Iraqi forces advance on key Tikrit areas
Iraqi government forces and Shi’te militia are inching closer to Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit in northern Iraq. The troops now control two-thirds of the Qadisaya district, where fighting continued on Wednesday, after claiming the key city of Al-Alam, north-east of Tikrit, on Tuesday. The presence of 180,000 booby traps and IED’s, snipers and suicide bombers is said to be slowing progress for the troops. In an unprecdented move, 500 members of Sadam Hussein’s Bou Nasser tribe joined up with government forces in the fight. This 10-day counter-offensive is the biggest attempt to recapture a major urban centre invaded by ISIS, with 30,000 soldiers involved, including Iranian backed Shi’te Muslims and local Sunni Muslim tribes. Gaining control of Tikrit is a crucial move in the campaign to recapture the northern city of Mosul, the largest IS-controlled city in Iraq.
US online meme war with IS
The US State Department has launched a social media campaign to parallel IS’ propaganda-spreading on Twitter. Operating in three accounts, @DOTArabic, @DSDOTAR, and @DigitalOutreach, their aim is to “counter terrorist propaganda and misinformation about the United States across a wide variety of interactive digital environments that had previously been ceded to extremists”. Tweeted in Arabic, the accounts often reply to IS supporters with memes aimed at highlighting the hypocrisy and exposing flaws within the group. The image above translates to “Al-Baghdadi’s Fatwa: When you carry out the religious duty of jihad you have to wear a Rolex watch.” In other IS social media news, the Washington based Brookings Institute report said the ultra-radical group could now control as many as 90,000 twitter accounts.
Boko Haram loses ground in Nigeria
National security spokesman Mike Omer said that 36 towns in Nigeria have been reclaimed from Boko Haram. Mr Omer said the crucial co-operation of the four-nation military offensive, comprising of Nigerian, Cameroon, Chadian and Niger troops, have led to the victories. The campaign to retake the towns began on Friday last week. Troops from Niger and Chad have killed more than 500 militants in the past week, according to Niger police spokesman Captain Adili Toro. France is set to support the multi-national fight against the insurgent group, and has placed 3000 troops in the Chad capital of N’Djamena, 30 kilometres from the Nigerian border.
Multi-million euro jewel heist in Paris
Nineteen thieves attacked two heavily secured vans and stole €9 million worth of jewels near Auxerre, 170 kilometres south-east of Paris, French police said on Wednesday. They allegedly used gas to subdue the four drivers – two in each van – and escaped in four high-speed cars. The police said the cars were spotted 50 kilometres from Paris. The incident follows a string of expensive jewellery heists in France. In July 2013, during the Cannes Film Festival, a man looted $136 million worth of luxury jewels at the Carlton International Hotel. – Compiled from internet sources by Jion Legaspi
Top photo from DSDOTAR’s Twitter page.