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IS ‘trapping 200 families’ in last bastion in Syria”:


Some 20,000 people who have fled Baghuz in recent weeks have been taken to a camp

The UN has expressed concern about the fate of some 200 families reportedly trapped in the last tiny area of Syria still held by the Islamic State group.

Human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the many women and children in Baghuz were apparently being actively prevented from leaving by IS militants.

They also continued to be subjected to intense bombardment by US-led coalition forces and allied Syrian fighters.

Ms Bachelet demanded that safe passage be provided to those wanting to flee.

Could a defeated IS rebound?

“Those wish to remain must also be protected as much as possible,” she added. “They should not be sacrificed to ideology on the one hand, or military expediency on the other.

“If protecting civilian lives means taking a few more days to capture the last fraction of land controlled by [IS], then so be it.”

IS members walk in the last area held by the jihadist group in Baghuz, Syria (18 February 2019)

IS militants are reportedly confined to tents pitched on top of a network of tunnels and caves

Five years ago, IS controlled 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) of territory stretching from western Syria to eastern Iraq, proclaimed the creation of a “caliphate”, imposed its brutal rule on almost eight million people and generated billions of dollars from oil, extortion, robbery and kidnapping.

Now, an estimated 300 militants and hundreds of civilians are surrounded inside about 0.5 sq km (0.2 square miles) of land in the Baghuz area, which is in the Middle Euphrates River Valley near the border with Iraq.

Map showing last IS-held territory in Syria (18 February 2019)

Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance launched an offensive to capture Baghuz on 9 February.

On Monday, unconfirmed reports suggested that the IS militants were seeking to negotiate safe passage to the opposition-held north-western province of Idlib.

There was no confirmation from the SDF. But a spokesman appeared to dismiss such an idea on Tuesday, insisting the militants had “only two options – either they surrender or they will be killed in battle”.

“We are working on secluding and evacuating civilians and then we will attack. This could happen soon,” Mustafa Bali was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

Fighters from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance in Baghuz, Syria (19 February 2019)

US-backed SDF fighters launched an assault on Baghuz this month

Although no civilians have reportedly made it out of Baghuz in the past three days, some 20,000 have been taken by the SDF to a makeshift camp for displaced people at al-Hol, in Hassakeh province, in recent weeks.

Among them are the wives and children of IS militants and many foreign nationals, including the British teenager Shamima Begum, who was 15 when she ran away from her home to join IS four years ago.

The International Rescue Committee said on Monday that at least 62 people had died on their way to al-Hol, two thirds of them children under the age of one. Exhaustion and malnutrition were the principle causes of the deaths.

Shamima Begum: ‘The poster girl thing was not my choice’

Ms Bachelet also said she was alarmed by an upsurge in attacks and civilian casualties in Idlib province, where a takeover by a jihadist group linked to al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, has jeopardised a truce brokered by Turkey and Russia in September.

The Syrian government’s bombardment of a demilitarised buffer zone, which runs along the frontline in Idlib and areas of northern Hama and western Aleppo provinces, started to escalate in December and has further intensified in recent days, according to the UN.

At the same time, there has been an increase in fighting among rebel and jihadist factions, and also in the use of improvised explosive devices in areas they control.

On Monday, at least 16 civilians, including women and children, were reportedly killed by two bomb explosions in the Qusour district of Idlib city. The second blast appeared to have been designed to kill people, including medical workers, trying to come to the aid victims of the first.

Another nine civilians, including four women and two boys, were meanwhile reportedly killed by government strikes on Khan Sheikhoun on Friday and Saturday.

How the jihadist group rose and fell

October 2006
The jihadist group announces the creation of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and in April 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi becomes its leader.

January 2013
The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) begins seizing control of territory in Syria, including the city of Raqqa. In April that year, al-Baghdadi changes his group’s name to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil or Isis).

June 2014
Isis conquers over a dozen Iraqi cities and towns like Mosul and Tikrit, and seizes Syria’s largest oilfield in the Homs province. On 29 June, the jihadist group formally declares the creation of a caliphate and becomes known as Islamic State (IS).

August 2014
IS fighters begin killing and enslaving thousands from the Yazidi religious minority in northern Iraq and release the first of several videos of Western hostages – journalists and aid workers – being beheaded.

September 2014
The US begins air strikes, starting with attacks on the de-facto IS capital of Raqqa.

January 2015
IS is at the height of its control, ruling over almost eight million people across 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) from western Syria to eastern Iraq. It is also generating billions of dollars from oil, extortion, robbery and kidnapping.

March 2016
The Syrian government recaptures the ancient city of Palmyra, but loses it again in December 2016 and then finally recaptures the destroyed Unesco World Heritage site in March 2017.

July 2017
Iraqi forces liberate Mosul, but the 10-month battle leaves thousands of civilians dead, more than 800,000 displaced and much of Iraq’s second city destroyed.

October 2017
IS loses control of Raqqa to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, ending three years of rule.

December 2017
Iraq’s government declares victory over IS after retaking full control of the Iraqi-Syrian border.

February 2019
US President Donald Trump says the jihadist group is close to being defeated, after a battle for the final IS-held territory on the Syrian-Iraqi border lasted weeks.

Shamima Begum: ‘I didn’t want to be IS poster girl’


In an interview with the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Quentin Sommerville, Shamima Begum – the schoolgirl who fled London to join the Islamic State group in Syria – has said she never wanted to be an IS “poster girl”. Ms Begum, who has just given birth, said she now wants the UK’s forgiveness and supports “some British values”.

She told the BBC while it was “wrong” innocent people died in the 2017 Manchester attack, it was “kind of retaliation” for attacks on IS. The 19-year-old left Bethnal Green four years ago with two school friends

Yemen war: Parties agree Hudaydah port withdrawal plan


Hudaydah is a lifeline port for millions on the brink of famine

Yemen’s government and the rebel Houthi movement have agreed on the first phase of a withdrawal of forces around the key port of Hudaydah, the UN says.

A statement said the two sides had made “important progress on planning for the redeployment” following two days of talks, but no start date was given.

The pull-out is a critical part of a ceasefire agreed in Sweden in December.

Hudaydah is the principal lifeline for two-thirds of Yemen’s population, which is on the brink of famine.

The country has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in early 2015, when the Houthis forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee abroad.

Alarmed by the rise of a group they saw as an Iranian proxy, Saudi Arabia and eight other Arab states intervened in an attempt to restore the government.

At least 6,800 civilians have been killed and 10,700 injured in the fighting, according to the UN. Thousands more civilians have died from preventable causes, including malnutrition, disease and poor health.

Where the fighting in Yemen has stopped… but not the suffering

Under a deal brokered by the UN two months ago the warring parties agreed to withdraw from Hudaydah city and the ports of Hudaydah, Salif and Ras Issa, through which up to 80% of Yemen’s aid, fuel and commercial goods are delivered.

The first phase of the redeployment – from the ports and parts of Hudaydah city associated with humanitarian facilities – was meant to take place within two weeks.

But that deadline was missed amid disagreements over who would control the vacated locations and hundreds of alleged ceasefire violations.

Representatives of the government and Houthis attended talks over the weekend led by Lt Gen Michael Lollesgaard of Denmark, the head of the UN observer mission and chairman of the Redeployment Co-ordination Committee (RCC).

“After lengthy but constructive discussions facilitated by the RCC Chair, the parties reached an agreement on Phase 1 of the mutual redeployment of forces,” the UN said in a statement on Sunday night.

Gen Michael Lollesgaard meets Houthi-appointed officials in Hudaydah (13 February 2019)
AFP

Gen Michael Lollesgaard chaired the talks between Houthi and government representatives

“The parties also agreed, in principle, on Phase 2 of the mutual redeployment, pending additional consultations within their respective leadership,” it added.

The second phase should see all remaining forces withdrawn from the region.

Last week, the UN appealed to both sides to give it access to a vast store of grain in Hudaydah port that holds enough food to feed 3.7 million people for a month.

Aid workers have not been able to reach the stores for five months, and the UN said the grain was now “at risk of rotting”.

Map showing control in Yemen

Trump tells European countries to take back IS fighters”:


Donald Trump: “Put them on trial”

President Donald Trump has told the UK and other European allies to take back and put on trial more than 800 Islamic State (IS) fighters captured in the final battle against the group.

His tweet comes as US-backed Kurdish forces continue an assault on the last pocket of IS territory on the Syrian side of the Iraqi border, at Baghuz.

The captured IS fighters are being held by the Kurdish-led forces.

Mr Trump has said for several days that the IS caliphate is “ready to fall”.

What is Mr Trump’s reasoning on IS fighters?

He said in a tweet: “The US does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go. We do so much, and spend so much – Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing.”

Otherwise, he said, the US would be forced to release them.

Trump administration officials have also told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper that they fear some of the detained fighters would put European countries at risk unless they are brought to justice.

Mr Trump’s remarks echo those made by the UK’s foreign intelligence chief on Friday, who warned that the Islamic State group was reorganising for more attacks despite its military defeat in Syria.

Alex Younger also told of his concern about jihadists returning to Europe with “dangerous” skills and connections.

Mr Trump’s tweets come amid a controversy in the UK over the case of Shamima Begum, one of three schoolgirls who left London in 2015 to join IS.

She has said she wants to return, and her family in the UK have asked authorities to allow her to do so, but the government is making no attempt to bring her back to the UK.

On Sunday, Ms Begum’s family said they had been told she had given birth.

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On Sunday, the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) insisted that foreign fighters would not be tried “on our land… they will be tried by their own countries”.

What is the latest on the final battle?

President Trump said on Friday the defeat of IS would be announced “over the next 24 hours”.

But that passed with no further announcement from the White House.

Interview with Islamic State “Beatles” duo

Jiya Furat, the leader of the battle for Baghuz for the SDF, said IS fighters were now trapped in a section of the town that was 700 metres long and wide.

On Sunday, SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali said the IS group had blocked roads out of zone, stopping some 2,000 civilians there from escaping.

Thousands have left the Baghuz pocket in recent weeks but one SDF fighter told Agence France-Presse it had been two days since anyone had arrived, with lorries parked to transport them lying empty.

A spokesman for the US-led coalition, Sean Ryan said those who had escaped reported that remaining civilians were being used as human shields.

IS has suffered substantial losses, but the UN has said it still reportedly controls between 14,000 and 18,000 militants in Iraq and Syria.

Map showing how the area under IS control has shrunk between January 2015 and February 2019

How many fighters are returning to EU countries?

Approximately 5,904 nationals from countries in Western Europe like France, Germany and the UK have travelled to Iraq and Syria to join the Islamic State, according to a report by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), at King’s College London.

Western European countries have seen a total of 1,765 nationals return, according to the study.

Bar char showing how many Western European nationals have returned to their home country

Research by the European Parliament (EP) suggested that half of those who left the UK to join IS have come back. It said about a third of German and Belgian nationals had returned but France had a return rate of just 12%.

EU countries have adopted different approaches to dealing with these people based on criminal investigation, risk assessment, rehabilitation and reintegration schemes.

The EP report notes that countries have adopted a case-by-case approach for children returning to Europe, the vast majority of whom were born in Iraq and Syria after 2012.

Islamic State: ‘Thousands of civilians’ still trapped in Baghuz.


Civilians have been fleeing Baghuz in their hundreds over the past week

The battle to claim the last pocket of territory from the Islamic State group (IS) is being held up because thousands of civilians remain trapped there.

US-backed Kurdish forces launched an assault on Baghuz, on the Syrian side of the Iraqi border, last week.

US President Donald Trump said on Friday the defeat of IS would be announced “over the next 24 hours”.

But those 24 hours passed on Saturday with no announcement from the White House on the defeat of IS.

Instead, Kurdish fighters said the news was likely to emerge “in the coming few days” as civilians continued to flee.

What’s the latest?

Jiya Furat, the leader of the battle for Baghuz for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said IS fighters were now trapped in a 700 sq metre section of the town.

“Thousands of civilians are still trapped there as human shields,” he said on Saturday.

“In the coming few days, in a very short time, we will spread the good tidings to the world of the military end of Daesh [IS].”

SDF spokesman Adnan Afrin told Agence France-Presse they were surprised to learn how many civilians were still inside. The SDF had to slow its approach as a result, he said.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 440 IS fighters had surrendered over the past few days, but the SDF believes a few hundred remain trapped in Baghuz.

Map showing how the area under IS control has shrunk between January 2015 and February 2019

The Observatory said efforts were under way to find IS fighters hiding in tunnels they had dug around Baghuz.

What did Mr Trump announce?

Four years ago IS controlled 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) of territory stretching from western Syria to eastern Iraq, proclaimed the creation of a “caliphate”, imposed its brutal rule on almost eight million people and generated billions of dollars from oil, extortion, robbery and kidnapping.

But in December, Mr Trump surprisingly announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria as he believed IS had been “beaten”.

Then on Friday afternoon, he said: “We have a lot of great announcements having to do with Syria and our success with the eradication of the caliphate and that will be announced over the next 24 hours.”

Was Trump right to say IS is beaten?

IS has suffered substantial losses, but the UN has said it still reportedly controls between 14,000 and 18,000 militants in Iraq and Syria.

Meanwhile, there are significant numbers of IS-affiliated militants in Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, South-East Asia and West Africa, and to a lesser extent in Somalia, Yemen and the Sahel.

How the jihadist group rose and fell

October 2006
The jihadist group announces the creation of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and in April 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi becomes its leader.

January 2013
The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) begins seizing control of territory in Syria, including the city of Raqqa. In April that year, al-Baghdadi changes his group’s name to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil or Isis).

June 2014
Isis conquers over a dozen Iraqi cities and towns like Mosul and Tikrit, and seizes Syria’s largest oilfield in the Homs province. On 29 June, the jihadist group formally declares the creation of a caliphate and becomes known as Islamic State (IS).

August 2014
IS fighters begin killing and enslaving thousands from the Yazidi religious minority in northern Iraq and release the first of several videos of Western hostages – journalists and aid workers – being beheaded.

September 2014
The US begins air strikes, starting with attacks on the de-facto IS capital of Raqqa.

January 2015
IS is at the height of its control, ruling over almost eight million people across 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) from western Syria to eastern Iraq. It is also generating billions of dollars from oil, extortion, robbery and kidnapping.

March 2016
The Syrian government recaptures the ancient city of Palmyra, but loses it again in December 2016 and then finally recaptures the destroyed Unesco World Heritage site in March 2017.

July 2017
Iraqi forces liberate Mosul, but the 10-month battle leaves thousands of civilians dead, more than 800,000 displaced and much of Iraq’s second city destroyed.

October 2017
IS loses control of Raqqa to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, ending three years of rule.

December 2017
Iraq’s government declares victory over IS after retaking full control of the Iraqi-Syrian border.

February 2019
US President Donald Trump says the jihadist group is close to being defeated, after a battle for the final IS-held territory on the Syrian-Iraqi border lasted weeks.

IS resists ‘final push’ by US-backed force in eastern Syria


US-backed fighters in Syria say they are meeting fierce resistance in the last enclave held by Islamic State (IS) militants near the Iraqi border.

A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) told the AP news agency “the most experienced” jihadists are defending their last stronghold.

Two years ago IS controlled large areas of Syria and Iraq.

But they are now holed up in a tiny pocket in Syria’s eastern province of Deir al-Zour, near the Iraqi border.

UAE arming Yemen militias with Western weapons – Amnesty

On Saturday, after a pause of more than a week to allow some 20,000 civilians to leave the area, SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said the group was launching the “final battle to crush IS” in the border village of Baghuz.

Overnight he told the Associated Press (AP): “The battle is very fierce. Those remaining inside are the most experienced who are defending their last stronghold. According to this you can imagine the ferocity and size of the fighting.”

The SDF, backed by air strikes carried out of the US-led coalition, has driven out IS from towns and villages in north-eastern Syria in recent months.

Saudi Arabia ends major anti-corruption campaign..,

Latifa travelled from her home in Morocco after her son died fighting for the Islamic State group
Latifa travelled from her home in Morocco after her son died fighting for the Islamic State group

At its peak in 2014, IS established a “caliphate” stretching across Syria and Iraq that was similar in size to the UK and ruled over more than 7.7 million people.

In December, US President Donald Trump said IS militants were “mostly gone” and announced the US would withdraw all of its 2,000 troops from Syria.

On Wednesday he said: “It should be announced, probably some time next week, that we will have 100% of the caliphate.”

Presentational grey line

IS’s last stand?

Analysis by BBC Arab Affairs editor Sebastian Usher

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaks at Mosul's Great Mosque of al-Nuri on 5 July 2014
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has not been seen in public since July 2014

Over the past few months, the US-backed SDF has patiently driven IS out of every town and village in the northeast of Syria. The jihadists have been reduced to just a few square kilometres/miles of territory.

In recent days, President Trump has said the total defeat of IS could be declared next week. This suits his agenda of withdrawing all US troops from Syria.

But it’s not the full picture – IS still holds another sliver of territory in Syria further west – while its sleeper cells remain active.

It’s the same story in Iraq. Its ability to continue a guerrilla insurgency persists.

The fate of its hostages, such as the British journalist, John Cantlie, remains unclear as does that of its leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

How many militants are left?

IS has suffered substantial losses, but the UN says it still reportedly controls between 14,000 and 18,000 militants in Iraq and Syria, including up to 3,000 foreigners.

Kurdish protesters storm Turkish military camp in Iraq

Meanwhile, there are significant numbers of IS-affiliated militants in Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, South-East Asia and West Africa, and to a lesser extent in Somalia, Yemen, Sinai and the Sahel.

Individuals inspired by the group’s ideology also continue to carry out attacks elsewhere.

Syria map

Families and fighters flee IS’s last village’ Syria war:


Islamic State group (IS) members and their families have been fleeing the group’s last sliver of territory in eastern Syria, as US-backed militia advance towards them.

Men, women and children, some with serious injuries, others describing running out of food, have been leaving the group’s rapidly shrinking enclave, which the US military on Tuesday said amounted to about 50 sq km (20 sq miles).

They have been arriving at the village of Baghuz to surrender to the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

On Wednesday US President Donald Trump said said territory held by the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq could be “100%” liberated as early as next week

Saudi Prince al-Faisal warns against US Syria pullout.

Syria’s Kurds say Trump US troop pullout harms anti-IS fight

People fleeing from IS-held territory in Baghuz
AFP

Many of those arriving in Baghuz have injuries, including those sustained from incoming strikes by the array of forces battling IS.

SDF commanders were negotiating with IS over a possible deal to free several SDF members held captive by IS and possibly give the militants safe passage to the province of Idlib in north-western Syria, which is not under Syrian government control, the New York Times reported.

Woman and children arrive in Baghuz
A woman waits to be screened by members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

Most of those emerging from the desert over the past two weeks have been IS militants’ wives and children, reports say. Once they have arrived they wait to be screened by the SDF before being told they will be taken to detention camps in northern Syria.

Germans Sabine and Leonora arrived in Baghuz on 31 January

However, fighters themselves have also been fleeing. Germans Sabina (L) aged 34 and Leonora (R), 19 are two of the three wives of German jihadist Martin Lemke, who also fled and was detained by the SDF, his wives said. They arrived in Baghuz at the end of last month.

Map showing last IS-held territory in Syria (7 February 2019)

The fighters include Syrians, Iraqis who had earlier moved to IS strongholds in Syria as the US-backed Iraqi army retook IS-held territory in Iraq, and foreign fighters from European countries and elsewhere who travelled to the region to join the group.

Some are taken to detention camps, others to prison, the New York Times reported.

SDF fighters in an IS prison in Hajin

In the nearby town of Hajin, SDF fighters have found evidence of how IS administered it. Here they are seen examining an IS prison.

Hajin's mayor shows an IS document

The town’s mayor Ali Jaber has found documents including this one urging residents to review their accounts with the local alms tax centre.

Syrians return to their homes in Hajin

Some displaced Syrians have already begun returning to their homes in Hajin after it was retaken by the SDF last month, but much of the town was destroyed in the fighting.

Syria map

All pictures copyright

Contact Email (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) or (emmanueljustice@post.com)

UAE arming Yemen militias with Western weapons – Amnesty


The United Arab Emirates is recklessly arming militias in Yemen with advanced weaponry supplied by the US and other states, Amnesty International alleges.

Armoured vehicles, mortars and machine-guns are being diverted illegally to unaccountable groups accused of war crimes, according to a report.

The UAE is part of a Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s government in its war with the rebel Houthi movement.

It has not commented on the report, but denies violating US arms exports rules.

Saudi Prince al-Faisal warns against US Syria pullout.

A top US general said on Tuesday that officials would investigate whether weapons were being transferred to unintended recipients by the coalition.

Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in early 2015, when the Houthis seized control of much of the west of the country and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee abroad.

Where the fighting in Yemen has stopped… but not the suffering

Alarmed by the rise of a group they saw as an Iranian proxy, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and seven other Arab states intervened in an attempt to restore the government.

At least 6,800 civilians have been killed and 10,700 injured in the fighting, according to the UN.

Thousands more civilians have died from preventable causes, including malnutrition, disease and poor health.

Amnesty said publicly available data showed that since 2015, Western states had supplied the UAE with at least $3.5bn (£2.7bn) worth of weaponry.

The human rights group analysed video footage and photographs from the battle for the key Red Sea port city of Hudaydah and found that the same makes and models of military vehicles and weapons as those sold to the UAE appeared to be in use by pro-government militias on the ground.

Pro-government fighter fires a heavy machine-gun in the city of Hudaydah, Yemen (26 January 2019)
The UAE is part of a Saudi-led coalition backing Yemeni pro-government forces

It said US-supplied armoured vehicles equipped with heavy machine-guns, including M-ATV, Caiman and MaxxPro models, were seen in the hands of three UAE-backed militias – the Security Belt, Shabwani Elite Forces, and The Giants.

Belgian Minimi light-machine guns, Serbian-made Zastava MO2 Coyote machine-guns, and Agrab armoured-truck-mounted Singaporean 120mm mortar systems were also being used by UAE-allied militias in Hudaydah, it added.

Trump threatens to ‘devastate’ Turkish economy over Syrian Kurds

Amnesty said the militias were not accountable to any government and that some stood accused of committing war crimes, including during the offensive on Hudaydah, which was halted in December after the UN brokered a local ceasefire.

“Only a handful of countries have done the right thing and stopped the conveyor belt of arms to the Yemen’s devastating conflict,” said Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty’s arms control researcher.

“Others must follow in their footsteps or they will share responsibility for the devastating toll these billions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers are wreaking.”

Map showing control of Yemen (9 August 2019)

There was no response from the UAE. But on Tuesday a senior official was quoted by CNN as denying “in no uncertain terms that we are in violation” of US arms export controls, which do not allow the retransfer of equipment without prior US government authorisation.

It came after CNN said it had evidence that US-made weaponry and equipment provided to the UAE and Saudi Arabia had ended up in the hands of allied fighters from a Salafist militialinked to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – the Abu al-Abbas Brigade – and even Houthi rebels.

Gen Joseph Votel, head of the US military’s Central Command, expressed concern about the report at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday.

“We have to look more closely at the allegations in this particular situation to find out what happened,” he said. “We will have to examine that better.”

Saudi Arabia ends major anti-corruption campaign..,


Princes and other senior figures were held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh last year

Saudi Arabia says it has ended its anti-corruption drive, launched in 2017, that saw hundreds of princes, tycoons and business chiefs rounded up.

More than $100bn (£76bn) in assets – including property and cash – has been recouped by the state, officials in the Gulf kingdom say.

They say settlements were reached with 87 individuals who confessed to the charges against them.

Eight others refused to do so and have been referred to the public prosecutor.

Another 56 cases have not been settled because of criminal charges yet to be resolved.

The crackdown was launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in November 2017.

More than 200 princes, ministers and business officials have been held, many of them in hotels in the capital, Riyadh, including the five-star Ritz-Carlton.

Kurdish protesters storm Turkish military camp in Iraq

Iran arrested 7,000 in crackdown on dissent during 2018 – Amnesty

Israeli teenager charged with killing Palestinian woman in stone attack

The purge of Saudi Arabia’s elite was a huge shock to the system, the BBC’s Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher says.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. File photo
The blitz was launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

The campaign has also unsettled some foreign investors.

The crown prince must now hope that drawing a line under the purge will convince investors it is safe to put money into Saudi Arabia, our editor says.

Mohammed bin Salman has also been under intense pressure since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on 2 October 2018.

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Kurdish protesters storm Turkish military camp in Iraq


Civilians stormed a Turkish military camp near Dohuk, Iraq

At least one person has died and 10 have been injured after an angry crowd stormed a Turkish military camp in Iraq’s Kurdish region.

Residents set light to vehicles and buildings in protest against Turkish airstrikes in the area, which are said to have killed several people.

Turkey conducts frequent raids against the militant group, the PKK, which is based on the Iraqi side of the border.

In pictures: Cairo turns orange as sandstorm sweeps Egypt

It accuses insurgents of disguising as civilians to fuel conflict in the area.

Local official Najib Saeed said Turkish soldiers had shot at protesters and then left, and that the fires had caused several explosions.

Iran arrested 7,000 in crackdown on dissent during 2018 – Amnesty

He said it was not yet clear what caused the death near the city of Dohuk.

Turkey’s defence ministry said the attack happened as a result of “provocation by the PKK terrorist organisation”.

The Kurdish government in Erbil in northern Iraq condemned Saturday’s incident, accusing “saboteurs” of instigating the attack on the Turkish camp.

Egypt TV host Mohamed al-Ghiety jailed for interviewing gay man

The PKK, also known as the Kurdistan Workers Party, has bases in Turkey and northern Iraq and has fought an insurgency in Turkey spanning decades.

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