BAGHDAD – The United States delivered 100 Hellfire missiles, along with assault rifles and ammunition, to Iraq as part of its anti-terrorism assistance, the U.S. embassy to Iraq said Sunday.
In a statement, it said the delivery was made earlier this month in order to help bolster Iraqi forces fighting a breakaway al-Qaida group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
“It is essential that Iraqi Security Forces are equipped with modern and effective weaponry given the serious threat … the ISIL now poses to Iraq and the region,” said the statement, which also promised to send more weapons to Iraq in the coming weeks.
It added that since mid-January, Iraqi security forces had received more than eleven million rounds of ammunition, as well as thousands of machine guns, sniper rifles, assault rifles, and grenades.
The Iraqi warplanes frequently fire Hellfire missiles at militant positions in the embattled western Anbar province.
Ex-minister drops out of race
KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghanistan’s former defense minister became the second presidential hopeful to withdraw from the race on Sunday, leaving a field of nine candidates three weeks before the vote to replace Hamid Karzai.
Karzai is constitutionally banned from seeking a third term in office, and the vote will mark the first democratic transfer of power since the Taliban were ousted by the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
Abdul Rahim Wardak, a longtime defense minister until he was removed by parliament in a vote of no confidence in 2012, gave no reason for his withdrawal and said he was not throwing his support behind any remaining candidates. The U.S.-educated Wardak, a Pashtun, was one of the top Afghan officials most trusted by Washington and was not considered a front-runner.
Karzai’s brother Qayyum also dropped out earlier this month and backed former Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul.
China’s Alibaba plans U.S. IPO
HONG KONG – Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group plans to go public on a U.S. stock exchange, possibly raising up to $15 billion in the biggest initial public offering since Facebook.
The announcement Sunday confirming plans for a U.S. share sale ended months of speculation over where the company would list after talks for an initial public offering in Hong Kong fell apart last year.
Alibaba is one of the world’s biggest Internet companies and says more than $150 billion worth of merchandise changes hands on its online platforms each year, more than Amazon and eBay combined.
“Alibaba Group has decided to commence the process of an initial public offering in the United States,” the company said in a statement. “This will make us a more global company and enhance the company’s transparency, as well as allow the company to continue to pursue our long-term vision and ideals.”
It gave no details of the timing or size of the initial public offering or on which exchange it would take place.