Live updates

Report: Islamic State blow up a major prison complex

A group monitoring the war said Islamic State blew up a major prison complex in the central Syrian city of Palmyra.

The prison was empty at the time of the detonation, said Rami Abdulrahman from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The sprawling complex is not located among the city's ancient ruins. Islamic State captured the city, also known as Tadmur, from government forces earlier this month.

UK may expand military support mission in Iraq

British soldiers instruct Kurdish Peshmerga fighters during training at a shooting range in Arbil, October 2014. Credit: Reuters

The UK is preparing to send troops into the more dangerous parts of northern Iraq in support of the US military mission to train local forces to fight so-called Islamic State fighters.

The Times reports that the prospect of expanding the British mission to Iraq from the relative safety of Kurdish held areas has been raised at a meeting of the National Security Council, chaired by David Cameron.

It is understood that the British Army is ready to go ahead, but it is awating political approval from ministers.

The operation would involve the deployment of a specialist team of experts in countering roadside bombs - improvised explosive devices (IEDs) - to work alongside American trainers.

They would be based in the capital Baghdad but could also operate outside the city where the US is conducting training of Iraqi forces preparing to take on IS


British military confirms 'extensive air support' in Iraq

Government officials have confirmed British military "extensive air and training support" to Iraqi forces fighting Islamic State insurgents.

They outlined a number of recent airstrikes including:

  • May 19 A Reaper aircraft and two Tornado GR4s patrolling northern Iraq attacked a number of bunkers with Hellfire missiles and Paveway precision bombs
  • May 20 Tornados struck a weapons store, a weapons cache in a tunnel and a camouflaged position (video above)
  • May 22 A Reaper successfully engaged terrorists burying improvised explosive devices next to a road
  • May 24 Islamic State armoured vehicle, buildings and bulldozer packed with explosives destroyed

Iraqi military begin operation to liberate Anbar

Iraq has formally announced the beginning of a military operation to liberate the western province of Anbar from Islamic State insurgents.

US-led coalition officers hand over weapons to the Iraqi Army. Credit: APTN

Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesman for the Shi'ite paramilitaries known as Hashid Shaabi, which are are taking part, said in a news conference broadcast on the state TV channel that the operation had been named "Labeyk Ya Hussein".

The Iraqi government is scrambling to reverse its biggest military setback in nearly a year, the fall of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province west of Baghdad. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi has vowed to recapture it within days.

Islamic State: Iraqi forces prepare for assault on Anbar

Iraqi forces are set to launch an offensive to drive Islamic State out of Anbar province.

An Iraqi soldier pictured during clashes with IS in Anbar in March. Credit: Reuters

The start of the operation - backed by Shi'ite and Sunni forces - was announced on state television, although no further details were given.

IS seized large parts of Anbar in early 2014 and militants recently captured the provincial capital Ramadi.

Iraq's prime minister said yesterday that he was confident his troops would retake Ramadi "in days".

Iraqi forces to 'retake Ramadi from IS in days'

Iraqi forces will retake the city of Ramadi from Islamic State militants "in days", the country's prime minister has said.

Members of the Iraqi army and Shi'ite fighters launch a mortar toward IS. Credit: Reuters

Thousands of civilians fled the city, which lies around 78 miles from Baghdad, after insurgents seized control.

"It makes my heart bleed because we lost Ramadi, but I can assure you we can bring it back soon," Haider al-Abadi told the BBC.

He defended the Iraqi military amid criticism from US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, saying they were overwhelmed by the "onslaught" of IS.

"They have the will to fight but when they are faced with an onslaught by Daesh [IS] from nowhere, with armoured trucks packed with explosives, the effect of them is like a small nuclear bomb - it gives a very, very bad effect on our forces."


Militia fighters and Iraqi army forces set out from base

An eyewitness and a local official have said a convoy of Shi'ite militia fighters and Iraqi army forces set out from a base near the western provincial capital of Ramadi, heading towards areas controlled by Islamic State militants.

Anbar provincial council member Azzal Obaid said hundreds of fighters, who arrived at the Habbaniya air base last week after Ramadi was overrun by Islamic State, were in Khalidiya and were approaching Siddiqiya and Madiq, towns in contested areas near Ramadi.

While pro-government forces are seeking to retake Ramadi, Islamic State insurgents have been pushing forward in the direction of Fallujah in a bid to take more territory in Anbar province that would bring them closer to the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Judge's tribute to US soldier killed by British bombmaker

A judge has paid tribute to a 'deeply compassionate' American soldier killed by a landmine planted by British bombmaker Anis Sardar.

Sardar, 38, of Llanover Road, Wembley, London, was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 35 years in court today after being found guilty of murder and conspiracy to murder.

Sgt First Class Randy Johnson was killed by a landmine built and planted by Anis Sardar Credit: Claudia Williams

One of the IEDs he helped build exploded beneath a US armoured vehicle, killing Sgt First Class Randy Johnson, of 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, who was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals.

Sitting at Woolwich Crown Court, Judge Mr Justice Globe told Sardar that commanding officer Major Eric Adams had described Sgt Johnson as showing "deep compassion" in leading his platoon.

It is therefore the saddest irony that when the eight-wheel Stryker vehicle containing the American soldiers ran over and exploded an IED it was Sgt First Class Johnson who was killed.

He was buried in Arlington Cemetery and his family can be proud that he was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Sgt First Class Johnson's loss was one of the sad tragedies in what was going on in Iraq in 2007.

By the jury's verdict it is a loss for which you are directly responsible.

– Mr Justice Globe
Load more updates