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Shiite Muslims mark anniversary on death of holy Imam.

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Shiite Muslim pilgrims from Iraq walked for the second day towards the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadhim in Baghdad’s northern district of Kadhimiya to mark the anniversary of the death of the seventh Shiite Imam. Imam is a title given in Shiite Islam to someone who is the spiritual and political successor of the founder of Islam, Prophet Muhammad. Imam Musa al-Kadhim lived in the 8th century in Iraq. Iraqi Shiites mark the anniversary amid tightened security. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi paid a visit to Baghdad Joint Operation on Friday to oversee the security arrangements put in place to safeguard the visitors to the holy shrine. Shiite pilgrims previously have fallen victim to suicide bomb attacks in different parts of the country. The extremist group ISIS especially targets the Shiite pilgrims, whom ISIS deems to be apostates, and therefore legitimate targets.

SDF liberates two towns as march on Raqqa continues.

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Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) liberated two more towns during the ongoing offensive to liberate Raqqa, killing 49 Islamic State (ISIS) militants in the process. The U.S.-led coalition against ISIS supported the SDF with airstrikes in both towns. Clashes between the SDF and ISIS are ongoing in the town of Wadi al-Jalab. Fierce clashes between ISIS militants and SDF fighters on Wednesday  resulted in the SDF also securing the villages of al-Hatash, Om al-Tenak, Bir Jarbe, and Jarwa. The SDF announced on Thursday (April 13) the beginning of the fourth phase of the offensive to oust ISIS from the Syrian city of Raqqa and will concentrate on liberating northern Raqqa and Jalab Valley from the militant group.

Only Israel would recognize a Kurdish state, Iraq’s al-Hakim says.

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Iraq’s National Coalition Chief, Ammar al-Hakim, said on Wednesday that Israel would be the only country to recognize a Kurdish state if it were declared. Hakim stated the U.S. administration has repeatedly declared its commitment to the territorial integrity of Iraq. He added Iraqi officials have received assurances from the new U.S. administration of its commitment to the unity of Iraq, as well as the commitment of previous administrations. Iraq’s Shi’ite ruling coalition would oppose Kurdish plans to hold a referendum on independence of Kurdistan Region after the defeat of Islamic State, its president, Ammar al-Hakim, has said. Hakim said Kurdish officials have a 70-year ambition to announce a Kurdish state, which could continue for another decade whether it were achieved or not. Kurds seek self-determination to have their own state having a logic that they can have a country the way Arabs have 22 countries as well as Turks and Persians who have their own countries, Hakim added.


Iraqi forces push deeper into Old City of Mosul.

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Thick smoke could been seen  billowing over the Old City of Mosul, near the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, as Iraqi forces advance under the U.S.-backed offensive to capture Islamic State’s (ISIS) de facto capital. The battle to free Mosul – between ISIS militants and Iraqi forces – is now in its seventh month and has taken a heavy toll on several hundred thousand civilians trapped in neighborhoods inside the city, still under control of the militants. Iraqi forces are making progress in their offensive to expel ISIS from Mosul but face a complicated urban battle as the militants hide in mosques, homes and hospitals, sheltering among civilians in the city in order to evade airstrikes. The war between ISIS and Iraqi forces is taking a heavy toll on several hundred thousand civilians trapped inside the city, with severely malnourished babies reaching hospitals in government-held areas.


Iraq to summon Turkish ambassador over Erdogan’s mobilization forces remarks.

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The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said Thursday it would summon the Turkish ambassador to hand him an official letter of protest at remarks by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan critical of Iraqi paramilitary groups fighting the Islamic State. Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesperson of al-Hashd al-Shaabi , said the remarks are “a violation against an Iraqi security institution” that is “recognized by the parliament and the state”. Al-Hashd al-Shaabi was formed by a decree from Iraq’s top Shia clergy in 2014 to combat the Islamic State militants who took over many regions of Iraq.It won parliament recognition as a national armed force late 2016. The militia, an alliance of more than 60 groups, is currently engaged in fighting against ISIS on the side of the Iraqi government forces, and its expected involvement in the liberation of areas inhabited by Sunnis and Turkmen has aroused international and local fears of sectarian twists. United Nations agencies have occasionally said PMUs were involved in human rights violations during their battles against IS. The Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi fervently defends al-Hashd against criticisms. Earlier in April, Abadi vowed to “cut the hands” of whoever defames al-Hashd al-Shaabi. “They volunteered to defend Iraq and its people based on a fatwa by the clergy”, he said during an event marking the passing of a senior Shia religious figure.



Italy urges Turkey to release jailed reporter

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Italy on April 19 called on Turkey to release a journalist arrested this month near the Syrian border while he was researching refugees. Gabriele Del Grande, 34, was clapped in cuffs by Turkish police on April 9 during interviews with people who had fled the war-torn neighboring country for a book he is writing on the conflict and the origins of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The foreign ministry in Rome said in a statement that Del Grande had managed to speak to his relatives by telephone on April 18 but that “this is obviously not enough”. European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, an Italian politician, also called for his immediate release.

Iraq opens new Tigris bridge escape route for people fleeing Mosul

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Iraqi’s army has built a new pontoon bridge over the Tigris river south of Mosul, after flooding had blocked all crossing points, opening an escape route for families fleeing fighting between government forces and Islamic State. The city’s permanent bridges have been largely destroyed during a six-month military campaign to seize back Mosul from the Sunni Muslim Islamists, which overran it in 2014. “Everything is back to normal”, said a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR. Some 20,000 people have escaped from Mosul in the past four days, fewer than before due to the lack of transport, the UNHCR said in a report. Almost 330,000 people have fled Mosul since Iraq started an operation to expel Islamic State in October. They were some of the around 400,000 people still in western Mosul where military forces are trying to dislodge the militants from the Old City. Fighting continued in the Old City where heavy smoke could be seen from the area of the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, from where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” spanning parts of Iraq and Syria.

Iraqi forces fight door-to-door in Mosul as battle enters seventh month.

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Iraqi forces continued to fight door-to-door in the Old City of Mosul, as the U.S.-backed offensive to capture the Islamic State’s (ISIS) de facto capital in Iraq entered its seventh month. There were exchanges of gunfire and mortar inside the old city near the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, from where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” spanning parts of Iraq and Syria. “Operations are ongoing, thanks God. They [ISIS militants] carry attacks on our defensive lines, but each time we repel them and they run away, leaving bodies of their dead fighters behind. Minutes ago they launched an attack and we responded by shelling them with mortar rounds, killing two of them and their bodies were left in front of our defensive lines”, Colonel Hussein Lazim Zghayer said. The war between ISIS militants and Iraqi forces is taking a heavy toll on several hundred thousand civilians trapped inside the city, with severely malnourished babies reaching hospitals in government-held areas. About 400,000 civilians, or a quarter of Mosul’s pre-war population, are trapped in the Old City, according to United Nations’ figures.

Arrest of three suspected jihadists in Dakar.

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A Nigerian and two Moroccans, respectively suspected of links with Boko Haram and the group Islamic State, were arrested these days in the Senegalese capital. The Senegalese police announced the arrest, the day before, in Dakar, by a Nigerian  known from intelligence services of its country for terrorism. According to a statement released by the police, this man would have gone in the Senegalese capital ” in the only purpose to recruit terrorists for Boko Haram “. Two Moroccans had been stopped by the air and border police upon their arrival at the international airport Léopold Sedar Senghor. According to the Senegalese police, they are allegedly connected to the Islamic State  and arrived from Turkey, where they had appeared as Syrian and had passed by a refugee camp. These two men were known by intelligence services, warned of their arrival to Dakar, the Senegalese police stopped them and questioned them. “They must be now extradited towards Morocco”, adds our police source.


Islamic State has lost most territory it held in Iraq.

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Islamic State has lost most of the territory it has held in Iraq since 2014, an Iraqi military spokesman .At the height of its power, the militant group controlled about 40 percent of Iraq, joint operations command spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told a news conference.That area has been whittled down to about 6.8 percent of Iraqi territory after extensive military operations, which are still going on in the city of Mosul, he said. Islamic State militants still control the towns of Qaim, Tal Afar and Hawija in Iraq, as well as Raqqa, their de-facto capital in Syria. The coalition battling Islamic State is made up of tens of thousands of members of the Iraqi security forces, led by the army, and thousands of Shi’ite volunteers, many from militia groups, commonly referred to as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). The eastern half of the city is now completely under the control of Iraqi security forces, Rasool said. But the push against Islamic State in Western Mosul is bogged down with Iraqi security forces fighting in a warren of small streets in the old part of the city. The federal police said in a statement on Tuesday they have been reinforcing their positions in Western Mosul in preparation for a push on the al-Nuri Mosque where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in 2014.


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