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Jordan, Iraq reopen only border crossing; Iraqi forces close in on last jihadist ISIS stronghold
by Staff Writers
Amman (AFP) Aug 30, 2017

Iraqi forces close in on last jihadist outpost near Tal Afar
Baghdad (AFP) Aug 30, 2017 - Iraqi forces have recaptured half of the last town held by the Islamic State group in northern Niniveh province as fierce clashes rage against jihadist fighters, the military said Wednesday.

General Abdelamir Yarallah, head of military operations in the region, said federal police and special units had hoisted the Iraqi flag after having "liberated" the eastern sector of Al-Ayadieh town and the nearby village of Qubuq.

The army and Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary forces have been tasked with the recapture of western Al-Ayadieh, where fighting has been fierce and the jihadists are putting up "fierce resistance", said Hashed spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi.

Last Sunday, troops, police and special forces, allied with the Hashed coalition, seized full control of the city of Tal Afar, near the Syrian border, with IS fighters taking refuge in Al-Ayadieh, 15 kilometres (10 miles) to the north.

Around "150 to 200 IS fighters moved with their families up to Al-Ayadieh", according to Brigadier General Andrew A. Croft, deputy commander of the US-led coalition air units supporting the Iraqi advance in northern Iraq.

After its ouster in July from Nineveh's provincial capital of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, IS now controls only the city of Hawija, 300 kilometres north of Baghdad, and desert areas along the border with war-torn Syria.

Jordan and Iraq on Wednesday reopened their only border crossing, saying security had been restored three years after the Islamic State group seized control of frontier areas.

In a joint statement, the two countries' governments said the crossing, called Turaibil in Iraq and Al-Karameh in Jordan, was reopened after it was "secured... against attacks by criminal gangs".

The border crossing is part of a crucial route linking the Iraqi and Jordanian capitals, and its reopening comes after Iraqi forces managed to retake most of the territory seized by IS in 2014.

The route passes through the vast desert province of Anbar, where IS maintains some of its last bastions, including the towns of Rawa, Aanah and Al-Qaim, more than 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of the border post.

The reopening of the post is a sign of increasing stability in the area and the restoration of commercial traffic will be important for the economies of both countries.

Issa Murad, the chairman of the Amman chamber of commerce, said the closure of the crossing had led to more than $1 billion in export losses and forced the closure of many factories.

Adel al-Massudi, head of international affairs at Iraq's commerce ministry, said the reopening of the crossing would namely have a "positive effect on the prices of cars".

Until 2014, Jordan was the gateway for car exports to Iraq.

Massudi told AFP he expected Iraq to resume importing goods from Europe through Turaibil and use it to export products including oil.

The post is 370 kilometres (230 miles) from Amman and 570 kilometres (350 miles) from Baghdad.

Iraq is bordered by Jordan and Syria to the west, Iran to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south.

The interior ministers of Jordan and Iraq, Ghaleb Zohbi and Qassem al-Araji, said in separate statements that the reopening of Turaibil was also a victory over "terrorism".

"The reopening of this vital crossing signifies the will to confront terrorism... and our determination to restore life to its normal course in this area," Zohbi said.

His Iraqi counterpart added: "Terrorism wanted to shut this crossing, as if to say we are ending life... but we want life and hope to persist."

Keeping cool in combat: in Iraq the iceman cometh
Tal Abta, Iraq (AFP) Aug 29, 2017
Fighting in 50-degree desert heat is bad enough, but add choking exhaust fumes amid the confines of armoured vehicles, and no wonder the soldiers await their daily ice deliveries. In Tal Abta south of Tal Afar, where Iraqi forces have been engaged in mopping up operations against diehard jihadists of the Islamic State group, a key force is engaged in a vital mission. Men in T-shirts or m ... read more

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