Iraqi Shiite paramilitary units captured the northern province of Hatra, cutting off several desert tracks used by Islamic State to move between Iraq and Syria, the military. The operations in Hatra are carried out by Popular Mobilisation, a coalition of mostly Iranian-trained militias of Shi’ite volunteers formed in 2014 after Islamic State, a hardline Sunni group, overran a third of Iraq. The militias on Wednesday dislodged Islamic State from the ancient ruins of Hatra, which suffered great destruction under the militants’ three-year rule, a military spokesman said. Hatra, a city that flourished in the first century AD, lies 125 km (80 miles) south of Mosul, where the militants have been fighting off a U.S.-backed offensive since October. Hatra is also located west of Hawija, a region north of Baghdad still under Islamic State control. Popular Mobilisation, which operates with the approval of Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government, said the Hatra campaign aims at cutting off Islamic State’s routes between Hawija, Mosul and eastern Syria.
Twin bombs targeting Shiite pilgrims killed 46 people in Damascus, most of them Iraqis, in one of the bloodiest attacks in the Syrian capital. A roadside bomb detonated as a bus passed and a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Bab Al Saghir area, which houses several Shiite mausoleums that draw a large number of pilgrims. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi strongly condemned the “heinous and shameful” terrorist attacks. “Indiscriminate assassinations, carnage and spilling the blood of innocent people, including women and children, are the last resort of the desperate and miserable terrorists who have lost their control more than ever following their repeated failures in different fields” he noted.
International investigators have found a suspected “weapon pipeline” from Iran through Somalia to Yemen where Shiite rebels are battling the government, according to a report released on Wednesday. The analysis by Conflict Armament Research (CAR) is based on the seizure in February and March this year of weapons from dhows, traditional sailing vessels, in the Arabian Sea. Although their findings were “relatively limited”, the investigators said their analysis “suggests the existence of a weapon pipeline extending from Iran to Somalia and Yemen”. It said that traffickers offload weapons in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northern Somalia “for local arms markets or as transhipment points for onward supply to Yemen”.