Middle East Updates / U.S.-led Forces Launch 10 Air Strikes in Syria, Iraq

Saudi Arabia beheads 83 people in 2014, the most in years; U.S. releases five Guantanamo prisoners, sends them to Kazakhstan.

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A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria, 2014. (illustrative photo/U.S. Air Force handout)
A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria, 2014. (illustrative photo/U.S. Air Force handout)Credit: Reuters

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Latest news:

5:32 P.M. U.S.-led forces launch 10 air strikes in Syria, Iraq

The U.S.-led coalition launched seven air strikes in Syria and three in Iraq on Wednesday against Islamic State militants, the Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement.

In Syria, five of the air strikes were near Kobani and two were near al Hasakah, the task force said in a statement.

Two of the strikes in Iraq hit Islamic State positions near Fallujah and one hit targets near Mosul, the statement said.(Reuters)

4:09 P.M.  Saudi Arabia beheads 83 people in 2014, the most in years

Saudi Arabia's official news agency says authorities have beheaded a Pakistani man convicted of smuggling "large quantities" of heroin, bringing the number of publicly announced executions to its highest level in at least five years.

An Associated Press tally of announcements from the official Saudi Press Agency shows 83 people have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia in 2014, including Wednesday's announced execution.

Amnesty International says Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world. The group lists 79 executions in Saudi Arabia in 2013 and 2012, and 82 in 2011 and 2010. The London-based rights group says at least 69 people were executed in 2009. Amnesty says the countries carrying out the most executions last year were China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. (AP)

1:05 P.M. Tunisia's new president pledges reconciliation

Tunisia's new president has been sworn in before parliament as the nation completes its democratic transition on the last day of 2014.

Beji Caid Essebsi, an 88-year-old veteran of past governments, swore before the parliament dominated by his Nida Tunis Party to protect the country and not exclude any Tunisians.

At his inauguration, Essebsi said there would be no future for the country without consensus and national reconciliation. (AP) 

11:58 A.M. Large explosion targets Shi'ite rebels in Yemen

At least 33 have been reported killed in a suicide bombing in the central Yemeni city of Ibb.

Witnesses say a strong explosion struck a gathering of Shi'ite rebels.

It was not immediately clear how many people were killed or wounded in the explosion at a cultural center where the rebels, known as the Houthis, were preparing for celebrations of the prophet Muhammad's birthday this weekend.

No group claimed responsibility for the apparent attack, but Yemen's powerful local Al-Qaida affiliate has targeted the rebels in the past. (AP) 

11:31 A.M. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah admitted to hospital for medical tests

Saudi King Abdullah has been admitted to a hospital in the capital Riyadh where he is undergoing medical tests, state media reported on Wednesday, citing a royal court statement.

There were no further details in the brief statement.(Reuters) 

7:53 A.M. U.S. releases five Guantanamo prisoners, sends them to Kazakhstan

Five men who were held for a dozen years without charge at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been sent to the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan for resettlement, the U.S. government announced.

The two men from Tunisia and three from Yemen had been cleared for release from the prison by a government task force but could not be sent to their homelands. The U.S. has sent hundreds of prisoners from Guantanamo to third countries but this is the first time Kazakhstan has accepted any for resettlement.

Their release brings the prison population at Guantanamo to 127, according to a Pentagon statement on Tuesday.

The U.S. identified the Tunisians as 49-year-old Adel Al-Hakeemy, and Abdallah Bin Ali al Lufti, who military records show is about 48.

The Yemenis are Asim Thabit Abdullah Al-Khalaqi, who is about 46; Muhammad Ali Husayn Khanayna, who is about 36; and Sabri Mohammad al Qurashi, about 44.

All five had been captured in Pakistan and turned over to the U.S. for detention as suspected Islamic militants with ties to Al-Qaida. None of the men were ever charged and a government task force determined it was no longer necessary to hold them.(AP) 

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