Daesh Syria attack kills at least 16, including US soldiers

1 / 2
The aftermath of a suicide attack in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. (AFP from Hawar News Agency video)
2 / 2
US armored vehicles at the scene of the suicide attack in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2019

Daesh Syria attack kills at least 16, including US soldiers

  • Attack comes after Trump vowed to pull out US troops after defeating Daesh
  • Targeted a restaurant where US personnel were meeting members of the local militia supported by Washington

BEIRUT: A bomb attack claimed by Daesh killed US troops in northern Syria on Wednesday, weeks after President Donald Trump said the group was defeated there and he would pull out all American forces.
A US official who declined to be named said four US troops had been killed and three wounded in the blast, which a Daesh-affiliated site said was the work of a suicide bomber. Others said only two had been killed.
The US-led coalition fighting Daesh said that "US service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol", and that it was still gathering details.

Unusually, Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan gave his own death toll for the attack, saying it had killed 20 people, including five US troops. Erdogan said he did not believe the attack would impact Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria.

The attack, which took place in the town of Manbij, controlled by rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, appears to be the deadliest on US forces in Syria since they deployed there in 2015.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said only two US troops had previously been killed in action in Syria. There were two additional non-combat fatalities.
Last month, Trump made a surprise announcement that he would withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria after concluding that Daesh had been defeated there.
Trump's announcement helped trigger the resignation of his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, stunned allies and raised fears of a long-threatened Turkish military offensive against US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
A witness in the city said the attack had targeted a restaurant where US personnel were meeting members of the local militia that Washington backs there.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said 16 people had been killed, including two Americans. A militia source in north Syria also said two US troops had been killed.
Daesh said a Syrian fighter had detonated his explosive vest on a foreign patrol in Manbij.
Two witnesses described the blast to Reuters.
"An explosion hit near a restaurant, targeting the Americans, and there were some forces from the Manbij Military Council with them," one said.
The Manbij Military Council militia has controlled the town since US-backed Kurdish-led forces took it from Daesh in 2016. It is located near areas held by Russian-backed Syrian government forces and by anti-Assad fighters backed by Turkey.
One of the witnesses said there was a "heavy" presence of military aircraft over Manbij following the blast, which took place near a vegetable market.
Photographs on a local Kurdish news site showed two mutilated bodies, several other bodies lying on the ground with people gathered around them, damage to a building and vehicles, and blood smears on a wall.
It was unclear whether the attack might influence Trump’s decision to give more time for the US withdrawal, a conflict he has tired of and described as “sand and death”.

 

 


Mideast faces opioid crisis as it rages through developing world

Updated 13 December 2019

Mideast faces opioid crisis as it rages through developing world

  • Mass abuse of the opioid tramadol spans continents, from India to Africa to the Middle East
  • Abuse is now so rampant some countries consumed by it are asking international authorities to intervene

KAPURTHALA: Reports rolled in with escalating urgency — pills seized by the truckload, pills swallowed by schoolchildren, pills in the pockets of dead terrorists.
These pills, the world has been told, are safer than the OxyContins, the Vicodins, the fentanyls that have wreaked so much devastation. But now they are the root of what the United Nations named “the other opioid crisis” — an epidemic featured in fewer headlines than the American one, as it rages through the most vulnerable countries on the planet.
Mass abuse of the opioid tramadol spans continents, from India to Africa to the Middle East, creating international havoc some experts blame on a loophole in narcotics regulation and a miscalculation of the drug’s danger. The man-made opioid was touted as able to relieve pain with little risk of abuse. Unlike other opioids, tramadol flowed freely around the world, unburdened by international controls that track most dangerous drugs.
But abuse is now so rampant some countries consumed by it are asking international authorities to intervene.

Grunenthal, the German company that originally made the drug, is campaigning for the status quo, arguing international regulations make narcotics difficult to get in countries with disorganized health systems, and adding tramadol to the list would deprive patients in pain access to any opioid at all.
“This is a huge public health dilemma,” said Dr. Gilles Forte, the secretary of the World Health Organization’s committee that recommends how drugs should be regulated. Tramadol is available in war zones and impoverished nations because it is unregulated. But it is widely abused for the same exact reason. “It’s a really very complicated balance to strike.”
Tramadol is not as deadly as other opioids and the crisis isn’t killing with the ferocity of America’s struggle withe the drugs. Still, individual governments from the US to Egypt to Ukraine have realized the drug’s dangers are not as limited as believed and worked to rein in the tramadol trade. The north Indian state of Punjab, the center of India’s opioid epidemic, was the latest to crack down. The pills were everywhere, as legitimate medication sold in pharmacies, but also illicit counterfeits hawked by street vendors.
This year, authorities seized hundreds of thousands of tablets, banned most pharmacy sales and shut down counterfeit pill factories, pushing the price from 35 cents for a 10-pack to $14. The government opened a network of treatment centers, fearing those who had become opioid addicted would resort to heroin out of desperation. Hordes of people rushed in to seek help in dealing with excruciating withdrawal.
For some, tramadol had become as essential as food.
“Like if you don’t eat, you start to feel hungry. Similar is the case with not taking it,” said auto shop welder Deepak Arora, a gaunt 30-year-old who took 15 tablets day, so much he had to steal from his family to pay for pills. “You are like a dead person.”
Jeffery Bawa, an officer with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, realized what was happening in 2016.
Police began finding pills on terrorists, who traffic it to fund their networks and take it to bolster their capacity for violence, Bawa said.
Most of it was coming from India. The country’s sprawling pharmaceutical industry is fueled by cheap generics. Pill factories produce knock-offs and ship them in bulk around the world, in doses far exceeding medical limits.
In 2017, law enforcement reported that $75 million worth of tramadol from India was confiscated en route to the Islamic State terror group. Authorities intercepted 600,000 tablets headed for Boko Haram. Another 3 million were found in a pickup truck in Niger, in boxes disguised with UN logos. The agency warned that tramadol was playing “a direct role in the destabilization of the region.”
“We cannot let the situation get any further out of control,” that alert read.
Grunenthal has campaigned to keep tramadol unregulated. It funded surveys that found regulation would impede pain treatment, and paid consultants to travel to the WHO to make the case that it’s safer that other opioids.
Spokesman Stepan Kracala said regulation would not necessarily curtail illicit trade and could backfire: Some desperate pain patients turn to the black market if no legal options exist.
This has happened in India, which regulated tramadol in 2018. Regulators say exports overseas and abuse at home came down. But they acknowledge that the vastness of the pharmaceutical industry and the ingenuity of traffickers makes curtailing abuse and illegal exports all but impossible. Tramadol is still easy to find.
Jyoti Rani stood on her front steps and pointed to house after house in the small city of Kapurthala where she said tramadol is still sold in her neighborhood of narrow roads and open drains, where school-aged boys sit hunched over the street in the middle of a weekday.
Rani’s addiction began with heroin. When her 14-year-old son died, she fell into depression.
“I wanted to kill myself, but I ended up becoming an addict,” she cried. A doctor prescribed tramadol to help kick the habit — instead, she formed a new one.
Now she is among about 30,000 people in Punjab who go to government-run addiction clinics for daily treatment.
Countries’ efforts to control tramadol on their own often fail, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, particularly in places where addiction has taken hold.