Middle East Updates / Three British Teens en Route to Join ISIS Arrested, Extradited

U.S. cancels consular services in Saudi Arabia over security fears.

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Fighters from the Fajr Libya militia hold a position during clashes with forces loyal to Libya's government, near the Wetia military air base, December 29, 2014.
Fighters from the Fajr Libya militia hold a position during clashes with forces loyal to Libya's government, near the Wetia military air base, December 29, 2014. Credit: AFP
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Latest updates:

5:30 P.M. Three British teenagers en route to join ISIS arrested, extradited

Three British teenagers suspected of trying to join Islamic State have arrived back in London after being deported from Turkey, a Turkish official said.

The three, aged between 17 and 19, were detained in Istanbul after British authorities tipped off their Turkish counterparts that they were planning to travel through Turkey to neighboring Syria. (Reuters)

5:25 P.M. U.S., coalition partners carry out 7 airtrikes on ISIS militants

The United States and coalition partners carried out seven air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and four in Syria since Saturday, the U.S. military said.

The raids in Iraq hit Islamic State tactical units, vehicles, excavators and staging areas near al Asad, al Hawayja, al Qaim, Falluja, Ramadi and Tal Afar, the Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement on Sunday.

The air strikes in Syria were focused near Kobani, at the border with Turkey, and destroyed nine Islamic State combat positions and a vehicle, the statement said. (Reuters)

4:00 P.M. Iraqi offensive on ISIS-held Tikrit stalled for third day

Islamic State fighters traded sniper fire and mortar rounds with Iraqi troops and allied Shi'ite militia forces on Sunday in the city of Tikrit but no major advances were made by either side, a military official who returned from the front said.

The nearly two-week-old operation to win back the city from the radical Islamist militants occupying large parts of the country's north and west been stalled since Friday, when security officials said Iraqi forces and their militia allies would wait for reinforcements before moving forward.

Two days later, back-up had not yet arrived, and officials continued to stress the challenges they faced in flushing out militants in street-by-street battles and defusing bombs and booby traps they laid while retreating from parts of the city.

"There were no new pushes today from either side, only scattered skirmishes in the northern and southern parts of the city," Colonel Mohammed Abid al-Jubouri told Reuters by phone after visiting the southern edge of Tikrit on Sunday. (Reuters)

3:25 P.M. 3 British teens detained in Istanbul en route to join ISIS

Three British teenagers have been detained in the Turkish city of Istanbul while planning to cross the border into neighbouring Syria to join the militant Islamic State group, Turkish officials said on Sunday.

The three, who have not been named but are aged 18 and 19, were seized on Friday two separate sources told Reuters. Turkish authorities are in touch with their British counterparts to arrange their deportation to Britain this week. (Reuters)

1:04 P.M. Human Rights Watch: Cluster bombs used in Libya's conflict

Evidence collected by Human Rights Watch show that widely banned cluster bombs have been used in Libya's conflict between two rival governments fighting for control of the North African country, the New York-based group said on Sunday. 

Cluster bombs explode in the air, scattering dozens of smaller bomblets over an area the size of a sports field. Most nations have banned their use under a convention that became international law in 2010 but Libya has not signed it.

Reuters journalists were shown what appeared to be cluster bomb remnants by forces loyal to a self-declared government controlling Tripoli at two sites in central Libya which had been bombed by war planes belonging to the official government.

Libya is racked by conflict between rival governments -- the internationally recognized one based in the east and a rival outlet controlling Tripoli -- fighting for territory and oil facilities four years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

"Phone interviews with witnesses and photographic evidence reviewed by Human Rights Watch indicate that remnants of RBK-250 PTAB 2.5M cluster bombs were found at Bin Jawad in February 2015 and at Sirte in March," HRW said in a report.

A Reuters photographer took pictures of what looked like cluster bomb remnants in the central city of Sirte while another Reuters reporter saw such bombs in Ben Jawad, where forces loyal to the rival government are based.

"The good condition of the paint on the bomb casings and lack of extensive weathering indicated that the remnants had not been exposed to the environment for long and were from a recent attack," HRW said.

It said it was not possible to say who was responsible for the use of cluster bombs but both locations have been repeatedly bombed by planes belonging to the internationally-recognized government.

Its air force commander, Saqer al-Joroushi, denied that his side had used such bombs.

"The new evidence of cluster munitions use in Libya is highly disturbing," said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch and chair of the Cluster Munitions Coalition, in the report. "Libyan authorities should investigate these incidents and make sure its forces don't use cluster munitions."

Both side in the conflict have been accused by rights groups of attacking civilian facilities such as densely-populated residential districts, oil ports, airports or commercial harbors. (Reuters) 

11:55 A.M. Kerry, Zarif set to start new round of talks in Lausanne, Swizterland on Sunday

The U.S. and Iranian chief diplomats, John Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif, were set to start a new round of talks in the Swiss city of Lausanne on Sunday, aimed at overcoming differences on a nuclear deal ahead of a self-imposed end-of-March deadline.

Secretary of State Kerry said ahead of the talks, starting in the evening, that progress had been made so far on ways to limit Iran's nuclear technology, but that tough political decisions were yet to be made to reach the planned framework deal.

"My hope is that in the next days, that will be possible," he told U.S. broadcaster CBS on Saturday in Egypt. (DPA) 

11:14 A.M. A man and his donkey killed in bomb blast in Cairo

A man and his donkey were killed when a bomb went off in Cairo, state-run newspaper al-Ahram reported online Sunday.

The explosion occurred late Saturday in the troubled district of al-Matariya in eastern Cairo at the moment when the man and the donkey, pulling a cart, were crossing a tramway, according to the report.

No-one claimed responsibility.

Al-Matariya is a stronghold of backers of deposed Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.

The area has seen deadly clashes between Islamists and security forces since the army toppled Morsi in 2013 following mass protests against his rule. (DPA)

8:06 A.M. U.S. cancels consular services in Saudi Arabia over security fears

The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and two other diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia are cancelling all consular services for two days over security fears.

The Embassy says it and missions in Jiddah and Dhahran will provide no consular services Sunday and Monday due to "heightened security concerns." It did not elaborate.

The move follows a warning by the embassy Friday citing information about a threat by militants to kidnap Western oil workers, including Americans, from oil fields in the kingdom's Eastern province.

From 2003 to 2007, Al-Qaida-linked militants carried out attacks in Saudi Arabia aimed at destabilizing the Western-allied monarchy, including deadly bombings of residential compounds housing foreigners in Riyadh in 2003. The kingdom now is taking part in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS. (AP)

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