Indian PM: Changes in Kashmir Will Free It from ‘Terrorism’
India’s splitting of Kashmir Opposed in Muslim Border City of Kargil
Pakistan's Counter-Terrorism Department Declares Hafiz Saeed Guilty Of Terror Financing
We Can All Live In Peace: Malala on Kashmir
Kashmir Issue Will Have No Impact on Afghan Peace, Assures Pak Ambassador
Jamaat-e-Islami Leaders Mobilise Saudi, Malaysian Muslims on Kashmir
Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Adopts Iraqi ISIL Commander, Abdollah Qardash, as Successor
UN Chief Invokes Shimla Agreement, Calls for ‘Maximum Restraint’ On Kashmir
A Look at One Way ISIS Is Trying To Incite Attacks inside the US
In A Snub to Pak, Taliban Say No Link between Afghanistan And Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir Issue: Malaysia, Saudi Cite UNSC Resolutions, US Calls for Restraint
India’s measured response to Pakistan: Review decision to downgrade ties
In silent Srinagar, the echo: Delhi wants Kashmir, not Kashmiris?
SC refuses urgent listing of petition on Article 370
India makes it Easier to Charge Citizens with Alleged Ties to IS
Ayodhya Case: Muslim Party Opposes 5-Days-A-Week Hearing, Says It Can't Be Rushed Through
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Army Warns India against another ‘Misadventure’ In Kashmir
Pakistan Calling UNSC Meeting over Kashmir Issue, Says Lodhi
Pakistan demands UN abide by its Kashmir promises
US senator calls FM Qureshi over soaring Kashmir tensions
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Maryam is latest Sharif to be arrested for graft in Pakistan
Pakistan says work on Kartarpur corridor will continue
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Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Aug 9, 2019
NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the nation Thursday night that he stripped the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir of its statehood and special constitutional status to free the disputed region of “terrorism and separatism.”
Modi’s Hindu-led nationalist government imposed an unprecedented security lockdown and a near-total communications blackout in the Muslim-majority region since Sunday night, arresting more than 500 people.
Kashmir is claimed in full by both India and its archrival Pakistan, although each controls only a part of it and rebels have been fighting Indian rule in the portion it administers for decades. This week, India downgraded the Himalayan region from statehood to a territory, limited its decision-making power and eliminated its right to its own constitution.
In his first nationally broadcast speech on the decision, Modi described the changes for Jammu and Kashmir, as the region is formally known, as historic. He assured its residents that the situation will soon “return to normal gradually,” although he gave no specifics.
Modi said the “mainstreaming” of the Kashmiri people with the rest of the nation would expedite development and create new jobs with investment from public and private companies.
He accused neighboring Pakistan of using the past arrangement “as a weapon to incite people of the region against India.”
“I have complete faith under this new system we all will be able to free Jammu and Kashmir of terrorism and separatism,” Modi said, referring to ending the region’s special status granted under Articles 370 and 35A of India’s Constitution.
Those provisions “gave Jammu and Kashmir nothing but terrorism, separatism, dynasticism and large-scale spread of corruption,” and they were “used as a weapon by Pakistan to incite anti-national feelings against some people in our country,” he said.
Modi added: “This heaven on earth, our Jammu and Kashmir, will once again reach new heights of development and attract the whole world toward it. Ease of living will increase for our citizens. Citizens will receive all the benefits they deserve without any obstacles or challenges.”
Pakistan said it would downgrade diplomatic ties with New Delhi, expel the Indian ambassador and suspend trade and a key train service with India. Prime Minister Imran Khan told his National Security Committee that his government will use all diplomatic channels “to expose the brutal Indian racist regime” and human rights violations in Kashmir, a government’s statement said.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Islamabad is not considering any military action, looking instead at its political and legal options.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged India and Pakistan to refrain from taking any steps that would affect the status of Kashmir. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres “is also concerned over reports of restrictions on the Indian-side of Kashmir, which could exacerbate the human rights situation in the region,” and reiterates his call for “maximum restraint.”
State-run All India Radio, which reported on the arrests without details, also said that cross-border firing by Indian and Pakistani troops hit the Rajouri sector of the Indian-controlled Kashmir late Wednesday. Many people there remain holed up in their homes.
Activist Ali Mohammed told broadcaster New Delhi Television that he organized ambulances to carry sick poor people to hospitals in Srinagar, the main city in India’s portion of Kashmir, since they can’t even use phones to seek medical help.
“It’s hell,” a patient told the broadcaster.
Modi’s national security adviser Ajit Doval visited the region Wednesday to assess the law and order situation in the country’s only Muslim-majority state where most people oppose Indian rule. The insurgency that began in 1989 and India’s ensuing crackdown have killed more than 70,000 people.
A petition challenging the lockdown was filed in India’s top court. Opposition Congress party activist Tehseen Poonawalla said he expected the Supreme Court to hear his petition seeking the immediate lifting of the curfew and other restrictions in Kashmir, including blocking of phone lines, internet and news channels.
He also sought the immediate release of Kashmiri leaders who have been detained, including Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.
India said it regretted Pakistan’s steps and said in a statement that “the intention behind these measures is obviously to present an alarming picture to the world of our bilateral ties.”
The External Affairs Ministry said it was not surprised by Pakistan because Islamabad “has used such sentiments to justify its cross-border terrorism.”
Describing India’s latest steps in Kashmir as an internal matter, the statement urged Pakistan to review its decision so that normal diplomatic channels are preserved.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal said authorities were considering a proposal to approach the International Court of Justice over India’s action. He condemned the imposition of communications blackout and security clampdown, saying “Kashmir has been converted into the world’s biggest jail” by India by forcing people to stay home.
“They are taking such actions in a panic,” he said. “They have touched something they don’t know how to get out of.”
Faisal said even the Indian opposition and media were against the moves in Kashmir.
He said Pakistan had never shut doors for talks with India in the past but India never positively responded to such offers from Islamabad. “Only they can say what they want now,” he said.
The government in Islamabad also said it would give diplomatic, political and moral support to people living in Kashmir and their “right of self-determination.” It also said it would ask the U.N. to pressure India to reverse its decision.
An uneasy calm prevailed along the Line of Control in Pakistan’s part of Kashmir, where people in border villages were awaiting government instructions to move to safer places, although some residents had already gone to nearby towns.
India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence over control of Kashmir. The first war ended in 1948 with a U.N.-brokered cease-fire that left Kashmir divided and promised its people a U.N.-sponsored referendum on the region’s future. It has never been held.
By Sheikh Saaliq
August 7, 2019
NEW DELHI — India’s surprise move to carve out sparsely populated Ladakh from the state of Jammu and Kashmir to make it a territory directly controlled by New Delhi has been met with protests in Kargil, a Muslim-majority border city in Ladakh that identifies culturally with Kashmir, suggesting that the Hindu nationalist-led government’s plan to redraw the country’s political map will be far from easy.
While some Ladakhi lawmakers from Leh, the main city in the heavily Buddhist region with historic ties to Tibet, hailed the move as a long-overdue response to their requests for separation from restive Kashmir, organizations in Kargil condemned the decision.
Mountainous Jammu and Kashmir comprises three regions: Hindu-majority Jammu, Muslim-majority Kashmir, and heavily Buddhist Ladakh.
On Tuesday, the Indian government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, cutting off communications and deploying thousands of troops amid fears of a violent reaction. Kashmir is claimed by both India and Pakistan, and rebels have been fighting Indian rule in the portion it administers for decades.
Lawmakers also passed a bill stripping the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir and dividing it into two territories, Jammu and Kashmir, which will have a legislature, and Ladakh, which will be governed directly by New Delhi.
Ladakh borders Tibet to the east and the Chinese territory of Xinjiang in the far north.
After Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was scrapped, Kargil’s religious and political organizations met to discuss the changes, releasing a statement condemning the Indian government for acting “without the consent from the people.”
The groups called for a districtwide shutdown on Tuesday as a “token of public resentment against the unjustful decision taken by the union government.”
Schools and shops were shuttered, and streets were empty except for a group of demonstrators who marched while shouting slogans decrying the separation of Ladakh.
The Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust, Kargil, an influential religious group in the region, supported the protest.
The chairman of the trust, Sheikh Sadiq Rajai, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the new law amounts to an attack.
“It’s an attack on our identity. This decision will disempower our people,” he said.
Former Kargil lawmaker Asgar Ali Karbali also condemned the Indian government’s move to divide the region, referring to it as “a black day in the history of India.” Karbali said he doesn’t accept the decision, and that others in Kashmir also won’t.
“It was the people of Leh that were demanding that Ladakh be freed from the Kashmir region over a long time, not us. Kargil is against the division of Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of religion, language and region. The move is undemocratic,” Karbali said.
Kargil, nestled among sharp hillsides and rough terrain, is where India and Pakistan fought a war in 1999. The town once served as an important trade and transit center in the Pan-Asian trade network.
The people of Kargil have opposed Ladakh’s decades-long demand to be severed from Kashmir. The friction between the two districts has occasionally sparked clashes between the two communities.
Despite Kargil’s opposition, Ladakh’s elected representative to the Indian Parliament described the mood in the region as celebratory.
Tsering Namgyal drew thumping applause in the lower house on Tuesday when he said that Ladakhis long to be an inseparable part of India.
In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi complimented Namgyal, saying he had “coherently presented aspirations of our sisters and brothers from Ladakh.”
Ladakhi Buddhists have often claimed that the region’s policies were Kashmir-centric and discriminated against them.
The Gyalwang Drukpa, the spiritual head of the Ladakh-based Drukpa Order of Buddhism, wrote to Modi to express gratitude.
Still, residents of Kargil on Wednesday said they felt more affinity with Kashmir than Leh, and worried that the decision could lead to a flood of people from outside the region damaging their pristine landscape.
“Our jobs are in danger. Now people from India will come here and settle. Our jobs will go to them. We were never consulted before India took this decision,” Ghulam Mustafa said.
Pakistan's counter-terrorism department declares Hafiz Saeed guilty of terror financing
Mumbai terror attack mastermind and Jammat-ud Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed was declared guilty of "terror financing" by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) in a Pakistani court on Wednesday.
Saeed, a UN designated terrorist whom the US has placed a $10 million bounty on, was presented before the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Gujranwala, some 80-km from Lahore, in high security where he was charge-sheeted of terror financing by the CTD of Punjab police.
A CTD official told PTI that it submitted challan in the ATC declaring Saeed guilty of terror financing.
"Since the case is related to Mandi Bhauddin district of Punjab therefore the prosecution requested the court to shift it to Gujrat ATC court (some 200-km from Lahore)," he said.
On the prosecution's request, the ATC Gujranwala shifted the case to the Gujrat ATC. He said next hearing of the case (which is yet to be fixed) will be held in the Gujrat ATC.
Founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Saeed was travelling to Gujranwala from Lahore to get pre-arrest bail in terror financing cases registered against him there when he was arrested on July 17. Saeed is being kept at the Kot Lakhpat jail Lahore in high security.
The US Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the US, since 2012, has offered a $10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice.
Saeed-led JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the LeT which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. He was listed under UN Security Council Resolution 1267 in December 2008.
We can all live in peace: Malala on Kashmir
Aug 8, 2019
LONDON: Nobel Peace Prize winner and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai on Thursday appealed for the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue, saying "we can all live in peace" and there is no need to "hurt each other".
Malala's statement comes after the Indian government on Monday revoked Article 370 of the Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
"The people of Kashmir have lived in conflict since I was a child, since my mother and father were children, since my grandparents were young," the youngest ever Nobel Laureate tweeted.
Malala, 22, said that she cared about Kashmir since "South Asia is my home, a home I share with 1.8 billion people including Kashmiris".
The region represented different cultures, religions, languages, cuisines and customs, she said and expressed hope that "we can all live in peace".
"There is no need for us to continue to suffer and hurt each other," she said.
Malala said she was worried mostly about the women and children in Kashmir, since they are the "most vulnerable to violence and most likely to suffer losses in conflict".
She called on all South Asians, the international community and authorities to respond to their suffering.
"Whatever disagreement we may have... Must focus on peacefully resolving the seven-decade conflict in Kashmir," Malala said.
Kashmir issue will have no impact on Afghan peace, assures Pak Ambassador
09 Aug 2019
The Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Zahid Nasrullah Khan has assured the latest issue in Kashmir will have no impact on Afghan peace process.
He made the remarks during an interaction with the Afghan media outlets in Kabul earlier today.
Ambassador Khan further added that Kashmir issue, being a longstanding issue between Pakistan and India will have no impact on Afghan peace process.
Furthermore, Ambassador Khan accused India of destabilizing the region as Pakistan and the international community are focused on resolving the conflicting in Afghanistan.
He also added that Prime Minister Imran Khan is working hard on Afghan peace process in a bid to resolve the Afghan conflict and bring enduring peace in the country.
This comes as the remarks by certain Pakistani politicians sparked concerns among the Afghan after India scrapped the Article 370, revoking the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir.
The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a Twitter post earlier this evening that “Comments in Pakistan linking peace in Afghanistan to their objectives in Kashmir are indicative of Pakistan viewing Afghanistan as strategic depth.”
Karzai further added “I call on Pakistan govt to stop using extremist violence as instrument of policy in the region.”
He also added “We hope the new measures by govt of India will lead to the betterment and prosperity of people in Jammu and Kashmir as the citizens of India.”
August 9, 2019
LAHORE: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) vice ameer Liaquat Baloch and Abdul Ghaffar Aziz have appealed to the Muslim world and organisations to come forward and mobilise public opinion across the world against genocide of Kashmiri Muslims in Held Kashmir and converting the Muslim state into another ‘Palestine’. Both the leaders held meetings with different Muslim leaders and organisations in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia where they are currently visiting.
Baloch is in Makkah for performing Haj while Abdul Ghaffar is visiting Malaysia for meeting Muslim groups. They apprised the local people about the emerging situation in Held Kashmir.
Baloch presided over the meeting of the leaders of different political parties, including PTI, PML-N, PPP, Muslim Conference and others whose leadership is also in Makkah. Baloch said China should play an effective role in resolving Kashmir crisis. He hoped Islamabad would start an aggressive campaign against Indian move.
Ghaffar Aziz held meetings with members of Malaysian parliament, civil society and human rights organisations. He apprised four federal ministers of Malaysia about the latest situation in Kashmir and Pakistani stand on it. They said Malaysia would play an effective role in the protection of human rights in Kashmir.
Aug 08, 2019
The Arabic-language Baghdad al-Youm news website affiliated to the ISIL quoted Fazel Abu Raqif, an Iraqi security expert, as saying that Abdollah Qardash, one of the inmates in Bouka prison near the town of Um al-Qasr in Iraq, which was protected by the US, and the Mufti of al-Qaeda, was adopted as al-Baghdadi's successor.
He added that Qardash was one of the dangerous commanders close to Baghdadi, noting that he was the first person who joined the ISIL leader after Mosul's collapse.
His remarks came as reports said late in July that al-Baghdadi were hiding in Syria after he was paralyzed in Iraq’s recent anti-terror operations.
“Al-Baghdadi together with a number of his Arab and foreign aides are presently in Syria as he is feeling too much danger after several ISIL commanders were killed in Iraqi Army’s military operations on ISIL’s hideouts in Western Iraq,” Head of Iraq’s Intelligence Forces Abu Ali al-Basri told the Arabic-language al-Sabah newspaper.
He noted that al-Baghdadi was taken a defensive position under threat by Iraq’s intelligence forces, escaping battle with the Syrian and Iraqi armies.
Al-Basri noted that al-Baghdadi was still very much popular among his foreign, Arab and Iraqi militants, and said that the ISIL ringleader is now replacing some his commanders after he lost a number of his militants and aides in a joint military operation by the Iraqi intelligence forces and the Syrian Army.
He reiterated that al-Baghdadi had been paralyzed after he sustained a spinal cord injury in the Iraqi forces’ attack on a meeting between him and his aides in al-Hojin region before the ISIL left the region in 2018.
In a relevant development in early June, the Iraqi sources reported that al-Baghdadi was hiding in the Western deserts of al-Anbar province at the border with Syria.
UN chief invokes Shimla Agreement, calls for ‘maximum restraint’ on Kashmir
Aug 09, 2019
UN chief Antonio Guterres on Thursday urged India and Pakistan to exercise “maximum restraint” and refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir, as he highlighted the Shimla Agreement which rejects any third-party mediation on the issue.
The Secretary-General’s remarks came after India on Monday revoked Article 370 to withdraw the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories - Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Pakistan termed the Indian action as “unilateral and illegal”, and said it will take the matter to the UN Security Council.
“The Secretary-General has been following the situation in Jammu and Kashmir with concern and makes an appeal for maximum restraint,” Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric said here.
Dujarric specifically said that the Secretary-General “also recalls the 1972 Agreement on bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, also known as the Shimla Agreement, which states that the final status of Jammu and Kashmir is to be settled by peaceful means” in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
The Secretary General did not offer his good offices nor did he make any offer to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir.
Instead, he referred to the Shimla Agreement, which is a bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan and rejects any third-party mediation in the issue.
Guterres also called “on all parties to refrain from taking steps” that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir.
He said the position of the United Nations on the region was governed by the Charter of the United Nations and is applicable to Security Council resolutions.
When asked to be more specific about reference to the UNSC resolutions on Kashmir in the statement, Dujarric said “I’m not going to go into any more specifics of the statement which also refers to our concern” about reports of restrictions in Kashmir in India.
“So I’ll refer you to the statement,” he said.
Dujarric reiterated that Guterres and the UN Secretariat were following the situation “very closely”.
He said there had been contacts from the UN Secretariat both with the Indian and Pakistani authorities and with the Permanent Missions of India and Pakistan.
He said there is no plan for the Secretary-General to brief the Security Council on Kashmir.
Reacting to India’s move, Pakistan expelled the Indian envoy and downgraded its diplomatic ties with New Delhi.
India has said that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and the issue was strictly internal to the country.
A look at one way ISIS is trying to incite attacks inside the US
In a little over a month, we will mark the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. There are ongoing debates about the current strength of al Qaeda, and last week media reported that the organization's up and coming leader, Osama bin Laden's son Hamza, had gotten his wish for martyrdom. This will surely hurt the organization. Still, al Qaeda continues to fester all over the world, with a strong presence in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, India, Yemen, and many other places, as its leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri remains at large, releasing videos every few months — most recently on July 10.
Al Qaeda's rival ISIS enjoys far more media attention, far more support from the younger generation of jihadis, and far more foreign fighters joining its ranks. While its official caliphate has crumbled, it remains strong in the cyber caliphate and on social media and continues to successfully spread its brand and ideology worldwide.
It gears its propaganda towards young jihadis who are uninspired by the previous jihadi generation's al Qaeda and a septuagenarian Zawahiri hiding in a cave but are inspired instead by ISIS's HD videos — and by its sharable graphic images known as "posters" aimed at inciting violence and attacks. These graphics visually depict attacks on widely recognizable U.S. and Western locations or landmarks, paired with text intended to incite lone-wolf terrorism.
Not only are these graphics incredibly easy to produce and disseminate on social media, they effectively exacerbate the radicalization of individuals, communicating to them where and how to attack. That’s why official jihadi media outlets and many unofficial ones are posting these images daily.
Posting and sharing these graphic posters has become so widespread that jihadis themselves are beginning to complain. On Aug. 4, an ISIS supporter posted a diatribe on a jihadi Telegram account accusing other supporters of cowardice for preferring to share posters rather than "answer[ing] the call" and "kill[ing] unbelievers" like Paris attacker Amedyh Coulibaly, Charlie Hebdo killers the Kouachi brothers, Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock/Abu Abdul Barr Al-Amriki, and Belgium Jewish museum shooter Mehdi Nemmouche. Instead of "grab[bing] a big knife and stab[bing] crusaders in the heart," he wrote, they are "treating crusaders to posters every day."
The graphics are also inciting viewers to hit specific states and cities. An unofficial count by MEMRI researchers of U.S. targets depicted in the graphics finds that over the past 12 months New York is in the lead, with 16 inciting to attacks there. Next are the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia (13), and after them California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, and Ohio (15 total).
The past two weeks alone saw many of these graphics released online by pro-ISIS media groups, including the Al-'Adalyat Media Foundation, the pro-ISIS Ash-Shaff Media Foundation, and the pro-ISIS Telegram channel GreenB1rds. The images in them included a drone being aimed at New York City with the text "Soon in your skies"; the U.S. Capitol in flames; the San Francisco skyline and Golden Gate Bridge with the text "The revenge attacks in your city"; President Trump with a bullet wound in his forehead surrounded by flames with the text "O America, may Allah Destroy All of You," and a depiction of the White House exploding and the American flag burning, with the text "It won't be easy but it'll be worth it."
This year, alleged ISIS supporters have been arrested for attempting to attack some of these very locations — the White House and New York City specifically, but also at populated public venues near Washington.
In October 2018 an alleged member of the Khattab Media Foundation, Ashraf Al Safoo of Chicago, an Iraqi-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was charged with conspiracy to provide material support and resources to ISIS. The Khattab Media Foundation, according to the Department of Justice, is “an internet-based organization that has sworn an oath of allegiance to ISIS and created and disseminated ISIS propaganda online.” Al Safoo, the DOJ charged, “created and shared pro-ISIS videos, articles, essays and infographics across multiple social media platforms, at the direction and in coordination with ISIS.”
The graphics being disseminated by jihadi groups clearly show that these groups want attacks on targets in the U.S. and other Western countries and that they are inciting their keyboard warriors to move from consuming their propaganda to carrying out attacks.
Additionally, the vast amount of content aimed at inciting an attack within the U.S. is a reminder that 18 years after 9/11, the war on terrorism is ongoing, as is the threat to the homeland. In a statement last October before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned: "We remain concerned that groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda have the intent to carry out large-scale attacks in the U.S. … Despite significant losses of territory, ISIS remains relentless and ruthless in its campaign of violence against the West and has aggressively promoted its hateful message, attracting like-minded extremists."
In a snub to Pak, Taliban say no link between Afghanistan and Kashmir
NEW DELHI: In what would certainly be described as a snub to Pakistan, the Taliban have opposed linking Kashmir with Afghanistan, a staple tool in Pakistan’s diplomatic talking points.
Expressing “deep sadness” at what they described as a “ crisis” in J&K, the extremist Afghan group now negotiating a withdrawal of US presence, the spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid said, “Linking the issue of Kashmir with that of Afghanistan by some parties will not aid in improving the crisis at hand because the issue of Afghanistan is not related nor should Afghanistan be turned into the theatre of competition between other countries.”
The Taliban count Pakistan as one of their premier patrons, including giving sanctuary, training and funding to their fighters and leaders over the years. It is Pakistan’s close ties with the Taliban that has given Islamabad space in the peace process. Pakistan sees its assistance with the peace process in Afghanistan as a lever to get the US to push India for a Kashmir settlement.
By changing the status of J&K into a Union territory, India has taken that off the table. Pakistan in the past few days has threatened to torpedo the Afghan peace talks as a pressure tactic on the US. The Taliban statement, which appears to have been “influenced” by the US robs Pakistan of that plank.
The Taliban statement was preceded by a similar one from former Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Tweeting, Karzai said, “Comments in Pakistan linking peace in Afghanistan to their objectives in Kashmir are indicative of Pakistan viewing Afghanistan as strategic depth. I call on Pakistan govt to stop using extremist violence as instrument of policy in the region. We hope the new measures by govt of India will lead to the betterment and prosperity of people in Jammu and Kashmir as the citizens of India.”
The Taliban statement is almost statesmanlike, despite its unhappy tone. They have carefully refrained from criticising India, instead of focusing on the “difficulties and hardships of Muslims of Kashmir.” The mildly worded statement also keeps a path open for engagement with India. As the US prepares to leave, India is also debating about how to engage the Taliban which will certainly become a dominant political force in Afghanistan.
“Having gained bitter experiences from war and conflict, we urge peace and use of rational pathways to solve regional issues.
We call on both involved parties, OIC, Islamic countries, United Nations to play a constructive role in preventing insecurity in Kashmir.” Mujahid said.
Jammu and Kashmir issue: Malaysia, Saudi cite UNSC resolutions, US calls for restraint
by Shubhajit Roy
EXPRESSING “CONCERN”, Saudi Arabia on Thursday called for a peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir issue, in accordance with the relevant international resolutions. Malaysia also underlined the need to respect the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions related to J&K. Follow Jammu and Kashmir LIVE updates
In their measured response, these two countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) did not take sides. Earlier, two other OIC countries — UAE and Maldives — backed India, saying that its decision on J&K was an “internal issue”.
“While expressing its concern over the latest developments, the Kingdom affirms that the settlement of the conflict is through peaceful settlement in accordance with the relevant international resolutions, and calls on the parties concerned to maintain peace and stability in the region and to take into account the interests of the people of the region,” said the Saudi statement.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad expressed hope that India and Pakistan would exercise “utmost restraint” to prevent further escalation. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday briefed Mahathir on the situation.
Meanwhile, two powerful Democratic lawmakers in the US asked Pakistan to refrain from any “retaliatory aggression” against India and to take “demonstrable action” against terrorist groups within its territory.
Senator Robert Menendez and Congressman Eliot Engel, in a joint statement, also expressed concern over the restrictions in J&K. Menendez is a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while Engel is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Pakistan must refrain from any retaliatory aggression, including support for infiltrations across the Line of Control, and take demonstrable action against the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistan’s soil,” they said.
Expressing concern over the detentions and restrictions in J&K, they said that “India has an opportunity to demonstrate for all its citizens the importance of protecting and promoting equal rights, including freedom of assembly, access to information, and equal protection under the law…”
A PTI report quoted a US State Department spokesperson as saying that Washington was “closely following” the issue, and noted “the broader implications of these developments, including the potential for increased instability in the region”. “
The European Union asked India and Pakistan to re-open dialogue through diplomatic channels. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/ Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, also reiterated the EU’s stance of backing a bilateral solution between India and Pakistan on Kashmir.
“The European Union supports a bilateral political solution between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, which remains the only way to solve a long-lasting dispute that causes instability and insecurity in the region,” the EU said in a statement.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his country hopes that the Indian government’s “new measures” will lead to the betterment of people in J&K, and asked Pakistan to stop using extremist violence as an instrument of policy in the region.
UN concerned over ‘restrictions’
New Delhi: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday expressed concern over reports of “restrictions” in Kashmir, “which could exacerbate the human rights situation in the region”.
“The Secretary-General calls on all parties to refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir,” a spokesperson said, in a statement.
Full report at:
by Shubhajit Roy
A day after Pakistan decided to downgrade diplomatic relations and suspend bilateral trade with India which revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi Thursday struck a measured tone and urged Islamabad to review its decision.
Underlining that revoking the special status of J&K and its bifurcation into two Union Territories is “entirely the internal affair of India”, the Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement, said: “The Constitution of India was, is and will always be a sovereign matter. Seeking to interfere in that jurisdiction by invoking an alarmist vision of the region will never succeed.”
Islamabad, meanwhile, said that it will stop running the Samjhauta Express train service. Pakistan’s Railway Minister Sheikh Rasheed announced the suspension of the service. But Pakistan said it will continue work on the Kartarpur corridor.
Sources said Delhi, while pointing out Pakistan’s motives to the international community, wants to convey a more reasonable approach towards Islamabad.
Responding to Pakistan’s retaliatory measures, India said Pakistan has decided to take “certain unilateral actions” in respect to bilateral relations, including downgrading of “our diplomatic relations”.
Delhi said Islamabad’s objective is to present an alarming picture to the world. “The intention behind these measures is obviously to present an alarming picture to the world of our bilateral ties. The reasons cited by Pakistan are not supported by facts on the ground,” it said.
Listing the benefits of India’s move on J&K, the MEA said: “Recent decisions by the Government and Parliament of India are driven by a commitment to extend to Jammu and Kashmir opportunities for development that were earlier denied by a temporary provision in the Constitution. Its impact would also result in the removal of gender and socio-economic discrimination. It is also expected to result in an upswing of economic activity and improvement in the livelihood prospects of all people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
In the same breath, it hit out out at Islamabad: “It is not surprising that such developmental initiatives that could address any disaffection in Jammu and Kashmir should be negatively perceived in Pakistan, which has utilised such sentiments to justify its cross-border terrorism.”
The MEA said: “The government of India regrets the steps announced by Pakistan yesterday and would urge that country to review them so that normal channels for diplomatic communications are preserved.”
A day after Parliament ratified the government’s decision to end the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories, Pakistan Wednesday announced it was downgrading diplomatic relations with India, and asked Delhi to withdraw its High Commissioner from Islamabad. Pakistan also said it would not be sending its High Commissioner-designate to India.
by Deeptiman Tiwary
August 8, 2019
Depending on which way New Delhi moved, there were generally two expressions on Kashmiri faces: anger or hope. But as the news of New Delhi’s move to bury Article 370 and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories sunk in Tuesday, those faces bore an expression of defeat.
“What is the point of seeking our opinion anymore? Everything is finished,” said Saeed Khan, 45, an electronics engineer living near Lal Chowk in Srinagar.
The Kashmir capital was a ghost town and Khan’s sentiment is the refrain on the lips of many: a fruit seller at Batmaloo, a father who walked his son home through a deserted alley near Eidgah and a policeman who stood guard near a concertina barricade at Rambagh.
Virtually on lockdown since Sunday, with communication lines and Internet suspended, prohibitory orders imposed across the Valley and a surge in troop deployment, Srinagar bore the look of a city under siege.
Markets and shops shut, schools and colleges suspended, roads barricaded and guarded by gun-toting security men and vehicle movement restricted only to emergency hospital services.
“After the 2016 upheaval, things had improved massively in the past year. Separatists were in jail. There were no strikes, hardly any stone pelting, schools were running, shops were open and tourist inflow had increased. Everyone was happy. Then, in one stroke they have antagonised every Kashmiri who was with them. I don’t know when and how we will come out of the aftermath of this decision,” said Khan.
His neighbour and friend, who requested anonymity, blamed it on hubris. “They are so drunk on power that they are unable to see us as people. They won’t have to bear the consequences of this, we will have to,” he said.
A kilometre away at Saraibal, Imtiaz Unwani, a BA first-year student hailing from Langate in South Kashmir, is worried and angry. “Kashmir is a Volcano with a lid of politics. They have put Omar (Abdullah) and (Mehbooba) Mufti behind bars. They are planning to arrest our MLA Engineer Rashid, a man who always told us to stay away from stone-pelting. And now this. They have opened the lid. ”
It is a worry shared by the J&K Police too. “I am a government servant. I will follow orders. But what will I explain to my son? How will I convince him that the Indian state is thinking about him and that he must not join stone pelters. The youngsters are already saying that when a death wish has been imposed on us, what’s the point of going to school,” said a J&K Police constable.
There is just as much uncertainty among senior officers. No one seems to know how long the lockdown and suspension of communication lines will continue, and what happens after it is lifted.
“This is unprecedented. We have never faced a situation like this. We were not taken into confidence about this. We learnt about it on TV. We are just following instructions as of now,” said a senior J&K police officer.
In the past couple of days though there have been no major incidents of violence in Kashmir barring sporadic stone pelting episodes.
The collective anxiety was also reflected in the Tuesday flight to Srinagar from Delhi. It went almost empty with barely 30 passengers, but flew back to Delhi packed.
In the journey to Srinagar, the flight largely had worried Kashmiris rushing back home: a Jamia Millia Islamia university student, a retired government employee coming back from Malaysia to see his daughter and a businessman flying his family out of Kashmir – none of them willing to be identified.
“My older son is in the US and the younger one is in Malaysia. I was in Malaysia for two months and landed in Delhi yesterday when I got the shock. My older son was saying come to the US, but my daughter is in Srinagar, and I have not been able to speak to her for the past two days. So I am rushing. We don’t know how we will reach home as we can’t speak to anyone in Kashmir. We will reach Srinagar and figure it out,” said the retired government servant.
The student from Jamia Milia Islamia, pursuing his M.Tech degree, was carrying a TV screenshot of the news announcing the scrapping of Article 370. “I live in Pulwama. I don’t know if my parents even know what they have been hit with. The cable lines have also been cut. I am also worried about them. If I don’t get a vehicle in Srinagar, I will walk to Pulwama,” he said.
He was also worried about his future. “I had thought of completing my education and then joining a college in Kashmir as a professor. But with Article 370 gone, that opportunity is also lost. Already there are no jobs in Kashmir. They think this way they can win our hearts. It shows they just want Kashmir and not Kashmiris,” he said.
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to allow urgent listing of a petition challenging the Presidential Order on Article 370 for scrapping Jammu & Kashmir’s special status and said the case would be heard in due course.
The court also turned down the request for urgent hearing on another plea for release of political leaders in J&K and for restoration of telephone and internet connection in the state.
As CJI Ranjan Gogi and senior-most judge S A Bobde are part of the constitution bench hearing the Ayodhya land dispute, the mentioning for urgent listing was done before a bench of Justice N V Ramana, who is third in seniority.
India Makes it Easier to Charge Citizens With Alleged Ties to IS
By Nafisa Hoodbhoy
Indian authorities are stepping up efforts to investigate and bring charges against Indian citizens allegedly linked to Islamic State (IS). This comes in the wake of the Easter bombings in April in neighboring Sri Lanka that killed 259 people and wounded hundreds, according to Indian officials.
To achieve this, the Indian parliament amended laws giving the National Investigation Agency (NIA) expanded powers to prosecute individuals designated as “terrorists.”
Last week, India passed the NIA amendment bill in the parliament’s Upper House, after resistance from opposition political parties in both houses of parliament.
India Home Minister Amit Shah, from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, said that passing the bill, “Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill (UAPA),” had become necessary to keep law enforcement agencies “four steps ahead of terrorists.”
“It is important to designate individuals as terrorists as they start new organizations once an outfit is banned,” Shah told the country’s lawmakers, while making a case for the new law.
Experts see the new amendment as paving the way for authorities to prosecute Indian citizens, arrested for links with the Sri Lankan bombers and other terrorism related charges.
Since the Sri Lanka bombings, Indian authorities have stepped up their efforts to crack down on suspected militants. There are fears of copycat effects by IS sympathizers in parts of India.
In April, the NIA raided districts of Kerala state, where, among others, they arrested Riyas Abu Bakr and Abu Dujana for alleged links with Hashim. Abu Bakr reportedly traveled to Afghanistan in 2016 to meet IS militants and plan an attack in India.
The arrests followed the seizure of computers and confiscated handwritten notes from several suspects that could link them with Sri Lankan bombing mastermind, Zahran Hashim, a member of National Towheed Jamaat. Authorities discovered Azarudeen was a Facebook friend Hashim.
The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the Sri Lankan terrorist attacks, showing a video that featured Hashim pledging allegiance to the terror group. NIA investigations reveal that Hashim spent a few months in India, where he tried to motivate youths there to join IS.
Chief editor of New Dehli Opinion Post, Maneesh Kumar, has followed the arrest of Indians since the bombings in Sri Lanka. He told VOA that the stage is now set to prosecute the suspected Indians for being linked to the Easter bombing.
“NIA has won the government’s support to file cases against Indians in Tamil Nadu and Kerala connected to the Sri Lanka terror attacks,” Kumar said.
Raids in Kerala
“There is a very strong network between Indians from the south Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and Islamic extremists in Sri Lanka,” Uday Bhaskar, a retired Indian naval officer and a military expert, told VOA.
In June, the NIA raided locations in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, and arrested seven men on charges of propagating IS ideology and recruiting youths for attacks in India.
Some security analysts charge that certain Indian nationals have previously traveled to Syria, Iraq, Kashmir and Afghanistan to fight for the IS terror group, with some returning to India to build networks in the region.
‘Wake up call’
Zubair Iqbal, an analyst at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, charges that connections between radicals in India and Sri Lanka should server as a “wake up call” for India.
“Militant operatives in South India spent a year scoping the seaside town of Kattankudy in Sri Lanka [before carrying out the attack],” Iqbal told VOA, adding that the militants were able to penetrate the strong ethnic bonds among Tamils.
“The militants went beyond Tamil ethnic relationships to bond with Sri Lankans on the basis of religion,” he said.
Despite limited resources, experts believe IS has been able to forge a network of dedicated followers in India’s south. They say this is in part because IS has been desperately searching for new fertile grounds and opportunities to conduct or inspire major terror attacks.
“IS selected Kerala because it had built a relationship with [some] Indians in the south,” Kamran Bukhari, founding director of the Center for Global Policy in Washington, told VOA.
“IS has become so dependent on people on the ground, that it goes to where there is an availability of human resources,” Bukhari added.
Opposition parties have expressed concern that minorities may suffer under the new law.
Last week Indian Home Minister Shah urged opponents to support the UAPA law, “to prove to the world and the terrorists that we are united in this fight.”
Congress Party spokesperson Meem Afzal told VOA, “There is a lot of difference between what the home minister is saying, and our concern about a law being misused against minorities.
“We are preparing a full-fledged rebuttal to the BJP’s passage of the NIA amendment bill,” he said, adding that his party would challenge the new law in the country’s Supreme Court.
The new law mandates that individuals declared “terrorists” could face a travel ban and their property could be seized. Moreover, NIA would investigate offenses perpetrated outside the country, which according to some analysts, could amount to abuse of power.
The ruling BJP has assured the opposition that a four-level scrutiny system would ensure the NIA amendment does not violate human rights.
Still, some security analysts like Bhaskar argue, “Some aspects of the bill like confiscating property of suspected terrorists may be excessive.”
Concerns of radicalization
Some experts are concerned that the government’s push to pass the new terror law could lead to the radicalization of India’s Muslim population.
“If the BJP grows more powerful, it’ll shift the power balance and the cultural milieu. If there is excessive persecution of Muslims, this could push Indians toward IS,” analyst Iqbal said.
Other Indian analysts say that India is fundamentally secular and will not deviate from its constitutional order.
Ayodhya case: Muslim party opposes 5-days-a-week hearing, says it can't be rushed through
NEW DELHI: A Muslim party on Friday opposed in the Supreme Court five-day a week hearing of the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case in Ayodhya, saying it was not possible to assist the court if it is rushed through.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi Friday commenced hearing on the fourth day in the case.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the Muslim party, raised objection to the five days hearing of the matter.
"It is not possible to assist the court if it is heard on all days of the week. This is the first appeal and the hearing cannot be rushed in this manner and I am put to torture," Dhavan told the bench, also comprising justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer.
The United States on Thursday reiterated it did not get a heads-up on Kashmir developments from India but the two sides could have the first opportunity to discuss the issue at greater length in a first high-level meeting since when deputy secretary of state John Sullivan is in New Delhi next week on a prearranged visit.
Sullivan, who will be joined by head of the state department’s south and central Asia bureau Alice Wells, is expected to meet External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
Morgan Ortagus, the state department spokesperson, said these visits had been scheduled from before when asked if they were occasioned by Kashmir developments, but she did not rule out discussions about them during the upcoming visits, “Do I think that this will come up? I mean, I think obviously this is something that we watch incredibly closely. It’s something that we’ve called for calm and restraint by all parties. We want to (maintain) peace and stability, and we, of course, support direct – the direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern. And I’m sure that will be addressed when all three of them travel.”
The third person she was referring to is US Special Representative for Afghanistan peace talks Zalmay Khalilzad, who was in New Delhi a few days ago and met the external affairs minister.
Taking “note” of India’s characterization of the change in the status of Jammu and Kashmir — from a state to Union Territory — as an “internal” matter and without questioning the Modi government for it, the United States has nevertheless criticized the clampdown in Kashmir as it has sought to calibrate its response with an eye on the Afghan pease process, and not buck Pakistan’s cooperation in bringing the Taliban to the negotiations.
The United States has denied it had been consulted or informed by India ahead of the changes, as reported by section of the India media, and Morgan weighed in on it personally Thursday telling reporters she was present at the meeting between Jaishankar and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of the recent ASEAN meetings at which the two officials might have discussed Kashmir, but didn’t.
“I was in the meeting,” Ortagus told reporters in response to a question and added in affirmative — “that’s right” — when asked if no heads-up were given then.
The state department spokesperson then went on say in response to another question that there is no change in US policy on Kashmir, quashing Pakistani propaganda fueled by Pakistani Americans and sympathetic partisan reporters seeking to build on President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate in response to visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s public appeal to him in front of dozens of TV cameras and reporters at joint appearance in the White House.
Here is the exchange between Ortagus and the reporter, as reproduced in the official transcript:
QUESTION: Has there been any change in US policy on Kashmir?
MS ORTAGUS: No.
QUESTION: There’s no change on it?
MS ORTAGUS: No. And if there was, I certainly wouldn’t be announcing it here, but no, there’s not. (Laughter.)
…MS ORTAGUS: Because we would let someone more important like the President do that”.
There has been no change in US policy on Kashmir despite Trump’s recent mediation offers, as the administration has said in multiple statements cleaning up after the president. And the president has offered mediation, it needs to be stressed for those inclined to believe in conspiracy theories, only in response to public requests. The first time was in response to Prime Minister Khan and the second was in response to a question from a reporter asking him about India’s rejection of his offer.
Pakistan violated the ceasefire in place along the Line of Control (LoC) twice on Wednesday in the Sunderbani sector of Rajouri district amid a fresh flare-up in bilateral tensions, an army officer said on Thursday.
The first violation was reported in the afternoon and the second late in the night. Pakistani troops resorted to mortar shelling and small arms firing on forward posts and villages.
The late night violations followed Islamabad’s decision to downgrade diplomatic ties with New Delhi in protest against the Indian Parliament’s nullification of Article 370 that provided Jammu and Kashmir special status, and decision to bifurcate the state into two Union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh .
Defence ministry spokesman Lt Col Devendra Anand said, “On Wednesday, around 10.15 pm, Pakistan initiated ceasefire violation by firing of small arms and shelling with mortars in the Sunderbani sector of Rajouri district. The Indian Army is retaliating befittingly.”
In the first incident, Pakistani troops had started firing from across the border in Sunderbani sector in the afternoon, prompting “strong and effective retaliation” by Indian Army soldiers guarding the border, the officer said.
He said the exchange of fire between the two sides continued until 2.30 pm. Wednesday’s were the latest in a string of ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the LoC.
A ceasefire violation was reported on the night of August 5 from the Machil sector of Kupwara district when an infiltration bid by five to six armed militants was foiled and a soldier was injured in firing. On August 3, Pakistan targeted Mehdhar sector of Poonch.
On the intervening night of July 31 and August 1, the army had claimed to have repelled an attempt by a mixed group of Pakistani soldiers and terrorists to attack an army post along the LoC, inflicting heavy casualties.
Army warns India against another ‘misadventure’ in Kashmir
RAWALPINDI: Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor has warned India that “any misadventure” in Kashmir would meet with a “response even stronger than that of 27 Feb”.
He was referring towards the airstrike conducted by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) across the Line of Control (LoC) from Pakistani airspace in which it shot down two Indian MIG-21 aircraft that had crossed the de-facto border in a follow-up to the Pulwama incident in occupied Kashmir.
In a series of tweets posted late Thursday night, the chief military spokesperson observed that “thousands of Indian troops have failed to suppress just struggle of brave Kashmiris for decades,” adding: “Current surge won’t succeed either.”
Usual blatant lies. An attempt to carve out causes belli for a misadventure to divert world attention from precarious situation & atrocities in IOJ&K. While IOJ&K faces media blackout, AJ&K is open to foreign media & UNMOGIP to visit place of their own choosing. Can you do same? https://twitter.com/chinarcorpsia/status/1159556740741865472 …
Chinar Corps - Indian Army
"Lately #Pak has been openly threatening about certain incidents in #Kashmir. Notwithstanding we'll take care of all of them; let anyone come & try & disrupt the peace in valley, we will have him eliminated!"- #ChinarCorpsCdr#IndianArmy #commonCausePeace @SpokespersonMoD @adgpi
Should there be an attempt by Indian Army to undertake any misadventure, Pakistan’s response shall be even stronger than that of 27 Feb 2019.
Thousands of Indian troops have failed to suppress just struggle of brave Kashmiris for decades. Current surge won’t succeed either.
02:18 - 9 Aug 2019
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In another tweet posted in response to a video of the Indian Chinar Corps Commander, Lieutenant General Kanwal Jeet Singh Dhillon, Ghafoor dismissed as “usual blatant lies” the statement in which the official, while interacting with journalists, had said India would “take care” of anyone who disrupted peace in occupied Kashmir and alleged that “the Pakistan Army and Pakistan had always been involved in disrupting peace in the Kashmir Valley”.
He dubbed the statement as “an attempt to carve out casus belli for a misadventure to divert world attention from precarious situation & atrocities in IOJ&K [Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir].”
The ISPR DG further added that while Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) was facing a media blackout, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) was open to the foreign media and the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) could visit “place(s) of their own choosing” in AJK.
“Can you do the same?” he asked Lt. Gen. Dhillon.
In its response to India’s recent actions in occupied Kashmir, Pakistan on Wednesday ended bilateral trade, downgraded diplomatic ties and, in a rare occurrence, and directed New Delhi to withdraw its High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria from Islamabad.
The decision was made during a high-profile meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) which was presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad. This was the second such meeting called by the premier in this week concerning crisis emanating from Kashmir.
The meeting also decided to review the Pakistan-India bilateral arrangements, take the matter to the United Nations and observe the upcoming Independence Day on August 14 in solidarity with Kashmiris.
“PM directed that all diplomatic channels be activated to expose brutal Indian racist regime, design and human rights violations,” a statement issued after the meeting said. The premier also directed the armed forces to continue their vigilance, as per the handout.
The meeting attended by the top civilian and military leadership also decided to recall Pakistan’s ambassador from New Delhi.
Pakistan calling UNSC meeting over Kashmir issue, says Lodhi
LAHORE: Permanent Representative to the United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi on Thursday said that Pakistan is preparing to call an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) over India’s illegal revoking of Article 370, thus withdrawing Kashmir’s special status.
While speaking to veteran journalist and Pakistan Today Editor Arif Nizami on Channel 92’s programme ‘Ho Kya Raha Hai’, the envoy said that India rejected US President Donald Trump’s offer of mediation in Kashmir dispute and took an illegal step, thus insulting many international laws.
She said that she held important meetings with the UN leadership over the issue and is preparing to move the case before the world body in UNSC session. The envoy further said that Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi would also be flying to China to highlight India’s atrocities in front of the Chinese leadership.
Earlier in the programme, Arif Nizami brought up Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz’s arrest for discussion. He said that the arrest came at a time when there are hostilities between the opposition and the government.
Talking about Maryam’s arrest, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that the government had nothing to do with the arrest because the institutions are autonomous. “Those who were involved in corrupt practices must be held accountable now,” she added.
ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday said Pakistan would stand by Kashmiris in all situations and would exercise concrete options in response to India’s illegal move of revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
“The only viable solution to settle Kashmir dispute lies in conforming to the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council in order to avert a grave threat ahead,” Foreign Office Spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal said in a weekly press briefing.
The spokesman said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi would be heading to China for an in-depth discussion on the serious matter.
He said the attorney general for Pakistan was also looking into probabilities of invoking the jurisdiction of International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Asked if Pakistan could go for a complete severing of ties with India following the recent diplomatic downgrade, the spokesman said, “Everything remains in the realm of possibility.”
Of Pakistan’s reaction on Line of Control ceasefire violations, the spokesman said, “The word ‘fear’ does not exist in our dictionary and India should remember February 27” referring to the incident when Pakistan Air Force downed two India MiGs on LoC violation.
The spokesman dismissed the impression that Pakistan was not aware in advance of India’s revocation of Article 370 on August 5 and said rather the country played pro-actively as the foreign minister had already sent a letter to the United Nations’ chief on August 1, following a meeting of Kashmir’s parliamentary committee.
“Pakistan is mindful of the situation and will continue to extend political, diplomatic and moral support to Kashmiris at all fora,” he said.
He expressed satisfaction that the international community, including China, Turkey, Malaysia and other countries, had given positive statements in favour of Kashmir’s special status.
He said India was in a state of panic after its illegal step, which was obvious through a presence of 9,00,000 troops in Occupied Kashmir, the imposition of curfew and internet blockade.
On social media trends where Indian men expressed wishful intent of ‘get a wife from Kashmir’ linking it with Article 370’s revocation, he said, “This is despicable and entirely condemnable, and strong notice should be taken by the international community and also by Facebook and Twitter”.
Would the situation in Occupied Kashmir affect the implementation of Kartarpur corridor, he said, “notwithstanding the recent development, Pakistan will continue working towards the materializing of the project”.
On the Afghan peace process, he said Pakistan would continue to play the role of the facilitator and expressed hope that recent Kashmir situation would not have any impact on its continuation.
WASHINGTON: US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham spoke with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi about India’s move to strip occupied Kashmir of its special status and the deteriorating tensions in the disputed valley.
“Just spoke with the Pakistani Foreign Minister about the growing crisis in Kashmir. India’s decision to change the status quo must be addressed before it leads to a further escalation of tensions,” Graham posted on Twitter late Wednesday night.
The senator expressed hope the US government would play its role in helping the arch-enemies to find a middle ground.
“Hope the Trump Administration will provide assistance to both Pakistan and India to find a way to deescalate the current crisis. The last thing the region and the world needs is further military confrontations between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.”
• 8 Aug 2019
Just spoke with the Pakistani Foreign Minister about the growing crisis in Kashmir. India’s decision to change the status quo must be addressed before it leads to a further escalation of tensions.
Hope the Trump Administration will provide assistance to both Pakistan and India to find a way to deescalate the current crisis. The last thing the region and the world needs is further military confrontations between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.
02:23 - 8 Aug 2019
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The tweets came hours after a high-profile meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, decided to downgrade diplomatic ties with India, in response to New Delhi’s move to annex occupied Kashmir.
9 August 2019
Pakistan’s foreign minister is visiting China as part of efforts to pressure India to reverse its decision revoking the special status of the disputed region of Kashmir.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi will meet with Chinese leaders Friday.
Before leaving for Beijing, Qureshi said he will apprise Islamabad’s “trusted friend” about the situation after New Delhi downgraded its portion of Kashmir from statehood to a territory, limited its decision-making power and eliminated its right to its own constitution.
India-controlled Kashmir has been under an unprecedented security lockdown to prevent unrest as the decisions were announced. The Himalayan region is claimed in full by both Pakistan and India and divided between them.
Indian authorities will ease a curfew in troubled Kashmir so that the Muslim-majority population can go to Friday prayers, the region’s police chief told AFP.
“People are allowed to pray within their neighborhood, there is no restriction on that,” said Dilbag Singh, director general of police for Kashmir.
“But they should not venture out of their local area,” he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a nationwide address on Thursday that people will “not face difficulties” celebrating Eid. Media reports said however that authorities would only make a decision on curfew restrictions on Sunday.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog, arrested on Thursday opposition leader Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, from Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail while she was visiting her incarcerated father.
The NAB said in a statement that Maryam and her cousin, Yousaf Abbas Sharif, were taken into custody in connection with a graft case relating to Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM), owned by the Sharif family. They will be presented before an accountability court on Friday, the statement added.
Meanwhile, the daycare centre at NAB headquarters in Lahore has been declared a sub-jail for Maryam.
A day earlier, special assistant to the prime minister on accountability Shahzad Akbar said the Sharif family used CSM to launder money and availed of millions of rupees in subsidies without actually exporting sugar.
The sugar mill, Akbar said, was set up in 1991 as an offshore company when Nawaz Sharif was PM and the family had obtained a loan of $15 million from Bahrain to purchase its machinery. “The mill was established even before the loan was released,” he said. In 2008, the PM’s aide said, the mill’s shares were transferred to Maryam Nawaz, who later transferred around $7 million to Yousaf in 2010. Her arrest came a day after authorities took PML-N leader and former finance minister Miftah Ismail into custody on graft charges. Last month, former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former president Asif Ali Zardari were arrested on corruption charges.
Nawaz Sharif, who served as PM three times, was sentenced in 2018 to seven years in jail for corruption. Maryam also was convicted by an anti-corruption in a case related to the Sharif family’s properties in London and was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. The Islamabad high court, however, had suspended the sentence and ordered her release.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said on Thursday that it remains committed to complete the much-awaited Kartarpur corridor despite its decision to downgrade the diplomatic ties with New Delhi.
The corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, which was established in 1522 by Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak Dev.
"The Kartarpur initiative will continue," foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.
Addressing the weekly media briefing, foreign office spokesperson Muhammad Faisal also said that Pakistan's Kartarpur initiative will continue notwithstanding the latest developments.
Faisal said Pakistan respected all religions and would continue the Kartarpur project to help Sikh pilgrims.
In November 2018, India and Pakistan agreed to set up a border crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur - the final resting place of Guru Nanak - to Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district.
The shrine is visible from the Indian side of the border and every day a larger number of Sikh devotees gather to perform Darshan or sacred viewings of the site.
According to reports, 90 per cent work on the Kartarpur corridor, including the construction of the main road, bridge and buildings from zero line to Gurdwara Sahib has been completed by Pakistan.
In reply to a question, Faisal also rejected the media reports about the release of Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed.
The "media reports about it were fake," he said.
8 Aug 2019
The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) has called on the media to stop referring to grooming gangs that are predominantly comprised of perpetrators from a Pakistani Muslim Pakistani as “Asian”, which inaccurately incorporates much of the British Hindu and Sikh communities.
In the United Kingdom, the term “Asian” typically refers to people from or with roots in south Asia — principally India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh — inclusive of people from the diverse range of faiths in that region, including Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus. It is also used in government reporting services to describe all those mentioned, as well as ethnic Chinese people and people from other groups from the wider Asian continent.
The NSO, a registered charity which represents some 130 gurdwaras (temples) and other Sikh organisations in Britain, made the request on Thursday after consultation with the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).
“British Sikh and Hindu groups have consistently objected to the use of the word ‘Asian’ to describe those convicted in sexual grooming gang cases like in Rochdale, Rotherham, Oxford and Telford,” the NSO said.
Writing on the IPSO’s blog, NSO deputy director Hardeep Singh said that during a meeting with the press standards body in July 2018, they had discussed “the use of the vague and expansive term ‘Asian’, and the consequences of ‘Islamophobia’ on other groups like Sikhs, who often find themselves marginalised in press coverage”.
“Since 9/11 there have been challenges to Sikh identity, which has often been misunderstood. At times it has been conflated with the appearance of Islamists like Osama bin Laden and also with grooming gang criminal cases like Rochdale and Rotherham,” he added.
The NSO has produced guidance on the issue.
This is not the first time that the organisation, following complaints from Sikh and Hindu Britons, has criticised the media for inaccurately describing grooming gangs as “Asian”.
In March 2018, the NSO wrote that they had filed a complaint against IPSO for the leftist Mirror‘s article which used the word “Asian” six times as a “euphemism” for Pakistani Muslim in its own original, extensive expose of the Telford rape gangs which the newspaper claimed was “Britain’s ‘worst ever’ child grooming scandal”, in which some 1,000 girls were abused.
“This cowardly non-specific description of the perpetrators continues to be used in the British press, to describe men of predominantly Pakistani Muslim heritage convicted in grooming gang cases. We believe this is in part due to the fear of offending Muslims,” Mr Singh wrote at the time, adding that the word also “serves to mask the fact that girls from Hindu and Sikh communities have historically fallen foul of grooming gangs themselves”.
“The common denominator in such cases is the deliberate targeting of non-Muslim girls, which we believe should be categorised by the police as a hate crime,” he added.
The issue of gangs of predominantly Pakistani Muslim men grooming and raping white and other non-Muslim girls has been a scourge of some mostly northern English, increasingly multicultural towns for decades, with reports that underage girls were being abused as early as the 1970s. However, the issue did not come to light in the mainstream media until the first major conviction of the Rotherham rapes in 2010.
In August 2014, the Alexis Jay inquiry made a conservative estimate that 1,400 mainly white girls — later revised to over 1,500 — had been systematically groomed and sexually abused by older Pakistani Muslim origin men from the late 1980s to the early 2010s. However, the delay in prosecutions was as a result of a lack of sympathy from police, who blamed the victims — some of whom were as young as 12 — for their own abuse, whilst council staff feared pursuing cases involving mainly ethnic minority child rapists in case it resulted in accusations of racism.
Similar stories played out with the grooming gang scandals in Rochdale and Telford.
Politicians and other prominent figures have come under criticism when articulating the racial or cultural component of such rape gangs — even if in cases they only use the euphemism “Asian”.
Labour’s Sarah Champion, the MP for Rochdale, was fired from her front bench job in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet for talking about the problem of “British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls” in 2017, resulting in her needing increased police security.
The counter-extremism think tank Quilliam published a study in December 2017, authored by two Pakistani heritage men, which found that “Asian” men are massively, disproportionately involved in Type One abuse (the gang rape of vulnerable girls), with just two per cent of the country’s population responsible for 84 per cent of that brand of abuse.
Syed Irfan Raza
August 09, 2019
ISLAMABAD: The government on Thursday decided to focus on the security and development of Balochistan “neglected” by successive governments for decades.
The decision was taken at the first meeting of the high-powered National Development Council (NDC), presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, one of the key members of the council, also attended the meeting.
According to a press release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the meeting discussed the development plan for Balochistan, master plan for Gwadar, creation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority and an accelerated development plan 2019-20 for the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
A detailed presentation was given on the Balochistan development plan that included measures to further improve security environment in the province, especially the border management, establish the writ of the state and develop critical sectors for socio-economic betterment of the people of the province, it said.
The NDC was formed in June this year.
The meeting was informed that the past neglect of Balochistan, lack of connectivity and economic integration, security challenges and underutilisation and mismanagement of resources contributed to poverty in the province. A study on the utilisation of development budget for the last eight years revealed that about 45 per cent of the total development expenditure of the province had been wasted due to pilferage.
It was decided that every possible effort would be made to increase the annual development budget of Balochistan over the next nine years, enabling the province to overcome development challenges, reduce budget deficit and enhance its revenue generation capacity.
The meeting was informed that completion of the M-8 Motorway project and construction of 819km Chaman-Quetta-Karachi Motorway, Basima-Khuzdar Road and 124km Awaran-Bela Road projects would significantly improve connectivity and communication infrastructure in Balochistan. The NDC approved a plan to carry out feasibility studies on a port at Gaddani and establish a special economic zone at Hub.
The forum also approved constitution of the National Coastal Development Authority for development of tourist resorts and promotion of tourism along the coastal areas of Balochistan, including Jiwani, Gwadar, Pasni, Makola, Ormara, Kund Malir, Hingol Park and Miani Hor.
Regarding development of ports, the meeting approved a proposal to build eight landing sites for promoting the local boat industry, including provision of 10,000 green boats.
For development of mines and mineral resources in Balochistan, the council was informed that the province would be divided into four zones — Chagai, Quetta-Duki, Khuzdar-Lasbella and coastal areas — and an appropriate model would be put in place to encourage private investment in large-scale mining.
On development of the oil and gas sector, the meeting was informed that efforts were being made to develop four new blocks — Zhob, Zorgarh, Jandran and Kohlu — for exploration, besides carrying out seismic survey at 30 onshore sites.
The meeting was also briefed on various plans for improvement of agriculture and water management in Balochistan. It approved constitution of the CPEC Authority to ensure early implementation of the corridor projects.
Discussing development of Gwadar and master plan for the city, the meeting approved a conceptual framework of Gwadar special economic district.
9 August 2019
Pakistan will not resort to military action in a row with nuclear arch-rival India over Kashmir, its foreign minister said on Thursday, as tensions soared over New Delhi’s decision to tighten its grip on the disputed region.
The move by Delhi on Monday to strip Kashmir of its special autonomy brought the Indian-held portion of the Himalayan region under its direct rule.
The decision deepened animosity with Pakistan, which has already fought two of its three wars with India over Kashmir, and ignited days of debate within the country over how Islamabad should respond.
“Pakistan is not looking at the military option. We are rather looking at political, diplomatic, and legal options to deal with the prevailing situation,” said Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi during a press conference in Islamabad.
“We have decided to go back to the UN security council to challenge this Indian position, which is morally incorrect,” he added.
Qureshi’s comments come on the heels of a decision by Islamabad to downgrade its diplomatic ties with India, suspend bilateral trade, and expel the country’s envoy.
India has dismissed Pakistan’s moves and said its decision to strip the restive region of its autonomy was an “internal affair”.
Pakistan has vowed to “firmly” stand with Kashmiris, but earlier this week Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed exasperation with war-mongering in parliament, at one point asking rhetorically: “What do you want me to do? Attack India?”
He also warned of the global consequences of war between two nuclear-armed nations.
The Muslim-majority Kashmir region has long been a sensitive flashpoint between India and Pakistan, which have had conflicting claims to the region since independence from Britain in 1947.
The security forces killed or wounded at least 14 Taliban militants during a clash in northern Sar-e-Pul province.
The 209th Shaheen Corps in a statement said the clash broke out at around 10:30 pm local time in Masjid-e Safid area of Sancharak district on Wednesday.
The statement further added that the security forces killed 5 Taliban militants and wounded 9 others during the clash.
Furthermore, the 209th Shaheen Corps said the security forces also recaptured a Humvee armored personnel carrier and defused two improvised explosive devices.
08 Aug 2019
The Afghan government reacted to Taliban supreme leader Mullah Hebatullah Akhundzada’s Eid message, calling his statement rife with fear, terror and war.
Presidential spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi said the people of Afghanistan do not need to hear the message of Taliban.
Sediqqi further added that the message of Taliban still is a message of fear, terror and war.
Furthermore, Sediqqi said the Taliban group is the main factor behind the destruction of the country and civilian casualties.
He also added that the Afghan people want the Taliban to stop war and destruction, emphasizing that the people of Afghanistan will no more be deceived by the group.
This comes as the Taliba supreme leader Hebatullah Akhundzada issued a message ahead of Eid Al-Adha, calling on Taliban militants to refrain from harming the civilians during the Eid days.
The latest Eid message by Taliban supreme leader was issued amid a sharp rise in violence across the country, mainly due to the Taliban-led insurgency.
The U.S. forces conducted airstrikes in central Logar province of Afghanistan killing at least 30 Taliban militants.
The 203rd Thunder Corps said in a statement that the U.S. forces conducted the airstrikes in Dasht-e Aab Josh of Charkh district and Dara-e-Mangal of Azra district.
The statement further added that the airstrikes killed at least 30 Taliban militants and destroyed a Pick Up truck.
Furthermore, the airstrikes also destroyed a Dshk heavy machine gun and a repeater system.
Ostracism a daily reality for indigenous people in Bangladesh
Ever since he was a child growing up in western Bangladesh, Churamon Hembrom realized his ethnic Santal community was not just different but was regarded as somehow “lesser” than the majority Bengalis all around him.
Churamon, 48, a farmer father of four and a Protestant Christian belonging to the Church of Bangladesh, is one of 9,166 Santals living in Tanore, a sub-district of more than 180,000 people, mostly Muslims, in the district of Rajshahi.
In various parts of Tanore an unscripted but visible rule has existed for ages — Santals and other ethnic groups are nowhere allowed to sit with Muslims and are forbidden from even dining with them at social gatherings.
In village markets, restaurants and tea stalls, they are forced to eat and drink in separate corners, and use different plates, cups and glasses. Some restaurants completely prohibit Christian Santals from entering.
About 15 years ago, Churamon and a fellow Santal faced the worst form of such social ostracism.
They were on their way to sell a cow at a local cattle market and stopped to eat at a restaurant. When some nearby Muslims heard about it, they rushed over, scolded them and beat them up. They were only allowed to leave after paying a “fine” and vowing to never do it again.
“This humiliating experience is nothing new for local indigenous Christians,” Churamon told ucanews.com. “Muslims consider them untouchables for various reasons; they hail from poor and dirty households and they eat animals, including pigs, and drink haria [rice beer], which are banned in Islam.”
Still going after 200 years
Ethnic community leaders say thousands of indigenous people still face similar and even more extreme forms of social discrimination, as they have done in the Tanore, Puthia and Godagari areas of Rajshahi district, the Ghoraghat area of Dinajpur district and Pirganj area of Rangpur district for nearly two centuries.
During British colonial rule, thousands of people from Santal and other ethnic communities migrated to northern parts of present-day Bangladesh, starting in the late 18th century.
The British brought them from various Indian states, including Bihar, Odisha and Chhoto Nagpur, to employ them as railroad workers and farmhands.
While many Santals in northern Bangladesh switched to other professions after getting an education most, like Churamon, still rely on farming for their livelihoods. Many continue to face social ostracism on a daily basis even though they have become economically independent.
Churamon’s past poverty meant he failed to continue his education after grade five but his four children — three daughters and one son — completed their secondary education until the age of 16.
His eldest daughter got married, the second become a registered nurse and the youngest is still at school. His only son works on their farm with him.
“There have been socio-economic developments over the past decades but the mindset of Muslims toward indigenous peoples has not changed. It continues because we are small in numbers and we cannot protest against such discriminations,” Churamon added.
Rakib Ali, 28, is a Muslim from the Chanduria Bazar area of Tanore and works as a waiter at a restaurant in the local market.
He showed us that his restaurant still maintains separate plates, cups and glasses for Muslims and Santals.
“Most of our customers are Muslims and they don’t want to share she same plates, cups and glasses with Santals, so we have to do what they want,” Rakib told ucanews.com.
He would dearly like to see an end to the discrimination and violence toward people based on their religions and ethnic identities, but he keeps quiet, fearing a backlash from his fellow Muslims.
“A Muslim man once mistakenly drank water from a glass meant for Santals. It was his own mistake, but he got angry and in a scuffle with me over it. So, it is better to do what they want, or unpleasant incidents can occur,” he said.
‘What’s the problem?’
Mujibur Islam, 44, is a local Muslim and a tricycle van puller who thinks there is nothing wrong in such social ostracism toward ethnic people.
“It is mostly about differences in religions. I will look for separate places to sit and separate plates and glasses to eat and drink, and that is my religious freedom,” he insisted. “Santals eat pig and rats, and they drink haria so if Muslims don’t want to touch them or the utensils used by them, I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
Social discrimination toward Santals is a frustrating reality, says Mujibur Rahman, chairman of Chanduria Union Council, a local government unit.
“In meetings and gatherings, we encourage people to refrain from such discriminatory attitudes because our country is mostly a land of harmony among its various religious and ethnic groups,” Rahman told ucanews.com.
“However, an atmosphere has been created that treat Santals here as an outcast group.
“It is true that social ostracism against Santals have existed for decades, but I am hopeful it will go away in next one or two generations, as people get more educated and become more open-minded.”
Rashedul Kabir, deputy director of the state-run Social Services department in Rajshahi, professed “surprise” over such discriminatory attitudes toward Santals.
“Our constitution guarantees equal rights for every citizen and the state policy promotes the harmonious co-existence of various faiths and ethnic groups,” Kabir told ucanews.com. “We were not aware of any such discriminations against Santals and other ethnic communities, and now we will take action to bring an end to it.”
‘A grave injustice’
Social ostracism toward ethnic communities is an expression of the cultural hegemony of the majority Bengali culture, says Father Patrick Gomes, secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Christian Unity and Inter-religious Dialogue.
“Many Bengali people consider indigenous people and their cultures inferior to their own culture and social system,” said Father Gomes, a Bengali himself and based In Rajshahi. “It is a grave injustice toward these people and totally unacceptable in the 21st century.”
Many ethnic people have become Christians in recent decades and the Church has worked tirelessly to sweep away the discrimination toward them directly and also as it occurs through the Catholic charity Caritas, the priest said.
“We have helped ethnic communities to get an education and to improve their socio-economic conditions, so they can work to drive away discrimination,” said Sukleash Costa, acting regional director of Caritas Rajshahi. “Things are changing but it will take some more time to bring a complete end to the discrimination.”
In Muslim-majority Bangladesh, about 99 percent of more than 160 million people belong to the Bengali community and just three million from dozens of ethnic groups.
08 Aug 2019
The Afghan Special Forces inflicted heavy casualties on Taliban militants during the operations in Ghor province.
The Special Operations Corps said in a statement said the Special Forces conducted the operations in Shakee, Jarsarkho and Surmaqala areas of the capital of Ghor.
The statement further added that the Special Forces killed 9 Taliban militants and wounded 10 others.
Furthermore, the Special Forces confiscated six motorcycles of the Taliban militants during the operations.
The Afghan security forces foiled at least 90 terrorist attacks in Kabul city by storming 3 ISIS hideouts in the city.
Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said the security forces stormed the ISIS hideouts based on the information recovered from a detained militant.
Rahimi further added that the security forces arrested the militant after he detonated a remote-controlled magnetic bomb in 11th district of Kabul city.
Furthermore, Rahimi said the security forces confiscated dozens of magnetic bombs, suicide bombing vests and explosives besides killing 2 terrorists.
The National Directorate of Security said Wednesday that the Special Forces of the directorate stormed the three major ISIS hideouts in the 8th and 15th districts of the city as well as Bagrami district.
Arabic Islamic calligraphy also for Christians, but using the word "Allah" still banned
Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Christians in Sabah and Sarawak, the two eastern states that make up Malaysian Borneo, face an odd situation. On the one hand, they do not yet know if they can continue to use the word "Allah" for God in their religious publications without "offending" Muslims whilst at school their children will be forced to learn Arabic Islamic calligraphy.
The Malaysian Education Ministry has decided to introduce, starting next year, Khatt calligraphy as part of the Year 4 Malay language (Bahasa Melayu) course.
The development of Islamic calligraphy is strongly linked to the Qurʼān whose chapters and verses are widely and universally known.
The government’s move has been met with protests from some groups, including Chinese and Tamils, who said it would not help vernacular school students improve their knowledge of Malay.
Christians too are very critical, especially after the latest episode in a long-standing legal dispute over the word “Allah”.
On Monday, the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak postponed its decision for the sixth time as to whether local Christians can use it in published texts to educate the members of their community.
Radical Muslims consider the word to be exclusive to Islam. However, a rare Latin-Malay dictionary from 1631 shows that the word "Allah" was used from early on as the name of God in the Bible in the local language.
“We are wondering why the government is hesitant to allow Christians in Sabah and Sarawak to use the word ‘Allah’, which means ‘God’ in Arabic, in religious publications but wants non-Muslims to learn Khatt calligraphy,” said Herman Shastri, general-secretary of the Council of Churches Malaysia.
For Shastri, if the government insists on including Khatt in the syllabus, Christian students should also be allowed to study Arabic Christian calligraphy.
“Christians in the Middle East have been using Bibles which were written in the Arabic language for many centuries,” he added. “We have many Bible verses, prayers and hymns written in Arabic calligraphy that adorn places of worship.”
The legal case concerning the use of "Allah" by Christians dates back to 2008, when the government threatened to revoke the publishing license of The Herald, Malaysia’s main Catholic paper.
At the time, the Church took the government to court for violating the constitutional right of religious freedom.
LET them bark, said controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik of his many critics, who want him out of Malaysia.
The televangelist said he counts both Muslims and non-Muslims among his fans, adding that the non-Muslims he has met “love me”.
01 August 2019
BY R. LOHESWAR
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 1 — There is no basis behind the complaints that a Klang-based company was allegedly refusing to let its staff pray during working hours, the Ministry of Human Resources said today.
In a statement, the ministry said it has spoken to local and foreign workers of Kapar-based Hond Tat Industries Sdn Bhd and its director, and found no proof that the company had issued the memo which went viral yesterday.
“The ministry is happy with our investigations and concluded that the top management did not issue such a memo to prohibit their staff from praying,” it said.
“There is no basis for this complaint investigations show none of the workers we spoke to at random have seen nor received this memo before.”
The viral memo, was purportedly issued by Hond Tat’s top management to its staff and production workers.
A copy of the document spead online read: “The management would like to inform all employees [that they] are not allowed to [pray] during working [hours], except [during] lunch time.
“With immediate effect, if found to be in violation of the order, a fine of RM500 shall be imposed for each offence.”
Hond Tat has denied issuing the memo, claiming it could be an act of sabotage by a disgruntled employee — even when the purported memo did not actually stipulate any ban on praying.
It has then proceeded to make a police report on the matter.
The police has since said it concurs with the ministry’s findings.
“The management of the company have denied writing the memo and believe it is fake due to the lack of a signature,” North Klang district chief ACP Nurulhuda Mohd Salleh said in a statement.
GEORGE TOWN: PKR-linked preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin was arrested this morning by Islamic authorities in Melaka for delivering a pre-dawn lecture at a mosque in the state last month.
Officers from the Melaka Islamic Religious Department (JAIM) detained the 37-year-old, who avoided a jail sentence on a charge of sedition last month, over a lecture he delivered at a mosque in Bukit Beruang on July 14.
JAIM director Md Azhan Samad said Wan Ji was detained because he did not have a teaching permit under Section 70 of the Syariah Offences Enactment (Melaka) 1991.
He was released at 1pm today on a RM4,000 bond.
When contacted, Wan Ji said he had obtained permission from the Melaka chief minister’s office and his presence was known to Melaka Islamic Affairs Council deputy chairman Sofi Wahab.
Wan Ji said one of the officers who detained him was “closely associated with PAS and Isma”.
“He told me that I would have to appear at the shariah court to be prosecuted.
“I relayed my experience to the Melaka CM’s office and they were shocked. They helped me out until I was freed.”
This is the second time Wan Ji has got into trouble in Melaka.
On July 21, a group of protesters gathered outside a mosque in Durian Tunggal, demanding him to stop his lecture.
Muslim Pilgrims Descend On Mecca For Haj, Saudis Warn Against Politics
MECCA, Saudi Arabia - Hundreds of thousands of white-clad pilgrims, many gripping umbrellas to ward off Saudi Arabia's blistering summer sun, descended on Mecca this week ahead of the annual haj.
Saudi officials asked Muslims to focus on rituals of worship, warning against politicizing the rite as wars rage on in the region and at a time of heightened tensions between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Muslim adversary Iran.
"Haj...is not a place for political conflicts or to raise sectarian slogans that divide Muslims," Abdulrahman al-Sudais, imam of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, told reporters.
Mecca Governor Prince Khalid al-Faisal asked worshipers earlier this week to "leave all other matters in your countries to discuss when you are back."
Saudi Arabia stakes its reputation on its guardianship of Islam's holiest sites and organizing a peaceful haj, which has been marred in the past by deadly stampedes, fires and riots.
Authorities said more than 1.8 million pilgrims had so far arrived in the kingdom for the world's largest annual Muslim gathering, which retraces the route the Prophet Mohammad took 14 centuries ago.
Outside the Grand Mosque, the world's largest, temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius as industrial fans sprayed water.
"All of this is for the sake of the haj," 43-year-old Fatima Sayed from Giza, Egypt, said of the searing heat. "We applied twice before but God didn't permit it, and, thank God, it was a very big surprise that He ordained it for me this year."
Every able-bodied Muslim who has the means should perform the haj at least once in their lifetime under a quota system.
Saudi Arabia has made use of technology to manage the flow of millions at the same place at the same time. This includes electronic identification bracelets, connected to GPS, that were introduced after a 2015 crush killed hundreds of people.
A new highspeed railway linking Mecca and Medina, Islam's second most sacred site, is being used during the haj season for the first time after its inauguration last September.
The pilgrimage is the backbone of a plan to expand tourism under a drive to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil. The haj and the umrah, the year-round lesser pilgrimage, generate billions of dollars in revenues from worshipers' lodging, transport, fees and gifts.
Amjad Khan, a pharmacist from Manchester in Britain, said the new measures made the pilgrimage a smoother experience.
"Here in the company of our brothers from all over the world, it’s a very good feeling," Khan, 36, said.
Damascus rejects Turkey-US plan, Kurds give guarded welcome
August 08, 2019
DAMASCUS: Damascus said Thursday it strongly rejects a proposed US-Turkish buffer zone for northern Syria, blaming the "aggressive" project on Syria's Kurds, who gave the proposal a guarded welcome.
Turkish and US officials agreed on Wednesday to establish a joint operations centre to oversee the creation of a safe zone to manage tensions between Ankara and US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.
No details were provided on the size or nature of the safe zone, but the deal appeared to provide some breathing room after Turkey had threatened an imminent attack on the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which control a large swathe of northern Syria.
"Syria categorically and clearly rejects the agreement between the American and Turkish occupiers on the establishment of a so-called safe zone" in northern Syria, a foreign ministry source told state news agency SANA.
"Syria's Kurds who have accepted to become a tool in this aggressive US-Turkish project bear a historical responsibility," the source added, urging Kurdish groups to return to the fold.
Turkey has already carried out two cross-border offensives into Syria in 2016 and 2018, the second of which saw it and allied Syrian rebels overrun the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in the northwest.
The deployment of Turkish troops and their proxies in Afrin has drawn accusations of a Turkish military occupation.
Damascus said the planned buffer zone further east serves "Turkey's expansionist ambitions," accusing both Ankara and Washington of violating its sovereignty.
A senior Syrian Kurdish official gave the Turkish-US agreement a guarded welcome.
"This deal may mark the start of a new approach but we still need more details," Aldar Khalil told AFP on Thursday.
"We will evaluate the agreement based on details and facts, not headlines."
Turkey's foreign minister on Thursday said the deal was "a very good start".
But Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country would not allow the agreement to turn into a "delaying manoeuvre".
"The accord must be implemented," he said at a press conference in Ankara, without giving a specific timeline.
Wednesday's deal describes the planned safe zone as a "peace corridor" that can "ensure that our Syrian brothers will be able to return to their country".
Turkey has the highest number of Syrian refugees in the world at more than 3.6 million, and has faced increasing pressure domestically to speed up repatriations to peaceful parts of Syria.
While the Kurds have largely stayed out of the conflict between various rebel groups and the Damascus government, they have taken advantage of the war to set up an autonomous region in the northeast.
Across the border, Turkey has eyed this push for increased independence with suspicion, regarding its Kurdish leaders as "terrorists".
Ankara views the YPG as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a bloody insurgency inside Turkey for the past 35 years.
But the YPG has been a key US ally in the fight against Daesh.
As the fight against Daesh winds down in northeastern Syria, the prospect of a US military withdrawal has stoked Kurdish fears of a long threatened Turkish attack.
To allay these fears, Washington earlier this year proposed setting up a 30-kilometre (18-mile) "safe zone" on the Syrian side of the border.
The Kurds have agreed to a buffer zone, but disagree with the Turks on how wide it should be, or who should control it.
Earlier this week, Khalil said the Kurds had agreed to a buffer zone around five kilometres wide, but Turkey rejected the proposal.
He also said the Kurds had opened channels with the Russia-backed government, but it had not yet "made its true position clear despite the urgency of the situation".
Wednesday's deal comes at a delicate moment between Turkey and the US, who have grown increasingly estranged over a number of issues, including American support for the Kurds and Turkey's decision to buy a Russian S-400 missile defence system.
It is also a tricky moment for Erdogan domestically after his party lost control of Istanbul and Ankara in municipal elections this year, and has seen high-profile defections.
BY EDITH M. LEDERER
AUGUST 8, 2019
(UNITED NATIONS) — Reports suggest more than 100,000 people in Syria have been detained, abducted or gone missing during the eight-year conflict, with the government mainly responsible, the U.N. political chief said Wednesday.
Rosemary DiCarlo urged all parties to heed the Security Council’s call for the release of all those arbitrarily detained and to provide information to families about their loved ones as required by international law.
She told the council that the U.N. can’t verify the figure of more than 100,000 because it has been unable to gain access to places of detention and detainees in Syria. She said its information comes from accounts corroborated by the Commission of Inquiry on Syria authorized by the U.N. Human Rights Council and human rights organizations since the conflict started in 2011.
DiCarlo also reiterated U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for the Syria conflict to be referred to the International Criminal Court, saying accountability for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law “is central to achieving and maintaining durable peace in Syria.”
DiCarlo spoke at an open meeting following the Security Council’s unanimous approval in June of its first-ever resolution focused on the many thousands of people missing in conflicts around the world. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which was mandated by the 1949 Geneva Conventions to address and oversee the issue of missing persons in conflicts, said it registered over 45,000 missing cases in countries around the world in 2018 alone.
The council meeting, initially requested by the United States, offered a rare opportunity for the U.N.’s most powerful body to hear directly from families of the detained.
Dr. Hala Al Ghawi and Amina Khoulani, who both campaign for freedom and justice for Syrian detainees, criticized the council for its failure to end the war and urged its deeply divided members to adopt a new resolution to pressure all warring parties to reveal the names and whereabouts of all those detained — and release all those arbitrarily detained.
Al Ghawi said she left Syria at the end of 2011 after her husband was detained and held in a cell “so tiny that he didn’t have space to sit down.” He was released but she said her brother, father-in-law and some cousins remain missing.
Al Ghawi said many medical colleagues were also detained by the Syrian government for helping wounded protesters, and “some of them were killed under torture while in detention.”
“As families, we have suffered enough and I’m here today to urge you to act,” she said.
Khoulani, whose three brothers were taken by the Syrian government eight years ago, said they all died in detention and she herself was imprisoned for six months, “arrested by the Air Force Intelligence Branch for my peaceful activism.” Her husband was detained in a military prison for 2 1/2 years, and “we were both lucky to survive, but many others weren’t as lucky.”
Khoulani said that while the majority of the missing were detained by the Syrian government, armed opposition and extremist groups like the Islamic State group “are also guilty of detention and disappearance.”
“The United Nations Security Council has utterly failed Syrian detainees and their families,” she said. “It’s your responsibility to protect Syrians from a system that kills, tortures, and illegally detains its own citizens, in systematic violation of international law.”
The council’s deep divisions were clearly evident when Syria’s closest council ally, Russia, spoke.
Russian deputy ambassador Dmitry Polyansky dismissed what he called “unverified and extremely non-objective data regarding the situation in Syria,” and criticized Western nations that called the meeting for providing no information on people missing and detained in opposition-held areas.
“We have repeatedly stated that it is unacceptable to politicize humanitarian and human rights issues,” Polyansky said. “However, we are once again hearing accusations against one of the parties, the official authorities in Damascus, while outright terrorists … are being presented as innocent victims.”
He said a Working Group on Detainees and Missing Persons comprising Russia, Iran and Turkey as well as experts from the U.N. and the Red Cross arranged a prisoner exchange July 31 and is developing procedures “for establishing a database of persons considered to be missing by the Syrian government and the opposition.”
Syrian Charge d’Affaires Louay Falouh said the U.S. and United Kingdom had “no right” to call for a council meeting, accusing them of imposing “unilateral coercive measures” on the Syrian people, adopting “immoral conduct” and exploiting the humanitarian issue.
British Ambassador Karen Pierce retorted that nine countries on the 15-member council called for the meeting and there were no objections.
By Andrea Mitchell and Adiel Kaplan
Aug. 8, 2019
WASHINGTON — U.S.-backed forces in Iraq and Syria are struggling to contain the ISIS insurgency, according to a Pentagon report released Tuesday.
Between April and June 2019, the Islamic State terror group "solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq and was resurging in Syria," the Department of Defense Inspector General Quarterly Report says.
The report references significant changes in the region. In addition to the president’s sudden announcement of a drawdown of U.S. troops in Syria -– against the counsel of military advisers -– the report raises concerns that ISIS is gaining a renewed foothold in Iraq because U.S. personnel there were evacuated from diplomatic posts due to rising tensions with Iran. Experts told NBC News that as a result, that also has led to less surveillance of ISIS activity in Iraq.
The State Department said that the departure of diplomatic staff from Baghdad and Erbil "hindered U.S. stabilization efforts in Iraq," according to the report. It also notes that the troop withdrawal from Syria came "at a time when U.S. commanders said the [Syrian Defense Forces] needed more training and equipping for counterinsurgency operations."
The report noted that the withdrawal also reduced the ability of U.S. forces to maintain a presence at a sprawling refugee camp where tens of thousands of displaced people from former ISIS territory are living. With Syrian troops only able to provide "minimal security" at the camp, it has "created conditions that allow ISIS ideology to spread 'uncontested."
While ISIS has not regained territory, the Pentagon watchdog says the terror group has up to 18,000 active fighters and has launched "targeted assassinations, ambushes, [and] suicide bombings" since April.
The assessment contrasts with Trump's repeated declarations of victory over ISIS.
"We have 100 percent of the caliphate and we're rapidly pulling out of Syria," Trump said at a July 16 Cabinet meeting. "We'll be out of there pretty soon, and let them handle their own problems."
Last January, NBC News exclusively obtained a draft of the previous Pentagon report that warned ISIS could regain territory in six to 12 months in the absence of sustained military pressure. The new report builds on that warning.
7 August, 2019
A car bombing claimed by the ISIS group killed five people, including three children, in a Kurdish-held town in northeast Syria Wednesday, an activist group said.
The explosive-rigged vehicle detonated in Al-Qahtaniya, a town in Hasakeh province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based observatory.
Hoker Arafat, a security official, said the bomb was detonated remotely in front of the town post office.
"Three children were killed in the bombing because it was very close to a primary school," he said.
A member of the local security forces was wounded in the attack, he added.
State news agency SANA also reported the bombing, saying it killed several people, including children.
ISIS claimed the attack on its Telegram channel.
The militant group routinely claims attacks in northeast Syria, despite its territorial defeat earlier this year.
Such attacks have included arson against wheat fields and deadly car bombs.
ISIS maintains a presence in the country's vast Badia desert, as well as in areas controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the country's northeast and east.
The SDF, backed by the warplanes of a US-led coalition, announced the end of ISIS' self-proclaimed "caliphate" in March in the village of Baghouz, in Syria's far east.
by Mohammed Ebraheem
Aug 7, 2019
Diyala (IraqiNews.com) – An Iraqi police chief announced on Wednesday the destruction of five hideouts of the Islamic State terrorist group in Diyala province.
“Five Islamic State hotbeds were destroyed Wednesday on the outskirts of Khanaqin and in Jalawla districts in Diyala as part of the third phase of the Victory Will operation,” Diyala police chief Maj. Gen. Faisal Kazem al-Abadi told the privately-owned Alghad Press website.
Abadi pointed out that Iraqi troops will step up their efforts to arrest Islamic State terrorists and destroy their terrorist hotbeds across Iraq.
The Islamic State group appeared on the international scene in 2014 when it seized large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, declaring the establishment of an Islamic “caliphate” from Mosul city.
Later on, the group has become notorious for its brutality, including mass killings, abductions and beheadings, prompting the U.S. to lead an international coalition to destroy it.
CAIRO — Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is urging the nation to back his government’s efforts to defeat Islamic militants, saying it’s the mission of every Egyptian.
Wednesday’s appeal came after a car packed with explosives detonated earlier this week outside Egypt’s main cancer hospital in Cairo, killing at least 20 people. It was the deadliest in the Egyptian capital in over two years.
El-Sissi said in a televised speech that it’s “not only the mission of the state to defeat (militants), but also, we as a society have to make our sons understand, enlighten and protect them against this” extremist ideology.
Aug 08, 2019
The Arabic-language al-Arabi al-Jadid news website quoted sources close to the SDF as saying that the SDF has still maintained hundreds of under-18 children in its military bases.
They added that family members of these children are angry with the SDF for using them in battleground, noting that the SDF issued a statement after popular and media protests, saying that hundreds of child recruits were freed from bases in Eastern Euphrates in Northeastern Syria.
Reports said in July that the SDF continued their pressures to force children into their ranks and train them in their secret military bases in Eastern Syria despite an agreement with the United Nations.
Al-Watan newspaper quoted dissident sources as saying that despite SDF's agreement with the UN not to forcefully recruit child soldiers in Eastern Syria, it still continues to arrest and transfer the detained children to SDF's secret military bases in Eastern Deir Ezzur.
8 August 2019
Egypt’s Interior Ministry says security forces killed at least 17 suspected militants in raids on hideouts in the capital of Cairo and in Fayoum province, about 80 kilometers, or 50 miles, southwest of the capital.
Thursday’s ministry statement says the militants were members of a group accused of being behind an attack earlier in the week.
A car packed with explosives detonated outside Egypt’s main cancer hospital in Cairo, killing at least 20 people.
The group, known as Hasm, has links to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
In a series of tweets, Fahed Nazer, the spokesperson for the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, dismissed on Wednesday “worrisome and false” accusations made during recent election debates in the US that the Kingdom was protecting terrorist organizations.
Nazer added that the US State Department has “repeatedly stated” that several terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, are funded by the Iranian regime.
Saudi Arabia has “used every means at its disposal” to track down terrorist groups, halt their funding, and discredit their ideology, he said.
Nazer’s tweets followed an accusation by Democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard last week that President Donald Trump is supporting al-Qaeda by maintaining an alliance with Saudi Arabia.
He wrote, “There have been worrisome & false accusations leveled against Saudi Arabia during the current political discourse in the US, especially as it pertains to the Kingdom’s counterterrorism efforts. It is therefore necessary to set the record straight...”
According to Nazer, the US and Saudi Arabia have been working closely to combat terrorism and foil “several potentially devastating terrorist attacks,” including an attempt in 2010 to blow up a plane flying from Yemen to the US using bombs packed in printer cartridges. It was Saudi Arabia that reported intelligence about the impending attack, which was later claimed by al-Qaeda.
In June, Saudi Arabia became the first Arab country to be granted full membership to the Financial Action Task Force, a global body dedicated to fighting illicit money flows. Nazer said that its membership showcases the Kingdom’s “dedication to combating terror financing on all levels.”
Saudi Arabia, the “birthplace of Islam & home to its Two Holy Mosques,” has been the target of several attacks by ISIS and al-Qaeda and has declared war against both terrorist organizations, Nazer said.
BAGHDAD: Iraqi and Kuwaiti state media say Iraq has handed over to Kuwait the remains of 48 Kuwaitis who went missing during the 1991 Gulf War.
Kuwait says hundreds of people went missing during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and seven-month occupation. The remains, which were put in caskets and wrapped in Kuwaiti flags, were handed over to Kuwaiti authorities at the Safwan border crossing at a ceremony attended by officials from the two neighboring countries.
Kuwait’s national news agency confirmed the Gulf state on Thursday received human remains said to belong to slain Kuwaiti prisoners of war pending forensics’ examination locally.
From Westminster to Makkah: Two British MPs join the Hajj pilgrimage
MAKKAH: Among more than 2 million Hajj pilgrims thronging the holy sites are two British Members of Parliament — Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP for Bolton South East and Shadow Minister for Justice, and Naz Shah, Labour MP for Bradford West.
Both women are members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Hajj and Umrah, and they work with the British and Saudi governments to ensure that UK pilgrims have the best experience possible.
“Basically I managed to get MPs from different political parties together so that we could set up the organization, which I chair, to ensure the experience of people performing Hajj and Umrah is a good one, both for the UK and the Kingdom,” Qureshi told Arab News.
“Our aim is to try to let the British government and the Saudi government know some of the issues and challenges that we had, and try to work constructively so that we can make the experience of the people who come for Umrah and Hajj a good one.”
For Shah, being a member of the parliamentary group is of particular importance to her and her constituents. “Over 50 percent of my constituents are Muslim,” she said. “I do a lot of work on Islamophobia etc, but also with Hajj and Umrah, the experiences of my constituents are very important to me because many of them make the sacred journey every single year and throughout the year for Umrah.
“So the parliamentary group is in regular contact with officials here. We want to make sure that the experience of Hajj and Umrah is the right one for our constituents, to make sure they get the best out of it, because often there are issues related to people coming to Hajj and Umrah and we want to make sure it is as smooth as possible.”
There are 26,000 Hajj pilgrims from the UK this year, and 126,000 have already performed Umrah in 2019.
The parliamentary group deals mainly with the Saudi Embassy in London, and Qureshi has had a good experience with the Kingdom’s representatives in the UK. “I have to say that the Saudi Embassy has been absolutely brilliant,” she said. “Whenever I have had to call them about one of our constituents who has got an issue because someone in his family has passed away, they have been very kind and compassionate, granting the visas to come.
“I really want to actually take the opportunity to thank the Saudi Embassy in the UK, but also the Kingdom, for the way things are done here to make the experience of Hajj and Umrah a good one. I have to congratulate the Kingdom for the tremendous work they have done over the years to make sure that the experience is a comfortable one, and I am looking forward to Hajj over the next few days.”
A little over two weeks ago, Qureshi had no plans to perform the Hajj this year, but an unexpected phone call changed her plans. “For me it is a dream to be here,” she said. “The call came very much out of the blue, inviting me to come to Hajj. I was actually booked on a flight elsewhere and that changed at the very last minute.
“For me, as a Muslim, for God to call me to be here, is such a humbling experience, such a privilege, such an honor to be here among so many Muslims from around the world who made the journey.”
The Kingdom’s sweeping reforms over the past three years to empower women have not gone unnoticed in the UK. “I think it is great that women are able to drive, and that they don’t need to get permission from a guardian to be able to do things,” Qureshi said. “It is a good initiative and I think it will make the lives of women far better. It is something that people like myself, we welcome very much.”
This will be Qureshi’s second Hajj. The last time was 20 years ago, when Makkah, Mina and Muzdalifah were very different places from what they are now. “The first time, I was quite young, and with my mother,” she said. “Most of these hotels near the Grand Mosque were not there, and now I understand in Mina there are air-conditioned camps, trains and food, and many other things available.”
For Shah, it is a first visit to the Kingdom, a journey she has been eager to undertake her entire life. “I landed in Madinah, had an amazing time there, went to Al-Masjid An-Nabawi, spiritually it was very important for me to make that journey , then we arrived here in Makkah on the new train, which was really interesting.
“The new investment that the government has put in is very impressive and has made the journey very pleasant.
“Then landing here in the Holy City, in Makkah, that first experience of raising my gaze to see the Kaaba was absolutely amazing. It is one of those moments you carry with you for the rest of your life. It is indescribable to anyone, because the emotion is so internal you really feel it.”
By Ben Makuch, Mack Lamoureux, and Joseph Cox
Aug 7 2019
Internet infrastructure company Cloudflare, known for protecting websites against attacks aimed at knocking them offline, is shielding a website linked to a known neo-Nazi terror group connected to several murders, Motherboard has learned.
San Francisco-based Cloudflare came under renewed criticism over the weekend when it originally refused to boot 8chan as a client after three mass shooters posted their manifestos to the anonymous message board in less than six months. The company eventually yielded to public pressure and dropped the controversial website.
Neo-Nazi sites are the frequent target of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that send so much traffic to a website that it crashes. With Cloudflare's services, sites can stay online and deflect those types of virtual assaults.
The latest site found to be protected by the Silicon Valley giant is linked to Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi terrorist organization connected to racially motivated killings in the U.S. The website provides (in audiobook and PDF formats) a white supremacist handbook on an armed insurgency against society popular among extremists. The book advocates for the assassination of politicians, bombings, and general guerilla war against the state. The Counter Extremism Project, a non-profit formed to combat the growing threat from extremist ideologies, has previously pointed to the book as a serious contributor to the radiclalization of white nationalists and as a general guide for neo-Nazi terrorism.
A previous and similarly-named version of the site used Cloudflare services, but went offline in the spring. Before it went down, Cloudflare told Motherboard it wouldn’t comment on its users.
In the past, the Anti-Defamation League has linked the same sites to the Atomwaffen Division, which is based in the U.S. and Canada. Postings on the new Cloudflare-protected site exactly mirrors previous content from past iterations.
The "Contact" section claims the site, “is not a recruitment platform for the Atomwaffen Division nor any other commonly associated Organization people attribute to this website.” and advises that the site’s administrators will not respond to any media requests.
“We most certainly will not accept interviews or answer questions asked by journalists and any other media outlet. Don't bother asking, you will not get a response,” it said. Motherboard reached out to the site administrators but has not received a response.
Motherboard has identified other violent neo-Nazi sites currently protected by Cloudflare but will not identify them to avoid amplification.
Spokespeople for Cloudflare have not yet responded to Motherboard's request for comment.
The new domain for the Atomwaffen Division-linked site was purchased on April 13 and was registered through Toronto internet company Tucows, which also provided registrar service to 8chan before dropping it after its association with the mass shooter in El Paso.
The re-emergence of the Atomwaffen Division-linked site points to what some experts have called a “whack-a-mole” effect—if you take one site down, another will come back in its place. When a similar website was taken down by its host for violating its terms of service, far-right expert Ryan Scrivens told Motherboard in February that when extreme right sites are shut down, the impact is often short-lived.
8 August 2019
Jailed Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan said he is ready for a solution on the Kurdish issue and that he could stop the conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdish militants within a week, his lawyers said in a statement on Thursday.
Ocalan is the founder of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which launched a separatist insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984. He has been in jail in western Turkey since 1999.
According to the statement, he also said the Turkish government needed to do what is necessary for the solution to take place and that Kurds do not need a separate state.
LONDON: British pilgrims are struggling to keep up with a dramatic jump in the cost of traveling to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj.
More than 20,000 people make the pilgrimage from the UK every year but spiralling air tickets and hotel prices have ramped up prices in the past five years.
The plunge in the value of the pound over concerns about the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union has only added to the financial cost of visiting the Kingdom.
This year pilgrims from the UK will pay somewhere between £5,000 and £11,000 to perform the pilgrimage, according to tour operators.
The fifth pillar of Islam, Hajj must be performed by Muslims once in a lifetime as long as they can afford it and are healthy enough. But there are fears that some Muslims are being priced out of this duty.
Hajj packages in the UK vary according to hotel star ratings, how close hotels are to the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, whether flights are direct or not, and whether packages are “shifting” or “non-shifting”.
With the considerably cheaper “shifting” packages, pilgrims are moved away from the Grand Mosque during the peak Hajj season, staying in faraway apartments. Once the main days of Hajj are over, pilgrims are moved to accommodation near the Grand Mosque.
Mohammed Patel, 47, is a licensed Hajj operator and the owner of Flight Express travel agency in north London. He has been taking Brits on the pilgrimage annually since 1999.
This year, his non-shifting executive Hajj package cost £7,200, based on four people sharing a room. The price includes 5-star hotel accommodation in Makkah and Madinah, return flights, the slaughter of an animal in accordance with Hajj requirements, transport within Saudi Arabia, half board meals throughout the journey, guidance on how to perform the Hajj, and accommodation in air-conditioned camps in Mina and Arafat.
The same package in 2015 cost just £5,200 — almost 40 percent less.
Patel said the price increase can be attributed to many factors, including the high cost of flights that airlines know they are able to charge during the Hajj season, the increasing cost of hotel rooms, the decline of the British pound against the dollar over the last two years, and inflation in general.
“We’re paying an average of between £1,100 — £1,400 per ticket which is maybe twice or three times the actual ticket value. Airlines know that there is a demand during this season,” Patel said.
“During the period between 2003-2005, we used to sell packages for £1,500-£2,000 and buy tickets for £400. Buying a ticket for £600 was extortionate in those days, but now we’re looking at a minimum of £1,000. That could be with an airline that has a long stopover as well — you might have a stopover of five to seven hours.”
The cost of staying in hotels in Makkah and Madinah during the Hajj period has also increased over the years due to demand and the introduction of two new taxes in the Kingdom at the beginning of 2018.
Value Added Tax (VAT) is collected by the General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT), and another 5 percent levy on each occupied hotel room that is rated over three stars is charged by the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs.
“Hotel rates are going up on a yearly basis, and if we want to stay in them, we have no choice but to pay,” Patel said.
The British pound has fallen heavily against the dollar since the Brexit referendum in 2016, and sterling hit a 28-month low against the US dollar at the end of July as concerns grow that the UK will leave the European Union without a deal.
Because the Saudi riyal is pegged to the US dollar, the pound is now worth fewer riyals and this is problematic for Hajj operators who pay large bills in sterling.
“The exchange rate makes a difference. Whereas previously we’d exchange at SR5.5-SR6 for every pound, now £1 is worth SR4.5-4.7. The lower the rate is, the higher the cost will be for us,” Patel said.
“When you’re paying bills worth hundreds of thousands or millions of riyals for overall services, the exchange rate makes a massive difference.”
Despite the great expense involved, this does not put off more than 20,000 British pilgrims performing Hajj every year.
Shaheen Doctor said she had wanted for a long time to perform Hajj when she finally made the pilgrimage from Britain last year.
While the journey with her husband and two children surpassed her spiritual expectations, the trip cost about £24,000.
“We don’t regret it and believe that God will recompense us for this amount,” the 43-year-old nurse from Hackney, London, told Arab News. “This year, however, we won’t be going abroad during July and August.”
Yusuf Bham, a 51-year-old civil servant from Nuneaton, is performing Hajj this year and is looking forward to the “once in a lifetime event.”
He said that although he has had to save to be able to perform Hajj, he “enjoyed making those sacrifices” because they are worth it.
Mohammed Patel, 47, runs Flight Express, a travel agency in Finsbury Park, north London, and has been leading Hajj groups of British pilgrims to Saudi Arabia since 1999.
He told Arab News that although he and his team face different challenges every year, Saudi authorities are continuously making efforts to improve the Hajj experience for more than 2 million Muslims who arrive in the Kingdom for the annual pilgrimage.
“Generally, I can say hand on heart, they do a magnificent job in Saudi Arabia considering that more than 2 million people are attending Hajj in a small area. They have a good set-up.”
Patel says that despite the “very hard work, stress and six to seven months of planning prior to Hajj” that is involved in order to make his clients’ pilgrimage as smooth as possible, he continues to lead Hajj groups every year.
“Every year we have new experiences and learn something new. We strive to improve every year because we want to better our clients’ Hajj experience for the next year.
JEDDAH: She had money, fame, influence and power. By the age of 23, she had millions of fans, sold more than 4 million albums and won numerous awards.
Writing and performing numerous hit singles and records one after the other, by 2007, Mélanie Georgiades, better known by her stage name Diam’s, seemed to have it all, living the life that many dreamed of.
Yet, despite her success, she felt unfulfilled and deeply troubled about her life, something that made her search for answers, finding new hope and happiness in life in converting to Islam.
“All this stuff, the money, the success, the power did not make me happy,” Georgiades told Arab News while in Makkah. “I was searching for happiness; I was very, very sad, and I was alone. I was wondering why I was on this earth. I knew it was not to be rich or famous, because I had those things, and they did not make me happy. So, I began searching for answers to all my questions.”
As hard as Georgiades looked for those answers, they eluded her despite her successful music career.
Then, one day in 2008, having just had her two most musically successful years in which she won the MTV European Music Award for Best French Artist as well as the NRJ Music Awards for Best Artist, Best Album, and Best Song, Georgiades’ life changed while visiting her friend, Sousou, who was a Muslim.
During that visit, Sousou asked that she be excused for a few minutes to go perform her evening prayers in the other room. Suddenly, Georgiades felt compelled to join her friend in prayer. Despite not knowing how Muslims prayed, she followed what Sousou was doing and prostrated herself before Allah for the first time in her life.
“When I prayed with her and I prostrated myself, I felt being connected with God,” Georgiades said.
Soon after that, she obtained a copy of the Holy Qur’an and began reading it while on a trip to Mauritius.
“It was a revelation,” she said. “I became intimately convinced that God existed. The more I was reading, the more convinced I became. Up until then, I believed in one God, but I was Christian in my heart, or rather, did not know exactly what I was, except sad.”
In December 2008, Georgiades converted to Islam and disappeared entirely from the music scene and the public’s eyes. However, in 2009, she found herself quickly thrust back into it when a press photographer photographed her coming out of a mosque in Gennevilliers, in France, wearing the hijab and covered from head to toe in a burka.
Those photographs were published in Paris Match magazine and were met with shock and horror by French society who knew her as Diam’s, the hip-hop music icon who performed while wearing tight pants and a tank-top.
With the publication of that photo, she found herself being vilified in the French press.
“Diam’s’ veil is a step backwards, a defeat,” Djemila Benhabib, a Canadian journalist who shared Georgiades’ Greek Cypriot roots, wrote indignantly. Benhabib was known for her strong opposition to what she calls Muslim fundamentalism.
At the time, France was debating passing a law banning anyone from wearing a veil or covering their face while in a public place. Those photographs soon became central in that debate, leading to Georgiades finding herself the subject of public hatred.
In November of 2009, Georgiades felt it necessary to explain to her fans what led her to change her focus in life toward religion, and returned to music for one last time, releasing her single “Children of the Desert” from her album “SOS.”
In the song she describes the intolerance of society in France, stating that society had been far from supportive of her after she converted to Islam, leaving her feeling betrayed herself looking for a new life elsewhere.
The lyrics of that last song, “Children of the Desert,” described how she felt at the time of her unveiling as a Muslim, writing the lyrics, “It was either humanitarian help or trying to become a billionaire, I made my choice and to hell with you, may those who love me follow me.”“This is going to be my second Hajj, but this time I am coming with a different mindset.”
Despite her troubles, she was more at peace than at any other time in her life.
“Before converting to Islam, I felt a sadness in my life because I did not realize that all I had to do was talk to God,” Georgiades said. “Now, everything that is good in my life, or bad, I know that I have Allah who listens to me and answers my prayers.”
Some years later, in 2017, Georgiades was able to move to Saudi Arabia along with her husband, a former Franco-Tunisian rapper, Faouzi Tarkhani. For the past two years they have made their home in the Kingdom, away from the Islamophobia and disdain she suffered in France.
Georgiades and her husband have traveled to Makkah to perform Hajj this year.
“This is going to be my second Hajj, but this time I am coming with a different mindset,” she said. “Last time I came, I was a new Muslim and did not know the religion very well back then. But because I have now been a Muslim for many years, I have learned many things about Islam and the Sunnah and the Prophet (PBUH) and about the story of this land and of the Haramain. This Hajj will be quite different for me as I realize more now about the significance of the journey’s rituals and steps. It will be an even more spiritual experience than before, Inshallah.”
Georgiades was not the only celebrity or influencer to be invited by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to perform the pilgrimage this year.
Trip of British parliamentarians to the world’s oldest known temple in southeastern Turkey left them with fascination and admiration.
As guests of the Yunus Emre Institute that promotes Turkish culture around the world, the four British Conservative Party MPs visited Gobeklitepe -- a UNESCO world heritage site. The trip was organized in collaboration with the Association of Turkish Speaking Health Professionals (ITSEB) in Britain.
Sheryll Murray expressed her admiration for the historic Gobeklitepe site.
“I think that this is a unique experience for anybody to come and see, and I would highly recommend it,” she said.
The parliamentarian also said she enjoyed a “very safe” trip.
“There was no problem with the security. I think we’ve been treated with the utmost respect.”
Among the traveling group was David Morris who recommended everybody visit the ancient city and support it which will pave the way for turning a new page in history.
David Amess of the group said the positive remarks of them for the trip will bring more British tourists to Turkey.
“By the time this delegation of parliamentarians return home to the U.K., everyone’s going to know about it. I can see this will be very popular tourist destination as long as the Turkish people wanted them,” said Amess.
In words supporting Murray, he highlighted the distinct characteristic of the historical site, saying, it is hard to find a place that would allow anyone to observe a 10,000-year-old history.
Mark Menzies of the trip group said lots of history enthusiasts in the U.K. will add Gobeklitepe as a destination to their travel plan.
The lawmaker said there are still undiscovered areas that will boost the bilateral trade.
Each parliamentarian stressed that they will advise all people to visit Gobeklitepe.
Gobeklitepe is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is recognized as the oldest temple in the world by many international organizations. It was discovered in 1963 by researchers from universities of Istanbul and Chicago. Since then, the excavations have never stopped.
The German Archaeological Institute and Sanliurfa Museum have been carrying out joint excavations at the site since 1995. They have found T-shaped obelisks from the Neolithic era towering some 3-6 meters (10-20 feet) high and weighing 40-60 tons.
France has taken in 31 Yazidi families, who suffered at the hands of ISIS. The women and children flew in from Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan to Toulouse airport on a flight organised by the UN’s migration agency and paid for by France’s government.
The French interior ministry said it came as part of a commitment by President Emmanuel Macron to Nadia Murad, the Yazidi activist and Nobel Peace Prize 2018 winner. He promised her France would host 100 Yazidi families.
France also welcomed 16 families last December and another 28 in May this year. They will be given protection, education, medical and social support a statement by the French interior ministry said.
“This approach reflects the renewed will of France to establish, in connection with the Iraqi authorities, facilities for the reception of victims of ethnic and religious violence in the Middle East,” the statement said, adding the French government would continue to work towards the restoration of territories liberated from ISIS.
The Yazidis are a religious minority with unique beliefs that distinguish them from Muslim and Christian worshippers in the region.
ISIS, who seized control of north Iraq in 2014, said the Yazidis were "apostates" and killed hundreds of men while enslaving and sexually abusing thousands of women and children. The attacks were described as genocide.
Ms Murad, who escaped from ISIS in 2014, recently urged her fellow Yazidis to return to their homeland in Sinjar, northern Iraq.
More than 90,000 Yazidis have already returned to Sinjar “but we need even more to return there so as to thwart ISIS’s plan to chase them out from Sinjar,” she said in Stuttgart, Germany earlier this month.
Some 150,000 Yazidis live in Germany, which adopted an open-door policy in 2015 amid an influx of migrants to Europe. In turn, far-right parties inflaming anti-migrant rehtoric have gained strength in the polls.
Of the world's 1.5 million Yazidis, roughly 550,000 were living in the remote corners of northern Iraq before ISIS’s brutal assault in 2014.
It pushed around 360,000 Yazidis to flee to other parts of Iraq, including the Kurdish region, where they live in displacement camps.
According to authorities, more than 6,400 Yazidis were abducted by IS and only half of them were able to flee or be rescued, while the fate of the others remains unknown.
Ms Murad has also caused for Kurdish and Iraqi authorities to compensate the Yazidi people.
British ISIS fighters can be legally stripped of their citizenship, the London high court has said in a ruling that gives legal backing for the controversial government policy.
Abdullah Islam challenged a call by former Home Secretary Amber Rudd in 2017 to deprive his 22-year-old son Ashraf Mahmud Islam, of his British nationality.
At the time, Ms Rudd said that she didn’t think that Ashraf would be made ‘stateless’, as he also had Bangladeshi citizenship. She warned that Ashraf was assessed as posing a risk to “national security”.
Ashraf travelled to Syria in April 2015 when he was 18 and studying A-level law at a British school in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
He is now being held in a Kurdish-run military prison in Syria. The ISIS fighter would only travel back to Britain if he is first released by the Kurds and then freely allowed by the Syrian authorities to leave the country but now cannot use British identity documents to do so.
Abdullah said he wanted his son to be brought back to the UK to face justice and be protected from facing the death penalty.
However, his case was rejected by the judge on Wednesday for having ‘no merit’.
Mr Justice Pepperall said: “The only action taken by the home secretary in this case has been to deprive Ashraf of his citizenship.
“He is not in peril in Syria because of that decision, but because he is being held on suspicion of involvement in the ISIS insurgency.”
The judge said that because Ashraf was born in London and was living with family, he appeared to have “every advantage in life”.
Justice Pepperall noted that after Ashraf joined the terrorist group, he gave an interview with ITV news saying that he had made a mistake and he wanted to return to the UK to face justice. However, the judge said Ashraf made these comments “with masterful understatement”.
Earlier this year, former home secretary Sajid Javid revealed that more than 100 dual nationals who travelled to join ISIS have had their UK citizenship stripped by the British Home Office.
Two members of the infamous “Beatles” group, which was led by Mohammed Emwazi and routinely beheaded Western hostages on camera, have been deprived of their citizenship.
US supports direct dialogue between Pakistan, India on Kashmir
The United States on Wednesday said it supports direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on the disputed Kashmir region and called for calm and restraint as the dispute escalated.
“We continue to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern,” a department spokeswoman said in a statement.
By Ryan Browne and Barbara Starr
(CNN)The US Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration has issued a new warning to commercial shipping about Iranian threats in the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf, saying that some ships have reported having their GPS interfered with.
Additionally, the administration warned that there have been reports of "unknown entities falsely claiming to be US or coalition warships."
The warning, which was issued Wednesday, listed a series of incidents involving Iran since May, including Iran's seizure of the United Kingdom-flagged M/V STENA IMPERO and the detention and subsequent release of the Liberian-flagged M/V MESDAR.
It said that during "at least two" recent encounters involving Iranian military forces, "vessels reported GPS interference. One vessel reportedly shut off its Automatic Identification System (AIS) before it was seized, complicating response efforts."
"Vessels have also reported spoofed bridge-to-bridge communications from unknown entities falsely claiming to be US or coalition warships," the warning added.
US Central Command, which oversees US military operations in the region, issued a statement Wednesday saying, "Vessels have reported GPS interference, bridge-to-bridge communications spoofing, and/or other communications jamming with little to no warning."
"The U.S. remains committed to working with allies and regional partners to safeguard the freedom of navigation, the free flow of commerce, and the protection of U.S. vessels and personnel in this region," the statement added.
A US defense official told CNN that Iran has placed GPS jammers on Iran-controlled Abu Musa Island, which lies in the Persian Gulf close to the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz.
The official said that Iran had placed the jammers at that location in an attempt to disrupt civilian aircraft and ship navigation systems, hoping ships or planes will mistakenly wander into Iranian waters or airspace while their GPS systems were not functioning properly, giving Iranian forces the pretext needed to seize them.
The official said the Iranian jammers have no effect on US military warships and aircraft.
US brings ISIS fighters home for trial, but extremists could benefit from other nations' inaction
by Jerry Dunleavy
August 07, 2019
The U.S. is bringing home citizens who joined the Islamic State to stand trial, but some Western European and other nations refuse to — and a new watchdog analysis says ISIS could benefit from their inaction.
This decision to let ISIS-joining citizens avoid justice leaves approximately 800 Europeans among the 2,000 foreign ISIS fighters from 50 countries in legal limbo in northeast Syrian detention camps run by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-allied coalition of mostly Kurdish militias, where 10,000 ISIS fighters are believed to be held. The Pentagon’s inspector general report, released Tuesday, warned that the SDF does not have the capability to “indefinitely detain” thousands of ISIS fighters in what are described as “pop-up prisons.”
Only seven countries — the U.S., Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Morocco, and North Macedonia — announced they will bring back fighters to face charges. Italy is the only Western European country to do so. France complained about death sentences handed down in Iraq against a dozen French ISIS members, and the U.K. is stripping citizenship from fighters. Outside of Europe, the rest are mainly from former Soviet republics, the Middle East and North Africa, and South and Southeast Asia.
President Trump has repeatedly urged Western European countries such as Britain, France, and Germany in particular to take back homegrown militants to "put them on trial" for their crimes.
Ambassadors Jim Jeffrey and Nathan Sales, who focus on ISIS and counterterrorism, urged U.S. allies last week to take responsibility for their homegrown fighters.
Sales said this crisis is a priority and that the U.S. is leading by example and wants other countries to repatriate and prosecute. Sales said the U.S. brought back five U.S. ISIS members (four men and one woman), with one convicted and four pending charges.
A sixth ISIS member was brought back and indicted in Dallas last week.
A State Department representative told the Washington Examiner two other adult female ISIS members and 13 children were also repatriated. The spokesperson said they are aware of a "very small number of detainees" who have claimed U.S. citizenship and that they are working to verify and handle the claims.
The U.S. also wants to extradite two British ISIS fighters, dubbed “the Beatles”, to the U.S. for prosecution for their alleged involvement in the murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, American aid worker Peter Kassig, and other hostages. The U.S. opposes repatriating Hoda Muthana, however, claiming the so-called “ISIS bride” is not a U.S. citizen.
George Washington University’s Program on Extremism says 191 individuals have been charged in the U.S. for ISIS-related offenses, with 40% of those cases involving traveling or attempting to travel abroad. A 2017 U.N. study estimated 40,000 fighters from 110 countries traveled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS. A 2018 report by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation put that number at 41,490 fighters from 80 countries.
Jeffrey said of the 10,000 fighters "under lock and key," roughly 8,000 are Iraqi or Syrian. There are ongoing efforts "to move the Iraqis back to Iraq and for the Syrians to be placed on trial.”
But Jeffrey said “a bigger problem” is the sprawling al-Hawl refugee camp, which holds 70,000 ISIS family members and supporters. He said 60,000 are Iraqis and Syrians, but 10,000 are foreigners connected to the 2,000 foreign terrorist fighters in Syria.
“There are a variety of humanitarian issues that we’re working our way through in al-Hawl, but there’s also a problem of radicalization,” Jeffrey said. “In the long run, what we’re trying to do is to get people out and back into their communities.”
The inspector general report also warned that ISIS is “likely working to enlist new members from the camp’s large population” of internally displaced persons. United States Central Command strongly recommended moving the ISIS family members to Syrian “guarantors” or to Iraqi custody if the refugees are Syrian or Iraqi natives, and urged outside countries to take their own foreign citizens back, calling this “critical to reducing ISIS’s recruiting pool.”
Sales also said those detained by the SDF are being treated “humanely,” but these prison camps are ad hoc, temporary holding facilities.
“We’ve seen a number of attempted jailbreaks,” Sales said. “The risk that they could get out is not trivial.”
The Defense Department’s inspector general reported that “minimal security” at the camp “created conditions for ISIS’s ideology to spread uncontested.”
The State Department representative told the Washington Examiner that the U.S. is providing the bulk of the money to take care of thousands of detained fighters but that the effort is still “a tremendous challenge and burden” for the SDF. The representative said the Iraqi government is grappling with the strain of detaining so many fighters, too.
The fighters are “dangerous battle-hardened terrorists” who “left comfortable lives to go to the desert to fight for an idea,” Sales said, and countries have an obligation to ensure they don’t return to the battlefield.
“The reality is the way to be tough on foreign terrorist fighters is to prosecute them, but right now, they are not facing justice for the crimes they have committed,” Sales said.
Sales said no one should expect the U.S., SDF, or Iraq to offer justice. The best way for countries to show they’re serious about fighting terrorists is to “bring them home, put them in front of a court, have them tried, and then if they’re convicted, make sure they serve lengthy sentences,” he said.
President Donald Trump said on Thursday that Joseph Maguire, the current chief of the National Counterterrorism Center, will become the acting director of national intelligence.
Trump said in a tweet that Maguire will take over the post on August 15, when Dan Coats, the current director of the agency overseeing civilian and military intelligence, steps down.
“Admiral Maguire has a long and distinguished career in the military, retiring from the US Navy in 2010,” Trump said on Twitter.
Maguire has led the National Counterterrorism Center since December.
Earlier on Thursday, the agency’s No. 2 official, Sue Gordon, resigned. She said in her resignation letter to Trump: “Know that our people are our strength, and they will never fail you or the Nation. You are in good hands.”
Last week, Trump dropped his first choice to replace Coats, US Representative John Ratcliffe, after questions arose about the Republican congressman’s lack of experience and possible exaggerations in his resume.
It is not clear what prompted the resignation of Gordon, a career intelligence official who had the backing of current and former officials because of her deep experience.
“Sue Gordon’s retirement is a significant loss for our Intelligence Community,” the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, said in a statement.
Trump had a strained relationship with Coats, who endorsed the US intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election with the objective of promoting Trump over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Trump also has objected to US intelligence community analyses of major issues - from Iran’s nuclear program to North Korea - that have clashed with his own assessments.
Under the law, Trump needs to name a new acting director from the senior staff of the agency, known as the ODNI. The National Counterterrorism Center is part of ODNI.
His choice for the permanent job must be confirmed by the Senate.
Aug 8, 2019
US President Donald Trump has chastised French President Emmanuel Macron for sending Iran "mixed signals".
Trump scolded Macron on Thursday telling him that no one was authorized to act in the role of mediator between the US and Iran.
"I know Emmanuel means well, as do all others, but nobody speaks for the United States but the United States itself," Trump said in a tweet.
Donald J. Trump
Iran is in serious financial trouble. They want desperately to talk to the U.S., but are given mixed signals from all of those purporting to represent us, including President Macron of France....
....I know Emmanuel means well, as do all others, but nobody speaks for the United States but the United States itself. No one is authorized in any way, shape, or form, to represent us!
11:21 PM - Aug 8, 2019
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It was not immediately clear what Trump was referring to, but a report earlier this week said Macron had invited Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to this month's G7 summit to meet Trump.
European leaders are seeking to ease the escalating crisis between Tehran and Washington after Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear last year prompting Tehran to scale back its commitments under the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with world powers officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
A main topic of the G7 summit later this month is expected to be the repercussions of European signatories to the Iran nuclear deal continuing to renege on their obligations.
Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the US cannot change the fact that affairs were shifting in favor of Iran.
Zarif rebuked the hawkish group of politicians and regional leaders, often referred to as the B-team, who were trying to pressure and isolate Iran by undermining the Iran nuclear deal and instigating regional tensions.
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Thursday said no one is authorized to speak to Iran on behalf of the United States, and he accused French President Emmanuel Macron of sending "mixed signals" to Tehran over possible talks.
"I know Emmanuel means well, as do all others, but nobody speaks for the United States but the United States itself," Trump said in a series of tweets.
It was not immediately clear what Trump was referring to, but a report earlier this week said Macron had invited Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to this month's G7 summit to meet Trump. A French diplomat denied the report on Wednesday.
Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump's Iran tweets.
European leaders are seeking to defuse the brewing confrontation between Tehran and Washington after Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear last year and renewed sanctions in an effort to push a new deal under the US Republican president.
Tehran has responded with a series of moves, including seizing a British tanker in the Gulf and retreating from some of its commitments to limit its nuclear activity made under the deal.
By Carlotta Gall
Aug. 7, 2019
GAZIANTEP, Turkey — The United States and Turkey agreed on Wednesday to create a safe zone in northeastern Syria that would allow Turkey to protect its borders from Syrian-Kurdish forces that it regards as a terrorist threat and provide Syrian refugees in Turkey a safe space to return home.
Defense officials from both countries issued separate but similar statements after three days of talks in Ankara, the Turkish capital. The statements gave no details on the size of the zone or how it will be policed, which may still be undecided, but the agreement was presented by Turkey as a meeting of its demands.
Turkey’s defense minister, Hulusi Akar, told Turkish media outlets on Wednesday morning that the discussions were “fairly positive.”
“We gladly observed our interlocutors coming closer to our views,” the NTV television channel quoted him as saying.
The agreement announced on Wednesday appeared to be aimed only at ensuring that Turkish and American forces, who are NATO allies, do not come into conflict.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey had threatened a military incursion into northeastern Syria to secure the border region from Syrian-Kurdish forces. Turkey regards those forces as a threat because of their links to the P.K.K., which is waging an insurgency in Turkey. Turkey and the United States have labeled the P.K.K. a terrorist organization.
Mr. Erdogan had also proposed a safe zone under Turkish control to allow many of the Syrian refugees in Turkey an area within Syria that would be free of Syrian government control.
The United States, which has military forces in the area and cooperates with the Syrian-Kurdish forces, or S.D.F., in operations combating the Islamic State, has warned Turkey against taking any unilateral action in the region.
Discussions have been focused on the S.D.F. pulling its forces and weaponry away from the border area and on the size of the safe zone. The United States has preferred a zone that is just a few miles wide, whereas Turkey has sought a corridor along its border as deep as 20 miles.
The delegations agreed on “the rapid implementation of initial measures to address Turkey’s security concerns,” and to create a joint operations center in Turkey “to coordinate and manage the establishment of the safe zone,” according to a statement by the American Embassy in Ankara.
“The safe zone shall become a peace corridor, and every effort shall be made so that displaced Syrians can return to their country,” the statement added.
Some 270 Israeli settlers storm Aqsa Mosque under police protection
Hundreds of Israeli settlers have stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied Old City of East Jerusalem al-Quds under the protection of security forces.
“Since Thursday morning, over 268 Jewish settlers have entered the compound,” said Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for al-Quds' Religious Endowments Authority, in an interview with Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.
He added that the settlers entered al-Aqsa, accompanied by Israeli police forces, through the compound’s al-Mugharbah Gate.
Hardline Israeli legislators and extremist settlers regularly storm the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied city, a provocative move that infuriates Palestinians.
The al-Aqsa Mosque compound sits just above the Western Wall plaza and houses both the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Jewish visitation of al-Aqsa is permitted but according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem al-Quds in 1967, non-Muslim worship at the compound is prohibited.
Furthermore, the number of Israeli lawmakers who storm the sacred compound has increased after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided in July 2018 to allow such visits once every three months.
Many of the Knesset members are right-wing extremists, who support the demolition of the Islamic site in order to build a Jewish temple instead.
Palestinians want the occupied West Bank as part of their future independent state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
The Palestinians view al-Quds’ eastern sector as the capital of their future sovereign state.
In Response To West Bank Terror, Netanyahu Hints At Annexation Of Area C
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at the possibility of applying sovereignty to the West Bank settlements on Sunday, hours after the body of terror victim Dvir Sorek was found with stab wounds in Gush Etzion.
“We promised to build hundreds of housing units. Today we are doing it, both because we promised and because our mission is to establish the nation of Israel in our country,” Netanyahu said during a visit to the Beit El settlement, where he participated in a ceremony for a 650-housing unit neighborhood.
“We know that the Land of Israel is bought in agony,” Netanyahu continued. “Today another one of our sons fell. He was from a family that has already made a heavy sacrifice for the Land of Israel. These vicious terrorists: They come to uproot, we come to plant. They come to destroy, we come to build. Our hands will reach out and we will deepen our roots in our homeland – in all parts of it.”
Later in the day, he visited the site where Sorek’s body was found, just outside the Migdal Oz settlement where Sorek was a student.
“We lost a dear son of the Sorek family,” Netanyahu said at the site. “We embrace the family,” and he added, “we will apprehend them and bring them to justice.” Netanyahu said the investigation is ongoing, and that the turn the car made after the murder was evident at the site.
Throughout the day, a number of right-wing politicians and settler leaders called out for Netanyahu to annex Area C of the West Bank settlements in response to the attack.
Former justice minister and United Right leader Ayelet Shaked said this week in an interview with The Jerusalem Post that she supports the annexation of Area C. She made similar statements to Army Radio in the aftermath of the attack.
“We have to apply sovereignty to Judea and Samaria,” she said. “Gush Etzion is in consensus and there is no reason not to apply sovereignty there.”
During the last election, Netanyahu promised to apply sovereignty to the settlements, but has not spoken about sovereignty during this election cycle.
It’s presumed that such a unilateral move on Israel’s part would complicate the Trump administration’s push to advance its peace plan.
Other Likud politicians have been more vocal in support. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said that, “our response to the murder has to be [to] apply sovereignty on the settlements, starting with Gush Etzion.”
Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne’eman said the only response to the attack was the application of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, and Gush Etzion in particular.
The Sovereignty Movement issued a similar call, explaining that such attacks would continue to occur as long as Judea and Samaria is not under “Israeli sovereignty.”
“It is either us or them! This is a 52-year-old struggle that must be resolved. Sovereignty will bring resolution and will erase the hope of pushing us out of here through terror attacks,” the movement said in a statement.
“The resolution must be clear and unambiguous – we have returned to the heritage of our fathers, we will bring another million Jews here, we will build dozens of communities,” it continued. “The Arabs are invited to live under our sovereignty as individuals and enjoy a prosperous life as residents.”
Politicians across the political spectrum spoke out against the attack.
President Reuven Rivlin expressed his support for security forces “who are now chasing the murderers,” and vowed “we will not rest until we catch them.” Rivlin said that when “faced with terrible terror, we will act with a harsh, uncompromising hand for the well-being of our citizens wherever they may be.”
Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Union of Right-Wing Parties) responded on social media by slamming the PA, which he called first among those who support, speak out in favor of and send terrorists, he called to restore Israeli deterrence and “extract a heavy price.”
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman tied the attack to what he called “surrendering to Gaza terror: The security services are aware of dozens of plans to carry out attacks against Jews. When we use the term ‘understandings,’ we are using news-speak for what is in fact surrendering to terror.”
Education Minister Rafi Peretz (Bayit Yehudi) said that “the heart aches over a youth picked in the beginning of his life” and called for “a clear message, the spilling of Jewish blood will not be forgiven.”
Labor head Amir Peretz commended the IDF for finding the body and said he expects the soldiers to likewise nab the responsible terrorist or terrorists “quickly.”
Blue and White’s Gabi Ashkenazi called the attack “another proof of the erosion” of Israel’s security situation, while Blue and White MK Moshe Ya’alon sent his condolences to Sorek’s family via Twitter.
The US Middle East mediator Jason Greenblatt tweeted his condolences to the family and condemned Hamas for congratulating the murderer.
By Lisa Schlein
GENEVA - The United Nations human rights office is reporting that intensified attacks by a myriad of armed groups in Yemen are having a devastating impact on civilians throughout the war-torn country.
Dozens of armed groups, including those affiliated with the al-Qaida and Islamic State terror groups, reportedly are escalating attacks in Yemen, adding to the misery of civilians who have suffered through more than four years of civil war.
Since July 27, the U.N. human rights office has verified 19 civilian deaths and 42 civilians injured in Taiz, Sa’ada and Aden. In addition, the agency says civilian infrastructure, including medical and educational facilities, have been hit and damaged during attacks.
U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says groups affiliated with the Houthi rebels allegedly have launched indiscriminate attacks in Taiz. She says IS militants and al-Qaida, in separate assaults, have attacked police stations and military camps in Aden and Abyan in the south.
She says these actions have triggered retaliation by the “security-belt” forces, a paramilitary force supported by the Saudi-led coalition.
“We have received information from multiple sources about arbitrary arrests and detention, forced displacement, physical assaults and harassment as well as looting and vandalism by the security forces against hundreds of northerners. Reports suggest that the security forces have searched hotels and restaurants, stopping people, demanding their identification, and rounding up those hailing from the northern parts of Yemen," she said.
Shamdasani says such actions breach international human rights and humanitarian law. She tells VOA the warring parties cannot do whatever they wish with impunity because there are rules and laws governing the conduct of hostilities.
“Rounding up people who hail from a particular part of the country, harassing them, subjecting them to arbitrary arrest and forcibly displacing them — that is a clear violation of international humanitarian law. Indiscriminate attacks and the use of indiscriminate weapons, such as landmines, clearly breach international humanitarian law," she said.
The IRGC forces were killed in clashes with separatist terrorists, Governor of Maku city in West Azarbaijan province Hassan Abbasi said on Wednesday.
He added that another soldier was also wounded in the clashes which took place in Maku region, bordering Turkey.
Abbasi said that the injured guard is now in stable condition in hospital.
The IRGC is actively engaged in security operations against anti-Iran terrorist groups and accordingly is attacked by entities and terrorist groups which hold grudge against Tehran.
The IRGC forces on Wednesday discovered and confiscated some 200 hundred hunting and military rifles in Northwestern Iran.
"The IRGC Ground Forces stationed at Hamzeh Seyed al-Shohada base prevented the smuggling of a cargo consisting of 200 hunting and military weapons into the country," a statement by Hamzeh base read.
It said mercenaries intended to smuggle the cargo of weapons and ammunition into Iran via the Northwestern borders on August 6 in a bid to use them for disturbing public security, but didn't mention any specific group for running the contraband operation. In a relevant development last month, the IRGC dismantled a 4-member terrorist gang in the Northwestern province of West Azerbaijan near the border with Turkey.
The IRGC forces managed to kill one, injure two and arrest one members of a terrorist group active in Chaldoran region, in the Northwestern province of West Azerbaijan, in an ambush attack, the IRGC's Hamzeh Seyed al-Shohada Base said in a statement.
The security forces were hunting for the 4-strong sabotage gang in the past two days.
A series of explosions rocked an ammunition depot in Turkey's Hatay province, near the Syrian border, early on Friday and nearby homes were evacuated but there were no reports of casualties, Turkish broadcaster NTV said.
The cause of the blasts, at around 3:30 am (0030 GMT) in Hatay's Reyhanli town, was not immediately clear, NTV said. Emergency services had sealed off the area, it said.
After the explosions fire broke out at some parts of the military ammunition depot, located near a football stadium just to the north of the border town of Reyhanli, the state-owned Anadolu news agency said.
A Lebanese businessman designated by US authorities as an important financial supporter of Hezbollah was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to forfeit $50 million, the Justice Department said Thursday.
Kassim Tajideen, 63, pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiracy to launder money as part of a scheme to evade US sanctions.
He was named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in May 2009 by the Treasury Department based on tens of millions of dollars in financial support given to Hezbollah.
In a plea, Tajideen admitted to conspiring with at least five other people to conduct more than $50 million in transactions with US businesses, in violation of prohibitions barring his involvement with US persons or companies.
“His sentencing and the $50 million forfeiture in this case are just the latest public examples of the Department of Justice’s ongoing efforts to disrupt and dismantle Hezbollah and its support networks,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski. Tajideen, who operated a network of businesses in Lebanon and Africa, was extradited to the United States in March 2017 after his arrest overseas, according to the department.
An Israeli soldier was found stabbed to death near a Jewish settlement outside the Palestinian city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, the military said.
Israeli media said the soldier was missing before he was found killed and his body left by the side of a road.
The military’s statement did not provide any such details nor accuse anyone in the killing. It described the soldier as a Jewish seminary student.
The Arab Coalition supporting the legitimate government in Yemen said that it intercepted a Houthi drone that was launched late Thursday from Sanaa towards the southwestern city of Abha in Saudi Arabia.
“All attempts by Houthi terrorist militias to launch drones are doomed to failure,” stated the Coalition’s spokesman, Colonel Turki al-Maliki.
The Arab Coalition supporting the legitimate government in Yemen said on Thursday that it intercepted a Houthi drone that was targeting Saudi Arabia’s Jazan.
The Coalition’s spokesman, Colonel Turki al-Maliki, said that “attempts of the Iran-backed Houthis to launch drones show the militia’s bankruptcy” and “reflect its losses on the ground.”
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Turkey will not allow any delay in the process of establishing a so-called safe zone in northern Syria, where US-backed Kurdish militants are based, much to Ankara’s dismay.
The remarks on Thursday came a day after Turkish and US military officials reached an agreement to establish a Joint Operations Center to oversee a safe zone to manage tensions between Turkey and Kurdish militants.
The details of the safe zone have not been disclosed, but Ankara is expecting the creation of a 32-kilometer buffer zone in the region in an attempt to keep the militants at bay.
Turkey has time and again threatened to carry out yet another cross-border offensive into the Arab country to eliminate the Kurdish militants.
The Wednesday agreement, which appeared to reduce the chance of an imminent Turkish military action, would also create a “peace corridor” for displaced Syrians longing to return home.
The Turkish government has long been infuriated by Washington’s persisting support of the People's Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militant group in northern Syria, that the US regards as its proxy.
The YPG plays as the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an anti-Damascus alliance of predominantly Kurdish militants.
Ankara has declared the YPG as a terrorist group and views it as the Syrian branch of Turkey’s homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a terrorist group that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside the Anatolian country since 1984.
“We will not allow these efforts (on the safe zone) to turn into the Manbij roadmap,” Cavusoglu told a press conference in Ankara.
He was referring to a previous agreement inked between Ankara and Washington in June last year to establish a safe zone for the Syrian town of Manbij, near the Turkish border, which would see the YPG ousted from the town and moved back to the eastern bank of Euphrates.
The agreement, known as the Manbij roadmap, was supposed to be executed within 90 days “but the United States delayed this with many excuses, such as joint patrols,” Cavusoglu added.
However, he praised the Wednesday agreement as “a very good start.”
Earlier in the day, the Syrian government lambasted the US-Ankara agreement, rejecting it as “blatant aggression.”
Turkey has already launched two operations in northern Syria. The first offensive dubbed "Euphrates Shield" began in August 2016 to stop the advance of Kurdish militants.
Then in January 2018, Turkish military forces launched another cross-border military operation inside Syria, code-named “Operation Olive Branch,” with the declared aim of eliminating YPG militants from northern Syria, particularly the Afrin region.
UN: Ceasefire collapse in NW Syria threatens millions
The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen on Thursday regretted the collapse of a ceasefire in the northwestern Syria, saying that fresh violence threatens the lives of millions, Reuters reported.
"Humanitarian actors are increasingly concerned by statements suggesting a possible military intervention, which would have severe humanitarian consequences in an area that has already witnessed years of military activity, displacement, droughts and floods," he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, AFP reported the UN's humanitarian chief for Syria, Panos Moumtzis, as saying on Thursday that renewed fighting in northwest Syria has triggered "total panic."
"These people don't know where to go," Moumtzis said, stressing that there is no other opposition stronghold where militants can flee if Idlib confronts a full assault by Syrian forces.
"It is like playing with fire at the moment and we worry about it coming out of control," Moumtzis said.
According to a UN estimate, 400,000 people have been displaced within Idlib over the last 100 days.
Turkish military forces have launched an operation against militant positions in Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, killing two members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist group, who were suspected of having planned the last month’s assassination of a Turkish diplomat in the regional capital Erbil.
Turkish forces, supported by the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), targeted a vehicle carrying the two men, identified as Haci Kurhan and Metin Akgun, in an aerial operation last week.
2 more PKK terrorists who plotted the attack on Turkish diplomat Osman Köse in northern Iraq have neutralized in a joint operation by the military and the National Intelligence Organizationhttp://sabahdai.ly/8tlj5b
Two PKK terrorists who were involved in the planning of the attack on Turkish diplomat in Irbil have been neutralized in a joint operation carried out by...
3:45 PM - Aug 8, 2019
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Turkish consulate employee Osman Kose was killed on July 17 at HuQQabaz, a popular restaurant in an upscale and high-security area only a five-minute drive from the Turkish mission on the airport road in Erbil.
One of the attackers directly targeted the Turkish diplomat at close range, firing a gun with a silencer. Meanwhile, the other attacker began to shoot towards two Iraqi customers. One of them died immediately while the other died in hospital.
Turkey’s English-language newspaper Daily Sabah reported on July 25 that Turkish military had killed two organizers of the assassination during two separate operations on July 18 and July 24 in northern Iraq.
Officials from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said in a statement issued on July 26 that based on a detailed confession by suspected Kurdish gunman Mazloum Dag, (shown in the picture below), the murder was carried out on the orders of top PKK commanders.
Iraqi Kurdish security services said PKK commanders had been planning the murder in their heavily fortified and far-flung hideouts in Iraq's Qandil mountains for three months.
Dag's arrest on July 20 immediately caught the headlines in Turkish media as his sister Dersim is a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which the Turkish government accuses of affiliation to the PKK.
The HDP, Turkey’s second largest opposition group, “strongly” condemned the Erbil shooting attack, calling it an “absolutely unacceptable provocation attempt.”
Attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since a shaky ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015.
Dozens of Yemenis have gathered in front of the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York, protesting against the years-long, crippling embargo imposed by a Saudi-led military coalition on the international airport in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a.
The protesters, who gathered in front of the UN building on Thursday, demanded that the world body take action to end the siege on the Sana’a International Airport.
They held signs that said the embargo had practically turned Yemen into a large prison as some 70 percent of Yemenis used to travel abroad via the airport in the capital.
They also demanded the removal of the Saudi-imposed siege on all Yemeni seaports and airports.
The Saudi-led military coalition that has invaded Yemen has also been enforcing a tight embargo on the airport in the capital — which acts as a lifeline for the impoverished nation — since August 2015, five months after it started the war.
On Monday, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) said in a statement that the four-year suspension of services at the capital’s airport amounted to a “death sentence” for many ill Yemenis.
It also appealed to Yemen’s warring parties to come to an agreement to reopen the airport for commercial flights to “alleviate [the] humanitarian suffering caused by the closure.”
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Press TV in late May, Yemeni Health Minister Taha al-Mutawakil said that the Saudi blockade had hampered efforts to help Yemeni civilians with medical assistance.
He said at the time that there were more than 8,000 dialysis patients in Yemen but they lacked treatment because the Saudis were preventing the entry of the necessary medical equipment and supplies.
The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.
7 AUGUST 2019
By Kingsley Nwezeh
Abuja — Five civilians were killed on Monday night as troops of the Nigerian Army clashed with fighters of terrorist organisation, Boko Haram in Monguno, Borno State.
The clash was coming as the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Yusuf Buratai, boasted that the military had dealt decisively with the insurgents which he said were already "pushed away" from the North-east.
Residents of Monguno Local Government Area of the state said that attack by Boko Haram, occurred Monday night at about 10:25 p.m.
Eyewitness accounts said the attack left five civilians dead with several others injured following exchange of gunfire between troops and the insurgents.
"There have been several attempts by Boko Haram to take over Monguno since the beginning of this year. But last night's attack was deadly. We do not know the number of soldiers or Boko Haram killed but stray bullets killed five civilians and injured many others. It was too bad. Most of us are just returning from hiding", a Monguno resident said.
A military source within the theatre of war said the clash lasted throughout Monday night, saying the likely high casualty figure on both sides could not be ascertained as at the time of filing this report.
"We fought them throughout the night and managed to repel them. I am not in the position to speak on casualty but casualty figures are bound to come at the end of a battle like this", he said.
Another source said the terrorist group had made several attempts to break into the town since January but managed to penetrate and attack Monday night through Kuya village.
Meanwhile, Buratai said the army had dealt with the insurgents and pushed them out of the North-east.
Speaking while receiving the Bangladesh High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Mohammad Shammeen Ashan, in his office, Buratai said his experience as an alumnus of Bangladesh military institutions had helped the army deal with the terrorists in the North-east. "My stay in Bangladesh has contributed to how we have dealt with the insurgents and terrorists in the North-east of our country. Though we are still dealing with them and they are being pushed away from the North-east", he said.
He said the Nigerian Army would continue to explore available opportunity for further training of its officers and soldiers in the areas of tactics, staff duties and intelligence among others.
Buratai urged the Bangladesh government to also take advantage of Nigerian Army's military training institutions.
"Our military institutions are also open for training to your officers and soldiers. We have the infantry school, the artillery school, the intelligence school, the amoured school and the cyber warfare school among others and they are all of international standards.
He also urged the High Commissioner to partner the Nigerian Army University in Biu, in Borno State.
Speaking earlier, the envoy told the army chief that he was at the Army headquarters to further strengthen the bilateral relations between both countries particularly to seek for increased military cooperation.
Noting that Bangladesh and Nigeria were strong military contributors to United Nations peacekeeping operations, the ambassador said this was because both countries sought for and work for peace and stability in the international community.
"I will do my best to see that both countries sustain world peace" he said.
Somalia and the United States have agreed to intensify security operations to flush out al-Shabab militants in the Horn of Africa nation.
U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale, who met with Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire in Mogadishu on Monday, also resolved to prepare Somali forces to take over from the African Union mission to Somalia.
"They agreed on the value of security operations to liberate areas from al-Shabab and preparing Somali forces to take over from the African Union Mission to Somalia," the U.S. said in a statement issued after the meeting on Monday night.
On his part, Khaire briefed the U.S. official on recent political and security developments and Somalia's progress towards meeting the conditions for debt relief that would allow Somalia to resume borrowing from international financial institutions.
Washington and other international partner forces have intensified incursions into territory formerly controlled by al-Shabab after driving the insurgents out of Mogadishu in 2011.
Since 2017, the U.S. military has stepped up air raids against al-Shabab which is trying to overthrow the internationally-backed Somali government.
AUGUST 7, 2019
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - The United States still needs to resolve longstanding issues with Sudan before it can consider removing it from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, a senior State Department official said on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Sudan’s military rulers and the main opposition coalition initialed a constitutional declaration paving the way for a transitional government, leading to calls from international mediators for the country to be removed from the U.S. list.
The designation as a state sponsor of terrorism makes Sudan ineligible for desperately needed debt relief and financing from lenders like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Removal from the list potentially opens the door for foreign investment.
“There’s a number things we’re looking forward to engaging with a civilian-led government,” Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale said when asked about the issue at a news conference in Khartoum.
These included human rights, religious freedom and counter-terrorism efforts, as well as “promoting internal peace, political stability and economic recovery in Sudan”, he said.
The U.S. government suspended discussions on normalizing relations with Sudan in April after the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir, and Hale said that suspension remained in place.
The U.S. government added Sudan to its list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1993 over allegations that then-President Bashir’s Islamist government was supporting terrorism.
Hale said he met General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council, as well as members of the Forces for Freedom and Change, the main opposition coalition, and other civil society groups.
“We also discussed the importance of a thorough and independent investigation into the violence that has claimed numerous lives, according to credible reports, since the former regime was deposed,” Hale said.
Dozens of demonstrators were killed in crackdowns on protests in Khartoum and other cities following Bashir’s overthrow.
Hale paid tribute to the role of women in the revolution, and hoped they would play a meaningful part in the transition to a civilian government.
Tunisia’s Prime Minister Youssef Chahed announced Thursday he would stand in presidential elections next month.
“I have thought hard and decided to put myself forward for the position of president of the republic,” he said during an assembly of his Tahya Tunis party.
The 43-year-old, Tunisia’s youngest prime minister, faces possible competition from Abdelfattah Mourou of the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party and controversial media magnate Nabil Karoui.
Originally scheduled for November, the vote was brought forward following the death of incumbent Beji Caid Essebsi on July 25.
Chahed said he wanted to “break with the old system and give hope to all Tunisians, including young people, that they can take on important positions in the state.”
Launched at the start of the year, Chahed’s Tahya Tounes has become the second largest party in parliament behind Ennahdha.
Tahya Tounes said last week the premier would be their candidate for the presidential polls.
Tunisia has been praised as a rare case of democratic transition to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings.
But it has struggled with repeated militant attacks, along with inflation and unemployment that have hit Chahed’s popularity.
The agricultural engineering graduate entered politics after Tunisia’s 2011 uprising which ousted autocratic president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Presidential hopefuls have until Friday to register for the election on September 15.
Over 50 people had registered their candidacy by Thursday.
They include Abir Moussi, who heads a group formed from the remnants of Ben Ali’s ruling party and has called for Islamists including Ennahdha to be excluded from the poll.
On Thursday, openly gay lawyer Mounir Baatour announced he would stand in the elections, a first for the Arab world.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry dismisses the claim that it has replaced the country’s ambassador to Nigeria over his support for jailed Shia leader Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky and his followers.
The Foreign Ministry’s reaction came on Thursday night, refuting an allegation originally “raised by certain Wahhabi-affiliated movements in Western Africa as part of their anti-Iran propaganda.”
“The former ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran [to Nigeria] returned to Iran in June 2016 after the end of his 4.5-year mission, and the incumbent ambassador has been based in the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Abuja since July 2016,” the statement added.
Sheikh Zakzaky, a prominent Shia leader, has been in detention along with his wife for close to four years despite the deterioration of his health conditions.
Back on August 5, a court granted him bail to seek medical treatment in India. However, the Kaduna state government later issued what it called terms of agreement for the release of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife, delaying the release ordered by the court.
Zakzaky’s supporters on Thursday took to the streets of Abuja to protest against the delay in releasing the top cleric, but quickly dispersed in order to avoid crackdown by security forces who were rushing to the scene to launch attacks.
The cleric’s lawyer has denounced the terms of agreement of the Kaduna state government, saying the Department of State Services has already announced on behalf of the Nigerian government that it will obey the order of the court which has granted medical bail to the cleric and his wife.
At least four fighters from the al-Shabaab group were killed in southern Somalia late on Wednesday.
The Somalia-based al-Qaeda-affiliated group had attacked a military post in the newly liberated town of Awdhegle in the province of Lower Shabelle, officials said.
Mohamud Ahmed, a Somali National Army officer in the region, told Anadolu Agency that the U.S.-trained special forces known as Danab killed four al-Shabaab militants after fighting in Awdhegle town.
"A group of al-Shabaab militants attacked in our military post in Awdhegle town. We received intelligence information regarding their target and I can confirm to you that we killed four militants," Ahmed said.
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