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Turkish army shells pro-Syrian govt forces

DAMASCUS:The Turkish army has attacked pro-Syrian government forces that had earlier arrived in the Kurdish-held Afrin region in northwestern Syria to defend the Syrian Kurds against Turkey’s offensive.

“Turkish regime forces targeted the locations of popular forces with artillery fire as they arrived to the Afrin region,” Syria’s state news agency SANA reported on Tuesday.

On Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of popular forces from the National Defense Forces (NDF) supporting the government in Damascus began entering the Kurdish-held region of Afrin through the al-Ziyara crossing point north of the town of Nubl.”Turkish state news agency Anadolu said Turkey’s army fired “warning shots” at the Syrian popular forces, noting that they “retreated to about 10 kilometers from the town because of the warning shots.”

The shelling marks a major escalation of tensions between the two countries since Turkey and its allied militants launched a military offensive against Afrin last month.

In a statement on Tuesday, US-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG) spokesman Nouri Mahmoud said the Kurdish forces had called on the Syrian government to help fend off Turkey’s assault.

“The Syrian government responded to the invitation, answered the call of duty and sent military units today, February 20, to take up positions on the borders, and participate in defending the territorial unity of Syria and its borders,” the statement said.

This is the first time that Syrian government forces are deployed in the area since 2012 when the YPG held the area under its control.

Meanwhile, Turkish media say Turkey’s army and its allied Syrian opposition militants are advancing in Afrin and they have reportedly taken over a key road linking the Turkish-held town of Azaz to the city of Afrin. Turkish forces are in control of nine more villages in the region.

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Business

Rail fares rise and protests mark the beginning of 2018

The UK rail commuters woke up to the biggest annual rise in fares for five years. The latter prompted people to protest against the price increase. RMT rail union strikes took place at many England stations on Tuesday morning, the first day of average fare increases of 3.4%.  Many commuters have seen their season tickets go up by as much as £100.

The media reported that questions were raised with Downing Street after neither Transport secretary Chris Grayling or any other Transport official were available on Tuesday morning to defend the rises.  Downing Street spokesperson’s comments about Grayling being away to meet politicians and businessmen of Qatar sparked discontent, with Labour later accusing him of being in “hiding”.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has frozen transport fare across the capital until 2020 questioned why ticket prices were going up elsewhere referring to it as a scandal. Opposite view was voiced by Paul Plummer,  Rail Delivery Group chief executive, who defended the rise saying fare changes would provide cash for better services and investment, including the Thameslink and Great Northern rail upgrades.

In the meantime, angry commuters took it onto the social media with Luke Block from Kent tweeting “First day back to work and a rail fare rise of £237 a year. Happy new year”.

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Afghanistan

Senior Cleric Says Iran ‘Fully Determined’ To Boost Missile Power

Tehran interim Friday Prayer Leader Ayatolllah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami said the Islamic Republic of Iran is fully determined to upgrade its missile power aimed at “confronting whatever threat posed by Israel”, IRNA reports.

Addressing the worshipers at Tehran University, Ayatollah Khatami said “in a world where wolves rule and there is no logic in their behavior, the Islamic Republic should be armed and powerful”.

The senior cleric said Iran’s military missile might is one of the main components of the country’s policy of deterrence.

“We have missiles, we would continue building more missiles and increase their ranges”, he added.

The senior cleric further said that the most important principle of Iran’s military power is defense through deterrence.

Ayatollah Khatami said Iran would never make atomic bombs, adding that based on a Fatwa issued by Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Iran remains to believe that it should not develop and possess nuclear weapons.

 

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Afghanistan

US Airstrikes Kill 5 Al-Qaida Members In Yemen

U.S. airstrikes killed five al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operatives in Yemen’s al-Bayda governorate Nov. 20, in an effort to disrupt the terrorist’s attack networks, according to a U.S. Central Command news release issued Friday.

Mujahid al-Adani, an al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula Shabwah leader, was killed in the strikes, along with al-Bayda-based facilitator Abu Layth al-Sanaani and three terrorist network associates, the release said.

Planned, Conducted Terrorist Attacks
Al-Adani, also known as Mohammad Shukri, previously served as an al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula military leader in Aden and remained responsible for planning and conducting terrorist attacks against Yemeni and coalition forces. Al-Adani maintained a significant influence within al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula as well as close ties to other terrorist network senior leaders, according to the release.

The Shabwah offensive has forced al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to consolidate within the northern and eastern portions of the Abyan and eastern al-Bayda governorates, respectively, the release said.

The removal of key al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula leaders and associates in this region, the release said, will further degrade the terrorist network’s freedom of movement and operation, limiting their ability to challenge Yemeni security forces and coalition advances.

 

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