US Navy leads 30-nation sea drill in Mideast

Updated 11 April 2016
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US Navy leads 30-nation sea drill in Mideast

ABU DHABI: The US Navy is leading a 30-nation maritime exercise across Middle Eastern waters, which it says will help protect international trade routes against possible threats, including from Daesh and Al-Qaeda.
The exercise, partly being held in the Arabian Gulf, comes as tensions run high between Gulf Arab countries and Iran over its role in the region, including its support for President Bashar Assad, for the Houthis in Yemen and for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The International Mine Countermeasures Exercise started with a symposium in Bahrain where the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based, in part as a bulwark against Iran.
Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander, US Naval Forces Central Command, said on Saturday the exercise was designed to stop militants from causing disruption to shipping as, “we know that they want to disturb trade lines.”


Several killed in blast in northwest Syria

Updated 28 min 41 sec ago
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Several killed in blast in northwest Syria

  • It was not clear if the cause of the blast near the market in the town of Jisr Al-Shughur was a car bomb, or a vehicle carrying explosives
  • All except one were civillians

BEIRUT: Fifteen people, all but two civilians, were killed in an explosion in the jihadist-held region of Idlib in northwest Syria on Wednesday, a war monitor said.
The cause of the blast in the town of Jisr Al-Shughur was not immediately clear, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“The explosion hit next to the market,” killing 13 civilians, including the daughter of a foreign fighter, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
“It is not known until now whether it was a car bomb, or the explosion of a car carrying explosives,” he added.
The Idlib region is under administrative control of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
But the Turkestan Islamic Party, a group of foreign jihadists from the ethnic Uighur Muslim minority, also has a large presence in Jisr Al-Shughur.
The Islamic State jihadist group has sleeper cells in the wider Idlib region.
Idlib has since September been protected from a massive regime offensive by a fragile cease-fire deal signed by Damascus ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey.
But the region of some three million people has come under increasing bombardment since HTS took full control of it in January.
On Tuesday, regime shelling killed seven civilians, including four children, in the town of Khan Sheikhun.
Increased regime shelling on Khan Sheikhun has sparked one of the largest waves of displacement since the September deal.
Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since the conflict began with the repression of anti-government protests in 2011.