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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.

  • The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday it had recalled its ambassador to Iraq for "consultations", after Sunni rebels seized key cities and large swathes of countryside in a lightning offensive.

    The UAE foreign ministry in a statement also voiced "serious concern" about "exclusionary and sectarian policies that marginalise essential components of the Iraqi people," in reference to the Arab Sunni minority. [AFP]
  • Iraq has asked the United States to stage air attacks on Sunni rebels, a pan-Arab television service on Wednesday reported Iraq Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari as saying.

    A news alert on the Al Arabiya news channel quoted Zebari as saying: "We request the United States to launch air strikes against militants." [Reuters]

    General Martin Dempsey, the top US military commander, confirmed the request during a Senate Appropriations Defencse Subcommittee hearing.

    "We have a request from the Iraqi government for air power," said Dempsey.

  • Map: ISIL's path through Iraq

    Looking at the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant's (ISIL) offensive as the group claims cities across the country.
  • As President Barack Obama weighs options for potential US intervention in Iraq, the Pentagon has a broad range of ground, air and sea troops and assets in the region. 

    They include: Six warships in the Persian Gulf, including the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush, a cruiser, three destroyers and the amphibious transport ship the USS Mesa Verde, which is carrying about 550 Marines and five V-22 Osprey hybrid aircraft.

    About 5,000 US soldiers across the border in Kuwait, as part of a routine rotational presence. They include the 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, a combat aviation brigade and other support troops.

    Air Force aircraft capable of a full range of missions positioned within range of Iraq. According to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James they include F-15E, F-16 and F-22 fighters; B-1 bombers, C-130 cargo planes and A-10 attack jets.

    Intelligence gathering and surveillance assets, including drones, in the region. [AP]
  • Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a statement on Wednesday that 59 officers will be brought before court for fleeing their posts last week as Sunni rebels seized Mosul, northern Iraq's biggest city. 

    Maliki's military spokesman, Lieutenant General Qassim Atta, read the names of the officers on state television. [Reuters]
  • Australia says 150 nationals fighting in Syria and Iraq

    Australia's foreign minister has said around 150 Australians have fought with Sunni rebels in Syria and Iraq, raising government fears of a terrorist threat to Australia if the fighters return home.

    Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she had cancelled a number of passports on the advice of security agencies in a bid to reduce the security threat to Australia. 

    "Our best estimate is that there about 150 Australians ... who have been or are still fighting with opposition groups in Syria and beyond," Bishop told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

    "In Syria, it seems that over a period of time they have moved from supporting the more moderate opposition groups to the more extreme," she said, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the al-Qaeda splinter group leading Sunni rebels in Iraq. 

    "We are concerned that Australians are working with them, becoming radicalised, learning the terrorist trade and if they come back to Australia, of course it poses a security threat and we're doing what we can to identify them," Bishop said.
    [Associated Press]
  • Biden urges Iraqi leaders to unite against ISIL

    US Vice President, Joe Biden, has urged three key Iraqi leaders to unite against Sunni rebels led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and form an inclusive government after national elections on April 30. 

    The White House said Biden spoke separately with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as well as Maliki's Sunni rival, parliamentary speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, and the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani.
    "In each call, the vice president also stressed the need for national unity in responding to the ISIL threat against all Iraqi communities, for coordination on security issues going forward, and for moving forward with urgency in forming a new government under the constitution," the White House said in a statement about the phone calls.

  • Mehdi army fighters hold a military style training exercise in Baghdad [Reuters] 
    The Mehdi army is loyal to Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr [Reuters] 
    Shia fighters have vowed to protect holy shrines across Iraq [Reuters]

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  • 59 army and federal police officers to stand trial

    According to the military spokesman of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, 59 army and federal police officers are to stand trial for failing to carry out their duties.

    The officers, which includes high ranking military personnel, will face a court martial for the fall of areas to armed groups.
    [Al Jazeera]
  • 250 to 300 workers evacuated from Baiji oil refinery during truce 

    Between 250 and 300 workers trapped in Iraq's largest oil refinery at Baiji have been freed during a brief truce in fighting.

    According to one of the released workers, the fighting between the Iraqi military and Sunni rebels for control of the strategic facility stopped allowing them to leave. 

    The workers were escorted out according to an arrangement brokered by local sheiks for the employees to be taken out on buses, the released worker said.

    There had been 15,800 workers at the refinery and 100 foreign experts, most of whom had left by Tuesday when the plant was shut down by the government in anticipation of the attack. 
  • Iran's Supreme Ayatollah warns of "war in Muslim world" 

    A Twitter account believed to be run by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accused Sunni rebels of wanting to start a war in the Muslim world.

    A message posted in English on the account @khamenei_ir said such people wanted to foment distrust between Sunni and Shia Muslims, a goal they shared with "arrogant" powers, normally an Iranian codeword for the United States and its Western and Israeli allies.

    The message said: "Muslims should be aware of Takfiris and arrogant's common goal to create a war in Muslim world - both Shias and Sunnis should be vigilant."

    Takfiri's are Sunnis who proclaim followers of other sects of Islam to be infidels and therefore legitimate targets in war.
  • Turkish PM says US air strikes in Iraq could cause heavy casualties

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned US airstrikes in Iraq could lead to a high number of civilian deaths. 

    "There are ISIL elements which are mixed in with the people. Such an operation could result in a serious number of deaths among civilians," he said.
  • Saudi dismisses Iraq's allegations that it backs terrorism as "ludicrous"

    Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal says accusations by Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the Kingdom supports terrorism are "ludicrous". 

    Speaking to reporters in Jeddah, Faisal said the Kingdom had criminalised terrorism, especially that perpetrated by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and he advised Maliki to follow the policy pursued by the kingdom in eradicating terrorism.

  • US Secretary of State John Kerry says the US is focused on the people of Iraq, not Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.
  • US President Barack Obama has said his country will lead a diplomatic effort with Iraq and the regional leaders, but he would not get the US involved in the crisis militarily.

    "The United States will continue our support to Iraqi security forces. We are prepared to create joint operation centres in Baghdad and Northern Iraq to share intelligence and coordinate planning to confront the terrorist threat of ISIL," said Obama. 

    "We are prepared to send up to 300 military advisers to assess how we can best train and advise and support Iraqi security forces going forward," he said. 

    "American forces will not be returning combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take to fight terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region and American interests as well.

    Obama said it is not the place for the US to choose Iraq's leaders, but only leaders with an inclusive agenda can lead Iraq through the crisis.

    He also said that Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together for a political plan for Iraq's future.
  • Obama rules out US combat troops in Iraq.

  • The latest update from Al Jazeera's Imran Khan in Baghdad. 

    Iraqi security forces are in control of the oil refinery at Baiji after tribal sheikhs helped negotiate a rebel withdrawal.

    Sunni rebels from ISIL said they made a tactical withdrawal to the town of Baiji, which they control completely.

    Most of Iraq's oil production is concentrated in the south of the country around Basra, but if rebels capture the refinery they will be able to power Baiji and other towns under their control.

    For the latest updates from Iraq, follow Imran Khan on Twitter @ajimran .
  • French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said  that Iraq needed a government of national unity, with or without Shia Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, to counter a Sunni rebel insurgency.

    Faulting Maliki for failing to ensure a more inclusive form of government, Fabius said on Friday it was critical now to better involve Sunni moderates to avoid them siding with what he described as
     he "terrorist group" ISIL.

    Pressed in a media interview to say whether Maliki should form the broader-ranging government, which France advocated, Fabius replied: "With or withoutMaliki, but what Iraq needs is a government of national unity."

  • Al Jazeera's Imran Khan in Baghdad says the Iraqi government may have restricted internet access in the country.

    "The war on the internet continues here in Baghdad. Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter all seem to be out." Khan said.

    You can follow the latest updates from Imran Khan on Twitter @ajimran .
  • The spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiite majority has called for the creation of a new, "effective'' government, increasing pressure on the country's premier as an offensive by Sunni rebels rages on.

    The call Friday by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani contained thinly veiled criticism that Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in office since 2006, was to blame for the nation's crisis over the blitz by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. [AP]

  • Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle East politics and international relations at the London School of Economics, discusses the Iraq crisis, putting US President Barack Obama's stand in context.

  • A general view shows damaged houses in the city of Ramadi on June 19 [Reuters] 
    Drivers wait in a queue to buy petrol for their vehicles at a petrol station in Erbil on June 19 [AP] 
    Iraqi men line up at the main army recruiting centre to volunteer for military service in Baghdad on June 20 [AP] 
    Volunteers in the newly formed "Peace Brigades", who protect Shia holy shrines against possible attacks by Sunni rebels, participate in a parade near the Imam Ali shrine in the southern holy Shia city of Najaf on June 19 [AP] 

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  • In Baghdad's Modha Al Shawi mosque, Sunni and Shia worshippers pray together. But as the country's sectarian turmoil continues, many Sunni worshippers are concerned about what the future might hold. Al Jazeera's Imran Khan reports from Baghdad.

  • Volunteers man hot line to help Iraqi immigrants cope 

    A sobbing businessman in his 30s called a hotline set up by his fellow Iraqi immigrants, desperate to talk to someone after fearing his father was the man he saw in an online news video of a beheading in northern Iraq.

    Another call came in from a mother who was inconsolable after not hearing from her son and daughter-in-law who had a baby a year ago in the besieged city of Mosul.

    The anguish caused by the violence far away fills the business office in San Diego where volunteers man the hotline to help Iraqi immigrants cope. [AP]
  • President Barack Obama's plan to send military advisers to Iraq to help Baghdad counter Sunni rebels shows the United States is not serious about fighting terrorism, an Iranian official said on Friday.

    Amir Abdollahian, Iran's deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, was quoted by Iranian official IRNA news agency:
    Obama's recent remarks showed that the White House lacks serious will for confronting terrorism in Iraq and the region. 
  • Sectarian tensions set stage for Iraq conflict, Obama says 

    Iraq's conflict is the result of sectarian divisions that have been allowed to fester, and it is up to Iraq's people and leaders to resolve those differences, US President Barack Obama said on Friday.

    In excerpts of longer interviews on several television networks, the president sought to place responsibility for holding off the threat posed by the ISIL, which has seized areas in the north of the country, and emphasised that US support would be limited and conditional.

    Obama suggested that failure to acknowledge minority concerns coupled with uncertainty in forming a government after elections in April had left Iraq vulnerable.

    "Some of the forces that have always possibly pulled Iraq apart are stronger now, (and) those forces that could keep the country united are weaker," he told NBC Nightly News. 

    "It is ultimately going to be up to the Iraqi leadership to try to pull the politics of the country back together again."

  • Rebels seize Syria border crossing

    Iraqi security officials say Sunni rebels have seized a Syrian border crossing after killing about 30 Iraqi troops in a day of clashes.

    The officials said Saturday that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and allied fighters seized the crossing near the border town of Qaim, about 320kms west of Baghdad, after battling Iraqi troops throughout the previous day. [AP]

  • Thousands of fighters loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr have rallied across Iraq in a show of force against Sunni rebels. The biggest event was in Baghdad.

    Al Jazeera's Imran Khan was there.

    by Shafik.Mandhai via YouTube edited by Barry Malone 6/21/2014 8:19:04 AM
  • Al Jazeera gives a brief overview of armed Shia groups in Iraq.

  • Thousands of fighters have taken part in rallies across Iraq vowing to defend the Iraqi capital Baghdad and Shia religious sites. They were responding to a call by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to turn out in a show of force. Read Al Jazeera's full report here.

  • For the latest on Iraq from Al Jazeera's team on the ground, you can follow Hoda Abdel-Hamid on Twitter @HodaAH and Imran Khan @ajimran .

    You can also watch our live coverage on Iraq and all our top stories here.

  • Thousands of Shia Muslims have rallied across Iraq vowing to protect the Iraqi capital Baghdad and their religious sites. [AFP]
    by Shafik.Mandhai
    Shia religious leader Moqtada al-Sadr called for a show of force in response to the Sunni rebellion led by ISIS. [AFP]
    by Shafik.Mandhai
    There have been fears about the reemergence of the Mahdi Army, which was involved in Iraq's sectarian conflict between 2006 and 2008. [AFP]
    by Shafik.Mandhai

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  • Local sources have told Al Jazeera's Imran Khan in Baghdad that Sunni rebels have captured Iraq's largest oil refinery.

    An unknown number of Iraqi soldiers are believed to have been taken prisoner after clashes at Baiji refinery, north of Tikrit.

    [Al Jazeera]
  • #iraq. Army spokesman denies that Beiji refinery is under armed group control
  • The mayor of a town northwest of Baghdad has said that it has fallen into the hands of ISIL fighters, the second to be captured by fighters in the mainly Sunni Anbar province.

    Mayor Hussein AIi al-Aujail said the local army and police force in Rawah pulled out when the fighters took control.

    He said government offices in the town, along the Euphrates river 275 kilometres northwest of Baghdad, were being sacked by the fighters.

    The fall of Rawah, and the border town of Qaim on Friday, appears to be part of a new offensive. 

  • The Beiji refinery was reportedly taken over by ISIL rebels last night but the army denied those reports today.

  • Here's an overview of the different Shia groups in Iraq

  • Al Jazeera's Omar al-Saleh reports that three staffers at the Beiji refinery told him that the refinery was under full control of rebel fighters. 

    However, the government continues to refutes this information.
  • A police source has told Al Jazeera that nine people were killed when IED's were detonated in different parts of Baghdad's Shia-populated neighbourhoods.

    In Rustomiyah, south Baghdad, two civilians were killed and six were wounded. 
    In Habibiyah, north Baghdad, two civilians were killed four were wounded.
    In Sadr, north Baghdad, one person was killed and seven injured when an IED went off at a marketplace.
    Another IED was detonated in a marketplace in Zafaraniyah, south Baghdad, killing four and injuring seven.

    Our correspondents Imran Khan and Omar al-Saleh are on the ground - watch Al Jazeera's live stream here
  • From our interactives section: Take a look at ISIL's path as the group claims cities across the country. 

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