US-backed Syrian forces clearing Daesh remnants from villages

Fighting between US-backed fighters and Daesh inflicted more casualties among people fleeing the violence in eastern Syria Tuesday where the extremists are on the verge of losing the last area they control. (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights via AP)
Updated 14 February 2019
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US-backed Syrian forces clearing Daesh remnants from villages

  • The capture of Baghouz and nearby areas would mark the end of a devastating four-year global campaign to end the extremist group’s hold on territory in Syria and Iraq
  • Most of those remaining were Iraqis and foreigners and that few civilians remained in the tiny sliver of land still in Daesh hands

BEIRUT: US-backed Syrian forces were clearing two villages in eastern Syria on Thursday of remaining Daesh militants who are hiding among the local population, and detaining others attempting to flee with the civilians, the US-led coalition said.
The coalition said the clearance operations were taking place in the villages of SHajjalah and Baghouz, near the border with Iraq.
Scores of militants from Daesh — including many foreign fighters — surrendered to US-backed fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces on Wednesday night, bringing the Kurdish-led force closer to taking full control of the last remaining area controlled by the extremists, a Kurdish official and activists said.
Çiyager Amed, an official with the Syrian Democratic Forces, confirmed that a number of Daesh fighters who had been holed up in the village of Baghouz gave themselves up, without giving numbers.
He said most of those remaining were Iraqis and foreigners and that few civilians remained in the tiny sliver of land still in Daesh hands, although women and children are continuing to trickle out of the enclave.
The capture of Baghouz and nearby areas would mark the end of a devastating four-year global campaign to end the extremist group’s hold on territory in Syria and Iraq. President Donald Trump has said the group is all but defeated, and announced in December that he would withdraw all American forces from Syria.
A coalition official, however, warned Wednesday that Daesh continues to pose a threat to the security of the region even if their hold on territory ends.
“While Daesh is on the verge of collapse, and the end of the physical caliphate is at hand it does not signal the end of this campaign,” said UK Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika. “We will pursue them until that threat is eliminated.”
The coalition statement said SDF forces are detaining Daesh militants who are attempting to escape among the civilians fleeing the fighting in Baghouz. Those “arriving to be screened are the wives of Daesh fighters, some of whom sustained gunshot wounds while fleeing from Daesh,” Ghika said.
Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesman, said hundreds of women and children came out Wednesday. He said the fighters who remained appeared to be among the Daesh elite who have lots of experience and are fighting “fiercely.’
“They also don’t have other options. Either to surrender or die,” Bali said.
The final push to clear Daesh from remaining territory it holds in Syria comes as the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran are meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Thursday for talks about the latest developments in northern Syria.
Russia, a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, is getting increasingly impatient about militants in Syria’s Idlib province.
Russia and Turkey, which supports the Syrian opposition, had brokered a cease-fire for Idlib, the last remaining rebel stronghold that averted a major government offensive but that deal has been strained as Al-Qaeda-linked militants seized towns and villages in Idlib.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia is going to raise its concerns at the talks about the presence of “terrorists” there.


Iran lawmakers authorize firm action against US ‘terrorist’ acts

Updated 23 April 2019
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Iran lawmakers authorize firm action against US ‘terrorist’ acts

  • President Donald Trump on April 8 designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps a foreign terrorist group
  • Tehran reacted to the designation by naming the US Central Command a terrorist organization

DUBAI: Iran’s parliament passed a bill on Tuesday requiring the government take firm steps to respond to “terrorist actions” by US forces, state TV reported, retaliating against Washington’s blacklisting of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
President Donald Trump on April 8 designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist group, in an unprecedented step that drew Iranian condemnation and raised concerns about retaliatory attacks on US forces.
Tehran reacted to the designation, which took effect on April 15, by naming the US Central Command (CENTCOM) a terrorist organization and the US government a sponsor of terrorism.
“The bill authorizes the government to take firm and retaliatory measures against terrorist activities of American forces that endangers Iran’s interests,” TV reported.
“The government should use legal, political and diplomatic measures in response to the American actions.”
Highly loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the IRGC is a powerful force which controls much of the Iranian economy and wields political influence in the country’s faction-ridden clerical establishment.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency said some 168 lawmakers out of 210 present at the parliament voted for the bill.
Tensions have been on the rise between Tehran and Washington since last year, when Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers and reimposed sanctions on the country.
In recent years, there have been periodic confrontations between the IRGC and US military in the Gulf.
The new chief commander of the IRGC Hossein Salami, appointed after the US blacklisting, has warned in the past that Iran could use its cruise and ballistic missiles and drones, mines, speedboats, and missile launchers in the Gulf area to confront the United States.
The Trump administration, which has taken a hard line on Iran, said in a statement on Monday that the president has decided not to reissue waivers in May allowing importers to buy Iranian oil without facing US sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the heightening economic pressure on Iran showed that Washington was in panic.
“Escalating #EconomicTERRORISM against Iranians exposes panic & desperation of US regime — and chronic failures of its client co-conspirators,” Zarif Tweeted on Tuesday.
A commander of Iran’s IRGC said on Monday that Tehran would block all exports through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if Tehran is barred from using the waterway, where a fifth of global oil consumption passes on its way from Middle East producers to major markets.