BAGHDAD – Iraqi government forces and allied tribal militias launched an all-out offensive Sunday to push al-Qaida militants from a provincial capital, an assault that killed or wounded some 20 police officers and government-allied tribesmen, officials said.
Since late December, members of Iraq’s al-Qaida branch – known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – have taken over parts of Ramadi, the capital of the largely Sunni western province of Anbar. They also control the center of the nearby city of Fallujah, along with other non-al-Qaida groups that also oppose the Shiite-led government.
Militants claim Russia bombings
MOSCOW – An Islamic militant group in Russia’s North Caucasus has claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings in the southern city of Volgograd last month and posted a video threatening to strike the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
There had been no previous claim of responsibility for the bombings, which killed 34 people.
In the video, two men warn President Vladimir Putin that if the games are held, “we will give you a present for the innocent Muslim blood being spilled all around the world.”
They add that “for the tourists who come there will be a present, too.”
Grenade blasts hit protest site
BANGKOK – Twin explosions shook an anti-government demonstration site in Thailand’s capital, wounding at least 28 people in the latest violence to hit Bangkok as the nation’s increasingly bloody political crisis drags on.
Police said the blasts Sunday near Victory Monument were caused by fragmentation grenades – the same kind that killed one man and wounded dozens Friday in a similar explosion.
The demonstrators, who control several small patches of Bangkok, are vying to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government and derail Feb. 2 elections she called to quell the crisis.
Israel ends gas mask distribution
JERUSALEM – Israel has decided to stop issuing gas masks to the public after concluding the threat of chemical attack is low.
Just a few months ago, Israelis were rushing to distribution centers after chemical weapons were fired at rebel-held areas in neighboring Syria. Facing the threat of a U.S. attack, Syria subsequently agreed to dismantle its chemical stockpiles. The first load of weapons was taken out of Syria this month.
In a statement Sunday, Israel’s Security Cabinet said gas mask distribution will end next month. It said “there has been a significant decline in the threat of chemical weapons being fired at Israel.”
Israel began issuing civilians with gas masks around the time of the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraq fired dozens of Scud missiles at Israel.
Blast near army headquarters kills 4
ISLAMABAD – A bomb blast killed four people today not far from Pakistan’s military headquarters, a day after a Taliban bombing inside an army compound in the northwest of the country killed at least 20 troops and wounded 30 others, officials and militants said.
This morning’s bombing killed four people not far from the Pakistani military’s headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi, next to the capital of Islamabad.