Yemen Al-Qaeda flays ‘deviant’ Daesh rivals

A wounded Yemeni man is taken off an ambulance on December 10, 2016 after a suicide bomber killed 35 soldiers in Yemen's southern city of Aden. The Daesh group claimed responsibility for the attack. (AFP / SALEH AL-OBEIDI)
Updated 16 December 2016
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Yemen Al-Qaeda flays ‘deviant’ Daesh rivals

ADEN: Al-Qaeda in Yemen has labeled the rival Daesh group “deviant” and distanced itself from a Daesh-claimed suicide attack in Aden last week that killed dozens of soldiers.
“We explicitly declare that we were not involved in any way in this operation,” Ansar Al-Sharia, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, said in a statement received Thursday by AFP.
The Dec. 10 attack in Aden targeted a crowd of soldiers gathered to collect their monthly pay at a barracks in Al-Sawlaban near the southern city’s international airport.
The attack left 48 soldiers dead and 29 wounded, a health department chief said.
“At the request of the Ba Kazem tribe, which lost many of its sons in the attack, we are issuing this statement to prevent anyone trying to... sow discord between the tribes and their sons, the warriors of Ansar Al-Sharia,” the group said.
“We see Daesh as a deviant group... that has shown its enmity toward Ansar Al-Sharia and other Islamic groups,” it said.
The statement stressed that Al-Qaeda has repeatedly said it is determined to fight “Americans and their allies” while avoiding “the shedding of any Muslim blood.”
Al-Qaeda and Daesh have exploited a conflict between the Yemeni government — backed by a Saudi-led coalition — and Iran-backed Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa, to bolster their presence across much of the south.
The rival militants have carried out a spate of attacks in Aden, Yemen’s second city and headquarters of the internationally recognized government whose forces retook the southern port from the Houthis last year.


Shells hit south Syria city for first time in three years

Updated 2 min 44 sec ago
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Shells hit south Syria city for first time in three years

  • The Syrian Observatory said opposition forces fired shells into Sweida city
  • This was the first attack since 2015

BEIRUT: Rebel shellfire slammed into the southern Syrian city of Sweida on Tuesday for the first time in three years, a monitor said, as fresh regime reinforcements arrived in the area.
The government holds most of Sweida province, but rebels still control much of the nearby Daraa and Quneitra governorates.
On Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said opposition forces fired shells into Sweida city, “which led to loud blasts but no casualties.”
“It is the first time since 2015 that the city has been subjected to shellfire,” said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.
State news agency SANA also blamed rebels “spread out in the towns and villages in eastern parts of Daraa province” for firing shells on Sweida.
It also said one girl was killed and two people were wounded in opposition fire on government-held parts of Daraa city.
Sweida, whose residents are mostly from the Druze minority, has remained relatively insulated from seven years of war that ravaged the rest of the country.
But rebels hold a sliver of territory in western Sweida that borders their main bastion in the province of Daraa, and clashes and exchanges of fire have erupted in that area in recent days.
Syria’s government has set its sights on ousting rebels from the south and has been dispatching troops and equipment there for weeks.
Rebel commander Abu Hassan told AFP on Tuesday his units had seen the reinforcements and were on high alert.
“We are almost always mobilized. The joint operations room has upped its coordination to the highest level,” he said.
On Tuesday, the regime dropped new flyers on the rebel-held half of Daraa city, calling on residents to expel rebels, “like your brothers did in Eastern Ghouta and Qalamun,” referring to two areas near Damascus recently recaptured from the opposition.
Opposition fighters appeared to fear the regime would use Sweida’s civilian population as justification for the assault, and issued a message addressed to them on Tuesday.
“We call on our people in Sweida province not to serve as bait for the goals of the regime, sectarian militias from Iran, and Hezbollah, which are trying to occupy this land and divide its people,” they said in a statement.
But the government has also hinted a political settlement could be reached over the south’s fate.
“We have moved toward the south and we are giving the political process a chance,” Syrian President Bashar Assad said last week.
“If that doesn’t succeed, we have no other option but to liberate it by force.”
Assad has regained the upper hand since 2011, when protests erupted across the country demanding he step down.
Demonstrations then turned into an armed conflict that has killed more than 350,000 people, drawn in world powers, and given rise to militants like the Daesh group.
IS has been defeated across much of Syria but the militants hold a few positions in desert areas of Sweida, where it has clashed with government troops recently.
On Tuesday, eight regime forces were killed in clashes with Daesh in the area.