Iraqi forces fight their way into Mosul old city center

Iraqi forces launched on Sunday a new push toward the Daesh-held old city center of Mosul, on the western bank of the Tigris river, an Iraqi military spokesman said.

Iraqi forces are fighting their way toward the old center of the city, advancing from the south and the southwest, Brigadier-General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the joint operations command, told state-run television.

According to a Syria & Iraq News source, the Iraqi forces are in close proximity to Mosul’s main government buildings.

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Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris river on Feb. 19. Their advance in western Mosul paused over the past 48 hours because of bad weather.

Sources: Syria & Iraq News/Reuters

Car bomb kills at least 60 in Azaz

At least 60 people were killed and 50 others wounded in a car bomb explosion in rebel-held town of Azaz in northern Syria, according to medical sources. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor had reported, earlier, the death toll of 43 people.

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SOHR said six rebels were among the dead, but most were believed to be civilians, adding that dozens of people had also been injured in the blast in the town near the Turkish border. Dozens were also wounded in the attack which struck in front of an Islamic courthouse where a market is located, the  Observatory said. The group said the toll was likely to rise in the attack, which was the latest in a string of bombings to hit Azaz.

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Daesh likely behind the attack

Daesh is suspected of being behind the attack but no statement has been released yet.

Sources: Syria & Iraq News/SOHR/AFP

Iraq PM al-Abadi says deal reached over withdrawal of Turkish forces from Bashiqa

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Saturday an agreement had been reached with Turkey over an Iraqi demand that Turkish forces withdraw from a town near Mosul in the north of the country, Iraqi state TV reported.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and his Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi are seen during a welcoming ceremony in Baghdad, Iraq, January 7, 2017. Hakan Goktepe/Prime Minister's Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and his Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi are seen during a welcoming ceremony in Baghdad, Iraq, January 7, 2017. Hakan Goktepe/Prime Minister’s Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

Abadi met his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim who is visiting Baghdad Saturday. No further details were provided by the Iraqi state television.

Russian fleet departs from Syrian shores: Russia’s Defense Ministry

The Russian General Staff announced today that its ‘aircraft-carrier strike group’ will leave Syria soon, as “group has fulfilled its tasks”, the Russian Defense Ministry and the chief of the Russian General Staff announced on Friday.

Archive photo of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov
Archive photo of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov

Aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov first to leave

The chief of Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov said that the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, the battlecruiser Pyotr Veliky and their escort ships will be the first to leave Syria.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said that a “unified air defense system has been created in Syria based on S-300 and S-400 missile systems to ensure reliable protection for [Russia’s] assets on [Syrian] land and at sea. The spokesman added that during the “two months of the Russian aircraft carrier group’s participation [in Syria] saw 420 combat sorties and destruction of 1,252 terrorist targets”.

Update 1 – 6/1/2016 15:00 GMT | Russian aircraft carrier group leaves Syrian shores

The Russian aircraft carrier group has departed from Syrian shores and has set sail for the harbor of Severomosk, said Russian admiral Popov and added that the group “will remain in high readiness for possible return to Syrian shores”. Duma’s defense committee deputy chairman said on Saturday that the aircraft carrier group “may return to Mediterranean Sea if necessary”.

Source: Interfax/Syria & Iraq News

Four Daesh suicide attacks in Baghdad kill at least 45, dozens injured

Three Daesh suicide attacks struck Baghdad on Monday killing at least 45 people and injuring dozens.

The most devastating attack happened Baghdad’s Sadr City as a suicide bomber driving a pickup loaded with explosives struck a bustling market in Sadr City, killing at least 38 people and injuring dozens. The bomb went off in a fruit and vegetable market that was packed with day laborers, a police officer said, adding that another 52 people were wounded. Sadr City is a vast Shiite district in eastern Baghdad that has been repeatedly targeted by Sunni extremists since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

On-lookers at the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Sadr City, Baghdad on January 2, 2017 [photo by Karim Kadim/Associated Press]
On-lookers at the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Sadr City, Baghdad on January 2, 2017 [photo by Karim Kadim/Associated Press]

During a press conference with French President Hollande, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the bomber pretended to be a man seeking to hire day laborers. Once the workers gathered around, he detonated the vehicle.

Daesh claimed the attack in a statement circulated on a militant website often used by the jihadists. Daesh claims the attacks are “a revenge for coalition-Iraqi targeting of health services in Mosul ”. It was the third Daesh-claimed attack in as many days in and around Baghdad, underscoring the lingering threat posed by the group despite a string of setbacks elsewhere in the country over the past year, including in and around the northern city of Mosul.

Shiite militiamen loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand cleric for whose family the neighborhood is named, were seen evacuating bodies in their trucks before ambulances arrived. Dead bodies were scattered across the bloody pavement alongside fruit, vegetables and laborers’ shovels and axes. A minibus filled with dead passengers was on fire.

Asaad Hashim, an owner of a mobile phone store nearby, described how the laborers pushed and shoved around the bomber’s vehicle, trying to get hired. “Then a big boom came, sending them up into the air,” said the 28-year old, who suffered shrapnel wounds to his right hand. He blamed “the most ineffective security forces in the world” for failing to prevent the attack. An angry crowd cursed the government, even after a representative of al-Sadr tried to calm them. Late last month, Iraqi authorities started removing some of the security checkpoints in Baghdad in a bid to ease traffic for the capital’s 6 million residents. “We have no idea who will kill at any moment and who’s supposed to protect us,” said Ali Abbas, a 40-year old father of four who was hurled over his vegetable stand by the blast. “If the securities forces can’t protect us, then allow us to do the job,” he added.

Three other attacks claim at least seven dead

Three other bombings elsewhere in the city on Monday killed another seven civilians and wounded at least 30, according to medics and police officials. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

Two blasts struck central Baghdad on the same day, killing at least five and wounding five others, while another blast near a hospital in Sadr City killed two and wounded four others.

Daesh took responsibility for all four bomb attacks.

Sources: Syria & Iraq News/Associated Press/Reuters/Tomorrow Channel

Daesh attacks Iraqi police checkpoint near Najaf, kills seven

Daesh attacked an Iraqi police checkpoint near the southern city of Najaf on Sunday, killing seven policemen as government forces in the north made more gains against the militants in Mosul, their last major stronghold in the country.

najaf-170101-01The attack near Najaf, 500 km (310 mile) south of Mosul, happened when two vehicles traveling through the desert were stopped at a police checkpoint around al-Qadisiyah town, local police sources said. The driver detonated an explosive load and the second vehicle fled. Police pursued it and killed the two militants inside.

In a statement distributed online by supporters, Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack, which also wounded 17 people including civilians. It said four gunmen had opened fire before detonating explosive vests and then a fifth assailant launched a suicide car bomb.

Source: Syria & Iraq News/Reuters

UN Security Council endorses Syria ceasefire agreement

The United Nations Security Council on Saturday unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing a ceasefire in the Syrian civil war brokered by Russia and Turkey.

Russia and Turkey announced the ceasefire this week, the third truce this year seeking to end the nearly six years of war in Syria.

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Sources: Syria & Iraq News/Reuters