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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.

  • India's Indian Express newspaper reports that a Delhi-based group, which claims to be managing "the largest number of Shia properties" in the city, has offered to fly in 100,000 volunteers to Iraq and its neighbouring countries to protect Shia shrines.

    This report comes just days after Dean Nelson, of Britain's The Telegraph newspaper, reported that more than 25,000 India Shia Muslims from the group called Anjuman-e-Haidery, are on standby after filling in forms and giving up their passports.

    There are more than 50 million Shia Muslims in India.
  • What are some Baghdad residents saying about ISIL's announcement? Here's what some of them told Reuters in Baghdad.

    They are disillusioned. Iraq has many sects and ethnic groups, therefore, we, as Iraqis and as an Iraqi people, we reject this speech and we neither recognise the Islamic State of Iraq, nor the pledge of allegiance to the so-called Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. I think that this declaration will turn out to be merely a flash in the pan, God willing because the world is a civilised one and the countries are developed and such behaviour and the announcement [of the caliphate] is a step backward"

    -- Amir al-Shimari, resident.

    This announcement is meant to break the morale of the Iraqi people, but our past record testifies to our bravery including al-Qadissiya (the Iraq-Iran war) and others. They know very well the Iraqi man. I am sure that all the problems will be settled on the first of July and that people of the areas who opened their arms and received them would cast them away"

    -- Mahdi Nouri, resident

    "This is their dream, but they will never realise it and Iraq will remain for the Iraqis and there will be no more Sunnis and Shias and we are all Iraqis."

    -- Jaafar Saadi, resident.

  • Kurd security fears over sunni-led rebel push
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube

    Iraq's Kurds fear that the Sunni rebels' plan to push into their region in the north of the country.

    Over recent days, Kurdish forces have been tightening their defences. 

    Watch this report by Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr.

  • ISIL uses social media to establish their organisation.

    Last week, Al Jazeera's Listening Post, looked into how they are dispersing information and how the Iraqi media, as well as global media are reporting on the story. 

    Listening Post - ISIS in Iraq: The image of an insurgency
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube
  • AFP has quoted the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius as saying that ISIL rebels have sold oil from captured areas in Iraq to the Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria. 

    Fabius said the sale was evidence of the "confusing nature" of the escalating conflict, adding that France has proof of the sale.

     He said that the situation in Iraq is "very, very, very worrying". 

    "Why? Because it is probably the first time that a terrorist group -- and a ferocious terrorist group -- is in a position, if there is no reaction, to take over the whole country, and a rich country, with enormous consequences for the region and the world," he said.
  • My colleague, Shafik Mandhai, is a graduate in Islamic Studies. He wrote some background and analysis on what kind of caliphate the Islamic State group thinks it is creating, and whether it will be accepted, which I am reposting below: 

    The caliphate is an emotive issue for many Sunni Muslims. Abolished with the Ottoman Empire in 1924, its return has been a key aim for armed groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL.

    But it’s not the Ottomans the Islamic State wants back.

    Fighters under the command of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, or "Caliph Ibrahim", want to re-establish the Rashidun caliphate, which succeeded the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century.

    The caliph served a dual role as religious and political head of the Islamic nation, or "Ummah", a position that does not currently exist except for those who have heeded Baghdadi’s call for "Bayah" or allegiance from all Muslims.

    The Rashidun caliphate, unlike all those that followed it, had near-universal allegiance from the Muslim community, something the Islamic State cannot claim to enjoy. However, its supporters can still find parallels.

    Supporters of Baghdadi will point to his organisation’s fierce literal interpretation of Islam, which they say accurately reflects the rule of the early caliphs. 

    Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's leader 
    Baghdadi, they say, also meets the theological requirements for leading the Ummah, including descent from the Prophet's Quraish tribe.

    It’s likely the Islamic State and its supporters will also find precedent in the historical conquests of the Rashidun caliphate - rapid military conquests against a better equipped enemy.

    The rapid spread of Islam in the 7th century is something the Islamic State clearly intends to emulate, and their fighters will no doubt have been buoyed by their recent gains in Iraq.

    Where the Islamic State’s bid to establish a caliphate begins to falter is acceptance from other Muslims. 

    It has even earned the rebuke of al-Qaeda's core leadership, including Ayman al-Zawahiri, over its brutality against prisoners and its repressive implementation and interpretation of Islamic teachings.

    The Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s primary affiliate in Syria, has been battling the Islamic State since an unsuccessful attempt by Baghdadi to forcibly merge the groups in 2012.

    Whether Baghdadi’s caliphate will gain legitimacy among others who wish to establish it will depend on whether al-Qaeda’s affiliates in North Africa, Somalia and Yemen break ranks with its central command.

    There also remains the important matter of withstanding offensives by the Syrian and Iraqi regimes, rival Syrian rebels, and possible Western intervention.

  • Our correspondent Imran Khan writes that the declaration by the armed group formerly known as ISIL should come as no surprise because its ambition has always been bold. But its significance is yet to unfold. 

  • Hussein Mansour, the commander of the Peshmerga forces in Khanaqin, has told Al Jazeera that fighting is ongoing in ​​Jalawla town of  Diyala province. 

    He added that the control of the ISIL and armed tribal gunmen over Saadiya town in Diyala was due to the failure of Iraqi army to protect the area. 

  • State-owned Iraqiya TV just announced that "terrorists launched six mortar rounds that landed inside al-Askari shrine in Samarra".

    The shrine is considered one of the most holiest Shia sites in the world, located in the predominantly Sunni city, about 100 km north of Baghdad.

    In February 2006, an attack on the shrine in Samarra destroyed its dome triggering the 2006-2007 sectarian conflict.

  • Nearly 2,000 people were killed in Iraq this month, the highest figure since May 2007, according to government figures released on Monday.

    Figures compiled by the ministries of health, interior and defence showed that a total of 1,922 people died in June - 1,393 civilians, 380 soldiers and 149 policemen.

    A further 2,610 people were wounded, the figures showed, including 1,745 civilians, 644 soldiers and 221 policemen, AFP reported.
    by Rahul Radhakrishnan edited by Graeme Baker 6/30/2014 8:36:38 PM
  • The US is increasing its military presence in Iraq, deploying around 300 additional troops as well as helicopters and drone aircraft in response security concerns in Baghdad, officials said on Monday.

    The decision announced by the Pentagon puts US military personnel in a security role at Baghdad International Airport in the face of advances ISIL, three years after America's military withdrawal.

    As speculation swirls about whether President Obama might authorise US air strikes, a US defence official said the moves were primarily focused protection of American on personnel in Iraq, including civilians.

  • Newly elected Iraqi politicians convene on Tuesday, Reuters reports, under pressure to name a unity government to keep the country from splitting apart after an onslaught by ISIL who have declared a "caliphate" to rule over all the world's Muslims.

    The meeting of the new legislature in Baghdad's fortified "green zone" could spell the end of the eight-year rule of Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, with critics determined to unseat him and even some allies saying he may need to be replaced by a less polarising figure.
  • Good morning from Doha. Today in Iraq politicians are due to discuss the formation of a new government, in an effort to counter the expansion of the Islamic State.

    Meanwhile, the Islamic State continues to exist, in name at least, following its announcement of a caliphate late on Sunday. Here's a video, translated into English, of members of the group's vice police touring areas of Syria under their control.

    The officers visit a market, telling stall keepers to go to prayer. They also find a consignment of cannabis, and then raid the home of what they call a "sorcerer".

  • A video I posted yesterday had a fighter, identified as "Abu Safiyya of Chile", saying that the Islamic State would take all equipment that the US gave the Iraqi army.

    In these videos, the Islamic State shows off a tank, a few APCs, a Scud missile and M198 howitzers, referred to as "spoils of war," which they claim to have captured from the Iraqi army in Mosul.

  • Thousands killed in June

    The UN says at least 2,417 people were killed 
    in Iraq in June in acts of violence, making it the deadliest month so far in the country this year.

    The toll includes 1,531 civilians and 886 members of Iraq's security forces.

    It said another 2,287 Iraqis were wounded. The 
    the toll does not take into account casualties in Anbar, a province largely controlled by Sunni rebels.

    Even so, that figure is higher than Iraq government figures released yesterday.
  • Regarding the Scud missile, Eliot Higgins, known as the blogger Brown Moses, has found a video of what he says is the same missile in 2012, while it was controlled by the Free Syrian Army.

    Charles Lister, a Syria expert at the Brookings Doha Centre: "99 per cent useless".

  • Several groups and committees in Syria including members of the Islamic Front - Jaish Al Mujahidin, Ajnad Sham and the Mujahidin shura council - issued a statement regarding the Islamic State's declaration of a new caliphate.

    The statement said:

    * the declaration is void mentally and legally.

    * it seeks to divide Muslim countries.

    * international and regional powers will take advantage of this declaration to directly intervene
    for their interests.

    * Syrian regime will gain legitimacy due to this declaration

    The statement added that the Islamic State was trying to hide its crimes and reality by establishing Islamic state. The fighting groups in Syria would not change their attitude towards the Islamic State and would keep fighting it.

    Link here, but it's in Arabic.  

  • Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, says the Iraqi parliament has begun its session.

  • Al Jazeera America's Jane Arraf, who is in Baghdad, tweets that the session has become a little heated after what she says was a promising start.

  • This video shows Islamic State fighters blowing up a Sufi shrine in Mosul due to idolatry. It was posted on June 22

    [Update, 2/7] Since we posted this, it has transpired that the description on the YouTube video, which we used in the text above, was wrong. 

    The clip was originally posted on an Islamic State-affiliated YouTube account on February 22.  It shows fighters destroying a shrine in Syria, not Iraq. 

    Apologies for any confusion. 
  • Iraq's parliament has hit the first of probably many bumps.

    Reuters - The acting speaker of Iraq's newly elected parliament said no agreement had been reached on naming a new speaker and that the parliament now had no quorum.

    Politicians had taken a recess to discuss candidates for a speaker, who has traditionally been Sunni Muslim, as well as two deputies who are Shi'ite and Kurdish.

    Parliament convened with 255 deputies out of 328, but only 75 returned after the recess.

    "No agreement has been made on the speaker," acting speaker Mehdi al-Hafidh told MPs. "We have a lack of quorum and lack of agreement on the names."
  • An Islamic State-related Twitter account has announced that it will be posting a statement from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi shortly.

  • "We will go to Iraq come what may to defend our holy shrines, protect civilians from the ISIL brutes and treat the wounded. This is purely a humanitarian effort. The volunteers include Shias and Sunnis both. They are doctors, engineers and civil servants," M Ali Mirza, the chief patron of Anjuman-e-Haideri, a top Shia group in India said.

    The group claims it already has 25,000 volunteers and floats tender for flights to Baghdad. 

  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL, which now calls itself the Islamic State, alled on Muslims with military, medical and managerial skills to immigrate to its newly-declared Islamic state, in an audio recording released Tuesday.

    Baghdadi named a string of countries, from Central African Republic to Myanmar (Burma), where he said violations were being committed against Muslims, Reuters reported.

    "Your brothers, on every piece of this earth, are waiting for you to rescue them," he said.

    "By Allah, we will take revenge, by Allah we will take revenge, even if after a while," he said in the message that came on the third day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Fighters should "embrace the chance and champion Allah's religion through jihad", Baghdadi said.

  • Kurdish Peshmerga fighters play a crucial role in fighting off rebels by defending their territory in northern Iraq.

    Watch Zeina Khodr's report from Taza, south of Kirkuk.
    Kurdish fighters key in fight against rebels
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube

  • Here's an explainer video from AJ+ Labs on ISIL, which they posted early last month. 

    ISIS (aka ISIL) Explained
    by AJ+ Labs via YouTube

    Note that ISIL has since changed their name to the "Islamic State" and declared an Islamic Caliphate between Diyala in Iraq to Aleppo in Syria. 
  • This video, posted by the Iraqi Ministry of Defence on YouTube, alleges to show Russian Sukhoi-25 warplanes being operated by Iraqi pilots in Baghdad.

    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of this video.

    وصول الوجبة الثانية من طائرات السوخوي الى الاراضي العراقية
    by Iraqi Mod via YouTube

  • What is Baghdadi's vision of a new caliphate?

  • How much of a challenge is the Islamic State to Iraq, Gulf Arab states, the West and al-Qaeda itself?

    Watch the discussion on Al Jazeera's Inside Story.

  • Iraq is increasingly turning to other governments like Iran, Russia and Syria to help beat back a rampant insurgency because it cannot wait for additional American military aid, Baghdad's top envoy to the US said on Tuesday.

    Such an alliance could test the Obama administration's influence overseas and raise risks for the US as some of its main global opponents consider joining forces. 

    Moreover, such a partnership could also solidify a Shia-led crescent across much of the Mideast at a time when the Sunni-led insurgency in Iraq is trying to create an Islamic state through the region.

    Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily stopped short of describing enduring military relationships with any of the other nations that are offering to help Iraq fight ISIL. 

    And he said Baghdad would prefer to work with the US.

    But Faily said delays in US aid have forced Iraq to seek help elsewhere. 


  • This picture posted by an Islamic State activist shows protests in Basra after reported clashes in Karbala between the Iraqi army and Shia cleric, Sarikhi Hasani, who opposes its operations against Sunni rebels.

  • Clashes between Iraqi security forces and an outspoken Shia cleric have killed dozens in the Iraqi city of Karbala.

    Al Jazeera's Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, said supporters of Sarkhi Hasani were marching towards a Shia shrine to protest against the government's offensive against Sunni rebels.

    Security forces are believed to have opened fire on the protesters, killing about 25.

    Hasani is a prominent critic of Iraq's Shia Muslim establishment because of its alleged Iranian influence.

    [Al Jazeera]

    by Shafik.Mandhai edited by Graeme Baker 7/2/2014 8:14:34 AM

  • Al Jazeera looks at Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's vision of a 'Caliphate' and the derision it has been met with among Muslims. Read more here.

  • Here's a summary of our articles and analyses from the past few weeks to give you a better understanding of what's happening in Iraq:

  • A quote from yesterday's declaration by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi:

    "So listen, O ummah of Islam. Listen and comprehend.Stand up and rise. For the time has come for you to free yourself from the shackles of weakness, and stand in the face of tyranny, against the treacherous rulers – the agents of the crusaders and the atheists, and the guards of the jews.

    This is my advice to you. If you hold to it, you will conquer Rome and own the world, if Allah wills. "

    You can read the full statement here.

    [Source: ]
  • Iraqi State TV is broadcasting pictures that appear to show the Iraqi Army in control of most of Tikrit, according to our correspondent in Baghdad, Imran Khan
  • Yesterday we posted a video from June 22 that purported to show Islamic State fighters blowing up a Sufi shrine in Mosul. It turns out that information was wrong. 

    The clip was originally posted on an Islamic State-affiliated YouTube account on February 22. And it shows fighters destroying a shrine in Syria, not Iraq. 

    Apologies for any confusion. 
  • Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on offered an amnesty to some backers of a sweeping Sunni rebel offensive, in an apparent attempt to undercut support for the fighters.

    "I announce the provision of an amnesty for all tribes and all people who were involved in action against the state" but who now "return to their senses", excluding those involved in killings, Maliki said in televised remarks on Wednesday. [AFP]
    by Shafik.Mandhai edited by Faisal Edroos 7/2/2014 12:03:42 PM
  • Jordanian Salafist denounces 'Caliphate'

    A leading Jordanian religious leader has denounced the declaration of a Caliphate by fighters from the 'Islamic State' in Iraq and Syria, warning against more bloodshed.

    "Can every Muslim and weak person find refuge in this caliphate? Or would it be like a sharp sword against all opponents?" Issam Barqawi, known as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, wrote on Facebook.

    "What would the fate be of other Islamist fighters in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere?" asked Maqdisi, who was freed on June 16 after serving a jail sentence for recruiting fighters for the Taliban.

    A former mentor to al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the two fell out over ideological differences, with Maqdisi warning against "Muslims who kill other Muslims".

    Jordan's jihadist movement is generally dominated by anti-IS groups that  support Al-Qaeda and its Syrian ally, Al-Nusra Front.

    On Monday, King Abdullah II appealed for international support to help Jordan deal with regional turmoil after the Caliphate was declared.
  • Hizb ut-Tahrir rejects 'IS' declaration of Caliphate

    The Jordanian branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) has dismissed the Islamic State's declaration of a Caliphate straddling the border between Iraq and Syria, saying the group had no real "authority" in implemeting Islamic rule.

    Media spokesperson of HT in Jordan, Mamdooh Qatishaat, said "They do not have any real authority in Syria or Iraq, and they have not achieved any real security internally or externally. It is not possible for the Khilafah to exist without real authority on the earth."

    "Therefore the announcement of ISIS is empty speech without substance," he said.

    Hizb ut-Tahrir is an international pan-Islamic movement that has been working for the re-establishment of the Islamic Caliphate in the Muslim world since 1953.

  • More than 2,000 people were killed in Iraq in June [Reuters] 

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