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Islamic World News (14 Mar 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)


Baloch Activists Want UN Rapporteur to Probe Human Rights Violations by Pakistan




















Two women from France and Belgium brought case after being dismissed from work for refusing to remove Hijabs AFP/Getty Images

 

Baloch Activists Want UN Rapporteur to Probe Human Rights Violations by Pakistan

Bangladesh: Sufi Muslim Leader Killed Amid Surge in Attacks

Employers Can Ban Wearing Of Visible Religious Symbols – Top EU Court

Muslim Students in Florida Send Flowers to Jewish Organizations, Synagogues

 

Pakistan

Baloch Activists Want UN Rapporteur to Probe Human Rights Violations by Pakistan

PM Nawaz Orders Removal of Blasphemous Content from Social Media

Pakistan Will Not Transfer Weapons Of Mass Destruction To States Or Non-State Actors: Aziz

Chinese, Turkish troops to take part in ‘Pakistan Day’ parade

PPP disowns ex-ambassador Haqqani in parliament

Petitions filed for removal of terrorism charges against Musharraf

Thar may face ‘humanitarian emergency’: UN report

Govt, army agree to expedite NAP implementation

Three including two policemen injured in Lahore firing

Russia hopes to rope in Taliban for Afghan talks

PM’s son-in-law wants ban on social media

PPP winces hard at Haqqani’s revelations

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South Asia

Bangladesh: Sufi Muslim Leader Killed Amid Surge in Attacks

Deadly Airstrike Targets Taliban in Paktika, 29 Including 2 Senior Leaders Killed

Kabul blast destroys bus in Afghan capital, killing at least one

2 policemen shot dead by unknown gunmen in Kabul city

3 suspects arrested as explosion leaves 1 dead, 19 wounded in Kabul

China hopes India, Pakistan will improve ties through dialogue

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Europe

Employers Can Ban Wearing Of Visible Religious Symbols – Top EU Court

Russia Hopes To Rope In Taliban For Afghan Talks

NATO and EU Plead For Calm As Tensions Between Europe And Turkey Escalate

Turkish Sanctions Are 'Bizarre', Says Dutch PM amid Diplomatic Row

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North America

Muslim Students in Florida Send Flowers to Jewish Organizations, Synagogues

Donald Trump Gives CIA Authority to Carry Out Drone Strikes: Report

Florida man sets American-Indian's shop on fire because he thought owners were Muslim

UN expert warns Myanmar may be trying to 'expel' all Rohingya Muslims

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Arab World

In Mosul, a Heavy but Not Crushing Blow to Islamic State

Under Cover Of Rain, Islamic State Fights for Mosul Old City

Police chief says 90% of Mosul’s old city retaken from Islamic State

Sunni politician warns US of mounting civilian casualties in Mosul to drive out ISIS jihadists

'Fighting extremism' top priority, says Bashar al-Assad

Teenage suspect dies after gunfire in Saudi Arabia

ISIL Suffers Heavy Losses in Syrian Armed Forces' Attacks in Deir Ezzur

Homs: Syrian Army Wins Back More Territories in Energy-Rich Regions

Syrian Army Scores More Victories against ISIL in Eastern Aleppo

Syria in Last 24 Hours: Terrorists Sustain Heavy Losses in Army Offensives Near Ancient

Palmyra City

Parliament Speaker Urges Saudi Arabia to Review Regional Diplomacy

‘ISIS trapped & going to die’: US reaffirms rules of engagement in Mosul

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Southeast Asia

Burma Seeks To ‘Expel’ Rohingya Muslim Minority – UN Expert

5 Filipinos Arrested In Sabah over Alleged ISIS Links

Head of world's largest Muslim group certain moderation will win

Malaysia to deport fifty North Koreans despite ban: Deputy PM

Ahok empathetic toward Muslims: Witnesses

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India

'BJP May Become Inclusive With Muslims after This Mandate'

Pakistan violates truce in J&K for 3rd time in 24 hours

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Mideast

Some EU States Cannot Tolerate Turkey's Rise: Erdoğan

Iran Voices Readiness to Cooperate with UNPF

Top Iranian General: US Playing Major Role in All Regional Crises

Iran's Oil Exports to India Triple in February

Turkey says EU exercising democracy selectively, wrong to stand by Netherlands

Netherlands does not extradite terrorists to Turkey: Minister

Turkey to file complaint to United Nations, OSCE, Council of Europe against Dutch government

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Africa

Al-Shabaab Islamists Target Somali Hotel

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to be released: lawyer

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Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/baloch-activists-want-un-rapporteur-to-probe-human-rights-violations-by-pakistan/d/110393

 

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Baloch Activists Want UN Rapporteur To Probe Human Rights Violations By Pakistan

Mar 13, 2017

GENEVA: Baloch political and human rights activists have demanded a special rapporteur in the United Nations to probe gross human rights violations in Pakistan's Balochistan province. Baloch activist Ahmar Mastikhan has stressed that Balochistan is a graver crisis than Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

"It has been delayed. It could have happened a long time ago and we have a situation of mass graves where there is no domestic redressed available to the people of Balochistan. Has there been some domestic mechanism for them to have their basic and birth human rights protected, we would not have raised this question. We are happy over the Rohingya r rapporteur in Burma, but I assure you, it is more serious issue than Rohingya issue. It is more multi- dimensional and multi-faceted," Mastikhan told ANI.

Baloch Republican Party member Abdul Nawaz Bugti said the renewed impetus to conduct investigations came after, he claimed, that a mass grave was discovered in Pakistan's Dera Bugti in February this year where only women and children were buried.

"We have always highlighted these issues we are facing in Balochistan, especially the human rights violation. In the past two years. Pakistan has been targeting and blackmailing Baloch activists in the UN and in Balochistan. They have now stated to abduct women and children, who are being tortured and facing problems like lack of food and medication," Bugti said.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/baloch-activists-demand-un-rapporteur-to-probe-human-rights-violations-by-pakistan/articleshow/57617314.cms

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Bangladesh: Sufi Muslim Leader Killed Amid Surge in Attacks

March 14, 2017

Unknown gunmen killed a Sufi minority spiritual leader and his house help in northern Bangladesh on Monday, police said, amid a surge in attacks on liberal activists, minority sects and other religious groups in the Sunni Muslim-majority country.

Police said Farhad Hossain Chowdhury, 55, and his teenage maid were shot and hacked to death at his home in the northern district of Dinajpur, 350 km (220 miles) from the capital, Dhaka.

“We are yet to ascertain who carried out the murder,” local police chief Arju Mohammad told Reuters, adding they were not ruling out links to Islamist militants.

No one claimed responsibility for the killing but the South Asian country of 160 million people has seen a string of deadly attacks in the past years, the most serious on July 1, when gunmen stormed a cafe killing 22 people, most of them foreigners.

Al Qaeda and Islamic State have made competing claims for a series of killings but the government has blamed domestic militant groups.

indianexpress.com/article/world/bangladesh-sufi-muslim-leader-killed-amid-surge-in-attacks-4568524/lite/

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Employers Can Ban Wearing Of Visible Religious Symbols – Top EU Court

14 Mar, 2017

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that employers can ban staff from wearing visible religious symbols at work in the first case of its kind before the EU’s top court.

The ECJ has ruled on the cases of two female employees in Belgium and in France, fired after they refused to remove their headscarves at work.

In the first case, a Belgian woman working as a receptionist for G4S Secure Solutions, which has a general ban on the wearing of visible religious or political symbols, was dismissed for refusing to remove her religious attire. In the second, a French IT consultant was also let go when she refused to take off the headscarf after a client complained.

“An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination,” the court said in a statement.

The ruling comes on the eve of the Dutch election, in which Muslim immigration has been a key issue.

Islamic headscarves are a contentious issue in several European countries, with numerous cases of alleged discrimination against Muslim women emerging in recent months.

In December, a 14-year-old Syrian teenager was reportedly kicked off a tram in Berlin for wearing a headscarf, after the driver shouted through a loudspeaker that he refused to transport her.

Earlier this month, Austrian government officials sharply criticized a recommendation by the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGO) which states that Muslim women must start wearing a headscarf from the onset of puberty, describing it as an attack on integration and women’s freedom.

Last month, a Muslim teacher who wasn't hired by a Berlin school because she was wearing a headscarf was awarded €8,680 (US$9,250) in compensation for discrimination.

Meanwhile, a court in the Czech Republic threw out a similar case in January, in which a Somalian refugee claimed she had been barred from wearing her headscarf in a nursing school. The case was said to be the first of its kind in the EU.

rt.com/news/380627-eu-ruling-religious-symbols/

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Muslim students in Florida send flowers to Jewish organizations, synagogues

March 1, 2017

(JTA) — The Muslim Student Associations of Florida State and Florida A&M universities delivered bouquets of flowers to campus Jewish organizations and local synagogues.

The flowers and the accompanying notes were meant to show solidarity at a time when both the Muslim and Jewish communities are under attack.

They were delivered to the Chabad and Hillel organizations at Florida State and to Shomrei Torah and Temple Israel synagogues in Tallahassee.

The note said: “We are writing this message to extend a hand of friendship. In times of great division, it is important that we stand together in unity so we hope that these flowers can be seen as a symbol of our solidarity.”

The gesture comes days after dozens of gravestones were overturned in a Jewish cemetery in the St. Louis area and a day before the discovery of toppled gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. It also comes amid a series of bomb threats called in to Jewish community centers and Jewish schools, including in Florida.

“Keeping up with the news lately has shown a plethora of very sad stories and hateful crimes against many minority groups,” FSU Muslim Student Association President Moneba Anees wrote in an email to the Tallahassee-Democrat newspaper. “Although we could not think of a way to help our Jewish friends and peers directly, we decided that we could show them that people are taking note of what is happening and that they have our support, love and prayers.”

In December, a hate-filled letter was found in the Shomrei Torah mailbox.

jta.org/2017/03/01/news-opinion/united-states/muslim-students-in-florida-send-flowers-to-jewish-organizations-synagogues

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Pakistan

 

Baloch activists want UN rapporteur to probe human rights violations by Pakistan

Mar 13, 2017

GENEVA: Baloch political and human rights activists have demanded a special rapporteur in the United Nations to probe gross human rights violations in Pakistan's Balochistan province. Baloch activist Ahmar Mastikhan has stressed that Balochistan is a graver crisis than Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

"It has been delayed. It could have happened a long time ago and we have a situation of mass graves where there is no domestic redressed available to the people of Balochistan. Has there been some domestic mechanism for them to have their basic and birth human rights protected, we would not have raised this question. We are happy over the Rohingya r rapporteur in Burma, but I assure you, it is more serious issue than Rohingya issue. It is more multi- dimensional and multi-faceted," Mastikhan told ANI.

Baloch Republican Party member Abdul Nawaz Bugti said the renewed impetus to conduct investigations came after, he claimed, that a mass grave was discovered in Pakistan's Dera Bugti in February this year where only women and children were buried.

"We have always highlighted these issues we are facing in Balochistan, especially the human rights violation. In the past two years. Pakistan has been targeting and blackmailing Baloch activists in the UN and in Balochistan. They have now stated to abduct women and children, who are being tortured and facing problems like lack of food and medication," Bugti said.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/baloch-activists-demand-un-rapporteur-to-probe-human-rights-violations-by-pakistan/articleshow/57617314.cms

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PM Nawaz orders removal of blasphemous content from social media

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday said that blasphemy is an unpardonable offence and directed the state machinery to find those responsible for putting blasphemous content on social media and bring them to justice without any delay.

According to a statement released on Twitter by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz official account, the prime minister directed the authorities to remove the blasphemous content from social media and to take measures to ensure that any such content is not posted in future.

Know more: ‘Is criticising blasphemy laws blasphemous’

“The blasphemous content on social media is a nefarious conspiracy to hurt the religious sentiments of entire Muslim ummah,” Nawaz was quoted as saying.

“The matter has already been taken by the judiciary,” said Nawaz, and ordered to take necessary actions in accordance with the judicial guidelines in this regard.

Furthermore, he also issued directions to ensure the accountability of those who misuse the blasphemy law for their personal interests.

"Love and affection of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is the most precious asset for every Muslim," said Nawaz Sharif.

Nawaz also directed the authorities to approach international social media platforms to put the blasphemous content off the internet.

The premier directed Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to take all necessary measures against blasphemous content on social media and bring the culprits to justice immediately.

Nawaz urged the minister to completely uproot this heinous crime and sought daily reports on developments in this regard.

dawn.com/news/1320449/pm-nawaz-orders-removal-of-blasphemous-content-from-social-media

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Pakistan will not transfer weapons of mass destruction to states or non-state actors: Aziz

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Tuesday reaffirmed Pakistan's commitment not to transfer weapons of mass destruction to states or non-state actors.

Delivering a keynote address on the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1540 in Islamabad, Aziz said as a responsible nuclear state, Pakistan will continue to partner with international community to prevent non-state actors from acquiring these weapons.

The adviser underscored the need for striking a balance between advancing the goals of non-proliferation and facilitating access of developing countries to strategic and dual-use goods, materials and technologies for peaceful purposes under appropriate safeguards.

In this regard, Aziz expressed Pakistan’s willingness to share its expertise and provision of technical assistance to developing countries in the region and beyond.

He underlined that states which posses advanced capabilities should have an equal opportunity to participate in and contribute to the export control governance architecture.

In this context, he highlighted Pakistan’s credentials and expertise to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), while emphasising the need for a transparent, objective and non-discriminatory criteria for the cartel's membership of non-NPT applicants.

The two-day regional seminar, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, brings together 13 countries from South and Central Asia, China, Russia, representatives of the 1540 Committee Group of Experts and international organisations including the IAEA, OPCW and Interpol.

The seminar aims to promote regional cooperation for effective national implementation of resolution 1540 including through sharing of best practices and national experiences.

Resolution 1540, adopted by the Security Council in 2004, is one of the important instruments in the global non-proliferation architecture as it seeks to prevent non-state actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

dawn.com/news/1320450/pakistan-will-not-transfer-weapons-of-mass-destruction-to-states-or-non-state-actors-aziz

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Chinese, Turkish troops to take part in ‘Pakistan Day’ parade

The parade was started in 2015 after a gap of seven years when it was kept suspended due to the threat of militancy.

March 13, 2017

Chinese and Turkish troops will for the first time take part in the ‘Pakistan Day’ parade to be held at Islamabad next week. Military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said that foreign troops from friendly countries of China and Turkey will be part in this year’s parade.

“Chinese Army Troops and Turkish Military Band will participate in the parade,” Ghafoor tweeted.

It is for the first time that foreign troops are taking part in the ‘Pakistan Day’ parade, a defence official said.

The armed forces parade accompanied by the exhibition of military hardware and cultural floats are the key highlights of annual celebrations on March 23 to commemorate the ‘Lahore Resolution’ of 1940 that vowed to set up a separate country.

The parade is organised by Joint Staff Headquarters which oversees the three armed forces of Pakistan and soldiers from the army, navy and air force take part in it.

The parade was started in 2015 after a gap of seven years when it was kept suspended due to the threat of militancy.

Officials said that special security measures have been put in place in Islamabad, where the parade will be held.

Apart from commemorating the Lahore Resolution of March 23 1940, the parade also marks the day when Pakistan was declared a republic in 1956 with the adoption of the first democratic Constitution.

indianexpress.com/article/world/china-turkey-pakistan-military-lahore-4567774/

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PPP disowns ex-ambassador Haqqani in parliament

AMIR WASIM

ISLAMABAD: Members of parliament — in both houses and on both sides of the aisle — came together to denounce former Pakistani ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, for what they called “maligning the country’s armed forces at the behest of anti-Pakistan elements”.

The most important remarks came from Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah, who not only disassociated his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) from the former ambassador, but even dubbed his recent article “an act of treason”.

“We should not give importance to people who commit treason while sitting abroad, despite being sons of the soil,” Mr Shah said after chairman of the foreign affairs committee, Awais Leghari of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), raised the matter in the assembly.

Mr Shah said that Mr Haqqani’s claim came at a time when efforts were afoot to isolate Pakistan at the international level.

He was of the view that Mr Haqqani had written this column to seek the attention of the new US administration and, therefore, “this person should not be given any importance”.

Mr Shah said the PPP government had replaced Mr Haqqani with Sherry Rehman as the ambassador in Washington when they realised that his appointment was no longer beneficial to the country.

Mr Leghari said that Mr Haqqani had stabbed the country in the back only to seek employment with the backing of some anti-Pakistan forces.

Mr Leghari said that at a time when even US generals were praising Pakistan’s efforts in the war against terrorism, the country’s former envoy was claiming that Islamabad was not committed to the fight against terrorists. He called on the PPP to rebut Mr Haqqani’s claim with full force.

Arif Alvi of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Sheikh Salahuddin of the Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) also expressed concern over Mr Haqqani’s latest tirade. The MQM MNA called to make the report of the Abbottabad Inquiry Commission public, so that the nation could know facts.

Former state minister for foreign affairs Khusro Bakhtyar said the PPP must admit that Mr Haqqani was a bad choice for such a key position.

In the adjacent Senate, PPP’s Farhatullah Babar responded when the issue was raised by Nehal Hashmi of the PML-N.

Mr Hashmi sought an explanation from former president Asif Ali Zardari over Mr Haqqani’s claim regarding the issuance of visas to Americans who, according to Mr Haqqani’s article, may have proved helpful in tracing Osama bin Laden.

Mr Hashmi said that the former US ambassador had claimed that CIA had been allowed to carry out its operations in Pakistan under the previous PPP government.

“Who are people like Haqqani working for? No one can be allowed to target Pakistan’s army and agencies while sitting in the US and New Delhi,” he said.

Responding to the PML-N senator, PPP’s Farhatullah Babar said Mr Haqqani was doing all this in his personal capacity.

The PPP senator said that he was not a spokesperson for Mr Haqqani and would not say anything about him or his article. He said he would confine his remarks to the extent of the questions raised about Mr Zardari.

Mr Babar said all visas issued to US nationals under the PPP tenure were given in accordance with the laid-down procedure involving various state agencies and no irregularity whatsoever was committed.

Walkout

Earlier, PPP members staged a walkout from the National Assembly to register their protest over the remarks made by Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali about the recent attacks on PPP workers and leaders in Punjab.

Soon after Question Hour, Khurshid Shah drew the attention of the house towards the murder of PPP activist Sohail Butt in Lahore on Sunday, alleging that the slain leader had complained that he was being coerced into joining the PML-N.

Mr Shah said that PPP leader Shaukat Basra had earlier been attacked in Bahawalnagar. Terming it “state-sponsored terrorism”, Mr Shah regretted that the Punjab government had taken no action against the culprits so far and no inquiry report had been issued.

The minister from Faisalabad, however, denied that the PML-N was pressuring opponents to defect, and claimed that the attack on Mr Basra was the result of a personal enmity.

Mr Shah said that instead of assuring the opposition members that action would be taken against the culprits, the minister was terming the two incidents a result of infighting.

At this, all opposition members walked out of the house, leaving behind Nauman Shaikh to point out quorum.

The proceedings remained suspended for 20 minutes when Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi found the house lacking quorum for which the presence of minimum of 86 members of the 342-member assembly.

Some of the members also spoke on the circulation of blasphemous content on social media, calling on the interior ministry and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to take stern action against the responsible persons and the management of the social media websites.

dawn.com/news/1320350/ppp-disowns-ex-ambassador-haqqani-in-parliament

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Petitions filed for removal of terrorism charges against Musharraf

March 14th, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The counsel for former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf field in the Islamabad High Court on Monday two petitions seeking removal of terrorism charges against him in the judges’ detention case and nullification of perpetual warrants issued against him.

In the first petition filed before a division bench comprising Justices Athar Minallah and Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Advocate Akhtar Shah challenged invocation of certain sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997, against the former dictator in connection with the judges’ detention case.

The case is about the alleged detention of over 60 judges of superior courts soon after the proclamation of a state of emergency on Nov 3, 2007.

Initially, Gen Musharraf was booked under some sections of the Pakistan Penal Code, but Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the IHC, while hearing the pre-arrest bail application of the suspect, directed the Secretariat Police Station to book him under the ATA for confining judges to their residences, thereby incapacitating them from administrating justice.

According to Advocate Shah, the prosecution could not bring evidence to justify the application of ATA to the accused. The lawyer urged the bench to either quash the entire proceedings or remove terrorism charges against his client and remand the case to a sessions judge.

The bench reserved its verdict on the maintainability of the petition.

The counsel filed the second petition before Justice Aamer Farooq of the IHC against an order of a trial court under which Gen Musharraf was declared an absconder and perpetual warrants were issued for him in the murder case of a cleric belonging to Lal Masjid.

Advocate Shah took the plea that since Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the cleric, had been killed during the 2007 military operation on the mosque, such matters could not be heard in courts under Article 245 of the Constitution.

He claimed that the prosecution did not obtain the mandatory approval from the government before filing a complaint against Gen Musharraf. He requested the court to quash the proceedings against his client.

However, when Justice Farooq asked him whether any counsel could plead the case of a fugitive of law, the latter sought time to respond to the question.

The court then adjourned the hearing till the first week of April.

dawn.com/news/1320348/petitions-filed-for-removal-of-terrorism-charges-against-musharraf

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Thar may face ‘humanitarian emergency’: UN report

ISLAMABAD: The situation in Tharparkar, Umerkot and Sanghar districts is vulnerable and may slip to a ‘humanitarian emergency’, a joint United Nations observation mission says.

The UN report made available on Monday observed that the situation might deteriorate if no or little rains were received in the coming monsoon season. The main vulnerabilities pertain to water scarcity, healthcare and remoteness.

In contrast, Sindh government officials informed the UN mission that the situation in all the three districts was not precarious as of now, and it was much better as compared to 2014-15.

The officials said the desert areas in Umerkot and Tharparkar practised mono-cropping, but no cultivation was reported by the communities in Sanghar during last year’s Kharif season.

dawn.com/news/1320337/thar-may-face-humanitarian-emergency-un-report

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Govt, army agree to expedite NAP implementation

BAQIR SAJJAD SYED

ISLAMABAD: Descri­bing elimination of terrorism and extremism as a “policy imperative” for national security, the political and military leadership on Monday agreed on pacing up the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), considered as linchpin of the antiterror strategy, but one that has floundered.

“It was reiterated unanimously that elimination of extremism and terrorism are policy imperatives for Pakistan’s security,” said a press statement issued after a closed-door national security meeting presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

It was the second civil-military huddle in 10 days for looking at what ails the counterterrorism fight and reviewing progress on the recently launched Operation Raddul Fasaad. The military, meanwhile, during this period had its internal review of the situation at last week’s corps commanders’ conference.

The contents of the statement looked to be a point-to-point response to some of the issues publicly stated by the military after the corps commanders’ meeting, which mainly included problems with NAP’s implementation, Pak-Afghan border regulation and legal reforms.

dawn.com/news/1320364/govt-army-agree-to-expedite-nap-implementation

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Three including two policemen injured in Lahore firing

Three people, including two police officers, were injured in Lahore on Tuesday morning when they were fired upon by unidentified persons, DawnNews reported.

Speaking to reporters following the incident, DIG Operations Haider Afzal said three people were injured, which included police officers Zafar and Rizwan, who belonged to the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA), and a "private" accomplice named Afzal.

The team, along with Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Shoukat, were headed towards Tibi City area to conduct a raid when they were intercepted on Fort Road by the assailants, DIG Afzal told the press conference.

The wounded personnel were shifted to Mayo Hospital's emergency department where the injured police officers were declared to be in critical condition, while their accomplice Afzal is out of danger.

ASI Shoukat remained unharmed in the incident, he added.

dawn.com/news/1320445/three-including-two-policemen-injured-in-lahore-firing

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PM’s son-in-law wants ban on social media

March 14, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Issues of blasphemous content on social media and recent incidents of mysterious disappearances of some bloggers once again resonated in both houses of parliament on Monday but with different tone and notes.

The upper house took the matter after a motion was moved by two opposition senators whereas it was taken up through points of order in the National Assembly.

Islamabad police register case against owners of ‘blasphemous’ social media pages

However, both the moves met the same fate. The NA speaker and the Senate chairman opted to remain neutral.

In the Senate, PPP’s Farhatullah Babar along with Senator Usman Kakar of PkMAP broached the matter. They were joined by Col (retd) Tahir Mashadi of MQM to support their point of view. Ruling party Senator Nehal Hashmi supported their demand for a parliamentary probe but called the action of purported bloggers not absolvable even if they had not committed blasphemy.

Babar said that if the bloggers were guilty of blasphemy they must be severely punished in accordance with the law. However, condemning them in the media without proof and without trial raised serious questions about the motives behind their disappearances.

Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Balighur Rehman said two of the bloggers—Salman Haider and Samar Abbas— had gone missing from Islamabad. Haider was back but the whereabouts of Abbass were still not known and efforts were being made to trace him.

The issue of alleged blasphemous material on social media dominated the National Assembly (NA) on Monday where some treasury members went to the extreme, demanding government the imposition of a blanket ban on social media.

Vilifying the PM: Scandal mongers to face criminal prosecution, says minister

Prime Minister’s son-in law Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar made a emotional speech on a point of order. He lauded Islamabad High Court judge, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui for taking firm position on the issue.

He said with blasphemous content still available on social media he does not see Cyber Crime Act as being implemented. “Why are we being forced to lay our lives on the issue? Why PTA does not impose ban on social media? This is going to lead the country towards anarchy,” Safdar remarked.

JUI-F’s Naeema Kishwar Khan asked the Interior ministry to take action on blasphemous material on social media as IHC has already handed over the matter.

tribune.com.pk/story/1354568/pms-son-law-wants-ban-social-media/

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PPP winces hard at Haqqani’s revelations

By Qadeer Tanoli / Irfan Ghauri

March 14, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party faced a torrid time in both houses of parliament on Monday as it defended the previous government and its leadership against controversial claims that they wilfully facilitated the stationing of US intelligence agents in Pakistan.

Former US envoy Husain Haqqani made the claim in a recent opinion-editorial piece that appeared in The Washigton Post.

“I brought the request directly to Pakistan’s civilian leaders, who approved,” he wrote in an article.

Haqqani admits role in US spy deployment in Pakistan

The comments placed PPP in an awkward corner, with lawmakers in both the houses of parliament demanding explanations.

PML-N MNA Awais Leghari said: “By publishing such an article, Haqqani, who at present is jobless, is seeking attention of the Trump administration.”

He said he attempted to embarrass Pakistan by stating that the previous regime facilitated the CIA in its operation in Pakistan. Moreover, he demanded a rebuttal of the statement.

Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah, while defending the credentials of the previous PPP government in the National Assembly, said: “The government [of the day] had no knowledge that Osama was in Pakistan.”

“When Haqqani was ambassador [to the US] during the [previous] PPP regime, he issued an entirely different [set] of statements over the Abbottabad operation in 2011.”

The opposition leader was of the view that even condemning his article was tantamount to giving him importance.

Speaking in the upper houses of parliament, PML-N Senator Nehal Hashmi said former president Asif Ali Zardari owed an explanation to the nation over the issue.

Responding to him, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said: “All visas were issued in accordance with the laid down procedure involving various state agencies,” adding, “No irregularity, whatsoever, was committed.”

He said there were no complaints from any government organisation in respect of the visas issued.

Babar said he was spokesperson for the former president and added that he “will confine his remarks to the issue raised by the senator and will not say anything about Husain Haqqani and his article”.

PTI’s Arif Alvi said: “By writing the article Haqqani has attempted to implicate the PPP as well,” adding, “He is doing the job of mudslinging.”

Oversight panel to be constituted

Meanwhile, the Senate has decided to constitute an oversight panel in an attempt to allay fears expressed by lawmakers about transparency in the upcoming sixth national population and housing census.

Husain Haqqani vs the Pakistani state

The upper house of parliament resumed its session after a two-day break with Chairman Raza Rabbani in the chair. It was a private members’ day. The house took up various bills, proposed pieces of legislation, motions calling attention notices and points of order on a number of issues.

The Senate chairman asked Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq to consult with the government and report back to the Senate by Wednesday or Thursday before he notifies the oversight panel. Senator Taj Haider of the PPP handed over a letter from the Sindh chief minister to Haq in which the provincial chief executive had raised apprehensions over transparency of the exercise.

“Some unnecessary checks are being made in the name of secrecy and even the offices of deputy and assistant commissioners will not be shared the preliminary surveys of house listing, and later of the headcount.”

Kalsoom Parveen, a treasury member from Balochistan, raised the issue of blocked identity cards and what she called some no-go areas of her province. Sensing that the members would constantly keep on raising the issues linked with the census, the Senate chairman decided to deal with them through a parliamentary panel he would be constituting later in the week.

Information Technology Minister Anusha Rehman, in response to a motion of PTI Senator Azam Swati, said that the heyday of the Telephone Industry of Pakistan (TIP), situated in Haripur, K-P, was long over.

“Privatisation of TIP is the only way out,” was the conclusion of her briefing to the upper house.

The house also passed with a majority vote a resolution moved by two PPP senators — Sehar Kamran and Saleem Mandviwalla — calling for the revival of Waseeela-e-Haq and Waseela-e-Rozgar schemes.

tribune.com.pk/story/1354610/ppp-winces-hard-haqqanis-revelations/

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South Asia

 

Bangladesh: Sufi Muslim Leader Killed Amid Surge in Attacks

March 14, 2017

Unknown gunmen killed a Sufi minority spiritual leader and his house help in northern Bangladesh on Monday, police said, amid a surge in attacks on liberal activists, minority sects and other religious groups in the Sunni Muslim-majority country.

Police said Farhad Hossain Chowdhury, 55, and his teenage maid were shot and hacked to death at his home in the northern district of Dinajpur, 350 km (220 miles) from the capital, Dhaka.

“We are yet to ascertain who carried out the murder,” local police chief Arju Mohammad told Reuters, adding they were not ruling out links to Islamist militants.

No one claimed responsibility for the killing but the South Asian country of 160 million people has seen a string of deadly attacks in the past years, the most serious on July 1, when gunmen stormed a cafe killing 22 people, most of them foreigners.

Al Qaeda and Islamic State have made competing claims for a series of killings but the government has blamed domestic militant groups.

indianexpress.com/article/world/bangladesh-sufi-muslim-leader-killed-amid-surge-in-attacks-4568524/lite/

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Deadly airstrike targets Taliban in Paktika, 29 including 2 senior leaders killed

Tue Mar 14 2017

A deadly airstrike targeted a gathering of the Taliban insurgents in southeastern Paktika province of Afghanistan.

According to the local government officials, the airstrike was carried out by the foreign in Zeruk district.

Provincial governor’s spokesman Mohammad Rahman Ayaz said at least twenty insurgents including three commanders of the group were killed in the airstrike.

He said two of the commanders killed in the airstrike have been identified as Afghan Waziristani and Hazifa.

Ayaz further added that the Taliban gathering was targeted by the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle as they had participated in the funeral of another Taliban leader Kerat Khan.

The local officials are saying that Keramat Khan was a notorious Taliban who had a major role in insurgency activities in this province.

Paktika is among the relatively calm provinces but the anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban insurgents and militants of the notorious Haqqani terrorist network are actively operating in some of its districts.

The latest airstrike on Taliban in Paktika comes as the US forces based in Afghanistan have stepped up airstrikes against the insurgent groups under a broader role granted to them earlier last year.

khaama.com/deadly-airstrike-targets-taliban-in-paktika-29-including-2-senior-leaders-killed-02393

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Kabul blast destroys bus in Afghan capital, killing at least one

An interior ministry official confirmed an explosion but there was no immediate word on damage or whether there were any casualties.

March 13, 2017

An explosion in the centre of the Afghan capital Kabul destroyed a bus carrying employees of one of the country’s biggest telecoms firms on Monday, killing at least one person and wounding eight, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.

Security forces surrounded the smoking remains of the bus, which appeared to be completely burned out. A security official said earlier the blast was caused by a suicide bomber on foot, but Sediqqi said it appeared to have been caused by a roadside bomb.

The explosion, as people were leaving work in a well-to-do area of the city, came less than a week after dozens of people were killed and wounded in an attack on the country’s largest military hospital by gunmen dressed in medical uniforms.

Officials are still investigating that assault, which was claimed by Islamic State, but the two attacks underline the broad security threat in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have stepped up their insurgency against the Western-backed government.

indianexpress.com/article/world/explosion-kabul-suicide-bomber-targets-bus-in-afghan-capital-casualties-official-says-4567928/

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2 policemen shot dead by unknown gunmen in Kabul city

Tue Mar 14 2017

At least two policemen were shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Kabul city late on Monday evening, security officials said Tuesday.

The incident took place in the vicinity of the 8th police district of the city after unknown gunmen opened fire on the policemen who were busy conducting search operation in the area.

Kabul police chief Hasan Shah Frogh confirmed that the two policemen were shot dead by unknown gunmen in Bani Esar area.

He did not disclose further information regarding the incident but added that an investigation is underway regarding the attack.

No group or individual has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.

This comes as Kabul city was hit by some of the deadliest attacks during the recent days which left scores of people dead.

The incident in Bani Esar area took place hours after an explosion ripped through a van carrying employees of a telecommunications company.

According to the security officials, a woman was killed and at least nineteen others including four women were wounded.

No group including the Taliban insurgents has so far claimed responsibility behind yesterday’s attack but the ministry of interior officials are saying that three people have been arrested in connection to the attack.

khaama.com/2-policemen-shot-dead-by-unknown-gunmen-in-kabul-city-02395

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3 suspects arrested as explosion leaves 1 dead, 19 wounded in Kabul

Tue Mar 14 2017

At least three people have been arrested in connection to an explosion in capital Kabul which took place on Monday evening. (Photo Jim Huylebroek)

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) spokesman Sediq Sediqi confirmed that one woman was killed in the incident that took place in the vicinity of Taimani area.

Sediqi further added that nineteen others including four women were also wounded in the attack.

No further details have been given regarding the arrested individuals and the circumstances regarding their suspicious involvement in the incident.

The blast has reportedly taken place due to an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) which was detonated close to a van carrying employees of a private telecommunications company.

No group including the Taliban insurgents has so far claimed responsibility behind the attack.

This comes as a coordinated attack rocked capital Kabul last Wednesday leaving scores of people dead and dozens of others wounded.

The attack was carried out by a group of at least five people targeting the main military hospital for which the militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group claimed responsibility for.

khaama.com/3-suspects-arrested-as-explosion-leaves-1-dead-19-wounded-in-kabul-02391

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China hopes India, Pakistan will improve ties through dialogue

BEIJING: China on Tuesday expressed hope that Pakistan and India will overcome their differences through a renewed dialogue process that stalled last year following increasing unrest in Indian-held Kashmir and Uri attacks.

“Both India and Pakistan are China’s important neighbours and important countries in South Asia. China hopes that India and Pakistan can enhance mutual trust and improve relations through more dialogues. This is conducive to not only the two countries themselves but also to regional prosperity and development,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying during a press briefing in Beijing.

Alarming arms race among Pakistan, India and China

The spokesperson added that China also looks forward to the early accession of Pakistan and India to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as full members so they could work with other members for the security, stability, development and prosperity of the region.

“The memorandum on the obligations for India and Pakistan to obtain membership in the SCO was signed at the SCO Tashkent Summit in 2016. Currently, all sides are going through relevant legal procedures in accordance with the memorandum,” the spokesperson said while responding to a question.

Relations between Pakistan and Indian worsened in September 2016, when militants attacked an army base in the held valley of Kashmir and killed 18 Indian soldiers, a raid New Delhi blamed on Islamabad.

Pakistan had denied involvement, but the diplomatic fallout and India’s efforts to isolate Pakistan internationally continued, though failed.

tribune.com.pk/story/1354875/china-hopes-india-pakistan-will-resume-ties-dialogue/

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Europe

 

Employers Can Ban Wearing Of Visible Religious Symbols – Top EU Court

14 Mar, 2017

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that employers can ban staff from wearing visible religious symbols at work in the first case of its kind before the EU’s top court.

The ECJ has ruled on the cases of two female employees in Belgium and in France, fired after they refused to remove their headscarves at work.

In the first case, a Belgian woman working as a receptionist for G4S Secure Solutions, which has a general ban on the wearing of visible religious or political symbols, was dismissed for refusing to remove her religious attire. In the second, a French IT consultant was also let go when she refused to take off the headscarf after a client complained.

“An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination,” the court said in a statement.

The ruling comes on the eve of the Dutch election, in which Muslim immigration has been a key issue.

Islamic headscarves are a contentious issue in several European countries, with numerous cases of alleged discrimination against Muslim women emerging in recent months.

In December, a 14-year-old Syrian teenager was reportedly kicked off a tram in Berlin for wearing a headscarf, after the driver shouted through a loudspeaker that he refused to transport her.

Earlier this month, Austrian government officials sharply criticized a recommendation by the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGO) which states that Muslim women must start wearing a headscarf from the onset of puberty, describing it as an attack on integration and women’s freedom.

Last month, a Muslim teacher who wasn't hired by a Berlin school because she was wearing a headscarf was awarded €8,680 (US$9,250) in compensation for discrimination.

Meanwhile, a court in the Czech Republic threw out a similar case in January, in which a Somalian refugee claimed she had been barred from wearing her headscarf in a nursing school. The case was said to be the first of its kind in the EU.

rt.com/news/380627-eu-ruling-religious-symbols/

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Russia Hopes To Rope In Taliban For Afghan Talks

By Tahir Khan

March 14, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Russia wants the Taliban’s political representatives to join the dialogue initiated by China, Pakistan and Russia and expanded last month when Afghanistan, India and Iran joined the process.

Sources told The Express Tribune that Russia had indicated last month during a meeting in Moscow that at “some stage it would also make efforts to get the Taliban to attend the meeting”.

Russia, Iran ties with Taliban stoke Afghan anxiety

Afghanistan, however, disagreed with the proposal. This could be seen as a setback for reviving the political process, at least for now.

“While others (participants) had no comments on this proposal, the representative of the Afghan government expressed reservation in this regard,” sources privy to the meeting said.

Diplomatic sources say that Russia will convene the next meeting on April 14. Kabul had angrily reacted to the first trilateral sitting held in Moscow in December last year.

The Taliban’s political representatives in Qatar declined to comment about this development.

A Taliban source earlier confided to The Express Tribune that Russia and China would be acceptable as guarantors if and when peace negotiations begin.

Sources said that the US and EU officials would also be invited to the next meeting of the 6-nation consultations.

Afghan officials said they were suspicious about Russia’s actual intentions to invite the Taliban to the next meeting because they did not want anyone else to take the initiative.

“Russia is trying to legitimise the Taliban and if Taliban representatives take part in that meeting it would mean that they are equal to the legitimate government in Kabul,” an Afghan official said.

Pakistan warns Trump’s generals: ‘Sort out Afghanistan mess or Russia will intervene’

Kabul is increasingly frustrated by Russia’s growing contacts with the Taliban in recent months.

Zamir Kabulov, who is President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan, however, insists that “peace must be between the Taliban and the Afghan government.”

“For this (purpose), we should be asked in accordance with international law and principles of foreign policy [of the] Russian Federation. Both sides should ask us: ‘Please arrange such a conference, we want to make peace under your auspices.’ We haven’t gotten such a request yet,” Kabulov told Turkey’s Anadolu Agency in late December.

Kabulov, considered to be the man behind Moscow’s strong connections with Taliban, had met several times with the Taliban political envoys in Qatar.

The Taliban in their latest statement said they considered a political solution to be the best solution to the Afghan conundrum.

“The establishment of the political office … conveys to the Afghan people and the world that the (Taliban are) not … fighting for the sake of fighting. The (Taliban) leadership … has appointed some … experienced diplomats … in its political office,” the Taliban statement said.

The statement said the political office had been set up in Doha (Qatar) because Taliban wanted a peaceful solution to the Afghan issue and did not want their detractors to claim otherwise.

tribune.com.pk/story/1354603/russia-hopes-rope-taliban-afghan-talks/

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NATO and EU plead for calm as tensions between Europe and Turkey escalate

THE political feud between Turkey and Europe has escalated with NATO and EU chiefs pleading for calm.

By REBECCA FLOOD

Mar 14, 2017

The tense atmosphere follows developments over the weekend which saw The Netherlands ban Turkish Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu from entering the country.

He was travelling to attend a rally in Rotterdam in support of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s constitutional reforms, which have raised fears the measures could undermine Turkey’s rule of law and pave the way for a the erosion of democracy.

President Mark Rutte also ejected a Turkish minister who drove to the city for the rally from Germany.

In response the Turkish president branded The Dutch government Nazis, echoing a moment he made earlier in the week about the Germans.

And Mr Erdoğan vowed to respond with force, imposing diplomatic sanctions on The Netherlands, barring the return of the Dutch ambassador who is currently out the country, closing Turkish airspace to Dutch flights, dissolving a friendship grope between the two countries and suspecting intergovernmental meetings.

A senior government spokesman, Numan Kurtulmuş, said: “Turkey will act responsibly and decisively.”

NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, issued a plea for calm on all sides, and called on parties to focus on what unites us than separates us.

The unrest led to members of the European parliament to call for a halt to accession talks

He said: “I will encourage all allies to show mutual respect, to be calm and have a measured approach … to defuse tensions and de-escalate the situation.”

“It’s important that we now focus on everything that unites us.

“NATO presence in Turkey is good for Turkey but it is also good for Europe and the rest of the alliance.”

The situation exacerbated already fraught relations between Turkey and Europe, adding to fears a fragile deal which stems the flow of migrants into the continent could collapse.

And Turkey has repeatedly used the deal as a bartering chip to escalate its accession to the EU, but the constitutional reforms look likely to undermine that.

Europe has been cautious of Turkey’s actions since a failed coup last year led to a swift and brutal crackdown, which saw hundred of civil servants, journalists and military officials jailed.

The unrest led to members of the European parliament to call for a halt to accession talks with Turkey, still a formal candidate for EU membership.

The latest constitutional measures are viewed as Turkey taking a further step away from EU membership.

President Erdoğan has been trying to drum up support for the reforms from Turks living aboard by hosting rallies in various cities, something which was swiftly stopped by logistics and red tape over public health and safety permits, angering Ankara.

express.co.uk/news/world/778962/NATO-EU-Europe-The-Netherlands-Turkey-Nazi-tensions-Erdo-an

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Turkish Sanctions Are 'Bizarre', Says Dutch PM amid Diplomatic Row

Tuesday 14 March 2017

The Dutch prime minister has said that Turkish sanctions following a diplomatic clash were “not too bad” but were inappropriate as the Netherlands had more to be angry about.

The sanctions include freezing all diplomatic communication but no economic measures. Mark Rutte said: “I continue to find it bizarre that in Turkey they’re talking about sanctions when you see that we have reasons to be very angry about what happened this weekend.”

Tensions between the two countries, a dramatic escalation of Turkey’s row with EU states, broke out on Saturday when the Netherlands blocked two Turkish ministers from speaking at political rallies and the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, twice referred to the Dutch government as “Nazis”.

Turkey followed on Monday with a suspension of high-level political contacts with the Netherlands and a threat to re-evaluate a key deal to halt the flow of migrants to Europe .

Numan Kurtulmuş, a deputy prime minister and chief government spokesman, said while announcing the sanctions that the Dutch ambassador, who is on leave, would not be allowed to return .

Turkey would also close its airspace to Dutch diplomats, Kursulmuş said, adding: “There is a crisis and a very deep one. We didn’t create this crisis or bring it to this stage … Those creating this crisis are responsible for fixing it.”

The spokesman’s remarks came hours after Erdoğan defied pleas from Brussels to tone down his rhetoric, repeating accusations of European “nazism” and warning that his ministers would take their treatment by the Dutch to the European court of human rights. Erdoğan also accused the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, of “supporting terrorists” and criticised her for backing the Dutch in the row over Turkish campaigning abroad before an April referendum on controversial plans to expand his powers.

“Mrs Merkel, why are you hiding terrorists in your country? … Why are you not doing anything?” Erdoğan said in an interview with Turkish television. He added that the position adopted by the Dutch and a number of other EU states amounted to nazism. “We can call this neo-nazism. A new nazism tendency.”

Merkel had earlier pledged her “full support and solidarity” to the Dutch, saying allegations made twice by Erdoğan this weekend that the Dutch government was acting like Nazis were “completely unacceptable”.

The Turkish remarks followed a request on Monday by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and enlargement commissioner, Johannes Hahn, for Ankara to “refrain from excessive statements and actions”.

The Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the EU’s stance on Turkey was “short-sighted” and “carried no value” for Turkey. It said the EU had “ignored the violation of diplomatic conventions and the law”.

The threat made by Kurtulmuş to re-evaluate the deal the EU signed with Ankara in March 2016 – which has successfully curbed migration from Turkey to Greece, then onward into the rest of the bloc – will be seen as particularly alarming.

The Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland, all of which have large Turkish immigrant communities, have cited security and other concerns as reasons not to allow Turkish officials to campaign in their countries in favour of a referendum vote on 16 April to give Erdoğan expanded presidential powers. But with as many as 1.4 million Turkish voters in Germany alone, Erdoğan cannot afford to ignore the foreign electorate.

Austria’s chancellor, Christian Kern, called on Monday for an EU-wide ban on Turkish rallies, saying it would take pressure off individual countries. But Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, said he had doubts as to whether the bloc should collectively decide on a rally ban.

Analysts said the Turkish president was using the crisis to show voters that his strong leadership was needed against a Europe he routinely presents as hostile.

Erdoğan was “looking for ‘imagined’ foreign enemies to boost his nationalist base in the run-up to the referendum,” said Soner Cagaptay, the director of the Turkish Research Programme at the Washington Institute.

Marc Pierini, the EU’s former envoy to Turkey, said he saw no immediate solution to the crisis because “the referendum outcome in Turkey is very tight and the leadership will do everything to ramp up the nationalist narrative to garner more votes”.

The standoff has further strained relations already frayed over human rights, while repeated indications from Erdoğan that he could personally try to address rallies in EU countries risk further inflaming the situation.

The row also looks likely to dim further Turkey’s prospects of joining the EU, a process that has been under way for more than 50 years. “The formal end of accession negotiations with Turkey now looks inevitable,” the German commentator Daniel Brössler wrote in the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/14/turkish-sanctions-bizarre-as-netherlands-has-more-to-be-angry-about-dutch-pm

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North America

 

Muslim students in Florida send flowers to Jewish organizations, synagogues

March 1, 2017

(JTA) — The Muslim Student Associations of Florida State and Florida A&M universities delivered bouquets of flowers to campus Jewish organizations and local synagogues.

The flowers and the accompanying notes were meant to show solidarity at a time when both the Muslim and Jewish communities are under attack.

They were delivered to the Chabad and Hillel organizations at Florida State and to Shomrei Torah and Temple Israel synagogues in Tallahassee.

The note said: “We are writing this message to extend a hand of friendship. In times of great division, it is important that we stand together in unity so we hope that these flowers can be seen as a symbol of our solidarity.”

The gesture comes days after dozens of gravestones were overturned in a Jewish cemetery in the St. Louis area and a day before the discovery of toppled gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. It also comes amid a series of bomb threats called in to Jewish community centers and Jewish schools, including in Florida.

“Keeping up with the news lately has shown a plethora of very sad stories and hateful crimes against many minority groups,” FSU Muslim Student Association President Moneba Anees wrote in an email to the Tallahassee-Democrat newspaper. “Although we could not think of a way to help our Jewish friends and peers directly, we decided that we could show them that people are taking note of what is happening and that they have our support, love and prayers.”

In December, a hate-filled letter was found in the Shomrei Torah mailbox.

jta.org/2017/03/01/news-opinion/united-states/muslim-students-in-florida-send-flowers-to-jewish-organizations-synagogues

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Donald Trump gives CIA authority to carry out drone strikes: Report

US drone strikes were halted in the last eight months of the Obama Administration

March 14, 2017

US President Donald Trump has reportedly given CIA necessary authorisation to carry out drone strikes against terror groups, a move that could have implications for Pakistan. This is a change from the policies of the previous Obama Administration under which the Department of Defence was authorised to carry out such strikes and the CIA used drones to gather intelligence information, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources. The White House and the CIA have so far not responded to the news report. According to the daily, Trump gave such an authorisation to the CIA not long after he visited its headquarters on January 21.

“The Trump administration is also giving the military more authority to conduct operations on its own without first getting a sign off from the Pentagon or the White House,” the report said. The report said Trump’s unexpected decision to give the CIA the strike authority created ferment inside the US government within days of his visit, as US military officials scrambled to respond to the new directive.

According to New America’s research — a Washington DC based think-tank — before Obama changed his policy and only authorised the Department of Defence to carry out drone strikes, CIA’s drone strikes were mostly used in Pakistan. It has resulted in the death of at least 1,904 people and the figure could be as high as 3,114, US scholars Peter Bergen and David Sterman wrote in CNN on January 21, a day after Trump was sworn in as the US President.

US drone strikes were halted in the last eight months of the Obama Administration. In recent weeks, top Pentagon generals have expressed concerns over the continued presence of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan. CIA drone strikes were quite successful in elimination of high profile terrorists from the safe havens of Pakistan.

“The United States has killed more than 50 al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Pakistan since the beginning of the CIA drone campaign,” Bergen and Sterman wrote in the CNN op-ed. At the same time they warned that before taking a decision on reviving drone strikes in Pakistan, the Trump administration should take into account that the US is quite unpopular in Pakistan.

“Under Obama, the drone war in Pakistan reached its height, and Trump, should he choose to do so, can easily bring that war back,” the two American scholars said and had predicted that Trump may well escalate the drone war in Pakistan and there is not much to stop him if he chooses to do so.

indianexpress.com/article/world/trump-gives-cia-authority-to-carry-out-drone-strikes-report-4568361/

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Florida man sets American-Indian's shop on fire because he thought owners were Muslim

Richard Lloyd told police he wanted to 'run the Arabs out of our country'

Jon Sharman

A Florida man has been arrested after trying to set a convenience store on fire to "run the Arabs out of our country".

Richard Lloyd reportedly told police he tried to buy a bottle of orange juice at the shop in Port St Lucie but it was not in stock, and was also upset because he assumed the owners were Muslim.

The 64-year-old said he had pushed a bin to the front of the Met Mart building before setting its contents alight, according to a police statement. He told officers he was angry because of what Muslims were "doing in the Middle East". The store was closed at the time.

The shop's owners were in fact of Indian descent, not Arabic, police said.

St Lucie County sheriff Ken Mascara said: "When the deputies arrived, they noticed the dumpster had been rolled in front of the doors and the contents were lit.

"Upon seeing our deputies, the man put his hands behind his back and said, ‘Take me away.'

"The man, identified as Richard Lloyd, was read his Miranda rights and then told deputies that he pushed the dumpster to the front of the building, tore down signs posted to the outside of the store and lit the contents of the dumpster on fire to ‘run the Arabs out of our country’.

"We will not tolerate violence based on age, race, colour, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status, mental or physical disability."

Mr Lloyd was due to undergo a mental health evaluation, Mr Mascara said, and state prosecutors would decide whether to charge him with an intentional hate crime.

independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/florida-man-muslim-shop-fire-attack-owners-indian-hate-crime-a7626586.html

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UN expert warns Myanmar may be trying to 'expel' all Rohingya Muslims

The UN special rapporteur on Myanmar has expressed concern that the Southeast Asian country may be seeking to "expel" all members of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim community from its territory.

Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in the Swiss city of Geneva on Monday, Yanghee Lee warned that a full purge could be the ultimate goal of the institutional persecution and horrific violence being perpetrated against the Rohingya Muslims.

Lee, who visited Myanmar twice in the past year, said that the country was still making Rohingyas' lives difficult by conducting a household survey and dismantling homes in the troubled Rakhine State.

"Conducting a household survey - where those absent may be struck off the list that could be the only legal proof of their status in Myanmar - indicates the government may be trying to expel the Rohingya population from the country altogether. I sincerely hope that that is not the case."

A four-month crackdown on the minority group has seen some 75,000 Rohingya Muslims flee to neighboring Bangladesh, where Lee said she had heard "harrowing account after harrowing account."

"I heard allegation after allegation of horrific events like these – slitting of throats, indiscriminate shootings, setting alight houses with people tied up inside and throwing very young children into the fire, as well as gang rapes and other sexual violence,” she said.

Elsewhere in her remarks, Lee also pushed for a high-level inquiry into abuses against the Muslim minority community.

The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, has said treatment of the Rohingya merits a UN commission of inquiry and review by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Rakhine has been under a military siege since October 2016 over a raid on a police post that was blamed on the Rohingya.

The violence against the Rohingya is a blow to efforts by Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to reach a comprehensive peace agreement with the country’s ethnic minorities.

presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/13/514219/Myanmar-Rohingya-UN-Yanghee-Lee-Rakhine-

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Arab World

 

In Mosul, a heavy but not crushing blow to Islamic State

Pentagon and Iraqi officials say the senior IS leadership has escaped to regroup in Syria and the deserts along the border to prepare for the future.

March 14, 2017

Iraqi troops have surrounded western Mosul and military leaders vow it’s only a matter of time until they crush the last major stand of the Islamic State group in Iraq. But the militants are positioning themselves to defend the remains of its so-called “caliphate” in Syria and wage an insurgent campaign in Iraq.

The extremists are carrying out what looks like an organized, fighting withdrawal: a core of fighters is holding out in the city using hundreds of thousands of civilians as shields, tying down and bleeding the Iraqi military in urban combat.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon and Iraqi officials say the senior IS leadership has escaped to regroup in Syria and the deserts along the border to prepare for the future.

“They know they will lose Mosul, but they want this to be a hard fight,” said Maj. Saif Ali, a commander in the Iraqi special forces on the front lines.

The civilian population is perhaps the main reason IS fighters have been able to hold out so long and turn Mosul into such a grueling battle. It took months for Iraqi forces to drive them out of eastern Mosul while trying to avoid high casualties among residents amid house-to-house battles. Now some 2,000 militants, by a coalition estimate, are holed up in western Mosul with 700,000 civilians. IS fighters are holding most of those civilians hostage as shields, while forcing some to flee as cover for their troops.

Mosul’s fall will be the biggest blow yet to IS, largely breaking its hold over territory in Iraq and ending its rule over half the “caliphate,” which at its height stretched from northern Syria through western Iraq. The largest city in IS territory, Mosul provided the group significant financing from taxing the population, factories to make weapons and space to gather freely.

But the Islamic State group’s durable organization ensures it can fall back to the next fight.

The Battlefield

Last weekend, Iraqi forces completely encircled western Mosul by capturing the last road into the enclave of about 40 square kilometers (15 square miles), comprising some of the city’s most densely built districts.

“Any of the fighters who are left in Mosul, they’re going to die there because they are trapped,” Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for U.S.-led coalition against IS, said Sunday.

In the month since the assault on the west began, troops have retaken the city’s airport, a sprawling military complex, the main government compound and a ribbon of neighborhoods on the southwest side of Mosul. The offensive is being waged from three directions with two divisions of special forces and a force of federal police advancing along the Tigris River, which divides the city into its western and eastern half.

Use of artillery and airpower has been dramatically stepped up, mostly by the Iraqi air force. “They are causing the real destruction,” said federal police Cpl. Abbas Takleef, whose unit retook the government complex last week.

Iraqi officers have frequently expressed impatience with extensive vetting of airstrikes required by the U.S.-led coalition to avoid civilian casualties. Recently, the coalition enabled more of its officers on the scene to approve strikes, speeding up procedures.

But more intense bombardment could translate into deaths among residents. Airwars, an independent group that tracks casualties from the campaign, said several hundred civilians have been killed in March alone.

The Civilians

Residents trapped in western Mosul face dwindling supplies of food and fuel. Limited provisions enter through smuggling routes still in use despite the siege, according to a senior humanitarian official who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

But prices have skyrocketed: the price of a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of sugar has leaped from $1 to more than $20.

Bassam and his wife Asma, residents of a western neighborhood just recaptured by Iraqi forces, said they survived because they began stockpiling provisions back in October, before the Mosul assault began. Shops completely ran out of food more than two months ago, they said.

The couple asked to only be identified by their first names, fearing for the safety of relatives still under IS rule.

Around 50,000 civilians have fled in the past four weeks, according to the United Nations. Escape is incredibly dangerous: IS has threatened to kill anyone caught trying to get out, and residents have to cross dangerous front lines to reach safety.

But at times, the militants allow large groups to leave, giving cover for their own fighters to move as well.

Ali, the special forces major, said that one night more than 5,000 civilians crossed out through front lines near his position. Soon after, militants who had slipped into government-held territory struck his forces from the rear, hitting a house and nearby school being used by the Iraqi troops. A sniper with a night scope killed a young soldier on the roof of the house, and a rocket-propelled grenade wounded a soldier at the school.

The attacks rattled the soldiers as they tried to regroup for the next push, said Lt. Col. Nour Sabah, who was stationed at the school.

“They are trying to exhaust us,” he said.

What’s Next For The Islamic State Group

The well-organized IS counter-attacks point to how the militants are maintaining command and control even as their grip on Mosul falls apart.

The Islamic State group’s top leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his senior lieutenants escaped Mosul even before the assault on the city began in mid-October, Iraqi and coalition officials believe. They likely went to Raqqa in Syria, though some may have set up in desert hideouts along the border.

“They’re not willing to share the risk that they demand of their fighters to fight to the death,” U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, who heads the U.S.-led coalition against IS, said at a Pentagon press briefing.

Also escaping are many middle-rank IS fighters, the rough equivalent of a military’s captains and majors crucial to keeping structure. A lieutenant-colonel with Iraqi intelligence estimated hundreds of IS fighters have fled west Mosul among the civilians. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Those fighters could form the backbone of an IS rebirth as an insurgent force.

From the relative safety within the territory the Islamic State group still holds in Syria and the pockets remaining in Iraq, along with any sleeper cells the militant group has inside Iraqi government-controlled territory, IS can carry out insurgent operations in Iraq including suicide bombings, much as it did before 2014 in its incarnation as al-Qaida in Iraq.

From Syria, the group can also plot attacks in the West.

“The Caliphate will not vanish,” IS pledged in an internal publication found north of Mosul by Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a researcher with the Middle East Forum who studies the group.

He said the document appeared to anticipate that urban areas like Mosul and Raqqa will be lost.

“It adopts the idea that the Caliphate does not end with loss of territory, and the West in particular should realize the next generation of the Caliphate’s soldiers are being nurtured within their borders,” al-Tamimi said.

What’s Next In The Fight

The next likely target is Raqqa, in northern Syria. U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces are trying to cut off supply lines into the city, and U.S. officials have said an assault could begin with weeks. There too, however, the militants are dug in for long and potentially grueling fight.

From there, the last stronghold of the militants could be the Deir el-Zour region in eastern Syria, near the border with Iraq.

Iraqi forces will likely need weeks of rest and resupply after Mosul. But then the fight will also continue in Iraq to mop up the last pockets held by militants along the border. Also crucial to recapture are Iraqi border crossings still in the militants’ hands, a step that would crimp — though not completely stop — IS’s ability to move supplies and fighters into Iraq.

Senior military and intelligence officers warn that addressing Iraq’s political divisions will be just as important.

In the past, the militants have been able to rebound from defeat by exploiting anger among Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, which feels marginalized by Shiites. And Iraq will have to deal with the monumental task of rebuilding cities destroyed in the fight against IS. Slowness in doing that could fuel Sunni resentment.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Doug Silliman, said the next task will fall to the Iraqi government to return services to territory retaken from IS to deliver a lasting defeat to the group, at the Sulaimani Forum earlier this month.

“The military victories will not be enough,” he said.

indianexpress.com/article/world/in-mosul-a-heavy-but-not-crushing-blow-to-islamic-state-4568433/

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Under cover of rain, Islamic State fights for Mosul old city

By John DavisonMOSUL

Iraq, March 14 (Reuters) - The bombed out, battered streets, homes and buildings around Mosul museum were eerily quiet, other than the hum from the engines of Iraqi forces' armoured vehicles stationed outside. The usual sound of planes and helicopter gunships attacking Islamic State positions in the city was also absent, with cloud cover and rain making any air raids difficult to coordinate. These are the conditions Islamic State fighters holed up in the city centre relish. "They use the cloud and the rain to launch attacks, and it stops any advances by us," said Sergeant Ali Abu Hamra of the Rapid Response, an elite interior ministry force. Sure enough, as units moved up towards the front line, mortar and gunfire began coming in, crashing down around the museum which Iraqi forces seized last week. Troops took cover in a utilities room annexed to the museum complex, while other units ran forward to shoot at Islamic State positions and try to suppress incoming gunfire. Monday's weather was not a game-changer. It was simply a boost to the stiff resistance of Islamic State fighters who have retreated into more crowded urban areas including Mosul's old city, making life difficult for the Rapid Response force. The deserted museum and nearby government complex were recaptured almost a week ago, but the area, where federal police have filled in as elite raiding parties try to move forward, is far from secure. The struggle, rain or shine, to make significant advances beyond this district which borders the old city limits, shows how tough the fight for Mosul's heart is likely to be as jihadists hail shell and sniper fire from inside. Islamic State have held out in Mosul, their last major urban stronghold in Iraq, far longer than the government initially predicted as it launched a U.S.-backed campaign in October to drive the militants out. Iraqi forces in January brought all districts east of the Tigris river under their control, and last month launched attacks in western Mosul, which houses the Nineveh provincial government headquarters and the old city with its narrow streets. The old city contains the mosque from which Islamic State leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself caliph over large areas of northern Iraq and eastern Syria in 2014. The Federal Police and Rapid Response said at the weekend they had entered the old city. But there was no significant progress as the week began, and the militants, firing from inside, pinned down Iraqi forces for hours. Rapid Response troops operating around the museum last week had already said it was hard for them to consolidate gains from raids without areas behind them fully secured. ALEPPO STREET Wounded troops sat or lay on mattresses in the dark room next to the museum, making sure the metal door was closed to stop shrapnel flying in. "The fight is in the old city now, but it's tough, the streets are narrow," said Nasser Taleb, 34, a bandage over his eye from a bullet ricochet wound he said he suffered on Aleppo Street on the edge of the old city, where intense fighting took place at the weekend. The fighting is set to cost many more lives and wreak further destruction as it moves into the heart of the city. Near the museum, air strikes had pounded deep holes in the roads and churned up tarmac. Palm trees along a central boulevard were blackened, their trunks gashed open by explosions. As the morning's fighting wore on and the rain came down, Iraqi artillery and rocket launchers positioned further back began to pound targets in or around the old city. Planes could be heard in the skies again, but did not launch many strikes. A soldier at a base away from the frontline asked: "Who's advancing today, us or them?"

nasdaq.com/article/under-cover-of-rain-islamic-state-fights-for-mosul-old-city-20170314-00216

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Police chief says 90% of Mosul’s old city retaken from Islamic State

by  Mohamed Mostafa

Mar 14, 2017

Nineveh (IraqiNews.com) Iraq’s Federal Police chief said Tuesday security forces had retaken 90 percent of central Mosul’s Old City, a most-wanted target in operations against the Islamic State in western Mosul.

Lt. Gen. Shaker Jawdat said in a statement that his forces recaptured Bab al-Jadid and Bab al-Bid neighborhood. The troops recaptured Nineveh’s railway station and a nearby garage a few hours earlier.

“The Rapid Response forces recaptured 90 percent of the Old City and became 100 meters away from the Old Bridge,” Jawdat stated, referring to one of the five strategic bridges linking western and eastern Mosul above the Tigris River.

Iraqi generals view the Old City, with its narrow alleyways and dense population, as a major target whose recapture could be highly decisive for the outcome of operations in the western region of Mosul.

Iraqi government forces recaptured eastern Mosul from Islamic State on January 24th after three months of battles. Security commanders recently said they became in control of 30 percent of western Mosul since another offensive launched in February to retake the region.

Iraqi troops have made remarkable victories in the west by recapturing major government facilities, a military base and the city’s airport.

iraqinews.com/features/police-chief-says-90-mosuls-old-city-retaken-islamic-state/

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Sunni politician warns US of mounting civilian casualties in Mosul to drive out ISIS jihadists

Neither the Iraqi government nor the US coalition have announced civilian casualties in the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the US led invasion of 2003.

March 14, 2017

A prominent Iraqi Sunni politician on Monday warned Washington the acceleration in a military campaign in western Mosul to drive out Islamic State jihadists was causing a sudden surge in civilian casualties that threatened to undermine the effort to crush the militants.

Khamis Khanjar, who has used his leverage to lobby the US administration and the Iraqi authorities to ensure the major campaign in Mosul minimises civilian losses among its population, said at least 3,500 civilians have been killed since the push into the western side of the side last month.

“There were heavy casualties due to speeding up of military operations and we see this as a big mistake and residents who we are in touch with have much more fear than in the past of the ongoing military operations,” Khanjar added in an interview in Amman.

“We hope the US led coalition doesn’t hurry up in this way without taking into consideration the human lives,” he added.

Neither the Iraqi government nor the US coalition have announced civilian casualties in the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the US led invasion of 2003.

Khanjar said the mounting casualties came mainly from air strikes and indiscriminate shelling of heavily crowded neighbourhoods as the U.S trained elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) forces push deeper into the Old City and city centre.

Fighting to drive Islamic State from western Mosul, its last major stronghold in Iraq, has involved close-quarter street battles, with Iraqi forces advancing block by block as they approach the most densely populated parts of the city. Some 850,000 people are still believed to be living there, according to Khanjar. Until the latest phase of the battle to take western Mosul, the campaign had gone well with lower-than-expected civilian losses, Khanjar said crediting the professionalism of the U.S. trained elite forces.

“The Americans are mistaken if they think that a speedy decisive military solution is the best approach in this battle,” Khanjar added.

“This will have dangerous repercussions on the post-Mosul phase..there will be anger by residents and Daesh will benefit from the large human losses,” he added, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

Khanjar is one of the main politicians in Iraq’s once dominant Sunni community and has spent millions of his vast fortune on a network of charities that helps supports thousands of displaced Sunnis whose areas have been battlefields.

He also financed local tribal Sunni groups that fought Islamic State when it first emerged in strength in Iraq.

At the outset of the Mosul campaign, Khanjar financed the 3,000 strong Turkish-trained force known as the Nineveh Guards Force that has now been integrated in state-run forces.

Iraq’s fractious Sunni senior politicians and parties also met last week in Ankara for the first time in years to chart a national reconciliation proposal in the post-Mosul period, Khanjar said.

In the meeting attended by Salim Jabouri, the head of parliament, Vice President Osama Nujaifi and other Sunni politicians, leaders agreed an historic opportunity existed to heal the rifts among Iraq’s warring sects and restore shattered confidence by mainstream Sunni towards the state, Khanjar said.

Deepening the disenchantment of Iraq’s Sunnis would only further alienate them and risk worsening the country’s security problems and even bring the emergence of even more hardline Sunni groups once the militants are defeated, he said.

“Unless there is a political process that restores confidence of Sunnis in the state..in a post-Daesh phase there may emerge more organizations of terrorists that are even more extreme than Daesh,” he said.

Mainstream Sunnis believe the Shi’ite led administration has discriminated against them and also say Shi’ite Iran’s influence has expanded in the security forces and paramilitary groups.

indianexpress.com/article/world/sunni-politician-warns-us-of-mounting-civilian-casualties-in-mosul-to-drive-out-isis-jihadists-4568244/

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'Fighting extremism' top priority, says Bashar al-Assad

Syria's future will be decided only after “getting rid of extremists” and achieving political reconciliation, the country's President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published Monday.

As the war that has ravaged his country approaches its seventh year, Assad told reporters it was “still early to talk about” his vision for Syria's future.

“It's a luxury now to talk about politics while you're going to be killed maybe in a few minutes, you have terrorist attacks,” he told a group of Western journalists, state news agency SANA said.

“So this is the priority, getting rid of the extremists, the political reconciliation in the different areas, this is another priority,” he added.

“When you achieve these two, you can talk about every discussion you want to regarding any issue.” SANA did not specify which outlets the Western journalists were from.

Assad's comments come ahead of the six-year anniversary of Syria's conflict, which began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

The conflict has since spiralled into a vicious and complex civil war that has killed more than 320,000 people and displaced more than half the population.

New peace talks brokered by Russia and Turkey are scheduled to start Tuesday in the Kazakh capital Astana, with UN-sponsored negotiations in Geneva set to resume on March 23.

dawn.com/news/1320253/fighting-extremism-top-priority-says-bashar-al-assad

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Teenage suspect dies after gunfire in Saudi Arabia

March 13th, 2017

RIYADH: A teenage suspect has died from wounds after Saudi police “responded” under fire in a flashpoint Shia community, the interior ministry said on Sunday.

The officers came under heavy fire on Saturday morning while looking for suspects hiding among abandoned homes slated for redevelopment in the Almosara area of Awamiya, on the Gulf coast, the ministry said.

Police “responded as necessary,” wounding the suspect Waleed Talal Ali, aged about 18, who died in hospital, it said.

Awamiya, a town of 30,000 in the Shia-majority Qatif district, was the home of Nimr al-Nimr, a cleric put to death in January last year for “terrorism.” Nimr was a driving force behind protests by Shia residents that began in 2011 and developed into a call for equality in the kingdom. Awamiya has seen repeated security incidents in recent years.

Ali was among a group of nine wanted suspects, the interior ministry said, adding that the derelict homes in Almosara had been used for planning “terrorist activities”.

dawn.com/news/1320166/teenage-suspect-dies-after-gunfire-in-saudi-arabia

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ISIL Suffers Heavy Losses in Syrian Armed Forces' Attacks in Deir Ezzur

Tue Mar 14, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army troops and Air Force pounded ISIL's positions and movements in the Southern outskirts of Deir Ezzur city, inflicting major losses on the terrorists.

The army soldiers repelled ISIL's attack on Deir Ezzur's airbase and then launched heavy artillery attack on terrorists' concentration centers and positions near al-Maqaber cemetery region Southeast, Southwest and North of the airbase, killing a number of terrorists and destroying their military equipment and weapons.

The army aircraft also bombed ISIL's gathering centers South and East of Deir Ezzur military airport, cement block making factory, al-Maqaber cemetery, Jonayd Division district, al-Thardah mountain, power company, Tamin Brigade region and al-Jafrah passageway, killing or wounding a large number of terrorists.

Also, the army soldiers repelled ISIL's attacks on government forces' positions in the Eastern direction of Deir Ezzur city and two other flanks near the city's airbase and Tamin Brigade region in the Southern countryside of the city on Monday, killing or wounding a number of terrorists and forcing the rest of them to retreat from the battlefields.

In the meantime, the army's artillery units shelled ISIL's movements and positions in al-Maqaber region, near the Electrify Company, Tamin Brigade, airbase, al-Makbat region, cement block making factories and in Jafrah village, killing a number of terrorists and destroying several command posts of them and a military vehicle.  

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951224000522

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Homs: Syrian Army Wins Back More Territories in Energy-Rich Regions

Tue Mar 14, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army troops continued their advances against ISIL in Eastern Homs, driving terrorists out of more regions near the oil and gas fields.

The army men engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL Northeast of the newly-liberated city of Palmyra (Tadmur) and pushed the terrorists back from the strategic region of al-Sawameh along the road to Arak oilfield.

In the meantime, the army soldiers took back al-Qabab region North of Tal (hill) al-Ameriyeh and Palmyra from ISIL.

A military source said, meantime, that the army's control over the Northeastern and Southern fronts, Sabkhat al-Mouh, power convertor station, al-Kaziyeh and Maktab al-Dowar Southeast of Palmyra, will restore more security to the ancient city.

The source further added that a large number of ISIL terrorists were killed and a number of its vehicles equipped with heavy machinegunswere destroyed in the army attacks, including a vehicle with license plate number registered in Saudi Arabia.    

On Monday, the army troops targeted heavily a long military column of ISIL terrorists East of the newly-liberated city of Palmyra en route to Deir Ezzur, inflicting heavy damage on the terrorists' convoy.

The army units targeted ISIL's military convoy of vehicles that were retreating from the Eastern direction of Palmyra towards the terrorist-held regions in Deir Ezzur province, destroying several vehicles and killing or wounding their crew.

In the meantime, the Syrian Air Force carried out several combat flights over ISIL's positions in Arak village and near the Third Station in Eastern Homs.

Also, the army soldiers continued to attack ISIL's positons from Palmyra's military airport towards Bayarat al-Sharqi and engaged in fierce clashes with them on a road between Palmyra and al-Sukhnah town, killing and wounding a number of terrorists.

Elsewhere in the province, the army men targeted badly the terrorists' positions and concentration centers in Tal Zahab settlement in al-Houleh plain and in al-Qantou town.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951224000429

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Syrian Army Scores More Victories against ISIL in Eastern Aleppo

Tue Mar 14, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army troops continued to hit the positions of ISIL in Eastern Aleppo and managed to drive the terrorists out of one more key settlement near the key town of Deir Hafer.

The army units engaged in another round of intense battle with ISIL West of Deir Hafer and managed to recapture Hamimeh al-Saqireh settlement, killing and wounding a number of terrorists.

In the meantime, the Syrian Air Force carried out several combat flights over the positions and movements of ISIL in the Western direction of Deir Hafer, killing tens of terrorists and destroying several positions and military vehicles.

A local source said that the army's control over Hamimeh al-Kabireh and Hamimeh al-Saqireh reinvigorated security to Kuweires airbase.

In relevant developments in the province on Monday, the army troops engaged in an intense battle with ISIL East of Kuweires Airbase and took full control over Hamimeh al-Kabireh settlement a few kilometers away from the terrorist-held town of Deir Hafer.

The ISIL suffered heavy casualties and its military hardware sustained major damage in the attack. 

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951224000321

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Syria in Last 24 Hours: Terrorists Sustain Heavy Losses in Army Offensives Near Ancient Palmyra City

Tue Mar 14, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army inflicted heavy losses on ISIL terrorists by hitting their military positions in the vicinity of the ancient city of Palmyra in the Eastern part of Homs province.

The terrorists were pushed back from their strongholds South of Palmyra city in Homs province.

Scores of terrorists were killed and wounded in tough battle with the Syrian government forces.

The Syrian army and popular forces also continued their military gains in other key provinces across Syria.

Homs

The Syrian Army troops struck heavily ISIL's defense lines South of the newly-liberated city of Palmyra (Tadmur), driving terrorists out of the city's Power Convertor Station.

The army men engaged in fierce clashes with the ISIL and managed to push them back from Palmyra's Power Convertor Station and Sabkhah (lagoon) al-Mouh in the Southern countryside of the ancient city.

A military source in Eastern Homs said that the army's attack inflicted heavy casualties on the ISIL and destroyed several military vehicles.

The source added that the remaining pockets of ISIL fled the battlefield.

Reports said earlier on Monday that the army units targeted ISIL's military convoy of vehicles that were retreating from the Eastern direction of Palmyra towards the terrorist-held regions in Deir Ezzur province, destroying several vehicles and killing or wounding their crew.

In the meantime, the Syrian Air Force carried out several combat flights over ISIL's positions in Arak village and near the Third Station in Eastern Homs.

Also, the army soldiers continued to attack ISIL's positions from Palmyra's military airport towards Bayarat al-Sharqi and engaged in fierce clashes with them on a road between Palmyra and al-Sukhnah town, killing and wounding a number of terrorists.

Elsewhere in the province, the army men targeted badly the terrorists' positions and concentration centers in Tal Zahab settlement in al-Houleh plain and in al-Qantou town.

Aleppo

The Syrian Army troops continued to hit the positions of ISIL in Eastern Aleppo and managed to drive the terrorists out of one more key settlement near the strategic town of Deir Hafer still under ISIL control.

The army troops engaged in an intense battle with the ISIL East of Kuweires Airbase and took full control over Hamimeh al-Kabireh settlement a few kilometers away from the terrorist-held town of Deir Hafer.

The ISIL suffered heavy casualties and its military hardware sustained major damage in the attack.

Damascus

The Syrian Army troops continued their advances against Al-Nusra Front (Fatah al-Sham Front) in Eastern Ghouta and drove a wedge between the Barzeh district North-East of the capital and its nearby gardens, sources said.

The sources said that the army men stormed the Al-Nusra positions and drove them out of al-Bostan (garden) pool that is located in Barzeh gardens and was one of the most important positions of Al-Nusra, and managed to advance against terrorists 700 meters in length and 500 meters in width South of the pool towards al-Hafez street in al-Qaboun district.

They added that the army soldiers took full control over al-Hafez street from the gardens of Barzeh and also seized full control over Darb al-Tawileh road that connects Barzeh district to al-Qaboun and Barzeh gardens.

The sources went on to say that with the army's control over Darb al-Tawileh road, Bostans are now under the full control of the army men, and Barzeh district has also been completely separated from gardens.

Earlier reports said that the Army soldiers engaged in fierce clashes with Al-Nusra terrorists in al-Qaboun district in the Northeastern outskirts of Damascus city and managed to take back control of the central prison and security post of the terrorists with the back up of the artillery units.

The army units also destroyed several tunnels of the terrorists connecting al-Qaboun to the other parts of Eastern Ghouta.

In the meantime, heavy fighting restarted between the army men and terrorists in Karash front in Jobar district and al-Qaboun's gardens.

Raqqa

The predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continued to advance against ISIL in Northeastern Syria and managed to take control of more strategic villages on the banks of the Euphrates River.

The SDF fighters continued to attack ISIL's positions in Abu Khashab front and took control over Matab and Khas Ajil villages on the bank of Euphrates River in Eastern Raqqa.

In the meantime, the Kurdish combatants engaged in heavy fighting with ISIL in Khashab front and drove ISIL out of Ka'as al-Jabal village Southeast of Raqqa province.

Deir Ezzur

The Syrian army troops engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL terrorists in the Eastern and Southern countryside of Deir Ezzur city and managed to fend off their attacks.

The army soldiers repelled ISIL's attacks on government forces' positions in the Eastern direction of Deir Ezzur city and two other flanks near the city's airbase and Tamin Brigade in the Southern countryside of the city, killing or wounding a number of terrorists and forcing the rest of them to retreat from the battlefields.

In the meantime, the army's artillery units shelled ISIL's movements and positions in al-Maqaber (cemetery) region, near the Electricity Company, Tamin Brigade, airbase, al-Makbat region, cement block making factories and in Jafrah village, killing a number of terrorists and destroying several command posts of them and a military vehicle.

Idlib

Forces of the Popular Committees in the besieged towns of Fua'a and Kafraya fended off an attack of Al-Nusra Front (recently renamed to Fatah al-Sham Front), killing and wounding a number of terrorists.

The Popular Committees' forces in predominately Shiite towns of Fua'a and Kafraya engaged in fierce clashes with a group of Al-Nusra terrorists that tried to prevail over their defense lines from Banish town toward a region between the towns of Fua'a and Kafraya, killing and wounding a number of terrorists.

Clashes are still underway between the popular committees and Al-Nusra terrorists in Fua'a and Kafraya, local sources said.

The sources added that the terrorists have been targeting residential areas in Fua'a and Kafraya from Banish front in last 48 hours, injuring tens of civilians.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951224000278

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Parliament Speaker Urges Saudi Arabia to Review Regional Diplomacy

Tue Mar 14, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani blasted Saudi Arabia for its continued massacre of the Yemeni civilians, and called on the Riyadh regime to adopt friendly policies towards its neighboring country.

"Saudis should review their conduct in Yemen in order to come to a mutual understanding with Iran," Larijani said.

Larijani's remarks came as Saudi Arabia's fighter jets are killing the innocent civilans across Yemen.

Saudi Arabia launched its bombing campaign against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to restore power to fugitive President Mansour Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.

Hadi stepped down in January 2015 and refused to reconsider the decision despite calls by Ansarullah revolutionaries.

Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi warplanes are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

The Monarchy's attacks have so far claimed the lives of at least 13,100 civilians, mostly women and children.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951224000661

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‘ISIS trapped & going to die’: US reaffirms rules of engagement in Mosul

14 Mar, 2017

As the fighting in Mosul rages on, the number of civilian casualties and displacements have grown significantly. While vowing to avoid civilian casualties by all means, the US is adamantly helping to maintain the siege until every single jihadist dies there.

Air strikes targeting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) fighters in the Iraqi city of Mosul are frequently killing civilians, a number of residents who lost loved ones have been telling RT recently. While the Islamic State is known to use men, women, and children as human shields in Mosul, the city's residents have also accused the coalition of indiscriminate bombing.

On Sunday, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter Islamic State fighters, Brett McGurk bluntly warned that any remaining jihadists in Mosul will be killed inside the besieged city.

“ISIS is trapped. … Any of the fighters left in Mosul, they’re going to die there,” McGurk said in a conference in Baghdad. “So we are very committed to not just defeating them in Mosul, but making sure these guys cannot escape.”

Following McGurk's remarks which coincides with reports of growing civilian casualties, RT asked the US State Department if Washington is still committed to its earlier pledge to do everything possible to spare civilian lives across Iraq.

In November, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that the US takes “every effort” and “every precaution to avoid civilian casualties” across Iraq event to the point where the US will call off a strike “against known enemy targets because they put civilians at risk.”

When asked again on Monday by RT's correspondent Gayane Chichakyan if the rules of engagement have changed in any way for the Mosul operation, Toner replied: “they [rules of engagement] have not changed.”

“We try to have the best intelligence and information available that we can to avoid any civilian casualties. And again, we stand – I stand by those comments that we will sometimes, if we have information that indicates that there’s civilians nearby or civilians in a place, then we will refrain from acting,” Toner noted.

The spokesman said that if the reported allegations of strikes targeting civilians are credible, “that would need to be investigated, looked into, and… if changes need to be made in terms of targeting, then that’s something that Department of Defense would look at.”

Since October 2016, Mosul has been besieged by Iraqi troops, backed by Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Shiite militias, and the US-led coalition, trying to drive Islamic State out of the city.

In January, the eastern half of Mosul was recaptured and operations to liberate the western side are ongoing. About one-third of Western Mosul has so far been liberated.

While the civilian death toll is impossible to calculate amid the ongoing battle for Iraq's second largest city, Sheikh Khamis Khanjar, the founder of the Office of the Sunni Arab Representative for Iraq, said at least 3,500 civilians have been killed in the battle for Mosul.

Khanjar noted that most casualties are a result of US air strikes and "indiscriminate" shelling of crowded neighborhoods by the US-trained elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) forces, Reuters reported. According to Khanjar, some 850,000 people are still believed to be living in Mosul.

rt.com/news/380609-mosul-trapped-isis-civilians/

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Southeast Asia

 

Burma seeks to ‘expel’ Rohingya Muslim minority – UN expert

14th March 2017

BURMA (Myanmar) may be using bureaucratic means to get rid of its Rohingya Muslim minority after a security crackdown against them caused an international outcry, the UN human rights investigator on Burma said on Monday.

The UN human rights office said last month the campaign of killings and rapes probably amounted to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing.

UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee told the UN Human Rights Council Burma was still making Rohingya’s lives difficult by dismantling homes and conducting a household survey.

“Conducting a household survey – where those absent may be struck off the list that could be the only legal proof of their status in Myanmar  – indicates the government may be trying to expel the Rohingya population from the country altogether. I sincerely hope that is not the case,” she said.

SEE ALSO: Burma: Full UN probe on Rohingya abuse unlikely after EU fails to seek one

Burma’s military launched the crackdown in the north of Rakhine state after nine policemen were killed on Oct 9.

Some 75,000 Rohingya have since fled to Bangladesh, where Lee said she had heard “harrowing account after harrowing account”.

“I heard allegation after allegation of horrific events like these – slitting of throats, indiscriminate shootings, setting alight houses with people tied up inside and throwing very young children into the fire, as well as gang rapes and other sexual violence,” she told the council.

Lee visited Burma twice in the past year, including Rakhine state. But she was blocked at the last minute from Kachin state, another area of ethnic violence.

“I must confess there were times I had seriously questioned the nature of the cooperation,” she said.

Burma’s ambassador Htin Lynn called the allegations of crimes against humanity unverified and one-sided.

He said security operations in Rakhine had stopped and the curfew was eased earlier this month.

SEE ALSO: Burma: Army defends Rohingya crackdown, denies abuses

“The situation in Rakhine state is very complicated in nature and thus requires complicated answers. It also requires greater understanding by the international community,” he said.

Human rights challenges could not be solved within a year, he said, referring to the year-old government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

But Lee said Burma‘s number of political prisoners had doubled to 170 in that time.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein has said treatment of the Rohingya merits a UN commission of inquiry and review by the International Criminal Court.

But Burma is unlikely to face international scrutiny because a Human Rights Council resolution drafted by the EU would leave the country itself to investigate. – Reuters

asiancorrespondent.com/2017/03/burma-seeks-expel-rohingya-muslim-minority-un-expert/#jTtzxMCqtGokWYZO.97

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5 Filipinos arrested in Sabah over alleged ISIS links

Three of the arrested Filipinos are permanent residents of Sabah

March 13, 2017

MANILA, Philippines – Five Filipinos and two Malaysians were separately arrested in Malaysia in the past week over alleged links to the international terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS), according to news reports coming from Malaysia on Monday, March 13.

Two Filipinos who are permanent residents of Sabah were arrested over allegations that they facilitated the transit of Indonesian and Malaysian ISIS militants from Sabah to Mindanao. One was identified as a 31-year-old female immigration officer in Sandakan while the other was said to be a 53-year-old ferry ticket seller, according to Singapore's The Straits Times.

They were arrested along with a Malaysian immigration officer. Channel News Asia correspondent Sumisha Naidu posted the statement of the Malaysian police on the arrests.

Another Filipino permanent resident, 36, was arrested in Sandakan. Reports did not detail his alleged links to ISIS.

Two other Filipinos, not permanent residents, were nabbed for supposedly facilitating funds for Malaysian fugitives also linked to ISIS. One of them is an 18-year-old who supposedly pledged allegiance to Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapilon.

The 2nd Malaysian, 36, was arrested at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport after he was deported by Turkey for trying to enter Syria.

Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa talked about the new terrorist cell in Malaysia in a report back in January. Filipino Mohammad Reza Kiram appeared in a video that called on fighters in Malaysia to go to the Philippines. (READ: Filipino millennial joins ISIS in Syria)

There is growing concern that ISIS militants in Syria could look for refuge in Southeast Asian countries as the terrorist group continues to lose territories in the Middle East.

In January, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana claimed ISIS has made direct links with Hapilon to look for a suitable area for a caliphate in Mindanao.

Hapilon also reportedly linked up with the Maute brothers in Central Mindanao.

The Philippine military has stepped up its offensive against the Abu Sayyaf, setting a deadline to significantly weaken the local terrorist group by the end of June 2017.

rappler.com/nation/164040-filipinos-arrested-sabah-alleged-links-islamic-state

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Head of world's largest Muslim group certain moderation will win

MAR 14, 2017

Amid concerns that hardline voices are growing, the leader of the world's largest Muslim group, Indonesia's Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), is confident that the moderate way of Indonesian Islam will hold firm.

Not one of the NU's 60 million members is a terrorist, Dr Said Aqil Siradj said yesterday at a talk organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

"We are still huge. We have 22,000 pesantren (Islamic boarding schools), 240 universities affiliated to NU and 800,000 mosques throughout Indonesia. Nobody, not even one body, has ever been involved in terrorism," he said.

Speaking to The Straits Times in Bahasa Indonesia ahead of his talk, he acknowledged that social media had done much to erode NU's hold on followers and supporters.

"Things are different now for NU than they were 30 years ago. These days, there are more and more aspersions cast against NU," he said.

The 91-year-old organisation, formed in 1926 by a group of Muslim leaders to defend the traditional, tolerant nature of Indonesian Islamic practices against foreign influences, is finding itself having to counter the appeal of extremist preachers once more.

Its arsenal includes its NU Online website, "cyber armies" and more than 100,000 "NUtizens" - a play on the word netizens.

Dr Said Aqil said that he makes it a point to communicate constantly with NU's extensive grassroots network in villages throughout the sprawling archipelago.

However, observers have wondered if the messages get missed.

Last month, for example, he was reported to not have discouraged NU members from joining protests against Jakarta's gubernatorial candidate Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is Chinese, Christian and known popularly as Ahok, and is facing charges of blasphemy brought forward by hardliners.

Pressed to clarify his stance on Ahok, Dr Said Aqil told ST, citing Islamic scholarship: "The number one criterion for leadership is fairness. So, a fair non-Muslim leader is better than an unfair Muslim leader."

He added: "When I told Indonesians this, many were angry with me. They said I was defending him. But I was merely telling them what I had read in the literature. I have no political interest in Ahok."

As for the rising appeal of radical ideology which, he said, has caught on among a small minority in his country, Dr Said Aqil attributes this to three factors.

One is the shallow, literal reading of religious tracts. He said that once hardline views have sunk in, nothing, not even the threat of death, could change ideology-addled terrorists. "Death by hanging or shooting is what they want because they think it will get them into heaven," he noted.

The other two factors, he said, have economic roots: poverty and a lack of education. On this front, Dr Said Aqil took issue with what he saw as an ethnic imbalance in his country, saying: "In Indonesia, there are 50 conglomerates owned by the Chinese. Only eight belong to the Muslim 'pribumi'."

Many NU members who are poor "are very jealous of the rich Chinese and their conglomerates", he said. "But they will not become terrorists because I am able to manage them. They are loyal to NU's leadership."

He said one way NU's leaders try to keep their followers in check is to provide them with sufficient education, healthcare and financial support for their businesses, with support from the government.

Yet, he has also remained critical of the administration and President Joko Widodo, he added, albeit only in private. "He listens and he accepts such statements without anger. He is a good man," he said.

Stressing his commitment to moderation and religious pluralism, Dr Said Aqil said: "I always say our motherland must be peaceful before we talk about our faiths. Why? Because we build mosques, madrasahs and hospitals on land and if that land is not peaceful, what can we build these on? Air?"

straitstimes.com/singapore/head-of-worlds-largest-muslim-group-certain-moderation-will-win

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Malaysia to deport fifty North Koreans despite ban: Deputy PM

The diplomatic crisis erupted last month after North Korea attacked the Malaysian investigation into Kim's killing as an attempt to smear the secretive regime.

March 14, 2017

Malaysia will deport 50 North Koreans for overstaying their visas, the deputy prime minister said today, in an apparent exception to a departure ban after the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam. The killing of the half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un last month in Malaysia with VX nerve agent triggered an angry standoff between Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang that has seen them expel each other’s ambassador and refuse to let their citizens leave. But today Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters that 50 North Koreans working in the state of Sarawak on Borneo island — home to coal mines which often employ foreign workers — would be deported from Malaysia despite the ban.

“We will send the North Korean workers in Sarawak who have exceeded their (working) visa back to Pyongyang for overstaying,” he said. “They will be deported soon.”

He did not say why the government had decided on the expulsion despite Kuala Lumpur’s bar on North Korean nationals leaving the country — a tit-for-tat measure put in place after Pyongyang prohibited Malaysians from leaving its borders last week.

The diplomatic crisis erupted last month after North Korea attacked the Malaysian investigation into Kim’s killing as an attempt to smear the secretive regime. Three Malaysian embassy staff and six family members are stranded in North Korea as a result.

Pyongyang, which has never confirmed Kim’s identity, has repeatedly demanded the return of his body but Malaysian authorities have refused to release it without a DNA sample from next-of-kin. The body, which is currently kept in a morgue in the capital, has been embalmed to prevent it from decomposing more than a month after the assassination, the deputy prime minister said.

“It’s an effort to preserve the body, because if it is kept in the mortuary it might decompose so we did this to preserve the body,” he said. Two women — one Vietnamese and one Indonesian — have been arrested and charged with the murder. CCTV footage shows them smearing the 45-year-old’s face with a piece of cloth. Pyongyang has insisted that he most likely died of a heart attack.

Relations between North Korea and Malaysia had been particularly warm, with a reciprocal visa-free travel deal for visitors, prior to the high-profile killing. Up to 100,000 North Koreans are believed to be working abroad and their remittances are a valuable source of foreign currency for the isolated regime.

indianexpress.com/article/world/malaysia-to-deport-fifty-north-koreans-despite-ban-deputy-pm-4568405/

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Ahok empathetic toward Muslims: Witnesses

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya

Tue, March 14

Witnesses testifying in Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama's defense on Tuesday said that he always showed concern and empathy toward Muslims, demonstrating that he had not intended to insult the Quran or clerics as accused by prosecutors in his blasphemy trial.

Suyanto, Ahok's driver when the latter was in Bangka Belitung, said Ahok always insisted on stopping at a mosque when it was time for Suyanto to pray on Fridays. "Pak Basuki would say, 'just pray first, I'll wait in the car'."

He added that in East Belitung, his hometown, Ahok often lent money to Muslim neighbors who were in need and even financed some to go on the umrah (minor haj) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Another witness, Fajrun, one of the defendant’s neighbors in Bangka Belitung, echoed the statement, saying Ahok cared about Muslims.

Fajrun added that he was aware that a lot of people had tried to foil Ahok in the 2007 Bangka Belitung gubernatorial election by quoting Surah Al Maidah 51, a Quranic verse that has become the basis of the blasphemy trial at the North Jakarta District Court.

"There were a lot of pamphlets [in Bangka Belitung] quoting Surah Al Maidah 51, which urged people not to vote for a non-Muslim leader," Fajrun said.

His testimony was in line with that of another witness, Juhri, former election supervisor head in Belitung, who said that in 2007 a lot of pamphlets tried to discredit Ahok for his religious background.

thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/14/ahok-empathetic-toward-muslims-witnesses.html

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India

 

'BJP may become inclusive with Muslims after this mandate'

March 14, 2017

'Muslims may turn to the BJP or may not come out to vote in great numbers like they have in the past.'

'Anything can happen.'

'They can feel an increased sense of alienation, but that depends on the BJP -- on how it includes them.'

Professor Badri Narayan's scholarship has played a prominent role in the understanding of Indian politics.

The author of several books on the Dalit movement, including a highly acclaimed biography on Kanshi Ram, Badri Narayan spoke to Rediff.com's Archana Masih about what Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi need to do if they want to reclaim relevance in the wake of Modi's March.

Do you see Dalit youth buying more into Narendra Modi's promises than Mayawati's talk about caste identity?

There are many aspects (of the election results) that are unexplored. We need to explore what happened and how it happened.

We still haven't received all the data as yet, we can only speak on the basis of the 'feel' of the field.

From the sense I get from the 'feel' of the field is that the BJP has been able to mobilise the MBCs (Most Backward Castes) and non-Jatav Dalits to their advantage.

A section of the Jatavs that lived in the cities and is aspirational has also voted for BJP.

The BJP has worked with the smaller Dalit castes.

There are 65 Dalit communities in Uttar Pradesh, out of that only 4, 5 are visible. The remaining are invisible, scattered and not very informed.

Whichever party is able to mobilise them, they end up voting for them.

Amit Shah has been able to create a social coalition comprising of the Forwards, non Yadav OBCs, non Jatav Dalits and MBCs.

The BJP's ascent under Modi is compared to the Congress' growth under Indira Gandhi in the early 1970s for using the weapon of populism to attract the poor -- what are the similarities and differences between the two?

At the moment, there is no parallel to Modi.

I will not say he is like Indira Gandhi because they are two personalities. At the moment the Opposition has no to response to him.

Maybe time will produce its own leader from the Opposition -- it could be Rahul, Akhilesh, Nitish Kumar.

Modi was unsettled by Rahul's remark of 'suit-boot ki sarkar' and took up the issue of poverty after that.

Maybe a time may come when the Opposition will be in a position to reply back to Modi.

But at the moment, Modi is the victor.

How do you explain the transformation of Modi -- a man seen as close to the corporate world -- to being the messiah of the poor?

When he was attacked for his embrace of the corporate world, he shifted his politics and started raising the issues of the poor.

He realised if he didn't do this, he would be finished.

He started fashioning a pro-poor image.

Modi has the quality of making people believe what he says.

With the poor on his side, does it guarantee 2019 for the prime minister?

If he is able to maintain this alliance, then 2019 becomes easy for him.

It also depends on who they select as the chief minister of UP.

If the next UP chief minister does not do good work, it will have an impact on the rest of the country in the 2019 election.

If the BJP government does well in UP, 2019 will be winnable.

Did you expect the BJP sweep in UP?

It is unexplainable. Politicians are more innovative than analysts. They adopt new methods and we analyse those methods later.

Like the BJP made poverty a major plank in the election like Indira Gandhi had done.

They spun demonetisation in a way that made the poor believe that the rich were the reason for their poverty.

So there was a parallel polarisation based on depravation between competing communities.

A parallel polarisation between the poor and rich, between the dominant Yadavs and the non-dominant OBCs, between the Jatavs and the non Jatav Dalits.

How will the Muslims read the UP verdict?

The BJP broke the myth of the Muslim vote in 2014 and it has broken it again in 2017.

The BSP did not get the Muslim vote, it went to the SP.

In places where the BSP and SP did over-polarisation, the BJP countered it with non-Muslim polarisation.

Will this make the Muslms feel disenfranchised?

They might turn to the BJP or may not come out to vote in great numbers like they have in the past. Anything can happen.

They can feel an increased sense of alienation, but that depends on the BJP -- on how it includes them.

The BJP might become inclusive towards Muslims after this mandate -- that can also be a possibility.

What should Rahul Gandhi do now?

Rahul and the Congress have to reinvent themselves.

Rahul needs to introspect about how he can establish a connect with the people. He is serious about it and has attempted to do so.

The Congress needs overhauling.

The Congress is like a defeated army. It has to be salvaged, it needs fresh enthusiasm, new people.

Rahul Gandhi is not the problem; the Congress party is the problem.

It has become like a presidential election -- we either credit Modi or discredit Rahul.

As it has been seen in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, it is very difficult to dislodge the BJP once it comes into power in a state. Will we see this in UP as well?

UP is a complex state. It is a difficult to maintain and sustain social balance in UP.

The first test will be who they (the BJP) make CM.

Secondly, if they waive off farmers' debt which was a poll promise.

This will decide the future of their politics.

Mayawati has been able to hold on to the 20% of her core vote base in UP, but what is the point of maintaining this base if it cannot translate into electoral gains?

The function of the 'core vote' is that it works as the 'base vote' to which other votes can be added upon.

That makes a winning alliance, but when no other votes get added on to it, then it does not translate into electoral gains.

The BSP has gone back to being what it was in the 1990s.

You had told me in an earlier interview that Mayawati would be destroyed politically if she lost two elections in a row -- where does she go from here?

Mayawati ke liye bahut difficult time aa gaya hai. Mayawati has reached a very difficult stage in her political life.

There is no second rung of leadership. They have experienced the trappings of power.

They have to once again win the trust in the people -- but who will do that?

That is a difficult task and if that doesn't happen, the Dalits will shift in great numbers towards the BJP.

Is she capable of reinventing herself?

She is capable, but it has to be seen how much hard work she can do to achieve this.

She has a sharp mind, is intelligent, and is receptive to her community.

She did not do any work in the last four years (after she became a Rajya Sabha MP). She had no direct connect with the people because she lived in Delhi.

When she came to UP, she met the leaders and returned. She did not intervene in issues or taken up new causes through movements.

The BSP was basically a party of mass movements, but it stopped being so.

She only started working for the election in the last one-and-a-half years. But her Dalit-Muslim coalition backfired.

It gave the BJP the space for counter-polarisation.

She did not have the time to successfully create a Dalit-Muslim coalition because she announced it just a couple of months before the election.

What are the three things Behenji needs to do?

She needs to reinvent herself and the BSP's politics. It needs a new language.

She needs to reconnect with her own people and revive the 'movemental' character of the BSP.

She needs to build it like Kanshi Ram did. Mayawati knows how they did it because she was a part of it.

So both the SP and BSP need to go back to their basic politics?

They have to build trust within their communities.

The language of politics is no longer just the language of caste. There are other elements that have added on to that.

Akhilesh speaks the modern language, he does not speak the language of caste.

He will have to reconnect with his traditional roots.

You cannot reach the marginal poor through laptops, metros and highways.

You need to engage in a politics that fulfills their basic needs.

rediff.com/news/interview/bjp-may-become-inclusive-with-muslims-after-this-mandate/20170314.htm

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Pakistan violates truce in J&K for 3rd time in 24 hours

Mar 14, 2017

JAMMU: In yet another violation of the truce along Line of Control in border district Poonch of the Jammu region, the Pakistani troops on Monday targeted the forward Indian posts along the LoC for the third time in the last 24 hours, forcing the authorities to suspend the Poonch-Rawalkote bus service and postpone examinations.

Sunday's firing partially damaged the Trade Felicitation Centre (TFC), Chaka da Bagh, in Poonch and forced authorities to suspend the Jammu-Rawalkote bus service, sources from Poonch said.

"The Pakistani Army fired unprovoked in Poonch sector from 0640 hours on Monday," Jammu defence spokesperson Lt Col Manish Mehta said here on Monday.

He said, "Pakistani troops using 82 mm mortars, automatic weapons targeted our forward defended locations along Line of Control (LoC) and the fire was responded by our troops in a befitting manner, ensuing a heavy exchange of fire."

"Intermediate firing is going on. No casualty in has been reported so far," he added. Pakistan on Sunday also violated the truce agreement by firing heavily twice in Krishna Ghati and Chakkan da Bagh areas of Poonch.

Meanwhile, keeping in view the heavy shelling from across the border, the district administration on Monday postponed the examinations and suspended cross LoC bus service in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir. According to official sources from Poonch border areas, district authorities postponed Class 6 and 7 examinations, scheduled to be held on Monday, in view of the crossborder firing along the LoC.

Condemning Pakistan for the ceasefire violation, Union minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said, "It is an old habit of Pakistan. It always resorts to unprovoked firing along the LoC whenever there is a festival."

Union MoS in the PMO Jitendra Singh said, "I think the Indian government and Indian agencies are capable of meeting any kind of challenge. You must trust the Modi government to give a befitting response."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-violates-truce-in-jk-for-3rd-time-in-24-hours/articleshow/57622415.cms

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Mideast

 

Some EU states cannot tolerate Turkey's rise: Erdoğan

March/14/2017

Some European Union countries cannot tolerate Turkey’s rise as an emerging power, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on March 13, accusing them of working against the “Yes” vote in Turkey’s April 16 constitutional referendum.     

“A part of the European Union countries, unfortunately, cannot tolerate the rise of Turkey, and Germany is right at the top [of the list]. Germany relentlessly supports terrorism,” Erdoğan said in an interview aired live on private broadcasters A Haber and ATV.     

Erdoğan lashed out at German Chancellor Angela Merkel who said earlier on March 13 that the Netherlands had her “full support and solidarity,” amid escalating crisis between Turkey and the Netherlands.

“Merkel! Shame on you! Stand by the Netherlands as you like. You are supporting terrorists,” he said, adding that Turkey had sent Germany 4,500 files on terrorists, but Germany had done nothing about it.     

His remarks came amid an ongoing standoff between Turkey and the Netherlands after the Dutch government banned planned rallies of Turkish ministers ahead of the referendum.     

On March 11, the Dutch government first cancelled Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu’s flight permit to the Netherlands and then blocked a convoy carrying Family Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, forcing her to leave the country under police escort.     

Turkish citizens protested the Dutch move in Rotterdam, but were met by police using batons, dogs and water cannons, which some analysts said it was a disproportionate use of force.     

The events have drawn strong criticism from the Turkish government, which, earlier on March 13, sent diplomatic notes to the Netherlands in protest.     

Two weeks ago, Turkish government ministers were also barred from holding public rallies in two German cities.     

Erdoğan said he would not be content with only a simple apology from the Netherlands on this issue.      “They will pay the price for this sooner or later,” he said, adding the Dutch government would be called to account for the recent events.     

Erdoğan previously accused Germany and the Netherlands of ignoring the Vienna Convention, and of being fascist and employing Nazi practices.   

“We can call it neo-Nazism. That’s their understanding of the Vienna Convention,” Erdoğan said.      

Signed in 1961, the Vienna Convention is an international treaty that defines a framework for diplomatic relations between independent countries. It also specifies the privileges of a diplomatic mission that enable diplomats to perform their function without fear of coercion or harassment by the host country.   

The president also voiced support for a proposed constitutional change that would lower the minimum age to become a lawmaker from 25 to 18. 

“What could be more beautiful than this? This is paving the way for all young people in Turkey to take firm steps toward the future. Their energy will refresh the Turkish parliament,” Erdoğan said.     

He slammed the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for criticizing the proposal, however Kılıçdaroğlu and many other supporters of the “No” vote say the change paves the way for “political aristocracy” and is a way for government politicians’ sons to avoid military conscription.

“They have reduced the minimum parliamentary candidacy age to 18 for their own children and grandchildren. They will make them deputies at the age of 18 and will exempt them from military service with an amendment,” he said on March 6.   

Erdoğan rebuked the “No” campaigners, saying, “They are not against the system. They are actually against the Turkish people. They are siding with terrorists.”

hurriyetdailynews.com/some-eu-states-cannot-tolerate-turkeys-rise-erdogan.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110779&NewsCatID=510

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Iran Voices Readiness to Cooperate with UNPF

Tue Mar 14, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif voiced Iran's readiness to cooperate with the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) on drawing new population policies due to the country's aging society.

"Iran and the UNPF have had good cooperation in the past," Zarif said in a meeting with UNFP's new Envoy in Iran Leila Joudane in Tehran.

The Iranian foreign minister also called for boosting cooperation between the two sides in accordance with cultural values of the Muslim countries.

“The presence of the new UNPF representative in Iran is a good opportunity for participating in current projects of the Fund and creating a good model of cooperation for other countries in the region,” he said.

Joudane, for her part, deemed her presence in Tehran as good opportunity for the continuation of cooperation between Iran and the UNPF, and said, "The United Nations Population Fund supports the national strategic plan of the Islamic Republic of Iran with regard to its population policy to obtain population opportunities for the future."

She also stressed that there are ample opportunities for cooperation between the two sides.

In a relevant development in early September, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien hailed Iran for hosting a large population of foreign refugees living in Iran.

"Iran is hosting over 3 million refugees which is praiseworthy," O'Brien made the remarks in a meeting with Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli in Tehran.

He also voiced his satisfaction in Iran's good relations with the United Nations and the acceptable performance of Iran's Crisis Management Organization, and said, "The Interior Ministry plays a key role in this regard."

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951224000630

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Top Iranian General: US Playing Major Role in All Regional Crises

Tue Mar 14, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- Commander of Iran's Basij (Volunteer) force Brigadier General Gholam-Hossein Gheib-Parvar blasted the US and Saudi Arabia's support for the terrorist groups, and said Washington's footprints are seen in every crisis in the region.

"The US should be blamed for the war in Yemen and the House of Saud acts like a puppet in this regard," General Gheib-Parvar said on Tuesday.

"They are fighting against Islam under the name of Islam and by supporting the Takfiri grouplets," he added.

General Gheib-Parvar stressed that the US hand is seen in all crises in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and all Islamic countries.

In relevant remarks in 2015, Chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi described the Saudi attack on Yemen as a strategic mistake, and said the US interference is the common cause of all crises in the region.

"By attacking Yemen, Saudi Arabia has made a strategic mistake," Boroujerdi said in a meeting with Head of Iran-Ivory Coast Parliamentary Friendship Group Mohammad Ouattara in Tehran.

He also referred to the crises in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and said, "The common point of all the regional crises is the US direct or indirect meddling as it (the US) has no reservations for violating human rights to reach its interests."

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951224000513

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Iran's Oil Exports to India Triple in February

Tue Mar 14, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- India’s imports of crude oil from Iran in February increased by around three times compared to the same period last year, the latest shipping figures showed.

India’s imports of oil from Iran rose to 647,000 barrels per day (bpd) in February, Shipping data showed.

That was 16.7 percent more than January, and almost tripled from February 2016.

The jump meant Iran replaced regional rival Iraq as India's second-biggest oil supplier - a role Tehran used to occupy before the US-led sanctions were imposed against the Islamic Republic in 2011 restricting the country’s oil sales among other limitations.

The rise in Iran’s oil sales to India also came as the member countries of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) started to implement a plan to curb production by about 1.2 million bpd from the start of January.

The plan was devised to boost prices and remove a supply glut. Iran, Libya and Nigeria were, however, granted exemptions from the deal.

In the first 11 months of this fiscal year, between April and February, India imported about 542,400 bpd from Iran, compared to about 225,522 bpd for the same period a year ago. Average oil volumes supplied by Iran over this period were the highest on record, Reuters reported.

Indian refiners, including Reliance Industries Ltd, operator of the world's biggest refinery complex at Jamnagar, have returned as buyers of Iranian oil after having stopped imports from Iran during the sanctions period.

India’s imports of crude oil from Iran hit a record high in 2016 as some refiners resumed purchases after the lifting of sanctions against Tehran, official figures showed.

India purchased about 473,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil from Iran to feed expanding refining capacity, the official figures by the two countries' customs offices showed.

The US-led sanctions against Iran restricted the country’s oil exports to around 1 million barrels per day (mb/d) among other restrictions already described as the toughest in modern history.

The sanctions were lifted last January after a nuclear deal that Iran had sealed with the six world powers (the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany) came into effect.

Based on the deal, Iran restricted certain aspects of its nuclear energy activities in return for the removal of certain economic sanctions, including those that banned the exports of crude oil.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951224000509

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Turkey says EU exercising democracy selectively, wrong to stand by Netherlands

March/14/2017

Turkey's foreign ministry on March 14 slammed the European Union for telling Ankara to refrain from excessive statements, saying it was very grave for the bloc to stand by the Netherlands which it said has violated human rights and European values.

A row over Turkish campaigning in the Netherlands has escalated into a full-blown crisis between the two NATO allies. Ankara on March 13 said it would suspend high-level diplomatic relations after Dutch authorities prevented its ministers from speaking at rallies of expatriate Turks. The dispute also raised tensions with the EU which Turkey aspires to join.

In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry said the  European Union was exercising democratic values and basic rights and freedoms selectively and that its comments calling for calm had no value for Ankara.

hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-says-eu-exercising-democracy-selectively-wrong-to-stand-by-netherlands.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110780&NewsCatID=510

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Netherlands does not extradite terrorists to Turkey: Minister

March/13/2017

The Netherlands “doesn’t extradite terrorists” to Turkey, even though Ankara has demanded the return of 11 outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants and five outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) militants, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has said.

Bozdağ’s remarks came amid increasing tensions between The Netherlands and Turkey, after the Dutch authorities prevented Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya from meeting Turks living in the Netherlands after warning her that she was not welcome in the country.

“We’ve asked for the extradition of 11 PKK militants as part of legal processes, but they returned only one.

 We asked for the extradition of five DHKP-C militants, but they didn’t give any of them back. These numbers are from just the last 10 years,” Bozdağ said on March 13, adding that the PKK, the DHKP-C and the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) were free to “carry out terrorist activities” in the country.

“In the Netherlands, it’s openly free for the PKK, DHKP-C and FETÖ terrorist organizations to carry out their activities, spread terror propaganda, finance terror, and recruit terrorists before sending them to terror groups. They have the right to freedom of movement, right to assemble, right to travel, and right to express themselves [in the Netherlands]. But Turkey’s legitimate government is banned from using its rights, which were guaranteed beyond dispute under the Vienna Convention,” he added, describing this as a “big contradiction.”

“FETÖ is able to carry out its activities with all freedoms and the [Dutch] government supports that. The same goes for the DHKP-C. Some of those who were involved in the coup attempt are being protected in the Netherlands,” Bozdağ said, referring to the failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt, widely believed to have been carried out by followers of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.

“Let’s state it clearly: Whoever engages in acts against Turkey, the Turkish state and the Turkish nation, is a friend of the Netherlands. They are under protection there,” he said, while complaining that Turkey was being used for “election material” in many European countries.

“Governments against Turkey are being elected in those countries. Material used for domestic politics is being formed through enmity against Turkey, the Turkish nation and xenophobia,” Bozdağ added.

hurriyetdailynews.com/netherlands-does-not-extradite-terrorists-to-turkey--minister.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110744&NewsCatID=510

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Turkey to file complaint to United Nations, OSCE, Council of Europe against Dutch government

March/14/2017

Turkey will apply to three high-level international organizations to complain about the Netherlands’ alleged breach of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations on late March 11 by detaining Turkey’s chargé d’affaires and other diplomats and by temporarily seizing cars with diplomatic plates, diplomatic sources have said.

According to information gathered by the Hürriyet Daily News from diplomatic sources, Turkey will file a complaint against the Netherlands with the United Nations, the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and to the Council of Europe (CoE) on the grounds that the Dutch government violated Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations from 1961.

On March 11, Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya was stopped by Dutch security forces while on her way to the Turkish General Consulate in Rotterdam where she was planning to meet representatives of the Turkish community. At the time, she was being accompanied by Turkey’s chargé d’affaires to The Hague, Alper Yüksel, and other Turkish diplomats.

As the Turkish community in Rotterdam protested the Dutch government for stopping Kaya and for refusing to permit Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s planned visit to the city, Dutch security forces intensified measures and detained Yüksel and other Turkish diplomats, as well as drivers for the Turkish embassy.

According to the Vienna convention, diplomats enjoy a large degree of immunity and cannot be taken into detention. Likewise, cars with diplomatic plates cannot be seized or even checked. After refusing Kaya and her entourage entry to the consulate, the Turkish convoy was escorted by Dutch police back over the border into Germany.

“What happened on that night is a clear violation of the Vienna Convention,” a diplomatic source told the HDN on March 13. “All these three organizations acknowledge the Vienna Convention as the basis of conducting diplomatic relations. They should have a say on the Netherlands’ clear breach of this convention,” the source said.

Kaya’s plan was not to hold a rally in Rotterdam but to meet representatives of the Turkish community, the source said, noting that her move would have reduced the tension but that the Dutch government did not permit this. Stopping a Turkish minister or Turkish citizens from accessing the Turkish consulate is also a violation of the convention.

Dutch diplomats apologized for detention  

According to the information gathered, the Dutch Foreign Ministry verbally apologized for the detention of the Turkish diplomats during discussions between the two sides’ diplomats after the crisis. The Dutch police did not realize that they had diplomatic immunity because of the mayhem of the night, the Dutch Foreign Ministry explained to Ankara.

No economic sanctions

In the meantime, Ankara has begun to consider sanctions on the Netherlands. The sanctions, however, will not include economic measures or restrictions on Dutch companies operating in Turkey.

Turkey will reduce the level of diplomatic ties with the Netherlands and will cancel some joint committee meetings among other sanctions to be imposed after the government reaches a decision.

hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-to-file-complaint-to-united-nations-osce-council-of-europe-against-dutch-government.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110778&NewsCatID=510

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Africa

 

Al-Shabaab Islamists target Somali hotel

The Islamist insurgent group claims responsibility for car bomb attack on Wehliye Hotel in Mogadishu

14 MARCH 201

Mogadishu — A car bomb near a hotel on a busy street in the Somali capital killed at least 13 people on Monday, police and the emergency medical services said, hours after a man was killed by a blast as he tried to ram through a checkpoint.

Police said the blast damaged a house, but did not destroy its target, the Wehliye Hotel in Mogadishu.

"We have carried 13 dead people and 14 others are injured. The death toll may rise further," said Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of aid-funded Aamin Ambulance services.

A spokesman for Somali Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. "We were behind the Maka al-Mukaram street blast.

"We killed 17 people including senior officials of military and security and former legislators," said Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabaab’s military operation spokesman told Reuters by phone.

Earlier on Monday, police shot at a minibus in Mogadishu when the driver refused to stop as it approached a checkpoint.

The minibus exploded, injuring two bystanders and killing the al-Shabaab fighter who was driving it said police officer Nur Osman.

Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab has in recent years lost most of its territory to AU peacekeepers supporting the UN-backed Somali government.

But the insurgents frequently launch gun, grenade and bomb attacks in Mogadishu and other regions that a re controlled by the government.

Many attacks are aimed at military bases, but some of them also target civilians.

"There is a trend of increasingly targeting hotels since 2015," Greg Robin, an IED expert at Nairobi-based think-tank Sahan Research, said. "This is where government operatives stay or have ... meetings."

The insurgents were also increasing their use of truck bombs, he said. Only one such attack happened in 2015, but there were six in 2016 and two so far this year.

businesslive.co.za/bd/world/africa/2017-03-14-al-shabaab-islamists---target-somali-hotel/

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Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to be released: lawyer

Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown as president of Egypt in an uprising in 2011, will be released from detention in a military hospital, the public prosecutor ruled on Monday, his lawyers and judicial sources said.

“He will go to his home in Heliopolis,” Mubarak's lawyer Farid El Deeb said, adding the ageing former president would likely be released Tuesday or soon after.

Mubarak was cleared of murder charges this month in his final trial, having faced various charges ranging from corruption to ordering the killing of protesters who ended his 30-year-rule.

He had one more jail sentence to serve but was cleared after serving time for the murder charges, judicial sources and the state news agency said.

The prosecution subtracted the time served in the murder case from the time he was meant to serve for a separate case in which he was found guilty of appropriating funds reserved for maintaining presidential palaces.

Mubarak was originally sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for conspiring to murder 239 demonstrators during the 18-day revolt ─ an uprising that sowed chaos and created a security vacuum but also inspired hope for democracy and social justice.

An appeals court ordered a retrial that culminated in 2014 in the case against Mubarak and his senior officials being dropped.

An appeal by the public prosecution led to a final retrial by the Court of Cassation, the highest in the country, which acquitted him on March 2.

dawn.com/news/1320248/former-egyptian-president-hosni-mubarak-to-be-released-lawyer

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/baloch-activists-want-un-rapporteur-to-probe-human-rights-violations-by-pakistan/d/110393

 

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