Qaeda-linked Syria group kills 21 regime forces: monitor

Syrian government forces members patrol in the Abu Duhur military airport area in Idlib province in this January 21, 2018 photo. (AFP)
Updated 03 March 2019
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Qaeda-linked Syria group kills 21 regime forces: monitor

  • Ansar Al-Tawhid has ties to the larger Hurras Al-Deen group, which is also active in the area
  • Both are considered semi-official franchises of Al-Qaeda in Syria

BEIRUT: A Syrian militant group linked to Al-Qaeda killed 21 regime and allied forces Sunday near Idlib province, in one of the deadliest breaches of a six-month-old truce deal, a monitor said.

“At dawn, 21 fighters from the regime forces or allied militia were killed in an attack by Ansar Al-Tawhid militants,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Five militants were also killed,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Britain-based monitoring group, said.

Ansar Al-Tawhid has ties to the larger Hurras Al-Deen group, which is also active in the area. Both are considered semi-official franchises of Al-Qaeda in Syria.

The area of Idlib and small parts of the adjacent provinces of Hama and Aleppo are mostly controlled by the rival Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham organization.

HTS is led by fighters who formerly belonged to Al-Qaeda’s ex-affiliate in Syria.

Sunday’s deadly attack was carried out against regime positions in the village of Masasna, in the north of Hama province, the Observatory said.

“It was one of the highest casualty figures among regime ranks since the Putin-Erdogan deal,” Abdel Rahman said.

He was referring to an agreement reached in the Russian resort of Sochi between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Under the September 17 deal, Turkey was supposed to exert its influence over anti-regime groups in the Idlib region to get them to pull back their fighters and heavy weapons from a demilitarized zone.

The agreement was meant to stave off a planned offensive by the regime and its Russian backers that aid groups feared could spark the eight-year-old Syrian conflict’s worst humanitarian crisis yet.

The government assault on the last major bastion of forces opposed to President Bashar Assad’s rule has indeed been held off but the deal’s provisions have not been implemented and the de facto truce looks shakier than ever.

Since the Sochi agreement, HTS has consolidated its grip on the Idlib province and Turkey appears to be in no position to deliver on its commitment.

Breaches of the demilitarized zone have spiked in recent days. Another 20 regime and allied forces were killed in three days of clashes about a week ago.


UN envoy warns of ‘long and bloody war’ in Libya

Updated 5 min 42 sec ago
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UN envoy warns of ‘long and bloody war’ in Libya

UNITED NATIONS: The UN envoy for Libya warned Tuesday the battle for Tripoli was “just the start of a long and bloody war” and called for immediate steps to cut off arms flows fueling the fighting.
Addressing the Security Council, Ghassan Salame said many countries were supplying weapons to the UN-recognized government in Tripoli and forces led by Khalifa Haftar.
Haftar launched an offensive on April 4 to seize the capital but his forces have been bogged down in the southern outskirts of Tripoli.
“The violence on the outskirts of Tripoli is just the start of a long and bloody war on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, imperilling the security of Libya’s immediate neighbors and the wider Mediterranean region,” Salame said.
Without immediate action to stop the flow of arms, “Libya will descend into civil war which could potentially lead to a Hobbesian all-against-all state of chaos or partition of the country,” he said.
Salame also said that Daesh has begun to reappear in Libya, and have set up flags in the south of the country.
The Security Council failed last month to agree on a draft resolution demanding a cease-fire in Libya and a return to political talks to end the conflict.
Russia refused to include any mention of Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli while the United States said it needed more time to consider the situation, diplomats said.
The envoy urged the council to set up a commission of inquiry to “determine who has taken up arms” and prevent indicted war crimes suspects from taking part in military operations.
More than 75,000 people have been driven from their homes in the latest fighting and 510 have been killed, according to the World Health Organization.