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Obama bids to sell plan to defeat Islamic State

Obama bids to sell plan to defeat Islamic State

9 September 2014 | 19:12 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. President Barack Obama is intensifying his bid to sell his yet-to-be revealed plan to destroy the Islamic State, scheduling a national address and calling congressional leaders to the Oval Office, AFP reports.
Obama will summon the symbolic weight of a prime time speech at 9.00 pm on Wednesday (01:00 GMT Thursday), speaking from the ceremonial state floor of the White House, officials said Tuesday.
The speech will attempt to redress criticism that he has been slow to respond to the militant group's seizure of a haven in Syria and Iraq, amid fears fighters armed with Western passports could train their sights on the US homeland.
Obama will enlist public support for a new military venture abroad at a poignant moment - the eve of the 13th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, which pitched America into a Middle East conflagration he has spent much of his presidency trying to escape.
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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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Turkey fears PKK could obtain arms sent to Iraq

Turkey fears PKK could obtain arms sent to Iraq

8 September 2014 | 14:21 | FOCUS News Agency
Istanbul. Weapons sent by Western countries to forces fighting Islamic militants in Iraq may end up in the hands of Kurdish rebels in Turkey, Turkish foreign minister warned on Monday, AFP reported.
Branded a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its Western allies, the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) has joined forces with other Kurdish units in the US-backed operation to halt the advance of Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and Iraq.
"The weapons sent (to Iraq) should not end up in the hands of terrorist organisations. They should not end up in the hands of the PKK," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by the state-run Anatolia news agency.
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Italy ready to send aircrafts for fight against Islamic State

Italy ready to send aircrafts for fight against Islamic State

8 September 2014 | 10:06 | FOCUS News Agency
Rome. Italy is ready to send aircrafts to Iraq for the fight against the Islamic State. Italian Minister of Defence Roberta Pinotti announced the news in a statement at the San Giorgio Palace in Genoa, Notiziario Italiano reported.
“We are ready to provide our aircrafts for bombardments against the Islamic State,” Pinotti remarked.
Italy, however, confirmed that such request had not been filed on behalf of the allies yet.
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Iraq crisis: Obama to set out 'US offensive against IS'

Iraq crisis: Obama to set out 'US offensive against IS'

8 September 2014 | 01:31 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. US President Barack Obama is to set out his "game plan" against Islamic State militants in a speech on Wednesday.
Mr Obama, who has been criticised for failing to outline a strategy, told NBC TV the US would degrade IS, shrink their territory and "defeat them".
US jets bombed IS targets in western Iraq for the first time on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Arab League has vowed to take "all necessary measures" against IS, which has seized a huge amount of territory from Iraq and Syria.
The league gave its backing to a Security Council resolution passed last month calling on member states to stem the flow of weapons and money to extremists in Iraq and Syria.
BBC World Service Middle East editor Sebastian Usher says the Arab League's message will hearten Mr Obama, but the question now is whether its members will fully act on it, and act together rather than against each other.
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Obama says will give speech Wednesday on Islamic State strategy

Obama says will give speech Wednesday on Islamic State strategy

7 September 2014 | 17:57 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. US President Barack Obama says he will make a speech Wednesday to lay out his "game plan" to deal with and ultimately defeat the Islamic State militants, but warned he was not going to wage another ground war in Iraq, AFP reported.
"I'm preparing the country to make sure that we deal with a threat from ISIL," Obama said in an interview aired Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," using an alternative name for the jihadist group.
"On Wednesday, I'll make a speech and describe what our game plan's going to be going forward," Obama said in the interview, in which he gave his most explicit rundown yet of his strategy for taking on IS.

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IS must be confronted 'militarily and politically': Arab League chief

IS must be confronted 'militarily and politically': Arab League chief

7 September 2014 | 15:30 | FOCUS News Agency
Cairo. Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi on Sunday called for a comprehensive military and political confrontation with Islamic State militants and other jihadists, AFP reported.
"What is needed is a clear decision for a comprehensive confrontation, militarily and politically," Arabi said at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers, a day after he and US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed taking action against the jihadist group that controls swathes of Iraq and Syria.
An Arab League diplomat told reporters that the ministers were considering adopting a resolution on combating IS and "coordinating with the United States to confront this terrorist organisation".
Iraq earlier welcomed US President Barack Obama's plan for an international coalition against jihadists as a "strong message of support," after repeatedly calling for aid against the militants.
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Obama calls on allies to defeat Islamic State

Obama calls on allies to defeat Islamic State

5 September 2014 | 23:21 | FOCUS News Agency
Newport. US President Barack Obama on Friday outlined plans for a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, but European allies gave a cautious reaction, AFP reports.

Speaking at a NATO summit, Obama said the United States would also try to involve Middle Eastern allies in a strategy to counter the jihadists, who have overrun large swathes of territory. "It's not going to happen overnight but we are steadily moving in the right direction and we're going to achieve our goal," Obama said. The president said regional involvement was "absolutely critical" - although the State Department said Washington had "no plans" for any military coordination with Iran in the fight. "We're going to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL," Obama added, using the previous name of the Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for videos showing the beheading of two US journalists.

The executions appear to be carried out by the same British English-accented militant, who also threatened to kill a British hostage unless US air strikes in the regions were halted. In a further reminder of the brutality in Iraq, Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shiite militias on Friday discovered mass graves containing 35 bodies after retaking the town of Sulaiman Bek from jihadists.

Iraqi forces, militiamen and Kurdish fighters broke a months-long jihadist siege of the town of Amerli on Sunday and retook Sulaiman Bek the following day, in the first major successes for the federal government since the crisis began.
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Aid flows to Iraqi town after jihadist siege broken

Aid flows to Iraqi town after jihadist siege broken

3 September 2014 | 16:41 | FOCUS News Agency
Amerli. Hussein Khalaf, a policeman in the Iraqi town of Amerli, holds up a bunch of grapes after the end of a long jihadist seige, saying with a smile they are the first he has seen in months, AFP reported.
Like thousands of others in this Shiite Turkmen-majority town north of Baghdad, Khalaf was trapped by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group until Iraqi forces and allied militiamen broke through on Sunday.
As much-needed aid arrives, residents are telling harrowing stories of living without even the most basic supplies and in constant fear for their lives.
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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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Islamic State 'want to use bubonic plague as a weapon of war'

Islamic State 'want to use bubonic plague as a weapon of war'

31 August 2014 | 14:03 | FOCUS News Agency
Tunis. Islamic State militants are hoping to weaponise bubonic plague to use against “unbelievers," Huffington Post reported.
Documents found on a "laptop of doom" apparently belonging to an IS fighter seemed to show that the group were searching for the weapons of mass destruction.
Searches for chemical weapons included instructions on how to weaponise the bubonic plague, also know as the Black Death, which caused around 30 million deaths in the 14th century.
The laptop contained a 19-page document with the details, explaining that “the advantage of biological weapons is that they do not cost a lot of money, while the human casualties can be huge.”
It chillingly explains that it would be most effective to “use small grenades with the virus, and throw them in closed areas like metros, soccer stadiums, or entertainment centers” near air-conditioning.
The laptop, reportedly belonging to a Tunisian man named Muhammed S Abu Ali, was recovered in a raid against IS by a moderate Syrian rebel group.
Two journalists writing for Foreign Policy Magazine, Harald Doornbos and Jenan Moussa, were able to “crack” the laptop, where they uncovered a "treasure trove" of 35,000 hidden folders, taking up 146 gigabytes of hard drive storage space.
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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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Britain raises terror threat level on Iraq, Syria fears

Britain raises terror threat level on Iraq, Syria fears

29 August 2014 | 19:58 | FOCUS News Agency
London. British Home Secretary Theresa May said Friday the country's terror threat risk level was being raised to "severe" due to fears over the situation in Iraq and Syria, AFP reported.
"The increase in the threat level is related to developments in Syria and Iraq where terrorist groups are planning attacks against the West," May said.
"Some of those plots are likely to involve foreign fighters who have travelled there from the UK and Europe to take part in those conflicts."
The "severe" threat level means an attack is "highly likely", although May added there was no intelligence to suggest that an attack was imminent.
The threat level is now at the second highest level out of five possible categories and is at its highest since July 2011.
Prime Minister David Cameron was due to make a statement on the raising of the alert level at 2.45 pm (13:45 GMT).
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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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Iran FM in Iraq as militants target key refinery

Iran FM in Iraq as militants target key refinery

24 August 2014 | 16:42 | FOCUS News Agency
Baghdad. Iran's foreign minister said in Baghdad Sunday Tehran is working to help combat jihadist-led militants but does not have soldiers in Iraq, amid a renewed push for a key oil refinery, AFP reported.
The United States, whose warplanes have launched more than 90 air strikes against Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Iraq since August 8, has said operations against the group in Syria may also be necessary.
Washington has also ramped up its rhetoric over the grisly IS beheading in Syria of abducted American journalist James Foley, calling it "a terrorist attack against our country".
Iraq is struggling to regain ground lost to a major IS-led militant offensive which began in June and quickly overran large areas of five provinces, sweeping security forces aside.
"We are cooperating and working... with the Iraqi government and with the Kurdish government in order to repel this very serious, atrocious group," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said of IS.
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Iran unveils new missiles, drones

Iran unveils new missiles, drones

24 August 2014 | 15:56 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. Iran on Sunday unveiled two new missiles and two new drones it said have been added to its arsenal, in a ceremony attended by President Hassan Rouhani, AFP reported.
The Ghadir (Mighty), with a range of 300 kilometres (185 miles), is a ground-to-sea and sea-to-sea missile, the official IRNA news agency said.
It is in the same family as the Ghader or Qader cruise missile, which has a range of 200 kilometres.
The other missile unveiled on Sunday, the Nasr-e Basir (Clear Victory), is equipped with a seeker homing head. Its range was not given.
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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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France, Iraq urge international coordination to face ISIL

France, Iraq urge international coordination to face ISIL

24 August 2014 | 00:26 | FOCUS News Agency
Baghdad. French President Francois Hollande and his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Massoum on Saturday stressed the need to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Kuwait News Agency KUNA reported.
The two leaders stressed the dire need for an effective coordination of the international efforts seeking to restore security to Iraq, said a French presidential statement after talks in Paris today between Hollande and Massoum.
It added that Massoum expressed support to an initiative by Hollande to hold an international conference on security in Iraq to discuss means of countering terrorist groups there.
For his part, Hollande said that organizing the event in the near future gives it great importance, saying that Paris and Baghdad will work together to let all "effective parties" be brought together.
Hollande told Le Monde two days earlier that he would call for an international conference on the situation in Iraq.
France said last week it would supply Iraqi Kurdistan with advanced weapons, responding to a Kurdish request, to counter the ISIL.
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London: Britain will not send troops to Iraq

London: Britain will not send troops to Iraq

23 August 2014 | 10:07 | FOCUS News Agency
London. Britain has no plans to send troops to participate in military operations in Iraq. That said live on BBC radio, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.
"We have no such plans. Sending Western troops in Iraq will hardly lead to a significant solution to the existing problems in this country," Hammond said. "The Islamic State seeks reasons for the escalation of the situation in the country and we do not want to give them a reason for it to attract more people to them," he said.
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The Independent: The United States will support Bashar al-Assad if the threat of Islamic State increases

The Independent: The United States will support Bashar al-Assad if the threat of Islamic State increases

23 August 2014 | 09:53 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. American authorities, in cooperation with the Federal Intelligence Service of Germany Damascus provide information about the exact location of the Islamist leaders, writes British The Independent reported.
Probably this explains why the Syrian aviation and artillery managed to inflict accurate strikes at the headquarters of the rebels, the newspaper notes.
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The Guardian: UK rules out alliance with Bashar al-Assad in fight against Isis

The Guardian: UK rules out alliance with Bashar al-Assad in fight against Isis

23 August 2014 | 05:00 | FOCUS News Agency
London. Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, has bluntly rejected calls for Britain to enlist Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, as an ally in the fight against Islamic State (Isis) extremists, the Guardian reports.
In an interview on the BBC's World at One, he said the idea, floated by one of his Conservative predecessors as foreign secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, had no attraction to the government at all.
"We may very well find that we are fighting, on some occasions, the same people that [Assad] is but that doesn't make us his ally," Hammond said. "It would not be practical, sensible or helpful to even think about going down that route."
Rifkind had told the programme that it was important for the west to be realistic. Even though the US and the UK came close to launching air strikes against the Assad regime last summer, there could be a case for collaborating with Assad in some way to ensure the defeat of Isis, Rifkind suggested.
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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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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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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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PICTURE OF THE DAY
Workers with Bulgarian Irrigation Systems company stage protest in Sofia.
Workers with Bulgarian Irrigation Systems company stage protest in Sofia.

VIDEO OF THE DAY
Egypt denies allegations that oldest pyramid has been damaged during restoration.
Egypt denies allegations that oldest pyramid has been damaged during restoration...
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