Turkey strikes Syria regime outpost, kills 3: monitor

Turkey strikes Syria regime outpost, kills 3: monitor
Syrian government had vowed it would respond to direct attacks by Turkey against its forces. (File/AFP)
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Updated 18 September 2022

Turkey strikes Syria regime outpost, kills 3: monitor

Turkey strikes Syria regime outpost, kills 3: monitor
  • Raids targeted positions of the Syrian army and the Syrian Democratic Forces
  • The three casualties were wearing Syrian army uniform

BEIRUT: Turkish raids in northern Syria on Sunday struck outposts operated by the Syrian army and Kurdish-led forces, killing three, a Britain-based war monitor said.
The raids near the Kurdish-held border town of Kobani targeted positions of the Syrian army and the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The three casualties were wearing Syrian army uniform, according to the monitor.
Several other fighters were wounded, some in critical condition, according to the Observatory, which relies on a wide network of sources inside Syria.
The strikes were preceded by cross-border shelling from near Kobani against Turkish forces, according to the monitor.
Last month, the Syrian government said it would respond to direct attacks by Turkey against its forces.
The warning came after a Turkish raid on a regime outpost near Kobani killed at least three troops in mid-August, according to the official SANA news agency.
Turkey has launched a series of cross-border offensives targeting Kurdish forces and the Daesh group since 2016, but such operations have rarely resulted in the killing of Syrian regime fighters.
Ankara has stepped up its attacks in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria since a July 19 summit with Iran and Russia failed to green-light a fresh offensive against Kurdish fighters viewed by Ankara as terrorists.
Regime forces have deployed in areas controlled by Kurdish fighters near the border with Turkey as part of agreements intended to stem a fresh Turkish operation.
Last week, the UN’s Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria said that “another Turkish ground operation” remains a threat in Syria’s north, amid “continued mobilization and fighting” between Turkish and Turkish-backed forces and Kurdish-led opponents.
“Syria cannot afford a return to larger-scale fighting, but that is where it may be heading,” warned Paolo Pinheiro, the head of the commission.


Morocco arrests suspected Daesh group member

Updated 7 sec ago

Morocco arrests suspected Daesh group member

Morocco arrests suspected Daesh group member
RABAT: Moroccan police said Thursday they had arrested a suspected Daesh group member, in cooperation with US intelligence officers, who was accused of plotting a “terrorist” act.
The 29-year-old man was arrested in the economic capital Casablanca “for his alleged involvement in the preparation of a terrorist scheme aimed at seriously undermining public order,” Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) said in a statement.
The suspect had carried out “reconnaissance visits to identify certain security checkpoints, with a view to attacking them and using their weapons in terrorist operations,” the BCIJ added.
The suspect had reportedly sought to “join terrorist organizations” including those based in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in Syria and Iraq.
In 2003, Casablanca was hit by a dozen suicide bombers, killing 33 people and wounding dozens more.
Since then, Morocco has been spared major attacks, but its security services regularly report foiling plots.
Since 2002, Moroccan police claim to have dismantled 2,000 “terror cells” and arrested some 3,500 people in cases linked to terror, according to the BCIJ.

British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report

British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report
Updated 29 September 2022

British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report

British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report
  • Marc Bennett, 52, was found hanged in a hotel in 2019 after 3 weeks without charge in jail
  • British coroner ruled there was ‘no specific evidence of suicidal intent’

LONDON: A British travel industry expert found hanged in Doha in 2019 told friends he had been arrested and tortured by Qatari secret police 10 weeks before his death, The Times reported on Thursday.

Marc Bennett, 52, had been hired by Qatar Airways to work on improving tourism to the Gulf country ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

He was arrested at the company’s Doha headquarters, blindfolded and handcuffed, and told friends he had been stripped, hosed, assaulted, and subjected to sleep deprivation over a period of three weeks in detention.

He was then prevented from leaving the country after his release, not knowing if he would be re-arrested, and placed in “legal limbo,” according to his family.

His arrest came after he resigned from Qatar Airways and received a job offer from a Saudi travel firm, something a former colleague said had been taken as a “massive insult” by figures within the company.

Qatar Airways said Bennett, who worked closely with the airline’s CEO Akbar Al-Baker, was discovered to have sent “highly confidential documents” to a private email address, which was reported to police.

Bennett was released on Nov. 2, 2019, the day before a UN legal team was due to visit Qatar to inspect the state of the country’s detention centers over allegations of human rights abuses.

The team from the UN’s working group on arbitrary detention was denied access to the facility he was held at.

Bennett was left at a hotel in Doha with no documents relating to his arrest or any legal proceedings he might face.

A Qatari coroner ruled Bennett’s death suicide, but a British coroner said there was “no specific evidence of suicidal intent” and “the circumstances of the months leading up to his death remain unclear.”

Bennett left no suicide note, and despite being popular, with a wide circle of friends and family, gave no indication of intending to take his own life.

The night before his death, he was described as “laughing and joking” during a video call with his family back in the UK.

His widow Nancy Bennett, 51, told The Times: “There are so many questions. He left here with the whole world ahead of him.”

The UN legal team investigating human rights abuses in Qatar has said there are “credible allegations” that the unit that detained Bennett engages in extra-judicial arrests and mistreatment of prisoners.

“When the working group decided to visit one of the state security detention facilities, in relation to which it had received credible allegations of prolonged detention without judicial control and of ill-treatment, it was prevented from doing so,” it said.

“Equally, when the working group visited some other places of deprivation of liberty, it found these facilities nearly empty and received credible reports that detainees had been transferred to other facilities prior to its arrival.”

An investigation into Bennett’s treatment and death by the UK Foreign Office was closed, despite the findings of the coroner and concerns of the family, by Liz Truss, a week after she became foreign secretary in September 2021.

Truss, now the UK’s prime minister, visited Qatar in October that year for “strategic dialogue,” and to foster “deeper co-operation on security, development, trade and investment.”

In May 2020, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, announced a £10 billion ($10.845 billion) investment package for the UK.

Qatar has faced routine accusations of mistreatment of foreign workers in the build up to the World Cup.

The Mail on Sunday reported that of the approximately 30,000 recruited to build infrastructure for the tournament, 2,823 foreign laborers have died in Qatar since 2011 in unexplained circumstances, with another 551 committing suicide.

One British businessman told The Times: “Whether you’re a Pakistani laborer or a well-to-do British guy, you will be treated like dirt if your employer turns against you.

“It feels like you’re a slave. You can’t even leave the country for a weekend away without the permission of your employer.”

A Foreign Office spokesman told The Times: “We provided assistance to the family of a British man following his death in Doha.”


Iran celebrities warned against inciting Mahsa Amini protests

Iran celebrities warned against inciting Mahsa Amini protests
Updated 29 September 2022

Iran celebrities warned against inciting Mahsa Amini protests

Iran celebrities warned against inciting Mahsa Amini protests
  • A number of Iranian sportsmen as well as actors and filmmakers have put their support behind the movement
  • Iran’s judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei has criticized celebrities over their actions

TEHRAN: Iranian celebrities were warned Thursday against coming out in support of protests that flared across the country over the death of young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.
A wave of unrest has rocked Iran since the 22-year-old died on September 16 after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for reportedly failing to observe the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.
The street violence has led to the deaths of dozens of people — mostly protesters but also members of the security forces — and hundreds of arrests.
“We will take action against the celebrities who have fanned the flames of the riots,” Tehran provincial governor Mohsen Mansouri said, quoted by ISNA news agency.
A number of Iranian sportsmen as well as actors and filmmakers have put their support behind the movement, asking authorities to listen to the people’s demands.
Iran’s two-time Oscar winning director Asghar Farhadi on Sunday urged people around the world to “stand in solidarity” with the protesters.
“They are looking for simple yet fundamental rights that the state has denied them for years,” Farhadi said, in a video message on Instagram.
At a football match against Senegal in Vienna on Tuesday, the entire Iranian team remained dressed in black during the anthems rather than exposing the national strip.
In an Instagram post, star forward Sardar Azmoun condemned the authorities and appeared to complain of a gag order against the team, before retracting his statement.
Another former prominent player, Ali Karimi, has repeatedly supported the protests and condemned Amini’s death on Instagram and Twitter, saying not even holy water could “wash away this disgrace.”
Iran’s judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei has criticized celebrities over their actions.
“Those who became famous thanks to support from the system have joined the enemy when times were difficult, instead of being with the people,” said Ejei.
“All of them should know that they have to pay back the material and spiritual damage caused to the people and the country,” he added.


Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty

Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty
Updated 52 min 35 sec ago

Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty

Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty
  • Secretary-general calls for UN probe into Tehran’s behavior, including use of sexual violence
  • ‘The crisis of systemic impunity that has long prevailed in the country must end, and it must end now’

LONDON: Iran has used “unlawful force and ruthless violence” in its repression of popular protests across the country following the death of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16, according to Amnesty International.

The human rights group said its investigations into the regime’s behavior, which has left “dozens” of people dead, revealed the use of live ammunition and sexual violence against women as tools to quell dissent. 

It urged the world to take action by signing its petition to establish a UN Human Rights Council investigation into the events of the past few weeks.

“We see the images of Iranian people from across the country bravely standing up to security forces, of women cutting off their hair and setting their scarves on fire,” said Amnesty’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard.

“Dozens of people, including children, have been killed so far and hundreds injured. The voices of the courageous people of Iran desperately crying out for international support must not be ignored.”

Amini’s death in custody followed her arrest by Iran’s so-called morality police for incorrect wearing of her headscarf.

This prompted mass protests, including by women removing their headscarves and cutting their hair.

As well as live ammunition and sexual violence, birdshot, metal pellets and beatings have also been used liberally against protesters by the Iranian authorities in response, as well as mass arrests of “protesters and bystanders … journalists, political activists, lawyers and human rights defenders, including women’s rights activists and those belonging to oppressed ethnic minority groups.”

One witness in Tehran told Amnesty: “The security forces did not show mercy to anyone.” The group says it is continuing to identify more people killed in the clashes.

“Iran’s discriminatory laws, decades of repression of any form of dissent, and systemic impunity for unlawful killings during protests and behind prison walls, have triggered this unprecedented nationwide outrage,” Callamard said.

“We ask all the people of the world to sign our global petition and demand decisive action from their leaders.

“An independent investigative and accountability mechanism must be established by the UN Human Rights Council for the most serious crimes under international law committed by the Iranian authorities.

“People in Iran deserve more than empty words. The crisis of systemic impunity that has long prevailed in the country must end, and it must end now.”


Lebanese parliament fails to elect new head of state

Lebanese parliament fails to elect new head of state
Updated 29 September 2022

Lebanese parliament fails to elect new head of state

Lebanese parliament fails to elect new head of state
  • Michel Aoun’s mandate runs out at the end of October
  • No candidate has emerged as a front-runner among the hopefuls

BEIRUT: The Lebanese parliament failed to elect a new head of state on Thursday to replace President Michel Aoun when his term ends on Oct. 31, and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said he would call another session when consensus emerged on a candidate.

The bulk of votes cast by lawmakers at Thursday’s session — 63 — were blank. Christian politician Michel Moawad won the backing of 36 of 122 lawmakers who attended.

Unless consensus emerges on a candidate, the presidency looks set to fall vacant when Aoun’s term ends, at a time of deep financial crisis.

Reserved for a Maronite Christian in Lebanon’s sectarian system, the presidency has fallen vacant several times since the 1975-90 civil war.

Anticipating a presidential vacuum, politicians have stepped up efforts to agree a new cabinet led by the Sunni Muslim Prime Minister Najib Mikati — who is currently serving in a caretaker capacity — to which presidential powers could pass until a president can be agreed.