Middle East Updates / Activists: Syrian Airstrikes Kill at Least 10 Near Damascus

Obama: US would 'walk away' if no good Iran nuclear deal; 1 killed, 6 wounded in bomb blast in Egypt's Alexandria; two teens stopped at Sydney Airport from joining ISIS; Iraqi Kurds say Canadian soldier killed after ignoring order.

Reuters

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9:30 P.M. Obama: US would 'walk away' if no good Iran nuclear deal

President Barack Obama says the United States would "walk away" from nuclear talks with Iran if there's no acceptable deal.

Obama says any agreement must allow Western powers to verify that Tehran isn't going to obtain an atomic weapon, and that even if Iran "cheated," the U.S. and others would have "enough time to take action."

The president tells CBS' "Sunday Morning" that "if we don't have that kind of deal, then we're not going to take it."

Sgt. Andrew Joseph Doiron.
AP

Big gaps remain to be bridged if the sides are to reach a deal by the end of March deadline set by negotiators. The next round of talks is set to begin March 15. (AP)

8:00 P.M. U.S.-led coalition bombs Al Qaida's Syria branch

 U.S.-led coalition warplanes targeted the local headquarters of Al Qaida-linked militants in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border on Sunday, killing at least nine people, activists said.

The Local Coordination Committees activist collective and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the airstrikes hit a compound belonging to Al Qaida's Syria branch, known as the Nusra Front, close to the village of Atmeh in Idlib province.

The Observatory said at least nine Nusra Front militants were killed in the strikes. There was no immediate comment from the U.S. military or its allies.

Atmeh, located some 2 kilometers (1 mile) from the frontier with Turkey, is home to a camp where thousands of Syrians displaced by the country's civil war have found refuge. (AP)
 

5:30 P.M. Iraq urges U.S.-led coalition to use air power to prevent ISIS from destroying antiquities

Iraq urged a U.S.-led military coalition on Sunday to use air power to protect the country's antiquities from Islamic State fighters looting and destroying some of the world's greatest archaeological treasures.

A government minister said the coalition, which has carried out 2,800 air strikes against Islamic State military positions in Iraq and Syria since August, was not doing enough to save Iraq's priceless heritage.

The ultra-radical militants attacked the 2,000-year-old city of Hatra in northern Iraq on Saturday with bulldozers, officials say, days after assaulting the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud.

Video footage has shown them ransacking a Mosul museum, smashing statues and sculptures.

Iraqi Tourism and Antiquities Minister Adel Shirshab said only the U.S.-led coalition could put an end to the pillaging.

"Our airspace is not in our hands. It's in their hands," he told reporters. "I am calling on the international community and coalition to activate its air strikes and target terrorism wherever it exists." (Reuters)
 

3:45 P.M. Iraq fears ISIS looting another ancient site

Iraq's minister of tourism and antiquities says the government is investigating reports that the ancient archaeological site of Khorsabad in northern Iraq is being the latest to be attacked by the Islamic State militant group.

Adel Shirshab told The Associated Press there are concerns the militants will remove artifacts and heavily damage the site, located 15 kilometers (9 miles) northeast of Mosul.

Saeed Mamuzini, a Kurdish official from Mosul, told the AP that the militants began their demolition of the Khorsabad site on Sunday.

The group has already looted and damaged two UNESCO world heritage sites — Nimrod and Hatra — both in northern Iraq.

Khorsabad was constructed as a new capital of Assyria by King Sargon II shortly after he came to the throne in 721 B.C. (AP)

1:13 P.M. Activists: Syrian airstrikes kill at least 10 near Damascus

Two activist groups say Syrian government airstrikes on a rebel-held suburb of the capital have killed at least 10 people.

The Local Coordination Committees activist collective and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say Sunday's air raids targeted the Arbeen district just east of Damascus.

The Local Coordination Committees says at least 10 people were killed and dozens wounded in the attack. The Observatory put the death toll at 11 and said more than 50 people were wounded. (AP)

11:42 A.M. 1 killed, 6 wounded in bomb blast in Egypt's Alexandria

Egyptian security officials say a bomb has exploded outside a branch of the French supermarket chain Carrefour in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, killing one person and wounding six.

The officials say the Sunday blast took place in Alexandria's eastern district of Seyouf. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

It is the latest in a bombing campaign blamed on Islamic militants who are targeting foreign and local economic and financial establishments. The attacks are designed to undermine confidence in Egypt ahead of a major economic conference later this week during which the government plans to announce projects worth up to $35 billion. (AP)

11:33 A.M. Iraqi Kurds say Canadian soldier killed after ignoring order

A spokesman for Kurdish forces in Iraq says a Canadian soldier who was killed in a friendly fire incident ignored an order to stay in his car.

Peshmerga spokesman Halgurd Hekmat says a group of Canadian soldiers showed up in the village of Bashiq on Friday unannounced. The area had seen heavy fighting against Islamic State militants.

Hekmat told The Associated Press on Sunday: "When they returned, the peshmerga asked them to identify themselves. They answered in Arabic, that's when peshmerga started shooting."

Hekmat says he doesn't know why the Canadians were there. Canadian officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Canada identified the slain soldier as Sgt. Andrew Joseph Doiron of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment. (AP)

9:45 A.M. Two teens stopped at Sydney Airport from joining ISIS

Two Australian brothers aged 16 and 17 were stopped at Sydney Airport on suspicion that they were young jihadis headed to join the Islamic State group (also known as ISIS and ISIL), officials said Sunday.

The young brothers from Sydney raised the suspicions of customs officials as they attempted to depart on Friday afternoon, Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said.

He did not say where the pair were headed apart from a Middle Eastern "conflict zone." He also refused to say what was found in the boys' luggage that raised suspicion and led to the brothers beings reported to the airport's new counterterrorism unit.

"These two young men aged 16 and 17 are kids, not killers, and they shouldn't be allowed to go to a foreign land to fight then come back to our land eventually more radicalized," Dutton told reporters.

The boys' parents were "as shocked as any of us would be" to discover their sons had attempted to leave the country, Dutton said.

The boys had been radicalized over the Internet, he said. Dutton did not say who had paid the boys' air fares.

Dutton said charges would be filed against the boys, but did not elaborate. As juvenile suspects, they cannot be identified. (AP)

1:30 A.M. Canadian military adviser killed in friendly fire in Iraq

A Canadian special forces soldier was killed and three others wounded in a friendly fire incident in northern Iraq, Canada's defense department said Saturday.

Canadian troops training local forces had just returned to an observation post at the front line Friday night when they were mistakenly fired upon by Kurdish fighters, the military said.

The slain soldier was identified as Sgt. Andrew Joseph Doiron, from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, based at Garrison Petawawa, Ontario.

The four soldiers were transported to a coalition medical facility for treatment, where one of them died of his wounds, said a statement released by the Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition conducting air strikes and training local forces to fight the Islamic State group. (AP)

Saturday night:

10:15 P.M. Boko Haram reportedly pledges allegiance to ISIS

Nigeria's militant Islamist group Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, which rules a self-declared caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, the jihadist monitoring group SITE said on Saturday.

"We announce our allegiance to the Caliph ... and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity," SITE quoted Boko Haram as saying in a video purporting to be from the Nigerian militant group. (Reuters) Read the full story