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Islamic World News (11 Mar 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)


Iraq Unsure If U.N. Help Needed To Probe Islamic State Crimes
















Victoria firefighters respond to a fire at the Islamic Center of Victoria on Jan. 28 in Victoria, Texas. The fire destroyed the mosque that was a target of hatred several years ago and experienced a burglary just a week ago.  (BARCLAY FERNANDEZ / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS) 

 

British Forces Targeting Syrian Al Qaeda Rival to Islamic State to Prevent UK Attacks

Suspect in Texas Mosque Fire Believed Its Worshippers Were Terrorists: Authorities

Pakistan Did ‘Helpful Things’ Against Haqqanis: US General

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Arab World

Iraq Unsure If U.N. Help Needed To Probe Islamic State Crimes

Iraqi Commander: ISIL Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Fled Mosul with US Assistance

Syrian, Russian Bombers Turn Eastern Aleppo into Hell for ISIL

Mosque caretaker assault fake: Police

'No Evidence' Of Islamic State Using Chemical Weapons in Mosul Attack

Mobile-phone users to get clarification on Islamic issues

Syrian Army Readying to Launch Assault to Recapture Oil Fields near Palmyra City

Military Expert: Syrian Army to Besiege Raqqa from West

Syrian Army Cuts off ISIL's Supply Lines in Eastern Aleppo

Source: Russian Special Forces Helping Syrian Army Recapture Palmyra

Syrian Army Sends Special Forces to Damascus Countryside to Fight Al-Nusra Front Terrorists

Islamic State Frees Mosul Prisoners as Grip on Last Major City Slips

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Europe

British Forces Targeting Syrian Al Qaeda Rival to Islamic State to Prevent UK Attacks

Pope Francis Signals Elderly Married Men Could Become Priests

Putin hosts Syria talks, hails partnership with Turkey

In Bordeaux, Muslims fight against radical Islam

Where Is Reality, as Fundamentalist Christians Think They Are More Discriminated Against Than Muslims?

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North America

Suspect in Texas Mosque Fire Believed Its Worshippers Were Terrorists: Authorities

Travel Ban Challenge Puts Hawaii’s Few Muslims under the Spotlight

Islamic Centre Takes Property Association To Court Over Mosque Block

This Model Muslim Marine Offered To Guard Jewish Sites For Free — Why Have None Taken Him Up?

US Could Send 1,000 More Soldiers in Islamic State Counteroffensive

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Pakistan

Pakistan Did ‘Helpful Things’ Against Haqqanis: US General

Army Rebuilds Mosque Blown Up By Militants

Liquor shops again approach SC against SHC ban order

24,000 attached with alcohol business in Sindh alone

CSS qualified persons with disability can now join Foreign Service of Pakistan

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India

Islamic Radio Station to Promote ‘Halal' Entertainment in Kashmir

The Bhopal-Ujjain Train Blast Wasn’t the Islamic State Attack Indian Intelligence Was Expecting

Pakistan summons India's Deputy High Commissioner over Assemanand's acquittal

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South Asia

3 Foreign ISIS Militants Killed In US Drone Strike in East of Afghanistan

Taliban’s finance and military commission leaders killed in Kunduz

Top ISIS leader involved in Kabul demonstration attack killed

Pakistan violated Afghan territory, airspace for 62 times since January, UNSC informed

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Mideast

Military Source: Turkish Army Hits Syrian Gov't Troops' Military Positions in Aleppo's Manbij

All Kinds of Military Cooperation with Russia in Syria: President Erdoğan

Putin hosts Erdoğan for high-level talks

71 militants killed in one week in northern Syria: Turkish military

Nearly 15,000 Syrians receiving education in Turkish universities

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Southeast Asia

Burma Says UN Claims of Crimes against Humanity against Rohingya Muslims Are ‘Exaggerated’

Man held for burning down Texas mosque

Marines set hearing on charges related to Muslim recruit's death

WA election: troublemaker puts council stamp on fake mosque proposal

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Australia

Islamic Leader Slams Bogus Mosque Plan

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Africa

Egyptian Parliamentary Action against ‘Fatwa Chaos’

East African Regulators Allow More Islamic Finance Services

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/iraq-unsure-if-un-help-needed-to-probe-islamic-state-crimes/d/110373

 

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Iraq Unsure If U.N. Help Needed To Probe Islamic State Crimes

BY MICHELLE NICHOLS

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iraq is assessing what help it might need to collect and preserve evidence of Islamic State crimes, but has not yet decided whether it needs United Nations assistance, the country's U.N. Ambassador, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, said on Friday.

Britain is drafting a U.N. Security Council resolution to establish a U.N. investigation to collect and preserve evidence for future prosecution, but would like Iraq to approve such a move by sending a letter formally requesting council action.

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi woman who was enslaved and raped by Islamic State fighters in Mosul, pushed Iraq on Thursday to allow a U.N. inquiry.

"We don't want people to tell us what we need, we will tell them what we need and that's really the bottom line," Alhakim told reporters, acknowledging that Iraq does need technical forensic support.

"Let's get it from the EU (European Union), let's get it from the UK, let's get it from the U.S.," he said. "Technical assistance you can get from anywhere, you don't need a Security Council resolution to get technical assistance."

Alhakim said Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi would decide whether to ask for United Nations help.

"We want the government of Iraq to send (the letter) as soon as possible," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said on Friday. "The best route would be with the full consent and at the request of the government of Iraq.

"There are other ways of doing this if that route does not prove to be possible," he added.

The Security Council could establish an inquiry without Iraq's consent. The 193-member U.N. General Assembly could establish a special team to preserve evidence and prepare cases - as it did for Syria in December - or the Security Council could refer the case to the International Criminal Court.

Murad and Clooney, who represents Murad and other Yazidi victims of Islamic State, on Friday met with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Islamic State is committing genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq to destroy the minority religious community through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes, U.N. experts said last June.

"Nadia knows where her mother is buried. There are mass graves whose locations are known and for all of this time, they're just laying there unprotected and evidence is being damaged," Clooney told Reuters on Thursday.

"If we don't act now, we may lose the opportunity to have trials anywhere, ever," she said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

thestar.com.my/news/world/2017/03/11/iraq-unsure-if-un-help-needed-to-probe-islamic-state-crimes/#FLrR3Ds5J01xgTSd.99

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British Forces Targeting Syrian Al Qaeda Rival to Islamic State to Prevent UK Attacks

Fri, Mar 10, 2017

BRITISH forces are targeting a Syrian Al Qaeda rival to Islamic State in a bid to prevent terrorist attacks on UK streets, a Government report has revealed.

Britain is “pursuing” the leadership of the Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as Al Qaeda in Syria or Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS).

And it is trying to destroy its resources to limit its terror activities.

The moves come amid fears that when ISIS is finally crushed on the battlefield its fighters will disperse across the Middle East and latch onto whichever Islamic extremist organisation appears to be successful.

Iraqi soldier's sacrifice stopping ISIS bomber with tank for civilians

Fears ISIS are smuggling people and weapons into Europe

At the same time Britain is braced for the return of UK-jihadis who will pose an immediate terror threat here.

There are fears that when ISIS is finally crushed on the battlefield its fighters will disperse

A member of the Iraqi forces stands over a body  in Mosul on March 5, 2017, during an offensive to retake the western parts of the city from the jihadists

Yasser Hamid Nadm, 11 years old is treated for possible exposure to chemical weapons agents in a hospital west of Erbil in Mosul

ire and smoke billow following a car bomb explosion as Iraqi forces clash with Islamic State (IS) group fighters in Mosul

A man runs from Islamic State controlled part of Mosul towards Iraqi special forces soldiers during a battle in Mosul

A man cries while he carries his daughter as he walks from Islamic State controlled part of Mosul towards Iraqi special forces soldiers during a battle in Mosul

Military helicopters belonging to the Iraqi Army take part in the operation to retake Mosul from Daesh terrorists in the Teyran neighborhood as the clashes between Iraqi Army and Daesh terrorists continue in Mosul, Iraq

Iraqi troops backed by the airpower of the US-led coalition are closing in on Mosul, the last major ISIS stronghold in Iraq, while Coalition allies are slowly surrounding the self-styled ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria.

The Government report said: “As Daesh loses territory in Iraq and Syria, we are actively looking at how the threat from Daesh will evolve.

“We expect that foreign terrorist fighters will try to return either to their home countries or will look to disperse around the region and beyond.”

The report accepts that defeating ISIS will not eradicate the terror threat as “pre-existing Islamic organisations may attach themselves to whichever militant networks are perceived to be in the ascendant”.

Among the Islamic groups which pose a threat is JFS which claims to be more moderate than ISIS but also wants to set up an Islamist state in Syria.

As an Al Qaeda affiliate it follows the philosophy of the terror franchise’s founder, Osama bin Laden.

It is fighting the Russian-backed regime of president Assad which Britain wants to see replaced by a democratic government.

'We are actively looking at how the threat from Daesh will evolve', says government report

But JFS is also on the US and UN list of terrorist organisations.

The Government report stated: “JFS poses a terrorism threat to the UK; while they are primarily Syria focused they follow AQ’s ideology, share its vision of global jihad and likely share its long term intent to attack the West.”

A cross-Government Counter Terrorism team is following an action plan to “undermine and counter JFS in Syria.

The strategy’s priorities include: “Pursue JFS leadership and degrade their capacity to conduct external attack planning...

“Weaken: Strip resources away from, JFS and where possible isolate them from the wider opposition.”

Another plank of the strategy is to “strengthen the international commitment to counter JFS.”

The report underlines the complexity of the civil war in Syria with the UK sharing the same aim as terrorist groups - toppling the murderous Assad regime.

Meanwhile the Government stressed that it is working across the Muslim world to neutralise the threat of ISIS popping up in new countries, with UK military advisers working with local forces in Libya, Tunisia, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Jordan.

express.co.uk/news/world/777696/british-military-targeting-syrian-al-qaeda-rival-islamic-state

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Christian Evangelicals Say They Face More Discrimination Than Muslims

MAR 10, 2017

A poll found they were more likely to name Christians than Muslims when asked who is discriminated against.

Brittney McNamara

A poll from the Public Religion Research Institute revealed white evangelical Americans believe they face more discrimination than Muslims.

According to the Atlantic, a new poll found that when given the choice between who faces discrimination, more people were likely to name Muslim people than they were Christians. But unlike the majority, people who identify as Christian evangelicals were more likely to say Christians face discrimination.

The poll found people overall were twice as likely to say Muslims face discrimination as they were to say Christians do. Other groups, including Democrats, white Catholics and Protestants agreed with the overall numbers, but white Protestant evangelicals stuck out. Among that group, 57% said Christians face a lot of discrimination, compared to 44% who said the same thing about Muslims. This has changed from past years, when Christian evangelicals were in line with other groups in agreeing Muslims face discrimination.

The Atlantic points out it's hard to define exactly what perceived discrimination means, since it could mean different things to different people. Still, hate crimes against Muslim people increased by 67% in 2015, and new reports of hate crimes since the election have been rolling in. The Southern Poverty Law Center said President Trump is to blame for a spike in hate crimes against Muslim people, saying his candidacy for President energized hate groups.

"Trump’s run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country," Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told the Independent.

Jewish people have also been the target of increased hate crimes, but they were not included in the Public Religion Research Institute.

While Christians do face discrimination, numbers show Muslims are more often the target. According to the Atlantic, 22% of religiously motivated crimes are against Muslims, while 13.6% are against Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, and other Christians.

teenvogue.com/story/christian-evangelical-muslim-discrimination

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Pakistan Did ‘Helpful Things’ Against Haqqanis: US General

March 11th, 2017

WASHINGTON: For the first time ever, a US general informed a congressional panel on Thursday that Pakistan had “done things” against the Haqqani network that have been helpful to the war against terror.

Gen Joseph Votel, commander of the US Central Command, also told the Senate Armed Services Committee that India’s policy of diplomatically isolating Pakistan was “especially troubling” as it could lead to a nuclear conflict in South Asia.

Gen Votel, who is responsible for implementing the US military strategy in the Pak-Afghan region, described Pakistan as a key and critical partner and emphasised the need to stay engaged with Islamabad in the counterterrorism fight.

Washington endorses New Delhi’s claim of surgical strikes

His stance reflects the Pentagon’s desire to maintain its long-standing relationship with Pakistan’s military establishment and contrasts sharply with recent statements by some US lawmakers who urged the Trump administration to sever ties with Islamabad.

Gen Votel told the Senate panel that he has been encouraged by his meetings with Pakistan’s new army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and by his commitment to the fight against terror.

“They have done some things that have been helpful to us,” he said. “Most recently, they’ve supported Gen Joseph Nicholson in some places on the border, making sure they were well coordinated and doing the activities on their side of the border.”

Gen Nicholson is the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan who, Gen Votel said, was working closely with Pakistan’s new army chief and his commanders to eliminate various terrorist groups hiding on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border.

“That’s a very positive sign and a move in [the] right direction. And they have done things against the principal concerns we have; the Haqqani network and Taliban,” Gen Votel said. “But we need that to be more persistent and continue to focus in that particular area. And so, we will continue to engage with partner Pakistan throughout this.”

India-Pakistan ties

In his written testimony, Gen Votel also elaborated the US defence establishment’s position on India-Pakistan relations, which appeared more even-handed than recent statements by some US lawmakers who clearly urged the Trump administration to abandon Pakistan for improving Washington’s already close relations with New Delhi.

Explaining the genesis of recent tensions between India and Pakistan, the Centcom commander explained how Indians remained concerned about the lack of action against India-focu­sed militants based in Pakistan.

He noted that India “even responded militarily to terrorist attacks in India-held territory earlier this year”. Pakistan denies the Indian claim, saying that Indian forces never crossed into Pakistani territory but the US general endorsed the Indian claim.

“We assess that these types of attacks and the potential reactions, increase the likelihood for miscalculation by both countries,” he warned. “Further­­more, India’s public policy to ‘diplomatically isolate’ Pakistan, hinders any prospects for improved relations.”

The general warned that the Indian policy of isolating Pakistan was “especially troubling as a significant conventional conflict between Pakistan and India could escalate into a nuclear exchange, given that both are nuclear powers”.

Gen Votel also told US lawmakers that Pakistan’s increased focus on its eastern border detracts it from its efforts to secure the western border with Afghanistan from incursion by the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters.

“Security along the western border will nevertheless remain a priority for Islamabad, as the Pakistani military seeks to expand border control and improve paramilitary security,” he added.

Responding to a question from Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, Gen Votel explained that eliminating the sanctuary of militant groups in Pakistan was key to improving the security environment in Afghanistan. And that’s why the US maintains consistent diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to take appropriate steps to deny safe haven and to improve the security of the tumultuous Af-Pak border region, he added.

“I think it is key to ensure that Pakistan and Afghanistan have a very good relationship. There certainly are tensions along the common border between those countries and so I think a key role that we can play is in helping move that relationship forward,” he said.

Ties with the Pakistan military

In his written testimony, as well as during the Q&A, Gen Votel regularly emphasised the need to maintain a strong relationship between the US and Pakistani military establishments.

“While there are challenges with respect to the US-Pakistani relationship, we have endeavoured to maintain a substantial level of engagement with our Pakistani military counterparts,” he said. “We continue to execute a robust joint exercise programme.”

He noted that most recently, the Pakistan Air Force sent airmen and aircraft to participate in Exercise Red Flag and Green Flag at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada this past summer. The Pakistani military also continues to support US efforts elsewhere in the region. The Pakistani Navy is the most consistent and longstanding participant, second only to the United States, in Combined Task Force (CTF)-150 (counterterrorism operations) and CTF-151 (counterpiracy operations) led by US Naval Forces Central.

“Our relationship with Pakistan remains a very important one. We look forward to continuing our engagement with the Pakistani military leadership, to include the new Chief of the Army Staff, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, in the days ahead as we work together in pursuit of shared interests,” he said.

Gen Votel also explained why Pakistan remains “a critical partner” in the counterterrorism fight.

According to him, 20 US-designated terrorist organisations operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan sub-region and seven of them are in Pakistan.

“So long as these groups maintain safe haven inside of Pakistan they will threaten long-term stability in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the US was particularly concerned about the Haqqani network, which posed the greatest threat to coalition forces operating in Afghanistan.

dawn.com/news/1319770/pakistan-did-helpful-things-against-haqqanis-us-general

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Arab World

Iraq unsure if U.N. help needed to probe Islamic State crimes

BY MICHELLE NICHOLS

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iraq is assessing what help it might need to collect and preserve evidence of Islamic State crimes, but has not yet decided whether it needs United Nations assistance, the country's U.N. Ambassador, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, said on Friday.

Britain is drafting a U.N. Security Council resolution to establish a U.N. investigation to collect and preserve evidence for future prosecution, but would like Iraq to approve such a move by sending a letter formally requesting council action.

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi woman who was enslaved and raped by Islamic State fighters in Mosul, pushed Iraq on Thursday to allow a U.N. inquiry.

"We don't want people to tell us what we need, we will tell them what we need and that's really the bottom line," Alhakim told reporters, acknowledging that Iraq does need technical forensic support.

"Let's get it from the EU (European Union), let's get it from the UK, let's get it from the U.S.," he said. "Technical assistance you can get from anywhere, you don't need a Security Council resolution to get technical assistance."

Alhakim said Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi would decide whether to ask for United Nations help.

"We want the government of Iraq to send (the letter) as soon as possible," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said on Friday. "The best route would be with the full consent and at the request of the government of Iraq.

"There are other ways of doing this if that route does not prove to be possible," he added.

The Security Council could establish an inquiry without Iraq's consent. The 193-member U.N. General Assembly could establish a special team to preserve evidence and prepare cases - as it did for Syria in December - or the Security Council could refer the case to the International Criminal Court.

Murad and Clooney, who represents Murad and other Yazidi victims of Islamic State, on Friday met with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Islamic State is committing genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq to destroy the minority religious community through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes, U.N. experts said last June.

"Nadia knows where her mother is buried. There are mass graves whose locations are known and for all of this time, they're just laying there unprotected and evidence is being damaged," Clooney told Reuters on Thursday.

"If we don't act now, we may lose the opportunity to have trials anywhere, ever," she said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

thestar.com.my/news/world/2017/03/11/iraq-unsure-if-un-help-needed-to-probe-islamic-state-crimes/#FLrR3Ds5J01xgTSd.99

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Iraqi Commander: ISIL Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Fled Mosul with US Assistance

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior Hashd al-Shaabi (Iraqi volunteer forces) commander disclosed that the US troops have helped ISIL chief commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi escape the western part of the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq.

"The US forces have paved the way for ISIL leader (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) to flee from Western Mosul to al-Qayravan region," the Arabic-language al-Sumeria TV quoted Javad al-Tayebavi as saying.

"Our intelligence unit has confirmed that al-Baghdadi is moving between al-Qayravan and al-Hazar region in Southern Mosul.

The report came as Reuters news agency reported that the US and Iraqi officials believe Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has left operational commanders behind with diehard followers to fight the battle of Mosul, and is now hiding out in the desert, focusing mainly on his own survival.

It is impossible to confirm the whereabouts of the ISIL "caliph", who declared himself the ruler of all Muslims from Mosul's Great Mosque after his forces swept through Northern Iraq in 2014, it said.

But US and Iraqi intelligence sources say an absence of official communication from the group's leadership and the loss of territory in Mosul suggest he has abandoned the city, by far the largest population center his group has ever held.

He has proved to be an elusive target, rarely using communication that can be monitored, and moving constantly, often multiple times in one 24-hour cycle, the sources say.

From their efforts to track him, they believe he hides mostly among sympathetic civilians in familiar desert villages, rather than with fighters in their barracks in urban areas where combat has been under way, the sources say.

At the height of its power two years ago, the ISIL ruled over millions of people in territory running from Northern Syria through towns and villages along the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys to the outskirts of Baghdad in Iraq.

The US-backed Iraqi forces began an operation five months ago to recapture Mosul, a city at least four times the size of any other the group has held.

The 100,000-strong Iraqi forces fully captured the Eastern half of Mosul in January, and commanders began an operation to cross the Tigris and take the western half last month. Progress has since been steady and the coalition says its victory is now inevitable, which would dismantle the caliphate in Iraq.

The intelligence sources point to a sharp drop in ISIL's postings on social media as evidence that al-Baghdadi and his circle have become increasingly isolated.

Al-Baghdadi himself has not released a recorded speech since early November, two weeks after the start of the Mosul battle, when he called on his followers to fight the "unbelievers" and "make their blood flow as rivers."

Since then, sporadic ISIL statements mention attacks carried out by suicide bombers at various locations in Iraq and Syria, but place no particular emphasis on Mosul, despite the city being the main center of fighting.

Neither al-Baghdadi nor any of his close aides released any comment on the fall of the Eastern part of the city in January.

The group's presence on Telegram, a social media network that had become its main platform for announcements and speeches, has tapered off. The US-led coalition estimates that the ISIL's activity on Twitter has fallen by 45 percent since 2014, with 360,000 of the group's Twitter accounts suspended so far and new ones usually shut down within two days.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951220000599

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Syrian, Russian Bombers Turn Eastern Aleppo into Hell for ISIL

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian and Russian warplanes destroyed ISIL's positions in massive airstrikes in Eastern Aleppo, inflicting heavy losses on the terrorists as the Syrian army continued its advances and recaptured vast areas in the region.

The Syrian and Russian fighter jets carried out scores of airstrikes over the Eastern parts of Aleppo province on Friday, targeting the military positions of the ISIL across the Deir Hafer and Maskanah plains.

According to reports, the Syrian and Russian warplanes carried out more than 45 airstrikes over the ISIL positions, killing and wounding a large number of terrorists.

In a relevant remarks earlier on Friday, battlefield sources said that the Syrian army had managed to cut off ISIL's supply routes in Eastern Aleppo after taking full control of several villages in the region.

"The Syrian army has laid siege on the ISIL from Eastern Deir Hafer and disconnected the terrorist group's supply lines in an area located between the towns of Deir Hafer and al-Tabaqeh after taking full control over 10 more villages in Al-Khafaseh region and Euphrates River," a military source said.

The Syrian army troops also managed to reach the Euphrates river after taking full control of al-Khafaseh region.

In a relevant development earlier on Friday, the Syrian army continued its military operations against the ISIL terrorist group in Eastern Aleppo, and seized control of a strategic airport.

"The Syrian army troops seized back the strategic al-Jarah (Kishish) strategic airport after killing tens of terrorists, including foreign field commanders, in fierce clashes with the militants," a military source said.

The source reiterated that the ISIL is on the verge of full collapse in Aleppo province as the Syrian government troops have managed to liberate about 200 towns, villages and hilltops.

The Syrian soldiers had reached areas overlooking al-Jarah airport after pushing rapidly Southwards along Lake Assad while other units of the army advanced to positions some 10 kilometers from Maskanah, an ISIL-held town on the provincial border with Raqqa.

Now, the Syrian Army troops are on the verge of entering the Northern rim of the Maskanah Plain for the first time since they were forced to withdraw from the region.

In a relevant development on Thursday, the Syrian Army soldiers continued their anti-ISIL operation in Eastern Aleppo and captured 14 villages, deploying forces at positions very near to the gates of al-Jarah (Kishish) strategic airport.

The army men stormed ISIL's defense lines in al-Khafseh region and pushed ISIL back from the villages and towns of Khirbet Salami, Rasm Aboud Jaftlak, al-Hamez, Moshrefeh Tal Totoun, Tal Totoun, Jubb Hendi, Rajm al-Aqra'a, al-Horeyh, Bibiri Tahtani, Khirbeh Akleh, Khirbet Salib, Modawareh, Tal Aswad and Khan al-Hamar.

The army killed a large number of ISIL terrorists, including several snipers and destroyed five bomb-laden suicide vehicles, several cannons and several military vehicles.

An informed military source said that the army had arrived at the gates of al-Jarah airport, adding the army men are getting ready to stormed ISIL's positions in al-Jarah airport from the Southern direction of the newly-liberated al-Khafseh town.

Also, the army soldiers continued to advance in the Southern parts of al-Khafseh water facilities in Northeastern Aleppo and retook control of Habouba al-Saqira and Habouba al-Kabira after clashes with the ISIL terrorists.

Meantime, the Syrian government troops won back control of Rasm Harmal al-Saqir, Rasm Harmal al-Kabir and Rasm al-Aboud towns after capturing the al-Babiri water pumping station.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951220000928

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Mosque caretaker assault fake: Police

11-Mar-2017

Manama : The reported assault on the caretaker of a mosque in Hamad Town in the Northern Governorate by two masked men last Wednesday was faked by the caretaker himself, police officials said here yesterday.

According to police, the caretaker faked his own assault and published false pictures of him covered in blood.

“An investigation into the case revealed that the caretaker faked the incident by injuring himself, asking an Asian worker to take his photos,” said a statement by the Interior Ministry said.

The incident was reported by a local Arabic daily and several social media networks, claiming that “the caretaker of Al Zahraa Mosque in Hamad Town was assaulted in the wee hours of Wednesday by two masked men”.

“The 54-year-old was hit from the back while opening the mosque for dawn prayers (Fajr). He was beaten by the attackers who quickly escaped when they couldn’t find anything to steal from the mosque,” the reports mentioned.

 “The caretaker and the Asian worker admitted the findings to the police, as the latter highlighted that he photographed him upon his request and handed him the photos. Legal proceedings have been taken,” Northern Governorate Police General Director Colonel Abdulla Al Jairan said.

The official urged the media to “verify information before publishing”, to avoid harming civil peace, adding that “it is better to not publish such photos before verifying with security authorities or official sources”.

Muhannad Mansour/DTNN muhannad@dt.bh

newsofbahrain.com/viewNews.php?ppId=31203&TYPE=Posts&pid=21&MNU=2&SUB=

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'No evidence' of Islamic State using chemical weapons in Mosul attack

March 11 2017

Iraq's United Nations ambassador has said there is no evidence that the Islamic State extremist group used chemical weapons in an attack in Mosul, the country's second-largest city.

Mohamed Alhakim told reporters ahead of a closed Security Council meeting on a reported chemical attack that he had spoken to officials in Baghdad and informed UN disarmament chief Kim Won-soo of the lack of evidence in advance.

The alleged attack occurred last week in eastern Mosul, an area declared fully liberated by Iraqi forces in January.

The attack hit a neighborhood along the Tigris River, which roughly divides the city in two.

Doctors in an urgent care hospital in the nearby city of Irbil say they began receiving patients showing symptoms of chemical weapons exposure on Thursday.

But Mr Alhakim said "there is really no evidence that Daesh has used this chemical weapon," using the Arab name for the IS group.

If chemical weapons are used, he said, there is evidence of people injured and material left on the ground but "we don't have anything from the operation in Mosul that tells us we have that".

But after the closed consultations, Britain's UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, the current council president, said Iraq's investigation is not over.

"We expressed concern over reports of possible use of chemical weapons by Daesh, and we look forward to the results of Iraq's investigation into those allegations," he said.

Mr Rycroft said Mr Kim briefed the council on his meeting with Mr Alhakim who told him "there is no evidence of the use of chemical weapons as discovered so far... but I don't think that this was the definitive end of this investigation".

The UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Lisa Grande, had warned that the alleged use of chemical weapons in Mosul, if confirmed, would be a war crime and a serious violation of international humanitarian law.

Mr Alhakim said the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international watchdog, had sent a letter to Iraq saying it was ready to come and help if there were any indications of chemical weapons use.

IS has used chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria at least 52 times, according to a report published late last year by IHS conflict monitor, a London-based research and intelligence gathering group. The report said that at least 19 of the 52 attacks took place in and around Mosul.

Iraqi and US-led coalition officials have repeatedly expressed concern regarding IS chemical weapon attacks.

However, IS-claimed insurgent attacks in Iraq and attacks targeting civilians attempting to flee Mosul cause far greater numbers of injuries and deaths to civilians.

belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/no-evidence-of-islamic-state-using-chemical-weapons-in-mosul-attack-35521509.html

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Mobile-phone users to get clarification on Islamic issues

Mohammed Rasooldeen

Saturday 11 March 2017

RIYADH: A new scheme is to be launched by the General Presidency for Scientific Research and Issuing Fatwas to help mobile-phone users get clarification on Islamic issues from competent scholars.

The announcement came on Thursday from the director of the General Presidency for Scientific Research and Issuing Fatwas, Abdullah Al-Ajlan, at the Riyadh International Book Fair 2017.

He said queries will be answered within 48 hours, and a panel of six scholars has been appointed to deal with queries.

arabnews.com/node/1066611/saudi-arabia

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Syrian Army Readying to Launch Assault to Recapture Oil Fields Near Palmyra City

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army troops will kick off fresh military operations soon to take back the ISIL-controlled oil fields in the surrounding areas of Palmyra, informed sources revealed on Friday.

"The Syrian army's missile and artillery units have heavily pounded the ISIL's military positions near al-Maher and al-Sha'er oilfields in recent days," a military source said.

The source noted that the Syrian army will soon kick off its military operations to take back al-Maher and al-Sha'er oilfields.

The Syrian army troops have made massive advances in the surrounding areas of Palmyra (Tadmur) after winning back the ancient city, and also managed to seize back al-Jazal oilfield.

The al-Sha'er and al-Maher oilfields are the only remaining oilfields in Northwestern Palmyra which are still under ISIL's control.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, the Syrian army continued its military advances against the ISIL terrorist groups in the surrounding areas of the ancient city of Palmyra in the Eastern part of Homs province and captured new areas.

The Syrian army troops imposed control over Mohammad Ahmad farms near Palmyra's silos after seizing al-Ameriyeh mountains and started purging terrorists from the region.

"The Syrian army is now only 4.5 kilometers away from Palmyra silos from the direction of al-Ameriyeh moutains in the West," a military source said, adding that "the Syrian army troops have recaptured all the regions lost to the ISIL in the last two months once the silos are taken back from the terrorists,".

The source noted that the Syrian army is now 19 kilometers away from the Arak oil region and 55 kilometers from al-Sukhneh oil region.

On Wednesday, the Syrian army continued its military operations North and North-East of the ancient city of Palmyra in Homs province and seized control over several more regions.

The Syrian army units engaged in fierce clashes with the ISIL terrorists in areas surrounding Palmyra and won control of al-Ameriyeh mountains to the East of the airport and the nearby hilltops in the Eastern parts of Homs province.

The Syrian army troops also continued their advances to the East of Palmyra and took control of silos in an area 10 kilometers to the ancient city.

The Syrian army's missile and artillery units also targeted and pounded the ISIL's military positions in al-Baredeh, Katibeh Mahjoureh and the Eastern countryside of the two cities of al-Quaryatayn and Palmyra, killing and injuring several ISIL terrorists as well as destroying their military equipment.

The Syrian Army troops continued their anti-ISIL offensives East of the newly-freed city of Palmyra and captured more positions from the terrorists, deploying forces only 21km away from Arak energy-rich region in Eastern Homs.

The army men engaged in an intense battle with ISIL and seized full control over Ameriyeh settlement and Palmyra prison.

The army soldiers purged the regions near the Palmyra airport and deployed troops in an area only 21km away from Arak oilfield.

In the meantime, military sources said that the army forces are now advancing against ISIL East of Palmyra airport towards the regions of Bayareh Mohammad Batmaan and Bayareh Ham'ah al-Motlaq, adding that the government forces are just 10km away from the silos.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951220000918

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Military Expert: Syrian Army to Besiege Raqqa from West

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior military expert said the Syrian army plans to lay siege on the city of Raqqa from the Western direction.

"The Syrian army is expected to besiege Raqqa city from West after capturing the Eastern countryside of Aleppo and advancing towards the Euphrates River and reaching al-Tabaqeh," Mohammad Farid Issa said.

He went on to say that parallel with the Syrian army's military pressures on the Palmyra-Al-Sukhneh road towards Eastern Deir Ezzur and Northern Raqqa, the ISIL-controlled regions between Raqqa and Deir Ezzur will be divided and clamp down on ISIL in every region separately.

Issa said that the Syrian army will move from al-Khafaseh to Deir Hafer and then from al-Maskaneh to al-Tabaqeh before attempting to capture al-Tabaqeh airport and advancing further to the East to capture Raqqa.

The Syrian military expert said that the operation against ISIL in Syria has been given a priority to increase pressure on the terrorist group as similar operations are underway in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

"Syria and Iraq are in full coordination with each other in a bid to exert most pressure on the ISIL in a bid to push it back in its regions," he added.

In a relevant development in late January, the Syrian Army soldiers continued their operations to cut off ISIL's lines of supply from Raqqa to Aleppo, capturing several villages Southeast of Aleppo province.

The army men, backed up by the country's Air Force, engaged in fierce clashes with the ISIL terrorists in Southeastern Aleppo, taking control over the villages of Um Mayal, Jubb al-Ali and al-Atshaneh in al-Safireh region in the Eastern direction of Khanasser road.

Reports said ISIL has retreated from the region after sustaining casualties.

In the meantime, the army soldiers hit ISIL's positions in the Western direction of Khanasser road and managed to advance against militants in Shabis mountain.

The army troops are trying to take control of Syriatel hill and cut off ISIL's communication lines between Raqqa and the regions of al-Bab and Deir Hafer East of Aleppo province.

Also, the army forces continued military operations in Eastern Aleppo on Monday and could liberate two other towns in the region.

The army units and their allies engaged in several hours of clashes with the ISIL terrorists and could retake control of al-Tanbour and al-Mantaf towns located between al-Bab and Aleppo cities.

Tens of ISIL terrorists were killed and wounded during the clashes.

Meantime, the Syrian army targeted the ISIL positions in al-Madiouna and al-Salima towns as well as all the Southwestern parts of al-Bab city by artillery, aerial and missile attacks concurrent with the ground forces' advances in the region.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951220000850

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Syrian Army Cuts off ISIL's Supply Lines in Eastern Aleppo

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army has managed to cut off ISIL's supply routes in Eastern Aleppo after taking full control of several villages in the region, battlefield sources said on Friday.

"The Syrian army has laid siege on the ISIL from Eastern Deir Hafer and disconnected the terrorist group's supply lines in an area located between the towns of Deir Hafer and al-Tabaqeh after taking full control over 10 more villages in Al-Khafaseh region and Euphrates River," a military source said on Friday.

The Syrian army troops also managed to reach the Euphrates river after taking full control of al-Khafaseh region.

In a relevant development earlier on Friday, the Syrian army continued its military operations against the ISIL terrorist group in Eastern Aleppo, and seized control of a strategic airport.

"The Syrian army troops seized back the strategic al-Jarah (Kishish) strategic airport after killing tens of terrorists, including foreign field commanders, in fierce clashes with the militants," a military source said.

The source reiterated that the ISIL is on the verge of full collapse in Aleppo province as the Syrian government troops have managed to liberate about 200 towns, villages and hilltops.

The Syrian soldiers had reached areas overlooking al-Jarah airport after pushing rapidly Southwards along Lake Assad while other units of the army advanced to positions some 10 kilometers from Maskanah, an ISIL-held town on the provincial border with Raqqa.

Now, the Syrian Army troops are on the verge of entering the Northern rim of the Maskanah Plain for the first time since they were forced to withdraw from the region.

In a relevant development on Thursday, the Syrian Army soldiers continued their anti-ISIL operation in Eastern Aleppo and captured 14 villages, deploying forces at positions very near to the gates of al-Jarah (Kishish) strategic airport.

The army men stormed ISIL's defense lines in al-Khafseh region and pushed ISIL back from the villages and towns of Khirbet Salami, Rasm Aboud Jaftlak, al-Hamez, Moshrefeh Tal Totoun, Tal Totoun, Jubb Hendi, Rajm al-Aqra'a, al-Horeyh, Bibiri Tahtani, Khirbeh Akleh, Khirbet Salib, Modawareh, Tal Aswad and Khan al-Hamar.

The army killed a large number of ISIL terrorists, including several snipers and destroyed five bomb-laden suicide vehicles, several cannons and several military vehicles.

An informed military source said that the army had arrived at the gates of al-Jarah airport, adding the army men are getting ready to stormed ISIL's positions in al-Jarah airport from the Southern direction of the newly-liberated al-Khafseh town.

Also, the army soldiers continued to advance in the Southern parts of al-Khafseh water facilities in Northeastern Aleppo and retook control of Habouba al-Saqira and Habouba al-Kabira after clashes with the ISIL terrorists.

Meantime, the Syrian government troops won back control of Rasm Harmal al-Saqir, Rasm Harmal al-Kabir and Rasm al-Aboud towns after capturing the al-Babiri water pumping station.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951220000760

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Source: Russian Special Forces Helping Syrian Army Recapture Palmyra

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- A Tabloid newspaper disclosed that Russia's special military units have taken part in the liberation operation of the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) alongside the Syrian army.

The Russian-language Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper published pictures of Russian special forces in Palmyra city.

It wrote that the Russian army's special forces are skilled snipers who have killed a large number of the ISIL commanders so far.

"The Russian special forces helped the Russian pilots to hit the ISIL's military positions in the heights near Palmyra more precisely by monitoring and providing them with intelligence," the newspaper added.

Komsomolskaya Pravda also wrote that the Russian special troops who are equipped with the state-of-the-art weapons, equipment and modern technology played an important role in recapturing Palmyra by backing the Syrian army troops.

It reiterated that the Russian special troops whose faces are covered and their names are not revealed carry out their military operation under a top secret operation.

On March 2, the Syrian Army, backed by the Russian air force took back the key city of Palmyra from the ISIL terrorist group.

Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov stated at the time that Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu had reported to the commander-in-chief, President Vladimir Putin, that the historic city of Palmyra in Homs province had been liberated.

Hours after Moscow declared the liberation of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Homs province, the General Command of the Syrian Army also confirmed the report.

The Syrian army forces broke the ISIL defense lines in Palmyra on March 1 and entered the ancient city after liberating the Palmyra Triangle and Castle, cuting off the ISIL supply routes towards the historic city.

According to reports, the ISIL terrorists evacuated most parts of the city earlier today after planting bombs in its houses and roads.

ISIL kicked off a large-scale operation on December 8 with thousands of forces in Homs province to take control of Palmyra that was liberated by the Syrian Army in March 2016.

The ISIL took control over some energy fields and strategic heights and approached Palmyra.

The terrorist group finally entered the city of Palmyra on December 10, but the Russian and Syrian forces could repel their attacks, killing hundreds of them.

4,000 fighters of the ISIL carried out again a large-scale offensive against government positions in Palmyra from several flanks and finally managed to capture the city on December 11, while only 800 army soldiers were defending the city and there was no possibility for aerial coverage by the Russian and Syrian warplanes due to bad weather.

The Russia's center for Syrian reconciliation noted ISIL had moved considerable forces from their stronghold of Raqqa, while more forces and equipment were relocated from Deir Ezzur.

The center cited intelligence data that ISIL had moved up to 5,000 fighters to the cities of Raqqa and Deir Ezzur from the Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.

The Syrian Army, backed by the Syrian and Russian Aerospace Forces, liberated Palmyra in March, 2016, nearly a year after it was captured by ISIL in May 2015.

During the invasion, terrorists had cruelly destroyed a major portion of the historic sites in the city. UNESCO Chief Irina Bokova had warned that ISIL militants in both Iraq and Syria were responsible for "the most brutal and systematic" destruction of the ancient heritage since World War II.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951220000708

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Syrian Army Sends Special Forces to Damascus Countryside to Fight Al-Nusra Front Terrorists

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army has dispatched a large number of special reinforcement forces to regions East of the capital to take part in fresh assault on the Al-Nusra Front terrorists in al-Qaboun and Barzeh regions.

The Syrian army troops who have undergone special training and are expert in conducting street battles have been sent to al-Qaboun and Barzeh regions to help other army troops in their ongoing military operation against the al-Nusra Front terrorists who have beem besieged there, military sources said on Friday.

The source also said that if the militants refrain from accepting peace with the Syrian troops and do not leave Damascus for Idlib, the Syrian government troops will immediately start their military operations to set these two regions free.

In a relevant development on Thursday, the Syrian army troops stormed the positions of Al-Nusra Front in Eastern, Southeastern and Northeastern directions of al-Qaboun district Northeast of Damascus city and prevailed over the terrorists' defense lines.

The army unis, backed up by the country's Air Force, continued their attacks on Al-Nusra's concentration centers in al-Qaboun district, ending a large part of their operation in the region.

The army soldiers managed to capture seven Al-Nusra terrorists, including one of the commanders of the group, after hours of clashes in al-Qaboun region.

Field sources said that the army aircraft and artillery and missile units targeted Al-Nusra's positions in several rounds of attacks in al-Qaboun.

The sources further added that main part of the army's operation in al-Qaboun and Tishrin districts have finished and the army soldiers managed to seize control over terrorists' tunnel seen as the backbone of the terrorists in Eastern Ghouta extending from al-Qaboun and Barzeh farms to Douma city.

They added that the last army-seized tunnel of the terrorists that stretched for over 2km in length was side enough for militants' vehicles to run through.

Informed sources said that the truce plan in Eastern Damascus declared by Russian Defense Ministry does not cover al-Nusra's territories, including their positions in Barzeh, al-Qaboun and Tishrin in Northeastern Damascus. 

Reports said on Wednesday that the Syrian army seized control of several farms located between Barzeh and al-Qaboun districts and destroyed over 80 percent of al-Nusra Front's military grid and troops as they tightened their grip over al-Qaboun region East of Damascus province.

"The Syrian army destroyed 80 percent of al-Nusra Front's military bases inside al-Qaboun region in their missile and aerial attacks," a military source said, noting that tens of al-Nusra Front terrorists were killed or wounded in the army offensives.

Meantime, local sources said that the residents of Barzeh region staged a protest rally against the terrorists and raised the Syrian national flags to show support for the government, urging the terrorists to immediately leave their region.

Meantime, local sources disclosed on Thursday that differences among the terrorist groups have increased after their crushing defeats in the battle against the Syrian Army troops in Eastern Ghouta.

Local sources said that disagreements and differences have intensified between the two groups of Al-Nusra Front and Jeish al-Islam (that is mainly comprised of Al-Nusra) on one hand and Faylaq al-Rahman on the other hand in Eastern Ghouta.

A Syrian source, meantime, underscored collapse of Al-Nusra Front in al-Qaboun district Northeast of the capital, Damascus, adding that although al-Qaboun is of paramount importance for the terrorists, they have held several meetings in the last few days to find a way to conclude an agreement for their relocation or surrender to pave the ground for joining peace with the Syrian government.

In the meantime, terrorist groups violated the ceasefire and targeted Damascus with a number of rockets, while several cases of clashes took place between the army soldiers and terrorists in a region between Hawsh al-Zawahereh and Haraza near Douma city.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951220000877

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Islamic State Frees Mosul Prisoners as Grip on Last Major City Slips

March 11, 2017

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Islamic State has released dozens of prisoners held in jails in the districts of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul that remain under its control, residents said on Saturday.

The release of the prisoners on Friday is another sign that the militants are being overwhelmed by the U.S.-backed Iraqi offensive that started on Oct. 17 to dislodge them from Mosul, their last major city stronghold in Iraq.

Islamic State has lost most cities it captured in Iraq in 2014 and 2015. It declared a caliphate that also spanned parts of Syria from Mosul in 2014.

Among those released were people who had been caught selling cigarettes, violating a smoking ban, or in possession of a mobile phone and therefore suspected of communicating with the outside world, the residents said.

Iraqi forces dislodged Islamic State from the eastern side of Mosul in January, and on Feb. 19 launched the offensive on the districts located west of the Tigris river.

State-run TV on Friday said about half western Mosul has been taken back from the militants who are besieged in the old city center and districts to the north.

One of the men released on Friday said two militants got him out of a basement where he was held captive with other people, blindfolded the group and drove them away in a bus.

"After driving a distance, we stopped and they told us to remove the blindfolds and then they said 'go, you are free,'" he said by phone, adding that about 25 prisoners were on the bus.

The man, who requested not to be identified, indicated that had spent two weeks in prison for selling cigarettes.

One Mosul resident said his brother had suddenly reappeared at the house on Friday after spending a month in captivity for possessing a mobile phone.

(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Alexander Smith)

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-03-11/islamic-state-frees-mosul-prisoners-as-grip-on-last-major-city-slips

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Europe

British forces targeting Syrian Al Qaeda rival to Islamic State to prevent UK attacks

PUBLISHED: 19:25, Fri, Mar 10, 2017

BRITISH forces are targeting a Syrian Al Qaeda rival to Islamic State in a bid to prevent terrorist attacks on UK streets, a Government report has revealed.

Britain is “pursuing” the leadership of the Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as Al Qaeda in Syria or Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS).

And it is trying to destroy its resources to limit its terror activities.

The moves come amid fears that when ISIS is finally crushed on the battlefield its fighters will disperse across the Middle East and latch onto whichever Islamic extremist organisation appears to be successful.

Iraqi soldier's sacrifice stopping ISIS bomber with tank for civilians

Fears ISIS are smuggling people and weapons into Europe

At the same time Britain is braced for the return of UK-jihadis who will pose an immediate terror threat here.

There are fears that when ISIS is finally crushed on the battlefield its fighters will disperse

A member of the Iraqi forces stands over a body  in Mosul on March 5, 2017, during an offensive to retake the western parts of the city from the jihadists

Yasser Hamid Nadm, 11 years old is treated for possible exposure to chemical weapons agents in a hospital west of Erbil in Mosul

ire and smoke billow following a car bomb explosion as Iraqi forces clash with Islamic State (IS) group fighters in Mosul

A man runs from Islamic State controlled part of Mosul towards Iraqi special forces soldiers during a battle in Mosul

A man cries while he carries his daughter as he walks from Islamic State controlled part of Mosul towards Iraqi special forces soldiers during a battle in Mosul

Military helicopters belonging to the Iraqi Army take part in the operation to retake Mosul from Daesh terrorists in the Teyran neighborhood as the clashes between Iraqi Army and Daesh terrorists continue in Mosul, Iraq

Iraqi troops backed by the airpower of the US-led coalition are closing in on Mosul, the last major ISIS stronghold in Iraq, while Coalition allies are slowly surrounding the self-styled ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria.

The Government report said: “As Daesh loses territory in Iraq and Syria, we are actively looking at how the threat from Daesh will evolve.

“We expect that foreign terrorist fighters will try to return either to their home countries or will look to disperse around the region and beyond.”

The report accepts that defeating ISIS will not eradicate the terror threat as “pre-existing Islamic organisations may attach themselves to whichever militant networks are perceived to be in the ascendant”.

Among the Islamic groups which pose a threat is JFS which claims to be more moderate than ISIS but also wants to set up an Islamist state in Syria.

As an Al Qaeda affiliate it follows the philosophy of the terror franchise’s founder, Osama bin Laden.

It is fighting the Russian-backed regime of president Assad which Britain wants to see replaced by a democratic government.

'We are actively looking at how the threat from Daesh will evolve', says government report

But JFS is also on the US and UN list of terrorist organisations.

The Government report stated: “JFS poses a terrorism threat to the UK; while they are primarily Syria focused they follow AQ’s ideology, share its vision of global jihad and likely share its long term intent to attack the West.”

A cross-Government Counter Terrorism team is following an action plan to “undermine and counter JFS in Syria.

The strategy’s priorities include: “Pursue JFS leadership and degrade their capacity to conduct external attack planning...

“Weaken: Strip resources away from, JFS and where possible isolate them from the wider opposition.”

Another plank of the strategy is to “strengthen the international commitment to counter JFS.”

The report underlines the complexity of the civil war in Syria with the UK sharing the same aim as terrorist groups - toppling the murderous Assad regime.

Meanwhile the Government stressed that it is working across the Muslim world to neutralise the threat of ISIS popping up in new countries, with UK military advisers working with local forces in Libya, Tunisia, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Jordan.

express.co.uk/news/world/777696/british-military-targeting-syrian-al-qaeda-rival-islamic-state

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Pope Francis signals elderly married men could become priests

Reuters | Mar 10, 2017

BERLIN: Pope Francis has said he is willing to consider ordaining older married men in isolated communities, but has ruled out making priestly celibacy optional to tackle a shortage of clergy.

The shortage has prompted calls from some progressives to end the ancient tradition of celibacy for Roman Catholic priests.

Such a move would represent revolutionary change for the Catholic Church and would likely face massive resistance.

Reformers, however, have long suggested that the Vatican could ordain "viri probati" — Latin for men of proven character — who tend to be older, with grown-up families if married.

In an interview with Germany's Die Zeit newspaper, the pope said this option could be considered.

"We have to give a thought to whether viri probati are a possibility. We then also need to determine which tasks they could take on, such as in isolated areas, for example," he was quoted as saying.

He ruled out, however, opening the priesthood to all married men or watering down the Catholic Church's commitment to celibacy among priests.

"Voluntary celibacy is often discussed in this context, especially in places where there are shortages of clerics. But voluntary celibacy is not a solution," he said.

The Catholic Church values celibacy as a virtue that frees priests to devote their lives fully to serve God.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/pope-signals-elderly-married-men-could-become-priests/articleshow/57581335.cms

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Putin hosts Syria talks, hails partnership with Turkey

March 11th, 2017

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin hailed close ties between the Russian and Turkey militaries as he welcomed Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan for Friday’s talks focusing on Syria.

Russia and Turkey co-brokered a ceasefire in December that helped reduce the scale of fighting between Syrian President Bashar Assad and the opposition, and they also co-sponsored two rounds of talks this year between Assad’s government and its foes. A third round is set for next week.

Russia and Turkey also coordinated their operations against the militant Islamic State group in Syria. A Russian air raid last month accidentally killed three Turkish soldiers, but the incident didn’t derail the military coordination.

“We are actively working to solve the most acute crises, first of all in Syria,” Putin said as he greeted Erdogan at the start of the talks in the Kremlin. “I’m very pleased to note, and few seemed to expect it, that our military and special services have established such efficient and close contact.”

Earlier this week, the chief military officers from Russia, the US and Turkey met in the Turkish city of Antalya in an apparent attempt to work out additional steps to prevent incidents. The talks also focused on how to help assuage mutual mistrust between Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces, US-backed Kurdish forces, and Russian-allied Syrian government forces all fighting their way toward IS’ de facto capital, Raqa.

Putin scheduled a meeting of his Security Council including top military and intelligence officials on Friday to follow the talks with Erdogan.

The increasingly close cooperation on Syria between Russia and Turkey marked a sharp turnaround for the two nations, which have backed opposing sides in Syria, with Moscow siding with Assad and Turkey supporting his foes since the start of the Syrian conflict six years ago.

The conflicting interests led to the downing of a Russian warplane by a Turkish jet at the Syrian border in November 2015, which put the two nations on the verge of a direct military conflict. Moscow responded by barring the sales of package tours to Turkey and halting imports of agricultural products, moves that badly squeezed the Turkish economy.

Erdogan’s apologies for downing the plane helped rebuild ties, and Putin offered firm support to the Turkish leader in the wake of a botched coup last July.

Despite the rapprochement, Russia has moved gradually to lift economic restrictions, keeping some in place as an apparent motivator for Turkey.

dawn.com/news/1319794/putin-hosts-syria-talks-hails-partnership-with-turkey

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In Bordeaux, Muslims fight against radical Islam

Bordeaux city hall and the region's Muslim federation have joined forces and launched a program as part of a raft of measures to counter radical Islam in France. Elizabeth Bryant reports from Bordeaux.

Fouad Saandadi is preaching to the converted, but not the mainstream Muslim community he belongs to. In a discreet building near city hall, the Bordeaux imam meets with bewildered parents and fragile youngsters, some of whom have never stepped foot inside a mosque.

Many come from troubled families and neighborhoods. Some are mentally unstable. He and a small group of experts are fighting a powerful adversary: militant Islam.

"My role is not to tell people the 'good' or 'true' Islam, but to help awaken a critical approach," Saanadi says of Bordeaux's year-old CAPRI program aimed at preventing radicalization. "We are not here to confront but rather to awaken a critical awareness."

Bordeaux counts among a growing number of communities across Europe searching for ways to counter extremism, following a wave of largely home-grown terrorist attacks. The question is all the more important for France, the target of three terror strikes in two years, and Western Europe's biggest exporter of extremist fighters.

Unlike countries like Germany and Britain, France is a relative newcomer to approaches beyond law-and-order ones, and new efforts to branch out have not always proved successful. Indeed, a recent Senate report characterized the state's approach in tackling radicalization a failure.

While social, political and psychological factors are key drivers to radicalization, some experts also believe the country's fiercely secular mindset and difficult relationship with Islam pose additional obstacles.

"It is in the name of religion that they have become radicalized," Farhad Khosrokhavar, a Paris-based sociologist and jihadist expert, told DW. "They identify with this radical version of Islam, so you cannot ignore it."

Looking for solutions

Today, there is new urgency to finding answers. Hundreds of foreign fighters are beginning to return to Europe, authorities say, posing risks as potential terrorists and recruiters. Some end up in French prisons, already considered jihadist breeding grounds.

"The European system is not experienced with dealing with so many radicalized people," Khosrokhavar says. "We need to invent a new way of dealing with this sort of problem."

A partnership between Bordeaux's city hall and the regional Muslim federation, the year-old CAPRI program may be one sign of changing times. While the initiative is local, it offers a religious dimension to fighting radicalization - one that is drawing interest from other municipalities.

"For the youngsters and the families, the fact we're doing this program with the Muslim community is positive," says Bordeaux's Deputy Mayor Marik Fetouh, who is also CAPRI's spokesman. "It shows we're not confounding Islam and radicalization, and often the theologians will create links between the families and CAPRI."

Imam Saanadi gathers with half-a-dozen therapists, psychiatrists and legal experts to evaluate each new case. Of the 36 youngsters now enrolled, roughly 40 percent are women. A number are converts, or 'born again' Muslims from largely secular backgrounds. The average age is 22. "It's a puzzle," Saanadi tells DW. "When we put together the different pieces, we can see whether to intervene or not."

Fighting terrorism through education

As secretary-general of Bordeaux's Muslim federation, Saanadi himself ascribes to a moderate, government-sanctioned brand of Islam that respects French secularism but is not always considered legitimate among more fundamentalist believers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, he does not personally know anyone who has joined a jihadi movement. "Terrorism is a question for national education," he says. "We see children at the mosque two hours a week. The rest of their time is at school."

Whatever the cause, most agree that France has a serious problem. Roughly 700 French jihadists are still fighting in Iraq and Syria, according to recent government figures; another 1,350 suspected radicals are in French prisons, including nearly 300 with direct ties to terrorist networks.

Nationwide, authorities classify another 15,000 as extremists and potential security threats, including an estimated 200 or more in the southwestern Gironde department that includes Bordeaux. The state's traditional law-and-order response has not proved effective, critics say.

No silver bullets

"The state took too much time and now it's searching for miracle solutions," sociologist Ouisa Kies, an expert on radicalization in prisons, told DW.

Last year, the center-left government adopted a softer approach with so-far uncertain results. It earmarked more than $300 million (284 million euros) for de-radicalization programs over three years, and rolled out the first of a dozen voluntary centers planned across the country.

But in February, a French senate report deemed the de-radicalization center, in the Loire Valley, a "fiasco." Only nine youngsters had been treated there, it said, and it was currently empty.

The new government funding windfall has also helped fuel some 80 local initiatives, some with dubious credentials. "It's becoming a market," says Bordeaux's main imam, Tareq Oubrou, who provides theological advice to CAPRI. "Everyone is becoming a de-radicalization specialist in two seconds."

"As soon as there's an initiative by a Muslim leader or members of the community there's always suspicion," says Kies, who believes the Muslim leadership nonetheless has a narrow but necessary role to play in countering radicalization.

In Bordeaux, Saanadi is the first to acknowledge the limits of his intervention. "There are no miracle solutions," he says. "It's very easy to destroy, but very difficult to reconstruct."

dw.com/en/in-bordeaux-muslims-fight-against-radical-islam/a-37863694

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Where Is Reality, as Fundamentalist Christians Think They Are More Discriminated Against Than Muslims?

White evangelicals comprise the only major religious group to think that Christians are discriminated against.

By Taylor Link / Salon March 10, 2017

The degree to which discrimination exists in American society is in the eye of the beholder, apparently. According to the latest poll from the Public Religion Research Institute, a white evangelical in the U.S. is more likely to think that Christians experience a lot of discrimination as compared with Muslims.

The survey found that 57 percent of the white evangelicals polled said they believe that Christians face a lot of discrimination in America, while only 44 percent considered that same level of discrimination exists for the Muslim community. White evangelicals were the one major religious group to indicate that Christians faced heavy persecution. In contrast, roughly 75 percent of the religiously unaffiliated Americans and the nonwhite Protestants surveyed said that Muslims face the most discrimination, according to the poll.

Perceptions of discrimination are strong America. Nearly half of white Americans said they believe that black Americans experience racial discrimination, while 87 percent of black Americans have come to that same conclusion, the poll found.

Lately some members of the Republican Party have become concerned about Christian persecution and religious freedom. Republicans recently crafted the First Amendment Defense Act, federal legislation mirrored after the “religious freedom” laws that have popped up across the country, including in Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana.

President Donald Trump’s executive order, which barred entry of travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, failed its judicial test in part because it excluded religious minorities in those countries, such as Christians. The administration appeared to have a preference for a certain religious group. Meanwhile, the GOP has long focused on the plight of Christians in nonsecular countries in the Middle East.

alternet.org/news-amp-politics/where-reality-fundamentalist-christians-think-they-are-more-discriminated-against

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North America

Christian Evangelicals SayThey Face More Discrimination Than Muslims

MAR 10, 2017

A poll found they were more likely to name Christians than Muslims when asked who is discriminated against.

Brittney McNamara

A poll from the Public Religion Research Institute revealed white evangelical Americans believe they face more discrimination than Muslims.

According to the Atlantic, a new poll found that when given the choice between who faces discrimination, more people were likely to name Muslim people than they were Christians. But unlike the majority, people who identify as Christian evangelicals were more likely to say Christians face discrimination.

The poll found people overall were twice as likely to say Muslims face discrimination as they were to say Christians do. Other groups, including Democrats, white Catholics and Protestants agreed with the overall numbers, but white Protestant evangelicals stuck out. Among that group, 57% said Christians face a lot of discrimination, compared to 44% who said the same thing about Muslims. This has changed from past years, when Christian evangelicals were in line with other groups in agreeing Muslims face discrimination.

The Atlantic points out it's hard to define exactly what perceived discrimination means, since it could mean different things to different people. Still, hate crimes against Muslim people increased by 67% in 2015, and new reports of hate crimes since the election have been rolling in. The Southern Poverty Law Center said President Trump is to blame for a spike in hate crimes against Muslim people, saying his candidacy for President energized hate groups.

"Trump’s run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country," Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told the Independent.

Jewish people have also been the target of increased hate crimes, but they were not included in the Public Religion Research Institute.

While Christians do face discrimination, numbers show Muslims are more often the target. According to the Atlantic, 22% of religiously motivated crimes are against Muslims, while 13.6% are against Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, and other Christians.

teenvogue.com/story/christian-evangelical-muslim-discrimination

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Trump backer out at Energy Dept. after anti-Muslim tweets surface

The Energy Department cut ties Friday with Sid Bowdidge, a political appointee and former Trump campaign worker who has made inflammatory anti-Muslim comments on Twitter, according to Buzzfeed and other outlets. Bowdidge had been working at DOE's Office of Technology Transitions, but as Greentech Media notes he appears to lack any related policy background.

In 2015 the massage therapist from New Hampshire responded on Twitter to a CNN tweet about the San Bernardino shooters with a tweet stating: "Scum suckling maggots of the world. Exterminate them all." He has also tweeted that "Obama won't use the term radical Islam because they're his relatives!!!!"

Why it matters: Trump's operation has already been under the microscope for installing temporary "beachhead" political appointees at agencies who have little or no relevant experience.

axios.com/trump-backer-out-at-energy-dept-after-anti-muslim-tweets-surface-2309852666.html

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Suspect in Texas mosque fire believed its worshippers were terrorists: authorities

An informant said Marq Vincent Perez “hated” Muslims and suspected that members of the mosque were involved in terrorist groups, special agent Rick Miller testified.

By The Associated Press

Fri., March 10, 2017

CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS—A man suspected of burning down a Texas mosque believed its worshippers were terrorists and may have been looking for other mosques to target, authorities alleged during a hearing pertaining to an unrelated case against the man.

Marq Vincent Perez, 25, hasn’t been charged in the Jan. 28 fire that destroyed the Islamic centre in his hometown of Victoria, a community about 201 kilometres southwest of Houston.

Perez was arrested last week on a charge alleging he tried to set fire to a former friend’s car earlier in January, and during a hearing Thursday, prosecutors presented evidence that Perez was suspected in the fire and an earlier burglary of the mosque in arguing that he be denied bond.

Although prosecutors have repeatedly declined to describe the burning of the mosque as a hate crime, U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington cited testimony Thursday about Perez’s “involvement in a hate crime presently being investigated” as a reason for denying him bond.

Perez’s attorney, Mark Di Carlo, told The Associated Press on Friday that he felt he and Perez “were kind of ambushed” by the mosque fire allegations being raised at a detention hearing for an unrelated case.

“My client hasn’t been charged with that crime,” he said.

“At this point, we don’t know of any strong evidence against him” in the mosque fire, Di Carlo said. He described the evidence that was presented as “hearsay and speculation,” and pointed out that much of it came from two confidential informants who didn’t appear at the hearing.

Rick Miller, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, testified during the hearing that one of the informants, a male juvenile, admitted to taking part with Perez in the Jan. 15 incident involving the car and the Jan. 22 and 28 burglaries of the mosque, implicating Perez as the one who set fire to it.

According to Miller, the informant said Perez stole the mosque’s electrical meters and a laptop during each break-in, and the stolen laptops were found during a raid of Perez’s home last week, the Victoria Advocate and Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported.

The informant said Perez “hated” Muslims and suspected that members of the mosque were involved in terrorist groups, Miller testified. The informant said Perez explained that they were breaking into the mosque to see if its members were hiding weapons there.

Angela Dodge, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said Friday by email that no one has been charged in the mosque case and she declined to say when or if anyone would be charged.

The other informant said Perez told him “he’d done something in the mosque and soon everyone would know about it,” Miller testified. The two discussed the mosque in Facebook messages, with Perez indicating that he was watching the mosque and noting how many people were guarding it, the agent said.

Miller said one of the informants said Perez believed Muslims were allowed to marry children. He also testified that Perez messaged a friend that the hardest part was “getting the town to believe the evidence” and that “only us soldiers, both retired and forgotten,” are “armed and ready.”

A prosecutor suggested Perez may have been looking to target other mosques, pointing to a comment he posted saying, “Can you pinpoint any mosques that a team can get clear to?”

Perez’s father, Mario, testified that he never heard his son make statements about Muslims as they worked 50 to 60 hours a week as electricians.

Members of the mosque, meanwhile, have pointed to the huge effect the fire has had on their community. A mosque spokesman, Abe Ajrami, said that since the fire, many parents have stopped sending their kids to the mosque, which has had to hire armed security to protect the congration.

“This incident really shook us to the core,” Ajrami said at a news conference at the site of the burned mosque. “I hope people understand that this is not something we watched on TV or read in the newspaper. This is something we lived daily.”

thestar.com/news/world/2017/03/10/suspect-in-texas-mosque-fire-believed-its-worshippers-were-terrorists-authorities.html

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Travel ban challenge puts Hawaii’s few Muslims under the spotlight

HONOLULU – Hawaii has 5,000 or so Muslims— less than 1 percent of the state’s population— who are finding themselves thrust into an international spotlight after the state’s top lawyer launched a challenge to President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban, saying it contradicts the islands’ welcoming culture that values diversity.

Named as a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit fighting the ban is Ismail Elshikh, the imam of the island of Oahu’s only mosque — a converted plantation-style house in a hilly Honolulu neighborhood a few miles from Waikiki Beach where Muslims who gather in the prayer room know they’re facing Mecca when the view of iconic Diamond Head is at their backs.

Elshikh’s mother-in-law is a Syrian living in Syria who won’t be able to visit her relatives in Hawaii because of the ban, and that will deprive the rights of Elshikh, his wife and their children as U.S. citizens, said Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin.

It was difficult for the shy and reserved Elshikh to make the decision to join the lawsuit and he is not speaking publicly because of legal reasons and fears for his security in a state that has seen a rise in threats to Muslims that started just before Trump was elected, said Hakim Ouansafi, who is president of the Muslim Association of Hawaii.

“It took some thinking. It took some convincing,” Ouansafi said.

Chin said the small size of Hawaii’s Muslim community had no bearing on his decision to challenge the travel ban because “they are part of our community. They should not be labeled presumptively as terrorists.”

Also, the lawsuit is a way to protect a minority community in a state familiar with the wrongs committed when Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps during World War II, Chin said. “And we should speak for them in ways that people did not speak for the Japanese back in the 1940s when everything was happening,” he said.

The first Muslims in Hawaii can be traced back to the 1800s, Ouansafi said. Today, Hawaii’s Muslims have ties to 46 countries, including Asian and Arab countries. About 30 percent are American-born who converted to Islam, he said. And about 80 of Hawaii’s Muslim families are originally from the six countries named in the revised travel ban.

“It’s beautiful mix,” Ouansafi said.

Youssef Dakroub, born and raised in Lebanon, met his wife — who is from Hawaii — in Dubai. They moved to Oahu in 2006, where he now owns a Moroccan and Lebanese restaurant in downtown Honolulu.

Dakroub, who describes himself as Muslim but not religious, said the lawsuit challenging the travel ban reinforced his belief that Hawaii is the right place for him to live.

“Hawaii is home,” he said.

Pennsylvania-born Esma Arslan remembers being nervous about wearing her headscarf on her first day of seventh grade at Iolani, a prestigious Honolulu private school. “I got over those fears very quickly,” said Arslan, now 21, whose parents are from Turkey. “Personally for me, it’s always been a positive experience here.”

Hawaii’s temperate climate brought Amro Nassar to Maui, where he used to be imam of the island’s only mosque.

Born in California to parents from Egypt, Nassar said he has not encountered any problems because of his religion. “Hawaii is a melting pot of different beliefs and cultures,” he said. “One can blend in, not stand out.”

Ouansafi, who is from Morocco and is the executive director of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, said he considers Hawaii the most inclusive and safest place for minorities to live in the U.S. But he is troubled by the recent spate of hate threats directed at Muslims.

The threats started before the election and increased when Trump became president, prompting the association to install security cameras, he said.

On Jan. 27, a man followed two Muslim children getting off a city bus and harassed them, Ouansafi said. A spokeswoman for the Honolulu Police Department said a harassment case was opened and an investigation is ongoing.

About two weeks ago, the mosque recorded an anonymous caller yelling, “Killing Muslims is God’s will.”

Hawaii’s lawsuit also argues that the travel ban will hurt the economy of a state that depends on a constant stream of visitors from all corners of the world.

The Honolulu mosque is already seeing the impact, Ouansafi said.

Before Trump’s election, the popular Friday afternoon prayer service used to see many Muslim tourists show up to join local residents in prayer.

The numbers of praying tourists have since declined and some Muslims who are not from countries covered by the ban don’t want to travel to Hawaii anymore, Ouansafi said.

“They can take their money and take it elsewhere,” he said. “We have princes and we have rulers from Muslim countries that do come. They don’t want to be stuck at the airport. They don’t want to be insulted in the street.”

japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/11/world/travel-ban-challenge-puts-hawaiis-muslims-spotlight/#.WMOP3IGGOzc

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Islamic Center Takes Property Association To Court Over Mosque Block

March 10, 2017

By Rick Sallinger

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4)– An Islamic Center in south Denver is asking a court to decide whether it can be allowed to build a mosque after being blocked by a neighborhood business park’s association.

The land at the corner of South Troy Circle and Caley Avenue located in Centennial has been purchased for the mosque.

The 250 South Denver Islamic Center members gather for Friday prayers in a rented conference room.

They bought the land in what’s called Southfield Park, a business area. But its association is blocking the center from building there, saying the covenants don’t allow religious use.

Muhammed Kahn is the president of the Islamic Center. He told CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger, “We’re saying, hey the religious usage is allowed they are saying it’s not allowed.”

So now they have asked a judge to decide.

Sallinger asked the Islamic Center’s leaders, “Do you feel this has anything to do with your religion?” They replied, “We hope not.”

A Christian church, Bethany International, had been blocked from building in the area as well.

The business park association would not comment citing the litigation, but its court documents claim the covenants are clear.

The Town of Centennial says its zoning allows religious purposes in the Southfield Park area.

A prominent Denver law firm, Brownstein, Hyatt,Farber, Schreck, has come to the Islamic center’s aid, representing them for free.

The Muslim community members say a mosque is needed for south Denver area and to be able to have a religious school for the children.

The case will be heard in Arapahoe County Court.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

denver.cbslocal.com/2017/03/10/islamic-center-takes-property-association-to-court-over-mosque-block/

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This Model Muslim Marine Offered To Guard Jewish Sites For Free — Why Have None Taken Him Up?

Aimee LevittMarch

10, 2017

ike many Americans, Tayyib Rashid has been disturbed by the threats of anti-Semitic violence in recent weeks, particularly the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia.

But unlike many Americans, Rashid, a Muslim veteran of the U.S. Marines, thought he could help do something about it.

“I’m a #MuslimMarine in Chicagoland area,” the former sergeant typed out on his Twitter account. “If your synagogue or Jewish cemetery needs someone to stand guard, count me in. Islam requires it.” Then, he pressed “send.”

Very quickly, the tweet went viral. So far, Rashid has received more than 13,000 likes and 5,000 retweets, and inspired similar offers from Muslims across the country. People from all over the country, both Muslims and non-Muslims, veterans and non-veterans, have reached out to him, asking how they can get involved.

“I’m not sure if there’s any category left that hasn’t been willing to stand up with me,” Rashid said. Even J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, tweeted, “Count me in!”

What he hasn’t received is any requests from Jewish institutions to take him up on his offer of protection.

The Jewish Community Relations Council, a branch of the Jewish United Fund in Chicago, was among the individual Jews and organizations that tweeted their gratitude to Rashid:

But Jay Tcath, executive vice president of JUF, wrote in a statement to the Forward that the Jewish organizations that do use guards prefer to hire them from professional security firms. “This path provides the necessary, site-specific training as well as, when sought, certified guards that are empowered by law to carry weapons,” he explained. “And some guards are empowered to make arrests.” But he added, “Mr. Rashid’s offer is, of course, very thoughtful and most appreciated.”

Nevertheless, in an interview, Rashid made it clear that his offer stands indefinitely. “I hope there’s an opportunity to make good on my word,” he said. “I hope it doesn’t have to come to that.”

For Rashid the disquiet that inspired his tweet wasn’t abstract: the vandalism carried echoes of the religious persecution that caused his family, members of the Muslim Ahmadiyya community, to flee Pakistan when he was 10 years old.

“Ahmadis aren’t considered Muslims in Pakistan,” he explained. “There were laws passed against us. When we use verses from Koran on tombstones, we’re subject to persecution and vandalism of our graves by government officials.”

Moreover, better trained than most in military protection, Rashid swore an oath to defend his fellow Americans on entering the service and doesn’t believe his vow expired when he left the Marine Corps.

Due to their own experience of persecution, Ahmadiyya Muslims believe strongly in promoting interfaith harmony and supporting members of other religious groups under threat. But the idea of offering protection actually originated with Rashid’s brother, Qasim. A civil rights lawyer and author who lives in Washington, Qasim Rashid tweets as @MuslimIQ. Qasim’s offer of help appeared on Twitter an hour before Tayyib’s but hasn’t generated nearly as much traffic. Qasim admits that although he’s a marathoner and in pretty good physical shape, he understands why: “He’s a US Marine for God’s sake!”

This isn’t the first of Rashid’s tweets to go viral: in November 2015 after then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump said in interviews that he was considering the possibility of special security and surveillance targeting Muslims, he tweeted, “Hey, @realDonaldTrump, I’m an American Muslim and I already carry a special ID badge. Where’s yours?” The message was followed by a photo of his military ID card. Trump did not respond, but hundreds of American Muslims followed suit, tweeting photos of their ID badges from their jobs in the military and at hospitals and law firms.

The fact that Rashid, who is 40, is making such a strong stand for religious freedom is no surprise to those who know him well. “In the environment where we were raised, we were expected to do everything we needed to do to serve others,” said Qasim Rashid. “It was a very service-focused environment. It stemmed from the teaching that Muslims have two duties: to serve God and to serve humanity. We participated in I don’t know how many interfaith events with churches, synagogues, and temples.”

Their father was a missionary and imam at the mosque in west suburban Glen Ellyn, Illinois, where they grew up. As the oldest of the four children, Tayyib was expected to set an example for his siblings.

“He was a good example of all the good stuff of Islam that doesn’t get enough press,” said Iftekhar Ahmad, a friend of nearly 30 years. “Honesty, hard work, being respectful toward your elders, and being respectful toward others, especially those who don’t share the same views as you.”

There weren’t many Muslims in Glen Ellyn in the 1980s and 90s, when Tayyib and Ahmad were growing up. At school, they endured a fair amount of teasing for being different. Instead of taking offense, though, Ahmad recalled that Tayyib saw this as an opportunity to educate other students about Islam. He would explain why they didn’t eat pork or why they fasted during Ramadan.

“He never lost his cool,” Ahmad Rashid said.

The Rashid siblings were raised to believe that if they were passionate about their faith, it would manifest itself in everything they did, and if they managed to achieve worldly success while maintaining their religious identity, non-Muslims would take them more seriously. “If people see your accomplishments on a secular level,” Qasim explained, “they’ll have confidence in your faith.”

Tayyib Rashid joined the Marines in 1997 and remained on active duty until 2002. He served in the reserves until 2005. He was deployed to Italy, Saudi Arabia, and Germany, where he was a work center supervisor for an Avionics tech squadron, working on MALS-14 aircraft, which are used to gather intelligence. “I did it well,” he said. “Our planes were never shot down.”

When Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, the brothers, who were both in college at the time, dropped everything to get into Qasim’s 1993 Nissan hatchback and drive to Louisiana. When they learned, at the end of the 19-hour drive, that additional volunteers were needed in Houston, Tayyib drove on alone for 5 more hours. (“He still brags about it,” Qasim joked.)

Courtesy Tayyib Rashid

Rashid earned his MBA from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and works now as a human resources manager for Abbvie, a pharmaceutical company. But he still devotes a lot of time to promoting interfaith harmony and educating people about Islam. He and Quasim are both active in the True Islam movement. Organized primarily by Ahmadis but open to other Muslim groups, the aim of True Islam is, as the website puts it, “to wage a jihad of truth” and dispel fears and misunderstandings about Islam. The group sponsors regular Coffee, Cake and True Islam meet-ups across the country where non-Muslims can bring their questions and get to know real, actual Muslims.

In Gurnee, Illinois, the far northern suburb where Rashid now lives with his wife and three children, there is a small but growing Muslim community, which has made an effort to forge interfaith coalitions with other groups. “It’s not only going to benefit Muslim community, but also other communities,” he said. “Up here in Gurnee, we’ve been engaged with members of the Sikh and Hindu communities and are united in an effort to promote dialogue and understand and give an opportunity for people to sit down and talk with us.”

He’s also been working with members of the far north suburban Jewish community, which is small but growing. Since his family is from Pakistan, the Israel-Palestinian conflicts have never affected him personally. But he believes that both sides have legitimate grievances. He doesn’t believe the conflict should stand in the way of Jewish-Muslim solidarity.

“Palestine is a political issue,” he said. “The animosity based is on politics, not religion. Solidarity is a human rights issue. Islam requires Muslims to defend Jews and Christians.”

And that is what he plans to continue to do.

Because he’s so active on social media, he’s received a fair amount of mean tweets, though not as many as Qasim, who has written several books and many articles about True Islam and the history of the Ahmadis in Pakistan. “I let negative things roll off my back,” Tayyiib said. “But it’s mostly from people I won’t be able to convince anyway. I need to focus on where I can make a difference.”

Aimee Levitt reports regularly on Chicagoland for the Forward. Contact her at feedback@forward.com. Follow her on Twitter @aimeelevitt

forward.com/news/national/365703/this-model-muslim-marine-offered-to-guard-jewish-sites-for-free-why-have-no/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Main

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US Could Send 1,000 More Soldiers in Islamic State Counteroffensive

March 10, 2017

PENTAGON —

The new plan by the U.S. to counter Islamic State in Syria and Iraq involves the deployment of 1,000 soldiers to Kuwait, a U.S. military official told VOA on Friday.

The plan is awaiting final approval from the administration, but U.S. soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, have already received permission for deployment from Army leaders, should the plan be signed.

The troops will be available for Army General Stephen Townsend, the ground commander in the fight to counter Islamic State, who will position the soldiers where they are needed, said an official, who refrained from giving further details because he didn't want to "telegraph" specifics of the mission.

The plan comes as officials tell VOA that about 300 Marines have arrived in Syria to provide additional capabilities for allied forces working to push Islamic State forces from their de facto capital of Raqqa. A military official told VOA the additional capabilities provided by the Marines include artillery fire to give cover to locals battling the militants.

In addition to the Marines, about 100 soldiers with the 75th Army Ranger Regiment are deployed in and around Manbij, Syria, with Stryker armored fighting vehicles. These soldiers are there to "deter" different parties from attacking each other and ensure that all groups focus on the fight against Islamic State militants, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis told reporters earlier this week.

"Manbij is liberated, and there's no need for further fighting there," Davis said.

Army General Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Central Command, said Thursday that the soldiers have been deployed in Manbij for the past few months to ensure the Islamic State group does not re-emerge there.

The newly deployed U.S. troops have been sent to the region to help "whoever is going to take Raqqa," a group that has yet to be determined, the official said.

It is unclear whether U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces — which include the Kurdish YPG, Turkish-backed Syrian opposition, or some combination of the two forces — will serve as the liberating force in Raqqa once the city is completely isolated.

voanews.com/a/us-one-thousand-more-soldiers-islamic-state-counter-offensive/3761170.html

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Pakistan

Pakistan did ‘helpful things’ against Haqqanis: US general

March 11th, 2017

WASHINGTON: For the first time ever, a US general informed a congressional panel on Thursday that Pakistan had “done things” against the Haqqani network that have been helpful to the war against terror.

Gen Joseph Votel, commander of the US Central Command, also told the Senate Armed Services Committee that India’s policy of diplomatically isolating Pakistan was “especially troubling” as it could lead to a nuclear conflict in South Asia.

Gen Votel, who is responsible for implementing the US military strategy in the Pak-Afghan region, described Pakistan as a key and critical partner and emphasised the need to stay engaged with Islamabad in the counterterrorism fight.

Washington endorses New Delhi’s claim of surgical strikes

His stance reflects the Pentagon’s desire to maintain its long-standing relationship with Pakistan’s military establishment and contrasts sharply with recent statements by some US lawmakers who urged the Trump administration to sever ties with Islamabad.

Gen Votel told the Senate panel that he has been encouraged by his meetings with Pakistan’s new army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and by his commitment to the fight against terror.

“They have done some things that have been helpful to us,” he said. “Most recently, they’ve supported Gen Joseph Nicholson in some places on the border, making sure they were well coordinated and doing the activities on their side of the border.”

Gen Nicholson is the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan who, Gen Votel said, was working closely with Pakistan’s new army chief and his commanders to eliminate various terrorist groups hiding on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border.

“That’s a very positive sign and a move in [the] right direction. And they have done things against the principal concerns we have; the Haqqani network and Taliban,” Gen Votel said. “But we need that to be more persistent and continue to focus in that particular area. And so, we will continue to engage with partner Pakistan throughout this.”

India-Pakistan ties

In his written testimony, Gen Votel also elaborated the US defence establishment’s position on India-Pakistan relations, which appeared more even-handed than recent statements by some US lawmakers who clearly urged the Trump administration to abandon Pakistan for improving Washington’s already close relations with New Delhi.

Explaining the genesis of recent tensions between India and Pakistan, the Centcom commander explained how Indians remained concerned about the lack of action against India-focu­sed militants based in Pakistan.

He noted that India “even responded militarily to terrorist attacks in India-held territory earlier this year”. Pakistan denies the Indian claim, saying that Indian forces never crossed into Pakistani territory but the US general endorsed the Indian claim.

“We assess that these types of attacks and the potential reactions, increase the likelihood for miscalculation by both countries,” he warned. “Further­­more, India’s public policy to ‘diplomatically isolate’ Pakistan, hinders any prospects for improved relations.”

The general warned that the Indian policy of isolating Pakistan was “especially troubling as a significant conventional conflict between Pakistan and India could escalate into a nuclear exchange, given that both are nuclear powers”.

Gen Votel also told US lawmakers that Pakistan’s increased focus on its eastern border detracts it from its efforts to secure the western border with Afghanistan from incursion by the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters.

“Security along the western border will nevertheless remain a priority for Islamabad, as the Pakistani military seeks to expand border control and improve paramilitary security,” he added.

Responding to a question from Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, Gen Votel explained that eliminating the sanctuary of militant groups in Pakistan was key to improving the security environment in Afghanistan. And that’s why the US maintains consistent diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to take appropriate steps to deny safe haven and to improve the security of the tumultuous Af-Pak border region, he added.

“I think it is key to ensure that Pakistan and Afghanistan have a very good relationship. There certainly are tensions along the common border between those countries and so I think a key role that we can play is in helping move that relationship forward,” he said.

Ties with the Pakistan military

In his written testimony, as well as during the Q&A, Gen Votel regularly emphasised the need to maintain a strong relationship between the US and Pakistani military establishments.

“While there are challenges with respect to the US-Pakistani relationship, we have endeavoured to maintain a substantial level of engagement with our Pakistani military counterparts,” he said. “We continue to execute a robust joint exercise programme.”

He noted that most recently, the Pakistan Air Force sent airmen and aircraft to participate in Exercise Red Flag and Green Flag at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada this past summer. The Pakistani military also continues to support US efforts elsewhere in the region. The Pakistani Navy is the most consistent and longstanding participant, second only to the United States, in Combined Task Force (CTF)-150 (counterterrorism operations) and CTF-151 (counterpiracy operations) led by US Naval Forces Central.

“Our relationship with Pakistan remains a very important one. We look forward to continuing our engagement with the Pakistani military leadership, to include the new Chief of the Army Staff, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, in the days ahead as we work together in pursuit of shared interests,” he said.

Gen Votel also explained why Pakistan remains “a critical partner” in the counterterrorism fight.

According to him, 20 US-designated terrorist organisations operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan sub-region and seven of them are in Pakistan.

“So long as these groups maintain safe haven inside of Pakistan they will threaten long-term stability in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the US was particularly concerned about the Haqqani network, which posed the greatest threat to coalition forces operating in Afghanistan.

dawn.com/news/1319770/pakistan-did-helpful-things-against-haqqanis-us-general

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Army rebuilds mosque blown up by militants

By Mureeb Mohmand

March 11, 2017

SHABQADAR: The military-funded Masjid-e-Shuhada reopened for Friday prayers almost six months after it was destroyed in a suicide bombing.

Up to 36 people were killed and 36 others injured in the September 2016 blast during Friday prayers.

Jews give Muslims key to their synagogue after US mosque set ablaze

In this connection a ceremony was held at Payee Khan village of Ambar tehsil where apart from local victims of the suicide bomb blast, officials of Army Corps of Engineers Lieutenant Colonel Hamid Anwar and Swat Scout’s Lieutenant Colonel Tariq Mehmood were present.

The army rebuilt the mosque in Payee Khan village and renamed it ‘Masjid-e-Shuhada’. The previous mosque was made of mud and clay while the new one is made of concrete bricks, cement and iron rods.

On September 17, the then corps commander of 11 corps announced reconstruction of the destroyed mosque from the army’s resources, while Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Jhagra announced compensation both in cash and employment for deceased families in Khasadar or Levies forces. The decision has been partially implemented as the political administration has still not employed the deceased people’s family members in the Khasadar force.

The newly constructed mosque was praised by many but not all as many people were grieving over the deaths of their loved ones.

Swat Scout spokesman told The Express Tribune that the mosque’s construction was completed on February 15, 2017, but work on its embellishment such as the dome, installation of a solar system and digging a tube well was not completed till Thursday. The mosque has been handed over to the local community for offering daily prayers.

300-year-old mosque to be rebuilt on Hindu temple land

The spokesman said locals along with Frontier Corps officials offered Friday prayers in the mosque. The locals have praised the army’s efforts for reconstruction of the mosque and providing necessary compensation to the victims of the blast.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2017.

tribune.com.pk/story/1352314/army-rebuilds-mosque-blown-militants/

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Liquor shops again approach SC against SHC ban order

March 11th, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Ten different liquor shops again approached the Supreme Court on Friday against the March 2 Sindh High Court decision of sealing 120 liquor shops in Sindh.

The petitioners appealed to the apex court to immediately overturn the SHC order because being taxpayers by engaging in a lawful trade they were facing loss of livelihood.

In its order, the high court had held that 120 shops across the province were clearly engaged in illegal sale of wine and liquor without ensuring that it was sold to non-Muslims alone and that too in the prescribed quota, thus violating the prohibition rules and doing business contrary to the injunctions of the Hadd Order 1979.

The SHC had ordered the director general of excise and taxation to seal all the liquor shops in Sindh with immediate effect and asked the inspector general of police to ensure compliance in this regard. The court had given the Sindh government one month to evolve a mechanism in consultation with the stakeholders to ensure that only licensed liquor shops sold wine and liquor to non-Muslims within permissible quota as part of their religious ceremonies and maintained a record of sales which shall be available to the public.

The petition in the Supreme Court was jointly filed by Messrs Kohistan Wine Shop, Azad Wine Shop, Mehran Wine Shop, Arjun Wine Agency, Mazda Trading, Master Wine Shop, Sindh Wine Shop, Lucky and Company, Good Luck Wine Shop and Long Mal Wine Shop.

The petitioners through their counsel Asma Jahangir argued that they would suffer grave and irreparable financial loss if the high court order was not suspended.

Earlier, they had knocked at the doors of the apex court on Nov 14 last year. The Supreme Court had sent the case back to the SHC on Nov 23, asking the latter to decide the matter after providing opportunity to the aggrieved parties (liquor shops).

The fresh petition argued that PML-N lawmaker Ramesh Kumar Vankwani had in his plea in the SHC sought extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 199 of the Constitution, wherein he made vague allegations only to punish and harass the petitioners on a misdirected belief.

The petitioners said the high court had failed to notice that in case of violation of the Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order, 1979 by Muslims, the most effective and appropriate alternative remedy lay in filing an FIR under Section 3/4 of the Hadd Order.

Thus the high court erred by not granting time to the petitioners to produce the Notification No SO(EXCISE)EXT/2(5)/99 of Aug 30, 2006, passed by the excise and taxation department, in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 31 of the Hadd Order, the petition added.

Moreover, it said, Mr Vankwani was not an aggrieved or bona fide person to institute the petition before the high court. The SHC erred in law by granting final relief to Mr Vankwani at the interim stage, in the absence of any extraordinary circumstances, the petition said, adding that the licences granted to the petitioners under Article 17 of the Hadd Order could be cancelled on certain grounds.

It argued that the high court order had violated the petitioners’ fundamental rights under Article 10A of the Constitution since no due process was observed nor was any adequate opportunity of hearing provided to the petitioners.

The high court also erred in concluding that alcohol was being sold by the petitioners in violation of Article 17 of the Hadd Order without even examining sale records of the liquor shops, the petition argued.

dawn.com/news/1319769/liquor-shops-again-approach-sc-against-shc-ban-order

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24,000 attached with alcohol business in Sindh alone

 March 11, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The disgruntled wine shop owners of Sindh knocked at the Supreme Court’s (SC) door on Friday against the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) order to seal off all shops selling liquor in violation of the Hudood Ordinance of 1979.

Around 10 shop owners filed a petition through Asma Jahangir against the SHC’s March 2 order. They also requested the top court to suspend the order till the final verdict.

The petitioners’ contended that the livelihood of shopkeepers and their families was at stake because of the SHC’s orders. Over 24,000 citizens were working in the alcohol retail business in Sindh alone. Likewise, the order had not only affected the citizens working in the business but their families as well.

Man collapses after caning for breaking sharia law in Indonesia

“The petitioners are not acting in any illegal manner. They were not given any opportunity to be heard or to make alternate business plans for themselves or their employees, and as such have been condemned unheard,” revealed the petition.

The petition claimed that the SHC order violated the fundamental right of the petitioner under Article 10-A of the Constitution. Neither due process was observed nor was any adequate opportunity of hearing provided to them.

“The petitioners are regular taxpayers and law-abiding citizens engaged in a lawful trade. There has never been a complaint against the petitioners before the excise or police authorities about any violation of terms of the licences granted to them under Articles 17 and 18 of the Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order 1979 or otherwise of the petitioners being engaged in any illegal sales of alcohol,” it stated.

Punjab mulls banning unpacked food, beverages

The SHC has not thoroughly examined the records of the petitioners’ sales to its individual customers or the procedures in place. Therefore, the high court has arbitrarily held that alcohol is being sold by the petitioners in violation of the Sindh Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Rules, 1979 particularly when there is not a single complaint against them.

“The interim impugned order is exceptional as it deprives the petitioners of their livelihoods based on a writ petition which is frivolous, repetitive and based on facts that are disputed by all parties,” the petition revealed.

It also pointed out that alcohol factories and stores are being operated all over Pakistan, including the Islamabad Capital Territory, Balochistan and Punjab.

Alcohol manufacturing units to display warning messages: PFA

Describing the court order as an exceptional one, it claimed a disruption in livelihood, which is a fundamental right, while the question of maintainability of the CP No D-6738 of 2016 was neither heard nor decided.

Earlier, the SHC while passing an order on March 2, gave the Sindh government 30 days to develop a mechanism in consultation with all stakeholders, including members of minority communities and wine shop owners, to come up with a ‘practical, transparent and implementable mechanism’, to ensure only licensed shops sell liquor to non-Muslims, both local and foreign, in compliance with quota restrictions.

It also directed the provincial excise and taxation department to close down all the shops. Additionally, the court ordered the director general of excise to maintain a proper record of wine/liquor sales, besides making it publicly available.

tribune.com.pk/story/1352345/24000-attached-alcohol-business-sindh-alone/

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CSS qualified persons with disability can now join Foreign Service of Pakistan

By Rana TanveerPublished: March 11, 2017

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday struck down provisions of the Rules of Competitive Examination 2014 which barred the Central Superior Services (CSS) qualified persons with disability from joining the Foreign Service of Pakistan (FSP).

Releasing a detailed judgment in an already decided matter, Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah on Friday directed the federal government to allocate two seats to the two visually-impaired petitioners in the FSP at the earliest.

He said if no such posts were available then the concerned quarters should create two new posts to adjust the petitioners in order to uphold their fundamental rights and to redress the unconstitutional deprivation they have been facing since 2014 after being compelled to join the Information Group.

The chief justice ruled that while Rule 9(ii) of the CSS rules 2014 has been struck down, the government should formulate rules to offer all or any occupational services to disabled persons in the All Pakistan Service, after thoroughly assessing possibility of providing reasonable accommodation before the next CSS exam.

The court passed this order on a petition of Muhammad Yousaf and Faisal Majeed – visually impaired persons –  who appeared in 2014 CSS examination.

Majeed secured 12th position in Pakistan and his first preference was the Pakistan Administration Services (PAS); however, he fell at serial number 11. After failing the All Pakistan Merit Quota of the PAS which includes 2 seats, he stood at serial number 9 against the PAS quota for Punjab that is 11 seats.

Yousaf secured 22nd position and the FSP was his first preference. He stood at serial number 4 but after failing the All Pakistan Merit Quota in the FSP – includes one seat – Faisal stood at serial number 3 of the FSP group against the 8 seats of FSP allocated to Punjab on open merit.

Their counsels submitted that the Rule 9(ii) said the disabled candidates – in categories of physically impaired, hearing/speech impaired and visually impaired  – are allowed to compete for competitive examination against four occupational groups/services, ie, Commerce and Trade Group, Pakistan Audit and Accounts Service, Information Group, and Postal Group.

The rule said: “Disabled candidates securing a position against prescribed 7.5 per cent merit quota on all Pakistan basis may be considered for allocation on the FSP on the basis of his/her choice.”

The counsels said the petitioners were not allocated seats in the FSP – for being visually impaired –under the garb of Rule 9(ii) despite their being on merit. They requested the court to declare this rule as illegal and issue directions to the concerned to adjust them in the FSP.

Supporting the impugned rule, the deputy attorney general said a disabled candidate can only be considered for the Foreign Service if he falls within the 7.5 per cent of All Pakistan Merit Quota. Otherwise, a disabled candidate is only allowed to compete for four occupational groups, he said.

However, Justice Shah held that if the petitioners were not visually impaired and were it not for Rule 9(ii) of the CSS Rules, they would be entitled to be allocated the occupational group of their choice in open merit quota reserved for Punjab.

While a candidate with disabilities can join the FSP against the All Pakistan Merit Quota, he cannot on the basis of the same result join the quota allocated to the province of Punjab, the judge observed.

“To allow a person with disabilities one category of merit based quota, but deny the same person another category of merit quota is outright discriminatory,” the judge noted.

He noted that it was painful to observe that a person with disability was first allowed to sit the CSS exam but when he scored and was entitled to allocation in the FSP in the provincial quota, he was denied the same on the pretext that he could only avail the All Pakistan Merit Quota.

Justice Shah said neither the Constitution nor the Act permitted or supported such classification; hence Rule 9(ii) was devoid of any reasonable classification and was therefore discriminatory, offending Article 25 of the Constitution.

“Rule 9(ii) also underrates a person with disability, hurting his self-esteem and dignity, thereby offending article 14 of the Constitution. Logic and wisdom, if any, behind this exclusion totally fails me,” he added.

tribune.com.pk/story/1352338/lhc-clears-disabled-diplomatic-missions/

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India

Islamic radio station to promote ‘Halal' entertainment in Kashmir

THE ASIAN AGE. | YUSUF JAMEEL Published : Mar 11, 2017

A group musicians in J&K has launched online radio station for youth influenced by Western culture and Hollywood and Bollywood music.

Srinagar: Restive Kashmir has a ‘halal’ (permissible as per Islamic law) radio too now. A group of musicians in the Valley has launched the online radio to make an impact on local Muslim youth particularly those who, they say, are highly influenced by Western culture and Hollywood and Bollywood melodies and movies.

“We wanted to create a better alternative which provides them good in this life and the hereafter,” said Muhammad Aamir, the founder of Radio ‘Saut ul Islam’ or the ‘Voice of Islam’. He said, ‘Radio Saut ul Islam’ is such an application which provides a platform to the scholars to propagate the message of Islam based on Qur’an and Sahie (true) Sunnah’. Sunnah or Hadith is the traditional portion of Muslim law based on its Prophet Muhammad's words or acts accepted together with the Islam’s holy book.

He added that there was no such ‘Islamic Radio’ or FM relaying its programs 24x7 from Jammu and Kashmir and he thought to start it as “it was need of the hour”. He and other team members prefer to call it ‘Halal’ radio.

Mir Saqib Mushtaq who would earlier replicate Bollywood songs and was involved in Western-oriented music and songs too has also joined the team. He said he was highly impressed by Pakistani singer-songwriter Junaid Jamshed’s work and, in fact, it prompted him too to give up Western music and serve Islam through his talent. Jamshed who died in an air crash in December last year left both his engineering and music careers and subsequently focused on his religious activities for Islam and reciting nasheeds (chants) and na’at (poetry) in praise of Muhammad) on TV and releasing them on CD's.

Mushtaq said that 'Radio Saut ul Islam' is “a humble effort to spread the true message of Islam by means of the latest possible ways.” Aamir added that the channel aims to broadcast lectures, interviews, learning sessions, Islamic songs, Muslim World news and much more in future. Presently the broadcasts are mainly in Kashmiri and Urdu languages but Aamir and his team plan to do it soon in English and other language as well.

Aamir claimed that he recently received a phone call threatening him to close the channel or be ready to face consequences. He has no idea who the caller was and why he wanted him to shut ‘Radio Saut ul Islam’. Analyst Sheikh Abdul Qayyum said that the radio will spread the message of Islam and that ‘Islam like all other religions stands for peace’.

He asserted, “It will spread the message of peace. It would be but naive to think that this Internet- based radio will promote terrorism in or bring Talbinisation to Kashmir”. He also believes. “In today’s world when Internet and other means of Information Technology have made the world smaller mainly through social media such threats can’t stop anyone from reaching out to the people.” 

Aamir who is founder and the president of Islamic Fraternity (Kashmir) and Editor-in-Chief of ‘The Islamic Revival’ magazine besides heading an aid group called Centre for Humanitarian Aid, said that an Android application has also been developed for his ‘halal’ radio. He said that apart from programmes on teaching of Qur’an and Hadith, ‘Radio Saur ul Islam’ will broadcast live Q&A sessions with reputed Islamic scholars and discussions on late marriage, polygamy and various women-related issues such as hijab (veil) and dowry.

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The Bhopal-Ujjain Train Blast Wasn’t the Islamic State Attack Indian Intelligence Was Expecting

Saikat Datta, 11 March 2017

For over a year, intelligence analysts have been receiving inputs about the Islamic State-Khorasan Province’s plans to attack the country.

A low intensity blast on a Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train on Tuesday morning led to initial claims that this was the “first ISIS attack” in India, a reference to the Islamic State, the Syria-based terrorist organisation. However, this claim was soon downgraded, and the blast was blamed on a “self-radicalised” group.

Intelligence officials have been expecting an attack by the Islamic State-Khorasan Province – an outfit in Afghanistan that swears allegiance to the Syria-based extremist group – for months. So when news of the train blast first reached intelligence officials, it seemed possible that the attack was linked to that terrorist group. However, as investigations progressed, investigating officers were unable to find evidence to back up their initial suspicions, leading to frustration among intelligence officials. Clearly, this wasn’t the attack they had been warned about.

Tenuous linkages

For over a year, Indian intelligence analysts have been receiving inputs about the growing presence of the Islamic State-Khorasan Province, and its plans to target India.

A few years ago, a few young men from Hyderabad were intercepted on the Indo-Bangladesh border while attempting to cross over to Bangladesh. Based on their revelations after interrogation, Bangladeshi intelligence authorities picked up a man in Dhaka who is claimed to have confessed that the intercepted men were heading for Khorasan Province in Afghanistan via Bangladesh and Pakistan. Similarly, a group of 21 men and women from Kerala, who disappeared last year, are believed to have joined the Islamic State in Afghanistan.

The growth of the Islamic State-Khorasan Province and its linkages with Pakistan has worried Indian security officials for months. Government insiders said that the top American military commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, has also accepted that the Afghanistan branch of the Islamic State has been growing, as more Pakistanis from Punjab sign up.

On Tuesday, when the Madhya Pradesh police was alerted about the low-intensity train blast that took place in the morning, they began to pore through closed circuit television camera footage and cell phone call records looking for clues. By afternoon, the Intelligence Bureau alerted them about possible suspects trying to make their way through Hoshangabad district in Madhya Pradesh. The police finally intercepted and arrested the three men – Danish Akhtar, Syed Mir and Atif Muzaffar – near Pipariya in Hoshangabad district. After hours of interrogation, one of them is reported to have told the police about other members of their group who were based in Uttar Pradesh.

“We are still investigating the links to the IS [Islamic State], but we don’t have any clear indications between these men and those abroad,” a senior intelligence official told this reporter. “We found some tentative links when they tried to connect with some known recruiters of the IS who are abroad, but we haven’t been able to establish them fully. But this looks similar to the Gulshan attack case in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where the young men had met the IS recruiters online.”

Following the train blast, intelligence officials were also intrigued by the silence from Amaq, the official news outlet for the Islamic State, as well as on encrypted channels like Telegram, believed to be the preferred channel of communication for the extremist organisation. Attacks by the Islamic State or its followers usually lead to some kind of chatter on these channels. On Wednesday, there was a much bigger attack in a hospital in Kabul in which 49 people were killed. The Islamic State claimed credit for this attack via Amaq.

“Unlike the Gulshan attack when Amaq released images of the young men within hours of the attack, no such claims came forward after the Bhopal blast,” said the senior intelligence official. The police just found a hand-painted IS [Islamic State] flag from the house of Mohammed Saifullah, who was killed in the encounter by the UP Anti-Terrorism Squad [in Lucknow on Wednesday]. These raise doubts about the affiliations of this group with either the IS [Islamic State] or the IS-KP [Islamic State-Khorastan Province].”

A new Indian Mujahideen?

In the early years of Al Qaeda, many analysts were confused by the terrorist organisation’s seeming omnipresence across continents. Much later, after the 9/11 attacks on the US, intelligence officials began to realise that Al Qaeda was a body of loosely-connected individuals who converged on ideology, but shared very little in terms of resources or an organisational structure.

By 2006, as the Indian Mujahideen emerged from the banned Students Islamic Movement of India, it created fears of a new “home grown” terror organisation that could strike at will. The emergence of the current group seems akin to what the Indian Mujahideen was until the infamous Batla House encounter in Delhi delivered a death blow to the organisation.

“We believe that this group is part of a federated organisation, where they may not be connected in terms of finances or logistics, but are keen to shape a single identity because that helps everyone” said a senior security professional who has had years tracking terrorism in India. “We believe that like the IM [Indian Mujahideen], we may be seeing smaller groups emerging, who may not be formally connected, but will have similar points of angst and radicalisation.”

Indian intelligence officials also point to the fact that while the Indian Mujahideen was disbanded after repeated encounters and arrests, those who fled abroad continue to operate out of Afghanistan and have joined the Islamic State-Khorastan Province.

The senior security official added: “The inputs we have so far indicate that those same people are getting in touch with a new generation of young men and women, aiding them to sign up for the IS-KP [Islamic State-Khorastan Province], even if it doesn’t mean any formal association.”

By Thursday, with help from the Intelligence Bureau, the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad also picked up Ghaus Khan – a former corporal with the Indian Air Force who had taken voluntary retirement in 1993 – in connection with the train blast. Ghaus Khan reportedly told his interrogators that he had been inspired by the speeches of Delhi-based cleric Mufti Abdus Sami Qasmi, who the National Investigation Agency arrested last year. Apparently Qasmi’s provocative speeches about the rise of the Islamic State caliphate in India seems to have been the trigger for Ghaus Khan to raise a group of extremists in India.

Crude country-made pistols were recovered from the house in Lucknow that Saifullah was killed in. This is offered as further proof that the train blast was conceived of by a local group with little or minimal international linkages.

However, there is a growing fear that increasing communal polarisation in India will continue to fan extremism as more groups choose violent means to strike back against perceived wrongs.

scroll.in/article/831508/the-bhopal-ujjain-train-blast-wasnt-the-islamic-state-attack-india-was-expecting

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Pakistan summons India's Deputy High Commissioner over Assemanand's acquittal

PTI | Mar 11, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has summoned India's deputy high commissioner to express its concern over the acquittal of right-wing activist Swami Aseemanand - an accused in the Samjhauta train blasts case - in a case of terrorism.

In a late night statement, the Foreign Office said Indian Deputy High Commissioner J P Singh was called in by the director general (South Asia & SAARC) on Friday "to express concern over acquittal of Swami Aseemanand in Ajmer Sharif blast case."

"Swami Aseemanand had publicly confessed that he was the 'mastermind' of Samjhauta Express terrorist attack of February 2007 and had also identified a serving Indian army officer Col Purohit as his accomplice in the Samjhauta Express terrorist attack," it said.

A total of 68 people were killed in the blasts in two coaches of Samjhauta Express in Panipat on February 18, 2007.

The statement said that 42 Pakistani citizens had lost their lives in the Samjhauta train blasts.

"The Government of Pakistan expects India to take steps to bring to justice all those involved in the heinous act of Samjhauta Express terrorist attack," it said.

On Thursday, Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria had asked India to bring the perpetrators of the Samjhauta train blasts to justice and termed the acquittal of Aseemanand in the 2007 Ajmer blast case as "regrettable".

"What we have noted is that over the last few years they had been exonerating people involved in the Samjhauta Express terrorist attack," Zakaria had said.

"We have been pursuing the case of Samjhauta Express with the Indian government and we hope that they will share the findings/investigations collected so far in the case with us and perpetrators will be brought to justice," he had said.

A member of right-wing Hindu group Abhinav Bharat, Assemanand has been in jail since December 2010. He was also named as an accused in Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blast case.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-summons-indias-deputy-high-commissioner-over-assemanands-acquittal/articleshow/57588549.cms

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South Asia

3 foreign ISIS militants killed in US drone strike in East of Afghanistan

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sat Mar 11 2017

At least three militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group were killed in an airstrike conducted by the US forces in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The provincial police commandment in a statement said the airstrike was carried out late on Friday in Momand Dara area of Achin district.

The statement further added that the militants were targeted by Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, leaving three of them dead and at least three others wounded.

According to the police commandment, the local residents and security forces did not suffer any casualties in the airstrike.

Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces in eastern Afghanistan but the anti-government armed militant groups have recently increased their insurgency activities in some parts of the province during the recent years.

The latest coordinated attack by ISIS loyalists came as the Afghan forces are busy conducting counter-terrorism operations in the restive districts of Nangarhar under the Shaheen-25 operations launched several weeks ago.

The operations are being conducted with the support of the US forces based in Afghanistan who are providing close-air support under a broader role granted by the Obama administration earlier last year to target the terrorist groups in the country.

khaama.com/3-foreign-isis-militants-killed-in-us-drone-strike-in-east-of-afghanistan-02369

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Taliban’s finance and military commission leaders killed in Kunduz

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sat Mar 11 2017

Two important Taliban in charge of the finance and military commissions were killed during an operation in northern Kunduz province of Afghanistan.

According to the 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan National Army, Taliban’s military commission chief Qari Dost Mohammad and finance commission chief Mullah Niaz Mohammad were killed during a clash with the security forces.

The two important Taliban leaders were among at least six militants killed during the operation conducted in Dasht-e-Archi district.

At least three motorcycles and an explosives and ammunition depot of the group were also destroyed during the operation.

In an operation in Dand-e-Shahabuddin area of Baghlan province, at least one Taliban insurgent was killed and two others were wounded, the 209th Shaheen Corps said.

Kunduz and Baghlan provinces are among the relatively volatile provinces in northern Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgents are actively operating in its various districts.

This comes as at least three prominent commanders of the Taliban were killed in airstrike in northern Kunduz province some weeks ago.

The anti-government armed militant groups have not commented regarding the latest reports so far.

khaama.com/talibans-finance-and-military-commission-leaders-killed-in-kunduz-02368

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Top ISIS leader involved in Kabul demonstration attack killed

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sat Mar 11 201

A key leader of the ISIS loyalists in command of a group of 200 militants who was involved in Kabul demonstration attack has been killed, it has been reported.

According to reports, Mawlavi Abdul Qayum who was also famous as Shaheen Khurasani was killed in an operation in Achin district.

The operation was reportedly conducted by the operatives of the Afghan intelligence, national directorate of security.

This comes as the officials announced earlier last month that one of the key ISIS leader who had planned the attack on a Shia mosque and on demonstrators in Kabul was killed.

According to ARG Palace, Qari Munib was killed during a counter-terrorism operation conducted on 13th January in Achin district of Nangarhar.

Qari Munib was involved in some of the major attacks in Kabul city, including a deadly attack on protesters in Kabul and attack on Baqir-ul-Uloom mosque in west of Kabul city that left scores of people dead or wounded.

He was also involved in an attack on Nepali security guards in Kabul city late last year.

ARG Palace said the ISIS leader was targeted in line with the President Ghani and National Security Council’s instructions and in join coordination with the coalition forces based in Afghanistan.

Follow Khaama Press (KP) | Afghan News Agency on Twitter, become a fan on F

khaama.com/top-isis-leader-involved-in-kabul-demonstration-attack-killed-02367

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Pakistan violated Afghan territory, airspace for 62 times since January, UNSC informed

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sat Mar 11 2017

The Afghan officials informed the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) regarding the growing territorial and airspace violations by Pakistan, saying Afghanistan recorded 59 territory and 3 airspace violations since January.

“From January till today, we recorded at least 59 instances of violations of Afghan territory by Pakistan military forces, including three violations of our air space, over 1375 cross-frontier artillery shellings that caused dozens of casualties, displacement of 450 families in the middle of cold winter in our eastern provinces, burning of our forests, illegal construction of infrastructure near the frontier region, and hostile maneuvering of tanks and heavy weaponry,” Mahmoud Saikal, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations said.

Mr. Saikal said in February, a series of unfortunate terrorist attacks in Pakistan killed dozens and wounded many more innocent men, women, and children.

“As is the case, Afghans always share the pain and anguish of our Pakistani brothers and sisters,” he said adding that “However, the Government of Pakistan, immediately and without any regard for an investigative process or clear facts, blamed Afghanistan for the attacks and resorted to increased breaches of our territorial integrity, the closing of the main border crossings, blockading trade and transit, and harassing our nationals traveling to or living in their country.”

According to Saikal, s uch measures constitute a clear violation of principles of WTO and the rights of land locked countries, including their access to sea.

He also informed UNSC regarding the key Taliban and Haqqani network leaders based in the country along with the sanctuaries being used by them.

“We have submitted to their Government a list of 86 known terrorists and 32 Taliban training centers, including Haqqani network centers, asking for their immediate closure. We have asked for a third-party verification of the two sides’ efforts. No response has yet been received. The UN Secretary General, this noble Council, and other international partners are all appraised of these developments,” he added.

khaama.com/pakistan-violated-afghan-territory-airspace-for-62-times-since-january-unsc-informed-02366

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Mideast

Military Source: Turkish Army Hits Syrian Gov't Troops' Military Positions in Aleppo's Manbij

March/10/2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- Military sources said the Turkish troops have pounded the Syrian army's military positions in Manbij region in Aleppo with rockets and artillery shells on Frdiay.

"The Turkish shelling targeted the Syrian border guards and claimed the lives of a number of them and injured many others," the source said.

He noted that the Turkish aggression on the Syrian territories is just an attempt to stop the success and progress made by the Syrian army and its allied forces in the war against terrorist groups and to prevent restoration of stability and security to Aleppo countryside and the whole Syrian territories.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, the predominately Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) warded off a joint offensive of the Turkish soldiers and Ankara-backed militants of the Euphrates Shield Operation in the surrounding areas of the town of Manbij in Northeastern Syria, killing at least 16 pro-Turkey militants.

The SDF engaged in fierce clashes with the Turkish army men and militants of the Euphrates Shield Operation near Buqaz village Northeast of Aleppo and repelled their attack, killing 16 militants of the Euphrates Shield Operation and wounding several more.

Meanwhile, several military vehicles of the Euphrates Shield Operation forces sustained major damage and one armored vehicles of the Turkish army was destroyed in exchange of fire.

The Turkish-led forces were trying to penetrate into Buqaz village, but they were pushed back after sustaining heavy losses.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, Kurdish forces of the Manbij Military Council warded off heavy attacks of the Turkish soldiers and Ankara-led Euphrates Shield forces on the Western side of the town.

Field sources said that the Turkish army men and their allied militants shelled the Kurdish forces' positions in the village of Olashli West of Manbij.

The sources added that fierce clashes erupted between the Kurdish forces and the Ankara-backed militants after the Turkish army drones started flying over the villages of Ilan, Buqaz and Olashli.

They pointed out that the Kurdish forces have been defending their positions in the villages of Ilan, Buqaz and Olashli against the Turkish soldiers' attacks.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951220000564

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All kinds of military cooperation with Russia in Syria: President Erdoğan

March/10/2017

Ankara and Moscow are conducting all kinds of military cooperation in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a press conference March 10 with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

“There are all kinds of military cooperation in military pace in Syria,” Erdoğan said.

The president also voiced determination in maintaining cooperation regarding humanitarian aid in the war-torn country.

Meanwhile, Putin also said he appreciated the cooperation of intelligence and military units.

"We rate very highly the level of interaction achieved between the special services of Russia and Turkey and between the two countries’ military," Putin said as quoted by TASS news agency.

Erdoğan also reiterated that the territorial integrity of Syria should not be put in jeopardy, adding that Ankara has no toleration for the splitting of Syria and Iraq.

The top soldiers of Turkey and Russia, along with the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, held a three-way military summit in Antalya on March 8 discussing developments in Syria and Iraq regarding the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

hurriyetdailynews.com/all-kinds-of-military-cooperation-with-russia-in-syria-president-erdogan.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110687&NewsCatID=352

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Putin hosts Erdoğan for high-level talks

March/10/2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, met in Moscow on March 10 for a bilateral high-level cooperation council summit.

The summit, joined by cabinet ministers from both sides, marks the first such council meeting since relations were strained over Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet in November 2015, which led to the cancelation of the subsequent meeting. It is the two leaders’ fourth meeting in seven months during the normalization process since the jet crisis.

“We are actively working to solve the most acute crises, first of all in Syria,” Putin said as he greeted Erdoğan at the start of the talks.

“I’m very pleased to note, and few seemed to expect it, that our military and special services have established such efficient and close contact.”

Erdogan noted that cooperation in building a prospective Russian natural gas pipeline and a nuclear power plant in Turkey had also regained pace.

The two countries brokered a cease-fire in December 2015 that helped reduce the scale of fighting between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition, and they also co-sponsored two rounds of talks this year between al-Assad’s government and its foes. A third round is set for next week.

Russia and Turkey coordinated their operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.

A Russian air raid last month accidentally killed three Turkish soldiers, but the incident did not derail the military coordination.

Earlier this week, the chief military officers from Russia, the United States and Turkey met in the Turkish city of Antalya in an apparent attempt to work out additional steps to prevent incidents.

Turkey’s opposition to any moves to ally with U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, which it declares as terrorists, was also on the agenda.

Turkey said it would take part in a move on ISIL’s stronghold in Raqqa as long as the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), are excluded.

The increasingly close cooperation on Syria between Russia and Turkey marked a sharp turnaround for the two nations, which have backed opposing sides in Syria, as Moscow has sided with al-Assad and Turkey has supported rebel groups against him since the start of the Syrian conflict six years ago.

Turkey and Russia will sign several agreements, Turkish presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said one day before the summit, adding that discussions would also include the process that was launched after normalization began last year but have not yet been completed.

While restoring ties with Turkey, Russia has hesitated to definitively lift restrictions on trade and the economy.

Turkey downed a Russian warplane at the Syrian border in November 2015 for breaching its air space. Moscow responded by barring the sales of package tours to Turkey and halting the imports of agricultural products, moves that badly hurt the Turkish economy.

In June 2016, Erdoğan penned a letter to Putin, expressing Turkey’s sorrow for downing the plane. The move helped rebuild ties, while Putin also offered firm support to the Turkish leader in the wake of a botched coup last July.

Despite the rapprochement, Russia has only moved gradually to lift economic restrictions, keeping some in place as an apparent motivator for Turkey.

On the eve of the Kremlin talks, it allowed the imports of a few other agricultural products from Turkey.

We are pleased to see our ties recovering at a quick tempo,” Putin said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoglu, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak, Defense Minister Fikri Işık, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci, Agriculture Minister Faruk Çelik, Culture and Tourism Minister Nabi Avcı, Transport and Maritime Affairs Minister Ahmet Arslan and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ are also participating in the Turkish delegation, as is Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar.

hurriyetdailynews.com/putin-hosts-erdogan-for-high-level-talks-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110654&NewsCatID=353

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71 militants killed in one week in northern Syria: Turkish military

March/10/2017

At least 98 militants have been killed in Turkey and northern Syria over a week, the Turkish military said March 10. 

Some 71 out of 98 Democratic Union Party (PYD), outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants were killed in northern Syria as part of the Turkey-led Euphrates Shield operation, the military said.

The military added that efforts to clear mines and explosives were ongoing in the regions of al-Bab, Qabasin and Bzagah.       

Since the operation began last August, the Turkish military has neutralized 3,060 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants and 462 PKK, PYD and YPG militants.

Turkish authorities use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the militants in question were either killed, captured or surrounded.

Turkish jets also destroyed 2,325 targets, with the military taking control over 243 residential areas and 2,015 square kilometers (778 square miles) of territory between the cities of Azaz and Jarabulus.       

According to another statement by the military on March 10, Turkish jets destroyed three PKK targets in the Avasin-Basyan and Zap regions in northern Iraq late on March 9.      

The Turkish General Staff said in a statement that 27 of the militants were killed in anti-PKK operations in the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır, Bingöl, Siirt, Mardin, Bitlis, Batman and Kars between March 2 and March 9.       

During the operations, 24 shelters used by the PKK were destroyed and five vehicles were seized, while 80 improvised explosives and 25 infantry rifles were recovered.       

A Turkish soldier was also killed during security efforts at the border, during which 3,547 people were captured while trying to cross illegally.

Security forces also seized 908 kilograms (2,002 pounds) of cannabis and 7,000 packets of smuggled cigarettes.

hurriyetdailynews.com/71-militants-killed-in-one-week-in-northern-syria-turkish-military.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110655&NewsCatID=352

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Nearly 15,000 Syrians receiving education in Turkish universities

March/10/2017

Nearly 15,000 Syrians are enrolled in Turkish universities as of the 2016-2017 academic year, Higher Education Board (YÖK) head Yekta Saraç has said.

One thirds of Syrian university students are women and the rest are men, while 3,473 Syrian students in the country are receiving education as a part of the special “Turkey Scholarship” program, Saraç added.

“Among the overall Syrian student population, 1,149 are postgraduate and 352 are doctorate students. Around 2,000 are receiving education in foundation universities,” he said at a conference on Syrian participation in higher education at Mustafa Kemal University in the southern province of Hatay on March 9.

“The fact that the number of Syrian students receiving education in universities [in Turkey] rose to 15,000 this year from 5,000 in 2014-15 and from 10,000 in 2015-16 shows a rapid increase … There are students receiving education on every spot of the Turkish map,” Saraç also stated.

Noting that Gaziantep University in the southeastern province of Gaziantep tops the list with 1,680 Syrian students, Saraç added that Istanbul University and Karabük University in the Black Sea province of Karabük are second and third on the list.

“Istanbul University follows Gaziantep University with 1,000 students and Karabük University follows it with 927 students. Mersin University, Kahramanmaraş Sütçü İmam University, İnönü University, Çukurova University, Istanbul Aydın University, Yüzüncü Yıl University and Sakarya University are next on the list,” he said.

“The example of Karabük University shows that the number of students can be high even in provinces where Syrians are not densely populated. This is related to the number of Syrian lecturers the university employs,” Saraç said.

There are currently Syrian students in 35 state and eight private universities across the country, he added.

He also referred to the YÖK’s new system for foreign academics launched last year, noting that this system will make it easier for the “eligible Syrian population to participate in academic life in Turkey.”

Saying that as of 2016 there are a total of 392 Syrian-origin lecturers on duty in Turkey - 327 of whom are in state universities and 65 of whom are in private universities - Saraç said “Turkey is on a hopeful track regarding the issue.”

“The numeric data regarding Syrian students and academics show that we are on a long and difficult path, but also a hopeful one,” he added.

Referring to the wider refugee issue, Saraç noted that around 3 million Syrians are currently in Turkey to “continue living in a humane way.”

“We should all know that our country is looking after our Syrian siblings with all means possible,” he added.

hurriyetdailynews.com/nearly-15000-syrians-receiving-education-in-turkish-universities-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110657&NewsCatID=341

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Southeast Asia

Burma says UN claims of crimes against humanity against Rohingya Muslims are ‘exaggerated’

UN report claims babies and children have been slaughtered with knives

UN reports of mass killings of Rohingya Muslims in Burma are an 'internal affair', said a spokesperson for the country's leader Aung San Suu Kyi EPA

Burma’s government has dismissed the United Nations’ claims the country’s security services have committed crimes against humanity in Rohingya-dominated areas of the country as “exaggerated”.

Last month, the United Nations issued a disturbing report outlining a campaign of human rights abuses in northern parts of the western state of Rakhine, close to the Bangladeshi border.

Babies and children have reportedly been slaughtered with knives amid “area clearance operations” the UN report said, with hundreds of people having been killed since October.

The Burmese government has repeatedly denied persecuting the minority Rohingya Muslim group, dismissing evidence of killings as “propaganda”.

Burmese leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who was swept to power after a landslide 2015 election has not responded directly to the UN claims, but the BBC attempted to question her for a Newsnight report into the situation.

A spokesman for her party told the BBC reports of crimes against humanity were “exaggerated”, and added that the issue was “an internal affair”.

“Sometimes the United Nations is wrong”, the spokesperson added.

“As a new government we're just trying to achieve to a modern country. We have thousands of problems.

“We don't believe it's crimes against humanity. It's an internal affair - it's not an international affair.”

The UN’s report, which based its claims on over 200 interviews with refugees who had fled over the border to Bangladesh after attacks on a border post in October 2016, found that the counter military operations by security forces subjected the Rohingya population to brutal beatings, disappearances, mass gang-rape, killings and other human rights violations.

“The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable – what kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother's milk. And for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by the very security forces who should be protecting her,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.

Ms Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, with the Nobel committee citing her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.

After boycotting Burma’s 2010 general election following decades of being frequently subjected to house arrests, she led the National League for Democracy party (NLD) to win the country’s first openly contested election in 25 years.

However, the 71-year-old iconic leader has since been accused of “legitimising genocide” in Burma, after failing to act to protect the Rohingya Muslim population.

independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/burma-un-rohingya-muslims-crimes-against-humanity-united-nations-exaggerated-claims-aung-san-suu-kyi-a7622331.html

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Man held for burning down Texas mosque

WASHINGTON: Police in Texas have arrested a man who allegedly burned down a mosque in a town near Houston, the US media reported on Friday.

Marq Vincent Perez, 25, burglarised the mosque at the Islamic Centre in Victoria, a town in Texas, on Jan 22 and then again on Jan 28, when he started the fire that caused widespread damage to the facility.

Police officials told a federal judge in Corpus Christi on Thursday that they had taken Perez in custody for possession of a destructive device.

A statement from the US attorney’s office said that Perez wanted to use the contraption, made of fireworks, to start a car fire on Jan 15.

US Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington refused to bail out the suspect, saying that evidence of his involvement in a “hate crime” contributed to her decision to hold him without bond pending further proceedings.

Defence Attorney Mark Di Carlo said the accusations were “speculation” and “hearsay”.

“We dispute the charges,” the lawyer said.

But the judge disagreed.

“The evidence against the defendant is substantial and the testimony of ATF Agent Miller unrefuted — therefore, the court finds the testimony credible,” Ms Ellington said.

“Even though the defendant has no criminal history, the testimony of his involvement in a hate crime presently being investigated, the retaliatory nature of the facts surrounding his possession and use of an unregistered destructive device ...demonstrate that he represents a serious danger to the community.”

The Jan 28 fire that destroyed the only mosque in Victoria was officially ruled arson last month. The Victoria community rallied around the small Muslim congregation and a GoFundMe campaign brought in nearly $1 million in the first two days after the incident.

A synagogue in Victoria also gave its facility to local Muslims for offering prayers.

“Today, our faith in humanity has been rekindled again,” the Victoria Islamic Centre wrote on Facebook after receiving keys from the synagogue.

A spokesman for the Islamic Centre said they had already forgiven the suspected arsonist.

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2017

dawn.com/news/1319762/man-held-for-burning-down-texas-mosque

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Marines set hearing on charges related to Muslim recruit's death

WASHINGTON — The family of a Muslim Marine recruit from Michigan who died in a fall at boot camp said Friday they don't believe the charges announced so far in their son's death are severe enough for the hazing and abuse he endured.

"The charges appear to be insufficient and do not address the magnitude of the torture, assault, abuse, hazing, neglect and maltreatment" to which Raheel Siddiqui, a 20-year-old former high school valedictorian from Taylor, was subjected, his family said through their lawyer, Shiraz Khan, Friday evening.

The statement came less than two hours after the Marine Corps' Training and Education Command (TECOM) in Quantico, Va., announced it would hold a preliminary hearing in North Carolina next Thursday to determine whether charges against a still-unnamed gunnery sergeant should go forward.

TECOM officials late Friday afternoon issued a release saying an Article 32 hearing had been scheduled related to the investigation into the death of Siddiqui last March in a three-story fall from a stairwell at the iconic training depot at Parris Island, S.C., 11 days into his boot camp.

A Marines spokesman would not say what specific role the gunnery sergeant may have had in the death, which an earlier investigation found occurred after the recruit was slapped by a drill instructor and forced to run back and forth repeatedly in a barracks and refused medical treatment for a sore throat.

stripes.com/news/us/marines-set-hearing-on-charges-related-to-muslim-recruit-s-death-1.458145#.WMOPrIGGOzc

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WA election: troublemaker puts council stamp on fake mosque proposal

MARCH 11 2017

Emma Young

An apparent attempt to stir up racial tension on WA's state election day was identified as a dirty trick when the City of Stirling confirmed its letterhead was faked on a notice about a mosque being built on Beaufort Street, Inglewood.

ABC presenter Nadia Mitsopoulos Tweeted the letter after seeing it in her letterbox on Saturday as WA went to the polls. 

The letter, which misspells Osborne Park in the City's address, requests public comment about a proposal for a mosque and Islamic community centre on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Beaufort Street, Inglewood.

It also features a line drawing of a mosque.

The site is the subject of a development proposal but it is for a mixed-use development with residential and commercial components, confirmed a City spokesman, who condemned the fake letter and its likely malicious intentions.

The state is already fraught with racial tension, with protests held outside the Paddington Ale House on Thursday evening as far-right groups lent support to One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson's campaign event, and young Muslim women in headscarves questioning Ms Hanson about her beliefs.

"That's not very good," Labor leader Mark McGowan told reporters who asked his opinion on the racial tensions thrown up by the campaign.

"I do hope that sort of thing can be avoided.

"I've tried not to be nasty and personal during this campaign.

"I have just tried to campaign on the basis of the ideas and policies that we are putting forward for the state. Others will be able to judge whether anyone else was racist or xenophobic and I can only comment on what we have done, which I think has been very much about a positive future for Western Australia."

watoday.com.au/wa-news/wa-election-2017/wa-election-troublemaker-puts-council-stamp-on-fake-mosque-proposal-20170311-guvzuo.html

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Australia

Islamic leader slams bogus mosque plan

Toyah Shakespeare

Saturday, 11 March 2017

The president of the Islamic Council of WA has condemned a fake mosque proposal delivered to Inglewood letter boxes this morning.

Tenth Avenue residents found notices for a proposed mosque and community hall at Eighth Avenue and Beaufort Street.

The flier claimed the Islamic Council of WA was seeking approval for the development and included a City of Stirling letterhead.

Islamic Council of WA president Rateb Jneid said the notice sent to residents was a fake.

“This is fake, a fraud, we will investigate it and it could be a political ploy,” he said.

A City of Stirling spokesman confirmed it was a fraud and said apartments had been proposed for the site.

In September last year, the Islamic Council of WA publicly blasted Pauline Hanson’s “paranoid and Islamophobic speech” made in Federal parliament.

The Senator is in Perth today, touring electorates with State One Nation candidates.

thewest.com.au/politics/state-election-2017/islamic-leader-slams-bogus-mosque-plan-ng-b88412375z

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Africa

 

Egyptian Parliamentary Action against ‘Fatwa Chaos’

Waleed Abdul Rahman

Cairo-In an attempt to curb the uncontrollable fatwas that are sweeping Egyptian media, the Egyptian Parliament is preparing to face clerics issuing such fatwas on social media with a number of laws.

“The Egyptian parliament is currently discussing three laws to control this phenomenon,” said sources in the parliament that are close to the matter.

“These laws will include specification of the sources allowed to issue fatwas and approval of prison sentence and a fine of about 100,000 Egyptian pounds to those who appear on TV channels without permission.”

Egypt has been suffering from randomly issued phenomenon, especially after the number of muftis showing up on TV channels increased lately.

Talk shows and religious programs on TV have exceeded the limits of discussing political matters, worship and morality to reach a point where random clerics issue and discuss fateful fatwas.

The three law drafts submitted by members of the Religious Committee in the parliament are to regulate the work within Dar al-Ifta, organize the public fatwa and limit the appearance of clerics on TV programs without having a license.

Parliamentary sources said that the new law will serve al-Ifta institution and is going to be welcomed by all the members in parliament.

Meanwhile, observers believe there are fears that the parliament would infringe Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta’s authorities.

However, parliamentary sources confirmed that these new draft laws serve the public interest and religious institutions in general.

In this matter, Secretary of the Religious Committee at the Egyptian parliament Omar Hamrouche presented a draft law on regulating fatwas.

The law will limit the issuing of religious edicts to senior scholars at al-Azhar and Dar al-Ifta and put an end to the numerous fatwas that incite violence and intolerance.

Hamrouche said that the draft law does not target a specific movement, but is intended to regulate fatwas in general in order to achieve a moderate religious discourse and highlight the tolerance of Islam after numerous fatwas were issued calling for intolerance and discrimination.

http://english.aawsat.com/waleed-abdul-rahman/news-middle-east/egyptian-parliamentary-action-fatwa-chaos

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East African Regulators Allow More Islamic Finance Services

11 March 2017

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East Africa: Used Car Imports Drive General Motors Out of East African Market

As the financial sector in the region grapples with a confidence crisis following the collapse of some banks, Islamic finance is expected to take root as governments enact laws that allow rollout of Sharia-compliant products and services.

Currently, the Islamic finance market is dominated by conventional banks that have Islamic banking windows to tap into the lucrative market. The region has lately witnessed a steady increase in Islamic banking, fund management, insurance (Takaful), microfinance and co-operatives where there are fully fledged Sharia-compliant financial institutions.

There are about 50 Islamic financial institutions in Africa, a majority of which are in North and West Africa. Globally, there are over 600 such institutions.

Data from the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), an arm of the Islamic Development Bank, shows that total global Islamic financial assets stood at $2.1 trillion in 2014, up from $150 billion in the 1990s. Africa accounts for only 2 per cent of global Islamic banking assets.

Islamic finance is projected to hit $6.5 trillion by 2020. In East Africa, however, no country has issued an Islamic bond (Sukuk), but Kenya and Tanzania have been considering tapping into the Islamic finance pool to raise funds for infrastructure development.

"Islamic finance is helping bridge the gap in financial access by tapping members of the Muslim faith who want to deal with Sharia-compliant institutions. That is why we expect more growth in the coming years," said Adan Mohamed, Kenya's Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary at the launch of Taqwa Sacco, a sharia-compliant savings and credit co-operative society that has been licensed to take deposits and offer banking services.

Taqwa, with 4,200 members, a deposit base of $3.7 million and a loan book of $3.5 million, is the first fully fledged Sharia-compliant Sacco in East Africa to offer front office services.

"We are creating a model to enable other Sharia-compliant financial instructions to follow as we deepen the Islamic finance market," said Taqwa chairman Ahmed Yusuf.

allafrica.com/stories/201703110002.html

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/iraq-unsure-if-un-help-needed-to-probe-islamic-state-crimes/d/110373

 

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