US calls urgent meeting to review situation in southwest Syria

The United States has called an urgent meeting in Jordan out of concern about reports of strikes in southwestern Syria. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2018
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US calls urgent meeting to review situation in southwest Syria

WASHINGTON: The United States has called an urgent meeting in Jordan out of concern about reports of strikes in southwestern Syria within the boundaries of the de-escalation zone negotiated last year, a US State Department official said on Monday.
If true, the reported strikes would be a clear violation of the ceasefire by the Syrian regime that broadens the conflict, a department official said in a statement.
"We urge all parties in the southwest de-escalation zone not to take actions that would jeopardize the ceasefire and make future cooperation more difficult," the statement said. "We have called an urgent meeting in Jordan to review the situation in southwest Syria and ensure maintenance of the de-escalation zone that the United States helped negotiate." 


Communist rebel ambush kills six Philippine troops

Updated 5 min 35 sec ago
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Communist rebel ambush kills six Philippine troops

  • Members of the New People’s Army detonated bombs in a pre-dawn ambush of soldiers
  • The 4,000-strong NPA has waged a guerrilla campaign that has killed up to 40,000 people since 1969

MANILA: Communist insurgents killed six Philippine soldiers and wounded six others on Tuesday, the military said, in one of the deadliest recent attacks in the country’s 50-year-old Maoist insurgency.
Members of the New People’s Army (NPA) detonated bombs in a pre-dawn ambush of soldiers marching through a mountainous area of central Samar island, triggering a four-hour firefight.
“Our troops had received a report that NPA forces were extorting money from residents and so they went there to take action,” said regional military spokesman Captain Reynaldo Aragones.
Rebel casualties had not been determined, but Col. Ramon Zagala confirmed the soldiers’ deaths to AFP.
The 4,000-strong NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has waged a guerrilla campaign that has killed up to 40,000 people since 1969.
It marked the 50th anniversary of its founding in March with an assault on a police station that killed three rebels and wounded two police officers.
NPA units rarely engage large military units in big firefights, preferring to target poorly equipped provincial police forces or isolated military or paramilitary detachments.
Tuesday’s attack was among the deadliest launched by the NPA since mid-2017, when President Rodrigo Duterte called off peace talks with the now 50-year-old insurgency.
That decision followed a series of NPA attacks that killed six police officers and wounded five of the president’s military bodyguards.
Decades of peace efforts have come to naught, despite a burst of optimism when Duterte was elected.
Talks with his government seemed to initially make progress, but then fell apart amid name-calling and threats from both sides.
Various attempts to revive the peace process have continued despite Duterte declaring the effort finished in 2017.
Duterte branded the talks dead yet again last month, saying the communists “can maybe talk to the next president of this republic one day.”