Mosul assault: Iraq troops make headway against IS

Members of the Iraqi rapid response forces fire a missile toward Islamic State militants during a battle in south of Mosul, Iraq February 19, 2017

Iraqi government forces have seized several villages as they move towards an assault on the last area held by the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Mosul.

Hundreds of military vehicles, backed by air power, rolled across the desert towards IS positions early on Sunday.

The progress on Sunday in the south of the city, the second biggest in Iraq, takes them within striking distance of Mosul airport.

Fears have been voiced about the safety of many thousands of trapped civilians.

The offensive was formally announced by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi early on Sunday.

Army Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah said in a statement that elite Rapid Response units captured the villages of Athbah and Al-Lazzagah – two villages south of Mosul airport.

Attack on west Mosul: Day one in pictures

Government forces retook the eastern side of the city, the last major IS stronghold in Iraq, last month. But military officials say the western side, with its narrow, winding streets, may prove a bigger challenge.

For now, there is no advance from eastern Mosul as all bridges from there to the west of the city, across the Tigris river, have been destroyed.

Map of Mosul city showing areas of control

Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the commander of the US-led coalition forces, said in a statement on Sunday: “Mosul would be a tough fight for any army in the world.”

Special forces units safely detonated a number of IS car bombs as they cleared villages south of Mosul, according to the BBC’s Quentin Sommerville, who is embedded with the troops.

As well as primed car bombs, the jihadists left behind SIM cards, clothes, instant coffee and weapons as they retreated.

  • Photos show ‘weaponised drones’ in Iraq
  • Satellite images reveal Mosul damage
  • Iraq gaining momentum against IS
  • Islamic State group: The full story
A hidden and still live car bomb found in a village homeImage copyrightQUENTIN SOMMERVILLE/BBC
Image captionA hidden and still live car bomb found in a village home

The UN has voiced concern about civilians trapped there, amid reports that they could number up to 650,000. Leaflets warning residents of an imminent offensive were earlier dropped over the west of the city.

Charity Save the Children said on Sunday it believed that as many as 350,000 children were trapped.

“This is the grim choice for children in western Mosul right now: bombs, crossfire and hunger if they stay; or execution and snipers if they try to run,” said the charity’s Iraq country director, Maurizio Crivallero.


The BBC’s Quentin Sommerville is embedded with the Emergency Response Division special forces troops near Mosul

The assault began just after dawn, after days of coalition air strikes, with hundreds of armoured vehicles, thousands of men, and support from helicopter gunships.

The men of Iraq’s Emergency Response Division, police special forces are leading the attack. Their targets are three IS held villages to the south of west Mosul. They are trying to gain the high ground from IS, which will give them sight of the city’s airport and its southern edge.

The government forces made quick gains but have been slowed as they begin to take villages. There are no signs of any civilians. Heavy machine gunfire, rockets and artillery fire are constant.

For the first time in nearly three years, the Iraqi flag is again flying over the south of western Mosul.

Soldiers rest during the offensive in southern MosulImage copyrightQUENTIN SOMMERVILLE/BBC
Image captionSoldiers rest during the offensive in southern Mosul
Iraqi troops near MosulImage copyrightQUENTIN SOMMERVILLE/BBC
Image captionA soldier looks out over the desert as the offensive begins

Follow Quentin Sommerville on Twitter


Iraqi forces have now all but surrounded the western part of Mosul, while the US-led coalition has been carrying out air strikes on IS targets.

Ahead of the launch of the operation, Mr Abadi said in a televised speech: “We announce the start of a new phase in the operation, we are coming to Nineveh to liberate the western side of Mosul.”

“Our forces are beginning the liberation of the citizens from the terror of Daesh [IS],” he added, quoted by AFP news agency.

Quentin tweet
Quentin Sommerville tweet that reads:
Quentin Sommerville tweet that reads:

The UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, told the BBC on Saturday that “all of the parties to the conflict do absolutely everything they can to ensure that civilians survive the battle, and that they live”.

“Absolutely nothing is more important going into the campaign to retake western Mosul,” she added.

As the advance got under way, the UN commissioner for human rights called on the Iraqi government to investigate videos shared on social media that appeared to show Iraqi troops brutally abusing and executing IS fighters on the streets of east Mosul late last year.

The videos have not been verified at this stage by any government authority or independent group. The Iraqi prime minister’s office said it had launched an investigation.

The offensive on the eastern part of the city was launched on 17 October, more than two years after jihadists overran Mosul before seizing control of much of northern and western Iraq.

Experts warn that western Mosul, although slightly smaller than the east, is more densely populated and includes districts that are seen as pro-IS.

The UN said in late January that almost half of all the casualties in Mosul were civilians. At least 1,096 have been killed and 694 injured across Nineveh province since the start of October.

[Source:-BBC]

Clinton and Alicia Machado Make Case Against Trump

DADE CITY, Fla. — Hillary Clinton accused Donald Trump of “demeaning, degrading, insulting and assaulting women” for “30 years” here Tuesday, using former Miss Universe Alicia Machado’s story to illustrate her case.

“Look at what he does. He calls women ugly, disgusting, nasty, all the time. He calls women pigs, rates bodies on a scale of 1 to 10,” she said, before telling Machado’s story in detail.

“Can we just stop for a minute and reflect on the absurdity of Donald Trump finding fault with Miss Universe? But, you’ve got to ask, why does he do these things? Who does this? I will tell you who: a bully, that is who,” she said to cheers at the outdoor rally.

Machado, who introduced Clinton at the event, said she was “scared” of Trump, whom she also labeled as “cruel” for calling her things like “Miss Piggy, Miss Housekeeping, Miss Eating Machine” after gaining some weight after a beauty pageant in 1996.

“It’s really clear that he does not respect women. He just judges us on our looks,” Machado said at her first campaign outing with Clinton. “He thinks he can do whatever he wants and get away with it. Well, now I’m standing here on behalf of women and Latinos across the country” and “together we are going to say loudly and clearly: no trump. He’s not getting away with it.”

Clinton prefaced her remarks on Trump and women by saying she would rather be talking about “nearly anything else.” She argued that “he doesn’t see us as full human beings” and has “shown that clearly” throughout the campaign.

“He is wrong about both the women and the men of this country. He has shown us who he is. Let us on Tuesday show him who we are,” she said, before urging voters to cast their ballots early.

This is Clinton’s fifth day in the Sunshine State in the last week. Of all the battleground states, she has spent the most time here since the Democratic National Convention.

Outside her event, a few dozen Trump supporters could be heard chanting “lock her up” throughout her speech.

The former secretary of state seemed to acknowledge them by saying “a lot of his supporters don’t like to hear” criticism of Trump. “I don’t blame them. If I were supporting him, I wouldn’t want to hear it either, to be honest,” she said.

[Source:-NBC]

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil Row: Will Act Against Raj Thackeray if he Breaks Law, Says Fadnavis

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil Row: Will Act Against Raj Thackeray if he Breaks Law, Says Fadnavis

Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said he will not hesitate to take action against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray if his party tries to violate the law and order situation in the state, in his first comments after the truce he struck between MNS and makers of the movie ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ kicked up a row.

In an exclusive interview to CNN-News 18, Fadnavis said no one is above the law. “If the censor board clears the film no one can stop it from releasing. We will not allow anyone to break law. If Raj Thackeray will try to break law, we will take action against him,” he said.

Fadnavis also maintained that he opposed the offer of Rs 5 crore contribution from the film makers to the Army Welfare Fund. “I told them that it should be voluntary,” he said.

Karan Johar’s film faced protests by MNS workers for casting Pakistani actor Fawad Khan. Fadnavis also said that if someone (Pakistani artists) comes to India legally, his government will protect them as per law.

“Mumbai’s image is liberal and it will remain liberal,” he added.

[Source:-News 18]

Mosul battle: US troops mask up against toxic fumes

Smoke rises from the burning sulphur plant at Mishraq, near Mosul, 21 October

US soldiers at a base near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul have donned protective masks against toxic fumes from a sulphur plant set alight in fighting with so-called Islamic State.

They took the precaution after the wind blew smoke from the fire towards Qayyarah air field.

US Defence Secretary Ash Carter is in Baghdad on an unscheduled visit.

Meanwhile, advancing Iraqi forces entered the town of Qaraqosh, 32km (20 miles) south of Mosul, commanders say.

Qaraqosh, Iraq’s largest Christian town before the war, is said to be largely empty but IS has laid landmines on the approaches to Mosul.

The militants have been attacking with suicide bombers elsewhere, driving vehicles laden with explosives at high speed towards government lines.

Friday’s IS attack on the city of Kirkuk, 170km (105 miles) south-east of Mosul, now appears to be over, leaving at least 35 people dead and 120 wounded, according to medical sources.

Is the IS group finished?

Voices from Mosul as battle nears

Dodging ghosts of IS in the desert

‘Two dead’

Qayyarah acts as the main US hub for supporting the Iraqi government offensive to drive IS out of their Mosul stronghold.

The fire began two days ago, when IS fighters reportedly set the sulphur plant alight in Mishraq, south of Mosul.

BBC map showing large swathe of northern Iraq centred on Mosul and under the control of so-called Islamic State, with, to the east, three areas under Iraqi armed forces control, and further north, areas under Kurdish control, 21 October 2016

“The winds have actually shifted south, so, as a precautionary measure, the troops at Qayyara West have donned their personal protective equipment – continuing their operations at this point in time,” an official told Reuters news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity.

An Iraqi commander, Qusay Hamid Kadhem, told AFP news agency two civilians had died from the fumes and “many others” had been injured.

A similar fire at the Mishraq plant in 2003 burnt for weeks, sending huge amounts of sulphur dioxide into the air. It caused respiratory problems for local people and damaged the environment.


How harmful can sulphur dioxide be?

Sulphur dioxide gas is toxic when inhaled or when the skin or eyes are exposed.

When inhaled, it causes irritation to the nose and throat. Exposure to high concentrations causes nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and corrosive damage to the airways and lungs.

Skin contact causes stinging pain, redness of the skin and blisters, while eye contact causes watering and, in severe cases, may cause blindness.

Source: Public Health England


Turkish issue

Mr Carter is assessing the progress of the offensive against IS.

He comes fresh from meetings with Turkish leaders in Ankara aimed at allowing Turkey to play a part in the Mosul operation despite Iraqi concerns.

The defence secretary, who is in Iraq for the third time this year, has overseen a steady increase in US troop numbers there.

He is due to meet Iraqi leaders and military commanders.

More than 4,800 US soldiers are in Iraq and at least 100 US special operations personnel are operating with Iraqi units.

The offensive against Mosul, which began on Monday, is a two-pronged operation, with Iraqi government forces attacking from the south and Kurdish fighters advancing from the east.

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, right, and US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter shake hands before a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, 21 OctoberImage copyrightAP
Image captionMr Carter (left) met Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Friday

Differences between Iraq and Turkey have come to the fore since hundreds of Turkish soldiers began training Sunni Muslim fighters at a base in northern Iraq last year.

The Sunni Turks fear the liberation of Mosul may be spearheaded by Shia Muslims and Kurds. Turkey says Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq have ties to the Kurdish militant PKK in Turkey.

The presence of the Turkish military has also drawn protests among radical Shia in Baghdad.

Advance continues

Reports on Tuesday that Qaraqosh had been liberated caused an outpouring of joy among Christians who had fled to Kurdish areas when IS swept into Mosul in June 2014.

But the reports turned out to be premature as snipers impeded the progress of government forces.

In Kirkuk, the governor, Najmiddin Karim, said “all” of the IS attackers had been killed by the security forces.

However, Kurdish forces controlling the city detained a number of suspected IS members on Saturday, according to an AFP photographer who recorded the arrests.

A Kurdish fighter escorts a prisoner in Kirkuk, 22 OctoberImage copyrightAFP
Image captionKurdish fighters could be seen with detainees in Kirkuk on Saturday

Concern for the fate of civilians in Mosul increased on Friday after reports that IS was herding villagers into the city, possibly to use them as human shields.

The UN is also investigating reports 40 people were shot dead by IS fighters in one village.

[Source:-BBC]

Strong measures needed against states backing terror: BIMSTEC

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the BIMSTEC leaders at a meeting in Mobor, Goa on Sunday.

Endorsing India’s effort to corner Pakistan on terror, regional grouping BIMSTEC has said fight against the menace should not only be confined to disrupting and eliminating terror networks, but must also take strong measures against states supporting terrorists and falsely extolling their virtues.

In an apparent reference to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif calling slain Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani a “martyr”, BIMSTEC said there should not be glorification of terrorists as martyrs.

An Outcome Document detailing deliberations by leaders of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal at their retreat on Sunday night, said they condemned in strongest terms the recent “barbaric terror” attacks in the region, seen as a reference to Pathankot and Uri strikes.

“We strongly believe that our fight against terrorism should not only seek to disrupt and eliminate terrorists, terror organisations and networks, but should also identify, hold accountable and take strong measures against states which encourage, support and finance terrorism, provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups, and falsely extol their virtues,” the grouping said in the document issued on Monday.

It said the leaders stressed on urgent measures to counter terrorism.

“There should be no glorification of terrorists as martyrs. We recognize the need for urgent measures to counter and prevent the spread of terrorism, violent extremism and radicalization. We express our determination to take concrete measures to step up cooperation and coordination among our law enforcement, intelligence and security organisations,” it said.

India has been scaling up efforts to isolate Pakistan in the wake of the Uri attack. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing BRICS and BIMSTEC summits here on Sunday, called Pakistan a “mother ship” of global terrorism and said the menace has become its “favourite child“.

The strong position of BIMSTEC in dealing with terror assumes significance as it comes after consensus eluded on reference to cross-border terror in BRICS declaration.

“Recognising that terrorism continues to remain the single most significant threat to peace and stability in our region, we reiterate our strong commitment to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and stress that there can be no justification for acts of terror on any grounds whatsoever,” BIMSTEC said.

It said the leaders expressed commitment to expedite the signing of the BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, and to early ratification of the BIMSTEC Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Transnational Organized Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking.

[Source:- The Hindu]

Cowboys Game Ball Against The Packers: Recognizing An Impact Player

It doesn’t seem real that the Dallas Cowboys are not only 5-1, but have cruised through a couple of opponents that were supposed to be real challenges. And against the Green Bay Packers, there were plenty of players that could easily be awarded a game ball. It includes the usual suspects, plus some who stepped their game up this week. But this week, the award is going to a player who made only a handful of plays, but had one spectacular, high-impact contribution that may have changed the course of the game and set things inevitably on the path to the eventual 30-16 beating of the Packers in front of their home crowd. It goes to David Irving for his strip-sack and recovery inside the five-yard line, snuffing out what could have been a rally for the Packers.

Irving is not getting a lot of snaps in the defense yet – and that needs to change. On this play, he demonstrated his quickness, relentlessness, strength, and extreme wingspan. It was not the only big play he made in his limited work. He also knocked down a pass in the red zone to snuff out another touchdown opportunity, and had two more forced fumbles in the game. But no play was bigger than the triple helping of damage he dealt with this one. Green Bay had a first and goal at the one-yard line, and a touchdown would have closed the gap to seven points. Aaron Rodgerswas not consistent during the game, but he still made several key completions as the Cowboys struggled to get pressure on him, often resorting to the three man rush they have been using as they put increasing trust in the secondary to shut the receivers down. By getting to Rodgers for the lone Cowboys sack of the game, Irving stopped the threat and made any attempt at a comeback much harder. It deflated the Packers as it lifted up the Cowboys. Emotion plays a big part in NFL contests, and this was a huge emotional swing that not even Dak Prescott’s first career interception a few moments later could completely reverse. It was the play of the game, it robbed Green Bay of four points as they had to settle for a field goal after the interception, and that is why Irving gets this recognition.

It does almost feel like so many others are being slighted. Prescott continues to amaze, and the argument about keeping him as the starter when Tony Romo is ready will just get more and more heated. Ezekiel Elliott is building a heck of a case to be league offensive MVP, much less offensive rookie of the year. And the real MVP of the team may be that offensive line, which shredded what was widely advertised as the best run defense in the league while generally providing excellent protection to the quarterback. Cole Beasley has become a true weapon while Dez Bryant is out, and Jason Witten continues to make real contributions as he plays in what seems like his 53rd season while setting some records of his own. Defensively, Sean Leeand Barry Church continue to be rocks as the team’s best tacklers (although Lee was involved in an unfortunate friendly fire situation that caused a Morris Claiborne concussion) andAnthony Brown would be the steal of the draft for Dallas if it was not for that quarterback fellow.

But this one goes to Irving. And really, with the way the team is playing, there is an argument to be made for multiple game balls. We’ll put that off for now, and keep it to one. Besides, the only thing that really matters is that W at the end of the game. With five in a row, the season is turning into something special for a Dallas team that many expected to be struggling to make it to .500 this year. These game balls are really just a bright spot in some true team efforts.

At Lambeau Field, Irving just had one moment that was the brightest of them all.

[Source:-Bloging The Boys]

References filed against Dr Asim Hussain in accountability court

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Thursday filed references against Dr Asim Hussain in an accountability court.

In the references submitted to court, there are 3,074 pieces of evidence against Hussain, alleging corruption amounting to RS462 billion against the former petroleum minister.

The accountability court has accepted the references submitted today.

Hussain, a close aide of former president Asif Zardari, is facing allegations of alleged misuse of authority in fraudulent allotment of plots and encroachment of state land for Dr Ziauddin Hospital, illegal gains and kickbacks.

He is also accused of receiving commission through the fertilizer cartel for illegal curtailment of gas for exploitive price hike and black marketing between 2010 and 2012, in addition to fraud with the general public and money laundering.

NAB initiated an inquiry involving an amount of Rs13bn against the former petroleum minister.

Earlier in February, after spending around five and a half months in the custody of different law enforcement agencies, an accountability court sent Hussain to prison on judicial remand in a corruption inquiry being conducted by NAB.

 

[SOURCE:-dawn]