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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

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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President of Egypt Calls for Collective Action Against Countries Supporting Terrorism

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The president of Egypt Urges world leaders to take decisive action against states supporting terrorism. Pixabay

Egypt’s president Wednesday called for “decisive” and “collective” action against countries supporting “terrorism” in an apparent reference to Turkey and Qatar, who back the Muslim Brotherhood group, which is outlawed in Egypt.

The three countries also support opposing factions in the war-torn Libya.

Addressing a two-day forum on peace in Africa in the southern city of Aswan, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi also said achieving sustainable development in Africa is needed, along with efforts to fight militant groups in Egypt and the Sahel region that stretches across Africa south of the Sahara Desert.

“There should be a decisive response to countries supporting terrorism and a collective response against terrorism, because the terrorist groups will only have the ability to fight if they are provided with financial, military and moral support,” he said.

Abdel Fattah Al Sisi Egypt
The President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. VOA

The gathering in Aswan is attended by the leaders of Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Senegal along with officials from the U.S., Britain and Canada.

The Sahel region is home to al-Qaida and Islamic State group-linked militants. El-Sissi said Egypt could help train forces and provide weapons to countries in the region to fight extremists.

Egypt has for years been battling an Islamic State-led insurgency that intensified after the military overthrew an elected but divisive Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi in 2013 amid mass protests against his brief rule.

Militant-related violence in Egypt has been centered on the Sinai Peninsula, as well as in the country’s vast Western Desert, which has witnessed deadly attacks blamed on militants infiltrating from neighboring Libya.

Since Morsi’s ouster, tensions have grown between Egypt and Turkey and Egypt and Qatar. The political party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo designated as at terrorist group in 2013.

Upcoming conference

El-Sissi also said a “comprehensive, political solution would be achieved in the coming months” for the conflict in Libya, which descended into chaos after the 2011 civil war that ousted and killed long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi. He did not elaborate.

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This photo provided by the office of Egypt’s president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, dignitaries including Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, center, gather, for a photo during a two-day forum on peace in Africa in the southern city of Aswan, Egypt. VOA

He said that would put an end to a “terrorist hotbed that pushes militants and weapons to (Libya’s) neighboring countries including Egypt.”

El-Sissi apparently was referring to an international summit in Berlin that aims to reach an agreement on actions needed to end the conflict. The conference had been scheduled for October, but it has apparently been postponed.

After the 2011 civil war, Libya split in two, with a weak U.N.-supported administration in Tripoli overseeing the country’s west and a rival government in the east aligned with the Libyan National Army led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter.

Maritime border agreement 

El-Sissi’s comments came amid heightened tensions with Turkey after a controversial maritime border agreement it signed last month with Libya’s Tripoli-based government.

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Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, which lie between the two geographically, have denounced the deal as being contrary to international law, and Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador last week over the issue.

Hifter has for months been fighting an array of militias allied with the Tripoli authorities to wrestle control of the capital.  He is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, while the Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy. (VOA)