x

Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Abadi raises Iraq flag at Syria border crossing retaken from ISIL

It came as at least five people were killed and more than 20 wounded by two suicide bombers in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk - an attack that targeted a Shiite mosque and bore the hallmarks of ISIL

Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi prepares to erect a national flag at a Syria border crossing near Qaim on November 5, 2017, after it was retaken from ISIL by Iraqi troops. Moadh Al Dulaimi / AFP
Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi prepares to erect a national flag at a Syria border crossing near Qaim on November 5, 2017, after it was retaken from ISIL by Iraqi troops. Moadh Al Dulaimi / AFP

Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi on Sunday raised the Iraqi flag at a border crossing with Syria, days after Iraqi forces retook it from ISIL, state television announced.

Al Iraqiya TV said Mr Al Abadi visited the newly-liberated town of Qaim and the nearby Husaybah border crossing in western Iraq. Both are located along what was once an important supply route used by ISIL when the group controlled large areas of Syria and Iraq.

Iraqi forces backed by the US-led coalition drove ISIL from Qaim and surrounding areas last week, in what coalition officials said marked the end of the conventional war against the extremist group in Iraq.

The militants are expected to rely more on insurgent-style attacks now that they no longer hold significant territory.

Elsewhere in Iraq, at least five people were killed and more than 20 wounded by two suicide bombers in the northern city of Kirkuk.

_________________

Read more:

Legal employment gives Syrians in Jordan a lifeline

Anti-ISIL forces converge on Syria border town

Editorial: ISIL is on the brink of physical defeat, but the fight is far from over

_________________

The interior ministry said the attacks targeted a Shiite mosque on Atlas Street in central Kirkuk.

It was the first such attack since the central Iraqi government in Baghdad seized the oil-rich city last month from Kurdish forces, who had been controlling Kirkuk for three years.

No group immediately claimed responsibility but suicide bombings are a trademark of ISIL militants.

Baghdad launched an offensive on October 16 to recapture Kirkuk and other territories in northern Iraq claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurds, in retaliation for a September referendum on Kurdish independence.

Iraqi security forces advanced on Kirkuk, forcing the Kurdish Peshmerga to withdraw. The retreat also allowed Baghdad to take control of all oil fields operated by the state-owned North Oil Company in wider Kirkuk province.

The aftermath of the twin suicide attack that targeted a Shiite mosque in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on November 5, 2017. Marwan Ibrahim / AFP
The aftermath of the twin suicide attack that targeted a Shiite mosque in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on November 5, 2017. Marwan Ibrahim / AFP

Police sources said the two attacks in the city happened in quick succession and that the death toll might rise because some of the wounded were in critical condition.

"It's a crowded street and a place for street vendors. The terrorists wanted to kill large number of people," said a Kirkuk police major.

Iraqi forces have recaptured nearly all land in the country once controlled by ISIL. Fighting is ongoing along the border with Syria, however, where militants remain entrenched in the small town of Rawa and nearby areas.

In Syria itself, a monitor said on Sunday that at least 75 civilians were killed in an ISIL car bombing that struck a gathering of people displaced by fighting in the east of the country.

Saturday's attack in the eastern province of Deir Ezzour killed "at least 75 displaced civilians including children" and wounded 140, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Observatory reported on Saturday that dozens had died in the blast.

_________________

Read more:

Legal employment gives Syrians in Jordan a lifeline

Anti-ISIL forces converge on Syria border town

Editorial: ISIL is on the brink of physical defeat, but the fight is far from over

_________________

Mr Abdel Rahman said the victims had fled battles in the province, where Syrian regime forces and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led alliance, are fighting the extremist group in separate offensives.

Fighting across Deir Ezzour has sent thousands of civilians fleeing for their lives, some straight into the desert.

Some had sought refuge in a desert area controlled by the SDF on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River where the attack on Saturday struck.

It was not the first attack attributed to ISIL against civilians fleeing Deir Ezzour.

On October 12, a car bombing in the northeastern Syrian province of Hassakeh killed at least 18 people, including displaced people and Kurdish security forces, the Observatory said.

Sonia Khush, Syria director at Save the Children, said on Saturday an estimated 350,000 people had fled the recent fighting in Deir Ezzour province, half of them children.

"The situation in the city, and surrounding countryside, has been especially bleak with civilians trapped between the fighting and all too often caught in the crossfire," she said.