Helicopter raid nets top Daesh bomb maker

Update Helicopter raid nets top Daesh bomb maker
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Updated 17 June 2022

Helicopter raid nets top Daesh bomb maker

Helicopter raid nets top Daesh bomb maker
  • Target was ‘an experienced bomb maker and facilitator who became one of the group’s top leaders in Syria’

JEDDAH: A top Daesh bomb maker and explosives expert was captured in a raid in northern Syria on Thursday by special forces from the US-led coalition.

Hani Ahmed Al-Kurdi, known as Salim, was the Daesh leader in charge of the Syrian city of Raqqa when it was the de facto capital of the group’s so-called “caliphate” in much of Iraq and Syria.

American defense officials said he was now in US custody and was being questioned. The anti-Daesh coalition said the operation to capture him had been “successful,” with no civilians harmed and no injuries to the coalition forces.

“The mission to capture Al-Kurdi was meticulously planned to minimize the risk of civilian harm or collateral damage,” it said.

“He was instructing others on making explosive devices, supporting the construction of improvised explosive device facilities, and facilitating attacks on US and partner forces.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor based in Britain that has a network of activists on the ground in Syria, said Thursday’s operation began with two helicopters landing near the targeted area in the village of Al-Humaira in Aleppo province, about 4 km from the Turkish border.

It said there were clashes with gunmen hiding in houses in the village in the northern Aleppo countryside as they were chased by coalition forces.

Iraqi intelligence officials said Al-Kurdi was a Syrian national who rose through Daesh ranks to become one of their most senior and dangerous leaders, and an expert on manufacturing booby-traps and explosives.

Coalition forces declared victory over Daesh in March 2019 after retaking the group’s last piece of territory in Syria. But the militants continue to operate and carry out deadly attacks in both Iraq and Syria through sleeper cells, and they also maintain several affiliates in other countries.

The coalition has conducted raids in the past to take out Daesh leaders. In February, the group’s leader Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurayshi blew himself up along with members of his family as American forces raided his Syria hideout.

His predecessor, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, died similarly along with his family in 2019 by detonating a suicide vest in a tunnel in northwest Syria in a military operation authorized by the Trump administration.

The Daesh group at the height of its power controlled more than 100,000 square km  stretching from Syria to Iraq and ruled over 8 million people. Its attacks in the region included a major assault last year to seize a prison in northeast Syria holding at least 3,000 terrorist  detainees.

Can Sudan ceasefire renewal bring end to conflict?

Can Sudan ceasefire renewal bring end to conflict?
Updated 7 min 42 sec ago

Can Sudan ceasefire renewal bring end to conflict?

Can Sudan ceasefire renewal bring end to conflict?
  • On May 22, feuding factions agreed weeklong ceasefire following US-, Saudi-brokered talks
  • Extension of truce expected to enable delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance to civilians

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN: The situation in Sudan was under international scrutiny all last week after Saudi Arabia and the US mediated a ceasefire on May 22 following five weeks of fighting.

The deal, and the talks leading up to it, aimed to address issues such as ceasefire violations, humanitarian access, and military reform.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia and the US jointly called for an extension of the ceasefire, which has provided a respite from relentless violence for civilians caught in the crossfire since a power struggle between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces broke out into open warfare on April 15.

Both Saudi Arabia and America are monitoring the ceasefire — which is set to expire on Monday evening — remotely and, despite repeated violations, have urged the SAF and the RSF to continue discussions on a possible extension.

In a joint statement, Saudi Arabia and the US have noted that though the ceasefire is not perfect, an extension would facilitate the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance to the Sudanese people.

While the RSF has expressed its willingness to discuss a truce renewal, there has been no clear statement from its adversary.

Cameron Hudson, an analyst and consultant on African peace, security, and governance issues, has questioned the efficacy of a ceasefire-renewal process involving only the SAF and RSF, without broader representation from the international community.

He told Arab News: “The inclusion of Sudanese civilians in monitoring the ceasefire and providing on-the-ground input to complement electronic surveillance methods is critical.”



While the ceasefire has somewhat eased the fighting, sporadic clashes and airstrikes continue to be reported in the key battlegrounds.

Aid organizations and the UN are still encountering difficulties in obtaining bureaucratic approvals and security guarantees to transport aid and personnel to the capital Khartoum and other affected areas. Warehouses have been looted, further impeding the distribution of essential supplies.

Khartoum and its surrounding areas are experiencing lawlessness, shortages, and a collapse in services following six weeks of gun battles and airstrikes.

A crime surge has led to looting and destruction of factories, offices, homes, and banks; essential services such as power, water, and telecommunications are frequently disrupted; and shortage of medicines, medical equipment, and food supplies has become acute.

Violence has also affected parts of Darfur, an area already scarred by conflict and displacement.

El-Geneina, near the border with Chad, has experienced intense fighting, resulting in hundreds of deaths. El-Fashir, the capital of North Darfur state, has witnessed a spate of clashes, with one hospital reporting three deaths and 26 injuries, including children.

At the Jeddah ceasefire meetings, the demands presented by the key actors are believed to have played a crucial role in shaping the negotiations. The RSF proposed arresting members of the former regime, blaming them for the current conflict.

Against this backdrop, experts have cautioned against a fragmented approach, arguing that the need of the hour was a “comprehensive” and future-focused strategy.

Amgad Fareid Eltayeb, the former assistant chief of staff to ex-Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, told Arab News that the need for genuine reforms in Sudan’s military and security sectors had never been more urgent.

He said: “Corruption and politicization have marred the SAF, hampering stability and impeding progress. Comprehensive reforms that rebuild trust within the military apparatus and restore their competence are essential.

“The goal is to establish a professional army that focuses on its primary responsibilities while refraining from interfering in politics and the economy,” he added.

Akol Miyen Kuol, a regional expert based in South Sudan, told Arab News that achieving a permanent ceasefire should be the top priority of negotiators.

He said: “A durable ceasefire would create an environment conducive to subsequent political processes, leading to a peaceful settlement.”

Highlighting the need for inclusivity, he pointed out that the involvement of Sudanese political parties, civil society organizations, and professional syndicates was of paramount importance.

As a reality check, though, he noted with concern a recent Sudanese defense ministry assertion that “urban warfare has no limits” and predicted that arming SAF retirees was “an indication that fighting is likely to continue.”

Since clashes between the SAF and RSF erupted last month, more than 300,000 people have crossed Sudan’s borders, with significant numbers seeking refuge in Egypt and Chad. With more than 1.3 million people displaced by the fighting so far, there is growing concern about the future stability of the wider region.

Eltayeb said: “Sudan is too big to fail. The connection between the Red Sea and Sahel, the center, and the Horn of Africa, in addition to the large population and to its large ethnic and tribal diversity, makes the continuation of this war catastrophic.”

He noted that much more than just the fate of Sudan was in the balance.

“The world and the region will pay dearly, and not only in terms of humanitarian crisis and migration and human suffering, but also in terms of the security of neighboring countries,” Eltayeb added.

Iran’s Khamenei welcomes better ties with Egypt

Iran’s Khamenei welcomes better ties with Egypt
Updated 29 May 2023

Iran’s Khamenei welcomes better ties with Egypt

Iran’s Khamenei welcomes better ties with Egypt
  • Relations between Egypt and Iran have often been fraught in recent decades
  • Group of hackers claimed responsibility for defacing websites associated with Iran’s presidency

DUBAI: Iran’s supreme leader said Monday he’d “welcome” the restoration of full diplomatic ties between Egypt and the Islamic Republic, raising the prospect of Cairo and Tehran normalizing relations after decades of strain.
The comments by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came as a series of websites linked to Iran’s presidency bore the images of two leaders of an exiled opposition group Monday, with others showing the pictures of Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi crossed out.
Iranian state television quoted Khamenei’s comments as coming from a meeting he held with the visiting sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq. Sultan Haitham’s trip to Tehran, his first since assuming power in 2020, comes as Muscat long has served as an interlocutor between Tehran and the West.
There have been growing signs of Egypt and Iran potentially restoring ties, particularly as Saudi Arabia and Iran reached a détente in March with Chinese mediation after years of tensions. Cairo relies on Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Gulf Arab states for economic support.
“We welcome this issue and have no problem in this regard,” Khamenei reportedly said.
There was no immediate reaction from Egypt to Khamenei’s comments. Officials in Cairo did not respond to a request for comment.
Egypt under Anwar Sadat cut ties to Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Sadat had been a close friend to the deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, welcomed him to Egypt just before his death and hosted his state funeral in 1980. The shah’s remains are entombed at Cairo’s Al-Rifai Mosque. Egypt’s peace deal with Israel also angered Iran’s theocratic government, which views Israel as its top regional enemy.
Meanwhile Monday, an Internet account describing itself as a group of hackers claimed responsibility for defacing websites associated with Iran’s presidency. The account GhyamSarnegouni, whose name in Farsi means “Rise to Overthrow,” previously claimed hacking websites associated with Iran’s Foreign Ministry earlier this month.
Iranian state media and officials did not immediately acknowledge the apparent hack. However, Associated Press journalists accessing the sites found them defaced with images of Massoud Rajavi, the long-missing leader of the Iranian exile group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, and his wife Maryam, who is now the public face of the group.
One site bore the slogan: “Death to Khamenei Raisi- Hail to Rajavi.” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi both were targeted similarly in the previously claimed hacked in May.
Iran has been targeted by a series of embarrassing hacks amid the rising tensions over its rapidly advancing nuclear program. That’s included the signal of Iranian state television being targeted, gasoline pumps that provide subsidized fuel being targeted in a cyberattack and government surveillance camera imagery being released, including from a notorious prison.
The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, known by the acronym MEK, called the hack “very extensive” when reached, but did not claim credit for it. The MEK had angrily condemned a prisoner swap Belgium conducted with Iran on Friday to free an aid worker that saw an Iranian diplomat convicted of being behind a bomb plot targeting the group released.
The MEK began as a Marxist group opposing the shah’s rule. It claimed and was suspected in a series of attacks against US officials in Iran in the 1970s, something the group now denies.
It supported the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but soon had a falling out with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and turned against the cleric. It carried out a series of assassinations and bombings targeting the young Islamic Republic.
The MEK later fled into Iraq and backed dictator Saddam Hussein during his bloody eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s. That saw many oppose the group in Iran. Although largely based in Albania, the group claims to operate a network inside Iran.

Israeli forces kill Palestinian in West Bank raid: ministry

Israeli forces kill Palestinian in West Bank raid: ministry
Updated 29 May 2023

Israeli forces kill Palestinian in West Bank raid: ministry

Israeli forces kill Palestinian in West Bank raid: ministry
  • Ashraf Mohammed Ibrahim, 37, was “shot by the Israeli occupation” in Jenin
  • Ibrahim was an officer in the Palestinian intelligence service

RAMALLAH: Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man Monday in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry announced, as the military said forces were in a firefight during a raid.
Ashraf Mohammed Ibrahim, 37, was “shot by the Israeli occupation” in the northern city of Jenin, the ministry said.
Ibrahim was an officer in the Palestinian intelligence service, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
The Israeli military said “suspects fired heavily at the forces, who responded with fire toward the armed men” during a raid in Jenin.
“In addition, suspects hurled explosive devices at the forces,” added the army statement.
Six people were arrested in Jenin, according to Palestinian prisoners’ advocacy groups.
Israeli forces regularly conduct raids in the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in Jenin in recent months, including both minors and militants.
Since the start of the year, at least 155 Palestinians, 20 Israelis, a Ukrainian and an Italian have been killed in violence linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources.
The figures include combatants as well as civilians and, on the Israeli side, three members of the Arab minority.

Libya drone strikes kill two, injure MP’s nephew

Libya drone strikes kill two, injure MP’s nephew
Updated 29 May 2023

Libya drone strikes kill two, injure MP’s nephew

Libya drone strikes kill two, injure MP’s nephew
  • The strikes near the western city of Zawiya were part of an operation that the authorities said was targeting smuggling networks

TRIPOLI: Drone strikes in Libya killed at least two people and wounded others, including an MP’s nephew, the lawmaker said, days after accusing the Tripoli-based government of targeting his home.
The strikes near the western city of Zawiya were part of an operation that the authorities said was targeting smuggling networks.
But lawmakers in the country’s eastern-based parliament accused the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) of hitting the home of Zawiya representative Ali Bouzribah.
“Drone strikes hit sites in Al-Maya port near Zawiya for the second consecutive day,” Libya’s Al-Ahrar channel said Sunday night.
It broadcast a video of a boat on fire at the port with a thick column of black smoke rising from it.
Bouzribah said in a Facebook post that his nephew had been injured and two other men killed in the strikes Sunday.
Images and video circulated on social media of both those killed and the lawmaker’s injured nephew in a hospital bed.
The strikes targeted Al-Maya, a small port between Zawiya and the capital that has seen repeated clashes between rival militias in recent weeks.
The UN-brokered GNU had on Thursday launched strikes around the same port, saying they targeted smugglers of drugs, fuel and people traffickers, before lawmakers on Friday accused them of targeting Bouzribah’s home.
More than a decade of violence has rocked Libya since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed strongman Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with armed groups fighting for power and influence with impunity.
The North African country, which is awash with weapons, is split between the nominally interim government in Tripoli in the west, and another in the east backed by the legislature and military strongman Khalifa Haftar.
Armed groups have exploited the chaos to fund their activities through fuel smuggling and the illegal trafficking of migrants.

Jewish settlers erect religious school in evacuated West Bank outpost after Israel repeals ban

Jewish settlers erect religious school in evacuated West Bank outpost after Israel repeals ban
Updated 29 May 2023

Jewish settlers erect religious school in evacuated West Bank outpost after Israel repeals ban

Jewish settlers erect religious school in evacuated West Bank outpost after Israel repeals ban
  • The school was built in Homesh, one of four West Bank outposts evacuated as part of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip
  • Israel’s far-right government earlier repealed 2005 act that evacuated the four outposts

TEL AVIV, Israel: Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank said Monday they erected a religious school in a dismantled outpost after Israel’s government lifted a ban on settlements in several evacuated areas in the northern part of the territory.
The school was built Sunday in Homesh, one of four West Bank outposts evacuated as part of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. In March, Israel’s far-right government repealed a 2005 act that evacuated the four outposts and barred Israelis from reentering the areas.
Anti-settlement groups say more settlement construction in those areas further dims any hopes for a contiguous, independent Palestinian state. The US, Israel’s closest ally, has also voiced concern.
Video on social media showed settler leaders dedicating the religious school, a single-floor structure, with a prayer and saying they hoped to rebuild the other evacuated settlements as well.
Homesh has been at the center of settler efforts to deepen Israel’s hold on the northern West Bank. Settlers have long maintained a presence in the outpost despite the 2005 act, setting up tents and other structures on the foundations of former homes. The military at times demolished those structures, but it largely ignored the settlers existence at the outpost, which was built on private Palestinian land.
Israel’s government has made settlement building one of its top priorities. The ruling coalition, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is made up of ultranationalist settler supporters, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who also has some authority over West Bank settlements. Israeli Army Radio reported the Homesh religious seminary was built with approval from Smotrich and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
Government members praised the new construction. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, a key government member and a settler himself, said it was “an exciting historic moment.”
The military and a spokeswoman for Gallant did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Israel’s intentions at Homesh and the other three settlements dismantled in 2005 have drawn repeated rebukes from Washington, which has said it is “deeply troubled” by moves to resettle the area. Most of the international community consider Israeli settlements, home to 700,000 people in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, to be illegal and obstacles to peace.
The construction at Homesh comes at a time of soaring violence between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank, much of it concentrated in the northern part of the territory. Israel has been staging near-nightly raids since last spring in response to a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis.
Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for state.