Iraqi forces launch offensive to recapture last Daesh-held district of Rawa

Iraqi pro-government forces advance toward the town of Rawa, a small town on the bank of the Euphrates, during their offensive against the Daesh group. (AFP)
Updated 12 November 2017

Iraqi forces launch offensive to recapture last Daesh-held district of Rawa

BAGHDAD: Iraqi forces launched an offensive on Saturday to retake the desert border town of Rawa, the final Daesh-held territory in Iraq, Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said at a press conference.
Iraq, along with its US-backed allies and Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), has been fighting Daesh for almost three years, and at one point the militants had control over almost a third of Iraqi territories in the northwest of the country, following their rout of Iraqi government forces in key cities in early 2014.
But once Rawa is regained, it will spell the end of Daesh’s organized military presence in the country — although pockets of resistance are likely to remain in the valleys, caves and tunnels scattered throughout the area.
“We will militarily eliminate terrorism, but you know that the problem of terrorism is an intellectual one,” Al-Abadi said. “It is a corrupt and deviant mind that calls for the mass killing of citizens.”
Rawa lies on the north bank of the River Euphrates, which surrounds it from three sides, while its fourth side is the Syrian border.
Paramilitary forces who oppose Daesh under the collective name of PMU have crossed the Euphrates and liberated Rawa’s Rumannah district — the town’s largest — as well as a number of villages, and have reached the Iraq-Syria border, Special Forces Lt. Gen. Abdul Ameer Rasheed Yar Allah, said in a statement on Saturday.
Military officers involved in the operation told Arab News that the operation has advanced “smoothly,” with little resistance.
“The operation could end on Sunday. There is no significant resistance and most of the militants have run to the border,” a senior Iraqi military officer, who asked to remain anonymous, told Arab News.
The three-year war against Daesh has cost Iraq $100 billion, Al-Abadi claimed on Saturday. More than 2.9 million people have been displaced, the majority of whom have been living in camps supervised by the Iraqi government and the UN.
Many Iraqis blame former Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki for allowing Daesh to take control of so much of Iraq, citing his government’s “sectarian policies” as a reason why so many cities and towns fell.
Al-Abadi has, in contrast, handed control of internal security of the liberated areas to their people.
The vast Sunni-dominated province of Anbar was the first Iraqi territory to embrace the message of Al-Qaeda and its offshoot, Daesh, over a decade ago. Anbar’s relationship with the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, like those of most Sunni cities in the north and west of Iraq, was chaotic and mistrustful.
By allowing local authorities some autonomy, Al-Abadi hopes to establish stronger relationships with Sunni-dominated areas.
“There are major changes taking place in the liberated western areas relating to the troops redeployment,” a senior military officer familiar with Al-Abadi’s plans told Arab News, on condition of anonymity.
“The army will supervise the border, while the local police and militias which mostly consist of men from these areas will be deployed inside the cities and towns,” the officer continued. “The Sunni tribal fighters will, of course, be a part of these forces.”


UN says Libyan sides sign countrywide cease-fire deal

Updated 57 min 10 sec ago

UN says Libyan sides sign countrywide cease-fire deal

  • Libya is split between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east
  • Libya’s prized light crude has long featured in the country’s civil war, with rival militias and foreign powers jostling for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves

GENEVA: The United Nations said Friday that the two sides in Libyan military talks had reached a “historic achievement” with a permanent cease-fire agreement across the war-torn North African country.
After mediation this week led by UN envoy for Libya Stephanie Turco Williams, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission reached what the UN called an “important turning point toward peace and stability in Libya.”
Details were not immediately available, but the two sides were taking part in a signing ceremony in Geneva on Friday morning.
Libya is split between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east. The two sides are backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers. The country was plunged into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
“The road to a permanent cease-fire deal was often long and difficult,” Williams, a former US State Department official, said in Arabic at the signing ceremony.
“Before us is a lot of work in the coming days and weeks in order to implement the commitments of the agreement,” she said. “It is essential to continue work as quickly as possible in order to alleviate the many problems due to this conflict facing the Libyan people.”
“We have to give people hope of a better future,” Williams added. She expressed hope the agreement will succeed “in ending the suffering of Libyans and allowing those displaced by the conflict to return to their homes.”
Ali Abushahma, the head of the delegation and a field commander for the UN-supported administration in Tripoli, said: “We have had enough suffering, enough bloodshed ... We hope we will change the suffering on all the territories of Libya, especially in the south.”
“I appeal to all Libya: Be one hand,” he said, warning about polarization by factions.
The meetings this week mark the fourth round of talks involving the Joint Military Commission under Williams’ watch. The Geneva-based military talks come ahead of a political forum in Tunisia in November. That forum aims to “generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to the holding of national elections,” the UN mission said.
On Wednesday, Williams had said the two warring factions agreed on issues that “directly impact the lives and welfare of the Libyan people,” citing agreements to open air and land routes in the country, to work to ease inflammatory rhetoric in Libyan media, and to help kickstart Libya’s vital oil industry.
Libya’s prized light crude has long featured in the country’s civil war, with rival militias and foreign powers jostling for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves.
Last month, the two sides reached preliminary agreements to exchange prisoners and open up air and land transit across the country’s divided territory. This breakthrough also accompanied the resumption of oil production after a months-long blockade by powerful tribes allied with military commander Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the eastern-based forces.
Haftar’s forces launched an offensive in April 2019 to try and capture Tripoli, the seat of the UN-supported government in the west. But his campaign collapsed in June.
Fighting has since died down amid international pressure on both sides to avert an attack on the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s major oil export terminals.