Turkey captures sister of slain Daesh leader Baghdadi in northern Syria

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Rasmiya Awad, believed to be the sister of slain Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was captured on Monday in the northern Syrian town of Azaz by Turkish security officials, is seen in an unknown location in an undated picture provided by Turkish security officials. (Reuters)
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A man, believed to be the husband of Rasmiya Awad, sister of slain Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was captured on Monday in the northern Syrian town of Azaz by Turkish security officials is seen in an unknown location in an undated picture provided by Turkish security officials. (Reuters)
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A woman, believed to be the daughter-in-law of Rasmiya Awad, sister of slain Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was captured on Monday in the northern Syrian town of Azaz by Turkish security officials, is seen in an unknown location in an undated picture provided by Turkish security officials. (Reuters)
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Late Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is seen in an undated picture released by the U.S. Department of Defense in Washington, U.S. October 30, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 05 November 2019

Turkey captures sister of slain Daesh leader Baghdadi in northern Syria

  • Many Daesh members have escaped through smuggling routes to northwestern Syria in the final days of battle ahead of the group’s territorial defeat earlier this year, while others have melted into the desert in Syria or Iraq

BEIRUT: Turkey captured the elder sister of the slain leader of the Daesh group in northwestern Syria on Monday, according to a senior Turkish official, who called the arrest an intelligence “gold mine.”
Little is known about the sister of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. The Turkish official said the 65-year-old known as Rasmiya Awad is suspected of being affiliated with the extremist group. He did not elaborate.
Awad was captured in a raid Monday evening on a trailer container she was living in with her family near the town of Azaz in Aleppo province. The area is part of the region administered by Turkey after it carried out a military incursion to chase away Daesh militants and Kurdish fighters starting 2016. Allied Syrian groups manage the area known as the Euphrates Shield zone.
The official said the sister was with her husband, daughter-in-law and five children. The adults are being interrogated, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol.
“This kind of thing is an intelligence gold mine. What she knows about (Daesh) can significantly expand our understanding of the group and help us catch more bad guys,” the official said.
Al-Baghdadi, an Iraqi from Samarra, was killed in a US raid in the nearby province of Idlib last month. The raid was a major blow to the group, which has lost territories it held in Syria and Iraq in a series of military defeats by the U.S-led coalition and Syrian and Iraqi allies.
Many Daesh members have escaped through smuggling routes to northwestern Syria in the final days of battle ahead of the group’s territorial defeat earlier this year, while others have melted into the desert in Syria or Iraq.
The reclusive leader Al-Baghdadi was known to be close to one of his brothers, known by his nom de guerre Abu Hamza.


Syrian pound plummets as new US sanctions loom

Updated 06 June 2020

Syrian pound plummets as new US sanctions loom

  • Syria is in the thick of an economic crisis compounded by a coronavirus lockdown and a dollar liquidity crunch in neighboring Lebanon
  • The UN food agency said any further depreciation risked increasing the cost of imported basic food items

BEIRUT: Syria’s pound hit record lows on the black market Saturday trading at over 2,300 to the dollar, less than a third of its official value, traders said, ahead of new US sanctions.
Three traders in Damascus told AFP by phone that the dollar bought more than 2,300 Syrian pounds for the first time, though the official exchange rate remained fixed at around 700 pounds to the greenback.
After nine years of war, Syria is in the thick of an economic crisis compounded by a coronavirus lockdown and a dollar liquidity crunch in neighboring Lebanon.
Last month, the central bank warned it would clamp down on currency “manipulators.”
Analysts said concerns over the June 17 implementation of the US Caesar Act, which aims to sanction foreign persons who assist the Syrian government or help in post-war reconstruction, also contributed to the de fact devaluation.
Zaki Mehchy, a senior consulting fellow at Chatham House, said foreign companies — including from regime ally Russia — were already opting not to take any risks.
With money transactions requiring two to three weeks to implement, “today’s transactions will be paid after June 17,” he said.
Heiko Wimmen, Syria project director at the conflict tracker Crisis Group, said that with the act coming into force, “doing business with Syria will become even more difficult and risky.”
Both analysts said the fall from grace of top business tycoon Rami Makhlouf despite being a cousin of the president was also affecting confidence.
“The Makhlouf saga is spooking the rich,” Wimmen said.
After the Damascus government froze assets of the head of the country’s largest mobile phone operator and slapped a travel ban on him, the wealthy feel “nobody is safe,” he said.
They are thinking “you better get your assets and perhaps yourself out preparing for further shakedowns,” he said.
Mehchy said the impact of the pound’s decline and ensuing price hikes on Syrians would be “catastrophic.”
Most of Syria’s population lives in poverty, according to the United Nations, and food prices have doubled over the past year.
The UN food agency’s Jessica Lawson said any further depreciation risked increasing the cost of imported basic food items such as rice, pasta and lentils.
“These price increases risk pushing even more people into hunger, poverty and food insecurity as Syrians’ purchasing power continues to erode,” the World Food Programme spokeswoman said.
“Families may be forced to cut the quality and quantity of food they buy.”