Daesh in desperate attempt to save Albu Kamal, last Syrian bastion

Iraqi forces are seen on November 4, 2017 in the centre of the city of al-Qaim, in Iraq's western Anbar province near the Syrian border after retaking it from Daesh group a day earlier. (AFP)
Updated 11 November 2017
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Daesh in desperate attempt to save Albu Kamal, last Syrian bastion

BEIRUT: Daesh terrorists conducted a blistering counterattack on Albu Kamal in eastern Syria Friday in a desperate bid to cling to the last urban bastion of their imploding “caliphate.”
The terrorists punched back into the town they had lost a day earlier and swiftly retook several northern neighborhoods, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
“IS (Daesh) started counterattacking on Thursday night and retook more than 40 percent of the town of Albu Kamal,” Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Britain-based Observatory, told AFP.
Albu Kamal was the last significant town to have been under full Daesh control and lies at the heart of what used to be the sprawling “caliphate” the group declared in 2014 over swathes of Iraq and Syria.
“The terrorists went back in and retook several neighborhoods in the north, northeast and northwest,” Abdel Rahman said. “IS is trying to defend its last bastion.”
The terror group has in the space of a few weeks seen its caliphate shrink to a small rump and lost major cities such as Mosul, Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.
The observatory said most of the fighting was done by the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and elite forces from its backer Tehran, as well as militia groups from Iraq.
Losing the town, where IS leaders used to meet and were once considered untouchable, would cap a process which has seen the group relinquish any ambition as a land-holding force and return to the desert to fight a clandestine guerrilla war.
Many of the group’s top leaders have been killed as Syrian and Iraqi forces with backing from Russia, Iran and a US-led coalition rolled back the territorial losses that saw the terrorists declare a “caliphate” roughly the size of Britain in 2014.
But the whereabouts of the first among them, self-proclaimed “caliph” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, remains unclear. He has been reported killed or wounded many times but Daesh has never offered any confirmation.
In Deir Ezzor province, which used to be the heartland of their proto-state, the group’s remaining fighters only control about 30 percent of territory, most of it desert.
On the other bank of the Euphrates, coming from the north, the Kurdish-led US-backed forces that retook the Daesh “capital” of Raqqa last month were also advancing on Daesh positions.
According to the observatory, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) retook four villages from Daesh there on Friday.
Observers have predicted the regime may seek to retake towns and cities wrested from Daesh by the SDF, such as Raqqa which the terrorists had used as their main Syrian hub.


Egypt probes images of naked couple atop pyramid

Updated 51 min 27 sec ago
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Egypt probes images of naked couple atop pyramid

  • Danish photographer Andreas Hvid appears to scale the 4,500-year-old tomb on the outskirts of Cairo at night with an unidentified woman who is later seen taking off her top

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities have launched an investigation into images said to show a naked couple who scaled the Great Pyramid that has sparked outrage in the conservative Muslim country, an official said Tuesday.
In a video titled “Climbing the Great Pyramid of Giza,” Danish photographer Andreas Hvid appears to scale the 4,500-year-old tomb on the outskirts of Cairo at night with an unidentified woman who is later seen taking off her top.
Hvid says the video was taken in late November but it was published on YouTube on December 8.
A photograph released by Hvid appears to show the couple completely naked on top of each other while looking in the direction of a nearby pyramid with the horizon illuminated.
“The public prosecution is investigating the incident of the Danish photographer and the authenticity of the photos and video of him climbing the pyramid,” Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s supreme antiquities council, told AFP.
If the video was actually filmed at the top of the pyramid, that would make it a “very serious crime,” Waziri said.
The nearly three-minute video has taken social media by storm and has been the subject of late night talk shows. It has notched up almost three million views on YouTube alone.
“A 7,000-year-old civilization has turned into a bed sheet,” a Twitter user in Egypt lamented.
Another protested that “they want to soil the dignity and pride of Egyptians because the pyramid reflects the glory and grandeur of the Egyptian people.”
The authenticity of the images has been disputed with some arguing the photograph showing the pair naked appears to be very bright whereas the video showed them scaling the pyramid at night.
Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany told government newspaper Al-Ahram that the video has stirred “anger and outrage among Egyptians,” and that officials in charge of guarding the pyramids would be punished if found to have been negligent.
Hvid, 23, explained back home to the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet that he had “dreamed for many years of climbing the Great Pyramid” as well as of taking a naked photograph.
“I’m sad that so many people have got angry but I’ve also received a lot of positive responses from many Egyptians,” he said in an interview.
The young Norwegian, who runs his own YouTube channel, said he had absolutely no interest in stirring up a crisis such as that triggered by cartoons in Western newspapers of the Prophet Muhammad.
As for the girl in the video, she was not his girlfriend. “It was just a pose. We did not have sexual relations,” Hvid said.
The Great Pyramid, also known as the Khufu pyramid, is the largest in Giza, standing at 146 meters (480 feet) tall, and the only surviving structure of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.
Climbing pyramids is forbidden in Egypt.
In 2016, a German tourist was barred from entering the country for life after he posted online footage of climbing one of the ancient structures.