Suicide attack on Kurdish-US convoy in Syria kills 5: monitor

The attack on Hasakah killed five members of a Kurdish-led force who were accompanying US-led coalition troops. (AFP)
Updated 21 January 2019
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Suicide attack on Kurdish-US convoy in Syria kills 5: monitor

  • The suicide attack occurred on a road in Hasakah province, in the north east of Syria
  • The coalition confirmed the attack by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device

BEIRUT: A suicide car bomb attack on a military convoy in northeastern Syria on Monday killed five members of a Kurdish-led force accompanying US troops in an anti-extremist coalition, a monitor said.

The attack, claimed by the Daesh group, came less than a week after another deadly attack on US forces in Syria and a month after Washington announced a US troop pullout from the war-torn country.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said five fighters from the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were killed in the blast on a road in Hasakah province.

“A suicide attacker driving a bomb-laden car targeted a convoy of American forces accompanied by the SDF on the Hasakah-Shadadi road,” the Observatory said.

Shadadi lies to the south of Hasakah, capital of the eponymous province, which has been relatively spared by the war that erupted in Syria nearly eight years ago.

The coalition confirmed the attack by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, but said there were no US casualties.

“A combined US and Syrian partner force convoy was involved in an apparent VBIED attack today in Syria,” coalition spokesman Sean Ryan said on Twitter.

“There were no US casualties.”

The head of the Britain-based Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, said the attacker had plowed into an SDF vehicle.

Footage on Kurdish media showed a plume of grey smoke rising up from a narrow road flanked by dry land.

A witness told AFP the blast took place by a checkpoint held by Kurdish forces a dozen kilometers outside Shadadi as the US convoy drove past.

The witness said he heard planes fly overhead, before the area was completely cordoned off by Kurdish fighters.

The Kurdish Asayesh security forces said no one had died in the attack, which hit ten meters from a checkpoint outside Shadadi.

“A bomb-laden car driven by a terrorist tried to target a coalition convoy as it passed by, lightly wounding a female member of the Asayesh,” the statement said, reporting no other casualties.

Daesh propaganda channel Amaq claimed the attack on a joint US-Kurdish convoy.

The attack came less than a week after another attack on the US-led force and its local partners in the strategic city of Manbij.

Four Americans — two members of the military, a Pentagon civilian and a contractor — were killed in a blast that targeted a restaurant in the city center on January 16.

It was also claimed by Daesh.

The Manbij attack cost Washington its worst combat losses since it deployed in the war-torn country to combat Daesh, who established a self-proclaimed “caliphate” across swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Ten civilians and five SDF fighters were also killed in the Manbij attack.

The US Department of Defense had previously reported only two American personnel killed in combat in Syria, in separate incidents.

This month’s attacks targeting the US-led coalition and its allies follow US President Donald Trump’s shock December announcement that he had ordered a complete troop pullout from Syria, as Daesh had been “largely defeated.”

Trump and other senior US officials have since sent mixed messages about the pace and scope of the withdrawal.

Turkey has repeatedly urged Washington to make way for its own military plans in northern Syria, where the beleaguered Kurds are increasingly turning to the regime and its Russian sponsor for support.

The SDF is fighting to expel Daesh fighters from the remaining shreds of the extremist group’s “caliphate” in a small pocket of land in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border.

Syria’s complex war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.


Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

Updated 24 April 2019
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Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

  • Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country
  • The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation

PRISTINA: Kosovo prosecutors have requested the house arrest of 16 women repatriated from Syria, saying they are suspected of joining or taking part as foreign fighters there.

The women appeared on Wednesday in court in Pristina, a day after 10 other women were put under house arrest. None have been charged with a crime.

Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country.

The women and children were sent to the Foreign Detention Centre in the outskirts of Pristina but were freed to go home after 72 hours.

Ten women were seen entering Pristina Basic Court in a police escort on Tuesday. The court said in a statement later that they had been placed under house arrest on charges of joining foreign armed groups and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq from 2014 to 2019.

The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation and more of them are expected to appear in front of judges on Wednesday. The prosecution has yet to file charges.

After the collapse of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, countries around the world are wrestling with how to handle militants and their families seeking to return to their home countries.

Kosovo's population is nominally 90 percent Muslim, but the country is largely secular in outlook. More than 300 of its citizens travelled to Syria since 2012 and 70 men who fought alongside militant groups were killed.

Police said 30 Kosovan fighters, 49 women and eight children remain in the conflict zones. The government said it plans to bring back those who are still there.

International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law making fighting in foreign conflicts punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

On Saturday, 110 Kosovar citizens — the four alleged foreign fighters, 32 women and 74 children — were returned to Kosovo with assistance from the United States, the first such move for a European country.

Authorities say there are still 87 Kosovar citizens in Syria.