Iraq sees end to terror group as iconic Mosul mosque is recaptured

Iraq declares end of caliphate after capture historic Mosul mosque
Updated 30 June 2017

Iraq sees end to terror group as iconic Mosul mosque is recaptured

JEDDAH/MOSUL: Iraq said Daesh’s “caliphate” was coming to an end three years to the day after it was proclaimed, following the recapture of Mosul’s iconic Al-Nuri Mosque on Thursday.
The terror group announced its “caliphate” on June 29, 2014, across swathes of territory its fighters overran in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
Staff Lt. Gen. Abdulghani Assadi, a senior Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) officer, confirmed the mosque’s recapture.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi hailed it as a sign of Daesh’s impending defeat. “We are seeing the end of the fake Daesh state,” he tweeted.
But Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, advised caution before declaring Daesh finished.
“It’s important that we remain cautious and vigilant of efforts by Daesh to transform itself into an underground movement,” he told Arab News. “Daesh maintains long-term ambitions despite its loss of Mosul and significant amounts of territory in the past two years. If the international coalition drops the ball and doesn’t invest in rebuilding, political reconciliation and ensuring that the rule of law — not sectarian militias — maintain order, Daesh will find the opportunity it needs to re-emerge.”
Shahbandar said the Iraqi government should avoid committing the mistakes of Al-Abadi’s predecessor Nuri Al-Maliki.
“The previous administration … demonstrated exactly what not to do when it comes to ensuring that a defeated terrorist insurgency doesn’t re-emerge,” he said. 
“The lessons learned from 2010-2013 in Iraq and Syria are telling. The regime in Baghdad at the time maintained narrow sectarian political ambitions that prioritized a paranoid regime-centric mindset rather than actual security. Daesh was able to expand as a result, even though its predecessor, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), was largely defeated militarily.”
Shahbandar said the seeds of Daesh’s emergence were planted and allowed to grow in fertile soil by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which before 2011 gave small units of the ISI leadership safe haven in eastern Syria.
“The consequences of poor governance and the brutality of the Assad and Al-Maliki regimes hopefully will serve as a wake-up call to the international community and show that the defeat of groups such as Daesh shouldn’t pave the way to the chaotic brutality and incompetence of regimes such as Assad’s and Al-Maliki’s,” he said.
On fears about Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi taking over liberated areas, Shahbandar said the Shiite militia “isn’t going to lay down its arms after Daesh is defeated in Iraq. It has become a state within a state, much along the lines of how Hezbollah now controls the Lebanese government. Al-Hashd leaders retain the ability to act with little or no checks on their power by the central government in Baghdad. This is a recipe for disaster that may bring forth a Daesh 2.0 in the near future.”
He added: “Daesh’s leadership is now confined to a small part of Syrian rural desert terrain and the lower Euphrates River valley in small pockets in western Iraq. The leadership structure has more or less been eliminated by international coalition strikes and local forces. But Daesh has a way to rebuild if it’s offered the opportunity to do so. Al-Qaeda’s original leadership was almost totally wiped out, yet a new generation took over and allowed the terrorist group to continue global operations. That should serve as a reminder that the fight against Daesh doesn’t end simply with the liberation of Mosul and Raqqa.”
Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit, said Daesh’s “rise and fall has been characterized by rapid inflation followed by steady decline. Three years after the ‘caliphate’ was declared, it’s evident that the group’s governance project has failed.”
IHS senior Middle East analyst Ludovico Carlino said: “Losing control of the heavily populated Iraqi city of Mosul, and oil-rich areas in the Syrian provinces of Raqqa and Homs, has had a particularly significant impact on the group’s ability to generate revenue.”
— With input from AP, AFP

From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

Updated 01 June 2020

From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

  • Doors open again after virus lockdown
  • Internal flights resume from Saudi airports

JEDDAH/AMMAN: It began at dawn. As the first light appeared on the horizon and the call to Fajr prayer rang out, Muslims from Riyadh to Madinah and Jeddah to Jerusalem returned to their mosques on Sunday after a two-month break that for many was unbearable.

More than 90,000 mosques throughout Saudi Arabia were deep cleaned and sanitized in preparation for the end of the coronavirus lockdown. Worshippers wore face masks, kept a minimum of two meters apart, brought their own prayer mats and performed the ablution ritual at home.

“My feelings are indescribable. We are so happy. Thank God we are back in His house,” said Abdulrahman, 45, at Al-Rajhi mosque in Riyadh, where worshippers had their temperatures checked before entering.

Television screens inside the mosque displayed written instructions, including the need to maintain a safe distance from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In Jerusalem, at 3:30 a.m. thousands crowded outside three gates assigned to be opened to allow Muslims to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque. Young and old, men and women, many with their phone cameras on, chanted religious songs as they waited to return for the first time since the virus lockdown began.

“Those wishing to pray were checked for their temperature and those without a mask were given one by Waqf staff. All were asked to stay a safe distance from each other when they prayed,” Mazen Sinokrot, a member of the Islamic Waqf, told Arab News.

Wasfi Kailani executive director of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque told Arab News that enabling Muslims to pray in large numbers and according to health requirements had gone smoothly.

“People cooperated with the local Muslim authorities and followed the regulations.” The people of Jerusalem had shown a high degree of responsibility, he said.

Israeli police spokesman Miky Rosenfeld told Arab News that extra police units had been  mobilized in the old city of Jerusalem for the reopening of Al-Aqsa. 

“People arrived in the areas scheduled according to health and security guidelines,” he said.

Khaled Abu Arafeh, a former Minister for Jerusalem in the Ismael Haniyeh government in 2006, said people were happy to be able to pray once more at Islam’s third-holiest site.

“It is time to open a new page in cooperation with local institutions and with Jordan to regain all that has been lost over the years,” he told Arab News.

“The Waqf council has done a good job in dealing with the contradictions and pressures that they are under, which is like walking on a knife’s edge as they deal with the occupiers on the one hand and the health situation on the other, while also trying to be responsive to the desires of worshippers.”

Elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, commercial flights took to the air again, office staff returned to work and restaurants resumed serving diners as life began a gradual return to normal after the coronavirus lockdown.

Eleven of the Kingdom’s 28 airports opened on Sunday for the first time since March 21. “The progressive and gradual reopening aims at controlling the crowds inside airports because we want to achieve the highest health efficiency,” civil aviation spokesman Ibrahim bin Abdullah Alrwosa told Arab News.

No one without an e-ticket will be allowed into an airport, face masks must be worn and safe distancing observed, and children under 15 may not travel unaccompanied.