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What We Owe the Innocent Victims of America’s Wars

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Iraqi civilians walk past the al-Nuri mosque in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq. Credit Felipe Dana/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — In “The Uncounted,” their article in The New York Times Magazine last week, Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal laid bare a tragic reality of American military operations against the Islamic State: the untold harm inflicted on civilians.

That the Islamic State is guilty of horrific atrocities is common knowledge. But most Americans seem unaware of the human toll of our own actions, the consequences this has for our national security and our reputation, and that too often the civilian casualties we cause are the result of avoidable mistakes. This must change.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the number of violent extremist groups has grown across multiple continents. From Syria to Somalia to Pakistan, the United States is combating many of these groups — usually with bombs and missiles. Large numbers of innocent people are invariably caught in the middle.

There are practical ways that we can improve how we protect civilians as we fight violent extremists. These changes will improve our military operations and make our country safer in the long run.

Contrary to what some believe, taking all reasonable and feasible precautions to protect civilians, and mitigating the resulting anger when we harm them, does not need to impede military operations. In fact, the United States military has recognized that doing so is critical to our success, and it has rules of engagement designed to avoid harming civilians. But while the accuracy of our weapons has steadily improved, too often they hit the wrong targets.

Continue reading the main story

The Pentagon says that only 89 of approximately 14,000 airstrikes in the air war against the Islamic State have killed civilians. But The New York Times Magazine’s reporters — conducting extensive on the ground and satellite research — found that more than 2,700 airstrikes resulted in civilian deaths. As shocking as this disparity is, the number is almost certainly a low estimate because it does not reflect the heavy bombing of Mosul and other densely populated areas that have taken place this year.

The truth is, the military is not doing all it can to avoid killing and wounding civilians. It relies on information that is too often flawed or incorrectly interpreted. Pentagon officials, who point to their extensive procedures for distinguishing military targets from civilians, too often rely on skimpy, outdated and inconclusive intelligence gleaned from informants of dubious reliability and surveillance conducted from high altitudes, or from video analyzed half a world away by people without expertise about the country or its culture. Even the Pentagon’s logs of its actions are unreliable and incomplete.

These are solvable problems. It is incumbent on our military leaders to urgently address them. This should start with the secretary of defense immediately commissioning a team of experts, including military and intelligence officers and representatives of organizations like the Center for Civilians in Conflict, which has extensive experience in documenting civilian casualties. This team should conduct a comprehensive analysis of every aspect of the current procedures for identifying and verifying potential targets and make recommendations for improvement.

We can also do a lot more to assist innocent victims of our airstrikes.

Soon after the invasion of Afghanistan, in response to repeated instances of American bombs killing scores of civilians, Congress created the Afghan Civilian Assistance Program, a $10 million annual appropriation implemented by the Agency for International Development.

Marla Ruzicka, a young activist from California who traveled to Afghanistan to call attention to civilian casualties, was the inspiration for that program. When the military shifted its focus to Iraq, Ms. Ruzicka followed the bombs. Based on information she collected, I worked with her as Congress created the Iraqi War Victims Fund. Ms. Ruzicka died in a car bombing in Iraq in 2005. The fund was renamed after her.

But after most American troops withdrew from Iraq, the Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund, a $7.5 million program replenished annually to provide assistance to innocent victims of American military operations, was redirected to address other needs in Iraq.

Given the large number of Iraqi civilians who have been killed or wounded as a result of the United States’ bombing, the Marla Fund, now implemented by the State Department, should be reactivated.

The Marla fund is not the only way we can assist innocent victims. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, military commanders recognized the need for a “condolence” program for the families of innocent victims of American combat operations. Although it was cobbled together hastily and not applied uniformly, it at least recognized and addressed civilian casualties in a tangible way.

In 2014, I wrote legislation providing clear authority and guidance for future condolence payments. While the Pentagon recently reaffirmed that such payments “are an important tool for DOD,” the military says it has not made a single monetary payment to innocent victims of American military operations in Syria, and none in Iraq since 2011.

This is inexcusable and it is counterproductive. The Pentagon has explicit authority to provide amends to civilians harmed by our mistakes, as it did before 2011, in accordance with the new guidance that I negotiated with the Pentagon three years ago.

In order to identify eligible victims, the Pentagon needs to improve the accuracy of its own airstrike data and overhaul the often perfunctory way it investigates reports of civilian casualties. Ideally, Pentagon investigators should obtain timely information from witnesses who were present or who live in the vicinity.

If that is not feasible, then the Pentagon needs to improve substantially its collaboration with nongovernmental organizations, investigative reporters and local authorities who have access to bombing sites, the wounded and witnesses. That collaboration could include specifying the type of information Pentagon investigators need and procedures for collecting and preserving evidence.

No one disputes that civilian casualties are inevitable in war. At the same time, it seems that the United States military will be fighting violent extremists for the foreseeable future. This means the lives of more civilians will be put at risk. The way we conduct our operations and how we react when mistakes are made will be critical to our success.

This is not only a moral imperative, it is in America’s interest. If we harm civilians when it could reasonably have been avoided, and if we fail to fairly and promptly help the innocent victims, the local population will turn against us — and make the fight against violent extremists even more difficult.

As hard as the Pentagon already tries to avoid civilian casualties, it is clear that it can and must do better.

Continue reading the main story

WASHINGTON — In “The Uncounted,” their article in The New York Times Magazine last week, Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal laid bare a tragic reality of American military operations against the Islamic State: the untold harm inflicted on civilians.

That the Islamic State is guilty of horrific atrocities is common knowledge. But most Americans seem unaware of the human toll of our own actions, the consequences this has for our national security and our reputation, and that too often the civilian casualties we cause are the result of avoidable mistakes. This must change.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the number of violent extremist groups has grown across multiple continents. From Syria to Somalia to Pakistan, the United States is combating many of these groups — usually with bombs and missiles. Large numbers of innocent people are invariably caught in the middle.

There are practical ways that we can improve how we protect civilians as we fight violent extremists. These changes will improve our military operations and make our country safer in the long run.

Contrary to what some believe, taking all reasonable and feasible precautions to protect civilians, and mitigating the resulting anger when we harm them, does not need to impede military operations. In fact, the United States military has recognized that doing so is critical to our success, and it has rules of engagement designed to avoid harming civilians. But while the accuracy of our weapons has steadily improved, too often they hit the wrong targets.

The Pentagon says that only 89 of approximately 14,000 airstrikes in the air war against the Islamic State have killed civilians. But The New York Times Magazine’s reporters — conducting extensive on the ground and satellite research — found that more than 2,700 airstrikes resulted in civilian deaths. As shocking as this disparity is, the number is almost certainly a low estimate because it does not reflect the heavy bombing of Mosul and other densely populated areas that have taken place this year.

The truth is, the military is not doing all it can to avoid killing and wounding civilians. It relies on information that is too often flawed or incorrectly interpreted. Pentagon officials, who point to their extensive procedures for distinguishing military targets from civilians, too often rely on skimpy, outdated and inconclusive intelligence gleaned from informants of dubious reliability and surveillance conducted from high altitudes, or from video analyzed half a world away by people without expertise about the country or its culture. Even the Pentagon’s logs of its actions are unreliable and incomplete.

These are solvable problems. It is incumbent on our military leaders to urgently address them. This should start with the secretary of defense immediately commissioning a team of experts, including military and intelligence officers and representatives of organizations like the Center for Civilians in Conflict, which has extensive experience in documenting civilian casualties. This team should conduct a comprehensive analysis of every aspect of the current procedures for identifying and verifying potential targets and make recommendations for improvement.

We can also do a lot more to assist innocent victims of our airstrikes.

Soon after the invasion of Afghanistan, in response to repeated instances of American bombs killing scores of civilians, Congress created the Afghan Civilian Assistance Program, a $10 million annual appropriation implemented by the Agency for International Development.

Marla Ruzicka, a young activist from California who traveled to Afghanistan to call attention to civilian casualties, was the inspiration for that program. When the military shifted its focus to Iraq, Ms. Ruzicka followed the bombs. Based on information she collected, I worked with her as Congress created the Iraqi War Victims Fund. Ms. Ruzicka died in a car bombing in Iraq in 2005. The fund was renamed after her.

But after most American troops withdrew from Iraq, the Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund, a $7.5 million program replenished annually to provide assistance to innocent victims of American military operations, was redirected to address other needs in Iraq.

Given the large number of Iraqi civilians who have been killed or wounded as a result of the United States’ bombing, the Marla Fund, now implemented by the State Department, should be reactivated.

The Marla fund is not the only way we can assist innocent victims. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, military commanders recognized the need for a “condolence” program for the families of innocent victims of American combat operations. Although it was cobbled together hastily and not applied uniformly, it at least recognized and addressed civilian casualties in a tangible way.

In 2014, I wrote legislation providing clear authority and guidance for future condolence payments. While the Pentagon recently reaffirmed that such payments “are an important tool for DOD,” the military says it has not made a single monetary payment to innocent victims of American military operations in Syria, and none in Iraq since 2011.

This is inexcusable and it is counterproductive. The Pentagon has explicit authority to provide amends to civilians harmed by our mistakes, as it did before 2011, in accordance with the new guidance that I negotiated with the Pentagon three years ago.

In order to identify eligible victims, the Pentagon needs to improve the accuracy of its own airstrike data and overhaul the often perfunctory way it investigates reports of civilian casualties. Ideally, Pentagon investigators should obtain timely information from witnesses who were present or who live in the vicinity.

If that is not feasible, then the Pentagon needs to improve substantially its collaboration with nongovernmental organizations, investigative reporters and local authorities who have access to bombing sites, the wounded and witnesses. That collaboration could include specifying the type of information Pentagon investigators need and procedures for collecting and preserving evidence.

No one disputes that civilian casualties are inevitable in war. At the same time, it seems that the United States military will be fighting violent extremists for the foreseeable future. This means the lives of more civilians will be put at risk. The way we conduct our operations and how we react when mistakes are made will be critical to our success.

This is not only a moral imperative, it is in America’s interest. If we harm civilians when it could reasonably have been avoided, and if we fail to fairly and promptly help the innocent victims, the local population will turn against us — and make the fight against violent extremists even more difficult.

As hard as the Pentagon already tries to avoid civilian casualties, it is clear that it can and must do better.



Nytimes

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Iraq

Philippines Arrests Explosives Expert Tied to Mideast Militants

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Director General Ronald dela Rosa of the Philippine National Police. He said Monday that an Iraqi chemist had been arrested after being seen acting “suspiciously” in the northern city of Angeles. Credit Noel Celis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

MANILA — Philippine intelligence operatives have arrested an Iraqi explosives expert who has eluded the local authorities since last year and were checking whether he had been in contact with Filipino militant groups, the police said Monday.

The man, Taha Mohamed al-Jabouri, 64, arrived in the Philippines in August as the country was getting ready to host a gathering of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in preparation for a November summit meeting that included President Trump.

Mr. Jabouri was a “chemist with knowledge of explosives” and is known to have ties to militant extremist movements in the Middle East, said Ronald dela Rosa, director general of the Philippine National Police, citing Iraqi intelligence information.

“The Iraqi Embassy in Manila alerted the Philippine intelligence community of his presence,” he said.

Mr. Jabouri was arrested Saturday after the authorities in the northern city of Angeles advised the police that he was there, the director general said, adding that Mr. Jabouri had been observed acting “suspiciously.”

Continue reading the main story

Police intelligence operatives were then dispatched to Angeles and found Mr. Jabouri, who gave up peacefully. He was carrying luggage that contained personal items and different denominations of foreign currency, the police said.

Mr. Jabouri admitted while being interrogated that he had served as a consultant for Hamas in Syria before moving to Turkey in 2012.

“He also said that he traveled to Manila to meet a Chinese business group that hired him as a consultant,” Director General dela Rosa said, without identifying the group.

A police intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said investigators were also checking whether Mr. Jabouri had made any connections to local militant groups, noting that his visit came as the country was fighting Islamic State-linked Filipino militants, backed by foreign fighters, who had taken over the southern city of Marawi.

The fighting, which left at least 1,200 people dead — most of them militants — was declared over in October, although security forces have said nearly 200 Filipino militants who took part in the siege escaped and remained at large.

The arrest came after a year in which the Philippines has grappled with deadly bombings.

In May 2017, the police in Manila placed the crowded Quiapo district under lockdown after two bombs exploded within hours of each other near a Muslim center. Two people were killed, and six others, including two police officers investigating the first blast, were hurt.

A month before those blasts, a pipe bomb also exploded in Quiapo, injuring a dozen people.

The Philippine police had sought to play down the attacks, saying they did not appear to be connected.

But six months earlier, in November 2016, the authorities prevented a bombing when they recovered a powerful explosive device near the American Embassy in Manila. Director General dela Rosa tied that bombing to a Muslim militant faction that would later help lead the Marawi insurgency.

Continue reading the main story

MANILA — Philippine intelligence operatives have arrested an Iraqi explosives expert who has eluded the local authorities since last year and were checking whether he had been in contact with Filipino militant groups, the police said Monday.

The man, Taha Mohamed al-Jabouri, 64, arrived in the Philippines in August as the country was getting ready to host a gathering of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in preparation for a November summit meeting that included President Trump.

Mr. Jabouri was a “chemist with knowledge of explosives” and is known to have ties to militant extremist movements in the Middle East, said Ronald dela Rosa, director general of the Philippine National Police, citing Iraqi intelligence information.

“The Iraqi Embassy in Manila alerted the Philippine intelligence community of his presence,” he said.

Mr. Jabouri was arrested Saturday after the authorities in the northern city of Angeles advised the police that he was there, the director general said, adding that Mr. Jabouri had been observed acting “suspiciously.”

Police intelligence operatives were then dispatched to Angeles and found Mr. Jabouri, who gave up peacefully. He was carrying luggage that contained personal items and different denominations of foreign currency, the police said.

Mr. Jabouri admitted while being interrogated that he had served as a consultant for Hamas in Syria before moving to Turkey in 2012.

“He also said that he traveled to Manila to meet a Chinese business group that hired him as a consultant,” Director General dela Rosa said, without identifying the group.

A police intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said investigators were also checking whether Mr. Jabouri had made any connections to local militant groups, noting that his visit came as the country was fighting Islamic State-linked Filipino militants, backed by foreign fighters, who had taken over the southern city of Marawi.

The fighting, which left at least 1,200 people dead — most of them militants — was declared over in October, although security forces have said nearly 200 Filipino militants who took part in the siege escaped and remained at large.

The arrest came after a year in which the Philippines has grappled with deadly bombings.

In May 2017, the police in Manila placed the crowded Quiapo district under lockdown after two bombs exploded within hours of each other near a Muslim center. Two people were killed, and six others, including two police officers investigating the first blast, were hurt.

A month before those blasts, a pipe bomb also exploded in Quiapo, injuring a dozen people.

The Philippine police had sought to play down the attacks, saying they did not appear to be connected.

But six months earlier, in November 2016, the authorities prevented a bombing when they recovered a powerful explosive device near the American Embassy in Manila. Director General dela Rosa tied that bombing to a Muslim militant faction that would later help lead the Marawi insurgency.

Nytimes

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Iraq

Military Shifts Focus to Threats by Russia and China, Not Terrorism

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke Friday at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. Credit Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The United States is switching its priority to countering Chinese and Russian military might after almost two decades of focusing on the fight against terrorism, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday, unveiling a national defense strategy that Pentagon officials say will provide a blueprint for years to come.

The new strategy echoes — on paper, if not in tone — a national security blueprint offered last month in which President Trump described rising threats to the United States from an emboldened Russia and China, as well as from what was described as rogue governments like North Korea and Iran.

But where Mr. Trump struck a campaign tone during the unveiling of his national security strategy, with references to building a wall along the southern border with Mexico, Mr. Mattis took a more sober route by sticking to the more traditional intellectual framework that has accompanied foreign policy doctrines of past administrations.

Drawing inspiration from Winston Churchill, who once said that the only thing harder than fighting with allies is fighting without them, Mr. Mattis said that the United States must strengthen its alliances with other powers.

“History proves that nations with allies thrive,” Mr. Mattis said in remarks at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “Working by, with and through allies who carry their equitable share allows us to amass the greatest possible strength.” (One of those allies, Britain’s defense secretary, quickly released a statement welcoming Mr. Mattis’s words.)

Continue reading the main story

Unlike Mr. Trump, who said Russia and China “seek to challenge American influence, values and wealth” without mentioning Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mr. Mattis appeared to take direct aim at Russia. “To those who would threaten America’s experiment in democracy: If you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day,” he said.

In seeking to shift the military emphasis to Russia and China after years fighting terrorism, the Trump administration is echoing many of the same pronouncements made by the Obama administration, which famously sought to pivot to Asia after years of fighting in Iraq. But the rise of the Islamic State, which declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, put a stop to the Asia pivot talk in Mr. Obama’s final years in office.

Now a new administration is again seeking to leave the terrorism fight behind. Mr. Mattis described increased “global volatility and uncertainty, with great power competition between nations a reality once again.” He declared the defeat of the Islamic State’s physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

“We will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists, but great power competition — not terrorism — is now the primary focus of U.S. national security,” Mr. Mattis said.

But the United States is still at war in Afghanistan, where Mr. Trump has promised to set no artificial deadlines for withdrawing troops against a resilient Taliban. And American pilots and Special Operations forces continue to go after militants fighting with the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and the Shabab from Syria to Yemen to Somalia.

But as tensions in the Korean Peninsula have continued to rise over the past year, American military commanders and senior defense officials have fretted over whether 16 years of counterinsurgency fighting has left the military unprepared for a great powers land war.

Pentagon officials say that the need to do both — fight insurgents and prepare for a potential war among great powers — is pushing a military that is already stretched. Added to that is the uncertainty that has plagued the Pentagon’s budget since 2011, when mandatory spending caps were put in place.

Congress has been unable to pass a spending bill, and on Friday the federal government was, once again, teetering on the edge of a shutdown. Mr. Mattis, during his speech on Friday, took aim at the budget shenanigans.

“As hard as the last 16 years of war have been, no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of the U.S. military than the combined impact of the budget control act’s defense spending caps, and nine of the last 10 years operating under continuing resolutions, wasting copious amounts of precious taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Continue reading the main story

WASHINGTON — The United States is switching its priority to countering Chinese and Russian military might after almost two decades of focusing on the fight against terrorism, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday, unveiling a national defense strategy that Pentagon officials say will provide a blueprint for years to come.

The new strategy echoes — on paper, if not in tone — a national security blueprint offered last month in which President Trump described rising threats to the United States from an emboldened Russia and China, as well as from what was described as rogue governments like North Korea and Iran.

But where Mr. Trump struck a campaign tone during the unveiling of his national security strategy, with references to building a wall along the southern border with Mexico, Mr. Mattis took a more sober route by sticking to the more traditional intellectual framework that has accompanied foreign policy doctrines of past administrations.

Drawing inspiration from Winston Churchill, who once said that the only thing harder than fighting with allies is fighting without them, Mr. Mattis said that the United States must strengthen its alliances with other powers.

“History proves that nations with allies thrive,” Mr. Mattis said in remarks at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “Working by, with and through allies who carry their equitable share allows us to amass the greatest possible strength.” (One of those allies, Britain’s defense secretary, quickly released a statement welcoming Mr. Mattis’s words.)

Unlike Mr. Trump, who said Russia and China “seek to challenge American influence, values and wealth” without mentioning Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mr. Mattis appeared to take direct aim at Russia. “To those who would threaten America’s experiment in democracy: If you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day,” he said.

In seeking to shift the military emphasis to Russia and China after years fighting terrorism, the Trump administration is echoing many of the same pronouncements made by the Obama administration, which famously sought to pivot to Asia after years of fighting in Iraq. But the rise of the Islamic State, which declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, put a stop to the Asia pivot talk in Mr. Obama’s final years in office.

Now a new administration is again seeking to leave the terrorism fight behind. Mr. Mattis described increased “global volatility and uncertainty, with great power competition between nations a reality once again.” He declared the defeat of the Islamic State’s physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

“We will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists, but great power competition — not terrorism — is now the primary focus of U.S. national security,” Mr. Mattis said.

But the United States is still at war in Afghanistan, where Mr. Trump has promised to set no artificial deadlines for withdrawing troops against a resilient Taliban. And American pilots and Special Operations forces continue to go after militants fighting with the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and the Shabab from Syria to Yemen to Somalia.

But as tensions in the Korean Peninsula have continued to rise over the past year, American military commanders and senior defense officials have fretted over whether 16 years of counterinsurgency fighting has left the military unprepared for a great powers land war.

Pentagon officials say that the need to do both — fight insurgents and prepare for a potential war among great powers — is pushing a military that is already stretched. Added to that is the uncertainty that has plagued the Pentagon’s budget since 2011, when mandatory spending caps were put in place.

Congress has been unable to pass a spending bill, and on Friday the federal government was, once again, teetering on the edge of a shutdown. Mr. Mattis, during his speech on Friday, took aim at the budget shenanigans.

“As hard as the last 16 years of war have been, no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of the U.S. military than the combined impact of the budget control act’s defense spending caps, and nine of the last 10 years operating under continuing resolutions, wasting copious amounts of precious taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Nytimes

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Iraq

Suicide Bombs in Baghdad Kill Dozens, Puncturing Newfound Sense of Hope

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The site of a bomb blast in Baghdad on Monday. The attackers struck during rush hour in the city’s Tayran Square, which is usually crowded with laborers seeking work. Credit Khalid Al-Mousily/Reuters

BAGHDAD — Two suicide bombers killed more than two dozen people in Baghdad on Monday, mostly street vendors and day laborers gathered at dawn in hopes of finding work at an open-air market, in the first major attack in the Iraqi capital since the government declared victory over the Islamic State.

The carnage in Tayaran Square punctured a growing sense of hope and pride that had permeated Baghdad after Iraq’s security forces, bolstered by large numbers of volunteers and fresh recruits, successfully fought grueling battles against the insurgent group that had held one-third of Iraqi territory and terrorized millions of citizens.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings, but officials in charge of security in the capital immediately cast suspicion on Islamic State sleeper cells, the target of Iraq’s intelligence and counterterrorism forces since major military operations ended in the fall.

Even as battles against Islamic State militants raged in northern Iraq and in its second-largest city, Mosul, Baghdad had largely been free of violence. The suicide bombings Monday morning caught many residents of the capital off guard, as they had become used to living relatively free of fear, taking their families to parks and shopping malls.

The attacks came a day after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other politicians announced competing coalitions ahead of national elections scheduled for May. Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, campaign seasons in Iraq have been scarred by terrorist attacks and other violence.

Continue reading the main story

It is still unclear how the two assailants wearing suicide vests had entered Baghdad or why they had chosen to attack a market popular for cheap electronics and secondhand clothes.

The first assailant detonated his explosives around 6 a.m., as the sun was rising and as day laborers, shopkeepers and street vendors started gathering for work, according to Maj. Muhammad Mudhir, a traffic police officer who witnessed the attack. Minutes later, as people rushed to help the wounded, the second assailant detonated his explosives, said Kadhim Ali, a construction worker who was at the square.

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Iraq’s Hardball Tactics to Root Out ISIS

Some of the methods Iraqi authorities are using to weed out ISIS supporters among Sunni civilians in newly liberated Mosul have heightened concerns over human rights abuses.

By CAMILLA SCHICK and TIM ARANGO on Publish Date July 21, 2017. Photo by Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »

  • embed

Dr. Abdul Ghani, the director of Al Rusafa hospital in Baghdad, said at least 27 people had been killed, and 60 others wounded, many of whom were in a serious condition.

Since counterterrorism operations were ramped up in 2015, Iraqi security forces have established a tight security cordon around Baghdad in an attempt to keep insurgents and violence from infiltrating the city.

The belt of suburbs and farms to the west of the capital have long been home to bomb factories for Al Qaeda offshoots that have plagued Iraq since the mid-2000s.

Muhammad al-Jiwebrawi, the head of the Baghdad Province’s security committee, said those areas around the capital remained insecure. He urged the government to increase intelligence operations around the city to flush out insurgents.

“Islamic State terrorists are still present,” Mr. Jiwebrawi said. “There are reasons for what they are doing.”

Although the areas around the capital have been relatively safe compared with previous years, violence has not disappeared.

On Jan. 13, an insurgent detonated an explosive vest near a convoy carrying the head of Baghdad’s provincial government, wounding four Iraqi security forces.

A suicide bombing on a checkpoint in the north of the city on Saturday killed at least five people, according to the Iraqi police.

Continue reading the main story

BAGHDAD — Two suicide bombers killed more than two dozen people in Baghdad on Monday, mostly street vendors and day laborers gathered at dawn in hopes of finding work at an open-air market, in the first major attack in the Iraqi capital since the government declared victory over the Islamic State.

The carnage in Tayaran Square punctured a growing sense of hope and pride that had permeated Baghdad after Iraq’s security forces, bolstered by large numbers of volunteers and fresh recruits, successfully fought grueling battles against the insurgent group that had held one-third of Iraqi territory and terrorized millions of citizens.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings, but officials in charge of security in the capital immediately cast suspicion on Islamic State sleeper cells, the target of Iraq’s intelligence and counterterrorism forces since major military operations ended in the fall.

Even as battles against Islamic State militants raged in northern Iraq and in its second-largest city, Mosul, Baghdad had largely been free of violence. The suicide bombings Monday morning caught many residents of the capital off guard, as they had become used to living relatively free of fear, taking their families to parks and shopping malls.

The attacks came a day after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other politicians announced competing coalitions ahead of national elections scheduled for May. Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, campaign seasons in Iraq have been scarred by terrorist attacks and other violence.

It is still unclear how the two assailants wearing suicide vests had entered Baghdad or why they had chosen to attack a market popular for cheap electronics and secondhand clothes.

The first assailant detonated his explosives around 6 a.m., as the sun was rising and as day laborers, shopkeepers and street vendors started gathering for work, according to Maj. Muhammad Mudhir, a traffic police officer who witnessed the attack. Minutes later, as people rushed to help the wounded, the second assailant detonated his explosives, said Kadhim Ali, a construction worker who was at the square.

Dr. Abdul Ghani, the director of Al Rusafa hospital in Baghdad, said at least 27 people had been killed, and 60 others wounded, many of whom were in a serious condition.

Since counterterrorism operations were ramped up in 2015, Iraqi security forces have established a tight security cordon around Baghdad in an attempt to keep insurgents and violence from infiltrating the city.

The belt of suburbs and farms to the west of the capital have long been home to bomb factories for Al Qaeda offshoots that have plagued Iraq since the mid-2000s.

Muhammad al-Jiwebrawi, the head of the Baghdad Province’s security committee, said those areas around the capital remained insecure. He urged the government to increase intelligence operations around the city to flush out insurgents.

“Islamic State terrorists are still present,” Mr. Jiwebrawi said. “There are reasons for what they are doing.”

Although the areas around the capital have been relatively safe compared with previous years, violence has not disappeared.

On Jan. 13, an insurgent detonated an explosive vest near a convoy carrying the head of Baghdad’s provincial government, wounding four Iraqi security forces.

A suicide bombing on a checkpoint in the north of the city on Saturday killed at least five people, according to the Iraqi police.

Nytimes

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Coalition envoy calls on Baghdad to lift ban on Kurdistan Region airports

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to defeat the Islamic State...

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Syria: Turkey warned US before strikes against US-backed Kurdish militia

Turkish soldiers wait near the Syrian border at Hassa, in Hatay province on January 21, 2018 AFP PHOTO / BULENT...

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Turkish shelling of Kurdish-controlled Afrin in Syria continues

Turkey Turkish shelling of Kurdish-controlled Afrin in Syria continues Intense fighting has resumed on third day of operation to create...

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Iraqi Parliament approves election date, confirms May 12 announcement

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi Parliament on Monday approved the previously announced date for the upcoming parliamentary...

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kurdistan3 hours ago

Christians Urge International to Help Afrin

The Christian residents of Afrin, the Kurdish city in Syria released an official statement concerning the Turksih bombarmnets on the...

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Rojava3 hours ago

Clash between Turkish army and YPG in Serêkaniyê 

The Turkish army has expanded its attacks on Afrin to Derik and Serêkaniyê. Clashes are taking place between Turkish soldiers...

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