June 18, 2016
From Washington, this is VOA news. I'm David Byrd reporting.
After weeks of fierce fighting, Iraqi security forces on Friday broke through Islamic State defenses to reach the center of Fallujah.
Coalition airstrikes continued to pound Islamic State targets, hitting two tactical units and destroying six heavy machine guns. Iraqi Special Forces took over what had been an Islamic State command center.
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on state television that Fallujah had returned home to Iraq.
He said, "Our brave troops tightened their control over the city and there are still some pockets that need to cleaned out within the coming hours."
Al-Abadi spoke directly to Islamic State fighters, telling them that their leaders had abandoned them and had broken their promises to them.
At least seven people were killed in Syria by renewed Syrian government airstrikes on the city of Aleppo.
The activist Local Coordination Committees said seven people were killed around the city's Qatirji neighborhood.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at nine.
The Syrian air force has been waging a fierce bombing campaign on Aleppo's eastern section which is under rebel control
The rebel, meanwhile, have attacked the western half of the city which is under government control with rockets and mortars.
In a related story, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter slammed Russia for bombing U.S.-backed opposition forces in southern Syria, calling the actions problematic. The secretary also suggested that Russia did not properly use a communication line established between the two countries to prevent unsafe U.S. and Russian air operations over Syria.
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Saudi Arabia's foreign minister says that his government supports a more aggressive approach against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including no-fly zones and arming rebels with surface-to-air missiles.
Speaking in Washington Friday, Adel al Jubeir said that his country has always advocated what he called a more robust approach, including a military approach to end the Syrian crisis.
"But, if the Bashar regime feels that it can continue in a stalemate, much less prevail, there will be no incentive for them to take the necessary steps to bring about a transition in Syria."
Earlier, Saudi Arabia's powerful deputy crown prince met with U.S. President Barack Obama and congressional leaders for talks focused on the Middle East, including Syria and Yemen.
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's visit is aimed at mending the relationship with the United States and to promote a plan to slash the kingdom's dependence on oil revenues.
Russia's track and field team has been banned from the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The sport's world governing body said Friday that it is continuing a ban on the Russian track athletes.
Rune Andersen, the head of the IAAF's inspection team, says Russia has not done enough to restore confidence in its athletes [in the way of] in the wake, that is, of a doping scandal.
"The deep-seated culture of tolerance, or worse, for doping that got RUSAF suspended in the first place appears not to have been changed materially to date."
The Russia ministry of sports said in a statement that it had done everything possible since the ban to regain the world's trust.
Police investigating the killing of British lawmaker Jo Cox said on Friday that the suspect's mental health and possible links to right-wing extremism are both important lines of inquiry.
Temporary chief constable Dee Collins of West Yorkshire Police said her office is aware of speculation that the suspect in Cox's killing was tied to right-wing groups. However, she said that they have not found any evidence of a conspiracy.
"Based on information available at this time, this appears to be an isolated, but targeted attack upon Jo. There is also no indication at this stage that anyone else was involved in the attack. However, we will be investigating how the suspect came to be in possession of an unlawfully held firearm."
Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have both paid tribute to Cox as someone who worked to serve others.
On Wall Street, all three major indices closed down on Friday. European and Asian markets were higher.
For more, log on to our website voanews.com. I'm David Byrd in Washington.
That's the latest world news from VOA.