Islamic World News(01 Mar 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)
‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ (War against India) Will Continue Irrespective of Indo-Pak Tie, Jaish-e-Mohammed Resolved, In a Conference, More Than a Year Ago: Intelligence Report
















Those who are acquitted include, Jameel Ahmed Abdullah Khan, Mohammed Yunus Mohammed Ishaq, Farooque Nazir Khan, Yusuf Gulab Khan, Ayyub Ismail Khan, Waseemuddin Shamsuddin, Shaikha Shafi Shaikh Azeez, Ashfaq Syed Murtuza Meer, Mumtaz Syed Murtuza Meer, Haroon Mohammed Bafati and Moulana Abdul Qader Habibi.

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‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ (War against India) Will Continue Irrespective of Indo-Pak Tie, Jaish-e-Mohammed Resolved, In a Conference, More Than a Year Ago: Intelligence Report

Tag of Terrorists Erased: 11 Muslims Acquitted In TADA Case after 25 Years

Amidst Celebration for Air Strikes, Masjid, Muslim Houses Attacked In Hapur

At Islamic Nations (OIC) Meet, Sushma Swaraj Points to Pak Hand In Terror

Putin Calls Modi As Russia Offers Mediation between India, Pakistan

Israel Playing Major Role in India-Pakistan Conflict: UK Analyst

Security Expert Informs of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi's Global Recruitment Plan

Bangladeshi Authorities Have Banned Thousands of Websites and Social Media Apps Allegedly Linked To Pornography, Gambling and Anti-National Sentiments

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Announces Abhi’s Release as a ‘Peace Gesture’

Fethullah Gulen: Erdogan Has Destroyed Turkish Democracy

US Offers $1 Million Reward to Find Osama Bin Laden Son

 

India

‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ (War against India) Will Continue Irrespective of Indo-Pak Tie, Jaish-e-Mohammed Resolved, In a Conference, More Than a Year Ago: Intelligence Report

Tag of Terrorists Erased: 11 Muslims Acquitted In TADA Case After 25 Years

Amidst Celebration For Air Strikes, Masjid, Muslim Houses Attacked In Hapur

At Islamic Nations (OIC) Meet, Sushma Swaraj Points To Pak Hand In Terror

Armed Forces present evidence of shooting down Pak F-16 at joint press conference, say ready to deal with all eventualities

India to continue talks on Kartarpur Corridor, Pak has called it off: Sources

Govt bans Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir for 5 years

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince calls PM Narendra Modi, Pakistan PM Imran Khan, stresses importance of dialogue

US welcomes Pakistan’s decision to release captured IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman

China non-committal as push renews for terror tag on Jaish chief Masood Azhar

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Europe

Putin Calls Modi As Russia Offers Mediation between India, Pakistan

Israel Playing Major Role in India-Pakistan Conflict: UK Analyst

Saudi Arabia welcomes UK’s terror classification for Hezbollah

Belgian court rejects return of Daesh brides

Fabien Clain, Prominent French Voice of ISIS, Is Reported Killed in Syria

Family devastated by Belgian ruling not to bring back Islamic State children

Belgium wins appeal on repatriation of children from Syria

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Arab World

Security Expert Informs of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi's Global Recruitment Plan

ISIL Terrorists Transferred to US Base in Eastern Syria, Al-Baghdadi's Family Members Evacuated

Protected by US, Daesh leader al-Baghdadi travels across Iraq's western desert: MP

80 Refugees Killed in US-Backed SDF-Occupied Camp in Hasaka

US Attempting to Prevent Revival of Adana Agreement between Turkey, Syria

Syrian Army Pounds Terrorists' Bases in Hama

Kushner discusses Mideast peace with Saudi leaders

Saudi foreign minister to visit Pakistan with Crown Prince ‘special message’

US-backed Kurdish militants in Syria help Daesh elements flee to Turkey: Report

Trump says all Daesh territory retaken, contradicting allied commander

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South Asia

Bangladeshi Authorities Have Banned Thousands of Websites and Social Media Apps Allegedly Linked To Pornography, Gambling and Anti-National Sentiments

Taliban, US Envoy ‘Satisfied’ With Outcome of Peace Talks

Afghan forces thwart Taliban attack in Zabul province leaving 28 militants dead

Bangladesh tells UN Security Council cannot take more Myanmar refugees

Taliban attack repulse attack on an army base in Helmand

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Pakistan

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Announces Abhi’s Release as a ‘Peace Gesture’

Almost all parties welcome gesture to release Indian pilot

Pakistani minister boycotts Islamic council meeting over Indian presence

Shah Mehmood Qureshi makes 'urgent' phone call to Chinese FM, briefs him on Indo-Pak tensions

Share evidence against Masood Azhar acceptable to Pakistan's courts: Qureshi

'Do not escalate this further': PM Khan warns India during joint session of Parliament

Daesh Sindh head, accomplice killed in encounter: Shikarpur police

Erdogan hails Imran Khan’s peace overtures

Pakistan receives Indian dossier on Pulwama incident

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Mideast

Fethullah Gulen: Erdogan Has Destroyed Turkish Democracy

IRGC Commander: Iran Plans to ‘Break America, Israel and Saudi Arabia’

Israel strikes Gaza after ‘explosive balloon’ damages house

Hamas: Israel must be held accountable for Gaza crimes

Netanyahu to be indicted on corruption charges, pending hearing

Euro-Med slams Israeli violations of Palestinians' rights in Jerusalem al-Quds

Israel releases Palestinian lawmaker held for nearly two years without trial

Israeli 2018 killings in Gaza may constitute war crimes: UN probe

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North America

US Offers $1 Million Reward to Find Osama Bin Laden Son

US Again Asks Pakistan To Deny Safe Havens To Terrorists

US congressmen press for oversight of any Saudi nuclear deal

US forces responsible for humanitarian crisis at Rukban refugee camp: Syria

UN says US-backed SDF not part of Syria peace process

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Southeast Asia

Indonesian Student Faces Jail for Islam Insult

Sarawak Report Says PAS Compensated It RM1.4m To Kill Suit

Some in PH govt behave like the opposition, says Dr M

In Semenyih, Najib tells Indian voters unity minister lied about temple demolishments

11 FPI members named suspects after commotion during NU’s anniversary

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Africa

Gun Battle Rages between Al Shabab and Somali Troops after Hotel Attack, As Death Toll Climbs

At least 10 killed in car bomb targeting Mogadishu hotel

At least 5 killed, 25 wounded in Somalia suicide blast

UN: Libyan PM, eastern commander agree national election needed

Dozen journalists arrested at censorship protest in Algiers

UK to double support for Jordan over next five years

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/‘ghazwa-e-hind’-(war-against-india)-will-continue-irrespective-of-indo-pak-tie,-jaish-e-mohammed-resolved,-in-a-conference,-more-than-a-year-ago--intelligence-report/d/117892

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‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ (War against India) Will Continue Irrespective of Indo-Pak Tie, Jaish-e-Mohammed Resolved, In a Conference, More Than a Year Ago: Intelligence Report

Feb 28, 2019

NEW DELHI: Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad, which was responsible for the killing of 40 CRPF personnel in Pulwama, had resolved in a conference more than a year ago that its "Ghazwa-e-Hind" (War Against India) will continue irrespective of Indo-Pak ties, according to an intelligence report.

Citing the report, officials said the conference organised in Okara district in Pakistan on November 27, 2017, saw more than 2,000 participants showering praise on organisational activities of JeM and the role played by its chief Masood Azhar, the mastermind of February 14 Pulwama strike in Jammu & Kashmir, among other terror attacks in India.

According to the intelligence report prepared on the basis of inputs from across the border, JeM resolved at the conference to continue what it called its 'Ghazwa-e-Hind'.

The conference was addressed by JeM leaders Abdul Rauf Asghar, Md Maqsood and Abdul Malik Tahir.

Asghar said the Indo-Pak friendship and bilateral trade would not end 'jihad' as there were many youths ready to sacrifice, the report said.

It further said that another six-day meeting, held in February 2018, saw the JeM's 'Shoba-e-Taaruf' (Department of Introduction) conducting 13 interaction sessions in which 700 people, including 65 'Ulemas' (religious scholars), participated.

The JeM terrorists had carried out a suicide attack on February 10, 2018, on Indian Army's Sunjwan camp in Jammu and Kashmir in which five Army officers were killed and many more were injured.

Five JeM terrorists took part in the attack in which three were killed and two escaped.

The report said it was described by the JeM as a pre-planned operation carried out on the Sunjwan Camp by JeM as part of "revenge" operations launched by the 'Afzal Guru Shaheed Squad' in Kashmir.

The intelligence report also mentioned a four-day visit to Sialkot district in March 2018 of JeM's 'Shoba-e-Taaruf' delegation, comprising Mujahid Abbas, Rashid Mushtaq and Abid Mehmood, during which it organised 17 sessions attended by 1,500 people, including 50 'Ulemas'.

The delegation recruited 22 people for a training course and 91 for 'Daura-e-Tafseer' (Training on Jihad and Quran). The participants also promised to take part in religious events organised by the JeM and the 'Ulema' expressed satisfaction over the schedule for training prepared by JeM chief Masood Azhar.

They also appreciated religious services rendered by Masood Azhar and prayed for JeM 'Mujahideen'. The delegation held five separate sessions with JeM activists, which were attended by 28 'Ulema' and activists, the report said.

https://zeenews.india.com/india/jem-resolved-to-continue-jihad-against-india-intelligence-report-2184307.html

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Tag of Terrorists Erased: 11 Muslims Acquitted In TADA Case after 25 Years

Feb 28, 2019

Mumbai: 11 Muslims have been acquitted by Nashik’s Special TADA Court on Wednesday, 25 years after they were arrested and charged under it. Citing lack of evidence and violation of TADA guidelines during investigations, Nashik’s Special TADA Court Judge S C Khati acquitted 11 from the charges.

Vartha Bharati quoted a press release from Jamiat Ulama stating, “Advocates of prominent legal aid organisation ‘Jamiat Ulama’ from last three years and were confident of acquitting all these 11 innocents from the case.”

Those who are acquitted include, Jameel Ahmed Abdullah Khan, Mohammed Yunus Mohammed Ishaq, Farooque Nazir Khan, Yusuf Gulab Khan, Ayyub Ismail Khan, Waseemuddin Shamsuddin, Shaikha Shafi Shaikh Azeez, Ashfaq Syed Murtuza Meer, Mumtaz Syed Murtuza Meer, Haroon Mohammed Bafati and Moulana Abdul Qader Habibi. They were arrested on 28 May 1994 from Maharashtra and other parts of the country and were charged under section 120 (B) and 153 of Indian Penal Code and Section 3 (3) (4) (5) and Section 4 (1) (4) of TADA act for allegedly planning avenge of Babri Masjid demolition and for attending terrorist’s training camps in Kashmir in this regard.

It was also alleged that they were trying to recruit youngsters from Nashik and Bhusawal for their alleged terror group Bhusawal Al Jihad.

Congratulating the team of advocates which looked after the case, Gulzar Azmi, who leads the team of advocates of Jamiat Ulama, after the verdict said, though Justice has been delayed for these 11, but the tag of terrorists has been erased. The team of advocates included Advocate Sharif Shaikh, Mateen Shaikh, Ansar Tanboli, Raziq Shaikh, Shahid Nadeem, Mohammed Arshad and other.

https://www.siasat.com/news/tag-terrorists-erased-11-muslims-acquitted-tada-case-after-25-years-1472625/

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Amidst Celebration for Air Strikes, Masjid, Muslim Houses Attacked In Hapur

Feb 28, 2019

By Rasia Hashmi

Hapur: While the whole country is celebrating India’s pre-emptive strikes on terror camps in Pakistan, some communal elements targeted Muslim houses and vandalised them at Hapur. They broke open the doors of Muslim houses and misbehaved with the women. The communal elements didn’t even spare the masjid of the village. They vandalised the masjid and assaulted the Imam. While throwing the trash inside the masjid, they created a ruckus.

The panic-stricken Muslims anyhow saved their lives and informed the police. Soon top police officials reached the spot and controlled the situation. A woman suffered a fracture in the incident. No arrests have been made so far. While police is trying to trivialize the issue Muslim community is living in the state of fear.

An Urdu newspaper with reference to SNB reported that on Tuesday when the whole country was celebrating India’s air strike, some communal elements attacked Muslim houses at Badnoli village. On receipt of information SDM President Satya Prakash, DSP Rajesh Kumar Singh and police station in Charge Mahavir Sing reached the spot along with the police force and controlled the situation.

https://www.siasat.com/news/amidst-celebration-air-strikes-masjid-muslim-houses-attacked-hapur-1472616/

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At Islamic Nations (OIC) Meet, Sushma Swaraj Points To Pak Hand In Terror

Edited by Divyanshu Dutta Roy | March 01, 2019

NEW DELHI: Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday urged the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation or OIC to "act together" to combat global terrorism amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan triggered by the Pulwama terror attack last month. Ms Swaraj had arrived in Abu Dhabi on Thursday to attend the foreign ministers' meet of the influential grouping of 57 countries which India has been invited to as the guest of honour for the first time.

"If we want to save humanity, we must tell the states who provide shelter and funding to terrorists, to dismantle the infrastructure of the terrorist camps and stop providing funding shelter and funding to the terror organisations based in that country," she said, without naming Pakistan in her 17-minute speech.

"Terrorism and extremism bear different names and labels. It uses diverse causes. But in each case, it is driven by distortion of religion, and a misguided belief in its power to succeed," she said.

Terrorism is destroying lives, destabilising regions and putting the world at great peril, Ms Swaraj added.

It was for the first time that India has been invited to an OIC meeting as guest of honour. Pakistan, a member of the OIC, tried to get Ms Swaraj ''disinvited'' from the Abu Dhabi meet following India's air strike on a terror camp in Pakistan but its request was turned down.

Pakistan's foreign minister has said he will skip the meeting of foreign ministers because the OIC had invited Ms Swaraj to the event, adding that lower ranking officials would attend to represent the country's interests.

Ties between India and Pakistan have plunged to a new low after a suicide bomb attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama last month that killed 40 paramilitary troops. Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility, prompting India to lash out at Islamabad for supporting terrorists. This week India sent fighter planes to strike a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Pakistan and Islamabad tried to target Indian military installations in response.

In her speech today, Ms Swaraj said, "I carry the greetings of my Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji and 1.3 billion Indians, including more than 185 million Muslim brothers and sisters. Our Muslims brothers and sisters are a microcosm of the diversity of India itself."

She also asserted that just as Islam literally means peace, none of the 99 names of Allah mean violence. "Similarly, every religion in the world stands for peace, compassion and brotherhood," Ms Swaraj said.

Source: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/minister-sushma-swaraj-at-organisation-of-islamic-cooperation-oic-meet-we-must-act-together-stand-to-2001142

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Putin calls Modi as Russia offers mediation between India, Pakistan

March 01, 2019

MOSCOW: Russia is ready to mediate between India and Pakistan to try to calm tensions between the two nuclear powers, Russian government officials said on Thursday, warning of the risk of further clashes between the two countries.

Moscow made the offer after Pakistan said it was considering returning a captured Indian pilot and as US President Donald Trump said American mediation was helping to defuse the crisis.

Russian President Vladi­mir Putin told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a phone call that he hopes for a quick settlement of the crisis between India and Pakistan, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Both leaders also expre­ss­ed their interests in further strengthening of military-technical ties, it added.

Russia has particularly close relations with India which buys large quantities of Russian military equipment while its relationship with Pakistan has warmed in recent years.

When asked on Thursday if Russia was ready to help mediate the two countries, the TASS news agency quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying: “If they want this, then of course.” Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova later said Moscow was ready to do anything it could to help.

“We are concerned about the escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan and the dangerous manoeuvring of the two countries armed forces near the Line of Control, which risks direct military clashes,” Zakharova told reporters.

Lavrov spoke to Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday on the sidelines of an event in China after which he said he hoped tensions could be de-escalated and that both countries would show restraint.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1466857/putin-calls-modi-as-russia-offers-mediation-between-india-pakistan

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Israel playing major role in India-Pakistan conflict: UK Analyst

Feb 28, 2019

A prominent British columnist has argued that Israel’s warming relations with India has contributed to the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan amid fears of an all-out conflict between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

Robert Fisk, the senior analyst writing for The Independent, said in an article on Thursday that Israel was desperately seeking to capitalize on the anti-Muslim sentiment among the Hindu nationalists in India to sell more arms and weapons to New Delhi.

Fisk said the recent escalation between India and Pakistan is in fact a product of growing Israeli influence in New Delhi, saying Israel’s fingerprints are visible all over the conflict.

India launched airstrikes on Pakistani positions earlier this week after 40 of its troops were killed in a militant attack in the Indian-controlled Kashmir region.

The conflict has enjoyed an extensive coverage by the media in the UK, a country home to some 1.4 million people with Indian origin and a community of 1.2 million British Pakistanis.

Fisk said the Indian army’s use of Israeli-made Rafael Spice-2000 “smart bombs” in its attack on militant positions inside Pakistan was a clear proof that the regime in the occupied Palestinian territories was benefiting from the conflict.

“Well, don’t let the idea fade away. Two thousand five hundred miles separate the Israeli ministry of defense in Tel Aviv from the Indian ministry of defense in New Delhi,” wrote Fisk in his commentary, adding, “but there’s a reason why the usual cliché-stricken agency dispatches sound so similar.”

Fisk, an award-winning journalist and writer, said that Israel was trying to capitalize on the growing power of the right-wing nationalist government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi by pretending that the two governments are both under attacks by Muslims.

Fisk said India was Israel’s largest arms client in 2017, paying £530m ($700 million) for Israeli air defense. He said Israel ensured the Indian government about the lethal force of its weapons by providing evidences of their use in Palestine and in Syria.

The standoff between the two neighboring countries has escalated dramatically since February 14, when Indian paramilitary forces on the New Delhi-controlled side of Kashmir were hit by a deadly bomb attack orchestrated by Pakistan-based militants.

The tensions reached a peak on Tuesday, when India said it had conducted “preemptive” airstrikes against what it described as a militant training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot.

Both Islamabad and New Delhi have also claimed to have shot down each other’s fighter planes near the disputed border of Kashmir, accusing one another of violating each other’s airspace.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since partition in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory.

Indian troops are in constant clashes with armed groups seeking Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan.

India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants and allowing them across the restive frontier in an attempt to launch attacks. Pakistan strongly denies the allegation.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/28/589796/UK-columnist-Fisk-Israel-role-India-Pakistan-escalation

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Security Expert Informs of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi's Global Recruitment Plan

Feb 28, 2019

Hawkar al-Jaf was quoted by the Arabic-language Baghdad al-Youm as saying that Baghdadi has moved from Syria to Iraq revive the ISIL and is now stationed in al-Tharthar region near the border with Samarra island.

He added that al-Baghdadi is largely relying on recruitment of the sons of those ISIL militants who have been killed in the battlefields and the Caliphate's Lion Cubs, the children trained by the terrorist group for operations.

Al-Jaf said that the ISIL plots to show off its power militarily and in media by launching unique operations in Iraq and other countries of the world and media warfare to recruit forces across the world.

He added given the fact that Baghdadi is protected in Iraq under heavy security measures, he might be able to carry out his plan in the region and the world for ISIL's survival.

In relevant remarks on Monday, a senior member of the Iraqi parliament accused the US of sheltering al-Baghdadi in Ein al-Assad military base in Western Iraq, and warned that 3,000 ISIL terrorists are being trained in the country to foment insecurity again.

Hassan Salem, the representative of al-Fatah coalition in the Iraqi parliament, was quoted by the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website as saying that al-Baghdadi was being supported by the US forces in the Western desert of Iraq.

He added that Ein al-Assad base provides logistical support for al-Baghdadi, noting that he is freely trafficking between Iraq and Syria with their backing.

Salem also said that the US forces have trained and equipped over 3,000 ISIL terrorists in Wadi al-Houran region with the aim of fomenting insecurity and revival of the ISIL in Iraq and sent them to Nineveh, al-Anbar and Saladin provinces.

He added that the US support for al-Baghdadi and other terrorists in Iraq comes as the Iraqi parliament plans to approve a bill to expel all foreign forces from the country.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971209000485

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Bangladeshi Authorities Have Banned Thousands of Websites and Social Media Apps Allegedly Linked To Pornography, Gambling and Anti-National Sentiments

March 1, 2019

Bangladeshi authorities have banned thousands of websites and social media apps allegedly linked to pornography, gambling and anti-national sentiments in a move that activists see as an unprecedented moral policing effort in the Muslim-majority country.

About 18,000 porn and gambling sites as well as popular social media apps Tik Tok and Bigo have been blocked since Feb. 18, according to the Internet Service Providers’ Association of Bangladesh.

Police have also summoned several social media celebrities and ordered them to immediately remove “vulgar and objectionable” content from their pages.

Mustafa Jabbar, minister of posts, telecommunication and information technology, pulled the trigger on the latest censorship spree.

“I have found 15,606 porn sites and 2,235 gambling sites. Included in them are Tik Tok and Bigo. All are being blocked,” the ruling Awami League minister wrote on Facebook on Feb. 18.

“I want to create a safe and secure internet for all Bangladeshis, including children. And this is my war against pornography. And this will be a continuous war,” he told the AFP news agency on Feb. 19.

The minister’s move follows a High Court ruling last November when the court told the government to shut down all porn sites and obscene material from the internet within six months.

The court order saw the state-run Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) block 4,000 porn and 176 other sites within weeks.

Bangladesh’s controversial Digital Security Act 2018 legitimizes the crackdown. The act gives the government sweeping powers to ban any website at any time without citing a reason.

Popular blog targeted

The latest crackdown saw the BTRC list a popular community blog site, somewhereinblog.net, and Google’s online library, Google Books, among the sites to be blocked.

Started in 2005, somewhereinblog.net is Bangladesh’s first and most popular community Bengali blogging site with more than 213,000 registered bloggers at home and abroad. It has over 60,000 visits per day.

The blog entered the spotlight in 2010 amid a tug-of-war between several groups of bloggers, notably atheists versus Islamic extremists and pro-government versus anti-establishment bloggers.

The blog has been blocked since Feb. 19, sparking uproar among the blogging community and civil society groups.

“The blog was blocked due to its anti-national activities,” Jakir Hossain, a senior BTRC deputy director, told Bengali daily Prothom Alo on Feb. 25.

On Feb. 23, about 33 prominent citizens including writers and university professors issued a statement asking the government to unblock the site. Amid the backlash, the government partially unblocked the site on Feb. 26.

The decision to block the site was “silly but premeditated,” said Baki Billah, a prominent blogger and social activist.

“The government hates this blog because people can freely express their grievances against a lack of democracy and rule of law, corruption and social malpractices,” Billah told ucanews.com.

“You cannot stop negative with negative — you should have something positive to stop the negative.”

Since 2013, Bangladesh has seen a rise in Islamic militancy. Islamic militants have murdered 14 atheist bloggers, writers, publishers and liberal academics. All nine  atheist bloggers slain among this group were actively involved with somewhereinblog.net. In response to the brutal murders, the government launched a crackdown on militancy and formed bodies to tackle cybercrime including cyberbullying and hate speech.

Authorities shut down dozens of sites and thousands of blog posts allegedly hurting religious sentiments and spreading malice and hate speech, warning atheists not to “cross limits.”

The crackdown on blogs and social apps is part of a wider campaign against dissent, according to Nur Khan, a Dhaka-based rights activist.

“We have a government that has no effective opposition and all government bodies are under strict control. Yet the ruling government is afraid of dissent, which represents public anger. So, we have unpopular and unethical laws and moves that curtail freedom of speech and muzzle dissent,” Khan told ucanews.com.

“Authoritarianism has crept into the government and it wants to sustain a climate of fear to crush dissent. That’s the really bad news for our democracy.”

Attack on freedom of choice

The war on porn is misleading and poised to fall apart, activists warn.

“Our education system and formation of children do not have lessons on sexuality and safe internet use. Although this is a rather religiously conservative country, moral policing such as blocking porn sites won’t suffice to make the internet safe for everyone,” Holy Cross Father Liton H. Gomes, secretary of the Catholic bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, told ucanews.com.

“First you need to train people and make them aware about good and bad things. When they can differentiate between good and bad, they have freedom of choice and they will surely choose the good over the bad. Education and proper orientation are important.”

Rights activist Khan agreed. “If you don’t educate people and give them a choice, they will find ways to do what they like by any means. Freedom of choice is a basic right and you cannot violate it.”

According to the BTRC, 91 million people out of Bangladesh’s population of 160 million use the internet and about 85 million access it from their mobile phones.

https://www.ucanews.com/news/bangladeshs-moral-police-turn-the-screw/84604

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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Announces Abhi’s Release as a ‘Peace Gesture’

Feb 28, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Thursday that his government will release the captured Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman on Friday as a “gesture of peace and as a first step to open negotiations”.

“We have (the) Indian pilot in our custody. As a peace gesture and as a first step to open negotiations, I announce that we will release him tomorrow (on Friday),” Khan said at the joint session of parliament moments after he had finished his speech and leader of the opposition Shahbaz Sharif was about to speak.

Khan said in his address to members of National Assembly and Senate that he had unsuccessfully tried to make a telephonic contact with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday night following the dogfight between Indian and Pakistani fighter jets along the Line of Control in the morning. “I tried to call Indian PM Narendra Modi on the phone yesterday because escalation is neither in our interest nor in India’s,” he said.

“The only purpose of our strike (on Wednesday) was to demonstrate our capability and will. We did not want to inflict casualties on India as we wanted to act in a responsible manner,” he said, adding that Pakistan’s desire for peace and de-escalation with India should not be construed as a weakness.

He said despite his government’s multiple overtures of peace, the response from New Delhi had not been encouraging. “We realised that it was because of upcoming elections there and decided to wait until the polls in India were over before making another offer for talks,” he told the lawmakers.

Referring to the Pulwama terror attack, Khan said Indian people should think what made a youngster to become a suicide bomber in Kashmir. “There is need for debate in India on Kashmir,” he said, adding that blaming the Pulwama attack on Islamic radicalization was not correct.

“India should analyze the phenomenon because it had nothing to do with Islamic radicalization,” he said.

Citing the example of LTTE in Sri Lanka, Khan said suicide attacks are results of desperation and humiliation.

Earlier, foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a Pakistani TV channel that Islamabad was willing the consider the release of the captured pilot “if such a move will lead to de-escalation”.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Office confirmed that a dossier on the Pulwama attack was handed over to the country’s acting high commissioner in New Delhi by the Indian government on Wednesday. “The dossier will be thoroughly reviewed by the FO and after that any and all legal evidence will be probed. We will take action against credible evidence provided by India,” the FO said in a statement.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/khan-announces-abhis-release-as-a-peace-gesture/articleshow/68208361.cms

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Fethullah Gulen: Erdogan has destroyed Turkish democracy

28 February 2019

US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gulen accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of destroying the Turkish democracy by achieving a stronghold on the country, confiscating major companies, and rewarding his “co-conspirators.”

In an article published in the French daily, Le-Monde, and translated to Arabic by Zaman, an online Turkish newspaper, Gulen says “Erdogan has destroyed [Turkish] democracy, which was good news for Turkey, by having a tight grip on the state, confiscating large companies and rewarding his co-conspirators.”

Accusations of corruption and nepotism have long followed Erdogan.

Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak was the CEO of Çalık Holding, a conglomerate that operates in many sectors. According to the Panama Papers, the leaked documents that detail financial and attorney–client information for thousands of offshore entities, Çalık Holding had entered the media business in 2008 by purchasing Sabah ATV, which owns ATV television network and Sabah, a Turkish newspaper that became the government’s mouthpiece.

Although Sabah ATV was not profitable, and Çalık Holding had lost millions, their broadcast of positive reports about the government increased the company’s chances of being awarded lucrative contracts.

Albayrak was elected to parliament with Erdogan’s political party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2015, and later became Turkey’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources from 2015 up until he was named Minister of Treasury and Finance in 2018.

According to CNBC, Turkish markets sank after Erdogan hired his son-in-law as finance minister in 2018 after removing some incumbent officials considered friendlier to foreign investors.

Turkish citizens deprived of rights

Gulen said Turkish citizens who are under surveillance for political reasons and who want to leave the country are deprived of their basic rights by having their passports confiscated.

“Erdogan has taken advantage of Turkey's reputation at the international level since 1923, using diplomatic relations and mobilizing state resources to harass and kidnap sympathizers around the world,” he said.

“He also declared me an enemy of the state and accused me and my sympathizers of being the cause of all the evils and problems that occurred recently in Turkey, in order to tighten his grip on power and influence Turkish public opinion,” Gulen said.

State stronghold 

Turkish President Erdogan accuses Gulen - a former ally - of trying to overthrow the government and blamed him for masterminding the 2016 coup attempt, carried out by a faction within the Turkish Armed Forces. Erdogan had said Gulen used his followers in the judiciary and military to try and overthrow the government.

Gulen lives in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania for the past 17 years. He has denied any involvement in the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

Tens of thousands of people have been held over alleged ties to US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen since the failed coup while over 140,000 public sector employees have been sacked or suspended.

Additionally, earlier in February, Turkish police launched operations to detain 110 more individuals, mostly soldiers, suspected of ties to the group blamed for the 2016 coup attempt, the Ankara public prosecutor’s office said.

“The mass arrests of thousands of innocent people because of their sympathy for an individual or group continue in Turkey. More than 150,000 have lost their jobs, more than 200,000 have been placed in pre-trial detention, and more than 50,000 have been arrested,” Gulen said in his Le Monde article.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/02/28/Fethullah-Gulen-Erdogan-has-destroyed-the-Turkish-democracy.html

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US offers $1 million reward to find Osama bin Laden son

Mar 1, 2019

WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday offered a $1 million reward for information on a son of late al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, seeing him as an emerging face of extremism.

The location of Hamza bin Laden, sometimes dubbed the "crown prince of jihad," has been the subject of speculation for years with reports of him living in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria or under house arrest in Iran.

"Hamza bin Laden is the son of deceased former AQ leader Osama bin Laden and is emerging as a leader in the AQ franchise," a State Department statement said, referring to al-Qaida.

The State Department said that it would offer USD 1 million for information leading to his location in any country.

Bin Laden, who according to the United States is around 30, has threatened attacks against the United States to avenge the 2011 killing of his father, who was living in hiding in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, by US special forces.

US intelligence agencies increasingly see the younger bin Laden as a successor to his father for the mantle of global jihad, especially as the even more extreme Islamic State group is down to its last sliver of land in Syria.

In 2015, bin Laden released an audio message urging jihadists in Syria to unite, claiming that the fight in the war-torn country paves the way to "liberating Palestine."

And in a message a year later, following in the footsteps of his father, he urged the overthrow of the leadership in their native Saudi Arabia.

Osama bin Laden's three surviving wives and his children were quietly allowed to return to Saudi Arabia after his killing.

But Hamza bin Laden's whereabouts have been a matter of dispute. He is believed to have spent years along with his mother in Iran, despite Al-Qaeda's strident denunciations of the Shiite branch of Islam that dominates the country.

Observers say that the clerical regime in Tehran kept him under house arrest as a way to maintain pressure on rival Saudi Arabia as well as on Al-Qaeda, dissuading the Sunni militants from attacking Iran.

One of Hamza bin Laden's half-brothers told The Guardian last year that Hamza's whereabouts were unknown but that he may be in Afghanistan.

He also said that Hamza bin Laden married the daughter of Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker in al-Qaida's September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that killed some 3,000 people and sparked the US intervention in Afghanistan.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/us-offers-1-million-reward-to-find-osama-bin-laden-son/articleshow/68211489.cms

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India

 

Armed Forces present evidence of shooting down Pak F-16 at joint press conference, say ready to deal with all eventualities

Feb 28, 2019

New Delhi: Pakistan used a F-16 aircraft in its futile attempt to target military establishments in India on Wednesday, senior officials of the three armed forces said at a joint media briefing on Thursday, where they presented proof of the intercepted and shot down aircraft. The senior officials also assured the nation that the defence forces are in a state of heightened readiness to deal with any eventuality.

Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor who began the briefing by narrating details of Wednesday’s intrusion by Pakistan into Indian air space said, “On February, 27 at around 1000 hours, Indian Air Force aircraft detected a large package of Pakistan Air Force Aircraft heading toward Indian territory. They breached the Indian air space west of Rajouri in Sunderbani area.

“The engrossing aircraft were at various levels. IAF fighters including Mig-21 Bison, Sukhoi 30 MKI and Mirage 2000 were tasked to intercept the intruding Pakistan aircraft. The Pakistan intruding aircraft attempting to target our military installments were intercepted by the IAF aircraft which foiled their attack.”

“They were unable to cause any damage to our military installment. In aerial combat, one F-16 was shot down by Mig- 21 Bison aircraft. The IAF lost one Mig 21 in aerial engagement, though the pilot ejected safely, his parachute drifted towards Pakistan territory and was captured,” he added.

Kapoor further refuted many factually incorrect statements made by Pakistan.

“It was only by late evening that Pakistan accepted the fact that there was only one pilot in their custody. Pakistan claimed that they intentionally dropped weapons in open space where there was no human presence or military post. The fact is Pakistan aircraft targeted military installment however they were intercepted which thwarted their plans. Although PAF bombs have fallen in Indian army formations compound, they were unable to cause any significant damage to our military installation due to our swift response.”

The Air Vice Marshal also asserted that there is enough evidence to show that F-16 was used in the mission.

“Parts of AMRAAM Air to Air missile which is carried only on Pakistan F-16 were recovered from Indian territory in Rajouri. IAF remains vigilant, committed and ready to combat any eventuality,” he said.

They also displayed visuals of the cover of AARAM missile fired from Pakistani F-16 aircraft that were found near the LoC in India.

Following the media briefing, Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor while responding to a question by ANI regarding bombing on JeM terror camps in Balakot said, “Premature to say the number of casualties on the camp, whatever we intended to destroy we got that result”.

He also said that we have the evidence to prove that the effect that we wanted and the destruction that we wanted to cause to terror camps has been achieved and it is up to the government to decide whether or when to release it.

Major General Surinder Singh in the joint briefing said, “Pakistan resorted to various ceasefire violations and has been retaliated appropriately. As many as 35 ceasefire violations have been there from their side in the last two days.

“Our mechanised forces have been placed on standby. The nation we are fully prepared and in a heightened state of readiness to respond to any provocation by Pakistan. Indian army is committed to maintaining peace and stability in the region and will continue to act against agencies who harbor evil design against India,” General Singh said.

Navy Rear Admiral DS Gujral also addressed the media briefing and said that the Indian Navy”>Indian Navy is completely ready to deal with any eventuality.

Gujral said, “Indian Navy has been deployed in a high state of readiness and remains poised in all three dimensions- on the surface, undersea and in the air to deter, prevent and defeat any misadventure by Pakistan in the maritime domain. I can assure of a resolute, swift and strong response by navy when needed.”

“We are ready for any misadventure by Pakistan and we are ready for resolute action. We want to ensure the safety and security of our citizens,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced that Indian Pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan will be released on Friday as a peace gesture.

Abhinandan, flying a MiG -21 Bison fighter plane, was chasing Pakistani jets which transgressed into Jammu and Kashmir yesterday and crossed over to PoK where his aircraft was shot down. He ejected safely and was taken to the custody by the Pakistani Army.

On Wednesday, the three service chiefs-Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat, IAF Chief BS Dhanoa and Chief of the Naval Staff had also held a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence.

https://www.siasat.com/news/armed-forces-present-evidence-shooting-down-pak-f-16-joint-press-conference-say-ready-deal-all-eventualities-1472647/

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India to continue talks on Kartarpur Corridor, Pak has called it off: Sources

Feb 28, 2019

New Delhi: India has not ended talks on the Kartarpur Corridor and it will continue doing it; it has been ended by the Pakistani side, sources said.

India is ready for talks on Kartarpur and has not called it off, said sources adding that Pakistan has now called it off.

The Indian government, on the eve of Guru Purab on November 22 last year, approved the construction of Kartarpur Corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district to the India-Pakistan International Border.

The Pakistan government had also confirmed the corridor’s opening.

The Kartarpur route, along with the India-Pakistan border, is 3 km away from Gurdaspur in Punjab.

Once functional, the corridor would allow Sikh pilgrims direct access to the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan, where Guru Nanak passed away in 1539.

On February 27, Pakistan violated the Indian airspace. This happened a day after India launched an anti-terror strike against a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/news/india-continue-talks-kartarpur-corridor-pak-has-called-it-sources-1472576/

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Govt bans Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir for 5 years

February 28, 2019

The Centre on Thursday banned the Jamat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir for five years under anti-terror law on grounds that it was "in close touch" with militant outfits and is expected to "escalate secessionist movement" in the state.

A notification, banning the group under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs after a high-level meeting on security, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The notification said the Centre is of the opinion that the Jamaat is "in close touch with militant outfits" and is supporting extremism and militancy in Jammu and Kahsmir and elsewhere.

It said the outfit claims "secession of a part of the Indian territory from the union" and supporting terrorist and separatist groups fighting for this purpose.

The notification, which came barely a few days after the Jammu and Kashmir Police had arrested around 100 cadres of the group in the state, said Jamaat has been indulging in activities intended to disrupt the territorial integrity of India.

During the intervening night of February 22 and 23, the police had carried out a crackdown on Jamaat cadres and arrested 100 across the valley, including its chief Abdul Hamid Fayaz and advocate Zahid Ali (spokesperson).

The action came following the February 14 terrorist attack in Pulwama, in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

There have been allegations in the past that the group was a political outfit of banned terror organisation Hizbul Mujahideen but the group has denied.

The Centre is also of the opinion that the group is "involved in anti-national and subversive activities in the country intended to cause disaffection".

While banning it under the anti-terror law, the Centre reasoned that the group was intending to escalate its subversive activities, including attempt to carve out Islamic state out of the Union of India by destablising the government established law.

The group is also expected to escalate secessionist movement, support militancy and incite violence in the country, the notification said.

The group has been banned for five years. It has to be ratified by a tribunal constituted by the Home Ministry.

The outfit, which was formed in 1945 as a chapter of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and separated in 1953 due to differences over political ideology with the parent body, was banned in 1990.

The previous ban lapsed in 1995 and since then it has never been invoked again.

The party, with pro-Pakistan leaning during the Plebiscite Front days and also during the eruption of militancy, pitches itself as socio-religious organisation working mainly in the field of education and awareness about Islam.

The Jamaat-e-Islami was an influential founder member of the undivided Hurriyat Conference from its inception in 1993 till 2003, when the amalgam suffered a vertical split led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani over alleged proxy participation in 2002 Assembly polls by some leaders of the People's Conference led by Sajad Gani Lone.

The Jamaat withdrew from the Hurriyat and decided to focus on its social work while maintaining its separatist stand on Kashmir issue.

The cadre-based party has a powerful Majlis-e-Shoora (advisory council) which takes decisions on important issues through consensus.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/govt-bans-jamaat-e-islami-jammu-and-kashmir-for-5-years-1467656-2019-02-28

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Abu Dhabi Crown Prince calls PM Narendra Modi, Pakistan PM Imran Khan, stresses importance of dialogue

Mar 01, 2019

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan on Thursday called Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, stressing the importance of dialogue and communication in resolving differences.

The Crown Prince said in a tweet that he talked to Modi and Khan, and stressed the “importance of dealing wisely with recent developments and giving priority to dialogue and communication”.

The Crown Prince is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

The tweet came a day before the meet of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in which India -- for the first time, has been invited as guest of honour at the plenary.

Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after India struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Pakistan on Tuesday following the February 14 Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

Pakistan sought to target some Indian military installations next day and in the ensuing aerial fight, both countries lost a fighter jet.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/abu-dhabi-crown-prince-calls-pm-narendra-modi-pakistan-pm-imran-khan-stresses-importance-of-dialogue/story-MzB5Yo8qxZRmd3baWaEa6H.html

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US welcomes Pakistan’s decision to release captured IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman

Mar 01, 2019

The US on Thursday welcomed Pakistan’s decision to release captured Indian Air Force pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, from their custody.

In a surprise announcement during a joint session of Parliament, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Thursday that the captured IAF pilot Varthaman will be released on Friday as a gesture of peace.

Pakistan detained Varthaman Wednesday following a fierce engagement between air forces of the two sides along the Line of Control when his MiG 21 fighter jet was downed.

“We welcome Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s commitment that Pakistan will release on Friday the Indian pilot held in its custody,” a State Department spokesperson told PTI responding to a question on the announcement made by Khan in the Pakistani parliament.

Simultaneously, the US has urged both India and Pakistan to take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions. “The United States continues to urge both sides to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation, including through direct communication. Further military activity will exacerbate the situation,” the State Department spokesperson said. The US reiterated its call to Pakistan to abide by its UN Security Council commitments to deny terrorists safe haven and block their access to funds.

“We reiterate our call for Pakistan to abide by its United Nations Security Council commitments to deny terrorists safe haven and block their access to funds,” the spokesperson said.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Thursday joined other lawmakers in expressing concern over the escalating tension between India and Pakistan. “This is “a result of a Pakistan-based terrorist group’s brutal attack”, he said.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/us-welcomes-pakistan-s-decision-to-release-captured-iaf-pilot-abhinandan-varthaman/story-nUAXVR3y8mP8ZedGhQPc4I.html

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China non-committal as push renews for terror tag on Jaish chief Masood Azhar

Mar 01, 2019

France, the UK and the US have launched a fresh bid at the UN to list Masood Azhar, founder of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) that took responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama terror attack, as a global terrorist though China remained non-committal on backing the move.

Paris is leading the latest and fourth attempt to put Azhar on the blacklist of UN’s 1267 Committee that already includes the JeM, which he founded after being freed by India in 1999 in exchange for passengers of an Air India flight hijacked to Kandahar.

Three previous attempts were blocked by China, which cited the rules under the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 and lack of evidence and consensus.

Resolution 1267 allows for the listing of individuals and groups with links to al-Qaeda or the Islamic State.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson was non-committal when asked whether Beijing will block the latest move to list Azhar. “We have said many times that the UN Security Council 1267 Committee has clear regulations on the listing and related procedures of terrorist organisations or individuals. China will continue to participate in discussions in the Council on sanctions committees and other subsidiary bodies in a responsible manner,” the spokesperson said.

China’s repeated blocking of the move has been an irritant in bilateral ties, which have improved markedly since last year’s informal summit in Wuhan between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Beijing adopted a more nuanced approach after the Pulwama attack and backed a strongly-worded statement by the Security Council that named JeM.

Indian officials are cautiously optimistic of the prospects of the new move in the backdrop of the Pulwama attack on that killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers.

“There is a direct link between the Pulwama attack carried out by Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Balakot camp that was run by his brother-in-law Yusuf Azhar, one of the five hijackers of Indian Airlines flight IC-814, who is on CBI’s listed of wanted criminals,” an Indian counter-terrorism official said.

People familiar with developments in New Delhi said China’s ambiguous position was not unexpected. They said every effort is being made to convince China that there are reasonable grounds for sanctioning Azhar, and other countries too have information that they are using to persuade Beijing.

India has given specific information about JeM and its leaders to all members of Security Council and will continue to lobby them, the people said. Listing Azhar is not the endgame, and the move is aimed at sending a message to Pakistan that no one is on its side on the issue of terrorism, they added.

The process of putting together a case for the UN sanctions committee is technical, painstaking and confidential. Contents of previous proposals for Azhar’s designation remain confidential, as do reasons for their failure.

“In an age where informed publics increasingly demand transparency from public institutions, the sanctions committees are the most egregious examples known to multilateralism in terms of their opacity and lack of accountability,” India’s permanent representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, said during a debate at the UN on multilateralism last November.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/push-renews-for-terror-tag-on-masood-azhar-jaish-e-mohammed/story-M3j1kFZEUECvVmczP8GI4O.html

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Europe

 

Saudi Arabia welcomes UK’s terror classification for Hezbollah

February 28, 2019

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia welcomed on Thursday the UK’s decision to classify Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization.

The Saudi Presidency of State Security said that the decision is an important step in the fight to counter terrorism and financing it at a regional and international level.

It added that Hezbollah represents a real and clear threat to international stability and security, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The presidency added that the decision reflects the UK’s keenness on countering terrorism and extremist ideologies.

The UK said on Monday it would join the US, Canada, Israel and the Arab League in banning the all of Hezbollah. Previously it had just proscribed its militant wings as “terrorist”.

The proscription, which comes into effect on Friday, will make membership of the movement or inviting support for it a crime punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

The Kingdom urged the international community to take similar steps and intensify cooperation to coordination to ensure that terrorism is eliminated.

Saudi Arabia said it will continue to work with its allies to stop Hezbollah and Iran’s efforts to destabilize the region, to maintain international peace and security.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1459526/saudi-arabia

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Belgian court rejects return of Daesh brides

28.02.2019

By Serife Cetin

BRUSSELS

A Belgian court on Thursday overturned a previous decision to repatriate two citizens formerly married to Daesh members in Syria.

An appeals court quashed a 2018 decision by a lower court that Belgian citizens Tatyana Wielandt, 26, and Bushra Abouallal, 25, would be allowed to return to the country as would their six children from camps currently controlled by the YPK/PKK terror group.

The lower court had also ruled that if the government did not implement the decision within 40 days, it would have to pay a daily compensation of €5,000 (nearly $5,700) per child of up to one million euros ($1.1 million).

The decision came on the heels of opposition to the earlier decision to bring the women back by Health Minister Maggie de Block, who is in charge of refugee and immigration affairs.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/belgian-court-rejects-return-of-daesh-brides/1405832

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Fabien Clain, Prominent French Voice of ISIS, Is Reported Killed in Syria

By Elian Peltier

Feb. 28, 2019

PARIS — A high-profile French jihadist and Islamic State propagandist, Fabien Clain, who is believed to have recorded the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the November 2015 attacks in Paris, was killed by an airstrike in southeastern Syria, the American-led coalition said on Thursday.

“A Coalition strike killed an active Daesh media official named Abu Anas al Faransi, also known as Fabien Clain, in Baghouz,” the coalition said in a Twitter posting, using the Arabic name for the Islamic State.

Baghouz, also spelled Baghuz, is a village in the last bit of territory in Syria still held by the militant group.

It was unclear when Mr. Clain was killed, but he and his brother, Jean-Michel, were believed to have been targeted by an airstrike on Feb. 20. The defense minister of France, part of the coalition, called his death “possible” the next day. The fate of the brother remains unclear.

Mr. Clain, 41, narrated a six-minute audio recording produced by the Islamic State, claiming responsibility for the Nov. 13, 2015, attacks on Paris that killed 130 people and wounded more than 400. The recording, released the day after the attacks, included religious chanting by Mr. Clain’s brother.

The brothers also recorded several propaganda songs in French that were released by the Islamic State, or ISIS, urging people to commit terrorist attacks or to leave France for ISIS-controlled territories, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute.

“Advance, advance, never retreat, never surrender,” went the chorus to one released immediately after the Paris attacks.

A well-known figure who navigated French jihadi circles for 20 years, Fabien Clain was one of the most prominent foreign members of the Islamic State. Although the full extent of his influence within the group is not entirely clear, analysts said he played a significant role in spreading its messages to the French-speaking world.

“Those involved in communications were close to those in charge of preparing the attacks,” said Romain Caillet, an independent French expert on ISIS.

Mr. Clain’s death comes as France and other countries are assessing how to handle their citizens who joined the Islamic State but are now detained in makeshift camps in Syria by Kurdish forces, after President Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw American troops from the region.

A handful of jihadists who were close to the Clain brothers have been detained by Kurdish forces and could be repatriated to France within weeks, according to experts and government officials. Adrien Guihal and Thomas Barnouin, two high-profile Islamic State members who were also involved in its communications, are believed to be among them.

CreditInterpol, via Associated Press

Others could be transferred to Iraq and face trial there. President Barham Saleh of Iraq said during a visit to France on Monday that 13 French citizens had been handed over by Syrian Kurdish forces in January.

The French authorities issued arrest warrants for the Clains in June of last year for their suspected involvement in the Paris attacks. Mr. Caillet said intelligence services had concluded that Mr. Clain’s role in the attacks was more significant than they had believed earlier.

Before the Clain brothers converted to Islam in the 1990s, they were obsessed with rap and wrote Christian hip-hop songs as teenagers, according to a 2016 article in Boudu, a local French magazine.

Investigators believe that they were radicalized in the early 2000s, when they switched to writing a cappella Islamic songs, known as anashid. They posted at least one to a Myspace page.

In the following years, they were part of the “Artigat cell,” named after the small town in southwestern France where a group of Muslims followed the extremist teachings of Olivier Corel, a Franco-Syrian preacher.

Mr. Caillet met Fabien Clain during that period, in Egypt, and described him as a “modest, affable individual open to debate.”

In Artigat, the Clains grew close to another prominent French jihadist, Abdelkader Merah, who was convicted in 2017 of being part of a criminal terrorist conspiracy. Mr. Merah’s younger brother, Mohamed, killed seven people in Toulouse in 2012, including four at a Jewish school, before the police killed him.

In January 2015, just before leaving for Syria, Fabien Clain bought $4,000 worth of music equipment, including a microphone, voice changing equipment and a license to Pro Tools, the music editing software, from a shop in Toulouse, according to French media reports.

“He was a ghost whose name could be found in almost all jihadi cases, a figure who fascinated the whole French jihadi sphere,” said Guillaume Denoix de Saint Marc, the president of the French Association of Victims of Terrorism, or A.F.V.T.

Mr. Denoix de Saint Marc said he would have preferred that Mr. Clain be captured and interrogated about his involvement in the Paris attacks.

“Fabien wasn’t very talkative, but his brother Jean-Michel usually had more to say,” said Chantal Anglade, an A.F.V.T. member whose daughter was wounded in a Cairo bombing in 2009, for which the Clain brothers were interrogated.

In 2009, Mr. Clain was sentenced to five years in prison for his role, as part of the Artigat cell, in recruiting radicalized people and sending them to Iraq. He was released in 2012 and is believed to have left for Syria to join the Islamic State around March 2015.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/28/world/europe/fabien-clain-death-isis-france.html

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Family devastated by Belgian ruling not to bring back Islamic State children

28/02/2019

By Bart Biesemans

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A Belgian court's decision to overturn a ruling forcing it to repatriate two Belgian women convicted of being Islamic State militants and their six children from Syria has left their family devastated.

The grandmother of the six children, aged from 11 months to seven years, has been trying for more than a year to bring them back from Syria, where they are being held by U.S.-backed Kurdish militias.

When a judge ordered the state in December to do everything possible not only to bring the children back but also their mothers, she had begun to prepare for their homecoming.

Pink and blue backpacks hang under pegs with the children's names in the hallway of her home near Antwerp ready for them to return to school.

She has been sending their mothers - her daughter Bouchra Abouallal, 25, and step-daughter Tatiana Wielandt, 26, - school material via WhatsApp for them to prepare.

"The girls are devastated, too," Fatiha, who has a different last name from her daughter but asked for it not to be used for the safety of her grandchildren, told Reuters, choking on tears over the phone on Thursday.

European nations are wrestling with how to deal with hundreds of suspected militants and their families seeking to return from the combat zone, an issue made more pressing by U.S. plans to withdraw troops from Syria.

There is little sympathy for militants' families with the trauma of attacks claimed by Islamic State still fresh in many cities, and governments have maintained they cannot act in a region where Kurdish control is not internationally recognised.

"LOST ENOUGH"

The Belgian government fought the case fearing it would set a precedent. Siding with the state, the Brussels court of appeal ruled that it was not forced "to undertake any act of repatriation".

Despite winning on Wednesday, Justice Minister Koen Geens said Belgium was still ready to bring back the minors, adding that their mothers had previously said they would stay behind if the children could return.

Wielandt and Abouallal were convicted last year in absentia of being members of Islamic State. Fatiha says she wants them home even if they go to jail.

"The girls have been sentenced to five years in prison. They deserve that prison sentence, and I have never opposed it. I also want them to be arrested, brought here and locked up," she said last week ahead of the decision.

School friends turned step-sisters, Wielandt converted to Islam to marry Abouallal's brother Noureddine when they were still teens.

Shortly after, they left with their husbands for Syria - each with a baby - joining more than 400 Belgians who have headed to the conflict zone. Their husbands died with a year of being in Syria. Both widowed in 2014 and each pregnant with their second child, Abouallal and Wielandt returned to Belgium.

A few months later, while Abouallal's mother, Fatiha, was out of the country on vacation, the step-sisters left again - leaving her heartbroken with an empty house full of toys.

But like other parents across Europe, who have received messages from their children pleading to come home, Fatiha began lobbying the government early last year.

Her relatives are among 17 Belgian women and 32 children being held in Syria, according to security sources.

Full report at:

https://www.euronews.com/2019/02/28/family-devastated-by-belgian-ruling-not-to-bring-back-islamic-state-children

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Belgium wins appeal on repatriation of children from Syria

28 February 2019

Belgium won an appeal Wednesday against a ruling ordering it to repatriate six children of Belgian militants living in a refugee camp with their mothers in Syria.

“The Brussels appeals court finds in favor of the appeal of the Belgian state” against a lower court’s decision handed down on December 26, it said in a statement, confirming that “the Belgian state is no longer obliged to undertake any act of repatriation.” Another court had previously rejected a demand lodged by two women, each mother to three of the children, for their home government to intervene.

But the Flemish-speaking Court of First Instance in Brussels overturned that with its December ruling, ordering Belgium to take “all necessary and possible measures” to bring the children home from the al-Hol refugee camp, overseen by Kurdish forces, near the Iraqi border.

Human rights campaigners welcomed that ruling. The children, all aged six or under, are the offspring of alleged extremist fighters. Human rights groups fear as many as 160 Belgian minors are trapped in the Syrian conflict zone.

The December ruling gave the Belgian state 40 days to comply or face fines of 5,000 euros (almost $5,700) per child per day. As a proportion of its population, Belgium has been one of the main suppliers of Europeans travelling to fight for extremist groups in Syria and Iraq.

In all, more than 400 adults are thought to have left to join groups such as ISIS extremist group or al-Qaeda since 2013. Belgium has been hit by several attacks claimed by ISIS, notably the Brussels attack in March 22, 2016 which killed 32 people.

The Belgian government has said it is willing to “facilitate the return of children (of extremists) under the age of ten whose descent from a Belgian parent is proven. But for the remainder it is on a case-by-case basis.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/28/Belgium-wins-appeal-on-repatriation-of-children-from-Syria.html

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Arab World

 

ISIL Terrorists Transferred to US Base in Eastern Syria, Al-Baghdadi's Family Members Evacuated

Feb 28, 2019

The London-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Wednesday that over 700 people, including 40 ISIL militants, a large number of them from Turkistani and Asian origins, left Eastern Deir Ezzur on 15 trucks belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

It added that the ISIL members have been transferred to the US-led coalition's base in Deir Ezzur, noting that 51,750 people with different nationalities have been evacuated from the region so far.

Meantime, the Arabic-language Baghdad al-Youm quoted a local Iraqi source as saying that the SDF has transferred 21 families of ISIL militants, including the family members of al-Baghdadi, from Baqouz region in Eastern Deir Ezzur to an unknown place after an agreement with the US forces.

In a relevant development on Monday, a senior member of the Iraqi parliament accused the US of sheltering ISIL ringleader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Ein al-Assad military base in Western Iraq, and warned that 3,000 ISIL terrorists are being trained in the country to foment insecurity again.

Hassan Salem, the representative of al-Fatah coalition in the Iraqi parliament, was quoted by the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website as saying on Monday that al-Baghdadi was being supported by the US forces in the Western desert of Iraq.

He added that Ein al-Assad base provides logistical support for al-Baghdadi, noting that he is freely trafficking between Iraq and Syria with their backing.

Salem also said that the US forces had trained and equipped over 3,000 ISIL terrorists in Wadi al-Houran region with the aim of fomenting insecurity and revival of the ISIL in Iraq and sent them to Nineveh, al-Anbar and Saladin provinces.

He added that the US support for al-Baghdadi and other terrorists in Iraq comes as the Iraqi parliament plans to approve a bill to expel all foreign forces from the country.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971209000193

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Protected by US, Daesh leader al-Baghdadi travels across Iraq's western desert: MP

Feb 28, 2019

An Iraqi lawmaker says the leader of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, Ibrahim al-Samarrai aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is alive and traveling freely between neighboring Syria and desert areas in Iraq’s western province of Anbar under the protection of US military forces.

Hassan Salem said in a statement on Thursday that “Baghdadi is in the Anbar desert, which he is using as a safe haven.”

“He is being provided with US support at Anbar’s Ayn al-Assad military base and is traveling freely between Iraq and Syria.” Salem noted.

The Iraqi legislator said the US is helping the Daesh leader as Iraq’s parliament is set to vote on a bill on a complete US troop withdrawal from the country.

The United States supports Baghdadi “out of concerns over possible endorsement of [a] bill on expelling US troops from Iraq,” he noted.

Since last December, a number of Iraqi politicians and religious leaders have contested the continued presence of US forces in the country, with some calling for a vote in parliament on whether to expel foreign troops from the country.

However, in an interview with CBS television network broadcast on February 3, US President Donald Trump said he planned to keep US troops in Iraq to monitor and maintain pressure on neighboring Iran.

He highlighted the importance of Anbar’s Ayn al-Assad military base, which he visited during an unannounced trip to the country last December, saying it was crucial to the surveillance of Iran’s activities.

“We spent a fortune on building this incredible base; we might as well keep it. And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran,” Trump said.

Meanwhile, eight Daesh terrorists were apprehended during a military operation in Anbar province on Wednesday.

“Iraqi intelligence forces launched a preemptive military operation in Zankuro and Albu Tiban areas of the province to target Daesh terrorists,” Arabic-language Baghdad Today news agency said, citing a statement issued by the Directorate of General Military Intelligence.

The statement added that government forces managed to arrest eight terrorists, whose mission was to collect information about the whereabouts of security forces and citizens to assassinate them later.

On February 18, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said he was concerned about developments in Syria, where Daesh terrorists have lost their last stronghold on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River and are fleeing in droves towards desert areas in Iraq’s Anbar.

Former Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, declared the end of military operations against Daesh in the country on December 9, 2017.

On July 10 that year, he had formally declared victory over Daesh in the strategic northern city of Mosul, which served as the terrorists’ main urban stronghold in Iraq.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/28/589804/Daesh-leader-alBaghdadi-under-US-protection-travels-across-Iraqs-western-desert-Lawmaker

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80 Refugees Killed in US-Backed SDF-Occupied Camp in Hasaka

Feb 28, 2019

Media activists reported that only in the last 24 hours, 7 children and 2 women have died for the lack of medical and treatment possibilities in al-Hawl refugee camp in Southeastern Hasaka.

They added that nearly 14,000 families, consisting of 47,000 people, are living in the camp under an acute shortage of food, drugs and hygiene aids, warning that the children are in critical conditions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Wednesday that 73 Syrian refugees have died in al-Hawl camp in the past few months, adding that two third of them are children.

At least 29 children and newborns are reported to have died over the past eight weeks, mainly from hypothermia, while travelling to the camp or shortly after arrival, the WHO said in a statement early February.

It said about 23,000 people, mainly women and children fleeing hostilities in rural areas of neighboring Deir Ezzur, had reached the camp over that period.

Displaced Syrian people sheltering in al-Hawl camp earlier this month staged massive rallies over the death of tens of children.

Field sources from Hasaka province reported that the rallies were held to protest at SDF's incapability to supply the needs of the displaced community sheltered in the camp.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971209000606

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US Attempting to Prevent Revival of Adana Agreement between Turkey, Syria

Feb 28, 2019

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted the UAE's 'The National' as reporting that the administration of US President Donald Trump is after creation of an international force consisting of 2,000 NATO soldiers instead of the safe zone desired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Northern Syria.

Analysts referred to the recent remarks by Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Chavushoglu on the possibility for the deployment of Russian forces at the bordering areas in Northern Syria, saying that it means success of Russia's efforts to persuade Ankara to return to the Adana protocol.

They added that the US measures to replace its troops with NATO forces in regions that it would withdraw from means Washington's attempts to distort efforts by Moscow to revive the agreement.

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of Rai al-Youm newspaper, said that the Adana agreement, signed by Turkey and Syria in 1998, killed in the bud Washington's plots to establish a safe zone in Northern Syria and disintegrate the country.

"Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that during the trilateral meeting in Sochi, Moscow and Ankara reached this conclusion that the Adana agreement signed between Syria and Turkey in 1998 is the best way to confront the terrorists' threats at the Syrian and Turkish borders," Atwan wrote.

"The agreement which was declared five days after holding the trilateral meeting among Iran, Russia and Turkey means burying the safe zone plot that US President Donald Trump had asked for its establishment across the Northern borders of Syria. It also means thwarting attempts to disintegrate Syria for the sake of the formation of a small state on the Eastern banks of the Euphrates," he added.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971209000681

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Syrian Army Pounds Terrorists' Bases in Hama

Feb 28, 2019

The terrorist groups stationed in the demilitarized zone in Northern Hama targeted the Mahrada power plant with 20 missiles, leaving heavy damage and destroying one of the gas tanks.

The Syrian army units responded the offensive with heavy missile and artillery attacks, targeting the terrorists' positions and moves in al-Latamineh, Kafr Zita and al-Zakat in Northern Hama, destroying several bases and hideouts of militants and killing the terrorists inside.

They also launched missile and artillery attacks on terrorists in al-Hawijeh, al-Nashameh, al-Shariat, Murak and Jisr Beit al-Ra'as in Northern and Northwestern Hama, leaving heavy tolls on them.

Relevant reports said on Tuesday that Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the al-Nusra Front) had recently delivered 3,000 long-range and mid-range missiles jointly produced by a number of Arab states in one of the North African countries to the underground caches of Jeish al-Izza terrorist group in the towns of Kafr Zita and al-Latamineh in Northern Hama.

The Arabic-language service of Sputnik quoted special sources in Idlib as saying that the operations to deliver the missiles was carried out at night and took for two days, adding that commander of Tahrir al-Sham for weaponry named Abu Ahmad al-Checheni has ordered transfer of the missiles from the depots in Idlib city, Saraqib and Ariha in Idlib province to Jeish al-Izza after coordination with its commander Jamil al-Salih.

During the missile attacks by Jeish al-Izza against the residential areas in the town of al-Saqilbeh and Mahrada in Northern and Northwestern Hama, a civilian was killed and 7 others, including a child, were severely wounded and a large number of houses were destroyed.

Based on the report, the terrorists stationed in Southeastern Idlib also launched missile strikes against the Western parts of the town of Abu al-Zohour, killing 7 Syrian military forces and injuring 20 others near the town of al-Sukriyeh.

Meantime, the Syrian army forces in response targeted the terrorists' moves in Western Abu al-Zohour, inflicting over 25 tolls on them and smashing their military equipment.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971209000261

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Kushner discusses Mideast peace with Saudi leaders

28 February 2019

White House advisor Jared Kushner held talks with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a regional tour to rally support for a long-awaited Middle East peace proposal, US officials said Wednesday.

“Building on previous conversations, they discussed increasing cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and the Trump administration’s efforts to facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” the White House said in a brief statement.

Kushner was accompanied by Jason Greenblatt, the US Middle East peace envoy and Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran.

Earlier this month Kushner briefed countries at a conference in Warsaw on Washington’s plans for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian to be formally presented after Israeli elections in April.

But the Palestinians rejected the meeting as an “American conspiracy” with aims to “normalize” the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. The Palestinians have refused to talk to the Trump administration since the US president recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

The Trump administration has since dealt a series of blows to the Palestinian Authority, including cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for the Palestinians.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/28/Kushner-discusses-Mideast-peace-with-Saudi-leaders.html

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Saudi foreign minister to visit Pakistan with Crown Prince ‘special message’

28 February 2019

Amid increasing tension between India and Pakistan, Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, is expected to visit Pakistan with a special message from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Thursday.

Speaking to television station Geo TV, Qureshi also said Pakistan would be prepared to return the Indian pilot shot down and captured this week if it helped ease the crisis with its neighbor. “We are willing to return the captured Indian pilot if it leads to de-escalation,” Qureshi was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Indian and Pakistani troops traded fire briefly along the contested border in Kashmir on Thursday morning, a day after the two nuclear powers both downed enemy jets, with Pakistan capturing an Indian pilot.

The United States, China and other world powers have urged restraint from the two nations as tensions escalate following tit-for-tat airstrikes in the wake of a suicide car bombing that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Feb. 14.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited both Pakistan and India earlier this month. An AP report quoted Qureshi as saying that he spoke to al-Jubeir on the phone the previous night. He did not give further details.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/02/28/Saudi-foreign-minister-to-visit-Pakistan-with-special-message-from-Crown-Prince.html

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US-backed Kurdish militants in Syria help Daesh elements flee to Turkey: Report

Feb 28, 2019

The US-backed Kurdish militants in Syria have reportedly been helping the remaining Daesh terrorists -- who are now holed up in an eastern village -- to escape their last hideout and reach the Turkish border in exchange for "hefty bribes."

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Thursday that some 120 militants of the US-sponsored Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have formed a "smuggling network," which works to secure the escape of Daesh terrorists and their family members from Baghouz village in the eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr; the final piece of land still held by the Takfiri outfit.

The militants then help the fugitives reach SDF-controlled northern border areas near Turkey and receive "hefty bribes" in return, it added. The report claimed, however, that several members of the network have been arrested by SDF's "intelligence services," while others remain at large.

The monitoring group based its report on information obtained from sources inside Baghouz, the Kurdish-controlled areas and the Turkish territory.

The United States has long been providing the SDF -- a predominantly Kurdish alliance of militants -- with arms and militants, calling them a key partner in the purported fight against Daesh.

Such support has only angered Washington's NATO ally, Turkey, which views militants of the People's Protection Units (YPG), the backbone of the SDF, as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group.

The PKK has been fighting for autonomy inside Turkey for decades.

Turkey launched two military operations against the YPG and Daesh in northern Syria in August 2016 and January 2018, and has threatened a third should the US fail to remove the Kurdish militants from the east of the Euphrates.

Washington, itself, also stands accused of supporting the Daesh terrorists, who are currently on their last legs in Syria.

Earlier this week, Syria's official SANA news agency, citing local sources, reported that the US has received massive amounts of gold in exchange for providing safe passage to the Daesh terrorists confined to Baghouz.

American forces have already shipped out huge quantities of gold they had seized in Daesh’s strongholds, bringing the total amount of gold acquired and transferred to the US to around 50 tonnes, SANA said.

Russia and Syria have recently opened humanitarian corridors out of Baghouz to help civilians leave the area, calling on the US to end its illegal military presence in the country so they could complete the task.

The Daesh terror group lost its territorial rule in Syria in late 2017 thanks to national army operations backed by Iran and Russia.

Despite the terror group's collapse, the US and a coalition of allies -- which invaded Syria in 2014 under the pretext of Daesh -- have refused to end their aerial operations in defiance of the Damascus government.

The US has deployed some 2,000 troops to Syria and runs military bases there.

Many reports have emerged over the past months, indicating that Washington lets the terrorists enjoy freedom of movement near its military base, and even trains them there.

Last week, Iraqi lawmaker Hassan Salem said Daesh’s ringleader Ibrahim al-Samarrai, aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is being protected by the US forces based at Ayn al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/28/589797/Syria-SDF-Daesh-Turkey

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Trump says all Daesh territory retaken, contradicting allied commander

February 28, 2019

ALASKA: President Donald Trump told American troops on Thursday that US-backed forces in Syria have retaken 100 percent of the territory once held by Daesh militants, contradicting the commander of the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces, who said it would take another week.

"We just took over, you know, you kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent, the caliphate in Syria. Now it's 100 percent we just took over, 100 percent caliphate," Trump told troops at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson during a refueling stop in Alaska.

Earlier on Thursday, the commander of Syrian Democratic Forces, Mazloum Kobani, said in a video released to the news media that the SDF would be able to announce "the complete victory over Daesh in a week."

Trump made his comments while talking to US troops in Alaska about the progress his administration has made in Afghanistan and the Middle East over the past two years. He stopped in Alaska on his way back from talks in Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The US president has been anxious to declare that Daesh has been driven out of all its territory since announcing in December that he would withdraw American forces from Syria, claiming they had succeeded in their mission to defeat the militant group.

While the United States has withdrawn some troops, Trump responded to criticism of his move by deciding to leave some 400 US troops in the country over the longer run: 200 to remain in the northeast as part of a multinational force and 200 to remain at an outpost in the southeast to counter Iranian influence.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1459596/middle-east

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South Asia

 

Taliban, US envoy ‘satisfied’ with outcome of peace talks

Tahir Khan

FEBRUARY 28, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban and US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad are apparently satisfied with the outcome of the peace talks in Qatar as both sides are likely to reach an understanding on the withdrawal of the foreign forces and preventing the Afghan soil from being used against other countries.

Taliban spokesman for political office Suhail Shaheen told Daily Times that technical groups on foreign troops and terrorism have wrapped up the two-day talks and a statement may be issued at the conclusion of the current round of negotiations.

The talks will resume on Saturday after two-day break during which both sides will hold internal discussions.

Khalilzad, who led the US team, described meetings as ‘productive’ on Thursday. “We continue to take slow, steady steps toward understanding and eventually peace,” he posted on his Twitter handle.

Senior Taliban negotiator Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa also said the talks were ‘positive’ where both sides explained their views. “Now both sides will consult their leaders and resume negotiations on Saturday,” Khairkhwa, the Taliban former interior minister, told Afghan website nunn.asia.

Khairkhwa was among the five senior Taliban leaders who were freed from the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay in 2014 in exchange for a US soldier.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also released some details of the meeting. “Extensive discussions were held about the procedure of withdrawal of foreign troops from Tuesday till Wednesday noon, and from that time onwards, discussion revolved around preventing Afghanistan from being used against other countries,” he said, and added that the meetings ended late Wednesday as both teams agreed to take a break for two days for consultations and preparation for the third meeting which shall be held on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Taliban senior leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar held meetings with top US commander in Afghanistan Scott Miller, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar Abdul Rahman al-Thani and National Security Advisor Muhammad al-Masnad in Qatar. “The meetings focused on discussions about the ongoing negotiations process and withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan,” Mujahid said in a statement. “Baradar clarified the Taliban policy regarding foreign forces’ withdrawal and changing situation of Afghanistan while emphasizing commitment to the current peace process along with peace and establishment of an Islamic system in Afghanistan,” he added.

Taliban insist they are discussing two issues with Khalilzad-led team but the US envoy said on Twitter that all four key issues remained on the table. He did not explain the other two issues but the US side had earlier called for ceasefire and urged the Taliban to talk to the Afghan government.

Taliban have refused so far to sit with the Kabul administration on the plea that they want to strike deal with the US on the withdrawal of troops.

“The path to peace doesn’t often run in a straight line. The situation in Afghanistan is complex and like all sensitive talks, not everything is conducted in public,” Khalilzad wrote on Twitter. “Emerging from three solid days of talks with the Taliban in Doha. Meetings were productive. We continue to take slow, steady steps toward understanding and eventually,” he added.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/359783/taliban-us-envoy-satisfied-with-outcome-of-peace-talks/

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Afghan forces thwart Taliban attack in Zabul province leaving 28 militants dead

28 Feb 2019

The Afghan security forces have thwarted an attack by Taliban militants in Arghandab district of Zabul province leaving at least 28 militants dead, informed military sources said Thursday.

In the meantime, at least 30 militants were killed were killed during the operations of the Afghan Special Forces and an airstrike which were conducted in Tarinkot of Uruzgan, Nahr-e-Saraj and Sangin districts of Helmand, and Hisarak district of Nangarhar province.

The sources further added that similar operations were also conducted in Sabari district of Khost, Shahwlai Kot district of Kandahar, Sancharak district of Sar-e-Pul province, and Qarabagh district of Ghazni province leaving at least 32 militants dead and 5 others wounded.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-forces-thwart-taliban-attack-in-zabul-province-leaving-28-militants-dead-03394/

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Bangladesh tells UN Security Council cannot take more Myanmar refugees

March 01, 2019

UNITED NATIONS: Bangladesh told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that it cannot take any more refugees from Myanmar, some 18 months after more than 700,000 mainly Rohingya Muslims started pouring across the border fleeing a military crackdown.

Attacks on security posts by Rohingya insurgents in Myanmar’s Rakhine state triggered the crackdown that the United Nations, the United States, Britain and others describe as ethnic cleansing. Myanmar denies the accusations.

“I regret to inform the council that Bangladesh would no longer be in a position to accommodate more people from Myanmar,” Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque said.

Haque accused Myanmar of “hollow promises and various obstructionist approaches” during negotiations on returns.

“Not a single Rohingya has volunteered to return to Rakhine due to the absence of conducive environment there,” Haque said.

Myanmar says it has been ready to accept returning refugees since January, but the United Nations says conditions are not yet right for their return. The Rohingya say they want guarantees over their safety and to be recognized as citizens before returning.

Western powers on the council on Thursday lamented the lack of action from Myanmar’s government.

“We’re very disappointed ... that there hasn’t been more progress on getting the refugees back and that obviously includes creating the conditions where the refugees feel able to go back,” British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce told the council.

Several council members from western countries stressed that the return of refugees needed to be safe, voluntary, dignified and secure, and pushed for the Myanmar government to allow the United Nations widespread and unconditional access to Rakhine.

UN envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner-Burgener told the Security Council that UN access was currently “insufficient.”

“The scale of what has been done to the Rohingya Muslims and the allegations of crimes against humanity really mark this out as one of the most terrible events of this century so far,” Pierce said.

The 15-member Security Council has been split over how to deal with the crisis, with western powers pitted against Russia and Myanmar ally China.

China’s Deputy UN Ambassador Wu Haitao said it was mainly an issue between Myanmar and neighboring Bangladesh “and as such it is up to the two countries to work out a solution.”

Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy agreed.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1459816/world

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Taliban attack repulse attack on an army base in Helmand

01 Mar 2019

A group of Taliban militants and suicide bombers launched a coordinated attack on an army base in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan earlier today.

According to reports, the attack was launched on 215th Maiwand Corps headquarters.

The media office of the provincial government has announced that the attack was immediately repulsed by the security forces leaving at least 3 suicide bombers and 6 other militants dead.

According to a statement released by provincial government media office, a clearance operation is underway to ensure assailants are not left in the area.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-militants-suicide-bombers-attack-army-base-in-helmand-province-03397/

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Pakistan

 

Almost all parties welcome gesture to release Indian pilot

Amir Wasim

March 01, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The announcement by Prime Minister Imran Khan to release the captive Indian pilot as a goodwill gesture has widely been welcomed by almost all the political parties, but the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has questioned its timing.

Talking to Dawn News after attending the joint sitting of parliament, PPP leader Syed Khursheed Shah said he believed that the decision to release the Indian Air Force pilot should have been delayed a little.

He said as Pakistan had already offered dialogue and declared that it was ready for talks with the help of a number of friendly countries, it would have been better that such a decision was taken during the talks.

Take a look: When truth is the first casualty

“It would have been better if we have taken this decision by involving some of the countries and through them,” Mr Shah added.

“However, it’s worth the price if India avoids war after it,” he said.

Commenting on the prime minister’s speech during the joint sitting, the PPP leader said that they did not want to make any criticism on the government at this point of time. He said Pakistan did not want war and only desired peace in the region and there was no other option. He was of the view that India should benefit from this attitude of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, a number of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers and office-bearers praised the prime minister’s speech, saying that Mr Khan had adopted a statesman-like approach.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan has shown an extraordinary gesture in international relations that despite no obligation to return a prisoner of war (POW) till armed conflict or hostilities are formally over, he has chosen to adopt a statesman-like approach and decided to repatriate the Indian prisoner,” said Senator Faisal Javed, who is also the chairman of the Senate Standing Commi­ttee on Information and Broadcasting, in a statement.

He said under the international law provided in Article 118 of Third Geneva Convention, obligation on the state to return POW triggered only upon cessation of hostilities. Whereas, he said, despite no legal obligation, the prime minister had taken a bold decision.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1466847/almost-all-parties-welcome-gesture-to-release-indian-pilot

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Pakistani minister boycotts Islamic council meeting over Indian presence

March 01, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Friday he would not attend a meeting of foreign ministers from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Abu Dhabi this weekend because his Indian counterpart had been invited to the event.

“I will not go to the council of foreign ministers,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi told parliament, adding that lower ranking officials would attend to represent Pakistan’s interests.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1459821/world

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Shah Mehmood Qureshi makes 'urgent' phone call to Chinese FM, briefs him on Indo-Pak tensions

Feb 28, 2019

BEIJING: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made an "urgent" phone call to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to update him about the tensions between Pakistan and India, Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

During the phone call, Wang briefed Qureshi on China's efforts to promote peace talks and reiterated his hope that Pakistan and India would exercise restraint and "earnestly fulfil" their commitment to prevent the escalation of the situation, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Qureshi's phone call came as tensions between India and Pakistan rose Wednesday after Pakistan claimed it shot down two Indian fighter jets over Pakistani air space and arrested a pilot in response to Indian counter-terrorism in Balakot.

"Late at night on February 27, 2019, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made an urgent call to State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to update him on the situation between Pakistan and India," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

Qureshi made the phone call after Wang held extensive talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Russia, India, China (RIC) Foreign Ministers meeting in the Chinese city of Wuzhen.

Swaraj forcefully raised the terror strike issue with her Chinese counterpart and said the Pulwama attack is the direct result of the "impunity and cover" provided to the Jaish-e-Muhammed terror group by Pakistan.

Swaraj's meeting with Wang came a day after India destroyed a major Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) terror training camp in Pakistan. China, a close ally of Pakistan has repeatedly foiled India's attempts to brand JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN.

The JeM, founded by Azhar, has already been in the UN's list of banned terror outfits.

Wang told Qureshi that China will continue to play a "constructive role" in easing the current tension.

He expressed deep concern over the escalation of tension between Pakistan and India and briefed Qureshi on China's efforts to promote peace talks and reiterated his hope that Pakistan and India would exercise restraint and earnestly fulfil their commitment to prevent the escalation of the situation, the statement said.

“Wang also stressed that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be truly respected. China does not want to see any behaviour that goes against the norms governing international relations," it said.

At the RIC Ministers meeting, India won the support of China and Russia in the fight against terrorism as China and Russia agreed to step up policy coordination.

Briefing the media after the RIC Ministers talks, Wang said, “We agreed to jointly combat all forms terrorism through closer policy coordination and practical cooperation. Especially important is to eradicate the breeding grounds of terrorism and extremism."

But at the same Wang tried to cautiously tread a fine line, highlighting that Pakistan, which is its close ally, is also opposed to terrorism.

“China, Russia and India have reaffirmed our strong opposition to terrorism in various forms and manifestations. At the same time, we believe that Pakistan has always been opposed to terrorism," he said at the joint press conference with Swaraj and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Elaborating on China's stand, Wang said, "on the recent developments between India and Pakistan, China appreciates the statements from Indian and Pakistani friends saying that they will exercise and avoid escalation of the situation."

He said China for its part is playing a "constructive role as a mutual friend."

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/shah-mehmood-qureshi-makes-urgent-phone-call-to-chinese-fm-briefs-him-on-indo-pak-tensions/articleshow/68199690.cms

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Share evidence against Masood Azhar acceptable to Pakistan's courts: Qureshi

March 01, 2019

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that if India has "solid evidence" regarding Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar's involvement in the Pulwama attack, it should share that with Pakistan "so we can convince the judiciary and the people".

The foreign minister made these remarks during an interview with CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour regarding Pakistan's ongoing tensions with India, which was sparked by the Pulwama incident and has since led to armed conflict at the Line of Control.

Qureshi was asked how he would respond to Indian concerns regarding Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM). "My message to the Indians is that this is a new government that has a new mindset. We want to live in peace. We have a people-centric agenda. We want to concentrate on fixing the economy. We want to improve governance and eradicate corruption in Pakistan. That's the mandate given to us.

"We want to see peace and reconciliation in Pakistan and the region. The western front is consuming us; we do not want [escalation on the] eastern front. The policy of our government is that we will not allow our soil to be used by any organisation or individual for terrorism against anyone, and that includes India."

Qureshi was asked what he thought of India's desire to have the JeM's head's name on the international terrorist list. "We will be open to any step that leads to de-escalation. If they have good, solid evidence, please sit and talk, initiate a dialogue and we will show reasonableness."

When asked if Azhar was present in Pakistan and would the government go after him, Qureshi replied: "He is in Pakistan, according to my information. He is very unwell, to the extent that he cannot leave his house."

He urged India to share with Pakistan any evidence that "is acceptable to the courts of Pakistan".

Regarding Prime Minister Imran Khan's decision to release the Indian Air Force's (IAF) captured pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, Qureshi said: "This was a goodwill gesture and we feel that this should be an expression of Pakistan's willingness to de-escalate." When asked how serious the conflict between Pakistan and India — two nuclear-armed countries — was, the foreign minister said: "The situation certainly was serious when India attacked Pakistan, when they violated our airspace and dropped bombs, when they violated the UN charter and international law. This was serious. The Indian and Pakistani air forces are fully mobilised ... how dangerous can it be?"

Upon being asked if he envisioned an all-out Pak-India war, Qureshi said: "I hope not. That would be a mutual suicide. Pakistan never wants to escalate or want to be in a hostile position. From day one, Prime Minister Imran Khan offered that if you take one step towards peace we will take two. He wrote to the Indian prime minister, saying 'let the two foreign ministers meet on the sidelines in New York so that they can chart a way forward'.

"When this Pulwama tragic incident took place and I landed in Munich for the security conference and I learned about it, what did I do? I condemned, condoled and then the prime minister made a reasonable offer that 'if you have actionable evidence, share it with us and we will honestly, sincerely investigate.'

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1466918/share-evidence-against-masood-azhar-acceptable-to-pakistans-courts-qureshi

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'Do not escalate this further': PM Khan warns India during joint session of Parliament

February 28, 2019

A joint session of Parliament was held on Thursday to discuss rising tension with India in the wake of the Pulwama attack and subsequent airstrikes by both countries.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was the first to speak, thanked the opposition for standing by the government "at a time when Pakistan is facing an external threat".

Talking about the ongoing tensions between Pakistan and India, the prime minister said that despite his government's multiple overtures of peace, the response from New Delhi had not been encouraging.

"We realised that it was because of upcoming elections in India," he said and added that the government decided to wait until the polls in India were over before making another offer for talks. However, he disclosed, he had "feared they (India) would do something".

He told the Parliament that after an Indian aircraft violated Pakistan's airspace in the wee hours of Tuesday, he had a meeting with Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa where it was decided that Pakistan will not respond straightaway.

"We realised that Pakistani people might get upset that we did not respond, but we (army chief and premier) decided that since we did not know if there were any casualties, in case of an immediate response there will be escalation."

"The only purpose of our strike was to demonstrate our capability and will," said PM Khan while addressing the House. "We did not want to inflict any casualty on India as we wanted to act in a responsible manner."

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on Wednesday — a day after India violated the Line of Control (LoC) — undertook strikes across the LoC from Pakistani airspace. PAF shot down two Indian aircraft inside Pakistani airspace, with one aircraft falling inside Azad Jammu and Kashmir. One Indian pilot was arrested by troops on ground, the Army's media wing had said.

PM Khan said he tried to call Indian PM Narendra Modi on the phone yesterday because "escalation is neither in our interest nor in India's".

"Do not take this confrontation further," the premier said, addressing the Indian leadership. He warned that whatever action New Delhi decides to take in the future, Pakistan will be "forced to retaliate" to it.

He lauded the Pakistani media's coverage of events over the past three days, saying that the reporting was "responsible" and "mature".

"But it was upsetting to see the warmongering done by the Indian media," the premier said. "It's because our media has seen the dead bodies and bloodshed that results from terrorism. If [the Indian] media had seen what our journalists have witnessed over the past 17 years, they would not have created this war hysteria."

Khan said instead of pointing fingers towards Pakistan, the people of India should introspect as to what great extent the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir have been oppressed that they now stand ready to even lose their lives in their struggle for freedom.

The premier, before Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif started his address, announced that the captured Indian pilot will be released tomorrow [Friday] as a gesture of peace.

"In our desire for peace, I announce that tomorrow, and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian Air Force officer in our custody," PM Khan said, adding that Pakistan's efforts for de-escalation should not be construed as a "weakness".

The gesture was greeted with near unanimous support in the parliament.

A day earlier, the top political leadership of the country was given an in-camera briefing at Parliament House.

Opposition parties expressed satisfaction over the briefing mainly conducted by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor.

An official handout issued by the National Assembly Secretariat had said: “The forum unanimously expressed that they stand united against any aggression against Pakistan and will support the government and its institutions unconditionally.”

It said the participants also “expressed hope that those who want peace and stability will prevail as war is not an option but a failure of policy”.

War not a solution: Shahbaz

Opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif in his remarks said this was a critical turn in Pakistan's history, and the nation had to face the situation with collective wisdom, courage and statesmanship.

He said the PAF pilots by shooting down the Indian aircraft which crossed into the Pakistani airspace had "refreshed" the memories of the 1965 war.

Sharif stressed that wars are "never the solution" to any conflict, and the involved parties eventually have to come to the table for dialogue.

He said peace in the region will not prevail until and unless the Kashmir dispute is resolved in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people and relevant United Nations resolutions.

"India will have to give the Kashmiris their right [of self-determination] eventually," the opposition leader added.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1466685/do-not-escalate-this-further-pm-khan-warns-india-during-joint-session-of-parliament

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Daesh Sindh head, accomplice killed in encounter: Shikarpur police

FEBRUARY 28, 2019

SHIKARPUR: The news regarding killing two notorious terrorists spread like fire in the Jungle in Shikarpur because Shikarpur has infamous owing to suicide blasts and remote control blasts and people of Shikarpur suffered a lot.

Two master mind and notorious terrorists identified as Molvi Abdullah Brohi and Hafeez Brohi were killed in an encounter with Shikarpur police in the area of Sibi, Balochistan province, at about 3:30 PM, on Thursday.

Sajjad Ameer Sadozai, SSP Shikarpur told the media men during press conference held at his office that Molvi Abdullah Brohi and Hafeez Brohi, the Ameer and Naib Ameer of Daish Sindh and Balochistan chapter, respectively, were involved in plotting and carrying out many suicide attacks, remote control blasts and IDE blasts in Sindh and Balochistan.

SSP went on saying that Molvi Abdullah Brohi and Hafeez Brohi came in limelight since 2010 and carried out many suicide attacks including two suicide attacks on former MNA Dr Muhammad Ibrahim Jatoi, who survived, remote control blast on Dargah Hajjan Shah Marri Sharif in which 12 innocent persons including Gadinasheen Syed Hajan Shah embraced martyrdom, two suicide blasts on Imambargahas of Shikarpur in which 75 innocent person were martyred and at least 100 persons sustained injuries, murder of Allama Shafqat Abbas Matuhari in Khanpur, carrying out suicide blast on mourners during Muharram ul Harram in Jacobabad in which at least two dozen persons were martyred and score of persons sustained injuries, blast of Masjid Ul Harram of Quetta in which at least 20 persons were embraced martyrdom, Sehwan Blast in which score of followers of embraced martyrdom and sustained injuries.

Besides, both the killed terrorists were involved in carrying out blast on Siraj Ahmed Raisani in which at least 150 persons were martyred and score of persons sustained profound injuries and also involved in committing attack on police requirement centre in Quetta in which a large number of police personnel embraced martyrdom and sustained injuries.

SSP Shikarpur claimed that police have recovered 04 hand grenades, two Kalashnikovs and two TT Pistol from their possession. Sindh government had placed bounty amount Rs10 million on Hafeez Brohi while Rs 5 million bounty amount has been announced for Molvi Abdullah Brohi, SSP said.

SSP also claimed both the terrorists were involved in plotting subversive activities in Balochistan and master mind of many subversive activities in Sindh and Balochistan as well.  Also, both came to Sibi to plot terror activity in Shikarpur in this regard who were residing near Sibi to target once again Shikarpur, however Shikarpur police has foiled their plans.

Replying to a question, SSP Shikarpur said that ASP Shikarpur Amjad Farooque was supervising special police party who carried out mission. However, SSP termed it a big achievement of Shikarpur police and informed the media men that IG police has also announced Rs 2 million reward money for raiding police party.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/359794/daesh-sindh-head-accomplice-killed-in-encounter-shikarpur-police/

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Erdogan hails Imran Khan’s peace overtures

FEBRUARY 28, 2019

ISLAMABAD: President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday called Prime Minister Imran Khan and congratulated him on his speech in the parliament as well as his statesman-type offers to India for de-escalating the situation and working towards peace, according to a statement issued by the PM Office.

Islam is the religion of peace that underscores resolving disputes in a peaceful manner, Erdogan said, and appreciated the announcement by the prime minister to release the captured Indian Air Force pilot. He pointed out that this gesture was a sign of strength.

Prime Minister Khan briefed President Erdogan on the situation that evolved over the past few days and the efforts he made to de-escalate the crisis. He also referred to the extremely difficult situation in Indian-held Kashmir and the brutalities inflicted upon the Kashmiri people. He also thanked President Erdogan for his constant support for Pakistan and the Kashmiri people.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/359785/erdogan-hails-imran-khans-peace-overtures/

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Pakistan receives Indian dossier on Pulwama incident

FEBRUARY 28, 201

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Faisal Thursday confirmed that a dossier regarding Pulwama incident has been received from India.

Talking to reporters in Islamabad, the spokesman said any legal evidence present in the documents will be reviewed for further action. Pakistan is ready for dialogue with India on all issues including terrorism, he reiterated.

About the escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan, he said, “We have activated the United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan, which will be taken for a visit to the site where the Indian Air Force jets were shot down.”

On Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s condition, the FO said the Indian Air Force pilot is safe and sound. “The armed forces rescued him from the mob that went after him after his plane crashed in Kashmir.”

On the upcoming sessions of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation where India has been invited as ‘guest of honour’, the Foreign Office asserted that Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will boycott the conference if Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj is not disinvited.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/359779/pakistan-receives-indian/

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Mideast

 

IRGC commander: Iran plans to ‘break America, Israel and Saudi Arabia’

28 February 2019

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander has threatened to “break America, Israel and Saudi Arabia” and vowed that Tehran will “never lay down” its weapons.

Brigadier General Hossein Salami, deputy head of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reportedly made the threats during a speech on February 19 just days after a deadly suicide car bombing killed 27 members of the organization.

“Our nation’s sword has been drawn out of its sheath. Our enemies should know that we will never let them be,” Salami said. “The Saud regime should know that it will not last,” he added.

The head of the IRGC General Mohammad Ali Jafari threatened to retaliate against Saudi Arabia and the UAE over the attack last week. Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni militant group that operates near the Iran-Pakistan border, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Salami went on to describe the United States as “distressed” and called into question its world power status. “America, too, has been defeated. The Zionist regime is struggling to survive by using psychological warfare. Our enemies have despaired. They are helpless, and you advance,” the senior IRGC commander said in the speech. 

“Our war is not a local war” 

“We shall fight them on the global level, not just in one spot. Our war is not a local war. We have plans to defeat the world powers,” he added.

Earlier this month, Salami warned Europe against forcing the Islamic Republic into boosting the range of its missiles by trying to halt their development. Iran develops its missile technology according to a “defensive strategy” which changes according to need, he said.

Iran had earlier this month announced the “successful test” of a new cruise missile with a range of over 1,350 kilometers, coinciding with the anniversary of the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/28/IRGC-commander-Iran-plans-to-break-America-Israel-and-Saudi-Arabia-.html

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Israel strikes Gaza after ‘explosive balloon’ damages house

28 February 2019

Israeli aircraft targeted several militant sites in Gaza after an “explosive balloon” launched from the Palestinian enclave damaged a house in the Jewish state, the army said Thursday.

“An explosive balloon launched from the Gaza Strip damaged a house in an Israeli community, apparently after exploding in the air,” the army said in a statement.

“In response, IDF fighter jets and attack helicopters struck a number of terror targets in a Hamas military compound in the central Gaza Strip,” the statement said.

Eye witnesses in Gaza said a position of al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas rulers, was targeted in western Deir al-Balah, south of Gaza city late Wednesday.

There were no reports of casualties in Gaza.

Palestinians in Gaza have for months been sporadically launching balloons with incendiary and explosive devices at southern Israel in parallel with weekly protests and clashes taking place at the fence.

At least 251 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since March 2018, the majority shot during weekly border protests and others hit by tank fire or air strikes.

Two Israeli soldiers have been killed over the same period.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/28/Israel-strikes-Gaza-after-explosive-balloon-damages-house.html

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Hamas: Israel must be held accountable for Gaza crimes

Feb 28, 2019

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas says Israel must be fully held accountable for crimes it has committed in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The request came after an investigation mandated by the UN Human Rights Council found that Israeli troops may have committed “crimes against humanity” in response to Palestinian protests in Gaza.

In the UN report released on Thursday, chair of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry Santiago Canton said Israeli soldiers have breached international human rights in confronting the Gaza protest rallies.

Tensions erupted in Gaza in March 30, 2018, which marked the start of a series of protests dubbed the “Great March of Return,” demanding the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

The clashes reached their peak on May 14, the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Nakba Day (the Day of Catastrophe), which coincided this year with the US embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

The violence left 189 Palestinians dead and more than 6,100 others injured between March 30 and December 31, 2018, the report said.

Palestinian sources say nearly 270 protesters have been killed by Israeli troops since the beginning of the rallies.

Later on Thursday, Hamas issued a statement on the UN report, denouncing the Tel Aviv regime for the crimes it has committed against Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip.

“The report indicates beyond any doubt that the Israeli occupation has committed clear war crimes against the Palestinians who came out to protest peacefully to demand the right of return and lift the siege,” said Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official.

He also called on “the international community to hold the Israeli occupation accountable for the war crimes that it continues to commit against the Palestinians.”

The "March of Return" demonstrations are held every week to demand the right to return for the Palestinians driven out of their homeland by Israeli aggression.

They also demand a halt to Israel’s inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/28/589822/Palestine-Hamas-Israel-Gaza-UN-crimes-protests

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Netanyahu to be indicted on corruption charges, pending hearing

Feb 28, 2019

Israel’s attorney general says he intends to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate corruption investigations.

Avichai Mandelblit announced the decision in a statement on Thursday.

The indictment would be handed over pending a hearing, in which Netanyahu will have a chance to refute the charges before they are formally laid.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving gifts from businessmen overseas. He is also being investigated in Case 2000 for a media bribery scheme to help Yediot Aharonot newspaper against its competitor Yisrael Hayom in return for favorable coverage. Case 3000 surrounds Israel's $2-billion purchase of Dolphin-class nuclear-arms-capable submarines from German shipbuilding company ThyssenKrupp.

Netanyahu, who always denies engaging in any corrupt practices, has said he is convinced that the three cases against him will yield “nothing.”

In January, he said he would not step down even if the attorney general sought to indict him for corruption.

The Israeli prime minister is not required to step down if indicted but he would have no option than to resign if he is convicted with all appeals exhausted.

Netanyahu has been prime minister for a total of around 13 years.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump, who has portrayed himself as Netanyahu’s supporter by repeatedly recommending him as the regime’s next prime minister, has endorsed him again.

"I can say this, he's done a great job as prime minister," Trump said earlier on Thursday.

Mandelblit’s announcement, however, compromises Netanyahu’s chances of winning another term in April 9 early elections, in which he is facing a tough challenge from a centrist political alliance headed by Benny Gantz, a former military chief of staff.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/28/589821/Israel-Prime-Minister-Benjamin-Netanyahu-indictment-Attorney-General-corruption-cases

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Euro-Med slams Israeli violations of Palestinians' rights in Jerusalem al-Quds

Feb 28, 2019

A Geneva-based organization has documented continued and excessive human rights violations committed by Israel against Palestinians in Jerusalem al-Quds within the space of a single month.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor (Euro-Med) released a report, detailing the violations of Palestinians’ rights by Israeli forces in January.

Sarah Pritchett, Euro-Med’s spokesperson said, “The Israeli authorities continue their policy of restricting freedoms of the Palestinians in Jerusalem [al-Quds] and preventing them from holding activities or events that reflect the Palestinian identity.”

The organization characterized the instances of infringement as deliberate and systematic, listing them as forcible demolitions, arbitrary arrests, torture, and attempts at manipulating the religious identity of Jerusalem al-Quds.

Israeli troops, it said, would recurrently engage in razing Palestinian homes and shops and would even force them to pay the demolition costs or destroy their own property.

The Israeli forces regularly carry out night swoops on Palestinian houses, the report added, adding that they would also attack hospitals on routine bases, intimidate the staff and take away the patients without any consideration for their health condition.

It also cited cases when Palestinians would be subjected to “humiliating searches” in public places and tortured inside detention facilities.

Euro-Med also recorded “practical” measures taken by Israeli forces aimed at “obliterating the city's identity and impose control over the al-Aqsa Mosque.” Al Aqsa Mosque is Islam’s third holiest site.

The organization said Israeli troops either detain Palestinians there or forcibly remove them “without them committing any violations,” noting that Israeli forces also detain women during “settler incursions” into the compound.

Palestinians are not spared harassment during their visits to the compound, while Israeli settlers also recurrently storm the site under strict protection of Israeli forces.

Euro-Med called on all United Nations bodies and the European Union to take “a clear and firm position towards such illegal practices, especially regarding the restrictions on religious freedoms and the demolition of homes.”

Israel claims the entire Jerusalem al-Quds as its “capital,” while Palestinians want its eastern part to serve as the capital of their future state.

In December 2017, the United States recognized Tel Aviv’s claim over the city in stark defiance of the Palestinians’ demand.

In the same month, the UN General Assembly ratified a resolution, calling on Washington to withdraw its controversial recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israeli "capital."

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/28/589802/Israel-Palestinians-human-rights-violations-EuroMed-report-Jerusalem-alQuds

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Israel releases Palestinian lawmaker held for nearly two years without trial

Feb 28, 2019

Israeli authorities have released Khalida Jarrar, a prominent Palestinian legislator and a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who was held without trial for 20 months under the practice of administrative detention.

Jarrar, a 56-year-old member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was released near the Salem military checkpoint, west of the northern occupied West Bank city of Jenin, on Thursday morning.

Her lawyer said that he and Jarrar's family had been told in advance that the administrative detention would not be renewed against the Palestinian lawmaker unless significant new information was received.

Jarrar, a staunch advocate of Palestinian prisoners’ rights, said after her release that she would continue to campaign for the release of all Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons and detention centers.

The Arabic-language Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported on October 25 last year that Israeli officials had extended the detention without trial of Jarrar for the fourth time in a row.

The Palestinian lawmaker has been jailed multiple times.

She was last arrested in July 2017, when a large number of Israeli troopers raided her home in the central occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, located 10 kilometers north of Jerusalem al-Quds. Her husband, Ghassan, said Israeli forces also seized her computers during the raid.

Israel's internal spy agency, Shin Bet, later announced in a statement that Jarrar was arrested along with a Palestinian activist for “promoting terror activities,” without providing any further information.

Jarrar is one of the most outspoken critics of the Israeli occupation and has repeatedly slammed the Tel Aviv regime’s atrocities against Palestinians.

The Israeli regime has been denying the lawmaker the right to travel outside the occupied Palestinian territories since 1988. She campaigned for months in 2010 before receiving the permission to travel to Jordan for medical treatment.

In August 2014, Jarrar received a “special supervision order” from the Israeli military, which ordered her to leave Ramallah to live in the West Bank city of Ariha, also known as Jericho.

However, Jarrar set up a protest tent outside the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah, where she lived and worked, until the controversial order was overturned later in September that year.

According to reports, a total of 13 Palestinian lawmakers are currently held in Israeli detention facilities without any trial under the so-called administrative detention, which is a policy according to which Palestinian inmates are kept in Israeli detention facilities without trial or charge.

Some Palestinian prisoners have been held in administrative detention for up to 11 years.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/28/589794/Israel-releases-Palestinian-lawmaker-held-for-nearly-two-years-without-trial

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Israeli 2018 killings in Gaza may constitute war crimes: UN probe

Feb 28, 2019

A UN Human Rights Council-mandated investigation into Israel's deadly crackdown on the 2018 anti-occupation rallies in the Gaza Strip says the regime’s forces may have perpetrated “war crimes” or “crimes against humanity”in the campaign against Palestinians.

In a statement released on Thursday, Santiago Canton, chair of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said Israeli soldiers have breached international human rights during the Gaza unrest.

“Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity,” the statement read.

Tensions erupted in Gaza in March 30, 2018, which marked the start of a series of protests, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” demanding the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

The clashes reached their peak on May 14, the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Nakba Day (the Day of Catastrophe), which coincided this year with the US embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

The violence left 189 Palestinians dead and more than 6,100 others injured between March 30 and December 31, 2018.

Elsewhere in its statement, the UN probe said that over 6,000 unarmed demonstrators had been shot by Israeli military snipers at protest sites.

There were reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli troops killed and wounded Palestinians “who were neither directly participating in hostilities, nor posing an imminent threat,” it added.

“The Commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognizable as such.”

It further stressed that Gaza protesters “were civilian in nature” and that the demonstrations “did not constitute combat or military campaigns.”

It also complained that Israeli authorities had not responded to the UN inquiry's repeated requests for information and access to the occupied lands.

The inquiry's statement is based on 325 interviews with victims, witnesses and other sources as well as reviews of over 8,000 documents, drone footage and other audiovisual material.

Israel irate

The UN probe’s statement infuriated Israel, with Acting Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz calling it “hostile, deceitful and biased.”

“Israel rejects the report outright,” he said.

Gaza has been under a crippling siege since 2007 and witnessed three wars since 2008.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/28/589783/Israel-Gaza-UN-war-crimes

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North America

 

US again asks Pakistan to deny safe havens to terrorists

Mar 1, 2019,

WASHINGTON: The US has reaffirmed its demand that Pakistan abide by its UN Security Council commitments to deny safe havens to terrorists and block their access to funds as it welcomed Islamabad's decision to release the captured Indian Air Force pilot.

In a surprise announcement during a joint session of Parliament on Thursday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will be released on Friday as a gesture of peace.

Pakistan detained Varthaman Wednesday following a fierce engagement between air forces of the two sides along the Line of Control when his MiG 21 fighter jet was downed.

"We welcome Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's commitment that Pakistan will release on Friday the Indian pilot held in its custody," a State Department spokesperson told PTI responding to a question on the announcement made by Khan in the Pakistani parliament.

Simultaneously, the US has urged both India and Pakistan to take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions.

"The United States continues to urge both sides to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation, including through direct communication. Further military activity will exacerbate the situation," the State Department spokesperson said.

"We reiterate our call for Pakistan to abide by its United Nations Security Council commitments to deny terrorists safe haven and block their access to funds," the spokesperson said.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Thursday joined other lawmakers in expressing concern over the escalating tension between India and Pakistan.

"This is "a result of a Pakistan-based terrorist group's brutal attack", he said.

"I urge both countries to de-escalate the mounting tensions," Hoyer said.

Tensions have escalated between India and Pakistan in the wake of the February 14 Pulwama attack claimed by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Forty CRPF soldiers were killed in the attack.

India carried out air strikes against the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In the operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for suicide attacks were eliminated.

Pakistan on Wednesday claimed it shot down two Indian fighter jets over Pakistani air space and arrested an Indian Air Force pilot.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/us-again-asks-pakistan-to-deny-safe-havens-to-terrorists/articleshow/68212271.cms

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US congressmen press for oversight of any Saudi nuclear deal

Mar 1, 2019

US lawmakers have introduced legislation to ensure congressional oversight of any civilian nuclear deal signed between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

It was sought by some lawmakers from both sides of the aisles

The legislation was introduced on Thursday by Senators Edward Markey, a Democrat, and Republican Marco Rubio.

Also, similar legislation was introduced in the House by Representative Brad Sherman, a Democrat, and Ted Yoho, a Republican.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has had held talks with Saudi officials on a possible nuclear deal, however details of talks are not clear.

Riyadh has pushed for easing nonproliferation standards so it could be able to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium made in reactors - two paths to making nuclear weapons.

The legislation bids came after a business group called IP3 International announced plans to build multi-billion-dollar nuclear reactors in the Middle East, including in the country of Saudi Arabia.

IP3, which is a consortium of US technology firms founded by retired Navy Rear Admiral Michael Hewitt, retired Army General John Keane, and Robert McFarlane, a former national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, is linked to US President Donald Trump. its managers had a meeting with Trump earlier is month.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s dishonored Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MbS as he is known in media, laid the foundation stone for Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear research reactor.

MbS told US media last year that his kingdom aimed to develop nuclear weapons in order to counter Iran’s nuclear development program. The controversial move was made amid growing calls in the US for a halt to nuclear talks with the Riyadh regime, which has been rattled by a scandal over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Reportedly, at MbS’ orders Khashoggi was killed and his body to be dismembered with a bone saw and dissolved in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.

“A government that cannot be trusted with a bone saw, should not be trusted with a nuclear weapon,” said Sherman, hinting that the bone saw was used for cutting up the body of the dissident  journalist.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/01/589830/US-Saudi-Arabia-Nuclear-Deal

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US forces responsible for humanitarian crisis at Rukban refugee camp: Syria

Feb 28, 2019

A Syrian official has held US military forces and their allied militants responsible for the humanitarian crisis affecting thousands of internally displaced people at a refugee camp near the Jordan-Syria border, saying American troops are preventing residents from leaving the site toward government-controlled areas.

“The responsibility for the humanitarian crisis of our people at al-Rukban camp falls solely on US occupation forces and their stooges, as they have been preventing civilians’ departure by means of force and threats. This is while safe corridors have been opened for those who are willing to leave the camp,” the unnamed official at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates was quoted by official SANA news agency as saying on Thursday.

He stressed that the Damascus government is prepared to take responsibility for securing a safe and decent return of displaced people to their hometowns.

“Syria renews its call on our people in Rukban to leave the camp and return to their homes. The Syrian government will provide all facilities to transport the citizens from the camp to their places of residence,” the official pointed out.

Addressing a Security Council meeting in New York on Tuesday, Syria’s Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Ja’afari said that Damascus has opened two humanitarian corridors to provide a safe exit for displaced people stranded at Rukban camp.

“Syria aspires for an end to the sufferings of people at Rukban camp, where most of the residents want to return to state-controlled areas, and demands an end to the illegitimate presence of US troops and terrorist gangs there,” the senior Syrian official commented.

Russian officials have also accused the US and Washington-backed militants of holding people in Rukban hostage.

“We call on the American command and leaders of illegal militant groups in … al-Tanf region to put 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,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on February 15, 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.

Konashenkov added that Russia and Syria would jointly establish a temporary housing area for refugees from the camp.

The UN says about 45,000 people, mostly women and children, are trapped inside Rukban, where conditions are desperate. This is while Geneva-based international aid agency Doctors Without Borders has put the number there at some 60,000.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that US forces were unlawfully deployed to al-Tanf region in southern Syria, and were training terrorists, who carry out acts of terror across Syria and prevent the return of displaced people in Rukban to their hometowns.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/28/589817/US-forces-militants-fully-responsible-for-humanitarian-crisis-at-Rukban-camp-Syrian-official

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UN says US-backed SDF not part of Syria peace process

28.02.2019

WASHINGTON 

The U.S.-backed SDF is not part of ongoing UN-led talks to end the Syrian conflict, the UN said Thursday.

The UN's Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen told reporters at the UN's New York headquarters "Syrian Kurds are already part of the process," but said the SDF "are not part of the political process so far.

"I think this could turn into a challenge in the future so it is important that we address this issue in a proper way," he said after briefing the Security Council for the first time since taking his post last year.

The SDF is a group led by the PYD-YPG, the Syrian branch of PKK terror organization.

In his remarks to the council, Pedersen stressed the need to create a "common forum" for interested nations to "engage seriously" on resolving key issues to end the conflict.

In addition, he said going forward his top priorities will include ensuring "sustained dialogue" with the Syrian regime and the opposition, to see additional actions taken through the political process being carried out by Turkey, Russia and Iran to address persons detained in the conflict, to start a constitutional committee "as soon as possible."

Of long-elusive efforts to form the committee to draft a new Syrian Constitution, Pedersen said "we are making progress but there are still unresolved issues, and we are working on the package, we need to agree on the names, but we also need to agree on the rules of procedures."

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/un-says-us-backed-sdf-not-part-of-syria-peace-process/1406045

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Southeast Asia

 

Indonesian student faces jail for Islam insult

February 28, 2019

Prosecutors in Indonesia have demanded an 18-month jail term and a $715 fine for a Christian student accused of insulting Islam.

Agung Kurnia Ritonga, 22, a student at the University of North Sumatra in Medan, is currently on trial for insulting Islam in an Instagram post by mocking the burning of an Islamic flag in October last year.

Three Muslim youths in Garut, West Java burned a tawhid flag presumed to belong to Hizb ut-Tahrir, a banned militant group on Oct. 21, 2018.

Ritonga’s Instagram post on Oct. 24, was said to have insulted the tawhid flag that has script describing the monotheistic God in Islam and God himself.

"What's the matter if the tawhid flag is burnt? Your God apparently gets burnt also?  So, don't take many recitations that teach culture, that makes fools. Your God is just silent over there, playing guitar, getting drunk, and writing porn poetry, why are you so busy?" Ritonga wrote.

He was arrested the next day after hundreds of Muslims surrounded his house in protest.

During trial proceedings this week, prosecutors told the panel of judges that Ritonga’s actions could have damaged interreligious harmony.

Muhammad Irwansyah Putra, a local mosque official who made the initial blasphemy complaint, said he was satisfied with the trial’s outcome and agreed with the jail term demanded by prosecutors.

“I agree with the proposed sentence as it should appease anger and avert possible violence,” he told ucanews.com.

Hamdan Hasonangan Harahap, Ritonga’s lawyer, said the student had shown remorse and apologized to Muslims.

“What he wrote did not aim to insult Muslims, he only wanted to debate [with them],” he said.

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy director of Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, regretted that such a case required a jail sentence.

“It was because of pressure from radical Muslim groups,” Naipospos said.

He referred to the case of a Buddhist woman, also from Medan, who was jailed for 18 months in August last year for complaining about the noise from a local mosque’s loudspeakers during the call to prayer.

The blasphemy law is discriminatory, he said.

Judges are expected to deliver their verdict next week.

https://www.ucanews.com/news/indonesian-student-faces-jail-for-islam-insult/84615

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Sarawak Report says PAS compensated it RM1.4m to kill suit

01 March 2019

By Justin Ong

KUALA LUMPUR, March 1 — PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang had to cover Sarawak Report’s RM1.4 million in legal fees to withdraw his defamation lawsuit, Clare Rewcastle-Brown confirmed today.

The Sarawak Report editor said this was not stated in the mutual settlement as Hadi’s lawyers had placed the sum in escrow prior to the termination, she wrote on her website.

Rewcastle-Brown included an excerpt of a letter of undertaking confirming the amount, and said the payment was the only item from the settlement both parties had agreed to remain silent over.

“The out of court agreement did not oblige Sarawak Report to provide any of the remedies sought in Hadi’s claim, such as keeping silent on the subject of Umno payments to PAS or anything else, since Sarawak Report had refused to apologise for its remarks or to surrender its commitment to fair reporting in the public interest,” Rewcastle-Brown added.

The also derided Hadi and PAS leaders for paying the RM1.4 million in order to terminate the lawsuit, saying they would have spent significantly more had they pursued the case to the end and ultimately lost.

The Briton also asserted that the inconsistencies in the party’s claims and statements could have landed Hadi and his witnesses in legal trouble, resulting in his premature withdrawal.

“If they continued to contradict each other in front of an English Court someone would have committed perjury for lying in a London law suit (‘sharia compliant’ lying is not recognised in the UK civil court any more than in most Muslim countries).”

Rewcastle-Brown added she was abandoning the confidentiality pact as PAS leaders have breached the agreement by variously misrepresenting it or denying its existence when they should have declined comment.

The Sarawak Report editor declined comment when asked to confirm the RM1.4 million payment yesterday.

“Sarawak Report therefore is entitled to consider itself released from confidentiality also, in order to be able to tell the truth to the Malaysian people who are being misled,” she said, appending a photograph of a cheque for the amount.

Hadi had sued Rewcastle-Brown in 2017 over a report the preceding year alleging PAS leaders took RM90 million to support Umno and Barisan Nasional ahead of the 14th general election.

He inexplicably withdrew the lawsuit filed in London, UK, this year, prompting views that he was no longer disputing the accuracy of the report that remains on the Sarawak Report website.

On Wednesday, PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim divulged that PAS paid Rewcastle-Brown RM1.4 million in order to terminate the suit Hadi had launched against her, claiming he had documents to prove this.

PAS yesterday claimed it could rebut Anwar, but did so prior to Rewcastle-Brown’s disclosure.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission is still investigating PAS over the allegation it took RM90 million.

It called in PAS secretary-general Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan yesterday over the matter and is expected to haul in other party leaders today.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/03/01/sarawak-report-says-pas-compensated-it-rm1.4m-to-kill-suit/1728050

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Some in PH govt behave like the opposition, says Dr M

February 28, 2019

PUTRAJAYA: Some leaders in Pakatan Harapan (HP) behave like the opposition with a socialist mindset, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

He said some leaders viewed capitalist businessmen as “pests who needed to be opposed”.

“Among those who are in the government, are those who were previously in the opposition. At this juncture, they are still opposing.

“But when we become the government, we can no longer condemn the capitalist system, because this system enriches us,” he said.

He further defended the businessmen for creating jobs and contributing to the economy.

“These businessmen are the ones investing with their capital and setting up businesses, which in turn creates job opportunities for Malaysians and they pay taxes.

“Without that, the federal government will not have enough money to govern the states and the country,” he said in his speech at the opening ceremony of the Johor government’s retreat session at the Pulse Grande Hotel here today.

Also present were other Pakatan Harapan (PH) Cabinet ministers, Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian as well as other Johor MPs and state assemblymen.

A leader in the government can’t condemn entrepreneurs and businessmen, the PH chairman said.

“Some of us view them as capitalists who oppress the people. But if they are not successful in generating large profits, we cannot collect taxes from them.

“We must help them to be successful and generate profits as 26% of it will go to the government as corporate tax,” he said.

Mahathir said the people and the state governments stood to benefit from job opportunities and the payments of various types of taxes.

“That is why we need to change our mindsets. We are now the government. We need to cooperate and establish good relations with entrepreneurs and businessmen so that they can succeed and the government can collect taxes from them.

“We need to remember this as we are now the government,” he added.

On another note, Mahathir called on members of his administration to safeguard racial and religious sensitivities.

“We must be aware that we are a multiracial party. We must take care of the sensitivities of different races.

“Let us not slight the feelings of other races with harsh words or criticisms, whether Muslim or non-Muslim,” he said.

The Langkawi MP said if there were problems with relations, they needed to refer to the government first, and not air their opinions to the masses.

“This is not our way. Our way is to discuss and find solutions. This requires compromise,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/02/28/some-in-ph-govt-behave-like-the-opposition-says-dr-m/

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In Semenyih, Najib tells Indian voters unity minister lied about temple demolishments

28 February 2019

By Jerry Choong

SEMENYIH, Feb 28 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator P. Waytha Moorthy should apologise to Malaysians for claiming thousands of Hindu temples were demolished during the previous Barisan Nasional administration.

He claimed that during his tenure as prime minister, he ensured the basic necessities for temples would be provided in the form of allocations, when necessary.

“In my time, we never shut down or demolished any temples (intentionally). If a temple was demolished it was because of development. The temple was shifted to another location and a new one built in its place,” Najib said during a cultural unity programme organised by MIC Hulu Langat in Seksyen 2, Bandar Rinching.

Speaking to Indian voters in the final leg of the ongoing by-election, he said it is unfortunate that the person who alleged thousands of temples were demolished is now a minister.

“He should apologies to the Indian community in particular, because he cheated and lied to them,” Najib said, never referring to Waytha directly.

“No problem, but we have all been lied to. Or more like we kena kencing (pissed upon) if a liar can become a minister, or even one holding a fake college degree can become one too,” he added, in reference to deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya, who was involved in the scandal last month.

Well-received by the audience, Najib also spoke at length of the efforts he made to change the fortunes of the Indian community as prime minister, including granting over RM1 billion in allocations to Tamil vernacular schools, matriculation programme spots for 1,500 Indian students, and assisting small-time Indian businesses.

Waytha came under fire at the end of last year when a Dutch television interview of him during his time as Hindu Rights Action Force president in November 2007 resurfaced on social media.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/02/28/in-semenyih-najib-tells-indian-voters-unity-minister-lied-about-temple-demo/1727972

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11 FPI members named suspects after commotion during NU’s anniversary

February 28, 2019

Apriadi Gunawan

The North Sumatra Police named 11 members of hardline group the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) suspects on Thursday for allegedly causing a commotion during the 93rd anniversary event of Indonesia's largest Islamic organization Nahdatul Ulama (NU) in Tebing Tinggi, North Sumatra, held on Wednesday morning.

North Sumatra Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Tatan Dirsan Atmaja said the suspects, who are all residents of Tebing Tinggi, violated Article 160 of the Criminal Code on provocation.

“They were shouting misleading statements while wanting the event to be disbanded,” Tatan said Thursday, adding that they were wearing shirts with #2019GantiPresiden ( 2019ChangePresident ) on them.

He added that the police would detain the suspects immediately to ease the inspection process.

Tatan said the suspects were provoking the forum while the religious event was still taking place. They were shouting and insisting that the event be disbanded.

The event was attended by authorities, including North Sumatra Police chief Ir. Gen. Agus Andrianto and Tebing Tinggi Mayor Umar Zunaidi Hasibuan.

The police have found that their actions were planned prior to the event.

Former North Sumatra FPI leader Indra Suheri said the FPI made the move because they assumed that the NU forum would declare support for the incumbent Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Ma’ruf Amin, who is a former NU supreme leader.

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/02/28/11-fpi-members-named-suspects-after-commotion-during-nus-anniversary.html

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Africa

 

Gun battle rages between Al Shabab and Somali troops after hotel attack, as death toll climbs

March 01, 2019

MOGADISHU: A gunbattle raged in Mogadishu on Friday between Somali soldiers and Al Shabab fighters, holed up in a building next to a hotel they had hit with a suicide car bomb the previous evening.

Heavy gunfire resounded across the Somali capital through the night and as dawn broke, police said the death toll was rising following the blast at the Hotel Maka Al-Mukarama, located on a street lined with hotels, shops and restaurants.

“The security forces rescued dozens of civilians in the hotel and nearby buildings. The militants are still inside and exchange of fire still continues. So far we confirmed 13 people died and scores were injured,” Major Mohamed Hussein, a police officer, told Reuters on Friday.

“The death toll may rise. It was very difficult for the security forces to enter the building last night because it is dark and electricity was cut by the blast. Now it is daybreak, and we hope the operation will be concluded in the following hours,” he said.

Reuters witnesses saw frantic residents in the city searching for missing relatives through the night, making countless phone calls to find out if anyone had seen their family members.

“I have been running to and fro from blast scene to hospitals since yesterday evening in search of my husband and brother who were selling a shop at the place where the blast took place. I have just seen them in hospital, they are in critical conditions. My husband lost his stomach and my brother suffered severe wounds to both arms,” Halima Omar, a mother of three children told Reuters.

Somalia has been convulsed by lawlessness and violence since 1991. Islamist group Al Shabab is fighting to dislodge a Western-backed government protected by African Union-mandated peacekeepers.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1459811/middle-east

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At least 10 killed in car bomb targeting Mogadishu hotel

February 28, 2019

MOGADISHU: A suicide car bombing targeting a Mogadishu hotel by the extremist group Al-Shabaab on Thursday killed at least 10 people and destroyed buildings in the Somali capital's busiest street, police said.

It was one of the heaviest blasts to have hit Mogadishu in recent times.

It took place in a business centre in Maka Al Mukaram street which has hotels, shops and restaurants, Police Major Mohamed Hussein told Reuters. Cars in the street were set ablaze.

"Over ten people died. A hotel is burning and other buildings were ruined by the blast. Twenty injured people were carried out. We believe more dead bodies are in the ruined buildings," Police Major Abdullahi Ali said.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.

"We targeted and stormed Hotel Maka Al Mukaram. We are still inside it," Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al Shabaab's military spokesman, said.

Ali said he did not believe the militants were inside the hotel. "But anything can happen because it is dark in some of the buildings because the blast cut the electric wires," he said.

Stinking gases from the blast reached several kilometres away from the scene.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1459606/world

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At least 5 killed, 25 wounded in Somalia suicide blast

28.02.2019

At least five people were killed and more than 25 wounded when a suicide car bomb targeted a hotel in Somali capital Mogadishu Thursday, officials said.

”A suicide car bomb blast targeted the Maka al-Mukarama hotel,” police captain Abdukadir Ali told Anadolu Agency. “It’s very earlier to say how many people have been killed as gunfire is still going on the area.”

The attack was one of the biggest in the capital in two years and caused disruptions, he added. Aamin Ambulance Service confirmed the casualty figures to Anadolu Agency.

“What we can confirm to you is that at five people were killed more 25 others wounded and we have rushed them to hospitals for treatment,” the service said.

“We increased the number of our rescue teams and ambulances operating in the scene to respond quickly to calls from the injured civilians at Maka Mukarama”, the only free ambulance service in Mogadishu said in a statement on Twitter.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/at-least-5-killed-25-wounded-in-somalia-suicide-blast/1406036

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UN: Libyan PM, eastern commander agree national election needed

28 February 2019

Libya’s internationally recognized Prime Minister and the military commander of its breakaway eastern half have met and agreed that national elections are necessary, the UN said on Thursday.

Wednesday’s meeting in United Arab Emirates was the first to be confirmed between Fayez al-Serraj and commander Khalifa Haftar since November, when they came face to face in Palermo, Sicily.

They agreed “on the need to end the transitional stages in Libya through holding general elections,” the UN Libya mission (UNSMIL) said in a Tweet.

“They also agreed on ways to maintain stability in the country and unify its institutions.”

The economy and political institutions in the oil-producing country have been in turmoil since long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011.

The UN, supported by Western powers, has sought for almost two years to organize elections as a way of ending eight years of conflict.

A proposed date of December 10 came and went due to lack of progress in resolving differences between the heavily divided nation’s rival powers.

Al-Serraj’s spokesman confirmed that a meeting with Haftar had taken place but said no date for elections had been set. There was no immediate comment from the commander’s office.

Fayez al-Serraj heads Libya’s internationally recognized government in the capital Tripoli while Haftar is based in the east and allied to a parallel administration.

The UN gave no further details about the Abu Dhabi meeting. After similar encounters it has engineered, it often releases pictures showing handshakes between the participants. It made no such picture available on Thursday.

The UN tweet made no mention of a UNSMIL plan to a national conference to decide on the type of elections, an idea which has met resistance in the east where many see it as a waste of time.

Haftar’s forces, the Libyan National Army (LNA), last month started an offensive in southern Libya, capturing the main city in the region and two oil fields.

On Monday, Libya’s state-run National Oil Corp’s chairman Mustafa Sanalla arrived in the UAE to meet with a number of Libyan and international parties to discuss the el-Sharara oilfield crisis.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/02/28/Libyan-PM-eastern-commander-agree-national-election-needed.html

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Dozen journalists arrested at censorship protest in Algiers

28 February 2019

Algerian police arrested a dozen journalists participating in a rally on Thursday against alleged censorship of coverage of protests against a fifth term for veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, an AFP correspondent reported.

Around 100 print and broadcast journalists, working for both state-owned and private outlets, joined the demonstration in central Algiers against reporting restrictions they say have been imposed by media bosses on the protests that broke out last Friday. “Free our colleagues,” the remaining demonstrators shouted as those arrested were driven off in the back of police vans.

“Fourth estate, not a press that follows orders.”

Daily demonstrations

Algeria has been hit by a wave of protests over the ailing Bouteflika’s announcement he will seek a fifth term in an April 18 election despite using a wheelchair and making few public appearance since suffering a stroke in 2013.

Tens of thousands took part in the first protests last Friday, and there have been further demonstrations daily since, both in the provinces and in the capital, where demonstrations are illegal.

But for several days, both the state broadcaster and private channels owned by media magnates close to the government kept silent about the protests.

State radio journalists said they had been ordered by management not to cover them.

Press watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) accused Algerian authorities on Tuesday of seeking to “muzzle” the media.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/02/28/Dozen-journalists-arrested-at-Algiers-censorship-protest.html

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UK to double support for Jordan over next five years

March 01, 2019

LONDON: Britain on Thursday doubled its bilateral support funding to Jordan, pledging £650 million over five years.

The UK government hosted a ministerial conference to promote growth and investment opportunities in Jordan, inviting a host of senior financial representatives, non-profit organizations and several business and economic delegations from around the world.

The conference fulfills a pledge by Prime Minister Theresa May in 2017 to encourage the partnership between the United Kingdom and Jordan, according to the UK Minister of State for the Middle East.

“This has been a really good conference and we are very pleased to hold it here because London is a great place to bring people together. We’ve had very high level representation, senior foreign ministers, from not only the region but all over the world,” Alistair Burt told Arab News.

Among the attendees were King Abdullah II and May and her Jordanian counterpart Omar Razzaz.

Over the next five years the UK’s bilateral support to Jordan includes a new £50 million contribution to the World Bank’s Global Concessional Financing Facility, the UK’s Department for International Development said.

This will include grant-financing to enable Jordan to undertake key economic reforms and will go towards a youth, technology and jobs programme with a focus on jobs and business opportunities for Syrian refugees.

It will also include a £14 million contribution to a new World Bank led trust fund for Jordan aimed at modernising government systems, promoting exports and making doing business easier.

In addition, the UK will underwrite a $250 million World Bank loan to Jordan.

Over the last five years, the UK’s support was around £300 million to Jordan.

“The conference was designed to showcase how Jordan can demonstrate how its meeting its economic challenges, the reforms it was putting in place, and what it offered to private investors, as well as people who wanted to take part in infrastructure projects and we think it’s fulfilling all those objectives,” Burt said.

“We had the chief executive of Jaguar and Land Rover, a major world company, saying we are investing in Jordan.

“And of course business talks to business, a minister telling businesses to invest might not have consequences, but it’s different if a business is saying we can invest here, and we can provide more for the people of Jordan both in education terms and employment terms.”

Burt also discussed some of the key issues effecting the region and relations with Saudi Arabia.

Asked whether the British government was lobbying Germany to reverse an arms embargo that was placed on Saudi Arabia, Burt said his colleagues are talking to their German counterparts about the issue and that the UK recognizes its strategic defensive relationship with the Kingdom.

“This means that we continue to support our partner and there are some impacts of the German situation,” Burt said.

“We are extremely conscious of the impact of a decision by a sovereign country and a partner country and relations to the arms embargo, we take a different view of course, we have very strict export controls.”

He said Saudi Arabia had been generous in its support for Jordan and the humanitarian needs in Yemen.

The minister said he visited Riyadh a couple of weeks ago and again the importance of that relation was evidently clear.

Asked whether the British government was concerned over the aspects of the Trump administration’s deferred Middle East peace plan, Burt said: “At first, like everyone else, we need to see what the plan actually is.

“The United Kingdom is certainly in no better position than anyone else to know any of the details. We have expressed our concern about unilateral decisions taken by the United States in relation to Jerusalem and refugees and we have made it very clear this is not our position.

“We remain of the view that the Middle East peace process is fundamental to world politics.”

Regarding the issue of Shamima Begum, the teenager who fled the UK to join Daesh, and is now in a refugee camp in Syria, Burt said the legal position of her situation will be resolved in due course.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1459701/middle-east

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