Kurds rescue Swedish teen

(MENAFN- Arab Times) Iraqi Kurdish troops have rescued a Swedish teenager from the Islamic State group near the extremist-controlled city of Mosul, the Kurdish government said Tuesday. A statement from the regional government said the rescue operation by the Kurdish antiterrorist forces took place on Feb 17 near Mosul, 360 kms (225 miles) northwest of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

The statement identified the young woman by name, saying she is a 16-year-old from the Swedish town of Boras who "was misled" by an IS member in Sweden to travel to Syria and later to Mosul. It also said the Swedish authorities and the teenager's family had contacted the Iraqi Kurdish government and asked for help in locating and rescuing the girl from the IS.

The young woman is currently in Iraqi Kurdish territory and is being "provided the care afforded to her under international law," the statement said, adding that she will be "transferred to Swedish authorities to return home once necessary arrangements" are made.

The statement provided no details on the rescue operation and did not say whether the teen was mistreated while with the Islamic State group. The Associated Press does not identify minors who may have been victims of abuse or may be accused of crimes.

Iraqi Kurdish officials contacted by the AP in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish semiautonomous region in northern Iraq, declined to provide more details on the case. Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul was the fi rst major city to fall into the hands of Islamic State militants during their blitz in June 2014, when the group swept across vast areas in the country's north and west. Islamic State militants attacked Kurdish forces in Iraq with mustard gas last year, a diplomat said, citing tests by the global chemical arms watchdog.

A source at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed that laboratory tests had come back positive for sulphur mustard, after around 35 Kurdish troops were sickened on the battlefield last August.

The OPCW will not identify who used the chemical agent. But the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because the findings have not yet been released, said the result confirmed that chemical weapons had been used by Islamic State fighters.

The samples were taken after the soldiers became ill during fighting against Islamic State militants southwest of Erbil, capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region. The OPCW already concluded in October that mustard gas was used last year in neighbouring Syria. Islamic State has declared a "caliphate" in territory it controls in both Iraq and Syria and does not recognise the frontier.

The matter is expected to be raised at the next meeting of the OPCW's 41-member Executive Council in a month, an official said. A US air strike on an Islamic State training compound in Libya probably averted a mass shooting or a similar attack in Tunisia, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday. Friday's bombardment of the jihadist camp in Libya killed dozens of people, likely including senior IS operative Noureddine Chouchane. Offi cials say he helped plot two devastating ISclaimed attacks in neighboring Tunisia last year. During the first of those assaults, in March, jihadist gunmen at the National Bardo Museum in Tunis killed 21 tourists and a policeman.

Then in June, a Kalashnikov-wielding attacker opened fire at a beach resort near the Tunisian city of Sousse, killing 38 tourists, including 30 Britons. The IS compound destroyed near the city of Sabratha on Friday was "very focused on training to conduct operations, the type of operations that we saw in Tunisia," Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said. "We are confi dent that what happened Friday with that strike prevented a larger tragedy with there being an external attack of some sort," he added. "Both the type of training they were doing there and the proximity to the Tunisian border suggest that some larger plan was in the works."

The training facility hosted as many as 60 jihadists at any one time who were being schooled in carrying out "the types of attacks you've seen in Tunisia," Davis said. "People working in very synchronized coordinated groups on the ground with small arms; that is the type of training we saw here," he added.

Serbia says two embassy employees kidnapped by the IS group died in the strike. Davis said the United States was still looking into the claim and could not currently confi rm it. "This was a site that we had watched very closely for many weeks and never at any time did we see any indication that there were civilians present or being held there," he said. The United States has led a coalition air war against the IS group in Iraq and Syria for 18 months. Although the campaign has dealt the jhadists some significant blows, the group has continued to expand its presence in Libya. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday offered his condolences to Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic over the two kidnapped Serbian diplomats believed to have been killed in a US air strike in Libya, Belgrade said. In a telephone conversation on Monday Kerry "expressed condolences to Vucic and the families over the death of Sladjana Stankovic and Jovica Stepic," the Serbian government said in a statement.

Arab Times

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