RIYADH, May 13 -- Saudi Arabia says two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates(UAE) in attacks that caused "significant damage" to the vessels.
One of the ships was en route to pick up Saudi oil to take to the United States, Saudi Energy MinisterKhalid al-Falih said on Monday. The announcement by al-Falih came as the UAE's regional allies condemned the reported sabotage on Sunday of four ships off the coast of the port city of Fujairah. On Sunday, Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired reports of explosions at the city's port but UAE authorities said the reports were inaccurate. Emirati officials have declined to elaborate on the nature of the sabotage to the ships or say who might have been responsible. The reports come as the US warned ships that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and as the US is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Gulf to counter what it called "threats from Tehran".
UAE says four ships subjected to 'sabotage' off east coast
Shortly after the Saudi announcement, Iran's Foreign Ministry called for further clarification about what exactly happened with the Saudi tankers. The ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying there should be more information about the incident. Mousavi also warned against any "conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers" and "adventurism by foreigners" to undermine the maritime region's stability and security. Tensions have risen in the year since President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, restoring US sanctions that have pushed Iran's economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal. In his statement, al-Falih said the attacks on the two tankers happened at 6am on Sunday. "One of the two vessels was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude oil from the port of Ras Tanura, to be delivered to Saudi Aramco's customers in the United States," al-Falih said. "Fortunately, the attack didn't lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels." Saudi Arabia did not identify the vessels involved, nor did it say whom it suspected of carrying out the alleged sabotage.
Underlining the regional risk, the general-secretary of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council described the alleged sabotage as a "serious escalation" in an overnight statement. "Such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflicts in the region and expose its peoples to great danger," Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said. Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen's internationally recognised government similarly condemned the alleged sabotage. A statement on Sunday from the UAE's Foreign Ministry put the ships near the country's territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of the port of Fujairah. It said it was investigating "in cooperation with local and international bodies." Earlier on Sunday, Lebanon's pro-Iran satellite channel Al-Mayadeen, quoting "Gulf sources", reported that a series of explosions had struck Fujairah's port. State and semi-official media in Iran picked up the report from Al-Mayadeen, which later published the names of vessels it claimed were involved. AP news agency, after speaking to Emirati officials and local witnesses, found the report about explosions at the port to be unsubstantiated. Fujairah's port is about 140km south of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Gulf through which a third of all oil at sea is traded. The facility handles oil for bunkering and shipping, as well as general and bulk cargo.
WASHINGTON, May 8 -- U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said Monday that the deployment of U.S. military assets was to counter a "credible threat" from Iran.
The deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region of responsibility represented "a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces," Shanahan tweeted Monday. "We call on the Iranian regime to cease all provocation," the acting Pentagon chief noted, adding "we will hold the Iranian regime accountable for any attack on U.S. forces or our interests."
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said late Sunday that his country is deploying a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East, aiming "to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force." The New York Times on Monday cited senior U.S. officials that new threats by Iran against U.S. troops in Iraq were behind the sudden deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to the Persian Gulf. Following the exit from the Iran nuclear deal in May last year, the U.S. government has kept piling up pressure on Iran through a series of sanctions.
On April 22, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the 180-day U.S. waivers for major importers of Iran's oil formally expired on May 2, which aggravates the impacts of tough pressures on Iran. Iranian semi-official Fars news agency reported on Monday that Tehran would soon announce a set of retaliatory measures in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and re-imposition of sanctions against Iran.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington has flared up in recent months, following U.S. decisions to designate Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) a "foreign terrorist organization" and to reimpose sanctions on Iran. In response to the U.S. moves, the Iranian parliament also passed a bill blacklisting the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forces in West Asia as a "terrorist group," pledging to fight back any provocation by Washington.
BEIRUT, February 7 -- Syrian civilians and family members of ISIS jihadists are continuing to flee the last area held by the so-called Islamic State in Syria.
The area is under attack from Kurdish-Syrian forces, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports. According to the NGO, hundreds of people are fleeing towards the refugee camp of al Hold in eastern Syria but are in very difficult humanitarian conditions.
Kurdish forces and American soldiers on the ground are separating men from women to try to identify ISIS affiliates among the civilians, including foreign militants from Iraq, other Arab countries as well as Caucasians, Russians and Europeans. (ANSAmed).
BAGHDAD, February 4 -- Iraqi President Barham Salih said on Monday that President Donald Trump did not ask Iraq's permission for U.S. troops stationed there to "watch Iran."
Speaking at a forum in Baghdad, Salih was responding to a question about Trump's comments to CBS about how he would ask troops stationed in Iraq to "watch" Iran. U.S. troops in Iraq are there as part of an agreement between the two countries with a specific mission of combating terrorism, Salih said, and that they should stick to that. Trump said it was important to keep a U.S. military presence in Iraq so that Washington can keep a close eye on Iran "because Iran is a real problem," according to a CBS interview broadcast on Sunday. "Don't overburden Iraq with your own issues," Salih said. "The U.S. is a major power ... but do not pursue your own policy priorities, we live here." Iraq is in a difficult position as tensions between its two biggest allies, the United States and Iran, increase. "It is of fundamental interest for Iraq to have good relations with Iran" and other neighbouring countries, Salih said.
"Iraqi suspects ordered detonator, downloaded bomb-making instructions and tested explosive powder"
BERLIN, January 30 -- German authorities arrested three suspected Islamic extremists on allegations they were planning a bombing attack, and searched properties in three states in connection with their investigation.
Federal prosecutors said Iraqis Shahin F. and Hersh F., both 23, and Rauf S., 36, were taken into custody in an early morning raid by a police SWAT team in the area of Dithmarschen, near the border with Denmark. In addition, searches were carried out of other residences in northern and southwestern Germany of people linked to the three main suspects but not currently to the bomb plot. The two younger men are suspected of preparing a bomb attack and violating weapons laws, and Rauf S. is alleged to have aided them. Their last names were not given in line with German privacy laws.The men appear to have been in the early stages of planning, and had not yet built a functioning bomb nor decided upon a target for attack, prosecutors said in a statement.
Prosecutors allege Shahin F. and Hersch F. decided in late 2018 to “carry out an attack motivated by Islamic extremism in Germany.” There are indications that they sympathized with Islamic State, but a direct link to the extremist group or others is currently under investigation. In December, Shahin F. downloaded “various instructions” on how to build a bomb, and ordered a detonator from a contact person in Britain, prosecutors said. Its delivery, however, was stopped by British law enforcement agencies.
ANKARA, January 15 -- After talks with US President Donald Trump Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed his country’s intention to create a buffer zone in northern Syria.
Erdogan was speaking on Tuesday at a meeting with parliament members from the Justice and Development Party he leads. "In yesterday’s telephone conversation US President Donald Trump reaffirmed his decision to pull troops out of Syria. We’ve decided to go ahead with our contacts on all issues involving Syria, including the security zone Turkey will create," the daily Sabah quotes Erdogan as saying.
BAGHDAD, Januari 11 -- The US-led military coalition in Syria has begun the process of withdrawing troops from Syria, a US military official said Friday, declining to comment on specific timetables or movements.
Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the coalition fighting the Islamic State group, said the US started “the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria.” “Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific time lines, locations or troops movements,” he said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.
DAMASCUS, January 4 -- Russian military has delivered food baskets and winter clothing to the residents of Syria's Aleppo.
The aid is provided by the Russian charity organizations, a representative of the Russian Defense Ministry's Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria, Igor Privalov, said on Friday. "We have provided children and women with warm clothes. We are also distributing bread to all the residents of Aleppo," Privalov told reporters. He added that this time the humanitarian assistance had been delivered to the parishioners of Faras church located in Aleppo's Midan district.
As the Syrian government has regained control over most of the country's territories that were seized by terrorists, it is now focused on creating favorable conditions for repatriating refugees.
Moscow is assisting Damascus in this by providing humanitarian aid to civilians and being a guarantor of the ceasefire, along with Turkey and Iran.
BAGHDAD, December 31 -- The Iraqi army had announced victory in late 2017 after an ISIS occupation that started in 2014 with massacres in Mosul and throughout a wide area.
Tens of thousands of gang members captured during the war continue to face trial. There are some 20.000 persons reportedly on remand. Iraqi Supreme Council of Judges Spokesperson Judge Abdul Settar Bayraktar announced that 616 men and women have been put on trial for membership to ISIS in 2018. Bayraktar said 508 of these individuals have been convicted on grounds of antiterror laws. Bayraktar didn’t give details about the convictions but said 466 of the individuals had been women, 42 men and 108 children, 31 boys and 77 girls.
Bayraktar said 73 women and 22 men are still under investigation in the prosecution. Most of the convicts are citizens of Turkey and former Soviet republics. One German citizen, one Belgian citizen and one Russian citizen have been sentenced to death. Two female and one male French citizens have been sentenced to life in prison.
WASHINGTON, December 31 -- President Donald Trump has ordered a slowdown to the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has said.
"I think we’re in a pause situation," the South Carolina Republican said outside the White House after lunch with the president. Trump announced earlier this month that he was ordering the withdrawal of all the roughly 2,000 troops from war-torn Syria, with aides expecting it to take place swiftly. The president had declared victory over ISIL in Syria, though pockets of fighting remain. Graham had been an outspoken critic of Trump’s decision, which had drawn bipartisan criticism. "I think we’re slowing things down in a smart way," Graham said.
National security adviser John Bolton was expected to travel to Israel and Turkey next weekend to discuss the president’s plans with the American allies. During his appearance on CNN’s "State of the Union," Graham previewed his arguments to Trump for reconsidering the Syria pullout. "I’m going to ask him to sit down with his generals and reconsider how to do this. Slow this down. Make sure that we get it right. Make sure ISIS never comes back. Don’t turn Syria over to the Iranians. That’s a nightmare for Israel," Graham said, according to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, AFP reported Dec. 30 that the US flag fluttered above four US armoured vehicles driving through drizzle in the Syrian city of Manbij Dec. 30, each visibly carrying an armed soldier on lookout duty. "The Americans’ presence is reassuring for people, as the situation has become tense since we heard about their decision to withdraw," said Mohammed Ahmad, a 28-year-old shop owner in Manbij. Turkey, which views the YPG as a terrorist group, had been threatening a military operation against Manbij. Turkey and its allied fighters have been amassing troops around Manbij in recent days.
Syria’s military announced Dec. 28 it has taken control of Manbij after the YPG invited the regime ahead of Turkey's offensive but Turkish and US officials denied reports that Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime forces entered the city.