Daesh suicide bombers thwarted in last-stand battle for Baghouz: SDF

Baghouz is the last shred of populated territory held by Daesh, and the Syrian Democratic Forces has laid siege to Baghouz for weeks. (AP)
Updated 13 March 2019
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Daesh suicide bombers thwarted in last-stand battle for Baghouz: SDF

  • The Syrian Democratic Forces on Tuesday said the battle for Baghouz was as good as over
  • The enclave is the last shred of populated territory held by the militants

DEIR EZZOR, Syria: The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said it thwarted an attempted Daesh group suicide bomb attack early on Wednesday during a last-stand battle for the militant group’s final enclave.
The SDF on Tuesday said the battle for Baghouz, a collection of hamlets and farmland near the Iraqi border, was as good as over.
The enclave is the last shred of populated territory held by the militants who have been driven from roughly one third of Iraq and Syria over the past four years.
Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the SDF media office, said its forces had been bombarding Baghouz heavily overnight before engaging in direct clashes with Daesh fighters from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m.
Live footage broadcast by the Kurdish Ronahi TV overnight showed a series of large explosions lighting up the night sky over Baghouz.
“There were suicide vest attacks by a group of bombers who tried to blow themselves up amidst our forces. Our forces targeted and killed them before they reached our positions,” Bali said.
The SDF has laid siege to Baghouz for weeks but had repeatedly postponed its final assault to allow thousands of civilians, many of them wives and children of Daesh fighters, to leave. It resumed the attack on Sunday.
Around 3,000 fighters and their families surrendered to SDF forces in 24 hours, Bali said overnight. Three women and four children belonging to the Yazidi sect, a minority group who were kidnapped and enslaved by Daesh in 2014, were also freed, he said.
While Baghouz is the last populated territory of what was once the group’s self-proclaimed “caliphate,” fighters still operate in remote areas elsewhere.
The group put out a new propaganda video overnight Monday filmed in recent weeks inside Baghouz, insisting on its claim to leadership of all Muslims and calling on its supporters to keep the faith.
“Tomorrow, God willing, we will be in paradise and they will be burning in hell,” one of the men interviewed in the video said.


Lebanese budget protesters clash with security in Beirut

Updated 17 min 36 sec ago
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Lebanese budget protesters clash with security in Beirut

  • Over one hundred protesters gathered Monday outside the Government House in downtown Beirut
  • Lebanon faces a looming fiscal crisis as the economy struggles with soaring debt

BEIRUT: Security forces opened water cannons on Lebanese anti-austerity protesters in the country’s capital on Monday, as the government continued to hold marathon meetings to discuss severe budget cuts.
Lebanon faces a looming fiscal crisis as the economy struggles with soaring debt, rising unemployment and slow growth. The government’s tightened budget and key reforms aim to unlock billions of dollars in pledged foreign assistance. But planned cuts have unleashed a wave of public discontent, amid leaks that austerity could target public wages, services and social benefits.

A retired Lebanese soldier chants slogans while holding an army flag, during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday. (AP)

Over one hundred protesters gathered Monday outside the Government House in downtown Beirut shouting “Thieves, thieves!” as the Cabinet met for its 16th session and struggles to reach agreement.
Protesters pushed back against police lines and set fire to tires outside the building. At least two policemen and one civilian were wounded in the scuffles.
Among those demonstrating Monday were public and private school teachers and retired officers.
The government, headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, has sought to calm nerves while also describing the upcoming budget as the most austere in Lebanon’s history.
Hariri said he hopes the government will be able to send the budget to parliament later this week.
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said the cabinet made “important progress” in discussions Sunday.