engaged cyber-security firm FireEye to provide it with intelligence (Reuters)
Jaish men seeking money for jihad in
India caught on tape
PM Imran Khan offers humanitarian
assistance for people in India's flood-hit Kerala state
Pakistan hits back at US over ‘factually
Cabinet likely to ban discretionary
funds of PM Imran, ministers
People are happy with PM Khan's
direction, says foreign minister
Pakistan Information minister grieves
death of Indian journalist Kuldip Nayar
How some Muslims won't sacrifice goats
to help Kerala
Forest department official shot dead in
J-K’s Baramulla by suspect LeT militants
Sunnis barred from holding Eid al-Adha
prayers in Tehran
Google shuts down dozens of Iranian
Iranians ‘imprisoned in their own
country’ as more airlines axe flights
Inside Iran’s fake-news machine
Houthis: Saudi-UAE air raids kill
dozens, including 22 children
Egypt detains former diplomat after call
for referendum on Sisi
Yemen government forces move to 'cut the
head off the snake' in Houthi hideout
Counting Islamic State members, an
Makkah governor thanks everyone who
helped make Hajj 2018 a success
Arab coalition foils Houthi boat attack
in Red Sea
Makkah, holy sites to witness
technology-based massive development
At Ojude-Oba festival, Nigeria’s Senate
President preaches unity among Nigerians
Russian Ship ‘carrying weapons to Nigeria
detained in South Africa’
S.Africa lashes Trump over land
U.S. mulling to appoint Zalmay Khalilzad
as special envoy for Afghanistan
Ghani hold talks with Ghazni officials
regarding recent security developments
NDS Special Forces storm key ISIS
hideout in Nangarhar province
Nine-year-old boy dies after beating by
Indonesian earthquake death toll reaches
US State Dept sticks by contentious
readout, hails Imran-Pompeo call as a good one
UN official: Palestinian refugee issue
can’t be wished away
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Aug 23, 2018 23:25 IST
Less than two months after Pakistan was
put a global watch list for failing to do enough to counter terror financing,
videos have emerged of Jaish-e-Mohammed operatives collecting funds after
Eid-ul-Azha prayers in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
The videos, shot at a venue for Eid
prayers at Domel sub-district of Bannu district on Tuesday, show members of the
banned JeM and Al Rahmat Trust, a banned front organisation of the terror group
led by Masood Azhar, openly soliciting for funds for jihad against the US and
The videos, shared widely on social
media since Wednesday, show the JeM and Al Rahmat Trust operatives collecting
funds while standing a short distance from policemen from the Anti-Terrorist
Squad (ATS) of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Police.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has been ruled by
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the party of new Prime Minister Imran Khan, since
2013. The party recently returned to power in provincial elections.
In one video, two men are holding up a
sheet of cloth containing a sizeable amount of cash as a third man, speaking in
a mix of Urdu and Pashto, asks people attending the Eid prayers to contribute
for the “jihad by Muslims” against the “kafir” forces in America and India.
The man seeking funds repeatedly states
he is collecting funds for the JeM, which was banned by Pakistan in 2002, and
tries to stop filming by the man who shot the video. He states that harm is
being done to Muslims under the “leadership of kafirs” and that the JeM is
action to protect the brotherhood of Muslims.
The second video features a man dressed
in black exhorting people to join the jihad and support it. He says he belongs
to the JeM and Al Rahmat Trust, which has been listed by the US and the UN as a
front for the JeM. In 2010, the US said the trust has provided support for
militant activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan and was involved in
fund-raising for JeM, including for militant training and indoctrination.
In June, Pakistan was placed in the
Financial Action Task Force’s grey list for failing to curb terror financing.
It has framed an action plan to curb fund-raising by groups such as
Lashkar-e-Taiba and JeM in order to be removed from the list.
August 22, 2018 11:13 IST
'The Quran says that saving one life is
like saving humanity. So by donating for Kerala, you are following what Allah
'This gesture would create goodwill for
Muslims and work as a counter to the hostility they face.'
Jyoti Punwani reports how some Muslims
won't sacrifice goats this Bakri Eid, instead donating the money towards relief
efforts in Kerala.
Two of them have always performed the
ritual sacrifice for Bakri Eid. The third stopped doing so 15 years ago.
But this year, these three Muslims will
observe Bakri Eid differently.
Arfa Khanum Sherwani, senior editor at
The Wire, has donated half her salary to Kerala's Chief Minister's Relief Fund
in lieu of the ritual sacrifice on Bakri Eid that has been her practice till
Talha bin Mohsin, advertising executive,
will do what he always has done: The regular qurbani. This time, though, he has
chosen to curtail its scale so that he can donate for Kerala's flood-affected.
Rana Safvi, Delhi historian and founder
of shair#, a Twitter forum on Urdu poetry, has kept aside one-third of the
money she always spends on charity on Bakri Eid, for Kerala. The other 2/3rds
will go to two different charities.
The suggestions of these three Muslims
on social media to make the Kerala floods, not animal sacrifice, the focus of
this Eid, has drawn praise from some and flak from many of their own community.
The main allegation being made against
them is that they are 'RSS agents'. But Arfa Khanum has had an additional barb
thrown at her: A 'bepurdah' woman like her anyway can't know anything about
How about sacrificing her expenses on
make-up and sending that amount to Kerala, she has been asked.
Al-Monitor Staff August 22, 2018
News reports are saying that Sunni
worshipers who had gathered outside a prayer hall in Tehran's eastern Resalat
neighborhood were dispersed by the police and barred from entering the venue to
hold communal prayers on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice,
commemorating Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son as God had commanded.
Sources affiliated with Sunni activists say an official permit for the
gathering had been obtained from Interior Ministry officials and the Tehran
governorate's political deputy.
Eyewitnesses who had planned to
participate confirmed the accuracy of the reports to Al-Monitor, adding that
there had been no use of force by the security forces and that the crowd had
left the area peacefully. Iran, including the capital, is predominantly Shiite,
and the Sunni minority has long complained of marginalization and state
The Sunni residents of the capital,
mainly from the border provinces of Sistan-Baluchistan, Kurdistan and Golestan,
say they have struggled for years to be able to conduct prayers in their own
mosques. According to state media, there are at least nine "mosques"
used by Tehran's Sunni population, but Sunni activists say that they are not
allowed to build houses of worship incorporating conventional Islamic
architecture featuring two minarets and a dome.
The lack of official permits has,
therefore, left them with no option but prayer halls, usually spacious
apartments, parking lots and other large spaces. Worshippers gather there for
communal Friday prayers as well as for Islamic holidays, such as Eid al-Fitr
and Eid al-Adha.
In one controversial case, one such
venue was raided and partially demolished three years ago. Municipal officials
cited the lack of authorization for "construction expansion." Reports
on state media claimed that the footage of the incident "broadcast"
on "hostile Wahhabi" outlets was really video of Israeli forces
razing a Palestinian mosque in 1991.
Whether the nine Sunni venues are
actually mosques is disputed even among Sunnis, but one thing certain is their
unfulfilled demand for a grand mosque in Tehran. In the Sunni Islamic
tradition, grand mosques differ from local mosques. In the former, residents
from all the neighbourhoods of a city gather for Friday prayers and prayers on important
Some extremist Shiite activists insist
that even small Sunni prayer halls should be prohibited in the capital,
claiming that they could become hotbeds for nurturing terrorism, Wahhabism and
Saudi and Emirati influence. Yet, the leaders of the Sunni mosques say they are
in close contact with Iranian authorities and have never pursued any goal
beyond practicing their religion.
Molawi Abdulhamid, a popular Sunni
cleric from Sistan-Blauchistan, has long campaigned to obtain a permit for the
construction of a Sunni grand mosque in Tehran. In past presidential elections,
Abdolhamid and other Sunni leaders have endorsed pro-reform candidates, pinning
their hopes on promises of more space and Sunni integration. In the 2013
presidential election, the Sunni-majority provinces recorded the highest
percentage of votes in favor of the moderate candidate, and the ultimate
victor, Hassan Rouhani.
At a recent function hosted by Rouhani,
however, Abdulhamid openly stated that he was there to complain about the
"serious discrimination" against his fellow Sunnis that still lingers
40 years after the Islamic Revolution. He urged the president, as well as the
supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to personally address Sunni grievances,
taking the matter into their own hands for the sake of national unity.
PM Imran Khan Offers Humanitarian
Assistance for People In India's Flood-Hit Kerala State
August 23, 2018
Prime Minister Imran Khan, on behalf of
people of Pakistan, on Thursday offered to provide humanitarian assistance in
the wake of devastating floods in the Indian state of Kerala.
The premier said this as he extended
“prayers and best wishes to those who have been devastated by the floods in
Meanwhile, more than 1.3 million people
have now been packed into temporary camps in Kerala as more people entered
relief camps to escape the devastation carried out by the floods, which have
left at least 420 dead and missing so far, are fast receding.
Earlier in the day, the leaders of
flood-stricken Kerala state angrily hit out at India's national government for
rejecting a $100 million aid offer from the United Arab Emirates.
The New Delhi government infuriated the
Kerala administration by rejecting the cash offer from the wealthy Gulf state.
About 50,000 homes have been destroyed,
according to one Kerala legislator, and people are flocking to the camps as the
scale of the desolation is revealed by receding waters.
A total of 1,028,000 people were now
recorded in about 3,200 relief camps across the state.
August 24, 2018
ISLAMABAD: A new controversy hit the
already fractured Pak-US ties after State Department said it stands by readout
of Imran Khan- Mike Pompeo discussion which Pakistan has termed ‘factually
When questioned about the rebuttal
Pakistan has issued on the telephonic discussion, State Department’s
spokesperson Heather Nauert said: “They had a good call. That may surprise some
of you, but they had a good call. Pakistan is an important partner to the
United States. We hope to forge a good, productive working relationship with
the new civilian government.”
When pressed to issue clarification
whether the US going to correct itself or the Pakistani government is wrong,
she replied, ‘We stand by our readout.’
The FO in a statement had demanded an
‘immediate correction’ from the US on the ‘factually incorrect’ readout after
the phone call between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Secretary of State Mike
“….There was no mention at all in the
conversation about terrorists operating in Pakistan. This should be immediately
corrected,” said Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Faisal.
According to US, Pompeo pressed new Pak
PM to take "decisive action" against "terrorists" operating
in Pakistanin their first conversation.
Pompeo wished Khan success in the wake
of his being sworn in as prime minister in Islamabad Saturday following victory
in July 25´s elections, said Nauert in a staement.
"Secretary Pompeo expressed his
willingness to work with the new government towards a productive bilateral
relationship," she added.
He also "raised the importance of
Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan
and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process."
Ties with the US cooled in January when
President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of "lies" and
"duplicity" in the war on terror, suspending military assistance
worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Washington has also suspended the
coveted military training progamme for Islamabad which, according to experts,
will affect the US more.
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan
will chair a meeting of the federal cabinet on Friday (today), Geo News
The cabinet meeting is expected to take
significant measures to set the tone for new government.
A summary regarding six-day working week
would be presented for approval before the cabinet. The summary has been
prepared by the Establishment Division.
According to the TV channel, the
decision has also been made to ban the discretionary funds of the prime minister,
members of parliament and ministers as part of austerity measures .
A report seeking a ban on foreign tours
of ministers, advisers and secretaries would also be presented, Geo News
The newly appointed foreign minister
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, while speaking to the media in Multan on Thursday,
expressed confidence that the country will be able to pull itself out from the
quagmire of challenges it faces but urged the people to continue supporting the
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government as "bitter decisions are
Qureshi said that in the first 100 days,
the PTI will chart out a clear path for the direction the government will take,
based on its manifesto.
"It has only been 2-3 days since we
have come into power and there has only been one working day so far," said
Qureshi. "In the first cabinet meeting, [Prime Minister] Imran Khan sahab
has made some major decisions. He has given directions and you should see how
happy the people are with those directions."
"They [the people] believe that
their leader has understood their difficulties and taken on the mantle to adopt
austerity," he said while addressing a query regarding how the PM plans on
meeting the nation's expectations.
When asked if these "bitter
decisions" that the foreign minister had referred to earlier, will
translate into the burden being shifted onto the people, Qureshi said:
"No, not at all. The burden will be shared by all."
Commenting on the Indian spy Kulbhushan
Jadhav's case — which according to reports will be taken up by the
International Court of Justice (ICJ) in February next year — Qureshi said:
"We have concrete evidence against Kulbhushan Jadhav and are hopeful we
will emerge victorious in ICJ."
He said he was thankful to the Indian
prime minister who had extended Eid wishes to Pakistanis and wished the millions
of Muslims in India the same.
Regarding the creation of a South Punjab
province, he said that efforts are underway towards making that a reality.
"We will be requiring the support
of various political parties for this purpose. We will be requiring two-thirds
majority which the [Pakistan] Tehreek-i-Insaf does not hold. However, we stand
resolute in our intentions to take this matter forward. This area which has
long been neglected will get what it is owed."
Answering a query regarding the possible
formation of an international platform other than the United Nations (UN) which
is seen by many as biased towards Muslims, Qureshi highlighted the importance
of the forum and said that "consensus building takes time". He said
he will be going to New York in the third week of September and will put forth
Pakistan's concerns before the UN.
Federal Minister for Information and
Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday expressed grief and sorrow over the sad
demise of renowned Indian journalist, author and rights activist Kuldip Nayar,
who breathed his last in New Delhi at the age of 95.
Nayar was honoured with ‘Lifetime
Achievement Award’ for his contribution to journalism at the eighth edition of
the Ramnath Goenka Excellence awards.
The information minister, in a
statement, said the deceased was a shining star of lofty journalistic
Kuldip Nayar: 'Partition was not
“Nayar used the power of his pen for
ending hatred and promotion of peace in the region. His services as a pro-peace
journalist and activist would be remembered for a long time,” Chaudhry was quoted
The information minister also expressed
sympathies with the family of the late journalist.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also
condoled the death of Kuldip Nayar, paying tributes to him as "a peace
activist and a strong supporter of peace initiatives between India and
In a condolence message, Bilawal said
Nayar's death had left a void in the peace movement in South Asia and will be
mourned by all peace loving people for a long time.
Bilawal offered condolences to the
bereaved family members and to the peace activists in the two countries.
PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif also
expressed grief over the death of Nayar, saying "with the passing away of
Kuldeep Nayyar, an era of journalism for peace is over".
"He was a committed democrat, a
relentless voice for peace and normalcy of relations between Pakistan and
India. He has left behind a glorious legacy that all of us should uphold and
celebrate," the former Punjab chief minister said.
Aug 24, 2018
Suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba militants shot
dead a Forest Department official tonight in Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla,
“Terrorists this evening barged inside
Tariq Ahmad Malik’s house in Zandpal area in Tangmarg and fired upon him,” a
police spokesman said.
Malik sustained critical injuries and
later succumbed, he said.
Police have registered a case and
initial investigation establishes the involvement of LeT militant Yousuf Dar
alias Kantroo, the spokesman said.
MEE and agencies
24 August 2018
Alphabet's Google said on Thursday it
had identified and terminated 39 YouTube channels linked to state-run Islamic
Republic of Iran Broadcasting.
Google also removed six blogs on Blogger
and 13 Google+ accounts.
“In recent months, we’ve detected and
blocked attempts by state-sponsored actors in various countries to target
political campaigns, journalists, activists, and academics located around the
world,” Google said in a blog post.
“Our technical research has identified
evidence that these actors are associated with the IRIB, the Islamic Republic
of Iran Broadcasting,” Google added.
On Tuesday, Facebook, Twitter and
Alphabet collectively removed hundreds of accounts tied to an alleged Iranian
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said:
"We believe these pages, groups and accounts were part of two sets of
"First a set of activity from Iran,
including some with ties to state-owned media, and second a set of activity
that the US government and others have publicly linked to Russian military
intelligence services," he added.
Google, which has engaged cyber-security
firm FireEye to provide it with intelligence, said it has detected and blocked
attempts by "state-sponsored actors" in recent months.
FireEye said it suspected an
"influence operation" that appears to originate from Iran, aimed at
audiences in the United States, the UK, Latin America, and the Middle East.
Shares of FireEye rose as much as 10
percent to $16.38 after Google identified the company as a consultant.
According to the Houthi movement's Al
Masirah TV, 22 children and four women died on Thursday as fighter jets
targeted a camp for internally displaced people in Ad Durayhimi, which lies
about 20km from the Red Sea city of Hodeidah.
Backed by the United States, Saudi
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have carried out attacks in Yemen
since March 2015 as part of a military campaign to reinstate the
internationally recognised government of President Abu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
In 2014, Hadi and his forces were
overrun by the Houthi rebels who currently control much of northern Yemen,
including the capital, Sanaa.
Yemeni government forces - backed by
Saudi Arabia and the UAE - launched a major operation to retake Hodeidah and
its strategic seaport from Houthi rebels in June.
Hussein al-Bukhaiti, a pro-Houthi
activist based in Sanaa, said the death toll in Thursday's air raids stood at
31, citing a medical source.
"The Saudi strikes at first
targeted a village in the Ad Durayhimi area south of Hodeidah, killing five
people and injuring another two," he told Al Jazeera.
Al-Bukhaiti said that 26 women and
children had come under attack before boarding a bus in an attempt to flee, but
a "second Saudi-UAE strike targeted that bus, killing everyone".
Earlier on Thursday, the UAE state news
agency WAM said that the Houthis had launched a ballistic missile in the same
district, which resulted in the death of one child.
WAM said the attack in the recently
recaptured village of al-Ghalifqa in Ad Durayhimi also wounded dozens of
people, three of them seriously.
Last year, the United Nations added the
Saudi-UAE military coalition to a blacklist of child rights violators for
causing the deaths and injuries of hundreds of children in Yemen.
On August 9, an air attack by the
Saudi-UAE coalition hit a school bus in the Houthi-controlled province of
Saada, killing 51 people, including 40 children.
According to munitions experts, a
US-made bomb was used in the attack on the school bus, leading to further
criticism over Washington's role in the war in Yemen - described by the UN as
the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
"If it's proved again that in this
instance it was a missile from the US fired by the Saudi-led coalition, that
will lead to greater calls and questioning of the US' intervention and
involvement in Yemen," said Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher, reporting from
According to the UN, at least 10,000
people have been killed in the three-year war - a death toll that has not been
updated in years and is certain to be far higher.
In retaliation, the Houthis have
launched dozens of missiles at the kingdom. Saudi authorities say over the past
three years 90 ballistic missiles were fired by the rebels.
Multiple rounds of United Nations-brokered
peace talks have failed to achieve any breakthrough.
JEDDAH: Ordinary Iranians faced being
effectively imprisoned in their own country on Thursday after two more airlines
halted flights to Tehran because they can no longer make a profit on the route.
Air France, which had operated flights
to the Iranian capital with its low-cost operator Joon, will axe the route on
Sept. 18 because of what it said was “poor commercial viability.”
Already this month the French airline
had reduced its Paris-Tehran connection from three flights a week to only one.
Just before the Air France announcement,
British Airways axed its London to Tehran service because it was “currently not
The last outbound flight to Tehran will
be on Sept. 22, and the last inbound flight from Tehran will be the following
day. The Dutch airline KLM also suspended Tehran flights last month because of
“negative results and financial outlook.”
The airlines are the latest in a raft of
international businesses to pull out of Iran in the wake of US economic
sanctions reimposed this month by President Donald Trump, after the withdrawal
of the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with world powers.
The screw will tighten further in
November, when the sanctions are extended to Iran’s crucial energy sector, including
its oil industry.
Restrictions on Iran’s access to the
global finance system, dominated by the US dollar, are already isolating
ordinary Iranians. The cost of flights to their favorite destinations, such as
Dubai, Istanbul and major European capital cities, has tripled, and such trips
are now beyond most people’s budgets.
In addition, after Trump banned Iranians
from traveling to the US, other countries in Europe and the Middle East have
unofficially followed suit. Many visa restrictions, lifted as a benefit of the
nuclear deal, have been reimposed, and Iranians find travel increasingly
difficult as well as expensive.
Bookings by Iranians to overseas
destinations have slumped by half, Majid Nejad, the founder of one of Iran’s
largest travel agencies, told the Washington Post newspaper on Thursday.
Most airlines charge for seats in US
dollars, and the fall in the value of the rial has made dollars unaffordable
for most Iranians, Nejad said.
Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization said
last week that airlines would have to use market rates for foreign exchange,
which has also increased airfares.
“There is disappointment inside the
country,” said Nejad, and many Iranians were frustrated with their government
for mismanaging the economy.
“People are more free to travel outside
the country, but no one has the money to go. People are seeing their spending
power decrease by half,” he said. One Tehran resident in his thirties had
intended to visit Turkey in September, but canceled the trip when the cost of
the flight soared, he told the newspaper.
“We are in crisis because of the
government and people don’t trust the government,” he said, and the continuing
problems would lead to Iran’s middle class feeling “imprisoned in the country.”
DUBAI: The battle against fake news — a
concept more readily associated with the US — has taken a Middle Eastern flavor
after social media giants Facebook and Twitter removed hundreds of accounts
tied to an alleged Iranian propaganda operation.
Experts claim that the ultimate aim of
the social media move was to promote political narratives in line with Iranian
interests — including anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes.
The response from Facebook has been
swift, with the company revealing it has taken down 652 pages, accounts and
groups identified as being part of coordinated disinformation campaigns that
originated in Iran and targeted countries around the world, including the US,
UK, and nations in Latin America and the Middle East. It also found a number of
new pages connected to Russia, with some purporting to be from a group called
“Liberty Front Press.”
This week has also seen Twitter pinpoint
many “inauthentic” accounts originating in Iran, and taking action to remove
them. It said: “Working with our industry peers, we have suspended 284 accounts
from Twitter for engaging in coordinated manipulation. Based on our existing
analysis, it appears many of these accounts originated from Iran.”
Writing in Arab News today, Dr. Majid
Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American scholar, author and US foreign policy
specialist, said that through deliberate generating and disseminating of
fabricated headlines and videos, propagating fake news and inaccurate pictures,
Tehran is trying to shape the political discourse of other countries and
intentionally misleading people to advance the ruling mullah’s revolutionary,
ideological and geopolitical interests.
He said that he has long suggested that “the
giant social media outlets ought to look into the Iranian regime’s major role
in disinformation and dissemination of fake news.”
“The most recent revelations have
brought to light that it is not only Russia engaged in such activities, but
also Tehran following in the same footsteps as their close ally,” he said.
Facebook said that the coordinated
campaigns originating in Iran included 254 Facebook pages and 116 Instagram
accounts that amassed more than a million followers across the two services.
One part of the Liberty Front Press network claimed to be an independent
Iranian media organization but was in fact linked to Press TV, a news network
affiliated with Iranian state media, Facebook said.
A statement from Facebook’s CEO Mark
Zuckerberg, released to Arab News, said: “We removed more than 650 pages,
groups and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and
Instagram. These were networks of accounts that were misleading people about
who they were and what they were doing. We ban this kind of behavior because
authenticity matters. People need to be able to trust the connections they make
Facebook said that the Russian accounts,
groups and pages it took down were not related to the ones originating in Iran,
and that they did not appear to have targeted the US.
Fighting “bad actors” is an ongoing
challenge because the people responsible are determined and well funded, he
said, but the social media company was working with law enforcement, security
experts and other companies as part of their investigation. The latest alleged
Iranian activity was exposed by cybersecurity firm FireEye.
Lee Foster, an information operations
analyst for the cyber company, told Arab News: “This influence operation linked
to Iran aims to promote political narratives in line with Iranian interests,
including anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes.
“The activity we have uncovered is
significant and demonstrates that actors beyond Russia continue to engage in
online, social media-driven influence operations as a means of shaping
“It also illustrates how the threat
posed by such influence operations continues to evolve, and how similar
influence tactics can be deployed irrespective of the particular political or
ideological goals being pursued.”
This assessment is based on a
combination of indicators, including site registration data and the linking of
social media accounts to Iranian phone numbers, as well as the promotion of
content consistent with Iranian political interests. For example, registrant
emails for the sites “Liberty Front Press” and “Instituto Manquehue” are
associated with advertisements for website designers in Tehran and with the
Iran-based site gahvare.com, respectively. FireEye also observed inauthentic
social media personas, masquerading as American liberals supportive of US
Senator Bernie Sanders, heavily promoting Quds Day, a holiday established by
Iran in 1979 to express support for Palestinians and opposition to Israel.
Harris Breslow, an associate professor
with the Department of Mass Communication at the UAE’s American University of
Sharjah, said that he wasn’t “at all surprised” about the latest development.
“Facebook has 2 billion accounts, I
think it would be safe to say that all state actors are on and using Facebook,”
he said. “Today, it is Iran, in the last it has been Russia, next — who knows?“
“It has been widely circulated that fake
news articles spread on Facebook swayed the results of the 2016 presidential
election in the US, and Breslow said that he thinks “this is generally widely
“It doesn’t come to any surprise at all
to me that now Iran has been found out. But I would say every state actor is
utilizing Facebook. Why not? It is massive. So am I surprised? No. Is it going to
continue? Most certainly. Are they are only actors? Not at all.”
There are two benefits for state actors
to use social media, Breslow said, the first being the sheer quantity of the
posts that are uploaded to Facebook every day.
“Billions of posts are made daily; it is
impossible to go through them all,” he said. ‘“The sheer volume of information
prevents them from examining all the information — hence they have to look at
patterns of dissemination and that is probably the problem, you can’t see
everything coming down the pipe because the pipe is far too wide.”
In a technological age, where the world
is online, social media provides the most easily available port of call for
state actors wanting to spread false information, unfiltered, to a global
audience, he said.
“If you want to propaganda another
states’ citizens, then the easiest and most direct way is social media,” he
said. “One advantage that social media has over traditional or broadcast media
is you can target individuals fairly directly — you circumvent the distributing
networks — the propaganda doesn’t move though an actual point of access. On
broadcasting channels, for example, you have to pass several layers of
scrutiny, if not surveillance. This is not the case of social media and it
becomes extremely difficulty to examine or surveil every bit of information
that has been posted.”
In an effort to prevent a repeat of the
widespread disinformation ahead of the US midterm elections in November, social
media firms including Facebook and Twitter have publicly announced that they
are strengthening their platforms to guard against political interference.
Zuckerberg said: “We’ve been investing
heavily to improve safety, security and privacy — and to defend against these
coordinated and inauthentic campaigns. This has been a lot of hard work, and
while still early, we’re starting to see it pay off and we’re identifying more
of it before the elections.”
Dr. Johannes Ullrich, Dean of Research
at SANS Institute, said that there “is little that can be done proactively to
prevent nation-state actors from attempting influence operations.”
“But the earlier these operations are
discovered, the easier it is to limit their impact,” he said. “Social networks
like Facebook and Twitter are investing heavily in systems that recognize
suspicious accounts and flag them for further review.
“For targets of influence operations,
like political parties and other organizations, it is important to be prepared
and to have a game plan to quickly respond. Part of this consists of fostering
collaborations with social networks that are commonly used to propagate these
Tehran recently shut down the messaging
app Telegram because it was popular and used by many Iranians to inform the
world about the nationwide protests against the regime, while Twitter and
Facebook have remained banned in Iran since millions of protesters took to the
streets of Iranian cities in 2009 — organized thanks to the way that they used
social media to organize and disseminate information.
Breslow said that with a
technologically-savvy generation, state actors will “always find a way” to
circumvent specific anti-filtering software or uses proxies and VPNs to bypass
23 August 2018
Egyptian security forces arrested former
diplomat Maasoum Marzouk and two others in Cairo on Thursday ahead of planned
protests calling for a referendum on President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi's government.
Marzouk has been subject to widespread
criticism by pro-government media and public figures for an initiative he
proposed on 5 August calling for a popular referendum on the Sisi government.
The initiative also called for the
release of all political prisoners, the formation of a transitional governing
council to replace Sisi, and a ten-year ban on political candidacy for anyone
who served in government or parliament in the past ten years.
If Egyptian authorities did not accept
the initiative, he said, he would hold a “popular congress” in Tahrir Square on
31 August to “discuss next steps”.
Following the announcement of his
initiative, a complaint was filed against Marzouk, with charges including
"insulting the state" and "promoting chaos".
Marzouk served as assistant foreign
minister in the era of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, and as Egypt’s
ambassador to Uganda, Finland and Estonia.
Most recently, he served as an adviser
and spokesperson of the presidential campaign of Hamdeen Sabbahi, a leftist
candidate who ran against Sisi in the 2014 elections.
He has been known for his opposition to
the Sisi government. He was one of many public figures who opposed the transfer
of two Egyptian Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia.
Marzouk's lawyer Khalid Ali said that a
large group of police besieged the Marzouk family home in 6th of October City
in western Cairo early on Thursday morning, arrested Marzouk and led him to an
Ali also confirmed the arrest of
economist Raed Salama and geology professor Yahia Kazzaz in a Thursday raid.
He said their whereabouts were still
“The minimum rights for a defendant is
to have access to a lawyer, and to allow the lawyer to attend investigations…
That is the difference between a defendant and a hostage,” Ali said on Twitter.
The arrest has sparked accusations in
social media that the government was silencing the opposition.
The Egyptian government has yet to
comment on the arrests.
Thursday 23 August 2018
TAIZ, Yemen - Under the cover of
Saudi-led coalition air strikes, pro-Yemeni government forces were advancing on
a Houthi stronghold in northwest Yemen near the Saudi border on Thursday after
recapturing “dozens of kilometres” of territory from the group.
Successfully retaking the Marran
district in the Saada governorate - where Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi
and other prominent members have lived in hard-to-reach mountain hideouts for
decades – would be a major symbolic victory for pro-Hadi forces.
On Tuesday, as Yemenis celebrated Eid,
Al-Oroobah forces, a pro-Hadi brigade, led attacks on the district from four
different directions, according to the state-run Saba News Agency and 26
September, the Yemeni army website. The operation, nicknamed ‘Cut the head of
the snake’, was only publicly announced on Wednesday.
An Al-Oroobah fighter told Middle East
Eye on Thursday that after fierce fighting with the Houthis, the brigade have
retaken a significant amount of territory in the area including a key valley
and several hills.
He said they are now poised to advance
on the Marran mountains, where the Houthis are based, but have not started the
The territory has proved to be
challenging for pro-government forces in the past: from 2004 to 2010, they
launched six wars against the Houthis but could never fully defeat the group,
unable to get control of the mountainous area.
“It is not easy to mount up Marran
mountains, where thousands of the bravest fighters are protecting the
stronghold of the Houthis,” the fighter said.
Over the past three days, the Houthis
have been digging in their heels and fighting hard to recapture the territory
they have lost, the fighter said, but they have not made headway against the
pro-Hadi forces, who are armed with state-of-the-art weaponry and under the
cover of Saudi-led air strikes.
He said: "The air strikes have been
playing a main role and we cannot advance without them."
The strikes have heavily targeted
several districts in Saada province, including Marran, with pro-Hadi sources
reporting that Houthi leaders had been singled out. But over the past three
days, no credible reports have emerged in Saada suggesting any Houthi leaders
have been killed.
The Houthi TV channel Al-Masirah said on
Wednesday that the air strikes focused on the houses and farms of civilians in
Saada, not military targets.
Houthi-affiliated political analyst
Mohammed al-Dailami said the extent of the pro-Hadi forces' advance had been
exaggerated in media reports and said they had not, in fact, reached the key
mountains in Marran.
There were also reports on Thursday that
the Houthis had declared a state of emergency in the province as as result of
the operation, but he denied the reports and said life continued in Saada as
normal, even with the threat of air strikes to civilians.
Rammah al-Jubari, a Yemeni journalist
based in Saudi Arabia who was in Saada last month, said even just the arrival
of the pro-Hadi forces in the Marran mountains is a significant development.
A month ago, Jubari said he witnessed
the army advance 14 kilometres from the Saudi border to the he was in
al-Mallaheadh district, next to Marran, during a military operation to
recapture that district.
"I saw the Houthi military vehicles
were burnt and some of the Houthi corpses were left in the lands," he
“The arrival of the national army in
Marran mountains has a strategic importance... It is a moral defeat for the
leader of the Houthis and his supporters,” Jubari said. “Marran is a historical
symbol for the Houthis and the centre of their starting point."
Hadi, he pointed out, has repeatedly
promised that one day the Yemeni flag would be raised over the mountains.
But Dailami, the Houthi-affiliated
analyst, questioned whether the forces would be able to succeed in their
The Saudi-led coalition and pro-Hadi
forces “have been saying that they will attack Marran for three years, but they
did not do it and they cannot do it as Marran is in a well-fortified area”.
“It is stupid of [the Saudi-led
coalition] to say they can enter Marran at once because they are not aware of
the fortifications in Marran, which is a mountainous area,” he said.
Counting Islamic State Members, An
Dramatically weakened on the ground, the
Islamic State group faces military defeat in its one-time “caliphate” — but
experts say it is almost impossible to know how many members it still has.
Online, IS propaganda claims it is undefeated
in what’s left of its territory — a small patch of eastern Syria — which is a
fraction of the land it once controlled spanning the war-wracked country and
Claims of responsibility for deadly
attacks in Syria as well as disparate acts of violence, such as Thursday’s
stabbings near Paris, are intended to keep the organisation in the news.
But experts tracking the jihadist
group’s every move cannot agree on how many active members it still has, not
least because much of its former territory remains an inaccessible warzone.
The Soufan Group, a security
consultancy, noted that in December the US-led coalition had estimated the
number of IS fighters across Iraq and Syria at 1,000.
Last week, in contrast, the US Defense
Department estimated there could be up to 17,000 left in Iraq and 14,000 in
United Nations observers gave yet
another estimate in a recent report — somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000
between Iraq and Syria.
“The wild swings in estimates have been
a hallmark of the anti-IS campaign since its inception in 2014,” the Soufan
Spawned from Islamist movements present
in Iraq for years, IS’ ranks were quickly swelled by volunteer fighters,
arriving first from around the Middle East and then the world.
Since the foreign fighters arrived via
clandestine border crossings, international intelligence agencies have always
had to make do with estimates.
Bodies under the rubble
“Today, the main pitfall in reaching a
trustworthy figure is that we do not know how many among their ranks have been
killed in coalition operations, Russian operations, Iraqi or Turkish
operations,” said French terror expert Jean-Charles Brisard.
“The bodies of jihadists killed in these
air raids are in many cases still under the rubble — no one will find them,”
said Brisard, head of the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism (CAT).
“So, until we know for sure that they
have been killed, they’re considered to be still alive. Some are even still
taken to court in absentia.”
Tore Hamming, an expert on Islamic
extremism at the European University Institute, an academic centre in Italy,
believes the UN estimate is much too generous to the jihadists.
“I don’t believe the numbers, but I also
think it is impossible to assess,” he said.
“First you need to define what an IS
fighter or member is…. back in 2015 some spoke of IS being a 200,000-strong
force because they included people working in the IS administration,” he added.
“The new number, does that only cover
people with a gun, or everybody working for the cause of IS? Nobody knows.”
Another factor in the uncertainty,
Brisard said, is that the border between Turkey and Syria remains porous.
Turkey has reinforced its borders since
the Syrian war began in 2011, but IS continues to use local smugglers to help fighters
to cross it.
“Many jihadists have crossed illegally
into Turkey and are still there, waiting to be able to go to another area where
(IS) is operating,” Brisard said.
“The precise numbers will remain
uncertain. All that we know is that there are redeployments towards other
places — Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Philippines.”
As IS shifts towards a strategy of
encouraging lone-wolf attacks, the Soufan Group said it had “slipped from a
proto-state back to an insurgent group”.
Yet it added: “It remains among the most
powerful terrorist groups in history, with no shortage of weapons or willing
JEDDAH: Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled
Al-Faisal thanked King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Interior
Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif for supervising this year’s Hajj
During the concluding press conference
for this year’s Hajj, which was held in Mina on Thursday, Prince Khaled also
thanked the media who covered the season, as well as those who contributed to
serving the pilgrims.
He said that the number of workers
providing services to the pilgrims exceeded 250,000 people.
Prince Khaled said that the holy sites’
train transported 360,000 pilgrims, while 18,000 buses transported 1,800,000
He said that the health sector deployed
32,000 health practitioners. As many as 25 hospitals and 135 health centers
with a capacity of 5,000 beds were available in Makkah and the holy sites to
He also said that the electric load
capacity reached 17,791MW, while 40,000,000 cubic meters of water were pumped
in Makkah and the holy sites. The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs
provided its services through 32,000 engineers, supervisors and cleaners.
With regard to women’s rights in the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Prince Khaled said Islam always urged Muslims to
appreciate women and that their rights guaranteed by Islam should be given to
He also affirmed that moderation is an
Islamic vision emerging from Islam and its teachings and that the leader of
moderation in the Kingdom was King Salman.
Regarding some media reports claiming
that Saudi Arabia banned Qatari nationals from performing Hajj rituals, Prince
Khaled said that Saudi Arabia had announced its willingness to receive pilgrims
from any country.
Qatar was called upon to allow its
citizens to perform Hajj rituals. The king said that planes could be sent to
transport Qatari pilgrims but Qatar prevented its citizens from performing Hajj
rituals. However, those who managed to arrive in the Kingdom were welcomed and
were now performing Hajj rituals.
He said that the number of Iranian
pilgrims in this year’s Hajj season reached 86,000.
RIYADH —The Arab Coalition Forces on
Thursday foiled a booby-trapped boat attack targeting commercial vessels by
Iran-backed Houthi militants in the Red Sea.
Col. Turki Al-Maliki, spokesman for the
Coalition Forces, said, “the terrorist attack by a booby-trapped boat was
launched from the shores of Hodeida.”
Al-Maliki said the Houthi militants and
the Iranian Revolutionary Guards continue to threaten international navigation
routes and world trade and protecting Bab Al-Mandeb waterway is an
Bab Al-Mandab is a crucial shipping lane
between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, linking the Red Sea to
the Gulf of Aden.
Houthi-fired missile intercepted
Meanwhile in another development, the
Saudi Royal Air Defense Forces on Thursday intercepted a ballistic missile
launched by Iran-backed Houthi militias targeting the southern city of Jazan.
Col. Turki Al-Maliki, spokesman of the Coalition Forces to restore legitimacy
in Yemen, said that the missile was launched from Amran governorate of Yemen to
target civilian areas. “At 9.05 p.m. the Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces spotted
the launch of the missile heading toward Jazan and successfully intercepted and
destroyed it. There were no casualties in the attack,” Al-Maliki said.
He said that this hostile action by the
Houthi militia proves the Iranian regime’s continued involvement in supporting
the armed group in clear and explicit defiance of the UN resolutions with the
aim of threatening the security of not only Saudi Arabia but also the region
and the world. — SG/SPA
Saudi Gazette report
MINA — Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, emir of
Makkah, advisor to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and chairman of the
Central Haj Committee, said that the Saudi officials had used new technologies
effectively to run the massive annual pilgrimage of Haj.
“We aspire to (have) a smart Haj by
using technology in all future activities. The preliminary study of an
integrated project for the development of Makkah and the holy sites, in
accordance with Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, has been completed and will be
implemented as soon it got approval from the Royal Commission for Makkah and
the Holy Sites,” he said while addressing the last press conference for this
year's Haj at his office in Mina on Thursday.
“The development of Makkah and the holy
sites, which will be implemented in phases, would depend entirely on technology
and rapid communication,” he said, adding that the Vision 2030 targets the
arrival of five million Haj pilgrims and 30 million Umrah pilgrims in future.
Prince Khaled denied some media reports
saying that Saudi Arabia banned Qatari nationals from performing Haj. “Such
reports do not affect us as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced more than one
time its willingness to receive pilgrims from any country in the world. Qatar
was called to allow its citizens to perform Haj rituals,” he said.
Prince Khaled drew attention to the call
made by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman that the Kingdom can send
planes to transport Qatari pilgrims if Doha allows its citizens to perform Haj
rituals. “But unfortunately, Qatar prevented its citizens from performing Haj.
However, we welcomed those who managed to arrive in the Kingdom, and they are
now with us performing Haj rituals,” he said, adding that the number of Iranian
pilgrims for this year’s Haj season reached 86,000.
The emir said that as many as 250,000
civilian and armed personnel have participated in making this year’s Haj a
resounding success. More than 110,000 members of the security forces and 32,000
health workers were on hand this week to maintain safety and provide first aid.
He thanked Custodian of the Two Holy
Mosques King Salman, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and
minister of defense, and Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Saud Bin Naif, minister of
interior and chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee, for overseeing the
Kingdom’s Haj operation.
He noted that the number of violators of
Haj regulations does not exceed 110,000 this year compared to 1,400,000 in 2012
He said that the Mashair Train
transported 360,000 pilgrims, while 18,000 buses transported 1,800,000
pilgrims. Prince Al-Faisal said that the electric load capacity reached
17,791MW, while 40,000,000 cubic meters of water were pumped into Makkah and
the holy sites.
The Ministry of Municipal and Rural
Affairs provided its services through 32,000 engineers, supervisors and
cleaners, he added.
In a related development, Minister of
Interior Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Saud Bin Naif visited on Thursday the Civil
Defense Command facility in Mina to review its implementation of the Haj
operation plan. He was briefed on the activities and services provided by the
Civil Defense personnel for the pilgrims.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health Tawfiq
Al-Rabiah said the pilgrimage had passed without any outbreak of disease. He
said in a press conference in Mina that the health sector deployed 32,000
health practitioners, including doctors and paramedics.
As many as 25 hospitals and 135 health
centers with a capacity of 5,000 beds were available in Makkah and the holy
sites to serve pilgrims. The ministry also readied an integrated hospital on
Makkah–Madinah Expressway, to provide emergency services for the returning
By Charles Coffie Gyamfi, Abeokuta
24 August 2018
Eminent Nigerians yesterday joined the
Ijebu in Ogun State to celebrate their annual Ojude-Oba festival.The Senate
President, Bukola Saraki, who was the special guest of honour, praised the
Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, and his chiefs for organising
a festival that fosters unity among the people.
Saraki, whose entourage include Senators
Dino Melaye, Ben Bruce, Abiodun Olujimi, Duro Faseyi, Buruji Kashamu, Shaba
Lafiaji and Sam Anyanwu, urged Nigerians to emulate the Ijebu people, whom he
said, despite their diversity in faith, lived and interacted harmoniously with
The Senate president described the over
100 years old festival as a “noble culture” that has continued to serve as a
veritable rallying point for all sons and daughters of Ijebuland. According to
him, whenever the issue of “resilience and dynamism of culture” is being
discussed, Ojude-Oba readily comes to mind.
Saraki, who noted that the festival has
continued to grow from strength to strength under Oba Adetona, said it had also
become obvious that only quality leadership could engender progress and
development such as the type witnessed in Ijebuland. He advised that Nigeria
should draw strength from her diversity like the Ijebu people and not use her
diversity to create barrier or wedge to national unity and progress.
“In over a century of Ojude Oba, Ijebu
citizens have shown us that unity will always lead to progress, and that there
is strength in unity. This is a shining
example for us all. When we talk about
the resilience and dynamism of culture, Ojude Oba is a case in point. It is
always wonderful to see this proud display of culture that you have
consistently showcased for over a hundred years,” he said.
Also in attendance at the event were the
state’s deputy governor who was represented by Mrs. Yetunde Onanuga; former
governor, Gbenga Daniel; Senator Gbenga Kaka; Oloori Omooba Subomi Balogun;
Ladi Adebutu; Dr. Doyin Okupe; and Suraju Adekunbi.
Russian Ship ‘carrying weapons to
Nigeria detained in South Africa’
By Terhemba Daka, Abuja
South Africa yesterday detained a
Russian ship laden with weapons and allegedly bound for Lagos, Nigeria. The
vessel said to have left Madagascar was stopped near Port Elizabeth in South
Africa’s Eastern Cape Province.“We are aware that she has dangerous cargoes –
explosives and weapons – on board,” Olwethu Mdabula, spokeswoman for the
Transnet state transport company told AFP, declining to give further details.
“This is a very, very sensitive matter.
It is receiving attention,” spokesman for the Hawks police investigative unit,
Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, told the news agency, confirming the vessel was
carrying weapons. The discovery of the ship said to have been stacked with
“weapons and explosives worth about $3.5m in 20 containers” followed an
The Minister of Information and Culture,
Lai Mohammed told The Guardian he did not have any information on the issue, as
at press time.The polity, meanwhile, is getting increasingly charged as the
2019 elections approach. The number of parties contesting for space this time
around is unprecedented. Analysts have actually warned that having 91 political
parties in a developing country like Nigeria is unhelpful to the nation’s
democracy and a call to disorder. They made the assertion in Lagos while
speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on political developments in the
country.The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on August 16
issued certificates to 23 newly registered political parties, raising the
number of registered parties to 91.
A professor of political science at the
National Open University of Nigeria, Femi Otubanjo, said: “Registering more
parties is awkward and unnecessary, though we cannot rule out the fact that
these minor parties that are registering can transform into major political
parties.“The ideological space does not allow for so many parties. People can
always stick to two or three political parties. INEC is not the one creating
this problem; the problem is already embedded in our constitution and I do not
think any good will come out of reviewing the constitution in this regard,” he
said.He noted: “What this means is that INEC has to do more work by producing a
more acceptable and understandable documentation, particularly the voters’ list
or ballot list for voting and have more materials on the day of election.
“INEC will have to do more voter
education, which is where the challenge is right now. They need to educate
voters to know the different symbols of political parties. It will be more
difficult work for INEC because it will not be easy to conduct an election with
huge longish ballot paper in a largely illiterate country.”
Contributing, a professor of
jurisprudence and international law, Akin Oyebode, said the registration of too
many parties is abysmal and calls for a review of the Electoral Act to
de-register or exclude political parties that have little or no following.He
said: “In other systems that we know of, you may put a minimum that a party
should score in an election to continue to be relevant as a political party.
May be five or two per cent. Now, it is an all-comers game. And when or where
is it going to stop? We have to review our electoral laws to exclude parties
that have little or no following.
“Even in the U.S., it is not just the
Democrats and the Republicans. There are what we call fringe parties. What we
need to do in Nigeria is to separate the wheat from the chaff. Let us know
parties that have good followership and prescribe minimum or certain criterion
to them for recognition.”The second vice-president of the Nigeria Bar
Association, Monday Ubani, said: “As far as we know, the two major political
parties that will make impact in the 2019 general elections remain APC and PDP.
All others are appendages. The political parties are too many. I think INEC has
an agenda for allowing such. Too many cooks spoil the broth.”
On his part, a professor of political
science, Sunny Akpotor, said opposition would be weakened due to the
registration of too many parties. Also, President Muhammadu Buhari has said the
combined efforts of defectors and their backers in the opposition would not
distract his administration from the good work it is doing for the development
According to him, the ruling All
Progressives Congress (APC) has a full understanding of the nation’s challenges
and is encouraged by the support of Nigerians towards addressing them.A
statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu
said the president spoke in Daura, Katsina State, with some APC governors and
some members of the national and state assemblies, and commissioners.
“In terms of security, economy and the
fight against corruption, we have maintained focus. Even the opposition, with
all their resources cannot fault our identification of Nigeria’s priorities and
the efforts being made to better them.“We will continue to do what we ought to
do in the leadership position God has placed us and we thank the constituents
for the support,” he said.
S. Africa lashes Trump over land
Johannesburg: South Africa accused US
President Donald Trump of fuelling racial tensions on Thursday after he said
farmers were being forced off their land and many of them killed.
Trump’s tweet touched on the
overwhelmingly white ownership of farmland in South Africa -- one of the most
sensitive issues in the country’s post-apartheid history.
"South Africa totally rejects this
narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our
colonial past," said the government on an official Twitter account.
The foreign ministry said in a statement
it had met US embassy officials and warned them over the "alarmist, false,
inaccurate and misinformed, as well as - in some cases - politically-motivated
statements," on the issue.
Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu will
also speak directly with her American opposite number, Secretary of State Mike
Pompeo, it said earlier.
Trump wrote overnight: "I have
asked Secretary of State... Pompeo to closely study the South Africa land and
farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers."
His tweet apparently followed a segment
on conservative Fox News about Pretoria’s plan to change the constitution to
speed up expropriation of land without compensation to redress racial
imbalances in land ownership.
"‘South African Government is now
seizing land from white farmers’," said Trump’s post, which tagged the
show’s host, Tucker Carlson, as well as the channel.
In the clip, Carlson painted an
apocalyptic picture of the situation accompanied by on-screen graphics warning
of the "threat of violence and economic collapse".
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who faces
elections in 2019, has claimed expropriating farms without compensating their
owners would "undo a grave historical injustice" against the black
majority during colonialism and the apartheid era.
- ‘Fear mongering by international
Even though apartheid ended in 1994, the
white community that makes up eight percent of the population "possess 72
percent of farms" compared to "only four percent" in the hands
of black people who make up four-fifths of the population, Ramaphosa said.
The stark inequality stems from
purchases and seizures during the colonial era that were then enshrined in law
But plans to change the constitution
have yet to be approved by parliament, and there is a vigorous debate in South
Africa about how land redistribution would work -- and whether seizures could
be economically damaging as they were in post-independence Zimbabwe.
Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the main
opposition Democratic Alliance party which opposes forced expropriation but
backs land reform, said "fear mongering by international leaders adds no
"The injustices of land
dispossession in South Africa can be addressed by our constitution in its
current form. We must ensure ownership of land for all South Africans," he
Later on Thursday, US State Department
spokeswoman Heather Nauert called for "a peaceful and transparent public
However she added that on "the
expropriation of land without compensation, our position is that that would
risk sending South Africa down the wrong path".
Earlier this year, Australian
immigration minister Peter Dutton sparked a diplomatic row after he said that
Canberra should give "special attention" to white South African
farmers seeking asylum.
The level of violence against farmers
and farm workers is hotly contested but the police’s latest figures show there
were 74 farm murders in 2016-17, according to the Africa Check fact-checking
South Africa’s leading farming lobby
group AgriSA on Thursday praised the government’s "commitment to
"As a country it’s important that
we find solutions together -- we did this pre-1994 and we can do it
again," AgriSA chief executive Omri van Zyl told the SABC broadcaster.
- ‘The US has a lot of power’ -
Van Zyl was speaking at a conference on
the land issue also attended by Deputy President David Mabuza who warned
against "spreading falsehoods".
"We would like to discourage those
who are using this sensitive and emotive issue of land to divide us," he
But Kallie Kriel, chief executive of
AfriForum -- a group that advocates for its largely white membership --
welcomed Trump’s intervention and attacked Ramaphosa for pressing ahead with
"We need to get international
support to put pressure on the South African government to hopefully make them
re-visit their stance," he told AFP.
Kriel added that Trump could suspend
South Africa from the African Growth and Opportunity Act trade programme if
property rights were not respected.
"The US has a lot of power,"
South Africa’s rand currency dropped as
much as 1.9 percent against the US dollar following Trump’s tweet, according to
the Bloomberg news agency, ending four days of gains against the greenback.
Julius Malema, the leader of the radical
opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party, called Trump a "pathological
liar" and told him to "stay out of South Africa’s domestic
By KHAAMA PRESS - Thu Aug 23 2018
The United States State Department is
mulling to appoint Zalmay Khalilzad as the special envoy for Afghanistan in a
bid to help revive the Afghan peace process, it has been reported.
Two U.S. officials privy of the
development have told Reuters that the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is
expected to tap Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born former U.S. ambassador to
Kabul and Iraq, as his special envoy on Afghanistan.
The White House and the State Department
have not formally confirmed the reports regarding the likely appointment of
Zalmay Khalilzad so far.
The two U.S. officials, speaking on
condition of anonymity, said they were unsure when the announcement would be
This comes as efforts are underway to
revive the Afghan-led peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban
Reports regarding the likely appointment
of Zalmay Khalilzad as the U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan emerge nearly a
month after a senior U.S. diplomat with the Taliban political representatives
to seek ways for the revival of peace talks.
President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani
discussed the recent security developments in Ghazni province during a video
teleconference attended by senior military and civilian officials.
The Office of the President, ARG Palace,
in a statement said the governor of Ghazni, commander o 203rd Thunder Corps,
Police Commander of the 303rd Spinghar Zone, Ghazni Police Chief, and the
National Directorate of Security Chief had also participated in the video
teleconference and shared their reports
regarding the security and social situation of Ghazni to the President.
The provincial governor of Ghazni shared
information regarding the resumption of the activities of administrative
institutions as well as the process of delivering aid to the needy people.
He said all telecom companies have
started their operations and the health clinics and water distribution network
are active and fully operational.
According to ARG Palace, the senior
deputy interior minister for security, Afghan army chief of staff, the Afghan
intelligence chief, and the director of the independent directorate of local
governance also shared information regarding their activities, developments,
and challenges they face in Ghazni province.
In his turn, President Ghani hailed the
Afghan forces for their bravery and instructed the relevant authorities to step
up efforts to respond to the issues of the residents of the province.
He also added that the national defense
and security forces have always defended from the territorial integrity and
people in difficult situations as he emphasized that the armed forces are
thwarting the enemies’ plots with high morale and have support from all sects
of the country.
By KHAAMA PRESS - Fri Aug 24 2018
The Special Forces of the Afghan
Intelligence, National Directorate of Security (NDS), stormed a key hideout of
the ISIS terrorist group in eastern Nangarhar province.
The provincial government media office
in a statement said the hideout was used by the militants of the group as a
launch pad for the attacks in Jalalabad city.
The statement further added that the
operation was conducted late on Wednesday night in the vicinity of Kandi Bagha
area of Chaparhar district.
At least one ISIS group member was
killed during the operation and two others were arrested alive while six other suspects
were also rounded up on charges of having links with the terror group, the
In the meantime, the National
Directorate of Security (NDS), says the Special Forces have also confiscated
and destroyed some explosives while three Ak-47 rifles were seized.
The source further added that the local
residents and the security personnel have not sustained casualties during the
Nangarhar has been among the relatively
calm provinces since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 but the
anti-government armed militants have been attempting to expand their foothold
in this province during the recent years.
However, the Afghan armed forces are
busy conducting counter-terrorism operations to suppress the militant groups.
Agence France-Presse, August 24, 2018
Bangkok, Thailand |A nine-year-old
Buddhist novice has died after a beating by a Thai monk who allegedly battered
him with a stick and slammed his head against a pillar, officials said Friday.
Monk Suphachai Suthiyano, 64, flew into
a rage during a prayer session last weekend when the young disciple disrupted
the ceremony with his "playful" behaviour.
The monk allegedly assaulted Wattanapol
Sisawad with a bamboo stick at the temple in Kanchanaburi, two hours west of
Bangkok, striking him on his back several times before bashing his head into a
The child fell into a coma and passed
away late Thursday, a hospital worker at Kanchanaburi provincial hospital told
AFP on Friday, requesting anonymity.
The incident comes as Thailand, a
majority-Buddhist country, grapples with multiple other scandals among its
clergy, including cases of extortion, sex and drug use.
The suspect, who was defrocked on Sunday
following his arrest, was charged earlier this week with assault.
Police Captain Amnaj Chunbult said the
charge will be revised to "assault resulting in death" once he
receives official confirmation.
The boy's mother Sukunya Tunhim told
Thai media in a taped phone call she "will not forgive him (the
An official from the Institute of
Forensic Medicine at the National Police Office in Bangkok confirmed an autopsy
had already taken place, and that the boy's relatives have reclaimed his body.
The Buddhist faith is bound with
everyday life in Thailand, making it commonplace for most men, even children,
to spend some time in a monastery as a novice.
Monks are virtually beyond reproach in
the country's villages, but the ruling junta has taken a strong line against
clergy who break the law.
Earlier this month, Thailand's infamous
"jet-set monk" -- so-called after footage emerged of him carrying a
Louis Vuitton bag on a private jet -- was sentenced to 114 years in prison for
money-laundering and fraud.
In May the abbot of the popular
"Golden Mount" temple in Bangkok surrendered to police after $4
million was found in bank accounts in his name.
The case came on the heels of an ongoing
investigation into whether the National Office of Buddhism had misused millions
of dollars under its control.
Authorities last year floated the idea
of introducing digitised ID cards to better track monks with criminal
JAKARTA: A string of deadly earthquakes
that rocked Indonesia’s Lombok island this summer killed 555 people and injured
nearly 1,500, the disaster agency said Friday, with hundreds of thousands left
The picturesque island next to holiday
hotspot Bali was hit by two deadly quakes on July 29 and August 5. On Sunday it
was shaken by a string of fresh tremors and aftershocks, with the strongest
measuring 6.9 magnitude.
Indonesia’s disaster agency said Friday
most of the deaths occurred in the northern part of Lombok, with several also
killed in neighboring Sumbawa island.
Many victims were killed by falling debris
as the tremors rippled across the island, causing widespread devastation.
Whole communities were flattened,
leaving cracked streets lined with rubble, caved-in roofs and collapsed
Some 390,000 people remain displaced
after the quakes, the disaster agency said.
Aid organizations have vowed to step up
humanitarian assistance on the island as devastated residents struggle in
makeshift displacement camps.
They warned that access to food, shelter
and clean water has been insufficient for some residents displaced by the
“We’ve deployed troops to isolated
villages that are difficult to reach,” disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo
Nugroho said in a statement.
“There are many villages... that are
hard to access with motorbikes. Some aid has to be delivered on foot.”
Rebuilding costs are estimated to top
seven trillion rupiah ($478 million).
Indonesia sits on the so-called Pacific
“Ring of Fire,” where tectonic plates collide and many of the world’s volcanic
eruptions and earthquakes occur.
In 2004, a massive 9.1 magnitude quake
struck off the coast of Sumatra and triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000
throughout the region, including 168,000 in Indonesia alone.
US State Department's spokesperson
Heather Nauert, during Thursday's press briefing, stood by the department's
readout on the phone call between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US Secretary of
State Michael Pompeo earlier in the day.
A readout issued by the US State
Department had said: "Secretary Pompeo raised the importance of Pakistan
taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its
vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process."
Soon after, the Foreign Office had taken
exception to the "factually incorrect statement issued by the US State
Department" regarding the discussion during the phone call, saying there
was "no mention at all in the conversation about terrorists operating in
During the press briefing, when asked
about Pakistan's call for immediate correction to the readout, Nauert answered
that both sides had a "good call".
"In the readout, the secretary
notes that he spoke with the new prime minister and expressed his willingness
to work with the new government toward a productive bilateral relationship.
They had a good call," she said. "That may surprise some of you, but
they had a good call. Pakistan is an important partner to the United States. We
hope to forge a good, productive working relationship with the new civilian
She went on to say that based on her
understanding, "the beginning of the call or the call itself was a good
call, and a good discussion toward our working with the new government and the
When asked again by a reporter if the US
government continues to stand by the readout, she said: "We stand by our
Earlier on Thursday, Secretary Pompeo
had telephoned PM Khan and congratulated him on forming the government.
Pompeo had wished PM Khan well for
“implementation of his commitment for the welfare of the people of Pakistan”,
read a statement.
PM Khan emphasised the importance of
strengthening bilateral relations on the basis of mutual trust and benefit. He
also underscored the importance of peace and stability in the region.
With reference to Afghanistan, both the
leaders agreed that peace was a priority for their countries.
"Secretary Pompeo expressed his
willingness to work with the new government towards a productive bilateral
relationship," said the US State Department.
It is pertinent to mention that Pompeo
is likely to visit Islamabad in the first week of September for consultations
with PM Imran Khan and his team on issues of mutual interests, Dawn has
Pompeo, who is expected in Islamabad on
Sept 5, will likely be the first foreign dignitary to meet the newly elected
During his talks with Pakistani
officials, Secretary Pompeo is expected to focus on two major issues: efforts
to revive once close ties between the two states and Pakistan’s support for a
US-led move to jump-starting the Afghan peace process.
—With additional input by Sanaullah Khan
JERUSALEM: The head of the UN agency for
Palestinian refugees suggested that the US slashed his budget early this year
to punish the Palestinians for their criticism of the American recognition of
Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but he warned that the Palestinian refugee issue
will not go away.
The comments by Pierre Kraehenbuehl came
amid signs that the US, with Israeli support, is aiming to abolish UNRWA in an
apparent attempt to remove one of the most contentious issues in the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the negotiating agenda.
“One cannot simply wish 5 million people
away,” Kraehenbuehl, commissioner of the UN Relief and Works Agency, said in an
interview with The Associated Press.
In January, the US, the largest donor to
the agency, slashed some $300 million from its annual contribution to UNRWA,
prompting what Kraehenbuehl called an unprecedented financial crisis.
Although he has made up some of the
deficit by raising money from other countries, the agency still lacks over $200
million. It recently laid off over 100 people in the Gaza Strip and cut back
the hours of 500 other employees. The upcoming school year for hundreds of
thousands of Palestinian children across the Middle East has been threatened.
Kraehenbuehl said he was caught off
guard by the American decision, which came just weeks after he had held what he
described as a successful meeting with Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s
son-in-law and chief Mideast adviser.
He said he still has not gotten a
straight answer from the Americans about why they made their decision.
But he said he believes it is connected
to the uproar over the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in
December. The Palestinians, who seek east Jerusalem as their capital, condemned
the decision and severed nearly all ties with the Americans.
“I can say with a great degree of
confidence that the decision was not related to UNRWA’s performance, because in
November I had received very constructive and openly positive feedback on those
issues,” he said.
“A few weeks later, tensions increased
around the question of Jerusalem,” he added. “It appears that the humanitarian
funding to UNRWA got caught up in the deep polarization around that question.”
The State Department said it is
reviewing funding to UNRWA and has not decided whether to restore support in
the future. It repeated its position that the agency’s repeated financial
crises are “unsustainable” and called on it to find other countries to share
the funding burden and to undertake “fundamental reforms.”
But privately, there are signs that the
American agenda runs deeper and that the Trump administration seeks to abolish
In an internal email recently published
by Foreign Policy magazine, Kushner called for a “sincere effort to disrupt
“This (agency) perpetuates a status quo,
is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace,” he reportedly wrote.
The Palestinians fear the US is putting
pressure on host countries to absorb their refugee populations and eliminate
the issue from future peace negotiations. The White House says it is working on
a regional peace plan, though it has not said when it will be released.
UNRWA was established in the wake of the
1948 Mideast war surrounding Israel’s creation. An estimated 700,000
Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in the fighting.
In the absence of a solution, the UN
General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate. The agency now
provides education, health care and social services to more than 5 million
refugees and their descendants. It serves populations in Gaza and the West
Bank, as well as Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Seen by the Palestinians and most of the
international community as providing a valuable safety net, UNRWA is viewed far
differently by Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
accuses the agency of perpetuating the conflict by helping promote an
unrealistic Palestinian demand that refugees have the “right of return” to
long-lost homes in what is now Israel. He has said UNRWA should be abolished
and its responsibilities taken over by the main UN refugee agency.
Some in Israel have even tougher
criticism, accusing UNRWA of teaching hatred of Israel in its classrooms and
tolerating or assisting Hamas militants in Gaza.
Kraehenbuehl said Israel has raised
similar concerns for years, but that there has been a “strong intensification”
of the criticism now that the Trump administration appears to be in agreement.
He rejected the Israeli claim that his
agency is perpetuating the conflict, saying that it is carrying out a
UN-mandated mission that reflects the will of the international community.
Kraehenbuehl said that Israeli claims
that the Palestinians are the only people to pass down refugee status to their
children also are unfounded, saying that Afghan refugees displaced decades ago
have the same status.
He also noted that UNRWA has a committee
to monitor the content of its classrooms and has condemned attempts by Gaza
militants to use UNRWA facilities for cover.
Kraehenbuehl said the best way to solve
these matters is to find a “political solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict that addresses the fate of the refugees.
In the meantime, he said UNRWA’s focus
is for its schools to open on schedule in early September. For now, he said
there are enough funds to keep the schools running only until the end of the
month. An aggressive fund-raising effort is under way to ensure the schools
operate for the entire academic year.
“I see the courage displayed by our
students in the face of so much adversity,” he said. “I really find it very
difficult to imagine that I have to go back to them and tell them that I have
failed and we have failed to mobilize the needed resources, to keep the one
thing that gives them a certain prospect in life ... which is their education.
So, we will knock on every door, we will leave no stone unturned until we have
good news on this front.”
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