Photo: The Syrian army backed by Hezbollah fighters and the Russian air force destroyed terrorists' positions in Damascus, Idlib, Homs, Dara'a, Aleppo, Sweida, Hama and Lattakia over the past 24 hours.
Saudi Arabia announces ‘Islamic military coalition’ with 34 nations to counter terrorism
Syria in Last 24 Hours: Army Inflicts Heavy Losses on Terrorists in Several Provinces
20 Terrorists Killed in Sporadic Clashes Near Damascus
Terrorists' Strongholds Destroyed in Douma City
Militants Suffer Heavy Losses in Dara'a
Syrian Airstrikes Hit Terrorists' Supply Routes from Turkey
U.S. ‘must do more’ to counter ISIS propaganda
Free Syrian Army rebels deny Russian support
Winners of Qur’an contest meet Madinah governor
UN officials sickened by public hatred against Muslims
French teacher ‘invented’ story about IS attack
2 Swedes get life sentences for murder in Syria
Kerry in Moscow to explore Syria peace process
Czech Rep. to take in only Christian refugees
Pro-ISIS slogan at rally: BJP hits out at Cong
Prove my role in 26/11 attacks, Hafiz Saeed dares India
From Pakistan to Paris, ministers share the Narendra Modi spotlight
Badruddin Ajmal: Businessman, AIUDF chief and Assam’s next kingmaker?
Air strikes kill 15 civilians in Yemen, hours before truce: residents
Yemeni Missiles Rain down on Saudi Military Bases, Positions in Asir Province
Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian motorist in al-Quds
Yemen ceasefire takes effect as U.N. talks open
Turkey starts troops pullout from Iraq's Mosul
IAEA Board Signs Resolution to Nullify All Past Resolutions against Iran
Iranian Parliamentarians Urge Emergency Aid to Nigerian Shiite Muslims
Russian Analyst: Erdogan's Remarks on Fighting Terrorism "Humorous"
Turkish police in Diyarbakir attack protesters, kill two
60 killed in Nigerian army raids
Nigerian army frees 31 Boko Haram hostages
Leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria Severely Injured in Army Assault
Clashes in central Somalia leave 10 dead, dozens injured
Jordan camps for Syria refugees get community police patrols
ISIL eyes oil as it advances to Libyan interior
UN camp in Mali attacked
Pakistan part of 34-state Islamic military alliance against terrorism, says KSA
Terror will not derail talks with India: Pak envoy
Eight convicted murderers hanged in Punjab jails
Rabbani calls army chief over ‘humiliation’ of PTI lawmaker by soldiers
SC dismisses Mumtaz Qadri’s review petition
PM Nawaz at SCO: Pakistan facing challenges to territorial integrity
Karzai: Pakistani minister’s statement is an insult to Afghan people and Taliban
Afghanistan, IS to figure in Pakistan-US talks
Taliban military commander for Helmand’s Marjah District killed
Ambassador Abdali’s brother killed in Kandahar
Afghan govt announces multiple entry visa for KP traders
Bangladesh lifts ban on all social media
Malaysia joins Saudi Arabia’s Islamic military alliance against terrorism
No sense belittling Christianity to strengthen faith of Muslims, says DAP’s Dyana
Forget about Putrajaya, focus on Malay-Muslims, Zaid tells Amanah
Minister: No military obligation in Saudi anti-terror coalition
Penang PAS to sue Mat Sabu for linking party to terror group
Obama vows to hit Islamic State harder, says commandos now in Syria
In American mosques, growing safety concerns and more armed guards
US to ask Middle East allies to do more against ISIL
US welcomes Turkish troops pull out in Iraq
US forces 'secretly' involved in fighting Taliban in Helmand
U.N. officials slam hatred against Muslims
Muslim friends don't support immigration ban: Trump
In schools, on streets and TV, children feel Muslim backlash
Kerry to address Turkey row with Putin
Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau
December 15, 2015
Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that 34 nations have agreed to form a new “Islamic military alliance” to fight terrorism with a joint operations center based in the kingdom’s capital, Riyadh.
The announcement published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency said the alliance will be Saudi-led and is being established because terrorism “should be fought by all means and collaboration should be made to eliminate it.” The statement said Islam forbids “corruption and destruction in the world” and that terrorism constitutes “a serious violation of human dignity and rights, especially the right to life and the right to security.”
The new counterterrorism coalition includes nations with large and established armies such as Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt as well as war-torn countries with embattled militaries such as Libya and Yemen. African nations that have suffered militant attacks such as Mali, Chad, Somalia and Nigeria are also members.
Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, Shiite Iran, is not part of the coalition. Saudi Arabia and Iran support opposite sides of in the wars raging in Syria and Yemen. Saudi Arabia is currently leading a military intervention in Yemen against Shiite Houthi rebels and is part of the U.S.-led coalition bombing the Sunni extremist Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
At a rare news conference, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman said the new Islamic military coalition will develop mechanisms for working with other countries and international bodies to support counterterrorism efforts. He said their efforts would not be limited to only countering the Islamic State group.
“Currently, every Muslim country is fighting terrorism individually … so coordinating efforts is very important,” he said.
He said the joint operations center will be established in Riyadh to “coordinate and support military operations to fight terrorism” across the Muslim world.
Smaller member-states included in the coalition are the archipelago of the Maldives and the Gulf Arab island-nation of Bahrain, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.
Other Gulf Arab countries such as Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are also in the coalition, though notably absent from the list is Oman, a neighbor of Saudi Arabia. In recent years, Oman has maintained a neutral role and has emerged as a mediator in regional conflicts, serving as a conduit from the Gulf Arabs to Iran.
However, Iraq and Syria, whose forces are battling to regain territory taken by the Islamic State group and whose governments are allied with Iran, are not in the coalition.
Benin, while it does not have a majority Muslim population, is another member of this new counterterrorism coalition. All the group’s members are also part of the larger Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which is headquartered in Saudi Arabia.
Turkey is the only country in the coalition that is also a NATO member.
Dec 15, 2015
Tens of terrorists were killed and dozens more were wounded in the Syrian army's military operations across Syria on Tuesday.
The Syrian army troops annihilated the strongholds of the Takfiri terrorists in Damascus province, leaving dozens of militants dead.
On Monday, the Syrian army destroyed militants' positions with all weapons and ammunitions inside them in Zabdin village.
Militants' armored vehicles were also destroyed in the farms of Deir al-Assafir in Damascus province.
Scores of Takfiri terrorists were killed in the army's attacks.
Informed sources said on Monday that the Lebanese Hezbollah fighters are preparing to stage a large-scale operation with the Syrian army to remove militants' siege on the two Shiite towns of Fou'aa and Kafraya in the Northwestern province of Idlib.
The sources said that Syrian forces and Hezbollah commanders have held several joint meetings to coordinate the detailed plan of the preparations needed for a strong and quick operation with the lowest level of danger to the civilian population living in the two Shiite towns.
Syrian fighter jets intensified their airstrikes on terrorists' positions in the province of Homs.
A military source said the Syrian warplanes bombed positions of terrorists in al-Lataminah, Azzakat, the area surrounding Palmyra city.
The terrorists reportedly suffered heavy casualties in the airstrikes.
The terrorist groups said more terrorists were killed in fierce clashes with the Syrian army in the Central Province of Homs.
The death toll from the clashes between the Syrian army and the Takfiri militants in al-Mahata and Snaysel in the Northern countryside of Homs rose to eight terrorists.
The militant groups said the terrorists, Mazen Hamzeh and Ahamed Mansour, were killed.
The Syrian Army made major advances in the Southern city of Dara'a and is very close to the border crossing with Jordan after fierce clashes with the terrorists.
Sources said on Monday that the Syrian army’s 15th Brigade of the 5th Armored Division, the National Defense Forces (NDF) and the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) continued their advance along the Dara’a al-Balad axis with the Al-Manishiyah Quarter, capturing as many as six building blocks near the Jordanian border-crossing.
According to a military source inside the provincial capital, the Syrian army’s 15th Brigade and their allies are currently advancing Southeast of the al-Manishiyah Quarter towards the central sector of the Dara’a al-Balad Quarter.
A long convoy of the militant groups' military vehicles came under attack by the Syrian Army in al-Sakhour neighborhood of Aleppo city on Monday, sources in the city said.
"The militants suffered a heavy death toll in the army attack and their machinegun-equipped vehicles were destroyed seriously," the sources said.
"Suleiman al-Halabi neighborhood also witnessed heavy clashes between the Syrian army and the Takfiri terrorist, which claimed the lives of tens of militants," the sources further added.
Reports from Northern Syria said on Monday that the army continues to march on terrorists' positions in Aleppo as government troops and their allies are determined to purge the country of the foreign-backed Takfiri militants.
The army destroyed positions and supply routes of terrorists in Ein al-Baida village, 125 km Northeast of Aleppo city.
Terrorists of the al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups also suffered heavy losses in military operations in the villages of Qarasi and Tal Bajer in the Southern countryside of Aleppo.
Syrian airstrikes continued pounding terrorists' strongholds in Aleppo province on Monday as the army engaged in clashes with the Takfiris.
The Syrian forces clashed with terrorists of Jaish al-Fath at the Eastern entrance of Al-Zerbeh in the Southern countryside of Aleppo.
At least five Takfiri terrorists were killed in the clashes.
The news comes as the Syrian warplanes destroyed terrorists' positions and vehicles in Al-Bab, Jeb Ghabshe and Nejara in the countryside of Aleppo.
The Syrian army killed at least 10 terrorists in an attack on militants' convoy in Sweida province on Monday.
The Syrian forces destroyed a convoy of machinegun-equipped vehicles between the villages of Waqom and Dama in the Western countryside of Sweida.
At least 10 terrorists were killed in the army's attacks.
The Syrian army repelled attacks by Jaish al-Fateh terrorists on military posts in Hama province, and killed over 100 terrorists.
The army clashed with terrorist groups which tried to attack military posts in the villages and towns of al-Bowida, al-Masasneh, Zilin, al-Mahroukah, Zour and al-Zalaqiyat in the Northern countryside of Hama on Sunday night, sources said Monday.
The sources added the army killed more than 100 terrorists, and destroyed two armored vehicles and other machinegun-equipped vehicles of the militants.
Meanwhile, terrorist groups acknowledged on their social media pages that they failed to attack the military posts.
The Syrian Army and popular forces have deployed troops in Salma region after pushing back terrorist groups from the region Northeast of Lattakia province, military sources said Monday.
According to military sources in the 103rd Brigade, the Syrian army's Special Forces launched a powerful attack on the Southern side of Tartiyah from their positions at Kafr Dulbeh, killing several enemy combatants.
The Syrian Army and the National Defense Forces Monday engaged in fierce clashes with the Jeish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) in Hama province, inflicting loss and damage on the terrorist group.
Concentration centers of Jeish al-Fatah in the farms North of Abu Obeida village in Mahardah region came under the attacks of the Syrian government forces, which left many terrorists dead and wounded.
The army and its allies also clashes with the militant groups near Kafr Zita town and al-Zakat village.
"The pro-government forces, including army soldiers and the National Defense Forces (NDF) stormed the positions of al-Nusra Front, Ajnad al-Sham (Soldiers of the Levant) and Jeish al-Islam (Army of Islam) near different villages and towns in the strategic province of Damascus and killed 20 terrorists," the army said.
"Military equipment and machinegun-equipped vehicles of the militant groups also sustained large damage in the army attacks," the army added.
The Syrian government forces alongside the Russian and the country's Air Forces have been pounding the concentration centers of the militant groups across Damascus province in the recent week and have not left any safe and secure plane for the terrorists. On Sunday, the Syrian Army announced that the militant groups have suffered heavy casualties and vast damage on their military equipment after the Russian fighter jets bombed their positions in the Eastern countryside of the capital.
"The Russian fighter jets targeted heavily the strongholds of Jeish al-Islam militants in Eastern Ghouta to retaliate the rocket shelling of Damascus by the terrorist group," the army said.
"The Russian warplanes also targeted concentration centers of the terrorist groups in Saqba, in which many militants were killed or wounded," the army added.
Dec 15, 2015
On Monday, Syrian forces targeted terrorists’ gathering centers in Jisr al-Ab and the farms of Alyia and Hijaria in Douma.
The army destroyed a rocket launcher, mortar launcher and stronghold of Jaish al-Islam terrorists in the military operations.
At least 12 terrorists were also killed and wounded in the army's attacks.
Faris al-Airot, Taisir al-Sheikh Bakri, Maher al-Hot and Taisir al-Saour were identified among the dead terrorists.
Also on Monday, the Syrian army troops annihilated the strongholds of the Takfiri terrorists in Damascus province, leaving dozens of militants dead.
The army destroyed a terrorists' position in Aba Zaid neighborhood on Monday.
The army also destroyed terrorists’ vehicles, mortar launcher and military equipment in the South of al-Manshia neighborhood in Dara'a al-Balad area.
Earlier, the Syrian forces took full control over several buildings in Dara'a al-Mahata area in Dara'a.
Full report at:
The Syrian army, backed by airstrikes, destroyed gathering centers and vehicles of Takfiri terrorists in Aleppo province and destroyed the militants' supply routes from Turkey on Monday.
There were no immediate reports of possible casualties among the terrorists.
Earlier on Monday, the Syrian forces clashed with terrorists of Jaish al-Fateh at the Eastern entrance of Al-Zerbeh in the Southern countryside of Aleppo.
15 December 2015
America is coming up far short in its efforts to counter ISIS propaganda, and the extremists’ messages often resonate with younger people, the U.S. military’s top general warned on Monday.
“I think we probably do get a C-minus or D in terms of doing it right now,” General Joe Dunford told a national security forum in Washington.
Dunford, whose official title is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said people in the West tend to overlook the power of IS on social media - even as the extremists’ propaganda captures the imagination of some.
“What’s concerning to me is... the narrative that ISIL has is getting traction and we need to take that part of it serious,” he said, using an alternative acronym for the ISIS group.
“We can look at the absurdity of the ideas and immediately be dismissive. It’s easy to do but those ideas resonate,” he added.
“Amazingly enough they are resonating with young people here in the United States who are either disaffected, dislocated or just not fully integrated in our society.”
Dunford, who previously headed the Marine Corps, started his new role at the Pentagon at the end of September.
He appeared at a briefing earlier Monday with President Barack Obama, who voiced fresh determination to destroy the ISIS group, vowing to kill their leaders and win back territory in the Middle East.
Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad in western Syria denied receiving any support from the Russian air force, saying that on the contrary it continued to bomb them and rejecting comments by a top Russian general on Monday.
A separate, recently formed alliance of armed groups - including some that identify themselves as FSA - said its fighters had benefited indirectly from Russian air strikes during a recent battle with insurgents including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, but denied any direct Russian support.
The groups were responding to comments by a senior Russian army general who said the Russian air force was conducting dozens of air strikes in Syria on a daily basis to support Free Syrian Army fighters who he said were fighting alongside government troops against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.
Russian news agencies quoted Valery Gerasimov, the chief of Russian army’s general staff, as saying the number of Free Syrian Army units was “rising all the time.”
“They are also provided with weapons, ammunition and material support,” he said, echoing a statement made by President Vladimir Putin on Friday.
Later on Monday, Vladimir Kozhin, Putin’s aide for military and technical cooperation, said Russia does not supply the Free Syrian Army with weapons, according to the RIA news agency.
There was no immediate explanation for Kozhin’s apparent contradiction of Gerasimov’s remarks.
Russia has not given the names of the FSA groups it is talking about. Numerous groups identify themselves as part of the FSA, which does not have a central command and control structure.
Some of the most powerful FSA groups have received military support from the United States. These groups have been regularly targeted in the Russian aerial campaign that got underway in support of Assad on Sept. 30, and have reiterated denials of receiving any help from Moscow.
RIYADH: The two winners of the Holy Qur'an and Hadith Contest conducted in Madinah were allowed an audience with Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman at his office in Madinah.
The recitation competition worked out by the General Presidency of Youth Welfare in Madinah in the Prophet's Mosque, was attended by more than 75 candidates from all parts of the Kingdom.
The competition categories included memorization, recitation and Tajweed principles of the Qur'an and memorization of Nabawi Hadiths.
The students who hailed from Madinah, Ammar Yusuf Al-Oufi and Mohamed Bandar Al-Mujahid, thanked the governor for the opportunity given them to meet him.
Dec 14, 2015
UNITED NATIONS: Two senior United Nations (UN) officials said Monday they are "sickened by blatant manifestations of hatred and intolerance" by public figures and others, particularly against Muslims, in response to recent extremist attacks.
Adama Dieng, the special adviser on the prevention of genocide, and Jennifer Welsh, the special adviser on the responsibility to protect civilians, said any "advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence" is prohibited by international human rights law and laws in many countries.
In a joint statement, they denounced "the deliberate and dangerous spread of misinformation and the manipulation of people's fears and concerns for political gain".
Dieng and Welsh strongly condemned extremist attacks but underlined that linking such attacks to Muslims has resulted in discrimination and targeting.
They said calls by United States (US) political figures for Muslims to be banned from entering the US, to be registered in a national database or to be forced to carry identification that would highlight their religion are "unacceptable" and "an affront to our common humanity".
They did not specifically name any Americans, but Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has advocated all of these positions, creating a political firestorm that has galvanised his supporters in the Republican base while generating denunciations from the party establishment and all the leading Democratic candidates.
Anti-Muslim sentiment was already building in the US after the deadly Nov 13 Paris attacks, with most Republican state governors saying they opposed resettling refugees from Syria's civil war in their states.
PARIS - A French nursery school teacher who claimed on Monday he was stabbed in his classroom by an Islamic State supporter has admitted to prosecutors that he invented the story. The 45-year-old teacher at a school in Aubervilliers, northeast of Paris, was hospitalised with light stab wounds in his side and throat.
He had earlier claimed that a man in overalls and a balaclava had arrived while he was preparing his class on Monday, grabbed a box cutter and scissors that were in the room, and attacked him.
The teacher further claimed that the man shouted: "This is Daesh. This is a warning." Daesh is another name for IS.
Prosecutors said they were still questioning the teacher, whose injuries were not considered life-threatening, over why he lied. With France on edge a month on from attacks in Paris, and with the IS calling for attacks on French schools, the investigation had been immediately taken over by anti-terrorism prosecutors. The case even prompted a visit by Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who vowed to boost security at France's schools.
The Islamic State's French-language magazine Dar-al-Islam called in its November edition for its followers to kill teachers in the French education system, describing them as "enemies of Allah".
STOCKHOLM : Two Swedish men were sentenced to life in prison on Monday for "terrorist crimes" in Syria in 2013, a Swedish district court said in a statement.
The two men, aged 32 and 30, were convicted of assisting in executions in Syria.
During a search of one of the men's homes, police had found a USB stick containing films showing the killings, the court was told.
In a video shown in court by the prosecutor, masked men stood around three men on their knees with their hands tied behind their backs. Two of the victims have their throats slit. The head of one is cut off and held up for display. Their captors - including the men identified by the prosecutor as the two Swedes - are seen cheering.
The court argued that since the killings and the video intended to seriously intimidate the population of Syria, the two men's actions should be considered a terrorist crime.
"They didn't hold the knife, but otherwise they were highly involved," prosecutor Agnetha Hildning Qvarnstrom said during the trial.
The court did not name the organisation the men fought for but said it was proven that the men sympathized with a regime based on sharia law and the creation of a caliphate.
The two men pleaded not guilty, claiming they had not been among the masked men. Swedish news agency TT said both would appeal the court's decision, and for legal reasons most Swedish media did not reveal their identities.
The identities of the executed men were not clear but the court said they were likely to have been civilians.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Moscow on Tuesday to try and narrow differences with Russian leader Vladimir Putin over the role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in any political transition and which rebel groups should be part of peace talks.
Kerry will seek to prepare the ground for a third round of talks of world powers on Syria amid doubts over whether a meeting pencilled in for Friday in New York will go ahead.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said late on Monday that Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed in a phone call on the need for specific preconditions to be met before any new meeting, throwing the timing into doubt.
However, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said there were no preconditions to having this meeting.
Russia is one of Assad's staunchest allies and launched a campaign of air strikes to support his forces against insurgents on Sept. 30. It says only the Syrian people and not external powers should decide Assad's political fate.
Speaking before Kerry's arrival in Moscow, a State Department official said Kerry would also raise concerns about Russia's continued bombing of Syrian opposition forces instead of ISIS militants, an approach likely to anger Moscow.
Ahead of the talks, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement complaining that Washington was not ready to fully cooperate in the struggle against ISIS militants and needed to rethink its policy of "dividing terrorists into good and bad ones."
Kerry's meeting with Putin follows a meeting last week in Riyadh which agreed to unite a number of opposition groups excluding ISIS to negotiate with Damascus in Syrian peace talks.
While Kerry said there were still "kinks" that needed to be worked out, mainly to do with which groups should be included in peace talks, the Kremlin rejected the outcome of the Riyadh meeting, saying some of the groups were considered terrorists.
The opposition groups said Assad should leave power at the start of a transitional period.
No deals on Ukraine
"We don't have a full meeting of the minds yet (on Assad), we will talk about some of the details of a transition...in the hopes of narrowing the differences between us," a senior State Department official told reporters.
While in Paris on Monday, Kerry met with counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan as he prepared for the Moscow talks.
His talks with Putin, and a lengthier meeting in the morning with Lavrov, will delve deeper into details of a planned Jan. 1 ceasefire in Syria, as well as Monday's comments by Russia on supporting the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which has been fighting Russian- and Iranian-backed government forces.
15 December 2015
The Czech government said Monday it had decided for the first time to accept 37 Christian families fleeing the ISIL group in Iraq.
"They are members of the Christian minority who found themselves in a very difficult situation following the ISIL aggression in Iraq and asked the Czech Republic for help," said Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.
He said that the refugees, numbering 153 in total, were based in Iraqi Kurdistan and Lebanon and should arrive in four groups between next January and April.
"In our country they should get international protection, a chance to integrate and start a new life in safety," said Sobotka.
They will be the first refugees being taken in by Prague aside from the several dozen who have followed formal asylum procedures.
Last week, a group of 149 Assyrian Christians from Iraq arrived in neighbouring Slovakia after being offered aid by the government there.
December 14, 2015
The BJP on Monday charged Congress workers with participating in a rally where protesters allegedly shouted pro-ISIS slogans in Rajasthan and sought to corner the party saying that the “champions of secularism” were silent over the issue.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Congress had uttered no word on the controversy although he expected the opposition party to make “maximum noise” as it had been raising the issue of intolerance.
“Slogans against RSS and in support of ISIS were made. But these political champions of secularism spoke no word. They were silent. We thought they would demand sedition charges against people involved in this… “In fact, some were seen protecting the Congress leaders involved in this rally,” Naqvi alleged.
Days after India and Pakistan resolved to work together to counter terrorism, Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed has dared New Delhi to prove his involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The comments by Saeed, for whom the US has offered a $10 million bounty, come close on the heels of Pakistan’s assurance to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj that it will expedite the trial of seven Pakistani nationals accused of involvement in the terrorist strike on India’s financial hub.
In a video posted on Twitter, Saeed said: “These people (the Pakistan government) did not say anything but let me reply to Sushma. Listen to me, it’s been seven years since the Mumbai attacks but you could not prove anything (about who was behind the attacks). InshaAllah (if Allah wills it) you will not be able to prove it until qayamat (judgement day)…India has failed to provide any evidence of the Mumbai attacks, while on the other hand, (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi has confessed to the worst terrorism of 1971,” he added.
Following talks between Swaraj and Pakistan’s foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz in Islamabad, the two sides agreed last week to launch a new dialogue process. The talks were linked to Pakistan taking steps to expedite the trial of seven men charged with planning and executing the Mumbai attacks.
Saeed also criticised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for holding a meeting with Modi in Paris, saying it had hurt the sentiments of “Kashmiri Muslims”. The Indian government played down Saeed’s statements and said it is capable of countering any threat or challenge to its territory or sovereignty.
by Liz Mathew
December 15, 2015
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is no longer the only visible face of the government — especially on some key issues recently. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is the talking head on the most significant tax reform legislation — the Goods and Service Tax (GST). External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is credited for helping put the India-Pakistan talks back on track. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar led India’s efforts to achieve the ground-breaking climate deal in Paris. And Home Minister Rajnath Singh is seen and heard more often as the voice of the government.
While the BJP maintains that the government always believed in “collective responsibility”, some of the party MPs admit that this is a conscious decision as “the responsibilities, as well as the blame, will get shared only if you share the limelight.” The party’s defeats in Bihar and Delhi have proved that the PM alone cannot run the show, they said. “The party and the government learned that the entire cabinet has to be projected, not just a single individual,” said a BJP leader.
But another section argued that there has been no significant shift in the government’s style of functioning. They said “some ministers have come to the limelight because there have been a number of high profile international meets where the presence of the concerned ministers was necessary.”
Although Modi hosted his predecessor Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in a bid to resolve differences over GST, it was an informal meeting that Jaitley had with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi that set the ball rolling. At the same time, Jaitley targeted the Congress for “stalling” the government’s reform agenda.
If the brief meeting between Modi and Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif in Paris set the stage for the next level of talks between the two countries, the NSA-level talks in Bangkok was just another step in preparation for the foreign ministers’ meeting in Islamabad. But it was Sushma’s meeting with her Pakistan counterpart that gave the last-mile push to the bilateral talks.
With the Paris climate change agreement being termed as a success for countries like India, Javadekar will also steal some of the limelight.
Locating AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal is never a problem in his home town, Hojai in Nagaon district, about 170 km east of Assam’s state capital. For, he and Ajmal Foundation are everywhere. Posters and hoardings, schools, colleges, hospitals, madrassas, all bear the name of the family.
The real surprise came when our vehicle entered the expansive Ajmal estate, which has a carport housing about 20 vehicles of different makes and colours, a pond to supply fish to the household, a lawn with pavilions, a palace and an army palace staff.
The interiors of Ajmal’s house look like a huge durbar. We saw at least 100 people waiting for the leader to make an appearance. And when cleric-perfumer finally did so, no one rushed to attract his attention. No one spoke. The leader always has the first right to speak.
Doing everything large-scale is perhaps an Ajmal trait. The family owns most of Hojai, a town of 36,000 people. It also runs the largest agar plantation near Hojai, Asia’s richest NGO named Markaj-ul Maaris and Asia’s largest rural charitable hospital – the 500-bed Haji Abdul Majid Memorial Hospital & Research Centre – besides one of the world’s biggest perfume businesses.
But who is Badruddin Ajmal? Nine years ago, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi asked the same question dismissively. Earlier this year, after his party AIUDF won half the seats it contested in a tribal council, Ajmal asked, “Now, who is Tarun Gogoi?
That, precisely, is the length of AIUDF chief Ajmal’s journey so far, while Gogoi’s graph in Assam has been southbound since the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Of the 14 LS seats, the Congress managed three while the BJP bagged seven. And Ajmal emerged as Gogoi’s equal.
A scholar from Deoband in Uttar Pradesh and one of India’s richest politicians who made his millions from the family business, Ajmal insists that his party was formed “because the Congress betrayed the minorities” in Assam.
For the AIUDF, the youngest of Assam’s top five political parties, the rise has been phenomenal. From 10 seats in 2006 – six months after its birth – the party secured 18 in the 126-member assembly in 2011, leaving behind the once-potent regional Asom Gana Parishad with 10 seats and BJP with five seats.
Sixteen of AIUDF’s seats in the last assembly election were spread across nine districts where Muslims, mostly Bengali-speaking migrants, are in a majority. But Ajmal draws a distinction between the AIUDF and parties like the Hyderbad-based All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen of Asaduddin Owaisi.
“We have non-Muslim MLAs and our working president is a tribal. People go by my appearance – beard and skull cap -- to pass judgement, but few parties are as broad-based and secular as ours.” The AIUDF working president Aditya Langthasa is a senior doctor in Ajmal’s HAMM Hospital.
The ‘all-embracing approach’, apart from an increasing hold on Muslims, who account for 40%-80% of the population in 35 assembly seats, has made the competition wary of the AIUDF. Even tribe-specific parties such as the Bodoland People’s Front -- ideologically opposed to the AIUDF – are not averse to a strategic alliance with it.
Ajmal opened the discussion on the next assembly elections early next year with a dig at the new BJP state chief, Sarbananda Sonowal, who has a long history of agitating against illegal migration from Bangladesh.
“We’re happy that Sonowal has been sent back from Delhi. The more he campaigns against Bangladeshi infiltrators, the more Muslim votes will come our way,” he said. The AIUDF is seen as a party that bats for migrants, mostly Bengali-speaking Muslims.
What’s more, both the Congress and the BJP’s efforts to get the Assamese-speaking Muslims on their sides have failed to produce any results so far. Religion – not language -- attracts them more, for now. The total Muslim population in the state now stands at 34%.
But when pointed out that such mobilisation would hurt only the Congress, he smiled. The Congress is going to war this time with a disadvantage -- anti-incumbency after 15 years of rule. The state Congress leadership, however, is putting up a brave front. “We will win 70 of the 126 seats this time,” claimed state chief Anjan Datta, despite his party having been troubled by infighting and defections. Datta thinks the AIUDF will be in the second spot.
The current party positions in the assembly are: the Congress 78, the AIUDF 18, the BPF 12, the AGP 10, the BJP five and others three, although there have been some changes in recent years due to defections from the Congress and the expulsion of two AIUDF members.
Political analysts, however, say the BJP has a better chance in Assam than in West Bengal, which is going to the polls at the same time. The party bagged half the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam last year, prevailed in the local body polls later and took over two tribal councils this year.
DUBAI: Air strikes by an Arab coalition targeting Yemen's dominant Houthi group killed at least 15 people late on Monday, residents said, hours before a ceasefire was due to take effect to pave the way for United Nations (UN)-sponsored peace talks in Switzerland.
Residents said war planes launched two raids on the village of Bani al-Haddad, in the northern Hajjah province on the border with Saudi Arabia, killing 13 people and wounding 20 others. Two more residents died while medics were trying to evacuate them, they said.
A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition could not be reached for immediate comment but the alliance says it does not target civilians.
The coalition has said that the ceasefire requested by Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to facilitate the planned peace talks in Switzerland would start at noon local time (0900 GMT) on Tuesday.
The Yemeni missiles destroyed the command center of Saudi border guards in Asir province.
Meantime, the Yemeni missiles hit the Saudi governmental buildings in al-Rabou'a region of Asir province.
The Yemeni army also fired 52 rockets at the border regions of Alab, al-Sheibani, al-Hazar and al-Thurein in Asir province.
On Monday, Yemeni forces hit Jizan airport in Southern Saudi Arabia with their new surface-to-surface ballistic missiles.
"The Qaher-I missile precisely hit the target, the Jizan airport; the third such missile used in the past 24 hours to target military positions in Southern Saudi Arabia," Yemeni military sources told FNA.
The first Qaher-I ballistic missiles targeted Khalid bin Abdulaziz air base in Asir province in Southwestern Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
The second ballistic missile hit the Saudi-led coalition's command headquarters in Sha'ab al-Jen region near Bab al-Mandeb in Ta'iz province. Over 150 coalition servicemen, including 23 Saudi troops, 9 UAE officers and soldiers, seven Moroccan officers and 42 Blackwater troops were killed in the second attack.
Qaher-I is an updated version of a Russian-made surface-to-surface missile.
The burnt bodies of 146 Saudi-led military troops have been transferred to the city of Aden and Saudi Arabia has sent a warship to Ta'iz to transfer the wounded from Bab al-Mandeb region.
The Saudi-led forces sustained heavy casualties in the Yemeni army's missile attack on the Bab al-Mandeb region in Southwestern Yemen.
On Friday, the Yemeni army and popular forces conducted several retaliatory attacks against key military bases and positions in two Saudi provinces, inflicting heavy losses on the kingdom's forces.
Yemeni forces fired 13 missiles at al-Jamarak region in the Saudi province of Jizan, killing at least two Saudi military men.
On Wednesday, the Yemeni forces launched missile attacks on the Saudi military bases in the province of Jizan with their new home-made missiles named 'Cry'.
The Yemeni missiles destroyed al-Ain al-Harreh and al-Salah military bases in Jizan province, inflicting heavy losses on the Saudi army.
The Yemeni army and popular forces also hit al-Ramzeh military center in Jizan province, killing tens of Saudi military men and their vehicles.
The Yemeni forces also hit several Saudi military centers in the Southern parts of Al-Khuba region.
Dec 14, 2015
Israeli forces have shot dead a Palestinian man after he allegedly drove his car into a bus stop in al-Quds (Jerusalem).
The incident took place on Monday after a 21-year-old Palestinian named as Abed al-Mhasan allegedly drove his vehicle into Israeli settlers standing at the bus stop at the western entrance of the city.
Some eight Israeli settlers were injured in the incident.
Israeli police said the Palestinian was shot dead at the scene by Israeli forces.
Tensions in the occupied territories have dramatically escalated since the Israeli regime’s imposition of restrictions in August on the entry of Palestinian worshipers to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East al-Quds.
Palestinians are angry at increasing violence by Israeli settlers at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound and their attacks on Palestinian properties, saying that the Tel Aviv regime seeks to change the status quo of the compound.
More than 120 Palestinians have been killed in the recent escalation of violence since the start of October. Nearly 20 Israelis have also been killed in the clashes.
According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS), 85 percent of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli troops since the beginning of violence were “extra-judicially executed.”
PPS said Israeli troops have resorted to “direct shooting and killing” instead of detaining Palestinians who are suspected of carrying out attacks on Israeli targets. It said most of the fatalities did not even pose a threat to the troopers' life.
On Sunday, Israeli forces killed a 16-year-old Palestinian girl for allegedly trying to attack an Israeli settler near Kiryat Arba settlement in the occupied West Bank.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen said on Tuesday that a ceasefire had begun at noon (0900 GMT) as scheduled.
Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri confirmed that the truce had taken effect. The militia forces have yet to say if they will abide by the ceasefire.
“The command of the coalition forces announces a ceasefire as of 12 P.M. Sanaa time ... while retaining the right to respond to any breach of the ceasefire,” the alliance said in a statement on the Saudi state news agency, SPA.
“The ceasefire (will last) for a period of seven days starting from the 15th to the 21st of December in conjunction with the launch of consultations, and will be renewed automatically in the event of the commitment of the other party,” it said.
The coalition opened a military campaign in late March to stop Houthi militias from taking complete control of Yemen after they seized the capital, Sanaa, last year. The Houthi militias accuse the coalition of launching a war of aggression.
ARBIL, Iraq - Turkey withdrew troops Monday from a north Iraq camp, a lawmaker and witnesses said, after a deployment which Baghdad said went ahead without its permission and that sparked a diplomatic row.
It was not immediately clear how many soldiers were removed from the camp, where Ankara sent troops and tanks on a deployment last week it said was routine and necessary to protect Turkish trainers working with Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State militant group.
Baghdad has sharply criticised the deployment, terming it an "incursion" that violated the country's sovereignty, repeatedly demanding the forces be withdrawn and complaining to the United Nations Security Council.
"The Turkish army withdrew from Camp Zilkan at dawn today, and according to our information, only the trainers remain to train Hashad al-Watani forces," MP Salem al-Shabaki said, referring to anti-IS forces and the site where they were being trained.
"Witnesses confirmed that they saw the Turkish army withdrawing from Camp Zilkan... toward the Turkish border," Shabaki said. Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency quoted military sources as saying that "some of the Turkish troops stationed in Bashiqa have transited to the north as part of a new arrangement."
But did not specify if they were moving farther north into Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, the government of which has strong relations with Ankara, or leaving altogether.
Anatolia said the troops were carried in a convoy of 10-12 military vehicles but did not give further details on numbers.
Witnesses in Dohuk province in Iraqi Kurdistan reported seeing Turkish military equipment being moved on transport trucks towards the border.
"I saw these vehicles... which were carrying heavy weapons with Turkish flags on them," one witness said on condition of anonymity, but it was unclear if it was a partial or complete withdrawal.
"About six o'clock this morning, I saw transport trucks carrying tanks and armoured vehicles with Turkish flags on them going toward the Ibrahim Khalil crossing" leading from Iraq to Turkey, another witness said. A senior Turkish official said last week that between 150 and 300 soldiers and 20 tanks were deployed to protect Turkish military trainers at a camp near Mosul, the main IS hub in Iraq.
But the deployment outraged the federal Iraqi government, which repeatedly demanded that Ankara withdraw the forces. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last week sent two of the most powerful men in Turkish foreign policy - foreign ministry under-secretary Feridun Sinirlioglu and intelligence chief Hakan Fidan - to Baghdad in a bid to settle the tensions.
Davutoglu said subsequently an agreement had been reached on a "reorganisation" of the Turkish troops. But it was never made clear what form this would take.
Meanwhile, Russia on Monday said a summit between President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan pencilled in for December 15 had been cancelled, with ties between the two leaders in tatters over the downing of a Russian warplane.
The meeting between the two strongmen had been agreed at the G20 summit in Turkey on November 16, just over a week before Ankara shot down one of Moscow's warplanes at the Syrian border.
"The draft resolution to annul all Board of Governors' resolutions was endorsed in Vienna today," Salehi said.
"Iran's nuclear case was closed in the IAEA forever," he added.
The G5+1 submitted a Draft Resolution to the IAEA Board of Governors on Friday to close the case with Iran's past military activities as envisioned in the JCPOA.
The remarks by the Iranian nuclear chief came as the IAEA Board of Governors is due to consider Director General’s report regarding Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna later today.
Now after Salehi's remarks, the Board meeting seems to be more a formality.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-member Board of Governors is expected to unanimously agree on ending the 12-year evaluation on the case about the country's past nuclear activities, known as the PMD issues.
In relevant remarks on Monday, Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Reza Najafi stated that the draft resolution submitted by the six major world powers (the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany) to the IAEA's Board of Governors to close the case with Iran's past nuclear activities will mostly likely be approved by consensus.
"The resolution is believed to be approved with the consensus of the Board of Governors' members and the so-called PMD case, related to the past and present issues (of Iran), will be terminated for ever to open the path for the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)," Najafi said.
He also expressed the hope that the JCPOA (the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers clinched on July 14) would be implemented in late December or early January.
On Wednesday, IAEA Chief Yukiya Amano released his final report on Iran's nuclear program and presented it to the 35 members of the IAEA Board of Governors.
In his report, the IAEA chief stressed that "all the activities contained in the Road-map were implemented in accordance with the agreed schedule".
In relevant remarks on Wednesday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi announced that the latest IAEA report has once again confirmed Tehran's full cooperation and non-diversion of its nuclear program.
Araqchi said that the IAEA has in its report confirmed Iran's full cooperation with the Agency based on roadmap, which has enabled the body to release its final evaluation on the case about the country's past nuclear activities, known as the PMD issues.
"Therefore, all measures over the past issues have completely concluded and PMD has been left behind," he added.
Araqchi noted that the report has endorsed peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, paving the way for closing the file of PMD in Board of Governors.
Therefore, as per Paragraph 14 of JCPOA, the G5+1 should offer a resolution to Board of Governors with the aim of ending the issue of PMD, Araqchi said, noting that the body should approve the resolution and close the case.
He said that the measure will take place within two weeks.
The IAEA has clearly announced that no diversion has been seen in Iran's nuclear-related activities, Araqchi said.
The agency has also rejected conducting experimental blasts in Marivan, confirming Iran's claim that the issue is baseless, he said.
Asked about the IAEA's claim that Iran has carried out little activities with certain technologies of dual-use prior to 2003.
Araqchi said that all studies on double purpose technologies in Iran have been conducted for peaceful ends.
Furthermore, studies on such technologies are also rampant in other countries, the official said, noting that what is important is that the program does not divert from peaceful purposes, as the main duty of the IAEA is verifying non-diversion.
Asked about the existence of experiment chamber in Parchin in 2000 based on satellite photos, he said that Iran provided the agency with more reliable photos, negating its claims. Not to mention that director general of the IAEA in person visited the site and saw no chamber there.
The main point in the report is that the final evaluation of the entity rejected many of the past allegations or cast doubt over them, Araqchi added.
In relevant remarks in November, Najafi underlined that the PMD case should be closed before the nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers can come into force.
"We are waiting for the IAEA to fulfill its commitment with regard to the closure of the PMD issues, because the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will not be implemented if the UN watchdog does not do this," Najafi said, addressing the IAEA's Board of Governors in Vienna.
He also said Iran was taking the needed measures to implement the JCPOA "by late December or early January" if the upcoming IAEA report ends up in the closure of the PMD issues.
Last month, Najafi underlined that Tehran had emphasized that implementation of the JCPOA would take place only after the case of the PMD issues is closed.
"They know that the condition for implementation of JCPOA is the closing of the PMD issue," Najafi said in reaction to the recent remarks by the US officials who said that the PMD case would remain open.
He underlined that Article 14 of the nuclear accord stipulates that the G5+1 has to present a resolution to IAEA Board of Governors on December 15 to close the PMD issue.
Iran has repeatedly urged that it wants an IAEA report to announce final results of its investigations about the PMD issue, reiterating that it does not want the PMD issue to remain open after a deal with the world powers.
The PMD has become a persistent bone of contention in the talks between Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog. During the last year Iran has removed 16 of the 18 questions and ambiguities that the IAEA has presented with regard to Tehran's nuclear activities, and the country has recently provided the needed answers and documents for the 17 point.
Iran has sped up its cooperation with the IAEA in the last two years to bring the PMD issue to a closure as fast as possible, but the nuclear watchdog has avoided report the removal of each of the ambiguities and questions that have been answered by Iran, in violation of the agency's initial agreement with Tehran. The two sides had initially agreed that they would cooperate to remove any uncertainty about Iran's past nuclear activities item by item and would deal with the next item in their 18-point list only after the IAEA reports that it has been convinced by Iran's answers about the last item in the list and declare that the relevant ambiguity has been removed.
The Iranian parliament held an open session in Tehran on Tuesday, during which the legislators underlined the necessity for helping the Shiite population in Nigeria.
They also called for leaving no stone unturned, including trying back chennels at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), to assist the Muslims in Nigeria's Zaria region.
In response to the lawmakers' demands, Larijani underscored at this morning session that "specific measures are underway".
The Nigerian army attacked two religious centers of the country's Shiite community on Saturday, killing hundreds of defenseless civilians there. A few hours later on Sunday, the military wounded and arrested Leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky after raiding his house and killing his son, assistants and hundreds of followers.
The Saturday and Sunday crackdown on the Shiite community by the Nigerian army that ended in the massacre of the Shiites in several raids has caused serious concerns in Tehran.
On Monday, Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned Nigeria's charge d'affaires in Tehran over the massacre of the Shiite Muslims in Zaria.
At the meeting, Head of the foreign ministry's first office for African affairs condemned the Nigerian army attack on the Shiite community as unacceptable, and reiterated the Nigerian government's responsibility for protecting the lives of the Shiites and religious centers, specially the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran seriously demands clarification of the dimensions of the incident, treatment of the wounded people and compensation of the damages incurred at the earliest," the Iranian diplomat said.
Earlier in the day, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a phone conversation with his Nigerian counterpart Godffrey Onyema voiced concern about the massacre of Shiite Muslims by the army, and urged the African country's government to take immediate and serious action to protect the lives of the Muslim community.
Also yesterday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian voiced concern over the clampdown on the Shiite Muslims community, cautioning that the fate of Sheikh Zakzaky, is of crucial importance both to Iran and the Muslim world.
"Clarifying Sheikh Zakzaky's fate is very important to the Muslim world and Iran," Amir Abdollahian said.
He cautioned that the Muslim nation of Nigeria and the rest of the world Muslims want to see Sheikh Zakzaky sound and safe and in good shape.
Amir Abdollahian, meantime, pointed to the status quo of Iran-Nigeria relations, and said, "Tehran and Abuja have currently very good relations and the Nigerian president has recently visited Tehran."
"Using this positive atmosphere reigning our relations, we have repeatedly cautioned them that they are responsible for this incident."
Also on Monday, the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission in a statement condemned the "barbaric" massacre of the oppressed Shiites of Nigeria in Zaria city, Kaduna State.
"Erdogan's remarks about fighting terrorism are really humorous since Russia has released documents showing Erdogan and his family's support for the ISIL terrorist group," Mikhail Moshkin said in an interview with Russia's Vzglyad daily on Tuesday.
He underlined that despite Erdogan's claims, the ISIL is not a threat to Turkey and is rather an instrument to materialize Ankara's "new Othomanism" idea.
Other Russian and even Turkish politicians have also earlier confirmed accusations against Erdogan and his family members.
Earlier this month, Senior Member of Turkish Republican People's Party (CHP) Aran Erdam disclosed that Erdogan and his relatives had purchased oil from the ISIL terrorist group.
"The evidence shows that the trucks that were bombed by the Russian planes last month were carrying oil cargos destined for Turkey via Iraq from Northern Syria," Erdam said.
He noted that over 120 oil tankers that were destroyed in the Russian airstrikes belonged to the Turkish Bayrak Company owned by Erdogan's son-in-law who is also Turkey's energy minister, Berat Al-Bayrak.
He noted that Bayrak Company has 500 oil tankers.
Turkish Energy Expert Necdet Pamir said that Turkey's official oil import has decreased by $1 million which itself is a proof to Erdogan government's clandestine deal with the ISIL.
Pamir said that the deal between Turkey and the ISIL dates back to summer 2012 when the Takfiri terrorists took control of the city of Raqqa.
A former Turkish deputy foreign minister also confirmed Erdogan government's purchase of oil from Turkey.
"Turkish borders are open to the ISIL and other terrorists to commute between Syria and Turkey," Farouq Loqoqlou said.
President Erdogan has dramatically vowed to leave office if any proof is provided that Ankara has been buying oil from the terrorist group Daesh (ISIL).
His son, Bilal Erdogan, also has extensive ties and runs transactions with ISIL barbars. Bilal owns several maritime companies. He has allegedly signed contracts with European operating companies to carry Iraqi stolen oil to different Asian countries. The Turkish government buys Iraqi plundered oil which is being produced from the Iraqi seized oil wells. Bilal Erdogan’s maritime companies own special wharfs in Beirut and Ceyhan ports that are transporting ISIL’ smuggled crude oil in Japan-bound oil tankers.
Earlier this month, the Russian defense ministry announced that Erdogan and his family members are directly involved in illegal oil deliveries from ISIL oil fields in Syria.
Turkey’s leadership, including President Erdogan and his family, is involved in illegal oil trade with ISIL militants, the Russian Defense Ministry said, stressing that Turkey is the final destination for oil smuggled from Syria and Iraq.
“Today, we are presenting only some of the facts that confirm that a whole team of bandits and Turkish elites stealing oil from their neighbors is operating in the region,” Antonov said, adding that this oil “in large quantities” enters the territory of Turkey via “live oil pipelines,” consisting of thousands of oil trucks.
Antonov added that Turkey is the main buyer of smuggled oil coming from Iraq and Syria.
“According to our data, the top political leadership of the country - President Erdogan and his family – is involved in this criminal business.”
However, since the start of Russia’s anti-terrorist operation in Syria on September 30, the income of the ISIL militants from illegal oil smuggling has been significantly reduced, the ministry said.
“The income of this terrorist organization was about $3 million per day. After two months of Russian airstrikes their income was about $1.5 million a day,” Lieutenant-General Sergey Rudskoy said.
The Russian Defense Ministry held a major briefing on new findings concerning ISIL funding in Moscow earlier this month.
The US-led coalition is not bombing ISIL oil trucks, Rudskoy said.
At the briefing the ministry presented photos of oil trucks, videos of airstrikes on ISIL oil storage facilities and maps detailing the movement of smuggled oil. More evidence is to be published on the ministry's website in the coming says, Rudskoy said.
Meantime, Abu Muhammad al-Julani, the leader of the Jabhat al-Nusra militant group on Saturday said in an interview aired by Arab TV channel Orient News (Dubai, UAE) that Turkey’s goal is to create a so-called “security zone” on the North of the Syrian Arab Republic.
At least two protesters have been killed in clashes with Turkish police over a government-imposed curfew in the southwestern city of Diyarbakir, security sources say.
The clashes erupted for a second day on Monday, when thousands of people tried to march to the Sur district to condemn a curfew declared there nearly two weeks ago.
Police used water cannon and fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators who had erected barricades and lit a fire on a road in the area.
Two demonstrators, aged 21 and 25, were both shot dead in the violent clashes.
Riot police use water cannons to disperse demonstrators in Sur district, the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, December 14, 2015. (Reuters photo)
The restrictions on the free movement of people imposed by the Turkish government are purportedly aimed at facilitating counter-terrorism operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group.
ABUJA : At least 60 people were killed this weekend when the Nigerian army raided Shias and arrested its leader in the northern city of Zaria, the director of a local hospital said on Monday.
The army said the Islamic Movement was trying to assassinate the chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, when members of the sect blocked his convoy in Zaria on Saturday. They was conducting an annual ritual to usher in the month of Maulud, the birth month of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
On Sunday, the army raided several buildings connected to the sect and the home of its leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky. They arrested him and killed key members of the group, including Zakzaky's second-in-command and spokesman.
"As of yesterday, we had 60 corpses in our morgue," Khalid Lawal, the chief medical director of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, told Reuters by phone.
Residents said they heard loud blasts during the raid. A Reuters reporter was barred entry to the cordoned-off area.
At least 31 hostages were freed on Monday from Boko Haram strongholds in the Sambisa forest in the northeastern Borno state, according to the Nigerian army.
Three militants were also killed and four camps destroyed as soldiers charged through the area, said the Nigerian army.
"The troops cleared all the four camps located within the [Aulari] area that includes Faldan, Kidiziromari, Kuroshini, Kurumari and Ngulda. One Boko Haram terrorist was killed while trying to escape and about 31 people were rescued from the terrorists," army spokesman Sani Usman said in a statement late Monday.
Usman said two other militants were killed in the Leje axis of the Sambisa forest while also blocking all known routes to prevent Boko Haram militants from transporting livestock across borders.
Nigerian troops on Monday evacuated the bodies of Shiite Muslims killed in two days of clashes with the army in Northern Zaria, its spokesman and residents told AFP.
The army carried out crackdowns on Saturday and early Sunday against the IMN and have arrested its leader Ibrahim Zakzaky.
"We have reports that bodies of our members killed outside the house of our leader are being evacuated in trucks by soldiers," IMN spokesman Ibrahim Musa said.
Musa also said Zakzaky had been arrested.
"Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky was arrested this morning in his demolished home by soldiers where he had been holed up in a room that was spared from the fire that gutted the house from grenades," he said.
Northern Nigeria is majority Muslim and largely Sunni.
Musa said the victims of the fighting included his wife, son and the former IMN spokesman.
"We can't give a precise figure of the deaths but it is huge given the number of the members that answered the call to protect the house from the invading soldiers," he said.
He said the group's leader had been unable to leave the house "because of the gunshot wounds he sustained in the indiscriminate fire soldiers opened on the house and his followers who tried to protect it," he said.
"We gathered he was taken to Kaduna (70 kilometers, 45 miles away). We got in touch with the medical doctor that is treating him who confirmed to us that our leader is critically ill from four gunshot wounds he sustained," he said.
"He was shot at four times, this the doctor confirmed," Musa said.
Witnesses also spoke of soldiers removing bodies around Zakzaky's house.
"This morning, soldiers started evacuating corpses of followers of Zakzaky in trucks for possible disposal," resident Bashir Bello said.
"A large number of his followers were gunned down around his house on Saturday through Sunday morning where they had congregated to protect the house from military invasion," he said.
At least 10 people have lost their lives and more than two others, mostly civilians, sustained injuries in an exchange of gunfire between militiamen in Somalia’s south-central region of Hiran.
Local residents said the violence broke out when members of two rival clans, armed with heavy machine guns, turned on each other and clashed in the city of Beledweyne, some 206 miles (332 kilometers) north of the capital, Mogadishu, on Sunday.
“I can say that the death toll might increase further because some of those wounded are in critical condition,” an eyewitness, speaking anonymously, said.
Director of the Beledweyne general hospital, Ahmed Mohamud Khalif, said the facility has received 29 injured people.
“We are extending emergency health care to wounded people, who have been hospitalized here. We have received 29 victims of the attacks with five suffering from grave gunshot wounds,” Khalif said.
14 December 2015
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday that ISIL was spreading from its stronghold on the Libyan coast to the interior of the country with the aim of getting access to oil wells.
"They are in Sirte, their territory extends 250 kilometres (155 miles) along the coast, but they are starting to penetrate the interior and to be tempted by access to oil wells and reserves," Le Drian told RTL radio.
World powers are trying to convince Libya's warring factions to lay down their weapons and fall behind a new national unity government, as ISIL-allied groups exploit the political chaos to take hold of parts of the country.
French planes carried out surveillance flights over Libya last week.
14 December 2015
Militants shelled a United Nations barracks in northern Mali's largest city on Monday, without inflicting casualties or damage, peacekeeping and local government souces said.
An official within the UN's MINUSMA force said "terrorists" targeting its Dutch contingent had launched at least four shells at the camp in Gao early in the morning.
"There were no casualties or damage. We have strengthened the security apparatus," he said, without elaborating.
A local elected official in Gao said the assailants were extremists who had succeeded only in creating a "large hole" near the camp.
The shelling came a day after gunmen attacked a military checkpoint in Nione, a town in the central Segou region visited by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita last week.
One Malian soldier was wounded in that attack and two were reported missing.
Mali has been plagued by unrest since the north of the vast west African state fell under the control of Tuareg rebels and extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in 2012.
The extremists soon sidelined the Tuareg to take sole control of Gao, Timbuktu and other northern towns but lost most of the ground they had captured in a French-led military intervention in January 2013.
Nearly three years later, large swathes of Mali remain lawless despite a June peace deal between the government and Tuareg rebels seen as crucial to ending decades of instability.
With more than 50 fatalities so far, MINUSMA has been one of the deadliest UN missions in recent years.
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday announced the formation of a 34-state Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism, according to a joint statement published on state news agency SPA.
“The countries here mentioned have decided on the formation of a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, with a joint operations center based in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations,” the statement said.
A long list of Arab countries such as Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, together with Islamic countries Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan and Gulf Arab and African states were mentioned.
The announcement cited “a duty to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organisations whatever their sect and name which wreak death and corruption on earth and aim to terrorise the innocent.”
Iran, Saudi Arabia's archrival for influence in the Arab world, was absent from the states named as participants, as proxy conflicts between the two regional powers rage from Syria to Yemen.
The United States has been increasingly outspoken about its view that Gulf Arab states should do more to aid the military campaign against the militant Islamic State (IS) militant group based in Iraq and Syria.
Confronting 'any terrorist organisation'
In a rare press conference, 30-year-old deputy crown prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman told reporters on Tuesday that the campaign would “coordinate” efforts to fight terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan, but offered few concrete indications of how military efforts might proceed.
“There will be international coordination with major powers and international organisations ... in terms of operations in Syria and Iraq. We can't undertake these operations without coordinating with legitimacy in this place and the international community,” bin Salman said without elaborating.
NEW DELHI - Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit has said that the Pakistan-India dialogue won't get derailed in case of another terror attack.
In an exclusive interview with India Today, Basit claimed that India has given commitment that terror will not affect the ongoing talks.
Basit even said that national security advisers of the two countries also discussed reaction to any future terror attack and both the countries agreed that terror shouldn't derail talks.
Responding to a question, Basit said: “There has been no change as far as Islamabad is concerned.
Pakistani prime minister has always been saying .
underlining the importance of having a dialogue with India.
What changed here in New Delhi.
I would not know.
We welcome the change in policy on part of India.
He said both sides knew the importance of talking to each other.
“We do understand.
I think New Delhi also realises that unless we talk to each other we would not be able to resolve our issues.
The first thing is to bridge this distrust gap and that cannot be done unless we talk to each other.
You cannot rule out anything but I think government should be committed to dialogue process with all sincerity.
To another question, he said “I would not like to get into specific but I think both sides are committed this time around to not allow those forces to sabotage or thwart this dialogue process between the two countries.
He further said “This is a comprehensive bilateral dialogue as we know.
We have made gains in the past, we will build on them.
We will discussing everything, from Jammu and Kashmir to peace and security and confidence-building measures.
HURRIYAT LEADERS MEET PAK HC: Two Hurriyat Conference leaders yesterday met Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit in Delhi and told him that Islamabad should maintain "consistency and firmness" over its Kashmir policy.
They also emphasised that Pakistan should play an "active role in highlighting the human rights violations" in Jammu and Kashmir at international fora.
"A Hurriyat delegation sent by chairman Syed Ali Geelani held a detailed meeting for one-and-a-half hours with Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit in New Delhi.
"They held a detailed discussion over the recent meeting of Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan rulers on the occasion of Asia Heart Conference in Islamabad and also discussed the Kashmir policy there," Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar said in a statement in Srinagar.
MULTAN: Eight more convicted murderers were hanged in various jails of Punjab Tuesday, bringing the total number of executions to around 310 since the government lifted a moratorium on the death penalty last December.
The executions come a day ahead of the one-year anniversary of the attack on Peshawar's Army Public School which prompted authorities to lift a six-year moratorium on the death penalty.
The hangings took place in various locations of Punjab early Tuesday.
“Two convicts on death row were hanged in Multan, two each in Bahawalpur and Gujrat and one each in Attock and Dera Ghazi Khan,” Chaudhry Arshad Saeed, an adviser to Punjab's chief minister for prison affairs, told AFP.
Meanwhile, the hangings of two convicts, who were scheduled to be executed in Adiala jail today, were stayed after the deceased and their families patched up, Dawn newspaper reported.
Pakistan lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in all capital cases on March 10.
Supporters argue that the death penalty is the only effective way to deal with the scourge of militancy in the country.
ISLAMABAD: In an unprecedented move, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani took up with Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif on Monday the alleged humiliation of a lawmaker by some military personnel.
Amidst desk-thumping, Mr Rabbani informed the members that being custodian of the house, he had talked to the army chief by telephone and asked him to look into the “incident” in which Senator Nauman Wazir of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and his staff were allegedly humiliated by the security personnel at a checkpost in Nowshera on Saturday.
Know more: Rabbani says institutions subordinate to parliament
On the opening day of its new winter session, the Senate passed five resolutions, including the one expressing solidarity with family members of the martyrs of the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar and calling upon the government to continue its operation against terrorists.
Mr Rabbani said the army chief was “shocked and expressed his dismay” after learning about the incident which was not in his knowledge before to his telephone call. “The army chief assured me that he will hold an inquiry and share its results with me. I will inform the house about the army chief’s reply,” Mr Rabbani told Senators.
Senate adopts two anti-terror resolutions
The Senate chairman said he had himself contacted Nauman Wazir, who is the parliamentary leader of the PTI, after reading the report in a newspaper and decided to approach the army chief after hearing the senator’s version.
After the chairman’s remarks, Mr Wazir said that he did not want to press his privilege motion and would like to wait for the army chief’s response.
According to Mr Wazir, who is also the vice chairman of the Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority, the incident took place at a check-post when he was on a visit to Nowshera for inspection of some institutions with his private secretary and the Technical University’s finance director.
Besides carrying out body search of the senator and his staff members, the security personnel allegedly made them to sit on the ground and also slapped and kicked them.
RESOLUTIONS: Earlier, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution “re-affirming solidarity with the families of martyrs of APS Peshawar and calling upon the government to continue operation against terrorists. The resolution had been moved by Sehar Kamran of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Through another resolution moved by PPP’s Farhatullah Babar, the house called upon the government “to ensure strict implementation of the law disallowing resurrection of banned outfits under other names”.
After passage of the resolutions, Opposition Leader Aitzaz Ahsan asked the government to brief the house about the progress on the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), which was announced by the interior minister one year ago after the attack on the APS in Peshawar.
ISLAMABAD - The apex court yesterday dismissed the review petition of Mumtaz Qadri in the then Punjab governor Salman Taseer’s murder case.
The court also rejected the plea to constitute a larger bench for hearing his appeal.
Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa said it was the prerogative of the bench either to accept or reject the petition for setting up a larger bench.
Qadri’s lawyer said they would not file a mercy petition before the President of Pakistan.
Talking to The Nation, Main Nazir Akhtar said: “Qadri does not need mercy.
” He, however, said the President under the Constitution had authority to pardon a convict or reduce his sentence.
The top court in October this year upheld the Anti-Terrorism Court order and also restored death sentence under the terrorism law.
The ATC in January 4, 2011, awarded death sentence to Mumtaz Qadri for murdering the former Punjab governor under Pakistan Penal Code and Anti-Terrorism Act.
However, the Islamabad High Court maintained death sentence under PPC, but dropped the charges of terrorism.
Qadir, a former commando of Punjab Elite Force, assassinated ex-governor Salman Taseer as he had met with Aasia Bibi, a convict of blasphemy, in jail and declared the blasphemy law as a ‘black law’.
A three-judge bench, which heard the case, observed many misapprehensions had been expressed in the review petition and that they had not examined all the documents.
They said the court had announced the verdict after inspecting the documents.
The judge asked Qadri’s counsel that he had to prove whether the governor had committed blasphemy, but the documents submitted before the court did not prove it, so a larger bench could not be constituted.
The bench said at every stage Qadri had confessed to the killing of the Punjab governor.
Nazir Akhtar argued that in the judgment the aspects of Hadd and Qisas were not considered.
It’s not the case of Hadd, but that of Tazir, Justice Khosa said.
Qadri’s lawyer contended it was a case of Hadd, but conditions were not fulfilled.
Justice Khosa said if it was the case of Hadd, then Section 302-A of PPC was applicable and its punishment was death.
Nazir said there was a need to interpret Section 295-C.
Justice Khosa said they were also saying this and even Salman Taseer had also asked for it.
Qadri’s father, brother and around 150 followers tried to reach the Supreme Court to witness the hearing of the review petition, but the police stopped them at Nadra check post.
Nazir told The Nation that Qadri’s father, brother and his followers were not allowed to reach the apex court.
He was accompanied by around 20 young lawyers who believed Qadri’s action to kill Salman Taseer was justified.
ZHENGZHOU: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while attending the 14th Heads of Government Council meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in China on Tuesday reaffirmed Pakistan's commitment to counter-terrorism and combating crime.
"We reaffirm our commitment to collectively confront the challenges of extremism, separatism, terrorism, human and drug trafficking, organised crime and environmental and natural disasters," the premier told the summit.
However, "the security situation around us remains precarious", he said, adding that Pakistan is "seeing challenges to state sovereignty, territorial integrity".
"Armed conflicts continue to rage in several parts of the world, unleashing forces beyond the control of anyone. Militant ideologies need to be countered," he said.
Terrorism has become an "even more insidious" threat, he said.
"These developments require that we join forces and develop comprehensive strategies. SCO has a special role to play in promoting peace and regional stability."
Nawaz called for members of the SCO to identify common values and build on them.
Television footage showed Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi present at the summit as Nawaz addressed the conference.
Prime ministers from the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan attended the summit, while Chinese Premier Li Keqiang chaired the meeting.
The prime minister of Belarus, the chief executive of Afghanistan, the vice premier of Mongolia, the minister of state for foreign affairs of India and the minister from Iran attended the SCO meeting as representatives of SCO observers countries.
Nawaz calls for deeper air defence cooperation
In a bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called for "deeper cooperation between China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation and the Pakistan Air Force on international sales."
Nawaz vowed to provide security to Chinese citizens working in Pakistan on "various projects of paramount importance to us", such as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
"I am satisfied with the progress on CPEC projects, he said, adding that Pakistan hoped for all the projects under the CPEC to be implemented in a timely and efficient manner.
"We have established a Special Security Division (SSD). SSD will be operational by December 2015 to ensure safety of Chinese nationals."
He said the Gwadar Security Task Force has already been mobilised under command of a Brigadier, and assured Li that military operations Zarb-i-Azb and the National Action Plan are being successfully implemented.
He requested the Chinese side to allow Pakistan to open a trade-cum-visa office in Urumqi province to facilitate CPEC implementation and people-to-people exchanges.
"I proposed the mechanism of a steering committee between Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States and China which will supervise process of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and coordinate efforts in this regard."
Dec 15 2015
The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai slammed the Pakistani defense minister for insulting the Afghan people and Taliban through his recent remarks regarding the security of the trans-Afghan gas pipeline.
In his speech during an event to mark the International Migrants Day in Kabul, Karzai said the remarks by Pakistani defense minister to use the country’s influence on Taliban for the protection of the gas pipeline is an insult to Afghan people and Taliban.
Karzai also added that all Afghan people including Taliban and those in Kabul who are working in the government or as opposition should liberate themselves from colonialism, exploitation and psychic captivity.
He said the Afghan people should work with unity and integrity for the reconstruction of Afghanistan if they claim to be owner of the Afghan soil.
This comes as the Presidential Palace also issued a statement on Sunday slamming the Pakistani defense minister for delivering irresponsible remarks regarding the safety of trans-Afghan gas pipeline, calling it in contrast to non-interference commitments by the country’s leaders.
The statement by Presidential Palace further added that Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline is one of the important economic projects in the region which was brought into the implementation stage with the continued efforts of the Afghan government, specifically engaging with the regional partners – Turkmenistan, and the foundation stone of the project was laid by the leaders of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan and India today.
“The Afghan national security forces have the task of defending the territorial integrity and national sovereignty along with the security of Afghan citizens in accordance with the constitution and other applicable laws, and are able to protect the public and private installations, specifically the TAPI gas pipeline which will run 700 kilometers across Afghanistan,” the statement said.
The Afghan officials have long accused Pakistan for remaining reckless to act against the anti-government armed militant groups staging insurgency activities against the Afghan government.
WASHINGTON: The current situation in Afghanistan and the presence of elements of the militant Islamic State group in South Asia are the two big issues that US and Pakistani defence experts may focus on when they meet here this week, officials said.
A Pakistani delegation reached Washington on Monday to attend the 24th meeting of the US-Pakistan Defence Consultative Group (DCG). Defence Secretary retired Lt Gen Muhammad Alam Khattak is leading the delegation.
Although the two-day meeting begins on Wednesday, the delegation will also hold a series of consultations with US officials and lawmakers before and after the DCG.
They will visit various US think tanks during their weeklong stay in the US capital.
Also read: Political impasse: US, Pakistan agree to disagree
Officials told Dawn that the two sides would also talk about the Coalition Support Fund, which reimburses Pakistan for its military operations along the Afghan border.
Pakistan receives about a billion dollars a year from this fund in four quarterly reimbursements and the last quarter of this year expires this month.
Because of a tough accounting process, the reimbursements are often late. For instance, Pakistan received the April-June 2014 reimbursement of $337 million in July this year.
Reports in the Pakistani media have suggested that Pakistan will seek at the meeting new security equipment for capacity building and counter-terrorism operations.
But the officials said such requests were dealt at the Defence Resourcing Conference and the next DRC would be held in March or April next year.
Besides the Afghan situation and the presence of IS extremists in the region, the 24th DCG will also focus on strategic and conventional stability in the region.
Security forces have killed the military commander of Taliban for Marjah District of restive Helmand Province during clash.
Police Chief of Marjah District said five companions of Mullah Obaidullah alias Sahar were also killed during the brief gun battle that erupted last night.
Abdullah Khan added that security forces did not suffer casualties during the clash.
Another report from Marjah District suggests that 11 civilians sustained injuries after a rocket hit a house in Block-e-Naw area.
Unidentified gunmen have killed the brother of Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India Shaida Mohammad Abdali in southern Kandahar province.
Abdali’s brother Haji Sardar Mohammad was offering prayers in mosque, located in the third sector of Kandahar city, when unidentified gunmen opened fire on him on Monday.
Samim Khpalwak, spokesman for the governor of Kandahar province confirmed the incident.
He said gunmen fled the area following the murder but security forces are looking for them.
Former President Hamid Karzai has strongly condemned the attack on Haji Sardar Moammad who was also a community elder in Kandahar.
PESHAWAR: The Afghan government has announced multiple entry visa of one year for businessmen of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to improve trade and commercial relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Afghan Consul General in Peshawar Syed Mohammad Ibrahimkhel told the office-bearers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry here on Monday that the decision to issue multiple entry visa to traders was taken following a letter was sent to Afghan authorities by the chamber.
He urged the government to remove illegal checkposts on Peshawar-Torkham Highway to improve trade between the two countries. Those checkposts were main hurdle to improvement in trade activities, he added.
The envoy said that Afghan government would facilitate traders to improve export and import of various items.
Envoy seeks removal of illegal checkposts on Peshawar-Torkham Highway
Afghan Trade Commissioner Mir Wais Yousufzai, KPCCI vice president Shuja Mohammad, executive committee members Mohammad Iqbal, Abdul Jalil Jan, Rashid Iqbal Siddiqui, Haji Mohammad Afzal, Malik Iftikhar Ahmed Awan, Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, Mazharul Haq and Faiz Rasool were also present on the occasion.
KPCCI president Zulfiqar Ali Khan appreciated the Afghan government for accepting request of the chamber regarding issuance of multiple entry visa to traders and expressed the hope that it would help to increase trade volume between the two neighbouring countries.
He said that both the countries should pay full attention to improvement of bilateral trade and facilitation of exporters and importers. He also talked about problems being faced by businessmen and presented proposals for resolution of those issues.
DHAKA : Bangladesh has lifted a ban on all social media blocked over security concerns, officials confirmed Monday, as authorities have struggled to quell militant violence and opposition unrest.
The removal of the embargo came just hours after the government had implemented a new block on Skype and Twitter, adding them to the list of banded messaging apps, including WhatsApp and Viber.
"But all social communications media are now being unblocked following a government order," Telecoms Minister Tarana Halim told reporters.
Authorities lifted a 22-day ban on Facebook last Thursday, following a meeting between the government and Facebook officials.
The minister thanked Internet users for "keeping patience" during the current ban after hundreds of youths protested on the streets earlier this month, branding the move an attack on freedom of expression.
The government ordered Facebook, WhatsApp and Viber blocked in November after two opposition leaders lost their appeals against the death penalty for war crimes committed during the 1971 independence conflict.
The pair, Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mujahid, were hanged days later, hiking fears of opposition unrest in a country already reeling from deadly attacks by suspected Islamist militants.
"The countries here mentioned have decided on the formation of a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, with a joint operations centre based in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations," the statement said.
The former Teluk Intan by-election candidate also questioned why there had been no action against the university for holding a similar seminar on May 6 last year.
"The seminars clearly prove that UiTM is allowing religious provocation with the intention to sow hatred among Malaysians.
"How would Muslims feel if a similar anti-Islam seminar was held at an institution of higher learning?" Dyana asked in a statement today.
She added that as a multi-racial country, Malaysians should respect freedom of religion and carry out more interfaith programmes to foster understanding among the people towards a more harmonious nation.
Dyana urged Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh and the ministry to monitor religious phobia activities and stop it from taking place in public universities.
The Perak DAP committee member also wants the ministry to take action against UiTM for provoking religious disharmony.
The controversial seminar, "Ancaman Gerakan Pemurtadan Kristianisasi (Threat of the Christian proselytisation movement), was held at UiTM's campus in Lendu, Malacca, on Saturday.
The police crest can be clearly seen alongside UiTM's logo from the screen grab of a slide from the seminar, that has been making its rounds on social media.
Malacca police chief officer Chua Ghee Lye was reported to have confirmed that a Special Branch officer from Bukit Aman had attended the seminar as a presenter.
"The seminar touched upon attempts to convert Muslims to other religions, both in the country and in other nations.
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 ― Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has urged Amanah to put aside their ambition of federal power for now and to work on recruiting more Malays and progressive Muslims instead.
The former Umno minister also took a swipe at what he dubbed the “wishful thinking” of the Malays, citing as example PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli’s belief that PAS’ idea of fidelity would help the opposition.
“If PAS can strike a pact with PKR in constituency A, it can also have a pact with Umno in the same area. Again, another example of wishful thinking from a smart Malay,” Zaid wrote on his blog yesterday.
“I hope the leaders of Amanah don’t get mired in this kind of muddled thinking and instead start working on some honest political arrangement. Stay the course with DAP. Try and recruit more Malays and progressive Muslims into the party.
“Fight corruption, hate politics and sick racist ideas to chart a new path for the country. Work for democracy and the Rule of Law,” the former de facto law minister added.
He told Amanah, a splinter group comprising the progressives who had left PAS, not to “worry about Putrajaya for now”.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s participation in a coalition of 34 Islamic nations to combat terrorism does not involve any military commitment from Malaysia, said Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein today.
Earlier today, news agency SPA reported that Saudi Arabia had announced the formation of a 34-state Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism.
Countries such as Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan among others were reported to be part of the coalition.
Hishammudin said Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and Minister of Defence Mohammad Salman told him that prior to this, all the countries in the coalition had taken a stand against the Islamic State but in their own capacity.
“The Saudi initiative does not involve any military commitment, but an understanding that we will combat militancy.”
BY YISWAREE PALANSAMY
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 ― Penang PAS is going ahead with their lawsuit against Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) president Mohamad Sabu for reportedly linking it to global terror group Islamic State (IS).
The Islamist opposition party’s state secretary Iszuree Ibrahim said the lawsuit would be filed after discussions with the party’s central leadership and its legal team, Malay daily Berita Harian reported today.
“The discussions on him cannot be finalised solely by the state chapter as there may be several restrictions,” Iszuree was quoted as saying, referring to Mohamad who is popularly known as Mat Sabu.
President Barack Obama on Monday vowed to accelerate the U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq, implicitly acknowledging that progress has been too slow as the extremist group expands its reach with deadly attacks beyond the Middle East.
Speaking at the Pentagon after meeting with his National Security Council, Obama revealed that a group of American special operations commandos has begun working with local fighters in Syria to “tighten the squeeze” on Raqqa, the extremists’ nominal capital. He cited this as an example of aggressive new action, in addition to an intensified bombing of the oil infrastructure in Syria that provides much of the Islamic State’s revenue.
VIDEO: Obama’s message to the Islamic State: ‘Will hunt you down one by one’
The administration announced in late October that Obama had approved sending up to 50 special operations troops to Syria on the first open-ended mission by U.S. ground forces in Syria. Until now, U.S. officials had refused to say whether the American commandos had begun their mission.
Obama said his strategy is moving ahead with “a great sense of urgency,” an assertion that critics say belies the slow pace of progress in Iraq and Syria. Drawing an implied contrast with military prescriptions offered by Republican presidential candidates, including Ted Cruz’s call to “carpet bomb them into oblivion,” Obama said, “We have to be smart, targeting ISIL surgically, with precision” airstrikes while local forces do the ground combat.
Idrees Ali - From the suburbs of Los Angeles to the outskirts of Washington, DC, mosques around the United States are warily stepping up security in the face of growing fears about reprisals on American Muslims.
The increasing safety concerns described by American Islamic leaders - and the steps they are taking in response, including hiring armed guards - represent the flip side of the rising public anxiety about Islamic State-inspired terror after attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.
The call by Republican presidential contender Donald Trump to ban Muslims from entering the United States only amplified concerns about an anti-Islamic backlash at mosques and community centers, religious leaders and organizers say.
At least two mosques - one in Phoenix and the other in suburban Virginia - are working with the Department of Homeland Security to check up on the security their facilities provide for worshippers in recent weeks.
Others report taking a range of steps, including hiring armed guards, because of fears that an American mosque could be a target for an attack.
"We are always concerned about lone wolf attacks," said Usama Shami, president of a Phoenix mosque that has been working with the Department of Homeland Security to review its security measures since the Paris attack last month.
Over the weekend, police arrested a 23-year-old man suspected of setting a fire at a Southern California mosque in what authorities are describing as a hate attack, following the massacre of 14 people in San Bernardino on Dec.
2 by a Muslim couple, US-born Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his Pakistani-born wife Tashfeen Malik, 29.
Authorities have not said if the suspect was motivated by the shooting.
That fire set on Friday at the entrance of the Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley caused no injuries.
But it charred the building's stucco front entrance and left it littered with debris.
The FBI is also investigating an incident in Philadelphia in which someone drove past a mosque and threw a severed pig's head at it from a passing truck as a possible hate crime.
On Thursday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group, was forced to evacuate its office on Capitol Hill after receiving a letter containing white powder.
The note said, "Die a painful death, Muslims," CAIR attorney Maha Sayed said.
"Our fear is at a pretty high level at this time, given the anti-Muslim rhetoric going on," said Sayed.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said he is sending Defense Secretary Ash Carter to the Middle East to work with coalition partners "on securing more military contributions" to the fight against ISIL.
In a rare visit to the Pentagon Monday, Obama discussed the military campaign against the ISIL terrorist group and other national security issues with his top team, including Carter, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Treasury Jacob Lew and Attorney General Loretta Lynch as well as several other senior officials such as Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Dunford and Commander of Central Command Gen. Lloyd Austin.
"Just as the United States is doing more in this fight, just as our allies, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, Australia and Italy are doing more, so must others,” the U.S. president said at a press conference following the meeting.
"That is why I have asked Secretary Carter to go to the Middle East -- he'll depart right after this press briefing -- to work with our coalition partners on securing more military contributions to this fight," he added.
Kerry will also leave for Moscow to seek Kremlin's help in moving the Syrian talks in Vienna forward.
Obama also updated reporters about the fight against ISIL, saying the militant group had lost at least 40 percent of territory under its control in Iraq and thousands of square kilometers in Syria.
He noted the military efforts against the militant group in Iraq and Syria as well as other countries, including Libya.
Although he did not make any announcement about employing new capabilities against ISIL, the Pentagon is believed to have proposed to Obama the need for aligning U.S. bases across the world against ISIL.
The details of the proposal came out recently on the front page of New York Time's Thursday edition ahead of his visit to the Pentagon.
The daily quoting unnamed defense officials wrote that the Pentagon had proposed a plan to create a string of counter-terrorism hubs across the world against ISIL, which would involve about 500 to 5,000 American forces and might cost about “several million dollars” a year.
The U.S. currently has several bases across Africa, including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Niger, Cameroon and Libya each of which functions for different missions.
Obama also spoke about the role of U.S. Special Forces in Syria. "The Special Forces that I ordered to Syria have begun supporting local forces. They pushed south, cut off supply lines and tightened the squeeze on Raqqah," he said.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has welcomed the rearrangement of Turkish troops out of Camp Bashiqa to another area in northern Iraq as "an important step to de-escalate recent tensions," White House said in a statement Monday.
Biden made the remarks during a phone conversation with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu regarding Turkey’s troop deployments in northern Iraq.
According to the statement, Biden reiterated that any foreign military presence in Iraq must be with the full consent of the Iraqi government. Both leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
"The vice president encouraged the Turkish government to continue its dialogue with Baghdad on additional measures to improve relations between Turkey and Iraq," the statement said.
"The vice president also reaffirmed the United States' commitment to close cooperation with Iraq and Turkey in the fight against ISIL," it added.
NEW YORK - US Special Operations forces have "secretly" taken a more central role in the fighting to save crucial areas of Afghanistan's Helmand province from falling to the Taliban, a leading American newspaper reported Monday.
Quoting Western and Afghan officials, The New York Times said more US air power and ground troops have been committed to the battle.
The move came in the wake of alarming reports that large stretches of Helmand Province were being lost to the Taliban.
Last week, the Times quoted an unnamed Western diplomat as saying in a dispatch that the United States Special Operations forces had been engaged in combat in Helmand for weeks, and that there were more American forces fighting there than at any time since President Barack Obama last year announced a formal end to combat operations in Afghanistan.
The paper said the extent of the American role has been kept largely secret. Senior Afghan officials in the area, according to the Times, say they are under orders not to divulge the level of cooperation, especially by Special Operations forces on the ground. The secrecy reflects the Pentagon’s concern that the involvement may suggest that the American combat role, which was supposed to have ended in December 2014, is still far beyond the official “train, advise and assist” mission, it said.
The elite ground units in Helmand include both Special Operations troops and the United States Air Force’s Special Tactics Squadron, according to the Western diplomat, who spoke to the Times on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering his colleagues.
"The American intervention in Helmand is accelerating amid growing reports of demoralized or trapped Afghan security forces and alarm at the amount of territory the Taliban have been able to seize in Helmand this year," the report said. "If the insurgents are able to sweep away the tenuous government presence in district centres and the capital, Lashkar Gah, it would be a dire setback for the Afghan government, and would give the Taliban a strong foothold in southern Afghanistan."
Two senior U.N. officials said Monday they are "sickened by blatant manifestations of hatred and intolerance" by public figures and others, particularly against Muslims, in response to recent extremist attacks.
In a joint statement, they denounced "the deliberate and dangerous spread of misinformation and the manipulation of people's fears and concerns for political gain."
They said calls by U.S. political figures for Muslims to be banned from entering the United States, to be registered in a national database or to be forced to carry identification that would highlight their religion are "unacceptable" and "an affront to our common humanity."
They did not specifically name any Americans, but Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has advocated all of these positions, creating a political firestorm that has galvanized his supporters in the Republican base while generating denunciations from the party establishment and all the leading Democratic candidates.
WASHINGTON : Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said his Muslim friends are "so happy" he is discussing the issue of fundamentalism - but he acknowledged they do not support his proposal to ban Muslim immigration to the US
"I have many friends that are Muslims, and I will tell you, they are so happy that I did this because they know they have a problem," Trump told CNN in an interview that aired Sunday on "State of the Union.
" He claimed that his relations with the Muslim community are "excellent".
"They support a ban on Muslims entering the US?" the anchorman asked.
"No, they said it's about time that somebody spoke up as to radicalism," Trump responded.
"You have radicalism in this country.
It's here, and it's trying to come through.
Trump continued to emphasize his Muslim friends' concern about terrorism.
"When my friends call me up, and they call me up very strongly, and they say - these are Muslims - and they say, 'It's something, Donald, that has to be talked about,'" he said.
"But they don't support the ban?" the anchorman asked.
I mean, why would they support the ban?" Trump answered.
"But without the ban, you're not going to make the point.
You're not going to be able to make the point.
Trump claimed he's been told he's doing Muslims "a favour.
" "Again, my relationship with the Muslim community is excellent.
I've had people call me at the highest level saying, 'You're doing us a favour' because they know they have a problem very well.
They really know they have a problem," he said.
But Trump's Muslim friends aren't the only people who oppose the temporary ban against Muslims.
A majority of US adults oppose Donald Trump's plan to ban all Muslims from entering the country, according to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Meanwhile, Mosques around the United States are carefully increasing security amid growing concerns of hate crimes against American Muslims following the mass shootings in California and Paris.
The call by Trump to ban Muslims from entering the United States only intensified anti-Muslim sentiments and Islamophobia across the country.
According to media reports, the increasing safety measures at Islamic centers include hiring armed guards and working with law enforcement agencies to prevent attacks on Muslim worshippers.
NEW YORK: A backlash against American Muslims is leaving a mark on some of the nation's youngest minds. After seeing presidential candidate Donald Trump call on television for barring Muslims from entering the country, 8-year-old Sofia Yassini checked the locks on her family's home in Plano, Texas, imagining the Army would take them away.
She raced to her room and stuffed a pair of Barbie dolls, a tub of peanut butter and a toothbrush into a bag. She insisted on bringing boots for the long boat ride she imagined was coming.
When her mother, Melissa, arrived home from her work as a human resources manager, Sofia ran into her arms and cried.
"I want people to understand the impact that their words have on these children," said Melissa Yassini, who described the experience in a Facebook post that had been shared more than 21,000 times as of today.
"We often forget, we're waging war on one another with words, and we're adults. We can take it. The kids are suffering with this. They go to school every day and they're afraid to tell people they're Muslim. This has to stop."
Anti-Muslim sentiment was building in the days before 14 people were killed December 2 in the massacre at a disability center in Southern California by a Muslim couple investigators say were inspired at least in part by the Islamic State group.
Some governors had already said they wouldn't allow Syrians fleeing civil war into their states because of extremist fears. Experts say Trump's call December 7 to keep all Muslims from entering the United States a plan he said would apply only temporarily and to non-citizens only fanned the flames.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will discuss the need to reduce tensions between Moscow and Ankara during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday, the White House said on Monday.
“This will be something that Secretary Kerry will discuss with President Putin when he's in Moscow tomorrow, again, the continuing need for the Russians to de-escalate their tensions with the Turks,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
Relations between Russia and Turkey have been heightened since the Nov. 24 downing of a Russian jet by Turkish forces. Turkey has maintained that the aircraft violated its airspace, and was repeatedly warned before it was fired upon.
In response, Russia has implemented a number of punitive economic measures against Turkey.
“I think it's fair to say that there is work that both sides probably need to do in that regard [de-escalation], but I think it's notable that in the weeks since that occurred, we haven't seen any tangible escalation at this point,” Earnest said. “That's a glimmer of optimism in that situation.”
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