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Kuwait says 3 citizens abducted in Syria QAEDA LOSES GROUND TO JIHADIST RIVALS ON IRAQ BORDER

KUWAIT CITY, April 10, (Agencies): Kuwait said three of its citizens have been kidnapped in Syria and it has asked Turkey for help in trying to secure their release. It was not clear why the Kuwaitis were in Syria or who abducted them. Some Gulf Arab citizens have entered Syria to join rebels fighting the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. “There were three Kuwaitis kidnapped in Syria.

The Foreign Ministry is following this matter,” Kuwait’s Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Khaled Al-Jarallah told reporters late on Wednesday. Kuwait has been in contact with authorities in Turkey, which borders Syria, to try to secure their release, he said. Kuwait’s al-Anbaa newspaper reported on Thursday that the kidnappers had asked for a ransom of 1 million euros ($1.38 million) and that the three Kuwaitis may have already been transferred to Turkey.

Unlike other Sunni Muslim-ruled states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Kuwait has not supported sending arms to rebels in Syria fighting to topple Assad. However, Kuwaiti citizens have organised private fund-raising campaigns in homes and on social media, something Kuwait says is difficult to control. While many of the campaigns have been for humanitarian aid, some have openly called for funds to arm rebel fighters The issue is sensitive in major oil producer Kuwait, a US ally that allows more public debate and political meetings than other Gulf Arab states. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) office here has commended Kuwait’s role in the provision of necessary medicine to Syrian people.

WHO Middle East Director Dr. Alaa Eddin Al-Elwan said in a release handed out here on Thursday that the WHO voiced its gratitude and appreciation to the Kuwaiti government for its recent contributions to WHO medical activities in Syria. “The new contribution has enabled the WHO to pursue its efforts to reach out to those vulnerable individuals in Syria and neighboring countries, providing them with basic health care,” he said.

The WHO has already received $10 million in Kuwaiti aid to support its health services in Syria, he said, recalling that Kuwait had given the WHO $35 million in donation in 2013. He promised that the WHO would ensure an efficient utilization of Kuwait’s recent financial contribution to health care in this violence-hit Arab country.

In another news, Syria’s al- Qaeda affiliate lost ground to its jihadist rivals around a town on the Iraqi border on Thursday in heavy fighting that left 51 people dead, a monitoring group said. Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a cross-border group which has been disowned by al-Qaeda’s leadership, launched a threepronged assault on positions held by al-Qaeda affiliate Al- Nusra Front and its allies, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Al-Nusra, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for a twin car bombing in a pro-government area of the central city of Homs that killed 25 people and wounded more than 100 on Wednesday. ISIL fighters were driven out of Albu Kamal in heavy fighting earlier this year and are seeking to link up with their comrades over the border in Iraq, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. “Since dawn there has been fierce fighting inside Albu Kamal. ISIL is advancing and has taken control of several neighbourhoods of the town which were previously held by Al-Nusra Front and Islamist brigades,” he said.

A rebel commander loyal to the mainstream Free Syrian Army said it still controlled the nearby border crossing to the Iraqi town of Al-Qaim, and an AFP correspondent on the Iraqi side saw the FSA flag still flying over it. “We are still controlling the border crossing,” the rebel commander told AFP on condition of anonymity. “ISIL are attacking our positions in Albu Kamal, and the battles since yesterday (Wednesday) are in three different areas about 15 kilometres (10 miles) from the centre of the city. The battles are still continuing.” By early evening, the Observatory said at least 51 fighters from both sides had been killed on Thursday. Later in the day, Iraqi troops put up blast walls and sand berms on their side of the crossing, the AFP correspondent reported. Albu Kamal has been under the control of fighters opposed to the Damascus regime since November 2012, but Al-Nusra and its allies forced out ISIL fighters in heavy fighting earlier this year.

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