Daesh ambush kills 21 regime fighters in southern Syria

Daesh has killed 21 regime fighters in Syria’s southern province of Sweida. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 September 2018
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Daesh ambush kills 21 regime fighters in southern Syria

  • The attack occurred late Monday in the rural Tulul Al-Safa area of the province
  • Daesh has killed 21 regime fighters in Syria’s southern province of Sweida

BEIRUT: Daesh militants have killed 12 Syrian regime fighters in an ambush as the group faces separate assaults on its last desert strongholds, a war monitor said Tuesday.
The attack late Monday in Syria’s southern province of Sweida came as US-backed forces advanced against the militants on the border with Iraq, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
It also comes with President Bashar Assad’s forces poised to launch an attack on the northwestern province of Idlib, the last major region in Syria still controlled by rebels and extremists.
The Daesh ambush in Sweida’s volcanic plateau of Tulul Al-Safa sparked fighting that killed eight militants, the Britain-based Observatory said.
State news agency SANA reported heavy clashes with Daesh in the area, which lies some 100 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of Damascus, adding that government aircraft and artillery “targeted hideouts and positions” held by the group.
Government forces have been fighting Daesh in Sweida since militants carried out a wave of attacks in the mainly Druze province on July 25, killing 250 people according to the Observatory.
During their rampage, which targeted the provincial capital as well as rural areas, the militants also seized around 30 hostages, mostly women and their children.
At least 27 are believed to still be held, according to Human Rights Watch, after Daesh said it had beheaded a 19-year-old man and announced an elderly woman had died.
Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the hostages were believed to be held captive in the Tulul Al-Safa area.
A source in Sweida told AFP that families had had no word of their kidnapped relatives in weeks.
Daesh has lost nearly all of the great swathes of territory straddling Iraq and Syria which it seized in 2014, but retains a presence in the vast Badiya desert that lies between Damascus and the Iraqi border, and holds a pocket in the Euphrates Valley in the east.
In that eastern pocket, a US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance has for months been closing in on the town of Hajjin east of the Euphrates River near the Iraqi border, and on Monday launched an assault to retake it.
In the early hours of Tuesday, the Syrian Democratic Forces alliance advanced inside the town, the Observatory said, with backing from the US-led coalition fighting Daesh.
“They have seized control of the northwestern part of Hajjin” after residents fled, the monitor’s chief Abdel Rahman said.
An SDF commander said the offensive on Hajjin aimed to oust an estimated 3,000 militants, including a large portion of foreign fighters, from the town and surrounding areas.
“Most of the frontline commanders in this pocket are Iraqi,” said Ahmad Abu Khawla, a commander with the Deir Ezzor Military Council, which is part of the SDF.
After humanitarian corridors were opened to allow residents to flee the Daesh-held area, most civilians remaining inside were “directly linked to the group — hostages or the families of Islamic State fighters,” he said, referring to Daesh.
Abu Khawla said Daesh had “secret jails where they hold civilians” captured in other areas of Syria.
Last year Daesh lost its de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa in the north of the country, and this spring militants bussed out of the southern suburbs of Damascus.
Since Monday, 27 militants and 10 SDF fighters have been killed in the fighting for the Hajjin pocket, the Observatory says.
More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced since Syria’s war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.


Marking its 70 anniversary of relations with Egypt, Pakistan takes CPEC to Cairo

Updated 58 min 47 sec ago
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Marking its 70 anniversary of relations with Egypt, Pakistan takes CPEC to Cairo

  • South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) in Islamabad has organized two-day conference in Egypt
  • The conference explores economic opportunities under the CPEC

CAIRO: The Egyptian-Pakistani Forum has kicked off its activities on Monday here, marking the 70th anniversary of the beginning of relations between the two countries.

The conference is organized by the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) in Islamabad for two days (Sept. 24-25).

Dr. Maria Sultan, the SASSI’s director general, inaugurated the conference.

The Federal Minister for Planning and Development Khusro Bakhtiar, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Egypt Mushtaq Ali Shah and other representatives from Egyptian and Pakistani ministries, including the Egyptian Minister of Planning Hala Al-Saeed, attended the conference inauguration.

“Pakistan has been and will continue to be supportive of investments in Egypt, especially in the Suez Canal region, and we are happy to partner with a pivotal country in the region and the world,” said Minister of Planning and Development Makhdoom Bakhtiar in his opening remarks.

He added: “Egypt is a promising country and the legislative environment for investments is ready to attract more projects. Pakistan has always provided a helping hand to its brothers from the Islamic world to make a continuous partnership in several fields.”

In spite of the economic investment orientation of the Forum, the issue of the war on terror was present.

Bakhtiar stressed the priority Egypt puts in the fight against terror and in bringing national security. He added that Pakistan had also had problems with terrorism for many years, and praised the Pakistani minister in Egypt for continued understanding and cooperation in the matter.

The Egyptian Minister of Planning Hala Al-Saeed expressed her happiness about this cooperation between Egypt and Pakistan. She stressed that the forum represents an important platform for dialogue and cooperation between the two countries, and that they are keen to promote and develop bilateral relations in various fields, and to elevate these relations to broad horizons.

The Egyptian minister discussed investment opportunities in Egypt, especially in the Suez Canal area, and concluded her participation in the opening session by saying: “Long live Egypt. Long live Pakistan.”

The establishment of official diplomatic relations between the two countries began in 1948. Egypt was the first country in the Middle East to open an embassy in Pakistan after its independence.

However, despite the existence of a contractual and institutional framework, the results and outcome of the cooperation is limited as the volume of trade exchange between the two countries was $231 million in 2017. This shows co-investment between two countries does not reflect the standard of relationship and resources the countries have, whether it be human resources or otherwise.

This conference is exploring economic opportunities mainly due to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative The project, unveiled by President Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to increase a number of land and sea links within Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

“Trade through the Indian Ocean is expected to rise with the emergence of China as a global economic superpower,” said a SASSI statement.

Head of the Commercial Representation Authority Ahmed Antar said that the conference comes at an important time to enhance the partnership between the two, pointing out that the Suez Canal and the port of Gwadar in Pakistan are two of the most important ports on the Silk Road, and represent a huge opportunity to enhance cooperation between Egypt and Pakistan in the fields of trade, especially with the amount of traffic expected to hit the two ports in the coming years.

He added that Egypt and Pakistan enjoy huge advantages that enable the two countries to achieve great growth and economic integration. Egypt occupies a distinguished geographic location between the continents of Asia and Africa, and Pakistan is located in the heart of Asia. The Egyptian Government seeks to enhance cooperation with Pakistan, especially in the fields of telecommunications, insurance, information technology and international trade.

The conference program includes sessions in the fields of navigation, logistics and transportation, natural resources, banking and finance, trade and supply chains, and women’s role in trade, as well as sessions for small-to-medium enterprises and media.

The conference is to be held by a group of ministers and senior representatives of the Pakistan Government, including members of the Ministries of Planning and Development, Navigation Affairs, Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Finance, Science and Technology, Commerce, Information, and Industry and Production. There will also be a large number of speakers and representatives of various government agencies, the Central Bank and Pakistani banks.

The Egyptian side also includes representatives from the Ministries of Commerce and Industry, Investment and International Cooperation, Petroleum, Communications and Information Technology, the Central Bank of Egypt, the Financial Supervision Authority and the Suez Canal Economic Zone.