Insecurity may hit Iraq provincial poll

Updated 07 February 2013
0

Insecurity may hit Iraq provincial poll

BAGHDAD: Security concerns sparked by anti-government rallies in Iraq could hamper provincial polls due in April, a top election official said yesterday.
Muqdad Al-Sharifi, the chief electoral officer of Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), also told reporters that 131 candidates had been barred from the April 20 vote due to their ties to the Baath Party of now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein.
“We have a problem in some provinces where there is a political crisis,” Sharifi said, referring to weeks of demonstrations in north and west Iraq against the alleged targeting of the Sunni community by the authorities.
“The commission is worried about the continuation of this situation ... because it will create problems for the elections,” he said in Baghdad at a joint news conference with UN special envoy Martin Kobler.
Sharifi said IHEC staff in Iraq’s north and west had been sent threatening letters warning them against taking part in the polls. Kobler too said the protests were “of increasing concern”.
“I do hope that the demonstrations going on do not impact on the elections,” he said.
Sharifi also said that of a total of 8,224 candidates who had registered to run in the elections, 131 had been barred by a commission charged with filtering out those with ties to Saddam’s Baath Party.
The provincial elections come amid a political crisis in the country that has pitted Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki against several of his erstwhile government partners and tensions have been heightened by the protests.
Meanwhile, assailants opened automatic fire on police checkpoints in central and northern Iraq yesterday, killing four officers and wounding five, officials said.
In one attack, gunmen in two cars sprayed policemen with machinegun fire in the town of Musayyib, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) south of the capital Baghdad. Two officers were killed and four were wounded there, a police official said.
In the other attack, militants on foot exchanged fire with police at a checkpoint in the city of Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, killing two policemen and wounding one.
Two hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
Security forces are frequently targeted by insurgents seeking to undermine government efforts to restore security in Iraq after years of strife.
Despite a significant drop in violence since the height of insurgency several years ago, militants still launch deadly attacks almost daily.


Civilians flee fighting in Syrian southwest

A Syrian family rides with belongings on a tractor-drawn trailer as they flee from fighting in the southern Syrian province of Daraa on June 21, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 June 2018
0

Civilians flee fighting in Syrian southwest

  • Opposition fighters have vowed not surrender “an inch” of the territory to Assad, one of their commanders said earlier this week
  • Fighting in the southwest has been contained since last year by a “de-escalation” deal agreed by the US and Russia, Bashar Assad’s most powerful ally

MOSCOW, BEIRUT: Thousands of people have fled opposition-held areas of southwestern Syria being targeted by regime bombardment, a war monitor said on Thursday, as Damascus steps up attacks on an area near the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some 12,500 people had fled opposition-held areas of northeastern Daraa province in the past 48 hours.
The war has pivoted toward the southwest since the Syrian regime and its allies crushed the last remaining pockets of opposition-held territory near Damascus and the city of Homs.
Fighting in the southwest has been contained since last year by a “de-escalation” deal agreed by the US and Russia, Bashar Assad’s most powerful ally.
A major Syrian regime offensive in the area would risk an escalation of the seven-year-old war. The area is of strategic importance to Israel, which is deeply alarmed by Iranian influence in Syria.
Washington has warned it will take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to violations of the “de-escalation” deal.
Assad said earlier this month the regime, at Russia’s suggestion, was seeking to strike a deal in the southwest similar to agreements that have restored its control of other areas through withdrawals of opposition forces.
But he also said there had been no results yet and blamed “Israeli and American interference.” He said the territory would be recovered by force if necessary. Opposition fighters have vowed not surrender “an inch” of the territory to Assad, one of their commanders said earlier this week.

Russia ‘skeptical’ over UN report
Meanwhile, the Russian foreign minister on Thursday said he was “skeptical” about a UN report accusing the Syrian regime of committing crimes against humanity during the siege of Eastern Ghouta. The report published on Wednesday said forces loyal to the Syrian regime had deliberately starved civilians during the siege between February and April, among other crimes.
“We are in principle very skeptical toward the methods of this sort of work, whether it comes to war crimes or the use of chemical weapons,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. When
questioned by journalists, Lavrov confirmed he had not seen the
report.

He said it was “based on data obtained through social networks, video that was filmed by witnesses,” rather than being put together on the ground.
The five-year siege, on the outskirts of the capital, ended in April when Damascus regained control of the rebel enclave.
As pro-government forces dramatically escalated their campaign to recapture the besieged enclave, they used tactics that were “largely unlawful in nature,” the UN-commissioned report said.
The tactics, it said, “aimed at punishing the inhabitants of eastern Ghouta and forcing the population, collectively, to surrender or starve.”
Russia has been involved in Syria’s civil war since September 2015. Its military support of the regime changed the course of the war, allowing government troops to retake more than half the country from rebels and the Daesh group.
More than 350,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.