Middle East Updates / Iraq Declares 'Magnificent Victory' Over ISIS in Tikrit

Turkish police shoot two attackers outside Istanbul HQ; ISIS reportedly infiltrates Palestinian camp in Syria; Iran asks UN's Ban to press for end to Yemen strikes.


Latest updates:

6:37 P.M. Turkish police shoot two attackers outside Istanbul HQ

Turkish police shot two attackers outside Istanbul's police headquarters on Wednesday, killing one of them and leaving two officers injured in an exchange of fire, local media reported.

Footage on the website of the Dogan news agency showed one person lying on the ground as police vehicles sealed off the street in the Aksaray neighbourhood of central Istanbul.

An official at the police headquarters, reached by Reuters, confirmed that there had been an attack and that gunfire was heard outside the building but declined to comment on any casualties, saying a statement would be made later.

Turkish Airlines plane

The attack comes a day after two leftist militants took an Istanbul prosecutor hostage in his office. All three died late on Tuesday after police special forces stormed the building in an effort to release him.

Separately, police detained a gunman on Wednesday who entered a suburban Istanbul office of the ruling AK party and hung from its window a Turkish flag with the emblem of a sword added to it. (Reuters)

4:28 P.M. Iraq declares victory over Islamic State group in Tikrit

Iraq's defense minister says security forces have achieved a "magnificent victory" over the Islamic State group in Tikrit.

Khalid al-Obeidi said Wednesday that security forces have "accomplished their mission" in the month-long offensive to rid Saddam Hussein's hometown of the militant group.

The U.S. launched airstrikes last week in support of Iraqi ground forces. The battle for Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, is seen as a key step toward eventually driving the militants out of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. (AP)

3:44 P.M. Reports: ISIS clashes with Palestinian group in Syrian capital

Syrian activists and a Lebanon-based TV station are reporting that Islamic State militants have infiltrated a Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and are fighting with a group inside the camp.

The reports mark the deepest infiltration yet by ISIS militants into Damascus. If they gain control of the Yarmouk camp, they can threaten President Bashar Assad's seat of power.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says clashes broke out Wednesday in Yarmouk between ISIS fighters and members of the Palestinian faction called Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis.

The Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV says the ISIS extremists fighters entered the camp from the nearby neighborhood of Hajar Aswad. That southern Damascus neighborhood is controlled by militants.

Observatory's chief, Rami Abdurrahman, says the ISIS "now controls large parts of the camp."

3:08 P.M. Syria says Jordan shuts main border crossing

Syria's state news agency said Jordanian authorities had closed the main border crossing between the two countries on Wednesday, citing a source in the Syrian foreign ministry.

The source said Syria held Jordan responsible for the social and economic impact of the closure of Nasib crossing, which had blocked traffic.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had reported earlier on Wednesday heavy clashes between insurgents and Syrian forces near Nasib after the insurgents encircled the crossing area. (Reuters)

2:53 P.M. Turkish Airlines flight returns to Istanbul after bags found

A Turkish Airlines flight to Lisbon was diverted back to Istanbul on Wednesday after unaccompanied baggage was found on board, a spokeswoman told Reuters.

TK1759 was carrying 170 passengers and seven crew members to Lisbon, the spokeswoman said on condition her name was not used.

All passengers were being taken to another aircraft to resume their journey to Lisbon, she said.

It was the third time in a week a Turkish Airlines flight has been forced to change course. A Sao Paulo-bound flight landed in Morocco after a note with the word "bomb" was found in the lavatory on Monday.

On Sunday, a flight from Istanbul to Tokyo turned back shortly after take-off when another note was found on the lavatory door. (Reuters)

2:28 P.M. Turkish Airlines flight to Lisbon diverted back to Istanbul, reason unclear

A Turkish Airlines flight to Lisbon was diverted back to Istanbul on Wednesday but the reason was unclear, a spokeswoman told Reuters.

It was the third time in a week a Turkish Airlines flight was forced to change course. A Sao Paulo-bound flight landed in Morocco after a note with the word "bomb" was found in the lavatory on Monday.

On Sunday, a flight from Istanbul to Tokyo turned back shortly after take-off when another note was found on the lavatory door. Turkish Airlines is Europe's fourth-biggest carrier. (Reuters) 

1:42 P.M. Turkey's Erdogan says attack on AKP office targets Kurdish peace process

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said an attack on a local office of the ruling AK Party in an Istanbul suburb was an effort to undermine Ankara's peace process with Kurdish militants.

Police detained a gunman who entered the AK Party building in the suburb of Kartal earlier on Wednesday.  (Reuters)

1:19 P.M. Police detain armed man in office of Turkey's ruling party

A Turkish official says police have overpowered an armed man who stormed the ruling party's local branch in Istanbul, broke a top-floor window and shouted slogans.

Wednesday's incident occurred a day after two members of a banned leftist group held a prosecutor hostage in an Istanbul courthouse, and all three died in a shootout between the hostage-takers and police. It was not clear if the two incidents were related.

Selim Temurci, the Istanbul chief of the ruling Justice and Development Party, told private NTV television that the man raided his party's branch in the Kartal district, forced workers out and shouted slogans against the party. No one was hurt. (AP)

12:20 P.M. Explosion at Yemen factory kills at least 25

An explosion at a dairy factory in Yemen's Hodaida port killed at least 25 workers, medical sources said, with conflicting accounts attributing the blast to an air strike by a Saudi-led alliance or to a rocket landing from a nearby army base.

The incident would appear to be one of the biggest cases of civilian deaths since a Saudi-led coalition began an air campaign against Houthi militia on March 26.

The 26September website of Yemen's factionalised army, which mostly sides with the Houthis, said 37 workers were killed and 80 wounded at the dairy and oils factory "during the aggressive air strikes which targeted the two factories last night."

Medical sources in the city said 25 workers at the plant had been killed at the factory, which was located near an army camp loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Houthi ally. (Reuters) 

11:54 A.M. Two armed people break into Turkish ruling party office in Istanbul

Two armed people entered an office of Turkey's ruling AK Party in an Istanbul suburb on Wednesday, the Dogan news agency reported, a day after leftist militants took a prosecutor hostage in a courthouse in the city.

The intruders smashed windows on the top floor of the building in the Kartal district on Istanbul's Asian side and hung out a Turkish flag with a white sword motif added to it, footage on the private agency's website showed.

One of the two, a man, occasionally shouted from the window to a crowd below but his words were inaudible.

The incident occurred as judges and lawyers congregated in a courthouse on the European side of the city to mourn the prosecutor who was killed during an attempt by police special forces to rescue him on Tuesday.

The two hostage-takers - members of the banned far-leftist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) - were also killed in the rescue effort. (Reuters)

11:44 A.M. Iran asks UN's Ban to press for end to Yemen strikes

Iran's deputy foreign minister has asked United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to do everything possible to immediately halt Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen, state news agency IRNA reported.

"The military path in Yemen is doomed to failure. National dialogue without external meddling is the only political solution," Hossein Amir Abdollahian was quoted as saying.

"We cannot allow the flames of war to be fanned and the shared security of the region to be jeopardized by further strikes," Abdollahian told Ban, according to IRNA.

Abdollahian and Ban spoke on the sidelines of an international conference in Kuwait aimed at addressing the humanitarian crisis in Syria, IRNA reported. (Reuters) 

11:33 A.M. Iraq says liberated most of Tikrit from ISIS, fight goes on

Iraqi troops and Shi'ite paramilitary fighters were battling Islamic State militants in northern Tikrit Wednesday, as the government forces sought to push the extremist group from the city.

Iraq's Interior Minister Mohammed al-Ghabban said security forces were fighting to clear the last Islamic State stronghold, the city's northern neighborhood of Qadissiyah.

"Most of Tikrit is liberated today. Only a few areas of resistance are remaining," Ghabban said.

Government forces have been in a month-long fight for the city, which became a bastion for the Sunni jihadists who are at war with Baghdad and have been targeted by U.S.-led air strikes. (Reuters)

8:09 P.M. Clashes in Istanbul after police kill courthouse hostage-takers

Protesters clashed with Turkish police overnight in two Istanbul neighbourhoods after far-left militants who took a prosecutor hostage in a courthouse were killed by security forces in an attempted rescue mission.

The two members of the banned Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) took prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz hostage on Tuesday as an act of revenge over a teenager's death during anti-government protests in 2013.

Kiraz, who was also killed in the rescue attempt, was leading an investigation into the death last March of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who died after nine months in a coma from a head wound sustained from a police gas canister.

Police used tear gas to break up protests in Okmeydani, Elvan's neighbourhood in central Istanbul, the Radikal newspaper said on its website.

In the working-class Istanbul district of Gazi, scene of frequent clashes and where the group has sympathisers, police used tear gas and water cannon to stop protesters from marching on a police station, it said.  (Reuters)