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Baghdad book market turns the page on a new Iraq

BAGHDAD: When Maher Abu Hissam started his Baghdad bookshop two decades ago he was selling up to 40 books a day, such as the hunger for literature in the days of Saddam Hussein, even though the regime banned anything it did not like. Censorship was lifted when a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam in 2003 but far from an upturn in sales these days Hissam sometimes sells just a few books at his shop on Mutanabbi Street. The street on the banks of the River Tigris where dozens of booksellers have shops and traders used to…

Iraqi ballot box storage site catches fire in Baghdad

BAGHDAD: A storage site housing half of Baghdad’s ballot boxes from Iraq’s parliamentary election in May caught fire on Sunday, just days after parliament demanded a nationwide recount of votes, drawing calls for the election to be re-run. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described the fire as a “plot” aimed at Iraq’s democracy. The timing of the fire undermined the results of an election whose validity was already in doubt. Fewer than 45 percent of voters cast a ballot, a record low, and allegations of fraud began…

At least 18 killed in Baghdad explosion

BAGHDAD: At least 18 people were killed and over 90 wounded in an explosion in Baghdad’s Sadr City district on Wednesday, an Iraqi police source said. An interior ministry spokesman said in a brief statement the blast was the result of the detonation of an ammunition cache and that security forces had opened an investigation. The ammunition had been stored in a mosque and the explosion happened during its transfer into a car parked nearby, the police source said. Earlier, state television cited a ministry…

Suicide attack in Baghdad kills at least 25, wounds 63, government says

BAGHDAD: At least 25 people were killed and 63 wounded in a twin suicide bombing in central Baghdad on Monday, the Iraqi health ministry said on its Facebook page. The attack targeted Aviation Square, a commercial area of Baghdad, the interior ministry said in a statement. It was carried out by two men who detonated vests packed with explosives, it said. Iraq declared victory last month over the Islamic State group that took control of nearly a third of Iraq three years ago, but the militants continue to carry out…

Iraq tensions rise after Kurds warn of attack

BAGHDAD: Tensions escalated between Iraq's Kurds and Baghdad on Thursday as warnings of a "major attack" by government forces prompted Kurdish peshmerga fighters to temporarily block roads from other parts of the country. The move came just over two weeks after Kurdish voters overwhelmingly backed independence in a non-binding referendum the central government slammed as illegal. Iraqi Kurdish forces closed the two main roads connecting Arbil and Dohuk with Mosul for several hours, a Kurdish military official said.…

Historic independence referendum for Kurdistan underway in Iraq

ARBIL: Iraqi Kurds are to vote in an independence referendum on Monday in defiance of Baghdad which has warned of "measures" to defend Iraq's unity and threatened to deprive their region of lifeline oil revenues. The non-binding vote on the Kurds  long-cherished dream of independence, initiated by veteran leader Massud Barzani, has angered not only the federal government but also neighbouring Turkey and Iran, concerned it could stoke separatist aspirations among their own sizeable Kurdish minorities. A total of 12,072…

Kurdish government meets Baghdad officials on eve of independence vote

ERBIL, IRAQ: A delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government held talks with the Iraqi government in Baghdad on Saturday, two days before a planned referendum on secession from Iraq. “The delegation will discuss the referendum but the referendum is still happening,” said Hoshiyar Zebari, a top adviser to Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani. “We said we would talk to Baghdad before, during and after the referendum.” The KRG has said the vote is intended to give its autonomous territory a legitimate mandate to achieve…

Russia and Iraq restore air travel after 13-year freeze

MOSCOW: Russia and Iraq restored scheduled commercial airline (Air Travel) services on Sunday for the first time since 2004, in what officials hailed as a sign of stability returning to the war-torn country. An Iraqi Airways plane left Baghdad at 10.31 am (0731 GMT) and was expected to arrive at Moscow's Vnukovo airport at 2.19 pm (1119 GMT), according to the Russian airport's online departure and arrival timetables. "The first commercial flight arrives today," said Sergei Izvolsky, spokesman for Russia's civil…

‘Gates of Hell’: Iraqi army says fighting near Tal Afar worse than Mosul

BAGHDAD: Iraqi forces battling to retake the small town of al-’Ayadiya where militants fleeing Tal Afar have entrenched themselves, saying on Tuesday the fighting is “multiple times worse” than the battle for Mosul’s old city. Hundreds of battle-hardened fighters were positioned inside most houses and high buildings inside the town, making it difficult for government forces to make any progress, army officers told Reuters. Iraqi government troops captured the town of Mosul from Islamic State in July, but only after…

Eight killed, over dozen injured in car bomb in Baghdad market

BAGHDAD: A car bomb ripped through a busy market area in eastern Baghdad on Monday morning, killing at least eight people, police and rescue sources said. According to rescue officials, the explosives-laden car went off at the wholesale Jamila market in the city’s Shia district of Sadr as Iraqi government forces were preparing to declare victory over Islamic State more than 400 km (250 miles) further north in the city of Tal Afar. It was not immediately clear if a suicide bomber had driven the vehicle to the target or if…