US-backed Syrian forces seize Raqqa mosque

Smoke billows in the embattled northern Syrian city of Raqqa on September 3, 2017, as Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battle to retake the city from Daesh militants. (AFP / Delil Souleiman)
Updated 04 September 2017
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US-backed Syrian forces seize Raqqa mosque

BEIRUT: US-backed Syrian militias have taken the historic old city of Raqqa and its ancient mosque as they press their offensive to defeat Daesh, the US-led coalition said on Monday.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, said last week it had captured the final districts in Raqqa’s Old City from Daesh.
With the help of US-led jets and special forces, the SDF has been battling to capture Raqqa city, which Daesh used as a base of operations in Syria. The SDF pushed into the city in June after fighting for months to encircle it.
The walled old city lies in the heart of Raqqa, but Daesh militants still control districts in the west of the city. The SDF says it holds 65 percent of Raqqa in total.
“The SDF have made consistent incremental gains in the urban terrain of the city, fighting block by block,” said US Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition against Daesh.
The statement said the SDF has cleared the Great Mosque of Raqqa, its oldest mosque, describing the advance as “a milestone” in the Raqqa battle.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Army and its allies on Monday came to within 3 km of relieving the Euphrates city of Deir Ezzor, where Daesh has besieged 93,000 civilians and an army garrison for years.
The advance on the eastern city marks another stinging setback for the once-triumphant Daesh, fast retreating in both Iraq and Syria as its self-declared caliphate crumbles.
Syrian regime troops were rapidly approaching the city, reaching a point 3 km away, state television said. Dozens of trucks loaded with food stood ready to enter the enclave in the city once government forces break the siege, it said.


US grants Iraq 90-day waiver to buy Iranian energy

Updated 20 March 2019
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US grants Iraq 90-day waiver to buy Iranian energy

  • The previous waiver was granted on Dec. 21

WASHINGTON: The United States granted Iraq a 90-day waiver from sanctions to buy energy from Iran, a State Department official said on Wednesday, the latest extension allowing Baghdad to keep importing Iranian gas that is critical for Iraqi power production.
“Iraq was granted a 90-day waiver to purchase energy imports from Iran,” the State Department official said on condition of anonymity. The last sanctions waiver for Iraq was granted by Washington on Dec. 21.