Photo: Taseer's killer Mumtaz Qadri hanged
First Iran Vote after Nuclear Deal Gives Reformists Momentum
Islamist Group Kills 30 in Twin Blasts in Somali Town
Salman Taseer's Killer Mumtaz Qadri Hanged
Lahore Court Sentences Brothers to Death Over 'Honour' Killing
Activist of banned outfit arrested in Islamabad
Wife of former ISI operative claims Nawaz Sharif received money from Osama Bin Laden
Pathankot JIT to complete air base attack probe this week: Tariq Fatemi
Pakistani troops off to UN mission
Erdoğan: Turkey Will Not Allow a Terrorist Corridor In North Syria
Election Results: Principlists Win Iran, Rreformists-Moderates Win Tehran
Iran’s pragmatic Rouhani cheers election triumph
Turkish military strikes on Syria would ‘deal blow’ to ceasefire plan – Russia
Draft requiring consent for trial of soldiers raises human rights concerns
Minister says 355,000 people have left Southeast due to clashes
Turkey denies Russian claim Syrian town attacked from its territory
Turkey has foiled 18 suicide attacks since start of year, minister says
Russia says Turkey has to admit downing jet ‘disaster’ to normalize ties
Soldier killed during anti-PKK operations in Sur
Deadline Given To Radical Muslim Groups in Bosnia Expires
Designing a Hospital like a Village Could Solve One of Africa’s Biggest Health Problems
Iraq Death Toll From IS Bombing Of Baghdad Market Now At 73
Over A Dozen Militants Killed In Clashes with Syrian Army in Aleppo
Saudi Forces Sustain Heavy Casualties in Ta'iz, Ma'rib Provinces
Syrian Army, Hezbollah Inflict More Defeats on Militants in Hama
Syrian Army Repels Militants' Offensive in Hama Province
Syria: Turkish Artillery Units Shell Key Town North of Raqqa
Over 100 Terrorists Cross Turkish Border to Syria
Syrian Sources Deny Terrorists' Claims about Taking Back Key Town in Aleppo
Syria: Russian Air Force Pounds Terrorists' Defense Lines in Idlib
MoD: 57 Militants Killed In Latest Counter-Terrorism Operations
Senior ISIS Commanders among 7 Killed In Nangarhar Drone Strike
3 killed, 11 wounded as explosion rocks Lashkargah city in Helmand
Gen. Salangi slams ISI for its destructive role in Afghanistan
1 killed, 10 wounded as rocket hits residential house in Kunar
NDS rescues 3 hostages in Logar, 4 still in kidnappers’ custody
Indonesia Hopes Village Spending Will Counter Radicalism
Online shopping takes a hit in Malaysia
IS Hacks UK Solar Firm Site in Revenge
Asian Man's Finger Cut-Off in Racist Attack in UK
Greece says up to 70,000 migrants may be 'trapped' next month
Canada Fulfils Promise to Take 25,000 Syrian Refugees
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
IANS | Feb 29, 2016
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities on Monday executed commando Mumtaz Qadri for the murder of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer in 2011.
Qadri was hanged at the Adiala jail in Rawalpindi after an anti-terrorism court convicted and sentenced him to death in October 2011 for shooting Taseer 28 times in Islamabad's Kohsar Market on January 4, 2011.
Governor Taseer had reportedly criticized Pakistan's anti-blasphemy laws, prompting Qadri to shoot him in broad daylight, Daily Pakistan reported.
He had filed a mercy plea before President Mamnoon Hussain after Supreme Court maintained his conviction in October last year.
Religious parties had threatened nationwide protests if Qadri was hanged. In view of a possible backlash, the president's family has been moved from Karachi to Islamabad.
Strict security measures were taken within the jail premises and a heavy contingent of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA) personnel were deployed to avoid any untoward incident.
All routes leading to the jail were sealed.
Erdoğan says he does not obey or respect top court ruling on jailed journalists
February 28, 2016
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday he does not obey or respect the decision by the Constitutional Court declaring that the imprisonment of two prominent journalists for a report on alleged illegal arms transfers to Syria amounted to a violation of their rights.
Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and its Ankara representative Erdem Gül were freed in the early hours of Friday after 92 days in jail following the top court's ruling. The court said the journalists' right to freedom and security, the right to express their thoughts and freedom of the press under articles 19, 26 and 28 of the Constitution, respectively, were violated.
"The Constitutional Court may have reached such a verdict. I would only remain silent. I am not in a position to accept it," Erdoğan told reporters before departing for a visit to African countries. "I do not obey it nor do I respect it."
Dündar and Gül were arrested on charges of espionage and aiding a terrorist organization in November after the publication of video footage purporting to show the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) helping to send weapons to Syria when they were intercepted in 2014 by gendarmerie forces. The arrest drew international condemnation and revived concern about media freedom in Turkey.
Erdoğan, who had described the interception of the MİT trucks as an act of espionage aimed at undermining Turkey internationally, vowed that Dündar would pay a "heavy price" for reporting on the incident. "I will not let him go [unpunished]," he said back in November.
"The media cannot have unlimited freedom. These reports are an attack on the current president of this country," Erdoğan said on Sunday. "This has nothing to do with freedom of expression at all. This is an espionage case."
He also said the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court, which is overseeing the two journalists' trial and ruled for their release in line with the decision of the Constitutional Court, could have resisted the top court's ruling and refused to free them.
"That would have invalidated the Constitutional Court ruling or those who were freed would have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights," he said.
Despite their release from prison, Dündar and Gül are still facing possible life sentences in a trial, which is due to start on March 25. The indictment against the two journalists seeks an aggravated life sentence, a life sentence and 30 years of imprisonment on separate charges including “obtaining and revealing secret information pertaining to the security of the state for espionage purposes,” “seeking to overthrow the Turkish government” and “aiding an armed terrorist organization.”
Erdoğan's remarks lead to strong criticisms
Erdoğan's remarks on the Constitutional Court's decision about Gül and Dündar attracted strong criticisms from intellectuals, jurists and politicians.
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu said Erdoğan has to respect and implement both the Constitution and the decisions of constitutional institutions as befitting his current position.
Tanrıkulu said: “A president cannot disregard the Constitution. If he says such a thing, this clearly implies he also does not respect the current constitutional order in the country. He is also encouraging people not to respect the Constitution and the court rulings.”
Bülent Tezcan, the deputy parliamentary group chairman of the CHP, also reacted against Erdoğan's statement on Twitter on Sunday. He said Erdoğan does not recognize the Constitution, adding, “Now, he [Erdoğan] is calling on the courts to not recognize the laws and the Constitution.”
Constitutional law professor and Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Mithat Sancar said he was not surprised by Erdoğan's recent statement, underlining Erdoğan has not been respecting constitutional laws since he was elected president in August 2014. “Not only with his statements, he has also violated the Constitution with his acts. One of the most typical violation is engaging in an electoral campaign as though he was the chairman of a political party [ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party)] before the June 7 election,” Sancar said.
Saying Erdoğan engaged in similar acts that do not comply with the Constitution while he was serving as prime minister before he was elected president, Sancar stated: “Actually, the AK Party has never been at peace with the rule of law. When it feels it is necessary, it puts the laws aside. When it also feels the need, it uses these laws against its opponents in the harshest manner.”
Responding to critics who accuse him of violating his constitutional limits, Erdoğan had said he was elected by the nation and is determined to use his authorities “to the end.”
"You can either accept it or not. Turkey's government system has been de facto changed in this regard. What should be done now is to finalize the legal framework of this de facto situation with a new Constitution," Erdoğan said during a speech on Aug. 16, 2015.
'Erdoğan staged a coup on anniversary of Feb. 28'
CHP deputy Özgür Özel held a press conference in Parliament on Sunday. Reminding that Sunday marks the anniversary of the Feb. 28, 1997 post-modern coup, Özel accused Erdoğan of staging a coup on the anniversary of Feb. 28 coup.
“Erdoğan made a coup against the judiciary on the anniversary of Feb. 28. He attempted to adjust the higher judiciary,” Özel stated.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) parliamentary group chairman Oktay Vural said Erdoğan has admitted that Turkey is no longer a state being ruled by law. Speaking at a press conference in Parliament on Sunday, Vural said that Erdoğan also gave an order to the local court during his speech, but Erdoğan had promised to respect the supremacy of law during his presidential oath.
“If you say you don't respect the court ruling, this means you don't think of a state as being ruled by law. There is no supremacy of law, but you have the law of superiors in your mind. This one-man, pro-coup mindset is against the rule of law and the supremacy of law. This is a typical example of the Feb. 28 [coup]," Vural maintained.
Contemporary Journalists Association (ÇGD) President Ahmet Abakay said the president is obligated to respect the Constitutional Court. “However, we know that the president does not respect even the Constitution via his practices and statements. This situation does not comply with a democratic country. The state administrators have to respect the laws, Constitution and the judicial bodies and they are binding for them. But now in Turkey, the administrators do not respect the law,” Abakay said.
Pointing to Erdoğan's remarks that the trial of Dündar and Gül was not a case of freedom of expression but an espionage case, Abakay said this is not true. He added: “This is not an espionage case. For a journalist, whether a report is factual or not is important. Erdoğan has never said the report [of Cumhuriyet daily] was a lie. He even confirmed it by saying, ‘So what if the trucks were filled with weapons?' Reporting is the duty of those friends [Gül and Dündar] and they just did their job.”
Commenting on Erdoğan's remarks that the local court should have resisted the ruling of the top court, Abakay also said his statement was actually a clear threat against those judges who gave the decision. “He tells the judges in what way they should give their rulings,” Abakaya added.
Veteran journalist Hasan Cemal also posted a tweet on the issue on Sunday, stating: “I don't know what to say; you become tongue-tied, when you look at Erdoğan's reactions against the Constitutional Court's ruling. I repeat this: Stability is nothing more than a dream in a country with Erdoğan, who is disregarding the law in such level.”
Journalist Özgür Mumcu addressed Erdoğan in a tweet on Sunday, saying: “You are now in your palace because the Constitutional Court, which you say don't respect, did not decide to shut down your party previously. If people also had not respected that ruling of the court, where would you be now?”
Emin Çapa, CNN Türk's senior economy editor, also commented on the issue, saying that Erdoğan can say that he does not agree with the ruling, but he holds a position in which he is obligated to respect court rulings and implement those rulings.
The Constitutional Court's ruling, which Erdoğan is highly critical of, was praised by members of the European Parliament, Council of Europe and diplomats on Friday.
Pointing out that the top court's ruling reveals its implicit acknowledgment that pre-trial imprisonment is an act of illegal confinement, Rebecca Harms, president of the Greens in the European Parliament, noted that freedom of expression and opinion must not be labeled a criminal offense since pluralism and freedom of speech are basic prerequisites of a viable democracy.
Daniel Höltgen, Council of Europe spokesman, said in a statement on Thursday evening that he was glad to hear of the Constitutional Court's decision to release the two journalists. “I trust that the Constitutional Court will continue to assert itself for the sake of freedom of expression in Turkey, relying on the European Convention on Human Rights,” Höltgen said.
Commenting on the Constitutional Court's decision on her Twitter account on Thursday evening, European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur Kati Piri also welcomed the ruling and said both Dündar and Gül should be freed soon.
Islamist group kills 30 in twin blasts in Somali town
Reuters | Feb 29, 2016
MOGADISHU: Somalia's al Shabaab Islamist group bombed a busy junction and a nearby restaurant in the town of Baidoa on Sunday, killing at least 30 people, police said.
Al Shabaab often carries out such suicide attacks in the capital and elsewhere in its bid to topple Somalia's Western-backed government.
The group wants to impose its strict version of Islamic rule in the Horn of Africa nation.
"The restaurant and the junction were very busy," Police Major Bilow Nurr told Reuters from Baidoa, which lies about 245 km (152 miles) northwest of Mogadishu.
Police Colonel Abdi Osman said the death toll was 30, with 40 others injured.
According to Hospital authorities, many of the bodies it received were charred beyond recognition.
"A suicide car bomb blew up at the junction while a second blast, possibly a bomb that had been planted or a suicide bomber struck the restaurant.
"We targeted government officials and forces," al Shabaab's military operation spokesperson Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told Reuters, adding that there was a police station nearby.
Ismail Olad told Reuters that the two locations were full of civilians and security forces. "I heard a huge crash at the busy junction and as I ran, I heard another blast at a restaurant ahead of me. The whole place was covered by smoke," he said.
The blasts follows a car bomb attack in Mogadishu near a park and hotel on Friday that killed 14 people, police said. He said three militants from the al Shabaab group were also killed.
Lahore court sentences brothers to death over 'honour' killing
Feb 29, 2016
LAHORE: A sessions court on Monday sentenced two brothers, Ahsan and Zeeshan Butt, to death twice for killing their sister and her husband over 'honour' six years ago.
Judge Naveed Iqbal also imposed a fine of Rs one million each on the convicted men.
The two brothers had shot dead their sister, Saba, and her husband, Shafiq, for marrying out of their own will six years ago.
The couple, who were residents of Yaki Gate area of Lahore's walled city, had married of their free will in 2009 and had moved away. But Ahsan and Zeeshan invited them over for a meal and shot dead the couple only a few months after their marriage.
The sentence comes as Pakistan celebrates its second Oscar win, courtesy of filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy whose documentary based on the heinous crime won the prestigious award.
Earlier in 2012 Sharmeen had won an Academy Award for the film Saving Face, which highlighted the plight of acid attack survivors.
More than 500 men and women died in honour killings in 2015, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
‘Honour killing’ is defined as: “killing of a female, and sometimes her love-interests and other associates, for supposed sexual or marital offenses, typically by her own relatives, with the justification being that the ‘offence’ has brought dishonour to the family.”
Such crimes are perpetrated for a wide range of offences, marital infidelity, pre-marital sex, flirting, refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of sexual assault, seeking a divorce even from an abusive husband or allegedly committing adultery, can all be perceived as impugning the family honour.
February 29th, 2016
ISLAMABAD: An activist of a banned outfit was arrested on the charge of distributing literature against the government and for seeking enforcement of Sharia in the country.
The Bhara Kahu police said the accused, a university student and worker of a banned organisation, had already been booked by the Sabzi Mandi and Industrial Area police under the same charges.
Shaukat Ali, an official of the Bhara Kahu police, told Dawn that the suspect was distributing literature in front of Farooqia Masjid on Murree Road when he was arrested.
“The literature was against the government and it stressed that Sharia should be enforced in the country. As the accused belongs to a banned outfit, he was arrested,” he said.
In reply to a question, Mr Shaukat said the suspect was a university student. He belongs to a well-educated family and his father is a retired government servant, he added.
The suspect has been involved in the circulation of banned material for a long time. In the past, cases were also registered against him by the Sabzi Mandi and Industrial Area police, he said.
“We have obtained two days’ remand of the suspect. During the interrogation, he will be asked who was providing him the material for circulation,” the official added.
By Khaama Press - Mon Feb 29 2016
NawazA new book authored by the wife a former operative of Pakistan’s spy agency has once again made the claim that Nawaz Sharif received money from al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
The book, Khalid Khawaja: Shaheed-i-Aman, is authored by Shamama Khalid, the wife of former ISI operative Khalid Khawaja.
“Chief of PML-N Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif received funding from Osama Bin Laden, founder of Al-Qaeda, to contest elections against Benazir Bhutto’s led Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) after the end of Zia regime,” the book states, as per the report Pakistan’s Dawn news agency.
The book claims that Mr Sharif’s pledge of introducing an Islamic system attracted Khawaja as well as Bin Laden. But even though the Al Qaeda head honcho funded Nawaz Sharif heavily, the latter backtracked from all his promises after coming into power.
Book by slain spy’s wife claims Al Qaeda leader backed Sharif against Benazir Bhutto
The book also carries a note from former ISI director general, retired Lt-Gen Hamid Gul, which also claims that Khawaja was very close to Nawaz Sharif for some time. The book claims that Abdullah Azzam introduced Khawaja to Bin Laden.
Azzam, who is also known as the ‘father of global jihad’, was a Palestinian Sunni. Azzam raised funds and recruited jihadis from the Arab world, known as Afghan Arabs. A mentor of Bin Laden, he is said to have persuaded him to come to Afghanistan.
The book claims that Khawaja was killed by a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban while he was on a peace mission in the restive tribal areas.
Khalid Khawaja went to North Waziristan along with retired Col Imam and British journalist Asad Qureshi. Khawaja and Col Imam were killed while Qureshi was released in exchange for a ransom.
The Asian Tigers group, that claimed responsibility for the crime, had never been heard of before.
The book alleged that the Indian intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were behind the killing of Khawaja and Col Imam.
ISLAMABAD: The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the Pathankot air base attack earlier this year will complete its investigation this week, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi said Monday, Radio Pakistan reported.
There are currently two JITs probing the attack. A six-member investigation team was formed by the federal government to investigate the case soon after the attack, while a five-member JIT was constituted by the Punjab government last week after a First-Information Report (FIR) was filed by the Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department against the attackers at a Gujranwala police station.
The FIR was filed after Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar accused Pakistan of "pretending to sleep" and not being serious about the probe into the air base attack.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz last week revealed that one of the mobile phone numbers linked to the Pathankot airbase attackers had been traced to the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group’s headquarters in Bahawalpur.
JeM chief Masood Azhar has been named by India as the mastermind of the airbase attack and Sartaj had confirmed media reports that Azhar had been under “protective custody” since Jan 14.
He the FIR filed by the CTD had created legal basis for a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Pakistan to visit India to collect evidence. The SIT may visit Pathankot in the first few days of March to probe the attack, he said, adding that India had agreed to the SIT visit.
Pak team to complete Pathankot probe this week
PTI | Feb 29, 2016
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani team investigating the Pathankot terror attack will complete its probe this week, a top official said on Monday, days after three suspects in the high-profile case were remanded to police custody.
"The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) will complete probe into Pathankot incident this week," Prime Minister's special assistant on Foreign affairs Syed Tariq Fatemi was quoted as saying by Radio Pakistan.
Pakistan last week set up a five-member JIT to probe the terror attack on the Pathankot airbase, a week after it lodged an FIR over the assault without naming Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, who, India has accused of having masterminded the strike.
Earlier, a six-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) was set up by the federal government for the initial probe into the January 2 attack based on the leads given by India.
Three men arrested for their alleged role in the attack were sent to a six-day police remand by an anti-terrorism court in Gujranwala city of Punjab on Saturday.
The FIR by the counter-terrorism department of Punjab police has been lodged on the basis of information provided by National security advisor Ajit Doval that four attackers crossed from Pakistan into India and attacked the airbase.
The attack led to the postponement of a scheduled meeting between foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India in January in Islamabad. Since then, no date has been fixed for the talks.
Meanwhile, Fatemi also said the dates for the upcoming SAARC Summit in Islamabad are being worked out in consultation with member states.
He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also expected to attend the summit.
LAHORE: A batch of 250 Pakistan army troops left for Central African Republic (CAR) on Sunday to perform peace-keeping duties under the aegis of the United Nations Mission.
Brig Maqbool Ahmad bade them farewell at the Allama Iqbal International Airport prior to their departure on a UN chartered aircraft.
The departing troops will replace the already deployed Pakistan army contingent in the war-ravaged country as part of the relieve and rotation schedule.
Speaking to troops, Brig Ahmad said the Pakistan army had added glorious chapters in the history of peace-keeping by rendering dedicated services for the restoration of peace all over the globe.
The services of Pakistani contingent to secure stable environments for maintenance of peace and order in Somalia, Eastern Slovenia, Bosnia, Haiti, East Timor, Liberia, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Congo and Sierra Leone had enhanced the country’s image among the comity of nations.
First Iran vote after nuclear deal gives reformists momentum
AP | Feb 29, 2016
TEHRAN: Iranian reformists appear have won all 30 seats representing the nation's capital in parliament, a definitive rebuke to the hard-liners opposing President Hassan Rouhani's efforts to open the economy and cooperate with the West.
In the first elections held since last year's nuclear deal, none of Iran's three main political camps; reformists, conservatives and hard-liners, is expected to win an outright majority in the 290-seat parliament, but early results indicate the best reformist showing in more than a decade.
Moderate conservatives also gained seats, and if their tentative coalition with the reformists holds, they could end the domination of parliament by hard-liners who were opposed to the nuclear deal. The reformist gains reflect strong public support for the agreement's promise of more economic opportunities now that the West has dropped crippling sanctions in exchange for limiting the nation's nuclear program.
State television said Friday's vote heralds ``the end of the presence of a powerful majority in the parliament that overshadowed decision-making apparatus in the country over the past decade.''
Rouhani thanked voters on Saturday night in a message that encouraged Iranians to help him end the nation's isolation.
``The competition has ended. Now it is time to open a new way through unity between people and the government to have a new chapter in growth of the national economy by using domestic strength and foreign opportunities,'' he said.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, called the vote ``proof of democracy'' at work in Iran.
But Khamenei also addressed hard-line concerns that greater integration with the West could undermine Iranian independence and morality. He urged the next parliament, which begins its work in May, to remain vigilant against ``foreign intervention,'' and warned that democratic progress does not mean ``integration into the global arrogance.''
The Interior Ministry is expected to release final results on Monday. Provincial reports suggest that of the first 185 districts reporting, 55 have gone to reformists, 66 to moderate conservatives and 64 to hard-liners.
Reformists hold fewer than 20 seats in the outgoing parliament and have been virtually shut out of politics since losing their parliamentary majority in the 2004 elections. Nearly 55 million of Iran's 80 million people were eligible to vote, and more than 60 percent turned out, based on partial results.
Iranians also elected a new Assembly of Experts, 88 senior clerics whose most important role is to select a new supreme leader. The assembly is elected every eight years and could be asked to choose a successor to Khamenei, 76, who had prostate surgery in 2014.
Mehrnaz Hemmati, a 21-year-old tailor shop worker, said she voted for the coalition of reformists and moderates; and won't celebrate until final results were announced.
``I expect more attention to be paid to job opportunities for women,'' Hemmati said. ``Rouhani, with help from the new parliament, should open doors to the world to bring in foreign investments.''
Mohammad Reza Shahabi, an accountant in a construction company, hopes that with hard-liners losing some influence, ``The government will have a more free hand in implementing deals with the world from now on. The elections should add to Rouhani's power, since new lawmakers will not create barriers like before,'' he said.
But Aida Ghorbani, an employee at an advertising and public relations firm, remains doubtful.
``Based on experience, they cannot take big steps because of the greater influence of hard-liners in the government, however I feel happy,'' she said.
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian Interior Ministry announced on Monday that Principlist candidates have won the most seats in the Friday parliamentary elections, while the reformists-moderates coalition has garnered a strong support in the capital.
According to the officials, with 100 percent of the votes counted by Monday, 30 seats belonging to the capital city at the parliament have been won by the coalition of reformist figures and the pro-Rouhani List of Hope.
However, reformists have lost the game in constituencies outside the capital. In Isfahan that is the second most constituency after Tehran, for example, the Principlists have earned a crushing victory over the Reformoderates candidates.
According to Interior Ministry results, the Principlists have won 50 percent of the seats, the reformoderates have garnered 44 percent of the votes and independent candidates have earned 6 percent of the 290-seat parliament. Meantime, in 34 constituencies, there will be election runoffs.
From the 34 candidates who have gone for the runoff vote in April, 45 percent are Principlists, 35 percent Reformoderates and 20 percent Independents.
Winners of Tehran Constituency:
1-Mohammad Reza Aref
8-Farideh Olad Qobad
13-Ali Nobakht Haqiqi
18-Mohammad Ali Vakili
22-Seyed Farid Mousavi
23-Mohammad Javad Fathi
24-Tayebeh Siavoshi Shah-Enayati
27-Mohsen Alijani Zamani
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said turnout for the twinned elections stood at 62 percent.
At least 35 million out of the 55 million eligible voters took part in Iran’s 5th Assembly of Experts and 10th Parliamentary elections on Friday.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani won an emphatic vote of confidence and reformist partners secured surprise gains in parliament in early results from elections that could accelerate the Islamic Republic's emergence from years of isolation.
While gains by moderates and reformists in Friday's polls were most evident in the capital, Tehran, the sheer scale of the advances there suggests a legislature more friendly to the pragmatist Rouhani has emerged as a distinct possibility.
A loosening of control by the anti-Western hard-liners who currently dominate the 290-seat parliament could strengthen his hand to open Iran further to foreign trade and investment following last year's breakthrough nuclear deal.
A reformist-backed list of candidates aligned with Rouhani was on course to win all 30 parliamentary seats in Tehran, initial results released on Sunday showed. Top conservative candidate Gholamali Haddad Adel was set to lose his seat.
"The people showed their power once again and gave more credibility and strength to their elected government," Rouhani said, adding he would work with anyone who won election to build a future for the industrialized, oil-exporting country.
The polls were seen by analysts as a potential turning point for Iran, where nearly 60 percent of its 80 million population is under 30 and eager to engage with the world following the lifting of most sanctions.
"Based on the votes that we have so far it looks like the principlists will lose the majority in the next Majlis (parliament) shy of 50 percent. The reformists gained 30 percent and independent candidates did better than before, gaining 20 percent," said Foad Izadi, an assistant professor at the Faculty of World Studies in Tehran University.
Principlists, otherwise known as hard-liners, hold 65 percent of the outgoing parliament and the rest is divided between reformists and independents who traditionally support Rouhani.
Izadi said the reformists' strong lead was prompted by Rouhani's success in reaching a nuclear agreement between Iran and international powers, the removal of most of the punitive sanctions that had strangled the country's economy over the past decade and restoration of relations with the West.
"It is a sweeping victory for Tehran but for other cities it is not yet clear cut. It is beyond expectations," he added.
Etemad, a reformist newspaper whose managing-editor Elias Hazrati won a seat in Tehran, has chosen the first headline of "clean up in the parliament."
"The next parliament will be like no other parliament in the history of Iran as no political faction will have the absolute say," the newspaper said on its front-page.
Millions crowded polling stations on Friday to vote for parliament and the Assembly of Experts, which selects the country's highest authority, the supreme leader. Both bodies have been in the hands of hard-liners for years.
Supporters of Rouhani, who promoted the nuclear deal, were pitted against hard-liners close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who are wary of detente with Western countries.
Rouhani and key ally and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were leading the race for the Assembly of Experts with most votes counted, and appeared to be sure of winning seats, early results released on Saturday showed.
Until now, the contest for this seat of clerical power was an unremarkable event, but not this time. Because of Khamenei's health and age, 76, the new assembly members who serve eight-year terms are likely to choose his successor. The next leader could well be among those elected this week.
Rafsanjani is among the founders of the Islamic Republic and was its president from 1989-1997. Nearly always at the center of Iran's intricate webs of power, the arch-fixer is famous for his pragmatism and political acumen.
Two prominent hard-liners were on course to be elected with lesser scores in the experts assembly race: Ahmad Jannati was in 11th place and the assembly's current chairman, Mohammad Yazdi, was 15th. Arch-conservative Mohammad-Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi appeared unlikely to win a seat, according to partial results.
The results were initially announced as final in an official statement. A later statement said the results were partial and a final tally would be announced in due course.
A Reuters tally, based on official results published so far, suggested the pro-Rouhani camp and allied independents were leading in the parliamentary vote. Some moderate conservatives, including current speaker Ali Larijani, support Rouhani.
A breakdown of the results had independents on 44, reformists on 79, and hard-liners on 106, the tally showed. A number of seats will be decided in run-offs in late April because no candidate won the required 25 percent of votes cast. Eight of the initial winners were women.
Analyst say the large number of independents may be significant as they could cooperate across ideological lines with Rouhani's government.
Whatever the outcome, Iran's political system places much power in the hands of the conservative Islamic establishment including the Guardian Council, which vets all laws passed by parliament.
Russia is concerned about Turkey’s military preparations along its border with Syria, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Monday. He warned that an armed intervention by Ankara would deal an “irreparable blow” to the Syria ceasefire plan, Reuters reported. “Unfortunately, our Turkish colleagues still have not abandoned the idea of cross-border strikes,” Ryabkov told reporters.
A new draft proposal that will demand the consent of both the defense minister and the prime minister in order to prosecute soldiers charged with torture or ill-treatment while serving in the army could have terrible consequences, according to human rights advocates and security experts.
The draft legislation prepared by the Ministry of National Defense (MSB) and submitted to the Justice Ministry states that “all members of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) engaged in the struggle against terror” should only be tried with consent.
According to a report in the Hürriyet daily on Sunday, there will be “no direct investigation” into accusations placed against members of the TSK engaged in combat. If there are grounds to open a case against a member of the TSK, the prosecutors will have to gain consent from the MSB. This constitutes the first part of the consent process, as if the defense minister consents to the investigation, the prosecutors will then have to apply for the consent of the prime minister.
A delicate cease-fire, which had been providing relative peace since March of 2013, was broken by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) when it killed two Turkish security personnel in July of 2015 in retaliation for the state failing to prevent a suicide bombing in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa on July 20 that killed 34 people and injured more than 100.
Nearly 40,000 people have been killed in clashes with the PKK since 1984, when the armed group launched its first attacks. The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by the US, the EU and Turkey.
According to Ali Fahir Kayacan, former secretary-general of the Military Court of Cassation, there are no rules indicating a need for consent when opening a court case against a member of the military.
“Regarding members of the army, there is the Code of Military Procedure. Military personnel are tried in a military court for crimes they have committed whilst performing their duties” he said.
Ercan Taştekin of the Research Center for Security Strategies (GÜSAM) in Ankara told Today's Zaman on Sunday that the introduction of the draft proposal will be a catastrophe for Turkey's struggle against terror.
“States need democratic, transparent procedures that adhere to the rule of law when facing combat against terrorist organizations,” he said.
Noting that terrorist organizations grow on the mistakes made by countries in combat with them, Taştekin said, “This [draft] will lead to possible human rights infractions, which will allow for terrorist organizations to trick youngsters into joining their ranks.”
The head of the Human Rights Association (İHD), Öztürk Türkdoğan, told Today's Zaman that the political executive is making a grave mistake if it is thinking of providing immunity to soldiers who may have committed crimes while on duty.
He noted that such laws bestowing impunity to members of the military who committed crimes were not even introduced during the military coup-era after 1980.
“The acceptance of this [draft] will have terrible consequences,” he said. “Until now, a policy of impunity was being conducted, not formally, but unofficially. If this draft law passes into existence, then this policy will become official.”
Stating that the most important ties citizens can have with their state stem from the belief that the state can carry out justice, Türkdoğan said that if citizens fail to believe the state can provide justice, their allegiance to the state will cease to exist. “This will render obsolete the feeling of belonging to the state, especially that of the Kurds.”
He noted that people will try to carry out their own justice if they feel that those responsible for certain crimes are protected by the ministers and prime ministers of this country. “This would be a call of insurrection to the people. Those who make laws should be thinking 1,000 times before they think of passing such laws,” he said.
Previously, the Constitutional Court endorsed a similar privilege granting immunity to members of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). The top court only annulled two articles of a controversial law that was taken to the Constitutional Court by the Republican People's Party (CHP) in 2014.
The law, which entered into force on April 26 after it was approved by then-President Abdullah Gül, has been the focus of criticism from both domestic and international rights groups for sidelining fundamental rights and freedoms.
The Constitutional Court decided against annulling highly controversial articles in the amendment such as immunity of MİT agents from legal and criminal liability and the arbitrary phone tapping of suspects by order of the undersecretary of MİT or his deputy.
Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu has said that 355,000 people have migrated from Turkey's Kurdish-majority Southeast to other cities across Turkey since the beginning of December 2015 due to clashes between the military and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Speaking at a Justice and Development Party (AK Party) meeting in Bursa on Saturday, Müezzinoğlu said that following the June 7, 2015 parliamentary election, the PKK has attempted to create an atmosphere of chaos in Turkey via terrorist attacks. The authorities had tried to stop terrorist activities by imposing curfews in the districts of Cizre and Silopi in Şırnak province and Sur in Diyarbakır province, Müezzinoğlu said, adding that the security forces had taken precautions to prevent civilians deaths during the anti-PKK operations, which were launched in Sur on Dec. 2 of last year and in Silopi and Cizre on Dec. 14.
The operations in Cizre and Silopi have since finished, with the curfew in Silopi being lifted in January, while the curfew imposed on Dec. 14, 2015 in Cizre is still in place. The anti-PKK offensive in Sur is still ongoing, along with a curfew.
“So far, 355,000 people [from the Southeast] have left their homes. We in the Ministry of Health have accounted for all of the displaced people. We ask them what their new addresses are, where pregnant women will deliver their children, whether there are dialysis patients who need medical services and whether there are cancer patients and where they are being treated. These people are citizens too,” Müezzinoğlu said.
A settlement process launched by the government in 2012 to end Turkey's long-standing Kurdish problem came to an end in late July 2015 with a revival of clashes between the PKK and the security forces in the Southeast. The end of the two-year cease-fire triggered the worst violence seen in the region in two decades.
The Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) said in a report in January that, as of Jan. 24, at least 198 civilians, including 39 children, have died in combat areas under curfew since August 2015. According to media reports, more than 260 members of the security forces have been killed in clashes in the region.
Russia's Defense Ministry said on Sunday that its coordination center in Syria had received information about an attack on the Syrian town of Tel Abyad from Turkish territory using large-caliber artillery, the Interfax news agency has reported.
Interfax cited the head of the coordination center as saying Russia had contacted a US center in Amman for clarification over the shelling of Syrian territory from Turkey. Turkish military sources denied the Russian claim. Speaking to Hürriyet newspaper, the sources said Turkish forces have not fired at targets of either of the warring sides in Tel Abyad, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
Tel Abyad came under an ISIL attack on Saturday only hours after a US-Russian engineered "cessation of hostilities" agreement went into effect at midnight. The attack prompted air strikes by the US-led anti-ISIL coalition to try to drive them back.
The Kurdish militia group YPG, which controls Tel Abyad, said the attack was repelled. YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said some of the attackers infiltrated from the Turkish border to the north, reiterating accusations that Turkey was supporting ISIL. Turkey has consistently denied such accusations and the security sources said recent measures to stop illegal crossings meant it was impossible for the attackers to have entered from Turkey.
The YPG captured Tel Abyad from ISIL last year in an offensive backed by US-led air strikes. The town lies north of Raqqa and had been a key supply line for the jihadi capital.
Turkish security sources told Reuters on Saturday that the attack on Tel Abyad was launched on two fronts and that the sound of gunfire and explosions, audible from the town of Akçakale on the Turkish side, had continued for several hours. While not directly addressing the Tel Abyad attack, 14 Turkish F-16s patrolled the Turkish-Syrian border on Friday, the Turkish military said.
Interior Minister Efkan Ala, who is currently at the center of public criticism due to recent terror attacks, has said the Turkish police have prevented 18 suicide attacks since the beginning of 2016.
Accusations of negligence and deliberate connivance have been strongly leveled at the government and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) in relation to the latest terrorist attack, in the heart of Ankara, which on Feb.17 claimed 28 lives and injured dozens more after targeting an area housing military headquarters and almost all state institutions. The death toll later rose to 29 when one of the injured died in the hospital.
Speaking on a TV program on Sunday, Ala said: "As the Interior Ministry and the police, we have called on everyone to be on alert regarding these issues [suicide attacks]. Since the beginning of the year, we have prevented 18 such incidents. Four vehicles [to be used in suicide attacks] were brought [to Turkey] and we seized three of them. We seized one of these vehicles at Boğaziçi recently."
Ala was referring to a suspected bomb-laden car that was discovered on the campus of Boğaziçi University in İstanbul last Thursday.
The minister also said a would-be suicide attacker who was planning to carry out an attack during New Year celebrations was arrested by the police before he could carry out the attack.
"We don't reveal most of the attacks plans we prevented. There is need not to do so. We are working to maintain peace for the public," he said.
Turkey has been shaken by major terrorist attacks over the past months following which government has faced accusations of negligence.
On June 5, 2015, a suicide attack that killed five civilians was staged by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant Orhan Gönder ahead of the June 7 general election as the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) was holding an election rally in Diyarbakır. It was revealed that Gönder had been monitored by police but was taken off technical surveillance on the day the bombing occurred, raising suspicions as to whether the attack was deliberately not prevented.
On Oct. 10, 2015, there was another terrorist attack, this time in Ankara, in which 103 people taking part in a peace rally were killed and hundreds more injured. Some politicians and the media raised similar accusations of security lapses and intelligence failures.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has said Turkish-Russian relations will not be normalized until Turkey admits that the downing of a Russian jet on Nov. 24 of last year was a “disaster.”
Speaking to Sputnik news, Zakharova said the downing of the Russian jet last year by Turkey at the Syrian border was a “disaster.” Recalling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's remarks saying that Russia has lost a friend like Turkey due to the mistakes of two Russian pilots, Zakharova criticized Erdoğan and said the pilots were Russian citizens and that it is not right to say the incident was all about the pilots' mistake.
She said Russia has lost two pilots and unfortunately Turkish-Russian relations have turned sour. Zakharova said the Russian pilots had not visited Turkey as tourists, but they were protecting not only Russia's but the world's interests, as they were fighting against terrorist organizations.
Zakharova said when Ankara admits that the jet's downing was a disaster, then the right steps will be taken to normalize Turkish-Russian relations.
She also refuted reports of Russia bombing civilians in Syria and asked to see evidence. Zakharova in addition criticized Turkey for not allowing Russian planes to fly at the Syrian border. She claimed this shows that Ankara has something to hide, such as smuggling oil and allowing jihadist militants to cross into Syria.
In the meantime, the Turkish Parliament has left Russia out when announcing the formation of parliamentary groups with other nations. Parliament has recently announced the establishment of parliamentary friendship groups with 129 countries around the world. Russia is not one of these countries. Israel, Syria, Egypt and Greece were also snubbed by Parliament as Turkey does not have normalized relations with those countries, either.
February 29, 2016
A soldier has died after sustaining injuries in an attack by terrorists from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the Sur district of Diyarbakır on Sunday, the General Staff announced.
Noncommissioned officer Can Çalışkan died at Diyarbakır Military Hospital despite medical efforts to save him, and his body was sent to his hometown of Ankara after a funeral ceremony in Diyarbakır on Monday.
Parts of Sur have been under curfew since Dec. 2, 2015, and operations by the security forces to remove barricades and fill trenches dug by PKK members are continuing.
AP News | Feb 29, 2016
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SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — A deadline given by Bosnia's Islamic Community to radical Muslims to return to moderate Islam is expiring, with many refusing to obey.
The Islamic Community — the country's only official Muslim religious institution — ordered all breakaway congregations to dissolve by March 1 and believers to join official congregations that follow the moderate Islam traditional in Bosnia.
The institution claims some of the "illegal" congregations have inspired members to join the Islamic State. By Monday many of them had refused to disband, claiming they have nothing to do with extremism and formed their own communities because the official ones were not strict enough regarding bans on alcohol and gambling, and wouldn't let them pray in mosques more than five times a day.
Designing a hospital like a village could solve one of Africa’s biggest health problems
Lily Kuo, 29 February 2016
Cape Town, South Africa
There’s a courtyard with a space for gardening, cooking in a shared kitchen, and laundry done under the shade of a roof that collects rainwater. The Maternity Waiting Village at the Kasungu district hospital in central Malawi emulates the communal spaces of traditional villages. The goal of the design is to attract expectant mothers from remote areas to the facility before giving birth.
Too often, pregnant women in Malawi, and other African countries, give birth at home because hospitals are far and commuting there is too expensive. While maternal mortality rates around the world have dropped drastically over the past two decades, they’re still far too high in Africa. Malawi is home to one of the Africa’s highest maternal mortality rates—510 deaths (pdf, p. 33) per 100,000 live births as of 2013, compared to the average of 239 deaths per 100,000 births in developing countries. The African continent accounts for the vast majority of global maternal deaths—550 of 830 deaths a day last year, according to the World Health Organization.
The design and development of the village, which was completed last October, was done by MASS Design Group, with Gates Foundation, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Malawi’s health ministry.
“Our approach is, let’s leave the big open ward of 45 people and reduce [it] to smaller rooms and have intimate outdoor spaces,” Christian Benimana, a Rwandan architect with MASS Design who led the project, told Quartz at the Design Indaba conference on Feb. 19th. “They can live close to how they are living in their own homes in their villages where they spend most of the time in the courtyards with their friends,” he said.
Expectant mothers who are at high risk of health complications are advised to stay at the maternity village between two and four weeks before moving to the hospital to give birth. Women who live in rural areas, far from a hospital, are asked to come early so that doctors can identify and monitor any complications early. Benimana hopes the shared spaces of 12 women per cluster will encourage new, and more experienced mothers, to interact, creating a “sense of security and belonging.” Up to 45 women can be housed in the village.
Public health advocates have promoted “maternity waiting homes” since the 1960s as a way to bridge the gap between urban and rural healthcare access. Previous attempts to build a maternity waiting home in Malawi have failed because of risks of infection and poor ventilation, according to MASS Studio. The Kasungu village works around this by focusing most of the activities outdoors and designing the houses to let in air and light.
Building smaller units is cheaper and modules for the buildings, made locally, are designed to be easily replicated. This model allows for hospitals and local governments to build and expand as their resources allow.
Benimana says, “Architects don’t just design and build buildings. We think about systems. How do we take the inherited natural architecture and change it into the built environment? That’s the mission of architects.”
Iraq death toll from IS bombing of Baghdad market now at 73
BAGHDAD: In Iraq, the death toll from devastating back-to-back market bombings carried out by the Islamic State group the previous day in eastern Baghdad climbed to 73 on Monday, officials said.
Several of the critically wounded died overnight while 112 people remain in hospital, two police officials said.
Also, at least five people were still missing after the blast that ripped through the crowded Mredi market in the Shiite district of Sadr City, followed by a suicide bombing amid the crowd that had quickly gathered at the site to help the victims.
Three medical officials confirmed the latest death toll, which rose from the toll of 59 reported late on Sunday. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, called on security forces to "exert further efforts to prevent the terrorists from carrying out their crimes against innocent civilians."
Al-Abadi, in a statement released late on Sunday, said the attacks "will not stop us ... but they will increase the determination" of the army, security forces and paramilitary troops to dislodge the militants from areas under their control.
The special UN envoy to Iraq, Jan Kubis, called the Sadr City bombings a "particularly vicious and cowardly terrorist attack" aimed against "peaceful civilians who were going about their daily business."
"It is clearly aimed at inflaming sectarian strife," he said on Monday.
The Islamic State group, which controls key areas in northern and western Iraq, promptly claimed responsibility for Sunday's blasts. The militant Sunni Muslim group regularly targets government forces, civilians and especially Shiites, who the IS regards as heretics.
The market bombings in Sadr City were the deadliest attack in a wave of explosions that targeted other commercial areas in and outside Baghdad on Sunday and brought the day's overall death toll to 92.
Seven other civilians were killed in attacks elsewhere and in Baghdad's western suburb of Abu Ghraib, security forces earlier Sunday repelled an attack by IS militants that killed at least 12 members of the government and paramilitary troops and wounded 35 others.
Over A Dozen Militants Killed in Clashes with Syrian Army in Aleppo
TEHRAN (FNA)- At least 14 militants were killed and scores more were wounded in the Syrian Army troops' heavy offensive against the ISIL terrorists in the Southeastern parts of Aleppo province.
The Syrian army and its popular allies continued to hunt the members of the ISIL terrorist group in the Southern side of the town of Khanaser, which claimed the lives of many militants and inflicted major damage on their military hardware.
In relevant developments in the province on Sunday, the Syrian army troops and their popular allies continued to push the ISIL terrorists back from more positions in the Southeastern part of Aleppo province and seized full control over one more strategic village in the region.
The Syrian army, Hezbollah, the Republican Guard, and the National Defense Forces (NDF) captured the village of Abu al-Karouz after a violent battle with the ISIL in the Khanaser Plains.
The village of Abu al-Karouz is located in Jabal al- Souss (Al-Souss Mountain), which is not far from the recently captured town of Khanaser.
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Yemeni army and popular forces made remarkable advances in Western Yemen on Sunday, and inflicted heavy casualties and losses on the Saudi forces in Ta'iz and Ma'rib provinces over the past 24 hours.
Tens of Saudi forces were killed and dozens more were wounded in the Yemeni forces' offensives in Ta'iz and Ma'rib provinces.
Meantime, the Yemeni army and popular forces also inflicted heavy damage on the Saudi military grid in Azan region of the city of Zobab near Bab al-Mandeb in Southwestern Yemen.
A newly-published report by the pro-Saudi camp in Yemen shows that over 1,600 Saudi-led forces have been killed in just Ta'iz province since March 26.
According to a report submitted by the Ta'iz governor general to fugitive Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah cabinet in Riyadh, a sum of 1,630 Saudi military servicemen have been killed since the outbreak of the Saudi war in late March.
In a relevant development on Wednesday, the Yemeni forces killed at least 54 Saudi troops, including several commanders, in a ballistic missile attack in the Northern Jawf province.
The Yemeni Army, backed by Popular Committees loyal to the Ansarullah movement, targeted a Saudi military installation in Beir al-Maraziq region with a Qaher-1 ballistic missile.
A large number of Saudi forces also sustained injuries in the attack.
The Yemeni surface-to-surface missile also destroyed a number of military equipment of the installation and inflicted heavy damage on its infrastructure.
The Yemeni forces have fired tens of missiles on the military positions and gathering centers of Saudi-led coalition so far, killing hundreds of Saudi forces and injuring many more.
Yemenis carry out these attacks in retaliation for the US-backed Saudi strikes on civilian targets, launched with the aim of undermining Ansarullah movement and bringing back to power the country’s fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh and Washington.
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army and Hezbollah fighters continued to push the ISIL terrorists back from more key territories in the Northeastern part of Hama province following hours of heavy fighting with the militant group.
The Syrian government forces, who had liberated the village on Hammam on Saturday, launched a mop-up operation in the surrounding heights of the village and cleansed the Northern side of the village and Hammam Height from the terrorists to restore more security to the Ithriya-Khanaser road.
The Syrian army and allies are fortifying their positions.
Hammam and its heights overlook Abu al-Karouz region. The Syrian army will soon launch another offensive to free two heights in the Eastern side of Abu al-Karouz region.
On Sunday, the Syrian army troops and their popular allies continued to push the ISIL terrorists back from more positions in the Southeastern part of Aleppo province and seized full control over one more strategic village in the region.
The village of Abu al-Karouz is located in Jabal al- Souss (Al-Souss Mountain), which is not far from the recently captured town of Khanaser.
Also on Saturday, military sources announced that the Army troops and their popular allies pushed the ISIL terrorists back from more positions Northeast of Hama province and imposed full control over one more strategic village in the region.
"The Syrian soldiers, Hezbollah, the Republican Guard and the National Defense Forces (NDF) retook full control over the village of Hammam after a violent battle with the ISIL," the sources said.
"The army men and their allies cleared the entire village after the ISIL attempted to recapture it during their brief offensive on Friday. As a result of their failed assault, the Syrian Armed Forces killed over 30 enemy combatants, while wounding another 40 fighters in the battlefield," they added.
"Clashes are still ongoing between the Syrian Armed Forces and the ISIL along the Sheikh Hillal-Ithriyah Road; however, the government forces are steadily advancing amid the Russian Air Force’s non-stop bombardment in Northeastern Hama," the sources went on to say.
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army troops thwarted al-Nusra Front's attempts to prevail over the government forces' lines of defense and forced them to retreat from the battlefield in the Southern part of Hama.
The al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra terrorists stormed the Syrian army's base near Hirbnafsa 40 kilometers South of the city of Hama, but their attack was fended off by the Syrian soldiers.ح
The Nusra militants left behind several dead or wounded members and fled the battlefield to evade more defeats and casualties.
In relevant developments in the West-Central battlefield of the country on Sunday, The Syrian army fended off the ISIL offensives in al-Salamiyah region and forced the terrorists to retreat from the battlefront under heavy fire.
The ISIL attempts to prevail over the government forces' lines of defense near the axis of Bari al-Sharghi, Aqareb, Ghab al-Basel and Tal Abyadh were repelled by the Syrian army.
The ISIL left behind scores of the dead or wounded members and fled the battlefront.
The Syrian army also destroyed a number of the ISIL vehicles and military equipment.
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on Sunday that a newly-liberated town in the Northern part of Raqqa near the border with Turkey has been heavily shelled by the Turkish army's artillery units.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) also confirmed that Tal Abyadh was shelled by artillery units from Turkish territories, Sputnik reported.
"Russia has received information of an assault on the Northern Syrian town of Tal Abyadh from Turkish territory," the head of the ceasefire monitoring center at the Russian Hmeymim airbase in Lattakia said Sunday.
"The Russian center for the reconciliation of the warring parties in Syria received late on February 27 information about the attack from Turkey on the Syrian city of Tal Abyadh," Lt. Gen. Sergei Kuralenko told reporters.
Russia’s ceasefire monitoring center has asked its US counterpart in Amman, Jordan, to explain the shelling.
Army Wins Back Strategic Region in Aleppo Province
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army and the resistance fighters backed by the country's air force regained full control over a key village in Aleppo province in fierce clashes with the militants.
The army units won back a strategic village in Khanaser Plains in Aleppo province.
Scores of terrorists were killed and injured as the army was purging them from the newly captured areas in Aleppo province.
The Syrian army, popular forces and resistance forces also continued their military gains in other key provinces across Syria, inflicting heavy losses on them.
The Syrian Army troops and their popular allies continued to push the ISIL terrorists back from more positions in the Southeastern part of Aleppo province and seized full control over one more strategic village in the region on Sunday.
The Russian fighter jets, in a fresh round of anti-terrorism combat flights on Sunday, bombed the concentration centers of the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front in the Eastern part of Aleppo province, inflicting major losses on the terrorists.
Gathering centers of the Nusra Front near Anadan, Hraytan, Qabtan al-Jabal, Maarat al-Artiq and Dar al-Izza came under the heavy bombardments of the Russian air fleet, which claimed the lives of several militants.
Nusra fighters' military hardware also sustained major damage in the air raids.
The Syrian commandoes pushed the militant groups back from their positions in the Northern part of the coastal province of Lattakia and won back one more strategic height overlooking Turkey.
The Syrian army, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), the Syrian Marines, the National Defense Forces (NDF) and Liwa Suqour al-Sahra (Desert Hawks Brigade) imposed full control over Talat al-Nawareh after a tough battle with the terrorists of al-Nusra Front, Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham, and the Free Syrian Army’s “1st Coastal Brigade”.
The militant groups left behind scores of dead and wounded members and fled their strongholds in the Northern part of Lattakia province after coming under heavy attacks by the Syrian Army and National Defense Forces.
The Syrian government forces engaged in a tough battle with the terrorists of al-Nusra Front and forced them to pull fighters back from the small town of al-Saraf in the Northwestern side of Rabei'eh.
The Syrian government forces detected and destroyed a tunnel used by the ISIL militants in the Eastern city of Deir Ezzur, military sources said Sunday.
"The Syrian army troops and the National Defense Forces (NDF) seized a supply tunnel of the ISIL in the Old Airport District after fierce clashes with the terrorist group," the sources said.
In the meantime, one of the ISIL bases, its satellite communication station and a fuel reservoir near the village of al-Sfaira al-Fouqani were destroyed in the Syrian government forces' offensives.
Reports said earlier that the Syrian warplanes carried out several combat flights over the ISIL gathering centers in different parts of the Eastern province of Deir Ezzur and targeted them heavily leaving several terrorist commanders dead.
The Syrian army's aircraft tracked and targeted a hideout of the ISIL leaders in the villages of al-Sfaira al-Fouqani in the Northwestern part of the city of Deir Ezzur, which ended in the killing of several leaders of the group.
In the meantime, the ISIL concentration centers in the villages of al-Jafra in the Eastern part of the province came under the heavy strike of the Syrian fighter jets, which destroyed the militant centers' infrastructures.
The Syrian Army's anti-terrorism operation in the Eastern province of Deir Ezzur near the border with Iraq ended in the killing of at least 20 ISIL terrorists.
The Syrian army stormed the ISIL concentration centers in the regions of al-Kataf and al-Mosamakah near the town of Albu Kamal, destroyed their military equipment and killed or wounded many of the militants.
The ISIL terrorist group confirmed on Sunday that it has pulled its fighters back from a key town in the Northern part of Raqqa province at the border with Turkey under the heavy attacks of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The Kurdish fighters have significantly advanced against the ISIL militants in the town of Tal Abyadh and have pushed the terrorists back form the town.
The YPG and SDF fighters are now engaged in fortifying their positions inside and outside of the town.
The ISIL suffered a heavy death toll in the attacks.
The Syrian army fended off the ISIL offensives in al-Salamiyah region and forced the terrorists to retreat from the battlefront under heavy fire.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Russian sources announced that tens of terrorists have crossed the border from Turkey to Syria where they are fighting with the Kurdish forces in Raqqa province.
More than 100 militants have arrived in Raqqa province after crossing the Turkish border, the Russian-language media outlets reported, adding that the fresh terrorist troops have been sent to take the town of Tal Abyadh back from militants.
The news comes as the ISIL has confirmed that it has pulled its fighters back from key Tal Abyadh town in the Northern part of Raqqa province at the border with Turkey under the heavy attacks of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The YPG and SDF fighters are now engaged in fortifying their positions inside and outside the town.
Reports said on Saturday that the YPG alongside the SDF have engaged in heavy fighting with the ISIL terrorists in the Northern part of Raqqa province.
The Kurdish forces stormed the ISIL positions near the town of Tal Abyadh and inflicted major losses on the terrorists.
On Wednesday, the Kurdish fighters, after almost six day of intense battle against al-Nusra Front, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Harakat Nouriddeen al-Zinki and Al-Shamiyah Front, imposed full control over the Bani Zeid Youth Housing Complex in Aleppo city.
The SDF that is comprised of mainly Kurdish fighters as well as a few hundred Syrian Arab dissident forces have received trainings from the US and have been provided with scanty US-coalition air support in their battles in Raqqa province in Northeastern Syria; but in Northern and Northwestern battlefronts, they have been operating alongside the YPG and received the Russian air backup in their Aleppo wars that started with the conquest of Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates early in February.
Assisted by the Syrian army - that has along with popular forces and Hezbollah conquered almost all militant-held regions in Eastern, Southern, Western and Northwestern Aleppo province - and Russian air support, the Kurdish forces fighting against the terrorists in North-Northeast Aleppo province have been making striking advances against the al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and ISIL terrorists in February.
Earlier this month, the YPG and SDF fighters prevailed over the terrorists in the highly strategic city of Tal Rifat in Northern Aleppo and captured the city.
The YPG, who enjoyed the Russian air backup, prevailed the terrorists' positions from the Western direction and shook hand with the Kurdish units of the SDF who entered the town from the North.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Battlefield sources in Syria refuted terrorists' claims about winning back a key town that they had lost to the army in the Southeastern part of Aleppo province earlier.
Social media activists from the Syrian opposition groups reported that the ISIL captured the strategic city of Khanaser today; however, a local battlefield correspondent denied these claims.
Reports said on Sunday that the Syrian Army troops and their popular allies continued to push the ISIL terrorists back from more positions in the Southeastern part of Aleppo province and seized full control over one more strategic village in the region.
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Russian warplanes, in a fresh round of anti-terrorism combat flights, targeted the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front's positions in the Southern part of Idlib province and inflicted a heavy death toll on the terrorists.
The Russian fighter jets stuck Nusra centers near the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughour, which ended in the killing or wounding of several terrorists and destroyed their military equipment, vehicles and weapons.
A report said on Friday that the Syrian army commandos stepped on the territories of the Northwestern province of Idlib after prevailing over the last defense lines of the militant groups and capturing of Ein al-Beidha in Lattakia province.
The Syrian commandos finally reached the strategic border with the Idlib province after several-month-long of nonstop fighting with the terrorists of al-Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the Lattakia province's Northeastern part.
On Friday morning in Jabal al-Akrad (Kurds Mountain), the Syrian army alongside the Syrian Marines, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), Liwa Suqour al-Sahra (Desert Hawks Brigade) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) imposed full control over the strategic village of Ein al-Beidha at the Idlib border.
With the capture of Ein al-Beidha, the Syrian Armed Forces officially reentered the Idlib province after a 9-month-long hiatus due to the successful offensive by Jeish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) last Spring.
MoD: 57 militants killed in latest counter-terrorism operations
At least 57 anti-government armed militants were killed during counter-terrorism operations led by Afghan National Army (ANA) forces in the latest crackdown on militant groups, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said.
The operations were conducted in the past 24 hours in Faryab and Baghlan provinces where the militants are actively operating in a number of its districts.
Providing operational update of the ongoing counter-terrorism operations, the Ministry of Defense (MoD), said at least 30 militants, including the group’s commander were killed and 10 others were wounded in Pashtunkot district of Faryab.
A statement by MoD said at at least 5 militants were killed in Dasht-e-Archi district of Kunduz, while 3 others were killed and one was injured in Charchino district of Uruzgan.
The statement further added that 22 militants were killed, 7 were injured and 18 posts belonging to the militants were destroyed during the operations in Dand-e-Ghori district of Baghlan.
At least 3 militants were killed in separate operations in Kandahar and Nangarhar provinces, MoD said, adding that various types of weapon, ammunition and explosives were confiscated.
The anti-government armed militant groups have not commented regarding the ongoing operations so far.
Senior ISIS commanders among 7 killed in Nangarhar drone strike
At least seven militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group were killed in an airstrike in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.
According to the local security officials, the airstrike was carried out by the coalition forces in Achin district, using an unmanned aerial vehicle.
Provincial police spokesman Hazrat Hussain Mashriqwal said the loyalists of the terror group were targeted in Mamand Dara and Pekha areas of Achin late on Sunday afternoon.
He said two prominent commanders of the terror group were among those killed which included a number of the foreign militants as well.
The drone strike by coalition forces comes amid ongoing military operation by the Afghan national security forces in Achin and Nazian districts, being conducted under the name of Shaheen-18.
The US Forces in Afghanistan have increased air campaign against the terror group in this province, carrying at least 20 airstrikes between late January and early February.
According to reports emerging earlier this month, the US forces in Afghanistan carried out at least 20 airstrikes targeting the loyalists of the terror group in a period of three months from late January to early February.
The coalition officials estimate around 1,000 to 3,000 Islamic State fighters are stationed in in eastern Afghanistan and are trying to establish a base of operations in the rugged mountains of Nangahar Province.
A heavy explosion rocked Lashkargah city, the provincial capital of southern Helmand province of Afghanistan late on Sunday, local officials said.
The officials further added that the incident took place close to a security post with preliminary reports suggesting an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was detonated, targeting the police forces.
Provincial governor spokesman Omar Zwak confirmed the incident and said two policemen and three civilians were wounded, citing preliminary police reports.
However, officials in Lashkargah emergency hospital, said at least three dead bodies have been taken to the hospital from the incident site.
The officials said at least eleven people injured in the attack were also shifted to the hospital, adding that the dead bodies belonged to police forces and the injured individuals were ordinary civilians.
No group including the Taliban militants has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.
Taliban militants and other insurgent groups frequently use Improvised Explosive Device (IED) as the weapon of their choice to target the security forces.
This comes as at least two policemen lost their lives in a similar attack in Lashkargah city a day earlier.
The former senior deputy interior minister for security Gen. Ayub Salangi slammed Pakistan’s military intelligence – Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) for supporting the anti-government armed militant groups in Afghanistan.
Gen. Salangi was speaking during his farewell ceremony in the Ministry of Interior (MoI) compound, a day after President Ghani nominated General Abdul Rahman Rahman to replace him as Senior Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs.
He reiterated his stance towards ISI’s interference in Afghanistan by taking into his official Twitter account which he was usually using to provide regarding the security situation of the country.
“ISI continues to play a destructive role in Afghanistan. ISI is responsible for bloodshed, chaos and destruction in Afghanistan,” a Twitter post he published earlier today reads.
The four star general further added “Without support of ISI ,Taliban can’t be this strong. ISI’s support for Taliban, Haqqanis and other terrorist groups is very clear.”
He also urged the leaders of the government of national unity to refrain from taking the security institutions to political affairs, saying “As I said in my farewell ceremony at MOI,I urge leaders of NUG not to politicize ANSF, police in particular Sadly, I experienced the politicization of police in last 16 months or so. ANSF are the real heroes. They need all the support this critical time.”
The remarks by Gen. Salangi comes as the Afghan officials have long been criticizing the Pakistan’s spy agency for interfering the internal affairs of Afghanistan, besides sheltering the anti-government elements inside the Pakistan.
The National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar said late in November last year that the Pakistan-based Haqqani Terrorist Network and Taliban’s Quetta Council (Shura) still operate against Afghanistan from their safe havens within the Pakistani soil.
Atmar further added that the government of Pakistan has not taken important steps to prevent the activities of the two groups in their soil.
The remarks by Atmar followed almost three months after the Presidential Palace slammed Pakistan for the existence of the Haqqani network command and control in Pakistan.
“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan believes that one of the major differences between Afghanistan and Pakistan is regarding the presence of terrorist groups, specifically the Haqqani Network in Pakistani soil,” a statement by the Palace said earlier in September last year.
A child was killed after a rocket hit a residential house in the restive Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan, local officials said Monday.
Provincial security chief Syed Maqsood Pacha said the victim was a 11-year-old girl and at least eleven others including women and children were wounded.
He said the incident took place late on Sunday afternoon in Marwara district, blaming the anti-government armed militants for the incident.
The anti-government armed militant groups have not commented regarding the incident so far.
Kunar is among the volatile provinces in eastern Afghanistan, located along the Durand Line with the tribal regions of Pakistan.
Militants belonging to the Taliban group and other insurgents groups including the Haqqani network and foreign insurgents are actively operting in a number of its districts and frequently carry out insurgency activities.
The incident on Sunday followed shortly after a suicide bomber targeted a gathering in Asadabad, leaving at least eleven civilians dead and over forty others wounded.
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) – Afghanistan’s intelligence has released three hostages in central Logar province while four others are still in the custody of the kidnappers.
Mohammad Halim Fidayee, governor of Logar told a press conference on Sunday that militants kidnapped seven drivers of a de-mining company with their vehicles and other belongings from the vicinity of the provincial capital Pul-i-Alam.
He said soon after the abduction in Abchakan area on Saturday, NDS launched a search operation and recovered three of them with five vehicles but four others are still with insurgents.
“Operation of security forces still continues for their release,” the provincial governor said.
Fidayee further said that nine suspects have been detained in this regard.
Security forces also seized four motorcycles left behind by the militants, the governor added.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the abduction but a motorcycle seized by the security forces was carrying the flag of Taliban.
Indonesia hopes village spending will counter radicalism
SERANG, Indonesia: Indonesia, on alert against rising militancy, will boost the state funds it sends directly to thousands of villages across the Muslim-majority country to reduce poverty and counter radicalism, a senior cabinet minister said on Monday.
Indonesia has cracked down on suspected radicals after a militant attack rocked the capital Jakarta last month and announced the presence of Islamic State in Southeast Asia for the first time.
The government has more than doubled its budget allocation for the so-called village fund this year to 47 trillion rupiah ($3.51 billion). The fund is aimed at leapfrogging bureaucratic hurdles to transfer money directly to villages.
"This programme will reduce poverty and with it the desire for people to engage in radical activities because it will create job opportunities," chief security affairs minister Luhut Pandjaitan told government and security officials in Banten province, which shares a border with the capital Jakarta.
"We know that terrorism and radicalization are tied to poverty. So our thinking is that with the village funds we can reduce inequality and ... the potential for radicalism here," Pandjaitan said.
Experts said the move could help contain the spread of radicalism but pointed to widespread corruption and continuing discrepancies in the disbursement of funds.
"The government has to combat the extremist ideology behind attacks and attacking the roots of poverty is important," said Jakarta-based political analyst Paul Rowland.
"But one significant issue is that money is disbursed to villages without regard to their population so it's not equitable."
WEAKER ringgit changing Malaysians’ Internet buying habits. Malaysian online shoppers are turning to local sites as the weaker ringgit has made shopping on foreign sites much more expensive.
Local online retailer Lazada Malaysia said the drop in the ringgit’s value has not really affected sales on its site.
“In fact, Lazada Group as a whole recorded $40m in overall sales during its three-day Online Revolution Sale in December 2015.
“The competitive rates and deals that we offer on Lazada actually help Malaysians save more.
“The electronics category specifically saw an increase in sales by 30pc last December alone,” said Lazada Malaysia CEO Hans-Peter Ressel.
Of the 230 respondents to Star2.com’s online poll, 64pc say they have changed their online shopping habits.
As ringgit weekens 16pc of respondents said they would shop at local online sites and brick-and-mortar stores
About half of the poll’s respondents have opted to shop only during sales instead while 30pc have decided to cut back on shopping.
Another 16pc said they would shop at local online sites and brick-and-mortar stores.
“I used to buy comic books, action figurines and collectors’ items from international sites since many of them cannot be obtained locally.
“At first, I tried switching to Hong Kong or Taiwanese suppliers.
“But the fact that they usually get the same items from the United States means the price will end up about the same,” said Freddy Tan, 30.
“So, I now shop at local online sites such as Mudah, Lelong and Low Yat first before I look at international sites.”
Nicholas Chin, 31, said he still preferred shopping online as there were bargains available.
“I bought an air purifier for only 255 ringgit ($60), inclusive of shipping, online.
“The same product cost 425 ringgit at a local store last year,” he added.
Others have returned to shopping the old-fashioned way, looking for bargains in shops, shopping malls and warehouse sales.
Self-confessed vanity shopper Natasha Gopal used to spend 2,000 ringgit every month online on clothes, shoes and jewellery.
“Now, I spend under 800 ringgit and order one or two items of apparel only.
“With the weak ringgit, it’s too expensive to buy in sterling pound for the quality we are getting,” said the 30-year-old who now shops at local stores and warehouse sales.
But there are still others who continue to shop on international sites as they have found that it is still cheaper than buying locally.
University lecturer Maximus Sim said he buys classical, church and choral music scores online as it is cheaper to do so.
But even then, he is cutting down on his online purchases as the weaker ringgit has made it more expensive now compared with a year ago.
“The scorebooks, which cost 60 ringgit each before, are selling for 72 ringgit, plus shipping,” he said.
(4.24 ringgit = USD1) — The Star/ANN
IS hacks UK solar firm site in revenge
PTI | Feb 28, 2016
LONDON: ISIS terrorists hacked the website of a UK-based solar firm as revenge for the killing of one of their British Muslim members, a media report said on Sunday.
Self-styled Caliphate Cyber Army (CCA) members recently carried out the hack on the website of Solar UK, an East Sussex company in south-east England with only 11 staff, The Sunday Times reported.
The attack was reportedly to avenge the death of Junaid Hussain, an ISIS figure from Birmingham, and it saw customers being diverted to a web page featuring the terror group's logo accompanied by a string of threats.
"Fear us," the page warned. "We are the Islamic Cyber Army. We have responded to the call of war and have risen across the globe, from within their own backyards to strike back viciously -- anywhere and any time."
ISIS hackers, led by Hussain before his death, have previously claimed responsibility for attacks on the Pentagon and have leaked the personal details of US military and government officials.
The choice of Solar UK as a "crucial target" for ISIS has left the company perplexed.
Duncan Lee, its founder and technical director, thought the cyber-attack was a schoolboy prank when it took place on January 31 and did not report it to police.
"When it initially happened, I just thought it was some 16-year-old kid showing off his prowess," he said.
He said the site was affected only for about two hours and was astonished, however, when The Sunday Times told him last week that Solar UK had been included in a new propaganda video featuring the CCA's "top" attacks.
The 50-minute video pays tribute to "our brother" Hussain and threatens more cyberwarfare on the West.
It is interspersed with graphic footage of hostages being beheaded in Syria by the Isis terrorists who carried out last November's Paris massacre. The attack is most likely to have originated from a computer in Kuwait.
Hussain, 21, was killed by an American drone strike in Syria in August last year.
It came after he was placed near the top of a Pentagon "kill list" of influential Isis operatives.
Hussain's wife, Sally Jones, a 46-year-old convert to Islam from Kent, remains a US target.
The British couple -- both computer hackers -- travelled to Syria in 2013 and are believed to have been involved in a subsequent cyberattack on US Central Command, part of the defence department.
Asian man's finger cut-off in racist attack in UK
PTI | Feb 28, 2016, 06.30 PM IST
LONDON: A 31-year-old Asian man had part of a finger chopped off by a meat cleaver in a racist attack in northern England, police said on Sunday.
The man, described by South Yorkshire Police as an Asian, was set upon by two men at a petrol station in Rotherham early on Saturday morning as he tried to withdraw money from an ATM.
One of the men punched the victim several times in the face before the other sliced off the top of his left hand forefinger with what is being described as a meat cleaver.
He was admitted to a hospital and his condition was stated to be stable.
Detective inspector Richard Partridge, the lead investigator in the case, said, "This is an extremely nasty attack which appears to be unprovoked and is being treated as racially aggravated.
"A full investigation is underway and as well as reviewing CCTV, we have a team of detectives in the area and officers are supporting the victim.
"The incident is being taken extremely seriously and we can reassure members of the community that we are following a number of lines of inquiry to identify these offenders."
The first attacker is described as white, tall and slim.
The victim was, however, unable to provide a description of his accomplice.
AFP | Feb 28, 2016
ATHENS: Greece on Sunday said the tally of refugees and migrants on its soil could more than triple next month, reaching as many as 70,000 people, as a cap on border crossings by Balkan countries left them "trapped" in the country.
"We estimate that in our country the number of those trapped will be from 50,000-70,000 people next month", migration minister Yiannis Mouzalas said.
"Today, there are 22,000 refugees and migrants", he added in an interview with Mega Channel tv.
Some 6,500 people were stuck at the Idomeni camp on Greece's northern border with Macedonia as Macedonian border officials let only 300 refugees and migrants pass the day before.
The build-up at the 1,500-people capacity camp began in earnest last week after Macedonia began refusing entry to Afghans and imposed stricter document controls on Syrians and Iraqis.
The bottleneck is expected to get worse after EU members Slovenia and Croatia, as well as Serbia and Macedonia, imposed a limit of 580 migrants entering their borders each day.
Those measures came on the heels of a clampdown by Austria, which lies farther up the migrant trail that extends from the Balkans to Germany and Scandinavia.
Austria introduced a daily cap of 80 asylum-seekers and said it would only admit 3,200 migrants transiting the country.
As a result, the tighter controls have had a big knock-on effect in Greece, where migrants have been arriving en masse from neighbouring Turkey.
Thousands, including many children, are now stranded there as the European Union struggles with the continent's worst migration crisis since the end of World War II.
Canada fulfils promise to take 25,000 Syrian refugees
AFP | Feb 29, 2016
MONTREAL: Canada has met a self-imposed deadline to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees fleeing their country's civil war, officials said, fulfilling a campaign promise by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
"25000 reasons why Canadians should be proud today #WelcomeRefugees," Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum tweeted after a charter flight carrying refugees touched down in Montreal yesterday.
Trudeau had made a campaign pledge to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey before the end of 2015.
But his Liberal government pushed the target back two months after taking office following elections in October.
Canada has chartered around a hundred flights from Lebanon and Jordan since Trudeau met the first arriving plane in December.
The government's resettlement program will cover costs for more than half the refugees during their first year. Private groups or a combination of both will cover the rest, the country's immigration authorities said.
Syrian refugees will continue to arrive in Canada, albeit at a slower pace.
The country is set to take in some 12,000 more refugees by the end of the year under a program run jointly with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the immigration authorities said.
Some 250 Canadian cities and towns have taken in refugees so far.
The UNHCR has contacted nearly 70,000 Syrians living in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan about emigrating to Canada. Fewer than half said they were interested.
Europe's migrant crisis became a political issue in Canada during last year's election campaign.
Political parties competed over the number of refugees the country should accept after a photograph of the drowned Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi on a Turkish beach captured international attention.
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