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Islamic World News (13 Mar 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)


Hafiz Saeed's Brother-in-Law Makki Gets Charge of Head of Jamaat-Ud-Dawah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Iraqi soldier stands next to archaeological findings inside an underground tunnel in east Mosul. Photo: AFP

 

Hafiz Saeed's Brother-In-Law Makki Gets Charge of Head Of Jamaat-Ud-Dawah

Tunnels under Ancient Mosul Mosque Show How Islamic State Saved Some Artefacts From

Destruction

Non-Muslims Caned For First Time under Aceh's Shariah Law

Afghan Sikhs Stop Holi Celebrations to Pay Tribute to Kabul Attack Victims

 

Pakistan

Hafiz Saeed's Brother-In-Law Makki Gets Charge of Head Of Jamaat-Ud-Dawah

Haqqani Admits Role in US Spy Deployment in Pakistan

Chinese, Turkish troops will participate in Pakistan Day parade, says ISPR

Nawaz Sharif greets Hindus in Pakistan on Holi eve

Pakistan set to conduct its first census in 19 years

PPP leader Babar Sohail Butt gunned down in Lahore

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Arab World

Tunnels under Ancient Mosul Mosque Show How Islamic State Saved Some Artefacts From

Destruction

After Mosul, Iraqi Troops To Target Islamic State in Anbar: Commander

Iraqi Forces Find Grave Holding Some 600 Shiite Inmates Executed By Islamic State

PMUs say killed 15 Islamic State members in western Mosul

Crushing Islamic State Just Won’t End Sunni Insurgency in Iraq

Saudi Inmate Writes All Qur’an Chapters By Hand In 4 Months

Iraqi forces retake over a third of west Mosul: Commander

Syrian Army Repels Terrorists' Attack on Gov't Forces' Positons in Dara'a

Syria: Kurdish-Led SDF Fortifies Positions against Threat of Turkey-Sponsored Militants

Syrian Army Seizes Terrorists' Vehicle Carrying Britain-Made Missiles near Damascus

Syria: Terrorists to Leave Key Settlement in Northwestern Outskirts of Homs City

ISIL Commanders' Family Members Fleeing ISIL-Held Regions in Raqqa

Source Denies ISIL's Claims about Advances in Eastern Aleppo

HRW: Saudi-Led Strikes in Yemen Amount to War Crimes

Several Saudi-Backed Militias Shot Dead by Yemeni Snipers in Hajjah Province

Dara'a: Militants in One More Town End Battle against Syrian Army

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South Asia

Afghan Sikhs Stop Holi Celebrations to Pay Tribute to Kabul Attack Victims

Taliban Plan to Capture Laghman Foiled, Taliban Suffer Heavy Casualties

32 ALP soldiers rescued from Taliban jail by Afghan Special Forces in Helmand

Afghanistan summons Pakistani Chargé D’affaires amid persistent tensions

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Mideast

US, Russia Will Never Give Up the Kurdish Card in Syria

Netherlands Will Pay the Price: Turkey's Erdoğan

Turkish family minister says she witnessed ‘inhumane treatment’ in Netherlands

Iran Unveils Highly Advanced Home-Made Battle Tank

Netherlands acting like a ‘banana republic’: Turkey’s Erdoğan

Main opposition leader calls on gov’t to suspend relations with Netherlands

Turkey summons Dutch diplomat, urges ‘written apology’ over barring minister

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Southeast Asia

Non-Muslims Caned For First Time under Aceh's Shariah Law

Malaysia Arrests Five Filipinos for Suspected Links to Islamic State Extremist Group

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Africa

Nigerian Troops Kill Two Female Suicide Bombers, Rescue 211 Boko Haram Captives

Policeman killed in south Tunisia ambush

Deadly trash: 50 people killed in garbage landslide at Ethiopia’s biggest dump

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India

Poonch: Pakistan Violates Ceasefire Again, BJP Leader Says They Disturb Peace On Every Festival

Ujjain blast suspects killed retired principal last October

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Europe

German Police End Operation over Attack Threat In Southwest Town

Teargas in West Bank as Palestinians decry death by Israeli forces working with local police

ISIS behind plot to attack Essen shopping mall – German Interior Minister

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North America

Haqqani Claims His ‘Connections’ Led US to Kill Osama

Pakistani faces 20-year imprisonment in US

Pakistani military delegation returns after US talks

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/hafiz-saeed-s-brother-in-law-makki-gets-charge-of-head-of-jamaat-ud-dawah/d/110379

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Hafiz Saeed's Brother-In-Law Makki Gets Charge Of Head Of Jamaat-Ud-Dawah

Mar 13, 2017

LAHORE: Hafiz Saeed+ 's brother-in-law Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki, who carries a $2 million bounty on his head, has been given the charge of the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawah after the Mumbai terror attack mastermind was put under the house arrest+ by Pakistan's Punjab government.

"Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki, who is also the brother-in-law of Saeed, has officially been made head of JuD in the wake of house arrest of Saeed+ ," a JuD official said on Sunday.

Makki was the second in command of JuD and he took over the reins of the group soon after Saeed's detention, he said.

Asked about reports that Saeed is still running the JuD from his house (which is declared sub-jail by the Punjab government) in Lahore, the JuD official denied.

"Makki sahib is looking after all affairs of the organisation," he said.

Makki has led over half-a-dozen rallies in Lahore and elsewhere since the detention of Saeed.

The Punjab government on January 30 had put Saeed and four other leaders of JuD and Falah-e-Insaniat (FIF) under house arrest for a period of 90 days in exercise of powers under section 11-EEE(1) of Anti Terrorism Act 1997.

Various offices of both JuD and FIF were closed following the house arrest of Saeed. Both organisations were also put on observation under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.

JuD has rebranded under the new name of 'Tehreek Azadi Jammu and Kashmir', just days after Saeed's house arrest.

Federal interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had claimed that the government was fulfilling its obligations under United Nations Security Council's resolutions.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/hafiz-saeeds-brother-in-law-makki-gets-charge-of-head-of-jamaat-ud-dawah/articleshow/57612753.cms

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Tunnels under ancient Mosul mosque show how Islamic State saved some artefacts from destruction

Monday, 13 March

Extensive excavations by Islamic State militants under Mosul’s ancient Mosque of Jonah show they took care to preserve artefacts for loot, a local archaeologist said, in sharp contrast to their public desecration of antiquities.

The ultra-hardline Islamists seized the mosque when they stormed through northern Iraq three years ago, bulldozing and dynamiting ancient sites and smashing statues and sculptures, declaring them all idolatrous.

A US-backed Iraqi campaign dislodged Islamic State from most Iraqi cities captured in 2014 and 2015. The militant group is now fighting in its last major urban stronghold, in the western part of Mosul. Iraqi forces earlier this week captured the ransacked main museum of Mosul, where the militants filmed themselves destroying priceless statues.

Jonah’s mosque was blown up in July 2014, but experts surveying the damage after it was recaptured in January by a US-backed Iraqi campaign found a network of tunnels dug by the militants, leading down to a 7th century BC Assyrian palace.

The careful way the tunnels were dug show the militants wanted to keep the treasures intact, said archaeologist Musab Mohammed Jassim, from the Nineveh Antiquities and Heritage Department

“They used simple tools and chisels to dig the tunnels, in order not to damage the artefacts,” he said, standing near the tunnel network which leads from the mosque ruins above ground to the much older subterranean palace.

The digging “was carried out according to a plan and a knowledge of the palace,” he added.

The efforts to avoid damaging the antiquities contrast with the destruction of ancient sites across Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, from the desert city of Palmyra to the Assyrian capital of Nimrud, south of Mosul.

The desecration was recorded on video and widely published by Islamic State supporters, who portrayed it as part of their campaign to erase any cultural history which contravenes their extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam.

However the United States has said looting and smuggling of artefacts has been a significant source of income for the militants. In July 2015 the US handed Iraq a hoard of antiquities it said it had seized from Islamic State in Syria.

While Islamic State’s 30-month occupation of the Mosque of Jonah left a legacy of damage and theft, it has also opened up fresh opportunities for archaeologists.

Excavations which were launched in 2004, the year after the US-led invasion of Iraq, revealed an entrance to the palace of Assyrian king Esarhaddon, guarded by large lamassus - human-headed winged bulls carved from stone.

But work halted shortly after because it threatened the foundations of the mosque, built over the reputed burial site of the biblical prophet revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims - who know him as Nabi Yunis.

“The whole palace remained untouched by the experts and foreign excavation,” Jassim said as he toured the tunnels, still lined with broken bits of pottery as well as sections of stone panel with carved figures and cuneiform text.

“So this site, the Esarhaddon Palace, maintained all its features...It contains large collections of sculptures of different sizes and shapes and valuable artefacts”.

Esarhaddon, who ruled ancient Assyria for 12 years in the early 7th century BC, was the son of Sennacherib whose military campaigns against Babylon and the kingdom of Judah are recorded in the bible.

scmp.com/news/world/middle-east/article/2078372/tunnels-under-ancient-mosul-mosque-show-how-islamic-state

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Non-Muslims caned for first time under Aceh's Shariah law

MAR 13, 2017

JANTHO (Aceh) • Indonesia's only province to impose Shariah law has caned Buddhists for the first time, after two men accused of cockfighting opted for punishment under its strict Islamic regulations.

Alem Suhadi, 57, and Amel Akim, 60, both Chinese members of the Buddhist minority, were whipped on Friday in front of dozens of local officials and residents in the city of Jantho in Aceh. The two men grimaced as they received nine and seven lashes on their backs respectively. Their sentences were mitigated because they had spent over a month in detention since police nabbed them in Aceh Besar in January.

"When they were arrested, two chickens and 400,000 rupiah ($42.29) of betting money were confiscated by the police," said prosecutor Rivandi Aziz.

straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/non-muslims-caned-for-first-time-under-acehs-Shariah-law

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Afghan Sikhs stop Holi celebrations to pay tribute to Kabul attack victims

Mon Mar 13 2017

The Afghan Sikh community has decided not to celebrate Holi this year in a bid to pay tribute to the recently deadly attacks in capital Kabul, particularly to Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital victims.

The Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah hailed the Sikh community’s decision and called it a symbolic move aimed at conveying a message of empathy and humanity.

Abdullah reiterated that a lasting peace in the county can only be ensured through unity and maintaining a social justice.

He said the symbolic act by the Sikh community if followed can create pluralism among different ethnic groups which will eventually lead to a lasting peace in the country.

The attack on Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan 400-Bed military hospital was carried out last week for which the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group affiliates claimed responsibility.

The Afghan officials have put up the number of those killed in the attack to at least 50 dead  but there are reports that the number could be much more high.

In the meantime, there are also concerns regarding the circumstances surrounding the attack as reports have emerged suggesting that the attack was carried out with an insider help.

A group of at least five militants carried out the attack that lasted for several hours before the assailants were eliminated by the security forces.

khaama.com/afghan-sikhs-stop-holi-celebrations-to-pay-tribute-to-kabul-attack-victims-02384

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India

Poonch: Pakistan Violates Ceasefire Again, BJP Leader Says They Disturb Peace On Every Festival

Ever since the Uri terror attack, ceasefire violations across the border have significantly increased.

March 13, 2017

New Delhi

In yet another incident of ceasefire violation, Pakistani troops resorted to mortar shelling in the Malti sector of Poonch district in Jammu and Kashmir. There have been no reports of casualties yet. Speaking to news agency ANI, BJP leader Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore slammed Pakistan for resorting to such violation on Holi. “Yeh purani aadat hai, Pakistan sarhad pe jo bhi hamare tyohaar hote hain us din wo zaroor golabaari karte hain wahan par (This is their old habit. During all our festive occasions, Pakistan resorts to such firing near the border).”

Ever since the Uri terror attack, ceasefire violations across the border have significantly increased. On Sunday, there were ceasefire violations in the Krishna Ghati Sector in Poonch district. “There was unprovoked ceasefire violation by Pakistan Army in Krishna Ghati Sector in Poonch district from 1200 hours, using 82 mm mortars and automatic weapons,” a defence spokesman was quoted as saying by PTI. Locals said residential areas had been affected by Sunday’s firing.

The ceasefire comes days ahead of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) talks to be held in Lahore later this month wherein India had reportedly agreed to hold discussions on the Indus Water Treaty issue.

indianexpress.com/article/india/jammu-and-kashmir-poonch-ceasefire-violation-pakistan-4567500/

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Ujjain blast suspects killed retired principal last October

Atif was arrested in Bhopal along with Danish Akhtar alias Zafar and Syed Mir Hussain alias Humza on March 7.

March 13, 2017

Lucknow

Three of the suspects linked to the MP train blast, including Mohammad Saifullah, who was killed by ATS personnel in a house on the outskirts of Lucknow on March 8, were allegedly involved in the murder of a retired principal in Kanpur in October last year. Atif Muzaffar, allegedly the mastermind of the blast, made the revelation while he was being interrogated by the Madhya Pradesh ATS team. Atif told the interrogators that he, along with Saifullah and Faisal Khan (who is among those arrested), had fired a .32 bore pistol to check if it was working when the bullet hit retired principal Ramesh Chandra Shukla.

According to details of the case, on October 24, Shukla was returning home on his bicycle when a bullet hit him in the back while he was near Nawabganj. Passersby rushed him to hospital, where he was declared dead. Shukla’s son Akshay had lodged an FIR at Chakeri police station against “unidentified killers”. Kanpur police had made no headway in the case as they failed to ascertain the motive.

While confessing to the murder, Atif told the ATS that they had no enmity with Shukla. Atif had bought the pistol through another group member, Fakre Alam of Etawah district.

Atif was arrested in Bhopal along with Danish Akhtar alias Zafar and Syed Mir Hussain alias Humza on March 7. Faisal was arrested along with his brother Imran in Kanpur the same day.

Santosh Singh, Station House Officer of Chakeri police station, said, “Investigation into the murder case of Ramesh Chandra is still pending… we are yet to ascertain the motive behind the murder.”

Pranay Nagwanshi, SP, ATS (Madhya Pradesh), said, “We have conveyed to our counterparts in Uttar Pradesh about Atif’s confession on the Kanpur murder case. I have also requested the UP Police to forward details related to the murder case.”

indianexpress.com/article/india/ujjain-blast-suspects-killed-retired-principal-last-october-4567357/

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Pakistan

Hafiz Saeed's brother-in-law Makki gets charge of head of Jamaat-ud-Dawah

Mar 13, 2017

LAHORE: Hafiz Saeed+ 's brother-in-law Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki, who carries a $2 million bounty on his head, has been given the charge of the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawah after the Mumbai terror attack mastermind was put under the house arrest+ by Pakistan's Punjab government.

"Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki, who is also the brother-in-law of Saeed, has officially been made head of JuD in the wake of house arrest of Saeed+ ," a JuD official said on Sunday.

Makki was the second in command of JuD and he took over the reins of the group soon after Saeed's detention, he said.

Asked about reports that Saeed is still running the JuD from his house (which is declared sub-jail by the Punjab government) in Lahore, the JuD official denied.

"Makki sahib is looking after all affairs of the organisation," he said.

Makki has led over half-a-dozen rallies in Lahore and elsewhere since the detention of Saeed.

The Punjab government on January 30 had put Saeed and four other leaders of JuD and Falah-e-Insaniat (FIF) under house arrest for a period of 90 days in exercise of powers under section 11-EEE(1) of Anti Terrorism Act 1997.

Various offices of both JuD and FIF were closed following the house arrest of Saeed. Both organisations were also put on observation under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.

JuD has rebranded under the new name of 'Tehreek Azadi Jammu and Kashmir', just days after Saeed's house arrest.

Federal interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had claimed that the government was fulfilling its obligations under United Nations Security Council's resolutions.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/hafiz-saeeds-brother-in-law-makki-gets-charge-of-head-of-jamaat-ud-dawah/articleshow/57612753.cms

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Haqqani admits role in US spy deployment in Pakistan

March 13, 2017

Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani has admitted facilitating the stationing of American special operations and intelligence personnel on Pakistani soil and forging links that eventually allowed Washington to carry out the raid in Abbottabad to eliminate Osama bin Laden.

In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Haqqani also indicated that while Islamabad was ‘officially kept out of the loop’, the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government was aware of both the developments.

Husain Haqqani vs the Pakistani state

Haqqani’s piece – titled “Yes, the Russian ambassador met Trump’s team. So? That’s what we diplomats do” – was aimed at illustrating that it is an established practice for envoys to meet with representatives for various political factions in the run-up to elections in the country they are stationed in.

However, in trying to justify the meeting of the Russian envoy in Washington with members of Donald Trump’s team, the former Pakistani envoy has raised questions over his role and that of the PPP in the May 2, 2011 raid.

“The relationships I forged with members of Obama’s campaign team led to closer cooperation between Pakistan and the US in fighting terrorism over the three and a half years I served as ambassador,” Haqqani wrote in the article. “These connections eventually enabled the US to discover and eliminate bin Laden without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military,” he said. The former envoy added that the “friends I made from the Obama campaign were able to ask, three years later, as National Security Council officials, for help in stationing US Special Operations and intelligence personnel on the ground in Pakistan.”

Pakistan doing everything to bring Taliban, Haqqani network to peace talks: Aizaz

“I brought the request directly to Pakistan’s civilian leaders, who approved. Although the US kept us officially out of the loop about the operation, these locally stationed Americans proved invaluable when Obama decided to send in Navy SEAL Team 6 without notifying Pakistan,” he wrote further.

tribune.com.pk/story/1353656/haqqani-admits-role-us-spy-deployment-pakistan/

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Chinese, Turkish troops will participate in Pakistan Day parade, says ISPR

Mar 13, 2017

The military's media wing on Monday announced that the contingents of Chinese and Turkish armies will participate in the Pakistan Day parade later this month.

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said in a tweet that Chinese soldiers will take part in the parade being held on March 23, to mark the Pakistan Day celebrations.

A Turkish military band will also participate in the parade, the tweet added.

Pak Day Parade 23rd Mar 2017. Chinese Army Troops and Turkish Military Band will participate in the Parade.

The parade is organised by joint staff headquarters in Rawalpindi, which oversees the three armed forces of Pakistan.

Contingents of the Pakistan army, navy and air force have reportedly arrived in the federal capital for parade rehearsals, with stringent security measures in place.

The military parade was resumed in 2015 after a gap of seven years and was seen as a manifestation of the military's show of strength in the wake of the shocking attack on the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar in 2014, which left 150 people dead, including 132 schoolchildren.

Pakistan Day commemorates the passing of the Lahore Resolution, when a separate nation for the Muslims of The British Indian Empire was demanded on March 23, 1940 as well as the declaration of the republic on the same day in 1956.

dawn.com/news/1320213/chinese-turkish-troops-will-participate-in-pakistan-day-parade-says-ispr

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Nawaz Sharif greets Hindus in Pakistan on Holi eve

Mar 12, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday greeted the minority Hindu community of Pakistan on the eve of Holi and promised to safeguard their rights, saying there would be no discrimination on the basis of religion.

In his message, Sharif said Holi announces the advent of the spring season and change in weather conditions.

He said the festival gives a message of hope and better future and reflects changes in societies like changes in the season.

Quoting Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Constitution, Sharif said there would be no discrimination in Pakistan on the basis of religion.

"It will be made sure that no discrimination is being done with anyone on the basis of religion and minorities are free to practice their religions," he said, adding that minorities will not have sense of deprivation in jobs and other issues.

Sharif said the government will ensure equal rights of all the citizens on the basis of the teachings of Islam and the provisions of the Constitution.

"The state of Pakistan is bound to fulfil Quaid-e-Azam's (Jinnah) pledges with religious minorities and no negligence will be tolerated in this regard," he said.

The Prime Minister said the entire nation acknowledges and commend the role of the Hindu community playing along with their Muslim countrymen and other people for the welfare and development of Pakistan.

Sharif acknowledged that people of Pakistan, including minorities, have suffered a lot at the hands of militants.

He said Islam is a religion of peace and killing of one innocent person as the murder of entire humanity.

Sharif said Pakistan's environment is also witnessing change as days of happiness are returning to it for which foundations of peaceful co-existence among various religions had been laid down.

How many hindus are remaining there? Stupid terrorist country.

He said Pakistan had come into being not only for Muslims, but to bring peace for every individual, irrespective of religion or faith he practices or caste and creed he belongs to, in this region.

Sharif said that it is imperative to move forward with a unified voice for the development and progress of Pakistan.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/nawaz-sharif-greets-hindus-in-pakistan-on-holi-eve/articleshow/57609362.cms

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Pakistan set to conduct its first census in 19 years

Mar 13, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is set to conduct its first national census in 19 years which will begin on Wednesday with the assistance of over 200,000 troops.

Army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor and minister of state for information Marriyum Aurangzeb addressed a joint conference about preparation for the sixth census, which will be conducted in two phases and will be completed on May 25.

The national census will be conducted from Wednesday.

"The census would be conducted with the assistance of over 200,000 troops," Ghafoor said.

He said at least one soldier will accompany each civilian enumerator going from house to house to enlist the number of households and individuals living there.

The soldiers will not only provide security but help in verification of data collected by the enumerators.

Aurangzeb said that administrative and security arrangements have been made for the population and housing census.

"The number of the civilian staff taking part in the census is 118,918. They are all government servants from various departments and thoroughly trained for the job," Aurangzeb said.

She said that the first phase will start from March 15 and conclude on April 15. After a ten-day gap the second phase will start from April 25 and conclude on May 25.

She said that Rs 18.5 billion have been allocated for the census.

The minister of state said the holding of the census will help appropriate allocation of funds and other resources at right places.

To check as to how many more terrorists have increased since last census

Aurangzeb said that there will be imprisonment of six months and Rs 50,000 fine if wrong information is given.

Islamabad last conducted a census in 1998, which recorded a national population of approximately 180 million at that time.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-set-to-conduct-its-first-census-in-19-years/articleshow/57614073.cms

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PPP leader Babar Sohail Butt gunned down in Lahore

Mar 13, 2017

Unidentified gunmen shot dead former PPP ticket-holder Babar Sohail Butt inside his residence late on Sunday night, DawnNews reported.

Butt was having dinner when gunmen, allegedly with the assistance of his guard, stormed into his house and opened straight fire on him, police sources said. Butt succumbed to his injuries at the Services Hospital.

The deceased contested for an MPA seat from PP-157 constituency in the 2013 elections on a PPP ticket and served as a member of the PPP-affiliated People’s Youth Organisation (PYO).

Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari, younger sister of PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, in a tweet called for an investigation into the murder.

"They are still trying to silence us. Hope an investigation is conducted, anyone involved should be prosecuted," she wrote.

dawn.com/news/1320212/ppp-leader-babar-sohail-butt-gunned-down-in-lahore

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Arab World

Tunnels under ancient Mosul mosque show how Islamic State saved some artefacts from destruction

Monday, 13 March

Extensive excavations by Islamic State militants under Mosul’s ancient Mosque of Jonah show they took care to preserve artefacts for loot, a local archaeologist said, in sharp contrast to their public desecration of antiquities.

The ultra-hardline Islamists seized the mosque when they stormed through northern Iraq three years ago, bulldozing and dynamiting ancient sites and smashing statues and sculptures, declaring them all idolatrous.

A US-backed Iraqi campaign dislodged Islamic State from most Iraqi cities captured in 2014 and 2015. The militant group is now fighting in its last major urban stronghold, in the western part of Mosul. Iraqi forces earlier this week captured the ransacked main museum of Mosul, where the militants filmed themselves destroying priceless statues.

Jonah’s mosque was blown up in July 2014, but experts surveying the damage after it was recaptured in January by a US-backed Iraqi campaign found a network of tunnels dug by the militants, leading down to a 7th century BC Assyrian palace.

The careful way the tunnels were dug show the militants wanted to keep the treasures intact, said archaeologist Musab Mohammed Jassim, from the Nineveh Antiquities and Heritage Department

“They used simple tools and chisels to dig the tunnels, in order not to damage the artefacts,” he said, standing near the tunnel network which leads from the mosque ruins above ground to the much older subterranean palace.

The digging “was carried out according to a plan and a knowledge of the palace,” he added.

The efforts to avoid damaging the antiquities contrast with the destruction of ancient sites across Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, from the desert city of Palmyra to the Assyrian capital of Nimrud, south of Mosul.

The desecration was recorded on video and widely published by Islamic State supporters, who portrayed it as part of their campaign to erase any cultural history which contravenes their extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam.

However the United States has said looting and smuggling of artefacts has been a significant source of income for the militants. In July 2015 the US handed Iraq a hoard of antiquities it said it had seized from Islamic State in Syria.

While Islamic State’s 30-month occupation of the Mosque of Jonah left a legacy of damage and theft, it has also opened up fresh opportunities for archaeologists.

Excavations which were launched in 2004, the year after the US-led invasion of Iraq, revealed an entrance to the palace of Assyrian king Esarhaddon, guarded by large lamassus - human-headed winged bulls carved from stone.

But work halted shortly after because it threatened the foundations of the mosque, built over the reputed burial site of the biblical prophet revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims - who know him as Nabi Yunis.

“The whole palace remained untouched by the experts and foreign excavation,” Jassim said as he toured the tunnels, still lined with broken bits of pottery as well as sections of stone panel with carved figures and cuneiform text.

“So this site, the Esarhaddon Palace, maintained all its features...It contains large collections of sculptures of different sizes and shapes and valuable artefacts”.

Esarhaddon, who ruled ancient Assyria for 12 years in the early 7th century BC, was the son of Sennacherib whose military campaigns against Babylon and the kingdom of Judah are recorded in the bible.

scmp.com/news/world/middle-east/article/2078372/tunnels-under-ancient-mosul-mosque-show-how-islamic-state

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After Mosul, Iraqi troops to target Islamic State in Anbar: commander

by  Mohamed Mostafa

Mar 13, 2017

Anbar (IraqiNews.com) Iraqi security forces will turn to Islamic State strongholds in western Anbar after expelling the extremist group from western Mosul, a senior army commander in the province said.

Maj. Gen. Qassem al-Mohammadi was quoted saying Islamic State strongholds in Anbar’s western towns of Annah, Rawa and Qaem “will be liberated soon”.

Mohammadi said operations targeting those areas will launch soon after the security campaign against IS in western Mosul.

Earlier on Monday, Anadolu Agency quoted an army officer saying that 2000 U.S. army soldiers had arrived in a military base in Anbar to back up Iraqi forces in anticipated offensives against IS in the west of the province.

Islamic State held Anbar’s western regions, close to the borders with Syria, since 2014. Those areas have sustained occasional bombardments by Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition fighter jets.

There has not been an officially-declared military campaign to free those regions, but the province’s military command launched a brief assault early January that managed to recapture some western villages before stopping again.

Local officials believe Islamic State is holding thousands in those regions to use them as human shields against any future security offensive.

The province’s borders with Syria have recently witnessed exchanges of attacks between IS and border guards.

iraqinews.com/iraq-war/mosul-iraqi-troops-security-islamic-state-anbar-commander/

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Iraqi forces find grave holding some 600 Shiite inmates executed by Islamic State

MAR 13, 2017

BAGHDAD – The remains of hundreds of mainly Shiite inmates killed by Islamic State militants when they overran a prison in northern Iraq more than two years ago have been unearthed by forces retaking the area from the group, a spokesman said.

An Iraqi Shiite paramilitary group made the discovery after driving the militants from the Badush area where the prison is located, as part of a wider U.S.-backed campaign to dislodge Islamic State from the city of Mosul.

As an array of forces dismantle Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate across Iraq and Syria, more evidence is emerging of the war crimes committed by the Sunni Islamist militants, who targeted Shiite Muslims and religious minorities as well as opponents from their own sect.

“Initial checks of part of the mass grave revealed remains with prison uniforms and lined up in a way that indicates they were shot dead in groups,” said Karim Nouri, spokesman for the Hashid Shaabi, a state-run umbrella for Shiite paramilitary groups.

One of those groups — the Abbas Division — is fighting alongside the regular Iraqi army, which in recent days jointly completed the encirclement of Mosul, about 10 km (6 miles) southeast of Badush.

The militants used the prison to hold their own captives including thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority, but blew it up some time before Iraqi forces drew near.

Human Rights Watch said in a report that as many as 600 people were killed in the Badush prison massacre, which took place on the same day that Islamic State militants captured Mosul in June 2014.

The militants corralled the inmates, who had been serving sentences for a range of crimes — from murder and assaults to nonviolent offenses — onto trucks and drove them to an isolated stretch of desert about 2 km (1 miles) from the prison, HRW said.

There, they separated a few Sunni and Christian inmates from the rest, who were overwhelmingly Shite, before forcing them to form one long line along the edge of a ravine and machine-gunning them down.

The report was based on the testimony of more than a dozen men who survived by playing dead or because they were shielded by the bodies of other prisoners who fell on top of them.

“We are waiting for forensic teams and human rights officials to begin unearthing the grave to uncover the whole story of how the ruthless criminal Daesh (Islamic State) killed them in cold blood only because they were from a certain sect,” Nouri said.

japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/13/world/iraqi-forces-find-grave-holding-600-shiite-inmates-executed-islamic-state/#.WMZqtoF96zc

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PMUs say killed 15 Islamic State members in western Mosul

by  Mohamed Mostafa

Mar 13, 2017

Nineveh (IraqiNews.com) Pro-Iraqi government paramilitary forces said Monday they killed 15 members of the Islamic State in western Mosul as government troops close in on the extremist group in the region.

Al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) have said they killed 15 militants at al-Hadar region. The force killed the militants after 30 minutes of clashes that followed a failed attack by the group.

Iraqi government forces recaptured eastern Mosul from Islamic State on january 24th after three months of battles, and recently said they became in control of 30 percent of western Mosul since another offensive launched in February.

Iraqi troops have made remarkable victories in the west by recapturing major government facilities, a military base and the city’s airport. They are currently pressing on IS in the Old City in central Mosul, a region which military leaders will largely put the battle’s outcome in their favor.

PMUs have been mostly operating near the IS stronghold town of Tal Afar, near the borders with Syria, and had claimed to severe the road between that town and Mosul, effectively trapping the militant group inside the city and denying it its supply lines.

iraqinews.com/iraq-war/pmus-say-killed-15-islamic-state-members-western-mosul/

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Crushing Islamic State Just Won’t End Sunni Insurgency in Iraq

 March 13, 2017

The Iraqi military and its allies have nearly defeated Islamic State in its final and largest Iraqi stronghold of Mosul. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in his recent visit to Mosul said the defeat of Islamic State militants in Mosul is “inevitable”. Even Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has issued a statement acknowledging his group’s defeat in Iraq and calling on supporters to either flee or carry out suicide attacks. But a very significant question arises that weather just by crushing Islamic State can an end be put to decade long Sunni insurgency. Answer is obviously not.

According to a new report a new Sunni insurgency is taking root in Iraq as the U.S.-led coalition continues to weaken the Islamic State’s territorial strongholds, particularly in Mosul. The Washington D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War warned that al Qaeda’s top leadership likely will capitalize on ISIS’s continued losses and attempt to gain influence within splinter militant groups opposed to the Shia-led government of Iraq. Al Qaeda has remained active in Iraq despite being overshadowed by ISIS. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri in last August urged its Syrian branch to rebuild alliances in Iraq and resume a “long guerrilla warfare.”

Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (JRTN), a neo-Baathist insurgent group, harnessed the 2013 protest movement now it’s preparing to stoke its own full fledge insurgency. JRTN earlier infused the anti-government protest movement with revolutionary rhetoric and traditional Baathist branding. It is very evident that a permissive environment is emerging for another Sunni insurgency in the vacuum of control left by ISIS, into which other actors would surely emerge. So just by defeating one group the Sunni insurgency can’t be put to an end. The grass root problems which fan this kind of insurgency has to be addressed if we want long term solutions. Sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shias is not a new phenomenon in Iraq but in last decade Sunnis have been marginalised and pushed to the edge in the country. Iraqi Sunnis are disillusioned by the monopolization of power by a few Shia elite. Sunnis fears they are at risk of becoming a dispossessed underclass in lands they once ruled and the repeat of the cycle of marginalization which was practiced by all Shia dominated governments since 2004. A Sunni politician in Baghdad says Americans raised the Kurds, Iran raised the Shias, but we, Sunnis, are like abused children. “We’re the orphans of Iraq.”

Militia’s extrajudicial execution, forcibly disappearance and destruction of homes and property this is what Iraqi Sunnis are currently subject to. Amnesty international states in a report that thousands remained detained without trial on suspicion of links to IS. Torture in detention remained rife. Courts sentenced terrorism suspects to death, frequently after unfair trials. Executions continued at a high rate. Sunni heartlands are mostly on the frontline or in areas under IS control, while hostility from Shias, Kurds and others make it difficult for them to establish new lives elsewhere. The numbers are uncertain, but a rough estimate indicates that of Iraq’s perhaps 7 million Sunni Arabs, some 2.5 million are displaced, many of them now in Iraqi Kurdistan where they have to renew permits every four months, as if in a foreign land. Some 1.5 million have left Iraq altogether. In the name of fighting terror, Kurdish and Shia militias chased Sunnis off their lands, first in southern and northern Iraq and then in its centre. Checkpoints put Sunnis under a Shia siege, and in large parts prevent a mass Sunni return.

Outcome will be disastrous if conditions are not set to help Sunni Arabs in Iraq to address their original and mounting grievances as increased levels of sectarian tensions increase the ability of insurgents to capitalize on social conditions. An end to Iraq’s sectarian warfare is a prerequisite to shift the political focus away from questions of state legitimacy and toward those of state efficiency, corruption, and service delivery. These are key to the stability and sustainability of the Iraqi state where nationalism should prevail above sects and religious beliefs. Successful resettlement and reconstruction efforts that earn the Sunni population’s trust in the Iraqi Government can prevent Salafi Jihadi groups from finding openings to resurge.

The U.S. should also help address the underlying issues that fuelled the Sunni insurgency and remain active in shaping Iraqi’s political reconciliation efforts and encouraging inclusive governance. The U.S. should have the expectation that it will remain involved in some capacity in Iraq in order to ensure that anti-ISIS gains stick and that it has resolved the conditions that allowed insurgent groups to arise in 2013. Every stakeholder in the country agrees that Iraq needs a civil modern democratic society a state founded on the basis of equal citizenship for all its people. Without a durable post-ISIS strategy of national integration soon the country will be in a greater chaos.

ekurd.net/crushing-sunni-insurgency-iraq-2017-03-13

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Saudi inmate writes all Qur’an chapters by hand in 4 months

Mar 13, 2017

By Badea Abu Al-Naja

JEDDAH — An inmate in Dhahban prison in Jeddah has written the entire 30 chapters of the Holy Qur’an by hand in just four months.

A Saudi philanthropist visited the prison and asked the prisoners to participate in the competition he named “By my hand I wrote the Qur’an”.

He gave the participants three years to complete the work and promised to give them feasible prizes. “By organizing the handwriting contest, I wanted to help the inmates memorize the entire Qur’an by heart,” said the philanthropist, who was not identified.

A Saudi inmate was able to finish the job in just four months and came first in the competition.

He said it took him three months to write the chapters of the Holy Qur’an and another month for the numbering and punctuation of the verses.

“I had already memorized 20 chapters of the holy book by heart and was able to memorize the remaining 10 chapters when I finished handwriting the Qur’an,” he said.

He said the contest was not limited to Dhahban prison only but also covered many other prisons in the Kingdom and some other Gulf countries. “At first I was hesitant. I never believed I could write the whole book by hand but when I started the job, it became easy day after day,” he said.

He said his handwritten copy of the Holy Qura’n has been sent to the authorities concerned for final checking.

saudigazette.com.sa/saudi-arabia/saudi-inmate-writes-quran-chapters-hand-4-months/

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Iraqi forces retake over a third of west Mosul: Commander

Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake west Mosul -- the most populated urban area still under IS control -- on February 19

March 12, 2017

Iraqi security forces have retaken more than a third of west Mosul from the Islamic State group since launching an assault on the area last month, a commander said on Sunday. “Around more than a third of the right bank (west Mosul) is under the control of our units,” Staff Major General Maan al-Saadi told AFP. Mosul is split by the Tigris River, and its eastern side is referred to as the left bank, while the western is known as the right back.

Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake west Mosul — the most populated urban area still under IS control — on February 19, pushing up from the south. IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes and other support have since retaken most of the territory they lost.

Iraqi forces launched a major operation to retake Mosul in October, recapturing the eastern side of the city before setting their sights on the smaller but more densely-populated west.

indianexpress.com/article/world/iraqi-forces-retake-over-a-third-of-west-mosul-commander-4566651/

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Syrian Army Repels Terrorists' Attack on Gov't Forces' Positons in Dara'a

March 12, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army troops fended off a massive attack of Al-Nusra Front (Fatah al-Sham Front) in the Southern city of Dara'a, leaving a number of terrorists dead or wounded.

The army men engaged in fierce clashes with Al-Nusra terrorists East of al-Manshiyeh neighborhood and near Balal Habashi grand mosque in Dara'a al-Balad district and managed to ward off the terrorists' offensive.

Elsewhere in the district, the army units targeted and destroyed a command post of Al-Nusra in al-Manshiyeh, killing or wounding a number of terrorists.

The army units, meantime, pounded the positions and movements of the terrorists in al-Karak neighborhood, North of al-Mesri square and in the old customs district in Dara'a al-Balad, destroying a machinegun-equipped position and a pickup vehicle on a road connecting Busra al-Harir region to Nahat'ha region in Northern Dara'a.

Local sources said that Al-Nusra's missile units shelled badly residential areas in al-Matar and al-Sahari neighborhoods in Dara'a city.

Reports said on Saturday that 15 Al-Nusra Front terrorists, including their commander, were killed in a Syrian Army ambush operation in al-Manshiyeh neighborhood in the Eastern part of Dara'a city.

All militants of a 15-member group of Al-Nusra Front, including the group's commander Abu al-Walid al-Idlibi, were killed in an ambush attack of army soldiers on a road connecting Um al-Mayadhen to al-Na'eimeh.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951222001140

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Syria: Kurdish-Led SDF Fortifies Positions against Threat of Turkey-Sponsored Militants near Manbij

Sun Mar 12, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The predominately Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) engaged in fierce clashes with the Turkey-backed militants of the Euphrates Shield Operation in Manbij countryside in Northern Aleppo and managed to recapture lost positions, media sources said on Sunday.

The Arabic language al-Watan daily reported that the SDF fighters stormed the Ankara-backed militants of the Euphrates Shield Operation in al-Towayheniyeh and Toweis region West of Marea town, taking back lost lands and positions after hours of heavy fighting.

The daily added that the Kurdish fighters inflicted heavy casualties on the militants of the Euphrates Shield Operation and killed one of the commanders of al-Shamiyeh Front.

Al-Watan pointed out that the SDF combatants have fortified their positions against the  Euphrates Shield forces' threats, adding that the Ankara-backed militants are deployed at least 10km away from Manbij.

Reports said on Friday that clashes intensified between the SDF and militants of the Euphrates Shield Operation in the surrounding areas of the town of Manbij in Northeastern Syria, adding that over 10 Turkey-supported forces were killed in exchange of fire.

The Kurdish forces engaged in heavy clashes with the Turkish army and Ankara-backed militants in the vicinity of the villages West of Manbij, and managed to kill 10 Euphrates Shield forces who were trying to enter the SDF-controlled areas.

The clashes between the Euphrates Shield forces and the Kurdish forces intensified after the SDF forces decided to hand over villages West of Manbij to the Syrian army.

The Syrian government forces and SDF forces decided to get closer to each other due to the threats posed by Turkey and the Ankara-backed forces.

The Ana news agency also released pictures of the Syrian government troops, Russian officers and SDF forces after holding a trilateral meeting in Manbij region.

A source in the Manbij Military Council said on Monday that several villages controlled by the Kurdish forces in Northeastern Aleppo were handed over to the Syrian Army troops.

The Arabic language desk of Sputnik quoted the source as saying that the Manbij Military Council delivered control of six villages to the Syrian army troops.

Sputnik added that the villages were in contact line with forces of the Turkey-led Euphrates Shield Operation in Manbij.

The news agency said that the six villages had been seized back from the ISIL during the Al-Bab liberation operation.

The villages are located some 22km to West of Manbij.

Sputnik went on to say that the US army deployed its forces and equipment in Manbij city, raising its flag in the city.

The military council of Manbij announced in a statement earlier this month that the Kurdish forces would surrender the villages bordering the areas occupied by the Turkey-backed Euphrates Shield Operation militants to the Syrian army.

Then, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that his government called on the US to evacuate the Kurds from Manbij in Aleppo province immediately, rejecting the agreement between the Kurds and the Damascus government.

Cavusoglu referred to the Euphrates Shield Operation in Northern Syria by the Turkey-backed militants, and told reporters that the Turkish forces did not move towards Manbij but they would start operations in the region soon.

Noting that the Turkish military men were ready to attack the Kurds in Manbij, he said that Ankara did not want Washington to continue support for the Kurds and it had several times warned the US that the Turkish forces would attack the Kurds soon.

Cavusoglu also said that Ankara and Moscow agreed to prevent clashes between the Syrian government forces and the Turkey-backed opposition (the Free Syrian Army militants), claiming that both of them pursue the same goal of annihilating the ISIL.

Elsewhere, he stood up to an agreement between the SDF and Russia to surrender the villages controlled by the Kurds in Manbij to the Syrian government.

His remarks came as the military council of Manbij announced in a statement that the Kurdish forces would surrender the villages bordering the areas occupied by the Turkey-backed Euphrates Shield Operation militants to the Syrian army.

The statement said that based on an agreement with the Russian side, the control of these villages would be given to the Syrian government's border guards.

It added that the measure would be taken to maintain the security of civilians residing in Manbij and the surrounding areas as well as regions bordering al-Bab in the Western side of Manbij, and take on the greed of Turkey to occupy the Syrian territories.

The statement was issued after sources in Tal Rifat Town's Military Council affiliated to the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) militant group disclosed last week that the council forces would no more partner in the Euphrates Shield Operations against ISIL in Northeastern Aleppo as they  preparing to shift war to their Kurdish rivals within the SDF.

The Turkey-backed Euphrates Shield Operations is fought by various units of the SDF and backed up by the Turkish army. The SDF is comprised of a Kurdish majority and a minority of Arab fighters mostly from different units of FSA and defected members of Ahrar al-Sham and Al-Nusra that are all called as moderate militants by the US, Turkey and their allies.

The Kurdish units of the SDF have long been complaining that they are fighting on the frontline and, hence, sustain most casualties, and whenever they earn a victory, "the Turkish army sends them to other battle scenes and delivers control over conquered lands to the Arab FSA.

Cavusoglu's warning that the Turkish military men are readying to attack the Kurds in Manbij came after the militant-affiliated Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) last week reported some sources in Tal Rifat Military Council as saying that the council would stop its mission under the Ankara-backed Euphrates Shield Operation to start battling the Kurdish members of the SDF in Northern Aleppo to capture the villages under their control.

The SOHR further added that the Tal Rifat Military Council that is operating under the FSA is getting back to the region (Northern Aleppo) with its forces and military equipment to start attacking the Kurdish forces in their positions.

In response to the militants' invasion plan, the Syrian army initiated plans to tighten security measures across the regions stretching from East Aleppo to the Kurdish populated territories in Afrin Canton to block any possible advance by either the ISIL or the Turkish soldiers and their allied militants fighting for the Ankara-backed Euphrates Shield Operation.

A top placed military source revealed that the Syrian Army intends to carry out a clean-up operation in the towns of Jubb al-Sultan, al-Za'aroureh, Jubb al-Homam and Jubb al-Khafa and the villages South of Manbij to strengthen its lines of defense along the strip that stretches to the Kurdish-held region in Northeastern Aleppo in order to prevent any effort by the ISIL terrorists to bypass the government-held regions.

Cavusoglu displayed his country's anger and opposition to the agreement between the Kurds and the Syrian army by denying it, claiming that "there are all sorts of news and speculation. This is all untrue. We are now seeing that the Syrian government forces are moving to the East".

But the Turkish foreign minister, meantime, stated that Moscow and Ankara agreed on the prevention of clashes between Turkey-backed opposition FSA and government forces.

"We have agreed with Russia on the prevention of clashes between the (FSA) and the Syrian government forces in order to intensify the fight against ISIL," Cavusoglu said last Thursday.

But later reports by other world media confirmed FNA's Thursday report over the agreement.

The villages will be surrendered to the Syrian government in the coming days, an official in the Manbij Military Council told Reuters. An earlier statement by the council said the villages would be handed to Syrian border guards.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said this week Manbij was the next target of Ankara's campaign in Northern Syria following the capture of nearby al-Bab from ISIL last week.

"We will move towards Manbij after the al-Bab operation is completed, but the operation has not started yet. We know that the US special forces are in that region, and we want the YPG to leave Manbij as soon as possible," Cavusoglu said.

In February 2016, The Kurdish “People’s Protection Units” (YPG) prevailed over the terrorists in the highly strategic city of Tal Rifat in Northern Aleppo and captured the city. YPG constitutes the Kurdish section of the SDF that also includes the Turkey-backed Arab FSA militants.

But months later, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the Kurdish fighters to leave all areas under their control in Northwestern Syria and move to the territories on the Eastern side of the Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates.

The Kurdish population lives in three regions, known as Cantons, in Northern Syria, with the Afrin Canton being located on the Western side of the Euphrates stretching over the Northern parts of Aleppo province with Manbij as its most important and most internationally known town.

The Kurdish fighters won back Manbij from ISIL in weeks of bloody war on August 8, 2016. A few months later, the Turkish president warned the Kurds to withdraw from the town and surrender it to the Turkish army or wait for a massive attack.

In mid-November 2016, Spokesman for the Manbij Military Council Sherfan Dervish voiced his forces' readiness to fight against the ISIL terrorists and Turkish army in Aleppo province in Northern Syria.

"The Manbij military council is ready to repel any possible attack by the ISIL and Turkey," Dervish told FNA at the time.

He noted that the SDF's mission in Manbij ended as per an agreement signed by the two sides, adding that the SDF forces returned to their previous positions.

"The armed groups present in Manbij now are all under the auspices of the Manbij military council because the council can thwart any possible attack by the ISIL and Turkey and combat aggressors to maintain stability and security in the city," Dervish added.

In early August, the SDF pushed ISIL back from the entire neighborhoods of Manbij in Northeastern Aleppo after over 70 days of non-stop bloody clashes with the terrorists.

Also in August, the Military Council of Manbij in Aleppo province announced that over 4,000 terrorists had been killed in tough battle with the SDF since the beginning of Manbij liberation operations.

"A sum of 4,180 terrorists have been killed in the battle over Manbij and the dead bodies of 1,724 of them are with the Kurdish forces," the military council said.

The council said that 112 ISIL terrorists were in custody of the Kurdish forces and 144 different kinds of military vehicles had also been destroyed in Manbij battle.

In late August, a Turkish-backed terrorist ringleader said that his militants intended to head towards Manbij to take the city from the Kurdish forces who could drive out the ISIL in early August.

Colonel Ahmed Osman, the commander of Sultan Murad terrorist group, told the Arabic service of Reuters that the Turkey-backed forces were "certainly heading towards Manbij" since the SDF had fortified their positions instead of evacuating the strategic city.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951222000596

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Syrian Army Seizes Terrorists' Vehicle Carrying Britain-Made Missiles near Damascus

Sun Mar 12, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- Media sources said the Syrian Army soldiers stopped and seized a vehicle of the terrorists loaded with a large volume of munitions, including British missiles, in Damascus countryside on Sunday.

The Arabic language al-Hadath news quoted a military source as saying that the army men seized a pickup vehicle of the terrorists with four Britain-made missiles and over 200 boxes of heavy and semi-heavy ammunition and guns.

Al-Hadath went on to say that the vehicle has left Dara'a to militant-held regions near Damascus.

On Saturday, the Syrian Army soldiers continued to hit the positions of Al-Nusra Front (Fatah al-Sham Front) hard in al-Qaboun district Northeast of the capital, wining back several more positions.

The army soldiers continued to clash with Al-Nusra Southeast of al-Qaboun district, pushing terrorists back from al-Khabaz grand mosque and several residential complexes.

A local source underlined the importance of the army advances in the front of al-Hafez street in al-Qaboun farms, saying the army soldiers have cut off the terrorists' supply lines in Eastern Ghouta.  

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951222001268

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Syria: Terrorists to Leave Key Settlement in Northwestern Outskirts of Homs City

Sun Mar 12, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- Terrorists and their families will be evacuated from al-Wa'er following the conclusion of an agreement between militants and the Syrian army.

Local sources said that based on an agreement inked by representatives of the militants and the army, the terrorists that have turned down the peace agreement will leave al-Wa'er along with their family members to be relocated to militant-held regions in Idlib or to the Northern parts of Homs province.

The sources added that the agreement was struck under Russian monitoring.

They added that the militants that intend to join the peace agreement with the Syrian government should hand over their weapons to relevant officials to apply for government amnesty.

The total number of the terrorists in al-Wa'er stands at 1,500-2,000.

Arab media outlets reported on Thursday that a Russian delegation and representatives of militants held a meeting over a new peace agreement between the Damascus government and militant groups in al-Wa'er settlement.

The Arabic language al-Hadath reported that the Russian delegation and militants' representatives explored new avenues to reach a new peace agreement in al-Wa'er settlement and region.

In the meantime, Sputnik reported that the Free Syrian Army militant group agreed to cease fire in the al-Wa'er region.

Osama Abu Zeid, a representative of the Syrian armed opposition, announced in a statement his group's agreement with the new peace plan, the statement said.

The document was signed in al-Wa'er, the statement said.    

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951222000791

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ISIL Commanders' Family Members Fleeing ISIL-Held Regions in Raqqa

Sun Mar 12, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said that hundreds of the family members of ISIL terrorists and commanders have escaped from Raqqa to Deir Ezzur and Hama provinces after the terrorist group suffered heavy defeats in clashes with Kurdish fighters in different battlefields.

SOHR reported that over 300 family members of ISIL terrorists and commanders left Raqqa city for Deir Ezzur and Eastern Hama.

SOHR added that the ISIL terrorists' family members move towards the Southern banks of the Euphrates River on ferry.

On Thursday, the SDF continued its anti-ISIL operation codenamed the Euphrates Rage in the Abu Khashab front and deployed troops in the Euphrates River and closed off ISIL's supply lines from Deir Ezzur province and Iraq's territories to Eastern Raqqa.

The SDF forces had previously cut off the main road connecting Raqqa to Deir Ezzur.

In the meantime, the Kurdish fighters engaged in heavy fighting with ISIL and drove them out of al-Kabr village and Mankher Qarbi strategic hill 19km East of Raqqa city.

A military source pointed to the closure of ISIL's supply road from Raqqa to Deir Ezzur, saying ISIL is now under the Kurdish forces' siege from the Northern and Eastern directions, while the SDF has reached the regions near the town of al-Tabaqa and the Euphrates dam in Western Raqqa.     

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951222000697

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Source Denies ISIL's Claims about Advances in Eastern Aleppo

Sun Mar 12, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- Informed sources refuted a claim made by a terrorist-affiliated website about ISIL advancing near a strategic airbase in Eastern Aleppo, underlining the Syrian Army soldiers' full control over the military airport.

A military source told FNA on Sunday that al-Jarah airbase is under the full control of the army, refuting the claim by an ISIL affiliated website about the terrorist group's control over the military airport.

The source said that the army men are fortifying their positions in the region.

He added that fierce clashes are underway between the army units and ISIL near al-Jarah airbase, stating that the army troops have managed to advance towards al-Maskanah settlement.

Reports said earlier today that the army troops and Air Force along with Russian warplanes targeted the positions and movements of ISIL in Eastern Aleppo, killing and wounding tens of terrorists, including several non-Syrian fighters.

The army's artillery units shelled ISIL's positions near al-Jarah military airport, Maskanah settlement and its surrounding regions.

The Syrian and Russian fighter jets pounded ISIL's positions near al-Jarah military airport, Maskanah settlement and the nearby regions simultaneous with the army's artillery attack, destroying a position in Maskanah and killing ten terrorists, including foreign ones.

In the meantime, the Human Rights Watch reported that at least 26 ISIL terrorists have been killed in Eastern Aleppo in the last 24 hours.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951222001497

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HRW: Saudi-Led Strikes in Yemen Amount to War Crimes

Sun Mar 12, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- An HRW Official said that Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen that killed hundreds of civilians may be war crimes, adding that the country has plunged into a “deep humanitarian catastrophe” and calling on the US, UK and France to stop selling weapons to Riyadh.

The humanitarian situation in Yemen is “increasingly unsustainable” and urgent action must be taken by both sides in the conflict, he said, adding that the situation is turning into a “deep humanitarian catastrophe,” said Ahmed Benchemsi, communications and advocacy director at Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa, RT reported.

“More than 3 million people have been displaced in Yemen and more than 80 percent are relying on some form of humanitarian aid. Yemen has the highest rate of child malnutrition in the world now and it is estimated that one in five persons are in severe food insecurity,” he said, citing data from the World Food Program.

 “We ourselves, at Human Rights Watch, were able to document 61 apparent unlawful airstrikes, all conducted by the coalition, some of which may amount indeed to war crimes and that have killed nearly 900 civilians and have hit civilian areas, including markets, schools, hospitals and private homes,” Benchemsi told RT.

“Targeting civilian targets is an absolute violation of the laws of war and this is what we are closely monitoring in Yemen,” he added.

He called on western powers who supply Saudi Arabia with weapons to immediately halt deliveries.

“We clearly recommend that the United States, the United Kingdom, France and others should suspend all weapons sales to Saudi Arabia until they curtail their unlawful airstrikes in Yemen and until also a credible investigation is conducted about those violations," Benchemsi said, adding that previous investigations conducted by the coalition do not appear to the HRW to be “fair or credible.”

Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has headed an international military coalition whose air operation targets Yemeni people to reinstate the fugitive former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951222001471

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Several Saudi-Backed Militias Shot Dead by Yemeni Snipers in Hajjah Province

Sun Mar 12, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Yemeni army and popular forces' snipers killed 6 Saudi-backed militants in Hajja province on Sunday.

At least six Riyadh-backed militias were shot dead by the Yemeni snipers in the Midi region in Hajjah province.

Meantime, the Yemeni forces continued their advances towards Alib region in Assir province in the Southern part of the kingdom.

Several Saudi-hired mercenaries were also killed in Ansarullah's ambush operation in Sabreen region of Al-Jawf province.

In a relevant development earlier on Sunday, the Yemeni army and popular forces pounded the military positions of the Saudi-led troops in the Southern part of the kingdom in retaliation for Riyadh's attacks on the civilian population across Yemen.

The Saudi-led troops' military positions and equipment in Najran province came under the Yemeni forces' missile attacks.

Meantime, Saudi Arabia's Salateh military base in Najran province came under the Yemeni forces' Katyusha rocket attacks, a military source said.

The source also reported massive fire in Salateh military base after Katyusha attacks by the Yemeni forces.

The Yemeni army's artillery units also hit al-Hajleh military base and Alib command center in Najran province.

The attacks by the Yemeni army and popular forces on the Saudi military positions take place in retaliation for Saudi Arabia's aggressions against Yemen. It is for over two years that the Saudi regime accompanied by several Arab countries have launched a massive military campaign against Yemen.

Over 13,100 Yemeni civilians have been killed and thousands more have been wounded in the Saudi airstrikes on the country's residential areas.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951222001425

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Dara'a: Militants in One More Town End Battle against Syrian Army

Sun Mar 12, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- Militants in a town in Northern Dara'a handed over their arms to relevant officials and signed peace agreement with the Syrian government, Arab media said.

The Arabic language al-Hadath news website reported that the representatives of militants in Mahaja town and the army concluded an agreement after several days of talks based on which the militants who intend to lay down arms can apply for government amnesty and those terrorists who oppose peace can leave the town for militant-held regions in Idlib.

Al-Hadath went on to say that the agreement was concluded a few hours after the end of the Syrian army's three-day-long ultimatum to the terrorists in al-Mahaja.

In February, Syrian President Bashar Assad extended a decree on amnesty for militants who surrender and hand over their weapons until the end of June.

The decree 15/2016 dated July 28, 2016 was extended by President Assad until June 30, 2017, according to a state news agency report.

The above-mentioned order was initially issued for the period of three months and on October 27, 2016 was prolonged for the same period. The amnesty also covers kidnappers who agree to release their hostages.

Since 2011, Syria has been engaged in war against terrorism, with government forces fighting against numerous militant and terrorist groups, including al-Nusra Front (also known as Fatah al-Sham front) and ISIL. 

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951222001400

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South Asia

Afghan Sikhs stop Holi celebrations to pay tribute to Kabul attack victims

Mon Mar 13 2017

The Afghan Sikh community has decided not to celebrate Holi this year in a bid to pay tribute to the recently deadly attacks in capital Kabul, particularly to Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital victims.

The Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah hailed the Sikh community’s decision and called it a symbolic move aimed at conveying a message of empathy and humanity.

Abdullah reiterated that a lasting peace in the county can only be ensured through unity and maintaining a social justice.

He said the symbolic act by the Sikh community if followed can create pluralism among different ethnic groups which will eventually lead to a lasting peace in the country.

The attack on Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan 400-Bed military hospital was carried out last week for which the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group affiliates claimed responsibility.

The Afghan officials have put up the number of those killed in the attack to at least 50 dead  but there are reports that the number could be much more high.

In the meantime, there are also concerns regarding the circumstances surrounding the attack as reports have emerged suggesting that the attack was carried out with an insider help.

A group of at least five militants carried out the attack that lasted for several hours before the assailants were eliminated by the security forces.

khaama.com/afghan-sikhs-stop-holi-celebrations-to-pay-tribute-to-kabul-attack-victims-02384

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Taliban plan to capture Laghman foiled, Taliban suffer heavy casualties

Mon Mar 13 2017

A plan by the Taliban insurgents to capture the eastern Laghman province was foiled by the Afghan a security forces.

The group planned to capture the province after they suffered heavy casualties during the ongoing counter-terrorism operations.

The provincial government media office in a statement said the top Taliban leaders and commanders who had been deployed to execute the plan have escaped along with scores of insurgents after the Afghan forces in coordination with the provincial government successfully thwarted the group’s plan.

The statement further added that nearly 70 Taliban insurgents have been killed and around 50 others have sustained injuries during the joint counter-terrorism operations launched some days ago.

According to the provincial government, a number of senior Taliban leaders and commanders, including Khalis, Khalid, Janat Gul, Mohammad, Atal Omarzai and some others are among those killed or wounded.

The Afghan security forces also sustained casualties during the operations, the officials said, adding that four security personnel lost their lives and around eight others were wounded.

The statement by the provincial government also added that the area is in total control of the security forces as efforts are underway to further strengthen the security posts in key districts including Alingar and Alisheng.

khaama.com/taliban-plan-to-capture-laghman-foiled-taliban-suffer-heavy-casualties-02385

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32 ALP soldiers rescued from Taliban jail by Afghan Special Forces in Helmand

Mon Mar 13 2017

At least thirty two soldiers of the Afghan Local Police (ALP) forces were rescued from a Taliban-run jail in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the 215th Maiwand Corps of the Afghan National Army Gen. Mohammad Rasool Zazai confirmed the release of the ALP personnel.

He said the hostages were kept inside a jail in Nad-e-Ali district and were freed during a night operation conducted by the Special Forces of the Afghan army.

Gen. Zazai did not provide further information regarding the operation and it is yet not clear if any insurgent was killed or captured during the operation.

Helmand is among the relatively volatile provinces in southern Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgents are actively operating in its various districts and often carry out insurgency activities.

This comes as the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are busy conducting counter-terrorism and clearance operations against the Taliban insurgents in some of the volatile districts of Helmand.

The Taliban insurgents have sustained heavy casualties during the operations which are being conducted with the support of the foreign forces based in Afghanistan who are mainly providing close-air support.

khaama.com/32-alp-soldiers-rescued-from-taliban-jail-by-afghan-special-forces-in-helmand-02383

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Afghanistan summons Pakistani Chargé D’affaires amid persistent tensions

Mon Mar 13 2017

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan summoned the Chargé D’affaires of Pakistani Consulate over persistent artillery shelling and sporadic airspace violations by the Pakistani military helicopters.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), the Pakistani diplomat was summoned in the first political office by Musa Arefi to convey Afghanistan’s complaints.

The statement further added that the issue of the Afghan nationals in Pakistan who are being harassed was also shared with the Pakistani Chargé D’affaires.

MoFA said the Afghan officials conveyed their deep concerns and strongly protested regarding the issues and urged the authorities of the country to take immediate steps to prevent further provocative moves.

In his turn, the Pakistanni Chargé D’affaires promised to put forward the concerns and protest of the Afghan government to the relevant authorities in Pakistan.

This comes as reports emerged last week suggesting that the Afghan government has written a formal memo to the United Nations Security Council to file a complaint regarding the growing artillery shelling by the Pakistani military in eastern provinces of the country located along the Durand Line.

Tensions between Kabul and Islamabad intensified following a series of deadly terrorist attacks in both the countries.

Both Afghanistan and Pakistan claim that the attacks are plotted and carried by the militants having safe havens in the two countries.

The lists of alleged terrorists and information regarding the sanctuaries being used by Taliban and Haqqani network were handed over to Pakistan in response to Pakistani military’s list of 76 alleged terrorists.

However, no breakthrough has been reported despite the Afghan government welcomed to jointly work with Islamabad to resolve the issue.

khaama.com/afghanistan-summons-pakistani-charge-daffaires-amid-persistent-tensions-02382

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Mideast

US, Russia will never give up the Kurdish card in Syria

March/13/2017

Moscow is unlikely to ever give up its Kurdish card despite Turkey’s requests that Russian President Vladimir Putin end cooperation with the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), a former soldier and political analyst has said.

“[The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK/PYD cooperates with both the Americans and the Russians; they have become an actor in the field,” said Professor Mesut Hakkı Caşın of Özyeğin University, noting that Washington is also unlikely to abandon the group.

One of the most important subjects that was discussed between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Putin was Syria. Tell us about Russia’s short- to mid-term plans in Syria.

While coalition forces were hitting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Russia intervened and with a massive transfer of military force, changed all the balances in Syria.

The regime forces, which had withdrawn to 15 percent of the country, started to gain strength after the Russian intervention and came to Aleppo.

Meanwhile, Russia has also taken the Syrian Kurds on its side. The Russians invited the Syrian Kurds to Moscow and conducted an unofficial meeting process with them.

And after a while, they have recognized the Kurds’ presence in Rojava, using them as a trump card.

Following the downing of the Russian war plane by Turkey [in 2015], Russia stepped up setting its intelligence mechanisms in Syria and started sharing images of its satellite intelligence with the PKK/PYD.

The Russians wanted to punish Turkey. We can deduce that from the PKK’s activities as well, as [Russian] satellite intelligence information was found on captured PKK members.

Meanwhile, Russia has changed the balance of power in the Black Sea, too, by reinforcing its military presence in Armenia, employing additional missiles and MiG 29 warplanes in the country.

In a way, this was also a show of force against the United States. Let’s not forget that for the first time in history, Russian and Chinese naval forces conducted joint drills in the eastern Mediterranean. The Chinese navy went to the Black Sea. This has been a development that changes the balance of power.

So can we say with confidence that Russia is now well-established to Turkey’s south?

Russia is in Syria to stay. It has a very big military and political power. It can carry this over to Iraq, too.

At any rate, Russia [through its policy], has said it will not allow any fait accompli in the region without its military and political approval. The Russians have reflected this stance in the field. The motivation of Russian soldiers is very high, and this has earned Putin great support in domestic politics.

The notion of power is very important in the Russian mentality. So we can say that the Russian bear has reached the Mediterranean.

In addition, it has now been recognized in the United Nations and in the European Union that the Syrian crisis cannot be solved without Russia.

Russia has proved itself to be an indispensable actor. It now has two naval bases and one air base. It has used its state-of-the-art weapons and increased its exports to 15 billion dollars, again becoming the biggest supplier of weapons in the region after the United States.

How do you see Turkey’s position? It seems the government has changed its priorities in Syria.

Turkey’s priority is to have terrorism under control. The most important threat is the fact that the PKK has gained ground in Syria. It gained serious ground and in fact, it carried its gains to Iraq as well.  It won [control over] areas where Massoud Barzani [the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government – KRG] is weak.

In addition, the PKK is gaining legitimacy. It created the image of an organization that favors a secular structure against a radical religious organization. We see a PKK/PYD which can cooperate with the Russians and the Americans, which means it has become an important actor in the field.

Right up to Hatay [on the Turkish Mediterranean] there is a structure of Kurdish cantons. By acting together with Russia and undertaking the Euphrates Shield Operation, Turkey has eliminated the risk of the establishment of a [Kurdish] cantonal state.

Turkey is back at the table and in the field, and this has been possible with the support of Russia. But in exchange, Turkey has accepted to have the South Stream [gas pipeline] pass through Turkey.

How about the U.S.’ new administration; can you make sense of their intentions?

For the U.S., the priority is Israel’s security. Washington would not tolerate a threat against Israel’s security. There is no change on that point.

While looking at the U.S., we should recall that the support given to the [Justice and Development Party] AKP to assume the role of a moderate Islamic country has changed. The Arab Spring has been a turning point in that sense.

But coming back to Syria, it is no longer a threat to Israel. Washington is pursuing its policy in Syria via local forces it uses, like the Arabs and the Kurds, which is very important for its own public opinion. My expectation is that U.S. and Russia will reach an agreement because I think the American administration wants to get Russia on its side to position itself against China in the mid to long term.

Turkey is an ally of both Moscow and Washington. But they both cooperate with an organization Turkey sees as a terrorist group. Turkey has intensified talks with both capitals; do you think they might abandon the Kurdish card?

Never. When you look at [U.S. President Donald] Trump, he talks about making peace between Turks and Kurds. Russia has never taken a position against the Kurds. They have invited the PYD to Moscow. The Russians are saying that Kurds should be [included in talks] for the new constitution. Both powers agree that rights should be given to the Syrian Kurds. In the long run, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad will have to accept that in order to survive.

What do you think Turkey should do?

Turkey’s mid- to long-term expectation is the return of refugees and to have a democratic, stable order in the region.

Turkey is the country which has been the most affected by the crisis in Syria; it needs to get out of that position and endorse a more realistic policy.

It should seek an understanding with Damascus. It should enter into joint action with Israel. The policy initiated by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, based on increasing friends and decreasing enemies, could bear fruit in the coming days.

There are several groups within the PYD; some are friendlier toward Turkey. The government needs to pass this message across: “We are not enemies of Kurds. Syria can be a federation and can have a confederal structure, so long as it maintains its unity. Turkey cannot accept the dismantling of Syria because that would intensify the instability within Turkey.”

What should we take out of the meeting among the Turkish, U.S. and Russian chiefs of General Staff in Antalya? Turkey has threatened to strike at Manbij; as a result, regime forces entered the city. Do you think Turkey’s threat was a wise act?

I think that threat irked the U.S. and that’s why Russia intervened. Regime forces entered the region with the support of the Russians. And the U.S. said they were informed about it. This means there was an agreement between the two. Yıldırım said the regime’s presence in Manbij was not a negative development; that shows that perhaps there is an understanding between Damascus and Turkey as well.

The meeting of the top military leaders are important; but what matters is how this meeting will be complemented by talks at political level.

hurriyetdailynews.com/us-russia-will-never-give-up-the-kurdish-card-in-syria.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110699&NewsCatID=352

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Netherlands will pay the price: Turkey's Erdoğan

March/12/2017

Turkey told the Netherlands on March 12 that it would retaliate in the “harshest way” after Turkish ministers were barred from speaking in Rotterdam in a row over campaigning among Turks living in the country.

“If you sacrifice your relationship with Turkey for the elections [on March 15], you will pay the price,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on March 12 at a ceremony in Istanbul.

“We have yet not done what is required,” Erdoğan added.

Erdoğan said the West “has shown its true face.”

“I thought that Nazism was over, but I was wrong,” he said. “In fact, Nazism is up on its feet in the West.”

On March 11, the Dutch government first canceled Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s flight permit to the Netherlands and then blocked a convoy carrying Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam in Turkey’s latest argument with an EU ally.

Kaya was escorted by the Dutch police to Germany after she was declared “persona non grata” amid a police intervention against Turks who gathered in front of the consulate building in Rotterdam.

An apology from the Netherlands will not be enough to normalize relations, Çavuşoğlu said March 12, adding that the country’s actions would have consequences.

He also reiterated that the Dutch ambassador to Turkey, Cornelis van Rij, could not re-enter Turkey.

“To begin with, this will have a response. Apologizing is not enough. We have begun to give a response and said the ambassador should not come to the country and he cannot. We will take steps and then the Netherlands will apologize. Otherwise, we will continue to take these steps,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters in Metz, France.

Kaya said she suffered “harsh and rude treatment” at the hands of Dutch authorities.

“I went there to meet our electorate. I went to meet them at our consulate which is part of our homeland, and we do not need to get permission for that,” she told reporters on March 12 after her plane landed at Istanbul Atatürk Airport from Germany’s Cologne-Bonn airport.

She said she was taken to Germany, crossing at Nijmegen, while “democratic and humanitarian values were trampled upon.”

“We were subjected to inhumane and unethical treatment,” the minister said.

“We were treated harshly and rudely. The European attitude toward a female minister three days after International Women’s Day is a tragicomedy,” she said.

Protests erupted in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam late on March 11 outside the Turkish consulate.

More than 1,000 people waving Turkish flags gathered on the street leading to the consulate.

“The people are very angry tonight. They feel that their freedom of expression has been denied. We are demonstrating because we want to hear our ministers speak,” Said Marti, 50, from Rotterdam, told Agence France-Presse.

After several hours of calm demonstrations, police moved in early March 12 to disperse the protesters, charging the crowd on horseback and using dogs to regain control.

Protesters hit back, throwing rocks at riot police, while hundreds of cars jammed the streets blaring their horns and revving their engines.

The Rotterdam police said seven people were detained during the protests.

The Dutch first withdrew the landing rights of Çavuşoğlu because of objections to his intention to attend a rally in Rotterdam for a referendum on constitutional reforms to expand the president’s powers. Turkish officials have been campaigning in various European cities with Turkish populations before the April 16 referendum.

With Turkey facing stinging criticism in Europe over its human rights record, the ministers were attempting to campaign in the Netherlands just four days before a Dutch election in which far-right candidate Geert Wilders is poised to increase his share of the vote after having campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform that has attacked Turks.

The Dutch government said it withdrew the permission because of “risks to public order and security,” leading Çavuşoğlu to say: “So is the foreign minister of the Turkish republic a terrorist?”

On late March 11, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said entries and exits had been closed to the Netherlands’ consulate in Istanbul and embassy in Ankara. Similar precautions were taken at the Dutch chargé d’affaires’ house and the ambassador’s residence.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said late March 11 that they had conveyed to the Netherlands their desire to not see the envoy, van Rij, return to his post for a while.

“It has been notified that we do not wish for the Dutch ambassador, who is currently on leave outside of Turkey, to return to his job for a while,” read a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry.

Turkish EU Minister Ömer Çelik also slammed the Dutch authorities for engaging in “complete fascism.”

“Fascism has awoken in the Netherlands and has taken stage. All real democrats in the world should react to this for a free world,” Çelik wrote on Twitter.

hurriyetdailynews.com/netherlands-will-pay-the-price-turkeys-erdogan.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110704&NewsCatID=510

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Turkish family minister says she witnessed ‘inhumane treatment’ in Netherlands

March/12/2017

Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Beytül Sayan Kaya has said she witnessed “inhumane treatment” from the Dutch authorities after being barred from entering Turkey’s Rotterdam consulate and deported to Germany.

Sayan Kaya said their “most basic needs were not provided” and charge d'affaires, five members of her team were detained, while members of the press were attacked by police dogs and horses.

“I once again condemn the Netherlands,” Kaya told a press conference at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport, accompanied by Energy Minister Berat Albayrak.

Albayrak described events as “a night of shame for European democracy.”

hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-family-minister-says-she-witnessed-inhumane-treatment-in-netherlands.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110697&NewsCatID=510

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Iran Unveils Highly Advanced Home-Made Battle Tank

Sun Mar 12, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran on Sunday unveiled the country's newly-manufactured state-of-the-art tank named 'Karrar' and launched its mass-production line in a ceremony attended by Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan.

"The tank can compete with the most advanced tanks in the world in the three main areas of power, precision and mobility as well as maintenance and durability in the battleground," General Dehqan said, addressing the ceremony.

Noting that the tank is equipped with electro-optical fire control system, laser rangefinder, ballistic computer and enjoys the capability to fire at stable and mobile targets in day and night, he said, "Karrar has the capability to fire missiles and precisely guide them (towards the target)."

General Dehqan added that the tank can also move through pits and rivers and is capable of moving even under water, and said Karrar is equipped with navigation and telecommunication systems and is resistant to electronic warfare.

He underscored that the tank is also equipped with armored protection resistant to different types of anti-armor weapons.

In relevant remarks last year Commander of Ground Force Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan said Karrar is as capable as Russia's T-90 tank and perhaps even better.

Also in 2016, Lieutenant Commander of the Iranian Ground Force Brigadier General Kioumars Heidari underlined plans to mount new, advanced and state-of-the-art systems on Karrar and Zolfaqar tanks.

Asked about the Ground Force's achievements in building anti-armored systems, General Heidari said, "We have modern and state-of-the-art equipment which can be used in proxy wars."

"The defense industry designed and built the battle tank from scratch. If not better, it's still as deadly as the Russian T-90," Dehqan said last year.

He said Karrar stands among the most modern battle tanks in the world.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951222000466

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Netherlands acting like a ‘banana republic’: Turkey’s Erdoğan

March/13/2017

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on March 12 the Netherlands was acting like a “banana republic” and should face sanctions for barring Turkish ministers from speaking in Rotterdam, amid a row over Ankara’s political campaigning abroad.

“Has Europe said anything? No. Why? Because they don’t bite each other. The Netherlands is acting like a banana republic,” Erdoğan said in a speech in the northwestern province of Kocaeli on March 12.

“I call on all international organizations in Europe and elsewhere to impose sanctions on the Netherlands,” he said, after Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım earlier said Turkey would retaliate “in the harshest way.”

Erdoğan is hoping for the large number of Turkish voters living in Europe, especially in Germany and the Netherlands, to help him secure victory in the April 16 referendum on shifting Turkey to an executive presidential system.

In a speech in France, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu described the Netherlands as the “capital of fascism” as it joined other European countries in stopping Turkish politicians holding rallies, citing concerns that tension in Turkey could spill over into their expatriate communities.

The Dutch government barred Çavuşoğlu from flying to Rotterdam on March 11 and later stopped Family Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish consulate there, before escorting her out of the country to Germany.

Dutch police used dogs and water cannon on March 12 to disperse hundreds of protesters waving Turkish flags outside the consulate in Rotterdam. Some threw bottles and stones and several demonstrators were beaten by police with batons, a Reuters witness said. Mounted police officers also charged the crowd.

The Dutch government - set to lose about half its seats in elections this week, according to polls, as the anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders makes strong gains - said the visits were undesirable and it would not cooperate in their campaigning.

A day earlier, Erdoğan described the Netherlands as “Nazi remnants” and returned to the theme on March 12 by saying “Nazism is still widespread in the West,” in what Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte described as “inflammatory remarks.”

hurriyetdailynews.com/netherlands-acting-like-a-banana-republic-turkeys-erdogan.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110726&NewsCatID=510

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Main opposition leader calls on gov’t to suspend relations with Netherlands

March/12/2017

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has called on the government to suspend relations with the Netherlands following an escalating diplomatic row over the country’s refusal to permit a Turkish minister to enter the consulate in Rotterdam, showcasing the party’s support for the government on the issue.

“Now, I am issuing a clear call to the government. If they do not allow Turkey’s minister to enter the Netherlands or they cannot go to the embassy, please suspend our relationship with the Netherlands. We will lend any support,” Kılıçdaroğlu told a rally in the southern province of Adana on March 12.

The CHP leader also said it was a common duty for all political parties to defend the country’s interests in the face of such incidents.

“That issue has nothing to do with the referendum [April 16 referendum on charter amendments], and ‘yes’ or ‘no’ votes. This is a national issue. It is every political party’s duty, regardless if you are rightist or leftist, to defend Turkey’s rights. We are ready to fulfill our duty,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

The main opposition party had already announced that it was canceling the party’s overseas meetings for the April 16 referendum on the constitutional amendments due to the cancelation of Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s flight permit to Rotterdam, which was followed by the Dutch refusal to permit Family Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya’s entrance to the consulate building in the port city.

“We have expressed on every occasion that Turkey does not deserve such behavior. Any kind of opinion should be expressed freely. Approaches that could especially turn into an international crisis cannot be accepted in any way,” party deputy chair Tekin Bingöl told state-run Anadolu Agency on March 11.

“As the CHP, we will not hold meetings abroad [ahead of] the referendum,” he added.

Bingöl also stated on March 12 that the recent ban on Sayan Kaya was not democratic.

“Such approaches by countries that talk about freedom and democracy are in no way democratic and they are unacceptable. I hope the Netherlands immediately steps back from this mistake,” Bingöl said.

Kılıçdaroğlu had previously called the Dutch move on Çavuşoğlu unacceptable.

“The foreign minister who represents Turkey goes everywhere in the world and talks. The decision that the Netherlands took can never be accepted,” he tweeted, adding that it violated both diplomacy and the basic principles of democracy.

From the opposition ranks, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also lent its support to the government in taking measures against the Dutch move on Turkish ministers.

“It is really not possible to accept the attitude against the ministers of the government. In that case, Turkey should take a stance against the Netherlands and other countries by taking more serious precautions. We have no worries about that. The MHP will side with the measures that will be taken and that have been planned. We are overtly declaring this. Our friends will show their own stance in European countries,” the party’s deputy head, Semih Yalçın, told private broadcaster NTV on March 12.

Yalçın also described the ban on Turkish ministers as a “medieval mentality.”

“This is a medieval mentality. That means the bankruptcy of a mentality that tries to impose European civilization on the world,” he said.

According to Yalçın, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli also called on citizens living abroad to democratically react against the ban on Turkish ministers by staging sit-ins.

hurriyetdailynews.com/main-opposition-leader-calls-on-govt-to-suspend-relations-with-netherlands.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110705&NewsCatID=510

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Turkey summons Dutch diplomat, urges ‘written apology’ over barring minister

March/13/2017

Turkey has summoned Dutch chargé d’affairs to the Turkish Foreign Ministry for the third time since March 11 and has demanded an official apology after a Turkish minister was barred to meet with Turks living in the Netherlands, as well as a comprehensive probe on security officials staging disproportioned use of force on Turkish demonstrators.

Foreign Ministry sources informed that the Dutch Embassy’s Chargé D’Affairs Daan Feddo Huisinga was summoned to the ministry early on March 13 and was given two diplomatic notes on ongoing tension between the two countries.

The first note demanded an official apology from the Dutch government on the treatment shown to Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya and Turkish diplomats who accompanied her to Rotterdam on March 11. The note stressed the Dutch government’s actions were in violation of a 1961-dated convention on diplomatic missions.

The second note recalled that security officials used disproportionate force on protestors and members of the press, and demanded an investigation into the incidents on late March 11 in Rotterdam. It also underlined that Turkey’s right to seek compensation was reserved.

Relations between Turkey and Netherlands severely strained after the latter barred Turkish ministers from meeting with Turks living in the European country in light of campaigning for the referendum set to take place in Turkey on April 16. Dutch police stopped Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish General Consulate in Rotterdam and forced her to leave the country.

hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-summons-dutch-diplomat-urges-written-apology-over-barring-minister.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110728&NewsCatID=510

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Southeast Asia

Non-Muslims caned for first time under Aceh's Shariah law

MAR 13, 2017

JANTHO (Aceh) • Indonesia's only province to impose Shariah law has caned Buddhists for the first time, after two men accused of cockfighting opted for punishment under its strict Islamic regulations.

Alem Suhadi, 57, and Amel Akim, 60, both Chinese members of the Buddhist minority, were whipped on Friday in front of dozens of local officials and residents in the city of Jantho in Aceh. The two men grimaced as they received nine and seven lashes on their backs respectively. Their sentences were mitigated because they had spent over a month in detention since police nabbed them in Aceh Besar in January.

"When they were arrested, two chickens and 400,000 rupiah ($42.29) of betting money were confiscated by the police," said prosecutor Rivandi Aziz.

straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/non-muslims-caned-for-first-time-under-acehs-Shariah-law

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Malaysia arrests five Filipinos for suspected links to Islamic State extremist group

MAR 13, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian police said Monday they had arrested seven people, including five Filipinos, for suspected links to the Islamic State militant group.

The Southeast Asian nation has been on high alert since armed gunmen linked to the Islamic State launched multiple attacks in Jakarta, the capital of neighboring Indonesia, in January 2016.

Muslim-majority Malaysia arrested more than 250 people between 2013 and 2016 over suspected militant activities linked to Islamic State.

Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement most of the arrests were made during an operation in Sabah, on Borneo island, earlier this month.

A Philippine suspect with permanent residency in Malaysia was detained on suspicion of raising funds and channeling them to Mahmud Ahmad and Mohamad Joraimee Awang Raimee, two Malaysians who had joined up with the Islamic State in the southern Philippines, Khalid said.

One Philippine man was planning to travel to Syria to join up with the Islamic State there, while another was found to have pledged allegiance to Isnilon Hapilon, the Philippines’ most-wanted man and leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group.

Last June, militants who claimed to be fighting for Islamic State said in a video they had chosen Hapilon to lead their Southeast Asian faction.

Two other Philippine suspects, a man and a woman, were arrested for smuggling three Islamic State members from Malaysia and Indonesia to the southern Philippines through Sabah, Khalid said.

Police also arrested a Malaysian woman, who worked as an airport immigration official, on suspicion of helping individuals without valid travel documents, including Malaysian and Indonesian Islamic State followers, to enter and exit the Philippines through Sabah.

Meanwhile, a Malaysian man was arrested at Kuala Lumpur’s main airport on Sunday after being deported from Turkey, Khalid said.

The suspect had traveled to Istanbul in October with plans to enter Syria with the help of an Islamic State member from Sulawesi, Indonesia.

japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/13/asia-pacific/crime-legal-asia-pacific/malaysia-arrests-five-filipinos-suspected-links-islamic-state-extremist-group/#.WMZqYYF96zc

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Africa

Nigerian Troops Kill Two Female Suicide Bombers, Rescue 211 Boko Haram Captives

Sun Mar 12, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- Two teenage female suicide bombers were shot dead by troops as they made a futile attempt to sneak into Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, wearing explosive vests hidden under their clothes, officials said.

A top military official said that the deafening explosion that resonated in most part of Maiduguri was as a result of the safe detonation of the explosive vests retrieved from the bodies of the dead girls, Premium Times reported.

According to the official, they were both in their late teens.

“It happened after two female suicide bombers, about 18 years of age, attempted to enter Maiduguri through Umarari in Molai General area about 9km to Maiduguri township”, said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“They were sighted by the Civilian-JTF and consequently shot dead by security personnel on duty at the area.

“No other loss of life or injury was recorded. The police explosive ordinance department team was mobilized to the scene to render the unexploded IED safe, while normalcy has been restored to the area.”

Hours before the interception of the two suicide bombers, troops of the Nigeria Army had gunned down a Boko Haram kingpin during an operation that led to the rescue of 211 civilian captives from a Boko Haram den.

The spokesperson of the Nigeria Army, Sani Usman, confirmed the development in a statement he sent to the media.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951222001503

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Policeman killed in south Tunisia ambush

Two suspected jihadists were killed and another seriously wounded in the incident near Kebili in what the ministry described as a "terrorist attack".

March 12, 2017

A police officer was killed and another wounded in a night-time ambush on a checkpoint in southern Tunisia, the interior ministry said today.

Two suspected jihadists were killed and another seriously wounded in the incident near Kebili, 480 kilometres south of Tunis, in what the ministry described as a “terrorist attack”.

The ambush by motorcycle-mounted gunmen occurred early today on a police checkpoint, it said, adding that a fourth attacker fled the scene.

“Homemade explosives” were found on the motorbikes, the ministry added.

Since its 2011 revolution, Tunisia has experienced an increase in jihadist attacks that have cost the lives of dozens of members of the security forces and also 59 foreign tourists.

The country has been under a state of emergency since November 2015, when a suicide bombing in Tunis claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group killed 12 presidential guards.

indianexpress.com/article/world/policeman-killed-in-south-tunisia-ambush-4567132/

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Deadly trash: 50 people killed in garbage landslide at Ethiopia’s biggest dump

13 Mar, 2017

At least 48 people, mostly women and children, died, while dozens are feared to be buried under piles of waste after a colossal rubbish dump outside Ethopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, collapsed on Saturday night, devouring makeshift homes and waste pickers alike.

What triggered the landslide at the Koshe landfill that for over 50 years has served as the city’s main garbage dump has not been yet determined. However, local residents suspect the tragedy can be blamed on the recent restart of dumping at the site following a pause that lasted for a few years.

“We told them not to dump waste at the top. I think the decision by city officials to resume dumping some months back was the main reason for this accident, which has so far buried at least 20 houses,” Assefa Teklemahimanot, a local resident, said, as cited by Euronews.

According to the locals’ estimates, as many as 150 people might have been at the dump as it started crumbling under its own weight. At least 37 people have been pulled from under the trash alive and are receiving treatment, Addis Ababa Mayor Diriba Kuma told AFP.

In light of the tragic event, Kuma announced the government envisages a “resettling program” aimed at removing people who are living at and around the dump.

Ethopia’s communications minister, Negeri Lencho, called the collapse “a sad story,” claiming that it occurred at a time the authorities were making efforts to resettle the people living there, as cited by CNN. The site has been chosen for the construction of a waste-to-energy plant, which has been almost finished. It is expected to generate about 25 megawatt hours of power once completed.  

rt.com/news/380456-ethiopia-garbage-dump-collapse/

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Europe

German police end operation over attack threat in southwest town

Germany is on high alert following deadly militant Islamist attacks in France and Belgium and after a failed asylum seeker from Tunisia drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas market in December, killing 12 people

March 12, 2017

German police said on Sunday they had ended a major operation launched after they received information about a possible threat of an attack in the south-western town of Offenburg on Saturday night. Officers stepped up security in the town centre and on public transport and police said one possible target was a night club which was not named. Investigations were continuing but no further details on the nature of the threat were available.

A spokesman in Offenburg, in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg and close to the French border, did not give any further details. Germany is on high alert following deadly militant Islamist attacks in France and Belgium and after a failed asylum seeker from Tunisia drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas market in December, killing 12 people.

On Saturday, police in the city of Essen closed a shopping mall after security services warned of a possible attack.

indianexpress.com/article/world/german-police-end-operation-over-attack-threat-in-southwest-town-4566613/

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Teargas in West Bank as Palestinians decry death by Israeli forces working with local police (VIDEO)

13 Mar, 2017

Riot police have used tear gas, batons and sound grenades to disperse a rally in Ramallah on Sunday. The protest was prompted by the death of an anti-occupation activist during an Israeli raid, linked by protesters to security cooperation between Israel and Palestine.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside a courthouse in the occupied West Bank capital of Ramallah on Sunday as it was about to pronounce a decision in the case of six Palestinians, charged with possessing weapons and plotting attack against Israel.

One of the six suspects, that had been arrested by Palestinian security forces outside Ramallah in April last year, 31-year-old Palestinian activist Basil al-Araj, was shot dead as Israeli forces stormed into his apartment near the city on March 6. Basil’s killing, viewed by his supporters as an “assassination,” sparked a wave of protests in the West Bank that continued throughout the week, with their participants blaming his initial arrest and subsequent killing on the tight security coordination between Tel Aviv and Ramallah and demanding that charges be dropped against the remaining suspects.

However, to the disdain of the demonstrators, the court upheld the charges against the suspects scheduling the trial to April 30, and only terminated proceedings with respect to Araj because of his death. The participants of the rally were chanting “Security cooperation is treason,” according to the Jerusalem Post, with some accusing the Palestinian forces of being “spies.”

As tensions were flaring up, police intervened to break out the rally. As result of the ensuing altercation at least 11 demonstrators received injuries, according to Maan News agency, including several journalists and father of Araj, Mahmoud al-Araj, who was then hospitalized.

rt.com/news/380455-westbank-clashes-palestinian-israeli-police/

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ISIS behind plot to attack Essen shopping mall – German Interior Minister

12 Mar, 2017

The mastermind behind the planned attack on a shopping center in the west German city of Essen is linked to Islamic State terrorists, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in an interview with German broadcaster ARD.

“There is a clear link to the so-called Islamic State, to this terrorist organization,” the minister said during an appearance on ARD’s “Report from Berlin” show.

“In fact, [the suspects] received instructions and orders from someone who left Germany for the region [controlled by Islamic State].”

De Maiziere added that there was a “strong connection” between the planned attack and IS.

Earlier, German Bild and Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspapers as well as the public broadcaster WDR reported, citing unidentified security sources, that an Islamic State fighter of German origin contacted a group of radicals inside Germany and abroad and motivated them to carry out attacks on the shopping mall.

The minister then said that the initial tip-off about the attack was received by the German domestic security service, the BfV, which informed the Essen police department. However, he refused to reveal any further details about the case, citing the secrecy of the investigation that is still ongoing.

He added that the planned attack “was successfully prevented.” However, he also warned that the terrorist threat “remains high.”

German police earlier detained two men as part of the investigation into the possible attack on the shopping mall. According to Die Welt daily, one of the detained men has been already set free, while the second one is still being questioned.

In the meantime, de Maiziere also said that German police are now investigating known Salafist groups in the German northwest region of North Rhine Westphalia to “find out if they have any connection to this possible attack.”

The Essen police department ordered the temporary closure of the shopping mall located at Limbecker Platz in downtown Essen on Saturday after it received a tip-off about a potential attack. Some 100 police officers were deployed to the scene as the area was cordoned off.

The mall, which hosts some 200 stores, occupies 70,000 square meters and is one of the biggest inner-city shopping centers in Germany, remained closed throughout Saturday but will reopen Monday, the venue management said on its Facebook page.

“At the moment, there is no evidence suggesting that our building is under any kind of threat,” the statement reads, adding that the mall would enhance security measures anyway “out of caution.”

Security has been tight in Germany since a string of lone-wolf terror attacks hit the country last year. A Syrian refugee detonated an explosive device outside a music festival in the town of Ansbach last July, killing himself and injuring 12 others. In December 2016, a Tunisian asylum seeker, who pledged allegiance to Islamic State, plowed a truck into a Berlin Christmas market, taking the lives of 12 people. There have also been an ax assault and a shooting spree recently.

rt.com/news/380435-isis-behind-essen-shopping-mall-attack-threat/

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North America

Haqqani claims his ‘connections’ led US to kill Osama

 March 13th, 2017

WASHINGTON: Pakis­tan’s former US ambassador Husain Haqqani has claimed that his ‘connections’ with the Obama administration enabled the United States to target and kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

In an article published in The Washington Post on Friday, Mr Haqqani defended the Trump team’s contacts with Russia during and after the 2016 US presidential elections and said he also had established similar relations with members of the Obama campaign during the 2008 elections.

Those contacts “led to closer cooperation between Pakistan and the United States in fighting terrorism over the 3 1/2 years I served as ambassador” and “eventually enabled the United States to discover and eliminate bin Laden without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military, which were suspected of sympathy toward Islamist militants”.

Mr Haqqani wrote that the friends he made in the Obama campaign team were “able to ask, three years later, as National Security Council officials, for help in stationing US Special Operations and intelligence personnel on the ground in Pakistan”.

Explaining how he responded to those requests, the former ambassador wrote: “I brought the request directly to Pakistan’s civilian leaders, who approved. Although the United States kept us officially out of the loop about the operation, these locally stationed Americans proved invaluable when Obama decided to send in Navy SEAL Team 6 without notifying Pakistan.”

Mr Haqqani recalled that in November 2011, he was forced to resign as ambassador after Pakistan’s military-intelligence apparatus gained the upper hand in the country’s perennial power struggle.

“Among the security establishment’s grievances against me was the charge that I had facilitated the presence of large numbers of CIA operatives who helped track down bin Laden without the knowledge of Pakistan’s army — even though I had acted under the authorisation of Pakistan’s elected civilian leaders,” he wrote in the Post.

Mr Haqqani said the purpose of his cooperation with US officials was to ensure a victory in the fight against terrorists.

“Unfortunately, the United States did not attain victory in Afghanistan, and the Pakistani government’s behaviour toward militant Islamists did not change on a permanent basis. But for the period I was in office, the two nations worked jointly toward their common goals — the essence of diplomacy,” he wrote.

Examine: Maybe it would have been better if Osama were still with us

Mr Haqqani said his article also covered the diplomatic exchanges about visas and the end result of the US pursuit of bin Laden and cited allegations against him over the visa issue.

“There is no new ‘admission’ over the visas as suggested by some in the Pakistani media who choose not to examine the real issue relating to bin Laden living in Abbottabad for years,” he wrote.

When contacted, PPP spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar said the visa issue had been raised in the past also. “All procedures were followed in the issuance of visas to the Americans and no complaint had been made by any branch of the government,” he said.

Mr Babar clarified that Mr Haqqani now worked independently and was not a spokesperson for the PPP government of the time.

In an email to Dawn, Mr Haqqani said on Sunday that he had “retained complete record of every visa issued to US officials” while he served as ambassador. “I will be compelled to make it public, with authorisations including those by senior military personnel, if conspiracy theories continue to be circulated to target the patriotism of civilians,” he warned.

Reacting to the huge public reaction to his Post article, Mr Haqqani said: “It is time … to stop agitating over visas to Americans and for facing the real question of why Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan and how Americans were able to find him while our intelligence service could not.”

Quoting from a statement that former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made after the May 2, 2011, US raid on an Abbottabad compound that killed Osama, Mr Haqqani said: “The real issue is not how many Americans – our allies and aid benefactors – got visas but rather who gave visa to bin Laden.”

Mr Haqqani said that after he began reading about the Trump administration’s contacts with the Russians, he rummaged through his files and diaries to “retrace my steps as ambassador in the fall of 2008”.

He said he had maintained relations with three teams of American officials, politicians and professional staffers, the Bush administration and the two major-party candidates.

Mr Haqqani said he had met senior members of the Republican and Democratic national committees, more than a dozen senators and congressmen from each party, and several individuals from both sides who were tipped to emerge in senior government positions after the election. “This is totally normal for ambassadors,” he added.

dawn.com/news/1320175/haqqani-claims-his-connections-led-us-to-kill-osama

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Pakistani faces 20-year imprisonment in US

March 13th, 2017

ALEXANDRIA (US): A Pakistani American, convicted by a US federal court for smuggling artefacts into the United States from Pakistan, could face up to 20 years in prison.

A statement, issued by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, says that Ijaz Khan, 42, of Sante Fe, New Mexico, would be sentenced on May 5.

Evidence presented in a court in Alexandria accused Khan of being involved in a conspiracy to smuggle ancient artefacts, including pottery and bronze weapons.

The conviction, announced recently, also upheld the charge that Khan and his co-conspirator Vera Lautt, 57, also of Santa Fe, New Mexico, violated US immigration laws for getting US citizenship for Khan.

The artefacts were stolen from burial sites, and coins from a cave temple in Pakistan called the Kashmir Smast.

Bronze coins and artefacts found in the caves and the adjacent valley indicate the existence of a sovereign kingdom in Gandhara which maintained at least partial independence for almost 500 years.

Documents presented in the court show that Khan and Lautt used their business, Indus Valley, to sell the artefacts. One shipment of artefacts was stopped at the Washington Dulles airport, Virginia, in October 2013. Ijaz and others then attempted to obtain the shipment by submitting various false and fraudulent documents.

Khan was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States, procurement of citizenship or naturalisation unlawfully, conspiracy to smuggle goods into the US, mail fraud and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.

Lautt was convicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the US and procurement of citizenship or naturalisation unlawfully.

dawn.com/news/1320169/pakistani-faces-20-year-imprisonment-in-us

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Pakistani military delegation returns after US talks

March 13th, 2017

WASHINGTON: A Paki­stani military delegation returned home this weekend after a weeklong visit to the United States for bilateral defence consultations.

During the delegation’s stay in Washington, a senior US general told a congressional panel that Pakistan was a critical US ally in the South Asian region and urged the Trump administration to retain a close relationship with the country.

During the same period, the new US Defence Secr­etary James Mattis approved the reimbursement of $550 million to Pakistan for its efforts to fight terrorism along the Pak-Afghan border.

Also, a recent report by the US State Department’s Office of Inspector General acknowledged the military’s strong role in the country’s national security and foreign affairs while outlining US objectives in Pakistan.

The report noted that US-Pakistan relationship enco­mpassed issues of critical importance to US nati­onal security, such as counterterrorism, nuclear non-proliferation, peace in Afgha­nistan, and domestic and South Asian regional economic growth and development.

“Mission Pakistan’s highest policy priorities are to promote regional stability, combat terrorism, and support a secure, economically vibrant, and stable Pakistani democracy,” the report added.

The inspector general noted that “the Pakistani military continues to play a strong role in national security and foreign affairs. The country faces external and internal challenges to its stability from crime and terrorism”.

The 20-page report noted that three unrelated events in 2011, an incident in La­hore involving an Ame­rican citizen, the killing of Osama bin Laden in a raid in Abbo­ttabad, and the Salala border clash, were perceived as challenges to Pakistani sovereignty and a setback for US-Pakistan cooperation.

Since then, the two governments have taken steps to improve relations, culminating in Secretary John Kerry’s 2015 visit to Islam­abad to co-chair the Strategic Dialogue and the Pakistani prime minister’s visit to the US the same year.

dawn.com/news/1320182/pakistani-military-delegation-returns-after-us-talks

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