Daesh kills almost 60 regime fighters across Syria

Syrian government forces came under separate attacks from Daesh militants and Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents in different parts of the country that killed nearly 50 soldiers and allied fighters. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 April 2019

Daesh kills almost 60 regime fighters across Syria

  • Daesh lost its last territories in Syria in March after months of battles with US-backed Kurdish-led fighters in the eastern province of Deir El-Zour
  • The militant group, which once controlled large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, has kept a network of sleeper cells active in both countries

BEIRUT: Militants have killed almost 60 Syrian regime troops in 48 hours, a monitor said on Saturday, in some of the deadliest attacks on pro-Damascus forces in recent weeks.
Kurdish-led forces in March announced the defeat of Daesh in eastern Syria, but the militants have retained hideouts there and in other parts of the country as well as the ability to carry out deadly assaults.
Since Thursday, Daesh militants have killed 35 pro-Damascus fighters in regime-held parts of central and eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman described those attacks as producing “the highest death toll among regime forces” since the proto-state was declared defeated in the eastern village of Baghouz last month.
Meanwhile, regime fighters also came under attack on another front of Syria’s grinding eight-year war, the Britain-based monitor added.
On Saturday, militants linked to Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate attacked loyalist checkpoints and positions on the western edges of the northern city of Aleppo, killing 13 more pro-Assad fighters, it said.
It was the latest death tally in a civil war that has killed more than 370,000 people since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
President Bashar Assad has managed to claw back around 60 percent of the country with Russian military backing since 2015, but several regions remain beyond its control.
These include a large swathe of northeastern Syria held by Kurdish-led forces who have been fighting Daesh with the support of a US-led coalition, as well as the militant-held region of Idlib west of Aleppo city.
Regime forces in theory control the vast desert that stretches from the capital Damascus to the Iraqi border, but Daesh is still present there.
Attacks by the militants have killed 27 troops and allied militiamen, including four senior Syrian army officers, in the desert east of Homs province since Thursday, the Observatory said.
The propaganda arm of Daesh said its fighters carried out the operation.
The Observatory also said Daesh fighters killed another eight soldiers and militiamen, including two officers, in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor on Thursday night.
That attack targeted a desert village south of the city of Mayadeen on the Euphrates River, upstream from the village of Baghouz where Daesh made a desperate last stand in March.
Daesh swept across a large swathe of Syria and Iraq in 2014, declaring a cross-border “caliphate” in areas it controlled.
At the height of its rule, the extremist group imposed its brutal ideology on millions in territory roughly the size of the UK.
But after various military operations in both countries, Daesh lost the last shred of its proto-state on the eastern banks of the Euphrates last month.
The US-led coalition has however warned repeatedly that the militants’ loss of their last piece of territory does not mean their elimination as a fighting force.
Earlier this month, Daesh claimed responsibility for a twin attack on April 9 in the northern city of Raqqa held by Kurdish-led forces, which the Observatory said killed 13 people, mostly civilians.
In the north of Syria, regime forces face another militant group.
Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), control the northwestern region of Idlib, which remains beyond regime control.
Idlib is supposed to be protected from a massive regime military offensive by a deal inked in September by government ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey.
But the accord has unwound as HTS took full control of the region in January, and the area has come under increasing bombardment.
The Observatory said Saturday’s attack by the HTS-linked Abu Bakr Al-Sadeeq Army on the western edges of Aleppo city came after regime bombardment overnight hit eastern and southeastern parts of the Idlib region.
A planned buffer zone around the region was never fully implemented as militants refused to withdraw from it.
On Friday, Assad insisted the main aim of the Idlib deal was to “eliminate terrorists,” after they failed to pull out from the planned demilitarized cordon.
He urged progress on removing “obstacles” to the stalled deal ahead of talks to be attended by Russia, fellow ally Iran, and Turkey next week in Kazakhstan.
Endless rounds of UN-backed peace talks have failed to end Syria’s war, and the parallel track backed by Moscow, Tehran and Ankara has gained momentum.


Turkey: Delivery of second S-400 missile defense system complete

Updated 8 sec ago

Turkey: Delivery of second S-400 missile defense system complete

  • Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 systems
  • US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Trump administration was considering imposing sanctions related to Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 systems
ANKARA: Turkey’s defense ministry said on Sunday that the delivery of a second battery of Russian S-400 missile defense systems has been completed as of Sunday, and added that the systems would become active in April 2020.
Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 systems, which the United States says are not compatible with NATO defenses and poses a threat to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 ‘stealth’ fighter jets.
The initial parts of the system were delivered to Ankara in July despite warnings about possible US sanctions over the purchase. The United States has also expelled Turkey from the F-35 program, but Ankara has so far dismissed the warnings.
In a statement, the defense ministry said the delivery of the second S-400 battery to Ankara was completed. Efforts to mount the systems and train personnel who will use them were continuing, it said, adding that it planned to activate the S-400s in April 2020.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusglu told an interview with CNN Turk on Saturday that the S-400s would be activated despite repeated US warnings.
“They (US officials) told us ‘don’t activate them and we can sort this out’, but we told them that we didn’t buy these systems as a prop,” Cavusoglu said, adding that Turkey would be open to buying US Raytheon Co. Patriot systems as well.
In an interview on Friday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Reuters he will discuss buying US Patriot missiles with US President Donald Trump this month, saying his personal bond with the US leader could overcome the crisis caused by the S-400s.
Though Washington has not yet announced whether it will impose sanction on Ankara, US President Donald Trump has shown sympathy toward Turkey. He has not fully ruled out sanctions.
On Monday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Trump administration was considering imposing sanctions related to Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 systems, but no decisions have been made.
The dispute over the S-400 systems is one of several issues straining ties between the United States and Turkey that include the ongoing conflict in Syria, among others.