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Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi: Isis leader killed, says Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

- 1499806970 baghdadi - Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi: Isis leader killed, says Syrian Observatory for Human Rights


Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been confirmed  killed, war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has said.

“(We have) confirmed information from leaders, including one of the first rank, in [Isis territory] in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor,” director of the UK-based group Rami Abdulrahman told Reuters on Tuesday.

There has been no confirmation from Isis’ official news agency Amaq. SOHR’s sources did not say when Baghdadi supposedly died, or how, except that he is supposed to have been living in the Deir Ezzor area for the last three months. 

Iraq PM Haider al-Abadi hails ‘big victory’ in Mosul

The Pentagon, Kurdish and Iraqi sources were all quick to say they could not corroborate the SOHR report.

“We take any report of this nature with a large dose of salt,” Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to US President Donald Trump, said in an interview with Fox News after the SOHR claim surfaced.

“We will verify it. We will look at the intelligence available… and we will give a statement when we have the requisite facts.”

 

The US put up a $25 million (£19 million) reward for Baghdadi’s capture – the same it has offered for al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and his successor Ayman al-Zawahri.

It is not yet known if any individual or organsation will claim the bounty.

The notorious jihadi is believed to be in hiding in the region around the Syria-Iraq border, moving frequently and avoiding telecommunications to evade detection.

Rumours of his death have been reported frequently since the cleric made his only public appearance announcing the creation of Isis’ so-called caliphate from the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014.

In June, the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed to have carried out an air strike in Syria which killed Baghdadi and several other high profile Isis leaders, but did not provide any evidence backing up the claim. 

At the time, Washington DC said it could not corroborate the death, and Western and Iraqi officials have been sceptical.

Drone footage shows the devastation in Mosul’s old city and the destroyed al-Nuri Mosque

UK-based SOHR is a respected human rights and war crimes monitor utilising sources on the ground in Syria with a credible track record reporting on the civil war. 

If the report is true, it comes as one of the biggest blows yet to the jihadist organisation which is rapidly losing territory across Syria and Iraq.

Last week the Iraqi army officially declared Isis’ de facto Iraqi capital of Mosul liberated from the militants, marking the destruction of one half of the so-called caliphate. 

Independent

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Middle East

Over 150 IS Jihadists Killed in Coalition Airstrike

- 823209f59df423d3a8200031329924ff L - Over 150 IS Jihadists Killed in Coalition Airstrike


ERBIL — The US-led Global Coalition against the Islamic State (IS) says its warplanes has killed over 150 jihadists in Syria last Saturday.

The large number of eliminated militants were killed in airstrikes carried out against the IS headquarters in al-Shafah district of middle Euphrates river valley.

“The precision strikes were a culmination of extensive intelligence preparation to confirm an ISIS headquarters and command-and-control center in an exclusively ISIS-occupied location in the contested Middle Euphrates River valley,” officials were cited in a press release by the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.

According to the Coalition, the targeted headquarter contained a heavy concentration of IS fighters who appear to have been massing for movement.

“The strikes underscore our assertion that the fight to liberate Syria is far from over,” said Army Maj. Gen. James B. Jarrard, commanding general of Special Operations Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.

“Our SDF partners are still making daily progress and sacrifices, and together we are still finding, targeting and killing ISIS terrorists’ intent on keeping their extremist hold on the region. We cannot take our focus off our mission, and we must not lose our momentum in taking these terrorists off the battlefield and preventing them from resurfacing somewhere else,” Jarrard said.

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Middle East

Jalalabad bombing: Explosion at Save The Children offices in Afghan city as gunmen clash with security forces

- 1516778066 breaking - Jalalabad bombing: Explosion at Save The Children offices in Afghan city as gunmen clash with security forces


Attackers set off a car bomb near the office of the Save The Children aid agency in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Wednesday and then clashed with security forces, a provincial government spokesman said.

“There was a blast and the target was Save The Children,” said the spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani. A clash was going on after the blast, he said.

Khogyani had no word on casualties but the director of the provincial health department said 11 wounded people had been taken to hospital.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

There were several other aid groups and government offices in the immediate area, raising the possibility that Save The Children was not the target.

Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar province, on the porous border with Pakistan.

The province has become a stronghold for Isis, which has grown to become one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous militant groups since it appeared around the beginning of 2015.

Backed by intensive US air strikes, Afghan forces have claimed growing success against the Taliban and other militant groups, including Isis, but attacks on civilian targets have continued, causing heavy casualties.

The attack in Jalalabad came just days after Taliban militants attacked the Hotel Intercontinental in the capital, Kabul, killing at least 20 people, including 13 foreigners. 

Reuters

Independent

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Middle East

Manbij becomes key as US looks to rein in Turkey’s Syrian offensive

- 1516747391 tirkey syria tank - Manbij becomes key as US looks to rein in Turkey’s Syrian offensive


The US is trying to prevent the fighting in Afrin between Turkish forces and Syrian Kurds spreading east into the main Kurdish enclave in Syria where US troops are based. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to drive the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters not just from Afrin, but from Manbij, a strategic town west of the Euphrates.

“Terrorists in Manbij are constantly firing provocation shots,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. “If the US does not stop this, we will stop it.”

Some 6,000 Turkish troops backed by 10,000 Free Syrian Army fighters controlled by Turkey are seeking to fight their way into the isolated Kurdish canton of Afrin in northern Syria. Their progress has so far been slow, with thick cloud hindering air strikes in the hilly terrain. The YPG and Turkish-led forces have been fighting for the Bursaya Hill, with the summit, which overlooks the eastern side of Afrin town, changing hands several times.

The US has so far given muted support to its Kurdish allies in Syria, who provided the ground troops for the successful campaign against Isis. The US has supported the YPG during the war against Isis with massive air power, military equipment and some 2,000 specialised US troops.

The US is hoping to keep the present fighting confined to Afrin, which is separate from the bulk of Kurdish territory. There have never been any US military forces in this enclave, though there were Russian observers that have now been withdrawn. But if Turkey attacks Manbij then the US will have to decide if it is going to be seen as betraying its Kurdish ally or risk a military confrontation with its Nato partner Turkey.  

The Kurdish authorities in north-east Syria are calling for a mass mobilisation in defence of Afrin. But they already have large numbers of experienced combat troops previously fighting Isis that they can deploy if they wish. “The Turkish state has been trying to enter north Syria for days, but it will not be able to,” said Siyamund Walat, a YPG general. “We have forces in Afrin, thousands… they are protecting the border and the people. If necessary all the soldiers will go to Afrin.”

It may be in the interests of the Syrian Kurds to prolong the fighting in Afrin so international diplomatic pressure increases on Turkey to end Operation Olive Branch, as it calls its campaign. On the other hand, Afrin is cut off from the rest of the Kurdish-held area and the one supply road to the south is held by the Syrian Army. Syrian soldiers have been refusing to allow refugees from Afrin through their checkpoints to reach Kurdish areas in Aleppo city 25 miles away.

Explosions as Turkey confirms airstrikes on Afrin, Syria

The Turkish campaign only became possible when Russia agreed not to oppose it and, above all, allowed Turkish jets to operate in Syrian airspace. This is under Russian control west of the Euphrates. The long-contemplated Turkish assault was finally provoked by the US announcement last week that its forces would be staying in Syrian Kurdish territory for the foreseeable future. This de facto guarantee of the Kurdish statelet, directed against the Syrian government and Iran by the US, radically changed the strategic balance in Syria. The US had assured the Turks since the end of 2014 that its military cooperation with the YPG was purely tactical, directed against Isis and would end when Isis was defeated.

Mr Erdogan is taking advantage of a wave of patriotic support in Turkey for the Afrin operation to arrest dozens of politicians, journalists and activists who are accused of criticising the offensive. Many of those arrested, often for critical media posts, belong to the pro-Kurdish HDP party. “Journalists are having their doors rammed down without anybody knocking,” said HDP spokesman Ayhan Bilgen. “People are [becoming] afraid of keyboards, pens, words and writing”

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