Iraq Kurd chief announces ‘liberation’ of Sinjar from Daesh

Updated 13 November 2015

Iraq Kurd chief announces ‘liberation’ of Sinjar from Daesh

Sinjar, Iraq: Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani announced the “liberation” of Sinjar from the Daesh group Friday in an assault backed by US-led air strikes that cut a key jihadist supply line with Syria.
The operation, led by the autonomous Kurdish region’s peshmerga forces, also involved fighters from the Yazidi minority, a local Kurdish-speaking community targeted in a brutal Daesh campaign of massacres, enslavement and rape.
The success of the campaign is the latest sign that Daesh, which won a series of victories in a stunningly rapid offensive in Iraq last year, is now on the defensive.
“I am here to announce the liberation of Sinjar,” Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, told a news conference near the northern town.
Barzani’s remarks also made clear that political conflict over Sinjar would likely follow the military battle for the town.
“Sinjar was liberated by the blood of the peshmerga and became part of Kurdistan,” Barzani said.
Baghdad, which has long opposed Kurdistan’s desire to incorporate a swathe of disputed northern territory, is unlikely to welcome that.
Mahma Khalil, the local official responsible for the area, told AFP Friday evening: “The security situation is stable now in Sinjar.”
“All the (Daesh) gunmen escaped from Sinjar.”
Earlier in the day, hundreds of Kurdish fighters, dressed in camouflage uniforms and armed with assault rifles and machine guns, moved into the town on foot, an AFP journalist reported.
Carrying the Kurdish region’s flag, they firing in the air and shouted “Long live the peshmerga!” and “Long live Kurdistan!“
Inside Sinjar, many houses and shops, a petrol garage and the local government headquarters had been destroyed.
Burned out cars sat in the streets, while barrels apparently containing explosives had been left behind.
The huge task of clearing Sinjar of bombs planted by Daesh remains, and there is also the possibility of holdout jihadists, who have kept up attacks even after other areas in Iraq were said to have been retaken.
The regional security council said “peshmerga forces entered Sinjar town from all four directions to clear remaining (Daesh) terrorists from the area.”
Sinjar has been pounded by US-led air strikes and Kurdish artillery fire targeting Daesh positions, which sent massive columns of smoke drifting up from the town on Thursday.
The coalition carried out 36 strikes against jihadists in the Sinjar area on Wednesday and Thursday, and 15 more across the border in Al-Hol, where Syrian Kurdish forces and their Arab allies are battling Daesh.
In a rare admission Thursday, the Pentagon said US ground forces advising the Kurds on their offensive were close enough to the front to identify Daesh targets and call in strikes.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters most of the US-led coalition troops were behind the front lines working with Kurdish commanders.
But “there are some advisers who are on Sinjar mountain, assisting in the selection of air strike targets.”
“They’re not directly in the line of action, but they might be able to visibly see it,” he added.
On Thursday, Kurdish forces cut the key highway that links Daesh-held areas in Iraq and Syria.
“Sinjar sits astride Highway 47, which is a key and critical resupply route” for Daesh, said Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for the international operation against Daesh.
“By seizing Sinjar, we’ll be able to cut that line of communication, which we believe will constrict (Daesh’s) ability to resupply themselves, and is a critical first step in the eventual liberation of Mosul,” said Warren, referring to the jihadists’ main hub in Iraq.
Daesh overran Sinjar in August last year, forcing thousands of Yazidis to flee to the mountains overlooking the town, where they were trapped by the jihadists.
The United Nations has described the attack on the Yazidis as a possible genocide, and on Thursday the US Holocaust Memorial Museum echoed that assessment in a report detailing allegations of rape, torture and murder by Daesh against the minority.
Aiding the Yazidis, whose unique faith Daesh considers heretical, was one of Washington’s main justifications for starting its air campaign against the jihadists last year.


Lebanese protests swell as cabinet to hold key meeting

Updated 21 October 2019

Lebanese protests swell as cabinet to hold key meeting

  • Hundreds of thousands of people from across Lebanon’s sectarian divides rallied on Sunday
  • The protests have grown steadily since public anger first spilled onto the streets Thursday

BEIRUT: Lebanese protesters were expected to return to the streets for a fifth day Monday, with Prime Minister Saad Hariri holding a cabinet meeting to try to calm the unprecedented demonstrations.
Hundreds of thousands of people from across Lebanon’s sectarian divides rallied against corruption and the entire political class Sunday, the largest such demonstrations in the country for years.
Early Monday morning protesters began to block main roads and prevent employees going to work, while calls on social media urged people to boycott work.
Banks, universities and schools closed their doors Monday, with Hariri expected to offer reforms in a bid to stem the anger.
“It’s a day of destiny for us. All our hard work and efforts in previous days and years were to get us to this moment,” said Roni Al-Asaad, a 32-year-old activist in central Beirut.
“If they could have implemented these reforms before, why haven’t they? And why should we believe them today?”
At the nerve center of the demonstrations near the country’s houses of government in central Beirut, volunteers were once again collecting rubbish from the streets, many wearing face masks and plastic gloves.
The protests have grown steadily since public anger first spilled onto the streets Thursday evening in response to a proposed tax on calls via WhatsApp and other messaging services.
While the government quickly dropped that plan, the leaderless protests morphed into demands for a sweeping overhaul of the political system, with grievances ranging from austerity measures to poor infrastructure.
Hariri had given his coalition partners three days to support reforms he said were crucial to get the economy back on track.
On Sunday evening a cabinet official said that the parties had agreed.
The cabinet will hold a meeting chaired by President Michel Aoun at 10:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) to discuss the reforms.
Demonstrators said Hariri’s proposals would not be enough, with demands for the entire political class to resign.
“All of them are warlords,” said Patrick Chakar, 20. “We waited 30 years or more for them to change and they didn’t.”
More than a quarter of Lebanon’s population lives below the poverty line, the World Bank says, while the political class has remained relatively unchanged since the end of a devastating 15-year civil war in 1990.
Lebanon ranked 138 out of 180 in Transparency International’s 2018 corruption index, and residents suffer chronic electricity and water shortages.
Lebanese media hailed the demonstrations.
Al-Akhbar newspaper, which is close to Shiite Muslim militant party Hezbollah, published a picture of protesters carrying a giant flag on its front page with a commentary on “Test Day: Power or People?”
The French-language newspaper L’Orient-Le Jour said “The hour of truth has arrived,” while the English-language The Daily Star said: “Lebanon’s only paths: reform or abyss.”