Sunday, October 16, 2016

Syrian rebels retake Dabiq from IS

The first issue of the IS-Magazine Dabiq
Syrian rebels said they captured the village of Dabiq from Islamic State on Sunday, forcing the jihadist group from a stronghold where it had promised to fight a final, apocalyptic battle wi
th the West.Its defeat at Dabiq, long a mainstay of Islamic State's propaganda, underscores the group's declining fortunes this year as it suffered battlefield defeats in Syria and Iraq and lost a string of senior leaders in targeted air strikes.
The group, whose lightning advance through swathes of the two countries and declaration that it had established a new caliphate stunned world leaders in 2014, is now girding for an offensive against Iraq's Mosul, its most prized possession.
The rebels, backed by Turkish tanks and warplanes, took Dabiq and neighboring Soran after clashes on Sunday morning, said Ahmed Osman, head of the Sultan Murad group, one of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions involved in the fighting.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Iraqi Shi'a militias abused and killed more Sunni civilians than previously acknowledged

Shi’ite militias in Iraq detained, tortured and abused far more Sunni civilians during the American-backed capture of the town of Falluja in June than U.S. officials have publicly acknowledged, Reuters has found.
More than 700 Sunni men and boys are still missing more than two months after the Islamic State stronghold fell. The abuses occurred despite U.S. efforts to restrict the militias' role in the operation, including threatening to withdraw American air support, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.
The U.S. efforts had little effect. Shi’ite militias did not pull back from Falluja, participated in looting there and now vow to defy any American effort to limit their role in coming operations against Islamic State.
All told, militia fighters killed at least 66 Sunni males and abused at least 1,500 others fleeing the Falluja area, according to interviews with more than 20 survivors, tribal leaders, Iraqi politicians and Western diplomats.
They said men were shot, beaten with rubber hoses and in several cases beheaded. Their accounts were supported by a Reuters review of an investigation by local Iraqi authorities and video testimony and photographs of survivors taken immediately after their release.

Friday, August 19, 2016

S.Sudanese opposition leader Machar fled to Congo

South Sudan's former vice president and opposition leader Riek Machar "is in the care" of the authorities in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the United Nations has said, several weeks after he withdrew from the capital Juba during fierce fighting with government troops.
The news on Thursday came after a statement by the leadership of the SPLA In Opposition party said Machar had left South Sudan on Wednesday to a "safe country within the region", without giving any further details on his exact whereabouts.
"We were aware yesterday of the presence of Riek Machar in DRC," UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on Thursday. Machar led a two-year rebellion against forces loyal to his longtime rival President Salva Kiir before the two sides reached a peace deal in August 2015. Under the deal, Machar returned to Juba in April to resume his role as vice president. But fighting flared last month, leading Machar to withdraw with his forces from Juba around mid-July.
Since the outbreak of fighting in July, Kiir has sacked Machar from his post and appointed Taban Deng Gai, a former opposition negotiator who broke ranks with Machar, as vice president.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Syrian town of Manbij liberated, inhabitans return

Female SDF fighters embrace each other after Manbij is liberated.

Thousands of displaced residents streamed back into the northern Syrian town of Manbij on Saturday after U.S.-backed fighters ousted the last Islamic State militants from their former stronghold, residents and U.S. allies said.The U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Friday they had seized full control of the city near the Turkish border.
Hundreds of cars and vehicles carrying families and their belongings flocked into the city from makeshift camps and villages in the countryside, where many of the city's residents took shelter during the two-month campaign en shops reopened. The militants were finally ousted after a deal was reached on Friday that secured their departure together with some 2,000 civilians, believed to have been their relatives, toward their stronghold of Jarablus near the border with Turkey. It was not clear whether those leaving were hostages or had left voluntarily, a Kurdish source said.
The SDF, formed last year by recruiting Arabs to join forces with the powerful YPG Kurdish militia, launched an offensive with the support of U.S.-led strikes at the end of May to remove Islamic State from areas it controls along the Turkish border.

Houthis stage ''reopening'' of Yemen's parliament

Members of Yemen's parliament convened in the capital Sanaa on Saturday for the first time since a civil war began almost two years ago, in a move aimed at bolstering the rebel Houthi movement and challenging the Saudi-backed exiled government.
The armed Houthis and their allies in the General People's Congress (GPC) party headed by powerful ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh control Sanaa and have withstood thousands of air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition.
After UN-backed peace talks to end the war collapsed last week, the Houthis and the GPC set up a governing council to rule the country despite UN and government opposition. All of the present  members of parliament voted for the new council.
The Saudi backed presidnet Abed Rabbo al Mansour Hadi  denounced the parliamentary session as a "violation" of the constitution and a "crime punishable by law", in remarks carried by the official Yemeni Saba news website. "Whatever takes place at this meeting has no legal effects and cannot be implemented," he said.
According to the constitution, more than half of the 301-member national assembly have to attend the session for voting to take place.  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Threats against Palestinian actvist working for JCC in The Hague

Nada Kiswanson
Dutch authorities are investigating death threats against a Palestinian rights activist in The Hague targeted because she has made submissions to the International Criminal Court's inquiry into the 2014 Gaza conflict. Nada Kiswanson, a legal researcher at Palestinian rights group Al-Haq, said the threats began early this year and have continued on a regular basis since. "My channels of communication have been totally compromised," Kiswanson told Reuters, adding that she had received death threats by e-mail, via family members and in the form of flower deliveries to her home with accompanying messages.
When she purchased an anonymous pre-paid mobile phone number, she received a threat on it a day later. Messages had come in Dutch, English and "broken Arabic", she said.
The Jordanian-Swedish citizen had also been called on a family member's pre-paid Jordanian number while staying in the country, while a relative in Sweden had been called and told that Kiswanson would be "eliminated".
Human rights organization Amnesty International said it was forced to temporarily close its office in The Hague for security reasons after an employee's personal e-mail was hacked and used to send Kiswanson a death threat.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Iran executed 20 members of Kurdish groups

Attorney General Montazeri
 In an exclusive interview with Iranian state run media IRIB, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, the Attorney General of Iran, said 20 Sunni prisoners were executed at Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison (west of Tehran) on Tuesday August 2, but he did not mention their identities. Earlier, the Judiciary in the Kurdistan province had issued a statement about the execution of a "group of convicts" for membership in "Sunni militant groups". The statement did not mention the number of executions or the identities of the prisoners. Iran Human Rights is further investigating these executions and will be publishing an updated report.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Syrian Nusra Front splits from al Qaeda and rebrands itself

Mohammed al Golani, the leader of the Nusra Front, now called Jabhat Fath al Sham.  

Al Qaeda's powerful Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, announced on Thursday it was ending its relationship with the global jihadist network founded by Osama bin Laden, to remove a pretext used by world powers to attack Syrians.
The announcement came as Russia and President Bashar al-Assad's government declared a "humanitarian operation" in the besieged rebel-held sector of Aleppo, opening "safe corridors" so people can flee Syria's most important opposition stronghold.
Washington said that appeared to be an attempt to depopulate the city and make fighters surrender. The opposition called it a euphemism for forced displacement.
In the first known video statement ever to show his face, the leader of the Nusra Front, Mohamad al-Golani, announced that the group would re-form under a new name, with "no ties with any foreign party".
The move was being made "to remove the excuse used by the international community -- spearheaded by America and Russia -- to bombard and displace Muslims in the Levant: that they are targeting the Nusra Front which is associated with al Qaeda," he said. The group would now be called Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (Front for the Liberation of al Sham/Syria).

Sunday, July 24, 2016

IS attacks Shi'ite demonstration in Kabul, 80 dead, more than 230 wounded

 (Photo Al Jazeera)

Twin explosions tore through a demonstration by members of Afghanistan's mainly Shi'ite Hazara minority in Kabul on Saturday, killing at least 80 people and wounding more than 230 in suicide attacks claimed by Islamic State.
Graphic television footage from the site of the attack showed many dead bodies lying on the bloodied road, close to where thousands of Hazara had been demonstrating against the route of a planned multi-million-dollar power line.
"Two fighters from Islamic State detonated explosive belts at a gathering of Shi'ites in the city of Kabul in Afghanistan," said a brief statement on the group's Amaq news agency.
The explicit reference to the Hazara's (from the eastern province of Nangarhar) Shi'ite religious affiliation marked a menacing departure for Afghanistan, where the bloody sectarian rivalry between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims typical of Iraq has been relatively rare, despite decades of war. Islamic State is an ultra hardline Sunni group.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Shooting in South Sudan continues, about 300 killed

Tank in Juba. (Photo Sudan Tribune)

Heavy fighting erupted again in South Sudan's capital on Monday a day after the U.N. Security Council told rivals President Salva Kiir andVice-President Riek Machar to rein in their forces and end days of violence that have left scores dead.
The capital has been mired in fighting almost every day since Thursday when troops loyal to Kiir and soldiers backing former rebel leader Machar first clashed.There has been no official death toll but at least five soldiers died on Thursday and a Health Ministry source said 272 people, including 33 civilians, were killed on Friday. After a brief lull on Saturday, Sunday's fighting appeared even more fierce.
Shantal Persaud, spokeswoman for the U.N. mission UNMISS, told Reuters by telephone that gunfire had erupted on Monday around the U.N. headquarters in the Jebel area of Juba and also around a base near the airport. U.N. bases were hit by small arms and heavy weapons on Sunday.
The Sudan Tribune adds that  also sustained shooting have been heard in the areas of Gudele, Tongping near Juba airport. Shootings have also resumed at the airport area and sounds of heavy machine guns could be heard.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Chilcot report is damning verdict on Blair's decesion to join Bush and go to war in Iraq

Blair during his press conference. (AP)
Prime Minister Tony Blair led Britain into an unsuccessful war in Iraq through a mix of flawed intelligence, "wholly inadequate" planning and an exaggerated sense of the U.K.'s ability to influence the United States, according to a damning official report on the conflict that was published Wednesday.
The government-commissioned inquiry fell short of delivering what many bereaved families sought — a declaration that the 2003 war was illegal. But its 2.6 million words give the most comprehensive verdict to date on the mistakes of a conflict whose violent aftershocks still rattle the world.
Blair, however, stood by his decision to join U.S. President George W. Bush in toppling Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
"I believe I made the right decision and that the world is better and safer as a result of it," he said.
The decision to go to war was the most contentions act of Blair's decade as prime minister between 1997 and 2007. By the time British combat forces left Iraq in 2009, the conflict had killed 179 U.K. troops, almost 4,500 U.S. personnel and more than 100,000 Iraqis.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Happy Eid

This was the way children celebrated Eid al Fitr in an amusement park in  Baghdad, last year. (The Photo is from Reuters). I wish every body a happy feast.