Iraq Watch: Iraq’s prime minister welcomes Syrian airstrikes, ISIS fighters reportedly an hour from Baghdad

McClatchy Washington BureauJune 26, 2014 

Mideast Iraq

June 23, 2014 - fighters of the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armored vehicle down a main road at the northern city of Mosul, Iraq, more than two weeks after ISIS took over the country's second largest city.

STR — AP

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— Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told the British Broadcasting Corporation on Thursday that he welcomed Syrian airstrikes against radical Sunni militants on the border between Syria and Iraq.

“There was no coordination involved, but we welcome this action,” Maliki told the BBC. “We welcome any Syrian strike against (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), because this group targets both Iraq and Syria ... But we didn't make any request from Syria. They carry out their strikes and we carry out ours. The final winners are our two countries.”

The Syrian state news agency is denying that Syria had anything to do with airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq border areas on Wednesday. Local Iraqi officials said the bombings killed more than 50 people and injured more than 100 others.

Maliki said on Wednesday the bombing took place on the Syrian side of the Qaim crossing, although U.S. and Iraqi military sources told the BBC the airstrikes hit targets inside Iraq.

Today’s other developments in Iraq:

- Reuters is reporting that ISIS fighters have overrun Mansouriyat al-Jabal, a town an hour’s drive from Baghdad that is home to four natural gas fields.

-Thousands of Iraqi Christians fled villages under artillery attack by ISIS on Thursday, the Associated Press reports. Along with a growing number of Shiite refugees, they are seeking sanctuary in Kurdish territory.

-An Al-Jazeera reporter in Baijji said that the city is under heavy air attack which led to the killing of 112 people in the last 48 hours. Eye witnesses told al-Jazeera that civilians are leaving the city in huge numbers. Iraqi forces have been battling ISIS fighters over control of Baiji, which is home to Iraq’s largest oil refinery.

-Iraqi state-run television on Thursday aired footage of a helicopter landing at Baiji oil refinery and said that government forces are in full control of the Baiji refinery. The broadcaster said reports that ISIS controlled the facility are lies.

-ISIS militants are closing in on the Haditha Dam, Iraq’s second-largest dam, about 120 miles from Baghdad, the New York Times reports.

-Fifteen people were killed and 65 injured in a suicide bombing that targeted a public market in Al Mahmudia district in the south of Baghdad.

Email: lwise@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @lindsaywise.

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