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

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.
“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.

Lebanon rejects Syrian conditions on its trucks' transit through Nassib border crossing

The main border crossing between Jordan and war-torn Syria reopened on October 15. (AFP)
Updated 16 min 18 sec ago

Lebanon rejects Syrian conditions on its trucks' transit through Nassib border crossing

  • The only contact existing with the Syrian side is on the return of displaced persons and is taking place with the Russian side: source
  • The Lebanese leader Michel Aoun had praised the agreement reached between the Jordanian and Syrian authorities to open the Nassib border crossing

BEIRUT: Lebanese government sources confirmed to Arab News that it "will not coordinate with the Syrian government in any way regarding the transit of Lebanese trucks through this (Nassib) border toward the Gulf States.”

The sources stressed that “the only contact existing with the Syrian side is on the return of displaced persons and is taking place with the Russian side. Otherwise the contacts between the Lebanese and Syrian sides are conducted on an individual level.”

“How could any conditions be imposed on the Lebanese side for the crossing of Lebanese trucks at a time when crossings at the Syrian-Lebanese borders take place normally without any preconditions?” the sources said.

Elnashra Lebanese news website had quoted a Syrian source as saying that “No agreement has been reached with the Lebanese side on all details related to the transit of trucks from Lebanon to Jordan through the Nassib border crossing.” The source added that “In the last meeting with the Lebanese ministers, the Syrian side emphasized the necessity of communication between the governments of the two countries, whether on transit trucks or other economic files.”

According to Elnashra, the Syrian source described the meetings with Lebanese officials as “always positive and fruitful, but also in need of greater and wider contact with the other officials.” And whether the Lebanese trucks will begin to cross, the Syrian source reiterated that it “needs some time and arrangements with the Lebanese side.”

The Lebanese leader Michel Aoun had praised the “agreement reached between the Jordanian and Syrian authorities to open the Nassib border crossing. This will be beneficial also to Lebanon and allows the movement of people and goods from Lebanon to the Arab countries and vice versa.”

Aoun stressed that “the opening of this vital crossing after three years of closure will revive the various productive sectors, and reduce the cost of exporting goods from Lebanon to the Arab countries.”

The Lebanese Minister of Agriculture in the caretaker government, Ghazi Zu’aitir, said that “opening the Nassib crossing serves the interest of Lebanese exporters and that communication with the Syrian side is continuing at the level of ministers concerned on this issue.”

Zu’aitir spoke about “agreements signed between the Lebanese and Syrian parties: The Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation and Coordination, the presence of the Lebanese-Syrian Higher Council, and the exchange of embassies between the two countries, which allows us to move based on constitutional and legal provisions."

The Minister of Economy in the caretaker government, Raed Khoury, revealed that “we communicated with the Syrian side today, and the logistical details on the transit of trucks and Lebanese exports and other issues will be discussed in the coming days.”

The head of the Farmers and Peasants Association in the Bekaa Valley, Ibrahim Tarshishi, told Arab News: “The agricultural sector was exporting through the Nassib border crossing goods in reaching up to 500,000 tons annually to the Arab countries, and 50,000 by sea. With the closure of the crossing over the past three years, the sector was exporting only 350,000 tons by sea, causing losses to farmers because they had to sell the remaining production at prices below 50 percent of the cost of production.”

“The trucks will start operating starting Tuesday, and we have not been informed of any different procedures related to the transport and transit process,” said Shafiq Al-Qassis, head of Truck Owners' Association in Lebanon.