Friday, May 20, 2016

Islamic State blows up gas plant in Iraq

Islamic State (IS) militants launched a deadly attack on a natural gas plant in a factory complex at Taji about 20 kilometers north of Baghdad.

The plant is quite close to a military base where New Zealand and Australian forces are located. Up to 143 New Zealand personnel have been sent to Iraq. The group is part of a two-year non-combat mission. It works together with Australian Defence Force troops to train the Iraqi military and security forces. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key had visited the base in 2015. He said at the time that troops are not allowed outside the base, which has heavy security.
The IS fighters blew up suicide car bombs outside the gate to the factory complex and then at least six wearing explosive suicide vests moved inside the complex. They then blew themselves up, causing huge explosions. At least 14 people were killed, also causing extensive economic damage. Twenty-seven troops were reported wounded in the attack. An IS-affiliated news agency said that a group of "Caliphate soldiers carried out the attack. The plant provides fuel for power plants and also cooking gas for many in Baghdad. The IS has been launching a number of car bomb attacks in and around Baghdad among other places. The attack was just one of several attacks that happened on Sunday killing 29 people. Another source puts the number killed on Sunday at 71 with 88 wounded.
The Shi’ite-led government of PM Haider al-Abadi is shutting down or curtailing media outlets popular with Sunni Iraqis. The reasoning is that the outlets could inflame sectarian feelings and result in bloodshed. Among the targets of the campaign were the local office of al-Jazeera and TV channel al-Baghdadia. The Islamic State has lost a considerable amount of territory it used to control in Iraq but still controls large areas of the north and west including the major city of Mosul.
PM al-Abadi is facing a political crisis as he has so far unsuccessfully tried to meet the demands of protesters for reform. He has been unable to convince the parliament to accept a list of technocrats as a cabinet. Many in the parliament want to retain the corrupt system giving parties and sectarian groups key positions in order to support the government. The protesters are led by Muqtada al-Sadr and not long ago they broke into the Green Zone and stormed the parliament. Al-Abadi claimed that the political dispute helped militants:"The political conflict among politicians and their impact on the brave security forces permits acts of terrorism to occur." He dismissed the idea that rival political parties were behind the violence and blamed it squarely on the Islamic State.


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