Islamists Launch Attacks on Turkish Border Crossings in Syria with Some Success

Posted: Sep 22, 2013 12:01 AM

North Korea-South Korea: North Korean authorities announced they have postponed next week's round of separated family reunions, as well as talks on the resumption of Mount Kumgang tours that were due to take place on 2 October.

The North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement on 21 September, "The reunions of separated families and relatives between the North and the South will be postponed until there can be a normal atmosphere where dialogue and negotiations can be held."

Comment: Preparations for the two activities had reached an advanced stage. The statement provided no specific reason for the suspension, but accused South Korea of provoking confrontations and hostility. That type of generalized excuse can signify a range of perceived affronts, such as floating propaganda balloons north across the Demilitarized Zone; disagreements in negotiations or arrangements; stinginess in aid and insulting statements by South Korean officials.

This also is a typical reaction to bad news elsewhere. One bit of bad news this week was public information that the teenage daughter of a high North Korean security official recently defected to South Korea. That defection might explain a recent government order that North Koreans abroad must send all but one of their children back to North Korea. The North holds hostage the children of its diplomats as a safeguard against defections.

The timing is curious because the announcement occurred the day after the North's top nuclear negotiator returned from a conference and talks in Beijing. Something said or learned in Beijing also could be responsible for what appears to be a partial buttoning up… for the second time this year.

Thus far the suspension does not apply to operations at Kaesong industrial complex which resumed on a limited scale on Monday. However, the charm offensive has hit a snag or maybe a full stop. Expect tighter security measures and an increase in tension. This week is Chusok, the harvest festival.

Pakistan: Update. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Thursday briefed the National Assembly (NA) that the first phase of the Karachi law and order crackdown was nearing its end.

He said the "Rangers" had achieved remarkable successes in the first phase of the targeted operation that was still going on. They carried out 400 targeted actions in Karachi and had arrested a number of target killers and other suspects.

Since the start of the operation in mid-September, Nisar said terrorists from Karachi had started moving to other places, including over 250 terrorists had entered North Waziristan in small groups.

He said the first phase of the operation was going to end soon but the second and third phases would be crucial.

Comments: The Pakistan Rangers, a large paramilitary police force in Sindh Province, plus the police are the primary security forces executing the crackdown. The first phase concentrated on arresting known individuals.

Some members of the National Assembly wanted martial law imposed but apparently neither the military nor the business community supported that.

Most Pakistani analysts judge the operation has improved the law and order situation slightly. The numbers cited by the minister are almost trivial compared to the numbers of political gang members, militants and criminal gang members. The main message to the lawbreakers has been to keep it under control.

Syria: For the record. Syria made its first submission of its chemical weapons to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. A spokesman said, "We have received part of the verification and we expect more."

A UN diplomat confirmed that the details had been submitted, saying: "It's quite long ... and being translated."

Comment: In reply to a question about trust, during an interview this week, President Asad said the issue is not about trust, but about watching what Syria does, with respect to compliance with the obligations of the chemical weapons convention.

Border fighting. On 19 September, fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the al Nusrah Front attacked three Syrian border crossing points into Turkey. Two were under the control of Syrian Kurds in eastern and central Syria. The Kurdish militiamen repelled the al-Qaida-affiliated attackers.

The third border town attacked is in western Syria. A'zaz was under the control of a Free Syrian Army group which was routed and lost 100 men captured. Turkey closed the border on the 20th. Fighting continued on the 20th, leaving the Islamist militants in control and a ceasefire in effect. Free Syrian Army groups apparently intend to try to retake the border town.

Comment: The BBC carried a detailed description of a small dispute that apparently triggered the fighting in A'zaz. If not that, there certainly would have been another because the Islamists are attempting to consolidate gains and poach other groups' turf in the aftermath of the US-Russian chemical weapons framework agreement.

A wider look suggests the three attacks represented a coordinated operation by the ISIS and al Nusrah to capture the major crossing points along the Turkish border. Had they succeeded, they would have gained control of all the arms supply and logistics routes from Turkey. A'zaz is the crossing point that leads to Aleppo.

The Islamist militant groups have been trying to establish control of the border towns for a year, but today they finally had some success, at least for a while.

Nigeria: A shootout between Boko Haram Islamic terrorists and Nigerian security forces occurred in Abuja, the nation's capital early Friday, according to a Nigerian security official.

Comment: This was the second sensational attack by Boko Haram terrorists this week and the first in Abuja this year. Earlier in the week, they killed 87 people in a town in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria. This is the group the Nigerian Army declared defeated in spring.

End of NightWatch ###

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