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Iran said Sunday its pilgrims will miss this year's hajj because Saudi Arabia, custodian of Islam's holiest sites, was raising obstacles and "blocking the path to Allah" for its faithful. Riyadh said Iran's hajj demands were "unacceptable". The Saudi side had failed to respond to Iranian demands over "the security and respect" of its pilgrims to Mecca, of whom 60,000 took part in last year's hajj, the organisation said.
Elite Iraqi troops were poised Sunday to assault one of the Islamic State group's most emblematic bastions, Fallujah, as the jihadists counterattacked in both Iraq and neighbouring Syria. The fighting prompted a new exodus of thousands of desperate civilians and deep concern for the many more trapped in the battlegrounds. The overall commander of the Fallujah operation, Abdelwahab al-Saadi, said Saturday it was a matter of hours before the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) entered the city.
A week of shipwrecks in the Mediterranean culminated Sunday with 700 migrants feared dead and survivors giving harrowing testimony of dozens of small children drowned. Survivors brought to safety in the Italian ports of Taranto and Pozzallo told the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) and Save the Children how their boat sank on Thursday morning after a high-seas drama which saw one woman decapitated. "We'll never know the exact number, we'll never know their identities," said the UNHCR's spokeswoman Carlotta Sami.