Iraq attacks at lowest since Daesh ‘caliphate’ declared: Study

A man rides out of the window of a car transporting one of the victims of a suicide car bomb attack in the northern Iraqi town of Tuz Khurmatu, near Iraq’s oil-rich multi-ethnic province of Kirkuk, on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2017
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Iraq attacks at lowest since Daesh ‘caliphate’ declared: Study

BAGHDAD: The number of attacks in Iraq has fallen to its lowest since the Daesh group declared a “caliphate” in 2014, a study said Wednesday, with the militants reduced to scraps of territory.
“Non-state armed group attacks and resulting fatalities represented the lowest monthly totals since the formation of Daesh and the declaration of the caliphate in June 2014, highlighting the extent of the decrease in operational activity by the group in Iraq,” the Britain-based Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center (JTIC) said.
“The 126 attacks in October represented almost half the peak recorded in January, while the 102 fatalities represented an 80.0 percent decrease from November 2016.”
The drop in violence came as Iraqi troops forced Daesh from the last few towns it held along the border with Syria, reducing its territory to just a few pockets of sparsely populated desert.
The defeats are the latest in a punishing campaign by government forces backed up by airstrikes by a US-led coalition that has seen Daesh ousted from its major strongholds, including Iraq’s second city Mosul.
As the group has lost ground it has increasingly turned to “asymmetric operations, typified by low-level attacks targeting the security forces and higher profile attacks against civilian sectarian targets,” the JTIC said.
In October, the militants carried out 15 suicide attacks that claimed seven lives, with the security forces succeeding in disrupting the vast majority of the attempts, the study said.
In a sign of how perilous the situation remains in Iraq, a suicide car bomber on Tuesday killed 24 people in an attack on a busy market in a town north of Baghdad. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
While Daesh has lost territory in Iraq, it has also been ceding ground across the border in Syria, where it was forced from its last urban stronghold by regime forces last week.
Also on Wednesday, Iraqi officials have increased the death toll from a suicide attack in a contested town claimed by Baghdad and the Kurdish region to 36 people, up from 32.
Police and health officials said that 11 members of Iraq’s security forces were among the dead in the powerful explosion a day earlier in a marketplace in Tuz Khormato when a suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden truck. He said 85 others were wounded.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.
No group has immediately claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack. The town is about 210 kilometers (130 miles) north of Baghdad.
The top UN envoy to Iraq, Jan Kubis condemned the attack as “cowardly tactics against innocent civilians” and described those behind it as “terrorists.”


UN envoy due in Yemen as strains escalate with Houthi missile launch

Updated 25 June 2018
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UN envoy due in Yemen as strains escalate with Houthi missile launch

RIYADH/ADEN: The Iran-aligned Houthi movement fired missiles at the Saudi capital Riyadh late on Sunday, escalating tensions ahead of a visit by the UN envoy to Yemen this week to try to avert a military assault on the country’s main port city.
A Houthi spokesman has threatened more attacks in response to the offensive launched by a Saudi-led coalition on June 12 to seize control of Hodeidah port, long a key target, in an attempt to weaken the Houthis by cutting their main supply line.
The United Nations fears that an assault on the Red Sea port, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, could trigger a famine imperilling millions of lives.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths is due in the southern city of Aden on Wednesday for talks with ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in the legitimate government’s temporary capital, government officials said.
One official said Griffiths would be there only for a few hours for talks focused on averting an assault on the port.
“There is a proposal on the table,” the foreign minister of Hadi’s government, Khaled Al-Yamani, told reporters in Riyadh.
“We would accept a peace initiative on the condition that militias leave the western coast,” he said at a joint press conference to announce a $40 million project launched by Saudi Arabia for de-mining operations in Yemen.
The Houthis have indicated they would be willing to hand over management of the port to the United Nations, sources told Reuters. A US official said Washington was urging the Saudis and Emiratis to accept the deal.
The coalition said on Monday that eight members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group had been killed in battles in the mountainous Saada region in Yemen’s northwest, which is held by the Houthis along with the capital Sanaa.
Hezbollah officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but the group has previously denied Saudi accusations that it is helping Houthi rebels.
MISSILES OVER RIYADH
Saudi air defense forces intercepted two rockets over Riyadh late on Sunday, sending debris measuring up to several meters hurtling toward residential areas.
Pieces fell near the US mission in the Saudi capital and at a school in the diplomatic quarter. Debris sparked a fire at a construction site 10 km (six miles) further south and fell on the roof of a private residence, but Saudi officials said there were no casualties.
“Our rockets will reach places that the enemy will not expect,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said. “The longer the aggression and war continue, the greater our ballistic missile capabilities.”
Coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki said the alliance’s advances on Hodeidah and other fronts were pushing the Houthis to try to project strength through such attacks.
Coalition-backed forces seized Hodeidah airport last week and have been consolidating their hold in the area as more Houthi fighters, many armed with Ak-47 assault rifles, were deployed in the city and around the port.
The United Nations fears heavy fighting will worsen what is already the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis, with 22 million Yemenis dependent on aid and an estimated 8.4 million believed to be on the verge of starvation.
The Arab states say they must recapture Hodeidah to deprive the Houthis of their main source of income and prevent them from smuggling in Iranian-made missiles, accusations denied by the group and Tehran.
The coalition has pledged a swift military operation to take over the airport and seaport without entering the city center, to minimize civilian casualties and maintain the flow of goods.