Turkey faces renewed Salafist threat

Turkey faces renewed Salafist threat
2,000 Salafi associations are claimed to be preparing for a civil wa in the southeastern province of Batman. (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 21 September 2020

Turkey faces renewed Salafist threat

Turkey faces renewed Salafist threat
  • The groups are believed to be intimidating local people with death threats

JEDDAH: Islamist cult leader Ahmet Mahmut Unlu, a pro-government figure, announced that he is ready to name at least 150 Salafi associations, along with their locations, as part of preparations to fight in Turkey.

Quoted by Saygi Ozturk, a prominent journalist from Turkish newspaper Sozcu, Unlu also claimed that there are 2,000 Salafi associations around the country that are preparing for a civil war, especially in the southeastern provinces of Batman and Adiyaman.

The groups are believed to be intimidating local people with death threats and warning the government against implementing preventive measures against them.

Adiyaman was previously known as a hotspot for recruiting and deploying Daesh cells in Turkey.

The accusations were harshly refuted by Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who said the claims in the article were drafted with a “copy-paste” mentality.

In the meantime, a Turkish court recently sentenced Abu Hanzala, the leader of Daesh in Turkey, to 12 years and six months in jail. He has been imprisoned several times before in Turkey on suspicion of affiliation with Al-Qaeda and Daesh, but he was later freed due to the lack of evidence.

Colin Clarke, senior research fellow on terror financing networks with the Soufan Group, said that some Salafi groups might have struck a deal with the ruling government in Turkey.

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may very well view these groups as useful counterbalances to the Kurds, which has always been the number one issue for Ankara,” he told Arab News.

Clarke said Turkey pays lip service to fighting Daesh and other terrorist groups, but has only taken limited actions toward combating jihadists on Turkish soil.

Four years ago, Turkish police released a report about the presence of Salafist groups in Turkey, claiming that their numbers totaled over 20,000.

Matteo Pugliese, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Barcelona and associate research fellow at Milan-based think tank ISPI, said that at the beginning of the Syrian conflict Turkey facilitated the flow of foreign fighters through the border to weaken the Assad regime, which contributed to the strengthening of Salafi-jihadi groups, including Jabaat Al-Nusra and Daesh.

“Later, Turkey suffered a number of terrorist attacks from Daesh, especially in Istanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakir,” he told Arab News.

Experts said that Turkey supported some Salafist factions during the Syrian conflict to fight the Assad regime, but this made the country a corridor for fighters, along with Daesh and Al-Nusra.

Turkey was attacked several times by Daesh. The group killed 315 people in 10 suicide bombings, seven bomb attacks and four armed attacks.

The Salafist associations are believed to have grown root during this period, with an extremely sectarian discourse that was also found in the media. As these associations regularly engaged in humanitarian aid operations to the refugees, their widening presence in Turkish territories has been normalized.

“The attitude of the Turkish government slightly changed towards jihadists, but the main priority remained the fight against the Kurds. The Syrian militias used by the Turkish government to invade northern Syria and occupy strategic zones such as the Afrin canton and the Kobane area are full of jihadists who previously belonged to organizations such as Al-Nusra, Ahrar Al-Sham, Nour Al-Din Al-Zenki and even Daesh in some cases,” Pugliese said.

Pugliese said the Turkish government is most likely unfriendly with the Salafist domestic community, as Erdogan has strong relations with the Muslim Brotherhood.

“But I guess many Salafists like his religious policies. Turkey’s selective fight of terrorism undermines regional security. In that political environment radical Salafist ideas could flourish and find new recruits,” he said.

Pugliese said a strong intelligence and police campaign to find hundreds of former Daesh members in Turkey is needed, along with secular policies to tackle Salafist extremism.


UAE to restart accepting Filipino household service workers

UAE to restart accepting Filipino household service workers
Updated 32 sec ago

UAE to restart accepting Filipino household service workers

UAE to restart accepting Filipino household service workers
  • Agreement involves recruiting Filipino domestic workers via official entities from April 2021

DUBAI: The UAE will resume accepting Filipino household service workers (HSWs) next month after signing a labor agreement with the Philippines giving greater protection to home-based employees.

The agreement involves recruiting Filipino domestic workers via official entities from April 2021, which “will begin a new phase of bilateral cooperation between the two friendly countries in the recruitment of domestic workers,” Saif Al-Suwaidi, Undersecretary at the UAE Ministry for Human Resources Affairs said in a statement released by state news agency WAM.

The agreement will control and regulate the recruitment process, maintain the rights of all involved parties, and reduce the overall costs of this process, Al-Suwaidi added.

The deployment of Filipino domestic workers to UAE has been suspended since 2014 when the UAE stopped foreign embassies from verifying the contracts of their nationals serving as domestic helpers. Contract verification is required under Philippine law.

The new deployment scheme will now be covered by a Unified Employment Contract that provides stringent measures to protect HSWs pursuant to the directives of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, various Philippine media reports noted.

Under the unified contract, both the employer and the foreign recruitment agencies, and the Philippine recruitment agencies are bound by joint and solidary liability should anything happen to the Filipino workers.

The same provisions were in the standard employment contract being used in Kuwait, Philippine labor officials noted.

The UAE official also said discussions were held with their Philippine counterparts regarding “precautionary procedures implemented by the UAE to protect workers, including domestic workers, from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as its efforts to offer medical treatment to patients.”


Oman COVID-19 fatalities rise in February

Oman COVID-19 fatalities rise in February
Updated 33 min 17 sec ago

Oman COVID-19 fatalities rise in February

Oman COVID-19 fatalities rise in February
  • Sultanate has reported 1,5480 COVID-19 deaths so far this month

DUBAI: The number of COVID-19 related fatalities in Oman rose in February compared with the earlier month, health officials in the country said.

A total 41 were reported to have died from coronavirus complications last month compared with 30 in January, according to the latest Ministry of Health figures.

The Sultanate has reported 1,5480 COVID-19 deaths so far this month.

The Gulf country has expanded its immunization campaign against coronavirus, and now covers individuals aged 60 and above, whether or not the individuals are healthy, as well as patients suffering chronic diseases and health workers in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

“Some of this spread is due to the presence of rapidly spreading mutated strains of the virus,” according an earlier statement from the country’s Supreme Committee, which tasked with addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

A total 142,169 coronavirus cases have been reported overnight, with 132,945 of the patients making full recovery.

Health officials meanwhile said 19 people have been admitted to hospital with COVID symptoms over the last 24 hours, a report from Times of Oman said.


Israeli-owned cargo ship back at sea after suspected attack

Israeli-owned cargo ship back at sea after suspected attack
Updated 38 min 5 sec ago

Israeli-owned cargo ship back at sea after suspected attack

Israeli-owned cargo ship back at sea after suspected attack
  • The MV Helios Ray was sailing along the Omani coast toward the Arabian Sea
  • The suspected attack has raised tensions in the region

DUBAI: An Israeli-owned cargo ship that suffered a mysterious explosion last week has left Dubai’s port and was transiting the Gulf of Oman on Wednesday, satellite tracking data showed. The suspected attack has raised tensions in the region.
The giant MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship, was sailing along the Omani coast toward the Arabian Sea, according to satellite-tracking data from website MarineTraffic.com, days after docking in Dubai for repairs. Overnight, the vessel passed through the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Arabian Gulf through which a third of the world’s oil flows. Its destination remained unclear.
Last week, a blast struck the cargo ship in the same waterway, raising alarms about ship security in the Mideast. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Israel’s regional foe Iran of attacking the ship. Iran swiftly denied the charge.
Tensions between Iran and the West have escalated in recent weeks as Iran accelerates its nuclear program, seeking to pressure the United States to grant sanctions relief it received under its tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. In the current standoff, each side is insisting the other move first to return to the deal, which former President Donald Trump abandoned nearly three years ago.
It remains unclear what caused the explosion, which reportedly punched two holes in the vessel’s port side and two on its starboard side, just above the waterline. The incident recalled the summer of 2019, when the US military blamed Iran for a series of suspected attacks on oil tankers in the Arabian Gulf. The Navy had alleged that Iran used limpet mines — designed to be attached magnetically to a ship’s hull — to strike some of the vessels. Iran denied any role in the suspected assaults.


Dubai expands coverage of COVID-19 vaccination program

Dubai expands coverage of COVID-19 vaccination program
Updated 03 March 2021

Dubai expands coverage of COVID-19 vaccination program

Dubai expands coverage of COVID-19 vaccination program
  • Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can also now be administered to all individuals 16 years and above
  • Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can now be injected to anyone aged 18 and above

DUBAI: Dubai has expanded the coverage of its COVID-19 vaccination program, with residents aged 40 and above holding valid resident visas now allowed to register and receive jabs at any of the emirate’s inoculation facilities.

Dubai’s health authority likewise said that elderly individuals aged 60 and above with a valid resident visa issued in any emirate can register for the vaccine, provided they can prove they are residing in Dubai, according to state news agency WAM.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can also now be administered to all individuals 16 years and above, instead of 18 years, while the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can now be injected to anyone aged 18 and above, instead of those between 18-65 years.

Gulf nationals with a valid Emirates ID can also now get vaccinated at Dubai health facilities, the report added.

The UAE, which leads the world on COVID-19 vaccinations, has embarked on a widescale campaign to inoculation to achieve mass immunity and will help reduce the number of cases and control the spread of coronavirus.

About 66,539 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered overnight, bring the total doses at 6,094,956 with a rate of vaccine distribution of 61.62 doses per 100 people.

Health officials meanwhile confirmed 2,721 new infections overnight, bringing the total number of recorded cases in the UAE to 396,771.


Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French prosecutors

Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French  prosecutors
In this file photo taken on May 22, 2017, smoke rises from buildings following a reported air strike on a rebel-held area in the southern Syrian city of Daraa. (AFP)
Updated 03 March 2021

Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French prosecutors

Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French  prosecutors
  • People in Khartoum watch a movie at the Sudanese European Film Festival at an outdoor cinema for visitors adhering to COVID-19 restrictions. (AFP)

PARIS: Lawyers representing survivors of a chemical weapons attack in 2013 in Syria have filed a criminal complaint against Syrian officials whom they blame for the deaths of hundreds of civilians in a rebel-held area.
France is home to thousands of Syrian refugees, and its investigating judges have a mandate to determine whether crimes against humanity were committed anywhere in the world.
The case, which about a dozen people have joined, follows a similar one opened in Germany last year. It offers a rare legal avenue for action against the government of President Bashar Assad.
Attempts by Western powers to set up an international tribunal for Syria have been blocked by Russia and China at the UN Security Council.
“This is important so that the victims have the possibility to see those responsible being brought to justice and held accountable,” Mazen Darwish, who heads the Paris-based Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), said.
The SCM filed the complaint along with two other NGOs: the Open Society Foundation’s Justice Initiative and Syrian Archive.

BACKGROUND

France is home to thousands of Syrian refugees, and its investigating judges have a mandate to determine whether crimes against humanity were committed anywhere in the world.

France’s intelligence services concluded in 2013 that a sarin gas attack on the Eastern Ghouta region just south east of Damascus that killed 1,400 people had been carried out by Syrian government forces.
The complaint is based on what the lawyers say is the most comprehensive body of evidence on the use of substances such as sarin gas in Syria.
“We have compiled extensive evidence establishing exactly who is responsible for these attacks on Douma and Eastern Ghouta, whose horrific effects continue to impact survivors,” said Hadi Al-Khatib, founder and director of Syrian Archive.
A UN-commissioned investigation to identify those behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria concluded in 2016 that Syrian government forces had used chlorine and sarin gas.
Darwish said he expected another case to be opened in Sweden in the coming months.