US-backed fighters on high alert in Syria’s Manbij

A picture taken on March 22, 2018 shows Turkish-backed Syrian fighters in a street in the northwestern Syrian city of Afrin. (AFP)
Updated 03 April 2018
0

US-backed fighters on high alert in Syria’s Manbij

  • Syrian Kurdish fighters are digging trenches in Manbij
  • Syrian Kurds fear a Turkish troops would overrun Manbij
MANBIJ: On the outskirts of Syria’s Manbij, Kurdish-led fighters have dug trenches and US-led coalition soldiers patrol from land and sky after Turkey threatened to overrun the northern city.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to launch an attack on the city, near which US troops are stationed as part of their support to a Kurdish-led alliance fighting extremists.
Pro-Ankara Syrian rebels control territory to the north and west of the city held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance.
The rebels control Jarabulus near the Turkish border to the north, as well as Al-Bab to the west of Manbij.
On its northern flank, only a few hundred meters (yards) separate the positions of the pro-Ankara rebels and the SDF, which has spearheaded the fight against Daesh.
Outside Manbij, as spring turns the surrounding hills bright green, Kurdish fighters have been consolidating their positions in preparation for a possible assault.
On the front line, the facade of a derelict home sheltering SDF fighters was riddled with bullet holes.
“We’re on high alert. There are always skirmishes at night,” Kurdish fighter Shiyar Kobani said. “They fire mortar rounds and shell our positions.”
At a US military base near the city, three armored cars bearing the US flag were driving back to camp after completing a mission.
A helicopter flew overhead after taking off in a swirl of dust from the base, fortified with mounds of rubble between olive trees.
Coalition forces carry out regular patrols on the frontline and “have increased their patrolling tours recently,” SDF commander Khalil Mustafa told AFP.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor with sources on the ground, says around 350 members of the US-led coalition — mostly American troops — are stationed around Manbij.
Military sources on the ground, the Observatory and pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan say the coalition has sent in reinforcements, heavy artillery and other military equipment to the area.
An AFP correspondent saw the US troops even after President Donald Trump said Thursday that he would pull forces out of Syria “very soon.”
Trump was speaking the same day that two members of the coalition — an American and a Briton — were killed by an improvised explosive device in Manbij.
Since 2014, the coalition has provided weapons, training and other support to forces fighting Daesh extremists in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
Turkey-led forces last month seized control of the Kurdish enclave of Afrin to the west of Manbij after a two-month assault that killed dozens of civilians and displaced tens of thousands of civilians.
Ankara views the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia that controlled Afrin as “terrorists,” although the YPG formed the backbone of the US-backed SDF that has ousted Daesh from much of Syria.
Erdogan has warned that Turkey could extend the Afrin offensive to Manbij.
Trenches have been dug outside the city and checkpoints erected to thoroughly scan the identity papers of those entering the city.
“We’re taking the Turkish threats seriously,” Mohammed Abu Adel, the head of the Manbij Military Council — a part of the SDF — told AFP.
“The international coalition has increased the number of its forces in Manbij,” he said.
Abdelkarim Omar, a top foreign affairs official with the Kurdish semi-autonomous administration in northern Syria, said US forces were not likely to leave the country any time soon.
“It’s premature to speak of any American withdrawal,” he said.
“Terrorism is still present,” he added, referring to Daesh fighters.
Two offensives — one by the SDF and another by the regime — have expelled the extremists from much of Syria.
But Daesh fighters still cling to pockets of territory in eastern Syria and maintain the ability to launch deadly attacks.
They carried out a spate of attacks that killed 19 pro-government fighters last week in eastern Syria, and in March seized a district of the capital.


OIC body urges Muslim countries to promote culture of reading

Updated 20 April 2019
0

OIC body urges Muslim countries to promote culture of reading

  • Critical shortage of ‘reading rates’ and ‘lack of access to books’ deplored
  • ISESCO calls on Muslim countries to support publishing industry

RABAT, Morocco: Muslim countries must do more to promote books and reading, the Saudi Press Agency reported one of the world’s largest Islamic organizations as saying.

The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), which was founded by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation 40 years ago, called on Muslim countries to improve the publishing industry, provide copyright protection, and preserve manuscripts by digitizing them so that current and future generations could benefit from them.

It made the comments ahead of World Book and Copyright Day, a UN event celebrated on April 23. 

ISESCO said that knowledge and science in Muslim communities soared when printing was discovered, adding that paper books would remain a pillar of culture and a driver for development because civilization was founded on the discovery of writing.

“The media through which knowledge and sciences were transferred have varied with the advent of the information and communications technology revolution,” ISESCO said. “The world now has digital as well as paper books and, in spite of this great leap achieved by humanity to disseminate knowledge and sciences, there is a critical shortage of reading rates, and a large segment of people lack access to books and intermediate technologies. In addition, certain categories of people, such as the visually impaired, do not benefit from a large number of publications.”

The ISESCO statement mentioned statistics that showed an increase in the proportion of published books compared with previous years, which were characterized by a decline in the sector. ISESCO said the functions of paper and digital books were evenly divided.

But the popularity of books and reading could not hide the difficulties and risks facing the written word, it added. Manuscripts faced destruction and theft in some areas of armed conflict and this phenomenon threatened Islamic culture and history, said ISESCO.

The body said that technology could be used to combat book piracy through practical measures such as standardizing legislation, closing legal loopholes and raising awareness about the dangers of piracy.

ISESCO called on member states to give attention to books and reading as well as people with special needs to help them access books.

 

Environment protection

Separately, ISESCO and the General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection (PME) had a meeting on Friday in Rabat, Morocco, to discuss the Saudi Arabia Award for Environmental Management in the Islamic World (KSAAEM).

The meeting, held at ISESCO headquarters, was presided over by PME President Khalil bin Musleh Al-Thaqafi and ISESCO Director General, Abdul Aziz Othman Al-Twaijri.

The meeting hailed the support of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the efforts of the PME and ISESCO in the field of environmental protection in the Islamic world, including raising awareness about the importance of protecting the environment and encouraging scientific research through KSAAEM.

The two sides highlighted their coordination, consultation and cooperation to achieve common goals. Mohammed Hussein Al-Qahtani, PME’s director general of media and public relations, commended the efforts made in this area and the results, and said there was a need to develop the award’s media plan to expand its outreach.

Dr. Abdelamajid Tribak, from ISESCO’s Directorate of Science and Technology, gave a presentation on the activities of KSAAEM’s General Secretariat.

He said the number of nominees had risen this year compared to the previous year, with 200 entrants from 40 Islamic and non-Islamic countries.