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Live! Obama on Iraq campaign: 'This is going to take some time'

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August 09, 2014

22:37  Ukraine rebel chief calls for truce as Donetsk surrounded:  A top rebel chief in east Ukraine today called for a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds after admitting government forces had surrounded the main insurgent stronghold of Donetsk. 

Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, called for a truce to stop the city becoming a new "Stalingrad" but swore to fight on to the end if the offer was rejected.
22:33  Russia denies trying to send troops into Ukraine:  Russia today denied that it had attempted to send troops across the border under the guise of a humanitarian mission, and pledged it would not make such a unilateral intervention. 

"Russian troops made no attempt to penetrate" into Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency. "We have difficulty understanding what the Ukrainians are talking about," he added.
21:43  8 killed as Pak cleric's supporters clash with police:  Eight people were killed in continuing clashes today between supporters of influential Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri and security forces with over 1,000 injured across Punjab province, the Canada-based religious leader's party claimed. 

Qadri's Pakistan Awami Tahreek party has claimed that eight of its workers including a woman died in clashes with police while the Punjab government says an Elite Force commando and one supporter of Qadri were killed in the clashes across the province.
21:41  Obama on Iraq campaign: 'This is going to take some time':  President Barack Obama on Saturday proposed a broader long-term strategy to confront Islamic militants in Iraq, who have surprised U.S. intelligence with the fast pace of their approach on the Kurdish capital of Irbil.

Obama warned Americans that the new campaign to bring security in Iraq requires military and political changes and "is going to be a long-term project." He wouldn't give a timetable for how long the US military involvement would last, saying it depends on Iraq's political efforts.

"I don't think we are going to solve this problem in weeks," Obama said. "I think this is going to take some time."
20:06  Ukrainian intelligence on MH17 shootdown:  Yesterday, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) went public with explosive claims regarding the 17 July shootdown of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 near Donetsk. 

As I explained in detail, SBU head Valentyn Nalyvaychenko asserted that the Boeing 777 was shot down by a Russian-supplied "Buk' (SA-11) surface-to-air missile system, but in error: Moscow planned to down an Aeroflot plane that was nearby, in a false flag provocation to justify the Kremlin's direct intervention in the war for eastern Ukraine, but in a tragic mistake the bumbling separatists downed the Malaysian airliner instead, killing 298 innocent people.

Read more
19:42  Malaysia says it is still committed to MH370's search:  Malaysia said it remains committed to locating Flight MH370 and will hold a tripartie meeting with China and Australia to extend search operation for the ill-fated plane that went missing five months ago. 

"After five months of searching for the missing plane, we would like to assure the next of kin of MH370 that our commitment to the search for this flight has remained consistent and has strengthened," Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said.
19:32  Ukraine says another 13 die in conflict-torn east:  Fears mounted today in Ukraine of a possible Russian invasion in the guise of a "humanitarian" mission to the conflict-torn east where Kiev said another 13 of its troops died in fighting with pro-Moscow rebels. 

The United States has warned that any unilateral intervention by Russia, including in the form of a humanitarian mission, would be considered an invasion.
19:08  Prime Minister Modi visits Jaswant Singh at Army hospital:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Jaswant Singh at Army hospital. 

Former Bharatiya Janata Party leader Jaswant Singh continues to be on life support systems after he was operated upon for a head injury at the Army Research and Referral Hospital in New Delhi after he had a fall at his residence.
19:04  Etihad, Gulf Air re-route Iraq flights:  Two Gulf-based airlines today announced that they have re-routed flights over Iraq because of the deteriorating security situation there, even as Turkish Airlines said it has resumed flights to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil. 

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways and Bahrain's Gulf Air announced their decisions after a similar move by Dubai-based Emirates, the Middle East's largest carrier.
18:42  A tea-seller's son can head a country only in India, US: Hagel:  Seeking to draw parallels between India and the US, American Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel today said there are few places in the world other than the two democratic countries where a tea-seller's son can become the Prime Minister or a Kenyan's child can become the President.
18:38  Kolkata-bound Jammu Tawi express escapes landslide near Gaya:  The Kolkata-bound Jammu Tawi Express had a narrow escape from a landslide today after timely detection by a pilot engine motorman between Gaya and Koderma stations in Bihar, just minutes before the train was about to cross that stretch, Railway sources said. 

The train was halted a few of kilometres before the spot averting the possibility of it ramming into the debris of rocks and stone boulders lying on the tracks, the sources said.
18:38  Egypt dissolves Muslim Brotherhood political wing:  An Egyptian court today ordered the dissolution of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the already banned Muslim Brotherhood movement, in yet another crushing blow to Islamists after the ouster of president Mohammed Morsi last year. 

Egypt's High Administrative Court ordered the dissolution of the Freedom and Justice Party and the liquidation of its assets.
18:32  Omar applauds 'political transformation' of Rahul:  Two days after Rahul Gandhi stormed the Well in Lok Sabha over "rising" communal violence, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today applauded his "political transformation" and said it is good sign for the Congress in these "difficult" times. 

Omar praised the "aggressive" posture and said the Congress leader is "the force" who has to bind the party men together in these difficult times.
17:26  Japan issues highest alert over Typhoon Halong:  Japan's weather agency today issued its highest alert as Typhoon Halong barrelled towards the southwest of the country, warning of heavy rain and strong winds from a storm that has grounded more than 470 flights. 

The warning means that the storm poses a threat to life and could inflict massive damage, the meteorological agency said. The alert was issued for Mie prefecture, some 300 kilometres west of Tokyo, as the outer bands of the storm were already lashing the region and other areas of southwestern Japan, the agency said.
17:01  Poll dates for 4 states to be announced on Aug 20 :   Just in: Poll dates for elections in four states is likely to be announced by August 20. The Election Commission has drawn a draft schedule to hold a discussion on assembly polls on Monday in its full bench meeting.

Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana are expected to go to polls later this year.
17:01  Modi receives a standing ovation at the BJP meet :   Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the BJP's national council amid chants of 'Bharat mata ki jay.' The PM  receives a standing ovation as he begins his speech.

Modi begins wishing the nation on the eve of Raksha Bandhan.

"Rajnath Singh was the captain of the team that won the elections and Amit Shah was the man of the match," said Modi. "If Shah was not in the national team of the party, the nation would not be aware of his capabilities. I have known him very closely and I am confident that he excel in his role as the party chief." 
16:30  Modi rakes WTO issue at BJP national council :   "There has been a lot of buzz over the WTO issue. We need not worry when the world criticises if we are looking a betterment of the poor," Modi says.

"I am not afraid of bad press on WTO. We won't snatch food from the poor," We choose feeding the poor over publicity. India will not compromise on farmers' interest," he adds.   

India has received a lot of flak for blocking the WTO agreement. India withheld its approval of a pact designed to streamline customs procedures that some economists estimated would save the world economy more than $1 trillion.
16:17  Let us take up one social isssue every year: Modi:  "Let us concentrate on 'rashtraniti' and let people take note that these are BJP members who are working without any elections around the corner. Each year, let us have one social focus. We will go to every home and every village. We will make sure that every home has a toilet. This is that work which is not 'sarkari'," the PM says at the national council.

"Let us take up issues like water conservation, girl education," he says.      
16:12  PM means primary members: Modi:  "The BJP should have 100 to 200 PMs in every poll booth. PM means primary member," says Modi amid laughter. "The party should expand vertically and horizontally and the BJP party man should make progress."       
16:09  The world views us differently after the polls: PM :  "After forming the new government, the world has changed the way it looks at India, it deals with India. If our vision is clear we can take full advantage of this opportunity," he says.
16:06  PM Narendra Modi thanks all party workers for the BJP victory. "After a big win, we will live up to people's expectations."

"Political pundits had a tough time ahead of polls. They wondered if people knew of Modiji outside Gujarat," he says. 

He assures Advani that his advise will be implemented.

"In the polls, the janata has fulfilled its duties, now it is our turn."

"I am new to Delhi. I am not aware of the Parliament premises or the roads of Delhi. But people's verdict has given me confidence."

"A lot of time has gone in clean up and to change the world culture. in 60 days that I have been in power there has been a lot of change. But those who could not usher in change in 60 years are now asking for an account. But I want to assure the nation that we are moving in the right direction. This I say after my 60-day experience."         
15:43  '2014 election victory is outstanding':  "The BJP is a party with a difference and is not hungry for power. The 2014 election victory is outstanding. It is true that the BJP win is historic and verdict in Uttar Pradesh is phenomenal," said L K Advani at the BJP national council.        
15:31  Most organised session of national council: Advani:  Addressing the the national council, BJP patriarch L K Advani said, "It is for the first time I have seen such an organised session. I am pleased to see that literature on government's roadmap being shared among members."

"I had requested Amit Shah that it is the PM who must speak and not I. But he insisted that I should give a speech and I could not disobey our new chief," said Advani amid claps and laughter.             
15:07  Congress opposes appeal by Sikh rights group in 1984 riots case:   The Congress has opposed an appeal filed by a Sikh group that challenged dismissal of the 1984 rights violation case against it, saying the group does not represent the victims and United States courts cannot rule on cases involving an incident that took place in India 30 years ago.

Indian-American attorney Ravi Batra, on behalf of the Congress party, filed opposition yesterday in federal court to the appeal by the Sikh for Justice.

The SFJ had in May challenged the dismissal of the 1984 rights violation case against the Congress party saying that the case "concerns" the US and it has "institutional standing" to seek judgment on behalf of the Sikh community.

Batra said US federal judge Robert Sweet was right to dismiss SFJ's case in April since the rights group is no victim and neither does it represents the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. He argued that US courts must "honour India's sovereignty in a matter that arose 30 years ago in India by and between Indians," and so it must be dealt with in India alone.
14:22  Jaswant Singh fights for life :   Former Bharatiya Janata Party leader Jaswant Singh continues to be on life support systems after he was operated upon for a head injury at the Army Research and Referral Hospital in New Delhi after he had a fall at his residence.

He is under constant monitoring by a team of neurosurgeons and critical care experts at the hospital, an update on his condition issued by the defence ministry said. 

It said the former Union minister's vital parameters are stable but he continues to be in coma.
14:05  'Favouritism' at the top angers Indian Navy officials:  There is anger and dismay among the top brass of the Indian Navy against what is being seen as blatant favouritism in the naval headquarters, reports Nitin Gokhale for NDTV.

The navy HQ has bent its rules to facilitate the promotion of a key aide to the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Robin K Dhowan, allege some officials.

A circular issued a couple of months after Admiral Dhowan took over as the chief of the Indian Navy allows his long-serving Staff Officer Commander Satpal Singh to be promoted to the rank of captain without having served the mandatory time at sea.

In other words, the officer would be able to attain the rank of a captain without having had the experience of commanding a front line ship.

Image: Naval chief Admiral Robin K Dhowan

Read the full report here

13:19  Cong can't even get LoP post, this is no small change: Amit Shah:   Taking on the Congress, Amit Shah said, "The 2014 victory is a mandate against dynasty politics. The 130-yr-old Congress was not able to open its account in 14 states in this election. The Congress cannot even get a Leader of Opposition post; this is not a small change." 
13:12  'Osama' teens assault Sikh man, verbally abuse mother in New York :  Just days after a Sikh man was hitand dragged by a truck, another Sikh man and his mother were attacked in New York by a group of teenagers who called them 'Osama Bin Laden' in an apparent hate crime, sparking fresh outrage among the community members.   

The Sikh man, a physician scientist, said in a statement that he and his mother were attacked in a Queens neighbourhood on the night of August 7.  He said that in accordance with Sikh religious beliefs,both he and his mother wear turbans and maintain uncut hair.   

They were confronted by about 10 teenagers who calledt them "Osama bin Laden and told us to go back to your country."  The teenagers also used derogatory language against the man's mother and made fun of her facial hair.  

The Sikh man told them to stop, but the teenagers surrounded him and punched him in the face and neck. They also tried to throw a bottle at the Sikh man and then fled.
12:34  US airdrops food to civilians stranded on mountain in Iraq:   The United States military today conducted a second airdrop of large quantity of food and water for thousands of refugees trapped on Iraq's Sinjar mountain after fleeing the rampaging militants of the Islamic State.

Conducted from multiple airbases in the region, the airdrop was done by one C-17 and two C-130 cargo aircraft that together dropped a total of 72 bundles of supplies.

The cargo aircraft were escorted by two F/A-18s from the USS George H W Bush, the Pentagon said. The C-17 dropped 40 container delivery system bundles of meals ready to eat and was complemented by a C-130 loaded with an additional 16 bundles totaling 28,224 meals.

In addition, one C-130 dropped 16 bundles totaling 1,522 gallons of fresh drinking water, the statement said.
12:19  Amit Shah called on party men to ensure the BJP's victory in the four state elections --  Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Haryana. He emphasised on the need for a victory in Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir.
11:58  To stay in power for long we need to strengthen our organisation: Amit Shah:  "We have been in power for 75 days, the Congress has left us with a lot of problems. We need to strengthen the party's organisation, otherwise we cannot stay in power for long. Modi government has laid down a roadmap to strengthen the nation."   
11:46  After formally taking charge as the BJP chief, Amit Shah said, "The nation has elected Modi to tackle inflation and bad governance. Modi and Rajnath Singh have led the party to victory in the polls."
11:40  'BJP only party that gives opportunity to ordinary party men' :  Prime Minister Narendra Modi's aide Amit Shah takes charge of the chief of the BJP. Addressing the national council meet he said, "I thank all of you for showing faith in me."

"I began my career as a humble party worker. The BJP is the only party that gives opportunity to ordinary party men. My elevation is the victory of every party worker."

"BJP is moving ahead as a party that represents the interest of the poor. None of our leaders have come from dynasties. Rajnath Singh and Narendra Modi let us to victory in the polls."       
11:14  Amit Shah is deal for top job in BJP: Rajnath :  At the national council meet of the BJP, Rajnath Singh hands over the party baton to the new chief Amit Shah.  

Top BJP leaders from across the country are currently holding a meet at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

"I am handing over the party president's post to Amit Shah. He is ideal for the top job. His devotion to the party cannot be question. He is the only person who could deliver a victory for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh," said Rajnath.  

"The credit for BJP's goes to party workers and our PM. BJP is the only non-Congress party to get a clearly majority. It has become India's largest party," he added. 

The session will conclude with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address.
10:47  US military operation in Iraq limited in scope, duration: Obama:  The American military operation in parts of Iraq against the Islamic State terrorists is "limited in scope and duration", US President Barack Obama has informed the Congress.

In a letter to John Boehner, speaker of the US House of Representatives, on War Powers Resolution regarding Iraq, Obama said he has authorised the armed forces to conduct targeted airstrikes in Iraq.

"These military operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to protect American personnel in Iraq by stopping the current advance on Erbil by the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria and to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there," he said.
10:33  Rahul's remarks on communal violence sparks a row :   Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi comments on communal violence have sparked a ward of words. "Communal riots in Uttar Pradesh are incited deliberately," Rahul said yesterday.

In comments made to a newspaper, the Congress leader said that the communal clashes in the state, ruled by the Samajwadi Party, were part of a deliberate strategy to "divide the poor and pit brother against brother".

The Bharatiya Janata Party slammed Gandhi scion today saying, "Rahul should introspect and decide the direction of his party."   

BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, "He should stop using his secularism formula. "People have rejected them (Congress) and he is still not able to understand," he added.
09:33  BJP national council meets today to confirm Amit Shah as party chief:  Top BJP leaders from across the country will meet in New Delhi today for a day-long meeting of the party's national council to ratify the appointment of party President Amit Shah.

The session, to be held at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, will start with Mr Shah's ratification as the new party chief and conclude with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address.

The national council will also adopt a political resolution that will focus on the political and economic issues as well as the initiatives taken by the BJP-led NDA government and its roadmap ahead.

09:32  Pak violates ceasefire along LoC in Poonch:  Pakistani troops have targeted Indian forward posts with small arms and automatic weapons along the Line of Control in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir, prompting Indian forces to retaliate.

"Pakistani troops opened unprovoked firing from small arms and automatic weapons at our forward posts in Bhimbher Gali sub-sector in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir around 22.30 hours yesterday," PRO Defence Lt Col Manish Mehta said.

The Indian Army troops took positions and responded with equal caliber weapons to Pakistan's firing which resulted in intermittent exchanges of fire, he said. "There was no loss of life or damage to property in the firing on this side of LoC," Lt Col Mehta said.

It was second ceasefire violation by Pakistan this month.
09:30  US jets attack militants in Iraq:  United States fighter jets and drones repeatedly bombed Sunni Islamic extremists in northern Iraq, targeting what officials described as ISIS artillery units and convoys advancing on the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil.

The airstrikes ramped up America's involvement in Iraq where ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State, is seizing control of towns and key infrastructure in an advance that has forced hundreds of thousands to run for their lives, reports CNN
03:57  Now Turkish PM brands journalist as 'shameless woman':  
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan today faced a new outcry over his attitude to the media and women after he branded a prominent female journalist a "shameless woman" and told her "to know your place". 

Just ahead of Sunday's presidential election which he is clear favourite to win, Erdogan savaged Amberin Zaman, who writes for the Economist and the Turkish daily Taraf, over comments she made in a television debate. 

She had asked the main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the debate whether any Muslim society was capable of challenging its authorities. 

Erdogan lashed out at Zaman, without mentioning her directly by name, at an election rally in the eastern city of Malatya yesterday, calling her a "shameless woman". 

"A militant in the guise of a journalist, a shameless woman... Know your place!" he declared. 

"They gave you a pen and you are writing a column in a newspaper... and you insult a society that is 99 percent Muslim," he said, drawing loud boos from the crowd. 

This is not the first time Erdogan has lashed out at journalists, who have come under increasing pressure in Turkey, which has more reporters behind bars than any other country in the world.

Days ago, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc had caused a furore by suggesting women should not laugh loudly in public
03:53  Iraq official: Militants hold 100s of Yazidi women:  
Hundreds of women from the Yazidi religious minority have been taken captive by Sunni militants with "vicious plans," an Iraqi official has said, further underscoring the dire plight of Iraq's minorities at the hands of the Islamic State group.

Kamil Amin, the spokesman for Iraq's Human Rights Ministry, said yesterday hundreds of Yazidi women below the age of 35 are being held in schools in Iraq's second largest city, Mosul. He said the ministry learned of the captives from their families.

"We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them," Amin told The Associated Press. "We think that these women are going to be used in demeaning ways by those terrorists to satisfy their animalistic urges in a way that contradicts all the human and Islamic values."

The US has confirmed that the Islamic State group has kidnapped and imprisoned Yazidi women so that they can be sold or married off to extremist fighters, said a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information came from classified intelligence reports. 

There was no solid estimate of the number of women victimized, the official said. 

Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled when the Islamic State group earlier this month captured the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Syrian border. The Yazidis practice an ancient religion that the Sunni Muslim radicals consider heretical.
03:52  Al Qaeda executes 15 Yemen soldiers: military:  
Al Qaeda militants have abducted and executed 15 Yemeni soldiers in the southeastern province of Hadramawt, a military official said. 

The latest bloodshed comes a day after 11 suspected Al Qaeda militants and four Yemeni soldiers were killed Thursday in attacks on two army posts in the restive province. 

The soldiers were in a bus when they were ambushed "by an Al Qaeda commando" near the town of Shibam, said the official yesterday, adding that the men were taken to the nearby village of Huta and executed.

The men were on leave when they came under attack, the official said, adding that the army had sent reinforcements to Huta in search of the perpetrators. 

Yesterday's attack is the latest in a line of assaults on the army in the Hadramawt region.

On Wednesday, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for many attacks on the army in the south and southeast of Yemen that have killed 20 soldiers. 

AQAP is considered by Washington as the most dangerous affiliate of the jihadist network.
03:51  Nigeria declares national emergency over Ebola:  
Nigeria's president has declared the containment of the Ebola virus in Africa's most populous nation a national emergency, his office has said in a statement, after the health ministry announced two more confirmed cases.

The relevant agencies must ensure that all possible steps are taken "to effectively contain the threat of the Ebola virus in line with international protocols and best practices," President Goodluck Jonathan said in the statement released by his office yesterday. 

Nigeria's Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said today the total confirmed cases have risen to 9, including a nurse and
the Liberian-American man who died in Lagos. All the confirmed cases had primary contact with Patrick Sawyer, mostly at the
hospital before he died, the ministry said. 

Sawyer flew into Lagos last month, collapsed at the airport and died of the disease at a hospital in Lagos five days later.
Jonathan also approved the release of 1.9 billion naira (USD 11.7 million) to contain the disease through an intervention plan. The plan includes establishing additional isolation centers, screening at borders and deploying more personnel, his spokesman said.

He also asked schools to consider extending the current school holiday until there is a national reassessment of the level of threat Ebola poses in Nigeria.
00:26  4,000 Maharashtra doctors to go on indefinite strike today:  
Around 4,000 doctors across Maharashtra have decided to go on an indefinite strike from today to protest against "failure" of state government to fulfil the "long pending" demands of the resident doctors. 

"We have been requesting the state government to fulfil our valid demands regarding bond service from a very long time. Despite regular follow ups, the government has failed to meet our demands. This is why, we have decided to go on an indefinite strike from Saturday with a hope that this will opens the eyes of the state government," Medical Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) president Dr Santosh Wakchaure told PTI.

All 14 government colleges in Maharashtra and three civic-run hospitals in Mumbai will take part in this protest. 

He said that the state government should ensure that proper bond service strategies were implemented.

"We want proper work schedule for our doctors. We also want the government to provide speciality service mechanisms in government hospitals so that every patient can be treated," he said. 

He demanded that senior resident posts should be created for non-clinical and para-clinical branches and they should be considered in the bonded service. 

"We have also demanded a special medical officer post for all branches and people from the other backward class (OBC),
scheduled caste (SC) and scheduled tribe (ST) should be given treatment free of cost," Wakchaure said.
00:20  British Airways suspends flights over Iraq:  
British Airways today suspended flights over Iraq as the US launched air strikes against Islamic militants fighting in the north of the country. 

A spokesman for Britain's flagship carrier said it was "temporarily suspending our flights over Iraq". 

But BA said services that use the route, mainly to Doha and Dubai, would not be cancelled or disrupted because alternative routes would be found. 

Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA parent group International Airlines Group, last week pledged to keep flying over Iraq despite mounting concerns over commercial flight paths in the wake of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine. 

The airline said then it did not believe the conflict in Iraq between government forces and jihadist group Islamic State (IS) posed the same threat to commercial airliners. 

But it took its decision to suspend flights after the Federal Aviation Administration banned all US civilian flights over Iraq today, just hours after Washington ordered air strikes on fighters in Kurdistan.
00:19  FAA bans US civilian flights over Iraq:  
The Federal Aviation Administration today banned all US civilian flights over Iraq, just hours after air strikes ordered by Washington on Islamist fighters.

In a Notice to Airmen, the FAA cited the "potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict" between Islamic State militants and Iraqi security forces and their allies as the reason for the indefinite ban. 

The ban extends to "all US air carriers and commercial operators," as well as US-licensed pilots unless they are flying aircraft registered in the United States for a foreign operator. 

Northern and eastern Iraq lie on the flight path for several non-American long-haul carriers operating between Europe, the Middle East and Asia, according to online flight tracking services. 

Concern about civilian flights over conflict zones soared after the July 17 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur above an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatist rebels. 

Turkish Airlines, one of the key foreign carriers flying to Iraq, said it had halted flights to the main city of Iraq's Kurdish region for security reasons amid the Islamist offensive.

"Our flights to Arbil are being cancelled for security reasons until further notice," the airline said in a statement.
00:19  Ukraine border battles leave 15 dead as sanctions war heats up:  
Fierce battles on Ukraine's porous eastern border left 15 government troops dead as fears of a possible Russian invasion swirled today despite NATO urging Moscow to withdraw its troops along the frontier. 

International tensions also rose as Western countries slammed a Russian food embargo imposed as revenge for sanctions slapped on Moscow over its backing for insurgents in Ukraine.

The renewed violence came after NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned Moscow to "pull back from the brink" and as Western countries warned that Russia could be preparing to send troops across the border in the guise of a humanitarian mission.

Russian President Vladimir Putin today met with his national security council to discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine, especially the "massive humanitarian catastrophe" in the region. 

Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev vowed that Moscow was trying its best "to de-escalate tensions", but Kiev said its positions continued to come under fire from Russian territory. 

Ukraine's military said seven soldiers and eight border guards were killed over the past 24 hours as a bloody three-day battle with pro-Russian rebels forced several government units to retreat from the border in the southeast of the war-torn Lugansk region.
00:02  Top headlines at this hour::  Meerut gangrape victim confusing cops?

Intelligence officer commits suicide

Pak may soon grant MFN status to India 

Rain halts England's progress at Old Trafford

More power for women's panel? Law ministry has issues

Our son is not alive, don't dig and damage our land: Parents of borewell victim

Govt to repeal 36 archaic laws following Modi's directive

Not joining politics; stop baseless rumours: Priyanka

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