Reprisal attacks in Iraq; US prepares Syria strikes?

A suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside a husseiniya, or Shi'ite mosque, in central Baghdad on Aug. 25, leaving at least 13 dead. Three were killed and several wounded in two other car bombings elsewhere in Baghdad. Another 23 were killed in car bombings at the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala and nearby al-Hilla. (IraqiNews.com, IraqiNews.com, IraqiNews.com, BBC News, NYT) A Kurdish MP in Iraq's parliament called on new Prime Minister Haidar Abadi to either arm the Kurdistan Regional Government or permit it to seek arms elsewhere. "It is crucial for the new government of Baghdad to give weapons to Peshmerga forces and train them as part of the Iraqi army or allow the Kurdistan Region to be able to buy weapons from other countries," said MP Shwan Mohammed Taha. "Today, Peshmerga forces protect 20% of Iraq's border and our demands are not unconstitutional. Putting Peshmerga forces in the security system of Iraq is a constitutional demand." (BasNews) Iranian Kurdish guerilla fighters that crossed the border to fight ISIS in the Jalawla and Khanaqen areas were prevented by the continued presence of Iranian government forces, according to the BasNews independent new agency. Tehran denies reports that Iranian forces are fighting in Iraq. (BasNews)

Iraq: Yazidis resist ISIS; Turkmen threatened

The Yazidi miltia that has been formed to help Peshmerga forces liberate Sinjar from ISIS is being armed by the Kurdistan Regional Government. The militia's commander, Qassim Shashou, told the independent Kurdish agency BasNews that he hopes to receive heavy artillery has said had been promised by the KRG. "We are looking forward to receiving the weapons which will be vital in our fight against IS. After we free Sinjar, we can return to our homes with our head held high," said Shashou. (BasNews) Qasim Shesho, another member of the militia, urged his fellow Yazidis to stand and fight rather than flee Iraq. "Those who urge Yezidis to leave for Europe have no integrity or conviction," he told Rudaw agency. "We ask these people [who have left] to come and defend their land and return to Shingal,"* he told Rudaw in an interview. "I have German citizenship and could leave today, but it would be a disgrace to abandon my land." The militia, said number 2,000, is also coordinating with the PKK-aligned People's Protection Units (YPG) in the battle for Sinjar. They are hoping to protect Yazidi holy places in the mountains, such as the shrine to 13th century saint Sharafaddin, before they are desecrated or destroyed by ISIS. (Rudaw)

Iraq: Shi'ite militia blamed in mosque massacre

Gunmen opened fire inside a Sunni mosque in Iraq's eastern Diyala governorate, killing at least 68 people, Aug. 22. A suicide bomber broke into the Musab bin Omair Mosque during Friday prayers in the village of Imam Wais and detonated his explosives. He was followed by gunmen, who rushed in and opened fire on the worshippers. Initial reports blamed ISIS in the massacre, but reports later in the day blamed an unnamed Shi'ite militia, suggesting it was retaliation for a roadside bomb attack at a recruitment event organized by the militia.

Turkey: clashes over monument to PKK leader

Tens of thousands of people joined the funeral ceremony Aug. 19 for Mehdin Taşkın, killed by Turkish troops who attacked local Kurds trying to protect a statue of PKK guerrilla leader Mahsum Korkmaz AKA "Egît" at Yolaçtı in Lice district of Diyarbakır (Kurdish: Amed) province. Taşkın was laid to rest at the same cmetery where he was shot by soldiers who advanced in helicopters and armored vehicles that same morning. His coffin was covered with the PKK flag. (ANF, Aug. 19) A local court ruled the previous day that the statue erected at the entrance to the cemetary for PKK martyrs should be demolished following a complaint by the Diyarbakır government. Korkmaz, an early PKK leader, was killed in 1986 in a clash with Turkish security forces, and was recently buried at  Yolaçtı. (Today's Zaman, Aug. 18)

Iraq: atrocities mount against Yazidis

ISIS on Aug. 19 released a video purporting to show a mass conversion of hundreds of members of the 4,000-year-old Yazidi religion. The "conversion" is clearly forced, undertaken on pain of death. The video was published shortly after ISIS released a video showing one of its members beheading US journalist James Foley, sparking outrage around the world. (IraqiNews.com) More than 90,000 Yazidi refugees who fled Mount Sinjar to the Kurdish-governed Dahouk governorate live in horrific conditions, according to Saleh Dabbakeh, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq. Thousands are without even rudimentary shelter, seeking refuge form the blazing sun under trees and bridges. He said many of the refugees who made it to Dahouk are now struggling "to get food and water for their families and many have no access to medical care." (Azzaman)

Iraq: ISIS sells Yazidi women; Iran intervenes?

After the abduction of more than 500 Yazidi women and girls by ISIS fighters at Sinjar, the jihadist group has established a special office in the Quds neighborhood of Mosul city where the women are being sold, according to Evar Ibrahim, head of the Women's Committee in the Kurdistan Regional Government's parliament. Ibrahim said the girls are being sold for 30,000 dinars, or about $26. "Despite selling them, the Yazidi girls have been raped by the IS insurgents," Ibrahim added. (BasNews) An official spokesman of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Khanaqen district, Hemin Mansour, charged that ISIS militants are evicting any remaining Kurdish families from Jalawla (Diyala governorate), and have demolished some houses belonging to Kurdish residents of the town. The evictions are being justified on the grounds that the Kurdish families were collaborating with the Peshmerga. The ISIS flag is also being raised over seized Kurdish homes to make them a target for air-strikes. (BasNews)

ISIS massacres in Syria; Assad to aid Kurds?

ISIS fighters shot and beheaded some 700 members of the Shueitat tribe in eastern Syria over the past two weeks, crushing a local uprising against the jihadi forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports. Tribesmen expelled ISIS fighters from the villages of Kishkiyeh, Abu Hamam and Granij in Deir el-Zour governorate earlier this month before the jihadists launched their counter-offensive. "They considered all members of the Shueitat tribe apostates because they rose against them," said a Turkey-based activist who is from the region and in touch with residents there. "Some men were taken out in the fields and beheaded while others were shot in the head." Syrian warplanes are bombing ISIS positions in an attempt to halt the militants' advance on an army base in the area. (AP, Aug. 18)

Iraq: Yazidis stand and fight; Baghdad worries

A Yazidi militia group has entered the fight against ISIS, clashing with militants near Sinjar. Khudida Kicho, a member of the Yazidi militia, said in a press conference in Erbil: "In the Kahbel area near Sinjar our fighters were able to attack IS militants and kill 24 of them. In the clashes three of our fighters were killed as well, but we will continue to fight terrorists until the end." (BasNews) Kurdish Peshmerga leaders meanwhile said their forces have seized full control of the Mosul Dam, in coordination with US air-strikes on ISIS positions in the area. (IraqiNews.com) But in Baghdad, the general command of Iraq's armed forces warned against foreign planes breaching the nation's airspace and arming "a certain Iraqi faction"—a clear reference to Western arming of the Peshmerga. "We welcome international support for Iraq in its war against terrorism," read the statement. "But Iraq's territorial sovereignty must be respected." (RudawIraqiNews.com)

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