Iraqi army and militia launch strike to reclaim Ramadi from Islamic State
SHIA militias began preparing yesterday to retake the Iraqi city of Ramadi, in what is likely to be one of their biggest battles with Isil militants. A week after the Iraqi army was routed from the city in a ferocious Isil onslaught, convoys of Shia militia volunteers in the nearby town of Habbaniya headed back to Ramadi's outskirts to assault the extremists' positions.
The move to wrest Ramadi back into government control is vital to stop Isil using it as a launch pad to attack Baghdad, just an hour's drive further east. That the Iraqi government has been forced to rely on Shia militias for the task is yet another sign of the weakness of its US-trained army, despite the support of American air power and military advisers reposted to Baghdad last year.
Security officials said the operation to retake Ramadi began early yesterday when the flyblown town of Husaybah, four miles away, was reclaimed. "The Husaybah area is now under full control and the forces are advancing," a police colonel said. The US military said it had also carried out four airstrikes around Ramadi, where the Isil flag now hangs from government buildings.
43 killed in Mexican cartel gun battle
At least 43 people died in a three-hour shoot-out at a Mexican ranch on Friday as security forces fought cartel members, in one of the drug war's bloodiest gun battles of recent years. Only one federal police officer was killed in the operation against the New Generation gang, which is blamed for a wave of violence in the south west of Mexico.
Authorities said they launched the latest operation after learning that armed criminals were occupying the ranch in Tanhuato, Michoacan state. Monte Alejandro Rubido, Mexico's national security -commissioner, said: "Up to now, we have counted 42 suspected criminals killed and three more detained."
Court clears US shooting-case cop
A white Cleveland patrolman, who fired down through the windshield of a suspect's car at the end of a 137-shot barrage by police that left the two unarmed black occupants dead, was acquitted yesterday of criminal charges by a judge who said he could not determine the officer alone fired the fatal shots. Michael Brelo (31), put his head in his hands as the judge issued a verdict that prompted an angry response outside the courthouse.
Before issuing his verdict, the judge noted the recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore over the deaths of black suspects but said he would not "sacrifice" Brelo to an angry public if the evidence did not merit a conviction.
Woman celebrates her 116th birthday
A US woman celebrated her 116th birthday yesterday. Jeralean Talley of Inkster, Michigan, doesn't have a formula for longevity. She told the Detroit Free Press: "There's nothing I can do about it." The Gerontology Research Group considers Talley to be the oldest person in the world, followed by Susannah Jones of New York state, who turns 116 in July.
Money pours in for hanged dog
More than $20,000 has poured in for an Arizona dog found hanging from a tree more than a week ago but is now recovering in a foster home.
José Ocaño, director of shelter operations for the Pima Animal Care Center, said 'Sunny' the dog has slowly began to recover and is now being taken care of by a foster parent. "She's getting her spirit back. Even the look in the eye looks more trusting and hopeful, which is a testament to how resilient animals are," Ocaño said. Sunny's medical bills cost about $2,500, and the rest of the money raised will benefit other animals at the shelter.
Rival Cypriot leaders meet in capital
Rival Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders took a stroll together on both sides of the divided capital Nicosia's medieval centre yesterday to raise the feel-good factor as talks aimed at reunifying the island kick into gear.
It's the first time the leaders have done so since the east Mediterranean island was split in 1974. Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci met inside the UN-controlled buffer zone before sitting down for coffee, olives, smoked ham, pastries and Zivania, a traditional vodka-like clear spirit.