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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.

  • Iraqi volunteers from the Yazidi sect learn how to handle a weapon during a training camp at the Serimli military base, which is controlled by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), in Qamishli, northeastern Syria. The YPG is training 55 Yazidi recruits with skills to help them fight against the Islamic State militant group. [Reuters]
  • Despite reports on social media stating that the Kurdish forces have retaken the Mosul dam altogether from the Islamic State group, sources told Al Jazeera that the fighting is still ongoing. 

    Iraq's largest dam was captured by the armed Sunni group earlier this month. Sunday's military operation, largely aided by US air strikes, aims to retake control of the government facility in northern Iraq.
  • White House: Obama authorised Ustrike on Mosul Dam

    The White House said that President Barack Obama had informed Congress that he authorised Uair strikes in Iraq to help retake control of the Mosul Dam, which it said was consistent with his goal of protecting Ucitizens in the country.

    "The failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, threaten Upersonnel and facilities - including the UEmbassy in Baghdad - and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace," the White House said in a statement.

    "These operations are limited in their nature, duration, and scope and are being undertaken in coordination with and at the request of the government of Iraq." [Reuters]
  • Britain's expanding role in Iraq to last months: minister

    Britain is stepping up its role in Iraq beyond a humanitarian mission and the involvement is set to last months, Defence Minister Michael Fallon said in comments published on Monday.

    "This is not simply a humanitarian mission," Michael Fallon said in comments run in The Times newspaper.

    "We and other countries in Europe are determined to help the government of Iraq combat this new and very extreme form of terrorism that ISIL (Islamic State) is promoting."

    Speaking to RAF pilots and other service personnel during a visit to an RAF base in Cyprus, the British defence minister said "there may well now be in the next few weeks and months other ways that we may need to help save life (and) protect people and we are going to need all of you again," The Guardian daily reported. 

  • Kurds retake Mosul dam as US and UK step up involvement

    Kurdish fighters backed by US fighter jets have retaken the country's largest dam from the Islamic State group (IS), as the US and Britain step up their military involvement.

    The recapture of Mosul dam marks the biggest prize yet clawed back from IS since they launched a major offensive in northern Iraq in early June, sweeping Iraqi security forces aside.

    US President Barack Obama told Congress that the "limited" airstrikes he has authorized on Iraq to retake its largest dam from IS protected US interests there.

    Highlighting the stakes at hand, Obama said: "The failure of the Mosul dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, endanger US personnel and facilities, including the US Embassy in Baghdad, and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace."

  • Map of northern Iraq where the US has carried out airstrikes [Reuters]

  • Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq have regained control of several towns east of Mosul from the Islamic State group.

    The Peshmerga, backed by US air strikes, are fighting to retake the Mosul dam, which is Iraq's largest.

    Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports from the Mosul area.

  • Follow our correspondents @janearraf and @ZeinakhodrAljaz on Twitter for updates.
  • Iraq state TV says Iraqi forces and Kurdish troops have retaken Mosul dam from the Islamic State group.
  • Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf speaking from Erbil said fighting for the <osul Dam is still under way.

    "There is still fierce fighting although the Iraqi government would like to reclaim victory, it is a bit premature.

    "Some units of Iraq's security forces, the US-backed and trained counter-terrorism forces, are fighting with Kurdish forces to reclaim this vast critical facility."
  • Michael Stephens, deputy director at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies spoke to Al Jazeera about the significance of Mosul Dam.

    "Mosul Dam controls a lot of the water going into Baghdad, and it is one of the main water collection points for northern Iraq. It also produces hydro-electric power so it is of big strategic importance.

    "The Islamic State group are focused on securing water and food in any area they attack. It's in line with the group's strategy of trying to control bigger areas of infrastructure, so they can declare that their operation is working.

    "They decided that they wanted something that gives them more leverage.

    "Rather than destroying it the question is would they maintain it properly: i.e. keep electricity and water services running for the population? They wouldn't blow up the hand that feeds them. But there are questions as to the groups suitability to maintain it.

    "For the Peshmerga the significance is less strategic. It is more an issue of pride. They were clearly struggling and needed support. 

    "[New Prime Minister] Abadi is trying to show power by ordering the retake of the dam."

  • Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, speaking from Badriya near the Mosul Dam:

    "Without those US air strikes the Peshmerga would not have been able to advance, even with the air strikes it is difficult. They have to advance very slowly.

    "The Islamic State group retreated but left behind explosive devices on roads, homes booby-trapped.

    "So this is not an easy fight, the Kurds are getting military assistance, since the Islamic State group advanced to the north. 

    "But Peshmerga officials say although they're getting ammunition, they need heavy weapons.

    "Some elements of Iraqi forces are involved in this fight but the Iraqi army abandoned their positions in the north and haven't been able to recapture territory seized by the Islamic State group in June.

    "These strikes are widening the mission to protect critical infrastructure but there is still no plan to defeat the group.

    "That can only happen once Iraq is a united country and political factions agree on a broad-based government where all sides feel represented and feel they have a say in governing their country.

  • Reuters reports that the outgoing Iraqi foreign minister has said that Kurdish fighters have recaptured Mosul Dam.
  • Kurds will take part in talks on new Iraq government 

    Kurdish officials will take part in negotiations on forming a new Iraqi government, the outgoing foreign minister said on Monday, signalling the possibility of improved ties with the central administration.

    Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters a final decision on whether the Kurds will end their suspension of participation in the government would come later. 

    Outgoing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had been locked in disputes with the Kurds over budgets and oil.

    Zebari said Kurdish forces had pushed out Islamic State fighters and recaptured Iraq's biggest dam with the support of US air strikes near the facility.

  • A Peshmerga fighter stands guard near the Mosul Dam at the town of Chamibarakat [AP] 
    Peshmerga fighters hope to retake the captured dam from the Islamic State group [AP]
    The dam is the largest in Iraq providing water and electricity to the northern region [AP] 

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  • Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, an Iraqi army spokesman, said that Kurdish peshmerga troops and Iraqi security forces, have dismantled at least 170 bombs around Mosul Dam, as they try to retake the area from the Islamic State fighters. He said more bombs remain to be detonated.
  • Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from outside Tel Kaif town in northern Iraq, said that the joint operation to retake the Mosul Dam is proving to be "difficult" and that their advance against the Islamic State group is "very, very slow."

    Our correspondent said that the Sunni armed group have planted explosives in the roadside leading to Iraq's largest dam. 

    "This is not going to be an easy fight," she said.
  • Sajad Jiyad, a researcher on Iraq at the London-based Centre for Shia Studies, has posted this photo reportedly showing Iraqi security forces outside Mosul Dam. Al Jazeera could not independently verify the post.

  • Julien Barnes-Dacey, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, weighs in on British PM Cameron's statement on Iraq:

  • US blacklists individuals in Iraq and Syria

    The United States has announced that it is blacklisting two rebel leaders in Iraq and Syria, including the Islamic State spokesman, following similar actions by the U.N. Security Council last week.

    The State Department said on Monday that it was adding the two men, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani and Nusra Front member Said Arif, to its list of 'Specially Designated Global Terrorists." 

    The move aims to weaken the Islamic State - an al-Qaeda splinter group that has seized swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate - and al-Qaeda's Syrian wing, Nusra Front. 

    The label imposes a travel ban on them, and freezes any assets they may hold in the United States. 

    A parallel move from the UTreasury Department also prohibits Ufirms and people from dealing with the men. [Reuters]
  • Islamic State claims they have killed dozens of Kurdish fighters

    The Islamic State armed group have so far killed dozens of Kurdish forces and captured 170 of them, a Twitter site that supports the group said.

    The group has also seized weapons from the Kurds, the post said on Monday.

    No details on location were available. 

    Kurdish commanders and officials and state television said the Kurds have won back some territory, including areas near Mosul Dam, from the Sunni armed group who have routed Kurdish forces in recent weeks. [Reuters]
  • Fugitive Iraqi VP urges role for Saddam loyalists, criticises Uaction

    Former dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath party must play a role if a political solution is to be found in Iraq, fugitive vice president Tarek al-Hashemi said, warning that US air strikes would do nothing to end the violence.

    "My country is on the brink of civil war and partition," Hashemi, a Sunni sentenced to death in 2012 after an Iraqi court convicted him of running death squads, told Reuters in an interview in Istanbul on Monday. 

    "The United States summarises the whole dilemma into attacking (Islamic State) only. This is not going to put an end to the Iraqi issue," he said, saying Shia armed groups were also
    guilty of acts of terrorism. [Reuters]
  • The United States forces have conducted more military airstrikes against the Islamic State group as Kurdish forces try to retake the Mosul Dam.  

    In a statement issued on Monday, the US Central Command said a mix of fighter, bomber, and remotely piloted aircraft "successfully" conducted 15 airstrikes near Iraq's largest dam. 

    "The strikes damaged or destroyed nine ISIL fighting positions; an ISIL checkpoint; six ISIL armed vehicles; an ISIL light armored vehicle; an ISIL vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft artillery gun, and an IED emplacement belt.

    "All aircraft exited the strike areas safely."
  • Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of the Kurdish regional government, has told Al Jazeera that the operation to retake the Mosul Dam is "almost complete."

    Talabani said that Kurdish forces made "significant gains" against the Islamic State fighters, but added that the operation has been "difficult."
  • Anthony Cordesman, a former US State Department and US defence official, on the need for economic and political reform in Iraq: 

  • Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of the Kurdish regional government, has told Al Jazeera that the operation to retake the Mosul Dam is "almost complete."

  • UN: Yazidi fleeing Islamic State fighters in Iraq has quintuplets

    A Yazidi refugee fleeing the jihadist offensive in Iraq has given birth to quintuplets in northeast Syria, an official with the UN refugee agency said.

    "Tamam Ramadan had quintuplets on Thursday -- two boys and three girls -- after a caesarian section in hospital in Qamishli," the UNHCR official said, asking not to be identified by name.

    "The babies are doing well," he added.

    Tamam, 27, from Syria and married to an Iraqi, is a member of the Yazidi community whom jihadists of the Islamic State group regard as heretics.

    Twice the young mother had to flee as IS militants swept in a lightning offensive across northern Iraq. [AFP]
  • Pope Francis considers visit to Iraq

    Pope Francis has said he and his advisors were considering  whether he might go to northern Iraq himself to show solidarity with persecuted Christians. But he said he was holding off for now on a decision.

    In an press conference on board the papal plane from South Korea, the pope said that he is also endorsing the use of force to stop Islamic State group attacking minority Yazidis, but said the international community, and not just one country, should decide how to intervene. [AP]

  • US President Barack Obama has cut his vacation to attend a White House meeting on Iraq with members of his National Security Council on Monday. He is expected to address Iraq in the coming hours. [Reuters]
  • US President Barack Obama has announced that the Kurdish troops and Iraqi government forces have recaptured the Mosul Dam from the Islamic State armed group. 

  • In a press conference at the White House, US President Obama said recapturing the Mosul dam, the largest in the whole of Iraq, is a "major step" in the fight against the Islamic State armed group.

    But the US president also said that the fight "will take time" and that "there will be challenges ahead."

    Obama also said that Iraqis need to unite to "push out" the Sunni armed group, that is trying to establish an Islamic caliphate in territories between Iraq and Syria.
  • Islamic State message to America: "We will drown all of you in blood"

    The Islamic State militant group that his seized large parts of Iraq and drawn the first American air strikes since the end of the occupation in 2011 has warned the United States it will attack Americans "in any place" if the raids hit its fighters.

    The video, which shows a photograph of an American who was beheaded during the US occupation of Iraq, featured a statement which said in English "we will drown all of you in blood". [Reuters]
  • Obama promises 'long-term' strategy against Islamic State

    President Barack Obama said that the United States has embarked on a long-term mission to defeat the Islamic State armed group fighting in Iraq.

    "We will continue to pursue a long-term strategy to turn the tide against ISIL by supporting the new Iraqi government and working with key partners in the region," Obama said on Monday, using another acronym by which the group is known. [AFP]
  • Top US State Department official on the recapture of the Mosul dam in Iraq:  

  • US carries out 15 air strikes near Iraq dam: military

    US warplanes and drones carried out 15 air strikes on Monday against Islamic State fighters battling for control of a major dam in northern Iraq, the military said.

    Fighter jets, bombers and unmanned planes destroyed nine Islamic State positions and eight vehicles around the Mosul dam, the US Central Command said.

    That brought the total number of strikes conducted at the request of the Iraqi government over the past three days to 35, which the Pentagon said eliminated IS positions in and around the Mosul dam complex.

    "In all, we destroyed over 90 targets including a range of vehicles, equipment and fighting positions," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement. [AFP]

  • Mosul Dam has been recaptured by Kurdish and Iraqi government forces. The dam, the largest in the country, was seized by Islamic State fighters earlier this month, placing them in control of enormous power and water resources and access to the river that runs through the heart of Baghdad. 

    Barack Obama hailed the recapture as a major step forward and pledged a long-term US mission to defeat the group.

    Reuters file photo of the Mosul Dam on Tigris River, northwest of Baghdad 
  • The Peshmerga are seen as one of the only forces who can defeat the Islamic State group.

    But who are the Peshmerga and what are they fighting for? AJ+ Labs explains. 

    Who Are The Peshmerga?
    by AJ+ Labs via YouTube
  • The number of people displaced by the fighting in Iraq is at least 600,000, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

    It said on Monday some 24,000 of them live in one village called Sharyia on the outskirts of Dahuk. They include young children housed in schools and unfinished buildings.

  • Each day, displaced Iraqi children and adults queue for rice and soup distributed by the World Food Programme. 

    Faleh and Zidan are cousins who fled advancing Islamic State fighters in Sinjar two weeks ago. 

    "We now have to be homeless here and we left our homes behind," said Faleh. 

    He added, "we had no problems before, our house was very nice, we never wished to come here."

    Faleh, his sister and two cousins walk more than a kilometre to get food for their families back at the UN shelter.

    The children feel responsible for their families and although the journey is long, few things compare to the harsh conditions on top of Sinjar Mountain.

    "On the way I saw many people who fell to the ground because they were thirsty. Some begged us for some water to drink but we had nothing," said 12 year-old Zidan.


  • Nour Malas is a reporter with the Wall Street Journal newspaper


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  • Iraqi forces have launched an operation to drive Islamic State fighters out of Tikrit, the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein.

    Audio report from our correspondent, Zeina Khodr.

    Audio: Zeina Khodr reports on the latest
    by Rahul Radhakrishnan
  • Dispatch from our team: Iraqi troops supported by Iraqi airstrikes launched an offensive to retake Tikrit in the early hours of this morning. They are advancing from the south and southwest with the aim of liberating the city from IS control. 

  • Iraqi and Kurdish forces recaptured the Mosul dam on Monday.
    Zeina Khodr reports from the frontline.
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube
    by Rahul Radhakrishnan edited by AJE Staff 8/19/2014 11:11:21 AM
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