Ceasefire deal agreed for south Damascus
LONDON, Oct 12, (Agencies): Sally Jones, a British jihadi who recruited online for the Islamic State group, has been killed in Syria by a US drone along with her 12-year-old son, The Sun newspaper reported on Thursday. A convert to Islam from southern England, Jones was nicknamed the “White Widow” by the British press after her jihadi husband Junaid Hussain, also an IS militant, was killed by a drone in 2015. Quoting a British intelligence source who had been briefed by US counterparts, The Sun reported that Jones and her son had been killed in June close to Syria’s border with Iraq, as she was attempting to flee the IS stronghold of Raqqa.
US intelligence chiefs were quoted as saying they could not be 100 percent certain that Jones had been killed as there was no way of recovering any DNA from the ground, but they were “confident” she was dead. Her son JoJo was presumed to be dead too, although his presence with her was not known at the time of the drone strike and he was not an intended target, according to The Sun. British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman declined to comment directly on the report, as did Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.
“If you are a British national in Iraq or Syria, and if you have chosen to fight for DAESH, an illegal organisation that is preparing and inspiring terror attacks on our streets, then you’ve made yourself a legitimate target,” Fallon told reporters in London. “And you run the risk every hour of every day of being on the wrong end of an RAF or a United States missile,” he said. One Western security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Jones had not been heard of since earlier this year so the assumption was that she was dead, although the source refused to confirm the details of the Sun report.
Other IS militants have been reported dead only to reappear. A Central Intelligence Agency spokeswoman declined to comment. Jones, who before her jihadi days was once a singer in a punk band, has been the subject of years of fascination by the British press. She was believed to have left her home in Chatham, in the southern county of Kent, in 2013 to travel to Syria, where she married Hussain whom she had met online. She was active as an online recruiter and sometimes posted propaganda messages on social media, including a striking photograph of herself dressed as a nun pointing a gun towards the camera.
Groups OK truce
Three Syrian opposition factions have agreed to cease fire in southern Damascus under an agreement brokered by Egypt and Russia that was not signed by the Syrian government, officials said Thursday. The deal did not specify the area, but the three rebel groups control a pocket south of Damascus that is adjacent to areas controlled by the Islamic State group.
The deal would allow for humanitarian access but, unlike other similar agreements, would not involve the relocation of militants or residents. Several such deals in recent years have involved bussing tens of thousands of people to the rebel-held Idlib province, in northwestern Syria.
The opposition has accused the government of forced displacement, charges denied by Syrian officials. Egypt’s state-run MENA news agency said the deal did not include the Syrian government. Russia has been a main backer of President Bashar Assad’s government, while Egypt has maintained intelligence and security cooperation with the government since 2013. “The residents of this area will stay in their homes and this (deal) will lift the siege and cease the fire,” Mohammed Alloush, of the Army of Islam rebel group, said by telephone. He confirmed that the Army of Islam, Jaysh al-Ababil and Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis, which is linked to the Palestinian Hamas group, were part of the agreement.
MENA said the deal was signed at the intelligence headquarters in Cairo early Thursday and went into effect at noon. It said the crossings south of Damascus will remain open for humanitarian access and said other opposition factions have been invited to join the cease-fire. The deal came as Syrian opposition activists said government troops are pushing deeper into an IS stronghold in the country’s east, the town of Mayadeen.