Iraq orders Kurdistan to give up control of airports or face flight ban

Kurdish flags and pro-independence items hang on Irbil's citadel in central Irbil, 217 miles (350 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, on Sept. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Updated 26 September 2017
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Iraq orders Kurdistan to give up control of airports or face flight ban

IRBIL, Iraq: Iraq’s prime minister on Tuesday ordered the northern Kurdish region to hand over control of its airports to federal authorities or face a flight ban, signaling a tough response to a landmark Kurdish independence referendum held the day before.
The Iraqi Kurdish leadership billed Monday’s vote as an exercise in self-determination, but the Iraqi government is strongly opposed to any redrawing of its borders, and Turkey and Iran fear the move will embolden their own Kurdish populations.
Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s ultimatum came the day after the vote and ahead of the release of official results. He said the ban would exclude humanitarian and other “urgent” flights.
Regional authorities in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish north put the turnout at over 70 percent, but many voters reported irregularities, including cases of individuals voting multiple times and without proper registration.
Many expect a resounding “yes” vote when the official results are released, most likely on Wednesday, according to the Kurdish electoral commission.
For decades, Kurdish politics have hinged on dreams of an independent Kurdish state. When colonial powers drew the map of the Middle East after World War I, the Kurds, who now number around 30 million, were divided among Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq.
The vote has already ramped up regional tensions.
Iraqi troops began joint military exercises with Turkey along the border. Fearing the vote could be used to redraw Iraq’s borders, taking a sizeable part of the country’s oil wealth with it, Al-Abadi has called the referendum an act of “sedition” that “escalated the ethnic and sectarian tension” across the country.
In Iran, thousands of Kurds poured into the streets in the cities of Baneh, Saghez and Sanandaj on Monday night. Footage shared online by Iranian Kurds showed demonstrators waving lit mobile phones in the air and chanting their support into the night. Some footage also showed Iranian police officers assembling nearby or watching the demonstrators.
Iranian state television on Tuesday acknowledged the rallies, a rarity in the Islamic Republic. Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and its regular army have been running military exercises near the border with Iraq’s Kurdish region in a sign of Tehran’s displeasure at the Kurdish referendum.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated on Tuesday that his country is considering all options, ranging from military intervention to economic sanctions against Iraq’s Kurdish region.
Erdogan said, however, that he hopes the Iraqi Kurdish leadership will abandon aims of creating a separate state and not force Turkey into enforcing sanctions.
“I hope the northern Iraqi administration gathers itself together and abandons this adventure with a dark ending,” Erdogan said, adding that the landlocked Iraqi Kurdish region would not be able to survive without Turkey’s support in helping export its oil.
“The moment we shut the valve it’s finished for them,” Erdogan said, referring to a pipeline through Turkey. The Turkish leader said no country other than Israel supports the Iraqi Kurdish referendum on independence, which he described as “invalid” and “fraudulent.” He said attempts by Kurds to form an independent state are doomed to fail.
The United States and United Nations both opposed the referendum, describing it as a unilateral and potentially destabilizing move that could detract from the war Iraqi and Kurdish forces are waging against the Daesh group.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US wouldn’t alter its “historic relationship” with Iraq’s Kurds, but the referendum would increase hardships for them. She said Daesh and other extremists are hoping to “exploit instability and discord.”
Statements from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed regret that the vote was held and said issues between Iraq’s federal government and Kurdish region should be resolved through dialogue.
Kurdish electoral commission spokesman Sherwan Zerar put the turnout at about 3.3 million of the eligible 4.5 million residents.


Jordan court charges 5 with ‘terrorism’ after deadly raid

Updated 15 August 2018
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Jordan court charges 5 with ‘terrorism’ after deadly raid

  • The court’s prosecutor accused the five detainees of "carrying out acts of terrorism"
  • Interior Minister Samir Mubaideen said Monday that the militants supported the Daesh group

AMMAN: Five suspected militants arrested during a deadly raid in a town northwest of Amman were charged with terrorism offenses in Jordan’s state security court Wednesday.
Three alleged militants were killed and five others detained on Saturday when security forces raided a building in the town of Salt.
The operation, which also left four members of Jordan’s security forces dead, was linked to a bomb blast Friday that killed a policeman and wounded six others at a music festival in a nearby town.
The court’s prosecutor accused the five detainees of “carrying out acts of terrorism that led to the death of a person and the demolition of a building” and “conspiracy to carry out terrorist acts.”
It also charged them with the “possession and manufacturing of explosives for use in illegal activities” and the “possession of weapons and ammunition for use in illegal activities.”
Under the 2006 Prevention of Terrorism Act, the charges are punishable by hanging.
Interior Minister Samir Mubaideen said Monday that the militants supported the Daesh group and “followed its takfiri (Sunni Muslim extremist) ideology.”
The militants were holed up in an apartment in a four-story residential block in Salt. They blew up the apartment as security forces encircled them and exchanged heavy fire.
Medical sources said 10 people were wounded in the raid, including members of the security forces and residents of the building used as a hideout.
Jordan, a small desert kingdom, has been the target of several militant attacks. A shooting rampage in 2016 claimed by IS killed 10 people including a Canadian tourist in Karak, known for its Crusader castle.
A close ally of Washington, Jordan has played a key role in the US-led coalition fighting Daesh in neighboring Syria and Iraq, using its air force against the militants and allowing coalition forces to use its bases.