Arbil (Iraq) (AFP) - Thousands of people who fled Iraq's second city of Mosul after it was overrun by jihadists wait in the blistering heat, hoping to enter the safety of the nearby Kurdish region and furious at Baghdad's failure to help them. As many as half a million people are thought to have fled Mosul, which was captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) Tuesday after a spectacular assault that routed the army. At a roadblock some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region, a long line of men, women and children has been queueing under the blazing sun since morning, seeking permits allowing them stay. Hot and tired they may be, but they don't hesitate to vent their anger at Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Heads of major US companies on Wednesday urged immigration reform as crucial to boosting US economic growth, amid speculation the issue was dead after a shock Republican election defeat. The Business Roundtable, an influential group representing top chief executives, said that fixing America's "broken immigration system" would unleash a powerful force that drives growth and bolsters the business sector. The group issued a report laying out the economic case for immigration reform, which coincidentally landed as Washington political circles reeled from Tuesday's unexpected defeat of Republican Party chieftain Eric Cantor in a Virginia primary election. Cantor, the US House of Representatives majority leader, was trounced by a university professor backed by the radical conservative Tea Party, David Brat, who campaigned against Cantor's support of legislation that would allow the children of illegal immigrants to remain in the country and become US citizens.
The election of populist hawk Reuven Rivlin as Israeli president ushers in a new diplomatic era and highlights Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's growing isolation within his own party, analysts say. The 74-year-old Jerusalem native 'Ruby' Rivlin -- a veteran member of Netanyahu's rightwing Likud party -- will succeed dovish elder statesman Shimon Peres, but is unlikely to make his presence felt anywhere near as much on the international stage. Reuven Hazan, a politics chair at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, said Rivlin would respect the "largely... ceremonial and symbolic position" of the presidency. In two terms as speaker, Rivlin was a "champion of the Israeli parliament against the Israeli government, even though he was a member of the majority," Hazan said.
An Israeli air strike killed a Palestinian in Gaza on Wednesday after new rocket fire from the territory prompted Israel's premier to warn he holds Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas responsible. Two Palestinians were also wounded in the evening raid in the northern Gaza Strip, the emergency services said. The Israeli military said it had targeted "terrorists affiliated to the international jihad," its designation for Al-Qaeda inspired groups in Gaza. Abbas, who swore in a new merged government for the Palestinian territories last week replacing the Hamas administration in Gaza, condemned the rocket fire, which Israeli officials said hit the Eshkol region without causing any casualties or damage.
Miranshah (Pakistan) (AFP) - The first US drone strike in Pakistan this year on Wednesday killed at least six militants, officials said, as Washington resumed the controversial programme after a brazen Taliban attack on Karachi airport earlier this week. The timing of the strike is bound to raise suspicions of coordination between the two countries after drone attacks were reportedly suspended at Islamabad's request last December to give Pakistan space to pursue a peace process. Pressure has been mounting on the government to launch a ground offensive in the Taliban-infested North Waziristan tribal district after a dramatic week that began with the all-night siege Monday of Karachi's Jinnah International in which 37 people including the 10 attackers were killed.
A suicide bomber killed at least four Malian and Chadian soldiers at a military camp in rebel-infested north-eastern Mali on Wednesday, army sources told AFP. The bomber struck in a car laden with explosives at the entrance to the camp, which houses local soldiers as well as international troops from the United Nations' MINUSMA peacekeeping force, they said. The suicide bomber died and at least four Chadian and Malian soldiers were killed in Aguelhok," a Malian military source said. An African military source in Aguelhok, a town of 8,000 in the Ifoghas mountain range, said several soldiers had also been wounded.
An Italian Catholic community warned Wednesday of violence against Christians in Iraq, where a jihadist takeover in Mosul has seen as many as half a million people flee their homes. "From the sketchy information coming out of Mosul it appears Christians are once more the victims of terrorism and bloodshed," the Sant'Egidio community, which promotes dialogue between religions, said in a statement. "An explosion of extremist violence is putting at risk a project of religious integration and social development, based on coexistence and collaboration between Christians and Muslims," it said. Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and their allies on Tuesday seized Mosul and surrounding Nineveh province, and militants have since then captured a large swathe of northern and north-central Iraq.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday there was "no question" of British troops being sent back to Iraq to help battle Islamic militants who have seized control of key cities. Hague said while the situation was of great concern, the government was "not countenancing at this stage any British military involvement" He said he believed Iraq had sufficient forces to counter the threat. A US official said the United States "stands ready" to help Iraq, but made no mention of sending troops.
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel on Wednesday staunchly defended the swap of five Taliban detainees for a US soldier as a "tough call" but a necessary one to secure Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's release. Seeking to counter a barrage of criticism from lawmakers, Hagel insisted President Barack Obama had to act quickly given Bergdahl's deteriorating health and that the swap deal brokered by Qatar represented the "last, best opportunity" to ensure the soldier's freedom. "We made the right decision, and we did it for the right reasons -- to bring home one of our own people," Hagel told a tense hearing before the House Armed Services Committee. After signing a memorandum with Qatar on May 12 on the details of the transfer of the Taliban detainees, the Qataris issued a warning to US officials that "time was not on our side," Hagel said.
A coalition of Algerian opposition parties has vowed to pursue its struggle for "real" regime change, warning Wednesday that the existing political impasse will cause the state to collapse. The coalition of three Islamist parties and two others, including the fiercely secular Rally for Culture and Democracy, made its pledge at a meeting Tuesday attended by other opposition groupings and former prime ministers. It comes less than two months after the re-election of 77-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose poor health forced him to vote in a wheelchair and has caused many to question whether he will see out his fourth term in office. The coalition, which boycotted the election, vowed "to continue its struggle for a real change, one that will establish the sovereignty of the people as well as their freedom to choose their leaders."