Pervez Musharraf will NOT contest general elections from four constituencies

“I have spoken to Musharraf, he asks for more time. He plans to come to Pakistan but due to Eid holidays and illness, he can’t travel immediately,” Mr Afzal said.

It prompted the chief justice to adjourn the hearing for an indefinite period, saying the next hearing will be held when the petitioner was ready for it.

“Alright, we’ll adjourn the court hearing till indefinite time period, will hold it on your wish,” the judge observed.

But he ordered to withdraw the conditional permission for General (Retd.) Musharraf to contest elections.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court June 6 ruled that former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf, disqualified for life, can conditionally file his nomination papers to contest the general elections on July 25.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar, also directed the 74-year-old Musharraf, currently based in Dubai, to appear before the court on June 13.
APML General Secretary Muhammad Amjad said that his party chief will contest general elections from four constituencies.”The exact date of his return will be announced after the Supreme Court decides on the review petition filed against Musharraf’s disqualification in 2013,” Mr Amjad said.

[June 3   Asifa Bhutto Zardari to contest National Assembly   ]

ASEEFA bhutto

Under the joint chairmanship of Bilawal and Asif Zardari, it was almost a consensual decision by the party leadership that Aseefa [Asifa Bhutto Zardari born in 2nd feb 1993] would contest for the National Assembly from one of the seats in Karachi.

While the PPP retains significant support in the traditional Bhutto-Zardari family stronghold of Sindh province, it appears to have lost ground nationally to the PTI. A Gallup nationwide poll in March put the party on 17 percent, with PTI on 24 percent and PML-N on 36 percent.
That suggests the best chance for the opposition parties would indeed be some sort of alliance.
For Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan’s only major left-leaning political party, the most likely route back to power could be a post-election alliance with Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Infasf (PTI). Some in Islamabad believe Asif Zardari has been quietly building ties with the military to that end – a suspicion enhanced in March when the PPP declined an opportunity to lead the Senate and instead helped elect an army-linked independent as Senate chairman.

[May 11   Sharif: “aliens”, the military, to blame   ]

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Imram Khan

While no-one is suggesting the army wants to outright seize power again, PML-N insiders say Sharif’s relationship with the generals is in tatters and accuse shadowy military networks of working with the judiciary to weaken the party.

Sharif on Thursday said “aliens”, a typical coded reference to the military establishment, had been calling PML-N lawmakers and pushing them to abandon the party or join PTI. The lawmakers were threatened with corruption cases being opened against them if they disobeyed, he said.

The former army chief announced that his political party will take part in upcoming local bodies election in the country.

 

[ May 6 Bhutto-Zardari prayed for Iqbal interior minister’s speedy recovery.  ]

Screenshot 2018-05-06 at 11.53.30 AM

Narowal

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal was wounded in an apparent assassination attempt. Iqbal was hit by a bullet in his arm in the attack in Narowal district, his constituency in central Punjab province. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman chairman Bhutto-Zardari condemned the attack and prayed for the interior minister’s speedy recovery. Iqbal is a senior member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party and a staunch ally of ousted premier Nawaz Sharif.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said on April 9 that the politics of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stood finished with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif sent packing. Bilawal said the PML-N had now become Pakistan Muslim League-Shehbaz (PML-S). He added that the PPP will contest the forthcoming general elections against both, the “PML-S” and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The attacker has been identified as 21-year-old Abid Hussain

[July 29 2017   Bilawal Bhutto on Nawaz Sharif: no comment ]

Nawaz Sharif

Nawaz Sharif

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the Leader of the centre-left Pakistan Peoples Party.“ I am neither a lawyer nor a judge that’s why I am not commenting it whether PM Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by SC on strong or weak ground” he added.

He further added that rule of law is supreme concern of his party and we will continue our struggle in this regard for the ensuring the law in the country. Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office on July 28 over undeclared assets, plunging the nuclear-armed South Asian nation into political turmoil after a period of relative stability.

Sharif swiftly resigned, his party is planning to bring in an interim prime minister for a few weeks before electing Nawaz’s younger brother Shehbaz Sharif to the post.

The military establishment has alternatively used constitutional manipulation and direct takeovers to keep the civilian leaders in line. In this, it has invariably been supported by the top judiciary.
During this period, the military has developed a huge business and industrial empire which it runs from within, with little or no interference from the state authority.
Many believe this empire can only last as long as the military is able to control some crucial domestic and foreign policy areas, such as relations with India, Afghanistan and the West, or the political narrative and propagation of a particular type of patriotism at home.
For this, they say, the military has often raised and protected politicians who agree with its world view.
But politics has its own dynamics. Once leaders have entered the mainstream, they feel more compelled to increase economic and other opportunities for their voters. This has often forced successive Pakistani leaders to try to normalise relations with India and other neighbours in the region.

[January 30 Bilawal will contest parliamentary by-election ]

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PPP Co-chairman Bilawal Bhutto will contest a by-election for a parliamentary seat from Larkana, the hometown of the Bhutto family in Sindh province.

“Bhutto will be the leader of the opposition and I will assist him as his adviser while his father will also guide him on parliamentary politics,” Khursheed Shah, 64, told journalists in Sukkur, Sindh province January 26.

Bilawal is the son of former President Asif Ali Zardari and the slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and the grandson of late prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

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Updated: Jan 25, 2017,:Pakistan’s former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Zaheerul Islam today claimed that there is no proof of Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that led to the killings of over 150 people
Appointed on the recommendation of then President Asif Ali Zardari in March 2012, Islam became the 18th director general of the ISI. He has remained mostly out of the spotlight and yet, he manages to cast a shadow over many major events in the last few years
Islam has a strong military background; his father, brothers and brother-in-law had also served in the army. His uncle, Shah Nawaz, was a major general in the Indian National Army, led by Subhas Chandra Bose, and was captured and detained by the British briefly in the early 1940s.

August 10 2015 Bilawal convoy visits Sukkur Barrage ]

ISLAMABAD: The dictatorship of former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf was better than the democracy of Nawaz Sharif, said PTI Chairman Imran Khan,
Imran khan chairman pti speech in pti azadi march Islamabad 11 september 2014.

[September 9 Hearing adjourned to October 13

Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, Aftab’s elder brother, Hayat Khan Sherpao, was one of the founding members of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and a close lieutenant of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Hayat Khan was killed in 1975 in a bomb blast in University of Peshawar.   After the 2008 elections, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao decided to break away from his PPP legacy and formed the Qaumi Watan Party by merging his party with disgruntled leftists and Pakhtun nationalists.

Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao
, Aftab’s elder brother, Hayat Khan Sherpao, was one of the founding members of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and a close lieutenant of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Hayat Khan was killed in 1975 in a bomb blast in University of Peshawar. After the 2008 elections, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao decided to break away from his PPP legacy and formed the Qaumi Watan Party by merging his party with disgruntled leftists and Pakhtun nationalists.

Pervez Musharraf on September 8 did not appear before an anti-terrorism court in a case relating to the 2006 murder of elderly Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, citing poor health.
Gen. Musharraf’s lawyer told reporters that his client was not keeping good health and could not travel to Quetta for the hearing.While Gen. Musharraf did not appear for the hearing, two of his guarantors — former Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao and former Home Minister Balochistan Shoaib Nowsherwani — did.

Judge of ATC-1 Nazeer Ahmed Langove adjourned the hearing for October 13.

September 9 viewing the volatility of the situation in the federal capital, Court postponed hearing ]

Pakistani Protesters Ransack State Television Headquarters.

Pakistani Protesters Ransack State Television Headquarters.

The hearing of high treason case against former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf was adjourned on September 2 until September 9.

It should be mentioned here that the judges, viewing the volatility of the situation in the federal capital, postponed the hearing without being solicited to do so.

According to sources, the prosecution and Musharraf’s counsels were formally informed about the decision.

[July 21 Military leadership as a whole not hostile to legal action against Musharraf?]

 Special Assistant to prime minister on National Affairs Irfan Siddiqui

Special Assistant to prime minister on National Affairs Irfan Siddiqui

Special Assistant to prime minister on National Affairs Irfan Siddiqui has said that the military leadership as a whole was not hostile to legal action against Musharraf. “Only few people, who are close associates of Musharraf, want to give him a safe passage,” he said, adding that countries cannot be run on the personal whims of a few individuals.

[June 29 Sindh High Court: General Pervez Musharraf on the Exit Control List struck down but order stayed]

Special Anti Terrorism Court (ATC) Islamabad June 27 directed the defense counsel to submit medical report of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf before the court on July 11 in judges’ detention case.

[june 12]

Presiding judge Muhammad Ali Mazhar of the Sindh High Court in Karachi said the ban ‘placing the name of retired General Pervez Musharraf on the Exit Control List is struck down’. A two-member high court bench comprising Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Shahnawaz announced the decision on Musharraf’s plea.
“The operation of the judgement is suspended for 15 days so that the respondent (the government) may file appeal before the Supreme Court.”
Musharraf has said he wants the travel ban lifted so that he can visit his sick mother in Dubai, but many in Pakistan see it as a ruse to flee the country and avoid the litany of criminal cases dating back to his 1999-2008 rule.

[June 10]

The Islamabad police have completed the challan in the murder of Allama Abdul Rashid Ghazi, Naib Khateeb (deputy cleric) Lal Mosque, and his mother, and submitted it in the court of Additional Sessions Judge Wajid Ali. . It was written in the challan that there was no direct evidence of Musharraf’s involvement in Lal Masjid operation. “On a point of principle one would support the trial of Gen Musharraf for acting extra-constitutionally (but definitely not for his action against militants who had taken over the capital’s Lal Masjid).”Dawn

[April 13]
Since Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif and Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq made some hard-hitting comments about Mr Musharraf, their colleagues in the cabinet have been clarifying that they had not uttered “a word against the army”.

Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid also dismissed the reports about any differences between the Nawaz government and the army. As the All Pakistan Muslim League demanded resignation of Khawaja Asif for his diatribe against Mr Musharraf, the information minister said there was no demand from the army to send the defence minister packing.

PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has called for action under the Constitution against the PML-N ministers for what he called defaming the army.

March 31]

In

In the southern port city of Karachi, the financial capital of Pakistan, many among the educated and liberal are nostalgic about Musharraf’s rule.

cabinet have been clarifying that they had not uttered “a word against the army”.Pervez Musharraf, former Pakistani president and Chief of the Army Staff was charged with issuing an unconstitutional and unlawful order on November, 3, 2007 at Rawalpindi as Chief of the Army Staff, called the “Proclamation of Emergency Order, 2007” which held the Constitution in abeyance. He subverted the Constitution and committed the offence of high treason punishable under section 2 of the High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973. Musharraf has also been charged with issuing the Provisional Constitution Order No.1 of 2007 which empowered the President to amend the Constitution from time to time, apart from suspending Fundamental Rights enshrined in Articles 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 19 and 25 of the Constitution. On the same day he issued an Oath of Office (Judges) Order, 2007 whereby an oath was introduced in the Schedule which required a judge to abide by the provisions of the Proclamation of Emergency dated November 3, 2007 and the Provisional Constitutional Order of the same date. This order resulted in the removal of numerous judges of the superior courts including the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Musharraf is also being charged for amending the Constitution and some of its provisions and subverting it.
The general became a target of ire for Islamist groups when he allied with the US in its “war on terror” and invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 – but he has loyal supporters in Pakistan, as well. They say that during Musharraf’s time in power, Pakistan’s economy prospered and enjoyed better security. In the southern port city of Karachi, which is also the “financial capital” of Pakistan, many among the educated and liberal are nostalgic about Musharraf’s rule.
The indictment on treason charges is historic for Pakistan, marking the first time that a military ruler of the country has been investigated or indicted on such charges. The special court has held several hearings since being constituted in November 2013, and its investigations have now culminated in Monday’s indictment. Pervez Musharraf will face the death penalty if found guilty.

In the court room in Islamabad on Monday, Musharraf was read the indictment by the three-member bench, led by Justice Faisal Arab. The special court has been hearing arguments pertaining to the dismissal of judges and suspension of the constitution by Musharraf on November 3, 2007. Musharraf has denied all the charges, alleging that the case is politically motivated.

His lawyers asked the court to authorise travel to the United Arab Emirates so he could visit his mother and travel to the US for medical treatment. The court dismissed the request, saying it was up to the government to decide whether Musharraf could leave the country. Musharraf came to power in a bloodless coup in 1999, deposing then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

[March 24]

Akram Sheikh, the chief prosecutor in a high treason case against General (retd) Pervez Musharraf maintains the court would have to frame charges against Musharraf in his presence and then he might be exempted from appearance. Musharraf said he would not appear on March 31 and the court would frame charges against the accused in his absence. After finally getting Musharraf in court 18 February 2014, the judge refused demands by the prosecutor Akram Sheikh for an immediate indictment. Instead the court will rule whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case. That means Musharraf will have to return to court, potentially creating another period of uncertainty about whether he will turn up.

Many legal experts believe Musharraf will struggle to defend himself and is hoping the case will become mired in controversy, forcing the government to either drop the charges or agree to some face-saving deal that will allow him to return to a life in exile abroad.

[January 5]
Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, in his press conference January 3, said: “At one time, it appeared that an important breakthrough was in sight.” After a meeting in New Delhi in 2005, India and Pakistan, in a joint statement, had said that the peace process between the two countries was “irreversible”.

“Events in Pakistan, for example, the fact that General Musharraf had to make way for a different set-up, I think that led to the process not moving further.”
“The prime minister said there was almost an agreement on Kashmir. When Pervez Musharraf said this, we did not believe him… but now the prime minister has said so.”

Musharraf’s wife yesterday filed a request before the government, asking his name to be removed from the Exit Control List that will enable him to travel abroad for treatment even as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made it clear that his fate will be decided by the Court.

The reports of the medical tests of Musharraf have been sent to the experts for further examination in the UK. There is intense speculation that Musharraf is likely to be flown out of the country for treatment. His detractors say the military is supporting him though there has not been any public support by the armed forces.
[January 4]
`Now the ball is in the court of the doctors.If they allowed him then Musharraf will appear before the court on Jan 6, otherwise their medical certificate will be presented,` he said.

According to AFP, Mr Kasuri said: `No one can challenge the doctors` report -if the doctors advise to take him abroad for medical treatment then the doctors` opinion will be carried out.
[January 3]
Doctors will decide whether Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf must go abroad for treatment after suffering a heart problem on the way to his treason trial,

on December 2 one newspaper reported that the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia was arriving to discuss this issue with the government.

The government did not help quell the rumours. While its representatives kept insisting that it had not given Musharraf the permission to travel abroad (hisname is still placed on the exit control list), some of them also pointed out that the former dictator was in the custody of the courts and not the government.

`The ball is in the adalat`s court,` said a cabinet member in a primetime talk show.

[July 10]

Authorities said initial investigations showed it was a suicide attack.

Security forces cordoned off the area in the Guru Mandir neighbourhood in central Karachi, following Wednesday’s bombing.

A police escort was accompanying Mr Sheikh’s white armoured car when the attack took place.

Officials said the bomber was thought to have followed the vehicles and detonated the explosives when the security chief stopped to get out of his car.

“It seems that the suicide attacker walked up to Sheikh’s vehicle and blew himself up outside the front passenger seat of the vehicle where Sheikh was seated,” police officer Raja Umar Khattab said.

[May 31]

Shahzada Iftikharuddin, present MNA Chitral, son of Shahzada Muhiuddin, great-grand son of Mehtar Shuja-ul-Mulk.

Shahzada Iftikharuddin, present MNA Chitral, son of Shahzada Muhiuddin, great-grand son of Mehtar Shuja-ul-Mulk.

APML candidate Ghulam Mohammad won the PK-90 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly seat.

APML candidate Ghulam Mohammad won the PK-90 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly seat.

Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf’s party, the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), managed to win one seat each – its first since it was formed – in the National Assembly and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly.

Despite the party announcing a boycott of the elections, APML candidate Shehzada Iftikhar-ud-Din the party’s candidates from Chitral decided to stay in the fray and won the NA-32 Chitral seat by around 20,000 votes,. APML candidate Ghulam Mohammad won the PK-90 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly seat.

Shot dead from a motorbike, multiple gunshots

APML Shehzada Iftikhar-ud-Din from Chitral

All Party Muslim League , the party of former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf, on May 3 announced it will boycott next week’s historic election. “We think that under the present election commission, conduct of free and fair election is not possible, so we have decided to boycott it,” a spokesperson said, adding that 170 party candidates had withdrawn.

Pervez Musharraf detained at his farmhouse at Chak Shahzad on the outskirts of Islamabad

Pervez Musharraf detained at his farmhouse at Chak Shahzad on the outskirts of Islamabad

A lawyer leading the effort to prosecute Pakistan’s former military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, over the murder of Benazir Bhutto has been shot dead in Islamabad as he was driving to court.

Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali, a state prosecutor for the Federal Investigation Agency, died in a hail of bullets on Friday when his car was attacked by unidentified gunmen riding on motorbikes as he was travelling through a busy street in the Pakistani capital, police said.

He was rushed to a nearby hospital where he died of his injuries.

Ali had been acting as a state prosecutor in one of the cases against Musharraf, the former coup leader who returned to Pakistan in March for what has been a disastrous bid to contest seats in the country’s general elections.

Ali argued in court that Musharraf, who is under house arrest, should not be allowed bail in a case where he is accused of conspiring to murder Bhutto, the former two-time prime minister of Pakistan who was killed in a gun and suicide attack at an election rally in 2007.

Musharraf, it is claimed, failed to use his powers as president at the time to provide sufficient security for Bhutto.

Ali was due to appear at the anti-terrorism court in the nearby city of Rawalpindi on Friday in connection with the case.
[April 22]
Musharraf’s lawyer Qamar Afzal argued that his client should be kept in judicial custody as there were serious threats to his life.
Sources told PTI that authorities had asked for Musharraf to be placed in judicial custody as this would allow the administration of Islamabad to declare his farmhouse at Chak Shahzad a ‘sub-jail’ and detain him there.
Authorities have been focussing on this measure as officials are not keen on holding Musharraf at a jail due to threats to his life.

[March 24]

ISI Chief Zaheer ul Islam

ISI Chief Zaheer ul Islam

Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Pervez Musharraf

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has arrived back in Pakistan, ending four years of self-imposed exile and defying death threats.

A protection detail of heavily armed commandos met him after his plane from Dubai touched down in Karachi airport. A mass rally in the city was cancelled.
[March 23]
Pervez Musharraf plans to fly on a commercial airline into Karachi on March 24, then attend a rally that will include Pakistani expatriates from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, he has said in a statement. He plans to lead his political party into Pakistan’s general elections slated for May.

Tehrik-i-Taliban will send out a “death squad” to kill him, a spokesman for the terrorist group said March 23. In 1999, the then-chief of Pakistan’s army became its president in a bloodless military coup. He remained in power until resigning in 2008 — a period that included the U.S.-led invasion of neighboring Afghanistan.
Lieutenant-General Zaheer ul-Islam (Urdu: ﻇﻬﻴﺮ ﺍﻹﺳﻼﻡ‎)HI(M) is the current Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI); he was appointed to the position on 9 March 2012. Islam took over the position from his predecessor Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who left on 18 March
[January 24 2012]
Pakistan’s ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha held a secret meeting with former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in Dubai and advised him not to return to the country, according to a media report.
“Gen Pasha… held a meeting with (Musharraf) in Dubai and advised him not to return to the country as the situation is not conducive for his return,”
The channel quoted its sour­ces as saying that Pasha “strictly advised” Musharraf not to return to Pakistan from self-exile. The report said it was not clear whether the meeting was held on the directions of the Pakistan People’s Party-led government or if it was a private meeting.

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Emirati troops join Saudi-lead coalition in Yemen

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Toyota war

A Yemeni anti-Houthi military official said the alliance had brought to bear a 21,000-strong force.   Joost Hiltermann, the program director for Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group: “Do the Emiratis think they can defeat the Houthis in Yemen? … Do they think they can defeat the Houthis in the Hodeidah Province, including the city and the port? They seem to think so, but it may be a bridge too far. … You need to go back to the negotiating table.”

[June 12]

Yemeni forces allied to the Saudi-led coalition — drawn from southern separatists, local units from the Red Sea coastal plain and a battalion led by a nephew of late former president Ali Abdullah Saleh — had advanced and were “at the doors” of Hodeidah airport. Hundreds of Yemeni fighters as well as tanks and military supplies from the UAE arrived on June 11 to reinforce troops, including Emiratis and Sudanese, in al-Durayhmi, a rural area 10 km (6.21 miles) south of Hodeidah. The coalition says one of the main justifications for its intervention is to protect Red Sea shipping, which brings Middle East oil and Asian goods to Europe through the Suez Canal. Emirati-led troops are now 10 km (6 miles) south of Hodeidah, and in Bayt al-Faqih, 35 km from the city, local military sources said. Coalition warplanes and warships launched strikes targeting the Houthis.

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Pro-government Sudanese troops gather on June 7, 2018, near the city of Al Jah in the Hodeida province, 50 kilometres from the port city of Hodeida, which the Iran-backed Houthi insurgents seized in 2014.

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U.S. air strike near Sirte, Libya

 

bani walid

In coordination with the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), U.S. forces conducted a precision airstrike near Bani Walid, Libya, on June 6, killing four (4) ISIS-Libya militants.

http://www.africom.mil/media-room/press-releases

[ March 22  U.S. drone strike in southern Libya from Niger   ]

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Airmen in Afghanistan preparing an MQ-9

American drone strikes are on the rise again, after tapering off somewhat in places like Pakistan. The number of American strikes against Islamist militants last year tripled in Yemen and doubled in Somalia from the figure a year before.   Africa Command acknowledged four airstrikes in Libya in the last 14 months against ISIS, plus four others previously undisclosed, most recently in January — by armed MQ-9 Reaper drones flying from an air base in Sicily — strikes also were carried out against militants in Yemen (more than 130) or Somalia (more than 40) in the same period. In Iraq and Syria, the American-led coalition has bombed on a near-daily basis.

In March, an armed drone flown for the first time from Niger killed Musa Abu Dawud, a high-ranking official in Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM, in southern Libya , signaling a possible expansion of strikes there. Niger’s government approved Air Base 201 in 2014. In November 2017, a month after the deadly ambush, the government of Niger gave the Defense Department permission to fly armed drones out of Niamey, a major expansion of the American military’s firepower in Africa. American and Nigerien officers here refused to discuss armed operations. But a Defense Department official acknowledged that the military in January started flying armed missions from Niamey, 500 miles southwest of the base, including the deadly strike in southern Libya last month.

 

[December 24 2017 US drones hit IS outposts in al-Fuqaha ]

Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, and Fayez Serraj, prime minister of Libya’s unity government, walk outside the command’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany

On Nov. 17 and 19, US drones hit two IS outposts in the central town of al-Fuqaha. Forces under the banner of Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous (BAM) from Misrata — defeated IS in the southern city of Sirte in December 2016. US airstrikes, which supported the forces, were vital to the mission.

The U.S. military launched six drone strikes against Islamic State positions in Libya on September 22.

17 militants were killed and three vehicles were destroyed when unmanned aircraft targeted a desert camp about 150 miles southeast of Sirte, a coastal city where ISIS fighters were defeated by U.S.-backed Libyan forces last September.
Strikes were carried out by unmanned aircraft but she would not say which model. MQ-9 Reaper drones have been used for similar strikes in Libya.

The Pentagon maintains a small presence in Libya, mostly Special Operations troops and joint terminal attack controllers who can direct airstrikes from the ground. The United States often relies on Libyan government troops to pass on coordinates.

The camps are in the rough geographic area of al-Fuqaha.

[January 24 MQ-9 Reaper drones from Sicily hit Sirte ]

mapa_base

The Department of Defense announced that MQ-9 Reaper drones launched strikes against the two reported ISIL camps in Libya. The armed Reapers were launched from Sigonella Naval AB Sicily and provided follow-on strikes to the B-2 bombers. Over 80 ISIL militants were killed in the strikes.

[January 21 Drones hit survivors after Whiteman AFB B-2s strike Sirte Libya]

Following the airstrike by B-2s at least one remotely piloted vehicle (MQ-9 Reaper according to some sources, MQ-1 Predator according to others) launched supporting strikes using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles against survivors.

A total of 15 tankers (KC-135 and KC-10) participated in the operation, enabling the B-2s to fly the more than 30 hours round-trip to the target from their home base in Missouri. According to the U.S. Air Force, planners at 18th Air Force and the 618th Air Operations Center at Scott AFB coordinated the tanker mission. The 305th Air Mobility Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, was one of the units that contributed tankers to the refueling mission. Then, after crossing the Pond, the B-2s were refueled off Gibraltar by KC-135s belonging to the 100th ARW launched from RAF Mildenhall, UK, whose racetracks could be tracked online by means of ADS-B.

[January 19]

b-2

A B-2 Spirit bomber takes off at dawn from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo, April 2, 2014.

Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, conducted precision airstrikes in conjunction with the Libyan Government of National Accord, Jan. 19, 2017 destroying two Daesh camps 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte.
No women or children were in the camps. Dozens of militants were killed in the strikes with more than 100 precision guided munitions dropped. Drones also participated in the strikes . Niger is the only western Africa country to allow military drones, Agadez, Niger, a U.S. strategic outpost puts Libya within range of MQ-9 Reaper drones. Whiteman AFB is located approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) south of Knob Noster, MO.

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5,839 miles from Whiteman to Sirte

[November 9 2016 San Antonio-based Bell AH-1W SuperCobras strike in Sirte ]

marine helicopter

An AH-1W SuperCobra from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit takes off from the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) the recent replacement in the role of the US Navy’s (USN’s) USS Wasp landing platform dock (LHD-1) on 27 October to conduct precision air strikes in support of Libyan Government of National Accord-aligned forces

As noted by the USN on 3 November, San Antonio-based Bell AH-1W SuperCobras of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) have been conducting precision airstrikes against the Islamic State, and in support of Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA)-aligned forces, in Sirte as part of Operation ‘Odyssey Lightning’. With San Antonio unable to operate the McDonnell-Douglas AV-8B Harrier II strike jets of Wasp, the mission of hitting Islamic State targets in and around the Libyan port city of Sirte has now fallen primarily to the SuperCobra helicopter gunship.

[November 3 U.S. drones southeast of Gabes Tunisia? ]

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Defense officials said the Pentagon has deployed about 70 military personnel to Tunisia to oversee drone operations there. Tunisian Air Force has four main bases (Bizerte/Sidi Ahmed, Gafsa, Bizerte/La Karouba and Sfax)
Bizerte-Sidi Ahmed Air Base (ICAO: DTTB) is a Tunisian Air Force base located approximately 7 km west of Menzel Abderhaman, and 9 km west-southwest of Bizerte, rebuilt by the U.S. during WWII in 1943. Remada Air Base (ICAO: DTTD) is a military airport serving Remada in Tunisia.
For lethal strikes in Libya, the U.S. military has relied on manned U.S. aircraft based in Europe and armed drones flown out of Naval Air Station Sigonella on the Italian island of Sicily. Sigonella is relatively close to Sirte, but flights from the base are routinely canceled because of cloud cover over the Mediterranean and other weather-related issues, officials said. U.S. logistical concerns about using Sigonella and other bases­ in Europe for operations in North Africa prompted the Pentagon’s push for a facility on Tunisian soil.
While U.S. surveillance drones have been based in Sigonella since 2011, the Italian government refused to give the U.S. military permission to fly armed drones out of the base until earlier this year, citing concerns about sparking an anti­war backlash at home.

[June 22 2015 Lutfi al-Arabi al-Gharisi and Ridha Ahmad al-Najjar flown from Afghanistan to Tunisia ]

A U.S. military cargo plane flew Lutfi al-Arabi al-Gharisi and Ridha Ahmad al-Najjar from Afghanistan to Tunisia on June 15, according to U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a detainee transfer that had not been made public.
The Pentagon June 26 confirmed the transfer of the two men who were being held in Afghan government custody prior to their repatriation by the U.S. military, which said the flight was done in support of the Afghan government.
Two Afghan officials accompanied the prisoners on the flight because it was considered a joint operation.
“These individuals remained under Afghan government control until they were handed over to Tunisian officials, “said Lt. Col. Myles B. Caggins III, a Pentagon spokesman.

Tina Foster

Tina Foster, a lawyer for Gharisi and Najjar

Tina Foster, a lawyer for Gharisi and Najjar, said the men had been freed by the Tunisian government. “We work with foreign national prisoners and their loved ones to develop legal, political, and media strategies to advocate for repatriation to the prisoner’s home country.”

[April 1 U.S. ISR platform Beech operated from Pantelleria in Tunisian search for terrorists]



From Mar. 21 to 26, a U.S. Beechcraft King Air 350ER has conducted reconnaissance missions over the western Tunisia regions where jidahist terrorists behind the Bardo Museum attack have been hiding. The civil-registered plane was probably involved in an intelligence gathering mission, the King Air “N351DY” did not turn off its ADS-B transponder and could be clearly tracked on the popular website (as already happened to other U.S. spyplanes over Afghanistan…) as it circled over the Jebel Chambi mountain between 22,500 and 24,500 feet. the aircraft operated from Pantelleria airport, a little Italian island off Tunisia: most probably, deploying the plane to a Tunisian airport was not safe, Sigonella airbase, in Sicily, from where U.S. Global Hawk and Predator and Reaper drone operate, was too far and Pantelleria was chosen as the closest base for the clandestine task.
The plane is the civil version of the MC-12W, an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform operated by the U.S. Air Force and equipped with a full array of sensors, a ground exploitation cell, line-of-sight and satellite communications datalinks, a robust voice communications suite as well as an electro-optical infrared sensor with a laser illuminator and designator.
N351DY Aircraft Logistics Group LLC Oklahoma City 18/03/14
[March 19 Tunisian tourist shooting may have been linked to assassins of Chokri Belaïd and Mohamed Brahmi]

The opposition leader  Mohamed Brahmi was gunned down in his car outside his home in Tunis in 24 July 2013.  The gunman is Boubakr Hakim, a 30-year-old French-born weapons smuggler, known for jihadi sympathies. Mr Brahmi, 58, led the nationalist Movement of the People party.   The family of Mr Brahmi has accused the governing Islamist Ennahda party of being behind the killing.

Mohamed Brahmi opposition leader was gunned down in his car outside his home in Tunis in 24 July 2013. The gunman is Boubakr Hakim, “known for jihadi sympathies.” Mr Brahmi, 58, led the nationalist Movement of the People party. The family of Mr Brahmi has accused the governing Islamist Ennahda party of being behind the killing.

Chokri Belaïd was shot by Kamel Gaghgadh on 6 February 2013 Gaghgadh met with Ansar al-Sharia founder Abu Iyadh at Chaambi Mountain “several times”, according to head of public security Mustapha Taieb Ben Amor.

Killing by Islamic State militants, of 20 foreign tourists at Tunisia’s national museum, may have been linked to the death of Ahmed al-Rouissi, Tunisia’s most-wanted terrorist, who had become a senior leader in Isil’s Libya group. He was reported to have been killed on March 14 in the Libyan city of Sirte, where Isil has established a foothold. His forces were said to have been in combat with fighters from Libya Dawn, a coalition of more moderate Islamists based in the city of Misurata, who are anxious not to let Isil become a rival for power. al-Rouissi, who was high up on the most wanted list in neighbouring Tunisia for his role in the assassination of politicians there, was killed in clashes ; the mastermind of the murders of left-wing politicians Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi and other attacks in the country. Brahmi, a member of the Arab nationalist Popular Front party, was shot 11 times outside his home in Tunis in front of his wife and children in summer last year. Belaid, the former leader of the Popular Front, was gunned down triggering violent protests that led to the resignation of Islamist Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.

[May 22 2013 Tunisia: payments by SNC to husband of Dorsaf Ben Ali, a daughter from Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, ex-president’s first marriage, to Na’ima el-Kafy]

Newly unsealed information in an RCMP search warrant document alleges that SNC-Lavalin paid nearly $6-million to the son-in-law of Tunisia’s president between 2001 and 2010 to win contracts in the North African country.

“The payments were destined for offshore companies belonging to Slim Chiboub,” the police affidavit says. “According to public-source information, the payments in question were made at a period when a variety of major contracts were awarded to SNC-Lavalin in Tunisia.”

Mr. Chiboub, a businessman, is married to the oldest daughter of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the autocratic president who was toppled in a January 2011 uprising. Mr. Chiboub fled to the United Arab Emirates after the revolution.

Swiss authorities uncovered the Tunisian payments as part of an investigation into corruption and money laundering, the affidavit says.

Dorsaf Ben Ali

Dorsaf Ben Ali, a daughter from Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, ex-president’s first marriage, to Na’ima el-Kafy (1964–1988)

Businessman married to Dorsaf Ben Ali, a daughter from the ex-president’s first marriage, to Na’ima el-Kafy (1964–1988), has had his assets frozen along with his wife’s. Chiboub, who until the revolution chaired the Esperance football club, has denied any illegal enrichment. He is now believed to be based in Qatar, making frequent visits to Paris. He told the Tunisian media in an interview last July that he hoped to return to the country “once spirits are calmer”. In February Tunisia’s official horse-breeding foundation said it had “recovered’, with the help of the security services 130 thoroughbreds that had been in Chiboub’s possession.

[April 23 2012]

Anis Mahmoud

Wajdi Chortani, the general director of Enco Group, a Tunisian construction and engineering company, said a series of meetings with SNC officials, among them Anis Mahmoud, Mr. Ben Aissa’s right-hand man on SNC’s big North African projects, ensued. Mr. Chortani said he never met Mr. Ben Aissa.

Sensing stalling tactics when he tried to nail down the contract, Mr. Chortani grew frustrated. He said he had a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Mahmoud on Feb. 3. During the meeting, Mr. Mahmoud asked him for 160,000 dinars (about $100,000 Canadian), he alleged. Speaking through an interpreter, he said he understood that the amount would be “cash money, [paid] directly to Mahmoud.”

Mr. Chortani said he did not agree or disagree to pay the amount. At a meeting last month, Mr. Chortani said, Mr. Mahmoud told him, “You will not be able to work on this [project] unless you meet my conditions.”

Mr. Chortani said he never got the contract and is suing SNC in Tunisia an effort to recoup the expenses related to preparing the bid.

Riadh Ben Aissa, former chief executive of SNC-Lavalin in North Africa, would nvite Saadi Gaddafi to Canada for his honeymoon. “The link is Tunisian,”

“Riadh Ben Aissa meant Saadi. It was the same. They worked together, ”

Mr. Ben Aissa had entrusted to his right arm, Mahmoud Anis, site management of the airport in Benghazi.

Mr. Mahmoud is still responsible for the division of SNC-Lavalin in Tunis.

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Manbij Syria: cannot allow ISIS to gain momentum

shafah syria

The plans for Manbij could be implemented before the end of the summer, U.S. and Turkish forces would control the region until a new administration was formed. Cavusoglu told broadcaster AHaber May 30, 2018

https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/06/282929.htm

 

On May 30, near Sha’fah, which is north of Abu Kamal, one Coalition strike engaged one Daesh tactical unit and destroyed two Daesh vehicles.

[May 31]

We don’t have any agreements yet with the Government of Turkey…. We’re continuing to have ongoing conversations regarding Syria and other issues of mutual concern.

The two sides then had outlined the contours of a roadmap for further cooperation, and that includes on Manbij. I know that the Secretary looks forward to hosting Foreign Minister Cavusoglu on June 4th here in Washington for those conversations to continue. Heather Nauert State Department Press Briefing May 29 2018

Turkey has plans to buy more than 100 of the F-35 jets and the Pentagon last year awarded Lockheed $3.7 billion in an interim payment for the production of 50 of the aircraft earmarked for non-U.S. customers, including Ankara.    General elections are scheduled to occur throughout Turkey on 24 June 2018. Originally due on 3 November 2019, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the vote was being brought forward on 18 April 2018

[April 10]

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An XM905 Advanced Mortar Protection System being set up in Manbij, Syria, April 4 2018.

AMPS is a dismounted 120mm mortar system. The system has a recoil design, which reduces shock and improves accuracy, according to the Army. It also has an electric drive system, providing a 360-degree firing range, and allows for computerized laying of the cannon’s azimuth and elevation.

All of this makes the system “capable of providing an accurate solution when emplaced on a sloped terrain,” according to the Army.   The build-up comes days after an American and a British operator were killed by an improvised explosive device while conducting a mission in an urban area of Manbij on March 29.   During that same incident, five other coalition troops were wounded.

The coalition forces were conducting a raid to kill or capture a known member of the Islamic State.

[April 5]

A U.S. soldier sits on an armored vehicle behind a sand barrier at a newly installed position near the tense front line in Manbij, north Syria, Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The U.S. is building two military bases in the region of Manbij west of the Euphrates River, which is under the control of the Kurdish People’s Defense Unit (YPG), reports the Turkish news agency Anadolu.

On Wednesday April 4, there was a growing fortified position with a perimeter of large sand barriers and barbed wire, a new watch tower and a half-dozen armored vehicles.

Even as U.S. President Donald Trump spoke of pulling out of Syria “very soon,” an Associated Press team saw American forces setting up front-line positions west of the Euphrates River.

[April 4]

Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State Brett McGurk noted the role both American military and diplomatic assets had played in staving off violence between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish allies of the United States. “It’s incredibly complex,” McGurk said, “But we have to work through this diplomatically with our NATO allies and reassure our partners on the ground in Manbij.”

Currently, the United States has roughly 2,000 soldiers in Syria, and along with regional allies, has taken back more than 90 percent of the territory formerly held by the militant group.

[more] US Army Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar, 36, of Austin, Texas, was assigned to the headquarters of US Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina

[more]Sergeant Matt Tonroe, from the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, died in an improvised explosive device blast on Thursday March 29 while embedded with US forces.

A US and a British service member in the US-led coalition battling ISIL were killed by an improvised explosive device in Manbij, Syria, US and British officials said on Friday, March 30.

They are the first coalition service members to be killed or wounded in an attack this year.

manbij-syria

March 6 2017

Army Col. Robert Manning III said, referring to advances into Syria by Turkish forces.   The United States is not involved in the movement of forces of either side, he said, but U.S. officials are very concerned about the effect that fighting there has had on its defeat-ISIS efforts. The United States would like to see an end to the hostilities before ISIS has the opportunity to regroup in eastern Syria, Manning said.   “We cannot allow ISIS to gain momentum at this critical point,” he stressed.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin: “Pompeo is not informed on the issues, so it will cost us 1-2 weeks, but we will continue working on this.”

[March 17 State – we’re not done talking ]

QUESTION: — working group meetings between Turkish and U.S. officials, and yesterday, I believe, Turkish foreign minister stated that Turkey and U.S. agreed on Manbij, that the Syrian Kurdish fighters, YPG, are going to leave the city. Is that your understanding?

MS NAUERT: It is not our understanding. We have a lot of conversations that we’re having with the Turkish Government at this point. We had a day and a half or a day worth of meetings last week with Turkish Government officials. We’re still working to reach an agreement with Turkey at this point and we’re not done talking with them.
Heather Nauert, , Spokesperson, State Department Press Briefing, Washington, DC,March 15, 2018

[March 2 U.S.ashamed to abandon Kurds? ]

Vast territories to the east of the Euphrates have been captured by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) with US air support from Isis since 2015. 30 per cent of Syria is now held by the Kurds.
Probably, the US will stick with the Kurds because it would be ashamed, at least in the short term, to abandon them. Doing so too swiftly would also deter other potential US allies in the Middle East who might fear a similar fate.

[February 23 Manbij Syria:Pentagon has designated funding for the SDF separately]

“The reason for us to base soldiers in Manbij is to ensure that the town remains under the control of our partners,” said Rex Tillerson
The United States considers the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) a partner. Playing a large role in the SDF is the YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist-affiliated group.
The Pentagon has designated funding for the SDF separately from money for the so-called Syrian “border force” in its 2019 budget.

[February 7 Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk in Manbij, “We’re here…my job is to fight.” ]

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Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk February 7 during a visit to U.S. forces in Manbij., Syria

MANBIJ, SYRIA –   “We’re here to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS is maintained in this area,” Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk said February 7 during a visit to U.S. forces in Manbij.
Funk told reporters in Manbij that the U.S. would continue to support the Syrian fighters despite tensions with Turkey and that a continued U.S. presence in Syria’s north is aimed at deescalating tensions.
“I don’t worry,” Funk said when asked about recent Turkish threats, “It’s not in my job description to worry, my job is to fight.”

On February 6, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the U.S. to withdraw its troops from Manbij and renewed a threat to expand Ankara’s military offensive in Syria to this town.

“Why are you staying there (in Manbij)? Leave,” Erdogan said, referring to American troops.

[January 24 Syrian airspace under Russian control west of Euphrates ]

manbij

The Turkish campaign only became possible when Russia agreed not to oppose it and, above all, allowed Turkish jets to operate in Syrian airspace. This is under Russian control west of the Euphrates.   Is control east of Euphrates American…over Manbij?

Screenshot 2018-01-24 at 10.02.39 AMCombined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve precision strikes killed an estimated 145-150 ISIS terrorists near As Shafah, Syria which is north of Abu Kamal, Jan. 20.

The precision strikes were a culmination of extensive intelligence preparation to confirm an ISIS headquarters and command and control center in an exclusively ISIS-occupied location in the contested Middle Euphrates River Valley.   The United States has around 2,000 special forces troops in Syria, officially as part of an international U.S.-led coalition, assisting the Kurds in battle against Islamic State. A U.S. official said the administration is unlikely to commit more troops or covert operators to Syria, even if Turkey makes a move from Afrin to Manbij.

[January 23 Manbij: entire U.S. strategy rests on the Kurds ]

Gonul Tol, director of the Middle East Institute think tank’s Turkey program, said persuading Erdogan not to move against Manbij could prove extremely difficult.

The Trump administration’s Syria strategy – crushing the remnants of Islamic State and reviving the U.N.-led Geneva talks on ending the Syrian civil war – almost entirely depends on preserving the 30,000-strong YPG as a fighting force.

“The entire U.S. strategy rests on the Kurds. Even if Turkey doesn’t attack Manbij, the fall of Afrin will weaken the Kurds, and that will weaken the U.S. influence with the Kurds, Tol said. “The only leverage the U.S. has (in Syria) is through the Kurds.

“If Manbij falls, Raqqa is going to be threatened and that is key for the U.S.,” Tol continued, referring to the Syrian city that Islamic State declared as its capital and from which it was driven out last year. “The U.S. will do everything to ease the tensions with Turkey. But I don’t know what they will come up (with). They have to be very creative.”

[ November 9 2017 SDF in Raqqah release 86 former ISIS fighters ]

raqqa nov8

On November 8, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that it released 86 former ISIS fighters who were captured or surrendered during the battle for Raqqa. The SDF said that the former ISIS fighters who were released went through a strict investigation and stressed that none of them committed crimes during their service with ISIS.

[October 12 400 militants left near Raqqa ]

Fighters of Syrian Democratic Forces inspect weapons and munitions recovered at the former positions of the Islamic State militants inside a building at the frontline in Raqqa

KOBANI, Syria (Reuters) – Islamic State fighters in the Syrian city of Raqqa are expected to fight to the death, but some local militants have surrendered recently as U.S.-backed forces close in on their last strongholds, a U.S. coalition spokesman said on October 11.
Colonel Ryan Dillon said officials in the Raqqa Civil Council, which is to govern the city after IS has been driven out, were working to negotiate the safe passage of thousands of civilians being held hostage.
But the coalition would not support any negotiated withdrawal of fighters, he said.
“The coalition would not be party to a negotiated settlement. (But) we’re jumping ahead of anything that’s being discussed right now … as (the council) try to get civilians out,” he told Reuters by phone.
Up to 400 militants are believed to remain in a small part of Raqqa surrounded by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, he said.
“The foreign fighters (in IS), we fully expect them to fight till the end – there’s a hardcore of (foreign) fighters.
“But we have seen a rate of four to five ISIS fighters surrendering a week, including emirs – local leaders within Raqqa – over the past month,” Dillon said, using another acronym for Islamic State.
On Oct. 11, Coalition military forces: Near Ar Raqqah, 24 strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units, damaged nine fighting positions, destroyed 11 fighting positions, 12 vehicles, two communication nodes and one ISIS supply route

June 19 Warning after Bush F/A-18E shoots down Syrian SU-22 near Raqqah ]

tabqa-dam

Russia announces it will target any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river in Syria after the US military shot down a Syrian air force SU-22.   The U.S.-led coalition conducts missions in areas west of the Euphrates River near Manbij and Al Bab, two towns retaken from ISIS by U.S.-backed rebel forces.   

[June 18

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SU-22

US Central Command said the SU-22 dropped bombs near the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who are being supported by the US-led coalition as they advance on the terrorist stronghold of Raqqa.  “In accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defence of Coalition partnered forces, it was immediately shot down by a US F/A-18E Super Hornet,” a statement said.

[March 17 1000 more U.S. to Syria

usrangers2014 Rangers training

The Pentagon has considered increasing the U.S. military presence in Syria by up to 1,000 troops as the international battle to oust the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, from their de facto capital of Raqqa heats up.

The U.S. has already deployed about 500 U.S. Special Operations forces, 250 Rangers and 200 Marines to Syria.

.[March 15 U.S. Rangers near Raqqa]

The U.S. is looking for options to ease the tensions with Turkey over the plan to use U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds in the fight to oust Islamic State fighters from Raqqa but has offered no details on what those options could be.

The U.S. is considering arming the Syrian Kurdish forces, which the Pentagon considers the most effective fighters against IS militants in northern and eastern Syria. But Turkey, a key NATO ally, considers the Syrian force, known as the YPG, a terrorist organization. Turkey wants to work with other Syrian opposition fighters known as the Free Syrian Army to liberate Raqqa.

Paentagon leaders sent a new plan to defeat IS to the White House late last month that included a variety of options for the ongoing fight in Iraq and Syria.

95060669_syria_turkey_kurds_v15_624map_9_3_2017

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters walk with their weapons during an offensive against Islamic State militants in northern Raqqa province

SDF Forces in Rakkah February 2017

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3rd Ranger Battalion March 8

MARCH 6, a separate force of elite US army Rangers was deployed near a town north-west of Raqqa in heavily armoured vehicles, in an attempt to end clashes between SDF fighters and a Turkish-backed rebel force.   http://bigstory.ap.org/article/former-trump-security-adviser-flynn-admits-turkey-lobbying

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-03-09/turkey-kurd-tension-in-syria-war-a-train-wreck-mccain-warns

“Just days ago, fighting broke out between the Manbij Military Council (SDF), who had Green Berets embedded within their ranks, and Turkish-backed forces in the Manbij area. The movement of more US troops in the area will signify to our allies that they have our support, and show the Turkish forces and pro-Assad fighters that they’re messing with the wrong dudes.”

]February 16 Trump not insisting on Kurds in Raqqah Assault]

U. S. support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance dominated by the Kurdish YPG, has caused tensions with NATO ally Turkey, which views the Kurdish militia as an extension of militants fighting on its own soil.

“If we want the Raqqa operation to be successful, then it should be carried out with Arab forces in the region and not the YPG,” Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik told reporters in Brussels.

“The new U.S. administration has a different approach to the issue. They are not insisting anymore that the operation should definitely be carried out with the YPG. They haven’t yet made up their minds,” he said in comments broadcast live.

The SDF alliance, which includes Arab and other groups in Syria’s north as well as the YPG, has taken territory along the Syria-Turkey border as they push back Islamic State.

With air strikes and special ground forces from the U.S.-led coalition, the SDF is in the middle of a multi-phased operation to encircle Raqqa, Islamic State’s base of operations in Syria.

A key decision for the Trump administration will be whether to provide weapons to the YPG despite Turkish objections. The U.S. says weapons provided to the SDF are so far limited to its Arab elements.

“We are working with the U.S. on the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij by the time the al-Bab operation is completed,” Isik said, referring to a town currently under SDF control.

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Mahmud al-Isawi, a Syrian-based ISIL leader and facilitator, was struck and killed by a Coalition precision airstrike Dec. 31, 2016, in Raqqah, Syria.   CJTF-OIR does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.  Coalition nations which have conducted strikes in Syria include Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

[July 3 2015 U.S. kills IS leader in airstrike in  al-Hasakah area of Syria]

Tariq Bin al-Tahar Bin al Falih al-Awni al-Harzi, a senior Islamic State leader, in Syria was killed June 16 in Shaddadi, Syria. He was the subject of a $3 million reward offered by the U.S. State Department.
The military reported conducting two airstrikes in the al-Hasakah area of Syria, which includes the town of al-Shaddadi, on June 16. It said at the time that those strikes hit an Islamic State tactical unit, two antenna arrays and a vehicle, but made no mention of enemy casualties.
Al-Harzi’s death came one day after that of his brother, Ali Awni al-Harzi, a key suspect in the 2012 Benghazi U.S. Consulate attack and also a member of IS. He was killed June 15 in a U.S. drone strike in Mosul, Iraq.

June 11 2011 Syria: Rifaat Assad Redux?]

Rifaat Assad

Assad Dynasty

Rifaat Assad

Rifaat Assad

In 1983, Hafez’ younger brother Rifaat, who drew a significant amount of support from the military, attempted a coup against Hafez Assad
In 1992 he returned to Syria following the death of his mother. However, in 1998, as Bashar Assad was being groomed for the presidency, Rifaat was denied the title of vice-president and left the country one again.

For years he has been deemed a potential threat to Bashar’s inheritance of his father’s regime, but when Hafez Assad died in June 2000, Rifaat refrained from taking any major steps to prevent Bashar from assuming power.
Rifaat is considered close, by some observers, to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Abdullah is married to a sister of Rifaat’s wife, and Rifaat has on occasions—even after his public estrangement from the rulers in Syria—been invited to Saudi Arabia, with pictures of him and the royal family displayed in the state-controlled press.
After the Iraq war, there were press reports that he had started talks with US government representatives on helping to form a coalition with other anti-Assad groups to provide an alternative Syrian leadership, on the model of the Iraqi National Congress. Rifaat has held a meeting with the former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Yossef Bodansky, the director of the US Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, has stated that Rifaat enjoys support from both America and Saudi Arabia; he has been featured in the Saudi press as visiting the royal family in 2007. The Bashar regime remains wary of his intentions and carefully monitors his activities.

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Libya: verbal agreement in Paris to hold elections

The success of today’s agreement to hold elections will rely on whether the rival armed groups allow the elections to take place and then respect the results. The last parliamentary election in 2014 plunged the country into a deeper crisis.

[ January 12    United Nations urges all Libyan actors to work for elections now   ]

 

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Saif Gaddafi attends a hearing behind bars in a courtroom in Zintan, May 2014.

The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, is traveling to Libya and Tunisia from 9 to 12 January 2018.   Embarking on the visit, Mr. Feltman said: “The United Nations urges all Libyan actors to engage in earnest in an inclusive political process leading to credible and fair elections.

[January 1 presidential elections due in 2018…enter Saif Gaddafi?]

Wolfgang Pusztai, a former Austrian defence attache in Libya and Tunisia, described Gaddafi as a polarizing figure, but one with outside support.

“There are businesses in the west who were dealing with the old regime who would like to see Saif back,” Pusztai, now a security consultant who writes extensively about Libya, said. “But if he joined the political landscape it would make it even more divided.”

 

Egypt Today CAIRO – 17 December 2017: “Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the former Libyan president, enjoys the support of major tribes in Libya so he can run for the upcoming presidential elections due in 2018,” said Libyan Tribal Chief and spokesperson of the Gaddafi family, Basem al-Hashimi al-Soul. “Saif al-Islam will run for the upcoming presidential elections which may take place in mid-2018,” al-Soul said.

NEWSWEEK 10/18/17 AT 2:02 PM Speaking in the Tunisian capital Tunis, Gaddafi’s lawyer Khaled al-Zaidi told reporters Gaddafi’s son was returning to Libya’s fractious political scene, adding he was in good health. “He’s working on politics from his base in Libya, with the tribes, with the cities, with the decision makers,” Zaidi said according to Reuters. “He’s in a good health…in top condition. His medical and psychological condition are good.

He was sentenced to death by the Libyan court via video link in 2015 for the role he played in the revolution but in the shifting allegiances of Libya’s civil war he was released under a law granting political amnesty to former Gaddafi officials later the same year.

Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, Gaddafi’s cousin and one of the most senior members of the former regime besides Saif al-Islam not either killed during the revolutionary war or imprisoned, tells Newsweek the former heir had recommitted himself to Libyan politics adding that he was in contact with his family member through intermediaries, though not directly.

Gaddaf al-Dam refused to say whether Saif al-Islam was likely to lead the country in the future but said he needed to be involved in the ongoing peace process. “Let’s get Libya out of all this mess. This is the priority after that the Libyans can choose whatever kind of leader they like. It’s too early right now to talk about who is leading,” he said.

Gaddaf al-Dam, who served as an aide to Muammar Gaddafi and as a foreign envoy, says Libyans had reconciled themselves with the former regime after six years of turbulence. He claimed the majority of those from the Gaddafi era now languishing in prisons were the country’s only experienced administrators.

“We have been in this situation now for nearly seven years. We can’t go on like this and we can’t leave it to these people who have destroyed the country and have left our people suffering. We watch our country burn every day,” he said.

Said al-Islam’s whereabouts remain unknown. Conflicting reports in recent years have claimed he is in Zintan, where he was captured, or in the eastern Libyan towns of Bayda or Tobruk.
Guardian 6 Dec ‘17 Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the former Libyan dictator, is seeking to make a comeback after years in detention, and claims to be leading a military campaign against terrorist groups around Tripoli.
“Developments on the ground have not been in his favour,” said Mattia Toaldo, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “He can dream, but he can’t get anywhere.”

Observers say Gaddafi could still emerge as a political force if elections are held in 2018 and he is allowed to stand despite his 2011 indictment from the international criminal court (ICC) for alleged crimes against humanity. He was also sentenced to death by a court in Tripoli in 2015, though that trial was conducted in absentia and was widely criticised by international human rights groups.

A diplomat involved in election preparations said the ICC indictment against Gaddafi would not necessarily stop him from standing, or winning.

“We don’t control who stands in the election. That is up to the Libyans,” the diplomat said, pointing to the precedent of Uhuru Kenyatta’s 2013 presidential election win in Kenya despite ICC charges. “You can see he has popularity on the ground, particularly in the south.”

Gaddafi is seeking to benefit from the chronic sense of uncertainty and insecurity since his father’s fall. Libya has two rival parliaments, and a kaleidoscope of competing fiefdoms run by warlords and militias. A tenuous UN agreement designed to hold the nation together is wearing thin and its critics claim it will expire on 17 December, the anniversary of its signing.

If there is no agreement between the factions to amend and extend the agreement, there are fears that the current most powerful military figure, General Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), which holds sway in the east, will seek to capture Tripoli, and oust the UN-backed prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, and his Government of National Accord (GNA).
Haftar has backing from Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Russia is reported to have established a small military presence in western Egypt, and Cairo and Moscow have come to a preliminary agreement this week that would allow Russian warplanes to use Egyptian airspace.

Haftar is also reported to have held talks in Paris last month with militia leaders based in Tripoli, on whom Sarraj depends for his security, seeking to persuade them to stand down or defect.

“They wanted a military guarantee from the United States that we would basically defend their block in Tripoli,” a US source familiar with the talks between President Trump and the UN-backed Libyan GNA. He added that there were deep misgivings about corruption in the GNA and the human rights record of the militias protecting it.“Is the US going to use military force against actors against the UN plan in Libya? Absolutely not.” The UN special envoy, Ghassan Salamé, has been seeking to keep the peace process alive with a new action plan to reconfigure the transitional government to make it more effective in delivering services, convening a national conference early in 2018 to be followed in theory by elections.

 

If or when a vote does go ahead, Libya observers said Saif Gaddafi could benefit from general weariness of political divisions and nostalgia for the relative stability of the Gaddafi era.

Salamé has said that any election law adopted by Libya should be “open for all” including loyalists from the old regime and Saif Gaddafi.

 

[ August 28 Saif al-Islam the interlocutor – says Russia]

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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi on August 24. The visit and his remarks were the latest show of growing Western recognition for Haftar, who has long been supported by Egypt and the UAE and rejects the GNA’s authority.    “Field Marshall Haftar has a role to play in the political process,” Johnson said in a statement. “I urged him to adhere to the commitments he made during recent meetings in Paris, to respect a ceasefire, and to work with Mr. Salame in order to amend the Libyan Political Agreement.”
Libya is divided between two enemy administrations. In one side, the Government of Tripoli headed by Serraj, supported by United States, Italy and UN. In the other the House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk (or Tobruk), in the control of Haftar’s fotces. The second ‘government’ is primarily supported by Egypt, but somewhat also by France and Russia.

“According to the Russian Press Agency RIA, ” Saif al-Islam is trying to reorganize tribal clans, traditionally strong in Libya, especially in the southern part of the country.
‘More and more people are convinced that Saif may represent the turning point for stabilizing the country, seeing in him the right interlocutor capable of controlling the true Libyan power holding tribes.’

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[August 9 : Haftar visits Egypt after Macron ]

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Army Chief of Staff Mahmoud Hegazy met with Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar in Cairo on August 6 to discuss the latest developments in Libya, including the results of a recent Paris meeting between Libyan factions.

 

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Factions

[July 22 Macron to see Haftar and Seraj ]

 

 

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Haftar

LIBYA – 21 July 2017:Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, in the east of Libya, and Fayez Seraj, head of the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on July 25. The meeting comes at a time when Haftar has gained ground militarily with Egyptian and United Arab Emirates support, and Western states say Haftar must be part of any solution to the conflict in the oil-producing North African state.

The two held talks in Abu Dhabi in May, their first in more than a year and a half, about a U.N.-mediated deal that Western powers hope will end the factional fighting that has dominated Libya since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi. The meeting will be a diplomatic win for the United Arab Emirates, the United Nations and neighbouring Egypt.

Macron said on July 13 there would be concrete diplomatic initiatives on resolving the conflict soon.

[June 6 LNA gains Jufra ]

220px-jufra_in_libya-svg

Jufra

Lieutenant General فريق Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has gained ground in central and southern Libya since last year, taking control of oil facilities and military bases. Most recently they have advanced near oasis towns in the Jufra and Sabha regions.

Regional powers have sided with opposing camps that have vied for power in Libya since the 2011 uprising that toppled veteran strongman leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Egypt and the UAE are considered key supporters of Haftar, who has built his position battling Islamist militants and other opponents in eastern Libya. East Libyan authorities accuse Qatar of backing rival, Islamist-leaning factions in western Libya.
Libya’s eastern-based government has followed regional allies in cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar, its foreign minister, Mohamed Dayri, said on June 5.

The government, which sits in the eastern city of Bayda, has little authority within Libya. It is appointed by a parliament that also sits in the east and is aligned with powerful military commander Khalifa Haftar. They have spurned a U.N.-backed, internationally recognised government in the capital, Tripoli.

The eastern-based government’s announcement came after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

Dayri gave no immediate explanation for the Libyan move.

[May 20 Third Force massacre ]

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Members of the Libyan National Army (LNA), also known as the forces loyal to Marshal Khalifa Haftar, patrol on January 28, 2017 the area of Qanfudah, on the outskirts of Benghazi, after retaking it from IS fighters

An attack on Brak al-Shati airbase in south Libya has killed 141 people, mostly soldiers loyal to military strongman Khalifa Haftar The attack breached an informal truce between the rival forces that was reached earlier this month when the LNA’s commander, General Khalifa Haftar, met the UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

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Tripoli had decided to suspend its defence minister, al-Mahdi al-Barghati, and Jamal Al-Treki, the head of the Third Force from their duties until those responsible were identified.   The Tripoli government has set up an investigative committee to present its findings to the prime minister within 15 days.

 

[March 3 Khalifa Haftar: Trump to support Haftar’s Eastern forces ?]

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Khalifa Haftar in Russia in November for arms talks

Egypt is being sidelined in the talks between Moscow and Haftar on a range of issues.

“Haftar promised to provide Russia a naval base on the Mediterranean, probably in Barca, in return for increased Russian military support to Haftar in order to allow him to increase the land under his territorial control. [This would also entail] a promise by Russia to secure American and European approval to guarantee a role for Haftar in any future political arrangements in Libya,” he says.

Haftar visited Moscow twice in the last year and boarded the Russian aircraft carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov in January, after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the ship to anchor off Libyan shores as it made its way back from a mission to support Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria. On board, Haftar held a video conference call with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, in what is the most publicly visible sign of Russia’s increasing support for Haftar.

Trump enters the fray
Any frustration felt toward Haftar did not prevent Egypt from attempting to secure support from the United States for him, as US and Libyan sources revealed last week that there had been “undeclared efforts exerted by Egypt to establish direct relations bY and contacts between Haftar and the new US administration led by President Donald Trump, which is reconsidering how to deal with Haftar as the strongman in Libya.”

The Egyptian official news agency prominently highlighted the remarks that Trump’s Middle East campaign advisor Walid Phares gave to the local “Libya Al-Hadath” television channel earlier this week, reporting that Phares said, “The Trump administration will deal with the national Libyan military institution led by General Haftar. This army is the one officially acknowledged by the administration, despite international political disagreements and suggestions to build another army.”

Phares’s comments represent a potential change in the US position on Haftar, as the previous US administration had offered military support to militias supporting Sarraj in their battle against the Islamic State in Sirte last year

http://www.madamasr.com/en/2017/02/25/feature/politics/haftar-and-sarraj-in-cairo-the-details-of-egypts-partially-successful-libyan-summit/

[December 9 2016]

Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan House of Representatives MP Jaballah Al-Shibani has asserted that someone in Trump’s campaign team had promised him and other MPs that the Libyan crisis would be ‘one of the Trump administration’s priorities, emphasising that they will support the Libyan Army with the needed military equipment because they are looking for who can bring back stability and security in Libya.’
Al-Shibani also declared, ‘Trump believes in strong and powerful men and he has good relations with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and the Egyptian President Abdelfattah El-Sisi, which will pave the way for good relations with Libya as well.’
Other than in relation to the presence of the Islamic State group, however, Libya is unlikely to be a top policy priority for the president-elect. Nevertheless, many easterners believe that the Trump presidency will help to alter the balance of power inside Libya in Haftar’s favour. Khalifa Haftar’s position has obviously been bolstered significantly of late as a result of his September takeover of the oil export terminals. This has enabled the field marshal to extend his control more firmly across the east.   Foreign support for eastern forces loyal to Haftar — includes U.S. ­allies France and Egypt.

August 10 escalation of conflicts between Haftar and Siraj UN-proposed government ]

http://www.thearabweekly.com/article/5641/Libyas%20Haftar%20seeks%20Russian%20support

Cairo- The army loyal to the government based in the east Libya announced breaking off relations with commander of 204 tanks brigade and the defense minister-designate of the UN-proposed government Colonel Al-Mahdi Al-Barghathi.

The commander of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar issued a resolution that stipulates changing the name of 204 tanks brigade to 298 tanks brigade and appointing Abd Al-Karim Barghouti as a leader of the tanks brigade.

Latest updates indicate termination of official relations between Minister of Defense in Siraj government and the military institution in eastern Libya; they also signal an escalation of conflicts between Haftar and Siraj.

[May 12 American forces in Libya snub Hifter

Two teams totaling fewer than 25 troops are operating from around the cities of Misurata and Benghazi to identify potential ­allies among local armed factions and gather intelligence on threats, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive mission overseas. The activities of the American “contact teams,” as they are known, take place in parallel to those of elite allied forces from France and other European nations in the same areas, U.S. and Libyan officials said.

Some officials privately complain that foreign support for eastern forces loyal to Hifter — including from U.S. ­allies France and Egypt — makes consolidation of the unity government’s power more difficult. The Misuratan forces recognize the unity government in Tripoli; those loyal to Hifter do not. “Our priority in Libya is full support to the government and not support to a particular force,” a French diplomatic official said.

[October  9 2015 Khalifa Haftar on de facto partition of Libya ]

In spite of being threatened with sanctions, Gen. Khalifa Haftar has the support of Egypt, the UAE and the Arab League. He recently signed a military deal with Jordan.
Haftar’s Plan would confer all powers on a temporary president or declare a state of emergency with a military council governing the country and himself as head of the council, and thus de facto partition of the country. Haftar believes he can defeat the GNC and retake the rest of the country.

[March 11 Lieutenant General فريق Khalifa Haftar, army commander of Libyan Army]

 commander of Libyan armed forces

commander of Libyan armed forces

On March 2, 2015,Khalifa Haftar was appointed commander of the armed forces loyal to the elected, internationally backed government, the Council of Deputies. Haftar has been promoted to lieutenant general. His appointment as army commander, which was announced on March 2, is apparent confirmation of official support for the Dignity campaign, which has battled extremist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi.

[February 25 2015 Tobruk Libya: Aguila Salah Issa to name an army chief]

parliament speaker Aguila Salah Issa

parliament speaker Aguila Salah Issa

“The chamber (of deputies) adopted today a law regarding the general leadership of the Libyan army,” calling on parliament speaker Aguila Salah Issa to name a chief, MP Issa al-Aribi said. Another MP said the law was adopted to “legitimise” General Khalifa Haftar, chief of the Libyan National Army, and that he would be formally named in the “coming hours.

[June 19 2014 Ahmed Abu Khattala taken into custody in a secret US raid. As the raid took place, Operation Dignity attacked Islamic militant camps]

The lifeless body of the American ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

The lifeless body of the American ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

buzz:Despite official denials, June 15’s capture of Khattala was conducted in a joint effort with “Operation Dignity.” General Haftar’s airstrikes and raids in Benghazi then may very well have been the “Fix” portion of JSOC’s “Find, Fix, Finish” strategy. By launching simultaneous attacks in Benghazi, Khattala would have been forced to bunker down inside his compound, the military action serving to deny him freedom of movement. How many Islamists were killed during this round of strikes and operations ranges from a dozen all the way up to 60 depending on which sources you believe.

[June 18]
As the U.S. raid took place on Sunday,June 15, forces loyal to Operation Dignity attacked Islamic militant camps in Benghazi as part of a new assault against the groups. Airstrikes targeted the camps on behalf of Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who was a top military official under dictator Moammar Gadhafi but later defected and lived for years in the U.S.

It isn’t clear what the strikes targeted. The general later said the clashes killed five of his fighters.

Ahmed Abu Khattala was taken into custody in a secret US military raid in Libya on 15 June.
For days, Army Delta Force commandos, the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies lay in wait for one of the alleged masterminds behind the deadly September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Then, they lured Abu Khatallah to a point south of the city and nabbed him.

Khalifa Haftar’s troops, backed by tanks and rocket launchers, attacked several suspected camps of Islamists in western areas of Benghazi on Sunday, June 15. http://wp.me/p1kUZv-3e

[April 6, 2011]

 Chris Stevens, former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli

Chris Stevens, former deputy chief of mission in Tripoli

A U.S. envoy has arrived in Benghazi to get to know Libya’s opposition and discuss how the United States might help it meet its financial needs, a U.S. official said on April 6.

The visit by Chris Stevens, former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, reflects a U.S. effort effort to deepen its contacts with the rebels, who are fighting a civil war against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. here

Fathi Baja, a political science professor who heads political committee

Fathi Baja, a political science professor who heads political committee

Fathi Baja, the rebels’ head of international affairs. Washington Post but see

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Syria: Trump said American F-18 airstrike as brief as “10 minutes” killed 100 to 300 Russians

At the Lotte New York Palace Hotel, May 23, President Trump said he was amazed by the performance of American F-18 pilots. He suggested that the strikes may have been as brief as “10 minutes” and taken out 100 to 300 Russians. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said 27 Mar 2018 the U.S. has seen operations from Russian-affiliated forces in eastern Syria scaled back after U.S. fighter jets fired on hundreds of alleged Russian mercenaries who fought with U.S.-backed forces in early February.

Mattis said the Defense Department has faith in the Russian officers who used the deconfliction line to tell U.S. counterparts the mercenaries were not under their control.

More than 200 contract soldiers, mostly Russians fighting on behalf of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, died in a failed attack on a base held by U.S. and mainly Kurdish forces in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region, late Feb. 7, when pro-Assad forces fired rounds and advanced in a “battalion-sized formation supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars,” Colonel Thomas F. Veale, a spokesman for the U.S. military, said in a statement.
The U.S., which has advisers stationed at the base alongside Syrian Democratic Forces troops, responded with aircraft and artillery fire.

 

[March 8   Russians there “for various reasons” casualties – foreign ministry    ]

Relations between the Russian mercenaries in Syria — it is thought there are more than 2,000 of them — and the government in Moscow have been tense for some time. The fighters claim they are being used as cannon fodder, are being kept quiet and are poorly paid. For them to now accuse the Kremlin of trying to cover up the fact that Russians were killed — by the Americans, of all people — hits President Vladimir Putin’s government in a weak spot: its credibility.

[February 20]

The Russian foreign ministry described the Russian casualties as “Russian citizens who went to Syria of their own accord for various reasons”. Some were also from other ex-Soviet republics.
The statement did not specify the numbers of dead or wounded, but spoke of “several dozen” casualties, and said the wounded were being treated now in hospitals in Russia.
Independent media have found evidence of Russian mercenaries fighting for the Syrian government side.
Russia’s official military role mainly takes the form of air strikes, helping President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
The US military said US air strikes were launched on 7 February against an attacking force of about 500 fighters, about 100 of whom were killed.

[February 14 U.S. kills Russians – who pays Russians? ]

A US jet operating in Syria destroyed a Russian-made T-72 battle tank near Al Tabiyeh, Syria on February 10, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed. in the three-hour battle, during which the United States called on Apache helicopters, AC-130 gunships and F-15 fighter jets to repel the assailants, U.S. military officials said.   More than 200 contract soldiers, mostly Russians fighting on behalf of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, died in a failed attack on a base held by U.S. and mainly Kurdish forces in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region, two of the Russians said. The U.S. official put the death toll at about 100, with 200 to 300 injured. It’s not clear who was paying the Russian contingent, whether it was Russia directly, Syria, Iran or a third party. Reports in Russian media have said Wagner — a shadowy organization known as Russia’s answer to Blackwater, now called Academi — was hired by Assad or his allies to guard Syrian energy assets in exchange for oil concessions.

According to documents seen by the AP and Fontaka, Evro Polis has signed a contract with Syria’s state-owned General Petroleum Corp. for 25 percent of the proceeds from all the oil and natural-gas fields it captures from ISIS. Evro Polis is reportedly Wagner’s commercial front in Syria. It is owned by Putin’s “favorite chef” Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose companies have extensive contracts to provide food for everyone from the Russian defense ministry to most of Moscow’s public schools. Most famously, Prigozhin set up a “Kremlin troll factory” in St. Petersburg to influence public opinion in the West by peddling conspiracy theories and disinformation on social-media platforms.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis insisted that despite the media reports he did not have information that “Russian contractors” were among the casualties,
“I can’t give you anything on that, we have not received that word at Central Command or the Pentagon,” he said.

https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1436435/pentagon-official-describes-response-to-attack-by-pro-regime-syrian-forces/

[March 212 2012   Damascus fighting near homes of powerful figures, Mezzeh, Harasta and Irbin ]

Damascus, Syria suburbs March 21,2012 fighting resumes

Syrian government forces used tanks and helicopters against insurgents in several suburbs of Damascus Wednesday, anti-government activists said. Helicopters flew above as artillery and gunfire was heard in the suburbs of Harasta and Irbin.

[March 19, 2012]Residents and activists in the heart of a heavily guarded and wealthy district of Damascus said it was extraordinary to see such clashes in a well-defended area of Damascus so close to crucial security installations and the homes of powerful figures.

“It’s the first time something happened so close and so loud,” said a businesswoman, reached by telephone, who lives a short drive from the center of the fighting and who declined to give her name. “We stayed awake and couldn’t sleep till around 5 a.m.”

The fighting started around 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. with several explosions, activists and residents said, followed by automatic-weapons fire and helicopters circling with searchlights, in a wealthy area of the city’s Mezzeh district that is home to business people, United Nations offices and diplomatic residences. Smoke was seen rising near an upscale supermarket and the high-rise Tala Tower. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group based in London, said its informants reported that at least 18 members of the security forces were killed in the clashes.

Mezzeh is a sprawling area on the western edge of Damascus, one of the first city panoramas that greets visitors arriving on the Damascus-Beirut highway named for Hafez al-Assad, the president’s father who ruled for 30 years.

The West Villas section of Mezzeh, where the nighttime fighting took place, is a neighborhood of stand-alone houses across the highway from a military airport. It is home to wealthy Syrians of a mix of ethnic backgrounds and political persuasions, many of whom live cosmopolitan lives and have a foothold abroad, in the form of business or dual citizenship.

To its north is Mezzeh 86, a less wealthy area home to many Alawites, members of the security forces, and, some residents say, the shabiha, a term for pro-government gangs that have been unleashed against the government’s opponents. Activists with the Local Coordinating Committees, a coalition of Syria-based groups, reported that large numbers of security vehicles and shabiha were deployed there by midday on Monday.

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Airstrike at Rutbah, Iraq pumping station

On May 23 in Iraq, Coalition military forces conducted one strike consisting of one engagement against Daesh targets.

• Near Rutbah, one strike destroyed one Daesh safe house.

From Haditha through Rutba and as far as Burqa, a distance of some 270 miles, the obstacles to pipe line construction were limited to stretches of rather rough country, occasional patches of rolling stony ground and a few small wadis, or valleys.

 

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TYPICAL PUMPING STATION IN THE DESERT. Twelve of these stations are necessary to ensure a steady flow of oil along the line, the height of which varies from 2,600 feet above sea level to 850 feet below.

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Black circles indicate the sites of the pumping stations

 

 

[ May 23  Airstrikes against Syrian Army Al Thaurah, Deir ez-Zor   ]

T2 pumping station

T2closeup

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman, Marine Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, said: “We have no information to substantiate those reports.”   U.S concern in Southwest Syria   The area in southwestern Syria, between the border city of Daraa and the Israeli Golan Heights, has emerged as a flashpoint in a wider standoff between regional archrivals Israel and Iran.

 

Warplanes from the U.S.-led coalition targeted two Syrian army positions in the eastern Syrian desert, military media unit run by Lebanon’s Hezbollah group said May 24.

the strikes took place near T2 pumping station located near the border with Iraq and about 100 km (60 miles) west of the Euphrates river where the coalition is backing ground forces against Islamic State.
the coalition has struck Syrian pro-government forces that it said were attempting to attack coalition positions.

The U.S. military operating outside the coalition also maintains a base at Tanf in the eastern Syrian desert near the borders with Iraq and Jordan and last year struck pro-government forces moving along a road toward it.

 

Type: Oil Pumping Station
Commodities: Crude Oil
Area: Deir ez-Zor
Products: Crude Oil
Owner: Syrian Company For Oil Transport (SCOT)
Shareholders: Government of Syria (100%)
Activity Since:

Contact:

Coordinates: 34.376561,40.154520
Address: Al Thaurah, Deir ez-Zor

 

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