Fallujah city centre completely under control of forces linked to al-Qaeda
THE city centre of Fallujah has fallen completely into the hands of fighters from the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), the head of police in Iraq's Anbar province said.
Hadi Razeij, head of the Anbar police force, said police had left the city centre entirely and had positioned themselves on the edge of town.
He said on Arabic language broadcaster al-Arabiya: "The walls of the city are in the hands of the police force, but the people of Fallujah are the prisoners of ISIL."
Fallujah, along with nearby provincial capital Ramadi, were strongholds of Sunni insurgents during the US-led war. Al-Qaeda militants largely took them over earlier this week.
The escalating tension shows that the civil war in Syria, where mostly Sunni rebels are battling President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Shia power Iran, is spilling over to other countries like Iraq, threatening its delicate sectarian balance.
SCHUMACHER FAMILY HAND OVER CAMERA
A camera that Michael Schumacher was wearing on his helmet when he was injured in a skiing accident has been handed to authorities, the Formula One champion's manager said. The racing driver, who suffered a severe head injury while skiing off-piste in the resort of Meribel in France last Sunday, remains in an artificially induced coma.
He is in a critical but stable condition and it is believed his life was saved by his skiing helmet, which split on impact. Schumacher turned 45 on Friday, with his family saying they were "overwhelmed" by the support of fans who gathered at the Grenoble hospital to mark the occasion.
Sabine Kehm said in a statement that investigators had been given the camera by relatives, dismissing speculation that this was against their wishes. Comment: Page 30
PILOT TELLS OF 'NEAR MISS' WITH 'UFO'
An airline pilot has reported a near miss with a "rugby ball-shaped" UFO that passed within a few feet of his passenger jet near Heathrow Airport in London.
He told aviation authorities investigating the incident last July that he was certain the object was going to crash into his aircraft and that he ducked as it headed towards him. They have been unable to establish the identity of the mysterious craft, which apparently approached the airliner at great speed.
The incident occurred while the Airbus A320 was cruising at 34,000ft, around 20 miles west of the airport.
KERRY HOPES FOR CONFLICT BREAKTHROUGH
JOHN Kerry, the US secretary of state, is engaged in intense efforts this weekend to coax reluctant Israeli and Palestinian leaders towards an agreement to end their decades-old conflict.
He is shuttling between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah for a series of separate meetings with the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. His 10th trip to the region since March takes place as Israel braces itself for the death of former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who is suffering multiple organ failure after being in a coma for eight years.
TERROR GROUP LEADER DIES IN CUSTODY
THE leader of an al-Qaeda-linked group that conducted attacks across the Middle East before shifting its focus to Syria's civil war died yesterday while in custody in Lebanon, a senior army officer and the state news agency said. The detainee, Majid al-Majid, died after suffering kidney failure, a Lebanese army general said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
State-run National News Agency said al-Majid died "after his health conditions deteriorated". The NNA report and the general did not provide other details.
TWO ICEBREAKERS REMAIN TRAPPED
An Australian icebreaker carrying 52 passengers who were retrieved from an icebound ship in the Antarctic resumed its journey home yesterday, leaving behind another two icebreakers trapped in pack ice.
It had been slowly cracking through thick ice toward open water after a Chinese ship's helicopter on Thursday plucked passengers from a stranded Russian research ship and carried them to an ice floe near the Australian ship.
But on Friday afternoon, the crew of the Chinese icebreaker that had provided the helicopter said they were worried about their own ship's ability to move through the ice. Yesterday, officials said the Aurora was allowed to continue and that the Chinese ship was safe and not in need of assistance.