Baghdad begins sealing Syria border to block Daesh

Baghdad declared victory over Daesh at the end of last year. (AFP)
Updated 01 July 2018
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Baghdad begins sealing Syria border to block Daesh

  • Baghdad declared victory over Daesh at the end of last year, but the group holds pockets of territory in the vast deserts of eastern Syria and maintains its ability to strike inside Iraq
  • The supreme court has ratified a decision by the outgoing Parliament to dismiss Iraq’s nine-member electoral commission and have them replaced by judges

BAGHDAD/MOSUL: Iraq has begun building a fence along its border with Syria to stop Daesh militants crossing into the country, a border guards spokesman said Sunday.

“Ten days ago we started to set up a barbed wire security fence with surveillance towers along the border with Syria,” said Anwar Hamid Nayef, spokesman in Iraq’s Anbar province.
The frontier barrier includes a six-meter-wide trench and involves thermal cameras and drones scanning the border for militants attempting to cross from Syria.
Baghdad declared victory over Daesh at the end of last year, but the group holds pockets of territory in the vast deserts of eastern Syria and maintains its ability to strike inside Iraq.
The new fence so far runs for 20 km north from the area around the border town of Al-Qaim, which Iraqi forces retook from Daesh in November. In total the frontier stretches for some 600 kms.
Border spokesman Nayef said that experts from Baghdad’s Ministry of Defense and an anti-Daesh coalition spearheaded by the US would come “to evaluate the effectiveness of the fence.”
“If they approve the installations, we will continue along the whole border with Syria,” he said.
In a sign of the continuing menace it poses to Iraq, the bodies of eight captives executed by Daesh were this week found along a highway north of Baghdad.
In a bid to combat the militants, Iraqi forces have carried out a series of airstrikes against Daesh inside Syria.

Parliamentary vacuum
Iraq’s Parliament held its final session on Saturday, leaving the country without a national assembly for the first time since 2003 as it awaits a vote recount from May parliamentary polls.
The manual recount was demanded by the supreme court in polling stations with contested results, in line with a decision by the outgoing Parliament following allegations of fraud.
Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Aram Sheikh Mohammed announced “the end of the third parliamentary mandate,” at a gathering attended by 127 members of the 328-seat house.
Since the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq has had three parliaments each with a mandate of four years.
The last ballot was won by populist leader Moqtada Al-Sadr’s electoral alliance with communists, as long-time political figures were pushed out by voters seeking change in a country mired in conflict and corruption.
Results of the May election were contested mainly by the political old guard. The supreme court has ratified a decision by the outgoing Parliament to dismiss Iraq’s nine-member electoral commission and have them replaced by judges.
The judges’ spokesman, Laith Hamza, said Saturday that the partial recount would start Tuesday in the Kurdish provinces of Irbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk, as well as in Kirkuk, Nineveh, Salaheddin and Anbar.
Meanwhile, Iraqi cellist and conductor Karim Wasfi has played a concert for “peace and co-existence” amid the ruins of Mosul, almost a year after Iraqi forces ousted Daesh from the city.
Dozens of people attended on Friday as Wasfi, in full concert dress, played on a makeshift stage among the most iconic religious monuments of Iraq’s second city.


UN rebukes Europe for failing to allow rescued Arab migrants to land

Updated 1 min 54 sec ago
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UN rebukes Europe for failing to allow rescued Arab migrants to land

  • Private rescue ships have been restricted from conducting search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean
  • Libya, wracked by violence, is no refuge, the UNHCR said

GENEVA: UN aid agencies criticized European countries on Tuesday for not allowing migrants to disembark at safe ports, after more than 140 people rescued at sea were taken to a detention center in Misrata, Libya.

An estimated 170 migrants were lost in the Mediterranean in two incidents involving dinghies that left from Libya and Morocco, migrant organizations said on Saturday.

In all, 203 passengers have drowned at sea trying to reach Europe in January; 4,883 have arrived, mainly in Spain, Greece and Italy, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

Private rescue ships have been restricted from conducting search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, putting more lives unnecessarily at risk, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said.

“IOM confirmed yesterday (Monday) that the Sierra Leonean flagged cargo vessel Lady Sham returned 144 rescued migrants to Libya. It remains unclear when and from where these individuals departed,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman told a Geneva briefing.

“IOM staff counted 26 women and four children among those rescued and taken to a detention center in Misrata,” he said.

Libya, wracked by violence, is no refuge, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

“In Libya’s current context, where outbreaks of violence and widespread human rights violations prevail, no rescued refugees and migrants should be returned there,” said UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley.

“It has been well-documented at this point that the people in these detention centers face pretty appalling treatment, many report going hungry for days on end, not being able to receive dire urgent medical care that they require; others allege to have been tortured,” he said.

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister, who has closed off Italian ports to humanitarian rescue vessels since a populist government came to power in mid-2018, has said the ports would remain closed to deter human traffickers.

UNHCR denounced “politicking around sea rescues” by European states that have restricted aid groups from conducting missions.

“Currently, rescue at sea has been taken hostage by politics... decisive leadership that taps into fundamental values of humanity and compassion is sorely needed,” Yaxley said.