Middle East Updates / More Than 90,000 People Fleeing Violence in Iraq's Anbar Province, UN Says

Attacks around Iraq's capital kill 14, officials say; Yemen Houthi leader accuses Saudi Arabia of seeking to invade, occupy country; U.K. police search for family that may have traveled to Syria; Iran Guard rejects inspection of military sites.

Reuters

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Latest updates:

8:55 P.M. Attacks around Iraq's capital kill 14, officials say

Authorities in Iraq say bombings and mortar fire targeting public places have killed 14 people around the capital, Baghdad.

Police officials say the deadliest attack happened Sunday night when a car bomb exploded on a commercial street in downtown Baghdad, killing six people and wounding 13.

Earlier, a bomb blast near a market killed three people and wounded eight in al-Taji, just north of Baghdad.

Police said another bomb exploded in Baghdad's northeastern suburbs, killing two people and wounding five. A mortar shell also hit a house and killed three people in the village of Sabaa al-Bour, 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of Baghdad.

Medical officials confirmed the casualties.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to journalists. (AP) 

8:37 P.M. Houthi leader says Yemenis have right to resist Saudi 'aggression'

The leader of Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi rebels said on Sunday that Yemenis had the right to resist Saudi "aggression" by any means.

The tone of Abdel-Malek al-Houthi's televised speech suggested he was in no mood to compromise despite pressure from Saudi-led airstrikes, which began targeting the militia more than three weeks ago. (Reuters) 

8:16 P.M. Yemen Houthi leader accuses Saudi Arabia of seeking to invade, occupy country

The leader of Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi rebels, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, accused Saudi Arabia on Sunday of trying to invade and occupy the country and bring it under its hegemony.

Saudi Arabia has led three weeks of airstrikes on the Houthis, hoping to halt advances that could give the Shi'ites from the north full control of Yemen and enable Riyadh's arch-foe Tehran to expand its influence in the Arabian peninsula. (Reuters) 

6:55 P.M. U.K. police search for family that may have traveled to Syria

British police are appealing for information on a family with four children who may have traveled to Syria.

Thames Valley Police say Asif Malik, his partner, Sara Kiran, and four children aged between 12 months and 7 years old have not been seen in England since early April.

Acting Deputy Chief Constable John Campbell told reporters Sunday that police are concerned about anyone intending to travel to parts of Syria controlled by the Islamic State group. He says it is "an extremely dangerous place and not a place where young children should be taken."

Authorities say that there was no suggestion the family was doing any fighting in Syria, and it was unclear whether they were sympathetic to members of ISIS or Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (AP)

5:44 P.M. Jordan hosts international competition of anti-terror squads (AP)

Jordanian forces conduct a military drill as part of the 7th Annual International Warrior Competition, April 19, 2015, Amman, Jordan. Photo by AP

4:49 P.M. U.S., allies focus on Iraq in latest airstrikes

The United States and its coalition partners targeted Islamic State militants with 13 airstrikes in Syria and Iraq in a 24-hour period ending Sunday, a statement from the Combined Joint Task Force.

Twelve of the strikes were in Iraq, hitting tactical units, sniper positions, weapons, vehicles and buildings near the cities of Baiji, Fallujah, Kirkuk, Ramad and Sinjar.

Near the Syrian city of al Hasakah, an airstrike destroyed an Islamic State fighting position, the statement said. (Reuters) 

4:30 P.M. Thousands of Yemeni troops pledge backing for exiled leader

The Yemeni commander of a vast military district covering half the country's border with Saudi Arabia pledged support on Sunday to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, local officials said.

The announcement puts at least 15,000 troops in the desert and mountain border area on the same side as Saudi Arabia, which backs Hadi and has waged an inconclusive three-week bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen who are allied with Iran.

Most of Yemen's military is loyal to powerful ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose forces are fighting alongside the Shi'ite Muslim Houthi militia in battles stretching across Yemen's south and east. (Reuters)

1:50 P.M. New ISIS video shows group execution of Ethiopians in Libya (AP)

11:45 A.M. More than 90,000 people fleeing violence in Iraq's Anbar province, UN says

More than 90,000 people have fled their homes in Iraq's western province of Anbar where Islamic State militants have been gaining ground over the past week, the United Nations said on Sunday.

Islamic State militants have encroached on the provincial capital Ramadi, displacing thousands of families.

"Our top priority is delivering life-saving assistance to people who are fleeing -- food, water and shelter are highest on the list of priorities," Lise Grande, humanitarian coordinator for the United Nations in Iraq, said in a statement.

Iraqi forces are preparing to mount a counter-offensive to reverse Islamic State advances on the eastern edge of Ramadi after military reinforcements were sent from Baghdad, officials said. Provincial officials warned earlier this week Ramadi was in danger of falling to the militants.

At least 2.7 million Iraqis have been displaced across the country since January 2014, including 400,000 from Anbar. (Reuters)

10:48 A.M. Iran Guard rejects inspection of military sites

A senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guard says inspectors would be barred from military sites under any nuclear agreement with world powers.

Gen. Hossein Salami, the Guard's deputy leader, said Sunday on state TV that allowing the foreign inspection of military sites is tantamount to "selling out."

Iran and six world powers have reached a framework agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions, and hope to strike a final deal by June 30.

A fact sheet on the framework accord issued by the State Department said Iran would be required to grant the UN nuclear agency access to any "suspicious sites."

Iran, which insists its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes, has repeatedly said its military sites will not be open to inspection. (AP)

11:15 A.M. Khamenei: West created 'myth' of nuclear weapons to make Iran as threat

7:20 A.M. Northern Cypriots vote for new leader to oversee peace talks

Voters in breakaway northern Cyprus went to the polls on Sunday to elect a new leader whose main task will be to represent them in peace talks expected to resume on the ethnically divided island next month.

Opinion polls put conservative incumbent Dervis Eroglu in the lead ahead of the six other candidates. But he is not expected to win enough votes in the first round, paving the way for a runoff on April 26.

Only Turkey recognises the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The international community views the Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia as the legitimate government of the whole island. (Reuters)

12:33 A.M. Yemen government rejects Iran's four-point peace plan

Yemen's government has rejected a four-point peace plan for the country that Iran submitted to the United Nations, a spokesman said on Saturday.

Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab coalition partners have been bombing Iranian-allied Houthi rebels for three weeks in order to halt advances that could give the rebels full control of the country.

The conflict, though rooted in local rivalries, has been described as a proxy war between predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran, both top OPEC oil producers.

The Iranian plan calls for an immediate cease-fire and end of all foreign military attacks, humanitarian assistance, a resumption of broad national dialogue and "establishment of an inclusive national unity government."

"We reject the Iranian initiative," Yemeni government spokesman Rajeh Badi told Reuters by telephone from Qatar's capital, Doha. "The goal of the initiative is only a political maneuver." (Reuters)