Saudi minister visits north Syria for Raqqa talks

Updated 20 October 2017
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Saudi minister visits north Syria for Raqqa talks

BEIRUT: A Saudi official has visited northern Syria with a US envoy to discuss reconstruction of Raqqa, which Kurdish and Arab militias backed by a US-led coalition, captured from Daesh on Tuesday.
Saudi Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer Al-Sabhan visited the area with Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the coalition against Daesh, and met the Raqqa Civil Council said Amed Sido, an adviser to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance.
The Saudi Okaz newspaper also reported on Thursday that Al-Sabhan had visited northern Syria and that Riyadh and Washington had discussed the reconstruction of Raqqa.
The Saudi officials who visited Raqqa to check the area were there to listen to discussions rather than take part, Sido said, adding that they met a reconstruction committee set up by the council.
“They promised that they would contribute to construction in Raqqa in the future,” Sido said. Sido is also an SDF coordinator with the coalition.
The main priority for the city’s reconstruction now is clearing land mines and bodies, and working on water and electricity projects, Sido said.
While no concrete plans were set in motion, Sido continued, “we consider it a first visit, a first step, that could be the beginning of future relations.”

Saudi Arabia is a member of the US-led international coalition against Daesh, set up in 2014.
The SDF’s four-month battle against Daesh in Raqqa, aided by coalition airstrikes, left much of the city in ruins and forced much of its population to flee to camps nearby. International charity Mercy Corps said on Thursday that most of the city was uninhabitable.
The SDF and its allies set up the Raqqa Civil Council to run the city after the fighting was over.
The international coalition’s 73 members also include European countries, other Arab countries and Turkey. Its work includes supporting stabilization and restoration of public services to areas taken from Daesh militants.
Meanwhile, US-backed militias in Syria have detained senior foreign Daesh leaders in months of fighting for Raqqa, but it is not yet clear if they will be repatriated after facing trial, Silo said.
"We have foreign emirs ... from all around the world. They were captured in special operations, and some of them turned themselves in to our forces."
US-backed forces are combing the ruins the city for survivors and bombs.


Turkey train crash leaves 9 dead, dozens injured

Updated 13 December 2018
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Turkey train crash leaves 9 dead, dozens injured

  • The high-speed train usually passes through that station without stopping
  • Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 84 other people had sought medical help after the crash

ANKARA, TURKEY: A high-speed train hit a railway engine and crashed into a pedestrian overpass Thursday at a station in the Turkish capital of Ankara, killing nine people and injuring dozens, officials said.
The 6:30 a.m. train from Ankara to the central Turkish city of Konya collided head-on with the engine, which was checking the tracks at the capital’s small Marsandiz station, Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan told reporters after inspecting the site. The high-speed train, which the Anadolu Agency said was carrying 206 passengers, usually passes through that station without stopping.
At least two cars derailed, hitting the station’s overpass, which then collapsed onto the train. Three engine drivers and six passengers were killed in the crash, Turhan said. One passenger died after being hospitalized while the others were killed at the scene.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 84 other people had sought medical help after the crash.
Television footage showed emergency services working to rescue passengers from wrangled cars and debris. Hurriyet newspaper said sniffer dogs assisted efforts to find survivors. Turhan said later no one else was believed to be trapped.
It wasn’t immediately clear if a signaling problem caused the crash. Authorities detained three state railway employees over suspected negligence and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed a thorough investigation.
Passenger Ayse Ozyurt told the IHA news agency that the accident occurred 12 minutes after the train left the main station and that it had not yet gained its maximum speed.
“The train was not fast at that time yet,” she said. “Suddenly, there was a frightening breakage ... and the train was off the rail.”
Konya, about 260 kilometers (160 miles) south of Ankara, is home to the tomb of the Sufi mystic and poet Jalaladdin Rumi, attracting thousands of pilgrims and tourists. The crash occurred during an annual week of remembrance for Rumi, when many travel to Konya to watch Whirling Dervishes, members of a Sufi sect, perform.
Turkey has had a raft of train crashes this year.
In July, 24 people were killed and more than 70 injured when most of a passenger train derailed in northwestern Turkey after torrential rains caused a section of the tracks to collapse. Last month, 15 people were injured when a passenger train collided with a freight train in Turkey’s central province of Sivas.