29 Sep 2014

Islamic State group and Iraqi army clash near Baghdad

Islamic State group militants are said to be just one mile away from Baghdad – despite Iraqi ground forces holding them back in a key town near the city.

The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East said the group was now “less than 2km away from entering Baghdad”.

Canon Andrew White, of Baghdad’s St George’s Church, the only Anglican church in Iraq, posted on his Facebook page: “Over a 1000 Iraqi troops were killed by them yesterday, things are so bad. As I said all the military air strikes are doing nothing. If ever we needed your prayer it is now.”

But reports were emerging on Monday that Iraqi ground forces, backed by air strikes, appear to have halted the advance. The key town of Ameriyat al-Falluja was said to be calm, but there was a standoff along the main road to Falluja to the north.

‘Al-Qaeda militants’

The news comes amid reports that a Syrian terror group linked to Al-Qaeda is considering an alliance with IS militants. Militant group al-Nusra warned that countries taking part in the US-led effort were engaging in a war against Islam, calling for jihadists to target those involved.

The head of the Nusra Front, Abu Mohamad al-Golani, in an audio message, said: “Your leaders will not be the only ones who would pay the price of the war. You will pay the heaviest price.”

Meanwhile, US-led air strikes are said to have hit grain silos and other targets in IS-controlled territory in northern and eastern Syria overnight, killing civilians and wounding militants.

The aircraft may have mistaken the mills and grain storage areas in the northern Syrian town of Manbij for an Islamic State base, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

‘British fighter jets’

Two British fighter jets on a mission to Iraq returned to an air base in Cyprus on Sunday four hours after take-off, but the details of their mission were not immediately clear nor whether the planes had carried out air strikes or surveillance.

The two Tornado fighter jets touched down at the British Royal Air Force’s Akrotiri base in Cyprus at around 1500 GMT, where six British Tornado fighters have been stationed since August.

It is their second flight after their first mission over Iraq on Saturday, when the armed jets returned without carrying out any air strikes.

Meanwhile a young British man was arrested in Bangladesh on Monday on suspicion of recruiting would-be jihadists. Samiun Rahman, a resident of London, is said to have arrived in Bangladesh in February to recruit for both IS and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.