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Entries in Islamic State of Iraq (8)


Syria Today: Opposition Repeats --- No Participation in International "Peace" Conference

Government forces move through Qusayr, captured by the Syrian military last Wednesday

State TV: Documents Show Qatar Asked Insurgents to Defend Qusayr to Protect Israel

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Syria Feature: Jabhat al-Nusra, Al Qaeda, and the Islamic State of Iraq

Activists with Jabhat al-Nusra FlagWriting for Al Jazeera English, Basma Atassi, claims that the head of Al Qa'eda, Ayman al-Zawahari, has intervened in a dispute between the Syrian insurgency Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq with a letter to the leaders of the two groups.

The clash arose in April when the head of the ISI, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, tried to claim oversight of Jabhat al-Nusra in a message. A senior JAN commander, Abu Muhammad al-Joulani, responded by asserting the insurgents' autonomy in Syria.

Media coverage incorrectly claimed that the ISI and JAN had "merged", as well as emphasising al-Joulani's reference to al-Zawahari as a "pledge of allegiance".

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Syria Special: The Media Creates the "Al Qa'eda Myth"

One of the pictures accompanying the scare stories of Al Qa'eda taking control of part of the Syrian insurgency (Photo: AP)

This is the story of a story.

Or, rather, this is the story of the creation of a myth --- the myth that Al Qa'eda has taken over parts of the Syrian insurgency.

This is the story of how that myth --- based on failure to consider sources, let alone evaluate them; built by exaggeration and distortion --- points to the media's failure to responsibly cover important developments. More importantly, it indicates how that failure can have political consequences which are counter-productive and dangerous, contributing to poor decisions by policymakers.

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Syria Live: Islamist Insurgents "Merging" with Al Qa'eda in Iraq?

2029 GMT: Syrian Jet Bombs Lebanon. Once again, a Syrian jet has dropped bombs in northeastern Lebanon, according to the AFP:

"A Syrian jet dropped five shells on the outskirts of Sarjal Ajram. No one was hurt," the official said.

Sarjal Ajram lies northeast of Arsal, which is home to a majority Sunni population, and whose residents support the uprising in neighbouring Syria against President Bashar al-Assad.

2019 GMT: Rebel Attack on Hama Airport. Earlier we reported that rebels were attacking Hama airport with homemade rocket launchers (see update 1733). According to Now Lebanon, which cites activists, the regime has evacuated its helicopters from the airport in response:

The activist Syrian Media Center said that regime forces moved helicopters from the under-fire airport to a base in Dair Shamil, a small Alawite-populated village west of Hama.

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Syria Live Coverage: Iraqi Insurgents Claim Killing of 48 Regime Troops

2020 GMT: Rebels Take Series of Bases Southwest of Damascus. Since Friday, rebels have overwhelmed and captured several regime bases southwest of Damascus on the road to Daraa province. Confirming the specific locations has been hard to do, but we know that the bases are in the Kiswah area (map), and to the south of this suburb as well.

We've heard from some sources that some of the Surface-to-Air missiles sites in the area were decommissioned. However, videos from the base of the 137th regiment appear to show fully-functional missiles there (hat tip to Brown Moses for sending us this Youtube channel):

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Lebanon (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The US Goes After Hezbollah

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses a Beirut crowd via video link on Ssturday (Photo: Bilal Hussein/AP)

See also Syria Live Coverage: Hezbollah Emerges in the Conflict
Sunday's Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Thousands March as Clashes Continue

1503 GMT: Libya. Police chief Abdel-Salam el-Barghathi has said four detained foreigners have been accused of espionage in addition to proselytising Christianity.

The group --- a Swedish-American, a South Korean, a South African, and an Egyptian --- was arrested last week in the eastern city of Benghazi with tens of thousands of copies of literature about Christianity in their possession.

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Middle East Feature: Behind Iraq's Church Attack, Religious Tensions in Egypt

These statements get inside the riddle of why an attack on a church in Iraq was undertaken to put pressure on Christians in Egypt over the personal faith decisions of two Egyptian women. Different religious beliefs can exist side by side, but in an ideological context that ascribes religion a communal and political identity, belonging is defined by sect. The problem is an anthropological one more than a theological one.

This attack on a Church in Baghdad is not only a tragedy for Iraq; it represents an encroaching understanding of social and political relations that is the biggest challenge in the Middle East in securing peace and equality for all its peoples.

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Iraq Latest: At Least 52 Killed in Attack on Catholic Church (Al Jazeera)

An al-Qaeda-linked group has claimed responsibility for an attack on a Catholic church in the Iraqi capital, which resulted in the deaths of 52 people, including 25 hostages.

Attackers stormed the Our Lady of Salvation church in the Karrada neighbourhood of central Baghdad on Sunday night, taking more than 100 people hostage. The standoff was ended after police stormed the church two hours later.

At least seven members of the security forces and five gunmen were amongst those killed.

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