World briefs for December 29

Iraqi troops advance in Ramadi, pockets of IS remain

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Iraqi troops advance in Ramadi, pockets of IS remain

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes drove Islamic State militants out of the center of Ramadi on Monday and seized the main government complex there, according to military officials, who said insurgents remain dug into pockets of the city west of Baghdad.

Ramadi, the provincial capital of the sprawling Anbar province, fell to IS in May, marking a major setback for Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led campaign. Ramadi and nearby Fallujah, which is controlled by IS, saw some of the heaviest fighting of the eight-year U.S. intervention in Iraq.

In recent months Iraqi forces launched several offensives to retake Ramadi, but all had stalled. Iraqi troops began advancing into some parts of the city, located about 130 kilometers (80 miles) west of Baghdad, earlier this month. But their progress was slowed by snipers, booby traps and the militants’ destruction of bridges leading into the city center.

Boko Haram attacks northeast Nigerian city, town, 80 killed

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Boko Haram Islamic extremists struck the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri for the first time in months Monday with rocket-propelled grenades and multiple suicide bombers, witnesses said. At least 50 people were killed.

Another twin suicide bombing killed at least 30 people in Madagali, a town 95 miles southeast of Maiduguri, witnesses said. Danladi Buba said two women blew themselves up at a market near a busy bus station at about 9 a.m. Brig. Gen. Victor Ezugwu, the officer commanding in northeast Adamawa State, confirmed the attack but said casualties have yet to be established.

In Maiduguri, capital of neighboring Borno state, at least 30 were killed and more than 90 wounded in overnight blasts and shootouts, and another 20 died in a bombing outside a mosque at dawn Monday, said Muhammed Kanar, area coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency.

The military said there were multiple attacks at four southwestern entry points to the city.

In another blast, two girls blew themselves up in the Buraburin neighborhood, killing several people, according to civil servant Yunusa Abdullahi.

Watchdog: Israel plans settler homes in strategic area

JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli anti-settlement watchdog group Monday said the government has quietly worked on plans to build more than 8,000 homes in a strategic section of the West Bank near Jerusalem.

Peace Now said the homes are among more than 55,000 housing units at various stages of planning by Israel’s Housing Ministry. It said it obtained the data after a two-year legal battle in response to a freedom of information request.

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In a report, the group said the 8,372 units are envisioned for the strategic area known as E1. The Palestinians strongly object to settlement of the area, saying it would separate a future Palestinian state in the West Bank from east Jerusalem, their hoped-for capital, and drive a wedge between the northern and southern flanks of the West Bank.

The plans are in the earliest stages, and no actual construction has been approved. In 2013, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu froze E1 development plans following heavy international criticism.