Reaper drone launched from Qatar fired missile that killed Soleimani

Mourners attend on Saturday the funeral procession of Qassem Soleimani, inset, in Karbala. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 January 2020

Reaper drone launched from Qatar fired missile that killed Soleimani

  • New threats of revenge on US as thousands in Baghdad, Karbala mourn Iranian warlord

LONDON: A drone launched from Qatar fired the missile that killed Iranian warlord Qassem Soleimani, US military sources have revealed.

Soleimani, head of the overseas Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, and five others were killed in the strike at Baghdad airport early on Friday.

They were hit by Hellfire R9X Ninja missiles launched by the MQ-9 Reaper drone sent from Al-Udeid military and air base in Qatar, UK media reported.

Two missiles were fired, one for each of the two vehicles carrying Soleimani and Al-Muhandis, and were controlled remotely by operators at the US Air Force base in Creech, Nevada. A second backup drone was also launched from US Central Command headquarters in Qatar, but was not needed.

The “near-silent” Reaper drone has a range of 1,850 km, can fly at a height of 15,000 meters, and is an “armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance” aircraft designed primarily for offensive strikes, according to the US Air Force. “It provides a unique capability to perform strike, coordination and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets,” it said.

HIGHLIGHT

As Qatar’s role in Soleimani’s death was revealed, Qatar’s foreign minister flew to Tehran for talks with President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

US President Donald Trump is thought to have authorized the strike last Sunday, at the same time as approving F-15 fighter jet attacks on bases in Iraq operated by Iran-backed militias. The operation was planned by the US National Security Agency based on intelligence on Soleimani’s movements supplied by informants, electronic intercepts, reconnaissance aircraft, and the security forces of America’s regional allies. Soleimani arrived in Baghdad on a private jet from Damascus minutes before the missile strike.

As Qatar’s role in Soleimani’s death was revealed, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani flew to Tehran for talks with President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Sheikh Mohammed said the situation in the region was sensitive and concerning, and he called for a peaceful solution leading to de-escalation.

In Baghdad on Saturday, tens of thousands of people took part in a march to mourn Soleimani, as Iran ramped up threats of revenge for his death.

A rocket fell inside the heavily fortified Green Zone near the US Embassy, another hit the nearby Jadriya neighborhood, and two more were fired at the Balad air base north of the city. There were no casualties.

NATO and a separate US-led mission suspended their programs to train Iraqi security and armed forces.

Gholamali Abuhamzeh, a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said Tehran would punish Americans “wherever they are in reach,” and threatened attacks on ships in the Arabian Gulf.

The US army used MQ-9 Reaper drones to kill Iranian commander Qassem Suleimani (Footage by AFP)



A Saudi accelerator removes roadblocks from the path of female entrepreneurs 

Updated 28 November 2020

A Saudi accelerator removes roadblocks from the path of female entrepreneurs 

  • Founded by Emon Shakoor, Blossom has mentored 300-plus female-focused startups and arranged three events 
  • Its programs help women develop business models, entrepreneurship, lean principles, marketing and finance

JEDDAH: From cultural or self-imposed barriers to age-old beliefs, gender-role stereotyping remains one of the biggest obstacles to women’s progress in the workplace and one of the main reasons for the lack of female representation at the executive level and in startup culture in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Despite ongoing progress in the startup scene, the region still faces some unique challenges. These include the lowest female labor force participation rate (LFPR) in the world — at 24.6 percent, it trails far behind the global average of 47.8 percent.

According to Emon Shakoor, CEO of the region’s first female-focused accelerator, Blossom, women’s participation in professional and technical jobs is not on a par with men’s. “As it is, starting a company is pretty difficult, but starting a company as a woman often had additional challenges. Gender biases and cultural beliefs added an extra layer of difficulty for women who wanted to launch their own business,” Shakoor said.

Since its launch, Blossom has mentored more than 300 female-focused startups and arranged three events. (Supplied)

In 2017, when she was just 23, Shakoor launched her own venture for a strong entrepreneurial network in Saudi Arabia. However, she found it especially hard to network with the upper echelons, which is when the idea for Blossom emerged.

“At that time in Saudi Arabia, there weren’t any startup accelerators or network platforms that offered startup advice, especially ones that catered to women,” Shakoor said. “That’s when I realized that women who launched their own business in KSA faced a different set of challenges than the average Saudi male founder.

“With Blossom, I wanted to tailor an experience that met the needs of female founders while enabling and equipping them with everything they need to know to overcome the barriers they might face along the way. This is a global phenomenon; it happens even in Silicon Valley.”

INNUMBERS

Female workplace progress

* 24.6% Female labor force participation rate in MENA.

* $36m Total funding for startups founded by women in 2019.

As noted in a recent MAGNiTT report in relation to MENA, “5.1 percent ($36 million) of total funding went to startups with only female founders in 2019, which is close to double the figure in the US. Beyond that, startups with only female founders accounted for 4.5 percent of all deals in 2019, more than twice the percentage in the US.”

While Shakoor acknowledges there have been noteworthy efforts to increase female participation in the economy, “we still have a long way to go.” The Jeddah-based accelerator gives early-stage startups the opportunity to participate in a boot camp and a demo day while also providing them with resources, knowledge, networking and access to mentors, speakers and investors.

“Startups get mentorship on everything — from business models, introduction to entrepreneurship, lean principles, hands-on implementation, marketing and finance, and a lot more,” Shakoor said.

“We believe one of our differentiation points here at Blossom is our heavily mentored programs that give access to mentors and speakers from both Silicon Valley and the region. Having that international exposure, alongside local expertise, gives our female-focused startups a 360-picture of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

The Jeddah-based accelerator gives early-stage startups the opportunity to participate in a boot camp and a demo day while also providing them with resources, knowledge, networking and access to mentors, speakers and investors. (Supplied)

Since its launch, Blossom has mentored more than 300 female-focused startups and arranged three events: Techpreneurship Sprint (a one-day business plan competition for technology startup ideas), SELLA (a technology entrepreneurship function focused on idea-sharing, inspiration and networking), and THIQAH (a female-empowerment event teaching women how to be more confident and create the company they deserve). And a fourth virtual event is underway.

“The coronavirus has motivated us to take our event online. Going virtual means reaching more startups across the globe and expanding our Blossom network worldwide. We always had the idea for the online accelerator, but the virus expedited the process for us,” Shakoor said.

Blossom continues to grow and evolve, with mentorship programs spanning the GCC and MENA, but Shakoor says she is just getting started. “I see Blossom being the accelerator and platform for female founders in MENA, the place for any woman who wants to start or grow a company to go to and ultimately scale and succeed.

“We’re also planning on starting our own fund to grow our business and network and eventually invest in multiple talents across this part of the world.”

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This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.