Monday, October 16, 2017

Iraq launches offensive against Kirkuk

 Iraqi army verhicles in the oilfields of Kirkuk. (Reuters)

Iraqi forces have launched a major offensive over several fronts aimed at retaking the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk, allegedly causing "lots of casualties" in fighting south of the city.
The federal army, backed by Shia militias, said theiy seized control of the city's international airport, in addition to an oil field, the strategic K1 military base and the Tuz Khurmatu district southeast of Kirkuk on Monday.
Kurdish forces known as the Peshmerga were digging in at the edge of the airport after withdrawing from their positions outside the northern city.
Hundreds of armed Kurdish residents were taking up positions inside the city anticipating an attack.
Residents of the multi-ethnic city, home to about a million Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians, stayed inside and reported hearing sporadic booms they said sounded like shelling and rocket fire.
The Kurdistan Region Security Council said in a statement that the Peshmerga destroyed at least five Humvee armoured vehicles being used by the state-sanctioned militias following the attack south of the city.

Death toll truck bomb Mugadishu above 300

 The death toll in the bombing that hit the centre of Mogadishu on Saturday continues to rise, with more than 300 people now believed to have been killed and hundreds more seriously injured.
The scale of the loss makes the attack, which involved a truck packed with several hundred kilograms of military-grade and homemade explosives, one of the most lethal terrorist acts anywhere in the world for many years.
On Monday morning, Somalia’s information minister announced that 276 people had died in the attack with at least 300 people injured. Within hours, however, Abdikadir Abdirahman, the director of Amin ambulances, said his service had confirmed that 300 people died in the blast.
“The death toll will still be higher because some people are still missing,” Abdirahman told Reuters.
More victims continue to be dug from the rubble spread over an area hundreds of metres wide in the centre of the city.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Jalal Talabani 1933 - 2017

Jalal Talabani, former Iraqi president and Kurdish politician, has died in Germany aged 84. He was Iraq's president from 2005 to 2014 and a key figure in Iraqi Kurdistan, where voters last week overwhelmingly backed independence in a controversial referendum. A family member said Talabani's health had taken a turn for the worse and he been transported to Germany, along with his wife and two children, before the referendum.
Talabani's death, following a decades-old struggle for Kurdish statehood, came after Iraq's Kurds voted 92.7 percent to split from Iraq in the September 25 referendum.
Talabani was an avuncular politician and a skilled negotiator, who spent years building bridges between the country's divided factions, despite his efforts for Kurdish independence.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain: Qatar's answers were not serious

Four Foreign ministers meet in Cairo. From left: the Saudi Adel al-Jubeir, UAE Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan,, Egyptian minister Sameh Shoukry, and the Bahraini Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa.  (Reuters)

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain said in a joint statement on Wednesday that Qatar has displayed "complacency and a lack of seriousness" in response to the four countries’ demands that Qatar stop backing terrorism and interfering in the affairs of neighbouring countries.
The foreign ministers of the four countries met in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss the recent developments of the diplomatic situation with Qatar after receiving the Gulf country’s response to their list of demands.
Last month, the four countries cut ties and trade links with the tiny oil-rich state over Qatar’s alleged support of terrorist groups and its relationship with Iran.
Qatar denies supporting terrorists and has defended its ties with Iran.
Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said at a press conference following the meeting that another meeting is set to take place in Bahrain soon to discuss the issue.
The deadline for Qatar to comply with a list of 13 demands by the four countries expired on Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Saudi Arabia destroys 400 year old center of Shi'ite village in Qatif

By Rannie Amiri
While the United States was preparing to sign a multi-billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia, royal forces laid siege to al-Awamiya, a restive town of approximately 30,000 in the Qatif district of the country’s Eastern Province. Bulldozers, backed by armored tanks and helicopter gunships, systemically leveled homes and put entire families on the street in the historic Mosawara neighborhood. This came under the guise of a development and "renovation" project for the long-neglected and impoverished city although the regime saw fit to post doctored images of allegedly captured weapons to imply was also a security operation.
Last month, anticipating such a move, United Nations experts on poverty, culture and housing rights, " … called on the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to immediately halt the planned demolition of a 400-year-old walled neighborhood in the village of Awamia. The UN experts warned the development plan for the Al-Masora quarter threatens the historical and cultural heritage of the town with irreparable harm, and may result in the forced eviction of numerous people from their businesses and residences.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

WHO: In Yemen as many as 200.000 affected by cholera

Yemen is facing the "world's worst cholera outbreak", with about 1,310 people dying due to the disease since late April, according to the World Health Organization. More than 200,000 suspected cases of cholera have been recorded in the Arabian Peninsula country and as many as 300,000 people could become infected by the end of August, Margaret Chan, WHO's director-general, said in a statement on Saturday. 
"In just two months, cholera has spread to almost every governorate of this war-torn country," Chan and Anthony Lake, UNICEF executive director, said. "Already more than 1,300 people have died - one quarter of them children - and the death toll is expected to rise."
Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread through contaminated food or water. It can be fatal within hours if left untreated. Although the disease is easily treatable, doing so in Yemen, a country riven by conflict, has proved particularly difficult.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Saudia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt give Qatar an ultimatium of 13 points

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt handed Qatar a lists of demands which have to be fulfuilled within 10 days, or the four countries will continue their blockade and boycot of the Emirate. The list comes down to an ultimatum and does not sound realistic at all, as what the four are asking comes down to a complete surrender. Qatar has to give up its own foreign policy line and start to submit completely the the lines set by the rest of the Gulf and, in the first place, Saudi Arabia. It has to get rid of its poliy of relative free speech and feedom of movement (relative to the lack of such policies in the other four countries). The only merit of the demands is the provision that Qatar has to cut its (supposedly continuing) ties with ISIL and al Nusra. But at the other hand can be said that Qatar's role in supporting these and other terrorist groups dwarfs in comparison to those of Saudi Arabia. And then we did not even mention the war in Yemen, which is led by the Saudis and where the UAE just a day ago was exposed as torturing prisoners of war on a large scale.    
 Qatar has not answered yet. But eralier this week it's foreign minister, sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani, said this Monday that Qatar will not negotiate unless the measures the four countries installed against the Emirate earlier this month, are lifted.
The list of demands: 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Iran fires rockets at IS in Deir az Zor in Syria

Iran's Revolutionary Guard says it has fired several missiles at positions of IS in Syria's Deir Az Zor province in retaliation for two deadly attacks in Tehran earlier this month that were claimed by the armed group.
"Medium-range missiles were fired from the (western) provinces of Kermanshah and Kurdestan, and a large number of terrorists were killed and weapons destroyed," the Guard said in a statement published on its Sepahnews website on Sunday. It said the attack targeted "a command base .. of the terrorists in Deir Ezzor", using a different version of the name for the province in eastern Syria. "The spilling of any pure blood will not go unanswered," it added.
The firing of the missiles, the first in 30 years outside Iran's own territory, came hours after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a statement on his website, vowed Iran would "slap its enemies" in honour of the victims' families, including those killed in Syria and Iraq. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

IS claims attack on Iranian parliament and shrine of Khomeiny

Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Iranian parliament and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran on Wednesday, killing at least 12 people in a twin assault. Islamic State claimed responsibility and released a video purporting to show gunmen inside the parliament building.
The attacks took place at a particularly charged time after Saudi Arabia and other Sunni powers cut ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of backing Tehran and militant groups."This terrorist attack happened only a week after the meeting between the U.S. president (Donald Trump) and the (Saudi) backward leaders who support terrorists. The fact that Islamic State has claimed responsibility proves that they were involved in the brutal attack," a Guards statement said.
Saudi Attackers dressed as women burst through parliament's main entrance in central Tehran, deputy interior minister Mohammad Hossein Zolfaghari said, according to the Tasnim news agency.One of them detonated a suicide vest in the parliament, he said. About five hours after the first reports, Iranian media said four people who had attacked parliament were dead and the incident was over.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Israel strikes hit military depot used by Hezbollah near Damascus

 Activistst posted pictures on which huge fires were to be seen near Damascus (Reuters)

Israel struck an arms supply hub operated by the Lebanese group Hezbollah near Damascus airport on Thursday, targeting weapons sent from Iran via commercial and military cargo planes, Syrian rebel and regional intelligence sources said.
Video carried on Arab TV and shared on social media showed the pre-dawn airstrikes caused a fire around the airport east of the Syrian capital, suggesting fuel sources or weapons containing explosives were hit.
Syrian state media said Israeli missiles hit a military position southwest of the airport.Two senior rebel sources in the Damascus area, citing monitors in the eastern outskirts of the capital, said five strikes hit an ammunition depot used by Iran-backed militias. 
Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, speaking from the United States where he has been meeting US officials, told Israeli Army Radio: "I can confirm that the incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel's policy to act to prevent Iran's smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah ... Naturally, I don't want to elaborate on this.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Erdoğan wins narrow victory in referendum for sweeping powers

 The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has achieved a narrow victory in a historic referendum on a package of constitutional amendments that will grant him sweeping new powers.
Sadi Güven, the head of Turkey’s high electoral board (YSK), confirmed the passage of the referendum on Sunday night, based on unofficial results.
The yes campaign won 1.25m more votes than the no campaign, with only about 600,000 votes still to be counted, Güven told reporters in Ankara, meaning the expanded presidential powers had been approved.
However, disparities persisted into Sunday evening, with the opposition saying not all ballots had been counted and they would contest a third of the votes that had been cast.
Güven said the YSK had decided to consider unstamped ballots as valid unless they were proved to be fraudulent, after a high number of complaints – including one from the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) – that its officials had failed to stamp some ballot papers.
The no campaign said the YSK’s last-minute decision raised questions about the validity of the vote. But Güven said the decision was taken before results were entered into the system and that members of the AKP and the main opposition were present at almost all polling stations and signed off on reports. He said official results were expected in 11-12 days.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

At least 126 killed in blast near Aleppo

A large blast has killed at least 126 people in an attack near buses carrying Syrians evacuated from two besieged government-held towns, according to a monitoring group. The explosion on Saturday in Rashidin, west of Aleppo, targeted residents who were evacuated from the rebel-besieged towns of Fouaa and Kefraya in Idlib province under a deal reached between the Syrian government and rebels.The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on Sunday said at least 126 people were killed in the blast, raising a previous death toll of 112. Syria: Evacuation buses leave Madaya, Zabadani for Idlib At least 68 children were among those killed, the monitor said. The Syrian Civil Defence, a volunteer rescue group that operates in rebel-held parts of Syria, had said on Saturday that at least 100 people were killed, while a report on Syrian state TV had given a death toll of 39.While there was no confirmation as to what caused the blast, state media said a "suicide bomber" allegedly used a van meant for carrying aid supplies to enter the area. The SOHR said the explosion came from a vehicle-born improvised explosive device. Al Jazeera's Adham Abul Hussam, reporting from the scene of the attack, said dozens of bodies littered the ground and ambulances were packed with victims. "The civil defence teams are recovering the bodies and searching for survivors. Many of the buses were totally destroyed," he said.