Syria’s Afrin urges Russia to oppose Turkish-led assault

Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighters gesture prior to be driven to the Turkish-Syrian border in Kilis, on January 30, 2018, as part ot the operation "Olive Branch". (AFP)
Updated 04 February 2018
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Syria’s Afrin urges Russia to oppose Turkish-led assault

AFRIN: Local authorities in Syria’s Afrin called on Sunday for world powers to intervene to halt a Turkish-led assault on their region, accusing Russia of complicity in civilian deaths there.
Ankara and allied rebels launched operation “Olive Branch” on January 20 against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey has blacklisted as “terrorists.”
Afrin’s local administration — the semi-autonomous government in place since 2013 — shot back the accusation on Sunday and urged Moscow to take a firm stand.
“We ask the Russian federation in particular to rescind its support for the Turkish state’s terrorism against the people of Afrin,” it said in a statement.
“It bears responsibility for the massacres the fascist Turkish state is carrying out against innocent civilians.”
Russia, which intervened militarily in Syria’s war in 2015, had troops positioned in Afrin but withdrew them as Turkey launched the assault.
The YPG and Afrin officials say that withdrawal amounted to tacit approval of the Turkish offensive.
Officials on Sunday also called for the United States, European Union, United Nations Security Council and the US-led coalition fighting jihadists to “immediately intervene to stop Turkey’s aggression.”
Ankara says it launched the operation to protect its southern border and insists that it is doing everything it can to avoid civilian casualties.
But the campaign has sparked mass protests, including in Afrin on Sunday.
Thousands of people marched in downtown Afrin with YPG flags and posters of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey is vehemently opposed to the YPG because of its ties to the PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency against Turkish forces.
“We’re holding the whole world responsible because we fought terrorism on behalf of everyone, but today the world agreed to kill Syrians,” said Ali Mahmoud, 45.
Other demonstrators clutched olive branches, a symbol of Afrin which is known for its abundant olive groves but also now associated with the name Turkey gave its offensive.
“They named their attack ‘Olive Branch’. It’s a thorn in their hand, but in our hands, it’s a gun,” said Fikrat Afdal, 33.
At least 68 civilians, including 21 children, have died in Turkish shelling as part of the assault, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
More than 100 pro-Ankara rebels and a similar number of YPG fighters have also died, the British-based monitor says.


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.”