US-backed SDF hand Iraqi, foreign Daesh fighters to Iraq

News of the handover came as US-backed forces were readying for an assault on the militant group’s final enclave in eastern Syria. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 February 2019
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US-backed SDF hand Iraqi, foreign Daesh fighters to Iraq

  • The handover was the first of several under an agreement brokered to handover a total of 502 fighters
  • News of the handover came as US-backed forces were readying for an assault on the militant group’s final enclave in eastern Syria

BEIRUT, DEIR EZZOR:  US-backed Syrian forces are negotiating to evacuate civilians from Daesh’s last redoubt which now faces “inevitable defeat,” the international coalition against the militants said on Thursday.

Remaining civilians are expected to be evacuated in eastern Syria on Thursday, US-backed forces said, clearing the way for them to wipe out the last vestige of militant rule that once straddled Syria and Iraq.

Iraqi sources said the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have besieged the last Daesh enclave near the Iraqi border, handed over more than 150 Iraqi and other foreign militants to Iraq on Thursday, under a deal involving a total of 502.

The village of Baghouz at the Iraqi border is the last scrap of territory left to Daesh in the Euphrates Valley region that became its final populated stronghold in Iraq and Syria after a series of defeats in 2017.

Hundreds of people including women and children were trucked out of the last patch of Daesh territory on Wednesday, but the SDF said that a large number of civilians remained inside.

Trapped militants

The Kurdish-led SDF, backed by the warplanes of the US-led coalition, have trapped Daesh militants in less than half-a-sq-km in the village of Baghouz.

“Coalition forces, to include the US, continue to support the SDF as they negotiate having innocent civilians released and their fighters returned with the inevitable defeat in Baghouz,” coalition spokesman Sean Ryan told AFP.

There was no immediate comment from the SDF, which has previously identified the remaining civilians as mostly wives and children of Daesh militants.

Thousands of people — mostly women and children related to Daesh members — have streamed out of Baghouz in recent weeks.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said on Wednesday that there were negotiations for the surrender of the last Daesh militants. It said there were “reports of a deal” but the details were unclear.

But the militants have since lost almost all their territory and hundreds of foreigners suspected of being Daesh militants, as well as related women and children, are being held by the SDF.

Though the fall of Baghouz marks a milestone in the campaign against Daesh and the wider conflict in Syria, Daesh is still seen as a major security threat.

The group has steadily turned to guerrilla warfare and still holds territory in a remote, sparsely populated area west of the Euphrates River — a part of Syria otherwise controlled by the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies.

The head of the SDF media office, Mustafa Bali, told Reuters the SDF would attack Baghouz once the civilian evacuation was complete — a process he expected to be finished on Thursday.

Bali did not say how much more time was needed to finish off the remaining Daesh militants, or give a new estimate of how many fighters remained.

The SDF has previously estimated several hundred fighters — believed mostly to be foreign militants — are still inside.


Algeria graft prosecutor refers two ex PMs to supreme court

Updated 26 May 2019
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Algeria graft prosecutor refers two ex PMs to supreme court

  • Former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal who served under President Abdelaziz Bouteflika were referred to the Supreme Court
  • Five other former ministers were also referred

ALGIERS: An Algerian prosecutor investigating graft allegations has referred two former prime ministers and five former ministers to the supreme court, Ennahar TV reported on Sunday citing a statement from the prosecution.
Mass protests have broken out in Algeria demanding the removal of the ruling elite and the prosecution of people demonstrators regard as corrupt. The seven politicians will be investigated by the court over alleged corruption cases, Ennahar said, without providing details.
They include former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal who served under President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who resigned on April 2 after coming under pressure from protesters and the army.
The list of the former ministers, who are under investigation, includes Amara Benyounes, Abdelakader Zaalane, Amar Ghoul, Karim Djoudi and Abdessalam Bouchouareb.
They were in charge of the sectors of trade, transport, public works, finance and industry respectively.
Their lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.
The army is now the most powerful institution after the departure of Bouteflika, who had ruled the North African country since 1999.
Army chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah has said major corruption cases would be pursued to try to appease the protests that started on Feb.22.
Bouteflika's youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs have been placed in custody by a military judge over "harming the army's authority and plotting against state authority."
At least five prominent businessmen have also been detained pending trial over involvement in corruption cases.
Protesters also want the resignation of interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Beoui, who are considered as part of the ruling elite that has run the country since independence from France in 1962.