SDF, allies set up civilian council to run Deir Ezzor

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gather in northern Deir al-Zor province ahead of an offensive against Daesh militants, Syria February 21, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 September 2017
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SDF, allies set up civilian council to run Deir Ezzor

DEIR EZZOR, Syria: US-allied militias in northern Syria have announced the formation of a civilian council to govern the oil rich eastern province of Deir Ezzor where they are racing with the Syrian regime’s troops to capture territory held by Daesh.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes Arab militias but is dominated by the powerful Kurdish people’s protection unit (YPG) militia, launched an operation in Deir Ezzor province which borders Iraq earlier this month which captured its northern countryside and advanced east of the Euphrates River.
On Saturday, they seized a major gas field in Deir Ezzor province from Daesh militants in rapid advances that preempted the Syrian regime that was also heading in that direction.
In a separate offensive, Syrian regime troops and Iranian backed militias with Russian air power had also this month broke a years-long Daesh siege of government-held parts of Deir Ezzor on the other side of the Euphrates river.
The advances against Daesh have brought US-backed forces and the Syrian regime side, backed by Russia and Iran, into close proximity.
The assaults by the Russian-backed Syrian army and the US-backed SDF have at times raised fears of clashes that could stoke tensions between the competing world powers.
The SDF appointed 100 tribal figures to meet and elect a council to run the province on Sunday.
In a final communique, the council said its priority was the return of tens of thousands of displaced residents of the province who fled during the conflict and restoring basic utilities. It urged the US-led coalition to provide aid to the war-torn province.
“We want to cement ties among the people of the province,” the statement of the newly formed Deir Ezzor civil council said.
The extent of Kurdish control in the eastern province that lies at the heart of Arab tribal area is sensitive both for residents and for Ankara.
Many local Arab tribes from the region also complain they are marginalized in decision making and blame the YPG for discrimination against them, including the forced conscription of their youths. The YPG denies these allegations.
On Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said Russian airstrikes had killed 45 members of an extremist group in the northwestern province of Idlib.
It was unclear why the strikes, which took place Saturday, targeted members of the Faylaq Al-Sham rebel group, which has taken part in peace talks supervised by Moscow in the Kazakh capital Astana.
The strikes hit the group in the province of Idlib, which is part of a so-called “de-confliction” zone agreed in a deal between Russia, Iran and Turkey.
The Observatory initially reported a lower toll, but said the figure had risen as bodies were recovered after the strike on one of the rebel group’s headquarters on the outskirts of the village of Tal Mardikh.
Faylaq Al-Sham is a radical group considered close to the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
It has fought against the former Al-Qaeda affiliate that now effectively controls nearly all of Idlib after chasing its former rebel allies from their positions in fighting this summer.
A spokesman for Faylaq Al-Sham confirmed the group’s headquarters had been targeted, despite their participation in the last round of talks in Astana.
“Our participation in Astana does not in any way mean that Russia is a friendly or neutral country,” Idriss Al-Raed said.
“The Russian bombing is not surprising, since its policy since its intervention in Syria is based on criminality and killing,” he added.
Russia began an intervention in Syria in support of ally President Bashar Assad in 2015, and has helped the regime win back large parts of the country.
Moscow also helped broker a deal for four truce zones, one of which includes Idlib province, in an agreement with Iran and Turkey inked in May.
The three other zones are around the capital Damascus, in southern Syria and in the center of the country.
More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.


Security alert as Qatari ex-minister linked to terror reappears in public

Updated 40 min 56 sec ago
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Security alert as Qatari ex-minister linked to terror reappears in public

  • Abdullah bin Khalid Al-Thani was photographed in Doha recently autographing a wall portrait of Qatar ruler
  • The Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – placed Abdullah Al-Thani on a list of 59 terrorists being sheltered by Qatar

JEDDAH: The re-emergence in public of a former Qatari interior minister linked to financing and promoting terrorism has rung alarm bells in the security community.

Abdullah bin Khalid Al-Thani was photographed in Doha recently autographing a wall portrait of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

The Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt  — placed Abdullah Al-Thani on a list of 59 terrorists being sheltered by Qatar. He has been accused of financing several terror operations and of accommodating terrorists, including those involved in the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks, at his farmhouse in Qatar.

Al-Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of those attacks, moved to Qatar “at the suggestion of Abdullah Al-Thani,” according to the US Department of Defense.

In 1995, Abdullah Al-Thani is believed to have provided funding to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to support him in combat in the Bosnian war. While the US pushed for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s arrest, Abdullah Al-Thani told Khalid Sheikh Mohammed about the growing pressure for his detention, leading to him leaving the country with a Qatar-provided passport on a government executive jet. When he returned, Abdullah Al-Thani was briefly confined to house arrest.

“This man is a big supporter of terrorism and of Al-Qaeda and there is no doubt that he enjoys the patronage of the Qatari regime. His re-appearance confirms all our worst fears that Qatar is a hotbed of terrorists and anti-Arab plotters,” said Saudi scholar and international affairs expert Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri.

“We had no problem with the United States. We were great allies. But Qatar wanted to drive a wedge between our good ties and so, in league with Iran, they supported and facilitated Al-Qaeda's 9/11 operation.”

Al-Shehri said it was not a coincidence that 15 Saudis were selected by Al-Qaeda, Iran and Qatar for the 9/11 operation. “Their primary purpose was to finish our relationship with the United States. With time and painstaking work by other countries it soon became obvious who was pulling the strings of those terrorists, and why.”

"I think it's the right time to put all international pressure on the Qatari regime," said Salman Al-Ansari, head of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC).

Abdullah Al-Thani was among the key links, Al-Shehri said. “When Doha realized it was being exposed it sent Abdullah Al-Thani out of the public eye. But it now seems emboldened enough to bring him back into the public glare. This proves once again that Qatar is the biggest promoter and supporter of terrorism, and that the Arabs, led by Saudi Arabia, have been absolutely justified in snapping ties with Qatar.”

After Saudi Arabia and three other states severed relations with Qatar in June 2017, Al-Qaeda operatives and ideologues came out instantly in support of Qatar. Egyptian Mohammed Shawqi Islambouli, a US-designated terrorist, described Qatar as “the pride of the Arabs.” Abdalrahman bin Omeir Al-Nuaymi, who the US sanctioned in December 2013 for “providing financial support to Al-Qaeda, Asbat Al-Ansar, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Al-Shabaab,” was also among those who rallied in support of Qatar.

On June 4, Al-Nuaymi posted on Twitter: “The latest developments in our region have proven that a state that sows destruction (Saudi Arabia) is inciting the West to sanction states (Qatar) and individuals.”

Al-Nuaymi is a Qatar University professor and former president of the Qatar Football Association. He was also a founding member of a prominent charity — the Sheikh Eid bin Mohammad Al-Thani Charitable Foundation, named after a member of the country’s ruling family. The Telegraph newspaper described him as “one of the world’s most prolific terrorist financiers.”

Among the list of 59 individuals and 12 organizations that the ATQ blamed for supporting terror are several who are also sanctioned by international organizations, including the UN. 

Sa’d bin Sa’d Muhammad Shariyan Al-Ka’bi, a Qatari national openly living in Qatar, was designated by the UN in 2015 as a known facilitator and fundraiser for the Nusra Front. Al-Ka’bi’s activities in Qatar, including the arranging of funding and transferring funds are well known and documented, yet the Qatari government has done nothing to stop his actions.

Abd Al-Latif bin Abdallah Salih Mohammed Al-Kawari is a known fundraiser for terrorist groups dating back to the early 2000s. At that time Al-Kawari was associated with Ibrahim Isa Haji Mohammed Al-Bakr, himself a designated terrorist by the UN and US. The two were working in Qatar to raise funds for Al-Qaeda organizations based in Pakistan and Al- Kawari was directly connected to the transfer of funds from Qatar to Pakistan. Al-Kawari has also been associated with fundraising and the transfer of funders to the Al-Qaeda offshoot, the Nusra Front.

One of the major demands made of Qatar by the Anti-Terror Quartet was: “Full withdrawal of all support, shelter and funding for terror and extremist organizations of all kinds.”