Iran-backed armed factions rally in Iraq for anniversary of warlord’s death

Iran-backed armed factions rally in Iraq for anniversary of warlord’s death
Members and supporters of Iraq’s Al-Hashed Al-Shaabi ex-paramilitary alliance took part in the demonstration and a symbolic funeral for slain top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani. (Sabah Arar/AFP)
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Updated 02 January 2022

Iran-backed armed factions rally in Iraq for anniversary of warlord’s death

Iran-backed armed factions rally in Iraq for anniversary of warlord’s death
  • Chanting “Death to America,” the protests filled a Baghdad square to honor Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani
  • Qassem Soleimani died in a US drone strike at Baghdad airport in January 2020

BAGHDAD/JEDDAH: Iran-backed armed factions in Iraq rallied their supporters in Baghdad on Saturday in a show of strength to mark the second anniversary of the death of Iranian warlord Qassem Soleimani.

Soleimani, head of the Quds Force, the foreign expeditionary arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was killed in a US drone strike at Baghdad airport on Jan. 3, 2020.

His Iraqi lieutenant, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, deputy head of the Hashd Al-Shaabi paramilitary alliance, was also killed in the strike.

Thousands of Hashd supporters, some with their children, chanted “Death to America” as they marched into a square in central Baghdad on Saturday.

Some unfurled large white flags emblazoned with the Hashd insignia, as well as Iraq’s national flag, while others held pictures of Soleimani and Al-Muhandis.

Senior Hashd official Faleh Al-Fayyad said the killing of Soleimani and Al-Muhandis was “a crime against Iraqi sovereignty,” and demanded that the US complete its military withdrawal from Iraq.

FASTFACT

The Hashd Al-Shaabi are on the back foot after their political wing, the Fatah alliance, lost two-thirds of its seats in elections in October, and its legal challenge to the election results was thrown out last week by the Supreme Court.

“US terrorism has to end” read one sign at the rally by backers of the pro-Iranian Hashed, a former paramilitary alliance that has been integrated into Iraq’s state security apparatus.
Former US president Donald Trump ordered the strike that killed Soleimani near Baghdad’s airport along with his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Hamdi Al-Muhandis, Hashed’s deputy.
Trump said at the time that the assassination came in response to a wave of attacks on US interests in Iraq.
The killing of Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s Middle Eastern military strategy, sent shock waves across the region and sparked fears of a direct military confrontation between decades-old arch enemies Washington and Tehran.
The Islamic republic, which wields considerable influence in neighboring Iraq, warned it would avenge Soleimani’s death.
Five days after his killing, Iran fired missiles at an air base in Iraq housing US troops and another near Irbil in the north.
Since then dozens of rockets and roadside bombs have targeted Western security, military and diplomatic sites across Iraq.
Iraqi and Western officials have blamed hard-line pro-Iran factions for the attacks, which have never been claimed by any group.
In February last year, the US carried out an air strike against Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary force stationed along the Iraqi-Syrian border, following rocket attacks on its Baghdad embassy and a US military contracting firm north of the capital.
Hashed has repeatedly called for the withdrawal of US troops who are deployed in Iraq as part of a multinational coalition fighting jihadists of the Daesh group.
Senior Hashed official Faleh Al-Fayyad reiterated the demand Saturday, saying the killing of Soleimani and Muhandis was “a crime against Iraqi sovereignty.”
In December, Iraq announced the end of the “combat mission” there of the US-led coalition against the IS. But about 2,500 American soldiers and 1,000 coalition troops will remain deployed in Iraq to offer training, advice and assistance to national forces.

(With AFP)

 


Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians
Updated 5 sec ago

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians
DUBAI: Iran is ready to swap prisoners with the United States, its foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying on Wednesday, calling on President Joe Biden’s administration to “act instead of performing theatrical shows.”
Tehran has sought the release of over a dozen Iranians in the United States, including seven Iranian-American dual nationals, two Iranians with permanent US residency and four Iranian citizens with no legal status in the United States.
“We are ready to swap prisoners with Washington ... The US must release jailed Iranian citizens without any conditions,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani as saying.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that Siamak Namazi had now spent 2,500 days “wrongfully detained” in Iran and Washington was determined to secure the freedom of all Americans held by its Middle East adversary.
Kanaani spoke as Tehran and Washington sought to revive a 2015 nuclear pact after lengthy negotiations. The European Union and United States said on Tuesday they were studying Iran’s response to what the EU has called its “final” proposal to save the deal, after Tehran called on Washington to show flexibility.

Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic representation -- Israeli PM statement

 Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic representation -- Israeli PM statement
Updated 3 min 5 sec ago

Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic representation -- Israeli PM statement

 Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic representation -- Israeli PM statement

 Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic representation -- Israeli PM statement  


Egypt’s FM addresses Caribbean meeting on climate change

Egypt’s FM addresses Caribbean meeting on climate change
Updated 17 August 2022

Egypt’s FM addresses Caribbean meeting on climate change

Egypt’s FM addresses Caribbean meeting on climate change

CAIRO: In his capacity as president-designate of the 27th UN Climate Change Conference, Egypt’s foreign minister delivered a speech via video at the opening of a Caribbean regional meeting on climate change, hosted by the Bahamas.

Sameh Shoukry presented Egypt’s vision for the UN conference and the most prominent topics on its agenda.

He stressed the importance of shifting from promises to implementation, and of mobilizing the necessary support for global climate action.

Shoukry highlighted the need to support developing countries, including island nations, against the repercussions of climate change.

Before participating in the meeting, he held a video conference call with the Bahamas’ Prime Minister Philip Davis.


Syria denies holding US journalist Tice captive

Syria denies holding US journalist Tice captive
Updated 53 min 25 sec ago

Syria denies holding US journalist Tice captive

Syria denies holding US journalist Tice captive
  • US is certain Tice is being held by the government of President Bashar Assad

DAMASCUS: The Syrian government on Wednesday denied holding American nationals captive, including journalist Austin Tice who was abducted a decade ago in Damascus.
It issued a statement in response to US President Jo Biden saying last week that he knows “with certainty” that Tice “has been held by the Syrian regime,” and calling on Damascus to help bring him home.
The foreign ministry denied the accusation in a statement carried by the official SANA news agency.
“The Syrian Arab Republic denies that it has kidnapped or forcibly disappeared any American citizen who entered its territory or resided in areas under its authority,” the statement said.
It said it would only accept “official dialogue or communication with the American administration if the talks are public and premised on a respect for Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”
Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organizations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on August 14, 2012.
Thirty-one years old at the time he went missing, Tice appeared blindfolded in the custody of an unidentified group of armed men in a video a month later, but there has been little news of him since.
Biden’s statement came on the tenth anniversary of Tice’s disappearance.
“There is no higher priority in my administration than the recovery and return of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad,” Biden said.
The previous administration under Donald Trump sent a White House official on a rare mission to Damascus in 2020, aiming to seek Tice’s freedom.
But that mission yielded no visible results.
In 2018, US authorities announced a $1 million reward for information that would lead to the journalist’s recovery.


Egypt to release 25 pretrial detainees: report

Egypt to release 25 pretrial detainees: report
Updated 17 August 2022

Egypt to release 25 pretrial detainees: report

Egypt to release 25 pretrial detainees: report

CAIRO: Egypt will release 25 pretrial detainees pending investigations on Wednesday, according to a member of the Presidential Pardon Committee. 

The group of pretrial detainees are to be released within around 24 hours, said Tarek El-Kholy, as quoted by Ahlam Online.   

This will be the latest batch of pretrial detainees released pending investigations.

The Presidential Pardon Committee is mandated to review the cases of pretrial detainees for political crimes.

El-Kholy previously noted in an interview with The Africa Report that only individuals who have not participated in violent acts or killed military personnel or civilians will be considered for pardon.  

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi re-affirmed on several occasions that Egypt holds no political prisoners and that the government promotes respect for human rights.