UNITED NATIONS: A new U.N. report to the Security Council shows that ISIL/Da’esh is still a global threat, despite the decline in the number of attacks worldwide during 2018.
Noting the recent successes against the ISIL/Da’esh and its affiliates, Vladimir Voronkov, who heads UN’s Counter-Terrorism Office, said the threat posed by returning and relocating fighters, as well as from individuals inspired by them, remains high and has a global reach.
“I would therefore emphasize (that) the recent ISIL losses should not lead to complacency at any level,” he told the 15-member Council.
“Despite the more concealed or locally embedded activities of ISIL/Da’esh cells, its central leadership retains an influence and maintains an intent to generate internationally-directed attacks and thereby still plays an important role in advancing the group’s objectives,” Under-Secretary-General Voronkov said.
“This is exacerbated by the challenge of foreign terrorist fighters who either are leaving conflict zones, or those who are returning or who are about to be released from prison. In this context, radicalization in prison settings, is seen as a particular challenge in Europe and Iraq.”
He said that so-called “frustrated travelers” were adding to the complexity of the threat, namely fighters who’d failed to reach main battlegrounds, but been diverted instead elsewhere, either by ISIL commanders or of their own volition.
The report notes that the “centre of gravity” of the organization, known in the Arab world as Da’esh, remains in Iraq and Syria, with up to 18,000 remaining in the ranks, including some 3,000 foreign fighters.
“In terms of ISIL’s financial strength, the report notes that despite some loss of revenue due to territorial setbacks, ISIL could sustain its operations through accessible reserves, in cash or investment in businesses, ranging between $50 and $300 million. ISIL cells are also reported to generate revenue through criminal activities”, explained Mr. Voronkov.
The document, the eighth report on ISIL/Da’esh – which proclaimed its so-called caliphate across northern Syria and Iraq in 2014 – was prepared on behalf of the UN Secretary-General by the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED).
After being driven from its city strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa, intense fighting in recent months has left Da’esh defending a small enclave against US-backed fighters in eastern Syria, close to the Iraqi border.
According to news reports, around 600 terrorist fighters continue to battle with coalition forces, which have labelled this the “final battle” to crush ISIL.
Trump tells Venezuela military to back Guaido or ‘lose everything’
MIAMI: US President Donald Trump on Monday urged Venezuela’s military to accept opposition leader Juan Guaido’s amnesty offer, or stand to “lose everything,” as a crisis deepened over President Nicolas Maduro’s refusal to let in desperately needed humanitarian aid.
Bringing in humanitarian aid is crucial to the viability of Guaido, who has denounced
Maduro’s re-election last year as fraudulent and in January declared himself interim president, a move recognized by some 50 countries.
He has given the Maduro government until Saturday to let shipments of mainly US aid into the country, which is in the grip of a humanitarian crisis due to shortages of food and medicine exacerbated by hyperinflation.
Addressing supporters and Venezuelan expatriates in Miami, Trump said he had a message for officials helping keep Maduro in place.
“The eyes of the entire world are upon you today, every day and every day in the future.
“You cannot hide from the choice that now confronts you. You can choose to accept president Guaido’s generous offer of amnesty to live your life in peace with your families and your countrymen.
“Or you can choose the second path: continuing to support Maduro. If you choose this
path, you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything.”
Guaido has set a target of signing up to a million volunteers to help bring in the aid, with 600,000 already registered.
“On February 23, we have the opportunity to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans,” he said.
Maduro countered with his own announcement of 300 tonnes of aid from Russia, which he said would reach Venezuela by Wednesday — three days ahead of a potential showdown brought
about by his February 23 deadline.
Speaking at an official event broadcast on TV, Maduro said the shipment contained
Maduro has previously announced the arrival of aid from China, Cuba and Russia, his
main international allies.
Tiny S.Africa beach restaurant crowned best in world
PARIS: A tiny beach restaurant in an isolated South African fishing village was named the best in the world on Monday.
Chef Kobus van der Merwe, who only began to properly cook when he was 30, forages
every day for ingredients on the wild Atlantic shore of the Western Cape near his Wolfgat restaurant, where he also makes his own bread and butter.
The Wolfgat — whose mostly female staff have no formal training — opened just two years ago in a 130-year-old cottage and cave on the beach at Paternoster.
It’s seven-course tasting menu costs the equivalent of 53 euros ($60), a fraction of what you would pay at a top Paris table.
But its humble setting, and Van der Merwe’s belief in sustainable, back-to-basics cooking won over the judges of the inaugural World Restaurant Awards in the French capital.
The 38-year-old, who can only feed 20 people at a sitting, told media, “I don’t feel worthy.
My staff who go out every day gathering herbs, succulents and dune spinach, should be here… It’s their baby.
“I can’t wait to celebrate with them with a big glass of South African sparkling wine.”
With dishes such as twice-cooked laver (seaweed), angelfish with bokkom sambal and
wild garlic masala, limpets, mussels and sea vegetables harvested within sight of its “stoep” (porch), Wolfgat also won the prize for best “Off-Map Destination”.
Bearded Van der Merwe — a former journalist — said apart from the influence of the
subtle spices of local Cape Malay cooking, his philosophy was to “interfere as little as possible with the products, and to keep them pure, raw and untreated.”
N.Korean envoy en route to Hanoi ahead of Trump-Kim summit
SEOUL: The North Korean special representative for the US arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, apparently en route to Vietnam to meet his Washington counterpart ahead of a second scheduled summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said.
Kim Hyok Chol arrived in the Chinese capital at around 10 am (0200 GMT) and was
expected to board a plane bound for Hanoi later in the day.
Kim’s trip comes three days after Kim Jong Un’s de-facto chief of staff, Kim Chang Son, landed in Hanoi to discuss protocol and security matters with the US team ahead of the summit on February 27-28.
Kim Hyok Chol and his US counterpart Stephen Biegun were engaged in three days of talks in Pyongyang earlier this month, exploring each side’s positions on denuclearisation ahead of the much-anticipated meeting.
Biegun said they had been productive, but more dialogue was needed.
“We have some hard work to do with the DPRK between now and then,” Biegun said,
adding that he was “confident that if both sides stay committed we can make real progress here”.
The US State Department said talks during Biegun’s trip explored Trump and Kim Jong Un’s “commitments of complete denuclearization, transforming US-DPRK relations and building a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula”.
Specifically, discussions on declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean War could have been on the table, with Biegun last month saying Trump was “ready to end this war”.
The US envoy is expected to fly soon to Hanoi from Washington to resume talks with Kim Hyok Chol.
Experts say tangible progress on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons will be needed for the second summit if it is to avoid being dismissed as “reality TV”.