Posts Tagged ‘Iraqi forces’

IS Claims Karbala Attack on Iraqi Troops

August 13, 2017

BAGHDAD — A statement from the Islamic State group claims responsibility for an attack on Iraqi troops outside Karbala that left one dead.

Iraqi Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the Joint Military Command, says the suicide car bomb attack at a checkpoint outside the southern Iraqi city late Saturday injured two others.

The IS statement said the attack targeted a cement factory outside Karbala and resulted in dozens of casualties.

Iraq’s prime minister declared victory over the Islamic State group in Iraq’s second largest city Mosul in July, depriving the group of their last significant urban foothold in the country.

Iraqi forces closely backed by the U.S.-led coalition are now preparing to retake the IS-held town of Tal Afar west of Mosul.

Iraqi PM declares victory over Islamic State group in ‘liberated’ Mosul

July 9, 2017

AFP

© AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP | Iraqi forces drive their vehicle past a mosque in Mosul’s Old City on July 9, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-07-09

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced “victory” Sunday over the Islamic State group in the city of Mosul, his office said.

“The commander-in-chief of the armed forces (Prime Minister) Haider al-Abadi arrived in the liberated city of Mosul and congratulated the heroic fighters and the Iraqi people for the great victory,” said a statement from his office.

The prime minister’s declaration comes after Lt. Gen. Jassim Nizal of the army’s 9th Division said his forces had achieved “victory” in their sector. His soldiers danced to patriotic music atop tanks even as airstrikes sent plumes of smoke into the sky nearby.

Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake Mosul in October. The Islamic State (IS) group now controls less than one square kilometer of territory in Mosul’s Old City, but is using human shields, suicide bombers and snipers in a fight to the death.

The militants captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in a matter of days in the summer of 2014. Nizal acknowledged that many of his men were among those who fled the city at that time, in a humiliating defeat for the country’s armed forces.

“Some things happened here, that’s true,” he said. “But we have come back.”

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Much of Mosul’s Old City and surrounding areas have been devastated by months of grueling urban combat. On Sunday a line of tired civilians filed out of the Old City on foot, past the carcasses of destroyed apartment blocks lining the cratered roads.

Heba Walid held her sister-in-law’s baby, which was born into war. The parents of the six-month-old, along with 15 other family members, were killed last month when an airstrike hit their home. When Walid ran out of formula, she fed the baby a paste of crushed biscuits mixed with water.

Now they are among more than 897,000 people displaced by the fighting in Mosul.

The loss of the city marks a major defeat for the IS group, which has suffered a series of major setbacks over the past year.

US-backed Syrian forces have pushed into the group’s de facto capital, the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, but a final victory there could be months away, and the extremists still hold several smaller towns and villages across Iraq and Syria.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

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Men drag the body of an Islamic State fighter before burying him near Karamah, south of Mosul — Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

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Iraqi Prime Minister Arrives in Mosul to Declare Victory Over ISIS

MOSUL, Iraq — Dressed in a military uniform, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived here in Mosul on Sunday to congratulate Iraq’s armed forces on their victory over the Islamic State and mark the formal end of a bloody campaign that lasted nearly nine months, left much of Iraq’s second-largest city in ruins, killed thousands of people and displaced nearly a million more.

While there were reports that troops were still mopping up the last pockets of resistance and Iraqi forces could be facing suicide bombers and guerrilla attacks for weeks, the military began to savor its win in the shattered alleyways of the old city, where the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, put up a fierce last stand.

Hanging over the declaration of victory is the reality of the hard road ahead. The security forces in Mosul still face dangers, including ISIS sleeper cells and suicide bombers. And they must clear houses rigged with explosive booby traps so civilians can return and services can be restored. Nor is the broader fight over: Other cities and towns in Iraq remain under the militants’ control

“It’s going to continue to be hard every day,” said Col. Pat Work, the commanding officer of the Second Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, which is carrying out the American advisory effort here.

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“Iraqi security forces need to be on the top of their game, and we need to be over their shoulder helping them as they move through this transition to consolidate gains and really sink their hold in on the west side,” Colonel Work said as he rolled through the streets of west Mosul recently in an armored vehicle. “ISIS will challenge this.”

The victory could have been sweeter, though, as the Iraqis were denied the symbolism of hanging the national flag from the Grand al-Nuri Mosque and its distinctive leaning minaret, which was wiped from the skyline in recent weeks as a final act of barbarity by Islamic State militants who packed it with explosives and brought it down as government troops approached.

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Mosul: Last Pockets of IS Making Last Bloody Stand — Attempting to leave but There Is No Escape — Women suicide bombers one of final stage weapons

July 9, 2017

Iraqi Elite Force Reaches Mosul Old City Riverbank as Islamic State Faces Defeat

MOSUL, Iraq — Islamic State militants threw themselves into the Tigris on Sunday, trying to flee the battlefield in Mosul as Iraqi forces reached the riverbank, bringing them to the verge of victory.

After eight months of combat that has left parts of the city in ruins, killed thousands of civilians and displaced nearly one million people, Iraqi officials say they have almost regained full control of Mosul.

The militants have been driven from all but a patch of territory on the western bank of the Tigris bisecting Mosul, where they have staged a last stand in the narrow alleys of the Old City.

Plumes of smoke rose over the Old City on Sunday and the decaying corpses of Islamic State fighters lay in the streets. Scattered bursts of gunfire could be heard and several airstrikes were carried out.

Iraqi military spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, told state TV earlier on Sunday that 30 militants had been killed attempting to get away by swimming across the Tigris.

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Brig. Yahya Rasool Abdullah, an Iraqi joint command spokesman

Later, Iraqiya News ran an on-screen headline saying the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) had raised the Iraqi flag on the Tigris riverbank in the Old City after retaking the Maydan area, and was now advancing towards the Qalayat area.

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Counter Terrorism Service (CTS)

Islamic State vowed on Saturday to “fight to the death” in Mosul.

Cornered in a shrinking area of the city, the militants have resorted to sending women suicide bombers among the thousands of civilians who are emerging from the battlefield wounded, malnourished and fearful.

The battle has also exacted a heavy toll on Iraq’s security forces.

The Iraqi government does not reveal casualty figures, but a funding request from the U.S. Department of Defense said the CTS, which has spearheaded the fight in Mosul, had suffered 40 percent losses.

The United States leads an international coalition that is backing the campaign against Islamic State in Mosul by conducting airstrikes against the militants and assisting troops on the ground.

The Department of Defense has requested $1.269 billion in U.S. budget funds for 2018 to continue supporting Iraqi forces.

Without Mosul – by far the largest city to fall under militant control – Islamic State’s dominion in Iraq will be reduced to mainly rural, desert areas west and south of the city where tens of thousands of people live.

It is almost exactly three years since the ultra-hardline group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a “caliphate” spanning Syria and Iraq from the pulpit of the medieval Grand al-Nuri mosque.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of Islamic State’s “state of falsehood” a week ago, after security forces retook the mosque – although only after retreating militants blew it up.

The United Nations predicts it will cost more than $1 billion to repair basic infrastructure in Mosul. In some of the worst affected areas, almost no buildings appear to have escaped damage and Mosul’s dense construction means the extent of the devastation might be underestimated, U.N. officials said.

The militants are expected to revert to insurgent tactics as they lose territory.

The fall of Mosul also exposes ethnic and sectarian fractures between Arabs and Kurds over disputed territories or between Sunnis and the Shi’ite majority that have plagued Iraq for more than a decade.

(Writing by Isabel Coles; editing by David Stamp)

Iraq forces combing west Mosul after surprise IS attack

June 26, 2017

AFP

© AFP | An Iraqi forces member is seen patrolling the area of the industrial zone in Mosul on June 23, 2017

MOSUL (IRAQ) (AFP) – Iraqi forces on Monday were searching neighbourhoods of west Mosul they retook weeks ago after a surprise jihadist attack on their rear that left several dead, officials said.The attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State group, sowed panic among residents who returned to live in the Tanak and Yarmuk neighbourhoods of west Mosul.

A top commander in the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), which sent forces to fight the IS gunmen, said the attackers had infiltrated the area by blending in with returning displaced civilians.

“The group came with the displaced and settled in the Tanak district. They regrouped and launched counter-attacks,” Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi told AFP.

“Yarmuk is being searched house to house,” he said, adding that two groups of IS attackers were still believed to be in the area, which lies on the western edge of the city.

A CTS medic said the attack had caused several victims but he could not say how many.

“There are martyrs who were killed by Daesh,” the medic said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

He said 15 to 20 jihadist fighters were also killed in the battle.

Iraqi forces, led by the CTS, have for a week been pressing a perilous assault into the Old City in central Mosul, the last pocket still controlled by the jihadists.

Federal forces backed a US-led coalition launched an offensive to retake the country’s second city from IS more than eight months ago.

The east bank of Mosul, a city divided by the Tigris River, was retaken in January and a push to wrest back the western side was launched in mid-February.

More than 800,000 people have been displaced from the Mosul area since October last year and the security forces are struggling to carry out effective screening.

While the exact circumstances were unclear, Sunday night’s attack was described as a diversionary tactic by west Mosul “sleeper cells” to ease the pressure on the Old City, where the jihadists appear to be on their last legs.

“The sleeper cells carried out a surprise attack against the security forces, in an attempt to ease the siege on the Old City,” a local official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“Operations to flush out pockets controlled by Daesh are ongoing,” he said.

Hundreds of families, who in some cases had returned to their homes weeks ago, fled the area again overnight, fearing the return of jihadist rule.

Mosul’s Old City threatened as showdown looms

June 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Smoke billows behind the emblemati Al-Nuri mosque in Mosul’s Old City, where Iraqi forces have launched an assault on the Islamic State group

MOSUL (IRAQ) (AFP) – Mosul’s Old City, where Iraqi forces are closing in on the Islamic State group’s final urban refuge in Iraq, is an ancient maze of narrow alleys.At its heart lies the emblematic Al-Nuri mosque, where jihadist supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in June 2014 after his forces seized Iraq’s second city along with swathes of territory extending into neighbouring Syria.

Baghdadi’s cross-border “caliphate” has been shrinking steadily since mid-2015.

The loss of Mosul would leave Raqa, in Syria, as the group’s only major urban stronghold.

Perched on the bank of the river Tigris and protected for centuries by 11th century ramparts, medieval Mosul was a key meeting point for merchants from India, Persia and the Mediterranean.

Today, the three-square-kilometre (one-square-mile) district is a maze of alleys lined with stone houses, small shops and the workshops of local carpenters, weavers and metalworkers.

It contains numerous markets, churches and mosques, the most emblematic of which is the Great Mosque of Al-Nuri.

Baghdadi’s only known public appearance there heralded the most ambitious and brutal experiment in modern jihad, a period marked by mass murder, slavery and attempts to commit genocide.

The mosque takes its name from Nureddin al-Zinki, who ordered it built in 1172 after unifying Syria and parts of northern Iraq.

A predecessor to Saladin, Zinki was a Muslim hero in what he labelled a jihad (holy war) against the crusaders.

Present-day jihadists often borrow his rhetoric, referring to western forces as “crusaders”. One influential rebel group in Syria has even named itself after him.

– Emblem in peril –

His mosque in Mosul was largely dismantled and rebuilt last century as part of a renovation project, but its iconic leaning minaret, which locals dub the “hunchback”, survived.

Decorated with geometric brick patterns, it is an emblem not just of Mosul but of Iraq and appears on the 10,000 dinar bill.

After seizing Mosul, IS fighters hung their black flag from the top of the 45-metre (150-foot) tower.

While the jihadists destroyed priceless historical sites in other parts of their “caliphate”, witnesses say the “hunchback” was saved after locals formed a human chain around it to protect it.

Historians and architects fear that fierce fighting in the Old City will imperil its heritage as well as the mosque’s fragile minaret.

In 2012, UNESCO warned that the minaret was suffering “serious structural weakness”.

“It is feared that the leaning minaret, that has brought fame to the city of Mosul, may soon collapse if measures to save it are not taken,” it said.

A UNESCO-led effort launched in June 2014 to stabilise the structure was interrupted just days later as IS seized control of Mosul in a lightning assault.

In a “desperate plea” published in March, Iraqi architect Ihsan Fethi called for the Old City to be spared.

It contains “monuments and houses of historical and architectural value that are among the most remarkable in Iraq and the region,” he said.

He urged Iraqi and international coalition forces not to resort to “any sort of indiscriminate artillery, bombing… or any similar heavy weaponry” in the battle for the Old City.

“We have already seen that in (Syria’s) Aleppo and elsewhere,” Fethi said.

“If the city is liberated at the price of destroying Old Mosul, it will be a hollow ‘victory.'”

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Iraq: The battle for Mosul

June 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Iraqi forces launched an offensive to recapture Mosul in October 2016

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Key dates in the Iraqi offensive to recapture Mosul, the country’s second biggest city, from the Islamic State group (IS) jihadists who seized it in June 2014.- The battle begins –

– October 17, 2016: Iraqi forces launch the assault. It was in Mosul in July 2014 that IS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only public appearance, to urge Muslims worldwide to move to the recently proclaimed “caliphate” straddling Iraq and Syria.

Tens of thousands of army, police and counter-terrorism troops are thrown into the long-awaited offensive with air and ground support from a US-led coalition. Kurdish forces also take part in operations north and east of the city.

– Entering Mosul –

– November 1: The army says it has entered Mosul city for the first time since 2014.

– November 3: Baghdadi breaks a year-long silence, urging followers to fight to the death for Mosul in an audio recording. The Iraqi advance begins to slow.

– November 13: Iraq says it has recaptured Nimrud, an ancient city southeast of Mosul.

– November 23: Shiite-dominated paramilitary units known as the Hashed al-Shaabi say they have cut IS supply lines between Mosul and the jihadists’ Syrian stronghold Raqa, 400 kilometres (250 miles) to the west.

– East Mosul is freed –

– December 29: Government troops end a two-week pause and launch the second phase of their assault on east Mosul.

– January 8: Iraqi units reach the Tigris River that divides Mosul and take up positions near one of the city’s five bridges, all now destroyed.

– January 24: The Joint Operations Command coordinating the fight says the east has been “fully liberated”.

– Battle for west begins –

– February 19: Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announces the start of the battle for western Mosul, with Iraqi forces backed by coalition air power and close-in support from coalition advisers.

– February 24: Iraqi forces seize full control of Mosul airport and enter their first west Mosul neighbourhood. Three days later they take control of a fourth bridge over the Tigris.

– March 12: A US envoy says Iraqi troops have cut all roads into western Mosul, trapping remaining IS fighters inside.

– March 14: Iraqi forces say they have captured the city’s train station after reaching other symbolic sites such as the regional government headquarters and the city’s museum.

– Old City –

May 4: Iraqi forces launch a second front in northwestern Mosul to further seal the siege on the Old City, where IS has concentrated most of its resources.

May 16: A military spokesman says it has recaptured almost 90 percent of west Mosul.

June 18: Iraqi forces launch an assault to retake the Old City, where the United Nations says jihadists may be holding more than 100,000 civilians as human shields.

Since mid-October, more than 860,000 people are estimated to have fled Mosul.

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Iraqi Troops Move Into Mosul’s Old City, Last IS Stronghold

June 18, 2017

BAGHDAD — U.S.-backed Iraqi troops pushed into the last Islamic State stronghold in the country’s second largest city of Mosul on Sunday, an Iraqi commander said, formally launching the final major battle of an eight-month campaign.

The IS group captured Mosul when it swept across northern and central Iraq in the summer of 2014. Iraq launched a massive operation to retake the city last October, and has driven the militants from all but a handful of neighborhoods. The extremists are expected to make their last stand in the Old City, a densely populated quarter with narrow, winding alleys.

Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Rasheed Yar Allah, who commands army operations in Ninevah province, said Iraqi special forces, the regular army and Federal Police are taking part in the operation to retake the Old City, which began Sunday at dawn.

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Photo: ARIS MESSINIS

Iraq state TV aired live footage showing thick black smoke rising from the Old City and gunfire rattling from inside. It said leaflets were distributed urging civilians to leave through five “safe corridors.”

Gen. Abdel Ghani al-Asadi, the head of Iraq’s special forces, told state TV he expects the extremists to put up a “vicious and tough fight.”

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The Old City is home to the centuries-old al-Nuri mosque, where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivered a Friday sermon in 2014 as his group declared an Islamic caliphate in the areas it controlled in Syria and Iraq. The militants have lost much of that territory over the last three years, and Mosul is their last urban bastion in Iraq.

Up to 150,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in the Old City, where the militants are using them as human shields, U.N. humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande told The Associated Press on Friday. She said conditions are “desperate,” with little food and no clean water.

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ERBIL, Iraq — Iraqi forces started storming the Islamic State-held Old City of Mosul on Sunday, a military statement said.

The historic district is the last still under control of the militants in the city which used to be their capital in Iraq.

It is a densely-populated maze of narrow alleyways where fighting is often done house by house.

About 100,000 civilians remain trapped there in harrowing conditions, with little food, water and medicine and limited access to hospitals, according to the United Nations.

“This is the last chapter” in the offensive to take Mosul, said Lieutenant General Abdul Ghani al-Asadi, the commander of the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) elite units.

The U.S.-backed Iraqi offensive to capture Mosul entered its ninth month on Saturday.

Islamic State snipers are shooting at families trying to flee on foot or by boat across the Tigris River, as part of a tactic to keep civilians as human shields, the U.N. said on Friday.

Iraqi government forces regained eastern Mosul in January, then a month later began the offensive on the western side that includes the Old City.

The fall of Mosul would, in effect, mark the end of the Iraqi half of the “caliphate” that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared in a speech from an historic mosque in the Old City three years ago, covering parts of Iraq and Syria.

(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli, editing by Louise Heavens)

Iraqi Forces Say About to Encircle Islamic State in Mosul’s Old City

June 15, 2017

ERBIL, Iraq — Iraqi forces said they were about to complete the encirclement of Islamic State’s stronghold in the Old City of Mosul, after taking control of a neighboring district on Thursday.

Iraq’s military said it had captured Bab Sinjar, north of the historic, densely-populated district where the militants launched their cross-border “caliphate” in 2014.

Government forces and their allies still have to take full control of Medical City, a complex of hospitals further north along the bank of the Tigris, to enclose the militant enclave. [nL8N1JA1VU]

The offensive to retake the northern city started in October with air and ground support from a U.S.-led international coalition.

IS-claimed suicide bombings kill 35 in Iraq

May 20, 2017

AFP

© AFP | An Iraqi man inspects the wreckage of a bus that was damaged in a car bomb attack, in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on May 20, 2017

BAGHDAD (AFP) – 

Suicide bombings at checkpoints in Baghdad and south Iraq claimed by the Islamic State group killed at least 35 people and wounded dozens more, officials said on Saturday.

The bombings, which hit Iraq the previous night, came as Iraqi forces battle IS in Mosul in a massive operation launched more than seven months ago to retake the country’s second city from the jihadists.

In Baghdad, suicide car bombers attacked in the area of a checkpoint in the city’s southern Abu Dsheer area, killing 24 people and wounding 20, Brigadier General Saad Maan told AFP.

Security forces were able to kill one of the attackers, but the second blew up his car bomb, Maan said.

IS issued a statement claiming the attack but gave a different account of how it unfolded, saying that one militant clashed with security forces using a light weapon before detonating an explosive belt, after which a second blew up a car bomb.

And in south Iraq, a suicide bomber blew up an explosives-rigged vehicle at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the city of Basra, killing 11 people and wounding 30, according to Riyadh Abdulamir, the head of Basra province health department.

Another militant who left a second explosives-rigged vehicle was killed by security forces, the Basra Operations Command said.

IS also claimed the Basra attack, but said that both bombs were successfully detonated.

The jihadist group overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since recaptured much of the territory they lost to the jihadists.

After recapturing the cities of Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah, Iraqi forces launched an operation to retake Mosul — at the time the largest population centre still in IS hands — last October.

US-backed forces prepare for final push on IS-held Raqa

May 12, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Delil Souleiman | A member of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces stands at the Tabqa dam on May 11, 2017

TABQA (SYRIA) (AFP) – US-backed fighters said Friday they were preparing for a final assault on the Islamic State group’s Syrian bastion Raqa, likely next month, after seizing a key city to the west.

The Syrian Democratic Forces earlier this week captured Tabqa and an adjacent dam, a major prize in the offensive for Raqa, the Syrian heart of IS’s self-proclaimed “caliphate”.

“The attack on Raqa will take place in the beginning of the summer,” Syrian Democratic Forces commander Rojda Felat told AFP.

She later specified that it would likely start in June based on “military and tactical considerations.”

Felat spoke at a press conference in Tabqa, which the SDF captured from IS on Wednesday along with its nearby dam in one of its most important victories yet.

Tabqa lies on the banks of the Euphrates River, about 55 kilometres (34 miles) west of Raqa.

On Friday, an AFP team entered Tabqa and the adjacent dam — Syria’s largest — and saw rows of sandbags, mangled cars and craters from heavy bombardment dotting the structure.

The battle for Tabqa was marked by fears that the dam would be severely damaged and collapse, leading to massive flooding downstream.

The body of an alleged IS fighter was seen on Friday floating in the artificial reservoir created by the dam.

– US arms to arrive ‘soon’ –

The SDF’s fight for Raqa — dubbed Operation Wrath of the Euphrates — has already seen the alliance capture large swathes of the surrounding province with help from the US-led coalition bombing IS in Iraq and Syria.

The SDF are working to tighten the noose around Raqa before a final assault. At their closest point, the US-backed forces are just eight kilometres (five miles) from the city.

The joint Arab-Kurdish forces have received significant support from the US-led coalition in the form of air strikes and special forces advisers.

SDF deputy head Qahraman Hassan said: “In the beginning of the summer, we will storm and liberate (Raqa) city.”

His forces would receive “special weapons and armoured vehicles” to enter the city, Hassan said, after President Donald Trump changed US policy to allow arms deliveries to the SDF’s Kurdish component.

No newly authorised aid had been delivered yet, Hassan said, but he added that “I believe this support will arrive soon.”

The SDF is dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), seen by the US as an indispensable ally in the fight against IS but considered a “terrorist group” by Turkey.

The US change in policy has reignited a dispute with Ankara, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling for an “immediate” reversal.

by Delil Souleiman