Islamic World News(17 Feb 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)
Didn't Ask for It, Says Hurriyat as Govt Withdraws Security of 6 Separatist Leaders after Pulwama Attack

















The Jammu and Kashmir authorities on Sunday decided to withdraw the security cover of five separatist leaders, including Mirwaiz Umer Farooq in a reaction to the Puwama terror attack which killed 40 CRPF jawans.

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Didn't Ask for It, Says Hurriyat as Govt Withdraws Security of 6 Separatist Leaders After Pulwama Attack

Malegaon Ex-MLA Mufti Ismail Wants Muslim Regiment in Army to Take On Pakistan

After Pulwama Attack, Govt Withdraws Security Cover of Five Kashmir Separatists

In Imran Khan's Naya Pakistan, Terrorist Hafiz Saeed Opens Journalism School

PM Imran Takes Notice of Action against ‘Sectarian’ Groups Ahead Of Saudi Visit

Indonesia's Election Ignites Piety Debates, Causing Divisions within Families

‘Pakistan Will Pay Price for Harbouring Terrorists’: Iran Warns After Suicide Bombing Near Its Border

Terrorism Must Be Countered At Global and Regional Levels: Bangladesh Minister

US Call To Freeze Funds For Terror Outfits May Benefit India

Donald Trump Urges Europe To 'Take Back' Hundreds Of Captured ISIS Fighters

 

India

Didn't Ask for It, Says Hurriyat as Govt Withdraws Security of 6 Separatist Leaders After Pulwama Attack

Malegaon Ex-MLA Mufti Ismail Wants Muslim Regiment in Army to Take On Pakistan

After Pulwama Attack, Govt Withdraws Security Cover of Five Kashmir Separatists

On NIA radar: Red car witnesses saw speeding along convoy

In Pak, Azhar under ‘protective custody’. No such check on funds

Bodh Gaya blast case: Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh operative held from Kolkata

Terror attack should not be an excuse to persecute or harass people from J-K: Mehbooba Mufti

Pulwama terror attack: In condolence message to India, China skips mention of Pakistan, JeM chief

‘We Stand United, Condemn Support for Terrorism From Across The Border’: All-Party Resolution On Pulwama Attack

Shia Muslims in Uttar Pradesh likely to support BJP say saffron party is inclusive and gave them important positions

Dehradun: Medical student arrested for making objectionable comments on Pulwama attack

Pulwama attack: Cricket Club of India covers portrait of Pak PM Imran Khan

Pulwama terror attack: Here’s what Bollywood’s three Khans tweet

Pulwama bomber Adil Ahmad Dar became terrorist after he was beaten by troops, say parents

Lucknow student rusticated, arrested for messages against slain troopers

Masood Azhar gave nod for Pulwama attack from Army base hospital in Pakistan

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Pakistan

In Imran Khan's Naya Pakistan, Terrorist Hafiz Saeed Opens Journalism School

PM Imran Takes Notice of Action against ‘Sectarian’ Groups Ahead Of Saudi Visit

Doubt Jaish’s ability to do this, India needs a scapegoat: Pakistan minister

Saudi crown prince heads for Pakistan amid India tensions

Pak Suspends Registration Of Its Own School For Performing On Indian Song

Islamabad rolls out red carpet for Saudi crown prince today

Pakistan submits reply before ICJ in Kulbhushan Jadhav case

Asif slams Javed Akhtar, Azmi for cancelling Karachi trip

Pakistan should rethink decades-old transactional relationship with Saudi Arabia

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Southeast Asia

Indonesia's Election Ignites Piety Debates, Causing Divisions within Families

Bank Indonesia Mulls Accumulating Global Sukuk As Shariah Buffer

Hadi: Muslims used by ‘enemies of Islam’, now non-Muslims running the country

Malaysian Islamist party PAS admits lying

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Mideast

‘Pakistan Will Pay Price for Harbouring Terrorists’: Iran Warns After Suicide Bombing Near Its Border

More than 85 Houthis killed in battles across Yemen

Erdogan offers seminary exchange for Greek mosque minarets

Leader's Military Aide: Pakistan, ISI Should Account for Terrorist Attack against IRGC

Erdogan says won’t go back on S-400 deal with Russia

Pence's allegations of Iran harboring Nazi-like anti-Semitism absurd: Foreign ministry

9 Saudi soldiers killed in Yemeni fire on southern border posts

Warsaw conference sought to kill Palestinian cause, isolate Iran: Nasrallah

UN warns of worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza

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South Asia

Terrorism Must Be Countered At Global and Regional Levels: Bangladesh Minister

China Suggests Pak-India Joint Efforts to Curb Terrorism

22 Taliban militants killed in Uruzgan and Ghazni airstrikes

Jamaat regrets Razzaq’s loss, disagrees with his stance

Bangladesh welcomes ICC ruling on Rohingya abuse probe

Child among 3 killed in Kandahar roadside bomb explosion

NATO SG, President Ghani met on the sidelines of Munich Security Conference

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North America

US Call To Freeze Funds For Terror Outfits May Benefit India

United States Backs India On Naming Masood Azhar As Global Terrorist

ISIS ‘caliphate’ on brink of defeat in Syria as Trump urges Europe to do more

Pence: Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world

US to ask allies to send 'hundreds of troops' to Syria

Trump urges Europe to 'take back' Daesh terrorists

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Europe

Donald Trump Urges Europe To 'Take Back' Hundreds Of Captured ISIS Fighters

Munich Security Summit: Sisi Calls for Action over Online Extremism

Merkel: US pullout from Syria risks boosting Russia, Iran influence

Erdogan dubs Macron a ‘political novice’ over Armenia issue

Poland summons Israeli ambassador to clarify Netanyahu Holocaust comments

Trump wants Europe to take Daesh captives in Syria

Syrian refugees' fabric showcased at London

Germany rejects US call to leave Iran nuclear deal

Weapons sales to Saudi Arabia unlawful: UK report

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Arab World

US-Backed Militants Collect Lion Share Of Aid Destined For Syrians In Rukban Camp: Report

Daesh ‘caliphate’ on brink of defeat in Syria as Trump urges Europe to do more

Saudi Arabia condemns terrorist attack on Egyptian troops in North Sinai

ISIS claims North Sinai attack, says 20 Egyptian troops killed

Regime shelling kills 18 civilians in northwest Syria

ISIS down to half a square kilometer in Syria: commander

Homs: Syrian Army Pounds ISIL's Movements Near Palmyra

US Dispatches Troops, Advanced Military Equipment to Iraq's Kirkuk

Syrian, Russian Military Convoys Arrive in Idlib for Fresh Operations against Tahrir Al-Sham Terrorists

ISIL Ends Presence in Eastern Euphrates after Agreement with US

Hezbollah leader blasts Trump over fight against ISIS

Seven militants killed in Egypt’s North Sinai

Kurd-led forces: Civilians prompt delay in assault on last ISIS enclave

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Africa

Sudanese policeman dies from wounds after protesters stone vehicle

Tunisian workers kidnapped in Libya, says foreign ministry

Boko Haram kills eight in northeast Nigeria, militia says

Suicide attack on mosque in Nigeria kills 11

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/didn-t-ask-for-it,-says-hurriyat-as-govt-withdraws-security-of-6-separatist-leaders-after-pulwama-attack/d/117771

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Didn't Ask for It, Says Hurriyat as Govt Withdraws Security of 6 Separatist Leaders After Pulwama Attack

News18.comUpdated:February 17, 2019

Srinagar: The government has decided to withdraw the security provided to six separatist leaders, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, in Jammu and Kashmir in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, news agency PTI reported on Sunday.

Besides Mirwaiz, the security cover of Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Lone, Hashim Qureshi, Fazal Haq Qureshi and Shabir Shah has been withdrawn, they said.

While there was no categorisation of security for these leaders, the state government in consultation with the Centre had provided them ad hoc security, keeping in mind the threat to their lives from some militant groups.

Militants of Hizbul Mujahideen had killed Umar's father, Mirwaiz Farooq, in 1990 and Abdul Gani Lone in 2002.

No security was provided to pro-Pakistan separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and JKLF chief Yaseen Malik.

According to the order, all security and vehicles provided to the separatists will stand withdrawn by Sunday evening. No security forces or cover will be provided, under any pretext, to them or any other separatists. If they have any other facilities provided by the government, they are to be withdrawn forthwith.

Police will review if there are any other separatists who have security or facilities and they will be withdrawn immediately, the officials said.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, during his visit to Srinagar on Friday, had said security given to people getting funds from Pakistan and its snooping agency ISI should be reviewed.

"Some elements in Jammu and Kashmir have links with the ISI and terrorist organisations. Their security should be reviewed," he had said after reviewing security in the aftermath of the dastardly terror attack.

Forty CRPF personnel were killed and five injured on Thursday in one of the deadliest terror strikes in Jammu and Kashmir when a Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide bomber blew up an explosive-laden vehicle near their bus in Pulwama district.

The bus was part of a convoy of 78 vehicles carrying CRPF personnel from Jammu to Srinagar.

Hurriyat spokesman termed the government order a propaganda and said it has no bearing on the Kashmir dispute or the situation on ground and it can in no way change the reality.

"With or without these police personnel at the Hurriyat residence, everything remains the same," the spokesman said in a statement, adding, the whenever an issue was made, the Mirwaiz announced from the pulpit of the Jamia Masjid that the government can withdraw the security cover.

The Mirwaiz is one of the religious heads in Kashmir valley.

The spokesman said the Hurriyat leaders had never asked for security

"In fact, it was the government that insisted on keeping the personnel based on what they said was their assessment of threat perception. It was the government's decision at that time, today it's their decision to remove it. It's not an issue for us," the statement said.

(With PTI inputs)

Source: https://www.news18.com/news/india/govt-withdraws-security-of-5-separatist-leaders-in-aftermath-of-pulwama-terror-attack-2039215.html

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Malegaon Ex-MLA Mufti Ismail Wants Muslim Regiment In Army To Take On Pakistan

February 17, 2019

Muslim cleric and former Malegaon MLA Mufti Ismail has called for a setting up of a special Muslim regiment in the Army to take on Pakistan. He also said that if the government accepts his demand, he will raise a force of 25,000 Muslim men who can be absorbed in this regiment.

Two days after 40 CRPF personnel were killed in a terror attack in Kashmir, Ismail said: “What Pakistan has done is heinous and anti-Islamic. If this violence is being done in the name of Islam and Muslims, I would request the Indian government to help raise a Muslim regiment that will fight this battle against Pakistan. I personally will help in ensuring the recruitment of 25,000 Muslim men from Malegaon alone in this regiment.”

Ismail had organised a protest in Malegaon on Friday to protest against the Pulwama attack.

The cleric-turned-politician had shot into the limelight after the 2006 Malegaon blasts. He managed to tap into local resentment to float a peoples’ front, Kaumi Mahaz. It had done particularly well in the 2007 municipal elections and Ismail was also elected as the city’s MLA in 2009. He contested the 2014 Assembly elections unsuccessfully on a NCP ticket.

https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/malegaon-ex-mla-wants-muslim-regiment-in-army-to-take-on-pakistan-5587615/

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After Pulwama attack, Govt withdraws security cover of five Kashmir separatists

February 17, 2019

Days after Pulwama suicide-bombing in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed, the Jammu and Kashmir administration Sunday withdrew security cover provided to five separatist leaders including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, reported news agency PTI. “No security cover will be provided under any pretext to these five leaders and other separatists,” a security official told PTI.

The decision comes a day after a high-level meeting chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday afternoon. The meeting in the national capital, which was attended by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba and Director of Intelligence Bureau Rajiv Jain, took stock of the security measures adopted to foil any attempts by Pakistan-based terror groups to disrupt peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

In a press conference in Srinagar on Friday, Singh said the security given to people getting funds from Pakistan and its snooping agency ISI should be reviewed. “Some elements in Jammu and Kashmir have links with the ISI and the terrorist organisation. Their security should be reviewed,” he had said.

Home Secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir government carried out the security review of the separatists. Most of them were provided security by the state police. Many Hurriyat leaders including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Abdul Gani Bhat, Moulana Abbas Ansari enjoy police protection in Jammu and Kashmir.

After 40 CRPF officials were killed in a suicide car-bomb in Pulwama, separatists blamed the attack on “delay in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute”. “People and leadership of Kashmir regret every killing that happens on its soil. The delay in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute… is wreaking havoc in Kashmir especially,” a statement from separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik read.

“If killing and counter-killings have to stop and if we really want peace in the region, we have to put an end to hostilities… engage and listen to the concerns of all three stakeholders and address them in the spirit of humanity and justice. Resolve the Kashmir dispute for all times,” they added.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pulwama-attack-security-kashmir-separatists-5587922/

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In Imran Khan's Naya Pakistan, terrorist Hafiz Saeed opens journalism school

Ankit Kumar

February 16, 2019

The United Nations (UN) designated terrorist group Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) under the leadership of Hafiz Saeed has started a journalism school right in the heart of Pakistan's Lahore city.

The Institute of Strategy and Communication (ISAC), a journalism school in Lahore is now offering short term and long term courses in reporting, photography, videography, Vlogging, social media influence, short film and documentary production.

According to the brochures released by the institute, a weeklong short term certificate course costs Rs 3000. The promotional video features at least two close associates of UN-designated global terrorist Hafiz Saeed.

Saifullah Khalid, who is the president of Hafiz Saeed's political party Milli Muslim League (MIM) and designated terrorist Hafiz Abdul Rauf, who heads Hafiz Saeed-run Lashkar-e-Taiba's (LeT) arm Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) visit the institute regularly.

While JuD and FIF are globally designated terrorist organisations, they were officially put on a watch list by the Pakistan government last year, days before the international watchdog against money laundering and financing of terrorism Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had put Pakistan on a greylist.

In the video released by ISAC, MIM president Saifullah Khalid could be heard saying, "media is a new war weapon, our enemies are using the media to their advantage, the new age four frontal wars could only be won using media".

Meanwhile, Chief of FIF, Hafiz Abdul Rauf says, "Camera and pen are the strongest tools in fifth generation warfare which are being taught here".

According to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), FIF has been used to launder money to support terrorist activities of Lashkar-e-Taiyaba (LeT).

Earlier on Thursday (February 14) after the car bomb attack on a security convoy in Jammu and Kashmir that killed 40 personnel, Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a three-line statement stressed that it "strongly rejected any insinuation that sought to link the attack to the state of Pakistan without investigations."

While the global community has come together to express solidarity with India in wake of the Pulwama terror attack, the US has called out nations "not to provide safe havens to terrorists".

Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has claimed responsibility for Thursday's car bomb attack, the worst in decades of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. Condemning the incident several central ministers vowed a befitting reply.

Jaish identified the suicide bomber as Adil Ahmad Dar and even released a video of him brandishing rifles.

https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/hafiz-saeed-journalism-school-pulwama-terror-attack-1457543-2019-02-16

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PM Imran takes notice of action against ‘sectarian’ groups ahead of Saudi visit

Feb 17, 2019

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday took notice of orders issued by the Interior Ministry regarding the tracking and ‘sensitisation’ of a quintet of Shia organisations that are suspected of running a social media campaign against the visit of the Saudi delegation to Pakistan.

The communique, a copy of which made the rounds on social media on Friday, was purportedly sent by the ministry to all provincial chief secretaries, inspectors general of police, chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

It singled out Tameer-i-Watan, Imamia Students Organisa­tion Talibaat, Karachi, Imamia Students Organisa­tion, Peshawar, Tehre­ek-i-Hamayat-i-Mazlu­meen-i-Jahan-i-Pakistan and Shia Wahdat News, and directed the PTA and the cybercrime wing of the FIA to track their activists and block their social media accounts.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, however, announced on Twitter that the prime minister “has taken serious notice of the contents of notification purportedly issued by Ministry of Interior referring to certain sects/classes [and] secretary interior has been directed to launch an inquiry to this effect immediately”.

The aforementioned communication, which has the words “for eyes only” mentioned at the bottom, was neither confirmed nor denied by a senior official of the Interior Ministry on Friday.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/02/16/pm-imran-takes-notice-of-action-against-sectarian-groups-ahead-of-saudi-visit/

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Indonesia's election ignites piety debates, causing divisions within families

Feb 17, 2019

Gayatri, who only wants to be referred to by her first name, considers herself a "normal" practising Muslim woman.

She wears a hijab, prays five times a day, fasts during Ramadan, and regularly gives to charity — all pillars of Islam.

However, the mother of two said some of her extended family — mainly the older generation — say she does not meet their "Islamic standard".

She said it all started after the election for Jakarta's governor in 2017, which was widely seen as a test of religious and ethnic tolerance in Indonesia — the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.

The election campaign was highly charged and divisive, with the incumbent candidate Basuki Tjahaja Purnama — also known as Ahok — being tried on blasphemy charges.

"I was sharing my family portrait in a WhatsApp group, [and] we were all wearing chequered shirts [trademark outfits of Ahok] and one of them asked me why I'm supporting Christian Chinese?" Gayatri said.

Gayatri knew some of her uncles and aunties were openly supporting former army general Prabowo Subianto and the conservative Islamic parties.

"They are fully aware that I'm practising, but still they question whether I'm following the right teaching," she said.

She said it seemed her uncles and aunties thought they were better Muslims than others.

Gayatri is not alone in her experiences; many Indonesians face heated debate over political choices within their own families and circles of friends almost daily.

And it is intensifying ahead of the April 17 election between President Joko Widodo and Mr Prabowo, who will go face-to-face in a debate on Sunday night.

Nadirsyah Hosen, a senior lecturer in Islamic law at Monash University, said the politicisation of religion was dividing the nation right down to the grassroots level.

"Whether this is going to be temporary or continue after the election, we will see," Mr Hosen told the ABC.

He said while outsiders, including western media, may think Indonesia is shifting further to the right because of Islamic preachers, not all preachers were radical.

He said the polarisation of politics in Indonesia was unique compared to other Muslims countries in the Middle East.

Influence of Islamic clerics

Talking at a Monash University Indonesian seminar, associate professor Julian Millie, an expert on Islamic studies, said Muslim clerics had significant involvement and influence in Indonesia's political arena, both at the national and local level.

A case in point was the decision by Mr Widodo — who is often accused of not being religious enough — to choose conservative Muslim cleric Ma'ruf Amin to be his running mate.

Many experts said Mr Amin was there to be a "political shield" for Mr Widodo.

On the other side of the contest, Mr Subianto tried to get Abdul Somad, a popular Islamic cleric with millions of followers on social media, to be his running mate.

Mr Somad declined the offer but is supporting Mr Subianto.

Mr Millie recently went on a month-long tour with an Islamic cleric following the campaign of a local candidate in West Java province.

"The Islamic preacher gave the main presentation that might go for 50 minutes and then the candidate had their say for five minutes," he said, adding that the candidate only wanted to be associated with the preacher to build a strong political profile.

He said in local elections, candidates relied heavily on Islamic clerics to get their messages out to big audiences.

Gayatri said her conservative extended family members never tried to persuade other family members to change their political views, but instead "attacked them" in forums like WhatsApp.

"We experienced two massive family disputes over political choices," she said.

"Personally, it's disturbing for me. I'm tired and sad."

But she said she would continue to be herself even though it was not easy.

Although the debates are intense on social media, Gayatri said she was still willing to meet her extended family during the Eid celebration and other family events.

She said breaking family ties and friendships for political reasons was not necessary and was also against Indonesia values, which put family first.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-17/indonesias-election-and-religion-putting-strain-on-family-ties/10811722

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‘Pakistan will pay price for harbouring terrorists’: Iran warns after suicide bombing near its border

Feb 17, 2019

Iran warned neighbouring Pakistan on Saturday it would “pay a heavy price” for allegedly harbouring militants who killed 27 of its elite Revolutionary Guards in a suicide bombing near the border earlier this week, state television reported.

Revolutionary Guards chief Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari also accused Tehran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of supporting militant Sunni groups that attack Iranian forces, saying they could face “reprisal operations.”

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE deny backing such militants.

“Why do Pakistan’s army and security body ... give refuge to these anti-revolutionary groups? Pakistan will no doubt pay a high price,” Jafari said in remarks live on state television.

Jafari was addressing a large crowd gathered for the funeral of the victims of Wednesday’s suicide bombing, which took place in a southeastern region where security forces are facing a rise in attacks by militants from the country’s Sunni Muslim minority. “Just in the past year, six or seven suicide attacks were neutralised but they were able to carry out this one,” Jafari told the mourners, who packed a square in the central city of Isfahan and roads leading to it.

The Sunni group Jaish al Adl (Army of Justice), which says it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for the ethnic minority Baluchis, claimed responsibility for the attack.

“The treacherous Saudi and UAE governments should know that Iran’s patience has ended and we will no longer stand your secret support for these anti-Islam criminals,” Jafari said.

“We will avenge the blood of our martyrs from the Saudi and UAE governments and ask the President (Hassan Rouhani) ... to leave our hands free more than ever for reprisal operations,” Jafari told the crowd, drawing chants of “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest).

Iran’s Shi’ite Muslim authorities say militant groups operate from safe havens in Pakistan and have repeatedly called on the neighbouring country to crack down on them.

Jafari’s remarks came amid heightening regional tensions after Israel and the Gulf Arab states attended a summit in the Polish capital Warsaw this week where the United States hoped to ratchet up pressure against Iran.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/iran-says-pakistan-to-pay-high-price-over-suicide-attack-warns-saudi/story-ml0qRuUJIDApA412qR7MSI.html

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Terrorism must be countered at global and regional levels: Bangladesh Minister

by Shameen

Feb 16, 2019

Kolkata: Bangladesh Information Minister Hasan Mahmud on Saturday condemned the terror attack on a paramilitary convoy in Jammu and Kashmir that killed 49 troopers and said terrorism has to be countered globally and regionally.

“We condemn the attack.. the Bangladesh government has officially condemned it. Terrorism is a global problem. We have been suffering because of terrorism. I am also a victim of terrorist attack,” he said at a get-together event organised by the Kolkata Press Club.

The suicide attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy carrying troopers towards Srinagar had blown up a bus when an explosive-packed SUV rammed into it, causing the death of some 40 troopers at the spot on Thursday. Nine injured succumbed subsequently.

Mahmud said that all the terrorist groups have their own regional and global networks but his country was cooperating with India against the threat.

“So, we need to fight against terrorist attacks regionally and globally. Bangladesh government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is working with India and other countries as well. Whoever is linked or patronising this kind of attacks, we condemn everyone,” he said.

Asked whether Pakistan should be isolated in the international forums following the Pulwama attack,he did not respond.

He said there are terrorist groups like Harkat-ul-Jihad, Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and many others which were fomenting disturbance in Bangladesh but their activities have now been effectively contained.

“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina effectively contained (terrorists) attacks. We would not say that we have completely eradicated all these terrorist groups. (But) They are controlled,” he said.

Asked about the alleged Bangladeshi terrorists from JMB being arrested in India, Mahmud said both the countries are cooperating each other and security agencies from both the countries have been coordinating and sharing information.

According to him, his country has taken several steps to curtail terror activities on its soil.

“As we have taken several steps to curb terror activities on our soil, they no longer have a fertile ground for breeding in Bangladesh, that may be the reason they are trying to cross over to India,” he added.

https://www.siasat.com/news/terrorism-must-be-countered-global-and-regional-levels-bangladesh-minister-1468151/

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US call to freeze funds for terror outfits may benefit India

Feb 16, 2019

Washington’s call for Islamabad to “freeze without delay” the funds and assets of United Nation Security Council-designated terror groups such as JeM is expected to strengthen India’s hands when the FATF reviews Pakistan’s action against terror financing in Paris next week.

The Financial Action Task Force, which placed Pakistan on its “grey list” last June for failing to do enough to counter the financing of UN-designated terror groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba and their affiliates, will hold its working group and plenary meetings in the French capital during February 17-22.

The meetings will include a review of steps taken so far by Pakistan on a 27-point action plan the country has to implement by September, people familiar with developments said.

Days ahead of the crucial meetings, a US state department spokesperson said in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack by the JeM that Pakistan should deny safe haven to terrorists and “freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of individuals and entities on the UNSC 1267 sanctions list”.

The UN Security Council sanctioned JeM under Resolution 1267 in 2001, making it mandatory for member states to deny the group access to arms, freeze its financial assets and prevent foreign travel by the group’s leaders.

India, the UK and the US received unprecedented support from China and Saudi Arabia for the move last year to include Pakistan in FATF’s grey list. In January, the Asia Pacific Group of FATF had assessed steps taken by Pakistan to implement the 27-point action plan at a meeting in Sydeny.

During the three-day meet in Sydney, the Pakistani delegation was given 28 questions regarding actions it has taken to counter the financing of terror groups including LeT according media reports.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/us-call-to-freeze-funds-for-terror-outfits-may-benefit-india/story-kSZxloH8MrF1vQy837V3pM.html

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Donald Trump urges Europe to 'take back' hundreds of captured ISIS fighters

February 17, 2019

US President Donald Trump said on Sunday morning the United States was asking European allies to "take back over 800" ISIS fighters captured in Syria and put them on trial.

"The Caliphate is ready to fall," he said in a Tweet. "The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them..."

US-backed fighters in Syria are poised to capture ISIS' last, tiny enclave on the Euphrates, the battle commander said on Saturday, bringing its self-declared caliphate to the brink of total defeat.

"The US does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe...We do so much, and spend so much - Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing," he added on Twitter.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

 The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial. The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them........

38.1K

9:21 AM - Feb 17, 2019

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Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

 ....The U.S. does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go. We do so much, and spend so much - Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!

36.7K

9:31 AM - Feb 17, 2019

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The United States is assisting SDF fighters in Syria, but plan to withdraw from the country once the last territory held by ISIS is reclaimed.

Mr Trump has frequently criticised European allies for what he considers an inadequate contribution to collective security, most notably over defence spending as a part of Nato obligations.

As well as the approximately 800 ISIS fighters held in Kurdish-run prisons in northern Syria, there are also more than 4,000 family members of captured fighters held in displacement camps.

The issue of what to do with those who left their country to fight for or live in the Caliphate was reignited in the United Kingdom last week after the news that a girl who left London aged 15 now wants to return home, four years later.

Some of those who have fought for ISIS have been prosecuted and imprisoned, but the process is long and expensive. Foreign governments fear taking back and imprisoning ISIS fighters because of the security risk they may pose.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/donald-trump-urges-europe-to-take-back-hundreds-of-captured-isis-fighters-1.826613

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India

 

On NIA radar: Red car witnesses saw speeding along convoy

February 17, 2019

Among the first leads in the NIA probe into the Pulwama attack is a red Maruti Eeco car which eye-witnesses have told investigators was seen speeding alongside the CRPF convoy near Lethpora on the Jammu-Srinagar highway.

Investigators are now trying the trace the car, which was used by a suicide bomber to target the convoy Thursday, and its owner. Sources said that the NIA has also recovered a portion of the bumper and the axel that were both likely parts of the red car. This has established that the car used in the attack was of a Maruti-make and not a Scorpio as believed earlier.

Sources said that they have statements on the red car from CRPF personnel, who have said that they saw it speeding alongside the convoy on the highway near Latoomode in Lethpura. “It kept driving along the convoy for a couple of minutes. The driver was even asked to keep his vehicle away as he was getting too close to the convoy. But moments later he crashed into a bus and detonated the IED,” said an officer.

On Saturday, CRPF Director General Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar also visited the explosion site. Police sources said they were focussing on two Jaish-e-Mohammad modules operating in South Kashmir.

Incidentally, sources said that days before the attack at Pulwama, the J&K Police had generated three inputs about a possible attack by militants but none were specific.

Police sources said that one of the inputs generated and shared with security agencies warned of an attack by Jaish-e-Mohammad militants somewhere between “Awantipora and Srinagar”. The attack on Thursday took place at Lethpora, a village on the Awantipora-Srinagar stretch.

In another input, police had warned that militants may try to explode a powerful IED. “There were reports that militants are planning a powerful IED blast and that they have assembled two such IEDs…but again the input was not specific,” said an officer.

Police sources said that it had also generated another input on a possible IED blast, which was shared with different agencies on February 8. Security forces were then asked to “sanitise the area” before deployment.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pulwama-attack-nia-radar-red-car-witnesses-saw-speeding-crpf-convoy-5587654/

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In Pak, Azhar under ‘protective custody’. No such check on funds

by Rahul Tripathi

February 17, 2019

Maulana Masood Azhar came on the radar of Indian intelligence agencies for the first time in 1993, when his name cropped up along with the Al-Itihaad Al-Islmiya, an al-Qaeda aligned Somali terror group that was seeking money and recruits from the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM). Azhar had at the time visited Somalia and facilitated recruitment of Yemeni mercenaries.

In 2000, he floated the Jaish-e-Mohammad with help from the al-Qaeda and Taliban, according to the United Nations sanctions committee on al-Qaeda.

In 2001, Pakistan placed Azhar under arrest for his role in the attack on Indian Parliament, but he was released a year later due to insufficient evidence.

In 2002, the Jaish was declared an unlawful organisation, following which the group made two bids to assassinate then-Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf.

In July 2004, a red corner notice was issued by Interpol against Azhar based on an arrest warrant by a court for his involvement in the Parliament attack.

After the 2016 Pathankot attack, the NIA named him for his alleged role and Azhar was again placed under protective custody in Pakistan. Since then he has refrained from making public speeches.

India’s dossier to the UN seeking a ban on Azhar, accessed by The Sunday Express, describes him as “a Pakistan-based international terrorist and a leader of JeM, its chief financier, recruiter and motivator”. The description further says Azhar has been associated “with ISIL and al-Qaida for… financing, planning and perpetrating” terrorist attacks.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/in-pak-azhar-under-protective-custody-no-such-check-on-funds-5587554/

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Bodh Gaya blast case: Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh operative held from Kolkata

February 16, 2019

A 22-year-old man was arrested Saturday for alleged links to the terror outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), which was involved in the Bodh Gaya blast last year, police said.

The Special Task Force of Kolkata Police arrested Ariful Islam alias Arif, a resident of Barpeta of Assam, from Babughat at around 5.30 am, they said.

On January 19 last year, a low-intensity bomb had exploded hours after Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama had finished a sermon at the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya in Bihar.

“Arif studied at Howly in Assam and worked as a helper with truck drivers. He came in touch with Jahidul Islam alias Kauser and Abdul Majid and was invited by them to join JMB,” a Kolkata Police officer said.

The officer said that Arif was in contact with other JMB operatives. “In January 2018, Arif along with Adil, Hassan, Chota Kareem and Kausar went to Bodh Gaya, conducted recce and planted explosives. He was directly involved in the Bodh Gaya blast,” the police officer said.

He added that after the blast, Arif absconded to Bangalore and was involved in dacoities with other associates.

“He came to Kolkata for some work regarding recce and preparations for a plot to secure the escape of Kauser from custody on the way to court from jail,” he said.

Some documents and papers have also been seized from him, he added.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jmb-operative-held-from-kolkata-in-bodh-gaya-blast-case-5587431/

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Terror attack should not be an excuse to persecute or harass people from J-K: Mehbooba Mufti

February 16, 2019

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti Saturday cautioned that mischievous elements must not be allowed to use the Pulwama terror attack as “an excuse to persecute or harass people” from the state, saying the pain of the killings of CRPF personnel must not fuel “such diabolical plans”.

“Understand the pain & (and) anguish. But we musnt (must not) allow such mischievous elements to use this as an excuse to persecute / harass people from J&K. Why should they suffer for somebody else’s action? We need to be united instead of letting people exploit our fears,” Mehbooba wrote on Twitter.

The PDP president’s remarks came following violent protests in Jammu and reports of Kashmiri students being targeted in colleges and universities at some places outside the state.

“In ths (this) time of grief & outrage, attempts will be made to divide us. Religions & identities will be pitted against each other. Hindu vs (versus) Mus (Muslims). Jam (Jammu) vs Kash (Kashmir). Our pain musnt (must not) fuel such diabolical plans. Because eventually, the axe forgets but the tree remembers,” the former chief minister said in another tweet.

In one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir’s three decades of militancy, a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into a CRPF bus in Pulwama district, killing at least 40 personnel and leaving many critically wounded, on Thursday.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/terror-attack-should-not-be-an-excuse-to-persecute-or-harass-people-from-j-k-mehbooba-mufti-5587271/

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Pulwama terror attack: In condolence message to India, China skips mention of Pakistan, JeM chief

February 16, 2019

A day after it expressed shock over the Pulwama terror attack, China on Saturday sent a condolence message to India and denounced “all forms of terrorism” which it claimed is “the common enemy of mankind”. The message, however, carried no mention of either Pakistan or Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the terror group which has claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a letter to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on behalf of the Chinese government, conveyed deep sympathy to the families of the 40 CRPF jawans who were killed after a suicide bomber vehicle rammed into their bus in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Thursday.

“Wang Yi stressed that terrorism is the common enemy of mankind. The Chinese side resolutely opposes and strongly condemns all forms of terrorism. Countries in the region should enhance cooperation, jointly address the threat of terrorism and maintain regional peace and security,” a statement by the Chinese embassy read.

The statement from Beijing came at a time when India has received condolences from several nations, including the United Nations. The White House even asked Pakistan to immediately end “support” and “safe haven” to all terror groups.

“The United States calls on Pakistan to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil, whose only goal is to sow chaos, violence, and terror in the region,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Thursday.

However, China, who has been single-handedly blocking India’s bid to designate Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar from being listed as a global terrorist by the United Nations Security Council, refused to budge and comment on the terror group and its leader.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pulwama-terror-attack-crpf-jawans-killed-india-pakistan-china-statement-5587184/

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‘We stand united, condemn support for terrorism from across the border’: All-party resolution on Pulwama attack

February 16, 2019

Two days after 40 CRPF jawans were killed in one of the worst terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, political parties on Saturday put up a united face and reiterated their firm resolve to fight the menace of terrorism.

A resolution passed at an all-party meeting condemned “terrorism in all forms and the support being given to it from across the border” without naming Pakistan. The meeting briefed leaders from different political parties about the steps being taken by the government to meet the challenge. Explained: What message today’s all-party meeting sends out

“India has during the past three decades faced the menace of cross border terrorism. Of late, terrorism in India is being actively encouraged by the forces across the border. India has displayed both firmness and resilience in dealing with these challenges. The entire nation speaks in one voice to express its determination to fight these challenges. Today, we stand united in solidarity with our security forces in fighting terrorism and in defending the unity and integrity of India,” the resolution stated.

Home Minister @rajnathsingh chairs all party meeting on #PulwamaAttacks. Resolution passed by all party meeting. @IndianExpress pic.twitter.com/lgBivdUN64

— rahul tripathi (@rahultripathi) February 16, 2019

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who visited Kashmir on Friday to take stock of the situation, chaired the meeting, which was attended by Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Jyotiraditya Scindia, TMC’s Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Derek O’Brien, Sanjay Raut of the Shiv Sena, Jithendra Reddy of the TRS, D Raja of the CPI, Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference, Ram Vilas Paswan of the LJP, Naresh Gujral of the Akali Dal, Upendra Kushwaha of the RLSP and Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav.

Soon after the meeting, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad backed the government in its fight against the menace of terrorism. “We stand with the govt for unity and security of the nation and security forces. Be it Kashmir or any other part of the nation, Congress party gives its full support to the govt in the fight against terrorism,” Azad said.

“We had requested the Home Minister to request the Prime Minister on our behalf to ask Presidents of all national and regional parties for a meeting. This was supported by other parties too. The entire nation is in mourning today, is angry,” the Congress leader added.

At least 40 jawans were killed in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Thursday when a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden Scorpio SUV into a bus carrying the CRPF personnel from Jammu to Srinagar. Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed has claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Friday, sending a clear warning to Pakistan and the perpetrators of the terror attack on the CRPF jawans, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said security forces have been given “full freedom” to choose a “time and place” for the “future course of action”. He promised a “muhtod jawab” (befitting reply) for the attack that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF personnel.

Underlining that the nation’s “blood is boiling”, Modi said the “terror outfits and their masters” have made “a big mistake” and “will have to pay a very heavy price” for their actions.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pulwama-attack-aftermath-all-party-meeting-rajnath-singh-congress-bjp-terrorism-5586965/

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Shia Muslims in Uttar Pradesh likely to support BJP say saffron party is inclusive and gave them important positions

Siddhant Mohan

Feb 16, 2019

Since the much-anticipated alliance between Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party was announced last month, many are awaiting a change in the political equation against BJP.

The root of such equations lies in the by-elections held last year, especially Kairana, where votes from scheduled castes as well as Muslim communities went single-handedly in favour of SP-BSP-RLD alliance, resulting in the defeat of BJP.

So, does this mean that such a strong consolidation of Muslim votes will defeat BJP in upcoming Loksabha elections? Shia Muslims of Uttar Pradesh do not think so.

Since Yogi Adityanath took oath as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, a large number of Shia Muslims have paid their allegiance to the outfits owned by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Shias are actively joining BJP, making the rift within the Muslim community even wider.

Soon after the crowning of Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Central Board was reconstituted, and the motive was that Shia Waqf Board will take care of the Shia Waqf properties across the state. Waseem Rizvi was appointed the chairman of Shia Waqf board.

With his statements and subsequent proposals, Rizvi made it clear that the Shia Waqf board will polarise the politics further. Soon after taking up charge, Rizvi proposed that a Ram Temple should be built at the disputed site in Ayodhya as Babri Mosque was a Shia mosque, and Shias want a Ram Temple.

Rizvi said, “We (Shia Muslims) were basically untouchables in the Muslim community. Rest of the community, which can be easily bribed for votes, did not give us the representation we deserve. They did not listen to us, nor let us speak.”

“But BJP truly understood our power. There is no shame in accepting that since BJP came to power at the Centre and in UP, Shias got to say about their expectations and agendas,” said Rizvi.

Rizvi has recently directed-produced a feature film named Ram Janmbhoomi and has acted in the same as lead. The poster features a Muslim man with a skull cap, with an SMG in his hands, looking at the Ram Temple. The trailer of the film is equally controversial.

Rizvi’s remarks have been very ‘popular’ on social media as well. Starting from gifting silver arrows to the Ram statue in Ayodhya to flattening the Humayun’s tomb in Delhi for making a hospital, Rizvi makes sure that his remarks are controversial enough to make it up to the charts. He said, “What we have been saying is the truth. We are asking for a more inclusive and peaceful society, and it can only happen when we give Hindus what they deserve.”

He once also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for closing all madrassas across the country.

Bukkal Nawab is another such Shia leader who has devoted himself fully towards the party operations. Nawab, once a veteran leader of Samajwadi Party and close aide of Mulayam Singh Yadav, officially joined BJP in 2017 and was elected as MLC last year.

Now, Nawab is so important a figure in BJP that his poster decorates the entrance of BJP office in Lucknow.

“What I have noticed about BJP that it is actually working on its motto of ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’. And irrespective of the criticism, they have really taken a large sect of Muslims with them as well," he said.

Nawab may not represent the Muslim community as a whole, but it is sure that his voice is creating a rift between Muslims of the state.

Gurfan Ali, a 42-year-old businessman from Barabanki, said, “I am Shia, and I feel connected to BJP. Not only because I see many of the Shia leaders connecting with BJP and getting top positions, but also because Sunni sect has sold itself for appeasement politics. And they don’t feel that the Muslim community is feeling ashamed of this act.”

When questions about whether this is also appeasement are raised, Ali responded, “I think no. Because we are getting platforms to speak, and even if this is, it could be a good one because we were not appeased before.”

Bukkal Nawab tried to explain, “The good thing with BJP is that it does not ask for votes from Muslims, but it gives importance and positions to Muslims. And now, Muslims should also try to come into the mainstream, enough of this shallow and low-scale politics they are pursuing.”

India has a vast legacy of Shia Muslims. Ranging from Nawabs of Awadh — to which Bukkal Nawab belongs — and Nawabs of Rampur, many of the artists and writers including Kaifi Azmi, Bismillah Khan, Kamal Amrohi, Syed Haider Raza and Maqbool Fida Hussain.

Earlier, the Shias were independent and artisans. Now, most of them are aligned with either BJP or its different organisations. BJP has most such leaders on key positions, including Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. The party is likely to gain momentum on some seats of Uttar Pradesh, where Shia Muslims form a deciding factor. Mohammad Imran, a 41-year-old contractor based in Lucknow, said, “There is no doubt that a large part of Muslims has been voting for BJP, but that voting has been dismal. If the current trend of attracting Shia would continue, we could see a large scattering of Muslim votes on many seats.”

But for Navaid Hamid, the president of All India Majlis-e-Mushawarat — the biggest Islamic organisation in the country — these factors do not count. He said, “I cannot comment on where Muslims should vote and where they should not. This is totally on them. But I am certain that RSS and BJP can daydream if they can consolidate Muslim votes in their favor.”

If only Shias would go to vote in favour of BJP in large numbers, BJP’s core vote bank along with Shia votes will certainly give it a lead which it is hoping for. Yasoob Abbas, the spokesperson of Shia Personal Law Board, said, “Many Shia figures could be aligning with BJP, and it is totally their prerogative. But the fact must be taken into account that they don’t have any vote bank behind them.”

Full report at:

https://www.firstpost.com/politics/shia-muslims-in-uttar-pradesh-likely-to-support-bjp-say-saffron-party-is-inclusive-and-gave-them-important-positions-6100071.html

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Dehradun: Medical student arrested for making objectionable comments on Pulwama attack

by Syed Qayam Ali

Feb 17, 2019

Dehradun: Police have arrested a medical student from Kashmir for allegedly making insensitive and communal posts on social media in the wake of Pulwama terror attack.

An FIR was registered on a complaint alleging that the student, Keshar Rashid, made insulting comments against the CRPF personnel who were killed in the terror attack in Pulwama in Kashmir, the police here said.

Rashid is a first-year student of a medical college in Dehradun.

The complaint alleged that the accused had attempted to provoke communal tension by making defamatory comments on Facebook and WhatsApp.

The case was registered under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in Prem Nagar police station and the police on Saturday arrested Rashid.

In the deadliest attack on security forces in Kashmir, 40 CRPF personnel were killed on Thursday when their convoy was targeted by a suspected suicide bomber of Pakistan-backed Jaish-e-Mohammad on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway.

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/news/dehradun-medical-student-arrested-making-objectionable-comments-pulwama-attack-1468229/

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Pulwama attack: Cricket Club of India covers portrait of Pak PM Imran Khan

by Sameer

Feb 17, 2019

Mumbai [Maharashtra]: Two days after the ghastly terror attack in Pulwama where 40 CRPF personnel were killed, the prestigious Cricket Club of India (CCI) on Saturday covered the portrait of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at its Brabourne stadium headquarters here.

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan led the Pakistan cricket team to the 1992 World Cup title.

CCI president Premal Udani told ANI: “We respect Imran Khan’s cricket credentials but at the same time he is Pakistan’s Prime Minister and we’re just showing our solidarity with our forces and our country.”

“We have temporarily covered his portrait but we will soon meet and decide over removing his portrait from the CCI permanently. It’s a weekend and we hope in some days, we will have a detailed board meet and a decision for the removal of this portrait will be taken,” Udani said.

Imran has twice played for Pakistan against India at the Brabourne Stadium. He had led Pakistan in a festival game against India in 1987.

He also played an ODI at the venue when he led Pakistan to victory against Australia in a Nehru Cup Game in 1989, where he was also declared as the Man of the Match.

Meanwhile, almost the entire world has issued statements condemning Pulwama terror attack, the silence of Imran Khan as well as Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is conspicuous.

Their silence over the ghastly attack is more deafening considering that they keep sprouting their wisdom on India on sundry issues.

Taking their silence into account, there is a feeling in New Delhi that the civilian leadership of Pakistan had no clue about what the country’s intelligence agency ISI in collusion with the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) was up to.

Hours after the attack on February 14, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry issued a wishy-washy statement, terming as “a matter of grave concern” the terror attack on the CRPF convoy which was carried out by JeM outfit based in that country.

In the statement, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry said, “We have always condemned acts of violence anywhere in the world.”

The Pakistan Foreign Ministry also has been claiming that the link of the attack to it without an investigation was “insinuation.”

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/news/pulwama-attack-cricket-club-india-covers-portrait-pak-pm-imran-khan-1468165/

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Pulwama terror attack: Here’s what Bollywood’s three Khans tweet

by Sameer

Feb 16, 2019

Mumbai: The death toll in a terror attack on a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir rose to 49.

As per an official of CRPF, all 44 occupants of the targeted CRPF bus had died and five others in the other vehicle had also passed away.

Courtesy "twitter/ndtv" Courtesy "twitter/htTweets" ANI

It may be mentioned that in an Army hospital, another 34 troopers were being treated. They had received multiple injuries.

Reacting on the horrific suicide bombing, the three Khans of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan condemned the attack.

Shah Rukh Khan

@iamsrk

 Heartfelt condolences to the families of our valiant jawans. May the souls of our countrymen who laid their lives down for us rest in peace. #Pulwama

58.2K

15:13 - 15 Feb 2019

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Shah Rukh Khan tweeted, “Heartfelt condolences to the families of our valiant jawans. May the souls of our countrymen who laid their lives down for us rest in peace. #Pulwama”.

Salman Khan

@BeingSalmanKhan

 My heart goes out for the Jawans of our beloved country and their families who lost their lives as martyrs to save our families... #YouStandForIndia

83.8K

22:01 - 14 Feb 2019

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Aamir Khan

@aamir_khan

 I am heartbroken to read about the terrorist attack on our CRPF Jawans in Pulwama. It's so tragic. My heartfelt condolences to the families of the Jawans who have lost their lives.

36.3K

08:29 - 15 Feb 2019

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Whereas Salman Khan and Aamir Khan tweeted, “My heart goes out for the Jawans of our beloved country and their families who lost their lives as martyrs to save our families… #YouStandForIndia” and “I am heartbroken to read about the terrorist attack on our CRPF Jawans in Pulwama. It’s so tragic. My heartfelt condolences to the families of the Jawans who have lost their lives.”

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/news/pulwama-terror-attack-heres-what-bollywoods-three-khans-tweet-1468101/

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Pulwama bomber Adil Ahmad Dar became terrorist after he was beaten by troops, say parents

February 15, 2019

A suicide bomber who killed 44 paramilitary policemen in Kashmir joined a militant group after having been beaten by troops three years ago, his parents told Reuters on Friday.

Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has claimed responsibility for Thursday's car bomb attack on a security convoy, the worst in decades of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim majority state. It comes months before the general election.

Adil Ahmad Dar, 20, from the village of Lethipora* in Kashmir, rammed a car full of explosives into the convoy, escalating tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours, which both claim the rugged Himalayan region.

"We are in pain in the same way the families of the soldiers are," said farmer Ghulam Hassan Dar, adding that his son had been radicalised after police stopped him and his friends on the way home from school in 2016.

"They were stopped by the troops and beaten up and harassed," Dar said, adding that the students were accused of stone-pelting. "Since then, he wanted to join the militants."

A video released by the militant group after the attack showed his son, dressed in military fatigues and carrying an automatic rifle, detailing his plan to carry out the bombing.

His mother, Fahmeeda, corroborated her husband's account.

"He was beaten by Indian troops a few years back when he was returning from school," she said. "This led to anger in him against Indian troops."

Both parents said they were unaware of their son's plan to attack the convoy.

Dar did not return home from his work as a labourer on March 19 last year, Fahmeeda added. "We searched for him for three months," she said.

"Finally we gave up efforts to bring him back home."

Reuters could not independently verify the two accounts. A spokesman for India's home ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Anger over the attack is growing in India, which accuses Pakistan of backing separatist militants in Kashmir. Pakistan denies that, saying it offers only political support to the region's suppressed Muslim people.

Jaish, one of the most deadly groups operating in Kashmir, has been designated a terror group by the United Nations since 2001.

Ghulam Hassan Dar said he blamed politicians for his son's death.

"They should have resolved the issue through dialogue," he said, referring to the conflict over Kashmir.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/pulwama-bomber-adil-ahmad-dar-became-terrorist-after-he-was-beaten-by-troops-say-parents-1457317-2019-02-15

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Lucknow student rusticated, arrested for messages against slain troopers

Feb 16, 2019

Rajeev Mullick

The Uttar Pradesh police arrested a student of a Lucknow college on Saturday shortly after he was rusticated for allegedly posting messages on WhatsApp against the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers killed in Thursday’s terrorist attack in Pulwama.

Ahead of the arrest, police had also registered a case against the student of Jai Narain Post Graduate College under the Information Technology Act.

“Rajab Khan, who was pursuing BA first year was rusticated for his derogatory post,” said principal SD Sharma.

Sharma said Rajab, son of labourer Anis Khan, had posted WhatsApp messages against the slain

CRPF troopers and added that the college reported the matter to police. Saurabh Shukla, a former student of the college, had also complained to the police.

Station house officer (SHO), Hussianganj police station, Anil Kumar said a case was registered against Rajab, 21, on the complaint of Saurabh.

Sharma said the college had zero tolerance to such incidents and added that the matter was reported to the University of Lucknow. “The college has asked students to maintain peace and harmony and not to spread ill-will against anybody,” he added.

Ahead of his arrest from the Krishnanagar locality, Rajab had switched off his phone.

Earlier, a student of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was booked and later suspended, and two students of private institutes in Uttarakhand were suspended for remarks they allegedly made against the CRPF jawans. All these three students are from Kashmir.

AMU INCIDENT

Senior superintendent of police, Agra, Akash Kulhary said a case was lodged against an Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) student Basim Hilal after the cyber and media cells of the district police noticed an objectionable tweet.

“When we checked, we found the account closed. The case was lodged on a complaint of in-charge of media cell under relevant sections of the Information Technology Act (for objectionable post) and Indian Penal Code (for hurting religious sentiments),” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/lucknow-student-rusticated-arrested-for-messages-against-slain-troopers/story-eXRNsUDCv66lO4m5DOKCoN.html

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Masood Azhar gave nod for Pulwama attack from Army base hospital in Pakistan

Feb 17, 2019

SRINAGAR: Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar, also the mastermind of the Pathankot attack, gave instructions to his outfit members for the suicide bombing on the CRPF convoy+ in Pulwama from the Army base hospital in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, where he is being treated for a terminal illness for the last four months.

His illness has ensured his absence in the last six key meetings of the United Jihad Council (UJC), the Pakistan-sponsored umbrella outfit of the jehadi groups it uses against India. However, eight days before his men prepared for Pulwama terror attack, Azhar released an audio message in a feeble voice to the terror outfit's members . In the audio message, Azhar can be heard asking his men to avenge the death of his nephew Usman, who was killed by security forces in October last year in Tral. "There is nothing more pleasurable than death in this war," Azhar is heard saying in the tape. He keeps referring how he is braving the chill to egg on men to wage a war against India .

" Koi inhe dashatganj kahega, koi inhe nikamma kahega, koi inhe pagal kahega, koi inhe aman ke liye khatra kaha ....(Some people will call these terrorists savages, insane or danger to peace but let them go and disrupt...across the border)" he says.

Azhar did not share his plans for the latest attack with other constituents of the UJC. Instead Azhar secretly deputed his other nephew Mohammaed Umair and Abdul Rashid Ghazi to use these tapes to brainwash youth in the Valley and motivate them for a fidayeen attack with IED explosives.

"None of the JeM men would come forward. They are all hiding in south Kashmir with three ring leaders - Umair, Ismail and Abdul Rashid Ghazi," said a top intelligence official in Kashmir. As many as 60 Jaish terrorists are operating in Kashmir of which 35 are from Pakistan and the rest are locals.

As a result of his absence, the deliberations of UJC have been presided over by by Hizbul Mujahideen commander Syed Salahuddin. The last one being on January 19 in which new terror launchpads for infiltration were discussed. Another meeting was held at Town Hall in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) to discuss IED-based terror attacks, said intelligence sources.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/azhar-gave-nod-for-pulwama-attack-from-army-base-hospital-in-pakistan/articleshow/68029942.cms

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Pakistan

 

Doubt Jaish’s ability to do this, India needs a scapegoat: Pakistan minister

by Shubhajit Roy

February 17, 2019

Terming the terror attack in Pulwama as an “unfortunate incident”, Pakistan’s Information and broadcasting minister Fawad Chaudhry on Saturday said that government is “taken aback” by the incident.

In an exclusive conversation with The Indian Express over telephone on Saturday evening, Chaudhry said that organisations like Jaish-e-Mohammad are “dead” and seriously doubted their ability to carry out an attack of this scale.

“These organisations are dead, I seriously doubt their ability to do something like this. They are well under control,” he said.

He also said that this government in Pakistan and Pakistan’s military are “very close to each other”, and the military is supportive of the government’s peace process.

“This Imran Khan government and military are very close to each other, and I have no doubt that military is supportive of the government’s peace process,” he said.

“Even as an observer, not as a minister, I think this (that Pakistan government is involved) is unlikely. Pakistan has nothing to do with it (the terror attack,” he said.

Chaudhry, who’s a close confidant of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, started the conversation by saying, “This is an unfortunate incident, and this has strengthened the anti-peace lobby in the two countries.”

“We have concluded a visit of the UAE Crown Prince, we are going to have Saudi Crown Prince’s visit, we are trying to normalise the relationship with India, we are working towards peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan…frankly, to cut the long story short — we are trying to come out of the economic mess,” Chaudhry told The Indian Express.

“We couldn’t have expected a more sad timing for this incident…We are taken aback,” he said, expressing shock over the incident.

“Even before taking oath, Imran Khan had said that we are ready to take two steps, if India takes one step forward…We were criticised by the anti-India lobby in Pakistan, but we went all the way…par tali do haathon se bajti hai (it takes two hands to clap),” he said.

“We are not getting the right kind of response,” he said.

“India needs to look inward. Putting blame outside is the easier way out. A segment of the Indian leadership is blaming external actors and not looking inward, about what is happening in Kashmir, so many people are dying,” he said.

“And the kind of warmongering that is happening, we are not ready for it,” he said. “We really wanted that after the elections, the relationship will get better, but this incident has taken place,” he said.

When asked about Jaish’s involvement, he said that “there are about 60 Jaish outfits here and all these groups are connected”.

“For India, the issue is to find a scapegoat…Toh Masood Azhar ko pakad lo…(so catch Masood Azhar). These organisations are dead, I seriously doubt their ability to do something like this, they are well under control.”

On immediate and verifiable action, he said, “I don’t know about it… right now, we are busy with the MBS (Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s) visit, after the visit we will discuss.”

“We understand that the environment in Pakistan gets hostile, when blasts happen, people are angry, especially with Afghanistan and there is overreaction here as well. But the political leadership needs to act calmly. But for political leaders, elections are very important,” he says, alluding to India’s elections.

India, however, had responded on Friday night about Pakistan Foreign Secretary’s briefing rejecting Pakistan’s involvement in the Pulwama attack and Pakistan following a constructive approach, as the Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said, “JeM has claimed responsibility for the attack. The organization and its leadership are located in Pakistan. LeT and other terror groups have welcomed the news of the attack. These groups are also based in Pakistan. Pakistan cannot claim that it is unaware of their presence and their activities. They have not taken any action against these groups despite international demands, especially against groups and individuals proscribed by the UN and other countries. The links to Pakistan are clear and evident for all to see. Its own Ministers have shared the same podium with UN proscribed terrorists.”

“Furthermore, the demand for an investigation is preposterous when there is a video of the suicide bomber declaring himself a member of the JeM. There are also other audio-visual and print material linking JeM to the terrorist attack. We have therefore no doubt that the claim is firmly established,” Kumar had said.

“We have not seen any constructive approach from Pakistan on relations with India. What we have noticed however, are claims to offer dialogue on the one hand, while sponsoring and sheltering terrorists and terrorist organizations such as JeM on the other. We demand Pakistan take immediate and verifiable action against terrorists and terror groups operating from territories under its control to create a conducive atmosphere in the region free of terror,” he said, in a statement issued late on Friday night.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pulwama-attack-doubt-jaish-do-this-india-needs-scapegoat-pak-minister-5587650/

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Saudi crown prince heads for Pakistan amid India tensions

Feb 17, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is due to arrive in Pakistan on Sunday at the start of his tour of South Asia and China, but the visit risks being overshadowed by escalating tensions between India and Pakistan.

The trip comes days after a suicide bomber killed 44 Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir's Pulwama district. India has accused Pakistan of having a hand in the bombing and vowed to punish Islamabad, which denies involvement.

Cash-strapped and in need of friends, Pakistan is welcoming the crown prince with open arms for a visit during which he is expected to sign investment agreements worth more than $10 billion.

Saudi Arabia has in recent months helped keep Pakistan's economy afloat by propping up its rapidly dwindling foreign exchange reserves with a $6 billion loan, giving Islamabad breathing room as it negotiates a bailout with the International Monetary Fund.

Analyst say the crown prince's trip is being treated by Islamabad as the biggest state visit since Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015, soon after Beijing announced plans to invest tens of billions of dollars on infrastructure in Pakistan as part of China's global Belt and Road initiative.

The visit marks a deepening in ties between allies whose relationship has in the past centred on oil-rich Saudi Arabia backing Pakistan's economy during difficult periods, and in return Pakistan's powerful army lending support to Saudi Arabia and its royal family.

As the guardians of most holy sites in the birthplace of Islam, the Saudi royal family carries vast religious clout in Pakistan, a staunchly conservative and mainly-Muslim nation of 208 million people.

"What is happening in this relationship is a renewal of Pakistan's commitment to help protect the royal family and the order as it exists in Saudi Arabia," said Mosharraf Zaidi, senior fellow at Tabadlab, a Pakistani think tank focused on global and local public policy.

"On the flip side, there is reassurance that Saudi Arabia will not only continue to serve as a strategic friend who will help shore up Pakistan's finances when needed, but it's also going to become a participant in the wider investment in Pakistan."

Pakistan is shutting down its airspace and has stepped up security in Islamabad for the crown prince, who is set to become the first guest to stay at the Prime Minister's house. Pakistan's new populist premier, Imran Khan, has refused to use the residence in a bid to save taxpayers' money.

Pakistani hopes for further investment opportunities from Saudi Arabia were dealt a blow on Saturday when the government announced that the Pak-Saudi Business Conference had been "postponed".

Pakistani officials have already flagged up that Saudi Arabia will announce eight investment agreements, including a $10 billion refinery and petrochemicals complex in the coastal city of Gwadar, where China is building a port.

But the crown prince's arrival comes amid a vow by India to isolate Pakistan internationally following the deadliest attack in Kashmir in decades.

New Delhi is demanding Islamabad act against the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group, which it says has the backing of the Pakistani state, over the bombing. Islamabad denies playing a role and has called for an investigation.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/saudi-crown-prince-heads-for-pakistan-amid-india-tensions/articleshow/68032356.cms

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Pak Suspends Registration Of Its Own School For Performing On Indian Song

Feb 16, 2019

AMRITSAR: Pakistan government has suspended registration of a Karachi based school following a student’s performance on Bollywood song ‘phir bhi dil hai hindustani’in backdrop of Indian tricolor being displayed on a large screen even as a Hindu body Shree Kattas Raj Tirath has suspended its forthcoming pilgrimage to Pakistan in protest against Pulwama attack.

Director General (DG) , Directorate of Inspections and Registration of Private Institutions, Sindh, Pakistan, in a letter issued on February 15 , a day after Pulwama terror attack, has directed to suspended the registration of all campuses of Mama Baby Care School till further orders.

The DG has objected on school for a function in which the students of the school were dancing on an Indian song while an Indian flag was waiving in background of the stage.

“Display of such an item in an educational institute is against the national dignity which can’t’ be tolerated in any circumstances and the same is communicated with displeasure” writes DG in the letter, a copy of which is with the intelligence officials here.

In a video clip of the song which is viral on net, the school children are seen dancing to Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan’s song ‘phir bhi dil hai hindustani’ in backdrop of Indian tricolor fluttering on a digital screen with many people making video clips of the children’s performance.

“This suspension of license of chain of Pakistani schools that too by the Pak government a day after India vowed to completely isolate Pakistan is a message to its own people against any cordial relations with India “said sources.

Notably, in protest against Pulwama suicide attack which left 44 CRPF jawan’s killed, India had already revoked Most Favoured Nation status given to Pakistan.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pak-suspends-registration-of-its-own-school-for-performing-on-indian-song/articleshow/68025266.cms

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Islamabad rolls out red carpet for Saudi crown prince today

February 17, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Amid heightened security, Saudi Crown Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) is arriving here on Sunday (today) on his first-ever visit to Pakistan after his elevation to the position of crown prince of Saudi Arabia in April 2017.

The crown prince, who is visiting Pakistan on the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, will be accorded a red carpet welcome and presented a guard of honour at the PM House after his arrival at Noor Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi.

Take a look: MBS visit: Everything you need to know

A high-powered delegation comprising key ministers and some prominent businessmen, besides members of the royal family, is also coming with the crown prince.

According to official media, the crown prince will be received by Prime Minister Khan and members of his cabinet at the air base.

Earlier, the crown prince was due to reach Pakistan on Saturday, but his arrival was delayed for a day for unknown reasons.

Islamabad is describing the visit as a “historical one” which will help stabilise the crippling economy of the country as over $21 billion MoUs are likely to be inked between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia during the visit.

Not only the government but the opposition has also hailed the visit of the crown prince as Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shahbaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari have welcomed the crown prince in their statements.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1464364/islamabad-rolls-out-red-carpet-for-saudi-crown-prince-today

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Pakistan submits reply before ICJ in Kulbhushan Jadhav case

Feb 17, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday submitted its reply in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) before the Monday’s hearing where India will contest the convicted spy’s death row.

Kulbhushan, who India says was kidnapped from Iran, has been sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court. Kulbhushan, 46, was charged convicted of espionage and sentenced to death in April 2017, following which India moved The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ).

A 10-member bench of the ICJ had in May 2017, restrained Pakistan from executing Kulbhushan till adjudication of the case.

Pakistan claims its security forces arrested Kulbhushan from Balochistan on March 3, 2016, after he allegedly “entered Pakistan from Iran”. India, however, maintains that Kulbhushan was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Indian Navy.

India’s lawyers will present their arguments on Monday to the top UN court, which was set up after World War II to resolve international disputes. This will be followed by Pakistan’s lawyers presenting their case on Tuesday.

Islamabad reacted to the ICJ’s urgent order to stay Kulbhushan Jadhav’s execution at the time, but said it “has not changed the status” of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case “in any manner”.

The case comes at a time when the already-strained ties between India and Pakistan took a further plunge following the terror attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama.

More than 44 paramilitary troops were killed as explosives (RDX) packed in a car ripped through a convoy bringing 2,500 soldiers back from leave. The terror attack happened less than 25 kilometres from Srinagar.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that the public hearing of Kulbhushan Jadhav will commence from Monday. However, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar declined to go into the details of it.

WHAT INDIA NEEDS TO ANSWER:

According to sources, Pakistan has submitted six key points which India will need to answer. These include:

India says Commander Jadhav was an innocent Indian national who was kidnapped from Iran to make him confess to being an Indian RAW agent. Why has India failed to make good this allegation despite repeated requests for evidence that he was kidnapped?

India says Commander Jadhav retired from the Indian Navy. Why has India failed to explain when/why he retired as he was only 47 years old when arrested?

India refuses to explain how Commander Jadhav was in possession of an authentic Indian passport issued in a false ‘cover’ Muslim name ‘Hussein Mubarak Patel’ which he had used at least 17 times to enter/exit India. India has been asked this question many times (even by highly respected Indian senior journalists such as Praveen Swami and Karan Thapar) but simply says this is “irrelevant” or “mischievous propaganda”. India eventually said the passport was “clearly a forgery” but refuses to explain this statement, or why a highly credible independent UK expert is wrong when he says it is an authentic Indian passport issued by the Indian authorities. Why not?

India demands that the ICJ orders the “return” of Commander Jadhav to India. However, the ICJ has repeatedly stated it is not a criminal court of appeal. It has always so far made it clear in all its decisions that, even if consular access was denied, the proper order is for there to be effective review and reconsideration by the local Courts. Commander Jadhav and his family have been able to seek this at any time since 10th April 2017 in accordance with Article 199 of the Constitution of Pakistan. Instead, India launched proceedings in the ICJ 14 months after he was arrested and a month after he was convicted to seek a ‘stay’ order without a hearing. Why is India asking for an order for “return” in the face of the ICJ’s decision and the independent expert evidence confirming Pakistan has effective review and reconsideration before the high court and Supreme Court?

India has failed to explain why the Agreement on Consular Access between India and Pakistan dated 21 May 2008 (which India drafted), and which provides (at Article (vi)) for either State to be entitled to consider a request for consular access “on its merits” where it involves a person implicated in national security matters, does not apply in this case?

India fails to explain why highly respected UK-based military law experts are wrong when they say that Pakistan’s high court and Supreme Court provide an effective review and reconsideration of the military court process.

BACKGROUND:

The salient aspects of the case are:

On 3rd March 2016, Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested in the Balochistan province of Pakistan, having illegally and clandestinely entered Pakistan from Iranian territory. India has said that Commander Jadhav was “kidnapped” from Iran – but has provided no substantive evidence underpinning such an allegation. Commander Jadhav was carrying an Indian passport in the name of ‘Hussein Mubarak Patel’.

On 25th March 2016, Pakistan shared with the world at large Commander Jadhav’s confession (confirmed before a Magistrate) as a serving officer of the Indian Navy, who was operating for India’s Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), to having been involved in crimes of espionage and terrorism directed toward the infrastructure and people of Pakistan, including the Gwadar port and various facilities involved in the prominent China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). India says that Commander Jadhav retired from the Indian Navy (but has not said when or provided any further detail). From 25th March 2016, India sought consular access to Commander Jadhav, which India says was denied. Pakistan says that an express agreement between India and Pakistan (drafted by India) headed Agreement on Consular Access entered into in 2008, at Article (vi), entitles either State to consider a request for Consular Access upon the merits where it involves a person implicated in National Security matters.

Pakistan sent a letter making specific requests of India to assist in the investigation of Commander Jadhav on 23 January 2017 attaching copies of the authentic Indian Passport Commander Jadhav was using in the name of ‘Hussein Mubarak Patel’, as well as the FIR and other material relating to the investigation into Commander Jadhav’s activities. India did not provide any assistance at all nor any evidence (either inculpatory or exculpatory) of Commander Jadhav.

Commander Jadhav was provided with legal representation, and after several hearings, he was tried and convicted by a Military Court in Pakistan, which passed the death sentence on 10th April 2017. Pakistan’s legal system, including its Constitution, provides for the availability of clemency petitions as of right to the Chief of Army Staff and then to the President of Pakistan. In addition, judicial review by Pakistan’s High Court and Supreme Court of the Military Court process and judgment is available pursuant to Article 199 of the Constitution of Pakistan. Pakistan’s Courts have frequently stayed sentences imposed by the Military Court at the request of the convict or his family, often within hours of the sentence being passed. No application of this nature has ever been made to the Pakistani Courts by Commander Jadhav or his family.

Both India and Pakistan have previously signed and become parties to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963 (VCCR 1963). Furthermore, both India and Pakistan signed and became parties to a separate agreement (called the Optional Protocol) that gives the ICJ jurisdiction over disputes arising out of the interpretation or application of the VCCR 1963.

PREVIOUS ICJ PROCEEDINGS:

On 8th May 2017, India commenced these proceedings before the ICJ alleging that Pakistan had committed a breach of the VCCR 1963 by failing to grant immediate consular access in respect of Commander Jadhav, and alleging that the Military Court procedure was flagrantly unfair. Centrally, the relief India sought was “at least” the acquittal/release/transfer to India of Commander Jadhav. India also demanded by way of Provisional Measures that the ICJ should immediately make an order (without even having a hearing) that Pakistan should be restrained from executing Commander Jadhav pending the full hearing of India’s claims.

As mentioned above, Pakistan’s civilian courts can and do routinely order a stay of execution pending the full hearing of legal challenges to decisions emanating from Pakistan’s Military Courts – they do so in order to preserve the status quo without making any decision as to the facts or merits. The Pakistani courts have shown themselves capable of acting very quickly (within hours) in this manner in response to an application for a stay of execution. It was therefore not unusual that the ICJ directed a stay of execution on 18th May 2017 pending a full hearing.

Pakistan raised the following arguments on 15th May 2017:

Pakistan raises important arguments of international law that have never been raised or considered before, such as the existence in Customary International Law (as evidenced by the practices of States) of an ‘espionage exception’ to consular access (given the obvious dangers of allowing a state-sponsored spy/terrorist untrammelled communication with the authorities of his sending State that despatched him to commit unlawful acts);

Furthermore, Pakistan has drawn attention to a bilateral agreement concerning consular access as between India and Pakistan entered into in 2008 that clearly qualifies consular access in matters of national security;

Significantly, Pakistan has asked the ICJ to consider whether India has acted illegally (with the consequence that it should not be granted relief) in facilitating Commander Jadhav’s espionage/terrorism by providing him with the passport referred to above;

The passport was carefully examined by a UK-based highly regarded independent expert whose detailed report concludes it is an authentic passport issued by the competent Indian authorities in a false identity (“the Passport Issue”). India refuses to explain the Passport Issue and, instead, describes this as “irrelevant” or “mischievous propaganda”;

Also, two eminent independent experts (formerly senior officers of the British Army) carried out a review of the Military Court jurisdictions of several major countries around the world (including the USA, UK, India and Pakistan), and found that Pakistan’s own Military Court jurisdiction was sound in law and contained no manifest unfairness. They concluded that the High Court and Supreme Court of Pakistan provided an effective review process for the Military Court system.

On the previous occasions when the ICJ has considered the issue of death penalty / consular access, the ICJ has never ordered relief of “acquittal, release and return” such as that sought by India. The ICJ has repeatedly stated that it is not a Criminal Court of Appeal. Effective review of a conviction is available before the domestic Courts.

Despite having been on notice of Pakistan’s key arguments since the Provisional Measures phase, India insisted on a further round of pleadings. The ICJ granted permission, and India filed its Reply on 17th April 2018, to which Pakistan filed a detailed Rejoinder in response on 17th July 2018.

TIMETABLE:

The conduct modalities of the hearing are as under:

The ICJ has set a timetable for public hearings to be held on February 18-21 2019 in The Hague (which will be live-streamed, including on the UN TV website).

India will go first, on 18th Feb 2019 (10:00-13:00 local time), then Pakistan will make submissions on 19th Feb 2019 (10:00-13:00 local time). India will reply on 20th Feb 2019 (15:00-16:30 local time). Pakistan will make its closing submissions on 21st Feb 2019 (16:30-18:00 local time).

It is expected that the ICJ decision may be held by the summer of 2019.

In accordance with the Rules of Court, all pleadings should be made available after the commencement of the hearing at 18 Feb 2019 (10:00 local time) on ICJ’s website.

Pakistan’s arguments are summarised in its Counter-Memorial (at paragraphs 6-21) and its Rejoinder (at paragraphs 1-10). The experts’ reports referred to above are at Annexes 141 and 142 to the Counter-Memorial.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/02/16/pakistan-submits-reply-before-icj-in-kulbhushan-jadhav-case/

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Asif slams Javed Akhtar, Azmi for cancelling Karachi trip

Feb 17, 2019

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Asif on Saturday called out Bollywood veterans Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi on cancelling their Karachi visit in the aftermath of the attack in Indian-occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama district, terming it a move to protect their status.

Responding to Javed Akhtar’s tweet announcing the cancellation of his and Shabana’s trip, Asif wrote, “The most privileged of Indian Muslims protecting status and being apologetic about their identities, their conscience unmoved by atrocities endured daily by Kashmiris. Thousands blinded, martyred and orphaned… to them, this is not grim or outrageous.”

The Bollywood couple was scheduled to attend a conference in Karachi in honour of Shabana’s father, Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/02/16/khawaja-asif-slams-privileged-azmis-for-protecting-status-by-cancelling-karachi-trip/

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Pakistan should rethink decades-old transactional relationship with Saudi Arabia

Feb 16, 2019

Taha Siddiqui

Taha Siddiqui is an award-winning Pakistani journalist living in exile in France. The following article first appeared at Al Jazeera.

This weekend, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is visiting Pakistan with his entourage of over 1,000 people, including investors, government officials and security personnel. It is expected that the trip will result in investments in Pakistan worth up to $20bn.

According to Haroon Sharif, who chairs Pakistan's Board of Investment, the Saudis will be investing mainly in the energy sector and opening up an oil refinery in the southwestern coastal city of Gwadar.

This comes less than four months after the Saudis announced a $6bn aid package following Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's October trip to the country. Significantly, Khan chose to visit at a time when Prince Mohammed was embroiled in the fallout of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder and the boycott by many Western investors of the Future Investment Initiative, a high-profile investment conference.

The Pakistani prime minister attended the conference and was duly rewarded for standing with Saudi Arabia. But even that billion-dollar aid package was not enough to end Pakistan's debt crisis.

The Saudis are now promising another multi-billion investment, which may just bail out the country from the financial crisis it is in, but these funds are unlikely to be granted unconditionally.

Saudi Arabia has strategic interests in Pakistan given its proximity to Iran, Riyadh's archrival in the region. The Saudis are using aid packages and investment promises to buy the economically embattled Pakistani government's loyalty and convince it to turn a blind eye to their destructive actions within Pakistan's borders.

Saudi financial promises are not a new feature of Pakistani-Saudi relations. For decades, Islamabad has kept close to Riyadh, encouraged by both Saudi money and the US regional policy.

This special relation emerged shortly after General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq overthrew the left-leaning Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977 and sought closer ties with the US. Two major events dramatically increased the importance of Pakistan to the US foreign policy in the region: the Iranian Revolution of February 1979 and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan of December the same year.

As the US sought to establish a united front of countries in West Asia willing to fight Iranian and Soviet influence, Islamabad became a key US and - by extension - Saudi ally. By then Riyadh was enjoying massive oil revenue (in part due to the spike in prices following the 1973 oil embargo) and was actively practicing chequebook diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Saudi financial flows to Pakistan started with the US-approved scheme to arm and train fighters of anti-Soviet armed groups in Afghanistan. Riyadh and Islamabad also cooperated closely to curb expanding Iranian influence in the region which, they saw, sought to incite the Shia minorities in both the countries to rebel.

Saudi financial help to Pakistan assumed many forms, including military and civilian, but also religious. Zia-ul-Haq's government allowed Saudi charities to fund seminaries and mosques, which inevitably came with more conservative interpretations of Islam and anti-Shia ideology. Riyadh has also been accused of supporting certain "extremist" Sunni groups.

Some of these seminaries and groups are alleged to be responsible for radicalizing the local youth and turning many of them against Shia Muslims. Some of them have also carried out cross-border attacks in Iran.

Only three days ago, an armed group called Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), which ,Iran believes, has direct links to Saudi Arabia, claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing attack in Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province which killed 27 members of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Such groups also target Pakistani Shia Muslims, especially those living in Balochistan province bordering Iran. The province has seen a spike in sectarian killings in the last few years. Shia Muslims, who make up 15 to 20 percent of Pakistan's population, are also under attack in other parts of the country. They are being kidnapped, killed and violently attacked even in large cities. Many Shia Muslims have been forced to  leave Pakistan  and take refuge abroad due to such threats.

While many see Saudi support for ultraconservative groups as empowering "extremism", the Pakistani state itself is also to blame for the increasing persecution of Pakistani Shia Muslims. The Pakistani security agencies have repeatedly failed to protect the Shia Muslims, and have not taken any serious action against such anti-Shia groups. International human rights organizations say such lack of action points towards complicity by the state.

That Saudi Arabia is playing a subversive role with its financing of certain extremist groups is not an accusation that has been leveled only in Pakistan. Just this week, the European Commission added the country  (alongside Pakistan) to its blacklist of nations that pose a threat because of lax controls on "terror financing and money laundering".

Pakistan's reliance on Saudi money to keep its failing economy afloat has kept Pakistani politician silent on the issues of problematic financing. Prime Minister Khan has previously admitted that the country cannot afford to turn down Saudi Arabia's investment and aid offers because it is "desperate for money". But what cost are we willing to pay for Saudi money?

While any economic investment is most welcome, Khan must tell Prince Mohammed that it cannot come at the price of its internal stability. It is time that Islamabad reconsiders its decades-old transactional relationship with Riyadh.

Pakistan cannot afford to be a battleground where Saudi Arabia and Iran settle their scores. It cannot be complicit in the rise of anti-Shia violence or destabilization of neighboring countries any longer.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/16/588733/Pakistan-Saudi-Arabia-bin-Salman-Imran-Khan-Iran

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Southeast Asia

 

Bank Indonesia mulls accumulating global sukuk as Shariah buffer

February 17, 2019

JAKARTA: Bank Indonesia is weighing the use of sukuk issued by other countries in its monetary operations as demand for Shariah-compliant securities surge among lenders in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

The central bank is discussing whether to add more foreign sovereign sukuk to its reserves to be used as an underlying asset for Sukbi, a monetary instrument for liquidity operations, according to Deputy Governor Dody Budi Waluyo. Bank Indonesia’s efforts to deepen the financial market and ensure stability are hampered by inadequate Shariah securities at its disposal, he said.

Bank Indonesia is increasingly relying on its money market operations to ensure liquidity for banks after raising rates by a total of 175 points since May to counter a selloff in its currency triggered by rising US interest rates. With the risks of a prolonged US-China trade war lingering, the central bank has been intervening in the currency and bonds market to quell volatility.

The central bank began offering a sovereign sukuk-backed securities, known as Sukbi, to conventional and Shariah banks from last year and the instrument has found favour with the banks. The bank sold 4 trillion rupiah of 7- and 14-day tenors in its latest auction on Feb. 13.

The purchase of foreign global sukuk would be limited to top rated securities, said Nanang Hendarsah, executive director for monetary management at Bank Indonesia. “We have some in our foreign reserves and we are waiting for an endorsement from the National Shariah Board” to approve the plan to use them as underlying assets in Sukbi.

Even with Muslims making up almost 90% of Indonesia’s 265 million population, Shariah financial products have struggled to gain much ground as conventional banks dominated the financial industry. That may be about to change as the government and central bank drive the promotion of Shariah banking and other financial instruments among the followers of Islam.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/business/2019/02/17/bank-indonesia-mulls-accumulating-global-sukuk-as-shariah-buffer/

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Hadi: Muslims used by ‘enemies of Islam’, now non-Muslims running the country

17 February 2019

By Danial Dzulkifly

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 ― Misinformation fuelled by the “enemies of Islam” has influenced Muslims and resulted in a “dangerous” political shift in the country, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang has claimed.

In a report by PAS organ HarakahDaily, the PAS president alleged that Muslims, especially the youth have been misled by a misinformation which has inadvertently turned them against Islam.

This, he added resulted in a change of government and a country run and dominated by non-Muslims.

“We have seen how Muslims especially those among the younger generation, who are influenced by Whatsapp, the cyber realm, not realising they themselves have turned and become detractors of Islam.

“(They) have been used by the enemies of Islam, to the point where there is a change of politics that endangers Muslim in our country. When it is being ruled and dominated by non-Muslims,” Abdul Hadi reportedly said.

Hadi then urged Muslims to expand their knowledge on the digital realm in an effort to spread the teachings of Islam while defending the faith on the digital platform.

“Those defending Islam must use all of their skills and knowledge to spread and uphold Islam.

“Those who are capable in this realm, have a responsibility to spread Islam, defend Islam and attacks its enemies with information technology,” he said.

Hadi explained that in a borderless global world, information technology has enabled a cyber war, especially against Islam.

“It is considered 'world without borders. (People) can spread anything to the world whether it is spreading Islam or opposing Islam.

“We are witnessing many groups that oppose Islam across the globe, through the cyber-realm of information technology with various slander.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/02/17/hadi-muslims-used-by-enemies-of-islam-now-non-muslims-running-the-country/1723830

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Malaysian Islamist party PAS admits lying

FEB 16, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's main religious party has come under fire after it admitted on Wednesday (Feb 13) to lying about a voice recording that reveals it accepted millions of ringgit from former ruling party Umno to co-operate ahead of the general election last year.

The recording also triggered a probe by the anti-graft agency into whether payments from Umno to Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) came from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the troubled state fund that US investigators say had over US$4.5 billion (S$6 billion) embezzled from it.

PAS leaders have denied allegations that the party received RM90 million (S$30 million) from Umno and have handed over their accounts to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

But the admission by former PAS youth chief Nik Abduh Nik Aziz on Wednesday that he had lied - with the blessings of party leader Abdul Hadi Awang - about the March 2018 recording has severely eroded the party's credibility and moral high ground.

In the audio recording that went viral last year, Mr Nik Abduh is heard saying that PAS had, via two party leaders, accepted RM2 million from Umno. He does not state in the recording if the money came from 1MDB.

Mr Nik Abduh had then denied it was him speaking in the recording.

However, in a statement last week, Mr Nik Abduh said he had wanted to admit the veracity of the recording but was advised it would be used against PAS in the general election last May.

"Immediately, the PAS president gave his blessing for me to deny it. I was happy to follow the mandate," he said on Wednesday. "Both decisions were compliant with Shariah law."

These revelations come just two weeks ahead of a by-election in the Malay-majority ward of Semenyih in Selangor state.

While PAS has not fielded a candidate to avoid splitting the vote with its new ally, the Umno-led Barisan Nasional, the scandal could prove a distraction for Malay-Muslim voters.

PAS and Umno together amassed two-thirds of total Malay votes in the general election last year.

Analysts however say the party's supporters will stand firm.

Mr Adib Zalkapli, Malaysia director of Bowergroup Asia, a political risk consultancy, said: "PAS loyalists and those who support the Umno-PAS alliance wouldn't question their allegiance. They believe in the Malay-Muslim agenda, and for them that is a more important issue."

Critics have accused PAS of hypocrisy, by sanctioning lying - a sin - to further its political interests. They have also jumped on the RM2 million payment as evidence that Umno could have paid PAS the RM90 million, an allegation that first surfaced on whistleblower site Sarawak Report in August 2016.

PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan has insisted that the party's bank accounts are clean, while Mr Abdul Hadi has sarcastically quipped that the party's headquarters have elevators that don't work despite PAS supposedly having so much money.

Mr Takiyuddin has also defended Mr Nik Abduh, saying the audio recording was taken out of context.

"After evaluating the recording, I found that only part of what he said was quoted. What he said was taken out of context," he told reporters, adding that the anti-graft agency had yet to discover any evidence of PAS receiving 1MDB money.

Full report at:

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysian-islamist-party-pas-admits-lying

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Mideast

 

More than 85 Houthis killed in battles across Yemen

February 17, 2019

DUBAI: More than 85 Iran-backed Houthi militants were killed and more wounded in clashes with the Yemeni army supported by the Arab Coalition across the country on Saturday, Saudi state-news agency SPA reported.

According to the reports, more than 40 militants were killed in the southern Taiz province, and 18 others were killed on the Damt front in the southern Ad Dali province, while more than 30 were killed in clashes with the Hajour tribe northwest of the country.

Scores of militants were wounded, while the army seized military-grade equipment and ammunition.

Meanwhile, Yemen’ Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad al-Hadrami said that the continued conflict stirred by the Houthis threatens the Swedish peace agreement and any progress in the political process.

In a meeting with UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar Gargash on the sidelines of the 55th session of the Munich Conference of Security 2019, Al-Hadrami said that the continued Houthi manipulation represents the failed opportunities for peace in Yemen.

For his part, UAE’s Gargash stressed on the need to combine efforts and send clear messages to the international community revealing the truth behind the militia’s violations on the ground.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1453456

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Erdogan offers seminary exchange for Greek mosque minarets

February 16, 2019

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday suggested the mosque in Athens should open with minarets if the Greek premier wants to reopen a seminary in Istanbul.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was in Turkey this month and visited the disputed landmarks of Hagia Sophia and the now-closed Greek Orthodox Halki seminary.

Tsipras said during the visit to the seminary located on Heybeli island off Istanbul on February 6 he hoped to reopen the school next time with Erdogan.

Future priests of the Constantinople diocese had been trained at the seminary, which was closed in 1971 after tensions between Ankara and Athens over Cyprus.

Erdogan on Saturday complained that the Fethiye Mosque in Athens had no minarets despite Greek insistence that it would open.

The mosque was built in 1458 during the Ottoman occupation of Greece but has not been used as a mosque since 1821.

“Look you want something from us, you want the Halki seminary. And I tell you (Greece), come, let’s open the Fethiye Mosque,” Erdogan said during a rally in the northwestern province of Edirne ahead of local elections on March 31.

“They said, ‘we are opening the mosque’ but I said, why isn’t there a minaret? Can a church be a church without a bell tower?” he said, describing his talks with Tsipras.

“We say, you want to build a bell tower? Come and do it... But what is an essential part of our mosques? The minarets,” the Turkish president added.

Erdogan said Tsipras told him he was wary of criticism from the Greek opposition.

After the independence war against Ottomans began in 1821, the minaret is believed by some to have been destroyed because it was a symbol of the Ottoman occupation.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1453221/middle-east

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Leader's Military Aide: Pakistan, ISI Should Account for Terrorist Attack against IRGC

Feb 16, 2019

"These criminal outlaws were from one of the tribes of Balouchestan who had been trained on suicide operations in the neighboring country, and the neighboring country and the ISI should account to the Iranian government and nation and the IRGC for (the question) how they have crossed the borders of that country and why this neighboring country has turned into a safe haven and a place for the training and dispatch of these infidel terrorist grouplets (to Iran)," General Safavi said in the Central city of Isfahan on Saturday, addressing the burial ceremony of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) personnel martyred in the Wednesday terrorist attack.

He referred to insecurities at common borders of Iran and Pakistan in the past, and said, "The Pakistani government should account for this issue."

General Safavi further pointed to the main backers and sponsores of the terrorist groups operating against Iran from Southwestern Pakistan, and said, "Proof and evidence shows that these terrorist groups are financially sponsored by a number of Persian Gulf Arab states, including one whose crown prince is in Pakistan at present, alluding to Saudi Arabia."

He added that the same states sponsoring the Wednesday attack also planned to launch several similar terror attacks on Iran during the ceremonies commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in mid February, which were all defused thanks to the vigilance of the IRGC and other security and intelligence bodies.

Meantime, General Safavi reiterated that Iran wants to have good relations with its neighbors as it believes that insecurity in the region only serves the interests of the United States and Zionists who had gathered in Warsaw conference earlier this week, but vowed that Iran and the IRGC will give a "crushing and proper response in due time to the provocateurs and puppet perpetrators of the terrorist attack against the IRGC".

In relevant remarks earlier today, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari warned Riyadh and Abu Dhabi of Iran's revenge for the Wednesday terrorist attack which killed dozens of the IRGC personnel, and blasted Pakistan for supporting the terrorist groups which act against Tehran.

"The traitor governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran's patience has run out and the Islamic Republic will not tolerate your secret supports for the Takfiri grouplets. We will take revenge for our martyrs from the UAE and Saudi governments and want the president to give us more free hands than the past for retaliatory operations," General Jafari said in the Central city of Isfahan, addressing the burial ceremony of the IRGC personnel killed in the Wednesday terrorist attack.

He said that the Saudi and UAE intelligence agencies are clearly hatching different plots to foment insecurity in Southeastern Iran in addition to the US and Israeli plots to create insecurity and conduct assassination operations, noting that Iran has reliable intel in this regard.

General Jafari also asked the Pakistani army and intelligence body why their country is sheltering Takfiri groups, including Jeish al-Adl which has claimed responsibility for the Wednesday terrorist attack, and noted, "We believe this silence is kind of support for this grouplet and the Pakistani intelligence organization should account for it."

"Pakistan should also know that it should pay the cost for the Pakistani intelligence organization's support for Jeish al-Zolm (as Jeish al-Adl is called in Iran) from now on and this price will not doubt be very heavy for them," he added.

"Undoubtedly, the Pakistani security organization knows the hideout of the grouplets but it has kept mum," General Jafari said.

Earlier today, General Jafari had also underlined harsh revenge from the culprits and masterminds of the Wednesday terrorist attack against the IRGC personnel, warning that Iran would act against the terrorists itself if Pakistan does not tighten security at the borders.

"The recent crime has caused the IRGC and other Armed Forces to boost determination to continue the path of martyrs and confront threats and they will protect security of the country's borders with more strength and power and will take revenge of the blood of our oppressed martyrs," General Jafari said, addressing a ceremony in Isfahan on Saturday.

He said that Pakistan which is aware of the hideouts of the terrorists who conducted the Wednesday suicide attack against the IRGC should account for their crimes too and act upon its responsibilities to establish security at common borders and should not allow the terrorists to use its bordering areas to carry out acts against the Iranian nation's security.

"If Pakistan does not comply with its responsibilities, the Islamic Republic of Iran reserves the right of confrontation against these peripheral threats at the borders with the neighboring country, based on international law and rules, and will adopt compensatory measures to punish the terrorists who are mercenaries of the regional and trans-regional states' spy agencies," General Jafari warned.

Dozens of IRGC members were killed or wounded after their bus came under a terrorist attack in Iran's Southeastern Sistan and Balouchestan province on Wednesday evening.

The bus was carrying IRGC personnel on a road from the city of Khash to the provincial capital of Zahedan when a truck loaded with explosives and moving alongside the bus detonated.

A statement released by the Quds Base of the IRGC's Ground Force said the bus was carrying a group of IRGC personnel "coming back from a border guarding mission when it came under a suicide car attack by Takfiri terrorists", but did not mention the number of passengers.

"27 IRGC members have been martyred and 13 others wounded in the terrorist attack so far," the statement said, and further blamed "the intelligence services of hegemonic system - a phrase used normally to refer to the United States and its allies - and Zionism for supporting the attack".

The US officials have repeatedly stressed that they would take every possible measure to pressure Tehran, including support for groups operating against Iran. The incident came hours before the start of a US-sponsored security conference against Iran in Warsaw, Poland.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News last month that Washington would jointly host a global summit focused on Iran and the Middle East in Poland in February, but senior US diplomats later softened tone to shift the conference title to security in the Middle-East, denying that Iran will top or be the main agenda. The gathering took place in Warsaw from February 13 to 14, the US State Department said in a statement.

Meantime, Jeish Al-Adl, a Pakistan-based radical Wahhabi terrorist group staging cross border attacks into Southeastern Iran from South-West Pakistan, has claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.

The group has bases in Southwestern Pakistan and started operations nearly 6 years ago after recruiting the remnants of Jundullah notorious terrorist group and reorganizing them. Iran had captured leaders of Jundullah notorious Wahhabi terrorist group and dismantled the terrorist organization years earlier.

In mid October, the group abducted 14 Iranian Basijis (volunteer forces) and border guards at Mirjaveh border in Southeastern Sistan-Balouchestan province. Five were released a month later on November 15.

The IRGC Ground Force then blamed foreign intelligence services for supporting and assisting the terrorist group.

Jeish al-Adl also abducted five Iranian border guards in Jakigour region of Sistan and Balouchestan Province and took them to Pakistan in 2014. After two months of abduction, four of them were released and the fifth one was killed. His body was returned to Iran months later.

Then early in March, 2015, Pakistani sources told the country's media that authorities in Southwestern Pakistan had arrested the ringleader of Jeish al-Adl terrorist group as he was traveling on a bus from the lawless border area.

Salam Rigi, cousin of the Jundollah terrorist group's ringleader Abdolmalek Rigi, was seized by Pakistani authorities who were tipped off to his movements and intercepted the bus some 50 km from Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's Baluchistan, a security official said on the condition of anonymity.

Salam Rigi was accused of involvement in suicide bombings in Iran and Pakistan, as well as sending terrorists to the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

Other sources said the terrorist arrested was Abdo-Sattar Rigi (Abdolmalek's brother), explaining that he was carrying his cousin's ID card at the time of arrest, but further investigations revealed his true identity.

Later reports proved that the captured terrorist was Abdo-Sattar Rigi.

Abdo-Sattar (the third of the notorious Rigi brothers) headed the Jeish al-Nasr terrorist group, but his cousin Salam leads Jeish al-Adl.

Abdo-Sattar's two older brothers, Abdolmalek and Abdolhamid Rigi, who led the more powerful terrorist group, Jundollah, were both captured and condemned to death by Iran earlier.

In early 2009, Abdolhamid Rigi, the Jundullah terrorist group's number two man and brother of its ringleader Abdolmalek Rigi, was arrested by Iranian security forces.

Abdolhamid had conducted a number of bombing operations and other violent attacks in Iran resulting in many casualties and was sentenced to death by the court in 2009, but his execution was delayed on several occasions. Officials did not mention any specific reason for the delayed execution of Abdolhamid at the time.

Iran arrested Abdolmalek Rigi, the number one man of the Jundollah terrorist group in late February 2011. Abdolmalek was executed in June 2011.

Iranian military and police officials voice concern over the presence of terrorist groups in Pakistan's territories, criticizing the Pakistani army and border police's lax control over shared borders.

The two sides' state and military officials have exchanged frequent visits to enhance anti-terrorism cooperation specially in border regions. In early December, top security officials from Iran and Pakistan met in Iran’s Southeastern city of Zahedan to hold the 22nd joint meeting on border cooperation between the two countries.

Late in October, Commander of the IRGC Ground Force Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour announced his forces' preparedness to launch joint operations against the terrorists who abducted the Iranian border guards in Southeastern Iran.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971127000996

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Erdogan says won’t go back on S-400 deal with Russia

16 February 2019

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would not “turn back” on a deal with Moscow to buy Russian S-400 missile defense systems in comments published on Saturday.

Turkey’s push to buy the systems has raised questions among NATO allies over their compatibility with alliance equipment as well as concerns over the burgeoning relationship between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We agreed a deal with Russia on the S-400, so for us to turn back from the deal is out of the question.

This is a done deal,” Erdogan said, quoted by CNN Turk broadcaster.

The United States in December approved the sale of $3.5 billion in missiles to Turkey, which followed Washington anger over Turkey’s intention to buy Russian systems.

Turkey was “open” to buying US Patriot missiles, Erdogan told Turkish journalists on board his plane from the southern Russian city of Sochi after a three-way summit on Syria with his Russian and Iranian counterparts.

“But this sale must serve the interests of our country. To this end, joint production, credit and early delivery are of vital importance,” Erdogan added.

The Turkish leader said the US administration “looked positively” at early delivery but “said nothing regarding joint production and credit”.

Erdogan said work continued for the systems to be delivered in July as promised before.

Washington has warned Turkey the S-400s purchase jeopardized participation in the F-35 fighter jets program. US officials have said Ankara could even face sanctions on defense purchases under US law if it goes ahead.

But Ankara has said the two defense systems are not seen as an alternative for the other.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/16/Erdogan-says-won-t-go-back-on-S-400-deal-with-Russia.html

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Pence's allegations of Iran harboring Nazi-like anti-Semitism absurd: Foreign ministry

Feb 16, 2019

Iran has lashed out at US Vice President Mike Pence for accusing the Islamic Republic of Nazi-like anti-Semitism, saying such "absurd" allegations originating from a grudge and anger would fail to have any impact on Iranian Muslims' opinion of Jews inside and outside the country.

"Exercise patience, study and learn that history is full of facts that no power will ever be able to erase or change," Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi told ISNA on Saturday in reaction to Pence's accusations.

After visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland on Friday, the US vice president accused Iran of Nazi-like anti-Semitism, repeating his harsh rhetoric against Tehran.

Pence said the camp had made him more determined to act against Iran.

He was speaking just a day after he urged Washington's European allies to withdraw from the landmark Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and accused them of trying to break US sanctions against Tehran.

US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington in May from the nuclear agreement, reached between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries in 2015, and decided to re-impose unilateral sanctions against Tehran.

Under the deal, Iran undertook to put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions.

Qassemi said Iran's historical and cultural record of coexistence and respect for divine religions, particularly Judaism, was recorded in reliable historical documents of various nations.

He added that Iran's ancient history and civilization clearly proved the Iranian people's respect for other cultures and followers of different divine religions.

The Iranian spokesperson emphasized that the underlying principle of the Islamic Republic's foreign policy was based on opposing the "aggressive and occupying nature of the fake and illegitimate Zionist regime" of Israel which is a "killing machine against Palestinian people."

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/16/588728/Qassemi-Pence-Iran-Nazi-US-Jews

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9 Saudi soldiers killed in Yemeni fire on southern border posts

Feb 17, 2019

At least nine Saudi soldiers have been killed in renewed wave of fire from Yemeni fighters of the Houthi Ansarullah movement on military positions south of the kingdom.

Saudi authorities said in a statement late on Saturday that the soldiers had been killed in battles with the Houthis in the southern border regions.

The Saudi military also published images of a funeral of one of the soldiers in the al-Ahsa region.

Houthis said they had inflicted considerable losses of the ranks of the Saudis in attacks on Saudi military positions, adding that fighters had taken control of a number of sites in areas east of Jaffan and Jizan regions.

A military source from the Houthis said that fighters had also launched attacks on Saudi army personnel stationed in Najran and Asir regions on Friday, leading to scores of deaths among the ranks of the Saudi military.

The new clashes in the Saudi-Yemen border regions come after a period of relative calm in the area.

The cross-border violence had largely ebbed after the United Nations managed to mediate a truce agreement between the Houthis and Saudis in Sweden in December. However, the two sides have repeatedly accused each other of violating the truce. 

Attacks by Houthis on Saudi positions south of the kingdom are largely meant to respond to Riyadh’s relentless bombardment of the country which has left more than 15,000 people, most of them civilians, killed.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/17/588748/Saudi-fatality-Yemen-conflict-Houthis

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Warsaw conference sought to kill Palestinian cause, isolate Iran: Nasrallah

 Feb 16, 2019

The secretary general of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement says a recent US-organized conference in the Polish capital Warsaw was an attempt in vain to suffocate the Palestinian cause and isolate Iran.

“The Warsaw conference (held on February 13-14) did not give us a scare at all. Its primary goals were to isolate Iran, mobilize support for normalization of ties with Israel and pull the plug on the Palestinian cause, given the fact that no Palestinian delegate was among the attendees,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said as he addressed his supporters via a televised speech broadcast live from the Lebanese capital Beirut on Saturday evening.

On Israel’s warming ties with a number of Arab countries, Nasrallah said the Tel Aviv regime’s ties with both the United Arab Emirates and Oman were no more clandestine, while stressing that the key goal of the Poland event was to publicize Saudi Arabia’s ties with Israel.

“Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifah sat close to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu in the Warsaw conference because the Bahraini regime is part of the US-Israeli equation in the [Middle East] region.

US,Israel cannot engage in military confrontation with Iran

Nasrallah then noted that the US and Israel will also fail to undermine Iran as the country has been thriving over the past four decades since the Islamic Revolution.

“Having failed in their Middle East projects, the US and Israel orchestrated the Warsaw conference in the hope of playing out another scenario. Such confabs will have no effect on Iran as it continues to get stronger at all levels.

“Washington and Tel Aviv are well aware of the fact that a military confrontation with Iran would not be an easy task to accomplish. Millions of Iranian men, women and children took to the streets on the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution to send a strong message to the US and Israel that they are supporting their establishment,” the Hezbollah chief pointed out.

Nasrallah said the ongoing military aggression against Yemen was a plot hatched by Washington and Tel Aviv, but being carried out by the Riyadh and Abu Dhabi regimes.

US president seeks to steal victory against Daesh

The Hezbollah chief then criticized ex-US president Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the creation of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group and its spread in Iraq and Syria, saying the current “hypocrite” US President Donald Trump was now seeking to declare victory over the terror outfit.

“This is while Americans created al-Qaeda [terror network] themselves and then claimed to have eliminated it. They emboldened [former Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein and supplied him with various weapons of mass destruction, and one day got rid of him over allegations that he had developed such munitions,” Nasrallah highlighted.

Nasrallah said the anti-Israel resistance front was the party that defeated Daesh, emphasizing that US statesmen were jumping on the bandwagon in a bid to claim the victory.

Hezbollah ready for any confrontation with Israel

He highlighted that Hezbollah was fully prepared for any military confrontation with Israel.

“We are strong enough to confront Israel, and the latter knows it. Such a fact works as deterrence,” Nasrallah pointed out.

The Hezbollah chief also strongly dismissed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s allegations that Hezbollah “has active cells” in Venezuela, underscoring that his movement had no activity in Latin America.

The Hezbollah leader said Iran had frequently expressed eagerness to assist Lebanon, arguing the Beirut government had turned down such offers due to opposition from the US and Saudi Arabia.

“The lingering power outage in Lebanon is the result of political bickering. Iran could have resolved the matter with its expertise. It is unwise of the Beirut government to think that Iran wants to wrest control over Lebanon.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/16/588737/Warsaw-Conference-sought-to-kill-Palestinian-cause-isolate-Iran-Nasrallah

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UN warns of worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza

Feb 16, 2019

The United Nations has warned that the humanitarian situation in the besieged Gaza Strip is deteriorating due to a decade-long blockade by Israel on the Palestinian enclave, calling for an “immediate” end to the crisis.

In an address to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that approximately two million Palestinians in Gaza “remain mired in increasing poverty and unemployment, with no access to adequate health, education, water and electricity,” leaving young people with “little prospect of a better future.”

Guterres further called on the Tel Aviv regime to “lift restrictions on the movement of people and goods, which also hamper the efforts of the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies, without naturally jeopardizing legitimate security concerns.”

The secretary general commended the UN agency for Palestinian refugees known as UNRWA for its "critical work" in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and across the region, urging the international community to “significantly” increase efforts to revitalize Gaza’s economy.

He further slammed as “illegal” Israel’s continued land expropriation and settlement expansion policies in the occupied territories, saying the settlement activities “deepen the sense of mistrust and undermine” the so-called two-state solution.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank in 1967. Much of the international community considers the settler units illegal and subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied land.

The UN chief also expressed regret at the decision by Israel to expel an international observer mission tasked with safeguarding Palestinians in the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron).

Israel expelled the unarmed civilian observers after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he "will not allow the continuation of an international force that acts against us."

The international mission, known as TIPH, was deployed in al-Khalil following an agreement reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1994, when an Israeli settler killed 29 Palestinian worshipers at Ibrahimi Mosque, which is revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The group did not start its work in the city until 1998, after the Israeli military refused to leave al-Khalil following the establishment of an illegal Israeli settlement at the heart of the city.

Guterres expressed hope that “an agreement can be found by the parties to preserve this long-standing and valuable arrangement.”

“Palestinians have endured more than a half-century of occupation and denial of their legitimate right to self-determination,” he said.

Al-Khalil, the West Bank's largest city, is a flash point. Over 200,000 Palestinians live in the city, along with several hundred extremist settlers who live in heavily fortified enclaves protected by the military.

The UN chief also described Gaza as “an integral part of a future Palestinian state,” saying, "Palestinian unity is needed for a politically stable, economically viable, sovereign and independent State of Palestine."

Israel has been enforcing an all-out blockade of the territory since 2007.

The UN has warned that the blockade would render it uninhabitable by 2020, but on Wednesday the UN agency said conditions “are worse” than when they made that prediction.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/16/588724/Palestine-Gaza-Israel-blockade-UN-chief-Guterres

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South Asia

 

China suggests Pak-India joint efforts to curb terrorism

FEBRUARY 17, 2019

China has suggested that Pakistan and India should make joint efforts to fight out terrorists and ensure peace and stability in the region.

“We hope that relevant countries in the region can make joint efforts to combat terrorism and preserve regional peace and security,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a regular news briefing, when asked to comment on the recent terrorist attack in the Indian-held Kashmir.

While strongly condemning the sad incident, the spokesperson said, “We have noted relevant reports and are greatly shocked by this attack. We express our deep sympathy and condolences to the bereaved families and the injured.” “China firmly opposes all forms of terrorism and extremism,” he added.

About the need to settle Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India, the spokesperson said, “China has repeated many times that as major countries in South Asia, Pakistan and India should properly resolve this issue through dialogue and consultation.”

To a question about listing of certain organizations and individuals by the UN Security Council 1267 Committee, he said the committee has detailed criteria for the listing and designation procedures for terrorist entities or individuals. “Jaish-e-Mohammed which claimed responsibility for this attack is already on the Security Council sanctions list against terrorism. China will continue to deal with the relevant listing issue in a constructive and responsible manner. We will also keep in close communication with all relevant parties on this issue,” he added.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/355509/china-suggests-pak-india-joint-efforts-to-curb-terrorism/

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22 Taliban militants killed in Uruzgan and Ghazni airstrikes

16 Feb 2019

At least 22 Taliban militants have been killed during the airstrikes which have been conducted in southern Uruzgan and southeastern Ghazni provinces.

According to the informed military sources, at least 21 Taliban militants were killed in an airstrike which was conducted in Tarinkot city, the provincial capital of Uruzgan.

The sources further added that Afghan Special Forces conducted a raid in Jaji district of Paktia province and destroyed 30 tons of marijuana and 2.5 tons of Hashish.

An air strike in Qara Bagh district of Ghazni provinces also killed one Taliban fighter, the sources added.

The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban have not commented regarding the casualties inflicted on them in the past 24 hours.

This comes as the Afghan and coalition forces have stepped up airstrikes and ground operations to suppress the militants in the restive provinces of the country.

https://www.khaama.com/22-taliban-militants-killed-in-uruzgan-and-ghazni-airstrikes-03313/

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Jamaat regrets Razzaq’s loss, disagrees with his stance

February 17th, 2019

Razzaq, who represented Jamaat leaders accused of war crimes , resigned as the assistant secretary general on Friday, citing the party’s failure to apologize to the Bangladeshi people for its anti-independence role during the Liberation War

Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami has called the resignation of its senior leader, Barrister Abdur Razzaq, a great loss, but it contradicted the reasons he gave for leaving.

Razzaq, who represented Jamaat leaders accused of war crimes , resigned as the assistant secretary general on Friday, citing the party’s failure to apologize to the Bangladeshi people for its anti-independence role during the Liberation War.

Another reason that prompted him to decide Jamaat, was Jamaat’s failure to adopt the successful models of reform that have been implemented in other Muslim majority countries.

But the top brass of the party, which is accused of helping Pakistani occupation forces in the War of Independence, said that they do not support his position.

Jamaat Secretary Genera,l Dr Shafiqur Rahman, said: “I express my disappointment over his departure. I am disheartened. Every member of the party has the right to step down.”

Talking about the reasons which Razzaq cited, Shafiqur Rahman said: “He showed two major reasons: one of offering an apology to the people of Bangladesh and the other of reforms in the party.”

“But we do not agree with the grounds raised by Razzaq,” the Jamaat second-in-command said.

However, he did not elaborate on where the party stood on these matters.

In a statement issued immediately after Razzaq’s resignation, the party said: “Jamaat will always remember Barrister Abdur Razzaq’s sincere contribution to this movement.”

“I have been working for this organization along with Barrister Abdur Razzaq for years. He was a senior and designated leader of Jamaat-e-Islami. I am recalling his glorious contributions with due respect and honor,” the statement quoted Shafiqur Rahman as saying.

“We are deeply shocked and saddened at his resignation. It is the basic recognized right of a party member. We pray for him wherever he is, we pray for his safety, good reputation and healthy life,” the statement further said.

“We further hope that our friendly and brotherly relationship with him will continue in the coming days,” it concluded.

Describing Razzaq’s resignation as irreparable, Jamaat's Nayeb-e-Ameer, Mia Golam Parowar, said he had played an important role in the party, especially in fighting the cases filed for war crimes.

“Razzaq, who was the chief defence counsel at the International Crimes Tribunal, had also helped Jamaat bolster its diplomatic ties with foreign countries,” said Parwar, a former MP and an assistant secretary general of Jamaat.

Parwar went on to say that the reasons for Razzaq’s resignation were not valid.

“He had previously disagreed with the party high command on various important issues,” Parwar said.

Jamaat’s central working committee member, Motiur Rahman Akhond, said there will be no replacement for Razzaq.

“Finding an alternative to Razzaq will not be possible as he was something exceptional for the party,” Akhond said.

He refused to make further comments on the matter.

The barrister tendered his resignation through a letter sent to Bangladesh Jamaat Ameer, Maqbul Ahmed, from the UK on Friday.

“Despite its many positive contributions to Bangladesh society such as corruption free politics, intra party democracy, institution building, and creating a vast number of honest, competent, and dedicated citizens, Jamaat in the 21st century has not been successful in becoming an effective vehicle for realizing its goal of social justice based on Islamic values,” Abdur Razzaq said in the letter.

“Over the last two decades, I have been trying relentlessly to persuade Jamaat to have a frank discussion about the events of 1971, Jamaat’s role in those events, and why it decided to support Pakistan and to apologise for that decision… But all my efforts have been unsuccessful. My decades of advice had fallen on deaf ears.”

Furthermore, Abdur Razzaq said one of his main objectives when joining Jamaat was to reform it from within. Over the past 30 years, he has advocated structural reforms as well as the full and effective participation of women, among other measures to bring the party in line with successful and modern models implemented in other Muslim majority countries.

“I appealed to bring fundamental changes to Jamaat’s objectives, plans, and programs in view of the change in world politics, and particularly, the upheavals in Muslim countries. As usual, there was no response,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/politics/2019/02/17/jamaat-regrets-razzaq-s-loss-disagrees-with-his-stance

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Bangladesh welcomes ICC ruling on Rohingya abuse probe

16.02.2019

By Md. Kamruzzaman

DHAKA

The Bangladeshi premier on Friday welcomed the International Criminal Court (ICC) decision to send a team next month for preliminary examination of the atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims, state-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha news agency reported. 

Sheikh Hasina assured of all possible support to the team following a meeting with ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Germany, Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary Md. Shahidul Haque told journalists at a briefing. 

The foreign secretary said the ICC team will visit Bangladesh in the beginning of March.

Speaking about legal proceedings on the issues, Bensouda said the ICC has already brought the Rohingya issue under its jurisdiction and set up a court for the trial of perpetrators.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/bangladesh-welcomes-icc-ruling-on-rohingya-abuse-probe/1394653

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Child among 3 killed in Kandahar roadside bomb explosion

17 Feb 2019

At least three civilians including a child were killed in an explosion triggered an improvised explosive device in southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan.

Provincial Police Chief Gen. Tadin Khan in a statement said the incident has taken place in the vicinity of Daman district.

He said an improvised explosive device which was planted on a roadside went off leaving three civilians dead including two men and a child.

No individual or group has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident but Gen. Tadin Khan blames Taliban for the incident.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/child-among-3-killed-in-kandahar-roadside-bomb-explosion-03318/

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NATO SG, President Ghani met on the sidelines of Munich Security Conference

16 Feb 2019

The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani met on the sidelines of Munich Security Conference to hold talks regarding the issues of bilateral interest including peace efforts in Afghanistan.

The Office of the President, ARG Palace, in a statement said the two sides held talks regarding reconciliation process led and owned by Afghan government, joint fight against terroris, and role of the regional countries in the fight against terrorism.

The statement further added that Mr. Stoltenberg reiterated the cooperation of the NATO member countires to Afghanistan.

He also reiterated the alliance’s support to the process led and owned by the Afghan government and added that it would be impossible to achieve peace through a process which is not led and owned by the government of Afghanistan, according to ARG Palace statement.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/nato-sg-president-ghani-met-on-the-sidelines-of-munich-security-conference-03314/

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North America

 

United States backs India on naming Masood Azhar as global terrorist

Feb 17, 2019

The US has backed India’s right to defend itself against cross-border terrorism in the aftermath of Thursday’s Pulwama terror attack claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed, even as the two sides pledged to cooperate to eradicate terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.

The American support was conveyed during a phone conversation between National Security Advisor, John Bolton, and his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, on Friday, which was initiated by the US side, the external affairs ministry said in a readout on Saturday.

In a tweet on Saturday, Bolton added: “Pakistan must crack down on JeM and all terrorists operating from its territory.” The support came as New Delhi weighs its options amid mounting pressure for a response, ranging from a military strike to a slew of diplomatic measures.

The readout from the external affairs ministry said: “Ambassador Bolton supported India’s right to self-defence against cross-border terrorism. He offered all assistance to India to bring the perpetrators and backers of the attack promptly to justice.” Bolton called Doval to “express condolences and outrage” over the JeM suicide attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy at Pulwama that killed 40 troops.

“The two NSAs vowed to work together to ensure that Pakistan ceases to be a safe haven for JeM and terrorist groups that target India, the US and others in the region,” the readout added.

Bolton and Doval also “resolved to hold Pakistan to account for its obligations under United Nations resolutions and to remove all obstacles to designating JeM leader Masood Azhar as a global terrorist under the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 Committee process”.

“I told Ajit Doval… that we support India’s right to self-defence. I have spoken to him twice... and expressed the US’ condolences over the terrorist attack,” Bolton was quoted as saying by PTI.

He said the US has been very clear on Pakistan ending its support to terrorist safe havens. “And we are continuing to be, in discussions we are going to have with the Pakistanis,” Bolton said. Soon after the attack, the White House issued a strongly worded statement calling on Pakistan to “end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil”.

It also described the terror strike in Pulwama as an attack by a “Pakistan-based terrorist group”. Bolton’s call to Doval escalates US support for India to a different level, said an Indian official close to the deliberations, similar to the stance adopted by the US when India carried out its surgical strikes in 2016.

India responded to a strike by a Pakistan-based group on a military base in Uri, Kashmir, with retaliatory surgical strikes the same day that Doval spoke to his then US counterpart, Susan Rice, on September 29.

There has been some speculation the strike was underway when Doval was speaking to Rice. Secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has been one of the most aggressive of Trump administration officials on Pakistan.

He brought up terrorism in a phone call to Prime Minister Imran Khan in the first senior interaction with the Pakistani leader after his election last year, and put it centre stage during his visit to Islamabad on his way to New Delhi for the inaugural 2+2 meeting.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/we-support-india-s-right-to-self-defence-us-national-security-adviser-john-bolton-tells-ajit-doval/story-OhsyeH7NqOzn3ePWBcuFiP.html

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ISIS ‘caliphate’ on brink of defeat in Syria as Trump urges Europe to do more

17 February 2019

US-backed fighters in Syria are poised to capture ISIS’s last, tiny enclave on the Euphrates, the battle commander said on Saturday, bringing its self-declared caliphate to the brink of total defeat as US President Donald Trump spoke of “100 percent victory.”

Trump on Saturday said the caliphate was "ready to fall and that the United States was asking European allies to take back more than 800 Islamic State fighters captured in Syria and put them on trial.”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

 The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial. The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them........

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9:21 AM - Feb 17, 2019

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“The U.S. does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go. We do so much, and spend so much - Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!” he tweeted.

Trump has sworn to pull US forces from Syria after ISIS’s territorial defeat, raising questions over the fate of Washington’s Kurdish allies and Turkish involvement in northeast Syria.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

 ....The U.S. does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go. We do so much, and spend so much - Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!

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9:31 AM - Feb 17, 2019

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As the SDF advanced under heavy US airstrikes in recent days, a stream of civilians fled the few square miles of hamlets and farmland that remain within Islamic State's 'caliphate', along with defeated extremists trying to escape unnoticed.

Though ISIS militants still hold out in a pocket of central Syria's remote desert, and have gone underground as sleeper cells in Iraqi cities, able to launch new attacks, their territorial rule is, for now, almost over.

Jiya Furat said the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had cornered the remaining militants in a neighborhood of Baghouz village near the Iraqi border, under fire from all sides.

"In the coming few days, in a very short time, we will spread the good tidings to the world of the military end of Daesh," he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/17/ISIS-caliphate-on-brink-of-defeat-in-Syria-as-Trump-urges-Europe-to-do-more.html

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Pence: Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world

16 February 2019

US Vice President Mike Pence pressed European countries on Saturday to withdraw from a nuclear deal between Iran and major powers, and urged them to be wary of using telecoms equipment supplied by Chinese provider Huawei.

“The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people,” Pence told the 55th Munich Security Conference. “The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.”

Pence also said that Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world.

“The United States has also been very clear with our security partners on the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies,” he said. “We must protect our critical telecom infrastructure and America is calling on all our security partners to be vigilant,” according to Reuters.

Pence also vowed that the United States would “hunt down” ISIS extremist group even after pulling its troops out of Syria, where the extremists are facing the loss of their final scrap of land.

“The United States will continue to work with all our allies to hunt down the remnants of ISIS wherever and whenever they rear their ugly heads,” according to AFP.

He also called on the European Union to recognize Juan Guaido as the president of Venezuela.

“All of us must stand with the Venezuelan people until freedom and democracy is fully restored,” Pence told the Munich Security Conference.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/02/16/Pence-Iran-is-the-leading-state-sponsor-of-terrorism-in-the-world.html

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US to ask allies to send 'hundreds of troops' to Syria

Feb 16, 2019

Senator Lindsey Graham says the US is looking for its allies to deploy hundreds of troops to Syria following the withdrawal of American soldiers from the Arab country.

Speaking on a panel discussion at the 2019 Munich Security Conference on Friday, Graham announced that US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford would call on Washington's partners during the event to send forces to Syria.

Dunford, he said, “would be coming to some of you in this room, and he will be asking for a contribution of forces to stabilize the region, post destruction of the caliphate,” established by the Daesh terrorist group.

The US senator said he had discussed the Syria plan with President Donald Trump and General Joseph Votel, the head of US Central Command.

"I'm hoping that President Trump will be coming to some of you and asking for your help and you will say yes. And in return, the capability that we have that is unique to the United States will still be in the fight in Syria," Graham said.

Trump ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 American forces from Syria in December 2018 amid preparations by Turkey to launch an operation against US-backed Kurdish militants in northern Syria.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen criticized the idea that European forces would stay in Syria after the US exit, saying the alleged anti-Daesh mission should be "in together, out together."

Additionally, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the US approach in northeastern as a "mystery."

"It is totally out of the question to have French troops on the ground without the Americans there. It's just 'no'," a French government source said.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said the US had told coalition partners that its forces would leave Syria in "weeks rather than months."

A senior US defense official, however, pointed out that none of Washington's allies had made any "specific commitment ... either whether they would stay or [whether] they would leave when we have left."

Despite "a tremendous desire to have a security arrangement or mechanism," no concrete solution has been found to "resolve the security vacuum," he added.

The US and its allies have been bombarding what they call Daesh positions inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/16/588682/Syria-pullout-Lindsey-Graham

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Trump urges Europe to 'take back' Daesh terrorists

17.02.2019

By Servet Gunerigok

WASHINGTON

U.S. President Donald Trump late Saturday urged European states to "take back" hundreds of foreign Daesh terrorists captured in Syria and prosecute them.

"The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial," Trump tweeted. 

"The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them," he warned, referring to Daesh terror group. 

He said the U.S. does not want to watch as Daesh terrorists "permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go".

The president reiterated his plan to pull back the U.S. troops from Syria "after 100% Caliphate victory!" 

In December, he made a surprise announcement that the U.S. would be withdrawing all troops from Syria, and said Daesh had been defeated in the country. 

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/trump-urges-europe-to-take-back-daesh-terrorists/1395078

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Europe

 

Munich Security Summit: Sisi calls for action over online extremism

Damien McElroy

February 16, 2019

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi called for global action against extremism promoted online and spread over digital platforms, claiming that inaction was swelling the ranks of terrorist groups.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, Mr El Sisi said security and stability in countries such as his own was threatened by viral recruitment and plotting.

“As far back 2014 we called on the world to tackle the use of advanced technology to recruit terrorists and bring harm to the world by spreading extremist and Islamist narratives,” he said. “People are lured into the extremist narrative to bring killing to the world. We need measures at the international level but we have not found listening ears to our request.”

The former army head described how tens of millions of Egyptians took to the streets against a “theocratic regime” that was established as the institutions of state faltered. He talked of how a restoration of the importance of co-existence was at the heart of his presidency.

“We have seen the impact of religious extremism our countries and Europe,” he said. “I am the president who is bringing reform to the religious metric by speaking to the biggest institution in Egypt and telling them that not doing so will bring suffering to the Muslim world.

“Our country is responsible for presenting the real image of Islam to the world,” he added. “For example in Egypt we refuse to use the word minority, we say our Coptic Egyptian brothers. We don’t only ask for dialogues, we adopted practices that develop tolerance and co-existence. The church and the mosque are components of any new community in Egypt. Actions speak louder than words. This is the example the Egyptians will follow, it will get out of Egypt and into the Arab world.”

The president, who was granted the legal framework to remain in power until 2024 last week, said states around the world needed to ensure that extremist narratives were banished from places of worship.

“Please be mindful at what is being promoted at the houses of worship, do not allow the extremists to talk to the people because they will lure them in,” he said. “Who created the foreign fighters and brought them into Egypt? We see the consequences.”

Alongside President Klaus Iohannis of Romania, Mr Sisi looked forward to the EU-Arab League summit in Sharm El Sheikh before the end of the month. The Egyptian leader said the gathering would see reinvigorated cooperation on the issue of migration as he acknowledges that instability in the Arab and African nations had spilt into Europe.

“When we speak about progress, we have become a small village where we affect each other,” he said.

“Stability in the Arab world affects our friends in Europe. Migration is caused by instability in some countries.”

European states work closely with the Arab League members, particularly in North African to manage migration flows and share information on terrorism. Most European leaders believe the partnerships have brought results as the migrant flows into Europe from the Mediterranean from north Africa has dropped off.

“The Arab European summit is timely and in exactly the right country,” said Mr Iohannis, who holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. “More, better and stronger collaboration is needed. We work together on different issues but it high time for all the leaders to really engage in this collaboration.

We are in a position to solve these problems but none of us will solve these problems alone.”

In a report The European Council on Foreign Relations, the summit was described as an opportunity but warned that the run-up had been marred by divisions on the European side.

“The desire to lock in continued assistance with Europe’s short-term migration concerns in exchange for the recognition of treating Arab leaders as valued partners remains part of the rationale for the occasion,” it said. “Member states [were] unable to sign off on a joint political declaration at a meeting between European and Arab foreign ministers in Brussels in early February.

“For a summit that was always going to be more about symbolism than content, such disunity could further cement the picture of a divided EU that Arab countries need not take seriously.”

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/munich-security-summit-sisi-calls-for-action-over-online-extremism-1.826358

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Merkel: US pullout from Syria risks boosting Russia, Iran influence

16 February 2019

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Saturday that Washington’s plan to swiftly pull its soldiers out of Syria risks allowing Russia and Iran to boost their role in the region.

ISIS extremist group militants have been boxed in to a scrap of land in the battle for their last remaining territory in northeastern Syria and their final defeat is expected imminently.

Once they are defeated, US forces are set to soon withdraw after President Donald Trump in December announced the pullout of around 2,000 troops.

But Washington is struggling to convince allies to stay on in Syria after it leaves and Merkel warned of the risks of leaving a vacuum in the region.

“Is it a good idea for the Americans to suddenly and quickly withdraw from Syria? Or will it once more strengthen the capacity of Iran and Russia to exert their influence?” Merkel said at the Munich Security Conference.

Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan on Friday pledged ongoing backing for the fight against ISIS - but kept allies guessing as to how that would be achieved once US forces pull out, and won no solid pledges of support.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said the US had told partners in the global anti-ISIS coalition that its soldiers would leave in “weeks rather than months”.

The decision has stunned allies including France, which contributes artillery and about 1,200 forces in the region, including soldiers who train Iraqi troops.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian asked why the US would create a vacuum in Syria that could benefit its enemy Iran, calling the approach a “mystery”.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/02/16/Merkel-US-pullout-from-Syria-risks-boosting-Russia-Iran-influence.html

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Erdogan dubs Macron a ‘political novice’ over Armenia issue

16 February 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday called French counterpart Emmanuel Macron a “political novice” over the announcement that France would hold a national day to commemorate “the Armenian genocide.”

Turkey and Armenia have long been at odds over the treatment of Armenians during World War I.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their people were killed during the war.

But Turkey -- the Ottoman Empire’s successor state -- denies that the massacres, imprisonment and forced deportation of Armenians from 1915 amounted to a genocide.

“I say to Macron -- you are still a political novice, first learn the history of your country,” Erdogan said during an interview with the A-Haber television channel.

He went on to list all the countries which France had colonized and where, he said, massacres had taken place including Algeria, Indochina and Rwanda.

France was one of the first major European nations to recognize the mass killings as “genocide.” More than 20 other countries have followed suit.

Armenians commemorate the massacres on April 24 -- the day in 1915 when thousands of Armenian intellectuals suspected of harboring nationalist sentiment and being hostile to Ottoman rule were rounded up.

Earlier this month Macron announced that France, which has a substantial Armenian community, would hold a “national day of commemoration of the Armenian genocide” on the same date.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/02/16/Erdogan-dubs-Macron-a-Political-novice-over-Armenia-issue-.html

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Poland summons Israeli ambassador to clarify Netanyahu Holocaust comments

16 February 2019

Poland summoned Israel’s ambassador on Friday and threatened to scupper a summit in Jerusalem after reported comments in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to accuse the Polish nation of complicity in the Nazi Holocaust.

Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that the prime minister, who was in Warsaw for a US-sponsored Middle East conference, had been misquoted by The Jerusalem Post, which issued a corrected story.

In a later statement, Netanyahu’s office said that in his remarks on the question of Polish collaboration with Nazi occupiers, he had not cast any blanket blame.

Poland, where sensitivities over the issue of its actions during the Holocaust are high, called in Israeli envoy Anna Azari.

The matter of Poland’s conduct during the Holocaust - in which many of the six million Jewish dead were killed in Nazi camps on Polish soil - was at the center of an Israeli-Polish diplomatic dispute last year.

After an outcry in Israel and the United States, Poland’s conservative Law and Justice government backed out of legislation mandating jail terms for anyone suggesting the country had collaborated with the Nazis.

Testing sensitivities

Sensitivities were tested again late on Thursday after Netanyahu answered a question about that law posed by one of the Israeli reporters who had travelled with him to Poland.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper quoted Netanyahu as saying: “The Poles collaborated with the Nazis, and I don’t know anyone who was ever sued for such a statement.”

Yaakov Katz, the Jerusalem Post’s editor, told Reuters the account in his newspaper had used the term “Polish nation,” although not in a direct quote from Netanyahu, and the story was swiftly amended to reflect what he really said.

But Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek said Warsaw wanted the matter “to be clarified unequivocally.”

Hours later, Netanyahu's office issued a second statement.

“In a briefing, PM Netanyahu spoke of Poles and not the Polish people or the country of Poland,” the statement said.

Many Poles still refuse to accept research showing thousands participated in the Holocaust in addition to the thousands who risked their lives to help the Jews.

Commenting on Netanyahu’s remarks, Polish President Andrzej Duda raised a question mark over a two-day summit in Jerusalem next week of the four central European nations - Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Duda said that if Netanyahu had said what was originally reported, “Israel would not be a good place to meet in spite of the previous arrangements.” Duda offered his own presidential residence as an alternative venue.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/02/16/Poland-summons-Israeli-ambassador-to-clarify-Netanyahu-comments-on-Holocaust.html

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Trump wants Europe to take Daesh captives in Syria

Feb 17, 2019

US President Donald Trump says Europe should take responsibility for those Daesh terrorists in Syria who have traveled there from the continent and been captured by the US because or American forces will be “forced” to release them, as he plans to withdraw US forces from the Arab country.

“The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them,” Trump tweeted on Saturday, using an acronym for Daesh.

“The US does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go. We do so much, and spend so much - Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing,” he said in a follow-up tweet.

The US and a number of its allies have been in Syria without Damascus’ permission since 2014 under the pretext of fighting the Takfiri Daesh terror group. Last month, Trump declared victory over Daesh, and announced that he would withdraw the roughly 2,000 American troops from the Arab country.

This is while the military victory over Daesh in Syria as well as in neighboring Iraq came as a result of operations by the militaries of the two Arab countries and advisory military assistance from their regional allies. US commanders have also described Trump’s declaration of complete victory over Daesh as premature.

Reports showed last year that more than 5,000 Europeans — mostly from Britain, France, Germany, and Belgium — had joined Daesh’s ranks since 2014, when the group emerged in Syria and Iraq.

The outfit has already conducted horrific attacks in Europe, including in locations in and around Paris in November 2015 which killed 130 people.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/17/588764/US-Trump-Europe-Daesh-Syria

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Syrian refugees' fabric showcased at London

17.02.2019

By Tayfun Salci

LONDON

Turkish Fashion Designer Zeynep Kartal's designs, prepared with the fabric woven by Syrian refugees in Turkey, were showcased at London Fashion Week on Saturday.

Fashion followers show great interest in the designs, which were supported by the Turkish Presidency's Directorate of Communications.

Kartal's 15 designs were showcased in the fall-winter collection section of the fashion occasion, which was also watched by Umit Yalcin, Turkey's Ambassador to London.

Fahrettin Altun, Turkish presidency's communication director, hailed the fashion show on his social media account.

Noting that Turkey was "the largest refugee-hosting country in the world and provided hope for the downtrodden", he said the designs were co-created with Kartal and the Syrian women, who fled the war-ravaged Syria.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on protesters with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been killed and millions more displaced by the conflict.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/syrian-refugees-fabric-showcased-at-london/1395064

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Germany rejects US call to leave Iran nuclear deal

16.02.2019

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected U.S. calls to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and cancel a controversial gas pipeline project with Russia.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Merkel criticized Iran’s policies towards Israel, its ballistic missile program and its involvement in Syria and Yemen, but she also defended the nuclear deal with Tehran.

“Would canceling the only remaining agreement with Iran help our common goal to contain its negative impact?” Merkel asked, and reaffirmed that Germany will stay in the deal signed in 2015.

Her remarks came after the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called on European allies to leave the deal and join Washington’s diplomatic and economic pressure campaign against Iran.

Merkel also dismissed U.S. calls to stop the construction of Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would carry Russian gas to Germany directly across the Baltic Sea.

She argued that Nord Stream 2 pipeline would not make Europe dependent on Russia, as Europe has many energy terminals to receive more LNG from the U.S.

“As Germany will phase out coal and nuclear power, we will certainly be an interesting market for the natural gas in the next couple of years,” she said.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/germany-rejects-us-call-to-leave-iran-nuclear-deal/1394967

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Weapons sales to Saudi Arabia unlawful: UK report

16.02.2019

By Muhammad Mussa

LONDON

The U.K. government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia is unlawful, an all-party committee of the House of Lords has concluded in a report.

The report, published by the international relations select committee, also found that by sanctioning weapons exports to the Kingdom, the British government has found itself on “the wrong side of the law” on the war in Yemen.

It added that these weapons are likely to be the cause of civilian casualties in the war-torn country.

The publication is the first from a parliamentary committee that has described the arms sales to Saudi Arabia as unlawful -- and has said that ministers are not making independent checks to see if British arms being used are in breach of the law. Rather they are relying on questionable investigations by their Saudi allies.

“The government asserts that, in its licensing of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, it is narrowly on the right side of international humanitarian law.

“Although conclusive evidence is not yet available, we assess that it is narrowly on the wrong side: given the volume and type of arms being exported to the Saudi-led coalition, we believe they are highly likely to be the cause of significant civilian casualties in Yemen, risking the contravention of international humanitarian law,” the report concludes, as quoted by The Gardian.

The report places no legal obligation on ministers, but is likely to put pressure on Saudi Arabia and UAE to resolve the crisis in Yemen through dialogue and halt military intervention.

Although a UN-brokered ceasefire in the port city of Hodeida is being held, coalition airstrikes continue to intensify across Yemen, as has fighting in other regions such as the Saudi-Yemeni border and the Sa’ada governorate.

The country has faced six years of civil war, with heavy involvement from regional powers backing opposing sides, leaving the population on the brink of famine.

War broke out in 2013 after Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sana’a, which led to a Saudi-led response, backed by the US, to reinstate the internationally-backed government.

An estimated 8.4 million people in Yemen are at risk of severe famine and more than 22 million people, or 75 percent of the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance.

International pressure has been growing to end Western-support for Saudi’s involvement in Yemen as more than 2 million people have been displaced, and over 10,000 killed so far.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/weapons-sales-to-saudi-arabia-unlawful-uk-report/1394873

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Arab World

 

US-backed militants collect lion share of aid destined for Syrians in Rukban camp: Report

Feb 16, 2019

US-sponsored Takfiri militants have collected a significant proportion of humanitarian aid destined for thousands of displaced Syrians stranded in a camp near the Jordanian border, the Russian and Syrian coordination centers on returning refugees have warned.

“Given the negative experience of the first humanitarian convoy as well as absence of any objective information about the targeted aid to refugees from the second humanitarian convoy, there are reasons to say that the major part of humanitarian cargo was received by the US-controlled armed groups, not by Syrians living in the [Rukban refugee] camp,” the centers said in a statement released on Saturday.

The statement further noted that Russia would assist Syria in opening two humanitarian corridors for those who want to leave the camp.

“In the current situation, having once again made sure that it is not possible to achieve any constructive position on the part of American partners … the Syrian government, with the assistance of the Russian Federation, decided to open two humanitarian corridors in residential areas, Jleb and Jabal al-Ghurab, on the border of the 55-kilometer zone, occupied by the United States, where the corresponding checkpoints will be equipped for the voluntary, unimpeded and safe exit of Syrian refugees to places of their choice of residence,” it pointed out.

Russia says the US and militants are holding people in Rukban refugee hostage.

“We call on the American command and leaders of illegal militant groups in the al-Tanf region to out an end to the forcible keeping of women and children, mostly affected by cold, illness and malnutrition in the camp. All of them will be given necessary assistance,” said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov on Friday as a humanitarian convoy of the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) delivered aid, including medical supplies and basic commodities, to Rukban.

The Friday convoy reportedly consisted of more than 100 trucks.

Konashenkov added that Russia and Syria would jointly establish a temporary housing area for refugees from the camp.

“To save the refugees of the Rukban camp, the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria together with the Syrian government will set up temporary accommodation centers equipped with heaters and provided with hot meals, other essentials and medical personnel … All refugees will be transported unrestrainedly and safely to areas controlled by the Syrian government,” he pointed out.

The Friday humanitarian aid convoy was the third for the refugee camp. The second convoy, including medical supplies and basic commodities, was delivered to Rukban, on February 7. The first such convoy entered Rukban on November 3.

The UN says about 45,000 people, mostly women and children, are trapped inside the Rukban refugee camp, where conditions are desperate.

On January 12, a Syrian mother attempted to torch herself and her children to death in the camp after she failed to find food for her family for three straight days.

Other refugees in the camp put out the fire, which had damaged the tent, and evacuated the woman and her children to hospital.

The woman and her infant were seriously hurt while the two other children suffered minor injuries.

This is while Geneva-based international aid agency Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has put the number of refugees living there at some 60,000.

In October, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said people in Rukban have been without access to food and humanitarian aid for several months, highlighting that the tough situation was further complicated with a closed border by Jordan.

In the same month, Amman re-opened the Nasib border crossing with Syria for the first time in three years, as the crisis in Syria is gradually winding down thanks to the Syrian army’s decisive gains against terrorists.

Jordan had closed its border with Syria following an attack on its soldiers by Daesh Takfiri terrorists back in 2016.

The area where Rukban is located is controlled by the former US-backed Shuhada al-Qaryatayn militant group. The extremists were supposed to evacuate to northern Syria in accordance with a Russian-backed deal, but refused to do so.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the country.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/16/588715/USbacked-Takfiri-militants-get-lion-share-of-humanitarian-aid-convoy

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Daesh ‘caliphate’ on brink of defeat in Syria as Trump urges Europe to do more

February 17, 2019

NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria: US-backed fighters in Syria are poised to capture Daesh’s last, tiny enclave on the Euphrates, the battle commander said on Saturday, bringing its self-declared caliphate to the brink of total defeat as US President Donald Trump spoke of “100 percent victory”.

Jiya Furat said the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had cornered the remaining militants in a neighborhood of Baghouz village near the Iraqi border, under fire from all sides.

“In the coming few days, in a very short time, we will spread the good tidings to the world of the military end of Daesh,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for Daesh.

He was speaking after said on Friday there would be “great announcements” about Syria over the next 24 hours.

Trump on Saturday said the caliphate was “ready to fall and that the United States was asking European allies to take back more than 800 Daesh fighters captured in Syria and put them on trial.

“The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial,” he said in a Tweet. “The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them...

“....The US does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go. We do so much, and spend so much - Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!”

Trump has sworn to pull US forces from Syria after Daesh’s territorial defeat, raising questions over the fate of Washington’s Kurdish allies and Turkish involvement in northeast Syria.

As the SDF advanced under heavy US airstrikes in recent days, a stream of civilians fled the few square miles of hamlets and farmland that remain within Daesh’s ‘caliphate’, along with defeated jihadists trying to escape unnoticed.

Though Daesh fighters still hold out in a pocket of central Syria’s remote desert, and have gone underground as sleeper cells in Iraqi cities, able to launch new attacks, their territorial rule is, for now, almost over.

It ends a project launched from the great mediaeval mosque of Mosul in northern Iraq in 2014, when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi seized advantage of regional chaos to proclaim himself caliph, suzerain over all Muslim people and land.

He set up a governing system with courts, a currency and flag that at its height stretched from northwest Syria almost to Baghdad, encompassing some two million inhabitants.

Human shields

But its reign of terror over minorities and other perceived enemies, marked by massacres, sexual slavery and the beheading of hostages, drew a forceful international military response that pushed it steadily back from 2015.

Most of the fighters left in Baghouz are foreigners, the SDF has said, among the thousands drawn by Baghdadi’s promise of a new jihadist utopia straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border and expunging national borders.

All that remains, said Furat, is an encircled pocket some 700 meters square. “Thousands of civilians are still trapped there as human shields,” he said.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the SDF had taken control of all of Baghouz after the jihadists there surrendered. SDF officials denied this.

Spokesman Mustafa Bali said the SDF had caught several militants trying to flee among the civilians. Others had handed themselves over.

Their fate, and that of their families, has befuddled foreign governments, with few ready to repatriate citizens who pledged allegiance to a group sworn to their destruction, but who might be hard to legally prosecute. The SDF does not want to hold them indefinitely.

The fate of Baghdadi is also a mystery. He has led the group since 2010, when it was still an underground al-Qaeda offshoot in Iraq.

Still a threat

Its capacity then for strategic retreats in hard times, followed by rebounds when circumstances changed, has prompted numerous warnings that Daesh’s defeat has not ended the threat it poses to the region.

Daesh suffered crippling defeats in 2017, when Iraq recaptured Mosul, the SDF seized its Syrian capital of Raqqa, and the Damascus government pushed it east to the Euphrates.

But in Iraq it has switched to guerrilla hit-and-run tactics, aimed at undermining the Baghdad government. It has also claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in swathes of northeast Syria held by the SDF, including one last month that killed four Americans.

That attack came soon after Trump pledged to pull out, saying Daesh was already defeated, rattling allies and prompting defense secretary Jim Mattis to resign.

Turkey, which regards the SDF’s strongest component, the Kurdish YPG, as terrorists, has threatened to march deeper into northern Syria to drive it back.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1453431/middle-east

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Saudi Arabia condemns terrorist attack on Egyptian troops in North Sinai

February 16, 2019

JEDDAH: A Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs source condemned an attack in which fifteen Egyptian military personnel were either killed or wounded on Saturday in North Sinai, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The breakdown of military casualties was not immediately clear, but seven militants were confirmed to have been killed in the clash. Daesh later claimed responsibility for the attack on its news agency AMAQ.

The source added that the Kingdom stands with Egypt in its fight against terrorism and offered its condolences to the victims’ families and the Egyptian people.

Security forces launched a campaign a year ago against militants focused on Egypt's Sinai peninsula, and say they have killed several hundred militants since then.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1453261/saudi-arabia

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ISIS claims North Sinai attack, says 20 Egyptian troops killed

17 February 2019

ISIS has claimed responsibility for an attack in North Sinai on Saturday which it said killed 20 Egyptian military troops, the group’s AMAQ news agency said.

The group gave no evidence for its claim.

The Egyptian military said earlier on Saturday that seven militants had been killed and 15 Egyptian military personnel killed or wounded in the clash.

Security forces launched a campaign a year ago against extremist militants focused on Egypt's Sinai peninsula, and say they have killed several hundred militants since then.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/17/ISIS-claims-North-Sinai-attack-says-20-Egyptian-troops-killed.html

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Regime shelling kills 18 civilians in northwest Syria

17 February 2019

Regime bombardment has killed 18 civilians in the last major region outside government control in northwest Syria over the past 48 hours, a war monitor said Saturday.

Artillery and rocket fire launched by regime forces took the lives of eight children, seven women and three men in the Idlib region, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The deadly bombardment hit the towns of Maaret al-Noman and Khan Sheikhun, said the Britain-based monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information.

Idlib is mainly controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a Syrian group led by former Al-Qaeda militants, after they pushed back smaller, Turkey-backed rebel outfits last month.

Since September, the region has been protected from a massive regime offensive by a ceasefire deal brokered by regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey.

But sporadic regime bombardment has continued to hit the region, and hundreds of missiles rained down on Maaret al-Noman, Khan Sheikhun, and other areas on Friday and Saturday.

Almost eight years into Syria’s grinding civil war, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime controls around two-thirds of the country.

His army and allied fighters have made great gains against rebels and extremists since Russia’s military intervened on the side of Damascus in 2015.

The war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests, and has since spiraled into a complex conflict involving world powers that has killed more than 360,000 people.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/17/Regime-shelling-kills-18-civilians-in-northwest-Syria.html

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ISIS down to half a square kilometer in Syria: commander

16 February 2019

Extremists defending the very last pocket controlled by ISIS in eastern Syria are trapped in an area of half a square kilometer, a top commander said Saturday.

“We want to confirm that Baghouz is within firing range and is besieged,” Jia Furat, the overall commander of the operation led by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, told reporters.

“These days, ISIS is besieged in a neighborhood that is estimated to be 700 meters long and 700 meters wide,” he said.

On Saturday, Vice-President Mike Pence vowed the US would “hunt down” ISIS even after pulling its troops out of Syria, where the extremists are facing the loss of their final scrap of land.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/16/ISIS-down-to-half-a-square-kilometer-in-Syria-commander.html

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Homs: Syrian Army Pounds ISIL's Movements Near Palmyra

Feb 16, 2019

The Damascus Army troops engaged in heavy clashes with the ISIL terrorists in Palmyra desert, killing and wounding a large number of militants.

The army troops also pounded the terrorists' movements in Palmyra, and destroyed several hideouts and military vehicles carrying heavy weaponry.

A large amount of terrorists' military equipment, including mortars, missile-launchers, RPGs, machineguns, ammunition and medicine were also destroyed in the Syrian Army attacks.

In a relevant development earlier this month, the Syrian Army fended off an attack by an ISIL group near Palmyra, and killed all invading militants.

The Syrian Army in an ambush operation engaged in heavy clashes with the ISIL terrorists who had penetrated into Wadi al-Sahil region Southeast of al-Sukhna near Palmyra in Eastern Homs.

A battlefield source, meantime, said that the Syrian troops killed all the terrorists after destroying their vehicles and military equipment.

In a relevant development in late January, the Syrian Army heavily pounded the terrorists' movements and positions in Badiya (desert) region, including Avirez Dam, Humeimem and along the border regions with Deir Ezzur province in Eastern Homs.

Field sources also reported that the Syrian Army destroyed several terrorists' targets, killing and wounding a large number of them.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971127000726

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US Dispatches Troops, Advanced Military Equipment to Iraq's Kirkuk

Feb 16, 2019

"New US military convoys comprising advanced military vehicles and equipment together with fresh troops have arrived in K1 military base in Kirkuk province in Northern Iraq," the Arabic-language al-Maloumeh news website quoted Mohammad Mehdi al-Bayati as saying.

Al-Bayati pointed to the US Army's increased patrol near Kirkuk, including al-Havija, al-Riyaz and al-Rashad, and asked the Baghdad government to show reaction to the US Army's presence and ask for the cause of its deployment in Kirkuk province.

He said that the number of the US troops stationed in K1 Military Base stands at 5,000 which is exactly the same figure as that of Ain al-Assad base in al-Anbar province.

This comes as Badr Organization had previously announced that the US has expanded its military presence to areas as far as Karbala province.

In a relevant development in late January, Iraqi sources revealed that the US forces deployed in al-Anbar in Western Iraq have conducted reconnaissance operations over the energy zone in the province.

The Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website quoted a source at al-Anbar provincial council as saying that the US forces, supported by combat helicopters, carried out reconnaissance operations in Okaz oil and gas field in Western al-Anbar without coordination and agreement with Iraqi security forces.

Earlier, Hameed Al-Hayes, the head of the al-Anbar Salvation Council, had warned that the Americans had established military bases near Okaz in the town of al-Qa'em in Western al-Anbar to take control over the gas field.

Iraqi sources reported earlier this month that the US army was searching for new locations to establish military bases in the two towns of al-Ramadi and Fallujah in al-Anbar province.

The Arabic-language al-Maloumeh news website quoted an Iraqi security source as saying that a number of US military advisors along with army forces traveled to the 'Military Farm' region in Eastern Fallujah to find a location for their new base.

He added that the US forces have located a number of positions in different parts of al-Ramadi, and said that they want to set up new bases in the province.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971127000596

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Syrian, Russian Military Convoys Arrive in Idlib for Fresh Operations Against Tahrir Al-Sham Terrorists

Feb 16, 2019

"The Idlib operations will be conducted in several phases and the main purpose for the upcoming operation is restoring security to villages and towns in areas under terrorists' control in Hama and Idlib that come under terrorists' constant missile attacks everyday," the Arabic-language service of Russian Sputnik news agency quoted a high-ranking military source as saying.

Syrian political analyst Qasi Abido, meantime, said that the Syrian Army's military operation comes as the Syrian Government is fully aware that tens of thousands of foreign terrorists stationed in Idlib province will not leave the region and will not lay down their arms.

Meantime, the Syrian Army pounded the terrorists' military positions and movements in al-Tavineh, al-Haviz, East of Sahl al-Ghab, Wadi al-Dourat on the Eastern side of al-Latamineh town in Northern Hama.

The Syrian Army attacks came in response to the terrorists' missile attacks on the town of Salhab in Western Hama.

The Xeber24 news website also reported that the Russian Army has sent several trucks carrying weapons, heavy military hardware, ammunition and logistical supplies to its military positions in Salba village in Western Hama along the contact line with terrorists.

In a relevant development on Friday, dissident sources in Northern Syria claimed government troops had leveled up preparations for a major assault on militant groups in Idlib after a tripartite summit of the Iranian, Russian and Turkish presidents wrapped up work in the Russian resort town of Sochi on Thursday.

"A massive military convoy comprising hundreds of Syrian Army troops together with over 30 tanks and military vehicles have been dispatched to Northern Hama via Damascus-Aleppo road," the sources said.

The sources, meantime, reiterated that the Syrian Army is preparing for mop-up operations from Northeastern Lattakia to Western Aleppo after Turkey failed to fulfill its commitments in driving back the terrorists from the demilitarized zone.

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted dissident sources as saying that Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at and its allied militants have imposed control over 90 percent of Idlib province, the countryside of Lattakia, Hama and Aleppo and are prepared for battle with the Syrian Army.

Turkey and Russia agreed in September to create a demilitarized zone in Idlib region free from all heavy weapons and terrorists. Ankara pledged to disarm and remove terrorists dominating in the region, according to the deal, which prevented the Moscow-backed Syrian government from launching a major military operation to wipe the militant groups.

Yet, months after the agreement went into action, Turkey has still remained inactive, giving the Al-Nusra the chance to expand its rule over the region. Russia has demanded Turkey to do more to tackle hardcore fighters in Syria's Idlib province and fulfill promises it made as part of a deal with Moscow last year.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated that the presence of terrorist groups in Syria’s Idlib region should not be tolerated.

President Putin made remarks to his Iranian and Turkish counterparts in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where the three heads of state convened on Thursday to discuss peace in Syria.

The Russian president told Hassan Rouhani and Recep Tayyip Erdogan that militants in Syria’s Idlib province must be “eradicated”, as Russia, a key backer of President Bashar Assad, has complained that militants who used to belong to the Al-Nusra Front terrorist group are now in control of much of Idlib and wants military action to drive them out.

The Russian president stated that he supports the cease-fire deal, but noted that “this doesn’t mean that we’re going to put up with the presence of terrorist groups” in Idlib, calling on Tehran and Ankara to “consider concrete steps” to destroy “the hotbed of the terrorists”.

He stressed that the problems of security in Northeastern Syria in view of the possibility of the US troop pullout must be resolved exclusively on the basis of strict observance of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of that country.

Putin recalled that in the course of his talks with Erdogan in Moscow in January the two sides agreed that "the problems of security in Northeastern Syria, just as in any other parts of the country, must be resolved on the basis of strict observance of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity".

The Russian leader stressed that he wants to reach an agreement to “ensure a lasting de-escalation” in the region.

Since January 2017, Moscow, Tehran and Ankara have been mediating peace negotiations between representatives from the Damascus government and opposition groups in a series of rounds held in Astana and other places.

Meantime, President Rouhani also told the tripartite summit in Sochi on Thursday that "neither in this country, nor in other parts of the world, terrorists must not feel safe and their sponsors must not think that they can use terrorism to the advantage of internal, regional and international equations".

"The fight against all terrorist groups in Syria must be continued until they are eradicated," he reiterated, and added, "The presence of foreign forces, including Americans, who are present in the country without the permission of the Syrian government, should be terminated as soon as possible."

At the end of the Sochi meeting on Syria, presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey issued a joint statement, stressing strong commitment to sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria.

The presidents of Iran, Syria and Russia also denounced and expressed serious concern about the efforts by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists to increase their control over the Idlib de-escalation area, and agreed to effectively counter such attempts.

Three-way talks on a peace settlement in Syria kicked off on Thursday in Sochi amid increasing concerns about militants in Idlib.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that some Western countries wish to preserve an enclave that is a terrorist hotbed in Syria’s Idlib province.

“There’s been news that some Western countries wish to do precisely that. They want this enclave where Jabhat al-Nusra controls more than 90% of the territory to become a participant in the future political process,” Lavrov said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971127000716

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ISIL Ends Presence in Eastern Euphrates after Agreement with US

Feb 16, 2019

The Arabic-language al-Watan Online news website reported that the US Army has relocated the last remnants of the ISIL terrorist group to an unknown place from the farms in the countryside of al-Baghouz town in Southeastern Deir Ezzur.

The London-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR), meantime, reported that about 440 ISIL terrorists left Eastern Euphrates in two phases after agreeing with the Syrian Army and the US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

It reiterated that the US is going to officially declare the end of the ISIL's presence in Eastern Euphrates.

In a relevant development on Friday, media sources said that the SDF are going to declare end of the ISIL in Eastern Euphrates after the latter retreated from areas under its control in the region.

"After ISIL's foreign terrorists left the Eastern Euphrates and tens of them surrendered, the SDF took control of the al-Khanafera and Sheikh Mohammad regions in Baghouz town," sources in Eastern Euphrates said.

They reiterated that the ISIL is only in control of several houses and a camp South of the Baghouz town in an area covering less than 1 square kilometers.

The SOHR, meantime, announced that the US troops and the SDF will soon declare the end of ISIL's presence in Eastern Euphrates as tens of non-Syrian and Western terrorists of the ISIL have retreated from that region.

In a relevant development last week, a senior source in the SDF said that the ringleader of the ISIL terrorist group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi "is being protected by the Americans in Eastern Syria", adding that Washington plans to play a Hollywood-like scenario to declare end of the ISIL caliphate.

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik news agency quoted the source as saying that Baghdadi is at present being heavily protected by the American forces in a secret place in Eastern Euphrates region.

He added that the Americans are waiting for an opportunity to conduct heliborne operations by their marine forces in Southeastern Deir Ezzur and declare the capture of al-Baghdadi and end of ISIL on footage.

The source insisted that the time for the "above-mentioned theater is close", adding that the American forces have held SDF back from further advances in the ISIL-occupied regions in Eastern Euphrates to play the scenario.

US President Donald Trump said in early February that the country would likely announce soon that the entire ISIL terrorist group caliphate had been retaken in Syria and Iraq.

"It should be formally announced, sometime probably next week, that we'll have 100 percent of the caliphate," Trump stated during his remarks at a ministerial meeting of the US-led coalition member-states.

Earlier, the American president said during his second State of the Union address that it was time to return US troops deployed in Syria back home.

In December, Trump declared the ISIL terrorist group has defeated in Syria, and announced the US troop pullout from the country but gave no timeline.

Also earlier, a senior US administration official told reporters that Syria's Al-Tanf region would be the last place in the country that American troops leave as they implemented a planned withdrawal.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971127000529

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Hezbollah leader blasts Trump over fight against ISIS

17 February 2019

The leader of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group is blasting President Donald Trump ahead of his expected declaration of victory against ISIS in Syria.

Hassan Nasrallah said Saturday that had it not been for the US, Syrian government forces, supported by Hezbollah fighters on the ground, would have defeated the extremists a long time ago.

Nasrallah said the victory declaration against ISIS will be made by “the biggest hypocrite in the world. American President Donald Trump.”

Trump said the White House will soon make an announcement about the fight against ISIS.

Nasrallah also denied US assertions that it has cells in Venezuela during his speech on Saturday.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/17/Hezbollah-leader-blasts-Trump-over-fight-against-ISIS.html

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Seven militants killed in Egypt’s North Sinai

16 February 2019

Seven militants were killed and 15 Egyptian military personnel were killed or wounded in a clash in North Sinai on Saturday, the Egyptian military said.

The breakdown of military casualties was not immediately clear. However, two security sources told Reuters that some of the injuries were serious.

Security forces launched a campaign a year ago against Islamist militants focused on Egypt's Sinai peninsula, and say they have killed several hundred militants since then.

"Combing operations and the pursuit and elimination of the terrorist elements in the area where the incident took place is ongoing," the military spokesman said in a statement.

The security sources said operations were taking place under aerial cover.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/16/Seven-militants-killed-in-Egypt-s-North-Sinai.html

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Kurd-led forces: Civilians prompt delay in assault on last ISIS enclave

16 February 2019

“Large numbers” of civilians remain inside the last ISIS enclave in Syria prompting a fresh delay in a final advance, Kurdish-led forces said on Saturday.

“There are still civilians inside in large numbers,” US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Adnan Afrin told AFP on the day President Donald Trump said he expected to announce the end of the extremists' “caliphate”.

“We weren't expecting this number, otherwise we wouldn't have resumed the campaign four days ago. This is why it's been delayed,” Afrin said.

A second SDF spokesman told AFP that the diehard extremists remained in control of the tiny enclave around the village of Baghouz on the north bank of the Euphrates river.

“The pocket inside Baghouz is still controlled by the ISIS group,” spokesman Mustefa Bali told AFP.

“There are still civilians inside Baghouz and we are working on getting them out.”

Neither spokesman would comment on the timeline set by Trump for a US announcement that the “caliphate” had been eradicated.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/16/Observatory-SDF-take-control-of-last-ISIS-enclave-in-east-Syria.html

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Africa

 

Sudanese policeman dies from wounds after protesters stone vehicle

16 February 2019

A Sudanese policeman has died from his wounds after protesters threw stones at a police vehicle passing close to demonstrations in the capital Khartoum, a police spokesman said on Friday.

The vehicle was passing the area by chance late on Thursday, the spokesman said, adding that a number of suspects had been arrested.

The case brings the official death toll during protests that have spread since Dec. 19 across Sudan to 32, including three security personnel. An opposition-linked doctors’ syndicate said last week that 57 people had been killed in the protests.

“The vehicle was pelted with stones, and they were police returning from training and had no link to the dispersal of the unrest,” said police spokesman Hashem Ali.

Security forces dispersed protests close to the presidential palace in Khartoum on Thursday, rounding up several dozen of them and driving them away in pick-up trucks, witnesses said.

On Friday police fired teargas to disperse hundreds of people who protested after leaving a mosque in Omdurman, across the Nile from central Khartoum, witnesses said.

The protesters had blocked a road with stones and branches chanting, “Down, that's it!”, “Freedom, peace and justice”, and “The people’s choice is revolution.”

The protests were triggered by a deepening economic crisis and have become the most sustained popular challenge to President Omar al-Bashir since he took power in a coup nearly 30 years ago.

The president and his ruling National Congress Party have shown no sign of bowing to demands to quit and have blamed the unrest on unnamed foreign agents.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/16/Sudanese-policeman-dies-from-wounds-after-protesters-stone-vehicle.html

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Tunisian workers kidnapped in Libya, says foreign ministry

16 February 2019

Tunisians working near the Libyan capital Tripoli have been kidnapped by a militia, Tunisia’s foreign ministry said, and a diplomatic source told AFP the number abducted was 14.

“The foreign ministry is following the predicament of the Tunisian citizens... (who were) kidnapped by armed Libyan elements near Zawiya”, the ministry said on its Facebook page late on Friday.

A human rights activist said that the armed group responsible for Thursday’s kidnapping was seeking the release of one of its members held in Tunisia.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/02/16/Tunisian-workers-kidnapped-in-Libya-says-foreign-ministry-.html

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Boko Haram kills eight in northeast Nigeria, militia says

February 16, 2019

DAURA, NIGERIA: Boko Haram insurgents killed eight people in Nigeria during an attack on the northeastern city of Maiduguri, a civilian militia leader said on Saturday.

"We recovered a total of eight bodies of residents killed in the Boko Haram attack," late on Friday, Haram Abba Aji-Kalli of the Civilian JTF militia told AFP.

The attack came hours before Nigeria's electoral commission announced it was postponing Saturday's presidential and legislative vote for a week.

The delay has been condemned by both President Muhammadu Buhari, who is standing for a second term, and his chief opponent former vice-president Atiku Abubakar.

Boko Haram fighters shot residents while two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the Friday attack on Maiduguri's Jiddari Polo neighbourhood.

The killings came after the group overran a military base north of Maiduguri on Thursday, stealing an armored vehicle and torching buildings in an attack that left "several soldiers" missing, two military sources said on condition of anonymity.

The day before, at least four people were killed when the insurgents struck a convoy belonging to the governor of northeast Nigeria's Borno state, of which Maiduguri is the capital.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1453196/world

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Suicide attack on mosque in Nigeria kills 11

16.02.2019

Police have confirmed 11 people dead in early Saturday morning suicide attacks inside a mosque in Nigeria's northeastern Borno State.

The attacks in Gwozari/Kushari area of state capital Maiduguri were carried out by two suicide bombers and a gunman, all believed to be Boko Haram militants who have waged a violent insurgency in the region since 2009.

“Eleven people including three bombers died while 15 others sustained injuries and are currently hospitalized at the State Specialist Hospital Maiduguri,” Borno Police Commissioner Damian Chukwu said in a statement read to reporters in Maiduguri.

The suicide attacks occurred just hours before Nigeria's general elections were due to commence. The polls have now been delayed for logistics reasons.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/suicide-attack-on-mosque-in-nigeria-kills-11/1394929

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