Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Moves SC, Challenges Validity Of Law Criminalising Triple Talaq
Indian Muslim Outfits to Unite Against Fascist Forces in the Backdrop of Rising Concern among the Muslim Community
Pakistan Will No Longer Seek Talks with India: PM Imran Khan
US, UK, Canada Slam China, Pakistan For Persecuting Minorities
Joe Walsh Repeatedly Called Obama 'Muslim,' 'Enemy,' And 'Traitor'; Now He's The Reasonable Alternative To Trump?
Massacred at Home, in Misery Abroad, 730,000 Rohingya Are Mired in Hopelessness
Myanmar Troops’ Sexual Violence Against Rohingya Shows ‘Genocidal Intent’ — UN Report
Mujahid: ‘Rahmatan Lil Alamin’ Concept Created With Malaysian Context In Mind
States Must Do More to Stop Hate Crimes and Promote Interfaith Initiatives, Say UN Rights Experts
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Relinquishes Control of ISIS, but not the Islamic Caliphate
Pakistan Bringing Over 100 Terrorists from Afghanistan for Kashmir: Sources
Kashmir restrictions back as posters surface calling for March to UN office
‘We won’t give an inch’: India faces defiance in ‘Kashmir’s Gaza’
Tamil Nadu on high alert after warning on Lashkar terrorists entering state
Indian Muslim Nasir Ahmad’s Body Has Not decomposed After 22 Years
Hindus didn’t give up possession after Ram Mandir demolished to build Babri mosque, devotee tells SC
Key hospitals in Indian Kashmir treat more than 150 tear gas, pellet injuries
India’s ‘patriotism pop’ songs urge Hindus to claim Kashmir
Oppn demands release of J&K political leaders
UN human rights experts want curbs in Kashmir removed
Narendra Modi to launch $4.2 million re-development project of Hindu temple in Bahrain
Convinced of my thoughts: Javed Akhtar on being trolled
Pakistan PM Imran Khan to Visit Shiv Temple In Sindh, Address Local Hindus
Pak PM Imran Khan, Army chief discuss Kashmir situation
Inaction on terror funding could see Pakistan in black list
Nawaz’s health concerns: Two hospitals express inability to provide specialised ambulance
Pakistan is now more ‘unsafe, unstable and internationally weak’: PPP
PM Imran to highlight Kashmir situation at UNGA next month
‘Violence based on belief’: Imran extends support to Kashmiris
Pentagon chief confirms death of Qaeda's Hamza bin Laden
UN Says Myanmar Uses Sexual Violence As Weapon Of War
U. S Defense Secretary Says Isis Not In A Resurgent State In Syria Despite Pentagon Report Saying Isis Is Re-Surging
ISIS fighters may not go to Guantanamo Bay, Trump says in apparent policy shift
Trump To Discuss Kashmir, Human Rights with Modi At G7 Summit In France
US welcomes Paraguay's action against Hezbollah
US offers $5m reward for information on three ISIS deputies
ISIS Replacing Taliban as Biggest Threat to Peace in Afghanistan While Rebounding In Iraq and Syria
Empty Buses In Bangladesh As No Rohingya Turn Up For Repatriation
Bangladeshi villagers face perils on Indian border
Afghan government reacts to artillery barrage by Pakistani forces on the Afghan soil
14 Taliban militants killed, multiple weapons caches destroyed in airstrikes, Special Forces raids
Saif-ul-Jihad, Taliban’s economic commission chief among 21 killed in Special Forces raids
Taliban commander Hafiz Qudrat and his comrades killed in Farah airstrike
Selangor Mufti: Motorcycle Ride-Sharing Services ‘Un-Islamic’, As Men and Women Ride Together
Naik Lodges Report against Ramasamy for ‘Hate Monger’ Remarks To Indian TV
Why still no action against Zakir Naik, Ramasamy asks Dr M
Dr M stands by decision to not deport Zakir Naik
Malaysia’s poverty levels far higher than reported, UN expert says
Rights Group: UK Ports Vetting Of Muslims ‘Structural Islamophobia’
Modi and I have discussed Kashmir, will tell Imran to settle it bilaterally: French’s Macron
Islamophobic emails from leader of Ukip are leaked
Greece to speed up refugee asylum process: PM
Syria: UK looks for allies for YPG/PKK terrorists
France makes proposal to bring Iran to negotiating table
Music Blooms In Saudi Arabia’s Mountain Resort City of Taif As Rose Ensemble Takes A Bow
Syrian Army Sets Up Safe Corridor amid Terrorists' Attempts to Use Civilians as Human Shields
Senior cleric demands govt. action against Iraq sovereignty violation
Cracks appearing in Saudi-UAE alliance bad news for Trump
Syrian Army Lays Full Siege on Tahrir Al-Sham in Northern Hama
Syrian Army Encircles Foreign Terrorists' Base in Lattakia
Iraq’s Hashd al-Sha’abi forces shoot down spy drone over Baghdad
Head of Iran-backed militia in Iraq walks back US accusation
Assad forces threaten Turkish observation posts in Idlib
Iran-Backed Militias in Iraq Threaten Foreign Aircraft, Adding To Speculation Israel Is Bombing Iraq
Israeli Right-Wing Alliance Proposes Construction Of 113,000 Settler Units In West Bank
Israel warns Hamas further attacks risk more Gaza suffering
Turkish officials: Syrian forces fire on observation post
Zarif: Iran will not start a war in the Gulf but will ‘defend’ itself
Three Turkish soldiers killed in clash with Kurdish militants
Iran displays domestically built mobile missile defense system
Several Saudi soldiers killed, injured in new Yemeni attacks in Jizan, Asir
Palestinians say receive Israeli part-payment of overdue taxes
Sudan's New Leader an Experienced Economist Who Promises Reform
Sudan Swears In New Prime Minister, Sovereign Council Chief
Battles Intensify in Tripoli, Militants Surrender to LNA
The U.S. Must Remain in Africa’s Fight against Boko Haram
Suspected jihadists kill five Malian troops in ambush
Boko Haram kills one, abducts seven in Cameroon's Far North region
Edna O’Brien’s new heroine is abducted by Boko Haram
NAF destroys Boko Haram logistics base, kills scores
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Aug 23, 2019
NEW DELHI: Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind on Thursday moved the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of ‘Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019’, which punishes Muslim men who divorce their wives through talaq-e-biddat, or triple talaq, claiming that the legislation is discriminatory and inflicts disproportionate punishment for a civil wrong.
Giving details of social work since its establishment in 1919, the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind through advocate Ejaz Maqbool argued the legislation passed by Parliament on July 31 was unnecessary as the Supreme Court had on August 22, 2017 declared the practice of instant divorce through triple talaq as unconstitutional. The Jamiat had argued before the SC in the Shayara Bano case that “triple talaq was protected under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution and formed part of the personal laws of the Hanafi Muslims under Sharia”.
A year after the SC ruling, the Union government on September 19, 2018 promulgated Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Ordinance, 2018 providing for imprisonment of up to three years for Muslim men who resort to triple talaq for instantaneous divorce. The ordinance was re-promulgated twice before Parliament finally enacted a law which received the President’s assent on July 31 this year.
The petitioner termed Section 4 of the Act, prescribing punishment of up to three years’ imprisonment with fine, as an ill-conceived provision imposing excessive and discriminatory penalty on Muslim men resorting to triple talaq. “Lesser punishment is prescribed in Indian Penal Code for many offences which are far graver - rioting (2 years), bribery (one year), food adulteration (six months), causing death due to rash and negligent driving (2 years),” it said.
The Jamiat said under Hindu law, desertion of a spouse is not an offence but only a ground for divorce. Moreover, the new legislation has made pronouncement of triple talaq a cognizable and non-bailable offence whereas causing death by rash and negligent driving is a bailable offence.
The petitioner said, “Crime and punishment are two sides of the same coin. Every punishment must be proportionate to the crime. The notion ‘just deserts’ require that a sentence being imposed must be proportionate to the offender’s culpability is applicable to criminal jurisprudence.”
“There are several more grave offences which are not punishable with such a stringent punishment and are bailable. In fact, desertion of a wife by the husband under Hindu law is not even an offence. This clearly shows that the provisions, as far as related to criminality of pronouncement of triple talaq, are disproportionate and excessive ... and deserves to be set aside as being violative of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution,” the petition said.
KOZHIKODE: The co-ordination committee of Muslim organizations has decided to put in joint efforts to foster communal harmony and to resist the onslaughts from the ‘fascist forces’ in the county.
The meeting was convened against the backdrop of rising concern among the Muslim community over certain moves from the central government, including the bill amending the UAPA and withdrawal of the Section 370 of the Constitution.
The leaders of the IUML, Samastha Kerala Jam-Iyyathul Ulema, Jamaát-e-Islami, Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen (KNM), Wisdom Islamic Organisation and the KNM (Markazudawa group), who met here on Wednesday, formed a sub-committee to chalk out future course of action. The Kanathapuram group of Sunnis, however, did not participate in the meeting.
The meeting felt that the legislations brought out by the central government recently are ill-motivated and will only result in side-lining the minorities and dalits further.
The meeting decided to resist the laws legally and with restraint. The organizations also resolved to fight extremism as such approaches do not have the mandate of the religion.
At the same time, the meeting it condemned the attempts to hunt down the innocents in the name of fighting extremism.
The feeling expressed in the meeting was that all those who believe in secularism need to be brought under one umbrella.
Efforts will be made to hold religious harmony meetings at grassroots with the participation of all sections of society.
“The country is passing through a dark phase and it is imperative to hold the society together. The Muslim organizations will accentuate their interaction with other communities to preserve the harmony existing in the society,” said Sheikh Muhammad Karakunnu, secretary of Jamaát-e-Islami, who attended the meeting.
Citing the example of DMK leader M K Stalin, who is a vociferous critic of fascist rule, Muhammad said such leaders and parties should be brought under on a common platform. “Another issue is to remain fearless at a time when there are efforts to intimidate the minorities and the dalits to silence them,” he said.
IUML state president Panakkad Syed Hyder Ali Shihab Thangal, MPs P K Kunhalikutty, E T Muhammad Basheer, K P A Majeed, M K Muneer, Bahaydeen Nadvi Kooriyad, Umer Faizy Mukkam, P P Unneenkutty Moulavi, C P Umer Sullami, Hussein Madavoor, M I Abdul Azeez, C Kunhimuhammad Madani Parapppur and others attended the meeting.
Pakistan will no longer seek talks with India: PM Imran Khan
Aug 22, 2019
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will no longer seek dialogue with India as it has repeatedly rebuffed peace overtures, Prime Minister Imran Khan said, a charge rejected by New Delhi which has repeatedly asked Islamabad to take "credible" action against terror groups to resume the talks.
Stepping up his criticism of India after it revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status early this month, Khan told The New York Times that he fears the threat of a military escalation between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
"There is no point in talking to them (India). I mean, I have done all the talking. Unfortunately, now when I look back, all the overtures that I was making for peace and dialogue, I think they took it for appeasement," he said.
"There is nothing more that we can do," Khan said.
But India's ambassador to the United States, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who was visiting The NYT editorial board, rejected Khan's criticism.
"Our experience has been that every time we have taken an initiative toward peace, it has turned out badly for us," the ambassador said.
"We expect Pakistan to take credible, irreversible and verifiable action against terrorism," Shringla said.
India accuses Pakistan of providing safe haven to militant groups, which carry out attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, and other parts of the country.
India has not been engaging with Pakistan since an attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January of 2016 by a Pakistan-based terror group, maintaining that talks and terror cannot go together.
The Indian envoy also disputed the severity of India's actions in Jammu and Kashmir.
"We are looking at things going back to normal," he said. "Restrictions are being eased based on the ground situation."
"Public utility services, banks and hospitals are functioning normally," he said.
"There are adequate food stocks. Some restrictions on communication are in the interests of safety and security of the citizenry," Shringla added.
India has said that its decision on Jammu and Kashmir was an internal affair aimed at ensuring overall welfare of the region.
The NYT said it spoke to the Pakistan Prime Minister a day after he said he had spoken by phone with US President Donald Trump and told him of a "potentially very explosive situation" between his country and India.
Khan also expressed concern that India might undertake a deceptive operation in Kashmir to try to justify military action against Pakistan. And Pakistan, he said, would be forced to respond.
"And then you are looking at two nuclear-armed countries eyeball to eyeball, and anything can happen," he said.
"My worry is that this can escalate and for two nuclear-armed countries, it should be alarming for the world what we are facing now."
India has dismissed such repeated warnings by Khan.
"From their side, they would like to project a panic situation, the international community does not think there is a war-like situation. It is a ploy to deflect attention," the ministry of external affairs spokesperson said in New Delhi recently
US, UK, Canada slam China, Pakistan for persecuting minorities
AUG 23, 2019
New York: At a United Nations meet, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada raised the issue of suppression of religious freedom by China and Pakistan, and slammed the two Asian nations for "persecuting and repressing" their religious minorities.
During the meet on Safety of Religious Minorities here on Thursday, the US, UK and Canada expressed concerns over the increasing, widespread and undue restrictions on religious freedom in the two countries. They also highlighted the discrimination suffered by the Uyghur community in China and of Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus and other minorities in Pakistan.
Naveed Walter, President of Human Rights Focus Pakistan, apprised the United Nations about the "biased behaviour" of Chinese and Pakistregimes against minorities in their respective countries. He also pointed out that in countries like China, national security was being used as a pretext to curb religious freedom of the minorities.
"Today, a large number of people are marginalised in their own societies. The biased behaviour dwells in other areas also, like the minorities on the basis of religious affiliation as in Pakistan, Ahmadis having a situation; like China, growing number of countries using national security as a pretext for restricted religious expression at the role of religion in public domain," said Walter.
China and Pakistan have been condemned internationally for cracking down on the minorities living in their countries. China has been accused of oppressing the Uyghurs by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending the community to undergo some form of forceful re-education or indoctrination.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has also reportedly been discriminating against its religious minorities which is manifested in various forms of targeted violence, mass murders, extrajudicial killings, abduction, rapes, forced conversion to Islam, etc., making the Pakistani Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Ahmadiyyas and Shias one of the most persecuted minorities in the region.
Washington also expressed concerns over the Chinese government using several measures to suppress the minorities.
"We remain deeply concerned about the Chinese government escalating widespread and undue restrictions on religious freedom in China. We urge the Chinese government to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of everyone in that nation," said Sam Brownback, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
London and Ottawa also expressed their concerns on the same.
"UK has spoken up for rights of religious communities and minorities across the world. From Uyghurs in China, Christians and Ahmadis in Pakistan," said Lord Ahmad, UK PM's Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Joe Walsh repeatedly called Obama 'Muslim,' 'enemy,' and 'traitor'; now he's the reasonable alternative to Trump?
by Becket Adams
August 22, 2019
It would be beneficial to the country and conservatism as a whole if a viable conservative candidate challenged President Trump for the party’s nomination for the 2020 election.
One-term congressman, conspiracist, right-wing provocateur, radio host, and supposed Tea Party stalwart Joe Walsh is not that person. Not even close.
“If I’m to do it, it’s going to happen soon,” Walsh, who is supposedly eyeing a 2020 run, told Politico. “I’ve been really surprised by the amount of anxiousness from people across the spectrum who want this president to have a challenge, because there’s just a real concern that he’s absolutely unfit.”
He said later on CNN, "If Republicans stay silent in the face of this guy, I don't think the country will ever forgive the Republican Party."
Spare us the sanctimony. Walsh may try to present himself now as some sort of compassionate and reasonable conservative alternative to Trump, but only the desperate or the idiotic would be sucker enough to believe it.
First, it is impossible not to notice that Walsh's new schtick playing a kinder, softer version of his former self coincides perfectly with his musing publicly about running in the 2020 Republican primary. Second, there is the matter of Walsh's history of being Trumpier than Trump. To wit, Walsh made his name during the Tea Party heyday with the same sort of demagoguery, conspiracy-mongering, and right-wing bomb-throwing for which he now condemns Trump. That brand of right-wing demagoguery, by the way, continued right up until right around the time he decided he wanted to be the GOP alternative to Trump.
In 2014, for example, Walsh tweeted: “It makes Dems seethe and my fellow Repubs uncomfortable when I say it out loud, but so what? It explains everything. Barack Obama is Muslim.”
He was also very annoyed that same year because he felt an unfair double standard barred him from using racial slurs.
Later, in 2015, after a gunman murdered five servicemen at two separate military installations in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Walsh said, “Obama won't call Chattanooga what it was – Islamic terror. Not confusing at all. Obama is a Muslim.” He also said, “Barack Obama doesn’t love America & is Muslim," adding elsewhere that the then-president was a “pussy” and a “traitor.”
“I’m sick of [Sean Hannity] not understanding why Obama won't criticize Islam. Sean just said Obama is clueless. He’s not clueless. He’s Muslim," Walsh tweeted later.
There is much more where that came from, too.
In 2016, Walsh called the president of the United States an “enemy” and a “traitor” for skipping Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral.
Walsh also said in 2016 that “Obama is not on our side. He’s our enemy.” He added in a separate tweet, “By purposely not saying ‘Islam’ or ‘Islamic terror’ Obama is an enemy of the state. Treat him that way.’”
Walsh also said, “I wish that Blacks understood that Democrats purposely replaced their moms & dads w government. Government can’t teach values.”
Elsewhere that year, after a gunman killed five police officers in Dallas, Walsh warned that “real America” was “coming after” the “black lives matter punks,” adding further that they should “watch out.”
Later, in 2017, Walsh encouraged the Russia-sponsored Seth Rich murder conspiracy.
“The main networks investigating the #sethrich murder?” he asked on social media. “No? Hmm, par for the course then. Smdh.”
Walsh tweeted later, “#sethrich #sethrich #sethrich #sethrich #sethrich #sethrich #sethrich #sethrich #sethrich #sethrich #sethrich cover it, media #sethrich.”
He said also in 2017, “Tearing down that Robert E. Lee statue won’t stop blacks from shooting other blacks in Chicago. Or Baltimore.”
I can do this all day.
More recently, in 2018, Walsh said of crime in Baltimore, “I have a dream that one day young black men in Chicago and Baltimore will stop killing each other. #MLKDay”
In February of last year, Walsh went back to the well of tweeting that Obama is really a secret Muslim.
He also said last year, “To say that it’s ‘racist’ to call Haiti a shithole is like saying it’s ‘racist’ to say Chicago has a violence problem. Haiti is a shithole and it’s run by blacks. The violence in Chicago is all black on black. Those aren’t racist statements. They’re just facts.”
How do you suppose that compares to Trump's comments that now engender so much ire?
Walsh also said in 2018 in reference to the influx of illegal immigrants crossing the U.S.' southern border: “It’s not an immigration. It’s an invasion!”
Remember: This one-term congressman, who claims he had a falling out with the White House over the president’s handling of the 2018 Helsinki conference, is positioning himself now as the reasonable alternative to Trump.
By Hannah Beech
Aug. 22, 2019
When things go wrong, those in power often promise to make it right. But do they? In this series, The Times investigates to see if those promises were kept.
NGA KHU YA, Myanmar — Rusting behind barbed wire, rows of trailers at a repatriation center sit empty and uninviting, evocative of a prison awaiting its inmates.
In a deserted arrivals trailer, uniformed officers loiter at their desks, expectant grins on their faces. Signs explain the steps involved in welcoming Rohingya Muslims back to Myanmar: Stand here for photographs, go there for identity cards.
Men stand guard with security wands, as if this were an international airport rather than an inhospitable holding pen in a desolate frontier.
What is so obviously missing at the Nga Khu Ya repatriation center are the Rohingya themselves.
Ever since more than 730,000 Rohingya started fleeing to Bangladesh, two years ago this Sunday, to escape a vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing, governments from both countries have repeatedly vowed that a return of the Muslim minority to Myanmar was imminent.
But that promise has been broken, time and again.
The Rohingya have not returned by the hundreds of thousands, or even by the thousands.
In fact, they have hardly come back at all.
After all the assurances that it was safe for them to return to Myanmar, only a few dozen have done so.
The first batch of about 1,200 returnees was supposed to be sent home in January 2018. That plan was delayed by the Bangladeshi government, after an international outcry over the idea of returning traumatized victims to the epicenter of one of the worst eruptions of ethnic cleansing in this century.
After the two countries promised in April 2018 to proceed with safe, voluntary and dignified repatriations, several new deadlines were set. None were met.
Most recently, the Myanmar government said the repatriation of 3,450 Rohingya would begin on Thursday. That target, too, passed with no movement across the border.
Maintaining the fiction that repatriations are about to occur is politically useful for both sides.
Myanmar, which United Nations officials say should be tried on genocide charges over the orchestrated killings that began on Aug. 25, 2017, is keen to prove it is not a human rights pariah.
Bangladesh, struggling with overpopulation and poverty, wants to reassure its citizens that scarce funds are not being diverted to refugees.
But the charade at Nga Khu Ya, with its corroded buildings devoid of any Rohingya presence, proves the lie in the repatriation commitment. The place is so quiet that a dog snoozes at the main entrance, undisturbed.
Even the repatriation center’s watchtowers are empty of soldiers. There is no one to watch.
Promise Repatriation. Fail to Deliver. Repeat.
The lack of returnees on Thursday followed the same tragicomic script as previous efforts to get the Rohingya home.
First, Myanmar unilaterally announced a date for repatriation, but approved the return of only a tiny fraction of those eligible.
Bangladesh, the Muslim-majority nation where most of the Rohingya have sought refuge, then said it supported the idea.
“I’m very positive,” Foreign Affairs Minister A.K. Abdul Momen told reporters in early August. “I’m expecting that we can start this month.”
But the Rohingya — hundreds of thousands of whom are squeezed into overflowing camps in Bangladesh — balked, having received scant consultation about their own futures. Not a single Rohingya boarded the five buses and two trucks that were prepared on Thursday to transfer them over the border to Myanmar.
International human rights groups stepped in to urge caution about returning anyone, having interviewed Rohingya who were terrified, not joyful, to learn that they were on the repatriation list.
On Thursday, Radhika Coomaraswamy, an expert with the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Myanmar violence, said conditions were not conducive for the return of Rohingya.
“We have been shown satellite imagery which shows the situation in northern Rakhine, which is basically where all the villages have been bulldozed, not a tree standing,” she said at a news conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
That left the Myanmar side with the perfect opportunity to declare itself surprised that the Rohingya weren’t coming back.
“I have no idea why repatriation has not happened yet,” said U Win Myint, a spokesman for the government in Rakhine State, which Myanmar’s Rohingya once called home. “Everything is ready on our side.”
This scenario has played out before, with similarly hollow outcomes.
In November, Win Myat Aye, Myanmar’s minister of social welfare, relief and resettlement, told The New York Times that a round of repatriation would begin in a couple days’ time. Over a 15-day period, 2,165 people would be processed through Nga Khu Ya repatriation camp, he promised. Then, soon after, another 5,000, and so on.
“They can apply for citizenship,” Mr. Win Myat Aye said. “They can live in the place where they’re originally from. If there is no housing there, they can live near where they’re from.”
The government’s own facts indicate this is a fantasy.
According to the Myanmar immigration authorities’ figures, from May 2018 to May 2019, only 185 Rohingya were repatriated from Bangladesh. Even that tiny number is inflated. Of those 185 people, 92 had been caught by the authorities in Myanmar while trying to escape the country by boat. Sixty-two others had just been released from jails in Myanmar.
Only 31 Rohingya — of the nearly three-quarters of a million who left Myanmar — had returned “of their own volition,” according to the government.
When pressed to account for such minuscule numbers, the Myanmar authorities accuse Rohingya militants and Muslim charities operating in the refugee camps in Bangladesh of dissuading people from going back.
“Muslim terrorists in the camps say that it is not safe to return, so people don’t dare,” said U Soe Aung, the head of the General Administration Department in Maungdaw, a township in Rakhine that was once overwhelmingly Rohingya. “Even though it’s totally safe.”
What We Found
Home Is Missed, but Deeply Feared
Assurances that Myanmar has laid out the welcome mat have come from none other than Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto head of the civilian government and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
“The state counselor already decided to receive back the people who lived in Myanmar and left the country for some reason,” said her social welfare minister, Mr. Win Myat Aye, referring to Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi by her formal title. “There is no reason not to come back.”
But the Rohingya’s dread about what might await them is understandable, considering what drove their flight in the first place — and what has happened, and not happened, in Myanmar since the exodus.
After a band of Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts and an army encampment on Aug. 25, 2017, a burst of brutality against the Muslim minority followed within hours: mass executions, rape and the burning of hundreds of villages by security forces. Buddhist mobs participated in the bloodletting.
Doctors Without Borders says that at least 6,700 Rohingya met violent deaths in the month after the killings began.
While the Myanmar government defended its actions as “clearance operations” targeting only militants, the large buildup of troops in the weeks before the attack — and the military helicopters that rained down rockets on villagers in the days afterward — suggest a highly coordinated, long-planned campaign of ethnic cleansing that had been waiting for the right catalyzing event.
The Rohingya who escaped to Bangladesh now live in a teeming, squalid settlement — the world’s largest refugee encampment.
Human trafficking is rife, with girls destined for brothels and men for indentured servitude in Southeast Asia. When the monsoons descend on the camps, sewage and mud mix into a disease-breeding brew. Landslides are common, and Rohingya have even been killed by rampaging elephants. There is little, if any, incentive to stay.
But despite these intolerable conditions, Myanmar looks worse to many refugees, who are bewildered at the idea that they should return to a country whose government has refused to admit that atrocities were committed.
“How can we believe those who killed our nearest and dearest?” said Ramjan Ali, the sole survivor of a family that was massacred in the village of Tula Toli.
Those Rohingya who stayed in northern Rakhine State after the killing began are marooned in communities cut off from jobs, education and basic services. Since June, the region’s mobile internet connection has been severed.
Incarceration rates among Rohingya men are high, with many accused of terrorist activity. Those released from jail are sometimes paraded as repatriated Rohingya, even if they have never left Myanmar.
“I miss my home a lot,” said Saiful Islam, a Rohingya leader in the camps in Bangladesh. “But I don’t want to go back to a place where my family could be killed.”
Building Military Bases on Villages’ Ashes
Any Rohingya who did return to Myanmar would find a transformed landscape.
Drive across the salty marsh of northern Rakhine, and the silence is overwhelming. About a million Rohingya once lived in this area. Now most are gone, the occasional carcass of a burned mosque or stand of charred palms the only evidence that they existed.
The government has funneled money into infrastructure development in Rakhine: new power stations, government buildings and, most of all, military and border guard bases.
But many of those new facilities have been built on land emptied by ethnic cleansing.
Analysis of satellite imagery by the International Cyber Policy Center at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that nearly 60 Rohingya settlements were razed last year, well after the violence peaked in 2017. Destruction of Rohingya villages continued into this year, the study found.
Officials in Myanmar have never been clear about where, exactly, returnees would live — even as they showed off rows of prefabricated houses supposedly built for repatriated families.
In a troubling precedent, about 120,000 Rohingya from central Rakhine State who were targeted in a 2012 conflict have been confined to internment camps for the past seven years. Their businesses have been taken over by members of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority, and most of their homes have been destroyed.
As construction transforms Rakhine, bringing Buddhist pagodas to areas where the Islamic call to prayer once resounded, the beneficiaries of the building boom are companies run by cronies of the military, which still dominates the government.
On Aug. 5, a United Nations fact-finding mission released a report recommending targeted sanctions against these military-linked firms, which it said had helped in “re-engineering the region in a way that erases evidence of Rohingya belonging to Myanmar.” The United Nations says no refugees should have to return to a place where their safety and security is not assured. Doing so is called refoulement, and it’s against international law.
But Myanmar has done little to reassure the Rohingya that the conditions that led to the mass killings have changed.
The country has steadfastly refused to admit that its security forces, which engaged in widespread sexual violence and sprayed fleeing children with gunfire, according to Rohingya testimony and investigations by human rights groups, did anything wrong.
“Not a single innocent Muslim was killed,” said Mr. Soe Aung, the Maungdaw Township official.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has declined to hold the military responsible for the violence, even as United Nations-appointed investigators recommended last year that commanders be investigated for crimes against humanity.
Despite the fact that Myanmar clearly is their home, most Rohingya are officially considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
And before any are accepted for repatriation, they must often come up with evidence proving that they came from Myanmar. That’s a tall order for refugees who fled burning homes.
More controversially, those who wish to return must accept identity cards that critics say will make their statelessness official.
Myanmar’s government does not even accept the name “Rohingya.” Instead, those who return are issued documents that identify them as Bengali, implying they are foreign interlopers from Bangladesh, not an ethnic group from Rakhine.
“We are Rohingya,” whispered Abdul Kadir, an imam from a northern Rakhine village who has been unable to flee, in broken English. “No say Rohingya in Myanmar. No say.”
“‘Rohingya’ is not real,” said Kyaw Kyaw Khine, the deputy head of immigration at Nga Khu Ya repatriation camp. “Why do foreigners use this word?”
On the Other Side of the Border
The official narrative in Myanmar goes like this: The Rohingya burned down their own homes to garner international sympathy, and to feast on plentiful aid rations in Bangladesh provided by Muslim nations.
Myanmar officials also accuse Bangladeshi officials of dawdling, and wonder if they’re reluctant to let the Rohingya leave.
“Maybe they want people to stay there,” said U Kyaw Sein, an administrator at the Nga Khu Ya camp.
The truth couldn’t be more different.
Bangladeshis have displayed tremendous hospitality to the Rohingya, who poured over the border in the fastest inflow of refugees in a generation. But the country’s patience has worn thin.
The Bangladeshi authorities keep threatening to resettle the Rohingya to an island that is little more than a cyclone-prone sandbar in the middle of the Bay of Bengal.
Bangladesh does not consider the vast majority of Rohingya to be refugees, lest that designation cement their right to live in exile forever.
As a consequence, they have no legal right to study or work outside of the camps. Muslim extremists stalk camp mosques, promising salvation through militancy.
Hopelessness is the only plentiful commodity.
“Will my children live the rest of their lives here?” asked Mr. Islam, the Rohingya camp leader. “Is this the only life I can give them?”
The Takeaway: No one wants the Rohingya, least of all their homeland.
Saw Nang contributed reporting from Nga Khu Ya, Myanmar, and Michael Schwirtz from the United Nations.
Myanmar troops’ sexual violence against Rohingya shows ‘genocidal intent’ — UN report
August 23, 2019
UNITED NATIONS: Sexual violence committed by Myanmar troops against Rohingya women and girls in 2017 was an indication of the military’s genocidal intent to destroy the mainly Muslim ethnic minority, United Nations investigators concluded in a report released on Thursday.
The panel of independent investigators, set up by the UN Human Rights Council in 2017, accused Myanmar’s government of failing to hold anyone accountable and said it was responsible “under the Genocide Convention for its failure to investigate and punish acts of genocide.”
A military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that began in August 2017 drove more than 730,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. Myanmar denies widespread wrongdoing and says the military campaign across hundreds of villages in northern Rakhine was in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.
“Hundreds of Rohingya women and girls were raped, with 80 percent of the rapes corroborated by the Mission being gang rapes. The Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) was responsible for 82 percent of these gang rapes,” the report said.
The Myanmar government has refused entry to the UN investigators. The investigators traveled to refugee camps in Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia, and met with aid groups, think-tanks, academics and intergovernmental organizations.
In an August 2018 report, the investigators laid out five indicators of genocidal intent by the Myanmar military: the use of derogatory language; specific comments by government officials, politicians, religious authorities and military commanders prior, during and after the violence; the existence of discriminatory plans and policies; evidence of an organized plan of destruction; and the extreme brutality of the campaign.
“The Mission now concludes on reasonable grounds that the sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls that began on 25 August 2017 was a sixth factor that indicated the Tatmadaw’s genocidal intent to destroy the Rohingya people,” the new report said.
The conclusion was based on “the widespread and systematic killing of women and girls, the systematic selection of women and girls of reproductive ages for rape, attacks on pregnant women and on babies, the mutilation and other injures to their reproductive organs, the physical branding of their bodies by bite marks on their cheeks, neck, breast and thigh.”
It said that two years later no military commanders had been held accountable for these and other crimes under international law and that the government “notoriously denies responsibility.”
“Myanmar’s top two military officials remain in their positions of power despite the Mission’s call for them to be investigated and, if appropriate, prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide,” the report said.
The investigators said they had collected new information about alleged perpetrators and added their names to a confidential list that will be shared with the UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet and another UN inquiry charged with collecting and preserving evidence for possible future trials.
22 August 2019
ROMPIN, Aug 22 — The ‘Rahmatan Lil Alamin’ concept introduced by the government was created with the Malaysian context in mind, which includes a multi-ethnic and multi-religious community.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa said Malaysia had a unique make or ‘mould’, unlike other Muslim countries like Pakistan, Iran or Saudi Arabia.
Unfortunately, Mujahid said there were certain quarters who were attempting to twist the issue and cause trouble.
“What we are doing is to protect Islam and the harmony that exists (among the various communities) but there are voices out there claiming that we (the ministry) are DAP’s puppets or allow things that are not Islamic.
“Some even give the concept a bad name. Don’t be fooled by this, because in a multiracial and multireligious country, small things like this can lead to bigger issues, “he said.
Mujahid said this when speaking at the opening of the Rahmah Carnival and a recording of the Islamic Affairs Forum at Politeknik Muadzam Shah here today, which was attended by Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (YADIM) president Nik Omar Nik Abdul Aziz and Politeknik Muadzam Shah director Shah Hassan Ismail.
Mujahid said the actions of certain groups also did not help towards forming a harmonious nation which required the involvement of all the people, and hoped that they would stop doing so.
In the spirit of harmony, he said the organising of the Rahmah Carnival was aimed at engaging all people regardless of race, race or religion.
“The carnival in intended at teaching people to live in harmony, to respect one another and enhance the understanding of the concept of Rahmah, including to the multiracial community,” he said.
Mujahid said Muslims were also responsible for reflecting the concept well in their daily lives, to be exemplary to the non-Muslims. — Bernama
States must do more to stop hate crimes and promote interfaith initiatives, say UN rights experts
August 21, 2019
GENEVA August 21, 2019 – States have an important role to play in promoting religious tolerance and cultural diversity by promoting and protecting human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, say a group of UN independent experts*. The experts urged States to step up their efforts to combat intolerance, discrimination and violence against people based on religion or belief, including against members of religious minorities and people who are not religious. Their comments come in a statement marking the first International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief on 22 August:
“We welcome the decision of the UN to designate 22 August as the international day to commemorate the victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief. This is a great opportunity to raise awareness about religious intolerance, and violence and discrimination against anyone based on their religion or belief.
Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on religion or belief which has the effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis would amount to religious intolerance and discrimination. This was made clear in the 1981 General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
We have observed violence in the name of religion around the world perpetrated by States and non-state groups leading to discrimination, persecution, arbitrary arrests or detention, enforced disappearances, sexual violence and killings of many people based on their religion or belief. Victims have included religious minorities, individuals who are not religious, LGBTI persons, children and women who face many forms of discrimination and gender-based violence. Such violence threatens the hard-fought progress in securing women’s equality and the rights of LGBTI persons.
“We stress that religion or belief should never be used to justify discrimination. When faced with religious persecution or discrimination, victims are often also deprived of their right to participate fully in political, economic and cultural life, as well as their rights to education and to health. This can include the desecration and destruction of numerous cultural heritage sites of rich historic and religious value, such as places of worship and cemeteries.
As populism has become a trend in the political and social arena, it has fostered many forms of hatred against those who are viewed as foreign or simply different. Often, States and religious institutions resort to the instrumentalisation of religions or beliefs in order to retain their influence or control and achieve other political agendas. Fundamentalism is on the rise across the world’s major religious traditions, posing a threat to many human rights.
Moreover, critical views of religions or beliefs are sometimes mischaracterised as ‘hate speech’ or labelled an offence to the religious feelings of others both by governments and non-state groups. Too often this is used as a pretext to silence those with critical voices and punish others for not believing.
The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief is misunderstood as protecting religions and beliefs instead of the people with the beliefs and those without.
It is incumbent on States to ensure that religions or beliefs are not used to violate human rights, and to combat religious extremism – which are a threat to many human rights, while adhering to international norms.
States have resorted to the securitisation of religion or belief, or viewing them through a lens of national security, in their fight against violent extremism. But an overly securitised approach has proven to be counterproductive and has led to xenophobia, increasing ‘religious profiling’ and discrimination, particularly towards religious minorities.
We emphasise the words of the UN General Assembly resolution of 3 June 2019 designating the international day that ‘terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms and manifestations cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilisation or ethnic group’.
We urge States and all individuals and groups to work together to enhance the implementation of international human rights standards that protect individuals against discrimination and hate crimes, and to increase interreligious, interfaith and intercultural initiatives, and expand human rights education in an inclusive manner as a key catalyst for change.”
The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
23 AUG 2019
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ruthless commander of ISIS, has named a successor to replace him at the helm of the terrorist organization, Abdullah Qardash of Tal Afar, a predominantly Sunni Muslim city in northwestern Iraq. The appointment was announced on 8 August, via ISIS’s semi-official news agency, Amaq. It came as little surprise to jihad-watchers across the globe, given Abu Bakr’s deteriorating health since his most recent recorded address in April, he is believed to be suffering from limb paralysis—according to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior—sustained from shrapnel wounds inflicted during ISIS’ last battle in Hajin on the Euphrates River in Syria.
What many failed to grasp was that Qardash’s designation was to replace Baghdadi only as commander of ISIS and not the self-proclaimed caliphate of all Muslims, a post that Baghdadi had assumed back in 2014. That remains exclusively in the hands of Baghdadi—at least for now—and he won’t be relinquishing it to anybody, anytime soon. When Baghdadi proclaimed the caliphate five years ago, ISIS spokesman, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani described it as a “dream that lives in the depths of every Muslim believer.” “The legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph’s authority.” In other words, with a single verdict, he rejected all other Islamic groups as invalid, giving him great powers across the entire Muslim world. The declaration was sharply criticized by Islamic scholars worldwide. Most weren’t critical of the concept, but of the person himself, claiming that Baghdadi did not have the religious credentials needed to assume such a title.
A brief history of the Caliphate
The last Muslim caliphate had been that of the Ottoman sultan, which was abolished by Kemal Ataturk in Turkey, back in 1924. During World War I, the Ottoman caliphate had dwarfed into a semi-symbolic and a very lightweight religious authority. By the early 1920s, gone was the pomp and power vested in the person of the Ottoman Sultan, whose army had been crushed and whose empire lay in ruins. Once commanding wide respect reaching as far as Muslim Spain and India, the defeated caliph was now forced to obey the dictates of Great Britain and France, who laid siege to his capital. On 17 October 1922, the last caliph left his throne in Istanbul, aboard a British liner headed to Malta, with orders never to return. He never did, and neither did the caliphate of Islam as the world knew it.
Some of Ataturk’s aides had advised against abolishing the caliphate, claiming that it could be separated from the sultanate, and thus maintained. Doing away with the sultan’s divine authority was one thing, but abolishing a title once held by Mohammad’s companions was something totally different. They argued that keeping the caliphate would serve the interests of the new Turkish republic, uniting the world’s 15 million Muslims worldwide behind its authority. It would be similar to the Vatican’s hold over Catholicism, they argued. The staunchly republican and secular Ataturk, however, had different plans for Turkey, a caliphate strongly contradicted with republicanism, he said.
Muslims around the world, former subjects of the caliph, were unhappy with Ataturk’s decision. Many tried to save the caliphate from collapse, with little success. In 1919, for example, the Khalifat Movement of India was created to lobby global Muslim support against Great Britain, attracting senior figures to its events, including Mahatma Gandhi. It was short-lived and unsuccessful, as were other bids for the caliphate. In Damascus, a caliphate movement was established by the Algerian notable Emir Said El Djezairi, but it too died out by the late 1920s.
The issue was hardly forgotten in the century that followed. The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, called for the restoration of the caliphate. In 2007, for example, a Gallup poll found that 71% of respondents from four Muslim countries wanted the laws of Islamic Sharia to apply in every Islamic country. They were of different age groups and backgrounds, coming from Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, and Indonesia. Additionally, 65% wanted unity of Muslim states under a caliphate and 74% wanted to keep Western values out of Islamic countries. Also, that summer 100,000 people filled the main stadium in Jakarta to “push for the creation of a single state across the Muslim world.” In mid-2006, Osama bin Laden called Baghdad the “home of the caliphate.”
When asked by British journalist Robert Fisk what kind of system he would like to live under, bin Laden replied that it was obligatory for all Muslims to establish “an Islamic State that abides by God’s laws.” He only started using the term “caliphate” more frequently after the 2003 Iraq War, hoping to galvanize Muslims across the world. In 2006, U.S. President George W. Bush mentioned the caliphate 15 times, including four times in a single speech. U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney warned that al-Qaeda wanted to “re-create the old caliphate,” while Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld added that al-Qaeda wanted “to establish a caliphate instead of mainstream Muslim regimes.” In August 2011, U.S. Representative Allen West added, “This so-called Arab Spring is less about a democratic movement than it is about the early phase of the restoration of an Islamic Caliphate.”
A null caliphate
Yet it was ninety years after Ataturk that the first serious contender for the “Caliph” emerged. Rising from obscurity, Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared himself as the new caliph of Islam, using the name “Abu Bakr” in reference to the first successor of the prophet, Abu Bakr al-Saddik. Entire chunks of his famous 20-minute video in Mosul were ripped out of one of Saddik’s speeches, memorized by heart by Muslim worshippers. Many were critical of the declaration, including Baghdadi’s former protégé, Abu Mohammad al-Golani, then commander of Jabhat al-Nusra, now renamed Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. He said: “Abu Bakr is a usurper. Even if he were to declare the caliphate a thousand times, no one must be deceived.”
On 20 September 2014, over 120 Sunni clerics from the Sufi order signed an open letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, challenging his interpretations of the Holy Quran. “You have misinterpreted Islam into a religion of harshness, brutality, torture, and murder,” they said. “This is a great mistake and an offense to Islam, to Muslims and to the entire world.” Yet despite these loud voices, Baghdadi went ahead with his caliphate, with one success after another. At its apex, the ISIS caliphate controlled an area stretching across 90,000 square meters, covering the deserts of Syria and Iraq, with a total population of 6 million people. Affiliate groups mushroomed across the world, pledging allegiance to the caliph in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, and deep within the cities of Europe and the Far East. At one point in time, he had all the trappings of statehood: a full-fledged army with up to 50,000 fighters including thousands of foreign jihadis, a ruthless intelligence service, a network of schools and hospitals, a media agency, a national flag, and a treasury loaded with oil money. Despite the brutal tactics that he carried out, which included head-chopping and burning people alive, people kept flocking into his “state.” There was something appealing about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that people genuinely liked. It was his job title. He really believed that he was the caliph of Islam. Some people apparently really believe him.
Qardash’s chances at the caliphate
In the Quran itself, the word “caliph” appears three times. According to Sunni jurisprudence, the caliph must be able to trace his lineage directly back to the Quraysh clan of Mecca, to which the Prophet belonged. Shiite Muslims claim that being a Mecca notable by ancestry is not enough to become caliph, saying that potential contenders need to hail strictly from Ahl al-Bayt, the family of the Prophet. This explains why Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi insists on using two important additional last names whenever making a public statement or appearance. One is al-Qurashi, hailing from Quraysh and another is al-Hassani, the descendant of the Prophet’s grandson. Western journalists and non-Muslims tend to drop both titles for practicality, but ISIS media never refers to him without both affiliations. Al-Baghdadi wants to draw as much historical, religious and popular legitimacy as he could; yet this should not be seen as an attempt to placate either the Shiites nor the Sunnis who oppose him. Interestingly, Abdullah Qardash also hails from Quraysh and from Ahl al-Bayt, makes him an eligible future caliph, should Baghdadi decide to bequeath power to him, or should he assume it himself, with or without Baghdadi’s consent. Apart from lineage, conditions for becoming a caliph are fairly straightforward and also apply to Qardash. The caliph must be a Muslim male, is required to lead the masses during prayer and prove knowledgeable in Islamic jurisprudence and history, two traits that also apply to Qardash, a former Iraqi officer under Saddam schooled at the College of Imam Al-Adham Abu Hanifa al-Noueimi in Mosul.
Pakistan bringing over 100 terrorists from Afghanistan for Kashmir: Sources
NEW DELHI: Pakistan is planning to push 100 hardcore terrorists from Afghanistan into Kashmir to carry out attacks as part of its "larger design" to create unrest in the Valley, security sources said on Thursday.
In addition, around 15 Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists are already waiting at the terror launch-pads in Lipa valley along the Line of Control on the Pakistani side to infiltrate in Kashmir, they said, citing reports by intelligence agencies.
According to intelligence inputs, Pakistan-based terror groups may target vital installations in several key Indian cities in the next few weeks, sources said.
Pakistan's plan is to trigger series of terror attacks in Kashmir to project to the international community that situation in the Valley is fast deteriorating following India's decision to withdraw special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcate the state into two union territories, they said.
"We have credible intelligence that Pakistan is bringing over 100 hardcore terrorists from Afghanistan and they will be pushed into Kashmir in the next few weeks," said a military source.
Mufti Rauf Asghar, brother of JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar, held meetings with top commanders of the terror outfit at its Bahawalpur headquarters on August 19 and 20 with a primary agenda of pushing hardcore terrorists into Kashmir, sources claimed.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has been making provocative statements targeting India following its decisions on Kashmir, and even suggested recently that a Pulwama-like terror attack may take place again.
According to Pakistan's assessment, the local terrorists in Kashmir are not properly trained, have low shelf-life and there was a leadership crisis among them in the Valley because of vigorous anti-terror operations, the sources said.
"That is why Pakistan is bringing battle-hardened terrorists from Afghanistan", they added.
Sources claimed Pakistan has set up Kashmir desks at all its foreign missions to carry out anti-India propaganda in the wake of India's decisions on J&K.
Kashmir restrictions back as posters surface calling for march to UN office
Restrictions were imposed in Srinagar city on Friday after posters issued by the separatists called on people to march to the local United Nations military observer group office, officials said.
Restrictions were eased in most areas of Kashmir this week, with barricades being lifted and the movement of people and traffic increasing gradually, but markets remained shut and mobile and Internet services suspended for the 18th day on Thursday.
Posters had appeared in certain localities of the city, in which the Joint Resistance Leadership (JLR) conglomerate have asked peoples to march to the UN military observer group to protest against the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. The separatists have claimed that the Centre’s move to scrap Article 370 was an attempt to change the demography of the Muslim-majority state.
Barricades and concertina wires were erected at many places to prevent people from marching to Lal Chowk and Sonawar, where the UN office is located, the officials said, adding that the security forces had been deployed at strength at many places to maintain law and order.
Full report at:
SRINAGAR: Young men sit beside a pile of rocks and a bonfire, protecting the only entrance to a besieged neighbourhood they call “Kashmir’s Gaza” as a mosque loudspeaker broadcasts slogans of liberation.
In an act of defiance against New Delhi’s controversial decision to withdraw occupied Kashmir’s special status and integrate it fully into India, Soura neighbourhood on the outskirts of Srinagar has sealed itself off from security forces.
Since early August, residents have erected ramshackle barricades of tin sheets, wooden logs, oil tanks and concrete pillars, and dug trenches to keep soldiers at bay amid daily protests against India.
“They can only enter Soura over our bodies. We won’t give even an inch of land to India,” Mufeed, a resident who volunteers to guard the neighbourhood at night, told AFP.
“Just like Gaza is resisting Israel, we will fight for our motherland with all our might,” Mufeed added.
Ahead of the announcement, India rushed tens of thousands of extra troops to the restive region to join 500,000 already in there and imposed a strict clampdown fearing further unrest.
But protests have broken out, with the lower-middle class Soura leading the way. At least 15,000 people rallied on August 9 — the biggest demonstration in occupied Kashmir so far.
They were met by security forces firing live ammunition, tear gas and pellet guns to disperse the crowds, with more than two dozen people reportedly injured.
‘Go India, go back’:
Soura, a crammed lakeside community of more than 2,000 homes, is surrounded by security forces on three sides.
The renowned mosque Jenab Saeb has become an assembly point for thousands of protesters in the neighbourhood.
Every night, residents march through its narrow lanes, carrying torches and passing graffiti with the words “Freedom for Kashmir” and “Go India, go back”.
Locals pass along messages if they spot any police movement on the main highway just beyond Soura.
Police forces, who have deployed drones and helicopters, tried to enter Soura at least three times but were pushed back by stone-throwing youth, some also armed with axes and harpoons.
Familiar with police’s crowd-dispersing tactics, protesters use salt water to wash their faces after chilli and tear gas are fired, and wear helmets and glasses to protect themselves against pellets.
Three youths have so far been arrested after venturing out from the area.
“They (India) are testing our resilience and they will definitely fail,” local Nahida told AFP.
“We defeated them last time and even if this situation continues for years, we won’t give in.” Despite the Soura protests, authorities stress that occupied Kashmir has remained largely peaceful since the lockdown.
Soura has long been part of the restive region’s history. It was the birthplace of Kashmir’s former prime minister Sheikh Abdullah, who agreed to join India as a state with autonomy rights in 1947.
His National Conference party — which has fought for more autonomy — was in power for more than three decades, with his son Farooq Abdullah and grandson Omar Abdullah becoming chief ministers of occupied Kashmir.
Farooq and Omar Abdullah were detained by New Delhi as part of the lockdown.
Residents have become more anti-India in recent years. In 2016 when mass street protests broke out over the death of a popular Kashmiri fighter, Soura was the scene of dozens of clashes with government forces.
Soura resident Rafiq Mansoor Shah said many locals shared his misgivings about Sheikh Abdullah’s decision to accede to India.
Under the new arrangements announced this month, Indians can now apply for government jobs and buy property in occupied Kashmir. But many Soura natives like Shah believe New Delhi has “nefarious plans to grab our land”.
by Arun Janardhanan
August 23, 2019
Based on intelligence inputs, the Tamil Nadu Police Thursday midnight launched a massive combing operation across the state in search of a six-member Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) group that is believed to have entered the state. A senior officer said the input was specifically on Coimbatore city.
The alert which was sent to all city police commissioners and SPs around 11.30 pm Thursday, said a group, including one Pakistani and five Sri Lankan Tamil Muslims, have reportedly disguised themselves as Hindus and may carry out attacks across the state. Vital security installations and worship centres, tourist locations and foreign embassies could be among the targets of the terrorist group, according to the intelligence input.
Intelligence machinery in all districts, as well as coastal areas, have been activated to trace the infiltrators. Officers have been directed to monitor the movement of ferries and boats while the unit officers were asked to sensitise the fishermen community about the threat.
Multiple sources in the police said a massive search operation was conducted on Thursday night, including raids at police stations, worship centres, lodges and public places. The search operations will continue.
Recalling a page out of Ripley's "Believe It or Not!", a body has been taken out of the grave after 22 years in Attara road in the Baberu area of Banda district, and the corpse has not decomposed. Even the shroud remains spotless white.
The locals are calling this a "miracle" and said that the deceased, Nasir Ahmad, was a "good soul who had Allah's blessings".
The incident took place on Wednesday in the Baberu graveyard where one grave had sunk in owing to incessant rainfall.
The graveyard committee members were informed and they cleared the mud to find a body wrapped in white shroud. A huge crowd collected at the place as the news spread and the body was taken out.
It was identified as that of Nasir Ahmad, who had died 22 years ago. One of the relatives of Ahmad identified the body and said that he was present when the burial had taken place 22 years ago.
The Babri Masjid was built after demolishing a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya and Hindus kept worshipping there without giving up its possession, a Hindu litigant Thursday told the Supreme Court, while seeking enforcement of the right to worship there. Devotee Gopal Singh Visharad, who filed the lawsuit in the lower court in 1950 seeking right to pray, died in 1986 and is now represented by his son Rajendra Singh.
The five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi heard the arguments on the 10th day in the decades-old politically sensitive land dispute. “The mosque was built after demolishing the Ram temple, and despite that Hindus continued worshipping there and did not give up possession…Moreover, Muslims were never in possession of the site,” senior advocate Ranjit Kumar told the bench which also comprised Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer.
“I am making my submissions with reference to Parasaran’s and Vaidyanathan’s submissions (both lawyers represented the deity) that the place is itself a divine site and that I being the worshipper, my right to worship, which is a civil right, should not be curtailed,” he said. Referring to records, the senior lawyer said magistrate Markandey Singh on December 29, 1949 had initiated proceedings to attach the disputed structure under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) following communal disturbances.
The magistrate had sought responses from Hindu and Muslim parties in support of their claim and counter claim over the property. Twenty affidavits were filed in 1950 by persons from both sides before the magistrate and they are also part of the judicial records of the Allahabad High Court.
“Filing affidavits, per se, is not enough to prove them. The deponents will have to appear to prove them… No court can say that the facts of these affidavits are proved,” the bench said. These affidavits were filed in 1950 and the trial on lawsuits took place “much much later”, the lawyer said.
The high court did not accept the affidavits saying that the deponents were not available for cross examination, he said, adding that they are part of the judicial records and be accepted by the apex court as the magistrate had verified the statements and identity of the deponents (makers of the affidavits).
Reading from the affidavit of one Abdul Gani, the senior lawyer said that he had stated that the the Babri Masjid was built after demolishing the temple, the birth place of Lord Ram, where Hindus continued worship and never gave up the possession. Gani had further said that while Muslims were reading ‘namaz’ only on Fridays, Hindus had been offering ‘puja’ on the site regularly and the offering of ‘namaz’ at the site was “against the Sharia” of Muslims.
Referring to the affidavit, filed in 1950, of another Muslim, Wali Mohd, the lawyer said he had deposed that Muslims had no objection if the government gave the disputed land to Hindus as the temple was destroyed to build mosque and Muslims have not been offering ‘namaz’ there since 1935.
Kumar, who adopted the submissions of lawyers of the deity to lay claim over the entire 2.77 acre of disputed land, said the certified copies of affidavits of 20 people were brought into records of the high court during hearing of the land dispute. “These affidavits have been exhibited in the (law)suits by Visharad,” he said to the response of the query posed by the bench.
He then referred to the exhibited documents to establish a sequence of events from 1858 and said that a complaint by the mosque’s ‘muezzin’ was filed then to allege that one Sant Nihang Singh Fakir Khalsa, who was living at the ‘Masjid Janmsthan’, had raised the height of ‘Ram Chabutra’ there.
The complaint, which had sought eviction of Fakir Khalsa from the place, further talked about the high-handedness of Hindus who had written ‘Ram-Ram’ on the walls of the site.
“In support of my right to pray, all I want to say that the place even in 1858 was known as ‘Masjid Janmstahan’ where ‘Ram Chabutara’ existed then and prayers were being offered by Hindus,” the lawyer said when the bench asked as to what he wanted to prove by submitting all this. “As the worship has been continuing since time immemorial, it is my submission that it must be continued and it is my right to continue, as a worshipper, to keep worshipping at that place,” the senior lawyer said.
Kumar then referred to judgements which have held the right of worship. He also said that temple worship is a part of the Hindu way of offering prayers. After Kumar concluded his submissions, senior advocate Sushil Kumar Jain, appearing for Nirmohi Akahara, re-commenced the arguments.
Jain would resume advancing arguments on Friday.
SRINAGAR, India: At least 152 people have suffered injuries from tear gas and pellets in disputed Kashmir since Indian security forces this month launched a sweeping crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Indian authorities have deployed additional paramilitary police, banned public gatherings and cut cellular and Internet links to prevent large scale protests after withdrawing the revolt-torn territory’s special status on Aug 5.
Still, people especially youth, have come out in the lanes of the region’s key city of Srinagar, on occasions such as Friday prayers or Eid this month, throwing stones, prompting retaliatory action by security forces.
Data obtained by Reuters showed 152 people reported to Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences and Shri Maharaj Hari Singh with injuries from pellet shots and tear gas fire between Aug 5 and Aug 21.
The government, which has not yet provided any figures of the injured in the sporadic protests, has said there have been no deaths in this month’s demonstrations in a region where more than 50,000 have died since an armed revolt broke out in 1989.
India hopes that withdrawal of special privileges for Kashmir, such as exclusive rights to land, government jobs and college places and opening them up to people from the rest of the country will help to integrate the territory.
Pakistan lays claim to Muslim-majority Kashmir and has condemned the decision to change its status.
A local government official in Jammu and Kashmir, however, said the number of injured was probably higher than the figures from the two hospitals.
SHEIKH SAALIQ | AP
NEW DELHI: The music videos began appearing on social media within hours of the announcement by India’s Hindu nationalist-led government that it was stripping statehood from the disputed region of Kashmir that had been in place for decades.
The songs delivered a message to India’s 250 million YouTube users about moving to the Muslim-majority region, buying land there and marrying Kashmiri women.
It’s the latest example of a growing genre in India known as “patriotism pop” — songs flooding social media about nationalism and the country’s burgeoning right-wing ideology.
Earlier songs were limited to the rise of Hindus in India, defeating regional rival Pakistan and hoisting the Indian flag in every household. Now, they include settling in Kashmir — a rugged and beautiful Himalayan region claimed by both Pakistan and India, although both countries control only a portion of it.
On Aug. 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked Kashmir’s decades-old special status that was guaranteed under Article 370 of India’s Constitution and sent thousands of troops to the region. The move has touched off anger in the Indian-controlled region, which has been under a security lockdown that has seen thousands detained to prevent protests there.
One of Modi’s revisions allows anyone to buy land in the territory, which some Kashmiris fear could mean an influx of Hindus who would change the region’s culture and demographics. Critics have likened it to Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories. The patriotic songs are mostly shared on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and the fast-growing app TikTok, which in June had about 120 million active users in India. Despite their low production values, poorly matched lip-synching and repetitive techno beat, many of these soundtracks have gotten millions of hits on YouTube.
The songs are a hit among youthful followers in northern and eastern parts of India, and their creators don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.
Nitesh Singh Nirmal identifies himself as a producer, songwriter and composer for his Rang Music studios in the eastern state of Bihar. A Modi admirer, Nirmal claims to be the first to produce a soundtrack on the revocation of Kashmir’s statehood, completing it in three hours.
The song, “Dhara 370,” or “Article 370,” starts with visuals of an Indian flag fluttering atop New Delhi’s famous Red Fort, followed by old footage of Modi from a previous Independence Day ceremony. The singer thanks Modi and his government for keeping his promise to remove Article 370 from the constitution. The video then cuts to the map of Kashmir, along with words that roughly translate to how Pakistan has lost to India.
The song has gotten more than 1.6 million hits on YouTube since it was posted there by Nirmal, who has no musical background. He said he only found his calling when Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party resoundingly won the 2014 election.
That’s when Nirmal thought he could write songs about nationalism.
“I am doing service for the nation. People dance to these songs,” he says.
Nirmal’s claims about their popularity aren’t far-fetched. TikTok, which lets the user lip-synch to music and make short vines, is flooded with images of Hindu nationalists declaring plans to go to Kashmir and marry women there. Most of the videos have music similar to the kind produced by Nirmal.
In April, TikTok was removed from Android and iPhone app stores after an Indian court ruled it was “encouraging pornography.”
The rising appeal for songs that promote nationalism and talk about reclaiming Kashmir have paved the way for lesser-known artists to join in.
Salman Siddiqui, who is in his 20s and studies science in the state of Uttar Pradesh, wanted to showcase his musical writing prowess and contacted Nirmal. They collaborated on a song about a man who is seeking a Kashmiri bride and wants to be the first to have a wedding procession that travels from India to the region.
Nirmal and Siddiqui insist the songs are not sexist.
“It’s the desire of a young man’s heart to marry a Kashmiri woman,” Siddiqui says.
The idea was boosted Aug. 6 by lawmaker Vikram Saini, who told members of his Bharatiya Janata Party “eager to get married” to go to Kashmir, adding that his party has “no problem with it.”
Critics say the idea of marrying Kashmiri women to “reclaim” the region is rooted in a patriarchy that objectifies and dehumanizes Kashmiris.
Political anthropologist Ather Zia calls this a “fetishization in the Indian imagination.”
Such songs are a “culmination of a toxic misogynistic nationalist thinking that draws validation from humiliating Kashmiri women,” Zia said.
“The Indian media — from news to entertainment — has left no stone unturned in portraying Kashmiri women in the racist trope of ‘coveted fair-skinned ones’ (and) at the same time being helpless and needing saving from their own men — all this while demonizing Kashmiri men,” she said.
Some artists oppose writing such songs, but they say the audience demand is strong.
Singer Nardev Bainiwal, who lives in Haryana state and owns the Jawan Music Co., has a song on Kashmir that got 1.9 million hits on YouTube.
“We write songs about things people want,” Bainiwal says, noting his main audience is from smaller cities and towns in northern India where Internet penetration has picked up in recent years.
Google Trends has shown an increase in Indians using search terms like “marry Kashmiri girl” and “buy land in Kashmir.”
“I am personally against such declarations, but if we don’t make these songs, someone else will and we will lose out on money,” Bainiwal says.
Nirmal says that since he published his song Aug. 5, he has earned nearly $100 for work that cost him about $20 to produce.
He says the key is to keep abreast of the news and gauge the public mood. He has songs ready if India’s Supreme Court allows a Hindu temple be built on a site where hard-liners in 1992 attacked and demolished a 16th century mosque, sparking deadly Hindu-Muslim violence.
“Songs about building of the temple could be my next hit,” he says.
NEW DELHI: Ten opposition parties, including DMK, Trinamool Congress, Left parties, RJD, Samajwadi Party and Congress, staged a protest at Jantar Mantar on Thursday demanding immediate release of political leaders in “illegal detention” in Jammu & Kashmir and restoration of communication systems and normalcy in the state.
Initiated by DMK, the protest saw participation of Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Manish Tewari, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Manickam Tagore, while CPM was represented by its chief Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat. CPI general secretary D Raja, SP leader Ramgopal Yadav, Loktantrik Janata Dal’s Sharad Yadav, RJD's Manoj Jha and TMC’s Dinesh Trivedi were among the others who participated in addition to hosts A Raja, Dayanidhi Maran and TR Baalu.
But there was flutter at the venue in the morning following the arrival of arrested Congress leader P Chidambaram’s son Karti and J&K People’s Movement member Shehla Rashid. Shehla, who had sparked off a controversy with her allegations of human rights violations in J&K, however, did not speak. Even Karti, who was the focus of all media attention a day after his father was taken into custody by CBI in the INX Media case, left without addressing the gathering.
The opposition parties passed a resolution protesting against defanging of Article 370 without consulting the people of J&K and declaring, in effect, an “undeclared Emergency” in the Valley.
GENEVA: Five human rights experts appointed by UN on Thursday called on the Indian government to lift curbs in Kashmir, particularly the “shutdown” of communication network, saying the move would only heighten tension in the region.
In a joint statement, the experts emphasized the need for access to information and said that crackdown on freedom of expression would only heighten tensions in the region. “The shutdown of the Internet and telecommunication networks, without justification from the government, is inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality. The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence,” they said.
They also voiced concern against detentions of political figures and others saying such detentions constitute “serious human rights violations”.
Warning against use of excessive force against protesters in Kashmir, the experts said such a move could amount to violation of the right to life. “India has the responsibility to use minimum force necessary when policing protests. This means that the use of deadly force is a measure permissible only as a last resort and to protect life.”
DUBAI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the $4.2 million redevelopment project of the 200-year-old Lord Sri Krishna temple in the Bahraini capital during his two-day visit to the Gulf nation.
In the first-ever Prime Ministerial visit by India, Modi, who arrives here on Saturday as part of his state visit, will launch the redevelopment of the Shreenathji (Shree Krishna) temple in Manama at a special ceremony. "In Bahrain there would be interactions with the Indian diaspora.
It would be an honour for me to be present at the special ceremony marking the re-development of the temple of Lord Shreenathji, among the oldest temples in the Gulf region," Modi said in a tweet on twitter. Bob Thaker, President of Thattai Hindu Merchant community, said the newly-built structure will have 45,000 square feet in area and will have 80 per cent more capacity to host devotees in terms of space.
• Aug 22, 2019
Replying to @narendramodi
My visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain would be the first ever Prime Ministerial visit to the Kingdom. I look forward to meeting Prime Minister His Royal Highness Prince Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and His Majesty the King of Bahrain Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
In Bahrain there would be interactions with the Indian diaspora. It would be an honour for me to be present at the special ceremony marking the re-development of the temple of Lord Shreenathji, among the oldest temples in the Gulf region
10:08 AM - Aug 22, 2019
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The project also envisages a facility for hosting Hindu weddings, in line with the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority's initiative to make the Kingdom a hub of Indian weddings, the News of Bahrain quoted Thaker as saying.
"There will also be knowledge centre as well as a museum attached to the temple," he said.
Bhagwan Asarpota, a prominent member of the Thattai Hindu Merchants Community, said: "We are fortunate to have the Indian Prime Minister visit the temple amidst its 200th year celebrations."
The prime minister would be meeting King of Bahrain Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and other leaders. "My visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain would be the first ever Prime Ministerial visit to the Kingdom.
I look forward to meeting Prime Minister His Royal Highness Prince Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and His Majesty the King of Bahrain Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa," Modi said in another tweet. He would also meet and interact with the Indian diaspora during the visit.
In UAE, there would be comprehensive talks with His Highness the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The Crown Prince and I would be releasing a stamp to mark Bapu’s 150th Jayanti. The RuPay card will also be launched, which would help many.
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While speaking to ANI about getting trolled on twitter famous lyricist, poet and writer of Bollywood industry, Javed Akhtar said:
“I am being trolled everyday and since last 2-3 days there are lots of hate messages on my twitter because I have made my comment and given my point of view on Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s tweet so some people are upset with me.”
“I get trolled by all Muslim extremists and Hindu extremists but, as long as both the brigades are abusing me I am totally convinced that I am saying something right,” Akhtar added.
Akhtar slammed Khan’s tweet who said that the Modi government is a threat to India’s minorities.
• 18 Aug 2019
The Hindu Supremacist Modi Govt poses a threat to Pakistan as well as to the minorities in India & in fact to the very fabric of Nehru & Gandhi's India. To understand the link between Nazi ideology & the ethnic cleansing & genocide ideology of RSS-BJP Founding Fathers just Google
Dear Mr Imraan Khan , I am deeply touched that you are so worried about the “ very fabric of Nehru n Gandhi ‘ s India “ . By the way it was the same fabric of Nehru n Gandhi ‘ s India that was torn by your Qaid-e- Azam in 1947 . Remember ???
23:33 - 19 Aug 2019
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• 19 Aug 2019
Replying to @ImranKhanPTI
Imraan saheb. I will be ungrateful if I don’t show my gratitude for your concern about the Indian minorities.I can’t imagine,if you care so much for others how compassionate n protective you must be towards the Hindus ,Christians , Ahmadiyas Mohajir n Blochs of your own country
20:27 - 20 Aug 2019
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Pakistan PM Imran Khan to visit Shiv Temple in Sindh, address local Hindus
Islamabad: Facing protests by religious minorities against the grim human rights situation in Pakistan, the country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit a Shiv temple in Sindh's Tharparkar district and address a local Hindu community. Sindh is home to around 90 per cent of Pakistan’s Hindu population.
As per the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the country’s population in the year 2017 stood at 207 million. There was no information on the religious composition of its population in the 2017 census.
However, in the 1998 census, the population of Hindus in Pakistan was 2.1 million, making the community biggest minority group in the country.
However, their dire condition in the country is an open secret. In fact, during his maiden visit to the US after becoming the Prime Minister, Imran Khan had faced protests by ethnic and religious minorities.
As per a report by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan, at least 1,000 girls hailing from Hindu and Christian communities are forced to marry Muslim men in Pakistan every year. The government has failed to take any action against this practice.
In Pakistan, forced conversions of girls belonging to the minority communities is a grave concern. The Sindh Assembly had in November 2016 unanimously passed the Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill 2015 prohibiting forced religious conversions. However, it was withdrawn due to religious parties’ pressure.
On the occasion of National Minority Day in July, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had described the practice of forced conversions as un-Islamic.
"How can we then take it into our own hands to forcefully convert someone to Islam -- either by marrying (non-Muslim) women or on gunpoint or to (by threatening to) kill someone because of their religion?" Khan said.
"All these things are un-Islamic. If God had not given his messengers the power to impose their beliefs on someone, who are we (to do so)?" he had asked.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa met on Thursday and discussed matters of national security and the situation in Kashmir.
This was the Pakistan Army chief's first meeting with Khan since he got a three-year extension of tenure. The extension, announced on Monday, was granted by Prime Minister Khan, citing the "regional security environment."
Gen Bajwa, 58, was set to retire on November 29 on completion of his three-year term but now he would continue to serve as head of the army until November 2022.
The discussions between Prime Minister Khan and Gen Bajwa focused on matters of national security and the situation in Kashmir, The Express Tribune reported.
After India revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status on August 5, Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi.
NEW DELHI: Pakistan faces an uphill battle at the Asia-Pacific Group (APG) for inaction on terrorism finance and money laundering and its poor compliance may keep it on an extended grey list or, as some members said, tip it over into the black list that will bring stiffer restrictions.
Pakistan failed on 10 of the 11 parameters it was assessed on. APG is the regional affiliate of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and its decisions have a large bearing+ on the organisation’s decisions on Pakistan.
At the annual general meeting in Canberra, APG is currently assessing Pakistan’s Mutual Evaluation Report on strengthening anti-money laundering and countering financing terrorism safeguards. APG’s decision will be made public on Friday.
Reza Baqir, governor of Pakistan’s State Bank, is leading a 10-member team to defend Pakistan’s actions. Thus far, Pakistan’s performance on regulation and supervision of its financial sectors has been assessed as poor.
An official statement by the Pakistan finance ministry, however, says “The report does not cover areas in which government of Pakistan has made substantial progress since October 2018”.
A thumbs down at Canberra is not good news for Pakistan as it again puts the spotlight on its inability and even sponsorship of terrorism at a time when it is waging a desperate diplomatic battle against the defanging of J&K’s special status.
At the APG meetings, things don’t look good for Pakistan. It has said it has improved systems and actions on 50 parameters, but the claims have not not yet stood up to scrutiny. Pakistan has also got failing grades in 32 of 40 compliance parameters.
Pakistan has till September to take action on 27 items before the FATF plenary in October. According to reports, Pakistan submitted its compliance report on FATF to the APG as well, which is being assessed. But Pakistan’s non-compliance may make it difficult for APG and FATF to pull Islamabad out of hot water. Despite having “all weather” ally China as the chair of FATF, Pakistan faces a bleak future on terror funding.
LAHORE: Two government hospitals have denied a specialised cardiac ambulance facility for emergency medical cover to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Central Jail.
The Punjab Prisons Department had requested the health higher-ups to provide a fully-equipped ambulance to station it in the Central Jail to shift Nawaz Sharif to any hospital in case of any emergency. The request was submitted on finding that the ambulance made available in the jail is insufficiently equipped.
The health department had been asked for a specialised cardiac ambulance equipped with a defibrillator, cardiac monitor, ventilator and ECG machine. A defibrillator helps save life by giving a high-energy electric shock to the heart of a patient in case of cardiac arrest.
The provision of ‘inadequate’ healthcare to the incarcerated PML-N patron by the Punjab government generated a plenty of controversy, bringing the two political parties – PML-N and PTI – to the verge of collision course. The situation turned unpleasant when the PTI government in Punjab constituted four medical boards within a short span of time for the treatment of Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N said these were delaying tactics that could risk the life of the three-time prime minister.
Another controversy has surfaced after the government hospitals have refused to provide a specialised cardiac ambulance to Sharif “because of heavy burden of medical cover to the VIP, VVIPs and their families.” The claim has also irked the prisons department.
“There is a heavy burden of medical cover to the VIPs, VVIPs, foreign delegations and honorable members of the provincial assembly, and judiciary and their families...,” reads one of the official replies to the health department.
This stance was take up by a government hospital’s medical superintendent while giving response to the official correspondence of the health department (a copy is also available with Dawn). The request was sent to the Punjab Institute of Cardiology and the Services Hospital, Lahore to provide a specialised cardiac ambulance with driver for Sharif.
The medical superintendent of the Services Hospital further wrote to the authorities that his health facility was already facing an acute shortage of ambulances. He said his institute was unable to meet this requirement because it already had handed over three ambulances to the Rescue 1122 in 2017, says a letter.
The MS suggested that the health authorities manage a cardiac ambulance from the Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) to meet the requirement for the high-profile convict.
Earlier, the PIC medical superintendent had refused to provide this critical facility because of shortage of ambulances.
This reporter tried to contact Rescue 1122 Director General Dr Rizwan Naseer but he was not available for comment.
A spokesperson for the Rescue 1122 said Dr Rizwan was out of the country. He claimed that no one had contacted the department (Rescue 1122) to provide ambulance to Nawaz Sharif.
Specialized Health Secretary Momin Ali Agha said the PIC had assigned duties to the medics to ensure treatment of Nawaz Sharif in shifts in the Central Jail. And an ambulance had already been stationed there with drivers available in three shifts, he said.
ISLAMABAD: The opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Thursday issued a “white paper” on the one year performance of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government, alleging that “Pakistan is more unsafe, unstable, more economically vulnerable and internationally weak” since last year’s general elections.
Titled “One Year of Tabahi (destruction)”, the 112-page white paper has declared that the first year of the ‘selected’ government witnessed destructive policies, U-turns, broken promises and dashed hopes.
“And not only its 100-day plan, but also its theatrical plan released after 100 days of its tenure remains incomplete, patchy and just a pipe dream,” says the white paper.
The white paper says that almost all promises made in the manifesto, in the speeches, or pledges to the people remain unfulfilled. “Not only that the PTI is disguising its lies in their characteristic U-turns on every promise ranging from not taking loans, to not going to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to implementing austerity, etc,” it says.
The PPP has also criticised the government for allegedly curbing media freedom, saying that “in order to silence the people, Imran Khan’s one-year achievement is to gag the media, silence the judges, water-cannon citizens daring to protest and persecute the opposition by imprisonment of its leaders. In fact, that is perhaps the only sinister implementation of his promise; of witch hunting the political leaders in the name of accountability”.
The list of the PTI’s failures is increasing by the day and in every sphere ranging from domestic politics, to parliamentary performance, from economy to social policy, from federal politics to local politics, the country is only sliding into mis-governance and chaos, says the white paper issued four days after the first anniversary of the installation of the PTI government.
The lower and middle classes have been forced into abject poverty, unemployment and an ever-growing burden of rising fuel, utilities and basic food items’ prices has spread despondency and depression among the people.
It says that the PTI’s policy of giving amnesty to the rich and imposing taxes on the poor and middle classes has delivered the exact opposite of the promise.
It says that a report by a UN commission has put Pakistan’s GDP growth at 4.2 per cent in 2019 and four per cent in 2020 compared to Bangladesh’s 7.3pc, India’s 7.5pc and the Maldives’ and Nepal’s 6.5pc each in 2019.
The PPP has termed the PTI’s slogan of “austerity an eyewash”, saying that the budgeted expenditures have witnessed Rs449 billion surge despite the adoption of austerity measures by the government.
Under the PTI government, it says, inflation has skyrocketed to over 10pc, the highest in five years, and foreign direct investment dropped significantly, and thus, there was no choice but to approach the IMF for a bailout.
According to the State Bank of Pakistan, the country’s public debt increased to Rs27.1 trillion by the end of January 2019, that is, an increase of Rs2.4 trillion in just five months since August 2018. This more than doubles the rate of increase in the public debt recorded during the tenure of the previous PML-N government, it adds.
“If the impact of devaluation of the rupee is added, and the increase in interest rate, then the overall impact on debt burden is more than Rs7.2 trillion, which is the largest that any previous government has borrowed,” it says.
In one year, the rupee lost nearly 25pc of its value from Rs125 to Rs160. “This has added to the overall debt burden of Pakistan. The devaluation was haphazard and ad hoc, leading to economic instability in the country.”
The white paper says that with the third political transition, one expected some political stability in the country, “but Imran Khan’s aggressive political sloganeering, and his fake rhetoric accountability increasingly led to conversion of Pakistani power into a fascist one. While on the one hand the opposition was being witch hunted, government’s own corrupt in the ranks were protected making National Accountability Bureau (NAB) actions controversial”.
“Under the garb of accountability, the PTI government is making an absolute mockery of the growing democracy in Pakistan and is targeting its political rivals presenting itself as a classic/de facto martial law regime. Two former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi are in jail and one former president Asif Zardari is in jail,” it says.
The PPP also lashed out at the government for “targeting women leaders”.
Prime Minister Imran Khan will represent Pakistan at the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September as his General Debate speech has been scheduled for September 27.
The premier will embark on a four-day US visit on September 23, where he will meet important world leaders, including Malaysian premier Mahathir Bin Mohamad, on the sidelines of the session.
The premier will also hold meetings with members of the Pakistani community in the US.
A day earlier, PM Imran directed his party workers and leaders to protest in New York during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to the United States to attend the UNGA meeting.
He issued these directives during a meeting with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Overseas Secretary General Dr Abdullah Riaz. The premier told him to ensure that a historic demonstration is staged against Indian aggression and state terrorism in IOK. For this purpose, he said, people from human rights organisations should be gathered so that a strong message can be sent to the world.
He said that the Indian government was constantly violating human rights in the occupied valley. He also said that the Indian government had no justification for annexing Kashmir forcefully as it was in violation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday drew attention to the plight of the Kashmiri people living under Indian occupation as the world marked International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief in a first.
In a series of tweets, the premier urged the world to play its role in preventing an impending genocide of Kashmiris in occupied Kashmir.
• 22 Aug 2019
Today, on the 1st International Day for Victims of Violence based on Religion or Belief, we call attention to the plight of millions of Kashmiris living under brutal Indian Occupation, abuse & violence, deprived of all fundamental rights & freedoms.
The Indian Occupation Forces have even denied them their right to observe their religious practices, including Eid ul Azha.
As the world shows solidarity for victims of violence based on religion & belief, it must also move to prevent an impending genocide of Kashmiris in IOK.
10:46 - 22 Aug 2019
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“Today, on the 1st International Day for Victims of Violence based on Religion or Belief, we call attention to the plight of millions of Kashmiris living under brutal Indian Occupation, abuse & violence, deprived of all fundamental rights & freedoms,” he wrote.
“The Indian Occupation Forces have even denied them their right to observe their religious practices, including Eid ul Azha. As the world shows solidarity for victims of violence based on religion & belief, it must also move to prevent an impending genocide of Kashmiris in IOK.”
The United Nations marked August 22 as the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, in a breakthrough move for global recognition that violence against people based on their faith is a serious and growing problem.
India, on August 5, abolished Article 370, which granted special status to occupied Kashmir, as tensions mounted in the disputed valley with unprecedented numbers of Indian troops deployed in the region. The move by Narendra Modi’s government rescinded years of autonomy and gave full control of the disputed region to New Delhi.
WASHINGTON: US secretary of defense Mark Esper has confirmed the death of Hamza bin Laden, the son and designated heir of Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.
"That's my understanding," Esper said in an interview late Wednesday with Fox News, when asked if Hamza bin Laden was dead.
"I don't have the details on that. And if I did I'm not sure how much I could share with you," he added.
US media reported at the beginning of August that bin Laden was killed during the last two years in an operation that involved the United States, citing US intelligence officials.
But President Donald Trump and other senior officials have refused to confirm or deny it publicly.
"I don't want to comment on it," Trump told reporters when asked.
The 15th of Osama bin Laden's 20 children and a son of his third wife, Hamza, thought to be about 30 years old, was "emerging as a leader in the Al-Qaeda franchise," the state department said in announcing the reward.
Sometimes dubbed the "crown prince of jihad," he had put out audio and video messages calling for attacks on the United States and other countries, especially to avenge his father's killing by US forces in Pakistan in May 2011, the department said.
That work made him important in attracting a new generation of followers to the extremist group which carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US which left nearly 3,000 dead.
His father's death in 2011 and the rise of the more virulent Islamic State group saw Al-Qaeda lose currency with younger jihadists, but the group appears to have been plotting a stealthy comeback under leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
UN says Myanmar uses sexual violence as weapon of war
A UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar said Thursday that the military's use of rape and other forms of sexual violence is so routine it "reflects a widespread culture of tolerance towards humiliation."
The mission said in its 61-page report that Myanmar's military must end the practice, which it said is employed to terrorize ethnic minorities in multiple states.
It found that in Rakhine state, home to the country's Rohingya Muslim minority, the practice of employing sexual violence was so widespread during what the government called "clearance operations" in 2017 that it was a factor in determining Myanmar's intent to commit genocide against the ethnic group.
"The international community must hold the Myanmar military to account for the tremendous pain and suffering it has inflicted on persons of all genders across the country,” the mission's chair, Marzuki Darusman said in a statement.
The report is based on interviews with hundreds of survivors and witnesses of the ongoing operations in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states.
It determined that the military's use of sexual violence could only be attributed to "part of a deliberate, well-planned strategy to intimidate, terrorise and punish a civilian population and force them to flee."
"The Mission concluded on reasonable grounds that the acts constituted crimes against humanity, war crimes, and underlying acts of genocide accompanied by inferences of genocidal intent," the report's authors wrote in a report that used British spelling.
Women and girls were targeted in the majority of assaults cataloged by the report. In addition to being beaten, burned with cigarettes and cut with knives, the report says Myanmar's military, known as the Tatmadaw, raped and held women and girls as sexual slaves on military bases.
Men and boys were also raped, sexually tortured and forced to be nude, according to the report.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women, and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.
By Ryan Browne
(CNN)Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Wednesday that ISIS was not "in a resurgent state in Syria" despite a Pentagon inspector general report saying the terror group is re-surging in that country.
"I don't agree that ISIS is in a resurgent state in Syria, but that doesn't mean we haven't seen them spring up in places like Afghanistan," Esper said in an interview with Fox News, his first since becoming Defense secretary.
His comments appear to be at odds with a report from the Pentagon's Office of the Inspector General published earlier this month, which said ISIS was "re-surging" in Syria following President Donald Trump's decision to reduce troops there.
"Despite losing its territorial 'caliphate,' the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq and was re-surging in Syria," the report said.
Trump initially sought to withdraw all US troops from Syria but later opted to keep a residual force in place.
At the height of the anti-ISIS campaign the US had just under 3,000 troops in Syria. Those numbers have been reduced by more than half, according to officials.
The report said that reduction had made it harder for the US to advise America's local allies including the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces who have led the fight on the ground.
The Afghanistan branch of ISIS also continues to pose a threat, claiming responsibility for a recent terrorist attack on a wedding in Kabul that killed dozens.
Trump on Wednesday called on other countries to take a greater responsibility in combating ISIS.
"At a certain point all of these other countries where ISIS is around ... all of the countries are gonna have to fight 'em. Because do we want to stay there for another 19 years? I don't think so," Trump told reporters on the White House lawn. The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, less than 18 years ago.
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump Wednesday appeared to rule out sending the thousands of ISIS foreign fighters currently being detained by US allies in Syria to the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying that the ISIS detainees should be repatriated to their countries of origin.
"We're going to tell them and we've already told them take these prisoners that we've captured because the United States is not going to put them in Guantanamo for the next 50 years and pay for it," Trump told reporters on the White House lawn.
Trump's statement represents a shift from comments he made previously after he signed an executive memorandum which raised the prospect of sending ISIS fighters there.
"I am asking Congress to ensure that in the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists wherever we chase them down, wherever we find them. And in many cases for them it will now be Guantanamo Bay," Trump said at his State of the Union address in January.
Also Wednesday, Trump repeated a threat to "release" ISIS fighters back to their country of origin.
"We're holding thousands of ISIS fighters right now and Europe has to take them and if Europe doesn't take them, I'll have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came which is Germany and France and other places," Trump said.
Asked what his deadline was for Europeans to take back their citizens, Trump said the deadline "was moving along" and that the Europeans "know" what his deadline is, but declined to offer specifics.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are currently holding more than 2,000 foreign ISIS fighters from over 50 countries in makeshift detention facilities in addition to some 8,000 Syrian and Iraqi prisoners.
The US has repatriated several of its own citizens but has had limited success in encouraging other countries to take back and prosecute their citizens.
State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus on Wednesday announced new rewards for information leading to the identification or location three ISIS leaders -- Amir Muhammad Sa'id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla, Sami Jasim Muhammad al-Jaburi and Mu'taz Numan 'Abd Nayif Najm al-Jaburi.
Trump to discuss Kashmir, human rights with Modi at G7 Summit in France
WASHINGTON DC: US President Donald Trump plans to hold discussions on Kashmir and human rights with Prime Minister Narendra Modi this weekend at the G7 summit in Biarritz.
A senior administration official who briefed reporters on Trump's agenda for the upcoming summit on Saturday said the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan are expected to come up.
"President Trump will likely want to hear from Prime Minister Modi on how he plans to reduce regional tensions and uphold respect for human rights in Kashmir," the official said.
After a brief conversation with Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan on Tuesday, the US President once again offered his proposal to mediate on Kashmir, despite making it clear before that the ongoing dispute in the region should be resolved bilaterally by India and Pakistan.
Ramping up rhetoric against India, Pakistan is endlessly trying to involve the international community in the wake of New Delhi's historic decision to change the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir. This move comes despite the latter's, time and again, reiteration that the matter is strictly "internal" to the country.
Following the initial quashing of his plans on mediation by New Delhi, Trump had reaffirmed his position that Kashmir remains a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.
However, adhering to Khan's request on Tuesday, the US President changed his stance and offered to mediate on the issue once again.
Calling Kashmir a "complicated situation", Trump said, "A lot has to do with religion. You have the Hindus, and you have the Muslims. This has been going on for decades."
"The president is also calling for Pakistan to prevent cross-border infiltration across the Line of Control and stop groups based on its soil that have attacked India in the past," the official added.
Tensions have simmered between India and Pakistan following the BJP-led Centre's decision to revoke Article 370 that guaranteed special status to Jammu and Kashmir. In addition, the Indian Parliament also passed a 'Reorganisation' bill that divided the region into Jammu and Kashmir--with a legislature and Ladakh-without a legislature.
Rattled by India's move, Pakistan, last week, sent its Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to China to seek its help at the United Nations Security Council, urging it to call an emergency meeting on the issue. However, four out of five permanent members in the United Nations did not support Pakistan contentions over India's decision.
India, time and again, has also stated that Jammu and Kashmir is "entirely an internal matter" of the country and all steps were taken keeping in mind the bright future of people of the region.
The United States has welcomed Paraguay’s decision to designate Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist organisations, describing it as an important step to cut funding and support for such groups in the western hemisphere.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington commended Paraguay "for designating Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Hamas as terrorist organisations”.
“This important step will help cut off the ability of these groups to plot terrorist attacks and to raise money around the world, including in the Western Hemisphere,” Mr Pompeo said.
He said the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah was “not a defender of Lebanon as it purports to be, but a terrorist organisation dedicated to advancing Iran’s malicious agenda” and compared it to Al Qaeda and ISIS in its global reach and ability to plot attacks in the Americas, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
The Iran-backed group is accused of involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering operations in South America to fund its activities in the Middle East, such as its military support for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
According to the US Drug Enforcement Agency, Hezbollah has established business links with South American drug cartels that supply cocaine to the European and the US and then launder the earnings.
El Presidente de la República @MaritoAbdo, resolvió a través del Decreto Nº 2.307 reconocer la designación como organización terrorista global a ISIS y Al Qaeda y como organización terrorista internacional a Hamás y Hezbollah. Lo anunció el ministro de @minteriorpy
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7:39 PM - Aug 19, 2019
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Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez is of Lebanese descent. His decision on Monday to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation put his country alongside others that have taken similar action including Argentina, Kosovo, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, as well as the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League.
The European Union designated Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organisation in 2013 but has so far refrained from adding the political wing to that list.
Paraguay has for years been a key hub of Hezbollah’s illicit finance operations, according to Emanuel Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies. Over the course of four decades, the terrorist organisation built extensive infrastructure in the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay," Mr Ottolenghi wrote in a briefing on the Paraguayan decision.
Meanwhile, Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls Gaza, decried Paraguay’s decision on Thursday.
The US State Department is offering $5 million per head for information leading to the capture of three prominent ISIS deputies.
The Dh11.7m bounty, part of the US Rewards for Justice programme compensating sources for information, was announced on Wednesday and applies to ISIS leaders Amir Muhammad Said Abdal-Rahman Al Mawla, Sami Jasim Muhammad Al Jaburi, and Mu‘taz Numan ‘Abd Nayif Najm Al Jaburi.
Al Mawla, also known as Hajji Abdullah, is listed by the State Department as a religious scholar who was formerly a member of Al Qaeda in Iraq. He has risen through the ranks to become a potential successor to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.
Both the Al Jaburis hold important positions within ISIS, the US said.
Rewards for Justice
REWARD!! Up to $5 million for information on ISIS key leaders Hajji 'Abdallah, Hajji Hamid and Hajji Taysir. Justice never sleeps, and never stops looking for ISIS terrorists. If you have information ISIS, please submit a tip. 100% confidential. http://www.rewardsforjustice.net #RFJ
1:28 AM - Aug 22, 2019
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“As ISIS is defeated on the battlefield, we are determined to identify and find the group’s leaders so that the global coalition of nations fighting to defeat ISIS can continue to destroy ISIS remnants and thwart its global ambitions," a statement on the Rewards For Justice website read.
The offer of cash for tips on the whereabouts of extremists is not uncommon, but the timing of this latest announcement shows ISIS is still a priority for the US government, according to Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "has been talking a bit about the dangers of a resurgence of ISIS, which shows the US is still attuned to and aware of this problem," he said. "The decision to offer cash incentives is a way to stimulate a reaction.”
The State Department says it has awarded over $150 million to more than 100 people who provided actionable information that helped bring terrorists to justice or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide since 1984. However, the world is unlikely to hear if cash is handed out to those to turn in the any of the three ISIS leaders, says Mr Pantucci.
"If it is claimed it's often not reported. If you're the guy who handed Osama Bin Laden in, you're not really going to broadcast that to the world, you're going to go into hiding and the government is going to help you do that,” he said, adding that the US government is not likely to publicise any new sources who could still hold information.
Even if the bounty doesn’t bring in actionable information, it can serve to curb the activities of the wanted people, especially as ISIS no longer controls any territory.
“Let's say they were hiding in some Syrian or Iraqi city; they need to think carefully about that because everyone they come into contact with could potentially know there is a $5m bounty on their head,” said Mr Pantucci.
ISIS replacing Taliban as biggest threat to peace in Afghanistan while rebounding in Iraq and Syria
by Jamie McIntyre
THE VIRULENCE OF ISIS: A pair of congressionally mandated Pentagon reports out this month paint a sobering picture of brutal Islamic State fighters who have been disrupted but not defeated and are on the rise in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
The latest report from the Department of Defense’s lead inspector general — delivered to Congress Friday and released publicly yesterday — covers U.S. counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and concludes that ISIS’ Afghan offshoot remains “a significant threat.”
Apart from the NATO-led Resolute Support mission, which aims to build up Afghan government forces fighting the Taliban, the United States has a separate mission dubbed “Freedom’s Sentinel,” which uses U.S. Special Operations Forces and “partner forces” to launch unilateral operations against al Qaeda and increasingly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – Khorasan or ISIS-K.
“[W]hile these operations have disrupted ISIS-K, the terrorist group will remain an enduring threat in Afghanistan, even if the Afghan government and the Taliban reach a political settlement,” the report concludes.
ISIS IN TRANSITION: A separate report from the same independent watchdog, released Aug. 6, reached a similar conclusion about the growing threat from ISIS in its birthplace in the Middle East and its continuing campaign of terror, which includes carrying out assassinations, suicide attacks, abductions, and arson of crops in Iraq and Syria.
“Despite the loss of physical territory, thousands of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria and are carrying out attacks and working to rebuild their capabilities,” writes lead Inspector General Glenn Fine. “ISIS remains a threat in Iraq and Syria. This quarter, ISIS continued its transition from a territory-holding force to an insurgency in Syria, and it intensified its insurgency in Iraq.”
POMPEO: ‘IT’S COMPLICATED’: “What we’ve always said is the caliphate’s been gone and that there’s always risk that there’ll be a resurgence, not just from ISIS. There’s risk from al Qaeda, other radical Islamic terrorist groups,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview yesterday on CBS This Morning.
Asked directly by host Gayle King if ISIS is gaining strength, despite his previous comments that ISIS is “done and done,” Pompeo replied, “It’s complicated.”
“There are certainly places where ISIS is more powerful today than they were three or four years ago, but the caliphate is gone and their capacity to conduct external attacks has been made much more difficult,” Pompeo said. “We’ve taken down significant risk — not all of it, but a significant amount. And we’re very pleased with the work that we’ve done.”
HIGH ANXIETY: As the United States gets closer to sealing a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, more of President Trump’s backers in Congress are warning of the perils of a premature pullout and “capitulation” to the terrorist group.
“We should not withdraw U.S. forces based on a political timetable that grants concessions to the Taliban and allows the terrorists to maintain safe havens from which they can plan and train for future attacks in the West. We cannot accept a deal that places America’s security in the hands of the Taliban,” writes Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney in an op-ed in the Washington Post.
“Agreeing to such a deal would not be ending a war, it would be losing it — to al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Islamic State,” Cheney argues, echoing concerns of other Republicans, including South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“Given the Taliban’s sordid history and ongoing violence, it strains credulity to believe it can be a partner for peace. The American people deserve to see the full text of any agreement the State Department is negotiating, including supposed counterterrorism assurances. If we are putting our security in the hands of the enemy who harbored al-Qaeda before the 9/11 attacks, the American people deserve to know why,” Cheney writes.
TRUMP: AFGHANISTAN IS ‘THE HARVARD UNIVERSITY OF TERRORISM’: In his media availability with Romania’s president yesterday, Trump indicated that he doesn’t fully trust either side in Afghanistan and made clear he’s anxious to get most U.S. troops out of the country.
“We've been a peacekeeper there in a way for 19 years, and at a certain point, you have to say that's long enough. I go to Walter Reed and I see young men that step on a bomb and they lose their legs, they lose their arms. In some case, they lose both and their face on top of it and they're living,” Trump said, while at the same time appearing to concede that a complete U.S. withdrawal could lead to a Taliban takeover.
“Well, that's what we have to watch. And we'll always have intelligence, and we'll always have somebody there,” Trump said, “but that does seem to be the Harvard University of terrorism, OK. It seems to be. And we'll always have somebody there.”
“Right now, what we're doing is we're negotiating with the government and we're negotiating with the Taliban and we'll see what happens from it, what's coming from it. I will say this: The Taliban would like to stop fighting us,” he said.
Asked if the Taliban can be trusted to hold up its side of any peace deal, Trump replied, “Nobody can be trusted. Nobody can be trusted. In my world — in this world, I think nobody can be trusted.”
SEALING THE DEAL: Meanwhile, fresh from briefing President Trump last Friday, U.S. special representative Zalmay Khalilzad tweets that he is “back on the road again” to try to seal the deal with the Taliban. “First stop Doha where we will try and close on remaining issues. We’re ready. Let’s see if the Taliban are as well.”
Good Wednesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Kelly Jane Torrance (@kjtorrance). Email us here for tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.
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HAPPENING TODAY: Another DoD IG report, released last month, is the subject of a 10 a.m. media teleconference by Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher. The heavily redacted declassified July 26 report uncovered $33 million worth of purchases by Army and Air Force personnel in 2018 in Chinese electronics, including household name brands like Lexmark, GoPro, and Lenovo, that are already banned by other federal agencies and open the door to hacks and spying of military personnel and facilities.
Gallagher will be joined by Roslyn Layton, co-creator of ChinaTechThreat.com, visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and visiting researcher at Aalborg University.
HAPPENING TOMORROW: The Navy gets a new top officer tomorrow when Adm. Michael Gilday assumes command from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, who is retiring. The ceremony at the Washington Naval Yard is scheduled for 10 a.m.
TRUMP WANTS RUSSIA BACK IN THE G7: President Trump says it’s time to let Russia back into the club of major industrialized nations known as the Group of 7. It was the Group of 8 until Russia was kicked out for its annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine in 2014.
In Trump’s version of history, President Barack Obama orchestrated Russia’s exit because Vladimir Putin “outsmarted” him in Ukraine.
“President Obama didn't want Russia in because he got outsmarted. Well, that's not the way it really should work,” Trump said. “I think it's much more appropriate to have Russia in. It should be the G8 because a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia. So I could certainly see it being the G8 again, and if somebody would make that motion, I would certainly be disposed to think about it very favorably.”
Trump will be attending the annual G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, this weekend, along with leaders from France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
NOTHING TO TALK ABOUT: Despite saying his desire to acquire Greenland from Denmark was “not number one on the burner,” Trump announced on Twitter yesterday he’s postponing a planned meeting with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen because she’s not willing to deal away the strategic territory.
"Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time," Trump tweeted Tuesday.
"The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct. I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!"
COUNTDOWN CLOCK IS TICKING: The United States may have withdrawn from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but it still expects Tehran to comply with key provisions. That was the message Secretary of State Pompeo delivered to the United Nations Security Council yesterday.
“We are already tracking very closely the JCPOA provisions expiring in October of 2020, namely the U.N. arms embargo and the travel restrictions on Qasem Soleimani,” Pompeo said in New York, referring to the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force. “The whole world is able to track them, too. We now have a countdown clock on the State Department’s Iran webpage. Time is drawing short to continue this activity of restricting Iran’s capacity to foment its terror regime.“
The United States says Western allies have 15 months to unify against Iran before the regime is free to buy and sell weapons under the 2015 nuclear deal.
‘BEST OF BREED’: Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy says that for the United States to prevail over adversaries such as China and Russia, the Army can't just be better than a single competitor, it needs to be the best overall, and that requires cloud computing.
"We emphasize the long-term pacing threat is China, so the capabilities you try to develop, the way you fight, I refer to it as 'best of breed,'" McCarthy told reporters during a roundtable discussion yesterday. "You need to be good enough to beat everybody, not just A or B."
The military has struggled to upgrade its decades-old computer systems to the cloud, which allows software and apps to run on networks instead of local computers. Cloud computing is expected to not only help the military run more efficiently but be a requirement for many of the technologies it wants to adopt in the future.
MARINE F-35 NOTCHES ANOTHER SUCCESS: The Marine Corps says an F-35 deployed on the USS Wasp successfully rehearsed a combat air patrol and fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile as part of the exercise.
“This execution marked the first operational F-35B live-fire of the AIM-9X missile in the Indo-Pacific region while conducting blue-water flight operations,” said a statement from the Marine Corps. The missile was fired and flares dispensed out of an MV-22B Osprey.
"Our successful live-fire employment of the AIM-9X further exemplifies our preparedness to 'fight and win' against any adversary in any arena," said Col. Robert Brodie, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit commanding officer.
Empty buses in Bangladesh as no Rohingya turn up for repatriation
by Faisal Mahmud
Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh - Ambia is crying as she holds her one-year-old daughter on her lap outside their makeshift shelter in Cox's Bazar's Shalbagan camp for Rohingya refugees.
"If we go back there, we will die," she said on Thursday, visibly reluctant to share her last name. "They have killed our families. We don't know what lies there."
At the neighbouring Leda camp, Sultan Ali looked agitated. "I would rather commit suicide than go back to Myanmar," he said.
Ambia and Ali were among nearly 3,500 Rohingya in Bangladesh who refused a United Nations-led bid to repatriate them to Myanmar over safety concerns.
The refugees were cleared for repatriation following a joint exercise led by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Bangladesh government.
Officials working in Cox's Bazar, which hosts one of the largest refugee camps in the world, said no Rohingya turned up to embark on the buses and trucks they had arranged for the exercise.
Bangladesh refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam told Al Jazeera that no refugee wanted to go back voluntarily.
"We can't and didn't force them to go back," he said. "Repatriation to their own home country was completely up to the refugees and they clearly weren't convinced enough."
In 2017, nearly 740,000 Muslim-majority Rohingya fled what the UN called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing" by Myanmar's military in the Rakhine state.
Bangladesh was already hosting some 200,000 Rohingya when the 2017 exodus began. Sunday marks the second anniversary of the crackdown.
Myanmar refuses to recognise the Rohingya as an ethnic group and denies them citizenship, rendering them stateless.
The latest attempt to send them to Myanmar was made after a previous one failed in November last year.
Five main demands
Ali and others at the refugee camps held a paper which they said contained five of their main demands. The first is the right to be called a Rohingya.
"They [people in Myanmar] don't even call us by our identity. How can we go back there?" Ali asked.
The other four demands included full citizenship of Myanmar, safety and security after repatriation, the return of their homes and lands lost in the conflict, and justice for the crimes committed against them.
"We will go back only if we are granted full citizenship," said 35-year-old Farhana Begum, who has two children. "At least we have shelter here."
Farhana said she feared her family would be killed if they returned to Myanmar.
"We need a real guarantee of citizenship, security and promise of original homelands. So we must talk with the Myanmar government about this before repatriation," Rohingya leader Muhammad Islam said.
"As you can see that we have no one to repatriate, so we are closing our day's operation," Kalam told Al Jazeera while sitting at his office inside the Kutupalong camp, the largest Rohingya settlement in Cox's Bazar.
The UNHCR said it respects the decision of the refugees and will continue to work towards building trust among them.
"Over the past few days, together with Bangladeshi officials, UNHCR has visited refugee families in their shelters to establish whether they wish to return to Myanmar. So far, none of those interviewed have indicated a willingness to repatriate at this time," the UN body said in a statement.
Delwar Hossain, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University, told Al Jazeera that it is natural for the Rohingya refugees to refuse to go back.
Musammat Aktara still shivers in shock recalling the day when she saw the body of her husband for one last time in Bonbari village in northwest Bangladesh’s Thakurgaon district in May 2015.
Abdur Razzak’s body was horribly mutilated with a gunshot wound in his back and brutal cut marks on his head, hands, legs and genitalia.
Out of extreme shock and fear, Aktara fainted. By the time she had regained her senses, her husband’s funeral and burial had been completed.
A local magistrate, accompanied by policemen, delivered Razzak’s body. He warned the family to keep silent and forget about the tragedy, let alone seek justice and compensation.
Bonbari village sits a few kilometers from the huge barbed-wire border fence that separates Muslim-majority Bangladesh from Hindu-majority India.
Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers tortured and shot dead Razzak, a Muslim father of four daughters, on the other side of the fence, Bangladeshi border officials and media confirmed.
Once illiterate and impoverished, Razzak made good profits by smuggling cattle from India to Bangladesh for years. He bought land and built a brick house, much to the envy of his neighbors.
In India, the cow is considered a sacred animal, but it is slaughtered for food in Bangladesh. Cattle in Bangladesh fetch up to five times more money than in India.
However, cattle smuggling along the border has almost stopped since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in India in 2014 and the government imposed stricter measures to halt the practice.
Since Razzak’s death, his eldest daughter and her husband have been staying with Aktara to support the family.
“Allah has been taking care of us. We have some land and we live by cultivating it,” Aktara told ucanews.com. “We don’t hope for justice. People said that if we wanted justice, we would have to spend a lot of money. We don’t have money, so we don’t expect justice.”
Hundreds of mostly Bangladeshi villagers, including children, from remote, undeveloped and impoverished border areas have been killed and abused by the BSF, according to rights groups.
Bangladesh is bordered by giant neighbor India from the east, west and north. Both countries share 4,097 kilometers of border including about 1,116 kilometers that run through rivers jointly shared by India and Bangladesh.
In 1947, present-day Bangladesh became part of Pakistan through British partition of India along religious lines. Bangladesh became a sovereign state after the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan with support from India.
The Bangladesh-India border was fenceless and peaceful until the 1980s. The situation changed after a mass movement in the Indian state of Assam from 1979-85 against alleged illegal immigrants from Bangladesh by the majority Assamese people.
India began building the fence to stop illegal immigration, smuggling and alleged infiltration by members of separatist and extremist outfits. BSF soldiers also adopted a shoot-to-kill policy toward anyone who tried to get close to the fence.
In 2010, New York-based Human Rights Watch termed the BSF a “trigger-happy” force and accused it of killing more than 1,000 people, mostly unarmed Bangladeshis, along the border in the previous decade.
Odhikar, a Dhaka-based rights group, recorded 1,114 killings of Bangladeshi people by the BSF from 2000-18.
Father Anthony Sen, parish priest of Queen of Fatima Catholic Church in Thakurgaon district, said border killings are frustrating and unacceptable.
“In border villages people resort to smuggling because they are poor, and it leads to killings and abuses by Indian border guards. No way we can accept shooting down people even if they are criminals,” said Father Sen, convener of the Justice and Peace Commission in Dinajpur Diocese.
The shooting of Bangladeshi civilians shows the intolerance of BSF soldiers and the “bullying big brother” attitude of India, the priest said.
“Cattle smuggling recently declined, and an agreement to stop border killings has been signed between Bangladeshi and Indian border guards, but killings continue. This is utter disrespect for the human rights of Bangladeshi people,” Father Sen added.
Strong criticism over border killings at home and abroad has forced Indian authorities to order the BSF to practice restraint in border control.
In 2018, a total of 15 Bangladeshi people were reportedly killed at the Indian border, with 20 dying in the first six months of 2019, according to Ain-O-Salish Kendra (ASK), a Dhaka-based rights body.
“We wonder why border killings and abuses continue despite bilateral discussions and diplomatic pressure. Either a gap in the discussions or Bangladesh’s ‘subdued state policy’ toward India should be blamed for it,” Jyotirmoy Barua, a Supreme Court lawyer and human rights activist in Dhaka, told ucanews.com.
“For the brutalities at the border, Bangladesh can easily seek justice from the International Criminal Court [ICC], but it will never happen because the country wants to maintain good relations with India at any cost.”
During a recent meeting with Bangladeshi Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah said 80 percent of the border fence had been constructed and it is expected to be completed early next year.
Once India finishes the project, the fence will be longer than the U.S.-Mexico border fence, Israel-Palestine wall and former Berlin wall put together.
Analysts point out that the fence and shoot-on-sight policy have been “largely ineffective” in keeping out illegal immigrants and criminals.
As long as an economic imbalance exists between India and Bangladesh, it will be difficult to stop border trespassing, according to Lt. Col. Samiullah Nabi Chowdhury, commander of the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) battalion in Thakurgaon.
“Supply and demand theory can apply, and often a lack of force to control the large border zone triggers crimes including smuggling and illegal immigration. We keep a close connection with Indian border guards, conduct joint patrolling and motivate people, yet intrusion takes place and people get killed,” Chowdhury told ucanews.com.
Sometimes border villagers adopt smuggling as a profession, while some people marry on the other side of the border to ease smuggling, he pointed out.
“BSF officers have told us several times that they shoot when they think they are outnumbered by criminals such as smugglers. The problem is that in most cases Bangladeshi people become victims whereas Indians are also involved,” Chowdhury said.
Since 2014, the BGB in Thakurgaon has been running a pilot project, Alikito Simanto (Enlightened Border), to offer border villagers livelihood schemes including cattle rearing, honey bee farming and mushroom cultivation.
22 Aug 2019
The Afghan government reacted to artillery shelling from the other side of Durand Line on the Afghan soil.
Presidential spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi said “Government of Afghanistan strongly condemns Pakistan’s recent missile shelling onto the Afghan soil.”
Sediqqi further added “We believe this act runs counter to all international principles and is an indication of Pakistan’s lack of commitment towards Afghan, and regional peace and instability.”
The local officials in Kunar have said the Pakistani military have fired hundreds of rounds of artillery shells on various districts of the province during the recent days.
Kunar governor Abdul Satar Mirzakwal has said the shells landed in Dangam, Shaltan and Nari districts of Kunar in the past three days.
The Special Forces conducted various airstrikes and special operations across the country in the past 24 hours killing at least 14 Taliban militants and destroying multiple caches of weapons.
The informed military sources said Thursday that the Afghan Special Forces destroyed a weapons cache of Taliban during a raid in Kharwar district of Logar.
The sources further added that the Special Forces destroyed another weapons cache and killed 2 Taliban militants during a similar raid in Baraki Barak district of Logar.
Furthermore, the security forces conducted multiple airstrikes in Ghazni district of Ghazni province which killed 6 Taliban militants and destroyed a large cache of weapons.
The Special Forces also conducted separate operations in Pusht-e Rod district of Farah and Almar district of Faryab killing a Taliban militant and destroying a weapons cache.
Meanwhile, an airstrike destroyed a small weapons cache in Maiwand district of Helmand and a similar raid killed a Taliban fighter in Kajaki district of Helmand.
The Special Forces conducted night raids in Ghazni province on Wednesday triggering heavy clashes which continued until 1:30 am on Thursday.
The Provincial Governor’s Office said in a statement that the Special Forces conducted the raids in Nogha, Qarabaghi and Dagha areas located in the outskirts of Ghazni city, close to Gabru area of Andar district.
The statement further added that the Special Forces killed 21 Taliban militants including Qari Esmat alias Saif-ul-Jihad, the shadow economic commission chief of Taliban.
Furthermore, the Ghazni Govenror’s Office said the security forces and local residents did not suffer casualties during the operations.
The Special Forces also confiscated 8 motorcycles and various weapons and munitions during the operations.
An airstrike killed a Taliban commander and his comrades in western Farah province of Afghanistan, the Special Operations Corps said.
According to a statement released by Special Operations, the security forces conducted the airstrike in Todanak area of Bala Bolok district.
The statement further added that the airstrike killed Hafiz Qudrat, one of the commanders of Taliban in Farah province.
Furthermore, the Special Operations Corps said the airstrike also killed five comrades fo Hafiz Qudrat.
Selangor mufti: Motorcycle ride-sharing services ‘un-Islamic’, as men and women ride together
BY IDA LIM
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 — The act of two individuals of opposite genders and without family ties riding on the same motorcycle is an “unIslamic” act, the Selangor mufti reportedly claimed today.
Datuk Mohd Tamyes Abd Wahid said that two male and female individuals who are not mahram — either family members or relatives forbidden from marrying each other — riding together on a motorcycle could lead to accusations, and that it would be better not to have ride-sharing service Go-Jek to avoid such defamatory accusations.
“Not suitable, male and female who are not [mahram] riding the same motorcycle. Maybe the motorcyclist is male and the passenger is female or vice versa. Why must there be such a situation?
“That situation is clearly not Islamic and not polite. Two who are not [mahram] riding a motorcycle, it is not allowed,” he was quoted as saying by Sinar Harian.
He was commenting on the government’s agreement in principle yesterday for motorcycle ride-sharing services in Malaysia.
The Islamic religious leader was also reported suggesting that the federal government could possibly think of other measures.
Go-Jek is an Indonesian company that offers popular ride-sharing services on motorcycles in its home country, which has the world’s largest Muslim population. It has also expanded to Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Go-Jek may not be the only one that could be eyeing business opportunities in Malaysia, as e-hailing firm Grab today also sought Malaysians’ opinions on if it were to provide motorcycle ride-sharing services which it said it has been providing since 2014 in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Local firm Dego Ride had in late 2016 pioneered the provision of short motorcycle ride-sharing trips as a transportation solution, although such services was previously rejected by the government.
KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Zakir Naik has accused Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy of defaming him during an interview with an Indian news channel.
Naik’s lawyer Akberdin Abdul Kader said Ramasamy, a staunch critic of the controversial Indian Muslim preacher, had uttered four defamatory words when speaking to India Today.
“These were ‘venomous’, ‘fraudster’, ‘trickster’ and ‘hate monger’,” Akberdin told reporters after spending almost four hours at the Bukit Aman police headquarters, where he was questioned for the third time over remarks made during his recent lecture tour in Kelantan.
Naik today also lodged a police report against Ramasamy, the second after his Aug 16 report accusing him of twisting his remarks on Malaysian Indians.
“We will be sending a letter of demand to Ramasamy tomorrow morning,” said his lawyer.
Meanwhile, Akberdin said Naik today gave statements to police over his earlier report against Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran and four others regarding a speech he made in Kelantan on Aug 8.
The four others are Ramasamy, Klang MP Charles Santiago, Ramasamy, DAP assemblyman Satees Muniandy and former ambassador Dennis Ignatius.
The five said they were standing by their criticism of Naik.
Akberdin reminded that Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador had warned that those inciting racial and religious sensitivities would be immediately arrested.
He said this was the advice from the police and his client would not give any public speeches.
“It is not an order, nothing was given to him in writing,” he said, adding that Naik will heed the advice until police investigations into the matter are concluded.
PETALING JAYA: DAP’s P Ramasamy has questioned the prime minister’s lack of action against Dr Zakir Naik, a day after the controversial Indian preacher lodged a second police report against him accusing him of defamation.
Ramasamy, who is Penang deputy chief minister II, said Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s lack of immediate action against Naik, who recently courted controversy over his statements on Malaysian Indians and Chinese, might give the impression that the preacher has some degree of immunity in the country.
“Naik, with his combative style of preaching, has hurt the feelings of non-Muslims, particularly the Hindus and Chinese,” he said.
“Malaysians have all kinds of differences that sometimes appear to be in conflict with each other, but in the post-independence period, even extremists have not really questioned the loyalty of Indians let alone accused them of being pro-India.
“Similarly, no extremists have questioned the loyalty of the Chinese, or gone to the extent of asking them to leave the country as they are considered ‘old guests’.”
Ramasamy was referring to remarks made by Naik in a recent series of public lectures in Kelantan.
Naik said Hindus in Malaysia have “100 times more rights” than the Muslim minority in India but that they support the prime minister of India more than the prime minister of Malaysia.
He was also quoted as saying that Chinese in Malaysia are considered “guests”, and should be asked to leave before he is.
His remarks sparked criticism from various quarters, including by Ramasamy, Klang MP Charles Santiago, DAP assemblyman Satees Muniandy, Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran and former ambassador Dennis Ignatius.
Naik subsequently lodged a police report against the five, who have stood by their criticism of the preacher. Yesterday, he lodged a second report against Ramasamy, accusing him of uttering defamatory words in an interview with Indian news channel India Today.
Putrajaya has so far resisted India’s request for the extradition of Naik, who faces charges of money laundering in his home country.
However, Mahathir said last week that the government would revoke Naik’s permanent resident status if his actions were found to be detrimental to the country’s well-being.
Yesterday, he said he had not changed his position on the matter.
In a statement, Ramasamy said Mahathir’s lack of immediate action against Naik was disappointing, adding that the prime minister had promised a new Malaysia for all, irrespective of race or religion.
However, he said Mahathir’s statement that Putrajaya would not deport Naik for now meant that the prime minister has not completely ruled out action against the preacher.
“Mahathir might think that arresting and deporting Naik might not endear himself to some sections of Muslims, in particular those supporters of Umno and PAS.
“But he should remember that he is the prime minister for all Malaysians not just for the Malays or non-Malays.
By Hashini Kavishtri Kannan
PUTRAJAYA: Dr Zakir Naik will not be deported to India, for now.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad reaffirmed his stand on not deporting the controversial Muslim preacher.
"As of now, there is no change (on my stand)," he said when asked whether he still stood by his decision of not sending Zakir back to his home country.
The prime minister said this at a press conference after the second series of meeting with civil servants, here, today.
KUALA LUMPUR: A UN human rights expert on Friday disputed Malaysia’s assertion that it has nearly eliminated poverty, saying that official figures were vastly inaccurate and do not reflect realities on the ground.
Malaysia’s official poverty rate dropped from 49% in 1970 to just 0.4% in 2016.
But Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the official numbers relied on outdated measures, with the poverty line remaining at the same level for decades despite increasingly high costs of living.
Analyzes done by independent groups suggest that Malaysia has “significant poverty” and that its true poverty rate was about 15%, Alston said.
“The government’s official figures would make it the world champion in eliminating poverty ... but I think it’s pretty obvious that that’s not the case,” Alston told a news conference at the end of an 11-day visit to Malaysia.
The prime minister’s office and finance ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Alston’s assertion.
Alston said the national poverty line of $234.00 per household per month was “ridiculous,” as it would mean an urban family of four would have to survive on 8 ringgit, or less than $2, per person per day.
“It can’t be done except under really dire circumstances,” he said.
Undercounting the poverty rate has led to a lack of effective government policies targeting the problem, with too many underfunded and ineffective programs in place, Alston said.
He urged Malaysia to reassess its methods for measuring poverty and take into account vulnerable groups excluded from the data such as stateless families, migrant workers, and refugees
Rights group: UK ports vetting of Muslims ‘structural Islamophobia’
UK authorities have been accused of ‘structural Islamophobia’ for using controversial counter-terrorism methods at ports and airports, despite the minuscule rate of resultant convictions.
Human rights group, Cage, submitted a report entitled: 'Schedule 7: Harassment at Borders", to the policing regulator, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, highlighting the ‘suspicionless stops’ by UK authorities as ‘structural Islamophobia’.
Cage also wrote to MPs on the all-party group on British Muslims to spell out the extent of its concerns with so-called schedule 7 stops.
A Cambridge University study concluded that 88% of those stopped under Schedule 7 were Muslim.
There is also growing anecdotal evidence that Muslim women are being forced to remove their headscarves when stopped, even though the rate that such stops lead to a conviction is 0.007%, according to Cage’s analysis of 420,000 incidences.
Tens of thousands of people were being subject to “suspicionless stops” and that “the practice is a manifestation of structural Islamophobia, which is experienced as harassment”, Cage wrote.
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows people to be detained at the border for up to six hours if law enforcement is concerned they could be engaged in terrorist activities. Detainees have no right to silence, must surrender their phones, computers and passwords and provide fingerprints and DNA on request.
The Home Office has failed to respond to freedom of information requests, which breaks down the number of people stopped by their religion, Cage noted in its report.
Meanwhile, Muslims who were stopped at the UK ports and airports revealed that they were made to answer questions focusing on their religious beliefs, whether or not they pray frequently, if they fast and if they have been to Mecca, among other controversial inquires.
UK authorities at ports and airports have long been accused of regularly expressing feelings of anxiety, fear, hostility and rejection towards Islam or Muslims.
Such incidences of stereotype and racism have grown since the controversy that involved the UK's new Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year, when he likened Muslim women who wear veils to "letter boxes" and "bank robbers".
Meanwhile, experts say such suspicion toward all things Islamic, or seemingly Islamic, has given rise to the expression “flying while Muslim.” The scrutiny of Muslims at airports undermines their sense of respectability and complicates their sense of identity, which otherwise encompasses both a Muslim and British identity.
by Shubhajit Roy
Echoing the Indian line on Jammu and Kashmir, French President Emmanuel Macron Thursday said that India and Pakistan should resolve the issue bilaterally, and that no outside interference was needed.
At a joint press conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who reached France Thursday, Macron said that he would also convey to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan that the issue should be resolved bilaterally.
Macron said that he had discussed Kashmir with Modi, and called for stability while stressing that no one should incite violence over this issue. He also called for the rights of people to be maintained. Prime Minister Modi, however, did not refer to Kashmir in his statement to the media.
In a separate joint statement, issued days after France backed India at the UN Security Council’s closed-door consultations on J&K in New York, Macron endorsed Modi’s call for a global conference on terrorism.
Modi, who was received by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, met Macron at the Château de Chantilly in the Hauts-de-France region of Oise, 60 km from the capital. Modi had first proposed a conference on terrorism during his visit to the Maldives three months ago.
Macron’s endorsement was one of the major takeaways from a joint statement by the two sides that outlined a number of bilateral measures, including forward movement on delivery of the first Rafale combat aircraft from this year.
France also supported India’s view of holding timely Presidential elections in Afghanistan, putting an end to terrorist safe havens and preservation of human rights, including women’s rights.
The joint statement also included a “roadmap on cybersecurity and digital technology”, techno-commercial offers for constructing six nuclear power reactors in Jaitapur, and a space surveillance for “joint maritime domain awareness mission” in the Indo-Pacific. France will also train medical support personnel for astronauts who will be part of India’s manned space mission by 2022.
The two sides also decided to address each other’s concerns on trade and investment through “new ways and mechanisms”, and decided to reactivate the high-level France-India economic and financial dialogue as quickly as possible, the statement said.
It said that the student exchange target of 10,000 set in 2018 will be fulfilled this year and that both sides have decided to enhance the number to 20,000 by 2025.
The joint statement said that their traditional relationship is “enduring, trustworthy, like-minded, and all-encompassing”, and marked by mutual trust between two strategic partners who have “always stood by each other”. India and France became strategic partners in 1998, and France was the only country from the West that did not impose sanctions after Pokhran-II.
Modi and Macron also discussed the delivery of the first Rafale aircraft, expected in the third week of September.
Stressing that defence industrial cooperation is one of the “mainstays” of the partnership, they “noted with satisfaction the progress made in the implementation of agreements signed, particularly the delivery of the first Rafale combat aircraft from this year”.
This marks a step forward from the inter-governmental agreement for the purchase of 36 Rafale jets by India in flyaway condition that was signed in New Delhi in September 2016.
Making common ground on terrorism, the two leaders strongly condemned terrorism in all forms, including “cross-border terrorism” and terror-related incidents in France and India.
As both sides continue to cooperate on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to greylist Pakistan and move towards blacklisting, the two leaders reaffirmed their resolve to eliminate terrorism and urged the international community to strengthen efforts to tackle terrorist-financing.
In a new initiative, they called upon all UN member countries to implement the UNSC Resolution 2462 on Fighting Terrorist Financing, which was adopted last March. They welcomed the new “No Money for Terror” International Conference on Fighting Terrorist Financing to be held in Melbourne on November 7-8.
“Both the leaders agreed to work for early convening of the Global Conference, proposed by India, to tackle the threat of terrorism around the world,” the joint communique said.
It said that in the digital space, the two countries support economic and social development through an open, secure and peaceful cyberspace, in which international law applies. “…the two leaders have adopted a cybersecurity and digital technology road map aimed at expanding Indo-French bilateral cooperation, particularly in the strategic sectors of high performance computing and Artificial Intelligence, with the target of bringing our start-up ecosystems closer to each other,” it said.
They welcomed the signing of the agreement between the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing and Atos aimed at developing cooperation in quantum computing, Artificial Intelligence and exascale supercomputing.
On the nuclear front, the statement said that two leaders expressed satisfaction at progress in negotiations between NPCIL and France’s EDF for the construction of six nuclear power reactors in in Jaitapur, Maharashtra.
“They also noted that discussions are underway on the Techno Commercial Offer and the financing of the project as well as on how to increase localization through manufacturing in India and enhance common understanding on the Civil Nuclear Liability Act between the two sides,” it said.
On trade, the two sides jointly agreed that the high-level France-India economic and financial dialogue should be reactivated as quickly as possible, the statement said.
On space cooperation, it said: “France and India thus welcome the decision to train medical support personnel for Indian astronauts, who will be part of India’s manned space mission by 2022. The training will be carried out in France and in India.”
The new leader of the right-wing UK Independence Party has been accused of holding anti-Muslim views and saying there is “no moderate Islam".
Richard Braine denies the allegations but in emails obtained by The Guardian he appears to make comparisons between Islam and the ideology of Adolf Hitler.
Founded as a Eurosceptic party in the 1990’s, Ukip has increasingly been accused of becoming a far-right group with racist views.
Its popularity has plummeted and it has employed anti-Islam campaigner Tommy Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, as an adviser in the past.
“The nonsense of the moderate Muslim is trotted out repeatedly by so many people with good intentions, but wilful ignorance of Islamic teaching," one email read.
"There is no moderate Islam. Get used to it. It’s a fact. When people talk about moderate Muslims they are making an error.
“It is like saying Hitler wasn’t such a bad fellow, quite a laugh actually, an entertaining speaker, a patron of the arts – he loved Wagner – he made the trains run on time, and just look at his smart uniforms.
"It is to ignore completely the ideology to which the person is religiously wedded.
“You should no more apologise for a moderate Muslim, and wish him to settle in your country, than you should a moderate Maoist or Nazi."
But Mr Braine claimed he was only talking about passages in Islamic teaching that were immoderate.
He said Muslims were “good people like the rest of us but it is the scripture that encourages violence".
Founder and former leader Nigel Farage quit the party over its apparent far-right leanings.
"I certainly don’t wish to whip up ill feeling or hatred," Mr Braine said. "I don’t believe in hatred. I come from a part of the world that has its basis as Christianity.
“But to some extent I reject the criticism of Islamophobia for the reason that we have had a large number of violent Islamic attacks in 55 countries and I normally think of Islamophobia as an irrational fear.
22 August 2019
Greece will speed up its refugee asylum process, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in an interview on Thursday, as concerns grow over a recent rise in migrant arrivals from Turkey.
“We are going to change our national policy on asylum, greatly simplifying the administrative procedure by speeding up decision-making,” the new conservative PM told France’s Le Figaro daily ahead of a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
“Those who obtain (asylum) obviously have the right to stay in Greece, while those who are not eligible will have to return to Turkey, as specified under the EU-Turkey accord,” he said.
The PM noted that Greece would change its rules in the hope that eventually the EU will forge a common approach to asylum regulations.
Earlier in August, Mitsotakis’ migration policy minister, Giorgos Koumoutsakos, said arrivals had increased by 17 percent in recent weeks -- when arrivals typically peak.
He said more than 20,000 refugees and migrants were sheltering on the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros -- all a short distance from Turkey’s shores.
Lesbos alone, the main port of arrival during the 2015 migrant crisis, saw an increase of 44 percent compared with the same period last year, the minister said.
He added that Greece had “exhausted its capacity on this issue (and) is looking forward to efficient cooperation with the European Commission and the member states.”
Thousands of migrants and refugees spend months in dismal island camps before their applications can be processed.
Greek officials say this is partly because of the sheer number of applications and appeals by economic migrants without credible claims to refugee status.
Mohamad Misto and Selen Temizer
U.K. authorities began mediation efforts between the YPG/PKK terrorist organization and opposition Kurds in Syria, local sources said on Thursday.
According to information obtained from the National Council of Syrian Kurds (ENKS), the U.K.'s attempt at reconciling the YPG/PKK and ENKS -- considered legitimate representative of Syrian opposition Kurds -- when previous efforts by France ended in failure.
Earlier in July, France met representatives of the council, offering to help them resolve their differences with the YPG/PKK terrorists.
During the meeting in Qamishli, Syria, the ENKS had ruled out a French proposal that they open offices in YPG/PKK-occupied areas in northern Syria, unable to trust the terror group.
At the behest of the U.S., a British delegation went to Qamishli to discuss the same issue on Wednesday morning.
The council's position would depend on the applicability of the U.K. committees proposals, the source underlined
In a bid to become the sole representatives of Syrian Kurds, the YPG/PKK has in the past silenced opposition within the region it occupies.
The terror groups has abducted ENKS members numerous times and has locked or razed the offices of political parties affiliated with the council.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron has said he would meet Iranian officials ahead of this weekend's G7 summit and make proposals aimed at de-escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran.
European leaders have struggled to tamp down the brewing confrontation since United States President Donald Trump pulled his country out of Iran's nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran.
Iran has responded with a series of moves, including retreating from some of its commitments to limit its nuclear activity made under the deal.
With the accord on the brink of collapse, Mr Macron said he wanted the summit to yield a clearer strategy on how to avoid a further deterioration in the region.
"In the coming hours before the G7, I will have meetings with the Iranians and propose ideas," Mr Macron told reporters.
Leaders from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and the EU will attend the Group of Seven meeting in the southwestern French resort of Biarritz.
With punishing US sanctions squeezing its economy, Iran is demanding that European powers that are party to the nuclear accord – France, Britain and Germany – do more to protect the financial gains Tehran stood to make under the accord.
"We have made proposals either for a softening of sanctions or a compensation mechanism to enable the Iranian people to live better," Mr Macron said, without giving more details.
Then Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javid Zarif on Thursday said he was prepared to work on French proposals to salvage the deal.
"There are proposals on the table, both from the French and the Iranian side, and we are going to work on those proposals tomorrow," he said at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
Mr Zarif added: "I'm looking forward to having a serious conversation with President Macron about possibilities to move forward."
He had said on Monday he would meet Mr Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris on Friday.
The US has made no indication it will ease any sanctions and it was unclear what kind of compensation mechanism Mr Macron has proposed.
Mr Macron said that in return he would expect Iran to comply fully with the nuclear deal and for Iran to engage in new negotiations that would include its ballistic missile programme and regional activities.
"We shall see what the response from the Iranians is in the hours ahead," Mr Macron said. "And we shall see how the Americans are ready to move forward."
Mr Trump's argument for pulling Washington out of the nuclear accord last year was that it did not go far enough to rein in Iran.
Two French diplomats said a joint meeting was likely, but that it had not been made public due to the sensitivity of the Iran issue.
Meanwhile, Iran again renewed threats against international shipping in the Gulf region if they are prevented from exporting oil by US sanctions, with President Hassan Rouhani warning America against raising the pressure on Tehran.
Wednesday’s warning came as Mr Zarif said Iran could act “unpredictably” in response to any “unpredictable” US policies put forward by Mr Trump.
"World powers know that in the case that oil is completely sanctioned and Iran's oil exports are brought down to zero, international waterways can't have the same security as before," Mr Rouhani said while meeting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to Khamenei's official website.
"So unilateral pressure against Iran can't be to their advantage and won't guarantee their security in the region and the world."
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have risen since the Trump administration last year quit the 2015 international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and began to ratchet up sanctions. Tehran has denounced the new penalties as "economic warfare".
In a speech at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Mr Zarif appeared to echo Mr Rouhani's tone.
"Mutual unpredictability will lead to chaos. President Trump cannot expect to be unpredictable and expect others to be predictable. Unpredictability will lead to mutual unpredictability and unpredictability is chaotic," he said.
Mr Zarif also addressed the United States' efforts to create a security operation, which so far Britain, Australia and Bahrain have joined, to guard shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
"It's clear that the US' intention... [of having a] naval presence in the… Gulf is to counter Iran… Don't expect us to remain quiet when somebody comes to our waters and threatens us," he said.
Global commodity trading has been rocked in recent months after a series of attacks on international merchant vessels, which the United States has blamed on Iran, and an Iranian seizure of a British oil tanker. Tehran has denied accusations that it was behind attacks on six tankers in May and June.
Washington, which has by far the strongest Western naval contingent in the Gulf, has been calling for its allies to join it in an operation to guard shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital gateway for the world’s oil industry.
Erik Hanell, the owner of the British-flagged tanker detained by Iran while entering the Gulf, met Mr Zarif in Stockholm on August 20 to make the case for the ship and its crew to be freed.
The Stena Impero was diverted to an Iranian port on July 19, two weeks after Britain detained an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar. That ship was released this week.
"A constructive dialogue was had and we shared information around the case," Mr Hanell, chief executive of Stena Bulk, said in a statement on Wednesday. "It was important for us to emphasise the importance of the release of the 23 crew...Also for the release of the Swedish-owned vessel Stena Impero."
Meanwhile, President Rouhani attended an unveiling ceremony on Thursday for the mobile Bavar-373 system, a domestically built long-range, surface-to-air missile air defence system.
"With this long-range air defence system, we can detect... targets or planes at more than 300 km, lock it at about 250 km, and destroy it at 200 km," Defence Minister Amir Hatami told state television.
Tehran shot down a US military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile in June. It says the drone was over its territory, but Washington says it was in international airspace.
The event took place on Iran's National Defence Industry Day. Iran has developed a large domestic arms industry in the face of international sanctions and embargoes that have barred it from importing many weapons.
Music blooms in Saudi Arabia’s mountain resort city of Taif as rose ensemble takes a bow
TAIF: Hanging from suspended imitation rose flowers and dressed in white, an orchestra of Ukrainian and Russian musicians performed enchanting symphonies by Mozart and Beethoven at the Ward (Rose) Village in Taif’s Arrudaf Park as part of Taif Season.
The month-long Taif Season will run during August with more than 70 quality events designed to highlight the city as a popular Arab resort and leading Arab tourist destination.
Female musicians in the orchestra played from a height of seven meters, delighting large crowds with a spectacular performance of well-known symphonies.
Mashaal Al-Rashid, head of the company organizing the Rose Village Festival, told Arab News that the name ‘Rose Village’ was chosen in recognition of the importance of rose as the icon of Taif.
“The festival’s content was elaborated, and all the activities and events organized so as to promote the value, and the social and economic significance of Taif’s roses,” he said.
Al-Rashid said that the hanging roses orchestra was inspired by the beauty of Taif’s mountains and their startling roses.
“Each flower carries a musician holding her instrument, delivering a breathtaking performance and an enjoyable experience,” he said.
The orchestra includes musicians from several countries who were selected after delivering string performances in various world capitals.
Dr. Nayef Al-Buraq, dean of Taif University’s College of Arts, said that Taif’s character is based on its culture and location.
“It is a cultural tourist icon that evolves year after year to keep pace with the national Vision 2030, with events that attract visitors from around the world,” he said.
“The programs aims to promote quality of life, reflected through the joyful Taif Season that paints a bright picture of Saudi creativity,” said Al-Buraq.
He said that the challenges faced in preparing for this season included developing quality academic programs, highlighting popular arts, and attracting Arab, Saudi and international creative involvement.
“These challenges highlight the leading role played by the Kingdom’s government in catering for culture and arts, and turning this festival into a tourist and cultural event throughout the year,” he said.
Festival visitor Omar Al-Khalidi said that the event offers musical attractions and cultural arts that have long been absent from Taif.
“Everyone knows that Taif is the city of arts and culture, and the first Saudi city to host a movie theater. Arrudaf Park was the scene for concerts for well-known artists such as Abdullah Mohammed, Mohammed Abdu, Talal Maddah and many other Arab talents,” he said.
An official source in the Syrian foreign ministry said that the army has set up a safe corridor in Souran region in Northern Hama after continued pressures by the terrorist groups in Northern Syria on the civilians.
The terrorist groups intend to prevent the Syrian army's advance in Hama and Idlib by using civilians as human shields after the Syrian army gained control over the strategic town of Khan Sheikhoun in Southern Idlib and laid full siege on the regions occupied by the militants in Northern Hama.
Meantime, the Arabic-language Dampress website reported that nearly 5,000 terrorists along with the Turkish army forces have been fully besieged in Murak after the army surrounded 207sq/km of regions in Northern Hama.
On Monday, the Syrian army managed to enter Khan Sheikhoun after five years.
Also reports said on Wednesday that the local population in Ma’aret al-Numan in Southern Idlib were preparing themselves for the imminent entry of the Syrian Army troops into the city, adding that the people were eagerly waiting for the army’s military takeover.
“The next target of the Syrian Arm’s military operations is Ma’aret al-Numan after imposing full control over Khan Sheikhoun,” Syrian lawmaker for Idlib Province Safvan Qorbi said.
He noted that the residents of Idlib and its countryside are expecting the Syrian Army to arrive in areas occupied by the terrorists, and said that large groups of residents of Ma’aret al-Numan and the city of Saraqib in Southern Idlib have visited the joint Syrian-Russian Command Headquarters for the implementation of peace plan.
Qorbi noted the massive presence of the terrorist groups in Ma’aret al-Numan and the Turkish Army’s occupying role in the region, and said that the Syrian Army is prepared to enter Ma’aret al-Numan.
Senior Iraqi cleric Ammar al-Hakim has called on Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi to adopt effective measures aimed at defending the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the wake of strong indications that the United States and the Israeli regime were involved in recent attacks on positions of pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).
“Repeated violations of the Iraqi sovereignty take place in the light of officials’ and the government’s silence to expose the perpetrators and the motives involved. We have had enough of condemnations. What our military facilities are subjected to is a serious violation of our national sovereignty. The government should assume its responsibilities for these violations, and defend the country,” the leader of the National Wisdom Movement said in a post published on his Twitter page on Thursday.
Meanwhile, PM Abdul-Mahdi, President Barham Salih and Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi have met in the capital Baghdad to discuss the latest attacks on the bases of the Popular Mobilization Units, better known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi.
The trio stressed the need for the formation of a fact-finding mission to investigate explosions at the weapons depots of the volunteer forces.
They also called on the US-led coalition purportedly fighting the terrorist Takfiri Daesh group to honor its commitments as regards the protection of Iraqi airspace against any hostile aircraft.
On Wednesday, the second-in-command of the Popular Mobilization Units, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, held the United States fully responsible for recent attacks on the volunteer forces.
He said in a statement that the US, which has contributed to the emergence of terrorist groups in the Middle East, is now considering various ways to violate Iraq’s sovereignty and targeting the PMU.
“We have accurate and credible information that Americans brought in four Israeli drones this year via Azerbaijan to operate within the US fleet to carry out sorties aimed at Iraqi military headquarters. We also have other information, maps and recordings of all types of American aircraft, when they took off, when they landed and the number of hours they flew,” Mohandes pointed out.
“Instead of chasing Daesh terrorists, US military aircraft are collecting information and data concerning the brigades of the Popular Mobilization Units, and their warehouses and arms depots,” the statement read.
Sayf al-Badr, spokesman of the Iraqi Health Ministry, said in a statement that at least one person was killed and 29 others were wounded in a powerful explosion, which rocked a military base in southern Baghdad on August 12.
An unnamed source from Iraq’s Interior Ministry said an ammunition warehouse exploded inside a federal police military base, named Falcon, in Owerij area near the southern district of Doura.
The source added that the blast was followed by a series of explosions at the warehouse that sent a large amount of shrapnel to nearby houses.
Arabic-language al-Ahad TV television network reported on July 19 that a drone had dropped explosives onto a base belonging to the Popular Mobilization Units near the town of Amerli, located about 170 kilometers north of the capital, in the early hours of the day, killing at least one PMU fighter and injuring four others.
Video footage broadcast by Iraqi channels showed a blaze burning at the site and plumes of thick smoke billowing. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Moreover, the Iraqi al-Etejah television network reported that an American B350 reconnaissance plane had flown over the area a few days earlier.
The Israeli regime has a record of attacking the forces fighting Daesh in Syria.
In June 2018, Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters came under attack in Syria’s border town of al-Hari, in the eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr, as they were chasing Daesh terrorists out of the area.
The partnership of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is the closest anywhere in the Middle East. It goes back decades, fashioned by antipathy towards Iran.
So when Mohammed bin Salman, now Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, launched a military campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen four years ago, it was no surprise the UAE joined the offensive. The two states have also spearheaded an embargo against Qatar and have been vociferous supporters of the Trump administration's sanctions against Iran.
They have both supported, financially and rhetorically, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt. And there is a close personal relationship between Mohammed bin Salman and the effective leader of the UAE, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
But cracks have begun to appear in the region's most important alliance, as the Yemen campaign staggers toward stalemate and tactics differ over confronting Iran's behavior in the [Persian] Gulf. And that may become a headache for the Trump administration, already frustrated by the Saudi-UAE spat with Qatar.
The original purpose of the Yemen offensive was to blunt Iranian influence wielded there through the Houthi rebels. But 'Operation Decisive Storm' has turned out to be far from decisive. It became a quagmire -- and a PR disaster because of the huge civilian suffering.
The UAE seems to have concluded that the war is unwinnable and too costly to pursue and began drawing down its forces in Yemen in July -- though it remains committed to counter-terrorism strikes against the Yemeni affiliates of al Qaeda and ISIS.
While its military presence in Yemen was modest, the UAE punched above its weight, exerting great influence with factions in the south while the Saudis mainly worked with the internationally-recognized government, which is in effect based in Riyadh.
Michael Knights at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy spent time embedded with UAE forces in Yemen and says: "Only the UAE had the military potency and local allied forces to credibly threaten defeat for the Houthis."
The drawdown of the Emirati presence in the port of Aden unleashed a confrontation between the southern separatists, backed and armed by the UAE, and the remnants of the Saudi-backed government in the city. The UAE's allies attacked government facilities and took control of much of the city, including the port. Yemeni ministers publicly blamed the UAE for the separatists' success.
Last month, a senior Emirati official described the drawdown as a "strategic redeployment" and said the UAE had trained about 90,000 troops in Yemen.
"Our commitment in Yemen remains. We are part of the coalition. Our discussion over our current redeployment has been ongoing for over a year," the official told CNN.
But analysts see the UAE's move as a signal to the Saudi Crown Prince: it's time to wind down this war. Ayham Kamal at the Eurasia Group says the UAE may be "trying to incentivize the Saudis to give more serious consideration to disengagement" with no military victory on the horizon.
Kristin Diwan of the Arab [Persian] Gulf States Institute agrees that Saudi Arabia is now more isolated in Yemen and "needs a settlement with the Houthis to secure its border in the north. The UAE drawdown may bring more urgency to this task, but it doesn't strengthen the Saudi position in the negotiations."
While the Saudi/UAE coalition reversed some Houthi gains, the rebels still control the capital and much of the north. They are capable of weekly missile and drone attacks against Saudi targets -- from airports to pipelines. The latest attack was against the Shaybah gas facility last weekend.
There are substantial Saudi ground forces -- about 10,000 according to two sources familiar with Saudi deployments -- inside Yemen. But much of the Saudi campaign against the Houthis has been waged from the air, with mixed results and heavy civilian casualties. In turn that has galvanized opposition in the US Congress to supplying weapons and assistance to the coalition. Last month, President Trump vetoed legislation to block $8.1 billion in arms sales to the kingdom.
A ground offensive would inevitably worsen what is already the gravest humanitarian crisis in the world. But investing in the UN-led peace process would involve making concessions to the Houthis, a humiliating climbdown for the Saudi crown prince after four years of conflict.
For now, the Saudis and the UAE are trying to get the various anti-Houthi parties to settle their differences. Last week bin Zayed met Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and the Crown Prince in Jeddah and said both governments called on "rival Yemeni parties to cease fire and favor the language of dialogue and reason."
While the talks were full of fraternal solidarity, the fact remains that the war in Yemen is even more intractable since the UAE drawdown. The likely beneficiaries are the Houthis, Exhibit A in the Trump Administration's case against Iran's regional expansionism.
Knights says: "No one in Washington or at the UN should presume that the current battle lines are fixed. They could easily move in the Houthis' favor, with disastrous effects for the UN peace process."
A strategic alliance
Despite divergent approaches in Yemen, the Saudi-UAE alliance remains intact. Last week, the Emirates' Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, declared that ties "will continue to be strong as they are based on robust foundations and shared values."
The alliance has supplanted the role of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council, which is weakened by the ongoing dispute between the Saudis, the Emirates and Bahrain on the one hand and Qatar on the other.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates remain united in opposing “Iranian expansionism”: both support sweeping US sanctions against Tehran and their militaries co-ordinate closely.
But the UAE may be adopting different tactics.
Ayham Kamal says its focus is avoiding escalation in the [Persian] Gulf. At the beginning of this month, an Emirati delegation went to Tehran to discuss maritime security. The two sides signed what the Iranians called a "memorandum of understanding" to enhance cooperation at sea.
After the sabotage of four tankers off Fujairah in May, the UAE was careful not to blame Iran directly for the attack. Crown Prince Mohammed was more forthright, saying in an interview: "We see how the Iranian regime and its proxies have carried out sabotage operations against four oil tankers near Fujairah port."
Some observers also detect a growing wariness among the Emiratis about the Trump administration.
The euphoria of May 2017, when the US President visited Riyadh on his first overseas trip and openly backed Saudi-UAE pressure against Qatar, has long worn off.
Hussein Ibish, who is with the Arab [Persian] Gulf States Institute, writes in the Carnegie Endowment's Diwan newsletter that "while Emirati officials have welcomed the US administration's campaign of 'maximum pressure' against Iran, they have been quietly warning for almost a year that there has to be a political track to translate the pressure into improved Iranian conduct."
The Emirates' economy -- and especially that of Dubai -- would be hard hit by any conflict in the [Persian] Gulf. While Saudi Arabia can export oil and gas to its Red Sea coast, the diversified UAE economy is more vulnerable to external shocks.
Joe Macaron, a fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, believes the UAE's opening to Iran "is tactical rather than strategic and is primarily a message to the Trump administration as their relationship has recently turned sour on several issues, including the US rapprochement with Qatar."
Kamal, at the Eurasia Group, contends that the Trump administration's mixed signals on confronting Iranian actions in the [Persian] Gulf have "left its allies in the [Persian] Gulf to face alone the brunt of Tehran's retaliation efforts" against the imposition of US sanctions.
The Syrian army troops kept up clashes with Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) terrorists in Tal Tara'a in Eastern Khan Sheikhoun, recapturing a sugar plant, al-Souseh region, farms near the town of Murak and Khazanat post office in Southern Khan Sheikhoun.
Meantime, a field source reported that the Syrian army soldiers encountered their comrades stationed in Khan Sheikhoun, surrounding from all sides all towns and villages occupied by the terrorists in Northern Hama, including al-Latamineh, Kafar Zita, Murak and al-Sayad as well as a region occupied by Ankara.
He added that several terrorists were killed in the Syrian army operations, noting that the army forces also destroyed a number military equipment and vehicles used by the terrorists to flee towards the occupied regions in Murak.
The Syrian army troops started cleansing the districts and streets of the strategic town of Khan Sheikhoun which is considered as a gate for the army to purge the terrorists from other occupied areas in Hama and Idlib too.
On Monday, the Syrian Army managed to enter Khan Sheikhoun after five years.
The Damascus Army troops kept on their clashes with the terrorists in Northwestern Khan Sheikhoun in Southern Idlib, and took control of al-Faqir military post and deployed only 900 meters from Aleppo-Damascus Highway around Khan Sheikhoun.
The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted battlefield sources as saying that the Syrian Army troops entered Khan Sheikhoun from the North-West after making further advances.
It pointed to the destruction of several bomb-laden vehicles in the region, and said that tens of terrorists started fleeing the scene of the battle as the Syrian Army made its advances.
A Syrian military source reported on Thursday that the army forces have launched heavy artillery and missile attacks on the Turkistani and Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) terrorist groups' positions and moves in al-Kabanah in Jabal al-Akrad region in Northeastern Lattakia, killing a number of militants and destroying their military equipment.
He added that the Syrian army forces have paralyzed the terrorists' moves in al-Kabanah and surrounded it.
Meantime, al-Masdar news website reported that the Russian air force has also launched repeated heavy attacks on terrorists' positions in al-Kabanah.
Last Thursday, the Syrian army had also advanced in strategic areas in Northeastern Lattakia concurrent with its battle in Southern Idlib and Northern Hama, arriving at the entrance of Turkistani party terrorists' bastion town of Kabana.
The Arabic-language service of Sputnik news agency quoted a field source as saying that the army forces, supported by the Russian fighter jets, could regain control of the heights overlooking Kabana which is the Turkistani party's main stronghold at the border with Idlib.
He added that the Syrian army forces could recapture Jabal al-Zawiqat and the adjacent hills as the most important corridor leading to the strategic town of Kabana, noting that the terrorists' defense lines have collapsed given the Syrian army's concurrent advance in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib.
Iraq's pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha’abi, says it has shot down an unidentified spy drone over capital Baghdad.
According to a statement by the PMU, carried by the Arabic-language al-Soumariah television network, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was shot down “by the air defenses of the 12th Brigade of Hashd al-Sha’abi” while the reconnaissance aircraft was flying over the outskirts of the capital on Thursday evening.
Earlier in the day, senior Iraqi cleric Ammar al-Hakim called on Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi to adopt effective measures aimed at defending the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the wake of strong indications that the US and Israel were involved in recent attacks on PMU’s positions.
On Wednesday, second-in-command of the PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, also blamed the US and Israel for recent explosions at the group’s bases in the Arab country.
“We have evidence that shows the US has brought four Israeli drones into Iraq,” he said, adding, the Americans "are using the drones to target the PMU and Iraqi bases, rather than targeting the Daesh” terrorist group.
Mohandes also vowed that “from now on we will target any drone flying over our bases.”
On Tuesday, a number of powerful blasts rocked a position held by the PMU, next to strategic Balad airbase, which hosts US forces and contractors and is located about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad.
Hashd al-Sha’abi commanders also confirmed that the intended target of the blasts was the group’s position near the Balad base.
On August 13, Fadhil Abu Ragheef, a security expert close to Iraqi intelligence services, told Russia's RT Arabic television news network there was information that the Israeli military was planning to launch airstrikes against the arms depots of Hashd al-Sha’abi forces.
On July 19, a drone dropped explosives on a PMU base near the town of Amerli, located about 170 kilometers north of the capital, killing at least one PMU fighter and wounding four others.
The Israeli regime has a record of attacking the forces fighting Daesh Takfiri terrorists in neighboring Syria.
BAGHDAD: The head of Iraq’s paramilitary Shiite forces, supported by Iran, on Thursday appeared to walk back a statement by his deputy the day before blaming Israeli drones and claiming the US was responsible for a series of attacks on bases run by the militia.
Faleh Al-Fayyadh said the statement by his deputy, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, did not represent the view of the mainly Shiite paramilitary group known as Popular Mobilization Forces — or the view of the Iraqi government. Al-Fayyadh’s statement alleged the attacks on the bases over the past weeks “were the result of an act organized by a foreign side,” but refrained from naming that side.
The statements highlight divisions within the Shiite militia force, headed by Al-Fayyadh but practically run by his deputy, a powerful military commander known for his anti-American sentiments. The militia group’s website published only Al-Muhandis’ statement on Thursday.
Iraq’s fragile government is walking a fine line trying to manage its alliances with both the United States and Iran amid rising tensions between the two.
Iran wields powerful influence through its support of the Shiite militias, which are sanctioned by the Iraqi government and which were a major force in the fight against Daesh. At the same time, Iraq hosts American troops and forces belonging to the US-led coalition fighting Daesh.
The statements by Al-Fayyadh and Al-Muhandis followed at least three mysterious explosions at militia bases and munitions depot around Iraq over the past month, including a massive blast near Baghdad that killed one civilian and wounded 28. A government investigation, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday, found the blast near Baghdad on Aug. 12 was caused by a drone strike.
The blast has also given rise to a host of theories, including that Israel may have been behind the attacks. Israel has struck Iranian bases in neighboring Syria on numerous occasions, and there has been speculation that it might be expanding its campaign to target Iranian bases to Iraq. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied the reports.
On Wednesday, the statement signed by Al-Muhandis said that the militia group had information that the US brought four Israeli drones from Azerbaijan to Iraq “as part of the US fleet” to carry out reconnaissance and targeting of militia positions. It was not clear from the statement who was being accused of carrying out the attacks but the militia said it holds the US “ultimately responsible for what happened.”
The Iraqi government did not address the statement by Al-Muhandis, which appears to have been issued without prior consultation with Iraqi security forces — an embarrassing sign of how the militias operate independently.
American officials denied the US had any role in the explosions.
ANKARA: Syrian regime forces opened fire on a Turkish observation post No. 8 eight — in Sirman, Maarat Al-Numan in southeastern Idilb — on Thursday morning. Observation post No. 9, in the town of Morek, is reportedly surrounded as well.
The observation post in Sirman is of strategic importance due to its location in the north of Khan Sheikhoun — an area which regime forces, supported by Iranian-backed foreign militia and Russian forces, have targeted in recent days.
Khan Sheikhoun is the fourth-largest town in Idlib and has been under the control of opposition forces for five years. It is situated on the M5 highway, which connects Aleppo to Damascus and is an important supply route for the rebels.
Although all Turkey’s observation posts in Syria are manned, experts have warned of a looming security threat as Syrian regime forces have intensified their military operations in the area despite the presence of the posts.
Two Turkish soldiers have been killed by mortar strikes on observation posts in recent months, with 12 military staff wounded. On Monday, an airstrike on a Turkish military convoy killed three civilians who were heading toward observation post number eight.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s most-recent statement on the matter — saying that Turkey has to honor the Idlib agreement — could be seen as another faultline opening up between the two partners on their Syria policy. Ankara and Moscow agreed last September to create a de-escalation zone in Idlib to prohibit acts of aggression.
Navvar Saban, a military analyst at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul, told Arab News that Turkey should not retreat from the Morek observation post, adding that there is no obvious escape route from the area.
“Turkey committed in the last few days to hold its observation post. If they retreat from the area, they will break their commitments and it will make them look very bad in front of the international community and even the opposition they support,” he said. “Northern Hama is empty now, in terms of civilians. Turkey is conducting negotiations to control this area.”
Saban said Turkey “will not withdraw from its observation posts before the next Astana meeting with Russia and Iran in September.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to host Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for a summit in Ankara on Sept. 16.
They will discuss Idlib as well as the establishment of a constitution commission and how the political process should continue, said Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin.
Ammar Hamou, a Jordan-based Syrian journalist, said that all indications suggest the regime has no intention of halting its military action, and that its intention is to seize control of the M5 highway.
Hamou said that there is a feeling among Syrians that Turkey is the “silent guarantor,” because it did not react strongly to the regime’s violations on the borders of the de-escalation zone four months ago.
He said he did not expect that Turkey would move its observation posts unless the regime exceeds the limits of the Turkish-Russian agreement. “The silence of Russia on the regime’s excesses in terms of the Astana agreement is not strange.”
Hamou told Arab News: “The Turkish-Russian-Iranian agreement (based on) the Astana talks provides for the protection of safe areas like Eastern Ghouta, southern Syria, Homs, and Idlib. Today, three of them are, with Russian support, under the regime’s control.”
Hamou believes that Ankara is extremely dissatisfied by Russia’s silence on the Syrian regime’s violations of the agreement, but that the Turkish government is unwilling to risk the deterioration of its relationship with Moscow.
Under the de-escalation zone deal of last year, Turkey was required to ensure the withdrawal of extremist groups and heavy weaponry from that zone.
With Syrian militants withdrawing from several positions in the region, Ankara is also concerned that the fighting may cause a further influx of displaced people into Turkey, which already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees.
Iran-backed militias in Iraq threaten foreign aircraft, adding to speculation Israel is bombing Iraq
By Liz Sly
BEIRUT — Iranian-backed militias in Iraq warned Wednesday that foreign aircraft flying over the country may be treated as “hostile” amid growing suspicions that Israel is responsible for mysterious explosions at militia bases.
The warning came in a statement issued by Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, the deputy commander of the powerful coalition of Shiite Muslim militias known as Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which includes paramilitary groups that owe allegiance to Iran.
The statement blamed Israeli drones for four big blasts at militia bases over the past month, all of them at warehouses storing ammunition and weapons, and accused the U.S. military of aiding the strikes by allowing Israel to use U.S. bases in Iraq.
“We have informed the Joint Operations Command that we will regard any foreign aircraft flying over our headquarters without the knowledge of the Iraqi government as hostile, and will deal with it accordingly,” the statement said.
The U.S. military responded by tweeting that it operates in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government and complies with all Iraqi laws and directions. The only purpose for being in Iraq is “to enable our Iraqi Security Force partners in the mission of an enduring defeat of Daesh,” the military said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.
Israel has not confirmed or denied responsibility for the attacks, but during a visit to Ukraine this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to hint at Israeli involvement, responding to a reporter’s question about whether it was behind the explosions by saying that “Iran has no immunity, anywhere.”
“We will act — and currently are acting — against them wherever it is necessary,” he said.
If confirmed, Israel’s involvement would suggest it has opened a new front in its ongoing fight to prevent Iranian-backed militias in the region from deploying sophisticated weapons capable of targeting Israel. The explosions at the militia bases in Iraq are reminiscent of those associated with scores of airstrikes conducted by Israel in Syria over the past five years, which mostly targeted missile storage sites or suspected transfers of weapons to the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement.
Israeli airstrikes in Iraq could complicate the U.S. effort to combat a revived Islamic State insurgency there and risk drawing Iraq into escalating hostilities between the United States and Iran.
The militia statement was the strongest indication to date that Iraqis suspect Israel is behind the explosions, including one Tuesday at a militia base near an air base at Balad, where U.S. forces maintain a presence.
After the first alleged strike, on July 19 at a Shiite base in the northeastern town of Amerli, the Iraqi army immediately said an “unidentified drone” was responsible. The PMF subsequently claimed an accident had occurred, while the government declined to assign blame pending an investigation.
Then came two more blasts at weapons warehouses, one at Camp Ashraf, a headquarters for the powerful Badr Organization in eastern Diyala province, and one last week at Camp Saqr south of Baghdad. The latter ignited a huge blaze, sending rockets and bullets exploding over densely populated neighborhoods for up to five hours.
Three days later, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi ordered that storage facilities for weapons should be moved away from residential areas and also that all international flights over Iraq should receive advance government approval, the first indication that the government suspected foreign involvement. The U.S. military said it would comply with all Iraqi government requirements and that the order would not impact its ability to provide support for missions against the Islamic State.
One question is how Israel would be able to attack targets so far from its borders. Israel has not struck Iraq since a 1981 mission to bomb the Osirak nuclear reactor constructed by former president Saddam Hussein.
One possibility would be that Israel was using its newest-model drones. Another would be that the strikes were carried out by recently acquired U.S.-made F-35 aircraft, according to a report Wednesday by the Middle East Institute.
“Israeli intelligence has known for more than a year that Iran had begun deploying sophisticated rocket and ballistic missile systems into Iraqi territory, some to be based there permanently, others to be dispatched by land to Syria and Lebanon,” the report added.
Mustafa Salim in Baghdad contributed to this report.
Israeli right-wing alliance proposes construction of 113,000 settler units in West Bank
An Israeli right-wing alliance has unveiled a plan on the construction of more than 100,000 new settler units in the northern part of the occupied West Bank, irrespective of international outcry against the Tel Aviv regime’s land expropriation and settlement expansion policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Yamina proposed on Wednesday the building of over 110,000 new housing units for half a million Israelis.
On July 31, Israeli officials approved the construction of 6,000 new settler units in the West Bank's Area C, where the Israeli army has full control over the management of resources, planning and construction, and strictly limits Palestinian construction or development to less than one percent of the area.
Area C accounts for more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank, and would form a significant part of a future Palestine state under the so-called two-state solution.
More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.
The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.
Less than a month before US President Donald Trump took office, the United Nations Security Council in December 2016 adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem” al-Quds.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
23 August 2019
The Israeli army on Thursday warned the Gaza Strip’s residents and its Hamas rulers that further attacks on Israel could incur tougher conditions for the coastal territory.
The warning came in a tweet from the army’s chief Arabic-language spokesman Avichay Adraee, hours after Israeli aircraft hit Hamas targets in retaliation for overnight Palestinian rocket attacks.
Hamas launched two rockets at Israel late Wednesday -- bringing to six the number of strikes from Gaza in less than a week -- the army said, adding that they caused no casualties or damage.
In retaliation, the army said it struck “a number of military targets in a Hamas naval facility in the northern Gaza Strip.”
A Palestinian security source told AFP a naval base west of Gaza City had been “targeted several times” by Israeli aircraft.
The source said aircraft had also targeted “three sites in the central Gaza Strip and in Khan Yunis” in the south.
He reported no casualties.
“Those who carry out terrorist attacks will prevent improvement to the situation in the Gaza Strip,” Adraee said.
“This will affect residents of the entire Strip.”
Past flare-ups this year led Israel to block fuel deliveries to the Gaza Strip and limit fishing activity, only relaxing restrictions as part of a UN and Egypt-brokered truce in March.
Since early August, there have also been a series of deadly incidents on the ground along the Gaza border.
The Palestinian health ministry said three people died as a result of Israeli tank and helicopter fire on armed Palestinians on Saturday.
Another Palestinian was shot dead after firing at Israeli soldiers on Thursday, according to the army.
The day before, the army said it shot dead four heavily armed Palestinians after one crossed the border and threw a grenade at soldiers.
On August 1, a Palestinian seeking to avenge his brother’s death by Israeli fire was killed when he entered Israel from Gaza and opened fire on soldiers, the army said.
Three soldiers were wounded in the incident.
Adraee said that some of the recent violence was the work of Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad.
But he also reiterated Israel’s official view that Hamas is responsible for any attacks from the territory under its control.
“Islamic Jihad has carried out, and plans to carry out, attacks, including rocket fire. Israel can not and will not accept such attacks,” he said.
“Hamas, which governs Gaza, must assert its authority to prevent these plans and attacks.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is widely seen as wanting to avoid an escalation in the Gaza Strip before a September 17 general election, but he faces heavy political pressure to respond firmly.
Syrian government forces opened fire on a Turkish observation post in northwest Syria, two Turkish officials told Reuters on Thursday, but there were no Turkish casualties.
The incident came after an air strike halted a Turkish military convoy and killed three civilians on Monday as the convoy headed south towards another observation post.
Turkey has 12 observation posts in northwest Syria, set up under an agreement with Russia and Iran.
On Wednesday, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said all of Turkey’s observation posts will remain in place, and support to the posts will continue.
Iran will not start a war in the Gulf but it will defend itself, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday.
“Will there be a war in the ... Gulf? I can tell you that we will not start the war... but we will defend ourselves,” he said at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
Working on French proposals
Iran is prepared to work on French proposals to salvage the international nuclear deal that Tehran signed with world powers in 2015, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also said on Thursday.
“There are proposals on the table... and we are going to work on those proposals,” he said at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
Three Turkish soldiers were killed in a clash with Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey near the borders with Syria and Iraq, the local governor’s office said on Thursday.
Three militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) were “neutralized” in the fighting, the Sirnak governor’s office said in a written statement.
It said the soldiers were maintaining security for state energy company Turkish Petroleum (TPAO) near the town of Silopi in Sirnak when the clash broke out on Wednesday.
The militants had previously been spotted by a drone in the same area, it said.
The PKK, designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and European Union, launched an insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984.
Iran displayed what it described as a domestically built long-range, mobile surface-to-air missile system on Thursday, Iranian state media reported.
The announcement comes at a time of rising tension between Iran and United States.
Iran shot down a US military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile in June.
It says the drone was over its territory, but the United States says it was in international airspace.
State television showed President Hassan Rouhani attending an unveiling ceremony for the Bavar-373 system (believe in Farsi), which Iranian media have described as a competitor to the Russian S-300 missile system.
The system’s unveiling came on Iran’s National Defense Industry Day.
Iran has developed a large domestic arms industry in the face of international sanctions and embargoes that have barred it from importing many weapons.
Yemeni army troops, backed by their allies from Popular Committees, have attacked Saudi soldiers in the kingdom’s southwestern provinces of Jizan and Asir in retaliation for a brutal aerial campaign.
Several Saudi soldiers were killed or injured near Qais mountain in Jizan after their gathering came under artillery shelling on Thursday, Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network said, citing an unnamed military official.
On Wednesday, Yemeni snipers shot dead a commander of the Saudi-led coalition and his companion east of al-Doud mountain in the same province, it added.
In a separate report, al-Masirah said Yemeni snipers either killed or wounded at least four Saudi mercenaries in al-Rabou’a area near the Alab crossing in Asir on Thursday.
Later in the day, a number of other Saudi mercenaries were either killed or wounded after an improvised explosive device, planted by the Yemeni army, exploded in Maris area of Yemen’s south-central province Dhale.
Early on Thursday, several Qasef-2K (Striker-2K) drones conducted airstrikes against vital targets in King Khalid Air Base in Asir.
Yemeni forces regularly target positions inside Saudi Arabia in retaliation for Riyadh's war on Yemen, which began in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall a former regime and eliminate the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
RAMALLAH: The Palestinian Authority, in deep financial crisis since Israel froze tax transfers in February, said Thursday it had accepted a partial payment of just over half a billion dollars.
“An agreement was reached a few days ago with the Israeli side for transferring duties on oil and fuel which the Palestinian Authority bought in Israel to the amount of around two billion shekels ($568 million, 512 million euros),” Civil Affairs Minister Hussein Al-Sheikh told AFP.
Israel in February decided to withhold around $10 million a month from revenues of some $190 million per month it collects on the PA’s behalf, triggering Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to say he would accept either all or nothing.
The deduction corresponds to what Israel says the PA paid Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, or their families.
Prisoners who have carried out attacks on Israelis are among those receiving the payments, and Israel says the policy encourages further violence.
Abbas accused Israel of blackmail and insisted on the full amount, which accounts for around 65 percent of PA revenues.
The money comes from customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports.
On Monday Abbas fired all of his advisers amid a financial crisis in the occupied West Bank that has prompted deep salary cuts.
Palestinians view prisoners as fighting against Israel’s occupation and say the tax funds support families that have lost their main breadwinners.
The PA has cut salaries for most of its tens of thousands of employees by half to keep the government afloat.
Sudan's new leader an experienced economist who promises reform
Sudan’s new prime minister has landed what could easily pass for the most unenviable job in his vast and unfortunate country. That popular expectations are running high four months after the removal of a longstanding dictator may not be helpful to the 65-year-old economist.
Abdalla Hamdok arrived in the Sudanese capital from Ethiopia on Wednesday. Hundreds of supporters, many waving Sudanese flags, were waiting at Khartoum airport to wish him well as he prepared to tackle the Herculean task ahead of him.
Mr Hamdok, who has a master’s degree and a PhD from the University of Manchester in England, was sworn in later on Wednesday. After the ceremony, he told reporters that his top priorities would be to stop Sudan’s wars in the west and south and to end the suffering of millions displaced by these conflicts.
The economy is another top priority. Sudan’s needs to be “based on productivity rather than grants and loans,” he said.
In theory, Mr Hamdok has the expertise and qualifications to improve the country’s tattered economy. He worked in the finance ministry in the 1980s and spent the past three decades working for international consultancy firms and specialised UN agencies across Africa.
But, still, he says, he will not be able to achieve results unless the people of Sudan come together like they did when they rose against military dictatorships in 1964, 1985 and in December 2018, when street protests demanded the removal of authoritarian ruler Omar Al Bashir.
“Let us work together for the sake of a nation, a plural democratic system in which we respect our diversity,” he told reporters after he was sworn in.
Since independence in 1956, Sudan had “failed to create that national project that unites us all”, he lamented.
In the following 63 years, Sudan has had little respite from war, political upheavals, economic woes and institutional corruption. Mr Al Bashir’s 29-year reign gave the country the darkest chapter in its modern history. The 75-year-old Islamist put loyalty ahead of competency, staffing the government and military with cronies. Sudan lost a third of its territory under his rule, as the mainly animist and Christian south seceded in 2011, taking with it most of the country’s oil wealth. He brought his country shame and disgrace when he was indicted in 2010 by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and genocide.
The months preceding his removal in April witnessed the worst economic crisis of his rule, precipitating his eventual downfall. Now, the Sudanese pound is trading on the black market at around 60 to the dollar, compared to an official rate of 45 pounds. Inflation and unemployment are in double digits and the country’s infrastructure is on its last legs.
Bread lines are back in Khartoum and motorists must wait for up to an hour to fill up. Power outages are common, lasting for hours at a time.
The road to recovery will have to begin with the removal, or at least reduction, of unaffordable subsidies on basic items. But such reforms will be politically sensitive for Mr Hamdok.
Like subsidies, defence and security spending consume a significant portion of the budget, and the new prime minister might be tempted to reduce them to make funds available for health care and education. But, again, a move like this must be coordinated with the military and security forces to avoid a backlash.
“We will be guided only by the supreme interest of the nation,” Mr Hamdok said on Wednesday. “We are looking to establish a nation of law, transparency and justice.”
Sudan swears in new prime minister, sovereign council chief
Sudan's new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was sworn in on Wednesday (August 21) as leader of a transitional government, and vowed to make achieving peace and solving the country's economic crisis a priority.
The appointment of the renowned economist came as General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the outgoing head of the military council, was sworn in as leader of the new Sovereign Council, which will run the country for three years until an election after decades of autocratic rule.
"The revolution's deep-rooted slogan, 'freedom, peace and justice,' will form the program of the transitional period," Hamdok told reporters at a news conference in the capital, Khartoum.
Burhan and other military officers overthrew veteran leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir in April in response to months of protests over economic hardships and dictatorship.
The composition of the 11-member council that will run the country for the transition period, superseding the military council that has been disbanded, was completed on Tuesday (August 20), consisting of six civilian and five military figures.
Nine members of the council were sworn in about two hours after Burhan took the oath on Wednesday. The final member, Mohamed al-Hassan al-Taishi, will be sworn in at a later, unspecified date, state news agency SUNA said.
22 August, 2019
Clashes between the Libyan National Army and Government of National Accord intensified in the capital Tripoli on Wednesday.
Fierce battles were reported in the al-Sbeaa area in southern Tripoli as LNA chief Khalifa Haftar ordered army commanders to refrain from making statements to the media on the military’s advances.
A senior LNA military official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the situation on the ground was “excellent”.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said that the army was close to liberating Tripoli.
The army carried out a number of airstrikes on GNA positions in the capital, but did not disclose details about human or material losses.
The LNA had launched in April an operation to cleanse the capital of pro-GNA militias.
Meanwhile, LNA media said that a group of militants loyal to the Deterrence Force surrendered to the army.
In the South, the LNA said its jets were continuing to strike positions of Chadian mercenaries in the city of Murzuq.
The strikes were carried out hours after the parliament declared it a violence-stricken city and after the army withdrew its forces.
The GNA seized Murzuq, while the LNA had officially accused ISIS and Chadian opposition groups of controlling the city. It accused the Tripoli-based government of supporting terrorists and outlaws.
By KAJ LARSEN
On Thursday, August 15, the international terrorist group Boko Haram attacked a military base and community in Nigeria, killing three soldiers. This comes on the heels of an even deadlier attack three weeks ago, when armed members of the group rode motorcycles into a funeral in northern Nigeria and opened fire on the procession, killing 65 mourners.
For many, these are just forgettable attacks by Boko Haram. But for me, this story hit close to home. A few years ago, I was an investigative journalist reporting from where the carnage occurred. And years before that, I served as a Navy SEAL in Africa trying to prevent such carnage from taking place at all.
In today’s era of trade war with China and potential hot wars with Iran and North Korea, it’s easy to overlook the threat posed by Boko Haram, and conflicts in Africa more broadly. But I believe we ignore the continent and terrorist groups such as Boko Haram at our peril — and we’d better pay attention now before events force us to pay attention later.
Boko Haram is most famous, of course, for its 2014 kidnapping of roughly 300 young girls, an event that shocked the world and even led First Lady Michelle Obama to post a photo with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. I deployed to Africa two years after these kidnappings, and I encountered a Boko Haram emboldened by the success of the kidnapping and the attention it garnered. It was a powerful insurgency, driven by an ideology hostile to all things Western and modern.
Today, Boko Haram remains as potent a threat as ever. Though the original group has splintered, the offshoots continue to wreak havoc in Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad, and the broader region. Kidnappings are on the rise, and in Chad, Boko Haram is attempting to build its own alternative Islamic state. In spite of a multinational effort to fight the group, it continues to kidnap officials, organize suicide bombings, and terrorize locals.
The U.S.’s approach to this conflict — and to the region in general — has been, to paraphrase the famous quip about democracy, the worst policy except for all the others available to us. We are deployed on the ground in almost 50 African countries, taking action against Boko Haram and other terrorist affiliates. In outposts such as Geroua in northern Cameroon, for example, U.S. troops operate drones and train local soldiers. Our strategy is broadly known as “foreign internal defense,” or “FID,” and our soldiers work “through, by, and with” our African partners.
Americans would prefer, of course, that no U.S. soldiers be deployed to hostile, faraway places. And as someone who has buried too many of my friends who served, that would be my preference as well. But our limited troop presence in Africa is a check against the need to deploy in much larger numbers — our current African posture is, I would argue, preferable to the expensive, exhausting slogs we’ve endured in Afghanistan and Iraq. If we are able to train, equip, and marshal local governments and resources to the fight, fewer young American men and women will be forced into harm’s way.
This isn’t a universal view, and it has its critics. Some argue that we need to pull up the drawbridge, bring our troops home, and stop any kind of engagement with certain African countries. Policymakers have also drawn attention to human-rights abuses by the governments fighting Boko Haram, and rightly criticized African leaders who have been in power far longer than seems appropriate. These are fair concerns, but I believe they are outweighed by our broader strategic interests in Africa. There are three reasons for the U.S. to continue to keep robust ties with leaders in Cameroon, Nigeria, and Chad. and to keep our military presence there strong.
First, our military-to-military ties are some of the strongest diplomatic channels we have in places such as Cameroon and Nigeria — and they can help shape what happens on the ground in ways that advance our humanitarian impulses. I saw this firsthand: In addition to tactics and warfighting, some might be surprised to learn that part of my mission as a Navy SEAL was training Liberian, Chadian, Nigerian, and Cameroonian soldiers in what’s known as the LOAC, or “law of armed conflict.” I taught modules about the use of force and about what was and wasn’t justified in warfare.
This was the first exposure many of the soldiers I taught had to laws such as the Geneva Conventions and doctrines such as “proportional response.” While we couldn’t always control what took place once these soldiers were in the field, I look back on this work with pride, and I knew that everyone was better off because Americans led the instruction. More military-to-military engagement of this kind is one of the best tools we have for dealing with humanitarian crises around the world.
The second reason to keep ties in Africa strong is simple: China. Today, China is the elephant in the room in every conversation about Africa’s future. China’s public and private sectors have poured billions into the continent, the Chinese government has an incredible intelligence apparatus in the region, and the country now maintains a vise-like grip on mining interests, roads, and countless infrastructure projects continent-wide. If the U.S. takes itself out of Africa, the Chinese will fill the vacuum — and they will do so in ways that are harmful to both U.S. strategic interests and Africa’s long-term interests.
The final argument in favor of strengthening bonds with African leaders and nations is the obvious one: We simply have no other choice. Take, for example, Nigeria and Cameroon. There are vast, ungovernable stretches of land in those two countries where terrorist cells and violent insurgencies fester. Without active engagement from the U.S., problems that seem small and distant today can create urgent, bold-faced headlines tomorrow. Let’s not forget: Many of the deadliest attacks against U.S. interests worldwide, including the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, were either planned from or staged in Africa.
AUGUST 21, 2019
BAMAKO (Reuters) - Suspected jihadists killed five Malian soldiers on Wednesday in an ambush in the West African country’s volatile centre, the army said, the latest in a string of attacks targeting local security forces in the Sahel region.
The statement said the soldiers were travelling between the towns of Hombori and Boni, about 100 km north of the Burkina Faso border, when they fell into an ambush.
It came days after gunmen killed 24 soldiers in an attack on an army unit in neighbouring Burkina Faso.
“FAMA (Malian armed forces) deplores the killing of five people, which also destroyed military equipment,” the statement said. “Reinforcements have been sent back there.”
The remote, grassy borderlands where Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger meet has become a haven for militants and criminal outfits linked to Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
Jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have exploited ethnic rivalries in Mali and its neighbours to boost recruitment and render swathes of territory ungovernable.
French forces intervened in Mali in 2013 to push back a jihadist advance from the desert north but the militants have since regrouped and expanded their presence.
Some 4,500 French troops remain based in the wider Sahel, which consists mostly of former French colonies, most of them in Mali. The United States also has hundreds of troops in the region.
YAOUNDE, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- A bus driver was killed and seven passengers kidnapped when terror group Boko Haram hijacked a commercial bus in Cameroon's Far North region on Tuesday, Cameroon army said on Wednesday.
"There were 19 passengers altogether when the terrorists attacked. The driver was killed on the spot, and seven passengers were kidnapped. The other 11 passengers were rescued by security forces," the army said stating that the tragedy took place in Dabanga, a locality in the Logone and Chari division of the Far North region.
The Cameroon army is conducting a rescue mission to secure the safe release of the passengers, according to local authorities.
Aug 22nd 2019
Girl. By Edna O’Brien.Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 240 pages; $26. Faber & Faber; £16.99.
Edna o’brien launched her illustrious career in 1960 with “The Country Girls”, an incendiary, trailblazing novel that charted the fortunes and sexual awakening of two young women in the Ireland of the 1950s. Two equally controversial follow-ups, “The Lonely Girl” (1962) and “Girls in their Married Bliss” (1964), again depicted female desires and aspirations with compassionate candour. Almost 60 years after her debut, Ms O’Brien’s new book, “Girl”, evinces an enduring interest in girlhood. Despite the stark title’s suggestion of anonymity, the protagonist has a name. But she loses everything else when she is abducted and brutalised by Boko Haram.
“I was a girl once, but not any more.” So begins Maryam’s harrowing tale. Seized from her school, she is brought to a terrorist camp and inducted into “the Sect”. She and her friends are made to wear hijabs and worship a different God. She witnesses extreme violence and experiences it, during ordeals designed to send men away “sated and battle-maddened”. One militant chooses her to be his trophy wife and she is no longer “plundered” nightly. But she loses her status when her husband falls from grace and she gives birth—not to a future fighter but to a daughter.
Maryam’s luck turns after an aerial assault on the camp. She flees with her baby but faces further hardship and danger in the forests of north-eastern Nigeria, then hostility and prejudice in the country’s capital. Strangers view her with fear and suspicion; some relatives treat this “bush wife” and her “tainted” child with disdain. She seeks salvation elsewhere.
The Nigerian Air Force fighter jets have destroyed a logistics base of the Boko Haram terrorists in Bula Bello on the fringes of the Sambisa Forest in Borno State.
The air strikes were carried out on Thursday by the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole under Exercise Green Sweep 3.
The air force said in a release on Thursday evening that the operation was executed after Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions revealed that the settlement was being used by the insurgents elements to launch attacks against troops.
The NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, said, “Consequently, the ATF dispatched two Alpha Jets and an Mi-35M helicopter to attack the identified buildings within the settlement. Overhead the target area, several fighters were seen within the settlement.
“The two Alpha Jets therefore took turns attacking the target area, scoring direct hits on the desired points of impact. The structures were damaged by the strikes while several of the terrorists were neutralised.
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