New Age Islam
Thu Oct 22 2020, 05:14 AM

Islamic World News ( 19 Feb 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

5,000 ISIS Militants Trained In Syria and Iraq Walk Free In Europe – Europol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Between 3,000 and 5,000 so-called ‘foreign fighters’ – EU citizens trained in Islamic state terror camps - have returned to Europe and pose a “completely new challenge,” according the continent’s top police chief.

 

 

Army Destroys Militants' Concentration Centres, Kills Dozens of Terrorists in Aleppo

Police Bust ISIS Terror Cell Preparing ‘Chemical Attack’ In Morocco

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Europe

5,000 ISIS Militants Trained In Syria and Iraq Walk Free In Europe – Europol

Video of Mob Threatening, Chanting At Refugees Shocks German Officials

France rejects Russia’s proposed anti-Turkish UN resolution on Syria

Russia disappointed by rejection of anti-Turkish resolution at UN

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North America

U.S. Airstrike Destroys Islamic State Training Camp in Libya

Utah State Legislature Commends Azerbaijan’s Model of Interfaith Tolerance and Harmony

US 'concerned' about Syrian Army & Kurdish Syria gains, urges stopping actions upsetting Turks

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Arab World

Army Destroys Militants' Concentration Centres, Kills Dozens of Terrorists in Aleppo

Scores of Nusra Terrorists Killed in Clashes with Syrian Army in Homs

Gap Widening between Riyadh, Abu Dhabi over Yemen, Saudi Jets Hit Pro-Hadi Militias in Ma'rib

Kurdish-led force seizes ISIS stronghold in northeast Syria

Syrian Armed Forces Pound Militant Centres North, Northeast of Hama

Russian, Syrian Air Attacks Inflict Major Death Toll on ISIL in Deir Ezzur

Hasaka: Syrian Kurds win back Al-Shadadi Town

Syria: Militants Killed, Attempt to Detonate Explosive Devices Thwarted in Deir Ezzur

Syria: Gov't Forces Score More Victories against Militants in Lattakia

Sweida: Syrian Army Seizes One More Ammo Cargo of Militants

In setback, Syrian peace talks not to resume next week

Saudi Arabia will run out of groundwater in 13 years

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Africa

Police Bust ISIS Terror Cell Preparing ‘Chemical Attack’ In Morocco

2 Serbian embassy staff kidnapped in Libya believed killed in US ISIS raid – Serbian FM

Despite deadly strike, US wary of Libya engagement: Experts

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Pakistan

Militants Blew Up New Government School in Waziristan

Non-Bailable Arrest Warrant Issued Against Pervez Musharraf

Gunmen Kill 3 Police Officers in Central Pakistan

Token hunger strike by MQM over media ban on Altaf’s speeches

Pathankot FIR as per law: Sana

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South Asia

Afghan Government Declares Removing Daesh from Its Stronghold in Nangarhar

Afghanistan Reiterates Commitment to End Recruitment, Use of Children in ANSF

Taliban bomb kill 6 member of a single family in Paktika province

Army pulled out of Helmand’s Musa Qala District

Two Haqqani commanders among six detained in Khost

Daesh leader arrested in Ghor

Three weapon suppliers to terrorists arrested in Kabul

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India

While Dawood Hides In Pakistan, Nephew Falls in US Net For Narco-Terrorism

Saudi Arabia, Iraq Sell More Oil to India, Elbow out Latin America Crude

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Mideast

Press Associations Launch Campaign to ‘Free Journalism’ In Turkey

Despite Turkish Protests, US Says It ’Trusts’ YPG in Syria

Turkey says Obama shares Syria concerns with Erdoğan, affirms support

Erdoğan slams intellectuals who opposed joining Syria war in petition

Detained Syrian journalist freed without charges in Turkey

TAK claims responsibility for Ankara bombing

Total number of detentions over Ankara attack reaches 17

Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/5,000-isis-militants-trained-in-syria-and-iraq-walk-free-in-europe-–-europol/d/106414 

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5,000 ISIS Militants Trained In Syria and Iraq Walk Free In Europe – Europol

20 Feb, 2016 09:02

Between 3,000 and 5,000 so-called ‘foreign fighters’ – EU citizens trained in Islamic state terror camps - have returned to Europe and pose a “completely new challenge,” according the continent’s top police chief.

“Europe is currently facing the highest terror threat in more than in a decade,” Rob Wainwright, Europol’s director, told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung daily, warning of the real possibility of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) or other terror groups attacks in Europe. 

“We can expect [IS] or other religious terror groups to stage an attack somewhere in Europe with the aim of achieving mass casualties among the civilian population,” he said, noting that the risk of attacks by individuals has also not diminished.

However, Wainwright refused to link the unprecedented increase in the terror threat with the ongoing refugee crisis. He refuted the widespread assumption that terrorists are infiltrating Europe under the guise of asylum seekers.

"There are no concrete indications that terrorists are systematically using the stream of refugees to come into Europe undetected," Wainwright said.

Last month, former UK Defense Secretary Liam Fox expressed concern that jihadists could sneak into the EU among asylum-seekers. Southern European countries through which they travel “have no idea whether these people are genuine refugees or asylum seekers, or economic migrants, or terrorists operating under the cover of either,” he said.

These worries were substantiated after the German domestic intelligence service confirmed in February that it had received more than 100 tip-offs alleging IS militants had arrived in the country pretending to be refugees. The news prompted further debate on EU migration policy.

Last year, FBI Director James Comey confirmed to the US Senate committee that Islamic State terrorists had obtained at least one printing machine used to provide militants with authentic-looking Syrian passports. The machine is believed to have been seized by terrorists during an IS offensive on the city of Deir ez-Zour. The revelation sparked concerns that large amounts of forged IDs can be manufactured in IS-controlled territories.

Two fraudulent Syrian passports were found at the site of the Paris attacks, which claimed the lives of 130 people in November. They are believed to belong to suicide bombers, who arrived in Europe via refugee routes.

In February, the FSB (Russian security agency) captured 14 gang members who were forging passports for Islamic extremists heading to Syria and planning to conduct terrorist and extremist activities in Russia. 

rt.com/news/333079-europe-5000-jihadists-europol/

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U.S. Airstrike Destroys Islamic State Training Camp in Libya

19 February 2016

Two U.S. F-15 fighter jets carried out an airstrike in north-western Libya early Friday that destroyed what the Pentagon described as a Islamic State training camp for several dozen foreign fighters and a senior terrorist operative, U.S. officials said.

“We obliterated the camp,” said a U.S. official who discussed the raid on condition of anonymity. “We're still assessing the casualties at this point, but we hit what we were aiming at.”

“We feel confident that this was a successful strike,” Peter Cook, the Pentagon spokesman, told reporters. “These particular fighters posed a threat to interests in the region, to Libya, and to the United States overall.”

The predawn attack, launched from Lakenheath Air Base in Britain, comes after weeks of mounting pressure on the White House to attack Islamic State's growing footprint in oil-rich Libya, the only country other than Syria and Iraq where it controls territory.

National security experts warn that an Islamic State sanctuary in Libya could give the Sunni extremist group another launching pad for terrorist assaults in Europe and North Africa.

U.S. drones and spy satellites had spent weeks focusing on the walled compound outside the coastal town of Sabratha, about 50 miles west of Tripoli, another official said. The aerial images, coupled with other intelligence, heightened U.S. concern that the militants were preparing to launch a cross-border attack.

Libya airstrikes

A photo released by the Sabratha Municipal Council shows the site where U.S. warplanes struck what the Pentagon said was an Islamic State training camp in the town in northwest Libya. (Sabratha Municipal Council)

The Sabratha Municipal Council, the local government, said on its website that at least 41 people were killed in the bombing, many apparently as they slept. The compound was rented by non-Libyans, including Tunisians, and machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers were found in the rubble, the website said.

The Pentagon said the attack specifically targeted Noureddine Chouchane, a veteran Islamic State operative who allegedly played a key role in terrorist attacks last year in neighbouring Tunisia. The first, in March, killed 23 people at the National Bardo Museum in Tunis, and another in June killed 38 at a seaside resort in Sousse.

Chouchane, who is from Tunisia, was also responsible for moving foreign fighters from Tunisia into Libya, according to the Pentagon.

The only previous U.S. airstrike in Libya against Islamic State was in November, when F-15 fighter jets killed a commander known as Abu Nabil. Officials said he was responsible for the video last year that showed militants beheading 21 Egyptian workers, all Coptic Christians, along the Mediterranean coast of Libya.

Islamic State has found fertile ground in Libya, which has had no functioning central government since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing campaign helped a popular uprising oust Moammar Kadafi in 2011. Competing factions have fought a low-level civil war since 2014.

Islamic State has taken advantage of the power vacuum, attacking oil fields and installations, hobbling a major source of income. A U.S. intelligence estimate this month concluded that group has about 5,000 fighters in Libya, double the official estimate last fall.

The U.S. military, along with British, French and Italian special forces, has been monitoring Islamic State movements in several Libyan cities, including the militants' stronghold of Sirte.

The White House has resisted calls from some aides and Congress members to escalate the U.S. military role to counter the potential threat, although Friday's attack suggested at least a modest shift in that policy.

“I think this is the beginning of what will be a broader pattern of operations in the country in which the U.S. will strike, while being extremely careful about targeting,” Anthony Cordesman, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan Washington think tank, said Friday.

At a news conference Monday after a summit with Southeast Asian leaders, President Obama appeared to suggest U.S. raids in Libya are likely to increase.

“With respect to Libya, I have been clear from the outset that we will go after ISIS wherever it appears, the same way that we went after Al Qaeda wherever they appeared,” Obama said, using another name for Islamic State.

“We will continue to take actions where we've got a clear operation and a clear target in mind,” he said. “As we see opportunities to prevent ISIS from digging in, in Libya, we take them.”

latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-na-us-warplanes-hit-isis-targets-in-libya-20160219-story.html

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Police Bust ISIS Terror Cell Preparing ‘Chemical Attack’ In Morocco

20 Feb, 2016 04:44

In a police raid on a “safe house” in El Jadida on Thursday, police arrested a 10-member cell and confiscated a large cache of weapons consisting of automatic machine guns, revolvers, and a rifle that were brought from Libya. An Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) flag was also reportedly seized in the raid.

Among those detained was one French national and a 16-year old teenager, who received training to carry out a suicide car bomb attack, Director of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), Abdelhak Khiame, said at a press conference on Friday.

“It's far from a terrorist cell, it is a real armed commando,” Khiame said. “The 10-member cell was commandos acting based on precise plans designed by IS.”

The cell members were active in the cities of Essaouira, Meknès and Sidi Kacem, and Laayoune. The terrorist gang also set up a training camp in Sehb El Harcha.

“These people were trained on site in coordination with Daesh, which provided them with the necessary arms,” BCIJ director said, explaining that this signals a change of tactic in the Islamic State which until now trained their cell members inside Syria and Iraq.

Khiame added that authorities also recovered toxic biological and chemical substances that could be used to make the explosives. Six jars seized in the raid contained an agricultural fertilizer with high sulfur content.

“This material allows to make homemade explosives of fearsome power,” Ahmed Rami from the BCIJ told Huffington Post Morocco. “Once heated to a high temperature, this material releases toxic gas that leads to certain death."

Another three jars contained an orange color mix which “when stored in an anaerobic environment creates tetanus toxin, which once contracted, attacks the central nervous system and causes death,” a member of the service risk management at BCIJ explained to HuffPost.

BCIJ claims to have dismantled 152 militant cells since 2002, including 31 since 2013 that were linked to armed terrorist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq.

rt.com/news/333058-morocco-isis-terror-commando/

 

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Europe

5,000 ISIS Militants Trained In Syria and Iraq Walk Free In Europe – Europol

20 Feb, 2016 09:02

Between 3,000 and 5,000 so-called ‘foreign fighters’ – EU citizens trained in Islamic state terror camps - have returned to Europe and pose a “completely new challenge,” according the continent’s top police chief.

“Europe is currently facing the highest terror threat in more than in a decade,” Rob Wainwright, Europol’s director, told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung daily, warning of the real possibility of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) or other terror groups attacks in Europe. 

“We can expect [IS] or other religious terror groups to stage an attack somewhere in Europe with the aim of achieving mass casualties among the civilian population,” he said, noting that the risk of attacks by individuals has also not diminished.

However, Wainwright refused to link the unprecedented increase in the terror threat with the ongoing refugee crisis. He refuted the widespread assumption that terrorists are infiltrating Europe under the guise of asylum seekers.

"There are no concrete indications that terrorists are systematically using the stream of refugees to come into Europe undetected," Wainwright said.

Last month, former UK Defense Secretary Liam Fox expressed concern that jihadists could sneak into the EU among asylum-seekers. Southern European countries through which they travel “have no idea whether these people are genuine refugees or asylum seekers, or economic migrants, or terrorists operating under the cover of either,” he said.

These worries were substantiated after the German domestic intelligence service confirmed in February that it had received more than 100 tip-offs alleging IS militants had arrived in the country pretending to be refugees. The news prompted further debate on EU migration policy.

Last year, FBI Director James Comey confirmed to the US Senate committee that Islamic State terrorists had obtained at least one printing machine used to provide militants with authentic-looking Syrian passports. The machine is believed to have been seized by terrorists during an IS offensive on the city of Deir ez-Zour. The revelation sparked concerns that large amounts of forged IDs can be manufactured in IS-controlled territories.

Two fraudulent Syrian passports were found at the site of the Paris attacks, which claimed the lives of 130 people in November. They are believed to belong to suicide bombers, who arrived in Europe via refugee routes.

In February, the FSB (Russian security agency) captured 14 gang members who were forging passports for Islamic extremists heading to Syria and planning to conduct terrorist and extremist activities in Russia. 

rt.com/news/333079-europe-5000-jihadists-europol/

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Video of mob threatening, chanting at refugees shocks German officials

20 Feb, 2016 05:28

German officials say they are ashamed after a video emerged which showed a mob shouting and blocking a bus of refugees, among who were women and crying children. The video has gone viral and has sparked a heated debate online.

The video posted on Friday showed a group of men blocking a bus full of refugees in the town of Clausnitz, in the eastern German state of Saxony.

The video shows them shouting in German “we are the people” and urging the refugees to “go home.”

A witness told the Freie Presse newspaper that one of the protesters had threatened the refugees with a cut-throat gesture.

In the video footage, women and children could be seen through the windscreen of the bus with a sign stating “enjoy your travel.” The footage shows a boy crying and stepping out from the vehicle.

The slogan “we are the people” was used during protests against the German Democratic Republic’s (GDR) authorities in 1989 and 1990, which called for the reunification of West and East Germany. The slogan has been recently picked up by anti-refugee movements in Germany and the right-wing PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) movement supporters, who claim the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel is as illegitimate as was GDR.

In response to the video, German officials said they were ashamed of how the refugees were being treated.

“This was about politics, not the people themselves,” said Michael Funke, the mayor of Rechenberg-Bienenmühle, the municipality where the incident took place.

Saxony’s interior minister Markus Ulbig of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party said that he finds “it deeply shameful to see how people are being treated here.”

Saxony police spokesman Rafael Scholz said no arrests have been made but police are investigating verbal threats. Police said on Facebook that they were able to prevent physical confrontations.

They also said that the number of anti-refugee protesters was estimated as being at about 100 people.

The video of the incident that took place on Thursday evening was initially posted on a Facebook page “Döbeln wehrt sich – Meine Stimme gegen Überfremdung” (“Döbeln protects itself –your voice against foreign influx” ) which has been blocked.

On Friday, TV comedian Jan Böhmermann reuploded the video on his Facebook page. It immediately went viral collecting over 920,000 views in eight hours.

Later in the day he tweeted: "Clausnitz (Saxony) yesterday. The German fear mob greets those who escaped the jaws of death."

"We would have to be afraid that refugee homes would soon burn faced with the hate of the fear-citizens…if they hadn't already been burning for a long time," Böhmermann added in a separate Tweet.

His posts were reshared multiple times and sparked a debate in Twitter and on Facebook. Views split into two camps – those who expressed support for the refugees and urged police to act; and those who spoke out against the asylum seekers living in Germany and praised the actions of the protesters.

According to a December police report, over 1600 crimes have been committed against refugees and refugee housing in Germany in 2015, nearly twice as much as in 2014.

rt.com/news/333061-german-block-bus-refugees/

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France rejects Russia’s proposed anti-Turkish UN resolution on Syria

February 20, 2016

France immediately rejected Russia's proposed UN resolution Friday demanding an immediate halt to cross-border shelling and foreign ground intervention in Syria, warning that "a dangerous military escalation" could spiral out of control.

Russia called an emergency Security Council meeting earlier in the day to submit a draft resolution calling on Turkey to "cease any actions that undermine Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity," according to a statement on the Foreign Ministry's website.

The Russian draft resolution didn't name Turkey but it was clearly aimed at the Turkish government, which has threatened ground action and was keeping up its cross-border artillery shelling campaign Friday against US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia positions in Syria.

The draft also made no mention of the current Syrian offensive in the north, backed by Russian aerial attacks, that has almost cut off Syria's largest city, Aleppo.

Turkey's UN Ambassador told reporters his country was exercising its right to self-defense and responding to fire from Syrian soil. He reiterated that "Turkey will not be going into Syria with the boots on the ground if it is not a collective action, either by the Security Council or by the international coalition that we are a part of."

France's UN Ambassador Francois Delattre, asked whether Paris supported the Russian draft, replied: "The short answer is no."

He said the current military escalation is "the direct result of the brutal offensive in the north of Syria led by the Syrian regime and its allies." And he said Russia must understand that its support for Syria's President Bashar Assad is "a dead end that could be extremely dangerous."

"In these conditions," Delattre told reporters, "it is more urgent than ever to create the conditions leading to the resumption of negotiations."

US Ambassador Samantha Power called the Russian draft "a distraction," and urged Moscow instead to implement a resolution adopted unanimously by the Security Council in December endorsing a peace plan for Syria that includes a cessation of hostilities and negotiations between the Assad government and opposition.

"It's incredibly important that we have de-escalation," Power told reporters after the closed council meeting. "We have a resolution on the books. It's the right resolution. We've committed ourselves to it and we need Russia to do the same."

The Russian draft demands that all countries "commit to and unconditionally" implement provisions of the December resolution.

It also demands that all countries refrain from "provocative rhetoric and inflammatory statements inciting further violence and interference into internal affairs" of Syria, and it reaffirms that all states must prevent the illegal movement of "foreign terrorist fighters" and weapons into Syria.

Russia's deputy UN ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said he told the council that Russia is open to negotiate the text and would welcome proposals.

"It's a moment of truth," he said, because the draft reaffirms and repeats what all 15 council members have said during the Syria crisis, "so I don't consider from even political reasons how they can refuse all these principles in the Russian draft."

Venezuela's UN Ambassador Rafarl Ramirez said he expects comments from council members on the draft resolution on Monday.

The Feb. 12 meeting in Munich of 18 key nations supporting opposing sides in Syria's five-year civil war agreed to a cessation of hostilities within a week- but that didn't happen because of intense fighting. UN envoy Staffan de Mistura also expressed hope that day for a resumption of peace talks by Feb. 25.

But de Mistura told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet on Friday that he cannot "realistically" get the parties in the Syrian conflict back to the table by then, though "we intend to do so soon."

Delattre said what is urgently needed now is to prevent the current escalation from becoming "a full regional conflagration or confrontation."

todayszaman.com/diplomacy_france-rejects-russias-proposed-anti-turkish-un-resolution-on-syria_412848.html

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Russia disappointed by rejection of anti-Turkish resolution at UN

February 20, 2016

The spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that the Kremlin is disappointed by the rejection of a proposed United Nations resolution aimed at stopping cross-border shelling and foreign ground intervention in the Syrian conflict.

The draft resolution was put forth by Russia on Friday at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. It was turned down by France.

It did not name Turkey but it was clearly aimed at the Turkish government, which has threatened ground action and is continuing a cross-border artillery shelling campaign against US-backed Kurdish militia positions in Syria.

On Saturday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said "Russia views such trans-border strikes by Turkish artillery and artillery strikes at Syrian territory as unacceptable," according to the state news agency Tass.

"We can only express our regret that this draft resolution was not supported," he said.

The Syrian government also condemned the Turkish artillery shelling inside Syria, calling it an "outrageous violation" of international law.

In a statement published by the state-run SANA news agency Saturday, it accused Turkey of committing "crimes" against the Syrians by firing artillery shells at areas in the northern province of Aleppo.

It added that a number of civilians were injured by the artillery fire that targeted Tel Rifaat, Malikiyeh and other towns.

Turkey has in the past week kept up a cross-border artillery shelling campaign against US-backed YPG militia positions in Syria. It has also threatened ground action, saying it was exercising its right to self-defense and responding to fire from Syrian soil.

todayszaman.com/anasayfa_russia-disappointed-by-rejection-of-anti-turkish-resolution-at-un_412854.html

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North America

U.S. Airstrike Destroys Islamic State Training Camp in Libya

19 February 2016

Two U.S. F-15 fighter jets carried out an airstrike in north-western Libya early Friday that destroyed what the Pentagon described as a Islamic State training camp for several dozen foreign fighters and a senior terrorist operative, U.S. officials said.

“We obliterated the camp,” said a U.S. official who discussed the raid on condition of anonymity. “We're still assessing the casualties at this point, but we hit what we were aiming at.”

“We feel confident that this was a successful strike,” Peter Cook, the Pentagon spokesman, told reporters. “These particular fighters posed a threat to interests in the region, to Libya, and to the United States overall.”

The predawn attack, launched from Lakenheath Air Base in Britain, comes after weeks of mounting pressure on the White House to attack Islamic State's growing footprint in oil-rich Libya, the only country other than Syria and Iraq where it controls territory.

National security experts warn that an Islamic State sanctuary in Libya could give the Sunni extremist group another launching pad for terrorist assaults in Europe and North Africa.

U.S. drones and spy satellites had spent weeks focusing on the walled compound outside the coastal town of Sabratha, about 50 miles west of Tripoli, another official said. The aerial images, coupled with other intelligence, heightened U.S. concern that the militants were preparing to launch a cross-border attack.

Libya airstrikes

A photo released by the Sabratha Municipal Council shows the site where U.S. warplanes struck what the Pentagon said was an Islamic State training camp in the town in northwest Libya. (Sabratha Municipal Council)

The Sabratha Municipal Council, the local government, said on its website that at least 41 people were killed in the bombing, many apparently as they slept. The compound was rented by non-Libyans, including Tunisians, and machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers were found in the rubble, the website said.

The Pentagon said the attack specifically targeted Noureddine Chouchane, a veteran Islamic State operative who allegedly played a key role in terrorist attacks last year in neighbouring Tunisia. The first, in March, killed 23 people at the National Bardo Museum in Tunis, and another in June killed 38 at a seaside resort in Sousse.

Chouchane, who is from Tunisia, was also responsible for moving foreign fighters from Tunisia into Libya, according to the Pentagon.

The only previous U.S. airstrike in Libya against Islamic State was in November, when F-15 fighter jets killed a commander known as Abu Nabil. Officials said he was responsible for the video last year that showed militants beheading 21 Egyptian workers, all Coptic Christians, along the Mediterranean coast of Libya.

Islamic State has found fertile ground in Libya, which has had no functioning central government since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing campaign helped a popular uprising oust Moammar Kadafi in 2011. Competing factions have fought a low-level civil war since 2014.

Islamic State has taken advantage of the power vacuum, attacking oil fields and installations, hobbling a major source of income. A U.S. intelligence estimate this month concluded that group has about 5,000 fighters in Libya, double the official estimate last fall.

The U.S. military, along with British, French and Italian special forces, has been monitoring Islamic State movements in several Libyan cities, including the militants' stronghold of Sirte.

The White House has resisted calls from some aides and Congress members to escalate the U.S. military role to counter the potential threat, although Friday's attack suggested at least a modest shift in that policy.

“I think this is the beginning of what will be a broader pattern of operations in the country in which the U.S. will strike, while being extremely careful about targeting,” Anthony Cordesman, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan Washington think tank, said Friday.

At a news conference Monday after a summit with Southeast Asian leaders, President Obama appeared to suggest U.S. raids in Libya are likely to increase.

“With respect to Libya, I have been clear from the outset that we will go after ISIS wherever it appears, the same way that we went after Al Qaeda wherever they appeared,” Obama said, using another name for Islamic State.

“We will continue to take actions where we've got a clear operation and a clear target in mind,” he said. “As we see opportunities to prevent ISIS from digging in, in Libya, we take them.”

latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-na-us-warplanes-hit-isis-targets-in-libya-20160219-story.html

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Utah State Legislature commends Azerbaijan’s model of interfaith tolerance and harmony

19 February 2016

The US Utah State Legislature issued a proclamation (citation) Feb. 17, 2016 commending the “long-standing traditions of interfaith tolerance, inclusion and harmony in Azerbaijan,” Azerbaijan’s Consulate General in Los Angeles told Trend.

The proclamation signed by the Utah State Senate and House leadership was presented to Azerbaijan’s Consul General in Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev.

In his address to the Utah State Senate, Consul General Aghayev noted that the Azerbaijani model of interfaith harmony has vividly proved the possibility for Muslims, Christians and Jews to live together in peace, dignity and mutual respect.

He also thanked the Utah Legislature for this important proclamation, and for their support and friendship.

The proclamation presented by Senator Gene Davis on the Senate floor and Representative Lynn Hemingway on the House floor, commends Azerbaijan’s example of interreligious tolerance and harmony.

Stressing the important contribution of Azerbaijan’s Government, the proclamation noted that “Azerbaijan has created an environment that nurtures and promotes the ancient traditions of religious tolerance, and rejects extremism and hatred… The three major religions have prospered because of the respect and tolerance of the Azerbaijani people, and because of the role the government has played in fostering the environment of interfaith tolerance and mutual acceptance in the country.”

“Azerbaijan has repeatedly, over the course of the last decade, brought together religious leaders from the region and around the world to promote greatly needed interfaith dialogue,” said the proclamation.

“The year 2016 has been proclaimed a Year of Multiculturalism in Azerbaijan. In April 2016, Azerbaijan will host the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Forum,” further said the proclamation.

The document ends by stressing that “given the rising levels of intolerance, hate, terrorism and xenophobia in the world, it is important for the United States of America to support its tolerant and secular allies and consider the Azerbaijani model of interfaith acceptance and community engagement as a functioning example, and encourage this policy around the globe.”

During his visit to Utah, Consul General Aghayev also met Lieutenant-Governor Spencer Cox, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and House Speaker Gregory Hughes.

Short videos of the Senate and House floor presentations of the proclamation can be watched here:

en.trend.az/azerbaijan/politics/2496540.html

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US 'concerned' about Syrian Army & Kurdish Syria gains, urges stopping actions upsetting Turks

20 Feb, 2016 07:12

In a long phone conversation that lasted an hour and twenty minutes, Obama told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the US has an “unwavering commitment” to Turkey’s national security.

Obama said he is “concerned” about the Syrian Army’s and Kurdish fighters’ gains in northern Syria as he “urgently called for a halt to actions that heighten tensions with Turkey and with moderate opposition forces in northern Syria,” according to a statement from the White House.

The US president stressed that the ongoing advance of Syrian armed forces and Kurdish militia, with support from the Russian Air Force, could “undermine our collective efforts in northern Syria to degrade and defeat ISIL.”

While advising Erdogan to show “reciprocal restraint” and avoid shelling northern Syria where Ankara is engaging Kurds, Obama stressed that “YPG forces should not seek to exploit circumstances in this area to seize additional territory.”

At the same time both leaders called on Moscow and Damascus to halt airstrikes against what they call “moderate opposition forces.” Russia has on numerous occasions denied striking civilian targets, and has repeatedly offered its air support to opposition fighters. Russia's Foreign and Defense Ministries have also repeatedly asked Washington to provide a list of the groups it considers “moderate” enough. The US also ignored calls to share intelligence on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) positions or to join a wider coalition of an anti-terrorist force.

While the Kurdish groups, supported by the United States in the fight against IS in northern Syria, are considered one of the most effective ground forces in fighting jihadists in the area, Ankara regards them as terrorists.

Vowing retaliation in both Syria and Iraq for the Ankara bombing earlier this week, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu promised to continue to bomb the Kurds, including PKK bases in northern Iraq and YPG positions in northern Syria. Ankara also made it clear that it expects cooperation from its NATO allies to assist Ankara in this fight. Following the bombing in Ankara, Erdogan promised to hunt the perpetrators “everywhere” possible.

Prior to speaking with Obama, Erdogan announced that American weapons were being used against civilians by the YPG. The State Department has refuted the claims, with spokesman Mark Toner saying: "We have also seen no evidence to substantiate the claim that the YPG is somehow smuggling US weapons to the PKK."

US-Russia talks on Syria peace ‘serious, constructive’ – Kerry

Earlier in the day, Washington rejected a Russian draft resolution at the UN Security Council condemning any plans for foreign military intervention in Syria. Ambassador Samantha Power even accused Moscow of trying to “distract the world” with its resolution.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the discussions with Moscow on the ceasefire in Syria are “near-constant” and have been “serious and so far constructive.”

“Everyone recognizes the complexity of this endeavor, and there is certainly a lot more work to do. These discussions have been serious and so far constructive, with a few tough issues still to resolve,” Kerry said in London as quoted by Reuters.

He has been in contact with the US Syria team, which is in Geneva and said the negotiations have been ongoing for the past 36 hours.

“Working out modalities for a cessation of hostilities in a situation like Syria is a highly technical and detailed process; and that's why our teams are still at it. We want this process to be sustainable, and should all participants prove willing to really sit down and work this out, we can get to a cessation of hostilities.”

Kerry briefly stopped in London en route to Jordan where he is to discuss Syria with King Abdullah over the weekend.

The proximity talks launched in Geneva in February have been delayed with an indefinite date of restart, according to UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura. On Friday, de Mistura’s office said it would provide a new date for the meeting in Geneva "as soon as possible."

De Mistura told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that the peace talks won't resume in Geneva on February 25 as he had hoped. He said he can’t "realistically" get the parties in the Syrian conflict back to negotiations by that time. However, he added that he hopes the parties will gather “soon.”

“We need real talks about peace, not just talks about talks. Now the Americans and Russians must sit down and agree on a concrete plan on the cessation of hostilities,” he said in the interview on Thursday.

At the beginning of February, the United Nations temporarily suspended peace talks aimed at resolving Syria’s five-year civil war. The UN said the process was to be resumed on February 25 and called on the sides involved to do more to achieve progress.

An ambitious plan to end hostilities in Syria with verifiable results within a week, revived the Geneva-3 peace talks, when Kerry and Lavrov unveiled the truce plan in Munich last Friday. While the humanitarian aid has begun flowing into besieged towns in Syria this week, the warring sides have yet to end hostilities.

rt.com/news/333066-obama-support-erdogan-kurds/

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Arab World

Army Destroys Militants' Concentration Centers, Kills Dozens of Terrorists in Aleppo Province

Feb 20 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army pounded the military positions and gathering centers of the Takfiri terrorists in the Northern province of Aleppo, inflicting heavy losses on them.

The army units also continued their military advances in other parts of Syria, including Hasaka and Hama, over past 24 hours.

Tens of terrorists were killed and dozens more were injured during the Syrian army's operations in Syria's key provinces.

Aleppo

The Syrian army sources informed on Friday that they are preparing for their new round of military operations against the terrorist groups in the Southern parts of Aleppo province.

"The Syrian army and resistance fighters are planning to conduct two separate operations in Abtayn and al-Zorba towns as well as the surrounding areas of Khan Touman town," the military sources said.

The Syrian army has sent reinforcements to the Southern and Eastern parts of Aleppo province.

The Syrian Army troops and popular forces scored more victories against the militant groups in the Northern part of Aleppo province and seized back one more key village.

The Syrian army troops and the National Defense Forces engaged in heavy fighting with the militant groups in Hraytan region and retook full control over the village of Jubb Ghabsheh.

Scores of the militants were killed or wounded and their military grid was also destroyed in the attack.

Hasaka

The town of al-Shadadi in Hasaka province is under siege by the Kurdish forces after they took full control of a large number of villages there, informed sources announced.

The Kurdish forces have laid siege to al-Shadadi town in Hasaka province, informed Kurdish sources said on Friday.

The sources said that the Kurdish forces are likely to take full control of Al-Shadadi in the coming hours.

"The Kurdish fighters captured ten villages, including Zahra Olia, Zahra Sofla and Um Hojra villages just three kilometers from al-Shadadi towns," the sources said.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurdish “People’s Protection Units” (YPG) in a striking attack in Northeastern Syria on Thursday forced the ISIL terrorist group to retreat from vast regions in the Eastern parts of Hasaka Province.

The SDF and YPG won back the Assyrian-populated village of Al-Kharitah, also known as Gesaya, and four nearby villages around al-Hawl in Hasaka Province in a surprise attack as their other units have been striking hard at the ISIL, Al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and other terrorist groups in the Northern parts of Aleppo province in Northwestern Syria in conjunction with the Damascus army, National Defense Forces and Hezbollah.

The YPG Kurds have recently bonded with the Damascus government. The Syrian army sent several arms cargoes to the YPG troops in the Northeastern province of Hasaka and trained the first group of Kurdish volunteer forces in the provincial capital city of Hasaka last week.

The SDF that is comprised of mainly Kurdish fighters as well as a few hundred Syrian Arab dissident forces have received trainings from the US and have been provided with scanty US-coalition air support in their battles in Raqqa province in Northeastern Syria; but in Northern and Northwestern battlefronts, they have been operating alongside the YPG and received the Russian air backup in their Aleppo wars that started with the conquest of Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates early in February.

Assisted by the Syrian army - that has along with popular forces and Hezbollah conquered almost all militant-held regions in Eastern, Southern, Western and Northwestern Aleppo province - and Russian air support, the Kurdish forces fighting against the terrorists in North-Northeast Aleppo province have been making striking advances against the Al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and ISIL terrorists in February.

Hama

The Southern territories of Hama province were the scenes of fierce clashes between the Syrian Army and the militant groups, military sources said, adding the clashes claimed the lives of tens of the militants.

The Syrian army stormed the militant groups' gathering centers near Hirbnafsa near the border of Hama and Homs provinces, and inflicted a heavy death toll on the terrorists.

The militants' military grid also sustained major damage in the attack.

Reports said that twenty terrorists were killed and many more were wounded after their attack on one of the centers of the government forces in the Northwestern part of Hama was repelled by the Syrian Army troops.

The militants stormed the government forces' strongholds in al-Ghab plain near Qarqour region, and tried to break through the army's lines of defense, but the government forces put them under heavy fire and pushed them back from the battlefield.

At least 20 terrorists were killed in the failed attack.

Quneitra

The Syrian Army, deployed in the Southwestern province of Quneitra, repelled the Free Syrian Army's (FSA) offensive and pushed the terrorist group back from the battlefield.

The FSA fighters stormed Tal Qareen in Golan Heights, striking the hilltop’s Western side with a barrage of powerful mortar shells and rockets in order to Weaken the Syrian army’s line of defense before storming their positions.

After the heavy shelling the FSA forces attempted to repeatedly break-through the Syrian soldiers' defense lines at the Western perimeter of Tal Qareen; however, their attacks were repelled by the government forces.

The FSA left behind several dead and wounded members and fled the battlefield to evade more casualties.

Deir Ezzur

The Syrian Army troops attacked a column of militant groups' vehicles on a road in the Eastern province of Deir Ezzur, informed sources said Friday, adding that the attack inflicted major damage on the militants.

"The Syrian army destroyed a long convoy of ISIL vehicles equipped with heavy machineguns on a road linking al-Jneineh with Mheimida, which also claimed the lives of the convoy's guards," the sources said.

"The army's artillery units, meantime, opened fire at several gatherings of ISIL terrorists in al-Baqaliyeh, Ayash, al-Hosseiniyeh and al-Jneineh, killing and wounding several militants," the sources added.

Also on Friday, the Syrian army announced that the country's warplanes, in a fresh round of massive air assault, bombed several centers of the ISIL across Deir Ezzur and destroyed one of their main headquarters on the outskirts of Deir Ezzur city.

"The Syrian warplanes launched a total of 18 airstrikes over the gathering centers and sites of the ISIL in the provincial capital's districts of Sheikh Yasseen, al-Kanamat, al-Hwaiqa, and al-Sina'ah," the army said, adding, "The Syrian fighter jets struck ISIL headquarters inside the provincial capital, destroying the entire infrastructure of this building that is located in the al-Hamidiyah district near the government-controlled al-Jubeileh district.

The ISIL suffered a heavy death toll in the air attacks.

Homs

The ISIL retreated from more positions in the Southeastern part of Homs province under the heavy offensives of the Syrian Army and the National Defense Forces.

The Syrian government forces continued to advance against the ISIL and forced them to pull forces back from more positions near a road connecting Mahasa al-Sharghiyah and Quaryatayn and recaptured al-Makasir and al-Matahen regions.

The ISIL sustained major losses in the attacks.  

Dara'a

The Syrian Army troops and the National Defense Forces (NDF) repelled the militant groups' offensive on government forces' defense lines in Dara'a and inflicted a heavy death toll on the terrorists.

The militants, who had broken through the defense lines of government forces in Tal Qrein near the town of al-Sanameen, failed to advance in the battlefront after the Syrian army and the NDF opened heavy fire at them.

The militants left behind tens of dead or wounded members and fled the battlefield.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941201000418

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Scores of Nusra Terrorists Killed in Clashes with Syrian Army in Homs

Feb 20 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Northern territories of Homs province were the scenes of fierce clashes between the Syrian Army troops and their allies with the al-Nusra Front's militants, provincial sources said Saturday, adding that the Al-Nusra suffered major losses in the fighting.

"Concentration centers of the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front in Tir Ma'ala and Talbiseh came under the heavy attacks of the Syrian army and the National Defense Forces, which not only left scores of militants dead but destroyed their military hardware too," the sources said.

"The pro-government forces also stormed the Takfiri militant group's position near Jabourin, Saqiyet al-Assi and Beit Mansour hill, which claimed the lives of several militants," the sources added.

"The militants' military equipment and vehicles also were damaged in the attacks," they went on to say.

In relevant developments in the Central battlefield of the country on Friday, the ISIL retreated from more positions in the Southeastern part of Homs province under the heavy offensives of the Syrian Army and the National Defense Forces.

The Syrian government forces continued to advance against the ISIL and forced them to pull forces back from more positions near a road connecting Mahasa al-Sharghiyah and Quaryatayn and recaptured al-Makasir and al-Matahen regions.

The ISIL sustained major losses in the attacks.      

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941201000534

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Gap Widening between Riyadh, Abu Dhabi over Yemen, Saudi Jets Hit Pro-Hadi Militias in Ma'rib

Feb 20 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The differences between Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Yemen have increased to such levels of severity that the Saudi fighter jets have targeted the positions of pro-Hadi militias in Ma'rib province.

The Saudi warplanes' raid on pro-Hadi militia targets in Farza9 region in Ma'rib province came just one day after the UAE fighter jets in a similar move pounded a pro-Saudi camp in Yemen's Lahij province.

On Tuesday, Emirati fighter jets targeted the positions of pro-Saudi camp in al-Hawtah city in Lahij province.

The UAE warplanes' raid on pro-Saudi militia targets in Lahij came just one day after Saudi fighter jets in a similar move pounded a UAE military convoy, killing two UAE military servicemen.

The differences between the UAE and Saudi Arabia in Yemen have heightened after the UAE replaced its soldiers with Blackwater mercenaries which faced the stern oppositions of the Riyadh government.

As a result, fugitive President Mansour Hadi and his Prime Minister Khaled Bahah have been running a feud for the past several months, and their differences grew noisy when a number of Saudi officials worked out a plan to replace the former president with his premier - who had both fled to Saudi Arabia then - in order to encourage the revolutionary forces back in Yemen to work with him and allow him to start a new government.

Political observers believe that the quarrel between Hadi and his prime minister derives from the underlying row between Saudi Arabia as supporter of Hadi and UAE as supporter of Bahah.

Meantime, Lahij and Aden provinces have been the scenes of numerous attacks against pro-Hadi forces; the latest case was assassination of Aden governor Ja'afar Saeed.

In a relevant development in late December, Hadi's palace in Aden came under siege by his opponents, forcing him to flee Yemen to Saudi Arabia again.

A newly-formed militant group calling itself 'Southern Yemen's Resistance Forces' had besieged Hadi's place of residence in Aden, Arab media outlets reported on December 23.

Political analysts speculate that the siege of Hadi's palace had taken place with the green light of the United Arab Emirates as a result of a row between the UAE and Saudi Arabia over Hadi and his prime minister.

The speculations came as the UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed had met the leaders of Southern Yemen, including a senior Yemeni Salafi leader Hani bin Barik, in Abu Dhabi.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941130000516

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Kurdish-led force seizes ISIS stronghold in northeast Syria

Alexandra Sims | The Independent | Feb 20, 2016, 08.08 AM IST

Smoke billowing from the Syrian rebel-held area of Douma, east of the capital Damascus, following a reported air strike by Syrian government forces. (AFP photo)Smoke billowing from the Syrian rebel-held area of Douma, east of the capital Damascus, following a reported a... Read More

A Kurdish-led force backed by US-led air strikes has seized an ISIS stronghold in northeastern Syria, a monitor has said.

The Syrian Democratic Forces were in full control of the town of Al-Shadadi in Hasakeh province on Friday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor told AFP.

The announcement follows earlier reports from AFP that Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by international strikes, were just three miles from Al-Shadadi.

The advance comes on the third day of a major offensive by the SDF - an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.

The group has reportedly taken a series of villages and also cut two key ISIS supply routes in the region, one from Al-Shadadi to Mosul in neighbouring Iraq, and a second from the town to Raqqa, the militant group's unofficial capital in Syria.

The Observatory said SDF fighters had also seized the Kibabeh oil field to the northeast of Al-Shadadi, after heavy fighting and multiple air strikes by the US-led coalition fighting ISIS.

The SDF are also engaged in a major operation in Aleppo province, where they have taken key territory from rebel forces.

After taking rebel ground near Aleppo, Syrian government forces backed by Russian air strikes are now poised to advance on Raqqa province.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Kurdish-led-force-seizes-ISIS-stronghold-in-northeast-Syria/articleshow/51064223.cms

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Syrian Armed Forces Pound Militant Centers North, Northeast of Hama

Feb 20 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army and Air Force targeted the militant groups' strongholds in the Northern and Northeastern parts of Hama province, and slowed down the terrorists' logistic-military movements in the region.

The Syrian warplanes carried out several combat flights over the militants' positions near al-Lataminah and Kafr Zita and targeted them heavily, which ended in the killing or wounding of several terrorists and destruction of their military grid in large scale.

The Syrian army, for its part, engaged in heavy fighting with the militants near the town of Ma'an in the Northeastern part of Hama and inflicted more defeats on the groups.

On Friday, twenty terrorists were killed and many more were wounded after their attack on one of the centers of the government forces in the Northwestern part of Hama was repelled by the Syrian Army troops.

The militants stormed the government forces' strongholds in al-Ghab plain near Qarqour region, and tried to break through the army's lines of defense, but the government forces put them under heavy fire and pushed them back from the battlefield.

At least 20 terrorists were killed in the failed attack.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941201000650

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Russian, Syrian Air Attacks Inflict Major Death Toll on ISIL in Deir Ezzur

Feb 20 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The ISIL suffered heavy casualties in the Russian and Syrian warplanes' coordinated combat sorties in the Western part of Deir Ezzur province.

The Russia air forces targeted the ISIL sites near the village of al-Hassan which ended in the destruction of the militants' vehicles and several terrorists.

The Syrian fighter jets, meantime, bombed the ISIL centers near al-Hassan and al-Janiniyeh, claiming the lives of several terrorists.

The Syrian army, for its part, engaged in heavy fighting with a group of the ISIL near the village of Baqaliyah in the Western side of Deir Ezzur city, which left several terrorists dear or wounded.

Also on Friday, the Syrian army troops thwarted the ISIL attempts to break through the government forces' lines of defense in the Northwestern part of Deir Ezzur province, and forced the terrorist group to retreat from the battlefield.

The ISIL launched a powerful assault against the army's defense lines in al-Baqaliyah district near the Deir Ezzur Military Airport, but the Syria government forces fended off the attack.

The ISIL militants' failed offensive ended in the killing of at least 30 terrorists and destruction of 3 armored vehicles mounted with 23 mm anti-aircraft machineguns.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941201000681

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Hasaka: Syrian Kurds Win back Al-Shadadi Town

Feb 20 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The town of al-Shadadi in Hasaka province was seized back by the Kurdish forces after they took full control of a large number of villages there, informed sources announced.

The Kurdish forces are now in full control of al-Shadadi town in Hasaka province, informed Kurdish sources said on Saturday.

On Friday, the Kurdish forces laid siege to al-Shadadi town.

"The Kurdish fighters captured ten villages, including Zahra Olia, Zahra Sofla and Um Hojra villages just three kilometers from al-Shadadi towns," the sources said.

In a relevant development on Thursday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurdish “People’s Protection Units” (YPG) in a striking attack in Northeastern Syria forced the ISIL terrorist group to retreat from vast regions in the Eastern parts of Hasaka Province.

Full report at: en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941201000462

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Syria: Militants Killed, Attempt to Detonate Explosive Devices Thwarted in Deir Ezzur

Feb 20 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Syrian army units foiled ISIL militants' attempt to blow up two explosive-laden cars near the government forces' positions West of Deir Ezzur province.

The Syrian army foiled the ISIL plan to hit the government forces' positions and checkpoints near the village of al-Baqaliyeh with two bomb-laden cars, which also claimed the lives of several militants.

Sources said on Friday that the Syrian army troops attacked a column of militant groups' vehicles on a road in Deir Ezzur province.

"The Syrian army destroyed a long convoy of ISIL vehicles equipped with heavy machineguns on a road linking al-Jneineh with Mheimida, which also claimed the lives of the convoy's guards," the sources said.

"The army's artillery units, meantime, opened fire at several gatherings of ISIL terrorists in al-Baqaliyeh, Ayash, al-Hosseiniyeh and al-Jneineh, killing and wounding several militants," the sources added.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941201000337

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Syria: Gov't Forces Score More Victories against Militants in Lattakia

Feb 20 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army and popular forces continued their advances against the militant groups across the Northern part of Lattakia and captured more villages and heights near the border with Turkey.

The Syrian army troops and the National Defense Forces (NDF) pushed the militant groups back from their positions near the villages of Ard al-Bayadat, Ruweisat al-Qashmar, Ruweisat al-Kaniseh, Ruweisat al-Shmeis, Toubal Citadel and the heights 844 and 722 following hours of tough battle.

The militant groups left behind scores of the dead and wounded members and fled the battlefield to evade more casualties.

On Friday, the Syrian army, the NDF, Fouj al-Mughawayr al-Bahr (Syrian Marines), the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) and Liwa Suqour al-Sahra (Desert Hawks Brigade) imposed full control over the village of Beit Binjarou after a tough battle with the terrorists of al-Nusra Front, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and Harakat Ahrar al-Sham.

Following the capture of Beit Binjarou, the army soldiers and their allies stormed the militants' positions near Jabal al-Qawama and seized back the mountain.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941201000234

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Sweida: Syrian Army Seizes One More Ammo Cargo of Militants

Feb 20 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army, after receiving tips from its intelligence agents in the Southern part of the country, seized a vehicle loaded with large volume of ammunition on a road in the Southern part of Sweida province.

The cargo of militants' weapons and ammunition, including RPG and mortar shells, was seized by the Syrian army on a road toward the Eastern Desert (Badiyah).

The Southern province of Sweida, bordering Jordan, has since 2011 been one of the main spots for the infiltration of foreign terrorists and smuggling of arms cargoes to the militant groups inside Syria.

On Wednesdays, the Syrian army troops tracked and confiscated the militant groups' consignment of arms, including a large number of anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines made in Israel.

The Syrian soldiers deployed in the Western part of Sweida province found a large cargo of weapons and ammunition, including a large number of lethal mines.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941201000400

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In setback, Syrian peace talks not to resume next week

AP | Feb 20, 2016

BEIRUT: In another setback to international efforts to resolve Syria's devastating civil war, peace talks are not to resume next week in Geneva, a UN envoy announced as Turkey on Friday intensified cross-border artillery shelling on areas dominated by Syria's US-backed, mostly Kurdish militia.

But reinforcing its image as a key force battling the Islamic State group on the ground, the predominantly Kurdish coalition, known as the Syria Democratic Forces, on Friday captured the town of Shaddadeh in the country's northeast. The town was one of the biggest strongholds of the extremists.

Meanwhile, Russia called for an urgent Security Council meeting over the deteriorating border situation. A statement posted on the Russian foreign ministry's website said it intends to submit a draft council resolution calling on Turkey to "cease any actions that undermine Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Full report at: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/In-setback-Syrian-peace-talks-not-to-resume-next-week/articleshow/51063468.cms

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Saudi Arabia will run out of groundwater in 13 years

The Independent | Feb 20, 2016

Saudi Arabia has started taxing water for residents to try and address the soaring cost of debt as oil revenues decline. The water tariff comes amid warnings that Saudi Arabia's groundwater will run out in the next 13 years. Mohammed Al-Ghamdi, a faculty member at King Faisal University, warned that groundwater was running out after the World Bank issued a report on global natural water scarcity.

Full report at: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Saudi-Arabia-will-run-out-of-groundwater-in-13-years/articleshow/51062958.cms

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Africa

Police Bust ISIS Terror Cell Preparing ‘Chemical Attack’ In Morocco

20 Feb, 2016 04:44

In a police raid on a “safe house” in El Jadida on Thursday, police arrested a 10-member cell and confiscated a large cache of weapons consisting of automatic machine guns, revolvers, and a rifle that were brought from Libya. An Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) flag was also reportedly seized in the raid.

Among those detained was one French national and a 16-year old teenager, who received training to carry out a suicide car bomb attack, Director of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), Abdelhak Khiame, said at a press conference on Friday.

Full report at: rt.com/news/333058-morocco-isis-terror-commando/

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2 Serbian embassy staff kidnapped in Libya believed killed in US ISIS raid – Serbian FM

20 Feb, 2016 09:46

Two Serbian embassy staff, abducted in Libya, are believed to have been killed in a US raid on an Islamic State training camp, the Serbian foreign minister has announced.

The report of the two Serbians’ deaths is yet to be confirmed by the Libyan authorities, Ivica Dacic told media at an emergency conference.

Communications chief Sladjana Stankovic and her driver Jovica Stepic were abducted in the northwestern coastal city of Sabratha on November 8, 2015, when their car was separated from a convoy carrying Serbia’s ambassador to Libya and hijacked by gunmen.

They are thought to have been killed by US warplanes, which bombed a suspected IS camp in western Libya on Friday. The raid reportedly killed more than 40 people.

Full report at: rt.com/news/333082-us-raid-libya-serbians-killed/

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Despite deadly strike, US wary of Libya engagement: Experts

AFP | Feb 20, 2016

WASHINGTON: The US bombardment of an Islamic State camp in Libya dramatically highlights Washington's resolve to hunt the jihadists beyond their Syrian and Iraqi strongholds, but experts doubt it heralds any deeper engagement in the chaos-riddled country.

In what was only the second time the United States hit an IS target in Libya, the air strike early Friday saw warplanes and drones obliterate a training center near the city of Sabratha west of Tripoli. Local officials said about 50 people were killed.

The Pentagon would not confirm the toll, but said as many as 60 jihadists were spotted using the facility during weeks of surveillance ahead of the strike, and that a top IS operative, Noureddine Chouchane, was "likely" killed.

Full report at: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Despite-deadly-strike-US-wary-of-Libya-engagement-Experts/articleshow/51063439.cms

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Pakistan

Militants Blew Up New Government School in Waziristan

Reuters | Feb 20, 2016

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, (PAKISTAN): Militants blew up part of a newly constructed government school in Pakistan's South Waziristan region late Friday night, a spokesman for a wing of the Pakistani Taliban said on Saturday, the latest in a string of attacks on educational institutions.

No one was hurt in the blast in Pakistan's restive tribal belt, but 18 labourers working on the site were abducted, said Azam Tariq, a spokesman for an arm of the Pakistani Taliban known as the "Sajna" group, which claimed responsibility for the attack. He said the workers were released a short time later.

"We have blown up the school because it was a government installation," said Tariq, warning the group would continue to attack government targets.

Twenty people were killed and dozens wounded last month when militants launched an attack on Bacha Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a little more than a year after Taliban gunmen massacred 134 students at a military school in nearby Peshawar.

Full report at: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Militants-blew-up-new-government-school-in-Waziristan/articleshow/51067953.cms

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Non-bailable arrest warrant issued against Pervez Musharraf

PTI | Feb 20, 2016

ISLAMABAD: A non-bailable warrant was issued against former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf on Saturday in connection with the murder case of Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was killed in a military crackdown in 2007.

A local court in Islamabad issued the order and directed the authorities to produce Musharraf before it on March 16.

The court also rejected Musharraf's plea seeking permanent exemption from appearing in the case and issued the warrants.

His counsel said they would challenge the order, Geo News reported.

The 72-year-old former president has never appeared before the court during the previous 55 hearings. This is the fourth non-bailable arrest warrant against Musharraf in the case.

The cleric's family filed a case in 2013 against Musharraf over his alleged involvement in the killing of Rashid during a 2007 operation when military commandos stormed the mosque in the heart of Islamabad on Musharraf's orders.

Full report at: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Non-bailable-arrest-warrant-issued-against-Pervez-Musharraf/articleshow/51068680.cms

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Gunmen kill 3 police officers in central Pakistan

PTI | Feb 20, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Two gunmen shot and killed three police officers in an attack on a patrol team in the central city of Faisalabad.

Police officer Hidayat Ali said the two gunmen escaped on a motorbike after shooting late on Friday.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the assault but a local affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed a similar attack on police patrol in Islamabad, last week.

The previous claim came through a statement circulated online. One officer was killed and two wounded in the Islamabad attack.

Pakistan's interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, however, denied the existence of any IS affiliate or branch in the country, saying militants operating for different groups invoke the name of IS to spread fear.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Gunmen-kill-3-police-officers-in-central-Pakistan/articleshow/51065022.cms

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Token hunger strike by MQM over media ban on Altaf’s speeches

February 20th, 2016

KARACHI: Dozens of leaders and elected representatives of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement began their 12-hour token hunger strike on Friday against a Lahore High Court ban on broadcast of party chief Altaf Hussain’s speeches.

Last year in August, a full bench of the LHC while hearing petitions against the MQM chief’s controversial remarks against the armed forces had directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to ensure a complete ban on telecast of his speeches till further order. The ban is still in place despite a passage of six months and the MQM is using different methods to lodge its protest within the country and other parts of the world.

Full report at: dawn.com/news/1240675/token-hunger-strike-by-mqm-over-media-ban-on-altafs-speeches

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Pathankot FIR as per law: Sana

February 20th, 2016

LAHORE: Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah says the registration of an FIR by the Counter Terrorism Department against unidentified attackers of Pathankot airbase is in accordance with law.

After the registration of the FIR, he said, India should understand that Pakistan was serious in eliminating terrorists and terrorism from the region. He said a joint investigation team was probing into the case and that any non-state actor found involved would be punished. However, he said, nobody could be tried on the basis of assumptions.

He told reporters the National Accountability Bureau could surely investigate into mega projects, including Nandipur Project, Metro Bus and Orange Line train but any measure creating misunderstandings could not be allowed.

Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed said the registration of an FIR in the Pathankot incident had put Pakistan on a defensive pitch. He also called the registration of the FIR a cowardly move, adding the government should have first investigated on the basis of proofs provided by the Indian government.

dawn.com/news/1240728/pathankot-fir-as-per-law-sana

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South Asia

Afghan Government Declares Removing Daesh from Its Stronghold in Nangarhar

By Khaama Press - Sat Feb 20 2016

Ministry of Defense announced on Saturday that all villages of Achin District have been cleared of the terrorists belonging to the Islamic State (IS) or Daesh.

Achin was considered as a stronghold of the group in eastern Nangarhar province where they had established captivities and were also carrying out executions.

Defense Ministry says 1,000 families internally displaced because militancy have returned to their homes in Achin.

Full report at: khaama.com/defense-ministry-says-nangarhars-achin-district-cleared-of-daesh-4587

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Afghanistan Reiterates Commitment to End Recruitment, Use of Children in ANSF

By Khaama Press - Sat Feb 20 2016

During a mission by Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, the Afghan Government reiterated its commitment to fully implement its Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the national security forces.

“The political will and progress I have seen on the ground are encouraging. The Government’s commitment will be instrumental to turn the page on the recruitment and use of children in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF),” declared the Special Representative.

Zerrougui travelled to Afghanistan from 13 to 17 February to assess the situation of children affected by the armed conflict and to engage with authorities and partners on the protection of boys and girls. She met with President Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, Vice President Danish, and key ministers, as well as with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, NATO, the diplomatic community and UN and NGO partners.

Full report at: khaama.com/afghanistan-reiterates-commitment-to-end-recruitment-use-of-children-in-ansf-0122

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Taliban bomb kill 6 member of a single family in Paktika province

By Khaama Press - Sat Feb 20 2016

At least six members of a single family were killed in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosion in eastern Paktika province of Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said the incident took place on Thursday afternoon at 2:00 pm in the vicinity of Wazkhwa district.

MoI said the civilians were travelling in a motorcycle when it struck an IED planted by Taliban militants, leaving six dead, including four children.

Full report at: khaama.com/taliban-bomb-kill-6-member-of-a-single-family-in-paktika-province-0123

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Army pulled out of Helmand’s Musa Qala District

By Khaama Press - Sat Feb 20 2016

Government forces have pulled out of bases in Musa Qala, a strategic district of the southern province of Helmand, after months of heavy fighting with Taliban insurgents, Reuters reports.

Helmand, a traditional heartland of the Taliban and one of the world’s biggest centers of opium production, has been threatened for months and the United States recently sent hundreds of soldiers to the province to bolster its defense.

The commander of the Afghan army’s 215th corps, Mohammad Moeen Faqir, said troops had been ordered to pull back from Roshan Tower, their main base in Musa Qala, as well as other checkpoints to reinforce Gereshk, straddling the main Highway One which links Kabul with the south and west.

Full report at: khaama.com/army-pulled-out-of-helmands-musa-qala-district-4587

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Two Haqqani commanders among six detained in Khost

By Khaama Press - Sat Feb 20 2016

Six terrorists belonging to notorious Haqqani network have been detained in joint security operation in Sabari and Baak districts of Khost province.

The National Directorate of Security (NDS) – Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said on Saturday that the arrested terrorists include Rahimullah and Sattar, two commanders of the network.

Other four terrorists are identified as Awal Mir S/O Khan Mir, Seyal Mir S/O Khan Mir, Mohammad Amir S/O Janat Mir and Abdullah S/O Sayed Mir.

Five Kalashnikovs, a binocular and two walky-talkies were confiscated from the possession of the terrorists.

Initial investigation conducted from the group led NDS to seize a depot of ammunition which had a huge number of shells for heavy and light weapons.

According to the statement, the Area of Operation ‘AO’ of the group was Sabari and Baak districts.

khaama.com/two-haqqani-commanders-among-six-detained-in-khost-4588

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Daesh leader arrested in Ghor

By Khaama Press - Sat Feb 20 2016

Security forces have arrested a leader of the terrorist group of the Islamic State (IS) which also goes by its Arabic name Daesh in western Ghor province.

Spokesperson for Ghor Governor did not name the arrested terrorist while talking to Azadi Radio but said he was heading Daesh group in this province.

Ahmad Mahmodi added that the terrorist is from Murghab District of neighboring Badghis province but he was arrested from Firozkoh, the provincial capital of Ghor province.

He was leading Taliban in northern part of Ghor but later joined Daesh, Mahmodi said.

Before the emergence of Daesh about 16 months before, the hotspot of terrorists was southern part of the country but now they are apparently trying to establish its roots in western and northern parts of the country as well more likely to spill over to other countries.

Observing the situation, Turkmenistan has strengthened its border security by sending additional combat-ready forces and equipment to its border areas with Afghanistan.

khaama.com/daesh-leader-arrested-in-ghor-4586

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Three weapon suppliers to terrorists arrested in Kabul

By Khaama Press - Sat Feb 20 2016

The National Directorate of Security (NDS) – Afghanistan’s intelligence agency has arrested three individuals in Kabul city who were supplying weapons to terrorists.

A statement released by NDS on Friday states that Malikuddin S/O Hayauddin, Sayed Mohammad S/O Ghulam Sakhi and Sayed Fahim S/O Sayed Mohammad were arrested red handed with three pistols and a large number of bullets for Kalashnikovs from the jurisdiction of 19 sector of the city.

According to the statement, the suspects were supplying these materials to terrorist groups in eastern Nangarahar for attacks.

NDS statements usually do not contain exact date of the achievements but they usually come after recent activities.

khaama.com/three-weapon-suppliers-to-terrorists-arrested-in-kabul-4585

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India

While Dawood hides in Pakistan, nephew falls in US net for narco-terrorism

Ahmed Ali | TNN | Feb 20, 2016

MUMBAI: Dawood Ibrahim's nephew Sohail Kaskar, 36, has been caught in the US for conspiring to commit narcoterrorism, provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and unlawfully sell missile launching systems. The terrorist group is Colombia's FARC (Spanish acronym for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

Sohail and two Pakistani nationals were arrested by the US's dreaded Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in December 2015 after extradition from Spain, but Dawood and his cronies used all their might and connections to supress the news to prevent Dawood's "international image" from getting tarnished, sources said

Sohail, alias Ali Danish, is Dawood's deceased younger brother Noora's older son. Sources said Dawood has engaged a top lawyer for Sohail, who, if convicted, can face a maximum sentence of life in jail and a mandatory minim-um term of 25 years in prison.

The lawyer, Tom Keniff, is representing him in the Manhattan federal court, which charged him in December 2015 for supplying surface to-air missiles to FARC and for bringing drugs, mainly heroin, into the US from Pakistan.

Full report at: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/While-Dawood-hides-in-Pakistan-nephew-falls-in-US-net-for-narco-terrorism/articleshow/51063118.cms

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Saudi Arabia, Iraq sell more oil to India, elbow out Latin America crude

Reuters | Feb 19, 2016

NEW DELHI: India's oil imports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq hit the highest in more than a decade last month as Opec's top producers gained at the expense of Latin American crudes, a validation of the Opec policy of maintaining output and fighting for market share.

Competitive prices and shorter shipping distances are giving the Middle East members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) the upper hand in India, the world's third-largest crude oil importer.

Saudi Arabia was the top supplier to India in January, with volumes jumping 29 per cent from the same month a year ago to nearly 940,000 barrels per day (bpd), ship tracking data obtained from sources and data compiled by Thomson Reuters Oil Research & Forecasts showed on Friday.

Full report at: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/Saudi-Arabia-Iraq-sell-more-oil-to-India-elbow-out-Latin-America-crude/articleshow/51057996.cms

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Mideast

Press associations launch campaign to ‘free journalism’ in Turkey

February 19, 2016

In solidarity with 33 imprisoned journalists in the country, press associations headed by the Turkish Journalists' Association (TGC) announced on Thursday that they have launched a campaign titled “Free journalism” to raise public awareness on the unlawfulness of putting journalists in pre-trial detention over crimes related to their jobs.

Representatives of the TGC, the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS), the Contemporary Journalists Association (ÇGD) and the Basın-İş Union -- an affiliate union under the Confederation of the Revolutionary Workers' Union (DİSK) -- were present during a press conference in Ankara on Thursday.

TGC President Turgay Olcayto said during the conference people's right to information is central to the work of journalists and that their duty is to disseminate information to the people.

Full report at: todayszaman.com/national_press-associations-launch-campaign-to-free-journalism_412764.html

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Despite Turkish protests, US says it ’trusts’ YPG in Syria

February 20, 2016

The United States has insisted that it continues to view the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as an effective partner against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria despite Turkish protests that it is a terrorist group that should be treated as such.

“Our assessment, our policy towards the YPG and the [allied Democratic Union Party] PYD has not changed. And our policy towards the PKK has not changed. We view the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK as a foreign terrorist organization. We view the YPG differently, and we’ve talked about this many times. That has not changed,” US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said at a press briefing on Friday.

Toner’s remarks came hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he was “saddened” by the Western allies’ failure to see the YPG as a terrorist group and accused the US of giving arms to the militia group that he said ended up being used against civilians.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu earlier said the US makes contradictory statements about the YPG and quoted US Secretary of State John Kerry as telling him during a phone conversation that the YPG could not be trusted, in what he said was a departure from Washington's official position.

“They have been very effective partners on the ground in northern Syria, as part of a broader group of forces fighting in northern Syria, in pushing back ISIL. And we’ve not seen, in our assessment, any inclination for them to do anything else other than take the fight to Daesh,” Toner said. When he was asked if he trusts the YPG in this regard, he responded: “I trust them in this regard … Until proven otherwise, yes.”

The Turkish government has squarely blamed the YPG for a car bomb attack in the capital city of Ankara, in which 28 people, most of whom were soldiers, were killed on Feb. 17. The PYD, the YPG’s political arm, however, denied the YPG was involved, claiming that Ankara seeks an excuse to escalate strikes against the YPG. A group that was once linked to the PKK, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), claimed responsibility for the attack.

Turkish military has been shelling YPG positions in northern Syria for the past week and Turkish officials said after the Ankara bombing that the Kurdish group will continue to be targeted to protect Turkey’s security.

Erdoğan, who had a phone conversation with US President Barack Obama on Friday, said earlier in the day that he would tell Obama that weapons supplied to the YPG by the US were used against civilians.

"I will tell him, 'Look at how and where those weapons you provided were fired'," Erdoğan told reporters in İstanbul. "Months ago in my meeting with him I told him the US was supplying weapons. Three plane loads arrived, half of them ended up in the hands of Daesh (ISIL), and half of them in the hands of the PYD," he said. "Against whom were these weapons used? They were used against civilians there and caused their deaths."

Toner denied providing arms to the YPG. “We have not provided any weapons to – of any kind to the YPG. And we’ve also seen no evidence to substantiate the claim that the YPG is somehow smuggling any U.S.-origin weapons to the PKK,” he said.

“I understand completely that the Turks feel otherwise. We understand that; we get it. We talk to the Turks all the time about their concerns. But that said, the YPG, as I said, as part of a broader group of forces fighting in northern Syria, is focused on defeating Daesh,” Toner said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.

Asked whether the US was concerned about YPG motives, that its goal may be to expand its territory in northern Syria as a prelude to a sort of an independent Kurdish entity, Toner said the US was aware of such a belief and that it was communicating with the YPG on that.

“We have been very candid in our discussions with the YPG, as we are with all groups, that as they liberate territory, they need to ensure that good governance and a broad, inclusive governance is allowed to return in order for the refugees who have been displaced to return to those areas. So they’re aware of our concerns on this,” he said.

todayszaman.com/anasayfa_despite-turkish-protests-us-says-it-trusts-ypg-in-syria_412853.html

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Turkey says Obama shares Syria concerns with Erdoğan, affirms support

February 19, 2016

Turkey's presidency said US President Barack Obama had shared his concerns over the Syrian conflict and promised his support on Friday, hours after a tense exchange between the two NATO allies over the role of Syrian Kurdish militants.

In a phone conversation that lasted one hour and 20 minutes, Ankara said Obama had told his counterpart President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that Turkey had a right to self-defense, and expressed worries over advances by Syrian Kurdish militias near Turkey's border.

Obama stressed to Erdoğan that Syrian Kurdish YPG forces should not seek to exploit recent gains by the Syrian government to seize additional territory, the White House said in a statement.

He also called for Turkey to "show reciprocal restraint" by stopping artillery strikes in the area, the statement said.

Earlier on Friday, Erdoğan had said US-supplied weapons had been used against civilians by YPG that Ankara blames for the deadly suicide bombing this week.

The State Department, which sees the Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters as useful allies against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), said the United States had "not provided any weapons of any kind" to the group.

The issue risks driving a wedge between the NATO allies at a critical point in Syria's civil war, as the United States pursues intensive talks with Syria's ally Russia to bring about a "cessation of hostilities."

Turkey has blamed the YPG for the suicide car bomb attack on Wednesday that killed 28 people, most of them soldiers. But a Turkey-based Kurdish splinter group has claimed responsibility for the bombing and threatened more attacks.

Obama expressed his condolences to Erdoğan over the bombing in the Turkish capital, the White House said.

Before the call with Obama, Erdoğan said he was saddened by the West's refusal to call the Syrian Kurdish militia terrorists, and would explain to the US president how weapons provided by the United States had aided them.

"I will tell him, 'Look at how and where those weapons you provided were fired'," Erdoğan told reporters in İstanbul.

"Months ago in my meeting with him I told him the US was supplying weapons. Three plane loads arrived, half of them ended up in the hands of Daesh (ISIL), and half of them in the hands of the PYD," he said. "Against whom were these weapons used? They were used against civilians there and caused their deaths."

The White House statement did not say whether Erdoğan brought up the subject of US weapons with Obama.

Erdoğan appeared to be referring to a US air drop of 28 bundles of military supplies in late 2014 meant for Iraqi Kurdish fighters near the Syrian city of Kobani. Pentagon officials said at the time one had fallen into the hands of ISIL. The Pentagon later said it had targeted the missing bundle in an air strike and destroyed it.

The United States has said it does not consider the YPG a terrorist group. A spokesman for the State Department said on Thursday that Washington was not in a position to confirm or deny Turkey's charge that the YPG was behind the Ankara bombing.

The spokesman also called on Turkey to stop its recent shelling of the YPG. The YPG's political arm has denied the group was behind the Ankara attack and said Turkey was using it to justify an escalation in fighting in northern Syria.

The Turkish government has said the Ankara attack, in which a car laden with explosives was detonated next to military buses as they waited at traffic lights, was carried out by a YPG member from northern Syria working with Kurdish militants inside Turkey.

But the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), a group that once had links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement on its website. It said the bomber was a 26-year-old Turkish national.

The claim of responsibility by TAK is unlikely to make a difference to Turkey's demand that Washington stop its support of the Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu earlier accused the United States of making conflicting statements about the Syrian Kurdish militia.

He said US Secretary of State John Kerry had told him the Kurdish insurgents could not be trusted, in what Çavuşoğlu said was a departure from Washington's official position.

"My friend Kerry said the YPG cannot be trusted," Çavuşoğlu said at a news conference during a visit to Tbilisi. "When you look at some statements coming from America, conflicting and confused statements are still coming.... We were glad to hear from John Kerry yesterday that his views on the YPG have partly changed."

Within hours of the Ankara attack, Turkish warplanes bombed bases in northern Iraq of the PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency against Turkey and which Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu accused of collaborating in the car bombing.

Violence between Turkish security forces and the PKK has been at its worst since the 1990s after a two-and-a-half-year ceasefire collapsed last July.

Two soldiers and a police officer were killed on Friday in a PKK attack in the Sur district of the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, parts of which have been under round-the-clock curfew since December, the armed forces said.

Three other soldiers were killed as a building collapsed in the same district.

todayszaman.com/diplomacy_turkey-says-obama-shares-syria-concerns-with-erdogan-affirms-support_412826.html

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Erdoğan slams intellectuals who opposed joining Syria war in petition

February 19, 2016

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has lambasted the academics and intellectuals who have voiced their objection to the possibility of Turkey going to war in Syria by signing a petition titled “No to War in Syria” on Thursday, accusing them of raising a generation of violent students who wreaked havoc in Turkey's universities.

Full report at: todayszaman.com/national_erdogan-slams-intellectuals-who-opposed-joining-syria-war-in-petition_412811.html

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Detained Syrian journalist freed without charges in Turkey

February 20, 2016

A Syrian journalist arrested in Turkey while applying for a residence permit says he has been freed.

In a message posted Saturday on Facebook, Rami Jarrah said Turkish authorities have released him without charges. He said he had not been given an explanation for his arrest on Wednesday, but said it might be related to his crossing into Syria.

Full report at: todayszaman.com/diplomacy_detained-syrian-journalist-freed-without-charges-in-turkey_412852.html

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TAK claims responsibility for Ankara bombing

February 19, 2016

A terrorist group once linked to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) claimed responsibility on Friday for the bombing in the Turkish capital Ankara that killed 28 people this week, according to a statement on its website.

The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) said the bombing was in response to the policies of President Tayyip Erdoğan and said it would continue its attacks.

It said the bomber was Abdülbaki Sönmez, a 26-year old Turkish national born in the eastern city of Van.

Full report at: todayszaman.com/national_tak-claims-responsibility-for-ankara-bombing_412822.html

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Total number of detentions over Ankara attack reaches 17

February 19, 2016

The total number of the detentions carried out in the investigation into a bombing attack in Ankara on Wednesday has reached 17, Turkish media cited Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Harun Kodalak as saying on Friday.

A bomb attack in central Ankara, close to military headquarters and Parliament, killed 28 people and injured 61 others on Wednesday night. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Thursday that the attack was carried out by Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in cooperation with members of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey.

Later on Thursday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said 14 people were detained in connection with the attack and said that number would increase.

todayszaman.com/national_total-number-of-detentions-over-ankara-attack-reaches-17_412735.html

 

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