Kurdish militant group re-emerges in northern Iraq under new name

Kurdish militant group re-emerges in northern Iraq under new name
Armored vehicles of Iraqi Army are seen during a military parade in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone in this file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 14 December 2017

Kurdish militant group re-emerges in northern Iraq under new name

Kurdish militant group re-emerges in northern Iraq under new name

BAGHDAD: The people and officials of the ethnically mixed Iraqi town of Tuz Khurmatu, 170 km north of Baghdad, talk about a new group that raises white flags decorated by the head of a lion drawn in black and carries out almost daily rocket attacks on the town, its surroundings and the suburbs of the nearby province of Kirkuk.
The group sometimes launches raids on the strategic road linking Baghdad to the northern oil city of Kirkuk, intercepting trucks, looting some and burning others, residents and local security officials told Arab News.
“These are extremist groups who were oppressed and prevented (by the Kurdish authorities) from working before,” Najat Hussien, the acting mayor of Tuz Khurmatu, told Arab News.
“They are Kurdish militants (and are) joined by Daesh militants who fled the neighboring areas,” Hussien said. “They are sleeper cells that were waiting for the right time and place to resume their activities.”
Tuz Khurmatu is one of the disputed areas between Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdish region. The Kurdish region has taken advantage of the collapse of the Iraqi Army in the summer of 2014 to extend its control over most of the disputed areas including Tuz Khurmatu.
On Tuesday, a mortar attack hit the center of the town, killing two civilians and injuring a further dozen, security sources said.
A few days earlier, three trucks on the main Baghdad-Kirkuk way were burned after their drivers were kidnapped, sources said. Last month at least 24 people were killed when a suicide car bomb exploded in central Tuz.
The group, which residents call “the Owners of the White Flags,” has emerged over the past two months after Iraqi security forces backed by the Shiite-dominated Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) drove the Kurdish forces out of almost 95 percent of the disputed areas and pushed them back into the 2003-constitutionally agreed border of the Kurdish region on Oct. 16.
Kurdish sources and residents of Tuz Khurmatu told Arab News that the group is led by Assi Al-Qawali, a Kurdish Peshmerga “volunteer” of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of the biggest Kurdish political parties to govern Kurdistan. Al-Qawali and his group are fighting to “liberate the Kurdish lands — occupied by the Iranian Shiite militias.”
“Sheikh Mujahid Assi … is leading an armed group in Tuz Khurmatu as a part of the Kurdish popular resistance against the Shiite terrorist militias,” Kurdish Peshmerga Maj. Islam Chali tweeted on Tuesday.
“The Kurdish popular resistance launched Katyusha rockets (targeting) the Shiite militias and the terrorist Shiite Turkmen Hashid in Tuz Khurmatu,” Chali, tweeted hours after Tuesday’s rocket attack on Tuz.
Chali and other local Kurdish sites have circulated several photographs showing Al-Qawali and his fighters, all of whom were masked except Al-Qawali.
Al-Qawali has posted photographs of himself wearing traditional Kurdish dress and carrying a Kalashnikov on his Facebook page. Other photographs show him sitting next to sophisticated machine guns.
Residents of Tuz Khurmatu contacted by Arab News said that Al-Qawali used to live in Al-Jamhouriya district until Iraqi security forces arrived. They say Al-Qawali was a poor and simple Kurd who was transporting water from a nearby river to people in Tuz by using a small tanker attached to his tractor for a fee, but has become well-known after he led the Kurdish groups that fought the Iraqi federal advance troops in October.
“We know him because he previously participated in the riots in Tuz in 2015 and 2016 and he was burning the houses of Turkmen at that time,” Jankiz Tuzlu, a Turkman resident of Tuz, told Arab News.
“Also he fought the Turkmen Hashid (local troops) and attacked their headquarters in Tuz when the (Iraqi) army arrived in the town (in October),” Tuzlu said. Kurdish media have published his photo while he was taking off the flag of Kata’ib Hezbollah in Tuz.”
Iraqi security and intelligence officials have ruled out the emergence of a new armed group and say intelligence reports suggest that “the Owners of White Flags” are actually the Kurdish radical group Ansar Al-Islam or “the Supporters of Islam,” which settled in the villages between the mountains of Hamrin and the Iraqi-Iranian border, and Daesh militants who fled the nearby towns and cities.
“The area of Hamrin Hills is still not cleared and the villages there have not been entered by Iraqi security forces since 2003,” a military officer deployed in the area, who declined to be named, told Arab News.
“Hundreds of fighters benefit from the rigidity of the region, their knowledge of it and the difficulty of deploying regular forces there to freely move about,” he said. “Most of the rocket attacks are launched from behind the mountain.”
A military operation is being prepared by Baghdad to clear the area, military and intelligence sources told Arab News.
Earlier this week, Iraq had declared the end of the war against Daesh and the full liberation of its territories.
Ansar Al-Islam seeks to apply 7th-century Islamic rule in Iraq. Mullah Krekar, also known as Faraj Ahmad Najm Al-Deen, reportedly founded Ansar Al-Islam in 2001 with funding and logistical support from Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The group pledged allegiance to Daesh in 2014 and fought with them under their banner.
The intelligence officer told Arab News that their initial reports indicated that was not the real leader of “the Owners of the White Flags,” but a front to hide the real links and goals behind the recent attacks in the northern disputed areas.
“ is a simple person who has nothing to do with leadership and radical Islamic ideas. They (Kurdish parties) use him as a facade to hide behind the group of Ansar Al-Islam and Daesh,” a senior intelligence Iraqi officer, who declined to be named, told Arab News.
“All this (the daily attacks) aims to force Baghdad to negotiate with them (the Kurds) and allow the Kurdish forces to come back and gain control over the area again,” the officer said.
“We are totally aware of this and it’s a matter of time to end it.”


Egyptian foreign minister: We trust wisdom of Tunisian leadership on managing current crisis

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri. (AFP)
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri. (AFP)
Updated 18 min 29 sec ago

Egyptian foreign minister: We trust wisdom of Tunisian leadership on managing current crisis

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri. (AFP)
  • Shoukry highlights Cairo’s aspiration for continued cooperation with Libya to promote regional stability

CAIRO: Egypt says it trusts the wisdom and ability of the Tunisian presidency to overcome the current crisis as soon as possible.

It also expressed its full solidarity with the Tunisian people and their legitimate aspirations, according to a spokesperson for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry.

The spokesperson stressed the need to avoid escalation and refrain from violence against state institutions, praising the role of the latter in maintaining the security and stability of the country.

“We are following with great interest what is happening in Tunisia and what the authorities are doing there to achieve the security, stability and sovereignty of the country,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said in a press conference with his Algerian counterpart Ramtane Lamamra.

“We fully trust the wisdom of the political leadership in Tunisia and its ability to manage the situation to achieve the aspirations of its people,” he added.

Lamamra, for his part, stressed that “what is happening in Tunisia is an internal matter,” adding that Algeria stood in solidarity with the country.

Shoukry also spoke on the situation in Libya. The Egyptian foreign minister said that the opening of the coastal road in Libya was a good sign of dialogue and reconciliation and would enhance the chances of the elections’ success, putting Libya on the right path to restore its stability, eliminate the terrorist threat and work with neighboring countries Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Sudan and Chad.

“We need cooperation between these countries in the region due to the turmoil and challenges it is witnessing,” Shoukry said, adding that every positive step taken would find support and sympathy from Egypt, Algeria and the rest of the neighboring countries.

Shoukry spoke on the importance of restoring stability to Libya for the benefit of both the Libyan people and the other countries in the region.

He also stressed the need for foreign forces to exit Libyan land and for the issue of militias to be dealt with.

The Algerian minister said that the relations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan were going through a delicate stage and that it was important to reach an agreement on the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Lamamra expressed his hope that Algeria would be part of the solution, stressing that the issue of the GERD was of global importance and ought to receive the attention of the international community.


At least 40 Houthi fighters killed in fierce Marib fighting

At least 40 Houthi fighters killed in fierce Marib fighting
Updated 01 August 2021

At least 40 Houthi fighters killed in fierce Marib fighting

At least 40 Houthi fighters killed in fierce Marib fighting
  • Warplanes conducted several aid raids in Marib province, targeting military vehicles carrying fighters
  • Tribesmen reported seeing at least two military vehicles catching fire after being hit by the warplanes in Marib

ALEXANDRIA: Dozens of Houthi fighters in Yemen have been killed in fierce fighting with government forces during the past 24 hours in the provinces of Marib, Lahj, Jouf and Al-Bayda, army officials and tribal leaders said on Sunday.
At least 40 Houthis were killed on Saturday and Sunday in Rahabah district, south of Marib city, when government troops pushed back their assault in mountainous areas in the district, Col. Yahiya Al-Hatemi, director of Yemen Army’s military media, told Arab News.
The Yemeni military official said that the army and allied tribesmen, backed air support from the Arab coalition, mounted a counteroffensive in the district and managed to seize control of a mountain and weapons left behind by Houthi fighters.
Warplanes conducted several aid raids in Marib province, targeting military vehicles carrying fighters and weapons heading to the battlefields.
Tribesmen reported seeing at least two military vehicles catching fire after being hit by the warplanes in Marib province.
By expelling the Houthis from Al-Abzakh mountain, loyalists would have control over a large swathe of land south of Marib and would effectively push away the Houthi threat to Marib city from the south.
Despite their losses in the south, the Houthis continued to aggressively attack government forces in areas west of Marib city, local media said.
The Houthis mounted attacks on government forces in the Al-Mashjah and Al-Kasara regions, but failed to make any territorial gains.
Thousands of people have been killed in the province of Marib since February when the Houthis renewed a major offensive to control the strategic city of Marib.
Houthis have ignored many local and international calls to cease their offensive and comply with peace efforts to end the war in Yemen.
In the neighboring Jouf province, state media quoted Brig. Mohammed Al-Hajji, an army commander, as saying that army troops and tribesmen on Sunday repulsed a Houthi offensive on government-controlled locations in Al-Jadafer, east of Jouf province, and adding that the rebels were forced to retreat after suffering “heavy” losses.
Fighting also occurred in borders between Lahj and Al-Bayda provinces where the Houthis attacked an area controlled by forces loyal to the Southern Transitional Council.
Local media said that a government soldier and several Houthis were killed during the failed Houthi attack in the Senah area of Lahj province. Tribesmen on Sunday attacked the Houthi areas in Al-Souma district, west of Al-Bayda province.
Coronavirus
Coronavirus cases continue to fluctuate across government-controlled provinces in Yemen, with the Aden-based National Coronavirus Committee on Sunday recording nine new cases and one death, compared with three new cases and zero deaths on Saturday.
On Friday, the committee announced the recording of 16 new cases and one death.
The total number of confirmed cases in liberated areas is 7,070, including 1,377 deaths and 4,200 recoveries. Local health officials believe that the surging numbers of cases might represent a new wave of the pandemic.
“The epidemiological situation is worrying, as cases have begun to surge,” Dr. Ahmed Mansour, a health official in the southern city of Taiz, told Arab News by telephone.


Egypt COVID-19 vaccine to begin distribution in mid-August

Egypt's Health Minister Hala Zayed speaks during a news conference announcing the details of a vaccination campaign against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. (Reuters/File Photo)
Egypt's Health Minister Hala Zayed speaks during a news conference announcing the details of a vaccination campaign against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 01 August 2021

Egypt COVID-19 vaccine to begin distribution in mid-August

Egypt's Health Minister Hala Zayed speaks during a news conference announcing the details of a vaccination campaign against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • People will be able to receive certificates proving they have been vaccinated through 126 government offices

CAIRO: The first 10 million doses of Egypt’s coronavirus vaccine Vaccera Sinovac will be distributed in mid-August to more than 500 centers nationwide, the Ministry of Health and Population has announced.

People will be able to receive certificates proving they have been vaccinated through 126 government offices, said Health and Population Minister Hala Zayed.

The certificates are accredited and insured, and carry a unique QR code that will contain the holder’s data, photo and vaccination status, she added.

The ministry is also finalizing an Egyptian Health Passport app to be used in airports.

Zayed stressed the need to continue adhering to the required precautionary and preventative measures, and to stay away from large gatherings.


Five dead in ambush on Hezbollah mourners south of Beirut

Five dead in ambush on Hezbollah mourners south of Beirut
Updated 01 August 2021

Five dead in ambush on Hezbollah mourners south of Beirut

Five dead in ambush on Hezbollah mourners south of Beirut
  • Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati called for restraint after the clashes

LONDON: At least five people including three Hezbollah members were killed in Khalde, south of Beirut on Sunday when a funeral for a party member was ambushed.

Several people were wounded in the exchange of fire in the Khalde area between members of the Lebanese Shiite group and Sunni residents, after a funeral for Ali Shibli was attacked.

Shibli was killed the night before.

Sectarian tensions have long flared in Khalde between the town's mixed Shi'ite and Sunni residents.

 

Footage of a video broadcast on Hezbollah's Manar TV channel showed a volley of gunfire being fired on the convoy of mourners arriving at the home of Shibli.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah urged the Lebanese authorities to pursue the culprits saying the incident reflected lawlessness and bigotry.

Prime minister-designate Najib Mikati appealed for "restraint" and warned against confessional "discord".

 


Egyptian chief of staff calls on southern region’s military unit to be vigilant, combat-ready

Egyptian chief of staff calls on southern region’s military unit to be vigilant, combat-ready
Updated 01 August 2021

Egyptian chief of staff calls on southern region’s military unit to be vigilant, combat-ready

Egyptian chief of staff calls on southern region’s military unit to be vigilant, combat-ready
  • The chief of staff discussed the unit’s various combat missions and methods of confronting emergencies
  • Farid stressed the need to develop the field skills of fighters and improve those of officers

CAIRO: Egyptian Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammed Farid called on the personnel and officers from one of the southern region’s military units to be “vigilant and combat-ready to carry out the tasks of securing the country’s borders.”

During a meeting with personnel from the unit, Farid conveyed the greetings and appreciation of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for their efforts and sacrifices in the fight to maintain the security of the country’s southern border against smuggling, illegal immigration and hostilities.

The chief of staff discussed the unit’s various combat missions and methods of confronting emergencies, praising their combat readiness and high morale.

Farid stressed the need to develop the field skills of fighters and improve those of officers to enable them to make quick decisions under various circumstances.

He inspected the unit’s procedures for raising combat efficiency, beginning with the presentation of a report that included the technical and administrative status of the unit following improvements to weapons and other areas.