Captured Iraqi Daesh member details splits in the extremist group

Captured Iraqi Daesh member details splits in the extremist group
Iraq said it had arrested Abdul Nasser Qardash. (Courtesy: Al Arabiya)
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Updated 21 May 2020

Captured Iraqi Daesh member details splits in the extremist group

Captured Iraqi Daesh member details splits in the extremist group
  • Abdul Nasser Qardash told Al Arabiya that new Daesh leader ‘not as firm’ as Al-Baghdadi

LONDON: A senior Daesh member being held in Iraq has described the group’s new leader as “not as firm” as his predecessor Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

Iraq said on Wednesday it had arrested Abdul Nasser Qardash, a militant who had been operating since before the extremist group was formed.

However, analysts said Qardash was arrested last year in Syria and recently handed over to Iraq by Kurdish forces.

In an interview with Al Arabiya, Qardash described the divisions within the extremist group that once held control of large parts of Syria and Iraq. 

He said he was in direct contact with Al-Baghdadi, who was killed by US special forces last year. He is also known to the new leader Ameer Muhammed Saeed Al-Salbi Al-Mawla, who is also known as Haji Abdullah, or Abdullah Qardash.

Speaking about Al-Baghdadi, Abdul Nasser Qardash said: “He was known to be so firm and would not retract his decisions easily.” 

However, the current leader is “not as firm,” he said. 

He said there was a deep divide within Daesh between the Arab members and the “foreigners,” as well as the theft of funds and the expelling of families during battles.

He also said there were disputes over the killing of prisoners. The group specialised in brutal executions and beheadings, which they videoed and posted online as part of its warped propaganda.

“We had to revise some of the group’s ideas after losing some territory,” Qardash said.

It was unclear where exactly the interview took place.

The new Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi on Thursday referred to Qardash’s “capture” and said it helped foil a terrorist attack. He also said Daesh activity in Iraq was increasing.

In announcing Qardash was in custody, Iraqi state media said that he was also considered a successor to Al-Baghdadi.

However, this appears to overstate his role.

Born in Mosul, Qardash fought with Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was the predecessor of Daesh.

He chaired Daesh’s delegated committee but told Al Arabiya he was removed from this position after a meeting with Al-Baghdadi, because they “disagreed of some points of view.”

He oversaw several military operations in both Syria and Iraq. 

Al-Baghdadi blew himself up in October after he was cornered by US special forces in a cave at his hideout in Syria. 

Daesh emerged in 2011 as an extremist faction in the Syrian conflict that installed brutal rules and punishments in the territory it controlled. In 2014, it launched an attack into northern Iraq, sparking fighting with government troops, militias and an international coalition that eventually beat the extremists out of Iraq’s main cities by the end of 2017.


Top Lebanese hospitals fight exhausting battle against virus

Top Lebanese hospitals fight exhausting battle against virus
Updated 23 January 2021

Top Lebanese hospitals fight exhausting battle against virus

Top Lebanese hospitals fight exhausting battle against virus
  • In recent weeks, Lebanon has seen a dramatic increase in virus cases, following the holiday season

BEIRUT: Death stalks the corridors of Beirut’s Rafik Hariri University Hospital, where losing multiple patients in one day to COVID-19 has become the new normal. On Friday, the mood among the staff was even more solemn as a young woman lost the battle with the virus.
There was silence as the woman, barely in her 30s, drew her last breath. Then a brief commotion. The nurses frantically tried to resuscitate her. Finally, exhausted, they silently removed the oxygen mask and the tubes — and covered the body with a brown blanket.
The woman, whose name is being withheld for privacy reasons, is one of 57 victims who died on Friday and more than 2,150 lost to the virus so far in Lebanon, a small country with a population of nearly 6 million that since last year has grappled with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history.
In recent weeks, Lebanon has seen a dramatic increase in virus cases, following the holiday season when restrictions were eased and thousand of expatriates flew home for a visit.
Now, hospitals across the country are almost completely out of beds. Oxygen tanks, ventilators and most critically, medical staff, are in extremely short supply. Doctors and nurses say they are exhausted. Facing burnout, many of their colleagues left.
Many others have caught the virus, forcing them to take sick leave and leaving fewer and fewer colleagues to work overtime to carry the burden.
To every bed that frees up after a death, three or four patients are waiting in the emergency room waiting to take their place.
Mohammed Darwish, a nurse at the hospital, said he has been working six days a week to help with surging hospitalizations and barely sees his family.
“It is tiring. It is a health sector that is not good at all nowadays,” Darwish said.
More than 2,300 Lebanese health care workers have been infected since February, and around 500 of Lebanon’s 14,000 doctors have left the crisis-ridden country in recent months, according to the Order of Physicians. The virus is putting an additional burden on a public health system that was already on the brink because of the country’s currency crash and inflation, as well as the consequences of the massive Beirut port explosion last summer that killed almost 200 people, injured thousands, and devastated entire sectors of the city.
“Our sense is that the country is falling apart,” World Bank Regional Director, Saroj Kumar Jha, told reporters in a virtual news conference Friday.
At the Rafik Hariri University Hospital, the main government coronavirus facility, there are currently 40 beds in the ICU — all full. According to the World Health Organization, Beirut hospitals are at 98% capacity.
Across town, at the private American University Medical Center — one of Lebanon’s largest and most prestigious hospitals — space is being cleared to accommodate more patients.
But that’s not enough, according to Dr. Pierre Boukhalil, head of the Pulmonary and Critical Care department. His staff were clearly overwhelmed during a recent visit by The Associated Press, leaping from one patient to another amid the constant beep-beep of life-monitoring machines.
The situation “can only be described as a near disaster or a tsunami in the making,” he said, speaking to the AP in between checking on his patients. “We have been consistently increasing capacity over the past week or so, and we are not even keeping up with demands. This is not letting up.”
Boukhalil’s hospital raised the alarm last week, coming out with a statement saying its health care workers were overwhelmed and unable to find beds for “even the most critical patients.”
Since the start of the holiday season, daily infections have hovered around 5,000 in Lebanon, up from nearly 1,000 in November. The daily death toll hit record-breaking more than 60 fatalities in in the past few days.
Doctors say that with increased testing, the number of cases has also increased — a common trend. Lebanon’s vaccination program is set to begin next month.
The World Bank said Thursday it approved $34 million to help pay for vaccines for Lebanon that will inoculate over 2 million people.
Jha, the World Bank’s regional director, said Lebanon will import 1.5 million doses of Pfizer vaccines for 750,000 people that “we are financing in full.” He added that the World Bank also plans to help finance vaccines other than Pfizer in the Mediterranean nation.
Darwish, the nurse, said many COVID-19 patients admitted to Rafik Hariri and especially in the ICU, are young, with no underlying conditions or chronic diseases.
“They catch corona and they think everything is fine and then suddenly you find the patient deteriorated and it hits them suddenly and unfortunately they die,”
On Thursday night, 65-year-old Sabah Miree was admitted to the hospital with breathing problems. She was put on oxygen to help her breathe. Her two sisters had also caught the virus but their case was mild. Miree, who suffers from a heart problem, had to be hospitalized.
“This disease is not a game,” she said, describing what a struggle it is for her to keep breathing. “I would say to everyone to pay attention and not to take this lightly.”
A nationwide round-the-clock curfew imposed on Jan. 14 was extended on Thursday until Feb. 8 to help the health sector deal with the virus surge.
“I still have nightmares when I see a 30-year-old who passed away,” said Dr. Boukhalil. “The disease could have been prevented.”
“So stick with the lockdown ... it pays off,” he said.