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UN Official Says No Immediate Baghdad Threat,

US Contractors in Iraq Relocated,

June 12, 2014

Iraqi ISIL fighters in Mosul after capturing the city from Iraqi government army, June 12, 2014 A destroyed Iraqi army Humvee in Mosul, June 12, 2014

Iraqi security forces repel insurgents attacks in Diyala, as militants advance to Baghdad


BAGHDAD, June 12, 2014 (Xinhua) --

Iraqi security forces fought back insurgents' attempts to advance towards the country's eastern province of Diyala on Thursday, while Sunni militant groups continued their march towards the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

In Diyala, Iraqi security forces and the militants engaged in fierce clashes in a rural area near the villages of Tabaj, north of the provincial capital Baquba, killing two soldiers and three militants, a security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Sadeq al-Husseini, head of security committee in Diyala provincial council, said the Iraqi forces are preparing for counter attacks on insurgent positions in a militant-seized town of Sulaiman Beg in neighboring Salahudin province.

"The troops will storm the town from three directions after reinforcement troops joined the forces in Diyala and are now closing to Sulaiman Beg," Husseini said.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi army source rejected the reports that the security forces withdrew from their positions on the Iraqi- Syrian border in the volatile Sunni province of Anbar, saying that only one brigade left their positions near the city of Qaim, while the rest remained in the desert alongside the border with Syria.

Earlier, an Anbar provincial police source said the Iraqi army, police and border guards withdrew late Wednesday from their positions on the border with Syria near the city of Qaim, some 330 km northwest of Baghdad.

Immediately after the withdrawal, Sunni tribal leaders of the city announced the takeover of the border area and the city, the source said.

Also in the province, Sunni militants swept a major military base of the al-Mazraa, just west of the militant-controlled city of Fallujah, and seized large amounts of vehicles, weapons and ammunition after the army soldiers' sudden retreat, the source said.

The militants also seized the battlefield-town of Saqlawiyah after an overnight fighting with the government troops, and headed towards Baghdad, the source said.

In Salahudin province, Iraqi security forces in the city of Samarra were still fighting with militant groups, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, an al-Qaida breakaway group in Iraq, local police source said.

In Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk, a Kurdish security source said the Kurdish forces took full control of Kirkuk, some 250 km north of Baghdad, after the Iraqi army withdrew from its military base in the area.

The Kurdish security forces' takeover of the city raises concerns that the central government's forces are losing their battle against militants in the region.

On Wednesday, Iraqi soldiers left their major military base, just 10 km northwest of Kirkuk, the source said, adding that after the soldiers abandoned their posts, dozens of civilians plundered the site and seized their weapons.

The ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk is among the disputed areas claimed by three of Iraq's diverse ethnic groups, the Kurds, the Arabs and the Turkomans. The Kurds want to incorporate the areas bordering the Kurdistan region, but their claim is fiercely opposed by the government in Baghdad.

The state-run Iraqiya television aired a footage showing the Iraqi air force bombing insurgent positions in and around the city of Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad, including an attack on the military base of al-Ghizlani, which located in south of Mosul and was seized by the Sunni militants.

The channel said the air force carried out airstrikes on militants in north of Tikrit, north of Baghdad.

Also in the day, the Iraqi parliament failed to call for an emergency session to discuss whether to impose the state of emergency for some political blocs did not show up, said the Iraqiya official channel, adding that the decision requires the approval of two-thirds of the legislature's 325 members.

On Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki declared a highest alert in the country, and urged the parliament to declare a state of emergency in the face of the worsening security situation.

However, observers believe that Maliki's political opponents would boycott the session for they worry the state of emergency would give Maliki more powers that could enable him to hit his political rivals.

The security deterioration in Iraq started last week when bloody clashes broke out between the Iraqi security forces and hundreds of gunmen who took control of several neighborhoods in western part of Mosul, and expanded later to other areas after the Iraqi security forces withdrew from the city.  

U.N. official tells Security Council: No immediate Baghdad threat

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS Thu Jun 12, 2014 9:22pm EDT

(Reuters) -

The top U.N. official in Iraq told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday there was no immediate danger of violence spreading to Baghdad, but that the northern offensive by Islamist rebels posed a great threat to the country's sovereignty, diplomats said.

Nickolay Mladenov, head of the U.N. political mission in Iraq, briefed the council via video link on this week's sudden northern advance by fighters of the al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Iraqi Kurds took advantage of the chaos on Thursday to swiftly seize control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk.

"He was quite assured in that Baghdad is well protected and the government is in control, so there is ... no immediate danger of the violence spreading to Baghdad," said Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin after Mladenov's closed-door briefing.

But Mladenov had noted that there were concerns about the violence spreading beyond the north, Churkin added.

"It's a disaster," French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said after the meeting.

Churkin, president of the 15-member council for June, told reporters that the council expressed its unanimous support to the government and people of Iraq in their fight against terrorism.

"They strongly condemned all terrorist and extremist activities regardless of their motivation," he said. "They also stressed the importance of inclusive national dialogue."

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who is currently visiting Jordan and Turkey, said in a statement that the violence by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant "is a clear security threat to Iraq and a growing threat to the region."

"The United States will continue working with the people of Iraq, regional partners, and international organizations to ensure that the resources and strategies needed to combat ISIL and other emerging terrorist groups are in place," she said.

Before briefing the Security Council, Mladenov met with Iraq's parliamentary speaker, Osama al-Nujaifi.

"He expressed his concern for the grave situation, saying that the ongoing violence in parts of Iraq is the most severe threat to its security in years," U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York. "He reiterated the U.N.'s support for the Iraqi government in its efforts to fight against terrorism."

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)


U.S. contractors in Iraq relocated due to security concerns

WASHINGTON Thu Jun 12, 2014 9:22pm EDT

(Reuters) -

Top U.S. weapons maker Lockheed Martin Corp on Thursday said it was evacuating about two dozen employees from northern Iraq due to security concerns, and the U.S. State Department said other companies were relocating their workers as well.

"We can confirm that U.S. citizens, under contract to the Government of Iraq, in support of the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program in Iraq, are being temporarily relocated by their companies due to security concerns in the area," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

She declined to say how many contractors were being relocated and their location, but said the U.S. Embassy and consulates were still operating normally.

"The U.S. Embassy and consulates in Iraq remain open and continue to operate on a normal status," Psaki said.

Lockheed spokesman Michael Rein said about 25 Lockheed employees were being evacuated from the Balad area in northern Iraq as part of a larger effort to ensure their safety given growing violence in the region.He said the employees were in Iraq working with the Iraqi air force as it prepared for the arrival of the first of 36 F-16 fighter jets, which are to be ferried to Iraq later this year.

Rein said it was too soon to say if shipments of the F-16 warplanes would be delayed as a result of the violence.Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily was at Lockheed's Fort Worth, Texas, plant last week to accept delivery of the first of the F-16s that will form the centerpiece of the country's first air force since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Faily told Reuters that Iraq was completing work on the air base in Balad where the new jets will be housed. He said some Iraqi pilots had already been trained to fly the new planes, and more were in training now.

Insurgents from an al Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) which operates in Iraq and neighboring Syria, overran the city of Tikrit on Wednesday after capturing the country's second city, Mosul, and were moving towards Baghdad.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Sandra Maler and Eric Walsh)


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