Middle East Updates / Iranian General Killed by Sniper Bullet in Embattled Iraqi City

ISIS executed nearly 2,000 in six months, says monitoring group; Yemen: 12 killed in clashes north of capital; U.S.-led forces launch 13 air strikes in Syria, Iraq.


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Flames rises from a water cannon during clashes between Turkish police and members of PKK

Latest updates:

10-:46 P.M. Bahrain detains head of main al-Wefaq opposition group

Bahraini authorities on Sunday detained the head of the main Shi'ite Muslim opposition group after he was summoned for questioning over unspecified violations.  Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary-general of al-Wefaq Islamic Society, was among several prominent figures who led a rally near the capital Manama on Friday staged to protest against last month's general elections, which the opposition boycotted.

The Interior Ministry said Sheikh Salman - one of the most prominent figures in the Western-allied country - had been summoned for questioning by the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation.

"Legal procedures are now being finalized ahead of referring the case to the Public Prosecution," it said in a statement, without elaborating. (Reuters)

7:45 P.M. Yemen: 12 killed in clashes north of capital

Security officials and tribal leaders in Yemen say 12 people have been killed in clashes between tribesmen and Shi'ite rebels north of the capital Sanaa.
They say Houthi rebels went to the Arhab district late Saturday to search the home of a tribal chief whom the rebels suspected of being allied with the Sunni Islamist al-Islah party, with which the rebels are at war.

Clashes erupted when locals resisted the search, leaving nine rebels and three tribesmen dead. The officials and tribal leaders say the rebels later destroyed the house, which was believed to be empty. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

The Houthis swept down from their northern stronghold and captured the capital Sanaa in September. (AP)

5:39 P.M. Iranian general killed by sniper bullet in embattled Iraqi city

A sniper killed an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander who was training Iraqi troops and Shi'ite militia fighting Islamic State (ISIS) militants in the Iraqi city of Samarra, official Iranian media reported on Sunday.

Brigadier General Hamid Taqavi, a veteran of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, was killed by snipers hiding behind a power transformer in Samarra, an embattled city north of Baghdad and home to holy Shi'ite shrines, they said, quoting a Revolutionary Guards' statement.

Several people with him were wounded in the rain of sniper fire, they said. "Taqavi became a martyr while fulfilling his duty as a military adviser in the fight against Daesh (IS) revisionist terrorists, a glorious end to a long valuable service to advance the cause of (Iran's 1979) Islamic revolution." said the official Defence Ministry site.

It said the general had fought "enemies on various fronts." Unspecified numbers of Iranian advisors and combatants are defending holy Shi'ite sites in Iraq and Syria against raids by Sunni Jihadi fighters. Iran sent reinforcements to Iraq to help stave off an advance on Baghdad by IS militants this year at the request of Iraqi government and Shi'ite leaders.  (Reuters)

5:30 P.M. 'ISIS executed nearly 2,000 in six months'
The Islamic State militant group has killed 1,878 people in Syria during the past six months, the majority of them civilians, a British-based Syrian monitoring organisation said on Sunday.

Islamic State also killed 120 of its own members, most of them foreign fighters trying to return home, in the last two months, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. (Reuters) Read the full article 

3:51 P.M. Egypt reduces sentences for 23 protesters, sources say

An Egyptian appeals court reduced the jail terms on Sunday for 23 young activists convicted of violating a law banning protests without a permit, judicial sources said.

The arrest of the activists in June while they demonstrated against the law which tightly restricts protests was condemned by rights groups as a reflection of an increasingly repressive political climate in Egypt.

Mass protests led to the ousting of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and were used to express discontent with Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who was toppled by the army last year.

Human rights groups have called the charges against the activists baseless and decried the case as an example of "show-trials" based on scant evidence and intended to warn citizens against defying government policies. (Reuters) 

3:32 P.M. U.S.-led forces launch 13 air strikes in Syria, Iraq

U.S.-led forces on Sunday conducted eight air strikes against IISIS militants in Syria and five strikes on ISIS targets in Iraq, the U.S. military said in a statement.

In Syria, air strikes centered on the town of Kobani near the Turkish border, the Combined Joint Task Force said. The strikes in Iraq included ISIS positions near Sinjar and near Mosul, the task force said. (Reuters)

2:43 P.M. Three missing after Turkish cargo ship collides with merchant vessel in Adriatic Sea

The Italian Coast Guard says three crew members are missing after a Turkish cargo ship collided with a merchant vessel in choppy seas near the northern Adriatic port of Marina di Ravenna.

It said several crew members from the ship were rescued after the collision Sunday morning; the Turkish ship was foundering near the port. Details, including the cause of the collision, were not immediately available. (AP)

2:00 P.M. Libya FM: Clashes in oil regions a serious escalation

Libya's foreign minister in the internationally recognized government says extremist groups are escalating their attacks in his country, including a renewed push to control oil resources, calling for concerted international efforts to stem the flow of money and weapons to them.

Fighting has erupted around Libya's largest oil terminal, Sidra, which is currently under the control of anti-Islamist militiamen allied with the internationally recognized Tobruk-based government. It followed an announcement from the rival Tripoli-based government in mid-December to "liberate" Sidra. The clashes have forced the shutdown of the Sidra terminal, and set storage tanks there ablaze.

Foreign Minister Mohamed Dayri, speaking Sunday in Cairo, called the clashes a serious escalation. He said troops loyal to his government hope to fend off the attack, in which terrorist groups are involved. (AP)

1:35 P.M. Libya's official government stages air strikes on Misrata

Forces loyal to Libya's recognized government staged air strikes on targets in Misrata on Sunday in the first such attacks on the city allied to an armed group that seized the capital in the summer, officials and residents said.

The North African country, a major oil producer, has been engulfed in fighting between the two sides, each with its own government and parliament.

The internationally recognised Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni has been forced to run a rump state in the east since a group known as Libya Dawn took control of Tripoli in August, setting up a rival government and parliament.

Mohamed El Hejazi, spokesman for armed forces loyal to Thinni, said his air force had attacked Misrata's port, an air force academy near the airport and Libya's biggest steel plant, which is located in the western city.

Ismail Shukri, spokesman for forces allied to Libya Dawn, confirmed that air strikes had taken place but said they caused no damage.

"The airport at Misrata is still working normally. A flight has just taken off," he said. (Reuters) 

12:54 P.M. 15-year-old teen shot and killed during Kurdish clashes in Turkey

A teenager was shot and killed in southeastern Turkey on Saturday in clashes between members of a Kurdish Islamist party and youths linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), security sources said.

The 15-year-old's death in the town of Cizre brought the number of people killed there in fighting between Kurdish groups to three. Two others were killed on Saturday in clashes between members of the Islamist Free Cause Party (Huda-Par) and youth groups linked to PKK.

The two groups are fierce rivals. Huda-Par draws support from sympathizers with Turkey's Hizbullah militant group, which fought the PKK in the 1990s.

Armored police vehicles patrolled Cizre town center, where shops were closed on Sunday.  (Reuters)