Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report

Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report
In this file photo taken on December 16, 2019, the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone is pictured at Gecitkale military airbase near Famagusta in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. (AFP)
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Updated 25 September 2021

Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report

Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report
  • Morocco already uses drones for intelligence and surveillance operations along its borders

RABAT: Morocco took delivery earlier this month of Turkish combat drones, the Far-Maroc unofficial website dedicated to military news reported.
The report, also carried by several local media outlets, comes as tensions have spiked between Morocco and neighboring Algeria in recent weeks.
The two countries are mainly at odds over the disputed Western Sahara territory, and Algeria severed ties with Morocco in August claiming “provocations and hostile” action by its neighbor.
Relations took another blow this week when Algeria on Wednesday said it has closed off its airspace to all Moroccan civilian and military traffic.
According to Far-Maroc, the North African kingdom ordered 13 Bayraktar TB2 drones from Turkey in April and a first batch of the unmanned aircraft arrived this month.
Rabat, said the report, seeks to “modernize the arsenal of the Moroccan Armed Forces (FAR) in order to prepare for any danger and recent hostilities,” but did not elaborate on these topics.
It did however add that Moroccan military personnel have trained in Turkey in recent weeks to work with the drones.
Media reports said Morocco signed a $70 million contract with the private Turkish company Baykar.
The firm is run by one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-laws and has been exporting its Bayraktar TB2 model to Ukraine, Qatar and Azerbaijan for some years.
According to the company’s website, the Bayraktar TB2 is a “medium altitude long endurance tactical unmanned aerial vehicle capable of conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and armed attack missions” with a range of up to 27 hours.
Morocco already uses drones for intelligence and surveillance operations along its borders, according to military experts.
The Western Sahara dispute pits Morocco against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front which fought a war of independence with Rabat from 1975 to 1991.
Morocco laid claim to the former Spanish colony with rich phosphate resources and offshore fisheries after Spain withdrew in 1975, and controls around 80 percent of it.
Rabat has offered autonomy there and maintains the territory is a sovereign part of the kingdom but the Polisario is demanding a referendum on self-determination, in line with the terms of a 1991 UN-backed cease-fire deal.
Tensions rose sharply in November when Morocco sent troops into a buffer zone to reopen the only road linking Morocco to Mauritania and the rest of West Africa. The road had been blocked by the separatists.


US bombing run over Syrian dam risked tens of thousands of deaths: Report

US bombing run over Syrian dam risked tens of thousands of deaths: Report
Updated 5 sec ago

US bombing run over Syrian dam risked tens of thousands of deaths: Report

US bombing run over Syrian dam risked tens of thousands of deaths: Report
  • Special forces used ‘emergency’ protocol to launch strike, ignoring Pentagon warning
  • Attack shocked US Air Force personnel, military planners: New York Times

LONDON: A covert US task force came close to decimating a major area in Syria by bombing a dam that the Pentagon had put on a “no-strike list,” a new report claims.

In 2017, the American unit bombed the Tabqa dam on the Euphrates in eastern Syria, upstream of Raqqa, where Daesh fighters were occupying the control towers.

When the attack was originally reported, the US and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces claimed that limited munitions were used to seize the location, with the head of the anti-Daesh coalition describing rumors that it was bombed as “crazy reporting.”

But new analysis by the New York Times, which has uncovered and reviewed a slurry of bombing incidents from the war against Daesh, claimed that three 2,000-lb bombs were deployed.

The attack risked tens of thousands of lives, destroying the dam’s machinery and requiring emergency intervention to prevent the reservoir from flooding. The dam was only saved due to a “bunker-buster” bomb failing to explode.

On March 26, 2017, as the SDF closed in on Raqqa, the US launched the strike with support from its Kurdish allies on the ground, with whom it had established a close relationship for calling in high-powered attacks.

The SDF called for a B-52 — the long-range strategic bomber that has been in continual service since the 1950s — as the fighting party was being blocked from advancing by Daesh fighters further ahead up the reservoir.

Spotting the Islamists in fortified positions in the control towers, a bombing run was requested.

Task Force 9 — the US Special Operations force working alongside the SDF on the Raqqa advance — was warned that the dam should not be bombed when it asked the Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency to determine which munitions could be used.

But the unit ignored this advice, using an emergency protocol that allowed it to call in airstrikes beyond the ordinary chain of command during sudden life-threatening moments, such as the battle with Daesh at the reservoir.

However, crew logs from the B-52 flight that undertook the bombing run said it had been required for “terrain denial,” with no reference to lives being at risk from Daesh fighters.

The bombing run was devastating. Fifty feet of water quickly rose as the machinery was bust, with dams on the Euphrates in Turkey further upstream rushing to slow the flow.

A one-day ceasefire was called to allow a group of 16 engineers from all sides of the conflict to lift the floodgates and prevent further damage.

Three of those engineers were killed after they had successfully used a crane to lift the gates, bombed by a drone while driving home.

The dam strike reportedly shocked US Air Force personnel and military planners. Scott Murray, a retired USAF colonel, was quoted by the NYT as saying: “Using a 2,000 lb bomb against a restricted target like a dam is extremely difficult and should have never been done on the fly. Worst case, those munitions could have absolutely caused the dam to fail.”

The Pentagon defended the strike, saying it had targeted the dam’s control towers, not its structure.

“Analysis had confirmed that strikes on the towers attached to the dam were not considered likely to cause structural damage to the Tabqa dam itself,” said Bill Urban, a US Central Command spokesman, adding that the dam had not collapsed. “That analysis has proved accurate.”


More than 70 dead in fighting after Syria jail attack

More than 70 dead in fighting after Syria jail attack
Updated 22 January 2022

More than 70 dead in fighting after Syria jail attack

More than 70 dead in fighting after Syria jail attack
  • Daesh launched the attack on Thursday night against the prison housing some 3,500 suspected members of the militant group

BEIRUT: Fighting raged for a third day Saturday between the Daesh group and Kurdish forces in Syria after Daesh attacked a prison housing militants, in violence that has claimed over 70 lives, a monitor said.
The assault on the Ghwayran prison in the northern city of Hasakah is one of Daesh’s most significant since its “caliphate” was declared defeated in Syria nearly three years ago.
“At least 28 members of the Kurdish security forces, five civilians and 45 members of Daesh have been killed” in the violence, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Daesh launched the attack on Thursday night against the prison housing some 3,500 suspected members of the militant group, including some of its leaders, said the Observatory.
Hundreds of militant inmates had since been detained and around 10 were believed to have escaped, said the Observatory, a Britain-based monitor that relies on sources inside war-torn Syria for its information.
“The exceptional situation continues in and around the prison,” said Farhad Shami, spokesman for the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The fighting on Saturday morning was taking place north of the prison, he added.
The militant group said in a statement released by its Amaq news agency that its attack on the jail aimed to “free the prisoners.”
Daesh has carried out regular attacks against Kurdish and government targets in Syria since the rump of its once-sprawling proto-state was overrun on the banks of the Euphrates in March 2019.
Most of their guerrilla attacks have been against military targets and oil installations in remote areas, but the Hasakah prison break could mark a new phase in the group’s resurgence.
The Kurdish authorities have long warned they do not have the capacity to hold, let alone put on trial, the thousands of Daesh fighters captured in years of operations.
According to Kurdish authorities, more than 50 nationalities are represented in a number of Kurdish-run prisons, where more than 12,000 Daesh suspects are now held.
The war in Syria broke out in 2011 and has since killed close to half a million people and spurred the largest conflict-induced displacement since World War II.


Oman issues new COVID-19 measures due to spike in infections

Oman issues new COVID-19 measures due to spike in infections
Updated 22 January 2022

Oman issues new COVID-19 measures due to spike in infections

Oman issues new COVID-19 measures due to spike in infections
  • Government units and other public entities will limit their workplace capacities to 50 percent
  • The Sultanate suspended Friday prayers but allowed mosques to remain open at a 50 percent capacity

DUBAI: Oman has updated its coronavirus precautionary measures effective for two weeks starting on Jan. 23 due to a sharp spike in COVID-19 infections.
Government units and other public entities will limit their workplace capacities to 50 percent, state news agency ONA reported.
The government has further suspended all conferences and exhibitions. Congregational activities have also been halted and organizers have been advised to hold them without audiences. Participants and organizers would now also be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
The Sultanate further suspended Friday prayers but allowed mosques to remain open at a 50 percent capacity.
The country’s Supreme Committee has called on all public establishments to stick to the measures set for their businesses, including operating at a capacity of 50 percent, requiring proofs of vaccination for customers, observing physical distancing and wearing of face masks.
Oman shifted to distance learning for all schools earlier this month for four weeks as a precaution against the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.


US Treasury imposes more sanctions on Hezbollah-linked Lebanese individuals

US Treasury imposes more sanctions on Hezbollah-linked Lebanese individuals
Updated 22 January 2022

US Treasury imposes more sanctions on Hezbollah-linked Lebanese individuals

US Treasury imposes more sanctions on Hezbollah-linked Lebanese individuals
  • Lebanon’s economy has been in crisis since 2019 when it collapsed under a mountain of debt

WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on three Lebanese nationals and 10 companies it said were part of an international Hezbollah network, accusing them of evading sanctions on the powerful group with an armed militia that is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by Washington.
The US Treasury Department in a statement said it designated Adnan Ayad, who it said was a Hezbollah member and businessman, as well as other members of an international network of facilitators and companies connected to him and his business partner, Adel Diab, who was designated by Washington on Tuesday.
Friday’s move comes after the United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on three businessmen, including Diab, with ties to Hezbollah, saying their activity as financial facilitators for the Iran-backed group was exploiting Lebanon’s economic resources at a time of crisis for that country.
“Treasury is committed to disrupting Hizballah’s illicit activity and attempts to evade sanctions through business networks while the group doubles down on corrupt patronage networks in Lebanon,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in the statement on Friday.
Lebanon’s economy has been in crisis since 2019 when it collapsed under a mountain of debt. Its currency plunged to a new low last week, and swaths of the country have been driven into poverty.
Lebanon’s Cabinet will hold its first meeting in three months next week, local media reported on Monday, after Hezbollah and another group, Amal, ended their boycott of the Cabinet over the weekend.
The two groups, which back several ministers, had been boycotting the Cabinet in a dispute over the conduct of an investigation into a huge explosion at Beirut’s port in 2020.


Coalition denies targeting detention center in Yemen

Coalition denies targeting detention center in Yemen
Updated 22 January 2022

Coalition denies targeting detention center in Yemen

Coalition denies targeting detention center in Yemen
  • Coalition blames the Iran-backed Houthi militia for spreading misinformation

RIYADH: The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen said media reports about it targeting a detention center in Saada are false.
The coalition blamed the Iran-backed Houthi militia for spreading misinformation, saying it fits the group’s usual deceptive approach.
The Coalition’s Joint Forces Command will brief the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Yemen and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the facts and details, Al Ekhbariya reported early on Saturday.