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Islamic State Fighters and Cities Attacked by US, Iraqi, Syrian Regimes

November 9, 2014


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IS top leader's fate unclear after U.S.-led airstrike in northern Iraq

MOSUL, Iraq, Nov. 9, 2014 (Xinhua) --

The fate of the top leader of Islamic State (IS) militant group remains unclear after an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition against a convoy of vehicles near the city of Mosul, the capital of Iraq's northern province of Nineveh, a provincial security official said on Sunday.

"We can't confirm the news of death or wounding of Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi, because all what we have is our intelligence reports which only mentioned that some 45 IS militants were killed and wounded by the airstrikes of the U.S.-led coalition near Mosul late on Friday," Mohammed Ibrahim, head of security committee of Nineveh's provincial council, told Xinhua by telephone.

Ibrahim also said that at least two IS senior figures, Libyan and Saudi nationals, were among the dead during the coalition airstrikes which destroyed several armed vehicles and positions of the IS militant group.

On Saturday, Colonel Patrick Ryder, a Central Command spokesman, said in a statement that he could not confirm whether IS top leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was in the vehicle convoy consisting of 10 armed trucks.

"I can confirm that coalition aircraft did conduct a series of airstrikes yesterday evening in Iraq against what was assessed to be a gathering of IS leaders near Mosul," the spokesman said. "We cannot confirm if IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was among those present," he added.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, known to his supporters as Amir al-Mu' minin, is the Caliph of the self-proclaimed Islamic State which announced the establishment of a caliphate on June 29, 2014. The extremist militant group captures the areas in western and northwestern Iraq as well as part of northeastern Syria.

On Oct. 4, 2011, the United States listed al-Baghdadi as a global terrorist and announced a reward of up to 10 million U.S. dollars for information leading to his capture or death. Only the leader of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri, merits a larger reward of 25 million dollars.

Al-Baghdadi is believed to have been born in 1971 in Samarra in central Iraq, according to a biography that circulated on Islamic Internet forums in July 2013. He obtained a BA, MA and PhD in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad.

The IS is an al-Qaida breakaway group, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was announced to be its leader on May 16, 2010, following the death of his predecessor Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.

Iraqi forces advance to try to break insurgent siege of Baiji refinery

By Ahmed Rasheed

BAGHDAD Sun Nov 9, 2014 8:09am EST

(Reuters) -

Iraqi military forces reached the center of the northern city of Baiji on Sunday to try to break an Islamic State siege of the country's biggest refinery nearby, triggering fierce clashes with the militants, according to an army colonel and a witness.

Islamic State Sunni insurgents seized Baiji city in June during a lightning advance through northern Iraq. Since then, they have surrounded the refinery and halted its production while a detachment of government troops has held out for months under siege inside it.

The colonel said Iraqi troops entered Baiji, a city of about 200,000 people, from the south and west and took over the al-Tamim neighborhood and city center.

Islamic State had placed bombs along roads in Baiji and deployed snipers to keep government forces from advancing, tactics used in other cities held by the ultra-hardline Sunni group, which controls swathes of both Iraq and Syria.

"There are IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and snipers that are slowing down the advance, but the presence of the air force has facilitated the process of dismantling the IEDs in order to push forward," said the colonel.

"The areas taken so far are 6 km (3 miles) away from Baiji's refinery," he added. He said 12 militants had been killed.

Baiji resident Sultan al-Janabi told Reuters by telephone from his house that clashes had been raging since the advance, the first time security forces reached the city center since launching a new encirclement strategy at the end of last month.

"Violent confrontations are taking place in Baiji right now. I've been hearing continuous fire and loud bangs," said Janabi.

Islamic State has also dispatched suicide bombers to keep security forces on the defensive.


On Friday night, a suicide bomber rammed a truck packed with explosives into a Humvee transporting senior police commander General Faisal Malik, one of the supervisors of the campaign against Islamic State militants surrounding the refinery. The general and two policemen were killed.

The truck used in the attack was armored, the army colonel and a provincial police command center said, suggesting Islamic State had seized it from defeated Iraqi troops. Tanks and anti-aircraft weapons have also been taken.

The army colonel estimated that Iraqi forces had taken about 40 percent of the city center. That could not be independently confirmed.

Iraqi security forces have used helicopters to attack Islamic State insurgents surrounding the refinery.

But months of operations have failed to rescue comrades trapped inside and ensure the strategic site will not fall into the hands of Islamic State, who have used oil and fuel to fund their self-proclaimed caliphate.

Iraqi oil industry officials estimate Islamic State is making multi-million dollar profits from the illegal trade.

Late last month, Iraqi government forces tried a new approach. Backed by Shi'ite Muslim militias and helicopter gunships, they circled Baiji from the west in order to retake the city and cut off supply lines to insurgents surrounding the refinery a few km (miles) away.

Government forces, including counter-terrorism units, inside the compound have been surviving on airdrops as military forces outside tried to drive Islamic State militants away.

The Baiji refinery was producing around 175,000 barrels per day before it was closed, a senior Iraqi official said in June. Iraq’s domestic daily consumption is estimated at 600,000-700,000 bpd.

If the siege of the Baiji refinery is broken, Iraq's government is likely to describe it as a major victory over Islamic State. Iraqi media portrayed the slain general, Malik, as a hero.

The country's long-term stability hinges on efforts to dramatically improve the performance of the army, which crumbled when Islamic State swept through the north.

The United States, which fought Islamic State's predecessor al Qaeda during the American occupation of Iraq, will send up to 1,500 more troops to train Iraqi forces. Britain also plans to send trainers.

(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

U.S. air strikes target Islamic State convoy in Iraq

By Michael Georgy and Phil Stewart


Sat Nov 8, 2014 5:11pm EST

(Reuters) -

U.S. air strikes destroyed an Islamic State convoy near the Iraqi city of Mosul but U.S. officials said on Saturday it was unclear whether the group's top commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been in any of the 10 targeted vehicles.

Colonel Patrick Ryder, a Central Command spokesman, said the U.S. military had reason to believe that the convoy was carrying leaders of Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot which controls large chunks of Iraq and Syria.

The convoy consisted of 10 Islamic State armed trucks.     

"I can confirm that coalition aircraft did conduct a series of air strikes yesterday evening in Iraq against what was assessed to be a gathering of ISIL leaders near Mosul," said Ryder, using another name for Islamic State.

"We cannot confirm if ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was among those present."

Islamic State had been changing its strategy since the air strikes began, switching to lower profile vehicles to avoid being targeted, according to residents of towns the group holds.

A Mosul morgue official said 50 bodies of Islamic State militants were brought to the facility after the air strike.

Mosul, northern Iraq's biggest city, was overrun on June 10 in an offensive that saw vast parts of Iraq's Sunni regions fall to the Islamic State and allied groups.

A month later a video posted online purported to show the reclusive Baghdadi preaching at Mosul's grand mosque.

Earlier on Saturday, Al-Hadath television channel said U.S.-led air strikes targeted a gathering of Islamic State leaders in a town near the Syrian border, possibly including Baghdadi.

Iraqi security officials were not immediately available for comment on the report from the station, part of Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television, but two witnesses told Reuters an air strike targeted a house where senior Islamic State officers were meeting, near the western Iraqi border town of al-Qaim.

Al-Hadath said dozens of people were killed and wounded in the strike in al-Qaim, and that Baghdadi's fate was unclear.

Mahmoud Khalaf, a member of Anbar's Provincial Council, also said there were air strikes in al-Qaim. He gave no details.

The U.S.-led coalition carried out air strikes near al-Qaim overnight, destroying an Islamic State armored vehicle and two checkpoints run by the group, Ryder said.


The hardline Sunni Islamic State's drive to form a caliphate has helped return sectarian violence in Iraq to the dark days of 2006-2007, the peak of its civil war.

It has also created a cross-border sanctuary for Arab militants, as well as foreign fighters whose passports could allow them to evade detection in Western airports.

On Saturday night a car bomb killed eight people in Baghdad's mostly Shi'ite Sadr City, police and hospital sources said, bringing to 28 the day's toll from bombs in the Iraqi capital and the western city of Ramadi.

An attack by a suicide bomber on a checkpoint in Ramadi in Anbar killed five soldiers. "Before the explosion, the checkpoint was targeted with several mortar rounds. Then the suicide humvee bomber attacked it," said a police official.

There was no claim of responsibility for the bombings, but they resembled operations carried out by Islamist militants.

In the town of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad, a gunman killed a Shi'ite militiaman, and a car bomb targeting a police officer killed his 10-year-old son, security sources said.


Western and Iraqi officials say air strikes are not enough to defeat the Sunni insurgents and Iraq must improve the performance of its security forces to eliminate the threat.

President Barack Obama has approved sending up to 1,500 more troops to Iraq, roughly doubling the number of U.S. forces on the ground, to advise and retrain Iraqis.

The Iraqi prime minister's media office said the additional U.S. trainers were welcome but the move, five months after Islamic State seized much of northern Iraq, was belated, state television reported.

The United States spent $25 billion on the Iraqi military during the U.S. occupation that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 and triggered an insurgency that included al Qaeda.

Washington wants Iraq's Shi'ite-led government to revive an alliance with Sunni tribesmen in Anbar province which helped U.S. Marines defeat al Qaeda.

Such an alliance would face a more formidable enemy in Islamic State, which has more firepower and funding, and it may not be possible because of mistrust between Sunni tribes of Anbar and the Baghdad government.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and Raheem Salman in Baghdad and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Britain's defense chief says Islamic State will recover after air strikes

LONDON, Sun Nov 9, 2014 5:53am EST

(Reuters) -

Britain's most senior military officer warned on Sunday that Islamic State would recover after U.S. air strikes in Iraq destroyed a convoy believed to contain some of the militant group's leaders.

A U.S. spokesman on Saturday said an air strike near the Iraqi city of Mosul destroyed 10 Islamic State (IS) vehicles after what was believed to have been a gathering of its leaders. The United States was unable to confirm whether the group's top commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been in the convoy.

Britain's Chief of the Defense Staff, Nick Houghton, said on Sunday that it may take "some days" for the United States to confirm if Baghdadi had been killed, but warned that even if he had, IS, also known as ISIS, would recover.     

"I wouldn't want to rush to the sense that the potential death of one of their totemic leaders is going to create some strategic reverse within ISIS," he told the BBC.

"Because of the current potential attractiveness of this warped ideology, unless we get the political dimension of the strategy in place, then ISIS has the potential to keep regenerating and certainly regenerating its leaders."

Houghton said that the role of the international coalition conducting air strikes, which includes Britain, was to buy time for a political solution to be put in place, and to prevent IS becoming an "existential threat" to the region.

The hardline Sunni Islamic State's drive to form a caliphate has helped return sectarian violence in Iraq to the dark days of 2006-2007, the peak of its civil war.

Western and Iraqi officials say air strikes are not enough to defeat the Sunni insurgents and Iraq must improve the performance of its security forces to eliminate the threat.

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Susan Fenton)

Syrian army planes bomb northern town killing 21: monitor

BEIRUT Sun Nov 9, 2014 8:46am EST

(Reuters) -

At least 21 people were killed and around 100 wounded overnight when Syrian army planes bombed a town in northern Syria that is controlled by Islamic State militants, a group monitoring the war said.

Syrian military helicopters dropped barrel bombs and warplanes launched air strikes on al-Bab which lies northeast of the city of Aleppo, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday.

One of the 21 killed was a child and the death count was expected to rise as some of the wounded were in a serious condition, said the Observatory, which gathers information from a variety of sources in Syria.     

U.S-led warplanes have also been hitting Islamic State targets in Syria in a campaign which Washington says is not coordinated with Damascus. The Syrian army previously hit an area near al-Bab in September, saying it had "eliminated a number of terrorists" shortly after U.S.-led strikes started.

There was no immediate report on the latest strikes on Syrian state media.

Since the U.S.-led forces started strikes on Syria more than a month ago, Syria's military has ramped up its own air raids, concentrating on the west of the country and at times targeting territory held by Western-backed rebel fighters.

The U.S.-led strikes have mainly focused on Syria's north and east where Islamic State and other militant Islamist groups hold territory in areas bordering Turkey and Iraq.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

1,273 people killed in Iraq violence in October: UN   2014-11-01 19:26:15

BAGHDAD, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) --

A total of 1,273 Iraqis were killed and 2,010 others were injured in terrorist attacks and violence in October in Iraq, according to a statement issued on Saturday by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

The statement said that 856 civilians, including 139 civilian policemen, and 417 Iraqi security forces personnel were killed, while 1,490 civilians including 172 civilian policemen were wounded. An additional 520 security members were wounded in terrorist and violent acts during 31 days of the month.

The UNAMI excluded the casualties in Anbar province where fierce clashes flared up after Iraqi police dismantled an anti- government protest site outside Ramadi in late December last year.

However, the statement added that the "UNAMI has also received, without being able to verify, reports of large numbers of casualties along with unknown numbers of persons who died from secondary effects of violence after having fled their homes due to exposure to the elements, lack of water, food, medicines and health care."

The Iraqi capital of Baghdad was the worst affected province, with 1,362 civilian casualties (379 killed, 983 injured). The capital was followed by the provinces of Salahudin, Diyala, Nineveh, Babil, Kirkuk and Karbala.

UN envoy and UNAMI chief Nickolay Mladenov voiced deep outrage about worsening violence that targeted all Iraqi factions by the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), which later named the Islamic State group (IS), including those whose bodies were discovered in mass graves in western Iraq.

"Justice and accountability for those responsible for these mass executions, killings, disappearances and displacement must be ensured," he continued, urging the government of Iraq to ensure that all persons or groups who commit or have committed such barbaric crimes are brought to justice, according to the statement.

The security situation in the country has drastically deteriorated since June 10, when bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and hundreds of Islamists militants from an armed group called the Islamic State (IS).

The militants took control of the country's northern city of Mosul and later seized swathes of territories after Iraqi security forces abandoned their posts in Nineveh and other predominantly Sunni provinces.

Iraq has been witnessing some of the worst violence in years. Terrorist attacks and clashes have killed 5,576 civilians in Iraq in the first half of this year, with 11,666 more wounded, according to a recent UN report.

Editor: Xiang Bo



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