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British teenager who travelled to Syria to join IS wants to ‘come home’ – The Times

by admin   |   Posted on Friday, February 15th, 2019


Shamima Begum on February 17, 2015 in London, England | MET Police Handout via Reuters

 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

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Oil tanker bound for Syria seized in Gibraltar for sanctions-busting

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, July 5th, 2019

British Royal Marines seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar on Thursday (July 4) accused of bringing oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, a dramatic step that could escalate confrontation between the West and Iran.

The Grace 1 tanker was impounded in the British territory at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea, after sailing around Africa from the Gulf.

Shipping data reviewed by Reuters suggests it had been loaded with Iranian oil off the coast of Iran, although its documents say the oil is from neighboring Iraq.

The Gibraltar authorities who seized it did so under the authority of European sanctions against Syria that have been in place for years, with no reference to the source of the oil.

But the likelihood that the cargo was Iranian draws a link between this incident and a new U.S. effort to halt all global sales of Iranian crude, in what Tehran has described as an illegal “economic war” against it.

European countries have tried to stay neutral in that confrontation, which saw the United States calling off airstrikes against Iran just minutes before impact last month, and Tehran amassing stocks of enriched uranium banned under a nuclear deal.

In a statement, the Gibraltar government said it had reasonable grounds to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas refinery in Syria. (REUTERS)

(Production: Lisa Giles-Keddie)

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U.S. troops on site of Syria deadly blast

by admin   |   Posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2019


U.S. military vehicle in Manbij, Syria | Reuters

U.S. troops were on site of a bomb attack claimed by Islamic State that killed U.S. troops in northern Syria on Wednesday (January 16).

The attack came weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump said the group had been defeated there and that he would pull out all American forces.

A U.S. official who declined to be named said four U.S. troops had been killed and three wounded in the blast.

An Islamic State-affiliated site said the blast was the work of a suicide bomber. A war monitor said 19 people in total had died in the blast.

The attack took place in the town of Manbij, controlled by a militia allied to U.S.-backed Kurdish forces.

Last month, Trump made a surprise announcement that he would withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria after concluding Islamic State had been defeated there. — Reuters

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Reconstruction ongoing in war-scarred Ancient City of Aleppo

by admin   |   Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2018

 

Citadel of Aleppo | Reuters

Post-war reconstruction has been ongoing in the Ancient City of Aleppo since the Syrian government recaptured the city from opposition forces in December 2016.

It has been two years since fighting ended in Aleppo, once Syria’s economic hub, and the previous war zone has been recovering, albeit slowly, since reconstruction efforts were launched in the city.

The Citadel of Aleppo in the center of the Ancient City, which used to be on the front line, has now opened to tourists after renovation, and when weather permits, it even hosts cultural events.

“It’s actually beautiful and it’s really an achievement we really did that we took it back,” said a local of Aleppo, adding “It’s actually really beautiful and a real beautiful feeling that we can come here and visit it again.”

Around the citadel, many stores have reopened and street vendors have also started selling.

“I sell sweet corn around here and the business is good. I can sell a lot in summer and business is also quite good in winter,” said a local street vendor.

However, walking deeper into the historical heart of Aleppo, there still lie signs of destruction, with gutted buildings, walls pockmarked with bullet holes, and piles of rubble along the streets.

The reconstruction is ongoing, but it is expected to be a long process.

According to a deal reached between Russia and Turkey in September, a demilitarized zone has been set up on the border of the opposition-controlled area of Idlib. With Aleppo remaining a target of the militants, it is unlikely that a highway linking to Idlib will open by the end of the month.

But locals are still hopeful that peace will finally return to Aleppo and other parts of the country.

“I hope that Aleppo will never see any war again. We all hope so and we hope that Idlib will be also liberated as soon as possible,” said a vendor. — Reuters

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