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.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Amnesty: Abductions, torture and killings around Aleppo and Idlib


Armed groups operating in Aleppo, Idlib and surrounding areas in the north of Syria have carried out a chilling wave of abductions, torture and summary killings, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.
The briefing Torture was my punishment’: Abductions, torture and summary killings under armed group rule in Aleppo and Idleb, Syria offers a rare glimpse of what life is really like in areas under the control of armed opposition groups. Some of them are believed to have the support of governments such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the USA despite evidence that they are committing violations of international humanitarian law (the laws of war). It also sheds light on the administrative and quasi-judicial institutions set up by armed groups to govern in these areas.
“This briefing exposes the distressing reality for civilians living under the control of some of the armed opposition groups in Aleppo, Idlib and surrounding areas. Many civilians live in constant fear of being abducted if they criticize the conduct of armed groups in power or fail to abide by the strict rules that some have imposed,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

Four killed by bomb attacks in Medina and elsewhere in Saudi Arabia

Lets Not be Provoked by Medina Bomb Incident
Four security officers have been killed and five others injured in a suicide attack outside the Prophet's Mosque in Saudi Arabia's Medina, Islam's second holiest city, the Saudi interior ministry said. Photos on social media show smoke billowing from a fire outside the mosque. The blast occurred just before the Maghreb (sunset) prayers on Monday when people were breaking their fast inside the mosque. 
Saudi Arabia's state-run news channel, Al-Ekhbariya, aired live video of thousands of worshippers praying inside the mosque hours after the explosion. Around the same time as the Medina blast, two other explosions struck near a mosque in the eastern city of Qatif on the Gulf coast, residents said. Witnesses said a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Shia mosque without causing any other injuries.

Monday, July 4, 2016

IS kills at least 250 with truck bomb in Baghdad

Update: The death toll has reached 250 on Wednesday. It is the deadliest attack since the Americn invasion of 2003. the minister of the Interior has offred to resign.
 Anger is growing in Baghdad over the government's failure to protect civilians, after a devastating bombing in a crowded commercial area in the Iraqi capital killed more than 200 people, including many children.
The powerful explosion early on Sunday came near the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when the streets were filled with young people and families out after sunset. The death toll from the blast in Karada, a predominantly Shia neighbourhood in central Baghdad, rose to over 200 on Monday morning, as the bodies of more victims were pulled from the rubble.Hundreds were wounded when a lorry packed with explosives blew up in a busy shopping street filled with people after they had broken their fast.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS or ISIL)group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement circulated by its supporters online. The group, which has claimed numerous deadly bombings in mainly Shia areas of Baghdad, alleged that a suicide bomber targeted a crowd of Shia Muslims.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Egypt deports critical tv-presenter the day she ends contract with new rightist owner of the station

Popular Lebanese TV host Liliane Daoud was arrested from her home in Cairo on Monday night, taken to an undisclosed location and then put aboard an EgyptAir flight to Beirut, said Daoud’s lawyer Zyad Elelaimy. Eight members of the security forces stormed her home earlier that evening. It was the same day she ended her contract with ONtv.
The security forces refused to allow Daoud to make a phone call or to take her phone with her when they apprehended her, Elelaimy said. Her Egyptian ex-husband, Khaled El-Berry, was coincidentally present at her home during the arrest while picking up their ten-year-old daughter for dinner. "They gave [Daoud] exactly five minutes. They refused to allow her to take anything with her except her wallet. They also refused to let her call a lawyer or the [Lebanese] embassy," El-Berry wrote on his Facebook account.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Egyptian court nullifies deal with Saudis about two islands near the Gulf of Aqaba

After the verdict lawyer Khaled Ali reads out the names of the people who are in prison because they demonstrated against the sale of the islands. (Photo Ahdaf Soueif/via Twitter)

Egypt's Administrative Court ruled on Tuesday that the 8 April agreement which placed the two Egyptian Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir in Saudi waters is void. The two islands should remain under Egyptian sovereignty. 
State Council Vice President Yehia El-Dakroury, reasoned that "the islands should remain part of Egyptian territory and within Egyptian borders; Egyptian sovereignty over the islands holds, and it forbidden to change their status for the benefit of any other state." The Egyptian state is going to appeal the conclusion of the court.
The agreement, which was signed by Egypt and Saudi Arabia during a five-day visit by Saudi King Salman to Cairo, stipulated that the two islands at the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba fall within Saudi waters thus paving the way for a transfer of sovereignty to Riyadh.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Iraq retakes most of Falluja

Iraqi government vehicles in the centre of Falluja. (AP). 

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced Friday that Iraqi forces have retaken most of Fallujah from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS, Daesh). However operations are still under way to flush out the armed group's remaining fighters in the city.
The government lost control of Fallujah in 2014, months before Daesh took Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, and other large parts of the country. "We promised you the liberation of Fallujah and we retook it. Our security forces control the city except for small pockets that need to be cleared within the coming hours," Abadi said in a brief address on state TV. "Fallujah has returned to the nation and Mosul is the next battle," Abadi also said on Twitter. "Daesh will be defeated," he added.
Earlier on Friday, Iraqi forces said they had entered the centre of Fallujah, nearly four weeks after the start of a US-backed offensive to retake the city 50km west of the capital, Baghdad. They took the government compound and the Iraqi flag is now raised on top of the building, symbolising government control

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Libyan government forces retake port and airport of Sirte

Government forces on the outskirts of Sirte. (Reuters)

Forces loyal to Libya's internationally backed government say they have recaptured both the port and airport of Sirte from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), forcing the armed group to retreat. The Libyan forces also retook residential areas in the east of Sirte, which for the past year has been the main ISIL base in the North African country, a spokesman for the forces, Rida Issa, told the AFP news agency on Saturday.
ISIL fighters are now surrounded in a densely populated area of around five square kilometres inside the city, where they are laying booby traps, he said. Most of the city's residents have fled but about 30,000 remain, Issa added.
The fall of Sirte, the hometown of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi, would be a major setback for ISIL, who have also lost territory in Syria and Iraq, where they have declared a "caliphate".