Iraq

The StoryCorps mobile booth was in Oklahoma City in early 2018, and we're bringing you some of the stories that were recorded here. Locally recorded stories will air Wednesdays during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on KOSU.

Updated at 12:55 p.m. ET Wednesday

Nearly 4,000 ill-gotten artifacts will be returned to Iraq on Wednesday, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says. The ancient objects were bought by Hobby Lobby, a national chain of arts and crafts stores, then smuggled into the United States in violation of federal law.

The StoryCorps mobile booth was in Oklahoma City in early 2018, and we're bringing you some of the stories that were recorded here. Locally recorded stories will air Wednesdays during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on KOSU.

The Islamic State no longer controls cities. Its previously large ranks are decimated. Survivors have scattered into the desert. Yet ISIS still has militants with weapons and plans for renewed mayhem.

"We have repeatedly said in this room, the war is not over," Defense Secretary James Mattis noted last week at the Pentagon.

He said U.S. forces are still tracking down small pockets of ISIS fighters. In Iraq, the U.S. is still working closely with the Iraqi security forces, in hopes they can take full control of the country's territory.

At the main cemetery on the west side of Mosul, Iraq, kids play among the makeshift headstones sticking out of freshly dug mounds of red earth.

Some of the markers are broken slabs of concrete painted with the names of the neighborhoods where the bodies were found. "Boy and girl" reads one from the Zinjali district. In other places, a single headstone gives no indication of the multiple bodies buried underneath.

But the gravediggers remember everything.

Iran says it has ended the search for survivors from a strong earthquake that struck near its border with Iraq over the weekend, killing more than 430 people across the region and injuring some 7,000 others.

The magnitude 7.3 quake hit late Sunday, with its epicenter located about 19 miles south of Halabjah, Iraq. It was felt as far away as Baghdad and Tehran.

There's a light rain falling in the hills around Masoud Barzani's palace north of Irbil. Last week, Barzani stepped down as president of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan regional government in northern Iraq, a position he's held for 12 years. But the building, with its soaring staircases and footsteps of staff echoing through vast marble hallways, is still distinctly presidential.

Updated at 2:30 a.m. ET Tuesday

Iraqi forces took over key positions in the Kurdish city of Kirkuk and nearby oil-rich areas on Monday, after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he ordered troops sent in because Iraq is in danger of "partition," citing the Kurdish independence movement.

Abadi also ordered the Kurdish flag to be taken down and the Iraqi flag to be raised in disputed areas — and that's what happened at the governor's office and in other official buildings.

Residents of Iraq's Kurdish region cast their votes today in a controversial independence referendum seen as a way to signal the ethnic minority's desire for self-determination, despite strong opposition from regional and international powers.

The historic poll, which is nonbinding, took place in three northern Kurdish provinces of Iraq, as well as in disputed areas such as the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Two U.S. service members were killed and five others were injured during combat operations in northern Iraq on Sunday, the military announced in a statement.

The joint task force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Operation Inherent Resolve, said an investigation has been opened into the incident. According to the statement, initial reports suggest the casualties did not come as a result of "enemy contact."

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