Eighteen Injured in Bomb Attack on Police Vehicle in Turkey’s Mersin

A bomb blast wrecked a bus carrying police officers on Tuesday in the southern Turkish province of Mersin.

According to the report cited by Reuters, the blast injured 18 people in an attack that security sources blamed on Kurdish militants.

Seventeen of those hurt were police officers, Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bekir Bozdag told parliament, branding it a terrorist attack.

“Turkey’s battle against terror will continue under any circumstances in a strong and determined way,” Bozdag said.

Security sources said militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) were believed to have carried out the attack. They also said that none of those wounded were in a critical condition.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Local mayor Burhanettin Kocamaz told broadcaster Haberturk the attack took place on a street where the local governor’s office was located and had hit the police vehicle as it passed.

Images from NTV showed smoke billowing from the area, in Mersin’s Yenisehir district. Ambulances, police and fire trucks were sent to the site of the attack, security sources said.

Turkey is battling a three-decade insurgency in its mainly Kurdish southeast. The PKK frequently carries out bomb attacks on security forces in the southeast and elsewhere.

The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union as well as by Turkey. More than 40,000 people, most of them Kurds, have died since it first took up arms against the state in 1984.

Libya’s Mitiga Airport Closed as Rival Factions Clash

As clashes intensified between Libyan rival factions, the country’s Mitiga airport, located in the capital, was evacuated.

According to officials flights were suspended repeatedly, leading up to a full shutdown.

Reuters wrote that flights had restarted around midday on Tuesday after being suspended for several hours during the morning and the previous evening, Mitiga spokesman Khaled Abukhrais said. But by late afternoon heavy gunfire resumed and the airport was shut.

“Unfortunately the air space has closed again and the airport has been evacuated for the safety and security of passengers and workers, due to renewed clashes,” an airport statement said.

Mitiga is a military air base near the centre of Tripoli that has also hosted civilian flights since the international airport was largely destroyed by fighting in 2014.

The clashes began when the Special Deterrence Force (Rada), a group that controls Mitiga and operates as an anti-crime unit aligned with the UN-backed government, conducted raids in the nearby neighborhood of Ghrarat.

Rada spokesman Ahmed Bin Salem said the group targeted in the raids had tried to attack the airport area after a wanted drug dealer had been killed when he fired on a Rada patrol.

“The area of Ghrarat is now under the control of our forces and it’s being treated as military zone so we can clear any resistance,” Bin Salem said.

One member of Rada had been killed and two wounded, and there were several casualties among their opponents, he said.

Tripoli is split among various armed groups that have built local power bases since Libya’s 2011 revolution.

There have been fewer heavy confrontations in the capital since groups linked to a previous, self-declared government were pushed out of the city earlier this year, but armed skirmishes, kidnapping and other criminal activity are still common.

Govt. Forces Continue Advance on Kurds in Iraq

Kirkuk

Iraqi government forces continued on Tuesday their advance on Kurdish-held regions in the northern province of Kirkuk and other areas, forcing the Peshmerga to withdraw from regions it had gained during its fight against ISIS.

In a further blow to Kurdish dreams of independence, Iraqi forces took control of the two largest oil fields in Kirkuk. The fields accounted for around 250,000 barrels per day of the 650,000 bpd that the autonomous Kurdish region exported under its own auspices and their loss deals a huge blow to its already parlous finances and dreams of economic self-sufficiency.

Iraqi forces took down the red, white, green and yellow Kurdish flags that had flown over the pumping stations of the Bai Hassan and Havana oil fields and raised the national flag, an AFP photographer reported.

“With the loss of these fields, Kurdish finances have been cut in half,” French geographer and Kurdistan specialist Cyril Roussel told AFP.

The Kurds govern three mountainous northern provinces of Iraq in an autonomous region, and have also held a wide crescent of additional territory in northern Iraq, much of which they captured after helping drive out ISIS. The Peshmerga withdrew in the direction of their autonomous region in the northeast.

In the second day of a lightning government campaign to take back towns and countryside from forces of the Kurdish autonomous region, the Peshmerga pulled out of the long disputed Khanaqin area near the Iranian border.

The Baghdad government recaptured territory across the breadth of northern Iraq from Kurds on Tuesday, widening a sudden and dramatic campaign that has shifted the balance of power in the country almost overnight.

Government troops took control of the last two oil fields in the vicinity of Kirkuk, a city of 1 million people that the Peshmerga abandoned on Monday in the face of the government advance. A Yazidi group allied to Baghdad also took control of the town of Sinjar.

Masloum Shingali, commander of the local Yazidi militia in Sinjar, said the Peshmerga left before dawn on Tuesday, allowing Iraqi forces to move in.

The government advances have redrawn the map of northern Iraq, rolling back gains by the Kurds who infuriated Baghdad last month by holding a referendum on independence.

The referendum, though not binding, reflected the Iraqi Kurds aspirations for independence for their autonomous northern region. The vote was rejected by the central government in Baghdad, as well as Turkey, Iran and the United States.

Prime Minister Haidar Abadi ordered his troops on Monday to raise their flag over all Kurdish-held territory outside the autonomous region itself. They achieved a swift victory in Kirkuk, reaching the center of the city in less than a day.

The advances create a dilemma for Washington, which is close allies of both Baghdad and the Kurds, and has armed and trained both sides as part of its successful campaign to drive ISIS out of Iraq.

“We don’t like the fact that they’re clashing. We’re not taking sides,” President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday. “We’ve had for many years a very good relationship with the Kurds as you know and we’ve also been on the side of Iraq.”

So far most of the advances appear to have come unopposed, with Kurds withdrawing before government forces move in. There have been reports of just one major clash, in the early hours of
Monday on the outskirts of Kirkuk, which Washington described as a misunderstanding.

For the Kurds, the loss of territory, particularly Kirkuk which Kurdish folklore views as the heart of their homeland, is a severe blow just three weeks after they voted to declare their decades-old objective of an independent state.

The setbacks have led to sharp accusations among the two main Kurdish political parties, which each control separate units of Peshmerga fighters.

Officials in the KDP of Kurdish regional government leader Masoud Barzani accused the PUK of his longterm rival Jalal Talabani of “treason” for abandoning Kirkuk. The widow of Talabani, who served as ceremonial Iraqi president in Baghdad from 2003-2014 and died two weeks ago, denied blame.

Talabani said her party tried, but failed, to make the Iraqi government renounce the ”plan to attack” Kirkuk through contacts with US and Iraqi government representatives.

Rudaw TV, one of the main Kurdish stations, said Barzani would soon make a statement calling on the Kurdish factions to avoid “civil war”.

Oil officials in Baghdad said all the oil fields near Kirkuk were working normally on Tuesday after the last of them came under government control. Kirkuk is the base of Iraq’s Northern Oil Company, one of the two giant state oil firms that provide nearly all government revenue.

Meanwhile, thousands of civilians were seen streaming back to Kirkuk, driving along a main highway to the city’s east. The Kurdish forces had built an earthen berm along the highway, reinforced by armored vehicles, but were allowing civilians to return to the city.

Many returnees were seen with their children and belongings packed tight in their cars.

Kurdish residents said they felt betrayed by the Peshmerga’s hasty retreat after they had promised to fight to the last for the city.

“Kirkuk was sold out, everyone ran away. But now the situation has stabilized, and people are returning to their homes. Nothing will happen, God willing, and Kirkuk will return to how it was,” said Amir Aydn, 28.

SDF Seizes ‘Full Control’ of Syria’s Raqqa from ISIS

Raqqa

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) declared on Tuesday that they have completely recaptured the city of Raqqa from the ISIS terrorist organization.

“Everything is finished in Raqqa, our forces have taken full control of Raqqa,” SDF spokesman Talal Sello told AFP.

A Reuters witness said fighting appeared to be almost at an end with only sporadic bursts of gunfire.

The US-backed SDF have seized control of the former ISIS stronghold, announced the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights later on Tuesday.

Victorious fighters celebrated in the streets, chanted slogans from their vehicles and raised a flag inside Raqqa stadium.

The SDF has been fighting ISIS inside Raqqa since June.

“We do still know there are still IEDs and booby traps in and amongst the areas that ISIS once held, so the SDF will continue to clear deliberately through areas,” said Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led international coalition.

The four-month long battle for Raqqa left at least 3,250 people dead, more than a third of them civilians, the Observatory said.

In a sign that the battle for Raqqa was in its last stages, Dillon said there had been no coalition air strikes there on Monday.

ISIS also suffered setbacks Tuesday in the eastern Syrian region of Deir al-Zour, where Russian-backed regime forces retook swathes of territory, further reducing a “caliphate” that three years ago was roughly the size of Britain.

The Observatory said regime forces had brought the entire area stretching between Deir al-Zour and Mayadeen, which was retaken on Saturday, under their control following a major military offensive.

“These are not desert areas, they are villages along the Euphrates (river) that were ISIS strongholds,” the Britain-based monitoring group said.

ISIS also controls territory in neighboring regions on the Iraqi side of the border, where they are facing another US-backed offensive by Iraqi pro-government forces.

ISIS has lost swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq this year, including its most prized possession, Mosul, and in Syria it has been forced back into a strip of the Euphrates valley and surrounding desert.

Philippine President: Marawi Liberated from Pro-ISIS Extremists

Marawi

The Philippine army succeeded in liberating the southern city of Marawi from the clutches of pro-ISIS terrorists that had been waging battles with the military for months, announced President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday.

“I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from terrorist influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation,” Duterte told soldiers in Marawi.

Speaking to soldiers a day after the killing of two leaders of the rebel alliance, he said the fight was over and it was time to heal the wounded and rebuild the city of 200,000 people on the island of Mindanao.

Military chief General Eduardo Ano told The Associated Press that Duterte’s statement means the threat from the extremists, who have occupied parts of the lakeside city for five months, is substantially over.

“They’re leaderless and they have no more organization,” he said. “There are still skirmishes.”

A military spokesman said that 20-30 rebels were still fighting it out and were holding about 20 hostages. As many as 80 buildings will need to be swept for explosives.

Restituto Padilla said that although the fight was not completely over, the remaining rebels were “stragglers” who no longer posed a threat.

“There is no way that they can get out anymore, there is no way for anyone to get in,” Padilla told news channel ANC.

“So choking them to death at this point will be very key for our troops to do since the area is very much contained and very much controlled.”

Isnilon Hapilon, ISIS’ “emir” in Southeast Asia, and Omarkhayam Maute, one of two “Khalifas” at the helm of the Dawla Islamiya militant alliance, were killed in a targeted operation on Monday and their bodies had been recovered and identified, authorities said.

The 148-day occupation by ISIS loyalists marked the country’s biggest internal security crisis in years.

Marawi has been devastated by the siege laid by the pro-ISIS group who overran the city on May 23. More than 1,000 people have been killed, including about 800 militants.

The surprise occupation of the city and the involvement of foreign fighters set off alarms in Southeast Asia and the West. Analysts said parts of the southern Philippines were at risk of becoming a new base for ISIS as it lost territory to international forces in Iraq and Syria.

At Least 10 Killed in Taliban Attacks in Afghanistan

Taliban

At least 12 people were killed on Tuesday in a suicide car bomb attack against a police headquarters in Afghanistan.

The attack targeted a police training center attached to the headquarters in Gardez, the capital of Paktia province, officials said.

Officials and militants said that 60 people were wounded in the assault.

At least two attackers were also killed, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Three officials told Reuters that the provincial police chief was among the dead, but the ministry said it could only confirm that he had been wounded.

Both civilians and security forces were among the casualties, deputy public health director Hedayatullah Hameedi said.

“At the moment the area is sealed by the Crisis Response Unit and efforts are ongoing to eliminate the terrorists,” the ministry statement said.

In the western Farah province, police chief Abdul Maruf Fulad said the Taliban attacked a government compound in Shibkho district, killing three policemen.

In southern Ghazni province, the Taliban stormed a security compound, using a suicide car, and killed at least seven policemen.

Provincial chief police, Mohammad Zaman, stated that the attack in Andar district early on Tuesday morning triggered several hours of heavy fighting until the attackers were repelled.

The district compound has been destroyed, he added.

China Gears up for National Congress as Xi Seeks to Consolidate Power

Xi

China’s ruling Communist Party is preparing to hold its national congress on Wednesday where President Xi Jinping is expected to consolidate his power and head on a second five-year term in office.

Amid the stability he has achieved in China during his term in office, beyond the borders, the situation is not so calm.

There, he is at the mercy of two unpredictable men, US President Donald Trump and North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un – a predicament that points to the limits of China’s bid to project soft power, said an Agence France Presse report.

Some analysts say Kim could try to cause a stir by testing another missile or nuclear bomb in the middle of China’s most important political event, which is held every five years.

A new test could trigger another 140-character salvo by Trump, who has alternated between prodding and praising Xi’s response to North Korea.

Trump’s mercurial Twitter diplomacy has contrasted with Xi’s unemotional style. The US leader has also pointedly left Xi hanging over whether he will hit China with tariffs over trade grievances.

Despite the mixed messages, Xi has professed his friendship with Trump, confirming an invitation for the US president to come to Beijing next month, when they will discuss trade and North Korea face-to-face.

His relationship with Kim is also complicated.

The North Korean leader has already interfered with two international summits that the Chinese president has hosted this year, by staging headline-grabbing provocations.

In May, as Xi prepared to address world leaders gathered in Beijing on his signature Belt and Road initiative – a Chinese-led trade infrastructure program – the North successfully launched a new ballistic missile.

Then in September, it conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date, hours before Xi took the stage for a speech before leaders of the developing world at the annual BRICS summit.

The timing was seen as a slight towards Xi and an attempt by Kim to strongarm his Chinese neighbor into convincing Trump to sit down for talks.

A new nuclear test during the party congress “would be more than a loss of face. It will harm the ruling party of China,” said Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. “It will harm Xi Jinping at this crucial moment.”

On Wednesday, Xi will address the nation to lay out his political and economic vision for the world’s second-largest economy over the next five years.

Villages will broadcast news of the congress over loudspeakers, a security crackdown has been extended and monitoring of dissidents strengthened.

Xi, who is expected to get a second five-year term as party leader at the gathering, will kick off events with an address indicating whether his personal political theory will be entered into the party constitution alongside those of predecessors such as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

Xi’s speech is also expected to recommit the party to achieving the goals of a “moderately well-off society” by 2021 — the 100th anniversary of the party’s founding — and even greater national power and prosperity by 2049 — the centenary of the founding of the Communist state.

Those achievements will depend on continued economic growth and the lifting of millions out of poverty, alongside the continued rapid expansion of Chinese military and political power, including its growing ability to dominate the Asia-Pacific region.

While the nation’s presidency is limited to two five-year terms, the office of party general secretary is bound by no such restrictions. Xi, 64, could step aside for a younger leader while maintaining ultimate control from behind the scenes.

Whatever the outcome, most analysts say Xi has largely completed the task of sidelining his competitors in other cliques, including those surrounding his immediate predecessor, Hu Jintao, and former leader Jiang Zemin.

“Xi has been extremely successful in purging political rivals,” said Feng Chongyi, an expert on Chinese politics at Sydney’s University of Technology. “There will be only one faction left after the 19th congress.”

The 2,287 carefully hand-picked delegates to the congress are drawn from 40 constituencies, including the 31 provincial-level administrative districts, the government, the military, state industries and grass-roots organizations representing most of the party’s 89 million members.

South Sudan Opposition Try to Forge a United Front

South Sudanese opposition groups tried to forge a united front on Monday ahead of an expected resumption of peace talks, in the first such meeting since the start of their country’s civil war nearly four years ago, attendees told Reuters.

South Sudan’s civil war, triggered by a feud between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, has plunged parts of the world’s youngest nation into famine and forced a third of the population – some four million people – to flee their homes.

Representatives of South Sudan’s many armed and unarmed opposition groups met in the Kenyan town of Nyahururu, said Kosti Manibe, a former government minister who was briefly jailed and represents a group of ex-political prisoners.

“I call it like-minded groups who are opposed to the policy that the regime of Salva in (South Sudan’s capital) Juba is pursuing,” Manibe said.

The gathering, expected to last three days, comes after diplomats from the regional bloc IGAD held talks with Kiir in Juba at the weekend to press the government to participate in the planned peace talks in December.

“The opposition is speaking in a cacophony of voices. There is a need to harmonise these voices,” said Majak D‘Agoot, another member of the former prisoner group.

Manibe said Kenya’s government had “graciously allowed” the opposition groups to meet in their country, without elaborating.

Kenyan foreign affairs ministry spokesman Edwin Limo said he was not aware of the meeting.

The United Nations says South Sudan’s civil war has resulted in ethnic cleansing and other war crimes.

A Western-backed peace deal between Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar collapsed last year, spawning the creation of new armed and political groups opposing the government.

Machar’s SPLA-IO rebel group, the country’s largest which still controls swathes of territory in the south and northeast of South Sudan, declined to attend the Nyahururu meeting, according to Nathaniel Oyet, a senior member of the group, saying it may distract from the December talks.

Oyet also cited security concerns in Kenya where SPLA-IO officials have disappeared in the last year, including Machar’s spokesman who was arrested and deported to Juba in 2016.

Among those attending Monday’s meeting in Kenya were representatives of former army general Thomas Cirillo, who is waging an insurgency in the southern region of South Sudan, and other former government officials Lam Akol, Gabriel Changson, and Joseph Bakosoro, all of whom live in exile.

South Sudanese government officials were unavailable for comment on the Kenya meeting.

Public Investment Fund to Establish Recycling Sector Company

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced on Monday planning to establish the Saudi Recycling Company, a new waste management government enterprise aiming to support and operate the PIF’s investments in domestic recycling sector projects.

“Aligned with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goal to safeguard the country’s environment by improving recycling across the Kingdom, the new company will develop and operate projects designed to increase landfill diversion rates and recycle waste, creating alliances with private sector companies to achieve the highest international standards,”PIF said in a statement published on the Saudi state-owned press agency (SPA).

Preliminary studies have indicated that the Kingdom currently recycles around 10 percent of recyclable waste matter, with 90 percent disposed through landfill sites, causing damage to the environment, and not making full use of the potential of recyclable materials. More than 40 percent of recyclable materials in the Kingdom are produced in three major cities: Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam.

Recyclable materials in the Kingdom amount to 50 million tons, and the new plan offers the opportunity to recycle around 85 percent of this material, utilizing it as a source of alternative energy to be used in manufacturing.

The company will play a key role in achieving the strategic goals of Vision 2030 in preserving the environment and developing and protecting the natural resources by developing innovative solutions to preserve the quality of life within the Kingdom. The company’s scope of operations will cover all recyclable materials, as well as each stage of the value chain.

In addition to its core activities, the company will increase public awareness through campaigns and initiatives designed to introduce the concepts of recycling, its sustainability and importance.

King Salman Holds Talks with Emir of Kuwait

Riyadh- Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz received, at his palace on Monday, Kuwait’s emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jabir Al-Sabah and his accompanying delegation, currently on a visit to the Kingdom.

During the royal audience, the two leaders reviewed close relations binding the two countries and overall regional developments, in addition to issues of common interest.

On the other hand, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques held a luncheon banquet, in grace of the visiting Emir of Kuwait, which was attended by Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Riyadh Region, Mansur bin Miteb bin Abdulaziz, Minister of State and Advisor to the King, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Minister of the National Guard, Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Interior, various royal and non-royal princes, Kuwaiti accompanying delegation, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the Kingdom Sheikh Thamer Jabir Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah and other officials.