Turkey-backed forces seize Syria's Al-Bab center from Daesh

Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters take position during their advance in the city of Al-Bab, 30 km from the Syrian city of Aleppo. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2017
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Turkey-backed forces seize Syria's Al-Bab center from Daesh

ISTANBUL/BEIRUT: Turkish-backed fighters have seized the center of Al-Bab town from Daesh, Turkish state media and the opposition said on Thursday, dealing a blow to the terrorist group in northern Syria.
Turkey launched its “Operation Euphrates Shield” in August in an effort to push Daesh from its border and stop the advance of a Syrian Kurdish militia.
Taking control of Al-Bab would deepen Turkish influence in an area of Syria where it has effectively created a buffer zone and would allow the Ankara-backed forces to press on toward Raqqa, Daesh’s de facto capital in Syria.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, a loose coalition of Syrian Arabs and Turkmen, have been attacking Al-Bab since December, aided by Turkish warplanes, tanks and special forces.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, citing its correspondent in Al-Bab, said the fighters had seized control of the town center and were now clearing mines and explosive devices laid by the terrorists. Some 1,900 square km in northern Syria has now been cleared of militant groups, it said.
A war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said later on Thursday that Euphrates Shield forces had taken full control of Al-Bab and of two neighboring towns, Qabasin and Al-Bezah.
“We had reached the city center yesterday but there was a suicide attack so we had to withdraw a little bit. And today we attacked again. I can say that 85-90 percent of the city is under control,” a fighter from the Sultan Murad Brigade who is in Al-Bab told Reuters by telephone.
“They have dug tunnels all under Bab and those who have remained are all suicide bombers. The whole of the city is mined. I can say that every meter is mined.”
Another fighter with an FSA group contacted via a social networking site said there was “complete calm” in Al-Bab. The fighter said he was speaking from the city center.
Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik told Anadolu the rebels had entered the town center and that most of the town itself was now under their control.
Meanwhile, the UN’s Syria envoy called on the country’s rival sides to accept the “historical” responsibility of seeking to end the six-year conflict, while accepting “miracles” were unlikely at peace talks starting Thursday in Geneva.
Staffan de Mistura said regime and opposition negotiators, gathered for a fourth round of UN-sponsored talks, had a duty to lead Syria out of its bloody “nightmare.”
“This is... our solemn responsibility... a historical responsibility not to condemn the future generations of Syrian children to long years of bitter and bloody conflict,” he said.
“The Syrian people desperately want an end to this conflict and you all know it... they are awaiting for a relief from... suffering and dream of a new road out of this nightmare,” he added.
De Mistura said he would hold bilateral meetings on Friday to work out the procedure of the round of talks and to create a work plan.
After the opening ceremony in which the Syrian delegations sat opposite each other, de Mistura told reporters that it would be his dream to bring two delegations together for direct talks, but there was still work to be done.


Turkey bans rally for Kurdish MP on hunger strike

A member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) reacts next to policemen during a demonstration in solidarity with a HDP lawmaker on hunger strike in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, on February 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 February 2019
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Turkey bans rally for Kurdish MP on hunger strike

  • Ocalan, one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has not been allowed to see his lawyers since 2011

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey: Turkish police on Friday prevented supporters from rallying outside the home of a pro-Kurdish lawmaker on hunger strike for 100 days.
The protest bid coincides with the 20th anniversary of the capture of Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is jailed in a notorious prison island near Istanbul.
Leyla Guven of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), launched her action on Nov. 8 while in jail to protest against Ocalan’s prison conditions.
She was freed last month under judicial supervision but continued her protest, refusing any treatment. Guven, 55, is consuming only sugared or salted water.
Police on Friday blocked supporters from approaching Guven’s house in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir after a rally called by the HDP, an AFP correspondent said.
“The biggest task ahead of us today is to turn every aspect of life into an arena for struggle and support hunger strikes at the highest level,” HDP MP Dilan Dirayet Tasdemir said.
“This dark picture and severe conditions of fascism can only be broken through our organized struggle,” Tasdemir said.
More than 200 prisoners are on hunger strike to protest what they call Ocalan’s isolation, according to the HDP.
Ocalan, one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has not been allowed to see his lawyers since 2011.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
Ocalan was caught in Kenya outside the Greek Embassy in Nairobi on Feb. 15, 1999 by Turkish secret service agents after attempting to seek asylum in Europe.
Turkish authorities last month allowed Ocalan’s brother Mehmet to see him, the first visit in over two years.