Middle East Updates At Least 31 Killed by Suicide Bombers in Yemeni Capital

Al-Qaida in Yemen execute two Saudis for spying for U.S.; Syria rebels launch offensive in Syrian Golan Heights; ex-Turkish President Demiral dies in hospital.

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Smoke rises after Saudi-led airtstrike hits large weapons depot outside Sanaa, Yemen, June 17, 2015.
Smoke rises after Saudi-led airtstrike hits large weapons depot outside Sanaa, Yemen, June 17, 2015.Credit: AP

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Latest updates:

11:05 P.M. Suicide bomb at Baghdad police checkpoint kills 7

Police officials in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, say a suicide car bomber has attacked a police checkpoint, killing seven people, including civilians.

Police say the car exploded at a checkpoint at the northern entrance to the Kazimiyah section of Baghdad, killing three police officers and four civilians. They say another 16 people were wounded in the attack.

Hospital officials corroborated the casualty figures. All spoke on condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to brief journalists.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for this attack. However, the Islamic State militant group is often behind attacks on checkpoints as it seeks to challenge Iraqi security forces amid intensifying battles in northern and western Iraq. (AP)

9:52 P.M. ISIS claims responsibility for deadly car bombs in Yemen capital

Militant group Islamic state in Yemen claimed responsibility for car bomb attacks in the capital Sanaa that killed and injured dozens of people on Wednesday, according to a statement posted online.

"The soldiers of the Islamic State in Yemen, in a wave of military operations as revenge for the Muslims against the Houthi apostates (detonated) four car bombs near the centers of Houthi apostasy," the statement from the group said. (Reuters)

8:36 P.M. At least 31 killed by suicide bombers in Yemen's capital

Two suicide bombers and another blast targeted the headquarters of Yemen's Shi'ite rebels in the capital, Sanaa, on Wednesday, as earlier Saudi-led airstrikes hit a convoy of civilian vehicles and killed at least 31 people, authorities said.

There were no immediate reports on casualties from the Sanaa attacks on Wednesday night, as Muslims around the world prepared for the start of the holy month of Ramadan. Ambulances rushed through the streets in northern and central parts of the capital where the offices of the rebels, known as Houthis, are located.

Security officials said two suicide attackers drove car bombs into the gates of two buildings before detonating them. They said a third attack targeted a gathering of Houthis in Sanaa's Green Dome district.

Yemen's conflict pits the Houthis — who seized the capital last year — and military units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against an array of forces, including southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Islamic militants and loyalists of exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The Saudi-led coalition backing Hadi began carrying out airstrikes on March 26. (AP)

6:29 P.M. Turkish journalists detained at Syrian border for asking about ISIS

A Turkish journalist says she and two colleagues were briefly detained at the border with Syria after angering the local governor with questions about possible infiltrators from the Islamic State group.

Cumhuriyet newspaper said Wednesday its reporter, Pinar Ogunc, was detained a day earlier at the border town of Akcakale, along with journalists working for the Turkish daily Evrensel and Germany's Die Welt. They were covering the Islamic militants' loss of the Syrian town Tal Abyad to Kurdish forces.

Ogunc said they were taken to a police station after asking Gov. Izettin Kucuk if IS militants could pose a threat to Turkey.

Kucuk's office denied that he ordered the journalists arrested for asking questions. It said they were submitted to an identity check because of "sensitivities" at the border region. (AP)

6:22 P.M. Yemen talks make no progress without Houthis, minister says

Talks on a possible truce in the war in Yemen have made "no progress" because the Iranian-backed Houthi delegation has not come to the United Nations in Geneva where the talks are being held, Yemen's Foreign Minister Reyad Yassin Abdulla said on Wednesday.

"Today we were supposed to have something positive. They are just sitting in their hotel making all kind of rumors," he told Reuters. "They never showed up."

Asked if his delegation planned to leave the talks, the minister said: "We have 48 hours." (Reuters)

5:08 P.M. Egypt pardons 165, mostly young people held over protests

Egypt's president issued a decree pardoning 165 people on Wednesday, mostly youths convicted of breaking protest laws and misdemeanors ahead of the holy month of Ramadan.

Many of the pardons issued by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi were to university students, some of whom were jailed under a draconian law that heavily punishes demonstrations staged without police permits.

The move comes amid a state-orchestrated campaign to silence dissent, where courts dispense stiff sentences against both Islamists and secular-minded activists over charges mostly related to violence. Pardons during national and religious holidays are a tradition in Egypt.

Rights groups say many of the people were sentenced over the past two years to around three to four years of imprisonment, and that some were arrested at home or on the sidelines of protests in which they were not participating.

"It's not just the new protest law at work here, there's also a poor judiciary and lack of a credible investigative process, and some are being charged under another 100-year-old law limiting even small assemblies," said Mohammed Zaree of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. (AP)

3:35 P.M. Hundreds of Syrians return to Turkish border town after Kurdish fighters drive out ISIS

Hundreds of Syrians returned to the border town of Tal Abyad from Turkey on Wednesday, a day after Kurdish fighters drove out Islamic State militants.

An Associated Press photographer saw women, elderly people and children carrying their belongings across the border.

Kurdish fighters took full control of Tal Abyad on Tuesday, dealing a major blow to the IS group's ability to wage war in Syria by cutting off a vital supply line to its self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa.

The Kurdish advance caused the displacement of about 23,000 people who fled the fighting to Turkey over the past two weeks, according to the UN refugee agency. (AP)

1:40 P.M. At least 33 killed in army and rebel attacks in Damascus

At least 33 people have died in retaliatory attacks by the Syrian army and rebels in areas near and inside the capital, Damascus, state media and activists reported on Wednesday.

At least 24 civilians, including five children and 13 women, were killed by rockets fired late Tuesday by Syrian troops at the rebel-held district of Douma in suburban Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

In retaliation, rebels shelled the central Damascus quarter of Arnus, killing nine people, according to state news agency SANA.

The suburban and central areas of Damascus have in recent months seen tit-for-tat attacks by Assad's troops and rebels fighting to oust him. (DPA)

1:20 P.M. Al-Qaida in Yemen execute 2 Saudis accused of spying for America

Al-Qaida militants in Yemen executed two Saudi men accused of spying for the United States on Wednesday, two eyewitnesses said, a day after the group announced its leader was killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike."They executed two Saudis, named al-Mutairi and al-Khaledi. They put the two men on the corniche in the city of Mukalla ...they opened fire at them in front of a big group of residents," one eyewitness said. (Reuters)

12:00 P.M. Siren sounds in Golan Heights as Syrian rebels press south

9:50 A.M. Syrian rebels say launch offensive in southern Syria

An alliance of rebels in southern Syria announced a major offensive on Wednesday to capture remaining positions held by the Syrian military in Quneitra province, near Israel's Golan Heights border. (Reuters)

6:00 A.M. Former Turkish president dies

Former Turkish President Suleyman Demiral, who was twice toppled by the military during seven stints at the head of government, has died in hospital at the age of 91, media said on Wednesday.

Demirel, who served as prime minister seven times through the 1960s to the 1990s and was president from 1993 to 2000, died in the early morning at a hospital in Ankara, the Daily Sabah newspaper and other media said. (Reuters)

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