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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.



  • Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has provoked, to put it politely, raised eyebrows on social media after saying the 2003 invasion of Iraq is not to blame for the current conflict.

    He made the claim in an essay in which he also said things would be worse in Iraq now if it hadn't been for the US-led action. You can read the full text here




  • ISIL has reported posted graphic photos on a pro-ISIL website that appear to show its fighters massacring dozens of captured Iraqi soldiers.

    The pictures showed masked fighters from the armed group loading the captives onto flatbed trucks before forcing them to lie face-down in a shallow ditch with their arms tied behind their backs.
  • AP news agency reported that a car bomb exploded in central Baghdad, killing 10 and wounding 21, citing police and hospital officials.
  • Meanwhile, government officials said ISIL fighters were trying to capture Tal Afar in northern Iraq on Sunday and had rained down rockets seized last week from military arms depots. 

    The officials said the local garrison suffered heavy casualties and the town's main hospital was unable to cope with the number of wounded, without providing exact numbers. Tal Afar is mainly inhabited by Turkmen, an ethnic minority.

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to AP.
  • Even though ISIL's advance and capture of Mosul was met with surprise from Iraqi and US officials, the gains was the result of of a strategy that was years in the making, writes Tim Arango. Kareem Fahim and Ben Hubbard of The New York Times.


    by Rahul Radhakrishnan edited by AJE Staff 6/15/2014 3:16:44 PM
  • Another recommendation from The New York Times: 

    Who are the major players in Iraq's deepening crisis? 



  • Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid reports from Khazer, in northern Iraq, where she looks into the plight of more than 500,000 people who fled the violence sparked by the rebellion.

  • Kenneth Pollack, an expert on Middle Eastern political-military affairs with the Brookings Insititute's Saban Center breaks down the military situation in Iraq.

    1. Fighters in the north are from a number of Sunni groups. ISIL is the "lead dog".
    2. The Sunni groups are mostly Iraqi.
    3. They are militias first and foremost, and "terrorists" a distant second - the operations in the north of Iraq are those of light infantry rather than of terrorism.
    4. Watch Anbar - much of which is in the hands of ISIL and associated Sunni groups. An attack from the western region, as well as the north, will further stress the Shia defences.

    by Rahul Radhakrishnan edited by Graeme Baker 6/15/2014 4:43:30 PM

  • Dispatch from our correspondent in Baghdad, Omar al-Saleh:

    A spokesperson for Nouri al-Maliki said that Iraqi forces cleared at least two towns and four villages in the province of Salahadeen, north of Baghdad. However, the provincial capital, Tikrit, remains under rebel control. 

    The spokesperson also said that around 300 fighters from ISIL were killed in airstrikes in Salahadeen province and also in the outskrits of Mosul. 

    With that statement, the government is clearly saying that it has gained momentum and are clearing some of the areas captured by rebels.

    The government forces backed by Shia fighters are also engaged in battles in Baquba in eastern Iraq and in the northwest of the country.

    But rebel sources say they are reinforcing their positions in Tikrit and Mosul, while the government has sent reinforcements to the outskirts of Mosul.

    The government had tried to ensure the residents of Baghdad that it is secure. But a suicide bomber killed at least 12 people earlier today. but we saw a suicide bomber for instance in the centre of the capital killing around 12 people.

    Government forces have reinforced its positions and sent more troops to the parameters of the capital. But we have received reports in the last 48 hours that rebels are actually engaged in a fierce battle in areas close to Baghdad.

    There is also a sense that this is shifting toward a sectarian strife, and the sentiment is building up slowly. Roads were closed today and we were told the reason was that there were thousands of volunteers heeding the call made by the Grand Ayatollah join government forces and fight ISIL.
  • AP has reported that Iraqi police and hospital officials have said that a string of explosions in Baghdad has killed at least 15 people and wounded more than 30.

    In the city center, a car bomb killed 10 and wounded 21. 

    After nightfall, another explosion hit the area, killing two and wounding five. 

    The third went off near a falafel shop in the city's sprawling Sadr City district, killing three and wounding seven.

    Al Jazeera is following Iraq closely, and you can tune in to our live stream here: aje.me/live
  • The official line is clear. Iraqis must join up and fight however there is concern that the call to arms is being manipulated for political and sectarian purposes. 

    Speaking to a foreign a diplomat here I got a sense that he was worried. "Sistani's call to arms was clear, it was non-sectarian and a call for Iraqis to join the national army. But it's been twisted by certain groups as an excuse to join militias and that in the long run will be unhelpful.

    From Baghdad, Al Jazeera's Imran Khan writes on the response to the Grand Ayotallah's call to arms.


  • There are thousands like you. All Iraqi people, rise up and volunteer and we wouldn't have space for [ISIL] and we'll make it possible to crush our enemies.

    The future of Iraq is in your hands [...] there is no difference between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq.
    -- Nouri al- Maliki


  • ISIL fighters overran the northwestern town of Tal Afar on Sunday, several witnesses in the town told Reuters by telephone.

    Reuters reported that ISIL had attacked the town and taken control after fighting with security forces.

  • Security has been beefed up at the US embassy in Baghdad and some staff members are being temporarily moved to other parts of Iraq and to Jordan.

    A State Department spokeswoman said in a statement that a "substantial majority" of US embassy staff will remain in the country. She added that the Baghdad embassy will continue to engage daily with Iraqis. 

    US travelers in the country were encouraged to exercise caution and limit travel to certain parts.
  • Kenneth Roth is the executive director of Human Rights Watch



  • Shia militias are forming across Iraq after the call from their supreme religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani .

    [AP, AFP and Reuters] 
     
     

    1 of 7


  • Heavy clashes in Tal Afar

    An Al Jazeera source is Ninevah province says heavy clashes are ongoing between Sunni rebels and Iraqi forces along with local militias in Tal Afar, a mainly Turkmen town.
     The rebels appear to be in control of about 90 percent of the town, causing thousands to flee. It's estimated that 50,000 have left. The fleeing Shias are expected to head west and the Sunnis to Mosul and possibly the Kurdish region. The death toll is expected to be high, with losses on both sides as well as civilians.

  • Images that appear to show men being executed have been posted on a Twitter account said to belong to the ISIL. A caption on one of the pictures suggests the men are Shias, who are being punished for fighting Sunnis. The Twitter account was suspended hours after the images were posted.
  • The latest episode of Al Jazeera's Inside Story discusses whether Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki can unite a fractured nation and whether his sectarian policies at the heart of the unrest.

  • The Iraqi military says it has recaptured two towns north of Baghdad. Al Jazeera's Omar Al Saleh wraps up Sunday's developments from Baghdad.

  • The US has condemned a "horrifying" massacre by ISIL fighters said to have killed hundreds of Iraqi Shia air force recruits in the northern city of Tikrit.

    A diplomatic source in Baghdad has told Al Jazeera that the pictures posted online are authentic. However, the number of recruits killed is in question.

    "The claim by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that it has massacred 1,700 Iraqi Shia air force recruits in Tikrit is horrifying and a true depiction of the bloodlust that these terrorists represent," US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

    "While we cannot confirm these reports, one of the primary goals of ISIL is to set fear into the hearts of all Iraqis and drive sectarian division among its people."

  • A senior US official tells Reuters that the United States is considering talking to Iran about Iraq. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that such dialogue is expected to begin in the coming week.
  • The US State Department says security at the US embassy has been strengthened and some staff members sent elsewhere in Iraq and to neighbouring Jordan. A military official said about 150 Marines have been sent to Baghdad to help with embassy security.
  • US senator suggests alliance with Iran to tackle uprising

    A US senator has suggested an alliance with Iran to deal with a Sunni led uprising in Iraq, as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki struggles to keep his country together.

    Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said a US partnership with longtime foe Iran would make him uncomfortable but likened it to the US working with Soviet leader Josef Stalin in World War II against Adolf Hitler. 

    Graham said the US has to do what it can to keep Baghdad from falling to insurgents.
    [Reuters]

  • Iraq's military base reduced to wreckage
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube

    Millions of dollars worth of US-made equipment has been reduced to wreckage in the Iraqi town of Kirkuk after a rebel led advance on the city.

    Sunni rebels captured Kirkuk's largest military base and a swath of northern areas from the army, with a speed that shocked the government and the international community.

    As they fled the violence, Iraqi troops left behind information and equipment that could be used by rebel fighters.

    Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid reports from Kirkuk's K1 military base.

  • Volunteers in Baghdad have joined the Iraqi army to fight against Sunni rebels [Reuters]
    The predominantly Sunni rebellion has threatened to dismember Iraq [Reuters] 
    Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters and other Sunni Muslim armed groups have stormed several towns on the road to Baghdad [Reuters] 
     
     

    1 of 3


  • US preparing to cooperate with Iran in Iraq: Wall Street Journal

    The US is preparing to launch direct talks with Iran on how to halt a Sunni insurgency that has seized a swathe of Iraq.

    According to The Wall Street Journal, the dialogue between the longime foes is set to begin next week.

    The White House, while declining to comment on the Journal's report, has not denied it.

    Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who has led back-channel negotiations with Iran, has traveled to Vienna, where he will join Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, the State Department has said.

    On Saturday, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani made a surprise announcement that Tehran would consider cooperating with Washington to fight Sunni fighters in Iraq.
    [AFP]
  • Sunni fighters capture northern Iraqi town

    The mayor and residents of a northern Iraqi town close to the Syrian border say Sunni fighters have captured the town of Tal Afar.

    Mayor Abdulal Abdoul told The Associated Press that his town, located 420km northwest of Baghdad, with a population of some 200,000 people, mostly ethnic Shia and Sunni Turkmen, was taken just before dawn on Monday.

    The fall of Tal Afar comes a week after militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant captured Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, and Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit in a lightening offensive.
    [Associated Press]
  • UN chief calls Iraq massacre 'disturbing'

    The UN chief has said the reports of scores of captured Iraqi soldiers being massacred is "deeply disturbing" and those responsible for it must be brought to justice.

    Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he welcomed the statement on the need for Iraqi unity made by Grand Ayatollah Sayed Ali Al-Sistani, who he said "represents a deeply influential voice of wisdom and reason."

    Fighters who overran cities and towns in Iraq last week have posted photos online that appear to show their gunmen massacring scores of captured Iraqi soldiers.
    [Associated Press]
  • An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the pro-ISIL website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows ISIL transporting dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members to an unknown location in the Salaheddin province ahead of executing them. [AFP]

  • Photos released of Iraq 'mass execution'

    Pictures posted online purport to show scores of captured government soldiers shot dead by ISIL fighters.
  • Qatar blames Maliki's 'exclusion' policies for unrest

    Qatar's foreign minister has blamed the "narrow" Shia sectarianism of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government for the lightning offensive made by Sunni rebels that now threaten to dismember Iraq.

    Khaled al-Attiyah told Al Jazeera "negative factors building up over a period of years" had contributed to the uprising.

    "(Baghdad has been) pursuing policies based on narrow factional interests, adopting marginalization and exclusion, ignoring peaceful sit-ins, dispersing them by force, using violence against them and describing opponents as terrorists," said Attiyah.

    Rebels have overrun a large chunk of northern and north-central Iraq, despite a government counter-offensive.
    [Reuters]
  • NATO calls for immediate release of Turks in Iraq

    NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called for the immediate release of Turkish diplomatic and security staff held by rebels in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

    Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) kidnapped 49 Turks, including special forces soldiers, diplomats and children, from the Turkish consulate on Wednesday as they overran Mosul. 

    "We follow the dangerous developments in Iraq with great concern. I condemn the unacceptable attack on the consulate general in Mosul," Rasmussen said during a visit to Ankara, standing beside Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

    "We want to see all of the Turkish hostages released and we want to see them safe," he said.

    Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said the hostages are unharmed and that all efforts are being made to secure their release, as well as a second group of 31 Turkish truck drivers also captured by ISIL last week.
    [Reuters]
  • According to reports on social media, the former commander of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Wolf brigade has been captured by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

    Muhammad Qureishi, nom de guerre Abu Walid, was captured in Tal Afar as Sunni rebels seized the city.

    The Wolf brigade has been accused of the torture and mass arrests of Sunnis across Iraq.


  • Kalak, Iraq | June 16, 2014. Hundreds of Iraqi residents crammed at a processing center in the blazing heat, many from Mosul trying to enter the semi-autonomous Kurdish region. They have to register at this checkpoint but many were complaining that they are being turned back. Other residents who arrived today from Mosul told us that #ISIL is consolidating it's grip on power forcing local vendors to reduce prices for basic foods and gas. They have removed many checkpoints in and around Mosul making people move more freely than when the Iraqi army controlled the city. One resident told me women can only appear in public if they are fully veiled. ISIL seems to be working on winning hearts and minds of local communities. One resident told me this is an "uprising and revolution" against a decade of sectarian and Iranian-led rule. No one we spoke to wanted US air strikes. #iraq #isil #isis
    by aymanm via Instagram

  • Iraqi Kurd PM in Iran for talks

    The Prime Minister of Iraq's Kurdistan Region Nechervan Barzani is in Tehran to hold talks with Iranian officials, media reported on Monday, amid efforts to thwart a Sunni rebellion north of Baghdad.

    The unannounced visit by Kurdistan premier Nechirvan Barzani comes after Iranian leaders pledged support for Iraq's central government against the rebels.

    Iran's Mehr news agency said Barzani would meet the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, to discuss "the recent developments in Iraq".
    [AFP]
  • Saudi Arabia blames "sectarian and exclusionary" policies for Iraq unrest

    Saudi Arabia has hit out at foreign interference in Iraq, after Sunni rebels seized broad swathes of the country.

    In a cabinet statement published on the official news agency SPA, Riyadh blamed the unfolding crisis on years of "sectarian and exclusionary" policies.

    It also urged the "quick formation of a national consensus government."
    [Reuters]
  • UK spoke to Iran over "regional role" in Iraq

    The UK has held talks with Iran over how the Middle East region should offer support to Iraq following the seizure of several towns in northern Iraq by Sunni rebels, Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman has said.

    Ahead of a statement to parliament by British Foreign secretary William Hague on Monday, the spokesman said Hague had spoken with his Iranian counterpart over the weekend to discuss the situation in Iraq and a range of other issues.

    "Is there a role in the region supporting the Iraqi government in trying, as much as possible, to take a broad based and inclusive approach going forward, and avoiding some of the risks of a sectarian approach...? Yes," Cameron's spokesman told reporters.

    Britain has stressed it is not seeking military involvement in Iraq, a country it helped the United States to invade in 2003, but has offered humanitarian support and to provide counter-terrorism advice to Iraqi authorities if needed.
    [Reuters]
  • US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the the Obama administration is willing to talk with Iran over security conditions in Iraq and is not ruling out potential US-Iranian military cooperation in stemming the advance of Sunni fighters. 

    Kerry also said that US drone strikes "may well" be an option, AP reported.

    However, he stressed that any contacts with Iran would move "step-by-step".

    US. officials said earlier there is a possibility that a senior US diplomat may discuss Iraq with an Iranian delegation at nuclear talks in Vienna.

  • Also from AP: US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde into the Persian Gulf as concern grows over ISIL's advancement toward Baghdad.

    Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that the Mesa Verde has already moved into the Gulf, joining the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and other US naval ships.

    Kirby says the ships' presence will give President Barack Obama "additional options to protect American citizens and interests in Iraq".

    The Pentagon says the Mesa Verde carries Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft that can be used for crisis response.
  • US prepares for possible Iraq air strikes - Patty Culhane reports from Washington

  • More from AFP on the US warship, Mesa Verde, that entered the Gulf on Monday:

    1. It is carrying 550 marines on board.
    2. Also carrying a MV-22 Osprey aircraft, capable of moving up to 22 marines at a time over long distances. 
    3. It followed the carrier USS George HW Bush, which entered the Gulf over the weekend with two warships armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles: the destroyer USS Truxton and the cruiser USS Philippines Sea.
  • Full statement by Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby

    Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde into the Arabian Gulf today. The ship has completed its transit through the Strait of Hormuz.

    It's presence in the Gulf adds to that of other US naval ships already there - including the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush - and provides the commander-in-chief additional options to protect American citizens and interests in Iraq, should he choose to use them.

    USS Mesa Verde is capable of conducting a variety of quick reaction and crisis response operations.  The ship carries a complement of MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

    USS Mesa Verde is part of the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, which departed Norfolk, Virginia, in February and is operating in the region on a routine deployment to support maritime security operations.

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