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Archive for the ‘Zone City of Baghdad’ Category

Iraqi Kurds vote in referendum on independence from Baghdad

September 25, 2017

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — Iraqi Kurds were casting ballots on Monday in Iraq’s Kurdish region and disputed territories on whether to support independence from Baghdad in a historic but non-binding vote that has raised regional tensions and fears of instability.

More than 3 million people are expected to vote across the three provinces that make up the Kurdish autonomous region, as well as residents in disputed territories — areas claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurds, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk — according to the Independent High Elections and Referendum Commission, the body overseeing the vote.

Lines began forming early in the day at polling stations across Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital. Tahsin Karim was one of the first people to vote in his Irbil neighborhood. “Today we came here to vote in the referendum for the independence of Kurdistan,” he said. “We hope that we can achieve independence.”

The Kurdish region’s president, Masoud Barzani, also voted early on Monday morning at a polling station packed with journalists and cameras. At a press conference in Irbil on the eve of the referendum, Barzani said he believed the vote would be peaceful, though he acknowledged that the path to independence would be “risky.”

“We are ready to pay any price for our independence,” he said. The referendum is being carried out despite mounting opposition from Baghdad and the international community. The United States, a key ally of Iraq’s Kurds, has warned the vote will likely destabilize the region amid the fight with the Islamic State group. The Iraqi central government has also come out strongly against the referendum, demanding on Sunday that all airports and borders crossings in the Kurdish region be handed back to federal government control.

In a televised address from Baghdad on Sunday night, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that “the referendum is unconstitutional. It threatens Iraq, peaceful coexistence among Iraqis and is a danger to the region.”

“We will take measures to safeguard the nation’s unity and protect all Iraqis,” he added. In a strongly worded statement, Turkey said on Monday that it doesn’t recognize the referendum and declared its results would be “null and void.”

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry called on the international community and especially regional countries not to recognize the vote either and urged Iraq Kurdish leaders to abandon “utopic goals,” accusing them of endangering peace and stability for Iraq and the whole region.

The ministry reiterated that Turkey would take all measures to thwart threats to its national security. On Saturday, Turkey’s parliament met in an extraordinary session to extend a mandate allowing Turkey’s military to send troops over its southern border if developments in Iraq and Syria are perceived as national security threats.

Initial results from the poll are expected on Tuesday, with the official results to be announced later in the week. At his press conference, Barzani also said that while the referendum will be the first step in a long process to negotiate independence, the region’s “partnership” with the Iraqi central government in Baghdad is over.

He detailed the abuses Iraq’s Kurds have faced by Iraqi forces, including killings at the hands of former leader Saddam Hussein’s army that left more than 50,000 Kurds dead. Iraqi Kurds have long dreamed of independence — something the Kurdish people were denied when colonial powers drew the map of the Middle East after World War I. The Kurds form a sizable minority in Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq. In Iraq, they have long been at odds with the Baghdad government over the sharing of oil revenues and the fate of disputed territories like Kirkuk.

The Kurds have been a close American ally for decades, and the first U.S. airstrikes in the campaign against IS were launched to protect Irbil. Kurdish forces later regrouped and played a major role in driving the extremists from much of northern Iraq, including Mosul, the country’s second largest city.

But the U.S. has long been opposed to Kurdish moves toward independence, fearing it could lead to the breakup of Iraq and bring even more instability to an already volatile Middle East. In Baghdad, residents strongly criticized then referendum, saying it would raise sectarian tensions and create an “Israel in Iraq.” An Arabic newspaper headline said “Kurdistan into the unknown,” a reference to the name Kurds use for their region.

“This is a division of Iraq,” said journalist Raad Mohammad while another Baghdad resident, Ali al-Rubayah, described the referendum as a “black day in the history of the Kurds.” Lawyer Tariq al-Zubaydi said the referendum was inappropriate amid the “ongoing threat of terrorism and Islamic State” militants. “The country is going through a difficult period, this requires a coming together of our efforts, he said. “A unified country is better for all.”

Voting was also underway on Monday morning in Kirkuk. The oil-rich city has large Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen and Christian communities and has seen some low-level clashes in the days leading up to Monday’s vote.

“I feel so great and happy, I feel we’ll be free,” said Suad Pirot, a Kirkuk Kurdish resident, after voting. “Nobody will rule us, we will be independent.”

Associated Press writers Ali Abdul-Hassan in Irbil, Iraq, Bram Janssen in Kirkuk, Iraq, and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

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Iraq: Car bombing at busy Baghdad market kills 12 people

August 28, 2017

BAGHDAD (AP) — A car bomb ripped through a busy market area in eastern Baghdad on Monday morning, killing at least 12 people, Iraqi officials said. The explosives-laden car went off at the wholesale Jamila market in Baghdad’s Shiite district of Sadr City, a police officer said. The explosion also wounded 28 other people, he added, saying the death toll was expected to rise further.

A medical official confirmed the casualty figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists. A plume of thick black smoke billowed from the area and people were running away in panic. At the site, twisted metal and shards of glass littered the pavement, along with vegetables and other goods sold at the market.

“It was a thunderous explosion,” said Hussein Kadhim, a 35-year old porter and father of three who was wounded in his right leg. “It sounds that the security situation is still uncontrollable and I’m afraid that such bombings will make a comeback.”

At least one soldier was seen being evacuated from the scene, which was sealed off by security forces. The Islamic State group quickly claimed responsibility in an online statement on its media arms, the Aamaq news agency. The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the statement. Sunni militants consider Shiites to be apostates and Shiite-dominated areas are prime targets for IS.

The bombing came as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are in final stages of recapturing the northern town of Tal Afar from IS, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Syria’s border. On Sunday, Iraqi military said it had “fully liberated” Tal Afar’s town center from IS militants. On Monday, the troops fought at the outskirts of al-Ayadia district, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) northwest of Tal Afar, where most of the militants fled.

Tal Afar was one of the few remaining towns in Iraq still in IS hands following the liberation of Mosul in July from the Islamic State group. The Sunni militant group still controls the northern town of Hawija, as well as Qaim, Rawa and Ana, in western Iraq near the Syrian border.

Associated Press writer Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad and Maamoun Yousef in Cairo contributed to this report.

Iraqi authorities assume full control of Baghdad airspace

BAGHDAD (BNO NEWS) — The U.S. Air Force has transferred the management of airspace covering the Iraqi capital to national authorities, U.S. officials said on Thursday. Iraqi authorities are now responsible for all domestic airspace.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said the U.S. Air Force transferred the management of the Baghdad/Balad Airspace sector to the Iraq Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) on October 1. “Iraq’s air traffic controllers are now directing the movement of all aircraft within the area, the busiest and most complex airspace in Iraq,” the Embassy said in a statement.

With the transfer of the Baghdad/Balad Airspace sector, Iraqi authorities have assumed full air traffic control responsibility for the country’s airspace for the first time since 2003, when a U.S.-led invasion led to the ouster of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

American and British civilian trainers have prepared the ICAA air traffic controllers in Baghdad and at Iraq’s five other international airports since the opening of the Baghdad Area Control Center in August 2007.

“Many international commercial airlines have already re-established service to Iraq,” the U.S. Embassy said. “Although much work remains to be done in order to improve Iraq’s aviation support and communications infrastructure systems, the ICAA has taken a significant step forward in providing an essential service to the people of Iraq, contributing to the security and stability of the nation, and facilitating trade and travel for a more prosperous future.”

Less than 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, nearly nine years since the U.S.-led war began on March 20, 2003. According to a security agreement between Baghdad and Washington, all U.S. forces will be withdrawn by the end of 2011.

(Copyright 2011 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved.)

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Source: WireUpdate (BNO News).

Link: http://wireupdate.com/news/iraqi-authorities-assume-full-control-of-baghdad-airspace.html.

Iraqi protesters breach Green Zone, storm parliament

April 30, 2016

BAGHDAD (AP) — Hundreds of protesters climbed over the blast walls surrounding Baghdad’s highly-fortified Green Zone for the first time on Saturday and stormed into parliament, carrying Iraqi flags and chanting against the government.

The breach marked a major escalation in the country’s political crisis following months of anti-government protests, sit-ins and demonstrations by supporters of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The Green Zone is home to most ministries and foreign embassies and has long been the focus of al-Sadr’s criticism of the government.

Earlier Saturday, al-Sadr accused Iraqi politicians of blocking political reforms aimed at combating corruption and waste. While al-Sadr didn’t call for an escalation to the protests, shortly after his remarks his supporters began scaling the compound’s walls. A group of young men then pulled down a section of concrete blast walls to cheers from the crowd of thousands gathered in the streets outside.

Cellphone video uploaded to social media showed dozens of young men running through the halls of parliament, chanting slogans in support of al-Sadr and calling for the government to disband. “We are all with you (al-Sadr),” one group of men yelled as the entered the building’s main chamber.

Increasingly tense protests and a series of failed reform measures have paralyzed Iraq’s government as the country struggles to fight the Islamic State group and respond to an economic crisis sparked in part by a plunge in global oil prices.

A broad-based protest movement last summer mobilized millions and pressured Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to submit a proposal to reduce the size of the Cabinet and replace political appointees with independent technocrats.

But that proposal has been stalled in the face of Iraq’s entrenched political blocs, and in recent months al-Sadr’s movement has come to monopolize the protests. Earlier on Saturday, a bombing in a market filled with Shiite civilians in Baghdad killed at least 21 people and wounded at least 42 others, according to police and hospital officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

IS claimed the attack, saying it used a three-ton truck bomb. The extremist group regularly carries out attacks targeting the security forces and the country’s Shiite majority.

Iraqi cleric meets with PM after beginning Green Zone sit-in

March 27, 2016

BAGHDAD (AP) — Influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi Sunday night after beginning a sit-in in Baghdad’s highly fortified Green Zone intended to be a show of force following his calls to combat government corruption.

Earlier in the day security forces stepped aside to allow al-Sadr to enter the Green Zone after weeks of protests in the Iraqi capital. Al-Sadr has repeatedly called on al-Abadi to enact sweeping economic and political reforms.

“I am a representative of the people and will enter the (Green Zone),” al-Sadr told hundreds of his supporters gathered outside the compound’s walls, asking his followers to stay outside and remain peaceful.

As al-Sadr walked through a checkpoint to enter the Green Zone, officials in charge of the compound’s security greeted the cleric with kisses and provided him with a chair. Al-Sadr was accompanied by his personal security detail and the leader of his Shiite militia, Sarayat al-Salam. After he began his sit-in, al-Sadr’s supporters started erecting tents and laying down mattresses.

In February, al-Sadr demanded Iraqi politicians be replaced with more technocrats and that the country’s powerful Shiite militias be incorporated into the defense and interior ministries. After weeks of growing protests in the Iraqi capital, al-Sadr repeatedly threatened to storm the compound if his demands for government overhaul were not met. Baghdad’s Green Zone, encircled by blast walls and razor wire, is closed to most Iraqis and houses the country’s political elite as well as most of the city’s foreign embassies. Al-Sadr has called it a “bastion” of corruption.

Most Iraqis blame the country’s politicians for the graft and mismanagement that are draining Iraq’s already scarce resources. Unlike the widespread, largely civic protests last summer, however, al-Sadr’s demonstrations are attended almost exclusively by his supporters, who have made few concrete policy demands.

Earlier this month, Iraqi security forces manning checkpoints in Baghdad again stepped aside to allow al-Sadr’s supporters to march up to the Green Zone’s outer walls to begin a sit-in, despite a government order deeming the gathering “unauthorized.” The move called into question Prime Minister al-Abadi’s ability to control security in the capital.

“I thank the security forces,” al-Sadr said before beginning his sit-in. “He who attacks them, attacks me,” he added. While al-Abadi proposed a reform package last August, few of his plans have been implemented as the leader has made several political missteps and struggled with the country’s increasingly sectarian politics amid the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group. Shiites dominate the central government, while the country’s Kurds in the north exercise increasing autonomy and much of the Sunni population has either been displaced by violence or continues to live under IS rule.

Qatar to open embassy in Baghdad

29 May 2015 Friday

Qatar will open an embassy in Baghdad, Iraq’s foreign minister said on Friday, in the latest sign of improving relations between Gulf Arab countries and Iraq.

Tensions between the Muslim-ruled states of the Gulf and Iraq have eased since Prime Minister Haider Abadi took office last year.

A rapprochement could help strengthen a regional alliance against ISIL militants who have seized vast areas in both Iraq and neighboring Syria.

“We have agreed to open the Qatari embassy in Baghdad to begin resuming diplomatic work,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari told a news conference.

Saudi Arabia also signalled its intention to reopen an embassy in Baghdad earlier this year and has invited Abadi to visit the kingdom.

Some Gulf states have viewed Iraq as being too close to their main regional rival, power Iran.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/159914/qatar-to-open-embassy-in-baghdad.

Ahead of curfew ending, bombs kill 37 in Iraq’s capital

February 07, 2015

BAGHDAD (AP) — Ahead of Baghdad ending a decade-old nightly curfew, bombs exploded across the Iraqi capital Saturday, killing at least 37 people in a stark warning of the dangers still ahead in this country torn by the Islamic State group.

The deadliest bombing happened in the capital’s New Baghdad neighborhood, where a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a street filled with hardware stores and a restaurant, killing 22 people and wounding at least 45, police said.

“The restaurant was full of young people, children and women when the suicide bomber blew himself up,” witness Mohamed Saeed said. “Many got killed.” After the blast, bloody water mixed with olives and other debris from the restaurant as authorities tried to clean.

A second attack happened in central Baghdad’s popular Shorja market, where two bombs some 25 meters (yards) apart exploded, killing at least 11 people and wounding 26, police said. Another bombing at the Abu Cheer outdoor market in southwestern Baghdad killed at least four people and wounded 15, police said.

Hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to brief journalists. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, though the Islamic State group has launched attacks on Baghdad in the past. The extremist group now holds a third of both Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-declared caliphate.

The attacks came as Iraq prepared to lift its nightly midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew on Sunday. The curfew largely has been in place since 2004, in response to the growing sectarian violence that engulfed Iraq after the the U.S.-led invasion a year earlier.

There was no immediate comment Saturday from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who announced the end of the curfew on Thursday by decree. He also ordered that streets, long blocked off for security reasons, reopen for traffic and pedestrians.

Iraqi officials repeatedly have assured that the capital is secure, despite Sunni militant groups occasionally attacking Baghdad’s Shiite-majority neighborhoods.

Associated Press writer Murtada Faraj contributed to this report.

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