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Islamic World News (27 Jan 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Fruitless Reforms, Increased Political Executions Result of King Salman's Rule: Lebanese Paper














70th Republic Day: From Madarsa in Lucknow to synagogue in Pune, tricolour flies high across India

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Fruitless Reforms, Increased Political Executions Result of King Salman's Rule: Lebanese Paper

70th Republic Day: From Madrasa in Lucknow to Synagogue in Pune, Tricolour Flies High Across India

Sikhs and Muslims both Love Baba Guru Nanak and the Proof Is In Kartarpur Sahib

27 Dead As Bombs Hit Cathedral In Philippines During Mass

UN Asks India, Saudi Arabia Not To Deport Rohingya Muslims

How the UAE's Relationship With The Vatican Has Strengthened Ahead Of Papal Visit

Tunisia Calls For Arab League To Readmit Syria

 

Arab World

Fruitless Reforms, Increased Political Executions Result of King Salman's Rule: Lebanese Paper

Ex-Army General: Whole Israel within Range of Syrian Missiles

Damascus: Turkey breaching 1998 agreement by ‘occupying Syrian territory’

Families flee bombardment and hunger in last Syria Daesh pocket

Vast Popular Uprising Reported against US-Backed Militants in Deir Ezzur

Several Civilians Killed in New US Strikes against Eastern Syria

ISIL Occupies New Region in Deir Ezzur after US Blue-on-Green Strike on SDF

Kurds Send Military Convoy to Raqqa to Suppress Popular Uprising

Syrian Army's Military Convoys Arrive in Northern Syria for Imminent Battle

Homs: Mass Grave of Victims Killed by ISIL Discovered by Syrian Army Near Palmyra

Bandar bin Sultan: Obama’s policies took the region 20 years back

Coalition strikes kill 42 in ISIS Syria holdout

Teenager killed as protesters attack Turkish base in Iraq's Kurdish region

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India

70th Republic Day: From Madrasa in Lucknow to Synagogue in Pune, Tricolour Flies High Across India

India Islamic Cultural Centre Is the Sign of Muslims’ Glorious Past

Pakistan violates ceasefire along LoC

Two militants killed in encounter near Srinagar

India, Pakistan in contact on Kartarpur corridor issue: Bisaria

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Pakistan

Sikhs and Muslims both Love Baba Guru Nanak and the Proof Is In Kartarpur Sahib

Jamaat-e-Islami Says ‘Imperialist Dictation’ Impeding Progress

State committed to addressing ‘genuine’ demands of Pashtuns: army

More than half of Pakistan happy with PM Imran’s performance: survey

Regional peace not possible without dialogue: FM Qureshi

Govt to spend Rs2bn on Kartarpur corridor: Qureshi

Indonesia, Pakistan ties poised for quantum leap

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Southeast Asia

27 Dead As Bombs Hit Cathedral In Philippines During Mass

‘Ahok’ Case Highlights Indonesia’s Blasphemy Law

Hadi lauds voters’ choice of Muslim MP to represent Cameron Highlands

Home Ministry not authority on religious matters, Muhyiddin says after Islamic book banned

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North America

UN Asks India, Saudi Arabia Not To Deport Rohingya Muslims

Right-wing group confronts Muslims outside Edmonton mosque

US mulls keeping troops in Syria to counter, attack Iranians in 'self-defence': Report

'Significant progress made' in US, Taliban peace talks

US, Taliban ‘finalise draft deal’ to end Afghan conflict

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Europe

How the UAE's Relationship with the Vatican Has Strengthened Ahead Of Papal Visit

Germany’s Merkel calls for “zero tolerance” of anti-Semitism, hate

Iran vows to reconsider cooperation with Europe in case of new sanctions

Protesters storm Turkish military camp in north Iraq

France tells Iran new sanctions loom if missile talks fail

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Africa

Tunisia Calls For Arab League To Readmit Syria

Sudan’s Bashir to visit Egypt as more protests planned

Two injured in central Nairobi explosion

Tunisian FM demands restoration of Syria’s Arab League membership

Tunisia, Russia call for Arab League to readmit Syria

Sudan's opposition chief says time for Al Bashir to go

Three sentenced to jail for plot to explode Somali Muslims’ home

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South Asia

Afghan Taliban ‘Not Excluding Pakistan from Peace Talks’

Holey Artisan Case: Khaled sent Tk 39 lakh to fund attack

Foreign troops to quit Afghanistan in 18 months under draft deal: Taliban officials

Accidental blast kills 5 in Afghan district held by Taliban

Afghan draft peace deal stipulates US troop pullout within 18 months

Bangladesh election under new scrutiny

Militant Khalid had close ties to Indian ISIS operative

Stoltenberg reiterates main objective of NATO’s presence in Afghanistan

Coalition forces carry out drone strikes against ISIS-K hideouts in Nangarhar

Significant progress made on vital issues in talks with Taliban: Khalilzad

Taliban’s foreign snipers among 10 killed in Jawzjan clash

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Mideast

UN Investigator In Khashoggi Case Demands Access To Saudi Consulate In Istanbul, Not Allowed Yet

Israel enjoys West's support for killing Palestinians: Activist

Power struggle in Tehran ahead of post-Khamenei succession

Hezbollah could ‘for years’ enter Israel, group’s leader says after tunnels found

Israeli settlers kill Palestinian in the West Bank

One dead after protesters storm Turkish military camp in north Iraq

UN ‘shocked’ at ‘terror’ waged by Israeli settlers

Discovering tunnels won't save Israel in future wars: Hezbollah

Yemeni ballistic missiles hit Jizan, Najran in Saudi Arabia

Two killed, several injured as Houthis bomb civilian house in Hodeidah

Houthis fail to implement Stockholm agreement: Yemeni government

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/fruitless-reforms,-increased-political-executions-result-of-king-salman-s-rule--lebanese-paper/d/117566

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Fruitless Reforms, Increased Political Executions Result of King Salman's Rule: Lebanese Paper

Jan 26, 2019

The Arabic-language al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Saturday that nearly 50 young men have been killed by the Saudi security forces in residential areas in al-Qatif province in Eastern Saudi Arabia between 2015 to 2018, while political executions have sorely increased during King Salman's ruling.

Meantime, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development announced in June 2018 that foreign investment in Saudi Arabia has decreased to $1.4bln in 2017, the paper said, adding that the capital outflow from the country speeded up after the death of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Al-Akhbar also noted that 13mln people, including 9.9 foreign workers, had jobs in Saudi Arabia in the second quarter of 2018, while the number of unemployed people seeking job in the country stood at 1.1mln in the same period.

King Salman, a son of King Abdulaziz, acceded to the throne in January 2015 after the death of his half-brother Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.

He launched his first major cabinet reshuffle a few months later, promoting Mohammed bin Nayef to crown prince and Mohammed bin Salman, who was relatively unknown at that time, to deputy crown prince.

In June 2017, the Saudi king appointed his son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince - replacing his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, as first in line to the throne.

King Salman's decree also meant that bin Salman would become deputy prime minister while continuing as defense minister.

Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, was removed from his role as head of domestic security.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971106000957

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70th Republic Day: From Madrasa in Lucknow to Synagogue in Pune, Tricolour Flies High Across India

January 26, 2019

On the occasion of 70th Republic Day, the tricolour was hoisted at a Madrasa in Uttar Pradesh's Lucknow on Saturday.

The unfurling of the tricolour at the Darul Uloom Firangi Mahal Madrasa was followed by a further celebration of the national festival.

In Pune, the Bene Israeli community hoisted the Indian national flag at its synagogue in Pune. The flag was hoisted at the Succath Shelemo Synagogue.

Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari unfurled the tricolour at their respective residences while Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah unfurled the tricolour at the party office in the national capital

The Indo-Tibetan Border Police celebrated India's 70th Republic Day at 18 thousand feet above the sea in minus 30 degrees. The troops hoisted the national flag.

Meanwhile, with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa watching the proceedings, India displayed its military might and rich cultural diversity during the dazzling 70th Republic Day parade in the Capital which for the first time saw veteran soldiers of the Indian National Army walking down the Rajpath.

The Republic Day Parade Ceremony commenced with Prime Minister Narendra Modileading the nation in paying homage to soldiers killed in combat by laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate.

The grand finale of the parade was a spectacular flypast by the IAF which commenced with the 'Rudra' formation comprising three ALH Mk IV WSI helicopters in 'Vic' formation, followed by the 'Hercules' formation comprising three C-130J Super Hercules aircraft in 'Vic' formation. Behind the 'Hercules' formation was the 'Netra' the "Eye in the Sky".

Trailing them was the 'Sutlej Formation' which is AN 32 aircraft flying in 'Vic' formation. Behind the 'Netra' formation was the 'Globe' formation, comprising one C-17 Globemaster flanked by two Su-30 MKIs. One of the An-32s was for the first time flying with bio-fuel.

Next in line were the Five Jaguar Deep penetration strike aircraft, in 'Arrowhead' formation. Following the Jaguars were five MiG-29 Upgrade Air Superiority Fighters in 'Arrowhead' formation. Three state-of-the-art, SU-30 MKIs of Indian Air Force executed the Trishul manoeuvre.

The culmination of the parade was marked by a lone Su-30 MKI flying at a speed of 900 km/hr splitting the sky with a 'Vertical Charlie' manoeuvre over the saluting dais. The ceremony culminated with the national anthem and release of balloons.

https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/70th-republic-day-from-madarsa-in-lucknow-to-synagogue-in-pune-tricolour-flies-high-across-india-119012600462_1.html

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Sikhs and Muslims both love Baba Guru Nanak and the proof is in Kartarpur Sahib

January 26, 2019

Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, is not only loved by Sikhs but also by Muslims and Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib is testament to this.

“Baba ji spent the last 18 years of his life at this gurdwara,” Rafique, a caretaker at the gurdwara told SAMAA Digital.

Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib is situated around 120 kilometers from Lahore and a few kilometers away from Narowal. It was constructed by the Raja of Patiala Bhupinder Singh between 1921 and 1929.

Its white edifice is set against lush green farms and the ‘grave’ is the first thing people see upon entering its premises.

However, this structure is not an actual grave. “The people only found Baba ji’s chador and flowers, and not his body,” Rafique explained. “The grave you see in the veranda was built by the Muslims.”

It is said that the Sikh and Muslim followers of Baba Guru Nanak started fighting over what was left of him. The elders divided the chador and flowers, and two graves were built. The other grave is located inside the walls of the gurdwara.

“Around 100 people, mostly Muslims, come to pay their respects to Baba ji,” Rafique said.

On November 28, 2019 Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation of the Kartarpur Corridor. The 4km-long corridor will connect Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district with Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan. The corridor will provide Indian Sikh pilgrims visa-free access to the shrine.

“We are very satisfied with the step taken by the government,” said the gurdwara’s Jathedar (the prayer leader) Gobin Singh.

The gurdwara was abandoned during the time of Partition, Nisar Ahmed, a villager, said. “It was a jungle before the place was restored 18 years ago in former president Pervez Musharraf’s era.” Members of the Sikh community started coming to the gurdwara to restore it.

The government plans to open Kartarpur Corridor on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak in November.

The construction has started amid security.

A visitor from Sambaryal praised Imran Khan for opening the gurdwara for Sikh visitors. “India should also take similar steps and allow Pakistani people to freely visit their sacred sites in India.”

https://www.samaa.tv/news/2019/01/sikhs-and-muslims-both-love-baba-guru-nanak-and-the-proof-is-in-kartarpur-sahib/

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27 dead as bombs hit cathedral in Philippines during Mass

Jan 27, 2019

JOLO: Two bombs minutes apart tore through a Roman Catholic cathedral on a southern Philippine island where Muslim militants are active, killing at least 27 people and wounding 77 others during a Sunday Mass, officials said.

Witnesses said the first blast inside the Jolo cathedral in the provincial capital sent churchgoers, some of them wounded, to stampede out of the main door. Army troops and police posted outside were rushing in when the second bomb went off about one minute later near the main entrance, causing more deaths and injuries. The military was checking a report that the second explosive device may have been attached to a parked motorcycle.

The initial explosion scattered the wooden pews inside the main hall and blasted window glass panels, and the second bomb hurled human remains and debris across a town square fronting the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, witnesses said.

Cellphone signal was cut off in the first hours after the attack. The witnesses who spoke to The Associated Press refused to give their names or were busy at the scene of the blasts.

Police said at least 27 people died and 77 were wounded. The fatalities included 20 civilians and seven troops. Among the wounded were 14 troops, two police and 61 civilians.

Troops in armored carriers sealed off the main road leading to the church while vehicles transported the dead and wounded to the town hospital. Some casualties were evacuated by air to nearby Zamboanga city.

``I have directed our troops to heighten their alert level, secure all places of worships and public places at once, and initiate pro-active security measures to thwart hostile plans,'' said defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana in a statement.

``We will pursue to the ends of the earth the ruthless perpetrators behind this dastardly crime until every killer is brought to justice and put behind bars. The law will give them no mercy,'' the office of President Rodrigo Duterte said in Manila.

It said that ``the enemies of the state boldly challenged the government's capability to secure the safety of citizens in that region. The (Armed Forces of the Philippines) will rise to the challenge and crush these godless criminals.''

Jolo island has long been troubled by the presence of Abu Sayyaf militants, who are blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization because of years of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings. A Catholic bishop, Benjamin de Jesus, was gunned down by suspected militants outside the cathedral in 1997.

No one has immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attack.

It came nearly a week after minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation endorsed a new autonomous region in the southern Philippines in hopes of ending nearly five decades of a separatist rebellion that has left 150,000 people dead.

Although most of the Muslim areas approved the autonomy deal, voters in Sulu province, where Jolo is located, rejected it. The province is home to a rival rebel faction that's opposed to the deal as well as smaller militant cells that not part of any peace process.

Western governments have welcomed the autonomy pact. They worry that small numbers of Islamic State-linked militants from the Middle East and Southeast Asia could forge an alliance with Filipino insurgents and turn the south into a breeding ground for extremists.

``This bomb attack was done in a place of peace and worship, and it comes at a time when we are preparing for another stage of the peace process in Mindanao,'' said Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. ``Human lives are irreplaceable,'' he added, calling on Jolo residents to cooperate with authorities to find the perpetrators of this ``atrocity.''

Security officials were looking ``at different threat groups and they still can't say if this has something to do with the just concluded plebiscite,'' Albayalde, the national police chief, told ABS-CBN TV network.

Aside from the small but brutal Abu Sayyaf group, other militant groups in Sulu include a small band of young jihadis aligned with the Islamic State group, which has also carried out assaults, including ransom kidnappings and beheadings.

Abu Sayyaf militants are still holding at least five hostages _ a Dutch national, two Malaysians, an Indonesian and a Filipino _ in their jungle bases mostly near Sulu's Patikul town, not far from Jolo.

Government forces have pressed on sporadic offensives to crush the militants, including those in Jolo, a poverty-wracked island of more than 700,000 people. A few thousand Catholics live mostly in the capital of Jolo.

There have been speculations that the bombings may be a diversionary move by Muslim militants after troops recently carried out an offensive that killed a number of IS-linked extremists in an encampment in the hinterlands of Lanao del Sur province, also in the south. The area is near Marawi, a Muslim city that was besieged for five months by hundreds of IS-aligned militants including foreign fighters, in 2017. Troops quelled the insurrection, which left more 1,100 mostly militants dead and the heartland of the mosque-studded city in ruins.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/19-dead-as-bombs-target-cathedral-in-southern-philippines/articleshow/67706967.cms

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UN asks India, Saudi Arabia not to deport Rohingya Muslims

26th Jan 2019

By Md. Kamruzzaman

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA): A top UN official on Friday urged Saudi Arabia and India not to deport members of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim community to Bangladesh but instead to grant them refugee status.

“I am dismayed by Saudi Arabia’s recent deportation of 13 Rohingya to Bangladesh,” said Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, at a news briefing in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka.

Lee briefed reporters on her week long visit to Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar district and Bhasan Char island in southern Bangladesh.

She expressed concern over reported arrests of Rohingya by Saudi authorities.

“These people have fled persecution in Myanmar and should be treated properly.”

According to Saudi officials, they have in the past accepted Rohingya refugees and their number in the Kingdom is around 300 thousand.

This continues to be official policy for Rohingya born in the kingdom to generations previously offered residency permits.

Saudi Arabia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention,

Referring to India’s attempt to push Rohingya across the border, she said: “I am disturbed to see the Rohingya arrival in Bangladesh from India”.

At least 1,300 Rohingya Muslims have reportedly crossed into Bangladesh from India since the start of the year fearing forced deportation to Myanmar.

She also urged formal education for Rohingya children in Bangladesh.

Criticizing Myanmar’s unresponsive attitude to concerns of the international community, Lee said: “It is clear the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh cannot return to Myanmar in the near future. The [general] election of Bangladesh has concluded. I urge the government to engage in a long-term planning [in addressing the Rohingya crisis].”

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

http://muslimnews.co.uk/news/south-east-asia/un-asks-india-saudi-arabia-not-deport-rohingya-muslims/

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How the UAE's relationship with the Vatican has strengthened ahead of papal visit

Sofia Barbarani

January 26, 2019

More than a decade has passed since the Holy See and the UAE announced the establishment of diplomatic ties, setting the foundations for a flourishing relationship and paving the way for the first visit to the Gulf by a Catholic pope.

The arrangement was made to promote what the Vatican called "bonds of mutual friendship" and to strengthen international co-operation between the two states. A year later, in 2008, the first high-level delegation, led by former speaker of the Federal National Council, Abdul Aziz al Ghurair, visited the Vatican and met Pope Benedict XVI.

Although Mr Al Ghurair made clear the UAE's wish to cultivate the budding friendship, the two states had been quietly nurturing these ties for decades.

Now the UAE is readying itself for the first official papal visit to the GCC. Pope Francis will touch down in the capital on February 3, where he will be welcomed by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

The two are scheduled to hold talks on ‘human fraternity and peace’, as well as the co-existence of all people and religions, the UAE government said.

Divided by thousands of kilometres of sea and desert, and rooted in distinct histories, Abu Dhabi and the Holy See have found common ground.

While the Vatican is one of the oldest diplomatic organisations in the world and the UAE - at 47 years old - one of the youngest, their similarities are likely to allow them to grow closer.

One parallel between the two is the sheer number of migrants. The UAE has the second largest number of migrants after the Vatican, by percentage of population. Because there are no births in the Vatican, its migrants make up 100 per cent of its population, which is less than 1,000 people. But more importantly, they both believe in freedoms that include the right to religious expression.

Religious freedom

In his 15 years at the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia - the UAE, Oman and Yemen - Bishop Paul Hinder says he has seen progress in tolerance and mutual understanding between communities in the UAE.

"We enjoy security," Bishop Hinder, who is Swiss, told The National. "There are countries in the region where there is risk, but here in the UAE, we enjoy remarkable security."

The UAE's first Roman Catholic church, St Joseph's, was built in 1965 - a simple cement building on the Abu Dhabi seashore. Two years later, the Church of the Assumption opened in Dubai. Today, there are 76 churches and places of worship in the UAE, of which nine are Catholic, with almost a million followers of the Christian faith.

Unlike Pope Benedict's less forthcoming approach to Islam, Francis made religious reconciliation and inter-faith dialogue a cornerstone of his papacy. In his first international trip of 2014, the pontiff visited Jordan, Palestine and Israel. In 2017, his visit to Egypt came three weeks after a suicide bomb struck two Coptic churches, killing 45 people. At the time, Pope Francis spoke of "brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world".

Similarly, the UAE's openness to inter-faith dialogue and its freedom of religious expression are factors that have attracted a huge expatriate community.

As the number of Catholics in the Emirates has grown, clergy in the UAE have appealed for more land to serve their congregations. "We have more space than we had at the beginning," Bishop Hinder said.

Soft power

Over the years, both states have employed soft power to bridge gaps and appeal to each other. In December, Emirati singer Hussain Al Jassmi became the first Arab artist to perform at the annual Vatican Christmas concert.

"Cultures and the UAE met, still meet and are making a difference in arts and culture which integrate to create a better life for humanity," the singer wrote. "Our goal is to enhance goodness and promote dialogue and tolerance among religions and people in a refined manner."

The concert aimed to emphasise the plight of refugees, an issue that the UAE and the Vatican have taken to their hearts.

"I conveyed today in the Vatican in front of Pope Francis messages of love, peace and tolerance among religions and people that represent my culture, community, nation and Arabic heritage," Al Jassmi said.

In 2017, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed ordered that one of Abu Dhabi's most prominent mosques be renamed Mary, Mother of Jesus Mosque. This, Sheikh Mohamed said, was done to "consolidate bonds of humanity between followers of different religions". The move was widely appreciated by the Christian community.

The coming trip, Bishop Hinder said, was in response to a request by Abu Dhabi.

While the Pope's visit will reinforce ties between the Holy See and the UAE, it is down to ordinary men and women to make a difference.

This, said Bishop Hinder, is true. "I think it's mostly the local effort. The Vatican doesn't know exactly what is happening. I have to inform very often the secretary of state or the Pope himself about the situation because we are not the focus of attention and that may be one of the advantages of this visit.

"Surely, it will be a step forward in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Muslim world. Improvement in the atmosphere is not to be underestimated."

https://www.thenational.ae/uae/how-the-uae-s-relationship-with-the-vatican-has-strengthened-ahead-of-papal-visit-1.818196

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Tunisia calls for Arab League to readmit Syria

26 January 2019

Syria’s “natural place” is within the Arab League, Tunisia’s foreign minister said Saturday, ahead of the organization’s annual summit in Tunis in March.

“Syria is an Arab state, and its natural place is within the Arab League,” Khemaies Jhinaoui said during a news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who is on a tour of North African countries.

The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011 as the death toll in the country’s civil war mounted.

“The question of Syria returning to the Arab League does not depend on Tunisia but on the Arab League,” Jhinaoui said.

“The foreign ministers (of member states) will decide on this subject,” he added. “What interests us is Syria’s stability and security.”

Persistent divisions between the Arab League’s member states have worked against Syria’s readmission.

Russia’s intervention in Syria’s war since 2015 in favor of President Bashar al-Assad has turned the tide of the conflict in the regime’s favor.

The UAE reopened its embassy in Damascus in December, the same month as Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir made the first visit of any Arab leader to the Syrian capital since the start of the war. But Qatar earlier this month rejected normalizing ties with Assad.

Lavrov backed overtures to readmit Syria.

“As we have discussed in Algeria and Morocco over the past few days, we would like Tunis to also support Syria’s return to the Arab family, the Arab League,” Russia’s foreign minister said in Tunis, according to Interfax news agency.

Lavrov, who has also visited Morocco on his tour, also said Tunisia and Russia agreed to ramp up “anti-terror cooperation”.

Russia’s foreign minister is due to meet Tunisia’s president and prime minister on Saturday.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/26/Tunisia-calls-for-Arab-League-to-readmit-Syria.html

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Arab World

 

Ex-Army General: Whole Israel within Range of Syrian Missiles

Jan 26, 2019

"Syria's missiles enjoy high capabilities and have been stockpiled in large numbers as a deterrence against a massive war in the Middle-East region," General Reza Shariqi was quoted as saying by the Arabic-language service of Sputnik on Saturday.

He added that the Israeli 'Iron Dome' defense shield cannot intercept all Syrian missiles in case of war, saying, "Our strategic missiles can reach any target in the occupied territories."

General Shariqi said that Syria has stockpiled its missiles in secret places to remain safe against the Israeli and terrorist groups' attacks.

His remarks came after Israel deployed the Iron Dome short-range missile defense system in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area on Thursday, The Times of Israel reported citing the IDF statement.

The deployment came the day after Syrian Envoy to the UN Bashar Jaafari suggested that Syria might exercise its right to self-defense and launch an airstrike on Tel Aviv Airport in response to recent Israeli air raids on Damascus International Airport.

Damascus threatened to exercise its legitimate right for self-defense against Israeli aggression and target Tel Aviv airport in a mirror response, unless the Security Council puts an end to IDF intrusions into Syrian airspace.

Fed up with years of Israeli impunity in the Syrian skies and regular strikes carried out in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport, Syria has threatened to retaliate in explicit terms.

“Isn’t time now for the UN Security Council to stop the Israeli repeated aggressions on the Syrian Arab Republic territories?” the Syria’s permanent representative to the UN wondered Tuesday.

"Or is it required to draw the attention of the war-makers in this Council by exercising our legitimate right to defend ourselves and respond to the Israeli aggression on Damascus International Civil Airport in the same way on Tel Aviv Airport?"  Jaafari stressed.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971106000233

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Damascus: Turkey breaching 1998 agreement by ‘occupying Syrian territory’

Jan 26, 2019

The Syrian government has strongly dismissed recent remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan concerning a 1998 agreement between Ankara and Damascus, saying Turkey has been breaching the pact by supporting “terrorism” and occupying Syrian territory since 2011.

“Syria confirms that it is in compliance with the Adana Interstate Agreement on Combating Terrorism in all its forms and all agreements related to it, but the Turkish regime has been violating the agreement since 2011 up to now by sponsoring and supporting terrorism, training militants and making it easier for them to go to [the] Syrian Arab Republic, or through the occupation of Syrian territories with terrorist groups it controls … or directly with the help of the Turkish Armed Forces,” an unnamed source at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates said on Saturday.

The source then called on the Ankara government to activate the 1998 agreement and leave the control of border territories to Damascus as they were before the outbreak of foreign-sponsored militancy in Syria nearly eight years ago.

The Adana agreement was signed between Turkey and Syria on October 20, 1998. It clearly stated that the Damascus government would not allow any activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group on Syrian soil, and would block any terror activities that could threaten Turkey's sovereignty.

Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey would not hesitate to form a safe zone in northern Syria by itself even if its allies broke their promises on the issue.

“We do not need the invitation of anyone [to enter Syria],” the Turkish leader said, referring to the Adana deal.

Ankara has been threatening for months to launch an offensive in northern Syria against the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and an extension of the PKK, which has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/26/586859/Turkey-breaching-1998-agreement-by-occupying-Syrian-territory-Damascus-says

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Families flee bombardment and hunger in last Syria Daesh pocket

January 26, 2019

As US-backed forces advanced, 22-year-old Dima Qatran buried one of her twin babies, then picked up the other and fled the Daesh group’s crumbling pocket in eastern Syria.

Clutching her remaining 11-month-old daughter, she joined hundreds escaping the last shreds of the extremist group’s “caliphate” near the Iraqi border.

She fled through the cold desert on foot toward territory held by US-backed fighters, where she boarded a truck to take her to a camp for displaced Daesh families further north.

“I had twins,” Qatran told AFP on Friday, tears streaming down her face, at a pit stop along the way.

“I buried one, and the second is dying. She has diarrhea and keeps vomiting. I can’t bear it. My daughter died of cold and hunger.”

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are fighting to expel the last Daesh fighters from a few hamlets in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

“We slept in the street for 11 days after my home was bombed” in Baghouz, a village on the front line, she said.

Qatran said she arrived in Baghouz with her husband’s family a year ago after fleeing the town of Albukamal to the west, which was retaken from Daesh by Russia-backed regime forces in late 2017.

The young mother said all she wanted was to be reunited with her husband who works as a cook in Turkey, and claimed to have no affiliation with Daesh.

“I’m scared of them,” she said.

Ravaged by Rashes

Near the Omar oil field, women and children — some of whom had faces ravaged by rashes — descended from the back of a dozen small trucks, caked in dust and visibly exhausted as the SDF allowed a quick break.

A mother dashed down from a vehicle, rushing her two children out of sight to relieve their bladders, while others pleaded for food and drink, saying that with the bombardment and siege, they had not eaten for days.

Infants screamed while their mothers did their best to soothe them.

For days, hundreds have been fleeing what remains of the so-called “Hajjin pocket” east of the Euphrates River, SDF officials said.

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor more than 8,000 people have fled since Monday, including around 1,000 jihadists.

Since early December, some 29,000 people have escaped the fighting, the Observatory said.

Sara Al-Sahar, 32, paced around with her baby trying in vain to pacify him.

He’s “hungry and sick,” said the mother of two.

“There’s no food over there, just hunger,” she said of areas under Daesh control.

“Nothing — not even nappies.”

Sahar also insisted she had nothing to do with Daesh, a claim that AFP could not immediately verify.

“We walked for six hours” in the desert before reaching SDF-controlled territory, she said.

Suspicion

Around 750 people reached SDF-held territory from Daesh-held territory on Friday, Mohammed Suleiman Othman, an official with the Syria Democratic Council said.

They included 600 civilians, mostly Iraqis related to Daesh fighters, he said.

But 150 men were detained on suspicion of belonging to Daesh, after screening near the frontline.

Fourteen women and their children of various nationalities including from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Turkey were ferried off to a special center for questioning.

Inside that center, women sat with their children in a large room. One was changing her baby, with a nappy improvised from fabric and plastic bags.

In a corner, 20-year-old Mariam from Ukraine fed her baby before she wiped her face with her hands.

“I need to rest before I can remember what happened to me,” she said, speaking in classical Arabic, reluctant to answer any questions.

Near the Omar oil field, women asked how much longer before they reach the Al-Hol camp in the northeastern province of Hasakah.

“Is it still far? We’re so tired,” one of them said.

Tayyeba, 54, said she escaped with her husband, but the SDF detained him for questioning.

“We fled as the frontlines started getting closer,” she said, wrinkles visible under her black face veil.

Umm Baraa, 20, said: “The streets are full of people who can’t find anywhere to sleep. We were running from one neighborhood to another.”

She said her husband — an Daesh fighter — died recently in an air strike.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1442276/middle-east

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Vast Popular Uprising Reported against US-Backed Militants in Deir Ezzur

Jan 26, 2019

Residents of the town of Abu Humman in Southeastern Deir Ezzur launched massive protests and closed the roads leading to the town, battlefield sources in Eastern Deir Ezzur said.

The sources reiterated that the civilians staged massive protests against SDF's measures, including piling up fuel products, corruption and other offenses in the region.

"The residents of Deir Ezzur called for releasing the people who have been arrested by the SDF fighters," they said.

The residents of Shaitat town in Southeastern Deir Ezzur also held massive protests and called for their rights with regard to oil revenues.

The report comes as the armed tribesmen had clashed with SDF fighters in the town of Khasham over control of oil resources of the region.

The popular uprising in Deir Ezzur is taking place while Raqqa was also scene of protests and clashes between civilians and SDF fighters over the past three years.

In a relevant development in early December, a large number of people poured into the street in a key town in Northeastern Hasaka, calling for the withdrawal of the US and Turkish troops and their allied militants from their region.

SANA reported that a large number of civilians, social activists and parties in the town of Qamishli took to the streets, opposing occupation of the region by the US and Turkish troops.

It further said that the protestors condemned a visit by the former French Foreign Minister to al-Jazeera region controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), calling for independence of the Syrian parties from the US policies and asking for their affiliation to Damascus again.

The protestors, also, opposed US forces' illegal bases and presence of militants, affiliated to Turkey and the US, in Syria as a violation of international law and against Syria's national unity and integrity, SANA said, adding that the protestors called for expulsion of the occupiers and their allied militants from Syria.

In a relevant development in Northeastern Syria, media activists reported last month that protesters took to the streets and called for the expulsion of the US army men and the SDF from the city of Raqqa in Northeastern Syria.

"Tens of Raqqa residents revolted against the US deployment and SDF forces in al-Mansour district of Raqqa city and called for their expulsion," media activists in Raqqa said.

The sources, meantime, said that the Raqqa residents in their slogans called on the Syrian army to free the region from the occupiers, and said that the protests took place after the SDF forces launched attacks on civilians which resulted in the eruption of clashes between the two sides.

In the meantime, the SDF forces arrested several protesters in a new wave of suppression of civilians.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971106000844

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Several Civilians Killed in New US Strikes against Eastern Syria

Jan 26, 2019

Field sources in Eastern Deir Ezzur reported on Saturday that the US-led coalition forces targeted the town of Baqouz in Southeastern Deir Ezzur and the nearby areas with air and missile attacks.

They added that as a result of the US missile strikes on the town of Baqouz Foqani and the village of al-Morashedah in Southeastern Deir Ezzur, 13 civilians, including a number of children were killed.

The US airstrikes in Deir Ezzur inflict large casualties on the civilian population almost on a daily basis.

Last Wednesday, several people were killed and many more wounded in the US-led coalition air raids on a convoy of civilians in Southeastern Deir Ezzur.

"The US-led fighter jets targeted and hit a convoy of civilians who were trying to move from the ISIL-controlled region in the town of Baqouz in Southeastern Deir Ezzur," local sources in Eastern Syria were quoted as saying.

The sources noted that most of the vehicles of the convoy were destroyed in the air raid, adding that the attack has also left several casualties mostly women and children.

Also, last Sunday, the US-led airstrikes killed at least 31 civilians in the village of al-Baqouz Foqani.

"The number of civilians killed in the US airstrikes on people's houses in the village of al-Baqouz Foqani has reached 31 so far," the Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted local sources as saying.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971106000982

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ISIL Occupies New Region in Deir Ezzur after US Blue-on-Green Strike on SDF

Jan 26, 2019

The Arabic-language al-Baladi news website affiliated to the terrorists reported on Friday that in a blue-on-greens air assault the US-led coalition's warplanes targeted a group of SDF forces in the town of al-Baqouz in Eastern Deir Ezzur with white phosphorous bombs, killing 5 and wounding 7 others.

According to the report, after the attack, the ISIL militants took the chance and occupied Baqouz after the SDF pulled out of the region.

The US airstrikes in Deir Ezzur inflict large casualties on the civilian population almost on a daily basis.

Last Wednesday, several people were killed and many more wounded in the US-led coalition air raids on a convoy of civilians in Southeastern Deir Ezzur.

"The US-led fighter jets targeted and hit a convoy of civilians who were trying to move from the ISIL-controlled region in the town of Baqouz in Southeastern Deir Ezzur," local sources in Eastern Syria were quoted as saying.

The sources noted that most of the vehicles of the convoy were destroyed in the air raid, adding that the attack has also left several casualties mostly women and children.

Also, last Sunday, the US-led airstrikes killed at least 31 civilians in the village of al-Baqouz Foqani.

"The number of civilians killed in the US airstrikes on people's houses in the village of al-Baqouz Foqani has reached 31 so far," the Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted local sources as saying.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971106000550

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Kurds Send Military Convoy to Raqqa to Suppress Popular Uprising

Jan 26, 2019

The Arabic-language service of Sputnik news agency reported that the convoy, consisting of US-made Hummer vehicles and other military equipment supplied by Washington, was sent to the Western parts of Raqqa city to suppress the tribal people's uprising.

It added that thousands of SDF forces have also been stationed in regions near the towns of Hunaideh and al-Mansoureh, noting that the US forces deployed in Western Raqqa have withdrawn from the two towns towards Eastern Euphrates for their fear of popular uprising.

Other reports also said that the SDF militants have in the past three days attacked over 600 houses in the two towns, and detained at least 70 people, adding that the civilians threw stones at the Kurdish vehicles to stop the arrests.

In a relevant development on Thursday, the people of Raqqa in Northern Syria poured to the streets to protest at the US-backed SDF moves in the region, setting fire at a number of their bases.

Media activists in Raqqa reported that hundreds of residents of the town of al-Mansoureh in Southwestern Raqqa staged massive protest rallies against the SDF and set fire at some of their checkpoints and bases in the town.

They added that the protest rallies were held after a young resident of the region was killed by the SDF during forced recruitment operations.

The sources said that similar rallies were also held in the towns of Hunaideh, al-Safsafeh and Mazra'at al-Safsafeh region, adding that the residents surrounded the US-backed forces' strongholds.

Meantime, the SDF sent a large number of forces and military equipment from Raqqa city and the town of al-Tabaqah to al-Mansoureh, wounding a number of civilians with bullet fire to disperse the angry crowd.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971106000405

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Syrian Army's Military Convoys Arrive in Northern Syria for Imminent Battle

Jan 26, 2019

The Damascus Army's dispatch of convoys comes as other government troops heavily pounded the terrorists' military positions in Northern Hama.

Field sources in Northern Hama reported that the Syrian Army has sent a large number of troops and military equipment, including tanks and military vehicles as well as heavy weaponry to the surrounding areas of Idlib.

The sources pointed to the reinforcement of the Syrian Army in Northern, Northwestern and Western Hama, and said that the Russian aircraft are constantly monitoring areas under the occupation of the terrorists.

They said that the Syrian Army is likely to kick start military operations in Northern Syria as terrorists show no respect for the agreement on the demilitarized.

Meantime, other Syrian Army's units in Northern Hama heavily pounded the positions of Tahrir al-Sham and its allied militants in the surrounding areas of the towns of al-Janabareh, al-Latamanieh and Kafar Zita, destroying several of their military positions.

The Syrian troops also launched an attack on the terrorists' military positions and movements in Hasraya and al-Arbaeen in Northern Hama, inflicting unspecified casualties and losses on them.

In a relevant development on Friday, the Syrian Army thwarted fresh attacks by Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at and their allied terrorist groups from the demilitarized zone on their positions in Northern Hama.

The Syrian Army's artillery units heavily pounded the military positions of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at and Jeish al-Izza terrorist groups in the surrounding areas of the town of al-Janabereh and al-Latamanieh in Northern Hama in response to terrorists' attacks from the demilitarized zone.

The Syrian Army troops destroyed several terrorist positions and military equipment in their attacks, and killed a large number of the militants.

Meantime, the Syrian Army's artillery units also pounded the terrorists' movements in the towns of Mourek and Hasaraya in Northern Hama, inflicting heavy losses on the terrorists after fending off their attack.

In relevant development on Thursday, the Syrian army pounded the command center of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at in Northern Hama after the terrorist group and its allies' attacks from the demilitarized zone on government forces.

The Syrian army units responded to the terrorists' offensives against military points in Northern Hama on Thursday, and targeted their positions near the town of Murak, al-Latamineh, Kafr Zita, Kafr Naboudeh, Wadi al-Dorat and al-Hamirat in Northern Hama. Meantime, field sources reported that the Syrian army forces destroyed several command centers of Jeish al-Izza militants, killing and wounding several of them.

Also, in Southeastern Idlib, the army troops attacked the terrorists' moves towards army positions in Jorjanaz, Sakik and al-Khuwain, inflicting heavy tolls on them and wounding several other militants.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, a notorious commander of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at and a close aide to leader of the terrorist group Abu Mohammad Jolani was killed in a failed attack on the Syrian Army's military positions in Southeastern Idlib.

"During an attack by Tahrir al-Sham and their allied militants on the Syrian Army's military positions near Abu Dhuhour Military Airport in Southeastern Idlib, senior commander of Ajnad al-Kavkaz, nom de guerre Abu al-Bara Qafqazi, was killed," the Arabic-language service of the Russian Sputnik news agency quoted local sources in Idlib province as saying.

The report noted Qafqazi's proximity with Abu Mohammad Jolani and that he was second-in-command of Tahrir al-Sham who had taken part in worst possible crimes in Northern Syria.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971106000617

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Homs: Mass Grave of Victims Killed by ISIL Discovered by Syrian Army Near Palmyra

Jan 26, 2019

The sources said that the mass grave contained the bodies of both civilians, including children and women, and also the Syrian army troops.

"The bodies belonged to the residents of al-Jahezieh in al-Ameriya region near Palmyra who had been massacred by the ISIL more than four years ago," a security source said.

He noted that according the primary tests signs of torture and bullets were found from the victims' bodies.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, the bodies of over 800 civilians killed in the US-led coalition airstrikes and ISIL attacks were found in a mass grave in Raqqa.

The media activists disclosed that the new mass grave has been discovered in the village of al-Fakhikheh South of the city of Raqqa.

They underlined that between 600 to 800 corpses have been retrieved from the mass grave, and said that the newly-discovered mass grave was the 14th of its kind found in Raqqa City and its outskirts.

This is while Raqqa's civilian team also discovered more bodies of civilians, who were killed in the US-led coalition's airstrikes on Raqqa City, from under the debris of the destroyed buildings in districts of al-Tosayeh, Nazleh Shahadeh and al-Haramieh in Raqqa City.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971106000807

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Bandar bin Sultan: Obama’s policies took the region 20 years back

26 January 2019 T

Independent Arabia, the newly-launched news service from London, published its inaugural interview with Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The former Saudi intelligence chief and former ambassador to the United States spoke candidly about several sensitive issues in the Arab region.

During the interview, Prince Bandar remarked that an ignorant man was his own enemy and narrated events surrounding Saddam Hussein, Khomeini and the Shah.

History would have been very different if only the Shah had not forced Saddam to expel Khomeini - who was then under house arrest in Iraq - to Paris, according to the prince.

Prince Bandar also spoke about the consequences of President Obama’s misplaced policies towards the Middle East leading to the present crisis in Syria as well as his double-standard policy towards Iran which led to the Saudi mistrust with the US regime.

He said that he does not regret not meeting with Barack Obama because he took the region 20 years back due to his policies in the Middle East.

In the coming days, further excerpts of the interview - lasting more than 14 hours - held at his palace in Obhor in Jeddah, west of Saudi Arabia, would be published by Independent Arabia.

Prince Bandar had served as director general of the General Intelligence Presidency and also as the secretary general of the National Security Council.

In the interview, he also touched on his stint of almost a quarter of a century - from 1983 to 2005 - in Washington as the Saudi envoy to the United States.

Qatar

On Qatar, Prince Bandar described former Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim as an “expert in half-truths”.

Prince Bandar cited the leaked recording of the conversation between Qatar’s former Emir Hamad bin Khalifa and Hamad bin Jassim with late Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi in which bin Jassim spoke about schemes to target Saudi Arabia.

Bin Jassim’s justification of this audio “tells half the truth,” Prince Bandar said. The truth was that it the conspiracy and plan was real and not what Doha sought to portray when it tried to justify what transpired as an attempt to bait Qaddafi.

Prince Bandar also added that Qatar suffers from schizophrenia in terms of its policies, and noted that the presence of an American base does not mean protection for the regime in Doha, as the base was solely for American use and not for Qatar.

On the Turkish troop presence, Prince Bandar said their role was to help maintain security in Qatar, adding that Doha had previously enlisted the help of Yemen, Sudan and Saudi Arabia to preserve its security.

Bashar al-Assad

Prince Bandar described Bashar al-Assad as a “kid”. Bashar’s father Hafez al-Assad was capable of being decisive and making decisions, unlike Bashar who suffered from a complex that he hasn’t been able to overcome and which is called “Bashar Hafez al-Assad.”

Prince Bandar also narrated how he interceded with the British government for Bashar al-Assad after he graduated so that he could enroll in a specialized course in ophthalmology in London.

The former chief of General Intelligence Presidency also narrated the details of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin following the Syrian revolution when Assad began to shell civilians. Putin told him that it was the Saudis who had “inflated Assad’s ego” when they arranged meetings for him with former French President Jacques Chirac and White House officials, when he became President.

President Putin also told him during the meeting that he had invited Bashar more than once to visit Moscow but he did not respond. “Now, he will come crawling for my help,” quipped Putin.

Prince Bandar said the reason behind the Syrian regime’s exaggerated media coverage of his appearance or role and linking it to developments inside Syria, is personal. “It’s because I know Bashar before he became something, and after he thought he became something,” he said.

He also denied claims that he had a hand in the establishment of ISIS and strongly refuted the accusations made against him in this regard.

Iran

Prince Bandar described Iran’s Shah as a rational enemy, adding that he was better than an ignorant friend, although there was “no friendship between us”, in reference to Iran’s current regime and the issues that have arisen since Khomeini came to power.

He said that it was the Saudi effort under the leadership of King Faisal that managed to convince the Shah of abandoning his move to annex Bahrain.

Prince Bandar remarked that an ignorant man was his own enemy citing the events surrounding Saddam Hussein, Khomeini and the Shah.

Khomeini was under house arrest in Iraq when Saddam Hussein’s regime was in power and he circulated cassettes inciting rebellion against the Shah, leading the latter to threaten Saddam with invasion of the Shatt al-Arab if he did not expel Khomeini out of Iraq.

Prince Bandar said that Saddam tried to convince the Shah not to do so and told him that he would prevent Khomeini from further issuing inciting cassettes. Not placated, the Shah insisted that Khomeini be expelled to Paris.

Commenting on Khomeini’s rise and the establishment of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist regime in Iran, Prince Bandar said Saudi Arabia waited until after Khomeini attained power and did not take a stance until he threatened to invade Iraq and later threatened Gulf countries.

Prince Bandar said that at this point, Riyadh chose one of the bad options which was to support Saddam in his war against Iran, adding that Riyadh had also secretly sponsored negotiations in Geneva between Baghdad and Tehran as well as in the palace of late Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister.

The former Saudi envoy to Washington also narrated how he met Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force at the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, during a visit to Tehran to meet Ali Larijani, Iran’s Parliament Speaker.

Prince Bandar said: “A coincidence led me to getting to (see) Soleimani face to face. Until then, we had (only) heard of him without seeing him.”

Obama’s policies emboldened Russia, Iran

It was former American President Barack Obama’s lenient policies which emboldened Russia and Iran to interfere in Syria, Prince Bandar said.

He revealed details of the last phone call between late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and Obama, during which the King told Obama: “I did not expect that (after) this long life, I would see (the day) when an American president lies to me.”

This was in reference to the famous red lines which Obama spoke of when he made a media statement on August 20, 2012, in the White House promising to stop the Syrian regime’s violations against civilians, i.e. when the regime troops used chemical weapons against them.

President Obama “would promise something and do the opposite,” Prince Bandar revealed, and this was the reason behind the tense relations between the US and Saudi Arabia during the last days of Obama’s term.

Prince Bandar noted that Obama spoke of curbing Iran’s role in the region and at the same time he secretly negotiated with it, leading to the Saudi mistrust with the Obama government.

Prince Bandar said that he does not regret not meeting with Barack Obama because he took the region 20 years back due to his policies in the Middle East.

On Palestine

Prince Bandar spoke extensively about the Palestinian cause and said former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat committed a crime against the Palestinian cause and the Palestinians when he rejected the peace initiative and solutions advocated by former American President Bill Clinton.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/26/Bandar-bin-Sultan-Obama-took-region-back-due-to-his-Middle-East-policies.html

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Coalition strikes kill 42 in ISIS Syria holdout

26 January 2019

Coalition missile strikes have killed 42 people including 13 civilians in what remains of ISIS’s last holdout in eastern Syria, a war monitor said.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, with backing from a US-led coalition, are battling to expel the last extremists from hamlets in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said short-range missiles late Friday hit homes on farmland near the village of Baghouz, killing 42 people.

Among them were 13 civilians, the Britain-based monitor said.

They included seven Syrians linked to ISIS, including three children from the same family, as well as six Iraqi non-combatants, it said.

The coalition was not immediately available for comment, but has in the past said it does everything to avoid targeting civilians.

“The area is a launchpad for extremist counterattacks,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The SDF have since September been battling to expel ISIS from their last pocket of territory on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River in Deir Ezzor.

The SDF has advanced swiftly in recent weeks, taking control of a series of key villages, with ISIS scrambling to retaliate.

On Thursday, ISIS failed to retake Baghouz from the SDF in one counterattack that left a total of 50 fighters dead on both sides, the Observatory said.

Thousands of people, mostly women and children, have fled into SDF-held territory in recent days, according to the Britain based Observatory, which relies on a network of contacts inside Syria for its information.

ISIS overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, declaring a “caliphate”, but it has since lost almost all of its territory to various offensives.

But it maintains a presence in Syria’s vast Badia desert.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/26/Coalition-strikes-kill-42-in-ISIS-Syria-holdout-.html

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Teenager killed as protesters attack Turkish base in Iraq's Kurdish region

Jan 26, 2019

A teenage boy has been killed in a bout of violence involving Turkish troops and Kurdish protesters in northern Iraq.

Reports late on Saturday said Turkish soldiers stationed in Iraqi Kurdistan region opened fire at people who were protesting peacefully in front of the Turkish military camp in the town of Shaladze while demanding an end to Turkey’s airstrikes in the region.

The reports said 10 people were also wounded in the violence which also saw the protesters set military vehicles and other properties in the camp on fire. Other reports said the shooting initiated by the Turkish troop, who left the scene after targeting the protesters, had caused the explosions.

Most of those wounded in the incident were Kurds mostly in their 20s, said the reports which also identified the boy killed in the violence as Hassan Rekan Hussein, a 13-year-old from Shaladze. The protesters were angry at repeated Turkish air strikes in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. Ankara says the air campaign is necessary to hunt militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group it blames for decades of insurgency in its own territory.

Turkey's Defense Ministry said troops in Shaladze defended the military camp against an attack by militants which it said had been “provoked” by the PKK. The ministry confirmed damage to its military vehicles and equipment.

The regional government in Erbil also blamed the incident on “saboteurs” who instigated the attack on the Turkish military camp.

There was no comment from the central government in Baghdad but PKK’s political wing said that the group had no offices in Shaladze, adding that Turkey was directly responsible for the deadly violence in the town.

For the past several years, Turkey has been engaged in a sweeping military operation against the PKK in its southern provinces while it has also dispatched troops to neighboring Syria and Iraq to allegedly fight the so-called PKK extensions.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/26/586886/Iraq-Turkey-military-camp-Kurdistan-violence

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India

 

India Islamic Cultural Centre is the sign of Muslims’ glorious past

Jan 26, 2019

New Delhi: The first general body meeting of India Islamic Cultural Centre after the election of Sirajuddin Quraishi as the president for the 4th consecutive term was held the day before.

On the occasion, former union minister of law HR Bhardwaj attended as the chief guest and administered the oath to the newly elected office bearers. He said, India Islamic Cultural Centre, along with the other heritage structures, is the sign of Indian Muslims’ glorious past. Any attempt to destroy it will be crushed.

He said India owes to Islam and its believers because they nurtured it with their blood.

https://www.siasat.com/news/india-islamic-cultural-centre-sign-muslims-glorious-past-1460446/

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Pakistan violates ceasefire along LoC

by Arun Sharma

January 27, 2019

Pakistan violated the ceasefire on Saturday, resorting to unprovoked small arms fire and mortar shelling along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Mankote area of Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district.

Since the beginning of the year, Pakistani troops have been violating the ceasefire almost on a daily basis.

Giving details, sources said Pakistani troops along the LoC started firing small arms and mortars on Mankote area. The firing was intense till 1.30 pm, sources said, adding that though its intensity decreased thereafter, the firing continued at frequent intervals. However, there were no casualties or damage on the Indian side as the mortar shells fell in the fields. The Indian Army retaliated strongly to silence the Pakistani guns.

In view of continuing tension, there was no exchange of sweets between the two countries at any place along the International Border in the state and the LoC, sources said. The situation is not congenial for exchange of pleasantries between two countries on the border in view of continued incidents of ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops, they said.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pakistan-violates-ceasefire-along-loc-indian-army-jammu-kashmir-5556596/

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Two militants killed in encounter near Srinagar

by Adil Akhzer

January 27, 2019

Two militants were killed in an encounter with security forces at Khanmoh area in the outskirts of Srinagar on Saturday. Seven security personnel were also injured, J&K Police said.

The militants had “serious plans of a terrorist act” Saturday, they added.

A total of 11 militants have been killed this week in Kashmir in separate encounters.

A senior police official said on Saturday morning that a cordon and search operation was launched in the area following inputs about the presence of militants.

As the search was going on, the militants fired at the security forces. “In the ensuing encounter, two terrorists were killed and the bodies retrieved from the site of the encounter. Their identities and affiliations are being ascertained,” said a police spokesperson.

A senior police official told The Sunday Express that one of the slain militants has been identified. He said that seven security personnel who were injured in the encounter are stable.

A spokesperson at J&K Police headquarters said, “The trapped militants had serious plans of a terrorist act today.”

Saturday’s encounter comes a day after militants lobbed grenades and attacked five places in the Kashmir valley, including camps and posts of the CRPF on Friday.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/two-militants-killed-encounter-srinagar-5556589/

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India, Pakistan in contact on Kartarpur corridor issue: Bisaria

Jan 27, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Indian high commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria has said that the two sides were in contact on the Kartarpur corridor issue and that New Delhi has already appointed a focal person for the purpose.

He made the remarks on Saturday night during an informal interaction with the media personnel invited to attend the reception to celebrate the 70th Republic Day of India.

Bisaria said India had consented to the basic points about the Kartarpur corridor except for its zero-point. He said both the countries were in contact over Kartarpur corridor.

"So many meetings have taken place on this matter (Kartarpur corridor)," he said.

But he ruled out any quick resumption of talks due to upcoming election in India.

"Because of (upcoming) elections in India, the bilateral political contacts might be difficult for now," he said.

He went on to say that trust-building was important before resuming political dialogue between the two countries. He said a delegation from Pakistani water commission will visit India on Sunday.

Bisaria said that 2019 was important for India as it marks 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev and the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-pakistan-in-contact-on-kartarpur-corridor-issue-bisaria/articleshow/67707617.cms

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Pakistan

 

Jamaat-e-Islami Says ‘Imperialist Dictation’ Impeding Progress

By Rana Yasif

January 27, 2019

LAHORE: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Senator Sirajul Haq has said that people taking dictation from imperialists could neither put the country on the path of development nor take decisions independently.

These people were unable to think independently and they always protected their own interests instead of the interests of the nation, he said, while addressing the concluding session of the JI central workshop at Mansoora, the party headquarters, on Saturday.

Sirajul Haq said that the same system was continuing in the country for the last 70 years. As a result of elections, only the families and faces of the rulers changed and the system remained unchanged. Those sitting in the assemblies were looking after their own interests and were least interested in changing the exploitative and oppressive system, he added.

He continued that the people had tried the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Peoples Party time and again but neither of these brought any change for the masses. Calling the government’s performance below-par and villainous, he said that the Tehreek-e-Insaf was also following in the footsteps of the previous rulers.

He said that the international establishment had established its control over the educational, economic and political systems of the developing countries through multilateral bodies like the International Court of Justice, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

“The rulers of the country had made the whole nation and coming generations slave of the IMF and the World Bank through interested-based loans and the mind of the young generation is being enslaved through the educational curriculum and syllabus recommended by the IMF,” Haq claimed.

He said the JI was striving for the enforcement of the Islamic order to protect the rights of the masses. He added that deviation from the ideology of Pakistan had ultimately caused the fall of Dhaka in 1971.

Haq said the JI was not a political party in the general sense but a movement aiming at a revolution. He said the JI wanted the reins of power in the hands of God-fearing and competent people who were true servants of the masses and had the will and the capability to deliver.

He said the country needed a revolution and a revolutionary and ideological leadership which alone could free it from the clutches of the US and international imperialism.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1897685/1-ji-says-imperialist-dictation-impeding-progress/

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State committed to addressing ‘genuine’ demands of Pashtuns: army

Jan 27, 2019

Chief of Pakistan Army’s media wing Major General Asif Ghafoor has said that the demands of the Pashtun community are genuine and the state is committed to addressing them.

In an interview with Arab News, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) DG said, “Till such time that the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) is peaceful and they stick to their genuine demands, which are natural in a post-conflict environment, the state is committed to take care of them.”

He, however, warned that instigating people against state institutions is against the law. “Once we have fulfilled the genuine demands that are already in the overall plan, we will see how to deal with anyone who still tries to exploit [the situation],” he added.

The ISPR DG said that Pakistan’s enemies are exploiting the movement.

“When there are fault lines, enemies will always try to exploit them,” he said. “There is an effort to exploit the PTM, whether it is with their connivance or not.”

Maj Gen Ghafoor also asked India not to use proxies against Pakistan, adding that an unstable Pakistan is not in India’s interest.

“When there are fault lines, then enemies will always try to exploit them. So, there is an effort to exploit PTM, whether with their connivance or not,” he said. “Just as we are concerned that an unstable Afghanistan is not in our interest, India should also know that an unstable Pakistan is not in its interest. They need to change their behaviour.”

Responding to a question about an extension in military courts first set up by the parliament in 2015, and decried for their lack of transparency, he said they were a “national requirement” because the country’s civilian judicial infrastructure was ill-equipped to deal with terrorism cases.

He said verdicts could be appealed at several levels, including in military appellate and civilian courts, and those on death row had the right to file mercy petitions with the army chief and the president of Pakistan.

“Military courts proceed as per law; there is a laid down legal process with full transparency. Courts decide on evidence and not emotions,” the army’s media chief said. “Should parliament decide that military courts are not needed, then they will not be renewed.”

TALIBAN PEACE TALKS:

Maj Gen Ghafoor clarified Taliban are not excluding Pakistan from the peace process. He said, “We are a facilitator. We have done our job of bringing them to the negotiating table. What is discussed and how the process moves forward will depend on progress during every meeting.”

When asked if the Taliban had refused to meet Khalilzad in Islamabad, Ghafoor said: “There are so many factions and stakeholders involved in the process. Coordination takes time. One faction or party gets out of coordination, [which] can result in changes in schedule or place.”

He said Pakistan had pushed for the dialogue to restart but had “no preference for time or place.”

Taliban sources have told media the Doha talks have focused on a roadmap for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and a guarantee the country will not be used for hostile acts against the United States and its allies.

The Taliban have so far refused direct talks with the Kabul government, which it views as an illegitimate, foreign-appointed force. Ghafoor said there was as yet no certainty on whether the insurgents could be persuaded to engage with the Afghan government but added that progress from the meetings would determine all outcomes.

He also spoke about abiding fears about how Afghan government forces would withstand the Taliban threat without US military support if US President Donald Trump acted on his desire to bring home half of the 14,000 US troops deployed in Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan should not go into turmoil” when US forces leave, the army’s media chief said: “The US should leave Afghanistan as friends of the region, with a commitment to assist Afghanistan in becoming self-sustaining and help in socio-economic development.”

The military spokesperson said “if there is peace in Afghanistan and greater control of the area by Afghan forces, it will be difficult for TTP to continue their sanctuaries there.”

He dismissed fears that the US would lose interest in Pakistan once it exited Afghanistan, or be free to take harsh actions when it no longer needed Islamabad’s help to end the conflict.

“Pakistan has always remained relevant and will continue to be relevant,” Maj Gen Ghafoor said. “And when the US leave Afghanistan, it will leave acknowledging Pakistan’s role in ending the conflict. Our relationship shall further strengthen.”

Responding to media reports that Pakistan was building military jets, weapons and other hardware with funds received under the CPEC umbrella, he said the corridor was “purely an economic project.”

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/01/26/state-committed-to-addressing-genuine-demands-of-pashtuns-army/

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More than half of Pakistan happy with PM Imran’s performance: survey

Jan 27, 2019

As many as 51 per cent of Pakistanis have a favourable opinion of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s overall performance after the first five months in power, a new Gallup Pakistan and the Gilani Foundation poll has revealed.

According to the survey report, 38 per cent of Pakistanis rated PM Imran’s performance in the chair as “good”, while 13 per cent thought it has been “very good”. 26 per cent of people thought his performance was “bad”, whereas 20 per cent said it was “very bad”; 3% did not respond.

The surveyors sampled 1,141 people from both urban and rural population. The people were asked, “What is your opinion on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s overall performance up until now, i.e., since his victory in the 2018 general elections?”

Urban respondents, according to the survey’s results, were found to be significantly more upbeat about the premier’s tenure.

From among urban respondents, 15 per cent were of the view that his performance has been very good up until now, while 44 per cent said that it had been good. 23 per cent termed it “bad”, 16 per cent termed it “very bad”, and 2 per cent did not know or did not wish to respond.

Meanwhile, from among rural respondents, only 12 per cent said that the prime minister’s performance had been very good, 35 per cent said that it had been good, 27 per cent opined that it had been bad, 22 per cent said that it had been very bad, while 4 per cent did not know or did not wish to respond.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/01/26/more-than-half-of-pakistan-happy-with-pm-imrans-performance-survey/

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Regional peace not possible without dialogue: FM Qureshi

January 27, 2019

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that Pakistan desires peace in the region, "which is not possible without dialogue", Radio Pakistan reported on Sunday

Speaking to reporters in Multan on Sunday, the foreign minister said that Pakistan has pursued regional peace by reaching out to different countries and advocating for a stable and peaceful South Asia.

Qureshi said that he will go to Oman on Tuesday where he is expected to discuss the entire spectrum of bilateral and regional cooperation with Omani leadership.

The foreign minister also said that he would visit London on February 3 where he will raise the Kashmir cause before the House of Commons and present Pakistan's stance on it.

Yesterday, Qureshi said that friendly countries had agreed to provide financial assistance to Pakistan owing to its 'successful' foreign policy.

Talking to various delegations of his constituency here on Saturday, he said that Saudi Arabia had agreed to give oil worth $3 billion [on deferred payment] while Qatar now would import agricultural products from Pakistan instead of India.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1460117/regional-peace-not-possible-without-dialogue-fm-qureshi

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Govt to spend Rs2bn on Kartarpur corridor: Qureshi

Jan 27, 2019

UMERKOT: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday said the government had prepared the feasibility report of the Kartarpur corridor project and a total of Rs2 billion will be spent on it.

The Kartarpur corridor is a proposed border corridor between Pakistan and India, which will connect the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur to facilitate thousands of Sikh pilgrims visiting the country every year.

Addressing a public rally here, Qureshi said the Sikh community was very happy over the opening of the Kartarpur border and Pakistan had received an overwhelming response on the gesture from all across the globe.

Speaking of the Pakistan-United States (US) ties, the foreign minister said Washington wanted to review its relations with Islamabad.

He further said Indian occupation forces were involved in grave human rights violations in occupied Kashmir.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/01/26/govt-to-spend-rs2bn-on-kartarpur-corridor-qureshi/

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Indonesia, Pakistan ties poised for quantum leap

January 27, 2019

Islamabad : Deny Tri Basuki, counsellor and head of cultural section Embassy of Republic of Indonesia has said Indonesia and Pakistan share strong socio-cultural and religious bonds rooted in the history.

Pakistan and Indonesia stand proudly together as two of the largest Muslim populated countries and emerging economies of creative and talented people.

He expressed these views on the occasion of a business gathering organised by tourism ministry of Indonesia in collaboration with the Indonesian embassy. A large number of stakeholders hailing from the travel and aviation industry of Pakistan attended the event.

He said it was very pleasing to note that both the countries aspire to maintain and further develop their exemplary ties and transform the potential of these ties into increased cooperation in various venues.

Both the countries highly value their ties and encourage all-around cooperation to further strengthen the fraternal bond between the two nations.

He said in recent years, Indonesia-Pakistan bilateral relations have seen significant development in mutual beneficial cooperation.

The two countries have endeavoured to expand their cooperation in the areas of trade & economy, defence cooperation, academic linkages and cultural interaction.

While talking about future prospects of bilateral cooperation Deny said though Pakistan and Indonesia enjoy a deep friendly relationship, yet the scope is extraordinary and exceptional.

Tourism he said is generally about leisure and pleasure. But it also promotes cultural exchange and provides opportunity to people of various cultures to meet and understand each other.

He said two years ago the Embassy, in its efforts to create awareness about tourism opportunities in Indonesia, produced a travelogue series in collaboration with a Pakistani Entertainment TV Channel, which went very well.

The travelogue series was a success as it helped in acquainting and attracting the people in Pakistan to the rich and diverse culture of Indonesia and also helped build tourism profile of Indonesia in Pakistan.

He added, in 2017, the Embassy under its FAMTRIP program brought 10 top tour operators of Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi to Indonesia adding recently five journalists from Pakistan’s leading media were taken to Jakarta, Bandung and Bali to get to know more about Indonesia’s tourism potential.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/424223-indonesia-pakistan-ties-poised-for-quantum-leap

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Southeast Asia

 

‘Ahok’ Case Highlights Indonesia’s Blasphemy Law

January 26, 2019

WASHINGTON —

The release of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the former governor of Jakarta, after serving most of a two-year sentence for blasphemy, is focusing attention on the law that brought down the popular politician best known as Ahok.

Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Christian in a Muslim-majority nation, was found guilty of blasphemy by the North Jakarta District Court, May 9, 2017, a month after he lost his re-election bid to Anies Baswedan, who espouses a strict interpretation of Islam.

The governorship of Jakarta is widely seen as a steppingstone to higher, nationwide office. The current president, Joko Widodo, served as governor before Ahok. That Ahok’s campaign became a flash point in the blasphemy debate highlighted the religious tension in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, as does Widodo’s selection of a cleric, Maruf Amin, as his running mate in his re-election bid. Widodo’s opponent, former Gen. Prabowo Subianto, is stressing his ties to Islamists in the run-up to the April 8-17 vote.

Beginning of trouble

Ahok’s troubles began on a campaign stop, Sept. 27, 2016, when he said people should not vote for a candidate based on religious beliefs, a criticism of the notion that Muslims cannot have a leader who is not also Muslim. A video of his remarks appeared on social media, edited to suggest Ahok was insulting the Quran, triggering violent street protests by fundamentalists.

Ahok lost the April 2017 vote to Baswedan. After a high-profile trial, Ahok was convicted May 9, 2017, and later that year, on Nov. 14, a district court in West Java found Buni Yani guilty of editing Ahok’s remarks and sentenced him to 1½ years in prison. He has yet to serve his time and is working on Subianto’s election campaign, according to The Washington Post.

“Indonesia’s 1945 constitution explicitly guarantees freedom of religion, as does the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Indonesia is a party,” according to a 2018 Human Rights Watch (HRW) article.

“However, the Indonesian government has long enacted, and in recent years strengthened, legislation and regulations that have subjected minority religions to official discrimination. This has made minority groups extremely vulnerable to members of the majority community who take the law into their own hands,” the article said.

Blasphemy law

Blasphemy is defined in Article 156a of Indonesia’s 1965 criminal code as “abusing or staining a religion adhered to in Indonesia” when the act is committed with “the intention to prevent a person to adhere to any religion based on belief of the almighty God,” according to Rafiqa Qurrata A’yun, a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Indonesia writing in Inside Indonesia.

In short, going outside the central tenets of Indonesia’s six officially recognized religions — Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Protestantism and Islam — can mean five years in prison. Virtually all the blasphemy cases involve Islam.

Among those minorities, other than Ahok, the person who has attracted the most attention is Meiliana, a 44-year-old Chinese Buddhist, who was found guilty of insulting Islam after asking her neighborhood mosque in 2016 to lower the volume of its sound system used in the call to prayer. She said it hurt her ears.

The mobs responding to Meiliana’s request for a quieter azan ransacked at least 14 Buddhist temples in Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, as ethnic Chinese fled the area. She was jailed for 18 months.

Other cases included the dismissal in July by the Supreme Court of a challenge to the blasphemy law by nine members of the Ahmadiyya religious minority who “who sought the law’s abolition on the basis that it fuels discrimination and abuse of religious minorities,” according to HRW.

The Ahmadiyya sect was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad more than a century ago in what is today the Indian part of Punjab. He claimed to be the incarnation of a Messiah promised in Islamic holy texts. That challenged the mainstream Muslim belief that Muhammad is Islam’s last and final prophet.

Early last year, the Jayapura Churches Association, in the capital of Indonesia’s Papua province, issued a stark ultimatum to municipal authorities: Dismantle the minaret of the city’s al-Aqsa Mosque within 14 days or the group would “take their own action.” The group took no action, however, after the two weeks passed.

On May 19, 2018, militant Islamists attacked and damaged eight Ahmadiyya houses on Lombok Island, forcing 24 people from seven families to seek refuge at the East Lombok police precinct, according to HRW.

Cases reported

Based on research done by Jakarta’s Setara Institute, which tracks religious freedom in Indonesia, from 1965 to 2017 there were 97 cases of blasphemy, 88 of those since 1998. Of those, 22 have occurred since Widodo took office, according to HRW.

Melissa Crouch, an associate professor at the law school at the University of New South Wales in Australia, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the blasphemy law had been “weaponized.”

“It’s called the ‘Ahok effect,’ the use of the blasphemy law to target political opponents,” said Crouch, who is an expert on Indonesia’s blasphemy laws.

The U.S. State Department’s Annual Report on Religious Freedom from 2017 referred to the problem of conviction for blasphemy and defamation of religion, and the HRW Annual Report for 2018 described Indonesia’s blasphemy law as “dangerously ambiguous.”

The senior HRW researcher in Indonesia, Andreas Harsono, told VOA that he “regretted” that Widodo “did not use the enormous political support he had to overcome intolerance.”

Harsono added, “It is necessary to continue public education so that everyone is aware of the existence of controversial laws such as the blasphemy law.”

Anthropologist and founder of SEA Junction in Bangkok, Dr. Rosalia Sciortino Sumaryono, echoed Harsono's remarks. She said that in many cases, where minorities are victims because of the politicization of religion or ethnic distrust fueled by nationalism, too many people in the majority keep quiet out of fear.

“We may be afraid to face a war of ideas, but it is time to speak out and claim our public spaces,” she said. “This is an urgent need, because otherwise such behavior will continue to spread and eventually we will be cornered. Many victims will fall.”

https://www.voanews.com/a/ahok-case-highlights-indonesia-s-dangerously-ambiguous-blasphemy-law/4760596.html

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Hadi lauds voters’ choice of Muslim MP to represent Cameron Highlands

26 January 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 — PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang thanked Allah for guiding Cameron Highlands voters into electing a Muslim candidate in today’s parliamentary by-election — even though it wasn’t from his party, but former nemesis Barisan Nasional (BN).

After their mutual losses in GE14, the conservative Islamist party and the BN coalition have joined up to take on their new common foe, Pakatan Harapan (PH) in Parliament and in the four by-elections that have been called since.

“Thanks be to Allah for His guidance to voters to choose a Muslim candidate to represent the multiracial society in the Cameron Highlands parliamentary constituency.

“PAS congratulates the BN on its candidate’s victory by a wider margin in the Cameron Highands by-election, and see the result as a positive development towards better coo-operation in the Opposition bloc,” Hadi said in his Facebook entry after the Election Commission declared Ramli Mohd Nor the winner.

“To Ramli Mohd Nor, we hope you will speak out in defence of the religion, race and country in Parliament,” he added.

The Marang MP also fired broadside at the defeated PH which fielded a candidate from its DAP component.

Like acting BN chairman Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, Hadi touted the Cameron Highlands by-election a representative of PH’s receding public support nine months after taking federal power.

“DAP and PH’s defeat in this by-election signals the people’s rejection of PH in its failure to fulfil its promises besides a sign of the people’s rejection of DAP’s extremist politics.

Ramli scored 12,078 votes, besting PH candidate, lawyer M. Manogaran by 3,238 votes.

The 61-year-old Ramli also made history by being the first Orang Asli MP to be elected.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/01/26/hadi-lauds-voters-choice-of-muslim-mp-to-represent-cameron-highlands/1716809

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Home Ministry not authority on religious matters, Muhyiddin says after Islamic book banned

26 January 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 — While the Home Ministry is in charge of publications, it is not the authority on religious content and must consult the relevant agency before making a decision on such books, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today.

The home minister was commenting on the ban of the book Breaking The Silence: Voices of Moderation: Islam in a Constitutional Democracy by pro-moderation group G25, which is a collection of articles that touches on Islamic religious teachings and aqidah or religious belief.

“My ministry is not the authority on religious issues. We must address that before making a final decision on this,” Muhyiddin told reporters after launching the Malay edition of Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad’s book 9 May 2018: Catatan Dari Garis Depan.

He said although the Pakatan Harapan government believes in human rights and freedom of speech, it takes in to account certain factors in allowing a book released for mass consumption.

“Especially if the book in question touches on issues concerning race, religion, relations between different ethnic groups in Malaysia, among others,” Muhyiddin said.

However, he acknowledged receipt of a formal appeal from the G25 group of retired civil servants, which he will also refer to when consulting the relevant authorities.

Muhyiddin did not specify the relevant authority to be consulted on the Islamic book.

Earlier this month, G25 urged the government to lift the ban, which was put in place by the previous BN administration on grounds it could alarm public opinion and be prejudicial to public order.

Published in December 2015 with a foreword by former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the book discusses the consistency of Islamic bureaucracy in Malaysia and with the Federal Constitution’s provisions.

Nik Nazmi’s book 9 May 2018: Catatan Dari Garis Depan chronicles the sequence of events leading up to the watershed May 9 general election that ended the 61-year rule of the Barisan Nasional.

In particular, it details his experiences in contesting the Setiawangsa federal seat, which until GE14, had been the sole BN seat in the national capital which it had never lost.

The book’s English version 9 May 2018: Notes from the Frontline was launched on December 3 last year. Both editions cost RM25 a copy.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/01/26/home-ministry-not-authority-on-religious-matters-muhyiddin-says-after-islam/1716747

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North America

 

Right-wing group confronts Muslims outside Edmonton mosque

JAN 26, 2019

by Megan McPhaden

EDMONTON (660 NEWS) — Edmonton police have called in the hate crimes unit to investigate an incident caught on camera.

A nine-minute-long video posted to Facebook by a man named Ty Hunt, shows a group of men standing on a sidewalk exchanging words with two Muslim men outside of a mosque. In the video, a man off-camera describes the group as “freedom fighters” who claim they are outside the mosque to gain knowledge of Islam.

Warren Wheeler, one of the Muslim men filmed in the video, was on his way to prayer when he was approached.

“People that came, if they wanted to seek knowledge, they would just come sincerely,” he said, encouraging those who want to learn to visit the mosque. “Anyone can come to the mosque and seek knowledge and no one will turn them away.”

During the interaction, the group of men badgered Wheeler and another man with questions about underage marriage and violence against non-believers. At one point, a man from the group assumes Wheeler is not from Canada and is corrected by Wheeler who was born in Toronto.

At several points during the video, the group of white men also hurl insults at Wheeler and another Muslim man.

A man off-camera says he “doesn’t speak noodle” and “piss be upon you”– a play on the Muslim saying, “peace be upon you”.

Though the group claims to be seeking knowledge of Islam, they wore clothing emblazoned with words like “infidel”, or a person who does not believe in religion. Others from the group wore toques with the Arabic word “kafir” on it, a term used to describe non-believers of Islam.

“When you come under the guise of gaining knowledge, but you are also throwing insults — you are basically being belligerent,” Wheeler said. “That tells me that the sincerity is not there.”

The video was filmed without consent and posted to a group called Ty’s Canadian Infidels, which describes itself as “patriots under one umbrella according to the Quran” serving the people of Canada. The group has shared support for right-wing politics including anti-immigration.

The video ends when Wheeler is pulled away by another Muslim man who told him prayer was about to begin.

Prior to the incident, two men were caught on surveillance cameras entering the mosque. They claimed to be using the washroom, but Wheeler said it looked more like they were canvassing the area.

Al Rashid Mosque, concerned for the safety of its members, contacted Edmonton police after the incident occurred. A spokesperson for the mosque is denouncing the group’s actions.

“We would like for this situation to be resolved, and to not occur again because of the safety of our people,” Noor Al-Henedy, a spokesperson for Al Rashid said. “This is a place of worship and it’s not a place to tolerate this kind of behaviour.”

Though they have safety protocols in place they “are working with local authorities and police to make sure that anyone who comes here is safe.”

The incident is particularly unsettling for Muslims as the second anniversary of the Quebec Mosque shooting is just days away.

For specific references to hate crimes in the Criminal Code of Canada visit the Calgary Police Service website.

https://montreal.citynews.ca/2019/01/26/edmonton-hate-crimes-unit-investigating-interaction-between-right-wing-group-and-2-muslim-men-outside-mosque/

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US mulls keeping troops in Syria to counter, attack Iranians in 'self-defence': Report

Jan 27, 2019

Washington is considering a plan to illegally maintain a force contingent at a US military base in Syria to “combat” Iran’s influence in the region and even strike Iranians passing by near the base while purportedly claiming “self-defense,” despite a presidential order to pull out all US forces from the country, a report said.

Given the “strategic importance” of the al-Tanf garrison – located near Syria’s eastern border with Jordan – “the US government is considering a plan to keep at least some forces there,” US-based Foreign Policy news outlet reported Friday, quoting military sources that further insisted that a US presence at the base “helps to block Iran’s hope” for what they described as “a continuous land bridge from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon… that could threaten Israeli.”

“Al-Tanf is a critical element in the effort to prevent Iran from establishing a ground line of communications from Iran through Iraq through Syria to southern Lebanon in support of Lebanese Hezbollah,” said one former senior US military commander as quoted in the report.

The report further underlines that the significance of the garrison is not merely its strategic location,  but also a 55-kilometer exclusion zone around the garrison that allows intruding US forces “to claim self-defense in striking Iranian or other forces moving through that area,” citing a “source close to the discussions.”

“When they (Iranians) come through, we’ve claimed, I think reasonably, that they’ve been threatening either US forces or partner forces,” said the source as quoted in the report, which noted that legally, the US lacks the authority to attack a state actor such as Iran without provocation.

The report goes on to claim that al-Tanf sits along what it described as “a potential Iranian supply route through Iraq to Syria,” and has also become “a critical buttress for combating Iranian influence in the region.”

The development came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo emphasized earlier this month that despite the pull-out of American troops from Syria, "the counter-Iran campaign continues," suggesting continued presence of some US troops at al-Tanf to counter Iranian influence in the Arab country.

Last month, US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of nearly 2,000 American military service members in Syria while claiming victory over the foreign-backed Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group that shared Washington’s objective of overthrowing the Syrian government, boasting: “We have won against ISIS.”

Under the current withdrawal plan, the more than 200 US troops who have been collaborating with local anti-Damascus terrorists out of al-Tanf will be the last to leave Syria, according to military officials.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/27/586889/US-military-Syria-presence-Iran-influence-alTanf-garrison

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'Significant progress made' in US, Taliban peace talks

27.01.2019

The 6-day long talks in Qatar between the U.S. and the Taliban ended on Saturday with significant progress, a U.S. official said.

"Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past. We made significant progress on vital issues," Zalmay Khalilzad, top U.S. negotiator tweeted.

Following the meetings with Taliban representatives, Khalilzad was flying back to Kabul for consultations with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other top officials.

"Will build on the momentum and resume talks shortly. We have a number of issues left to work out. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and ‘everything’ must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive ceasefire" Khalilzad said.

He also appreciated Qatari government's role to break stalled talks with Taliban in Doha.

In a separate statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that progress made on the U.S. troops withdrawal and several other vital issues during the meetings.

"This round of negotiations revolving around the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and other vital issues saw progress but since issues are of critical nature and need comprehensive discussions therefore it was decided that talks about unsolved matters will resume in similar future meetings" Mujahid explained.

He added that both side will share the details of meetings with their respective leadership to get their guidance for further progress.

However, the Taliban spokesman stated that progress in other issues is impossible until a consensus on the withdrawal of foreign troops is reached.

He also rejected the reports about agreement on a ceasefire and talks with the Kabul administration and termed it baseless.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/significant-progress-made-in-us-taliban-peace-talks/1375945

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US, Taliban ‘finalise draft deal’ to end Afghan conflict

Jan 27, 2019

KABUL: Weeks long efforts of the United States and allies paid off on Saturday when Afghan Taliban negotiators and the United States officials meeting in Qatar finalised clauses to be included in a draft agreement to end the 17-year-old Afghan war.

According to details provided by Taliban sources, the draft includes apparent concessions from both sides, with foreign forces to be withdrawn from the country in 18 months from the future signing of the deal. It is unclear whether a joint statement will be issued, or whether the provisions have been fully accepted by the US side.

According to sources, Taliban offered assurances that Afghanistan will not be allowed to be used by al Qaeda and Islamic State militants to attack the United States and its allies – a key early demand of Washington. In return for a ceasefire offer, they also demanded the assurance from by the US that there will be no threat to regional countries, especially Pakistan.

Though the militant outfit agreed to ceasefire clause, it asked the allies to provide a timeline for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. They, however, hinted at holding talks with the Afghan government in a post-ceasefire scenario, reported Tolo News quoting sources.

Other clauses include a deal over the exchange and release of prisoners from the warring sides, the removal of an international travel ban on several Taliban leaders by the United States and the prospect of an interim Afghan government after the ceasefire is struck, the Taliban sources said.

During the talks, US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad reportedly said the talks should be aimed at reforms and not for a demand by the Taliban to control Afghanistan. Now he will be heading to Afghan capital Kabul to brief President Ashraf Ghani after the end of the six-day talks.

Later in the evening, Khalilzad hailed “significant progress” in finding a solution to end Afghanistan’s long-running war.

“Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past. We made significant progress on vital issues,” he tweeted. The envoy, however, added that both sides have a “number of issues left to work out. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and “everything” must include an “intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive ceasefire”.

‘WE HAVE DONE OUR PART’

In an interview, Pakistan Army’s spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said the potential deal, which would facilitate the withdrawal of allied forces from Afghanistan, would help improve ties between Pakistan and the US as “we have made good on our word”.

“This political reconciliation must succeed. … We wish that the US leaves Afghanistan as a friend of the region, not as a failure,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/01/26/us-taliban-finalise-draft-deal-to-end-afghan-conflict/

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Europe

 

Germany’s Merkel calls for “zero tolerance” of anti-Semitism, hate

January 26, 2019

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel underscored the urgency of combating anti-Semitism, racism and hatred more than 70 years after the Holocaust, calling for new ways to keep alive the memory of the millions of people killed by the Nazis.

Merkel, in a video address released ahead of Sunday’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, said it was everyone’s responsibility to ensure “zero tolerance” of xenophobia and all forms of anti-Semitism.

“People growing up today must know what people were capable of in the past, and we must work proactively to ensure that it is never repeated,” Merkel said.

Millions of people were robbed of their rights, tortured and murdered — including an estimated six million Jews — across Europe from 1933 to 1945, when the Nazis ruled Germany.

The German leader called for new forms of remembrance due to the dwindling number of eyewitnesses from the Nazi era, and because of persistent hatred and incitement today.

Merkel expressed deep regret about anti-Semitism among Germans, as well as hatred of Jews among Muslim migrants and a hatred of Israel that she said could not be tolerated.

Germany last year appointed a commissioner to oversee efforts to combat ant-Semitism and will also set up a central repository to collect information about such incidents and attacks, with an eye to bolstering prevention, Merkel said.

“It will be crucial in the coming time to find new ways of remembrance,” she said. “We must look more closely at the personalities of people who were victims back then, and to tell their stories.”

Merkel cited the importance of supporting Holocaust memorials and private initiatives such as the “stumbling stones” project, which installs brass bricks inscribed with the names and key details of people near the homes from which they were deported during the Nazi era.

“I think these forms of remembrance … are very important and will become more significant in the future,” Merkel said.

On Friday, the director of the memorial at the largest Nazi concentration camp on German soil barred the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) from a commemoration for the 56,000 people killed there during the Holocaust.

Volkhard Knigge, director of the Buchenwald Memorials Foundation, told AfD politicians in the state of Thuringia where the camp is located that he was responding to anti-democratic, racist and anti-Semitic tendencies in the party.

The AfD, whose popularity surged amid anger over Merkel’s 2015 decision to welcome over a million mostly Muslim migrants, says Islam is incompatible with the German constitution, but rejects charges of racism.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2019/01/26/germanys-merkel-calls-for-zero-tolerance-of-anti-semitism-hate/

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Iran vows to reconsider cooperation with Europe in case of new sanctions

Jan 26, 2019

Iran has strongly censured France for threatening to impose new sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its missile program, vowing to reconsider its relations with European countries in case such bans are imposed.

The remarks were made by Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi in reaction to earlier comments by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

“Iran’s military capabilities are part of the country’s legitimate defense power and a guarantor of the Islamic Republic’s national security, which is based on the doctrine of deterrence,” Qassemi said Friday.

“The Islamic Republic has designed its defense capabilities based on a realistic assessment of the existing threats,” he said, vowing that the country would strengthen such capabilities to the extent it deems necessary.

“Iran’s missile capability is not negotiable, and this has been brought to the attention of the French side during the ongoing political dialogue between Iran and France,” he said.

Qassemi further noted that Le Drian’s threat to impose new missile sanctions is against the spirit of political talks and cooperation between the two countries.

He also vowed that Iran will reconsider its interaction with European countries in case these states impose any new sanctions against Tehran.

“Iran has always sought to consolidate peace and stability in the region, and believes the mass sale of sophisticated and assault weapons by the US and some European countries, including France, has undermined regional stability and balance,” he said. 

Qassemi’s remarks came after the top French diplomat said his country is ready to impose further sanctions on Iran if no progress is made in talks over Tehran’s ballistic missile program.

“We are ready, if the talks don’t yield results, to apply sanctions firmly, and they know it,” Le Drian told reporters.

Diplomats previously told Reuters that new sanctions being considered by EU countries over the missile issue could include asset freezes and travel bans on the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRCG) and people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program. Le Drian’s threatening remarks come as the European Union is expected to launch its exclusive payment mechanism, known as Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), for facilitating non-dollar trade with Iran in a bid to circumvent the US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The SPV "should be implemented in the coming days," Le Drian told the French parliament's foreign affairs committee on Wednesday.

"It will work as a sort of clearing house that will allow in euros for Iran to benefit from some of its oil resources and at the same time buy essential products from the main three main (European) partners," he added.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/26/586800/Iran-France-Qassemi-missile-sanctions-ledrian

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Protesters storm Turkish military camp in north Iraq

January 26, 2019

At least 10 people were wounded when protesters stormed a Turkish military camp near Dohuk in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region on Saturday, burning two tanks and other vehicles, residents and Kurdish officials said.

The crowd was demonstrating over a recent Turkish air raid that killed four civilians, a Kurdish official in the region of Dohuk said.

Turkey's Defence Ministry wrote on Twitter: "An attack has occurred on one of bases located in northern Iraq as a result of provocation by the PKK terrorist organisation. There was partial damage to vehicles and equipment during the attack."

Without naming the base, the ministry said "necessary precautions are being taken regarding the incident."

Turkish officials could not be reached for further comment.

Turkey carries out regular air raids near the border against the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK insurgent group which has bases in northern Iraq and has fought a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/protesters-storm-turkish-military-camp-in-north-iraq-1.818372

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France tells Iran new sanctions loom if missile talks fail

January 26, 2019

France is ready to impose further sanctions on Iran if no progress is made in talks over its ballistic missile programme, the French foreign minister said on Friday.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, who this week reiterated support for a European-backed system to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran and circumvent US sanctions, said France wanted to see Tehran rein in its missile activity.

"We are ready, if the talks don't yield results, to apply sanctions firmly, and they know it," Mr Le Drian told reporters.

In response, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi reiterated that "any new sanctions by European countries would lead to a re-evaluation by Iran of its interactions with those countries", the state news agency IRNA reported.

"Iran's missile capability is not negotiable, and this has been brought to the attention of the French side during the ongoing political dialogue between Iran and France," Mr Qasemi added.

A UN Security Council resolution enshrined Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States in which Tehran curbed its uranium enrichment programme in exchange for an end to international sanctions.

The resolution says Iran is "called upon" to refrain for up to eight years from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons. Iran denies its missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Last May, US President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal, approved before he took office, and reimposed sanctions on Tehran, saying it was flawed as it did not address ballistic missiles or Iran's support for armed proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.

The European signatories to the deal stuck with it, saying it is the best way to keep Iran's nuclear work in check.

But US sanctions over dollar transactions have made investors wary about doing business with Iran, something the European-backed special purpose vehicle (SPV) is meant to tackle.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/france-tells-iran-new-sanctions-loom-if-missile-talks-fail-1.818052

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Africa

 

Sudan’s Bashir to visit Egypt as more protests planned

26 January 2019

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir will travel to Cairo for talks with his Egyptian counterpart, state media reported Saturday, as protesters called for more nationwide demonstrations against his government.

Bashir’s visit to Cairo on Sunday will be his second trip abroad since deadly protests erupted at home on December 19.

On Wednesday, he met Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on a trip to the Gulf state.

“President Omar al-Bashir will travel to Cairo on Sunday for a one day visit,” Sudan’s official news agency SUNA reported.

“He will hold bilateral talks with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and also discuss regional issues that concern the two countries.”

Bashir’s visit was also confirmed by Sudan’s Ambassdor to Cairo, Mahmoud Abdel Halim.

Protests erupted in Sudan last month after a government decision to triple the price of bread.

The rallies swiftly mushroomed into nationwide calls for an end to Bashir’s three decades in power, as protesters clashed with security forces.

Officials say 30 people have died in the violence, while rights groups say more than 40 people have been killed including medics and children.

The Sudanese group that is leading the protest campaign has called for more rallies over the next few days, including night-time demonstrations on Saturday.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/26/Sudan-s-Bashir-to-visit-Egypt-as-more-protests-planned.html

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Two injured in central Nairobi explosion

27 January 2019

Two people suffered light injuries in an explosion in central Nairobi on Saturday, police said, with the Kenyan capital on edge nearly two weeks after an extremist attack claimed 21 lives.

Philip Ndolo, regional police commander, said a roadside vendor was given a “small box” to transport in his cart by a “Somali gentleman” which exploded.

The Somali pretended to have forgotten his identity papers and told the vendor he was fetching them and left, police said. The blast then happened near a restaurant and a bus station.

“We have slight injuries to the vendor, on the right hand, and slight injuries to the newspaper vendor (who was nearby) on the right leg,” he said.

An AFP journalist at the scene said the area had been cordoned off by police, who were conducting a search near a metal handcart.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/01/27/Two-injured-in-central-Nairobi-explosion.html

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Tunisian FM demands restoration of Syria’s Arab League membership

Jan 26, 2019

Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui has called on the Arab League to restore Syria’s membership, saying the “natural place” of the country is within the 22-member regional organization.

“Syria is an Arab state, and its natural place is within the Arab League,” Jhinaoui said during a news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Tunis on Saturday.

“The question of Syria returning to the Arab League does not depend on Tunisia but on the Arab League,” he added.

“The foreign ministers (of member states) will decide on this subject,” Jhinaoui said. “What interests us is Syria's stability and security.”

Lavrov also called for readmitting Syria in the Arab League.

“We would like Tunisia to support the process of Syria’s return to the Arab family and the Arab League,” the top Russian diplomat said.

“I believe that Tunis is interested in a quick return of Syrian refugees sheltered in Tunisia,” Lavrov said. “We will do everything to create proper conditions in Syria for that kind of return,” he added.

There are around 400 Syrian refugees in Tunisia, according to estimates by the UN refugee agency.

Tunisia is scheduled to host the 30th annual summit of the Arab League in March.

On January 18, Lebanon’s Caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil called on the Arab League to restore Syria’s membership in the organization, describing attempts to block the move as a “historic mistake.”

“We, Arab nations, don’t know how to look out for each other. Arab states continue to trade blame for suffering across the region rather than assembling plans to alleviate it,” Bassil said as he opened the first session of an Arab economic summit in Beirut.

“Syria should return to us ... Syria should be in our embrace instead of throwing it into the embrace of terrorism," he pointed out.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on January 8 that the current Damascus government needed to implement a number of measures toward a political settlement of the ongoing Syria crisis to be able to reclaim its membership in the Arab League.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita in Cairo, Shoukry said such measures were required "in accordance with … UN Security Council Resolution 2254," which endorses a road map for a peace process in Syria, and sets out the outlines of a nationwide ceasefire.

“There's a need to get out of the current crisis in Syria within the political framework sponsored by the UN envoy in Geneva,” the top Egyptian diplomat pointed out.

The Arab League suspended Syria's membership in November 2011, citing alleged crackdown by Damascus on opposition protests. Syria has denounced the move as "illegal and a violation of the organization’s charter.”

The issue of possible restoration of Syria’s membership to the Arab League comes especially after the latest move by some Arab countries to re-open their embassies in Damascus.

Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry announced in a statement on December 28, 2018 that work at the kingdom’s embassy “in the Syrian Arab Republic was going on whilst the Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic to the Kingdom of Bahrain was carrying out its duties and flights connecting the two countries were operational without interruption.”

It came a day after the United Arab Emirates officially reopened its embassy in Damascus.

The Emirati Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said the reopening of its embassy “reaffirms the keenness of the United Arab Emirates to restore relations between the two friendly countries to their normal course.”

The move “will strengthen and activate the Arab role in supporting the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and to prevent the dangers of regional interference in Syrian Arab affairs,” the ministry pointed out.

On December 16 last year, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir became the first Arab League leader to visit Damascus.

Syria's official news agency SANA said Bashir was greeted by his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad, upon arrival at Damascus International Airport, before they both headed to the presidential palace.

The two leaders discussed bilateral ties and the "situations and crises faced by many Arab countries," the Syrian presidency said in a statement.

SANA quoted the Sudanese leader as saying during the meeting that he hoped Syria would recover its important role in the region as soon as possible.

He also affirmed Khartoum’s readiness to provide all it can to support Syria's territorial integrity.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/26/586874/Tunisian-FM-demands-restoration-of-Syrias-Arab-League-membership

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Tunisia, Russia call for Arab League to readmit Syria

January 26, 2019

TUNIS: Syria’s “natural place” is within the Arab League, Tunisia’s foreign minister said Saturday, ahead of the organization’s annual summit in Tunis in March.

“Syria is an Arab state, and its natural place is within the Arab League,” Khemaies Jhinaoui said during a news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who is on a tour of North African countries.

The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011 as the death toll in the country’s civil war mounted.

“The question of Syria returning to the Arab League does not depend on Tunisia but on the Arab League,” Jhinaoui said.

“The foreign ministers (of member states) will decide on this subject,” he added. “What interests us is Syria’s stability and security.”

Persistent divisions between the Arab League’s member states have worked against Syria’s readmission.

Russia’s intervention in Syria’s war since 2015 in favor of President Bashar Assad has turned the tide of the conflict in the regime’s favor.

The United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus in December, the same month Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir made the first visit of any Arab leader to the Syrian capital since the start of the war.

But Qatar earlier this month rejected normalizing ties with Assad.

Lavrov backed overtures to readmit Syria.

“As we have discussed in Algeria and Morocco over the past few days, we would like Tunis to also support Syria’s return to the Arab family, the Arab League,” he said in Tunis.

Lavrov, who has also visited Morocco on his tour, said that Tunisia and Russia agreed to ramp up “anti-terror cooperation.”

In reference to Franco-Italian differences on Libya, he said: “We must harmonize the efforts of outside mediators seeking a settlement to the Libyan conflict.

“This must be done under the sponsorship of the United Nations and taking into account the points of view of neighbors such as Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt.”

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1442296/middle-east

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Sudan's opposition chief says time for Al Bashir to go

January 26, 2019

Sudan's main opposition leader Sadiq Al Mahdi has called for President Omar Al Bashir to step down, throwing his support behind anti-government demonstrators after weeks of deadly protests.

Demonstrations have rocked the east African country since December 19, prompted by a government decision to triple the price of bread.

Since then 30 people have died in protest-related violence, according to officials, while rights group put the death toll at more than 40.

"This regime has to go immediately," Mr Al Mahdi told hundreds of worshippers attending Friday prayers at a mosque in Omdurman, the twin city of the capital Khartoum, which has seen near daily anti-government protests.

Mr Al Mahdi, whose government was toppled by Mr Al Bashir in a 1989 coup, has been a fixture of Sudanese politics since the 1960s. After nearly a year in exile, he returned to Sudan last month on the same day protests began.

Echoing calls by protesters for Mr Al Bashir to resign, the opposition chief gave an even higher death toll for the demonstrations.

"More than 50 people have been killed since December," said Mr Al Mahdi,

He backed the Sudanese Professionals' Association (SPA), an umbrella group of doctors, teachers and engineers which is leading demonstrations.

"A period of transition will come soon ... we are supporting this movement," said Mr Al Mahdi.

He said his party had signed "a document for change and freedom" with the SPA.

While Mr Al Mahdi's Umma Party has served as Sudan's main opposition group, regularly campaigning against government policies, analysts say the SPA-led protest movement has emerged as the biggest challenge yet to Mr Al Bashir's rule.

"Together we will hold peaceful demonstrations in Sudan and outside of Sudan," Mr Al Mahdi said, condemning the use of "live ammunition" against protesters.

Following Mr Al Mahdi's address, worshippers marched out of the mosque chanting the protest movement's slogan: "freedom, peace, justice".

But the demonstrators were quickly confronted by riot police who fired tear gas, witnesses said.

Protesters also took to the streets in Khartoum's eastern district of Burri, burning tyres and rubbish, according to onlookers who said the rally was also met with tear gas.

Late on Friday, protesters rallied in the capital's southern neighbourhoods of El Kalakla and Soba but there too they were confronted with tear gas, witnesses said.

"There were some illegal gatherings today in Khartoum and some other states but they were dispersed using tear gas," police spokesman General Hashim Abdelrahim said.

The SPA has stepped up pressure on the government with calls for daily demonstrations. Sudan's feared National Intelligence and Security Service has launched a sweeping crackdown on protesters that has seen hundreds jailed, including journalists, opposition leaders and activists.

This has triggered widespread international criticism, including from the United Nations and the United States.

Mr Al Bashir, 75, has remained steadfast in rejecting calls from demonstrators to step down, and has blamed "infiltrators" among the protesters for the violence.

He has accused the US of causing Sudan's economic woes, but his words have fallen on increasingly deaf ears as people have struggled to buy even basic foods and medicines.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/africa/sudan-s-opposition-chief-says-time-for-al-bashir-to-go-1.818278

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Three sentenced to jail for plot to explode Somali Muslims’ home

Jan 26, 2019

Three men plotting to blow up an apartment housing three Somali Muslims have been sentenced to at least 25 years behind bars in federal prison.

The premeditated plan to use a weapon of mass destruction against their intended victims at an apartment complex in Garden City in the US state of Kansas ended with jail terms for Patrick Eugene Stein and Curtis Allen of Kansas as well as Gavin Wright of Oklahoma on Friday.

"Today's sentence is a significant victory against hate crimes and domestic terrorism," acting US Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a news release Friday from the Justice Department. "The defendants in this case acted with clear premeditation in an attempt to kill innocent people on the basis of their religion and national origin. That's not just illegal -- it's morally repugnant."

The Somalis living in the city with a population of 26,000 have asserted that they do not intend to harm anyone.

"Please, we need peace and love," Ifrah Farah, a member of the Somali community was cited by CNN as saying. "Because we came here for better lives. We are refugees. We live here. We are not bad people. We love everybody."

The men who had plotted an attack after the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida were found guilty in April.

According to prosecutors, they used offensive language to refer to Muslims and "described in the most extreme and violent terms what they planned to do to them."

"A confidential source, whom the government credited for thwarting the attack and saving the lives of innocent victims, recorded numerous conversations during which the defendants discussed and refined their plan," the Justice Department said. "As the plan solidified, the defendants discussed obtaining four vehicles, filling them with explosives, and parking them at the four corners of the apartment complex to create an explosion that would be sure to level the building and kill its occupants."

One of the three men, Stein, apparently met with an undercover FBI agent posing as a black market arms dealer.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/26/586884/Three-sentenced-to-jail-for-plot-to-explode-Somali-Muslims-home-in-US-Kansas

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South Asia

 

Afghan Taliban ‘not excluding Pakistan from peace talks’

January 26, 2019

RAWALPINDI, Paklistan: The head of the Pakistan army’s media wing has said that the Afghan Taliban are not excluding Pakistan from US-led talks in Doha seeking a negotiated end to the Afghan war.

Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, in an interview with Arab News, said that Pakistan was a facilitator and had fulfilled its task of coaxing the Taliban to the table for dialogue.

This week the Taliban resumed stalled peace talks with US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha, where they have long maintained an office. The dialogue, originally meant to run over two days, entered its sixth day on Saturday, raising hopes that the latest efforts to find a mechanism to end the 17-year Afghan war might be the most serious yet.

Hopes of a settlement also increased due to a recent reshuffle in the Taliban team, with senior leaders including Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar put into key positions.

The US has long pressured Pakistan to use its influence over the Taliban to bring them to the negotiating table.

“The Taliban are not excluding Pakistan from the peace process,” Ghafoor said during the interview on Friday evening. “We are a facilitator. We have done our job of bringing them to the negotiating table. What is discussed and how the process moves forward will depend on progress during every meeting.”

Asked if the Taliban had refused to meet Khalilzad in Islamabad, Ghafoor said: “There are so many factions and stakeholders involved in the process. Coordination takes time. One faction or party gets out of coordination, (which) can result in changes in schedule or place.”

He said that Pakistan had pushed for the dialogue to restart but had “no preference for time or place.”

Taliban sources have told the media that the Doha talks have focused on a road map for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and a guarantee that the country will not be used for hostile acts against the US and its allies.

The Taliban have so far refused direct talks with the Kabul government, which it views as an illegitimate, foreign-appointed force. Ghafoor said that there was as yet no certainty about whether the insurgents could be persuaded to engage with the Afghan government but added that progress from the meetings would determine all outcomes.

He also discussed fears about how Afghan government forces would withstand the Taliban threat without US military support if US President Donald Trump acted on his desire to bring home half of the 14,000 US troops deployed in Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan should not go into turmoil” when US forces leave, the army’s media chief said: “The US should leave Afghanistan as friends of the region, with a commitment to assist Afghanistan in becoming self-sustaining and help in socio-economic development.”

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan: Islamabad also fears that increased turmoil in Afghanistan would mean more sanctuaries there for Pakistani Taliban (TTP) militants who have lost control of all territory in Pakistan since a major counter-terrorism operation was launched after a 2014 attack on an army school.

Pakistan has also fenced off part of its porous 2,500 km border with Afghanistan to prevent incursions by the Pakistan Taliban who have waged a decade-long insurgency in the South Asian nation.

Ghafoor said that the Afghan government did not currently have the capacity to eliminate all sanctuaries given that it was embroiled in fighting an insurgency, but once the Taliban entered the political mainstream, Kabul would be in a better position to tackle groups such as the Pakistan Taliban and the Middle Eastern Daesh.

“If there is peace in Afghanistan and greater control of the area by Afghan forces, it will be difficult for TTP to continue their sanctuaries there,” the military spokesman said.

The general dismissed fears that the US would lose interest in Pakistan once it exited Afghanistan, or be free to take harsh actions when it no longer needed Islamabad’s help to end the conflict.

“Pakistan has always remained relevant and will continue to be relevant,” Ghafoor said. “And when the US leaves Afghanistan, it will leave acknowledging Pakistan’s role in ending the conflict. Our relationship shall further strengthen.”

But as Pakistan’s ties with the US have soured in recent years over the war in Afghanistan, Islamabad has turned to neighboring China. The countries are partners in the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) of infrastructure and energy projects that Beijing touts as the flagship program in its vast Belt and Road Initiative.

Responding to media reports that Pakistan was building military jets, weapons and other hardware with funds received under the CPEC umbrella, Ghafoor said that the corridor was “purely an economic project.”

“We have separate defense cooperation with China but that has nothing to do with CPEC,” he said. “We had F-16 deals with the US. That was our requirement. Later, we have jointly made the JF-17 Thunder with China. Like any sovereign country, Pakistan takes decisions suiting its national interest.”

Speaking about a growing protest movement by Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtuns who want the army to remove land mines and check-posts from the country’s northwest where most Pashtuns live, and who allege extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and “disappearances” of young Pashtun men — which the army denies — Ghafoor said: “Till such time that the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) is peaceful and they stick to their genuine demands, which are natural in a post-conflict environment, the state is committed to taking care of them.”

Asked about PTM leaders Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar who, along with the movement’s founder Manzoor Pashteen, have emerged as the strongest voices against alleged military high-handedness, Ghafoor said that the demands of the Pahstun people were genuine and the state was committed to addressing them.

“But instigating people against institutions is neither within the law nor a public sentiment,” he said. “Once we have fulfilled the genuine demands which are already in the overall plan, then we will see how to deal with anyone who still tries to exploit.”

Ghafoor said that the movement was being exploited by Pakistan’s enemies, in a veiled reference possibly to arch-rival India and neighboring Afghanistan: “When there are fault lines, then enemies will always try to exploit them. So there is an effort to exploit PTM, whether with their connivance or not.”

The general warned that India needed to “stop using proxies against us,” adding that “just as we are concerned that an unstable Afghanistan is not in our interest, India should also know that an unstable Pakistan is not in its interest. They need to change their behavior.”

Responding to a question about an extension in military courts set up by Parliament in 2015, and criticized for their lack of transparency, Ghafoor said that the courts were a “national requirement” because the country’s civilian judicial infrastructure was ill-equipped to deal with terrorism cases.

Ghafoor said that verdicts could be appealed at several levels, including in military appellate and civilian courts, and those on death row had the right to file mercy petitions with the army chief and the president of Pakistan.

“Military courts proceed as per law; there is a laid-down legal process with full transparency. Courts decide on evidence and not emotions,” the army’s media chief said. However, he added, “should the Parliament decide that military courts are not needed, then they will not be renewed.”

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1442411/world

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Holey Artisan Case: Khaled sent Tk 39 lakh to fund attack

January 27, 2019

Shariful Islam alias Khaled, the last charge-sheeted accused arrested in the Holey Artisan Bakery case, sent Tk 39 lakh to JMB leader Sarwar Jahan to fund the café attack, Rab officials said.

Khaled along with Mamunur Rashid alias Ripon had gone into hiding two months before the attack on July 1, 2016. He sent the money from hiding.

The Rapid Action Battalion came up with the information yesterday, after arresting Khaled from Nachole upazila in Chapainawabganj on Friday afternoon.

“The money came from the Middle East,” Mufti Mahmud Khan, director (legal and media) of Rab, said at a press briefing at the Rab Media Centre in Dhaka.

Where the duo had been hiding and how they had collected the money would be known after interrogating Khaled further, he added. 

A Dhaka court yesterday placed Khaled on a six-day remand in a case filed with Mugda Police Station under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Police earlier said Khaled and Ripon went to India in April 2016, just two months before 20 hostages, 17 of them foreigners, and police officers were killed during a terror siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery, a posh café in Gulshan.

According to Rab, Khaled came back from hiding in October 2017 and was trying to reunite militants again.

With him, all the eight charge-sheeted accused in the café attack case have now been arrested. The Rab caught fugitive Ripon from Gazipur on January 20.

Khaled also led the killing of Prof Rezaul Karim, a teacher of RU English department, on April 23, 2016, Rab says.

A Rajshahi court sentenced Khaled and another JMB militant Maskawath Hasan Sakib alias Abdullah to death and three others -- Rahmatullah, Abdus Sattar and Ripon -- to life imprisonment over the Rezaul killing in May last year.

Khaled, himself a student of the RU English department, went into hiding after coordinating the killing of his teacher, said Mufti Mahmud.

Asked why he led the killing of his teacher, the Rab official said, “The murder was part of JMB's plan and there was no personal grudge.”

The responsibility for the murder was reportedly claimed by the Islamic State.

Hailing from Bagmara of Rajshahi, Khaled was a talented student and got scholarship in class V and class VIII, said his father Abdul Hakim, a teacher of Bagmara Pilot High School.

But he dropped out when he was a third-year student at Rajshahi University in 2013 and became involved with the militant group, according to Rab.

Khaled last contacted his father in May 2015. “I called him on May 23 in 2015 and since then his phone has been switched off,” said Abdul Hakim.

The father also said they used to have normal conversations before Khaled went missing and he didn't see any change in his son back then.

“I wanted him to be a civil service officer,” Hakim said, adding that he never thought that his son would end up this way.

“If he's involved in such crimes, he should be punished.”

Initially inspired by Islamic State, Khaled was motivated by one of his seniors at the RU named Ahsan Habib Shovon. First they started spreading extremist ideologies in educational institutions based in Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj, the Rab official said. Not engaging in the “madrasa-trend of militancy”, they mainly targeted educated people and became active online.

Later, Shovon introduced Khaled to top JMB leader Tamim Chowdhury in his mess at Saheb Bazar of Rajshahi. Tamim used to stay in the mess whenever he visited Rajshahi.

Rab claimed that Khaled started communicating with extremists of different tiers in the country in 2013 and the next year, he worked to unite the different militant groups.

In 2015, they held an important meeting at Mamunur Rashed Ripon's house in Bogura, joined by Sarwar, Tamim, Saddam, Marzan and Sakib.

Many important decisions were taken there and Khaled was also part of it. He was included in the media team of JMB.

Khaled also took part in a meeting of top JMB leaders in Gaibandha in February 2016. Later that year, he also joined different meetings in Dhaka.

Six others charge-sheeted accused in the Holey Artisan case, who were arrested earlier, are Jahangir Alam alias Rajib Gandhi, recruiter of the café attackers; Rashed alias Rash, one of the planners; Sohel Mahfuz, grenade supplier; arms suppliers Mizanur Rahman alias Boro Mizan and Rakibul Islam, a so-called religious trainer, and Hadisur Rahman Sagar.

Full report at:

https://www.thedailystar.net/dhaka-attack/jmb-militant-shariful-islam-khaled-was-bright-student-before-turning-militancy-rab-1693180

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Foreign troops to quit Afghanistan in 18 months under draft deal: Taliban officials

Jan 26, 2019

KABUL/PESHAWAR: Taliban officials said US negotiators on Saturday agreed a draft peace deal stipulating the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan within 18 months of the agreement being signed.

The details were provided to Reuters by Taliban sources at the end of six days of talks with US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar aimed at ending the United States' longest war.

They have yet to be confirmed by US officials nor has either side released an official statement. Officials at the US embassy in Kabul were not immediately available for comment.

Khalilzad is heading to the Afghan capital Kabul to brief President Ashraf Ghani after the longer-than expected talks, the sources and a diplomat said.

According to the Taliban sources, the hardline Islamic group offered assurances that Afghanistan will not be allowed to be used by al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants to attack the United States and its allies - a key early demand of Washington.

It is not known if a draft is acceptable to both sides has been completed, or when it might take effect.

The Taliban sources said a key provision to the deal included a ceasefire but they had yet to confirm a timeline and will only open talks with Afghan representatives once the ceasefire is implemented.

"In 18 months if the foreign forces are withdrawn and ceasefire is implemented then other aspects of the peace process can be put into action," a Taliban source said, quoting from a portion of the draft.

Almost daily attacks

Other clauses include a deal over the exchange and release of prisoners from the warring sides, the removal of an international travel ban on several Taliban leaders by the United States and the prospect of an interim Afghan government after the ceasefire is struck, the Taliban sources said.

The offer to appoint an interim government in Afghanistan comes at a time when top politicians including Ghani have filed their nominations for the presidential polls in July this year. Ghani has repeatedly rejected the offer to agree to the formation of an interim government.

News of progress on a deal comes as the Taliban continue to stage nearly daily attacks against the Western-backed Afghan government and its security forces.

Despite the presence of US-led foreign forces training, advising and assisting their Afghan counterparts 17 years after the US led an invasion to drive them from power, the Taliban controls nearly half of Afghanistan.

The United States has some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led mission, known as Resolute Support, as well as a US counter-terrorism mission directed at groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/foreign-troops-to-quit-afghanistan-in-18-months-under-draft-deal-taliban-officials/articleshow/67704236.cms

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Accidental blast kills 5 in Afghan district held by Taliban

Jan 26, 2019

KABUL: Afghan officials say an accidental explosion killed four insurgents and a civilian near a sporting event in an area controlled by the Taliban.

Major Hanif Rezaie, an army spokesman, says one of the fighters killed in the northern Baghlan province was a local commander. A provincial official says another 20 people, including Taliban fighters and civilians who had gathered to watch a volleyball match, were wounded.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a female university student was killed when a sticky bomb attached to a vehicle was detonated, according to the office of the provincial governor of Nangarhar province.

The Taliban hold sway over nearly half of Afghanistan.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/accidental-blast-kills-5-in-afghan-district-held-by-taliban/articleshow/67702577.cms

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Afghan draft peace deal stipulates US troop pullout within 18 months

ANUARY 27, 2019

Taliban officials said US negotiators on Saturday agreed a draft peace deal stipulating the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan within 18 months of the agreement being signed.

The details were given to a foreign news agency by Taliban sources at the end of six days of talks – with US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar – aimed at ending the United States’ longest war.

While neither side released an official statement, Khalilzad tweeted later that the talks had made “significant progress” and would resume shortly, adding that he planned to travel to Afghanistan to meet government officials.

“Meetings here (in Qatar) were more productive than they have been in the past. We have made significant progress on vital issues,” he wrote, adding that numerous issues still needed work.

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and everything must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive ceasefire,” he said in the tweets. A US State Department spokesperson declined further comment.

It was not clear if the draft described by the Taliban sources is acceptable to both sides or when it will be completed and signed.

According to the sources, Taliban officials gave assurances that Afghanistan will not be allowed to be used by al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants to attack the United States and its allies – a key early demand of Washington.

They said the deal included a ceasefire provision but they had yet to confirm a timeline and would only open talks with Afghan representatives once a truce was implemented.

Up until now, the Taliban have repeatedly rejected the Afghan government’s offer of holding talks, preferring instead to talk directly to the US side, which it regards as its main enemy.

“In 18 months, if the foreign forces are withdrawn and ceasefire is implemented then other aspects of the peace process can be put into action,” a Taliban source said, quoting from a portion of the draft.

More talks on the draft are expected in February, again in the Qatari capital Doha, the Taliban sources said.

They expect their side to be led by new political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the movement’s co-founder and a former military commander who was released from a prison in Pakistan last year.

While they said his appointment had boosted momentum for a deal, it was unclear if he joined the talks.

Taliban officials believe the US was keen to get Baradar – who was captured in a joint Pakistani-US intelligence raid in 2010 – to the table so they could be sure of speaking to the movement’s most powerful figures.

Other clauses in the draft include an agreement over the exchange and release of prisoners, the removal of an international travel ban on several Taliban leaders by Washington and the prospect of an interim Afghan government after the ceasefire is struck, the Taliban sources said.

The suggestion to appoint an interim government in Afghanistan comes at a time when top politicians including Ghani have filed their nominations for the presidential polls in July this year. Ghani has repeatedly rejected the offer to agree to the formation of an interim government.

News of progress on a deal comes as the Taliban continues to stage near-daily attacks against the Western-backed Afghan government and its security forces.

Despite the presence of US-led foreign forces training, advising and assisting their Afghan counterparts 17 years after the US-led an invasion to drive them from power, the Taliban controls nearly half of Afghanistan.

Ghani said last week that 45,000 members of the country’s security forces had been killed since he took office in 2014.

The United States has some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led mission, known as Resolute Support, as well as a US counter-terrorism mission directed at groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

Despite reports in December last year that the United States was considering pulling out almost half of its forces, a White House spokesman said that US President Donald Trump had not issued orders to withdraw the troops. However, the administration has not denied the reports, which have prompted fears of a fresh refugee crisis.

The Taliban sources also confirmed provisions in the draft that have broader implications for Afghanistan’s ties with its neighbors, particularly Pakistan, India and China.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/348481/afghan-draft-peace-deal-stipulates-us-troop-pullout-within-18-months/

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Bangladesh election under new scrutiny

JANUARY 26, 2019

The dust was about to settle with the election fever dissipating in Bangladesh. The political scene was slowly returning to an atmosphere of relative calm. Then came a damning report from the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) that uncovered “serious wrongdoings” during the December 30 election.

The list of irregularities in 47 out of 50 constituencies surveyed by the TIB includes ballot stuffing in the hours to the election day, fake votes and obstruction of voters.

The TIB also said security forces on the scene silently stood by when these irregularities took place. “Law-enforcement agencies, a section of administrative officials and election authorities were seen playing biased roles in the election,” Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of TIB, who uses one name, said in a statement on January 15.

Information Minister Hasan Mahmud swiftly dismissed the report as fictitious, imaginary and deliberate. Mr. Mahmud said the report reeks of propaganda by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ally, Jamaat-e-Islami. The Election Commission also brushed aside the TIB’s findings. “It’s a predetermined and imaginary report,” Election Commissioner Rafiqul Islam said.

A new report says activists from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League stuffed ballot boxes the night before the general election and intimidated voters while security officials stood by

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has a record of solid achievements for her two consecutive terms. Per capita income has grown by 150%, and the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has fallen from 19% to 9%. “All the greater the pity that her achievements have been offset by a precipitous slide toward authoritarianism,” The New York Times wrote in an editorial on January 14. “Ms. Hasina’s every achievement will now be tainted by her authoritarian methods and repressive measures; her critics, driven into exile or underground, will become only more strident, and her foreign supporters more wary,” it wrote.

Then on January 22, a report published by Reuters put the election under new scrutiny. The report cited a top official of an observer group that monitored the election and one of its foreign volunteers as saying that they regretted participating in the process. Both cast doubt on the credibility of the vote. Mohammad Abdus Salam, the president of the SAARC Human Rights Foundation, was quoted as saying that he now believed there should be a fresh vote after hearing accounts from voters and officials presiding over polling booths that activists from Ms. Hasina’s Awami League stuffed ballot boxes the night before the poll and intimidated voters.

‘False story’

A Canadian observer, Tanya Foster, who was brought in by the foundation, has also said she now wishes she had not been involved. The foundation later issued a statement denouncing the Reuters story. It said the news agency distorted what Mr. Salam said in the interview. “I have been defamed by the publication of the false story and I’m embarrassed,” he said on the foundation’s website. Reuters later said: “We stand by our reporting on the views expressed by the election monitors.”

Ms. Hasina’s political foes ratcheted up their rhetoric over the election based on these reports. BNP leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said in a media briefing on January 17 the government and the Election Commission were hit hard by the TIB report. “They have received a big blow from the TIB report. The Ministers and the EC are now struggling to hide their faces as the TIB has exposed vote frauds,” Mr. Rizvi said.

Full report at:

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/bangladesh-election-under-new-scrutiny/article26100569.ece

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Militant Khalid had close ties to Indian ISIS operative

January 26th, 2019

It has been found that Shariful Islam Khalid, who was arrested by Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) on Friday, as one of the last remaining accused in the case filed over the Holey Artisan Bakery terror attack in 2016, visited India on at least two occasions. 

In addition to being an accused on the charge sheet for the Holey Artisan Bakery attack, Khalid is also a death row convict for the murder of Rajshahi University (RU) teacher Prof AFM Rezaul Karim Siddique in 2016. Khalid’s aliases include Rahat, Saifullah, Nahid, and Abu Suleiman.

Although Bangladeshi authorities are yet to reveal the motives for Khalid’s visits to India, a 2016 investigation by the Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA) established a connection between Khalid and Abu Musa, alias Md Mosiuddin,  an Indian national and ISIS militant.

Musa was arrested in India’s West Bengal in July 2016, the NIA probe report said.

Musa and Khalid met through social media platform Facebook and were subsequently in regular contact through encrypted internet chat platforms such as Telegram, Chatsecure, Surespot, and Threema, the NIA found.

After his arrest, Musa told Indian investigators that Abu Suleiman (Khalid) had instructed him to carry out attacks on foreigners in India.

The NIA website lists Shariful Islam from Bangladesh among its most wanted.

According to NIA documents, Khalid met with Musa in India in March 2015 and May 2016. Khalid attended Musa’s younger brother’s wedding in March 2015, while he met Musa at Malda station and instructed him to carry out lone wolf attacks on foreign tourists in May 2016.

Upon Khalid’s instructions, Musa conducted reconnaissance missions in Srinagar with the aim of killing foreigners in May 2015, while Khalid had directed him to attack foreigners in Kolkata in May 2016.

An Indian court has charged Khalid for criminally conspiring with Musa and others to carry out subversive activities against the Government of India.

Khalid played key role in forming Sarwar-Tamim group

Khalid became involved in extremism through his friend Ahsan Habib Shovon. The two  lived together in a mess while they were studying at RU in 2013.

At a press briefing on Saturday, RAB Legal and Media Wing Director, Mufti Mahmud Khan, said Khalid and Shovon used to work towards recruiting educated young people to extremism through the internet. Shovon introduced Holey Artisan Bakery attack mastermind Tamim Chowdhury to Khalid during their time at RU.

Whenever Tamim visited Rajshahi, he preferred to stay at Khalid and Shovon’s mess, the RAB official added.

Later, Khalid played a key role in bringing Sarwar Jahan and Tamim Chowdhury together under the same militant platform.

Khalid, Sarwar Jahan, Tamim Chowdhury, Saddam, Marjan, Shakib Master, and other suspected militants held a meeting at Mamunr Rashid alias Ripon’s house in Bogra in 2015. In another meeting, at a dormitory in Gaibandha in February 2016, the Holey Artisan Bakery attack was planned.

Why did Khalid murder Prof Rezaul?

During interrogation, Khalid told RAB officials that he killed RU professor Rezaul on the instruction of an ameer of JMB.

Khalid conducted reconnaissance of the RU area before the attack, and fled to Dhaka the day after killing the teacher, RAB officials said.

Holey Artisan attack: Tk39 lakh came from the Middle East

After fleeing to Dhaka for a few days, Khalid went into hiding in India under instruction from the JMB ameer. Ripon, who is also an accused in the Holey Artisan Bakery attack and was arrested by RAB from Gazipur on January 19, accompanied him.

According to RAB, the two arranged for Tk39 lakh to be sent to Sarwar Jahan from the Middle East to fund the Holey Artisan Bakery attack.

However, RAB Director Mufti said specifics on who sent the money and from where, are yet to be confirmed.

Mufti Mahmud Khan further said Khalid and Ripon have been trying to reorganize JMB by recruiting new members after the deaths and arrests of many leaders of the militant outfit in law enforcement operations.

Who is this Khalid?

Born in 1991 in Bagmara upazila of Rajshahi, Khalid completed his SSC exams from Bagmara Pilot High School in 2008, and his HSC exams from Rajshahi Government City College in 2010.

Being a meritorious student, he studied English at RU.

What happened at Holey Artisan?

On July 1, 2016, gunmen stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s Gulshan area and opened fire. The attack claimed the lives of 22 hostages, including 17 foreign nationals, as well as two policemen.

In July 2018, police submitted the charge sheet in the case filed over the attack, naming eight accused.

A total 21 members of militant outfit New JMB, a faction of JMB, were found to have been involved in the planning and execution of the attack, according to the charge sheet.

Full report at:

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/militancy/2019/01/26/militant-khalid-had-close-ties-to-indian-isis-operative

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Stoltenberg reiterates main objective of NATO’s presence in Afghanistan

26 Jan 2019

The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that the alliance has a presence in Afghanistan to prevent the re-emergence of the safe havens of international terrorist networks.

Mr. Stoltenberg reiterated the objective of NATO during a press conference with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern on Friday.

“We welcome very much the close partnership. We see that in many different ways. We see that in Afghanistan where we have been working together for many years and New Zealand has contributed with personnel to the National Army Defence Academy, helping to train and educate Afghan soldiers and officers,” he said.

The Secretary General further added “And the purpose of our presence in Afghanistan is to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorism.”

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/stoltenberg-reiterates-main-objective-of-natos-presence-in-afghanistan-03185/

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Coalition forces carry out drone strikes against ISIS-K hideouts in Nangarhar

27 Jan 2019

The coalition forces have carried out drone strikes against the hideouts of ISIS Khurasan (ISIS-K) in two districts of Nangarhar province in East of Afghanistan.

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in a statement said the coalition forces targeted ISIS-K hideouts in Achin district of Nangarahr on Saturday.

The statement further added that the drone strikes left at least 8 militants of the terror group dead while two of their hideouts were destroyed.

The 201st Silab Corps in another statement said the coalition forces carried out similar airstrikes in Khogyani district of Nangarhar province today.

According to the statement of 201st Silab Corps, two ISIS Khurasan militants were killed in today’s airstrikes.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/coalition-forces-carry-out-drone-strikes-against-isis-k-hideouts-in-nangarhar-03188/

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Significant progress made on vital issues in talks with Taliban: Khalilzad

27 Jan 2019

The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Khalilzad has said that significant progress has been made on vital issues during the 6-day talks with Taliban political leaders in Qatar.

“After six days in Doha, I’m headed to Afghanistan for consultations. Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past. We made significant progress on vital issues,” Khalilzad said in a Twitter post.

However, he said a number of issues are still left to work out, emphasizing that he will build on the momentum and resume talks shortly.

Ambassador Khalilzad also added that “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and “everything” must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive ceasefire.”

https://www.khaama.com/significant-progress-made-on-vital-issues-in-talks-with-taliban-khalilzad-03187/

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Taliban’s foreign snipers among 10 killed in Jawzjan clash

26 Jan 2019

At least ten Taliban militants including two foreign snipers who were fighting in Taliban ranks were killed during a clash with the security forces in northern Jawzjan province of Afghanistan.

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in a statement said at least 13 Taliban militants also sustained injuries during the clash that took place late on Thursday night in Baqal Village in Aqcha district.

The local officials have said that two foreign snipers were originally hailing from Pakistan but the 209th Shaheen Corps said their intelligence findings confirm the killing of two foreigners but their identities have not been confirmed so fa.

The 209th Shaheen Corps also added that the clash between the security forces and militants broke out after a group of militants launched attacks on security posts in the area which continue for two hours.

At least two security personnel have also sustained injuries during the clash, the 209th Shaheen Corps added in its statement.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/talibans-foreign-snipers-among-10-killed-in-jawzjan-clash-03184/

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Mideast

 

UN investigator in Khashoggi case demands access to Saudi consulate in Istanbul, not allowed yet

Jan 27, 2019

A United Nations (UN) expert who has been assigned to investigate the state-sponsored assassination of Saudi Arabian dissident Jamal Khashoggi says she has requested access to Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul, where the Saudi critic was brutally killed, but has not heard from Riyadh yet.

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, said on Saturday that she had sought permission to visit the Saudi diplomatic perimeter, where Khashoggi was killed in October last year, and also to meet the Saudi ambassador to Turkey, but had not yet received a reply from Saudi authorities.

“I have requested access to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and a meeting with the ambassador of the Kingdom of Saud Arabia in Turkey,” she in an email to Reuters. “I have also sought permission to conduct a similar country-visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Earlier this week, the UN investigator announced that she would be heading “an independent international inquiry” into Khashoggi’s murder, starting with a visit to Turkey from January 28 to February 3.

Callamard said she would be accompanied by three experts who have forensic expertise, among other skills, during the visit to Turkey to determine the circumstances of the crime and “the nature and the extent of states’ and individuals’ responsibilities for the killing.”

Khashoggi — a late but vocal critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — was killed and his body was dismembered by a Saudi hit squad inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate on October 2, 2018.

After weeks of denying the killing, the Riyadh regime eventually acknowledged the murder.

Turkey, which offered evidence of Khashoggi’s brutal murder soon after he failed to exit the Saudi consulate, has indirectly suggested that Mohammed ordered his killing.

In the course of the scandal, Saudi Arabia has attempted to shift the blame for Khashoggi’s murder to Mohammed’s underlings, including at least one of his advisers. It has claimed that the criminality somehow stops short of reaching the crown prince himself.

But international suspicion remains largely directed at Mohammed. The Washington Post, for which Khashoggi was a columnist, reported in November last year that the CIA had concluded Mohammed ordered his killing.

Elsewhere in her Saturday remarks, Callamard, the UN investigator, said the probe she was heading was “necessary.”

“I conceive of this inquiry to be a necessary step, among a number of others, towards crucial truth telling about and formal accountability for the gruesome killing of Mr. Khashoggi,” she said.

Callamard also said she had requested information from other authorities, including in the United States.

“It is hoped this will help ensure accountability and transparency in this case and may open new avenues for the prevention and protection of the right to life in other cases, including of journalists and human rights defenders, and accountability for their killings,” she said.

Callamard’s findings and recommendations are expected to be reported to the UN Human Rights Council at a June 2019 session.

Khashoggi’s murder ‘damaged’ Saudi reputation

Separately on Saturday, British weapons and military equipment manufacturer BAE Systems, an arms exporters to Saudi Arabia, complained that Khashoggi’s murder and the war on Yemen had damaged the kingdom’s reputation in the world.

“Two issues damaged the position of Saudi Arabia in the eyes of the world — the Khashoggi affair is one of them and also the war in Yemen,” BAE Systems Chairman Roger Carr told Sky News.

BAE systems has sold Eurofighter Typhoon jets and provided engineering support to the Saudi Air Force, which has been involved in a deadly war on Yemen since March 2015.

“What we want to see, by being a consistent and critical friend, is that Saudi Arabia, needs to return to the pathway it was on and develop in the way it was,” Carr said.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/27/586901/UN-investigator-Khashoggi-Saudi-Arabia-Istanbul-consulate

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Israel enjoys West's support for killing Palestinians: Activist

Jan 26, 2019

Israel’s killing of Palestinians cannot continue without the open support of Western governments, says an activist, adding that the goal of Tel Aviv is to take over the entire land of Palestine.

“The Zionists have been very consistent, sometimes accelerated, sometimes not so quick, but their goal has been to take over the entire land surface of Palestine with as few Palestinians as possible and this has meant massacre after massacre. The history of the Palestinian people since 40 is punctuated by frequent massacres, sometimes thousands and sometime merely a few hundred because it is necessary, the only way that a land can be cleared of its native people and the population replaced by families coming from Europe, America and around the world, the only way this can be done is by massive violence,” Mick Napier from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign told Press TV in an interview on Saturday.

“Israeli universities openly discuss the demographic threat that there are too many Palestinians still inside Palestine and so every killing –I hate to say- is a small victory for the Zionists and it goes on and on, week after week after week and this demographic threat is always at the forefront of everything that the Zionists do and these snipers who are now seen weekly callously killing demonstrators assembling to demand their rights under international law is also something quite unprecedented. These are not warriors … this is a cold bloody massacre of Palestinian men, women and children who are demanding their international rights,” he added. 

Palestinians have held weekly protests on the Gaza border, over the siege on the enclave and the right for refugees to return to their homes they were forcibly expelled from during the 1948 creation of Israel.

Nearly 250 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces ever since anti-occupation protest rallies began in the Gaza Strip on March 30. Over 26,000 Palestinians have also sustained injuries.

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

On June 13, 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution, sponsored by Turkey and Algeria, condemning Israel for Palestinian civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip.

The resolution, which had been put forward on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries, garnered a strong majority of 120 votes in the 193-member assembly, with 8 votes against and 45 abstentions.

The resolution called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to make proposals within 60 days “on ways and means for ensuring the safety, protection, and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation,” including “recommendations regarding an international protection mechanism.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/26/586854/Palestine-Israel-massacre-violence-Zionists-Gaza-protest

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Power struggle in Tehran ahead of post-Khamenei succession

27/01/2019

There is no indication of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei abdicating or being removed from leadership in the near term but the question of political succession in the Islamic Republic is pertinent because the process of ageing is most likely to midwife a leadership change. What will happen after 79-year-old Khamenei passes on?

Few talk about it but the ruling elites have been preparing for Khamenei’s passing for some time. As he underwent an operation on his prostate on September 8, 2014, decades-old rumours made the rounds. The supreme leader, it was said, had prostate cancer. To quell the rumours, the head of Khamenei’s medical team described the operation as “routine” and somewhat incredibly claimed the supreme leader had only received “local anaesthetics.” Had he gone under anaesthesia, the regime would have been forced to detail the chain of command while Khamenei was incapacitated. By claiming there was no anaesthesia, the regime kept secret the designated chain of command, if there ever was one.

Discussions about who succeeds Khamenei gained ground after the surgery and in the run-up to the February 26, 2016, election to the Assembly of Experts. The assembly formally appoints the supreme leader. Its discussions are accordingly seen to matter.

On December 13, 2015, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former head of the Assembly of Experts, disclosed that a working group in the body was engaged in identifying qualified candidates to succeed Khamenei.

Rafsanjani said: “They are getting ready… and there is a group vetting individuals so that those who are qualified, just in case an incident should take place… [can take over the leadership]. This is the main work of the Assembly.” Rafsanjani’s claim was confirmed by Ayatollah Hashem Hashemzadeh Harisi and Ayatollah Sayyid Ahmad Khatami, both members of the assembly.

Also in the spring of 2016, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its allies, intensified efforts to seize control of the Assembly of Experts. They managed to disqualify Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic, and a key ally of Rafsanjani. In so doing, the IRGC countered the magical aura of the Khomeini name and lineage. These could have brought Rafsanjani and his allies back to the heart of the Iranian power structure.

Rafsanjani’s life was cut short on January 8, 2017. The official account of his death blamed cardiac arrest. He was said to have suffered a heart attack while swimming.

However, doubts were cast on the cause of death and mysterious events have been reported. They have given credence to speculation about a purge, leading up to a succession struggle. Rafsanjani, a former president and a great political survivor, could have played a key role in the appointment of the next supreme leader as and when such a choice is made. As of January 1, Rafsanjani’s death appears still to be under investigation by Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.

With Rafsanjani gone, Iranian President Hassan Rohani, his protege and heir to his political legacy, is continuing the fight against the IRGC. This is meant to secure a role for himself in the post-Khamenei era.

Since December 2017, the IRGC and Rohani have tried to mobilise the public against each other in anticipation of a succession battle. The IRGC and its clerical allies mobilised impoverished shantytown dwellers against the Rohani government’s declared policies of reducing food and fuel subsidies. Rohani’s supporters publicly attacked the IRGC’s economic corruption. They urged protesters to vent their anger against the IRGC, Iran’s costly military engagements in the Middle East and even against Khamenei.

As an actual succession nears, the struggle between Rohani and the IRGC may intensify. The situation may even get out of hand and trigger anti-government protests more extensive than those of December 2017 and January 2018. Such a situation would force the IRGC to intervene forcefully to ensure the survival of the regime.

Full report at:

https://thearabweekly.com/power-struggle-tehran-ahead-post-khamenei-succession

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Hezbollah could ‘for years’ enter Israel, group’s leader says after tunnels found

27 January 2019

Iran-backed Hezbollah has "for years" been able to enter Israel, the Lebanese group's leader said on Saturday, responding for the first time to Israel's discovery of tunnels dug into Israeli territory from Lebanon.

Hassan Nasrallah also warned Israel late Saturday over its continued attacks in Syria, saying a miscalculation could drag the region into a war.

Nasrallah made the comment during a wide-ranging interview that lasted more than three hours with the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV station.

Nasrallah said Iran, Syria and Hezbollah could “at any moment” decide to deal differently with Israel’s actions in Syria and hinted that Tel Aviv might be a target.

Addressing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he said: “Be cautious. Don’t continue what you are doing in Syria. Don’t miscalculate and don’t drag the region into a war or a major confrontation.”

Nasrallah played down the discoveries made by Israel’s “Operation Northern Shield” which detected and destroyed what it has described as a vast network of Hezbollah tunnels built for militants to sneak across the border into Israel. He said Hezbollah would need more than a few tunnels if it ever decided to invade Israel.

He also said at least one of the tunnels was built more than a decade ago.

“This is a 13-year-old (Israeli) intelligence failure,” Nasrallah said.

Israel had discovered at least six tunnels, which it said were Hezbollah’s prime strategic investment for its next potential war.

Nasrallah said circumstances in the region have changed as Iran and its allies, including his group, expand their influence in the region. This means any war can be on more than one front, Nasrallah warned.

Israel has recently increased its attacks on suspected Iranian military targets in Syria, confirming such targeting in a shift from its longstanding policy of playing down or not commenting on its military activities in the war-torn country.

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy, and it has repeatedly warned that it will not allow Iranian troops - who have been fighting alongside Syrian government forces - to maintain a permanent presence in postwar Syria.

In the latest violence, the Israeli military claimed responsibility for a series of airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria last Monday, saying it was responding to an Iranian missile attack a day earlier. The Iranian launch followed a rare Israeli daylight air raid near the Damascus International Airport.

Nasrallah said Israel has failed to realize what he said are its goals in Syria: undermining the Syrian government, forcing Iran from Syria and preventing Hezbollah from acquiring precision missiles. He also said Netanyahu is the person “most disappointed” by US plans to withdraw from Syria and cited the pullout as another “failure.”

Nasrallah’s appearance followed news reports in Israel and elsewhere that his health was failing. He dismissed the reports as “lies.”

“I don’t suffer from any health problems,” said Nasrallah, who seemed relaxed and at times joked with his interviewer and sipped on tea and water. “I have been active, and I also lost weight,” he said.

The Hezbollah leader regularly addressed his supporters and made TV appearances about pressing issues in the region and Lebanon. But the 59-year-old Nasrallah, who has led his group through different wars with Israel for nearly three decades, had not appeared since November despite Israeli escalation in Syria and along Lebanon’s borders.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/27/Hezbollah-could-for-years-enter-Israel-group-s-leader-says-after-tunnels-found.html

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Israeli settlers kill Palestinian in the West Bank

27 January 2019

Israeli settlers shot and killed a Palestinian man in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, Palestinian officials and the Israeli military said.

The incident followed a confrontation between settlers and Palestinians near the city of Ramallah in which a settler was lightly injured, the military said.

“Initial details suggest that shortly thereafter, a conflict erupted between Israeli civilians and Palestinians in the area, in which live rounds were fired by the civilians. One Palestinian died and several others are injured,” the military said in a statement, adding that an investigation has begun.

The Palestinians said the settlers had entered the village of al-Mughayer and that its residents tried to fend them off.

The Israeli military said its forces dispersed the crowds. The Palestinian Health Ministry said that the man killed was 38 years old and that nine other people were wounded by gunfire.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/27/Israeli-settlers-kill-Palestinian-in-the-West-Bank.html

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One dead after protesters storm Turkish military camp in north Iraq

26 January 2019

One protester was killed and at least 10 others wounded when they stormed a Turkish military camp near Dohuk in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region on Saturday, burning two tanks and other vehicles, residents and Kurdish officials said.

Najib Saeed, the chief health official in the area, said it was not yet clear what caused the death. He said Turkish soldiers had shot at protesters and that the burning of vehicles and equipment had caused several explosions.

Turkey’s Defense Ministry wrote on Twitter: “An attack has occurred on one of the bases located in northern Iraq as a result of provocation by the PKK terrorist organization. There was partial damage to vehicles and equipment during the attack.”

“Necessary precautions are being taken regarding the incident,” the ministry said, without naming the base.

Turkish officials could not be reached for further comment.

Turkey carries out regular air raids near the border against the PKK insurgent group which has bases in northern Iraq and has fought a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.

A Kurdish official in the region of Dohuk said the crowd was demonstrating over a recent Turkish air raid that killed four civilians. He did not want to be named.

A second Kurdish official, who also did not give his name, said Turkish troops at the camp in Shiladze, east of Dohuk, had initially shot at the protesters and then left the camp.

Kurdish security forces are trying to control the situation, he said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/26/One-dead-after-protesters-storm-Turkish-military-camp-in-north-Iraq.html

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UN ‘shocked’ at ‘terror’ waged by Israeli settlers

Jan 27, 2019

The United Nations has voiced “shock” at the “terror” carried out by Israeli settlers that killed a Palestinian father of four in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

“Today’s violence in al-Mughayer is shocking and unacceptable!” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov tweeted on Sunday, referring to a Palestinian village that was violently stormed by Israeli settlers and where they killed one Palestinian.

“Israel must put an end to settler violence and bring those responsible to justice,” he said. “My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the Palestinian man killed and those injured. All must condemn violence, stand up to terror,” the envoy added.

Thirty eight-year-old Hamdi Taleb Na’san was killed and 30 others were wounded after Israeli “settler volunteer security teams” and regime troops stormed al-Mughayer, located 27 kilometers northeast of the city of Ramallah in the occupied territories on Sunday.

Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post claimed that the settlers were trying to find the “suspects” behind an alleged non-fatal stabbing of an Israeli hiker, and were joined by the military after attacking the village.

Hanan Ashrawi, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee member, has called the settler groups “militias” and said they “raided” al-Mughayer Village under protection from the Israeli army, “terrorizing the defenseless residents and wreaking havoc.”

Na’san is the fourth Palestinian killed by Israeli violence across the Palestinian territories over three days.

On Saturday, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian in the city of Jerusalem al-Quds after he reportedly failed to heed their call to stop his car.

And on Friday, Israeli forces fatally shot a Palestinian while targeting stone-throwing “suspects” along a central highway in the West Bank. The military killed another Palestinian when they fired at people protesting in favor of their right to return to their occupied homeland in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip.

Apart from Israeli soldiers, settlers engage in provocative, violent, and sometimes deadly actions against Palestinians on a regular basis.

In October 2018, an extremist teenage settler killed a Palestinian mother in the northern West Bank by throwing a rock at her.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/27/586900/UN-Israel-settlers-terrorism-West-Bank-Nickolay-Mladenov

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Discovering tunnels won't save Israel in future wars: Hezbollah

Jan 26, 2019

Leader of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah has openly mocked Israel’s claims that it had discovered secret tunnels used by the group on the border between Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories, saying Israel was deeply wrong to think that the closure of tunnels would save it from future attacks by the resistance movement.

Speaking to the Lebanese TV station al-Mayadin on Saturday, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said some of the secret tunnels run by Hezbollah that Israel claims to have discovered and destroyed in a recent operation had been built by the Lebanese group over a decade ago.

“What surprises us is that the Israelis were late to discover these tunnels ... some of those tunnels preceded the 2006 war,” Nasrallah said.

The Lebanese leader said the tunnels formed only a small part of Hezbollah’s strategy to target Israel in case a war erupts between the two, adding that it was Tel Aviv regime’s fantasy to claim that destruction of tunnels has saved it from future attacks.

“Is it logical that Hezbollah would enter the Galilee with thousands of fighters through four tunnels?” he said, adding, “I do not know whether we will attack the Galilee by sea, air, land or tunnels.”

Israel failed to uncover all tunnels

Nasrallah also refused to confirm the existence of other tunnels leading to the Israeli-occupied territories, saying that should remain a “constructive mystery.”

The Hezbollah leader said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his military commanders failed to undermine Hezbollah through their revelations about the tunnels, saying a two-month operation that ended this month and was meant to expose the four tunnels had effectively helped Hezbollah because it caused fear among Israeli settlers.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/26/586883/Lebanon-Hezbollah-Nasrallah-Israel-tunnel-discoveries

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Yemeni ballistic missiles hit Jizan, Najran in Saudi Arabia

Jan 26, 2019

Yemeni army forces, supported by allied fighters from Popular Committees, have hit gatherings of mercenaries working for the regime in Riyadh in the kingdom’s regions of Jizan and Najran with domestically-manufactured missiles in retaliation for the Saudi campaign against the impoverished nation, a report says.

Yemen's Arabic-language al-Masirah television network, citing an unnamed military official from the missile unit of the Yemeni army, reported that a gathering of the mercenaries in Tawal district was hit with a high-precision Badr P-1 ballistic missile on Saturday.

It added that the projectile had accurately struck the designated target, leaving an unspecified number of soldiers either killed or wounded.

The report also said that a short-range Zelzal-1 missile, with an average range of 150 kilometers, was also launched against Saudi positions in Najran's al-Baqa'a Desert.

Saudi Arabia has been incessantly pounding Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstate former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is a staunch ally of Riyadh.

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

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

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/26/586857/Yemen-missiles-Jizan-Najran

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Two killed, several injured as Houthis bomb civilian house in Hodeidah

January 27, 2019

DUBAI: Two residents were killed and several others injured when a house was bombed twice by the Houthi militia in Al-Sab’a Al-Olya village, south of Heis district in Hodeidah.

One woman was killed and two of her children were seriously injured during the first bomb attack on the house, UAE state news agency WAM reported.

Minutes later, the same house was hit by a second bomb, killing a man, who had hurried to rescue and evacuate the victims of the first attack, according to a military source from the Yemeni Resistance.

On Sunday, Yemen’s army liberated new areas in Haydan province, west of Saada, following fierce clashes with the Houthi militia, Saudi state-news agency SPA reported.

“Army units belonging to the Arabiya brigades led by Brigadier General Abdul Karim al-Sudai have retaken control of the mountains of Natheerah, Al-Safiya, Tax, Al-Aish, Al-Sawah, Wadi Al-Safiya, Wadi Khalb and Kubar Maran during the battles over the past few days,” a Yemeni military source said in a statement on the Ministry of Defense’s official site September Net.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1442621/middle-east

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Houthis fail to implement Stockholm agreement: Yemeni government

January 26, 2019

The Houthis have not kept to the Hodeidah ceasefire agreement signed in Stockholm by refusing to hand over control of the city and its ports to the UN, the Yemeni government has claimed.

Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Yamani also stressed the importance of a plan for the pull out of armed troops in Hodeidah, which the Houthi militia failed to carry out.

The ceasefire deal, which was agreed upon between Yemen’s warring parties in December, prescribed the de-escalation of conflict in Hodeidah as an important first step for sustainable peace and hope for millions of Yemenis.

Al-Yamani said it was important to speed up the implementation of the agreement in order to maintain the political process.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the US urged the UN to take the Houthi militia to task for “reneging on their commitments” under the agreement.

“The Stockholm Agreement between Yemeni parties is being violated repeatedly by the Houthis,” Prince Khalid bin Salman said in a series of tweets.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1442271/middle-east

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TOTAL COMMENTS:-   1


  • Fruitless Reforms, Increased Political Executions Result of King Salman's Rule:


    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 1/27/2019 11:58:02 AM



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