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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Friday, May 25, 2018

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Iraqi airstrikes on ISIS kill civilians as group beheads second Lebanese soldier

The attack on Hawija, near Kirkuk city, was part of a series of raids

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BEIRUT, Lebanon - The Iraqi air force carried out airstrikes on ISIS in Hawija, a northern town controlled by the Islamic militant group on Saturday, killing seven patients and wounding 22 others, including children, according to local reports.

The attack on Hawija, near Kirkuk city, was part of a series of raids by the air force in the area, aimed at pushing back ISIS, which has taken control of large areas of Syria and Iraq in recent months and declared its own 'Islamic State'.

They have been pushed back from some areas with the help of US air strikes, aiding Iraq's army and Kurdish forces and while civilian deaths are difficult to quantify due to the unreliable nature of local reports, Saturday's strike seemed to be the worst yet in terms of collateral damage.

The air strikes by the Iraqi government came as ISIS on Saturday published on Twitter a series of images allegedly showing the beheading of a Lebanese soldier who was among a group of 19 soldiers missing since the attack on the Lebanese border town of Arsal last month.

The beheading is believed to be the second killing of a captive Lebanese soldier since the militant group took the town in August. The solider was named by the group as Abbas Medlij, but the Lebanese military has yet to confirm his identity.

The ISIS group routinely beheads captives it deems to be enemies and recently killed two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff in the same manner.

ISIS is demanding the release of Islamist prisoners held at a Lebanese jail. A number of Lebanese policemen are also being held by the group following the Arsal incursion, which was the most serious spillover to date of the Syrian civil war into Lebanon.

The incursion triggered a five-day battle with the Lebanese army that left several militants and soldiers dead.

Saturday's beheading came after US President Obama on Friday announced that the United States is assembling an alliance to fight the group in neighboring Iraq. The US president said following a NATO summit in Wales that key members of the alliance would help in the destruction of ISIS.

Also Sunday, Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq recaptured the strategically important Mount Zartak, which overlooks Iraq's second-largest city Mosul, which fell to ISIS militants in June. More than 30 ISIS fighters were reportedly killed in the short, sharp attack Saturday.

Although the mountain is a key strategic location as a staging ground for any attempt to recapture Mosul, Kurdish forces have indicated they do not intend to do so on their own.

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