US-led coalition says targeted Al-Qaeda in northwest Syria

Syrian government forces have increased attacks in the northwest of Syria since April. (File/AFP)
Updated 01 July 2019

US-led coalition says targeted Al-Qaeda in northwest Syria

  • US officials said the targets were planning attacks that threaten the safety of US citizens and partners as well as civilians
  • The killed commanders were from different nationalities

BEIRUT: The US-led coalition said Monday its aircraft carried out a strike in northwestern Syria a day earlier that a monitor reported had killed eight extremists, including commanders, from an Al-Qaeda-linked group.
“This operation targeted AQ-S operatives responsible for plotting external attacks threatening US citizens, our partners, and innocent civilians,” US Central Command said in a statement, using an acronym for Al-Qaeda in Syria.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said six commanders were among the slain extremists from the Hurras Al-Deen group in Aleppo province.
The killed commanders included two Tunisians, two Algerians, an Egyptian and a Syrian, the Observatory added.
“With our allies and partners, we will continue to target Daesh and Al-Qaeda to prevent both groups from using Syria as a safe haven,” US Central Command said.
Hurras Al-Deen maintains ties to Al-Qaeda and fights alongside the global extremist network’s former Syria branch, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham — which dominates most of Idlib province as well as parts of neighboring Hama, Aleppo and Latakia.
Since its formation in 2014, the US-led coalition against Deash has targeted extremist leaders in Syria’s northwest, but the strikes have dropped off significantly since 2017.
In March 2017, the Observatory said a US-led strike on a mosque in the north of Aleppo province killed 49 people, most of them civilians.
The Pentagon denied that large numbers of civilians were killed or that it had targeted the religious building, acknowledging only one possible civilian death.
The greater Idlib area was supposed to be protected by a buffer zone under a September agreement between Russia and Turkey.
But backed by its ally Moscow, Damascus has since late April ramped up its bombardment of the region, home to some three million people — nearly half of whom have been displaced from other parts of Syria.
That came after HTS took over administrative control of the Idlib region at the start of the year.
Hurras Al-Deen was established in February 2018 and has some 1,800 fighters, including non-Syrians, according to the Observatory.


Turkish police arrest journalist Altan a week after his release

Updated 13 November 2019

Turkish police arrest journalist Altan a week after his release

  • Altan and the others deny the charges against them
  • On Tuesday a higher court overruled the decision to release Altan, ordering his arrest on grounds that there was a risk of him fleeing

ISTANBUL: Turkish police detained prominent journalist and author Ahmet Altan late on Tuesday, a week after he was released from prison in his retrial on coup-related charges, Istanbul police said.

Before his release last Monday, the 69-year-old had been in jail since his arrest in 2016, two months after an attempted coup which Ankara says was orchestrated by the network of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The journalist’s case has drawn criticism from human rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies. They are concerned by the scale of a post-coup crackdown against suspected Gulen supporters under President Tayyip Erdogan.

Altan smiled and waved as he was driven away by counter-terror squad police officers after being taken from his home in Istanbul, video and photos published by Turkish media showed.

He was taken to Istanbul police headquarters after a hospital check-up, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.

Altan, his brother and other journalists were previously sentenced to life in jail for aiding Gulen’s network. Last week he was convicted again in a retrial, but released from jail given the time served.

Altan and the others deny the charges against them.

On Tuesday a higher court overruled the decision to release Altan, ordering his arrest on grounds that there was a risk of him fleeing, Anadolu reported.

Under last week’s verdict, Altan was sentenced to 10 years and six months in jail. Turkey’s high court had overruled the previous life sentences against him in July, sending the file back for re-trial.

Erdogan’s government has jailed more than 77,000 people pending trial since the failed putsch. Widespread arrests are still routine in a crackdown critics say demonstrates growing autocracy in Turkey.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, and his followers deny any involvement in the coup. Turkey has repeatedly called on the United States to extradite the cleric.