US suspending visa services in Turkey

US suspending visa services in Turkey
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Turkish police officers patrol near the side entrance of the US Embassy in Ankara, after it suspended its visa services on Friday. (AFP/File)
US suspending visa services in Turkey
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The US Embassy in Ankara said on Friday it was temporarily suspending all American citizen and visa services at missions in Turkey. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 24 October 2020

US suspending visa services in Turkey

US suspending visa services in Turkey
  • US Embassy issues security alert to foreign citizens in the country after ‘credible reports’ of attacks and kidnappings

ANKARA: Turkey is facing the specter of a growing terror threat after the US Embassy in Ankara suspended its visa services on Friday and issued a security alert to foreign citizens in the country.

The US mission cited “credible reports” of potential attacks and kidnappings of foreign nationals, and urged US citizens to “exercise heightened caution” in public places, including offices and shopping malls.
Staff at US missions in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir and Adana were told to stay alert and keep a low profile, while foreigners were advised to avoid crowds.
“The US mission in Turkey has received credible reports of potential terrorist attacks and kidnappings against US citizens and foreign nationals in Istanbul, including against the US Consulate General, as well as potentially other locations in Turkey,” the embassy said.
Arab News has asked the US Embassy in Ankara for additional details on the security threat.
The terror threat comes as the US focuses on the forthcoming presidential elections and Turkey begins its withdrawal from some key observation points in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province.
Syrians linked to Daesh were recently released from Al-Hol camp in Syria, posing another security threat because of the porous border between the two countries.
Experts believe the latest terror threat is probably linked to Daesh.
“Foreign missions in Turkey sometimes coordinate with Turkish officials by releasing similar statements about the terror threats they perceive,” Mete Sohtaoglu, a security analyst, told Arab News.
“These tactics are designed to detect terror groups because the alerts can activate dormant cells preparing an attack,” he added.

FASTFACT

Staff at US missions in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir and Adana were told to stay alert and keep a low profile, while foreigners were advised to avoid crowds.

Security at US missions in Turkey has been tightened recently with many Americans visiting the consulate and embassy buildings to post their ballots.  
Erol Bural, a former military officer and head of Ankara-based Countering Terrorism and Radicalization Research Center, said the threat to the US diplomatic missions in Turkey is likely to come from the extreme left-wing Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C) or Daesh.
The DHKP-C has been operating in Turkey for decades and has carried out several lethal bomb attacks — one against the US Embassy in Ankara in 2013 that killed a Turkish security guard.
In the past, coordination between US and Turkish security officials has led to several DHKP-C cells being uncovered.
“Terror alerts are an integral part of counterterrorism efforts in Turkey,” Bural said.
“The timing of this alert raises questions about why the terror threat is increasing when Turkey has increased its counterterrorism efforts against Daesh cells around the country.”
In Turkey’s deadliest terror attack, twin suicide bombings carried out by Daesh at a rally in Ankara in October, 2015 claimed 103 lives and injured more than 400 people.
Police recently arrested dozens of people in Istanbul over their links to the DHKP-C, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and EU.


Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic

Updated 05 December 2020

Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic

Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic
  • More than 567,000 voters will be eligible to choose among the 326 candidates contesting the vote
  • Kuwait has a lively political life with a parliament elected for four-year terms

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait is holding parliamentary elections Saturday under the shadow of Covid-19, with facilities laid on for citizens infected with the disease to vote in special polling stations.
The oil-rich country has enforced some of the strictest regulations in the Gulf to combat the spread of the coronavirus, imposing a months-long nationwide lockdown earlier this year.
But while some curbs have eased, over-the-top election events that traditionally draw thousands for lavish banquets are out, masks remain mandatory and temperature checks are routine when venturing outdoors.
Infected people or those under mandatory quarantine are usually confined to home, with electronic wristbands monitoring their movements.
But in an effort to include all constituents, authorities have designated five schools — one in each electoral district — where they can vote, among the 102 polling stations across the country.
Election officials are expected to be in full personal protective equipment.
Kuwait has a lively political life with a parliament elected for four-year terms that enjoys wide legislative powers.
Political disputes are often fought out in the open.
Parties are neither banned nor recognized, but many groups — including Islamists — operate freely as de facto parties.
But with more than 143,917 coronavirus cases to date, including 886 deaths, the election campaign has been toned down this year.

A worker cleans desks at a polling station ahead of parliamentary elections in Abdullah Salem, Kuwait, on December 3, 2020. (REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee)

The polls, which open at 8:00 a.m. (0500 GMT), will be the first since the new emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, took office in September following the death of his half-brother, 91-year-old Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.
But with the opposition weakened in recent years, no major political shifts are expected.
A few electoral banners dotted through the streets have been the only reminder of the nation’s political calendar.
Instead, this year’s campaign has mainly been fought on social networks and in the media.
More than 567,000 Kuwaiti voters will be eligible to choose among the 326 candidates contesting the vote, including 29 women.
Ahmad Deyain, secretary general of the opposition group Kuwaiti Progressive Movement, said he expected a lower voter turnout than previous years after the dulled-down campaign.
The usual themes are a constant though, from promises to fight corruption and plans to address youth employment, to freedom of expression, housing, education and the thorny issue of the “bidoon,” Kuwait’s stateless minority.
From 2009 to 2013, and especially after the Arab Spring revolts of 2011, the country went through a period of political turmoil, with parliament and cabinets dissolved several times after disputes between lawmakers and the ruling family-led government.
“Kuwait is still undergoing a political crisis since 2011, and that page has not yet turned,” Deyain told AFP.
“There are still disputes over the electoral system and mismanagement of state funds.
Deyain said he expected some parliamentarians in the new National Assembly to be “more dynamic” in trying to resolve some issues.
Kuwait was the first Gulf Arab state to adopt a parliamentary system in 1962, and women in 2005 won the right to vote and to stand for election.