Syria replaces security chief — news reports

A Syrian flag flutters in Damascus, Syria. (File/Reuters)
Updated 08 July 2019

Syria replaces security chief — news reports

  • Jamil Hassan, a subject of Western sanctions, has been replaced by his deputy Ghassan Ismail
  • US sanctions designation for Hassan in 2011 described Air Force Intelligence as one of Syria’s 4 main security agencies

BEIRUT: Syria’s government has replaced one of its top security chiefs Jamil Hassan, a subject of Western sanctions, pro-Damascus social media sites reported.
Hassan, who is in his mid 60s, has been replaced as head of Syrian Air Force Intelligence by his deputy Ghassan Ismail, said Tartous Now News Network and Homs News Network on Sunday. There was no official comment on Syrian state media.
A US Treasury sanctions designation for Hassan in 2011 described Air Force Intelligence as one of Syria’s four main security agencies.
Syria’s pervasive security agencies have played a major role for President Bashar Assad since the start of the conflict in 2011 by rooting out and detaining those suspected of links with the opposition.
Rights group Amnesty International says more than 80,000 people have been subjected to enforced disappearance by the Syrian government since the start of the conflict.
Last year German prosecutors issued an international arrest warrant for Hassan, accusing him of “war crimes and crimes against humanity” for his part in Syria’s war and the mass protests that preceded it.
The prosecutors accused him of overseeing the torture, rape and murder of “at least hundreds of people between 2011 and 2013.”
Syria’s government denies any widespread abuses by its security forces.
In an interview with Britain’s Independent newspaper in 2016, Hassan was quoted as saying the government should have used more force against the opposition at the start of the war.
Comparing it to the crushing of a Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Hama in 1982, he was quoted as saying “if we did what we did in Hama at the beginning of the crisis, we would have saved a lot of Syrian blood.”


Images of starving lions in Sudan zoo spark global concern

Updated 12 min 30 sec ago

Images of starving lions in Sudan zoo spark global concern

  • “This is actually a crime,” a local activist said, adding that the park once teemed with animals

KHARTOUM: At an impoverished, forlorn zoo in Sudan’s capital, the park’s few remaining lions are starving in rusted cages — their ribs protruding, eyes glassy and skin flaccid, desperate for food and water.
The unsettling images, shared on social media by a local animal rights advocate, drew impassioned responses from thousands around the world. But it wasn’t enough to save two lionesses at the Khartoum zoo, said local activist Zuhair Al-Sarag.
“This is actually a crime,” he said, adding that the park once teemed with animals. “Someone should be held accountable.”
With the staff at the destitute Al-Qurashi Park, as the zoo in Khartoum is known, unable to feed and look after the animals, many have died off or were evacuated, leaving only three skeletal lions, including a lioness.
Locals concerned about the fate of the lions flocked to help recently, bringing food and medical items, despite the economic crisis gripping the country. Soaring food prices in Sudan triggered a mass protest movement last year that convulsed the large African country, ultimately ousting longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir in April.
Months later, a civilian-military transitional council replaced Al-Bashir’s rule, and inherited its problems, including $60 billion in debt, rebellions in far-flung provinces and the country’s longtime status as a global pariah.
Price hikes and economic hardship have caused animals to suffer, too.
“Many international organizations are willing to help” the lions, including an emergency rescue group expected in Sudan soon, said Osman Mohamed Salih, the first activist who appealed for help online.
While many abroad have tried to donate via crowdfunding sites, Salih noted that US sanctions on Sudan have prevented the zoo from receiving funds through popular platforms, such as GoFundMe. There was no immediate response from GoFundMe.
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok, formerly a World Bank economist, has made it his mission to get the United States to drop its designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, so that the country can attract badly needed foreign aid and investment. The economic troubles are testing the government during its fragile transition to democracy.
“Despite all of this, the marathon of recovery, healing and redevelopment ... continues,” Salih, the activist, wrote on Facebook.
On Wednesday, he shared a photograph of the remaining lioness after volunteers had brought food, saying she was making “beautiful progress.”