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Kurdish women pedal, dunk, spike as Iraq’s top athletes

When Iraq's female cycling team snatched bronze and silver medals at a landmark pan-Arab race, it was thanks to athletes from the autonomous Kurdish region. The country's toughest female competitors, its best-equipped facilities and most experienced coaches are not in the capital Baghdad, but in the Kurdish-majority northern region. And the three medals won by the Iraqi female cyclists in September at the tournament in Algeria were seen as proof of this sporting prowess in a region that has governed itself since 1991.…

Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga agree on ceasefire, US-led coalition says

BAGHDAD: Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters reached an agreement on Friday to stop fighting in northern Iraq, the media office of the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition said. A spokesman for the coalition in Baghdad told Reuters the ceasefire agreement covered all fronts. Iraqi government forces and the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilisation launched a surprise offensive on Oct 16 in retaliation to a Sept 25 referendum on independence organized by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq. Read…

Islamic State’s Baghdadi almost certainly alive: Kurdish security official

SULAIMANIA, Iraq: A top Kurdish counter-terrorism official said on Monday he was 99 percent sure that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was alive and located south of the Syrian city of Raqqa, despite reports that he had been killed. "Baghdadi is definitely alive. He is not dead. We have information that he is alive. We believe 99 percent he is alive," Lahur Talabany told Reuters in an interview. "Don't forget his roots go back to al Qaeda days in Iraq. He was hiding from security services. He knows what he is…

US Marines deploy artillery battery to Syria

WASHINGTON: The United States has sent a Marine Corps artillery battery into Syria to help defeat the Islamic State group in Raqa, the capital of their supposed caliphate, a US official said Wednesday. The official said troops from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit had deployed a battery of 155mm Howitzers to an outpost in Syria. The Marines "are ready to conduct their mission" to support the offensive on Raqa, the official told AFP, confirming a report in the Washington Post. The move marks a significant step for…

Anti-Islamic State assaults gain ground in Iraq and Syria

MOSUL, IRAQ: Iraqi forces advanced in west Mosul and fighters in neighbouring Syria seized a key supply route to Raqa Monday, as twin US-backed offensives gained ground against the Islamic State group. Supported by the US-led anti-IS coalition, Iraqi forces and a Kurdish-Arab alliance in Syria are battling to push the jihadists from Mosul and Raqa, the last two major urban centres under their control. The Pentagon said it has sent extra troops into northern Syria to make sure competing forces in and around the town of…

Eight killed, over 100 wounded by PKK bombing Turkey’s southeast: PM

DIYARBAKIR: Eight people were killed, including two police, and over 100 wounded in a car bombing by Kurdish militants in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Friday, updating an earlier toll. The blast, which Yildirim said was carried out by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), targeted a police headquarters hours after top Kurdish politicians were detained in an unprecedented police crackdown. The local governor's office said in a statement that the cause of the…

Turkey police detain co-leaders of main pro-Kurdish party

ISTANBUL: Turkish police on Friday detained the two co-leaders of the country's main pro-Kurdish party, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), as part of a major crackdown against the group. Selahattin Demirtas was detained at his home in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir while the co-chairperson Figen Yuksekdag was detained in Ankara within the framework of a terror investigation, the state-run Anadolu news agency said. Their detention appeared part of a large-scale operation against the HDP, which is the third…

Islamic State drone kills Kurdish fighters, hurts French troops

WASHINGTON: A remote-controlled jihadist hobby plane rigged with hidden explosives killed two Kurdish fighters and injured two French special operations troops near Mosul, French and US sources confirmed Wednesday. While the Pentagon has previously said the Islamic State group uses simple, commercially available drones to conduct surveillance and carry small explosives, this was the first known deadly case. According to a US defense official, the incident unfolded October 2 when a small plane with a styrofoam body was…

How far to go? Photographers divided over graphic war snaps

BAYEUX: How far to go in terms of gore and shock value when covering conflict? Capturing violence on camera was hotly debated on the fringes of Bayeux, a major French photography festival. Seasoned photographers discussed where to draw the line at an event Friday on the fringes of the Bayeux Calvados festival, whose main prizes are set to be awarded later Saturday. "How do you want people to accept refugees in Europe if you don't show them the violence from which the migrants are fleeing?" said Indian photographer Sami…