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Iraqi army says retook dam from jihadists
by Staff Writers
Baquba, Iraq (AFP) Sept 27, 2014

Roundup of anti-jihadist strikes in Iraq and Syria
Damascus (AFP) Sept 27, 2014 - Here is a roundup of coalition strikes against the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria on Saturday.

The United States, which leads the coalition, initially launched strikes in Iraq on August 8 and widened its campaign on Tuesday to include Syria, where IS has its headquarters.


- The Pentagon confirmed 10 new coalition strikes on Syria and Iraq on Saturday.

Seven targets were struck in Syria, including an IS building and two armed vehicles at the border crossing in the besieged Kurdish town of Ain al-Arab, also known as Kobane.

Other targets in Syria included IS vehicles and buildings near Hasakeh, as well as an IS command and control facility near Minbej, near the western limit of the group's control, the US Central Command said.

An airfield controlled by IS as well as a training camp and a garrison used by the jihadists near Raqa were damaged.

Three strikes in Iraq, southwest of Arbil, destroyed four armed vehicles and a fighting position.

CentCom said the latest strikes were carried out by US Air Force and Navy aircraft, as well as by warplanes from coalition partners Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

- The coalition also hit IS in the central province of Homs for the first time since launching its campaign in Syria, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Observatory said the coalition also pounded the Syrian Euphrates valley city of Raqa, headquarters of an Islamic "caliphate" declared by IS in June and straddling Syria and Iraq.

- Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 warplanes armed with laser-guided bombs flew from Britain's RAF Akrotiri base on Cyprus for missions over Iraq.


According to the Observatory, strikes in Syria since September 23 have killed 141 jihadists, including 129 foreign fighters, of whom 84 were IS-affiliated.

The monitor said a senior IS jihadist on a motorbike was killed Friday in an air strike in eastern Syria.


- A US defence official told AFP that the Syria mission is now similar to US-led air raids against the IS group in Iraq, with "near continuous" combat sorties.

- Three Frenchmen arrested in Turkey after travelling to Syria were charged Saturday with planning terrorist acts, a lawyer said.

- Iran's ground forces commander, General Ahmad Reza Pourdestan, said Tehran will attack IS jihadists inside Iraq if they advance near the border with Iran.

- In his weekly address, US President Barack Obama said: "America is leading the world in the fight to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL," using one acronym by which the group is known.

- Belgium, Britain and Denmark approved plans to join the coalition, but only in Iraq.

- The United States warned that up to 15,000 "moderate" rebels would need to be trained and armed to beat back the militants in Syria.

The Iraqi army and an alliance of Shiite militia groups on Saturday retook a dam northeast of Baghdad after days of fighting believed to have killed dozens, security sources said.

Fighting has been raging for days around Muqdadiyah, in Diyala province, around 90 kilometres (55 miles) from Baghdad, between jihadists from the Islamic State group and pro-government forces.

"We are now in full control of the dam," said an army lieutenant colonel, adding that the final stages of the operation on Saturday had left seven IS militants dead.

A police captain confirmed the toll.

The officers said the final push to retake Muqdadiyah dam involved Iraqi troops and fighters from the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Badr and Saraya al-Salam Shiite militias.

Government sources in the area have reported high casualties among jihadist ranks over the past few days.

The fighting has also left many dead in pro-government ranks. At least 12 members of the Saraya al-Salam militia killed in the area were buried in the holy Shiite city of Najaf on Thursday alone.

IS fighters have repeatedly attempted to control dams across the country, and in some cases weaponised them by either reducing the flow of water to areas under government control or flooding swathes of land to impede army operations.

The jihadists briefly controlled the dam in Mosul, the country's largest, before Iraqi special forces and Kurdish peshmerga troops backed by US fighters jets retook it in early August.

British warplanes return from Iraq without bombing
London (AFP) Sept 27, 2014 - British warplanes flew their first mission over Iraq since parliament authorised strikes against Islamic State jihadists, but returned without bombing on Saturday, the Ministry of Defence in London said.

Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 combat jets returned to Britain's RAF Akrotiri base on Cyprus without dropping any of their load of Paveway IV laser-guided bombs, after a seven-hour mission that began before dawn from the Mediterranean island.

"On this occasion no targets were identified as requiring immediate air attack by our aircraft," a ministry spokesman said.

However, the jets' surveillance gathered information that will "help acquire potential targets for future operations, either by aircraft or Iraqi ground forces," the spokesman said.

British lawmakers on Friday voted overwhelmingly to join the US-led air strikes in northern Iraq following a formal request for help from the Iraqi government.

Six British Tornados have been based on Cyprus since last month, from where they have been conducting reconnaissance missions, but the vote allows their role to expand to include striking IS targets.

The campaign against the Islamist group gathered pace this week, as Belgium and Denmark agreed to join the bombing and Britain's lower house of parliament voted in favour of air strikes in Iraq.

On Saturday, a fresh round of bombings by the US, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates damaged an IS-held airfield, a garrison and a training camp near the group's headquarters in Raqa, the Pentagon said.

In Iraq, a fighting position and four armed vehicles were hit, it added.

IS's brutal abuses against civilians, rival fighters and Arab and Western hostages, as well as its success in recruiting Western members, have triggered international alarm.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Saturday the RAF was there to "play our part".

"We are one part of a large international coalition," he said during a visit to Didcot, southern England.

"But the crucial part of that coalition is that it is led by the Iraqi government, the legitimate government of Iraq, and its security forces. We are there to play our part and help deal with this appalling terrorist organisation."

Besides the Tornados, the RAF also has a Rivet Joint spy plane in the region which is stepping up surveillance efforts to identify potential targets.


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Iraq Kurds advance but Mosul still out of reach
Arbil, Iraq (AFP) Sept 25, 2014
Western support has helped Iraq's Kurdish troops regain ground and momentum against the Islamic State group, but retaking the northern jihadist hub of Mosul remains too big an ask for now. On June 10, the jihadists who already controlled parts of Syria overran Mosul, Iraq's second city, and swept across the country's Sunni Arab heartland virtually unopposed. When federal forces buckled a ... read more

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