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U.S’s SDF Arrests Five IS Agents, Five More Deported From Syria

Syrian Kurdish officials last September told VOA they were holding in their prisons 514 IS foreign fighters, along with 534 wives and 1175 children of IS foreign members

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FILE - Suspected Islamic State members sit inside a small room in a prison south of Mosul, July 18, 2017. (VOA)

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Monday confirmed the arrest of five Islamic State foreign fighters and the handover of five more to their governments in efforts to rid eastern Syria of the jihadists.

In an interview with VOA, SDF spokesperson Mustafa Bali confirmed the five IS fighters, two Americans, two Pakistanis, and one Irish, were arrested on Dec. 30 during a special operation in eastern Deir el-Zour province.

He said the operation saved dozens of displaced civilians from being targeted.

“Our special anti-terror forces obtained information that IS thugs were planning an attack against civilians who are fleeing the war zone,” Bali told VOA. “We conducted that operation based on the information and arrested five of them who are in our prisons now.”

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Deir el-Zour (VOA)

 

In a statement, the SDF identified the American men as Warren Christopher Clark, 34, nicknamed Abu Mohammad al-Ameriki, and Zaid Abed al-Hamid, 35, nicknamed Abu Zaid al-Ameriki. It said the other two men, Fadel al-Rahman Cad, 48, nicknamed Abu Enam al-Muhajir, and Abed al-Azem Rajhoud, 19, nicknamed Abu Omea al-Pakistani, travelled from Pakistan. The fifth man, Alexandr Ruzmatovich Bekmirzaev, 45, is originally from Dublin,Ireland.

Spokesperson Bali said an investigation is under way to obtain more details about the men and their activities in eastern Syria, adding that more jihadists could be arrested as the U.S.-backed forces make further advances in the days to come.

The SDF said the arrests are part of their Jazeera Storm operation, supported by the U.S.-led global coalition against IS, to remove the terror group from its last bastions in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border.

“ISIS, which is now cornered in a small area after being cleared from large swathes of territory it once held, is suffering heavy losses due to operations of our forces,” the SDF said in its statement Saturday, using another acronym for IS.

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Families and relatives of Islamic State militants are seen after they surrendered themselves to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in al-Ayadiya, northwest of Tal Afar, Iraq, Aug. 30, 2017. (VOA)

IS families

Meanwhile, the SDF said Monday it also handed over five IS fighters, along with 11 wives and 30 children of IS fighters, from Kazakhstan to Kazakh authorities following months of preparation for their transfer.

The SDF did not disclose the identities of the IS fighters and their family members but said the move was part of a formal protocol with Kazakhstani government, meditated by the U.S.

Also Read: US Troops Would Be Withdrawing From Syria Over A Period of Time: Donald Trump

“The reason that made the handing over of those people got late was technical reasons. The agreement was applied on 5 Jan 2019, where they were formally handed over to their country with American mediation,” the SDF said in the statement.

Syrian Kurdish officials last September told VOA they were holding in their prisons 514 IS foreign fighters, along with 534 wives and 1175 children of IS foreign members, from 44 countries. The officials said they were overwhelmed by the burden and asked the relevant countries to retake their nationals. (VOA)

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US Senate Upholds Arms Sales to Bahrain, Qatar

The Senate voted 43-56 against moving the Bahrain resolution out of the Foreign Relations Committee

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FILE - Two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters participate in a media demonstration. VOA

The U.S. Senate on Thursday turned back resolutions aimed at disapproving multi-billion-dollar arms sales to Bahrain and Qatar, amid continued intensive congressional scrutiny of weapons sales to U.S. allies in the Middle East.

The Senate voted 43-56 against moving the Bahrain resolution out of the Foreign Relations Committee and bringing it to the floor for consideration by the full chamber. It also voted 42-57 against discharging the resolution pertaining to Qatar.

Sponsored by Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, the resolutions seek to block the Trump administration’s decisions, announced in May, to sell U.S. missile systems to Bahrain and attack helicopters to Qatar, each valued in the $3 billion range.

“The Middle East is a hot cauldron and continually threatening to boil over,” Paul said ahead of the votes. “I think it’s a mistake to funnel arms into these century-old conflicts.”

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The U.S. Senate on Thursday turned back resolutions aimed at disapproving multi-billion-dollar arms sales. Pixabay

Paul noted that weapons sent to the Middle East can wind up in the hands of America’s adversaries.

“In Iran to this day, they still have some U.S. weapons that are left over from the weapons the U.S. supplied the shah [U.S.-backed former Iranian leader overthrown in 1979]. In Iraq, some of the weapons we gave them to fight Iran were still there when we returned to fight Saddam Hussein. In Afghanistan, some of the weapons we gave to the Mujahideen to fight the Russians [in the 1980s] were still there when we returned to fight the Taliban [after the 9-11 attacks of 2001],” Paul said.

Last year, the Senate also defeated an effort by the Kentucky Republican to block the sale of rocket systems to Bahrain.

Bipartisan backing for such sales endured on Thursday, as even some senators who voted in favor of the discharge petitions as a procedural matter told VOA they do not support the underlying resolutions of disapproval.

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“I support the [arms] sales,” said the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez of New Jersey. “On the process, I’m voting to preserve the [Senate’s] institutional rights…for at least a debate to be had over the sales, but I support the underlying sales.”

Other lawmakers spoke out against the discharge petitions as well as the resolutions.

“If they [Gulf states] don’t buy arms from us, they’re going to buy them from China or Russia,” Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn told VOA. “Look, these countries are not democracies, we recognize that. But our interests are aligned, particularly in containing and combating Iran.”

 Bahrain has taken part in the Saudi-led coalition waging an air campaign over Yemen that has resulted in a staggering death toll in the country’s bloody civil war.
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FILE – Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez speaks with the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 5, 2019. VOA

Asked if the bloodshed in Yemen gave him pause about U.S. arms sales to the region, Cornyn said, “It does. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot we can do about it. It’s a civil war that the Iranians are trying to take advantage of, arming the Houthis to attack Saudi Arabia. I don’t think that should paralyze us, even though it’s a serious concern.”

The Senate could vote as early as next week on separate resolutions disapproving $8.1 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

In the House of Representatives, four Democrats filed resolutions Wednesday that, if passed, would block the licenses required for the sales to move ahead.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump vetoed a bipartisan congressional resolution ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition targeting Yemen.

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Aside from the Yemeni conflict, lawmakers from both parties have repeatedly protested Saudi Arabia’s role in the October 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. (VOA)