Anti-ISIL commanders gather to discuss Syria
KUWAIT CITY - Agence France-Presse
AFP photoTop military commanders from 30 nations fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) gathered Feb. 22 in Kuwait to discuss ways to defeat the jihadists who occupy large areas in Syria and Iraq.
Kuwaiti Chief of Staff Gen. Mohammad al-Khader urged increased efforts to defeat extremists worldwide.
“As military leaders, it is our responsibility to double efforts and urgently work out suitable plans to eliminate all terrorist groups threatening many countries in the world,” al-Khader said.
The meeting was held under tight security measures and made off-limit to reporters with only photographers allowed to take pictures.
It comes less than two weeks after defense ministers of the 66-nation U.S.-led coalition battling ISIL pledged in Brussels to accelerate their campaign against the jihadist group.
Countries attending the Kuwait meeting included the United States, Britain, France, as well as Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
The coalition has launched more than 10,000 air strikes against ISIL but the group still retains control of large parts of Iraq and Syria and has expanded its presence in Libya.
During the Brussels meeting, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates promised to renew their air operations in Syria after a long lull because of their war against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.
Officials say the campaign is making the most progress in Iraq, where local security forces have retaken the city of Ramadi and clawed back some 40 percent of territory previously held by ISIL.
Near the Syrian capital Damascus, a car bombing followed by two consecutive suicide attacks ripped through the area of the Shiite shrine of Sayyida Zeinab and killed 120 people in the deadliest attack since Syria’s war erupted in 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, thus raising the one-day death toll in the country to over 179.
The attacks were claimed by ISIL, which also included double bombing in the al-Zahraa district of Homs, where 59 people were killed.
The bloodiest attack before the Feb. 21 explosions had been carried out by al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate in May 2012 near Damascus and had killed 112 people.
The Feb. 21 blasts drew sharp condemnation from U.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Feb. 22 the suicide bombings in Syria claimed by ISIL were aimed at undermining the peace process.
“The atrocious crimes of extremists are aimed at scaring the peaceful population, subverting attempts to reach a long-term political settlement to the Syrian crisis in the interests of all Syrians and efforts to end violence and bloodshed,” it said in a statement.
Moscow said it “decisively condemns” the “inhuman attacks by terrorists” and expressed condolences for the victims.
On Feb. 21, Turkish Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said Turkey would enhance high-tech security measures on its more than 900-kilometer-long border with Syria, while a 250-kilometer part of it will be completed by the middle of 2016.
Speaking to media in the southeastern province of Kilis, Yılmaz said security efforts to protect the border against any threat from Syria would be completed by the end of 2016.
Dubbing the efforts to secure the border an “endless” process, the minister noted that security would improve with technology every year.
“We will ensure the safety of citizens living in the Republic of Turkey with the erection of walls, wire fences on the walls, surveillance cameras, drones, balloon systems and sensors,” Yılmaz said.