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Islamic World News (21 Feb 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Give Peace a Chance, Say Indian and Pakistani Expatriates in UAE In The Wake Of Pulwama Attack
















Shamima Begum: Britain revoked her citizenship and Bangladesh, from where her family hails, said it would not take her in.

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Give Peace a Chance, Say Indian and Pakistani Expatriates in UAE In The Wake Of Pulwama Attack

NIA Names Jaish Chief, To Mount Pressure for Arrest

‘Wonderful’ If Pakistan and India Get Along, Says Trump

In First, US' Sanders Picks Muslim To Lead Campaign

‘Two Is Enough,’ Egypt Tells Poor Families as Population Booms

Not Opposed To Ban on Masood Azhar, Anyone Involved In Terror Must Be Listed By UN: Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister

China Says It Will Engage With India on JeM Leader Issue

Now Bangladesh Washes Its Hands Of Shamima Begum

 

India

Give Peace a Chance, Say Indian and Pakistani Expatriates in UAE In The Wake Of Pulwama Attack

NIA Names Jaish Chief, To Mount Pressure for Arrest

Sena Questions India's Response to Pulwama Terror Attack

Saudi crown prince orders release of 850 Indian prisoners on PM Modi's request

CRPF, Army, BSF convoys in J-K to move together after Pulwama attack

Pulwama Attack: Govt Withdraws Security Of 18 Hurriyat Leaders, 155 Politicians In J-K

India a victim of terrorism “sheltered and supported” from across the border: PM Modi

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North America

‘Wonderful’ If Pakistan and India Get Along, Says Trump

In First, US' Sanders Picks Muslim To Lead Campaign

US Asks Pakistan, China to Deny Safe Havens and Support to Terrorists

Ilhan Omar is helping turn the tables in Congress and the US establishment is freaking out

Muslim group seeks congressional probe on terror watchlist

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Arab World

‘Two Is Enough,’ Egypt Tells Poor Families as Population Booms

Not Opposed To Ban on Masood Azhar, Anyone Involved In Terror Must Be Listed By UN: Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister

Can’t Blame Pakistan for Pulwama Attack, Says Saudi FM

Terror Funding Has ‘New Face,’ Warns Saudi Arabia's Attorney General

Terrorism, extremism a ‘common concern’ with India: Saudi Arabia

ISIL Terrorists Transferred from Eastern Syria on US-Led Coalition Trucks

Report: US Experts Working on Re-emergence of ISIL Terrorists

Bodies found after 12 people abducted in Iraq

Aoun rejects US claims about Hezbollah’s clout on Lebanon govt.

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South Asia

China Says It Will Engage With India on JeM Leader Issue

Now Bangladesh Washes Its Hands Of Shamima Begum

Afghanistan rebukes Pak envoy over Pulwama attack remarks

Jamaat should apologise for '71 role

NDS Special forces kill 5 Taliban commanders in Nangarhar province

Afghanistan to sign strategic partnership agreement with Turkmenistan

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Europe

Ex-Daesh UK Teen Now Stateless After Government Revokes Her Citizenship

EU draft report on Turkey unacceptable: Ankara

Iran’s actions in Lebanon pose biggest war threat: report

Denmark expels four Syrians over Turkish embassy attack

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Southeast Asia

Women’s Groups Rap PAS Man over Comments on Underage Marriage

FT Mufti: Flat Earth conspiracy theory misguided, opposes irrefutable consensus

Hadi: PAS willing to forget past wrongs, unite for Islam

Will Dr M consider Umno defectors for PPBM top posts in Sabah?

Report: PAS used money allegedly given by Umno for GE14 deposits

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Mideast

Israel Approves Construction Over 4,000 New Settler Units In Jerusalem Al-Quds

Main challengers to Netanyahu announce alliance for Israeli polls

Palestinian president rejects tax money from Israel

Iran FM Warns Israel about Its ‘Dangerous’ Adventurism

Jordan MPs call for expulsion of Israel envoy over al-Aqsa assault

Yemeni government approves UN plan for redeployment in Hodeidah

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Africa

Dusit Attack Highlights 'New Generation' Of Al-Shabaab Recruits

Blame for mass rapes points to S. Sudan army: UN report

Jordan’s PM appeals for more aid as most Syrian refugees set to stay

Sudan’s struggling protest movement hopes to outlast Omar Al Bashir

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Pakistan

Two ‘high-profile’ terror suspects held in Karachi

Pakistanis released from Saudi prison on PM Imran’s request

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/give-peace-a-chance,-say-indian-and-pakistani-expatriates-in-uae-in-the-wake-of-pulwama-attack/d/117815

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Give peace a chance, say Indian and Pakistani expatriates in UAE in the wake of Pulwama attack

February 20, 2019

Dubai: Give peace a chance.

That is the message of Pakistani social worker and journalist Sehyr Mirza, who has launched the #AntiHateChallenge challenge on social media, followed the venom being spewed in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack in which 49 Indian paramilitary forces were killed.

Pakistan-based banned outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad has claimed responsibility for the attack which has raised tensions between nuclear India and Pakistan. India blames Pakistan for the attack while Pakistan denies its hand in it.

Speaking to Gulf News from Pakistan, Mirza explained why she decided to launch the #AntihateChallenge.

“The war-like situation after the Pulwama attack was extremely distressing because of the silence. Peace supporters on both sides were facing a lot of backlash as all sorts of negative and hateful comments were being shared on social media.

“I thought it was very important to break the silence to create a healing space and the best way to do that was through giving out a message of love and warmth. So, I initiated the #AntiHateChallenge to express solidarity with friends across the border.”

Mirza has been contributing to the cause through interviews of intellectuals and thinkers on India-Pakistan relations. She also works with the team of Aman ki Asha (Wish for Peace) initiative. “Similar situations have arisen in the past and I have participated in campaigns with like-minded friends to counter negative propaganda.”

How her campaign is being received

She said many like-minded friends from Pakistan have joined in the campaign. “I am still expecting more people to accept the challenge. Hating is very easy and it’s almost challenging in the current times to stand up for peace.” The post is widely being shared and appreciated in India by peace supporters.

“A lot of love and positive messages are coming in. At the same time, I have faced negative reaction from trolls from both countries. While Indians are calling the photographs fake and disseminating the images with distorted photo-shopped messages, several Pakistanis are responding by calling it an act of appeasement towards the Indian establishment. “

She said neither the images nor the spirit behind the campaign is fake. Mirza argued that those considering it appeasement or acceptance of guilt, must realise how Pakistanis are being attacked and labelled as terrorists.

“I was distressed and wanted to counter that by giving out a public message that Pakistanis are against terrorism and Pakistanis and Indians stand together in fighting the menace,” she added.

On defusing tension

“Sharing positive energy and love is the only way as both countries need to fight our collective issues such as poverty, inequality, violence against women and lack of education and health opportunities,” she said. And this, she said, would work only through establishing regional peace instead of spending hefty amounts on defence budgets.

Indian and Pakistan expatriates in the UAE are calling for peace in the wake of the tension between the neighbouring countries.

Irfan W. Malik, a Pakistani resident in Dubai

The hate campaigns and hurling abuses at each other should stop. An act of terrorism should be condemned. It should not create hatred amongst people. Social media users should stop fighting online creating more tension and hatred and instead promote peace. I often visit India and always get superb treatment by Indians during my trips. Likewise, Indians visiting Pakistan get even better treatment. People in Pakistan always warmly welcome their Indian guests in Pakistan and it is very heart warming. Relations between the countries and the people should not be spoiled because of some rogue elements who are trying to play dirty games for vested interests.

I often visit India and always get superb treatment by Indians during my trips. Likewise, Indians visiting Pakistan get even better treatment.

- Irfan W. Malik, a Pakistani resident in Dubai

People in Pakistan always warmly welcome their Indian guests in Pakistan and it is very heart warming. Relations between the countries and the people should not be spoiled because of some rogue elements who are trying to play dirty games for vested interests.

Amjad Iqbal Amjad, a Pakistani resident in Sharjah,

War are is not a solution to Indo-Pak problems as it would only serve a political agenda. Terrorist attacks are security issues and both Indian and Pakistan are victims of this curse. We should let such incidents spoil our people to people relations. The #AntiHateChallenge is a good way to tackle this issue. Holding a dialogue is the only way to resolve our issues as war is merciless and disastrous for people in both countries.

The cordial relations and good friendship between Indians and Pakistani living in the UAE is a clear example that we as a people don’t hate each other.

- Amjad Iqbal Amjad, Pakistani resident

The cordial relations and good friendship between Indians and Pakistani living in the UAE is a clear example that we as a people don’t hate each other. Sanity should prevail to avoid any war. People promoting warmongering should be discouraged.

Syed Tabish Zaidi, Pakistani resident in Dubai

I have been holding literary and poetry programmes inviting intellectuals and poets from both India and Pakistan to Dubai as I believe people from both the countries do not hate one another. We as Pakistanis condemn the Pulwama attack and the loss of lives. We feel equally sad about any such incident happening either in India or Pakistan. People in Pakistan do not want killings. We should have more interaction and people to people contact as it will help promote peace. People should respect humanity and precious human life. Hate campaigns should be curbed and we should not be a part of this.

We as Pakistanis condemn the Pulwama attack and the loss of lives. We feel equally sad about any such incident happening either in India or Pakistan.

- Syed Tabish Zaidi, Pakistani resident in Dubai

We should have more interaction and people to people contact as it will help promote peace. People should respect humanity and precious human life. Hate campaigns should be curbed and we should not be a part of this.

Sohail Ashraf, general secretary at the Pakistan Association in Dubai

War is not a solution to resolve any conflict. We encourage and appreciate those who have launched the #AntiHateChallenge and condemn those who are promoting hatred on social media and television. A large number of my friends and business partners in the UAE are Indians and we work together very well. We have very cordial relations between Indian and Pakistan social clubs in Dubai. I would say we should talk to each other to defuse the tension and discourage people who are flaring it up on social media.

We have very cordial relations between Indian and Pakistan social clubs in Dubai. I would say we should talk to each other to defuse the tension.

- Sohail Ashraf, general secretary at the Pakistan Association in Dubai

I would say we should talk to each other to defuse the tension and discourage people who are flaring it up on social media.

Anoop Bhargava, Indian resident in Dubai

To start with, this has been a tragic and horrible incident where lives have been lost. This is something that has to be universally condemned by people of society, politicians and governments across the world. The solution lies in resolving the matter which quite honestly has been inflated. The solution to tackle terrorism is not violence, but educating people on how we can lead a better life and create open spaces for dialogue. That will be the only way one will give up violence, not indulge in such horrible ideologies and get intoxicated with views to kill people. Educating the youth is equally important so people don’t fall for false news or fake opinion. Open dialogue and communication is the key.

The solution to tackle terrorism is not violence, but educating people on how we can lead a better life and create open spaces for dialogue.

- Anoop Bhargava, Indian resident in Dubai

Educating the youth is equally important so people don’t fall for false news or fake opinion. Open dialogue and communication is the key.

Dr. Sameer H. Shaikh, an Indian resident in Dubai

The sad turn of events in Pulwama and the massacre of Indian troops is yet another painful stab in our back by non-state incendiaries. Yet, I am a believer in positivity and harmonious co-existence is definitely a probability provided there is a productive change in mindset of both our countries.

War mongering is not the way forward. Dialogue is the call of the day. Media interpretations should advocate caution and wanton statements by politicians on both sides must be kept in check.

- Dr. Sameer H. Shaikh, an Indian resident in Dubai

Sadaf Khurshid, an Indian Instructor in Dubai

The recent attacks in Pulwama have been encouraging ill feelings between India and Pakistan. This is not how we should be responding to any act of terror. First stop belittling the other country, its citizens and the governments involved. Instead they must stand together and come to consensus with a dialogue. I belong to Delhi and I have friends from Pakistan too. As someone who has been living in the UAE for the last 30 years I have come to realise we cannot stop living in a multi-cultural environment. We are living in peaceful coexistence outside our country, why we can’t our government peacefully co-exist.

We are living in peaceful coexistence outside our country, why we can’t our government peacefully co-exist.

- Sadaf Khurshid, Indian instructor in Dubai

As someone who has been living in the UAE for the last 30 years I have come to realise we cannot stop living in a multi-cultural environment. We are living in peaceful coexistence outside our country, why we can’t our government peacefully co-exist.

Devanand Mahadeva, Indian director with a law firm in Dubai

It is very disturbing to see the countries battle this way. There has to be a peaceful co-existence and dialogue is the only solution to everybody’s problem. There is no way of tackling terrorism with violence and hatred. Education and dialogue are imperative.

There is no way of tackling terrorism with violence and hatred. Education and dialogue are imperative.

- Devanand Mahadeva, Indian, director with a law firm in Dubai

#AntiHateChallenge grows on social media

Amid the hate and warmongering on Twitter after the #PulwamaAttack, some Pakistani and Indian social media users are finally standing up to say #NoToWar. After Pakistani journalist Sheyr Mirza launched the #AntiHateChallenge to speak out against war and terrorism and hundreds of Twitter users from both sides of the border joined her.

Quoting Indian poet and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi, Pakistani Twitter user @Khalidgraphy, highlighted that war will only bring destruction: “Whether blood is ours or theirs. It’s the blood of humankind. War is a problem itself. Today it will rain fire and blood... tomorrow, hunger and scarcity. I am a #Pakistani and I’m against #terrorattacks anywhere in the world.”

Indian tweep @AjaySawant11 posted: “#AntiHateChallenge: Respect to all the Pakistan citizens who condemn these cowardly attacks. Citizens of both countries should hold their government accountable... Only the common man dies, no corrupt politicians.”

And, @Ranjish_ added: “It is usually the common people on both the sides of the border with sane voices, while, people occupying ‘big’ offices are busy peddling their agenda.”

@KunalKriplani tweeted: “Thank you for keeping the differences aside. Love and respect from across the border. #AntiHateChallenge #NoToWar”

Pakistani tweep @AnisanKhan added: “Stop creating more hate! Both countries need to stick together. Don’t forget the partition in 1947... instead of killing more people, find alternative solutions. #notowar”

Stop using social media to fuel war, say expats

Promoting peace and tolerance, many Indian and Pakistani expats in the UAE shared the same view. War is not the solution.

Dubai-based Indian expatriate Nitin Kumar said: “What is happening is pure politics. I support the #AntiHateChallenge. The governments and people in power should ensure that people do not use social media for hate messages and slander. People are suffering at ground level, in both the countries and we cannot afford war.”

The 30-year-old sales coordinator added: “We need to stop using social media to fuel the fire. If there is proof about the attackers, they should openly share it and punish the culprits. Political speeches of hatred will only escalate the situation.”

Political speeches of hatred will only escalate the situation.

- Nitin Kumar, Indian expat in Dubai

Stick to facts on social media

Sudeep Devpura, a 23-year-old Rajasthani working as an analyst in Dubai, agreed: “Fear-mongering speeches by politicians are not solving the issue, they are just adding to people’s fury. Social media users need to control what they are sharing and stick to facts and the truth. Their purpose should not be to boil blood. We need to let go of the past and start a humane conversation.”

Social media users need to control what they are sharing and stick to facts and the truth.

- Sudeep Devpura, Indian expat in Dubai

Wage a war against extremist ideologies

Dubai-based expat Sarika Jamkhedkar, a Mumbaiker, added: “The attack seems to have aggravated the feeling of hatred between people in the two countries. What people should understand is that the need of the hour is to fight terrorists and extremist ideologies and to tackle the attackers.”

Jamkhedkar said: “This is not a fight between the people of the two countries, the solution is not a physical war. It is a great thing that some Pakistanis have taken to social media to condemn the attack, it’s a positive step. That being said, condemning is not enough, they should urge their government to take action.”

The 43-year-old Dubai homemaker feels, we need to, “focus on changing the mindset of people involved in terrorism. Both countries need to ensure this.”

She also feels people should use social media responsibly: “Rather than writing messages of hatred or forwarding such messages we should focus on sharing posts about the development in our own country or posts about empowerment and social justice. The military should be left to strategise and solve serious border issues.”

Rather than writing messages of hatred or forwarding such messages we should focus on sharing... posts about empowerment and social justice

- Sarika Jamkhedkar, Indian expat in Dubai

No animosity between civilians

Mohammad Sarmad, an inventory coordinator based in Dubai also feels that the issue should be resolved at a government level and the general public does not need to involved: “There is no animosity between any civilians. It’s completely a political issue between two countries.”

The Pakistani national also believes that media is to blame when it comes to “pushing the agenda for war”.

Commenting on official statements by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, the 40-year-old said: “Being a leader of a country, he [Khan] definitely has the right to reply. India has the right to reply as well. That is how it goes.”

There is no animosity between any civilians. It’s completely a political issue between two countries.

- Mohammad Sarmad, Pakistani expat in Dubai

However, Sarmad believes that “war is not an option” and “a discussion is needed”. He added: “It’s 200 per cent important to not have a war. There should be a table talk and the countries should come to a consensus without showing any grudges. That’s an easy solution.”

Commenting on the consequences of the attack, Sarmad said: “If any solid proof is found, we are open to an investigation and action should definitely be taken against whoever is responsible.”

Understand the repercussions of war

Another Pakistani living in the UAE, Rehan Khalid has similar sentiments regarding the issue. “War is not the answer in this era, we have lessons from the past,” the events manager said. The 37-year-old believes that most of the reactions are prominent online, however, that is not the case in everyday life: “Kids are typing things and pushing for revenge on social media without understanding the consequences of war.”

Emphasising on the consequences of a conflict, he said: “The repercussions of a potential war can’t be estimated right now. People who are asking for revenge don’t understand the results of it.” Khalid believes Pakistanis living in the UAE as well in Pakistan “are not taking the threat of war seriously”.

Kids are typing things and pushing for revenge on social media without understanding the consequences of war.

- Rehan Khalid, Pakistani expat in the UAE

https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/pakistan/give-peace-a-chance-say-indian-and-pakistani-expatriates-in-uae-in-the-wake-of-pulwama-attack-1.62184867?utm

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NIA names Jaish chief, to mount pressure for arrest

Feb 21, 2019

NEW DELHI: Six days after the Pulwama suicide bombing, in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed, the National Investigation Agency on Wednesday filed an FIR “naming Maulana Masood Azhar-led Jaish-eMohammad” for the conspiracy.

Sources said they already have sufficient primary evidence, including a video through which Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility, pattern of vehicle-borne IED (VBIED) attacks, names of people who executed the blast and details linking the bomb to Pakistan and Jaish.

The agency is planning to mount pressure on Pakistan through international agencies like Interpol to arrest Azhar since red notices have been issued against him in the past for attacks on the Pathankot IAF base, Parliament and J&K assembly. Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency have so far refused to honour these notices.

The matter, government officials said, would be raised with Interpol’s headquarters since Pakistan is also a member of the international body, but has refused to arrest any wanted designated terrorist against whom red notice has been issued — be it Azhar, LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin, Abdul Rauf Asghar or D company boss Dawood Ibrahim. In fact, these people roam freely in the country along with security cover provided by the Pakistan government.

Agencies already have a dossier on Jaish-e-Mohammad, which includes its sympathisers, overground workers, known hideouts of cadres, madrasas from where the outfit gets support in Kashmir and other parts of the country.

Sources said all those linked to the outfit are being located while some have already been questioned in the last few days. A search is on for one of JeM’s local recruits in the Valley — Muddassir Ahmad Khan — who played a key role in the attack.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nia-names-jaish-chief-to-mount-pressure-for-arrest/articleshow/68088182.cms

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‘Wonderful’ if Pakistan and India get along, says Trump

Feb 21, 2019

WASHINGTON DC: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday described the Pulwama terrorist attack, in which 40 Indian paramilitary personnel were killed, as a “horrible situation” and said it would be “wonderful” if the two South Asian neighbours “get along”.

“I have watched. I have got a lot of reports on it. We will have a comment (on it) at an appropriate time. It would be wonderful if they (India and Pakistan) get along,” Trump said in response to a question.

The American president made these comments while addressing the media during an Oval Office signing ceremony on Tuesday.

The United States threw its support behind India on Tuesday and urged Islamabad to punish those behind the February 14 suicide attack in occupied Kashmir.

“We have been in close communication with the government of India to express not only our condolences but our strong support for India as it confronts this terrorism,” said US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino.

“We urge Pakistan to fully cooperate with the investigation into the attack and to punish anyone responsible,” he added, noting that Washington had also been in contact with Islamabad over the attack.

A day after the deadly car bombing the United States voiced support for India’s right to self-defence against cross-border attacks.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton spoke to his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on February 15, promising to help bring those behind the attack to justice, the Indian foreign ministry said in a readout of the phone call.

The ministry said the two NSAs vowed to work together against all regional and global threats, and “resolved to hold Pakistan to account for its obligations under UN resolutions”.

On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Zahid Nasrullah said peace talks between the United States and Afghan Taliban would be affected if India resorted to violence against Pakistan.

Taliban representatives are due to meet US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar on February 25 in the next round of talks to end America’s longest war.

PM IMRAN’S SPEECH:

The US State Department’s comments come a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan – in an address to the nation on Tuesday – offered India an olive branch and said Islamabad was willing to act upon ‘actionable intelligence’.

Reiterating his resolve for a peaceful neighbourhood, the premier said Islamabad had nothing to gain from the attack and would act against any individual who used Pakistani soil to plan or execute the attack.

“I would like to make the Indian government an offer, If you have actionable evidence, share it with us. We will take action. Not because we are under pressure, but because it is our policy,” he said.

He reminded his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi that Pakistan has borne the brunt of global terrorism and the country has sacrificed more than 70,000 lives in order to achieve the peace and has been at the forefront of the global war on terror.

“Pakistan is a country that has suffered the most from terrorism, and we are willing to have a dialogue with India to eradicate terrorism in the region.”

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/02/20/wonderful-if-pak-india-get-along-trump/

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In first, US' Sanders picks Muslim to lead campaign

20.02.2019

Fresh off announcing a new run at the presidency, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has named a prominent Muslim civil rights lawyer to lead his effort, in a first for a major presidential bid.

Faiz Shakir, a Harvard University graduate and former national political director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), was named campaign manager on Tuesday by the independent senator.

Before the ACLU, Shakir was a senior adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and also advised Nancy Pelosi, the current House majority leader.

During seven years at the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based liberal think tank, he spearheaded an anti-Islamophobia campaign which produced a report, "Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America."

Sanders, a strong spoiler ahead of Hillary Clinton’s Democratic nomination for president in 2016, joins a crowded field of hopefuls for the 2020 Democratic nod.

Though an independent, progressive Sanders caucuses with the Democrats.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/in-first-us-sanders-picks-muslim-to-lead-campaign/1397986

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‘Two is enough,’ Egypt tells poor families as population booms

21 February 2019

Nesma Ghanem is hoping for a fourth child even though her doctor says her body can’t handle a pregnancy at the moment. She has three daughters and would like them to have a brother.

“In the future he could support his father and the girls,” said Ghanem, 27, who lives in a village in Sohag, an area with one of Egypt’s highest fertility rates.

The family depends on her husband’s income from a local cafe. “If I have a son people, here in the village can say that he will carry on his father’s name,” she said.

As Egypt’s population heads toward 100 million, the government is trying to change the minds of people like Ghanem.

“Two Is Enough” is the government’s first family-planning campaign aiming to challenge traditions of large families in rural Egypt. But Ghanem’s wish to have a son shows how hard that could be.

“The main challenge is that we’re trying to change a way of thinking,” said Randa Fares, coordinator of the campaign at the Social Solidarity Ministry. “To change a way of thinking is difficult.”

Egypt’s population is growing by 2.6 million a year, a high rate for a country where water and jobs are scarce and schools and hospitals overcrowded. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi says the two biggest threats to Egypt are terrorism and population growth. “We are faced with scarcity in water resources ... scarcity in jobs, job creation, and we need to really control this population growth so that people can feel the benefits of development,” Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali told Reuters.

Decades ago, Egypt had a family-planning program, supported by the United States. The fertility rate fell from 5.6 children per woman in 1976 to 3.0 in 2008 while the use of contraceptives went up from 18.8 percent to 60.3 percent. Large amounts of contraceptives were made available and advertisements increased demand for birth control.

Support for family planning from the Egyptian government and large sums from donors helped make the program successful, said Duff Gillespie, who directed USAID’s population office from 1986 to 1993.

Donor support

But Egypt was relying on donor support and when that assistance went away, family planning was neglected. By 2014 the fertility rate had gone up to 3.5. The United States is supporting family planning in Egypt again, providing more than $19 million for a five-year project ending in 2022 and $4 million for a smaller private sector project ending in 2020.

Those amounts are significantly lower than the $371 million the United States spent on family planning in Egypt between 1976 and 2008.

“Two Is Enough” is mainly financed by Egyptian money, with the Social Solidarity Ministry spending 75 million Egyptian pounds ($4.27 million) and the UN providing 10 million pounds, according to the ministry.

The two-year campaign targets more than 1.1 million poor families with up to three children. The Social Solidarity Ministry, with local NGOs, has trained volunteers to make home visits and encourage people to have fewer children.

Mothers are invited to seminars with preachers who say that Islam allows family planning, and doctors who answer questions. Billboards and TV ads promote smaller families. The government aims to reduce the current fertility rate of 3.5 to 2.4 by 2030.

At a session teaching volunteers how to speak to mothers and fathers about family planning in a village in Giza, Asmaa Mohammad, a 25-year-old volunteer, told Reuters she would rather have three children than two.

“Since I was a child I knew I wanted three children,” said Mohammad who is unmarried and doesn’t have children yet.

Deeply rooted traditions and lack of education explain why many Egyptians have big families. Al-Azhar, Egypt’s top Sunni Muslim authority, endorses family planning, but not all Egyptians agree.

Some view children as a future source of support. Others who only have girls keep having more until they get a boy who can carry on the family name.

During a visit from a campaign volunteer, Ghanem said her wish to have a boy was not the main reason she wasn’t using contraceptives. She stopped using an IUD after suffering from bleeding.

Contraceptives

About one in three Egyptian women stop using contraceptives within a year, often due to misinformation about the side effects or lack of information about alternatives, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

Nearly 13 percent of married women of reproductive age in Egypt want to use contraceptives but are unable to, according to official data from 2014.

Now the government has renovated clinics, added staff and provided more free contraceptives. Under “Two is Enough” the goal is to have 70 new clinics up and running in March.

But when Reuters visited a clinic in Sohag last month, there were no contraceptives left. Nema Mahmoud, who had travelled from her village, was told to come back the next day.

Sohag, one of Egypt’s poorest governorates, also has one of the highest fertility rates at 4.3. The National Population Council said contraceptive use in Sohag is the lowest among six governorates surveyed.

For years Mahmoud, 33, didn’t use contraceptives consistently even though she wanted a small family. Her mother-in-law kept her from travelling to the city to get contraceptives when the local clinic was out, she said.

It was only after her mother-in-law died that she started using contraceptives properly. By then Mahmoud had three children and three miscarriages.

Since January, the government has limited cash assistance to poor families to two children instead of three in an attempt to push them to have fewer kids. Mahmoud will receive less cash every month. Her husband works only a few days a month, making 45 Egyptian pounds ($2.60) a day, she said.

Mahmoud and her neighbor Sanaa Mohammad, a 38-year-old mother of three, said the change should apply to new families, not women like them who already benefit from the program and have more than two children.

“It’s not fair to give someone something and then take it away,” said Mohammad. The government sees the population boom as a threat to its economic reform plans. Every year, 800,000 young Egyptians enter the labor market, where unemployment is officially 10 percent.

In Egypt, population growth is around half the economic growth rate, but it should be no more than a third - otherwise it will be difficult to invest in social programs and improve living standards, said Magued Osman, chief executive of Baseera, the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research.

Analysts say Egypt should target people before they have children and sex education should be available in schools. “Two Is Enough is good, but by itself it will not do the job,” said Abla Abdel Latif, executive director of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies.

Wafaa Mohammad Amin, 36, a mother of four who works on “Two Is Enough”, got married at 17 and had her first child a year later. Two of her children were malnourished because she didn’t know how to breastfeed properly. She had to postpone her education and couldn’t work for years.

“There are many things I know now that I wish I had known back then,” she said. “I don’t want others to go through what I went through.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2019/02/21/-Two-is-enough-Egypt-tells-poor-families-as-population-booms.html

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Not opposed to ban on Masood Azhar, anyone involved in terror must be listed by UN: Saudi Arabia foreign minister

Feb 20, 2019

NEW DELHI: The Saudi Arabia-Pakistan joint statement calling for avoiding "politicisation" of the UN listing regime was not directed at India's efforts to get JeM chief Masood Azhar banned by the global body, Saudi Arabia foreign minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said Wednesday, asserting that anyone involved in terror should be proscribed and punished.

In an exclusive interview to PTI, the Saudi Arabia foreign minister also said his country will "consider playing a role" to mediate and de-escalate tension between India and Pakistan if both countries want.

He rejected suggestions that the Pak-Saudi Arabia statement during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to Islamabad on Monday was against India's push to get Azhar, chief of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, which has also claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack, listed as "global terrorist".

"Any person who is a terrorist should be designated. The idea was to ensure that there is no politicisation so that people don't throw names of their political opponents as terrorists. We should not be careless about throwing names of those who are not terrorists," he said.

"I think people here assumed that the joint (Pakistan-Saudi Arabia) statement had to do with one particular individual (Azhar). It did not. The intention was that the process of designation is clear and not political," Al-Jubeir, who is here with the Saudi Crown

Prince, said.

The minister said his country follows a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism and that "anyone who supports and finances the menace must be designated and must be punished".

Asked about rising tension between India and Pakistan following the Pulwama attack, he said Saudi Arabia believes that both countries can de-escalate and resolve issues peacefully.

"We hope tension between India and Pakistan will not escalate. You have wise leadership in both the countries represented by respective prime ministers. I believe they will be able to find a way to de-escalate," he said.

On whether Saudi Arabia will try to mediate between the two countries, he said "We will not involve ourselves into the tensions between India and Pakistan without being invited by both the countries."

He further said,"we have good relations with both countries and if both want us to play some kind of a role, we would consider it."

On whether Saudi Arabia will intervene if India and Pakistan comes close to some kind of military confrontation, the Saudi foreign minister said the whole world will step-in in such a scenario.

"Nobody wants to see armed conflict between two nuclear powers. Nobody benefits except terrorists. I believe the leadership recognises it. It is our hope that issues can be resolved peacefully," he said.

On Pulwama attack, the Saudi Arabia foreign minister said it was important that those who committed this terrible terrorist act be held accountable and brought to justice. "It is what international community wants, this is what Pakistan wants and this is what India wants."

Asked what sense he received on the issue from Islamabad during the Saudi Crown Prince's visit there, Al-Jubeir said Pakistan have said that they will investigate and pursue the matter.

"They (Pakistan) will hold people behind this attack accountable and we will have to see how it goes," he said.

Al-Jubeir felt the leadership in both Pakistan and India were sincere in improving ties with each other.

"I believe Prime Minister Imran Khan wants to have better relations with India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to have better relations with Pakistan, he said.

"The issue is how do you build trust and confidence between the two countries that will allow them to move forward in a way that protects both countries and in a way that defeats extremists groups and terrorists groups that may operate in one country or the other," he added.

On whether there was a need to put more pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terror groups, the Saudi Arabia minister said all the countries need to do everything they can to crackdown on terror groups and extremists.

"If you do not eliminate the mindset, you are not going to eliminate terrorists. You have to go after terrorists, you have to go

after their funding and go after the mindset and it has to be a robust, comprehensive effort, and it has to be long-term," he said.

Earlier in the day, the Saudi Crown Prince and Modi held "extensive and successful" talks, a day after the influential Arab leader concluded a high profile visit to Islamabad.

Asked why the Saudi Crown Prince did not condemn the Pulwama attack in his media statement after talks with Modi, Al-Jubeir did not give a direct reply, and said Saudi Arabia was the first country to condemn it.

"We condemned it very very strongly," he added.

Asked whether India raised the issue of cross-border terrorism as well as Pulwama attack during Wednesday's talks, he said," terrorism is an issue which is important to the relationship between the two countries. We have security cooperation, exchange of information, we have intelligence-sharing mechanism, we have listed individuals, extradited individuals and we have foiled number of attacks which could have harmed your people and our people," he said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/not-opposed-to-masood-azhars-banning-anyone-involved-in-terror-must-be-listed-by-un-saudi-fm/articleshow/68084624.cms

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China says it will engage with India on JeM leader issue

February 21, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Following the latest escalation of tensions between Pakistan and India, China on Wednesday called for restraint and said it would engage with India on the issue of listing of Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Maulana Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the United Nations.

“China hopes that Pakistan and India can exercise restraint, engage in dialogues and realise an early ‘soft landing’ of this issue,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said ahead of the next week’s trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting between China, India and Russia.

Since last week’s Pulwama attack, India has stepped up efforts for listing of JeM chief Masood Azhar by the UN. The JeM claimed the Pulwama attack on Central Police Reserve Force bus in which 44 security personnel were killed. China, it should be recalled, has been maintaining a technical hold on Azhar’s listing.

France has said that it will make a fresh bid at the UN for Azhar’s listing in a couple of days. France had in 2017 moved a proposal with the US and UK backing to get Azhar declared a global terrorist, but the move was blocked by China.

The issue would be a major agenda point during a meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of the trilateral meeting.

Mr Shuang said: “China will engage in relevant discussions in a constructive and responsible manner, and keep close communication and coordination with India and other parties concerned.”

However, his emphasis on “the relevant resolutions and the procedures of the 1267 Committee” showed that notwithstanding Beijing’s openness to discuss the matter with Delhi, it was still not in a mood to review its position.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1465072/china-says-it-will-engage-with-india-on-jem-leader-issue

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Now Bangladesh washes its hands of Shamima Begum

February 21, 2019

The London teen who joined ISIS in on Wednesday faced the prospect of statelessness after Britain revoked her citizenship and Bangladesh, from where her family hails, said it would not take her in.

Shamima Begum travelled to Syria in 2015 aged just 15, but after giving birth in a refugee camp last weekend, she wants to go home.

Now 19, Ms Begum said she was “shocked” at the decision by Britain to revoke her citizenship, a move announced in a letter to her family in Britain, their lawyer said.

It was reported that she could be eligible for automatic citizenship in Bangladesh, where her mother is believed to have been born, but the Foreign Ministry in Dhaka rejected it.

“She is a British citizen by birth and has never applied for dual nationality with Bangladesh,” it said.

“It may also be mentioned that she never visited Bangladesh in the past despite her parental lineage. So there is no question of her being allowed to enter Bangladesh.”

Speaking to the BBC in the refugee camp in eastern Syria, where she arrived after fleeing fighting between the ISIS and US-backed forces, Ms Begum said she was British.

“I have one citizenship and if you take that away from me, I don’t have anything. I don’t think they are allowed to do that,” she said.

Ms Begum earlier told ITV News that Britain’s decision was unjust, but that she might consider applying for citizenship in the Netherlands.

Her husband, an ISIS fighter believed to be held by Kurdish forces in Syria, is Dutch.

“Maybe I can ask for citizenship in Holland,” Ms Begum said. “If he gets sent back to prison in Holland I can just wait for him while he is in prison.”

The Dutch authorities refused to comment but experts said she stood little chance of being accepted because she would have to satisfy a stringent list of requirements.

Her family’s lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, said he was “considering all legal avenues to challenge” Britain’s decision.

Ms Begum’s fate has stirred controversy since she and two school friends fled east London to join the terror network four years ago.

The case highlights a dilemma facing many European countries, divided over whether to allow fighters and ISIS sympathisers home to face prosecution or bar them over security concerns.

Interior Minister Sajid Javid told MPs on Wednesday that revoking citizenship was “a powerful tool” not used lightly.

“But when someone turns their back on our fundamental values and supports terror, they don’t have an automatic right to return to the UK,” Mr Javid said.

He has said that more than 100 people have been deprived of their British citizenship.

Mr Javid said on Wednesday that international law meant Britain could only do this if it did not leave the person stateless, if they were dual nationals or “in some limited circumstances they have the right to citizenship elsewhere”.

He hinted that Ms Begum’s newborn son – her third child, after a another son and a daughter who recently died – could be treated differently.

“Children should not suffer so if a parent does lose their British citizenship it does not affect the rights of their child,” Mr Javid said.

Ms Begum appealed to British authorities to show compassion by allowing her to raise the baby in Britain.

But she inflamed public opinion by saying in her first interview with The Times last week that she had no regrets about joining ISIS.

In her latest BBC interview, Ms Begum expressed more remorse.

“I was hoping Britain would understand I made a mistake, a very big mistake, because I was young and naive,” she said.

Ms Begum was born in Britain, has never had a Bangladeshi passport and is not a dual citizen, Mr Akunjee said.

But the BBC reported she might have automatic right to Bangladeshi citizenship until she is 21, through a parent.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/now-bangladesh-washes-its-hands-of-shamima-begum-1.828224

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India

 

Sena questions India's response to Pulwama terror attack

Feb 21, 2019

MUMBAI: Their rekindled bonhomie notwithstanding, the Shiv Sena Thursday questioned the BJP-led government's response to the Pulwama terror attack, asking it not to wait "till the eve of polling (for Lok Sabha)" to act against Pakistan.

An editorial in Sena mouthpiece Saamana also asked the Modi government not to depend on the US and European countries to condemn the attack.

"We have to fight for ourselves instead of looking at America or the European countries for support," the Sena said.

The Sena said a war between India and Pakistan is underway on social media, adding this marks the start of election campaigning. This social media war has to be stopped, it said.

"The martyrdom of soldiers and terror attacks becomes a tool to win elections. How will such a nation face enemies? There are rhetorics of teaching Pakistan a lesson. First do it and then speak. We are only giving warnings since Pathankot, Uri and now Pulwama (terror attacks)," the Sena said.

"We are busy patting our backs over what Donald Trump, France and Iran had to say over the attacks," the party said.

The BJP and the Shiv Sena had on Monday announced a seat-sharing pact for the upcoming Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly polls, overcoming their strained ties and previous declarations of going solo.

The Sena said Sri Lanka ended the menace of LTTE and the world commended the island nation for it. The US killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan and the world appreciated that country's courage, the party said.

"However, we are patting our backs even after doing nothing. It is different for countries like the US and France to condemn the terror attack in Pulwama and another thing to openly say Kashmir is a part of India," it said.

The Uddhav Thackeray-led party said Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan asserted that his country will retaliate if India takes action over the Pulwama terror attack.

Unless countries like the US and France tell Pakistan that it will be the loser (in case of conflict with India), such nations can't be considered a true friend of India, it said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/sena-questions-indias-response-to-pulwama-terror-attack/articleshow/68091298.cms

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Saudi crown prince orders release of 850 Indian prisoners on PM Modi's request

Feb 21, 2019

NEW DELHI: Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday ordered the release of 850 Indian prisoners lodged in his country's jails on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's request as the two leaders held extensive talks here, according to the ministry of external affairs.

After the talks, it was also announced that India has decided to extend evisa facility to Saudi nationals.

In an important development, Saudi Arabia also joined the International Solar Alliance, a move welcomed by the Prime Minister, MEA officials said.

Both sides noted the potential of cooperation in the renewable energy sector, not only in investment but also in research and development, a joint statement issued after the talks said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/saudi-crown-prince-orders-release-of-850-indian-prisoners-on-pm-modis-request/articleshow/68088348.cms

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CRPF, Army, BSF convoys in J-K to move together after Pulwama attack

by Deeptiman Tiwary

February 21, 2019

Following the February 14 terror attack on a CRPF convoy which killed 40 personnel, the CRPF, Army and BSF have decided to move their convoys in the Valley in a common “window of time”, during which civilian traffic will remain suspended.

Also, the Jammu-Srinagar convoy movement will be spread over two days, with more stops in between, instead of the current one-day trip. The capacity of transit camps which fall on the route, like Qazigund, is likely to be increased. The timing of convoy movement is also being changed, as convoys are usually targeted in the sensitive areas of Pulwama and Pampore during the afternoon.

Since the attack last week, the CRPF has held a series of meetings with the Army, BSF and Jammu and Kashmir Police to work out a solution that minimises the threat of vehicle-borne IEDs, while causing minimum disruption to normal traffic.

“Because there are three different forces with massive presence in the Valley, there is movement almost everyday, through the day. Stopping traffic for such disparate movements can bring the whole Valley to a halt and also make us vulnerable. So we have decided that the three forces will move together in a single window of time. This will reduce both vulnerability and traffic disruption,” said a senior officer who attended these meetings.

He said that even if the security forces are unable to move together for various reasons, the attempt would be to move the convoys one after another, within short intervals of times. “In those intervals, civilian traffic can be allowed,” he said.

“The real trouble starts after Qazigund and Banihal. There are stretches which are vulnerable to attacks on convoys. We have seen that most of these attacks take place in the afternoon. So we have decided to cross these stretches in the mornings. Ideally, we should reach Srinagar from Qazigund in two-and-a-half hours,” said another officer.

According to sources, this means that the convoys would have to make a night halt. “We have decided that our convoys will halt at Qazigund at night, and then leave for Srinagar early morning the next day. For this, we are increasing the holding capacity of our Qazigund camp which currently stands at 1,000 men,” said a senior CRPF officer.

The CRPF convoy that came under attack last week had left Jammu at 3.30 am and was attacked in Pulwama at around 3 pm. It made a halt at Qazigund, where half the personnel in the 78-vehicle convoy shifted to bulletproof vehicles. Probe finds car bumper, remains of can in which explosives were packed

Now, schedules are being worked out in such a way that the convoys are smaller, and more men can get bulletproof vehicles. “We need to increase the capacity at transit camps so that we can hold more personnel, for two-three days if required, and are not forced to send them because of increasing numbers,” said an officer.

Last week, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had announced that no civilian vehicle would be allowed during convoy movement. This was the practice followed earlier, but was discontinued in mid-2000s. Sources said stopping civilian vehicles from entering the Jammu-Srinagar highway requires massive logistics, as the highway has several openings which need to be manned. Additionally, the J&K Police will have to spare as many traffic policemen to regulate traffic in those areas.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pulwama-attack-crpf-army-bsf-convoys-in-jk-to-move-together-5593705/

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Pulwama attack: Govt withdraws security of 18 Hurriyat leaders, 155 politicians in J-K

February 21, 2019

In a major step today, Jammu and Kashmir Government on Wednesday evening downgraded and withdrew the security of 18 Hurriyat leaders in the state.

According to a spokesperson of the Home Department, it was felt that providing security to these separatist leaders is a wastage of scarce state resources which could be better utilised elsewhere.

Among the leaders whose security has been downgraded and withdrawn are SAS Geelani, Aga Syed Mosvi, Maulvi Abbas Ansari,  Yaseen Malik, Saleem Geelani, Shahid ul Islam, Zaffar Akbar Bhat, Nayeem Ahmed Khan, Mukhtar Ahmad Waza, Farooq Ahmed Kichloo, Masroor Abbas Ansari, Aga Syed Abul Hussain, Abdul Gani Shah and Mohd Musadiq Bhat. This is apart from four people including Hurriyat leaders whose security was withdrawn on Sunday.

In addition, the security of 155 political persons and activists, who did not require the security provided to them based on their threat assessment and their activities, was also withdrawn. This includes Shah Faesal, who resigned from the IAS and Wahid Parray.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pulwama-attack-govt-withdraws-security-of-18-hurriyat-leaders-155-politicians-in-j-k-5593544/

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India a victim of terrorism “sheltered and supported” from across the border: PM Modi

February 20, 2019

In a veiled attack on Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said India was a victim of terrorism “sheltered and supported” from across the border, as he demanded that all nations reject the use of terrorism against others, dismantle the terror infrastructure and stop its financing.

In an interview published in Wednesday’s editions of Arabic-language newspaper ‘Okaz’ and the English newspaper ‘Saudi Gazette’, Modi said India strongly condemns extremism and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The interview coincided with the maiden state visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to India, days after the Pulwama terror attack carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group. The attack, one of the worst in Jammu and Kashmir, killed 40 CRPF soldiers.

“India has been a victim of terrorism sheltered and supported from across the border for over decades, claiming thousands of innocent lives,” the prime minister said, without mentioning Pakistan, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, by name. Modi said the menace of extremism and terrorism threatens all nations and societies, and reject any attempt to link this universal phenomenon to any particular race, religion or culture.

“We also call on all states to reject the use of terrorism against other countries; dismantle terrorism infrastructures and stop its financing,” he said, adding that India strongly condemns extremism and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, regardless of its motivations whenever, wherever and by whosoever committed. Asked about the possibility of India-Saudi Arabia cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism and in ensuring safety and security of sea-lanes of communications and freedom of navigation, Modi said bilateral cooperation in areas of counter-terrorism, security and defence has intensified over the years.

The two countries have close cooperation on a range of security issues, particularly on maritime security, law enforcement, anti-money laundering, drug trafficking, human trafficking, illegal migration and other transnational organised crimes. To further enhance our bilateral cooperation in the counter-terrorism efforts, the two countries could initiate comprehensive security dialogue mechanism at the level of the National Security Advisors who will interact at regular intervals, the prime minister suggested.

“We also share the vision of peace and security in the Indian Ocean region,” Modi said on the need to ensure safety and security of sea-lanes of communications, safety and freedom of navigation in the shipping lanes and trade routes. Commenting on the Indo-Saudi strategic ties, the prime minister said, “We attach high priority to our friendly relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” He said the traditionally close ties are anchored in the shared interests based on centuries-old economic and socio-cultural ties and vibrant people-to-people contacts.

“Our leadership has been working closely with the Saudi leadership towards further deepening our multifaceted ties for the common benefit of our two countries. The political commitment at the leadership level has been reflected by the fact that India has been identified as one of the eight strategic partners by Saudi Arabia,” he said. Modi noted that the two countries were also progressing towards establishing the India–Saudi Arabia ‘Strategic Partnership Council’ which focuses on consolidating bilateral cooperation in specific areas under the Kingdom’s newly constituted Saudi Centre for International Strategic Partnership (SCISP).

“India and Saudi Arabia ties will be a factor for stability, peace and security in our region and the world,” the prime minister said. Highlighting the areas of cooperation Modi said energy security remains a key pillar of strategic partnership. Through the established bilateral mechanism, India and Saudi Arabia have been holding energy consultations for past few years to explore the joint investment opportunities and cooperation between the two countries and also to encourage the Saudi private sector companies to invest in oil and gas sectors in India.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-victim-terrorism-sheltered-supported-border-pm-modi-5593538/

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North America

 

US asks Pakistan, China to deny safe havens and support to terrorists

Feb 20, 2019

Washington: The Trump administration on Tuesday called on Pakistan and China to “uphold their responsibilities pursuant to UN Security Council resolutions to deny safe havens and support for terrorists,” even as President Trump described the Pulwama attack+ as a “horrible situation” and said “it would be wonderful if they (India and Pakistan) get along."

The US formulation about denying safe havens and support to terrorists expressed through the state department was addressed to “all countries,” but it was clearly directed at Islamabad and Beijing since Pakistan is host to UN-designated terrorists and China has repeatedly aided Pakistan avoid global censure on this matter using its veto.

Last week, the White House+ said it “supported India’s right to selfdefense against cross-border terrorism” following the Pulwama attack that killed 44 Indian soldiers in a suicide bombing that was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish e Mohammed. The support, expressed by US National Security Advisor John Bolton in telephone conversations with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval, appeared to green light any punitive action India is likely to take following the terror attack.

Pakistan hosts and protects Jaish’s terrorist leader Masood Azhar and China helps its ally by thwarting UN efforts to designate him a global terrorist, ostensibly to protect Beijing’s economic investments in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and prevent greater extremist activity in Muslim-heavy Xinjiang province, but also to harass New Delhi.

The White House is expected to issue a more elaborate statement on the matter soon.

That (the terrorist attack) was a horrible situation…I have watched… I have got a lot of reports on it. We will have a comment at an appropriate time. It would be wonderful if they (India and Pakistan) get along,” President Trump said in a brief response in the White House when asked about the attack.

The rising tension on the subcontinent has barely registered with the foreign policy community in Washington and the administration itself (except for regional experts) with its familiar focus on North Korea, China, and the Middle East, combined with newer crises in the American neighborhood, including in Venezuela.

With White House and State Department briefings a rarity these days, it has been almost a week since the Pulwama attack that Foggy Bottom formally placed on record “not only our condolences but our strong support” to India. “We urge Pakistan to fully cooperate with the investigation into the attack and to punish anyone responsible,” the Department’s Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said on Tuesday.

“As you know, we have a close, cooperative relationship with India, a security relationship, and that includes counterterrorism operations. And so we’re committed to working with India, the Indian government, and on these counterterrorism efforts, both bilaterally and multilaterally, including at the United Nations,” Palladino added.

In New York, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi said she met UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to brief him about latest developments and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and “asked him to play a role in helping to deescalate tensions.”

In response, the Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said "The Secretary General stresses the importance for both sides to exercise maximum restraint and take immediate steps to de-escalation, and his good offices are always available should both sides ask.”

Pakistan keeps going to the United Nations for mediation despite the country being censured by it for hosting terrorists and terror groups, with the organisation assigning terrorist designation to Pakistan-based terror groups and individuals.

"Looking at the situation in general between India and Pakistan, we are deeply concerned at the increasing tensions between the two countries in the wake of the attack on Indian security personnel on February 14 in Pulwama," Dujarric added.

Meanwhile, Indian and Pakistani partisans are duking it out on social media, using everything from photos and videos Saudi Prince Salman’s visit to the two countries to cricket memes to needle each other. Pakistanis gloated over the fact that Salman did not directly condemn the Pulwama attack in Delhi and Indians mocked Pakistani subservience to Saudi overlordship.

Not all Pakistanis – or Indians for that matter – were smitten with the Saudi prince and his visit.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/us-asks-pakistan-china-to-deny-safe-havens-and-support-to-terrorists/articleshow/68078798.cms

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Ilhan Omar is helping turn the tables in Congress and the US establishment is freaking out

Nada Elia

19 February 2019

Just about anyone with a political opinion in the US agrees on one truth: there is too much financial interference in American politics.

This is noted in the regular demand, expressed more fervently with every election cycle, to "take money out of politics", and the sobering comment, when election results are announced, that we have "the best Congress money can buy".

The cost of American election campaigns is indeed mind-boggling. The 2016 presidential and congressional elections cost a total of $6.5bn, according to political watch group OpenSecrets.

No need for apology

In this context, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's tweet, that "Benjamins" ($100 bills) are behind politicians’ prioritising of Israeli interests over American ones should have not created any ripples. 

She did not say anything a multitude of others had not said before. Indeed, many on social media were quick to point out that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman had already observed, in 2011, that the standing ovation Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received in Congress had nothing to do with his politics, but rather was "paid for by the Israel lobby". 

Friedman’s career was never impacted by the comment, nor is he being criticized for it now that it is circulating again, while the campaign to smear Omar - with calls for her to resign - is raging.

The fact that Omar was immediately and ferociously attacked and smeared for her tweet, then, is indicative of something else.

I don’t believe she should have had to apologise for her tweet, and I remain grateful to her for insisting, in that same apology, that one needs to speak out against the influence of powerful lobbies.

I am even more grateful to her for having so unhinged the status quo that she is causing a much needed, way overdue discussion of the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. 

But the fact remains that she did not get away with an observation many have made before. This is because no one could credibly accuse Friedman of anti-Semitism, precisely because he is an unabashed supporter of Israel.

Shifting the narrative

Omar, however, personifies the racist stereotype in the American mainstream that equates Brown and Muslim with anti-Semitism, as if that particular bias is a multi-generational genetic disease that courses through the blood of darker-skinned people.

This of course flies in the face of the historical record of pogroms and disenfranchisement, culminating in the Holocaust, that were all undertaken against Jews by white Europeans. And it is inconsistent with the fact that Islam recognises Judaism as a germane religion, which praises the same God, and views Jews, like it does Christians, as "people of the Book".

Indeed, European Jews fleeing persecution in Europe had historically found refuge in Muslim countries throughout North Africa, the Arab world, and the Ottoman Empire.

It is time, then, to shift from the decades-old narrative which accuses anyone critical of Israel and the Israel lobby of anti-Semitism, to a new conversation.

The new conversation needs to examine the equation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism as itself a manifestation of racism, because this latter conflation is only lobbed at darker-skinned people: African American civil rights icon and activist Angela Davis, African American public intellectual Marc Lamont-Hill, Somali-American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, as well as - of course - all Arabs.

More space for Palestinians

In addition to denouncing AIPAC, Omar, just like Davis and Lamont-Hill, is creating more space for a discussion of the cause of Palestinian suffering. This is what the likes of Friedman and alt-right white supremacist leader Richard Spencer don’t engage in.

When Spencer speaks admiringly of Israel’s aspiration to become a homogeneous, "mono-culture", he is focusing on those who benefit from it, with zero mention of the dispossessed and besieged Palestinians. 

When Friedman states that Congresss gave Netanyahu standing ovations because they were paid to do so, rather than for his policies, he does not discuss the impact of those policies - a system of state-sanctioned apartheid recently enshrined in the nation’s basic laws - on the Palestinians.

Angela Davis, however, was initially stripped of a civil rights award for "not denouncing violence", even though, of course, she does, but the violence she denounces is that perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians. 

And Omar was urged to "acknowledge pain", which of course she does, but the pain she is seeking to alleviate is that of the Palestinian people.  

Omar, like so many pro-justice advocates, wants to highlight Palestinian suffering, and work towards ending it. That requires holding Israel accountable for its crimes.

The debate resulting from her political commitment joins a very similar one that has been going on for years, namely about whether the boycott and sanctions movement is anti-Semitic or not. 

That debate, like the one about the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, should also never have happened, but has proven to be necessary because of the same powerful lobby.

It is indeed a known truth that AIPAC is behind S.1, also known as anti-BDS bill, this year’s first senate bill, which seeks to criminalise BDS.

AIPAC was behind earlier bills, so far all defeated at the deferral level, that would have penalised Americans for boycotting Israeli products - an absurdity when spelled out like that, as Americans certainly are free to boycott all other products available to them, with no hint of a possible repercussion.

A just cause

With BDS, the focus of the national conversation has shifted from the actual political context that gave rise to the call for global solidarity, to zoom in instead on whether it is legal to criminalise it. This despite the fact that the legal system has declared multiple times that boycotts are a form of freedom of speech, and therefore protected by the first amendment.

With the controversy over whether criticising AIPAC is anti-Semitic or not, the debate has shifted from why the US is siding with the oppressor, to one about the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

All aspects of these vibrant national discussions are welcome. They are necessary. But let us keep in mind at all times that this is not an academic, theoretical matter. As we debate these issues, Israel is dispossessing more Palestinian families, demolishing more Palestinian homes.

It is incumbent on us, as we engage in these debates, to explain that our opposition to Zionism is an opposition to a colonial ideology that has relentlessly sought to dispossess the Palestinian people, displacing them, appropriating their possessions, denying them justice and the right to return. 

Equal rights for all

There are multiple good reasons why a person of integrity would be anti-Zionist: the successful erasure of Israeli crimes and violations of international law, and the denial of the human rights of the Palestinian people, makes it necessary to name these.

It is time we focused on anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism.

Just as many will state "I realise that anti-Semitism is on the rise, but my criticism of Israel is based in my political opposition to that country’s policies", we should now demand that those accusing us of anti-Semitism also qualify their statements with "while it is true that anti-Arab, Islamophobic racism is rampant, and on the rise, my criticism of such or such a person is grounded in my opposition to their politics.”

And then, maybe, they would be asked to name the politics: Are they opposed to the demand for justice? Opposed to the implementation of international law? Opposed to equal rights for all? 

Full report at:

https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/ilhan-omar-helping-turn-tables-congress-and-us-establishment-freaking-out

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Muslim group seeks congressional probe on terror watchlist

Feb 21, 2019

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – A Muslim civil rights group called for a congressional investigation Wednesday after its lawsuit revealed that the U.S. government has shared access to parts of its terrorist watchlist with more than 1,400 private entities, including hospitals and universities.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said Congress should look into why the FBI has given such wide access to the list, which CAIR believes is riddled with errors. Broad dissemination of the names makes life more difficult for those who are wrongly included, CAIR says. Many on the list are believed to be Muslim.

"This is a wholesale profiling of a religious minority community," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. "To share private information of citizens and non-citizens with corporations is illegal and outrageous."

The FBI said in a statement Wednesday night that private groups only receive a subset of the terrorist watchlist called the Known or Suspected Terrorist List. It is unclear how significantly that narrows the list from the watchlist, which is formally known as the Terrorist Screening Center Database and includes hundreds of thousands of names.

Gadeir Abbas, lawyer for CAIR, said there is no evidence that the list of Known or Suspected Terrorists, or KST, is in any meaningful way less broad than the overall watchlist. Indeed, the articulated standard for inclusion on the watchlist is a reasonable suspicion of being a known or suspected terrorist.

"The FBI is using the complexity of the list to portray it as less nefarious than it is," Abbas said.

The FBI statement says that any private agency accessing the list "must comply with agreements to ensure the security and confidentiality of the information. A requestor can only ask for information about a specific individual and cannot access all the data available in the KST File." Any private entity that comes into a contact with a match from the list is instructed to contact the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center for further instructions, the FBI said.

The council filed a lawsuit in 2016 challenging the list's constitutionality and saying those wrongly placed on it routinely face difficulties in travel, financial transactions and their dealings with law enforcement.

In response to the lawsuit, a federal official recently acknowledged in a court filing that more than 1,400 private entities received access to the list.

For years, the government had insisted that it did not generally share the list with private organizations.

A hearing is scheduled in federal court for Friday on CAIR's request that the government now detail exactly which entities have received access to the names. CAIR also wants to know what private organizations are doing with the watchlist information — whether, for example, it is influencing universities' admissions decisions or is being used by hospitals to screen would-be visitors.

In depositions and in court hearings, government officials had denied until very recently that the watchlist compiled by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center is shared with private entities. At a hearing in September, government lawyer Dena Roth told U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga that the Terrorist Screening Center "does not work with private partners, and that watchlist status itself ... is considered law enforcement sensitive information and is not shared with the public."

Despite that assurance, the judge ordered the government to be more specific about how it disseminates the watchlist. Trenga said the plaintiffs are entitled to the information to try to prove their case that inclusion on the list causes them to suffer "real world consequences."

In response to the judge's order, TSC Deputy Director of Operations Timothy Groh filed a statement earlier this month acknowledging that 1,441 private entities have received permission to access the watchlist.

Groh said those entities must be in some way connected to the criminal justice system. He cited police forces at private universities, hospital security staff and private correctional facilities as examples.

He said private groups are expected to abide by a detailed set of rules designed to ensure the list is used properly. It is not clear what those restrictions are.

The exact number of people on the list is kept secret by the government, but it acknowledged in an earlier lawsuit that it adds hundreds of thousands of names every year. It also emphasized that names are routinely removed.

Faiza Patel, a director at the New York University law school's Brennan Center for Justice, said the government's willingness to share the list with private organizations is problematic because the list has so many people who are wrongly included in the database.

Full report at:

https://www.foxnews.com/us/muslim-group-seeks-congressional-probe-on-terror-watchlist

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Arab World

 

Can’t blame Pakistan for Pulwama attack, says Saudi FM

Feb 21, 2019

NEW DELHI: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, in an interview to an Indian media outlet on Wednesday, declined to hold Pakistan responsible for Pulwama incident without prior evidence.

Al-Jubeir – who is a part of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s delegation presently in India – dismissed the Indian allegations of Pakistan’s involvement in the incident and said that “how can we blame them [Pakistan] if we do not have sufficient evidence before us”.

When asked about rising tension between Pakistan and India, he said that “terrorism is a mutual threat [to India and Pakistan] and [we hope that] both the countries will work together to eliminate it”.

Following his much-hyped visit to Pakistan, the Saudi prince is presently in India as part of a comprehensive Asia tour which aims to open new economic doors to lessen the Kingdom’s dependence on a crude oil-based economy.

Relations between Pakistan and India have touched a new low after over 40 paramilitary personnel were killed in Kashmir’s Pulwama district by a suicide bomber.

The car bomb attack considered the worst ever on security personnel in the state, was reportedly claimed by militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad and carried out by a 20-year-old Kashmiri man.

India held Pakistan responsible for the bombing soon after the attack and withdrew its ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status. Pakistan denies all the charges.

“We strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian media and government that seek to link the attack to Pakistan without investigations,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office said in a follow-up statement.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/02/21/cant-blame-pakistan-for-pulwama-attack-says-saudi-fm/

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Terror funding has ‘new face,’ warns Saudi Arabia's attorney general

February 20, 2019

JEDDAH: The changing dynamics of terror financing and money laundering posed a growing problem for countries and organizations seeking to halt their spread, a regional conference in Cairo was warned.

Saudi Arabia's Attorney General Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mua’jab told the first Middle East and North Africa conference on countering terrorism that new forms of transnational terror funding and money laundering demanded greater cooperation between states and organizations.

The conference, organized by the Egyptian Public Prosecution Office, aims to bolster international unity in the face of the escalating threat of terrorist financing and money laundering operations.

“Saudi Arabia has spared no effort in combating these two crimes,” Al-Mua’jab said.

He said money laundering and terror financing are at the “forefront of global criminal phenomena,” and often complemented each other.

“One of the most important steps the world has taken through its international and regional systems is to engage in initiatives and agreements to combat terrorism financing and money laundering as the artery of the criminal body that strikes the global economy,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia is a key partner in the international coalition against the so-called Daesh terrorist organization and leads, together with the US and Italy, the Counter Daesh Finance Group. It has also implemented laws and procedures aimed at combating money laundering and terrorist financing,” he said.

Al-Mua’jab said the September 2018 report of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Saudi Arabia had praised the Kingdom’s commitment to the recommendations of the group.

“Saudi Arabia has spared no effort in combating these two crimes,” he said. “It was one of the first countries in the world to be affected by terrorist acts. Its experience of combating the crimes has been exemplary.”

He said measures taken by the Kingdom included the 2017 “Law of Combating Crime and its Financing,” regulation of charities and the establishment of a standing committee to investigate money laundering.

The Kingdom’s Public Prosecution Office recently released a manual outlining steps to counter money laundering, including measures for seizure and confiscation, tracking of funds and details of international cooperation.

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority has also issued a guidebook for Saudi banks to combat money laundering.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1455566/middle-east

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Terrorism, extremism a ‘common concern’ with India: Saudi Arabia

FEBRUARY 21, 2019

Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman in a joint statement issued during his day-long visit to India on Wednesday described terrorism and extremism as a ‘common concern’ and said Riyadh is ready to share intelligence with New Delhi to tackle these issues.

The crown prince arrived in Delhi on Tuesday night, a day after wrapping up a historical visit to Islamabad in which he signed $20 billion worth of agreements in the ‘first phase’ of Saudi investment in Pakistan.

Modi in the joint statement described the Pulwama attack as ‘a symbol of the anti-humanitarian threat the world is facing’, Times of India reported. Modi, without naming Pakistan, said “in order to deal effectively with this threat, we agree that there is a need to increase all possible pressure on countries supporting any type of terrorism.” “It is the need of the hour to take appropriate action against the infrastructure of terrorism. It is very important to punish the terrorists and all their supporters,” he added.

Modi in his remarks at the media briefing referred to the attack on the Indian soldiers and said that effective steps would be taken to punish the perpetrators and their supporters without elaborating further. “Saudi Arabia and India share views on increasing cooperation in counter-terrorism and tackling cybercrimes,” he said. Modi also called for a strong action plan for combating extremism so that powers spreading violence and terror cannot mislead the youth.

Prince Muhammad, in the statement, said that terrorism and extremism are a common threat to both Saudi Arabia and India, and that Riyadh would cooperate with Delhi in every aspect, including intelligence sharing, The Indian Express reported. “We would like to tell our friend India that we’ll cooperate on all fronts, be it intelligence sharing,” he said, vowing to “work with everyone to ensure a brighter future for our upcoming generations”.

MBS said that he saw potential for $100 billion investment in energy, agriculture, technology, culture and social services in India, and said the two countries would evolve a strategy for mutual gains.

Earlier in the day, President Ram Nath Kovind received the crown prince at the Presidential Palace in Delhi. The prince, who was accorded a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, had said on the occasion that Riyadh wishes to maintain and improve ties with Delhi ‘for the sake of both countries’. “With the leadership of the president and the prime minister, I am sure we can create good things for Saudi Arabia and India,” he said, according to Asia News International. “I admire PM Modi. He is the elder brother and I am his younger brother,” he added.

Describing Indian people as ‘our friends’, the crown prince had said that Indians have helped build Saudi Arabia for 70 years. “During this trip we will show few examples of work Saudi people did in India,” he said.

After the reception at the palace, the crown prince held a brief meeting with Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj. He then had a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi followed by delegation-level talks.

Both countries signed five agreements in the fields of investment, tourism, cooperation in housing, a Framework Cooperation Programme to enhance bilateral relations, and cooperation in broadcasting, according to India Today.

The crown prince, known as MBS for short, arrived in India with an entourage of ministers and businessmen on Tuesday night after visiting Pakistan. He was welcomed at the airport by Modi, who embraced him in a characteristic bear hug.

Ties between India and Saudi Arabia, where millions of Indians are employed as migrant workers, have strengthened since Modi visited Riyadh in 2016 for the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation with intelligence-gathering on money laundering and terrorism financing. The two countries’ two-way trade totalled $27.5 billion last year. MBS said that Saudi Arabia had invested $44 billion in India since 2016.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/356945/terrorism-extremism-a-common-concern-with-india-saudi-arabia/

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ISIL Terrorists Transferred from Eastern Syria on US-Led Coalition Trucks

Feb 20, 2019

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that over 50 covered trucks carrying ISIL militants and their family members left the farms between Baqouz region and the Eastern banks of the Euphrates on Wednesday.

It added that the trucks had entered the region on Tuesday in line with the secret agreement between the US-led coalition and the ISIL, noting that the fate of those ISIL militants who have rejected the agreement is not clear yet.

The SOHR had reported on Tuesday that the US-led coalition had sent a large number of trucks to Eastern Syria to transfer the ISIL terrorists from Deir Ezzur province after reaching an agreement with the militants, media reports said.

"Some 50 to 60 US trucks arrived in farms located between al-Baghouz and banks of Eastern Euphrates in Eastern Deir Ezzur to relocate the terrorists from the region," the report said.

It noted that the arrival of the trucks had taken place in line with taking out the remnants of the ISIL and their families after a covert agreement was reached between the US Army troops and the ISIL terrorists in the region.

The US-led coalition forces are also expected to officially announced the end of the ISIL in the last area under their control in Eastern Euphrates.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971201000938

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Report: US Experts Working on Re-emergence of ISIL Terrorists

Feb 20, 2019

Experts believe that Buka Prison in Iraq that was run by the US is the main center where the ISIL has originated from, the Arabic-language Al-Ahd news website reported.

There are different stories about Buka Prison and many ISIL terrorists have nurtured there as they have recalled their memories of the prison.

A notorious terrorist commander named Abu Ahmad who came to know ISIL ringleader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi there recalled how the Americans always treated al-Baghdadi differently and behaved differently while dealing with him.

Al-Ahd further said that the US intends to use its previous experience in Buka Prison for nurturing new generations of terrorists in Syria.

It noted that they want to use the experience in Southern Hasaka in Northeastern Syria. Hasaka is a province that is under the control of the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Al-Houl Camp is now the center for instructing and training ISIL terrorists. Al-Houl Camp has accommodated around 3,000 ISIL terrorists.

Al-Ahd said there are also around some 5,000 boys aged between two and 11 years in Al-Houl Camp, adding that a large number of ISIL members and their families with Iraqi and Syrian nationalities have arrived in al-Houl Camp.

It noted that some 170 ISIL families, including 75 Iraqi families, 65 Syrian families and 30 from other countries, arrived in al-Houl Camp very recently.

Al-Ahd noted that a sum of 580 ISIL families and 50 Kazakh terrorists who had surrendered themselves to the SDF in al-Baghouz region have also been transferred to this camp.

It noted that the US army psychologists are monitoring ISIL families in al-Houl Camp, and said the camp has been divided into workshops run by the ISIL families under US psychologists' control.

The sources said that books with contents on Takfirism are given to the ISIL families in al-Houl Camp. One of the books is Mella Ebrahim by al-Moqaddasi that had also been given to the ISIL terrorists in Buka Prison which contributed a major share in the ideology that gave birth to a Takfiri generation. The Buka prisoners were freed by the US Army troops in 2010 and later became ISIL commanders.

Al-Ahd pointed out that what is currently going on in Al-Houl is exactly similar to what happened in the US prisons in Iraq and the US is reproducing a new generation of Takfiri terrorists under new names.

It noted that the age of the children of al-Houl Camp shows that some 7 to 10 years from now a new generation of Takfiri militants will emerge which shows the US long-term plot for the Arab and Muslim worlds with Wahabbism constituting the core of its ideology.

In a relevant development earlier today, media reports said that the US-led coalition has sent a large number of trucks to Eastern Syria to transfer the ISIL terrorists from Deir Ezzur province after reaching an agreement with the militants.

"Some 50 to 60 US trucks arrived in farms located between al-Baghouz and banks of Eastern Euphrates in Eastern Deir Ezzur to relocate the terrorists from the region," the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.

It noted that the arrival of the trucks has taken place in line with taking out the remnants of the ISIL and their families after a covert agreement was reached between the US Army troops and the ISIL terrorists in the region.

The US-led coalition forces are also expected to officially announced the end of the ISIL in the last area under their control in Eastern Euphrates.

The United States has sent tens of trucks with suspicious cargoes from Northern Iraq to Eastern Syria as reports say Washington and its allied militants are readying to declare the end of the ISIL's presence in Eastern Euphrates territories, media reports said.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, the SOHR reported that a military convoy comprising 100 trucks of the US-led forces arrived in Syria's Hasaka province from Amouda-Qamishli passageway in Northern Iraq.

The SOHR noted that the military convoy consisted of 40 empty trucks, 50 covered trucks with unidentified contents and 10 oil tankers.

It was announced earlier this week that the ISIL terrorist group ended its presence in Eastern Euphrates after an agreement with the US Army and its allied militants to exit the region, media reports said.

The Arabic-language al-Watan Online news website reported that the US Army has relocated the last remnants of the ISIL terrorist group to an unknown place from the farms in the countryside of al-Baghouz town in Southeastern Deir Ezzur.

The SOHR, meantime, reported that about 440 ISIL terrorists left Eastern Euphrates in two phases after agreeing with the Syrian Army and the US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

It reiterated that the US is going to officially declare the end of the ISIL's presence in Eastern Euphrates.

In a relevant development last Friday, media sources said that the SDF are going to declare end of the ISIL in Eastern Euphrates after the latter retreated from areas under its control in the region.

"After ISIL's foreign terrorists left the Eastern Euphrates and tens of them surrendered, the SDF took control of the al-Khanafera and Sheikh Mohammad regions in Baghouz town," sources in Eastern Euphrates said.

They reiterated that the ISIL is only in control of several houses and a camp South of the Baghouz town in an area covering less than 1 square kilometers.

The SOHR, meantime, announced that the US troops and the SDF will soon declare the end of ISIL's presence in Eastern Euphrates as tens of non-Syrian and Western terrorists of the ISIL have retreated from that region.

In a relevant development, a senior source in the SDF said that the ringleader of the ISIL terrorist group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi "is being protected by the Americans in Eastern Syria", adding that Washington plans to play a Hollywood-like scenario to declare end of the ISIL caliphate.

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik news agency quoted the source as saying that Baghdadi is at present being heavily protected by the American forces in a secret place in Eastern Euphrates region.

He added that the Americans are waiting for an opportunity to conduct heliborne operations by their marine forces in Southeastern Deir Ezzur and declare the capture of al-Baghdadi and end of ISIL on footage.

The source insisted that the time for the "above-mentioned theater is close", adding that the American forces have held SDF back from further advances in the ISIL-occupied regions in Eastern Euphrates to play the scenario.

US President Donald Trump said in early February that the country would likely announce soon that the entire ISIL terrorist group caliphate had been retaken in Syria and Iraq.

"It should be formally announced, sometime probably next week, that we'll have 100 percent of the caliphate," Trump stated during his remarks at a ministerial meeting of the US-led coalition member-states.

Earlier, the American president said during his second State of the Union address that it was time to return US troops deployed in Syria back home.

In December, Trump declared the ISIL terrorist group has defeated in Syria, and announced the US troop pullout from the country but gave no timeline.

Also earlier, a senior US administration official told reporters that Syria's Al-Tanf region would be the last place in the country that American troops leave as they implemented a planned withdrawal.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971201000797

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Bodies found after 12 people abducted in Iraq

20 February 2019

Iraqi security forces on Tuesday found the bodies of six out of 12 people who were abducted over the weekend southwest of Baghdad, an official said.

“Armed men on motorbikes” abducted the group on Sunday as they collected truffles in the al-Nukhaib region in the desert between Najaf and al-Anbar provinces, security forces said in a statement Monday evening.

The governor of al-Hira district in southern Najaf province, Abdul Wahed al-Fatlawi, told AFP on Tuesday that “the bodies of six people from the same clan” had been found.

They had been shot dead.

He said the bodies had been taken to a forensic lab in Karbala province, and accused ISIS of carrying out the murders.

Iraq declared victory over the extremist organization in late 2017 following a punishing campaign to dismantle its self-declared “caliphate” covering a third of the country.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/20/Bodies-found-after-12-people-abducted-in-Iraq.html

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Aoun rejects US claims about Hezbollah’s clout on Lebanon govt.

Feb 21, 2019

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has strongly dismissed latest allegations by the US ambassador to the Arab country that the Hezbollah resistance movement is now wielding more influence on the Beirut government.

“This is the US vision and it contradicts with reality. Hezbollah has maintained the same political presence it had in the previous government, and it is not true that its influence over Lebanon is increasing,” Aoun said on Wednesday evening.

He added, “What some political circles say in this regard is mere bickering. At the security level, they even say that Hezbollah has influence in the South and the Bekaa (Valley). This is while there is no authority higher than that of the army and security forces, which recently carried out major operations in the region and beefed up security and stability.”

On Tuesday, Ambassador Elizabeth Richard met with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, and voiced Washington’s concern over Hezbollah’s “growing role in the Cabinet.”

Hezbollah “continues to make its own national security decisions - decisions that endanger the rest of the country,” she claimed.

On February 4, the Hezbollah secretary general flatly rejected allegations by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his movement is in control of the Lebanese government, stressing the new administration belongs to all political factions participating in it.

The Israeli premier is “provoking the United States, European countries and the [Persian] Gulf states against the Lebanese government, claiming that it is controlled by Hezbollah. Such false claims have serious international repercussions,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said as he addressed his supporters via a televised speech broadcast live from Beirut.

Nasrallah underscored that the new Lebanese government consists of various political parties, and that Hezbollah is just one of them.

In response to certain media reports that the new health minister is a member of Hezbollah, Nasrallah pointed out that Jamil Jabak, who is a doctor by profession, is solely close to the resistance movement, but not a member of it.

Lebanon announced the formation of a government on January 31, ending over eight months of wrangling amid fears of a major economic collapse.

Lebanon has one of the largest public debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio in the world. The figure stands at around 150 percent, and much of it has been accumulated through the cost of servicing existing debt. The economy has suffered from years of low growth.

Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil told Arabic-language al-Akhbar daily newspaper last month that his ministry was “preparing a financial correction plan including restructuring of public debt” which was needed to spare Lebanon “dramatic developments.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/21/589122/Aoun-rejects-US-claims-about-Hezbollahs-clout-on-Lebanon-govt

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South Asia

 

Afghanistan rebukes Pak envoy over Pulwama attack remarks

February 21, 2019

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Pakistani ambassador on Wednesday over his remarks that Afghan peace talks could be affected if India resorted to violence after last week’s attack on Indian paramilitary police in held-Kashmir.

In a statement issued after the meeting with Ambassador Zahid Nasrullah, the Foreign Ministry said it deemed his comments to be “in contradiction with Pakistan’s commitments with regards to realising peace in Afghanistan”.

Nasrullah said on Tuesday that any attack by India would “affect the stability of the entire region and impact the momentum” of the Afghan peace effort.

At the same time, a former deputy Afghan defence minister said on Tuesday that Nasrullah’s remarks would anger local government officials, saying it played into fears that the country’s long-running civil war is a proxy for rivalries by regional powers.

The Afghan statement said the government “once again calls on Pakistan to act upon its commitments with regards to Afghanistan, particularly those in relation to peace and refrain from making irrelevant statements that do not help solve any problem”.

Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister, Idrees Zaman, earlier tweeted that Nasrullah had been summoned and handed a diplomatic demarche.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1465079/afghanistan-rebukes-pak-envoy-over-pulwama-attack-remarks

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Jamaat should apologise for '71 role

February 21, 2019

BNP standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan yesterday said Jamaat-e-Islami should apologise to the nation for its anti-liberation role in the 1971 Liberation war.

Speaking to reporters after placing a wreath at the grave of BNP founder Ziaur Rahman, he also said their party wants the trial and punishment of all anti-liberation war elements.

"An apology by the Jamaat is now demanded by all. The Jamaat should be ashamed of its anti-liberation war role and should apologise for it. It's a logical demand," said Nazrul, also the coordinator of the BNP-led 20-party alliance.

Nazrul further said those who destroyed democracy, “the greatest outcome of independence”, should also apologise to the nation.

"We think those who committed any offence should offer apologies. We also should apologise to people if we have been involved in any wrongdoing. Unfortunately, such a culture is absent in our country," the BNP leader observed.

Asked about the media report about Jamaat forming a committee to launch a new party, Nazrul said it was the Jamaat's internal matter.

Replying to another question, he said the Jamaat is still with the 20-party alliance. "The Jamaat never told us that they don't want to be in the 20-party."

The BNP leader also said that the Jamaat, as a political party, has the right to decide if they want to quit the alliance.

About Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda's comment that the upcoming upazila election will be a competitive one, he said people have no confidence in the CEC.

"People across the country consider him an incompetent person and they accuse him of ruining the country's election system with his biased role in favour of a party," he added.

Full report at:

https://www.thedailystar.net/politics/nazrul-islam-bangladesh-jamaat-e-islami-should-apologise-nation-anti-liberation-war-in-1971-1704853

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NDS Special forces kill 5 Taliban commanders in Nangarhar province

20 Feb 2019

At least nine Taliban militants including five of their local commanders were killed during an operation of the Afghan Intelligence Special Forces in eastern Nangarhar province.

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in the East in a statement said the Special Forces of 02 Unit of National Directorate of Security (NDS) conducted a night raid in Khogyani district on Tuesday night.

The statement further added that 9 Taliban militants including five local commanders of the group were killed in the operation.

The Taliban commanders who were killed in the operation have been identified as Ehsanullah Motmaeen, Loqman, Qari Salahuddin, and Zarqawi, the National Directorate of Security said.

The statement also added that a compound of the Taliban militants was also destroyed during the operation.

The anti-government armed militants including Taliban have not commented regarding the operation so far.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/nds-special-forces-kill-5-taliban-commanders-in-nangarhar-province-03343/

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Afghanistan to sign strategic partnership agreement with Turkmenistan

21 Feb 2019

The government of Afghanistan will sign a strategic partnership agreement with Turkmenistan today, the Office of the President said late on Wednesday.

According to a statement released by ARG Palace, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani will sign the strategic partnership agreement with the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.

President Ghani on Wednesday left for Ashgabat the capital city of Turkmenistan leading a delegation of high level government officials.

The statement by ARG Palace also added that President Ghani will also deliver a speech in the International Relations Institute of the Ministry of Foreign of Affairs of Turkmenistan.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-to-sign-strategic-partnership-agreement-with-turkmenistan-03345/

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Europe

 

Ex-Daesh UK teen now stateless after government revokes her citizenship

Feb 20, 2019

The British government has made a teenage UK national effectively stateless by illegally revoking her citizenship because of previous affiliation to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria.

The ITV news on Wednesday published a letter from the Home Office (UK interior ministry) addressed to the family of Shamima Begum declaring that the 19-year-old British mother of one had been stripped of her UK citizenship.

The decision by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, a prominent Conservative party member of Pakistani origin, is expected to spark widespread controversy. Javid reportedly made the decision after a significant portion of the media called on him to block Begum’s plea to return to Britain because she appeared unrepentant about what she had seen in Syria. The girl, whose family is of Bangladeshi heritage, had also justified the May 2017 terror attack in Manchester, which killed 22 people, saying it was a result of UK military’ intervention in the Middle East.

Begum’s family members said they would challenge the decision by Javid. Their lawyers said the young woman, who is now in a camp in Syria with her newly-born child, had become stateless as a result of the move, which is justifiable under the British law but only in situations that the person whose citizenship is revoked would “not” be rendered stateless.

The opposition Labour Party slammed the decision, apparently meant to please the voters increasingly frightened by terror threats.

“If the government is proposing to make Shamima Begum stateless it is not just a breach of international human rights law but is a failure to meet our security obligations to the international community,” said Diane Abbott, who serves as Labour’s shadow home secretary.

Hundreds of UK nationals joined Daesh and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria since conflicts erupted in the two Arab countries several years ago. The Conservative government has repeatedly been criticized for its lax controls that allowed those nationals, many of them teenagers, to be radicalized and leave the country to join the Takfiri terrorists.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/20/589083/UK-Daesh-girl-Begum-citizenship-Sajid-Javid

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EU draft report on Turkey unacceptable: Ankara

Ahmet Salih Alacaci

21.02.2019

The European Parliament’s Committee for Foreign Affairs voted Wednesday to accept a draft advisory report on Turkey, with Ankara calling the document "unacceptable".

The report, which calls for suspending accession negotiations between Turkey and the European Union, is expected to be voted on by the entire European Parliament in mid-March.

"The call in the draft report -- which is not legally binding and bears only the status of an advisory decision -- to officially suspend our country’s accession negotiations with the EU is absolutely unacceptable," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said.

He said the draft report exemplified the EU’s biased and prejudiced attitude towards Turkey, adding Ankara would continue to push for its amendment.

"We expect the necessary changes to be made for a more realistic, unbiased and encouraging final report which will be accepted in March at the European Parliament’s general assembly," said Aksoy, stressing that Ankara would only take such a document into account.

He stressed that Turkey would continue to adopt reforms for accession into the bloc and Ankara expected the European Parliament to honor its pledged obligations towards Turkey.

Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/eu-draft-report-on-turkey-unacceptable-ankara/1398710

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Iran’s actions in Lebanon pose biggest war threat: report

February 21, 2019

Iranian-led efforts to upgrade Hezbollah’s missile arsenal in Lebanon represents the most dangerous regional flashpoint that could trigger an Israeli counter-strike, according to UK defence think-tank RUSI.

The smuggling of precision-guided missile systems into Lebanon represents the most “serious risk” of starting a major war with Iran that could involve the United States, according to new research by the group published on Thursday.

The report comes as the Iranian leadership said its relations with the United States had rarely been so bad and the US warned against of Hezbollah’s growing role in the new Lebanese cabinet.

Despite its relatively weak financial and military standing, Iran’s continued belligerence towards Israel threatens potential war through “miscalculation or a deliberate choice”, said the research paper.

“Iran’s bid to add guidance systems onto Hezbollah’s missile arsenal poses a serious threat to Israeli airfields and critical national infrastructure,” according to the report “Iran’s objectives and capabilities: Deterrence and Subversion”.

“If this threat continues to expand, Israel may feel that it has no choice but to strike. Such a conflict is far from inevitable but policymakers need to work to reduce the risks of escalation.”

The paper highlighted other potential flashpoints that could include clashes between rival Iran and US-backed forces in Iraq, Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Yemen.

The report said Iran’s military strategy has been based on deterring attacks against the clerical regime by building increasingly accurate rocket and ballistic missile technology based in Iran and Lebanon.

In the event of war, they would be used to attack US bases in the Gulf and critical national infrastructure in Israel. In addition, forces backed by Tehran in Iraq and its navy would be used to harry and delay the build-up of US forces.

“The strategic objective of Iranian security policy is to make the cost of a war with Iran so high that diplomacy will always appear preferable,” concluded the report by RUSI research fellow Dr Jack Watling.

Washington and Tehran have been entrenched foes since the 1979 revolution but tensions have increased since President Donald Trump pulled out of a deal last year that was aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

In a sign of the growing animosity, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that the sanctions re-imposed by the US and targeting its oil and banking sectors amounted to a “terrorist act”.

“The struggle between Iran and America is currently at a maximum,” he was quoted as saying in a cabinet meeting by state broadcaster IRIB. “America has employed all its power against us.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/iran-s-actions-in-lebanon-pose-biggest-war-threat-report-1.828115

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Denmark expels four Syrians over Turkish embassy attack

20 February 2019

A Danish court handed jail terms on Wednesday to four Syrians who threw Molotov cocktails at the Turkish embassy in Copenhagen and ruled they should be deported.

The verdict, seen by AFP, said the quartet planned and carried out an attack designed to cause “substantial” damage. All four are appealing their sentences.

Three of the four migrants were handed jail terms of one year and nine months. The fourth received an 18-month sentence after he cooperated with investigators.

Nobody was injured in the March 2018 attack on the embassy, which caused slight material damage a day after Turkish forces had taken the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northwestern Syria.

Three of the four men, all residing in Copenhagen’s Kurdish community and aged between 19 and 24, were living in Denmark on temporary residence permits.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/02/20/Denmark-expels-four-Syrians-over-Turkish-embassy-attack.html

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Southeast Asia

 

Women’s groups rap PAS man over comments on underage marriage

Robin Augustin

February 21, 2019

PETALING JAYA: Women’s rights group Sisters in Islam (SIS) has taken a PAS MP to task for his views on teen pregnancy and underage marriage, calling them “irresponsible” and “shortsighted”.

SIS spokesman Majidah Hashim said as an MP, Che Abdullah Mat Nawi should be looking after the interests of children.

She added that his stand against raising the legal age for marriage and on marrying off couples caught for khalwat or close proximity ran contrary to this goal.

“To allow and encourage child marriage means a failure to prioritise what is important to children, which is education. This is quite irresponsible as it jeopardises the child’s health and future,” she told FMT.

Abdullah had said that unmarried couples caught for khalwat should be married off as they would become more responsible after that.

He also said getting married at a young age should not be seen as an obstacle for men and women to further their studies.

However, Majidah said marrying off couples in that manner sent the wrong message that their future was not important.

She added that those who married off their children saying they could not afford to raise them were only perpetuating the problem.

“Without a good education, the children cannot get a good job. If they marry a partner who is also uneducated or has minimal education, both husband and wife will be unable to get proper, high-value jobs which would help them escape the cycle of poverty.” Majidah also said underage girls lacked the mental and psychological maturity to be responsible mothers, or to choose responsible partners who would help them raise their children.

“We have a lot of cases where the children haven’t reached emotional maturity,” she said.

“As they grow up, their personalities and ambitions may change, and this frustrates their partners, so a lot of these marriages don’t last.”

She also cited a joint report from Unicef and Egypt’s Al-Azhar University which said the preferred age for marriage is 18 years and above.

The report also said that child marriage was a custom and not part of shariah.

Women’s Aid Organisation spokesman Melissa Mohd Akhir also criticised Abdullah, saying he was “ignorant” of the realities and rights of children.

She said the Kelantan government already had a policy on the welfare of children, known as “Dasar Kanak-kanak Fitrah Kelantan” which puts the minimum age for marriage at 18 based on the age of maturity or rusyd.

She added that PAS senator Asmak Hussin had spoken on the policy in the Dewan Negara just last August, even suggesting that emphasis be placed on the couple’s maturity level and their readiness to face hardships in marriage.

She agreed that poverty was a major factor in children being married off and deprived of an education.

“The reality is, it’s almost impossible to find a child who manages to complete his or her SPM examinations while also being a husband or wife.

“We recommend that MPs address the above realities instead of suggesting early marriage, which is an ineffective, Band-Aid suggestion.”

The issue of underage marriages has been widely debated in the media since June last year when a 41-year-old Kelantan man took an 11-year-old girl as his bride.

Putrajaya is pushing to increase the minimum age for marriage of girls from 16 to 18, while Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has reportedly urged state governments to raise the minimum age to 18 for both Muslims and non-Muslims.

SIS previously criticised the Kelantan government for not supporting Mahathir’s call.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/02/21/womens-groups-rap-pas-man-over-comments-on-underage-marriage/

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FT Mufti: Flat Earth conspiracy theory misguided, opposes irrefutable consensus

18 February 2019

By Zurairi AR

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 18 — Federal Territories Mufti Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri has chided flat Earth conspiracy theorists, saying there is incontrovertible consensus by Islamic scholars and astronomers that our home planet is spherical.

His office said it was inundated with queries about the issue, calling the false belief that the Earth is flat as a “cancer” among the society.

“We stress here that the nature of Earth is round,” Zulkifli said in a statement published on his website.

“We state that the denial of Earth’s round nature is a misguided opinion, what more it is against indisputable Ijma’,” he added, using the Arabic term that roughly means “consensus”.

The mufti provided verse 39:5 of the Quran to back his argument, which said: “He created the heavens and earth in truth. He wraps the night over the day and wraps the day over the night and has subjected the sun and the moon, each running [its course] for a specified term.”

He also provided a lengthy list of Islamic scholars’ interpretation of why the Earth is spherical, despite several Quranic verses that can be understood as saying the Earth is flat in nature.

In addition, the mufti also quoted Malaysia’s first astronaut or Angkasawan, Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Sheikh Mustapha, who recently said that the Earth in indeed spherical, although shaped more like an egg.

As with the astronaut’s explanation, a sphere is the simplest model of the Earth’s shape. The planet is not a perfect sphere with the radius varying between 6,353km and 6,384km. No perfect sphere can be found in nature.

Nasyid singer Suhaimi Saad, known for conspiracy theories and getting into fiery online debates, had recently demanded Dr Sheikh Muszaphar to swear an oath that the Earth is not flat.

In 2016, Suhaimi had also proudly aligned himself with the anti-vaccination movement and said that none of his four children had been immunised against deadly diseases nor did they take clinical medicine.

Criticising those who buy into flat Earth conspiracy theory, the mufti’s office said human’s understandings of nature are different, since humans are limited to their own five senses.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/02/18/ft-mufti-flat-earth-conspiracy-theory-misguided-opposes-irrefutable-consens/1724106

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Hadi: PAS willing to forget past wrongs, unite for Islam

20 Feb 2019

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang said Muslims can become disunited in the pursuit of material things such as wealth and positions.

In a column in Harakah Online titled “Bersatu pertahankan kempimpinan Islam (United to defend the Islamic leadership)” today, he cited several historical examples of such divisions.

He also paraphrased the words of a Muslim caliph, Al-Mu'tamid ibn Abbad, who said: “It is better to herd camels for a Muslim who seized the throne than to herd pigs when non-Muslims are in power.”

Al-Mu'tamid was an 11th century caliph in a part of al-Andalus in southern Spain and Portugal.

He had uttered the remark when rebuffing his son's advice not to call for aid from the Berbers in North Africa to fight against the king of Castile.

Hadi said that despite Al-Mu'tamid uniting the Muslims, al-Andalus still fell after "hundreds of years" due to in-fighting among Muslim rulers.

Al-Mu'tamid and his kingdom was deposed and conquered by the Berbers, just four years after receiving their aid against Castile.

On the domestic front, Hadi said Malaysia witnessed an intense campaign for the prime minister's post without paying heed to Islamic hegemony and turning a deaf ear to those emboldened to threaten the position of Islam and its leaders.

Without mentioning names, he said the campaign also involved those in foreign countries.

The Marang MP said while PAS refused to compromise its principles for the sake of achieving power, it is willing to cooperate with others to defend Islam.

“PAS has been patient with regard to being in the opposition since its inception up to the present and is willing to be united (with others) in order to defend Islam and the nation's leadership despite different approaches.

“(PAS) is also willing to forget the wrongdoings towards the party, as well as to correct its mistakes because of this most basic interest (to defend Islam) while other issues can be postponed.

“PAS rejects the concept of the end justifies the means regardless of the sacrifices which have to be made and the distance which must be travelled, even becoming a candle which burns itself to illuminate others,” he added.

Last Friday, Hadi had met one of his fiercest critics, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, together with PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan and Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Shamsuri Mokhtar in Kuala Lumpur.

Following this, Takiyuddin said PAS has pledged to support Mahathir if there is an attempt within certain quarters in Pakatan Harapan to remove him as prime minister through a vote of no confidence.

Full report at:

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/464878

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Will Dr M consider Umno defectors for PPBM top posts in Sabah?

21 February 2019

By Julia Chan

KOTA KINABALU, Feb 21 — When Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that his party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), will be spreading its wings to Sabah, among the first questions were who will be leading it.

Unlike in the peninsula, it is unlikely that the party will continue with its understanding that no defecting lawmaker can hold a position in Sabah, given that it is a new entity in the state after GE14.

If that is true, most political observers say the obvious choice will be Sulaman Assemblyman Datuk Hajiji Mohd Noor, who took over the Umno reigns when Tan Sri Musa Aman left the State after the contentious polls.

Dr Mahathir has said that the party will take in former Umno lawmakers provided they remained independents for a certain duration and passed a “vetting” process.

Hajiji is seen as the leader of the ex-Umno lawmakers who had quit en masse in December following a loss of confidence in the party leadership. He led nine assemblymen and five MPs out of the party.

“If Dr Mahathir changes the rules for Sabah in not allowing defecting lawmakers to hold a post then Hajiji seems to be the natural choice — a senior and seasoned Muslim leader in Sabah,” said political analyst Arnold Puyok.

“They will be looking for someone who can unite the Muslim community and is accepted by other communities,” said Puyok.

“In this case, it seems like he is the right choice — he doesn’t have a lot of political baggage, and has a cordial relationship with other parties. He is okay with Shafie, okay with Bung, okay with PBS, okay with the federal leaders, and an electable leader.

“There is no reason that the leadership won’t choose him to help build the party in Sabah,” said another source within the former Umno group.

One person said to be lobbying for the position is Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah president Datuk Lajim Ukin, a veteran politician formerly with Umno and then PKR before setting up his own party.

“However, I don’t think there should be distinction between Peninsula and Sabah when considering defecting lawmakers for positions.

“Sabah is not an opposition government, they are part of Pakatan Harapan, so there is no danger of toppling the government. If you plan on taking over the government, then the rule is more acceptable,” he said.

Lajim, who has said that he would be dissolving his party to pave the way for 64,000 of its members to join PPBM, has not openly said he would like to helm the Sabah branch of the party but that he would wait for the leadership to decide.

Another name thrown into the hat is Kimanis MP Datuk Anifah Aman, but by his own admission, the former Foreign Minister said he would remain as an independent MP for the time being and was not part of the group ready to join PPBM.

Anifah was the first MP from Sabah to quit Umno last year.

A viral image of an alleged pro-tem committee has set tongues wagging if PPBM were to abide by its rule of not allowing defecting lawmakers to hold posts.

The image of a chart featured Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) leader Datuk Dasim Ricky Jikah as Sabah PPBM chairman, Upko member Ceasar Mandela Malakun as vice-chairman and independent Nabawan assemblyman Bobbey Suan, who left Upko in November last year, as the committee’s secretary.

“Unverified, the information seems unlikely to be true, and is probably someone trying to lobby and create confusion,” said a political analyst.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/02/21/will-dr-m-consider-umno-defectors-for-ppbm-top-posts-in-sabah/1725157

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Report: PAS used money allegedly given by Umno for GE14 deposits

21 February 2019

By Zurairi AR

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 — Whistleblower site Sarawak Report (SR) claimed today that Islamist party PAS used funds from Umno to pay its candidates’ election deposits in the May 9 polls last year.

Its article accused Umno of “secretly paying” PAS to contest several seats, which later led to both parties’ cooperation right after the conclusion of the general election which saw Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) defeated by Pakatan Harapan (PH).

“Sarawak Report has now received confirmation that this money paid to PAS was used to pay for several of PAS’ record numbers of election deposits at GE14, together with another million or so ringgit that was apparently later also deposited in cash by Umno into PAS accounts around the same time in the same way,” the report said.

SR said it has submitted further evidence in the previous defamation lawsuit against its editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, that an Umno proxy deposited a bag containing RM2.5 million into Bank Islam before transferring the cash into PAS’ bank accounts.

PAS has admitted receiving the money but denied it came from Umno.

However, SR did not publish any document backing its allegation.

It also did not list the name or number of seats where the deposits were allegedly paid using the money.

A deposit of RM10,000 is required to contest a parliamentary seat and RM5,000 for a state assembly seat.

PAS contested 158 seats in GE14 but won only 18 — just over one in 10 of the total up for contest.

The Islamist party’s contest in those seats had caused at least three-way fights with PH and BN.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/02/21/report-pas-used-money-allegedly-given-by-umno-for-ge14-deposits/1725153

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Mideast

 

Israel approves construction over 4,000 new settler units in Jerusalem al-Quds

Feb 20, 2019

Israeli officials have approved plans for the construction of thousands of new housing units in the occupied West Bank irrespective of the international outcry against the Tel Aviv regime’s land expropriation and settlement expansion policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israeli Hebrew-language daily newspaper Israel Hayom reported on Tuesday that the authorities have given the green light for 4,416 units to be built in Jerualem al-Quds, adding that 23,576 square meters of land would be expropriated for business projects and 4,253 for other purposes.

The report further noted that 464 settler units will be constructed in Gilo settlement, 180 units in Kiryat HaYovel, and 375 others in Kiryat Menahem settlement.

Earlier this month, Ir Amim, an Israeli NGO opposing Israel's settlement expansion activities, published a new map, describing an “accelerated, intensifying chain of new facts on the ground in the most historically contested and politically sensitive part of Jerusalem [al-Quds]: the Old City and adjacent ring of Palestinian neighborhoods.”

The map pointed to a mounting number of Israeli regime-sponsored settlement campaigns inside Palestinian neighborhoods, as well as “settler-initiated evictions of Palestinians, takeovers of their homes, and the expansion of settler compounds,” in addition the use of “touristic settlement sites” as “key points along a ring of tightening Israeli control.”

Ir Amim said tourism and supposed archaeology projects “assume a central role in Israeli settlement policy.”

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

Less than a month before US President Donald Trump took office, the United Nations Security Council in December 2016 adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem” al-Quds.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion on Palestinian territories.

Trump backtracked on Washington’s support for a “two-state solution” in 2017, saying he would support any solution favored by both sides.

“Looking at two-state or one-state, I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one both parties like. I can live with either one,” the US president said during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington on February 15, 2017.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/20/589076/Israel-approves-construction-over-4000-new-settler-units-in-Jerusalem-alQuds

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Main challengers to Netanyahu announce alliance for Israeli polls

21 February 2019

The two main challengers to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in April polls announced an electoral alliance on Thursday in a bid to defeat him.

Benny Gantz, a former military chief of staff, and centrist politician Yair Lapid said in statements they would form a joint list for the April 9 elections and rotate as prime minister if they won.

Gantz heads his recently launched centrist Israel Resilience party, while Lapid leads Yesh Atid, which currently has 11 seats in parliament out of 120.

Opinion polls have shown the two as the main challengers to Netanyahu, who has been expected to win despite corruption investigations into his affairs.

Former defense minister Moshe Yaalon had previously joined Israel Resilience and another ex-military chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, will also join the new alliance, their statements said.

“Out of a sense of deep national responsibility, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Moshe Yaalon decided on the creation of a unified list which will serve as Israel’s new party of government,” the statement from Yesh Atid said.

“The party will put forward a new leadership team which will guarantee the security of Israel and will reunite the divided elements of Israeli society.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/21/Main-challengers-to-Netanyahu-announce-alliance-for-Israeli-polls.html

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Palestinian president rejects tax money from Israel

20 February 2019

The Palestinian Authority (PA) will no longer accept tax revenues collected on its behalf by Israel following its decision to trim the sum over the PA's financial support of militants' families, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said.

The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, an interim self-government body set up following the 1993 Oslo peace accords, has suffered a series of financial blows in the past year.

Under interim peace deals, Israel collects taxes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip and makes monthly payments to the PA, which says it receives around $222 million each month.

The Israeli Finance Ministry said on Wednesday it collects about 700 million shekels ($193 million) in Palestinian taxes and transfers around 600 million shekels of that to the Palestinian Authority after deducting payments for electricity, water, sewage and medical treatment services.

On Sunday Israel said it would freeze about 5 percent of that against stipends the Palestinian Authority pays to families of Palestinians killed or jailed by Israel.

In remarks made late on Tuesday and broadcast on Palestinian radio on Wednesday, Abbas said the PA would continue to pay out these stipends rather than accept a partial transfer of the tax revenues from Israel.

“We reject the tax, we don't want it,” Abbas told visiting US congressmen. “Frankly, if we are left with only 20 or 30 million shekels, which is the sum paid to families of martyrs, then we will pay them to the families of martyrs,” he said.

Stipend policy

Israel and the United States say the stipend policy fans Palestinian violence while the Palestinians see the slain and jailed Palestinians as heroes of a national struggle.

The United States last year passed legislation to sharply reduce aid to the Palestinian Authority unless it stopped the pay-outs. The measure, known as the Taylor Force Act, was named after a 29-year-old American military veteran fatally stabbed by a Palestinian while visiting Israel in 2016.

Last month, the Palestinians declined some $60 million in US annual funding for their security forces, worried about exposure to lawsuits under new US anti-terror laws.

Washington has further slashed hundreds of millions of dollars to humanitarian organizations and UN agencies which aid the Palestinians as it seeks to pressure Abbas to enter peace negotiations with Israel. Peace talks have been frozen since 2014.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/20/Palestinian-president-rejects-tax-money-from-Israel.html

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Iran FM warns Israel about its ‘dangerous’ adventurism

Feb 21, 2019

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has warned the Israeli regime that its “dangerous” adventurism with its bombing campaign in Syria could result in a military conflict in the region.

“There is adventurism on Israel’s side, and adventurism is always dangerous,” Zarif said in an interview with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper published on Wednesday.

Iran is in Syria at the invitation of the Syrian government, while Israel is violating Lebanese and Syrian air space, as well as international law, Zarif said.

Asked about the possibility of a military conflict between Iran and Israel, he said he does not see that coming, adding, “but we cannot exclude the possibility.”

In his earlier remarks at the Munich Security Conference, Zarif had accused Israel of looking for war and warned that its actions and those of the United States were increasing the chances of a clash in the region.

In an interview with NBC News during his visit to Munich, Zarif also warned the US and its allies that it would be "suicidal" to go to a war with Iran.

He said the "same gang" behind the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 were "at it again" in pushing for war with Iran.

"I'm not saying [US] President [Donald] Trump's administration, I'm saying people in President Trump’s administration are trying to create the same eventually and I believe they will fail," the Iranian foreign minister said.

"But I think at the end of the day, some sense will prevail and people will find out that it's suicidal to engage in a war with Iran."

On February 13, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a short video recorded on the sidelines of an anti-Iran meeting in Warsaw, Poland, that the event “is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.”

Last month, Netanyahu had threatened that Tel Aviv complements the US’ economic pressures on Iran with its own actions "at the military level.”

Trump “is acting against Iran at the economic level and we here in Israel are acting against Iran at the military level,” Netanyahu said in an address to Israeli military cadets.

By military actions, Netanyahu apparently meant airstrikes against what Israel calls Iranian positions in Syria. Damascus says the attacks are part of Israel's efforts to prop up terrorists in the face of army advances. 

Netanyahu says the Tel Aviv regime’s forces have carried out hundreds of attacks in Syria over the past several years and will ramp up its fight following the planned withdrawal of US troops from the country.

His comments came after Trump said in January Iran “can do what they want” in Syria following his decision to withdraw US troops operating there, a move that sparked consternation in Israel.

“Iran is no longer the same country,” Trump said. “Iran is pulling people out of Syria. They can do what they want there, frankly, but they’re pulling people out. They’re pulling people out of Yemen. Iran wants to survive now,” he claimed.

Iran has been offering advisory military assistance to the Syrian government in its counter-terrorism battle at the request of Damascus.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/21/589116/Zarif-conflict-Iran-Israel-adventurism-Netanyahu

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Jordan MPs call for expulsion of Israel envoy over al-Aqsa assault

Feb 20, 2019

Members of the Jordanian parliament’s Palestine Committee have called for the expulsion of Israel's ambassador from the country in response to Tel Aviv's latest measures in Jerusalem al-Quds.

In a statement read to Jordan's parliament Tuesday, the Palestine Parliamentary Committee also called for the return of Jordan's ambassador from Tel Aviv.

"We call on the government to recall the Jordanian ambassador from Tel Aviv, and to expel the Israeli ambassador in Amman," the statement read.

The move came a day after the Israeli regime banned Muslims from entering the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem al-Quds. Tel Aviv also arrested several worshipers inside the compound, and wounded a dozen Palestinians in an assault on Tuesday.

The worshipers were injured after Israeli military forces attacked them while entering the mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.

Local sources told the Arabic-language Palestine al-Aan news agency that 10 Palestinians sustained injuries after Israeli troops assaulted them at the mosque's Bab al-Rahma (Gate of Mercy).

The sources added that 15 other Palestinians were arrested by Israeli forces inside the mosque as well. A majority of those arrested were reportedly seminary school students.

In their statement, Jordanian lawmakers denounced Israel’s act as a violation of human rights and international law.

"[The measures] contradict the most basic human rights values and international laws," the statement read.

The lawmakers warned that such actions "represent a new and dangerous stage that provokes millions of Muslims around the world" and entrenches "racial and sectarian divides… and incites hate speech".

Palestinian Ma'an News Agency reported on Monday that Israeli soldiers had sealed off Bab al-Rahma with locks and iron chains a day earlier and prevented the Palestinian worshipers from entering the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The agency said the Israeli move sparked clashes between Palestinian youths and the Tel Aviv regime forces, which resulted in the detention of five Palestinians, including a woman.

The al-Rahma gate is a big building that lays to the east of the al-Aqsa Mosque. The building was sealed by Israeli authorities in 2003 as it was the headquarters of the Islamic Heritage Committee. Israel claimed at the time that the building was being used for political activities.

The building was sealed by Israeli authorities in 2003 as it was the headquarters of the Islamic Heritage Committee. Israel claimed at the time that the building was being used for political activities.

In 2017, an Israeli court ordered that the building be closed until further notice.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/20/589109/Jordan-Israel-envoy-aqsa-assault-Palestine

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Yemeni government approves UN plan for redeployment in Hodeidah

February 20, 2019

DUBAI: The Yemeni government said on Wednesday that it approved a UN plan for redeployment in Hodeidah, Al Arabiya reported.

The withdrawal from Hodeidah will be carried out under the supervision of UN monitoring committee and will begin in the next 11 days.

The Houthi militia will withdraw by 5 km, while the Yemeni government will withdraw by 3.5 km south of the Red Sea Mills. This aims to secure the passage for relief workers to the Red Sea Mills.

The UN said it had been unable to access the Red Sea Mills - which has enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month - in Hodeida since Sept. last year.

Martin Griffiths and Michael Lollesgaard – who heads the monitoring mission – will oversee the implementation of the Stockholm agreement.

Lollesgaard assured the Yemeni government that the Houthis will withdraw 5 km away from Al-Saleef and Ras Eisa ports within the next four days.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1455351/middle-east

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Africa

 

Dusit attack highlights 'new generation' of Al-Shabaab recruits

21st Feb 2019

Profiles of key suspects in last month's terror attack in Nairobi point to the worrying rise of a new generation of Kenyan jihadists, analysts say.

Police are hunting Ali Salim Gichunge, the suspected mastermind of the January 15 attack on the Dusit hotel and office complex that left 21 dead, and Violet Kemunto Omwoyo, described as a Christian convert to Islam.

Their background and ethnic origins are starkly different from that of typical Kenyan members recruited in the past by Al-Shabaab.

Somalia's Al-Qaeda affiliate has mainly used recruits from Kenya's ethnic Somali community or coastal Muslim communities.

In addition, Shabaab's major previous attacks in Kenya, against the Westgate shopping mall in 2013, which left 67 dead, and the University of Garissa in 2015 in which 148 people died, were planned in Somalia.

"Unlike previous attacks that had aspects of external planning and involvement, this particular incident points to local planning," and includes converts from Christianity, a senior police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Gichunge, believed to be aged about 23, is from central Isiolo and is the son of a Kenyan soldier. His name is from the country's largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu.

Omwoyo, aged in her late twenties, is believed to be from Kisii in western Kenya.

The pair shared a home in Ruaka, northwest of the capital, where police say they found guns stashed in a hole in one of the rooms.

Police found the hideout after Gichunge was identified as the owner of a vehicle which transported the attackers to the hotel and office complex.

He was initially thought to be among those killed.

But it emerged both he and Omwoyo were on the run at the time of the operation, and had put household items up for sale in the days before the attack.

Somalia remains epicentre

However, there are still similarities with the Westgate and Garissa attacks.

The five Dusit attackers were all killed during the attack, and at least three of them were from Kenya's ethnic Somali community, one came from the coastal region and another has yet to be identified.

The weapons they used were transported from Somalia via Lamu county where the Islamist group has long held a strong presence in the Boni forest, or via the Mandera town border with Somalia, according to police sources.

Investigators say that Gichunge spent time training in Somalia.

"Somalia remains the epicentre of the Shabaab movement," said Matt Bryden, an analyst with the Sahan think-tank.

However as Shabaab has spread into the region -- hitting five countries with terrorist attacks -- it "has evolved a lot", said Bryden.

In 2015, Sahan warned that to escape scrutiny, the jihadists had shifted their recruiting drive in Kenya away from the big cities of Nairobi and Mombasa to new areas, including the Rift Valley and the west of the country.

The report also noted the increasing recruitment of Christian converts, notably due to the granting of bursaries for Islamic Studies, and of girls and young women.

In this light, Bryden said the involvement of suspects such as Gichunge and Omwoyo was not a surprise but rather a sign that Shabaab's recruitment strategy in Kenya was paying off.

"What we have is a generation that is coming of age. They have just proved that they are able to organise rather complex operations," he said.

Anti-Somali rhetoric

The jihadists were recruited by the Kenyan branch of Shabaab, known as Al-Hijra, which the US State Department says has openly recruited in Kenya and facilitated transport to Somalia for "terrorism purposes".

"These are people who know Kenya well, they know the language well, and they can move around the country quite easily," as they do not look ethnically Somali, a Kenyan human rights activist said on condition of anonymity.

The Somali people mainly live in Somalia, but large populations also live in Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

The new jihadists are radicalised in "areas which are not closely watched" and "they use hideouts in places where the police will not expect them," the source said.

They can do this because of what Human Rights Watch researcher Otsieno Namwaya said is the "ethnic profiling" of jihadists in the country.

"In the minds of many Kenyans, Shabaab are necessarily from the Somali community. The reason for this is they have been blinded by the anti-Somali rhetoric of the government," said Nanwaya.

He referred, among other things, to the government's efforts in 2016 to justify closing the Dadaab refugee camp in the east of the country -- home mostly to Somalis -- by claiming it was there the Westgate attack was planned.

"We're not having the discussions we should have about the reasons that push some Kenyans to radicalise, precisely because we're not asking the right questions," said Namwaya.

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001313822/dusit-attack-the-new-generation-of-al-shabaab-recruits

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Blame for mass rapes points to S. Sudan army: UN report

20 February 2019

UN investigators have identified perpetrators of pervasive rape and killings and torture in secret safe houses in South Sudan, and believe oil revenues have driven much of the violence in its civil war, a report said on Wednesday.

The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan recommended further investigation of evidence that proceeds from South Sudan’s oil-based economy had been channeled to government forces and militias linked to reported war crimes.

The Commission said the army, national security, military intelligence, rebel forces and affiliated armed groups had committed serious human rights breaches, and it had drawn up a confidential list of suspects including army and opposition commanders, two state governors and a county commissioner.

Its 212-page report detailed people being held for years and tortured in secret, vermin-ridden detention centers, children being run down by tanks, rape of girls as young as seven, and babies being drowned, starved or smashed against trees.

In some stricken areas, 65 percent of females and 36 percent of males may have been sexually abused, according to the report.

Although South Sudan’s main warring parties signed a peace deal in September, widespread violence, especially rape, has continued.

A member of the three-person commission, Andrew Clapham, said it was outraged by reports of further fighting between government forces and the rebel National Salvation Front, which was not part of the peace agreement, in the Yei River area.

“There are thousands of civilians who have been forcibly displaced following a scorched-earth policy in which the parties to the conflict are attacking the villages, torching the homes, killing civilians and raping women and girls,” Clapham said.

“Must stop”

The United States, Britain and Norway jointly expressed their alarm at the reports of escalating violence in Yei. “These military actions, and the trading of blame, must stop,” they said in a joint statement.

Clapham said that more than 5,000 refugees had reached neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and up to 20,000 people were expected to be displaced by the latest fighting.

The report cited a close connection between oil and the conflict. A law ensuring that South Sudan’s oil-producing regions and communities received two and three percent of its oil revenue respectively had triggered a redrawing of provincial boundaries and ethnic conflict.

“We feel the national security services are very much involved in the siphoning off of oil money,” said Clapham.

The Human Rights Council should get to the bottom of the sums involved and where the money was going, he told reporters, noting that health and education spending was “minuscule.”

“If you are involved in oil extraction in that area and you are asked to assist one side or the other, you could be accused of complicity in war crimes. There are Council members that we think have a responsibility to look more carefully at this.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/02/20/UN-reports-mass-rape-killings-torture-in-S-Sudan-seeks-oil-scrutiny.html

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Jordan’s PM appeals for more aid as most Syrian refugees set to stay

February 20, 2019

AMMAN: Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz appealed on Wednesday to major donors to continue multi-billion dollar funding for Syrian refugees in the kingdom, saying most of those who had fled the eight-year conflict had no intention of returning any time soon.

Razzaz told representatives of major Western donors, UN agencies and NGOs that relatively few refugees had gone back since Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s army last summer regained control of southern Syria, where most had fled from.

“The number of refugees that so far returned voluntarily is low and most have no intention of going back any time soon,” Razzaz told a meeting to launch a UN-funded government plan that earmarks $2.4 billion in funding needs for 2019.

Officials say only around 10,000 refugees out of a total estimated at 1.3 million had left since the two countries opened the vital Nassib-Jaber border crossing last October.

Razzaz echoed the UN view that unstable conditions inside Syria, where large-scale destruction, fear of retribution and military conscription has made many reluctant to return.

“We are now entering a new phase of the Syrian crisis, however the impact is still ongoing. The conditions for their return are not present,” Razzaz added.

The prime minister warned against donor fatigue in a protracted crisis where the needs of refugees and vulnerable Jordanians were largely unchanged.

Maintaining funding that covers education, health and crucial services for tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and local communities was crucial to ease rising pressures on the debt-burdened economy, he added.

“Aid helped Jordan in staying resilient in a difficult regional setting,” Razzaz said, adding the refugee burden had strained meagre resources such as water and electricity, with a donor shortfall covered from state finances.

Jordan is struggling to rein in record public debt of $40 billion, equivalent to 95 percent of gross domestic product, under a tough International Monetary Fund (IMF) austerity plan.

Major donors say more than $6 billion had been extended to Jordan since 2015, which economists credit for rejuvenating once sleepy northern border towns, while refugee entrepreneurship brought a pool of cheap labor and new skills, triggering a property boom and higher productivity.

The kingdom received around $1.6 billion last year alone.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1455456/middle-east

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Sudan’s struggling protest movement hopes to outlast Omar Al Bashir

Hamza Hendawi

February 20, 2019

Sudan’s longtime ruler Omar Al Bashir has held on to power in the face of two months of deadly street protests calling for him to step down, a stalemate that testifies to the tenacity of both the 74-year-old Islamist leader and the resilience of his detractors.

An Afro-Arab nation that has for decades alternated between looking ready to come unglued and determinedly tearing itself apart, Sudan’s current standoff has plunged it into a political limbo, with Mr Al Bashir’s grip on power slowly weakening while protesters are unable to land a knockout punch.

Mr Al Bashir has ruled Sudan since leading a 1989 military coup that toppled a freely elected but dysfunctional government. Under his watch, Sudan survived one crisis after another, with him unable to bring peace or economic stability to the ethnically and racially diverse nation.

He earned an indictment by the International Criminal Court in 2010 for genocide in Darfur, a western region where forces loyal to him crushed an uprising by ethnic Africans seeking equality with the mostly Muslim and Arabised north. A year later, the animist and Christian south of Sudan seceded under a peace agreement that ended more than two decades of civil war, taking with it most of the country’s oil wealth and sending the country’s economy into a downward spiral.

Already one of the longest serving rulers in the region, Mr Al Bashir has consistently argued that political change in Sudan can only come through the ballot box. He has repeatedly blamed the unrest on foreign plots designed to undermine what he calls Sudan’s “Islamic experiment.”

Activists involved in the protest movement say time is on their side and that the Sudanese leader will eventually be pushed out of office, an assertion that is questioned by analysts who argue that the protests have mostly attracted young people, while failing to attract other segments of society.

However, one prominent analyst, Sudanese Othman Mirghani, believes the ongoing protests have been the source of such serious alarm to authorities that the government has continued to shut down universities and social media sites like Facebook and WhatsApp since the unrest started.

“The protest movement is somewhat slow, but it will at the end deliver political change,” Mr Mirghani predicted by telephone from Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. He also cited what he described as the elaborate security precautions in Khartoum on the days of protests as evidence of a government that sees the demonstrations as a serious threat.

“The protests have deprived the regime of its political legitimacy,” said Hany Raslan, an Egyptian expert on Sudan at Cairo’s Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. “They have caused alarm inside the regime and eroded some of its internal infrastructure,” he added, but warned that the protesters have so far failed to mobilise in sufficient numbers in the streets to push Mr Al Bashir out.

He said one reason why Mr Al Bashir has survived until now is that he has for years worked on gathering the country’s “political strings” in his hands. “He is in control of the political balances inside the regime,” Mr Raslan said, citing the Sudanese leader’s track record of playing allies and close aides off against each other and banishing to the sidelines political figures strong enough to challenge him. Since 2000, Mr Al Bashir has sidelined Hassan Al Turabi, spiritual father of the Islamist movement in Sudan and the sponsor of the 1989 coup, vice president and one-time heir apparent Ali Othman Taha, and ruling party heavyweight Nafiaa Ali Nafiaa.

Asil Abdou, a 25-year-old activist from Khartoum, shares the analysts’ cautious optimism on the prospect of political change in Sudan.

“The movement is growing, but we don’t want people to exhaust themselves. We want them to pace themselves. We want them to protest one day and go to work the next day. We are mostly poor in Sudan, so we want them to continue to earn a wage and put food on the table,” she said by telephone.

“We have no problem staying on the streets for another five months. Every march is attracting more people than the previous one. We are conserving our energy for ‘zero hour’ when all the doors are open and everyone is out on the streets,” she said.

Ms Abdou and other activists acknowledge that the frequency and size of demonstrations outside Khartoum have waned in recent weeks, something they attribute to the use of excessive force there by police. “But the epicentre of uprisings has always been in Khartoum,” Ms Abdou said.

Since independence in 1956, Sudan has seen two popular uprisings against military rule, in 1964 and 1985. In both cases, democratically elected governments followed, but they failed to improve the economy or end long-running civil wars with the south. They were eventually toppled by the military in 1969 and 1989 respectively.

Activists behind the ongoing protests say they want Mr Al Bashir’s Islamist government to be replaced with an interim administration of technocrats who would announce dates for elections. But Mr Raslan, the Egyptian analyst, believes chaos would prevail during the transitional period and the Islamists would likely reinvent themselves to bounce back to power.

Of all of Sudan’s neighbours, Egypt is believed to be the most worried about Muslim Brotherhood Islamists seizing power across its southern border. With zero tolerance for any form of political Islam at home, Egypt has reservedly offered Mr Al Bashir support despite his hallmark unpredictability.

In the last few years, Mr Al Bashir caused alarm in Egypt by courting Cairo rivals Qatar and Turkey and siding with Ethiopia in its dispute with Egypt over the impact on Cairo’s share of the Nile waters of a giant, under-construction dam Addis Ababa is building. He also has stoked a long-running but lately dormant border dispute with Egypt.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/sudan-s-struggling-protest-movement-hopes-to-outlast-omar-al-bashir-1.828006

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Pakistan

 

Two ‘high-profile’ terror suspects held in Karachi

FEBRUARY 21, 2019

Police in Karachi Wednesday claimed to have arrested two members of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) over charges of their involvement in the deadly Sehwan blast, targeted killings of law enforcers, members of the Hazara and Christian communities in Balochistan, incidents of kidnappings for ransom and the murder of a senior official of a private firm in Karachi, a private TV channel reported.

“Malir Police and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) carried out a joint action in Gadap area and apprehended two LeJ suspects,” Deputy Inspector General (DIG) East Amir Farooqi said at a press conference, and described the held suspects – Furqan Bungalzai alias Azam and Ali Akbar alias Haji – as ‘dangerous terrorists’.

The DIG disclosed that the suspects had also joined the global militant Islamic State group. Bungalzai was commander of LeJ’s askari (militant) wing and was involved in several terror acts in Balochistan and Sindh. During an initial probe, he informed the investigators that Mufti Hidayatullah (now killed), Noman and Maqbool had planned the deadly Sehwan blast, while he had carried out reconnaissance of the shrine and passed on information to Mufti Hidayatullah. After the reconnaissance, Maqbool and Noman brought the suicide bomber, identified as Usman, to Sehwan, where he exploded himself on February 16, 2017, resulting in the death of 82 people and injuries to 383 others.

During the interrogation, Bungalzai also confirmed that Mufti Hidayatullah was killed during an operation by security forces on July 20, 2018, in Kalat. Subsequently, the group’s Shura decided to take revenge for Hidayatullah’s killing and established the ‘Mufti force’ to this effect. Three days after the killing of Hidayatullah, LeJ’s leader Molvi Khair directed Bungalzai and Noman to target law enforcement agencies. “I dropped the suicide bomber near a polling station at a bypass in Quetta,” Bungalzai told the investigators. The suicide bomber blew himself up, targeting a parked police mobile on the day of the general election, July 25, 2018, killing 32 people, including a policeman.

Apart from bomb blasts, the LeJ militant, Bungalzai, was also involved in several killings, mostly in Balochistan, targeting members of the Shia Hazara and Christian communities as well as policemen.

The suspect told the police that they gunned down around four or five Hazaras who were travelling in a yellow cab near Pasni-Quetta road on Jun 4, 2018. He was also involved in targeted killings of three policemen on Sariab Road in Quetta on June 11, 2017. They also killed one tailor on Sariab Road and a member of Shia community in the Quetta bazaar.

Bungalzai and his accomplices carried out attacks on shops in Hazara Town Quetta, killing two shopkeepers there. “He also confessed to killing three members of Christian community on Arbab Khan Road in Quetta on April 2, 2018,” revealed the DIG East Farooqi, adding that the LeJ members also gunned down one religious scholar in Quetta.

On May 27, 2018, Bungalzai and his accomplices attacked traffic police on Sariab Road in which two traffic policemen were martyred. In retaliatory firing by the policemen, two attackers, namely Mehmood and Rashid, were gunned down, while Furqan managed to escape.

Regarding the other held suspect, DIG East Ali Akbar pointed out that he was a member of LeJ. His son-in-law, Salman Badeni, was killed by security forces in Quetta. “Akbar Ali was involved in kidnapping for ransom to generate funds for LeJ,” revealed Farooqi.

The held suspect, along with his accomplices, had kidnapped a general manager of a private firm, Abid Sohail, from the Tipu Sultan area in Karachi in Nov 2017 and kept him at an underground place inside a home in the Manghopir area, where they later killed him over non-payment of ransom money, recalled the DIG. They had demanded Rs 350 million as ransom for the release of Abid Sohail. The victim’s body was recovered by the Anti-Violent Crime Cell of the police later on.

The held suspect along with his accomplices had also kidnapped one citizen, Raheel, from Gulistan-i-Jauhar and released him after taking Rs 10 million as ransom. The other accomplices had already been arrested in this case of kidnapping for ransom.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/356940/two-high-profile-terror-suspects-held-in-karachi/

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Pakistanis released from Saudi prison on PM Imran’s request

Feb 21, 2019

A video of Pakistani prisoners being released from a jail in Saudi Arabia is going viral on social media a few days after Saudi Crown Prince concluded his visit to Islamabad.

Scores of inmates can be seen leaving what has been described in the video as a jail in Saudi city Jeddah.

“Everybody is happy leaving for their homes. Kindly pray that brothers who are left behind are also released soon,” a man is heard saying.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan made a personal request to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to release Pakistani labourers who have been languishing in Saudi jails.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/02/20/video-pakistanis-released-from-saudi-prison-on-pm-imrans-request/

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