Hardened, mostly foreign Daesh fighters take final stand at last Syrian enclave

Smokes rises from a makeshift camp for Daesh and their families in Baghouz, the last enclave of the most hardened militants in Syria. (AFP)
Updated 10 March 2019
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Hardened, mostly foreign Daesh fighters take final stand at last Syrian enclave

  • The fighters staying put through waves of evacuations are the most hardened foreign militants
  • A no-man’s land of about 200 meters separates SDF positions from the Daesh frontline at Baghouz

BAGHOUZ, Syria: Armed with assault rifles and with faces wrapped in scarves, the Daesh fighters visible at the boundary of their last enclave in eastern Syria are among the hardened militants who appear ready to fight to the death.
Thousands of people — many of them the wives of Daesh fighters and their children — have been streaming out of the besieged enclave at Baghouz for weeks, forcing the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to delay an assault on the last vestige of the militants’ territorial rule.
Reuters TV footage of the Daesh-controlled frontline shows armed militants, most with only their eyes visible, supervising the evacuations from a scrubby patch of agricultural land scattered with vehicles and a few buildings.
The SDF has said the fighters staying put through waves of evacuations are the most hardened foreign militants, wanted by governments around the world, who are likely to fight to the death.
On Saturday, a Reuters witness saw dozens of mostly men cross from Daesh territory into SDF-controlled lines. The SDF said these were wounded Daesh fighters.
A few women in full face-covering black robes and children carrying bags could be seen among the people milling at the frontline. A man on crutches was also visible.
A no-man’s land of about 200 meters separates SDF positions from the Daesh frontline at Baghouz, a collection of hamlets and farmland near the border with Iraq.
Evacuees are screened by the SDF as they emerge and are sent north to the Al-Hol camp, already overcrowded with uprooted Syrians and Iraqis from years of war and struggling to cope with the influx.
After suddenly seizing swathes of land straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border in 2014 and declaring it their caliphate, Daesh was beaten back by numerous local and foreign forces in both countries, suffering major defeats in 2017.
However, the militants remain a threat. In Iraq they have gone to ground, staging waves of killings and kidnappings. In Syria, their comrades hold out in remote desert areas and have carried out bombings in areas controlled by the SDF.


Syrian businessman linked to Assad arrested in Kuwait

Mazen Al-Tarazi has been living in Kuwait for a long while. (AFP/File)
Updated 19 March 2019
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Syrian businessman linked to Assad arrested in Kuwait

  • The businessman has a publishing and advertising company in Kuwait
  • He is blacklisted in the EU

KUWAIT CITY: A prominent Syrian businessman with close ties to Syrian President Bashar Assad has been arrested in Kuwait, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Mazen Al-Tarazi was arrested late Monday at his offices, his lawyer Badr Al-Yacoub told AFP.
He said that he did not yet know the reasons behind his client’s arrest.
Local authorities did not immediately release the charges against Tarazi.
But Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas, citing unnamed informed sources, reported that the businessman is accused of money laundering and printing texts without authorization.
A longtime resident of Kuwait, Tarazi owns a publishing and advertising firm in partnership with a high-profile local businessman, Ahmad Al-Jarallah.
Jarallah confirmed to AFP that police had raided his offices on Monday night and arrested Tarazi’s secretary and two Al-Hadaf magazine employees.
Tarazi is on an EU blacklist of Syrian nationals who have been banned from entry to European states and whose assets have been frozen over their role in the Syria war.