Photo: Iraqi Forces Attack Mosul Mosque Where Islamic State Declared ‘Caliphate’
Bill to Name 'Untrustworthy Ally' Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Introduced In US Congress
Swiss Parliament Rejects Bill Proposing Country-Wide Burqa Ban
Iraqi Forces Attack Mosul Mosque Where Islamic State Declared ‘Caliphate’
Intense Raids Target Areas in the Stronghold of the “Islamic State” Organization In Syria
Islamic State mortars, snipers take toll on Iraqi forces in Mosul
Aleppo: Clashes Intensify Between Turkey-Led Euphrates Shield Forces, SDF near Manbij
Spokesman: Iraq's Hezbollah Al-Nujaba Ready to Liberate Golan Heights
US-Led 'Global Coalition against Daesh' Won't Get Very Far Without Russia's Help
US deploys 2,500 paratroopers to Kuwait, ready for missions in Syria & Iraq – report
Hundreds of US marines deployed to Syria filmed on the move ahead of Raqqa operation
Amal Clooney to Iraq: Allow U.N. probe of Islamic State Yazidi crimes
White Evangelicals Believe They Face More Discrimination Than Muslims
British Govt Admits To Secret Syria War Fund but Refuses to Identify ‘Non-Extremist’ Fighters
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Four Islamist militants killed in offensive after German beheading
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Gen. Votel urges Congress to approve budget for Afghanistan Blackhawk program
No Lasting Actions Taken By Pakistani Military against Haqqani Network: Gen. Votel
I was tortured beyond limit in captivity: Pakistani blogger Goraya
Islamic finance centre inaugurated in Abbottabad
Islamic Scholars Back Family's Decision to Refuse Terror Suspect's Body
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Grand Ayatollah Noori Hamedani: Iran, Iraq Unity Beneficial For Islamic Umma
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Syria debacle & megaprojects to dominate Erdogan’s Russia visit
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Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
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FRANCE 24 reports: A report from the front line of the battle for Mosul shows Iraqi forces closing in on the mosque where Islamic State (IS) group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” in June 2014.
The battle for Mosul may be nearing its end, as Iraqi forces move within sight of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, where the IS group proclaimed its so-called caliphate.
Baghdadi is believed to have fled the former IS group bastion sometime before Iraqi security forces – backed by air support from the anti-IS group coalition – surrounded the city.
Bill to name 'untrustworthy ally' Pakistan state sponsor of terrorism introduced in US Congress
Shailaja Neelakantan | TIMESOFINDIA.COM | Updated: Mar 10, 2017, 03.21 PM IST
NEW DELHI: An influential US Congressman yesterday introduced a strongly worded bill in Congress to declare "untrustworthy ally" Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism.
"Not only is Pakistan an untrustworthy ally, Islamabad has also aided and abetted enemies of the United States for years,"said Congressman Ted Poe, who is Chair of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism.
"From harboring Osama bin Laden to its cozy relationship with the Haqqani network, there is more than enough evidence to determine whose side Pakistan is on in the War on Terror+ . And it's not America's. It is time we stop paying Pakistan for its betrayal and designate it for what it is: a State Sponsor of Terrorism," Poe said while introducing the bill, the Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Act of 2015, in Congress yesterday.
The bill requires the US President to issue a report within 90 days, answering whether Pakistan has provided support for international terrorism. Thirty days after that, the Secretary of State is required to submit a follow-up report, which says that Pakistan is a state sponsor of terrorism, or a detailed justification as to why it does not meet the legal criteria for such a designation.
It's time for a "radical reset" with Pakistan, said Congressman Poe and James Clad, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia, in an article in Nationalinterest.org dated March 8. They say the US is in "a toxic relationship" with Pakistan and needs to "to finally set limits on its indulgence" towards Islamabad. The authors of the article are scathing about the US-Pakistan relationship. They describe it as a "weird psychology" at play.
'Weird psychology' between US, Pak
"Pakistan has become a quasi-adversary, receiving hundreds of billions through the years in direct and indirect U.S. support+ , a strange hostage-like arrangement in which we pay Islamabad to do what it should be doing anyway to protect its own domestic security and buttress Afghan stability," Poe and Clad wrote.
The authors can't get their heads around another bit of what they call "weird psychology". That is, the US looking the other way as Pakistan acquired nuclear-weapons capability even as it went "through the kabuki dance of annual nonproliferation certification."
How can this " weird psychology+ " be reversed, Poe and Clad ask in the article, and then suggest some ways to "put the toxic psychology behind us."
The authors emphatically believe the US shouldn't rush to bolster Pakistan's balance of payments via the IMF or other intermediaries, as they've done before. "Let China pay that, if the Pakistanis wish to mortgage their future in that way," they suggest mock-helpfully.
Essentially, the US has to change its accommodative stance vis-a-vis Pakistan, regardless of, and independent of Indo-US relations. Whatever method the US chooses, "something must change in our dealings with a terrorist-supporting, irresponsible nuclear-weapons state", Poe and Clad conclude.
Swiss parliament rejects bill proposing country-wide burqa ban
March 10, 2017
(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Swiss parliament’s upper house rejected a bill which called upon the country to outlaw the Muslim face veil on Thursday.
The bill was proposed by the hardline Swiss People’s Party (SVP). MP Walter Wobmann called for a federal ban on veils and other face coverings in public places across Switzerland’s 26 cantons.
The Senate, however, decided that it is the responsibility of individual cantons and not the federal government to decide if a ban on face veil is necessary.
The senate also went on to say such a ban wasn’t necessary as very few people in Switzerland don the face veil. It could also hurt the country’s tourism, it added.
Speaking during the debate, Socialist Anita Fetz agreed with the commission, saying it wasn’t a widespread issue in Switzerland. “Even among tourists, cases are rare. I’ve seen perhaps two to three tourists entirely veiled in Basel in my whole life,” she said.
“There are probably more people who hike naked than wear the burqa,” said Andrea Caroni, who is a senator from Appenzell Ausserrhoden where naked hiking is in fact banned.
Wobmann has launched a petition to take the issue of the burqa ban to a referendum where the decision would be left up to the people. It needs 100,000 signatures by September.
He said banning the burqa was “not relevant at all” in Switzerland, where about five percent of its population — about 8.2 million people — are Muslim.
The supporters of the ban cite “security” concerns about the full-face covering. Opponents, however, say that national legislators should try to stay out of “the clothing closet.”
The Italian-speaking Ticino region in southern Switzerland has already imposed a ban on burqas.
Several European countries have also adopted restrictions on the Islamic clothing since 2000. France became the first European Union country to ban the public wearing of burqa in April 2011. A law took effect in Belgium in July that year that banned any clothing that obscured the identity of the wearer in public.
In the Netherlands, a proposed law banning burqas is awaiting approval by the senate. It was approved by the lower house of the Dutch parliament in November 2016.
Al-Raqqah Province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights:
Warplanes carried out after midnight yesterday several raids on areas in al-Raqqah city and its vicinity in the Division 17 and the Cotton Center; the main stronghold of the “Islamic State” organization in Syria, no information about injuries, while violent clashes are taking place between the Syria Democratic Forces supported by bombing by warplanes of the International Coalition against the “Islamic State” organization in the extreme western countryside of Deir Ezzor near the administrative border of the eastern countryside of Al-Raqqah; on the northern banks of Euphrates River, amid advancement by the forces and controlling several new villages in the area.
By John Davison | MOSUL, IRAQ
At a field clinic near the front line in Mosul, an Iraqi Federal Police officer lay in discomfort on a stretcher, a drip in his arm and bandage plastered over his chest from where shrapnel from a mortar shell had pierced his sternum.
The blast which wounded the 23-year-old, Jaafar Kareem, and two comrades, was in an area where rapid advances against Islamic State earlier in the week have slowed as the militants aim mortar and sniper fire at Iraqi troops.
At least 10 shells had landed there that morning, before hitting their target, Kareem said.
"There have been a lot of our guys wounded today in the same area," he said, turning his head gingerly to watch an officer on the next stretcher being treated for a leg injury.
The makeshift clinic, an abandoned house manned by American volunteers and Iraqi military medics, was on Thursday regularly treating members of Iraq's security forces rushed back from the front line in ambulances or armored vehicles.
"We've already had around 20 people come in for treatment (on Thursday) - about 70 percent civilian, but it's been more military (casualties) up until today," said Kathy Bequary, director of NYC Medics, the organization running the clinic.
Casualties her team have witnessed recently range from superficial wounds to the occasional patient dead on arrival, including one soldier with eight bullet wounds to his torso, she said.
As Iraqi forces fight Islamic State militants deeper into western Mosul, they face increasingly stiff resistance, with the jihadists using mortar and sniper fire to try to hold off a U.S.-backed offensive to drive them out of their last major stronghold in the country.
The fight has taken its toll of dead and wounded on Iraqi soldiers, special forces and police units. The military has not published the number of its own casualties.
Islamic State's tactics, which include taking cover among the civilian population, have also slowed advances in some areas, the closer the battle gets to the more crowded city center.
The area where Kareem and his comrades were hit was no more than a few hundred meters from the front line, in an area housing the Nineveh provincial government headquarters, a territorial gain trumpeted by the Iraqi military on Tuesday.
Iraqi forces have indeed made progress there. A wide main road leading to the governorate building was firmly under Federal Police control on Thursday, a Reuters correspondent visiting with elite interior ministry units said.
STATIC FRONT LINE
Armored vehicles drove past destruction left by fighting in the former provincial government hub: a collapsed police headquarters dynamited by militants as they retreated, and a large, faded advertisement panel for "Iraqi Airways - Mosul booking office."
But the front line had been static since early in the week, members of the Rapid Response units said.
Troops on foot had to dash between the more exposed streets for fear of sniper fire.
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The whoosh of an incoming mortar shell sent them scrambling for cover against the wall of a building. It landed close enough to feel shockwaves from the blast.
"It's been a little difficult, recently," Ali Sattar, a 20-year-old in the Rapid Response said.
"We've not really advanced for three days now. Two of our teams went further forward, on a sort of recce mission, and raised the Iraqi flag on top of a tall hotel that (Islamic State) snipers have been using, then came back."
Federal Police units were now in control of the Mosul museum, a little further forward, but any new advances were being made difficult by snipers who had taken up positions in the Assyria Hotel, less than 200 meters (yards) away, he said.
"The flag will probably be taken down again by the militants," he said, half joking.
Back at the clinic, the wounded Kareem looked weary.
"The battles have been hard," he sighed.
(Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Michael Perry)
Aleppo: Clashes Intensify Between Turkey-Led Euphrates Shield Forces, SDF Near Manbij
TEHRAN (FNA)- Clashes intensified between the predominately Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Ankara-backed militants of the Euphrates Shield Operation in the surrounding areas of the town of Manbij in Northeastern Syria, reports said, 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.
In relevant remarks on Thursday, local sources said that the Syrian army deployed troops in several villages previously controlled by the Kurdish forces of the Manbij Military Council following the recent Russian-brokered agreement with Damascus.
The sources said that the army units have entered the villages of Jubb al-hamra and al-Wahihij to maintain security to the regions in Manbij that are held by the Kurdish forces against a possible attack by the Turkey-led Euphrates Shield Operation militants.
Jubb al-hamra and al-Wahihij were previously under the control of the Manbij Military Council forces.
The sources pointed out that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces left Jubb al-hamra and al-Wahihij and other villages in Manbij region after the Syrian soldiers deployed and took charge.
The Kurdish forces are expected to hand over more villages to the Syrian army West of Manbij in the next few days.
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 last Thursday 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 on Thursday 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 will 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 will be given to the Syrian government's border guards.
It added that the measure will 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 on last week that the council forces will no more partner in the Euphrates Shield Operations against ISIL in Northeastern Aleppo as they are 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.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Spokesman of Hezbollah al-Nujaba, a major Iraqi Shiite resistance movement fighting the ISIL, Seyed Hashem al-Moussavi announced the formation of a brigade to liberate the Golan Heights from Israeli occupation.
"After the recent victories (in Syria), we have established the Golan Liberation Brigade," al-Moussavi said on Wednesday.
Noting that the Golan Liberation Brigade is made up of highly-equipped and well-trained special forces, he said, "If the Syrian government requests, we are ready to take action to liberate Golan."
Israel occupied the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six-Day War with Syria and annexed the territory in 1981. The international community has not recognized the Israeli annexation.
In relevant remarks in February, Sheikh Akram al-Ka'abi, the leader of Hezbollah al-Nujaba, had underlined his forces' preparedness to cooperate with the Syrian Army troops to liberate the Golan region occupied by Israeli forces.
Al-Ka'abi said that the ISIL terrorist group is implementing an Israeli-initiated road map under the supervision of the US with the cooperation of Turkey and Arab states of the Persian Gulf in the region.
"And our presence in Syria is aimed at resisting against this plot," Ka'abi underscored.
He further underlined Iraqi al-Nujaba movement's full readiness to take part in a war to liberate Israeli-occupied Golan Heights shoulder to shoulder with the Syrian Army soldiers.
The US State Department has announced that they will host a meeting of the foreign ministers of 68 countries later this month to discuss the US-led anti-Daesh coalition's efforts against the terror group. However, the gathering won't include Russia, Iran or Syria. Russian Senator Alexei Pushkov has some choice words for the meeting's organizers.
On Thursday, Reuters reported that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be hosting a meeting of foreign ministers from 68 countries in Washington, D.C. between March 22-23 to discuss the US-led anti-Daesh coalition's next moves amid the terror group's gradual retreat in both Syria and Iraq.
This will be the first meeting of its kind since December 2014, a few months after Washington and several of its allies first began airstrikes against the terrorists.
Manbij Buffer: How Moscow Just Saved Turkey, the US and the Kurds From Duking It Out in Syria
According to a State Department press release, the meeting is meant "to accelerate international efforts to defeat [Daesh] in the remaining areas it holds in Iraq and Syria and maximize pressure on its branches, affiliates, and networks."
Later, acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner clarified to reporters that Russia, as well as Iran and Syria, would not be participating in the high-level meeting. Instead, in addition to the US, the meeting is expected to include Washington's NATO allies, plus Australia, New Zealand, several Middle Eastern countries and several Gulf States.
Russian Senator Alexei Pushkov, an expert on foreign affairs issues, commented on Moscow's exclusion from the meeting by suggesting that it was absurd to hold a conference on how to defeat Daesh without including Russia. On Thursday and Friday, Pushkov tweeted that the ministers from the US and its allies can meet and discuss ways to defeat the terror group until the cows come home, but without Russia victory will be impossible.
"The 68 countries that are members of the Western coalition will discuss the fight against Daesh without Russia. They can meet and discuss without Russia, but cannot achieve victory without it."
Together with the Syrian Army, as well as Iranian, Kurdish and Hezbollah units, Russia has played a decisive role in the fight against Daesh ever since September 2015, when at the request of the Syrian government, it began a massive campaign of airstrikes against the terrorists operating in Syria. Furthermore, Russia was engaged in fighting the terrorists even when several US allies including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar were actively supporting Daesh with financing, weaponry and logistical support.
Pushkov noted as much, pointing out in a second tweet that Russia, Iran and Syria, three countries "which are really fighting Daesh, have not been invited to Washington. Instead, dozens of countries have been invited which are there just for decoration."
"Three countries – Russia, Iran and Syria, which are really fighting Daesh, have not been invited to Washington. Instead, dozens of countries have been invited which are there just for decoration."
Iraqi special forces take part in an operation against Islamic State militants in Kokjali, west of Mosul, Iraq November 2, 2016
On Friday, the Russian General Staff said that Syrian government forces have reached the bank of the Euphrates River east of Khafsah for the first time in four years. Last week, Syrian government forces assisted by Russian air support re-liberated Palmyra. Nearly 200 Russian engineers have deployed to the city to begin mine-clearing operations.
On Thursday, the US-led coalition launched 22 airstrikes against Daesh as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. The strikes hit targets in Syria, including the de-facto Daesh capital of Raqqa. The coalition's campaign in Iraq has received the support of the Iraqi government, but those in Syria are not authorized by the Syrian government or the UN Security Council.
10 Mar, 2017
The US military is deploying 2,500 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division to Kuwait, with the declared goal of taking part in operations against Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL) in both Syria and Iraq, according to the Army Times.
The deployment of 2,500 personnel will include units of the Fort Bragg-based 82nd Airborne Division 2nd Brigade Combat Team (2nd BCT), Army Times reported on Friday, adding that 1,700 troops from the 2nd BCT have already been deployed to the region, spreading between Iraq and Kuwait.
On Thursday, an unnamed military official told Reuters the Pentagon wants to have a rapidly deployable Kuwait-based force as part of the ongoing change in the US strategy to defeat IS.
Army Lieutenant General Joseph Anderson, the US Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations, told House members on Wednesday that the additional troops will be “postured there to do all things Mosul, Raqqa, all in between,” as cited by the Army Times, referring to the Islamic State’s two main bastions in Iraq and Syria respectively.
“So the whole brigade will now be forward,” General Anderson reportedly added. However, the Army command refrained from providing details on the exact timeline of the new deployment.
According to the open sources, the 82nd Airborne’s 2nd BCT comprises over 4,000 soldiers forming several infantry, artillery, cavalry, and combat support battalions.
The Army announcement regarding the deployment of the 2nd BCT comes on the heels of a Thursday statement by the US Central Command (CENTCOM) that more conventional troops would be sent to the Middle East to carry out so-called “stability operations.”
Army General Joseph Votel, the CENTCOM commander, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “as we move more towards the latter part of these operations into more of the stability and other aspects of the operations we will see more conventional forces requirements perhaps,” as quoted by Stars and Stripes.
“We have become very comfortable and capable of operating together,” he added.
“So, what I have pledged to our commanders and what I expect from them is for them to ask for the capabilities that they need and then for us to ensure we have the right command and control, the right force protection, the right resources in place to ensure that we can function properly together.”
At the moment, roughly 6,000 US troops are operating in both Iraq and Syria, according to the Army Times. In the latest deployment, around 400 Marines and a Stryker infantry unit set up a fire support base outside the Syrian city of Raqqa.
Additionally, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment appeared in the Syrian city of Manbij over the weekend in Stryker armored vehicles “to discourage Syrian or Turkish troops from making any moves that could shift the focus away from an assault on Islamic State militants.”
Hundreds of US marines deployed to Syria filmed on the move ahead of Raqqa operation (VIDEO)
Published time: 10 Mar, 2017 02:01
Footage captured by RT’s Ruptly agency shows US troops with Humvees and eight-wheeled armored vehicles as hundreds of Marines have been dispatched to northeast Syria in support of the looming operation to retake Raqqa from Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL).
Dozens of heavily armored vehicles flying US flags have been stationed in what appears to be a desolate village, a Ruptly video released Thursday shows. Part of the large deployment, which is tasked with providing artillery support to the US-backed Syrian rebels during the offensive, can be seen forming convoys and moving down the narrow road in large numbers.
A handful of remaining locals, among them children, are waving their hands, greeting the soldiers as they pass them on their way toward the frontline.
The vehicles captured amid the maneuvers are a part of an amphibious task force of the 11th US Marine Expeditionary Unit that recently arrived in Syria to assist the Kurdish-led SDF and Syrian Arab Coalition as they are preparing for the operation to recapture Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa. The deployment of some 400 US Marines close to the battleground was confirmed by the US-led coalition earlier Thursday after the reports of their ground presence surfaced in US media.
While the unit is supposed to be playing a crucial role in providing support for the rebels in the coming offensive, in particular in form of artillery fire from M777 Howitzers, capable of striking targets within a range of up to 30 kilometers, the US Air Force say the Marines will not get any closer to the frontline, stressing that the unit has been dispatched to Syria “for a temporary period.”
Meanwhile, the SDF believes the Raqqa siege is a matter of “few weeks,” the group’s spokesman, Tala Silo, told Reuters on Thursday.
US Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, spokesman for the US-led coalition, was optimistic about the timing of the operation, as he stated that the effort by the forces battling ISIS in the area, to encircle the city, has been “going very, very well.”
The newly arrived US forces, Dorrian said, are going to “expedite the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa.” The Marines were deployed in addition to some 500 US personnel already in Syria.
Friday, 10 March 2017 02:04 GMT
UNITED NATIONS, March 9 (Reuters) - International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and a young Yazidi woman who was enslaved and raped by Islamic State fighters pushed Iraq on Thursday to allow a United Nations investigation into crimes by the militant group.
Britain is drafting a United Nations Security Council resolution to establish a U.N. investigation, but Clooney said the Iraqi government needs to send a letter formally requesting the inquiry before the 15-member council can vote.
Islamic State is committing genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq to destroy the minority religious community through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes, U.N. experts reported in June last year.
Clooney, who represents Nadia Murad and other Yazidi victims of Islamic State, said that despite public support by Iraq for a U.N. investigation, the government has not yet made a request.
"We do want to see an investigation take place with the cooperation of the Iraqi authorities," Clooney told Reuters in an interview after speaking at a United Nations event on accountability for crimes committed by Islamic State.
"But ultimately if that support is not forthcoming in terms of real action, then the U.N. has to think of other ways in which to achieve accountability," she said.
The Yazidis are a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions. Islamic State militants consider the Yazidis to be devil-worshippers.
Clooney said the Security Council could establish an inquiry without Iraq's consent, the 193-member U.N. General Assembly could establish a special team to preserve evidence and prepare cases - as it did for Syria in December - or the Security Council could refer the case to the International Criminal Court.
"All these options are on the table. They must be seriously considered, because victims like Nadia can't expect to wait forever," said Clooney, adding that it was extremely important that evidence was preserved for future prosecution.
When asked what may be preventing Iraq from requesting the investigation, Murad, 23, speaking through a translator, said: "They think that all Iraqis are persecuted by Daesh and they have to seek justice for everybody."
Daesh is another name for Islamic State.
"We will be seeking help and assistance," Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, told the U.N. event where Murad also spoke. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why Iraq had not yet requested a U.N. inquiry.
Britain's U.N. ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, told the U.N. event that he was working with Iraq on the issue.
"The proposal should support Iraq's national efforts and fully respect it national laws and sovereignty. But it is also an urgent task. And we look forward to finalizing that proposal with you very, very soon," he said.
Murad was abducted and held by Islamic State fighters for three months in 2014 in Mosul. She told her story to the U.N. Security Council in December 2015 and since then has been campaigning for justice.
An exhausted Murad told U.N. ambassadors on Thursday: "My words, tears and my testimony have not made you act. I wonder whether there is any point in continuing my campaign at all."
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Leslie Adler)
A new study suggests different groups of Americans see their country in radically divergent ways.
People participate in a vigil for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in June of 2016.Jose Cabezas / Reuters
In February, pollsters at the Public Religion Research Institute asked Americans about their impressions of discrimination in the United States. Two religious groups were included on the list of those who might face bias: Christians and Muslims. Depending on who was answering, the responses were wildly different.
The Christian Retreat From Public Life
Overall, people were twice as likely to say Muslims face discrimination as they were to say the same thing about Christians. Democrats were four times more likely to see Muslim vs. Christian discrimination, and non-religious people more than three. White Catholics and white mainline Protestants were both in line with the American average: Each group was roughly twice as likely to say Muslims face discrimination compared to how they see the Christian experience.
The people who stuck out, whose perceptions were radically different from others in the survey, were white evangelical Protestants. Among this group, 57 percent said there’s a lot of discrimination against Christians in the U.S. today. Only 44 percent said the same thing about Muslims. They were the only religious group more likely to believe Christians face discrimination compared to Muslims.
British govt admits to secret Syria war fund but refuses to identify ‘non-extremist’ fighters
9 Mar, 2017
Responding to questions from the Defence Committee, the government refused to identify the forces it is training in Iraq and Syria but appeared to confirm it has increased the amount of cash available for the conflict from a secretive war fund.
The committee asked a number of questions about the supposed 70,000 moderate fighters available to fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), cited by then Prime Minister David Cameron to make the case for British intervention in Syria in December 2015.
The committee said it had been forced to examine the claim with the help of outside sources because the government had previously refused to name the groups.Critics say the figure was either made up or consisted of groups similar to IS and Al-Qaeda.
“It would not be appropriate for the government to release or confirm such information on individual groups in Syria,” the official response said.
The government insisted “there are significant numbers of non-extremist fighters in Syria opposing both the Assad regime and terrorist groups like Daesh [IS].”
It disclosed that infantry and tactical training is being provided to some groups in the region and that money had been pooled from the controversial and highly secretive Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) to pursue UK aims in the region.
“We have increased pooled funding ... and set up joint units to provide an integrated approach to tackle international security issues, such as terrorism and counterproliferation,” the government response stated.
As recently as Monday politicians on the Joint Committee on National Security Strategy complained about the fund’s lack of transparency.
At a committee session, former Tory defense chief Lord Hamilton told Home Secretary Amber Rudd he had become aware the committee is “responsible to Parliament for the CSS fund,” but that MPs were not being told which nations would get handouts of cash.
“We said we would be mildly interested in knowing in which countries this money is spent,” he said.
Rudd said the fund is used for 97 different initiatives in 40 countries but declined to explain further, on the basis that the truth could be embarrassing and make other countries jealous.
10 March 2017
Mubashar, far left, leads the Barking branch of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, which will aim to follow last year's success with its 29th Charity Walk for Peace Picture: Naseem Hayat Photography
Hundreds of volunteers, politicians and Muslims joined for the launch of a sponsored walk that will raise money for 60 UK’s charity.
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More than 300 people attended the launch of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association's Charity Walk for Peace in Stratford Picture: Naseem Hayat PhotographyMore than 300 people attended the launch of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association's Charity Walk for Peace in Stratford Picture: Naseem Hayat Photography
Last year’s Charity Walk for Peace resulted in the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association (AMA) raising £500,000 for UK charities.
With 2017 marking the walk’s 29th year, head of the Barking and Dagenham branch of the AMA Mubashir Siddiqi welcomed charity representatives – including 10 from Barking and Dagenham groups – to a launch dinner on Friday where about 300 people were invited to sign up to this year’s walk.
“We’ve done this walk 28 times because the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association’s motto is ‘love for all, hatred for now’,” the 54-year-old said. “Everybody on this walk works really hard and the beauty of our Charity Walk for Peace is that every single penny raised goes to charities.”
Mubashir, who is vice-chairman of the annual walk, also thinks the fundraiser eases community cohesion.
At last year’s walk thousands of people came together for the walk, which begins at 1,000 Dockside in Silvertown, to walk five miles, raising more than £16,000 for charities in east London.
Fundraisers will meet at the walk’s start this year on May 14 at 8.30am to register, with the walk beginning at 10.30am.
Mubashir said the walk, which was launched at Stratford’s Old Town Hall in Broadway, also served a wider purpose for his minority Muslim sect as fellow Ahmadis are persecuted as non-believers by the state of Pakistan.
He believes that a encouraging people of different faiths to join in the walk is an effective way of healing divisions in communities.
“There’s a lot of negative propaganda about Muslims in the press so we’re trying to bring the community together as one,” he said. “The launch dinner was brilliant and this year we expect about 500 walkers.”
Assembly Member for City and East Unmesh Desai attended the launch dinner, where it was announced the AMA will aim to best last year’s total donation by £250,000.
The AMA has raised more than £3.5million since its first Walk for Peace.
10 Mar 201734
The European Council has joined the chorus of opposition to the UK’s anti-terror and de-radicalisation programmes, claiming they are “fomenting fear and resentment… particular in the Muslim community”.
In a highly critical report, an Advisory Committee of Eurocrats said: “Work on integration appears to be jeopardised by certain aspects of counter-terrorism policy and anti-extremism/anti-radicalisation programmes, such as Prevent and Channel.”
Prevent and Channel target “individuals at risk of being drawn into violent extremism” and terrorism and were launched after the 7/7 London bombings.
Since then, the UK has not suffered a major attack. But European nations, which do not have similar initiatives, have suffered numerous deadly attacks costing hundreds of innocent lives.
However, according to the European Council, the ‘perception’ of Prevent is more important.
“These measures are perceived by interlocutors as a general regression in the protection of individual rights, which may disproportionately affect children belonging to national and ethnic minorities,” they write.
Such interlocutors include the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which has called for it to be scrapped, and the hard-left National Union of Students (NUS), who say it is “racist” and has worked with Islamists to organise workshops instructing students how to “resist” the programmes.
The Muslim Council of Britain (which is linked to pro-Caliphate Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood) and CAGE (the Muslim rights group which called Jihadi John a “beautiful young man”) are also fierce opponents of Prevent.
The perception that the initiatives “disproportionately” target ethnic minorities and Muslims has also been challenged.
Despite the vast majority of terror attacks and plots in the UK being linked to radical Islam, the report itself recognises that 57 per cent of those referred to the police for de-radicalisation since April 2012 were Muslim.
Furthermore, until January, one in ten referrals had links to the “far-right” nationwide. In Yorkshire, “far-right” referrals accounted for nearly 50 per cent of the caseload, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the East Midlands.
Detective Superintendent Nik Adams, the North East regional coordinator for Prevent, said in January there was a renewed focus on the “far-right”.
He conceded the “far-right” was predominantly known for street protests and damaging “community cohesion”, rather than terrorism, but said things had changed since the murder of Joe Cox MP by a Nazi sympathiser in June.
In December, Chief Constable Simon Cole, the National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman for Prevent, said Prevent was “absolutely fundamental” to Britain’s counter-terrorism efforts.
He said: “Some of those that criticise, criticise perceptions of Prevent rather than what it is. This is not about people who are suspected of terror offences. This is about people who community members have concerns about and need help.”
10 MAR 2017
A Tory council candidate has been suspended over an online rant against Muslims.
George McIntyre is due to stand for the Conservatives for Midlothian Council in May’s local authority elections.
But Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson was forced to suspend him from the party yesterday after the Record flagged up his vile social media comments.
cIntyre – a former warrant officer in the Royal Scots – said he was “sick to the back teeth” of “whinging” Muslims and suggested they should leave the country.
He was responding to news a programme to vaccinate Glasgow schoolchildren against flu had been delayed amid concerns it contained pork products.
The Fluenz vaccine was being given as a nasal spray that contained gelatine. It was put back for a number of weeks in October 2013 so Muslims could be offered a traditional jab instead.
But the episode enraged McIntyre, who took to Facebook to vent his anger in a diatribe littered with spelling mistakes.
He wrote: “Sickened to the core! The entire City of Glasgow childrens flu innoculations were halted because a handful of Muslims are whinging about the fact there was geletine in the mix and they can’t take it!!!
“Well don’t frigging take it then and shut your whinging mouths, no wonder people get sick to the back teeth of you! If you are that way minded go and live in a Muslim country where you do not get any free preventive medication.
“Oh but you won’t do that will you.... ungrateful baskets I’m sick to the back teeth of them. Its
for our councillors to man up and tell them to sod off. Whinge over.”
The rant has been online for three-and-a-half years but McIntyre – who is due to stand for the Bonyrigg and Lasswade ward on the council – still passed the Tories’ vetting procedures.
After the Record highlighted the post to party bosses yesterday, a spokesman said: “These comments are clearly unacceptable, and we have suspended George McIntyre with immediate effect.”
The SNP questioned why McIntyre had been approved as a council candidate in the first place.
A spokesman said: “The comments are absolutely appalling, and it’s particularly worrying that he was selected as a council candidate after demanding racist action from councillors themselves.
“Voters in Midlothian will be wondering why on earth the Tories considered him a suitable
The SNP have been criticised for failing to discipline one of their councillors after he refused to apologise for inflammatory remarks made about English influence on Scotland.
The comments by Dave Doogan, deputy leader of SNP-run Perth and Kinross Council, forced Nicola Sturgeon to insist that her party are not anti-English.
Doogan claimed Scotland had been “under the heel of foreign influence for 300 years” and referred to “quislings”.
March 10, 2017
(JTA) — The party of Geert Wilders, a Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker whose critics say is a racist and a fascist, is the third-most popular among local Jews, according to a pre-elections poll of community members.
With 814 respondents, the poll, whose results the Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad Jewish weekly published Thursday ahead of the March 15 general elections, comprised nearly 2 percent of the Jewish population of the Netherlands. It is one of the most comprehensive polls conducted in recent years among members of the that community, which is widely believed to be left leaning.
The right-wing populist Party for Freedom, however, has the vote of 10 percent of the people who took the poll. The party enjoys a 15-percent approval rate in the general population, according to other polls, and is in a neck and neck race for the lead with the ruling, center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy.
Among Dutch Jews polled, the ruling party was the most popular with 17 percent, followed by the center-left Labor Party, which received 11 percent of the vote among those polled.
The deeply conservative Reformed Political Party and the more liberal conservative Christian Union received together another 17 percent of the Jewish vote – a vastly higher proportion than their support in the general population that likely owes to the stridently pro-Israel and pro-Jewish policies of both parties.
The Socialist Party, which is distrusted by many Dutch Jews for its support for Palestinian causes, received 1.2 percent of the vote. NIW conducted the survey with help from the Crescas Jewish cultural group and other organizations.
Overall, rightwing and center-right parties garnered 55 percent of the vote in the poll.
Approximately 75 percent of the Jews polled in the survey said they viewed “Muslim values as a threat to Europe.” The same proportion of those polled said Muslim culture is more violent than others. But approximately 40 percent of respondents also said Islam belongs in Europe, whereas another 40 percent said it does not.
Wilders was convicted of inciting discrimination in December for promising supporters to make sure the Netherlands has fewer Moroccans.
Despite the support of some Dutch Jews, the Party for Freedom has angered many of them with its support of a ban on ritual slaughter and for teaming up with other far-right groups, including France’s National Front.Wilders was acquitted in 2011 against hate-incitement charges in connection with a short video in which he inveighed against Islam, a religion he has called “evil and fascist.”
Wilders, who in his youth lived for two years on an Israeli moshav in the Jordan Valley, has called Israel “a place where I feel home” and said it was “close to his heart.” He has also called Israel a “canary in the coalmine” and “the West’s first line of defense against Islam,” including to his many visits to the Jewish state. He has repeatedly said he was arguing for “Judeo-Christian values,” which he said are threatened by Islam in the Netherlands and elsewhere.
Friday 10 March 2017
Four suspected Islamist militants were killed in a firefight with Philippine troops amid a stepped-up offensive against the terrorists who beheaded a German hostage last month, the military said Friday.
The clash erupted when troops encountered a group of 15 Abu Sayyaf militants while on patrol on the island of Tapiantana, part of the province of Basilan, 900 kilometres south of Manila, on Wednesday.
Major General Carlito Galvez, a regional military commander, said one of the slain militants was a cousin of the Abu Sayyaf group's top leader and had led past attacks by the militants.
The military heightened its offensive against the terrorist group after the militants beheaded a 70-year-old German man held captive for three months on the nearby island of Jolo on February 26 after ransom was not paid.
The militants are still believed to be holding captive more than 30 hostages, including 12 Vietnamese sailors, seven Indonesians and a Dutch man who was kidnapped in 2012, according to Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the military.
Lorenzana said the number of hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf has more than doubled since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in late June.
"It is very embarrassing to the whole world," he told reporters on Thursday. "The problem in the southern Philippines is piracy and kidnapping. It's actually giving me a headache."
"Sometimes, I can't sleep at night, thinking about how to solve the problem there," he added.
Aside from undertaking kidnappings for ransom, the Abu Sayyaf group has been blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines.
TEHRAN (FNA)- At least sixty four militants were killed during the counter-terrorism and clearance operations in the past twenty four hours, Afghanistan's Ministry of Defense said.
According to a statement by the ministry, at least four foreign militants fighting with the terrorist groups were killed during the latest counter-terrorism operations, Khaama Press reported.
The statement further added that the counter-terrorism operations were conducted in the past 24 hours with the support of the Afghan Air Force and the artillery units of the Afghan army in Laghman, Kapisa, Maidan Wardak, Paktia, Khost, Kandahar, Zabul, Uruzgan, Badghis, Herat, Baghlan and Helmand provinces.
At least twenty eight militants including a local commander of the group Kamran hailing from Pakistan and two Iranians were killed during the operations in Lashkargah and Nad-e-Ali district.
The ministry further added that six militants were wounded, a vehicle and four Ak-47 rifles were destroyed along with several Improvised Explosive Device and other types of explosives.
At least nineteen insurgents were killed, seventeen others were wounded, and three vehicles were destroyed during the operations in Dahan-e-Ghori and Baghlan-e-Markazi districts of Baghlan, the statement said.
It also added that eight insurgents were killed and another militant was wounded during a separate operation in Zurmat district of Paktia province.
According to the ministry, at least four militants were killed and another militant was wounded in a separate operation conducted in Nish district of Kandahar.
In another operation conducted in Andar district of Southeastern Ghazni province, at least three militants were killed and nine others were wounded, the ministry said, adding that two militants were killed and three others were wounded during the other operations in Uruzgan and Kapisa provinces.
By KHAAMA PRESS - Fri Mar 10 2017
The commander of the United States Central Command General Joseph L. Votel has requested the US Congress to approve the budget for the Afghan forces Blackhawk program.
In his statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Votel informed regarding the significant capability gaps in Afghan Air Force, saying “The current rotary wing fleet consisting primarily of the Russian-made Mi-17 is both undersized and proving to be more expensive and difficult to sustain than originally envisioned and is experiencing a higher than expected attrition rate.”
Gen. Votel further added “Going forward, transitioning from Russian to U.S. airframes will ensure Afghan forces have a more sustainable fleet that is interoperable with U.S. forces and will enhance the Afghans’ ability to operate independently of coalition forces. The U.S. government is considering a critical AAF initiative to replace the unsustainable Russian-manufactured aircraft fleet and make up for combat losses in Afghan transport helicopters by providing U.S. UH-60s.”
He said “The DoD-request of $814.5M for FY17 for the first year of our plan to recapitalize the Afghan fleet provides funding to procure 53 UH-60s, with refurbishment and modification of the first 18; 30 additional armed MD-530F helicopters; 6 additional A-29 attack aircraft; and five AC-208s. The requested FY2017 Afghan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) budget, including the 23 additional funds for the first year of this proposed aviation initiative, went to Congress on 10 Nov 2016.؛
“The FY17 proposal is pending approval and we appreciate your support in reaching resolution as soon as possible to mitigate the gaps in Afghan aerial fires and lift capabilities,” Gen. Votel said, adding that “Transition from Mi-17 to UH-60 airframes will eventually eliminate reliance on Russian sourced parts for maintenance requirements. With our support, we can expect the AAF will continue to build needed capability over the next few years and into the future.”
No lasting actions taken by Pakistani military against Haqqani network: Gen. Votel
The commander of the United States Central Command General Joseph L. Votel has said the Pakistani military and security services have not taken lasting actions against the notorious Haqqani terrorist network inside its soil so far.
In his statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Votel said “Pakistan remains a critical partner in the counter-terrorism fight. Twenty U.S-designated terrorist organizations operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan sub-region; seven of the 20 organizations are in Pakistan.”
Gen. Votel further added “So long as these groups maintain safe haven inside of Pakistan they will threaten long-term stability in Afghanistan. Of particular concern to us is the Haqqani Network (HQN) which poses the greatest threat to coalition forces operating in Afghanistan.”
“To date, the Pakistan military and security services have not taken lasting actions against HQN. We have consistently called upon the Pakistanis to take the necessary actions to deny terrorists safe haven and improve security in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region,” he added.
However, he said “We have seen some promising coordination between the Pakistan and Afghanistan militaries aimed at addressing instability in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. The Pakistan military in particular continues to conduct counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in the FATA and facilitate, via ground and air lines of communication, the sustainment of coalition operations in Afghanistan.”
Haqqani network was formed in the late 1970s by Jalaluddin Haqqani. The group is allied with al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban and cooperates with other terrorist organizations in the region.
The US Department of State designated the HQN as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on September 7, 2012.
ANI | Updated: Mar 10, 2017, 04.18 PM IST
GENEVA: Pakistani blogger and human rights defender Ahmad Waqass Goraya, who disappeared from Lahore in January this year, said he was brutally tortured before his release after almost a month in captivity.
"I was tortured beyond limits. My ear nerve is still damaged, my muscles are also damaged", said the blogger at a side event titled "Closing the Net: Attacks on Asian Human Rights Defenders" during the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Goraya, who lives in the Netherlands for over a decade, said police in Pakistan has filed a case of blasphemy against him.
He added, "You see radical people are running Facebook pages and they are not being targeted. However, the activists and their families are being targeted by both Islamists and law enforcement agencies".
Five bloggers and activists, including university professor Salman Haider, disappeared from various parts of Pakistan. They were released after few weeks following widespread protests and condemnation by the people in Pakistan and rest of the world.
Online bloggers and writers are being frequently targeted in South Asia, especially in Pakistan and Bangladesh, where Islamic fundamentalists are against those speaking against Islam and military.
Speaking at the event, Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, a publisher and writer from Bangladesh said he was targeted by Islamists in his country for publishing books on Islamists. He was brutally attacked in his office and now lives in-exile in Norway.
"From 2013 to 2016, almost 14 bloggers and writers were killed in Bangladesh by the Islamist groups. I got the threat in February 2015 during a book fair. Two of the writers, whose books I had published, were killed and I lost most of the business", said Chowdhury.
He added, "On October 31, 2015, they (Islamists) came in my office and attacked me. They wanted to kill me but luckily I survived".
Chowdhury blamed state and non-state actors, both, for curbing freedom of expression.
ISLAMABAD: Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Commissioner Zafar Abdullah Thursday inaugurated a new Islamic finance centre for promotion of Islamic investments at the Abbottabad Sarmayakari Markaz.
As envisioned by the SECP chairman, this is an initiative of the non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs) and the Modaraba Association to expand the reach of regulated Islamic investments.
Speaking on the occasion, Zafar said that the SECP was committed to promoting modarabas as pure Islamic financial institutions. In consultation with stakeholders, he said that the SECP had already reviewed the entire regulatory framework for modarabas and had approved the concept paper for structural reforms to implement the concept of modaraba in its true Islamic spirit.
He told stakeholders that he had advised the modaraba sector to set up a consumer-financing centre in Rawalpindi to provide consumer finance to the public in a regulated form at affordable rates. "The modaraba sector responded overwhelmingly, and four modarabas had established the first Islamic finance centre in Rawalpindi to provide Islamic finance to low-income customers for purchase of motorcycles. Until February 28, 2017, the centre had disbursed Rs 14.97 million to 249 clients."
In his remarks, NBFIs and Modaraba Association Chairman Ayaz Dawood said the centre would initially focus on providing investor education and awareness about the NBFIs and the modaraba sector, expanding outreach of the association's members to the public in Abbottabad and its adjoining areas. "Later, the centre will provide public affordable Sharia-compliant financing." He appreciated the vision the SECP chairman for extending the outreach of modarabas to the general public and broadening the range of Islamic financial products.
Senior officials of the SECP, chief executive officers of modaraba companies and officials of various financial institutions attended the inaugural ceremony.
It may be noted that modaraba is the pioneering form of Islamic finance in Pakistan. At present, it has as many as 80,000 investors - three times more than the number of shareholders in Islamic banks.
According to a statement, the modaraba scam has nothing to do with the regulated modaraba sector and investors interested in Islamic investing are advised to stay away from unregulated investment activities.
The Sarmayakari Markaz in Abbottabad is managed by the Central Depository Company and it already has branch offices of some of the leading investment management companies and brokerage houses.
Debayan Roy | News18.com
Islamic Scholars Back Family's Decision to Refuse Terror Suspect's Body Saifullah's father Sartaj had refused to accept the body of his son.
New Delhi: Islamic scholars have welcomed a trend that started from 2008 when the mother of a Lashkar militant refused to take the body of her son for burial as he was guilty of anti-national activities and now slain Saifullah’s body too was rejected by his father for burial, calling it ‘a symbolic act of upholding an essential teaching of Islam’ and that is to ‘love the land they live in.’
Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali, executive member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), told News18 that’s Saifullah’s fathers’ refusal to take his body for burial upholds the Islamic teaching of loving one’s own country dearly.
Also Read: Will I lose My Job Because of my Son, Asks Terror Suspect Saifullah's Father
“The fact that Saifullah’s parents refused to take his body back is certainly Islamic. In Islam, a love for one’s own country has been given a lot of importance. It cannot be compromised at any cost. Hence when a Muslim goes against this principle and attacks his own countrymen, he is violating a fundamental principle of Islam and thus refusing to take the body of such a person for cremation is certainly not barred in Islam,” said Rasheed.
Saifullah was killed in Lucknow on Monday in an exchange of fire with the police after a 12-hour stand-off. He was suspected to be linked with the blast in the Bhopal-Ujjain train. After the police tried to hand over the body to his father Sartaj, he refused to accept his body saying "a traitor" is no son of theirs.
"One who indulges in anti-national activities can't be my son. Look, someone who's a traitor cannot be our son. We will absolutely not accept a traitor's body. He has brought infamy not only to us but to the whole nation, therefore we will not accept his body for last rites" said Sartaj.
Similarly in 2008 when four militants were killed in an encounter in Kashmir’s Kupwara district, one of them was Abdul Raheem from Malappuram. But his mother refused to accept his body.
“If my son was involved in anti-national activities, he deserved the fate he met.… My prayers are that no woman should face the fate of being called the mother of an extremist,” Raheem’s mother had said.
Even the chairman of the Imam Council of India, Maulana Masood Ul Hassan Qasmi agreed with Khalid Rasheed and told News18 that the act of not accepting the body back is ‘certainly not against Islam.’
“No certainly it is not un-Islamic as the rationale given by the family fits the bill of not violating the principle of Islam. Certainly the love for one’s own nation has been accorded great importance in Islam and a refusal take back the body of a person who has gone against the country is a personal choice and does not violate the religion at all,” said Qasmi.
He also expressed concern as to the probability of Saifullah being later declared innocent by the courts and chance for the parents to repent their decision.
“But there is a possibility that the parents might repent their decision at a later date because there are hundreds of fake encounters which take place in India. If there is an investigation and 10 years and if 10 years down the line it is proven that Saifullah was innocent was just planted by agencies then this decision would be repented. But nonetheless the parents have displayed a very symbolic gesture,” said Qasmi.
However, another member of the AIMPLB, Zafaryab Jilani, differed with the above scholars and told News18 that this refusal amounts to insulting the dead and ‘this is certainly not allowed.’
“This is definitely not a trend is only a very rare instance. Even during the time of the holy Prophet there used to be wars and enemies used to be killed, but there is no mention of insulting a dead body. A human is guilty only till he is alive and after his death, the decision lies with the almighty to convict him. But insulting a dead body is not allowed and refusing to bury is a personal call,” said Jilani.
By Afsana Rashid, The Milli Gazette Online
Published Online: Mar 10, 2017
Srinagar: Two civilians and two militants were killed during an encounter between militants and security forces in Padgampora village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on March 9.
Fifteen-year-old boy Aamir Nazir Wani was killed during clashes that broke out near the encounter site in Padgampora in Pulwama district. A resident of Beegumbagh Kakapora in south Kashmir, Aamir was a student of ninth standard. He was rushed to a nearby primary health centre where he was declared brought dead. According to the police, Aamir was killed with a bullet to his neck. Another civilian identified as Jalalud-Din, 33, a resident of Tahab in Pulwama also succumbed to his injuries at the District Hospital Pulwama, apparently due to cardiac arrest, following the forces’ action near the encounter site.
Both the militants killed in an encounter were identified as Mohammad Shafi Wagay alias Ehsan and Jahangir Ahmad Ganie alias Saifullah from the Pulwama district. Reportedly, they were active for more than a year and belonged to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant outfit.
As the news of the gunfight between the militants and the security forces spread, scores of people reportedly turned up and started attacking the security forces with stones in an attempt to break the cordon and help militants flee. Several people sustained injuries in the clashes and were rushed to hospital. Three residential houses were reportedly razed to the ground after they were blasted by the security forces using explosives. Soon after the encounter came to an end, scores of protesters at Pampore took to the streets and raised slogans.
Police in a statement here said that acting on a tip-off regarding the presence of militants in Padgampora, a cordon and search operation was launched by police and 55 Rashtriya Rifles (RR). During the search operation, militants present in the area fired on the search party that was retaliated, ensuing an encounter. Police said these militants were involved in many incidents of violence including killing of security and police personnel and political activists, grenade attacks on security forces and police installations in south Kashmir. They were also involved in threatening masses to refrain from taking part in the forthcoming elections and motivating youth to join militant ranks in Awantipora, Pulwama and Shopian areas. They were also involved in recent bank robberies and weapon snatching incidents in south and central Kashmir.
Condemning the killings, Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (March 9) tweeted that the warning of the Indian Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat has been put to action. Even JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik in a statement to local news agency, KNS, said that police and Army by killing Aamir with impunity have actually translated the Indian Army chief’s threat into action which is highly condemnable. The Army Chief had issued a stern statement on 15 February warning the protesters against disrupting anti-insurgency operations in Kashmir, by saying that they would be seen as “anti-nationals” and treated as “over-ground workers” of the militants.
Terming the incident ‘painful’, independent legislator Er Rashid in a statement here (March 9) said that it proves that the situation has gone out of hands of New Delhi. “Though security forces have been targeting unarmed civilians from day one, the threats of the Indian Army Chief have given them a licence to kill. Let New Delhi and its puppets answer what forced thousands of people to risk their lives to try to save the lives of two militants who were killed in an encounter.” He alleged that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was acting as an OGW (Over Ground Worker) to security forces and had given security forces a freehand to do whatever they want, just to ensure that she remains in the good books of New Delhi. High Court Bar Association in a statement here, March 9, said that not only the Army Chief but Director General Police as well have given a free hand to the security forces to kill, blind and injure innocent unarmed Kashmiris, without having any kind of respect for their age and the state of their health. Bashir Sidiq, General Secretary of the Association, said that nowhere else in the world are the pellet guns used to blind people but it is only in Kashmir that pellet guns are used against innocent civilians and they are not only blinded but also killed by these pellets.
Expressing anguish and grief over the killing of Aamir, Chief Minister on March 9 told local news gathering agency, KNS, that it was highly unfortunate that youth are caught in the vicious cycle of violence in the state which has consumed so many precious lives and left behind a trail of death and destruction.
Meanwhile, another militant identified as Mushtaq Ahmad, was killed in a brief shootout in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district on March 9. A native of Bandipora, Ahmad was reportedly affiliated with Hizbul Mujhaideen.
TIMESOFINDIA.COM | Mar 10, 2017
NEW DELHI/BHUBANESWAR: Noted sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik has been felicitated by Bahrain for his contribution to arts and culture.
Pattnaik was honoured by Bahrain's Minister of Education Majid Bin Ali Al Nuaimi on Thursday for his significant contribution to the Spring of Culture's Community Programme
Pattnaik shared his experience and skills with the teachers of Bharain over a 5-day period. He was joined by several educators who learned the magic of sand art from the maestro and created their own sand sculptures.
"I have been called for multiple programmes across the globe. But when the Kingdom of Bahrain invited me to educate its teachers who in turn can share their knowledge with million others, I was deeply touched by the concept and accepted the invitation at once," Pattnaik said.
The award-winning sculptor was also felicitated by the Bahrain Odia community at a grand ceremony.
Pattnaik has been awarded the Padmashree in 2014 and constantly works towards making a difference by creating thought-provoking reflections on matters of the environment, politics, national integrity and religious tolerance.
AMU, Allahabad university among 'non-performers'
Manash Pratim Gohain | TNN | Updated: Mar 10, 2017
NEW DELHI: The government suspects that some of the country's most prestigious universities are underperforming and has, hence, asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) to audit them for academic and research quality.
The Union ministry of HRD has identified a number of "non-performing" centrally funded institutions, and of these, 11 will undergo the audit, according to a senior ministry official.
Aligarh Muslim University, Allahabad University, Pondicherry University and Central University of Jammu are among the 11 universities to undergo audit. The other seven varsities are Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University, Central University of Jharkhand, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University at Lucknow, Central University of Rajasthan, Dr Hari Singh Gour University at Sagar, Tripura University and Mahatma Gandhi Antarashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya .
"The list has been forwarded and UGC has been asked to conduct the audit as soon as possible. No specific time frame has been set. The UGC will first set the criteria for the audit and then the process will commence. The broad mandate of the audit is to assess academic quality, research activities and research output," said the official.
A three-member team has been constituted to monitor the audit. According to UGC sources, the audit will include output and quality of research, students' results, and placement records wherever applicable. The team is also working on other criteria and is likely to intimate the ministry about them.
" There is an urgent need to look at the universities and their performance. Academic and research quality at the universities reflect the quality of education in the country. There will be various other factors, such as frequency of review of courses, new courses, and how relevant current campus research is, which will be taken into account," said a senior UGC official. "The idea is to find out if the return on investment is being justified and whether students are getting the kind of education for which they come to these universities,"he added.
Sources said there are more "non-performing universities" and that this audit could be extended once they were identified. "The audit is likely to start by the end of March, or in April 2017 and will end depending on how much time will be needed," he said.
Xinjiang separatists are China's 'most prominent' challenge: official
Separatists in western China pose the “most prominent” challenge to the country's security, economy and social stability, the China Daily newspaper quoted a top security official on Friday as saying.
Beijing has long said it faces a determined campaign by a group known as the East Turkestan Independence Movement, or ETIM, in the far western region of Xinjiang, where hundreds of people have been killed in recent years in attacks and unrest between mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs and the majority Han Chinese.
“(ETIM) is the most prominent challenge to China's social stability, economic development and national security,” Cheng Guoping, State Commissioner for counterterrorism and security, was quoted as saying.
The comments come about a week after a video purportedly by the militant Islamic State (IS) group surfaced showing Uighurs training in Iraq, vowing to plant their flag in China and saying that blood will “flow in rivers”.
Underscoring the region's importance in the eyes of China's ruling Communist Party, President Xi Jinping attended a Xinjiang delegation meeting on Friday on the sidelines of the country's annual parliamentary session, one of a select group of provincial and regional meetings Xi joins every year.
The official Xinhua news agency reported his attendance on its microblog, but did not give details. China is worried that Uighurs have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for militant groups there, having travelled illegally via Southeast Asia and Turkey.
Rights groups say the unrest in Xinjiang is more a reaction to repressive government policies, and experts have questioned whether ETIM exists as a cohesive militant group. China denies there is any repression in Xinjiang.
Cheng said China should “closely check in on whether Afghanistan is becoming another paradise for extremist and terrorist groups. Such a major development may pose a serious challenge to the security of our northwestern border”.
Last month, the Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst think-tank said in a report on its website that Chinese troops were on Afghan soil conducting joint patrols with their Afghan counterparts. China has dismissed such reports.
Security concerns have surfaced as China pursues its “One Belt, One Road” initiative to open up new land and sea routes for Chinese goods, and pours billions of dollars into investment projects around Asia, including central Asia, and beyond.
Cheng said maintaining security where there are related projects was “an important task and a demanding challenge”.
The Global Times, an influential state-run tabloid, said Xinjiang authorities would issue a new anti-extremism regulation this year, possibly later this month, that would “prevent the spread of extremist ideas”.
It said the regulation would supplement an existing counterterrorism law that is focused on acts of terrorism, but did not give details.
“Lawmakers need to distinguish between ethnic habits and extremist practices and understand that not all extremist ideas constitute a crime,” the paper cited Dong Xinguang, deputy director of the standing committee of Xinjiang's regional legislature, as saying.
Friday, March 10, 2017
Muslim minorities in Myanmar subjected to torture, claims UN official
A UN official has claimed Muslims in Myanmar have suffered 'crimes against humanity' committed by the police and military
By Luke Dolan - @LJDolan93
A leading UN official has claimed the police and military in Myanmar have committed "crimes against humanity" against the county's Muslim minority.
Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur for human rights, told the BBC Muslims in the country have been subjected to torture.
She claimed the problem of abuse was "systemic" within the Myanmese forces after she spoke to refugees from Bangladesh.
Lee insisted it was the government who had to bear the responsibility for these actions against Muslims in the country.
Representatives for Aung San Suu Kyi - the leader of Myanmar for almost a year as the head of the National League for Democracy - declined interview requests with BBC reporters.
A spokesperson for Myanmar's head of government claimed the allegations were "exaggerated."
March 10th, 2017
BEIJING: More than 20,000 Myanmar refugees have entered China, fleeing areas along the border after violent clashes broke out between the southeast Asian country’s army and ethnic rebels this week, Beijing said on Thursday.
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said at a regular press briefing on Thursday that the Myanmar residents are being offered humanitarian assistance “to temporarily avoid the war”.
The latest clashes are in north-eastern Shan state, which has seen repeated bouts of heavy fighting between the army and a band of well-armed ethnic minority militias since November, undercutting a government peace bid. The fighting has raised fears of a repeat of 2015, when the displaced flooded across the border into China, raising tensions with Beijing.
China has called for an immediate ceasefire, urging restraint to “prevent further escalation and take practical and effective measures to restore peace and stability to the border areas,” Geng told reporters.
He said bullets and artillery shells have entered Chinese territory, injuring one Chinese resident and damaging some property. At least 36 people were killed after Monday’s audacious pre-dawn raid by the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) on police and military posts at Laukkai, the capital of the Kokang region.
Many rebel groups in the border region share close cultural ties with China, speaking Chinese dialects and using the country’s yuan currency.
Late on Tuesday the MNDAA said they attacked Laukkai to protest “continued military pressure” on the Northern Alliance, a coalition of four ethnic minority armies which have yet to join national peace talks. The rebels conceded in their statement that they have temporarily retreated due to the army pushback.
(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Nigerian carpenter Bashir Muhammad has never been to Iran, but he would fight to the death for the country.
“If Iran wants our help, we are ready to go and help it, even with our blood,” he said. “Donald Trump needs to know that Iran has followers all over the world ready to help defend it against America.”
Touring the narrow unpaved streets of Zaria in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north, Muhammad shows Iran’s success in building enclaves of fervent support way beyond the Middle East and the limits of any harsher foreign policy planned by the U.S. president to contain it. The 30-year-old is among an increasing number of converts to the Shiite school of Islam that Iran has been exporting since its 1979 revolution.
As the world adjusts to the Trump era, the message for Washington and its allies is that Iran wields growing influence in unexpected places. The Islamic power has been able to expand its reach regardless of the economic sanctions that excluded it from much of the global oil market until last year.
In this case, it’s in Africa’s most populous nation, key oil producer and a country where the sectarian battle that has thrown the Middle East into chaos is festering. Nigeria’s Muslims are mainly Sunnis and Iran’s growing foothold in Africa has alarmed the Saudis.
“Iran is on its own crusade, its own global war, believing that the U.S. is out to get it,” said Paul Salem, vice president of the Middle East Institute in Washington. “They’re building networks, under religious slogans, that they can use in any fight. And wherever they are expanding, there’s a potential for a sectarian Shiite-Sunni conflict.”
Westerns need to spread Shiite-Sunni conflict but reality is that heads of both sides (Shia, Sunni) intend to be brothers and they order their followers to be united against the enemy.
Trump has signaled a sharp departure from the detente that marked the previous American administration’s relations with Iran following a landmark accord over its nuclear program in 2015. The U.S. last month put Iran “on notice” following a ballistic missile test and imposed more sanctions. Trump called the nation “the world’s top sponsor of terrorism.” Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, has said there's a “global existential war” between some parts of the Muslim world and the “Judeo-Christian West.”
The Pentagon is monitoring Iranian activities in Nigeria and West Africa, spokesman Christopher Sherwood said. Saudi cables released in 2015 by WikiLeaks reveal concern about Iran-driven Shiite expansion from Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Nigeria in West Africa to India and China in Asia.
Muhammad, who was born a Sunni, said he converted five years ago despite his family’s threat to kill him. Last month, it was clear where his loyalties lay. Muhammad was with a group of friends outside a local mosque in one of Zaria’s poorer neighborhoods when one of them picked up the news on his phone of Trump’s intention to take a tougher stance on Iran.
“We burst out laughing,” he said. If Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei “says everyone who finds an American in their country should kill him, we will kill him,” he explained as the streets filled up with girls from elementary school, their hair covered with flowing waist-length veils.
For Muhammad, the culprits are not only the Americans. It’s also their allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. As he lashed out at those two countries, his words were a reminder of the rhetoric used by Hassan Nasrallah, the Lebanese leader of Hezbollah, which is funded and armed by Iran.
“There’s enmity between Iran on one side and the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia on the other side,” said Muhammad.
Estimates vary wildly as to how many of Nigeria’s 190 million population, which is roughly divided between Christians and Muslims, are now Shiites. Some followers put their number at 20 million, while Sunnis say they’re not even a quarter of that.
It all began with a Sunni Muslim university activist, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who was so impressed with the Iranian revolution that he wanted one at home. When that didn’t happen, Sheikh Zakzaky went to Iran, at some point he became a Shiite and later started wearing the white turban of a cleric. He became the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and turned it into a vehicle for proselytizing and gaining followers in the 1990s.
Things escalated when Nigerian troops killed more than 800 Shiites in Zaria in December 2015 and arrested Sheikh Zakzaky and hundreds of his followers. The army accused the Shiite group of attempting to kill Nigeria’s army chief-of-staff, a charge the movement denies. Sheikh Zakzaky remains in jail.
Muhammad, the carpenter, converted after attending two daily lectures by Sheikh Zakzaky for weeks. Former newspaper vendor Sharif Abu Bakr Zakariya, 43, said he became a Shiite more than 20 years ago after the cleric “told us the truth about Islam.”
Paralyzed for the past decade, he sat in a wheelchair in a tiny room decorated with a picture of the late Imam Khomeini, Iran’s first supreme leader. He agreed with Muhammad’s assessment of the world. “Trump is carrying out a Zionist agenda,” Zakariya said. And what if he confronts Iran? “No, he won’t be successful,” he said.
Zakariya, who lives with his wife and seven children in two rooms in a low-income neighborhood in the city of Kano, the hub of Nigeria’s Muslim north, survives on handouts from Sheikh
Zakzaky’s Islamic movement. He gets about 1,500 naira ($4.80) a week. He said he would offer his kids to Iran if Imam Khamenei said he needs them to confront America.
“I love him,” he said. “I love Iran.”
In Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city, Hamza Yousef, a tall, soft-spoken student, said he still hasn’t told his parents that he has become a Shiite. Yousef, 25, was born in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, where his family still lives. He’s now a student at the Almustafa International University, a branch of the main Islamic university based in Qom, Iran, which has campuses in several countries, including South Africa and Mali.
The U.S. wants to punish Iran “out of spite,” said Yousef. “America is an enemy of Islam.”
Seated on the floor of the center he runs in a low-income neighborhood, Shiite cleric Sheikh Sanus Abdul-Qader pointed up to the pictures of top Iranian, Lebanese and Nigerian Shiite leaders hung on the wall above him. They included Imam Khamenei and Hezbollah leader Nasrallah.
“We consider them heroes who strive to help humankind and symbols of humanity," Abdul-Qader said, as giggling children filled jerry cans with water from the center’s spigot on the dark street outside.
Did he think the U.S., with all its might, would prevail in any confrontation with Iran? “Iran will be steadfast if there’s a war,” said Abdul-Qader. “The strong always prevail.”
Grand Ayatollah Noori Hamedani: Iran, Iraq unity beneficial for Islamic Umma
(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Ayatollah Hossein Noori Hamedani said here on Thursday that unity between Iran and Iraq benefits Islamic Umma.
The Grand Ayatollah made the remarks in a meeting with Iran's new Ambassador to Iraq Iraj Masjedi.
He said that embassies of Iran and Iraq should try to maintain and expand unity among the two nations and do not allow enemies sow discord in Islamic Umma.
The two embassies also should try to create and maintain security for pilgrims, who arrive in Iraq for holy shrines.
Grand Ayatollah Noori Hamedani praised works of popular volunteer forces in fight against terrorist groups in Iraq and wished immediate liberation of Mosel, a city in north of Iraq and capital of Nineveh province.
Putin to Netanyahu: Don’t judge Iran by 5th century BC, we live in a different world
10 Mar, 2017
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has urged Israel to focus on modern world affairs, after the visiting Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu referred to an ancient legend of an Iranian forefather’s attempt to eradicate the Jewish people.
Putin and Netanyahu touched upon a range of issues during their meeting in Moscow, such as the fight against terrorism, the crisis in Syria and Israel’s tough relations with Iran.
President Putin began by wishing Prime Minister Netanyahu a happy Purim, which is a traditional Jewish holiday that marks the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, a vizier in the ancient Persian Empire.
In response, Netanyahu said Persia made “an attempt to destroy the Jewish people that did not succeed” nearly 2,500 years ago, stressing that “today there is an attempt by Persia’s heir, Iran, to destroy the state of the Jews.”
“They say this as clearly as possible and print it in black and white in their newspapers.”
However, this time Israel has its own territory and an army that protects its territory, Netanyahu said.
Putin noted that those events had taken place “in the fifth century BC,” added that “we now live in a different world” and suggested discussing the actual up-to-date problems in the region.
Netanyahu welcomed Russia’s efforts in fighting against Islamic State and other extremist groups.
“Recently we have seen a significant progress in fighting against Islamic Sunni terrorism spread by Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, and Russia has contributed a lot,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu then claimed, however, that there was a threat of Islamic “Shiite terrorism” he said was being spread by Iran.
Putin is set to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Moscow on March 10. The two presidents will likely focus on the situation in Syria, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said ahead of the meeting.
“Certainly, the peace process and situation in Syria can’t come off the agenda of any regional power, especially such as Turkey and Israel,” Peskov said.
The presidents of Russia and Turkey are meeting in Moscow on Friday, apparently putting behind a 16-month-old crisis in bilateral relations. High-profile infrastructure projects and the Syrian crisis are expected to dominate the visit.
Vladimir Putin is to play host to Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the sixth session of a high-level cooperation commission. The session was initially planned for 2015, but Turkey’s downing of a Russian bomber jet near the Syrian border in November 2015 prompted a cancelation of the meeting and sent bilateral relations into a tailspin.
The presidential meeting on Friday follows a phone call between Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, who on Thursday decided to lift trade restrictions imposed in the wake of the crisis. Erdogan’s delegation in Moscow includes several ministers and senior military officers, who are to meet their opposite numbers in the Russian government to discuss a full reengagement.
The two leaders will discuss the developments in Syria, where Turkey-allied troops are engaged in fighting with the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and Kurdish militias. Russia, which supports the Syrian government in its fight against jihadists, had advocated for a bigger autonomy of the Syrian Kurds in a post-war Syria. Turkey sees Kurdish fighters as allies of the Turkey-based Kurdish insurgency and likely enemies.
The US, another major player in the Syrian situation, has recently boosted its presence on the ground in the region by deploying hundreds of Marines to assist in fighting IS. The deployment is believed to be part of an eventual siege of Raqqa, IS capital in Syria.
With so many parties with conflicting agendas involved in the conflict, the question remains as to whether some sort of cooperation may be forged among everyone interested in defeating IS. Washington denies that it may join forces with Moscow and had refused to invite Russia for an anti-IS coalition meeting which will be held in two weeks in the US, but the meeting of Turkish, US and Russian senior military officers in Turkey may indicate otherwise.
Putin and Erdogan are also expected to discuss the renewal of key bilateral infrastructure projects like South Stream gas pipeline, which is to transport Russian natural gas to Turkey through the Black Sea. The project replaced a similar project that would connect Russia with customers in Eastern Europe, which had been scrapped after what Moscow sees as politically-motivated pressure from Brussels.
Turkey is also interested in Russian expertise in constructing a nuclear power plant at Akkuyu, Mersin province. Ankara and Moscow would also discuss boosting Russian tourism to Turkey, a currency swap and mutual investment programs.
Erdogan is also expected to update Putin on the Turkish investigation into the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Ankara, according to the Kremlin. Andrey Karlov was killed in December last year by an officer of the Turkish police during a public appearance.
'If Erdogan Starts Confronting Moscow It Will Bury Turkey' © AFP 2017/ ALEXANDER NEMENOV
Ahead of the upcoming meeting between Presidents Putin and Erdogan, which is set to start later on Friday in Moscow, political analysts from both countries have indicated certain hidden hazards which might hinder the negotiations.
Four Issues to Define the Agenda of Putin-Erdogan Talks in Moscow
Russian and Turkish leaders are set to meet in Moscow on March 10 while the Turkish president visits Russia to attend the 6th meeting of the High-Level Russia-Turkey Cooperation Council.
Earlier on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that President Putin, among others, plans to discuss the conflict settlement process in Syria and Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov's assassination in talks with Erdogan.
Ahead of the scheduled negotiations, political analysts from both countries have indicated certain hidden hazards which might hinder the negotiations.
Araik Stepanyan, executive secretary of the Presidium of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems has pointed at the noticeable changes which have happened at the international arena since the last meeting of the two leaders.
The Syrian government army with the aerial support of the Russian Aerospace Forces has been besetting the Islamists on all fronts. Trump has been shaping a new foreign policy tideway bypassing Turkey. EU officials have been openly criticizing Erdogan while political tensions have only intensified in Turkey. Thus Erdogan has accumulated a whole set of problems and all the above will have an inevitable impact on the negotiations in Moscow.
"Turkey is in quite a difficult situation right now: its foreign policy has turned out a real failure – the relationships with the EU and the US have greatly deteriorated. The relationships with its neighbors, Greece and Armenia are nothing better. The internal conflicts are arising one after another," Stepanyan told RT channel.
Thus, he said, Turkey will be forced to make concessions to Russia. If Erdogan starts confronting Moscow it will "bury Turkey", he added.
His view is echoed by Yuri Mavashev, the head of the political department at the Center for Modern Turkish Studies, who said that the upcoming April referendum in Turkey on switching to a presidential system of governance is of extreme significance to Erdogan. Thus he will be demonstrating his voters that in Moscow he is defending the national interests and is holding an equal dialogue. But this requires Moscow to play up to the Turkish president.
With regards to the Syrian conflict which is expected to top the agenda of the talks, experts noted that while it is the Syrian peace process which is of primary importance to Russia, it is the Kurdish issue which remains a priority to Erdogan.
The two leaders, Mavashev noted, are set to find a common ground on a number of issues: the Kurds, control over the city of Manbij and Turkish – Iranian cooperation.
"Erdogan will be pushing for Russia's support in the Kurdish issue – prevention of the setup of the Kurdish enclave in the north-eastern Syria," Araik Stepanyan said.
The Turks are concerned over the setup of the Kurdish autonomy which will have a great impact on the south-east of Turkey and might lead to a setup of an independent state on the territory of Turkey.
This view is echoed by Ilnur Cevik, an adviser to the Turkish president, who told Sputnik that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) remains a real problem to Turkey.
Putin, Erdogan Seek to Collaborate on Syrian Peace Accord
"We are fighting not against the Kurdish people but with the terrorist movement within the Kurdish population. We do have discrepancies with Russia over the Kurdish issue but they do not impede the dialogue with Moscow. Our leaders and our diplomats are examining it in detail," he told Sputnik.
Meanwhile, Alexey Arbatov, the head of the Center for International Security at the Institute of Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations pointed to Sputnik at another hidden hazard in the upcoming talks.
"It is not easy to talk about the expectations from the upcoming negotiations but we might suggest that Bashar Assad might also become a key topic of the talks. The attitude towards the Syrian president is the major factor which splits Turkey and Russia," he told Sputnik.
And it is one of the key factors which hampers the peace talks in Astana, he added. While Turkey keeps treating the Syrian leader as an adversary, it has not yet defined its position towards the future peace process, and namely will Assad have any chance to remain the head of the Syrian state or be part of the coalition government, he told Sputnik.
Meanwhile Turkish political analyst, an expert in international relations and international law Mesut Hakki Çasin has pointed out to Sputnik Turkiye that the recent meeting of Russian, Turkish and US military chiefs in Antalya comes as a very important signal before the negotiations in Moscow.
Details of First Meeting of Russian, US, Turkish Military Chiefs on Syria Revealed
On March 7, Turkey’s military chief of staff, General Hulusi Akar, was hosting a meeting with the heads of the US and Russian armed forces in the southern Turkish province of Antalya.
The meeting was attended by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford Jr., Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Valery Gerasimov and Turkey's military chief of staff General Hulusi Akar.
"In the times of the Cold War, the US and the USSR were the leaders of the two blocks – NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Turkey was then an important fortress on the south flank of NATO," he told Sputnik.
From the historic point of view, the recent meeting of the top brass of the three countries signals that they met not as rivals but as partners, he noted. He further suggested that Russia might have played a role of an intermediary between Turkey and the US.
"There is an opinion that the three military chiefs met in Antalya to prevent any possible clash on the ground in Manbij," he told Sputnik. He further called it an important political and military example of cooperation in the history of NATO and Turkey.
Turkey Takes Aim at Kurdish-Controlled Manbij in Syria
He also suggested that the military operation on liberation of the Syrian city of Raqqa might have been also discussed in Antalya.
"The meeting took place against very important developments on the Syrian territory. Successful advance of the Syrian government forces towards Manbij came as a big surprise. There is an opinion that Russia, while acting as an intermediary in transferring parts of Manbij territories to the Syrian government forces, has prevented clashes between Turkey and the US," he told Sputnik.
And here comes another question, he said, whether there was any agreement between Russia and US.
Further announcement of the US military command that they "have been informed by the Russian side" suggests that there has been a certain agreement between Russia and the US.
The political analyst further elaborated that the top military might have discussed the military operation in Raqqa. Among possible scenarios there could be a joint operation of the Turkish Armed Forces, US special forces and Peshmerga forces, he suggested.
There is also an opportunity that Turkey will provide its Incirlik air base and that Russian Aerospace Forces will take part in the operation.
"How real these suggestion are still remains to be seen. However one thing is absolutely clear: the tripartite mechanism suggested by President Putin is of vital importance. And the meeting of the three key players, Russia, Turkey and the US is an important step for the peace settlement in Syria," he told Sputnik.
Araik Stepanyan however pointed out at yet another hidden hazard here.
"One of the main issue to Russia is how sincere Erdogan is with regards to Russia. There are concerns that if the Americans go gently with Turkey, the Turks will then divert their policies towards the West," he finally said.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Israeli forces detained at least 31 Palestinians, including one lawmaker and four minors, in detention raids in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Palestinian sources said.
Israeli forces carry out detention raids across the occupied Palestinian territory on a near-nightly basis, with the UN recording an average of 95 weekly raids in the West Bank in 2016, and 73 weekly raids on average thus far in 2017, Ma'an reported.
According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 6,500 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of January, which included four members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).
In Hebron, the Southernmost West Bank district, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) reported the detentions of eight Palestinians, including PLC member Samira al-Halaiqa, who locals said was detained in al-Shuyukh.
Al-Halaiqa’s detention occurred few days after Israeli forces detained Palestinian lawmakers Khalid Tafish and Anwar Zboun, both deputies of the Change and Reform bloc in the PLC.
PPS identified the other Hebron-area detainees as Mutasim Faruq Masalma, Mahmoud Raed Masalma, brothers Majid and Mursi al-Ajlouni, Rami Idris, Khalid Awwad, and Tariq Rshidat.
Locals told Ma’an that the two Masalmas were detained in Beit Awwa, while the al-Ajlounis and Idris were detained in the city of Hebron.
Local sources added that Khalid Muhammad Zaaqiaa was detained in the village of Beit Ummar.
In the Bethlehem district, PPS reported that Muhammad Mahmoud Abu Shuka, a Palestinian from the besieged Gaza Strip, was detained at the Container checkpoint.
In occupied East Jerusalem, locals said that Israeli forces detained at least three Palestinian boys between the ages of 11 and 15 from the neighborhood of Silwan, identifying them as Hussam al-Zaghal, Rami al-Julani, and Malik al-Qaisi.
PPS confirmed the detentions, adding that Muhammad Alqam, Jawad Abu Sneineh, and minor Muhammad Mustafa were also detained in East Jerusalem.
In the Central occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem, PPS said that Mahmoud Hassan al-Luzi and Ahmad Hassan Mteir were detained in the Qalandiya refugee camp.
PPS said Diyaa Rizq Hmeidat and Hazim Mahmoud Hanoun were detained in the Ramallah district. Locals said Hanoun was detained in the village of Budrus.
Meanwhile, PPS said Imad Raja Ayyash was detained in the village of Rafat in the Salfit district. The Israeli army confirmed one detention in Rafat.
PPS said Mahmoud Kayid Abu Adwan, Ibrahim Talal Shrem, and Nidal Ahmad Hussein were detained in the Qalqiliya district, while Mahmoud Hussein Abu Hamza, 20, Muthana Abd al-Rahim al-Masri, 23, and Issa Omar Odeh, 24 were detained in the Tulkarem district.
In the Nablus district, PPS report the detentions of Jihad Nashata, Assif Taim, and Suleiman Uweis.
Locals said Nashata and Taim were detained in the village of Qabalan, while Uweis was from the village of al-Lubban al-Sharqiya.
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