At Least 10 Dead In Pakistan Mosque Bombing, Says Police

 

 

 

At least 10 people were killed and 16 others wounded in a bomb blast during evening prayers at a mosque in southwestern Pakistan on Friday, police and a doctor said.

Police chief of Balochistan province Mohsin Hassan Butt told AFP the blast took place in a satellite town of Quetta, the province’s main city.

A police officer was among those killed, Butt said, adding that the death toll may rise as some of the wounded are in a critical condition.

Mohammad Waseem, a doctor at Quetta’s Sandeman hospital, confirmed that 10 dead bodies and 16 injured people had arrived there.

Butt said bomb disposal officers were investigating the nature of the bomb as well as whether it was detonated remotely or if a suicide bomber was involved.

Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest and poorest province, bordering Afghanistan and Iran.

It is rife with Islamist, separatist and sectarian insurgencies and attacks are frequent, even as the number of violent incidents has significantly dropped elsewhere in Pakistan.

US House Votes To Limit Trump War Powers Against Iran

 

 

In a rebuke to President Donald Trump, the US House voted Thursday to restrict his future military action against Iran, as lawmakers sought to claw back congressional war powers from the White House.

The non-binding resolution was introduced by Democrats after Trump’s order to kill an Iranian commander and retaliatory missile strikes by the Islamic republic dramatically escalated tensions and raised fears of a war between the two foes.

The vote, 224 to 194, was largely along party lines, although three members of Trump’s Republican Party joined Democrats in approving the measure that demands the president not engage in military action against Iran unless authorized by Congress.

Trump Pulls Back From War With Iran

 

 

President Donald Trump pulled back from the brink of war with Iran on Wednesday, saying that Tehran appeared to be “standing down” after firing missiles — without causing casualties — at US troops based in Iraq.

In a televised address to the nation from the White House, Trump emphasized there were “no Americans harmed” in the ballistic missile salvo aimed at two bases.

While he promised to immediately impose “punishing” new economic sanctions on Tehran, Trump welcomed signs the Islamic republic “appears to be standing down” in the tit-for-tat confrontation.

The comments cooled what threatened to become an uncontrolled boiling over of tensions after Trump ordered the killing last Friday of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani.

In New York, the Nasdaq stock market index surged to a record high of 9,129.24.

However, the US president, facing both an impeachment trial in Congress and tough reelection in November, defended his targeting of a man seen by many as Iran’s second most influential official.

Soleimani, a national hero at home, was “the world’s top terrorist” and “should have been terminated long ago,” Trump said.

And although Trump ended his remarks with a call for peace, he opened by stating that he would never allow Iran to procure a nuclear weapon.

It was Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from a multinational agreement aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the reimposition of crippling economic sanctions against Tehran, which began an intensification of tensions between the two countries.

Missiles blast bases

Iran’s missiles targeted the sprawling Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq and a base in Arbil, both housing American and other foreign troops from a US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State jihadist group.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who earlier promised “revenge” for Soleimani, called the missiles a “slap in the face” against the United States.

He indicated there was more to come.

“The question of revenge is another issue,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.

Iraq’s military said it also sustained no casualties. But the strike highlighted the difficult position of Iraq, caught in an ever-deepening conflict between Trump and Iran.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, dismissed suggestions that Iran did not mean to kill Americans with the missile barrage.

“I believe, based on what I saw and what I know, is that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft and to kill personnel. That’s my own personal assessment,” Milley told reporters.

Iraqi President Barham Saleh rejected Iraq being a “battlefield for warring sides.”

At the United Nations, Iran’s ambassador said in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that despite the missile firing, Iran respects Iraq’s territorial integrity.

Iran has powerful militia allies in Iraq and they said they intended to take revenge for Friday’s US drone attack, in which top Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis died alongside Soleimani.

Muhandis was the deputy head of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi, a military network incorporated into the Iraqi state whose factions are backed by Tehran.

Late Wednesday two rockets, fired by unidentified forces, landed in the supposedly high-security Green Zone, where US and other embassies are located, security sources said.

AFP correspondents heard two loud detonations.

Unusual brazenness

The brazenness of Iran’s ballistic missile strike was unusual.

But as the dust settled, it appeared that Iran’s attack — coming soon after the burial of Soleimani at a funeral in front of vast crowds — might have been more symbolic than anything.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif indicated Iran was satisfied for now.

“Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defense,” Zarif said on Twitter.

Reflecting deep concerns among Trump’s domestic opponents, the Democratic-led US House of Representatives scheduled a vote for Thursday on limiting the Republican president’s ability to wage war against Iran without congressional approval.

“The president has made clear that he does not have a coherent strategy to keep the American people safe, achieve de-escalation with Iran and ensure stability in the region,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

But US Defense Secretary Mark Esper insisted the United States has restored some deterrence against Iran in the wake of the Soleimani killing.

“But we will see. Time will tell,” Esper said.

US headaches in Iraq

The apparent de-escalation in Iran did not remove pressure from approximately 5,200 US troops stationed across Iraq, where they face pro-Iranian Shiite militias and political opposition.

Paramilitary chief Qais al-Khazali — blacklisted as a “terrorist” by the US — said his side’s response to the United States “will be no less than the size of the Iranian response.”

But US Vice President Mike Pence told the CBS Evening News that “we’re receiving some encouraging intelligence that Iran is sending messages to those very same militias not to move against American targets or civilians.”

Angered at the US drone strike, the Iraqi parliament has called for the expulsion of American troops, sparking embarrassing confusion at the Pentagon over how to respond.

– Airliner crash kills 176 –
Separately, a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 crashed just outside Tehran after taking off bound for Kiev, killing all 176 people on board shortly after Iran launched its missiles towards Iraq.

There was no immediate suggestion of any link with the strikes but carriers including Air France, Royal Dutch Airlines and Lufthansa announced they were suspending flying through Iranian and Iraqi airspace as a precaution.

The US aviation regulator banned civil flights over Iraq, Iran, and the Gulf, citing the potential for “misidentification” of aircraft.

Iraq President ‘Denounces’ Iran Missile Strikes

President Buhari To Swear In Ministers August 21

 

 

Iraq’s President Barham Saleh on Wednesday condemned Iran’s missile strikes on Iraqi bases where the US and other foreign troops are based, saying he feared “dangerous developments” in the region.

“We denounce the Iranian missile bombing that hit military installations on Iraqi territory and renew our rejection of the repeated violation of state sovereignty and the transformation of Iraq into a battlefield for warring sides,” his office said in a statement.

Iran launched the missiles early Wednesday in response to the killing of senior Revolution Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Iraq last week.

Western Powers Condemn Iran Attack On US Bases

 

 

Western powers on Wednesday condemned Iran’s missile attack on Iraqi bases housing the US and other foreign troops, urging an end to the escalating crisis.

Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles overnight Tuesday-Wednesday, officials in Washington and Tehran said.

Iran said it was in response to the US killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani last week, warning it would hit back even harder if Washington responded.

 Trump: ‘All is well’

“All is well!” US President Donald Trump’s tweeted. “Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good!”

He would be making a statement Wednesday morning, he added.

– ‘Resounding blow’ –
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has described Soleimani as Iran’s “terrorist-in-chief”, made it clear Israel would strike back if attacked.

“Anyone who attacks us will receive a resounding blow,” he warned.

‘Urgent de-escalation’

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called on Iran to end its attacks.

“We condemn this attack on Iraqi military bases hosting Coalition — including British — forces,” he said, urging Iran not to repeat them but instead to “pursue urgent de-escalation.

“A war in the Middle East would only benefit Daesh and other terrorist groups,” he added, referring to the Islamic State group. Britain’s defence ministry said there had been no British casualties.

‘No-one’s interest’

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the attack was yet another example of “escalation and increased confrontation”.

“It is in no-one’s interest to turn up the spiral of violence even further,” he added. He too warned that the crisis was hampering the fight against Islamic State.

EU foreign ministers will hold emergency talks on the Iran crisis Friday to discuss what the bloc can do to reduce tensions.

‘Violation of… sovereignty’

Iraq’s prime minister’s office said it had received an official message from Iran warning it of the missile attack just before it happened.

Iran had told premier Adel Abdel Mahdi that “the strike would be limited to where the US military was located in Iraq without specifying the locations”, said the statement from his office.

“Iraq rejects any violation of its sovereignty and attacks on its territory,” the premier’s office added.

Civilian flights rerouting

In the wake of the Iranian attack, a number of airlines said they were avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace.

The US Federal Aviation Administration said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf.

Its Russian counterpart, the Federal Air Transport Agency, recommended airlines avoid the air space over Iran, Iraq and the Persian and Oman Gulfs.

Iran, Iraq and US: Timeline Since Soleimani Killing

 

 

Here is a recap of events since the killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad by the US on January 3, which escalated tensions between Tehran and Washington:

US assassinates Soleimani

On January 3 a US drone strike on Baghdad’s international airport kills Soleimani, head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ foreign operations arm, the Quds Force.

Also among the dead is Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of the Tehran-backed Iraqi paramilitary network Hashed al-Shaabi.

The Pentagon confirms Trump ordered Soleimani’s assassination while the US embassy in Baghdad urges all Americans to leave Iraq “immediately”.

The killing comes days after thousands of pro-Iranian supporters stormed the US embassy in Baghdad, chanting “Death to America!”, angered by US strikes against Hashed bases in Iraq.

Those US strikes, on December 29, had been in retaliation for rocket attacks against US interests in Iraq in which a US civilian contractor was killed.

Iran calls for revenge

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei promises “severe revenge” for Soleimani’s death.

In Iraq caretaker prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi warns the US strike will “spark a devastating war in Iraq”, while President Barham Saleh pleads for “voices of reason” to prevail.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells CNN Soleimani had been planning imminent action “that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk”.

A Pentagon official says the US is deploying up to 3,500 more troops to the Middle East.

Trump threatens 52 Iran sites

On January 4 Trump warns the US is targeting 52 sites in Iran and will hit them “very fast and very hard” if the Islamic republic attacks American personnel or assets.

He says sites “important to… Iranian culture” are on the list.

The next day Pompeo insists any US military action against Iran will conform to international law after Trump is accused of threatening a war crime by declaring cultural sites as potential targets.

Nuclear deal unravels further

On January 5, Iran announces its fifth step back from the nuclear deal with world powers agreed in 2015, saying it will forgo a “limit on the number of centrifuges”.

Since May 2019 Iran has gradually freed itself from commitments to which it had subscribed, in response to the unilateral withdrawal a year earlier of the US which reinstated economic sanctions against Tehran.

Funeral turns deadly

After days of mourning for Soleimani in Iraq and Iran, a stampede during a massive funeral procession in Iran kills more than 50 people.

In Baghdad, Mahdi confirms he has received what the US called a draft letter describing steps its military would take to “move out” of Iraq.

In Washington, US officials scramble to deny the idea, calling the letter a mistakenly released draft.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper says the Pentagon’s “policy has not changed. We are not leaving Iraq”.

Iran strikes back

Iran launches a volley of missiles early Wednesday at Iraqi bases housing US and other coalition troops.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says the strikes are a “slap in the face” for the United States and revenge for Soleimani’s death is yet to come.

Iraq’s military said it sustained no casualties, and US President Donald Trump said initial casualty assessments indicated “all is well”.

Iran Threatens To Attack Israel And US Allies

Protesters hold pictures of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, during a demonstration outside the US consulate in Istanbul, on January 5, 2020, two days after top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was killed by a US drone strike.

 

 

Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday threatened to attack the US and its allies after Tehran said it carried out a night-time missile strike against US forces in Iraq.

The group urged Washington to recall its troops from the region “in order to avoid further losses and not to allow the lives of their soldiers to be further threatened by the ever-growing hatred” of the US.

More details shortly.

Oil Prices Spike Over 4.5% After Iran Attacks

 

 

Oil prices spiked Wednesday morning, rising over 4.5 percent at one point after Iran fired a barrage of ballistic missiles against two airbases in Iraq used by the US and coalition forces.

The benchmark WTI jumped as much as 4.53 percent to $65.54 a barrel before settling down slightly after Iran unleashed its first response to the US assassination of military commander Qasem Soleimani.


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Iran Fires Over A Dozen Missiles On Iraq Base Housing US Troops

Iran Claims 80 Americans Killed By Missiles

Trump Says ‘All Is Well’ After Iranian Missiles Target US Troops

 

Iraq Military Says no Iraqi Casualties As Several Missiles Hit Bases

Members of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi military network attempt to break into the US embassy in the capital Baghdad, on December 31, 2019, during a rally to vent anger over weekend air strikes that killed pro-Iran fighters in western Iraq. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP

 

A total of 22 missiles struck two bases housing US troops in Iraq but there were no Iraqi casualties, the military in Baghdad said Wednesday after the overnight attack.

The statement made no mention of Iran, which claimed that it had fired ballistic missiles at the Ain al-Asad airbase in retaliation for the US killing of a top Iranian general.

“Between 1:45 am and 2:15 am (2245 GMT and 2315 GMT) Iraq was hit by 22 missiles, 17 on the Ain al-Asad airbase and … five on the city of Arbil,” the Iraqi military said.

“There were no victims among the Iraqi forces,” it added but did not mention whether or not there were casualties among foreign troops.

READ ALSO: Netanyahu Warns Of ‘Resounding Blow’ If Iran Attacks Israel

Ain al-Asad is the largest airbase where US-led coalition troops are based.

Arbil is the capital of the Kurdish region, and a top official from the regional government said no American military base or US consulate was hit there.

The official also said there were no casualties in Arbil.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday took to Twitter following the strike to say an “assessment of casualties & damages taking place now”.

“So far, so good!” he wrote.

It was the first time Iran directly targeted a US installation with ballistic missiles.

Over the last two months, US troops and even the embassy in Baghdad had been targeted in more than a dozen rocket attacks that Washington blamed on pro-Tehran groups, but none had been claimed.

Germany ‘Strongly Condemns’ Iran Missile Attacks

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting on January 8, 2020, at the Chancellery in Berlin. Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

 

Germany’s defence minister condemned Iranian missile attacks on Iraqi bases housing coalition military on Wednesday and called on Tehran to end a “spiral” of conflict.

“The German government strongly condemns this aggression,” Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told broadcaster ARD.

“It is now crucial that we do not allow this spiral to continue,” said the defence minister, adding that “it is now primarily up to the Iranians to refrain from further escalation.”

Kramp-Karrenbauer said that Germany had been in contact with the US department of defence throughout Tuesday night, and that “all channels” of communication would be opened in a bid to prevent further escalation.

She added that she would seek a meeting of the coalition’s 13 framework nations to discuss the situation in the region.

Separately, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged Iran to “refrain from all steps that could lead to further escalation”. He also called on all parties to exercise restraint.

The overnight attack on bases in Al-Asad and Arbil was the latest escalation amid growing tensions in the region since a US drone strike killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani last Friday.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is also the leader of Angela Merkel’s ruling conservative party, said the missile attacks could see further withdrawals of German troops in Iraq.

Germany temporarily withdrew 32 of its soldiers from a camp close to Baghdad on Tuesday, and the defence minister said that plans were now being drawn up for a “possible partial withdrawal” from Arbil.

UK Condemns Iran Missile Attacks, Voices Concerns Over Reports Of ‘Casualties’

Britain’s Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State Dominic Raab carries a cup as he walks to the door of 10 Downing Street in central London on January 6, 2020. Tolga AKMEN / AFP

 

Britain on Wednesday condemned Iran’s missile attacks on Iraqi bases housing coalition military and voiced concern over “reports of casualties” from the strikes.

“We condemn this attack on Iraqi military bases hosting Coalition – including British – forces,” said Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

“We are concerned by reports of casualties and use of ballistic missiles.”

Iran fired missiles overnight at Iraqi bases housing the US and British military, officials in Washington and Tehran said.

READ ALSO: Iran Claims 80 Americans Killed By Missiles

It was the first act of the Islamic republic’s promised revenge for the US killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani last week.

Launched from Iranian territory and by Iranian forces not a proxy, the attack marked a new turn in the intensifying confrontation between the United States and Iran.

The Pentagon said it was still “working on initial battle damage assessments” after more than a dozen ballistic missiles were launched, with no immediate reports on casualties.

The Iraqi military said it sustained no casualties in 22 missile strikes on bases housing US troops.

Raab urged Iran to show restraint going forward.

“We urge Iran not to repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks, and instead to pursue urgent de-escalation,” he added.

“A war in the Middle East would only benefit Daesh and other terrorist groups,” Raab said, referring to the Islamic State group.

Iran Fired ‘More Than A Dozen’ Missiles At US Forces In Iraq, Says Pentagon

The Pentagon is seen as snow falls on January 7, 2020 in Washington, DC Olivier Douliery / AFP

 

Iran fired “more than a dozen” ballistic missiles Tuesday against two airbases in Iraq where US and coalition forces are based, the Pentagon said.

“At approximately 5.30 pm (2230 GMT) on January 7, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against US military and coalition forces in Iraq,” Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.

“It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting US military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Irbil.”

There were no immediate reports of casualties at the bases.

The attacks came after pro-Tehran factions in Iraq had vowed to “respond” to a US drone strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad last week.

The White House said in a separate statement that President Donald Trump was “monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team.”

Local security sources told AFP earlier that at least nine rockets had slammed into the Ain al-Asad airbase, the largest of the Iraqi military compounds where foreign troops are based.

Iran claimed responsibility, with state TV saying the Islamic republic had launched missiles on the base.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi military network, was killed in the US drone strike alongside Soleiman, seen as the “godfather” of Tehran’s proxy network across the region.

Hoffman said the Pentagon was working on initial battle damage assessments following Tuesday’s airbase attacks.

“In recent days and in response to Iranian threats and actions, the Department of Defense has taken all appropriate measures to safeguard our personnel and partners,” he added.

“These bases have been on high alert due to indications that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces and interests in the region.”

Hoffman added that the US would take “all necessary measures to protect and defend US personnel, partners, and allies in the region.”

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, said the US “must ensure the safety of our service members, including ending needless provocations from the Administration and demanding that Iran cease its violence.”

“America and world cannot afford war,” she added.

Her Democratic House colleague Eliot Engel, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN however the attacks “could very well” mean that the US was at war.

“The president and his crew had better figure out a way to… tone down everything because we could be in the middle of a full-fledged war, and I don’t think that is something anybody wants,” he said.