them push back an onslaught by jihadist militants.
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Still 4,000-5,000 Yazidis on Iraq mountain: Pentagon

Still 4,000-5,000 Yazidis on Iraq mountain: Pentagon

14 August 2014 | 22:58 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. There are still 4,000 to 5,000 Yazidi refugees sheltering on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, the Pentagon said Thursday, after President Barack Obama said the siege of the range had been broken, as AFP reports.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said US special forces had found that not all of the Yazidis, a religious minority under attack from Islamist extremists, planned to flee. "A number of them - perhaps 2,000 or so - reside there and may not want to leave. It's home to them and they won't be necessarily looking to leave," he said, downplaying calls for a rescue mission. "That's our best estimate based on the assessment teams," he said, referring to the 4,000-5,000 number.

Earlier, Obama said the United States was withdrawing the special forces units that conducted the assessment mission to Sinjar after concluding that the Yazidis were no longer in mortal danger. He said the US air strikes that were launched last week to protect the refugees and the Kurdish city of Arbil could continue, but only if US personnel or facilities were in danger. "We believe that the threat to the mass violence on Mount Sinjar has passed, largely passed," Kirby said. "That said, we're not going to take our eye off and we're going to be watching," he said, adding that humanitarian aid drops had continued. "We still have several thousands left on that mountain and many of whom may want to leave, and so we're mindful of that, which is why we did another airdrop last night."
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UK suspends aid drops in Iraq after situation improves

UK suspends aid drops in Iraq after situation improves

14 August 2014 | 20:54 | FOCUS News Agency
London. Britain has suspended aid drops to civilians trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq after the situation there eased, officials said on Thursday, but it will continue to provide humanitarian support across the region, AFP reported.
A surveillance mission by Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado jets overnight reinforced a US assessment that the number of people under seige on Mount Sinjar by Islamic State (IS) militants was smaller than previously believed, a spokeswoman for Downing Street said.
Britain dropped another consignment of aid overnight Wednesday, the seventh in four nights, bringing the total water delivered to more than 48,000 litres. But a spokeswoman said there were no immediate plans for any more.
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Turkey gives refuge to 2,000 Yazidis fleeing Iraq

Turkey gives refuge to 2,000 Yazidis fleeing Iraq

14 August 2014 | 14:33 | FOCUS News Agency
Silopi. Turkey is providing refuge to some 2,000 members of Iraq's Yazidi community who have fled the deadly advance of Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq, officials said Thursday, AFP reported.
Most of the Yazidis are being housed in tents at a refugee camp in Silopi just north of the Iraqi border in the Sirnak province of southeastern Turkey.
They are given meals three times a day and undergoing regular health screenings, an AFP photographer who visited the camp said.
Carpets have been laid down inside the vast tents where the refugees while away the time playing with children, cooking, or reading.
But many of them lost a relative or had to leave their children behind because they did not possess a passport.
The Turkish authorities are accepting only refugees from Iraq who possess passports, a policy which has caused some families to be separated.


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Suicide bomber attacks checkpoint near new Iraq PM's house

Suicide bomber attacks checkpoint near new Iraq PM's house

13 August 2014 | 03:42 | FOCUS News Agency
Baghdad. A suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint near the Baghdad home of new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday, two police sources and local media said, Reuters reports.
"The suicide bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint that leads to the prime minister's house," said one of the police sources.
There was no word on casualties. Officials in Abadi's office were not immediately available for comment on the attack. One official said: "We are in a meeting".
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US sends more military advisors to Iraq

US sends more military advisors to Iraq

13 August 2014 | 02:51 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. The US has sent 130 more military advisors to the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel says.
The marines and special operations forces will assess the humanitarian situation and will not be engaged in combat, a US defence official said, cited by BBC.
The US has been carrying out air strikes against fighters from militant group Islamic State (IS).
IS fighters have forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.
"This is not a combat boots on the ground kind of operation," Mr Hagel said, in remarks made at Camp Pendleton in California.
The "assessment team members" had arrived in the northern city of Irbil and would "give more in-depth assessment of where we can continue to help," he said.
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EU envoys hail US intervention in Iraq as bloc boosts aid

EU envoys hail US intervention in Iraq as bloc boosts aid

12 August 2014 | 23:10 | FOCUS News Agency
Brussels. EU envoys on Tuesday praised US efforts to halt a deadly jihadist advance across huge parts Iraq as the European Commission boosted aid to help desperate civilians in the war-torn country, AFP reports.
The envoys met during an extraordinary meeting in Brussels in an effort to better coordinate the response by member states to a crisis the EU's executive called the world's most pressing emergency.
"EU member states welcomed the efforts by the US and partners to stop the Islamic State advance and facilitate access for humanitarian support," a statement from the EU foreign service said at the end of the meeting.
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EU boosts aid to Iraq, but says access is key

EU boosts aid to Iraq, but says access is key

12 August 2014 | 19:59 | FOCUS News Agency
Brussels. The European Commission boosted aid to war-torn Iraq by five million euros on Tuesday but warned that finding access to desperate civilians, not funding, was the most urgent problem, AFP reported.
"In the case of Iraq, it is less a problem of money than a problem of access," said EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva as she announced the increase in EU aid to Iraq, which brings the total from Brussels to 17 million euros ($22.8 million) for the year.
"This is to help hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including minority groups displaced on the mountains of Sinjar," Georgieva said in reference to the desperate civilians who had been besieged by jihadists on a mountain in northern Iraq.
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Arab League welcomes nomination of new Iraq PM Abadi

Arab League welcomes nomination of new Iraq PM Abadi

12 August 2014 | 17:43 | FOCUS News Agency
Cairo. Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi on Tuesday backed the nomination of new Iraqi premier Haidar al-Abadi, joining an international chorus of approval for the sidelining of outgoing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, AFP reported.
Arabi "welcomed Iraqi President Fuad Masum's tasking of Haidar al-Abadi to form a new government," a statement said.
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