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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Iranian General Helped Iraq's Kurds Battle IS Group

The following excerpts are from

TEHRAN (AP) -- A top Iranian general and 70 of his forces were on the ground in Iraq this summer, helping Kurdish fighters defend the regional capital Irbil against Islamic State militants, a senior commander from Iran's Revolutionary Guard said Wednesday.

The commander's remarks appeared to confirm for the first time that Iranian military forces are playing a battlefield role alongside Iraqis against the Islamic State extremist group, though it was not clear whether they were involved in combat or merely serving as advisers. Iran has said it provides advice to Iraq's government but has denied sending combatants or weapons.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who runs the Guard's aerospace division, said top Gen. Ghasem Soleimani was instrumental in preventing the fall of Irbil.

"If it were not for Iran's help, the IS would have captured (Iraq's) Kurdistan," he said on state television late Tuesday. "Our respected General... Soleimani stood up to IS with only 70 forces and did not allow them to enter Irbil."

The Islamic State militants approached the outskirts of Irbil in August, prompting the United States to launch airstrikes that helped Kurdish forces drive them back.

Soleimani has since 1997 been head of the Quds Force, a division of the elite Revolutionary Guard that carries out special operations outside Iran. He is believed to have played a key role in mobilizing Iranian allies across the region, including the Lebanese Hezbollah group and Shiite militias in Iraq.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, has reportedly described Soleimani as a "living martyr" in recognition of his work.

Although Iran and the United States share a common enemy in the Islamic State group, a deep-seated lack of trust has so far kept the longtime foes from publicly allying against the extremists.

While the U.S. has led air strikes against Islamic State militants, Iran is believed to have played a key role on the ground mobilizing Iraqi Kurdish and Shiite forces, including for last month's retaking of the northern Iraqi city of Amirli , which had been besieged by Islamic State militants for more than two months.

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Iranian General Helped Iraq's Kurds Battle IS Group

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Kidnapping of Christians in Egypt Has Become Endemic

"Coptic cross" by Sagredo - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

The following excerpts are from

Wadi Ramsis, a Coptic doctor who was kidnapped in Sinai two months ago was released Monday after "payment of large sums of [ransom] money," said authorities.

Targeting Copts--especially professionals, who can afford to pay, or children, whose parents become desperate to pay--is becoming endemic to Egypt.

In May, five "unidentified persons" kidnapped a Coptic Christian pharmacy owner at gunpoint in Sohag, Upper Egypt. Soon after Friday mosque prayers, a car pulled up in front of the pharmacy and opened fire on it before the assailants raided it and drove off with the kidnapped owner, one Mr. Marcos, a 52-year-old Copt, at gunpoint.

In April, Isaac Eli--another Coptic man--was abducted under threat of gunfire by four "unknown persons" armed with automatic weapons. They came upon the Coptic wood merchant while he was working in front of his home, coerced him into their car, and sped away. Later, one of his relatives received a phone call demanding a hefty ransom to release the Christian man: 500,000 Egyptian pounds.

In late March, Shenouda Riad Musa, a Coptic Christian man, was kidnapped by "unknown persons" who later called his family demanding one million Egyptian pounds for his release, roughly the equivalent of $150,000 USD, an exorbitant sum in Egypt.

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Kidnapping of Christians in Egypt Has Become Endemic