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IRAQ WARS
Iraq forces launch assault on last IS-held pocket
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Nov 11, 2017


Iraq helicopter crash kills three
Kout, Irak (AFP) Nov 12, 2017 - An Iraqi army helicopter crashed Sunday south of Baghdad during a training exercise killing all three crew members due to a technical problem, military officials said.

"A Mi-17 military helicopter crashed during a training exercise and its crew was killed," the army said in a statement.

Three air force officers were killed in the crash in the province of Wasit, southeast of Baghdad, an air force official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Another air force officer said the helicopter came down at 0530 GMT "due to a technical problem".

In January, a Russian-made Mi-35 attack helicopter went down south of the northern city of Mosul, killing all four crew members -- two pilots and two technicians -- also due to a technical failure.

The accident came as Iraqi forces were battling the Islamic State group and an Iraqi officer at the time said the intensity of the war on IS meant that necessary maintenance work on such helicopters was not always satisfactory.

In February 2016, the crash of another Mi-17 -- also Russian made and used for transport mainly -- killed nine, with the accident also blamed on a technical problem.

Iraqi forces launched an offensive on Saturday to retake the last pocket of territory in the country still held by the Islamic State group, the operation's commander said.

The Euphrates valley town of Rawa and nearby villages were bypassed by government troops and allied militia when they retook the Syrian border town of Al-Qaim last week.

Troops backed by militia recruited among the region's Sunni Arab tribes "launched a major offensive to liberate Rumana and the Rawa area,", General Abdelamir Yarallah said.

Rumana is on the north side of the Euphrates just across from Al-Qaim while the small town of Rawa lies downstream.

Rawa is the last town still held by IS apart from Albu Kamal, Al-Qaim's twin town just across the Syrian border where the jihadists were still battling Damascus troops and allied forces on Saturday after mounting a surprise counterattack late Thursday.

The Syrian army had declared victory in the battle for Albu Kamal but IS fighters pushed back in from the desert to the north where they still control a strip of territory between areas held by government troops and by US-backed Kurdish-led forces.

The recapture of the Rawa pocket would mark the final battleground defeat of IS in Iraq and sound the death knell of the sprawling "caliphate" the group declared in 2014 over a swathe of Iraq and Syria the size of Britain.

IRAQ WARS
Millions mark key Shiite commemoration in Iraq holy city
Karbala, Iraq (AFP) Nov 10, 2017
An estimated 14 million Shiite pilgrims thronged Iraq's holy city of Karbala on Friday to mark the annual Arbaeen commemoration, as Baghdad looks to wipe out the Islamic State group that has targeted their branch of Islam. Arbaeen is one of the biggest religious festivals on earth and marks the end of the 40-day mourning period for the 7th-century killing of Imam Hussein by the forces of t ... read more

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