Archive for August 14, 2016

By Michel Arseneault


President Omar al-Bashir says Sudan will go ahead with plans to adopt an entirely Islamic constitution. Bashir had already said that Sudan would adopt an Islamic constitution if the south seceded. But many southerners had hoped he would not go ahead.

Bashir says that 98 per cent of the Sudanese population is Muslim, and that the new constitution should reflect this.

Speaking to students in Khartoum, he said the official religion would be Islam and that Islamic law would be the constitutional source of future legislation.

Under the comprehensive peace agreement signed between north and south, Sudan’s constitution recognizes “the cultural and social diversity of the Sudanese people”.

But many southerners say they no longer feel welcome in the north since the two separated in July.

The General Secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, says Sudan must recognize religious diversity. Reverend Ramadan Chan Liol adds that it should explicitly protect the non-Muslim minority in the north.

Reverend Chan Liol adds he was surprised to hear Bashir claim that 98 per cent of the population is Muslim because the Sudanese census does not ask citizens to state their religion.

Source: RFI.


August 13, 2016

Hundreds of Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad on Friday in protest at the government’s “financial and administrative corruption,” Anadolu has reported. Similar demonstrations were held in other cities across Iraq.

The protesters gathered in Al-Tahrir Square in the middle of Baghdad. Bridges and main streets in the capital were closed by the security forces.

Protesters directed their grievances at Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi as they called for an end to corruption in government. They also want “comprehensive changes” in government appointments to key positions across the country.

“The government is still unable to investigate officials who affiliate to political parties and hold them accountable for their corruption or failure to run the government and service institutions,” one protester told Anadolu. “A year ago,” claimed Ahmed Radi, “Al-Abadi made several pledges, including a pledge to fight corruption, prosecute corrupt officials and approve a transparent and quality appointments system, but none of this has been done.”

Such anti-corruption protests have been held for almost a year. Aside from the calls to end corruption and for the prosecution of corrupt officials, the people want an end to political differences in parliament.

According to the Transparency Index, Iraq has been among the most corrupt countries in the world for many years. Many other international organisations have reported that there is “waste, fraud and embezzlement of public funds” on a major scale.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


August 9, 2016

On 15 July, a bloody coup attempt was staged in Turkey; it was unsuccessful. Army officers and soldiers belonging to the Gülenist FETO terrorist organisation barricaded strategic bridges and locations in Ankara and Istanbul, and seized the General Staff Headquarters. They tried to eliminate the elected president and government of the country. However, when the people took to the streets and began fighting, it was clear that the coup would not succeed. Unfortunately, 250 people, most of them civilians, were killed. Since then, a significant number of the organisation’s members — mostly in the military — have been discharged from their positions within state institutions. According to the confessions of those who took part in the coup, it was carried out on the order of the organisation’s leader, Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania and has called those who died during the coup “fools”. A formal request for his extradition has been filed by the Turkish government, but it has yet to be acted upon by the US.

The coup was the third unsuccessful attempt in Turkey since 2013. The first started with the Gezi Park protest between May and June 2013 and was followed by an effort to overthrow the government with allegations of corruption in December that year. A country that has gone through a similar ordeal as Turkey but was forced to its knees at the second attempt is Brazil.

It is interesting to note that both the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in Turkey led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the Workers’ Party in Brazil led by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were both elected to govern their country in 2002. Both countries were on the verge of an economic and political breakdown but were stabilized by their respective leaders’ reforms. The election of the AK Party and Workers’ Party was a reflection of the middle and lower classes’ longing for stability in countries that were nearly collapsing as a result of economic mismanagement. The GDP of both countries increased significantly and they became safe-zones for foreign investment.

Lula’s Brazil and Erdogan’s Turkey showed stability and rapid development and began to have more influence in the global arena. While both managed to act in accordance with the free market economy, they also managed to protect their national economy, and after 2007 their economic status went head to head with many Western states. The Brazilian and Turkish leadership developed policies on regional and global issues which differed from those of Washington and other western capitals. Both leaders visited Tehran in 2010 to sign agreements with Iran to support its non-military nuclear program, despite the West’s embargo and war threats. Although the terms of the agreements comply with the West’s main insistence over nuclear exchange, the moves by Ankara and Brasilia were not taken well by Western leaders.

Similarly, the common stance of both countries against Israel’s occupation of Palestine was very different from the policies of the West. Both made clear their view that Israel should withdraw to its 1967 borders, stop the construction of illegal Jewish colony-settlements and end the blockade of the Gaza Strip. In following policies which differed to those of the hegemonic West, whilst also questioning the organizational structure of the UN, there was thus proof of an alternative approach to that propounded by the Western-centric foreign policy axis.

After serving two consecutive terms of office, Lula handed over to his close friend and colleague Dilma Rousseff in 2011. She followed in Lula’s footsteps in her foreign and domestic politics. Whereas in 2002 the middle class was represented by only 38 per cent of the population, after the 2014 election this figure rose to 55 per cent and has been attributed to Lula’s and Rousseff’s successful and determined economic policies. Turkey’s and Brazil’s stabilized economies, having caught up with the economic level of developed countries in 2007, provided some hope for other countries whose development was being hindered by the West.

Although they may be said to be coincidental, anti-government protests occurred almost simultaneously in Turkey and Brazil. The Gezi Park protest was sparked after a small group complained about some urban development in the park. The protest grew larger and spread across Turkey, fueled by the Western media pushing for Erdogan to resign. In reality, the media campaign against the popular elected leadership betrayed the fact that this was a campaign against Turkey, not its political leadership. It was later discovered that members of FETO within the police force had enabled the protest to grow so dramatically. This first attempt by FETO against the government was echoed by the western public and media.

In Brazil, meanwhile, people were protesting about public transport; demonstrations spread quickly into nationwide protests and demands for the government to resign. As in Turkey, the protesters in Brazil also attacked public buildings and the protests turned violent. Decisive government action in both countries eventually brought the protests to a halt, but that was not the end of the matter.

In December 2013 four ministers in Turkey were accused of fraud. The individual corruption cases were somehow intertwined and Erdogan was also dragged into them along with his family, after the appearance of fake documents. This was also discovered to be the work of FETO members within the security agencies and judiciary, and was again overcome thanks to decisive government positions. It was later discovered that FETO had received huge amounts of money after threats and blackmail. The Western media, rather interestingly, decided to conceal the fact that FETO was behind this attempt to bring the government down and tried to justify this by accusations against Erdogan’s administration.

Whereas that particular coup attempt failed in Turkey, the Brazilian government was overthrown following corruption allegations. Just as there were FETO-supporting MPs within the government in Ankara, so too were there MPs within the Workers’ Party in Brazil who supported the coup. Some politicians and judges from the coup era began suing Lula and Rousseff.

The second operation against Lula and Rousseff started in mid-2014 with accusations that some managers of the state-partnered energy company Petrobas were being bribed and transferred money to political figures over a period of 10 years. At first, the fingers were pointed only at some minor politicians and managers, but then judges also accused Rousseff and Lula; they were both on the Petrobas board. A year before the accusations were made public it was discovered that America was spying on Petrobas and listening-in to Brazil’s state telecommunications as well as Rousseff herself. This strengthens the argument that the US had an important part to play in Rousseff and Lula being linked to the Petrobas scandal and efforts to bring them down.

As happened in Turkey, the transcripts of hundreds of recorded phone calls were published in order to strengthen the corruption accusations against Rousseff and Lula. Although there was no concrete evidence against Rousseff, on 12 May this year she was suspended from the party after being voted out by other MPs. The former President of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, who led the way in sidelining Rousseff, was also suspended from his position one month later for corruption, the abuse of power and threatening behavior. At the same time the resignation of the Minister of Transparency, Supervision and Control of Brazil, Fabiano Silveira, and the Senator from Roraima, Romero Juca after trying to use Rousseff’s impeachment to divert attention from accusations of corruption against themselves is, evidence which suggests that there was a coup attempt against the Brazilian president. It is known that Brazil’s Acting President Michel Temer has close links to the CIA; this has been confirmed by Wikileaks documents, as has the introduction of the IMF and Goldman Sachs to economic positions within the new government.

Although Brazil lost the battle with the second coup, Turkey lives to fight another day. A large proportion of the population believe firmly that the US and other Western countries were behind the July coup attempt. This is not only because Fethullah Gülen lives in America and is not as yet being extradited by the US, but also due to statements coming out of Washington such as, “A number of the US military’s closest allies in the Turkish military have been placed in jail following the coup attempt.” American and Western media support for the coup makes US complicity all the more convincing and likely.

With the coup operations carried out against Lula and Rousseff in Brazil, and Erdogan in Turkey, Brazil may have lost in the second round but Turkey is still standing strong. This time, though, Turkey as a nation is prepared for other probable attempts to derail democracy in the country. While Brazil may have been edged out of the international arena, Turkey remains firm as the only country that continues to inspire the global South with its independent and anti-western foreign and economic policies.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


Ankara (AFP)

Aug 10, 2016

A Turkish rear admiral on a NATO assignment in the US has sought asylum in the country after Ankara sought his detention following the failed July 15 coup, state-run media said Wednesday.

Turkish authorities have ousted thousands of military personnel including nearly half its generals and admirals since a rogue military faction tried to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power.

Rear Admiral Mustafa Zeki Ugurlu is the subject of a detention order in Turkey and has been expelled from the armed forces, the Anadolu news agency reported.

He has requested asylum from US authorities, it added, without giving its source. He had been stationed at NATO’s Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia, the news agency said.

Ugurlu had not been heard from since July 22 when he left the base, Anadolu said.

Izmir’s chief prosecutor Okan Bato told Anadolu he was not able to get a statement from Ugurlu after seeking the prosecution of two admirals from the chief of staff.

NATO said on Wednesday that Turkey’s membership of the military alliance was “not in question”, despite the tumult in the country.

Anadolu did not say whether the United States had accepted Ugurlu’s claim, believed to be the first of its kind since July 15, which comes at a time of strained relations between Washington and Ankara.

The Turkish government has repeatedly pressed Washington to extradite Pennsylvania-based preacher Fethullah Gulen whom it blames for the coup bid, warning Washington that relations could suffer over the issue.

“If the US does not deliver (Gulen), they will sacrifice relations with Turkey for the sake of a terrorist,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters during a televised briefing in the capital Ankara on Tuesday.

Gulen strongly denies the accusations and his lawyer on Friday said Ankara had failed to provide “a scintilla” of proof to support its claims.

Since July 15, tens of thousands of people from the military, judiciary, civil service and education establishment suspected of links with Gulen and his Islamic movement have been sacked or detained.

Source: Space War.


August 04, 2016

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A court in Turkey issued a formal warrant Thursday for the arrest of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the government accuses of being behind the failed July 15 coup that left more than 270 people dead.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said an Istanbul-based court issued the warrant for “ordering the July 15 coup attempt.” The government says Gulen, a former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, masterminded the failed coup attempt by renegade officers in Turkey’s military and wants him extradited to Turkey.

Gulen has denied involvement or prior knowledge of the coup attempt. Ankara has not yet made a formal extradition request, but the arrest warrant could be the prelude. Washington has asked for evidence of the cleric’s involvement, and has said the extradition process must be allowed to take its course.

Anadolu said the court issued the warrant over a number of accusations, including an “attempt to eliminate the government of the Turkish Republic or to prevent it from carrying out its duties.” More specifically, Anadolu said the court based the arrest warrant on accusations the coup plotters tried to assassinate Erdogan, kidnapped Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and other military officers, bombed parliament and killed police and civilians who resisted.

“It has been understood without a doubt that the attempted coup was an activity of the terror organization and that it was carried out with the orders of its founder, suspect Fethullah Gulen,” Anadolu quoted from the court decision.

It is not the first time an arrest warrant has been issued for Gulen, who broke ranks publicly with Erdogan in 2013. In December 2014, a court issued a warrant for him on accusations of running an armed group.

Turkey has designated Gulen’s movement, which runs charities, schools and businesses across the world, as a terrorist organization and has launched a widespread crackdown on suspected members since the failed coup.

Since the coup attempt, nearly 70,000 people have been suspended or dismissed from jobs in the civil service, judiciary, education, health care, the military and the media. And about 18,000 people have been detained or arrested, mostly from the military, on suspicion of being involved in the failed putsch.

Earlier Thursday, Erdogan vowed to go after businesses linked to Gulen’s movement. “Without doubt, this organization has an extension in the business world. Maybe it is what they are most powerful at,” he said during a speech to the heads of chambers of commerce in Ankara. “We are determined to totally cut off all business links of this organization, which has blood on its hands.”

The president said that every cent that goes to the Gulen movement “is a bullet placed in a barrel to be fired against this nation. In the same way that we do not pardon those who fire the bullet, we will not forgive those who financed the bullet.”

Erdogan added that the purge of the military would continue. “After July 15, this sneaky organization’s structure in the Turkish Armed Forces has started to be uncovered,” he said. “For now, those who are captured are the tip of the iceberg. Efforts are continuing for others.”

Separately, the deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, Mehdi Eker, said countries around the world need to take action against schools or other establishments linked to Gulen.

Eker said the cleric’s movement had hundreds of schools, charities or other establishments in more than 100 countries and warned they too could face “security risks” from the group in the future. “If we had seen that these schools were not innocent educational nests but nurseries raising members for a terror organization, we would not have lived through the (attempted coup),” he told journalists in Ankara.

“It is our responsibility to warn countries that have (Gulen-linked) schools,” Eker said. “In Africa, we know that they work as nurseries (for terror) and we want to warn them.”

Becatoros contributed from Istanbul.

August 02, 2016

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once more blasted unnamed Western countries Tuesday for what he said was support for the attempted coup on July 15 that left more than 270 people dead.

“The West is supporting terrorism and taking sides with coups,” Erdogan said, adding that forces unhappy with Turkey’s rise as a regional power were behind the coup. “They have actors inside (Turkey) but the scenario of this coup was written abroad,” he said during a speech at an event for foreign investors in Ankara.

Turkey’s government says the coup was instigated by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally now living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. Turkey has demanded his extradition, but Washington has asked for evidence of the cleric’s involvement.

Erdogan complained about the U.S. request: “We did not request documents for terrorists that you wanted returned.” Speaking late Tuesday night in a live television interview on CNN Turk, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said there would be a high-level visit to Turkey from the United States this month, without saying who would be visiting.

The government has launched a sweeping crackdown on Gulen’s movement, which it characterizes as a terrorist organization. Nearly 70,000 people have been suspended from their jobs on suspicion of being involved in the movement, which runs schools, charities and businesses internationally.

Erdogan has singled out Germany for criticism, after a court there ruled against allowing him to appear on a video link to address a crowd of about 30,000 supporters and anti-coup demonstrators in Cologne over the weekend.

The president said Turkey had sent Germany more than 4,000 files on what he said were wanted terrorists, but Germany did nothing. However, he said, courts quickly decided against him speaking at the rally.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment, but German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel on Monday defended the court’s decision as “absolutely OK and also lawful.” In his television interview, Yildirim also expressed the government’s displeasure at Germany’s stance.

“They make grand statements on democracy, human rights but then three different courts there come up with a decision,” Yildirim said. “Is our president’s address something that would perturb Germany’s domestic affairs? It was a great disappointment to us.”

Erdogan also repeated a complaint that no foreign leader had visited Turkey after the failed coup, while France and Belgium received visits in solidarity after terror attacks there. “Those we considered friends are siding with coup-plotters and terrorists,” the president said.

When it was allied with Erdogan’s government in the past, the Gulen movement was believed to have been behind a series of crackdowns on pro-secular figures as well as military officers accused at the time of plotting a coup. Hundreds were jailed after trials in which evidence was later found to have been fabricated. Many convictions have been overturned.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag sent a second document to the United States Tuesday seeking Gulen’s arrest, the state-run Anadolu news agency said. “They requested certain information following our first letter; we provided answers to the question ‘why is it urgent?'”

He added that Turkey had intelligence indicating Gulen might leave for a third country. If he does, Bozdag said, it would only be with the full knowledge of U.S. authorities. Yildirim also explained the reasons for Turkey’s request for Gulen’s arrest.

“We have such a request so that he does not escape, nothing happens to him or that he does not tamper with the evidence,” he said in his interview. “This is a legal and reasonable request. I hope U.S. officials consider this request with sensitivity.”

Part of the crackdown against Gulen’s network has focused on reforming the military, bringing it increasingly under civilian command. About 18,000 people have been detained or arrested, most of them from the military, and authorities have said the purge will continue.

The government has already decreed sweeping changes to the military, including giving the president and prime minister the power to issue direct orders to the force commanders. “These arrangements won’t weaken the Turkish Armed Forces, on the contrary they will strengthen them and prepare them to face all kinds of threats,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in an address to his ruling party legislators. “The armed forces will focus their energies on their fundamental duty.”

Several countries and rights organizations have expressed concern over the scope of the crackdown, and have urged restraint. But Erdogan insisted the purges of the civil service, military and other sectors were necessary to rout out those responsible for the coup.

“If we show pity to these murderers, to these coup plotters, we will end up in a pitiful state,” he said. On Tuesday, the Turkish Football federation said it had sacked 94 people, including a number of referees. It said the action was taken as a “necessity,” without saying whether those dismissed were suspected of links to the Gulen movement.

Separately, authorities issued 98 new detention warrants, including for military doctors, a senior government official said, on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. Meanwhile, a lawyer filed a criminal complaint against the, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff; U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper and Gen. Joseph Votel, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, accusing them of backing Gulen.

The complaint, which has to be accepted by prosecutors before any action is taken, came days after Erdogan told Votel to “know your place” after he expressed concern that the post-coup crackdown may affect the fight against Islamic State militants.

Becatoros contributed from Istanbul.

July 27, 2016

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish authorities issued warrants Wednesday for the detention of 47 former executives or senior journalists at the Zaman newspaper, which was associated with the U.S.-based Muslim cleric who the government says is behind Turkey’s failed July 15 coup.

At least one journalist, former Zaman columnist Sahin Alpay, was detained at his home early Wednesday, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Zaman, which was linked to Fethullah Gulen’s religious movement, was raided by police and seized by the government in March as part of a clampdown on the group.

As he was being detained, Alpay said he had committed “no crimes” and did not know why he was being taken away. “I don’t know why. I’ll find out now,” he said. Earlier this week, Turkey issued arrest warrants against 42 other journalists, of whom 16 have been detained for questioning.

Turkey has detained more than 13,000 people in the military, judiciary and other institutions in purges since the uprising. Tens of thousands of other state employees with suspected links to Gulen have been suspended from their jobs in sectors including education, health care, city government and even Turkish Airlines.

Gulen, who lives in the United States and runs a global network of schools and foundations, has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the coup attempt. The detention of journalists and wide-scale purges of officials have raised concerns about a possible witch hunt by the government in the wake of the coup attempt that killed about 290 people.

In a statement Wednesday, the Turkish military said as many as 35 warplanes, 37 helicopters, 74 tanks and three navy vessels were used by the plotters in their failed coup attempt. At least 8,651 military personnel were involved, it said, adding that they constituted 1.5 percent of the Armed Forces’ personnel.

The country’s energy minister, meanwhile, lamented what he said was a lack of strong support from European nations and the United States toward Turkey’s efforts to counter the “anti-democratic” process.

“Until now, we have not received the backing and the statements that we, the whole of Turkey, expect from these countries,” said Berat Albayrak, who is also President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law.

He warned that a lack of support for Turkey could harm ties with allies. “There is a need for an intelligent and rational review by our interlocutors,” Albayrak said Wednesday. “Otherwise, countries may be deprived of the contribution of a country that can contribute to peace and stability.”

Albayrak did not elaborate, but his comments were an apparent reference to criticism from European officials to the government clampdown that has followed the coup attempt, and perceived reluctance in the United States to extradite Gulen.

The U.S. has told Turkey to present evidence against Gulen and let the U.S. extradition process take its course. Turkey has branded his movement a terror organization and Albayrak claimed the Gulen group was “more dangerous” than the Islamic State group or the Kurdish rebels who have carried out deadly suicide bombings in the country in the past year.

August 03, 2016

BEIRUT (AP) — Schools in the Middle East are facing major budget shortfalls ahead of the new academic year, leaving some 1 million Syrian refugee children out of school, according to a report published by Theirworld, an international children’s charity.

The five-year-long Syrian war has placed huge strain on the region’s school systems, forcing neighboring countries to depend on multi-billion dollar grants from donor nations to meet education needs. There are 2.5 million Syrian children registered as refugees with the United Nations, the world body says. Most live in neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan as they wait for an opportunity to return home.

In February, the international community pledged $1.4 billion in school funding for host nations at a London donor conference but less than $400 million of that has been fulfilled, Theirworld estimates. That leaves a funding gap of $1 billion.

Kevin Watkins, the author of the report, which was published late Tuesday, said donors had “broken their promises.” In Lebanon, more than half of the nearly 500,000 school-age Syrian refugee children receive no formal education, according to Human Rights Watch, despite reforms allowing overburdened public schools to run two shifts a day.

Many Syrian refugee families have no choice but to put their children to work to help meet basic expenses in a country with few social protections and tight movement restrictions. Children who do go to school face difficulties with new curriculums, and many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychosocial problems.

“The schools accept Syrian refugees, but the children don’t adapt. They register but then they drop out,” said Najah Kherallah Jomaa, a refugee from Syria’s Aleppo living in a settlement in the Lebanese town of Bar Elias.

The report by Theirworld warns of a “lost generation” of Syrians if determined steps are not taken to ensure school access for all.

13 August 2016 Saturday

A Turkish hospital currently under construction in Palestine will open its doors in 2017, an official working on the project said Friday.

Funded by the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA), the Palestine-Turkey Friendship Hospital will be Gaza’s largest when it becomes operational, according to TIKA’s Palestine Coordinator Bulent Korkmaz.

Korkmaz told Anadolu Agency that the cost has so far reached $40 million. “The hospital will include cancer and heart research and treatment departments as well as a prayer room and library,” he added.

The facility is just one of hundreds of TIKA-funded projects in Palestine, ranging from vocational training for the disabled to water wells in the Gaza Strip.

The latest influx of Turkish aid to Gaza was made possible by way of a deal signed last month between Turkey and Israel in which the two nations agreed to restore diplomatic relations following a six-year hiatus.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Tel Aviv had met all of Ankara’s preconditions for normalizing ties, which were severed in 2010 after Israeli commandos stormed a Gaza-bound Turkish aid vessel.

The attack resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists and left 30 others injured, including one victim who succumbed to his injuries nearly four years later.

At the time, Turkey demanded Israel officially apologized for the attack, compensate the families of the victims and lift its longstanding blockade against the Gaza Strip.

In 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced his regret to Turkey’s then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regarding the deadly ordeal.

Under the terms of last week’s agreement to normalize relations, the two countries will exchange ambassadors and Israel will pay $20 million in compensation to the families of the flotilla attack victims.

Israel has also agreed to Turkey’s request to maintain a “humanitarian presence” in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Source: World Bulletin.


By Andrew V. Pestano

Aug. 11, 2016

TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug. 11 (UPI) — Libyan pro-government, U.S.-backed militias on Wednesday said they took control of the Islamic State’s remaining headquarters in the city of Sirte.

The militias’ offensive against the Islamic State in Sirte began in June, backed by U.S. airstrikes since Aug. 1 after weeks of stalemates.

The militias said its fighters were still hunting down scattered Islamic State militants hiding in Sirte’s residential neighborhoods — adding that the Ouagadougou Center, a heavily fortified IS headquarters, and a nearby hospital were taken.

The United States carried out at least 28 airstrikes to aid militias in Libya. A Pentagon official told The New York Times that while he could not confirm the IS headquarters in Sirte fell, there were no reports that suggested the militia’s claims were not true.

Libya’s Al-Ahrar TV broadcaster posted pictures on its Twitter account of what appears to be militia fighters celebrating victory outside of the Ouagadougou Center while posing with a flag. The militia supports the Government of National Accord, a governmental authority based in Tripoli that is backed by the United Nations.

Source: United Press International (UPI).