Security forces end attack on Irbil governorate by suspected Daesh militants

A member of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) carries an automatic rifle on a road in the Qandil Mountains, the PKK headquarters in northern Iraq. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 23 July 2018
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Security forces end attack on Irbil governorate by suspected Daesh militants

  • Security forces have cleared the streets around the building, which is located in the busy city centre, said the security officials
  • These types of attacks are rare in Erbil, one of the most stable cities in Iraq

IRBIL, Iraq: Kurdish security forces killed gunmen who had stormed a government building in the Kurdish city of Irbil on Monday and took hostages in an attack suspected of being carried out by Daesh, security officials said.
Armed with pistols, AK-47 rifles and hand grenades, the assailants shot their way into the building housing the governorate from the main gate and a side entrance.
According to preliminary investigations, one government employee was killed in four hours of clashes. Two policemen were wounded.
The gunmen approached the building shortly before 8 a.m. and opened fire, Irbil deputy governor Tahir Abdullah told Reuters.
Seizing the third floor and taking an unspecified number of hostages, the men screamed “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest).
There were conflicting accounts on the details of the attack. Security officials said two of the men carried out suicide bombings.
But Irbil Governor Nawzad Hadi said none of the men blew themselves up. There were three assailants, he added.
Snipers took up positions on a nearby building in Irbil’s busy commercial district and opened fire at the militants. Hand grenades were hurled at security forces.
DAESH SUSPECTED
“We believe that the attackers are from Daesh because of the tactics they used in breaking into the building from the main gate. Two gunmen used pistols to shoot at the guards,” said a security official.
Hisham Al-Hashimi, an expert on Daesh who advises the Iraqi government, said the attack was more likely carried out by Ansar Al-Islam, a predominantly Kurdish, Salafist organization which had links to Al Qaeda.
The attack lacked the sophistication of Daesh operations, he said.
“Daesh should not be ruled out,” he said, using a Arabic acronym used to describe the group.
“They were wearing the local Kurdish outfits used by Ansar Al-Islam. There were no suicide belts.”
Iraq announced in December that it had defeated Daesh. The militants came close to Irbil during a lightning offensive in 2014 before being pushed back, but were only driven from the city of Mosul, about 85 km west of Irbil, a year ago after a long, Western-backed campaign.
The group still carries out attacks in parts of Iraq, an OPEC oil producer and close ally of the United States.
Such high-profile assaults are rare in Irbil, seat of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
The semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq was already facing difficulties before Monday’s violence.
Last year a Kurdish bid for independence from the central government was quashed by the Iraqi army and militias allied with Iran.
Tensions are high between the two main Kurdish parties because of difference over the independence issue.
Kurdish security forces said the gunmen, who were speaking Kurdish, asked the women to leave and kept the men inside.
Daesh has in the past established units composed solely of Kurdish militants who fought in both Iraq and Syria.


Jordan’s PM appeals for more aid as most Syrian refugees set to stay

Updated 20 February 2019
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Jordan’s PM appeals for more aid as most Syrian refugees set to stay

  • Jordan PM says most refugees not returning yet
  • Amman says funding crucial to keep economy afloat

AMMAN: Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz appealed on Wednesday to major donors to continue multi-billion dollar funding for Syrian refugees in the kingdom, saying most of those who had fled the eight-year conflict had no intention of returning any time soon.
Razzaz told representatives of major Western donors, UN agencies and NGOs that relatively few refugees had gone back since Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s army last summer regained control of southern Syria, where most had fled from.
“The number of refugees that so far returned voluntarily is low and most have no intention of going back any time soon,” Razzaz told a meeting to launch a UN-funded government plan that earmarks $2.4 billion in funding needs for 2019.
Officials say only around 10,000 refugees out of a total estimated at 1.3 million had left since the two countries opened the vital Nassib-Jaber border crossing last October.
Razzaz echoed the UN view that unstable conditions inside Syria, where large-scale destruction, fear of retribution and military conscription has made many reluctant to return.
“We are now entering a new phase of the Syrian crisis, however the impact is still ongoing. The conditions for their return are not present,” Razzaz added.
The prime minister warned against donor fatigue in a protracted crisis where the needs of refugees and vulnerable Jordanians were largely unchanged.
Maintaining funding that covers education, health and crucial services for tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and local communities was crucial to ease rising pressures on the debt-burdened economy, he added.
“Aid helped Jordan in staying resilient in a difficult regional setting,” Razzaz said, adding the refugee burden had strained meagre resources such as water and electricity, with a donor shortfall covered from state finances.
Jordan is struggling to rein in record public debt of $40 billion, equivalent to 95 percent of gross domestic product, under a tough International Monetary Fund (IMF) austerity plan.
Major donors say more than $6 billion had been extended to Jordan since 2015, which economists credit for rejuvenating once sleepy northern border towns, while refugee entrepreneurship brought a pool of cheap labor and new skills, triggering a property boom and higher productivity.
The kingdom received around $1.6 billion last year alone.
“The level of funding to Jordan that still remains is exceptional in global comparison,” said UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Anders Pedersen, adding needs had evolved from the humanitarian aid required early in the conflict to development projects that benefit the economy.