UAE’s 1st female fighter pilot carried out anti-IS strikes

Updated 26 September 2014
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UAE’s 1st female fighter pilot carried out anti-IS strikes

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: The first female air force pilot in the United Arab Emirates led airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria earlier this week, the federation’s ambassador to Washington said on Thursday as he pledged his country will do “whatever is necessary” to defeat the militant group.
Social media has been buzzing with rumors that F-16 pilot Maj. Mariam Al-Mansouri played a part in attacks against the jihadist group, with many users taking delight in the rebuke it implied toward the militants’ ultraconservative ideology.
Ambassador Yousef Al-Otaiba’s comments were the first public confirmation of her role.
“She is a fully qualified, highly trained, combat-ready pilot, and she led the mission,” Al-Otaiba said during an appearance on American cable channel MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The Emirati embassy quickly posted word of the diplomat’s confirmation on its official Twitter feed.
The Emirates, a seven-state federation that includes the capital of Abu Dhabi and the Mideast commercial hub of Dubai, is one of five Arab countries that have joined the US-led coalition carrying out the airstrikes in Syria. It is a major buyer of American-made weapons, with an arsenal that includes F-16 fighter planes and Apache attack helicopters.
Al-Mansouri was born in Abu Dhabi and graduated from the country’s Khalifa bin Zayed Air College in 2007, according to a profile earlier this year in the government-owned newspaper The National. She is one of eight children and has a degree in English literature.
“Sorry #ISIS, I know this too much and so harsh but it’s real,” taunted Twitter user @kafrev, which purports to represent an opposition-held town in Syria, using an alternate name for the Islamic State group. “A woman bombed you!“
Emirati leaders have taken steps to raise the status of women in the oil-rich country, which has modernized rapidly since its formation in 1971 and is now home to a cosmopolitan blend of foreign businesspeople, expatriate professionals and low-paid migrant workers who together far outnumber the local population.
While traditional values remain strong and men dominate government posts, Emirati women have served as government ministers, police officers and executives in state-linked companies.
Al-Otaiba linked Al-Mansouri’s role to the campaign to defeat the Islamic State group.
“Do you want a model or a society that allows women to become ministers in government, female fighter pilots, business executives, artists? Or do you want a society where if a woman doesn’t cover up in public she’s beaten or she’s lashed or she’s raped? This is ultimately what this breaks down to,” he said.
It is important that moderate Arab and Muslim nations take a stand against the Islamic State militants, Al-Otaiba said, describing the group as “a threat to our way of life.”
“We will bring whatever is necessary to defeat ISIS,” he added.


500,000 children face ‘immediate danger’ in Libya capital: UN

Updated 50 min 14 sec ago
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500,000 children face ‘immediate danger’ in Libya capital: UN

TRIPOLI: Half a million children are in “immediate danger” in Libya’s capital Tripoli due to fighting, the United Nations children’s fund UNICEF said on Monday.
Clashes that broke out between rival militias in late August had killed at least 115 people and wounded nearly 400 by Saturday night, according to Libya’s health ministry.
UNICEF said more than 1,200 families were displaced in the past 48 hours as the clashes intensified in southern Tripoli before pausing on Monday.
That put the total number of people displaced by the recent fighting at over 25,000, half of whom were children, it said.
The UN agency’s Middle East and North Africa director, Geert Cappelaere, said children were paying a “heavy toll” and were increasingly being recruited by armed groups.
“We see children being prevented from going to school, we see children not having the vaccination that they urgently need,” he said.
Those whose parents came to Libya with the hope of migrating to Europe by sea suffered doubly, said Cappelaere.
“They are already facing dire living conditions, many of them are held in detention,” a situation made worse by “the violence that is happening today,” he said.
UNICEF also said schools are increasingly being used to shelter displaced families, which is likely to delay the start of the academic year beyond October 3.
It said residents are facing food, power and water shortages, adding that the clashes had exacerbated the plight of migrants.
“Hundreds of detained refugees and migrants, including children, were forced to move because of violence. Others are stranded in centers in dire conditions,” Cappelaere said.
Despite a UN-brokered cease-fire on September 4, fighting broke out again last week in southern districts of the capital.
The clashes have pitted armed groups from Tarhuna and Misrata against Tripoli militias nominally controlled by Libya’s UN-backed unity government.
The Libyan capital has been at the center of a battle for influence between armed groups since dictator Muammar Qaddafi was ousted in a NATO-backed 2011 uprising.
The country’s unity government has struggled to exert its control in the face of a multitude of militias and a rival administration based in eastern Libya.