Turkish leader slammed for song demand
ISIS suffers another setback after losing control of town
A week after taking back the historic town of Palmyra, government troops and their allies have captured another town controlled by ISIS in central Syria.
State media reported that the push into the town of Qaryatain took place under the cover of Russian airstrikes and dealt another setback to the extremists.
However, an activist group that monitors the civil war said the government forces for the moment control more than half of Qaryatain but have not fully secured the town.
The advance came a week after Syrian forces recaptured Palmyra from ISIS and is strategically significant for the government side.
The town of Qaryatain used to be home to a sizeable Christian population and lies midway between Palmyra and the capital, Damascus.
Activists said last summer that Qaryatain had a mixed population of about 40,000 Sunni Muslims and Christians, as well as thousands of internally displaced people who had fled from the nearby city of Homs. Many of the Christians fled the town after it came under ISIS attack.
Dozens of Christians and other residents were abducted by the extremists. While the town was under ISIS control, some were released and others were made to sign pledges to pay a tax imposed on non-Muslims.
While ISIS blew up and destroyed some of the world’s most precious relics in Palmyra during their 10-month reign of terror there, the ancient Saint Eliane Monastery near Qaryatain was also bulldozed and destroyed shortly after ISIS took the town in August.
Meanwhile, an ISIS affiliate in Saudi Arabia claimed that its militants detonated two explosive devices in front of a police station in the city of Al Dalam, setting fire to three police vehicles.
The attack took place late on Saturday. No deaths or injuries were reported. The head of the European Parliament has criticised Turkey for complaining about a German satirical song that poked fun at President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Martin Schulz said in an interview published yesterday that “it’s intolerable that the president of another country demands we restrict democratic rights in Germany because he feels ridiculed.” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned the German ambassador to demand the clip’s removal from the website of German public broadcaster ARD. German weekly Bild am Sonntag quoted Schulz calling the move “completely untenable”. Schulz, who is German, said Europe shouldn’t remain silent about human rights violations in Turkey either “just because we’re cooperating with them on the refugee issue.” Under a deal with Ankara, refugees arriving in Greece from Turkey beginning today will be sent back to Turkey. The plan sparked demonstrations by residents in both countries on Saturday, with protesters in Idomeni in Greece demanding the evacuation of a camp there and hundreds in the Turkish town of Dikili protesting against the prospect of hosting people expelled from the nearby Greek islands.
FORCES: Syrian and Russian troops stand near a car with a collage of the faces of Vladimir
Putin and Bashar Al Assad