New Delhi, October 27: After the government sought DNA samples from the next of kin of the 39 Indians Missing in Mosul, Iraq three years ago, Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh is again visiting the country to seek an update.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveeh Kumar said on Friday that Singh’s visit “is to talk to people”.
“He has met a range of people in Iraq. And also to get an update on the 39 missing Indians in Iraq,” Kumar said in his weekly media briefing here.
He said that on Thursday Singh was in Mosul city where the Indians went missing.
Last week, the families of the 39 Indians were asked to provide their DNA samples but no reason was provided, the kin said.
It was in June 2014 that the 39 Indians, mostly from Punjab, went missing in Mosul town when it was overrun by the Islamic State. Their families continue to hope the men are alive but also fear the worst.
Singh had visited Iraq in July too in this connection.(IANS)
Iraq, October 27: The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State announced Friday morning a cease-fire between Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga in Northern Iraq but quickly backtracked on the claim, saying it is not an “official” cease-fire.
Army spokesman Ryan Dillon posted a clarification on Twitter to say “both parties (are) talking with one another,” but that a “cease-fire” had not been reached.
The Iraqi military and the Kurdish minority have been clashing for several weeks after the Iraqi troops moved to secure areas in northern Iraq that had been seized from IS jihadists by Kurdish forces. The Kurdish forces abandoned the land largely without resistance, though low-level clashes have been reported.
Iraqi PM rejects Kurdish offer
The areas Iraqi forces are moving into were mostly under Baghdad’s control in 2014, when Islamic State militants swept into the region. Kurdish Peshmerga and coalition forces recaptured the lands, and the Kurdistan Region has since held them.
The Iraqi leadership said it is retaking the areas to establish federal authority after a Kurdish referendum for independence in September threatened the nation’s unity. More than 92 percent of Kurds in Iraq voted “yes” in a vote Baghdad called illegal, and the international community leaders said was dangerous and ill-timed.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday rejected an offer by Kurdish leaders to freeze the results of their independence referendum in favor of dialogue in order to avoid further conflict.
The Kurdistan Regional Government, in a statement, said the confrontations have hurt both sides and could lead to ongoing bloodshed and social unrest in Iraq.
“Certainly, continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but it will drive the country towards disarray and chaos, affecting all aspects of life,” the KRG said.
‘Unified Iraq is the only way to go’
Abadi said in a statement his government will accept only the annulment of the referendum and respect for the constitution.
During a briefing Friday morning at the Pentagon, Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. told reporters the U.S. believes “a unified Iraq is the only way to go forward.”
He added, “We’re not helping anyone attack anyone else inside Iraq, either the Kurds or the Iraqis.”(VOA)
Washington, October 25:European counterterror officials say they are taking no solace in the liberation of Raqqa from Islamic State, with some warning that the terror group’s communication and planning units remain “very active.”
The fall of IS’s Syrian capital this month has been heralded as a crushing blow to the group’s aspirations, with U.S. President Donald Trump calling it a “critical breakthrough.”
But counterterrorism officials say there is broad consensus that IS still has a considerable reach, especially in the near term.
“We all share the same opinion. The military defeat, the so-called caliphate being scattered, does not mean that the terrorist organization ISIS is defeated,” Dick Schoof, the Dutch national counterterrorism coordinator, told reporters Wednesday, using an acronym for the group.
Ability to communicate
A key concern is that a loss of territory in Iraq and Syria has yet to have a considerable impact on the terror organization’s ability to communicate, both with its operatives in Europe and potential recruits.
IS has also been able to leverage relationships with organized crime syndicates, which officials describe as especially worrisome.
“We know that ISIS’s planning unit is still functioning. Also, its communications unit is still functioning,” said Schoof.
The European assessment mirrors that of counterterror officials in the United States, who have repeatedly warned that, at best, there would be a lag between the fall of the terror group’s self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria and any impact on its external operations.
“We do not think battlefield losses alone will be sufficient to degrade its terrorism capabilities,” Nick Rasmussen, head of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, warned in written testimony to U.S. lawmakers in September. He called IS’s reach on social media “unprecedented.”
Also, one of the most anticipated consequences of the collapse of the so-called caliphate has failed to materialize: a substantial flow of foreign fighters to their home countries.
Schoof, the Dutch counterterror coordinator, said that of the Netherlands’ approximately 300 foreign fighters, slightly more than 50 have returned, with only a handful trying to make their way back as IS’s fortunes have waned.
Complex terror threat
Friedrich Grommes, head of the international terrorism and organized crime directorate for Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, has also said that “there is no hard evidence” for a rising tide of returning foreign fighters.
Instead, officials say, Europe is facing a more complex and variable threat picture, even as they have worked to take down, through multiple raids and a series of arrests, most of the IS network thought to be behind the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels.
At the same time, officials warn al-Qaida operatives have become more active, stepping up their planning for potential attacks on the West.
In particular, there has been growing concern about IS and al-Qaida activity in northern Africa.
“We are very cautious,” Schoof said. “ISIS and al-Qaida are still not very strong but do have footprints.”
Like the U.S., which has sent troops to Niger to track IS operatives and officials, European militaries have also been active in the region.
So far, at least, Western officials have yet to track any significant flow of foreign fighters or top officials from the Middle East to Africa.
But Islamic State, at least, is turning to a familiar strategy.
“What ISIS is absolutely trying to do is leverage local insurgencies now to rebrand themselves,” Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joe Dunford, the top U.S. military officer, said Tuesday following a meeting of the global coalition to defeat IS. “They’re trying to maintain relevance.”(VOA)
Beirut, October 13: Islamic State suicide attackers killed at least 50 people in a triple car bomb attack on Thursday among a group of refugees in northeast Syria, a medical source in the Kurdish Red Crescent said.
A large number of people were also injured by the three car bombs, the source said.
The attack took place at Abu Fas, near the border of Deir el-Zour and Hasaka provinces, said a war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which said earlier that at least 18 people had been killed.
The dead included refugees fleeing the fighting in Deir el-Zour as well as members of the Kurdish Asayish security force, the observatory reported. Syrian state television said dozens had been killed in the attack.
The jihadist group has lost swaths of its territory in both Syria and Iraq this year and is falling back on the towns and villages of the Euphrates valley southeast of Deir el-Zour.
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias is pressing it from the north, and a rival offensive by the Syrian army, supported by allies including Iran and Russia, is attacking it from the west.
On Wednesday, Islamic State said it had carried out an attack in the capital, Damascus, where three suicide bombers detonated their devices near a police headquarters, killing two people and wounding six.
Aid agencies have warned that the fighting in eastern Syria is the worst in the country this year and that airstrikes have caused hundreds of civilian casualties.(VOA)