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Aug 20, 2014

Islamic State video purports to show beheading of U.S. journalist

BAGHDAD/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Islamist militants fighting in Iraq released a video on Tuesday which purported to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley and U.S. officials said they were working to determine its authenticity.

The video, titled “A Message to America,” was released a day after Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that has overrun large parts of Iraq, threatened to attack Americans “in any place.”

Aug 19, 2014

Iraqi forces battle to drive jihadists from Saddam’s home town

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi forces launched an offensive on Tuesday to drive Islamic State fighters out of Tikrit, hometown of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, while the militants warned they would attack Americans “in any place”.

In Geneva, the United Nations refugee agency said it was starting a major aid operation to get supplies to more than half a million people displaced by fighting in northern Iraq.

Aug 19, 2014

Backed by U.S. strikes, Iraq Kurds retake strategic dam: officials

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi and Kurdish forces recaptured Iraq’s biggest dam from Islamist militants with the help of U.S. air strikes to secure a vital strategic objective in fighting that threatens to break up the country, Kurdish and U.S. officials said on Monday.

U.S. fighter, bomber and drone aircraft took part in the strikes on Islamic State positions near the Mosul Dam, the Pentagon said. The strikes damaged or destroyed six armed vehicles, a light armored vehicle and other equipment.

Aug 18, 2014

Iraqi Kurds say they recapture strategic dam from jihadists

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi Kurdish forces said they had recaptured the country’s biggest dam from Islamic State militants on Monday, although an employee at the site said jihadist fighters still controlled key points on the vulnerable structure.

Hoshiyar Zebari – a Kurd who has been foreign minister in the outgoing Iraqi government – also said officials from his community would join talks on forming a new, inclusive administration considered vital for combating the Sunni Muslim militants who have overrun much of the country.

Aug 16, 2014

Iraqi Sunnis say could join new government, fight Islamic State

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Tribal leaders and clerics from Iraq’s Sunni heartland offered their conditional backing on Friday for a new government that hopes to contain sectarian bloodshed and an offensive by Islamic State militants that threatens to tear the country apart.

One of the most influential tribal leaders said he was willing to work with Shi’ite prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi provided a new administration respected the rights of the Sunni Muslim minority that dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Aug 15, 2014

Top Iraqi cleric backs new premier, calls for unity

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s most influential cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, threw his weight on Friday behind the new prime minister, calling for national unity to contain sectarian bloodshed and an offensive by Islamic State militants that threatens Baghdad.

Speaking after Nuri al-Maliki finally stepped down as prime minister under heavy pressure from allies at home and abroad, the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shi’ite majority said the handover to Maliki’s party colleague Haider al-Abadi offered a rare opportunity to resolve political and security crises.

Aug 15, 2014

Iraq’s Maliki finally steps aside, paving way for new gov’t

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Nuri al-Maliki finally bowed to pressure within Iraq and beyond on Thursday and stepped down as prime minister, paving the way for a new coalition that world and regional powers hope can quash a Sunni Islamist insurgency that threatens Baghdad.

Maliki ended eight years of often divisive, sectarian rule and endorsed fellow Shi’ite Haider al-Abadi in a televised speech during which he stood next to his successor and spoke of the grave threat from Sunni Islamic State militants who have taken over large areas of northern Iraq.

Aug 15, 2014

Iraq’s Maliki finally steps aside, paving way for new government

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Nuri al-Maliki finally bowed to pressure within Iraq and beyond on Thursday and stepped down as prime minister, paving the way for a new coalition that world and regional powers hope can quash a Sunni Islamist insurgency that threatens Baghdad.

Maliki ended eight years of often divisive, sectarian rule and endorsed fellow Shi’ite Haider al-Abadi in a televised speech during which he stood next to his successor and spoke of the grave threat from Sunni Islamic State militants who have taken over large areas of northern Iraq.

Aug 14, 2014

Maliki finally steps aside as Iraq Sunni leader sees U.S. help

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Nuri al-Maliki finally bowed to pressure with Iraq and beyond on Thursday and stepped down as prime minister, paving the way for a new coalition that world and regional powers hope can quash a Sunni Islamist insurgency that threatens Baghdad.

Maliki ended eight years of often divisive, sectarian rule and endorsed fellow Shi’ite Haider al-Abadi in a televised speech during which he stood next to his successor. Earlier, a leading figure in the Sunni minority told Reuters he had been promised U.S. help to fight the Islamic State militants.

Aug 12, 2014

Fearing Iraq’s downfall, power brokers chose safe bet Abadi

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to step aside had become unbearable. Sunnis, Kurds, fellow Shi’ites, regional power broker Iran and the United States all wanted him out.

Maliki calculated he may have one more chance to hold onto power after eight years in office, even though alarmed allies had run out of patience as Islamic State jihadis swept government forces aside in much of western and northern Iraq.