Hundreds in Baghdad demand ouster of US troops from Iraq

Hundreds in Baghdad demand ouster of US troops from Iraq
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Iraqi riot policemen stand guard during a demonstration by supporters of the Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary forces outside the entrance to Baghdad’s Green Zone on November 7, 2020. (AFP)
Hundreds in Baghdad demand ouster of US troops from Iraq
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Supporter of the Iran-backed Hashed Al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization) paramilitary forces chant slogans during a demonstration outside the entrance to the Iraqi capital Baghdad’s highly-fortified Green Zone on November 7, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 07 November 2020

Hundreds in Baghdad demand ouster of US troops from Iraq

Hundreds in Baghdad demand ouster of US troops from Iraq
  • The US has sent thousands of troops to Iraq since 2014 to lead an international coalition helping Baghdad fight Daesh
  • Starting in October 2019, rockets regularly targeted those troops as well as diplomats at the US embassy

BAGHDAD: Several hundred protesters gathered in the Iraqi capital on Saturday afternoon to demand US troops leave the country in accordance with a parliament vote earlier this year.
“We will choose resistance if parliament’s vote is not ratified!” read one of the banners at the demonstration, which took place near an entrance to the high-security Green Zone, where the US embassy and other foreign missions are located.
Others carried signs bearing the logo of Hashed Al-Shaabi, a state-sponsored network of armed groups including many supported by Iraq’s powerful neighbor Iran.
Following a US strike on Baghdad in January that killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and the Hashed’s deputy head, outraged Iraqi parliamentarians voted to oust all foreign forces deployed in the country.
The US has sent thousands of troops to Iraq since 2014 to lead an international coalition helping Baghdad fight Daesh.
Washington has drawn down those forces in recent months to around 3,000, and other coalition countries have also shrunk their footprint.
Starting in October 2019, rockets regularly targeted those troops as well as diplomats at the US embassy.
Over the summer, there was a marked increase in attacks against coalition logistics convoys using roadside bombs.
Enraged by the ongoing attacks, the US in late September threatened to close its Baghdad embassy and carry out bombing raids against hard-line elements of the Hashed.
Pro-Iran factions announced a temporary truce in October that put an end to the attacks, with no rockets targeting the embassy or foreign troops since.
Iraq has long been caught in the struggle for influence between its two main allies, the US and Iran, with the tug-of-war intensifying under US President Donald Trump.
Baghdad has been closely monitoring the results of the US presidential elections, seeing a change in the White House as a sign that tensions between Washington and Tehran could decrease.


Sudan arrests 3 coup critics as pressure mounts on military

Sudan arrests 3 coup critics as pressure mounts on military
Updated 5 sec ago

Sudan arrests 3 coup critics as pressure mounts on military

Sudan arrests 3 coup critics as pressure mounts on military
  • The overnight arrests came as protests denouncing Monday’s takeover continued in the capital of Khartoum and elsewhere

CAIRO: Sudanese security forces detained three prominent pro-democracy figures, according to their relatives and other activists on Wednesday, as internal and international pressure mounted on the country’s military to walk back its coup.
The overnight arrests came as protests denouncing Monday’s takeover continued in the capital of Khartoum and elsewhere, and many businesses shut in response to calls for strikes. Security forces kept up their heavy-handed response, chasing demonstrators in several neighborhoods late Tuesday, according to activists who said some were shot and wounded. At least six people have been killed in protests so far, according to doctors.
The coup threatens to halt Sudan’s fitful transition to democracy, which began after the 2019 ouster of long-time ruler Omar Al-Bashir and his Islamist government in a popular uprising. It came after weeks of mounting tensions between military and civilian leaders over the course and pace of that process.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the military’s takeover was a “catastrophic development,” warning that it would have “severe consequences” for Sudan’s recent efforts to reintegrate into the international community after nearly three decades of isolation under Al-Bashir.
“It is putting the country in a perilous situation and is calling the Sudan’s democratic and peaceful future ... into question,” he said in a statement Tuesday.
Following widespread international condemnation, the military allowed deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his wife to return home on Tuesday night. Hamdok, a former UN economist, was detained along with other government officials when the military seized power.
Several Western embassies in Khartoum said Wednesday they will continue to recognize Hamdok and his Cabinet as “the constitutional leaders of the transitional government” of Sudan.
In a joint statement, the embassies of the European Union, the US, the UK, France and several other European countries called for the release of other detained officials and for talks between the military and the pro-democracy movement.
The new strongman, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, has pledged to hold elections, as planned, in July 2023, and to appoint a technocrat government in the meantime.
But critics doubt the military is serious about eventually ceding control, noting that the coup came just weeks before Burhan was supposed to hand over the leadership of the top ruling body, the Sovereign Council, to a civilian. The council is made up of both civilian and military leaders but led by a general. Separately, Hamdok’s transitional government ran day-to-day affairs.
The activists taken overnight were Ismail Al-Taj, a leader of the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, the group at the forefront of the protests that brought down Al-Bashir; Sediq Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi, a leader in Sudan’s largest political party, known as Umma and brother of Foreign Minister Mariam Al-Mahdi; and Khalid Al-Silaik, a former media adviser to the prime minister.
The three have been outspoken critics of the military takeover — and have called for protests against the move. Already, tens of thousands of Sudanese have taken to the streets, and activists are planning a mass demonstration on Saturday.
Security forces confronting protesters have killed at least six people since Monday and wounded over 140 others, many in critical condition, according to physicians with the Sudan Doctors’ Committee.
Al-Silaik was detained moments after he gave an interview to broadcaster Al-Jazeera, according to his wife, Marwa Kamel. In the interview, he criticized the military’s takeover, calling Hamdok and his government the legitimate administration of Sudan.
“What Gen. Burhan did is a complete coup. ... People will respond to this in the coming days,” Al-Silaik said.
Activists Nazim Siraj and Nazik Awad and the Umma party confirmed the arrests of the other two figures.
On Monday, Burhan, the head of the military, dissolved the Sovereign Council and the transitional government, and declared a state of emergency. He alleged that the military was forced to step in to prevent the country from sliding into civil war — but he had repeatedly warned he wanted to delay the transition to civilian leadership of the council.


Lebanon’s politician Geagea misses hearing over Beirut violence

Lebanon’s politician Geagea misses hearing over Beirut violence
Updated 27 October 2021

Lebanon’s politician Geagea misses hearing over Beirut violence

Lebanon’s politician Geagea misses hearing over Beirut violence

BEIRUT: Supporters of the Christian Lebanese Forces party on Wednesday blocked roads to leader Samir Geagea’s residence as he failed to turn up for a hearing at army intelligence over fatal clashes in Beirut.
Geagea was summoned to the hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday, amid claims by the Iran-backed Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement that Lebanese Forces (LF) supporters shot dead seven of their followers in clashes on Oct. 14.
Geagea has denied the claims and said he is being unfairly targetted for his support of a probe by Judge Tarek Bitar into the August 2020 Beirut port explosion that Hezbollah opposes.
“We won’t let anyone, not Hezbollah nor Iran nor Syria or anyone try to subjugate us,” LF protester Fadi told Reuters.
“We are here today in 2021 sacrificing for Samir Geagea just like he sacrified for us in 1994 so Lebanon could remain and we could remain,” Fadi, who did not give his last name, said.
Geagea, a former warlord, was imprisoned after Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war and released in 2005 following the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after three decades of occupation.


UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking

UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking
Updated 27 October 2021

UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking

UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking
  • The Al-Nasr Martyrs detention center is located in the western town of Zawiya
  • A spokesman for the Libyan government did not answer calls seeking comment

CAIRO: The United Nations Security Council and the United States have imposed sanctions on a Libyan official over the alleged abuse and torture of migrants in a detention center.
The Security Council and the US said in separate statements late Tuesday that Osama Al-Kuni is the de facto head of a detention center in the North African nation’s west. Migrants there are said to have been subjected to torture, sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking.
Libya emerged as a major conduit for African migrants hoping to reach Europe after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed the country’s longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The country subsequently slid into chaos, with rival governments and parliaments based in its western and eastern regions, each backed by different militias and tribes.
The Al-Nasr Martyrs detention center is located in the western town of Zawiya, home of two of the country’s most wanted human traffickers, Abdel-Rahman Milad, and militia leader Mohammed Kachlaf.
Both Milad and Kachlaf were sanctioned by the Security Council in 2018 over allegations of human trafficking and abuse of migrants.
A spokesman for the Libyan government did not answer calls seeking comment.
In its statement Tuesday, the UN sanctions committee said Al-Kuni “has acted for or on behalf of or at the direction” of Milad and Kachlaf.
The Department of the Treasury blamed Al-Kuni on “systematic exploitation of African migrants at the detention center where these migrants are subject to various human rights abuses.”
It said he or others under his direction “have been involved in or facilitated the killing, exploitation, abuse, and extortion of migrants at the detention center, including through sexual violence, beatings, starvation, and other mistreatment.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the Libyan government to hold Al-Kuni and others implicated in human rights abuses accountable.
Libya holds migrants in overcrowded detention centers, like Al-Nasr, where torture, sexual assault and other abuses are rife. Detention center guards beat and tortured migrants, then extorted money from their relatives, supposedly in exchange for their freedom, The Associated Press reported earlier this month.
UN-commissioned investigators said earlier this month that abuse and ill treatment of migrants in Libya amount to crimes against humanity.


Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation

Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation
Updated 27 October 2021

Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation

Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation
  • The airport was closed from Monday following the ousting of Sudan's government by the military

KHARTOUM: Khartoum International Airport will reopen on Wednesday at 1400 GMT, the head of Sudanese civil aviation told Reuters.
The airport was closed from Monday following the ousting of Sudan's government by the military.


Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media

Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media
Updated 27 October 2021

Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media

Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media
  • Details of the attack and its source are under investigation

DUBAI: Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported on Wednesday that gasoline distribution is returning to normal a day after a cyberattack which affected 4,300 gas stations across the country.
The details of the attack and its source are under investigation, Abul-Hassan Firouzabadi, the Secretary of the Supreme Council to Regulate Virtual Space, told the news agency.