The Early Edition: June 28, 2016

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

IRAQ and SYRIA

“Inside Fallujah after IS.” Jeremy Bowen for the BBC reports from the center of Fallujah, now in the hands of the Iraqi army, but littered with the marks of its two-and-a-half-year occupancy by the Islamic State.

Dozens of homes have reportedly been looted and burned down in Fallujah, Iraqi government forces blaming the retreating Islamic State, while some local police have accused Shiite militias and federal police. [AP’s Susannah George]

More ominously, hundreds of civilians arrested by Shiite pro-government militant groups operating alongside the Iraqi government troops remain missing – the Anbar Provincial Council has released a list of 643 names of those whose whereabouts are unknown after they were removed from the town of Saqliwia, outside Fallujah. The Council has also released a list of 49 killings commited by pro-government military forces during the liberation of Fallujah. [The Daily Beast’s Jonathan Krohn and Nancy A Youssef]

Iraq’s army backed by US-led coalition airstrikes pursued Islamic State fighters holed up in areas close to Fallujah, which was successfully reclaimed from the insurgents over the weekend, with the aim of preventing them from mounting a counterattack, yesterday. [Reuters’ Thaier Al-Sudani and Ahmed Rasheed]

A suicide bomber attacked a mosque west of Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, just after midnight last night, killing at least 12 people. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, reports Al Jazeera.

The US has trained fewer than 100 extra Syrian fighters following the reboot of the Obama administration’s strategy for increasing the number of Syrian combatants last October. Most of those who have been trained are specialized fighters – “spotters” – rather than regular infantry troops, whose task is to rejoin their original units and provide information to the US-led coalition in order to enable it to target the Islamic State. [The Hill’s Mark Hensch]

Russia’s air force has assisted Syrian government troops at risk of being surrounded near Aleppo, according to Interfax news agency, which quoted Russia’s ambassador to Syria as saying that he did not expect Syrian forces to launch an offensive on Aleppo for some time. [Reuters]

Lebanon’s army has detained over 100 Syrians for illegally entering the country after a series of suicide bombings in the border village of Qaa yesterday. No group has claimed responsibility for those attacks, though the Islamic State is suspected. The arrests took place during raids on unofficial refugee camps in the Baalbek region of Lebanon. [BBC]

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out seven airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on June 26. Separately, partner forces conducted 23 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

BENGHAZI REPORT

Democrats on the House Select Committee on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, released their report yesterday, several days ahead of the Republican majority’s report on the events. The Democrats concluded that Defense Department actions could not have saved the lives of the four Americans killed, that then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton was actively “engaged” and responsive, and that no one in the Obama administration has lied about what happened. [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung and Adam Goldman]

Republicans have shown an “unhealthy obsession” with the 2012 attack, Deputy White House press secretary Eric Schultz said yesterday, after the committee sent President Obama a list of questions to answer in relation to his actions during the incident, which White House lawyers rejected. [The Hill’s Jordan Fabian]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Senate was blocked from passing the Intelligence Authorization bill by unanimous consent by Sen. Rob Wyden (D-Ore) yesterday, who placed the bill on hold. Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) will now have to file cloture on the bill to force an initial vote on the Senate floor. Wyden – an outspoken privacy advocate – said the move was “essentially a redo” of the vote that took place last week, when the Senate narrowly rejected a GOP proposal allowing the FBI to use “national security letters” to obtain people’s internet browsing history and other data. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]

The Bernie Sanders campaign tabled amendments to the draft platform that opposed a US-led no-fly zone in Syria and called for an end to Israel’s occupation of Gaza last week, both of which were quashed by the Democratic National Committee’s Platform Drafting Committee, writes Zaid Jilani for The Intercept.

Secretary of State John Kerry confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday on the issue of Russian intelligence and security services harassing US diplomats stationed in Moscow and several other European cities, an ongoing problem that has “worsened” over the past two years, a State Department official has confirmed, without giving further details of the form the harassment has been taking. Other Western embassies have reportedly identified similar behavior toward their diplomats in Moscow. [Reuters’ Lesley Wroughton]

The US is investigating whether its airstrikes in northern Afghanistan killed seven Taliban hostages on Saturday, or whether the Taliban used the airstrikes as a cover for the murder of the hostages, as senior Afghan officials are asserting. [New York Times’ Najim Rahim and Rod Nordland]

A bomb that exploded as an armored police vehicle was passing it in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir today wounded five, including two police officers. The attack is part of a “surge” in attacks on security forces since the cease-fire between Turkey and the outlawed PKK collapsed last July. [Reuters]

An Islamic State affiliate has claimed responsibility for a series of at least seven suicide bomb attacks in Yemen’s southern port city of Mukalla yesterday, which led to the deaths of at least 43 people, according to officials. The attacks took place as the government and Houthi rebels in Kuwait discussed suspending talks aimed at ending Yemen’s conflict, having failed to reach a breakthrough after two months. [AP’s Ahmed Al-Haj]

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Kurdish rebels have clashed along the Iranian border with Iraq over the past few days, raising tensions in the region, according to Iranian state television. [New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink]

Another 165 emails from Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department were released on Monday, including almost three dozen that were sent from Clinton’s private email server and which she failed to disclose last year. The emails were released under court order to the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch, report Michael Biesecker and Stephen Braun for the AP. 

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About the Author(s)

Zoë Chapman

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security, Legal Researcher at UK-based human rights organization, JUSTICE