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Books and Documents

Islamic World News (02 Jan 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Dar al-Iftaa: A Muslim Should Belong Only to Nation















Saleh Mohammed (in red turban), a minister in Ashok Gehlot cabinet, performs puja at Shiva temple in Pokhran in Jaisalmer district.(HTPhoto )

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Dar al-Iftaa: A Muslim Should Belong Only to Nation

Rajasthan Muslim Minister Performs Puja at Jaisalmer Temples

Crackdown against Muslims: China Closes Three Mosques

Pope Bemoans Disjointed World, Praises Unity over Diversity

US And Israel Exit UN Cultural Agency, Claiming Bias

Pak-Iran Religious Tourism Witnesses Unprecedented Surge

Observers Find Bangladesh Elections 'Peaceful and Organised'

 

Arab World

Dar al-Iftaa: A Muslim Should Belong Only to Nation

Dar al Ifta warns of spread of Daesh, Al Qaeda remnants in Syria, Iraq

Turkey-Backed Militants Continue Plundering Civilians' Assets in Northern Syria

Syria rebels and extremists clash, killing 19

Hariri: Lebanon must form govt after months of deadlock

Sisi supporters try to amend Egypt's constitution to let him remain in power

Fighting erupts between rival groups in Syria

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India

Rajasthan Muslim Minister Performs Puja at Jaisalmer Temples

‘Triple Talaq Issue of Gender Equality, Sabarimala of Tradition’: Prime Minister

Triple Talaq Bill another Economic Attack On Muslims: Mehbooba

National Investigation Agency Hunts Source of Ammo Procured By ISIS Module

Planning Strikes since 2009, Angry Over Bias: Key Accused In IS Plot

In Two Years, There Will Be ‘No Burial Space’ Left For Muslims in Indian Capital

Actor-writer Kader Khan designed courses in Islamic studies

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Southeast Asia

Crackdown against Muslims: China Closes Three Mosques

G25: Malaysia Will Fail If It Follows Isma’s Islamic State Model

Putrajaya reconsiders ban on G25’s book advocating moderate Islam

Bandar Tun Razak PPBM defends division chief’s call at AGM

New department to oversee religious schools in Melaka

Pakatan underdog in Cameron Highlands race, says Kit Siang

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Europe

Pope Bemoans Disjointed World, Praises Unity over Diversity

The Former Neo-Nazis and Islamists Fighting Extremism In The UK

Turkey bars German man from leaving country

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Mideast

US And Israel Exit UN Cultural Agency, Claiming Bias

Netanyahu Says Israel Is Arabs’ ‘Ally’ Against Iran

Only way for Palestinians to gain own rights is resistance: Rouhani

Iran pursues 'clear, unchangeable' stance on Palestine: Qassemi

US, Israel pressing Honduras to moving embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds

Yemen’s Ansarullah movement slams WFP for “rotten” food aid

Israeli settlement activity appears to surge in Trump era

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Pakistan

Pak-Iran Religious Tourism Witnesses Unprecedented Surge

Pakistan Will Fight Poverty, Illiteracy, Injustice, Corruption In 2019: PM

Shot down Indian spy drone, claims Pak

Four paramilitary soldiers killed in clash with militants in Pakistan

Four security officials martyred in botched attack on FC centre

IP gas project in limbo: Pakistan wants Iran to interpret sanctions

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South Asia

Observers Find Bangladesh Elections 'Peaceful and Organised'

Taliban Kill 21 Afghan Security Forces In Country’s North

Western powers call for probe into Bangladesh election irregularities, violence

Afghanistan’s neighbours fear refugee crisis if US pulls out

Over 3,227 children will be born in Afghanistan on New Year’s Day: UNICEF

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Africa

Haftar Forces Free 19 from Daesh Captivity Following Clashes

Armed Men Kill 37 Civilians In Part of Mali Hit By Ethnic Violence

KDF kills 7 Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia

President Bashir orders probe into recent deadly protests in Sudan

Sudan’s Bashir forms panel to probe protest violence

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North America

US will continue to work with Israel over Syria and Iran: Pompeo

Regional players pressing for peace in Afghanistan: US commander

Peru names square in capital Lima after Palestine, angering Israeli envoy

Inside Manbij: Dispatch from the battle for Syria's future

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/dar-al-iftaa--a-muslim-should-belong-only-to-nation/d/117343

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Dar Al-Iftaa: A Muslim Should Belong Only To Nation

Jan. 1, 2019

CAIRO - 1 January 2019: The Egyptian Darul Iftaa on Tuesday said that a Muslim should have his belonging only to his nation, homeland and society.

The religious body, in a videotape issued to respond to allegations by terrorist groups, added that a Muslim should not have any belonging to a group or an extremist ideology.

It added that the extremist groups have taken the meaning of religion out of its genuine context in an effort to serve their own ideology.

The religious body warned of division and called for unity and solidarity in the face of extremist thought.

http://www.egypttoday.com/Article/1/62890/Dar-al-Iftaa-A-Muslim-should-belong-only-to-nation

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Rajasthan Muslim Minister Performs Puja at Jaisalmer Temples

Jan 2, 2019

JAISALMER: In a rare display of communal harmony, Rajasthan’s minorities Minister Shale Mohammad performed ‘rudrabhishek’ at the Shiva temple at Sadolai in Pokhran on Monday. Before that, the cabinet minister also worshipped at the famous Ramdevra temple in the district.

Mohammad, the lone Muslim in the newly formed Ashok Gehlot’s council of ministers, is the son of Gazi Fakir, a religious guru of Sindhi-Muslim community residing on both sides of the Indo-Pak border in JaisalmerBarmer.

Speaking to TOI, Mohammad said that he prayed for peace, happiness, prosperity of the state at both the temples. “My family and I have always had a deep faith in Hindu temples. Whenever I get a chance, I always visit a temple,” the minister said.

During the recently concluded assembly elections, BJP had fielded local Hindu priest Maharaj Pratap Puri of Taratra Peeth against Mohammad, the Congress candidate from Jaisalmer’s Pokhran assembly seat. In a fiercely contested election, both Mohammad and Puri secured over 82,000 votes each but Mohammad managed to win by a whisker of 872 votes.

This is first time that an MLA from Jaisalmer district, which has just two assembly seats in the 200-member house, has found a ministerial berth in the state government. So far, no state government, be it of any party, chose an MLA from the desert district to be a minister.

Mohammad offered prayers at the Shiva temple and took part in ‘rudrabhishek’ (giving holy bath to Shiv-linga) late Monday evening. Priest Madhusudan Changani chanted Vedic matras, applied vermilion on Mohammad’s forehead and tied the auspicious thread on his wrist. Mohammad had applied vermilion and wore a saffron turban also during the ceremony while taking oath as a cabinet early minister last week.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/muslim-minister-performs-puja-at-jaisalmer-temples/articleshow/67342002.cms

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Crackdown Against Muslims: China Closes Three Mosques

By Safaa Kasraoui -

Jan 1, 2019

Rabat – On Saturday, December 30, Chinese authorities closed three mosques in southwestern where the Hui Muslims live.

South China Morning Post said that the mosques were closed as they were “illegally established and conducted illegal religious education.”

The news outlet added that the shutdown of mosques in Weishan comes  after several crackdowns against Muslims against Muslims mosques in Ningxia and Gansu.

Throughout the year,  Chinese authorities expanded detention of Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province.

Authorities justified the mass internment by saying that they were simply intended to bring the Muslim Uighur people into a “modern, civilized” world.

In a report that the submitted by the UN, over a million Uighurs are currently detained in what the government calls “re-education camps.”

The Chinese government also imposed legal penalties targeting Muslims in China, a ban on both women wearing headscarves and the religious instruction of children.

The government of the western Chinese province of Xinjiang  said that tat any Muslims who think alcohol, cigarettes or dancing are forbidden need to be arrested.

A 2018  report from the Humans Rights Watch stated that the “ government restricts religious practice to five officially recognized religions in officially approved religious premises, and the Chinese government retain control over religious bodies’ personnel appointments, publications, finances, and seminary applications.”

In response, a group of Muslim Uighurs recorded a video to cry for help from scholars, activists and journalists..

“Muslim countries have economic and political interests, that is why official news outlets pay no mind to this case. That is why scholars and organizations must at least deliver this message to all muslims,” a man representing the community said in the video.

https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2019/01/262148/china-closes-muslims-mosques/

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Pope bemoans disjointed world, praises unity over diversity

January 02, 2019

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis, in his first message of the New Year on Tuesday, bemoaned a lack of unity across the world, and warned against a soulless hunt for profit that benefits only a few.

“How much dispersion and solitude there is all around us. The world is completely connected, yet seems increasingly disjointed,” the pope said in his traditional New Year’s Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

In his homily, he paid homage to motherhood, saying a world that looked to the future while forgetting “a mother’s gaze” was shortsighted.

“It may well increase its profits, but it will no longer see others as children. It will make money, but not for everyone. We will all dwell in the same house, but not as brothers and sisters,” he said.

The New Year’s address followed a turbulent 2018 for the pope, whose Church was battered by a torrent of sex scandals across the world that Francis has repeatedly failed to contain. The sense of crisis was underscored on Monday when the Vatican spokesman and his deputy abruptly and unexpectedly resigned following disagreements on communications strategy.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1429041/world

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US and Israel exit UN cultural agency, claiming bias

1 January 2019

The United States and Israel have quit the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural agency, arguing the organization fosters anti-Israel bias.

The withdrawal took effect on the stroke of the New Year, after the Trump administration and the Israeli prime minister announced their decision to leave UNESCO in 2017.

While it’s largely procedural, the moment marks a blow to the agency, which the US co-founded after World War II to foster peace. The US suspended its funding to UNESCO after it admitted Palestine as a member in 2011.

The US has demanded “fundamental reform” in the agency that is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions.

UNESCO’s director general, Audrey Azoulay, has recently championed a Holocaust education website and the UN’s first educational guidelines on fighting anti-Semitism.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/01/US-and-Israel-exit-UN-cultural-agency-claiming-bias.html

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Pak-Iran religious tourism witnesses unprecedented surge

Jan 2, 2019

ISLAMABAD: An unprecedented surge in religious tourism between Pakistan and Iran was witnessed during the months of Muharram and Safar this Islamic year and over 75,000 pilgrims visited religious places in the neighbouring country owing to the upgraded facilities and security arrangements undertaken at Pakistan House on Taftan Border.

According to documents submitted to the Interior Ministry, State Minister for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi, on special directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, ensured the provision of foolproof security to the pilgrims while modern and state-of-the-art facilities have also been installed at Pakistan House.

Besides security concerns, pilgrims used to face a lot of troubles pertaining to immigration and amenities during their transit and stay at Taftan Border. In order to address the administrative issues of the pilgrims, Afridi, along with Taftan Rifles commandant, conducted back-to-back visits to Taftan on  September 8 and October 24 in 2018.

During these visits, the interior minister formed the Taftan Task Force that was responsible to undertake certain development projects. The task force was headed by Taftan Rifles commandant while 109 Wing commander, Taftan Rifles assistant commissioner (customs), Taftan assistant commissioner and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Taftan assistant director were its members.

The minister had assigned the taskforce with the upgradation of facilities for pilgrims visiting Iran and Iraq in a four months’ time.

The task force had also been assigned to install 20 new immigration counters at FIA’s newly constructed building for better facilitation of the travelers; construction of dual sheltered lanes (exit and entry), including its fencing from new FIA building to the international border, pavement of the parking area around the new FIA office by the National Highway Authority (NHA), installation of a large size national flag in front of the Pakistan gate, improvement of facilities at Pakistan House i.e. canteen, cleanliness and provision of water; and taking action against the contractor who used low quality material on the outer stars of the new FIA building.

In the past, the pilgrims had become victims of terrorist activities that resulted in a prominent decline in number of people travelling to Iran for religious tourism. The issue of pilgrims’ security was promptly taken up by the federal and provincial governments as well as the army/FC simultaneously.

“As of now, security of Zaireen [pilgrims] while travelling from Quetta to Taftan and back is being effectively managed,” the document reads.

The newly constructed FIA Building has been made operational with effect from November 5. Entry and exit lanes for visitors have been fenced to avoid jumbling of pilgrims. Construction of dual sheltered lanes (exit and entry) from the new FIA building to the international border has been completed and a large size Pakistani flag has also been installed in front of the Pakistan gate by FC.

Facilities at Pakistan House have been improved and the provision of clean drinking water, uninterrupted electricity, quality food at cafeterias and regular cleanliness have been ensured at the site. An action has also been taken against the contractor who carried out substandard work on the new FIA building.

“The contractor was pursued through the assistant commissioner (Customs) and necessary improvements have been made,” the document states.

During recent months, federal and provincial governments, along with Balochistan FC (South), have also endeavoured to facilitate the pilgrims’ movement from Pakistan to Iran and back.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/01/01/pak-iran-religious-tourism-witnesses-unprecedented-surge/

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Observers find Bangladesh elections 'peaceful and organised'

31 Dec 2018

SAARC Human Rights Foundation and the Election Monitoring Forum organised a press briefing on Monday at the National Press Club to reveal what they saw during the elections, which ruling the Awami League won landslide. The Jatiya Oikya Front opposition alliance led by Dr Kamal Hossain has demanded fresh elections.

The Election Monitoring Forum is an association of 31 organisations and 26 NGOs registered under the Election Commission.

They deployed 5,765 observers in 214 constituencies of 299 where the elections took place. They visited 17,165 centres.

“Based on their information, we can say it was a peaceful election and it’s been far better than the previous elections,” Prof Mohammed Abed Ali, executive director, Election Monitoring Forum, said.

He described the violence which took place in different areas outside Dhaka as “not unusual” considering the size of the population of 160 million.

They asked the authorities to identify videos of previous elections violence circulated in social media.

Canadian observer Tania Foster and Chally Foster, Former Nepalese minister Hakikullah Muslim and MP Nazir Mia, Nepalese lawyer Advocate Mohammadin Ali, Former President of Kolkata Press Club Kamal Bhattacharja, Lawyer Gautom Ghosh from Kolkata, Mohammed Ehsan Iqbal from Sri Lanka, and SAARC Human Rights Foundation’s director Masum Chowdhury were present during the press briefing.

The international observers visited 24 centres in Dhaka divided into three groups.

In some centres, they did not find polling agents of opposition BNP.

When asked, the presiding officers told them that they can ensure access only when the agents will turn up to the centre. “If the agents do not come, then how can we bring them here,” one told them.

Former President of Kolkata Press Club Kamal Bhattacharja said he had observed Bangladesh twice before as a reporter.

“This time I came as an observer and I asked questions to the people in the queue for voting and nobody told me they faced any harassment or intimidation or threat before coming to the polling centre.”

Canadian observer Foster said she was able to ask questions to the voters and election officials.

“Voters expressed their confidence. It was a very peaceful and organised election,” she said.

https://bdnews24.com/11thparliamentaryelection/2018/12/31/observers-find-bangladesh-elections-peaceful-and-organised

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Arab World

 

Dar al Ifta warns of spread of Daesh, Al Qaeda remnants in Syria, Iraq

Jan. 1, 2019

CAIRO - 1 January 2018: Dar al-Ifta observatory for Takfiti Fatwa (religious edicts) has warned that the remnants of terrorist groups Daesh and Al Qaeda may seek to spread chaos in Syria and Iraq.

In a report Tuesday, the observatory said these organizations seek to cause instability in Syria and Iraq despite the decline of the number of terrorist operations in the two countries.

It said that Afghanistan continues to top the list of countries witnessing terrorist operations whose aim is always to spread chaos and disturb social peace.

http://www.egypttoday.com/Article/1/62900/Dar-al-Ifta-warns-of-spread-of-Daesh-Al-Qaeda

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Turkey-Backed Militants Continue Plundering Civilians' Assets in Northern Syria

Jan 01, 2019

Xeber 24 news website quoted local sources as reporting that the Ankara-backed militants have stolen a large volume of Afrin residents' olive products and assets.

It further added that the militants have stolen almost 2,000 barrels of olive oil along with one and a half million Syrian lira from the residents of the village of Karku in Ma'abatli region in Northwestern Aleppo.

The news website went on to say that over 30 members of the Ankara-backed National Army have raided the village and looted the assets and agricultural products, adding that the militants further transferred the stolen products to Turkey via Rajou road.    The Kurdish-language Hawar news reported in October that governor of Turkey's Hatay called on Ankara-backed militants in Afrin in Northwestern Aleppo to hand over the entire olive crops to the Turkish province.

In the meantime, Salah Ibo, the deputy head of Afrin Agriculture Department, said that Ankara intended to steal $100 mln of Afrin residents' agricultural products.

Also, Hawar news went on to say that terrorists of Ahrar al-Shamiyah and Tajamo'a Adl, both affiliated to the Turkish army, have started fierce clashes in the village of Qajomo in Jandaris region over distribution of looted olive products.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971011000641

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Syria rebels and extremists clash, killing 19

2 January 2019

Clashes between extremists and rebels in northern Syria have killed at least 19 people, a war monitor said Tuesday.

The fighting, pitting Al-Qaeda-linked coalition Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) against an alliance of rebel groups, flared in western Aleppo province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

HTS had on Monday accused rebel group Nureddine al-Zinki of killing five of its fighters, and launched an offensive against rebel positions close to the country’s last opposition bastion in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Observatory, said 12 HTS fighters and five from the Zinki group had been killed, along with two civilians. A further 35 people were wounded, he said.

Nureddine al-Zinki is a major player in the National Liberation Front (NLF), a Turkish-backed rebel alliance.

HTS and other extremist groups dominate more than half of Idlib province, while the NLF holds most of the rest.

The two have regularly clashed over control of territory.

Syria’s conflict flared with anti-government protests in 2011 that were brutally repressed, sparking a complex multi-front civil war involving a myriad of jihadist groups and foreign powers.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/02/Syria-rebels-and-extremists-clash-killing-19.html

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Hariri: Lebanon must form govt after months of deadlock

1 January 2019

Lebanon’s prime minister-designate, Saad Hariri, warned Tuesday a government needs to be formed as the country faces a tough economic situation after months of political deadlock.

“We have fallen behind -- we must form the government”, he told reporters at the presidential palace, after a long meeting with President Michel Aoun.

“The president and I are determined to meet again and finish this issue, because the country cannot continue without a government,” Hariri said. He called for political factions in the multi-confessional country to cooperate on reviving the political process.

Lebanon is governed by a complex system that guarantees a delicate balance between religious communities and their political parties, so decisions are made by consensus, making for protracted bargaining.

May elections

The country’s parliamentary elections in May were the first for nine years but lawmakers have since failed to form a government.

In mid-November, Hariri accused his main political rival – the Hezbollah – of obstructing the formation of a new cabinet. A month later, he promised that Lebanon would have a government “by the end of the year”.

The slow process has worried observers, as the economy is teetering on the brink of disaster, hit hard by the fallout from the conflict that has ravaged neighboring Syria since 2011.

“The economic situation is difficult, but this is not to say it is impossible,” Hariri said Tuesday. The international community pledged up to $11.5 billion in aid and loans for Lebanon at a conference in Paris in April.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/01/Hariri-Lebanon-must-form-govt-after-months-of-deadlock.html

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Sisi supporters try to amend Egypt's constitution to let him remain in power

Jan 1, 2019

Supporters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi are calling for constitutional changes so that the head of state can stay in power once his second term ends in 2022.

Sisi came to power in June 2014 as the president, one year after he led the military to oust the first democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi in a coup. He served as the defense minister in Morsi’s government before orchestrating the coup.

On April 2, 2018, the election commission said Sisi had won a total of 21.8 million votes in the March presidential election. His sole opponent, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, a relatively unknown and a fervent Sisi supporter himself, gained 656,534, less than the 1.8 million spoiled ballots.

The turnout in the much-criticized election was 41 percent, lower than the 47 percent recorded in 2014 elections. That could be a potential setback for Sisi, who sought to portray the vote as a plebiscite on his efforts to overhaul Egypt’s economy over the past years and eliminate terrorism in Egypt.

The vote was also marred by allegations that real contenders for the election withdrew from the race because of an intimidation campaign by the government. Serious opposition contenders halted their campaigns in January while authorities arrested the main challenger whose campaign manager was also beaten up.

In early June, 64-year-old Sisi was sworn in as the country’s president for a second four-year term in office to have a hard time dealing with major economic and security challenges in the North African country.

On Sunday, Egypt’s state-owned and semi-official newspaper Al-Akhbar said in its editorial that it hoped that 2019 would see “the start of a belated political reform” to secure Sisi’s future in power.

The editorial, written by the daily’s director Yasser Rizk, said that this would “preserve all the people’s gains in terms of security, stability and economic recovery over the past five years.”

Earlier in Tuesday, Mohammad Fuad, and lawmaker with the Wafd party, which is close to the government, also said in an interview with AFP that “the whole of Egypt was talking about (Rizk’s) article last night.”

“This issue has been under discussion everywhere in Egypt, not just in parliament, for some time,” he added, noting that a potential parliamentary debate on the issue had not been initiated yet by the government.

On December 8, a number of Egyptian lawyers, including Ayman Abdel-Hakim Ramadan, announced that they had filed a case with a Cairo court to force the parliament to debate amending article 140 of the constitution that bars Sisi from running for a third term in 2022.

In late July, a petition demanding parliament to take due steps in allowing Sisi to remain president beyond his second term was circulating within Egyptian institutions and among pro-state figures.

Back in March, Sisi’s supporters called on the parliament to discuss repealing the so-called article 140 of the constitution.

Back in November 2017, and even before Sisi was re-elected for his second term, he told American news network CNBC that he would not seek a third term in office. However, following his victory in March polls, the question has gradually returned to public debate.

The controversial proposal to maintain Sisi for at least a third consecutive term has been strongly criticized by opponents and NGOs who took to social networks to express their dissatisfaction.

During the past few years, Sisi has faced growing criticism about his way of treating dissidents, especially those linked to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, which Sisi outlawed right after taking office.

Some seven years after the January 2011 uprising that led to the ouster of dictator Hosni Mubarak from power, Sisi has still two major challenges to tackle: economic recovery and security, particularly in northern parts of the Sinai Peninsula, where a terror group affiliated with the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group is at large, killing government troops and civilians alike.

On the other hand, human rights groups and activists have constantly accused Sisi of violating public freedoms and suppressing opponents. Most of his opponents and vocal members of civil society have also been arrested in the past few months.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/01/584596/Egypt-Sisi-constitution

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Fighting erupts between rival groups in Syria

January 02, 2019

BEIRUT, BRASILIA: Clashes have broken out between two powerful insurgent groups in northern Syria, leaving at least two people dead.

The Al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Levant Liberation Committee and the Turkey-backed Nour El-Din El-Zinki group blamed each other for triggering Tuesday’s fighting in the northern province of Aleppo.

The regime-controlled Syrian Central Military Media says the Al-Qaeda-linked fighters captured the villages of Taqad, Saadiyah and Habata. It added that fighting is ongoing in the town of Daret Azzeh.

The Levant Liberation Committee said Nour El-Din El-Zinki militants shot dead five people, including four of its fighters, last week.

The clashes are the first between the two former allies since they reached a deal to end similar fighting in October.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says two civilians were killed.

Countering Iran

The US and Israel vowed on Tuesday to continue cooperating over Syria and in countering Iran in the Middle East, even as President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw US troops from Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the Brazilian capital that he planned to discuss how to intensify intelligence and operations cooperation in Syria and elsewhere to block Iranian “aggression.”

In his first public comments on Trump’s decision, Pompeo said it “in no way changes anything that this administration is working on alongside Israel” and that campaigns to counter Daesh and Iranian aggression would continue.

Pre-2011 conscripts

Syria’s army has issued demobilization orders for a new round of men conscripted for compulsory service in 2010, a year before the civil war started.

The decision, announced by state media on Monday, ends the drawn-out deployment of Syrians who enlisted for between 18 months and two years of mandatory military service that year, but who ended up serving for more than eight years because of the conflict.

The army issued “an order to demobilize officers from Recruitment Class 103” and recruits drafted in 2010.

The order, which comes into effect on Wednesday, also demobilizes officers and reservists enrolled before July 2012.

Those who wished to continue fighting in the army’s ranks could request to do so. It is the latest order to let go conscripts as the war winds down and the Damascus regime finds itself in control of almost two-thirds of the country.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1429066/middle-east

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India

 

‘Triple Talaq Issue of Gender Equality, Sabarimala of Tradition’: Prime Minister

Jan 2, 2019

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has denied any dichotomy in BJP's stand favouring punishment for those practising triple Talaq even after it has been outlawed, and opposing entry of women of a particular age into Sabrimala shrine in disregard of an SC judgement.

"These are two separate things. You are not seeing this properly," the PM said in an interview to ANI on Tuesday, asserting that while his government's move to criminalise the persistence of triple talaq was influenced by considerations of social justice, BJP's support for the status quo at Sabrimala shrine was derived from its respect for tradition and was in consonance with the views of SC judge Indu Malhotra who gave a dissenting judgement.

He emphasised that many Islamic countries, Pakistan included, have banned triple talaq and contended: "So it is an issue of gender equality, matter of social justice. It is not an issue of faith. So keep the two separate."

Defending his party's stand on Sabarimala, Modi said: “India is of one opinion that everyone should get their due rights. There are some temples which have their own traditions, where men cannot go. And men don't go... In this, Sabarimala, a woman judge in the SC has made certain observations. It needs to be read minutely. There is no need to attribute those to any political party. As a woman too, she has made some suggestions. There should be a debate on that as well sometimes.”

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/triple-talaq-issue-of-gender-equality-sabarimala-of-tradition/articleshow/67342436.cms

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Triple Talaq bill another economic attack on Muslims: Mehbooba

Jan 01, 2019

Srinagar: Former chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti lambasted government at the centre for its efforts to criminalise instant divorce by triple talaq among Muslims. She told this during a press conference at her residence on Gupkar Road.

Kashmir Reader quoted her as saying, “The Triple Talaq bill goes against Muslims. It has the potential to create division among Muslims. Zia’s Pakistan won’t be allowed to be created in Gandhi’s India.” She added, “By bringing the Triple Talaq Bill, they (BJP) are entering our homes.”

She claimed that the triple talaq bill will disturb the family life of Muslims and there would be more problems for women and men economically.

Ms Mufti said, Muslims have a strong family structure and the bill is an attack on it. Slamming BJP for the move she said, “I, as a Muslim, and as a sufferer of a broken marriage, believe it (the bill) is not in the spirit of Gandhi’s India. BJP must refrain from such acts. It upholds the rulings of Supreme Court that go in its favour, while disrespecting others. If the BJP does not refrain, we warn them of serious repercussions.”

https://www.siasat.com/news/triple-talaq-bill-another-economic-attack-muslims-mehbooba-1452027/

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National Investigation Agency hunts source of ammo procured by ISIS module

Jan 2, 2019

In an effort to trace the source of arms and ammunition and explosive materials procured by the 10 arrested alleged members of an ISIS-inspired module, Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam (War for the cause of Islam), the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is questioning dozens of people across two states -- Delhi and Uttar Pradesh and conducting fresh searches.

The agency wants to know how these men procured the huge amount of explosives and country-made arms.

The seized items include 25 kg of explosive material, such as potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate, sulphur, sugar material paste, 12 pistols, 150 rounds of live ammunition, 1 country- made rocket launcher, 112 alarm clocks, mobile phone circuits, batteries, 51 pipes, remote control car triggering switch, wireless digital doorbell for remote switch, steel containers, electric wires, 91 mobile phones, 134 SIM cards, 3 laptops, a knife, a sword, ISIS-related literature and a cash amount of Rs. 7.5 lakh approximately.

The agency had arrested 10 Islamic State-inspired module members, including the group head Mufti Suhail for planning terror attacks targeting important personalities and security establishments as well as crowded places in the National Capital Region.

The arrested accused are NIA custody's for 12 days as the agency tries to unearth the conspiracy.

Those arrested include Suhail (29), Anas Yunus (24), Rashid Zafar Raq (23), Saeed (28), Saeed's brother Raees Ahmad, Zubair Malik (20), Zubair's brother Zaid (22), Saqib Iftekar (26), Mohammed Irshad (in his 20s) and Mohammed Azam (35).

Full report at:

https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-national-investigation-agency-hunts-source-of-ammo-procured-by-isis-module-2703227

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Planning strikes since 2009, angry over bias: Key accused in IS plot

January 2, 2019

The key accused in the alleged Islamic State module busted by NIA last week, Mufti Suhail, has told interrogators that he was planning “jihadist activities” since 2009 due to what he called “persecution of Muslims in India” but did not have the wherewithal to carry out attacks, sources said.

This is significant given that the Islamic State, although first set up as an Al Qaeda affiliate way back in 2006, hit international headlines only in 2014 when it seized territories in Syria and Iraq.

The 29-year-old Islamic preacher, who was arrested by NIA last week from his home in Jaffrabad, Delhi, told interrogators that he had been hurt by events such as the Babri Masjid demolition and believed that Muslims were discriminated against in the country. He has pointed this out as one of the reasons why Muslims do not get jobs in the country, sources said.

“Suhail is highly radicalised and justifies his actions. He said he had been motivated because Muslims suffer injustice in the country. He was earlier attracted to Al Qaeda and Taliban but could never approach any of them. With Islamic State recruiting online, he found a handler who guided him through his latest adventure,” an investigator said.

The officer said that Suhail appeared to be the most “motivated” in the group. “He alone was in touch with this online handler who guided him to carry out attacks in India. He, in turn, gathered friends and acquaintances who are in the age group of 20-30,” the officer said.

Investigators pointed out that this was unlike some other IS-affiliated groups busted by NIA in the past few years. “Most of those arrested earlier had plans to go to Syria or Iraq. Suhail’s concern, however, is largely India,” an investigator said.

According to the NIA, a few months ago, Suhail assumed the online identity of Abu Basir al Khurasani to trawl the Net for content related to Islamic State. He soon met an online entity named Abu Malik Peshawari on Facebook. In due course, NIA claimed, Peshawari convinced Suhail to carry out attacks in the name of the Islamic State and also became his guide. This handler is suspected to be in Afghanistan. Suhail hails from Amroha where his father was engaged in religious studies but he has hardly lived there. Over the past one and a half months, however, he began living in his ancestral home in the Moullan Mohalla of Amroha town. NIA sources said he moved there primarily to build his group which has several members from Amroha.

“He was looking to rent a place in the town to hold meetings and assemble bombs since he could not have done it at his ancestral home which is a joint family property,” the officer said.

After graduating in religious studies, which included a brief stint at the Deoband seminary, Suhail was teaching at various madrassas. He has told investigators that he was attracted to pan-Islamic ideologies of various groups and believed Muslims were persecuted across the globe.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/islamic-state-in-india-nia-mufti-suhail-terrorism-jk-5519178/

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In Two Years, There Will Be ‘No Burial Space’ Left For Muslims in Indian Capital

1 January 2019

While grieving the loss of a loved one, relatives have to often undergo harrowing times hunting a space for burial in New Delhi.

And as the situation continues to worsen, shortage of space in New Delhi’s 113 graveyards continues to trouble Muslims.

A recent study conducted by NGOs Human Development Society and Ullhas, at the request of the Delhi Minority Commission, shows that in two years there will be no burial space left for Muslims, who make up 13 per cent of Delhi’s population.

Violations

Talking exclusively to Al Arabiya English, chairman of the Delhi Minority Commission Zafarul Islam Khan said: “There are constant complaints about lack of space in ‘qabristans’ (graveyards), encroachments and illegal occupation.

“The study was conducted to see how genuine are these problems and the results are more shocking than common knowledge. The study was based on field research says that most of Delhi ‘qabristans’ have simply vanished due to illegal occupation.”

The study, a copy of which was made available to Al Arabiya English states: “Although the Muslim population of the city has increased, very few graveyards have been developed in the recent past, with only five graveyards being less than 10 year old. Encroachment of graveyard land is a major challenge in the city, as most of the 624 graveyards listed on the website of Delhi Waqf Board (DWB), do not physically exist today.

“Keeping in mind the number of approximate deaths in the Muslim community in a year, i.e., 13000, and current level of total vacancies in graveyards (29370), there may not be any vacancy in the graveyards of the city after about two to three years from now.”

Zafarul Islam Khan, who is also a journalist, added: “The study reveals that there are only 131 graveyards out of 704 in Delhi today and even out of these 16 are under litigation.

“As a result, no burial is taking place in these 16 qabristans. Many people and government departments have occupied qabristan land over the years and the major encroachers are Muslim individuals and organizations.”

Proposed solutions

When asked about the intervention of Delhi Minority Commission (DMC) in offering solutions to this problem, Khan said: “The DMC has brought this matter into public knowledge and debate. It is talking to government departments to evacuate the encroachers and occupiers and where this not possible, proper monetary or land compensation should be given to the DWB so that new ‘qabristans’ are opened.

“The government is yet to respond, but we are pursuing the case. The study has also recommended to Muslims of Delhi to use un-cemented or ‘kachchi’ graves so that the same space may be used again after an interval of a few years of each burial.”

The study recommended the following measures: Increasing the capacities of existing graveyards by land filling, removal of encroachments, and priority handling of litigations; the construction of new graveyards, retrieval of lost graveyards and the re-use of graves after a few years.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2019/01/01/In-two-years-there-will-be-no-burial-space-left-for-Muslims-in-Indian-capital.html

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Actor-Writer Kader Khan Designed Courses In Islamic Studies

January 1, 2019

A little-known facet of Kader Khan, the veteran Bollywood actor-writer-comedian who passed in away Toronto early on Tuesday morning, was that he was a Quranic scholar who designed a special academic syllabus in Islamic studies, besides simplified Arabic and Urdu language courses, a family friend said.

"Though deeply immersed in Bollywood, around early 1990s, he bowed before the wishes of his aged father, the late Maulana Abdul Rahman Khan, to take forward his ideals for propagating Islamic studies and help clear misconceptions among the minds of people by using simplied language with their meanings," said Javed Jamaluddin, a veteran Urdu journalist and close friend of the late actor.

Originally hailing from Kabul, Afghanistan, Maulana Khan was a renowned Islamic scholar who remained in India post-Partition and in the early 1950s, migrated to Holland, where he set up the Arabic and Islamic Institute.

However, in the early 1990s, Kader Khan was summoned by his father who wanted him to take over and carry forward his legacy, but the actor - then already a big name in Bollywood - was reluctant, arguing he had acepractically no knowledge of Islam or Arabic or Urdu.

"Patiently, the senior Maulana Khan explained to his son that although he had no knowledge about story-writing or dialogue-writing, he learnt and made it big in Bollywooda So, in a similar fashion, he could also learn about Islam, Arabic and Urdu," said Jamaluddin, 55.

His father's words hit Kader Khan like a sledge-hammer and he immediately enrolled for and completed his MA in Islamic Studies & Arab Literature from Osmania University in 1993.

Adhering to his father's wishes, he set up a team of experts in Mumbai and also at his bungalow in Pune's posh Koregaon Park where he designed various Islamic courses for students from nursery to post-graduate levels covering Islamic tenets, Sharia laws and the like.

He followed up by opening the KK Institute of Arabic Language & Islamic Studies in Dubai and later in Canada to impart training in Arabic and Islamic laws as preached in the Holy Quran, said Jamaluddin.

"The secret was simplifying and interpreting the Quran for the common masses, creating an entire syllabus from nursery to post-graduation in Islamic studies in an easy-to-understand format with their meanings, which could be understood easily even by non-Muslims," he added.

All his academic efforts were completed around 2005 and he felt very happy and satisfied at having fulfilled his father's last desire, said Jamaluddin.

In September 2014, an ailing Kader Khan went on a Haj pilgrimage accompanied by some family members and aides, the videos of which went hugely viral on social networks globally.

"All his life, he strove to bring the common Muslims into the educational mainstream through his courses, wanted the Muslim youth to be academically and vocationally qualified to become independent and help advance the community in India," Jamaluddin said.

Full report at:

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/citytimes/bollywood/did-you-know-this-fact-about-kader-khan-it-may-surprise-you

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Southeast Asia

 

G25: Malaysia will fail if it follows Isma’s Islamic state model

02 January 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 2 ― Pro-moderation group G25 today raised alarm over right-wing Muslim group Isma’s campaign for Malaysia to be declared an Islamic state.

In a statement today, the progressive group comprising retired senior government officials said that Isma’s campaign will ultimately cause Malaysia to become a failed impoverished state.

“Our view in G25 is that what Isma is advocating will lead the country to become a failed state with poverty and misery for the masses.

“Isma should make it clear whether such a system of governing will make Malaysia a progressive country with a strong economy to raise standards of living and give confidence on the future of the country,” the statement read.

G25 also said it was confident that the Bornean states of Sabah and Sarawak would not accept such a far-right ideology.

Last month, Isma launched a campaign for Malaysia to be recognised as an Islamic state, citing among others the position of Islam in the Federal Constitution and influence of the religion here.

It also employed the hand sign of the letter “C” to symbolise the crescent moon, one of Islam’s symbols.

The five-month campaign called “Malaysia Negara Islam” (Malay for “Malaysia an Islamic State”) aims to gather one million signatures to support its claim, which will then be presented to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

A thread on Isma’s Twitter account listed eight items on its agenda, most notably the rejection of Malaysia as a secular country, and to stress that Malaysia is “Tanah Melayu”, or “land of the Malays” with the Malays its native citizens.

In addition, it called for stronger role for Islamic jurisprudence in the national justice system. Currently, Shariah jurisprudence is under state jurisdiction instead of federal.

G25 pointed out that an Islamic state ultimately means an autocratic system where religion dictates the laws of the country, with religious teachers having the final authority on any legislation which the Parliament or Cabinet wishes to introduce.

G25 added that Islamic preachers can also veto laws which they felt were not Islamic enough.

“Isma may well get the one million signatures but mainstream Malaysia, which represents the majority, will not subscribe to its Islamic agenda,” said G25.

“Malaysians of all races know that the country has a better chance to develop into a united and successful nation under the democratic constitution that we have now than under a divisive constitution based on religion.

“Malaysia has done well under the constitution which the leaders of our independence, representing the three major races, created with the concurrence of the Malay Rulers, to be the foundation of our new nation.”

https://www.malaymail.com/s/1708322/g25-malaysia-will-fail-if-it-follows-ismas-islamic-state-model

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Putrajaya reconsiders ban on G25’s book advocating moderate Islam

2 January 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 2 ― The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government is considering whether to continue a ban on a book on Islam by pro-moderation group G25 instituted by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration, G25’s lawyer said today.

Surendra Ananth told reporters that his clients, who filed an application for judicial review of the ban on Silence: Voices of Moderation ― Islam in a Constitutional Democracy, made a representation last September for the new government to reconsider the ban, in light of PH’s stance on freedom of expression.

“So the senior federal counsel told the court the government will take the representation into consideration and will need some time. The court has fixed 31st January as new hearing date at 2.30pm,” said Surendra.

The ban which was first gazetted in July 2017 by then Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is still in effect.

The G25 members who filed for a judicial review against the ban were Datuk Noor Farida Mohd Ariffin, Datuk Zainudden Abdul Bahari, Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, Datuk Latifah Osman Merican and Dr Asma Abdullah.

In a previous supporting affidavit, Mohd Sheriff said the book which was published in December 2015 by Singapore publisher Marshall Cavendish contained the writings of 22 leading academics, lawyers and social activists, including himself and Asma.

The book aimed to promote discussions and dialogue on a moderate practice of Islam and was to be part of G25's consultative process to address the excessive politicisation of religion in Malaysia.

Full report at:

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/putrajaya-reconsiders-ban-g25-book-021451460.html

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Bandar Tun Razak PPBM defends division chief’s call at AGM

January 2, 2019

PETALING JAYA: The Bandar Tun Razak PPBM division has defended its chief who has come under fire over his remarks at the party’s recent AGM, in which he reportedly called for government resources to be used for party purposes.

In a statement, its information chief Ahmad Bastari Muslim said Mohd Shahni Ismail’s remarks were in line with the party’s sustainability.

He said the comments by Shahni, who is also the Federal Territories PPBM information chief, were also not opportunistic and involved the party’s political survival.

Criticisms against Shahni, he said, also proved democracy was being nurtured.

“To build strength and understanding within our party, we are open to all views and arguments, but we must look forward and look after our party’s reputation so that it will progress,” Bastari said.

He hoped there would be no more misunderstanding among party members over the matter.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/01/02/bandar-tun-razak-ppbm-defends-division-chiefs-contract-call/

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New department to oversee religious schools in Melaka

January 2, 2019

MELAKA: Melaka will set up a Department of Islamic Education by March, Chief Minister Adly Zahari said today.

He said the department would be placed under the Melaka Islamic Religious Council (MAIM) and would supervise religious schools under the Melaka Islamic Religious Department (JAIM), as well tahfiz, and public and private religious schools registered under JAIM.

“Currently, the Islamic education system is supervised by JAIM but, as we understand, JAIM has many responsibilities or duties including supervising the various Islamic institutions. The heavy burden can affect better and focused management.

“Furthermore, the setting up of the department can reduce bureaucracy in the development of Islamic education in the state,” he told reporters after visiting a school on the first day of the new school year today.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/01/02/new-department-to-oversee-religious-schools-in-melaka/

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Pakatan underdog in Cameron Highlands race, says Kit Siang

02 January 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 2 ― Pakatan Harapan (PH) has little chance of winning the Cameron Highlands by-election as it did not get much support from Malay and Orang Asli voters there in the last general election, DAP’s Lim Kit Siang said today.

The DAP veteran leader said Cameron Highlands had always been one of Barisan Nasional’s (BN) “fixed deposit” parliamentary seats in the past six decades.

“We won the majority support of the Chinese and Indian voters in the 14th general election but secured only minority support from the Malay and Orang Asli voters.”

“The Pakatan Harapan’s challenge in the Cameron Highlands by-election is to maintain the support of the Chinese and Indians voters  while increase the support of the Malay and Orang Asli voters,” he said during a New Year’s Eve event at Kampung Orang Asli Semoi Lama in Pos Lenyang in Cameron Highlands.

DAP’s M. Manogaran narrowly lost Cameron Highlands by 597 votes to MIC vice president Datuk C. Sivarraajh in the 14th general election, but Manogaran successfully contested the results in court. A by-election for the federal seat in Pahang will be held on January 26.

Lim also reiterated that he was not anti-Malay or anti-Islam, pointing out that he had an older sister who was given away to a Malay family in Batu Pahat, Johor, before he was born.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/s/1708374/pakatan-underdog-in-cameron-highlands-race-says-kit-siang

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Europe

 

The former neo-Nazis and Islamists fighting extremism in the UK

Jan 2, 2019

“I wanted to change the world, I wanted to find an alternative to the problems I saw,” recalls Hadiya Masieh.

Surrounded by photos of her children, the 40-year-old remembers how she was drawn into the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir and its call for a caliphate.

After being attracted to the organisation’s ideals as a teenager, she became a full-time member and recruiter, marching and leafleting to spread its message of fundamental conflict between Islam and the west.

But the 7/7 bombings that left 52 victims dead in London in 2005 was a wake-up call, showing where the Islamist ideology she had devoted herself to could lead.

“It’s not that the group was violent, but young people go in with the idea of creating peace and hope and a better life and it gets turned into something else,” Ms Masieh told The Independent.

“They get used by these political groups for their own agenda.”

She has spent more than a decade working to counter the ideas she once followed, as part of a growing army of former extremists trying to turn the tide against a surge of radicalisation on all fronts.

Police have warned that Britain may be struck by further terror attacks following the atrocities that left 36 victims dead in 2017, and with plots becoming less sophisticated and quicker to mount there are fears that not all can be stopped.

The explosion in Islamist-inspired terrorism sparked by the rise of Isis has been followed by an increase in far-right extremism, as the two ideologies “feed each other” to fatal effect.

As terror investigations hit a record number in the UK and security services run “red hot” to combat emerging plots, efforts are mounting to cut off the threat at its source.

Ms Masieh works with young women and girls who are vulnerable to Islamist radicalisation as part of the government’s Prevent counter-extremism programme and a group called Women Without Borders.

She says her own experience helps engage with teenagers who are attracted to Isis, saying: “I think I had to be in it to understand it … if women have been sold a utopia, an idea they can relate to, they will run with that and we’ve seen that happen.”

Ms Masieh saw a spike in girls aged between 15 and 17 being referred for help from 2014 onwards, as Isis targeted potential “jihadi brides” with sophisticated propaganda campaigns.

“They were attracted by their ability to offer a situation to the problems that they were facing every day as young girls, whether that was Islamophobia or non-acceptance,” she said.

“They were offered a package claiming this was a space where ‘you can be you, you’ll have your identity and you can practice your faith without any harm coming to you’.”

While many western commentators saw women’s role in the Islamic State as little more than brutal servitude, Isis allowed women to recruit more female members online, broadcast their activities on social media and even enforce its harsh interpretation of sharia law in “morality police” units.

Many women, including some who took young children, were among around 900 people who have left the UK for Syria since 2014. Several, including at least one of three Bethnal Green schoolgirls who joined Isis together, have been killed.

Ms Masieh said the destruction of Isis’s territories and much of its online propaganda network had hit its recruitment capabilities, but that continuing grievances have left fertile ground for a resurgence.

“I focus on giving young people an alternative, showing them the flaws in extremist arguments and giving them the capacity to challenge them and hope that there is another way forward,” she added.

“Islamic education is important to teach them that they can have their identity as a Muslim and carry on living as a British citizen.”

Ms Masieh warned that rising Islamophobic hate crimes risked making more people vulnerable to extremists’ arguments, but said rocketing hate crime and terror attacks had strengthened resolve to counter hatred of all kinds.

“People have had enough and they want to find a way of addressing these issues,” she added. “There is this air of coming together collectively.”

Fellow Prevent “intervention provider” Nigel Bromage, a former member of the neo-Nazi group Combat 18, works with people taking on far-right ideas.

“Simply put extremism is a coin,” he said. “On the one side you’ve got Islamists and the other side you’ve got far-right extremism. They both feed off each other and a lot of the time they use the same grooming techniques to get involved, but for a different cause.”

The relationship has been played out in terror attacks and plots, with a man who tried to behead an Asian dentist claiming he was avenging Lee Rigby, who was murdered by Islamist extremists.

Three years later Darren Osborne, an unemployed father who consumed propaganda from Tommy Robinson, Britain First and other far-right figures, cited the Manchester bombing as a reason for ploughing a van into Muslims in Finsbury Park.

White people are now the largest single ethnic group of terror suspects arrested in the UK, and Prevent referrals for right-wing extremism have rocketed by 36 per cent in a year.

For the first time, the number of people receiving counter-radicalisation support for Islamist and extreme right-wing views are on a level.

Mr Bromage, 53, said he was drawn into the far-right because of his hatred of the IRA, being drawn to his first meeting by a leaflet showing graphic images of a bomb victim.

He spent 20 years in groups including the National Front, British Movement and Combat 18 before becoming disillusioned and cutting ties in 1998.

“I realised at the end that I joined the far-right to stop terrorism, but at the very end I was advocating direct action as the only way to achieve my beliefs at the time,” Mr Bromage said.

“I became sickened with the violence and the message that was being portrayed. I realised I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and just needed to leave.”

He now mentors people receiving support through the Prevent scheme and runs a charity called Small Steps that helps far-right extremists break away from their beliefs and lifestyle.

“We predominantly have been working with people who are hardcore far-right neo-Nazi activists but over the past six months it’s changed,” Mr Bromage said. “We’ve got people from all sorts of organisations. Groups like Generation Identity, Britain First, the English Defence League and more populist right-wing organisations.”

He warned that groups presenting themselves as non-violent can radicalise people who later seek to take their own direct action, and that issues like terrorism and grooming gangs can act as a “gateway” to extremism.

“Although these people highlight real concerns and issues, these people never offer any real answers and we need to highlight that,” Mr Bromage said.

“We find out why a person is angry, where they get their views from and we offer them alternatives.”

Mr Bromage said the far-right had not been taken seriously in the UK “for a long time” but that the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox and rise of neo-Nazi National Action had sparked new awareness.

“It’s a serious problem, people understand that and now we’re going the right way where we’re tackling far-right extremism and it’s being done well,” he added.

Not everyone is so optimistic about Prevent, which has been attacked from all political and ideological sides for being both draconian and ineffective, invasive and inept.

But as one of the four strands of the UK’s counterterror strategy – prevent, pursue, protect and prepare – the government has so far rebuffed calls to rebrand the programme or change its tactics.

A refreshed strategy released in the summer characterises Prevent as a “safeguarding” programme for vulnerable adults and children, adding: “There is no single sociodemographic profile of a terrorist in the UK, and no single pathway, or ‘conveyor belt’, leading to involvement in terrorism. Terrorists come from a broad range of backgrounds and appear to become involved in different ways and for differing reasons. Few of those who are drawn into terrorism have a deep knowledge of faith.

“While no single factor will cause someone to become involved in terrorism, several factors can converge to create the conditions under which radicalisation can occur.”

Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu recently told MPs that while security services had until recently considered returning foreign fighters as the greatest terror threat to the UK, “it wasn’t – the threat was already here”.

He said that of a record 700 terror investigations currently running in Britain, around 80 were looking into Islamist jihadis and 20 per cent “other”, including a “significant proportion from the right wing”.

“Prevent is the most important pillar of the strategy if long-term we want to see some reduction in the threat,” Mr Basu told the Home Affairs Committee.

“We have got to challenge extremist behaviour even if it doesn’t cross the criminal threshold because of the kind of intolerance it breeds.”

Mr Bromage called on former extremists of all stripes to join the fight and become role models, adding: “As long as society can be forgiving and accepts that people can change, then more people will come forward and we will create a better answer.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/terrorism-uk-far-right-neo-nazi-isis-islamist-prevent-radicalisation-extremism-a8706096.html

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Turkey bars German man from leaving country

January 1, 2019

Germany's foreign ministry said on Monday it was providing consular aid to a German man barred from leaving Turkey after the authorities accused him of supporting a terrorist organisation on social media.

German media reported that Adnan Sutcu, 56, was detained shortly after arriving in Ankara on December 27 to attend his mother's funeral.

According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and other outlets, the authorities accused Mr Sutcu of writing Facebook posts calling for an independent Kurdistan, which is illegal in Turkey. Mr Sutcu was questioned by police and then released, but told to report to authorities daily and not to leave the country before a court reviews his case next year, the reports said. "We are aware of the case and the embassy is providing consular aid," a source at the German foreign ministry said.

The ministry source said 49 Germans are currently jailed in Turkey, including five held for "apparently political reasons".

In October Germany warned citizens visiting Turkey to be extra cautious about their social media feeds in response to a spate of cases of Germans arrested for online criticism of President Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

Reuters could not reach officials at the Turkish justice ministry for comment.

Mr Sutcu, who has lived in Germany for decades, told the media outlets he had never supported a terrorist organisation, and it was unclear which group he was accused of backing.

According to a summary of Mr Sutcu's interrogation, he told Turkish officials he could not remember if he had posted the messages on Facebook and said he rejected violence.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/turkey-bars-german-man-from-leaving-country-1.808325

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Mideast

 

Netanyahu says Israel is Arabs’ ‘ally’ against Iran

1 January 2019

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Arab countries viewed Israel as an “indispensable ally” fighting Iran and ISIS extremist group.

That evaluation, he told Brazil’s Globo TV during a visit to Rio, has caused “a revolution in relations with the Arab world.”

The comments came as Israel has stepped up air strikes on Iranian positions in neighboring Syria, and as Israel digested an abrupt decision by President Donald Trump to withdraw US troops from Syria.

Netanyahu has repeatedly warned that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons to destroy his country.

Israel, he said, had shown itself to be active in battling “radical Islam, violent Islam - either the one led by radical Shiites led by Iran, or the one led by the radical Sunnis led by Daesh (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda.”

“Unfortunately we have not made any advance with the Palestinians. Half of them are already under the gun of Iran and of radical Islam,” Netanyahu added.

Asked if he could ever contemplate sitting down with an Iranian leader to talk peace, Netanyahu replied: “If Iran remains committed to our destruction the answer is no.”

The only way, he said, would be “if Iran undergoes a total transformation.”

Netanyahu was in Brazil to attend Tuesday’s inauguration of the Latin American country’s new, pro-Israel president, Jair Bolsonaro.

On the sidelines of the ceremony, Netanyahu was to hold talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is also among the visiting dignitaries.

They were expected to discuss the US troop pullout from Syria and Iranian activities in the Middle East.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/01/Netanyahu-says-Israel-is-Arabs-ally-against-Iran.html

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Only way for Palestinians to gain own rights is resistance: Rouhani

Jan 1, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has described resistance against the Israeli regime as the only way for the Palestinian nation to obtain its own rights, stressing that all Muslims must support the Palestinians’ right of return and establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

In a meeting with Secretary General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad resistance movement Ziad al-Nakhala in Tehran on Tuesday evening, Rouhani said Iran has been a staunch supporter of the Palestinian nation ever since the 1979 Revolution, led by late Imam Khomeini.

He then praised the Palestinian nation’s 70-year-long steadfastness in the face of Zionists’ expropriation, injustice and occupation, stating that their struggle should continue until the Tel Aviv regime acknowledges their rights.

“The Zionist regime (of Israel), thanks to support from the new rulers of the White House, is seeking to assert control over the entire (Middle East) region; and Palestine is a part of such a complex plot,” the Iranian president noted.

Nakhala, for his part, briefed the Iranian president on the latest developments in the occupied Palestinian lands, and the capabilities of Palestinian resistance groups.

“Undoubtedly, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s support and principled policies have played a major role in thwarting attempts aimed at stripping the Palestinian nation of their rights,” he pointed out.

Nakhala also highlighted that the Palestinian nation, irrespective of ongoing pressures and threats, will continue its resistance against the Israeli regime until all its rights are recognized.

Earlier on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi warned against plots hatched by the United States and the Israeli regime to isolate Palestine, saying the Islamic Republic pursues a "clear, transparent and unchangeable" stance on the Arab country.

"We have constant contacts with different Palestinian groups with sometimes different viewpoints," he said.

Qassemi added that the US and Israeli regime seek to create rift and division among Muslim countries to distract them from the Palestinian issue as the top priority in the Muslim world.

"This requires more unity in the Muslim world and all of us must make efforts to solve this big global problem," the Iranian spokesperson said.

He added that the occupying Israeli regime with an aggressive nature which is killing and suppressing the Palestinian people would face an "unfavorable" fate.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/01/584617/Only-way-for-Palestinians-to-gain-own-rights-is-resistance-Rouhani

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Iran pursues 'clear, unchangeable' stance on Palestine: Qassemi

Jan 1, 2019

Iran has warned of plots hatched by the United States and the Israeli regime to isolate Palestine, saying the Islamic Republic pursues a "clear, transparent and unchangeable" stance on the Arab country.

"We have constant contacts with different Palestinian groups with sometimes different viewpoints," Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi told the IRIB on Tuesday.

He added that the US and Israeli regime seek to create rift and division among Muslim countries to distract them from the Palestinian issue as the top priority in the Muslim world.

"This requires more unity in the Muslim world and all of us must make efforts to solve this big global problem," the Iranian spokesperson said.

He added that the occupying Israeli regime with an aggressive nature which is killing and suppressing the Palestinian people would face an "unfavorable" fate.

Qassemi emphasized that the Palestinian people would achieve a final victory over the Tel Aviv regime through their resistance.

He said the Palestinians can achieve their absolute rights and expressed hope that they would establish an independent Palestinian state with al-Quds al-Sharif as its capital.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said on Monday that Iran will never back away from supporting Palestine despite the heavy pressure from the world’s arrogant powers.

“As long as there is resistance, the Zionist regime’s downfall and demise will continue,” the Leader said in a meeting with Secretary General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad resistance movement, Ziad al-Nakhala, in Tehran, assuring Palestinians that their final victory was “imminent.”

The meeting came a day after a senior Iranian security official lashed out at some Arab countries for their overt and covert support for US President Donald Trump's "deal of the century" plot against the Palestinians, saying resistance groups and vigilant nations in the region will prevent the implementation of such an "ominous" plan.

"The implementation of this plan will be a heavy blow to Palestine," Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said in a meeting with Nakhala in Tehran.

Also in a meeting with Mahmoud al-Zahar, the co-founder of Hamas and a member of the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif once again reiterated the Islamic Republic's principled policy to support Palestine, urging all countries in the Muslim world to boost their unity to defend the Palestinian cause.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/01/584593/Qassemi-Palestine-IRIB-Israel-US

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US, Israel pressing Honduras to moving embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds

Jan 2, 2019

In Brazil, Israel and the US have lobbied Honduras to follow in Washington’s footsteps and relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied Palestinian city of Jerusalem al-Quds.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on the sidelines of the inauguration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia on Tuesday.

They “agreed to pursue a plan of action, which includes meetings in their three respective capitals, to advance the process of the decision to open embassies in both [the Honduran capital] Tegucigalpa and Jerusalem (al-Quds),” read a joint statement released by the US State Department.

They also agreed to “strengthen political relations and coordinate development cooperation in Honduras,” the statement added.

Netanyahu held a separate meeting with Hernandez, but no information was released about that one.

Honduras, a poor Central American country, had earlier expressed keenness to transfer its diplomatic mission to Jerusalem al-Quds in exchange for Tel Aviv opening an embassy in Tegucigalpa as well as technology sharing.

Late last month, a Honduran delegation visited the occupied territories to discuss developing bilateral relations and a possible embassy move, according to Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs.

In a highly controversial policy shift, US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel in December 2017 and moved the American embassy to the ancient city months later.

The contentious measure sparked angry reactions among Palestinians and drew massive international criticism.

The United nations General Assembly decisively backed a resolution calling on the US to drop its recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital.”

Guatemala was quick to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds just two days after the US. Paraguay also followed suit, but later a new government reversed the decision.

Now, Brazil’s right-wing president is expected to move the country’s diplomatic mission to Jerusalem al-Quds.

Netanyahu said on Sunday that Bolsonaro had told him it was a question of “when, not if” Brazil would move its embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds.

Peru, also in South America, has however adopted a different approach. Joining a group of Latin American countries that recognized a “free and sovereign” state of Palestine back in 2011, it has in recent days named a square in its capital Lima after Palestine, arousing outrage among Israeli authorities.

Israel lays claim to the whole Jerusalem al-Quds, but the international community views the city’s eastern sector as occupied territory.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/02/584630/Honduras-Israel-Jerusalem

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Yemen’s Ansarullah movement slams WFP for “rotten” food aid

Jan 1, 2019

Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement has strongly dismissed recent allegations by the World Food Programme (WFP) that the revolutionary forces are selling aid meant for civilians, stating that the humanitarian organization is sending “rotten food” to the conflict-plagued Arab country.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the Chairman of the Supreme Revolutionary Committee of Yemen, condemned the accusations on Tuesday, and said the WFP was “fully responsible for ... quantities of rotten food” it sent to Yemen.

He added that Yemeni forces refused to allow this food supply into the country because “it violates standards and regulations and is not suitable for human consumption.”

Houthi said, however, that the Ansarullah movement “welcomed” an independent investigation and called on the WFP to back up its accusations with proof. He then accused UN organizations of bias.

“The work of these organizations is mostly politicized, and their position ... confirms their work has shifted from independent to subordinate to the United States and Britain,” he commented.

The WFP alleged on Monday that food aid meant for starving Yemenis is being stolen and sold in some areas controlled by the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

Yemeni combat drone strikes Saudi mercenaries in Jizan

Yemeni army soldiers, backed by allied fighters from Popular Committees, have reportedly launched an airstrike against a position of Saudi-sponsored militiamen loyal to Yemen's former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, in Saudi Arabia’s western border region of Jizan.

A Yemeni military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Yemeni soldiers and their allies attacked Saudi mercenaries, using a domestically-designed and –manufactured Qasif-1 (Striker-1) combat drone.

Yemeni snipers shoot dead five Saudi troopers in Jizan

Separately, Yemeni soldiers and their allies have shot and killed five Saudi soldiers in the kingdom’s Jizan region.

A Yemeni military official, requesting not to be named, said Yemeni army soldiers and Popular Committees fighters stormed a military camp east of Jahfan area, and targeted the Saudi troopers.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating military campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of bringing the government of Hadi back to power and crushing Ansarullah movement.

According to a new report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi-led war has so far claimed the lives of around 56,000 Yemenis.

The Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/01/584585/Yemens-Ansarullah-movement-slams-WFP-for-rotten-food-aid

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Israeli settlement activity appears to surge in Trump era

January 02, 2019

JERUSALEM: With little resistance from a friendly White House, Israel has launched a new settlement push in the West Bank since President Donald Trump took office, laying the groundwork for what could be the largest construction binge in years, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.

The figures, gathered from official government sources by the anti-settlement monitoring group Peace Now, show an increase in building in 2018 and a sharp spike in planning for future construction.

This trend, highlighted last week when an Israeli committee advanced plans for thousands more settlement homes on war-won lands, has only deepened Palestinian mistrust of the Trump administration as it says it is preparing to roll out a Mideast peace plan. Each new settlement expansion further diminishes the chances of setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Both supporters and opponents of settlements confirm a change in atmosphere since early 2017, when Trump took over from Barack Obama, whose administration had tried to rein in construction.

“The feeling of the (Israeli) government is everything is allowed, that the time to do things is now because the (US) administration is the most pro-settlement you can ever have,” said Hagit Ofran of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch program.

Peace Now uses several measurements of settlement activity. These include “plans,” or the early bureaucratic stages of preparing a project; “tenders,” when bids are solicited from contractors to do the work; and “construction starts,” when the building actually begins.

Each of these figures tells a different story. While construction starts give a snapshot of the current level of settlement activity, they reflect decisions made years ago. In contrast, the planning and tender stages are seen as forward-looking indicators of a government’s intentions.

The data compiled by Peace Now showed a drop in construction starts during Trump’s first year in office, to 1,643 units in 2017 from 3,066 units the previous year. This drop appears to reflect the lingering effect of reduced planning during the final two years of the Obama administration.

But the data for the first nine months of 2018 indicate the beginning of a Trump effect, with construction starts 20 percent higher than the same period a year earlier.

These trends are even more evident when looking at the planning process. In 2017, plans were advanced to build 6,712 new settlement homes, roughly 2.5 times the 2016 level.

In 2018, plans for an additional 5,618 units were advanced, nearly half of which were processed last week alone. Together, these numbers are the highest level of planning seen since 2013. At that time, Israel pushed forward settlement construction to counter criticism of its release of Palestinian prisoners as part of then-Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace efforts.

The biggest surge in settlement activity during the Trump era is in tenders— projects that are ready to be launched.

In 2017, 3,154 tenders were issued, up from just 42 during Obama’s final year in office. In 2018, that number rose to over 3,800, the highest number by far since Peace Now started compiling the data in 2002. This sets the stage for a huge jump in construction in the near future.

“There’s definitely a change of atmosphere. There’s definitely a change of winds,” said Oded Revivi, mayor of Efrat, a major settlement near Jerusalem, and the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha settlement council.

Revivi said that Obama pressured Israel into greatly curtailing settlement activity. Now, he said, Israel is trying to make up for lost time.

“Basically what you’re seeing now is the statistics are trying to catch up to the needs that were built up during the eight years of the Obama administration, when everything was in a standstill,” Revivi said.

White House Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt’s office declined comment, and State Department officials were not immediately available for comment.

The Palestinians and most of the international community consider Israeli settlements to be illegal and obstacles to peace. Over 400,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank, in addition to 200,000 in east Jerusalem. The Palestinians seek both areas, captured by Israel in 1967, as parts of their state.

For decades, a string of US presidents, both Republican and Democrat, condemned settlement construction.

Things quickly changed when Trump took office. Trump refused to condemn settlement construction and surrounded himself with advisers — including his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Ambassador to Israel David Friedman — who are Orthodox Jews with close ties to settlements. Trump at times has asked Israel to show restraint, but his administration has remained largely silent as Israel has pressed ahead with its construction efforts over the past two years.

This has been welcome news to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose outgoing coalition is dominated by religious and nationalist settlement sympathizers. Favored to win re-election in April, Netanyahu has said he expects his next government to look very similar.

Israel never annexed the West Bank, meaning the Israeli military remains the sovereign there. Construction in the West Bank requires approval from COGAT, a Defense Ministry body that oversees civilian affairs in the territory.

Plans are submitted by the government to COGAT’s Higher Planning Council, which decides if they meet legal criteria.

COGAT routinely portrays decisions on new settlement activity as a technical matter, playing down the political impact. In a statement, COGAT said it acts in accordance with planning and building laws in the West Bank.

Critics say COGAT routinely promotes settlement expansion and development at the expense of Palestinian communities in the 60 percent of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control. Palestinians have varying degrees of autonomy, including over building permits, in the remaining areas of the West Bank, where most Palestinians live.

The offices of Avigdor Lieberman, who served as defense minister in 2017 and 2018, and his deputy, Eli Ben Dahan, did not respond to requests for comment. Both are strong supporters of the settlements and settlers themselves.

The settlement surge has added to the Palestinians’ distrust of the White House. The Palestinians cut off ties with the administration over a year ago after Trump recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will reject any peace plan the Trump team presents.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1429171/middle-east

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan will fight poverty, illiteracy, injustice, corruption in 2019: PM

JANUARY 2, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday that his government’s resolve in the new year was to wage jihad (struggle for a rightful cause) against the country’s four ills: poverty, illiteracy, injustice and corruption.

“Our New Year resolution is to wage Jihad against the 4 ills of our country: poverty, illiteracy, injustice and corruption. InshaAllah 2019 is the beginning of Pakistan’s golden era,” the Prime Minister said in a tweet – his first in 2019 – posted on his twitter handle.

During the day on Tuesday, the PM met Ambassador of Saudi Arabia, Nawaf Saeed Al-Malki, to discuss matters of bilateral interest.

Nawaf Saeed Al-Malki conveyed the special message of Saudi Arabia’s leadership to PM Imran during the meeting at PM’s office in Islamabad.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), on November 19, had received the first tranche of $1 billion under the balance of payment support from Saudi Arabia. According to a SBP spokesperson, out of the promised $3bn Saudi assistance in foreign currency support, the central bank has received $1bn dollar, while the remaining amount of $2 billion is expected to reach in next few days.

Separately, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) chairman Air Marshal Arshad Mahmood Malik apprised Prime Minister Imran Khan that 194 ghost employees, 73 cabin crew and seven pilots possessing fake degrees were expelled from the organization in the last two months. The PIA chairman briefed the prime minister about steps taken to revive and run the national flag carrier.

The prime minister, who presided over the high level meeting, was apprised that the PIA had been incurring a total loss of Rs 414.3 billion, including Rs 247 billion loans, Rs 144.7 billion arrears and Rs 4 billion for payment of loans on monthly installment basis, besides payment of Rs1.5 billion as monthly interest.

The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Asad Umar, Minister for Privatization and Aviation Mohammad Mian Soomro, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, Senator Faisal Javed and other senior officials, PM Office media wing in a press release said.

The prime minister directed the PIA chairman to finalize a comprehensive and complete business plan, so that its losses could be netted, by making the PIA a profit-earning and financially stable organization. The prime minister was further told that due to lack of attention on the profit earning and non-profit earning routes in the past, the PIA was suffering a loss of Rs 500 million alone on the seven international routes. Considering those losses, the current management was reviewing the international routes. Moreover, it was also separately running into losses on different inland non-profitable routes.

The meeting also took stock of reforms being undertaken for the revival of the national flag carrier, efforts for acquiring of new aeroplanes, simulators for training of pilots, training of the cabin crew and other financial issues. The prime minister was told that it was being ensured to pay salaries and pensions to the lower grade employees of PIA, similarly, its resources were being retrieved from those who had occupied them illegally, so that it could be spent judiciously. In a meeting with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister, Dr Hisham Inamullah Khan, the PM said that no hindrance in health reforms will be tolerated in the province.

The PM gave instructions to ensure quality healthcare for the general public with a special focus on merged districts. He also ordered the doctors to visit all hospitals in the province and inspect their facilities. Earlier this month, Dr Inamullah said the government was working on providing district headquarters hospitals with modern technology to minimise the burden on the provincial capital’s hospitals.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/339822/pakistan-will-fight-poverty-illiteracy-injustice-corruption-in-2019-pm/

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Shot down Indian spy drone, claims Pak

Jan 1, 2019

Islamabad: The Pakistan army on Tuesday claimed that it shot down an Indian “spy drone” in the Bagh sector along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir after it entered its airspace.

“Pakistan Army troops shot down Indian Spy Quadcopter in Bagh Sector along that Line of Control (LoC),” Not even a quadcopter will be allowed to cross LOC, In Shaa Allah (if Allah wills it)...(sic)” Pakistan army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said in a tweet.

“By the will of God, we will never allow any Indian spy drone to cross the LoC,” he said

In March last year, Pakistan army had claimed that it had shot down four Indian drones in one year.

Earlier on Tuesday, Pakistan lodged a protest with India against the “unprovoked ceasefire violations” by summoning Indian deputy high commissioner to the foreign office.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/shot-down-indian-spy-drone-claims-pak/articleshow/67340681.cms

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Four paramilitary soldiers killed in clash with militants in Pakistan

Jan 1, 2019

QUETTA : Four Pakistani paramilitary soldiers were killed and two injured in a clash with militants in the southwestern province of Balochistan on Monday, the military said.

The incident happened in Loralai district, around 262 kilometres (163 miles) northeast of the provincial capital Quetta.

According to a statement issued by the military, the militants tried to attack a residential compound of the paramilitary troops when they were confronted at the entry point.

The exchange of fire led to the deaths of four soldiers and four attackers including a suicide bomber.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Baloch separatist groups and Islamist militants have attacked security forces in the province in the past.

Earlier in December, a Pakistani separatist wanted over an attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi in November was killed in a suicide blast in Afghanistan.

The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed that assault, labelling Beijing an "oppressor" and "making it clear that China's military expansionism on Baloch soil will not be tolerated".

It had warned the Chinese to leave or "be prepared for continued attacks".

The BLA is just one of the militant outfits operating in Balochistan, Pakistan's largest and poorest province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran and is rife with ethnic, sectarian and separatist insurgencies.

Its residents have long complained that it does not receive a fair share of the profits made from its mineral wealth.

The Pakistani military has been targeting insurgencies in the province since 2004, and has been repeatedly accused by international rights groups of abuses there.

China, one of Pakistan's closest allies, has poured billions into the South Asian country in recent years as part of the ChinaPakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a massive infrastructure project that seeks to connect its western province of Xinjiang with the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar in Balochistan.

Pakistan sees the project as a "gamechanger", but it presents an enormous challenge in a country plagued by weak institutions, endemic corruption and a range of insurgencies in areas slated to host the corridor.

The subject of economic dividends from CPEC is extremely sensitive in some of those areas -- particularly in Balochistan.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/four-paramilitary-soldiers-killed-in-clash-with-militants-in-pakistan/articleshow/67340277.cms

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Four security officials martyred in botched attack on FC centre

JANUARY 2, 2019

Four security officials were martyred and two others were wounded while staving off a terrorist attack on a training centre of a paramilitary force in central Balochistan on Tuesday.

Four terrorists – including a suicide bomber – were also killed in the botched attack on the Frontier Corps training centre in Loralai district.

The heavily armed terrorists attempted to storm the residential/administration compound at the training centre, according to the military’s media wing.

However, the terrorists were challenged at the entry point and denied entry into the residential/administration compound, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.

After failing to achieve their primary target, the terrorists resorted to indiscriminate fire and entered a compound adjacent to the check-post which was immediately cordoned off by the security forces.

“The valiant and timely action of the security forces denied the terrorists entry into the residential area which would have resulted in more casualties,” the ISPR said.

The terrorists were pinned down in the check-post by the security forces in the subsequent operation. “Four terrorists were shot down including one suicide bomber who blew himself during the final stage of the clearance operation,” the military’s media wing said.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/339824/four-security-officials-martyred-in-botched-attack-on-fc-centre/

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IP gas project in limbo: Pakistan wants Iran to interpret sanctions

Khalid Hasnain

January 02, 2019

LAHORE: Pakistan has urged Iran to explain in-writing its interpretation of sanctions that resulted in a massive delay in completion of the mega Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.

“The government has taken up the issue in a recent meeting with the Iranian petroleum ministry’s advisers held in Islamabad. During the meeting, we have asked them to give us a detailed clarity over their interpretation of the sanctions under which they claim that the restrictions don’t affect completion of the project,” Inter State Gas System (ISGS) Managing Director Mr Mobeen Saulat told Dawn on Tuesday.

For the last four years, the IP gas project, under which Pakistan was reportedly supposed to receive as many as 750MMCF of natural gas from Iran daily through an agreement, is off the table due to international sanctions - both multilateral imposed by the United Nations and the unilateral clamped by the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and the European Union.

The unilateral sanctions imposed by the US were the most severe amongst all international restrictions — Iran Sanctions Act 1996, Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act 2010 and National Defence Authorisation Act-2012. The construction work on the Pakistani section of the pipeline had been inaugurated in March, 2013 and it was planned to be completed within 22 months.

“As far as we understand, we cannot move ahead on the project due to sanctions imposed on Iran. But they (Iranian petroleum ministry advisers) have their own interpretation of the sanctions. So we have engaged them in the process to understand the [sanctions] interpretation of each other,” the ISGS official said.

“That is why we have told them that we need a detailed clarity in writing from them in this regard, as we cannot go ahead with the project with their verbal interpretation. They have agreed to provide us a detailed reply,” the MD added.

The official said as soon as the government received explanation from Iran [over sanctions’ regime] it would study and evaluate the same in depth. And if it finds the same justified, it may be in a position to resolve the issue.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1454952/ip-gas-project-in-limbo-pakistan-wants-iran-to-interpret-sanctions

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South Asia

 

Taliban kill 21 Afghan security forces in country’s north

Jan 1, 2019

The Taliban militants have killed at least 21 Afghan security forces and wounded nearly two dozen others in a number of simultaneous attacks in the country’s north.

Local officials said on Tuesday that the casualties took place when the militants carried out attacks on security outposts in Sayad district of the northern province of Sar-e Pul.

Zabihullah Amani, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said at least 21 local forces, including police and intelligence, were killed and another 23 wounded in the raids, which he said were aimed at seizing control of several oil wells on the outskirts of the provincial capital city of Sar-e Pul.

Amani also said hundreds of militants were still outside Sar-e-Pul, warning that the city was at risk of falling to the Taliban if reinforcements were not sent.

"The enemy is still amassing forces outside the city," he told AFP. "We have deployed all the forces available in the city, but no reinforcements have arrived from outside so far. The people inside the city are very worried. They have attacked the city many times in the past, but this time the threat is more serious.”

The Taliban confirmed the attacks on the northern Afghan province, claiming that they had captured three checkpoints and killed or wounded 50 members of the security forces.

The Taliban militants have in recent months stepped up attacks on security forces across Afghanistan, killing a large number of police forces as well as civilians.

This comes as representatives from the Taliban, the US, and regional countries met for the fourth time earlier in December in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi for talks to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan. The militant group’s representatives, however, refused to talk to the Afghan negotiating team.

Taliban leaders also announced on Sunday that the group’s representatives would meet US officials in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah for the fifth round of talks in January but not the representatives of the Afghan government.

President Ashraf Ghani has said the talks should be “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned,” insisting on continued efforts to establish a direct line of diplomatic communication with the Taliban.

The Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end with a US-led invasion in 2001; but 17 years on, the militant group continues to be active on much of Afghan soil. The Taliban have strengthened their grip over the past three years, with the government in Kabul controlling just 56 percent of the country, down from 72 percent in 2015, a recent US government report showed.

Having failed to end the militancy campaign, Washington has over the past months stepped up its political efforts to secure a truce with Taliban.

The Taliban and the Afghan government have previously said the presence of foreign troops is the biggest obstacle to peace in Afghanistan.

Taliban militants have warned of stepping up their attacks until the US forces fully withdraw from Afghanistan.

US President Donald Trump has reportedly ordered the withdrawal of some 7,000 troops from Afghanistan. The figure accounts for about half of the total number of American boots on the ground in the country.

But a later White House announcement has cast doubt on reports about Trump’s order.

The Taliban have not formally responded to the partial US troop withdrawal. But a senior commander recently told media outlets that the group was “more than happy.”

Fear of refugee crisis amid US troop withdrawal

In a report published on Tuesday, diplomats from Afghanistan’s neighbors told Reuters that there were fears a US troop pullout could trigger hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee into their countries.

“At this point, there is no clarity about the withdrawal, but we have to keep a clear action plan ready,” a senior Asian diplomat based in Kabul told Reuters. “The situation can turn from bad to worse very quickly.”

Afghanistan shares a border with Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China, and is the world’s second-biggest source of refugees, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Diplomats from the countries told Reuters they would increase border preparations in anticipation of refugees.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/01/584616/Taliban-militants-Afghan-security-forces-Sayad-district-Sare-Pul

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Western powers call for probe into Bangladesh election irregularities, violence

JANUARY 1, 2019

DHAKA (Reuters) - Western powers on Tuesday condemned election day violence in Bangladesh and described a range of other irregularities that marred a vote in which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s alliance secured more than 90 percent of parliamentary seats.

The strongly-worded assessments from the UK, European Union, and United States could hit the image of Hasina, who won a third straight term to power following Sunday’s election.

Hasina’s opponents have rejected the election result, citing what they describe as widespread rigging and voter intimidation. She has denied impropriety, calling it a peaceful vote that saw enthusiastic participation from her supporters.

The capital Dhaka was quiet on Tuesday, but the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said its workers were being attacked in several areas elsewhere in the country by activists of the Awami League - charges the party denied.

“Violence has marred the election day, and significant obstacles to a level playing field remained in place throughout the process and have tainted the electoral campaign and the vote,” the EU said in a statement, calling for “a proper examination of allegations of irregularities”.

The United States, Bangladesh’s largest foreign investor, expressed concern about “credible reports of harassment, intimidation, and violence in the pre-election period that made it difficult for many opposition candidates and their supporters to meet, hold rallies, and campaign freely.”

“We are also concerned that election-day irregularities prevented some people from voting, which undermined faith in the electoral process,” it said.

The UK’s Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field echoed the concerns, saying he was “aware of credible accounts of obstacles, including arrests, that constrained or prevented campaigning by opposition parties. “I urge a full, credible and transparent resolution of all complaints related to the conduct of the elections,” he said.

Police say at least 17 people were killed in election day clashes between supporters and opponents of Hasina’s Awami League. The two sides, which have competed for power often violently for decades, traded blame for the election day unrest.

Opposition BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam said he was collecting reports of rigging to submit to the Election Commission to demand a fresh vote. The commission already rejected that plea, but Islam said: “What is our alternative?”

One journalist was arrested and another was on the run after a local government official filed a case against them for publishing “false information” about election irregularities, under a new law journalists say could be used to stifle dissent.

Hedayet Hussain Mollah and Rashidul Islam published reports saying more votes had been cast at one constituency in the southeastern Khulna region than the total number of registered voters there.

They were accused under the Digital Security Act enacted in September. Mollah was picked up by police on Tuesday afternoon while Islam was on the run, police said.

“This is false information that was made intentionally to make the election result look questionable and controversial,” a police report said.

The deadly clashes on voting day marked the end of a violent campaign. The opposition said its workers faced arbitrary arrests and candidates were attacked by ruling party activists. The ruling party denied being behind any violence.

“People have shared experiences of being physically assaulted and manhandled at polling stations,” said Saad Hammadi, Amnesty International’s regional campaigner for South Asia, calling for an impartial probe into incidents of violence.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bangladesh-election/western-powers-call-for-probe-into-bangladesh-election-irregularities-violence-idUSKCN1OV1PK

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Afghanistan’s neighbours fear refugee crisis if US pulls out

January 02, 2019

KABUL: Afghanistan’s neighbours, caught off-guard by reports of US plans to withdraw thousands of troops, have begun preparing for the risk that a pullout could send hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing across their borders, diplomats say.

Alarmed by the possibility of a chaotic withdrawal, diplomats from neighbouring countries who have been in talks with US officials in Kabul said they were reassessing policies and would ramp up border preparations.

“At this point there is no clarity about the withdrawal, but we have to keep a clear action plan ready,” said a senior Asian diplomat based in Kabul. “The situation can turn from bad to worse very quickly.”

A White House spokesman last week said US President Donald Trump had not issued orders to the Pentagon to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. But the administration has not denied reports that the United States plans to pull out almost half of the 14,000-strong force currently deployed.

The reports come amid an intensification of moves towards peace negotiations in Afghanistan. US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met Taliban representatives last month and discussed issues around a future troop withdrawal as well as proposals for a ceasefire.

But even among regional powers such as Iran, Pakistan or Russia that have long been suspicious that the United States wants permanent military bases in South Asia, there is no appetite for a sudden US withdrawal, say analysts.

“While the news of a potential US drawdown may be a reason for cautious optimism in the region, they don’t want an abrupt withdrawal,” said Graeme Smith, a consultant for the International Crisis Group.

“All sides recognise that a precipitous pullout could spark a new civil war that destabilises the region. The neighbours do not enjoy surprises, and the uncertain signals from Washington are causing anxiety.”

The United States, which sent troops to Afghanistan in the wake of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington and at the peak of the deployment had more than 100,000 troops in the country, withdrew most of its forces in 2014, but still keeps around 14,000 troops there as part of a Nato-led mission aiding the Afghan security forces and hunting militants.

The top US general in Afghanistan said 2019 was going to be an interesting year. “The policy review is going on in multiple capitals, peace talks out there, regional players pressing for peace, the Taliban talking about peace, the Afghan government talking about peace,” said General Scott Miller, the US commander of Afghanistan’s Nato-led force, at the Resolute Support mission headquarters in Kabul.

Border security

Pakistan, which is already working to fence its 1,400km frontier with Afghanistan and deploy a 50,000-strong paramilitary force along the border, is preparing for a fresh influx of refugees in the event of disorder.

“Camps will be set up near the border to manage a fresh wave of Afghan refugees and illegal migrants and Afghans will not be allowed to set up illegal homes in Pakistan,” said an official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Afghanistan, which shares borders with Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenis­tan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China, is already the world’s second biggest source of refugees, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1455020/afghanistans-neighbours-fear-refugee-crisis-if-us-pulls-out

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Over 3,227 children will be born in Afghanistan on New Year’s Day: UNICEF

01 Jan 2019

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said an estimated 3,227 babies will be born in Afghanistan on New Year’s Day.

According to a statement released by UNICEF, Afghan babies will be part the estimated 395,072 babies to be born on New Year’s Day.

“In cities around the world, revelers will welcome not only the New Year with great festivities but also their newest and tiniest residents. As the clock strikes midnight, Sydney will greet an estimated 168 babies, followed by 310 in Tokyo, 605 in Beijing, 166 in Madrid and finally, 317 in New York,” the statement said.

According to UNICEF, Fiji in the Pacific will most likely deliver 2019’s first baby while the last baby will be born in United States.

A total of 99,183 babies will be born in South Asia alone, representing one quarter of all babies born, UNICEF said, adding that out of which 69944 babies would born in India, 15112 babies in Pakistan, 8428 in Bangladesh, 1591 in Nepal, 822 in Sri Lanka, 40 in Bhutan, and 19 n Maldives.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/over-3227-children-will-be-born-in-afghanistan-on-new-years-day-unicef-03040/

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Africa

 

Haftar forces free 19 from Daesh captivity following clashes

January 02, 2019

BENGHAZI: The self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) says its forces have freed nearly 20 people who were kidnapped by Daesh militants during attacks in central Libya.

Spokesman Ahmed Al-Mesmari said on Tuesday that clashes erupted late Monday between LNA forces, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hafter, and Daesh militants in Ghadwua village, 70 kilometers from the southern city of Sabha.

A military official said at least 21 people were kidnapped from the towns of Al-Fuqaha and Tazerbu last month; two of them managed to flee and reported the locations of the others. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.

He said Daesh militants were holding the remaining 19 people in containers on farmland and that clashes killed a soldier.

Daesh has been active in Libya in the turmoil since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The group took control of the coastal city of Sirte in 2015 but lost it late in 2016 to local forces backed by US airstrikes.

Security measures

Interior Minister in the Libyan Government of National Accord Fathi Bashaagha acknowledged on Sunday financial corruption in his ministry in Tripoli, while also calling for merging the militias that have been in the capital with the security forces, Asharq Al-Awsat reported.

The Interior Ministry, he said, is the “backbone of the state, which is why we would bring together all the armed groups under the ministry’s wing given the circumstances the country is enduring.”

The minister also said that he was preparing a plan to impose security in Tripoli and its suburbs and which he hopes to apply for the first half of 2019.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1429071/middle-east

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Armed men kill 37 civilians in part of Mali hit by ethnic violence

January 01, 2019

BAMAKO: Thirty-seven civilians were killed when armed men believed to be traditional Dogon hunters attacked a village of Fulani herders in central Mali Tuesday in the latest clash between the warring communities, the government said.

The attack on Koulogon village near Bankass in the Mopti region was carried out by “armed men dressed like traditional dozo hunters” allied to the Dogon ethnic group, said an official statement.

“In addition to the 37 recorded deaths, all civilians, the casualty toll includes several wounded and many burned homes,” it added.

Earlier, a security source and a man who said he had witnessed the attack also blamed the Dogon, and put the number of dead at 33.

Allaye Yattara, a Fulani, told AFP: “Our village chief Moussa Diallo was killed in the attack along with old women, (and) a girl, all members of his family.”

France helped Malian forces stave off a terrorist insurgency that took control of large parts of the troubled north in 2012, but since the death in November of Fulani terrorist figure Amadou Koufa, inter-group conflict has increased.

The violence is fueled by accusations of Fulani grazing cattle on Dogon land and disputes over access to land and water.

The UN recorded more than 500 civilian deaths in the area in 2018.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1429056/world

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KDF kills 7 Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia

JANUARY 2 2019

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) say they have killed 7 Al-Shabaab militants and wounded an unknown number in an operation in southern Somalia.

The military seized 9 AK-47 rifles, 10 magazines, two rocket propelled grenade launchers and three grenades from the militants.

"Today at around 11am, KDF soldiers operating under AMISOM engaged Al-Shabaab militants at a location along Tabda-Delahola supply route," said a statement from KDF' public affairs office.

Two KDF soldiers sustained minor injuries during the intense gunfight on Tuesday, January 1, 2019.

"KDF soldiers will remain vigilant and will continue to relentlessly pursue terrorists, to ensure peace and security of our country Kenya, as well as support AMISOM operations in order to stabilise Somalia," said KDF Spokesman PM Njuguna.

https://www.nation.co.ke/news/KDF-kills-7-Al-Shabaab-fighters/1056-4917964-10atk5xz/index.html

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President Bashir orders probe into recent deadly protests in Sudan

Jan 1, 2019

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has ordered an investigation into two weeks of violent protests against the government's economic policies and his 29-year rule.

State media said Bashir had ordered authorities on Tuesday to set up a fact-finding committee to probe the violence.

Justice Minister Mohammed Ahmed Salem has been tasked with leading the investigation committee.

"President Omar al-Bashir has ordered the setting up of a fact-finding committee headed by the justice minister to look into the incidents of the past few days," state news agency SUNA reported, quoting a presidential decree.

There have been calls by human rights groups for authorities in Sudan to investigate the use of lethal force by security forces against protesters.

In Khartoum, authorities say 19 people have died. On the other hand, Amnesty International says it has “credible reports” that 37 people died in the first five days of protests.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch said independent groups monitoring the situation in Sudan had put the death toll at 40.

Sudan's protests began on December 19 in the wake of a move by the government to triple the price of a loaf of bread.

In the initial days of the protests, several buildings and offices of Bashir's ruling National Congress Party were torched by protesters. Riot police have managed to disperse the rallies so far, and security agents have arrested several opposition leaders and activists in a crackdown on suspected organizers.

The public display of anger later escalated into calls for Bashir to go.

Sudan’s economy has stagnated for most of Bashir’s 29-year rule. He has also failed to keep peace in the religiously and ethnically diverse country, losing three quarters of Sudan’s oil wealth when South Sudan seceded in 2011 following a referendum.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/01/584586/sudan-bashir

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Sudan’s Bashir forms panel to probe protest violence

January 01, 2019

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir ordered authorities Tuesday to set up a committee to investigate violence during anti-government protests, even as a range of political groups called for a “new regime” in the country.

At least 19 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in protests that erupted in cities including the capital Khartoum on December 19, after a government decision to hike the price of bread.

Human rights group Amnesty International has put the death toll at 37.

“President Omar Al-Bashir has ordered the setting up of a fact-finding committee headed by the justice minister to look into the incidents of the past few days,” state news agency SUNA reported, quoting a presidential decree.

The government raised the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three (about two to six US cents).

The ensuing protests quickly evolved into anti-government rallies in Khartoum and several other cities.

In the initial days of the protests, several buildings and offices of Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party were torched by protesters.

Riot police have managed to disperse the rallies so far, while security agents have arrested several opposition leaders and activists in a crackdown on suspected organizers.

Sudan is facing an acute foreign exchange crisis and soaring inflation despite Washington lifting an economic embargo in October 2017.

The foreign exchange crisis has steadily escalated since Sudan’s partition in 2011, when South Sudan broke away, taking with it the bulk of oil revenues.

Inflation has hit 70 percent while shortages of bread and fuel have hit several cities.

On Tuesday, 22 political groups, including some close to the government, called for a “new regime” in the country.

“The current Bashir regime due to its political, economic, regional and international isolation cannot overcome the crisis,” the group said in a joint statement issued in English at a press conference in Khartoum.

“It can only be revised by establishing a new regime in the country that can regain the confidence of the Sudanese people.”

The groups, who had participated in a national dialogue process that Bashir launched in 2014 to tackle the country’s social and economic problems, called for a new “transitional government... that would hold elections for restoring democracy and public freedoms.”

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1428861/middle-east

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North America

 

US will continue to work with Israel over Syria and Iran: Pompeo

Jan 1, 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that Washington will continue to work closely with Israel over Syria and Iran, despite President Donald Trump’s announcement of withdrawing American troops from Syria.

Pompeo made the remarks as he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Brazilian capital Brasilia on Tuesday.

The top US diplomat said President Trump’s announcement of pulling out troops from Syria “in no way changes anything that this administration is working on alongside Israel.”

“The counter-ISIS (Daesh) campaign continues, our efforts to counter Iranian aggression continue and our commitment to Middle East stability and the protection of Israel continues in the same way it did before that decision was made,” he said.

Trump announced his decision to withdraw the US troops from Syria on December 19, saying that Daesh had been defeated. The next day Trump proclaimed that US troops cannot stay in Syria "forever.”

Several senators on both sides of the aisle have accused Trump of making a hasty decision, with one administration official saying "the President's decision-by-tweet will recklessly put American and allied lives in danger around the world."

But several others, like Republican Senator Rand Paul and former congressman Dr. Ron Paul, have defended Trump's decision to withdraw the American troops in Syria, with Dr. Paul saying that the United States needs to "have a clean cut" with military involvement in the Middle East.

While speaking at the press conference in Brasilia on Tuesday, Netanyahu said, “We’re going to be discussing our, the intense cooperation between Israel and the United States which will also deal with the questions following the decision, the American decision, on Syria and how to intensify even further our intelligence and operational cooperation in Syria and elsewhere to block Iranian aggression in the Middle East.”

He added that Israel was very appreciative of the “strong ... unequivocal support” Pompeo gave to Israel’s “efforts at self-defense against Syria” in the past few days.

The United States, Israel, France, Britain and their regional allies such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Qatar have been sponsoring terrorists in Syria since 2011 which has left the Arab country in ruins.

America’s most foreign allies in the war against Syria, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia, are opposing Trump’s plans of withdrawing US troops from Syria. 

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/01/584610/US-will-continue-to-work-with-Israel-over-Syria-and-Iran-Pompeo

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Regional players pressing for peace in Afghanistan: US commander

Jan 1, 2019

The commander of US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan has pronounced the prospects of peace with the Taliban while the Pentagon orders the deployment of  fresh heavy-lift aviation forces to the region.

“Peace talks (are) out there, regional players pressing for peace, the Taliban talking about peace, the Afghan government is talking about peace,” General Scott Miller, who commands the US-led NATO Resolution Support (RS) mission in Afghanistan, said during a New Year celebration at the RS headquarters in Kabul on Tuesday.

General Miller was apparently referring to Iran whose officials have recently expressed their willingness to help establish peace in Afghanistan.

The top US commander in Afghanistan emphasized that in order to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan there needed to be a political settlement.

He told the soldiers present at the session to be ready for either “positive processes or negative consequences.”

“Are (the RS) able to adapt? Are we able to adjust? Are we able to be in the right place to support positive processes and negative consequences, that’s what I ask you guys to think about in 2019,” Miller said.

Meanwhile, peace talks between the US and the Taliban have gained momentum in past months.

Despite the "positive processes" in the peace talks, there were some negative developments in the processes.

Miller was present at a meeting in October when the most important power broker in southern Afghanistan, Kandahar police chief General Abdul Razeq, was shot dead by the Taliban.

In recent weeks, Pakistan also announced its plans to facilitate negotiations between the Taliban and the United States. 

Pakistan army spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor said during a news conference last month that Islamabad supports Washington's outreach to the Taliban which want US troops out of Afghanistan.

Pentagon deploys heavy-lift aviation unit

US President Donald Trump has reportedly ordered the withdrawal of some 7,000 troops, half of the total number of American forces in the country, from Afghanistan.

In contrary news, a White House spokesman said last week that Trump had not issued orders to withdraw the troops. The Trump administration, however, has not denied the reports.

Meanwhile, media reported a heavy-lift aviation unit operating large CH-47 Chinook helicopters has been deployed for a year-long mission in Afghanistan.

The Chinook, which is capable of lifting 12 tons, has been used by US forces to move troops and heavy equipment for decades.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/01/584599/Afghanistan-US-Military-Taliban-Peace-Talks-Miller

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Peru names square in capital Lima after Palestine, angering Israeli envoy

Jan 1, 2019

Peruvian authorities have named a square in an upscale district of the capital Lima after Palestine, triggering strong reaction from the Israeli ambassador to the South American country.

On Monday, Peruvian officials inaugurated the square in the San Borja district during a ceremony hosted by Mayor Marco Antonio Alvarez Vargas.

Israeli Ambassador to Peru, Asaf Ichilevich, slammed the move in a post published on his Facebook page.

“I am writing these lines to express my surprise at having learned of the inauguration of Plaza Palestina in San Borja, just on the day that the term of the district’s mayor expires,” he wrote.

Ichilevich added, “We hereby raise our objection to the presence of a square in our district, which will serve as a platform for future acts of support to the ... Palestinian cause.”

The Palestinian Embassy in Peru, in return, roundly rejected the Israeli ambassador’s comments.

“We regret that the Israeli embassy intends to affect the peaceful coexistence of our communities by stoking hatred through such defamatory statements. We would like to inform members of the public that there is a park called Ramat Gan Israel in San Borja, and the Palestinian community has never sought to spoil it. On the contrary, we respect the autonomy of Peruvian institutions and the diversity of communities and cultures that coexist peacefully in the country,” a statement released by the diplomatic mission read.

The statement added that Palestinian diplomats will lodge a formal protest against Ichilevich’s remarks with the Peruvian Foreign Ministry, and will ask the ministry to take appropriate measures in this regard.

On January 25, 2011, Peru recognized a “free and sovereign” Palestinian state, joining a wave of Latin American countries.

“Today the government communicated to the ambassador of Palestine in Lima recognition of the Palestinian state as free and sovereign,” former Peruvian Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Belaunde said at the time.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/01/584595/Peru-names-square-in-capital-Lima-after-Palestine-angering-Israeli-envoy

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Inside Manbij: Dispatch from the battle for Syria's future

Jared Szuba

January 1, 2019

The faded yellow posters of Kurdish and Arab fighters killed in the battles against ISIS stand at the entrance of the Sabaa Al Bahrat square in Manbij, a flash-point Kurdish-held city in Syria that’s located 32 kilometres south of the Turkish border.

On the city’s northern flanks, coalition forces continue to conduct patrols. Inside its quarters, the civilian-run Manbij Military council (MMC) is still in command.

Life inside Manbij this week was nearly the same as it had been since the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) drove ISIS from the area in the summer of 2016. The markets are crowded and store owners are going about their usual business.

But this month’s announcement of a planned US exit from Syria has exposed the YPG and the SDF- Washington’s primary partners in the battle against ISIS- to attacks from Turkey and has raised questions over who will assume control over Kurdish-held parts of Syria once the US withdraws.

Manbij, it appears, is at the heart of this conundrum with both the Syrian government and Ankara racing to reclaim a city which once served as a launching pad for US-backed operations against ISIS.

With the potential loss of US protection, inhabitants fear an attack that could upend two years of relative stability.

A predominantly Arab city with a pre-war population of around 100,000, Manbij has changed hands many times throughout the course of the eight-year-long conflict.

Syrian rebels ousted the government from the city in 2012, a year after the start of mass uprisings against the regime of Bashar Al Assad, but would eventually lose ground to ISIS some two years later. In 2016, the SDF would defeat ISIS and establish the MMC – a body comprised of both Arab and Kurds – to administer the area, with backing from the US-led coalition against ISIS.

Now, after more than two years of Kurdish control, the city looks poised to change hands again as US forces prepare to pull-out following President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement on December 19.

Ankara has been threatening an imminent military incursion into Manbij, to clear the area of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish group that is part of the SDF but is designated by Ankara as a terrorist entity.

Before Mr Trump’s announcement, US officials warned Turkey – a key ally and Nato member –against taking action as it would endanger the lives of American soldiers.

Then last week, Ankara-backed rebels started amassing north of the city in preparation for a potential offensive. Turkish soldiers were also seen gathering on their side of the border and in parts of Syria where they have deployments.

In response to threats from rebels, the YPG on Friday invited the Syrian army “to assert control over the areas our forces have withdrawn from, in particularly Manbij, and to protect these areas against a Turkish invasion.”

While life continues in the city, people aren’t immune to the uncertain future.

“People are afraid,” says Adam, a young man working in his father’s convenience shop. “[Afraid] of the [Turkey-backed] Free Syrian Army, but also of the regime.”

It remains to be seen whether the Syrian government or Turkey and its army of Syrian rebels will assume control of the contested area.

Caught between what they see as an impending foreign invasion from the north and west and the return of an unwelcome regime from the south, the Kurdish leadership have a tough choice. “If the [Turkish-backed] rebels enter the city, half the city will flee. If the Syrian Army enters, a quarter will flee,” Sharvan Derwish, the MMC spokesperson, tells The National.

The Syrian army on Friday said that its troops had entered the city but US-led coalition said it had “seen no indication” to support the claims. As of Monday, they were nowhere to be found inside Manbij.

Officials with the Syrian Democratic Council – the political wing of the SDF – tell The National that negotiations are ongoing with Damascus over what arrangement would govern their entrance and how that could protect the area from a Turkish attack.

They say no deal had been reached yet, but negotiations began with the baseline agreement that Ankara-backed rebels should not be allowed to enter the city.

Kurdish groups fear that the fate of Manbij will follow that of Afrin, located some 120 kilometres to the west.

Earlier this year, Turkey, with the support of rebels, launched operation ‘Olive Branch’ which resulted in the capture of Afrin from YPG forces.

The area is now controlled by a number of rebel groups who often compete for power and influence over the town, which is struggling with lax security and consistent terrorist attacks, the most recent of which targeted a crowded market earlier this month.

The best option, residents say, is for US-backed Kurdish forces to remain.

The SDF and MMC, “brought us stability and brought us democracy,” says Abu Adel, a resident of Manbij. “They destroyed ISIS for us. The situation is really very stable.”

People in Manbij were just acclimating to the security and freedom, he says. Shops were reopening and people could gather outside at night. But once again, people say that danger looms.

“They [Turkey-backed rebels] will kill all the Kurds in Manbij. Even us [Arabs], they will say we are infidels, traitors, PKK, anything,” says Abu Adel, referring the Turkish based Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that Ankara and other countries designate a terrorist group.

Hassan, a middle-aged mechanic who owns the tire repair shop, thought it might be good if the regime forces entered the city. “Maybe it will be a new step for stability,” he says.

“We have never had any problem with the Americans. We want them to stay. But the regime soldiers are Syrians, the closest thing to the [Manbij] Military Council,” he explains. “I will give all my sons to the [Syrian] army for the sake of our safety.”

While effusive, his opinion wasn’t shared by others in the shop. Many young men in Manbij say they fear conscription into the Syrian Army and many are still wanted for what the government describes as crimes against the state.

“My whole generation fled [military] conscription,” Hussein, 29, explains as he sips coffee on a downtown street corner. “Most young men in this city are wanted by the regime. If it comes back now, we will never get out of the army.

“At first they’ll be nice to the people, but after that, they’ll go back to their old ways,” he said.

Although often hard to verify, in numerous areas recaptured or returned to the state in ceasefire deals, Damascus has arrested people for protesting against the government in 2011, not serving in the military or a litany of other offences – even when agreements include an amnesty.

Mustafa, who came from a nearby town currently under regime control, says he fled to Manbij when the war broke out. He adds that he’ll flee again if the regime forces enter Manbij.

He describes calling a nearby regime police office a few days ago. “They told me I have eleven criminal charges against me. Financing terrorism, taking up arms against the government, and so on”, he says.

Inside Manbij: Dispatch from the battle for Syria's future

After two years of Kurdish control, the city looks poised to change hands again as US forces withdraw from Syria

The faded yellow posters of Kurdish and Arab fighters killed in the battles against ISIS stand at the entrance of the Sabaa Al Bahrat square in Manbij, a flash-point Kurdish-held city in Syria that’s located 32 kilometres south of the Turkish border.

On the city’s northern flanks, coalition forces continue to conduct patrols. Inside its quarters, the civilian-run Manbij Military council (MMC) is still in command.

Life inside Manbij this week was nearly the same as it had been since the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) drove ISIS from the area in the summer of 2016. The markets are crowded and store owners are going about their usual business.

But this month’s announcement of a planned US exit from Syria has exposed the YPG and the SDF- Washington’s primary partners in the battle against ISIS- to attacks from Turkey and has raised questions over who will assume control over Kurdish-held parts of Syria once the US withdraws.

Manbij, it appears, is at the heart of this conundrum with both the Syrian government and Ankara racing to reclaim a city which once served as a launching pad for US-backed operations against ISIS.

With the potential loss of US protection, inhabitants fear an attack that could upend two years of relative stability.

A predominantly Arab city with a pre-war population of around 100,000, Manbij has changed hands many times throughout the course of the eight-year-long conflict.

Syrian rebels ousted the government from the city in 2012, a year after the start of mass uprisings against the regime of Bashar Al Assad, but would eventually lose ground to ISIS some two years later. In 2016, the SDF would defeat ISIS and establish the MMC – a body comprised of both Arab and Kurds – to administer the area, with backing from the US-led coalition against ISIS.

Now, after more than two years of Kurdish control, the city looks poised to change hands again as US forces prepare to pull-out following President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement on December 19.

Ankara has been threatening an imminent military incursion into Manbij, to clear the area of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish group that is part of the SDF but is designated by Ankara as a terrorist entity.

Before Mr Trump’s announcement, US officials warned Turkey – a key ally and Nato member –against taking action as it would endanger the lives of American soldiers.

Then last week, Ankara-backed rebels started amassing north of the city in preparation for a potential offensive. Turkish soldiers were also seen gathering on their side of the border and in parts of Syria where they have deployments.

In response to threats from rebels, the YPG on Friday invited the Syrian army “to assert control over the areas our forces have withdrawn from, in particularly Manbij, and to protect these areas against a Turkish invasion.”

While life continues in the city, people aren’t immune to the uncertain future.

“People are afraid,” says Adam, a young man working in his father’s convenience shop. “[Afraid] of the [Turkey-backed] Free Syrian Army, but also of the regime.”

It remains to be seen whether the Syrian government or Turkey and its army of Syrian rebels will assume control of the contested area.

Caught between what they see as an impending foreign invasion from the north and west and the return of an unwelcome regime from the south, the Kurdish leadership have a tough choice. “If the [Turkish-backed] rebels enter the city, half the city will flee. If the Syrian Army enters, a quarter will flee,” Sharvan Derwish, the MMC spokesperson, tells The National.

The Syrian army on Friday said that its troops had entered the city but US-led coalition said it had “seen no indication” to support the claims. As of Monday, they were nowhere to be found inside Manbij.

Officials with the Syrian Democratic Council – the political wing of the SDF – tell The National that negotiations are ongoing with Damascus over what arrangement would govern their entrance and how that could protect the area from a Turkish attack.

They say no deal had been reached yet, but negotiations began with the baseline agreement that Ankara-backed rebels should not be allowed to enter the city.

Kurdish groups fear that the fate of Manbij will follow that of Afrin, located some 120 kilometres to the west.

Earlier this year, Turkey, with the support of rebels, launched operation ‘Olive Branch’ which resulted in the capture of Afrin from YPG forces.

The area is now controlled by a number of rebel groups who often compete for power and influence over the town, which is struggling with lax security and consistent terrorist attacks, the most recent of which targeted a crowded market earlier this month.

The best option, residents say, is for US-backed Kurdish forces to remain.

The SDF and MMC, “brought us stability and brought us democracy,” says Abu Adel, a resident of Manbij. “They destroyed ISIS for us. The situation is really very stable.”

People in Manbij were just acclimating to the security and freedom, he says. Shops were reopening and people could gather outside at night. But once again, people say that danger looms.

“They [Turkey-backed rebels] will kill all the Kurds in Manbij. Even us [Arabs], they will say we are infidels, traitors, PKK, anything,” says Abu Adel, referring the Turkish based Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that Ankara and other countries designate a terrorist group.

Hassan, a middle-aged mechanic who owns the tire repair shop, thought it might be good if the regime forces entered the city. “Maybe it will be a new step for stability,” he says.

“We have never had any problem with the Americans. We want them to stay. But the regime soldiers are Syrians, the closest thing to the [Manbij] Military Council,” he explains. “I will give all my sons to the [Syrian] army for the sake of our safety.”

While effusive, his opinion wasn’t shared by others in the shop. Many young men in Manbij say they fear conscription into the Syrian Army and many are still wanted for what the government describes as crimes against the state.

“My whole generation fled [military] conscription,” Hussein, 29, explains as he sips coffee on a downtown street corner. “Most young men in this city are wanted by the regime. If it comes back now, we will never get out of the army.

“At first they’ll be nice to the people, but after that, they’ll go back to their old ways,” he said.

Although often hard to verify, in numerous areas recaptured or returned to the state in ceasefire deals, Damascus has arrested people for protesting against the government in 2011, not serving in the military or a litany of other offences – even when agreements include an amnesty.

Mustafa, who came from a nearby town currently under regime control, says he fled to Manbij when the war broke out. He adds that he’ll flee again if the regime forces enter Manbij.

He describes calling a nearby regime police office a few days ago. “They told me I have eleven criminal charges against me. Financing terrorism, taking up arms against the government, and so on”, he says.

When asked if he had ever taken part in anti-government activities, he says, “Never.”

Mustafa, not his real name, said he left the Syrian Army nine years ago, and “hasn’t picked up a weapon since.”

At the local autonomous administration headquarters in Manbij, the first women’s council conference convened last week. The session – originally meant to address women’s’ participation in local civil life – quickly became an arena for debate and discussion over city’s future.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/inside-manbij-dispatch-from-the-battle-for-syria-s-future-1.808552

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  • Ms Carey Lodge rightfully begins her article with the statement "China is widely considered to be one of the worst countries in the world for religious freedom. But while the persecuted Church often dominates the headlines in Western media, much less is known about the persecuted Muslim community in China's far-western corner."
    By Kaniz Fatma - 1/2/2019 4:43:30 AM



  • "The extremist groups have taken the meaning of religion out of its genuine context in an effort to serve their own ideology."
    Well said by Darul Ifta

    By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي - 1/2/2019 4:38:30 AM



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