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Enmity Between Baghdad and Kurds Erupts in Deadly Clashes



A week after Iraqi troops drove Kurdish separatists from most contested areasin northern Iraq, the two sides clashed Tuesday in two towns where Kurds said they repulsed attacks and killed and captured Iraqi soldiers.

Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, said Kurdish fighters had lured the Iraqi military into an ambush in one clash. Videos said to show wounded and captured government soldiers were posted on social media by Kurdish fighters.

“I was surprised they were so proud of killing members of the federal forces by deception and treachery,” Mr. Abadi said at a news conference in Baghdad Tuesday night.

“This is Saddam’s method,” he added, referring to the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Mr. Abadi did not provide casualty figures or other details of the clashes.

Two Iraqi commanders said Kurdish fighters, known as pesh merga, invited Iraqi soldiers to jointly operate a checkpoint before one clash, then suddenly opened fire when the soldiers approached. The commanders spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give interviews.

Pesh merga commanders said Iraqi troops had attacked their positions. One commander, Hogar Samad, said his fighters captured 20 Shiite Muslim militiamen fighting alongside the Iraqi Army, but later freed them and their vehicles.

“This unjustified attack against federal forces will not pass without punishment,” said Ahmed al-Assadi, spokesman for the popular mobilizations forces, which are dominated by Shiite militias. “There will be a response, and the coming days will reveal it.”

Baghdad has moved to punish and isolate the autonomous Kurdish region since the Kurdish authorities held an independence vote on Sept 25.

The latest violence again pitted two American allies against each other. The United States, which armed and trained both sides, has said it is neutral in the conflict, but it has not interfered with Iraqi operations against the Kurds. Further complicating the standoff, a pesh merga faction opposes the Kurdish regional government led by Massoud Barzani, and has surrendered territory, including the capital of the oil-rich Kirkuk Province, to the Iraqi forces.

The United States opposed the independence initiative, which the Kurdish authorities say passed overwhelmingly. Washington said the vote would destabilize Iraq and undermine the American-led coalition battling Islamic State militants.

The fighting on Tuesday seemed to slow — at least for a day — Baghdad’s effort to impose authority over remaining contested areas and border crossings with Turkey, Iran and Syria.

Kurdish commanders, whose forces are outnumbered and outgunned, said late Tuesday that Iraqi reinforcements were arriving at the scene of one clash, in the town of Makhmour, about 70 miles southeast of Mosul, and that they anticipated a government assault at any time.

Jabar Yawar, secretary general of the pesh merga, said in a telephone interview that Iraqi troops moved without warning toward Kurdish positions in Makhmour on Tuesday morning. The move “led to confusion and then to a clash,” Mr. Yawar said.

Mr. Yawar said there were government casualties, but he had no details.

Hemin Hawrami, a senior aide to Mr. Barzani, wrote in a Twitter post that pesh merga fighters destroyed two government Humvees. Mr. Hawrami wrote in a separate post that the Kurds had destroyed two armored personnel carriers and a Humvee while repulsing a government attack outside Rabia, near a border crossing with Syria.

Those accounts could not be confirmed. The Iraqi military command, which provided regular updates of the operation in and around Kirkuk last week, did not respond to several requests for comment Tuesday.

In a statement Tuesday, the pesh merga command accused Baghdad of “bad intentions” and promised to resist any further attacks. “The pesh merga will defend the land of Kurdistan and the life of the people with all their strength,” the statement said.

Vahal Ali, communications director for Mr. Barzani, called on the United States to intervene to halt military operations by the Iraqi military and Shiite militias.

“They’re letting them use American weapons against their allies — or at least we thought we were their allies,” Mr. Ali said of the United States.

Mr. Abadi has promised Iraqis that his government would reclaim control of border crossings and contested areas. Baghdad closed the region’s two international airports last month. “We will finish this issue soon,” Mr. Abadi said Tuesday.

In a peaceful takeover on Tuesday, the Iraqi federal police assumed control of one of three border crossings into Iran. The Kurds withdrew two days ago as part of a negotiated deal, and the police raised the Iraqi flag and lowered the Kurdish one, according to Gen. Saad Maan, an Interior Ministry spokesman.

The border post, Al Munthurea, had been operated by the pesh merga since 2014. The remaining two Iranian crossings have been held by Kurdish forces since 1991, when an American no-fly zone was established to protect the Kurds from attacks by Saddam Hussein’s forces and gave them the opportunity to carve out an autonomous region.

The contested areas where clashes broke out Tuesday are controlled by pesh merga loyal to Mr. Barzani, making a negotiated settlement less likely.

The border crossings, particularly one on the Turkish border and controlled by the pesh merga since 1991, are vital to the Kurdish region’s economic survival.

An important oil pipeline to Turkey passes near the border post. The loss of Kirkuk Province deprived the Barzani government of nearly 70 percent of its oil revenues, analysts said. Hamza al-Jawahiri, an oil industry expert in Baghdad, said Tuesday that almost all of the remaining 30 percent flowed through the pipeline to export markets in the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan in Turkey.

The Turkey crossing, in the town of Faysh Khabur, also provides the Kurdish region with revenue from customs duties and taxes, income Mr. Abadi says belongs to the Iraqi government.

A contested military takeover of the Faysh Khabur crossing would require Iraqi troops to enter the Kurdish autonomous region, whose status is detailed in Iraq’s Constitution. Baghdad has not objected to Kurdish control of the region — only to Kurdish expansion in the contested areas and Kurdish sales of oil produced there.


Foreign News

German union, Greenpeace slam Amazon’s Black Friday



German union, Greenpeace slam Amazon’s Black Friday

The large German services trade union Verdi and environmental organisation Greenpeace held protests to express opposition to online retailer Amazon’s Black Friday discount campaign on Friday.

Verdi is reiterating demands for improved pay for workers and for Amazon to recognise the deals it reaches with other employers in the retail sector.

However, Amazon and Verdi have long been at loggerheads over recognising the trade union in the company’s distribution centres.

Meanwhile, Amazon has rejected Verdi’s criticism, pointing to starting wages including bonuses of at least €13.00 ($13.50) per hour.

Greenpeace has accused Amazon of incentivising excessive consumption, refuse from packaging and the waste of resources.

Demonstrators held up a banner reading: “Black Friday: Destruction of Nature as Business Model,’’ at the company’s headquarters in Munich.

Amazon points to its efforts to cut pollution and CO2 emissions by shifting to electrically powered delivery vehicles among other measures. 

– dpa

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Foreign News

Terrorism: Accra Initiative Member States to Operationalise MNJTF to Tackle Spread



Terrorism: Accra Initiative Member States to Operationalise MNJTF to Tackle Spread

Member States of Accra Initiative have agreed to operationalise a Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) within a month to tackle the spread of terrorism and other transnational organised crimes.

In a communique issued on Tuesday at the end of their meeting in Accra, Ghana, the members agreed to be innovative and provide operational tools to tackle the security challenges.

The Accra Initiative countries are Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo.

They “expressed their deep concern for the dramatic expansion of terrorism, violent extremism, transnational organised crime and transhumance consequences in their countries.

“Expressed their sympathy and full support to the Member States and their populations who face violent extremism and terrorism on a daily basis.

“Took note of the commitments by partners to support the Accra Initiative in the fight against terrorism in the sub-region.

“Reaffirmed their commitment to mobilise the necessary indigenous resources to operationalise within a month, the Multinational Joint Task Force of the Accra Initiative (MNJTF/AI).”

The summit recommended that concrete actions, including fundraising, be taken to support the countries severely affected by terrorism.

The Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Member States of the Accra Initiative was held under the chairmanship of President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana.

The summit agreed to operationalise the MNJTF which would conduct Operation Enhanced Koudanlgou after it received a briefing from the Chief of Defence Staff of Ghana, Vice Adm. Seth Amoama.

The communique also said that the summit took note of the will of Nigeria to designate representatives to the Headquarters of MNJTF/AI.

“At the end of the Summit, the Heads of State and Government welcomed the idea of organising an International Conference on the Accra Initiative and are pleased with the good progress of the activities.

“They took note of the report of the activities of the Ministers of the Member States of the Accra Initiative of Nov. 21 in Accra

“They congratulated the Ministers of the Member States of the Accra Initiative and the Non-State Actors for the quality of the conclusions of their work.

“Expressed their deep appreciation to the European Union for its support in making the International Conference on the Accra Initiative possible.”

The communique also said that they expressed deep appreciation to President Akufo-Addo, for his leadership in making the summit a success.

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Foreign News

Girl, 16, gives birth after Judge approves Caesarean against wishes



Girl, 16, gives birth after Judge approves Caesarean against wishes

A 16-year-old girl with mental health difficulties has given birth after a judge in London gave doctors the go-ahead to perform a caesarean section without her consent, lawyers said.

Justice Cobb said it would be lawful for specialists to operate on the teenager, who is in council care, if necessary.

The judge made a ruling at a public hearing in the Court of Protection in London on Friday but embargoed reporting until the baby had been born.

Lawyers representing hospital bosses responsible for her treatment and care said the girl has given birth.

Cobb was told that the girl had a “history of sexual exploitation,” post-traumatic stress disorder and an anxiety disorder.

He said she could not be identified in media reports of the case.

Bosses at the Wrightington, Wigan & Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which is based in Wigan, Greater Manchester, had asked the judge to decide what moves were in the teenager’s best interests.

Specialists said they thought the teenager’s mental health difficulties made delivery by caesarean section the only “realistic” option.

They said efforts to induce had been unsuccessful because of the youngster’s problems.

Barrister Peter Mant, who led the trust’s legal team, told the judge that the youngster’s views on giving birth had changed repeatedly recently.

Mant said specialists thought it was in the girl’s best interests to have a caesarean section.

He said there was “a significant risk of stillbirth.”

The teenager, who was represented by barrister Mungo Wenban-Smith, said she wanted to deliver her baby naturally.

She told the judge that she had a strong wish to give birth with the least intervention and to be awake and aware when her baby was born.

Judges in the Court of Protection consider issues relating to people who might lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

Evidence indicated that the teenager’s capacity to make decisions “fluctuated,” the judge was told.

Cobb said doctors should make one last attempt to induce but ruled that performing a caesarean section would be lawful if necessary.

The judge embargoed reporting after lawyers raised concern about the girl recognizing herself in reports and behaving in a way which might put her and the baby at risk. 


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