Fighters seize historic Aleppo mosque

Updated 02 March 2013
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Fighters seize historic Aleppo mosque

BEIRUT: Fighters seized control of the historic Umayyad Mosque in Syria’s second city of Aleppo yesterday after several days of fierce clashes that damaged the building, a watchdog reported.
State news agency SANA, meanwhile, said a car bomb exploded in a regime-held suburb of the central city of Homs, killing a number of people and wounding others.
In Aleppo, regime troops were forced to withdraw from the mosque at dawn, taking up positions in buildings around the landmark structure, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The mosque’s museum caught fire during the battle, causing its ceiling to collapse, adding to damage done in October when one of its intricately sculpted colonnades was charred in clashes.
Aleppo’s director of Islamic endowments said the mosque’s library, which contains “valuable Islamic relics and Qur'anic manuscripts dating back to pre-Mamluk times,” had been ransacked and destroyed.
“Armed terrorist groups have looted and completely destroyed the Islamic library, which is one of the most valuable in the region with an estimated value of hundreds of thousands of Syrian pounds,” Abdel Qader Al-Shihabi told AFP.
The site has been a place of worship since the 8th century, but the original building was razed by the Mongols in the 13th century, from when the current structure dates.
Elsewhere in Aleppo’s UNESCO-listed Old City, fighting raged around the Justice Palace.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said that if the fighters gain control of the palace, they would be able to cut off army reinforcements to Aleppo’s regime-held citadel.
While fighters have taken over large swathes of territory and a number of key military garrisons in Aleppo province, fighting in the city has been at stalemate for months.
Further north yesterday, airstrikes targeted fighter positions around Menegh military airbase, which has been under protracted siege as the opposition battles for control of Aleppo’s major airports.
Warplanes also carried out several raids in the northern province of Raqa.
And fierce clashes erupted in Damascus on the outskirts of opposition-held Jobar district in the east and near the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk in the south, said the Observatory.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s interior minister said yesterday that refugees who have fled from the war in neighboring Syria have become a threat to Lebanon’s security because of the suspicion that many are in fact fighters.
Residents in northern Lebanon say that fighters pose as refugees to cross the border, and are arming members of the refugee community in Lebanon to fight in Syria. The minister, Marwan Charbel, has said Syrian fighters have set up training camps in Lebanon.
In addition, members of the Free Syrian Army have used Lebanon’s mountainous terrain to regroup before staging attacks on the Syrian Army across the poorly demarcated border.
“What is concerning me is the security situation,” Charbel said at a joint news conference with the United Nations Development Programme. “Who is exploiting (the Syrian refugees)? Who is arming them? We are not controlling them.”


Italy’s Salvini says France has no interest in stabilising Libya

Italy's Interior Minister and deputy PM Matteo Salvini said France has no interest in stabilising the situation in Libya. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2019
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Italy’s Salvini says France has no interest in stabilising Libya

  • The French say accusation is baseless and reiterated their efforts in Libya
  • Relations between Italy and France, traditionally close allies, have grown frosty since the far-right League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement formed a coalition

ROME: Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, continuing a war of words between Rome and Paris, said on Tuesday that France was not looking to bring calm to violence-ravaged Libya because its energy interests there rivalled those of Italy.
Relations between Italy and France, traditionally close allies, have grown frosty since the far-right League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement formed a coalition last year and took aim at pro-EU French President Emmanuel Macron.
France’s Foreign Ministry and the French president’s office declined to respond immediately.
On Monday France summoned Italy’s ambassador after Salvini’s fellow deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, accused Paris of creating poverty in Africa and generating mass migration to Europe.
Salvini backed up Di Maio, saying France was looking to extract wealth from Africa rather than helping countries develop their own economies, and pointed particularly to Libya, which has been in turmoil since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that overthrew strongman Muammar Qaddafi.
“In Libya, France has no interest in stabilising the situation, probably because it has oil interests that are opposed to those of Italy,” Salvini told Canale 5 TV station.
A French diplomatic source said it was not the first time that Salvini had made such comments and that it was probably because he felt he had been upstaged by Di Maio.
The source added that the accusation was baseless and reiterated that French efforts in Libya were aimed at stabilising the country, preventing the spread of terrorism and curbing the migration flows.
Italy’s Eni and France’s Total have separate joint ventures in Libya, but Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi denied in a newspaper interview last year that there was any conflict between the two firms in the north African state.
Salvini is head of the League, while Di Maio leads 5-Star. Both are campaigning hard for European parliamentary elections in May and are eager to show they have broken with the consensual politics of center-left and center-right parties.
The two men have repeatedly targeted neighboring France and accused Macron of doing nothing to help handle the hundreds of thousands of mainly African migrants who have reached Italy from Libya in recent years.
Asked about the latest diplomatic spat with Paris, Salvini said on Tuesday: “France has no reason to get upset because it pushed away tens of thousands of migrants (at the French border), abandoning them there as though they were beasts. We won’t take any lessons on humanity from Macron.”