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Iran general slams Iraq referendum plan during Erdogan talks
by Staff Writers
Ankara (AFP) Aug 16, 2017

Jihadists kill 7 Iraqi security personnel
Samarra, Iraq (AFP) Aug 16, 2017 - Islamic State group suicide bombers killed seven members of Iraq's security forces in an attack on an Iraqi police and army base Wednesday in Baiji, north of Baghdad, the interior ministry and a local official said.

"Five Daesh suicide bombers... wearing explosive belts attacked a police and army base at dawn in the Al-Masafi district," the town's mayor Mohammad Mahmoud told AFP, using an Arabic acronym for the group.

"Seven members of the security forces were killed and six wounded" in the ensuing firefight, he said.

Interior ministry spokesman Brigadier General Saad Maan confirmed the toll and said the "five suicide terrorists" were also killed.

IS captured Baiji, a Sunni Arab town around 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the capital, in June 2014 during a lightning offensive that saw the jihadist group rout security forces and grab swathes of Syria and northern Iraq.

Baiji was the scene of some of the longest-running battles between IS and Iraqi forces.

The town lies at a major crossroads and its recapture by Iraqi security forces was seen as key to preparing the ground for offensives in Anbar province and later Mosul.

The town and its nearby oil refinery, Iraq's largest, were recaptured in late 2015 with air support from a US-led coalition and a host of tribal groups and militias.

But despite losing Mosul, the capital of its self-declared caliphate, in July, the extremist group has continued to launch attacks in areas retaken by Iraqi forces.

The latest attack comes as Iraqi warplanes pound IS positions in preparation for a ground assault on the town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul.

Iran's Armed Forces chief of staff said Wednesday after talks with Turkey's president that a referendum on independence in Iraq's Kurdish region would trigger conflict and negative consequences for the entire region.

General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri's remarks, carried by Iran's official IRNA news agency, underlined the firm opposition shared in Tehran and Ankara to the poll next month.

"Both sides stressed that if the referendum would be held, it will be the basis for the start of a series of tensions and conflicts inside Iraq, the consequences of which will affect neighbouring countries," Bagheri was quoted as saying.

"Holding the referendum will get Iraq, but also Iran and Turkey involved and that's why the authorities of the two countries emphasise that it is not possible and should not be done."

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted Bagheri at his presidential palace in Ankara with Turkey's top general Hulusi Akar also in attendance, the presidency said.

Turkey and Iran have substantial Kurdish minorities and they vehemently oppose the plan by Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to organise a vote on independence on September 25.

Analysts have little doubt that the referendum would result in a 'Yes' for an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq. But the result would be non binding and leave the approximately five million Kurds of northern Iraq some way away from actual independence.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency said the talks lasted 50 minutes.

"Coordination for creating peace and security in Syria," was also discussed, the IRNA report quoted Bagheri as saying.

Turkey and Iran lie on opposing sides of the Syrian conflict, with Erdogan seeking the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad to end the war. Tehran, along with Moscow, remain the Syrian leader's key allies and backers.

But Turkey and Russia have been cooperating more over Syria in recent months, helping to extract civilians from Aleppo and then co-sponsoring peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana.

Relations between overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim Turkey, a secular state, and the mainly Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran have on occasion been tense in recent years.

Erdogan has sometimes lashed out at the rise of "Persian nationalism" in the region, especially concerning the power of Shiite militias in Iraq.

The rise of jihadists in the province of Idlib, neighbouring Turkey, has alarmed Ankara, Moscow and Tehran.

A senior official from Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards earlier said Bagheri's trip was prompted by the presence of "terrorist groups" in the border area, without saying which ones.

"We are seeking a good agreement with Turkey to provide better security for Iranian and Turkish borders especially in the west and northwest," said Guards spokesman General Ramezan Sharif, quoted by IRNA.

Iraq readies to retake another IS bastion: officials
Baghdad (AFP) Aug 14, 2017
Iraqi officials said Monday that preparations have been made for the battle to retake Tal Afar, a town held by the Islamic State jihadist group between Mosul and the Syrian border. Federal police chief Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat said in a statement that "armoured and elite units are headed for Tal Afar", the main remaining stronghold of IS in northern Iraq. The town is located ... read more

Related Links
Iraq: The first technology war of the 21st century

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