a new syrian army offensive backed by russian air power. activists say hundreds of civilians have been killed during the three month campaign. you're watching al jazeera live from our headquarters here in doha. also coming up, voting is underway in the central african republic after several delays, people decide on their new president. families leave ramadi as the army tries to clear remaining pockets of isil. vale park in the u.s. state
of missouri, the flooding is bad, the governor has called in the national guard to help out. the syrian army backed by russian airstrikes says it's made home advances in the town. newt offensive is in a strategically important area on the main road connecting the capital and the government stronghold damascus in the south. hashem joins us litsch now from southern turkey. hashem, just walk us through wyoming particular link is so important. >> it is important, because it has been a rebel stronghold for almost four years, since the start of the syrian uprising against the government of bashar al assad, this was one of the first areas where the rebels took control, further expanded,
and there are two types of factions operating there. there is al-nusra front, an al-qaeda affiliate along with other conservative groups, very well organized and powerful. at the same time, there are free syrian army groups trained by the americans and western allies of the syrian opposition. since yesterday, there's been intensive airstrikes by the russian fighter jets. the syrian army started shutting positions and then advancing towards the city. rebel fighters put out from differently areas, but say they will continue to fight. they have called for general mobilization. these factions have never been united in the past and therefore it remains to be seen whether they will be ail to regroup and mount a counter offensive or there's going to be the beginning of the end for their presence. >> it is important, as well, because it's just a road, therefore people can move up and
down that road, are are there strategic military facilities and installations around that area? >> there are strategic implications here. first of all, from there, rebel use to channel weapons and aid to their own groups operating in the outskirts of the capital damascus, particularly, the east. it is crucial for the rebels, because it was seen as a platform for the rebels to marsh towards the capital, damascus. this is always something a major source of concern for the syrian government. it seems that president bashar al assad is now willing to make military gains ahead of the crucial talks which are going to be held in switzerland. he would like to tell the international community that his army is making gains, that the opposition is losing, and
therefore they have to come together and negotiate a political settlement, which go ahead be in his favor. >> hashem, thanks very much. to the central african republican where voting is underway in the much delayed presidential and legislative elections. the country has been marred by violence since the overthrow of the president more than two years ago. an alliance of fighters overthrew the government in march of 2013. in august of that year, the leader of the rebels was sworn in as the interim president. in response to a surge of violence against civilians, france sent in 1600 soldiers to the central african republic in december of the same year. april, 2014, that's the significant month, hundreds of thousands fleeing the violence and the u.n. sent in a
peacekeeping force of 12,000 soldiers. in july of 2014, the selica rebels and a mostly christian militia agreed to a tentative ceasefire, taking us to today. these elections have been postponed four times in all since the month of february because of insecurity and logistical challenges. we have more. >> some polling stations opened very late and some opened without any election material, and that was here where things should be most otherwise. the head of the african union election observer union told me aside from the delays, their biggest concern was that some people had been turned away from polling stations like this. some people haven't received their voter cards and although they were told if they turned up with a receipt and another form of i.d. that they'd be able to vote. there's been communication break down between the voters and some of the polling stations.
people really want this election to mean an end to sectarian violence that has rocked central african republic. their hands are dipped in ink to prevent voting again. some allege fraud, because they say in some of the markets here, voter cards have failed. there was intimidation weeks ago, but so far on the whole, this election is moving forward peacefully and calmly. a single killing can lead to days of violence. for that reason, the new commander, head of the united nations peacekeeping force said his troops are on alert, ready to respond aggressively and swiftly to any flare up. >> the u.s. killed it has killed 10 isil leaders this month. they say some of linked to the attacks in paris in november.
the iraqi prime minister has been reemphasizing that the recapture of ramadi was an iraqi operation. baghdad differs with washington on how long it will take to fully defeat isil. we have more from washington. >> this is an alleged isil leader with ties to the mastermind of the recent paris attacks. with plans of his own to attack other western targets. the u.s. military said it killed him in an air strike somewhere inside syria on december 24, and that he was just one of 10 isil leaders targeted this month. >> our ability to dismantle their facilitation net works, our ability to dismantle their ground command and control, our ability to take away some of their enforcers, executioners and extortionists, that eats away at their ability to in still fear. >> the obama administration
talked about attacking isil on many fronts, financial and social media but it's the military campaign that has captured the most attention. the u.s. has spent much of the past few days praising the iraqi military success in driving isil out of ramadi, a city iraqi troops fled back in may. military leaders applauded the iraqi troops fight to retake the hub of the iraqi oil industry and sinjar, home to both minority i can't sees and sunni. we tell people that we are coming to liberate you from isil and isil will flee ramadi. >> analysts say the failure to mention the u.s. wasn't an oversight. >> i think what the prime minister is trying to say, this is iraqis taking control of their own destiny, because if it
looks like this was more u.s. operation than an iraqi operation, this, again, would feed into the narrative that it's the west that is struggling with groups like isis. >> while iraq and the u.s. celebrate what they call progress against isil, there is a split on the way forward. al abadi said 2016 will be the year iraq kicks isil out of mosul. the u.s. view, it might take longer. rosalyn jordan, al jazeera, washington. iraqi forces and sunni tribal fighters say they are frightening their grip on ramadi after recapturing it, sweeping and clearing operations are underway there. isil said it launched a counter offensive. joining us from erbil, stamina, the government still celebrating their victory in ramadi, the p.m. visiting it, of course, raising the flag, but he seems to be unaware that there's still a lot more that still has to be
done. >> the celebration seems to be limited to the higher echelons of power, the leadership of the security forces on the ground are still confronting a number of attacks from isil fighters. isil sources have told us that they've carried out at least three suicide bombings in central ramadi and another bombing in eastern ramadi. the iraqi forces have been trying to push back isil from other parts of ramadi. they are in full control of the south and southwest, but they're still struggling to enter the north and take over the central parts. they've been using rockets and vehicle bombs that are actually fortified. they try and get closer to the lines before detonating them and the iraqi forces obviously trying to diffuse them before they come closer. they've been asking for coalition air support as well as the air support of the iraqi air force to try and help them win these areas.
>> with ramadi now retaken, the government's now turning its attention to other isil held areas. >> yes, we've seen statements ranging from its desire to take on mosul to how often it's going to be easier to take on places like this fallujah. it is nestled in between ramadi and baghdad, so it's going to be easier for them, it's a major morale boost for the iraqi forces, largely seen as a force to fled to a force that can now take on the target and obviously take areas back from them. fallujah is going to be a different battle. there are a lot of civilians and fallujah has been under siege for a lot of months. on that point of civilians, in the fight in ramadi as well we see thousands of people forced out of their homes and those homes have been decimated to the ground as the iraqi forces and isil continue the fight for
months, here's what we heard from some of those who have just left the city of ramadi. >> when security was gone from anbar province, life was dead. bloody people came upon us, people that don't know the meaning of humanity. god bless us for steering us. isil told us to get out or we are going to booby trap the house us. they are beastles with no humanity. >> this is the sentiment that we are not seeing for the first time. these are statements that we see, people coming out of their cities after the iraqi forces go in. they thank they will. they move on to camps, but then the real work starts of rehabilitation, of rebuilding and trying to build confidence among these people that they can go back to their homes. so far now, from what we've seen, it looks like it's a long
way ahead before these people can actually go back to their lives in ramadi. >> thanks very much. a fighter jet taking part in the saudi-led coalition airstrikes has crashed. houthi rebel claims that they brought it down are said to be incorrect. the pilot survived the accident close to the border with yemen. it was less than 24 hours ago when three soldiers were killed on the saudi border. >> swiss bank accounts have been frozen. the accounts were allegedly used for bribes involving fifa. plenty more still to come here only program. details about the death of a top adviser to the north korean leader killed in a car crash. they may feel unwanted, but
violence sings the overthrow of the president by rebels in 2013. iraqi families are being removed from ramadi as full control of the city between iraqi forces and isil continues. the military said some of these people were used as human shields by isil. hundreds of people in the midwest u.s. continue to suffer because of the bat flooding there. nearly 70 tornadoes and nearly 400 floods have left missouri and illinois almost submerged. more than 40 people have died. rivers have touched record levels, closing hundreds of roads and putting stop to shipping. residents of st. louis have been helping with sandbagging as they prepare for a flood along the mississippi river. we are joined live from vale park. the thunderstorms moved on, but the rising water levels have not. >> exactly, peter. in fact, they're still rising as we speak. since we last talked in the last hour, you can see we're west of st. louis along a major
interstate, interstate 44. this water has been rising all morning long. this is the miramac river that feeds into the mississippi. the national guard has been called in to help evacuation and secure the area. all this started a few days ago and all the water started rising in the creeks and the smaller rivers west of here. in fact, there's a river west of here called the burbus river that has crested 35 feet above its normal banks. it's about 20 feet above flood stage. all that water has now been rushing this way towards st. louis and as it goes towards st. louis, that's the next focus for the governor. that's a big deal, because that's where the main population
center is before all that water starts heading down the mississippi. we've had a reported at least 13 deaths here in missouri because of flooding, folks washed away in their cars and some eight deaths in illinois. among the deaths, five foreign soldiers who were training here at an american base in missouri, the base is called fort leonard wood. we don't know the nationalities of those five foreign soldiers. they were hearing training with the americans. their car was swept away december 26. the fifth body was just discovered in the last day or so. >> i notice the national weather service is saying 17 million americans are currently living in a how else or a property that has a flood warning on it. >> yes, and where respondents are not putting down sandbags, they are just getting out. the governor is recommending
people who live near the water to get out, not to tempt fate here. there are 11 gees to are concerned about. the governor said there are at least 18 for so levees that he considers vulnerable. they stand along these rivers that flow into the mississippi and the mississippi itself. if they are broached, that causes real trouble, because this water has no place to go but out into the outlying areas and all this water is heading towards places like memphis and new orleans. they will be getting this in the next few days. a court threw out a case against a sup as i hadry to a plantation giant for contributing to the annual shroud of smoke blanketing indonesia. the government has accused it of illegally burning thousands of hectares of forest to make room for its crops. we have more from the island of sumatra. >> ahead of the verdict, an viral group stages a protest to remind everyone of what's at
stake, indonesia's people an its forests. it accused a company of starting fires in sumatra in 2014 to clear for plantation us. the administration was seeking in damages. >> why would the company need to change its practices? we have proven in court that our client has done everything in accordance with the law. >> it's a setback for the ministry. the licenses of several companies were suspended over this year's forest fires. >> we are going to appeal this decision. it's not only to bring justice for the people of indonesia who have been suffering all this while, but also for the dignity of this country. >> forest fires and the resulting haze that blankets indonesia and neighboring countries have become an annual
occurrence, straining relations with malaysia and singapore. this year's fires caused flight cancellations and school closures. more than a dozen people have died and half a million fell sick from respiratory ill insists. the world bank estimates this year's fires will cost more than $15 billion. some say small scale farmers who use slash and burn methods to clear land are to blame. others believe it is the plantation owners clearing vast tracts of land who are responsible. many agree it is lax enforcement of the law and corruption in indonesia that allow the problem to continue. >> they say we can burn. i think it's not a good idea. i'm totally disagree and very
disappointed. >> the court's verdict isn't the only thing that concerns environmental groups. >> environmentalists say satellite pictures show hot spots have been detected. once the dry season starts in march, it is worried these fires could grow even bigger. >> the yearly phenomenon that has grown into an environmental disaster for indonesia and the region is unlikely to go away soon. al jazeera, indonesia. north korea state news agency says a toppeped a sizer o kim jong-un died in a car crash. >> very few details have been released about the circumstances surrounding the car crash that killed north korean. his death was announced in a brief statement. >> member of the political bureau and secretary of the central committee of the workers party of korea and deputy to the supreme people's assembly of the
democratic people's republic of korea died sadly in a traffic accident as 615 on december 29. >> a secretary of the workers party was one of north korea's most senior officials. he was an experienced negotiator who played an important role in talks with south korea. in august, he helped diffuse tensions between two sides after an explosion injured two south korean soldiers at the border with north korea. the south korean government has paid tribute to his skill and hard work during those talks. >> we offer condolences over his death. he worked together with south korea to achieve a meaningful agreement at high level talks held in august. >> he was, according to state media, north korea's leader kim jong-un's closest comrade and a solid revolutionary partner. his death is raising questions about what's really happening
inside north korea's secretive government. south korea say kim jong-un that executed 70 officials, including his uncle since becoming supreme leader four years ago. >> this time, looks like this is different, because kim jong-un showed his condolences and we see many signs that there is some kind of surprise on their side, so looks like unlike other cases where we really have some serious speculations, this one, i don't think they deserve as much of the speculation, but it looks like and sounds like a traffic accident. >> the state funeral will take place on thursday. it's not clear what the death of such an experienced advisor will mean for north korea and its relations with its neighbor. al jazeera. the french foreign minister condemned last week's violence in corsica. on friday, protestors vandalized a muslim prayer room on a house estate. we have more. >> the french interior minister
is here on the mediterranean island in the capital to see for himself the aftermath of damage caused when on christmas eve a fire was deliberately lit here in this housing estate largely populated by immigrants. the intention to lure firefighters in who were then attacked. the following day in response, a local mosque was ransacked amounted day after that, nationalists marched through the center of town chanting anti plus limb and racist statements. he was here to condemn all forms of violence and racism, but france has a huge amount of work to do to begin to bridge divides in community relations that have never been under more strain than they are now following the attacks in paris on november 13. the nash right front national party may not have done as well as expected in recent region ales, but here, nationalists have taken control of the legislature with immigrant communities in places like this
perhaps feeling less and less welcome. >> hundreds of thousands of refugees have arrived in greece this year, many of them fleeing syria. tourist numbers are down, but some greek businesses say they're getting an unexpected boost from the new rainfalls. from the northern city, we have this report. >> it is greece's second largest city, with a population of more than a million people. the city's coastline is the major tourist attraction, but it's also an hour's drive to the border with macedonia, which is the main crossing point for refugees to the rest of europe. over a million refugees have passed through greece in 2015. many went through this city. that has brought much needed cash to the local economy. >> some of the refugees came here with money to spend and get by, as far as the economy of the city's concerned, all restaurants, cafes and boutiques, all shops felt a positive boost. >> cheap hotel rooms have been
in demand. >> the hotel association says more than 25,500 syrian reef gees have booked a room for a night or two in the first half of 2015. that number is expected to rise because there are other refugees from different nationalities staying at cheap hotels. the cheapest room you can find costs about 20 euros. >> the city's mayor said greece is not after the refugees' money. >> people are mainly syrians, which has some economic ability. they stayed in the hotel for one to four days, but this is just a passing point. in a crisis, there are some people who make money. i understand that the way they make money, passing through --
who knows how much money they get there. >> at this special station near the border with mass, refugees are strapped. they can wait days before police allow them to continue their journey. that means they spend more money to eat and drink, boosting trade for local shop owners. >> it's very big. it's become an industry. they ask for sweet and sugar products and basic stuff like scarves. >> demand has picked up through the normally quiet winter months. refugees from athens to the border with macedonia, business is good, this driver transports about 200 people a week. greece said the crisis is costing it hundreds of millions of dollars but the refugees are helping some greeks and their
businesses to flourish. >> lots more news whenever you won't it on aljazeera.com. aljazeera.com. missouri's governor warning residents to head to higher ground. chicago's mayor is about to roll out new reforms for the city's police department. a decision over food stamps in louisiana could leave tens of thousands of people hungry at the start of the new year.