Middle East Updates ISIS Destroys Key Bridge in Iraq Sunni Heartland

Hundreds of Iranians defy ban to protest Saudi Arabia in Tehran; U.S. expands intelligence sharing with Saudi Arabia in Yemen operation; Saudi Arabia detains man suspected of killing two policemen.

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A group of Iranian protesters chant slogans in front of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, Iran, April 11, 2015.
A group of Iranian protesters chant slogans in front of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, Iran, April 11, 2015.Credit: AP

For Friday's updates, click here

Latest updates:

9:50 P.M. Saudi media: Over 500 Houthis killed by Saudi army on Yemen border since conflict began (Reuters)

9:35 P.M. Three Saudi army officers killed by mortar shell fired into kingdom from Yemen (Reuters)

5:22 Islamic State destroys key bridge in Iraq Sunni heartland

Islamic State on Saturday destroyed a strategic bridge in the western Iraqi province of Anbar where government troops are engaged in a major offensive against the extremist militia in the mostly Sunni area, military officials said.

The hardline jihadists blew up the bridge in the area of Albu Faraj north of Ramadi, the capital city of Anbar, an official told dpa.

The facility, built in 2013, links Ramadi to a major highway.

"The bridge was completely destroyed with the aim preventing security forces from advancing into Albu Faraj controlled by the [Islamic State] organization," the official added on condition of anonymity. (DPA)

12:28 P.M. Hundreds of Iranians defy ban to protest Saudi Arabia in Tehran

Defying a government ban, hundreds of Iranians protested against Saudi Arabia on Saturday over the alleged abuse of two Iranian pilgrims visiting the Sunni kingdom.

Over 300 protesters gathered in front of the Saudi Embassy in north Tehran to call for its closure. Demonstrators shouted: "Shame on you!" and "Death to House of Saud!" in reference to the ruling family.

Earlier, Mohammad Reza Yousefi, director of Tehran's Governor Office for Political Affairs, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying any public protest would be illegal.

The protesters walked toward the embassy, wanting to pull down the Saudi flag, but anti-riot police stopped them. (AP)

The demonstration came after two male Iranian pilgrims alleged abuse after Saudi officers at Jeddah's international airport searched them. Details of the abuse have not been made public though Iran formally has called for the Saudi officers to be punished.

12:09 P.M. Four Turkish soldiers injured in Kurdish militant attack, army says

Four Turkish soldiers were injured in an attack by Kurdish militants in the far east of the country, the military said in a statement Saturday.

Clashes with the militants, allegedly from the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), were ongoing, the military stated. Websites affiliated with the PKK had no information on the incident.

The military said the attack came after 15 army teams positioned themselves inside Agri province as a security measure ahead of parliamentary elections, scheduled for June 7.

The PKK and the state have largely observed a ceasefire since 2013, but sporadic incidents do occur. Tensions have particularly been rising since September, after the Kurdish region of Kobane in northern Syria came under attack from the Islamic State militia. (DPA)

11:29 A.M. Three said killed, several wounded after rebels shell Syria's Aleppo

Syrian state television and an activist group say opposition fighters have shelled a government-held neighborhood in the northern city of Aleppo, killing at least three people and wounding dozens.

The TV report said the shelling of the Suleimaniyeh neighborhood on Saturday morning killed six, wounded more than 50 and damaged several building.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists around the country, said the shelling killed three and wounded "tens." (AP)

11:25 A.M. Report: Two Iranian officers fighting with Houthis captured in Yemen

Loyalists of embattled Yemeni President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi have captured two Iranian officers fighting along Houthi rebels in Yemen's restive southern city of Aden, Saudi-owned broadcaster Al Arabiya reported on Saturday.

The captives, who hold the ranks of colonel and captain, were reportedly detained in two separate parts of Aden, which is at the center of fighting between pro-Hadi militiamen and the Houthis, according to the report.

Al Arabiya posted a photo of what it said was one of the alleged officers, without saying when either he or his countryman had been captured.

There was no immediate Iranian comment. (DPA)

10:03 A.M. Saudi Arabia detains man suspected of killing two policemen

Saudi Arabia's security services have detained a Saudi Arabian man on suspicion of shooting dead two policemen and wounding two others in separate attacks in Riyadh on Wednesday and in March, state media reported on Saturday, citing the Interior Ministry.

Police found the weapon and car used for the shootings at the home of Rami Abdullah Thulab al-Shammari, according to a ministry statement published by state news agency SPA on Saturday.

Last year militant group Islamic State called on sympathizers in the kingdom to assassinate members of the security services or government, non-Muslim residents and members of the Shi'ite Muslim minority. Al-Qaida has also vowed to bring down Saudi Arabia's ruling family.

Although the conservative Sunni Muslim kingdom imposes a version of sharia law supported by jihadists, the ruling family are seen by some as having betrayed Islam through having strong ties with Western countries.

Three other Saudi citizens and two Yemenis, one of whom was living in the kingdom illegally, have also been detained on suspicion of trying to help Shammari flee the country. He was detained in Jizan province close to the border with Yemen, the Interior Ministry said.

Riyadh's police spokesman said on March 30 that shots fired from an unidentified car had injured two policemen in a patrol car late the previous night, and said on Wednesday that two policemen had been killed after a similar attack. (Reuters)

1:40 A.M. U.S. expands intelligence sharing with Saudi Arabia in Yemen operation

The United States is expanding its intelligence-sharing with Saudi Arabia to provide more information about potential targets in the kingdom's air campaign against Houthi militias in Yemen, U.S. officials told Reuters.

The stepped-up assistance comes as two weeks of relentless air strikes by the Saudis and other Gulf Arab allies have largely failed to halt advances by the Iran-linked Houthi forces.

The U.S. officials said the expanded assistance includes sensitive intelligence data that will allow the Saudis to better review the kingdom's targets in fighting that has killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands since March.

"We have opened up the aperture a bit wider with what we are sharing with our Saudi partners," said one U.S. official.

"We are helping them get a better sense of the battlefield and the state of play with the Houthi forces. We are also helping identify 'no strike' areas they should avoid" to minimize any civilian casualties, the official said. (Reuters)

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