Turkish warplanes ‘destroy 18 Kurdish militant targets in Iraq’

Turkey’s joint cross-border operation with Iraq is likely to start after Baghdad holds elections in May. (Reuters)
Updated 12 March 2018
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Turkish warplanes ‘destroy 18 Kurdish militant targets in Iraq’

ISTANBUL: Turkish warplanes destroyed at least 18 targets belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq over the weekend, the state-run Anadolu news agency said on Sunday.
The strikes, carried out on Saturday and Sunday, targeted the Hakurk, Zap, Metina, Gara and Avasin-Basyan regions of northern Iraq, Anadolu said, citing the Turkish military.
Turkey regularly carries out airstrikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq, where the group is based in the Qandil mountains.
The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by the US, the EU and Turkey, has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast that has killed some 40,000 people.
Turkey in January launched a separate military operation in northern Syria’s Afrin region to sweep Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters from its southern border. Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the PKK.
US support for the YPG in the fight against Daesh in Syria has strained ties between Ankara and Washington, both members of the NATO military alliance.
On Thursday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying that Turkey and Iraq’s central government in Baghdad will carry out a joint operation against Kurdish militants in Iraq.
Cavusoglu was quoted as saying the joint cross-border operation with Iraq may start after Iraq holds parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2018, signaling Turkish troops may move to northern Iraq following the ongoing offensive.


Iraq lays cornerstone to rebuild iconic Mosul mosque

Updated 16 December 2018
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Iraq lays cornerstone to rebuild iconic Mosul mosque

  • More than a year after Daesh lost control of Mosul, the iconic mosque still lies in ruins
  • In June 2014, it became infamous as the site where Baghdadi declared Daeh’s “caliphate” just days after the extremists seized Mosul in a lightning assault

MOSUL: Iraqis on Sunday laid the cornerstone in rebuilding Mosul’s Al-Nuri mosque and leaning minaret, national emblems destroyed last year in the ferocious battle against the Daesh group.
The famed 12th century mosque and minaret, dubbed Al-Hadba or “the hunchback,” hosted Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s only public appearance as Daesh chief, when he declared a self-styled “caliphate” after the extremists swept into Mosul in 2014.
The structures were ravaged three years later in the final, most brutal stages of the months-long fight to rid Iraq’s second city of Daesh.
On Sunday, dozens of government officials, religious figures, United Nations representatives and European ambassadors gathered in the large square in front of the battered mosque to see the foundation laid.
Abu Bakr Kenaan, the head of Sunni Muslim endowments in Nineveh province, set down the stone in a simple ceremony.
It bore a black Arabic inscription: “This cornerstone for the rebuilding and restoration of the Al-Hadba minaret and the Great Al-Nuri Mosque was laid on December 16, 2018.”
More than a year after Daesh lost control of Mosul, the iconic mosque still lies in ruins. The stone gate leading up to its courtyard and the greenish dome now covered in graffiti are virtually the only parts still erect.
All that is left of the minaret is part of its rectangular base, the rest of it sheared off by fighting.
Kenaan told AFP remnants of the minaret would be preserved, while other parts of the mosque would be built afresh, along with a museum about its history and adjacent homes.
The five-year project will be financed by a $50.4 million (44.6 million euro) donation from the United Arab Emirates.
The first year will focus on documenting and clearing the site, while the next four years will see the physical restoration, the UN’s heritage agency UNESCO has said.
The mosque’s destruction “was a moment of horror and despair,” said UNESCO Iraq representative Louise Haxthausen.
“Today as we lay the foundation stone of the Nuri mosque, we are starting a journey of physical reconstruction,” she told those gathered.
The mosque takes its name from Nureddin Al-Zinki, who ordered it built in 1172 after unifying Syria and parts of northern Iraq.
Its cylindrical minaret, which featured several levels of ornamental brickwork capped by a small white dome, started listing centuries ago.
It is featured on Iraq’s 10,000-dinar banknote and gave its name to countless restaurants, companies and even sports clubs.
But in June 2014, it became infamous as the site where Baghdadi declared Daeh’s “caliphate” just days after the extremists seized Mosul in a lightning assault.
That capture prompted three years of ferocious fighting to wrest back Mosul and other Iraqi cities overrun by Daesh.
In June 2017, as Iraqi forces closed in on a shrinking Daesh-held pocket in Mosul’s Old City, the extremists blew up both the Al-Nuri mosque and its leaning minaret.
Daesh itself blamed a US-led strike for the destruction.
When the rest of the Old City fell back under state control, Iraqi forces celebrated at the mosque, holding Daesh’s black flag upside down and tauntingly calling out, “Where is Baghdadi?“