US-backed fighters brave sandstorm to battle terrorists in Syria

Syrian rebel-fighters with the National Liberation Front (NLF) in a trench overlooking the regime areas in Aleppo province on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2018
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US-backed fighters brave sandstorm to battle terrorists in Syria

  • Daesh terrorists launched a counter-attack against SDF positions around Hajjin and nearby towns on Wednesday
  • In recent years the SDF, with US air support, has driven Daesh from much of northern and eastern Syria

BEIRUT: US-backed fighters braved a sandstorm to battle the Daesh group in eastern Syria on Thursday in heavy clashes that killed several fighters on both sides.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led group, said it was fighting to retake the village of Sousah, where the extremists took advantage of the poor visibility to launch a counteroffensive.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting began Wednesday and killed at least 10 US-allied fighters, with the fate of 35 others unknown. It said 18 Daesh militants were killed.

On Wednesday, Daesh launched “a counter attack against SDF positions around Hajjin and nearby towns,” the Observatory said.

“Violent clashes subsequently erupted and are still ongoing,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

The SDF denied any of its fighters had been captured during the attack.

“No fighter from the SDF was captured by Daesh on the Deir Ezzor front. This information is not true,” SDF media official Mustefa Bali told AFP.

The Daesh-linked Aamaq news agency reported 18 deaths among the SDF fighters and posted photos online of what it said were some of the bodies.

In recent years the SDF, with US air support, has driven Daesh from much of northern and eastern Syria. The extremists have also suffered a series of defeats at the hands of Syrian government forces and Iraqi forces, losing virtually all the territory that once made up their self-styled caliphate.

Sousah is in one of the last pockets of territory held by Daesh, which has put up stiff resistance. The advancing SDF has had to contend with mines, sniper fire and suicide attacks.

Founded in 2015, the SDF is spearheaded by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a powerful Kurdish armed movement.

Hundreds of foreigners have joined the YPG to fight Daesh.

On Wednesday, the force announced that a French national fighting among its ranks had been killed near Hajjin.

Farid Medjahed, born in the French city of Marseilles, died on Oct. 6 fighting Daesh there, the YPG said. It did not say when he arrived in Syria but said it had only been a “short stay.” 

In February, the YPG announced that three European nationals had been killed in clashes in Syria.

In one month of fighting for Hajjin, at least 139 SDF fighters and 267 extremists have been killed, the Observatory said.


France urged to suspend boat delivery to Libya over migrant concerns

Updated 25 April 2019
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France urged to suspend boat delivery to Libya over migrant concerns

  • The demand was laid out in a legal challenge that was filed at the administrative court in Paris on Thursday morning

PARIS: Eight international NGOs including Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) demanded on Thursday that France suspend the delivery of boats to Libya’s coast guard on concerns they would be used to intercept migrants.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly had in February agreed to donate six boats to the Libyan navy, under which the coast guard operates, in a move she said was aimed at helping them “in the fight against illegal immigration.”

But the offer angered rights groups who said they would be used to block migrant boats seeking to reach Europe, forcing those on board to return to war-torn Libya.

The demand was laid out in a legal challenge that was filed at the administrative court in Paris on Thursday morning.

In it, the groups demand “the suspension of the decision” until the court decides whether or not the donation is legal. The court has 48 hours to make a decision.

The NGOs believe forcing people to return to Libya would expose them to “serious human rights violations.” Massimo Moratti, regional director for research at Amnesty International, said the pledge to deliver boats to the Libyan coast guard was “an unlawful and reckless decision.”

He said it was all the more dangerous at a time when fighting has intensified after Eastern commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on the capital Tripoli earlier this month.

“Doing it now, as the armed conflict in Libya escalates, is even more callous and irresponsible,” Moratti said in a statement, warning the donation would make France “complicit” in trapping people inside the country.

The NGOs accused the coast guard of having a bad track record in respecting those in distress at sea, saying it should not be given the logistical means to step up such abuses.

The statement accused the coast guard of abuses including pushing those in distress back into the water, threatening them with weapons and firing toward them.

The six vessels, which are to be delivered in the coming weeks, are 12-meter, semi-rigid boats made by French specialist Sillinger.

Besides Amnesty and MSF, the legal petition was joined by France’s Human Rights League, immigrant support group GISTI, Lawyers Without Borders, migrant aid groups La Cimade and Migreurop and Italian research and aid group ASGI.