Irāka, Faludžas sacelšanās (2014)

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Irāka, Faludžas sacelšanās (2014)

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 04 Jan 2014 17:04

Al Qaeda-linked militants seize control of Fallujah
(2014-01-04)
The Iraqi government has lost control of Fallujah to al Qaeda-linked militants, a senior security official said Saturday, after days of fighting.

Parts of Fallujah and of the provincial capital, Ramadi, have been held by militants for days, harkening back to the years after the 2003 US-led invasion when both were insurgent strongholds.
Fighting erupted in the Ramadi area on Monday, when security forces removed the main anti-government protest camp set up after demonstrations broke out in late 2012 against what Sunni Arabs say is the marginalisation and targeting of their community. The fighting then spread to Fallujah, some 44 kilometres away.
"Fallujah is under the control of ISIL," a senior security official in Anbar province said, referring to Al-Qaeda-linked group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
However, the city's outskirts were in the hands of local police, the official added.
An AFP journalist in Fallujah said that ISIL seemed to be in control, with no security forces or Sahwa anti-al Qaeda militiamen visible on the streets.
More than 100 people were killed on Friday during fighting in Ramadi and Fallujah, in the country's deadliest single day in years.
Hundreds of gunmen, some bearing the black flags often flown by jihadists, gathered at outdoor weekly Muslim prayers in central Fallujah on Friday, a witness said.
One went to where the prayer leader had stood, and said: "We announce that Fallujah is an Islamic state and call you to stand by our side."
Militants drove through the city in a stolen police car proclaiming through a loudspeaker: “We are your brothers from the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, We are here to protect you from the government. We call on you to cooperate with us.''

Vast desert area

Anbar province, a vast desert area on the borders with Syria and Jordan with an almost entirely Sunni population was the heartland of the Sunni insurgency that rose up against American troops and the Iraqi government after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Fallujah became notorious when insurgents in 2004 killed four American security contractors and hung their burned bodies from a bridge. Fallujah, Ramadi and other cities were repeatedly battlegrounds as sectarian bloodshed mounted. US forces suffered almost one-third of their total Iraq fatalities in Anbar, according to independent website icasualties.org.
From 2006, Sunni tribesmen and former insurgents allied with US troops against jihadists in a process that began in Anbar and came to be known as the "Awakening".
Two years after US forces withdrew from the country, the power of militants in the province is again rising.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had long sought the closure of the anti-government protest camp, dubbing it a "headquarters for the leadership of Al Qaeda". Clashes erupted in the Ramadi area on Monday as security forces tore down the sprawling camp.
As a concession, al-Maliki on Wednesday pulled the military out of Anbar cities to give security duties to local police, a top demand of Sunnis who see the army as a tool of al-Maliki's rule. But al-Qaeda militants promptly erupted in Fallujah, Ramadi and several nearby towns, overrunning police station, driving out security forces and freeing prisoners
ISIL is the latest incarnation of an al Qaeda affiliate that lost ground from 2006, but has made a striking comeback following the US withdrawal and the outbreak of Syria's civil war in 2011.
Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, said its "strength and territorial control and influence has been expanding in Anbar for some time", although mainly in rural desert areas.
While the closure of the protest camp removed a physical sign of Sunni Arab grievances, the perceived injustices that underpinned the protest have not been addressed. ISIL "has ridden this wave of popular Sunni anger", Lister said.

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Re: Irāka, Faludžas sacelšanās (2014)

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 06 Jan 2014 10:39

Thousands flee Fallujah as Iraqi government bombards the city to oust al-Qaeda
06/01 03:29 CET
Residents of the Iraqi city of Fallujah are fleeing in their thousands as the government launches air strikes in a bid to take back control from al-Qaeda-linked militants.
The battle for Fallujah – a highly symbolic city for many Iraqis – comes as Sunni tribesmen agree to fight along side Iraqi security forces .
The renewed violence in the region has raised concerns about the stability of the government.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has dismissed suggestions that the US has abandoned Iraq:
“We are not, obviously, contemplating returning. We’re not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight. And yes, we have an interest. We have an interest in helping a legitimate and elected government be able to push back against the terrorists. This is a fight bigger that just Iraq.”
Iran has also offered military support, though again not troops. Both Washington and Tehran are concerned about the upsurge in al- Qaeda activity in Anbar province – the group which is known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant is also operating in Syria.

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Re: Irāka, Faludžas sacelšanās (2014)

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 09 Jan 2014 16:20

Bombing kills 21 at Iraq army recruiting center
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA and ADAM SCHRECK
— Jan. 9, 2014 9:03 AM EST
BAGHDAD (AP) — A suicide bomber blew himself up at a military recruiting center in Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 21 people in an attack likely meant to send a message to the government and would-be army volunteers over the Iraqi troops' ongoing push to retake two cities overrun by al-Qaida militants.
The blast struck as an international rights group warned of the apparent use of indiscriminate mortar fire in civilian areas by Iraqi forces in their campaign to reassert control over the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.
Al-Qaida-linked fighters overran parts of both cities in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province last week, seizing control of police stations and military posts, freeing prisoners and setting up their own checkpoints.
Iraqi troops, backed by pro-government Sunni militiamen, since have been clashing with the fighters and carrying out airstrikes against their positions in an effort to reassert control of the cities.
Tribal leaders in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, have warned al-Qaida fighters there to leave to avoid a military showdown.
The United States, whose troops fought bloody battles in Fallujah and Ramadi, has ruled out sending American troops back in but has been delivering missiles to help bolster Iraqi forces, with more on the way.
Vice President Joe Biden has spoken to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki twice this week, voicing support for his government's efforts to regain control of the cities and urging him to continue talks with local, tribal and national leaders.
Iran, too, is watching the unrest with alarm as it shares American concerns about al-Qaida-linked militants taking firmer root in Iraq. It has offered to supply military equipment and advisers to help fight militants in Anbar should Baghdad ask for assistance.
Human Rights Watch said on Thursday that Iraqi forces appear to have used mortar fire indiscriminately in civilian areas in recent days in their effort to dislodge militants in Anbar, and that some residential areas were targeted with mortar shells and gunfire even though there was no signs of an al-Qaida presence in those specific areas.
The New York-based group said its allegations were based on multiple accounts provided by Anbar residents.
It also warned that a government blockade of Ramadi and Fallujah is limiting civilian access to food, water and fuel, and that "unlawful methods of fighting by all sides" has caused civilian casualties and major property damage.
Several approaches to Fallujah have been blocked by Iraqi troops, and only families with children were being allowed to leave with "extreme difficulty" through two checkpoints that remained open, the rights group said. It added that single men were being denied exit from the city.
"Civilians have been caught in the middle in Anbar, and the government appears to be doing nothing to protect them," the group's Mideast director, Sarah Leah Whitson, said in a statement.
Iraqi government officials could not immediately be reached for comment to respond to the rights group's allegations.
The warning came a day after the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross voiced concerns about growing humanitarian threats in the area as food and water supplies start to run out.
Emergency shipments of food, water, blankets and other essential items have begun reaching families displaced by the fighting in Anbar, the U.N. said Thursday.
Some of the initial supplies were delivered to families left stranded in schools and mosques across Fallujah.
More than 11,000 families have been displaced because of the fighting, according to U.N. records.
The Baghdad attacker Thursday morning detonated his explosives outside the recruiting center in the Iraqi capital's central Allawi neighborhood as volunteers were waiting to register inside, a police official said. At least 35 people were wounded in the blast, he said.
A hospital official confirmed the casualty numbers. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suicide attacks are the hallmark of al-Qaida's Iraq branch, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Thursday's attack on the recruiting center appears to be in retaliation for the military's offensive and an effort to dissuade potential new recruits from bolstering the Iraqi army's ranks.
It followed an attack late Wednesday by gunmen who struck at army barracks in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, killing at least 12 soldiers.
Al-Qaida militants, emboldened by their gains in the civil war in neighboring Syria, have sought to position themselves as the champions of Iraq's disenchanted Sunnis against the Shiite-led government, even though major Sunni tribes in Anbar and elsewhere oppose the group's extremist ideology and are in some cases fighting against it.
Sectarian tensions have been on the rise for months in Sunni-dominated Anbar province as minority Sunnis protested what they perceive as discrimination and random arrests by the Shiite-led government. Violence spiked after the Dec. 28 arrest of a Sunni lawmaker sought on terrorism charges and the government's dismantling of a year-old anti-government Sunni protest camp in the provincial capital of Ramadi.

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Re: Irāka, Faludžas sacelšanās (2014)

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 17 Jan 2014 14:32

Scores killed in bombings as Islamists advance in Anbar province
2014-01-15
A wave of bomb attacks in Iraq, including a series of coordinated car bombings in Baghdad, killed at least 46 people on Wednesday as Islamist militants took more territory from Iraqi security forces in Anbar province.
Authorities are grappling with Iraq's worst period of unrest since the country emerged from a sectarian war that killed tens of thousands, just months before landmark parliamentary elections.
Diplomats, including UN chief Ban Ki-moon, have urged Iraq's leaders to seek political reconciliation to resolve nationwide violence and the stand-off in Anbar, but Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ruled out negotiations with militants.
But the security operations, which authorities say have led to the killing and capture of several militants affiliated with the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have not succeeded in stemming the bloodshed.
Seven car bombs hit civilian targets in majority-Shiite or mixed neighbourhoods of the capital, killing 24, with one targeting a packed market in the Baghdad neighbourhood of Shaab and another detonating in front of a restaurant on Sanaa Street.
The blast on Sanaa Street killed three people and badly damaged the restaurant and nearby shops and cars, an AFP journalist said.
Windows of nearby shops were shattered, the restaurant's ceiling partially caved in, and blood and mangled vehicle parts were scattered around the scene.
A suicide bombing at a funeral in the town of Buhruz, in the restive and religiously mixed Diyala province north of Baghdad, also killed 16 people and wounded 20 others, officials said.
The funeral was for a member of the Sahwa, the Sunni tribal militias who sided with the US military from 2006 against their co-religionists in al Qaeda, helping turn the tide of Iraq's violent insurgency.
As a result, the Sahwa, or Awakening, are often targeted for attacks by Sunni militants who see them as traitors.
Six other people, including three soldiers, were killed in attacks in and around the northern city of Mosul.

Government loses ground in Anbar

In Anbar province, Iraqi forces lost more ground as Sunni gunmen, including those linked to al Qaeda, overran two key areas when police abandoned their posts.
The losses mark a second day of setbacks for government forces and their tribal allies as they try to retake territory on the capital's doorstep from militants who hold all of the former insurgent bastion of Fallujah and parts of the nearby provincial capital, Ramadi.
The crisis marks the first time militants have exercised such open control in major cities since the height of the insurgency that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.
"We gave ourselves up, and we gave up our arms to Daash," one policemen, who did not want to be named, told AFP from the town of Saqlawiyah, referring to the commonly used Arabic name for the al Qaeda-linked group ISIL.
"They have very heavy arms, which are much stronger than what we have. Our police station was not very well-protected, and they surrounded us. Even when we called for support, nobody came. Now, some of us have gone home, others have gone to other police stations," he said.
Militants overran the police station in Saqlawiyah, a town just west of Fallujah, and took control of the entire area after using mosque loudspeakers to urge policemen to abandon their posts and their weapons.
They also retook the station and surrounding neighbourhood of Malaab, a major district in Ramadi, after security forces trumpeted their successes in the area just days earlier.
Clashes, meanwhile, erupted periodically in Ramadi and on the outskirts of Fallujah from Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning, security and medical officials said, with two children killed and 13 other civilians wounded in the violence, according to doctors.
Fighting erupted in the Ramadi area on December 30, when security forces cleared a year-old Sunni Arab anti-government protest camp.
The violence spread to Fallujah, and militants moved in and seized the city and parts of Ramadi after security forces withdrew.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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Re: Irāka, Faludžas sacelšanās (2014)

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 30 Jan 2014 15:40

Iraqi forces launch assault against anti-government fighters in Ramadi
Police and pro-government militiamen move into five neighbourhoods in bid to regain control of key areas

Agence France-Presse in Ramadi
theguardian.com, Sunday 19 January 2014 14.35 GMT

Iraqi forces launched a major assault on a city partially in the control of anti-government fighters in an attempt to end a protracted crisis ahead of elections.
The operation, which involved police, pro-government militiamen and Swat teams, sought to wrest back key neighbourhoods of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province and one of two cities where the authorities recently lost swaths of territory.
Diplomats including the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, have urged Baghdad to pursue political reconciliation to undercut support for militancy.
Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has meanwhile blamed "diabolical" Arab countries for the unrest and focused on security operations ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled to be held in April.
Iraqi forces backed by tribesmen moved into five Ramadi neighbourhoods on Sunday, with helicopters providing cover and firing on the sprawling district of Malaab.
According to state television, the defence ministry spokesman, Staff Lieutenant General Mohammed al-Askari, said: "The Iraqi army launched a large operation with helicopter cover against Daash, al-Qaida and terrorists in Ramadi."
A police lieutenant colonel and an AFP journalist in Ramadi confirmed the operation had begun. All of the neighbourhoods targeted lie in the south or centre of the city.
A large section of Ramadi and all of Falluja, both former insurgent bastions close to Baghdad, fell to anti-government fighters late last month. It was the first time the fighters had exercised such open control in major cities since the height of the insurgency that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.
Fighting originally erupted in the Ramadi area on 30 December 30, when security forces cleared a year-old Sunni Arab protest camp.
It spread to Fallujah, and militants moved in and seized the city and parts of Ramadi after security forces withdrew.
On Sunday, Maliki said: "The world has united with us – the [UN] security council, the EU and most Arab countries, except some diabolical treacherous countries."
He did not single out any specific countries, but Iraqi officials have alleged Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in particular, have supported disaffected Sunnis in western Iraq, as they have staged anti-government protests in the past year.
Amman said on Sunday it would host US training for Iraqi forces, after an American defence official said Washington was waiting for an agreement with Jordan or another country to go ahead with the programme.

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Re: Irāka, Faludžas sacelšanās (2014)

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 30 Jan 2014 15:44

Iraq cities exodus to increase by tens of thousands, say officials
UN high commission for refugees says 65,000 left Falluja and Ramadi in the past week as militant standoff in Anbar continues

Martin Chulov
theguardian.com, Friday 24 January 2014 18.43 GMT
Iraqi officials say they expect tens of thousands more civilians to leave Falluja and Ramadi in the coming days, increasing the biggest exodus from the two cities since the height of the sectarian war in 2006.
The United Nations high commission for refugees (UNHCR) said on Friday that 65,000 had left the cities in the past week alone, as militants linked to al-Qaida continue to defy demands to leave from tribal figures and the Iraqi army. Iraq claims 140,000 have left since renewed fighting began in December.
The standoff, now into its second month, shows no sign of being defused. Iraq's prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has insisted he is prepared to order an attack to dislodge the resurgent al-Qaida groups who are trying to reclaim Anbar province as a heartland of operations.
However, unlike the insurgency of 2004-2008 that was eventually pushed back by tribal leaders and the occupying US military, the new al-Qaida push is spilling beyond Iraq's borders into Syria, where its fighters are also playing prominent roles in the civil war.
The al-Qaida group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq in Syria (Isis) now has a footprint across much of northeast Syria, the eastern deserts that spill into Iraq and Falluja and Ramadi, which are only 30-50 miles west of the capital, Baghdad.
Isis's entry into the two cities has also alarmed the US, coming less than 10 years after its military led two large-scale attempts to oust al-Qaida militants in 2004. As the US was preparing to leave Iraq, several army commanders claimed that the foe, which had cost them roughly one third of their battle casualties, had been "strategically defeated".
Now a revitalised Isis is drawing renewed attention from the US, which withdrew from the country in late 2011. Responding to pleas from Iraq, Washington has sent heavy weapons and surveillance drones to Baghdad. The speaker of Iraq's parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi, was in Washington on Thursday adding his voice to pleas for help in defeating the insurgency.
Nujaifi, the most senior Sunni Arab in the Iraqi government, said Barack Obama and vice-president Joe Biden had agreed to send direct support to the Sunni tribes, whose leaders had led the Awakening movement that stabilised the province throughout 2007.
The UNHCR said several neighbourhoods remain trapped and cut off from supplies in both cities. Isis is occupying large swaths of Ramadi and the centre of Falluja. The Iraqi army has partly encircled both urban areas, but has not yet launched anything more than small-scale forays into parts of Ramadi.
More than a million people were displaced at the height of Iraq's sectarian war.
The past six months have been the deadliest across the country since mid-2008, with monthly death tolls tracking upwards and bomb attacks, mainly aimed at Shia communities or government targets, now at their highest levels in at least six years.

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Re: Irāka, Faludžas sacelšanās (2014)

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 01 Mar 2014 14:36

Syrian rebel, friend of bin Laden, killed by rival Islamists
Latest update : 2014-02-24
A Syrian rebel commander who fought alongside al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and was close to its current chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed by a suicide attack on Sunday, intensifying infighting between rival Islamist fighters.
The Observatory for Human Rights in Syria said Abu Khaled al-Soury (also known as Abu Omair al-Shamy), a commander of the Salafi group Ahrar al-Sham, was killed along with six comrades by al Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Ahrar al-Sham is one of the main rebel groups in the Islamic Front alliance, the biggest rebel alliance in Syria, which has been locked in battle with the ISIL.
Al-Soury’s death will fuel rebel infighting that has killed hundreds of fighters in recent months, rebels said, distracting from their common purpose of ousting President Bashar al-Assad.

A friend of bin Laden

Two rebels told Reuters that five ISIL members had entered Ahrar al-Sham headquarters in Aleppo, where it engaged fighters and one ISIL jihadist blew himself up.
“Sheikh Abu Khaled was an important jihadi figure, he fought the Americans in Iraq and in Afghanistan. They (ISIL) gave the Americans a present, a free gift, by killing him,” said a Syrian rebel close to the group. “He was a very important commander, he is a close friend of Sheikh Ayman (al-Zawahiri) and he knew Sheikh Bin Laden.”
Syrian rebels mourning al-Soury posted his picture on social media accounts, while at least one fighter called for revenge, saying that ISIL had “pushed it too far this time”.
Al-Soury was born in Aleppo in 1963. A senior rebel source said he had been based in Afghanistan but was sent by Zawahiri to Syria a few months ago on a mission to try to end the infighting.
Sources said that by killing al-Soury, ISIL had taken the war between jihadi factions to a new level. The decision to kill him must have been taken by the high command of ISIL, sources said, most probably its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who fell out with Zawahiri last year.
ISIL, which grew from al Qaeda’s onetime Iraqi affiliate, is facing a widespread backlash from an array of rebel brigades angered by its abuses against civilians and rival opposition fighters.
Several Islamist rebel factions joined forces in January for an offensive to try to push their ISIL former allies out of rebel-held regions in northern and eastern Syria.
Sources close to Ahrar al-Sham said that al-Soury had rejected the infighting and opposed fighting ISIL after Zawahiri had appointed him to mediate between jihadi groups.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

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Re: Irāka, Faludžas sacelšanās (2014)

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 11 Jūn 2014 17:12

Who are Isis? A terror group too extreme even for al-Qaida
The Islamic State of Iraq in Syria has a reputation for being even more brutal than the main jihadi group of inspiration
theguardian.com, Wednesday 11 June 2014 14.00 BST

The Islamic State of Iraq in Syria (Isis) is so hardline that it was disavowed by al-Qaida's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Led by an Iraqi called Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Isis was originally an al-Qaida group in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). As the Syrian civil war intensified, its involvement in the conflict was indirect at first. Abu Muhammad al-Joulani, an ISI member, established Jabhat al-Jabhat al-Nusra in mid-2011, which became the main jihadi group in the Syrian war. Joulani received support and funding from ISI and Baghdadi.
But Baghdadi sought to gain influence over the increasingly powerful Jabhat al-Nusra by directly expanding ISI's operations into Syria, forming Isis in April last year. Differences over ideology and strategy soon led to bitter infighting. Isis turned to out to be too extreme and brutal not just for Jabhat al-Nusra, but for al-Qaida itself, leading to a public repudiation by Zawahiri, who last month called on Isis to leave Syria and return to Iraq.
By then Isis, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, had lost ground in Syria to Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies. But any notion that Isis is a spent force has been shattered by its capture of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. Isis now controls territory that stretches from the eastern edge of Aleppo, Syria, to Falluja in western Iraq and now the northern city of Mosul.
Isis has shown its ruthlessness and brutality in the areas of Syria under its control, eastern Aleppo and the city of Raqqa. It was blamed for the February killing of a founding member of the Salafi group Ahrar al-Sham and the group's leader in Aleppo, Muhammad Bahaiah, who had close connections with senior al-Qaida leaders. It was also blamed for the assassination of Jabhat al-Nusra's leader in the Idlib governorate, Abu Muahmmad al-Ansari, along with his wife, children and relatives. It ordered the crucifixion of a man accused of murder; other forms of punishment include beheadings and amputations.
Despite its brutal reputation, Isis has shown flexibility as well in Iraq to win over disaffected Sunnis in the north against the Shia-led government of Nouri al-Maliki. Mushreq Abbas, who writes on Iraq for the Al-Monitor website, describes how Baghdadi has presented himself as an alternative to the Sunni political class tribal leaders and moderate clerics who oppose central government.
"Until now, Baghdadi's fighters have not harmed religious men … when the tribes refused to raise Isis banners in Falluja, he ordered his fighters not to raise the banner and try to co-opt the fighters of armed groups, clans or religious men," says Abbas.
Unlike the Iraqi troops facing them Isis fighters are highly motivated, battle hardened and well-equipped, analysts say.
"It also runs the equivalent of a state. It has all the trappings of a state, just not an internationally recognised one," Douglas Ollivant of the New America Foundation, told the Washington Post.
It runs courts, schools and services, flying its black-and-white flag over every facility it controls. In Raqqa, it even started a consumer protection authority for food standards.
Isis has bolstered its strength by recruiting thousands of foreign volunteers in Syria, some from Europe and the US, and is estimated to have more than 10,000 men under its control. As for resources, it counts large extortion networks in Mosul that predates the US withdrawal and in February it seized control of the financially valuable Conoco gas field, said to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a week, from Jabhat al-Nusra in Deir Ezzor, in Syria.
Now that it has captured Mosul, Isis is in an even stronger position to bolster its claim that it is the leading jihadi group.
"Isis now presents itself as an ideologically superior alternative to al-Qaida within the jihadi community and it has publicly challenged the legitimacy of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri," said Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, Doha, in a paper last month. "As such it has increasingly become a transnational movement with immediate objectives far beyond Iraq and Syria."

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Re: Irāka, Faludžas sacelšanās (2014)

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 11 Jūn 2014 17:48

Kurdish forces on high alert after collapse of Iraqi army in Mosul
Queues form at checkpoints into Iraqi Kurdistan as people flee city taken by ISIS militants
Fazel Hawramy
theguardian.com, Wednesday 11 June 2014 15.59 BST
On Wednesday morning, the Kurdish security forces were taking no chances at a new checkpoint on the road to Mosul just outside Irbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region. Several dozen uniformed and plain-clothes Asayish (security) officers were watching every move of anyone who arrived at the checkpoint. Less than an hour's drive to the west, militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) were in control of Mosul after security forces abandoned their positions on Tuesday.
Over the past two days, thousands of Mosul residents have fled the city in fear and headed to the relative safety of the Kurdistan region. "Suddenly the army withdrew and there was no army nor police, just the militants, we don't know where they are from, they are masked," said Abu Abdullah, a 55-year-old man who pointed to the clothes he was wearing, saying that they were all he took from his belongings in Mosul.
More than 100 cars, mostly with Ninawa (the province of which Mosul is the capital) number plates, were parked outside the Kalak checkpoint waiting to go through the few layers of security that Kurdish security forces have set up. Just inside the parking areas, where several dozen people, including pregnant women and children, were queuing in the scorching heat, an old Kurdish man in his turban and baggy suit hugged a man in Arabic robes. "He is a friend from the old days, we did military service together in the 1970s and we have been friends ever since," said the Kurdish man, who had come to greet his friend and his family and offer support. The Arab man laughed and said sarcastically "we have come to Irbil for a picnic".
People were crouched in the scant shade cast by several cabins where the paperwork was processed. The Kurdish officers were on edge, some saying they had not slept for two days and questioning anyone who looked suspicious, including photographers. One plain-clothes officer who asked not to be named said the Kurdish officers at the checkpoint had seized a large number of guns from civilians heading to Kurdistan Regional Government-controlled areas (KRG). Shirzad, a taxi driver who has a relative in Mosul and who has been ferrying Iraqi army deserters from the checkpoint towards Kirkuk, says the price of guns has dropped dramatically because the fleeing soldiers were selling theirs.
The sudden collapse of the Iraqi army in Mosul has put the Kurdish forces, known as peshmerga, on high alert. The spokesman for the Peshmerga Ministry, Brigadier General Halgord Hekmat, told the Guardian on the phone that "the sudden collapse of the Iraqi army has left us with no option but to fill some areas with our forces because we can't have a security vacuum on our border". The spokesman said the Kurdish forces did not want to engage the militants of Isis because no political decision has been made between the political leaders in the KRG and Baghdad.
The KRG is planning to set up a camp for the refugees who are leaving Mosul, with the help of the UN.
As Abu Abdullah waited in his car with three other relatives to be let through the checkpoint, he said: "We don't know what is going to happen, our future is uncertain, we won't go back unless the security services return to their posts."
With the Isis militants firmly in control of Iraq's second largest city, which stands less than 100km from Irbil, the capital of Kurdistan Region, Kurdish people feel worried about the threats the militants pose. Last September, a series of explosions rocked the main headquarters of the Kurdish security forces in Irbil, killing at least six officers.
A 36-year-old trader from Mosul, who was waiting to be let through with a group of other men, said: "I think it will become like Syria because now the militants have entered the city, the army will come and there will be war."

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Re: Irāka, Faludžas sacelšanās (2014)

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 26 Jūn 2014 11:07

Attēls

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/j ... ria-jordan

Isis captures more Iraqi towns and border crossings
Sunni militants build on gains by taking checkpoints on frontiers with Jordan and Syria, as well as four more towns
Jihadist fighters in Iraq seized three border crossings into Syria and Jordan and four nearby towns over the weekend, giving the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) control over much of the country's western frontier and directly threatening the country's main power supply.
Isis can now add large swaths of the Iraqi border to a 300km stretch of land it already controls along the Euphrates river, from Mosul in the north to Saddam Hussein's home town, Tikrit, which now gives the group a launching pad for potential attacks on strategic sites, including the lifeblood of Iraq's electricity generation, the Haditha dam. The gains also bring the crisis in Iraq to the doorstep of Jordan, a key ally of the United States.
The latest Isis offensive comes as Iraq's polarised political blocs face a week of intense lobbying to form an inclusive government that could unite the fracturing country.
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, is due in Baghdad on Monday to meet Iraqi lawmakers who had been bitterly divided before the jihadist surge, but have recently been reaching out to the US and Iran with increasing desperation.
The latest Isis offensive in western Anbar province has seen the group take four towns in recent days. Iraqi officials said the militants took over the Turaibil crossing with Jordan and the Walid crossing with Syria after government forces there pulled out. Al-Qaim, a restive town on the Syrian border, fell a day earlier.
The capture of the crossings follows the fall on Friday and Saturday of the towns of Rawah, Anah and Rutba. They are all in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, where the militants have since January controlled the city of Falluja and parts of the provincial capital, Ramadi.
Rutba is on the main highway from Baghdad to the two border crossings and its capture has in effect cut the Iraqi capital's main land route to Jordan. It is an artery for passengers and goods, though it has been infrequently used in recent months because of deteriorating security.
Northern Iraq and neighbouring states. Guardian graphics
Iraq's armed forces are outgunned and ill-prepared to deal with Isis, which has rapidly gathered momentum as it has surged across eastern Syria and back into Iraq, where the earliest incarnation of the group was born a decade ago.
In Baghdad, the enmity between the political factions before the Isis attack meant no consensus about a new government was likely to emerge for some time. Iraqi leaders now increasingly believe that Barack Obama is making US help conditional on their first finding a political solution that empowers disenfranchised groups, especially the country's Sunnis.
Iran, which had eclipsed the US as Iraq's main power broker in recent years, on Sunday warned Washington against sending fighter jets into the region. The country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Iraq needed no foreign intervention. Iran is heavily invested in the defence of Baghdad, with a prominent Iranian general, Qassem Suleimani, in the capital to coordinate the city's defences.
Obama warned in an interview on Sunday that Isis could spread conflict to neighbouring states and pose a "medium- and long-term threat" to the US. "We're going to have to be vigilant generally," he said. "Right now the problem with Isis is the fact that they're destabilising the country. That could spill over into some of our allies like Jordan.
"But I think it's important for us to recognise that Isis is just one of a number of organisations that we have to stay focused on," he said, highlighting al-Qaida in Yemen and Boko Haram in west Africa among others.
The president denied US inaction in Syria and Iraq had allowed the crisis to escalate. "What we can't do is think that we're just going to play whack-a-mole and send US troops occupying various countries wherever these organisations pop up. We're going to have to have a more focused, more targeted strategy and we're going to have to partner and train local law enforcement and military to do their jobs as well."
Last week Obama said he would dispatch 300 special forces to help train Iraq's army, but said they would not have a direct combat role.
The increasingly grim news from Iraq fuelled fresh recriminations in Washington on Sunday, with Republicans turning on the White House and each other.
Senator Rand Paul, who has resisted Republican calls for more intervention, said the US should steer clear of Syria and Iraq. "It's now a jihadist wonderland in Iraq precisely because we got overinvolved, not because we had too little involvement," he told CNN. Why should Americans fight in Iraq if the Iraqi army was unwilling to do so, he said?
Paul, who may seek the party's presidential nomination in 2016, did not rule out helping Shia forces, but said the Sunni extremists advancing on Baghdad posed no immediate threat to the US. "I don't believe Isis is in the middle of a fight right now, thinking, 'Hmm, we should send intercontinental missiles to America?'"
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat chairwoman of the senate intelligence committee, defended Obama's "thoughtful" handling of the crisis, but admitted the intelligence community failed to anticipate the Islamic extremists' breakthroughs.
"You either have to have the technical means up in the sky or in other places, or you have to have assets – people who will give you human intelligence," she told CNN. "This is a different culture. It's very difficult to pierce. The piercing intelligence-wise in terms of humans has been very difficult all along."
Iraq's existence as a state was imperilled, Feinstein went on. "Candidly, I don't know what the US contingency plan is for a complete takeover of Syria and Iraq," she said. "I do know what we're on the foot of is a major Sunni-Shiite war."

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Re: Irāka, Faludžas sacelšanās (2014)

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 30 Jūn 2014 11:28

Iraqis caught in a state of fear between Isis and Shia militias
Residents of Baquba, an hour from Baghdad, are on the frontline of a sectarian showdown that is fast becoming another civil war
Martin Chulov in Baghdad
The Guardian, Sunday 29 June 2014 20.12 BST
An hour from Baghdad where the battle lines are drawn, residents of Baquba say they're caught between two terrifying options. Just to the north are Isis, the Sunni militant group bent on destroying Iraq and the Shias who govern it. To the south are Shia militias who have responded with vehemence and are transforming the frontlines into a sectarian showdown that pays no heed to the state.
"We have Da'ash on one side," said Abu Mustafa, a Baquba resident, using the colloquial word for Isis. "And we have Asa'ib ahl al-Haq on the other. I don't know who to be more scared of."
Asa'ib ahl al-Haq is the most powerful Shia militia in Iraq, and perhaps the most potent in the land. A direct proxy of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, who has extraordinary influence across Iran's sphere of influence, Asa'ib is untouchable in Baghdad and feared around the country.
Asa'ib, like Isis, has made Baquba and the area that surrounds it one of the most important flashpoints in Iraq. Whoever controls this lethal city will secure an approach to the capital an hour south, and a foothold in the east within striking distance of the Iranian border.
"The police are the most powerful people in this city," said Abu Mustafa. "But only because they are all militias anyway."
In 18 days of what is fast becoming another civil war, the Iraqi government has insisted that its forces are leading a fightback against Isis, which now occupies around one third of the country. Western officials in Baghdad estimate 10-15,000 Isis members are in the country. Clashes between Isis and military units continued in Tikrit , where the Iraqi army gained ground over the weekend.
Iraqi army volunteers parade in Baquba on 20 June. Iraqi army volunteers parade in Baquba on 20 June. Photograph: Reuters
By Sunday, fighting was still raging in parts of the central city, not far from Awja, Saddam Hussein's home village. However, late in the day, Iraqi forces withdrew 12 miles south of Tikrit, clouding government claims that they controlled the city.
Isis members had been in contact with local tribal leaders coordinating the fightback in Tikrit, claiming they would soon withdraw to the northern area of Baiji. Government planes pounded Tikrit, as Russia delivered the first of 12 Sukhoi fighter jets bought by Iraq for $500m (£293m). The jets are ground fighters and will be flown by Iraqi pilots, state media said.
The US has so far not acceded to Iraq's request that its air force return to Iraq to help fight Isis, which has seized most of the weapons from the Iraqi army's main depots in the north and is sending reinforcements from Syria.
Late last night Isis issued a statement declaring a "caliphate" in the region it had taken, and called on factions worldwide to pledge their allegiance – a move that some analysts saw as a direct challenge to Gulf Arab rulers, and to al-Qaida, which disowned Isis in February.
Washington is believed to be hoping for progress on Tuesday on electing a parliamentary speaker, a process that might pave the way for a quick election of a president and a prime minister.
US officials have repeatedly signalled to Baghdad that a political solution would make military support easier. However, some western officials believe the political torpor could drag on for six months.
Iraqi forces are present wherever clashes are happening, but so too are the Shia militias, their presence stirring ghosts of a time, seven years ago, when a militia-led bloodletting almost meant the end of Iraq. Residents of Baquba, and of battle zones nearby, such as Samara, say the militias are again starting to wield inordinate power. In some cases, they say, security forces are deferring to them.
In Samara, Abu Abdullah, a Sunni resident, said: "We are on the faultline, we cannot go north or south. Whichever way we go we hit a militia. Da'ash is nearby but we can't communicate with them. Some of them are foreign, they have long beards and we don't want to go near them.
"Asa'ib are closer to Baghdad. And they're also defending the shrines. They're dressed in military clothes, but we know who they are from their beards."
All the approaches to Baghdad are defended by a mix of state security forces and Shia militiamen, most of whom have had several perfunctory days of training before being dispatched to the frontline.
While the city's immediate defences have not yet been threatened, Baquba and Samara in the north and Ibrahim bin Ali, west of Baghdad, have all been flashpoints. And in each of them, Shias fighting under the names of Asa'ib, or of the rebranded Jaish al-Mahdi, have been prominent. In Baghdad's southern suburb of Dora, several Sunnis have been killed in recent weeks after being seized on the streets. One man, who retrieved his nephew's body earlier this week after he was kidnapped by the side of the road on 18 June, said Asa'ib had been responsible for killing him. "They are operating right under the nose of the government and no one will stand up to them. Only Asa'ib can do that. It is clear who did this."
While the militias' rapid rise to prominence worries many Baghdad residents from both sects, officials insist that the state retains primacy.
A lecturer in political science at Baghdad University, Dr Ihsan al-Shimari, said: "Generally speaking, [the militias'] role is supportive to the security institution. Though they are backing them up with everything they can. Asa'ib are there, they are operating, but they are not trying to relegate the state to a secondary position.
"If they take primacy, this indicates a huge malfunction in the structure of the security institutions. This would weaken the government that they are trying to protect."

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Re: Irāka, Faludžas sacelšanās (2014)

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 02 Jūl 2014 20:33

Iraqi parliament session collapses amid political standoff
Shia, Sunni and Kurd politicians fail to begin process of electing new leaders, as UN reveals death toll since Isis insurgency

Martin Chulov in Baghdad
The Guardian, Tuesday 1 July 2014 13.13 BST

Iraq's apparently irreconcilable politicians have failed to start a process to elect new leaders, lurching the country ever closer to partition and defying desperate calls for unity from regional and global powers.
The much-anticipated session of the country's parliament started on Tuesday with enough members in attendance to ensure the nomination of a speaker would go ahead. However, the meeting quickly descended into farce, with Sunnis and Kurds using an unscheduled recess to withdraw their legislators, ensuring the session collapsed.
Both blocs insisted that Shia politicians name their candidate for prime minister before they revealed their own nominations for speaker. By convention in Iraq, the prime minister's position goes to the Shia, the speaker's position goes to the Sunnis, while the president goes to the Kurds.
The standoff underscored the deep divisions that run through the fragile state's political class, which has been unable to find unity even as a raging insurgency poses an imminent threat to Iraq's stability.
Hours before parliament met, the leader of the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government, Massoud Barzani, said Iraq was already "effectively partitioned".
Barzani told the BBC he would hold a referendum on independence for the Kurds within months, a move that, if carried out, would spell the end of the modern state of Iraq and probably inflame the surrounding region.
"Everything that's happened recently shows that it's the right of Kurdistan to achieve independence," Barzani said. "From now on, we won't hide that that's our goal. Iraq is effectively partitioned now. Are we supposed to stay in this tragic situation the country's living? It's not me who will decide on independence. It's the people. We'll hold a referendum and it's a matter of months."
The enmity between Kurdish MPs and legislators aligned with the beleaguered prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, flared quickly in the brief parliamentary session, with a Maliki MP angrily remonstrating with a Kurdish counterpart over demands that salaries which had been frozen by Baghdad be paid.
"Those who tear down the Iraqi flag, we will crush with our shoes," the Maliki MP shouted.
Across nearly all of northern Iraq, the national flag is no longer flying. The Kurds have raised their own banner above all former central government buildings in Kirkuk, which their forces took as the Iraqi army fled from the jihadist group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) two weeks ago. In Iraq's west, and some of its centre, Isis has commandeered all government buildings and at least three cities.
Baghdad is caught in a pincer movement between the Kurds and Isis, which have no interest in the state. The Kurds, who have long been cautious about their ambitions for sovereignty, are increasingly acting without restraint as central authority crumbles.
Isis meanwhile has been taunting the Shia-majority central government with claims it is imposing a caliphate across a vast tract of land from Aleppo in Syria to Diyala, north-east of Baghdad. The announcement has no practical significance, but shows the potent rise of the jihadist group, and the impotence of Iraq's government in dealing with it.
Further emphasising the scale of the crisis were death toll figures released by the United Nations on Tuesday, revealing a spike in violence across Iraq in June. The toll of at least 2,417 Iraqis killed and 2,287 wounded in "acts of violence and terrorism" was the highest since April 2007.
"The staggering number of civilian casualties in one month points to the urgent need for all to ensure that civilians are protected," said Nickolay Mladenov, the special representative of the UN secretary general for Iraq.
Prior to Tuesday's parliamentary session, leaders from the Shia National Alliance list had been backing away from Maliki, who wants to win a third term as leader. "There is agreement that a less polarising figure emerge," one Shia MP said.
However, Kurdish and Sunni blocs, estranged by the actions of the Iraqi leader for at least the past three years, say they do not trust the Shias to nominate a replacement who would not share Maliki's stance or follow his policies.
Western diplomats in Baghdad fear that Iraq faces near-certain collapse unless politicians from all sides can be convinced that their interests are best served by remaining under central control.
One senior official suggested this week that the political standoff could fester for another six months, during which time the country would have no effective leadership.
Parliament is due to meet again on 8 July after another pivotal week of horse-trading within political blocs. Governments in post-Saddam Iraq are traditionally cobbled together after many months of standoffs. However both allies and foes inside Iraq and across the region have insisted that leaders do not have the luxury of time if they want to save the country with its current borders.
The relentless Isis insurgency has galvanised parts of the Sunni street and exposed the fragility of the state in its current form, leaving many in Baghdad believing that the crisis is already past the point of no return.
A break-up of Iraq would have widespread implications for the entire region. Syria and Lebanon, both of which are a mix of sects and ethnicities, would be especially vulnerable to fallout.
Isis has a presence in both countries, particularly Syria, and has said repeatedly that it aims to break down the Levant borders enshrined by France and Britain after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
Immigration call
Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called for Muslims across the world to immigrate to the section of Syria and Iraq that his group now claims as an Islamic caliphate. The call is the first sign that the jihadist group aims to make its attempts to restore a caliphate more than a symbolic challenge to the Syrian and Iraqi governments.
In a recording released yesterday, a voice, thought to be Baghdadi's, urged judges and administrators to "answer the dire need of Muslims". Flush with the spoils of its rout of the Iraqi army, Isis is moving to consolidate itself in eastern Syria and western Iraq.
Isis paraded a ballistic missile, believed to be a Scud, through the streets of Raqaa in eastern Syria on Monday. The missile had not been seen since it was reportedly seized after Isis overran the site of a former nuclear reactor in the nearby city of Deir Azzor. The missile is not thought to be working order.

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