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Start of 'Spring Offensive' announced by Afghan Taliban

Published in Asia
Friday, 28 April 2017 13:34

The Afghan Taliban will target foreign forces in the country, the group said Friday, as they announced Friday the start of their spring offensive.
“The key objective… will be the foreign forces, their military infrastructure and intelligence, and the elimination of their local mercenaries,” the extremist group said in a statement.

“The enemy will be targeted, harassed, killed or captured until they abandon their last posts.”

Operation Mansouri — named after the group’s former leader who was killed in a US drone strike in May 2016 — will use strategies from “conventional attack to guerrilla operations”, the statement said.

Followers were told they can be “suicide attacks, complex attacks and inside attacks” by soldiers or police turning against their peers.

The announcement came after the Taliban killed scores of people in a raid on an army base in northern Afghanistan, one of its deadliest assaults on a military installation since the 2001 US-led invasion.

Authorities have arrested 35 soldiers who served on the sprawling base, home to the 209th Army Corps, outside the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The defense ministry says 135 recruits were killed and 64 wounded in the raid. Unofficial sources say the toll was higher.

Two Saudi soldiers killed patrolling near Yemen border

Published in Yemen
Friday, 28 April 2017 13:14

At least two Saudi troopers have been killed when Yemeni army soldiers, backed by fighters from allied Popular Committees, launched surprise attacks against them in response to Riyadh’s deadly airstrikes on the conflict-stricken country.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement that Sergeant Jaber Ahmed Yatimi and Vice Sergeant Muhammad Musa Jaber al-Raythi were killed on Thursday morning in a simultaneous landmine explosion and rocket attack.

The statement noted that the attacks took place in the kingdom’s southwestern border region of Jizan, located 969 kilometers south of the capital, Riyadh, as the pair were on duty.

Yemeni army troops and Popular Committees fighters also launched a number of artillery shells at al-Kars military outpost in the same Saudi region, though no immediate report of casualties was available.

Moreover, Yemeni soldiers and allied fighters fired several rockets at a gathering of Saudi forces east of al-Qafl base in Jizan, but no casualties were immediately reported.

Bahraini regime forces have arrested another Shia Muslim cleric as the ruling Al Khalifah dynasty presses ahead with its heavy-handed crackdown and persecution of the members of the religious community in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom.

Masked Bahraini troopers stormed the house of Sheikh Abdulzahra Karbabadi in the northern village of Karbabad early on Friday, and arrested the cleric and his wife, Arabic-language Lualua television network reported.

Regime forces later raided the village of Karrana, and arrested the cleric's sister.

On August 10, 2016, Bahraini forces detained four Shia clerics, identified as Sheikh Imad al-Sho’leh, Sheikh Aziz al-Khazran, Sheikh Monir Ma’tooq and Sayyid Mohammad al-Ghoraifi, on charges of organizing anti-regime protests in the northwestern village of Diraz, situated about 12 kilometers west of the capital Manama.

Bahraini troopers also arrested Sayed Yassin al-Mosawi and Sheikh Jassim al-Kayyat on July 25, 2016 over their participation in a sit-in outside the residence of distinguished religious figure Sheikh Issa Qassim in Diraz to denounce the regime’s decision to revoke his citizenship.

The pair was taken to a police station in the northwestern coastal town of Budaiya, located just 10 kilometers southwest of Manama, and security personnel prevented their lawyer Jassim Sarhan from reaching out to them.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country on February 14, 2011.

President Donald Trump has criticized Saudi Arabia for not paying its fair share in return for the US security umbrella.

"Frankly, Saudi Arabia has not treated us fairly, because we are losing a tremendous amount of money in defending Saudi Arabia,” Trump said in an interview with Reuters news agency on Wednesday.

Trump’s criticism of Saudi Arabia was a return to his 2016 election campaign rhetoric where he questioned the protective nature of US relations with the oil-rich kingdom.

"We take care of Saudi Arabia. Nobody’s going to mess with Saudi Arabia because we’re watching them," Trump said during a rally in Wisconsin a year ago. “They’re not paying us a fair price. We’re losing our shirt.”

The billionaire even suggested then that Washington should consider ditching Riyadh because the US was increasingly lessening its dependence on overseas oil.

However, Trump toned down the rhetoric after he took office in January.

The president received Saudi Arabia’s powerful deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House last month, a meeting that was hailed by a senior Saudi adviser as a “historical turning point” in US-Saudi relations.

The meeting, Trump’s first with a Middle Eastern dignitary as president, appeared to signal agreements on many issues including the view that Iran was a regional security threat.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has regretted a decision by his country to back Saudi Arabia on a United Nations committee on women’s rights.

"If we could do it again and if we would have the chance to discuss it at government level, I of course would have argued that we not approve this," Michel said Thursday of the vote last week, adding, "I regret the vote.”
Michel, who was briefing parliament, said the diplomat representing Belgium in the UN was forced into a hasty decision and that he had not properly consulted the government in Brussels.

Saudi Arabia’s appointment to the women’s rights panel, which came with the support of 47 nations out of 54, sparked huge international outrage. UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights organization, has censured the vote as deeply ironic and illogical, saying Saudi Arabia, by its nature, is a “misogynistic regime."

“Saudi discrimination against women is gross and systematic in law and in practice,” said UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer on Sunday, questioning the appointment of Saudi Arabia, which it described as "the world’s leading promoter of gender inequality," to the rights panel.

Women are deprived of the most basic civil rights in Saudi Arabia. The country is the only one in the world that prohibits women from driving. A woman must also have permission from a male family member, normally the father, husband or brother -- in the case of a widow, sometimes her son -- to obtain a passport, marry, travel, exit prison and sometimes work or access health care in Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh has moved to ease some of the restrictions over the past years and women can now be represented only in some local elections.

Syria says it is negotiating with Russia to buy state-of-the-art Russian missile defense systems to help defend the Arab country against Israeli and American aggression.

President Bashar al-Assad made the remarks to Venezuelan channel Telesur. A transcript of the interview appeared on the official Syrian Arab News Agency on Thursday.

“It’s natural that we should have such systems,” said the Syrian leader. “Israel has been committing aggressions on the Arab states surrounding it since its creation in 1948,”he said.

He made the comments Israel struck an area near the International Airport in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Tel Aviv has conducted many such attacks in the past. The forays, however, have increased in number since the outbreak of the foreign-backed militancy in the Arab country in 2011.

On March 18, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surprisingly admitted to a series of the attacks by the regime, which had hit several targets near the ancient city of Palmyra in the central part of the Arab country the previous day.

He said the attacks had been aimed at targets belonging to the Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah, and said Israel would continue hitting the group. Hezbollah has been efficiently assisting Damascus in its anti-terror struggle.

A planned speech by Israel’s ambassador to Britain at a university in London has been met with protests by anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students on the campus.

Mark Regev, the Israeli envoy, who is a former aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was on Thursday invited to deliver a lecture at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) a day later.

Hundreds of students thronged at the venue to protest, with many carrying the Palestinian flag and the banner reading “Apartheid off campus.”

They expressed their opposition to the decision by the SOAS’s management to allow the Israeli diplomat in the school.

“We are out here today to show Mark Regev and the management at SOAS that students and staff will not tolerate apartheid, and that we stand in solidarity with Palestinians, who have had their lives ruined by occupation,” said a SOAS student and organizer of the protest.

“I just wanted to protest against Raghev being invited to speak at SOAS. He doesn’t stand for the values that the SOAS believes in and he is someone who supports the Israeli regime, which has consistently denied basic human rights to Palestinians,” another demonstrator said.

A military ammunition depot of the Saudi-led coalition forces was set ablaze following a missile attack by Yemen’s army and Popular Committees, the defense ministry of the Arabian Peninsula country announced.

The Yemeni defense ministry said the ammunition depot located at al-Fawaz military base in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern province of Najran was exploded after a missile and artillery attack by the Yemeni forces, the Arabic-language Al Mayadeen reported on Wednesday.

In another development, the Yemeni forces managed to target and hit the positions and vehicles of the Saudi troops in two military bases in Jizan with Katyusha rockets.

The forces of the Yemeni army and Popular Committees also pounded the kingdom’s al-Hajar military base in border region of Asir with rockets and artillery.

The attacks by the Yemeni forces were carried out in retaliation for the continued massacre of civilians by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

Since March 25, 2015, Saudi Arabia and some of its Arab allies have been carrying out airstrikes against the Houthi Ansarullah movement in an attempt to restore power to Hadi.

According to Yemen’s Legal Center of Rights and Development, the Saudi campaign has claimed the lives of over 12,000 Yemenis and left more than 20,000 others wounded.

Arab League Chief Ahmed Abul Gheit urged the International Committee of the Red Cross to intervene with Israeli authorities to halt their "abuse" of Palestinian prisoners.

Abul Gheit sent a letter to ICRC president Peter Maurer requesting "the committee (ICRC) urgently intervene with Israeli authorities to stop the various abuses being committed against those prisoners of war", the Arab League said, according to AFP.

The move came as 1,500 Palestinian prisoners entered the 10th day of a hunger strike over demands ranging from improved medical care to greater access to telephone calls.

The detainees, led by popular leader Marwan Barghouti, launched the hunger strike on April 17.

Abul Gheit's letter is part of contacts "with international actors to stop violations against Palestinian prisoners of war in Israeli prisons", the League said in a statement.

He called for the ICRC to demand Israel "ensure treating Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike according to norms and standards set in international humanitarian law".

The Arab League chief sent a similar letter on Tuesday to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

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