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Iraq-Iran earthquake: More than 200 killed and 1,700 injured in powerful quake that leaves dozens trapped

- iraq iran earthquake - Iraq-Iran earthquake: More than 200 killed and 1,700 injured in powerful quake that leaves dozens trapped


At least 207 people were killed in Iraq and Iran on Sunday when a powerful magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit the region, state media in the two countries said, as rescuers searched for dozens trapped under rubble.

At least 164 people were killed in Iran, Behnam Saeedi, a spokesman for Iran’s National Disaster Management Organisation, said on the state television. More than 1,700 were injured, he said.

Officials expected the casualty toll to rise when search and rescue teams reached remote areas of Iran.

A quake registering a magnitude between 7 and 7.9 can inflict widespread and heavy damage. Moreover, many houses in rural areas of Iran are made of mud bricks that can crumble easily in a quake.

The earthquake was felt in several provinces of Iran but the hardest hit province was Kermanshah, which announced three days of mourning.

More than 97 of the victims were in Sarpol-e Zahab county in Kermanshah, about 15 km (10 miles) from the Iraq border.

The main hospital of the capital of the county was severely damaged and could not treat hundreds of injured people who were taken there, the head of the Iranian emergency services, Pirhossein Koulivand said.

The US Geological Survey said the quake measured magnitude 7.3. An Iraqi meteorology official put its magnitude at 6.5 with the epicentre in Penjwin in Sulaimaniyah province in the Kurdistan region close to the main border crossing with Iran.

Kurdish health officials said at least four people were killed in Iraq and at least 50 injured.

The quake was felt as far south as Baghdad, where many residents rushed from their houses and tall buildings when tremors shook the Iraqi capital.

“I was sitting with my kids having dinner and suddenly the building was just dancing in the air,” said Majida Ameer, who ran out of her building in the capital’s Salihiya district with her three children. “I thought at first that it was a huge bomb. But then I heard everyone around me screaming: ‘Earthquake!’”

Similar scenes unfolded in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, and across other cities in northern Iraq, close to the quake’s epicentre.

Electricity was cut off in several Iranian and Iraqi cities, and fears of aftershocks sent thousands of people in both countries out onto the streets and parks in cold weather.

The Iranian seismological centre registered around 50 aftershocks and said more were expected.

The head of Iranian Red Crescent said more than 70,000 people were in need of emergency shelter.

Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said some roads were blocked and were worried about casualties in remote villages. The Iranian armed forces have been deployed to help the emergency services.

Iran sits astride major fault lines and is prone to frequent tremors. A magnitude 6.6 quake on Dec. 26, devastated the historic city of Bam, 1,000 km (600 miles) southeast of Tehran, killing about 31,000 people.

On the Iraqi side, the most extensive damage was in the town of Darbandikhan, 75 km (47 miles) east of the city of Sulaimaniyah in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.

More than 30 people were injured in the town, according to Kurdish Health Minister Rekawt Hama Rasheed.

“The situation there is very critical,” Rasheed told Reuters.

The district’s main hospital was severely damaged and had no power, Rasheed said, so the injured were taken to Sulaimaniyah for treatment. Homes and buildings had extensive structural damage, he said.

In Halabja, local officials said a 12-year-old boy died of an electric shock from a falling electric cable.

Iraq’s meteorology centre advised people to stay away from buildings and not to use elevators, in case of aftershocks.

Residents of Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir also reported feeling a strong tremor, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in the city.

Turkish Red Crescent Chairman Kerem Kinik told broadcaster NTV that Red Crescent teams in Erbil were preparing to go to the site of the earthquake, and that Turkey’s national disaster management agency, AFAD, and National Medical Rescue Teams (UMKE) were also preparing to head into Iraq. AFAD’s chairman said the organisation was waiting for a reply to its offer for help.

In a tweet, Kinik said the Turkish Red Crescent was gathering 3,000 tents and heaters, 10,000 beds and blankets and moving them towards the Iraqi border.

“We are coordinating with Iranian and Iraqi Red Crescent groups. We are also getting prepared to make deliveries from our northern Iraq Erbil depot,” he said.

Israeli media said the quake was felt in many parts of Israel as well.

Reuters

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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

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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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Syrian Kurds Refuse to Participate in Sochi Talks

- acdbaa5482f0c834200ff60cc8e9a0ad L - Syrian Kurds Refuse to Participate in Sochi Talks


ERBIL — Syrian Kurds will under no circumstances attend the Syrian National dialogue Congress in Sochi, said Aldar Khalil, the co-chairperson of the Democratic Society Movement (TEV-DEM).

Khalil said in an interview with Reuters that on one hand Russia consented Turkey’s attack on Afrin and on the other hand also invited the Syrian Kurds to participate in Sochi. 

“It is  contradictory,” he said, arguing that in such a situation, taking part in a Russian-brokered talk is of no significance.

He pointed out that the Kurdish participation in the congress is a weak possibility.

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