Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

World Briefs: Iraqi Forces Close in on IS-Held Town West of Mosul

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

World Briefs: Iraqi Forces Close in on IS-Held Town West of Mosul

Article excerpt

Londoners will miss Big Ben

Big Ben rang out 12 times at noon on Monday before halting its regularly scheduled bonging for four years to allow for major renovations at the Houses of Parliament.

The 13-ton bell will still sound for special occasions such as New Year's Eve, but parliamentary officials say the bonging must be muted while the repair work is being carried out. The Elizabeth Tower, the official name of the tower that many call Big Ben, is already partially covered in scaffolding.

Few question that the Palace of Westminster, the Gothic castle on the northern banks of the River Thames that is home to Britain's Parliament, is in dire need of renovations. But many have asked why it will take so long to carry out.

Until noon Monday, Big Ben bonged every hour, while chimes now also silent rang out every 15 minutes. At the appointed hour, hundreds gathered in Parliament Square to hear the final ringing of the regular bongs, many with smartphones held aloft. A round of polite applause rippled through the crowd once the last bong had faded away.

"It was very emotional," said Jess Fulcher, 35, a Londoner who said she could hear the bongs from her home about three miles away. "The atmosphere is sad, but a happy sad," she said, noting the urgency of the repairs slated for the tower.

"At least it's still standing," she added.

Iraq forces focus on town * Iraqi forces made significant progress as they closed in on the Islamic State-held town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, the U.S.-led coalition and an Iraqi military spokesman said Monday.

U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a coalition spokesman, said Iraqi forces have retaken some 95 square miles from the extremist group since the operation began early Sunday, though they have not yet pushed into the town itself.

"As we get into the urban areas as we saw in Mosul and Raqqa that's where we'll see the pace slow down, that's where (IS) have placed their defenses," he said. …

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