War against terror group Daesh is expanding into Africa, US official admits

War against terror group Daesh is expanding into Africa, US official admits
Ian J. McCary. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 December 2023
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War against terror group Daesh is expanding into Africa, US official admits

War against terror group Daesh is expanding into Africa, US official admits
  • Ian J. McCary, from the State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau, says the battle against terrorism is being affected by other conflicts, including the war in Gaza
  • After initially focusing on Syria and Iraq, the international coalition working to defeat Daesh is adopting a strategy of regionalization to prevent group’s expansion in Africa and Central Asia

CHICAGO: The war against terror group Daesh has expanded into other regions outside of the Middle East, a leading US counterterrorism official said on Tuesday.

Ian J. McCary, who works at the State Department as its Counterterrorism Bureau’s deputy special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, conceded that the fight against Daesh (another name for which is ISIS) is now being affected by other conflicts in the region, including Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

When the international battle against the terror group began in 2014, its efforts mainly focused on Syria and Iraq, where the group’s leaders established a foothold and declared a caliphate. Since then, however, fresh conflicts have reenergized Daesh’s activities in Syria and Iraq, McCary added, but the coalition is now also targeting the group’s affiliates in sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia.

The 40 member nations, including several from Africa, that took part in the coalition’s recent annual meeting in Italy discussed this strategy of “regionalization” in response to the spread and expansion of terrorist groups in these parts of the world, he said during a media briefing.

“In terms of regionalization, what we mean by that is obviously when the coalition started, all of the focus was on defeating the so-called territorial caliphate which Daesh had created in northeastern Syria and Iraq, and all of the attention was on that particular theater, and the threat has evolved significantly,” he explained.

“The challenges in northeastern Syria, and particularly and also in Iraq, persist but they are of a very different nature than they were back in 2014 to 2019, roughly. And then we have worked over the past few years to increase the coalition’s focus on sub-Saharan Africa and also Central Asia.

“The challenges on the African continent alone are so dispersed, geographically, that it made sense to break the problem apart and deal with it more piece by piece.”

He acknowledged that despite the strong support provided by coalition partners, including Turkiye, the expansion of Daesh into other regions requires more and better coordination of resources and counterterrorism efforts.

This spread of the group in Africa, Central Asia, and also Afghanistan, is in part the result of the support it receives from Iran, and the coup in Niger in July this year also played a part, McCary acknowledged. Turkiye has played a significant role in efforts to combat the Daesh expansion in sub-Saharan Africa, he added.

“We have been outspoken in (our) rejection of the very unconstructive role, or malignant role, that Iran and its proxies have been playing in northeastern Syria, as well as in other parts of the Middle East,” he said.

“We are also absolutely determined that we will not be deterred in conducting our (anti-Daesh) operations in northeastern Syria. We are applying the resources and implementing the tactics necessary both to defend our forces against any such attacks and continue our campaign against the remnants of Daesh in that region.”

The war in Gaza and conflicts in other regions have resulted in a resurgence of Daesh terrorism in Syria and Iraq, where the group’s activities began.

“We have an extraordinary partnership with Iraqi special forces and we have a lot of confidence in their capabilities to defend Iraqi sovereignty and to defend their people against any threats from remnants of Daesh in Iraq,” McCary said.

“We are also continuing undeterred (in our efforts) to defeat the Daesh elements that remain in northeastern Syria … We do believe Daesh is seeking opportunities to exploit the violence in the conflict between Israel and Hamas for its own purposes. But, again, we are determined that we are going to remain steadfast in our operations to defeat Daesh.”

He stressed that despite the many complex challenges “crowding the global agenda today, there is still a very strong international will not to be distracted in our efforts to defeat (Daesh), and to continue to refine our tactics and deploy whatever tools we need to deploy to ensure Daesh can’t threaten international security in the future.”

McCary took up his current position as deputy special envoy in September 2022. From August 2021 to August 2022 he served as charge d’affaires for the US mission to Afghanistan, also known as the Afghanistan Affairs Unit, based in Doha, Qatar.


Ukraine forces claim downing record number of Russian jets in February

Ukraine forces claim downing record number of Russian jets in February
Updated 10 sec ago
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Ukraine forces claim downing record number of Russian jets in February

Ukraine forces claim downing record number of Russian jets in February
  • Says 10 SU-34, two Su-35 fighter jets and an A-50 aircraft had been shot down in February
  • Russian military bloggers and the British defense ministry had also mentioned downed A-50 planes

KYIV: Ukraine said Thursday it had destroyed a record number of Russian planes in February, at a time when ground forces are under increased pressure in the east.

AFP was unable to verify the claims and Russian authorities do not comment.
“Our sky defenders have achieved the greatest results in downing Russian jets since October 2022,” the Ukrainian defense ministry said.
It said 10 SU-34, two Su-35 fighter jets and an A-50 aircraft had been shot down in February.
The tally included three Su-34s downed overnight which were “launching guided missiles at our infantry positions in the east,” ground forces commander Oleksandr Pavliuk said.
Ukraine had said it had shot down another A-50 plane in January.
The claims are hard to verify, but Russian military bloggers had mentioned the destruction of the A-50 aircraft — although they blamed friendly fire.
Russian military bloggers, who have sources in the armed forces, often publish exclusive information, contrary to government sources and Russian state media outlets.
The British defense ministry on Tuesday also mentioned two A-50 downed, noting the incidents “forced Russian decision makers to consider safer operating areas.”
Two years into the invasion, Ukraine has said its priority was to “throw Russia from the skies.”
Ukraine is expecting the delivery of F-16 fighter jets supplied by its Western allies.

 

 


US Senate defeats bid to stop F-16 fighter jet sale to Turkiye

US Senate defeats bid to stop F-16 fighter jet sale to Turkiye
Updated 12 min 51 sec ago
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US Senate defeats bid to stop F-16 fighter jet sale to Turkiye

US Senate defeats bid to stop F-16 fighter jet sale to Turkiye
  • Republican Senator Rand Paul sought to block the sale, saying it would embolden Turkiye for its “misbehavior"
  • Backers of the sale said it was important for Washington to keep its word to a NATO ally

WASHINGTON: The US Senate on Thursday soundly defeated an effort to stop the $23 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits to Turkiye, which President Joe Biden’s administration approved after Turkiye approved Sweden’s joining the NATO alliance.
As voting continued, the tally was 78 to 13 against a resolution of disapproval of the sale introduced by Republican Senator Rand Paul.
Before the vote, Paul criticized Turkiye’s government and said allowing the sale would embolden its “misbehavior.” Backers of the sale said it was important for Washington to keep its word to a NATO ally.
The Biden administration formally informed Congress on Jan. 26 of its intention to proceed with the sale of 40 Lockheed Martin F-16s and nearly 80 modernization kits to Turkiye, a day after Ankara fully completed ratification of the NATO membership of Sweden.
The sale had been held up for months over issues including Turkiye’s refusal to approve Sweden’s accession to the military alliance. Turkiye first asked to make the purchase in October 2021.
The US Arms Export Control Act gives Congress the right to stop a major weapons sale by passing a resolution of disapproval in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Although the law has been in effect for half a century, no such resolution has both passed Congress and survived a presidential veto.
Sweden and Finland applied to enter NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. While Finnish membership was sealed last year, Sweden’s bid had been held up by Turkiye and Hungary. All NATO members need to approve applications from countries seeking to join the alliance.


Fire in Bangladesh capital leaves at least 43 people dead

Fire in Bangladesh capital leaves at least 43 people dead
Updated 38 min 11 sec ago
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Fire in Bangladesh capital leaves at least 43 people dead

Fire in Bangladesh capital leaves at least 43 people dead
  • Firefighters said the fire began in a popular restaurant on the first floor of the mall in a busy commercial district at the heart of the capital

DHAKA: A fire at a six-story shopping mall in the Bangladeshi capital overnight killed at least 43 people and injured dozens of others, the health minister said Friday.
Health Minister Samanta Lal Sen said the fire broke out late Thursday in the building in Dhaka’s downtown area. Firefighters rescued survivors and pulled out bodies, and by early Friday, at least 43 people died and at least 22 others were being treated, he said.
Firefighters said the fire began in a popular restaurant on the first floor of the mall in a busy commercial district at the heart of the capital, and that many people were trapped by the fire.
The cause of the fire could not immediately be determined.
Sen said at least 33 people, including women and children, were declared dead at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, while at least 10 others died after being taken to the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery.
More than a dozen firefighting units were deployed to douse the fire that broke out at the Green Cozy Cottage Shopping Mall, said Fire Service and Civil Defense Director General Brig. Gen. Md. Main Uddin.
At 75 people, including 42 who were unconscious, were rescued from the building, rescuers said.


At least 26 dead in migrant shipwreck off Senegal

At least 26 dead in migrant shipwreck off Senegal
Updated 29 February 2024
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At least 26 dead in migrant shipwreck off Senegal

At least 26 dead in migrant shipwreck off Senegal
  • The Saint-Louis estuary, where the Senegal River meets the Atlantic Ocean, is notorious for strong currents and areas of thick mud
  • Samb did not say how many people were missing from the vessel, which witnesses said could have been carrying more than 300 people

SAINT LOUIS, Senegal: At least 26 people seeking to reach Europe died after their loaded vessel sank off northern Senegal, the governor of the Saint-Louis region told AFP on Thursday.
Alioune Badara Samb said bodies had been found since Wednesday when the boat got into difficulty in a particularly dangerous part of the northern coast. He added that 21 people had been rescued.
The Saint-Louis estuary, where the Senegal River meets the Atlantic Ocean, is notorious for strong currents and areas of thick mud.
Samb did not say how many people were missing from the vessel, which witnesses said could have been carrying more than 300 people.
A number of survivors managed to reach shore and dispersed among locals on the sea banks, making it difficult to say exactly how many people were involved, he said.
Mamady Dianfo, a survivor from Casamance in the south, told AFP more than 300 people were on board when the boat left Senegal a week ago.
Another survivor, Alpha Balde, estimated there were more than 200 passengers.
Dianfo said the vessel reached Morocco further north up the coast but the captain then said he was lost and could no longer continue the journey.
“We asked him to take us back to Senegal,” he said.
President Macky Sall on Thursday expressed his “deep sadness” following the “tragic capsizing” in a message on X, formerly Twitter.
He added that the relevant authorities had been deployed to offer support and assistance.
Senegal’s coast is an increasingly common departure point for Africans fleeing poverty and unemployment and heading to the Canary Islands, their port of entry into Europe.
European Union border agency Frontex says Senegal and Morocco are the most common countries of origin for migrants arriving on the Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic.
Of the more than 6,600 migrants who died or went missing trying to reach Spain last year, the vast majority were lost on the treacherous Atlantic route, according to Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras.


Austria appeals for a pause in fighting for Ramadan

Austria appeals for a pause in fighting for Ramadan
Updated 29 February 2024
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Austria appeals for a pause in fighting for Ramadan

Austria appeals for a pause in fighting for Ramadan
  • FM Alexander Schallenberg said the Middle East has witnessed enough devastation and cruelty

BEIRUT: Austria’s foreign minister on Thursday urged Israel and Hezbollah against escalating the conflict along the volatile Israel-Lebanon border and expressed hope for a pause in the fighting in Gaza in time for the start of the holy month of Ramadan in March.

The Middle East has witnessed enough devastation and cruelty, said Alexander Schallenberg, speaking after meeting his Lebanese counterpart in Beirut.

Schallenberg said he came to Lebanon after visiting Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israeli airstrikes on Lebanese villages along the southern border killed two people and wounded 14 others in the village of Kafra on Wednesday night, National News Agency reported.

Meanwhile, an Israeli drone strike hit a truck near the western Syrian town of Qusair close to the Lebanese border on Thursday, killing a Hezbollah member, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, and a Hezbollah official said.

European and American officials have tried to ease the tensions in visits to Beirut, to avoid a full-blown war between Israel and Hezbollah, which has said it would not discuss any deals before the war in Gaza ends.