News / Middle East

    Shi'ites Gird for Battle as ISIL Rebels Make Gains

    FILE - Iraqi soldiers patrol along the border between Syria and Iraq in Qaim, located in the Euphrates river valley 200 miles (320 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, July 20, 2012.
    FILE - Iraqi soldiers patrol along the border between Syria and Iraq in Qaim, located in the Euphrates river valley 200 miles (320 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, July 20, 2012.
    Sunni fighters have seized an Iraqi town that borders Syria, allowing the militants to pass freely along with their weapons between the two countries, security officials said Saturday.

    Fighters with the al-Qaida breakaway group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), took the border town of Qaim overnight after a day of heavy fighting on Friday. The Associated Press quoted officials speaking on the condition of anonymity saying people are now crossing back and forth freely.

    Insurgents also took control Saturday of Rawah. The fall of Qaim and Rawah solidifies the rebel control of the western Anbar province.
     
    Volunteers of the newly formed "Peace Brigades" participate in a parade in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, June 21, 2014.Volunteers of the newly formed "Peace Brigades" participate in a parade in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, June 21, 2014.
    x
    Volunteers of the newly formed "Peace Brigades" participate in a parade in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, June 21, 2014.
    Volunteers of the newly formed "Peace Brigades" participate in a parade in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, June 21, 2014.

    The border breach could result in yet more fighters and weaponry flooding into Iraq, as the militants expand their battlefields and pose a growing threat to the capital, Baghdad.
     
    The advance by ISIL militants began early last week with the takeover of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. With the militants comprised mainly of Sunni Muslims, Shi’ite Muslims, near Mosul and elsewhere are girding themselves to fight back.
     
    In the town of Khazna, about 13 miles from Mosul, residents said they were fearful amid jihadists claims that they have killed 1,500 Shi’ites since taking control of Mosul on June 12.
     
    One man who gave his name as only Mahmoud said fighters, whom locals refer to as the Da’esh, have established a checkpoint just a 10 minute drive from Khazna, a village of around 10,000.
     
    Mahmoud say he and many others in Khazna were angered not only by the murders, but also by the perception that Sunni military officers and Iraqi army soldiers allowed ISIL fighters take Mosul without a fight.
     
    Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga have moved from the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan to protect Shia and Christian villages near Mosul. The Kurds and Iraqi government have long disputed ownership of land to the east of Mosul.
     
    Many Shia families are among the 300,000 Iraqis estimated to have fled Mosul. Abdullah, a former Iraqi army soldier who escaped along with his family to Khazna, said he ventured back to Mosul four days ago to retrieve some possessions from his home but was seized by Da’esh fighters.

    He was only released thanks to the intervention of his former army commander, who has joined the jihadists, he said.

    In Khazna, residents said they welcome the call to arms made by the powerful Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Mehdi army fought the U.S. in Iraq for years.

    On Saturday, fighters loyal to al-Sadr mounted a show of strength in a parade featuring missiles and artillery pieces and stretching for several miles through the Sadr City section of Baghdad. Armed men marched past loudspeakers proclaiming how they would defend Iraq from the Sunni militants who are creeping closer to the Iraqi capital.

    In Khazna, watching television footage of the march in Baghdad, residents say they will join the fight, but also warn that neither the United States nor even Shi’ite Iran should directly intervene.

    If America or Iran were serious about wanting to help, Mahmoud says, they should equip the Shi’ite in northern Iraq with weapons.

    Calls for new government

    On Friday, Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric called for a new, "effective" government that avoids "past mistakes," adding to the pressure on the country's Shi'ite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. The remarks by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani come after U.S. President Barack Obama called on Maliki to create an agenda "inclusive" of Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish minorities or risk civil war.

    Maliki is facing fierce opposition from his rivals as he tries to retain the prime minister post after his State of Law bloc won the most seats in parliament in the April 30 elections. The newly-elected parliament must meet by June 30 to elect a speaker and a new president, who will then ask the leader of the largest bloc to form a new government.

    U.S. officials would not comment directly on Sistani's statement, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest said a successful Iraqi government would be one that governs in an "inclusive fashion."

    The Maliki government, meanwhile, has asked the U.S. for airstrikes to counter the militants.

    Obama said Thursday he was ready to take what he called targeted military action. He also said he was prepared to send more equipment and up to 300 military advisers to help train, advise and support Iraqi forces in the fight, but he ruled out sending U.S. ground forces back.

    Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to head to the Middle East and Europe next week to consult with partner countries on Iraq. Kerry will travel to Jordan before heading to Brussels for the NATO foreign ministers' meeting and then to Paris for meetings with regional partners and Gulf allies.

    U.S. Defense Department spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters Friday the first teams of advisers being sent to Iraq comprise personnel who are already in Baghdad. He said the U.S. is seeking from the Iraqi government on legal protections for the teams.

    The U.N. Refugee Agency announced Friday that conflict has displaced 1 million people since the beginning of the year.

    Iraqi troops and Sunni militants have been locked in fighting since Tuesday for control of the country's biggest oil refinery. Reports had said each side held a portion of the Beiji refinery, about 150 miles north of Baghdad.

    The U.S. State Department said ISIL fighters also control what used to be a chemical weapons production facility under the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

    The advance by ISIL began early last week with the militants' takeover of the city of Mosul, Iraq's second largest.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: meanbill from: USA
    June 21, 2014 6:11 PM
    AN UNDENIABLE FACT? -- Even the great King Solomon, with all of his wisdom, could never have solved the unsolvable problems Maliki is facing now, (in this complete Sunni Muslim uprising), by the different Sunni Muslim terrorist groups, Sunni Muslim tribes and armed civilians, and Sunni Muslim deserting military officers and troops... (who are killing Shia everywhere)...

    MY OPINION? -- Maliki must have the courage and find the wisdom of King Solomon, (to fight and defeat), this Sunni Muslim (ISIL) terrorists led uprising of Sunni Muslim Iraq terrorist groups, Sunni Muslim tribes and civilians, and Sunni Muslim army deserters -- with an Iraq army of about 50% Sunni Muslims, who refuse to fight against any Sunni Muslim terrorists, or any other Sunni Muslim tribes, civilians, or army deserters, and may even shoot Shia troops in the back?

    King Solomon, (with all of his wisdom), wouldn't listen to the bad advice given by the US, EU, and NATO countries, that couldn't defeat any country in any conflict or war they ever started or participated in, and they have been supplying arms and training to the Muslim extremists/terrorists, fighting against Shia Muslims in Syria and Iraq? --- (Yea, their advice is really bad).....

    Maliki has only two tough choices in this Sunni Muslim uprising, -- (and that is) -- Maliki must disarm the Sunni Muslim army, (or at least), segregate them from the Shia Muslim troops, to win this Sunni Muslim uprising -- (and then), -- after winning the fight against the Sunni Muslim terrorists, tribes, armed civilians, and deserters, (Maliki must somehow), integrate the Sunni Muslim terrorists, the tribes, armed civilians and army deserters, back into an Iraq government, they fought to destroy, -- (that King Solomon with all his wisdom, and with God helping him), couldn't do.. ..... REALLY

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.