Terrorists in the Middle East, specifically ISIS in recent years ;have sold history. Literally, through its artifacts.
Pope Christmas Message Offers Hope in World Hit by Terrorism, War
'I Pray For World Peace' - Christmas Message From Lincoln Islamic Leader
India Reduces Citizenship Fee for Hindus, Minorities from Pakistan
Isis Entrepreneurs Plunder History to Fund Jihad
Islamic Finance Boom Calls for Increase In Human Capital
Iraq's Hashd Sha'abi Forces Kill Nearly 300 Terrorists Southwest of Mosul
Yemeni Army Advances in Sana'a, Kills 7 Senior Pro-Hadi Commanders, 90 Militias
Over 50 ISIL Terrorists Killed in Syrian Army Attack South of Kuweires Airbase
Militants in One More Town Join Peace Agreement with Syrian Gov't
Terrorist Commanders Readying to Leave Syria for Turkey with Hefty Amounts of Stolen Money
Syrian Army Continues to Advance against ISIL in T4 Airbase Battlefield
Syrian Soldiers Continue to March on Terrorist Positions in Eastern Damascus
2 Senior ISIL Security Commanders Killed in Iraqi Missile Strikes on Mosul
Ansarullah Leader: Mediators to Settle Crisis in Yemen Assassinated by Riyadh
Syrian Armed Forces Launch Heavy Attacks on Jeish Al-Fatah's Positions in Hama Province
Commander Warns Trans-Regional Planes to Keep Away from Iran's Air Defence Drills Zone
Lawmakers Ringing Alarm over Possible Saudi Influence on European Muslims
Islamic leaders visit Melbourne’s St Paul’s Cathedral in show of solidarity
What was the Berlin attack suspect doing in Milan?
Muslim Group Wants Meeting With Pallister Government after Funding Cut
Minnesota court jails leader of Islamic State plot for 35 years
US warns of Christmas Day attacks on churches by Islamic State
India Begins Building World’s Tallest Statue, of 17th-Century Hindu Ruler Who Fought Muslim Dynasty
PM Modi Greets Nawaz Sharif on His Birthday
Separatists' strike affects normal life in Kashmir
Pakistan releases 220 Indian fishermen
Iranian FM Felicitates Christmas to Christian Counterparts
Turkey-Backed Rebels Kill 68 Islamic State Fighters near Syria's Al-Bab
Israel terms US's abstaining at UNSC 'despicable', 'shameful'
Israel to re-assess UN ties after settlement resolution, says Netanyahu
Iran, Azerbaijan Opt for Boosting Mutual Cooperation
Pakistan, Turkey FTA Negotiations Make Headway
Reading Fake News, Pakistani Minister Directs Nuclear Threat at Israel
Zardari's close aide booked under anti-terrorist
Crackdown on suspects in Larkana under way ahead of Benazir’s death anniversary
Taliban’s Shadow Deputy Governor among 6 Killed in Faryab
Taliban Leader among 7 Killed, Wounded In Nangarhar Airstrikes
Two militants linked to cafe siege killed in Dhaka raid
Karzai wishes Sharif on his birthday, calling Pak nation as ‘brother’
Explosion leaves 2 civilian dead in East of Afghanistan
Nigerian Army Pushes Boko Haram out of Key Stronghold
Egypt's president says military accounts for 1.5-2% of economy
Tunisia arrests nephew, two others linked to Berlin suspect
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
ISIS Entrepreneurs Plunder History to Fund Jihad
100,000 cultural objects of global importance are under control of Islamic State
Literally, through its artifacts.
The subject of stolen cultural artifacts – and how they can be seized and kept from the underground international markets – was the focal point of a recent meeting among international law enforcement interests at the UNESCO office in Beirut.
According to international police and law enforcement coordinators, the meeting was held with the support of the Norwegian Embassy and focused on U.N. Security Council Resolution 2199/2015 for “the protection of cultural heritage in the Middle East.”
It sets up a direct link between trafficking in often-stolen cultural goods and the funding of terror.
“The resolution explicitly prevents trade with the Islamic State and other extremist entities and is binding under Chapter VII of the U.N. charter, which provides the framework for the Security Council to take enforcement action,” police officials said.
The meeting was used for various organizations that address the issue to share expertise on the problem.
They are the groups working with Iraq and Syria to regain control of their cultural artifacts and heritage.
Business Insider revealed earlier this year that ISIS was making an estimated $200 million a year from stolen artifacts.
“Around 100,000 cultural objects of global importance, including 4,500 archaeological sites, nine of which are include in the World Heritage List of .. UNESCO, are under the control of the Islamic State … in Syria and Iraq,” wrote Vitaly Churkin at the time. He held the title of Russian ambassador at the time.
Pope Christmas message offers hope in world hit by terrorism, war
Reuters | Dec 25, 2016
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Sunday offered a Christmas hope for peace in a world lacerated by war and terrorism, urging people to remember migrants, refugees and those hit by economic instability caused by "idolatry of money".
Francis, marking the fourth Christmas season since his election in 2013, also urged Palestinians and Israelis, facing renewed tension after a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements on occupied land, to have the courage to put aside hate and revenge and "write a new page of history".
His traditional "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message was linked by a common thread of war, violence and suffering at a time that should be defined by harmony and peace symbolised by the infant Jesus.
"Peace to those who have lost a person dear to them as a result of brutal acts of terrorism, which have sown fear and death into the hearts of so many countries and cities," he told some 40,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square.
Security was heightened for the Christmas weekend in Italy and at the Vatican after Italian police killed the man believed to be responsible for the Berlin market truck attack while other European cities kept forces on high alert.
"Today this message (of peace) goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace," he said, speaking in Italian from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.
He called for peace in Syria, urging immediate assistance to the exhausted population of the city of Aleppo, which Syrian government forces recaptured last week after four years of devastating fighting with rebels.
"It is time for weapons to be still forever (in Syria), and the international community to actively seek a negotiated solution, so that civil co-existence can be restored in the country," he said.
Francis, the first Latin American pope, also said Christmas should inspire everyone to help the less fortunate, including migrants, refugees and those swept up by social and economic upheavals.
"Peace to the peoples who suffer because of the economic ambitions of the few, because of the sheer greed and the idolatry of money, which leads to slavery," he said.
At his Christmas eve Mass on Saturday, Francis said the feast had been "taken hostage" by dazzling materialism that puts God in the shadows.
On Sunday, he also called for an end to "fundamentalist terrorism" in Nigeria, a reference to Boko Haram, which has killed 15,000 people and displaced more than two million during a seven-year insurgency to create an Islamic state. .
Francis further appealed for an end to tensions between the government and opposition in Venezuela, for harmony in Colombia, which recently ended a civil war with FARC guerrillas, and an end to strife on the Korean peninsula and in Myanmar.
'I pray for world peace' - Christmas message from Lincoln Islamic leader
By Paul Whitelam | Posted: December 25, 2016
The chairman and trustee of the Islamic Association of Lincoln wishes people of all faiths a peaceful Christmas and New Year.
Professor Tanweer Ahmed, who is spearheading the project to create a purpose-built mosque in Lincoln, says in his Christmas message: "On behalf of the Islamic Association of Lincoln, I would like to wish merry Christmas to our fellow Christians and thank all Lincoln leaders from different faith groups for working constructively in promoting community cohesion, tolerance and understanding.
"Whether you are celebrating Christmas or not, I thank you and wish you all a joyous and peaceful Christmas and new year holidays, commemorating the birth of the prophet Jesus Christ, may peace be upon him.
"I pray from God that the new year brings happiness and peace around the world."
India reduces citizenship fee for Hindus, minorities from Pakistan
DEC 25, 2016
India has reduced registration fee for Hindus and other minorities from Pakistan and two other countries, making it easier and financially affordable to become citizens, reported the Times of India.
The registration fee was Rs15,000, but has now been reduced to Rs100.
The new rules will be applicable to minority communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, said a notification by India's home ministry.
The change in rules would also make it possible for minority members from neighbouring countries to take an oath of allegiance as an Indian citizen in the presence of Indian government officials.
The fee for minority community members from other countries will be Rs10,000 of registered in India and Rs15,000 if registered elsewhere.
The changes were made by amending various provisions in Citizenship Rules 2009, added ToI.
A member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani had earlier revealed in the National Assembly that around 5,000 Hindus migrate from Pakistan to India every year.
New Delhi had last year announced that Bangladeshis and Pakistanis belonging to minority communities there, who had entered India legally before December 31, 2014, could stay in the country, even if their documents had lapsed.
ISIS ENTREPRENEURS PLUNDER HISTORY TO FUND JIHAD
Islamic finance boom calls for increase in human capital
LULWA SHALHOUB | Published — Sunday 25 December 2016
JEDDAH: In the fast-growing industry of Islamic finance, the lack of specialized, trained human capital in the field continued to be a challenge, said Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) Gov. Ahmed Al-Kholifey.
The industry is booming in member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and internationally, in Muslim and non-Muslim countries alike.
This growth suggested that Shariah-compliant banking had more to offer than simply being a way to serve the needs of the 1.5 billion Muslims around the globe, according to Al-Kholifey.
This situates education and training in Islamic finance among the top priorities to keep up with developments in the industry and guarantee steady growth.
“The fast-growing Islamic banking industry requires qualified and well-trained people in many disciplines and at various levels,” said Al-Kholifey at the World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) in Bahrain earlier this month.
“We urgently need to focus on that. More efforts need to be coordinated among regulators and banks in order to specify the areas where there is scarcity of human capital.”
Being home to the largest Islamic banking market in terms of assets, representing 34 percent, Saudi Arabia can further strengthen its position when it comes to offering specialized training in Islamic finance.
Al-Kholifey added that SAMA ensured an operating environment that supports Shariah-compliant products.
“We have ensured the availability of specialized training of bank staff as well as our own staff in Islamic banking,” he said.
The expected growth in the Islamic finance customer base will reach 250 million in 2020. This necessitates bridging the gap between what the industry demands and human capital by providing proper education and training.
“Saudi Arabia can enhance and deepen its position in the Islamic finance world and become a global center of excellence,” John Sfakianakis, director of economic research in Islamic finance at the Riyadh-based Gulf Research Center, told Arab News. “Deepening training and human capital is essential toward that goal.”
Talat Hafiz, secretary-general of Saudi banks’ Media and Banking Awareness Committee, told Arab News that among the factors behind the lack of specialized education in Islamic finance is that it requires in-depth knowledge of both conventional banking and jurisprudence of transactions.
“Finding professionals who can combine knowledge and understanding of both banking and jurisprudence of transactions is very difficult,” he said.
The Bahraini experience
Bringing conventional banking and Islamic finance training together has already shown improvement, according to some institutes that offer training and education to those interested in Islamic finance.
The interest is not limited to those who come from a Muslim background. It includes those from countries that have included Islamic finance and banking in their economic development plans.
Bahrain is one of the main hubs in the region when it comes to Islamic finance education and training.
The Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF) is one of the not-for-profit organizations that offer training in Islamic finance in Manama. The education is customized according to the needs of employees.
“Islamic banks hire people from conventional banks. They may be very capable in doing tasks they used to do in a conventional bank, but they lack the knowledge in Islamic banking,” said Ahmed A. Hameed Al-Shaikh, deputy director of the BIBF. “So there is no synergy between him and the team in the Islamic bank.”
The assessment center at the institute conducts training-needs analysis to evaluate the knowledge level of clients, assess the outcome they are expecting and accordingly come up with a teaching proposal. This depends on the prior background of the applicants.
The institute receives students interested in the field from countries worldwide, and the interest is increasing.
“There is a spike in international students, especially in the GCC, but our plan is to grow it internationally beyond the GCC in the next year as a distance-learning program,” said Mujtaba Khalid, head of the Islamic Finance Center at the BIBF.
The goal is to create a base of human capital that caters to the Islamic finance industry locally, regionally and internationally.
“We want students to rise up to international standards so they can find jobs not only in Bahrain, but in the whole GCC as well,” said Al-Shaikh.
The Advanced Diploma in Islamic Finance (ADIF) at the BIBF started in 2000/2001. It was mainly for people who had no prior knowledge of Islamic finance.
“Now we get a mix of clients. A lot of young people are getting into the Islamic finance industry,” said Khalid.
“Initially, the model was to work at a conventional bank then shift into Islamic finance. Now we are seeing that even fresh graduates are coming into Islamic banking.”
The employment rate is 95 percent after graduation as there are many local graduates based in Bahrain, where demand is significantly high.
“We work with professionals in Islamic finance as well. We get high-level trainers, not only in-house staff,” said Khalid.
The BIBF provides staff training to major banks in the region, including Saudi Arabia. “We provide training to most of the top banks in Saudi Arabia, such as the National Commercial Bank (NCB) and Al-Bilad Bank,” Al-Shaikh said.
“They have trust in our quality, and we are a non-profit organization. This is where we gain trust. The revenue we get, we inject back to improve the quality of our education. Making revenue is not our main objective. Even after their employment, clients come back to do short courses or customized training as needed by the bank,” he added.
The BIBF falls under the supervision of the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) to ensure that the education and training the institute provides will graduate talents that can contribute to the advancement of the banking industry in Bahrain.
CBB Gov. Rasheed Mohammed Al-Maraj plays the role of the chairman of the board of directors.
The CBB requires employees pursuing a career in Islamic banking to hold an Islamic Diploma.
The ICD experience
The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), a multilateral development financial institution that is part of the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB), created the Islamic Finance Talent Development Program (IFTDP) in 2011.
The IFTDP is a training program designed to develop leadership within the Islamic finance industry. It serves students and trainees from the ICD’s 53 member states from the Muslim world.
“Getting into the IFTDP is very competitive,” said Sulaiman Ali Al-Sultan, acting director of corporate support at the ICD.
“When we first started the program, we received 500 applications. Last academic year we received 2,000, but we only accept 12 candidates per year. We want to make sure the people we select are the best for this program.”
The program not only trains individuals who aspire to a career in Islamic finance, but also focuses on identifying the skills needed to create leaders in Islamic finance institutions.
“We found from the first three batches of students that people are more in need of leadership skills, so we added this part when we designed the master’s degree in Islamic finance with IE Business School in Madrid,” said Senior Program Manager Samah Souri.
Khaled Al-Aboodi, CEO of the ICD, said: “Graduates have great opportunities to work in financial institutions, whether at the ICD or other financial institutions. We believe our program has the potential to lead Islamic finance institutions in the future.”
He added: “One of the reasons is that it lets participants take part in a wide range of projects across different countries. It offers on-the-job training and a master’s degree in Islamic finance leadership.”
The growth of Islamic finance has led to an increased demand for the ICD to provide a wide range of Shariah-compliant solutions to meet the various needs of customers and businesses in the global economy.
According to SAMA, the 12 local licensed banks operating in Saudi Arabia offer Shariah-compliant finance, as do several branches of foreign banks in the Kingdom. Introducing Islamic banking was a gradual process that started in the 1990s.
“Saudi Arabia was a pioneer in shifting gradually from conventional banking to Islamic banking,” said Hafiz.
“Some countries shifted overnight and the outcome was negative. We in Saudi Arabia started moving steadily since the 1990s. We succeeded in moving without negatively affecting customers’ dealings.”
John Sfakianakis, director of economic research in Islamic finance at the Riyadh-based Gulf Research Center, says Islamic finance is a mature and developed industry in Saudi Arabia, representing about two-thirds of total bank financing at the end of the first half of 2016.
Islamic banks accounted for about 43 percent of the sector during that period, up from 36.6 percent in the first half of 2015 and 42 percent at the end of 2015.
The Islamic windows of conventional banks were 24 percent, up from 18.6 percent in the first half of 2015, but remained unchanged from last year.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (Hashd al-Sha'abi) killed 300 terrorists belonging to the ISIL terrorist group and set ablaze seven vehicles during a foiled attack by the militants launched against the Iraqi forces, Southwest of Mosul city.
“Hashd Sha'abi forces and Hezbollah Brigades killed nearly 300 ISIL militants and burnt seven vehicles they had,” a military source of the PMF said, Al Manar reported.
Earlier in December, PMF announced the end of the fifth phase of their operations to liberate the areas around Mosul, however the operation to liberate the city has slowed and faced with some obstacles due to inhumane methods used by ISIL, which has resorted to using local residents as human shield.
On October 17th, 2016, the Iraqi Army and its allied forces launched a major battle for Mosul to liberate the city and its surroundings from ISIL.
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Yemeni army and popular forces continued their advances in the capital city of Sana'a, killing tens of pro-Saudi mercenaries, including senior commanders, loyal to former fugitive president Mansour Hadi in fierce clashes.
"At least 90 pro-Hadi militias were killed in tough battle with the Yemeni army and popular forces in Sana'a's Ninth district in Eastern Yemen on Sunday," the Arabic-language media quoted an unnamed military source as saying on Sunday.
The source noted that seven senior pro-Hadi commanders were also killed in Sana'a, and said, "Commander of pro-Hadi Militias' Brigade 72 Mohammad al-Azri and commander of the Brigade's First Battalion were among 18 militias injured in Sana'a battle."
He also said that 30 other mercenaries were also injured in three bases close to al-Qatab military base.
Meantime, tens of other pro-Hadi militias were killed and injured in missile attacks in Melh region.
In a relevant development on Saturday, the Yemeni army's missile units hit Saudi Arabia's strategic military base in Najran province, South of the kingdom, with a Zalzal-2 missile.
The Saudi army's al-Tala'a military base in Najran was reportedly pounded by a Zalzal-2 missile in retaliation for the Saudi airstrikes and massacre of civilians in Yemen.
The Yemeni army also hit Qaza, al-Sharqan, Abu Maz and al-Salabeh military bases in Jizan province with several Katyusha rockets.
There is yet no official report on the possible casualties or damage to the targets by the missile and rocket attacks.
Also on Wednesday, the Yemeni army and popular forces continued their military advances in Ta'iz province and repelled an attack by the pro-Saudi mercenaries on a strategic airbase in Bir Pasha region near the city of Ta'iz, killing and injuring tens of militias in fierce clashes.
At least 30 pro-Saudi mercenaries were killed and 50 others were wounded when the Yemeni forces repelled their attack on an airbase to Southwest of Ta'iz city.
The Yemeni army and popular forces had managed to take full control of Ta'iz airbase on Monday, but the pro-Saudi mercenaries launched an attack again on Wednesday and recaptured it, but they were pushed back from their position by the Yemeni forces once again.
On Tuesday, a senior military commander disclosed that the Yemeni army and popular forces were very close to winning back the Southern part of Ta'iz province.
"The Yemeni army has taken full control of 60 percent of the entire Ta'iz province in three tough battles with pro-Saudi mercenaries and they are very close to winning back the entire province very soon," Senior Ansarullah Commander Hossein al-Houthi said.
Al-Houthi reiterated that the Yemeni army and popular forces repelled the pro-Saudi mercenaries' attempt to advance in Jahmaliyeh region in Ta'iz province, and said, "The Yemeni army's artillery units also pounded the pro-Saudi mercenaries' fortifications in Jabal al-Han in the city of al-Zobab, injuring a number of militias.
Also on Sunday, the Yemeni army and popular forces hit the gathering centers of the pro-Saudi military positions in Ta'iz province in Western Yemen with several ballistic missiles.
The pro-Saudi militias stationed in Ta'iz sustained heavy losses after they came under attack by, at least, two Zalzal-2 ballistic missiles.
Eyewitness said a large number of pro-Saudi mercenaries were also wounded in the Yemeni missile attacks.
They said that several military vehicles of the militias were also destroyed in the ballistic missile attacks.
More than 12,800 Yemenis, including women and children, have been killed in the course of the Saudi military aggression against neighboring Yemen since March 2015.
This is while international right groups have repeatedly condemned Riyadh over its onslaught against Yemen. They have also warned of a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished country.
The Saudi campaign was launched with the aim of reinstating Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
Hadi, a loyal Riyadh ally, resigned last year and fled to the Saudi capital. He later returned to the country’s port city of Aden.
Hadi has rejected a United Nations peace roadmap, saying the initiative favors Ansarullah movement, while the movement is the main popular base which has been defending the country against the Saudi invasion.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Syrian Army troops targeted heavily ISIL's movements East of Aleppo province, killing over 50 terrorists and destroying their military hardware.
The army soldiers, deployed in Air Force Academy just to the South of the Kuweires Airbase targeted ISIL's military convoys near the villages of Moshrefeh Abu Jabar and Bijan, killing 50 militants and wounding many more.
A bomb-laden vehicle, two machinegun-equipped cars and a large volume of arms and ammunition were destroyed in the army attack.
In relevant developments in the province on Friday, the army soldiers repelled ISIL's attack on government forces' positions in a key town in the Eastern part of Aleppo province, killing over 120 militants and wounding many more.
The army men warded off ISIL's offensives on its strongholds near the town of Deir Hafer, killing 120 terrorists and destroying their military hardware.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Militants in one more town ended fight against the Syrian government and joined the nationwide reconciliation plan in the last 24 hours, the Russian Peace Coordination Center in Syria announced on Sunday.
"Representatives of militants in a town in Homs province inked peace agreement in the last 24 hours," the Russian center said in a statement.
"Now, the total number of cities, towns, villages and regions that have thus far joined the peace agreement stands at 1,075."
In relevant developments on Wednesday the Russian center announced that militants in three more regions gave up fight against the Syrian Army and joined the nationwide peace plan.
"Militants in three more regions in Lattakia province laid down arms, and joined the national reconciliation plan," the Russian center said in a statement.
Meantime, sources said that negotiations still continue with the field commanders of terrorist groups in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Quneitra to persuade them to join the peace plan.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Commanders of Ahrar al-Sham terrorist group that have received a hefty amount of money via their foreign backers in Qatar and Turkey and looting Syrian's wealth have invested in Turkey's economy to have an escape route in case of a final collapse, a war journalist said.
A journalist who has long been covering developments along the Turkey-Syria border said that Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salma are considered as the terrorist groups' two main sources of revenue through which they have been in contact with the outside world.
The journalist added that terrorists have been doing their entire business and transactions via these two border passageways.
In the meantime, Charles Lister, a researcher in Brookings Center, said that Bab al-Hawa border passageway is of significant importance for Ahrar al-Sham, because such border crossings are totally very good sources of income, receiving dispatched aid and logistic cargoes for terrorists to gain more power.
"Ahrar al-Sham, via imposing and levying taxes on people, business and aid convoys that have been going through this border crossing, has gained hundreds of millions of dollar. Estimating the exact amount of their gain is difficult due to the non-stop traffic of convoys and people," the journalist went on to say.
Yet, several media sources have estimated the profit of Bab al-Hawa border crossing for Ahrar al-Sham as much as five million dollars each month.
On the other hand, some locals have underlined that incomes of this border passageway have been owned by the commanders of Ahrar. The commanders have invested huge amounts of money in Turkey. These commanders have prepared the ground for themselves to escape to Turkey as soon as the army expands its rule over more Ahrar-held regions.
One of the members of Ahrar al-Sham that had previously escaped to the border town of Gaziantep Turkey disclosed that these militants have been highly backed by Qatari and Turkish military and monetary supports.
He further added that Turkey-linked Humanitarian Relief Fund and Qatar Charity Society have been two main organizations that have rendered full support for Ahrar al Sham in the several last years.
Except for the mentioned income sources of Bab al-Hawa border crossing to Turkey and Qatar, Ahrar al-Sham has also looted Syria's Central Back Branch in Raqqa.
In spite of these huge sources of income Ahrar al-Sham's fighters are complaining about earning less than 40 dollars each month as their salary.
Militant groups-affiliated sites also disclosed that the 400 monthly payments to the families of Ahrar al-Sham's fighters have been cut in the last one or two months, indicating that commanders of the militants are getting ready to flee to Turkey with the money they have collected.
The General Staff of Syria's Armed Forces said in September that the recent advances of the Syrian army and popular forces in Aleppo caused scores of terrorist groups' commanders and religious leaders to leave the militants alone in the battlefield and move to Turkey with a large amount of stolen funds.
"Religious and military leaders of Jeish al-Fatah coalition are fleeing the battlefields in Aleppo. It is a long time that they have been trapped in Aleppo districts. They are hopeless. They are fleeing to Turkey with the money they received from the backers of the terrorist groups and the money they took by force from civilians in Aleppo," the General Staff the Syrian Armed Forces said.
In the meantime, one of the commanders of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), in an audio file, disclosed that a number of commanders of the terrorist groups left their forces alone and have Escaped to Turkey.
"You commanders, who stole a large amount of people's money and fled the battlefields, you have been trading the Syrian people's blood," the audio file said, adding, "Where are the religious leaders of the militants fleeing now, those who once claimed they were close to the God."
TEHRAN (FNA)- Syrian Army troops carried out a fresh attack on ISIL's defense lines near the T4 airbase in Eastern Homs, and captured more key positions in the region after killing 15 terrorists.
The army soldiers started a fresh attack on ISIL's positions in surrounding areas of T4 airbase and advanced towards Taloul (Hills) al-Soud and the village of Sharifeh Southwest of the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur).
Over 15 ISIL members were killed and an armored vehicle was destroyed in the attack.
The army men also repelled ISIL's sporadic attacks on their positions along the hills near the village of Shrifeh close to the town of al-Quaryatayn, killing or wounding a number of militants and destroying their heavy machinegun-equipped vehicles.
The Syrian army aircraft also targeted ISIL's positions in the village of al-Tiyas, near the Fourth Station and along the frontlines in Eastern and Southeastern Homs, destroying a number of armored and machinegun-equipped vehicles of the terrorists.
Also, the army soldiers targeted the positions of Fatah al-Sham Front (previously known as the al-Nusra Front) in three different regions in Northern Homs on Saturday, inflicting heavy losses on the militants.
The army men pounded positions and movements of Fatah al-Sham near the villages of Tal Abu al-Sanasil, Eastern side of al-Ameriyeh and in the Eastern direction of al-Mashrafa, killing or wounding a number of them and destroying their vehicles.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Syrian Army troops engaged in fierce clashes with terrorists groups in Eastern Ghouta, driving the militants out of vast farms and more building blocks near the town of Meida'ani.
The army men stormed terrorists' concentration centers and gatherings in the triangle of al-Bahariyeh-Meida'ani-Hazarma and captured over 25 farms and buildings.
The terrorist groups, that had lost their positions in the army attacks, carried out a rapid counterattack but failed to take back the lost land and retreated from the battlefield after leaving behind over 15 fighters dead and several more wounded.
Reports said on Friday that the Syrian Air Force and Army troops targeted heavily the terrorist groups' movements and positions in Eastern Ghouta, inflicting heavy casualties on the militants.
The army soldiers opened heavy fire at the movements of the terrorist groups in the town of Harasta, inflicting several casualties on the militants and slowing down their movements in the region.
The army aircraft for their part pounded terrorists' positions in the surrounding regions of the town of Jobar, in the village of Basimeh and in depth of Eastern Ghouta.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Two notorious ISIL security commanders along with a number of terrorists were killed in an Iraqi missile attack on their base in the city of Mosul, the country's Federal Police Command announced on Sunday.
"Abu Seif and Abu Ayoub al-Qoreishi, senior ISIL commanders, were killed when an Iraqi missile hit the terrorist group's military base in Hay al-Qods on the West and Bab al-Toub on the East of Mosul city," Iraqi Federal Police Commander Raed Shaker Judat said.
Several other ISIL terrorists were also killed in the Iraqi air attacks on the terrorist group's military positions in Mosul city.
In a relevant development on Saturday, the special forces of Iraqi Hezbollah Battalion managed to attack the ISIL's military positions in the Southern Mosul city, and killed scores of the terrorists.
A sum of 54 ISIL terrorists were killed and many more were injured in the Hezbollah Battalion's special operations.
Meantime, seven DshK-equipped military vehicles of the ISIL terrorists were destroyed in Hezbollah's offensives.
Also, the Iraqi volunteer forces' (Hashd al-Shaabi) artillery units pounded the ISIL's military positions in Southern Mosul city and to the North of Adayeh region, killing tens of the ISIL terrorists and destroying their DshK-equipped vehicles.
Meantime, the Iraqi fighter jets destroyed the ISIL's suicide vehicles in al-Entesar region after being tipped off by intelligence sources.
Also on Saturday, the Iraqi volunteer forces repelled offensives by the ISIL terrorists on strategic Hamreen mountain in Diyala province.
The ISIL started a series of attacks on Hashd al-Shaabi's military positions in Seyed Nareen region in Hamreen mountainous region in Diyala province on Saturday morning, but the Iraqi volunteer forces managed to push them back.
The ISIL initially targeted Hashd al-Shaabi with mortar and rocket attacks before starting their ground attacks by using suicide cars.
At least 18 ISIL terrorists were killed and wounded after several hours of fierce clashes with the Iraqi volunteer forces while tens of others fled the scene of the battle.
The strategic Hamreen mountain stretch from Salahuddin to the neighboring Kirkuk and Diyala provinces. Some parts of Hamreen mountain, including those parts located near Alas and Dajil oilfields is under the ISIL's occupation.
The desert area of the Western part of Samarra and the Eastern part of al-Sarsar lake, including al-Jazeera region are still under the ISIL's occupation despite Iraq's joint military forces' massive military operations.
The ISIL terrorists are still present in the Western part of Diyala province neighboring Nineveh and al-Anbar provinces.
Also on Wednesday, the Iraqi fighter jets pounded the gathering centers of the ISIL near the town of al-Haditha Westward of the city of al-Ramadi, killing several terrorists and destroying their military hardware, including an arms depot.
At least 12 terrorists were killed in the Iraqi warplanes' raids on ISIL's military positions in al-Sokreh region in the Westerns part of Haditha town in Western al-Ramadi.
The Iraqi air force also destroyed four vehicles of the ISIL terrorists in al-Sokreh region.
The Iraqi fighter jets also pounded ISIL's vehicles to the West of al-Haditha, destroying three military vehicles.
The Iraqi air force, meantime, raided ISIL's military vehicles in al-Raihana region in the town of Annah in Western al-Ramadi, destroying all of them and killing all the military personnel in the cars.
The Iraqi forces also discovered an arms and ammunition depot in Albu Hays region North of al-Ramadi with bombs and 100 C4 packages.
The Iraqi army and popular forces also found 85 bombs in Bu Jalib and al-Ankor regions West of al-Ramadi. The army defused all the bombs and explosives at the arms depot.
Also on Monday, Nine ISIL terrorists were killed in an airstrike carried out by Iraqi army fighter jets West of Anbar, a source said.
The source said Iraqi air force jets pounded an ISIL hideout in the village of Raihana in the town of Annah, killing nine militants inside, Al Sumeriya News reported.
Meanwhile, Iraq's Defense Ministry said in a statement the warplanes targeted ISIL ammunition stacks and booby-trapping workshops in Okashat desert area, also in the west, as well as in al-Akra village in Haditha.
ISIL militants still maintain holdouts at Western Anbar regions, most notably at the towns of Annah, Rawa and Qaem, launching from there occasional attacks on civilians and security forces who respond with airstrikes on the group’s locations relying on intelligence tips.
Iraqi security forces, assisted by popular forces, have been struggling since October to drive ISIL militants out of towns they had captured in 2014.
TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior Ansarullah leader disclosed that many prominent Yemeni figures who have been trying to establish peace in the country are assassinated by Saudi Arabia.
"The houses of many of the national and prominent figures who were trying to end the war in Ta'iz and other provinces were pounded by the Saudi warplanes directly," Ali al-Asemi told FNA on Sunday.
Noting that Saudi Arabia fears any understanding and agreement among the Yemenis to stop the internal conflicts, he said, "Riyadh seeks to further flare up the flames of war and differences in Yemen."
Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 12,800 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.
Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.
According to several reports, the Saudi-led air campaign against Yemen has drove the impoverished country towards humanitarian disaster.
Hundreds of Yemeni tribal fighters have joined the army and Ansarullah forces to fight against Saudi Arabia and its allies as Riyadh's deadly air campaign continues to kill and wound more civilians.
Popular forces also vowed a harsh response in revenge for the massacre of the Yemenis.
On Saturday, the Yemeni army's missile units hit Saudi Arabia's strategic military base in Najran province, South of the kingdom, with a Zalzal-2 missile.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Syrian Army troops and Air Force targeted the gatherings and movements of Jeish al-Fatah coalition of terrorist groups in different parts of Hama province, inflicting major losses on the militants.
The army's artillery units shelled the positions of Jeish al-Fatah in the village of Khirbet al-Naqous, killing a nine-member group of terrorists and destroying their equipment.
The artillery units also targeted ISIL's positions in several villages in Aqayrabat region, killing a number of them.
The army aircraft also launched heavy bombing on ISIL centers in Aqayrabat in the Eastern countryside of al-Salamiyah town, destroying a base of the militants.
A number of ISIL's members also were killed and their vehicles were destroyed in the air raid on their positions in the village of Souha and near Aqayrabat.
Also, the warplanes pounded terrorists' positions in the town of Morek and the village of al-Satahiyat, inflicting major losses on the militants on Friday.
The army's ground units also engaged in heavy fighting with ISIL terrorists that stormed government forces' positions near the villages of Um al-Balaya, Fraytan and Tal Jadid.
Commander Warns Trans-Regional Planes to Keep Away from Iran's Air Defense Drills Zone
TEHRAN (FNA)- Commander of Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base Brigadier General Farzad Esmayeeli warned foreign, specially trans-regional fighter jets and planes flying over areas near Iran not to approach the regions of Air Defense wargames that are due to start on Monday.
"The 5-day massive drills codenamed 'Modafe'an-e Asseman-e Velayat-e Haq will start tomorrow morning in a 496,000 sq/km region from Ahwaz and Shiraz to Kerman, Bushehr, Hormozgan, the trio (Iranian) Islands (Abu Musa, the Greater Tunb and the Lesser Tunb), Kish Island and Khark Island and the air borders of all these regions," General Esmayeeli told reporters in a press conference in Tehran on Sunday.
He added that the Air Defense forces of the army, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), the Navy's operational control units, the army and the IRGC's artillery units, some units of Basij (volunteer forces) and the Law Enforcement Police and F4 warplanes of the Air Force will participate in the exercises.
Noting that the wargames will be held in Iran's most sensitive regions, General Esmayeeli said, "Of course, we are witnessing the presence of a number of trans-regional planes outside the air and sea borders of the country but we emphasize that these planes should know their limits and know that we will take action in less than one second. They should fully keep away from the drills zone."
He stressed that advanced electronic warfare systems will be used in the upcoming Air Defense drills, and added that different radar systems, electronic tapping systems and missile systems (low, mid and high altitudes) in different frequencies will also be used in the wargames by the army and the IRGC.
General Esmayeeli had announced in October that the country's air defense system is so powerful that it can engage and destroy multiple hostile flying objects of different types at once.
"The air defense system can engage in combat against various targets at any altitudes and it blocks the path of any hostile flying objects that intends to enter the country's airspace," General Esmayeeli said.
Stressing that Iran enjoys a desirable level of sustainable security, he said that the enemies don’t even think of threatening the country.
General Esmayeeli referred to the Iranian Armed Forces' different defensive capabilities, and said this has created a proper level of deterrence against the enemies.
General Esmayeeli announced in July that the new defense systems integrated into the country's home-made missile shield have increased its air defense capability.
"Integration of the indigenized systems with the new systems has increased (Iran's) air defense capability," he said, addressing the Air Defense Base staff in Tehran only a day after reports said Iran has received the missiles of a battalion of the S-300 air defense system that it imported from Russia a few months ago.
Stressing Iran's eye-catching progress in detection and reconnaissance fields, he said, "The Air Defense is also capable of fighting against any threats at any altitude by relying on its home-made capabilities."
Esmayeeli underlined that the equipment needed in the Air Defense Base are built and supplied based on standing needs and requirements and future threats.
Lawmakers Ringing Alarm Over Possible Saudi Influence on European Muslims
25 December 2016 | 08:33 | Sputnik International
Lawmakers Ringing Alarm Over Possible Saudi Influence on European MuslimsSource: Focus Information Agency Swiss lawmakers have expressed growing concerns regarding lack of transparency over the country's mosques and Muslim organizations' funding. The parliamentarians fear foreign influence, citing the problem of Islamic radicalization in Europe.
Swiss parliamentarians have raised the alarm over possible foreign influence on the country's mosques and called attention to lack of transparency over their funding. Speaking to swissinfo.ch, Doris Fiala, member of the National Council and Vice-Chairperson of the Swiss delegation to the PACE, pointed out that it would be "naïve to say there is no problem with the financing of Swiss mosques."
"We have no clue who is financing what. We don't know what money is coming in. There is no transparency," she underscored.
For her part, Saida Keller-Messahli, the president of the Forum for a Progressive Islam, told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung that "huge sums of money" flow to Switzerland from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey.
Keller-Messahli claimed that one of those sponsors, the Saudi-based Muslim World League is spreading Wahhabi or Salafist views among European Muslims. According to swissinfo.ch, the concerns were prompted by incidents in Winterthur and Geneva mosques. The media outlet noted that in early November the umbrella association of Islamic organizations in Zurich (VIOZ) suspended the An'Nur mosque in Winterthur, after its imam was reportedly inciting violence. Following the Paris attack in November 2015 the Tribune de Geneve wrote that French police searched the homes of two French imams who worked at the Geneva mosque. The mosque is managed by the Islamic Cultural Foundation of Geneva, reportedly sponsored by Saudi donors. In his March interview with Sputnik French journalist and founder of Agora Erasmus political organization Karel Vereycken underscored that Europeans fear that Saudi preachers are spreading Wahhabi teaching and inciting violence in EU mosques.
"Increasingly, voices have been raised against Saudi Arabia and the spreading of Wahhabi fundamentalism through the Saudi-run Great mosque of Brussels and the Centre Islamique de Belgique (CIB) of Molenbeek, where many young criminals were recruited for making the trip to Syria," Vereycken told Sputnik.
The French journalist insisted that the European leadership should take certain measures to mitigate the threat of radicalization of Muslim youths in the EU.
"First of all, the decades long evil role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in spreading the Wahhabi and Salafist ideologies and the financing of terrorist organizations, on which the Belgian, as well as the US, the British, and the French governments have closed eyes, should be unveiled and 'uprooted,'" he noted. Swissinfo.ch quoted Andreas Tunger-Zanetti, coordinator of the Center for Research on Religion at Lucerne University, who believes that the problem is largely exaggerated. Tunger-Zanetti pointed out that an "average Swiss mosque" has a list at the entrance with the names of its sponsors and the amount of money they donated.
"When I look at how these mosques are working… I don't see Arab money," he told the media outlet adding that the incidents in Geneva and Winterthur mosques deserve attention and it is important to find out what went wrong.
However, the media outlet highlighted that there is virtually no statistics on Swiss mosques' funding.
The Swiss government has no data on Muslims organizations' sources of funding and it prompts growing concerns among Swiss lawmakers. "In Switzerland the freedoms of association, conscience and religion are held up as fundamental rights. Small associations with no economic goals are not required to be listed in the commercial register and declare their financial status," the media outlet explained. Swiss lawmakers' concerns are not completely unfounded. A 2009 secret US diplomatic cable, published by Wikileaks, revealed that Saudi donors have been repeatedly spotted funding various Sunni extremist organization and terrorists worldwide.
"Still, donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide… Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba], and other terrorist groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources, often during Hajj and Ramadan," the cable reads.
AFP | Dec 24, 2016
SESTO SAN GIOVANNI, Italy: Nobody comes to Sesto San Giovanni by chance, say the residents of this dreary working-class Milan suburb where police caught up with Berlin market attack suspect Anis Amri.
So why, Italy wonders, did Europe's most wanted man end up here?
Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian, was shot dead by police on Friday during a routine check at the local train station, after opening fire first.
Sesto San Giovanni, with its 80,000 inhabitants, is where Amri caught the officers' attention in the small hours. It's a hub for transport, the last stop on a metro line, and has a busy bus terminal where buses leave for Spain, Morocco, Albania and southern Italy.
Many foreigners come through here, and police controls are particularly thorough.
"I get checked by police every day getting off the bus," said Aziz, a young Moroccan worker.
"At night this place is deserted, which would explain why somebody alone here would be immediately spotted by a police patrol," he told AFP.
According to Italian daily La Stampa, police believe that Amri arrived in Italy by train from Chambery, southeastern France.
They think he stopped for three hours in Turin, where police are now checking video surveillance footage for clues as to any contact with accomplices.
But none of the images they have seen so far show him using a phone, and according to Milan police chief Antonio De Iesu, he did not have one with him when he was shot dead.
He then travelled to Milan, where he arrived at 1 am Friday, before going on to Sesto San Giovanni.
Was he hoping to hook up with members of a network? Was he looking for new ID to get him out of Europe? Or was he planning some kind of revenge against Italy, where he spent four years in prison for torching a school in 2011?
Police are short on answers. But they do point out, according to Italian media, that Sesto San Giovanni, once known as "Italy's Stalingrad" because of the powerful local Communist party, has become a multicultural town with a large Muslim community.
Police chief De Iesu told journalists that Amri had "no links with the Sesto mosque", but some locals wonder if he had contacts nearby.
"Some people are worried," said Tommaso Trivolo, who lives in a high-rise building opposite the train station from where he saw the ambulances arriving with screaming sirens just after the shooting.
Italy does its bit investigating jihadist sympathiser networks, but only a few dozen Italians have actually gone off to join Islamic State fighters in Iraq or Syria.
And despite the occasional threatening militant video, Italy has never been the target of any jihadist attack.
Still, many Italians are startled that the man tracked by the combined power of the continent's police forces could slip into their country unnoticed.
"He could have committed more attacks," acknowledged De Iesu, calling Amri "a very dangerous fugitive".
Populists have seized the opportunity to further their agenda, including Beppo Grillo, head of the Five Star Movement.
"Italy is becoming a crossroads for terrorists. We can't detect or identify them, and thanks to Schengen they can cross borders without trouble," he said on his blog, referring to the EU's passport-free travel system.
Many other Italians declare themselves to be fatalistic, like Francesco Micali, another resident of Sesto San Giovanni.
"There could easily be an attack in Italy, just like in France, Germany and Spain," said.
As for the two policeman who stopped the suspect, who are being celebrated as heroes in Italy: "They just got lucky," said Micali.
Muslim group wants meeting with Pallister government after funding cut
Preventative pilot project was meant to keep newcomer families from getting caught up in CFS system
CBC News Posted: Dec 24, 2016 10:05 PM CT Last Updated: Dec 24, 2016 10:05 PM CT
The head of the Islamic Social Services Association in Winnipeg is requesting a meeting with Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister's government after funding for a preventative program it ran was cut.
Shahina Siddiqui, the president of the association in the city, said she has asked for a meeting with Families Minister Scott Fielding, but so far the government has refused her request.
Siddiqui wants $110,000 in funding for a pilot prevention program restored. The former NDP government gave the association the funding in 2015, which it would later extend.
The program, which Siddiqui called "critical," paid for a full-time social worker and family support worker to help Syrian refugees integrate into Winnipeg.
The goal of the program is to keep newcomers from becoming involved with the child welfare system and provide Muslim families dealing with the system with support.
Newcomers dealing with the system often face language barriers, which can lead to problems with Child and Family Services, Siddiqui said.
"Things go on the file that are not necessarily true."
'Few actual clients were served': government
Since having its funding cut, Siddiqui said the association has had to let go of a family support worker.
She said the Muslim community in Winnipeg was informed about the cuts Saturday.
"People are quite upset," she said.
A spokesman for Fielding's department said the General Child and Family Services Authority found the project didn't help prevent newcomers from becoming involved with the child welfare system.
"Few actual clients were served. The ISSA was therefore advised that the General Authority is unable to provide ongoing funding for the project," a statement said.
Guled Omar, 22, was one of three Somali-American men sentenced on terror-related charges by the court in the state of Minnesota on Wednesday.
The other two, Abdirahman Daud and Mohamed Farah, also 22, were each jailed for 30 years.
Six other defendants have already been sentenced to terms of up to 15 years.
Omar, Daud and Farah were convicted by a jury in June of conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organisation and conspiracy to commit murder outside the US.
As he awaited his sentence, Omar told the judge that he understood the gravity of his conviction.
I always had energy for justice as a young man but I lost my way," he told the court.
But US District Judge Michael Davis described the group of nine as a "terrorist cell" and said he didn't believe Omar's words of contrition.
Prosecutor Andrew Winter said Omar's crying was crocodile tears.
"Only when backed into a corner, does he attempt to offer false contrition," he said.
"You can't fix manipulative. You can't fix deceitful. And you can't fix Guled Omar."
Prosecutors said the plot had involved a group of friends who planned to travel to Syria and fight alongside IS.
The Minneapolis area is home to the largest concentration of Somali immigrants in the US.
Since 2007, at least 22 Somali men have travelled oversees to support Islamic State or Al-Shabab, a separate militant group based in Somalia.
Sunday Dec 25, 2016
US authorities have warned police across the nation that Islamic State sympathisers are continuing to call for attacks on churches and other Christmas gathering sites.
The warning was issued after a publicly available list of US churches was posted on a militants' social media site.
It also came just days after Monday's attack at a Christmas market in Berlin that killed 12 and injured 56.
FBI spokesman Andrew Ames said US citizens are advised to maintain awareness of their surroundings and report suspicious activity.
He said the FBI will work closely with federal, state and local police should there be any potential threat to public safety.
"The FBI is aware of the recent link published online that urges attacks against US churches," Ames said.
"As with similar threats, the FBI is tracking this matter while we investigate its credibility."
India begins building world’s tallest statue, of 17th-century Hindu ruler who fought Muslim dynasty
NEW DELHI – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday laid the foundation stone for what is set to be the world’s tallest statue, whose projected multimillion-dollar cost has sparked criticism and an online petition against the project.
The statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji, a 17th-century Hindu ruler who fought the Muslim Mogal dynasty and carved out his own kingdom, will be more than twice the size of the Statue of Liberty and five times higher than Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.
The structure, a pet project of Hindu nationalist Modi, will rise 192 meters (630 feet) from an island off the western coast of Mumbai in the Arabian Sea.
When finished, it will tower over the 128-meter Spring Temple Buddha in China’s Henan province that is currently the world’s tallest statue.
“Even in the midst of struggle, Shivaji Maharaj remained a torchbearer of good governance,” Modi said at the inaugural event.
“So many aspects of his personality inspire us.”
The government of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, is expected to spend some 36 billion rupees ($530 million) on the statue, which is scheduled for completion by 2019.
But the project has drawn brickbats from many people who instead want the government to devote its resources to infrastructure, education and development.
By Saturday evening, more than 27,000 people had signed an online petition on Change.org urging the government to drop the plans.
“Apart from a waste of money, this statue is going to be terrible for the environment; for the traffic situation in South Bombay and a security nightmare,” said the petition.
Shivaji is revered by many in Maharashtra. Mumbai’s main train station and airport are named after the ruler, who is also one of the symbols of a Hindu cultural revival promoted by Modi.
The plans for the latest memorial follow an earlier initiative by Modi to build a 182-meter tall tribute to Indian independence hero Sardar Vallabbhai Patel in his home state of Gujarat, at an estimated cost of 25 billion rupees ($368 million). Construction on that statue began in 2014.
PM Modi greets Nawaz Sharif on his birthday
PTI | Updated: Dec 25, 2016
PM Modi wished Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on his birthday
Last year on this day, Modi travelled to Lahore on an unscheduled visit to wish Sharif personally.
PM Modi also attended the marriage ceremony of Sharif's kin.
PM Modi (R) and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New Delhi May 27, 2014. (Reuters File Photo)PM Modi (R) and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New Delhi May 27, 2014. (Reuters File Photo)
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday greeted his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his birthday, notwithstanding the severe chill in relations between the two countries+ .
"Birthday wishes to Pakistan PM Mr. Nawaz Sharif. I pray for his long and healthy life," Modi tweeted.
Sharif turned 67 today.
Narendra Modi ? @narendramodi
Birthday wishes to Pakistan PM Mr. Nawaz Sharif. I pray for his long and healthy life.
7:19 AM - 25 Dec 2016
836 836 Retweets 3,285 3,285 likes
Modi extended birthday wishes to Sharif even though the two countries have been witnessing a severe chill in their relations because of repeated terror attacks in India emanating from Pakistan.
Last year on this day, Modi had made a huge gesture by travelling to Lahore on an unscheduled visit to wish Sharif+ personally and attend the marriage ceremony of his kin.
However, the warmth in the bilateral ties witnessed at that time evaporated after terror attack on the airbase in Pathankot on January 1 this year. Since then the relations have just been sliding as tensions escalated.
PTI | Dec 23, 2016
File photo: Cops stand guard in Srinagar.
SRINAGAR: Normal life was affected in Kashmir valley today due to a strike called by separatists, who have restricted the band-call to two days every week.
Most of the shops, fuel stations and other business establishments in Srinagar were shut, while public transport was minimal, officials said.
They said there were very less street vendors visible in the city today due to the strike. Reports of shutdown were also received from most of the other district headquarters of the Valley, the officials said.
Normalcy has returned after the separatists scaled down their agitation in the Valley, which had been hit by unrest since the the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces in south Kashmir on July 8.
The separatists have also called for protests today against the government's decision to grant identity certificates to West Pakistan refugees. They alleged it was aimed at changing the demography of the state .
The more than five-month unrest in the Valley left 86 people dead and thousands others, including 5,000 security personnel, injured.
PTI | Dec 25, 2016
KARACHI: Pakistan on Sunday released 220 Indian fishermen, a goodwill gesture which comes amid strain in ties after the recent cross border terror incidents.
The 220 fishermen released from Malir jail here were arrested for allegedly entering Pakistan's territorial waters illegally and fishing, jail superintendent Hassan Sehto told PTI.
The fishermen boarded a train to Lahore, from where they will be handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border.
"The interior ministry ordered the release of the 220 fishermen while 219 are still in our custody," Sehto said.
The goodwill gesture comes amid strain in ties between the two countries after Pakistan-based terrorists attacked an Indian army base in Uri in September.
Last week, the Pakistan fishermen forum claimed that Indian maritime authorities had picked up dozens of Pakistani fishermen from inside Pakistan's territorial waters near the Gujarat coastline and taken them away, though the government has not responded to the claim so far.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif congratulated his Christian counterparts on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ and advent of the New Year in the Gregorian calendar.
"Wishing a very happy Christmas and peaceful 2017 to all; may the miracle birth of Jesus Christ bring peace to our troubled world," Zarif wrote on his Twitter account on Sunday.
The Iranian foreign minister congratulated the new Christian year and the birth of the Christ.
In relevant remarks on Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a message to Pope Francis felicitated him on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ and the arrival of the New Christian Year.
"I hope that the world will see peace and justice in the New Year," President Rouhani said in his message.
The Iranian president also expressed the hope that the New Year would be one of spirituality, tolerance, progress and dignity along with peace and justice for all humans across the world.
The Iranian president also on Saturday congratulated the world leaders on the auspicious occasion of the birth anniversary of the prophet of peace and kindness and the advent of the new Christian year.
Rouhani expressed hope that in line with the teachings of the prophets, which brought dialogue and understanding among nations, the world would witness stability and security and the end of the sufferings of the countless people plagued by oppression, corruption and terrorism.
The Iranian president also prayed that God would bestow "happiness and prosperity" upon nations and governments.
Also on Saturday, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani congratulated his Christian counterparts on the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ, expressing the hope that the world parliaments would increase cooperation to fight against terrorism.
In his message to the Christian countries' speakers on Saturday, the top Iranian parliamentarian hoped for the establishment of peace and security in the world, and wished for health and success of all Christian states and nations.
"To attain the ideals of Christ, I believe the dialogue of Abrahamic religions will play a great role; parliaments, as representatives of their nations would contribute to this; Iran’s Parliament welcomes any initiative which seeks to organize such a dialogue and would openly contribute to peace efforts across the globe,” Larijani said in his message.
Larijani underlined that cooperation among the parliaments in fighting terrorism and extremism as well as the interfering and double-standard policies can be an important part of international strategy to this end.
Turkey-backed rebels kill 68 Islamic State fighters near Syria's al-Bab
Sunday 25 December 2016
Syrian rebels backed by Turkish warplanes killed 68 Islamic State (IS) militants in northern Syria overnight, the Turkish military said on Saturday, as intense fighting around the town of al-Bab continued.
Rebels supported by Turkish troops have laid siege to the IS-held town for weeks under the "Euphrates Shield" operation launched by Turkey almost four months ago to sweep the Sunni hardliners and Kurdish fighters from its Syrian border.
Fighting around al-Bab has escalated this week with Turkish soldiers and 138 militants killed in clashes on Wednesday in the deadliest day since the start of Turkey's Syrian incursion.
Sixty-eight Islamic State militants have been "neutralised" in fighting and air strikes near al-Bab since Friday night, the military said in a statement.
A total of 141 Islamic State targets were hit in the attacks and one of its military headquarters was destroyed, the military said, adding that two of the Turkish-backed rebel fighters had been killed and one wounded.
Defence Minister Fikri Isik said on Friday that the area around a hospital used as a command centre and ammunition depot by IS had been cleared of militants, marking a breakthrough for the rebels.
Speaking in Kocaeli province, near Istanbul, Isik also said authorities had information three Turkish soldiers had been captured by IS but nothing else had been confirmed.
IS in Syria released a video on Thursday purporting to show two captured Turkish soldiers being burned to death, according to the US-based SITE Intelligence Group which monitors militant groups online.
Rebels supported by Turkish troops have laid siege to Islamic State-held town for weeks under Turkey's 'Euphrates Shield' operation
PTI | Updated: Dec 24, 2016, 07.16 PM IST
JERUSALEM: Israel has termed as "despicable" and "shameful" the US' move to abstain from vetoing a UN Security Council resolution condemning its settlements in Palestine, accusing the Obama administration of colluding with Jerusalem's detractors in Israel's "harassment".
"Israel categorically rejects the despicable anti-Israeli resolution at the UN, and will not adhere to it," the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) here said in a terse statement after the UNSC voted in favour of the motion condemning Israel's settlement activities in the West Bank and east Jerusalem 14-0, with close ally America abstaining from the vote.
"While the Security Council does nothing to prevent the massacre of half a million people in Syria, it is shamefully singling out Israel -- the only democracy in the middle east. The Obama administration not only failed to defend Israel from this harassment at the UN, it cooperated with it behind the scenes," the PMO statement said.
In what is being seen as a final repudiation of the Obama administration, with which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has often been at loggerheads, the PMO said that Israel was "looking forward to working with President-elect [Donald] Trump and with our friends in Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, to undo the damage of this absurd resolution."
Trump promptly reacted in a tweet saying, "As to the UN, things will be different after January 20th", a clear signal that the strategic ties between Israel and the US would continue as usual once he takes charge.
Israel's Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz talking to Channel 2 here said that "this is not the way friends behave" after the US abstained in the vote, surprising many in Israel given that America has always vetoed resolutions condemning Israel at the UNSC.
"The United States abandoned Israel, its only ally in the Middle East. The heart aches that after eight years of friendship and cooperation with Obama, this is his final chord" before he leaves office, Steinitz said.
Israel's ambassador to the UN Danny Dannon also criticized the US abstention.
"It was expected that Israel's greatest friend would act according to its decades-long policy and veto the one-sided resolution," Dannon said adding that he has "no doubt" that the new US administration will usher in a new era.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also decided to immediately call back Israel's ambassadors in New Zealand and Senegal, two sponsors of yesterday's resolution, for consultations.
The PMO said that a planned official visit by Senegal's foreign minister next month would be cancelled and all Israeli aid programmes in the country would be halted.
Israel will re-assess its ties with the United Nations following the adoption by the Security Council of a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday.
The vote was able to pass the 15-member council on Friday because the United States broke with a long-standing approach of diplomatically shielding Israel and did not wield its veto power as it had on many times before - a decision that Netanyahu called "shameful".
"I instructed the Foreign Ministry to complete within a month a re-evaluation of all our contacts with the United Nations, including the Israeli funding of UN institutions and the presence of U.N. representatives in Israel," Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks.
"I have already instructed to stop about 30 million shekels ($7.8 million) in funding to five U.N. institutions, five bodies, that are especially hostile to Israel ... and there is more to come," he said.
The Israeli leader did not name the institutions or offer any further details.
Defying heavy pressure from long-time ally Israel and President-elect Donald Trump for Washington to use its veto, the United States abstained in the Security Council decision, which passed with 14 votes in favor.
Israel for decades has pursued a policy of constructing Jewish settlements on territory captured by Israel in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbours including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
Most countries view Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Israel disagrees, citing a biblical connection to the land.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Javad Jahangirzadeh and Azeri Justice Minister Fikrat Mammadov in a meeting in Baku on Sunday underlined the need for broadening bilateral ties in different fields.
During the meeting in the Azeri capital today, Jahangirzadeh and Mammadov explored avenues for bolstering and reinvigorating mutual cooperation political and economic areas.
The two sides also reviewed setting up a working group with the aim to deepen cooperation between the justice and legal bodies of the two countries, increase legal efficiency, speed up settlement of legal and judicial problems and implement the agreements already reached between the two countries.
Jahangirzadeh said that within the framework of the three agreements already signed between Iran and Azerbaijan Republic concerning extradition of prisoners, transfer of 400 Iranian prisoners have taken place in several phases so far.
In relevant remarks in early August, Iranian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev in a meeting in Baku underlined the need for the further expansion of mutual cooperation between the two countries.
During the meeting in the Azeri capital, Vaezi and President Aliyev discussed broadening of bilateral relations in different areas.
Vaezi appreciated President Aliyev's role in enhancement of the two countries' bilateral ties, and said that the two countries' presidents are determined to boost the level of their cooperation in different fields.
The Azeri president, for his part, hailed Vaezi's role in expanding ties between the two countries.
The two sides also discussed political and economic ties between the two countries and cooperation in the Caspian Sea, and exchanged views about the prospects of relations in energy, transport, investment, finance, banking, agricultural, tourism and healthcare.
Pakistan, Turkey FTA negotiations make headway
Pakistan and Turkey held their fifth round of the negotiations on Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and achieved progress on the tariff lines proposed for concessions by the both sides.
Both sides undertook discussions on agreement on goods, agreement on services and agreement on investment, said a press release issued Saturday.
Considerable progress was made during the talks on all these agreements, it claimed.
During the talks held in cordial environment, substantial progress was achieved on the tariff lines proposed for concessions by the both sides.
Keeping in view the directives and earnest desire of the highest leadership, both sides agreed to hold next round of talks in Islamabad at the earliest possible date.
In the negotiations held in Ankara from December 21-23, the Pakistani delegation was headed by Additional Secretary, Ministry of Commerce Mian Asad Hayauddin and included officials of ministries of commerce, Industries and textiles, Federal Board of Revenue and Engineering Development Board.
The sessions were also attended by Ambassador of Pakistan to Turkey Sohail Mahmood.
The Turkish delegation was headed by Deputy Undersecretary, Ministry of Economy Husnu Dilemre and was assisted in talks by the officials of ministries of economy, and customs and trade, besides and Directorate General of Imports.
Consul General of Pakistan in Istanbul was also present in the talks.
Reading fake news, Pakistani minister directs nuclear threat at Israel
Russel Goldman | NYT News Service | Updated: Dec 25, 2016
NEW YORK: A fake news article led to gunfire at a Washington pizzeria three weeks ago. Now it seems that another fake news story has prompted the defense minister of Pakistan to threaten to go nuclear.
The defense minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, wrote a saber-rattling Twitter post directed at Israel on Friday after a false report+ — which the minister apparently believed — that Israel had threatened Pakistan with nuclear weapons. Both countries have nuclear arsenals.
"Israeli def min threatens nuclear retaliation presuming pak role in Syria against Daesh," the minister wrote on his official Twitter account, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. " Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear state too+ ."
Asif appeared to be reacting to a fake news article published on awdnews.com.
That story, with the typo-laden headline "Israeli Defense Minister: If Pakistan send ground troops to Syria on any pretext, we will destroy this country with a nuclear attack," appeared December 20 on the website, alongside articles with headlines such as "Clinton is staging a military coup against Trump."
The fake story about Israel even misidentified the country's defense minister, attributing quotations to a former minister, Moshe Yaalon. Israel's current minister of defense is Avigdor Lieberman.
The Israeli defense ministry responded on Twitter to say the report was fictitious.
"The statement attributed to fmr Def Min Yaalon re Pakistan was never said," the ministry wrote in Twitter post directed at Asif. The Israeli ministry added in a second post: "Reports referred to by the Pakistani Def Min are entirely false."
Khawaja M. Asif ✔ @KhawajaMAsif
Israeli def min threatens nuclear retaliation presuming pak role in Syria against Daesh.Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear state too AH
12:21 AM - 24 Dec 2016
2,658 2,658 Retweets 1,577 1,577 likes
Asif did not respond to the Israelis on Twitter, and as of Saturday his message had been reposted nearly 400 times. Many of the people reacting to Asif on Twitter mocked him for his mistake.
The proliferation of fake news stories — spread on social networks and produced by a variety of sources including pranksters, foreign governments and enterprising individuals who hope to receive advertising revenue by driving traffic to their websites — has become an increasingly serious problem.
A North Carolina man was arrested Dec. 4 after firing a gun at a Washington pizza parlor, because investigators said he was investigating claims in fake news articles that the pizzeria was at the center of a child sex slave ring linked to Hillary Clinton.
Zardari's close aide booked under anti-terrorism law
KARACHI: Paramilitary rangers have carried out raids and booked a close aide of former president Asif Ali Zardari under anti-terrorism law, as Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-Chairperson returned to the country ending his 18- month-long self imposed exile.
Political analysts see the raids carried out on the offices and residence of businessman Anwar Majeed (who is still at large), just hours after Zardari's return on Friday, as a message by the establishment to the firebrand leader to stay out of politics.
Other close aides of Zardari including an influential former petroleum minister and businessman Dr Asim Hussain are already languishing in jails facing several cases of corruption and aiding terrorism.
Zardari today visited the national institute for cardio diseases and met with Dr Hussain for an hour.
"The rangers decision to carry out the raids on the same day as Zardari arrived. It shows that the powerful lobbies are not keen to have him in the country," political analyst Nigar Jafri said.
"There are several cases and issues pending in which his close aides have been accused of massive corruption and some are in custody, so basically it is a message to him to go back to Dubai," another analyst said.
However, Zardari appeared calm when he visited the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah today to pay homage to the founder of the country on his birthday.
"Yes Anwar Majeed is a friend but why the rangers have raided his offices you should ask the interior minister," Zardari told the media.
He said he was also keeping abreast of the cases against Asim.
"I have said before, these charges are political victimisation," he added.
Interestingly, Zardari's return to Karachi was not celebrated as a big occasion by the PPP as everyone expected and instead of going from the airport to his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's house in a motorcade the former president and his close aides preferred to fly from the airport by a helicopter prompting speculations that there were security threats to his life.
Political analysts and citizens had expected the PPP to make a big show of Zardari's return on the main Karsaz road, where in October 2007, a deadly attack on the motorcade and procession of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who had returned home from a self-imposed exile after nine years, had killed around 160 PPP activists.
December 25th, 2016
LARKANA: Four suspects were arrested from around Garhi Khuda Bakhsh Bhutto where police have been making elaborate arrangements for safety and security of Pakistan Peoples Party leaders, activists and supporters arriving in large groups to participate in the 9th death anniversary of slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto being observed on Tuesday.
“The suspects were picked up on a lead given by four outlaws arrested a fortnight ago for their alleged connections with the terrorists involved in certain bombing incidents that had occurred in the past in Shikarpur and Jacobabad,” Larkana DIG Abdullah Shaikh told newsmen while briefing them on Saturday about a security plan for the Dec 27 anniversary programme to be held at Bhuttos’ mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh Bhutto.
The DIG said that the fresh arrests were part of a crackdown currently under way in the Larkana region on intelligence-based information. “They are being interrogated,” he added.
“Foolproof security arrangements, more extensive than the previous year’s event, have been made for the occasion,” he said.
Giving details, the DIG said that around 6,800 officers and personnel would be deployed. He said the personnel would be directly supervised and monitored by 32 SSP- and 71 DSP-level officers at 26 selected points. Around 300 Rangers men would also be deployed at places specified as sensitive.
As part of the security plan, he said, equipment and gadgets including walk-through scanners and closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras were being installed at various places in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh Bhutto.
The DIG, however, made it clear that “there is no specific security threat” and explained that the arrangements were being made keeping in view the incidents of terrorism that had taken place in the past within this [Larkana police range] region. DIG Shaikh said that a strict watch was being maintained at the entry/exit points along the Sindh-Balochistan border. The border districts falling within the Larkana police range are Qambar-Shahdadkot, Kashmor-Khandkot and Jacobabad, besides Larkana. Any person or vehicle passing through the points would be allowed to move on only after necessary security checks to be conducted by personnel present at the check posts, he said. Meanwhile, Larkana PPP women’s wing met at Kennedy Market on Saturday to review the arrangements made by party leaders and cadres for the anniversary programme.
Former minister Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto, Nasiban Channa, Dr Sakina Gaad and others attended the meeting where former PPP Larkana district general secretary Abdul Fatah Bhutto was specially invited.
The meeting decided to form a women’s volunteers force to look after security at ladies’ gatherings in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh Bhutto on Tuesday. The decision was taken in view of a huge number of women expected to take part in the programme and possibility of mismanagement or security lapse leading to an untoward incident.
Taliban’s shadow deputy governor among 6 killed in Faryab
By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Dec 25 2016
The shadow provincial governor of the Taliban group was killed along with five others during an operation in northern Faryab province of Afghanistan.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) said the militants were killed during an operation in the restive Ghormach district.
MoD further added that 8 other militants also sustained serious injuries during the operation.
No further details were given regarding the identity of the Taliban leader killed in the operation.
The Taliban militants group has not commented regarding the report so far.
Faryab is among the relatively volatile provinces in northern Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgents and militants belonging to the other militant groups are actively operating, including the militants belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
The Afghan forces are busy conducting their annual operation under the name of Shafaq which they are saying has been launched in response to Taliban’s annual spring offensive.
According to the security officials, the main purpose of the operation is to eliminate the senior leaders of the militants plotting and conducting attacks against the government.
Taliban leader among 7 killed, wounded in Nangarhar airstrikes
At least three Taliban insurgents including a local leader of the group were killed and four others were wounded in separate airstrikes in eastern Nangarhar province.
The provincial police commandment in a statement said the Taliban leader Abdul Rahman was killed in the first airstrike conducted in Bati Kot district and four of his companions were wounded.
The statement further added that two more militants were killed in the second airstrike conducted in Achin district.
According to the provincial police commandment, the militants killed or wounded in Achin district are all foreigners.
No further details were given regarding the raids and it is yet not clear if the airstrikes were conducted by the US forces or the Afghan Air Force.
It is also not clear if the militants killed in Achin district were loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group.
The anti-government armed militant groups have not commented regarding the report so far.
Both the Afghan forces and US forces based in Afghanistan are conducting regular airstrikes against the anti-government armed militant groups.
The US forces stepped up airstrikes by resuming their operations earlier this year after the Obama administration granted them broader role to go after insurgents.
The broader role was apparently given amid concerns that the militant groups, specifically the ISIS loyalists are attempting to expand foothold and turn the province into their regional operational base.
DHAKA: Two militants linked to the Islamist extremist group behind July’s Dhaka cafe siege that left 22 people dead were killed on Saturday after Bangladesh police raided a hideout in the capital, officials said.
Security forces, acting on a tip, besieged a flat in Dhaka’s Dakshinkhan neighbourhood for more than 12 hours, with the operation coming to an end at around 4pm after officers exchanged gun-fire with the militants, police said.
A child was also injured when one of the militants, a woman who was holding the child, exploded a vest she was wearing.
“Two extremists were killed including a woman who detonated a suicide vest,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Masudur Rahman said.
He said the two were members of a faction of the JMB (Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh), the banned extremist outfit blamed for a wave of attacks including the July 1 massacre at a Dhaka restaurant in which 22 people, mostly foreigners, were killed.
Dhaka police chief Asaduzzaman Mia said the female militant exploded the vest in an attempt to target the security forces.
The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai joined the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to wish the Pakistani Prime Nawaz Sharif on his birthday.
“Honourable Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sahib, happy birthday! Best wishes to you and the brotherly people of Pakistan,” Karzai said in a Twitter post.
Earlier, the Indian Prime Minister published similar Twitter post, saying “Birthday wishes to Pakistan PM Mr Nawaz Sharif. I pray for his long and healthy life.”
This comes as tensions remain high between India and Pakistan, mainly due to war against terrorism and cross-border incursions.
On the other hand, the relations between Kabul and Islamabad also witnessed some low during the recent months.
The Afghan officials are saying that the leadership councils of the Afghan militant groups are based in Peshawar and Quetta cities of Pakistan, slamming the country’s officials for remaining reckless to act against the groups which are planning and coordinating attacks in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan summoned the Pakistani Ambassador last week to lodge a protest against the resumption of artillery shelling by Pakistani military and militia forces.
According to the Afghan officials, the Pakistani envoy was summoned after rockets were fired in Maruf district of Kandahar and Sarkano district of Kunar.
At least two civilians were killed in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosion in eastern Laghman province of Afghanistan.
According to the local government officials, the incident took place earlier today close to Akhund Baba shrine.
Provincial governor’s spokesman Sarhadi Zwak confirmed the incident and death two civilians in the explosion.
No group including the Taliban insurgents has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.
Taliban militants and insurgents belonging to other militant groups are frequently using Improvised Explosive Device (IED) as the weapon of their choice to target the security forces and government officials.
However, in majority of such attacks, the ordinary civilians are targeted as the anti-government armed militants are accused of incurring the most casualties to the civilians.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said late in October that the mission has documented 8,397 conflict-related civilian casualties (2,562 deaths and 5,835 injured) between 1 January and 30 September, representing a one per cent decrease compared to the same period in 2015.
Ground engagements remained the leading cause of civiliancasualties, followed by suicide and complex attacks, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
UNAMA further added that the anti-Government Elements caused 61 per cent of civilian casualties – 1,569 civilian deaths and 3,574 injured (5,143 total civilian casualties).
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Nigerian Army captured one of the final camps of terrorist organization Boko Haram in the far Northeast of the country, said President Muhammadu Buhari Saturday.
In a statement, Buhari said that the capture of the stronghold dubbed, “Camp Zero,” signaled the “final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in the Sambisa forest”, Telesur reported.
“I was told by the chief of army staff that the camp fell and that the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide. I urge you to maintain the tempo by pursuing them and bringing them to justice,” Buhari continued.
The president said that the news was "long-awaited and most gratifying” and thanked the armed forces for “entering and crushing the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents."
The Sambisa forest, a former game reserve, is where Boko Haram is believed to be holding more than 200 abducted schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in April 2014, which brought the group to the world’s attention and a ramping up of operations by Nigerian forces.
According to nongovernmental organizations and officials, at least 2,000 women and girls have been abducted by the group since early 2015.
Since 2009, the group has been waging a campaign against the Nigerian government to impose a hardline system of Islamic law in the northeast of the country, where the fighting has displaced about 2.6 million people and killed at least 20,000 people, and included abductions, civilian slaughters and suicide attacks.
Nigeria's Army along with forces from neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger have recently pushed back Boko Haram forces, after they were estimated to have held a territory the size of Belgium in 2015.
While the group appears to be close to total defeat it still poses a threat from characteristic suicide attacks in crowded public spaces. Citizens in Nigeria and bordering countries have been warned to remain cautious as members from the group flee into different areas.
Reuters | Dec 24, 2016
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. (Reuters file photo)
CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Saturday that the military's economic activity accounted for no more than two per cent of the country's output, dismissing suggestions that the military could control as much as half of the economy.
Speaking at an event celebrating the expansion of a military-owned company, Sisi said the military made up 1.5-2 per cent of economic output which he said was 3-4 trillion Egyptian pounds ($160 billion-$213 billion).
That would put the military's share of economic activity at between $2.39 billion and $4.26 billion.
"It has been said that the military's economy is worth 20 or even 50 per cent of the economy. I wish. We have nothing to hide; the military accounts for between 1.5 to 2 per cent of the economy," Sisi said, adding that the military paid taxes on all projects and that they were subject to regulations and auditing.
"We would love for it to be 50 per cent."
Sisi, a former general who took office in 2014, has promised to revive the economy, which has struggled since a 2011 uprising scared away investors and tourists, Egypt's main sources of foreign currency.
He has called in the military to assist in major infrastructure projects and with distribution of subsidised commodities to keep a lid on rising prices amid an acute shortage of dollars.
The economic weight of the military, which produces everything from bottled water to macaroni, has long been a topic of speculation in Egypt but official comment on the scope of its economic activities is rare.
BERLIN: Germany on Saturday searched for possible accomplices of the suspected Berlin truck attacker who was gunned down by Italian police, as Tunisia announced the arrest of three men linked to the jihadist.
One of those detained was the nephew of the Tunisian-born attack suspect Anis Amri, the country’s interior ministry said.
The three men, aged between 18 and 27, were arrested on Friday and were members of a “terrorist cell... connected to the terrorist Anis Amri”,” it said in a statement.
It made no direct link between the trio and the attack on Monday, when Amri is believed to have hijacked a truck and used it to mow down holiday revellers at a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people.
The 24-year-old then went on the run and was the focus of a frantic four-day manhunt, before being shot dead by police in Milan after opening fire first.
The Berlin rampage was claimed by the militant Islamic State group, which released a video Friday in which Amri is shown pledging allegiance to IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The Tunisian interior ministry said Amri had sent money to his nephew and shared his jihadist views with him.
“One of the members of the cell is the son of the sister of the terrorist (Amri) and during the investigation he admitted that he was in contact with his uncle through (the messaging service) Telegram,” it said.
Amri allegedly urged his nephew to adopt jihadist ideology “and asked him to pledge allegiance to Daesh (IS),” it said.
The arrests come as German authorities are racing to find out whether Amri had help from accomplices before or after the attack.
“It is very important for us to determine whether there was a network of accomplices... in the preparation or the execution of the attack, or the flight of the suspect,” federal prosecutor Peter Frank said.
Seven of the victims were German nationals, a federal police spokeswoman said. The other five came from the Czech Republic, Italy, Israel, Poland and Ukraine. She declined to provide names or ages.
The fact that Amri was able to travel to Italy unhindered despite a Europe-wide arrest warrant has raised uncomfortable questions for intelligence agencies.
German security services have also faced criticism for not keeping better tabs on Amri before the Berlin carnage, even though he was a known criminal with links to the Islamist scene.
But Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere denied there had been a blanket security failure.
It “is impossible to monitor every person suspected of posing a threat around the clock,” he told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged a “comprehensive” analysis of how Amri was able to slip through the net and vowed to speed up the deportation of rejected asylum seekers like him.
The fugitive was killed after pulling out a pistol and firing at two officers who had stopped him for a routine identity check Friday near Milan’s Sesto San Giovanni railway station.