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Iraqi forces close to free Two IS-held towns in south of Mosul

A US-led international coalition has been conducting air raids against the IS targets in both Iraq and Syria

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Military in Mosul. Image source Wikimedia commons
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Iraqi security forces on Thursday, July 14, were preparing to free two towns from the Islamic State (IS) militants in the south of the IS stronghold in Mosul, while a senior IS leader and two of his aides were killed in an airstrike by the US-led coalition aircraft in south of Mosul, security sources said.

The troops took control of the areas of Dawajin and Mahha in the west of the IS-held town of Shirqat after the withdrawal of the IS militants, bringing the troops to new positions close to the edges of Shirqat, which located some 280 km north of Baghdad, the source told Xinhua on condition on condition of anonymity.

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The security forces and allied paramilitary units, known as Hashd Shaabi, are preparing to wage an operation to liberate Shirqat soon, the source said, adding that the town is the last IS stronghold in the north of Iraq’s northern central province of Salahudin.

ISIS insurgents. Image source Wikimedia Commons
ISIS insurgents. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, the security forces fought the IS militants and drove them out of an abandoned residential district belonging to Qayyara airbase, just east of the militant-seized town of Qayyara, some 50 km south of Mosul, leaving at least 18 IS militants killed, along with destroying two car bombs and a vehicle carrying heavy machine gun, the source said.

The battle in the district brought the troops to new positions closer to the outskirts of Qayyara, and they are now ready to carry out an operation to drive out IS militants from the town, the source added.

The advance toward both towns of Shirqat and Qayyara are part of a major offensive aimed at liberating the last major IS stronghold in Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad.

Separately, a security source in Salahudin province told Xinhua that Muwafaq Hawijah, leader of the IS group in the town of Shirqat was killed with his two aides when the international aircraft carried out an air strike on their car near the village of al-Mrear outside the town of Shirqat.

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“The bodies of the IS leader and his aides were evacuated Shirqat hospital,” the source said, citing intelligence report.

In addition, a roadside bomb went off near a vehicle carrying Shakir Amerli, leader of a Shiite paramilitary Hashd Shaabi paramilitary unit, near the town of Tuz-Khurmato, some 90 km east of Salahudin provincial capital city of Tikrit, killing him and one of his guards and wounding two more guards, the source added.

Iraq’s security situation has drastically deteriorated since June 2014, when bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and IS militants.

The IS took control of the country’s northern city of Mosul and later seized territories in Nineveh and other predominantly Sunni provinces.

A US-led international coalition has been conducting air raids against the IS targets in both Iraq and Syria.

Many blame the current chronic instability, cycle of violence, and the emergence of extremist groups, such as the IS, on the U.S. that invaded and occupied Iraq in March 2003 under the pretext of seeking to destroy weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the country.

The war led to the ouster and eventual execution of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, but no WMD was found. (IANS)

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Why Does Trump Separate Families, A Policy Or A Law?

A video released Monday by Customs and Border Protection

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In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, June 17, 2018.
In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, June 17, 2018. VOA

The Trump administration at least since April has been separating children and parents who enter the United States illegally at the border — that much is supported by the numbers. But much of everything else surrounding the practice has become mired in confusion.

Here is what we know:

In recent weeks, news stories of children in detention centers have circulated more widely, and the numbers of detained children have grown.

Department of Homeland Security officials told reporters Friday that between April 19 and May 31 of this year, nearly 2,000 (1,995) children were separated from their parents or other adults with whom they were traveling.

A video released Monday by Customs and Border Protection shows what appears to be humane conditions at a shelter site for children, but many worry that this video, the only video that has been released from within one of the detention centers, may not accurately depict them.

A policy or a law?

As criticism over the separation of parents and children at the border grows, the Trump administration has struggled to explain the policy.

Trump, himself, said the practice is the result of a law passed by Democrats, which has forced his administration into separating parents and children.

But there is no such law.

Rather in May, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero-tolerance” policy, which means that those detained entering the United States illegally would be criminally charged. This approach generally leads to children being separated from their parents because the law requires it.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about religious liberty at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center's annual leadership mission in Washington, June 13, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about religious liberty at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center’s annual leadership mission in Washington, June 13, 2018, VOA

On Sunday, senior policy adviser to the Trump administration Stephen Miller told The New York Times that the crackdown “was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry. Period.”

Administration officials, including Miller and Sessions, have defended the separation of families, saying that having children does not exempt anyone from the consequences of breaking the law.

“If you cross the border unlawfully, even a first offense, we’re going to prosecute you. … If you don’t want your child to be separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” Sessions told a gathering of the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies.

The administration has said the new practice is directed at combating a “surge” of unlawful border crossings. But the “surge” appears to be numbers marking a return-to-normal after a dip last year.

Not a new idea

Though the practice of treating all people who cross the border unlawfully as subject to criminal prosecution is new under the Trump administration, it is built on existing policies from the Bush and Obama administrations.

Amid a surge of unlawful migration from Central America to the United States in 2014, the Obama administration considered many plans to deter illegal border crossings, including separating parents and children. Ultimately, Obama decided against separations but did expand the detention of immigrant families. New facilities were opened along the border, which held women and children for long periods of time before their cases were processed.

Following widespread criticism after photos of detained women and children, accompanied by testimonies of people being held for extended periods, a federal judge in Washington effectively ruled that asylum-seeking mothers could not be held for longer than 20 days, leading to what has been called a “catch and release” system where adults were released with GPS ankle monitors tracking their movements until their cases could be heard in court.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the National Sheriffs' Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 18, 2018.
=U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the National Sheriffs’ Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 18, 2018. VOAU.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the National Sheriffs’ Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 18, 2018.VOA

But this “catch and release” system has been heavily criticized by Trump and his administration.

Also read: Trump Launched A New Attack On Mueller Probe In Russia

“This get out of jail free card for families and groups who pose as families has spread,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. “The word of this has spread. The smugglers and traffickers know these loopholes better than our members of Congress. I’m sad to say that from October 2017 to this February, we have seen a staggering 315 percent increase in illegal aliens fraudulently using children to pose as family units to gain entry into this country. This must stop,” she said. (VOA)