February 14th, 2012
08:22 AM ET

Three dead, two dozen wounded in Iraq explosions

A car bomb exploded Tuesday outside a popular restaurant in eastern Mosul killing three people and wounding 19 others, a health official said.

Most of the dead and wounded were civilians, Salaheddin Thanoon, the head of the health directorate, told CNN. Three Iraqi soldiers were among the wounded, Thanoon said.

The incident happened about 12:30 p.m. on a busy commercial street near the University of Mosul.

Mosul is about 220 miles (350 kilometers) north of the capital city of Baghdad, where another bombing Tuesday left six people wounded.

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Filed under: Iraq • World
January 29th, 2012
05:44 PM ET

Key Iraqi bloc ends boycott of parliament

A powerful political bloc in Iraq ended its boycott of the country's parliament on Sunday, describing the move as a "gesture of goodwill."

The Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc is one of the largest political groups in Iraq. It pulled out of parliament in December and returns as recent bloodshed raises fears of renewed sectarian violence.

"The Iraqiya bloc announces, as gesture of goodwill, that it will return to participate the parliament sessions," the group said in a statement. For now, a separate boycott of the cabinet remains in place, it added.

Before the boycott, Iraqiya had been in a power-sharing deal with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law Alliance, backed mostly by Shiites. The political bloc accused the prime minister of cutting it out of the decision-making process.

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Filed under: Iraq
January 28th, 2012
06:16 PM ET

Biden calls Iraqi leaders as bloodshed worsens

As recent bloodshed raises fears of renewed sectarian violence in Iraq, U.S. Vice President Biden has been calling Iraqi leaders in an apparent attempt to soothe political tensions, the White House said Saturday.

Biden telephoned Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama Nujaifi on Saturday and, a day earlier, spoke with Dr. Ayad Allawi, a leader of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya political bloc.

"The two Iraqi leaders described deliberations under way among all Iraqi political factions and parties in the run-up to a proposed national conference led by President Jalal Talabani," the White House statement said. "The vice president discussed with both leaders the importance of resolving outstanding issues through the political process. The vice president and Iraqi leaders agreed to stay in close touch as events unfold."

In the latest in a series of attacks this year, a suicide car bomber killed at least 31 people and injured 60 more in a Shiite funeral procession in Baghdad on Friday, two police officials said. The bombing occurred as mourners were heading toward a hospital in Baghdad's Zafarniya district to recover the bodies of relatives shot the night before, officials said.

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Filed under: Iraq • Joe Biden • U.S.
January 27th, 2012
05:36 AM ET

Car bomb kills 31, wounds 60 in Baghdad

[Update 5:40 a.m. ET] The death toll in Friday's car bomb attack that targeted a Shiite funeral procession in Baghdad climbed to 31 people dead and 60 wounded, two police officials said.

[Posted 5:36 a.m. ET] A car bomb targeting a Shiite funeral procession in Baghdad on Friday killed at least 12 people and wounded 60 others, police officials said.

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Filed under: Iraq
January 24th, 2012
01:09 AM ET

9 dead, 72 wounded after bombings in Iraq, police say

At least nine people were killed and at least 72 others wounded Tuesday when four car bombs and a roadside bomb exploded in mostly Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, police officials said.

In the latest attack, a car bomb exploded near an elementary school in the Shulaa neighborhood of northwestern Baghdad, police said. Two people were killed, and 18 others - including some students from the elementary school - were wounded.

The attacks raised concerns among ordinary people about the ability of Iraqi security forces to ensure security in this country, particularly after the United States withdrew troops by the end of 2011.

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Filed under: Iraq • World
January 16th, 2012
02:45 AM ET

Blast kills at least 5 in Iraq

A car bomb exploded in eastern Mosul on Monday, killing at least five people and wounding 10, police said.

Officers discovered another parked car rigged with explosives in the same area, said Mosul police Lt. Col. Hilal al-Ahmedi.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, which no longer holds swathes of territory in the country, is strongest in the city of Mosul, 260 miles north of Baghdad and one of Iraq's many sectarian fault lines.

Despite a decrease in overall violence in Iraq, it still touches Iraqis on a near-daily basis

Ordinary Iraqis say the violence is largely sectarian, with the once-dominant Sunni Muslims believing Shiites are responsible, and the majority Shiites saying it is the work of Sunni insurgents.

Each group believes it is being targeted by the other.

Monday's attack took place in the al-Ghadeer area, home to families from the Shiite Shabak ethnic group who were displaced from other areas of Mosul in the last few years.

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January 15th, 2012
07:10 AM ET

Attacks on police stations in Iraq kill 3, Interior Ministry says

At least three people were killed and 22 others wounded in bombings targeting police stations in Iraq on Sunday, the Interior Ministry said.

A suicide bomber struck a police station outside the predominantly Sunni city of Ramadi, killing at least two policemen and wounding 10 others.

The Interior Ministry said gunmen attacked the station after the bombing, and clashes with police were still ongoing.

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January 5th, 2012
01:30 AM ET

Baghdad bombings kill 9

A triple bombing in Baghdad's Sadr City slum Thursday morning killed at least nine people and wounded 35 others, an official with Iraq's Interior Ministry said.

The first bomb - attached to a motorcycle - detonated near a group of laborers who were searching for day jobs in the Shiite neighborhood, according to the official. Shortly after that, two other bombs detonated in quick succession nearby.

Iraqis have been concerned about an increase in violence after the U.S. Military withdrawal from the country.

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January 4th, 2012
04:49 AM ET

Official: 1 killed, 9 hurt in series of blasts in Iraq

A nine-year-old girl was killed and nine other people wounded in a series of explosions Wednesday morning in the Iraqi city of Baquba, an official said.

The bombs were left outside the homes of security force members and local government officials in different parts of Baquba, said Muthanna al-Timimi, member of the Diyala provincial council's security committee.

Five bombs detonated in quick succession, he said.

Baquba, northeast of the capital Baghdad, is the capital of Diyala.

While violence has drastically dropped in Iraq in recent years, attacks against security forces remain a common occurrence

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January 3rd, 2012
04:01 AM ET

Iraqi lawmakers reconvene amid political turmoil

The crisis-plagued Iraqi Parliament reconvenes Tuesday just over a week after a key Shiite bloc criticized the government and called for early elections.

Iraq is mired in a political crisis that has raised fears of a return of the sectarian bloodshed that nearly tore the country apart during the intensely violent years following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Before lawmakers went on a brief break at the end of last month, the bloc loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for the dissolution of Parliament and early elections.

The political turmoil erupted just days after U.S. troops withdrew from the country and as a fresh round of violence flared in Baghdad.

In an online statement, the head of the Sadrist parliamentary bloc Baha'a al-Araji said Iraq is facing a new era with problems that rob the nation of stability and sovereignty.

The Sadrist bloc serves as a key ally of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite.

Al-Maliki managed to forge a fragile coalition and secure a second term in office because of backing from followers of al-Sadr, the powerful leader of the notorious Mehdi Army that fought some of the fiercest battles against U.S. forces.

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December 30th, 2011
07:51 AM ET

Turkish PM Erdogan regrets Kurdish civilian airstrike deaths

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that he regrets the deaths of 35 civilians in an airstrike in a Kurdish area on the border with Iraq late Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, he said, "It is an unfortunate outcome. It is a sad outcome."

Pledging a full investigation, he said those killed were smuggling cigarettes and fuel, with almost half of them below the age of 20.

Erdogan said Turkey's military had been monitoring the area because it was in constant use by terrorist groups and that security forces had become suspicious because of the size of the group and number of donkeys used.

The funerals of the victims, who all came from three villages in the Uludere area of Sirnak province, should now have been conducted, he said.

His words came a day after a senior member of a Kurdish separatist group urged Kurds to rise up against Turkish authorities over what he called a massacre.

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Filed under: Iraq • Turkey
December 27th, 2011
05:44 AM ET

Al Qaeda in Iraq claims responsibility for recent attacks

Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility Tuesday for a string of attacks that killed almost 70 people and wounded more than 200.

The seemingly coordinated explosions Thursday struck during the height of morning rush hour, hitting a number of Baghdad's primarily mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods. Nine car bombs, six roadside bombs and a mortar round all went off in a two-hour period, targeting residential, commercial and government districts in the Iraqi capital, police said.

"The series of special invasions launched, under the guidance of the Ministry of War in the Islamic State of Iraq, to support the weak Sunnis in the prisons of the apostates and to retaliate for the captives who were executed," the group said on an al Qaeda website.

Iraq's leadership is dominated by Shiite Muslims, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The country's Sunni minority held power under former leader Saddam Hussein.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Iraq • Middle East • World
Security hurdle keeps U.S.-bound Iraqi refugees in limbo
Musadaq Alsamawi and his wife hold photos of their daughter, who hasn't been able to join them at their new home in Arizona.
December 23rd, 2011
05:10 PM ET

Security hurdle keeps U.S.-bound Iraqi refugees in limbo

Editor's note: Listen to the CNN Radio broadcast about the security hurdles faced by Iraqi refugees trying to enter the U.S.:

While the U.S. military has pulled out of Iraq, thousands of Iraqis who worked for the men and women in uniform are hoping to follow in their boot tracks.  But a special immigration program meant to facilitate the process has slowed to a crawl, leaving many Iraqis fearing for their lives as they wait to be accepted into the United States as refugees.

The hang-up seems to have been caused by an additional security screening implemented at the start of 2011. Iraqis requesting resettlement go through a series of security background checks and medical exams before they’re cleared to travel to the United States.  The process used to take approximately six months.

“When the newest layer went into place …  it brought the whole system more or less to a halt,” said Bob Carey, vice president of Refugee Resettlement and Migration Policy at the International Rescue Committee. The non-profit agency works on refugee issues around the world.

“Certain security checks expire. Medical exams, which have to take place before refugees enter the U.S., expire,” said Carey. By the time all of the security checks are completed, he said, the initial screenings have expired and the applicants have to become recertified. “So it becomes kind of a circle that refugees are caught in and can’t get out of.”

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Iraq VP denies allegations
December 20th, 2011
11:44 AM ET

Iraq VP denies allegations

Tariq al-Hashimi, Iraq's Sunni vice president, disputes the government's charges that he organized a death squad targeting government and military officials, saying the false claims are politically motivated and he has never and will never be involved in violence.

"Today it is al-Hashimi, tomorrow it will be someone else," al-Hashimi told reporters Tuesday in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Irbil, where he discussed a warrant issued for his arrest by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government.

Iraqiya, the Sunni-backed but cross-sectarian political bloc to which al-Hashimi belongs, has accused al-Maliki of consolidating power, saying the Shiite-backed political leader has refused to give up control of Iraq's Interior and Defense ministries.

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Arrest warrant issued for Iraq's vice president
December 19th, 2011
12:23 PM ET

Arrest warrant issued for Iraq's vice president

[Updated at 12:35 p.m. ET] Iraq's Judicial Committee issued an arrest warrant Monday for Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, who is accused of orchestrating bombing attacks.

The warrant was issued under "Article 4," which is terrorism.

The Interior Ministry, at a news conference, showed what it called confession videos from people identified as security guards for al-Hashimi. In the videos, the men described various occasions in which they purportedly carried out attacks under direct orders from al-Hashimi.

One man said he carried out assassination attempts using roadside bombs and guns with silencers. He said the orders came from the vice president and at times through the director of his office.

CNN could not immediately confirm that the men in the videos were bodyguards for al-Hashimi.

Three of the vice president's security guards were detained earlier this month.

Al-Hashimi's office did not answer calls from CNN Monday.

Over the past few days, the office told CNN it feared that al-Hashimi's three guards would be forced to make false confessions.

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December 18th, 2011
03:00 AM ET

Crisis plagues Iraq as U.S. troops depart

As the last U.S. soldiers exited Iraq Sunday and debate was raging about the nation's future, political crisis erupted in Baghdad that raised fears of more sectarian strife to come.

Iraqiya, a powerful political bloc that draws support largely from Sunni and more secular Iraqis, said it was boycotting parliament, a move that threatens to shatter Iraq's fragile power-sharing government.

The move pits the largely Sunni and secular coalition against the government of Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Iraqiya contends al-Maliki is trying to amass dictatorial power and many believe al-Maliki was simply waiting for the Americans to leave before making his move.

It all makes for burgeoning political chaos and raises serious questions about whether democracy and human rights can take root in the war-ravaged nation.

"The only country that makes U.S. politics look like a picnic is Iraq," said Christopher Hill, the former U.S. ambassador in Baghdad.

Al-Maliki, Hill said, is a man who perceives concessions as weakness. He's a tough guy who knows what he's doing, Hill said.

He managed to forge relationships with the Kurds and peel off some Sunni support to build the majority he needed to put together a government, Hill said. But whether he is the man to unify Iraq, to lead it now, without American presence, is uncertain.

His rivals say that al-Maliki still controls the country's security ministries and all decisions go through him. They also say that the hundreds of people seized by the government in October for backing terrorism and supporting the banned Baath Party are Iraqiya supporters.

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December 17th, 2011
11:28 PM ET

Deadly Iraq war ends with exit of last U.S. troops

Early Sunday, as the sun ascended to the winter sky, the very last American convoy made its way down the main highway that connects Iraq and Kuwait.

The military called it its final "tactical road march." A series of 110 heavily armored, hulking trucks and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles carrying about 500 soldiers streamed slowly but steadily out of the combat zone.

A few minutes before 8 a.m., the metal gate behind the last MRAP closed. With it came to an end a deadly and divisive war that lasted almost nine years, its enormous cost calculated in blood and billions.

Some rushed to touch the gate, forever a symbol now of an emotional, landmark day. Some cheered with the Army's ultimate expression of affirmation: "Hooah!"

Once, when hundreds of thousands of Americans were in Iraq, the main highway was better known as Main Supply Route Tampa and soldiers trekked north towards Baghdad and beyond, never knowing what danger lurked on their path.

On this monumental day, the Texas-based 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division's main concern was how to avoid a traffic jam on their final journey in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Gaumer, 37, was on this road in August 2003. It was his first time at war. He was frightened.

There was not a lot of traffic at that time, he recalled. He remembered a lot of cheering by Iraqis, even though the situation was tense.

Sunday morning, the air was decidedly different.

"It's pretty historic," he said about the drive south, hoping he will not ever have to come back through this unforgiving terrain again.

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Filed under: Iraq • Middle East • World • World Update
December 16th, 2011
12:07 PM ET

N.C. soldier reportedly last to die in Iraq war

David Hickman was a star football player in McLeansville, North Carolina. He was a quiet man with a larger-than-life presence. He also holds the distinction of being the last soldier to die before the official announcement of the end of the Iraq war. That fact has made him a part of history, CNN affiliate WGHP reports.

Hickman, an Army specialist, was remembered Thursday by friends as the U.S. marked the official end of the war.

President Obama commemorated the milestone with an appearance at Fort Bragg, where Hickman was stationed before being deployed in September.

Obama, Panetta honor Iraq war troops

"As your commander in chief, and on behalf of a grateful nation, I'm proud to finally say these two words, and I know your families agree - welcome home. Welcome home,” he told cheering troops.

The coincidence did not go unnoticed by Hickman’s friends, who spoke to WGHP.

"That is so like David. He wasn't going to go out quietly. He's going to go down with a place in history," said his friend Logan Trainum. "He wasn't the loudest one in the room, but he was the most noticed one in the room. He just had that presence about him."

Home and Away: Share your tributes to fallen troops

Even in death, Hickman was making his presence known, his friends said.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Iraq • Military • U.S. Air Force • U.S. Army • War
Overheard on CNN.com: Some find parallels between Iraq, Vietnam
A U.S. Army soldier arriving in Kuwait after a final departure from Iraq last week.
December 15th, 2011
03:37 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Some find parallels between Iraq, Vietnam

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

vikingslost: "Welcome home Soldiers. May you find comfort and peace in the days and years ahead. America and its people are deeply indebted to you for your sacrifice and service. We love you and your families all. God Bless America."

gomezaddams2: "Thank you to all the soldiers for telling your stories. It really touches my heart to hear all of your experiences. I don't have any answers. But I wish you serenity and love."

An understated ceremony Thursday in Baghdad marked the end of the war in Iraq, nearly nine years since it started. More than 4,500 American troops have died in Iraq since 2003, as well as hundreds of troops from other coalition forces, and tens of thousands of Iraqis. Readers debated the ins and outs of the war with their comments, and thanked the troops for their service.

In their own words: 8 lives changed by the Iraq War

Readers read through eight iReporters' accounts of the Iraq war and lamented the perils of combat. They also debated the value of the soldiers' contributions. Most seemed to agree that regardless of their views on war, they would thank the soldiers. A few compared Iraq to Vietnam. Some commenters were connected to the military, if not soldiers themselves. FULL POST

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Filed under: Iraq • Overheard on CNN.com • World
December 13th, 2011
10:48 AM ET

Panetta optimistic about Afghanistan

This year "will mark a turning point" in Afghanistan and other regions, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday.

In Afghanistan, "our troops have been able to obviously reduce the levels of violence there. We've seen the lowest levels of violence there in almost five years there now. They are successful in securing some of the key areas in Afghanistan," Panetta told reporters during a flight on his overseas trip.

He's visiting Djibouti, Iraq, Turkey and Libya, as well as Afghanistan, where war still rages. He'll meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker, and Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

"Obviously, there is greater success in the Afghan military and police. The Afghan military is engaging in operations," Panetta said.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Iraq • Leon Panetta • Libya • Politics • Turkey • U.S.
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