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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.

  • Analysis of photographs and satellite imagery strongly indicates that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levante (ISIL) conducted mass executions in Tikrit after seizing control of the city on June 11, 2014, Human Rights Watch has said.

    The report states that the analysis suggests that ISIS killed between 160 and 190 men in at least two locations between June 11 and 14. 

    The number of victims may well be much higher, but the difficulty of locating bodies and accessing the area has prevented a full investigation, Human Rights Watch said in the statement on Friday. 

  • Dozens of Chinese workers have been relocated from strife-torn northern Iraq, state media said on Friday, with an additional 1,200 set to depart in the coming days.

    More than 50 China Machinery Engineering Corp (CMEC) workers arrived in Baghdad by helicopter from northern Iraq on Wednesday night, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported.

    Another 1,200 trapped in the northern city of Samarra will arrive in Baghdad by bus "within three days", the report added. [AFP]
  • Mapping out Iraq's fighting groups

    If you have the time, please take a few good minutes to read Al Jazeera's synopsis of the various fighters in Iraq grouped by religion, culture, region, and political agendas. 
    by Tamila Varshalomidze edited by Graeme Baker 6/27/2014 5:35:01 AM
  • The Iraqi government released a video on June 26, saying it shows Iraqi troops back in control of the Baiji oil refinery.

    by Tamila Varshalomidze via YouTube edited by Graeme Baker 6/27/2014 5:36:35 AM
  • Sunni rebels executed 160 captives - rights group
    Human Rights Watch says Iraqi rebel fighters executed at least 
    160 captives earlier this month, based on an analysis of satellite imagery and photos released by the rebels.

    The US-based rights group said Friday that militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant killed between 160 and 190 men in two locations in Tikrit between June 11 and June 14.

    "The number of victims may well be 
    much higher, but the difficulty of locating bodies and accessing the area has prevented a full investigation,'' it said.

    "After overrunning large swaths of northern Iraq and capturing the cities of Mosul and Tikrit earlier this month, the Islamic extremist group posted graphic photos on a militant website that appeared to how  fighters massacring scores of captured Iraqi soldiers."


    Social media accounts sympathetic with ISIL originally stated up to 1,700 captives had been executed. Those figures were never verified.
  • According to the Storyful news service, this video shows damage in Baiji town, apparently caused by Iraqi airstrikes. It was uploaded on June 24.

  • This video shows further damage in the town of Baiji, which is still under ISIL control.

  • Shia leader calls for government resolution


    Iraq's top Shia cleric has called on the nation's political blocs to agree on the next prime minister before the newly elected parliament sits on Tuesday.

    The Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani also wants them to agree on the next parliament speaker and the president before the legislature's inaugural session.

    A cleric representing Sistani told worshippers on Friday in the holy city of Karbala that selecting the three before parliament meets would be a "prelude to the political solution that everyone seeks at the present.''

    The call comes days after the prominent Shia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, called for "new faces" to form an emergency government.
  • The Iraqi army has launched an assault on the Sunni rebel-held town of Tikrit, a day after releasing video footage of soldiers in control of a strategic northern oil refinery. Exclusive video obtained on Friday by Al Jazeera shows damage inside Tikrit after reports of Iraqi military helicopters flying commandos into the town on Thursday. A fixed-wing aircraft was also recorded flying over the town

    You can read the full story here:

    by Tamila Varshalomidze via YouTube edited by Graeme Baker 6/27/2014 10:42:51 AM
  • Iraq's Barzani says Kurdish self-rule in Kirkuk to stay

    The President of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq has issued a defiant statement to Baghdad that there was no going back on autonomous Kurdish rule in the oil city Kirkuk.

    Speaking at a joint news conference with visiting British Foreign Secretary  William Hague, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Massoud Barzani said: "We have been patient for 10 years with the federal government to solve the problems of these (disputed) areas.

    "Now, this (issue)... is achieved," he said, referring to a constitutional article meant to address the Kurds' decades-old ambition to incorporate the territory in their autonomous region in the north over the objections of successive governments in Baghdad.

    Kurdish forces stepped in when federal government forces withdrew in the face of a Sunni rebel offensive earlier this month.

    "There were Iraqi forces in these areas, and then there was a security vacuum, and (Kurdish) peshmerga forces went to fill this vacuum."
  • US flying armed drones over Baghdad

    The US military is flying "a few" armed drones over Baghdad to defend American troops and diplomats in the Iraqi capital.

    A Pentagon official told the AFP news agency the US had started the missions to protect US civilians and military forces.

    "For the last 24 to 48 hours, we've started that," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

    The official stressed President Barack Obama has still not authorised airstrikes against Sunni rebels who have been over-running territory in other parts of the country.

  • Mattresses laid out on the basketball court at The Ainkawa School for Girls in Erbil where some 450 Iraqis from the Christian village of Qarakosh have sought shelter after fighting between ISIL militants and Peshmerga forces saw them flee. Andrew Quilty | Oculi | NOT ON ASSIGNMENT. 27.6.2014 #iraq #kurdistan #school #idp #refugees #basketball #bed #home #isil #isis #peshmerga
    by andrewquilty via Instagram

  • Around two thousand Iraqi Christians have entered the Kurdish city of Erbil, fleeing fighting in and around the city of Mosul [Reuters] 
    An estimated 500,000 people have fled their homes in the north after fighting started earlier this month [Reuters]
    An ISIL offensive against Christian villages in the north of the country on Wednesday sent thousands seeking sanctuary in the Kurdish enclave.  

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  • Iraqi military battles for control of Tikrit
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube

    The Iraqi army has launched an assault on the Sunni rebel-held town of Tikrit, a day after releasing video footage of soldiers in control of a strategic northern oil refinery. 

    Exclusive video obtained by Al Jazeera shows damage inside Tikrit after reports of Iraqi military helicopters flying commandos into the town on Thursday. 

    Al Jazeera's Imran Khan reports from Baghdad.
  • Iraq's Kurds rule out retreating from Kirkuk

    Massoud Barzani says ambition of incorporating city "achieved", amid growing calls for inclusive government in Baghdad.
  • Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has said political blocs should agree on the next  prime minister, parliament speaker, and president before a newly elected legislature meets on Tuesday.

  • China's state media say more than 1,200 of its workers who had been trapped in the embattled northern Iraqi city of Samarra have been evacuated to Baghdad.

    The official Xinhua news agency says the Chinese arrived safely at a Baghdad hotel, with the Iraqi military providing security.

    Saturday's report said that China Machinery Engineering Corporation employed the workers at a power plant construction site in Samarra, near where security forces are battling militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

    The report didn't specify who evacuated the workers but said 45 were transported by helicopter on Wednesday, with the rest arriving in two separate groups by bus over the next two days.

    More than 10,000 Chinese are in Iraq, many of them employees with Chinese firms. [AP]
  • Here are our top stories from Iraq this morning:

    • Witnesses say hundreds of civilians are fleeing Tikri and Baiji to Erbil, Kirkuk, and even Mosul, to escape strikes by army helicopters.
    • No casualties reported after airstrikes in Mosul.
    • Peshmerga forces have been reinforcing their positions outside Erbil to protect the city from Sunni rebels.
    • The head of the Shia Asaib al-Haq armed group, Qais al-Khazalee, has hit out at statements by Kurdish leaders that Kirkuk falls within the territory of the of the Kurdistan Regional Government. He said the city was "not only for the Kurds but for all Iraqis".
    For the latest, follow our journalists on the ground in Iraq, Hoda Abdel-Hamid and Imran Khan, on Twitter.

  • Al Jazeera looks back on the decade since the US handed political power back to Iraqis in 2004.

  • A report by rights group Amnesty International on Friday says there is evidence Iraqi government forces and Shia armed groups executed Sunni prisoners before withdrawing from their positions.

    Surviving detainees said Iraqi soldiers had carried out a series of "vengeful" attacks against Sunnis before ISIL-led rebels captured Mosul and Tal Afar.

    Relatives of the victims and survivors told Amnesty that 50 Sunni Muslim detainees were executed in the building of the Anti-Terrorism Agency in Tal Afar on the night of June 15.

    One man who escaped the attack said soldiers entered the room where he was being held and opened fire on the prisoners using assault rifles and machine guns, killing 46 people.

    Amnesty International said the killings suggested a  "worrying pattern of reprisal attacks against Sunnis in retaliation for ISIS gains.” 

    [Al Jazeera]

  • Iraqi forces have launched a large operation to retake Tikrit from ISIL. Read more here.

  • Jessica Lewis of the Institute for the Study of War analyses ISIL's future strategies after its rapid gains in Iraq this month.

    The presence of the last indicates that the ISIS likely possesses a cadre of former Saddam-era military officers who know the military terrain in Iraq as their own. The military campaign design exhibited by ISIS over the last two years bears the signature of multiple commanders, though successive campaigns in Iraq have consistently demonstrated scope, distribution, deception, and timing as overarching strategic characteristics

    Read the rest of the article here.
  • Al Jazeera's Imran Khan with the latest on the Iraqi army's offensive against Sunni rebels in Tikrit.

  • Al Jazeera's Imran Khan in Baghdad has spoken to army sources who dispute Iraqi state TV reports that say Iraqi forces are in control of government building in Tikrit.

    The army officers said that Iraqi troops were involved in heavy clashes on the outskirts of Tikrit but had not entered the city.

    Get the latest from Imran on Twitter @ajimran .
  • Saad Jawad, a professor of political science and senior fellow of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics, talks to Al Jazeera about the situation in Iraq.

    by Shafik.Mandhai via YouTube edited by Graeme Baker 6/28/2014 11:33:02 AM
  • Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has pledged in talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry to use his influence to encourage Sunni Muslims to join a new, more inclusive Iraqi government to better combat rebels, a senior US official said on Saturday.

    After a week of frenetic diplomacy by Kerry tackling the threat of Iraq's disintegration, Abdullah's assurance marked a significant shift from Riyadh's insistence on the removal of Nour al-Maliki.

    The US official said the Saudi monarch voiced deep concern to Kerry about ISIL. 

    "It was clear that the two shared a view that all of Iraq's community should be participating on an urgent basis in the political process to allow it to move forward, and that each - both the Secretary and King Abdullah in their conversations with Iraqi leaders - would convey that message directly to them," the US State Department told the Associated Press.

    Until now Saudi Arabia had been unwilling to support the formation of a new government unless Maliki, accused by critics of a sectarian agenda dedicated to Shi'ite supremacy over Sunnis, stepped aside and does not seek a third term. 

    King Abdullah, however, made clear that the kingdom "was not in any way interfering inside Iraq's politics." 

    "That doesn't mean they don't have conversations with - and relationships with - Iraqi political leaders..."

    The senior State Department official was cautious about whether the new government would be formed by then.

    "It would be an extremely positive development if we got there. I don't think it's impossible, but it's also Iraq," said the official, noting that "a large number of deadlines for various steps and various political processes, and only a small number that were actually met."

  • REPOST: Iraq ten years since US ceded control. 

    Dominic Kane looks back at the decade since Iraqi leaders started to assume control and responsibility for their own affairs. 

    Iraq ten years on from mission accomplished
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube

  • The Indian government has received fresh information about the abducted citizens in Iraq and they were working on it to secure their release soon, said Syed Akbaruddin, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson, on Saturday.

    Forty Indian builders, who were captured when Iraq's second largest city Mosul fell to Sunni fighters, remain unharmed so far, Reuters news agency reported.

    "Those Indians remain in captivity. Yet, we have additional information received today that they remain unharmed and there are some leads provided. We are working on that," said Akbaruddin in New Delhi.

    "In the next 48 to 72 hours, we expect to double the number of officials who will be available in the roving capacity to assist any Indian national for each of these things - a) in case they have any problem with travel documentation, in case they have any problem with contractual obligation, if they have to move out, and finally in case they have any problem with acquisition of air tickets," Akbaruddin added.

    About 10,000 Indian nationals work in Iraq, mostly in areas unaffected by the fighting between ISIL and the national army. About 100 Indian workers are trapped in areas overrun by ISIL.
    by Rahul Radhakrishnan edited by Graeme Baker 6/28/2014 1:53:24 PM

  • Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday there was no Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq, just a war between supporters and opponents of terrorism.
    Khamenei said the United States and the Western countries were using the conflict in Iraq as propaganda against the Muslim world.
    "This is what they wish, they dream of a religious war. Today, there is no Shia-Sunni war. It is a war between terrorism and opponents of terrorism. It is a war between those who support the objectives of the US and the West and those who advocate the independence of Muslim nations."
    Last week, Khamenei said he was against US intervention in Iraq, insisting that Iraq's government and its people, with help of top clerics, would be able to end the "sedition" in the neighbouring country.
    Khamenei wants Maliki to remain in his post, at least for now, according to several senior Iraqi Shia politicians, the Associated Press reported.
    by Rahul Radhakrishnan edited by Graeme Baker 6/28/2014 2:28:09 PM

  • Clashes between security forces and fighters near Baghdad have killed
    20 security personnel on Saturday, an
    army officer and doctors told AFP news agency.

    The fighting in three areas southwest of Baghdad also wounded 22 members of the
    security forces.

  • The battle for Tikrit is under way right now. 

    The army claims that they have recaptured the city but pro-ISIL social media accounts suggest that the fighting is ongoing. Rebels took the city on June 11th.

    The conflict is now focused on Tikrit. Iraqi troops have focused operations around the area including Samarra and says it has recaptured the highway from Baghdad to Samarra. 

    Follow our correspondent Imran Khan on Twitter for the latest updates from the country. 

    Watch his reports on our online live stream here

    by Rahul Radhakrishnan edited by Graeme Baker 6/28/2014 3:28:15 PM
  • Ayad al-Qazzaz, a professor of sociology at the California State University discusses the US role as the Iraqi government struggles to keep the country together.

    by Rahul Radhakrishnan edited by Graeme Baker 6/28/2014 3:42:38 PM
  • This video, uploaded on June 27, shows a convoy of armoured vehicles driven by ISIL fighters in Mosul. The convoy includes APCs, artillery pieces and mounted heavy machine guns. The convoy stretches for quite a distance.

  • Zaid al-Ali is an Iraqi author and former UN adviser. He discusses the politics at play in Iraq.

    by Rahul Radhakrishnan edited by Graeme Baker 6/28/2014 4:21:33 PM

  • Human Rights Watch earlier this week said it had verifiable evidence that Sunni rebels had executed Shia prisoners.
    This interactive website includes the evidence the rights group was able to source and interpret under difficult conditions. Please be aware that you may find some of the pictures on this website disturbing.

  • What do the Iraqi Sunnis want? Zaid al-Ali tells Al Jazeera that Iraq is a victim of intolerant armed groups and inaction of the central government. 

  • UPDATE from the Associated Press: Iraqi officials say heavy clashes between security forces and Sunni fighters have killed at least 21 troops south of Baghdad.

    Police officials say the fighting raged for hours Saturday near the town of Jurf al-Sakhar, some 50 kilometres south of the capital. The town is part of a predominantly Sunni ribbon that runs just south of Baghdad.

    The officials say dozens of fighters were killed and several captured during the fighting.

    Hospital officials confirmed the government forces' casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were authorised to brief the media.
  • How much influence does the House of Saud hold over its neighbour? And how can it be influenced?

    Imran Khan filed a blog post from Baghdad. Read more here.

  • Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, in a Ramadan message on Saturday, vowed to crush fighters threatening the kingdom, the state news agency reported, saying Riyadh would not tolerate "a band of terrorists".

    The remarks came two days after the monarch ordered all necessary measures to protect the country against potential "terrorist threats" resulting from turmoil in neighbouring Iraq.

    "We will not let a band of terrorists who have taken religion as a disguise behind which they hide private interests to terrorise the protected Muslims, to touch our homeland or any of its sons or its protected residents," King Abdullah said in a message at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

    Saudi Arabia crushed al-Qaeda after the group began a campaign of bombings and attacks on vital installations and expatriate compounds in the kingdom.


  • Iraq receives Russian-made jets

    The Iraqi government has received the first delivery of Russian-made fighter planes it hopes will turn the tide against Sunni rebels who have seized large parts of the country.

    Iraqi security officials confirmed five Sukhoi jets, which were purchased second-hand from Russia, had arrived in Baghdad on Saturday.

    Pictures released by the defence ministry show the jets taxiing on a runway towards a hangar.

    The planes are expected to bolster efforts by the Iraqi armed forces to retake territory seized by Sunni rebels led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant earlier in June.

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