The Iraqi parliament issues a ban on the sale of alcohol, which many deem unconstitutional. Opponents argue that the vote infringes constitutional guarantees of freedom of religious belief for minority groups such as Christians. They say they will appeal against the surprise decision in the courts. An official said that the ban was a last-minute move by conservatives.
A sulphur plant in Mishraq is set on fire amid fighting between United States troops and the Islamic State in the Mosul region. The fire is releasing poisonous fumes, forcing American soldiers to wear gas masks.
US soldiers at a base near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul have donned protective masks against toxic fumes from a sulphur plant set alight in fighting with so-called Islamic State. They took the precaution after the wind blew smoke from the fire towards Qayyarah air field.
The US Embassy in Iraq says that its nationals are “missing” after local media outlets say that three Americans had been kidnapped in Baghdad. Local security forces conduct house-to-house searches, but have not yet found the missing Americans. Citing privacy concerns, embassy officials decline to identify the Americans involved. State Department:
The safety and security of Americans abroad is our highest priority.
Iraqi forces are fighting Islamic State (ISIS) fighters as they try to reach the center of Ramadi. Six hundred to 1,000 Islamic State fighters were said to have been in Ramadi when the overall offensive began two weeks ago, but several hundred of them have been killed in fighting and airstrikes since then. Iraqi forces face heavy fire and are assaulted by car bombs. The Islamic State destroys three bridges over the Euphrates River to slow the security forces’ advance. Iraqi Army:
We went into the center of Ramadi from different axes, and we started clearing residential areas. The city will be cleared within the coming 72 hours.
Iraq’s government demands that Turkey immediately withdraw additional military personnel deployed to train Iraqi Kurdish fighters near the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul.
A Kurdish force of up to 7,500 soldiers is on the offensive to reclaim Sinjar from ISIS. With help from collation air strikes the Kurdish forces attack from three fronts to recapture the town. By recapturing the town they will cut off ISIS main supply line to Mosul, allowing for a future attack on Mosul sometime in the future. By controlling Highway 47, which is used by ISIS to transport weapons, fighters, illicit oil, and other commodities that fund their operations, the Coalition intends to increase pressure on the group and isolate their components from each other
ISIS say they were behind two suicide bombs in Baghdad that killed at least 23 people and wounded more than 60. Among the dead were police and civilians. The suicide bombers hit police checkpoints in market places during morning rush-hour. The bombers were said to have been on foot and wearing explosives vests. Four people are killed in a third blast in a nearby district, but it is unclear who was behind it.
Iran’s President Rouhani inaugurates Fateh-313, alias “The Conqueror,” a short-range solid fuel short-range missile. The missile is newer version of Fateh-110 and has both a faster launch capability, and a longer range, with the ability to hit military targets within a 500 kilometer range.
Prime Minister Harper pledges Canada will take an additional 10,000 refugees from Iraq and Syria over the next four years if the Conservative government is re-elected in October. Canada has already settled roughly 20,000 Iraqi refugees and 2,500 Syrians. The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada website shows it finalized 19,900 refugee claims from all countries in 2014. Harper:
We must stop ISIS
Jihadists kill 33 people in two suicide bombings in Iraq, including 20 at a central market area in Huwaydir. Islamic State claims responsibility.
Factory workers report a U.S. unarmed MQ-1 surveillance and reconnaissance drone crash in the Iraqi desert near Baghdad. U.S. official:
We are working with Iraqi authorities to recover the aircraft.
The U.S., and its allies launch coordinated airstrikes on the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. At least 23 airstrikes are conducted over the two nations, with nine launched over Syria and 14 launched over Iraq. These airstrikes target tactical units and fighting positions in seven cities between the two countries.
A car bomb kills 120 people and injures hundreds of citizens at a busy market in Khan Bani Saad, north of the capital Baghdad. The Islamic State says one of its members drove three tonnes of explosives into a crowd. Police:
Some people were using vegetable boxes to collect children’s body parts.
ISIS claims responsibility for an attack targeting a gathering of Shiite militias in Khan Bani Saad, which is in Diyala province, about thirty five kilometers north of Baghdad. Most of the residents are Shiites. Videos posted on social media show a large swath of fire at the scene, with bodies and debris over a wide area. Several multistory buildings appeared to have been heavily damaged by the blast.
At a news conference in New Hampshipre Clinton speaks on the U.S. handling of Iraq.
I think it’s a very difficult situation and I basically agree with the policies that we are currently following, and that is, American air support is available. American intelligence and surveillance is available.
American trainers are trying to undo the damage that was done to the Iraqi army by former prime minister Maliki, who bears a very big part of the responsibility for what is happening inside of Iraq today.
This has to be fought by and won by Iraqis. There is no role whatsoever for American soldiers on the ground to go back, other than in the capacity as trainers and advisers.
Islamic State militants take over the local government compound in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, raising their black flag. An Iraqi parliamentarian states the city is not in complete Islamic State control, however. Iraqi government forces continue to hold out in several other government buildings,while coalition aircraft bomb militant positions. Anbar provincial council member says that Ramadi is experiencing a “catastrophe.” He says the militants launched a massive attack, using over a dozen suicide vehicles and causing numerous casualties.
Bush says on the subject of Iraq:
Knowing what we know now, I would not have engaged, I would not have launched an invasion. We’ve answered the question now…That’s not to say that the world [isn’t] safer because Saddam Hussein is gone. It is significantly safer. That’s not to say that there [wasn’t] a courageous effort to bring about a surge that created stability in Iraq. All of that is true. And that’s not to say that the men and women who’ve served uniform and many others who went to Iraq to serve, they did so, certainly, honorably. But, we’ve answered the question now.
The Iraqi army recaptures central Tikrit from ISIS. Spokesperson of Iraqi PM, Jaboori:
Iraqi forces reached the center of Tikrit, raised the Iraqi flag and are now clearing the city
PM Al-Abadi announces the liberation of Tikrit and congratulates Iraqi security forces and popular volunteers on the historic milestone
— Haider Al-Abadi (@HaiderAlAbadi) March 31, 2015
Iraqi forces regain control of northern section of Tikrit, an important city held by ISIS since June 2014. Security official:
Iraqi security forces and the different supporting groups are winning the battle against ISIS in Saladin, it is a matter of time and we will release the news of taking over Tikrit within few days.
ISIS kills forty Iraqi soldiers by blowing up more than three hundred explosives placed under army headquarters at Anbar, Iraq. Sabah Karhoot, chairman of the region’s governing council :
ISIS militants were digging and planting IEDs under an HQ of an Iraqi army while the security forces knew nothing about it
ISIS militants bulldoze the ancient Iraqi city of Nimrud in a fresh attack on country’s cultural and historical heritage. Jack Green, chief curator of the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago:
It’s the deliberate destruction of a heritage and its images, intended to erase history and the identity of the people of Iraq, whether in the past or the present
The Iraqi army with the help of some Shia militant groups launches an operation to clear ISIS from Tikrit, hometown of former dictator Saddam Hussein. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think-tank:
The Shia militias participating in the operation to retake Tikrit are highly motivated to deal a counterblow in this symbolic area
ISIS is reported to be turning Christian churches into torture chambers and stripping the former places of worship of ancient relics, which they are smuggling to Western collectors to help fund their terrorist activity. Christians are being held captive in make-shift torture chambers set up in raided churches in Qaraqosh. Jerusalem Post report:
This is why they are crucifying Christians — which includes children — destroying churches and selling artifacts. ‘The reality is, this group will stop at practically nothing to raise funds for its terrorist mission.
A CIA interrogator writing under a pseudonym publishes a document (full text here) covering many aspects of the debate over enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs), especially the effectiveness of the techniques. The document is reported to challenge conclusions of the upcoming Feinstein report on EITs. The interrogator says he underwent ‘soft-sell’ and ‘hard-sell’ interrogation techniques himself as part of a survival course, and was able to maintain lies during the ‘soft-sell,’ verbal-only questioning:
I then learned the difference between “soft-sell” and “hard-sell” by way of a large interrogator who applied enhanced techniques promptly upon the uttering of my first lie…I learned that I would rather sit across from the most talented interrogator on earth doing a soft-sell than any interrogator on earth doing a hard-sell—the information I had would be safer because the only consequences to my lies come in the form of words. I could handle words. Anyone could.
Ask any SERE Level C graduate which method was more effective on him or her—their answer should tell you something about the effectiveness of enhanced techniques, whether you agree with them or not. In my case, I learned that enhanced techniques made me want to tell the truth to make it stop—not to compound my situation with more lies.
Training teams will be sent to the semi-autonomous Kurdish zone, the first UK troop presence in the country since its withdrawal in 2011. Whitehall spokesman:
If Iraq fails or the government becomes sectarian then that is a massive problem
The number of troops isn’t specified.
Reports that ISIS is using advanced SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) in Iraq are a concern for aircrews as U.S.-led airstrikes step up. The group is reported to have used a Chinese-made shoulder-launched SAM to shoot down an Iraqi army Mi35-M attack helicopter this month, and has reportedly shot down several other helicopters during the conflict. Military official:
Based on past conflicts, [the missiles] are game changers out there.
Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe says the figure is a minimum, and the ‘drumbeat of terrorism in the UK’ is now ‘faster and more intense’.
Those are the ones that we believe have gone. There may be many more who set out to travel to another country and meandered over to Syria and Iraq in a way that is not always possible to spot when you have failed states and leaky borders.
The UK government is reported to redeploy drones based in Afghanistan to Iraq and Syria, where they may get authorization to deploy Hellfire missiles. They will be based in Kuwait and controlled via satellite link from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. Whitehall official:
The Reapers would be very useful for intel on Isis in Syria for ourselves and our allies; that would be their primary purpose. Their use in combat would obviously depend on parliamentary approval – unless we have a need for them to secure the wellbeing of British subjects or prevent a humanitarian crisis.
ISIS launches 15 near-simultaneous attacks on Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq. It also attackes peshmerga forces at the Mosul dam and nearby in the Nineveh Valley, and at Mt. Sinjar. Hazhar Ismail, brigadier general at the Ministry of Peshmerga:
ISIS failed in their attempt to control the village of Sharaf ad-Din after Peshmerga forces repelled the attack and managed to kill a number of ISIS militants.
The group seized two villages in an area close to Sharaf ad-Din, in Sinjar, but the villages were unpopulated as a result of ISIS attacks in August.
Soldiers are concerned that the contents of the most secret bunker of Saddam Hussein’s regime, known as the Dragon’s Egg, may have been unsealed after reports that ISIS may be using chemical weapons. The X-shaped bunker was sealed with cement and was treated differently from other storage spaces at the Al Muthanna facility, says Lt. Joshua Hartley, who was stationed there in 2008 with the weapons company of the U.S. Marine Corps Second Division’s First Battalion.
We were made aware of a particular bunker on the north side [of Al Muthanna] which we were informed was sealed and remotely monitored. We were not to approach, and definitely not to attempt to enter.
He says it is an open secret that the bunker contained large amounts of the regime’s most dangerous nerve agents. Gen. Jack Kean, chairman of the Institute for the Study of War, says the Dragons Egg and other caches could be used against troops:
Frankly, the weapons could be used by ISIS. Our troops’ mission was not to clean this up; that was something the Iraqis were supposed to do, and obviously they didn’t do a very good job of it. I know from talking to people who were involved, that the Sunni insurgents used some of these weapons as IED’s against us.
U.S. forces conduct the highest number of air strikes yet of any campaign in support of the Kurdish fighters in Kobani, but U.S. CentCom commander General Lloyd Austin says it’s still ‘highly possible’ the town might fall to ISIS, and says the focus remains on Iraq:
Iraq is our main effort, and it has to be, and the things that we’re doing right now in Syria are being done primarily to shape the conditions in Iraq
The New York Times reports that American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered chemical weapons from Saddam Hussein’s rule, and were wounded by them on at least six occasions, between 2004 and 2011. Troops secretly reported finding close to 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, it says. The report is based on interviews with soldiers and officials, as well as redacted intelligence documents (available here.) It says the finds were kept secret from the public and not circulated widely within the military, and some soldiers who were wounded had their injuries covered up, even to the extent of being denied treatment. Most of the areas where weapons were encountered are reportedly now under ISIS control. A large fraction of the weapons were not in serviceable condition, and did not disperse the chemical agents over more than a limited area when they were ruptured. But some of the weapons can still be serviceable in IEDs. Former Army sergeant on hand for the destruction of mustard shells:
I love it when I hear, ‘Oh there weren’t any chemical weapons in Iraq.’ There were plenty.
Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn writes in The Independent that ISIS is close to taking over the province and threatening western Baghdad. He says that an ISIS offensive launched on Oct. 2 has captured almost all the cities and towns it did not already hold in Anbar , taking Hit, Kubaisa and the provincial capital Ramadi. Other cities, towns and bases on or close to the Euphrates River west of Baghdad fell in a few days, often after little resistance by the Iraqi Army, even when backed by US air strikes.
Dozens of Turkish hostages are free after three months in captivity. They were captured in June by ISIS militants. Hostages included Consul general Ozturk Yilmaz and his family. It is unclear how they have been freed, but Erdogan thanks Turkish intelligence officials in a statement on his website.
I thank … every single member of the National Intelligence Agency from the director to the field operatives. I congratulate them for their big success from the bottom of my heart.
Half of the potential military prowess in Iraq is not capable of effectively teaming up with the United States. The other half requires rebuilding efforts consisting of additional training and equipment. Dempsey is hoping this force is made ready with intelligence, air surveillance and tactical air power, along with advisers to assist. Dempsey:
This is about training them in protected locations and then enabling them…
Dempsey also explains that a large US military force, also known as boots on the ground, cannot fix the problem of the Islamic State taking over large swaths of land. He says the key is to form an Iraqi government that unites the Kurdish and Sunni populations as equal partners. Dempsey:
I’m telling you, if that doesn’t happen then it’s time for Plan B.
The general further explains why even US air power cannot ultimately stop ISIS. Dempsey:
What we’ve seen so far is, a lot of the black flags have come down, a lot of the convoys have dispersed, a lot of the (fighter) assembly areas have been moved into urban areas. This will be a campaign of adaptation.
Manning writes a commentary in The Guardian stating that military strikes play to ISIS’s strengths, and recommending four areas that a containment strategy could focus on. She suggests countering ISIS’s online presence to curb recruitment. The coalition should then set clear, temporary borders in the region to discourage ISIS taking territory where humanitarian issues could result. It should place a moratorium on ransom payments for hostages and cut off other sources of ISIS funding such as oil trade and artefact theft. Finally, it should allow ISIS to succeed in setting up a failed ‘state’ – in a contained area and over a long enough period of time to prove itself unpopular and unable to govern.
Eventually, if they are properly contained, I believe that Isis will not be able to sustain itself on rapid growth alone, and will begin to fracture internally. The organization will begin to disintegrate into several smaller, uncoordinated entities – ultimately failing in their objective of creating a strong state.
Hagel says that the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria will depend on local opposition:
The best counterweight against Isil are local forces
U.S. troops will not engage the group directly:
American forces will not have a combat mission.
He says U.S. forces in Iraq will operate out of Baghdad and Irbil, for a total of about 1,600 troops. will support Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has agreed to host training grounds for more than 5,000 Syrian opposition forces, who will be given small arms, vehicles and communications equipment and training:
We would be prepared to provide increasingly [sophisticated] types of assistance.
The U.S. will select the Syrian opposition carefully:
A rigorous vetting process would be critical to the success of this program. There will always be risks. But we believe that risk is justified.
Defense Secretary Hagel says that the U.S. is fighting a war against ISIS:
This will not be an easy or a brief effort … We are at war with Isil, as we are with al-Qaeda.
Less than a week after President Obama pledged a multi-step campaign to degrade and destroy IS militants, U.S. attack and fighter aircraft are used Sunday and Monday beyond humanitarian missions and protecting U.S. personnel. Two airstrikes target ISIS positions in Sinjar to the north and southwest of Baghdad in support of Iraqi offensive operations. The number of air strikes has now risen to 162 since early August.
Cameron resists calls for the UK to join the U.S. in conducting airstrikes on ISIS. With the threat posed by ISIS to UK citizens underscored by the group’s execution of Haines, Cameron says the nation will stick with its approach of diplomatic pressure, supporting U.S. action and helping Iraqi and local Kurdish authorities. Televised statement:
As this strategy intensifies, we are ready to take whatever steps are necessary to deal with this threat and keep our country safe. Step by step, we must drive back, dismantle, and ultimately destroy ISIL (IS) and what it stands for. We will do so in a calm, deliberate way, but with an iron determination.
Abbott announces that Australia will deploy 400 air force personnel and 200 special forces troops to the United Arab Emirates where they will be based at a U.S. facility in preparation for possible military operations against ISIS. Eight Super Hornet jets, an EWAC (Early Warning and Control) plane and a tanker aircraft for aerial refueling will be deployed. He tells reporters in the Northern Territory capital city Darwin that the government considers the deployment ‘prudent and proportionate’, but that there there are ‘obviously further decisions to be taken’ before Australian forces commit to combat action.
I have to warn the Australian people that should this preparation and deployment extend into combat operations, that this could go on for quite some time
ISIS executes eight people in a Sunni village over the course of two days. An eyewitness says that on Friday night a pair of masked ISIS gunmen openly murdered a police officer in al-Jumasah village, 75 miles north of Tikrit, after accusing him of spying for the Kurdish and Iraqi military forces. They gather residents in the village square to watch the execution:
Islamic State members said that this is the fate of anyone who opposes them. They presented as evidence CDs and copies of the man’s correspondences with the security forces.
A small group of villagers opens fire on the house of an ISIS officer after the policeman’s killing. On Saturday morning, 10 Islamic State cars drive around al-Jumasah with two masked informants who help identify 10 people suspected of attacking the ISIS member’s house. On Saturday evening, three are released and seven others – all but one relatives of the slain policeman – are executed.
Pope Francis says that conflicts around the globe represent a third World War. During a Mass held at Italy’s largest war memorial, a Fascist-era monument where 100,000 soldiers who died in World War One are buried, the pontiff appears to be referring to the recent conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Ukraine and Africa. The homily:
Humanity needs to weep and this is the time to weep … War is madness. Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction … War is irrational; its only plan is to bring destruction: it seeks to grow by destroying. Greed, intolerance, the lust for power. These motives underlie the decision to go to war and they are too often justified by an ideology.
Kerry says the U.S. is not fighting a war against ISIS, but is engaged in a counterterrorism campaign. Commenting after Obama’s primetime speech indicates the government is considering expanding airstrikes into Syria:
Look, we’re engaged in a counterterrorism operation of a significant order. And counterterrorism operations can take a long time, they go on. I think ‘war’ is the wrong reference term with respect to that, but obviously it involves kinetic military action
The leaders of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and the Gulf Cooperation Council – the alliance of Sunni Arab Gulf nations that includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE – sign a document called the stating that they have formally Obama’s coalition against ISIS (full text here). The Jeddah Communique:
The ministers representing states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and the United States declared their shared commitment to stand united against the threat posed by all terrorism, including the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), to the region and the world … The participants resolved to strengthen their support for the new Iraqi Government in its efforts to unite all Iraqis in combatting ISIL and discussed a strategy to destroy ISIL wherever it is, including in both Iraq and Syria.
A mass grave is found in Nineveh province northwest of Mosul, and is assumed to contain the bodies of prisoners executed by ISIS. Security official:
The residents in the city of Ahmidat, 34 km northwest of al-Mosul, have found a mass grave containing the remains of 400 unidentified bodies, presumably belong to those of whom were executed by firing squads at the prison of Badush [in] June.
Gen. Petraeus says that Obama’s strategy to counter ISIS will likely be successful, although the battle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria take years. ISIS is not as great a threat as Al Qaeda was during the height of the Iraq War:
This is not the kind of Iraq on fire, complete desperation we had during the surge. [ISIS] has nowhere the roots and the structure of al-Qaida in Iraq.
The formation of a more inclusive government will address sectarian tensions:
It’s a new Iraqi government now. There’s new hope, there’s outreach.
This could be vital in ensuring the strategy is a success, as ISIS capitalized on sectarian divisions and chain-of-command vulnerabilities when routing the Iraqi military in the group’s initial offensives:
The third failing was the population was not happy with sectarian and loyalist leaders.
In Syria, opposition to ISIS is less cohesive and the Assad regime may have to be removed before a credible force can be assembled against ISIS:
This is going to be years, not months.
Austrian authorities are concerned that 16-year-old Samra Kesinovic and 15-year-old Sabina Selimovic are inspiring other Austrian teens to join extremist groups after the pair allegedly ran away from their homes in Vienna to join ISIS. Interior Ministry spokesman Alexander Marakovits says authorities are noticing an increase in such incidents after a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old are detained attempting to leave the country, apparently to travel to Syria. Marakovits:
If we can catch them before they leave we have the chance to work with their parents and other institutions to bring the youngsters out of the sphere of influence that prompted them to act in this way the first place. Once they have left the country, even if they then changed their minds, it is then almost impossible to get them back.
First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.
The U.S. personnel deployed to Iraq in June have completed their mission of supporting the security forces now that the country has formed a new government, and an additional 475 servicemembers will be sent to provide training, intelligence and equipment to Iraqi and Kurdish forces. The U.S. will also support the development of National Guard units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL’s control.
Congress must authorize assistance to Syrian opposition:
In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its own people — a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.
The U.S. will chair an international summit under the UN banner to mobilize international support and to provide humanitarian aid to Sunni and Shia Muslims as well as religious minorities:
Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off [ISIS’s] funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into and out of the Middle East.
The strategy depends on engagement with the international community and support from the U.S.’s coalition partners:
Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity. And in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria, to drive these terrorists from their lands.
Congressional support will be welcomed:
My administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL, but I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.
The conflict will not be another Iraq war:
It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.
Iraqi Army troops force ISIS to retreat northwards from areas south of Tikrit city, located 150 miles northwest of Baghdad, killing ‘tens’ of ISIS militants in heavy clashes in the area. The military is planning to launch further operations from the area. Salauhddin Governorate Council president Ahmed al-Karim:
The security forces have set up a camp in al-Daluiya south of Tikrit and will head north from al-Jabour area in north of Daluiya to start an extensive military operation against ISIS fighters.
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