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Valerie Amos arrived in Erbil
2014.09.13 02:48:50

Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, arrived in Erbil on a Four day visit to discuss the situation of Iraqi displaced people.



Tags: Iraq

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Ahrar Al-Sham pledging allegiance
2014.09.13 02:47:36

This video uploaded to YouTube shows fighters from Ahrar Al-Sham pledging allegiance to their new leader, Abu Jaber.

MWC cannot independently verify the content of the video.



Tags: Syria | Ahrar al-Sham

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France had agreed to join airstrikes against Islamic State
2014.09.13 02:32:32

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Friday that France had agreed to join airstrikes against Islamic State insurgents at a meeting held during a visit to the country by President Francois Hollande.

President Francois Hollande also said that France is ready to step up military assistance for Iraq, as global efforts intensified to defeat Islamic State fighters.

[Reuters]



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | France

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Syrian troops capture strategic town in Hama
2014.09.13 02:31:31

The Syrian army says it has captured a strategic town from the Nusra Front, dealing a blow to the al-Qaeda-linked group that has been trying to open new fronts after losing ground to Islamic State.

The military said it retook the town of Halfaya in Hama province, driving back an offensive that had threatened several loyalist towns, populated mostly by minority Christians and Alawites.

In a statement, the army said it had taken complete control of Halfaya and surrounding areas after soldiers, "eliminated large numbers of terrorists... and destroyed a large number of their vehicles and weapons".

The army said it had also taken control of Khattab and other areas close to Hama military airport.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the war, said dozens of fighters on both sides had been killed since government forces and allied fighters launched their counter offensive.

Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory, said the Nusra Front fighters had staged a sudden withdrawal from Halfaya.

"In the last week they called in other fighters because they couldn't continue," he said by telephone.

The gains help shore up government control in a key corridor of territory stretching north from Damascus to the coast including the heartlands of the minority Alawite sect which forms President Bashar al-Assad's power base.

[Reuters]



Tags: Syria

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Germany to send 40 military trainers to Iraq
2014.09.13 02:29:07

Germany to send 40 military trainers to Iraq to instruct Kurds in weapons use. [AP]



Tags: Iraq | Germany

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Kerry announced on Friday nearly $500 million in humanitarian aid
2014.09.13 02:28:02

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday nearly $500 million in humanitarian aid for people and countries hit by Syria's civil war.

The aid package includes more than $250 million "to assist refugees and host communities in the neighboring countries affected by the crisis," Kerry said in a statement.

Some 3 million Syrian refugees have registered in neighboring countries, according to the United Nations, but many remain trapped by the advance of Islamist militants or are having difficulty reaching open border crossings.

The UN refugee agency said two weeks ago that almost half of all Syrians had now been forced to leave their homes by the conflict, with 6.5 million thought to be displaced within Syria.



Tags: Syria | United States | John Kerry

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Turkey refused to join its Arab neighbors against IS group
2014.09.13 02:12:40

Turkey has refused to join its Arab neighbors in their public pledge to unite against IS group via  a coordinated military campaign.

Despite attending the talks, Turkey was not mentioned in the communique, an omission attributed by a senior Turkish official to sensitivities about 46 Turkish hostages held by the fighters.

Countries wiling to cooperate in the agreement to fight against IS are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as are Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | Syria | Turkey

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Syria must be part of the coalition against Islamic State
2014.09.13 02:10:59

Syria must be part of the coalition against Islamic State fighters because the country is a key victim of "terrorism", an adviser to President Bashar al-Assad said on Friday.

"Terrorism didn't start in Syria today, it started four years ago" when the uprising against Assad began, Buthaina Shaaban was quoted as saying by state news agency SANA.

"So it is crucial that its victim, which has been damaged by this scourge, be a key part of the fight against terrorism," she said.

Her comments came as the United States assembles a coalition to tackle the Islamic State jihadist group, which is operating in Syria and Iraq.

The coalition pointedly does not include Syria, and Washington has said it plans air strikes on Syrian territory but it will not work with the government in Damascus.



Tags: Syria | Islamic State | United States

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Qatar helped to secure the release of Fijian peacekeepers
2014.09.13 01:54:16

The Qatari government said it helped to secure the release of 45 Fijian peacekeepers kidnapped by Al-Qaeda linked Syrian rebels on the Golan Heights last month.

"The efforts of the State of Qatar led to the successful release of the Fijian soldiers... who had been held for two weeks," the Gulf emirate said in a statement late Thursday.

The United Nations announced the same day the release of the 45 peacekeepers, part of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) which monitors a 1974 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Syria on the Golan.



Tags: Syria | Israel | Golan Heights | Fiji | Qatar

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Morocco arrests seven self proclaimed jihadists
2014.09.13 01:52:49

Morocco's interior ministry said on Friday that seven self proclaimed jihadists have been arrested for recruiting fighters to join the ranks of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Morocco has frequently reported the arrest of jihadists and expressed deep concern about the number of its citizens fighting in Syria and Iraq and about those who have returned to prepare attacks at home.

[AFP]



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | Syria | Morocco

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Australia raised its terror threat level
2014.09.13 01:39:39

Australia on Friday raised its terror threat level to "high" for the first time in a decade on growing concern about Australian jihadists returning from fighting in Iraq and Syria.

The heightened alert after years on "medium" officially means a "terrorist attack is likely" and comes after repeated government warnings that attacks could happen.

"There are people with the intent and the capability to mount attacks here in Australia," Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a press conference.

The lifting of the threat level was "not based on knowledge of a specific attack plan but rather a body of evidence that points to the increased likelihood of a terrorist attack in Australia", Abbott added in a joint
statement with Attorney-General George Brandis.



Tags: Syria | Islamic State | Iraq | Australia

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Islamic State supporters in Germany
2014.09.13 01:38:16

German authorities have banned all activity on behalf of the Islamic State extremist group, including the distribution of propaganda material and the display of its symbols.

The decree issued Friday closes a legal gap that made it difficult to prosecute Islamic State supporters in Germany.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in a statement the group represents a ``threat to public security in Germany'' and its recruitment efforts need to be stopped. Security agencies estimate at least 400 people from Germany have joined the Islamic State group and similar organizations.

The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper reported this week that a German citizen identified only as Silvio K. had published a video threatening attacks against Germany because of the country's support for Kurds fighting the Islamic State group.



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | Syria | Germany

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Syrian government air strikes
2014.09.13 01:24:34

Syrian government air strikes, including one on a crowded sheep market, have killed at least 11 people in al-Bab, a town controlled by the IS in Aleppo province, activists say.

Two activist groups, the Aleppo Media Center and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported Thursday's air raids.

The strike on the market left scenes of carnage. In one amateur video posted online, civil defense workers scamper around charred hulks of bombed-out cars and trucks.

[AP]



Tags: Syria

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Francois Hollande is visiting Iraq
2014.09.13 01:10:56

French President Francois Hollande is visiting Iraq as his country prepares possible airstrikes with a US-led coalition against Islamic State extremists who have seized territory around the region.

French radio says Hollande landed in Baghdad on Friday morning. He and his defense and foreign ministers are to meet Iraq's new prime minister and president.

Hollande and Iraqi officials are expected to discuss possible French airstrikes on Islamic State targets. If the Iraqi government requests such action, French strikes could start very soon, in coordination with the United States.

Hollande's visit and a conference that Paris is hosting next week on Iraq are the first steps by France in a long-term effort to bolster the Iraqi government and weaken militants from the Islamic State group.



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | France

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Russia committed to ceasefire
2014.09.12 07:54:33

Russia is committed to help enforce a peace initiative in Ukraine despite a new set of economic sanctions imposed by the EU against Moscow, Interfax news agency said.

"Despite the EU position being non-constructive, Russia will continue to do its utmost to help enforce the existing peace plan, as well as to stabilize the situation in the south-east of Ukraine overall," Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Kerry will visit Turkey and Egypt
2014.09.12 02:43:00

As part of his Middle East tour to rally efforts to tackle the Islamic State group, US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Turkey on Friday and Egypt on Saturday.



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | United States | John Kerry | Turkey | Egypt

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Air strikes on a mosque
2014.09.12 02:41:36

At least 25 people have been killed and dozens more injured in Douma, a rebel held suburb in the north east of Damascus, local activists said.

Government planes launched air strikes on a mosque, a market and residential buildings, activists said, adding that the situation is critical with hospitals suffering from a lack of medical supplies.



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Arab countries agree to join US-led anti-IS coalition
2014.09.12 02:40:13

In Jeddah on Thursday, Ten Arab states agreed in Jeddah to rally behind Washington in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates agreed to "do their share" in the fight against IS.



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | United States | Syria

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Cameron is not ruling out military action against IS in Syria
2014.09.12 02:38:52

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron is not ruling out military action against Islamic State militants in Syria, a spokesman said on Thursday, after Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Britain would not join any US air strikes in Syria.

"The prime minister has not ruled anything out," the spokesman said, adding that Hammond's comments were in reference to a parliamentary vote last year against air strikes in Syria.

[AFP]



Tags: Syria | Islamic State

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Lebanon to open first Syria refugee camps
2014.09.12 02:37:07

Lebanon has decided to set up two camps for Syrian refugees for the first time along its border with Syria, Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas told AFP.

Derbas said the decision to establish the two camps had already been approved and that government representatives were meeting on Thursday to discuss implementing the plan.

"The Council of the Ministers has taken a decision to set up camps for Syrian refugees, one in the Bekaa valley in the Masnaa area and one in the Abda area in northern Lebanon," Derbas said.

"Estimates are that each camp could accommodate 10,000 people."

There are already more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which has a population of just four million people.



Tags: Syria | Lebanon

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