ISIS leaders targeted by U.S. airstrikes in Iraq
Military officials could not confirm reports that ISIS 'caliph' injured
The U.S. conducted a series of airstrikes targeting Islamic State leaders near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, U.S. military officials said Saturday.
The airstrikes on Friday night destroyed a convoy of 10 armed trucks believed to be carrying some Islamic State leaders, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe military operations.
- Shadowy ISIS leader makes first public appearance
- Should the West stop intervening in the Middle East?
- Canada's forces face daunting mission against ISIS in Iraq
- Obama authorizes sending 1,500 more troops to Iraq
The officials could not confirm whether the top Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was among those targeted. Al-Baghdadi has declared himself the caliph, or supreme leader, of the vast areas of territory in Iraq and Syria under IS control.
Despite the airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition, Sunni militants have continued to carrying out deadly bombings targeting Iraqi security forces and civilians.
A suicide truck bomber struck the convoy of a top Iraqi police officer killing eight people, including the ranking official, authorities said Saturday, in an attack that bore the hallmarks of militants from the Islamic State group.
The late Friday attack happened when the suicide attacker drove his bomb-laden truck into the convoy of police Lt. Gen. Faisal Malik al-Zamel, who was inspecting forces in the town of Beiji north of Baghdad, police said. The blast killed al-Zamel and seven other police officers, while wounding 15 people, hospital officials and police officers said.
43 dead after blasts in Baghdad
Meanwhile on Saturday, a series of bombings in and around the capital Baghdad killed at least 43 people, with the deadliest blast hitting the city's sprawling Shia district of Sadr City, where a car bomb tore through a commercial area, killing 11 people and wounding 21.
There has been an uptick in the number of bombings blamed on Sunni militants in the capital and mostly targeting Shias, feeding sectarian tensions in the city, as the security forces of the Shia-led government battle the Sunni militants of the Islamic State group to the west and north of the capital. More recently, the attacks targeted Shia pilgrims marking Ashoura, the highlight of the sect's religious calendar.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Beiji, 250 kilometres north of Baghdad, but suicide bombings have been the signature style of Sunni militants for more than a decade in Iraq.
Shia Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, recognizing al-Zamel's standing, led mourners at al-Zamel's funeral on Saturday and a top army officer, Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, vowed to avenge his death.
"Beiji will be the graveyard of Daesh," said a clearly moved al-Saadi on state television. Al-Saadi, the army's chief of operations in the province of Salahuddin, was using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
Al-Saadi and al-Zamel have been leading the ongoing battle to rid Beiji, which is located in Salahuddin, of IS fighters who swept into the city last summer. "We have cleansed many of Beiji's neighbourhoods and we will shortly announce its complete liberation," said al-Saadi.
A U.S.-led coalition has been launching airstrikes on Islamic State militants and facilities in Iraq and Syria for months, as part of an effort to give Iraqi forces the time and space to mount a more effective offensive. The Islamic State had gained ground across northern and western Iraq in a lightning advance in June and July, causing several of Iraq's army and police divisions to fall into disarray.
"What is needed from the U.S. is that it should work to bring the Iraqi people together," said Hamid al-Mutlaq, a Sunni Iraqi lawmaker. "America, and others, should not become an obstacle that hinder the Iraqis' ambitions for a free Iraqi decision that serves the interests of Iraq"
Besides the Sadr City bombing, at least nine people were killed and another 18 wounded when a car bomb tore through a commercial street lined with restaurants in the southeastern Baghdad neighbourhood of al-Amin. Two car bombs also killed eight people and wounded 16 on a commercial street in Baghdad's southwestern Amil neighbourhood, police officials said.
Hospital officials confirmed the casualties. All police and hospital officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.