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Iraq Blog

Sunni fighters led by group known as the Islamic State have overrun large areas of western and northern Iraq. Follow Al Jazeera's live blog for the latest updates and information.

  • Iraq receives Sukhoi attacks jets from Iran

    A leading British think tank has accused Iran of giving three Sukhoi ground attack jets to Iraq, as a video released by the country's defence ministry showed the planes landing on Iraqi soil.

    The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said Iranian Su-25s are given "a narrow range of six-digit serial numbers" and that the two digits painted on the three planes shown in the video correspond to the final digits of Iranian serial numbers.

    IISS also posted side-by-side photos of one of the aircraft in the video and an Iranian Su-25, showing that the numbers and camouflage pattern are the same.

    "Attempts to conceal original operator markings are also apparent, with evidence of key positions being painted over," IISS said.

    "This includes the location of Iranian roundels on the side of the air intakes along with a large proportion of the tail fin."
  • Clashes in the holy city of Karbala kill dozens

    Dozens of people have been killed in clashes between Iraqi security forces and followers of a Shia religious leader in the holy city of Karbala, signalling divisions among Shia factions as a Sunni insurgency rages. 

    The Reuters news agency said up to 45 people were killed after police and army personnel tried to arrest Shia leader, Ayatollah Sayyid Mahmud al-Hasani al-Sarakhi around midnight on Tuesday. 

    Security forces said they went to arrest Sarakhi after his supporters started blocking roads and manning checkpoints around his neighbourhood in the Shia shrine city, home to the tomb of Imam Hussein, which millions of Shia pilgrims flock to annually.

    Police and troops reinforced by five helicopter gunships surrounded the house but were prevented from entering by Sarakhi's armed followers, the sources said, adding five police officers and about 40 of Sarakhi's supporters were killed.

    Sarakhi and his armed followers have clashed in the past with US forces, Iraqi security forces and supporters of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shia cleric in Iraq. 

    Sarkhi had published a letter on his website earlier this week criticising Sistani's decree for Iraqis to fight alongside the security forces against Sunni rebels.

  • Iraqi security forces pull down a flag belonging to the Islamic State during a patrol in Diyala province [Reuters] 

  • Iraqi PM offers amnesty to rebel Sunni tribes

    Maliki says call for "Islamic caliphate" threatens entire region as deadly clashes erupt in Shia holy city of Karbala.
  • US woman held for alleged support for Islamic State 

    Reuters are reporting that US authorities have arrested a woman in Denver for providing "material support" to Islamic State fighters.

    Shannon Maureen Conley is alleged to have met a purported Islamic State member on the Internet in 2013.

    The criminal complaint filed with the US district court said she planned to travel to Syria via Turkey to meet the person, and first underwent military training with the US Army Explorers in February this year.

  • Al Jazeera's Counting the Cost looks at what's been described as the "world's richest terrorist group" . With control of oil fields in Syria, and money obtained from banks in cities they have seized, the Islamic State's wealth is believed to be in the billions.

  • This picture posted by an Islamic State-affiliated account purports to show Iraqi policemen in Nineveh province, where Mosul is located, repenting at a Islamic State administrative building. The text in Arabic reads "Hundreds of apostates flock to seek repentance"

  • Reuters are quoting a Saudi-owned TV station, which says 30,000 soldiers have been deployed to Saudi Arabia's border with Iraq after Iraqi troops withdrew from the area.

    We'll have more soon...
  • Al Jazeera's Inside Story asks whether politicians can convince some rebels to lay down their weapons. Mike Hanna hosts former US ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, Saad al-Muttalibi,a former adviser to the Iraqi government, and Wadah Khanfar, president of the Al Sharq Forum.

  • A video posted by the Syrian Obervatory for Human Rights appears to show representatives of tribes and rebel groups previously loyal to the Nusra Front pledging allegiance to the Islamic State.

    The speaker says they want to disassociate themselves from factions fighting the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the footage.

  • Another update from Reuters: Dozens of Turkish truck drivers kidnapped last month by Sunni rebels in Iraq have been released, Turkish media outlets reported.

    Officials did not confirm the release of the 32 drivers on Thursday but said "there were positive developments."

    There was no word on 49 other Turks who are being held by rebels in Iraq including special forces soldiers, diplomats and children, who were seized by fighters in Mosul.
  • The Iraqi prime minister's military spokesman denied  that the country's border guards had withdrawn from the frontier with Saudi Arabia, after a Saudi-owned television channel reported Iraqi forces had quit their posts. 

    "This is false news aimed at affecting the morale of our people and the morale of our heroic fighters," the spokesman, Lieutenant General Qassim Atta, told reporters in Baghdad. He added that the frontier was "fully in the grip" of Iraqi border troops. 

  • Stranded Indian nurses in Iraq "are safe"

    An Indian official has said dozens of Indian nurses who have been stranded at an Iraqi hospital in the flashpoint city of Tikrit are safe, but are being moved to a new area controlled by rebel fighters.

    Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said the nurses were unharmed but are being moved to a new area.

    He described the situation as one of "grave difficulty" because the area is not under the control of the Iraqi army and is not accessible to humanitarian organisations.

    He would not say who as moving the medical workers.

    More than 40 nurses have been holed up for more than a week in Tikrit, where fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have taken over.
    [Associated Press]
  • Oil-rich city of Kirkuk struggles with fuel shortage

    The major oil hub of Kirkuk is struggling to deal with a fuel shortage, since Kurdish forces assumed control over the area. 

    Long queues formed at petrol stations in the northern oil-rich city on Thursday. 

    "We have been queuing here for two days. About 2,200 cars are queuing, but it's in vain. We don't know whether to get fuel or not," a driver told the Associated Press news agency. 

    Kurdish forces assumed control of the territory to prevent it from being taken over by Sunni insurgents as Iraqi troops melted away. 

    They say the defence of the 1,000km frontier is necessary to prevent the rebels, who have declared an Islamic Caliphate, from advancing further.
    [Associated Press]
  • Bangladeshi migrant workers accuse Iraqi troops of torture

    Hundreds of Bangladeshi construction workers have been beaten and humiliated by soldiers in Iraq after becoming dragged into the country's sectarian conflict.

    Some of the Sunni Bangladeshi workers had their beards shaved off by the mainly Shia Iraqi army after being accused of sympathising with Sunni rebels, while one of them was stripped naked, according to the men after they returned home.

    "They abducted the Bangladeshi cleric from our camp mosque last Thursday, and when he was released on Saturday, you could see torture marks all over his body," Raqibul Islam told the AFP news agency.

    "They burnt his beard with cigarettes and then cut it off with knife. His body was also beaten with stones... He was tortured because he is a Sunni," he added.

    Mofidul Islam, another of the group of 21 workers who managed to return to Bangladesh on Tuesday, said abuses had been widespread. 

    "The Iraqis beat hundreds of our colleagues. They think that a beard is a sign that you are a Sunni militant so whoever has a big beard was targeted and beaten mercilessly," said Islam. 

    "One of the workers was made to strip naked and then beaten. They entered our camps and locked the doors and then beat the workers with rifles," he added.

    The Bangladeshis were all working on construction projects in the Bismayah region, south of Baghdad, when Sunni rebels began seizing large parts of the country from the Iraqi army last month.

    While their Korean employer released the workers from their contracts, Raqibul said many had been stranded as they were unable to afford to buy plane tickets home.

    Officials say around 20,000 Bangladeshis are living in Iraq, although the actual number is thought to be much higher.
  • Dempsey: Iraqi forces can defend Baghdad

    The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says Iraqi security forces are capable of defending Baghdad but are unable to act unilaterally to launch an offensive to seize back territory occupied by a Sunni insurgent group.

    Army General Martin Dempsey told reporters on Thursday that Iraqi forces are stronger around the capital city as they seek to counter fighters from the Islamic State.

    Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking at the same news conference said about 200 US military advisers are now in country assessing the situation. 

    The military leader insists the US won't be involved in combat operations years after American fighting forces left Iraq, echoing President Barack Obama's recent statements.
    [Associated Press]
  • Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former US assistant secretary of defence, said the present security situation in Iraq makes it easier for the Kurdish autonomous government to declare independence.

    "There is nothing [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki can do to stop them," Korb told Al Jazeera.

  • Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal reports from Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government, on the push for an independent Kurdistan state.

  • Kurdish diplomat cool to independence advocacy by Israel

    A Kurdish diplomat has played down the significance of Israeli advocacy of independence for her people, saying it was not coordinated with the autonomous Kurdish government in Iraq and may be intended to served Israel's interests. 

    While acknowledging that Israel had sway in Washington, which wants to prevent a break-up of sectarian war-torn Iraq, Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) envoy Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman suggested on Friday this was potentially counter-balanced by the hostility that perceived Israeli allies risked drawing in the Middle East.

    "Israel has its friends and its enemies, so it can work both ways," she told Reuters in a telephone interview from London, where she is based. "We are not coordinating with Israel. We are not responsible for statements made by other governments." [Reuters]
  • Iraq is Turkey's second largest export market and despite the dangers, it remains an important source of trade. Turkish truck drivers continue to make the voyage to Iraq despite the country's volatile state, and recent kidnappings.

    The two states share a 331-km border.

  • In Pictures: Since the Islamic State, formerly known as ‪‎ISIL‬, seized ‪‎Mosul‬ earlier this month, an estimated 300,000 of the 500,000 people fled the city. Thousands, however, have been kept from entering the Kurdistan Region, unable to show proof of either a sponsor or family in Iraqi  ‎Kurdistan‬ - stipulations required by the Kurdish government to enter. 

    Take a look at our gallery  

  • The women left behind: Fighting in Iraq pushing women into desperate and dangerous situations. Read Jessica Sarhan's report HERE: [AFP Photo]

  • Dempsey: No assault on Iraq unless US threatened

    The US is not close to launching a military assault against an Iraqi insurgent group but "may get to that point" if the armed group become a threat to the American homeland, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

    Gen. Martin Dempsey told Pentagon reporters on Thursday that he does not, at this point, believe the US needs to send in an "industrial strength" force with a mountain of supplies to bolster the Iraqi troops as they battle the fast-moving Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, insurgency.

    Instead he said the most urgent need still is a political solution centered on a more inclusive Iraqi government.

    "That's obviously one possibility, but it's not one that personally I think the situation demands," Dempsey said when asked about plans to send more troops. "I think the situation demands first and foremost that the Iraqi political system find a way to separate the Sunnis who have partnered now with ISIL, because they have zero confidence in the ability of Iraq's
    politicians to govern."

    "This is not 2003. It's not 2006. This is a very different approach than we've taken in the past," Dempsey said. [AP]
  • Names proposed to lead new Iraqi government

  • Al Jazeera's Imran Khan, reporting from the Iraqi capital, said the Kurdish plan to call for a referendum on a proposed independent state has angered politicians in Baghdad.

    "The Iraqis, particularly those who are from the ruling party, say that this is the wrong time, taking advantage of a situation, where we are powerless to do anyting," our correspondent said, quoting the leaders of ruling party.

  • Indian nurses in Iraq conflict to be freed -- AFP

    A group of 46 Indian nurses trapped in Iraq's weeks-long conflict are to be freed and will head to the Kurdish regional capital Arbil, one of the nurses told AFP news agency.

    "Some here ... they are saying ... we will go to Erbil," Tincy Thomas told AFP by telephone on Friday, adding that the group had recently been moved to the city of Mosul.

    An Indian diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the group were expected later on Friday in Erbil, which is a short drive from Mosul but has been insulated from the unrest.

    The diplomat said that a team of Indian government officials were waiting in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, and that arrangements were being made to fly the nurses home to India.

    The Indian government estimates that around 120 of its nationals have been caught up in the unrest. [AFP]
  • Live Now: The Stream on the future of the Kurdish people and the plan for independence:

  • Iraqi army retakes Saddam Hussein's home village from rebels 

    The Iraqi army has driven Sunni fighters out of late dictator Saddam Hussein's home village, state media and police said, part of a campaign to retake wide areas of northern and western Iraq overrun by the rebels.

    Pursuing a counter-offensive, government forces along with  Shia Muslim volunteers backed by helicopter gunships recaptured the village of Awja on Thursday night, according to state media, police and local inhabitants on Friday. 

    They said three insurgents were killed in an hour-long battle, and the main body of militant forces had fled south along the eastern bank of the Tigris River across from Awja.

    State television quoted the prime minister's military spokesman, Qassim Atta, as saying that Awja had been "totally cleansed" and 30 militants had been killed. 

    No casualty figures could be independently verified.

    The al-Qaeda splinter group leading the fighting has declared a medieval-style Islamic caliphate erasing the borders of Iraq and Syria, and threatened to march on the Iraqi capital Baghdad to topple the Shia-led central government.

  • Indian nurses abducted in Iraq released, to fly home - India official

    Nearly 50 Indian nurses who were abducted by suspected Islamist militants in Iraq have been released and will soon be flown home, an Indian official announced. 

    The nurses, all from the southern Indian state of Kerala, were being moved from the northern city of Mosul on Friday to the city of Erbil, some 80 km away, said P. Sivadasan, an aide to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. Sivadasan said both he and Chandy spoke to some of the nurses by phone.

    The 46 nurses were stranded in a hospital in the militant-controlled city of Tikrit for weeks but were moved on Thursday against their will, India's foreign ministry said. [Reuters]

  • Iraqi airstrikes target Sunni armed group

    A spokesman for Iraqi counterterrorism forces has said government airstrikes have targeted a group of Sunni armed rebels trying to overrun the country's largest oil refinery, and claims as many as 30 insurgents were killed.

    Sabah al-Nuaman said on Friday that a government plane targeted around eight vehicles attacking military forces defending the Baiji oil refinery north of Baghdad.

    Fighters from the Islamic State group have been trying to capture the Baiji facility from some two weeks.

    Al-Nuaman also said a helicopter gunship hit a house in the town of Qaim near the Syrian border where a gathering of the group's local leaders was taking place. He said there were several casualties, but did not have a concrete figure.

    An official in the Anbar province operational command confirmed the Qaim airstrike, but Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the report. [AP]

  • Sistani criticises Iraq's fractious parliament

    Iraq's most revered Shia religious leader has called the failure of the new parliament to elect a speaker at its first session this week was a "regrettable failure," heaping further pressure on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

    Ahmed al-Safi, a spokesman for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said in a Friday sermon in the Shia holy city of Karbala that "citizens were optimistic that this would be a good start for this parliament."

    "The failure to elect a head of parliament and their deputies before it adjourned was a regrettable failure."

    Several Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers walked out of the chaotic session, which was marred by threats and acrimony.

    His spokesman also called for the rapid formation of a new government, a problem made more difficult by deteriorating support among politicians for incumbent Maliki and questions over who might replace him.

  • Local Iraqi TV channel, Al Sumaria, is reporting the Islamic State's 'Caliph' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been injured in an airstrike in al-Qaim, however no officials from the central government have commented on the allegation.

    Follow our correspondent Imran Khan for the latest developments from Iraq.
  • Israel ready to help Jordan fend off Iraq's insurgents

    Israel has offered to help Jordan fend off a possible Sunni insurgence, an Israeli Minister has said.

    Israel's Strategic Affairs Minister, Yuval Steinitz, said potential Israeli assistance could include sending troops or arms, though he saw that as unlikely.

    "We have an interest in ensuring that Jordan does not fall to, or be penetrated by, groups like al-Qaeda or Hamas or ISIS," he told the Reuters news agency.

    "If, God forbid, there is a need, if such a request comes, if there is an emergency situation, then of course Israel will extend all help required. "Israel will not allow groups like ISIS to take over Jordan."

    Steinitz drew a comparison with Israel's willingness to intervene during 1970 border skirmishes between Syria and Jordan as Amman cracked down on Palestinian guerrillas on its turf.

    Today's Jordanian military similarly did not require help, Steinitz said, "as they are sufficiently professional and determined".
  • Former parliament speaker paves the way for Maliki to step aside

    Iraq's former parliament speaker has said he will not nominate himself for another term to make it easier for Shia political parties to replace the current prime minister. 

    Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni leader and major political foe of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said, "I appreciate the demands of the brothers in the National Alliance who see that Maliki will insist on holding on to the premiership if I nominate myself for speaker of the Council of the Representatives." 

    "Out of respect for them and in order to achieve the interests of the people and the country and to defend the oppressed and those who hold rights, I have decided not to nominate myself," Nujaifi said on his Facebook page. 

    Under the governing system put in place after the United States toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, the prime minister is usually a Shia, while parliament's speaker is a Sunni and the largely ceremonial role of president goes to a Kurd. 
  • Mosques launch campaign to stop British Muslims fighting in Iraq and Syria

    More than 100 Imams from the Sunni and Shia community in the UK, have signed a letter calling on British Muslims not to travel to Iraq or Syria to fight.

    "We urge the British Muslim communities to continue the generous and tireless efforts to support all of those affected by the crisis in Syria and unfolding events in Iraq, but to do so from the UK in a safe and responsible way," the open letter says.

    "As we near the end of the first week of Ramadan our message is simple, we have come together to urge British Muslim communities not to fall prey to any form of sectarian divisions or social discord," said Qari Mohammed Asim, an Imam in the northern English city of Leeds.

    An estimated 500 British Muslims are believed to have taken up arms in Syria.

  • Chart and map documenting the increase in fatalities and attacks by ISIL from 2006 to 2013 [Reuters] 

  • Shia volunteers patrol the desert between between Karbala and Najaf [Reuters] 
    Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has said he would do whatever it took to protect Shia shrines from Sunni rebels [Reuters]  
    Sunni rebels have have taken over large swathe of territory and declared a 'Caliphate' [Reuters]  

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  • Photos are circulating on social media of multiple Shia shrines being destroyed by Islamic State fighters in Nineveh Governorate.

    Islamic State fighters destroy Shia shrines in Nineveh

    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the reported attacks.

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