Putin says Daesh has seized 700 hostages in Syria

Russia and Turkey plan to give more time for the implementation of their de-escalation deal in the Syrian province of Idlib. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2018
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Putin says Daesh has seized 700 hostages in Syria

SOCHI: President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Daesh militants had seized nearly 700 hostages in part of Syria controlled by US-backed forces and issued an ultimatum promising to execute 10 people every day.
Speaking in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Putin said the hostages included several US and European nationals, adding that Daesh was expanding its control in territory controlled by US and US-backed forces.
Putin did not specify what the militants' demands were.

Earlier on Thursday, UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland told reporters that Russia and Turkey plan to give more time for the implementation of their de-escalation deal in the Syrian province of Idlib, a “great relief” for 3 million civilians in the area.
But there were still “a million unanswered questions” about how the deal would work, and what would happen if groups designated as terrorists refused to lay down their weapons.
Speaking after a regular Syria humanitarian meeting in Geneva, Egeland said Syria’s ally Russia had confirmed that Damascus had scrapped a “very concerning” law allowing the expropriation of land and property from refugees.
Idlib and adjacent areas are the last stronghold of rebels who rose up against President Bashar Assad in 2011, and the UN has warned that a battle to restore Assad’s control over the zone could be the worst of the seven-year-old war.
Turkey and Russia’s deal set up a buffer zone running 15-20 km (9-13 miles) deep into rebel territory that originally had to be free of heavy weapons and jihadists by Monday.
“There will be more time for diplomacy,” Egeland said.
“I was heartened to hear both Russia and Turkey say they are optimistic, they can achieve much more through negotiations, and they are generally very positive on the implementation of this deal which is giving a relief, a pause in fighting, to Idlib.”
Egeland said there were 12,000 humanitarian workers in the area, and Idlib had now gone five weeks without an air raid, something he could not remember in the past three years.
In the east, however, fighting was raging around several villages inhabited by 15,000 people, including Daesh fighters and their families, who were under attack by Syrian government and Kurdish forces, and 7,000 civilians had fled.
Egeland advises UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, who has spent four years trying in vain to broker a political agreement to stop the war, and who said on Wednesday he would leave in November.
Egeland said he would also leave at the end of November, saying it had been an exhausting job in addition to his role as head of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
“There will be another team,” he said. “The job is not even half done.”


Another Turkish journalist jailed over Gulen links

Ali Unal was chief writer at the now-defunct Zaman newspaper. (Supplied)
Updated 15 November 2018
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Another Turkish journalist jailed over Gulen links

  • About 250 people were killed in the coup attempt and in the subsequent crackdown, Turkey jailed 77,000 people pending trial

ISTANBUL: A court sentenced Turkish journalist Ali Unal to 19 years in jail on Wednesday on a charge of being a leader in the network accused of carrying out a failed coup in July 2016, the state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.
The ruling followed a sustained crackdown in the wake of the coup attempt, but also came amid steps by the government that appear aimed at improving ties with the US and Europe, strained by the sweeping campaign of arrests.
Unal was chief writer at the now-defunct Zaman newspaper, widely seen as the flagship media outlet for the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara says orchestrated the attempted putsch. Gulen denies any involvement.
Speaking by video link from jail to the court in the western province of Usak, Unal denied being a founder or leader of the network and denied involvement in the putsch, Anadolu said.
“I have no link with any terrorist organization,” he said, adding that he had spoken five or six times to Gulen and that he was being tried over his writing.
He was sentenced to 19 years and six months for “leading an armed terrorist group.” Six other Zaman journalists were convicted on similar charges in July.
About 250 people were killed in the coup attempt and in the subsequent crackdown, Turkey jailed 77,000 people pending trial. Authorities also sacked or suspended 150,000 civil servants and military personnel and shut down dozens of media outlets.Illustrating the scale of its actions, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday his ministry had dismissed 23 percent of its career personnel over links to Gulen.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said some journalists helped nurture terrorists with their writing, and that the crackdown is needed to ensure stability in a NATO member bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran. Critics say Erdogan has used the crackdown to muzzle dissent and increase his own power. The European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, has also criticized the crackdown. The verdict came a day after another court threw out the conviction of former Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak, annulling a verdict sentencing her to two years in prison in absentia on charges of carrying out propaganda for Kurdish militants.