UK urges ‘strong’ response to alleged Syria chemical attack

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrives in Downing Street in London, Britain, March 13, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 09 April 2018
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UK urges ‘strong’ response to alleged Syria chemical attack

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Monday called for a "strong and robust international response" to an alleged poison gas attack on a rebel-held town near Damascus.
Speaking with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on the phone, Johnson "underlined the urgent need to investigate what had happened in Douma and to ensure a strong and robust international response," the Foreign Office said in a statement.
US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron earlier also called for a "strong, joint response" to the suspected chemical attack on Saturday that killed dozens of people.
Syria and its ally Russia have dismissed allegations that the attack was carried out by Syrian forces as "fabrications" and have warned against using them to justify military action.
Damascus and Moscow accused Israel on Monday of carrying out a deadly dawn bombing raid on a military airbase in Syria.
The Foreign Office statement did not apportion blame for the alleged chemical attack.
But it said that Le Drian and Johnson "noted that international investigators mandated by the UN Security Council had found the Assad regime responsible for using poison gas in at least four separate attacks since 2014".
The two "agreed that those responsible for this attack must be held to account" and a UN Security Council meeting on Monday would be "an important next step in determining the international response and that a full range of options should be on the table," it added.
Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman called reports of a chemical weapons attack "deeply disturbing" and said Britain would work with its allies on "a coordinated approach".
The spokesman said Britain was "not involved" in the bombing raid on a Syrian airbase.


Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

Updated 50 min 10 sec ago
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Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

  • Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country
  • The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation

PRISTINA: Kosovo prosecutors have requested the house arrest of 16 women repatriated from Syria, saying they are suspected of joining or taking part as foreign fighters there.

The women appeared on Wednesday in court in Pristina, a day after 10 other women were put under house arrest. None have been charged with a crime.

Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country.

The women and children were sent to the Foreign Detention Centre in the outskirts of Pristina but were freed to go home after 72 hours.

Ten women were seen entering Pristina Basic Court in a police escort on Tuesday. The court said in a statement later that they had been placed under house arrest on charges of joining foreign armed groups and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq from 2014 to 2019.

The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation and more of them are expected to appear in front of judges on Wednesday. The prosecution has yet to file charges.

After the collapse of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, countries around the world are wrestling with how to handle militants and their families seeking to return to their home countries.

Kosovo's population is nominally 90 percent Muslim, but the country is largely secular in outlook. More than 300 of its citizens travelled to Syria since 2012 and 70 men who fought alongside militant groups were killed.

Police said 30 Kosovan fighters, 49 women and eight children remain in the conflict zones. The government said it plans to bring back those who are still there.

International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law making fighting in foreign conflicts punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

On Saturday, 110 Kosovar citizens — the four alleged foreign fighters, 32 women and 74 children — were returned to Kosovo with assistance from the United States, the first such move for a European country.

Authorities say there are still 87 Kosovar citizens in Syria.