Warplanes strike Iraqi city after jihadi sermon

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BAGHDAD -- Warplanes carried out multiple bombing raids in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Sunday, a day after the leader of a powerful al-Qaida-inspired militant group appeared online in a video from the city's main mosque.

Residents of the city, reached by phone, said airstrikes shook the city at least three times Sunday, starting at dawn. It remained unclear what force carried out the airstrikes. The U.S. Defense Department said it had no knowledge of the airstrikes and that U.S. forces were not involved. An Iraqi government official in Baghdad said he had no information about any airstrikes near Mosul.

On Friday, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, which declared a revival of the medieval Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria last week, delivered a sermon to worshippers from Mosul's Great Mosque.

The video, which appeared online Saturday, marked the first time that the elusive extremist leader has appeared in a video.

The fact that Mr. Baghdadi ventured into public at all appeared to underscore just how solidly the group controls Mosul, which it seized June 9 in a stunning offensive that simultaneously instigated the collapse of an entire regional division of the Iraqi army.

At least one of the strikes Sunday tore through a cluster of homes in the village of Rashidiya, on Mosul's northern outskirts, one local resident claimed, charging that the dead were civilians.

"There were four houses destroyed. Two families were killed," said a 75-year-old retired military officer who lives in the area.

Hamid al-Mutlaq, a Sunni member of parliament who until recently served on the security and defense committee, confirmed that airstrikes had destroyed a number of homes in Rashidiya and in the Mosul neighborhood of Tamooz. A local medical official told The Associated Press that at least seven people were killed in the strikes, and 30 were wounded.

A pro-government news website said dozens of Sunni militants from the Islamic State were killed in an airstrike on a presidential palace compound in north Mosul.

There have been no confirmed U.S. drone strikes or Iranian airstrikes in Iraq.

However, the United States is currently flying armed and unarmed drones over Iraq, U.S. officials have said.

On Sunday, a spokesman for Iraq's military told reporters that Iraqi forces were studying the video and had yet to reach a conclusion on whether the man in it was, indeed, Mr. Baghdadi. But the SITE Intelligence Group, which closely monitors extremist groups in the region, confirmed that it was Mr. Baghdadi.

Violence continued elsewhere Sunday. Government forces were continuing to battle Islamic State militants south of the rebel-held city of Tikrit, which the army has yet to retake after an offensive began June 28, said Mr. Maliki's military spokesman, Qassim Atta.

He said forces had killed 14 militants since Saturday in the al-Dayoum and Wadi Shisheen areas near Tikrit and troops were reinforcing the village of Awja, recaptured three days ago, and preparing to push 5 miles north into the city.

Late Sunday, a bomb exploded inside a coffee shop in the primarily Shiite neighborhood of Washash in western Baghdad, killing five people and wounding 17, police officials said.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed.


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