ANKARA, February 18 -- The US may continue to have a military presence in Syria after the withdrawal of troops, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News circulated on Monday.
"Where will they pull out to, will someone else replace them, who will they leave the arms, will their presence continue? When they pull out, their presence will most probably not end, it will continue in some way," Peskov said. "All these questions are on the agenda, the presidents are talking about them. The general attitude is the same, there is no reason for optimism, and uncertainty is troubling. And this situation is not helping the crisis in Syria and hope for a solution at all," the spokesman emphasized.
On December 19, 2018, US President Donald Trump said that the United States had defeated ISIS (Islamic State, a terrorist organization banned in Russia) in Syria, which was the only reason for the US troops being there, so all US troops would be pulled out of Syria. According to US officials, the US would withdraw its entire force of 2,000 service members from Syria within 60 to 100 days.
KABUL, February 11 -- The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group has been increasing its activities in eastern Afghanistan.
Moreover, fears are growing that as its fighters are forced out of Syria they will flock to the area. The fight is more than physical, with Afghan security services arresting a religious cleric and a professor for allegedly spying for ISIL and Western reports alleging that Afghan universities are being used for ISIL recruitment. Reports from Kaskala, a mountainous border region near Pakistan, where the fight against ISIL is already taking place.
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).
"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 28 -- Turkey is aiming to form safe zones in northern Syria so that Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey could return to their home country, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
Speaking in Istanbul on Monday, Erdogan also said nearly 300,000 Syrians had already returned to areas controlled by Turkish-backed rebels in northern Syria, adding that he expected millions of Syrian nationals to return to the proposed safe zones. Turkey hosts about four million Syrian refugees.
US President Donald Trump announced in December the withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops from Syria and Erdogan subsequently said they had discussed setting up a 32km-deep safe zone in Syria along the border with Turkey. On Friday, Erdogan said that Turkey expected the safe zone to be set up within a few months, otherwise, it would establish a buffer zone without the help of other nations.
He added that the zone will aim to protect Turkey from "terrorists", referring to the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia that controls areas in northeastern Syria along the Turkish border.
Ankara wants the zone to contain the fighters of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which the United States has armed and trained to fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS). The YPG is seen as an effective ground force by the US in the fight against ISIL, but Turkey says it is linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Ankara and Washington list as a terrorist group.
Turkey's foreign minister said on Thursday that Turkey has the capacity to create a safe zone in Syria on its own, but will not exclude the US, Russia, or others if they want to cooperate. "Turkey has not forced refugees to go back to Turkey for years. However, around 300,000 refugees returned to areas held by Turkey and Turkey-backed rebels in northern Syria, such as Jarablus and Al-Bab," Al Jazeera's Osama Bin Javid, reporting from Gaziantep on Turkey-Syria border, said. "And more refugee returns are only possible, according to Erdogan, if Turkey can have some sort of control from the west side of the Euphrates River until the Iraqi border."
BEIRUT, January 23 -- Kurdish-led fighters overran the last village held by the Islamic State group in Syria on Wednesday, confining its once vast cross-border “caliphate” to two small hamlets.
It is the culmination of a broad offensive launched by the Syrian Democratic Forces last September with U.S.-led coalition support in which they have reduced the jihadis’ last enclave on the north bank of the Euphrates valley near the Iraqi border to a tiny rump. The capture of the village of Baghouz leaves the few remaining diehard IS fighters holed up in scattered farmhouses among the irrigated fields and orchards on the north bank of the Euphrates River.
“Search operations are continuing in Baghouz to find any IS fighters who are still hiding,” the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, said. “The SDF will now have to push on into the farmland around Baghouz.” The Observatory said late on Tuesday that around 4,900 people, mostly women and children but including 470 IS fighters, had fled the jihadis’ fast dwindling enclave in two days. Of those 3,500 surrendered to the advancing SDF on Tuesday alone.
They were evacuated on dozens of trucks chartered by the SDF. The fall of Baghouz follows the SDF’s capture of the enclave’s sole town of Hajin and the villages of Al-Shaafa and Sousa in recent weeks.
The new wave of departures means that nearly 27,000 people have left former IS areas since early December, including almost 1,800 jihadis who have surrendered, the Observatory said.
The whereabouts of the ultra-elusive IS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has made just one public appearance — in Iraq’s then IS-held second city Mosul in 2014 — are unknown. The U.S.-led coalition declined to be drawn on when it expected its SDF allies to overrun the final sliver of territory still under IS control. It stressed the operation’s bigger goal was to minimize the continuing threat the jihadis could pose from underground. “It is difficult to say how much longer, despite the progress,” coalition spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan said. “We try to stay away from timelines as it is more about degrading the enemy’s capabilities. “We are seeing a lot of enemy fighters fleeing. The Syrian forces are less than 10 kilometers (six miles) from the Iraqi border but still fighting against a resistance of diehard fighters.”
The remaining jihadis are well within artillery range of Iraqi forces stationed along the border, who are determined to prevent fugitive IS fighters from slipping across. On Saturday, Iraqi shelling and airstrikes on IS positions in an around Baghouz killed at least 20 jihadis, according to the Observatory.
The coalition has stepped up its own airstrikes against IS since the jihadis killed four Americans and 15 other people in a suicide bombing on a restaurant in the flash point northern town of Manbij on Jan. 16.
The U.S. losses were the biggest since Washington deployed troops in Syria in 2014 in support of the SDF. Previously it had reported just two combat losses in separate incidents. The Manbij bombing rekindled controversy triggered by President Donald Trump last month with his surprise announcement of a full withdrawal from Syria. The U.S. president justified the order with the assertion that the jihadis had now been “largely defeated” in Syria, a claim that the attack threw into renewed question. It is a far cry from the jihadis’ peak in 2014, when they overran large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq, and IS proclaimed a “caliphate” in areas under their control. The gains have come at the cost of heavy losses for the mainly Kurdish fighters of the SDF and despite their sense of betrayal by their U.S. ally after Trump’s withdrawal announcement.
Neighboring Turkey has threatened repeatedly to launch a cross-border operation to crush the Kurdish fighters of the SDF and the autonomous region they have set up in areas of northern and northeastern Syria under their control. Turkish troops had been held at bay by the intervention of U.S. troops who set up observation posts along the border and mounted joint patrols with Kurdish fighters. But with those troops gone, the Kurds fear they will be exposed to the full might of the Turkish military.
DAMASCUS, January 16 -- American servicemen were killed in a suicide attack that targeted the northern Syrian city of Manbij on Wednesday, the US-led coalition said.
It did not specify how many soldiers were killed in the blast which was claimed by ISIS but unidentified US officials told Reuters and Bloomberg that up to four Americans may have been killed.
The US troops were conducting a "routine patrol" in Manbij at the time of the attack, the coalition said in a statement on Twitter.
The White House said President Donald Trump has been fully briefed. "We will continue to monitor the ongoing situation in Syria," Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters during a briefing. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 16 people have died, including five US-backed fighters as well as nine civilians. The war monitor and the Kurdish-run Hawar News Agency reported that at least two US troops died in the blast.
Amaq – ISIS's media wing – claimed that the attacker used a suicide vest to strike at coalition forces near a resteraunt in the flashpoint Kurdish-held city. A video posted on social media networks purported to show the moment the attacker detonated his suicide vest. The National could not independently verify the authenticity of the footage. The attack came one day after coalition forces and US-backed fighters captured a key village from ISIS in their last holdout east of the Euphrates River, leaving just 15 square kilometres of land under the militants' control.
It is the first major attack that explicitly targets US forces in Syria since Mr Trump announced that he would be withdrawing troops from the country. Sharfan Darwish, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Manbij Military Council (MMC), said the blast took place on a crowded street. He said there were casualties but did not specify how many people died.
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.
ROTTERDAM, January 14 -- It's an interesting controversy. And useful to understand the stubborn dynamics of Islamist thinking.
The topic being whether Muslims, as the hadith commands, should respectfully mourn the dead (The hadith says: "... even if the deceased had notoriety for being an evildoer Prophet Mohammed said they should be remembered [or mentioned] with benevolence...), the controversy, once again, shed light to one of the pillars of political Islam: discourtesy for the "other," because the "other" is the "infidel" who does not deserve benevolence – even when dead.
Yeni Akit, a daily newspaper and a more-than-staunch supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is widely known with its militant Islamist past and present. One of its common journalistic practices is to curse any deceased whom the newspaper deems infidel/Zionist/traitor/terrorist/crusader plus you name it; practically categorised as "anyone who does not think, believe and practice like we do."
After the recent death of a theatre actress, known with her secular views, Yeni Akit returned to its Islamist journalistic book of rules and followed the pattern. In protest, Hürriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan, himself a former Islamist, reminded Yeni Akit of the hadith that commands Muslims to respect the dead. "Always remember your dead with benevolence."
This columnist, always curious about the intellectual codes of Islamist thinking, enthusiastically waited for an explanation from Yeni Akit. If these Islamists are so grossly violating a well-known hadith they should have an explanation – and least to convince themselves, if not the others. And they always have an explanation. Yeni Akit's reply to Mr Hakan came a day after, and it offered us non-Islamist souls [infidels, in Islamist lexicon] a fascinating opportunity to further decipher political Islam and the age-old question of why political Islam is about rage, not peace.
Yeni Akit's editorial response to Mr Hakan essentially argued that:
Yes, there is the hadith that commands Muslims to respect "your dead." And we do so. About "our dead," Yeni Akit explained, explicitly telling Mr Hakan that "the other dead are not our dead." So, in this thinking the Islamists have "their dead and other dead" and they are not obliged to respect the other dead. Fine, gentlemen, do remember your dead with benevolence and ours with curses and blasphemy. Your shy, subtle appeals to the civilised world that "political Islam is well compatible with universal norms of democracy" look more and more ridiculous.