Erbil – The Kurdish Peshmerga troops have blocked the main road linking between Sinjar, in Nineveh, and Duhuk, to prevent federal troops’ advance toward a border crossing near Syria, an officer was quoted saying.
“The measure came after received information indicated plans by the federal troops to gain control on the Faysh Kahbur exit on borders with Syria and located near Turkish borders,” First Lieutenant Younes Koran, a Peshmerga officer, told Anadolu Agency on Sunday.
The border, according to Kuran, “is the northern entrance to Iraq, which links the country to Iraq and Syria. Federal troops are getting ready to control it, which made Peshmerga closes the road, in the exit’s direction, to hamper advance of the troops, until Peshmerga receives official instructions from the Kurdistan Region Government.”
Sinjar is currently controlled by Iraqi troops, after Peshmerga withdrew the region, while federal forces advanced to regain disputed regions.
Iraqi government forces approached Friday the southern borders of Erbil, capital of semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, shortly after engaging in clashes with the region’s forces in Qush Taba and Altun Kupri in northern Kirkuk.
Iraqi troops, backed by Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), took over Kirkuk province from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters last week, fulfilling instructions previously made by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to retake areas where sovereignty is disputed with Kurdistan Region’s Government.
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in the capital, as Afghan officials on Saturday raised the number of casualties from the attack to at least 39 dead and at least 41 wounded.
IS claimed in a statement on its website Friday that its fighter, Abu Ammar al-Turkmani, “detonated his explosive vest among the apostates” during Friday prayers in the Imam Zaman mosque in western Kabul.
The attack was one of two on mosques in the troubled, war-torn country. A suicide bombing in western Ghor province struck a Sunni mosque, also during Friday prayers, killing 33 people, including a warlord who was apparently the target, said Mohammad Iqbal Nizami, spokesman for the provincial chief of police.
The attacks were the latest in a devastating week that saw Taliban attacks kill scores across the country.
The so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan has taken responsibility for most of the attacks targeting Shiites, a minority in Afghanistan whom the Sunni extremist group considers to be apostates. Earlier this year, following an attack claimed by IS on the Iraqi Embassy in Kabul, the militant group effectively declared war on Afghanistan’s Shiites, saying they would be the target of future attacks.
Several mosques have been attacked following this warning, killing scores of Shiite worshippers in Kabul and in western Herat province. Residents say attendance at local Shiite mosques in Kabul on Friday has dropped by at least one-third.
The Interior Ministry released a statement Saturday saying it was investigating the attack in Kabul’s Dashte-e-Barchi neighborhood. It said the assailant blew himself up as worshippers began their prayers.
Eyewitness Ali Mohammad said the mosque was packed with worshippers, both men and women praying at the height of the Muslim week. The explosion was so strong that it shattered windows on nearby buildings, he said.
Dashte-e-Barchi is a sprawling neighborhood in the west of Kabul where the majority of people are ethnic Hazaras, who are mostly Shiite Muslims.
As attacks targeting Shiites have increased in Kabul, residents of this area have grown increasingly afraid. Most schools have additional armed guards from among the local population.
Abdul Hussain Naseri, a Shiite cleric, condemned the attack and said more security is needed for Shiite mosques in the city.
The attack on the Sunni mosque in Ghor province took place in the Do Laina district, according to Mohammad Iqbal Nizami, the spokesman for the provincial chief of police. He said the target apparently was a local commander, Abdul Ahed, a former warlord who has sided with the government. Seven of his bodyguards were also killed in the bombing. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
It has been a brutal week in Afghanistan, with more than 70 killed, mostly policemen and Afghan soldiers but also civilians as militant attacks have surged. The Taliban have taken responsibility for the earlier assaults this week that struck security installations in the east and west of the country.
Funerals were scheduled for Saturday at several cemeteries in western Kabul.
BUSAN, South Korea — U.S. naval commanders on Saturday reiterated Washington’s “ironclad” commitment to defend South Korea against North Korean threats, as a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier visited a South Korean port following a joint naval drill.
Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of Naval Forces Korea, said on board the USS Ronald Reagan that the drills enhanced the allies’ ability to coordinate operations.
The five-day drills that ended Friday involved fighter jets, helicopters and 40 naval ships and submarines from the two countries training for potential North Korean aggression. In an apparent show of force against North Korea, the United States also sent several of its advanced warplanes, including four F-22 and F-35 fighter jets and two B-1B long-range bombers, for an air show and exhibition in Seoul that began on Tuesday.
The drills came ahead of President Donald Trump’s first official visit to Asia next month that’s likely to be overshadowed by tensions with North Korea.
The allies regularly conduct joint military exercises that Pyongyang condemns as invasion rehearsals. North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Saturday that the latest naval drills have driven tension on the Korean Peninsula to a “touch-and-go situation” and accused the allies of “getting frantic with the move to start a nuclear war.”
The United States has been sending its strategic assets to the region more frequently for patrols or drills amid increased efforts by North Korea to expand its nuclear weapons program.
In recent months, North Korea has tested developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles that could potentially reach the U.S. mainland and conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date. It also flew two powerful new midrange missiles over Japan between threats to fire the same weapons toward Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory and military hub.
The U.S. Air Force is preparing to place its fleet of nuclear-armed B-52 bombers on 24-hour alert for the first time since 1991 amid escalating tensions with North Korea, the military branch’s chief of staff said in a report Sunday.
Defense officials denied to Fox News that bombers were ordered to go on 24-hour alert, but Gen. David Goldfein told Defense One it could happen.
“This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Goldfein said. “I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we’re prepared going forward.”
Goldfein noted that in a world where “we’ve got folks that are talking openly about use of nuclear weapons,” it’s important to remain alert and think of new ways to be prepared.
It’s no longer a bipolar world where it’s just us and the Soviet Union. We’ve got other players out there who have nuclear capability. It’s never been more important to make sure that we get this mission right,” Goldfein added.
Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, home of the 2d Bomb Wing and Air Force Global Strike Command, which manages the service’s nuclear services, is being renovated, Defense One reported, so that B-52s would be ready to “take off at a moment’s notice.”
The B-52, which can fly up to about 50,000 feet and at supersonic speeds, has the ability to release a variety of weapons, including cluster bombs, gravity bombs and precision guided missiles.
The long-range bomber can also unleash both nuclear and precision-guided conventional ordnance.
The 24-hour alert status for B-52s ended in 1991, in the waning days of the Cold War.
The Israeli army carried out, on Saturday, several air strikes on the headquarters of the Syrian army, near Golan Heights, Qasioun News reported.
Spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces, Avichay Adraee, said that the Israeli army forces were able to destroy 3 artillery vehicles belonging to the Syrian regime forces, near Golan Heights.
The Israeli air strikes were conducted, after the Syrian army fired five missiles towards the occupied lands, 4 of them were discovered by the Israeli forces, Adraee added.
Adaree also said in tweets, “If there is an escalation in the fire, its continuation will face an Israeli escalation in response,” adding that, “the IDF will not tolerate any attempt to undermine the sovereignty of the State of Israel and the security of its population.”
“Syrian regime is responsible for any incident happening within the territory,” he explained.
Last week, Israeli warplanes conducted air strikes, targeting anti-warplanes weapons and rockets launchers belonging to the Syrian army, near an army’s headquarters, located 50 kilometers east of Damascus, after the Syrian army launched SA-5 missiles and opened fire on Israeli jets, which were flying over Lebanon.
After the incident, Adaree revealed that Israel has no interest in escalating the situation; however, the Israeli troops will be prepared for any hostile activity against it.
The ambush in Niger earlier this month that left four U.S. troops dead has been the subject of immense speculation, not only concerning President Trump’s public response to the tragedy but also about what actually happened on the ground that day.
Asked by Fox News on Capitol Hill if the administration has been forthcoming about the attack, Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., replied, “of course not” and added, “it may require a subpoena.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday that the attack is under investigation, and the Pentagon has dispatched a general officer to Niger to probe what happened.
While details are elusive, Fox News has compiled the following timeline of the ambush and its aftermath, which all started with a routine mission to meet village elders:
A dozen U.S. Army soldiers, mostly Green Berets, along with 30 Nigeriens, traveled 125 miles north from their base at Niger’s capital, Niamey, in unarmored trucks on a routine mission and to meet with local village elders in Tonga Tonga, near the border with Mali, on Oct. 4.
After the meeting with the village elders ended around dusk local time, the U.S.-led patrol was ambushed by roughly 50 militants from a new ISIS-affiliated group, Islamic State of the Sahel. No terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack, however, and a leading terrorist group in the region, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has not been ruled out.
Islamic State of the Sahel’s leader, Adnan Abu Walid, is thought to have been holding an American aid worker from Niger hostage for a year.
A senior defense official told Fox News the U.S. troops were fired on once they were already in their vehicles. The vehicles then scrambled to “get off the X” — escaping the ambush site using evasive driving maneuvers — and a gunfight ensued.
At about 5 p.m. ET the Pentagon alerted the White House that U.S. troops had been attacked in Niger. Later that night, U.S. Africa Command confirmed in a statement “that a joint U.S. and Nigerien patrol came under hostile fire in southwest Niger. We are working to confirm details on the incident and will have more information as soon as we can confirm facts on the ground.”
Two U.S. Army Green Berets and two other soldiers were killed and two other Green Berets wounded. One U.S. Army soldier attached to 3rd Special Forces Group, Sgt. La David Johnson, had vanished — and it was feared he had been taken hostage by the terrorist group — until his body was discovered roughly 48 hours later, after an “intensive” search using both drones and U.S. special operations soldiers on the ground, a U.S. official debriefed on the incident told Fox News.
At the time of the attack, the Pentagon asked Fox News not to report a U.S. soldier was missing because U.S. special operations forces were headed to Niger for a possible rescue mission.
Fox News is told that during the search for Johnson, there always were either French, Nigerien or U.S. troops on the ground looking.
Special Operators were rushed to the scene as soon as it was known that a soldier was missing.
There was no U.S. drone overhead when the joint U.S.-Nigerien patrol was attacked because the patrol did not anticipate making contact with an enemy force.
“The patrol that was attacked last week had actually done 29 patrols without contact over the previous six months or so; no indication that this was going to occur. I would say that what was actually very positive about it was the fact that they were able to have close-air support overhead, about 30 minutes after first contact, which is pretty impressive,” the Director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., told reporters Oct. 12.
Two French Mirage fighter jets showed up overhead during the attack, but did not open fire on the militants. The jets, however, flew low enough to scatter the group. The government of Niger does not allow armed drone flights overhead, despite the U.S. military operating two drone bases and roughly 800 American troops in the land-locked West African nation, which is about twice the size of Texas in area.
Two French Gazelle helicopters arrived a short time after enemy forces scattered and one of them retrieved two wounded Green Berets and flew them back to the capital for treatment.
A short time later, a private U.S. contracted helicopter recovered the bodies of the three Green Berets killed in the attack, a U.S. official told Fox News. U.S. Africa Command confirmed the detail.
“Berry Aviation was on alert during the incident in Niger and conducted casualty evacuation and transport for U.S. and partner forces,” said Robyn Mack, a spokesperson.