Eight dead as US-led strike hits Iraq forces

Iraqi forces backed by tribal militias during a battle to retake a village from Daesh on the eastern bank of the river Tigris. A US airstrike killed eight Iraqi security personnel on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 27 January 2018
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Eight dead as US-led strike hits Iraq forces

BAGHDAD: An airstrike by the US-led coalition battling Daesh hit Iraqi security personnel on Saturday, officials said, in an apparent mistake that killed eight people.
The friendly fire incident drew swift criticism of the US military presence in Iraq from pro-Iranian figures in Baghdad.
“Eight people — a senior intelligence official, five policemen and a woman — were killed by a US strike on the center of Al-Baghdadi,” a town in western Iraq, a provincial official said, asking not to be identified.
“It seems the strike was a mistake,” the official said of the incident in the Euphrates Valley town, adjacent to the Ain Al-Asad air base 250 km west of the capital.
Those killed were traveling in a convoy which had been deployed to support a dawn raid on suspected Daesh militants in the area.
Despite the government’s declaration of victory over Daesh last month, the terrorists remain active underground in several regions of Iraq, particularly along the Euphrates Valley and in the vast desert to its west.
The US-led strike destroyed most of the vehicles in the convoy and also wounded 20 people, including the town’s police chief, who was in a serious condition, the provincial official said.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, which coordinates the country’s campaign against Daesh, said it had ordered a special forces raid in the town after receiving intelligence of a “meeting to be attended by terrorist commander Karim Al-Samarmad.”
It said it had requested “air support from the international coalition.”
“Once the terrorist was arrested and while troops were carrying out searches, a grenade was thrown from an adjacent building.”
As the special forces troops withdrew to base, they ran into a convoy of police and paramilitaries of the Hashd A-Shaabi auxiliary force that had been sent to support them.
The convoy was composed of pickup trucks and the returning forces mistook them for terrorists and called in a coalition air strike, the JOC said, lamenting the lack of coordination.
“An inquiry has been opened,” it added.
Coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon said the strike had been carried out at the request of Iraqi forces, who would take the lead in investigating any failings.
“Anything we do in Iraq is in support of the Iraqi security forces. We were asked for support and we provided it,” Dillon said.
“Iraqi forces have announced an investigation, they are on the lead for the investigation.
“For any allegation, especially of civilian losses, we conduct an investigation.”
But leaders of the pro-Iran militias that form the backbone of the Hashd auxiliary force, which played a major role in the campaign against Daesh independently of the coalition, were unswayed by the explanation.
Militia leader Moqtada Sadr, who led repeated uprisings against coalition troops during the US-led occupation that followed the 2003 invasion, demanded immediate action against those responsible for the strike.
“Once again the American occupation forces have shown their tyranny and arrogance by flagrantly violating the independence and sovereignty of the Iraqi government,” he said on Twitter.
Senior Hashd commander Qais Al-Khazali, who heads the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq militia, said the strike “raises serious and dangerous questions.”
Those questions concern “the American military presence in Iraq, the role it intends to play and the justification for its presence after the military defeat of IS (Daesh),” he said on Twitter.


US Mideast plan will not include land transfer from Egypt’s Sinai: envoy

Updated 20 April 2019
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US Mideast plan will not include land transfer from Egypt’s Sinai: envoy

JERUSALEM: US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan will not involve giving land from Egypt’s Sinai peninsula to the Palestinians, an American envoy said on Friday.
Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Middle East envoy, apparently sought to deny reports on social media that the long-awaited plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would involve extending Gaza into the northern Sinai along Egypt’s Mediterranean coast.
“Hearing reports our plan includes the concept that we will give a portion of Sinai (which is Egypt’s) to Gaza. False!,” Greenblatt, one of the architects of the proposal, tweeted on Friday.
The American plan is expected to be unveiled once Israel’s newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forms a government coalition and after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in June.
Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner said on Wednesday the plan would require compromise by all parties, a source familiar with his remarks said.
It is unclear whether the plan will propose outright the creation of a Palestinian state, the Palestinians’ core demand.
The Palestinians have long sought to set up a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The last round of US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014.