Iran launches missiles into Syria over parade attack

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Images released by Iran's Revolutionary Guard claim to show missiles fired into eastern Syria. (AFP)
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Dozens of people were killed with dozens others wounded in an attack in the southwestern Khuzestan province on September 22. (AFP)
Updated 01 October 2018

Iran launches missiles into Syria over parade attack

  • State television and the state-run IRNA news agency said the attacks "killed and wounded" militants, without elaborating
  • The report Monday specified the missile launches came after the Ahvaz attack, which killed at least 24 people and wounded over 60

TEHRAN: Iran said it fired missiles on Monday at Daesh militants in Syria it blames for an attack on its soil last month and said the action shows the government’s readiness to punish the “wickedness” of its enemies.
The Sept. 22 attack on a military parade in south-western Iran killed 25 people, nearly half of them members of the elite Revolutionary Guards.
Monday’s strike targeted the bases of “takfiri terrorists” backed by Washington and regional powers in eastern Syria, the Guards said in a statement. It killed a number of militant leaders and destroyed their supplies and infrastructure, they said.
The strike targeted the last pocket of territory in southeastern Syria held by Daesh, said an official in the Iran-backed regional alliance fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
It is an area where the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched a new offensive last month against Daesh.
The US-led coalition confirmed Iranian forces had conducted “no notice strikes last night.”
“At this time, the coalition is still assessing if any damage occurred and no coalition forces were in danger,” Col. spokesman Sean Ryan said.
Fars News posted video footage of several missiles streaking into a dark sky during the attack.
The six ballistic missiles used in the attack flew 570 km to hit the targets, the Guards said. A map shown on state TV pinpointed Kermanshah in western Iran as the launch site and Albu Kamal in southeast Syria as the target.
The missiles were Iranian-made Zolfaqar and Qiam missiles, Fars News reported.
“Our iron fist is prepared to deliver a decisive and crushing response to any wickedness and mischief of the enemies,” the Guards, the most powerful military force in the Islamic Republic, said.
Seven drones were also used to bomb militant targets during the attack, they said.
The Ahvaz National Resistance, an Iranian ethnic Arab separatist movement, and Daesh have both claimed responsibility for the attack. Neither group has presented conclusive evidence to back up its claim.
A senior Revolutionary Guards commander said on Monday that Daesh militants in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province had helped coordinate the parade attack.
These Daesh militants were the target of the missile strike, said Major General Mohammad Baqeri, the armed forces chief of staff, according to Fars News.
“The area east of the Euphrates where Islamic State is based is under the control of the American military and the Guards’ missiles hit an area that is close to the area under American control,” Baqeri said.
He added, “All of these are a warning for the enemies so they don’t move toward creating insecurity in Iran.”
Iranian military support has been vital to helping Assad through the Syrian war, and Iran-backed forces are deployed in southeastern Syria on the west bank of the Euphrates River. Iran has dismissed US demands that it leave Syria.
The official in the Iran-backed alliance described Monday’s strike, targeting an area on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, as a “limited message.” “One of the messages, to those it concerns, is that ‘our missiles are one of our powerful cards that are ready to respond whenever we want’,” the official said.
Saudi Arabia strongly dismissed and condemned Iranian accusations that the militants responsible for the Sept. 22 attack were paid by the Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.

Egypt votes on extending El-Sisi’s rule, country awaits result

Updated 20 April 2019

Egypt votes on extending El-Sisi’s rule, country awaits result

  • El-Sisi cast his ballot at a polling station in the eastern suburb of Heliopolis in the Egyptian capital
  • Supporters argue that El-Sisi has stabilized Egypt and needs more time to complete crucial economic reforms.

CAIRO: Egyptians were voting on Saturday in a referendum that aims to cement the rule of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the former coup leader who presents himself as a rock of stability in a turbulent region.

Voters were being asked to back amendments to the constitution to allow El-Sisi, 64, to run for another six-year term while boosting his control over the judiciary and giving the military even greater influence in political life.

At a polling station in Manyal, a Cairo suburb overlooking the Nile, Mohamed Abdel Salam, 45, told AFP he was voting enthusiastically in support of the changes.

"I don't care about the presidential terms," he said.

"Sisi could stay forever as long as he's doing his job... and he has already done a lot"

The three-day referendum bucks the trend of North Africa's renewed uprisings, in which mass pro-democracy protests this month swept away veteran presidents in Algeria and Sudan.

Sisi himself was among the first to vote when polls opened, casting his ballot in the upmarket Cairo suburb of Heliopolis.

In Shubra, a working-class neighbourhood of the capital, dozens of voters, mostly women carrying their children, queued outside a polling station in the local high school.

In Cairo, troops and police were deployed in numbers although the interior ministry declined to give any nationwide figures.

Egypt is still battling a hardened Islamic insurgency based in the Sinai Peninsula that has seen attacks in Cairo and other cities.

Sisi has argued that he needs longer to complete the job of restoring security and stability after the turmoil that followed the overthrow of veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak in the Arab Spring of 2011.

Out on the streets, Sisi's supporters waved flags bearing their campaign motto: "Do the Right" thing, as they pressed passers-by to turn out and vote 'Yes'.

The Egyptian leader won his first term as president in 2014, a year after he led the army in overthrowing elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against his single turbulent year in power.

Standing virtually unopposed after the disqualification or withdrawal of all realistic challengers, he was re-elected in March 2018 with more than 97 percent.

Both elections drew heavy criticism from human rights groups as they were accompanied by swingeing crackdowns on dissent -- both Islamist and secular.

Human Rights Watch also took issue with the referendum on extending Sisi's rule, saying the "constitutional amendments" would "entrench repression".

In a statement Saturday, the New York-based watchdog criticised the "grossly unfree, rights-abusive environment" of the vote.

For the past few weeks, Egypt's streets have been awash with banners and billboards urging citizens to vote for Sisi, while popular folk singers have exhorted voters to go to the polls.

Pro-Sisi campaign volunteers handed out boxed meals at four different polling stations in Cairo to voters after they had cast their ballots, AFP reporters said.

A parliamentarian greeted voters and volunteers gave out vouchers for the meals in the Shubra district.

In Manyal, a DJ blared loud patriotic songs extolling the virtues of Egypt under Sisi's leadership, including a new song by iconic Lebanese diva Nancy Ajram dedicated to Egypt and called "Ragel ibn Ragel" (What a fine man).

But not everyone is upbeat about the changes.

Sporting casual attire, a voter in his mid-30s told AFP in Cairo: "We are all staff in the same company and we were instructed by management to go vote.

"I want to say 'No'... on extending the presidential terms and the amendments related to the judiciary," he said declining to give his name for fear of repercussions.

He pointed to his bosses nearby who were making sure employees were voting.

"Even if I say 'No', they (the authorities) are still going to do what they want in the end," he added despondently.

Earlier in the week, parliament overwhelmingly endorsed the consitutional changes, which also include the creation of a second parliamentary chamber and a quota ensuring at least 25 percent of lawmakers are women.

Think tank the Soufan Center said the main effect of the referendum would be to "solidify Sisi's grip on the Egyptian political regime" in a country that "has become even more autocratic than it was under Mubarak".