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

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.”

UN investigation delves into Daesh’s crimes against Yazidis

Yazidi activist Nadia Murad won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. (AFP)
Updated 13 December 2018

UN investigation delves into Daesh’s crimes against Yazidis

  • The team began its work in August, a year after it was approved the UN Security Council
  • The investigation aims to collect and preserve evidence of acts by Daesh in Iraq that may be war crimes

LONDON: A UN investigation into atrocities committed against Yazidis and others in Iraq will do more than simply gather information that will molder in an archive, the probe’s leader said on Wednesday, it will help bring perpetrators to justice.

The team, led by British lawyer Karim Asad Ahmad Khan began its work in August, a year after it was approved the UN Security Council.

Speaking on the sidelines of a London event celebrating Yazidi activist Nadia Murad — who won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize —  Khan said the investigation will get into full gear in 2019.

“We will be pushing forward with greater capacity next year once we have a budget from the United Nations,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The investigation aims to collect and preserve evidence of acts by Daesh in Iraq that may be war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. In September 2017 — after a year of talks with Iraq — the UN council adopted a resolution asking UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to create the team “to support domestic efforts” to hold the militants accountable.

The evidence gathered is primarily for use by Iraqi authorities.

Whether that evidence will then be shared with international courts, will “be determined in agreement with the Government of Iraq on a case-by-case basis,” according to the resolution.

“This mandate was not created to create simply an archive that would gather dust,” said Khan.

“Our bid is ... to ensure that the best possible evidence is presented, is preserved, is collected. The necessary investigations are committed so that those who committed these horrendous acts are subjected to the vigour of the law.”

UN experts warned in June 2016 that Daesh was committing genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq, destroying the minority religious community through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes.

Supporters of the Yazidi cause have expressed irritation at delays the probe has faced.

“Four years have passed since the crimes of genocide committed against Yazidis but we have seen no justice as yet for the victims and survivors,” Karwan Tahir, the Kurdish regional government’s representative in Britain told the London event.

About 7,000 women and girls were captured in northwest Iraq in August 2014 and held by Daesh in Mosul where they were tortured and raped.

Murad, a young Yazidi woman who was enslaved and raped by Islamic State fighters in Mosul in 2014, and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney have long pushed Iraq to allow UN investigators to help.