February 17, 2016

News Briefs – February 17, 2016

Iranian defense minister in Moscow to boost military ties

The Iranian defense minister is visiting Moscow for talks about closer military cooperation.
Gen. Hossein Dehghan met Feb. 16 with President Vladimir Putin and also held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.
Shoigu hailed a “high level of mutual trust” between Moscow and Tehran and their readiness to coordinate policies.
Russia and Iran both have backed Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout Syria’s civil war.
Dehghan said in an interview with Russian state television that Tehran wants to expand military and technical ties with Russia.
Russia has a contract with Iran to deliver long-range S-300 air defense missiles, and Tehran also has expressed interest in other Russian weapons.
Dehghan said earlier this month that Iran plans to sign a deal with Russia for the purchase of Su-30 fighter jets. AP

U.S. denies reports that one of its drones crashed in Somalia

The U.S. military denies reports from residents and rebels in southwestern Somalia that a suspected U.S. drone with six missiles crashed Feb. 15 in a rebel-held village in the Gedo region.
Spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command, Chuck Prichard, said all their “assets in this area are accounted for and we have no indication that any were involved in this reported incident.”
Al-Shabab, Somalia’s Islamic extremists, claimed on their radio station that their fighters have seized the crashed drone with the missiles. This has not been independently verified.
U.S. drones have killed several al-Shabab leaders in airstrikes in Somalia over the past year.
In a separate development, a Somali police officer says a bomb killed a former Somali defense minister in Mogadishu Monday.
Capt. Mohamed Hussein says that a bomb hidden in a vehicle carrying Muhyadin Mohamed Haji was detonated in the heart of the capital, killing him and wounding another person. Haji was the defense minister in Somalia’s transitional government in 2008.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, however al-Shabab often carries out such attacks. AP

EU calls on Turkey to halt military action in Syria

European Union officials are calling on Turkey to halt its military action in Syria after Turkish forces shelled positions held by a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia over the weekend.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said Feb. 15 that “only a few days ago, all of us including Turkey, sitting around the table decided steps to de-escalate and have a cessation of hostilities.”
She said more fighting “is obviously not what we expect.”
Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said “we have the plan for a cessation of hostilities and I think everybody has to abide by that.”
Syria’s main Kurdish faction, the People’s Protection Units, has been most effective in combating the Islamic State group, but Turkey appears uneasy over the group’s recent gains. AP

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