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News - MENA News

Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-10-22 08:15:24
A suicide attacker rammed a car full of explosives into a bus leaving Afghanistan’s top military training centre in Kabul on Saturday, killing at least 15 soldiers, including cadets and their trainers, officials said. Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a particularly deadly week for Afghanistan’s security forces. The bombing was also the second major attack in the capital Kabul in 24 hours after a suicide attack at a Shi‘ite mosque killed more than 50 worshippers on Friday night. “Army personnel were coming out of Marshal Fahim University when a suicide bomber in a car targeted them. Fifteen soldiers who were there for training were killed and four others were wounded,” Ministry of Defence spokesman Dawlat Wazari said. A statement from President Ashraf Ghani’s office said the bus was carrying trainers and cadets from the defense university on the western outskirts of Kabul that is home to the Afghan military’s officer training school and other military academies. Afghan security forces have been struggling against the Taliban since most foreign troops left at the end of 2014. U.S. President Donald Trump committed to an open-ended military training and support mission in Afghanistan in August, despite criticism that it is no closer to peace despite billions of dollars in aid and nearly 16 years of U.S. and allied operations. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for Saturday’s car bomb in an email to reporters. The Taliban have been waging an insurgency for a decade and a half in an attempt to overthrow the Western-backed government in Kabul and re-establish a fundamentalist Islamist regime. The insurgents now control or contest about 40 percent of Afghanistan. Afghan security forces including police were being killed at a rate of about 600 per month in battles and targeted bombings earlier this year, according to a U.S. report. This week’s toll looked to be particularly heavy for Afghan forces after attacks across the country, including Taliban fighters using captured U.S.-provided Humvee vehicles as vehicle bombs to ram into fortified compounds. On Thursday the Taliban stormed a military base in the southern province of Kandahar, killing at least 43 of the 60 soldiers manning the base, which was left in ruins. Two days earlier dozens of security personnel were killed and scores wounded in Taliban attacks on government compounds in Paktia and Ghazni provinces, with a senior provincial police commander among the dead. In addition to the Taliban, Afghanistan has in recent years seen a rise in violence claimed by fighters who have claimed loyalty to the Islamic State’s Middle East-based leadership, although the movement controls little territory in Afghanistan. Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Kabul on Friday evening in which a bomber walked into a Shi‘ite Muslim mosque as people were praying and detonated his explosives. The toll in the attack on Imam Zaman mosque rose to 54 killed, including children, and 55 wounded, a deputy minister for religious affairs, Dai-ul Haq Abid told a news conference on Saturday. Another mosque attack on Friday killed at least 33 people in central Ghor province. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-10-21 11:40:03
Iraqi forces on Friday took control of the last district in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk still in the hands of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters following a three-hour battle, security sources said. The district of Altun Kupri, or Perde in Kurdish, lies on the road between the city of Kirkuk - which fell to Iraqi forces on Monday - and Erbil, capital of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq that voted in a referendum last month to secede from Iraq against Baghdad’s wishes. A force made up of U.S-trained Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service units, Federal Police and Iranian-backed fighters known as Popular Mobilisation began their advance on Altun Kupri at 7:30 a.m. (0430 GMT), said an Iraqi military spokesman. Kurdish Peshmerga forces withdrew from the town, located on the Zab river, after battling the advancing Iraqi troops with machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, Iraqi security sources said. Neither side gave information about casualties. The Iraqi central government forces have advanced into Kirkuk province largely unopposed as most Peshmerga forces withdrew without a fight. The government advance has transformed the balance of power in northern Iraq and is likely to scuttle the independence aspirations of the Kurds, who voted overwhelmingly on Sept. 25 to secede from Iraq and take the oil fields of Kirkuk with them. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-10-19 09:35:40
Oil flows through Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey have reportedly plunged this week since Iraq's army seized oil fields held by the Kurds. The drop follows reports of production disruptions as major oil fields changed from Kurdish to central government control on Monday and Tuesday. Crude oil shipments through the Iraq-Turkey Pipeline have fallen to one-third of their usual volumes, shipping sources told Platts. Total exports through the line were at 190,000 barrels a day, the source said. Reuters earlier reported flows had slowed to 225,000 barrels a day. The pipeline runs through the semiautonomous Kurdish region in Iraq's north and typically ships up to 600,000 barrels a day. Flows had already fallen to 350,000 barrels a day by Tuesday, according to Platts. Oil fields around Kirkuk were reducing production and close to shutting down, sources told Platts. Operators were drawing on oil in storage, threatening to also slow the shipment of crude by tanker, the sources said. Iraqi forces successfully took back control of oil fields in disputed territories, which the Kurds have expanded into since 2014, when federal forces fled an assault by then-ascendant ISIS militants. This week's Iraqi army operation followed three weeks of escalating tension after the Kurds held an independence referendum, defying Baghdad's demands to scrap the vote. The conflict has sparked concerns that output from northern fields could essentially remain stuck if the Kurds refuse to ship it through the Iraq-Turkey Pipeline. Another pipeline to Turkey operated by Baghdad has been repeatedly bombed by ISIS militants and will take several years and hundreds of millions of dollars to repair, according to RBC Capital Markets. "Hence, these fields changing hands could mean that these barrels end up being stranded if Baghdad and Erbil cannot conclude a pipeline access and a revenue sharing agreement — which could prove to be a tall order in the current environment," Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC, said in a research note. Erbil is the capital of Kurdistan. By Wednesday, Kurdish forces had largely retreated to territories they held prior to the start of their expansion in the summer of 2014, Reuters reported. Iraqi forces have met with little resistance. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-10-19 08:30:50
Iraq urged BP to help develop oilfields in the disputed city of Kirkuk on Wednesday, after central government forces loyal to Baghdad swept through the Kurdish-held territory at the start of the week. Iraqi forces began a takeover of almost the entire disputed Kirkuk province Monday, with Kurdish forces retreating to nearby oilfields. The military maneuvers in northern Iraq come after the country's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence in a referendum last month. The vote was subsequently declared illegitimate by Iraq's central government. Baghdad is reportedly seeking to double Kirkuk's oil output to more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) and has requested the support of Britain's oil major to help achieve this aim. Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi asked BP "to quickly make plans to develop the Kirkuk oilfields," as reported in an oil ministry statement Wednesday.Speaking Wednesday at the Oil and Money conference in London, BP CEO Bob Duley said: "We know Kirkuk well... and we were doing technical work there up until 2015. But I haven't read these comments or heard from him (Jabar al-Luaibi)." Herman Wang, OPEC specialist at S&P Global Platts, told CNBC Wednesday that he was unclear regarding the leadership in Kirkuk after peshmerga fighters had left the disputed province. "There seemed to be some sort of coordinated plan, now who was in charge of this coordinated plan is not that clear to me at this point," he said. Iraq is OPEC's second-largest oil producer. Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq are among the most productive in the country and contain much of its energy infrastructure. BP has estimated that Kirkuk has approximately 9 billion barrels of recoverable oil remaining. Geopolitical tensions in Iraq were supportive to oil prices Wednesday morning. Brent crude rose 0.7 percent to $58.29 a barrel while U.S. oil futures hovered near the $52 level in mid-morning trade. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-10-18 10:31:31
Qatar’s foreign minister suggested Tuesday that measures taken by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab states in their diplomatic rift with Qatar had hurt the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State, according to the text of an interview with CNBC. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic and trade links with Qatar in June, suspending air and shipping routes with the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, which is also home to the region’s biggest U.S. military base. The four countries have said that Qatar supports regional foe Iran and Islamists, charges Doha’s leaders have denied. All countries involved in the dispute are U.S. allies Asked if the fight against Islamic State had suffered because of the crisis, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said, “Definitely yes,” according to the CNBC International transcript. He said most of Qatar’s food and medicine supplies, some of which would go to the U.S. Al Udeid air base, normally came via its land border that is now blocked by its bigger neighbor. The airspace blockade meant that Qatari aircraft providing logistical support for the base could only fly north from Qatar toward Iran, the minister said, and Qatari officers participating in U.S.-led activities against Islamic State or working with Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet were expelled. “So there are a lot of things which undermine ... the global efforts in countering ... Daesh,” Sheikh Mohammed said, referring to Islamic State by an Arabic acronym. The minister said his country sought to resolve the crisis through dialogue, but Saudi Arabia wanted to destabilize Qatar. “They are into escalation, they are into thinking about regime change and other things,” Sheikh Mohammed said. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have denied seeking to depose Qatar’s government. Kuwait has been trying to resolve the dispute among its fellow Arab countries and U.S. President Donald Trump has also said he would be willing to mediate. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-10-18 09:05:32
A Pakistani Taliban suicide bomber rammed a car into a police truck in the southwestern city of Quetta on Wednesday, killing at least seven people, police said. The attack killed five police officials and two passers-by on the outskirts of the volatile frontier city, Quetta police chief Abdur Razzaq Cheema said. He said another 22 people were wounded, eight of them critically. Sarfraz Bugti, the home minister of Baluchistan province, told Reuters: “It was a suicide blast.” Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province and lies about 100 km (60 miles) east of the border with Afghanistan. Bugti said the truck carrying the police officials was on its way to the city to drop them at their posts when the suicide bomber rammed into the vehicle, ripping it apart. Television pictures showed the burnt wreckage of the vehicles. The Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella of various militant groups within Pakistan and loosely allied to the Afghan Taliban, issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack. Baluchistan province has long been the scene of an insurgency by separatists fighting against the state to demand more of a share of the gas- and mineral-rich region’s resources. They also accuse the central government of discrimination. The Taliban, Sunni Islam militants and sectarian groups linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State group also operate in the strategically important region, which borders Iran as well as Afghanistan. The violence has fueled concern about security for projects in the $57 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a transport and energy link planned to run from western China to Pakistan’s southern deep-water port of Gwadar. A suicide bombing claimed by Islamic State at a Sufi shrine earlier this month killed 22 people and wounded more than 30. Ayub Qureshi, the provincial police chief, said a counter-terrorism police officer was also shot and killed in another part of Quetta on Wednesday at the time when authorities were dealing with the suicide bombing. No one has claimed that shooting. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-10-18 08:35:19
The Baghdad government recaptured territory from Kurds across the breadth of northern Iraq on Tuesday, making startlingly rapid gains in a sudden campaign that has shifted the balance of power in the country almost overnight. In the second day of a lightning government advance to take back towns and countryside from forces of the Kurdish autonomous region, Kurdish troops known as Peshmerga pulled out of the long disputed Khanaqin area near the Iranian border. Government troops took control of the last two oilfields in the vicinity of Kirkuk, an oil city of 1 million people which the Peshmerga abandoned the previous day in the face of the government forces’ advance. A Yazidi group allied to Baghdad also took control of the town of Sinjar. Baghdad’s military operation has redrawn the map of northern Iraq, rolling back gains by the Kurds who infuriated Baghdad last month by holding a referendum on independence. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday the referendum “is finished and has become a thing of the past”. Addressing a news conference in Baghdad, he called for a dialogue with Kurdish leaders “under the constitution”. Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani said the vote for independence “won’t be in vain”. He did not call for dialogue, but added, “Kurds have always been against waging wars and have worked in pursuit of peace.” The KRG governs three mountainous northern provinces making up the autonomous region. It has also held a wide crescent of additional territory in northern Iraq, much of which they seized after helping drive out Islamic State militants since 2014. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-10-18 08:23:56
The defeat of Islamic State in its de facto capital Raqqa may only be the start of a wider struggle by the United States to contain any insurgency launched by the militant group and to stabilize the region, as Washington grapples with defining a comprehensive strategy in Syria. U.S.-backed militias declared victory over Islamic State in Raqqa on Tuesday, raising flags over the last jihadist footholds after a four-month battle. The Sunni militant group often referred to as ISIS, overran Raqqa in January 2014, seizing control from rebel factions opposed to the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “While recapturing Raqqa is important symbolically, talk about almost a pyrrhic victory,” said Bilal Saab, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute. “Addressing the economic, political grievances of the Sunnis so that another ISIS doesn’t come about will be as important as the military fight.” Raqqa was the first big city Islamic State captured, before its rapid series of victories in Iraq and Syria brought millions of people under the rule of its self-declared caliphate, which passed laws and issued passports and money. Islamic State has lost much of its territory in Syria and Iraq this year, including its most prized possession, the Iraqi city of Mosul. In Syria, it has been forced back into a strip of the Euphrates valley and surrounding desert. Middle East analysts said that among the wide array of problems exposed after Islamic State’s ouster from Raqqa were where to find money to help rebuild the shattered city, how to support fledgling local government in the face of a likely insurgency and how to keep Assad, backed by Iran and Russia, from trying to regain control. “The real challenge is that ISIS will turn into a vengeful ghost, will try to stalk and to wreak havoc on the post-conflict security and governance and administration in order to undermine the U.S. and its partners,” said Nick Heras of the Center for a New American Security. A U.S. State Department official said Washington remained committed to a peace process in Geneva and supported the “broadest possible group of Syrian representatives in those discussions.” The official said that the United States and allies would continue to provide humanitarian assistance and support efforts to stabilize areas freed from Islamic State rule “to include continuing the removal of IEDs and other explosives ... restoring basic services and refurbishing schools.” The official said the U.S. goals included “supporting local governing bodies that are representative of the area, civilian-led, and credible in the eyes of the populations.” Assad’s use of force to crush an initially peaceful uprising against his family’s more than four-decade rule triggered the country’s civil war in 2011. The conflict helped create a vacuum that Islamic State eventually filled by seizing parts of Syria. Russia stepped in with military support for Assad in 2015. “The greatest challenge for Raqqa and local Syrian partners that are trying to rebuild Raqqa is the ambiguity of Trump administration Syria policy,” Heras said. “A signal needs to be sent that the U.S. intends to keep a residual force in the areas that it has conquered from ISIS in order to oversee the stabilization mission and to have the broader, publicly unstated aim, to constrain Iran’s ability to reconquer all of the country in the name of Assad,” he said. Several analysts said the United States does not appear to have a durable strategy to stabilize the region, let alone to revive the moribund U.N. talks in Geneva aimed at ending the civil war. “We’ve captured and lost cities before,” said Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican. “This victory underscores the need for a comprehensive Syria strategy.” A U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said “If the Russians truly want to ... have something that will really put Syria back together, we will see if they are willing to return to the Geneva process.” Saab, of the Middle East Institute, suggested U.S. influence in Syria may be too slight to shape events. “Our investment has always been and will always be quite limited,” he said. “We have ceded the terrain to Russia and the Iranians and it’s almost too late now, for us, to get involved effectively, you have to have some skin in the game.” More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-10-17 09:12:23
Iraqi forces completed an operation to take control of all oil fields operated by state-owned North Oil Company in the Kirkuk region on Tuesday, a senior military officer said. Iraqi forces took control of the Bai Hasan and Avana oil fields northwest of Kirkuk on Tuesday, after seizing the Baba Gurgur, Jambur and Khabbaz fields on Monday, he said. Oil officials in Baghdad said all the fields were operating normally. The fields were previously held by Kurdish security forces known as Peshmerga, but they pulled out of the area in the face of an advance by forces of the Iraqi central government. Tuesday’s deployment of Iraqi government forces in Dibis, where Bai Hasan and Avana are located, is part of an operation ordered by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to take control of Kurdish-held areas outside the three provinces that form Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2017-10-17 09:07:10
U.S.-backed militias said on Tuesday they are battling Islamic State around Raqqa stadium, the jihadists’ last foothold in their former Syrian capital, after seizing a nearby hospital. The fall of Raqqa city, where Islamic State staged euphoric parades after its string of lightning victories in 2014, and from which it planned attacks abroad, is a potent symbol of the jihadist movement’s collapsing fortunes. It is now hemmed into a tiny bomb-cratered patch of the city around the stadium that is pounded from the air by a U.S.-led coalition and encircled by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters. Islamic State has lost swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq this year, including its most prized possession, Mosul, and in Syria it has been forced back into a strip of the Euphrates valley and surrounding desert. The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, took the National Hospital in fierce fighting overnight and early on Tuesday, said spokesman Mostafa Bali in a statement. “During these clashes, the National Hospital was liberated and cleared from the Daesh mercenaries, and 22 of these foreign mercenaries were killed there,” said Bali, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. An SDF field commander who gave his name as Ager Ozalp said three militiamen had been killed on Monday by the mines that have become an Islamic State trademark in its urban battles. He had heard estimates of about 100 Islamic State fighters remaining in their last besieged pocket, Ozalp said. The stadium has become the last major position held by Islamic State after four months of battle in Raqqa and the departure of some of its fighters on Sunday, leaving only foreign jihadists to mount a last stand. The SDF has been supported by a U.S.-led international coalition with air strikes and special forces on the ground since it started the battle for Raqqa city in early June. The final SDF assault began on Sunday after a group of Syrian jihadists quit the city under a deal with tribal elders, leaving only a hardcore of up to 300 fighters to defend the last positions, including the hospital and stadium. Raqqa was the first big city Islamic State captured in early 2014, before its rapid series of victories in Iraq and Syria brought millions of people under the rule of its self-declared caliphate, which passed laws and issued passports and money. It used the city as a planning and operations center for its warfare in the Middle East and its string of attacks overseas, and for a time imprisoned Western hostages there before killing them in slickly produced films distributed online. The SDF advance since Sunday also brought it control over a central city roundabout, where Islamic State once displayed the severed heads of its enemies, and which became one of its last lines of defense as the battle progressed. More»