The Baghdad Post presents to its readers the latest news updates and breaking news today in Iraq.
Jurf Sakhar emigrants unable to return home after five years displacement
Emigrants from Jurf Sakhar town, southwest of Baghdad, are still unable to return home after five years of displacement.
Former residents of Jurf Sakhar have scattered to reside as refugees in Fallujah, Yusofiyya, Al Musayyib.
Due to its prime strategic location on the main approaches to the Shia holy city of Karbala from Fallujah, it remained doubtful that any Sunni residents will be allowed back into Jurf in the future.
This was also made difficult as the Iranian Militias in Iraq and Syria (IMIS) are holding a tight grip over the town.
In 2014, Jurf Al Nasr was captured by ISIS, to later be liberated with the aid of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, however, IMIS forces, led by Iran loyalist Hadi Al-Amiri and Qasem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, interfered to take over and control the town.
On Oct. 29, 2014, Babil Government decided to lock the whole of Jurf Al Sakhar down to the area's displaced people for 8 months, so as to remove the numerous improvised explosive devices and clear the houses of bombs that had been placed by ISIS.
Iraqi politician Ayad Allawi had spoke to the press about the return of the displaced to Jurf al-Sakhar and stressed that he was told by IMIS commanders that the decision on this matter is in the hand of Iran.
Worse still, Janabi tribal elders say Jurf Sakhar was turned into a prison, its buildings and schools became detention centers and weapon warehouses.
Also, Iraqi officials were restricted from entering the area, moreover, the Babil provisional council has decided to sue any politician who demands the return of Jurf Sakhar emigrants.
Joey Hood, US chargé d'affaires in Iraq, said during an interview with a local Iraqi TV channel that Hezbollah al-Nujaba and the IMIS are extorting and threatening people against returning to their homes.
Barzani sworn in as head of Iraq’s Kurdistan
Former Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani was sworn in Monday as president of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region.
The swearing-in ceremony in Erbil saw a high-profile participation of officials from Iraq.
Among the attendees were President Barham Salih, Parliament Speaker Mohammad al-Halbousi, and several foreign delegates.
Barzani, the candidate of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), was elected president by the regional parliament last month.
The region's presidency remained vacant since November 2017, when the mandate of then President Masoud Barzani expired.
During his speech delivered at the inauguration of the new president of Kurdistan Region, former president of Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani, reiterated a call on political forces in Erbil and Baghdad to work together and address the prolonged disputes.
“I congratulate Nechirvan Barzani and I wish him success. I will fully support him in his new responsibility,” he said.
Barzani reminded the joint efforts and mutual understanding, within the framework of the Constitution of Iraq, remains the best option to resolve the disputes between Erbil and Baghdad.
Pope Francis wants first papal visit to Iraq
Pope Francis said on Monday he wants to travel to Iraq next year, which would be the first ever papal trip there.
Francis made the improvised remark in an address to members of a group of charities that help Christians in the Middle East and other areas.
“A constant thought accompanies me when I think of Iraq,” he said in prepared remarks, then adding: “Where I have the will to go next year.”
Wars and conflicts have led to an exodus of Christians in Iraq and some other countries in the Middle East.
Iraq’s small Christian population of several hundred thousand suffered particular hardships when ISIS controlled large parts of the country, but have recovered freedoms since the militants were pushed out.
Iraq is home to many different eastern rite churches, both Catholic and Orthodox.
In 2000, the late Pope John Paul wanted to visit the ancient Iraqi city of Ur, traditionally held to be the birthplace of Abraham. It was to have been the first leg of a three-step pilgrimage to Iraq, Egypt and Israel.
But negotiations with the government of then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein broke down and he was unable to go.
Saairun MP urges uncovering parties obstructing gov't formation
Saairun Alliance Sattar al-Etabi called on Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi to introduce the candidates for the vacant ministerial portfolios before the parliament, away from the pressures the political parties exert.
Etabi also urged uncovering the names of the parties which obstruct the completion of the government formation.
"Some parties are still pressuring the prime minister to pass rejected figures in a hidden way away from the media," Etabi said, calling on the political blocs to assume responsibility and finish the file of the government formation before the end of the second legislative term.
The delay in the government formation "threatens the state and the government as a whole, disrupts the interests of citizens and directly affects the security and victories achieved on ISIS's terrorism," he continued.
He also urged all the political blocs to cooperate to help implement the the government program set by the prime minister.
Salih receives credentials of new US, New Zealand ambassadors
President Barham Salih received the credentials of the new ambassadors of New Zealand and the United States to Iraq. Ambassador Tredene Dobson will represent New Zealand in Iraq, while the US will be represented by Matthew Tueller.
The president stressed Iraq's earnest desire to develop relations with both countries and to serve the common interests.
President Salih received in April the credentials of new ambassadors to Iraq, the Presidency announced.
The ambassadors included Khalid Hamad Al-Sulaiti of the State of Qatar, Lucas Jasser of the Swiss Confederation, Zhang Tao of the People's Republic of China, Nguyen Manh Hain of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Naim Akiyo of the Republic of Benin, John Gerrard McCoy of the Republic of Ireland, Sardar Mamet of the Republic of Turkmenistan, and Oscar Fostinger of the Republic of Austria.
Iraq begins examining Yazidi mass graves remains
The head of Iraq’s forensics administration said his office will begin DNA testing to identify the remains of 141 bodies found in mass graves, believed to contain the Yazidi victims of ISIS’s killing campaign five years ago.
Zaid Al-Yousef said the bodies were found in 12 graves located by Yazidi survivors in the Sinjar region in north Iraq.
Al-Yousef told The Associated Press on Sunday it will take until August to identify the remains.
The Iraqi government exhumed a mass grave containing victims of ISIS in the Yazidi stronghold left behind by ISIS in the northwestern Sinjar region, where militants brutally targeted the minority.
The exhumation, which was carried out with UN support, began on March 15 in the village of Kocho.
The militants rampaged across Sinjar in 2014, killing Yazidi men and abducting thousands of women and children. Many followers of the minority faith are still missing, after women were forced into sexual slavery and boys were indoctrinated in extremist ideology.
Over 70 mass graves have been discovered in Sinjar since it was liberated from ISIS in November 2015.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, a Yazidi who escaped ISIS and became an outspoken advocate for her community, attended the ceremony in her home village of Kojo to mark the start of exhumations.
The UN, which is assisting with the forensic work, says the first opening of a mass grave in the region will help to shed light on the fate those inhabitants killed by ISIS militants.
Hundreds of men and women from the village are believed to have been executed by the militants when they took over the area in 2014.
The Yazidi people were targeted by the ISIS militants who swept across northern Iraq in 2014 and seized their bastion of Sinjar near the border with Syria.
ISIS militants slaughtered thousands of Yazidi men and boys, then abducted women and girls to be abused as sex slaves.
The UN has said ISIS actions could amount to genocide. It is investigating its atrocities across Iraq, it added.
Murad called at Friday’s event for Iraq’s central authorities and those in the Kurdistan region to “protect the mass graves” so that proof could be found of the “genocide of the Yazidis.”
“There will not be reconciliation with the Arab tribes of our region if their dignitaries don’t give the names of those who carried out the crimes so they can be judged,” she said.
The head of the UN investigative team, Karim Khan, said the exhumation marked an “important moment” for the probe, with 73 mass graves discovered so far in Sinjar alone.
“The road toward accountability is a long one, and many challenges lay ahead,” he said in a statement.
New Zealand calls time on non-combat mission in Iraq
New Zealand will begin scaling back its non-combat mission in Iraq next month and bring home the last of its troops by mid-2020, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday.
Wellington deployed troops on a "behind-the-wire" training mission in 2015 to boost the ability of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to fight the Islamic State group.
Ardern said the small contingent of troops, currently 95, who have been working alongside the Australian army at the Taji military base north of Baghdad, had completed their mission.
"When it comes to Iraq, it's time to go," Ardern said, adding that 44,000 ISF personnel had been trained at the base.
"The New Zealand and Australian troops at Taji have worked hard, not only to provide training, but also to ensure that the ISF are well placed to take over this commitment at Taji in the near future."
She said New Zealand troop numbers at Taji would fall to 75 next month, then 45 in January 2020, before the withdrawal in June next year.
Defense Minister Ron Mark added that New Zealand would be reducing its troop numbers alongside their Australian counterparts.
Australia has yet to make a formal announcement on any downsizing of troop numbers in Iraq. The Australian defense department has been contacted for comment.
ISIS suspect arrested in Dhi Qar
Security forces managed on Monday to capture and detain an ISIS suspect in the southern province of Dhi Qar.
A security statement said the suspect was arrested at a security checkpoint while trying to enter Basra coming from Mosul.
According to a security source, all ISIS suspects are wanted by the Iraqi judiciary based on article no. 4 of the anti-terrorism law for joining a militant group.