Suicide attack on Kurdish-US convoy in Syria kills 5: monitor

The attack on Hasakah killed five members of a Kurdish-led force who were accompanying US-led coalition troops. (AFP)
Updated 21 January 2019
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Suicide attack on Kurdish-US convoy in Syria kills 5: monitor

  • The suicide attack occurred on a road in Hasakah province, in the north east of Syria
  • The coalition confirmed the attack by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device

BEIRUT: A suicide car bomb attack on a military convoy in northeastern Syria on Monday killed five members of a Kurdish-led force accompanying US troops in an anti-extremist coalition, a monitor said.

The attack, claimed by the Daesh group, came less than a week after another deadly attack on US forces in Syria and a month after Washington announced a US troop pullout from the war-torn country.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said five fighters from the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were killed in the blast on a road in Hasakah province.

“A suicide attacker driving a bomb-laden car targeted a convoy of American forces accompanied by the SDF on the Hasakah-Shadadi road,” the Observatory said.

Shadadi lies to the south of Hasakah, capital of the eponymous province, which has been relatively spared by the war that erupted in Syria nearly eight years ago.

The coalition confirmed the attack by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, but said there were no US casualties.

“A combined US and Syrian partner force convoy was involved in an apparent VBIED attack today in Syria,” coalition spokesman Sean Ryan said on Twitter.

“There were no US casualties.”

The head of the Britain-based Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, said the attacker had plowed into an SDF vehicle.

Footage on Kurdish media showed a plume of grey smoke rising up from a narrow road flanked by dry land.

A witness told AFP the blast took place by a checkpoint held by Kurdish forces a dozen kilometers outside Shadadi as the US convoy drove past.

The witness said he heard planes fly overhead, before the area was completely cordoned off by Kurdish fighters.

The Kurdish Asayesh security forces said no one had died in the attack, which hit ten meters from a checkpoint outside Shadadi.

“A bomb-laden car driven by a terrorist tried to target a coalition convoy as it passed by, lightly wounding a female member of the Asayesh,” the statement said, reporting no other casualties.

Daesh propaganda channel Amaq claimed the attack on a joint US-Kurdish convoy.

The attack came less than a week after another attack on the US-led force and its local partners in the strategic city of Manbij.

Four Americans — two members of the military, a Pentagon civilian and a contractor — were killed in a blast that targeted a restaurant in the city center on January 16.

It was also claimed by Daesh.

The Manbij attack cost Washington its worst combat losses since it deployed in the war-torn country to combat Daesh, who established a self-proclaimed “caliphate” across swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Ten civilians and five SDF fighters were also killed in the Manbij attack.

The US Department of Defense had previously reported only two American personnel killed in combat in Syria, in separate incidents.

This month’s attacks targeting the US-led coalition and its allies follow US President Donald Trump’s shock December announcement that he had ordered a complete troop pullout from Syria, as Daesh had been “largely defeated.”

Trump and other senior US officials have since sent mixed messages about the pace and scope of the withdrawal.

Turkey has repeatedly urged Washington to make way for its own military plans in northern Syria, where the beleaguered Kurds are increasingly turning to the regime and its Russian sponsor for support.

The SDF is fighting to expel Daesh fighters from the remaining shreds of the extremist group’s “caliphate” in a small pocket of land in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border.

Syria’s complex war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.


US sanctions target Iranians’ access to food, medicine: foreign minister

Updated 18 min 57 sec ago

US sanctions target Iranians’ access to food, medicine: foreign minister

  • The United States on Friday imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran
  • Unconfirmed reports on social media said a number of Iranian websites were under a cyberattack

DUBAI: Iran’s foreign minister on Saturday denounced renewed US sanctions against its central bank as an attempt to deny ordinary Iranians access to food and medicine, and said the move was a sign of US desperation.
The United States on Friday imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran, some aimed at its central bank and sovereign wealth fund, following attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia that Riyadh and US officials have blamed on Iran.
Iran denies involvement in the attacks, which initially halved oil output from Saudi Arabia. Responsibility was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi movement, an Iranian-aligned group fighting a Saudi-led alliance in Yemen’s civil war.
“This is a sign of US desperation ... When they repeatedly sanction the same institution, this means their attempt at bringing the Iranian nation to its knees under ‘maximum pressure’ has failed,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters in remarks shown on state television.
“But this is dangerous and unacceptable as an attempt at blocking ... the Iranian people’s access to food and medicine,” Zarif said, speaking after arriving in New York for the annual UN General Assembly next week.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports on social media said a number of Iranian websites — including those of some petrochemical firms — were under a cyberattack. There was no immediate official comment, and the websites of the main state oil company NIOC appeared to be functioning normally. Residents said their Internet access was not affected.
The fresh sanctions target the Central Bank of Iran, which was already under other US sanctions, the National Development Fund of Iran — the country’s sovereign wealth fund — and an Iranian company that US officials say is used to conceal financial transfers for Iranian military purchases.
Zarif said he would meet on Wednesday with foreign ministers of the remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear accord, which was agreed with Britain, France, Germany China and Russia as well as the United States.
“As we have said before, the United States can only attend if it returns to the (nuclear accord) ... and ends its economic war against Iran,” Zarif said.
The United States withdrew from the accord last year and re-imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran.
“I hope the US government realizes that they are no longer the only economic superpower in the world and that there are many countries that want to benefit from the Iranian market,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, according to state media.