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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Iraqi PM condemns free passage deal for Isil fighters

Syria and Lebanon allow hundreds of fighters to escape to eastern border of Iraq

Buses transport members of ISIL to Deir Ezzor under part of a deal brokered by Syria and Lebanon to end three years of jihadist presence in the area. AFP Photo
Buses transport members of ISIL to Deir Ezzor under part of a deal brokered by Syria and Lebanon to end three years of jihadist presence in the area. AFP Photo

Haider Abadi, the Iraqi prime minister, condemned a deal between Syria and Lebanon to allow Isil fighters free passage to the eastern border with Iraq as a threat to Baghdad's security.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting in the capital, he said the Hizbollah deal to allow the 300 fighters trapped in the Qalamun to board buses to Albu Kamel was an insult to his efforts to crush the group. He categorically rejected the movement of the threat from the group from one part of the battleground to another.

“Iraq does not seek to contain Daesh but to eliminate them,” he said.

The international coalition fighting Isil warned last week that the group would reinforce its presence in the Euphrates river valley areas of both Iraq and Syria. Officers fear a protracted struggle for control of areas such as al Qiam in Iraq as well as Deir Ezzor in Syria.

The Isil fighters began moving out of the Syrian-Lebanese border region Monday under an unprecedented deal after three years of fighting.

The evacuation comes a week into a Lebanese army campaign against the group on the Lebanese side of the border, coinciding with a joint Syrian army and Hizbollah offensive on neighbouring Syrian territory.

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Under the evacuation deal, several hundred militants and their families on both sides of the border are set to leave by bus for Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria, the country’s only province still under ISIS control.

Early Monday evening, Hizbollah and Syrian state television said that “buses transporting fighters have left the (Syrian) region of Qara, in western Qalamun, and are heading for the town of Albu Kamal in Deir Ezzor”.

Hizbollah said “hundreds of ISIS fighters” had left the border area of eastern Lebanon. “The objectives (of the operation) have been achieved,” Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech broadcast live on the party’s Al-Manar television channel.

“Isil was expelled from Lebanese territory... the border was secured and the western Qalamun (on the Syrian side) was liberated” from the militants,” he said.

Mr Abadi also condemned the inclusion of Kirkuk in the Kurdish independence referendum.

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