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Islamic World News (01 Nov 2018 NewAgeIslam.Com)


Hashimpura case: 16 PAC men sentenced to life imprisonment for murder of 38 Muslims
















Photo: At least 50 Muslims were picked up by PAC personnel from Hashimpura village in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, in May 1987 (Picture: Praveen Jain)

 

Bodies of 4,000 Civilians Killed by US, ISIL Found in Raqqa

Nigeria: Another Boko Haram in the Making?

Foreign-born terrorists behind majority of Islamist attacks on the West

India

Hashimpura case: 16 PAC men sentenced to life imprisonment for murder of 38 Muslims

No terror funding in construction of mosque in Haryana: Delhi govt panel

J&K: Two Terrorists Killed in Budgam Encounter; Residents Pelt Stones at Security Forces, Vandalise Media Van

Muslim quota seat matrix: Kerala HC dismisses plea of Karuna, Travancore medical colleges

New Outlets in UAE to Help Absconding Criminals With Jobs, Convert Them to Islam: Report

Islamic jihadi groups in Kerala open 'support outlets' in UAE

India lodges strong protests with Pakistan, China over PoK bus service

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Arab World

Bodies of 4,000 Civilians Killed by US, ISIL Found in Raqqa

Shift in religious discourse on sexual harassment in Egypt

Egypt remands Qaradawi daughter in custody for 45 days

Syrian Army Repels Terrorists' Heavy Attack in Hama Province

Kurdish Militias on Alert after Turkish Troops Intensify Attacks on Northern Syria

US Forces Refuse to Attack ISIL Commanders at Syrian Borders

Fresh Heavy Infighting Reported Between Rival Terrorists in Northern Syria

Syrian Military Source: Army on Verge of Massive Military Operations in Demilitarized Zone

US Warplanes Bomb Eastern Syria Again, Kill More Civilians

US representative for Syria says main goals are confronting ISIS, expelling Iran

5 freed from Gitmo in exchange for Bergdahl join Taliban’s political office in Qatar

Muslim World League chief meets with Russia-Islamic World delegation

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Africa

Nigeria: Another Boko Haram in the Making?

Nigeria arrests 400 Shia Muslims after deadly clashes

Nigerian crackdown on Shiite group sparks fears of escalation

South Sudan rebel leader Machar arrives in capital, first time since 2016

‘Disappearance’ of billions from frozen Qaddafi funds investigated by Belgium

IMN supporters bury protesters killed by Nigerian army

Death toll from attack on Islamic Movement in Nigeria supporters rises to 42

West Africa: Stopping the Spread of Terror Onto West Africa's Coast

Boko Haram: FAO distributes 11,000 fuel-efficient stoves to displaced families in Borno

Kenyan Al Shabaab fighters used as sacrificial lambs, returnee says

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Europe

Foreign-born terrorists behind majority of Islamist attacks on the West

Russian trolls’ priority in UK is stirring hatred of Islam

Militants preparing to stage false flag chemical attack in Syria, Russia warns

Ali Milani, the young Muslim politician challenging Boris Johnson

Ahwazi official tells Al Arabiya English details of Iran attack in Denmark

UK-based anti-Iran TV channel funded by Saudis: Report

Iran summons Danish ambassador over attack allegations

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Pakistan

‘Don’t confront state’: Pak PM Imran Khan warns hardliners protesting SC verdict acquitting Asia Bibi

Acquitting ‘blasphemer’ violation of law: Haq

JUI-F chief predicts fall of govt within next three months

US urges Pakistan to enact law banning radical groups

Christians welcome Aasia case judgement

Provinces paid no heed to center’s security warnings ahead of TLP’s protests

Roads deserted, blocked as religious zealots continue to protest across country

Spain deports Pakistani man over alleged links with Islamic State

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North America

US providing military, logistical support to Daesh terrorists in Syria: Report

Countering the violent extremists among us

Trump is alienating Muslim voters. Can Democrats take advantage?

US Muslim groups raise over $200k for synagogue victims

5 senators urge Trump to suspend Saudi nuclear talks

Muslim advocacy group seeks investigation into mosque threat

Mattis emphasises reconciliation as Taliban join Doha office

Bolton: US doesn’t want to harm friends, allies with Iran sanctions

US watchdog: Afghan forces struggle to regain ground as casualties mount

Trump: I don’t think the Saudis betrayed me on Khashoggi case

Trump pressured to suspend nuclear talks with Saudi

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South Asia

5 key Taliban leaders arrive in Qatar amid ongoing efforts for peace talks revival

Foreigners among 68 militants killed, wounded in Afghan, U.S. forces operations

Kabul control slips, Afghan force losses at record: US watchdog

Myanmar officials visit camps in Bangladesh in effort to kick-start Rohingya repatriation process

ST wins top global award for Rohingya feature

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Southeast Asia

UK confirms reports of Chinese mass internment camps for Uighur Muslims

Former Al-Qaeda, LeT Men among 5 Terror Suspects Arrested, Malaysian Police Say

Mahathir puts Saudi Arabia at a diplomatic arm’s length

Muslim, Christian comedians get death threats over video about cooking pork

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Mideast

Khashoggi strangled and ‘cut into pieces’ in consulate: Turkish prosecutor

Rouhani: Arbaeen trek ‘display of power’ against enemies of Islam

Turkey casts doubt on Saudi help in Khashoggi probe

Oman minister visits Ramallah after Netanyahu talks

Yemen’s Houthi militias kidnap photographer in Sanaa

Arab coalition air raid on Houthi camp in Hodeidah kills 150 militants

US seeking to launch psywar against Iran through illegal bans: Official

UN calls for resumption of Yemen peace talks 'within a month'

Turkish attacks in Syria prompt SDF to halt to fight against Daesh

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/hashimpura-case--16-pac-men-sentenced-to-life-imprisonment-for-murder-of-38-muslims/d/116761

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Hashimpura case: 16 PAC men sentenced to life imprisonment for murder of 38 Muslims

November 1, 2018

Overturning a trial court’s verdict, the Delhi High Court Wednesday convicted 16 former Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel and sentenced them to life imprisonment for the mass murder of 38 Muslims in Hashimpura village in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut in 1987. A two-judge bench, comprising Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel, said the incident was a “targeted killing” of unarmed and defenceless people. The trial court had acquitted them in the case in March 2015 after finding that “it has not been proved beyond reasonable doubts” that the accused were PAC officials.

The accused, who are all retired now, were found guilty of murder and kidnapping, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). There were initially 17 accused, but one died during the course of the trial.

The HC, which was hearing appeals filed by Uttar Pradesh, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and private parties including Zulfiqar Nasir, a survivor of the massacre, had reserved its verdict in the case on September 6.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/hashimpura-case-delhi-high-court-verdict-16-life-imprisonment-5426836/

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Bodies of 4,000 Civilians Killed by US, ISIL Found in Raqqa

Oct 31, 2018

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted a senior medical official in Raqqa named Jamal Issa as saying that the US forces pounded Raqqa city for one month last August without any interruption after transferring the ISIL terrorists from Raqqa to Deir Ezzur, adding that the US airstrikes destroyed over 85% of the city, including all infrastructures, and killed thousands of civilians.

He added that a large number of mass-graves have been found after occupation of Raqqa by the US forces, noting that 4,000 corpses of civilians, including nearly 2,500 children, women and the elderly, have been unearthed from the mass-graves.

Issa said that in addition to the mass-graves, the bodies of hundreds of people have been discovered from rubbles, adding that only 2% of the ruins have been unloaded.

Based on the report, recently a mass-grave containing 1,500 corpses has also been found in Panorama region in Raqqa city where bodies of the civilians killed in the US warplanes' attacks last year were buried.

One year after occupation of Raqqa, mass graves of victims of the US raids and attacks by the ISIL terrorists and the Syrian Democratic Forces are being found regularly in the city.  

The dead bodies of over a dozen civilians killed in the US airstrikes on Raqqa were unearthed one year after Washington and its affiliated militants occupied the city, local sources reported on Monday.

The sources said that the Raqqa civil team has found a sum of 13 corpses of the US air raids victims, including women and children, from under debris of ruined buildings in Panorama neighborhood.

The sources further said that bodies of 3 more civilians were also unearthed from ruined buildings in al-Thakana neighborhood in Raqqa.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970809000618

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Nigeria: Another Boko Haram in the Making?

30 OCTOBER 2018

Deadly clashes between government troops and Shiite Muslims have raised fears that another conflict is about to get out of hand in Nigeria. Civil society is calling on the central government not to repeat past mistakes.

President Muhammadu Buhari's government stands accused of abusing human rights and oppressing a minority group after clashes over the weekend and on Monday, in which scores of people were killed. Nigeria's main Shiite Muslim movement IMN said that troops shot and killed at least 27 of its members during a procession to the capital Abuja. These claims have not been independently verified.

Violence broke out when soldiers at a military checkpoint prevented the procession from entering Abuja to mark Arbaeen which occurs forty days after the Day of Ashura, a day of mourning for Shiites. In the past, the event has often ended in clashes owing to intervention by security forces.

The march at the weekend was more than just a religious rite, since it was also meant to pressure authorities to release the Shiite cleric Ibrahim Zakzaky. The founder and leader of the Shiite Islamist Movement of Nigeria (IMN), has been in jail since December 2015. At the time, security forces killed more than 300 adherents of the movement in the so called Zaria massacre in Kaduna state.

Another Boko Haram?

Nigeria's Moslems are mainly Sunnites and there was no real voice for the Shiite minority until IMN was founded in the 1980s by Zakzaky. Michael Olufemi Sodipo, project coordinator for the Peace Initiative Network, a Nigerian peacebuilding organization, told DW that the movement grew out of student enthusiasm for the Iranian revolution. The number of Shiites in the country is estimated at three million, a number big enough to scare the central government. "The Shia ideology is in opposition of what the establishment follows, which is Saudi Arabian Wahabism. And the IMN has a lot of followers in the north. We are also entering an election period," Sodipo said.

Nigerians all over the country are increasingly worried that the IMN could turn into a second Boko Haram. The movement itself denies any plans to take up arms. IMN spokesman Ibrahim Musa told DW that he rejects analogies between his movement and Boko Haram: "The Islamic movement is guided by and led by the principles of Islam, and Islam is a religion of peace. It only calls on people to understand it, it doesn't force people to follow it," he said.

Pressing need for dialogue

Boko Haram also started as a non-violent group that turned deadly after its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed by the police in 2009. Ibrahim Gwamna Msheliza, a political analyst from Maiduguri, says the central authorities have learned nothing from what happened in the northeast. "Instead of listening to these people and trying to address their problems, [they] come up and start shooting people," he told DW, adding that radicalizing the group will only lead to more violence.

Michael Olufemi Sodipo wants to prevent more violence from happening. He was in Kaduna in 2015 when the massacre took place. He was also in Kano in November 2016, when at least 10 people were killed by the police. But he won't give up hope for peace. "In 2017 we organized a dialogue between the police and IMN and other Islamic sects in Kano. The result was that everybody showed respect to each other," he said. As Kano has been spared clashes since then, the initiative succeeded, the activist believes.

Saudi Arabia and Iran's proxy war

However, dialogue alone will not be enough to solve a problem which has international dimensions, Sodipo admits. He has no doubts that Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in a proxy war in northern Nigeria, as they are in Yemen. "That's why we also have to rely on international actors, like the US, the British, the French and other leading powers in the world," Sodipo said.

For him, responsibility lies primarily with the Nigerian government. "The government must follow the rule of law and comply with the court ruling," Sodipo said, referring to a court order that Zakzaky and his wife should be released. The cleric, who is in his mid-sixties and lost the sight in one eye during the 2015 clashes, has only been seen in public twice since he was detained. He and his wife are said to be in poor health.

https://allafrica.com/stories/201810310111.html

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Foreign-born terrorists behind majority of Islamist attacks on the West

October 31, 2018

Two-thirds of Islamist extremist attacks on western targets were carried out by foreign-born terrorists in 2017 despite government fears of an increased threat from homegrown radicals and returning fighters from Syria, according to a report published on Wednesday.

An analysis of 122 terrorist attacks committed in 2016 and 2017 highlighted the changing nature of modern terrorism with a slight decline in the number of plots connected to ISIS but a rise in attacks by far-right groups.

Some 280 people were killed and nearly 2,000 injured in western democracies with the UK, US and France bearing the brunt of violence over the two years. The report by the London-based Henry Jackson Society – Terrorism in the West: an age of extremes - showed that 84 per cent of deaths were attributed to Islamist attacks.

The role of overseas-born fighters in Islamist attacks – up from 40 per cent in 2016 – was in part caused by failures of social integration, poor border security checks and failures of intelligence, according to the report’s author, Tom Wilson.

He highlighted the role of Moroccan-born terrorists in the 2017 attacks in Barcelona and nearby Cambrils that left 16 dead when pedestrians were mown down by a van driven by a member of the gang on the famous La Rambla thoroughfare. Many of those involved in the plot had lived in Spain for years.

In contrast, an Iraqi teenager who left a homemade bomb on a London underground train in 2017 had only claimed asylum in the UK the previous year when he claimed that he had been trained to kill by ISIS.

“A few came simply as terrorists but for the sole purposes of terrorism,” he said highlighting a machete attack by an Egyptian national on a soldier outside the Louvre art museum in Paris. The attacker had travelled to France on a tourist visa.

The data showed that the number of attacks by far-left and far-right terrorist groups almost reached the levels of Islamist-inspired groups in 2017.

The sharp uptick of far-right activity – predominantly in the United States – appeared to correspond with online activity that has sought to harness issues such as the migrant crisis and terrorism to stoke tensions within western societies.

“Given the volume and tone of this content, it is not surprising that we are now seeing an increase in violence,” said Mr Wilson.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/foreign-born-terrorists-behind-majority-of-islamist-attacks-on-the-west-1.786661

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India

 

No terror funding in construction of mosque in Haryana: Delhi govt panel

October 31, 2018

A fact-finding committee of the Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC) did not find any evidence showing that terrorist organisation’s money was used in the construction of a mosque in Haryana’s Palwal, according to its report released Wednesday. The four-member panel, led by human rights activist and DMC advisor Ovais Sultan, was formed to look into media reports quoting anonymous sources in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) claiming that money routed from Pakistan-based terrorist Hafiz Saeed’s Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation could have been used in the construction of the mosque.

“The committee did not come across any evidence to state that the terror funding was received for the construction of the Khulafa-e-Rashideen mosque in Uttawar in Palwal, as was alleged in media reports quoting anonymous NIA sources,” Ovais said. The panel had visited the village, where the mosque is located, on October 20. In July, the NIA had filed a case to probe the terror funding module linked to Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation — a front organisation of the banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). According to the FIR, some Delhi-based individuals were receiving funds from FIF operatives based abroad and were using it for terror activities.

During investigation, it emerged that Mohammad Salman, a resident of the Nizamuddin area in New Delhi, was in regular touch with a Dubai-based Pakistani national, who in turn is connected to the Deputy Chief of Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation. The NIA had on September 25 conducted searches at the premises of Mohammad Salman in Nizamuddin, Daryaganj-resident Mohd Salim (hawala operator) and Rajaram in Kucha Ghasiram in New Delhi, and seized Rs 1.56 crore in cash, Rs 43,000 in Nepali currency, 14 mobiles phones, five pen drives and several incriminating documents.

Following the seizure of incriminating material, the NIA had arrested from Delhi FIF member Mohammad Salman (52), and Hawala operators Mohd Salim alias Mama (62) and Sajjad Abdul Wani (34), a resident of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, according to an official release issued then. FIF is placed on the list of terrorist organisations here and it was also designated as a terrorist entity by the USA in 2010. As per the report of the DMC, local Muslims and Hindus have together donated 10 acres of land for the construction of the mosque and a madrassa. Accused Salman also donated some money for it after selling his ancestral land in the village, Ovais said.

He said that the mosque belongs to Tablighi Jamaat whereas, LeT and FIF belong to Salafi school of thought and the two do not agree with each others’ teachings and practices. “So, there is no question of collaboration between them or funds being given to the mosque,” Ovais said. The committee has recommended the chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission to write to the Union Home Secretary about “procedural lapses” in the case being probed by the NIA and issue an advisory to all media houses and agencies to be careful in reporting the alleged terror-related cases.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/haryana-palwal-mosque-no-terror-funding-hawala-delhi-govt-panel-nia-5427937/

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J&K: Two Terrorists Killed in Budgam Encounter; Residents Pelt Stones at Security Forces, Vandalise Media Van

November 1, 2018

Srinagar: Two terrorists were killed in an encounter that broke out between terrorists and security forces at Zagoo Arizal area in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir during wee hours on Thursday. A search and cordon operation was launched in the area after the forces received specific inputs of at least 2-3 terrorists hiding in the region.

“Two terrorists were eliminated in the encounter. We had been tracking this group for some time, they were here probably to create unrest for upcoming Panchayat elections. We have recovered two-AK 47s and one pistol,” Colonel AK Nair, Commanding Officer, 53 Rashtriya Rifles, said.

The Budgam encounter comes a couple of days after two terrorists were gunned down by security forces during an encounter at Tral in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district. One of the slain militants was reportedly identified as Mohammad Usman, the nephew of Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, while the other was identified as Showkat Ahmad, a local. The forces recovered an M-4 carbine from militants.

Receiving specific inputs about the presence of militants in the area, security forces had launched a cordon and search operation in Chaanketaar village of Tral in south Kashmir district on Tuesday afternoon.

“Two bodies were recovered after a day-long encounter that broke in Chaanketaar village of Tral in Pulwama district,” officials said.

Meanwhile on October 26, an Indian Army soldier was killed in action and two terrorists were neutralised after an encounter broke out in Sopore town of Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla district.

Full report at:

https://www.india.com/news/india/jammu-and-kashmir-encounter-underway-in-zangoo-arizal-area-of-budgam-3-terrorists-trapped-3409602/

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Muslim quota seat matrix: Kerala HC dismisses plea of Karuna, Travancore medical colleges

01st November 2018

KOCHI: The High Court on Wednesday dismissed the petitions filed by Karuna Medical College (MC) and Travancore Medical College challenging the seat matrix for Muslim quota prepared by the government for admissions in the colleges.

The court held a minority community educational institution has no right to categorise its beneficiaries into different sects within the community and allocate the community seats reserved for candidates from these different sects.

The petitioners argued Article 30 (1) of the Constitution confers a very valuable right on minority communities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

Government Pleader V Manu submitted the reservation sought for by the petitioners was not permissible either in law or fact. Though minority educational institutions are entitled to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice, while making admissions they are bound to make their choice from within a common source of candidates.

Here, the common source is the NEET rank list. They have no freedom to choose their own source of candidates.

Quoting the government’s submission, the HC said some 10,000 Muslim candidates figure in rank list, which is over  three times the total number of seats.  Hence there are  enough candidates for filling up seats in Muslim-run minority educational institutions.

In Karuna MC, of the 70 seats for  Muslims - 15 for those from  Palakkad, five from All India, seven  for dependents of Safe Development Alms Trust, 10 for District Salafi Educational Association, three seats for PMAC Committee, three for dependents of Al Nazar Trust, three for Grace Educational Trust, three for Prime Educational and Charitable Trust, three for KMEA, three for Salsabeel Educational Welfare Trust, five for NRI open merit quota and 10 seats for NRI Muslim community.

Full report at:

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2018/nov/01/muslim-quota-seat-matrix-kerala-hc-dismisses-plea-of-karuna-travancore-medical-colleges-1892670.html

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New Outlets in UAE to Help Absconding Criminals With Jobs, Convert Them to Islam: Report

November 1, 2018

New Delhi: The Home Ministry has received Intelligence communication that Kerala-based jehadi groups have opened business outlets in UAE. These outlets are meant to provide employment to Indians with a criminal background staying put in Gulf countries to evade arrest back home. According to an exclusive Zee News report, dozens of such outlets have been opened in many parts of UAE. (Also read: Chidambaram Says Calling Rahul Jehadi-Maoist Sympathiser Absurd)

The Intelligence report, accessed by Zee News, said jehadi business outlets had a team of volunteers targeting economically weaker sections of Indian expatriates in UAE, eventually motivating them to convert to Islam.

It said these volunteers then persuade these converts to encourage their relatives to accept Islam and collect funds in the name of Islamic ‘Daawa’ activities. A Home Ministry official was quoted as saying, “We have input that one jehadi group of Kerala is collecting Rs 3 crore in Qatar for managing the court cases of Muslim groups who participated in various protests in India. Their members in Qatar are also sending money to Kerala through Hawala channels.”

A number of cases reported from Kerala in the past decade show that it has emerged as a hub for radicalization. According to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), around 54 people from Kerala have joined ISIS so far. “We are trying to ascertain how many jehadis with a criminal background or those convicted are hiding in UAE and also who are the leaders in Kerala linked to their network,” said another Home Ministry official. As per media reports, the Centre was mulling over a ban on Popular Front of India (PFI) for the alleged involvement of its members in murder cases.

Full report at:

https://www.india.com/news/india/kerala-based-groups-open-outlets-in-uae-to-help-absconding-criminals-convert-them-to-islam-report-3409687/

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Islamic jihadi groups in Kerala open 'support outlets' in UAE

Oct 31, 2018

New Delhi: Intelligence agencies have warned in a letter to the Home Ministry that jehadi groups based in Kerala have opened business outlets in UAE to provide jobs to Indians with criminal background who are hiding in Gulf countries to evade arrest back home.

It is learnt that dozens of outlets have been opened in many parts of UAE to provide 'refuge'.

The report, accessed by Zee News, reveals that jehadi business outlets have a team of dedicated volunteers who target economically weaker sections of Indian expats in UAE and start motivating them to adopt Islam.

The forum is also persuading recently converted Muslims to encourage their relatives to accept Islam and collect funds in the name of Islamic 'Daawa' activities. The volunteers are urging them to 'Satya Sarn' in Manjeri of Kerala for further indoctrination in Islam and are reportedly providing them with financial assistance for the same.

"We have input that one jehadi group of Kerala is collecting Rs 3 Crores in Qatar for managing the court cases of Muslim groups who participated in various protest in India. Their members in Qatar are also sending money to Kerala through Hawala Channels," said a Home Ministry official.

Kerala has been a hub for radicalization and this has been proven in a number of cases that have been reported from the state over the last decade. According to National Investigation Agency (NIA), around 54 people have joined ISIS from Kerala so far.

"We are trying to ascertain how many jehadis having criminal background and those convicted are hiding in UAE and also who are the leaders in Kerala linked to their network," said another Home Ministry official.

As per media reportsm, the Indian government is considering a ban on Popular Front of India (PFI) for the alleged involvement of its members

Full report at:

http://zeenews.india.com/india/zee-news-exclusive-islamic-jihadi-groups-in-kerala-open-support-outlets-in-uae-2152313.html

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India lodges strong protests with Pakistan, China over PoK bus service

Oct 31, 2018

NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday said it has lodged strong protests with China and Pakistan over a proposed bus service between the two countries through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) under the ChinaPakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

Ministry of external affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Wednesday the bus service will be a violation of India's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

According to reports, the new bus service will be launched between Lahore in Pakistan and Kashgar in China via Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on November 13.

Kumar said it has been India's consistent and well-known position that the "so-called China-Pakistan 'Boundary Agreement' of 1963 is illegal and invalid, and has never been recognised by the Government of India."

"Therefore, any such bus service through Pakistan Occupied Jammu & Kashmir will be a violation of India's sovereignty and territorial integrity," he added.

The MEA spokesperson was responding to media queries regarding the proposed bus service.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-lodges-strong-protests-with-pakistan-china-over-pok-bus-service/articleshow/66451805.cms

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Arab World

 

Shift in religious discourse on sexual harassment in Egypt

31 October 2018

Sexual harassment has for years been plaguing the Egyptian society and endless initiatives were launched in an attempt to counter the growing phenomenon. It was only recently that al-Azhar, Egypt’s highest religious authority, decided to step in. Following an incident that went viral on social media, al-Azhar issued a statement in which it supported the criminalization of sexual harassment regardless of the circumstances and asserted that sexual harassment is religiously forbidden. The most remarkable part of the statement was the one about women’s responsibility, which has always been a point of contention in the debate about sexual harassment especially amongst religious scholars.

“Linking sexual harassment to women’s behavior or clothes is unacceptable,” said the statement. “Sexual harassment is a violation of women’s privacy, freedom, and dignity and its prevalence compromises their feelings of security.” The statement added that a society only becomes civilized when it respects women. Through its unconditional support for women, the statement did mark a major shift in religious discourse in Egypt, but whether it would have the desired impact on the ground remains to be seen.

While the statement conveyed an undebatable state on sexual harassment, questions about whether different departments and scholars at al-Azhar adopt the same view. This was mainly because a few hours after the statement was issued, the Azhar-affiliated Global Center for Electronic Religious Edicts, issued a report in which women were partially held accountable for sexual harassment. The report, which constituted the conclusion of a workshop on sexual harassment organized by the center, cited women’s appearance as one of the triggers of sexual harassment. “We condemn men’s behavior, but this does not mean that women are not to blame,” said the report. “While men are required not to gaze at women, women are also required to cover up.”

Mohamed Abdel Fadil, head of the Global Center for electronic Religious Edicts, denied allegations that al-Azhar is divided over the issue of sexual harassment. “The center did not issue a statement like al-Azhar did. This was just a report that summed up scholars’ input during the workshop,” he said, adding that workshop included different points of view on the issue. “The report is in no way a religious edict.”

Human rights researcher Amr Ezzat said that the discrepancy between the statement and the report is due to one of two possibilities. “The first possibility is that the stance taken in the statement did not go beyond the office of al-Azhar’s grand imam, which means it would not have the expected impact on society,” he said. “The second possibility is that different entities within al-Azhar have a communication problem.”

Ezzat commented on removing the report from the center’s website a few hours after its release as an indication that the statement was given precedence and that it represents the official stance of al-Azhar on sexual harassment. Ezzat, however, argued against the intervention of al-Azhar in the issue in the first place. “Even though the content of the statement is extremely positive, I still believe that al-Azhar should stick to its scholarly role and not interfere in issues related to freedoms and rights.”

In what seemed to be a confirmation of al-Azhar’s stance, the cover of its official newspaper Sawt al-Azhar (Voice of the Azhar) featured a number of unveiled women writers and activists whose views on sexual harassment were discussed in the issue. This was seen by women rights activists as a remarkable change in al-Azhar’s view on women’s dress code, an argument that was confirmed by the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Ahmed al-Sawi. “We wanted to show that al-Azhar does not categorize women based on their clothes and that harassment is unacceptable regardless of how a woman looks or what she wears,” he said. Sawi added that al-Azhar started a new approach based on involvement in social issues in order to take part in introducing reforms to society. “Through dealing with such issues, al-Azhar asserts its role as the beacon of moderate Islam.” Women rights activist and head of the Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance Azza Soliman, one of the women on the newspaper’s cover, argued that while al-Azhar discourse on women’s issues has been quite moderate, action on the ground is still lacking. “The fact the al-Azhar is now addressing sexual harassment is very positive, yet it still needs to communicate with women’s right organizations and civil society to come up with real solutions,” she said, adding that al-Azhar should impact society through a discourse that supports women rights in general and stresses the necessity of respecting women.

Divisions within al-Azhar were, however, demonstrated by the individual comments of its scholars on the statement. Professor of Islamic culture at al-Azhar University Mohamed Abu Zeid al-Fiki argued that the statement looks at only one side of the problem.

“The statement overlooked the fact that women are required to dress decently and not to wear makeup in public, hence are also responsible,” he said. Fiki called upon al-Azhar to issue another statement in which they call upon girls to dress modestly and to abandon attempts at becoming attractive. Professor of comparative jurisprudence Ahmed Kerima begged to differ. “The statement issued by al-Azhar prioritized warding off harm over making gains,” he said. “Seeing the phenomenon of sexual harassment growing, al-Azhar saw that its main mission is to counter it and warn people of its consequences, which is now the main priority.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2018/10/31/5-freed-from-Gitmo-in-exchange-for-Bergdahl-join-Taliban-s-political-office-in-Qatar.html

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Egypt remands Qaradawi daughter in custody for 45 days

30.10.2018

CAIRO

An Egyptian court has remanded the daughter of prominent Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi in custody for a further 45 days pending further investigation into charges against her, according to Egypt’s official MENA news agency.

Along with her husband, Ola al-Qaradawi, 55, was arrested from her home in June of last year by the Egyptian authorities, who later accused her of having links to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.

On Tuesday, a Cairo criminal court ruled to prolong the couple’s detention by an additional 45 days amid accusations that they had helped fund “terrorism”, MENA reported.

The news agency added that 15 other individuals in the same case had also had their detention extended.

Earlier this month, the al-Qaradawi family said that Ola’s health had deteriorated while in detention.

In August, the Egyptian authorities froze Ola’s financial assets, along with those of her six brothers.

Two months earlier, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain jointly accused 59 individuals -- along with 12 Qatar-based charity organizations -- of having “links to terrorism”.

The list included the elder al-Qaradawi, who currently serves as president of the Qatar-based International Union for Muslim Scholars.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/egypt-remands-qaradawi-daughter-in-custody-for-45-days/1298226

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Syrian Army Repels Terrorists' Heavy Attack in Hama Province

Oct 31, 2018

The Syrian Army's missile and artillery units opened heavy fire at a group of terrorists in the village of Atshan in Northern Hama, repelling their attack on the government forces' positons.

Other artillery units pounded terrorists' strongholds in the town of al-Latamina in Northern Hama, inflicting major damage on them.

Terrorists suffered heavy casualties in the failed attack and pulled the remaining pockets of gunmen from the battlefield. 

Earlier today, the Russian Defense Ministry's Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria registered several ceasefire violations in the Syrian provinces of Lattakia and Hama over the past 24 hours.

"Despite the ceasefire regime being established throughout the country, there are still cases of ceasefire regime violation by illegal armed formations in the Idlib de-escalation zone. Over the past day they attacked Tall-Bazzam, and Maan (two times) in Hama province, and Ikko in Lattakia province," the bulletin read, Sputnik reported.

"The Russian Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides urges leaders of illegal armed formations operating in the Idlib de-escalation zone to cease hostilities and move towards peaceful settlement of the situation in areas they occupy," the bulletin read.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970809000723

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Kurdish Militias on Alert after Turkish Troops Intensify Attacks on Northern Syria

Oct 31, 2018

The sources said that the Turkish army's mortar units pounded the Kurdish militias' positions in a border-crossing near the town of Tal Abyadh in Northern Raqqa.

They further said that an SDF gunman was killed and another one war injured in the attack.

In the meantime, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) kept forces on alert in the town of Ra'as al-Ein in Northwestern Hasaka at the border with Turkey.

Ankara has several times in the last week threatened the Kurds of military operation.

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted sources close to the National Liberation Front (NFL) terrorist group as saying on Monday that while implementation of the Sochi agreement to create a demilitarized zone in Northern Syria has come to a halt, Ankara ordered its allied militants in Idlib and Northern and Western Aleppo to get ready for a major assault on the Kurds in Northern Syria.

It added that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan grew disappointed at Washington's promises on the Manbij agreement, and Ankara decided to engage in clashes with the Kurds in Eastern Euphrates.

Meantime, local and Kurdish sources in Ein al-Arab (Kobani) in Eastern Euphrates reported that Turkey intends to gain full control over the region to later advance to other regions controlled by the Kurds in Eastern Euphrates.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970809000621

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US Forces Refuse to Attack ISIL Commanders at Syrian Borders

Oct 31, 2018

Ahmad Nasrallah, the commander of Hashd al-Shaabi in Western al-Anbar, said on Wednesday that his forces attacked three ISIL gatherings near al-Baqouz region in Syria at the borders with Iraq with artillery fire.

He added that during the operations, 2 notorious ISIL commanders, namely Abu Sayyaf and Abu Laith, who had led the recent ISIL attacks on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has withdrawn from the borders, were killed.

Nasrallah said that Division 8 of the Iraqi army had provided the American forces with intelligence and coordinates of the ISIL concentration centers but they refused to attack the terrorist group.

Local sources in Eastern Syria had disclosed last week that the US forces' backup for ISIL had enabled the terrorists to recapture the entire lands they had lost to the SDF in Eastern Deir Ezzur in the last 2 months.

The Arabic-language website of RT quoted the sources as disclosing that in complete absence of the US-led coalition forces to support the Washington-backed SDF to counter ISIL's heavy offensive, the terrorists managed to recapture the small but key towns of al-Sousah and al-Baqouz in Southeastern Deir Ezzur.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970809000439

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Fresh Heavy Infighting Reported Between Rival Terrorists in Northern Syria

Oct 31, 2018

Tahrir al-Sham stormed the positions of the National Liberation Front and managed to capture the small town of Kafr Hamra.

In the meantime, other units of the National Liberation Front drove Tahrir al-Sham out of Jam'iyat al-Nour region South of the town of Anadan in Northern Aleppo and also captured Tahrir's checkpoints in the small town of Yaqed al-Adas in Northwestern Aleppo.

Meanwhile, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that heavy fighting is underway between Tahrir al-Sham and National Liberation Front over control of the highway that connects Aleppo to the Turkish town of Gaziantep, adding that both warring sides are reinvigorating their positions in Northern and Northwestern Aleppo.

It further said that the National Liberation Front had cut off a road from Tahrir al-Sham's positions in Western Aleppo to the Northwestern part of the province.

A number of terrorists, including commanders, have been killed or wounded in the recent infighting.    

Massdar news reported on Tuesday that Ahrar Al-Sham launched a surprise attack on a military base of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at in the Northwestern part of Aleppo.

The attack resulted in a series of fierce clashes between the two militant groups.

As a result of the Ahrar Al-Sham's attack on Kafr Hamra, two military commanders from Tahrir Al-Sham were reported dead.

The two military commanders of Tahrir Al-Sham were identified by opposition activists as “Abu Turab” and “Abu Akram.”

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970809000531

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Syrian Military Source: Army on Verge of Massive Military Operations in Demilitarized Zone

Oct 31, 2018

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik news agency quoted the source as saying on Tuesday that given Turkey's failure to implement its undertakings based on the Sochi agreement with Russia, the Syrian army will kick off military operations against the terrorists in the demilitarized zone if they continue attacks against the army positions.

He added that Northern Hama has in recent days witnessed attacks by the terrorist groups, specially Horras al-Din, against the Syrian army near the region under the supervision of Turkey near the town of Murak, noting that Jeish al-Izza militants have also sent military equipment from Southern Idlib to al-Latamineh front in Northern Hama.

The source said that the Syrian army has responded to the terrorists' offensives in demilitarized zone so far, adding that the army will launch massive military operations in the region if they continue.

Meantime, the Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper reported that the terrorists are stationed in the arms-free zone from Northeastern Lattakia to Hama, Idlib and Northwestern Aleppo, adding that the army has targeted the moves by Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) terrorist group in the village of al-Janabereh and al-Latamineh in Northern Hama with artillery fire, inflicting heavy tolls on them.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on Tuesday that illegal armed groups with heavy weaponry remained in Syria's Idlib province despite the Russian-Turkish agreements reached in Sochi.

"Speaking of the agreement on Idlib, of the creation of a demilitarized zone 15-20 kilometers wide. Until now, the terrorists are present there with their heavy weapons, which indicates the lack of desire by Turkey to fulfill its obligations," Muallem said at a meeting with the joint delegation of the International Federation of Democratic Youth and the International Peace Council.

The minister concluded that the province was still under control by the terrorists.

"Therefore, the Idlib province is still under control by the terrorists who are supported by Turkey and the West," Muallem stressed.

The statement follows the recent summit on Syria, which took place in Istanbul on October 27, during which Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia reserved the right to give active assistance to the Syrian government in liquidating terrorist threat in the Idlib zone. The president explained that the main threat in the province posed radicals and armed provocations.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970809000274

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US Warplanes Bomb Eastern Syria Again, Kill More Civilians

Oct 31, 2018

The sources said that the warplanes targeted residential areas in the small towns of al-Shafa'ah and al-Kashmah in Southeastern Deir Ezzur on Tuesday afternoon, killing at least 17 civilians, including 4 women and 3 children, and injuring tens of others.

The sources said that death toll is likely to rise as some of the injured are in critical conditions. 

The Arabic-language website of SANA news agency quoted several local sources in Deir Ezzur as saying on Monday that the US warplanes targeted several districts in the town of Hajin in Eastern Deir Ezzur with white phosphorous bombs which are forbidden internationally.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970809000388

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US representative for Syria says main goals are confronting ISIS, expelling Iran

1 November 2018

US Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey said the US has three goals in Syria: To confront ISIS, expel Iranian forces and ones supported by Iran from all Syrian territories and to establish a political process based on international resolution 2254.

Jeffrey told Al Arabiya in Paris that expelling Iran out of Syria is a political goal, hence the US’s mission on that front will not be a military one, adding: “The Israelis did not put the military option aside in Syria, and they’re trying to strike Iran’s military capabilities there.”

He also defended Israeli strikes against Iranian targets and said Israel is responding to the deployment of long-range missiles and the use of drones that infiltrated Israeli airspace more than once.

Jeffrey added that the US wants the Iranians and their supporters as well as all the foreign troops which entered Syria after the conflict to withdraw, “starting with the Russians.. whom we are discussing Iranian presence with on all levels.”

Commenting on Hezbollah’s role in Syria, he said the Lebanese party has been an essential element in guaranteeing the security of the Syrian regime, adding that Iran, which did not want to use ground troops, used Hezbollah, Iraqi militias and Hazara militias instead.

On reports that Hezbollah militants have been returning to Lebanon, Jeffery said: “This will not be surprising because Hezbollah’s ground campaign has ended to a large extent,” hence, some of the group members are returning home.

Commenting on joint American-Turkish patrols in Manbij, west of Euphrates, which Ankara wants to get PKK members out of, he said the US resumes efforts to reach a solution between its “two partners,” the Kurds and Turkey.

On the presence of American troops in northeast Syria, Jeffery said they were coordinating with the Syrian Democratic Forces and with local forces to deter ISIS.

Jeffery, who was the US ambassador to Iraq, said there were challenges in all Arab countries and that one must bear in mind that ISIS had occupied one third of Iraq and that Iraq’s economic power that is based on oil exports decreased due to the decline of oil prices in 2014.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/11/01/US-representative-for-Syria-says-main-goals-are-confronting-ISIS-expelling-Iran.html

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5 freed from Gitmo in exchange for Bergdahl join Taliban’s political office in Qatar

31 October 2018

Five members of the Afghan Taliban who were freed from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for captured American Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl have joined the insurgent group’s political office in Qatar, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Tuesday.

They will now be among Taliban representatives negotiating for peace in Afghanistan, a sign some negotiators in Kabul say indicates the Taliban’s desire for a peace pact.

Others fear the five, all of whom were close to the insurgent group's founder and hard-line leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, bring with them the same ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam that characterized the group's five-year rule that ended in 2001 with the U.S.-led invasion.

"The Taliban are bringing back their old generation, which means the Taliban have not changed their thinking or their leadership," said Haroun Mir, political analyst in the Afghan capital. "What we are more worried about is if tomorrow the Taliban say 'we are ready to negotiate,' who will represent Kabul? That is the big challenge because the government is so divided, not just ideologically but on ethnic lines."

Efforts to find a peaceful end to Afghanistan's protracted war have accelerated since Washington appointed Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad as envoy to find a peaceful end to America's longest war, which has already cost the U.S. more than $900 billion.

But Mohammed Ismail Qasimyar, a member of a government peace council, warned Washington against negotiating peace terms with the Taliban, saying Khalilzad’s only job is to set the stage for direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, something the insurgents have so far refused, calling the government a U.S. puppet.

Taliban officials reported meeting with Khalilzad in Qatar earlier this month, calling the exchange preliminary but pivotal. Washington neither confirmed nor denied the meeting, but Khalilzad was in Qatar at the time.

A Taliban official familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press that talks ended with an agreement to meet again. Key among the Taliban's requests was recognition of their Qatar office, said the official, who spoke on condition he not be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

In an unexpected development, Pakistan also bowed to a long-standing Afghan Taliban demand that it release its senior leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who had been in jail in Pakistan since 2010. At the time, Baradar was reportedly jailed after bypassing Pakistan to open independent peace talks with Hamid Karzai, who was then Afghanistan's president.

Baradar's release followed Khalilzad's first visit to Pakistan since being appointed Washington's peace envoy.

Baradar issued an audio message after his release to the Taliban. The Pashto-language message, heard by an Associated Press reporter, seemed to indicate he was preparing for a role in the insurgent movement moving forward.

Hakim Mujahed, a former Taliban member who is now also a member of the Afghan government peace council, said the presence of the five former Guantanamo prisoners in the Taliban's Qatar office is indicative of the Taliban's resolve to find a peace deal. He said the stature of the five within the insurgent movement will make a peace deal palatable to the rank and file, many of whom have resisted talks believing a military victory was within their grasp.

"These people are respected among all the Taliban," said Mujahed. "Their word carries weight with the Taliban leadership and the mujahedeen."

But there are some among the five who have a disturbing past.

Human Rights Watch accused Mohammed Fazl, the former Taliban army chief arrested in 2002, of overseeing the deaths of thousands of minority Shiites in 2000. The massacre outraged the world and followed the killing the year before of an estimated 2,000 young ethnic Pashtuns in northern Afghanistan by Taliban rivals.

Another of the five is Khairullah Khairkhwa, a former governor of Herat province, who was close to both Taliban founder Mullah Omar and al- Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Khairkhwa also had a friendship with former president Hamid Karzai.

The others include Abdul Haq Wasiq, deputy intelligence minister, Mullah Norullah Nori, once described as the most significant Taliban leader held at Guantanamo Bay because of his particularly close relationship with Mullah Omar, who fought U.S.-led coalition forces in northern Afghanistan’s Mazar-e-Sharif and Mohammad Nabi Omari, a Taliban communications officer.

All five are from southern Afghanistan, the Taliban's heartland.

The five Taliban were released in 2014 in exchange for Bergdahl during the administration of President Barack Obama after drawn out negotiations.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2018/10/30/Trump-snubs-Modi-by-turning-down-invitation-to-India-s-Republic-Day-celebrations.html

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Muslim World League chief meets with Russia-Islamic World delegation

November 01, 2018

The Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL) Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa received the coordinator of the Russia-Islamic World strategic vision group, Dr. Veniamin Popov, and his accompanying delegation in Riyadh on Wednesday.

During the meeting, a number of issues of common interest were discussed.

The Russia-Islamic World strategic vision group was established in 2006, in response to Russia joining the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as an observer.

The group currently consists of over 30 officials and prominent public figures from 27 Muslim countries.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “I would like to stress that the Islamic world can fully count on Russia’s help and support.”

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1397316/saudi-arabia

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Africa

 

Nigeria arrests 400 Shia Muslims after deadly clashes

31 October 2018

Nigerian police have arrested 400 members of a Shia Muslim sect after days of deadly protests in the capital.

The pro-Iran Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) protesters demanded the release of their leader Ibraheem Zakzaky, in custody for 34 months.

The army admits that three people were killed in clashes in Abuja on Monday, but the IMN says that dozens died.

In 2016, a judicial inquiry found that the army had killed more than 300 Shia Muslims during clashes in the north.

It accused the army of using "excessive force" when trying to head off an alleged attempt to kill army chief Gen Tukur Buratai in Zaria, Kaduna state, in December 2015.

IMN leader Sheikh Zakzaky was arrested in the aftermath and held without charge until April 2018 when he accused in court of inciting violence.

No soldiers have been arrested, despite the judicial inquiry advising prosecutions.

'Dangerous weapons'

The army, which fired live rounds on Monday at the protesters, said the deaths came after the demonstrators tried to overrun a checkpoint.

The security forces also accuse the Shia protesters, who took to the streets of the capital for three days, of having 31 petrol bombs as well as other dangerous weapons.

Shias are minority in Nigeria but their numbers are increasing

The IMN, formed in the 1980s, is the main Shia group led by Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky

They operate their own schools and hospitals in some northern states

They have a history of clashes with the security forces

The IMN is backed by Shia-dominated Iran and its members often go there to study

Sunni jihadist group Boko Haram condemns Shias as heretics who should be killed.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-46042243

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Nigerian crackdown on Shiite group sparks fears of escalation

October 31, 2018

ABUJA: Nigerian police fired shots and tear gas at thousands of supporters of an imprisoned Shiite cleric in Abuja on Tuesday, just a day after three people were killed in similar clashes which sparked warnings to the government that a heavy-handed crackdown could radicalise the group.

At least six Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) supporters have now been killed since Saturday during protests calling for the release of Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been in custody since December 2015.

Nigerian police said 400 members of IMN were arrested, some of whom were carrying “dangerous weapons”.

According to an AFP correspondent at the scene, the march of several thousand IMN members in central Abuja was peaceful, though some unarmed protesters threw stones at police, who then fired into the crowd and used tear gas to stop the procession.

At least six injured IMN members were taken away in cars while the area was patrolled by dozens of police.

“A lot of our people had been injured, so far we don’t have any record of death,” IMN spokesman Ibrahim Musa told AFP.

By Tuesday evening the head of Abuja police Bala Ciroma reported that “a total of 400 members of IMN… who participated in the violent protest of today are currently being detained” for investigation, after which they would be arraigned in court.

He added that “dangerous weapons were also recovered from them.”

Nigeria’s military said on Monday three IMN supporters were killed during another protest on the outskirts of Abuja.

The army said troops and police “repelled the attack” and that IMN “fired weapons” and threw stones and Molotov cocktails.

AFP photographs of the aftermath showed several civilians on the ground near police but it was unclear whether they were dead or injured.

On Saturday, three other IMN members were killed during protests in Abuja.

The army claimed the protesters attacked a military convoy and tried to steal weapons and ammunition — an account the IMN “categorically” denies.

IMN spokesman Musa claimed 27 people have been killed since Saturday and that the death toll could be higher since “scores” of people were injured and troops took away others.

“We are working towards their release to us for burial,” Musa said.

Long-running opposition

Human rights group Amnesty International on Monday said reports that troops fired live bullets at protesters were “very disturbing” and would be unlawful if they were unarmed.

The IMN has staged a series of demonstrations demanding the release of leader Zakzaky, who has been detained since bloody clashes broke out in the northern city of Zaria in 2015.

Then, the military was accused of killing more than 300 IMN supporters and burying them in mass graves.

Zakzaky has been at loggerheads with Nigeria’s secular authorities for years because of his calls for an Iranian-style Islamic revolution. Northern Nigeria is majority Sunni Muslim.

The cleric, who is in his mid-sixties and lost his sight in one eye during the 2015 clashes, has been seen in public only twice since he was detained.

Nigeria’s government has previously ignored a court order to release Zakzaky and his wife.

In April, at least 115 IMN supporters were arrested at protests in Abuja during which police used tear gas and water cannon.

IMN processions for the annual Ashura festival have frequently been flashpoints. In November 2016, at least 10 people were killed when police opened fire near the northern city of Kano.

Radicalisation warning

Sustained clashes and the military’s use of deadly force have raised fears of a repeat of the 2009 crackdown on the Islamist group Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria.

Then, some 800 people, including Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf, were killed in the Borno state capital Maiduguri, forcing the group underground.

They then re-emerged a more deadly force under Yusuf’s deputy, Abubakar Shekau. The insurgency since then has killed more than 27,000 people and displaced more than two million others.

Amaechi Nwokolo, a security analyst at the Roman Institute for International Studies in Abuja, said the security forces had “no right to use that maximum force” on unarmed protesters, warning that it might “motivate others to radicalise”.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, was elected in 2015 on a promise to defeat Boko Haram and bring greater security.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2018/10/31/nigerian-crackdown-on-shiite-group-sparks-fears-of-escalation/

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South Sudan rebel leader Machar arrives in capital, first time since 2016

31 October 2018

South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar returned to the capital Juba on Wednesday, according to a Reuters witness, more than two years after he fled the country after the collapse of a 2016 peace deal.

Machar, the former vice president, fled to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo in 2016 after fierce fighting broke out in Juba, killing hundreds of people.

He later travelled to South Africa, where he was held under house arrest until earlier this year.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/10/31/South-Sudan-rebel-leader-Machar-arrives-in-capital-first-time-since-2016.html

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‘Disappearance’ of billions from frozen Qaddafi funds investigated by Belgium

31 October 2018

Belgium is investigating whether funds up to $5 billion from the frozen funds of late Libyan Moammar Qaddafi were disbursed to unknown people and parties in Libya.

Belgian Attorney General Georges Gilkinet said on Monday that he launched an investigation into the disappearance of billions of dollars from Qaddafi’s bank accounts in Libya, adding that the UN was also investigating this.

Gilkinet told the Belgian television channel RTBF that around $5.6 billion disappeared from Belgian banks, adding that all they know is that hundreds of millions that belong to Qaddafi were sent to unknown figures and parties in Libya.

“This means that Belgium did not commit to the UN’s decision to freeze Qaddafi’s assets,” he also said, and called on the government to clarify what happened “so it does not lead to a huge scandal.”

The issue has sparked controversy in Belgium as there are fears of the government’s possible involvement in disbursing this money to armed militias to fund the war in Libya, strengthen chaos and harm stability.

Belguim had frozen all of Qaddafi’s bank accounts in 2011 in compliance with a UN decision. However it later turned out that it did not halt payments of interest and dividends of these funds as they disappeared from the accounts and were sent to mysterious beneficiaries.

Anwar Orief, the head of a Libyan committee to counter smuggled and looted funds, told Al Arabiya.net that he does not have any information about this case.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2018/10/31/-Disappearance-of-billions-from-frozen-Qaddafi-funds-investigated-by-Belgium.html

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IMN supporters bury protesters killed by Nigerian army

Oct 31, 2018

Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) have buried 42 of their fellow members that have been killed by the Nigerian army during peaceful protests in the capital Abuja over the past two days.

Nigerian army opened fire on members of the IMN who had marched to demand the release of their imprisoned leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, jailed since 2015.

IMN protests have frequently been met with force. In April, police fired bullets and tear gas during days of protests by IMN, wounding at least four protesters.

Rights groups have accused Nigeria's military of killing more than 300 IMN supporters and burying them in mass graves during the 2015 conflicts, a charge the military strongly denies.

Nigeria’s crackdown on IMN followers began in December 2015, when the army attacked a religious ceremony in the city of Zaria in the northern Nigeria. Nigerian forces later raided the house of Sheikh Zakzaky and arrested him after killing those attempting to protect him.

A Federal High Court ordered Zakzaky’s unconditional release in 2016, but the Nigerian government has so far refused to abide by the ruling.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/10/31/578683/Islamic-Movement-in-Nigeria--Sheikh-Ibrahim-Zakzaky

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Death toll from attack on Islamic Movement in Nigeria supporters rises to 42

Oct 31, 2018

The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) says 42 of its members have been killed by Nigerian security forces during protests in the capital Abuja over the past two days.

IMN supporters have taken to the streets over the past two days to demand the government release their imprisoned leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.

The number of fatalities caused by Nigerian fire previously stood at 25.

Nigerian army troops opened fire at protesters on the outskirts of Abuja on Monday. The police shot at marchers in the city center on Tuesday.

"The death toll of yesterday's attack on our members has risen to seven as of now," IMN spokesman Ibrahim Musa said Wednesday.

"They died as a result of the injuries they sustained yesterday. And the number of those killed on Monday at Maraba (an area on Abuja's outskirts) has also risen to 35," he added.

Nigeria’s crackdown on IMN followers began in December 2015, when the army attacked a religious ceremony in the city of Zaria in northern Nigeria. Nigerian forces later raided Zakzaky's house and arrested him after killing those attempting to protect the prominent Muslim cleric.

A Federal High Court had ordered Zakzaky’s unconditional release in 2016, but the Nigerian government has so far refused to abide by the ruling.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/10/31/578650/Nigeria-imn-zakzaky

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West Africa: Stopping the Spread of Terror Onto West Africa's Coast

30 OCTOBER 2018

By Michaël Matongbada

A rising number of attacks by gunmen this year have shaken the eastern part of Burkina Faso, increasing insecurity in the area. Although no group has claimed responsibility, the attackers are believed to be linked to violent extremist groups in the Sahel. These groups have carried out numerous assaults on increasingly ambitious targets, including the 2 March attacks on the country's military headquarters and the French embassy, both in Ouagadougou. They have extended their geographical presence particularly to the Liptako-Gourma border areas, moving through central and southern Mali towards western Niger, and to northern and more recently eastern Burkina Faso.

The proximity of the eastern region to neighbouring Benin and Togo raises the possibility of a spillover of violent extremism from the Sahel into the coastal states of West Africa.

The first attack in the eastern region of Burkina Faso took place on 13 February against defence and security forces in Natiaboani, a town located between Fada N'Gourma and Pama. The region, which borders the W-Arly-Pendjari complex, a large forest reserve previously popular with tourists, and currently a no-go area, has for years been notorious for large-scale banditry.

Subsequent attacks, numbering about 30 so far this year, have been recorded in the region. Although no extremist groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks, the use of improvised explosive devices and the targeting of schools, local authorities, defence and security forces, among others, indicate the probable involvement of extremist groups active in the Sahel. Among them could be elements of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and Ansarul-Islam.

There could be several reasons for the extremists' expansion into Burkina Faso's eastern region. The need for new operational bases could be a way of adapting to military pressure, particularly from France's Operation Barkhane and the G5 Sahel Joint Force operations. Groups are taking advantage of the region's vast forest reserve, the porosity of its borders, poor security and weak state presence.

Spillover alone is however not a sufficient analysis. Local grievances have also facilitated the expansion of violent extremist groups. Conflicts between farmers and herders over access to the land and grazing areas delineated by local authorities have strained inter-communal relations and relations between the Burkinabe state and local communities. Extremist groups have used these tensions to establish a foothold in the region.

Towns that have been attacked in eastern Burkina Faso, such as Doga and Tantega, are near the border with Benin. This creates fears of possible extension into Benin, especially considering that Benin contributes to the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram.

Although attacks have continued in the northern Sahel region, the situation in eastern Burkina Faso seems to have calmed down since a 4 October air strike intervention by Operation Barkhane in Inata in the Soum province of the Sahel region, and a ground operation on 6 October in the Kompienga province (eastern region).

However an attack apparently aimed at stealing arms was reported on 16 October in Sideradougou in the Cascades region near the tri-border area of Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and Mali.

Coastal states have taken measures to stave off potential attacks in their territories. In May 2018, Benin, Ghana and Togo jointly conducted Operation Koudalgou. This resulted in the arrest of about 200 people, some of whom were suspected members of violent extremist groups.

At a meeting on 25 October in Cotonou, the chiefs of the armed forces of Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Togo discussed pooling their resources to counter terrorism in countries sharing the W National Park and the Togolese border. Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana are also channelling their actions through the implementation of the Accra initiative, which aims to provide responses to security challenges common to the five countries.

In July, Togo hosted the joint summit of leaders of the Economic Community of West African States and of the Economic Community of Central African States. In the resulting declaration, countries committed to investing in intelligence for the prevention of violent extremism, building the capacity of the defence and security forces, and implementing public policies and development programmes in the affected regions.

However coastal countries shouldn't focus only on countering violent extremism in neighbouring countries affected by violent extremism - they should also invest in preventing it in their territory. They should do this specifically by improving governance in the border regions, enhancing trust between states and their citizens and reinforcing not only the authority but also the utility of the state in the peripheral zones.

These responses should be based on a recognition of the vulnerabilities that violent extremist groups use to integrate themselves into local communities. Such responses adapted to contextual realities would help prevent violent extremism from reaching West Africa's coastline.

Full report at:

https://allafrica.com/stories/201810310748.html

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Boko Haram: FAO distributes 11,000 fuel-efficient stoves to displaced families in Borno

October 31, 2018

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says it has distributed 11,000 fuel-efficient stoves to families displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in Borno.

Patrina Pink, FAO’s Communication Officer, said in a statement in Maiduguri on Wednesday that the stoves were provided under the Norway supported Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) programme.

Ms Pink disclosed that 5,000 deserving families had so far benefited from the programme while additional 6,000 stoves would be distributed before the end of Dec.

She said the programme was designed to address the energy needs of the displaced households; enhance protection and control deforestation, as well as checking violence against women and children.

She revealed that the organisation had established three production centers in Maiduguri, Jere and Konduga Local Government Areas of the state, adding that 100 artisans were trained in the making the stoves.

The FAO official said that the stove lessened the demand for firewood by about 65 per cent and drastically cut the amount of smoke produced, compared to traditional cooking methods.

According to her, the organisation is working in collaboration with the Borno State Ministry of Environment and International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development to facilitate successful implementation of the programme.

Full report at:

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/regional/nnorth-east/293442-boko-haram-fao-distributes-11000-fuel-efficient-stoves-to-displaced-families-in-borno.html

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Kenyan Al Shabaab fighters used as sacrificial lambs, returnee says

Oct. 31, 2018

Majority of Kenyans joining the Al Shabaab are being used as sacrificial lambs, a former foreign fighter and returnee has revealed.

The fighter, who came back into the country in 2013, says this has contributed a lot to discrimination against foreign fighters within the group.

The returnee has since reformed after being taken through a rehabilitation program by the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).

He revealed that Al Shabaab’s explosives unit, Istishadi, and foot soldiers component, Jabha, mostly use foreign fighters as a litmus test on their loyalty and to reduce their influence on the group.

"They use Kenyans and other regional foreign fighters as sacrificial lambs – for suicide missions or on the frontlines against the enemies," he said on condition of anonymity.

This comes as police sources say foreign recruits planning to join Al Shabaab, and those fighting for the terrorist organisation, are now increasingly worried.

This followed an emerging trend indicating increased incidents of persecution and executions of foreign fighters.

The returnee said the mistrust between Somali and foreign fighters within the militant group is not new.

Mistrust has reportedly led to a large number of Kenyan fighters sneaking back into the country, and a few remaining ones operating, almost semi-independently, within the densely forested Lacta area that cuts across the Kenya-Somalia border.

The persecution of foreign fighters has also reduced local, regional and global support for Al-Shabaab.

Police sources indicate that in October alone, Shabaab has executed 10 foreign fighters, accusing them of spying for foreign enemies.

According to the source, Shabaab gunmen on October 10 executed five of its members, including a Somali British citizen, for allegedly collaborating with the UK’s foreign intelligence service, M16, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The five men, aged between 22 and 36 years, were killed in the Southern Somali town of Jilib.

Two days later, it is said the militants assassinated five others by firing squad in front of hundreds of residents in Sakow district.

The terror organisation claimed that the five were convicted of spying for the Somali and Kenyan intelligence services.

Awale Ahmed Mohamed, 32, who travelled from Britain to Somalia in 2013 to join the terror group, was suspected of spying for Britain’s M16.

The three other men who al Shabaab accused of spying for the United States are Abdi Aziz Abdisalam Sheik Hassan, 22, Mohamed Abdullahi Awil, 35, and 36 year old Jeylani Abdullahi Nur.

The group is said to have released a statement alleging that the three culprits helped guide drones to carry out airstrikes in Somalia against its targets.

The other accused, Abdulkadir Isaq Amin, was blamed for allegedly eavesdropping for the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA).

In another case of internal wrangles with foreign fighters, two Kenyan Al-Shabaab fighters, Ahmed Yusuf Hassan and Ahmed Nur Abdi Osoble, were on April 2, 2017, killed in Buq Aqable, Hiraan region, over spying suspicions.

The two Kenyans were accused of collaborating with the Somali government and AMISOM forces.

Police say other Kenyans executed by Al Shabaab recently include former Moi University student Jared Omambia, Mombasa-born Faraj Abdulmajid, and Ramadhan Abdallah Manman - a former resident of Majengo slums in Nairobi.

According to police, the latest high profile case of foreign fighters' mistrust was the sidelining of the once influential Kenyan Al-Shabaab commander Ahmed Iman Ali in late 2017.

Iman reportedly fell out of favor with Shabaab leadership after claims emerged linking him with plans to either surrender to Kenyan government or form his own independent unit in Boni forest, Lamu county.

Police sources say the militants are planning to kill one Mohamed Bilal Olow, one of its middle-level commanders who has been conducting operations along the Kenya-Somalia border.

It is said Bilal has reportedly defected from the group and has been engaging in banditry for survival with a small group of militants.

He operates in areas around Fafi sub-county in Garissa County.

In June 2011, a Comoros-born al-Qaeda operative Mohamed Harun Fazul is believed to have been sold out and killed after falling out with Al-Shabaab leadership.

Full report at:

https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2018/10/31/kenyan-al-shabaab-fighters-used-as-sacrificial-lambs-returnee-says_c1843608

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Europe

 

Russian trolls’ priority in UK is stirring hatred of Islam

November 1 2018

Encouraging division over Islam has been the primary tactic of Russian trolls targeting Britain on Twitter, according to research.

Tweets about Islam far outnumbered those about Brexit and were also more widely shared, an analysis of nine million posted by a troll factory in St Petersburg found. Last month Twitter released the dataset of the tweets, which had been posted by 3,841 blocked accounts affiliated to the notorious Internet Research Agency.

Initial investigations highlighted the prevalence of pro-Leave messages, including a co-ordinated push on the day of the 2016 vote. However, Demos, a cross-party British think tank, has since found that the messages most widely shared related primarily to Islam and stirring up Islamophobia.

The Russian troll accounts with the biggest following were more likely…

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/russian-trolls-top-priority-in-uk-is-stirring-hatred-of-islam-ptlck6nq7

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Militants preparing to stage false flag chemical attack in Syria, Russia warns

Oct 31, 2018

Russia’s Defense Ministry says it has information that militants in Syria are preparing to stage false flag chemical attacks in Idlib province and other regions in order to incriminate the Syrian government.

Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov told a Wednesday briefing in Moscow that on October 27, militants from the so-called Islamic Party of Turkestan had "transferred 20 containers with 10 liters of chlorine each" from the northwestern Syrian city of Maarrat al-Nu'man, situated about 30 kilometers south of Idlib.

He said the terrorists have unloaded the chemicals in the settlements of Kafr Nabl and al-Hawash, and are set to use them to stage provocative acts.

“Local residents reported to the Russian Reconciliation Center that this group of White Helmets searched for residents who would like to take part in staged video footage in exchange for food," he added.

According to Konashenkov, “similar provocative acts are planned in other areas of Syria.”

“Just yesterday, residents of Aleppo province received information about the training for the next such action by militants. To carry it out, members of the White Helmets organization with professional video equipment arrived in the Azaz, Marea and al-Rai settlements; containers with toxic substances were also delivered, presumably it was chlorine,” the Russian spokesman went on to say.

“Russian military experts are closely monitoring the situation. Six special radiation, chemical and biological reconnaissance vehicles have been deployed to Russian posts in the immediate vicinity of the demilitarized zone in Idlib province. The combat units of these machines will regularly assess the radiation, chemical and biological situation."

His comments came a couple of days after Lt. General Vladimir Savchenko, the head of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria, said Western-backed White Helmets have already started the filming process for staging a false flag chemical attack in Aleppo in northwestern Syria.

They arrived in Aleppo from the neighboring province of Idlib, bringing along containers holding toxic agents, he added.

The so-called White Helmets group, projected by the West as “civil defense workers,” was founded by former British Army officer James Le Mesurier in 2014. The self-styled volunteer rescue group has been repeatedly accused of acting as the media arm for Takfiri groups, and charged with staging false flag chemical attacks in a bid to prompt Western military intervention in Syria.

During the Wednesday briefing, Konashenkov also took a jab at the US-led coalition purportedly fighting Daesh in Syria and said the forces launch airstrikes on the eastern bank of the Euphrates using banned ammo, resulting in numerous deaths of civilians. According to the Russian spokesman, the coalition’s warplanes are launching intensive airstrikes using ammunition prohibited by international conventions.

"The airstrikes are characterized by low efficiency and most importantly by low-rate precision, which leads to numerous casualties among civilians."

Over the past month alone, the airstrikes on residential areas in eastern Syria have killed at least 120 civilians, he said.

He also expressed regret over the fact that the inability of the US and its allied Kurdish forces in Syria to effectively fight terrorists in Eastern Euphrates has helped Daesh retake areas that were previously liberated from militants.

"According to available information, Daesh units continue to receive cutting-edge weapons and military equipment,” Konashenkov said, adding that Moscow is closely monitoring the arms supply channels and has established a special commission for that purpose.

A recent forum hosted by the Russian Defense Ministry put on display samples of Western-made weapons seized from terrorists in Syria, which particularly included the Javelin anti-tank missiles.

The US support for Takfiri terrorists was once again proved in a Wednesday report by Turkish daily newspaper Yeni Şafak, which revealed that the US has been supplying advanced weapons to Daesh militants in Syria.

Quoting sources, the Turkish daily reported that there had been many cases of US forces directly delivering material and technical assistance to militants in the town of al-Mansurah, which is located in the northern Syrian province of Raqqah.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/10/31/578684/Russia-Syria-false-flag-chemical-attack

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Ali Milani, the young Muslim politician challenging Boris Johnson

by Shafik Mandhai 

November 1, 2018

London - A British Muslim of Iranian descent will fight Boris Johnson for the former foreign secretary's constituency, marking a moment in politics that, according to the young parliamentary candidate, could come to represent "poetic justice".

Ali Milani, 24, recently graduated in International Relations from Brunel University London, and has been selected by Britain's main opposition Labour Party to take on Johnson in his constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

Johnson, 54, is a politician with the ruling Conservative Party. He was foreign secretary and London mayor, but has attracted most attention for his outlandish statements and often racist language, including derogatory remarks about Muslims.

Britain's next general election is due to take place in 2022, but Prime Minister Theresa May's minority government is teetering on the brink of collapse amid divisions within her party - largely stirred by Johnson - over Brexit.

The Conservative leader's aides had hinted at a ballot taking place as early as November to shore up support within the party, but that now seems unlikely to materialise.

Nevertheless, Johnson, a Brexit hardliner has emerged as May's primary challenger.

Milani plans to make his mark on history and thwart Johnson's ambitions.

"We (Labour Party members) thought there was a lot of poetic justice in me standing against Boris," he told Al Jazeera. "A young local Muslim activist who's grown up in the area, versus someone who's not from the area and who as far as I know, doesn't live there."

'For Boris, it's always about Boris'

Born in the Iranian capital, Tehran, Milani moved to the UK when he was three years old and has spent the rest of his life in Hillingdon, the area where he is now standing to become an MP.

Milani cut his teeth in student politics as an elected executive in the National Union of Students and was later elected as a Labour councillor.

His political leanings tilt heavily to the Labour Party's left, in line with its leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The British Iranian said his campaign would focus on his credentials as a local, affected by similar issues and concerns as his fellow constituents.

That, he added, would be in stark contrast to Johnson's record as an MP.

"I use the local hospital, I've been to school there, I've worked there, and lived there, and all of that. That is what's ultimately going to defeat him."

Johnson is a member of an out-of-touch elite, according to Milani, someone who had been politically parachuted into the area and was using the constituency as a platform to advance his own scheming within the Conservative party.

"People can see that for Boris, it's always about Boris. Everything is a ploy to him, he doesn't care."

Milani's rival has faced accusations of dog whistling to the far right, recently causing a media uproar by comparing Muslim women who wore the face veil to letterboxes.

His previous racist outbursts include using the racial slur "piccaninnies" to describe black people and referring to their "watermelon smiles", another offensive trope.

Johnson later apologised for the remarks but has had more race-related controversies since, notably blaming former US President Barack Obama's Kenyan heritage for his "ancestral dislike of the British empire."

For Milani, such remarks additionally render Johnson unfit to represent the constituency.

"Our community is one that is proud of its diversity and sees it as a source of strength," he said.

"To have [an MP] who so readily and frequently uses such offensive and incendiary remarks proves to us that he is not only unfit to be a foreign secretary, but he is unfit to be in any public office."

Chances of an upset

Milani faces a difficult challenge.

Johnson has a significant majority of just over 5,000 votes, and that was despite a stronger than expected Labour showing in the 2017 election, which saw the ruling Conservatives lose their majority in the House of Commons.

But Milani sees more than a glimmer of hope after Labour cut Johnson's majority during the 2015 election in half. He also believes Johson's behaviour during the Brexit negotiations will cost him further support.

There is some evidence to support such an optimistic outlook.

In February, a report by the Global Future think-tank said several seats, including Johnson's, were at risk as voters shifted away from traditional party allegiances and increasingly based decisions on where candidates stood on the issues they cared about.

Simon Griffiths, a senior lecturer in Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London, said Milani's challenge would be in taking on such a well-known rival.

"I wouldn't like to predict what will happen," he said, adding: "That would be a big majority to overturn though, and Johnson's name will help him compared to the rivals - voters certainly know who he is."

Milani's optimism lies in the belief that his and his party's vision of the future will win out over the lure of Johnson's brand of personality politics.

"The key thing for me is that Boris thinks it's about Boris, for me it's a platform to help our community," Milani said.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/10/ali-milani-young-muslim-politician-challenging-boris-johnson-181030133955722.html

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Ahwazi official tells Al Arabiya English details of Iran attack in Denmark

31 October 2018

In a new development regarding Denmark’s move to recall its ambassador to Iran, it has been revealed that a foiled attack was targeting the leader of the “Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz” who is residing in the Scandinavian country.

In an interview with Al Arabiya English the spokesman of the “Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz” Yaquob Hurr al-Tisteri said that the Danish security authorities thwarted an attempt targeting the head of the movement Habib Jaber.

When asked whether this failed plan is a continuation of the plan that led to the assassination of Ahmed Mawla (who was also a leader of the “Struggle Movement”) last year in the Netherlands, al-Tisteri said: “Iran has never stopped its plots against our Arab Ahwazi people and its activists, especially since our cause and the struggle of our people has now escalated considerably, but certainly this will not discourage the movement of the struggle and the rest of our organizations from going forward to lift the injustice and oppression of our people and their right to self-determination.”

The spokesman revealed that they are coordinating with a law firm in the Scandinavian country “to prepare a legal file based on the available information on the role of the Iranian regime in this failed attack to be presented to the Danish judiciary.”

He confirmed during the interview that “Denmark has officially announced that it will move to urge the EU countries to take a common stand against the Iranian regime for its direct role in this thwarted operation,” adding “the Danish security chief also issued a strong warning to the Iranian intelligence services’ reluctance to repeat any attempt of this kind.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/10/31/Ahwazi-political-group-reveals-details-on-Iran-s-foiled-attack-in-Denmark.html

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UK-based anti-Iran TV channel funded by Saudis: Report

Oct 31, 2018

A UK-based anti-Iran television channel is being funded through a secretive offshore entity and a company whose director is a Saudi Arabian businessman with close links to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, British media have revealed.

A source has told the Guardian newspaper that the Saudi prince, who is also known as MBS and is likely responsible for the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is the force behind Iran International.

The source told the Guardian that Saud al-Qahtani, who served as media adviser to MBS and was among several senior officials removed in connection with Khashoggi’s murder, was involved in the funding of Iran International.

“It is money coming from the royal court,” the source said, when speaking about the Saudi crown prince.

Volant Media, the company that runs Iran International, has a director named Adel Abdulkarim, who is a Saudi national. He has had a long working relationship with well-connected Saudi executives, some of who have links to the Saudi ruling family.

“While Saudi Arabia shows zero tolerance for criticism of its absolute monarchy, as underlined by Khashoggi’s murder, it is setting up media organizations in other languages promoting free speech,” the Guardian said.

The disclosures contradict the channel’s claim that it has editorial independence, and come at a time of growing fears about a number of Saudi-linked stations operating across London.

Iran International emerged abruptly on the London media scene last year, with many of its 100 or so employees receiving generous salaries, often double what rivals paid, but has been elusive about its source of funding, according to the Guardian.

The station, which is operating out of Chiswick, a district in London, has become a hub of anti-Iran Persian language channels, which also include BBC’s Persian service.

According to one source, Saudi Arabia gave $250 million (£197 million) in funding to help the launch of Iran International, which runs no commercial advertising.

“It appears that Iran International is part and parcel of the Saudi crown prince’s decision to take a more aggressive posture against Iran, emboldened, no doubt, by the Trump administration,” said Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi, a postdoctoral research fellow in modern Iranian history at the University of Oxford.

Earlier this summer, the station was criticized for broadcasting live coverage of a rally by the anti-Iran terrorist group Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), which has links to Saudi Arabia and was once listed as a terrorist organization in the US and Europe.

Senior officials in the administration of US President Donald Trump, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, as well as Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, are advocates of MKO.

Despite the damning revelations, Rob Beynon, the acting head of Iran International, denied that the television station was getting orders from the Saudi government.

However, he did not deny that the channel was funded by Riyadh.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/10/31/578660/UK-Iran-TV-Saudi-Arabia-Iran-International

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Iran summons Danish ambassador over attack allegations

October 31, 2018

DUBAI: Iran's foreign ministry summoned the Danish ambassador on Wednesday, following the arrest of an Iranian-Norwegian national for allegedly plotting an attack in Denmark.

According to statement from the ministry, the Danish ambassador met with a senior official for European affairs at the foreign ministry Wednesday morning.

“In this meeting the official strongly denied the biased reports on a foiled attack plot on an Iranian dissident in Denmark and its attribution to the Islamic republic of Iran,” spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said, warning against “hasty and controversial actions.”

Meanwhile, the British government has also expressed deep concern over recent reports of Iranian assassination attempts abroad.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Tuesday that his country fully supported Denmark’s move in the face of illegal Iranian intelligence activities.

The statement came after Denmark’s foreign ministry recalled its ambassador to Iran for consultations in response to an alleged plot from Tehran which targeted to assassinate the leader of the Danish branch of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz. Iran’s ambassador to Denmark Morteza Muradine was also summoned for a meeting

A Norwegian citizen of Iranian background was arrested on Oct. 21, Denmark’s security service chief Finn Borch Andersen said, on suspicion he was aiding an unknown Iranian intelligence service “to act in Denmark” and for involvement in planning to kill an opposition member.

“We are dealing with an Iranian intelligence agency planning an attack on Danish soil. Obviously, we can't and won't accept that,” Andersen told a news conference.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1397031/world

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Pakistan

 

‘Don’t confront state’: Pak PM Imran Khan warns hardliners protesting SC verdict acquitting Asia Bibi

November 1, 2018

As violent protests spread in Pakistan against the acquittal of a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, by the Supreme Court, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday appealed the people to maintain calm and warned hardliners not to confront the State. Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010 after being found guilty of insulting Islam. Her death sentence was maintained by the Lahore High Court in 2014. The Supreme Court, however, on Wednesday freed her, sparking angry protests and death threats from an ultra-religious party.

Taking a tough stand, Khan warned hardliners not to “confront the State” and refrain from vandalism, while addressing the nation through a video message. I ask these elements (protestors) to avoid confronting the State. But if they opted to do so, the State will fulfil its responsibilities,” Khan said.

“We will protect life and property of people…We will not let them (protestors) involve in vandalism or close down the roads,” said Khan. He was referring to protesters blocking a highway linking the capital Islamabad with garrison city of Rawalpindi. Many parts of Karachi were paralysed due to the protests and most of the main roads were shut down by the protesters who were burning tyres and pelting stones at vehicles.

The prime minister also held a meeting with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and discussed the security situation in the country. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that Khan and Bajwa “discussed overall situation and important affairs during the meeting.” Gen Bajwa was also targeted by a protest leader who in a video message asked senior army officers to rebel against the army chief.

Khan appealed to the public to remain calm and refrain from joining those trying to create law and order problem in the name of Islam. The prime minister said that he was forced to give the address after the reaction by protestors against the verdict and the kind of language they were using against State institutions. Khan also played a video clip of a leader of protestors on social media in which he said that the judges who gave the verdict were liable to murder.

“How a State can function in such circumstances…Those involved in this are not doing any service to Islam. They are in fact enemies of Islam,” Khan said. Referring to the protesters who have disrupted routine life across the country, he said: “If the Supreme Court does not issue a verdict according to their wishes, will they come out on the roads?” Khan also said Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and no law can be made against the teachings of Islam.

Defending the Supreme Court verdict, Khan said it was issued in the light of the Constitution of the country which is also based on Islam. He said the government was working hard to improve the economy and the protestors were creating hurdles to get political mileage out of the verdict. “We are already facing such tough economic hurdles. We have yet to take a day off… we are struggling continuously to uplift the people [and] to improve the conditions of the underprivileged,” he said. “The people are to bear the brunt of this. The labours who are reliant on daily wages… how will they survive?” he asked.

Bibi was the first woman who was given death sentence under the blasphemy laws. According to officials, Bibi might be flown out of Pakistan due to the threat to her life. It is not clear where she will go as several countries, including Canada, have offered asylum to her.

https://indianexpress.com/article/world/pakistan-imran-khan-protesters-asia-bibi-blasphemy-verdict-5428335/

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Acquitting ‘blasphemer’ violation of law: Haq

November 1, 2018

LAHORE: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Senator Sirajul Haq has said that the Supreme Court’s decision to acquit “blasphemer” Aasiya was a violation of the law and had shocked the entire nation.

In a statement issued here on Wednesday, he called upon the government to place Aasiya’s name on the ECL [Exit Control List] so that she could not flee the country as her presence was essential during the hearing of the review petition.

“Foreign powers are ready to airlift Aasiya,” he claimed.

He said that the proper legal process warranted remanding the decision of the sessions court and the high court for retrial instead of rejection, and deplored the blackout of “public reaction” over the court verdict by the electronic media. “It is a question mark on the media’s independence,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also came hard on the government and said that Aasiya’s acquittal had hurt the sentiments of the Muslims around the world.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/11/01/acquitting-blasphemer-violation-of-law-haq/

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JUI-F chief predicts fall of govt within next three months

November 1, 2018

Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman on Wednesday predicted that the incumbent government would fall within three months from now onwards, a private media outlet reported.

He said the performance of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is not satisfactory, and it has become difficult for the people to bear it further.

He said that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif only has differences over the agenda of the all parties’ conference (APC) and not the idea of convergence of opposition parties.

“It is the duty of the opposition not to let this government function,” Fazl maintained. He termed the happening of APC an “obligation” on the opposition parties.

“Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif will finalise an agenda for the APC and the conference will definitely be held,” he stated.

Responding to a question regarding Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Zardari holding out an olive branch to the government, Fazl said it is the first speech by the former president in the National Assembly since the new government took over, and so it had to have a polite and a positive manner.

It is pertinent to mention here that Zardari had met Fazl at his residence a few days ago, where the two figures had agreed to summon the APC.

However, the decision to summon the APC was postponed by Fazl after he was conveyed that Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif would not be attending the conference.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/10/31/jui-f-chief-predicts-fall-of-govt-in-next-three-months/

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US urges Pakistan to enact law banning radical groups

Anwar Iqbal

November 01, 2018

WASHINGTON: Hours before members of religious organisations spread across country to protest a Supreme Court decision to free Aasia Bibi, the United States urged Pakistan to immediately enact legislation that formally proscribes radical religious groups.

The US suggestion followed a decision announced last week for ending a ban on two radical religious organisations, Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF).

The United States has designated both as terrorist groups.

The Pakistani media reported that the two outfits temporarily came off the list of banned outfits in Pakistan because the ordinance that proscribed them under a UN resolution had lapsed.

The new Pakistani government is working on a proposal to extend the ban.

The development underscores the importance of Pakistan “urgently enacting legislation that formally proscribes” both JuD and FIF, a spokesperson for the US State Department told reporters in Washington.

“The expiration of the ban on JuD and FIF runs counter to Pakistan’s commitment to work with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to address weaknesses in its counter-terrorism financing regime,” said the US official.

“As we have said before, the United States is deeply concerned that this development will jeopardise Pakistan’s ability to meet its commitments under UN Security Council Resolution 1267 to freeze and prevent the raising and moving of funds belonging to or associated with UN-designated terrorist groups,” the spokesperson said.

In February 2018, former president Mamnoon Hussain signed an amendment to the antiterrorism law that allowed the state to ban charities linked to Hafiz Saeed, like Jamaatud Dawa and Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation.

The Constitution, however, requires a presidential amendment to be ratified or renewed by the parliament within four months of its issuance.

Recently, Hafiz Saeed filed a petition, arguing that the amendment to Pakistan’s antiterrorism law had become unconstitutional as the parliament failed to ratify it.

Hafiz Saeed initially headed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), formed in the 1980s, which was designated a terrorist outfit by the US, the United Nations, Britain, Russia and the European Union. In 2012, the United States announced a $10 million bounty for Hafiz Saeed’s arrest. Pakistan has also banned the group.

But US officials say that Hafiz Saeed has evaded the ban on LeT by creating multiple other organisations, including JuD and FIF, that work as LeT’s fronts.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1442748/us-urges-pakistan-to-enact-law-banning-radical-groups

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Christians welcome Aasia case judgement

November 01, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Christian community re­joic­ed on Wednesday at the acquittal of Aasia Bibi, who spent years on death row for blasphemy, saying their prayers had been answered after years of begging for justice.

Christians make up around two per cent of the country’s 210 million population.

Wednesday’s acquittal of the illiterate mother represented a rare victory for the community — with Christians in Islamabad hailing the Supreme Court’s decision.

“Justice has been done,” said Reverend Javed Masih, who heads a Presbyterian church in a Christian slum in the capital.

“We are happy that the law is still ruling in this country and that’s why Aasia Bibi has been set free,” added another Christian resident Shafaqat Masih.

“We are extremely happy that God has responded to our prayers. The church of Pakistan was praying for years for the release of our sister,” Reverend Masih said, adding that a special worship service was being held to celebrate Bibi’s release.

Aasia was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 on blasphemy charges.

“She was innocent and she was being discriminated [against],” said the pastor.

Human rights activist Tahira Abdullah called for “state protection” of the acquitted woman along with her family and attorney.

Pastor Masih feared unrest could be triggered by the court’s decision.

But he said his community would “pray for peace in this country”.

Shahbaz Ashiq, another resident in the neighbourhood, said he was “very proud of our Supreme Court and the decision”.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1442773/christians-welcome-aasia-case-judgement

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Provinces paid no heed to center’s security warnings ahead of TLP’s protests

November 1, 2018

The federal government had warned provincial governments of protests and violent demonstrations by the far-right group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) ahead of the announcement of the verdict in the Aasia Bibi case.

Reports reveal that the Ministry of Interior had directed provincial governments to be prepared for any impending threats to civil security and take measures to maintain peace as TLP leaders had asked party members to remain alert for a call to protest. However, the authorities did not pay heed to those directions and no extensive security plans were chalked out.

It should also be noted that Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had been directed to monitor social media for any religious instigation by TLP leadership, and security measures had been ordered for Supreme Court (SC) judges and other important functionaries.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/11/01/provinces-paid-no-heed-to-centers-security-warnings-ahead-of-tlps-protests/

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Roads deserted, blocked as religious zealots continue to protest across country

November 1, 2018

LAHORE: The protests by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) workers against the acquittal of Christian blasphemy convict Aasiya Bibi continued for the second day on Thursday, paralysing daily life in various cities of the country.

Roads were empty and certain routes were blocked in major cities. Although, most of the routes that were closed a day earlier in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad have now been opened been for traffic, some are still blocked.

In Karachi, traffic has been blocked at nine points owing to ongoing protests. Star Gate at Shahrah-e-Faisal, Numaish, Liaquatabad No 10, Sohrab Goth, Korangi No 5, Bara Board, Baldia No 4 and New Karachi have been blocked for traffic.

Meanwhile, in Lahore, Charring Cross at Mall Road, Data Darbar and Shahdara Chowk have been blocked.

The Rawalpindi-Islamabad Faizabad Interchange is also blocked.

According to a motorways spokesperson, Pindi Bhattian-Lahore, Pindi Bhattian-Faisalabad and Faisalabad-Gojra motorway are blocked for traffic.

Trains and flights are, however, operating as per schedule.

On Wednesday, following the protests, Section 144 was imposed across Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan barring the gathering of more than four persons in public places as well as pillion riding. Section 144 has been imposed till November 10. Moreover, hospitals were put on high-alert to deal with any untoward situation arising out of the protests.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had also appealed the nation to remain vigilant against those who incite violence, warning that the state will take action against the violators to fulfil its duty of protecting the people.

“The state will fulfil its responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of people and take strict action against violators.” the premier had said while addressing the nation on TV and radio on Wednesday.

He had also said the reaction on the Supreme Court (SC) decision in Aasiya Bibi case by a small segment of society was inappropriate.

The Supreme Court had acquitted Aasiya Bibi on blasphemy charges on Wednesday after accepting her 2015 appeal against her sentence. On October 13, TLP chief Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi had threatened to “paralyse the country within hours if the Supreme Court set Aasiya Bibi free”.

SCHOOLS REMAIN CLOSED:

In wake of the situation arising out of the protests, the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) governments had decided to keep the schools closed on Thursday.

All Pakistan Private Schools and Colleges Association (APPSCA) has also decided that all the private institutions across the country would remain closed.

“Keeping in view law and order situation in Pakistan, APPSCA has announced that all private institutions in Pakistan will remain closed on Thursday,” said APPSCA Central President Malik Abrar Hussain.

The association also called on the Sindh Education Department to announce the closure of schools.

However, the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training decided that the educational institutes will remain open on Thursday.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/11/01/roads-deserted-blocked-as-religious-zealots-continue-to-protest-across-country/

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Spain deports Pakistani man over alleged links with Islamic State

November 1, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Spain on Wednesday deported a Pakistani national for alleged links with Islamic State terrorist group, also known as Daesh.

The authorities at New Islamabad Airport arrested the man on his arrival here.

According to media reports, Afzal Ahmed, a resident of Kharian city in Gujrat District, along with his two brothers, was arrested on July 1, 2016, in Spain over alleged involvement in terrorist attacks and for spreading extremism.

They were arrested in a raid on their home in the North Eastern city of Lleida.

The three brothers, aged between 25 and 34, were kept in detention for two years and later released on July 29 this year.

Afzal Ahmed, however, was arrested again after being called in at a police station and later deported to Pakistan.

According to Spanish police, the brothers operated several social media accounts which they used to upload videos praising group executions carried out by Islamic State, the Taliban and other Pakistani extremist groups.

Police said the brothers had gathered a large group of followers in their attempts to spread extremist ideology.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/10/31/spain-deports-pakistani-man-over-alleged-links-with-islamic-state/

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North America

 

US providing military, logistical support to Daesh terrorists in Syria: Report

Oct 31, 2018

A recent media report says members of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group are being provided with advanced weapons by the United States in Syria, revealing Washington’s support for terrorists in the Arab country.

Yeni Şafak, a Turkish daily newspaper, quoting sources, reported on Wednesday that there had been many cases of US forces directly delivering material and technical assistance to militants in the town of al-Mansurah, which is located in the northern Syrian province of Raqqah.

A large cache of US-made weapons, specifically shells and ammunition, was also dispatched to the al-Tanf border crossing with Jordan, which lies at the ultra-strategic intersection of the Syrian, Iraqi, and Jordanian borders, it added.

The US, which has a military base in Tanf, is believed to be regularly training terrorists in the area. The US has unilaterally declared a 55-kilometer “de-confliction zone” around the base, and frequently threatened to target Syrian forces within the area.

The cordoned-off area also contains the Rukban refugee camp, which, according to Syrian and Russian officials, is home to terrorists, including those of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terror group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front.

The report also said that a US-backed group comprising ethnic Kurds and Arabs was being used by the US forces to deliver weapons and material. 

The US-backed Kurdish groups such as the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), militarily led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), have been accused of colluding with Daesh Takfiri militants.

In early June, Turkey's presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in an interview with NTV channel that the YPG had likely provided Daesh terrorists with a safe corridor out of Raqqah.

Syrian government forces have frequently discovered US- and Israeli-made bombs and weapons, some of which were extremely rare in the Arab country, during the ongoing anti-terror campaign across the country.

The Syrian government has also recently sent a message to the United Nations, accusing the US-led coalition of reaching deals with Daesh and coordinating its actions with the terror group’s commanders.

In September, the US-led coalition purportedly fighting Daesh, airlifted to a safe sanctuary several commanders of the foreign-sponsored terror outfit from a region in Syria’s eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr.

Last August, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that US-led choppers had transported four Daesh members and a civilian from a house used as an arms depot in Beqres, a suburban area east of Dayr al-Zawr, to a safe area.

The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

The military alliance has repeatedly been accused of targeting and killing civilians. It has also been largely incapable of achieving its declared goal of destroying Daesh.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the country.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/10/31/578676/US-Syria-Daesh-Iraq-Jordan--Raqqah-SDF

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Countering the violent extremists among us

Hady Amr

October 30, 2018

This weekend, as I struggled to explain to my young children that there are terrorists living among us who murder people because of how they pray, I felt tugged back to the profound anguish I felt after 9/11.

Why? Certainly the scale of recent attacks has been nowhere near the thousands that perished on that singularly horrific September day in 2001; a day that changed the course of American history. So on that front, there’s zero comparison.

I feel the thrust back to 9/11 because, after the dust settled that day, the question on Americans’ lips was: “Why do they hate us?” Today, I am asking myself the same question: “Why do they hate us?”

Back then, the “us” was easy to identify. The “us” were Americans. It was the idea and institutions of America that were attacked on that fateful day. “They” were the 9/11 terrorists, Osama Bin Laden and those who inspired them.

For some, “they” extended to Muslim communities and Muslim-majority countries around the world. Indeed, violent hate crimes against American Muslims spiked after 9/11.

But within a week of the attack, President Bush addressed the nation from a leading Washington mosque to condemn anti-Muslim bigotry, saying, “The face of terror is not the true face of Islam,” and, “Islam is peace.”

Sure, that didn’t solve things, but America’s conservative president pressed forward with the vision of an inclusive America at home, while he rightly went to war against al-Qaida overseas.

Today, things are more complex. Is the “us” under attack comprised of Americans? From mail bombs sent to prominent Democrats, to the slaughter of American Jews at prayer, to a man who murdered African-Americans at a grocery store after failing to break into an African-American church, it certainly seems that a foundational ideal of America is indeed under attack.

That foundational ideal is: “E pluribus unum” (“Out of many, one”). It’s printed on the coins in our pockets and on the Great Seal of the United States.

Even more complicated and painful is to attempt to answer the question of who the “they” is. That’s what brings me to shudder when I grapple with how to discuss this with my children: The “they” is also the “us.” Or at least it’s within us.

These murderers are effectively terrorists, and these terrorists are Americans. They are our neighbors. They are not some easily vilified foreign entity or individual. The killers are within us. They are of us. We can no longer avoid forcefully organizing ourselves to address this.

Admittedly, this isn’t something new. Organized hate has had a home in America for centuries. And we have institutions that track it and fight against it: units within the FBI and civil society groups like the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Muslim Advocates.

What America needs now, just as it did after 9/11, is to rally around a common purpose. We need a political leadership that wholeheartedly espouses unity at home and unreservedly, loudly and consistently condemns racism and bigotry when rears its ugly head. We need a government re-focused on fighting hatred and the roots of extremism. And we need a civil society the pulls together to offer not just solidarity and comfort but also understanding among our fellow citizens.

Full report at:

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/10/30/countering-the-violent-extremists-among-us/

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Trump is alienating Muslim voters. Can Democrats take advantage?

October 31, 2018

When Michael Avenatti got up to speak Sunday night at a fundraiser for a Muslim American activist group in Northern Virginia, he knew the crowd might be surprised to see him. He also knew his anti-Trump, anti-racism, pro-immigration, Democratic political message would connect with the audience.

“What you may be asking tonight is what is some porn lawyer doing here in Northern Virginia to talk to us about the future of the republic,” Avenatti told the crowd organized by Emgage, a Muslim American nonprofit that is organizing for and aiding candidates all over the country.

Although he has not yet decided whether to run for president, Avenatti gave what could only be described as a stump speech to the 300 or so attendees, and he even pledged $10,000 from his new Fight PAC to help the group’s political wing support mostly Democratic candidates in local and national races across the country.

In an interview afterward, Avenatti told me that President Trump’s policies and rhetoric demonizing Muslim Americans in particular and immigrants in general has opened up a huge opportunity for Democrats to make the case that their party shares the values — and therefore deserves the support — of this increasingly active and organized voter bloc.

“There’s no question it’s a big opportunity for Democrats, and shockingly many Democrats have ignored this community,” he said. “The Muslim American community has been ignored for far too long, and yet they have been disproportionately impacted by the policies of the last two years.”

Emgage estimates that half of the nation’s approximately 3.5 million Muslims are registered to vote and notes that their turnout numbers have increased greatly over the past eight years, especially in key states including Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas. The group has used its limited but growing resources to get out the Muslim American vote through phone calls, door-knocking and social media ads.

Its political wing, Emgage Action, is supporting a raft of not just Muslim candidates but also non-Muslim candidates who share its views, such as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum in Florida. While the group is officially nonpartisan, its focus has shifted markedly to Democrats since Trump became president, for a lot of understandable reasons.

During his campaign, Trump called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.” His administration pushed through a travel ban that this community still views as a “Muslim ban” because it disproportionately targets Muslim-majority countries. Trump’s treatment of Hispanic immigrants seeking asylum on the southern border also offends many Muslims whose families recently found safe harbor and opportunity in the United States.

Muslim American political organization is not new. During the 2016 presidential election, both Trump and Hillary Clinton had help from groups representing Muslim or Arab Americans. But these were mostly focused on wrangling wealthy donors and defending the policies of whichever campaign they were already associated with.

Now, younger Muslim American activists and politicians are coming to the fore. About 100 Muslim Americans ran for office in 2018, many of whom represent a younger generation that is less tied to their families’ country of origin and more concerned with issues such as immigration, the economy, social justice, education and gun control, said former State Department official Wael Alzayat, Emgage’s CEO.

“The new generation of American-born Muslims, they want to engage with politicians on issues that affect Muslims but also on issues that they care about as Americans,” he said. “We can and have supported Republican candidates, but right now the overwhelming number is Democratic because very few Republicans are articulating the type of vision for an inclusive and tolerant America that all of us demand.”

For example, in the 2016 cycle, Emgage’s Virginia chapter supported Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), who had made it a point to engage with the Muslim American community in her district in Alexandria. This cycle, the group is supporting her Democratic opponent, Jennifer Wexton.

“She made all the right noises of not being a Trump Republican. She turned out to be a Trump Republican,” journalist Mehdi Hasan said about Comstock at the fundraiser. “Yes, she turned up at mosques, and yes, she offered mild criticism of the very first version of the Muslim ban, right at the start. But she’s also voted with Trump more than 90 percent of the time.”

Virginia Republican Senate candidate Corey A. Stewart tweeted that a Democratic candidate for governor in Michigan was an “ISIS commie.” A TV ad aired criticizing Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.)’s challenger for teaching English literature at an Islamic academy in Alexandria that the ad refers to as “Terror High.” Emgage is supporting their opponents, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Abigail Spanberger, respectively.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/josh-rogin/wp/2018/10/31/trump-is-alienating-muslim-american-voters-can-democrats-take-advantage/?utm_term=.9068a1e925ce

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US Muslim groups raise over $200k for synagogue victims

31.10.2018

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON

Muslim groups raised more than $200,000 Wednesday to aid Jewish victims and their families after a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the state of Pennsylvania.

The fundraising campaign organized by CelebrateMercy and MPower Change received national attention for the amount of money raised in a short period of time.

The money raised was in response to a gunman opening fire during a ceremony at the synagogue Saturday, leaving 11 dead and six others injured, including four police officers.

The suspect, Robert Bowers, 46, used social media to post anti-Semitic rhetoric, saying "Jews are the children of Satan".

CelebrateMercy Founding Director Tarek El-Messidi said in a statement his group wanted to adhere to the tenets of Islam with the campaign. "We wish to respond to evil with good, as our Islamic faith teaches us, and send a powerful message of compassion to the Jewish community - our Abrahamic cousins."

The money helps pay for funerals and medical costs for the victims, and their families, and any other immediate or short-term needs. Funds will be delivered to the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh to work directly with the Tree of Life Synagogue.

The initial fundraising goal was set at $25,000 on Oct. 27, but was quickly surpassed within six hours. Four days later, the groups raised at least $214,000 with six days left in the fundraising campaign.

"We just want to know what you need. If it's more money, let us know. If it's people outside your next service protecting you, let us know. We'll be there," said Imam Wasi Mohamed of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, as he recalled the Jewish community’s response to Muslims after 9/11 and U.S. President Donald Trump’s election.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-muslim-groups-raise-over-200k-for-synagogue-victims/1299408

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5 senators urge Trump to suspend Saudi nuclear talks

31.10.2018

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON

Republican senators urged U.S President Donald Trump on Wednesday to suspend negotiations on a nuclear energy agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Senators Marco Rubio, Todd Young, Cory Gardner, Rand Paul and Dean Heller said in a letter sent to Trump that even prior to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the lawmakers had "serious reservations" about bringing nuclear technology to the kingdom. "In turn, these serious questions have solidified our reservations about pursuing a potential U.S. civil nuclear agreement with Saudi Arabia," the letter said.

Saudi Arabia previously refused to accept any agreement that includes the "Gold Standard" requirements which would stipulate it to not pursue uranium enrichment and processing procedures that could allow it to develop nuclear weapons.

The senators noted it must be necessary for the Saudis to accept the "Gold Standard" in order for the U.S. to accept any agreement.

Lawmakers concluded, however, they would block any approval of the agreement by Congress, due to the lack of transparency and accountability on part of the Saudis.

"The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as certain Saudi actions related to Yemen and Lebanon, have raised further serious concerns about the transparency, accountability, and judgment of current decision makers in Saudi Arabia," the letter said.

Khashoggi, a Saudi national and columnist for The Washington Post, was killed Oct. 2 inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. After weeks denying involvement, kingdom said he was killed in a fist fight.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/5-senators-urge-trump-to-suspend-saudi-nuclear-talks/1299334

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Muslim advocacy group seeks investigation into mosque threat

October 31, 2018

WASHINGTON

A Muslim advocacy organization is asking for an investigation into what it says was a bomb threat against a mosque in North Carolina.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a news release it would like the alleged incident investigated as a hate crime.

Police said someone called in a bomb threat to Muhammad Mosque 36 in Charlotte last Sunday.

Communications director Ibrahim Hooper said at a time of attacks and threats targeting houses of worship, members of minority groups and national political figures, it's imperative that the bomb threat be investigated as a hate crime and the perpetrator brought to justice.

Full report at:

https://www.newsobserver.com/news/state/north-carolina/article220882825.html

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Mattis emphasises reconciliation as Taliban join Doha office

Anwar Iqbal

November 01, 2018

WASHINGTON: As five members of the Afghan Taliban joined the group’s political office in Qatar, US Secretary of Defence James Mattis declared that reconciliation was the most important aspect of the strategy for Afghanistan.

The US media reported on Wednesday that the five officials who were freed from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for captured US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could participate in future talks with officials in Doha.

Senior US officials have already held two rounds of talks with Taliban representatives in Doha. The last round, held earlier this month, led to the release of a key Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

US media identified the five as Mohammad Fazl, Khairullah Khairkhwa, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Mullah Norullah Nori and Mohammad Nabi.

Fazl is a former Taliban army chief. Khairkhwa is a former governor of Herat province and was also close to former Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Wasiq was a deputy intelligence minister. Nori was a senior aide to Mullah Omar and Nabi was a Taliban communications officer.

Hakim Mujahed, a former Taliban representative now a member of the Afghan government peace council, told the Associated Press news agency that the presence of the five former Guantanamo prisoners in the Taliban’s Qatar office indicated the Taliban’s resolve to find a peace deal.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1442781/mattis-emphasises-reconciliation-as-taliban-join-doha-office

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Bolton: US doesn’t want to harm friends, allies with Iran sanctions

1 November 2018

US national security adviser John Bolton said on Wednesday the Trump administration wants sanctions on Iran’s crude exports to strain Tehran, but does not want to harm countries that depend on the oil.

The United States is preparing to impose the new sanctions on Iran’s oil industry after Washington withdrew from a nuclear deal between Tehran and other global powers earlier this year, but is also considering offering waivers to some allies that rely on Iranian supplies.

“We want to achieve maximum pressure but we don’t want to harm friends and allies either,” Bolton said in a talk at the Hamilton Society.

Bolton said the administration understands that a number of countries, some close geographically to Iran which he visited last week, and others “may not be able to go all the way, all the way to zero immediately.” It was a more conciliatory tone about the sanctions from Bolton, a proponent of being tough on Iran and winding down its crude exports to zero.

Still, Bolton said that consequences can already be seen in Iran including the collapse of the rial, its currency. “I think it’s important that we not relax in the effort,” he said.

In a presidential memorandum addressed to secretaries of State, Treasury and Energy, Trump said he determined there was sufficient supply of petroleum and petroleum products elsewhere than Iran to permit a reduction in purchases from the Islamic Republic. Under the law, the US president must periodically issue a “determination” on whether there is sufficient supply in the market from non-Iranian sources for countries to significantly cut their Iranian purchases.

The administration’s renewed sanctions are set to come into effect on Nov. 5.

Under US law, Washington can sanction the financial institutions of foreign countries that fail to significantly reduce their purchases of Iranian oil and petroleum products.

The purpose of the law, which came into effect during the Obama administration, was to put pressure on Iran to curtail its nuclear program by forcing its major oil customers to reduce their purchases.

Three of Iran’s five largest buyers of crude - China, India and Turkey - have resisted calls by Washington to end their oil purchases outright.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/11/01/Bolton-US-doesn-t-want-to-harm-friends-allies-with-Iran-sanctions.html

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US watchdog: Afghan forces struggle to regain ground as casualties mount

1 November 2018

The Afghan government is struggling to recover control of districts lost to Taliban insurgents while casualties among security forces have reached record levels, a US watchdog agency said on Thursday.

The latest quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) underlines the heavy pressure on the government in Kabul even as the United States has opened initial contacts with the Taliban on possible peace talks.

“The control of Afghanistan’s districts, population, and territory overall became more contested this quarter,” the agency said.

The Taliban have still not succeeded in taking a major provincial center despite assaults on Farah in western Afghanistan and Ghazni in the center this year but they control large stretches of the countryside.

Data from Afghanistan’s NATO-led Resolute Support mission showed that government forces had “failed to gain greater control or influence over districts, population, and territory this quarter”, the agency said.

Government losing territory

As of September, it said the government controlled or influenced territory with about 65 percent of the population, stable since October 2017, after a year of heavy fighting in Farah and Ghazni as well as other provinces like Faryab and Baghlan in the north.

However, it reported only 55.5 percent of the total 407 districts were under government control or influence, the lowest level since SIGAR began tracking district control in 2015.

“While the districts, territory, and population under insurgent control or influence also decreased slightly, the districts, territory, and population ‘contested’ - meaning under neither Afghan government nor insurgent control or influence -increased,” it said.

Six months before presidential elections, the figures are a sign of the degraded security situation in Afghanistan, even as the US special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, has met Taliban officials to map out possible peace talks.

As the Taliban have kept up pressure on the government, SIGAR quoted the Resolute Support mission as saying the average number of casualties among Afghan security forces between May 1 and Oct. 1 was “the greatest it has ever been during like periods”.

The Afghan government no longer releases exact casualty figures but this month General Joseph Votel, head of US Central Command, said Afghan casualties were increasing from last year and were an issue “we are paying very, very close attention to”.

On Sept. 24, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said that while he could not confirm reports that about 500 police and soldiers had been killed and 700 wounded over the previous month, the figures “sound about right”.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/11/01/Indonesia-divers-retrieve-black-box-from-crashed-jet.html

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Trump: I don’t think the Saudis betrayed me on Khashoggi case

1 November 2018

US President Donald Trump has said that he does not think the Saudis have betrayed him on the issue of the late Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia said on last week that 18 people were arrested over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Istanbul.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/11/01/Trump-I-don-t-think-the-Saudis-betrayed-me-on-Khashoggi-case.html

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Trump pressured to suspend nuclear talks with Saudi

Nov 1, 2018

US President Donald Trump has been urged to suspend nuclear talks with Saudi Arabia after the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump received a letter Wednesday from five Republican lawmakers, led by Senator Marco Rubio, in the wake of “ongoing revelations about the murder.”

“The ongoing revelations about the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as certain Saudi actions related to Yemen and Lebanon, have raised further serious concerns about the transparency, accountability, and judgment of current decision makers in Saudi Arabia,” wrote the senators, also including - Cory Gardner, Rand Paul, Dean Heller and Todd Young.

The lawmakers asserted that they could use the Atomic Energy Act to block any US-Saudi nuclear agreements. 

“We therefore request that you suspend any related negotiations for a US-Saudi civil nuclear agreement for the foreseeable future,” wrote the lawmakers.

The statement was released in the aftermath of the killing of Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Turkish intelligence intercepts reportedly show that Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi mission in Istanbul on October 2, was tortured and murdered on a direct order from Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Democratic Senator Edward Markey himself wrote a separate letter to Trump, urging him to revoke any approvals for the transfer of nuclear services, technology or assistance to the monarchy.

He further noted that nuclear talks should be based on the country’s attitude and Saudi Arabia’s actions “have made it clear that any nuclear cooperation with its government does not currently meet that bar.”

Saudis are also engaged in the incessant bombing of impoverished Yemen since March 2015.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/11/01/578688/Suspend-Saudi-nuclear-talks-Trump-told

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South Asia

 

5 key Taliban leaders arrive in Qatar amid ongoing efforts for peace talks revival

Oct 31 2018

A group of five key Taliban group leaders, who were released for a captive U.S. soldier in 2015, have reportedly joined the Taliban political leaders in Qatar as efforts are underway for the revival of Afghan peace talks.

A Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid has confirmed to Associated Press that a group of five Taliban leaders have arrived in Qatar and joined the Taliban political leadership in their office in Qatar.

Mujahid has also confirmed that the five Taliban leaders have previously served in Guantanamo detention facility.

In the meantime, reports indicate that the Taliban leaders have joined the political leadership of the group in Qatar with an aim to participate in peace talks.

The five key Taliban leaders who have recently travelled to Qatar, include Mullah Noorullah Noori, Mullah Khairullah Khairzada, Mullah Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Mawlavi Mohammad Nabi Omari.

This comes as the U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad had met with the Taliban political leaders in Qatar three weeks ago.

The Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid had also confirmed the meeting and had said that the two sides have agreed to continue negotiations in a bid to find a solution for the existing issues.

https://www.khaama.com/5-key-taliban-leaders-arrive-in-qatar-amid-ongoing-efforts-for-peace-talks-revival-02657/

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Foreigners among 68 militants killed, wounded in Afghan, U.S. forces operations

Nov 01 2018

At least sixty eight militants including two foreign militants hailing originally from Pakistan have been killed or wounded during the separate operations of the Afghan and U.S. forces in southeastern Ghazni and Paktia provinces.

The 203rd Thunder Corps of the Afghan Military in the Southeast in a statement said at least 16 militants including two Pakistanis were killed during the operations of the Afghan forces in Waghez district of Ghazni.

The statement further added that the Afghan Air Force also carried out airstrikes in Maidanak, Perugi, Shap, Dargari, Qala Kohna, Nasratabad, Mullah Hussain, and Laiq areas along the Highway No. 1 in Ghazni, leaving at least 39 militants dead and 8 others wounded.

According to 203rd Thunder Corps, the U.S. forces also carried out airstrikes in Choni area in the outskirts of Paktia’s capital, leaving at least 3 militants dead while a motorcycle of the militants was destroyed.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/foreigners-among-68-militants-killed-wounded-in-afghan-u-s-forces-operations-02661/

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Kabul control slips, Afghan force losses at record: US watchdog

NOVEMBER 1, 2018

Kabul’s control of Afghanistan slipped in recent months as local security forces suffered record-level casualties while making minimal or no progress against the Taliban, a US government watchdog said Thursday.

The latest glimpse into Afghanistan’s security crisis highlights persistent problems among police and army units who have faced years of devastating losses, and shows the Taliban’s resilience 17 years after the US-led invasion.

Numbers provided by Resolute Support, the US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan, show that during the last quarter, the Afghan government controlled or influenced 226 of the country’s 407 districts — or 55.5 percent.

According to the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which compiled the data, the figure marks a slight drop (0.7 percent) over the previous quarter.

It is the lowest level since SIGAR began tracking district control in November 2015.

Of the remaining districts, SIGAR assessed that 49 were under insurgent control or influence (12 percent).

The balance — 132 districts — are considered “contested” between the Kabul government and the Taliban or other insurgent groups.

In terms of the Afghan population itself, Kabul controls or influences 65.2 percent, the same amount as a year ago.

– Insider attack –

General John Nicholson, who is now retired but at the time was head of Resolute Support, said in November 2017 that the Afghan security forces would expand control of the population to 80 percent over the next two years.

Bill Roggio, an Afghanistan expert and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told AFP such a scenario is unlikely.

“Barring a dramatic turnaround by Afghan security forces and the US re-committing itself to improving the security situation, I do not see how that is possible,” he told AFP.

Roggio, who runs a website called Long War Journal, co-wrote a piece in which he assessed that more than half the Afghan population now lives outside of government control.

Underscoring the security weaknesses, powerful police chief General Abdul Raziq was among three people killed in a brazen insider attack on a high-level security meeting this month in Kandahar.

The meeting was also attended by General Scott Miller, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan.

He escaped unhurt, but US Brigadier General Jeffrey Smiley was among 13 people wounded in the shooting, which the Taliban said had targeted Miller and Raziq.

President Donald Trump launched a revamped Afghan plan more than a year ago that saw the US scrap any timetables for a US pullout and re-commit thousands more troops to Afghanistan, most of them dedicated to training and advising local forces.

Data for casualties suffered by Afghan security forces are not available to the public after Washington last year agreed to Kabul’s request to classify the numbers.

Before the blackout, according to figures published by SIGAR, there were more than 5,000 each year.

In its latest report, SIGAR cited Resolute Support as saying this summer’s toll has been worse than ever.

“From the period of May 1 to the most current data as of October 1, 2018, the average number of casualties the (Afghan forces) suffered is the greatest it has ever been during like periods,” Resolute Support said, according to SIGAR.

Mattis this week said more than 1,000 “Afghan lads” were killed or wounded just in August and September.

SIGAR added that data show the Afghan forces “made minimal or no progress in pressuring the Taliban over the quarter.”

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/317322/kabul-control-slips-afghan-force-losses-at-record-us-watchdog/

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Myanmar officials visit camps in Bangladesh in effort to kick-start Rohingya repatriation process

November 1, 2018

Myanmar officials visited camps for Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh on Wednesday in an effort to kick-start a process to repatriate hundreds of thousands who fled an army crackdown last year.

More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees crossed into Bangladesh from western Myanmar, UN agencies say, after Rohingya insurgent attacks on Myanmar security forces in August 2017 triggered a sweeping military response.

Officials said after meetings in Dhaka on Tuesday returns would begin next month, but the UN refugee agency said conditions in Rakhine state were “not yet conducive for returns”.

The agency had completed the second phase of assessment in Rakhine, but its access remained “limited”, UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said in Geneva on Wednesday.

Rohingya and other Muslims in three townships suffer hardship and economic vulnerability due to restrictions on their movement and the prevailing sentiment is “fear and mistrust”, he said.

A group of about 60 Rohingya community leaders met a delegation of about a dozen Myanmar officials in the Kutupalong camp, the largest refugee settlement in the world in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazaar district, said two Rohingya men who were present.

Myanmar says it has been ready to accept back the refugees since January, and has built camps near the border to receive them.

Myint Thu, permanent secretary at Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and leader of the Myanmar delegation, said Myanmar had verified about 5,000 names of refugees and that repatriation would begin with a first batch of 2,000 returnees in mid-November.

“We are here to meet with the people from the camps so that I can explain what we have prepared for their return and then I can listen to their voices,” he told reporters in Cox’s Bazaar.

Bangladesh handed over an additional list of more than 22,000 Rohingya refugees to be verified by Myanmar, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam told Reuters.

Rohingya leaders said after Wednesday’s meeting that they were unconvinced about the proposed repatriation.

“They told us we don’t have to stay (in a camp) for long, but when we asked for how many days they could not say,” said Mohib Ullah, an influential organizer in the camps, reflecting what the officials said.

Mohib Ullah said Rohingya leaders wanted Myanmar to recognize them as an ethnic group with the right to Myanmar citizenship before they return.

Myanmar does not consider the Rohingya a native ethnic group. Many in the Buddhist-majority country call the Rohingya “Bengalis”, suggesting they belong in Bangladesh.

A pamphlet given to refugees by Myanmar officials on Wednesday, seen by Reuters, encourages them to accept new identity cards as a “first step” to citizenship. Many Rohingya reject the cards, which they say treat them as foreigners.

Those with “national verifications cards” – known as NVCs – would be guaranteed “socio-economic development”, but those without will be “stateless”, the pamphlet says.

“When we asked about our citizenship there was no answer,” said Abdur Rahim, another Rohingya at the meeting. “They told us to accept NVCs. We are not accepting NVCs. We are not Bengali.”

The Rohingya leaders handed over a letter to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi setting out their demands, including “compensation and reparations” for violence committed against Rohingya.

UN rights investigators said in August that Myanmar’s military acted with “genocidal intent” in the crackdown last year.

The administration of Nobel laureate Suu Kyi has denied most of the allegations, arguing it was a legitimate response to quell “terrorism”.

China, which has provided diplomatic cover to Myanmar over the exodus, has brokered talks with Bangladesh aimed at speeding up repatriation.

Western countries and the United Nations, while calling for accountability for abuses committed by the military, have stressed that any returns must be voluntary.

The repatriation faces resistance from Rakhine Buddhists who make up the majority in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which the Rohingya also consider their homeland.

Than Tun, a Rakhine community leader, said those who return should be confined to a part of the Maungdaw area close to the border and not allowed to resettle some formerly Muslim-majority areas.

Full report at:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-myanmar-officials-visit-camps-in-bangladesh-in-effort-to-kick-start/

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ST wins top global award for Rohingya feature

November 1, 2018

The three journalists had walked through the Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, for more than nine hours each day for nearly three days when it struck them that something was not right.

There were nearly a million people who had fled a military crackdown in Myanmar in that cramped, makeshift township, and Straits Times associate editor Rahul Pathak, executive photojournalist Kua Chee Siong and artist Pradip Kumar Sikdar had seen and spoken to hundreds of them. But where were all the teenage girls?

It took some more digging to establish that while there were nearly 60,000 girls between 12 and 17 in the camps, their conservative Muslim community did not permit them to step out of their tiny huts - despite the tragedy that had befallen them.

The moving package of stories - on the unfortunate Rohingya girls, on children who had become heads of households because their parents had been killed, and on the suffocating life in the camps - has won the ST team the top place in the best news or event feature category at the prestigious Editor & Publisher EPPY Awards.

ST's package tied for this top global award with a CNN feature on illegal executions in El Salvador.

Informing ST of the win, the EPPY Awards committee chairman Martha McIntosh wrote: "The competition was fierce, there were hundreds of entries and the judges chose your submission as exemplifying the very best in its category."

Other winners this year include Bloomberg, The Boston Globe, USA Today and ESPN.com.

Said Mr Warren Fernandez, ST editor and editor-in-chief of the English/Malay/Tamil Media group: "The Rohingya crisis is a major humanitarian issue playing out in our backyard and we wanted to bring this story home to our audience. Credit to Rahul, Chee Siong, Pradip and the team for the gripping stories and pictures they came back with.

"Their accounts were heart-wrenching and helped many readers to grasp the full extent of the suffering on the ground in Cox's Bazar."

In all, the ST team spent nine days in Bangladesh in July to curate a first-hand account of the day-to-day existence of the Rohingya refugees in camps there.

The package comprised touching reports, gripping photographs as well as detailed ink wash drawings by Mr Sikdar, 52, who is now with Singapore Press Holdings' integrated marketing department as a senior art director.

Said Mr Pathak, 57: "The existing spate of coverage was all about what the refugees underwent in Myanmar, but what we wanted was to detail the daily lives of a people who had been completely displaced."

He explained that another barrier in portraying the true plight of the Rohingya was that very few understood their dialect. The default option for international journalists was to turn to "fixers" who would offer to source for victims and translate what they said for a fee.

ST decided against taking that route. "To treat these people like commodities whose stories can be sold cheapens their plight,' said Mr Pathak.

Instead, he would ask questions in English, Mr Sikdar would translate them into Bengali and a local journalist would then translate them into the Rohingya dialect.

The answer would come back through the same route.

"These were real answers from real people," said Mr Pathak.

Of all the photos Mr Kua, 44, took on the trip, his favourite was one of a boy with a yellow umbrella. He said: "The picture gives a sense of peace and beauty, but this belies the monumental problems that they face."

This is ST's second year winning at the annual EPPY Awards, which were launched in 1996 and honour the best media-affiliated websites across 30 categories. Last year, ST won its first EPPY Award for best website infographic.

Full report at:

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/st-wins-top-global-award-for-rohingya-feature

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Southeast Asia

 

UK confirms reports of Chinese mass internment camps for Uighur Muslims

31 Oct 2018

British diplomats who visited Xinjiang have confirmed that reports of mass internment camps for Uighur Muslims were “broadly true”, the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has told parliament.

Beijing faces mounting international criticism over its policies in Xinjiang, a far-western territory of China where researchers believe an estimated 1 million members of Muslim minorities have been detained in a network of camps.

Hunt told parliament on Tuesday that diplomats had visited Xinjiang in August and “concur that those reports are broadly accurate”.

His comment puts pressure on Beijing before a UN human rights panel that will on 6 November review China’s human rights record. The UK, the US, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Norway, Germany and Belgium have asked about Xinjiang in questions submitted for China ahead of the process known as the universal periodic review (UPR).

Hunt said he had raised the issue with his Chinese counterpart, the foreign minister, Wang Yi, on a trip in July. “We continue to be extremely concerned about what is happening,” he said.

“A senior cabinet member raising the issue in parliament sends a message to China that the UK is serious about what’s happening in Xinjiang and China will likely hear more at the UPR,” said Frances Eve, a researcher at Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

Ahead of the panel, China has ramped up its defence of the camps, where ex-detainees have said they were abused, forced to learn Mandarin, as well as undergo political indoctrination.

After denying their existence, China has begun acknowledging them but described the camps as vocational training centres that embody the “humane management and care” of a campaign in the name of counter-terrorism.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/31/uk-believes-china-has-interned-about-1-million-uighur-muslims

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Former Al-Qaeda, LeT Men among 5 Terror Suspects Arrested, Malaysian Police Say

2018-10-31

Malaysia arrested five suspected militants in counter-terrorist raids since mid-October, including a former member of the South Asian extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and an ex-field operative of al-Qaeda, police said Wednesday.

A 50-year-old Egyptian who had worked as an executive with a Kuala Lumpur-based advertising company was arrested on Oct.13 outside the country’s capital, national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said.

“The suspect was a member of the al-Qaeda militant group during his stay in Afghanistan from 1988 to 1993,” Fuzi said in a statement. “He also met with Osama bin Laden, the former leader of al-Qaeda.”

The suspect, who entered Malaysia with his wife in May this year, told investigators he had been arrested previously in Canada and Egypt for using fake travel documents, which he also used to enter Azerbaijan and Pakistan in the past, Fuzi said.

The Egyptian had also been imprisoned in his home country for terror activities, Fuzi said. He did not identify the suspect.

“The man was not cooperative with investigators at the moment,” a high-ranking government source told BenarNews.

Authorities have not seen evidence that the suspect had denounced his involvement with the global militant organization, the source said.

“We are afraid that Malaysia will become a terror organization’s base. Al-Qaeda, unlike the IS, is good at making long-term plans,” the source said, using the other acronym for Islamic State.

He cited the meeting of al-Qaeda terrorists who met in 1999 in Kuala Lumpur as they plotted the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the United States. The four coordinated terror attacks, which involved hijacked planes, killed almost 3,000 people and injured 6,000 others.

In 2000, the source said, high-level al-Qaeda members also met in Kuala Lumpur to plan the bombing on that year of the U.S. Navy ship USS Cole in Yemen, killing 17 American sailors and injuring 39 others. Some of the attendees in that meeting were hijackers of the plane that was flown into the Pentagon in the 9/11 attacks, he said.

That meeting was organized by Malaysian Yazid Sufaat, a former army captain, believed to be one of al-Qaeda's anthrax researchers. Malaysian authorities arrested Yazid in 2001, released him in 2008 and was rearrested in 2013 under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act for incitement of terrorist acts.

Apart from the Egyptian, the counter-terror agents also arrested a 31 year-old Pakistani with suspected links to the South Asian militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Fuzi said.

He said a 31-year-old man, who was only identified as a Middle Eastern, was arrested after he had allegedly posted Facebook comments threatening to kill a foreign ambassador.

Two Malaysians, aged 32 and 40, were also arrested, he said. All of the suspects were detained separately in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Perak and the Borneo state Sabah between Oct. 13 and Oct. 26, the police chief said.

Investigators said the Malaysians were believed to have channeled funds to slain Malaysian IS recruiter Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi and another top Malaysian militant, Muhamad Fudhail Omar, who was believed killed in Syria last year, and also to the Abu Sayyaf, a group of militants operating in the southern Philippines.

Four of the suspects were detained under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act 2012 while the Pakistani was arrested on charges of violating the country’s Immigration Act.

A deradicalization expert told BenarNews that the presence of former al-Qaeda militants in nations outside of their home country was expected.

“It’s a residual effect of the phenomenon of militants who were active somewhere else, like Afghanistan,” said Ahmad el-Muhammady, a political science lecturer at the International Islamic University of Malaysia.

After their early activities, Ahmad said, militants would want to seek safe sanctuaries. Muslim-majority Malaysia, being an open country with friendly citizens, fits the bill, he said.

“Stringent security measures at the border and stronger intelligence cooperation with countries in the region and others, such as the Middle East and Europe, are needed to prevent the entry of foreign militants,” he said.

First arrest of Lashkar-e-Taiba in Malaysia, analyst says

A South Asian terrorism analyst told BenarNews the case involving the Pakistani could be unprecedented in Malaysia.

“I believe it’s the first such a case in Malaysia,” said Faran Jeffery, deputy director of the Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism, a London-based think tank.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, which literally means the Army of the Righteous, is one of the largest and most active militant organizations in South Asia, operating mainly in Pakistan.

India blames the Pakistan-based LeT for several attacks on its soil, including the 2001 assault on the Indian Parliament that claimed 14 lives and the 2008 Mumbai attack.

Full report at:

https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/malaysian/malaysia-militants-10312018175431.html

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Mahathir puts Saudi Arabia at a diplomatic arm’s length

OCTOBER 31, 2018

By NILE BOWIE

When news broke that US$681 million dollars had been transferred to the personal bank account of Malaysia’s then Prime Minister Najib Razak, investigators had already pieced together a trail linking the funds to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a sovereign fund now synonymous with one of the biggest heists in financial history.

Najib, however, had another explanation for where the millions came from: Saudi Arabia. For years, the now ex-premier denied any role in the massive embezzlement at 1MDB, claiming the funds found in his account were a “donation” from a Saudi prince offered in recognition for governing Malaysia according to “Islamic principles.”

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Ahmed Al-Jubeir vouched for Najib in 2016 when asked about the so-called donation, saying it was “genuine” and “given with nothing expected in return.” He pointed out that the then Attorney General of Malaysia had “found no wrongdoing” during investigations and that he considered the matter closed.

Adel now tells a different story. On a recent three-day visit to Malaysia, the first by Riyadh’s top diplomat since May elections returned Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to office, he admitted the millions received by Najib had “nothing to do with the Saudi government,” contradicting his earlier explanation which gave political cover to the ex-premier.

Najib, in response, dismissed the foreign minister’s remarks and posted a series of letters on Facebook, purportedly from a Saudi prince, which he argues are proof that the funds were a donation from the kingdom. He also posted receipts of a fund transfer to him originating from Saudi Arabia’s Finance Ministry.

While investigators have established that US$80 million did indeed originate from the ministry, which Adel did not acknowledge in his comments, investigators from the US Department of Justice (DoJ) maintain that the US$681 million in question came from Tanore Finance Corporation, owned by an associate of fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, rather than Riyadh.

When asked by reporters if Adel’s reversal was aimed at appeasing the ruling Pakatan Harapan government, Mahathir answered: “Maybe, but I don’t know what he was thinking.” Saifuddin Abdullah, Malaysia’s foreign minister, says Adel informed him that Riyadh would be willing to cooperate with the ongoing 1MDB investigation.

The foreign minister’s trip follows a series of measures taken by Mahathir’s government to reverse Najib-era initiatives that brought Malaysia’s foreign and defense policies into closer alignment with Riyadh, moves that were seen as undermining the Southeast Asian country’s traditionally non-aligned foreign policy position.

Najib, known to have been enamored by the wealth of the Gulf region’s royal families, sought investment from the Middle East, including from Saudi Arabia.

As an apparent quid pro quo, he involved Malaysia in Saudi Arabia’s conflict in neighboring Yemen, sending armed personnel and equipment to Riyadh in 2015 and joining a Saudi-led, 34-member Islamic alliance against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group.

That grouping was nominally formed to counter threats posed by armed extremist groups, though observers regard the Saudi-led alliance as a sectarian military bloc against Shia-majority rival Iran and a boost to the military campaign in Yemen, where the kingdom is pitted against Shiite Houthi rebels who have held the capital Sanaa since 2015.

Najib’s government maintained that Malaysian soldiers were not involved in hostilities and were deployed to Riyadh only to evacuate Malaysian civilians in Yemen. Those claims were called into question by some in Malaysia as armed personnel maintained a presence in Riyadh years after their initial deployment.

Malaysia was ostensibly integrated into the Saudi military fold when it joined the region’s biggest ever military exercises at the invitation of Riyadh. That included the so-called “Northern Thunder” maneuvers in 2016 and the sprawling “Gulf Shield-1” exercise held in April this year.

In 2017, plans were unveiled for the establishment of a Saudi-funded anti-terrorism center – the King Salman Center for International Peace (KSCIP) – slated to be built on 16 hectares of land in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s administrative capital. Though its role and envisioned operations were vague, the facility was touted as a counter to radical ideologies.

Najib and other top officials boasted domestically about the center to boost their Islamic credentials, noting that past Malaysian leaders had never received such acclaim from the kingdom, whose monarch, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, claims religious guardianship as custodian of Islam’s holiest sites.

Malaysia has since reviewed its relationship with Saudi Arabia and significantly changed course since Mahathir’s Harapan government came to power. Many credit veteran politician Mohamad Sabu, a long-time opposition parliamentarian who was appointed defense minister earlier this year, for pushing the change.

Mohamad, who is better known as Mat Sabu, is a prominent critic of Saudi policies who before being elected into government published several scathing commentaries last year cautioning against the perceived dangers posed by Najib’s close embrace of the Gulf kingdom, which he claimed shattered Malaysia’s neutrality.

“Malaysia is playing with fire,” he wrote in a commentary published last December taking aim at the KSCIP and ridiculing moves to partner with Saudi Arabia to counter terrorism and extremism when the kingdom’s own literalist strands of Islam – known as Salafism and Wahhabism – are known to have influenced an array of militant groups.

He condemned 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for showing “animosity against all who don’t agree with him” and argued that Malaysia should keep Riyadh at arm’s length. “By being close to Saudi Arabia, Malaysia must sacrifice its relationships with Qatar, Iran, potentially, even Turkey, too,” he wrote.

Shortly after taking the reins as defense minister, Mat Sabu announced that Malaysian soldiers would be withdrawn from Saudi Arabia due to Putrajaya’s opposition to the military conflict in Yemen. Malaysia, he said, would bring the troops home and stood opposed to involvement in “a war with another Muslim nation.”

He then ordered the immediate closure of the KSCIP and appointed an agency under the defense ministry’s umbrella to assume the center’s counter-terrorism role, prompting objections from Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s former defense minister, and Najib, who said the cancellation would “offend” the kingdom and complicate ties.

In the wake of moves to decouple itself from the previous administration’s alliance with Saudi Arabia, some suggest Putrajaya is moving toward a period of cooler relations with Riyadh. Experts who spoke to Asia Times believe that while there is little danger of a full rupture of Saudi-Malaysia ties, the relationship is indeed changing.

“Malaysia is not seeking to fracture its relations with Saudi Arabia, but rather to carve sufficient diplomatic space to have good relations with other countries in the Islamic world as well, most notably Iran and Turkey,” says Mustafa Izzuddin, a fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

“The Yemen pull-out can be seen in that regard, including the fact that the Pakatan Harapan leaders felt that being part of the warring coalition was not in the national interest of Malaysia, which is to be non-aligned in its foreign policy,” said Mustafa, who believes Saudi Arabia viewed Malaysia as a gateway to bolstering its religious legitimacy in Southeast Asia.

Malaysia is in the midst of reorienting itself to “allow it the necessary diplomatic room to cultivate relations with as many countries in the Islamic world as possible,” he says. As such, the new government under Mahathir is “unlikely to be as close to Saudi Arabia as compared to the previous government under Najib.”

“There has been, in other words, a reset in relations,” says James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “Look at the pattern of what Mahathir is doing. He’s positioning Malaysia much more independently, whether its versus Saudi Arabia or versus China.”

The Najib government “saw Islam as a political utility, as a tool” and was welcoming of Saudi money flowing into religious and educational institutions that promoted “an ultra-conservative, anti-Shiite, anti-Iranian strand [of Islam],” he said. “Most of the funding went through official channels and semi-official channels.”

“Mahathir is moving to null Malaysia’s sedition laws and redefining to some degree the relationship between Islam and an ostensibly more liberal form of democracy,” says Dorsey. “Obviously, that’s not the direction Saudi Arabia is going in. I wouldn’t read too much into the notion that relations are cooling or strained, but they are changing without question.”

Amid a global outcry prompted by the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who Riyadh admits was killed in its consulate in Turkey on October 2, Malaysia’s reaction initially appeared diplomatic. Foreign Minister Saifuddin said that Malaysia would await the result of investigations and that bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia “remain strong.”

When asked by reporters the following day, Mahathir appeared to contradict his foreign minister’s position, calling Khashoggi’s killing “an extreme and unacceptable act of tyranny” that could not be condoned. He added the journalist’s death was something that his government deemed “unacceptable.”

Full report at:

http://www.atimes.com/article/mahathir-puts-saudi-arabia-at-a-diplomatic-arms-length/

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Muslim, Christian comedians get death threats over video about cooking pork

October 31, 2018

Comedians Tretan Muslim and Coki Pardede have claimed to have received several death threats after uploading a video on the popular video sharing platform Youtube in which they cooked a pork dish.

"I am very open and thankful if anyone wants to reproach me or give me advice, because if someone is wrong, they should be reproached and reminded," Tretan said in a YouTube video posted on Tuesday. "But curses, insults, persecution, condoning the killing of me and my friend and death threats toward me and people close to me – I am sure that those things do not reflect Islamic teachings."

Nevertheless, both Tretan and Coki apologized for any offense caused by the video and announced they were leaving comedy group Majelis Lucu Indonesia (MLI) because of the brouhaha.

They said several MLI events had been canceled because of protests from Muslim organizations over Tretan and Coki's video.

"Not just from Majelis Lucu Indonesia; the two of us are also leaving Indonesia's entertainment scene," Tretan said.

Coki added that the pair would concentrate on improving their knowledge of comedy and other matters before returning.

The "blasphemous" video was part of Tretan's comedic cooking series "Last Hope Kitchen", where he and other comedians prepare dishes with unusual ingredients. Previous examples include chicken soup with herbal drink Adem Sari and rawon (beef soup) with isotonic drink UC1000.

In the video, Tretan, a Muslim, teamed up with Coki, a Christian, to cook pork with date syrup and honey.

Tretan joked that he could hear the pork saying "Hell, hell, the fires of hell!" and the two speculated on whether adding dates, which Muslims are encouraged to consume when breaking the fast, would reduce the haram level of the pork.

The video went viral after popular preacher Derry Sulaiman posted a short clip of it on his Instagram account on Oct. 20 with a message condemning the two comedians.

"Who are these people? [They are] disrespectful, they want to be famous by making fun of our religion," he wrote. "Please tell me where these two people live, I want to hear their jokes in person (that are not funny at all)." The post has since been deleted.

Comedy has long been part of Indonesian culture, and some high-profile figures, including late cleric Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, are known to have often joked about religion.

Full report at:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/10/31/muslim-christian-comedians-get-death-threats-over-video-about-cooking-pork.html

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Mideast

 

Khashoggi strangled and ‘cut into pieces’ in consulate: Turkish prosecutor

NOVEMBER 1, 2018

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and then “cut into pieces”, Turkey’s chief prosecutor said Wednesday, making details of the murder public for the first time.

A statement from the office of prosecutor Irfan Fidan said meetings with his Saudi Arabian counterpart, who visited Istanbul this week, had produced “no concrete results” on the killing, which it said was premeditated.

Khashoggi, a 59-year-old Washington Post contributor, was murdered after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain paperwork ahead of his upcoming wedding. His body has not been found.

The statement comes hours after Saudi Arabia’s chief public prosecutor ended his visit to Istanbul, during which he met Fidan twice and visited the kingdom’s consulate and the regional offices of the Turkish intelligence agency. Saudi Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb reportedly refused to share information from Riyadh’s own investigation. “In accordance with plans made in advance, the victim, Jamal Khashoggi, was strangled to death immediately after entering the consulate on October 2,” the Istanbul prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

“The victim’s body was dismembered and destroyed following his death by suffocation — again, in line with advance plans,” it added. Turkish authorities said they were not satisfied after the talks with the Saudi prosecutor. “Despite our well-intentioned efforts to reveal the truth, no concrete results have come out of those meetings,” the Istanbul prosecutor’s office said. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly urged Riyadh to reveal the location of the body and who ordered the hit. And contrary to media reports, Mojeb also said no statement was made by the Saudi authorities that the body was given to a “local cooperator,” according to the Istanbul prosecutor’s office.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/317172/khashoggi-strangled-and-cut-into-pieces-in-consulate-turkish-prosecutor/

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Rouhani: Arbaeen trek ‘display of power’ against enemies of Islam

October 31, 2018

“The message of Arbaeen is that of fighting oppression, defending freedom and independence, not bowing before the bullies and tyrants of the time, fighting terrorism and making efforts toward global security and peace,” Rouhani said in Wednesday’s cabinet session, ILNA reported.

“No one will be harmed by Arbaeen … but the Islamic world, Europe, America and the whole world would benefit from it,” he added.

The religious ritual of Arbaeen is performed to observe the end of the 40-day mourning period following the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS) and his loyal companions on Ashura. Pilgrims from various countries flock to the Iraqi city of Karbala during Arbaeen to visit the shrines of Imam Hussein (AS) and his brother Hazrat Abbas (AS).

The president voiced his gratitude to the people of Iraq for their hospitality, saying, “The Iraqi people, especially the people of Karbala, have always been good hosts for Arbaeen pilgrims.”

He also thanked all executive agencies, ministries of interior, health and medical education, petroleum, energy, roads and urban development, the Red Crescent Society, law enforcement, municipalities and religious groups all over the country for their hard work during Arbaeen.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Rouhani pointed to Washington’s maximum-pressure campaign against Iran, saying “people should know with certainty that the administration is not afraid of U.S. threats.”

“The situation might have been tough for our people in recent months, but the administration will be making every effort to attack the problems, and by the grace of God and the help of the people, producers, exporters and entrepreneurs, we won’t let this trend continue,” he added.

Full report at:

https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/429126/Rouhani-Arbaeen-trek-display-of-power-against-enemies-of-Islam

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Turkey casts doubt on Saudi help in Khashoggi probe

NOVEMBER 1, 2018

Turkey cast doubt Wednesday on whether Saudi Arabia was willing to “genuinely cooperate” in the investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as international pressure increased on Riyadh to provide answers.

Seeking to draw a line under a crisis that has brought near unprecedented scrutiny on Saudi Arabia and its powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Khashoggi had criticised, Riyadh sent the head of its investigation to Istanbul this week.

However a senior Turkish official said Wednesday that Saudi officials seemed “primarily interested in finding out what evidence Turkey had against the perpetrators”.

“We did not get the impression that they were keen on genuinely cooperating with the investigation,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Khashoggi, a 59-year-old Washington Post contributor, was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain paperwork for his upcoming marriage. His body has not been found.

After initially insisting Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, then saying he died in a brawl, the Saudi government has admitted he was killed by a “rogue operation” and arrested 18 people.

Gruesome reports in the Turkish media have alleged the journalist was murdered and dismembered by a team sent from Riyadh to silence him.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged the Saudi regime to reveal the location of Khashoggi’s body and who ordered the hit.

He has also repeatedly called for the suspects to be extradited for trial in Turkey, but Riyadh has rejected the request.

‘Truth needs to come out’

The case has sorely strained relations between the ultra-conservative kingdom and the West.

France said Wednesday that “not enough” was being done to find those responsible for the murder of Khashoggi, who was an insider in Saudi royal circles before going into self-imposed exile in the United States last year.

“This crime has to be punished and the perpetrators identified. The truth needs to come out,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb, who was the first Saudi official to acknowledge that the killing was “premeditated” based on the results of Turkey’s investigation, arrived in Istanbul on Sunday.

He met with Istanbul’s chief prosecutor twice, visited the consulate and spoke with Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency.

Mojeb, who has not made a public statement in Istanbul, was headed for Ataturk airport on Wednesday afternoon to leave the city, Turkish broadcaster TRT reported.

Abdulkadir Selvi, a well-connected pro-government columnist for Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, accused the Saudi prosecutor of “working to save the crown prince by covering up the investigation rather than shed light on the murder”.

He also wrote that Mojeb was in pursuit of Khashoggi’s phone, which the journalist handed to his Turkish fiancee before entering the consulate.

‘Pretending to investigate’

In an editorial published Tuesday, the Washington Post accused Riyadh of “deflecting questions by pretending to investigate” the murder.

It said the administration of US President Donald Trump was “playing along” and “pretending to believe that the Saudis can conduct a credible probe — even though a chief suspect is the kingdom’s own autocratic ruler”.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/317196/turkey-casts-doubt-on-saudi-help-in-khashoggi-probe/

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Oman minister visits Ramallah after Netanyahu talks

1 November 2018

A Omani minister met Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday and delivered a letter about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s surprise visit to the Gulf sultanate last week, official Palestinian media said.

Yusuf bin Alawi, minister in charge of foreign affairs, gave Abbas the letter from Oman’s Sultan Qaboos, official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.

It gave no further details on their discussions in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinians have been concerned by Israel’s bid for rapprochement with Gulf countries.

Frozen peace efforts and Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territory have been obstacles to Israeli attempts to win official recognition from countries in the region.

But there has long been talk of under-the-radar contacts, particularly regarding Iran.

Only two Arab countries -- Egypt and Jordan -- have full diplomatic relations with Israel.

Netanyahu’s October 25 visit to Oman, which was not announced beforehand, was a major coup for the Israeli premier.

Abbas had also visited Oman in the days before Netanyahu’s trip.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/11/01/Oman-minister-visits-Ramallah-after-Netanyahu-talks.html

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Yemen’s Houthi militias kidnap photographer in Sanaa

1 November 2018

The Houthi militias in Yemen kidnapped a photographer, Hamad al-Qaoud, from a public street in Sanaa, local Yemeni news sites reported.

Qaoud was kidnapped near the presidential palace in Sanaa and taken to an unknown destination, according to the news publications.

Qaoud is the son of prominent Yemeni writer Mohamed al-Qaoud.

Yemen’s Minister of Information Moammar al-Eryani condemned the kidnapping on his official Twitter account, stating that the many abductions carried out by the Houthis are “crimes against humanity.”

“The crimes and violations committed by militias against journalists, detaining dozens with prosecuting them are crimes against humanity. This requires firm positions from international community and human rights organizations,” Eryani said.

Among the abductions by Houthis were that of over 80 students from Sanaa University early October. Armed groups belonging to the Houthis have been carrying out raids and arrests in various neighborhoods of Sanaa, based on a list prepared in advance which includes their targets.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/11/01/Houthi-militias-kidnap-photographer-in-Sanaa.html

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Arab coalition air raid on Houthi camp in Hodeidah kills 150 militants

31 October 2018

At least 150 Houthi militants were killed and hundreds injured by air strikes launched by the Arab coalition on the militias’ training camp in the district of Marawha of Hodeidah.

The media center of the Yemeni army’s Giant Brigades quoted field sources as saying that the coalition aircraft launched several heavy air raids on a training camp for the Houthi militias, and that the Iran-backed militants imposed a security cordon around the camp and prevented any approach. Houthi vehicles were seen transporting the dead and wounded outside the city after the strikes.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/10/31/Arab-coalition-raid-on-Houthi-camp-in-Hodeidah-kills-150-militants.html

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US seeking to launch psywar against Iran through illegal bans: Official

Oct 31, 2018

Tehran says the US is seeking to wage a “psychological war” on Iran by slapping the country with illegal sanctions in a bid to hurt its economy and cover up Washington’s own crimes against Middle Eastern nations.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi made the remarks on Tuesday in response to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had claimed in a tweet that the Iranian economy is in decline, and that the Islamic Republic “steals from its people” to invest in the Damascus government.

The top US diplomat was referring to the Iranian military’s advisory assistance to Syria in its fight against Takfiri terror groups, many of which have the support of Washington in their bid to topple the Damascus government.

Qassemi said Pompeo’s comments are “merely based on populism, fallacy.”

The Iranian economy has, contrary to Pompeo’s claims, seen a growth of more than 8 percent over the past years, at the same time that Tehran has been on the frontline of counter-terrorism battles, the official added.

He also said Iran’s anti-terror fight and peace efforts in the region as well as firm defense of its borders have raised worries among US officials, and dealt a blow to their hostile agenda against the Islamic Republic.

“The American officials are seeking to find a pretext to cover up their crimes against the people in the region and Iran, using economic terrorism and oppressive and illegal sanctions as a tool,” he said.

They are trying “to launch a psychological war [against Iran], turning a deaf ear to international reactions well as criticisms of the US’s confrontational and inhumane sanctions from countries and human rights institutions,” he added.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman added that the administration of US President Donald Trump is committing yet another “strategic mistake” by pursuing “deceptive” anti-Iran policies, which are based on the “hollow dreams” of certain “isolated and notorious” regimes, figures and terror groups.

Pompeo’s tweet came as a second round of US sanctions is about to return in place against Iran months after Washington scrapped a 2015 multilateral deal on the Iranian nuclear program despite international objections.

The first round of the bans – which had been lifted under the nuclear deal -- was re-imposed in August.

Iran has vowed resistance in the face of Washington’s economic pressure. It is now in talks with its other five partners in the deal – France, the UK, Germany, Russia and China – to help keep the international document alive and blunt the impact of the retuning US bans.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/10/31/578606/Iran-Bahram-Qassemi-sanctions

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UN calls for resumption of Yemen peace talks 'within a month'

Oct 31, 2018

The United Nations says it aims to resume Yemen peace talks "within a month", a day after a similar call made by the United States that was condemned by the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The United Nations' envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths welcomed calls for an immediate re-launch of negotiations and a ceasefire in Yemen.

"I urge all concerned parties to seize this opportunity to engage constructively with our current efforts to swiftly resume political consultations to agree on a framework for political negotiations," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

"We remain committed to bring the Yemeni parties to the negotiations table within a month," Griffiths added.

On Tuesday, American officials called for a ceasefire in Yemen and demanded that the sides to the conflict come to the negotiating table within a month.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the US had been watching the conflict “for long enough,” and that he believed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were ready for talks. This is while officials of the former Yemeni government said on Tuesday that the Saudi-led coalition has sent 10,000 new forces to the Red Sea coast, ahead of a new offensive on Hudaydah "within days".

“We have got to move toward a peace effort here, and we can’t say we are going to do it sometime in the future,” he said. “We need to be doing this in the next 30 days.”

Mattis’ call was later echoed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who urged the coalition to stop airstrikes in Yemen’s populated areas, saying the “time is now for the cessation of hostilities.”

The Houthi Ansarullah movement opposed the US proposal for mediation in efforts to resolve the conflict in Yemen, holding Washington responsible for the Saudi-led aggression against Yemen.

Mohammed al-Bakhiiti, a member of Ansarullah’s Political Council, further stressed that Washington's proposed solution for the Yemen conflict included dividing the country.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating military campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the country’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement.

Earlier this month, the Legal Center for Rights and Developments in Yemen said the ongoing Saudi-led military campaign against the impoverished and conflict-plagued Arab country has claimed the lives of more than 15,000 civilians.

Griffiths invited the Houthis and the former officials to talks in Geneva in early September in an attempt to restore a UN-backed negotiation process that had broken off in 2016.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/10/31/578667/UN-Yemen-peace-talks

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Turkish attacks in Syria prompt SDF to halt to fight against Daesh

October 31, 2018

ANKARA: Turkish attacks in Kurdish-controlled territory in northern Syria have led to a temporary halt in an offensive by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against Daesh in eastern Syria, the SDF said on Wednesday.

The SDF general command said the Turkish attacks had "led to the temporary halt" of the campaign it is waging against Daesh in the Deir al-Zor region.

"The continuation of these attacks will cause a long halt in our military campaign against (Daesh)," it said in a statement.

Earlier, Turkish forces fired howitzer shells across the border into Syria’s Ayn Al-Arab region on Wednesday, killing four Kurdish militants, state broadcaster TRT said.

The barrages were launched from Turkey’s southeastern province of Sanliurfa, along the Syrian border, TRT said. Six other militants were wounded in the strikes on the region, which is also known as Kobani.

The SDF, which controls much of northern and eastern Syria, said it returned fire after Turkish forces targeted positions along the border.

The SDF alliance, which the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia spearheads, said it hit a Turkish military vehicle and reserved the “right to respond to all kinds of attacks.”

Turkey has repeatedly warned it would launch a cross-border offensive against the YPG east of the Euphrates River in Syria, if the US military which supports the Kurdish fighters does not ensure their withdrawal.

On Tuesday, President Tayyip Erdogan said he crush Syrian Kurdish fighters east of the Euphrates, where Ayn Al-Arab is also located, announcing an offensive against the US allies.

Over the past two years, Turkish forces have already swept into Syria to push YPG fighters out of territory west of the Euphrates in two separate military campaigns.

Past offensives halted at the banks of the river, in part to avoid direct confrontation with the United States, which has troops alongside the Kurdish fighters further east.

But Erdogan said Turkey was now prepared to press on, issuing what he said was a “final warning” last week to those who would endanger Turkey’s borders.

He said Turkey would focus its attention on the east of the Euphrates, rather than Manbij where Turkish and US forces agreed to carry out joint patrols in June.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1397091/middle-east

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