WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump sought to end fears of an abrupt US pullout from Syria, saying the fight against the so-called Islamic State group was not over and that withdrawal would be done in a “prudent” manner.
“We will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!” Trump tweeted.
The president has come under withering pressure both at home and in allied capitals after previous statements indicating that he considered the IS group vanquished and that he wanted US troops out of Syria imminently.
Trump’s new statement follows a trip by his national security adviser John Bolton to Israel in which he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that withdrawal would not happen before “ISIS is defeated and not able to revive itself”. The reassurances followed a diplomatic storm caused by Trump’s surprise announcement in December that appeared to signal a rapid withdrawal from Syria, where US special forces play an important role in supporting local forces fighting IS.
“We’ve won against ISIS,” he said at the time. “We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land. And now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”
In Monday’s statement, Trump complained that media coverage had skewed his original words, saying that his latest position on Syria was “no different from my original statements”.
Currently, about 2,000 US forces are in the Syria, which is in the grips of a complex civil war.
IS suicide bomber kills 5 in Raqa An suicide bomber attacked a centre for Kurdish forces in the northern Syrian city of Raqa on Monday, killing four civilians and an anti-jihadist fighter, a monitor said.
The attacker blew himself up after entering the centre run by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“A suicide attacker wearing an explosives belt blew himself up inside a YPG centre after opening fire on a security checkpoint at its entrance,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. At least four civilians and a YPG fighter were killed in the attack, he added.
IS claimed responsibility for the attack they said targeted a “recruitment centre” for Kurdish forces.
“The attacker aimed at them with a machine gun then blew up his explosives vest in the middle of them,” it said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.
Amid Indo-Pak tension, Navy deployed nuclear submarines, aircraft carrier
New Delhi: Aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, nuclear submarine Chakra, 60 ships and nearly 80 aircraft were put on operational deployment by the Indian Navy in the North Arabian sea in the wake of escalating tensions between India and Pakistan following the Pulwama terror attack, officials said.
They said the naval assets were part of a mega exercise but they transited from the area of the drill for operational deployment soon after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack that increased tensions between Pakistan and India.
At a tri-services press conference on February 28, the Indian Navy said it was in a high state of readiness to “deter, prevent and defeat” any “misadventure” by Pakistan in the maritime domain, reflecting a sense of its preparedness as well as seriousness of the situation.
“The major combat units of the Indian Navy including the Carrier Battle Group with INS Vikramaditya, nuclear submarines and scores of other ships, submarines and aircraft swiftly transited from exercise to operational deployment mode as tensions between India and Pakistan escalated,” Navy Spokesperson Capt DK Sharma said.
The naval assets comprising 60 ships of the Indian Navy, 12 ships of the Indian Coast Guard, and 60 aircraft were part of the theatre level operational readiness exercise (TROPEX 19), which commenced on January 19 in Andaman and Nicobar islands, and was to be concluded on March 10.
However, the Jaish-e-Mohammed sponsored Pulwama attack on February 14 led to the rapid redeployment of ships, submarines and aircraft for operations in North Arabian sea, Capt Sharma said.
“The overwhelming superiority of Indian Navy in all three dimensions — on surface, under-sea and in air — forced the Pakistan Navy to remain deployed close to the Makran coast and not venture out in the open ocean,” he said.
Twelve days after the Pulwama attack, Indian fighter jets bombed the Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest training camp near Balakot deep inside Pakistan on February 26. Pakistan retaliated by attempting to target Indian military installations next day.
Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba will assess outcome of the TROPEX in the Kochi naval base on Monday.
The day-long review by Admiral Lanba with all operational commanders is intended to examine the conduct of the exercise and to assess the operational preparedness of the Indian Navy, said the Navy spokesperson.
Exercise Tropex was followed by the largest coastal defence drill — ‘Sea Vigil’ on January 22 and 23 with participation of 13 coastal states and union territories along with all maritime stakeholders.
‘Don’t have any grudge’: Husband of victim says he forgives NZ mosque gunman
Christchurch: A man whose wife was killed in the Christchurch attack as she rushed back into a mosque to rescue him said he harbours no hatred toward the gunman, insisting forgiveness is the best path forward.
“I would say to him ‘I love him as a person’,” Farid Ahmad told AFP. “I could not accept what he did. What he did was a wrong thing.”
Asked if he forgave the 28-year-old white supremacist suspect, he said: “Of course. The best thing is forgiveness, generosity, loving and caring, positivity.”
Husna Ahmad, 44, was killed at the Al Noor mosque — the first of two targeted by the gunman.
Fifty people, at least four of them women, were killed in the attack on the mosques where worshippers had gone for Friday prayers.
Ahmad and his wife emigrated from Bangladesh to New Zealand in 1990 and have one daughter.
When the shooting started, Husna helped several people escape from the women’s and children’s hall.
“She was screaming ‘come this way, hurry up’, and she took many children and ladies towards a safe garden,” Ahmad said.
“Then she was coming back for checking about me, because I was in a wheelchair, and as she was approaching the gate she was shot. She was busy saving lives, forgetting about herself.”
Ahmad, 59, who has been confined to a wheelchair since being hit by a drunk driver in 1998, believes he escaped the hail of bullets because the gunman was focused on other targets.
“This guy was shooting one person two, three times, probably that gave some time to us to move out… even the dead he was shooting them again.”
Ahmad, who was a butcher but now sells homeopathy products, did not see his wife when he left the mosque and only learned of her death after someone photographed her body.
“Her picture was out in the social media, so somebody showed me the picture and I identified quite easily.”
China says 13,000 Xinjiang ‘terrorists’ arrested since 2014
Beijing: China says it has arrested nearly 13,000 people it describes as terrorists in the traditionally Islamic region of Xinjiang since 2014 and broken up hundreds of “terrorist gangs.”
The figures were included in a government report on the situation in the restive northwestern territory that seeks to respond to growing criticism over the internment of an estimated 1 million members of the Uighur (WEE-gur) and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups.
China describes the camps as vocational training centers and says participation is voluntary. Former detainees say they were held in abusive conditions, forced to renounce Islam and swear allegiance to China’s ruling Communist Party.
The lengthy report issued Monday also says “law-based de-radicalization” in Xinjiang has curbed the rise and spread of religious extremism.