Iraq-Syria border set for last major assault on Daesh: US general

Tanks and vehicles of the combined Iraqi forces and Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitaries are seen on the advance towards villages between the northern Iraqi cities of Hawija and Kirkuk on October 6, 2017, after retaking Hawija from Daesh group fighters a day before. (AFP)
Updated 07 October 2017
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Iraq-Syria border set for last major assault on Daesh: US general

BAGHDAD: The “final large fight” in Iraq against Daesh group will take place on the border with Syria, a general in a US-led coalition against the terrorists said on Saturday.
He spoke two days after Iraqi forces recaptured the northern town of Hawija, the center of one of the terrorist group’s two remaining enclaves in Iraq.
“The next fight and the final large fight will be in the Middle Euphrates River Valley... on the Iraqi-Syrian border,” Brig. Gen. Robert Sofge, the coalition’s deputy commanding general, told AFP.
“All campaigns will aim in that direction, and it is going to happen sooner rather than later.”
Daesh seized vast areas of Iraq and Syria in 2014. Multiple offensives in both countries have since cornered it in a pocket of territory stretching from Syria’s Deir Ezzor to the Iraqi towns of Rawa and Al-Qaim.
Sofge said some 2,000 Daesh fighters were still in the area. Coalition-backed Iraqi forces ousted Daesh from second city Mosul in July, going on to inflict a string of defeats on the terrorist group.
After seizing the northern town of Tal Afar in August, they focused their efforts on Hawija and the Euphrates river area close to the Syrian frontier.
The militants are also under pressure in eastern Syria, facing separate offensives by Russian-backed regime forces and a Kurdish-Arab force supported by the US-led coalition.
Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Croft, the coalition’s deputy air force commander, said Iraqi security forces had been able to regroup and move quickly into new battles following their Mosul victory.
“We, as the coalition, are moving quickly to match,” he said.
Sofge said the terrorist group was shifting from a military mindset to that of an insurgent group with “sleeper cells” able to launch surprise attacks.
“The challenge for the years ahead is police work in Iraq and Syria,” he said.
“Daesh fighters who are not killed or captured are trying to fade back into the fabric of the society.”
While militants have tried to hide among the thousands of people displaced by fighting, Croft said some 1,000 Daesh fighters were captured in Hawija.
Many ended up in the hands of the Kurdish Peshmerga militias in Kirkuk province. Control of the province is a key sticking point in a bitter dispute between Baghdad and Kurdish authorities, fanned by a September referendum on Kurdish independence, held in defiance of the central government.
Iraqi pro-government forces have also advanced toward Kurdish positions since retaking Hawija. But Croft praised what he said was a “high degree of cooperation between Peshmergas and Iraqi security forces.”
“It is very positive,” he said. “Much of the tension is at a political level, not only does tension (between Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga) not exist, but they keep their cooperation high.”


Libya’s coast guard recovers five bodies from migrant boat

African migrants rescued from a ship off the coast of Zuwara, about 130 kilometres west of the Libyan capital Tripoli, sit alongside of bodies of others who died, at the dock in the capital's naval base on June 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 June 2018
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Libya’s coast guard recovers five bodies from migrant boat

  • Since January, some 10,760 migrants have crossed from Libya to Italy, more than 80 percent less than during the same period last year
  • Since last summer, smuggling networks inside Libya have been disrupted under Italian pressure

TRIPOLI: Libyan coast guards said on Monday they had recovered the bodies of five migrants and picked 191 survivors off the coast west of the capital Tripoli.
Libya’s western coast is the main departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe by the sea, though the number of crossings has dropped sharply since last July.
The five dead migrants were brought back to port in Tripoli on Monday along with 115 survivors from various sub-Saharan African and Arab countries, coast guard officials said.
Their boat was intercepted off Mellitah on Sunday after being damaged by rough seas, according to Ayoub Qassem, a coast guard spokesman.
Another group of 76 migrants was intercepted on Sunday off Zawiya, just west of Tripoli.
Since last summer, smuggling networks inside Libya have been disrupted under Italian pressure and Libya’s EU-backed coast guard has stepped up interceptions, returning more than 7,000 migrants to Libya so far this year.
Since January, some 10,760 migrants have crossed from Libya to Italy, more than 80 percent less than during the same period last year, according to statistics from Italy’s interior ministry.
Last week, crossings in the central Mediterranean were thrown into further uncertainty when Italy’s new government closed its ports to a rescue ship operated by humanitarian organizations that was loaded with more than 600 migrants.
It eventually docked in Spain.