ISIS seizes government headquarters in Iraq
The Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) stormed the Iraqi city of Mosul overnight Monday, seizing the entire western section of the majority-Sunni city as hundreds of Iraqi security forces withdrew, Iraqi news agency a-Sumeria reported.
Using rocket-propelled grenades, sniper rifles and machine guns, the al-Qaeda splinter group gained control of the Iraqi government’s provincial headquarters, parts of Mosul Airport and three prisons, freeing between hundreds and thousands of prisoners.
Smoke rises in Mosul after ISIS militants storm the city Monday night. Photo courtesy of @FarsiCC.
Meanwhile, according to Turkey’s Dogan News Agency, ISIS forced hundreds of Iraqi security personnel and Provincial Governor Atheel Nujeifi to flee the city. On Twitter, ISIS militants and supporters celebrated the seizure, using hashtags for “the Islamic State liberates Mosul” and “the opening of Mosul.”
ISIS, which controls Syria’s a-Raqqa province and is battling other Syrian rebel groups from Aleppo to Deir e-Zor, controls wide parts of Iraq’s Anbar province, including the city of Fallujah.
Activists launch awareness campaign in Deir e-Zor
A group of opposition activists and journalists launched a Facebook campaign Tuesday called “Deir e-Zor Needs Your Help” to raise awareness of what they call a “crippling siege” on the city.
Opposition forces in the city face a double blockade from the Syrian regime and the al-Qaeda splinter group Islamic State in Iraq of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) after the closing of all crossings into the city leading to widespread displacement and a shortage of food supplies, the campaign wrote.
While fighters associated with Jabhat a-Nusra, the Islamic Front and Free Syrian Army-affiliated battalions control the city, ISIS has controlled the rebel entrance to it since it captured a strategic bridge on the Euphrates River on the northern side of the city on May 18.
Since April 30, the eastern, oil-rich province has been a battle ground between ISIS and Jabhat a-Nusra led-opposition groups. The monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced Tuesday that 634 people have been killed in the clashes and more than 130,000 have fled, including 38 on Sunday and Monday.
Assad announces ‘general amnesty’
President Bashar al-Assad announced a “general amnesty” on Monday for all crimes committed before June 9, 2014, according to official state news agency SANA. The announcement specified reduced sentences for the crimes of association with terrorist organizations, kidnapping, arms smuggling and escape from military service.
The amnesty is a “part of the political solution to raise the Syrian country out of its crisis and begin the process of rebuilding,” pro-government newspaper al-Watan reported.
The statement did not indicate whether the amnesty would include the thousands of prisoners that human rights activists say are being held without charges.
Assad has announced several previous amnesties before, most recently in April 2013, which ostensibly reduced the sentences of criminals, including those convicted of joining the opposition. A prior amnesty in 2011 led to the release of former members of the Muslim Brotherhood, many of whom later joined extremist groups.
Coalition dismisses Brahimi: Genocide, not civil war
The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) criticized former United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi on Monday for calling the Syrian conflict a “civil war.”
“Syria is not a civil war, but a genocide,” said Noura Al Ameer, SNC Vice President, in a statement.
“Brahimi’s remarks equate the criminal and the victim and contradict the remarks he made after the Geneva II conference when he blamed the failure of the talks on the intransigence of the Assad regime,” Al Ameer said. The former envoy spoke in an interview published Saturday in the German newsweekly Der Spiegel.
Citing his frustrations with the Geneva II process, Brahimi resigned from his position on May 13th, claiming he was thwarted in his efforts to convince “Bashar al-Assad to become the kingmaker instead of staying on as president.”
Brahimi warned that Syria was headed in the direction of Somalia: toward a failed state dominated by warlords.
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