Damascus car bombing attacks leave 20 dead

The authorities said it was one of three car bombs that were meant to be blown up in crowded areas of the capital on Sunday, the first day back to work from the Eid al-Fitr holiday.


Security forces pursued and destroyed the other two.

Officials said the bombers had been prevented from reaching their intended targets, otherwise the casualty toll would have been higher.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Damascus was hit by two separate, multiple suicide bomb attacks in March, one of them claimed by Islamic State and the other by the Islamist insurgent alliance Tahrir al-Sham.

A Syrian boy stands next to the cordoned off area at the site of a suicide bomb attack in the capital Damascus’ eastern Tahrir Square district, July 2, 2017. AFP

In a letter to the UN secretary general and the head of the security council, the foreign ministry said the blast that killed 20 people in the Bab Touma area near the Old City had also wounded dozens of women and children.

State media said the bomber had been spotted and pursued by the security forces and set off the bomb after he had been encircled in the area.

Damascus has enjoyed relative security in recent years even as the six-year-long civil war has raged on in nearby areas.

Footage broadcast by state TV from the blast that caused the fatalities near the Old City showed roads scattered with debris, several badly damaged cars, and another one that had been turned into a pile of twisted metal.

Footage from another of the blast sites showed what appeared to be the remains of a person and badly damaged vehicles outside a mosque in the Baytara traffic circle near the Old City.


On March 15, two suicide bomb attacks in Damascus killed several dozen people, most of them at the Palace of Justice courthouse near the Old City. Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack.

On March 11, a double suicide attack in the capital killed scores of people, most of them Iraqi Shi’ite pilgrims. That attack was claimed by the Tahrir al-Sham alliance of Islamist insurgents, which is spearheaded by a jihadist group formerly known as the Nusra Front.

Syrian government forces, which have defeated rebel fighters in several suburbs of Damascus over the last year, are currently battling insurgents in the Jobar and Ain Tarma areas on the capital’s eastern outskirts.

A rebel group accused the army of using chlorine gas in the fighting on Saturday. The army denied the claim as fabrications.

UK SAS accused of killing unarmed civilians in Afghanistan

Claims that “rogue” Special Air Service (SAS) soldiers killed unarmed Afghan civilians in cold blood and attempted to cover up the evidence should be probed in an independent inquiry, British Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn says.


He said there was a risk the British armed forces’ reputation for decency and bravery would be undermined unless the claims in the Sunday Times were investigated.

According to the newspaper, which quoted senior military police and defence sources, there is “strong evidence” SAS personnel killed rather than captured unarmed Afghan civilians who were suspected of being Taliban insurgents during night raids on their homes.

The allegations emerged in Operation Northmoor, a Royal Military Police (RMP) investigation, the Sunday Times reported.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the RMP found no evidence of criminal behaviour by British armed forces in Afghanistan to date.

In February, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon announced 90 per cent of the probe’s misconduct cases involving British troops who served in Afghanistan were to be dropped, amid controversy over a discredited probe into Iraq war veterans.

Commenting on the claims, Corbyn said: “The allegations of unlawful killings and war crimes in Afghanistan are extremely serious and must be fully investigated.

“Our armed forces have a reputation for decency and bravery. If we do not act on such shocking allegations we risk undermining that reputation, our security at home and the safety of those serving in the armed forces abroad.”

Corbyn said there could be no question of a cover-up and the government must establish an independent inquiry into the claims.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the Royal Military Police had found no evidence of criminal behaviour by the armed forces in Afghanistan but where allegations were raised it was right they were investigated.

Pope expresses sympathy for baby Charlie

Pope Francis has expressed sympathy for the parents of Charlie Gard, a 10-month-old infant in Britain with irreversible brain damage who will be taken off life support in the coming days after his parents lost a legal battle over his treatment.


“The Holy Father follows with affection and emotion the case of baby Charlie Gard,” Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said.

“He prays for (Charlie’s parents), wishing that their desire to accompany and care for their own child until the end will be respected,” Burke said.

Chris Gard and Connie Yates were prevented by doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London from taking the infant, widely known as Baby Charlie, to a therapy trial in the US. Their son suffers from a rare genetic condition that causes progressive muscle weakness and brain damage.

Specialists at the hospital had said the therapy proposed by a US doctor is experimental and will not help, and that life support for the child should be stopped.

Britain’s Supreme Court had upheld lower court judgements saying that the infant’s life support should be ended so that he could die with dignity.

On Friday, the hospital granted the infant extra time on life support but is expected to turn off life-sustaining treatment in the coming days.

On Friday a picture of the couple sleeping on either side of their son in hospital was posted on their Twitter account alongside the hashtags #jesuisCharlieGard #charliesfight #letcharliegohome.

They said they had been denied their final wish to be able to take their son home to die and felt “let down” after losing their legal fight.

Charlie’s plight has touched many people and the family received donations totalling more than GBP1.3 million ($A2.2 million) to take him to the US for therapy.

Windies surprise India in fourth ODI

The West Indies could yet salvage a draw in their one-day series against India following a thrilling 11-run win in the fourth international in Antigua.


India appeared on course for a third straight win after restricting their hosts to 9-189, but the Windies fought back to bowl the tourists out for 178.

They now trail 2-1 in the five-match series with one remaining.

West Indies pace bowler and skipper Jason Holder took 5-27 as India, who required 20 from the final 20 balls, lost their last four wickets for 19 runs.

MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja appeared to be in control with their side 6-173 in the 48th over.

But Holder had Jadeja caught by Rovman Powell for 11 and for the addition of four more runs Dhoni was caught by Alzarri Joseph off Kesrick Williams for 54.

Holder then skittled out Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami as India fell short.

“Extremely pleased with the guys,” Man-of-the-Match Holder said in an on-field interview.

“It took a big effort. Credit must go to all the bowlers (and) I thought the fielding was very supportive. We knew we could beat India. Just needed some application.”

Earlier, India’s Umesh Yadav (3-36), Hardik Pandya (3-40) and Kuldeep Yadav (2-31) did most to keep the hosts’ batsmen under wraps.

West Indies openers Evin Lewis and Kyle Hope top-scored after both made 35, but wickets fell at regular intervals.

India’s Virat Kohli said they bowled really well but lamented his team’s batting.

“Our shot selection wasn’t up to the mark. It felt a bit two-paced. Apart from that I don’t think there was anything else in the pitch.

“With the bat we faltered and that can happen in this game. We just have to put this behind us and come back fresh for the next game.”

After the first game was abandoned, India won the second and third ODIs by 105 and 93 runs respectively and now head to Jamaica for the final match on July 6.

Iraq battles last of IS fighters in Old Mosul

More than eight months since the operation to retake Mosul was launched, IS has gone from fully controlling the city to holding a few neighbourhoods on its western side.


“The number is… more or less 300 fighters, most of them of European nationalities, Arabs of other nationalities or of Asian origin,” said Staff Brigadier General Nabil al-Fatlawi, a commander in the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS).

“We are not able to specify when the battles will end because of the narrow type of streets in the Old City and also the presence of civilian detainees,” Fatlawi said, referring to residents being used as human shields by IS.

“But I can say within days,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command announced CTS forces had recaptured the Makawi area of the Old City, in a further blow at the heart of the jihadists’ cross-border “caliphate”.


Iraqi forces have been closing in on the Old City for months, but its narrow streets and closely spaced buildings combined with a large civilian population made for an extremely difficult fight.

Security forces recaptured a series of nearby districts, cornering the jihadists, and launched an assault inside the Old City on June 18.

They have since made significant progress.

On Saturday, officers announced the recapture of a hospital and its surroundings north of the Old City, removing a nearby but unconnected pocket of IS resistance.

Interior ministry forces recaptured the Ibn Sina hospital along with other medical facilities including a blood bank and a clinic, said Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah.

IS has occupied several of Mosul’s hospitals during the battle for the city.

Some security personnel have complained that restrictions on using heavy weapons against hospitals, intended to protect the facilities, have made operations riskier and more time-consuming.

Suicide bombing kills 14

Federal police chief Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat said the area around the hospital, Al-Shifaa, had been completely retaken, limiting IS’s presence in Mosul to the Old City.

“Our forces are advancing from three sides and are pursuing the terrorist groups in the few remaining areas of the Old City,” said Jawdat.

On Thursday, Iraqi forces retook the remains of the Grand Mosque of al-Nuri in their greatest symbolic victory since the battle began.

IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave a triumphal sermon at the mosque after the jihadists captured Mosul in 2014, calling on Muslims to obey him.

The mosque thus became a symbol of Baghdadi’s rule and IS’s “caliphate”.

The jihadists made sure that the Nuri mosque was not captured intact, blowing it up as Iraqi forces closed in, along with its famed leaning minaret — known affectionately as “Al-Hadba” (The Hunchback).

Even though it lies in ruins, the mosque’s recapture has provided a boost to Iraq’s forces and its government. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the jihadists’ “caliphate” was coming to an end.

The next day, a senior Iraqi commander said victory in Mosul would be declared within the “next few days”.

0:00 Iraqi army blames IS for Mosul mosque destruction Share Iraqi army blames IS for Mosul mosque destruction

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led coalition air strikes have since regained much of the territory they lost.

The recapture of Mosul will not however mark the end of the war against IS.

The jihadist group holds territory elsewhere in Iraq as well as in neighbouring Syria, and has been able to carry out attacks in government-held areas.

The jihadist group has also inspired “lone wolf” attacks overseas.

Highlighting the major security challenges Iraq will face after Mosul, a suicide bomber attacked a camp for displaced people west of Baghdad on Sunday, killing 14 people and wounding 13, a police major and a doctor said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in Anbar province, but IS frequently carries out suicide bombings against civilians in Iraq.

The camp is located west of Ramadi, a city that was recaptured from IS along with Fallujah and other parts of Anbar province, but IS still controls areas closer to the Syrian border and carries out attacks in government-held territory.