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Islamic World News (07 Feb 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)


Man Converted To Islam in US Prison Wins Stay of Execution over Imam
















Actor Angelina Jolie joins in a press briefing as she visits Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, February 5, 2018. REUTERS/Rehman Asad

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Man Converted To Islam in US Prison Wins Stay of Execution over Imam

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar Compares Israel to Iran

Pakistan’s Top Court Orders Army, ISI to Stay Away From Politics

Sweden Team Woman Goalie Embraced Islam, Faces Threats

Homeless Shelter from the Cold As UK Mosque Opens Its Doors

Pope: UAE Trip Was ‘New Page’ in Christian-Muslim Dialogue

Muslim Teacher in Bihar Thrashed For Not Saying ‘Vande Mataram’ On Republic Day

Stigma Ruined My Life: Kerala Man Cleared Of IS Charges

Angelina Jolie Visits Rohingya Camps, Says Refugees’ Plight ‘Shames Us All’

Rouhani: Iran Ready to Accept Friendly US Ties If It ‘Repents’

 

North America

Man Converted To Islam in US Prison Wins Stay of Execution over Imam

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar Compares Israel to Iran

Trump: End of Daesh Territory to Be Announced Next Week

Top US College Slams Khashoggi Murder; Keeps Saudi Ties

US general asks Pak to cease its behaviour undermining regional stability

US to pull half of troops out of Afghanistan by April: Taliban

Still no Muslim cemetery in Quebec two years after mosque attack

Turkish FM conveys concerns to Brazil on Jerusalem move

Donald Trump expects to liberate '100 per cent' of ISIS territory by next week

State of the Union: Donald Trump singles out Iran as the 'world’s leading state sponsor of terror'

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Pakistan

Pakistan’s Top Court Orders Army, ISI to Stay Away From Politics

Faizabad Sit-In: SC Tells Govt To Prosecute Elements Propagating Hate And Extremism

Rights activist Gulalai Ismail released: Islamabad police

PHC requested to dismiss petition about Abbottabad operation

Govt wants Shahbaz to quit position of PAC chief

Cache of weapons recovered in South Waziristan

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Europe

Sweden Team Woman Goalie Embraced Islam, Faces Threats

Homeless Shelter from the Cold As UK Mosque Opens Its Doors

Dialogue with Islam Key for Peace: Pope

UK Police Investigating Verbal Abuse of Top Muslim Player, Mohammad Salah Of Egypt

Danish Jehovah’s witness gets 6 years for ‘extremism’ in Russia

Turkey raps French plan to mark Armenian ‘genocide’ day

Pope: My UAE Trip Wrote New Page In Christian-Islam History

Taliban and Afghan officials issue joint announcement from Moscow

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Arab World

Pope: UAE Trip Was ‘New Page’ in Christian-Muslim Dialogue

Iraq Won't Turn Into Launch Pad For Aggression Against Others, Top Shia Cleric Says

Over 1,500 Foreign Terrorists Enter Idlib from Turkey

Top Iraqi cleric rejects Trump’s plan for US troops in Iraq

Egypt opposition rejects move to extend Sisi’s rule

What can counter-sectarianism committee achieve in Egypt?

Lebanon to rely on Russian strategy for return of Syrian refugees: Minister

Lebanon's Berri says Israel oil exploration in disputed waters 'dangerous'

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India

Muslim Teacher in Bihar Thrashed For Not Saying ‘Vande Mataram’ On Republic Day

Stigma Ruined My Life: Kerala Man Cleared Of IS Charges

Govt. Decides Not To Present Triple Talaq, Citizenship Bills In RS

Bangladesh anti-graft body to learn from CBI under new pact

MHA bans J&K outfit Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen over terror

Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist killed in encounter in Pulwama

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South Asia

Angelina Jolie Visits Rohingya Camps, Says Refugees’ Plight ‘Shames Us All’

Taliban Reject Trump's Suggestion of Lingering US Counter-Terrorism Presence

Elephants face ‘time bomb’ in Bangladesh land clash with Rohingya refugees

Coalition airstrike leaves 3 Taliban dead in Helmand province

USFOR-A refutes Taliban claims regarding troops pullout plan

Militants suffer heavy casualties in ANDSF operations in Kandahar and Zabul

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Mideast

Rouhani: Iran Ready to Accept Friendly US Ties If It ‘Repents’

Iranian diplomat says Pakistan key player in regional peace

US army to buy two Israeli Iron Dome air defence systems

Sanaa University launches weekly lectures to ‘analyze’ Houthi leader speeches

US blocks UN motion against Israel's expulsion of al-Khalil monitors

Ill Palestinian prisoner dies because of ‘deliberate medical negligence’ in Israeli jail

‘Read the Constitution,’ US Senators told after pro-Israel move

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Southeast Asia

Muslim Voters Brave Terrorism Threats in Southern Philippines

Kit Siang to Wee: You’d have lost seat if Muslim voters had taken Hadi’s advice

Amanah seeks to open eyes on Malay, Muslim rights under Pakatan

PAS to hand over bank statements to Malaysian anti-graft agency to refute claims it received $30m from 1MDB

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Africa

Nigerian army plotting to kill Sheikh Zakzaky: IMN

Nigeria leader’s ally says foreigners who intervene in poll face ‘body bags’

US halts some Cameroon military assistance over human rights

East Libyan forces say they've taken southern oil field

Is Somalia losing the war against terrorist group al-Shabaab?

'The corpses were lying on the streets': Refugees flee Boko Haram

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/man-converted-to-islam-in-us-prison-wins-stay-of-execution-over-imam/d/117679

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Man converted to Islam in US prison wins stay of execution over imam

February 7, 2019

WASHINGTON: 42-year-old Domineque Ray, who converted to Islam while in prison, won a last-minute stay of execution Wednesday when a federal court ruled that his constitutional rights had been violated because the state of Alabama refused to provide an imam to accompany him into the death chamber.

The federal appeals court, headquartered in Atlanta, granted the stay of execution to Ray, who had been scheduled to die on Thursday for the rape and murder of a girl in 1995.

"The central constitutional problem here is that the state has regularly placed a Christian cleric in the execution room to minister to the needs of Christian inmates, but has refused to provide the same benefit to a devout Muslim and all other non-Christians," the judges said in their ruling.

The First Amendment of the US Constitution forbids public authorities from favoring one religion over another, or from preventing the free practice of faith.

As his execution date approached, Ray, who converted to Islam while in prison, demanded the right to be escorted to the death chamber by an imam.

The conservative southern state allows a salaried prison chaplain into the execution chamber, but only allows unauthorized spiritual guides to accompany a condemned prisoner to the door of the room.

Ray´s lawyers filed an emergency challenge to the ruling last week, but it was denied by a lower court, which argued that Alabama could not allow "the risk posed by allowing another cleric into the execution chamber."

But the appeals court said that Alabama had presented no evidence of any such security risk, nor why it would be a problem to train an imam in prison protocol in time for the execution.

The state of Alabama announced after the ruling that it would take its case to the Supreme Court.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/428635-man-converted-to-islam-in-us-prison-wins-stay-of-execution-over-imam

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Congresswoman Ilhan Omar Compares Israel to Iran

February 6, 2019

Newly-inaugurated Congresswomen Ilhan Omar compared Israel to Iran while in the process of falsely characterizing the Israeli Nation-State law.

“When I see Israel institute a law that recognizes it as a Jewish state and does not recognize the other religions that are living in it, and we still uphold it as a democracy in the Middle East, I almost chuckle, because I know that if we see that in any other society we would criticize it, we would call it out, we do that to Iran, we do that to any other place that sort of upholds its religion,” Omar (D-MN) said.  “And so I am aggravated, truly, in these contradictions.”

The law to which Omar was referring defines Israel as “the historical homeland of the Jewish people” and its “historical right to self-determination.” The recently-passed law, however, did not change the status of any religion in Israel, the only country in the region that affords religious freedom for all religions.

The declaration of the establishment of the state of Israel “promises freedom of religion and conscience and full social and political equality, regardless of religious affiliation.” The Nation-State Law does nothing to change this status.

Israel’s population is approximately 75 percent Jewish, 18 percent Muslim, two percent Christian and 1.6 percent Druze.

Just days after her win, Omar announced her support for the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement. During her campaign for her Congressional seat, Omar told audiences she believed BDS was “counteractive” since it wasn’t “helpful in getting a two-state solution.”

However, after her electoral win, Omar’s campaign switched her position saying the congresswoman-elect believes in and supports the BDS movement.

Omar has a history of demonizing Israel. In 2012, Omar accused Israel of “hypnotizing the world” and asked God to “awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Just before the midterm elections, Omar stood by that tweet and defended her position.

She recently said that her choice of words in the tweet were “unfortunate.”

During the Covington Catholic High School controversy, Omar falsely accused the high school boys of “taunting” members of a Black supremacist group. In actuality, the group was hurling violent and pornographic epithets at the boys.

“They were taunting 5 Black men before they surrounded [Nathan] Phillips and led racist chants,” she tweeted. She later deleted the tweet.

https://clarionproject.org/congresswoman-ilhan-omar-compares-israel-to-iran/

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Pakistan’s top court orders army, ISI to stay away from politics

Feb 6, 2019

ISLAMABAD: In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday proscribed the armed forces, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and other spy agencies from indulging in political activities and ordered the federal and provincial governments to sternly monitor and act against all elements advocating hatred, extremism and terrorism.

The verdict of a two-judge bench, comprising Justices Faez Essa and Mushir Alam, was related to the apex court taking suo motu cognisance in November 2017 of a three-week sit-in in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The sit-in, spearheaded by Islamist parties Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and Sunni Tehreek, was held against a change in the “Finality of Prophethood” oath, termed by the then government as a clerical error when the government passed the Elections Act of 2017. The agitation was called off after protesters reached an agreement with the government through the good offices of the army and ISI.

“The Constitution emphatically prohibits members of the Armed Forces from engaging in any kind of political activity, which includes supporting a political party, faction or individual. The government of Pakistan through the ministry of defence and the respective Chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are directed to initiate action against the personnel under their command who are found to have violated their oath,” the verdict stated.

The 43-page verdict directed intelligence agencies and the army’s media wing not exceed their constitutional mandate. “All intelligence agencies, including ISI, Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Military Intelligence (MI), and the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) (army’s media arm) must not exceed their respective mandates. They cannot curtail the freedom of speech and expression and do not have the authority to interfere with broadcasts and publications, in the management of broadcasters/publishers and in the distribution of newspapers,” it said.

The intelligence agencies, according to the judgment, should monitor the activities of all those who threaten the territorial integrity of the country and all those who undermine the security of the people and the state by resorting to or inciting violence.

“To best ensure transparency and the rule of law it would be appropriate to enact laws which clearly stipulate the respective mandates of the intelligence agencies,” the verdict suggested.

In Pakistan, the army is considered the most powerful institution and its chief the most powerful person, one who has the final say in all important matters related to foreign policy, the economy and national security. While several observers lauded the apex court’s verdict, some expressed their reservations considering the rules of the game being set in Pakistan’s corridors of power. “The Supreme Court has reminded the armed forces and spy agencies what already has been described in the Constitution. The military’s role in the political domain cannot be fixed unless the civilian institutions in the country remain weak,” Aamir Ghauri, a prominent Pakistani analyst, told TOI.

The ruling said any person issuing an edict, or fatwa, which harms another or puts another in harm’s way must be criminally prosecuted under the Pakistan Penal Code, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, and/or the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.

“Those spreading messages through electronic means which advocate or incite the commission of an offence are liable to be prosecuted under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016,” it added.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistans-top-court-orders-army-isi-to-stay-away-from-politics/articleshow/67874330.cms

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Sweden Team Woman Goalie Embraced Islam, Faces Threats

Feb 06, 2019

STOCKHOLM: A women goalkeeper for Sweden National Team under 19, faced huge criticism threats, insults over the past seven months following her conversion to Islam.

Ronja Andersson, a member of the Uppsala Women’s Football team appeared on a TV show called Troll Hunter on Monday night.

According to Anadolu Agency, the person who sent Andersson’s house a hate letter was also in present during the show. The identified person also apologize to Andersson.

On her story of becoming a Muslim, on the show, Andersson said she was first introduced to Islam when she was 15-year-old by her Turkish friend.

Andersson said: “I had a Turkish boyfriend when I was 15, and I learned about Islam from his family. When I went to Turkey with his family, I was so much impressed by the mosques.”

She stated to had a peaceful life after becoming a Muslim. “I read the Holy Quran, I pray and fast. “I am proud and happy to be a Muslim,” Andersson added.

Andersson become a hot topic of discussion in Sweden after she accept Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him) as Allah’s messenger and announce her religious conversion to the public on May 2018.

In an interview with National Swedish newspaper Expressen.se, Andersson stressed that she is proud to be a Muslim despite the hate she received from people around her, including her family: “They are full of prejudice against me… I was also exposed to hatred,” she said. But she said, “I’m Proud I Chose Islam.”

According to the US State Department report in 2011, Muslims make up between 450,000 and 500,000 of Sweden’s nine million people.

https://www.siasat.com/news/sweden-team-goalie-embraced-islam-faces-threats-1464339/

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Homeless shelter from the cold as UK mosque opens its doors

February 6, 2019

As Britain’s bitterly cold winter shows no sign of abating, a Birmingham mosque has opened its doors to the homeless amid concern at the freezing temperatures and the housing crisis.

Those looking for help sleep overnight in the mosque's community hall and are given food, snacks and warm drinks. The project began two weeks ago when volunteers from the Green Lane Mosque and Community Centre began dropping off leaflets around the city advertising their support.

One homeless person, who came with a wheelchair-bound friend, became so cold before arriving he could not feel his feet, the mosque said. All are welcome, regardless of race, religion or background according to Humayan Saleem, head of welfare at the centre.

“Walking around the city centre at night you see all the homeless huddled in doorways. They sleep on concrete floors in freezing temperatures. Over the last couple of years in Birmingham there have been cases of homeless people freezing to death and we want to help avoid this,” said Kamran Hussain, the mosque’s general manager.

On day three there were 12 staying in the mosque overnight with numbers described as “consistent” thereafter.

Organisers want to continue for a number of weeks and will then reassess the situation. It is, however, reliant on local goodwill and the volunteer efforts of around 20 people.

“We have had a call out for volunteers from our congregation and have had a good response…. it is difficult to find people who can contribute to stay for a whole night so we are requesting more people to come forward and register their support for the overnight stay from 11pm to 7.30am,” said Qaid Khizar, an administration support assistant at the mosque.

The centre said it also distributes food to the community via its foodbank, which has been running for years.

In January temperatures plunged below freezing as Birmingham was hit by a torrent of snow and ice. According to research released in November by the charity Shelter, there are at least 320,000 homeless people in Britain – a four percent rise on the previous year.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/homeless-shelter-from-the-cold-as-uk-mosque-opens-its-doors-1.822621

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Pope: UAE Trip Was ‘New Page’ in Christian-Muslim Dialogue

FEB. 6, 2019

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said Wednesday that his recent trip to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates was a step forward in Catholic-Muslim dialogue and promoting peace among religions.

Though a brief visit, the “scattered seeds” of the Feb. 3-5 trip will bear fruit according to God’s will, he said during his general audience Feb. 6.

The visit to the UAE, and second meeting with the Muslim grand imam of al-Azhar, “wrote a new page in the history of dialogue between Christianity and Islam and in the commitment to promote peace in the world on the basis of human brotherhood.”

Pope Francis first met the grand imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, during a 2017 apostolic visit to Egypt. The two signed a joint document on human fraternity Feb. 4.

In the document, “we condemn all forms of violence, especially those with religious motivation, and we commit ourselves to spreading authentic values and peace throughout the world,” the Pope stated.

In this era, he said, when there is strong a temptation to discord between Christian and Islamic cultures, and considering religions as sources of conflict, “we wanted to give a further, clear and decisive sign, that, instead, it is possible to meet; it is possible to respect and dialogue.”

He added that he recommends people read the document and try to understand it, because it has helpful points for how to carry out a dialogue on human fraternity.

“Despite the diversity of cultures and traditions, the Christian and Islamic world appreciate and protect common values: life, family, religious sense, honor for the elderly, the education of young people, and still other things,” he said.

Francis’ trip to the UAE, the first of a pope to the Arabian Peninsula, also fell 800 years after St. Francis of Assisi visited Sultan Malik al Kamil in Egypt. Pope Francis said it was “Providence” that a pope named Francis made the historic trip on the 800th anniversary of the saint’s visit.

“I often thought of St. Francis during this journey: He helped me to keep the Gospel, the love of Jesus Christ, in my heart while I was living the various moments of the visit,” he said.

“In my heart there was the Gospel of Christ,” he said, “the prayer to the Father for all his children, especially for the poorest, for the victims of injustice, wars, misery; prayer because the dialogue between Christianity and Islam is a decisive factor for peace in today’s world.”

During the audience, Francis also recalled his meetings with two 90-year-old priests who have both served in the UAE for many years. One, he said, is now blind and in a wheelchair, but a smile never left his lips. “The smile of having served the Lord and done very good.”

Another highlight of the trip, he pointed out, was the Mass he celebrated in the stadium in Abu Dhabi Feb. 5, which was attended by around 150,000 people. “There were so many people!” he said. “We prayed in a special way for peace and justice, with a special intention for the Middle East and Yemen.”

http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-uae-trip-was-new-page-in-christian-muslim-dialogue

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Muslim Teacher in Bihar Thrashed For Not Saying ‘Vande Mataram’ On Republic Day

Feb 07, 2019

A Muslim teacher in Bihar’s Katihar district was beaten up by locals after he refused to say ‘Vande Mataram’ following the flag-hoisting ceremony on Republic Day on January 26.

The video of local residents thrashing the primary school teacher, identified as Afzal Hussain, has gone viral.

Hussain later said he did not say ‘Vande Mataram’ as the same is against his religious belief.

“We believe in Allah and Vande Mataram is against our belief. The term means vandana (praise in Hindi) of Bharat Mata which is not what we believe in,” he said, according to news agency ANI. “Nowhere in the Constitution is it written that saying Vande Mataram is necessary. I could have lost my life,” he said.

Bihar Education Minister KN Prasad Verma said, “action will be taken if incident of this sort has occurred. National song’s insult is not forgivable at all”.

District education officer Dinesh Chandra Dev told reporters he has not received any complaint regarding the incident. “Had we got any such information, an investigation would have been done. But till now we have not got any such complaint,” he said.

Vande Mataram, India’s national song, has sparked controversies in the past. Many Muslims say the song in Sanskrit is a hymn to the Hindu goddess Durga and it is against the tenets of Islam to sing it.

The song was written by the Bengali poet Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in 1876.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/patna/muslim-teacher-in-bihar-thrashed-for-not-saying-vande-mataram-on-republic-day/story-8Ad6LgeiZAwZLpnzL4S4OO.html

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Stigma ruined my life: Kerala man cleared of IS charges

by Shaju Philip

February 7, 2019

In February last year, Riyaz’s life took a turn for the worse. He was sacked from his managerial job in Saudi Arabia, his family abandoned him and he was placed under arrest for 76 days by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) after his wife alleged she was forced to convert and he sold her to Islamic State (IS) as a “sex slave”.

Almost one year since the 27-year-old was arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the NIA last week cleared him of terror charges and transferred his case to the North Paravur police.

“He has been cleared of IS links and NIA has dropped charges against him under the UAPA. They found no evidence against him. Now, we will probe the alleged crime under Section 498 (A) of IPC, (husband subjecting a woman to cruelty),’’ said an officer of Ernakulam rural police.

The charges being dropped is light at the end of a long tunnel for Riyaz, but he says the IS stigma has ruined his life forever.

“After I was arrested, I lost my job as a manager in Saudi Arabia. Close family members abandoned me after the ISIS links were foisted. I never thought a love marriage with a woman of a different religion would trigger such trouble. I had come from Saudi Arabia to convince people of my innocence, but the NIA arrested and put me in jail,’’ says Riyaz.

From New Mahe in Kannur, Riyaz was arrested on February 3 by NIA when he landed from Saudi Arabia. The NIA had taken over the case from the local police, where his wife, a Muslim convert, alleged that Riyaz had tried to sell her to IS in Syria.

Their love affair began in 2013 in Bengaluru where Riyaz and the Hindu woman, from Pathanamthitta, studied in the same institute. They married in May 2016 without support from either family after the woman converted to Islam.

Three months later, she got a call from her father that her mother fell in the bathroom and she was needed at home and flew to Gujarat.

“When she reached home, my wife realised that the family had trapped her. She contacted me with the help of a friend and asked to rescue her,” said Riyaz.

Subsequently, he moved a habeas corpus plea in the Kerala High Court alleging his wife was detained by her parents. She told the court she voluntarily married him and on October 15, 2016, the Court allowed her to stay with Riyaz.

The couple then moved to Jeddah and two months later, his wife got another call that her father was ill and she should return immediately. “It was true that her father was ill. I had objected to her return then as she was at the risk of losing her job. I let her go and even dropped her to the airport,’’ he said.

Things went awry in November 2017, when his wife in a Kerala HC plea said she was forcefully converted and Riyaz tried to sell her as a sex slave to IS in Syria.

“I gave her my ATM card and mobile phone. After she boarded the flight, I messaged the copy of her boarding pass to my cousin. How can her family claim she escaped from my custody and I tried to sell her as a sex slave? When she insisted on returning, I arranged everything,’’ he said.

When the NIA took over, Riyaz contacted officers in Kochi to appear before them, neglecting legal advice. “I was confident of convincing officers about my innocence. But I was jailed and got bail from the High Court after 76 days,’’ he said.

Riyaz said he lost his job after he was jailed for alleged IS links. “Everyone looks at me with suspicion. People were not willing to interact with me. I have become a stranger for even close family members.’’

He said he could not contact his wife after she moved the complaint in court. “She could have sought a divorce. It was cruel to link me with ISIS.’’

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/stigma-ruined-my-life-kerala-man-cleared-of-is-charges-5572781/

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Angelina Jolie visits Rohingya camps, says refugees’ plight ‘shames us all’

6 February 2019

UN refugee agency special envoy Angelina Jolie on Tuesday visited camps in Bangladesh for Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and condemned the world’s failure to prevent a crisis that saw 730,000 people driven from their homes.

The Hollywood actor addressed a crowd of refugees on a hilltop in Kutapalong camp, the world’s largest refugee settlement, in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district.

She said was “humbled and proud to stand with you today.”

“You have every right not to be stateless and the way you have been treated shames us all,” said Jolie, adding the crisis was the result of decades of discrimination that had gone unaddressed.

“What is most tragic about this situation is that we cannot say we had no warning.”

Jolie’s visit came as the United Nations said it was preparing to launch a new appeal for $920 million to support the refugees, who fled a brutal military crackdown in neighboring Rakhine state in Myanmar in response to militant attacks in August 2017.

UN investigators have accused Myanmar’s army of carrying out mass killings and rapes with “genocidal intent” during the massive offensive that laid waste to hundreds of Rohingya villages in the western Rakhine state.

Myanmar denies the charge and says its offensive was a legitimate response to an insurgent threat and has pledged to welcome the refugees back.

But the United Nations says conditions are not yet right for return. The Rohingya say they want guarantees over their safety and to be recognized as citizens before returning.

Jolie said she had met stateless Rohingya who described being “treated like cattle in Myanmar.

“I met a woman yesterday, a survivor of rape in Myanmar, and she told me ‘you would have to shoot me where I stand before I would go back to Myanmar’,” Jolie said.

“I urge the Myanmar authorities to show the genuine commitment needed to end the cycle of violence, displacement, and improve conditions for all communities in Rakhine state, including the Rohingya.”

Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay did not pick up a call seeking comment.

Assessing humanitarian needs 

Jolie flew to Bangladesh this week to “assess the humanitarian needs of the Rohingya refugees and some of the more critical challenges facing Bangladesh as a host country”, the UNHCR said in a statement.

She will meet Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen in the capital, Dhaka, on Wednesday, the refugee agency said.

Several refugees who gathered to watch Jolie speak said they knew only that she was a “high official”.

But 22-year-old Mohammed Shakir, who fled his home in Rakhine after the 2017 violence, said he respected her for her humanitarian work.

“When I saw her, I was very excited because she has special words for our Rohingya,” he said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/02/06/Angelina-Jolie-visits-Rohingya-camps-says-refugees-plight-shames-us-all-.html

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Rouhani: Iran ready to accept friendly US ties if it ‘repents’

7 February 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday his country would be ready to establish “friendly relations” with the United States if it apologized for past wrongs.

“Our slogan is friendly relations with the whole world,” he said. That would even include “America, if it repents... and apologizes for its previous interferences in Iran, and is prepared to accept the greatness and dignity of the nation of Iran and the great Islamic Revolution,” he said.

“We are still ready to accept America’s... repentance despite the fact that for years it has done injustice to us,” he told foreign diplomats in Tehran during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

During the hostage crisis at Washington’s US embassy in 1979, Iranian students had famously demanded that the US should repent in return for the release of diplomats. The following year, the two countries cut diplomatic ties, and they have remained estranged ever since.

In a message marking Persian New Year in March 2009, then-US president Barack Obama reached out to the Islamic Republic, declaring: “we know that you are a great civilization, and your accomplishments have earned the respect of the United States and the world.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded the next day, saying “change and our attitude will change”. In June the same year, Obama became the first serving American president to recognize that the US played a role in the 1953 coup that toppled Iran’s elected government – but he stopped short of apologizing.

But the detente was scuppered by Obama’s successor Donald Trump, who in May last year unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear accord and re-imposed sanctions. Rouhani last week accused the US of being an “oath-breaker”, and his hardline opponents have repeatedly hammered the 2015 deal.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/07/Rouhani-Iran-ready-to-accept-friendly-US-ties-if-it-repents-.html

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North America

 

Trump: End of Daesh territory to be announced next week

06.02.2019

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON

The formal end to Daesh's territorial holdings in Iraq and Syria is likely to be announced as soon as next week, President Donald Trump said Wednesday as U.S. partners fight to rid the terror group from its final bastions in Syria.

The president made the announcement at a convening of over 70 of the U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition's foreign ministers in Washington.

"The ISIS caliphate has been decimated," Trump said at the meeting, using another name for Daesh.

He warned, however, that even as the group loses the last remnants of its territories, holdout Daesh operatives still in the region will continue to pose a threat.

"Rest assured, we will do what it takes to defeat every ounce, and every last person within the ISIS madness," he said.

During the meeting, the top diplomats of Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. issued a joint statement stressing the "concerted need for diplomacy and international political will" led by the UN to end the Syrian conflict.

"We affirm in the strongest terms that those who seek to destabilize the region or seek a military solution will only succeed in increasing the risk of a dangerous escalation and wider conflagration in the region," the countries said.

The comments came as the UN released its report on the terror group, warning Daesh is transforming its operations into covert networks in Iraq and Syria following military defeats in the two countries.

"One document obtained by a Member State describes ISIL’s objectives for the post-caliphate period: to undermine stabilization and reconstruction activities, target infrastructure rebuilding efforts and in general thwart economic progress," it said.

The group's "center of gravity" is expected to remain in Syria and Iraq, where it counts 14,000 to 18,000 militants in its ranks, as well as financial reserves ranging between $50 million and $300 million.

Trump announced the "rapid" withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria in December, claiming then that the global coalition had succeeded in defeating Daesh, his "only reason for being" there.

Amid pushback from within his administration and from key U.S. lawmakers, he later signaled a "slow & highly coordinated pullout" from the war-torn country.

The Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that rebukes Trump over the planned Syria withdrawal, claiming the exit could allow al-Qaeda and Daesh to regroup.

The bill still has to pass in the House of Representatives, where Democrats currently in control of the chamber are split over an amendment that protects states who penalize businesses that support a Palestinian-led boycott and divestment movement against Israel.

State laws aimed at doing so in the past have directly impacted individual citizens in addition to businesses, most notably in Texas, where people seeking aid following Hurricane Harvey were forced to sign an anti-boycott pledge in order to receive assistance.

Texas, and other states like it, has a law on the books barring agencies from doing work with contractors who boycott Israel. The state, however, classified aid seekers as contractors, forcing them to sign the anti-boycott pledge.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/trump-end-of-daesh-territory-to-be-announced-next-week/1385685

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Top US college slams Khashoggi murder; keeps Saudi ties

06.02.2019

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Wednesday said it would not severe its ties with Saudi Arabia but the school condemned the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"MIT utterly condemns such brutal human rights violations, discrimination and suppression of dissent, including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi," President Rafael Reif said in a letter.

Some students, faculty and members of the MIT community demanded the university end its relationship with the kingdom after Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last October.

After initially denying a role in the journalist's death, Saudi Arabia changed its story and blamed the killing on a botched rendition operation.

Reif said he shared the "sense of horror" at the killing but had no intentions of cutting engagements with Saudi Arabia, saying the kingdom sponsored research and education programs for the university.

Last year, the Saudi state oil company, Aramco, pledged $25 million to the university for an energy research project.

"My experience leads me to see our Saudi engagements differently, and therefore to believe that cutting off these longstanding faculty-led relationships abruptly in midstream is not the best course of action," said Reif.

He said the university will establish an advisory committee to review international engagement with other governments. This committee will review future partnerships and also look at ones that are up for renewal.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/top-us-college-slams-khashoggi-murder-keeps-saudi-ties/1385628

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US general asks Pak to cease its behaviour undermining regional stability

Feb 6, 2019

WASHINGTON: Pakistan's actions are often a source of "frustration" to US' regional efforts in Afghanistan, a top American general has said as he asked Islamabad to cease its behaviour undermining stability and play constructive role in achieving peace in South Asia.

During a Congressional hearing, Commander of the US Central Command General Joseph Votel told the lawmakers on Tuesday that terrorists operating out of Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to threaten Afghan stability as well as stoke tensions between Pakistan and India.

"We look to regional actors such as Pakistan to cease behaviour undermining regional stability and play constructive role in achieving peace in Afghanistan as well as the whole of South Asia," General Votel told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In his testimony, General Votel said that Pakistan has taken positive steps to assist Special US Representative of Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in support of Afghanistan reconciliation by facilitating talks with the Taliban.

But Pakistan "has avoided taking any concrete or irreversible steps such as arresting or expelling Taliban leaders who do not cooperate with reconciliation efforts," he said.

Since being appointed in September last, Khalilzad has met with all sides in an attempt to end America's longest war in which the US has lost over 2,400 soldiers in more than 17 years.

"With our strategic focus on reconciliation and regional security, Pakistan has a unique opportunity to make good on its promises of support to US efforts focused on finding a negotiated settlement to the Afghanistan conflict," the US Commander said.

If Pakistan plays a positive role in achieving a settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, the US will have opportunity and motive to help Islamabad fulfil that role, as peace in the region is the most important mutual priority for the US and Pakistan, he said.

Pakistan, Votel said, presents the US with challenges and opportunities in the execution of its South Asia Strategy.

As a state possessing nuclear weapons that sits at the nexus of Russian, Chinese, Indian, Iranian, and US geopolitical interests, Pakistan will always be a country of importance to the US, he noted.

"However, Pakistan's actions are often a source of frustration to the US regional efforts in Afghanistan," Votel said.

The Pentagon's posture with Pakistan involves supporting Department of State as they pursue a diplomatic solution with Islamabad to end the conflict in Afghanistan while ensuring that Pakistan's equities are acknowledged and addressed in any future agreement.

Votel told lawmakers that Pakistan has not taken concrete actions against the safe havens of violent extremist organisations or VEOs inside its borders.

"Similarly, VEOs located in Afghanistan conduct attacks inside Pakistan. This cross-border instability and violence generates tension along both sides of the border," he said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/us-general-asks-pak-to-cease-its-behaviour-undermining-regional-stability/articleshow/67868727.cms

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US to pull half of troops out of Afghanistan by April: Taliban

Feb 6, 2019

The Taliban say the United States has promised them to withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan by April as part of a peace process in the conflict-stricken country, a report says.

Citing the Russian RIA news agency, Reuters quoted the Taliban group — which has a delegation in Moscow for talks with Afghan opposition politicians — as making the assertion on Wednesday, without offering more information.

The Taliban have been holding bilateral talks with the US, without the participation of the Afghan government. Kabul has said any ultimate decision for peace in Afghanistan must include Kabul. It has also derided the Moscow meeting.

A separate Reuters report cited the head of the Taliban delegation in Moscow, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, as saying that no timetable had been agreed upon for the withdrawal of US troops yet.

“The timetable is not agreed so far, but it requires more discussion and more meetings so that we can decide on this,” Stanikzai said on Tuesday. “We hope that with their [Russians’] help, with their assistance, we can reach some sort of solution. We appreciate this.”

Stanikzai also discussed what he said was the Taliban’s hopes for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan.

“[The] America side... there are two things, two agendas we have discussed. One was the withdrawal of their troops, complete withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan... How they will withdraw, when they will withdraw, the timetable and which troops, and also the other side also. So two technical groups are working on that. It will start soon, their work,” he said.

The meeting was organized by the Council of Afghan Society, an organization representing the Afghan diaspora in Russia.

Last month, the US held talks with the Taliban in Qatar.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has appealed to the Taliban to end the violence in the country, emphasizing that the use of US-led foreign troops to establish peace there has always been a temporary solution to the conflict.

Earlier, Ghani told Afghan broadcaster TOLOnews that the Moscow meeting amounted to nothing.

“The Moscow meeting is nothing more than a fantasy. No one can decide without the consent of the Afghan people. Those who have gathered in Moscow have no executive authority. They can say what they want, but who are they representing?” President Ghani said.

Despite the 17-year presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan, the Taliban militants still wield control over almost half of the country.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/06/587827/Afghanistan-Taliban-US-troop-withdrawal-Russia

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Still no Muslim cemetery in Quebec two years after mosque attack

February 07, 2019

QUEBEC CITY: Two years after six people were killed in an attack at the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec, the local Canadian Muslim community still does not have its own cemetery to bury their dead.

Land had been chosen in 2017 for a new cemetery about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the capital of Canada’s Quebec province, but the project was rejected in a referendum.

Quebec City later sold land adjacent to a Catholic cemetery to the mosque, but its opening has been delayed by technical issues.

“In this area, the water table is a little too high,” explained Frederic Fournier, spokesman for Quebec’s environment ministry.

The Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec (CCIQ), he said, “must propose a solution to lower the water table to prevent the coffins from coming into contact with the groundwater and avoid contamination.”

CCIQ president Boufeldja Benabdallah said it is pressing ahead but the water woes could take a few more months to resolve.

Once opened, the new cemetery will be able to accomodate a few hundred burials. “The graveyard will be good to use for 50 years,” he said.

“In years past, there were only two options for the deceased,” Mohamed Labidi, a former president of the CCIQ, told AFP.

Either their remains were repatriated to their birth country — the six killed in the 2017 mosque shooting had emigrated to Canada — or they were buried at a Muslim cemetery in Montreal, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) from Quebec City.

He stressed the importance for members of his community to be buried in an all-Muslim cemetery. “It’s real need to have a cemetery, for stability of the Muslim community,” he said.

Of the six victims of the January 2017 attack, “five people have been repatriated to their home country and one is buried at the Muslim cemetery in Montreal,” said Benabdallah.

They were all dual nationals — two from Algeria, two Guineans, one Moroccan and one Tunisian.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1448421/world

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Turkish FM conveys concerns to Brazil on Jerusalem move

06.02.2019

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday shared concerns with his Brazilian counterpart, Ernesto Araujo, about that country’s possible decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

"Discussed bilateral relations & international developments w/FM Ernesto Araujo of #Brazil. Conveyed our concerns on the possible transfer of the Brazilian Embassy to #Jerusalem," Cavusoglu said in a tweet.

Cavusolgu arrived in Washington on Tuesday to attend a meeting of foreign ministers a part of the global coalition to defeat Daesh.

In November, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced he intended to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following the U.S., which had done so earlier in the year.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) responded to the announcement, denouncing the move as "illegal".

"The declaration was a flagrant violation of international law and of all relevant UN resolutions," said the OIC.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/turkish-fm-conveys-concerns-to-brazil-on-jerusalem-move/1385572

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Donald Trump expects to liberate '100 per cent' of ISIS territory by next week

Joyce Karam

February 6, 2019

US President Donald Trump predicted that ISIS will lose all its territory in its former so-called Caliphate next week, but warned of “dangerous remnants” from the group.

Addressing anti-terror global coalition members who gathered in Washington on Wednesday, Mr Trump said that the extremist group is “decimated” because of a plan that his administration put in place when he came to office in January 2017.

“When I became president it was a mess,” he said, explaining that he asked the Pentagon to put together a plan to directly confront the group and enable US partners on the ground in Iraq and Syria.

As a result, two years later, Mr Trump says ISIS territory will be completely lost by next week.

"It should be formally announced sometime next week that we will have 100 percent of the caliphate. I want to wait for the official word. I don't want to say it too early,” he said.

“The land is gone,” he added, but warned of dangerous remnants of the group.

Mr Trump said “as countries in the region step up their commitments…we look forward to give our troops a warm welcome home” but he did not announce a timeline for withdrawal from Syria.

The US President thanked the UAE, Germany and Saudi Arabia for their increased financial commitments as part of the coalition.

Mr Trump's comments followed on from a statement by his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, reassuring the 79 nations represented at the event that the US is still leading the fight against ISIS.

Hosting officials from the alliance in Washington, Mr Pompeo stressed that the United States was not backing out of the fight after President Donald Trump announced the surprise withdrawal of troops from Syria in December.

“We all know why we’re here – ISIS remains a menace, one that it’s our generation’s responsibility to stop,” the top US diplomat said.

“We're entering an era of decentralised jihad and nature of the fight against ISIS is changing so we must be nimble in response,” Mr Pompeo added.

He played down the US planned withdrawal from Syria saying it was a tactical change rather than a retreat in their involvement, adding that: “America will continue to lead in giving those who would destroy us no quarter”.

Mr Pompeo returned to the need for all coalition partners to redouble efforts, work together militarily but also through intelligence sharing, financial and humanitarian assistance and through cooperation to ensure the total eradication of the militant group and its ideology.

Without giving detail, he said that partners need to be able to respond quickly to requests for action in the fight and that these requests would be coming soon.

The US diplomat urged all countries to take back ISIS foreign fighters, prosecute and punish them. America, unlike many other countries, has actively taken custody of US citizens who travelled to Iraq and Syria to join the militant group. The US has also requested custody of non-American nationals who have committed crimes that may be punishable under American law.

This includes two former British nationals, part of a group from the UK dubbed ‘the Beatles’ accused of the murder of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid workers David Haines, Alan Henning and Peter Kassig. The two suspects are held by Western-backed Kurdish forces in Northern Syria and have been stripped of their British nationality.

Many countries are reluctant to accept the return of captured foreign fighters due to the difficulty in mounting a legal case against them and inadequate laws against nationals travelling abroad to join armed groups. Also, there lingers the question for many counties if they are able to make a successful prosecution of what to do with the former fighters.

On a phone call with reporters about the meeting, a senior US official voiced optimism about the prospects of setting up a “safe zone” on the Turkish-Syrian border that may include an international force.

“We're in closed negotiations with our Turkish counterparts to see what might be possible in terms of a buffer zone that would both protect Turkey's legitimate security concerns about its border, and also protect the partners that we've been fighting with over the course of the last few years. I don’t think we're prepared to comment on what might make up an international force in that safe zone because those conversations haven't been concluded yet,” the official said.

Asked by The National if the US would amend its withdrawal plans were the safe zone talks to fail, the US official said: “I wouldn’t want to predict failure given the success of our recent discussions with the Turks. I think we'll remain optimistic that creating this safe zone is in both of our best interests and that we'll be able to get there.”

The official said the US administration was “a little surprised by the reaction” by Iraqi leaders to Mr Trump’s recent comments that US troops watch Iran from Iraq. “We look at the influence of Iran across the region, the places where they’re intervening are not exactly an advertisement for good government and prosperous security,” the official said.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Al Hakim, speaking after Mr Pompeo, called on countries to help expose ISIS "sleeper cells" in Iraq and restore stability.

He asked coalition members for “complete respect for territorial integrity of Iraq” and that all operations must take place with the knowledge of the government in Baghdad and according to its constitution.

The US official did not put a timeline for US withdrawal from Syria but hinted that American troops presence at Al Tanf base in the east “would be the last place that we would withdraw from, and I think that’s something that has not been scheduled.”

Mr Pompeo also held a morning meeting with the Coalition’s Small Group that includes Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In a joint statement on Syria following the discussions, they recommitted to “efforts to achieve a political solution to the conflict in Syria on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254.”

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/donald-trump-expects-to-liberate-100-per-cent-of-isis-territory-by-next-week-1.822748

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State of the Union: Donald Trump singles out Iran as the 'world’s leading state sponsor of terror'

Joyce Karam

February 6, 2019

In his second State of the Union address, US President Donald Trump singled out Iran as the “world’s leading state sponsor of terror” and repeated his pledge to avoid endless wars.

But Mr Trump stopped short of doubling down on declaring full victory against ISIS as had been expected and he did not give a more fixed timetable for pulling US forces from Syria.

The president struck a more bipartisan tone to last year in a speech that followed the longest government shutdown in US history last month and the Republican loss of the House of Representatives in last November’s election.

On the Middle East, the US President focused on Iran, the fight against ISIS and withdrawal from Syria without detailing the specifics of his plan.

“My administration has acted decisively to confront the world's leading state sponsor of terror: the radical regime in Iran,” he said.

“To ensure this corrupt dictatorship never acquires nuclear weapons, I withdrew the United States from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal. And last fall, we put in place the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a country,” Mr Trump said.

The White House is preparing to host a conference in Warsaw next week to discuss increasing pressure on Tehran.

“We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants death to America and threatens genocide against the Jewish people,” he said to applause.

The president laid out his Middle East strategy — or without saying so specifically, his policy towards Israel and Palestine — as one of “principled realism, not discredited theories that have failed for decades to yield progress.

“My Administration recognised the true capital of Israel — and proudly opened the American Embassy in Jerusalem,” he said.

Criticising long drawn-out wars, Mr Trump complained about spending more than $7 trillion (Dh25.7 tn) in the Middle East. “As a candidate for President, I pledged a new approach. Great nations do not fight endless wars,” he said.

But Mr Trump was widely expected to reiterate his claim that the US had defeated ISIS and detail a timeline for withdrawal from Syria.

The US president's December announcement that the campaign in Syria was completed came as a shock to US allies and his own officials. It led Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and the US’s top envoy to the international anti-ISIS coalition, Brett McGurk, to resign.

“When I took office, ISIS controlled more than 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria. Today, we have liberated virtually all of that territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty killers,” he said.

“Now, as we work with our allies to destroy the remnants of ISIS, it is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home.”

Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, a Yazidi activist and survivor of genocide, and Syrian Kurdish leader Ilham Ahmed were in the audience.

On America’s longest war, Mr Trump said he has “accelerated our negotiations to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan”. He highlighted the US's “constructive talks with a number of Afghan groups, including the Taliban.

“We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement — but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace”.

Turning to Russia, he defended his decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty on missiles. “Decades ago, the United States entered into a treaty with Russia in which we agreed to limit and reduce our missile capabilities.

“While we followed the agreement to the letter, Russia repeatedly violated its terms … Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can’t.”

The president's most concrete plans was over talks with North Korea.

“Chairman Kim and I will meet again on February 27 and 28 in Vietnam,” Mr Trump said.

On his signature negotiations with North Korea, Mr Trump said, “our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped and there has not been a missile launch in 15 months.

“Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one.”

On Venezuela, the US has condemned President Nicolas Maduro, called for him to step down and backed National Assembly head Juan Guaido as new interim President.

“We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom — and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime,” Mr Trump said.

On the domestic front, Mr Trump touted “an unprecedented economic boom” with a drop in unemployment and rise in wages during his first two years. He urged the new Democratic House to work with him, as another shutdown looms if no funding is provided for his flagship border wall in the coming weeks.

He repeated his defence of the wall and stronger border security and called for “reversing decades of calamitous trade policies” and uniting to rebuild “America’s crumbling infrastructure.”

With concern over how the new Congress will handle Mr Trump given the broad powers to demand investigations into the president, he warned, “If there is going to be peace and legislation there cannot be war and investigation.”

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/the-americas/state-of-the-union-donald-trump-singles-out-iran-as-the-world-s-leading-state-sponsor-of-terror-1.822430

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Pakistan

 

Faizabad sit-in: SC tells govt to prosecute elements propagating hate and extremism

FEBRUARY 7, 2019

The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the government to proceed against those who advocate hate and extremism, obstruct people’s right to use roads and damage public property.

Announcing its verdict in a suo motu case regarding the 2017 Faizabad sit-in staged by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), the two-member bench comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mushir Alam directed the federal and provincial governments to monitor all elements advocating hate, extremism and terrorism and prosecute the perpetrators in accordance with the law.

As per the written verdict authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, the Supreme Court has ruled that any person issuing an edict or fatwa, which harms another or puts another in harm’s way, must be criminally prosecuted under the Pakistan Penal Code, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and/or the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016. The verdict directed intelligence agencies, including ISI, IB and MI, and the ISPR to not exceed their constitutional mandate.

Directing the state’s security apparatus to not interfere with broadcasts and publications, the court further instructed the intelligence agencies to monitor all those who threaten the territorial integrity of the country and all those who undermine the security of the people and the State by resorting to or inciting violence. “It will be appropriate to enact laws which clearly stipulate the respective mandates of the intelligence agencies to ensure transparency. The Government of Pakistan through the Ministry of Defence and the respective chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are directed to initiate action against the personnel under their command who are found to have violated their oath,” the verdict read.

The full verdict is as follows:

(1) Subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law, citizens have the right to form and to be members of political parties.

(2) Every citizen and political party has the right to assemble and protest provided such assembly and protest is peaceful and complies with the law imposing reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order. The right to assemble and protest is circumscribed only to the extent that it infringes on the fundamental rights of others, including their right to free movement and to hold and enjoy property.

(3) Protesters who obstruct people’s right to use roads and damage or destroy property must be proceeded against in accordance with the law and held accountable.

(4) The constitution earmarks the responsibilities of the Election Commission which it must fulfil. If a political party does not comply with the law governing political parties then the Election Commission must proceed against it in accordance with the law. The law is most certainly not cosmetic as contended on behalf of the Election Commission.

(5) All political parties have to account for the source of their funds in accordance with the law.

(6) The State must always act impartially and fairly. The law is applicable to all, including those who are in government and institutions must act independently of those in government.

(7) When the State failed to prosecute those at the highest echelons of government who were responsible for the murder and attempted murder of peaceful citizens on the streets of Karachi on May 12, 2007, it set a bad precedent and encouraged others to resort to violence to achieve their agendas.

(8) A person issuing an edict or fatwa, which harms another or puts another in harm’s way, must be criminally prosecuted under the Pakistan Penal Code, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and/or the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.

(9) Broadcasters who broadcast messages advocating or inciting the commission of an offence violate the PEMRA Ordinance and the terms of their licences and must be proceeded against by PEMRA in accordance with the law.

(10) Cable operators who stopped or interrupted the broadcast of licenced broadcasters must be proceeded against by PEMRA in accordance with the PEMRA Ordinance, and if this was done on the behest of others then PEMRA should report those so directing the cable operators to the concerned authorities.

(11) Those spreading messages through electronic means which advocate or incite the commission of an offence are liable to be prosecuted under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.

(12) All intelligence agencies (including ISI, IB and MI) and the ISPR must not exceed their respective mandates. They cannot curtail the freedom of speech and expression and do not have the authority to interfere with broadcasts and publications, in the management of broadcasters/publishers and in the distribution of newspapers.

(13) Intelligence agencies should monitor activities of all those who threaten the territorial integrity of the country and all those who undermine the security of the people and the State by resorting to or inciting violence.

(14) To best ensure transparency and the rule of law, it would be appropriate to enact laws which clearly stipulate the respective mandates of the intelligence agencies.

(15) The constitution emphatically prohibits members of the armed forces from engaging in any kind of political activity, which includes supporting a political party, faction or individual. The government of Pakistan through the Ministry of Defence and the respective chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are directed to initiate action against the personnel under their command who are found to have violated their oath.

(16) The police and other law enforcement agencies are directed to develop standard plans and procedure with regard to how best to handle rallies, protests and dharnas, and ensure that such plans/procedures are flexible enough to attend to different situations. It is clarified that though the making of such plans/procedures is not within the jurisdiction of this courtm however we expect that in the maintenance of law and order every effort will be taken to avoid causing injury and loss of life.

(17) We direct the federal and provincial governments to monitor those advocating hate, extremism and terrorism and prosecute the perpetrators in accordance with the law.

Justice Isa concluded the written verdict by quoting Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah: “I consider it my duty to call upon the Muslims to temper their resentment with reason and to beware of the dangers which may well overwhelm their own State. Should they allow their feelings of the moment to gain mastery over their actions. It is of utmost importance that Pakistan should be kept free from disorder, because the outbreak of lawlessness… is bound to shake… its foundation and cause irreparable damage to its future. I pray to God that He who has bestowed on us this great boon of a sovereign State, may now give our people courage to… preserve intact the peace of Pakistan for the sake of Pakistan.”

The bench had reserved judgement on November 22 last year, a year after initiating suo motu proceedings on November 21, 2017.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/352124/faizabad-sit-in-sc-tells-govt-to-prosecute-elements-propagating-hate-and-extremism/

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Rights activist Gulalai Ismail released: Islamabad police

Shakeel Qarar

February 06, 2019

Rights activist Gulalai Ismail was released by Islamabad police late Wednesday, Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat told DawnNewsTV.

However, according to the senior official, 17 of the 25 Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) workers arrested a day earlier along with Gulalai for holding a protest demonstration outside the National Press Club were sent to Adiala jail after the completion of a verification process by police.

The official said that the workers were sent to jail under Section 3 (1) of the West Pakistan Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) of 1960.

Under the order, the 17 will remain jailed for a period of 15 days.

Gulalai, meanwhile, was released by Islamabad police, DC Shafqaat confirmed.

Earlier in the day, Gulalai's father, Professor Muhammad Ismail, told Dawn.com that his daughter had been arrested on Tuesday.

According to Professor Ismail, the activist was picked up from outside the National Press Club in Islamabad while she took part in a protest against the controversial death of PTM leader Arman Loni in Balochistan on Saturday.

Police had initially shifted Gulalai to the G9 Women's Police Station, Ismail told Dawn.com.

According to Gulalai's father, she was shifted to an unknown location a few hours after the arrest.

"We are trying to trace her whereabouts but the police is not ready to share Gulalai's location," he had said, adding that so far no First Information Report (FIR) of the arrest had been registered at the time.

In October last year, Gulalai had been detained by airport officials in Islamabad following her return from London. She was later released on bail but her passport was withheld by airport officials.

The detention had been in connection with an FIR that Swabi police had registered on Aug 13, 2018 against 19 PTM leaders, including Gulalai, for their involvement in a public gathering in Swabi where PTM's Manzoor Pashteen and Gulalai both addressed the crowd.

PTM is a rights-based alliance that, besides calling for the de-mining of the former tribal areas and greater freedom of movement in the latter, has insisted on an end to the practices of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful detentions, and for their practitioners to be held to account within a truth and reconciliation framework.

Gulalai, a Pashtun and women's rights activist, was in 2017 awarded the 'Reach all Women in War' Anna Politovskaya Award.

She co-founded a non-governmental organisation, Aware Girls, with sister Saba Ismail in 2002. The organisation aims to strengthen the leadership skills of young people, especially women and girls, enabling them to act as agents of change for women empowerment and peace building.

'Immediate and unconditional' release

In a statement shared on Twitter, Amnesty International South Asia called on Pakistani authorities to "immediately and unconditionally" release PTM protesters.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1462191/rights-activist-gulalai-ismail-released-islamabad-police

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PHC requested to dismiss petition about Abbottabad operation

February 07, 2019

PESHAWAR: Former president Asif Ali Zardari has requested Peshawar High Court to dismiss as non-maintainable a writ petition, seeking orders for the commission of inquiry into the Abbottabad incident to probe the ‘prior information’ allegedly available with Mr Zardari about the May 2011 US military operation against Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

In a written reply to the petition submitted to the court, the former president states that the writ petition is not maintainable as the subject matter does not fall within the ambit of Article 199 of the Constitution and the inquiry commission after concluding its report is no longer functional.

The petition is filed by freelance journalist Shahid Orakzai, pleading the court to order the Abbottabad commission to examine the ‘evidence’ of the alleged communication between former president Zardari and then Pakistani ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani prior to the Abbottabad operation and submit report about it within 30 days.

As interim relief, the petitioner has requested the court to suspend the membership of the National Assembly of Mr Zardari and restrain him from leaving Pakistan.

Senior lawyer Muzzamil Khan submitted the reply on behalf of Mr Zardari.

A bench of Justice Syed Afsar Shah and Justice Lal Jan Khattak, which took up for hearing the petition on Wednesday, adjourned hearing in the case without any noteworthy progress due to strike of lawyers across the province.

The petitioner has alleged that Mr Zardari was covertly connected with the American CIA in relation to its operation against Osama bin Laden and his connection should be proven before the commission of inquiry into the Abbottabad incident.

In the written comments, prepared by senior counsel Sardar Mohammad Latif Khan Khosa, it is stated that the subject matter related to the episode having occurred in 2011 and was being agitated before the court in 2019.

“The public concern was promptly addressed with the constitution of a high-powered commission known as the Abbottabad commission headed by Supreme Court Senior Justice Javed Iqbal under the Commission of Inquiry Act 1956 by the then federal government,” the respondent maintained.

He states: “The commission held threadbare inquiry and examined civil, military and personnel of all agencies and innumerable others and after prolonged sessions, hearings and deliberations submitted report which with its sensitivities and national interests concluded the matter.”

Mr Zardari states that the petitioner is neither an aggrieved person, nor has any locus standi to file the petition. It is added that the petitioner is known for filing such petitions, which can be termed as frivolous and wastage of court’s precious time. The respondent states that the commission has long since concluded and submitted the report to the federal government and as such has become non-functional. He terms the claim of the petitioner incorrect that in the last week of April 2011, he as the country’s president betrayed the ‘security of Pakistan’ by concealing secret information received from Washington DC about the US military operation against Osama bin Laden.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1462274/phc-requested-to-dismiss-petition-about-abbottabad-operation?preview

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Govt wants Shahbaz to quit position of PAC chief

February 07, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Some two months after the election of Shahbaz Sharif as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government on Wednesday called for his resignation.

The ruling party reached the conclusion at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan that leader of the opposition in the National Assembly should resign from the position of PAC chairman.

The meeting, that was attended by senior PTI leaders, also described the arrest of PTI leader and Punjab minister Abdul Aleem Khan as the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) “balancing act” that was aimed at justifying its actions against opposition leaders.

The PTI leaders also asserted that the government would not make any National Reconciliation Ordinance-like deal with any opposition leader.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry informed the media about details of the meeting in a video message. He said the government believed that Mr Sharif was using PAC as a shield against corruption cases initiated against him.

“The meeting expressed concern over the role and actions of Shahbaz Sharif as PAC chairman,” he added. “Shahbaz Sharif should step down and face corruption cases against him.”

He said PTI leader and Punjab minister Aleem Khan had resigned from his office after he was arrested by NAB in a corruption case.

Mr Sharif, who is president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, was elected unopposed as PAC chairman on Dec 22 last year after months of wrangling between the PTI and the opposition parties.

PAC is the apex parliamentary watchdog that oversees the audit of revenues and expenditures of the government and is considered to be the parliament’s most powerful and important committee.

Previously, the PAC used to comprise only the members of National Assembly, but in recent past the members of Senate have also been made part of it.

Though there is no stipulation in the rules to give the chairmanship of the PAC to opposition parties only, there’s a tradition that the office is given to an opposition member to ensure transparency in financial matters.

Initially, the PTI-led government was reluctant to give chairmanship of this vital committee to the opposition leader, contrary to the tradition. However, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi later announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan had decided not to stand in Mr Sharif’s way if he wanted to head the PAC.

The information minister said Aleem Khan had set a good example by leaving his office after being arrested by NAB. “Shahbaz Sharif should follow Aleem Khan and step down too.”

The minister said Prime Minister Khan was “unhappy” over the arrest of Aleem Khan and vowed to introduce reforms in NAB.

Mr Chaudhry said Mr Sharif was not only using PAC as a shield against his cases, but efforts were now being made to make another PML-N leader implicated in a NAB case, Khawaja Saad Rafique, a member of the PAC. “The way Mr Sharif summoned NAB officials in the PAC meetings shows he wants to take shelter behind the PAC position,” he added.

The information minister said Aleem Khan’s resignation had highlighted the difference between the PTI and other parties.

Without mentioning the names of opposition leaders who were asking for a NRO-like deal, he said: “No deal and dheel [concession] will be given to anyone.”

Mr Chaudhry said the government had decided to bring all cases of corruption to their logical conclusion.

In a separate meeting with leaders of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), Prime Minister Khan vowed to resolve the problems confronting the people of the country’s largest province.

BAP’s delegation led by federal Minister for Defence Production Zubaida Jalal apprised the prime minister of the problems faced by the people of Balochistan.

The prime minister told the delegation he was aware of the problem of water scarcity in the province and said he was in contact with Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani to address the issue.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1462323/govt-wants-shahbaz-to-quit-position-of-pac-chief

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Cache of weapons recovered in South Waziristan

February 07, 2019

PESHAWAR: Security forces recovered a cache of weapons during an Intelligence Based Operation (IBO) in village Manra of Tehsel Birmal in South Waziristan, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.

The ammunition included guns of different calibers, rocket launchers and machine guns, the statement added.

Raddul Fasaad, launched on February 22, 2017 is the codename for an operation launched by the military forces in collaboration with the Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy as well as local law enforcement agencies to curb down on terrorist actvities in the country.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/02/07/cache-of-weapons-recovered-in-south-waziristan/

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Europe

 

Dialogue with Islam key for peace: Pope

February 07, 2019

VATICAN: Dialogue between Christianity and Islam is crucial to promote peace worldwide, Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience in the Vatican on Wednesday following a landmark visit to the United Arab Emirates.

“Dialogue between Christianity and Islam needs to be a key factor for peace in the world today”, the pontiff said.

The Pope said the trip was “brief but very important”, linking it to his 2017 visit to Al-Azhar, Egypt, the highest seat of learning in Sunni Islam, and wrote “a new page in the dialogue between Christianity and Islam and in efforts to promote peace in the world based on human brotherhood”.

Francis noted that it was the “first time that a Pope visited the Arabian peninsula” and that “providence wanted it to be a Pope called Francis, 800 years after the visit of St Francis of Assisi to Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil.

The pontiff said UAE has grown a lot over the past few decades becoming a “crossroads between East and West, a multi-ethnic and multi-religious ‘oasis’ and thus the right place to promote the culture of encounter”.

“In an era like ours, when there is a strong temptation to see an ongoing clash between the Christian and Islamic civilization, and also to consider religions as sources of conflict, we have wanted to give a further clear and decided sign that it instead possible to meet, it is possible to respect one another and dialogue and that, despite the diversity of cultures and traditions, the Christian and Islamic worlds appreciate and preserve common values”, the Pope went on to say, citing life, family, a sense of religion, honoring the elderly and educating the young, among others.

The pontiff in particular recalled the he has signed with the grand imam of al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi a historic declaration of fraternity, calling for peace between nations, religions and races in which “we condemn all forms of violence, especially when it is motivated by religion and we pledge to promote authentic values and peace worldwide”.

He recalled that over one million Christians live in the UAE, mainly workers from Asian countries, and that he met with representatives of the Catholic community at Abu Dhabi’s St Josepth Cathedral, celebrating a mass with Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops in which they “prayed in particular for peace and justice, with special intention for the Middle East and Yemen”.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/02/06/dialogue-with-islam-key-for-peace-pope/

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UK Police Investigating Verbal Abuse of Top Muslim Player, Mohammad Salah Of Egypt

Feb 6, 2019

Police in London is investigating a major Islamophobic attack against Liverpool FC’s Mohammad Salah of Egypt.

The Metropolitan Police (The Met) said on Wednesday that it was investigating an incident during an English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Liverpool FC, in which a capital club supporter allegedly hurled Islamophobic rants at Salah.

A footage of the incident uploaded on the internet showing Salah being targeted with serious verbal abuses in the Monday match as he was taking a corner for his team.

The Met said they were reviewing the footage while calling on anyone having witnessed the incident at London Stadium to come forward.

“No arrests have been made and enquiries continue,” a Met statement said, adding, “Anyone who witnesses inappropriate behaviour during a match is urged to bring it to the attention of a steward or police officer.”

West Ham United authorities said they were also reviewing footage taken by CCTV cameras to identify the perpetrator. The London club vowed strong action against the suspect if he is found of guilty of racial abuse.

“At West Ham United, we have a zero tolerance policy to any form of violent or abusive behavior. We are an inclusive football club,” said a club spokesperson, adding, “Anyone identified committing an offence will have their details passed to the police and will face a lifetime ban from London Stadium.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/06/587857/UK-Muslim-player-Salah-Islamophobic-attack

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Danish Jehovah’s witness gets 6 years for ‘extremism’ in Russia

6 February 2019

A Russian court on Wednesday sentenced a Jehovah’s Witness to six years in prison for “extremism”, in the first conviction of its kind since a 2017 law that outlawed the religious group.

Danish citizen Dennis Christensen was in court in the southern Russian city of Oryol for the sentencing, spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia Yaroslav Sivulskiy told AFP.

“We deeply regret the conviction of Dennis Christensen -- an innocent man who did not commit any real crime,” Sivulskiy said in a statement.

“It is sad that reading the Bible, preaching, and living a moral way of life is again a criminal offence in Russia.”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses, a US-based Christian evangelical movement, will appeal the verdict within 10 days, according to a statement from the organization’s head office.

An AFP photographer outside the courtroom saw Christensen, 46, being led past a mass of supporters by police officers following the verdict.

Rights groups have condemned the trial, with Amnesty International saying it was “emblematic of the grave human rights violations” taking place in Russia.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/02/06/Danish-Jehovah-s-witness-gets-6-years-for-extremism-in-Russia-.html

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Turkey raps French plan to mark Armenian ‘genocide’ day

Feb 6, 2019

Turkey has condemned a decision by French President Emmanuel Macron to declare a national day for the commemoration of the “genocide” of Armenians by Turkish troops in World War I.

“We condemn and reject attempts by Mr. Macron, who is facing political problems in his own country, to save the day by turning historic[al] events into political material,” President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Allegations of the so-called Armenian genocide are a political lie lacking any legal basis and contrary to historical facts,” Kalin said, adding that the accusations are “null and void for Turkey.”

Macron said April 24 would in the next weeks be declared a “national day of commemoration of the Armenian genocide.”

He said he had already informed Erdogan of his decision.

Armenia says 1.5 million people were massacred, imprisoned, or faced forced deportation by the Ottoman Empire during WWI.

Ankara denies that “genocide” took place at the time, arguing that 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks were killed in a civil strife when Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers back then. It has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from the two sides as well as international experts to tackle the issue.

The issue has also been a source of friction between Turkey and European Union member states.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/06/587822/Turkey-France-Armenia-genocide-Macron

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Pope: My UAE trip wrote new page in Christian-Islam history

February 06, 2019

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis says his pilgrimage this week to the United Arab Emirates wrote a “new page in history of the dialogue between Christianity and Islam” and in promoting world peace based on brotherhood.

Telling pilgrims at the Vatican Wednesday about making the first-ever papal trip to the Arabian Peninsula, Francis described his encounter with leaders of Islam as a counterpoint to the “strong temptation” to contend there’s a current clash between Christian and Islamic civilizations.

While in Abu Dhabi, Francis signed a document with the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the ancient seat of learning in Sunni Islam, condemning religiously motivated and other violence. The pope said the two religious leaders wanted to give a “clear and decisive sign” that respect and dialogue is possible between the Christian and Islamic worlds.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1447961/middle-east

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Taliban and Afghan officials issue joint announcement from Moscow

Jonathan Brown

February 6, 2019

Taliban leaders repeated a historic claim that the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan was a prerequisite for peace during talks in Moscow on Wednesday that were criticised by US officials and the government in Kabul .

During the meeting with Afghan politicians outside of government, senior Taliban leaders said that the US had agreed to draw down half of its 14,000 force in Afghanistan by April, a claim later denied by officials in Washington. The group’s leaders also told reporters they had no intention of taking the entire country by force.

The conference in the Russian capital, organised by an Afghan diaspora group, came just three months after Taliban leaders were last in Moscow. In November, the foreign ministry brought together Taliban leaders alongside representatives of the Afghan government and 11 countries that were touted as the highest level talks the insurgent group had ever participated in.

A Russian official speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity explained that the Kabul government had not been invited to talks this week due to their “sensitivity.”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani criticised the gathering in Moscow on Tuesday saying they amounted to "nothing more than a fantasy.”

“No one can decide without the consent of the Afghan people," he told Afghan media. "Those who have gathered in Moscow have no executive authority. They can say what they want."

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, among the most high profile attendees in Moscow, said Kabul’s role in negotiations was something for it to resolve with the Taliban. "We understand that the government in Kabul needs to be part of these negotiations, we wish that they would have been here today," he told reporters.

The talks in Moscow come shortly after US officials and the Taliban ended their own round of negotiations in Qatar in January. Both sides said they had made significant headway. US president Donald Trump used his State of the Union address to call for renewed efforts to negotiate with the hardline Sunni Islamist group.

Thirty years after the Taliban ousted Soviet troops from Afghanistan with US backing, Russia is taken an increasingly assertive role in the conflict.

US officials have accused the Kremlin of arming the Taliban and interfering in Washington’s efforts to bring about a resolution to the 17-year conflict. Ahead of the talks, a senior US official told Reuters that "Russia is again trying to muddle the US-backed peace process and the political situation of Afghanistan."

Russia, however, has grown increasingly concerned that the US has failed to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan, analysts in Moscow told The National. The Kremlin is particularly concerned about drug trafficking and the rise of ISIS explained Alexey Khlebnikov, an analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council think-tank, which was set up by the Kremlin.

“Russia treats Afghanistan as its sensitive underbelly,” Mr Khlebnikov said. “This is why Moscow sees stabilising and pacifying Afghanistan as an important precondition to the security of its own borders.”

In the Middle East more broadly, Russia is seen as wieldling increasing clout in conflicts where the US has opted for a lighter touch. Mr Khlebnikov did not rule out that as Mr Trump plans to pull US troops from Afghanistan, Russia may be eyeing filling the vacuum.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/taliban-and-afghan-officials-issue-joint-announcement-from-moscow-1.822802

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Arab World

 

Iraq won't turn into launch pad for aggression against others, top Shia cleric says

Feb 6, 2019

Iraq's most senior Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has fiercely criticized the latest statement by US President Donald Trump that American forces must remain in Iraq so Washington can keep a close eye on neighboring Iran.

During a meeting with the special representative for Iraq and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaer, in the holy shrine city of Najaf on Wednesday, Ayatollah Sistani said Iraq rejects serving as a launching pad to harm any other country.

He noted that Iraq aspires to have good and balanced relations with all neighboring countries, without interference in their internal affairs.

The remarks came a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi strongly condemned Trump’s comments, stressing that his country will not accept being used for any acts of aggression against other states.

On Monday, Iraqi President Barham Salih hit back at the US president, saying, “The Iraqi constitution rejects the use of Iraq as a base for hitting or attacking a neighboring country.”

He said Trump did not ask Iraq's permission for US troops stationed there to “watch Iran.”

In an interview with CBS television network broadcast on Sunday, Trump highlighted the importance of a military base in Iraq, saying it was crucial to the surveillance of Iran’s activities.

“We spent a fortune on building this incredible base, we might as well keep it. And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran” he said in an apparent reference to Ayn al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq, which he paid a visit to during an unannounced trip to the country last December.

When asked whether he planned to use US forces in Iraq to “strike” Iran, Trump responded, “No… all I want to do is be able to watch.”

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/06/587850/Iraq-launch-pad-for-any-aggression-against-others-top-Shia-cleric-says

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Over 1,500 Foreign Terrorists Enter Idlib from Turkey

Feb 06, 2019

"A large number of foreign militants have opened their way into Idlib from Sarmada, Atmeh and Bab al-Salam passageway in the past 48 hours and joined the troops of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) and Horras al-Din terrorist groups," the sources were quoted by the Arabic-language website of Sputnik as saying.

According to the report, 1,500 foreign terrorists, from Western, East Asian and Arab states, arrived in Idlib from Turkey on Sunday and Monday midnights while they had been hidden in container vehicles.

Relevant reports said late last month that Ankara was integrating the terrorist groups in regions occupied by them in Northern Syria, sources said, adding that the move contradicts Turkey's undertakings under the Sochi agreement.

Syria's Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted sources close to the terrorists as saying that the Turkish military and intelligence officials have promised the ringleaders of Ahrar al-Sham, Nour al-Din Zinki and the so-called National Liberation Front (NLF) terrorist groups that they would merge them along with Tahrir al-Sham within the framework of a military organization.

They added that Turkey had also promised them to set up a parliament and an autonomous government after dissolution of Tahrir al-Sham in territories occupied by the militants, adding that Faylaq al-Sham which has recently been joined by 18 other terrorist groups in Northern Idlib and Western Aleppo was due to be the political branch of the new organization and Tahrir al-Sham would take the responsibility for its military wing.

The military experts warned that Turkey's measures were against the Sochi agreement to establish a demilitarized zone in Northern Syria and the Turkish president's promises to his Russian counterpart in the last week meeting in Moscow, adding that the move by Ankara has left the Syrian army with the only option of cleansing Tahrir al-Sham from the demilitarized zone.

Similar reports last month also said that the terrorists of Tahrir al-Sham were pursuing the new scenario to establish a new integrated military organization in Idlib after the terrorist group extended its presence in the province in cooperation with Turkey.

"The terrorists of the National Liberation Front (NFL) affiliated to the Turkish Army will soon be dissolved in Tahrir al-Sham as the militant groups have agreed to form an integrated military structure," the Arabic-language Enab Baladi affiliated to militants quoted a source close to Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) as saying.

The source noted that the scenario started after Tahrir al-Sham's dominance over most of Idlib's regions.

He said that according to the plan, Idlib province will be divided into two sections in political and military terms; the Ankara-backed Faylaq al-Sham terrorists will take charge of the political affairs and Tahrir al-Sham will represent the military wing.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971117000449

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Top Iraqi cleric rejects Trump’s plan for US troops in Iraq

7 February 2019

Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric on Wednesday joined a chorus of Iraqi politicians and clerics criticizing recent statements by President Donald Trump in which he said US troops should stay in Iraq to keep an eye on neighboring Iran.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said Iraq aspires to have “good and balanced relations” with all of its neighbors “based on mutual interests and without intervention in internal affairs.”

Iraq “rejects being a launching pad for harming any other country,” he said during a meeting with U.N. Iraq envoy Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert at the cleric’s base in Najaf.

Both Iraq’s president and prime minister have hit back at Trump’s statements to US media this week stating that US troops should stay at a base in Iraq so that America can “watch Iran.”

“We spent a fortune on building this incredible base,” Trump said. “We might as well keep it. And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem.” Trump apparently was referring to the Al-Asad air base in western Iraq, where he paid a brief visit to US forces in December. The base hosts American troops but belongs to the Iraqi army.

The comments angered Iraqi politicians and Iranian-backed factions and further added to concerns in Iraq about America’s long-term intentions, particularly after it withdraws its troops from Syria.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, at his weekly news conference late Tuesday, reminded Trump that there are no US bases in Iraq and said he doesn’t accept the idea of Iraq becoming an arena for fighting a neighboring country. He called on Trump to retract his statements.

Iraqi President Barham Saleh said Monday that Trump did not ask for permission to use Iraqi territory to monitor Iran and said the Iraqi constitution forbids the use of Iraq as a base to threaten the interests or security of neighboring countries.

“Don’t overburden Iraq with your own issues,” he said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/07/Top-Iraqi-cleric-rejects-Trump-s-plan-for-US-troops-in-Iraq.html

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Egypt opposition rejects move to extend Sisi’s rule

6 February 2019

Egyptian opposition parties have formed a coalition against proposed changes to the constitution that would allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stay in office well beyond the end of his current term in 2022.

Egypt’s parliament has given its preliminary approval to the changes, but they would also need to be put to a national referendum.

Abdel-Aziz al-Husseini, a senior leader in the Karama party, said Wednesday that 11 parties had met the previous day and declared their opposition.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/06/Egypt-opposition-rejects-move-to-extend-el-Sissi-s-rule.html

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What can counter-sectarianism committee achieve in Egypt?

6 February 2019

Egypt’s Higher Committee to Counter Sectarian Violence was formed on December 30, 2018.

The committee, headed by the president’s advisor on security and counter-terrorism affairs, includes members from the military, military intelligence, central intelligence, national security, and the Administrative Control Authority.

According to law 602/2018, representatives of other relevant entities can take part in the committee’s work depending on the nature of the issues tackled. The committee is supposed to look into and deal with sectarian incidents as well as develop a strategy to prevent them from taking place in the future.

In light of the recurrence of several sectarian attacks, the establishment of the committee is a promising step forward. Egypt’s Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican churches hailed the step. Yet whether it can really effect a change on the ground remains to be seen.

Mohamed al-Zayat, Director of the National Center for Middle East Studies, argued that the committee is bound to play a major role in making the Egyptian society more coherent and protecting it from sectarian tension.

“This is because the committee will not only deal with sectarian incidents when they happen, but will also work on taking the precautions that will prevent them from happening,” he said, adding that those precautions will address reasons behind tension between Muslims and Christians, especially in villages and small towns.

“This will include dealing with sensitive issues such as the construction of new churches and obtaining permits for unlicensed ones.” Zayat noted that the committee will also oversee religious discourse in general to make sure that incitement of sectarian violence is eliminated.

Zayat linked the establishment of the committee to the law that regulates the construction of churches and the recent legalization of several churches built without permit. “Both indicate the state is determined to address all the reasons for sectarian violence,” he said.

The Islamophobia Observatory, affiliated to Dar al-Iftaa, the Egyptian entity in charge of issuing religious edicts, commended the establishment of the committee for its role in putting into practice principles of diversity and peaceful coexistence.

“The committee is a continuation of the state’s plan to uproot extremism,” said a statement issued by the Observatory. “Extremist groups suffered fatal blows at the hands of the military, so they turned to churches and the Christian community and now this too is coming to an end through the committee.”

The committee, the statement added, plays a major role in promoting the image of Islam as a moderate religion that has called since its inception for accepting the other.

For Coptic MP Emad Gad, the committee’s most important achievement will be putting an end to customary sessions as a means of solving sectarian conflicts.

“The committee is comprised of members of official entities, meaning it will abide by the law, which is exactly what those informal reconciliation sessions overlooked,” he said. “Those sessions neither punished the perpetrators of violence nor compensated the victims and that is why sectarian incidents never stopped.”

Gad added that the committee should go back to a report written by late MP Gamal al-Otaifi on the 1972 sectarian clashes that started in the city of Khanka in the Qalyoubia governorate when a building owned by a Christian association was attacked and burnt down then extended later to Assuit governorate in Upper Egypt.

“The report contains thorough analysis of the problem of sectarianism in Egypt and offers a number of solutions, but since it was not implemented the problem persisted,” he said. “The content of the report still applies to the current situation and should be used by the committee.”

Political analyst Mohamed Mounir Megahed argued that the establishment of the committee indicates that the state still prioritizes the security solution. “Combating extremism is basically an intellectual and cultural process,” he said. “This means that such a committee should be mainly comprised of scholars.”

These scholars, he explained, should work on preparing a modern interpretation of the Quran and issuing a book that contains only confirmed sayings by the Prophet. “The product of this work is what students of theology and potential preachers should learn and spread.”

According to Megahed, the committee’s efforts will also not bear fruit if serious measures are not taken toward eliminating discrimination on other different levels.

“This includes the choice of school teachers and the dismissal of already existing ones that promote extremism among students as well as issuing one single law that regulates the construction of all houses of worship without differentiation.”

While commending the creation of the committee, writer Sameh Fawzy underlined the different concerns that might be associated with it. “There are apprehensions that this is just another committee that starts with much hype then fades away gradually,” he wrote.

Fawzy added that the committee might not be able to meet its objectives if it depends on official information only and if it has no executive power. “In this case, the committee’s job will be confined to writing reports and submitting them to the president.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2019/02/06/What-can-a-counter-sectarianism-committee-achieve-in-Egypt-.html

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Lebanon to rely on Russian strategy for return of Syrian refugees: Minister

Feb 6, 2019

Lebanon's minister of state for displaced affairs says his country will stick primarily to the Russian strategy for the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland.

“The Russian strategy will be adopted as a basis for our approach towards the return of Syrian refugees to Syria,” Saleh Gharib told China’s official Xinhua news agency on Wednesday.

He also did not deny the possibility of visiting Syria, or conducting a direct dialogue with high-ranking government officials in Damascus to secure the return of Syrian refugees.

“Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is very much aware of the sensitivity of this issue, and all necessary steps will be taken in this regard,” Gharib pointed out.

The strategy to help Syrian refugees go back to their homes was drawn up following a meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital city of Helsinki on July 16, 2018.

It specifies around 76 residential neighborhoods in Syria's central provinces of Homs and Hama, the northwestern province of Idlib as well as Damascus to enable the return of 360,000 Syrian refugees as a first step.

The strategy also entails the rehabilitation of houses in the mentioned areas, which would allow the return of 500,000 more Syrian refugees within two years.

Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported on December 24 last year that more than 1,000 Syrian refugees had returned to their homeland from various areas in the neighboring country.

The return of refugees took place in the southern Lebanese cites and districts of Tripoli, Arsal, Tyre and Nabatieh, and under the supervision of Lebanon's General Security in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Refugees returned home using buses sent by Syrian authorities and arrived at al-Zamrani, Jdeidat Yabous, al-Dabbousiya border crossings from Lebanese territories.

The refugees underwent medical checks and polio vaccines were administered to children. They were then transferred to Syria’s northern and central provinces of Idlib and Homs in addition to other areas in the crisis-stricken Arab country.

More than 1,000 Syrian refugees returned to their homeland from different areas in Lebanon, including Nabatieh, Bekaa, Tripoli and Shabaa on December 16, 2018.

Arabic-language Elnashra online independent newspaper reported that the return of refugees took place under the supervision of Lebanon's General Security Directorate in cooperation with the Lebanese army.

More than one million Syrian refugees are registered with the UNHCR in Lebanon.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/06/587840/Lebanon-to-rely-on-Russian-strategy-for-return-of-Syrian-refugees-Minister

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Lebanon's Berri says Israel oil exploration in disputed waters 'dangerous'

Feb 6, 2019

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri says the Israeli regime is violating Lebanon's sovereignty in a “dangerous” manner by licensing a company to "exploit an area" for oil and gas resources near a disputed region.

The maritime dispute between the two sides runs over a sea zone of about 800 square kilometers. The underlying Levant basin of the Eastern Mediterranean has been proven to contain large natural gas reserves, probably even crude oil.

"(It is) a dangerous matter. Israel has licensed and exploited an area adjacent to the Lebanese southern maritime borders," Berri was quoted by lawmakers from Amal party as saying on Wednesday after a meeting.

"This is an infringement on Lebanese sovereignty and targets our oil wealth and waters."

Berri vowed "not to remain silent" and will bring the issue up with Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during his visit to Beirut this week.

Ali Bazzi, an Amal lawmaker, said Israel pressed on with the "violation" despite the fact that the firms on the Lebanese side have stayed away from the disputed border.

Last year, the Lebanese government announced that it had signed gas exploration and production contracts for two energy blocks, including the disputed Block 9, with a consortium of France's Total, Italy's Eni and Russia's Novatek oil and gas companies.

Consortium operator Total said it would not drill the first well of Block 9 near the disputed sliver of water, adding that the well would be drilled over 25 kilometers from the maritime border claimed by Israel.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/06/587871/Lebanon-Israel-oil-exploration-disputed-water

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India

 

Govt. decides not to present Triple Talaq, Citizenship bills in RS

by Sameer

Feb 07, 2019

Hyderabad: Govt. of India has decided not to present Triple Talaq and Citizenship Bills in Rajya Sabha.

It is said that this decision has been taken for the smooth functioning of the last session of Rajya Sabha. This decision was taken at the end of a meeting held with Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad and other opposition leaders.

It is reported that Chairman of Rajya Sabha and Vice President, Mr. Venkaiah Naidu had made it clear that there should not be any disturbance in Rajya Sabha in this session so that no wrong message is sent to the people. After it, the responsibility of ensuring smooth functioning of Rajya Sabha was given to Parliamentary Affairs Minister by negotiating with opposition leaders.

It has also been decided to hold discussions on the pending bills in the current session.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister , Mr. Narendra Singh Tomar, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mr. Ramgopal Yadav and other leaders attended the meeting.

https://www.siasat.com/news/govt-decides-not-present-triple-talaq-citizenship-bills-rs-1464596/

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Bangladesh anti-graft body to learn from CBI under new pact

by Shubhajit Roy

February 7, 2019

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) may be in the middle of controversy, but Bangladesh’s top anti-corruption body wants to learn from the CBI’s investigative skills, especially in tackling economic offenders.

Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission, which has been at the forefront of investigating the country’s former PM Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique, is expected to sign a pact with the CBI Thursday to formalise a partnership.

This is likely to be one of the key outcomes of the India-Bangladesh 5th Joint Consultative Committee Meeting, which will be chaired by visiting Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday. Momen will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.

This is Momen’s first visit to India after being appointed Foreign Minister last month. An economist and a diplomat, he was Bangladesh’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York from August 2009 to October 2015. His elder brother, A M A Muhith, was Bangladesh’s Finance minister from 2009 to 2018.

The pact between Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission and CBI is expected to give a boost to the cooperation between the two investigating agencies. For the Bangladesh government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, bringing economic offenders to justice and fighting corruption is a priority area.

“This pact is likely to help in capacity-building and experience-sharing by CBI with it’s Bangladesh counterpart, the ACC,” a source said.

In the latest report by the Transparency International in January-end, Bangladesh was ranked 149th in the Global Perceptions Index 2018 out of 180 countries — down by six notches from 143 last year. India’s ranking improved by three notches to 78.

According to Transparency International, a Berlin-based graft watchdog, Bangladesh is ranked second-lowest in south Asia, only ahead of war-torn Afghanistan, and the reasons include the Anti-Corruption Commission’s failure to act effectively.

Among other pacts likely to be signed up during the visit by the Bangladesh Foreign Minister is one on setting up a Special Economic Zone near Mongla port by the Hiranandani group, on traditional medicine, training of Bangladesh’s civil servants, and one between public broadcasters of the two countries.

Sources said the discussions at the 5th JCC meeting will review the progress made in areas such as trade and investment, security, connectivity, border management, power, energy, shipping and people-to-people exchanges.

The two countries will also discuss common challenges and find ways on how, along with other like-minded nations, they can continue fighting terrorism, extremism and radicalisation.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/bangladesh-anti-graft-body-to-learn-from-cbi-under-new-pact-5572871/

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MHA bans J&K outfit Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen over terror

February 7, 2019

The Union Home Ministry on Tuesday banned the Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for its alleged involvement in a series of terror acts. Set up in 1990s, TuM claims that it has been been fighting for “liberation of Kashmir”.

In a notification, the ministry said the central government believes that TuM is involved in terrorism as it has committed and participated in various acts of terrorism in India and its members are getting financial as well as logistic support from their handlers based abroad.

The TuM came into existence in 1990 with the objective of “liberation of Kashmir” and has been actively pursuing it by way of acts of terror, the ministry said. “Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (a) of sub-section (1) of section 35 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, the central government hereby makes the following further amendments in the First Schedule to the said Act, namely:- In the First Schedule to the said Act, after serial number 40 and the entries relating thereto, the following serial number and entries shall be inserted, namely:- ‘41. Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM) and all its manifestations’,” it said.

TuM has carried out many terrorist attacks and subversive acts such as grenade attacks, weapon snatching and supporting other terrorist outfits like the Hizb-Ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba in terms of financial and logistic support in the recent past, the notification said.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jammu-kashmir-terror-group-tehreek-ul-mujahideen-banned-mha-5571649/

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Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist killed in encounter in Pulwama

February 6, 2019

A self-styled district commander of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terror outfit was killed in a brief encounter with security forces in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday, police said. The encounter broke out when a joint patrolling party of army and police was fired upon by terrorists at Chakoora area of Pulwama district, a police spokesman said.

“Consequently, one terrorist got killed in the exchange of fire. The killed terrorist has been identified as Irfan Ahmed Sheikh, a local resident,” the spokesman said.

Sheikh was affiliated with LeT and was known as district commander of the outfit for Pulwama. He was wanted by the law for his complicity in terror crimes, the spokesman said.

“Irfan Sheikh had a long history of terror crimes for which several terror cases were registered against him. He was involved in conspiring and executing several terror attacks on security establishments in the area including grenade attacks,” the spokesman said.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/lashkar-e-toiba-terrorist-killed-in-encounter-in-pulwama-5572665/

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South Asia

 

Taliban reject Trump's suggestion of lingering US counter-terrorism presence

Feb 6, 2019

KABUL: The Taliban reiterated on Wednesday their long-held demand that all foreign troops get out of Afghanistan, rejecting a suggestion by US President Donald Trump of a lingering US focus on counter-terrorism after troops are drawn down.

Trump used his State of the Union address to stress the importance of accelerated talks with the hardline Islamist movement to end the longest of America's "endless wars".

Trump offered no specifics about when he would bring home the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan but said progress in negotiations with the Taliban would enable a troop reduction and a "focus on counter-terrorism".

Asked about Trump's speech, a Taliban official told Reuters that all foreign troops in Afghanistan had to go.

"At the first step, we want all the foreign forces to leave and end the military presence in our country," said Sohail Shahin, a spokesman for a Taliban office in Qatar and a member of a Taliban team now meeting Afghan opposition politicians in Moscow.

"But after ending their military presence, their non-military teams can come and we need them too, they can come and take part in the reconstruction and development process," he said.

US officials have held several rounds of talks with the Taliban in Qatar since last year, in what is widely seen as the most serious bid for peace in the 17-year war.

Both sides hailed progress after the latest round, last month. The US team, led by veteran envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, is due to meet Taliban representatives there again on February 25.

The Taliban imposed hardline Islamist rule across most of Afghanistan from 1996 until late 2001.

They were ousted by Afghan opposition forces, backed by US forces, for harbouring al-qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, weeks after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Ever since, the Taliban have been fighting to drive out foreign forces and defeat the Western-backed government in Kabul.

Fighting has spread over the years to most regions of the country, with many thousands of people killed every year.

Diplomats said Trump's comments appeared aimed at reassuring an Afghan government fearful about a swift withdrawal of Afghanistan's US-led NATO force, and how embattled government troops would cope.

The Taliban have long condemned the Afghan government as a "puppet" and have not agreed to let its officials join their talks with Khalilzad.

VISION

The office of President Ashraf Ghani said late on Tuesday the government had to be the "decision maker" behind any deal. The office did not make any immediate comment on Trump's speech.

Taliban officials have used the Moscow meeting to outline their vision for a post-war Afghanistan.

Lead Taliban negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai said on Tuesday the movement did not want to rule alone but as part of "an intra Afghan Islamic system of governance ... in consultation with all Afghans".

He also pushed for changes to Afghanistan's "illegitimate" constitution - a document staunchly protected by the government -saying it should be based on "Islamic principles, national interests, historic pride and social justice".

In his sweeping statement, Stanikzai also demanded the removal of Western sanctions and travel bans on Taliban members, prisoner releases, an end to "propaganda" against the Taliban and clearance to open an official office.

On the emotive issue of women's rights, Stanikzai said the Taliban were committed to all rights of women "that have been given to them by the sacred religion of Islam".

"Islam has given women all fundamental rights, such as business and ownership, inheritance, education, work, choosing one's husband, security and the right to good life," Stanikzai said.

Many Afghan women fear a return of repressive Taliban policies if they come back as part of a peace deal.

Under Taliban rule, women were banned from work, required to wear the full-length burqa and not leave home without a male relative. Girls were banned from secondary school.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/taliban-reject-trumps-suggestion-of-lingering-us-counter-terrorism-presence/articleshow/67868281.cms

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Elephants face ‘time bomb’ in Bangladesh land clash with Rohingya refugees

February 07, 2019

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Standing atop an elephant watch-tower on the outskirts of the sprawling Rohingya refugee settlement in southeast Bangladesh, Nur Islam takes great pride in keeping his people safe.

Dressed in a uniform of blue T-shirt, navy trousers and a neon yellow vest, Islam is one of 570 Rohingya on the Elephant Response Team, known locally as the tusk force, who are on duty every night to look out for elephants coming into the camps.

After about 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar into Bangladesh 18 months ago and set up camp, they realized they were not only at risk from monsoons and cyclones but also elephants, as they were blocking a migration path, with 13 people killed in six months.

Raquibul Amin, Bangladesh representative for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said as a quick fix in February 2018 they built 95 towers and trained a team to watch, raise the alarm and guide elephants out of camps.

He said in the past year the all-male response team, who are paid to work, had steered elephants away from the former nature reserve on at least 50 occasions with no more fatalities.

But now 18 months into the crisis, Amin said it was becoming important to find a longer-term solution as the elephants were confined to a shrinking forest area, and needed an alternative corridor to move freely to find food or conflicts could resume.

“They are in a time bomb, a slow paced time bomb where not a very bright future is waiting for them,” Amin told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

“It should be OK for some time but they are now in a small area and will start inbreeding ... and food could be an issue.”

Islam, 32, said he had been involved in stopping about 18 elephant incursions into some of the camps located from 40 km (25 miles) south of the beachside town of Cox’s Bazar that now make up the world’s largest refugee settlement.

ROUTE TO FREEDOM

More than 900,000 mainly Muslim Rohingya now live in the camps after the 2017 exodus, which followed an offensive by Myanmar’s military that the United Nations has described as “ethnic cleansing.”

With the influx, swathes of forest were cut down to make space and build shelters, threatening biodiversity, including the endangered Asian elephant. Its numbers have shrunk to about 50,000 globally, due largely to habitat loss, according to WWF.

The IUCN estimates there are about 268 surviving elephants in Bangladesh, of which about 15 percent, or 35-45, live around the sprawling Rohingya camp area.

Kutupalong, the largest refugee camp, was well known as a corridor for elephants moving between Myanmar and Bangladesh in winter to find food and shelter, breaking obstacles in their way which led to human conflicts.

Islam, who arrived in Cox’s Bazar with his wife and two children, said he was not scared of elephants, although others were, so he stepped forward to be on the elephant team.

The project, a joint venture between IUCN and the UN refugee agency UNHCR, received so many applicants that they held a 100-meter running race to choose the fittest candidates.

Islam said his job was to keep watch at night and if he saw an elephant to call team members on duty in other watch-towers who would come to help drive the elephant out of the camp using megaphones and a high-powered search light.

“It’s a good job because we help our people,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation via an interpreter before climbing up the rickety, 20-feet (6 m) bamboo tower overlooking a labyrinth of mud and bamboo shelters as well as the adjacent forest.

“This will also help the elephant to survive. All this land was forest before but now it has been torn down and the elephant deserves to be conserved.”

Amin said it was the response team’s job to also educate the Rohingya about elephants through awareness campaigns and children’s programs.

They are also trying to encourage local Bangladeshi farmers to grow crops that elephants do not like, such as green chillies and tobacco, to stop the animals encroaching on their land in search of food and creating more human conflict.

“We need to spread the message that the elephant is not an enemy and deserves space as, like the Rohingya, it has lost access to its own land,” Amin said.

He said it was unclear what impact restricting the elephants’ movement would have in the longer term, or whether it would be possible to provide a new corridor.

This, he said, would involve moving about 100,000 people to new shelters, eating into the forest.

The team wants to gather more data to understand the elephants’ migratory patterns, he said, and there are plans to collar and follow five of the animals in the area this year.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1448381/world

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Coalition airstrike leaves 3 Taliban dead in Helmand province

06 Feb 2019

At least three Taliban militants were killed in an airstrike conducted by the coalition forces in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan.

According to the informed military sources in Afghanistan, the airstrike was carried out in Sangin district of the province.

The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban have not commented regarding the airstrike and the deaths of three militants so far.

Helmand is among the volatile provinces in South of Afghanistan with some of its districts witnessing daily violence due to the insurgency led by the Taliban group.

In the meantime, both the Afghan and coalition forces conduct regular ground operations and airstrikes to suppress the anti-government militants who are continuously attempting to expand foothold and insurgency in Helmand and other restive provinces in the South.

https://www.khaama.com/usfor-a-refutes-taliban-claims-regarding-troops-pullout-plan-03254/

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USFOR-A refutes Taliban claims regarding troops pullout plan

06 Feb 2019

The U.S. Military officials have refuted the Taliban statement suggesting that the U.S. Military has agreed to withdraw half or 50 per cent of its troops from Afghanistan by April of this year.

Colonel David Butler, a spokesman for the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan has the rejected the Taliban claims, saying “Our mission hasn’t changed. We have no orders to withdraw.”

This comes as reports emerged earlier today that the deputy chief of the political office of Taliban in Qatar Mawlavi Abdul Salam Hanafi has said that the half of the U.S. troops would withdraw from Afghanistan until the end of April.

Mawlavai Hanafi has also claimed that the assurance regarding  the pullout of half of U.S. troops has been given by the U.S. side and that technical groups would be formed to work regarding a schedule for the pullout of the remaining U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

https://www.khaama.com/usfor-a-refutes-taliban-claims-regarding-troops-pullout-plan-03254/

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Militants suffer heavy casualties in ANDSF operations in Kandahar and Zabul

07 Feb 2019

The anti-government armed militants have suffered heavy casualties during the operations of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in Kandahar and Zabul provinces.

According to the informed military sources, the operations were conducted in the past one week, leaving at least 43 militants dead and 22 others wounded.

The sources further added “Over the course of the past week, the 205th Corps has conducted joint operations with local security forces in both Zabul and Kandahar Provinces. These operations were a result of intelligence reports of Taliban safe havens. Therefore the 205th Corps has conducted fresh raids and clearing operations to disrupt terrorist activities in these Provinces. This has resulted in a total of 43 insurgents killed and an additional 22 insurgents wounded. Additionally, the 205th Corps engineer team has cleared over 25 homemade IEDs from harming local Afghan citizens.”

The sources also added that “Currently the 205th Corps has an on-going operation to re-open the Kandahar-Uruzgan highway, which is a 75 kilometer stretch of highway that has been closed due to Taliban activity. So far, they have killed at least 12 insurgents and making progress to open the road.”

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/militants-suffer-heavy-casualties-in-andsf-operations-in-kandahar-and-zabul-03256/

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Mideast

 

Iranian diplomat says Pakistan key player in regional peace

Riaz Khan Daudzai

February 7, 2019

PESHAWAR: Iranian Consul General Muhammad Bagher Beigi has said the Trump administration has taken U-turn and acknowledged the role of Pakistan as a key to regional peace.

The Iranian diplomat also urged Pakistan’s leaders to show seriousness in quelling the factors impeding friendly relations with his country to take full advantage of the potentials offered by Iran.

Muhammad Bagher Beigi, who was speaking at evening tea he arranged in the Iranian Consulate on Wednesday for the newly-elected cabinet of the Peshawar Press Club, Video Journalists Forum and Sports Writers Association and other journalists, said that President Trump and US administration strived to intimidate and pressure Pakistan over the last one year or so, but ultimate they took a U-turn and accepted that the role of Pakistan for the regional peace was vital.

The function was arranged in connection with the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution where Peshawar Press Club President Syed Bukhar Shah and Ijaz Khan of the sports writers body also spoke.

Beigi said President Trump and US administration had acknowledged that only Pakistan and other regional countries could play a vital role to ensure peace in the region and resolve the regional issues.

He added that the US had also been hatching conspiracies against the democratic revolution in Iran and it (the US) tried to put the Iranian people in trouble and pressure them. But it failed to hoodwink the Iranian people who foiled these conspiracies and they are now celebrating the 40th year of their revolution, the consul general maintained.

“I want to tell you that all the strategies of the US against Iran over the last 40 years have badly failed and the same will fail in the future too, God willing!” Beigi hoped. He said that Iran had always welcomed suggestions and proposals for the peace and cooperation in the region. The manifestation of the same was the speaker conference of the six regional countries, which was proposed by Pakistan to fight terrorism. The first of the conferences was hosted by Pakistan, while the following one was held in Iran to promote peace and cooperation in the region.

Beigi said they attached immense importance to relations with Pakistan and other neighbouring countries with which Iran shares culture, civilisation and values. Its main example remains the three visits of Iranian leader Hassan Rohan to Pakistan in the last three years, while foreign minister Jawad Zarif has also made various trips to Pakistan, Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian Parliament, and other political, civil and army leaders came here to shore up mutual ties.

To a question, he said that Iran wanted to offer its potential in so many areas where Pakistan is in real need of help.

“We have always desired to have good economic ties with Pakistan and worked with all political parties in power, including Pakistan Muslim League, Pakistan People’s Party and now Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf for the economic development of the country,” he added.

He made particular mention of the railway link, ferry services between Gawadar and Chahbahar, etc. Similarly, he said Iran is ready to provide up to 3,000 megawatts electricity to Pakistan and it is also ready to help Pakistan build a transmission line from Taftan to Quetta for the same.

He, however, asked Pakistan leadership to exhibit seriousness to remove hurdles in this regards and the main of these hurdles is the absence of banking transactions between the two countries.

“You know better as to what factors are impeding the efforts aimed at bringing the two brotherly countries closer. Keeping in view the benefit of its own people, the Pakistani leadership has to overcome these factors to take full advantage of the potentials both the countries offer for each other.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/428818-iranian-diplomat-says-pakistan-key-player-in-regional-peace

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US army to buy two Israeli Iron Dome air defence systems

7 February 2019

The US Army said Wednesday it wants to purchase a pair of Iron Dome short-range air defense systems, an interceptor technology developed by Israel with US support.

Army spokesman Colonel Patrick Seiber said the deal would meet a short-term need to protect troops from “indirect fire” such as rockets and mortars. No decisions have been made yet about where the two systems may be deployed.

“The Iron Dome will be assessed and experimented as a system that is currently available to protect deployed US military service members against a wide variety of indirect fire threats and aerial threats,” Seiber said in a statement.

Iron Dome systems have been in operation by the Israeli air force since 2011 and have seen frequent use in thwarting rocket attacks from Gaza and elsewhere. Seiber said the US Army will “assess a variety of options” for a system that could be used in the long term.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister, called the deal further proof of Israel’s alliance with the US.

“Israel has an Iron Dome and an iron fist. Our systems know how to deal with any threat, both in defense and in attack. I would not recommend our enemies to try us,” he said in a defense ministry statement.

Seiber said the US Army proposes spending $1.6 billion through 2024 to field an “enduring capability” that may include portions of the Iron Dome system.

The Iron Dome system was developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems with the help of US funding. It is designed to intercept rockets and artillery shells fired from a range of four to 70 kilometers.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/02/07/US-army-to-buy-two-Israeli-Iron-Dome-air-defense-systems-.html

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Sanaa University launches weekly lectures to ‘analyze’ Houthi leader speeches

6 February 2019

The faculty of postgraduate studies and scientific research at Sanaa University invited students to attend a weekly lecture to analyze the speeches of the “leader of Quranic march,” Abdulmalik al-Houthi, according to a poster that promotes the event.

The Quranic march refers to the lectures explaining some verses of the Quran according to the Houthi understanding. It was started in 2002 by Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi.

The weekly lectures will be held every Wednesday at 12:00 pm.

The poster, which bears a photo of Abdulmalik al-Houthi, included the slogans “God is Great,” “Death to America,” “Death to Israel,” “Damn the Jews” and “Victory to Islam.”

Sanaa University has been targeted by the Houthis since their takeover of the city. The militias have sought to bring about a change of curriculums, appoint their loyalists, and organize lectures that market their ideas.

Located in the country’s capital, Sanaa, the university was established in 1970 as the first institution of higher education in Yemen.

In December 2017, the Sanaa University Council appointed more than 300 Houthi supporters as academics, reportedly without considering professional and academic standards. Several deans who oppose the Houthis were also sacked.

The union of faculty members and their assistants protested the move, noting that a number of those who attended the Council’s meeting were not members of the Council, and that the members were actually pressured into making these decisions.

According to Yemeni media reports, the amendments to the Islamic culture course included material added by the Houthis to talk about the ongoing war in Yemen, attack Saudi Arabia and note that America was “supervising the war” with Israeli-British support.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2019/02/06/Sanaa-University-launches-weekly-lectures-to-analyze-Houthi-leader-speeches.html

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US blocks UN motion against Israel's expulsion of al-Khalil monitors

Feb 7, 2019

The US has blocked yet another UN Security Council (UNSC) draft resolution that would condemn Israel for expelling an international observer group tasked with safeguarding Palestinians in the flashpoint West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron).

Kuwait and Indonesia presented the motion on Wednesday after a closed-door UNSC meeting on the Tel Aviv regime’s recent decision to suspend the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH).

UN diplomats said Washington did not believe a Security Council statement was appropriate regarding the issue.

The draft resolution, seen by AFP, expressed “regret” about Israel’s “unilateral decision” to boot TIPH observers out of al-Khalil and urged “calm and restraint” there.

It also stressed “the importance of the mandate of the TIPH and its efforts to foster calm in a highly sensitive area and fragile situation on the ground, which risks further deteriorating,” warning Israel that it has an obligation under international law “to protect the Palestinian civilian population" in al-Khalil and the rest of the West Bank.

Security Council President Anatolio Ndong Mba said that the countries had “exchanged different views” about Israel’s decision during Wednesday’s meeting.

“There was almost unanimity in the concern for the situation,” he added.

Meanwhile, Kuwait’s Ambassador to the UN Mansour al-Otaibi said that the UNSC would discuss a proposed visit to the Israeli-occupied territories for a close-up look at the situation on the ground.

Late week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the TIPH's mandate would not be extended, claiming that the monitoring mission “acts against” the Tel Aviv regime.

The foreign ministers of the countries that provide observers to the TIPH — Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, and Turkey — denounced Netanyahu’s move in a joint statement and rejected his accusation against the group as “unacceptable and ungrounded.”

The TIPH was set up in 1994, when an Israeli settler killed 29 Palestinian worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in al-Khalil.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/07/587902/Israel-alKhalil-resolution-Palestine

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Ill Palestinian prisoner dies because of ‘deliberate medical negligence’ in Israeli jail

Feb 7, 2019

A Palestinian prisoner has died of the health complications he developed in Israeli jails due to “deliberate medical negligence.”

Fares Baroud, a resident of the al-Shati refugee camp in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, died on Wednesday evening, only hours after being suddenly transferred to intensive care from Ramon prison in the Israeli-occupied territories.

The late 51-year-old was suffering from a number of health conditions, including a hernia and liver disease, and had repeatedly spoken about medical neglect and denial of necessary health treatment to Palestinian inmates.

Baroud had earlier lost 80 percent of his eyesight due to a vision problem and Israeli prison officials had delayed the required treatment for four consecutive months.

Israeli authorities had also denied him of family visits for 18 years.

Baroud was arrested in 1991, and was supposed to be released in 2013 as part of negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and the Tel Aviv regime. Israeli officials, however, reneged on the agreement, refusing to release the final 30 prisoners, including him.

Director of the Palestinian Prisoners Media Office, Nahed al-Fakhouri, described Baroud’s death at the hands of Israeli officials as a “heinous crime,” stating that it reflects the criminal policies pursued by the Israel Prison Service against Palestinian detainees.

Moreover, Hamas resistance movement held the Israeli regime fully responsible for the death of the Palestinian prisoner.

It argued that the deliberate medical neglect policy pursued by Israeli prison officials against Palestinian inmates amounts to a “crime against humanity,” calling on international humanitarian and legal organizations to act urgently to save the lives of thousands of Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas further stressed that Israel’s heinous crimes will never break the Palestinian detainees’ will.

Some 7,000 Palestinians are currently behind bars in 17 Israeli prisons and detention centers, according to reports.

More than 400 Palestinians are being held without trial under so-called administrative detention, which is a policy according to which Palestinian inmates are kept in Israeli detention facilities without trial or charge. Some Palestinian prisoners have been held in administrative detention for up to 11 years.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/07/587900/Palestinian-prisoner-dies-of-deliberate-medical-negligence-in-Israeli-jail

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‘Read the Constitution,’ US Senators told after pro-Israel move

Feb 6, 2019

US senators in favor of a pro-Israel bill passed in the upper chamber of US Congress are urged to “read the Constitution.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) denounced the Senate’s Tuesday vote to pass legislation in an attempt to stop contracts with supporters of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“Today, the Senate chose politics over the Constitution and trampled on the First Amendment rights of all Americans,” said the rights group.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) rushed to applaud the pro-Israel measure.

“This legislation mirrors a provision in current federal law that protects states directing divestment from companies invested in Iran’s energy sector,” AIPAC claimed, adding that “the legislation has no impact on the right of Americans to personally boycott Israel or oppose Israeli policies.”

Seventy-seven senators voted in favor of the move and 23 voted against it.

Most of the Democratic Party members of the Senate also threw their support behind the measure, while only one Republican, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, voted against the legislation along with nearly half of the Democrats.

“We thank each senator who defended the First Amendment and voted against the Combating BDS Act,” the ACLU said. “Senators who voted for the bill: we encourage you to read the Constitution, which protects against the McCarthy-era tactics this bill endorses.”

The pro-Israel measure is expected to fail once it reaches the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

The BDS is gaining momentum in the United States and poses a serious threat to Israel’s “hegemonic power” in Washington, according to Myles Hoenig, a political activist based in the US state of Maryland.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/06/587842/bds-Read-the-Constitution-US-Senators-told-after-proIsrael-move

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Southeast Asia

 

Muslim Voters Brave Terrorism Threats in Southern Philippines

By Jake Maxwell Watts

Feb. 6, 2019

Dozens of poor towns in the southern Philippines voted Wednesday on whether to join a new self-governing Muslim region in a test of a fragile peace process that has come under attack from suicide bombers linked to Islamic State.

The vote took place amid tight security but was mostly peaceful following two deadly terrorist attacks in the past 10 days and at least three small blasts on the eve of the vote that officials said caused little harm. Results aren’t expected for several days.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/muslim-voters-brave-terrorism-threats-in-southern-philippines-11549448591

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Kit Siang to Wee: You’d have lost seat if Muslim voters had taken Hadi’s advice

February 6, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: DAP strongman Lim Kit Siang today hit out at MCA president Wee Ka Siong for not realising the irony of the situation by defending Umno’s cooperation with PAS in elections.

Lim asked if Wee realised he would have lost his deposit in the Ayer Hitam parliamentary constituency in the 14th general election if voters had followed PAS president Hadi Awang’s “dictum” that Muslims must vote for Muslim candidates.

The MP for Iskandar Puteri noted that Wee had won 17,076 votes in the contest for the Ayer Hitam seat, beating Pakatan Harapan candidate Liew Chin Tong with a thin majority of 303 votes. The third candidate from PAS, Mardi Marwan, got 4,975 votes.

“If Muslims only vote for Muslim candidates, as is now Hadi’s stand, claiming that a corrupt and decadent Muslim leader is any time better than a clean and honest non-Muslim leader, Wee would not have received any Muslim votes in the Ayer Hitam parliamentary constituency and would even have lost his deposit.

“Wee is a poor student of history as DAP had never worked with a PAS leadership which advocated such a toxic and vicious brand of politics, aimed at sowing suspicion, distrust and hatred among races and religions – which is not building a nation but destroying the very social fabric in Malaysia.”

This, Lim said, was not the PAS which DAP had worked with in the Barisan Alternative from 1999 to 2001 and Pakatan Rakyat, from 2008 to 2015.

Yesterday, Wee had said there was nothing wrong with Umno and PAS cooperating to defeat a common rival in the upcoming Semenyih by-election.

“Even in the past, the opposition used to accept collaboration and cooperation.

“I don’t see the difference when in the past, DAP and PAS worked very well together,” Wee had said at MCA’s Chinese New Year open house at Wisma MCA.

Lim said: “DAP will work with a political Islam that recognises Malaysia as a plural society and believes that Malaysia’s greatness comes from the leveraging of the assets and best qualities from the diverse races, religions, languages and civilisations which meet in confluence in Malaysia, building tolerance, trust and confidence among the races and religions and not by sowing suspicion, distrust, fear and hatred among the races and religions.”

He said Wee’s defence of the political cooperation between Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties and PAS showed the “political hypocrisy of MCA leaders”.

“Wee made a great play before the MCA general assembly that BN was outdated and should be dissolved. But after the general assembly, Wee is behaving like a duck taking to water — which shows that he is very comfortable playing the subservient role in BN.” Lim said the best kept political secret was “the untold story” of the role MCA ministers and leaders played in the “cover-up of the monstrous 1MDB” scandal.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/02/06/kit-siang-to-wee-youd-have-lost-seat-if-muslim-voters-had-taken-hadis-advice/

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Amanah seeks to open eyes on Malay, Muslim rights under Pakatan

07 February 2019

By Danial Dzulkifly

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 7 ? Datuk Salahuddin Ayub wants to make one thing very clear about the position of Malays and Islam under Pakatan Harapan (PH) ? there will be no erosion under the new government.

After seven months in federal power, the Parti Amanah Negara deputy president acknowledges that the paranoia of losing the special rights accorded their status as “princes of the soil” remains strong within the country’s largest population group, which he attributes to the narrative being told by political rivals and critics portraying PH as anti-Islam.

“Malays fear that Islam is no longer relevant under the PH government, yet many did not talk about the failure of Tabung Haji or Felda. Did this happen under PH or what?” the agriculture and agro-based industry minister told Malay Mail in a recent interview.

“You want to blame Pakatan Harapan because Islam is supposedly eroded under our administration? We are only seven months in compared to 60 years,” he continued, pitting the length of his coalition’s rule against that of the Barisan Nasional (BN) alliance it toppled in the May 9 general election last year.

To Salahuddin, the sense of insecurity felt by Malays and Muslims in the country is wholly unfounded, but is being exploited by PH opponents who are clinging to outdated and biased stereotypes to curry sympathy, even empathy.

To illustrate his point, he pointed to the political outcry over the government’s planned ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) last year.

BN anchor, the once-moderate Umno and Islamist party PAS joined forces and held a mass rally protesting against ICERD in the streets of the national capital last December, even though by then, the PH government had announced it was not ratifying the United Nations treaty.

Salahuddin urged Malays and Muslims to think for themselves about the political narrative created by PH critics in blatant disregard of the government’s push for fair play.

He advised Malaysians not to let their racial and religious differences cloud their minds in building a future based on mutual respect for each other.

“We need to educate people about new politics as the narrative has changed from the old narrative.

“We want Islam to be implemented in a nice way, but Malays must be a good example in terms of your cleanliness, your approach, your attitude so that the non-Muslims will respect you and vice versa,” he said.

Salahuddin said Amanah leaders are trying to show the way forward with its “Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamin” brand of Islam, which means “blessings to all creations” by putting such a philosophy into practice in their daily routines.

He stressed that the philosophy is what separates Amanah from PAS, and why the PH party has been getting up to 10,000 membership applications a month since GE14.

“However that does mean we can be complacent. I will ensure that we move forward by learning from PAS, work to rectify any mistake now and ensure that PH remains strong,” he said.

He said Amanah is not in the business to crow about the strength of its religious beliefs or “demonise” the concepts and faith of others.

“We practise moderate Islam,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/02/07/amanah-seeks-to-open-eyes-on-malay-muslim-rights-under-pakatan/1720396

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PAS to hand over bank statements to Malaysian anti-graft agency to refute claims it received $30m from 1MDB

February 07, 2019

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Opposition Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) has promised to hand over bank statements of its accounts to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which is investigating accusations that the Islamist party received RM90 million (S$30 million) from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan said the party would give its full cooperation to the anti-graft agency to prove that it had not received any money from 1MDB.

"We give our word that we will hand over all our documents, if requested by MACC for the purpose of investigation, including bank statements of PAS Central bank accounts, to prove the allegations that PAS received RM90 million from 1MDB are merely lies and slander," he said in a statement released on Wednesday night (Feb 6).

"We believe MACC will conduct the investigation as a body with integrity without any fear or favour."

MACC had earlier on Wednesday confirmed that it would be investigating PAS over the matter.

The investigation was opened after a report was made with regard to allegations that PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang had received the funds from 1MDB accounts.

This came after Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi agreed to an out-of-court settlement for his defamation suit against Britain-based Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle Brown.

Mr Abdul Hadi had sued Ms Rewcastle Brown for libel over an article she published on Aug 6, 2016, alleging that the party received RM90 million in bribes from Umno.

She filed a counterclaim in October 2017, but on Feb 1, the case was settled out of court.

According to PAS treasurer Razman Zakaria, the rising cost of legal fees is one reason why PAS opted for the out-of-court settlement.

On Sunday, former prime minister Najib Razak denied he gave RM90 million to Mr Abdul Hadi or PAS, as claimed in Ms Rewcastle Brown's article.

Full report at:

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/pas-to-hand-over-bank-statements-to-macc-to-prove-innocence-on-claims-it-received-30mil

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Africa

 

Nigerian army plotting to kill Sheikh Zakzaky: IMN

Feb 6, 2019

The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) says the country’s army is plotting to kill incarcerated top Muslim cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky in a “staged” shootout.

In a statement on Wednesday, the IMN exposed a plan by the security agencies in Nigeria to kill Sheikh Zakzaky while in his detention facility.

The plot to kill the top cleric emanated from an exposed letter – titled ‘Plans by Islamic Movement in Nigeria to raid selected detention facilities in the country during the 2019 general election’ – sent to the office of the Inspector General of Police from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).

The IMN statement, signed by S. I. Shuaib on behalf of the Academic Forum of the IMN, said “on January 25, 2019, the office of National Security Adviser, wrote a letter to the Inspector General of Police, telling him some concocted lies that the Islamic Movement is planning to attack some selected detention facilities in the country during the 2019 general election.”

The IMN said in its statement that the army wants to stage the attacks via a fake Shia Muslim group against some detention centers including where they are keeping the prime target, Sheikh Zakzaky.

“That will give them the chance to frame a story that Shias attempted to forcefully free Sheikh Zakzaky and others, so there was an exchange of fire, and as a result they shot their leader,” the statement said.

The IMN stressed that it has always abided by law and will continue to do so.

The movement will only follow legal ways to secure Zakzaky’s release, it added.

The statement said all Nigerians and the rest of the world know that the Islamic movement is not armed, adding “this plot will fail.”

It also pointed to the killings of hundreds of IMN supporters by the army in 2015, and said at that time, the movement only filed a lawsuit against the perpetrators and never used violence.

Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, has been held in detention since December 2015 and was charged just in April 2018 with murder, culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, disruption of public peace and other accusations. He has pleaded not guilty.

In 2016, Nigeria’s federal high court ordered his unconditional release from jail following a trial, but the government has so far refused to set him free.

The top cleric, who is in his mid-sixties, lost his left eyesight in a raid which was carried out by the Nigerian army on his residence in the northern town of Zaria in December 2015.

During the raid, Zakzaky’s wife sustained serious wounds too and more than 300 of his followers and three of his sons were killed. Zakzaky, his wife, and a large number of the cleric’s followers have since been in custody.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/06/587889/IMN-Sheikh-Zakzaky-Nigeria-army-plot

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Nigeria leader’s ally says foreigners who intervene in poll face ‘body bags’

February 07, 2019

ABUJA: A key ally of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday said people from overseas who sought to intervene in the country’s election to be held in little over a week would go back in body bags.

Nasir El-Rufai, governor of the northern state of Kaduna, made the comments during a discussion program on the Nigerian Television Authority when the topic of the international community’s role in elections was raised. It followed an international outcry over the suspension of Nigeria’s top judge.

The Feb. 16 vote in Africa’s top oil producer pits Buhari, a military ruler in the 1980s who was voted into office in 2015, against main opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar, a businessman and former vice president in a race widely seen as tight that has become increasingly rancorous in the last few weeks.

The discussion about the role of foreign countries in elections was raised on the program in which reference was made to concerns expressed by the European Union, the United States and Britain over the suspension of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen over allegedly breaching asset-declaration rules.

“We are waiting for the person who will come and intervene. They will go back in body bags because nobody will come to Nigeria and tell us how to run our country,” said El-Rufai.

“We have got that independence and we are trying to run our country as decently as possible,” he said.

Last year Buhari and Atiku both signed an agreement stating a commitment to hold a peaceful election.

Following El-Rufai’s comments, the main opposition People’s Democratic Party said it would be “left with no option than to consider a review of its signatory in the national peace accord” if the ruling party did not stop “comments, threats and incendiary actions.”

The chief justice — who was suspended and replaced with an acting replacement last month — could preside over a dispute over the election result. Nigeria’s judiciary has helped resolve electoral disputes in past votes, some of which have been marred by violence and vote rigging.

Last week the Nigerian government said it would not accept any foreign “meddling” after statements by the EU, the United States and Britain expressed fears about the impact of the judge’s suspension if the election result was disputed.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1448346/world

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US halts some Cameroon military assistance over human rights

February 07, 2019

WASHINGTON: The United States said on Wednesday it was halting some military assistance to Cameroon over allegations of gross human rights violations by its security forces in the northwest, southwest and far north regions.

A State Department official said the United States had terminated a C-130 aircraft training program, and halted deliveries of four defender boats, nine armored vehicles and an upgrade of a Cessna aircraft for Cameroon’s rapid intervention battalion.

Furthermore, the United States had withdrawn its offer for Cameroon to be part of the State Partnership Program, a military cooperation program, the official said.

“We do not take these measures lightly, but we will not shirk from reducing assistance further if evolving conditions require it,” the official said. “For the time being, other programs will continue.”

Cameroon has cooperated closely with the United States in the fight against Islamist militant group Boko Haram in West and central Africa. But rights groups have accused authorities of using the fight against Boko Haram to crack down on political opponents, and make arbitrary arrests and torture people.

Authorities arrested opposition leader Maurice Kamto in January, accusing him of mobilizing dissent against President Paul Biya, who has ruled the country since 1982.

Biya has been accused by the opposition and rights groups of cracking down in the Anglophone Southwest region to root out armed separatists trying to end his grip on power.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Nigeria and neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon during Boko Haram’s campaign to carve out an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1448341/world

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East Libyan forces say they've taken southern oil field

February 06, 2019

BENGHAZI: Libyan forces from the country's east have taken control of the southern Sharara oil field, part of an expansion of Gen. Khalifa Haftar's control over Libya's main revenue generator.

Ahmed Mesmari, spokesman for the Libyan National Army under Haftar's command, said the move was taken in order to provide security to an area that was previously lawless.

He says the move was made in collaboration with local tribes, and grievances over salaries would be addressed.

Libya is governed by rival authorities in Tripoli and the country's east, each of which is backed by an array of militias. Haftar heads the eastern faction.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1448186/middle-east

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Is Somalia losing the war against terrorist group al-Shabaab?

February 07, 2019

Somalia has been engaged in a long and bloody war with al-Shabaab. Some would claim the government is losing control; others would claim they were never in control. Currently, Somalia’s central government and the terrorist organization seem to be trading blows evenly. We hear of airstrikes killing hordes of al-Shabaab fighters one day, then the next day nearly a dozen people have been killed by an explosion in Mogadishu and al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Al-Shabaab is a thoroughly trained and capable combat organization operating in Somalia, and they are extremely loyal to al-Qaeda and their cause. This was tested when the Islamic State approached al-Shabaab and called for them to side with their organization. In a 15-minute broadcast, al-Shabaab commanders ordered their fighters to cease communication with any Islamic State representatives, and those who didn’t would be punished. While this caused a rift within the organization, only a small number of fighters and one officer left al-Shabaab and retreated north to Puntland.

Al-Shabaab still commands respect and support from some Somali communities. The group’s fearless style of fighting and early morning raids on African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) bases have earned them a reputation as a fierce fighting force in Somalia. Their renowned intelligence unit is allegedly one of the most clandestine in the world, and their ability to continue to assault the central government within Mogadishu is a testament to their capabilities. Al-Shabaab is possibly one of the most fierce and enduring terrorist groups in Africa.

Their latest attack on the outskirts of Mogadishu has killed two colonels and nine soldiers from the Somali National Alliance (SNA). Their convoy struck an IED while in transit from Mogadishu to the Dhanaane area. Colonel Abdisalaan Aden has been named as one of the officers killed; he was returning to his unit after talks with the central government.

Full report at:

https://thenewsrep.com/113666/is-somalia-losing-the-war-against-al-shabaab/

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'The corpses were lying on the streets': Refugees flee Boko Haram

6 FEBRUARY 2019

Goura - Seconds after glimpsing Boko Haram gunmen leap out of vehicles brandishing weapons in the town of Rann, Nigeria, Abdul, 45, rushed inside the medical clinic where he worked.

Raising his eyes up to the ceiling, it seemed as if he was about to murmur a prayer.

Instead, he clambered atop a plastic worktable and hoisted himself inside a narrow concealed opening just below the roof.

"I hid there for hours," said Abdul, one of more than 35 000 Nigerians who fled Rann for Cameroon.

He described the shooting he heard outside while militants shouted "we are the agents of Jihad!"

Later, after he began to smell burning and realised the clinic had also been set on fire, he shed his clothes, punched his way through the roof and rolled off into the grass, lying low until he could gather some belongings and flee.

Last week, Abdul, who works for international aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) and did not want to reveal his real name for safety reasons, escaped to Cameroon's Far North region in search of safety.

FORCED BACK TO DANGER

Nigerians have been sheltering in Cameroon for years, on the run from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

Following Boko Haram's previous attack on Rann on January 14, about 9 000 refugees crossed the border.

Yet, almost all of them were forced to return by the Cameroonian military, according to the U.N.'s refugee agency.

The Cameroonian government could not be reached for comment, but when asked last week about the forced deportations the governor of the Far North region denied they took place.

The numbers of those deported - a violation of international law - has increased more than six times compared to 2018 according to U.N. figures.

"This action was totally unexpected and puts lives of thousands of refugees at risk," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement.

The latest attack on Rann, on January 28, was termed "the deadliest yet" by Amnesty International, which confirmed that at least 60 people were killed and hundreds of buildings burned in and around the surrounding area.

"The corpses were lying on the streets in the town," Abdul told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that many people did not stay long enough to bury them, fearing another attack.

But once in Goura, many Nigerians worried that they may once again be forced to return.

"We are afraid to go back there," said one Nigerian who did not reveal his name but spoke on behalf of a community from Rann addressing a delegation from the United Nations visiting Goura.

"Some of us have moved five times - and this time, we will stay longer," he said, adding that most of the population of Rann was made up of Nigerians who had been forced to flee their homes multiple times in recent years.

"Our request to the Cameroonian government and the humanitarians is this: we are under the sun, we have no shelter, we don't have enough to eat, we don't have water, we don't have latrines," he said.

SAFETY IN CAMEROON'S POOREST REGION

Life in Goura, a small Cameroonian village of several thousand inhabitants dotted with crumbling huts made of mud and straw, is not easy even in the best of times.

In the most populated yet poorest of Cameroon's 10 regions, the arid landscape of the Far North is vastly undeveloped, with almost no infrastructure, chronic desertification and widespread poverty.

Even prior to the Boko Haram conflict, three quarters of the population lived below the poverty line, the International Crisis Group noted.

Even the region's principal road, an artery linking Cameroon to Nigeria and Chad, is in a state of crumbling disrepair, covered by sand and full of potholes.

Since Boko Haram's first attacks in Cameroon in March 2014, more than 1 500 people have been killed, prompting almost a quarter of a million to flee their homes.

JOURNEY TO NOWHERE

Last week, Nigerian refugees continued arrived in a continuous stream of people.

Many carried mattresses on their heads and sewing machines on their shoulders, hoping to be able to use them to earn some money. Others brought donkey carts loaded with clothing, pots, pans, children and elderly relatives.

"Boko Haram have burned my house - I have nowhere to return to," said Asada Ngassi, a 30-year-old mother of five, while breastfeeding her youngest baby outside a tent she made out of tree branches and empty tarpaulin rice sacks.

"It's the third time I've lost my home. I'm not going anywhere else," she said.

Nearby, with no regular water supply nor electricity, people stood in a 200-metre-long queue waiting for trickles from a container which usually serves just one household in the prosperous neighbourhoods of Cameroon's capital, Yaounde.

Beneath the scorching sun, the refugees peddled vegetables, flip flops, air fresheners and other goods in a make-shift market set up directly on the ground within just hours of arrival.

"There is a massive influx of people who are very afraid and tired and have really put a lot of hope on Cameroon to find refuge and respite here," said Allegra Baiocchi, the U.N.'s development and humanitarian coordinator in Cameroon.

"The priority now is to respond to the most urgent needs," she said, emphasising safety and shelter.

"They are hungry so they need immediate food assistance and medical screening," she said, adding that the United Nations is working on a rapid scaling up of operations in the area.

"This is hard because we have so many emergencies at same time," she said.

Cameroon hosts about 350 000 refugees from Nigeria and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Meanwhile, in the country's two English-speaking Western regions, 437 000 people have become internally displaced because of violence and insecurity, according to the United Nations.

Full report at:

https://www.iol.co.za/news/africa/the-corpses-were-lying-on-the-streets-refugees-flee-boko-haram-19165607

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