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Militants kill 15 Iraqi police and soldiers
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) July 24, 2013

Iraqi Kurdistan to host pan-Kurd conference
Baghdad (AFP) July 24, 2013 - Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region is preparing to host a conference that will bring together Kurdish parties from Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey, an official said on Wednesday.

"The general conference will be held within a month from now," Adnan al-Mufti, a senior member of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, told AFP.

A preparatory meeting was held in Arbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, on Monday, and was attended by 39 Kurdish parties.

"We want a complete agreement and a just and peaceful solution for the Kurdish issue," Kurdistan region president Massud Barzani told the meeting.

Major Kurdish populations are spread across four countries -- Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.

One of the most pressing issues is that of the Kurds in war-torn Syria, where they make up about 15 percent of the population and are mostly concentrated in the north.

Kurdish regions of Syria have been run by local Kurdish councils since President Bashar al-Assad's forces withdrew from the areas in mid-2012.

The Kurds have walked a fine line, trying to avoid antagonising either the Assad regime or the rebels seeking its overthrow, but fierce fighting has recently broken out between Kurdish forces and jihadists opposed to Assad.

And Syrian Kurdish officials said last week that they are planning to create a temporary autonomous government to administer Kurdish regions in the north of country.

Gunmen kill 14 truck drivers in Iraq: official
Kirkuk, Iraq (AFP) July 24, 2013 - Gunmen killed 14 truck drivers and stole their vehicles on a highway north of Baghdad on Thursday, while dozens of other militants attacked a nearby town, a local administrative official said.

The gunmen killed the drivers about 10 kilometres (six miles) south of the town of Sulaiman Bek, Mohammed al-Bayati said.

Militants have been attacking the town of Sulaiman Bek itself with mortar rounds and gunfire since Wednesday night, Bayati said.

The ongoing fighting also left one civilian wounded, he said.

Sulaiman Bek was briefly seized by militants in late April. The assailants later withdrew under a deal worked out by tribal leaders and government officials, allowing security forces to move back in.

The seizure of the town came amid a surge of violence that began on April 23 when security forces moved in against anti-government protesters near the northern Sunni Arab town of Hawijah, sparking clashes that left 53 people dead.

Dozens more died in a wave of subsequent unrest including revenge attacks against security forces.

With the latest violence, more than 670 people have been killed in unrest in July, making it the deadliest month in a year marked by spiralling violence.

Iraq has faced years of attacks by militants, but analysts say widespread discontent among members of its Sunni Arab minority, which the government has failed to address, has fuelled the surge in unrest this year.

Militants killed nine police in an attack with mortars and automatic weapons in Iraq on Wednesday, while 14 people including six soldiers died in other violence, officers and doctors said.

The attacks come a day after an Al-Qaeda front group claimed brazen assaults on two prisons in Iraq that killed more than 40 people, among them 20 members of the security forces, and saw hundreds of inmates, including senior militants, escape.

Security forces are hunting the prisoners who broke out during the assaults on Sunday night and early Monday, to prevent them rejoining the ranks of the militants.

"Security forces are continuing their (deployment) in the areas surrounding the two prisons," interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan said, adding that a "large number" of escapees had been recaptured, without saying how many.

INTERPOL said in an online statement on Wednesday that the escapes "constituted a major threat to global security", and that it had issued a regional security alert at Iraq's request.

Wednesday's police station attack, which occurred about 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of the northern city of Mosul, also wounded two policemen.

It was followed by a roadside bomb explosion as emergency personnel rushed to the scene, wounding another two people.

Gunmen also killed a soldier in Mosul itself, while others attacked a bus carrying soldiers in Tikrit, killing four soldiers and wounding four others, along with the civilian driver.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden vehicle attacked an army patrol, killing a soldier and wounding seven other people.

And on a highway in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, militants with heavy machineguns attacked an army checkpoint and a joint army-police convoy in an apparent attempt to free a captured senior Al-Qaeda member it was transporting.

The attack left four militants dead, while four soldiers and a militant were wounded.

Gunmen also shot dead four people in other attacks.

Iraq has faced years of attacks by militants, but analysts say widespread discontent among members of its Sunni Arab minority, which the government has failed to address, has fuelled the surge in unrest this year.

Security forces are frequently targeted by militants opposed to the government in Baghdad.

With the latest unrest, more than 660 people have been killed so far in July, making it the deadliest month in a year marked by spiralling violence.

Iraq's Sunni Arabs accuse the Shiite-led government of marginalising and targeting their community, including through unwarranted arrests and terrorism charges.

Protests broke out in Sunni-majority areas at the end of 2012 and are still ongoing.

In addition to the major problems with security, the government in Baghdad is also failing to provide adequate basic services such as electricity and clean water, while corruption is widespread.

Political squabbling has further paralysed the government, which has passed almost no major legislation in years.


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Iraqis slam government over deadly wave of bombings
Baghdad (AFP) July 21, 2013
Iraqis roundly condemned the authorities on Sunday for failing to stop a wave of deadly unrest including attacks that killed dozens of people the day before. Attacks on Sunday itself killed another 12 people, as the country struggles with a surge in violence that has plagued it since the beginning of the year. More than 530 people have been killed so far this month, and over 2,800 since ... read more

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