Damascus regime troops, allies retake most of last Daesh-held town

Men ride a bicycle in the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor during a military operation by government forces against Daesh group, in this photo taken on November 4, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2017
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Damascus regime troops, allies retake most of last Daesh-held town

BEIRUT: Syrian troops and allied fighters advanced Saturday to capture most of Albu Kamal, a monitor said, in a tug-of-war over Daesh’s last urban stronghold in the country.
The town in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province has changed hands several times, with regime troops announcing its capture but losing it to a blistering Daesh counter-attack a week ago.
Syria’s army and Lebanese, Iranian and Iraqi loyalists re-entered Albu Kamal two days ago and by Saturday had taken most of it from Daesh, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Syrian regime forces, (Lebanese) Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and Iraqi militias seized control on Saturday of more than 80 percent of Albu Kamal, after a huge attack that began Friday night,” said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.
“IS (Daesh) was pushed back to the northern and northeastern sectors of the city. Clashes are ongoing,” Abdel Rahman said.
The Britain-based monitor said the fresh push came with heavy bombing raids by regime ally Russia, and that troops were advancing more “carefully” than in their previous assault to ensure their gains would not be rolled back.
A string of territorial defeats across northern and eastern Syria left Albu Kamal, near the border with Iraq, as the last significant town held by IS in the country.
Losing it to regime forces would cap the group’s reversion to a guerrilla organization with no urban base.
On Saturday, Syrian state television aired live footage from Albu Kamal, showing plumes of smoke rising over the city’s skyline as explosions echoed in the background.
It said the army was preparing to “storm the remaining areas” held by Daesh in Albu Kamal’s east.
“What has most impeded the Syrian army’s advance is the large amounts of mines left by Daesh (IS) and its attempt at using families as human shields,” state television reported.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said shelling by the regime on the opposition-held area of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus Friday killed at least 19 civilians, among them six children.
According to the Observatory, 52 civilians have been killed since Tuesday, most of them in Eastern Ghouta, which has been besieged since 2013 and where humanitarian conditions are dire.
Thirteen people, including five children and three emergency workers, were killed in regime shelling and airstrikes in Douma, the Eastern Ghouta area’s main town, said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.


Militants claim responsibility for Iran troops abduction

Updated 22 October 2018
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Militants claim responsibility for Iran troops abduction

  • Jaish Al-Adl says they were kidnapped and taken to bases inside Pakistan
  • Islamabad said last week it was actively looking for missing men

TEHRAN: A militant group has claimed responsibility for the abduction of 12 Iranian security personnel near the border with Pakistan, Iran’s semi-official news agency ISNA reported Monday.
“The terrorist group Jaish Al-Adl (Army of Justice in Arabic) has posted two photos... claiming that those in it are the forces abducted” on October 16, ISNA said.
Jaish Al-Adl, formed in 2012, is a successor to the Sunni extremist group Jundallah (Soldiers of God) which has carried out a spate of attacks on Iranian security forces in recent years in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan.
The photos show seven members of the elite Revolutionary Guards force and five police commandos, all in combat gear, according to state news agency IRNA.
The Iranians, including intelligence officers, were abducted near Lulakdan, a village 150 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of Zahedan, capital of Sistan-Baluchistan.
They were “made unconscious” by a “single infiltrator” and then kidnapped and taken to bases inside Pakistan, said Guards commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, quoted by IRNA.
The photos also show a haul of automatic weapons and sniper rifles, rocket launchers, machine-guns, grenades and ammunition, apparently seized from the Iranian forces.
Sistan-Baluchistan has long been a flashpoint, with Pakistan-based Baluchi separatists and militants carrying out regular cross-border raids against Iran.
The province has a large, mainly Sunni Muslim ethnic Baluchi community which straddles the border.
A delegation led by the Guards’ ground forces commander Mohammad Pakpour visited Pakistan on Monday to follow up on efforts to free the Iranians, the force said on its website.
Pakistan said last Wednesday that it has launched “active” efforts to locate the missing men.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has blamed the kidnapping on “our common enemies unhappy with the existing close, friendly relations between Pakistan and Iran.”