Clashes Force Libya’s Bashagha from Tripoli after Brief Attempt to Enter

Libya's Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed prime minister by the eastern-based parliament, looks on during an interview with Reuters in Tunis, Tunisia March 30, 2022. Picture taken March 30, 2022. (Reuters)
Libya's Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed prime minister by the eastern-based parliament, looks on during an interview with Reuters in Tunis, Tunisia March 30, 2022. Picture taken March 30, 2022. (Reuters)
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Clashes Force Libya’s Bashagha from Tripoli after Brief Attempt to Enter

Libya's Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed prime minister by the eastern-based parliament, looks on during an interview with Reuters in Tunis, Tunisia March 30, 2022. Picture taken March 30, 2022. (Reuters)
Libya's Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed prime minister by the eastern-based parliament, looks on during an interview with Reuters in Tunis, Tunisia March 30, 2022. Picture taken March 30, 2022. (Reuters)

Clashes rocked Libya's capital early on Tuesday as the parliament-appointed prime minister, Fathi Bashagha, tried to take over government there but was forced back out by a rival administration that refuses to cede power.

Bashagha entered Tripoli overnight after two months of stalemate between Libya's rival administrations, but withdrew hours later as fighting broke out, his office said.

The crisis risks plunging Libya back into prolonged fighting after two years of comparative peace, or returning it to partition between the eastern-backed government of Bashagha and a Tripoli administration under Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah.

Political deadlock has already led to a partial blockade of Libya's oil facilities, cutting its main source of foreign revenue by half. Diplomacy to resolve the crisis or lay the ground for new elections is making slow progress.

The sound of heavy weapons and automatic gunfire reverberated across Tripoli on Tuesday morning. Schools were cancelled and the normally heavy rush hour traffic was sparse, but the clashes stopped after Bashagha's withdrawal.

"I don't think things will just return to being cool and static and relaxed," said Libya expert Jalel Harchaoui, adding that Dbeibah would likely try to put more pressure on the factions in Tripoli allied to Bashagha.

However, wider conflict seemed unlikely, he said, given Bashagha's rapid withdrawal from Tripoli.

Later on Tuesday, Dbeibah toured the areas where the clashes had taken place, speaking to passers by. In a statement, his government called Bashagha's convoy "an outlawed armed group trying to sneak into the capital under darkness".

Bashagha on Twitter accused Dbeibah's allied forces of a "dangerous military escalation" and said their actions showed Dbeibah's government would be unable to hold any credible election.

With neither side apparently able to establish a decisive military advantage across the country, Libya seems set for a longer period of deadlock, with Dbeibah firmly entrenched in Tripoli and his foes unable to take it.

That may prolong the shutdown of major oil facilities by forces in eastern Libya.

Deadlock
Libya has had little security since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Moammar al-Gaddafi and its split in 2014 between rival eastern and western factions before a 2020 truce that brought it under Dbeibah's fragile unity government.

A plan for an election in December collapsed amid arguments among major factions and prominent candidates over the rules. In addition the parliament, which had sided with the east during the war, moved to appoint a new administration.

The unity government's prime minister Dbeibah rejected the parliament's moves, saying his administration was still valid and he would only hand over power after an election.

Bashagha, a former interior minister who like Dbeibah comes from the powerful coastal city of Misrata, has repeatedly said he would enter Tripoli without violence. His previous attempts to do so ended with his convoy blocked by rival factions.

Last week, the parliament said Bashagha's government could work for now from Sirte, a central city near the frozen front line between eastern and western factions.

Diplomacy has focused on talks between the parliament and a Tripoli-based legislative body to lay the ground for another attempt to settle Libya's conflict by holding an election.



Italy, Libya Resume Commercial Flights after 10-year Hiatus, Officials Say

An aircraft departs from Tripoli heading to Rome on September 30, 2023, after the Italian government lifted its 10-year-old air ban on Libyan civil aviation. (Photo by Mahmud Turkia / AFP)
An aircraft departs from Tripoli heading to Rome on September 30, 2023, after the Italian government lifted its 10-year-old air ban on Libyan civil aviation. (Photo by Mahmud Turkia / AFP)
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Italy, Libya Resume Commercial Flights after 10-year Hiatus, Officials Say

An aircraft departs from Tripoli heading to Rome on September 30, 2023, after the Italian government lifted its 10-year-old air ban on Libyan civil aviation. (Photo by Mahmud Turkia / AFP)
An aircraft departs from Tripoli heading to Rome on September 30, 2023, after the Italian government lifted its 10-year-old air ban on Libyan civil aviation. (Photo by Mahmud Turkia / AFP)

Italy and Libya on Saturday resumed commercial flights for the first time in a decade, authorities in the Libyan capital said.

Flight MT522, operated by the Libyan carrier Medsky Airways, departed Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli for Rome's Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport, according to Libyan airport authorities.

A return flight was scheduled to land in Tripoli on Saturday afternoon, according to Mitiga International Airport. Going forward, there will be one round-trip flight between the Libyan and Italian capitals on both Saturdays and Wednesdays, according to the Mitiga airport announcement.

The government of Prime Minister Abdul-Hamid Dbeibah in Tripoli lauded the resumed flights, posting photos on social media that showed passengers boarding the flight and officials celebrating.

Italy and other western nations banned flights from Libya as the oil-rich nation in North Africa plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Amid the chaos, Libya has had direct flights to limited destinations, including cities in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, and other Middle Eastern countries, such as Jordan.

The government of Premier Giorgia Meloni in July lifted Italy's 10-year ban on civil aviation in Libya. Italian and Libyan authorities agreed that one airline company from each country would operate flights between the two capitals.

Dbeibah subsequently returned from attending a conference on migration in Rome on a chartered flight with a commercial airline.


Israeli Soldiers Kill Palestinian Man in West Bank

Jewish worshippers walk alongside Israeli border police officers during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, in Jerusalem's Old City, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
Jewish worshippers walk alongside Israeli border police officers during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, in Jerusalem's Old City, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
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Israeli Soldiers Kill Palestinian Man in West Bank

Jewish worshippers walk alongside Israeli border police officers during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, in Jerusalem's Old City, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
Jewish worshippers walk alongside Israeli border police officers during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, in Jerusalem's Old City, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man in the West Bank late Friday, Palestinian health officials said, the latest death in a monthslong surge of violence in the occupied territory.

The Israeli military said that soldiers had shot two Palestinians who hurled Molotov cocktails at an army post near the West Bank city of Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian authority.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said the soldiers killed Muhammad Rumaneh from the hardscrabble Amari refugee camp in Ramallah. It did not identify his age, saying that Israeli authorities were withholding his body, The AP reported.

Israeli officials have suggested in the past that holding onto the bodies of Palestinians slain in security incidents can deter attacks and prevent the exaltation of assailants at funerals that often draw giant crowds of protesters.

In lieu of a funeral, residents of Ramallah called for a general strike Saturday to pay tribute to Rumaneh. Student groups at the prominent Birzeit University near Ramallah called off Sunday classes.

The incident was the latest in a spiral of violence that has gripped the occupied territory for more than 1 1/2 year. The Israeli military has mounted near-nightly raids into Palestinian towns, often prompting deadly clashes with residents. Militancy has surged among young Palestinians who have lost hope in their leadership and in the prospect of a political resolution to the conflict.

Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire so far this year in the West Bank, according to a tally by The AP— the highest death toll in years. Israel says most of those killed have been militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting incursions as well as innocent bystanders have also been killed.

Palestinian attacks against Israelis have killed more than 30 people since the start of 2023.

Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war.


Renewed Accusations against Islamic Movement of Fueling War in Sudan

 A circulating archive photo of the leader of the “Freedom and Change” coalition, Khaled Omar Youssef
A circulating archive photo of the leader of the “Freedom and Change” coalition, Khaled Omar Youssef
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Renewed Accusations against Islamic Movement of Fueling War in Sudan

 A circulating archive photo of the leader of the “Freedom and Change” coalition, Khaled Omar Youssef
A circulating archive photo of the leader of the “Freedom and Change” coalition, Khaled Omar Youssef

Following the imposition of US sanctions against former Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti, civilian leaders and officials in the Forces of Freedom and Change called for designating the Islamic Movement, especially its extremist wing, a “terrorist group,” pointing to its role in igniting the war in the country.

The leader of the Forces of Freedom and Change, Khaled Omar Youssef, said that the sanctions confirmed the involvement of the “third party” in the war, which has been going on for 6 months between the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Omar, who served as minister of the Council of Ministers in the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok, said on X that the sanctions included, for the first time, a “third party” other than the two warring sides, which is the Islamic Movement, represented by its current leader, Ali Ahmed Karti.

Omar explained that the continuation of the current war was not in the interest of any party in Sudan, except elements of the former regime.

On Thursday, the United States announced individual sanctions against Ali Karti, the Secretary-General of the Sudanese Islamic Movement, and two companies associated with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Shihab Ibrahim, leader of the Forces of Freedom and Change, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the sanctions confirmed the role of the Islamic Movement, led by Karti, in igniting the war and its determination to return to power or to remain influential on the political scene.

He also called for designating the movement as a “terrorist group.”

Meanwhile, the Sudanese Islamic Movement described the US Treasury Department’s decision as a source of “honor”.

“The decision of the US Treasury Department is akin to a badge of honor for the Secretary-General of our movement. He has steadfastly dedicated himself and his resources as a jihadist in the name of God and the nation,” the movement said in a statement.

It also emphasized that it “comes as no surprise that the United States is making unjust decisions and positioning itself on the wrong side during a pivotal era in Sudan’s history.”


Türkiye Confirms Readiness to Resume Normalization Talks with Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chairing the National Security Council meeting (Turkish Presidency)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chairing the National Security Council meeting (Turkish Presidency)
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Türkiye Confirms Readiness to Resume Normalization Talks with Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chairing the National Security Council meeting (Turkish Presidency)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chairing the National Security Council meeting (Turkish Presidency)

Türkiye has confirmed its readiness to resume normalization talks with Syria, but refused calls for a military withdrawal from the north of the country, saying that it was “illogical” to raise this matter at the present time.

Turkish Defense Minister Yaşar Guler noted that his country “is ready to resume talks with Syria, with the participation of Russia and Iran, as part of the normalization of relations between Ankara and Damascus.”

In statements to the media on Friday, Guler said that Ankara was always ready for dialogue, but the demands of the Syrian side were “not something that can be accepted immediately.”

Türkiye questions the ability of the Syrian army to protect the borders, which Ankara says are threatened by the spread of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the largest component of the SDF.

Moscow, which is sponsoring the process of normalizing relations between Ankara and Damascus, proposed returning to the Adana Agreement, signed in 1999, which allows Turkish forces to penetrate 5 kilometers deep into Syrian territory if they are exposed to threats. However, Türkiye insists on a distance of 30 kilometers and refuses to withdraw from areas under its control in northern Syria.

Iran also revealed that an agreement had been reached between Ankara and Damascus during the last Astana round, which was held on June 20-21, on a formula for the withdrawal of Turkish forces and securing the borders. But the two capitals did not comment on this announcement, which was made by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian.

Meanwhile, the Turkish National Security Council confirmed Ankara’s determination to fight terrorist organizations in the region, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which Türkiye considers to be an arm of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Syria.

A statement issued on Thursday night, at the conclusion of the council meeting, pointed to “the legitimate resistance of the Syrian people against the terrorist organization, which kills innocents and recruits children...”

The statement added that this organization “is the biggest obstacle to peace, security and stability in Syria.”


The National Council Welcomes IAEA’s Decision to Consider Palestine a State

The Palestinian delegation at the IAEA General Conference
The Palestinian delegation at the IAEA General Conference
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The National Council Welcomes IAEA’s Decision to Consider Palestine a State

The Palestinian delegation at the IAEA General Conference
The Palestinian delegation at the IAEA General Conference

The Palestinian National Council and other official institutions in Ramallah welcomed two recent decisions that were described as historic.

The General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency voted by a majority on a draft-resolution to officially adopt the designation of “State of Palestine”. In parallel, the Anglican Church in South Africa decided to declare Israel an “apartheid state.”

In a statement on Friday, the Palestinian National Council said that the overwhelming vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency was a clear condemnation of the Israeli occupation policy of expansion and illegal annexation in violation of international laws.

The Council thanked “all the countries that supported and endorsed the decision, especially the sister Arab Republic of Egypt, which submitted the request on behalf of the State of Palestine.”

The General Conference of the IAEA had voted, with an overwhelming majority of 92 countries, on the Egyptian draft-resolution to officially adopt the designation of “State of Palestine”, and grant it more privileges and rights. The voting was held within the 67th Regular Session of the IAEA General Conference in Vienna.

Meanwhile, the head of the Palestinian National Council, Rawhi Fattouh, welcomed the decision of the Anglican Church in South Africa to declare Israel an “apartheid state.”

In a statement on Friday, Fattouh said: “This decision is a victory for our Palestinian cause, and expresses the extent of injustice and racial discrimination against the Palestinian people, especially the storming of Islamic and Christian places of worship, the attacks on Christian clergy, and the operations of repression committed by the fascist occupation government.”

The Higher Committee of Churches Affairs in Palestine also hailed the decision of the Anglican Church, noting that it came in response to and in solidarity with the calls made by Palestinian Christians to hold Israel accountable for its “crimes against the Palestinian people.”

The Anglican Church in South Africa has dioceses in Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Angola, and St. Helena, in addition to South Africa. It holds its church council, the “Synod,” every three years.


UNICEF: More Than 16,000 Children Are Displaced Following Libya Floods

A Libyan child near his destroyed house in Derna (Reuters)
A Libyan child near his destroyed house in Derna (Reuters)
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UNICEF: More Than 16,000 Children Are Displaced Following Libya Floods

A Libyan child near his destroyed house in Derna (Reuters)
A Libyan child near his destroyed house in Derna (Reuters)

More than 16,000 children are displaced in eastern Libya following “Africa’s deadliest storm in recorded history,” UNICEF has warned.

The UN agency said Friday that the displaced children’s psychosocial well-being is at stake, noting that many more children are affected due to a lack of essential services, such as health, schooling, and safe water supply.

While the number of children among the casualties is not yet confirmed, UNICEF fears hundreds died in the disaster, given that children account for about 40 percent of the population.

UNICEF stated that significant damage to health and education infrastructure means children once again risk further disruption to their learning and the outbreak of deadly diseases.

It noted that waterborne illnesses are a growing concern due to water supply issues, significant damage to water sources and sewer networks, and the risk of groundwater contamination.

In Derna alone, 50 percent of water systems are estimated to have been damaged.

UNICEF has actively supported the children in eastern Libya since day two of the crisis.

Sixty-five metric tons of relief supplies have been delivered to affected areas, including medical supplies for 50,000 people for three months, family hygiene kits for almost 17,000 people, 500 children’s winter clothing sets, 200 school-in-a-box kits, and 32,000 water purification tablets.

UNICEF has also dispatched mobile child protection and psychosocial support teams to help children cope with the emotional toll of the disaster.


Houthis Intensify Campaign of Arrests in Sanaa

Protesters demonstrate in Taiz (Reuters)
Protesters demonstrate in Taiz (Reuters)
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Houthis Intensify Campaign of Arrests in Sanaa

Protesters demonstrate in Taiz (Reuters)
Protesters demonstrate in Taiz (Reuters)

In an unprecedented security deployment, Houthi security forces have spread throughout Sanaa, intensifying a campaign of arrests against individuals suspected of participating in celebrations marking the anniversary of the September 26 Revolution.

The group threatened opposition figures while its supporters continued their campaign against Yemeni women, accusing them of being agents.

Local sources and residents in Sanaa told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthis had closed the Sabeen Square, which is one of Sanaa's largest squares and a significant place for youth and military displays.

The Houthi forces have deployed armed units throughout various districts of the capital and pursued young individuals accused of participating in the September 26 Revolution anniversary celebrations. They arrested numerous individuals, including teenagers.

According to sources, Houthis promised to release detainees under fourteen years of age after detaining them for several days. However, the rest of the prisoners will be referred to intelligence agencies for investigation, sparking fears of torture.

Houthi media continues its campaign against celebration participants, particularly in Sanaa and Ibb.

Local sources reported that opposition figures received death threats for calling for the release of detainees.

- The government denounces

Yemen's Minister of Information, Culture, and Tourism Moammar al-Eryani condemned the Houthi smear campaign against Yemeni women who took to Sanaa streets, raising flags and chanting national slogans, in celebration of the 61st anniversary of the September 26 Revolution.

Eryani said the campaign revealed the "true and ugly face of the militia and its disavowal of all values ​​and customs."

The Minister noted that Yemeni women suffered unprecedented pains since the Houthi militia's coup in 2015, as thousands of women were abducted from their homes, workplaces, public streets, and checkpoints.

The Yemeni Minister warned of Houthi "brainwashing" attempts through media, platforms, and cultural policies implemented in schools and universities.

The attempts aim to "limit the role of women to be a reproductive role driven by the idea of ​​jihad and providing child soldiers who use them as fuel for their endless wars, and pushes women to retreat to home."

The Minister characterized Houthi group policies as "destructive policies for the society that extend to future generations, and with which they lead Yemen in the footsteps of the Taliban and other terrorist groups to threaten not only the peace of Yemen but the security and peace of the entire world."

Eryani criticized restricting women's movement and freedom by preventing their movement between governorates and their travel through Sanaa airport without a mahram, a male relative escort.

He stated that the Houthis prohibited them from working with organizations, using telephones and cosmetics, and going to restaurants without showing the marriage contract, and sitting in public places.

- Diverse violations

The Minister highlighted Houthi practices against women, stating that they mobilized and recruited hundreds of women, blackmailed them for their livelihoods, and integrated them into their security apparatus known as al-Zainabiyat.

He called on the international community, the UN, its special envoy to Yemen, and human and women's rights organizations to assume their part in stopping ongoing Houthi violations against Yemeni women.

According to him, they constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity and a flagrant violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination against Women.

Eryani emphasized the need to work immediately to release all abducted and forcibly disappeared women, prosecute those involved in crimes and violations against Yemeni women, and include the militia and its leaders on terrorist lists.


Algeria Bans French Educational Curriculum amid Worsening Disputes with Paris

 The Algerian President with French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne in Algeria on Oct. 10, 2022 (Algerian Presidency)
The Algerian President with French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne in Algeria on Oct. 10, 2022 (Algerian Presidency)
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Algeria Bans French Educational Curriculum amid Worsening Disputes with Paris

 The Algerian President with French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne in Algeria on Oct. 10, 2022 (Algerian Presidency)
The Algerian President with French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne in Algeria on Oct. 10, 2022 (Algerian Presidency)

Algeria’s Ministry of Education has warned more than 500 private schools against using the French curriculum, threatening to resort to the judiciary in the event of non-compliance with the decision, which comes in the context of the conflict between the two countries over the history of France’s colonial past in Algeria.

While the Algerian education law stipulates the application of the local curriculum only, an inspection conducted by the ministry highlighted a certain degree of non-compliance, as some schools adopt the French curriculum exclusively, to meet the demands of the parents, who hope to send their children to French universities in the future.

In parallel with this measure, which raises controversy among students and parents alike, the National Center for Distance Education announced that it will stop receiving registration requests for those wishing to sit the French baccalaureate exam, which is held in May of each year.

Pedagogy specialists have pointed to a number of problems faced by baccalaureate holders when they are forced to continue their education in French in many Algerian colleges and universities, in the fields of medicine, engineering, and various sciences.

According to observers, these government decisions reflect the intensifying conflict between the two countries over the history of French colonialism in Algeria. While the Algerians insist that France apologize for the crimes of the occupation, Paris categorically refuses to make such step.

Last year, the Algerian government introduced the teaching of English in the first educational cycle, in preparation for replacing the French language, which has been used as the official language of companies and government agencies since independence in 1962.

In 2021, several ministries started applying Arabic in all their internal correspondence and documents, prohibiting their staff from using a language other than Arabic. This came in response to statements by French President Emmanuel Macron in October 2021, in which he said that Algeria was not a nation before the French occupation in 1830.


Israeli Troops Kill Hamas Man Who Army Says Attacked Post in West Bank

A protester hurls stones at members of the Israeli forces as they clash in the village of Kfar Qaddum, in the occupied West Bank, on September 29, 2023, during a demonstration against expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel. (Photo by Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)
A protester hurls stones at members of the Israeli forces as they clash in the village of Kfar Qaddum, in the occupied West Bank, on September 29, 2023, during a demonstration against expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel. (Photo by Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)
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Israeli Troops Kill Hamas Man Who Army Says Attacked Post in West Bank

A protester hurls stones at members of the Israeli forces as they clash in the village of Kfar Qaddum, in the occupied West Bank, on September 29, 2023, during a demonstration against expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel. (Photo by Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)
A protester hurls stones at members of the Israeli forces as they clash in the village of Kfar Qaddum, in the occupied West Bank, on September 29, 2023, during a demonstration against expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel. (Photo by Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Israeli soldiers on Friday killed a member of the Hamas group who the army said was among assailants who threw fire bombs at a military post in the occupied West Bank.

The military said the attack on the post was near Psagot, an Israeli settlement.

"Soldiers conducting routine activity at the scene identified the suspects and responded with live fire. Two assailants were neutralized and transferred to receive medical treatment," Reuters quoted the army.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said one of the men later died of his wounds. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip but has strong support in the West Bank as well, claimed the man as a member.

Violence in the West Bank has raged for more than a year, amid stepped-up Israeli military raids, increased settler assaults on Palestinian villages, and a spate of Palestinian attacks on Israelis.


Syrian Kurdish Fighters Say They've Captured Senior ISIS Militant

ISIS militants - AFP/File Photo
ISIS militants - AFP/File Photo
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Syrian Kurdish Fighters Say They've Captured Senior ISIS Militant

ISIS militants - AFP/File Photo
ISIS militants - AFP/File Photo

Syrian Kurdish fighters and American forces have captured a senior member of the ISIS group, a militant described as one of its “key facilitators," the force said Friday.

Mahmdouh Ibrahim al-Haji, also known as Abu Youssef, was taken into custody on Thursday in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, according to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, just days after the US military said it had captured another ISIS operator in northern Syria.

According to a statement from the Syrian Kurdish fighters, al-Haji “was actively involved in enabling ... terrorist cells in the region.” It added that the joint force raided his hideout west of Raqqa, "and successfully apprehended him.”

Despite their defeat in Syria in March 2019, ISIS sleeper cells are still able to carry out deadly attacks that have killed scores of people over the past year.

According to The AP, the US has approximately 900 troops in Syria focused on countering the remnants of ISIS, which had held a wide swath of the country until 2019.

ISIS declared a self-styled caliphate across the territory in Syria and Iraq that it seized in 2014. It was declared defeated in Iraq in 2017, following a three-year battle that left tens of thousands of people dead and cities in ruins.

UN experts said last month that ISIS still commands between 5,000 and 7,000 members across its former stronghold in Syria and Iraq and that its fighters pose the most serious threat in Afghanistan today.