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TERROR WARS
Anti-IS strike rules unchanged under Trump: general
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) April 13, 2017


Misdirected coalition strike kills 18 partner forces in Syria: officials
Washington (AFP) April 13, 2017 - A coalition air strike accidentally killed 18 members of a US-backed Arab-Kurdish alliance fighting the Islamic State group near a key town in northern Syria, the US-led coalition said Thursday.

Tuesday's strike occurred south of Tabqa, a strategically important town on the Euphrates River next to a dam and military airport, and close to the IS stronghold of Raqa.

"The strike was requested by the partnered forces, who had identified the target location as an ISIS fighting position," a coalition statement read.

"The target location was actually a forward Syrian Democratic Forces fighting position."

SDF troops backed by coalition air power and other military assistance have been fighting for control of Tabqa since last month.

The town is considered an important waypoint ahead of the main offensive for Raqa, the IS group's last bastion in Syria.

In its own statement, the SDF described the incident as a "painful accident" resulting from a "mistake."

"The accident caused a number of deaths and injuries. The general command of the Syrian Democratic Forces is coordinating with international coalition forces to investigate the incident and uncover the reasons and conditions that led to this accident."

The coalition offered its "deepest condolences" to the members of the SDF and their families.

"The coalition is in close contact with our SDF partners who have expressed a strong desire to remain focused on the fight against ISIS despite this tragic incident," the coalition statement said.

Officials were assessing the cause and would "implement appropriate safeguards to prevent similar incidents in the future," the statement added.

The SDF is a local Arab-Kurdish force that the US-led coalition is supporting with arms, air strikes, training and advice as they fight IS.

The rules of engagement governing US-led strikes against the Islamic State group have not been changed under President Donald Trump's administration, a commander said on Thursday.

After taking office in January, Trump ordered the development of a "new plan" to defeat IS, and called for recommendations on changing rules of engagement and "policy restrictions" that go beyond the requirements of international law.

"We still have the same rules of engagement; those authorities were delegated before any change in administration," Brigadier General Rick Uribe, a senior commander in the US-led coalition against IS, told journalists in Baghdad.

"We have not changed our procedures due to a change in... administration," said Uribe, who emphasised that the coalition carefully reviews potential targets in order to avoid civilian casualties.

Despite Trump's vows to increase the pace of action against IS and his assertion that he supports killing the families of militants, current efforts against the jihadists largely mirror those in place under his predecessor Barack Obama.

Coalition strikes have come in for criticism in recent weeks after Iraqi officials said that scores of civilians were killed in west Mosul.

The coalition is now investigating a March 17 strike it said it carried out in an area where civilian casualties were reported, and Belgium -- a member of the coalition -- is also probing whether its warplanes were involved in civilian deaths.

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led strikes and other support have since regained much of the territory they lost.

Iraqi forces launched a major operation to recapture Mosul -- the last IS-held city in the country -- in October, retaking its eastern side before setting their sights on its smaller but more densely populated west.

On Thursday, Uribe emphasised that even after the recapture of Mosul, the war against IS -- which also holds territory in Kirkuk province and in western Iraq -- will not be over.

"Just because we're done in Mosul doesn't mean Daesh is done in Iraq", although "it'll be a severe blow", Uribe said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

TERROR WARS
IS now controls less than seven percent of Iraq, military says
Baghdad (AFP) April 11, 2017
The Islamic State group now controls less than seven percent of Iraq, down from the 40 percent it held nearly three years ago, a military spokesman said Tuesday. Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes and other support are now battling IS inside second city Mosul, after retaking much of the other territory the jihadists had seized. "Daesh controlled 40 percent of Iraqi land" in 2014, ... read more

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