Car bomb wounds minister among 13 in Libya’s Benghazi

Libyan boys walk near the wreckage of a school bombed by NATO forces in this file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 21 January 2017
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Car bomb wounds minister among 13 in Libya’s Benghazi

BENGHAZI/WASHINGTON: A car bomb exploded on Friday near a mosque in Libya’s second city of Benghazi, killing one person and wounding 13 people including a former interior minister, medical and security sources said.
Ashour Shwayel, who served as interior minister in the government of former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, and his son were seriously hurt in the blast, said the spokeswoman of Al-Jala hospital, Fadia Al-Barghati.
A security source said the blast was caused by an explosive device placed inside a car parked near Abu Houraira mosque in the central Al-Majouri neighborhood of the eastern coastal city.
Benghazi was the cradle of the 2011 revolution that toppled and killed veteran dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Libya has since fallen into chaos, with the UN-backed Government of National Accord based in Tripoli failing to assert its authority over the country. The GNA is opposed by a rival administration that is based in Libya’s far east and backed by military strongman Marshal Khalifa Haftar, whose forces are battling militants in Benghazi.
The powerful explosion outside the mosque after Friday prayers wrecked a number of cars and charred nearby buildings.
The attack came as Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) appears close to forcing Islamist-led opponents from their last holdouts after a military campaign that began in 2014.
It was not clear who staged Friday’s bombing, but the LNA’s rivals have carried out such attacks in Benghazi in the past. In November, a similar blast wounded a prominent tribal leader who had helped the LNA negotiate the takeover of several major oil ports.
Shuwail, who served as police chief in Benghazi after Libya’s 2011 uprising, was interior minister between 2012 and 2013.
Meanwhile, a US airstrike on Thursday targeting an Al-Qaeda training camp in Syria killed more than 100 militants, a US defense official said on Friday.
The strike took place just a day before the end of President Barack Obama’s presidency and a day after more than 80 Daesh militants were killed in US airstrikes in Libya.
The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the airstrike was primarily carried out by a B-52 bomber and dropped 14 munitions.
The official added that the strike against the camp took place in Idlib province, west of Aleppo, and there was a high level of confidence that there were no civilian casualties. A US-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes and supporting local forces in Syria to oust Daesh militants. However, there is concern that the defeat of Daesh could open the door for Al-Qaeda to take territory in ungoverned parts of the country.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Friday that an airstrike killed more than 40 members of the militant group Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham in northwestern Syria. It was not immediately clear if this strike was the same one the defense official was referring to.


Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

Updated 23 January 2019
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Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

  • The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict
  • Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday vowed to coordinate their actions more closely in Syria.
“Cooperation between Russia and Turkey is a touchstone for Syrian peace and stability,” Erdogan said in translated comments at a joint press conference after their talks, which lasted around three hours.
“With our Russian friends we intend to strengthen our coordination even more.”
“We agreed how we’ll coordinate our work in the near future,” Putin said, calling the talks which included the countries’ defense ministers “effective.”
At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin addressed Erdogan as “dear friend,” saying that their countries “work on issues of regional security and actively cooperate on Syria.”
Erdogan used the same term for Putin and said “our solidarity makes a weighty contribution to the security of the region.”
The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict: Russia provides critical support to the Syrian government, while Turkey has backed rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Despite this, they have worked closely to find a political solution to the seven-year conflict.
Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria following US President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last month about pulling 2,000 American troops out of Syria.
Putin said that if carried out, the withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria “will be a positive step, it will help stabilize the situation in this restive area.”
Turkey has also welcomed Washington’s planned withdrawal, but the future of US-backed Kurdish militia forces labelled terrorists by Ankara has upset ties between the NATO allies.
Erdogan had said on Monday he would discuss with Putin the creation of a Turkish-controlled “security zone” in northern Syria, suggested by Trump.
The US-allied Kurds, who control much of the north, have rejected the idea, fearing a Turkish offensive against territory under their control.
Putin said Wednesday that Russia supports “establishing dialogue between Damascus officials and representatives of the Kurds.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week said that Damascus must take control of the north.
The northwestern province of Idlib earlier this month fell under the full control of a jihadist group dominated by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The Russian foreign ministry said earlier Wednesday that the situation in the province remained of “serious concern.”
Putin said that the leaders discussed the situation in Idlib “in great detail today.”
“We have a shared conviction that we must continue jointly fighting terrorists wherever they are, including in the Idlib zone,” the Russian leader said.
Erdogan said that the countries will wage a “lengthy fight” in Syria.
Nearly eight years into Syria’s deadly conflict, the planned US pullout has led to another key step in Assad’s Russian-backed drive to reassert control.
Kurdish forces who were left exposed by Trump’s pledge to withdraw have asked the Syrian regime for help to face a threatened Turkish offensive.
The Kremlin hailed the entry by Syrian forces into the key northern city of Manbij for the first time in six years after Kurds opened the gates.
Moscow plans to organize a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran early this year as part of the Astana peace process, launched by the three countries in 2017.
Putin said Wednesday the next summit would be held “in the near future” in Russia, saying the leaders still needed to agree the time and location with Iran.
The last meeting between Putin, Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani took place in Iran in September last year with the fate of rebel-held Idlib province dominating the agenda.
Ties between Russia and Turkey plunged to their lowest level in years in November 2015 when Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane over Syria.
But after a reconciliation deal in 2016, relations have recovered at a remarkable speed with Putin and Erdogan cooperating closely over Syria, Turkey buying Russian-made air defense systems and Russia building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.