Syrian troops break into last Daesh-held town

Syrian pro-government forces patrol in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor on Nov. 4, 2017. Syrian and allied forces converged on holdout Daesh group fighters in the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal, the jihadists’ very last urban bastion following a string of losses. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2017
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Syrian troops break into last Daesh-held town

BEIRUT: Syrian troops and allied militiamen entered the jihadist-held town of Albu Kamal on Wednesday, state media said, edging closer to ousting the Daesh group from its last urban stronghold in the country.
Albu Kamal lies on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq, in the oil-rich eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
Entry to Albu Kamal follows a series of stunningly quick defeats for Daesh in the province as well as the jihadists’ loss of their de facto capital Raqqa further north.
“Army troops and allied forces broke through Daesh defenses and entered Albu Kamal, waging fierce battles inside the town,” state news agency SANA reported.
It said the fighting would pave the way for Syrian troops to regain full control of the border town, just hours after they and pro-regime fighters surrounded Daesh fighters there.
Syrian regime forces, backed by intensive Russian air strikes, have steadily advanced on Albu Kamal from the south and west for weeks.
And Iraqi forces have closed in on the border area from the east, seizing the town of Al-Qaim from the jihadists last week.
“The advance toward Albu Kamal came after army troops and their allies met up with Iraqi forces at the border between the two countries,” SANA said.
A source from militias allied to Damascus told AFP that fighters from Lebanon’s pro-regime Hezbollah movement had advanced to the southern edges of Albu Kamal on Wednesday.
“Part of those units crossed into Iraq, with the help of Hashed Al-Shaabi units, to circle around Albu Kamal and reach the northern side of the town,” the source added.
The Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary alliance has denied that its own forces entered Syria on Wednesday as part of the fight.


Daesh overran vast swathes of oil-rich Deir Ezzor province in 2014 during a military sweep across Syria and Iraq, where it declared a self-styled “caliphate.”
But the jihadist group has seen that territory shrink to a small pocket along the Euphrates River, with Albu Kamal as its final hub.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said pro-regime fighters were battling Daesh in the town’s southwest, backed by heavy bombardment.
“Pro-regime fighters have stormed the town and captured parts of it,” the British-based monitoring group said.
“There’s fierce artillery fire and air strikes, but it’s unclear whether the bombing raids are by Iraqi or Syrian warplanes,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
In recent weeks, an estimated 120,000 people have been displaced from Albu Kamal alone, said the United Nations’ humanitarian affairs coordination office in Damascus.
Tens of thousands have been displaced by fighting to oust Daesh from the area, many living in desperate conditions in desert camps.

The capture of Albu Kamal would cap a string of losses for Daesh, after Syrian forces with Russian air support took full control of Deir Ezzor on Friday, the last major city where the jihadists still had a presence.
Moscow is a close ally of Syria’s President Bashar Assad and launched a military intervention in support of his government in September 2015.
With Russia’s help, Assad’s troops have recaptured swathes of territory from Daesh in central and eastern Syria, as well as from rebel groups across other parts of the country.
Daesh has also lost ground in Syria to a separate force backed by the US-led coalition, which helped oust Daesh from its de facto Syrian capital Raqqa last month.
The coalition estimated recently that there were 1,500 jihadists in the Euphrates Valley border area.
More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests, before spiralling into a complex, multi-front war that drew in international forces and jihadists.


Algeria tensions: Governing party chief backs protesters

Updated 20 March 2019
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Algeria tensions: Governing party chief backs protesters

  • Moab Bouchareb told a meeting of party leaders that the party “supports the popular movement”

ALGIERS: The acting head of Algeria’s governing party says it is throwing its support behind protests against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Critics viewed the move Wednesday as an effort to save the reputation of the FLN party, or National Liberation Front, amid increasing disillusionment with Algeria’s power structure.
FLN interim leader Moab Bouchareb told a meeting of party leaders that the party “supports the popular movement.” But he also appeared to support Bouteflika’s “roadmap” for political reforms.
Bouchareb himself has been criticized as representing a leadership considered corrupt and out of touch with Algeria’s struggling youth. The FLN is Bouteflika’s party.
On Wednesday, foreign affairs minister Ramtane Lamamra said the Algerian government is “ready for dialogue” with demonstrators.
“As I see it, the demonstrations have only grown more numerous, and there will be no solution except through dialogue,” he said in a press conference in Berlin.
“The Algerian government is ready for dialogue, and beyond that, they are prepared to welcome the representatives of the opposition and civil society in the new government which is currently being formed.”
Algerian Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui has been struggling to form a new government as candidates sought to keep their distance from Bouteflika. Bedoui, who was appointed last week, had promised to create a new cabinet within days to respond to the demands of Algeria’s demonstrating youth.
Separately, the Protestant Church of Algeria issued a statement supporting the protests. The Church, whose exact number of members is not precisely known in the largely Muslim country, said it “fully shares the aspirations and legitimate claims of the Algerian people.”
Algeria’s union for imams and the Islamic High Council, a consultative body, had previously expressed their support for the protests.
Protesters want the ailing Bouteflika to step down after 20 years in power. Bouteflika responded by abandoning plans for a fifth term and promising reforms, but also delayed presidential elections indefinitely.
Demonstrators have demanded the government quit at the technical end of its mandate in April, along with the president who has rarely been seen since a 2013 stroke.