For the first time since the Islamic State seized most of the Nineveh province in northern Iraq over the summer, a Christian mass was successfully held at a church in a small Iraqi village nearly 20 miles north of the ISIS stronghold of Mosul this past Sunday, Iraqi News reports indicate.
Although reports coming from Iraqi news outlets originally said that the mass was held at the Mar Yacob Church in the Christian village of Telskuf, Father Paulus Thabit Makku, a Chaldean priest in Mosul, told Fides News that the Eucharist was held at the only other church in Telskuf, Saint Georges Chaldean church.
"We celebrated the Eucharist this Sunday in one of the Nineveh province's villages – the first time since locals were forced out last August by ISIS jihadists," Father Makku said. more >>
ISIS released a video Sunday of the beheading of who it claims is 26-year-old American aid worker Peter Kassig. The video was after the beheading and it is unclear through the video if the body is that of Kassig or not.
While still authenticating the video, the White House and British Prime Minister David Cameron have quickly responded with statements condemning the gruesome murder.
"The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine (the video's) authenticity. If confirmed, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American aid worker and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends," said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan. more >>
Terror group ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is reportedly alive and has posted a new audio message where he's said that the jihadis will "not stop fighting" against the U.S.-led coalition powers. Al-Baghdadi was believed to have been wounded in an airstrike on a convoy of militants in Iraq last week.
"Even if only one soldier of them remained, they will never abandon fighting, because they defy humiliation and injustice," the voice in the audio recording says. "They will never abandon fighting, because they did not taste honor and dignity except by fighting. They will never abandon fighting. Indeed, they are triumphant. They will be triumphant even if only one man of them is left. They are triumphant and upon certainty of Allah's support for them."
CNN reported that the 17-minute audio message was spread around ISIS social media websites, but it can't be established with certainty if the man speaking who identified himself as al-Baghdadi is indeed the ISIS leader, or when the message was recorded. more >>
Iraqi military officials said Tuesday that Iraqi forces have retaken control of the government headquarters and nearly three-quarters of the strategic oil town of Beiji, which is located about 155 miles north of Baghdad and houses Iraq's largest oil refinery.
However, it is unclear as to whether the Iraqi soldiers have yet retaken control of the the oil refinery, which was captured by ISIS militants over five months ago and lies on the outskirts of the town. The refinery accounts for nearly one-quarter of Iraq's oil and has the estimated capacity of producing 320,000 barrels of oil each day.
Al Jazeera reports that retaking control of the town will be key for Iraqi forces to establish a base to attack neighboring town of Tikrit, which was another town captured by ISIS fighters this past summer. more >>
President Barack Obama revealed that the war on terror group ISIS is entering a "new phase" that will involve Iraqi ground troops pushing back against the jihadists, who have captured several cities across Iraq and Syria. The president insisted that the 1,500 additional American troops sent to Iraq will only assist local soldiers and will not engage in combat, however.
"Rather than just try to halt ISIL's momentum, we're now in a position to start going on some offense. The airstrikes have been very effective in degrading ISIL's capabilities and slowing the advance that they were making. Now what we need is ground troops, Iraqi ground troops, that can start pushing them back," Obama told CBS' News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer on Sunday.
"What hasn't changed is our troops are not going to be engaged in combat." more >>
Iraqi officials said Sunday that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS or Islamic State terror group, was wounded in a U.S.-led airstrike on a convoy of militants in Iraq, and a security strategist said the attack killed his close aide.
While Pentagon officials said they cannot confirm whether al-Baghdadi was in the convoy that was targeted, Iraq's Defense and Interior Ministries issued statements saying the ISIS leader had been wounded, according to The Associated Press.
An Iraqi Interior Ministry intelligence official also cited informants within the terror group as saying that the ISIS leader was hit in the town of Qaim in Iraq's western Anbar province. more >>