UN Report Says Mercenaries Entered Libya from Turkey

GNA forces prepare themselves before heading to Sirte, in Tripoli, Libya, Libya July 6, 2020. (Reuters)
GNA forces prepare themselves before heading to Sirte, in Tripoli, Libya, Libya July 6, 2020. (Reuters)
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UN Report Says Mercenaries Entered Libya from Turkey

GNA forces prepare themselves before heading to Sirte, in Tripoli, Libya, Libya July 6, 2020. (Reuters)
GNA forces prepare themselves before heading to Sirte, in Tripoli, Libya, Libya July 6, 2020. (Reuters)

A United Nations report revealed that several countries have expressed concern over the arrival of thousands of ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists to Libya.

The UN Security Council Committee concerning Libya said 7,000 – 15,000 mercenaries and terrorists from Syria have entered Libya through Turkey to fight alongside the Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, against the Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Khalifa Haftar.

The report found that ISIS boasts a few hundred fighters in Libya. One member state said that the number is as much as 4,000.

It expressed concern over reports that 7,000 – 15,000 fighters had been transported from northwestern Syria to the capital Tripoli through Turkey.

It is not yet clear whether these Syrian fighters were originally members of terrorist groups included on the Syria sanctions list.

The interim Syrian government in Turkey has helped send forces to Libya, it found.

The report added that ISIS was still capable of surviving, while al-Qaeda was taking root in local communities and in conflicts.

It noted that ISIS has increased its operations in conflict zones in Iraq and Syria, which is a cause of concern for member states.

It warned that these groups are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic in order to spread propaganda and gather funds. It added that should the world go into severe recession, then the international society may encounter more obstacles in combating terrorism and extremism.

“At the same time, the pandemic has made cross-border travel more difficult and targets more elusive, and the operational tempo of attacks has slowed discernibly in some regions,” read the report.

The overall number of ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria is estimated at more than 10,000, the report revealed.

According to the report, "al-Qaeda exploits the tarnished ISIS brand and societal fractures to enhance legitimacy and gain local traction and recruits. The relationship between ISIS and al-Qaeda remains fraught and idiosyncratic, depending on regional dynamics.”



Palestinian Toddler Shot by Israeli Troops in West Bank Dies of Wounds

02 June 2023, Palestinian Territories, Beit Dajan: Israeli security forces take position during a protest by Palestinians against the establishment of Israeli outposts. (dpa)
02 June 2023, Palestinian Territories, Beit Dajan: Israeli security forces take position during a protest by Palestinians against the establishment of Israeli outposts. (dpa)
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Palestinian Toddler Shot by Israeli Troops in West Bank Dies of Wounds

02 June 2023, Palestinian Territories, Beit Dajan: Israeli security forces take position during a protest by Palestinians against the establishment of Israeli outposts. (dpa)
02 June 2023, Palestinian Territories, Beit Dajan: Israeli security forces take position during a protest by Palestinians against the establishment of Israeli outposts. (dpa)

A Palestinian toddler who was shot by Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank last week died of his wounds, Israeli hospital officials said Monday.

Mohammed al-Tamimi was shot in the head last Thursday near his village of Nebi Saleh while riding in a car with his father. He was airlifted to Israel's Sheba Hospital, which announced the 2-year-old boy's death.

The Israeli military has said soldiers opened fire after gunmen in the area shot at a nearby Jewish settlement.

But the boy's father, Haitham al-Tamimi, told The Associated Press that he had just buckled up his son in the car and they were driving to visit an uncle when the bullet struck. The father was also shot and treated at a Palestinian hospital.

The Israeli military has opened an investigation into the incident.

Rights groups, however, say that such investigations rarely lead to prosecution or disciplinary action against soldiers.

The shooting was the latest bloodshed in a more than yearlong surge of violence in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem. That fighting has picked up since Israel’s new far-right government took office in late December.

Nearly 120 Palestinians have been killed in the two areas this year, with nearly half of them members of armed groups, according to an AP tally. The military says the number of fighters is much higher. But stone-throwing youths and people uninvolved in violence have also been killed.

Meanwhile, Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis in those areas have killed at least 21 people.

Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem, along with the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war. Palestinians seek these territories for a future state.

Some 700,000 Israelis now live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Most of the international community considers these settlements illegal or obstacles to peace.


Blinken Takes Aim at Israeli Settlements

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves after delivering remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy Summit in Washington, US, June 5, 2023. (Reuters)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves after delivering remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy Summit in Washington, US, June 5, 2023. (Reuters)
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Blinken Takes Aim at Israeli Settlements

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves after delivering remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy Summit in Washington, US, June 5, 2023. (Reuters)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves after delivering remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy Summit in Washington, US, June 5, 2023. (Reuters)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that the expansion of Israeli settlements and ongoing demolitions of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank are taking Israel further away from peace with the Palestinians.

Yet, he stressed that the US-Israel relationship remains “iron-clad," lauded American security commitments to the Jewish state.

At the same time, he made clear the administration's displeasure with actions that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government has taken in expanding Jewish settlements and increasing Palestinian home demolitions.

“Settlement expansion clearly presents an obstacle to the horizon of hope we seek,” Blinken said in a speech to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington.

“Likewise, any move toward annexation of the West Bank, de facto or de jure, disruption of the historic status quo at the holy sites, the continuing demolitions of homes and the evictions of families that have lived in their homes for generations damage prospects for two states,” he said.

Improving Israeli-Arab relations cannot replace a two-state solution with the Palestinians, he said.

“Integration and normalization efforts are not a substitute for progress between Israelis and Palestinians, and they should not come at its expense,” Blinken said.

“Israel’s deepened relationships with its partners can and should advance the well-being of the Palestinian people and the prospects of a two-state solution,” he added.

Blinken also reaffirmed the Biden administration’s determination not to allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.


Shelling, Looting in Sudan’s Capital as Military Factions Battle for Eighth Week 

Smoke billows behind buildings from a reported fire in Khartoum, on June 5, 2023, as fighting continues between two warring generals. (AFP)
Smoke billows behind buildings from a reported fire in Khartoum, on June 5, 2023, as fighting continues between two warring generals. (AFP)
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Shelling, Looting in Sudan’s Capital as Military Factions Battle for Eighth Week 

Smoke billows behind buildings from a reported fire in Khartoum, on June 5, 2023, as fighting continues between two warring generals. (AFP)
Smoke billows behind buildings from a reported fire in Khartoum, on June 5, 2023, as fighting continues between two warring generals. (AFP)

Shelling hit western areas of Sudan's capital on Monday morning after rival military factions fought through the night, residents said, with reports of deepening lawlessness in Khartoum and in the western region of Darfur.

Fighting between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), who have been battling each other for more than seven weeks, intensified after the expiry late on Saturday of a ceasefire deal brokered by Saudi Arabia and the US.

The conflict has uprooted more than 1.2 million people within Sudan and sent about 400,000 fleeing into neighboring countries, inflicting heavy damage on the capital where remaining residents are at the mercy of battles, air strikes and lawlessness.

Late on Sunday, residents reported intense fighting across the three cities that make up the nation's wider capital - Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri - and smoke could be seen rising from several areas early on Monday.

"The neighborhood where we live in the center of Omdurman is looted publicly on a daily basis without anyone intervening to prevent it, with clashes and shelling continuing around us," said 37-year-old resident Mohamed Saleh.

In Khartoum East district, RSF troops who have spread out in neighborhoods across the capital were in full control and were looting extensively, said Waleed Adam, a resident of the area.

"You see them right in front of you, taking cars, money, gold - whatever they can get their hands on," he told Reuters by phone. "I guess it's just a matter of time until they come to my street."

The RSF says it has been working to protect civilians by arresting looters.

The war has also triggered unrest in Darfur in Sudan's far west, a region that was already suffering from mass displacement due to earlier conflict.

In recent days at least 40 people were killed and dozens more were wounded in Kutum in North Darfur State, according to activists who monitor the region. Residents have also reported widespread looting and insecurity in the area.

On Monday, the RSF released a video purporting to show that they had taken over the army headquarters in Kutum, a commercial hub and one of the larger towns in the state.

There was no immediate comment from the army, which had denied on Sunday that the RSF had taken the town.

There have been long communication blackouts in parts of Darfur, where aid groups have found it especially complicated to bring in new humanitarian supplies.

In El Obeid, a city 360 km (220 miles) southwest of Khartoum and on a key route from the capital to Darfur, residents reported large deployments of RSF forces and the closure of some roads.

Recent days have brought the first showers of the year in Khartoum, marking the start of a rainy season likely to complicate a relief effort already hampered by bureaucratic delays and logistical challenges.


Lebanon: Speaker Calls for Parliament Session on June 14 to Elect President

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. (dpa)
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. (dpa)
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Lebanon: Speaker Calls for Parliament Session on June 14 to Elect President

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. (dpa)
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. (dpa)

Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has called the lawmakers for a parliament session on June 14 to elect a new head of state, Lebanon’s MTV station said Monday.

Berri’s announcement came less than 24-hours after the opposition announced on Sunday they had nominated IMF official and former minister Jihad Azour as their candidate for the post.

“As a result of extensive contacts we have agreed on the name of Jihad Azour,” said the opposition in a statement, adding that their candidate has garnered consensus of several blocks including the Strong Lebanon bloc of the Free Patriotic Movement.

They urged Berri to invite the parliament for “successive” meetings to elect a president to fill the post vacant since the end of the term of President Michel Aoun on October 31.

 


Syrian Opposition Calls for Resuming Direct Talks with Damascus

UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen gestures while speaking during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia July 22, 2021. Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool via REUTERS
UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen gestures while speaking during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia July 22, 2021. Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool via REUTERS
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Syrian Opposition Calls for Resuming Direct Talks with Damascus

UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen gestures while speaking during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia July 22, 2021. Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool via REUTERS
UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen gestures while speaking during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia July 22, 2021. Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool via REUTERS

The opposition Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC) urged on Sunday the resumption of direct UN-sponsored talks with the regime of President Bashar Assad, in the wake of the return of Damascus to the Arab fold after a 12-year isolation.

In a statement following a two-day meeting in Geneva, the SNC called on "brotherly and friendly countries to support the efforts of the UN to take all necessary resolutions to fulfill a comprehensive political solution".

The statement called for a solution in line with UN Security Council resolution 2254, which set out a roadmap for a political transition.

"The international, regional and Syrian conditions provide an appropriate circumstance for the resumption of direct negotiations... under a specific agenda and timetable," the SNC added in the statement.

The UN has played the mediator’s role between the government and the opposition since the beginning of the conflict, and it held several rounds of talks that were mostly in Geneva in 2018, but they hit an impasse.

After the failure of negotiations, the UN focused on holding talks to draft a new constitution, but no progress was made.

The Syrian opposition received support from several Arab states during the first years of the conflict, but this support gradually diminished with the stalemate of the political process.

Twelve years after the war, the political opposition has lost much of its momentum.

More than one decade after some Arab states severed ties with Damascus, the Arab League announced last month the return of Damascus to the AL after around 12 years of suspending its membership.

Saudi Arabia resumed ties with Damascus, knowing that some Syrian opposition figures were headquartered in Saudi Arabia. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad headed last month to the Arab summit in Jeddah to break the regional isolation of Damascus.

The Arab states seek to play a “leading” role in reaching a political settlement for the conflict, according to several statements.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen said late last month that "new diplomatic activity in the region could be an opportunity if seized."

 


Egypt, Mauritania Urge Ethiopia to Adopt Common Ground Solutions in GERD

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi with the President of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Cheikh Al-Ghazaouani (Egyptian Presidency)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi with the President of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Cheikh Al-Ghazaouani (Egyptian Presidency)
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Egypt, Mauritania Urge Ethiopia to Adopt Common Ground Solutions in GERD

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi with the President of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Cheikh Al-Ghazaouani (Egyptian Presidency)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi with the President of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Cheikh Al-Ghazaouani (Egyptian Presidency)

Egypt and Mauritania on Sunday urged Ethiopia to show the political will to adopt any common ground solutions put on the negotiating table that meet its interests regarding the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi reaffirmed the “serious repercussions” on water security of the Nile Basin countries, calling for a legally binding agreement regarding the GERD filling and operation.

Sisi received President of Mauritania Mohamed Ould Cheikh Al-Ghazaouani, who arrived in Cairo on a three-day visit.

He described the talks with Ghazaouani as “constructive” and tackled various bilateral, regional, and international issues.

The Egyptian President said in a press conference with his Mauritanian counterpart that Egyptian water security is integral to Arab water security.

“We stressed the importance of urging Ethiopia to show the political will to adopt any of the common ground solutions that were put on the negotiating table and that meet its interests without encroaching on the rights and interests of the two downstream countries.”

GERD negotiations between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia have stalled since January 2021. Cairo resorted to the Security Council in July 2020, but the latter urged the three countries to resume negotiations and finalize an acceptable and binding agreement.

The two presidents agreed to continue coordination and cooperation within the framework of the African Union and continue efforts to support the structure of peace, security, and development in the African continent.

Sisi indicated that consultations had demonstrated a shared political will to strengthen outstanding relations and promote them toward broader prospects.

The two leaders agreed on further advancing cooperation in the economic, investment, and trade fields and expediting the convening of the second round of the Egyptian-Mauritanian High Joint Committee this year.

The committee aims to foster closer relations, deepen the bilateral partnership, and strengthen cooperation and coordination about issues of mutual concern.

They touched on the latest developments in the Arab arena and agreed on the importance of advancing mechanisms of joint Arab action to maintain national security and protect the unity, sovereignty, and resources of Arab states.

The talks focused on the latest developments in the Palestinian cause and the Libyan crisis.

“We shared the same view regarding the importance of holding presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously and the departure of all foreign forces, mercenaries, and foreign fighters with no exception within a set timeframe, in line with the relevant international resolutions.”

Regarding developments in Sudan, the Egyptian President stressed the importance of an immediate and sustainable ceasefire, preserving Sudan’s national institutions and preventing them from collapsing.

“We urge all parties to make the voice of wisdom prevail to preserve the capabilities of the Sudanese state and the interests of its people”, he said.

 


Six Detained Yazidi Women Freed from ISIS Grip in Syria

The six freed Yazidi women (Nadia Murad’s twitter account)
The six freed Yazidi women (Nadia Murad’s twitter account)
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Six Detained Yazidi Women Freed from ISIS Grip in Syria

The six freed Yazidi women (Nadia Murad’s twitter account)
The six freed Yazidi women (Nadia Murad’s twitter account)

Nobel Prize-winner and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad announced on Sunday the rescue of six Yazidi women who were taken captive by ISIS.

In August 2014, ISIS invaded Sinjar—a district of the Nineveh Governorate in northern Iraq from where the group abducted, killed and enslaved thousands of Yazidi men and women.

“After weeks of investigation, I am extremely heartened to report that we have rescued six more Yazidi women who were taken captive by ISIS,” Murad wrote on her twitter account.

The women were still children and teenagers when they were first taken captive in 2014, Murad said.

“Trafficked out of Iraq and onto Syria, they were rescued on Saturday morning. They have been flown back to Erbil where they will be reunited with their families, and offered all the psychosocial support they need,” she added.

The activist said this rescue wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani.

By setting up an office dedicated to rescuing kidnapped Yazidi women and girls, the President has helped many of them escape ISIS captivity, Murad explained.

“We will continue to search for the remaining women and children who we know are still missing. In this endeavor, we are asking for help with international partners,” she noted.

A Yazidi source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the majority of rescue operations are conducted through mediators who live in Syria and are tasked with searching for the abductees and freeing them in return for large sums of money.

The source said the payment is provided either by the Kurdistan Regional Government or some charitable organizations.

For its part, the Office for Yazidi Abductees Affairs praised President Barzani’s great efforts in liberating the six abductees.

Displaced Yazidi families from the Sinjar district reside in 26 camps in Dohuk where more than 35,000 families have not yet returned home, according to the Ministry of Migration and Displacement.

In March, the Office for Rescuing Yazidis in the Kurdistan Region said there are 6,417 kidnapped Yazidis, including 3,548 females and 2,869 males.

It said 3,562 were freed from ISIS grip while 2,693 remain captives.


Sisi: It is Important to Prevent Sudan’s National Institutions from Collapsing

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. (dpa)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. (dpa)
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Sisi: It is Important to Prevent Sudan’s National Institutions from Collapsing

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. (dpa)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. (dpa)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi urged on Sunday all Sudanese warring parties to stop the fighting and make the voice of wisdom prevail in order to preserve the capabilities of their country and the interests of the people.

During a meeting with his Mauritanian counterpart in Cairo, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, Sisi stressed the importance of declaring an immediate and sustainable ceasefire to preserve Sudan’s national institutions and prevent them from collapsing.

He stressed the need for intensifying efforts to provide urgent humanitarian and relief aid to alleviate the suffering of those affected.

The fighting between the Sudanese military, led by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces, broke out in mid-April.

On Thursday, the White House announced that it will impose sanctions against key defense companies and people who “perpetuate violence” in Sudan as the warring sides failed to abide by a cease-fire agreement in the northeastern African nation.

Last week, Sudan’s military suspended its participation in the peace talks sponsored by Saudi Arabia and the United States, launched late in May in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

The army and the RSF had exchanged accusations of shelling and aerial bombardments on a market in the capital, Khartoum.

In line with the Saudi-US mediation, other forces are trying to find a solution to Sudan’s crisis, mainly the African Union’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

IGAD has eight East African countries, including Kenya, which welcomed on Sunday the envoy of the Commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), political advisor Youssef Ezzat.

Ezzat met the Kenyan President in the presidential palace in Nairobi, a move that angered the Sudanese Army Commander, Gen. Burhan.

Meanwhile, the 15-member UN Security Council last Friday adopted a resolution extending its mission, UNITAMS, in Sudan until Dec. 3, 2023.

This came after Burhan accused UN envoy Volker Perthes of inflaming the worsening conflict in a letter last week sent to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

 


European Diplomats Visit Gaza to Assess Reconstruction Needs

A Palestinian man is seen at his destroyed house after an Israeli raid on Gaza. (Reuters)
A Palestinian man is seen at his destroyed house after an Israeli raid on Gaza. (Reuters)
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European Diplomats Visit Gaza to Assess Reconstruction Needs

A Palestinian man is seen at his destroyed house after an Israeli raid on Gaza. (Reuters)
A Palestinian man is seen at his destroyed house after an Israeli raid on Gaza. (Reuters)

A high-ranking European delegation of 20 ambassadors visited Gaza to assess the humanitarian situation and construction needs.

It is the first visit by a European diplomatic delegation to the coastal enclave since the last wave of tensions between Palestinian factions and Israel in May.

The delegation toured destroyed houses and listened to testimonies of families. They included the Nabaheen family, consisting of more than 100 people, nine of whom have special needs.

EU Representative in Palestine Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff said the visit aims to express solidarity with the victims of the recent war in Gaza.

"The European missions' representatives expressed their condolences to the victims of the tension, and it became clear from our information that the victims were mainly civilians," he added.

The European delegation "looks forward to completing a report explaining what happened."

Von Burgsdorff renewed the EU position that calls for consolidating ceasefire understandings in Gaza and implementing the two-state solution to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Meanwhile, representatives of families whose homes were destroyed in the recent round of tension with Israel called on the European diplomats to actively contribute to accelerating the reconstruction of their homes.

The recent Israeli attacks killed 33 Palestinians, including five children, three women, and 11 members of the Islamic Jihad group.

According to Palestinian officials, the raids displaced 200 families, or around 1,000 people. The attacks destroyed 103 housing units and over 2,800 were partially demolished, while 150 were uninhabitable.


Erbil Court Sentences Six to Death for Killing Colonel in Anti-terrorism Service

A photo circulated in October by media outlets in Erbil of the bombed car of colonel Hawkar Jaff
A photo circulated in October by media outlets in Erbil of the bombed car of colonel Hawkar Jaff
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Erbil Court Sentences Six to Death for Killing Colonel in Anti-terrorism Service

A photo circulated in October by media outlets in Erbil of the bombed car of colonel Hawkar Jaff
A photo circulated in October by media outlets in Erbil of the bombed car of colonel Hawkar Jaff

An Erbil court in Iraq on Sunday sentenced six people to death involved in the killing of Hawkar Jaff, a colonel in the counter-terrorism service.

A source told Asharq Al-Awsat that, “those sentenced include anti-terrorism chief in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Wahab Halabji and the head of the PUK’s intelligence unit, Karzan Muhammad, in addition to four others.”

The source said the court decision could escalate the already existing tensions between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which controls Erbil and Duhok, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which controls Al-Suleimaniyeh.

Meanwhile, Kurdish news outlets quoted Mohammed Jaff as confirming that an Erbil court had sentenced six of the perpetrators of his brother’s assassination to death.

He added that the court has yet to decide on the fate of other perpetrators involved in his brother’s assassination next June 8.

In October, Jaff was killed and four others, two women and two children, were injured when an explosive device attached to the bottom of his car detonated facing his house in the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.

The operation was conducted a few days after Jaff defected from the PUK amid internal division that led to the expulsion of Lahur el-Sheikh from the party’s presidency.

After Jaff’s assassination, several officials in Erbil said the PUK-supervised Counter Terrorism Group (CTG) was behind the attack.

Separately, the Kurdish security organization, Asayish, defended on Sunday its decision to arrest a French journalist and his female assistant on June 2, 2023, in the Sulaymaniyah governorate of Iraq.

The Asayish statement came in response to the strongly-worded condemnation issued Saturday by the French Consulate General in Erbil.

Asayish said that on June 2, its forces had warned the French journalist, Benoit Drevet, and his female translator, not to visit the Galala area, which is not safe, and had asked them to leave.

It added that the journalist and the translator insisted on staying. “The Asayish forces treated them with respect and asked them to leave the area where drones were flying,” the statement said.

“The Asayish forces treated the journalist with respect. He was transferred to the city of Sulaymaniyah, and the French consulate was informed of his safety,” it added.

In return, the French Consulate General in Erbil has issued a strong condemnation following the detention of the French journalist and his female assistant in Sulaymaniyah.

The consulate's statement expressed deep concern over the “repeated assaults on press freedom and journalists' rights within the Kurdistan Region.”

It also expressed gratitude to the authorities involved in handling the case.

In January, the Metro Center for Journalists' Rights and Advocacy in Kurdistan said in a press conference that 2,160 violations were committed against journalists from 2011 to 2020.