Anti-Daesh coalition strikes drop to lowest number

This Jan. 19, 2017 photo, shows a general view of the destruction in the old city of Aleppo, Syria. (AP)
Updated 22 November 2017
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Anti-Daesh coalition strikes drop to lowest number

BEIRUT: Airstrikes by the US-led coalition against Daesh in Iraq and Syria have dropped significantly, a spokesman said Tuesday, as the war against the terrorists winds down.
A single strike on Nov. 8 “marked fewest strikes/munitions dropped” in the more than three-year-old campaign against Daesh, coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon said on social media.
“Nearly all territory once controlled by ISIS (Daesh) retaken; 7.5 million people no longer under Daesh control,” wrote Dillon.
Coalition aircraft have conducted dozens of strikes, which can each consist of multiple engagements, in November, a month that saw heavy fighting to dislodge IS from its last remaining bastions.
Syrian regime and allied forces this month retook the town of Albu Kamal, which lies on the border with Iraq, where anti-Daesh forces also retook Rawa, the last town the militants held in the country.
Nonetheless, major operations — such as those that saw tens of thousands of troops battle for several months to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second city, in July, and Raqqa, the terrorists’ main hub in Syria, last month — are over.
At its peak, when coalition-backed forces were battling Daesh on multiple fronts across the “caliphate” Daesh proclaimed in July 2014, the daily count of air strikes could top 50.
Reflecting the decline in anti-Daesh operations, the coalition announced on Tuesday that it would only divulge the details of its strikes twice weekly instead of daily.
In August 2014, then US president Barack Obama sent warplanes to carry out strikes against Daesh when the terror group was massacring members of the Yazidi minority in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq.
A coalition was formed soon after with the support of around 60 nations, although only a handful such as Australia, Britain and France, played a significant military role.
The number of surviving, active Daesh fighters has dropped drastically to a few hundred in recent months, and holdout terrorists are now mostly confined to pockets in remote desert areas along the Iraq-Syria border.
Those areas need to be cleared before a definitive victory against Daesh on the ground can be claimed.
Observers have warned that the group will remain a potent force even after it loses its last fixed positions, as it continues to carry out and inspire deadly terror attacks in the region and beyond.


Another Turkish journalist jailed over Gulen links

Ali Unal was chief writer at the now-defunct Zaman newspaper. (Supplied)
Updated 15 November 2018
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Another Turkish journalist jailed over Gulen links

  • About 250 people were killed in the coup attempt and in the subsequent crackdown, Turkey jailed 77,000 people pending trial

ISTANBUL: A court sentenced Turkish journalist Ali Unal to 19 years in jail on Wednesday on a charge of being a leader in the network accused of carrying out a failed coup in July 2016, the state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.
The ruling followed a sustained crackdown in the wake of the coup attempt, but also came amid steps by the government that appear aimed at improving ties with the US and Europe, strained by the sweeping campaign of arrests.
Unal was chief writer at the now-defunct Zaman newspaper, widely seen as the flagship media outlet for the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara says orchestrated the attempted putsch. Gulen denies any involvement.
Speaking by video link from jail to the court in the western province of Usak, Unal denied being a founder or leader of the network and denied involvement in the putsch, Anadolu said.
“I have no link with any terrorist organization,” he said, adding that he had spoken five or six times to Gulen and that he was being tried over his writing.
He was sentenced to 19 years and six months for “leading an armed terrorist group.” Six other Zaman journalists were convicted on similar charges in July.
About 250 people were killed in the coup attempt and in the subsequent crackdown, Turkey jailed 77,000 people pending trial. Authorities also sacked or suspended 150,000 civil servants and military personnel and shut down dozens of media outlets.Illustrating the scale of its actions, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday his ministry had dismissed 23 percent of its career personnel over links to Gulen.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said some journalists helped nurture terrorists with their writing, and that the crackdown is needed to ensure stability in a NATO member bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran. Critics say Erdogan has used the crackdown to muzzle dissent and increase his own power. The European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, has also criticized the crackdown. The verdict came a day after another court threw out the conviction of former Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak, annulling a verdict sentencing her to two years in prison in absentia on charges of carrying out propaganda for Kurdish militants.