Bashir asks Putin for ‘protection’ from US

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir during their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia. (Sputnik via Reuters)
Updated 24 November 2017
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Bashir asks Putin for ‘protection’ from US

SOCHI: Sudanese President Omar Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and war crimes, on Thursday asked Russia’s Vladimir Putin to protect his country from the US.
Speaking during his first visit to Russia as president, Bashir also said he wanted to ramp up military ties and praised Moscow’s military campaign in Syria.
“We have been dreaming about this visit for a long time,” the Sudanese president told Putin at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
“We are thankful to Russia for its position on the international arena, including Russia’s position in the protection of Sudan. We are in need of protection from the aggressive acts of the United States.”
The Sudanese leader praised his earlier meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
“We are currently launching a program to modernize our armed forces and we agreed with the defense minister that Russia will contribute to this,” Bashir said.
Putin said that Russia was keen to intensify economic ties including in agriculture and energy.
“There are prospects not only in the hydrocarbon sphere but also in energy,” Putin said. “There are many prospects of cooperation.”
The visit came a month after the US lifted a trade embargo it imposed on the impoverished African state in 1997 over Khartoum’s alleged backing of militant groups.
US President Donald Trump also removed Sudan from a list of countries facing a US travel ban.
Sudan’s deadly conflict in Darfur broke out in 2003 when ethnic minority groups took up arms against Bashir’s Arab-dominated government, which launched a brutal counter-insurgency.
The UN says at least 300,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million displaced as a result of the conflict.
Top Sudanese officials including Bashir now claim that the conflict has ended, but the region continues to see regular fighting between numerous ethnic and tribal groups.
Bashir is wanted by the ICC for genocide and war crimes related to the conflict, charges he denies.


Renewed US-led airstrikes pound Daesh holdouts

Updated 23 March 2019
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Renewed US-led airstrikes pound Daesh holdouts

  • According to SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel, hundreds of Daesh fighters, including some women, still remain on the outskirts of the encampment
SOUSA, SYRIA: US-led warplanes bombed the north bank of the Euphrates River in eastern Syria on Friday to flush out holdout militants from the last sliver of their crumbling “caliphate.”
Friday’s bombardment ended two days of relative calm on the front line in the remote village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had paused its advance while it combed a makeshift militant encampment, which it overran on Tuesday.
An SDF official said warplanes of the US-led coalition resumed strikes on suspected militant positions before dawn on Friday.
Top SDF commander Jia Furat said his forces were engaging with the Daesh fighters on several fronts while the coalition warplanes provided air support.
The coalition said the “operation to complete the liberation of Baghouz is ongoing.”
“It remains a hard fight, and Daesh is showing that they intend to keep fighting for as long as possible,” it said. The SDF launched what it called its “final assault” against the rebels’ last redoubt in the village of Baghouz on Feb. 9.
Finally on Tuesday, they cornered diehard fighters into a few acres of farmland along the Euphrates River, after forcing them out of their rag-tag encampment of tents and battered vehicles.
The six-month-old operation to wipe out the last vestige of Daesh’s once-sprawling proto-state is close to reaching its inevitable outcome, but the SDF has said a declaration of victory will be made only after they have completed flushing out the last tunnels and hideouts.
According to SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel, hundreds of Daesh fighters, including some women, still remain on the outskirts of the encampment. They are hiding along the bank of the Euphrates River as well as at the base of a hill overlooking Baghouz, he told AFP.
“In around one or two days, we will conclude military operations if there are no surprise developments,” he said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Daesh holdouts were hiding in underground tunnels and caves in Baghouz.
SDF official Jiaker Amed said several militants want to surrender but are being prevented from doing so by other fighters.
“We are trying our best to wrap up the operation without fighting, but some of them are refusing to surrender,” he said.
More than 66,000 people, mostly civilians, have quit the last Daesh redoubt since Jan. 9, according to the SDF.
They comprise 5,000 militants and 24,000 of their relatives as well as 37,000 other civilians.
The thousands who have streamed out have been housed in cramped camps and prisons run by Kurdish forces further north.
On Wednesday night, around 2,000 women and children from Baghouz arrived at the largest camp, Al-Hol, which is struggling to cope with the influx of tens of thousands of people, many in poor health.
Since December, at least 138 people, mostly children, have died en route to Al-Hol or shortly after arrival, according to the International Rescue Committee.
Daesh declared a “caliphate” in June 2014 after seizing a vast swathe of territory larger than Britain straddling Iraq and Syria.
The loss of the Baghouz enclave would signal the demise of the “caliphate” in Syria, after its defeat in Iraq in 2017.
But Daesh has already begun its transformation into a guerilla organization, and still carries out deadly hit-and-run attacks from desert or mountain hideouts.
In a video released on Daesh’s social media channels on Thursday, militants vowed to continue to carry out attacks.
“To those who think our caliphate has ended, we say not only has it not ended, but it is here to stay,” said one fighter.
He urged Daesh supporters to conduct attacks in the West against the enemies of the “caliphate.”
The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted following the repression of anti-regime protests in 2011.