British teenager who travelled to Syria to join IS wants to ‘come home’ – The Times
admin • February 15, 2019 • 6177
A British teenager who travelled from London to Syria to join Islamic State militants, said she wants to “come home to Britain”, The Times newspaper reported Wednesday (February 13).
In an interview, 19-year-old Shamima Begum described how she became the bride of a Dutch IS fighter 10 days after her arrival in Raqqa, the former capital of the militant group’s self-declared caliphate.
Having lost two children to illness, Begum who is pregnant said she fled fighting in eastern Syria roughly two weeks ago to keep her unborn baby safe.
Begum flew to Turkey in February 2015, with fellow students Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, en route to Syria.
Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which holds about a quarter of the country, has mounted an attack with the help of U.S. airstrikes to seize Baghouz, Islamic State’s last bastion in eastern Syria.
They believe 400 to 600 militants remain holed up in the enclave, including many hardened foreigners and some emirs. Its spokesman said in January that most of the civilians still there were the wives and children of the militants. — Reuters
A SyrianAir passenger plane landed on Wednesday (February 19) at Aleppo’s civilian airport, the first scheduled flight to touch down in the country’s war-devastated economic hub for eight years.
The reopening of the airport comes days after the Russian-backed Syrian army said it had seized rural areas northwest of Aleppo, a major strategic gain in weeks of bombing of the last rebel bastion in northwestern Syria.
On an organized trip, local and international media were invited by the Syrian transportation ministry to travel on the first plane that took off from the capital Damascus, and land at the Aleppo airport.
Government officials hope the resumption of commercial flights will help revive the economic activity in the city, which was the scene of some of the most vicious fighting of the war between 2012 and 2016. Rebel-held eastern Aleppo was regained by government forces in 2016.
Transport Minister Ali Hammoud said authorities were waiting for approvals to resume international flights, with plans to reopen the route to Cairo next month.
Aleppo’s other airport Nairab is a major military base that the Syrian air force uses to strike opposition areas and has also been a target of Israeli strikes on alleged Iranian bases.
In another strategic gain for President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian government forces aided by Iranian-backed militias consolidated their control over the M5 highway linking Aleppo to Damascus, a vital trade artery in northern Syria.
The highway, the fastest route between Syria’s two biggest cities, should be ready for civilian use in the coming days for the first time in years, the authorities said. (Reuters)
(Production: Firas Makdesi, Kinda Makieh, Michael Fiorentino)
Tehran – Iranian authorities on Monday called on the region’s countries to unite to expel US troops from the Middle East during a visit to Tehran by a Syrian delegation headed by Prime Minister Imad Khamis.
Khamis’s presence in Iran was significant because the Islamic Republic has backed the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in its war against the armed opposition and insurgent groups, support that mostly came via Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was recently killed in a US drone strike in Iraq.
“As long as US terrorist forces are present in West Asia, the region will not achieve peace or security,” Ali Shamkhani, an influential official who serves as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, told the Syrian prime minister.
To end this situation, Shamkhani said that “the withdrawal of the US will happen through the unity of the countries and governments of the region,” Iranian official state media reported.
“The presence and interference of the United States have caused instability, especially in Iraq and Syria,” Iranian First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said.
The expulsion of US troops, therefore, is “the best revenge,” Jahangiri said.
Syria is part of the so-called Axis of Resistance against the United States and Israel led by Iran and comprised of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces militia and the Palestinian Hamas movement.
Iran and some of these groups vowed revenge for the killing of Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad.
“Without a doubt, the martyrdom of Gen. Soleimani will make the Axis of Resistance more determined in its fight,” Shamkhani said.
The United States thought that Soleimani’s killing would lead to the “collapse of that front of the region,” Shamkhani said.
The Iranian general’s killing, however, led to “more cohesion and strengthening of the Axis of Resistance,” Shamkhani said.
Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani expressed the same view during his meeting with Khamis.
As the head of the elite Quds Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Soleimani had for years spread Iran’s influence across the wider Middle East, strengthening Shia militias from Lebanon to Iraq.
Khamis posthumously awarded Syria’s highest military medal to Soleimani, noting that the honor reflected “the deep affection” of al-Assad for the late Iranian general.
The Syrian official also thanked Iran for its support in eradicating terrorism in Syria and called for strengthening economic and trade relations at a time when Iranian companies are seeking huge contracts to rebuild the Arab country.
Soleimani’s killing is “an example of the US conspiracies in the region,” the Syrian prime minister, who headed a delegation that includes Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem and Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, said.
“The fight against the presence of US forces in the region must become a sustained process,” Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said during a meeting with his Syrian counterpart.
Despite Soleimani’s death, “the path of resistance continues,” Hatami said.
In retaliation for Soleimani’s killing, Iran launched a missile attack on an air base in Iraq housing US troops, sparking fears of a wider conflict and leading countries that have good relations with Tehran and Washington to mediate in a bid to ease tensions.
The Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, visited Tehran on Sunday, while Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tried to ease tensions in the region on Monday.
Qureshi, who is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia next, called for “maximum restraint and immediate steps” to resolve the crisis, advocating “dialogue and diplomacy.”
No one wants war, the Pakistani official said.
Iranian President Hasan Rohani said he welcomes “with pleasure, Pakistan’s efforts to promote regional peace and stability.”
The Islamic Republic “never tried to start a war,” the Iranian president said. EFE
Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s remains had been disposed of and there were no plans to share footage on his death, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley announced on Monday.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that al-Baghdadi had been killed in a U.S. military operation in Syria.
Trump said earlier that part of the footage on the operation would be released, but military sources said that the footage might expose some confidential information about the U.S. military, adding that the footage should go through strict checks before it is published.
The Associated Press on Monday released footage taken by a witness when the U.S. military launched a raid in northwestern Syria — but the authenticity of the footage has not been verified.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday expressed “prudent welcome” to Baghdadi’s death, saying the U.S. has made a big contribution to fighting terrorism “if confirmed”.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that it does not have reliable information about the U.S. operation in the Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria that allegedly killed IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Monday stressed that the extremist ideology and the support for it still exist in the Middle East, and the death of Baghdadi was a “creature” killed by the U.S.
On the same day, Iranian government Spokesman Ali Rabiee said al-Baghdadi’s death is the end of a symbol of “destructive terrorism,” and the U.S. should end its interventions in the Middle East. (Reuters)
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