IS Says It Caused Mali Crash That Killed 13 French Troops

A handout picture taken and released on November 27, 2019 by the SIRPA, the French army press service shows the coffins of the 13 French soldiers who died when two French military helicopters collided in Mali, two days ago displayed prior to a tribute ceremony, on November 27, 2019 in Gao.  James WILLIAM / SIRPA / AFP

 

 

The Islamic State on Thursday claimed responsibility for provoking a collision of two military helicopters which killed 13 French soldiers in Mali.

Monday’s accident was the heaviest single loss for the French military in nearly four decades. All 13 aboard the two helicopters were killed.

The Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) said its fighters ambushed “a convoy of vehicles carrying Crusader French army elements near Indelimane village, in the Menaka area.

“As the Crusaders attempted to land from one of their helicopters, to descend on the position of the ambush, to support their soldiers, the soldiers of the Caliphate targeted it with medium weapons, forcing it to withdraw,” the statement on the SITE intelligence group website said.

“After staggering in flight, it then collided with another helicopter, killing 13 Crusaders.”

The accident brought to 41 the number of French troops killed in the Sahel region since Paris intervened against jihadists in northern Mali in 2013.

Since then, armed groups affiliated with the Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda and others have advanced into southern Mali as well as into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

IS Claims Responsibility For Deadly Attack On Mali Army

 

The Islamic State group Saturday claimed responsibility for one of the deadliest attacks in years against Mali’s military, which the army said killed 49 soldiers the previous day.

The strikes underscored the fragility of an area straddling several West African countries battling increasing jihadist violence that has claimed hundreds of lives.

Friday’s assault on a Malian military outpost at Indelimane in the eastern Menaka region near Niger killed 49 soldiers, wounded three and left 20 survivors, the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) said Saturday.

“Soldiers of the caliphate attacked a military base where elements of the apostate Malian army were stationed in the village of Indelimane,” the IS said in a statement on its social media channels.

On Saturday, French corporal Ronan Pointeau, 24, died after an armoured vehicle in which he was travelling hit an improvised explosive device (IED) near the city of Menaka, a French defence ministry statement said.

The IS late Saturday also claimed responsibility for that, saying its fighters had “detonated an explosive device on a French army convoy in the Indelimane area”.

Pointeau and his colleagues were escorting a convoy between the cities of Gao and Menaka.

“This insidious attack shows the importance and bitterness of the fight against armed terrorist groups” in the border region straddling Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, the French defence ministry said.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said she would be “visiting Mali very soon to hold discussions with Malian authorities.”

President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Pointeau and expressed solidarity with the French and African troops fighting in the region.

The Malian government initially said 53 people died in what it described as a “terrorist attack” at Indelimane.

An army officer said troops arrived at the outpost around 5:00 pm on Friday and “took back control of our positions.

“The terrorists carried out a surprise attack at lunchtime. Army vehicles were destroyed, others taken away,” he told AFP.

The attacks came a month after two jihadist assaults killed 40 soldiers near the border with Burkina Faso. Several sources have said the real death toll was higher.

MINUSMA, the UN mission in Mali, condemned the raid and said its peacekeepers were helping Malian troops secure the region.

‘We can resist’ 

“This bloodshed that Mali has been living through cannot go on,” imam Mahamound Dicko, an influential religious leader in Mali, said.

“Do you want us to resign ourselves to this suffering? We can resist,” he added.

Rights activist Alioune Tine, from Mali’s western neighbour Senegal, called for action across Africa to tackle the threat.

“If Africa does not mobilise for Mali and Burkina (Faso), it won’t be spared the bushfire that is quickly catching West Africa’s coastal countries, the next chosen targets” of the jihadists, he said.

The violence has also spilled over into Burkina Faso and Niger where extremists have exploited existing inter-communal strife, leaving hundreds dead.

In Mali, the attacks have spread from the arid north to its centre, an ethnically mixed and explosive region.

The recent assaults are a humiliation for the so-called G5 Sahel force — a much-trumpeted initiative under which five countries created a joint 5,000-man anti-terror force — and for former colonial ruler France, which is helping to bring security to the fragile region.

Northern Mali came under the control of Al-Qaeda linked jihadists after Mali’s army failed to quash a rebellion there in 2012.

A French-led military campaign was launched against the jihadists, pushing them back a year later.

But the jihadists have regrouped and widened their hit-and-run raids and landmine attacks to central and southern Mali.

AFP

Trump Says US Knows Who Islamic State’s New Leader Is

File Photo: US President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House October 21, 2019, in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

President Donald Trump said Friday that the United States knows who the Islamic State group’s new leader is, as the United States vowed to keep “unrelenting” pressure on the extremists.

“ISIS has a new leader. We know exactly who he is!” Trump tweeted, less than a week after a US-led commando raid killed the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Islamic State on Thursday confirmed Baghdadi’s death and named his replacement as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi.

However, little is known about Hashimi, whose name was seldom mentioned as a possible successor the multiple times that Baghdadi was falsely reported killed in recent years.

Nathan Sales, the State Department counterterrorism coordinator, provided no details on Hashimi when asked by reporters, saying only that the United States was “looking into the leader, his role, the organization where he came from.”

“We will continue to subject that organization to unrelenting counterterrorism pressure using all the tools of national power,” Sales said.

“We will dismantle the group regardless of who its leadership cadre is,” he said.

Baghdadi, who led IS since 2014 and was the world’s most wanted man, died in a US special forces raid in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib on Sunday.

Islamic State also confirmed the killing in another raid the following day of the group’s previous spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir.

The statement said the jihadist group’s legislative and consultative body convened after the 48-year-old Iraqi-born jihadist chief’s death and “agreed” on a replacement.

An IS spokesman denounced Trump as a “crazy old man” and warned that the group would avenge Baghdadi’s death.

Al-Qurashi Replaces Baghdadi As New IS Leader

The chief of the Islamic State group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi purportedly appears for the first time in five years in a propaganda video in an undisclosed location. AFP / AL-FURQAN MEDIA

 

The Islamic State jihadist group confirmed the death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and named his replacement as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi, said a statement released on Thursday.

“We mourn you… commander of the faithful,” an audio statement read by Abu Hamza al-Quraishi, presented as the jihadist group’s spokesman, said.

Baghdadi, who led IS since 2014 and was the world’s most wanted man, was killed in a US special forces raid in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib on Sunday.

The group also confirmed the killing in another raid the following day of the group’s previous spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir.

The statement said the jihadist group’s legislative and consultative body convened after the 48-year-old Iraqi-born jihadist chief’s death.

“The Islamic State shura council convened immediately after confirming the martyrdom of Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the elders of the holy warriors agreed” on a replacement, said the seven-minute message.

The IS spokesman also issued a stark warning to the United States, whose President Donald Trump announced Baghdadi’s death in a televised address from the White House.

“He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way,” Trump said on Sunday, adding that Baghdad “died like a dog”.

In the new audio message, the IS spokesman described Trump as “a crazy old man” and warned the US its supporters would avenge Baghdadi’s death.

“Do not rejoice America,” he warned, “the new chosen one will make you forget the horror you have beholden… and make the achievements of the Baghdadi days taste sweet”.

AFP

New IS Leader Could Replace Baghdadi In Weeks

The chief of the Islamic State group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi purportedly appears for the first time in five years in a propaganda video in an undisclosed location. AFP / AL-FURQAN MEDIA

 

The Islamic State group’s leadership has a “deep bench” and a replacement for deceased chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi could surface within weeks, the US government’s top counter-terrorism expert said Wednesday.

Acting Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Russ Travers did not predict which IS figure would take over after Baghdadi, cornered in a weekend US military raid, killed himself in a Syria.

But he said the group has a number of people who could take the helm, with the ability to command some 14,000 fighters who have dispersed across Syria and Iraq.

“There’s no question that the losses over the weekend were significant to ISIS,” Travers told the House Homeland Security Committee, referring to Baghdadi’s death as well to the killing of IS spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir.

“At the same time, it’s a deep bench,” he said.

“The United States and the coalition overall has had tremendous success in eliminating leadership over the years in both Al-Qaeda and ISIS. And yet the bench tends to rise to the top.”

“My guess it that… somewhere between a couple of days and a couple of weeks, we will see a new leader of the (caliphate) announced.”

He suggested a new leader might be able to build relations with Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of rival extremist group Al-Qaeda.

“There will be eulogies. Those eulogies will come even from Al-Qaeda,” he predicted.

“I suspect al-Zawahiri will play elder statesman and issue his own.”

“We will see calls for attacks against Western interests. And then we will see requests for the branches and affiliates to swear allegiance to the new leader.”

In the near term, Travers did not see IS being able to muster any significant attacks.

But any planning underway for a major operation will continue, barely interrupted by the death of Baghdadi, the group’s intensely secretive leader and spiritual guide.

Travers said that, aside from the IS fighters in Syria and Iraq, the group has some 20 branches and affiliates around the world, and who number from the hundreds to the thousands in its Afghanistan arm, Islamic State-Khorasan.

“This tells us that the insurgency has a lot of options,” Travers said.

AFP

Baghdadi Died After Detonating Suicide Vest, Trump Confirms

 

President Donald Trump on Sunday said that elusive Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed, dying “like a dog,” in a daring, nighttime raid by US special forces deep in northwest Syria.

Trump told the nation in a televised address from the White House that US forces killed a “large number” of Islamic State militants during the raid which culminated in cornering Baghdadi in a tunnel, where he set off a suicide vest.

“He ignited his vest, killing himself,” Trump said.

“He died after running into a dead end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way,” Trump said, adding that three of Baghdadi’s children also died in the blast.

Trump said that the raid — which required flying more than an hour by helicopter in both directions from an undisclosed base — had been accomplished by help from Russia, Syria, Turkey and Iraq.

Special forces “executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid in northwestern Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style.”

At its height, Islamic State-controlled swaths of Iraq and Syria in a self-declared state known as a caliphate, characterized by the brutal imposition of a puritanical version of Islam.

In addition to oppressing the people it governed, Islamic State planned or inspired terrorism attacks across Europe, while using expertise in social media to lure large numbers of foreign volunteers.

It took years of war, in which Islamic State became notorious for mass executions and sickening hostage murders, before the caliphate’s final slice of territory in Syria was seized this March.

The death of Baghdadi comes as a big boost for Trump, whose abrupt decision to withdraw a small but effective deployment of US forces from Syria caused fears that it would give Islamic State remnants and sleeper cells a chance to regroup.

Trump took a storm of criticism, including from his own usually loyal Republican Party.

In keeping with his liking for showmanship, Trump had teased the news late Saturday with an enigmatic tweet saying merely that “Something very big has just happened!”

Scorched Vehicle

A war monitor said US helicopters dropped forces in an area of Syria’s Idlib province where “groups linked to the Islamic State group” were present.

The helicopters targeted a home and a car outside the village of Barisha in Idlib province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain but relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information.

The operation killed nine people including an IS senior leader called Abu Yamaan as well as a child and two women, it said.

An AFP correspondent outside Barisha saw a minibus scorched to cinders by the side of the road, and windows shattered in a neighbour’s house surrounded by red agricultural land dotted with olive trees.

A resident in the area who gave his name as Abdel Hameed said he rushed to the place of the attack after he heard helicopters, gunfire and strikes in the night.

“The home had collapsed and next to it there was a destroyed tent and vehicle. There were two people killed inside” the car, he said.

From the outskirts of Barisha, an inhabitant of a camp for the displaced also heard helicopters followed by what he described as US-led coalition air strikes.

They “were flying very low, causing great panic among the people,” Ahmed Hassawi told AFP by phone.

Another resident, who gave his name as Abu Ahmad and lives less than 100 meters away from the site of the destroyed house, said he heard voices “speaking a foreign language” during the raid.

The AFP correspondent said the area of the night-time operation had been cordoned off by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group dominated by members of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate controlling Idlib.

Between the trees, bulldozers could be seen at the site, clearing out the rubble.

– ‘Joint Intelligence’

Turkey, which has been waging an offensive against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria in recent weeks, had “advance knowledge” about the raid, a senior Turkish official said.

“To the best of my knowledge, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi arrived at this location 48 hours prior to the raid,” the official told AFP.

The commander-in-chief of the SDF, who have been fighting IS in Syria, said the operation came after “joint intelligence work” with American forces.

Trump also said that Iraq had been “very good” over the raid.

He said no US soldiers were wounded, despite “doing a lot of shooting” and “a lot of blasting.” The only US casualty was a military dog in the tunnel with the trapped Islamic State leader.

Long pursued by the US-led coalition against IS, Baghdadi has been erroneously reported dead several times in recent years.

$25 million reward

Baghdadi — an Iraqi native believed to be around 48 years old — was rarely seen.

After 2014 he disappeared from sight, only surfacing in a video in April with a wiry grey and red beard and an assault rifle at his side, as he encouraged followers to “take revenge” after the group’s territorial defeat.

His reappearance was seen as a reassertion of his leadership of a group that — despite its March defeat — has spread from the Middle East to Asia and Africa and claimed several deadly attacks in Europe.

The US State Department had posted a $25 million reward for information on his whereabouts.

In September, the group released an audio message said to be from Baghdadi praising the operations of IS affiliates in other regions.

It also called on scattered IS fighters to regroup and try to free thousands of their comrades held in jails and camps by the SDF in northeastern Syria.

IS Head Baghdadi Believed To Be Dead After US Strike In Syria – Reports

File photo grabbed from a video released by Al-Furqan media on April 29, 2019, shows the chief of the Islamic State group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi purportedly appears for the first time in five years in a propaganda video in an undisclosed location.
AL-FURQAN MEDIA / AFP

 

Jihadist supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted man, was believed Sunday to have been killed in a US special operation in northwest Syria.

The elusive chief of the Islamic State group was thought to be dead after a US military raid in the Idlib region, US media reported early Sunday.

The White House announced President Donald Trump would make a “major statement” Sunday at 9:00 am (1300 GMT), without providing details.

Turkey said it had coordinated with the United States before the operation.

A war monitor said US helicopters dropped forces in an area of Idlib province where “groups linked to the Islamic State group” were present.

The helicopters targeted a home and a car outside the village of Barisha in Idlib province, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a vast network of sources inside Syria for its information.

The operation killed nine people including an IS senior leader called Abu Yamaan as well as a child and two women, it said.

The war monitor could not confirm Baghdadi’s death however and the jihadist organisation, which lost the last scrap of its once-sprawling “caliphate” earlier this year, did not immediately react on its usual social media channels.

An AFP correspondent outside Barisha saw a minibus scorched to cinders by the side of the road, and windows shattered in a neighbour’s house surrounded by red agricultural land dotted with olive trees.

A resident in the area who gave his name as Abdel Hameed said he rushed to the place of the attack after he heard helicopters, gunfire and strikes in the night.

“The home had collapsed and next to it there was a destroyed tent and vehicle. There were two people killed inside” the car, he said.

‘Joint Intelligence’

US media cited multiple government sources as saying Baghdadi may have killed himself with a suicide vest as US special operations forces descended.

He was the target of the secretly planned operation that was approved by Trump, officials said.

Turkey, which has been waging an offensive against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria in recent weeks, had “advance knowledge” about the raid, a senior Turkish official said.

“To the best of my knowledge, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi arrived at this location 48 hours prior to the raid,” the official told AFP.

The commander-in-chief of the SDF, who have been fighting IS in Syria, said the operation came after “joint intelligence work” with American forces.

From the outskirts of Barisha, an inhabitant of a camp for the displaced also heard helicopters followed by what he described as US-led coalition air strikes.

They “were flying very low, causing great panic among the people,” Ahmed Hassawi told AFP by phone.

Another resident, who gave his name as Abu Ahmad and lives less than 100 metres away from the site of the destroyed house, said he heard voices “speaking a foreign language” during the raid.

The AFP correspondent said the area of the night-time operation had been cordoned off by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group dominated by members of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate controlling Idlib.

Between the trees, he glimpsed bulldozers at the site of the reported raid clearing out the rubble.

Long pursued by the US-led coalition against IS, Baghdadi has been erroneously reported dead several times in recent years.

Officials told ABC News that biometric work was underway to firm up the identification of those killed in the raid.

Trump earlier tweeted, without explaining, “Something very big has just happened!”

In 2014, IS overran large swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq and Baghdadi appeared in a video that summer announcing a “caliphate” in regions they controlled.

$25 Million Reward

At the height of IS rule, Baghdadi’s group implemented its brutal version of Islamic law on millions. The group has been blamed for mass executions, and accused of carrying out war crimes.

But several offensives in both countries whittled down that land, backed by the air power of the US-led coalition.

In March, the SDF ousted the extremist group from its last patch of territory in eastern Syria, forcing IS to revert to an underground guerrilla modus operandi.

Baghdadi – an Iraqi native believed to be around 48 years old – was rarely seen.

After 2014 he disappeared from sight, only surfacing in a video in April with a wiry grey and red beard and an assault rifle at his side, as he encouraged followers to “take revenge” after the group’s territorial defeat.

His reappearance was seen as a reassertion of his leadership of a group that — despite its March defeat — has spread from the Middle East to Asia and Africa and claimed several deadly attacks in Europe.

The US State Department had posted a $25 million reward for information on his whereabouts.

In September, the group released an audio message said to be from Baghdadi praising the operations of IS affiliates in other regions.

It also called on scattered IS fighters to regroup and try to free thousands of their comrades held in jails and camps by the SDF in northeastern Syria.

France Says Turkey’s Syria Action ‘Currently’ No Threat To Jihadist Jails

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks during a session of questions to the government at the National Assembly (Assemblee Nationale) in Paris on October 15, 2019. Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

 

 

 
France said Wednesday that the security of Kurdish-run prisons holding suspected jihadists in northern Syria was “currently” not threatened by a Turkish military operation in the region.

“To my knowledge, the Turkish offensive and the positioning of the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) have so far not led to the safety and security of these camps… currently being threatened,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French broadcaster BFMTV and RMC radio.

Meanwhile, Le Drian said he would discuss a judicial framework for putting jihadists on trial during an upcoming visit to Iraq, as calls grow for an international court to judge the extremists.

“We need to work things out with the Iraqi authorities so that we can find the ways to have a judicial mechanism that is able to judge all these fighters, including obviously the French fighters,” he told newsmen, without specifying when he would go to Baghdad.

Turkey Denies Offensive Triggered IS Prison Break

Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar makes a statement to journalists in Ankara on October 14, 2019. Adem ALTAN / AFP

 

Turkey denied that its offensive in northern Syria had allowed Islamic State prisoners to break out of detention camps, charging Monday that Kurdish militants had instead deliberately “emptied” a prison.

“There is only one Daesh (Islamic State) prison in our (operation) region and we have seen it was emptied by the YPG (the Kurdish People’s Protection Units militia),” Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters.

“There are pictures and films of it,” he added, without naming the prison.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier hit out at “disinformation” reports that Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish forces had allowed jihadists to escape.

“This is actually disinformation aimed at provoking America or the West,” he said, quoted by the Hurriyet daily.

Kurdish authorities said Sunday that 800 IS family members being held in a camp at Ain Issa had fled due to Turkish bombing.

But relatives back in France told AFP that Kurdish guards had forced the women and children to leave the camp.

“Today (Sunday), the Kurdish guards opened the doors to the foreign women and asked them to leave the camp,” said the mother of a 24-year-old woman, who had been kept at the camp with her infant son for the past 18 months.

“They didn’t escape. They (the Kurdish forces) didn’t want them. They were expecting to be taken over by Syrian or Turkish forces, but they were kicked out. For several days, the bombs were falling closer and closer to the camp, where there were no more NGOs, no more help,” she added.

Kurdish forces also claimed that five IS jihadists escaped on Friday from a prison in the region.

Turkey is in the sixth day of its offensive in Syria against the YPG, which it sees as “terrorists” but which were a crucial ally for the United States and western powers against IS.

President Donald Trump denied Monday that removing US troops from the region was risking a mass escape of IS prisoners held by the Kurdish forces.

“Kurds may be releasing some to get us involved. Easily recaptured by Turkey or European Nations from where many came, but they should move quickly,” he wrote on Twitter.

France, which accounts for the largest number of European jihadists in Syria, said Sunday it was “worried” by the situation and has called for an end to the Turkish offensive.

AFP

Macron, Merkel Call For End To Turkish Offensive In Syria

 

The leaders of France and Germany called Sunday for an end to Turkey’s offensive against Kurds in northern Syria, warning of dire humanitarian consequences and a boost for the Islamic State group.

Emmanuel Macron hosted Angela Merkel in Paris for a working dinner amid turmoil stirred up by Ankara’s attack and Britain’s pending exit from the European Union, both issues on the leaders’ agenda.

Macron told reporters the pair had spoken separately Sunday with US President Donald Trump and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan to deliver a single, clear message: “Our common wish is that the offensive must cease.”

“Our conviction… is that this offensive risks, and we see it already on the ground, to create unbearable humanitarian situations on one hand and on the other help IS re-emerge in the region,” he said at a joint press conference with the chancellor.

Merkel said she had spoken to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan for an hour and told him: “We must put an end to this Turkish invasion.

“There are humanitarian reasons for this,” she said, adding: “We can no longer accept this situation against the Kurds. Another solution must absolutely be found.”

Fighting has engulfed northern Syria since Wednesday when Ankara launched a long-threatened offensive against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which it considers “terrorists” linked to insurgents in Turkey.

Trump has been accused of abandoning a loyal ally in the fight against IS after ordering American troops to pull back from the border region.

At least 60 civilians have been killed in raids by Turkey and its proxies — Syrian ex-rebels, according to observers.

The UN says the violence has forced 130,000 people to flee their homes.

Arms Sales Stopped

France and Germany on Saturday suspended weapons exports to Turkey, amid international condemnation that had already seen Finland, Norway and The Netherlands stopping arms sales to Ankara.

A meeting in Luxembourg Monday of the European Union’s foreign affairs committee will discuss a coordinated European approach to the issue.

Macron has also called a French defence council meeting, involving Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and the ministers of justice, foreign affairs, defence and the interior, for Sunday night.

The French president called for a stronger, more unified Europe in what he described as “difficult and sometimes worrying” times for the continent and the world.

One reason for this is Brexit — Britain’s exit from the European Union by a 31 October deadline with so far no “divorce deal” in place.

“We are about to lose a member and we will see how the discussions, which have advanced this weekend, will be finalised,” said Macron.

“In this context, it is very clear to me that we can allow ourselves neither division nor self-deception nor weakness.”

Rebuff

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday played down hopes of a breakthrough in his last-ditch bid to strike an exit deal with Europe.

On Monday, Macron will host European Council President Donald Tusk for a working lunch at the Elysee presidential residence, before heading to Toulouse in the south of France to lead a French-German ministers meeting with Merkel on issues of defence, security, and climate change.

On Wednesday evening, they will meet the EU’s incoming president Ursula von der Leyen, followed on Thursday and Friday by an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels.

One issue likely to come up is the rejection by European MEPs of Sylvie Goulard, Macron’s chosen candidate for the European Commission portfolio of industrial policy, defence spending, high-tech and space — a rebuff considered a major political blow to the French president.

“I believe very deeply that in this moment in particular, Europe cannot allow itself the luxury of vengeance, of small disputes, or to add internal crises to the tensions of the world already affecting us,” he said Sunday.

“Our strength is in our unity.”

Turkey Vows To Fight IS In Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan / AFP

 

Turkey will not permit the Islamic State group to return, a presidential spokesman said Monday, amid fears its threatened offensive against a Kurdish militia in Syria could bolster the jihadists.

“Turkey will also continue to fight against DAESH (IS) and will not allow it to return in any shape and form,” Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter.

US forces have been pulling back from positions along the Turkey-Syria border after the White House said Sunday it would not stand in the way of a Turkish operation against Kurdish militants in Syria.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said the US withdrawal threatened to create a security vacuum that would “reverse the successful effort to defeat ISIS”.

Ankara says its planned “safe zone” in northern Syria could allow up to two million Syrian refugees to return.

The safe zone “will serve two purposes: secure Turkey’s borders by eliminating terrorist elements and allow refugees to return to their homes,” Kalin said.

He said Turkey had “no interest in occupation or changing demographics”.

There are over 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, the highest number in the world, which has become an increasing source of tension in the country.

IS Claims Twin Suicide Attacks In Tunisia Capital

Tunisian security forces gather at the site of an attack in the Tunisian capital’s main avenue Habib Bourguiba on June 27, 2019./AFP

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for double suicide attacks that killed a police officer and wounded eight people in the Tunisian capital on Thursday, a US-based monitor said.

The “executors of the two attacks on Tunisian security elements” were IS “fighters”, SITE Intelligence Group quoted a statement from the jihadists’ propaganda wing, Amaq, as saying.