The Latest: Iraqi troops capture key village outside Mosul

AP News
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Posted: Apr 04, 2016 8:19 AM
The Latest: Iraqi troops capture key village outside Mosul

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the interconnected conflicts in Iraq and Syria (all times local):

3.00 p.m.

Iraqi officials say troops have recaptured a key village outside the Islamic State-held city of Mosul after days of heavy fighting.

Lt. Col. Mohammed al-Wagaa of the Iraqi army said troops retook the village of al-Nasr, near the Tigris river, on Monday, after destroying six suicide car bombers that had tried to attack them.

He says a Sunni tribal leader, Sheikh Faris al-Sabawi, was killed by an IS sniper who stayed behind in the village.

Mukhlis al-Habi, a Sunni militia commander, confirms the killing of al-Sabawi, who commanded hundreds of Sunni fighters and received aid from the Baghdad government.

The Iraqi army, along with pro-government militias, launched an offensive last month aimed at retaking Mosul, the country's second largest city, which was captured by IS in the summer of 2014.

Their progress in villages outside the city has been slowed by roadside bombs and other booby traps.

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1:15 p.m.

Iraqi officials say a suicide attack south of Baghdad has killed at least 14 people.

A police officer says the suicide bomber blew himself up on Monday inside a restaurant in Dhi Qar province that is frequented by Shiite paramilitary militia fighters.

He added that at least 27 others were wounded in the attack that targeted a famous restaurant on the main highway that links Baghdad with the southern provinces.

Dhi Qar is located about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast.

A medical official confirmed the causality figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

The attack came hours after two separate suicide bombings outside Baghdad killed at least 10 troops.

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1 p.m.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry says its consulate in the Iraqi city of Mosul was destroyed by U.S.-led coalition jets because it was occupied by fighters from the Islamic State group.

In a statement issued Monday morning, the ministry said "Turkey's views and approval were taken at all stages concerning the preparation and execution" of this operation.

The Turkish consulate compound in Mosul had been occupied by IS fighters since June 2014 and "high-level" militants were residing there, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The statement said coalition war planes carried out the strikes at 3 a.m. Monday. It did not specify the countries involved.

IS seized 49 Turkish hostages, including Consul General Ozturk Yilmaz and other diplomats, when it overrun Mosul in spring 2014.

The hostages were later released, freeing up Turkey to take a more active role in the war against IS.

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12:30 p.m.

Officials say separate suicide attacks outside the Iraqi capital have killed at least 10 troops.

Police say the deadliest of Monday's attacks took place in Baghdad's northeastern suburb of Sadr al-Qanat when a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a security checkpoint, killing six troops and wounding 13 others.

They added that another suicide car bomber hit a headquarters of paramilitary troops in the town of Mishahda, 20 miles (30 kilometers) north of Baghdad, killing three troops and wounding 10 others.

Medical officials confirmed the causality figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

The attacks come as the Islamic State group has lost ground on a number of fronts in Syria and Iraq, where it governs a self-styled Islamic caliphate.

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10:30 a.m.

A senior Al-Qaida official was killed in air strikes Sunday night that killed at least 21 other militants in Idlib province, a jihadist stronghold in northern Syria, according to monitoring groups.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi websites, said Abu Firas al-Souri died in U.S. strikes. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the jets were thought to belong to the Syrian or Russian Air Forces. It said they targeted the headquarters of Jund al-Aqsa, an extremist group that fights alongside al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front.

Abu Firas al-Souri was the former official spokesman for the Nusra Front, the group reported on social media Monday.

A 2014 biographical video about al-Souri, obtained by SITE, says he used to represent Osama bin Laden in Pakistan after he met the al-Qaida founder in Afghanistan during the jihad against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Al-Souri, born outside Damascus in 1949, followed the path of many Syrian jihadists. A graduate of the country's military college, he trained jihadist cells in the country between 1977 and 1980, heading several operations against the authorities for the latter part of that period. He was expelled from the Syrian military in part because of his Islamist ties in 1979.

He fled to Jordan in 1980 then to Afghanistan in 1981 where he trained jihadists coming to the war-torn country from across Asia and the Arab world. He became an associate of bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a senior al-Qaida commander who led the organization's affiliate in Iraq following the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Al-Souri participated in a number of major military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan before transferring to Yemen in 2003. In 2013, the al-Qaida leadership transferred him to Syria to mend the growing rift between the group and the Islamic State.

A media outlet belonging to the Lebanese militia Hezbollah said al-Souri's son was also killed in the air strikes.

Hezbollah has sent thousands of its fighters to fight alongside Syrian government forces in the country's five-year civil war. The group was reported to have lost a dozen soldiers in fierce fighting in northern Syria last weekend as jihadist groups alongside rebel militias mounted an offensive against several government positions.