By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-4/)
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
In continuous fighting for the last 40 hours, clashes are ongoing between the combined YPG/Peshmerga/FSA forces and the Islamic State (IS), with casualties on both sides.
On the 61st day of the battle for Kobane, the YPG are said to have regained more ground on Mishtenur Hill and pushed forward in the municipality area on the eastern side of the city.
YPJ Plant Tree of Hope in Kobane
The YPG say 4 Jihadists were killed near the Reshad Mosque and another 3 in Azidi (Freedom) Square, plus a good quantity of weapons and ammunition were also taken.
On the south-eastern front, the Kurdish forces came under heavy attack yesterday and all through Thursday night after they took control of the Islamic State’s main supply route to the south.
So far the Kurds remain in control of the Helinj road and 13 Jihadists are reported killed in their failed attempts to get it back.
Several operations on the southern front resulted in the deaths of 7 more IS fighters as the YPG advanced for the first time in the area.
Heavy shelling and Coalition airstrikes have been made on the southern districts, today, Friday.
There are also unconfirmed reports Friday afternoon that “200 Islamic State fighters are under siege” and trapped in the eastern part of the city near the border.
To the west of the city, Kurdish operations have continued around the villages of Minaz and Gire Iza, the YPG destroying an IS vehicle and a motorcycle, killing 8 Jihadists and capturing more ammunition. The YPG report 4 deaths on their side in the last 24 hours but there may be more.
This video report, just released, from inside Kobane gives you an idea of the conditions there, but bear in mind it was filmed over 2 weeks ago before the Peshmerga arrived. The comments of the FSA leader too, now seem at odds with reality, HERE:
Elderly Kurdish Fighter Injured – But Recovering
Many of you will remember the elderly Kurdish fighter Apê Nemir, who appeared in a number of videos and interviews.
It seems he has been wounded but is alive and recovering, and in good spirits. He is also now famous in the West, his image appearing on the back of a bus in Germany! (EDITOR: I think that is where it is – See photograph below):
Across the border in Turkey, 19 year old Turkish Kurd Rosa is waiting for final permission from the YPG to cross the border and join the fight, (English sub-titles) HERE:
While other Turkish Kurds patrol the border on a regular nightly basis looking for Jihadists that may be crossing the frontier behind the Kobane lines, HERE:the commander of Kobane’s YPJ, Meryem Kobani (nom de gueurre), describes the current battle situation and the YPG/YPJ’s tactics as they gain more experience, HERE:
The YPG have also withstood 23 Islamic State vehicle bombs since September 15th.
Elderly Kurdish Fighter Becomes Kobane Icon!
AFTER DEATH RUMOURS, ISLAMIC STATE ISSUE THREATENING AUDIO STATEMENT SUGGESTING CALIPH IS STILL ALIVE?:
After many rumours on the Internet that Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (IS), had been killed in a Coalition airstrike last week, and even photographs showing him dead or critically injured on the ground, an audio recording was released by IS yesterday with a message from him to their followers.
Al Baghdadi Killed or Critically Injured? Or Lookalike?
In the 17 minute tape, Al-Baghdadi calls on IS supporters to “erupt volcanoes of jihad everywhere. Light the earth with fire under all the tyrants and their soldiers and supporters”.
In particular he singles out Saudi Arabia which he describes as the “head of the snake and stronghold of disease”, urging people to “draw their swords” to fight and to kill Shia Muslims – referred to pejoratively with the sectarian term “rafidah”.
Some of the Shia who live mainly in eastern Saudi Arabia, were attacked and killed by unknown gunmen 10 days ago.
Baghdadi also called for attacks on the “apostate” Houthis – Shia rebels fighting the Government in Yemen – but refers to the Sunni rebels in Egypt’s Sinai peninsular, who have frequently attacked and killed Egyptian Government soldiers and policemen, as “the people of the Jihad”.
In the recording, which appears to be authentic according to experts, the IS leader claims that the “crusader “ United States-led campaign against IS was “failing” and that “America and its allies are terrified, weak, and powerless.”
He also heaps scorn and abuse on “the Jews”, “the apostates and the “treacherous Arab Muslim leaders who fear the return of the Muslim faithful to the ways of the caliphate”.
Although Baghdadi does not refer to the airstrikes against IS, he does mention President Obama’s decision to send another 1,500 troops to Iraq, an announcement that was made last Friday, the same day as Baghdadi was supposedly killed or injured (scroll down – see below). It is therefore still possible that the recording was made before the Coalition attacked the IS convoy transporting Baghdadi.
Supposed New Currency to be Minted for Islamic State
Finally, Baghdadi says that the media is “lying” in claiming that the Coalition has struck against IS targets.
“Be assured, O Muslims, for your state is good and in the best condition,” Baghdadi declares. “Its march will not stop and it will continue to expand, by Allah’s permission. The march of the mujahidin [Muslim holy warriors] will continue until they reach Rome”.
(EDITOR: Well there’s something for Italy to look forward to!)
Showing some media sophistication the audio broadcast was released on a Jihadi website and followed up with Twitter links to English and Russian translations.
According to another IS missive appearing on the Internet on Thursday, their Shura council had approved the production of its own currency based on gold, silver and copper coins of the “Islamic dinar”, in order to “change the tyrannical monetary system”, based on the economies of western states, that has “enslaved Muslims”.
(EDITOR: Whether they will be come to be used as a functioning currency or merely a “collector’s item”, remains to be seen.)
At the UN the Commission of Inquiry on Syria presented its first report specifically on the Islamic State today, Friday, and revealed a horrific catalogue of evidence pointing to massacres, beheading boys as young as 15, amputations and lashings in public squares that residents, including children, were forced to watch, the widespread use of child soldiers, stoning women to death for suspected adultery, and holding women as sexual slaves , sometimes forcing them to bear children for the fighters.
The investigators, who had interviewed over 300 people who had fled IS held areas, as well as watching IS distributed videos, concluded that “The commanders of ISIS have acted wilfully, perpetrating these war crimes and crimes against humanity with clear intent of attacking persons with awareness of their civilian or ‘hors de combat’ (non-combat) status”.
The perpetrators “are individually criminally responsible for these crimes,” said the investigators and called for them to be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, Netherlands, for prosecution.
IRAQ NEWS: IRAQI ARMY MAKES PROGRESS, RE-TAKING OIL CITY AND NEAR TO ADJACENT REFINERY. YEZIDI HOLDING FAST:
According to reports from Iraq, Government troops, backed by Coalition airstrikes, have pushed the Islamic State out of the city of Baiji which is west of Mosul and 200 kilometres (150 miles) north of Baghdad. Iraqi Air Force jets targeted fleeing Jihadists.
Baiji Oil Refinery in Better Times
The nearby Baiji Oil Refinery, lies around 6 kilometres away from the city centre of Baiji, which normally has a population of 200,000. However, the refinery itself may be more difficult to capture completely as the road to it and buildings within the site have been heavily booby-trapped.
Despite throwing almost everything at it, the Jihadists, who overran the area last June, were never able to capture the refinery completely. A group of Iraqi special forces continued to hold-out in an accommodation block, reinforced by regular airdrops, throughout the very long siege.
If the Iraqi Army completes its recovery of the whole of the Baiji area and manages to keep the Islamic State out it will be a significant advance and will cut an important IS supply line to Tikrit, which is also under Jihadist control.
Meanwhile, another 3 bombings across Baghdad today killed at least 19 people and wounded 50.
Up on the top of Mount Sinjar (Shingal) today, the Iraqi Air Force dropped 9 tons of humanitarian aid to the Yezidi still trapped there by Islamic State fighters.
The Yezidi fighters, the HPS, backed by the Kurdish YPG, have put up stiff resistance against Jihadists trying to overrun the Yezidi shrine in the middle of the Sinjar mountain range at Sherfedin, where they are still protecting a large number of civilians.
West of Mount Sinjar, a combined HPS/YPG force has also recaptured the town of Bara, killing 30 IS Jihadists in the process and capturing another 4.
The Iraqi Government is said to have agreed to send the Yezidi fighters more weapons last week but conditions on top of the mountain as winter sweeps in are particularly harsh with zero temperatures at night and snowfalls in the coldest months.
This short film by Nawzad Shekhany, “The Black Massacre”, is a good reminder of the Yezidi story, HERE:
Lastly for today, Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are being helped to explore their dramatic past by being given a 2 week computer and basic animation course where they learn to tell their story. In this one, 13 year old Adib who was forced to work carrying heavy loads while his bullying father stayed at home, recounts what happened to him and his aspirations – at BBC Syria news (recommended viewing – very moving).
The Hand of the Displaced – Syrian Kurd Watching Kobane