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15 October 2016 Saturday

Malaysia handed over three members of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) to Turkey late Thursday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Friday.

In remarks made to the media in southwestern Turkey’s Antalya province, Cavusoglu said a FETO member had infiltrated the Second Asia Cooperation Dialogue Summit in Bangkok last week. “They threw him out. This is an organization which tries to infiltrate everywhere.”

He reiterated that Turkey would continue its fight against FETO till the end. “Our fight against them will continue till the end, both inland and abroad. We will not stop following them.”

About his meeting with Malaysian Premier Najib Razak last week, Cavusoglu said Razak told him Malaysia would surrender the three FETO members to Turkey during the summit in Bangkok.

“I gave the information [about the FETO members] to our president, prime minister and related [state] institutions after I returned to Turkey. They surrendered the three people last night following the mutual dialogues,” he said.

Turkey accuses FETO, which is led by U.S.-based Fetullah Gulen, of organizing the July 15 coup attempt as well as a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.

The defeated coup left 241 people martyred and some 2,200 injured.

Source: World Bulletin.


17 October 2016 Monday

A much anticipated Mosul offensive to liberate the city from ISIL began midnight Sunday, according to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

In an address on state television, Abadi said only the army and police would be in the city. He called on people in Mosul to be in solidarity with the security forces.

It was reported earlier that the Iraqi army was gradually advancing toward Mosul, which officials in Baghdad vowed to liberate by the end of the year.

Peshmerga forces reportedly are deployed on the Khazir front — 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Mosul —  and U.S. artillery units also began striking ISIL positions on different fronts.

The primary targets of the offensive are the Hamdaniya and Karakus districts.

A peshmerga commander told Anadolu Agency that approximately 15,000 fighters would participate in the offensive on several fronts in eastern and southeastern Mosul.

Col. Seyit Khajar from the Khazir front said as many as 18,000 fighters could fight ISIL.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter described the launch as a “decisive moment” to completely defeat ISIL and said Washington has confidence in its Iraqi partners to free Mosul and the rest of Iraq from the terror group.

“The United States and the rest of the international coalition stand ready to support Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga fighters and the people of Iraq in the difficult fight ahead,” Carter said in a statement.

In mid-2014, ISIL captured the northern city of Mosul and overran vast swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq.

Recent months have seen the army, backed by a 60-nation air coalition led by the U.S., retake a large portion of the territory. Nevertheless, the terrorist group remains in control of several parts of the country, including Mosul.

Source: World Bulletin.


Kareem Shaheen in Beirut

Sunday 16 October 2016

Syrian rebel fighters backed by Turkey have seized the town of Dabiq from Islamic State, a symbolically crucial victory in the fight against the terror group.

Dabiq, which lies a few miles from the Turkish border, is the site of a prophesied battle between Muslims and non-believers that is supposed to take place at the end of the world, and has featured often in Isis propaganda. The group’s official magazine is named after the town.

On Sunday morning the rebel alliance backed by Turkey announced that it had taken Dabiq after Isis withdrew from the town.

“The Daesh myth of their great battle in Dabiq is finished,” Ahmed Osman, the head of the Sultan Murad group, which took part in the operation, told Reuters.

The Levant Front, another group in the Turkish-backed offensive, published images from inside Dabiq shortly after the announcement, showing deserted streets and terrain.

The operation to reclaim Dabiq was part of Euphrates Shield, a campaign announced by Turkey in August in which Syrian rebel fighters have consolidated control over a stretch of territory from the Euphrates river to the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, aided by Turkish fighter jets, tanks and special forces troops.

Turkey launched the operation shortly after an Islamic State suicide attack on the city of Gaziantep, and it quickly led to the fall of the last Isis stronghold on the border, the town of Jarablus.

Euphrates Shield is also aimed at containing the Syrian Kurds, who have expanded their territory in northern Syria in recent months.

Ankara considers the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main Syrian Kurdish militia, to be another wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), a separatist group fighting an insurgency inside Turkey.

Dabiq was prophesied in a hadith, or saying attributed to the prophet Muhammad, to be the scene of a final battle that would precede Doomsday, and its control by Isis was a boost to their nihilistic propaganda message.

The town was the scene of the executions of American and British aid workers and journalists kidnapped by Isis, the filming of which came to symbolize the group’s brutality.

The Dabiq defeat is the latest in a string of losses for the terror group, which once declared its self-proclaimed caliphate was “remaining and expanding”.

The caliphate has instead receded: in Syria this year it has lost the historic city of Palmyra and the town of Manbij, north of Aleppo, as well as much of its holdings in northern Syria. In Iraq, it lost its stronghold of Falluja in the summer along with much of Anbar province. An operation to retake Mosul, the most populous city under its control, is expected to begin in the coming days.

Islamic State’s top lieutenants have been killed in targeted assassinations and airstrikes, including the recent high-profile killing of its spokesman, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, in an airstrike on al-Bab, a town north of Aleppo that is expected to be an upcoming target for the Turkish-backed coalition.

Source: The Guardian.


15 October 2016 Saturday

Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters were on Saturday advancing on the town of Dabiq to retake it from ISIL fighters, the Turkish president said.

After Jarabulus and Al-Rai in Syria, “we are now advancing. Where? To Dabiq,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in televised comments in the Black Sea province of Rize.

Turkey launched an unprecedented operation inside Syria on August 24 to cleanse its frontier from IS jihadists and Syrian Kurdish militia forces.

In the early weeks of the operation, Jarabulus and Al-Rai were the first two major settlements to be captured from IS by Turkey-backed rebels.

Dabiq holds symbolic importance for ISIL because of a Sunni prophecy that states it will be the site of an end-of-times battle between Christian forces and Muslims.

The Syrian rebels, supported by the Turkish planes and tanks, are 2.5 kilometers from Dabiq (1.5 miles), according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“Two hours ago, the rebels started their attack to control Dabiq. The rebels came from Al-Rai,” it said.

Source: World Bulletin.


14.10.2016 Friday

The Syrian Turkmen Assembly on Thursday gathered in the southern Gaziantep province to discuss the reflections of Operation Euphrates Shield on Syrian Turkmens.

Speaking at the event, Emin Bozoglan, head of the Syrian Turkmen Assembly, said that protecting Turkmens means the security of Turkey. Commenting on the perks of Operation Euphrates Shield for Syrian Turkmens, Bozoglan said: “Operation Euphrates Shield is legitimate and appropriate. Thanks to this operation, the Azaz-Jarablus line has been secured. Turkmens have been saved from the hands of Daish.”Turkmen commanders fighting among the Free Syrian Army (FSA) ranks also attended the event. Yusuf Salih, a Turkmen commander in the FSA, said that Aug. 24 was a historic day for Syria and Syrian Turkmens. “Our target is to secure Turkey’s borders and sweep out Daish terrorists,” Salih said, adding that the operation will continue until the end.

Turkmen locals also had their say during the event. Cumali Agar, a 43-year-old Turkmen, said that he has been praying every day since the beginning of Operation Euphrates Shield for it to be successful. “It saved us and our relatives from Daish. It has to expand and liberate the whole of Syria,” he asserted.

Source: Daily Sabah.


OCT. 13, 2016

AMMAN: More than 600 rebels and their families left two northwest Outer Damascus towns on Thursday in buses headed for rebel-held Idlib province, the first group of residents to be evacuated under a deal with the regime after two weeks of bombardment, ground fighting and negotiations.

Al-Hameh and Qudsaya, neighboring, rebel-held towns roughly 10km northwest of the Syrian capital along the Damascus-Beirut highway, had been negotiating a truce with the regime amidst heavy aerial and ground bombardment since the latter attempted to storm the towns in late September.

As negotiations continued, at least 10 people were killed with dozens injured. The bombings struck the two towns’ only hospitals, part of what one rebel negotiator characterized to Syria Direct last week as a “kneel or die” strategy.

In response to the bombardment and deteriorating conditions in the Free Syrian Army-held towns—encircled by loyalist forces since this past July—residents reportedly “pressured” negotiators to accept a deal offered by the regime late last month to reestablish control of the towns, the same anonymous negotiator told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

The deal stipulated that all rebels in al-Hameh and Qudsaya hand over their medium and heavy weapons and either surrender and sign an amnesty with the Syrian government or leave the towns for Idlib province. In return, all roads into and out of the towns would be opened, with state municipal services restored.

Despite some initial reluctance, rebels took the deal this past Saturday after loyalist forces advanced and captured a strategic part of al-Hameh.

Lists of those wanting to leave were drawn up, and a ceasefire began on Tuesday.

“The opposition became more responsive when faced with the fait accompli imposed by the latest developments,” the rebel negotiator told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

A total of 2,500 residents of the two towns are due to leave the towns for Idlib province over the next few days, the negotiator said, including 525 rebels from Qudsaya and 114 from al-Hameh.

Not all those who want to leave the towns will be allowed to do so, “because they are not gunmen,” the negotiator told Syria Direct on Wednesday. “For example, those wanted for compulsory military service or the reserves in the regime forces, who have not joined any factions” will have to stay, he added.

Those wanted for military service have six months to present themselves to regime conscription offices if they are not eligible for a deferral.

‘A bitter pill’

As of publication, 14 buses holding hundreds of rebels and their families were winding their way northwards through Syria, heading towards rebel-held Idlib province.

“Without the oversight of the United Nations, there are no real guarantees that we will arrive safely in Idlib,” Omar, a rebel from al-Hameh told Syria Direct on Thursday from one of the buses.

While the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) oversaw Thursday’s evacuation, there was no United Nations presence in the towns.

“We only get involved in evacuation operations when requested by all parties and in accordance with international humanitarian law and protection standards,” a spokesman for the Office of the UN Secretary General told Syria Direct last month.

Omar, the rebel on the bus, says he is leaving al-Hameh to protect his family.

“I left with my family to take care of them,” said Omar, “and to safeguard the lives of my people remaining in al-Hameh,” referring to the bombardment of the town in recent days.

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow.”

For some residents, the evacuation of rebel fighters from al-Hameh and Qudsaya appears to be part of a broader attempt by the Syrian regime to remove pockets of resistance near the capital.

“The regime wants to secure the edges of Damascus,” Samer a-Shami, a citizen journalist and member of the al-Hameh LCC told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

“After Darayya, it’s al-Hameh and Qudsaya’s turn,” said a-Shami. “Let observers wonder whose turn is next.”

Source: Syria Direct.


Washington (AFP)

Oct 12, 2016

A remote-controlled jihadist hobby plane rigged with hidden explosives killed two Kurdish fighters and injured two French special operations troops near Mosul, French and US sources confirmed Wednesday.

While the Pentagon has previously said the Islamic State group uses simple, commercially available drones to conduct surveillance and carry small explosives, this was the first known deadly case.

According to a US defense official, the incident unfolded October 2 when a small plane with a styrofoam body was either shot down or crashed in Erbil in northern Iraq.

Two local Kurdish peshmerga fighters grabbed it and took it back to their camp to inspect and photograph it, when it blew up.

“It looks like the explosive charge was hidden inside of what appeared to be a battery on some sort of a timer,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

A French source earlier confirmed the use of a “booby-trapped drone in Iraq,” while another confirmed that two French soldiers were hurt in the incident.

One of the French soldiers has life-threatening injuries. Both have been flown back to France for treatment.

The French military declined to comment.

Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria, described the incident as a “Trojan Horse-style” attack.

“There was an improvised device on a drone. And when that was brought back to the camp, it exploded,” he said.

US defense officials said the military was deploying additional anti-drone technologies to the theater, including systems that provide electronic jamming.

“We don’t just let the enemy develop a capability that threatens our forces and those forces of our allies and partners and leave that threat unaddressed,” Dorrian said.

France is part of the international coalition fighting IS, which is preparing for a major offensive to dislodge the jihadist group from Mosul, which lies 85 kilometers (53 miles) from Erbil.

Around 500 French soldiers are based in Iraq, where they advise the peshmerga and train Iraqi elite forces in Baghdad. About 5,000 US troops are in Iraq.

US defense officials stressed IS drones would have zero strategic impact on the upcoming battle to wrest control of Mosul from IS.

“The implications of this are certainly not an existential threat and not something that’s militarily significant in that it’s going to stop anything that needs to happen from happening,” Dorrian said.

The unnamed defense official said the biggest implication was guidance being issued across the coalition to not pick up any drones.

“Treat them as unexploded ordinance,” he said.

“You see a drone sitting on the ground, don’t pick it up,” and call a bomb disposal expert, he added.

Source: Space War.


October 12, 2016

Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir has promised his supporters what he called a “new Sudan without tribalism,” Anadolu has reported. He made the promise in a speech to thousands of his supporters in Green Square, Khartoum. They had gathered to declare their support for the recommendations of the National Dialogue, which was approved on Monday.

Removing the tribal checkbox on official papers is one of the highlights of the recommendations. The dialogue was boycotted by the main opposition factions. According to the president, “From now on, our identity is just Sudanese, with no tribal references as part of it.” He repeated his call to opponents to sign up to the National Dialogue.

Identity is one of the six themes covered by the dialogue sessions. Many Sudanese associate it with the country’s civil wars since its independence from British rule in 1956.

South Sudan, made up mainly of African groups with a majority of Christian and local religions in addition to a Muslim minority, was separated from the north — dominated by Muslim Arabs — in 2011. A national referendum agreed to a peace agreement signed in 2005 to bring an end to decades of devastating civil war.

Bashir launched an initiative for dialogue in early 2014, but its sessions only started this month. Opposition factions boycotted the initiative after Bashir rejected their conditions, especially the release of political detainees and convicts, the abolition of laws restricting freedoms, and an independent mechanism to manage the process, which was held under the president’s chairmanship.

Foreign mediation saw the signing of a road map resulting in negotiations between the government and rebel movements last August, before the talks were suspended for an indefinite period. In the past few days, government officials asserted that they would not get engaged in a new dialogue, and the opposition factions should sign-up only for the recommendations in order to be part of the implementation process. The opposition announced that it does not care about the recommendations and threatened to resort to a popular uprising.

On Tuesday, Sadiq Al-Mahdi, the leader of the National Party, the largest opposition party in the country, said that the opposition factions are “united in their position, and refuse to engage in the regime and its allies’ dialogue.” He stressed that the opposition is committed to a comprehensive dialogue through the road map and the supervision of the African Mechanism, led by the former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


October 09, 2016

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — When massive anti-India protests erupted in Indian-control Kashmir three months ago after the killing of a charismatic militant leader, Aqib Mir was among tens of thousands of Kashmiris who defied curfew and clashed with government forces.

He chanted for freedom from Indian rule. He hurled abuses and sometimes rocks at police and paramilitary soldiers. Three months later, he joined thousands of other young Kashmiris to try and get a job with the local police.

“Unemployment, what else,” the 24-years-old Mir said when asked why he had lined up inside a soccer stadium in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar to appear for a physical fitness test to become a cop. “We want freedom from India, that’s our fundamental right. But we also have to earn livelihood.”

He’s among some 20,000 young people, the majority of them men, who are trying out for 8,000 jobs advertised by the state police in the troubled Himalayan region that is wracked by rampant unemployment.

With limited job opportunities and an economy crippled by decades of conflict, the state police force is one of the largest employers in Kashmir. According to government data, unemployment in the state stands at over 5 percent for a population of 12 million.

But being a police officer in Indian-controlled Kashmir is both shameful and dangerous, a place where anti-India sentiments are high. Most candidates hid their faces from the photographers covering the recruitment event, highlighting the discomfort Kashmiri police face in their work.

Many residents view the local police as traitors and tools of the Indian government bent on suppressing widespread demands for the Muslim-majority region’s independence or merger with neighboring Pakistan.

One candidate insisted that he had only come to watch the recruitment “drama,” even though his name was on the list of candidates. “I was getting bored at home,” he said. Since July 8, when the most recent rounds of independence protests erupted, many police officials have faced increasing hostility from locals as dozens of civilians have been killed and thousands injured when police and paramilitary troops fired live ammunition and shot gun pellets.

The size of Kashmir’s police department has swelled from just 18,000 officials in early 1990s, when armed rebellion against Indian rule peaked, to more than 100,000 today. A top police officer speaking on a customary condition of anonymity said that despite public suspicion, the candidates are lured by hopes of getting a government job as it offers a steady paycheck.

“This is nothing but compulsion. We’re forced to think through our belly,” Mir said. “There are two wars we have to fight: one is for freedom and the other is for employment.”

Baghdad (AFP)

Oct 11, 2016

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi hit back on Tuesday against dismissive comments by Turkey’s president, mocking his appeal to the nation via video call during a failed coup attempt.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Abadi earlier in the day to “know your place,” and said that he is “not on my level” — another escalation in the war of words between the two sides over Ankara’s deployment of troops in Iraq’s north.

“We will liberate our land through the determination of our men and not by video calls,” Abadi’s official Twitter account said.

Erdogan made a desperate appeal via video calling application FaceTime for citizens to resist a July attempt to overthrow the government, rallying resistance that helped to thwart the coup.

Abadi’s spokesman Saad al-Hadithi told AFP that Erdogan, with his latest remarks, was “pouring oil on the fire,” adding that Turkey’s responses had made an issue of law and security into a “problem of a personal nature”.

“It seems that Turkey is not serious about solving the problem with Iraq,” Hadithi said.

Abadi has repeatedly called on Turkey to withdraw troops deployed near the northern city of Mosul, and said that they will not play a role in the operation to retake it from the Islamic State jihadist group.

Turkey has ignored these requests and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said last week that the country’s forces would stay “no matter what the Iraqi government in Baghdad says.”

The dispute has now lasted for almost a year, and was reignited by the Turkish parliament’s decision to extend a government mandate, thereby allowing Turkish troops to remain in Iraq.

Turkey has had forces deployed in northern Iraq since the 1990s in areas that are part of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, which also currently controls the area near Mosul where the Turkish troops are deployed.

Kurdish security forces are in practice not under Abadi’s command, meaning that appealing for their withdrawal and pushing for allies to help is his main recourse at the moment.

Iraq has called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council to discuss the dispute, which threatens to complicate plans to recapture Mosul from IS.

Iraqi forces are currently preparing for the operation to seize the city from IS, which overran it and other areas in 2014 but has since lost significant ground in the country…

Source: Space War.