Six killed as Assad jets pound Turkish border

Updated 13 November 2012
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Six killed as Assad jets pound Turkish border

CEYLANPINAR, Turkey: A Syrian fighter jet bombed a rebel-held area near the Turkish border yesterday, killing at least six people and wounding a dozen others, an official said. One rocket-propelled grenade landed in Turkey,
An Associated Press journalist saw the plane bomb an area around the Syrian border town of Ras Al-Ayn three times. A Turkish official said one bomb hit a suspected Syrian rebel target about 50 or 60 meters away from the border with Turkey.
Last week Syrian rebels overran three security compounds there and wrestled control of the town, located in Syria’s predominantly Kurdish, oil-producing northeastern province of Al-Hasaka.
Turkish ambulances ferried 18 wounded Syrians across the border to a hospital in the southeastern Turkish town of Ceylanpinar, a local official said, adding that six of the wounded died. He said the death toll from the attack was expected to rise.
Hours later, a Syrian helicopter was seen flying over Ras Al-Ayn, prompting rebels to fire on it with machine guns. The helicopter returned fire but it was not clear if there were any casualties.
Earlier yesterday, a rocket-propelled grenade round landed on an empty field near Ceylanpinar. No one was injured, the official said.
Dogan agency video footage showed Syrians scrambling across the border yesterday past a barbed wire fence, as Turkish soldiers in helmets, some of them in foxholes, directed them.
Also yesterday, a Syrian helicopter bombed rebel positions in an area further south of Ras Al-Ayn and the rebels could be heard responding with machine guns, the Turkish official said.
He said the rebels had besieged a Syrian military unit in the region of Esfar Najar and the helicopter was trying to open up an escape route for the Assad regime forces. It was also seen dropping ammunition and food for the soldiers, the official said.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies launched an emergency appeal yesterday for $34.1 million to help up to 170,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey.
“The Turkish Red Crescent Society is extending its existing response to prepare for the onset of winter and to increase its assistance to up to 170,000 displaced people over the coming months,” the IFRC said in a statement.
The extra cash was expected to last for six months, Simon Eccleshall, IFRC head of disaster and crisis management, told reporters in Geneva.
He acknowledged though that it was “not unimaginable that (the emergency aid) figure will need to increase,” adding: “We will be regularly revising contingency plans (and perhaps) the emergency appeal.”
“The numbers are significant in Turkey,” he said, pointing out that as of November 5, 110,649 Syrians were registered in camps in Turkey — more than double the number in July.
Turkey currently counts 14 camps, all but one of which are tent camps, and three others are under construction to accommodate the steady influx, according to the IFRC.
The extra aid would go to providing winter assistance to the around 100,000 camp-dwellers, as well as emergency food and non-food assistance to up to 20,000 people at the Turkish-Syrian border, Eccleshall said.
“The number of people congregating on the Syrian side of the border fluctuates day to day,” he said.


Trio of favorites to vie for Iraq’s premiership

Updated 22 April 2018
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Trio of favorites to vie for Iraq’s premiership

  • Haddad said: “Abadi remains the single strongest contender but not strong enough to win anything close to a majority.”
  • The paramilitary chief ditched his civilian clothes in favor of military fatigues in 2014, to rally efforts against an ascendant Daesh.
BAGHDAD: An incumbent prime minister, his ousted predecessor and a paramilitary chief instrumental in defeating the Daesh group are the three favorites vying for Iraq’s premiership.
Since Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled in the US-led invasion of 2003, the constitution has vested key powers in the prime minister, a post reserved for the majority Shiite population.
Under a system of checks and balances designed to avoid a return to dictatorship, the winner of the May 12 parliamentary elections will have to form alliances with other Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish lists to secure a majority. Two of the favorites topping the lists were among the architects of victory against Daesh, which in 2014 seized a third of Iraq’s territory in a lightning offensive.
Security crisis
The incumbent prime minister, 66 year-old Haider Abadi, took over the reins from Nuri Al-Maliki in September 2014 at the high watermark of the security crisis.
The fightback which allowed Abadi to declare Iraq’s victory over the jihadists in December, has silenced critics of his lack of military experience.
An engineering graduate and holder of a doctorate from the University of Manchester in Britain, Abadi is from the same Dawa party as his predecessor Maliki.
He owes his position to the support of the Marjaiya, the supreme council of Iraq’s Shiite clerics, and to an international consensus.
“He is acceptable to all foreign stakeholders, from the Iranians, to the Americans (and) the Saudis,” said Fanar Haddad, a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.
As the official head of Iraq’s military, Abadi has bolstered morale by drafting in foreign trainers, who have helped professionalize tens of thousands of soldiers.
Under his watch and backed by a US-led international coalition, the army has banished Daesh from all its urban strongholds in Iraq, leaving jihadists largely confined to areas close to the Syrian border.
The Iraqi military has also pushed back the Kurds in the north’s oil-rich Kirkuk province, bolstering Abadi’s status as frontrunner going into the election.
“He has a popular base which transcends confessional and ethnic lines. He offers a narrative as a statesman and he is not tarnished by corruption,” said Iraqi political scientist Essam Al-Fili.
Haddad said: “Abadi remains the single strongest contender but not strong enough to win anything close to a majority.”
His main contender is Hadi Al-Ameri — a leader of Hashed Al-Shaabi, a paramilitary network that played a pivotal role in defeating IS.
Ameri comes from Diyala province and is a statistics graduate from Baghdad University. He fled to Iran in 1980 after Saddam executed top Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr Al-Sadr.
The 64-year old is widely viewed as Tehran’s favored candidate.
He fought alongside Iranian forces in the Iran-Iraq war of 1980 to 1988 as part of the Badr organization, and he only returned from exile after Saddam’s ouster. During Maliki’s 2010-2014 term as premier, Ameri was a lawmaker and then transport minister, but he was blocked in a bid to head the Interior Ministry by an American veto.
The paramilitary chief ditched his civilian clothes in favor of military fatigues in 2014, to rally efforts against an ascendant Daesh. At the battlefront, he operated alongside his old friend Qassem Soleimani, who runs the foreign operations wing of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
“I think Ameri will have a strong hand in the post-ballot negotiations but that government formation is likely to remain with Dawa and in all likelihood with Abadi,” said Haddad.
Rebuilding Basra
Beyond Ameri’s military credentials, his appeal has been bolstered by Hashed putting its bulldozers to work in rebuilding Basra and the capital’s Sadr City district, exposing the state’s deficiencies.
“With Dawa divided, I think Ameri sees himself as the joker in the pack, as a prime minister who can rebuild the civil state with the same success that he led the military,” said Fili.
The third candidate, 68-year-old Maliki, has been chomping at the bit since he was forced out in 2014, after serving eight years as prime minister.
While still a prominent Dawa leader, he was accused of marginalizing Sunnis and promoting corruption during his tenure.
“He is trying to focus his efforts on areas where the Dawa party is strong and is attempting to get closer to Shiite armed groups to stay in the spotlight,” said Fili.
For Haddad, the former premier’s chances are modest.
“Maliki’s fortunes have taken an irreversible hit. His second term is not remembered well by Iraqis in general.”
“The upper limit of his prospects might be to play second fiddle to Ameri,” Haddad said.