certifired_img

Books and Documents

Islamic World News (01 Jan 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Different Shades of Christmas Celebrations across the Arab World















Iraq has different Christian monuments.

------

 

Different Shades of Christmas Celebrations across the Arab World

Dammaj Salafis the Launch Pad For IS In Kerala: Islamic State Leader

Pakistan ‘Mistakenly’ Allows Conditional Entry To Israeli Citizens

Why Bangladesh’s Landslide Election Result Is Bad For Its Democracy

30 Russian Kids Born To Daesh Terrorists Return Home from Iraq

China Shuts Down Hui Muslim Mosques for ‘Illegal Education’

 

Arab World

Different Shades of Christmas Celebrations across the Arab World

International rights groups denounce Bahrain ruling on Rajab’s jail sentence

Organization of Islamic Cooperation calls to help drought-hit Afghanistan

Egypt mulls changing constitution to keep El-Sisi in power

US-Backed SDF Sends More Aid Convoys to ISIL Terrorists in Eastern Syria

ISIL Commanders' Meeting Bombed by Iraq

Iraqi MP Accuses US Army of Camping ISIL Terrorists at Bases in Iraq

More Turkey-Backed Militants Killed, Wounded in Attacks in Northern Syria

Iraq sentenced 616 foreigners for ISIS links in 2018

Iraqi jets strike Daesh sites in Syria as Trump slows pullout schedule

--------

India

Dammaj Salafis the Launch Pad For IS In Kerala: Islamic State Leader

Opposing Triple Talaq Bill, Mehbooba Says: Don’t Want Zia-Ul-Haq’s Pakistan In Gandhi’s Secular India

Desecration of Jamia Masjid Intolerable For Any Conscious Muslim: JeI Jammu and Kashmir

Opposition unites in Rajya Sabha: Triple Talaq draft law needs legislative scrutiny

Two Pakistan soldiers killed at LoC, says Army

PM Modi congratulates Sheikh Hasina on win in Bangladesh elections, reiterates India’s support

NIA conducts more raids in Delhi over new ISIS module

--------

Pakistan

Pakistan ‘Mistakenly’ Allows Conditional Entry To Israeli Citizens

‘Though Parliament Is Superior, Bureaucracy Listens To Judiciary’

Pakistan, India exchange lists of prisoners, nuclear facilities

Pakistan exerts pressure on regional govt. to resign over corruption charges

JI chief advises govt to give up mini-budget idea

PM Imran Khan resolves to battle 'four ills' of Pakistan in 2019

350 schools set up, 17,000 children enrolled in Punjab: minister

IS commander among three killed in N Waziristan explosion

COAS, Saudi minister discuss bilateral relations

After travel ban, will Pakistan’s ex-president Zardari be arrested?

--------

South Asia

Why Bangladesh’s Landslide Election Result Is Bad For Its Democracy

Taliban commander, 2 accomplices killed during a clash with armed forces in Faryab

Taliban confirms meeting with the Iranian officials in Tehran

ISIS-K militant hands over himself, 11 members of his family to Afghan forces

China against abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan

Taliban leaders met Iranian officials in Tehran on Sunday

Senior police official killed in Takhar bomb explosion

Afghan official: Taliban attacks kill 15 Afghan policemen

--------

Europe

30 Russian Kids Born To Daesh Terrorists Return Home from Iraq

UK offered arms sales to Saudi after Khashoggi murder: Report

Muslim Charity Aims to Deliver 7000 Meals To Homeless By New Year's Day

UK counter-terror police probe Manchester knife attack

Morocco: Terror charges brought in Nordic tourists’ deaths

--------

Southeast Asia

China Shuts Down Hui Muslim Mosques for ‘Illegal Education’

Keep Cool, Wan Azizah Tells Azmin Over Anwar Appointments

PAS MP says religious harmony can be achieved by just respecting non-Muslim festivals

2 killed in bombing in troubled south Philippines

--------

Mideast

Netanyahu Says Israel Is an 'Indispensable Ally' Of the Arabs against Iran

Turkey Reaches Out To 700,000 Rohingya Muslims

Palestine won’t let US sell occupied al-Quds to Israel: Abbas

Israel’s Netanyahu said would not resign during possible indictment hearing

Israeli general sees possible threat from Iraq as Iran’s clout grows

Baha’is fear for members excluded from Yemen prisoner swap

WFP says Yemen food aid being stolen in Houthi-run areas

Israel received most condemnations at UN in 2018: Report

Israel jails mentally ill Palestinian for Briton’s killing

--------

Africa

Burkina Faso Declares State Of Emergency in North Following Attacks

Chaos in Khartoum as Sudanese forces break up protest against Omar Al Bashir

Sudan to form committee to investigate latest protest events

Jordanian anger at MP calling for including rapists in amnesty law

--------

North America

Trump gives in to calls to slow down troop pullout from Syria

Trump withdrawing from Middle East to focus on China: Academic

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/different-shades-of-christmas-celebrations-across-the-arab-world/d/117329

--------

 

Different Shades Of Christmas Celebrations Across The Arab World

31 December 2018

Most countries in the world celebrate the Christmas and the New Year’s Eve in the last week of December, starting from the night of December 24 until the end of the year.

The celebrations may look similar but each country has its own customs and traditions that sometimes differ from a neighbouring country.

Palestine

Celebrations in Palestine have great value as Christ was born in Bethlehem, which lies 10 kilometres south of Jerusalem.

The celebrations begin with the parade of scouts getting out from the Old City of Jerusalem, heading toward the Church of Nativity Square.

Here clerics, worshipers and bystanders gather and place a giant tree. Visitors gather at the narrow stone entrance of the church to see where Christ is born.

Iraq

Iraq has different Christian monuments.

In Nineveh plains village, on December 24, Christians light the Christmas flame in one of the squares. This symbolizes the fire that the shepherds light up while waiting for Christ to be born in (al-Araa); means the weather, which is a Syriac word meaning dazzle or surprise.

Early in the morning people go to collect herbs, thorns and wild plants that has local names. In the afternoon and until night; people and clerics gather around the flame, while holding the candles and singing Syriac hymns and tunes awaiting Christmas.

After putting out the flame, some people walk back and forth above its ashes several times to get its blessings. They collect some of its ashes and throw it in their fields in the belief that it would make a good planting season and bless their crops.

On Christmas, here are five things to know about Jesus in Islam

Egypt

Christianity is the second largest religion in Egypt after Islam, and most of Egypt’s Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The majority of Egypt’s Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7 each year as they follow the Eastern calendar. Despite the difference in dates, it is easy to notice celebrations beginning mid-December, which resembles celebrations around the world.

Egyptian Christians have different sets of belief from other people. Some say that the famous Christmas tree is not a European tradition as it is known, but an Egyptian expression of the succession of the months of the year as the pine tree is characterized by its multiple layers and each layer represents a month.

Jordan

It is characterized by lighting huge Christmas trees in churches and public places. The most famous tree is the “national unity” tree. The tradition started about 10 years ago in the south of the capital Amman. Jordanians consider it as a symbol of the harmony between all segments of Jordanians society and hope for a better new year.

Usually this tree is decorated with cards bearing photos and names of the various Jordanian governorates as a sign of the unity of Jordan in all its regions.

Maghreb countries

The percentage of Christians in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria is among the lowest in the Arab world, it is about 0.2 percent. This does not prevent hundreds from visiting churches and cathedrals on Christmas Eve to celebrate the occasion.

What distinguishes Christmas prayers is the presence of many worshipers from neighboring African countries and Europe.

Many Muslims also attend these celebrations as they consider it a sign of coexistence and brotherhood with the Christians.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/12/31/Different-shades-of-Christmas-celebrations-across-the-Arab-world.html

--------

 

Dammaj Salafis the Launch Pad For IS In Kerala: Islamic State Leader

Dec 21, 2018

KOZHIKODE: Abdul Rashid Abdulla, the leader of the Islamic State (IS) module from Kerala, has claimed that the launching pad for the IS in Kerala was the Dammaj Salafis (a group of extreme Salafis who are against democracy, pluralism and secularism).

In the audio messages circulated through social media, Rashid said that some of the members of the Dammaj Salafis are contacting the IS with the intention of doing hijra (migration) to the areas controlled by IS.

Rashid, who is believed to be in the IS strongholds in Afghanistan, hails from Kasaragod district. The audio messages are meant to be a reply to the allegations raised by Salafi preacher Zakkariya Swalahi in his book on the IS.

Reacting to the accusations in the book, Rashid said there was some truth in the argument that it was Salafism that prompted the youth from Kerala to get attracted to the IS. “Had there been no Salafism in Kerala, we would have been continuing with the un-Islamic practices of the Sunnis and Sufis,” he said.

Rashid said many alien practices have infiltrated among Sunnis from Hinduism and other religions. “It was Salafism that strived to bring back true Islam. It asked the Muslims in Kerala to return to Quran and Hadees, shunning the practices of nonbelievers,” he said.

In Rashid’s opinion, among the different Salafi groups the one led by Zakkariya Swalahi is closest to the ideology of the IS.

“Majority of the Keralites who have joined the IS were associated to Swalahi’s group. We had attended the classes of the group held at Pappinasseri, Kannur and Kozhikode,” he said.

Unlike the Sunnis or other Salafi factions, Swalahi group showed courage to teach hijra and jihad in their classes. But Swalahi and his followers are unwilling to accept the IS for reasons best known to them. He has failed to give a convincing answer to this irony, Rashid said. “After reading Swalahi’s book many from the Dammaj group are contacting us for clarifications. They are doing hijra after realising the truth. So, you (Swalahi) should continue to write against us, then only people will understand the fact,” Rashid said.

Rebutting Swalahi’s argument that those who have joined the IS do not have a proper understanding of Islam, Rashid said Quran was not the monopoly of scholars such as Swalahi. “There are many ways to reach right path and the internet could be one among them. Those who ridicule us also have their own website and WhatsApp groups,” he said.

Discounting the allegation that there is mystery in the emergence of the IS, Rashid said that could be the way Allah wanted it to be. People can ascribe mystery even in the revelation of Quran to Prophet Muhammad, he said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kozhikode/dammaj-salafis-the-launch-pad-for-is-in-kerala-islamic-state-leader/articleshow/67191653.cms

--------

 

Pakistan ‘mistakenly’ allows conditional entry to Israeli citizens

January 1, 2019

The Directorate General of Immigration and Passports conditionally allowed Israeli citizens to visit Pakistan, but the director blamed the interior ministry for the “mistake” and ordered “correction”, a local news outlet reported on Monday.

Reportedly, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) recently released rules and regulations for citizens of seven countries for visiting Pakistan. The list contained the names of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nigeria, Somalia, Palestine, and Israel.

On its website, FIA explained rules and regulations for Israeli citizens visiting Pakistan. They were required to register themselves with the police and seek a stay permit from the district police officer (DPO) of the concerned district. Israeli citizens were also supposed to return the ‘stay permit’ before leaving the country; otherwise, they would not be issued the ‘travel permit’, which is mandatory for leaving the country.

According to the rules, people having ‘work visa’ or ‘Saarc visa’ would be exempt from police registration. Similarly, Israeli citizens are also exempt from police registration, but Indian citizens have to register themselves with the police after arrival in Pakistan.

Immigration Director Ismatullah Junejo has said that the list was issued by the interior ministry and that Israeli’s name was mistakenly included in the list. “Israel’s name is being removed from the list after it was pointed out by the media,” he added.

Junejo further said that Pakistan’s state policy vis-à-vis state of Israel is very clear. Pakistan has not recognised the state of Israel and Pakistani citizens cannot travel to Israel on a Pakistani passport.

In October, President Dr Arif Alvi had dismissed reports of an Israeli business jet’s landing at the Islamabad International Airport, asserting that Pakistan will not establish ties with Israel.

The president termed the reports “baseless and unfounded” while speaking to the media at the airport before leaving for a three-day visit to Turkey.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/12/31/pakistan-mistakenly-allows-conditional-entry-to-israeli-citizens/

--------

 

Why Bangladesh’s landslide election result is bad for its democracy

By Joanna Slater and

Azad Majumder

December 31

NEW DELHI — On Sunday, Bangladesh, the world’s eighth most populous country, held what was billed as its first competitive election in a decade.

But the results were anything but close: The incumbent prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, and her ruling coalition won 288 out of 300 seats in Parliament.

That kind of margin of victory — 96 percent — was a result one might expect in a place like North Korea, not a democratic nation such as Bangladesh.

That is exactly the problem: Hasina, Bangladesh’s increasingly authoritarian leader, consolidated her grip on power but at the cost of her own electoral legitimacy.

The opposition rejected the lopsided results. “We call upon the election commission to declare this farcical election void and demand a fresh election,” said Kamal Hossain, a respected lawyer and former member of Hasina’s Awami League party who headed an alliance of opposition parties.

However, the chief election commissioner on Monday dismissed the demand for a new election. Instead, the results will pave the way for Hasina to continue her formula for maintaining power: strong economic growth coupled with repression of political opponents and critics of her government.

Hasina, 71, is the daughter of the founding president of Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation that gained its independence from Pakistan in a bloody conflict in 1971. Since 1991, the country has held democratic elections in which two parties — Hasina’s Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) — have traded power.

Elections in Bangladesh are not peaceful affairs. Supporters of the two major parties commonly engage in street violence, and at least 17 people were killed Sunday, according to a police spokesman.

While most experts had predicted that Hasina would win the election, few expected a landslide of this magnitude. Hasina’s Awami League fared even better than it did in the last national poll in 2014, when the opposition boycotted the elections and many seats were contested by a single candidate.

There were scattered reports of irregularities at polling stations, including possible vote tampering, but observers said Hasina had used other means to tilt the field in her favor long before Sunday.

Opposition candidates said they had encountered violence, threats and harassment when they attempted to campaign; the BNP said a dozen of its candidates were arrested on spurious charges. In the capital, Dhaka, posters for opposition candidates were scarce.

Hasina rejected allegations of vote-rigging on Monday, telling reporters that she tried to ensure a free election and that she was surprised the opposition did not campaign more actively, according to Reuters.

Bangladesh’s voters, meanwhile, faced a difficult choice. Hasina has grown intolerant of dissent and shows no willingness to relinquish power, but she has presided over a buoyant economy and made significant progress in reducing poverty. She won praise for opening the country’s doors to Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar.

Hasina is also viewed by some — including in neighboring India — as an ally against the potential spread of Islamist extremism in Bangladesh.

The BNP, the main opposition party, is in disarray. Its leader, Khaleda Zia — Hasina’s former archrival — was imprisoned earlier this year on corruption charges. In October, her son, who lives in Britain, was sentenced to life in prison, along with 19 others, on charges of attempting to assassinate Hasina in 2004.

After Sunday’s election, Bangladesh has become a “one-party democracy,” wrote Kanchan Gupta, a political commentator in New Delhi. Hasina “faces no opposition worth its name.”

The sweeping nature of Hasina’s victory raises “serious doubt” about the fairness of the election, said Ataur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Political Scientist Association. The opposition’s tiny number of seats also means there will be no mechanism for political accountability, he said.

Activists and journalists describe a climate of fear in which criticizing the government can have dangerous consequences. In September, Hasina’s government passed a new “digital security” act that imposes prison sentences on certain types of “propaganda,” a law that editors say cripples press freedom.

In Bangladesh, “the development story is an upward curve, and the democracy story is a downward curve,” said one longtime observer of the country’s elections, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the political climate in Bangladesh.

Shahidul Alam, a renowned photographer, was arrested in August and jailed for more than three months for allegedly making “provocative” statements about a wave of road-safety protests that swept Bangladesh last summer.

If “taking away one’s freedom is considered to be the biggest punishment one can give, then the entire nation is being punished constantly,” Alam said in a recent television interview. “That, surely, cannot be the price of development, or even the definition of development.”

Majumder reported from Dhaka.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2018/12/31/why-bangladeshs-landslide-election-result-is-bad-its-democracy/?utm_term=.5d0e41d5417c

--------

 

30 Russian kids born to Daesh terrorists return home from Iraq

Dec 31, 2018

Russian authorities say 30 children born to Russian members of the Takfiri Daesh terror groups have arrived in Moscow from Baghdad.

A Russian diplomatic source said on Sunday that the mothers of the children, aged three to ten years old, are held in Iraqi prisons, while their fathers are believed to have been killed on the battlefield against Iraqi forces.

“The plane of the Russian emergency situations ministry has landed” at Moscow's Zhukovsky airport, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said on his Telegram account.

He stressed that the arrival of the kids was “undeniable proof of the rigorous fulfillment of the mission set out by Russian President Vladimir Putin to save the women and children in Syria and Iraq.”

“If we do not bring them home, they will become the target of the special services of other countries,” Kadyrov added.

According to the Chechen leader, 24 of the children were from Dagestan, and another three were from Chechnya.

The development came after Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi on Sunday met with Anna Kuznetsova, the Russian president’s envoy for the rights of children, in Baghdad.

According to a statement from his office, the premier stressed that a “distinction should be made between humanitarian issues and terrorist crimes,” adding, “These children are also victims.”

Since last year, about 100 women and children have returned under a program championed by Kadyrov.

Earlier this month, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova said Moscow has received over 1,000 requests from the widows of Daesh terrorists to return home.

She further noted that the repatriation of the Daesh widows is a difficult process, given the fact that they have been involved in acts of terror and their return could pose a threat to the safety of Russian citizens.

More than 300 people, including about 100 foreigners, have received death sentence and many others have been sentenced to life in prison in Iraq for joining Daesh.

Several thousand Russian citizens, mainly from Chechnya, traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Takfiri militants, according to estimates from the Russian security services. Many of them took their families with them.

Russian authorities consider the Chechen militants fighting abroad a serious threat if they manage to get back to Russian territory.

Daesh began a terror campaign in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks.

The terror group lost all the territories under its grip back to the Iraqi army. Baghdad declared full victory against Daesh in December 2017.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/31/584472/Daesh-children-return-Russia-Iraq

--------

 

China Shuts Down Hui Muslim Mosques for ‘Illegal Education’

31 Dec 2018

Chinese officials announced the shutdown of three mosques on Saturday for conducting “illegal religious education.”

The mosques were located not in the restless Xinjiang province where the Uighur Muslims dwell, but in southwestern China, where the Hui Muslims have enjoyed a more harmonious relationship with authorities until recently.

The South China Morning Post noted on Monday that Hui Muslims have been increasingly subjected to crackdowns and harassment despite years of being held up as the model Chinese Muslim community:

Police action in the villages of Huihuideng, Sanjia and Mamichang was coordinated by the Weishan County Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee to “protect harmony and stability in the religious domain”, the official notice said.

They said government workers had tried to educate the worshippers on Chinese law concerning religious affairs several times.

A source in Yunnan told BuzzFeed News that registration applications from mosques had been denied by local authorities several times in the past decade.

The mosque shutdowns were not polite affairs. The SCMP said Chinese officials have not yet announced whether any of the worshipers were jailed, but it seems likely based on leaked video of the raids:

Video footage of Saturday’s police raids appeared on Twitter. A clip shared by the NGO Documenting Oppression Against Muslims shows dozens of uniformed police officers confronting Hui Muslim worshippers, dragging them from a mosque entrance. Police officers were shown shoving and, in some cases, attacking protesters.

“Five or six police officers held me down on the floor and I was beaten until I lost consciousness,” one female worshipper’s WeChat message shared on Twitter said.

“My arms are weak now. If my mother hadn’t saved me, I would have been taken away by police. My mother was then taken away. I’m scared she was beaten by them.”

Images shared on Twitter show mosque entrances chained, with signs stuck on the doors which read “Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee, Weishan Yi and Hui Autonomous County.”

The mosque raids would appear to vindicate predictions that the summer’s controversial demolition of the grand mosque in the city of Weizhou was a sign of rough treatment for the Hui Muslims. Chinese officials tried to dismiss the situation as a bureaucratic snafu and claimed the Hui were easily mollified with a bit of community outreach, but the mosque was only saved by a massive street demonstration.

The Weizhou mosque is still there, although it now sports a sign instructing worshipers to “stick to the directives of Sinicized religion.” Sinicization is authoritarian Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s plan to subvert all religious authority and make everything from Hui mosques to Catholic house churches into agencies of the Chinese state, mixing government propaganda into their services and constantly reminding attendees that Xi’s government is the supreme authority in China.

The Associated Press ominously reported that Communist Party officials from the Hui province of Ningxia have been sighted in Xinjiang, where Uighur Muslims are herded into concentration camps by the thousands. The Ningxia officials made the trip to “study and investigate how Xinjiang fights terrorism and legally manages religious affairs.”

The AP story on Friday was primarily about Hui Muslim poet Cui Haoxin, who is alarmed about Xinjiang’s brutal practices coming to Ningxia. He reportedly “fears both that history may be repeating itself and for his own safety as he tries to hold the ruling Communist Party accountable.”

That seems like a reasonable fear since Cui is currently working on a novel that depicts the demons of Hell as gleefully replicating the horrors of China’s Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao Zedong in order to torment Muslims.

Another interesting observation from the AP story is that Hui Muslims feel shocked and betrayed by the intensifying crackdown because they see themselves as solid Chinese citizens and expected to be tapped as cultural ambassadors to the Muslim world on behalf of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure plan. Several Muslim countries are involved in Belt and Road, so the Hui thought there would be plenty of jobs for them as emissaries and managers.

Instead, Chinese officials are shutting down the schools that help Hui children from lower-income families pick up the language skills they need to work in the Middle East, pointedly ignoring pleas from teachers about the importance of the education they provide.

There is an element of historical tragedy in the anguish of the Hui, who generally dislike the Uighurs and may have waited too long to raise their voices against the mistreatment of a distant community they viewed as unruly. (The feeling is mutual, as the Uighurs sneeringly dismissed the Hui as toadies to Communist authority or “watermelons” – Islamic green on the outside, communist red on the inside). Now that Ningxia is getting a taste of the Xinjiang treatment, tunes are changing quickly.

“To replicate Xinjiang’s practices in other provinces is essentially turning a regional catastrophe to a national one,” another Hui poet named An Ran said earlier in December. It should come as no surprise that regional catastrophes become national under centralized authoritarian governments. The Hui were gravely mistaken to believe Xi Jinping would tolerate their brand of Islam as a challenge to his authority.

They are in for another disappointment if they think Middle Eastern Muslim leaders hungry for Chinese money will ride to their rescue.

https://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2018/12/31/china-shuts-down-hui-muslim-mosques-for-illegal-education/

--------

 

Arab World

 

International rights groups denounce Bahrain ruling on Rajab’s jail sentence

Jan 1, 2019

Prominent human rights organizations have denounced a ruling by Bahrain’s top court that upheld a five-year jail term for prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, with Amnesty International describing the verdict as “utterly outrageous.”

The Court of Cassation, whose verdicts are final, on Monday rejected Rajab’s appeal and upheld his prison sentence over tweets deemed critical of the Manama regime and the deadly Saudi-led war against Yemen.

“Nabeel Rajab’s conviction for his refusal to stay silent on the government’s rights abuses is further proof of the Bahrain authorities’ flagrant disregard for human rights,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director of New York-based Human Rights Watch.

“Nabeel Rajab should not have been arrested in the first place, and upholding his sentence is a grave miscarriage of justice,” she added.

On February 21, Bahrain’s criminal court sentenced the distinguished human rights activist to five years in prison for tweeting in 2015 about torture in the Jaw Prison and censuring the Saudi-led war on Yemen.

According to a court document, Rajab was found guilty of “spreading false news and rumors in time of war,” “insulting foreign countries” and “insulting publicly the interior ministry” in comments posted on Twitter.

The pro-democracy campaigner has already served a two-year jail sentence over a news interview in which he said Bahrain tortured political detainees. Rajab completed this sentence in July.

The date of the hearing, scheduled for New Year’s Eve, raised concerns that the Bahraini authorities intended to uphold Rajab’s sentence at a moment when it would attract minimal media scrutiny.

“Bahrain has chosen to mark the new year by entrenching it attacks on human rights defenders and undermining free expression,” Fakih said. “But Bahrain cannot hide its abuses from public critique by jailing dissidents. Bahraini rights defenders are not backing down.”

The HRW also urged “a prompt, impartial, and independent investigation into his allegations of ill-treatment in detention.”

According to Rajab’s family, the activist health deteriorated during his detention, noting that he is held in a cramped, dirty, and insect-infested cell at Jaw Prison, where he remains locked in his cell for 23 hours a day.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International slammed the ruling as “utterly outrageous” and “shameful”, condemning Bahrain’s justice system as “a complete farce.”

“Today’s shameful verdict is a travesty of justice. The decision to uphold Nabeel Rajab’s conviction and five-year sentence simply for posting tweets expressing his opinions, exposes Bahrain’s justice system as a complete farce. His treatment by the Bahraini authorities is completely unacceptable,” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said Monday.

“Nabeel Rajab is a prisoner of conscience. It is utterly outrageous that he has already spent two years behind bars – including nine agonizing months in solitary confinement, amounting to torture,” Maalouf said.

She also urged the Bahraini authorities to “quash his conviction and sentence and release him immediately and unconditionally.”

Separately, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy with the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), said the verdict was a “political persecution.”

Alwadaei said the timing of the verdict was meant to avoid drawing attention to the case.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom in mid-February 2011. They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/01/584546/HRW-Amnesty-Bahrain-ruling-Rajab

--------

 

Organization of Islamic Cooperation calls to help drought-hit Afghanistan

December 31, 2018

JEDDAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Monday called on the member states and all relief organizations in the world to extend humanitarian support to Afghanistan on an urgent basis.

Afghanistan has been facing severe drought for the last several months. The drought has left a large population in dire need for food, shelter and other emergency assistance.

The OIC has urged all member states to show solidarity with the Afghan people. The organization’s General Secretariat’s appeal comes within the framework of the resolution on the “Situation of Afghanistan” adopted by the 45th session of the Conference of Foreign Ministers held in Dhaka in May 2018. The resolution reiterated the organization’s commitment to providing all forms of support to mitigate the sufferings of the Afghan people.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1428571/saudi-arabia

--------

 

Egypt mulls changing constitution to keep El-Sisi in power

January 01, 2019

CAIRO: Supporters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi are calling for constitutional changes that would allow him to stay in power once his second term ends in 2022.

Backers of the former military chief, re-elected in March with over 97 percent of the vote, want parliament to discuss repealing an article limiting presidents to two consecutive four-year terms.

In an editorial published on Sunday, the pro-government state-run daily newspaper Al-Akhbar voiced hope that 2019 would see “the start of a belated political reform” to secure El-Sisi’s future in power.

The column by the newspaper’s director Yasser Rizk said this would “preserve all the people’s gains in terms of security, stability and economic recovery” since El-Sisi came to power five years ago,

He said the change could be approved by late summer 2019.

El-Sisi, who led the army’s overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests against his rule, won his first term as president the following year.

His government has been widely criticized by rights groups over the repression of dissidents.

As well as a crackdown on dissent, El-Sisi has overseen a military campaign against Daesh group-linked extremists in the Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt is slowly recovering from a deep economic crisis that has seen the value of its currency plummet and state subsidies slashed.

In November 2017, even before he was re-elected, El-Sisi told American news network CNBC he would not seek a third term in office.

But after his victory in the March 2018 polls, the question has gradually returned to public debate.

Mohammad Fuad, and MP with the Wafd party close to the government, told 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 said, adding that a potential parliamentary debate on the issue had not been initiated by the government.

In the current context of Egyptian politics, there was little surprise that the debate was taking place, Fuad said.

“People have been expecting a constitutional amendment on extending presidential terms, because every time the debate turns to the end of (El-Sisi’s) second term, the question is: who is the alternative? That causes panic,” he said.

Mustafa Kamal Al-Sayed, a political science professor at Cairo University, said Rizk “did not express a personal point of view, but revealed trends within government institutions.”

He said El-Sisi “does not want to step down from power while he is alive ... he fears that he could be held to account if he leaves his post.”

H.A. Hellyer, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Royal United Services Institute in London, said that “every indication from the last few years indicates that amending the constitution is of foremost importance.”

“Otherwise we would not have seen all these trial balloons in the media, and we would have seen indications of successors that are being groomed,” he said.

On social media, opposition figures deplored talk of allowing El-Sisi to stand for a third term.

“There are constitutions and laws in authoritarian regimes and constitutions and laws in democratic regimes,” wrote Mohamed ElBaradei, a respected former UN nuclear watchdog chief and Egyptian politician on Twitter.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1428711/middle-east

--------

 

US-Backed SDF Sends More Aid Convoys to ISIL Terrorists in Eastern Syria

Jan 01, 2019

The sources said that the SDF sent 7 trucks of food stuff and medicines to regions that are under ISIL's control in Southeastern Deir Ezzur on Monday.

Sources in the region said that ISIL retreated from the village of al-Kashmah in Southeastern Deir Ezzur after receiving the aid cargo, while SDF claimed that it has captured the village after fierce clashes with ISIL.

The SDF has advanced in two directions in the town of al-Shafa'ah and captured parts of the town, including al-Nafilah, al-Mazra'ah and al-Qal'ah neighborhoods, but it is not clear if the advance has been the result of a deal or battle.

Local sources reported on Saturday that a number of SDF vehicles, carrying food stuff, were sent to al-Sha'afah via al-Alalouni passageway in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971011000340

--------

 

ISIL Commanders' Meeting Bombed by Iraq

Dec 31, 2018

The Arabic-language Sumeriyah News quoted the Iraqi-Syrian Joint Command as reporting that an Iraqi F-16 fighter jet bombed an ISIL hideout that hosted the meeting in al-Souseh region in Southeastern Deir Ezzur.

It further said that the ISIL hideout was fully destroyed in the raid, but, did not release any further detail on the number of casualties.

Syrian state media said earlier today that Iraqi forces can now attack ISIL targets inside Syria without getting approval from Damascus.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has authorized Iraqi forces to attack ISIL targets inside his country without waiting for permission from authorities in Damascus, Syrian state news agency SANA said.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL) declared a caliphate in 2014 after seizing large swaths of Syria and Iraq, establishing its de facto capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa.

However, the group has lost all of its strongholds and the vast majority of the territory it controlled since then, although thousands of its armed members are thought to remain in war-battered Syria.

Iraqi warplanes and artillery have pounded ISIL positions inside Syria in the past, after getting the green light from Syrian authorities.

The group has been defeated in Iraq but still holds a small area in Syria close to the Iraqi border.

On Saturday, al-Assad received a letter from Iraq's Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi calling for both countries' coordination in "fighting terrorism", SANA said.

In November, the Iraqi Air Force pounded a key base and a large arms depot of the ISIL terrorists in Eastern Syria near the border, inflicting tens of casualties on the terrorists.

The Joint Operation Command said in a statement that the Iraqi F-16 fighter jets targeted ISIL's bases on Syria's soil at the order of Iraq's General Command of the Armed Forces and under the supervision of the Joint Operation Command.

The statement said that the warplanes bombed an arms and ammunition depot of ISIL-affiliated Fayalq al-Farouq in al-Souseh region in Southeastern Deir Ezzur, adding that the depot contained a large number of missiles and explosives.

It added that a sum of 10 terrorists were killed in the raid.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971010000933

--------

 

Iraqi MP Accuses US Army of Camping ISIL Terrorists at Bases in Iraq

Dec 31, 2018

Kazzem al-Sayyadi, an independent lawmaker of the Iraqi parliament, told the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website that over 1,000 ISIL militants are present at the US bases.

"The US forces entered Iraq's territories on a decision of their own and their number now amounts to 30,000. They supported the ISIL logistically during this period and now, over 1,000 ISIL members are present at the US military bases," al-Sayyadi claimed.

There have been frequent reports accusing the US army of cooperation with ISIL in Southeast Syria and Western Iraq, but the accusation leveled against the US military by the Iraqi lawmaker is the first formal statement made ever in this regard.

The Iraqi forces have in the past few years found a huge volume of advanced US-made missiles and weapons in the ISIL hideouts in the country.

Also, Spokesman of Iraq's Kata'ib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Battalions) popular forces Jafar al-Hosseini disclosed that captured ISIL leaders had acknowledged receiving logistical backup and intelligence support from the US.

"As the ISIL commanders captured in Iraqi popular forces' recent military operations have confessed, the US supports for the terrorist groups are not limited to the dispatch of logistical support," Al-Hosseini told FNA in 2015.

He reiterated that the US had provided the ISIL with intelligence about the Iraqi forces' positions and targets.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971010000674

--------

 

More Turkey-Backed Militants Killed, Wounded in Attacks in Northern Syria

Dec 31, 2018

The Arabic-language website of Hawar news reported that the Kurdish militia attacked the Ankara-backed Faylaq al-Sham's positions in the village of Mohammadiyah in Afrin, killing or wounding 5 militants.

It further said that a group of armed men attacked a position of the Turkey-baked National Liberation Front in the small town of Souran in Azaz region in Northern Aleppo, killing 5 militants and wounding 7 more seriously.

The militant groups put their militants on alert, claiming that the Kurdish militia were behind the attacks.

Sources close to militants in Northern Syria said earlier this month that the Turkish army's artillery units pounded several military positions of the Kurds in Zour Moghar and Shoyoukh Foqani in the surrounding areas of Ein al-Arab in Northern Aleppo and near the border with Turkey, destroying one of their military positions.

The sources, meantime, pointed to the Kurdish forces' attacks on the Ankara-backed militants' positions from Harbal, Sheikh Issa and Um Khosh regions in Ma'areh region, and reiterated that intense fighting has broken out between the two sides in the surrounding areas of the town of Tal Rifat.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971010000837

--------

 

Iraq sentenced 616 foreigners for ISIS links in 2018

31 December 2018

Iraq sentenced more than 600 foreigners including many women and dozens of minors in 2018 for belonging to ISIS, the judiciary said on Monday.

Iraq declared “victory” over ISIS at the end of 2017 after a three-year war against the extremists, who once controlled nearly a third of the country as well as swathes of neighboring Syria.

Around 20,000 people suspected of links to ISIS have been arrested since 2014.

Judicial spokesman Abdel Sattar Bayraqdar said Monday that “616 men and women accused of belonging to IS have been put on trial” in 2018 and sentenced under Iraq’s anti-terrorism law.

They comprised 466 women, 42 men and 108 minors, he said.

Bayraqdar did not, however specify the punishments.

Under Iraq’s anti-terrorism law courts can issue verdicts, including death sentences, against anyone found guilty of belonging to the extremist group, including non-combatants.

In April, judicial sources said that more than 300 suspects linked to ISIS had received death sentences and more than 300 others were sentenced to life, which in Iraq is equivalent to 20 years.

Most of the women sentenced for ISIS links were from Turkey and republics of the former Soviet Union.

Three French citizens -- two women and a man -- have been sentenced to life imprisonment while a German woman, a Belgian man and a Russian man have been sentenced to death.

Many women had travelled to Iraq with their children to join their husbands who fought in the ranks of ISIS.

Some are still waiting to be repatriated to their home countries.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/12/31/Iraq-sentenced-616-foreigners-for-ISIS-links-in-2018-.html

--------

 

Iraqi jets strike Daesh sites in Syria as Trump slows pullout schedule

December 31, 2018

JEDDAH: Iraqi warplanes hit a meeting of Daesh leaders near Deir Ezzor in Syria on Monday, destroying the building they were gathered in, the military said in a statement.

The statement said F-16 fighter jets carried out the raid around Al-Sousa village in eastern Syria, as “30 leaders from Daesh gangs” met in the building.

The strike came a day after Iraq’s government hinted at greater involvement for its armed forces in Syria as the US begins withdrawing troops from the country.

But President Donald Trump appeared to backtrack on Monday on shock plans for an immediate pullout of US troops from Syria, but said his drive to end American involvement in wars made him a “hero.”

The shift came as senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Trump had promised to stay in Syria to finish the job of defeating Daesh.

Trump had earlier stunned allies — and prompted the resignation of his respected defense secretary, Jim Mattis — by abruptly announcing that Daesh was defeated and that US troops in Syria were ready to leave.

However, in a tweet early Monday, President  Trump seemed to signal a more cautious schedule for pulling out the troops which support local forces.

“We’re slowly sending our troops back home to be with their families, while at the same time fighting” Daesh remnants, Trump wrote.

In contrast to previously emphatic victory declarations, Trump said that Daesh “is mostly gone.”

On Sunday, Graham, who is one of Trump’s principal allies in Congress, lunched at the White House to urge a rethink on Syria.

Graham emerged after two hours, saying Trump “understands the need to finish the job.”

“I think the president is committed to making sure when we leave Syria that Daesh is completely defeated,” Graham said.

Another prominent critic of the pullout plan was retired US Army General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1428456/middle-east

--------

 

India

 

Opposing triple talaq Bill, Mehbooba says: Don’t want Zia-ul-Haq’s Pakistan in Gandhi’s secular India

by Bashaarat Masood

January 1, 2019

Saying that Indian Muslims are against creating “Zia-ul-Haq’s Pakistan in Gandhi’s secular India”, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Monday asked the Centre not to interfere in religious matters, referring to the triple talaq Bill.

“All the Muslims, who have stayed back in India, have stayed in Gandhi’s India. Jammu and Kashmir, which despite being a Muslim majority state, aligned with India, did it because of Gandhi’s secular India,” Mufti said at a press conference in Srinagar. “We don’t want to create a Zia-ul-Haq’s Pakistan in Gandhi’s India.”

Speaking on the triple talaq Bill passed by the Lok Sabha, Mufti said, “Today, there is an assault on the family structure of the Muslims… Being a Muslim first, a woman, and also having gone through a broken marriage, I thought it is my duty to speak,” she said.

The first woman Chief Minister of J&K, Mufti divorced after six years of marriage in 1984. She is a single mother of two girls. “I have gone through a broken marriage and I feel that the biggest challenge for a woman after break-up is the economic challenge,” she said. “When people talk to BJP about reservation for Muslims, they reject any kind of reservation — whether in education or jobs — on religious lines. But when it comes to this kind of law, which is on religious lines, they go to Parliament.”

She said the Bill was introduced without consulting even a single Muslim parliamentarian. “In such a big parliament, not a single Muslim Parliament member has supported this Bill,” she said.

Mufti said the Muslims of India are ready to abide by the Supreme Court rulings. “Whether it is the case regarding the Babri Masjid or triple talaq, we (Muslims) are ready to abide by the SC ruling,” the former CM said. “In contrast, they (BJP) don’t accept SC decision on Sabarimala. They openly say that whatever the SC decision is, the (Ram) temple will be built there (at the dispute site) only.”

She said the BJP-led central government has launched an economic onslaught on Muslims and was now entering their houses. Unfortunately, the economic onslaught on the Muslims through curbs on meat and leather (industries), where Muslims work as labourers, as wage earners, has resulted in the worsening economic situation of Muslims. They have now entered our homes because of which our family life is disturbed,” she said.

Mufti warned against interference in the affairs of the Muslim community, saying it would have consequences. “Through this (Bill on triple talaq), what is the message you are sending to 25 crore Muslims. They (BJP) don’t get well along with Gandhi ji but I don’t think, it is the legacy of Vajpayee ji,” Mufti said. “It would be better if you don’t interfere in our religion. If you do, you will have to face the consequences.”

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/opposing-triple-talaq-bill-mehbooba-mufti-says-dont-want-zia-ul-haqs-pakistan-in-gandhis-secular-india-5517799/

--------

 

Desecration of Jamia Masjid Intolerable For Any Conscious Muslim: JeI Jammu and Kashmir

December 31, 2018

Srinagar, Dec 25 (KNS): Jama’at-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir on Monday expressed its deep anguish and anxiety over the anti-Islamic act of desecration of Jamia Masjid Srinagar, which has remained the pivotal centre for propagation and promotion of Islamic teachings and values for centuries together and has always played a primary role during the critical periods of Kashmir history and guided the oppressed people rightly and in right direction.

“Some disgruntled elements at the behest of some anti-Islamic agencies by raising black flag on the very sacred pulpit of this grand Masjid Have hurt the sentiments of the millions of Muslims living over here,” JeI said in a statement issued to KNS.

JeI spokesman said that this is a vicious attempt to cause dissension among the most suffering Muslim fraternity in the valley. “Such elements are not serving any cause of the people of Kashmir or that of Islam but causing hurdles in it. Their nefarious activities are a cause of great concern for the entire Muslim Ummah living over here and the common masses are fed up with their acts of hatred and discord,” he said.

He said the pulpit of Masjid is meant for spreading the sacred message of the Qur'an and Sunnah and create unity of heart and soul among the Muslim community but not to raise conflicting flags.

“These boys must utilize their capabilities for promoting the cause of Islam and not to be swayed away by the vested interests and the enemies of Islam who are bent upon to create disunity among Muslim community in order to divest them off the Islamic identity,” he said.

He said that some irresponsible preachers are defaming Islam and quite in contravention of its teaching of the mutual tolerance, raising Shia-Sunni differences in such a manner which will ultimately lead towards the discord among the oppressed people of Kashmir.

JeI while expressing solidarity with Mirwaiz Molvi Muhammad Umar Farooq, the guardian of Jamia Masjid Srinagar, vehemently condemned the sacrilegious act of some unknown masked elements, appeal all the Islamic organisations and institutions to come forward and openly oppose these nefarious activities in order to maintain the unity and brotherhood among the Muslims keeping aside all the secondary and tertiary differences.

Full report at:

http://www.knskashmir.com/Desecration-of-Jamia-Masjid-intolerable-for-any-conscious-Muslim--JeI-33080

--------

 

Opposition unites in Rajya Sabha: Triple talaq draft law needs legislative scrutiny

by Rahul Tripathi

January 1, 2019

The Bill to make instant triple talaq a punishable offence hit a roadblock in Rajya Sabha Monday with a united Opposition

demanding that the draft law be first sent to a select committee for legislative scrutiny. The government pressed for a discussion after Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tabled the Bill but the Opposition, which has a larger presence in the Upper House, stood its ground and the stalemate over proceedings continued on the last day of the year.

Opposition parties, barring the AIADMK, made reference to a resolution to send the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018, to a select committee. TMC member Derek O’Brien’s motion for reference of the Bill to a select committee did mention AIADMK member A Navaneethakrishnan as the first of 11 members of the committee. The government, on its part, accused the Congress of creating hurdles in the passage of the legislation which had cleared Lok Sabha last week.

When the House met in the afternoon, O’Brien referred to the resolution and asked Deputy Chairman Harivansh to give him a hearing. This was while the AIADMK continued to protest in the well of the House over the Cauvery water issue. “Fifteen Opposition parties including Congress, TMC, SP, BSP, DMK, JD(U), RJD, INLD together want that the Bill be sent to a select committee. Only the BJP wants this Bill to be passed. We also want this Bill to be passed. But we want that the Chair should take sense of the House,” O’Brien, who moved the resolution, said.

The resolution stated: “That the Bill to protect the rights of married Muslim women and to prohibit divorce by pronouncing talaq by their husbands and to provide matters connected therewith or incidental thereto, as passed by Lok Sabha, be referred to select committee of the Rajya Sabha” comprising 11 members including Congress member and Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad. It fixed a deadline to submit a report by the “last day of the first week of next session”.

A similar resolution was moved by other parties demanding that the Bill be sent first to the select committee. The combined Opposition minus the AIADMK has a strength of 115 in a House of 244, as per the Rajya Sabha website. The BJP on its own has 73 members. Ally JD(U), which doesn’t share the BJP view on the Bill, has six members.

Accusing the government of breaking tradition, Azad said, “The Bill is very crucial and requires further scrutiny.” He said more than half of the members belonging to several parties have demanded that the Bill be sent to a select committee. “Since 1993, there has been a tradition of sending a Bill either to standing committee or select committee. This government bulldozes everything to get Bills passed while the Opposition has to fight every time,” he said.

Countering Opposition allegations, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel said the government was ready for a discussion on the issue. He accused the Congress of creating hurdles in the passage of the legislation. He said the Congress had already supported the Bill in Lok Sabha earlier. “The Congress and other parties are only playing politics on this issue… it is very important for ensuring the rights of married Muslim women,” he said.

Proceedings were adjourned for 15 minutes and when the House met again, Anand Sharma of the Congress said: “It is the government which is doing politics. Nobody is opposing the Bill. Let there be legislative scrutiny. The government is misleading people. If the Bill has been passed without legislative scrutiny in Lok Sabha, then it should not be passed here without referring to the select committee. Rajya Sabha is not a rubber stamp,” he said.

Responding to the Opposition, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “This Bill is very important. We want to discuss it here and are ready to listen to any suggestion. Even after bringing the ordinance, there have been incidents of triple talaq until yesterday. It is a question of gender equality… We want to discuss and pass the Bill. The legislation should not be delayed.”

As members continued to create a din, the Deputy Chairman adjourned the House until Wednesday. ENS adds from Patna: NDA partner JD(U), which heads the ruling coalition with the BJP in Bihar, said it would stick to its stand on the Bill in Rajya Sabha — it had abstained from voting on the Bill in Lok Sabha.

JD(U) national spokesperson K C Tyagi said: “When Law Commission had sought opinion of political parties on triple talaq, we had made it clear that such an issue needs to be debated among the Muslim community. Though we are for reforms, it has to be within the ambit of sanction of social and religious heads.”

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/triple-talaq-bill-rajya-sabha-winter-session-rahul-gandhi-congress-bjp-5517859/

--------

 

Two Pakistan soldiers killed at LoC, says Army

January 1, 2019

The Army said Monday that it had foiled a “major” Pakistan Border Action Team (BAT) attempt to strike a forward post along the LoC in Nowgam Sector in north Kashmir. In the Army retaliation early Sunday morning, “two likely Pakistani soldiers” were killed, said officials.

According to a spokesperson of the Army’s 15 Corps, “intruders attempted to move by exploiting the thick jungles close to LoC and were assisted by heavy covering fire of high calibre weapons such as mortars and rocket launchers from the Pakistani posts”.

“The movement was nonetheless detected by the vigilant Indian Army troops deployed along the LoC. The firefight initiated by Pakistan was given strong retaliation by Indian Army and the exchange of fire continued the whole night,” said the spokesperson.

The Army said search operations “confirmed elimination of two likely Pakistani soldiers and resulted in recovery of a large cache of warlike stores” adding that a “few other intruders managed to escape across the LoC, taking advantage of the Pakistani firing and adverse weather and visibility conditions”.

The Army said Monday that it had foiled a “major” Pakistan Border Action Team (BAT) attempt to strike a forward post along the LoC in Nowgam Sector in north Kashmir. In the Army retaliation early Sunday morning, “two likely Pakistani soldiers” were killed, said officials.

According to a spokesperson of the Army’s 15 Corps, “intruders attempted to move by exploiting the thick jungles close to LoC and were assisted by heavy covering fire of high calibre weapons such as mortars and rocket launchers from the Pakistani posts”.

“The movement was nonetheless detected by the vigilant Indian Army troops deployed along the LoC. The firefight initiated by Pakistan was given strong retaliation by Indian Army and the exchange of fire continued the whole night,” said the spokesperson.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/indian-army-loc-pakistani-soldiers-killed-5517869/

--------

 

PM Modi congratulates Sheikh Hasina on win in Bangladesh elections, reiterates India’s support

December 31, 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday called up his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina to congratulate her on her “resounding victory” in the Parliamentary elections. Hasina emerged victorious after the ruling coalition won 287 of the 298 seats in the elections held Sunday.

Congratulating Hasina on her third-consecutive term as the prime minister, Modi reiterated India’s commitment to work together with Bangladesh. During the talks, Modi said that “Hasina’s victory was the reflection of Bangladesh’s stunning development under her dynamic leadership,” press secretary of Bangladesh Prime Minister Ihsanul Karim told PTI.

The Ministry of External Affairs said the conversation was very cordial and that Modi expressed confidence that the partnership between India and Bangladesh will continue to flourish under her “far-sighted” leadership. “The PM also reiterated the priority India attaches to Bangladesh as a neighbour, a close partner for regional development, security and cooperation, and a central pillar in India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy,” the MEA said in a statement.

“PM Sheikh Hasina thanked Prime Minister for being the first leader to call her to convey congratulations. She also thanked India for their consistent and generous support which has benefited Bangladesh’s development, and appreciated PM’s reiteration of this commitment,” the MEA said.

“Spoke to Sheikh Hasina Ji and congratulated her on the resounding victory in the Bangladesh elections. Wished her the very best for the tenure ahead. Reiterated India’s continued commitment to work together for the development of Bangladesh and further strengthening of our bilateral relations,” Modi wrote on Twitter.

India is comfortable with Hasina’s win since it had made considerable gains in the relationship over the last decade of her term. This includes increased interactions between the two nations, including 10 meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina, six video conferences and five telephone calls in the last five years. 19 development projects were inaugurated jointly by the two leaders, and they signed over 90 bilateral agreements in new areas like space, IT, electronics, cybersecurity, civil nuclear energy among others.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/narendra-modi-sheikh-hasina-bangladesh-election-results-5516854/

--------

 

NIA conducts more raids in Delhi over new ISIS module

Dec 31, 2018

The National Investigation (NIA) carried out searches at several places in Delhi and questioned few people in connection with its probe into the new Islamic State module of Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam, officials said.

A senior NIA official said that the agency had carried out searches at few places in east Delhi's Jafarabad area on Sunday.

The official said that the agency had also questioned few suspects.

The counter-terror probe agency's action comes four days after it arrested 10 people including the group head Mufti Mohammad Suhail as they were allegedly planning terror attacks targeting some political personalities and security establishments as well as crowded places in Delhi and the national capital region (NCR).

The NIA had on December 26 carried out searches at over 17 places in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh's Amroha, Lucknow, Meerut and Hapur. It had recovered a country-made rocket launcher, 12 pistols, 112 alarm clocks, 100 mobile phones, 135 SIM cards, many laptops and various electronic gadgets, besides recovering 150 rounds of ammunition during the searches.

The NIA had also seized 25 kg of explosive material, such as potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate, sulphur, sugar material paste, mobile phone circuits, batteries, 51 pipes, remote control car triggering switch, wireless digital doorbell for remote switch, steel containers, electric wires, knife, sword, IS-related literature and Rs 7.5 lakh in cash.

Besides Suhail, the NIA arrested Saeed, 28, Raees Ahmed, Saqib Iftekar, 26 and Mohammad Irshad from Amroha.

Full report at:

https://www.ibtimes.co.in/nia-conducts-more-raids-delhi-over-new-isis-module-789038

--------

 

Pakistan

 

‘Though parliament is superior, bureaucracy listens to judiciary’

January 01, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Though parliament is superior to the judiciary, the bureaucracy only listens to the judges, said the chairman of the Senate Functional Committee on Problems of Less Developed Areas, Usman Kakar, on Monday.

“Even retired judges don’t consider themselves answerable to parliament. I suggest parliamentarians should stop doing politics and try to become judges,” he said during a meeting of the committee.

The committee was getting a briefing from the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) and its ancillary departments, regarding performance and policies at Parliament House.

The discussion turned towards the judiciary during a briefing by the executive director of the National Institute of Health (NIH) Dr Aamer Ikram.

Senate body chairman says orders issued by parliament or govt are ignored

Dr Ikram said that while hearing a case regarding Congo Virus, the Balochistan High Court had directed for a public health laboratory to be established in the province.

“A state-of-the-art public health laboratory was established in the province and will soon be inaugurated. A number of other projects including cardiac and allergy centres have also been established in the province,” he said.

Mr Kakar said it is unfortunate that the bureaucracy only listens to the judiciary.

“Orders of the district courts are also implemented but those made by the government or parliamentarians are ignored by the bureaucracy. The fact is parliament is superior to the judiciary,” he said.

During a briefing by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), Senator Kalsoom Parveen asked who the president of the council was and why he was not in the meeting.

PMDC Director Administration Arshad Nawaz said retired justice Mian Shakirullah Jan is the president of the council and that he could not attend the meeting due to an engagement in the Supreme Court.

Addressing Senator Parveen, Mr Kakar said even retired judges do not consider themselves answerable to parliament.

“We should have become judges because that is the only way we would have been given importance. Politicians are also responsible for this as they have displayed weakness,” he said.

During the meeting, NHS Secretary Zahid Saeed said the role of the ministry was coordination with the provinces rather than addressing the health problems of the provinces.

“There are some departments such as the tuberculosis and malaria control programmes which have more involvement in the provinces and they also play a role in addressing issues,” he said.

Mr Saeed informed the meeting that some 150,000 people across the country have Aids but only some 25,000 are registered.

National Aids Control Programme Manager Dr Baseer Achakzai said efforts are being made to reach out to those living with Aids and provide them with proper treatment.

“Aids is more or less confined to some segments of society such as those who inject drugs, sex workers and the transgender community. We have been focusing on these communities so that the illness does not spread in the general population,” he said.

Dr Ikram said NIH started manufacturing measles vaccinations in June 2018 after an interval of six years and has produced two million doses since.

“Around two million more doses will be manufactured by June 2019 and will be provided to the Expanded Programme of Immunisation at the federal and provincial level. Rabies vaccines will also be made available in the market and laboratories which make allergy, typhoid and diarrhoea vaccines will be upgraded,” he said.

The NIH executive director said there will be huge improvements by June 2019 as a number of projects which have been in the pipeline will be started.

One of the key functions of NIH is to manufacture vaccines for local use. During the 80s and 90s, it was producing vaccines for the entire country and was also looking to export them. It stopped vaccine production later for various reasons.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1454733/though-parliament-is-superior-bureaucracy-listens-to-judiciary

--------

 

Pakistan, India exchange lists of prisoners, nuclear facilities

January 1, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Government of Pakistan on Tuesday handed over a list of Indian prisoners in the country to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to the Consular Agreement signed between the two countries on May 2008 – India and Pakistan are required to exchange lists of prisoners in each other’s custody twice a year – on January 1 and July 1, respectively.

Having said that, the foreign office handed over a list of 537 prisoners lodged in Pakistani jails. These include 54 civilians and 483 fishermen, according to the foreign office statement.

The Indian government will also share the list of Pakistani prisoners with the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.

According to another statement, Islamabad and New Delhi exchanged a list of nuclear installations and facilities.

In accordance with Article-II of the Agreement on Prohibition of Attacks against nuclear installations and facilities between Pakistan and India, signed on December 31, 1988, the list was officially handed over to a representative of the Indian High Commission at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi handed over the list of Indian nuclear installations and facilities to a representative of the Pakistan High Commission.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/01/01/pakistan-india-exchange-lists-of-prisoners-nuclear-facilities/

--------

 

Pakistan exerts pressure on regional govt. to resign over corruption charges

Jan 1, 2019

Tension continue to simmer in Pakistan after Islamabad intensified pressure on a regional government in the country’s Sindh province to resign following corruption allegations. Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan, has also announced plans to launch a heavy-handed crackdown on money laundering. Press T-V’s Javed Rana reports.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/01/584530/Pakistan-exerts-pressure-on-regional-govt-to-resign-over-corruption-

--------

 

JI chief advises govt to give up mini-budget idea

Muhammad Anis

January 1, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI)’s ameer Senator Sirajul Haq has said that the of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has not been able to begin its journey towards fulfillment of its promises during the year 2018.

In a statement here, he said that the promise of across the board accountability had become a dream while the masses remained without even clean drinking water. “Instead of moving towards nation building, the government got busy in the decimation of its opponents,” he added.

The JI chief advised the government to give up the idea of a mini budget or further raise in taxes expressing the hope that the government would make the year 2019, the year of the fulfillment of its promises and take solid steps towards making Pakistan a model Islamic welfare state on the pattern of the state of Madina. He said the nation wanted ruthless accountability and there was need for immediate action against the remaining 436 persona named in the Panama leaks. He said that the nation had high hopes from the government, and it should not disappoint them.

Meanwhile, Sirjaul Haq has condemned the silence of the United Nations and other international institutions on the killings of innocent citizens in Bangladesh where the worst type of dictatorship prevailed in the name of democracy.

Speaking at a briefing on the current situation in Bangladesh, at Mansoora, he said that innocent Muslims were being victimised only because they were not ready to accept India’s slavery.

He said that in the drama of BD elections, India’s interests were being protected. He said that dozens of people had been killed and hundreds others injured for protesting against the rigging in the BD elections, but the world body and the international community was not taking any notice.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/413283-ji-chief-advises-govt-to-give-up-mini-budget-idea

--------

 

PM Imran Khan resolves to battle 'four ills' of Pakistan in 2019

January 01, 2019

Prime Minister Imran Khan with the dawn of a new year on Tuesday resolved to battle poverty, illiteracy, injustice and corruption in the country in 2019.

In a tweet on Jan 1, the prime minister declared that his government would "wage jihad against the four ills of our country: poverty, illiteracy, injustice and corruption."

"InshaAllah 2019 is the beginning of Pakistan's golden era," the premier promised.

President Arif Alvi shared his best wishes for citizens and prayed that the new year would bring success and prosperity to the people and the country.

"May Allah grant you and your families success and happiness this year," he tweeted.

"I also pray that Pakistan continues on its path to progress so that [it] can be rid of poverty, hardship and unemployment."

Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor declared 2019 as the "year of progress" in a message tweeted on New Year's Eve.

"In our national pursuit for a peaceful, prosperous and vibrant Pakistan, 2019 is year of progress," he said, adding: "United we shall consolidate our successes."

He went on to pay tribute to "resilient Pakistanis and martyrs".

Minister of Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry tweeted a couplet encouraging the nation to move forward together and look for solutions to the problems that the country is facing.

He urged the people to "live and let others live" and leave outdated customs behind.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1454817/pm-imran-khan-resolves-to-battle-four-ills-of-pakistan-in-2019

--------

 

350 schools set up, 17,000 children enrolled in Punjab: minister

January 01, 2019

RAHIM YAR KHAN: The Punjab government has established 350 new schools where it enrolled more than 17,000 children during its first 100 days, claimed Punjab Minister for Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education Raja Rashid Hafeez on Monday.

Addressing a press conference at the Circuit House here, Mr Hafeez claimed that the public will witness the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government’s performance through practical means, and not just slogans.

He said basic education was the right of every child, but the previous governments did not focus on it. The current government was taking practical steps to train teachers, increase their salaries and enhance access to school for each child, he added.

He further said that important decisions will be taken for improvement of non-formal basic education during the next fiscal year and the chief minister had assured that more funds would be provided for the purpose. He said he had taken strict notice of the issue of non-payment of salaries of teachers of non-formal schools for five months, adding that the salaries would be released in a few days.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1454710/350-schools-set-up-17000-children-enrolled-in-punjab-minister

--------

 

IS commander among three killed in N Waziristan explosion

January 1, 2019

An Islamic State (IS) commander and his two accomplices were killed in a bomb blast in North Waziristan on Monday, reports claimed.

Commander Khawaz Chimtoo belonged to the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group.

Chimtoo reportedly joined Da’ish, commonly known as IS, ISIS or ISIL, after Operation Zarb-e-Azb was carried out by the Pakistan Army in the area.

There are conflicting reports that the explosives had been planted by members of his own group. However, it is also believed that an opposing faction had planned the attack.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/01/01/is-commander-among-three-killed-in-n-waziristan-explosion/

--------

 

COAS, Saudi minister discuss bilateral relations

January 1, 2019

RAWALPINDI: Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister of Defence Muhammad Bin Abdullah Al-Ayesh called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa at General Headquarters (GHQ) on Monday, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement. Matters of mutual interest were discussed during the meeting, including regional security and enhanced bilateral defence cooperation.

Earlier on December 22, Senate Chairman Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani had visited the headquarters of the military alliance established under command of Saudi Arabia for the restoration of legitimate government in Yemen.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/12/31/coas-saudi-asst-defence-minister-discuss-bilateral-relations/

--------

 

After travel ban, will Pakistan’s ex-president Zardari be arrested?

31 December 2018

Speculation is rife in Islamabad’s power corridors over whether authorities will arrest Pakistan’s former President Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, both embroiled in money laundering allegations.

Last week, the government slapped a travel ban on Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The news agitated Zardari’s supporters and party workers nationwide.

The former leader was among 172 influential figures on the list, including the incumbent chief minister of Sindh province, as well as key ministers of his provincial government, bureaucrats and bankers.

The investigation

In September, Pakistan’s Supreme Court formed a six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the money laundering and fake accounts case allegedly involving Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur.

The Supreme Court then banned the trading and transfers of the properties of the Zardari Group, real estate group Bahria Town and Omni Group (allegedly owned by Zardari and his close aides).

Federal information Minister Fawad Chaudhary told reporters last week that government was ready to take the bull by the horns following the JIT report.

“The JIT had found evidence of how Zardari allegedly laundered money through fake bank accounts and companies. Government will not spare the looters and plunders of national wealth,” Fawad told journalists in Islamabad.

When contacted by Al Arabiya English for comment, concerned authorities refused to confirm or deny reports that Zardari and son could soon be arrested. However, leaders of Zardari’s political party fiercely responded to the speculations.

“It takes heart to arrest Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the co-chairman of Pakistan People Party (PPP). Such a move could plunge the country into chaos,” Khursheed Shah, former leader of opposition and a central leader of Bhutto’s PPP told journalists in Lahore on Sunday.

Polarized environment

Political analyst and commentator Raza Rumi told Al Arabiya English that the travel ban on Zardari would lead to a polarized political environment.

“It is going to polarize the country’s politics further and is not a good omen for the democratic transition which is on the way. Never is the opposition crushed. Even through a legitimate accountability drive, they cry of political victimization and that is not a good sign for the future of political stability in the country.

“At this time, Pakistan needs political stability more than anything else due to the economic situation. If there is no political stability, then economic stability will not be achieved,” Rumi said.

Zardari, who was president from 2008 to 2013, has previously been accused of corruption and money laundering, widely becoming known in the country as “Mr. Ten Percent.”

Dismissing the recent allegations, Zardari responded angrily and branded the government an instrument of country’s powerful military.

While addressing a rally marking the 11th death anniversary of his wife Benazir Bhutto, Zardari labeled Prime Minister Imran Khan the army’s “blue-eyed boy.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2019/01/01/IN-PICTURES-Who-are-the-Flower-Men-of-Saudi-Arabia-.html

--------

 

South Asia

 

Taliban commander, 2 accomplices killed during a clash with armed forces in Faryab

31 Dec 2018

A local commander of Taliban and his two fighters were killed during a clash with the Afghan armed forces in northern Faryab province of Afghanistan.

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North in a statement said the clash took place 3:30pm on Sunday in the vicnity of Almar district.

The statement further added that the commander of Taliban, Qari Sefat, was killed with his two accomplices during the clash.

The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban have not commented regarding the report so far.

Faryab is among the relatively volatile provinces in North of Afghanistan. The Taliban militants are active in some of districts and often attempt to carry out attacks against the government and security forces.

In the meantime, the Afghan forces are busy conducting counter-terrorism operations to suppress the anti-government armed militants in Faryab and other restive provinces in the North.

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-commander-2-accomplices-killed-during-a-clash-with-armed-forces-in-faryab-03033/

--------

 

Taliban confirms meeting with the Iranian officials in Tehran

01 Jan 2019

The Taliban militants group in Afghanistan has confirmed that a delegation of the group has visited Tehran and met with the Iranian officials.

Taliban group spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a statement said the delegation has been sent to Tehran to hold talks regarding the situation of Afghanistan post the coalition forces withdrawal, maintainning peace and security in Afghanistan and the region.

The statement further added that the delegation of the group occassionally visits the regional countries to attract the political and moral support of the regional countries to end the occupation and bring peace in Afghanistan.

A spokesman of the foreign ministry of Iran, Bahram Qasemi had earlier confirmed that the talks were being held with the knowledge of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani with an intention to set parameters for negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

“A Taliban delegation was in Tehran yesterday. They had comprehensive negotiations with the Iranian deputy foreign minister,” Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying in a report by Reuters.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-confirms-meeting-with-the-iranian-officials-in-tehran-03039/

--------

 

ISIS-K militant hands over himself, 11 members of his family to Afghan forces

01 Jan 2019

A militant affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Khurasan (ISIS-K) has handed over himself and eleven members of his family to the Afghan forces in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in the East said the ISIS-K militant identified as Bakhtan surrendered to the border forces in Achin district.

Bakhtan handed over himself and eleven family members to the border forces, the 201st Silab Corps said in a statement, adding that three women and children were among the family member of Bakhtan.

The loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Khurasan have not commented regarding the surrender of the group’s militant so far.

Nangarhar has been among the relatively calm provinces in the East but the ISIS-K and Taliban militants have been attempting to expand their foothold in this province during the recent years.

In the meantime, heavy airstrikes and coordinated ground operations are underway against the militant groups in this province.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/isis-k-militant-hands-over-himself-11-members-of-his-family-to-afghan-forces-03038/

--------

 

China against abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan

01 Jan 2019

A top Chinese diplomat has expressed opposition with an abrupt withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Afghanistan and has called on Washington for a responsible withdrawal from the country.

Lijian Zhao, deputy Chinese ambassador in Islamabad made the remarks during an interview with GTV News on Sunday, VOA reported.

“They [U.S.] have been in Afghanistan for 17 years. If they are leaving the country, they should try to leave in a gradual and a responsible way,” Lijan Zhao said.

He also emphasized the need for the Taliban and Afghan government to sit together and negotiate a political resolution to a war he said has been going on for nearly 40 years.

Only an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process supported by international partners of Afghanistan could help end the hostilities, Lijian noted.

“If a civil war broke out after the U.S. withdrawal, the first countries affected will be Pakistan, will be China, and it will be the immediate neighbors. So, we have to sit together with the parties concerned so that we start a peace process,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/china-against-abrupt-withdrawal-of-u-s-troops-from-afghanistan-03035/

--------

 

Taliban leaders met Iranian officials in Tehran on Sunday

31 Dec 2018

The political leaders of the Taliban group met with the Iranian officials in Tehran on Sunday in what appears to be the second meeting between Taliban and Tehran over the past recent weeks.

A spokesman of the foreign ministry of Iran, Bahram Qasemi confirmed that the the talks were held with the knowledge of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and were intended to set parameters for negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

“A Taliban delegation was in Tehran yesterday. They had comprehensive negotiations with the Iranian deputy foreign minister,” Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying in a report by Reuters.

This comes as Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of the National Security Council of Iran on Wednesday informed his Afghan counterpart that Tehran has been holding talks with the Taliban with the knowledge of the Afghan government.

The talks were held “to help curb the security problems in Afghanistan,” Shamkhani told Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan president’s national security advisor.

“All contacts and talks with the Taliban group have been with the knowledge of Afghanistan’s government and this process will continue,” the top Iranian security official was quoted as saying by Tehran Times.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-leaders-met-iranian-officials-in-tehran-on-sunday-03034/

--------

 

Senior police official killed in Takhar bomb explosion

31 Dec 2018

An explosion took place near provincial police commandment’s compound in northeastern Takhar province of Afghanistan earlier today amid reports a number of people have been killed or wounded in the incident.

Provincial governor’s spokesman Jawad Hejri confirmed the incident and said Col. Mohamamd Omar, the district police chief of Darqad has died and three others have sustained injuries in the explosion.

A security official had earlier also confirmed that the police chief of Darqad district has been killed in the explosion and three civilians have sustained wounds.

The official further added that the incident took place at around 10:00am local time after explosives planted in a vehicle went off.

No individual or group has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/senior-police-official-killed-in-takhar-bomb-explosion-03031/

--------

 

Afghan official: Taliban attacks kill 15 Afghan policemen

1 January 2019

An Afghan official says the Taliban launched two blistering attacks in northern Sar-e-Pul province, killing 15 members of the country’s security forces.

In one attack, on the outskirts of the provincial capital, heavy artillery fire by Afghan forces trying to repel the insurgents sent local residents fleeing for safety.

Provincial council chief Mohammad Noor Rahmani says that along with 15 policemen killed, 21 were wounded in the two attacks, which took place late on Monday. He says fierce gunbattles raged for several hours in Sayyad district and outside Sar-e-Pul, the provincial capital.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousof Ahmadi claimed responsibility for both attacks.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/01/01/Afghan-official-Taliban-attacks-kill-15-Afghan-policemen.html

--------

 

Europe

 

UK offered arms sales to Saudi after Khashoggi murder: Report

Jan 1, 2019

The UK kept weapons sales talks with Saudi Arabia running after the kingdom admitted to dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, a new report has revealed.

The Daily Mirror reported Tuesday it had evidence that a high-level British arms export delegation was in Riyadh on October 2, the day Khashoggi went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

The arms traders returned to Riyadh on October 14 and 22 and held further meetings with Saudi military officials as the kingdom was trying its utmost to contain the damage from Khashoggi’s disappearance, the report added.

By the time the third meeting took place, the Saudi regime had already discarded its numerous contradictory explanations on Khashoggi’s fate and acknowledged that he was killed in a dispute.

Among the British delegation were the UK Department for International Trade Defense & Security Organization (DIT DSO)’s interim head of Mission in the Middle East as well as retired Air Vice Marshal Nigel Maddox, a military advisor.

This raises questions about British government officials’ sincerity in their criticism of Riyadh in the aftermath of the murder.

On October 19, the day Saudi finally came clean, British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt warned Riyadh there would be “consequences” if Saudi authorities were found to have been involved in the assassination.

Days before on October 13, reports surfaced claiming that London was gathering a list of Saudi officials who could potentially come under sanctions as a punishment for their involvement.

There were even reports British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had intercepted data that showed Khashoggi was killed on orders from a “member of the royal circle.”

“There is a rank hypocrisy at the heart of the Government’s foreign policy,” said Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade. “As Jeremy Hunt was in the Commons condemning the mur­­der, there were civil servants in Riyadh pushing for even more arms sales.”

Documents obtained by the Mirror were titled “ROC: Riyadh Operations Centre requirements,” which seems to be a reference to Saudi Arabia’s ongoing war on Yemen.

The UK has licensed over £4.7billion worth of arms exports to Riyadh since the deadly conflict began in March 2015.

Britain has also been providing combat intelligence and target data to Saudi Arabia over the course of the war, which has killed thousands of Yemeni civilians and put millions more on the verge of famine.

The war is being led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler who is also accused of personally ordering Khashoggi's murder.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/01/584550/UK-Saudi-Arabia-arms-sales-talks-Khashoggi-murder-Yemen

--------

 

Muslim charity aims to deliver 7000 meals to homeless by New Year's Day

January 1, 2019

A Muslim youth charity has beaten its own record by delivering more than 5,000 meals to homeless people at major cities across the UK and aims to reach the 7,000 mark by New Year's Day.

Charing Cross, one of Central London’s homeless hotspots was rife with rough sleepers over the weekend where volunteers from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA) were busy distributing food and supplies including including water, gloves and winter hats.

Sabah Ahmedi, who at 25 is one of Britain’s youngest Imams, said its principle goals are to follow Islamic teachings by providing help to people who need it and to counter radicalisation amongst youth by engaging them in positive action for social change.  

He said teaching young people to give back to the community means "there is no room for extremism or radicalisation."

As well as delivering food, Mr Ahmedi said the organisation’s volunteers will be cleaning up the mess left behind by revellers on New Year’s Day. He added: “We feel that it is part of our responsibility to do this in the country in which we live.”

The charity, launched in 1989, is a wing of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community which formed in the UK in 1913. It claims to be the largest and oldest Muslim youth charity in the country with some 9,100 members spread across 148 chapters. As well as the seasonal food drive, volunteers also deliver an average of 150 meals a week to homeless people all year round.

One of those volunteers, Qamar Ahmed, said: “Even though we don’t celebrate Christmas, it doesn’t stop us from reaching out and helping others who do, especially at this time of year when they are lonely and on the streets.”

As well as delivering food to rough sleepers, he said the charity inspires young volunteers to reach out to people experiencing mental health problems and loneliness in care homes and orphanages. 

Mr Ahmed added such actions represent a positive response to Islamophobic attitudes that stereotype an entire belief system, while establishing strong relations between different communities.

Recent analysis from homeless charity Shelter suggested there are 320,000 homeless people on record in the UK, a figure which increased by 13,000 over the last year. This means one in every 200 people in Britain are either homeless or living in temporary accommodation.

With almost 170,000 people living on its streets, London has the highest levels of homelessness, equating to one in every 52 people, the charity said, adding that Brighton, Birmingham and Manchester are suffering from housing crisis. It estimated 131,000 homeless children in Britain today.

The Office of National Statistics recently revealed there were an estimated 597 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2017 - a figure which the study claims has increased over the last five years.

Nadia, an elderly woman who lives on the streets was one of 150 people or so to receive a meal from volunteers in Charing Cross. She said: “We want change. The system is wrong and it’s putting people on the street. We want nobody to be on the streets anymore. We want everybody to have a self-contained flat."

She added: "The system is about divide and rule. The rich become richer, the poor more poor. We live in the 21st century and everybody should be living properly – not be forced into accepting handouts. I am on the streets because the system is wrong. We should change the corrupt, rotten system.”

Nadia said she did not want to elaborate on why she is homeless, but other homeless people in Charing Cross gave their reasons.

Artur Martinez, 28, who came to the UK from France to work in the food and beverage industry said he has been sleeping rough for six years because of the high cost of renting in London. He said property developers in the city are driving up prices and landlords are capitalising on the market while social housing continues to dwindle.

Another, a trained civil engineer and former teacher from Algeria who did not want to be named, said: “Immigration fucking up brought me to the streets. The Home Office lost my file and put me in limbo since almost 20 years now. I had a work permit and they revoked it. I was even married to a British person. This is about social justice - and if there were no food handouts like this, I would have to fend for myself in another way.”

Linwood Sewell said he has been living on the streets on and off for three years. He said the prison system did not help to rehabilitate him. “After prison I was ordered to stay away from home. I’m just a remandee but the food handouts on the street are something to look forward to.”

Algis, 29, from Lithuania, said he has worked and paid taxes in the UK for six years and has never claimed benefits but found himself on the streets after losing his job because he could not afford expensive London rents. He said: “I want a job but it’s hard when you don’t have a place to live. You just can’t stay in the street and work.”

James McHugh said he ended up on the streets after a divorce. He said: “I used to think a lot of the people on the streets were lazy but I found out it’s the opposite. Most of them work, and unfortunately they don’t have enough money to pay rent, that's why we’re on the streets.”

About the work of the charity he said: “It’s good, it makes a complete difference. The reality is, they’re keeping us alive - the hot food and the camaraderie actually keeps us alive.”

Since 1 December 2018, AMYA has delivered 4,000 meals across London, distributing an average 200 meals per day across Victoria, Holborn, Waterloo, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Oxford Street, Westminster, Piccadilly Circus, King’s Cross, Russell Square and Hyde Park.

Full report at:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/muslim-charity-homeless-meals-homeless-ahmadiyya-new-years-day-a8705766.html

--------

 

UK counter-terror police probe Manchester knife attack

Jan 1, 2019

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM: British counter-terrorism police were investigating a multiple stabbing in which the suspect reportedly shouted "Allah" at a Manchester railway station on New Year's Eve, officials said Tuesday.

A man and a woman, both in their 50s, and a police officer were being treated for knife injuries following the stabbings on Monday evening at Manchester Victoria station in the northwestern English city.

Witness Sam Clack, 38, a BBC radio producer, said he heard the suspect shouting "Allah" before and during the attack.

He quoted the suspect as saying: "As long as you keep bombing other countries, this sort of shit is going to keep happening."

The male suspect has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said in a statement.

The woman suffered injuries to her face and abdomen and the man was wounded in the abdomen, while a British Transport Police officer sustained a stab wound to the shoulder.

Their injuries were described as serious but not life-threatening. The two members of the public were taken to the hospital.

The incident happened at around 8:50 pm (2050 GMT) when many revellers in the city would have been enjoying New Year's Eve celebrations.

Clack said: "I just heard this most blood-curdling scream and looked down the platform.

"He came towards me. I looked down and saw he had a kitchen knife with a black handle with a good 12 inch (30-centimetre) blade.

"It was just fear, pure fear."

Clack said police officers used a stun gun and pepper spray before, "six or seven" officers jumped on the man.

Clack said he heard the alleged knifeman shouting "Allah" during the attack.

He added: "He shouted it before, he shouted it during it -- 'Allah'."

A witness who gave her name as Rebekka told the Daily Mirror newspaper: "I heard the most blood-curdling scream I've ever heard and turned to see everyone running towards me.

"I jumped off the tram track and started to run down the tram lines and hid behind some concrete slabs under one of the arches.

"I was just really scared, I didn't know if I was going to die."

Police declared the attack a "critical incident".

GMP Assistant Chief Constable Rob Potts said the investigation was being led by counter-terrorism police and officers were keeping an "open mind".

"Tonight's events will have understandably worried people but I need to stress that the incident is not ongoing, a man is in custody and there is currently no intelligence to suggest that there is any wider threat at this time," he said.

"While we don't yet know the full circumstances and are keeping an open mind, officers from Counter Terror Policing North West are leading the investigation.

"This is to ensure we have all the expertise available to us and progress our investigation as soon as we possibly can."

The city's New Year celebrations went ahead in Albert Square despite the incident, with a firework display taking place as planned, though increased security was brought in.

The city experienced a suicide attack in May 2017, when 22 people were killed and 139 wounded at a concert by the US singer Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/uk-counter-terror-police-probe-manchester-knife-attack/articleshow/67332056.cms

--------

 

Morocco: Terror charges brought in Nordic tourists’ deaths

31 December 2018

Moroccan prosecutors have filed preliminary terrorism charges against 15 people who are suspected of links to the killing of two Scandinavian women in the Atlas Mountains.

Morocco's public prosecutor said in a statement that the charges include forming a gang to prepare and commit terrorist acts and premeditated murder. Three of the suspects faced additional charges for allegedly urging the others to commit acts of terrorism.

The women, one from Denmark and one from Norway, were found dead in a remote mountain region on Dec. 17. Authorities have described the slayings as an alleged attack by followers of ISIS.

The 15 suspects were referred on Sunday to an investigating judge who handles terror-related cases. More suspects are expected to be charged in the coming days.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2018/12/31/Morocco-Terror-charges-brought-in-Nordic-tourists-deaths.html

--------

 

Southeast Asia

 

Keep cool, Wan Azizah tells Azmin over Anwar appointments

1 Jan 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has called on PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali to remain calm over his dissenting views on the party president's recent appointment of leaders.

"Keep cool, cool," she told the press at KLCC on Monday (Dec 31) night.

The Deputy Prime Minister made a brief stop about an hour prior to the New Year countdown for a street preaching (street dakwah) social programme organised by the National Union Of Malaysian Muslim Students.

She was asked about Azmin airing his dissatisfaction in the public over PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's appointments, which saw former vice-president Rafizi Ramli being reinstated to his old post.

Also present was Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.

When asked if Azmin's action was good for the party, Dr Wan Azizah said; "There are ways and means to tell the new president about certain things.

"I think (Azmin should) let the new president lead the party. We have actually chosen him (to lead). And as he said, it is the prerogative of the president, who is also the unity factor in the party," she said.

When asked about reports saying that Azmin might challenge Anwar for the party's presidency in the future, Dr Wan Azizah said anybody could do that.

"Anybody can challenge (Anwar). I remember, even in Umno party in the past (someone) challenged (former Umno president) Datuk Onn Jaafar.

"It happens in any political party," she added.

Meanwhile, Syed Saddiq, who is Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia Armada (Youth) chief, said the majority of the Youth movements of all Pakatan Harapan component parties were against solicitation for contracts and positions from those in power.

"Malaysian citizens are not stupid.

"In the New Malaysia, we want to ensure that we follow the due process. We take out the politics of patronage in order for us to move forward. We need to ensure that those who deserve it are the ones who get it," he said.

Pribumi vice-president Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman had reportedly said on Sunday that the gains by the party must be protected at all costs – even through granting contracts to party division chiefs.

He said division chiefs must not be left behind when the party moved forward. And this included granting contracts to them so they could defend their seats in the next general election.

When asked on calls for Rashid to step down, Syed Saddiq said it was best for it to be discussed "in the presidential council".

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2019/01/01/keep-cool-wan-azizah-tells-azmin-over-anwar-appointment/

--------

 

PAS MP says religious harmony can be achieved by just respecting non-Muslim festivals

25 December 2018

PETALING JAYA, Dec 25 — A PAS lawmaker today said that the cultivation of religious harmony does not mean following the obligations of other religions, but rather respecting non-Muslims and giving them the right to celebrate their religious festivals.

Kuala Nerus MP Datuk Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali said Islam placed the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims within a broad scope, that is to “be good and uphold justice” in all aspects of life as long as the latter did not fight Islam and its people.

“The Islamic community in Malaysia has shown a good example in getting along with non-Muslims since for many years in all aspects of life.

“That is something to be proud of. There is no need to be overwhelmed by the celebrations of non-Islamic festivals that involve religious ritual because it involved tenets prohibited in Islam,” he said in a statement today.

Mohd Khairuddin said the love between human beings must continue to be nurtured through various daily activities that involve friendships and neighbourly relations.

“That is what Islam teaches. It is not measured just by a narrow space of celebrating the festivals with other believers,” he said.

PAS Youth chief Muhammad Khalil Abdul Hadi yesterday warned Muslims not to celebrate Christmas.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/s/1706148/pas-mp-says-religious-harmony-can-be-achieved-by-just-respecting-non-muslim

--------

 

2 killed in bombing in troubled south Philippines

Dec 31, 2018

Two people have been killed and around 35 others wounded after a bomb went off outside a shopping mall in the southern Philippine city of Cotabato, police say.

The explosion prompted officers to search the mall, leading to the discovery of another suspected bomb which they destroyed, said local police spokesman Chief Inspector Rowell Zafra.

A female street vendor and one man were killed, while many of the wounded were shoppers buying goods for traditional New Year festivities.

Three of the wounded were in critical condition, officials said.

Scattered debris, including items sold for New Year celebrations, such as horns made from cardboard and plastic, gifts and a bloody slipper lay at the mall's entrance where the bombing took place.

Windows of surrounding buildings were shattered by the blast, eyewitnesses said.

Investigators could not immediately say what kind of bomb was used or name any suspects.

However, local army commander Major General Cirilito Sobejana told ABS-CBN television that an individual was seen carrying a box which he left in front of the mall. It exploded a few seconds later.

Sobejana said the bomb had the signature of a "Daesh group," referring to local extremists who have declared allegiance to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

He said the military had some "leads" in the incident but did not elaborate.

In September and August, bombs went off in Isulan town, 77 kilometers (48 miles) south of Cotabato, killing at least three people.

President Rodrigo Duterte put the southern Mindanao region under martial rule until the end of 2018 after pro-Daesh militants seized the city of Marawi last year.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/31/584489/Philippines-explosion-police-Daesh-shopping-mall-New-Year

--------

 

Mideast

 

Netanyahu says Israel is an 'indispensable ally' of the Arabs against Iran

January 01, 2019

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Arab countries viewed Israel as an “indispensable ally” fighting Iran and the militant Islamic State 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.

“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://www.dawn.com/news/1454823/netanyahu-says-israel-is-an-indispensable-ally-of-the-arabs-against-iran

--------

 

Turkey reaches out to 700,000 Rohingya Muslims

January 1, 2019

Persecuted in their homeland, hundreds of thousands of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims fled to neighboring Bangladesh. The humanitarian aid campaign Turkey launched last year, upon calls by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, caught the attention of the public's conscience. The country has so far reached out to at least 700,000 Rohingya Muslims with humanitarian aid.

Charities, state-run organizations and individuals set up camps, hospitals and water wells and distributed aid to the community. In one year, more than 2,000 tons of food packages were delivered to the displaced Rohingya Muslims. Some 165,000 people received free medical treatment and more than 300,000 others receive psychiatric treatment to cope with what they suffered at the hands of poverty, military oppression and other misfortunes in Myanmar.

The community is slowly building a new life and hundreds of bamboo houses, Turks helped them build, will give them a new place to start over, though their suffering far from their homeland lingers on.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims poured across Myanmar's border with Bangladesh after a wave of anti-Rohingya attacks in the summer of 2017. Thousands were killed in the violence and those forced to flee faced dire poverty and the threat of diseases in crudely built camps in Bangladesh.

The U.N. has described the operations by Myanmar security forces as ethnic cleansing. The stateless Rohingya have been the target of communal violence and vicious anti-Muslim sentiment in mainly Buddhist Myanmar for years. Myanmar has denied citizenship to Rohingya since 1982 and excludes them from the 135 ethnic groups it officially recognizes, which effectively renders them stateless.

Turkey has always been among the most vocal supporters of the community, repeatedly drawing attention to their plight. Turkish charities had joined forces after mass displacement of Rohingya Muslims in 2017 and quickly collected millions of Turkish liras for setting up a lifeline of humanitarian aid to camps in Bangladesh.

Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), the Turkish Red Crescent and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) are at the forefront of accommodation efforts for the displaced. They set up some 400,000 tents for Rohingya Muslims in camps near the Bangladeshi border. The AFAD runs one of the biggest humanitarian assistance operations in the region, providing health, food and accommodation services. This Turkish state-run agency set up 10 water wells and water distribution points at the refugee camps.

AFAD's crews also distributed some 20,000 food packages to the displaced, along with thousands of toys for children and constructed playgrounds for the displaced children.

Full report at:

https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/2019/01/01/turkey-reaches-out-to-700000-rohingya-muslims

--------

 

Palestine won’t let US sell occupied al-Quds to Israel: Abbas

Jan 1, 2019

President Mahmoud Abbas says Palestine will never allow the United States to sell Jerusalem al-Quds to Israel, reiterating that the occupied city will remain the eternal capital of the state of Palestine.

Jerusalem al-Quds “is not for sale,” Abbas said in a speech marking the 54th anniversary of the Fatah party’s founding in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Monday.

“We will not allow anyone to advance a plot against Jerusalem (al-Quds),” he noted, stressing that the city “will remain the eternal capital of the Palestinian state, as the late President Yasser Arafat said that a Palestinian child will raise the flag of Palestine on the walls, minarets and churches of Jerusalem (al-Quds).”

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

Israel occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds during the Six-Day War in 1967 and later annexed the city in a move not recognized by the international community.

US President Donald Trump sparked anger among Palestinians and the entire international community in December 2017, when he recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the Israeli “capital.”

Washington also moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied city months later in defiance of global warnings.

Abbas said that the embassy relocation would fail to undermine the right of Palestinians to Jerusalem al-Quds and would not cause them to give up their principles.

He also emphasized that the Palestinian people would press on with their struggle until they establish their independent state, saying, “The revolution goes on and will continue.”

Abbas further said that the Palestinian nation would not accept Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the wake of Trump’s policy shift on Jerusalem al-Quds, the Palestinian president described the US president’s proposed plan, which is yet to be unveiled, as the “slap of the century,” saying Washington could no more act as a mediator in the so-called peace process due to its bias towards Tel Aviv.

Abbas went on to say that Washington’s punitive measures against Palestinians would not change their position on “refugee rights.”

Amid tensions with Palestinians, the US ended its decades of funding for the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees and slashed aid for projects in the West Bank and Gaza.

“The continuation of the colonialist settlement and the occupation of the land of the State of Palestine will not break our willpower, nor will it harm our resolve, because our people will not kneel but to Allah, and this is our land and holy places, and this is the land of our forefathers and grandfathers,” Abbas pointed out in his latest remarks on the subject.

He also warned that Israel’s “racist” laws and measures would not bring security and peace to the occupied territories, but would rather expand the cycle of violence and bloodshed there.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/01/584541/Palestine-Jerusalem-Mahmoud-Abbas

--------

 

Israel’s Netanyahu said would not resign during possible indictment hearing

1 January 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he would not resign from office should the attorney general accept police recommendations to indict him before his side of the case is heard.

Netanyahu last week announced a snap election would be held in April, seeking a fresh political mandate that could help him weather possible charges in corruption investigations.

The Israeli leader is enmeshed in three graft cases and denies any wrongdoing.

Should Israel’s attorney-general decide to press charges against Netanyahu, he would announce the indictment pending a hearing, after which charges could be filed in court.

Asked at a news conference in Rio de Janeiro whether he would bow out of the election race should that happen, Netanyahu said: “I don’t intend to resign.”

“According to the law, the prime minister does not have to resign during the hearing process ... The hearing doesn’t end until my side is heard,” he said.

“Imagine what would happen if a prime minister is ousted before the hearing is finished, and then after the hearing they decide to close the case. It’s absurd. It’s a terrible blow to democracy.”

The indictment decision had been expected within weeks, but some analysts say the attorney general could opt to delay the move out of concern he might influence the outcome of the election. The Justice Ministry has promised to continue its work “independent of political events”.

Opinion polls show Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party easily winning the April 9 vote, which was originally scheduled for November.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/01/Israel-s-Netanyahu-said-would-not-resign-during-possible-indictment-hearing.html

--------

 

Israeli general sees possible threat from Iraq as Iran’s clout grows

1 January 2019

Iran could use its growing clout in Iraq to turn it into a springboard for attacks against Israel, the chief of Israeli military intelligence said on Monday.

Israel sees the spread of Tehran’s influence in the region as a growing threat, and has carried out scores of air strikes in civil war-torn Syria against suspected military deployments and arms deliveries by Iranian forces supporting Damascus.

Iraq, which does not share a border with Israel, is technically its enemy but was last an open threat in the 1991 Gulf War. Since a US-led invasion in 2003 toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, Israel has worried that Iraq’s Shiite majority could tilt towards Iran.

“Iraq is under growing influence of the (covert Iranian foreign operations unit) Quds Force and Iran,” military intelligence chief Major-General Tamir Hayman told a conference in Tel Aviv.

With US President Donald Trump disengaging from the region, Hayman said, the Iranians may “see Iraq as a convenient theatre for entrenchment, similar to what they did in Syria, and to use it as a platform for a force build-up that could also threaten the State of Israel”.

Iraq’s prime minister said on Sunday that security officials from Baghdad had met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, and hinted at a bigger Iraqi role fighting ISIS extremist group as US troops withdraw.

Citing Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources, Reuters reported in August that Iran had transferred short-range ballistic missiles to Shiite allies in Iraq. Baghdad denied the findings.

The following week, Israel said it might attack such sites in Iraq, effectively expanding a campaign now focused on Syria.

Hayman predicted 2019 would bring “significant change” to Syria, where Assad has beaten back rebels with the help of Russia, Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah reinforcements, and where Trump this month ordered a pullout of US troops.

“This presence of Iran, with Syria’s return to stabilization under a Russian umbrella, is something we are watching closely,” he said.

Israel has also been monitoring Iranian conduct since Trump quit the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran in May and re-imposed US sanctions. The deal placed caps on nuclear projects with bomb-making potential, though Iran denied having such designs. Trump, with Israeli support, deemed the caps insufficient.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/01/Israeli-general-sees-possible-threat-from-Iraq-as-Iran-s-clout-grows.html

--------

 

Baha’is fear for members excluded from Yemen prisoner swap

1 January 2019

The Baha’i community voiced fresh concern Monday for members of the faith detained in Yemen under the pro-Iranian Houthi militias, saying that prisoners have been excluded from a swap planned with the government.

The Houthis who have a control over the capital Sanaa, and the legitimate Yemeni government in December agreed on a mass prisoner swap, exchanging more than 15,000 names, in a rare sign of hope in ending one of the world’s most devastating conflicts.

But the Baha’is, whose religion is opposed by Iran’s Shiite clerical regime, said the Houthi militias had balked at including six Baha’is who had been on the list.

Instead, the community said it has learned that the Houthis were pressing for an abrupt appeals hearing to take place Tuesday on Hammed bin Haidara, a Baha’i who has been sentenced to death, and for quick verdicts against 24 other detained Baha’is who could also face the death penalty on religious grounds.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/01/01/Baha-is-fear-for-members-excluded-from-Yemen-prisoner-swap.html

--------

 

WFP says Yemen food aid being stolen in Houthi-run areas

1 January 2019

Food aid meant for starving Yemenis is being stolen and sold in some areas controlled by Houthis, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said on Monday.

After hearing that humanitarian food was being sold on the open market in Sanaa, WFP said it found many people had not received the food rations to which they are entitled, and that at least one local partner organization affiliated with the Houthi Ministry of Education was committing fraud.

“This conduct amounts to the stealing of food from the mouths of hungry people,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley said. “At a time when children are dying in Yemen because they haven’t enough food to eat, that is an outrage. This criminal behavior must stop immediately.”

Houthi officials contacted by Reuters did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Yemen’s war and the ensuing economic collapse have left 15.9 million people, 53 percent of the population, facing “severe acute food insecurity” and famine was a danger if immediate action was not taken, a survey said this month.

WFP is trying to get food aid to as many as 12 million severely hungry people.

It said its monitors had gathered photographic and other evidence of trucks illicitly removing food from designated food distribution centers and local officials falsifying records and manipulating the selection of beneficiaries.

“It was discovered that some food relief is being given to people not entitled to it and some is being sold for gain in the markets of the capital,” the WFP statement said.

Beasley said he was asking the Houthi authorities to stop food being diverted and make sure it reaches the people who need it.

Herve Verhoosel, WFP spokesman in Geneva, said WFP was looking at the possibility of distributing cash to needy people, if a biometric identification system could be introduced, using personal data including iris scans and finger prints.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/01/01/WFP-says-Yemen-food-aid-being-stolen-in-Houthi-run-areas.html

--------

 

Israel received most condemnations at UN in 2018: Report

Jan 1, 2019

Israel faced the most condemnations at the United Nations in 2018, with the General Assembly passing at least 20 resolutions against Tel Aviv for human rights abuses, illegal settlement construction on occupied Palestinian territory as well as its continued occupation of East Jerusalem al-Quds, a report said.

The UN approved at least six anti-Israel resolutions in a single day on November 30, while a separate resolution passed in December renewed condemnation of the US unilateral recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital,” Turkey's official Anadolu news agency reported on Monday.

The resolutions further voiced support for long-stalled efforts to achieve a so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while separately censuring Israel’s continued occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights.

Israel seized some two thirds of the rocky plateau in southwestern Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War. It later unilaterally annexed the occupied territory in a move not recognized by the international community.

Last month, outgoing US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley criticized the world body for condemning Israel at least 500 times over the years.

She made the comments after a US-sponsored draft resolution seeking to condemn the Palestinian resistance group Hamas at the United Nations General Assembly failed to gain sufficient traction.

Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds during the Six Day War in 1967. It later annexed East Jerusalem al-Quds in a move not recognized by the international community.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built illegally since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The continued expansion of Israeli settlements is one of the major obstacles to the establishment of peace in the Middle East.

In recent months, Tel Aviv has stepped up its settlement construction activities in the occupied Palestinian lands in a blatant violation of international law and in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334.

European nations and the United Nations, among others, maintain their strong opposition to settlement building in Palestinian territories.

Tensions have also been running high in the occupied territories over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital and relocation of the US embassy to the occupied city.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/01/584548/UN-antiIsrael-resolutions-Palestine

--------

 

Israel jails mentally ill Palestinian for Briton’s killing

December 31, 2018

JERUSALEM: An Israeli court sentenced a Palestinian to 18 years imprisonment on Monday for stabbing to death a British woman in Jerusalem last year, under a plea bargain acknowledging he is mentally ill.

Jamil Tamimi, 59, killed 21-year-old exchange student Hannah Bladon on a tram as she was going to the church where she volunteered, the court heard. He targeted her at random when she came within his reach after offering her seat to an older woman, stabbing her at least seven times.

“This was not a terrorist incident ... This was a terrible murder carried out by a mentally ill person,” the prosecutor said, explaining why a life prison sentence had not been sought, according to a court transcript.

Tamimi’s lawyer said the defendant attacked Bladon in a rage at his sons insisting that he stay in a mental institution rather than with them. “This drove him to stab a person to death so that he would be shot dead,” the lawyer said.

In the April 14, 2017 incident, Tamimi was overpowered and arrested.

Dozens of Palestinians who carried out similar attacks, many of them as a political act against Israel, have been shot by security forces or armed civilians.

Bladon’s relatives said the sentence was too lenient.

“For the family, it makes no difference whether this was a terror attack or just another crazed murderer,” the family’s representative, Israeli lawyer Maurice Hirsch, told Reuters.

“They are outraged by the leniency of the sentence. They expected that Hannah’s murderer would spent the rest of his life behind bars.”

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1428626/middle-east

--------

 

Africa

 

Burkina Faso declares state of emergency in north following attacks

Dec 31, 2018

Burkina Faso has declared a state of emergency in several northern provinces, a government spokesman says, as extremist groups intensify attacks in areas bordering Mali.

Security has deteriorated in the West African country as militants seek to increase their influence across the poorly policed scrublands of the Sahel region just south of the Sahara Desert.

Burkinabe authorities are facing security problems from "the diffuse, cross-border nature of the terrorist threat," government spokesman Remy Fulgance Dandjinou said following a special meeting of the cabinet.

Last week, ten gendarmes were killed in an attack near the Malian border claimed by Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), an umbrella group for al-Qaeda-linked militants in the Sahara.

JNIM claimed responsibility for other attacks this year, including one in the capital Ouagadougou in March that killed about eight security agents and wounded dozens of others.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for a raid on a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou in January 2016 in which 30 people were killed. AQIM merged with other local militant groups last year to form JNIM.

Thousands of people have fled their homes as a result of the attacks and reprisals by Burkinabe security forces, Human Rights Watch reported in May.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/31/584493/Burkina-Faso-Mali-border-state-of-emergency-militants-security

--------

 

Chaos in Khartoum as Sudanese forces break up protest against Omar Al Bashir

Elzahraa Jadallah

December 31, 2018

At least two people were killed and six injured when Sudanese security forces broke up a march against President Omar Al Bashir in Khartoum on Sunday, witnesses said.

The protesters died after being shot in the head, while five of the wounded suffered head injuries from tear gas canisters. A doctor was shot in the thigh.

Security forces fired tear gas and shot in the air as hundreds of people gathered at the Alqandoul roundabout in Khartoum, the starting point for a march to the presidential palace to demand that Mr Al Bashir step down. Police were seen firing their weapons as they chased groups of protesters who scattered into surrounding streets.

The protest was the latest in nearly two weeks of nationwide demonstrations that began on December 19 after the government tripled the price of bread. Seventeen protesters and two security personnel have been killed, and more than 200 people were injured, according to the last government toll issued on December 27.

Mr Al Bashir met top police officers in the capital on Sunday and ordered them to avoid excessive force against demonstrators after the United Nations called for an investigation into the deaths and violence during the demonstrations.

"We want to maintain security and we want the police to do that by using less force," the president said.

"We admit that we have economic problems... but they can't be solved by destruction, looting, and theft," he said, referring to the torching of buildings and political offices by protesters in several cities.

However, the suppression of Monday's protest was the most violent so far, witnesses said.

Security forces took up positions in key areas of the capital on Sunday night, while cameras were installed at some locations and all stones were removed from the streets in central Khartoum. Roads leading to the starting point for the march were blocked off by security vehicles.

One of the people killed on Monday was a political activist, while the other was a worker at a restaurant in the area who was watching the protest.

The march was called by the Sudanese Professionals Association, which staged a similar rally on December 25 that was broken up by security forces before the protesters could reach the presidential palace.

"We will march towards the presidential palace calling for President Omar Al Bashir to step down," the group said in statement issued on Sunday night.

Demonstrations were also held in Omdurman and other cities on Monday but without major incident.

The protests are backed by opposition groups but political analysts say they are being driven by deep-rooted anger at nearly three decades of poor governance under Mr Al Bashir.

Sudan is facing an acute foreign exchange crisis and inflation is at 70 per cent, leading to shortages of bread and fuel and a steady increase in the cost of essentials.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/africa/chaos-in-khartoum-as-sudanese-forces-break-up-protest-against-omar-al-bashir-1.808077

--------

 

Sudan to form committee to investigate latest protest events

31 December 2018

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir issued a decree on Monday to form an investigating committee, headed by the Minister of Justice, around the latest events that the African country witnessed.

Earlier today, Bashir promised higher salaries and support of vulnerable groups, saying that serious discussions are the only solution to the disagreements.

Bashir, in his speech on Sudan’s 63rd independence day, said that he aims to strengthen and grow political participation without excluding anyone.

He also stressed that Sudan has many international and Arab partnerships to support the country’s economy, and that he looks forward to doubling these efforts, getting closer to the end of this hard phase, and moving to reform.

Bashir also said that he is committed to the 2020 free and honest elections, calling on the opposition to participate in building Sudan saying: “We call upon the Sudanese people to unite and leave violence.”

On Yemen, the president said that his country will continue to support the legitimate government until stability returns to the country.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/12/31/Sudan-s-President-promises-higher-salaries-support-of-vulnerable-groups-.html

--------

 

Jordanian anger at MP calling for including rapists in amnesty law

31 December 2018

Jordanians and members of parliament went angry when Khalil Atieh, member of Jordanian parliament, called for the amnesty law to include several crimes, one of which is rape.

The Jordanian parliament, during a session on Thursday, witnessed Atieh’s call for including some excluded crimes in the amnesty law, such as rape, after charges are dropped.

Members of parliament Khalid al-Fanatseh and Hassan al-Ajarmeh later supported what Atieh was calling for.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/12/31/Jordanian-anger-at-MP-calling-for-including-rapists-in-amnesty-law.html

--------

 

North America

 

Trump gives in to calls to slow down troop pullout from Syria

Jan 1, 2019

United States President Donald Trump has given in to pressure to slow down his planned troop pullout from Syria, permitting the US military four months to withdraw.

The New York Times reported the decision on Monday. Trump had initially given the American forces 30 days for the procedure.

The American president had hinted at a more extensive pullout timetable earlier on Monday, tweeting about "slowly sending our troops back home."

Many military and Pentagon officials had sought to entirely change the president's mind on the planned pullout. Some military officials also argue that more time is required to withdraw the troops in an "orderly" manner.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a vocal supporter of the president, met Trump on the matter on Sunday.

Graham announced that Trump had agreed to put the 30-day evacuation plan in a “pause situation” to reevaluate his decision.

Earlier on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had reportedly urged Trump to slow down the planned withdrawal.

Trump reportedly accepted Netanyahu's request according to Israeli media sources citing an unnamed senior Israeli diplomatic official.

The news comes as Bolton is preparing to visit Turkey and Israel to discuss regional security issues in the coming days.

Two weeks ago, US President Donald Trump abruptly announced that his country had "defeated" Daesh Takfiri terrorists in Syria and would be pulling all 2,000 American forces from the country.

Many believe Trump’s decision upended a central pillar of US Middle East policy, stunning opponents and allies alike.

Speaking to The Washington Post in November, Trump had stressed that “we have reached a point where we don’t have to stay in the Middle East."

Trump, however, refused to call for a complete withdrawal from the region, highlighting Israel's need for US protection.

"One reason to stay is Israel,” said Trump in the interview.

“I told Bibi. And, you know, we give Israel $4.5 billion a year. And they’re doing very well defending themselves, if you take a look,” said Trump. “So that’s the way it is.”

It was not immediately clear, nevertheless, where Trump's $4.5 billion figure came from.

As the US government is in shut down due to a dispute with Congress over the allocation of $5 billion in funds needed for Trump’s proposed southern border wall, the US enforced a whooping 10-year $38-billion aid package to Tel Aviv last October.

The aid package, which includes a record annual $3.3-billion contribution, was signed during the tenure of former US President Barack Obama in 2016 to provide Israel with free military material until 2028 as the regime's forces continue their brutal crackdown of Palestinians protesters.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/01/584528/Netanyahu-pleads-gradual-US-pullout

--------

 

Trump withdrawing from Middle East to focus on China: Academic

Dec 31, 2018

US President Donald Trump is pulling out troops from Syria and ending war in Afghanistan in order to focus on economic negotiations with China, an American writer and academic says.

James Petras, a retired professor who has published on political issues with particular focus on Latin America, the Middle East and imperialism, made the remarks in an interview with Press TV on Monday.

The US has reportedly evacuated a military base in Syria, the first step towards delivering on Trump’s recent pledge to pull American forces out of the Arab country.

According to local residents of al-Malikiya, in the northeastern province of Hasakeh, some 50 American soldiers had already left the base and traveled to a base in Iraq, along with their armored vehicles and other equipment.

“I think it’s very clear to Trump that he needs to adapt a realistic policy, and the US position in Syria has deteriorated, particularly its attempt to work table on both sides. On the one hand, criticizing and attacking ISIS (Daesh), on other hand working with the groups that are close with ISIS,” Petras said. 

“I think Trump is very concerned about the cost of US involvement both material and ideological and diplomatic. He’s been collaborating with the Kurds. And this has created animosity with the Turks,” he stated.

“For Trump, the Turks are more important than Kurds especially in NATO, especially in looking after US interests in the Middle East,” he noted. 

“So I think the Kurds made a dramatic error in putting their eggs in the basket of the US. And now I think Washington is moving to reduce its presence in Afghanistan, a long war which the US has no chance of winning, and to focus on economic negotiations with China,” he stated. 

“I think one can Trump has taken a stand of negotiations with China, and from our understanding the early phase of the negotiations are moving ahead. It looks like there’s some possibility of an agreement, concessions on the part of China, recognition on the part of the US,” the analyst said. 

“Now the big problem is the Democrats in this country. The so-called liberal party has adopted a very militarist position, opposing the withdrawal from Syria, opposing the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and accusing the Trump administration of undermining its negotiations with China,” he said.

“So you have the intensification of the domestic conflict in the United States. But the fact of the matter is the great majority of the US public is not opposed to the withdrawal from the wars in the Middle East nor is it against China Trump coming some agreement,” he observed.

“So I think the problems domestically in the US, particularly the building of the wall between Mexico and the US has emerged as a major point of conflict and closed down of the government,” the academic said. 

On Monday, Trump defended his decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, saying he is "just doing what I said I was going to do" during his 2016 election campaign.

"... I campaigned on getting out of Syria and other places. Now when I start getting out the Fake News Media, or some failed Generals who were unable to do the job before I arrived, like to complain about me & my tactics, which are working," Trump wrote on Twitter.

"Just doing what I said I was going to do!"

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/31/584506/Trump-withdrawing-from-Middle-East-to-focus-on-China

--------

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/different-shades-of-christmas-celebrations-across-the-arab-world/d/117329

 

New Age IslamIslam OnlineIslamic WebsiteAfrican Muslim NewsArab World NewsSouth Asia NewsIndian Muslim NewsWorld Muslim NewsWomen in IslamIslamic FeminismArab WomenWomen In ArabIslamophobia in AmericaMuslim Women in WestIslam Women and Feminism

 




TOTAL COMMENTS:-    


Compose Your Comments here:
Name
Email (Not to be published)
Comments
Fill the text
 
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the articles and comments are the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect that of NewAgeIslam.com.

Content