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Yazidis, displaced again, fear more strife in Iraqi homeland

Iraqis in a northern town still traumatized by memories of ISIS feared more violence Tuesday after hostilities between the military and a local militia erupted, people internally displaced by the fighting said.

Tensions reached a fever pitch when Iraq’s military launched an offensive in Sinjar district Sunday to clear out armed elements of the YBS, a local militia comprised largely of minority Yazidis.

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The YBS has ties to the insurgent Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, a separatist movement banned in Turkey.

The heavy fighting prompted over 3,000 people, most of them Yazidis, to flee toward the Kurdish-run north. It wasn’t clear if there were any dead or wounded in the fighting: Iraqi officials have released no figures and have not commented on casualties.

Fighting ceased Tuesday and the Iraqi army said it had re-established control of Sinjar. But the violence and subsequent displacement dealt a blow to Baghdad’s efforts to encourage more Yazidis to return to their ancestral homeland after years of war.

An agreement was brokered by the United Nations in October 2020 between Baghdad and the Kurdish-run government to implement order in the area. Under that agreement, the federal police are the sole state authority.

The accord has not proven successful. Critics have said this is because it did not consult powerful local forces in Sinjar or even Yazidi leaders.

Local residents, who also include Arab Sunnis, are also deeply divided.

Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir al-Shammari, deputy commander of Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, told a news conference in Sinjar that Iraqi forces have imposed security and law and order and have opened all the roads in the district.

“The goal of these operations was to impose the (rule of) law and security to secure a safe environment so that we can rebuild Sinjar and return the displaced.”

But Yazidis, many displaced now for a second time, are reluctant to return.

Most of the displaced fled north to the Kurdish-run region where they were distributed across different camps. Many first fled in 2014 after ISIS’s brutal onslaught and returned in recent years to rebuild their homes.

The memories are still fresh in Sewe’s mind. His was among the dozens of families who made their way to the Chemishko camp in Zakho on Monday. He only gave The Associated Press his first name.

“It is the second time that we escaped,” he said. “We don’t know where to go, we don’t have a place to go, and we don’t know where we are going now.”

The YBS was created in 2014 with assistance from the PKK. They proved instrumental in driving out ISIS elements from the area after the collapse of the Iraqi army. The YBS has since remained a powerful local force in the area, citing deep mistrust of the federal government forces deployed to protect the area.

The Iraqi army said the aim of the offensive has been to reassert state authority in response to the YBS erecting checkpoints and preventing citizens from returning to their homes.

But most residents expect more violence.

“When we went back to our home we found it was impossible to live there,” said Rashid Barakat, now displaced in the Chemishko camp. “The army was attacking (the YBS) and the (YBS) was hitting them back, and we were stuck in between.”

Read more: Iraqi soldier killed in clashes with Yazidi fighters

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IAEA loses transmission from Ukraine’s Russian-held nuclear plant surveillance system

The UN atomic watchdog said on Wednesday it had again lost its connection to its surveillance systems keeping track of nuclear material at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe’s largest, which the watchdog wants to inspect.
“The fact that our remote safeguards data transmission is down again –- for the second time in the past month –- only adds to the urgency to dispatch this mission (to Zaporizhzhia),” the
International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

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The connection was lost on Saturday “due to a disruption of the facility’s communication systems,” it added.

Read more: UN watchdog ‘concerned’ about Ukraine nuclear plant access

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Anti-coup protesters in Sudan shot dead: Report

Four protesters were killed in Sudan on Thursday, medics said, as large crowds took to the streets despite heavy security and a communications blackout to rally against the military leadership that seized power eight months ago.

In central Khartoum, security forces fired tear gas and water cannon as they tried to prevent swelling crowds from marching towards the presidential palace, witnesses said.

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They estimated the crowds in Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Bahri to be in the tens of thousands. In Omdurman witnesses reported tear gas and gunfire as security forces prevented protesters from crossing into Khartoum.

The protests mark the third anniversary of huge demonstrations during the uprising that overthrew long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir and led to a power-sharing arrangement between civilian groups and the military.

Last October, the military led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan toppled the transitional government, triggering rallies that have called on the army to quit politics.

Some protesters carried banners calling for justice for those killed in previous demonstrations. Others chanted, “Burhan, Burhan, back to the barracks and hand over your companies,” a reference to the Sudanese military’s economic holdings.

Earlier, protesters barricaded some of the capital’s main thoroughfares with stones and burning tires.

It was the first time in months of protests against the October coup that internet and phone services had been cut. After the military takeover, extended internet blackouts were imposed in an apparent effort to hamper the protest movement.

Staff at Sudan’s two private sector telecoms companies, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities had ordered them to shut down the internet once again on Thursday.

Bridges shut

Phone calls within Sudan were also cut and security forces closed bridges over the Nile linking Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri – another step typically taken on big protest days to limit the movement of marchers.

In recent days there have been daily neighborhood protests in the build-up to Thursday’s rallies.

On Wednesday, medics aligned with the protest movement said security forces shot dead a child during protests in Bahri. Thursday’s four deaths, all in Omdurman, brought the number of protesters killed since the coup to 107.

There was no immediate comment from Sudanese authorities.

The United Nations envoy in Sudan, Volker Perthes, called this week on authorities to abide by a pledge to protect the right of peaceful assembly. “Violence against protesters will not be tolerated,” he said.

Military leaders said they dissolved the government in October because of political paralysis. As a result, however, international financial support agreed with the transitional government was frozen and an economic crisis has deepened.

Burhan said on Wednesday the armed forces were looking forward to the day when an elected government could take over, but this could only be done through consensus or elections, not protests.

Mediation efforts led by the United Nations and the African

Read more:

Protesters in Sudan rally against military on uprising anniversary

Internet services cut in Sudan’s Khartoum ahead of pro-democracy protests

Sudan army shells disputed border with Ethiopia

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UN: Almost 16 million people in Ukraine need humanitarian aid

As Russia presses on with its invasion of Ukraine, some 16 million people inside the country need humanitarian aid, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine said Thursday.

“Almost 16 million people in Ukraine today need humanitarian assistance: water food, health services,” Osnat Lubrani told a press briefing.

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Six million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes for other parts of the country since the war started, though around 5 million have since returned, she said.

But “many know that they might be forced to flee again,” she added.

Over 5.3 million more Ukrainians have fled abroad, Lubrani said.

She said the UN tally of casualties since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 was likely much higher.

“The number we have of almost 5,000 civilians killed and more than 5,000 injured is just a fraction of the frightening reality,” she said.

She also said it was “extremely difficult if not… impossible” for humanitarian groups to access areas that are no longer under Kyiv’s control.

Lubrani called on Russia and Ukraine “to do more to protect the people of this country and to make our work possible.”

Read more:

World War III ‘already started on Feb. 24:’ Ukraine Defense Minister Reznikov

Russia says it has more than 6,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war

Kyiv says 144 Ukrainian soldiers released in biggest prisoner swap

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