Tag Archives: Turkey

Baghdad promises revenge after ‘600 wounded,’ 3yo girl killed in ISIS chemical attacks on Iraq

A three-year-old girl has been killed and 600 more people injured after Islamic State militants reportedly carried out two chemical attacks in northern Iraq, local authorities say. The Iraqi government vows that the attackers will pay for the atrocity.

The attacks, which forced hundreds to flee for safety, took place in the city of Kirkuk and the village Taza, according to an AP report citing Iraqi officials.

“What the Daesh [Arabic derogatory term for IS] terrorist gangs did in the city of Taza will not go unpunished. The perpetrators will pay dearly,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said.

Hundreds of wounded are now suffering from chemical burns, suffocation, and dehydration, according to Helmi Hamdi, a Taza-based nurse, who added that eight people had even had to be sent to Baghdad for treatment.

“There is fear and panic among the women and children. They’re calling for the central government to save them,” Adel Hussein, a local official in Taza, said.

Hussein confirmed that German and US forensics teams had arrived in the area to test for the presence of chemical agents.

Sameer Wais, father of three-year-old Fatima Wais, who was killed in the attack, fights for the local Shiite forces. After learning of the tragedy, he ran home and took his daughter to a clinic and then a hospital in Kirkuk.

The girl seemed better the next day, and the family took her home. However, things took a terrible turn in the evening.

“By midnight she started to get worse. Her face puffed up and her eyes bulged. Then she turned black and pieces of her skin started to come off,” Sameer said, as cited by AP.

The girl died early in the morning. Hundreds of people reportedly attended Fatima’s funeral, some showing their discontent with the government and calling on authorities to protect the population from IS attacks.

Fatima’s father said that he was returning to the frontline as soon as possible.

“Now I will fight Daesh more than before, for Fatima.”

Last month, US special forces reportedly detained the head of an IS unit that attempted to develop chemical weapons. The US-led coalition also reportedly began conducting airstrikes and raids on chemical weapons infrastructure two months ago.

The chemicals used by IS so far include chlorine and a low-grade sulfur mustard.

On Friday, when asked how big of a hazard such substances present, US Army Colonel Steve Warren told journalists, “It’s a legitimate threat. It’s not a high threat. We’re not, frankly, losing too much sleep over it.”

The latest attacks come just a few days since Taza was shelled with “poisonous substances,” after which dozens suffered from choking and skin irritation.

Iraq isn’t the only country that Islamic State has attacked with chemical weapons recently. Syrian Kurdish fighters came under a chemical attack by jihadists on Tuesday.

Last month, some 30 Kurdish militia members were injured in a mortar attack that supposedly involved shells armed with chlorine.

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Yugoslavi-zation: Ex NATO Chief Urges Dividing Syria Into Three Parts

NATO’s former supreme allied commander James Stavridis has become the latest high-profile backer of dividing Syria into several parts although the strategy hardly enjoys support in the war-torn country and could well lead to Islamic extremists overrunning the greater part of the Arab Republic.

“Like Humpty Dumpty in the children’s nursery rhyme, the odds of putting Syria back together again into a functioning entity appear very low. It is time to consider a partition,” he suggested in an opinion piece for Foreign Policy. Syria could then be divided into three regions governed by Alawites, moderate Sunnis and the Kurds.

The retired four-star US Navy admiral, who currently serves as the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, offered three cases that could serve as a model for Syria. All of them hardly tempting.

“Obviously, the approach for a partition could range from a full break-up of the country (much as Yugoslavia broke up after the death of Marshal Josip Tito); to a very federated system like Bosnia after the Dayton Accords; to a weak but somewhat federated model like Iraq,” he detailed.

These are by no means good options. Take Iraq for instance. The country has not seen peace since the 2003 US invasion. In the years that followed Baghdad has largely unsuccessfully tried to tackle an insurgency that has the potential to break up the country.

Stavridis himself admitted that partitioning is an extremely dangerous scenario to explore. Firstly, it would set what he referred to as a “bad precedent” that would encourage disenfranchised minorities all over the world and potentially lead to “chaotic scenarios.”

Partitions are “also difficult to negotiate, requiring detailed knowledge of the human terrain in a failed state and carving out complex compromises that often leave no one satisfied and can plant the seeds of conflicts yet to come,” he added.

In addition, granting greater autonomy or independence to ethnic minorities could cause major tensions in neighboring countries. Ankara is already carrying out a military campaign against Kurdish militants at home, in Iraq and Syria. One could only guess what steps Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his allies would take if the Syrian Kurds form a state of their own.

Partitions are also “difficult to implement, because most of the parties are unhappy with some aspect of the final deal. Finally, partitions are cumbersome under international law, which generally sides with sovereign states and seeks to support existing unified territory,” he added.In essence, there appears to be no need to consider dividing Syria, taking into account that the UN-backed ceasefire is largely holding and peace talks are slated to start on Monday. Moreover, Syria’s fate could only be determined by its people and should not follow a plan introduced from outside.

Furthermore, in Syria’s case partition could lead to greater violence and misery in a country that has already lost 250,000 lives. “Unfortunately, an immediate partition would effectively cede much of Syria to Sunni extremists,” Stavridis observed.

‘Dirty Bargain’: Turkey, EU Forge Deal With Syrian Blood on Their Hands

As the Turkish government continues its crackdown on the free press, columnist Kemal Okuyan speaks to Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear to expose how this relates to Ankara’s deal with the European Union to stem the flow of refugees.

“I have to say that this is a real dirty bargain,” Okuyan, a leading columnist with Turkish newspaper SoL, tells Loud & Clear host Brian Becker. “The refugee crisis, I think, is an outcome of the terrorist acts of NATO, Turkey, and other reactionary forces in the region.”

 https://www.spreaker.com/embed/player/standard?episode_id=7958257

According to Okuyan, Ankara is manipulating the crisis in order to achieve its own ends with the European Union.”This was on purpose, by the Turkish government,” he says. “And we know that Turkey encouraged people to go by boat through the sea to the Greek islands.

“Now they are using this to blackmail the European Union.”

As part of negotiations with the EU, Ankara wants over 3 billion euros, visa exceptions, Western ground forces in Syria, as well as the enforcement of a terrorist-free zone in neighboring Syria.

While Turkey may be taking advantage of a humanitarian crisis for its own gains, the European Union isn’t entirely innocent, either.

“The European Union is also one of the actors in the Syrian [conflict],” Okuyan says. “Especially Germany, France, Britain. They have their hands in Syria, so they are also responsible for this big human tragedy.”

While the Erdogan government may have sights on joining the EU, it could face problems due to its harsh press laws.

“Nearly three-fourths of the daily newspapers printed in Turkey are in the hands of Erdogan,” Okuyan says.

“There are a lot of journalists in prison in Turkey,” he adds. “There is also blackmailing, [where] you are not arrested, directly, but they say if you have another problem, then you will be put into prison.”

Still, as all sides use the refugee crisis for their own political gain, millions of people are suffering.

“In Turkey, the refugees are in terrible conditions,” Okuyan says. “When you see photos of people [who have] died when crossing to the Greek islands, these are not only accidents, they are killed on purpose for their money.

“They sabotage the boats.”

Turkish Opposition Sues Erdogan Government for Supporting Terrorism

Turkey’s main opposition party has filed a lawsuit against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing Ankara of “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.”

The Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey’s main opposition party, has filed a criminal complaint against senior officials of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), including President Erdogan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Chief Hakan Fidan.

The complaint accuses Ankara of being complicit in violence caused by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara itself considers a terrorist organization, as well as the group’s accumulation of weapons, for political gain.”More fatally, just in order to go through election periods calmly, the terrorist organization’s activities of transferring and piling up weaponry, both in rural areas and in urban centers, were openly overlooked,” CHP Deputy Chair Bulent Tezcan said as part of the filing.

The complaint cites the fact that only eight out of 290 requests to conduct anti-terror operations by the Turkish Armed Forces were granted during election periods.

As evidence, Tezcan cited a secret meeting between leaders of the AKP and jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

The complaint follows statements made by CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, accusing the AKP of aiding terrorist organizations by “overlooking the stockpiling of weapons by the PKK.”

Highlighting unrest within the Turkish government, the nation’s highest court opened its own investigation into government links to the PKK last summer. This followed a criminal complaint by the ruling AKP against the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Critics claim that the AKP’s complaint is political, attempting to force the HDP to comply with the Erdogan government.

Southeastern Turkey has been engulfed in violence as Turkish security forces crackdown on Kurdish communities to root out militant groups. The government’s actions have been roundly criticized by a number of rights groups.

“If we cannot solve the Kurdish issue in democratic ways, I am sure the next generation of the Kurds will be very radical,” Mehmet Yuksel, a representative of the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, told Sputnik.

“We already see youths of old that are much more radical. They already think that the political ways are not the solution.”

Egypt Links Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas to Prosecutor’s 2015 Assassination

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Egypt’s Minister of Interior Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar said that 14 out of 48 suspected organizers, conspirators and perpetrators of the assassination of Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat have been detained.

Egypt’s Minister of Interior Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar said Sunday the Muslim Brotherhood organized the assassination of Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat with assistance from Palestine’s Hamas movement.

Earlier on Sunday, prosecutors ordered the arrest of six suspects linked to Barakat’s murder in a car bomb attack on June 29, 2015 in Cairo.

“Members of the Muslim Brotherhood who planned this murder are hiding in Turkey. The terrorist attack was plotted and its perpetrators were trained in the Gaza Strip under the supervision of Hamas members. Then the culprits were sent to Egypt across the border,” Abdel-Ghaffar said in a press conference.

he minister said 14 out of 48 suspected organizers, conspirators and perpetrators of the attack have been detained.Barakat oversaw several cases against officials of the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement of Egypt’s former president Mohamed Morsi, deposed by the current leadership in 2013.

Islamic State truck bomb kills at least 60 people south of Baghdad

Residents gather at the site of a bomb attack at a checkpoint in the city of Hilla, south of Baghdad, March 6, 2016.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide attack with an explosive-laden fuel tanker on an Iraqi police checkpoint south of Baghdad, killing at least 60 people and wounding more than 70, medical and security officials said.

Responsibility was claimed in a posting on the website of the Amaq news agency, which supports the ultra-hardline Sunni group.

“A martyr’s operation with a truck bomb hit the Babylon Ruins checkpoint at the entrance of the city of Hilla, killing and wounding dozens,” the statement on the Amaq website said.

Hilla is the capital of Babylon province, a predominantly Shi’ite region with some Sunni presence.

“It’s the largest bombing in the province to date,” Falah al-Radhi, the head of the provincial security committee, told Reuters. “The checkpoint, the nearby police station were destroyed as well as some houses and dozens of cars.”

A provincial hospital official confirmed the number of casualties. Many had suffered burn injuries.

 

 

Full Speed Ahead! Russian Warship Sets Sail for Mediterranean Mission

The Russian guided missile destroyer Smetlivy has left the country’s southwestern port of Sevastopol for the Mediterranean Sea, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The Russian Defense Ministry stated that the Smetlivy destroyer of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet has departed from the country’s southwestern port city of Sevastopol and is headed for the Mediterranean, where the warship will be on a mission.

According to the statement, the Smetlivy is due to join Russia’s naval force in the region on March 7.

Currently, more than 15 Russian warships and other vessels are carrying out security-related missions in the Mediterranean, including those pertaining to providing logistical support to a Russian Aerospace Forces unit in Syria as well as to the Syrian Army.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the Russian Navy’s Mediterranean task force, which includes warships from the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Northern and the Pacific Fleets, may be joined by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in the summer of 2016.

B-52 Stratofortress may join air campaign against ISIS in April

The US is considering deploying its massive Boeing B-52 Stratofortress long-range strategic bomber against Islamic State, a report citing US Air Force officials says. The aircraft is capable of simultaneously dropping 32 tons of bombs.

The B-52s will replace several Rockwell B-1 Lancer supersonic strategic bombers, which had been striking terrorist positions near Kobani, Syria for several months and have now returned to their base in Texas, the Air Force Times reports. Defense officials also confirmed the information to Fox News.

It has not yet been disclosed how many B-52s will be deployed against the jihadists. It also remains unclear which European military airfield the largest American bombers will be operating from.

For over a year US warplanes pounding Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq have been taking off from airbases in Saudi Arabia and Qatar – America’s allies in the region.

From August 2015, the US has been using Turkey’s Incirlik airbase to target terrorists in Syria.

Although B-52 production ended back in 1962 (744 aircrafts built), the US Air Force still has 58 modernized models (18 in reserve). The last time B-52s were put into action was in the Afghan campaign.

“We’re going to keep the B-52 around. It provides some missions for us that are hard to replicate, primarily the range and payload the airplane provides,” the Air Force Times said, citing Lt. Gen. James “Mike” Holmes, the deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, as saying on February 18.

The B-52 Stratofortress bombers are set to remain in active service until at least 2040.

Nuclear-capable B-52s are regularly deployed when Washington needs to demonstrate its military might to intractable countries.

In early January, the US command deployed a B-52 bomber for a low altitude flight over South Korea to demonstrate its nuclear might and determination, following North Korea’s latest provocative underground nuclear test.

In late December 2015, a B-52 bomber performed a demonstration flight over a man-made island in the South China Sea, which China claims sovereignty over. Beijing filed a complaint with the Pentagon over the incident.

On Thursday, three B-52 Stratofortress bombers recently deployed to Europe were announced to participate in military exercises in Norway. Although the aircraft had been scheduled for NATO exercises, a top US commander characterized the redeployment as “not normal.” It was done in response to European countries’ anxiety over perceived “Russian aggression.”

Since November 17, 2015, Russian strategic bombers, Tu-160s (Blackjack), Tu-95s (hug), and Tu-22s (Blinder), operating from airbases in Russia, have been delivering airstrikes against terrorist targets in Syria. While Tu-22s have been dropping conventional bombs, the Tu-160s and Tu-95s use long-range airborne Kh-101 precision cruise missiles.

he air campaign in Syria was the first combat employment for the Tu-160 and Tu-95 bombers.

Council of Europe Urges Turkey to Protect Press Freedom

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe (CoE) Thorbjorn Jagland on Saturday called on Turkey to respect media freedom in the light of government seizure of the Feza Media Group.

On Friday, a Turkish court ordered the Feza Media Group, which includes opposition newspaper Zaman, Today’s Zaman daily and the Cihan news agency, to be placed under the management of government trustees. The move resulted in mass protest in the largest Turkey’s city of Istanbul. On Saturday, Turkish police used tear gas, water cannons and plastic bullets to disperse the protests.

“Yesterday’s court decision to appoint trustees to Zaman media group is yet another worrying development with regard to media freedom in Turkey. The violent events in front of Zaman’s headquarters in Istanbul are also challenging…I call on Turkish authorities to respect their legal obligation to protect media freedom,” Jagland said in a statement published on the CoE website.

Jagland said that Turkey was a founding member of the CoE and party to the European Convention on Human Rights to which it must abide.

Ankara’s move has been widely criticized by a number of states, including the United States and Russia, as well as by the international organizations, such as the European Union and the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organization.

Turkey ranks 149th out of 180 in the RSF 2015 press freedom index.

‘Efficient, accurate’: Russian air warfare in Syria praised in classified NATO report

The Russian task force in Syria has demonstrated remarkable efficiency and professionalism, according to a German magazine citing confidential NATO analysis.

The limited Russian contingent operating in Syria is outperforming the more widespread groupings of the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition, according to Germany’s FOCUS media outlet who came by the classified NATO document, which was prepared by the alliance’s military experts.

The document points out that Russia deployed 40 warplanes, performing some 75 sorties a day (until the ceasefire came into effect on February 27). The airstrikes, usually delivered on several targets during each combat flight, are “accurate and efficient,” the analysis reportedly says.

The US-led counterterrorist coalition, deploying about 180 warplanes against Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL), strikes only about 20 targets a day. The paper says the number of Russian fighter jets on the ground is “clearly inferior in number” to NATO’s group, but the higher frequency of the Russian air raids makes them more effective.

The US-led counterterrorist coalition has been operating in Iraq and Syria for over a year, while Russia launched its offensive on terrorist groups on September 30, 2015.

The NATO report points out that the Russian task force obtains actual intelligence about important terrorist targets from special forces and spies on the ground, as well as Syrian Air Force aerial reconnaissance.

The Russian Air Force has turned the Syrian battlefield into a test ground for advanced military technologies, such as deploying ultra-modern Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets to Syria’s Khmeimim airbase. The plane is believed by many experts to be superior to most existing warplanes, the report claims.

The NATO report acknowledged that it is the highly professional performance of the Russian task force in Syria that made the greatest contribution in putting an end to the cruel “display of power” practiced by terrorists in Syria for years.

The FOCUS media outlet stressed the document never mentions any civilian casualties caused by Russian airstrikes.

According to NATO experts, only 20 percent of Russian airstrikes are delivered on IS militants. The other raids have been allegedly directed against anti-Assad militias, some of which are supported by the West.

The NATO analysis was confirmed by US Department of State spokesperson John Kirby, who acknowledged at a press briefing on Friday that Russia has played the central role in the Syrian peace process. This despite various disagreements between Moscow and Washington, which are co-chairing the International Syria Support Group (ISSG).

“We don’t see eye to eye with Russia on everything, and I am not even talking about outside Syria, even inside what’s going in Syria. There have been and there will probably continue to be disagreements with Russia over various factors there as we move forward, but Russia has taken a leadership role inside the ISSG,” Kirby said, adding the Russians have been helpful and cooperative “in some ways.”

“In other ways we still continue to have issues with them,” Kirby said, unconditionally denying that Washington is “simply yielding concessions” to Moscow.