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Books and Documents

Islamic World News (07 Mar 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)


Syrian Children Turn to Suicide, Self-Harm Amid Horrors of War
















Internally displaced Syrian children who fled Raqqa city stand near their tent in Ras al-Ain province (Reuters)

 

Syrian Children Turn to Suicide, Self-Harm Amid Horrors of War

26/11 Was Cross-Border Terror: Ex-Pak NSA Mahmud Ali Durrani

Trump Travel Ban: New Order Targeting Six Muslim-Majority Countries Signed

Operation Radd-Ul-Fassad Will Continue To End Terrorism: PM Nawaz

 

Arab World

Syrian Children Turn to Suicide, Self-Harm Amid Horrors of War

Daesh Terrorists Impose 'Afghan Dress' In Syria's Raqqah

Militants in More Regions End Battle against Syrian Army

Iraqi forces battling ISIS gain control of key Mosul sites

Baghdad relieved by Trump’s exclusion of Iraq from US travel ban

Syrian Army Raids Al-Nusra Positions in Dara'a Again

Pentagon plan calls for more US participation in attack against ISIS

Yemenis’ retaliatory attack leaves two Saudi troopers dead

Kurdish Forces Start Handing over Villages near Manbij to Syrian Army

Tensions Intensifying among Terrorist Groups in Syria's Idlib

Syrian Army Marching on Terrorist Groups' Centers in Eastern Damascus

Saudi Shoura Council considers deporting 5 mln illegal migrants

‘Iraqi elite forces retake government building in Mosul’

Russian soldier killed in Daesh attack near Syria’s Palmyra

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India

26/11 Was Cross-Border Terror: Ex-Pak NSA Mahmud Ali Durrani

Pakistan-Based Terror Groups Fund Terrorism in J&K through Charity

India Calls For Early Adoption of Anti-Terror Convention by UN

Supreme Court faults dropping of Babri conspiracy charge against L K Advani

India installs its tallest flag in Attari, Pakistan cries ‘espionage’

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North America

Trump Travel Ban: New Order Targeting Six Muslim-Majority Countries Signed

Hindu Groups, Ro Khanna Object to CNN Docu’s Negative Portrayal of Religion

The Dilemma Facing Ex-Muslims in Trump's America

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Pakistan

Operation Radd-Ul-Fassad Will Continue To End Terrorism: PM Nawaz

2 Pak Soldiers Killed In Operation against Terrorists in Swabi: ISPR

Saudi Arabia asked to release Pakistani transgender persons

Terrorists can’t weaken nation’s resolve: PM

Asif lashes out at Kabul over failure to combat terrorists

PUC strips Maulana Ashrafi off all positions

Pakistan protests Afghan border callousness

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South Asia

Associating Terrorism with Islam Inappropriate, Says Afghan Security Adviser

Politician Claims BNP-Jamaat Created New JMB for Assassinations

Hefazat claims arrest warrant issued to deflect Greek idol issue

Bomb hurled at police during regular vehicle search in Comilla

Explosion in Kabul leaves one person dead

2 heroin factories destroyed by Afghan forces in Nangarhar

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Southeast Asia

Testimony to Close Malaysia-Saudi Relations

Marina ‘Glad’ Muslim Lawyers Standing Up For Atheists

Malaysia Takes a Turn for the Religious Sinister Side

Judges refuse to hear testimony of Ahok's Muslim godbrother

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Mideast

Houthis Prevent International Delegation from Entering Sanaa

Official Admits 2,100 Iran Fighters Killed In Iraq, Syria

Trump and Netanyahu talk Iran ‘dangers’ over nuclear deal

US warns of underwater mines planted by Houthis in Bab al-Mandeb

Iran won’t leave US human rights claims unanswered: Judiciary chief

Israeli parliament passes bill barring BDS supporters’ entry

Turkey won’t plan Manbij attack without US, Russia coordination

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Africa

Former South Sudanese General Forms Anti-Government Rebel Group

4 policemen killed in 'terrorist' attack in western Niger

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Europe

French-Muslim Blog Star Ruined After Anti-Semitic Tweets Revealed

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/syrian-children-turn-to-suicide,-self-harm-amid-horrors-of-war/d/110318


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Syrian children turn to suicide, self-harm amid horrors of war

7 March 2017

Children living in war-torn Syria, some as young as 12, are self-harming, taking drugs, and attempting suicide to escape the horrors they have endured after six years of conflict, an international aid group said on Monday.

One in four children, around 2.5 million, are on the brink of developing a mental health disorder, said Save the Children in the most comprehensive report of its kind to document the mental health of children in Syria.

Nearly five million Syrians have fled the country since the war began in 2011, but 13.5 million people remain in need of aid in Syria and almost half are children, according to the United Nations' humanitarian agency, UNOCHA.

Nightmares, bedwetting, anger, suicidal thoughts and depression are a few of the symptoms plaguing Syrian children, who suffer from an endless barrage of trauma from bombings, death and destruction, it said.

Most of the children interviewed for the report were too fearful to play outside, have dropped out of school, or have witnessed the death of a friend or relative.

"About five to six months ago, a child who was 12 years old committed suicide. We never had something like this before, even for older people," Syrian mental health worker Sharif was quoted as saying in the report.

"His dad was killed in a car bomb. They tried to explain to the child that now your dad is a martyr and he is going to paradise, so the child thought that if he died he would see his dad. He hung himself with a scarf."

Toxic stress

Psychologist Marcia Brophy, who spoke to 458 Syrian adults and children for the report, said living in a constant state of fear and anxiety, known as "toxic stress", could lead to serious long-term health issues.

"These children, their bodies are in constant 'fight or flight' - and that accumulative level of toxic stress will undoubtedly have huge long-term consequences ... and it could lead to lifelong medical issues as well," said Brophy.

More and more children were self-harming, taking drugs and attempting suicide, Brophy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, and they were doing so at an increasingly younger age.

"It's incredibly troubling. But it's not really surprising given that these children are living in a highly stressful environment," Brophy said. "It's a way of coping and dealing with a really abnormal, stressful situation."

She said communities should talk more openly about mental health, and aid agencies must make mental health support a priority across all humanitarian situations.

"It's a taboo issue, it's very hard to talk about. Given that this is a protracted conflict situation ... we need to have mental health and psychosocial support integrated into any emergency response," Brophy said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/03/07/Syrian-children-turn-to-suicide-self-harm-to-escape-war-horrors.html

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26/11 was cross-border terror: Ex-Pak NSA Mahmud Ali Durrani

Mar 7, 2017

NEW DELHI: Pakistan's former national security adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani reiterated his stand on Monday that the 26/11 attack on Mumbai was a "classic example" of cross-border terrorism as it was carried out by a Pakistanbased group. The remark spurred India to ask Pakistan to prosecute Lashkar chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.

"26/11 Mumbai strikes, carried out by a terror group based in Pakistan, was a classic trans-border terrorist event," Durrani said at a conference on combating terrorism at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses here. Durrani was NSA when the attacks were carried out on November 26, 2008. He was sacked the next year, shortly after he became the first Pakistani official to confirm that one of the attackers, Ajmal Kasab, was a Pakistani, putting paid to Islamabad's effort at denial.

On Monday, in response to questions from reporters, Durrani said Saeed must be punished though he did not mention the LeT founder as the mastermind of the attack.

The admission by Pakistan's former national security adviser that the 26/11 attack was a "classic example" of cross-border terrorism was all the evidence Islamabad needed against Lashkar founder Hafiz Saeed, home ministry officials said.

Ex-NSA Mahmud Ali Durrani's remarks on Monday, coinciding with Pakistan's claim that it had listed Saeed under the Anti-Terrorism Act and placed him under "house arrest", were seen by India as validation of its consistent stand that the Lashkar chief was the main choreographer of the assault on the country's financial capital. "Pakistan now doesn't need bigger evidence to prosecute Hafiz Saeed, it should act immediately," a senior home ministry official said.

Ministry officials asserted that India had gathered and handed over "solid evidence" against all suspects in the 26/11 attack, including the testimony of David Coleman Headley, to Pakistan and internationally but there was no headway in the trial in Pakistan.

Officials in the home ministry and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said the "least Pakistan can do now is allow Indian investigators to visit there and help in gathering evidence".

Significantly, minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju did not seem too excited by Durrani's fresh statement attributing 26/11 to a Pakistanbased terror group. "India's position on the Mumbai attacks is very well known. There is nothing new in this revelation," he said.

Durrani's remarks, however, did not entirely mirror India's position. For, contrary to India's stand about ISI's involvement in the Mumbai attack, the former Pakistani NSA denied any role of Pakistan's state actors in the massacre of innocents.

Talking to reporters, Durrani said, "I know (this) for definite. I have very good information that the government of Pakistan or the ISI (Pakistan's spy agency) were not involved in 26/11 (terror attack). I am 110% sure."

Asked to elaborate, Durrani declined to divulge details, saying he was sacked by the Pakistani government for certain statements he had made regarding the Mumbai attack. "I made a statement which the government did not like and I got sacked," he said.

A few years ago, Durrani had said that after the attacks, the Pakistani government was only making a fool of itself by not acknowledging that Kasab was a Pakistani.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/26/11-was-cross-border-terror-ex-pak-nsa-mahmud-ali-durrani/articleshow/57504365.cms

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Trump travel ban: new order targeting six Muslim-majority countries signed

6 March 2017

Donald Trump on Monday signed a revised executive order to reinstate a ban on immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries and suspend the US refugee program.

The new ban, which revokes a previous order issued on 27 January that prompted instant chaos and was eventually blocked by federal judges, marked a significant retreat for Trump and his administration’s vigorous defense of the original travel ban as being within the president’s legal authority. But activists said they were planning to challenge the new ban.

The new order seeks to address prior complaints by removing language that granted priority to religious minorities for refugee resettlement, which had been viewed as targeting Muslims. It states that Trump’s original directive “was not motivated by animus toward any religion”, a remark rejected instantly by refugee advocates and civil liberty groups, who said they planned to challenge the second order on similar grounds.

It also includes specific exemptions for lawful permanent residents, who had initially been covered by the previous order.

And it removes Iraq from the list of targeted states, and implements a more gradual roll-out, meaning the new travel ban will not come into full effect for another 10 days.

“Make no mistake,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Monday in reference to the changes. “We lost the element of surprise back when the court enjoined this in the ninth circuit and we had to go back to the drawing board.”

The president quietly signed the order away from the presence of cameras or the press, a noteworthy changefrom the original travel ban’s rollout at the Department of Defense on 27 January.

The revised ban was instead announced by the heads of the agencies that will be tasked with overseeing its implementation. Addressing a limited pool of reporters on Monday, secretary of state Rex Tillerson, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary John Kelly, and attorney general Jeff Sessions dubbed the move critical to US national security.

“As threats to our security continue to evolve and change”, Tillerson said, “common sense dictates that we continue to reevaluate and reassess the systems that we rely upon to protect our country.”

The new travel ban blocks entry to the US for citizens from six of the seven countries named in Trump’s original order – Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya – for a period of 90 days. Iraq was removed from the list after criticism that the original order overlooked the country’s role in fighting terrorism and barred entry even to the Iraqi interpreters who had been embedded with US forces in the region.

“Iraq is an important ally in the fight to defeat Isis,” Tillerson said Monday.

Unlike the 27 January order, written by the White House and presented to the agencies as a fait accompli, an “interagency process” permitted concerns about second-order effects of the ban to influence the finished product.

In the weeks since the ban was issued, US military and Pentagon officials have voiced concerns that their relationship with Iraq, critical to fighting the Islamic State, would be negatively impacted. A US official said defense secretary James Mattis and state department officials were responsible for overseeing “special immigration visas” for Iraqi employees of the US, which aided in getting Iraq off the ban.

The revised order will also keep in place a 120-day suspension of the refugee program, but it will no longer identify Syrian refugees as subject to an indefinite ban. It also maintains a 50,000 annual cap on America’s refugee intake, which more than halved president Obama’s pledge to resettle 110,000 refugees in 2017.

Several other changes to the travel ban served as a tacit acknowledgement that the original order was hastily crafted and paved the way for a litany of legal questions.

That order was temporarily halted by a federal judge just days after it was issued. The ninth circuit federal appeals court upheld the ruling last month, denying the justice department’s request to reinstate it.

On Monday justice department attorneys informed the ninth circuit they believed the new order was unaffected by the court’s previous ruling. Bob Ferguson, the Washington state attorney general who brought the case against the federal government said in a statement he was “carefully reviewing” the new order.

Initial reaction to the revised order was positive among Republicans. House speaker Paul Ryan, who was among the few to aggressively defend the administration’s previous travel ban, said the revised order “advances our shared goal of protecting the homeland”.

The White House has continued to defend the travel ban as a pressing matter of national security. But the administration appeared to undermine its own rationale by delaying the revised order last week, citing a desire not to crowd out the positive media coverage that followed Trump’s joint address before Congress.

Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, said the delay was “all the proof Americans need to know that this has absolutely nothing to do with national security”.

“A watered down ban is still a ban,” Schumer said in a statement, adding, “It is mean-spirited, and un-American. It must be repealed.”

Grace Meng, an immigration researcher for Human Rights Watch’s US program, said the changes contained within Trump’s revised order were “merely cosmetic”.

“President Trump still seems to believe you can determine who’s a terrorist by knowing which country a man, woman or child is from,” Meng said in a statement.

Other refugee advocacy groups vowed to challenge the order in court, arguing that the revised language did not alter the intent to discriminate against Muslims.

In Washington DC on Monday night, protesters gathered near the White House to denounce the modified ban.

High school senior Victoria Nicholson, of Woodbridge, Virginia, said she first heard about the protest from a friend on Twitter. She and a friend rushed to spray paint a sign before dashing out the door to make it in time.

“I’m not going to settle for this,” she said. “It makes me so livid to see people who are OK with what’s going on because none of it is OK - from the ban to the wall. Nothing he is doing can be justified.”

Arona Kessler, an administrative assistant from Fairfax County, said she was alarmed by what she viewed as an attack on a single religion.

“My great-grandparents came to the US and Canada to flee the holocaust,” she said. “So it’s very scary to me to see specific groups of people singled out and targeted like this.”

Officials at the DHS and State Department told reporters on a conference call Monday the objective was not to bar individuals on the basis of religion.

“This is not a Muslim ban in any way, shape, or form,” an official said.

“There are dozens and hundreds of millions, if not one-point something billion Muslims who are not subject to this executive order.”

The emphasis, the official added, was on countries where the US lacked “the ability to make adequate screening and vetting determinations for nationals under current procedures”.

But Trump, as a candidate, called for “a total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration to the US. After the president signed the initial travel ban, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, a close associate of Trump’s, said he asked him how to implement a Muslim ban legally.

“I’ll tell you the whole history of it: When he first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban,’” Giuliani said on Fox News. “He called me up, he said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’”

Legal experts say that interview, coupled with Trump’s own repeated statements, will likely continue to cloud the administration in legal challenges against the travel ban and its intent.

Findings from a DHS report, obtained by several news outlets in recent weeks, also cast doubt on the administration’s rationale.

The document, the authenticity of which was confirmed by the Guardian but framed by a DHS spokesperson as “incomplete”, noted that citizens from the countries identified in Trump’s ban are “rarely implicated in US-based terrorism.”

It further concluded that citizenship was an “unreliable indicator” of the threat posed by terrorism to the US.

DHS officials pushed back on the report in the call with reporters, citing classified information indicating a more significant threat. The justice department, they noted, had opened inquiries into 300 “refugees” for potential links to terrorism. But the officials declined to identify how many of those individuals came from the countries subject to the travel ban.

Faiza Patel, the co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said the term “open counterterrorism investigation” was not indicative in and of itself that an individual was involved in any terrorist activity. Under the Bush administration, the DoJ launched 11,667 “assessments” of people and groups from December 2008 to March 2009. But they resulted in only 427 more intensive investigations.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/06/new-trump-travel-ban-muslim-majority-countries-refugees

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Operation Radd-ul-Fassad will continue to end terrorism: PM Nawaz

March 07, 2017

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has reiterated that operation Radd-ul-Fassad will continue until our homeland is cleared from the scourge of terrorism, reported Radio Pakistan.

He said this in a message of condolences over the martyrdom of Captain Junaid and Sipahi Amjad who martyred while fighting terrorists in district Swabi, on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister applauded the valiant fight by the Armed Forces personnel against terrorists who are attempting to challenge the writ of the state. He paid rich tributes to the brave soldiers who boldly fought the terrorists and embraced martyrdom in the line of duty. He said those who embraced Shahadat are the real heroes and saviors of our nation.

Mian Nawaz Sharif said Armed Forces are fighting the menace of terrorism to protect our democratic values, constitution, freedom, and our way of life. He said we cannot and will not allow our enemies to promote their nefarious designs.

http://nation.com.pk/national/07-Mar-2017/operation-radd-ul-fassad-will-continue-to-end-terrorism-pm-nawaz

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Arab World

 

Daesh terrorists impose 'Afghan dress' in Syria's Raqqah

Mar 6, 2017

The Daesh Takfiri terrorist group has imposed an 'Afghan-style' dress code on men in Syria’s northern province of Raqqah so that its members can’t be distinguished from civilians.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights made the revelation on Monday, saying, "Daesh has imposed Afghan-style dress on residents of Raqqah so that informants giving coordinates to the US-led coalition will not be able to distinguish between civilians and fighters."

The UK-based group’s director, Rami Abdel Rahman, said that civilians and the families of Daesh terrorists were attempting to flee into Raqqah Province from neighboring Aleppo.

"Thousands of families in recent days have tried to reach the administrative borders of Raqqah Province, along with around 120 families of fighters and commanders of Daesh," the monitoring group said.

A Syrian activist also confirmed the report of the dress code imposed by the terrorist group, adding that, "Anyone who does not comply faces prison and a fine."

Abu Mohamed described the situation in Syria’s Raqqah as dire and said there was a "state of alert" in the northern province.

"Prices are skyrocketing and there is no electricity or water," he noted. 

Syria has been battling foreign-backed militancy for six years. Over the past few months, the Syrian army has made significant gains against terrorists, including the liberation of the strategic city of Aleppo in late 2016.

Syrian government forces plan to liberate Raqqah from the Daesh Takfiri terror group, which has named the city as its so-called headquarters in the Arab country.

Since 2014, the United States, along with a number of its allies, has been leading a so-called anti-terror campaign in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

The US-led coalition says it is working with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of armed groups led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), to try to defeat Daesh in Raqqah. However, there have been numerous reports of US-led airstrikes targeting Syrian civilians, military and infrastructure.

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/06/513298/Daesh-Syria-Raqqah-dress-code

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Militants in More Regions End Battle against Syrian Army

 Mar 07, 2017

"Representatives of militants in more regions have inked peace agreement with the Damascus government in the last 24 hours," the Russian center said, adding, "The total number of regions, towns, settlements and villages that have thus far joined nationwide reconciliation process stands at 1,317."

The Russian center added that 121 groups have so far joined the peace agreement with the Syrain government and army.

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

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

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

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951217000369

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Iraqi forces battling ISIS gain control of key Mosul sites

7 March 2017

Elite Iraqi security forces dislodged ISIS militants from the main government building in Mosul on Tuesday, their last major city stronghold in Iraq, an Iraqi spokesman said.

A special Rapid Response team stormed the Nineveh governorate building and the surrounding government complex in an overnight operation, Lieutenant Colonel Abdel Amir al-Mohammadawi, a spokesman for the elite interior ministry unit, told Reuters.

"They killed tens from Daesh," he said, referring to ISIS by one of its Arabic acronyms.

Recapturing the site would help Iraqi forces attack the militants in the nearby old city center and mark a symbolic step toward restoring state authority over Mosul, even though the buildings are destroyed and not being used by ISIS.

Also on Tuesday, Iraqi security forces recaptured the Mosul museum, where ISIS militants infamously filmed themselves smashing priceless artefacts.

Iraqi forces "recaptured the archaeological museum," Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat said in a statement, without specifying when this occurred.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/03/07/Iraqi-forces-take-control-of-Mosul-government-building-.html

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Baghdad relieved by Trump’s exclusion of Iraq from US travel ban

6 March 2017

Iraq expressed “deep relief” at US President Donald Trump’s decision to remove Iraq from a list of countries targeted in a US travel ban, the Iraqi foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.

“The decision is an important step in the right direction, it consolidates the strategic alliance between Baghdad and Washington in many fields, and at their forefront war on terrorism,” the statement said.

Trump signed a new executive order on Monday banning travel to the United States by citizens of six Muslim-majority nations after his controversial first attempt was blocked in the courts, a White House source said.

A senior White House official said the new executive order would keep a 90-day ban on travel to the United States by citizens of six Muslim-majority nations - Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Iraq was taken off the list of countries in the original order, issued on Jan. 27, because the Iraqi government had imposed new vetting procedures, such as heightened visa screening and data sharing, and because of its work with the United States in countering Islamic State militants, the official said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/03/06/Baghdad-relieved-by-Trump-s-exclusion-of-Iraq-from-US-travel-ban.html

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Syrian Army Raids Al-Nusra Positions in Dara'a Again

Mar 07, 2017

The army troops started a new round of battle against Al-Nusra Front in Dara'a al-Balad district and seized several residential complexes.

A machinegun-equipped position of the terrorists Southeast of Balal Habashi grand mosque was destroy in the attack, while the Al-Nusra suffered several casualties in the clashes.

The army troops had last stormed Al-Nusra's positions in Dara'a al-Balad district on Sunday, pushing terrorists back from a number of residential complexes.

The army units, meantime, targeted the movements and concentration centers of Al-Nusra in al-Mesri square and the neighborhoods of al-Karak and al-Arbaeen in Dara'a city, killing a number of militants.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951217000445

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Pentagon plan calls for more US participation in attack against ISIS

6 March 2017

The US pentagon has issued a plan for the upcoming attack on ISIS’ capital of Raqqa in Syria.

According to the Washington Post, the plan calls for more US military participation, including increased Special Operations forces, helicopters, artillery and arms supplies.

US troops will not be involved in ground combat yet, however, the plan proposes easing some of the restrictions put by the Obama administration on US participation in Syria.

The plan proposes increasing the 500 US advisers currently working with Syrian Democratic Forces.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/03/06/Pentagon-plan-calls-for-more-US-participation-in-attack-against-ISIS.html

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Yemenis’ retaliatory attack leaves two Saudi troopers dead

Mar 6, 2017

Yemeni army soldiers, backed by fighters from allied Popular Committees, have reportedly launched an attack against Saudi border guards in the kingdom’s southwestern region of Jizan, leaving two troopers dead.

A military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that Yemeni snipers fatally shot two Saudi troopers in the al-Dokhan military base of the region, located 967 kilometers southwest of Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh, on Monday afternoon.

The source added that the attack was in retaliation for Riyadh’s relentless aerial bombardment campaign against Yemen.

The development came on the same day that Yemeni military sources announced that as many as 152 Saudi soldiers had been gunned down by Yemeni forces and Popular Committees fighters over the past four months.

The sources, requesting not to be named, said Yemeni soldiers and their allies carried out sniper operations against the kingdom’s southwestern border regions last month, leaving 36 Saudi soldiers dead.

Most of the operations were conducted in Jizan, where a total of 27 Saudi troopers lost their lives in 24 encounters.

Yemeni snipers also performed four operations in Najran, situated 844 kilometers south of Riyadh, where six Saudi soldiers were killed. Three operations in Asir claimed the lives of three Saudi troopers as well.

Moreover, a total of 33 Saudi soldiers were killed in sniper operations during January. A total of 93 Saudi troopers were also killed in the last two months of 2016.

Nearly two dozen Houthi fighters killed in Saudi strike, clashes

Meanwhile, at least 16 Houthi Ansarullah fighters were killed on Monday when Saudi fighter jets launched an aerial attack in Yemen's western coastal province of Hudaydah.

A medical official and a military source, both requesting anonymity, said the strike targeted a military base in the city of Bajil.

They added that 23 Houthi fighters also sustained injuries in the attack.

Separately, clashes between Ansarullah members and Saudi-backed militiamen loyal to resigned Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi near the Red Sea port city of Mukha, situated 346 kilometers south of Sana'a, left seven Houthis dead.

According to the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, the Saudi military campaign has claimed the lives of 10,000 Yemenis and left 40,000 others wounded.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/06/513290/Yemen-Saudi-Arabia-Jizan-Houthis-Hudaydah

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Kurdish Forces Start Handing over Villages near Manbij to Syrian Army

Mar 06, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere, he stood up to an agreement between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Russia to surrender the villages controlled by the Kurds in Manbij to the Syrian government.

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

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

It added that the measure will be taken to maintain the security of civilians residing in Manbij and the surrounding areas as well as regions bordering al-Bab in the Western side of Manbij, and take on the greed of Turkey to occupy the Syrian territories. The statement was issued after sources in Tal Rifat Town's Military Council affiliated to the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) militant group disclosed on Wednesday that the council forces will no more partner in the Euphrates Shield Operations against ISIL in Northeastern Aleppo as they are preparing to shift war to their Kurdish rivals within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951216001352

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Tensions Intensifying among Terrorist Groups in Syria's Idlib

Mar 06, 2017

The Arabic language al-Ahd news website reported that the Al-Nusra Front (recently renamed to Fatah al-Sham Front) that forms the main part of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at started to set up a command post near the Ahrar al-Sham' checkpoint in Bab al-Hawa square only 300 meters away from the main gate of Bab al-Hawa border crossing.

Al-Ahd added that Ahrar al-Sham, in response, reinvigorated its positions in the region to block any possible attack by Al-Nusra.

"Meantime, a commander of Tahrir al-Sham said that the Hay'at intends to conclude a new agreement with Ahrar al-Sham to grant the control of the Bab al-Hawa border passage to a third party, possibly Faylaq al-Sham," al-Ahd added.

In the meantime, Tahrir al-Sham took control of Ahrar al-Sham's checkpoints in the villages of al-Mastoumeh and Kafr Yamhoul in Southern Idlib.

Also, sources affiliated to the terrorist groups said that top commanders of Ahrar al-Sham have held a meeting to decide about their response to the recent attacks of Tahrir al-Sham Haya'at on their positions.

Websites affiliated to the terrorist groups disclosed on Saturday that heavy infighting resumed between the two main terrorist groups of Ahrar al-Sham and Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at  in the province of Idlib and Aleppo once again.

The websites reported that Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at stormed the positions of Ahrar al-Sham in the Salqin town in Northwestern Idlib and arrested a number of Ahrar terrorists, trying to capture their positions including a main base of them used for manufacturing weapons.

In the meantime, differences over dispatching forces and equipment to Western Aleppo pushed Ahrar al-Sham and Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at into heavy fighting near the ICARDA farms in Southern Aleppo.

A Syrian source said meantime that differences between the largest terrorist groups in Idlib have pushed the province towards massive infighting among militants once again.

The source added that some of the terrorist units in the Northern parts of Idlib and Aleppo provinces joined Ahrar al-Sham after infighting restarted between the two rival groups.

Late in January, Al-Nusra Front and several militant groups declared forming a new coalition under the name of Tahrir Al-Sham Hay'at to narrow down widening rifts amongst their commanders and members.

The Al-Nusra Front, Nouralddeen al-Zinki Movement, Jeish al-Sonah, Jabhat Ansaraldeen and Liwa al-Haq announced that they would act under a united coalition named the Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at.

The five merged terrorist groups act under the command of Abu Jaber Hashem al-Sheikh, who was one of the commanders of Ahrar al-Sham. The new coalition led by al-Sheikh is now fighting against Ahrar al-Sham, a rival terrorist group operating mainly in Northwestern Syria.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951216001395

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Syrian Army Marching on Terrorist Groups' Centers in Eastern Damascus

Mar 06, 2017

The army troops engaged in fierce clashes with terrorists near Harasta town Northeast of Damascus city and advanced against them in the gardens near Harasta, taking control over two positions of the terrorists.

In the meantime, the army men pushed the terrorists back from al-Wadi grand mosque and al-Nour driving school on the Western side of Harasta highway.

Local sources said that the army soldiers also drove terrorists out of the gardens in Tishrin district adjacent to al-Qaboun district.

Security sources said earlier today that the army soldiers are about to start a second phase of their operation against Al-Nusra Front (recently renamed to Fatah al-Sham Front) and enter al-Qaboun.

The sources said that the army soldiers have won back the entire farms in al-Qaboun region and will kick off the second phase of their attacks against Al-Nusra and will enter al-Qaboun district soon.

The sources added that the army ground forces, backed up by missile units and the country's Air Force, drove the Al-Nusra Front out of the entire farms, gardens and buildings in the surrounding areas of al-Qaboun's.

Full report at:

.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951216000985

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Saudi Shoura Council considers deporting 5 mln illegal migrants

7 March 2017

The Saudi Shoura Council is discussing a system of regulations to combat illegal migration in the kingdom, which aims to establish a commission in the interior ministry to deport five million foreigners who have illegally settled in the country, Al-Hayat daily reported.

Doctor Sadqa Fadel who submitted the proposal said a relatively large number of people enter the kingdom through different routes, with the sole purpose of permanently settling or residing there. He added this is illegal because it violates all of the kingdom’s regulations as well as international laws.

According to Fadel, most of these illegal migrants are from Africa and Asia.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/03/07/Saudi-Shoura-Council-considers-deporting-5-mln-illegal-migrants.html

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Russian soldier killed in Daesh attack near Syria’s Palmyra

Mar 7, 2017

Russia says one of its servicemen has been killed in an attack by Takfiri Daesh terrorists in central Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Monday that Private Artyom Gorbunov had been killed near the ancient city of Palmyra, situated 215 kilometers northeast of the Syrian capital, Damascus, on March 2.

The statement said that the 24-year-old soldier “was guarding a group of Russian military advisers in the Syrian Arab Republic” at the time.

Gorbunov was later granted a posthumous state decoration. His death brought the total number of Russian casualties in Syria so far to 28.

Russia has been offering military help to the Syrian government since September 2015. The Russian military assistance, in the form of an aerial campaign and advisory support, came on a request from the government in Damascus, which has been fighting a foreign-backed militancy in the country since 2011.

Daesh first overran Palmyra in 2015. In March 2016, Syrian government forces liberated the city. However, they lost control over most of Palmyra again in mid-December 2016. Early this month, Syrian government forces, receiving Russian aerial support, once again established control over Palmyra, driving the terrorists out.

Syrian engineers are now examining the historic part of Palmyra, looking for mines and other hidden ordnance.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/07/513328/Russia-casualty-Syria-Daesh-Artyom-Gorbunov

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India

 

Pakistan-Based Terror Groups Fund Terrorism in J&K through Charity

Mar 6, 2017

NEW DELHI: Pakistan-based terror groups finance terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir by generating millions in donations through their charity organisations, an NIA officer said today.

Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), a charity run by terror outfits Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and Al Rehmat Trust, backed by another terrorists group Jaish-e- Mohammed (JeM), have been supporting terrorists and funding terrorism in Kashmir, said Atul Goel, Superintendent of Police, National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Goel said the NIA was looking into the activities of JuD, LeT and JeM and also the working of trusts associated with them in Pakistan.

"These outfits collect donations from people in Pakistan and then pass on the money to finance terrorism in Kashmir through their overground workers," he said, addressing a session at the 19th Asian Security Conference on 'Combating Terrorism: Evolving an Asian Response'. The session was chaired by former home secretary G K Pillai.

'Al Rehmat Trust' distributes pamphlets to raise funds for sacrificing animals during Eid and after collecting the money, they finance terrorism, the officer said.

FIF, one of the major and fastest growing non-government organisations in Pakistan, also collects money from people and uses them to fund terrorists, Goel said.

"JuD chief Hafiz Saeed addresses the volunteers of FIF. They have an entire network of people who work for their agenda of fomenting terror in Kashmir," he said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pakistan-based-terror-groups-fund-terrorism-in-jk-through-charity/articleshow/57498666.cms

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India calls for early adoption of anti-terror convention by UN

Mar 6, 2017

NEW DELHI: India on Monday renewed its pitch for early adoption of a global convention by the UN to effectively combat terrorism, terming the menace the single biggest threat to international peace and security.

In an obvious reference to Pakistan, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said India has been a victim of "proxy war" for several decades and that there was a need for developing an Asian approach to push the global fight against terror networks.

Calling for early adoption of India-backed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) by the UN, Parrikar said terror remains the "most pervasive and serious challenge" to international security and an united approach to deal with it was very important.

He was speaking at a conference on combating terrorism at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis.

Parrikar said there must be action against entities which fund terror groups, propagate their ideologies and provide safe havens to terror groups and added that India has been seeking inclusion of these provisions in the CCIT.

Talking about issues relating to global security, Parrikar also mentioned about challenges like global uncertainty, revival of populist movements, heightened nationalism, backlash against globalisation and possible closing of borders by several countries. The Union minister said Asia has been victim of some of the most dreaded terrorist networks and a strong regional push from Asia will exert more pressure on rest of the world to adapt a cohesive framework to combat terror.

Without giving specific details, he said India experienced almost seven per cent of the total terror attacks globally.

"Terrorism remains the most pervasive and serious challenge to international security. Developing a serious and cognitive global response to it is very important but seemingly very difficult to achieve," he said.

Parrikar said India will continue to push for shutting down terror camps, imposing ban on all terror groups, prosecuting all terrorists under special law and making cross-border terror an extraditable offence under the CCIT.

"Terrorism is undoubtedly the single biggest threat to international peace and security. While the threat is transnational, response does not appear to be coordinated even though there is a broad consensus on what constitutes an act of terror," he said.

He said the arch of terrorism was expanding in Asia and there was a need for a regional approach to defeat terror.

Quoting a global report, he said record number of countries have been experiencing a high level of terrorism which surged by 6 per cent in 2016 over the preceding year.

Four groups — ISIS, Boko Haram, Taliban and al-Qaida — were responsible for 74 per cent of all forms of terrorism, he added.

Referring to a UN report, he said ISIS affiliated groups carried out attacks in 29 countries in 2016 which is almost double in comparison to 2014.

He said some 60 million people have been impacted by conflict and violence.

Parrikar also emphasised on the need to combat "complicated webs of terror financing", noting that a holistic approach is needed to combat terror effectively.

He said it is also important to counter the misuse of the internet through social media by terrorist entities.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-calls-for-early-adoption-of-anti-terror-convention-by-un/articleshow/57493124.cms

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Supreme Court faults dropping of Babri conspiracy charge against L K Advani

Mar 7, 2017

NEW DELHI: The conspiracy charge against senior BJP leaders L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti in a Babri Masjid demolition case could be revived, with the Supreme Court noting that the charge was dropped on a technicality and suggesting joint trial of the accused+ .

The demolition case was back in focus just ahead of the final round of polling in Uttar Pradesh as a bench of Justices P C Ghose and R F Nariman said the conspiracy charge was dropped merely on a technical ground. The conspiracy charge was dropped by a Rae Bareli trial court.

At present, the trial against BJP leaders is going on in a Rae Bareli court on charges other than conspiracy while proceedings against "unknown persons" (kar sevaks who were around the disputed structure) are on in a Lucknow court. Appearing for CBI, additional solicitor general Neeraj Kaul stuck to the stand taken during the tenure of the UPA government seeking revival of conspiracy charges and said the agency was agreeable to clubbing both trial proceedings. The bench posted the case for March 22.

There are two sets of cases — one against L K Advani and other political and religious heads who were on the dais at Ram Katha Kunj in Ayodhya in December 1992 when the Babri Masjid fell, while the other case was against unknown karsevaks who had clambered on to and were around the disputed structure.

CBI filed a chargesheet against Advani and 20 others under Section 153A (promoting enmity between classes), Section 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and Section 505 (false statements, rumours circulated with the intent to cause mutiny or disturb public peace). The agency had subsequently invoked charges under Section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) that were quashed by the special court against 13 persons including Advani.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/babri-demolition-case-conspiracy-charge-against-l-k-advani-to-return/articleshow/57504211.cms

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India installs its tallest flag in Attari, Pakistan cries ‘espionage’

Mar 7, 2017

NEW DELHI: Pakistan is reportedly not happy with India yesterday installing what is its tallest and heaviest flag that can be seen from Lahore.

The flag was installed very close to the India-Pakistan border in Attari . This installation is 110 metres high, 24 metres wide and weighs 55 tons. The cost to make it - a whopping Rs 3.5 crore.

Islamabad believes India could use this giant flag for espionage purposes, ANI reported. Pakistan's Rangers have also reportedly conveyed its unhappiness to the Border Security Force and asked India to move the flag away from the border.

This flag was a project of the Amritsar Improvement Trust Authority of the Punjab government. Punjab minister Arun Joshi told reporters it was his dream project.

"With the Model Code of Conduct for the Assembly elections being in place in the state, the minister got special permission from the Election Commission for the inauguration," officials said.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-installs-its-tallest-flag-in-attari-pakistan-cries-espionage/articleshow/57500289.cms

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North America

 

Hindu groups, Ro Khanna object to CNN docu’s negative portrayal of religion

MARCH 06, 2017

Made by Reza Aslan, it featured the extreme forms of practice of the Aghoris, including eating of human corpses.

The portrayal of Hinduism in a CNN show on Sunday night has drawn strong protests from many Indian-American groups that found it negative and devoid of adequate understanding of the religion. The episode on Aghoris in the CNN serial ‘Believer’ made by religious scholar Reza Aslan had graphic images of the marginal sect’s extreme forms of practicing their faith. “Eating human corpses? How far would you go to prove your faith? Enter the world of the Aghori,” the CNN said in a tweet promoting the show.

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) were among the organisations that protested. Democratic Congressman from California, Ro Khanna, also expressed his disappointment. “Aslan has free speech! But sad he has made a career of sensationalism over scholarship re: Christianity & Hinduism,” he said on twitter. Mr. Aslan’s works on Christianity have been found offensive by many Christian groups in America.

Shock religion porn: HAF chief

HAF leader Suhag Shukla termed the show “shock religion porn.” “What does it mean to live without fear? It means CNN and “experts” like ‪@rezaaslan don’t engage in shock religion porn,” she said. “It will promote ignorance about Hindu traditions and promote ridicule of Hindu children in the schools. For example, a teacher has requested CNN on Facebook if the Hindu-related episode will be available for teaching ancient Indian history to her sixth grade class! … this will have wider Hinduphobic societal impact,” Ajay Shah, convener of AHAD said. At a time when racial prejudices may be increasing and violence targeting Indians is on the rise, such portrayal of Hinduism is unhelpful, these groups have said.

Full report at:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/hindu-groups-ro-khanna-object-to-cnn-docus-negative-portrayal-of-religion/article17418368.ece

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The Dilemma Facing Ex-Muslims in Trump's America

MAR 6, 2017

“Challenging Islam as a doctrine,” Ali Rizvi told me, “is very different from demonizing Muslim people.” Rizvi, a self-identified ex-Muslim, is the author of a new book titled The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason. One of the book’s stated aims is to uphold this elementary distinction: “Human beings have rights and are entitled to respect. Ideas, books, and beliefs don’t, and aren’t.”

The problem for Rizvi is that the grain of Western political culture is currently against him. Those in the secular West live in an age when ideas are commonly regarded as “deeds” with the potential to wound. So, on the left, self-critique of Islam is often castigated as critique of Muslims. Meanwhile, the newly elected president of the United States and his inner circle have a tendency to conflate the ideas of radical Islam with the beliefs of the entire Muslim population. So, on the right, the very same self-critique of Islam is used to attack Muslims and legitimize draconian policies against them.

One possible response to this problem is to back down and stay silent. The Atheist Muslim is a sustained argument for why silence is not an option. I met up with Rizvi in his hometown of Toronto recently to discuss his reasoning.

Rizvi told me he wrote his book to give other ex-Muslims and wavering Muslims a reference point. He particularly had in mind those atheists, agnostics, and humanists who live in Muslim-majority countries where the act of renouncing one’s faith is punishable by death. Rizvi, who was born in 1975 in Pakistan, where blasphemy carries a potential death sentence, and who lived for more than a decade in Saudi Arabia prior to becoming a permanent resident in Canada in 1999, knows all too well how dangerous public declarations of disbelief can be.

In contrast to other prominent ex-Muslim activists, like the Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, there is no atrocity, trauma, or turbulence in Rizvi’s narrative. He grew up in a loving and supportive family. His parents are Shia Muslims, but they are “secular and relatively liberal” professors, he said. It wasn’t until his late teens that he began to seriously question his faith. According to Rizvi, when he told his parents about his atheism, “they were fine with it. We had arguments, but I wasn’t going to get disowned.” On the day The Atheist Muslim came out, his mother told him, “Your book will do well, inshallah” (“God willing”). To me, he joked, “If she’d told me that before, I would have put it as a blurb on the cover!”

In Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion, the sociologist Phil Zuckerman makes a distinction between “transformative apostasy” and “mild apostasy.” The former refers to “individuals who were deeply, strongly religious who then went on to reject their religion,” whereas the latter refers to those “who rejected religion but weren’t all that religious in the first place.” Rizvi belongs to the latter category. “I was a nominal believer,” he told me.

One criticism that has been leveled at ex-Muslims is that they are prone to fundamentalism, trading one form of zealotry for another. In Murder in Amsterdam, for example, the Dutch writer and academic Ian Buruma controversially ascribed to Hirsi Ali “hints of zealousness, echoes perhaps of her earlier enthusiasm for the Muslim Brotherhood, before she was converted to the ideals of the European Enlightenment.” This type of psychological observation seems way off in the case of Rizvi, who has a successful career outside of his public role as a former Muslim: He is a medical communications professional and a gifted musician who plays and sings in a rock band. For Rizvi, Islam was never an all-defining identity, and neither is his current ex-Muslim status.

In his book, Rizvi describes himself as an “agnostic atheist,” someone who doesn’t believe in God, but who is open to the possibility that he or she may be wrong. He also admits that when he fully abandoned his faith he was initially reluctant to embrace the “atheist” label. “The stereotype of atheists was of strident, aggressive, arrogant know-it-alls. … This is not how I wanted to identify. I was humbled by everything I did not know, and everything I could not know,” he writes. “It was later that I realized atheism is a position of humility, in contrast to theism, which claims to know the truth, and moreover, deems it divine and absolute.”

In Letters to a Young Contrarian, the anti-theist Christopher Hitchens confided that he found “something suspect even in the humblest believer” on account of their “arrogant” assumption that they are “an object of real interest to a Supreme Being” and their claim “to have at least an inkling of what that Supreme Being desires.” Rizvi, who counts “the Hitch” as an intellectual hero, is clearly opposed to this line of critique. He writes about Muslims with great humanity and feeling. He also remains culturally wedded to Islam, celebrating Eid and enjoying the feasts of Ramadan.

Yet he is trenchantly critical of canonical religious texts. “Most Muslims are moderate, but whoever wrote the Quran, that’s not a moderate person,” he said. Rizvi devotes an entire chapter of his book to exposing what he sees as the flagrantly illiberal elements in Quranic scripture. Referring to the chapter on women, Surah An-Nisa, he writes: “It establishes a hierarchy of authority, where men are deemed to be ‘in charge’ of women. It also asks wives to be obedient to their husbands, and allows their husbands—in the most controversial part of the verse—to beat them if they fear disobedience.”

Full report at:

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/03/dilemma-facing-ex-muslim-atheists-in-trumps-america/518553/

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Pakistan

 

2 Pak soldiers killed in operation against terrorists in Swabi: ISPR

March 07, 2017

Pakistan Army's two soldiers have been reported killed today in an operation against terrorists in Swabi district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) mentioned.

An intelligence-based operation was being carried out by the security forces against terrorists in Swabi during which soldiers were killed.

According to the ISPR, the soldiers killed in the exchange of fire are Captain Junaid and Sepoy Amjad.

This was a part of the recently launched operation by Pakistan Army called Raddul Fasaad.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/07-Mar-2017/two-pak-army-soldiers-killed-in-operation-against-terrorists-in-swabi-ispr

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Saudi Arabia asked to release Pakistani transgender persons

Mar 7, 2017

PESHAWAR: The TransAction Alliance and other civil society organisations have expressed grave concerns over arrest of 35 transgender persons in Saudi Arabia and urged the Saudi government to release the details so that their families could take necessary steps for their release.

Addressing a news conference at Peshawar Press Club on Monday, TransAction Alliance provincial president Farzana Jan shared details about arrest of the transgender persons and death of two of them in police custody in Saudi Arabia.

“We want to know the details, under what charges the people have been arrested, what is their medical condition and if they are alive,” she said and added that she had received information about death of two transgender persons in police custody but no one knew where their bodies were.

Farzana said that her organisation would receive the bodies of the two transgender persons if they were not buried in Saudi Arabia. She demanded of the Saudi government to release the detained persons on humanitarian grounds.

TransAction Alliance chief says two of arrested persons died in custody of Saudi police

Farzana said that a group of transgender persons gathered on February 26 in Riyadh for a meeting when personnel Azizia police station picked them. They were packed into sacks and thrashed with sticks by police as a result two of them, Amina from Swat and Menno from Peshawar, died, she added.

Flanked by rights activist Qamar Naseem, Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network coordination Taimur Kamal, she that she was ready to share the details about the transgender community in Saudi Arabia only to National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) Pakistan and Senator Farhatullah Babar, member of Senate committee on amalgamated persons, because the information could put lives of relevant persons at risk in Saudi Arabia.

Farzana said that the arrested persons should be presented to a court of law if they were involved in any kind of crime.

Nobody deserved to be punished for gender identity, she added.

She said that the 35 arrested persons belonged to various parts of Pakistan including Karachi, Sargodha, Charsadda, Peshawar and Mardan.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1318889/saudi-arabia-asked-to-release-pakistani-transgender-persons

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Terrorists can’t weaken nation’s resolve: PM

March 7th, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Express­ing grief over the killing of five army personnel in the cross-border terrorist attack in Mohmand Agency, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday said that sacrifices rendered by the country’s soldiers while defending the motherland were the “real lifeline of nation”.

“The soldiers who sacrificed their life are our real heroes and the nation promises to honour them by standing firm against terrorists’ nefarious designs that attack our way of life,” the prime minister said in a statement.

He said Pakistan would become stronger “because our men in uniform are vigilant at our borders and in urban centres”.

“Terrorists are mistaken if they think they can weaken the resolve of our nation,” he added.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1318930

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Asif lashes out at Kabul over failure to combat terrorists

AMIR WASIM

7 March 2017

ISLAMABAD: Defending the government’s decision to close the country’s border with Afghanistan, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Monday lashed out at the authorities in Kabul over their failure to take action against the terrorists using Afghan soil against Pakistan.

Delivering a fiery speech in the National Assembly on the opening day of its spring session, the minister declared that closing the border was Pakistan’s sovereign right and the government would take every step necessary to defend the “country’s interests”.

The minister took the floor when some opposition members, while speaking on matters of public importance, criticised the government for its decision to close the border with Afghanistan and termed it an act of victimisation against Pakhtuns.

Mocking the Afghan government’s claim that it did not have control over the areas being used by the terrorists, he said: “If you have no control over the territories, stop calling them part of Afghanistan.”

Defence minister says Afghan border can’t be used as ‘thoroughfare’

Mr Asif said that previously Pakistan used to face criticism over the use of North Waziristan’s territory by terrorists, but the government spent Rs2 billion to clear the area of terrorists.

Pointing out a nexus between India and Afghanistan, he alleged that India had outsourced the task of carrying out terrorist activities in Pakistan to Afghanistan. He informed the house that five soldiers had lost their lives early Monday morning due to an attack from Afghanistan’s side. “What else can we do other than closing down the border?” he asked.

“Our murderers are sitting on their border and you are pleading us not to close down the borders. We want to have a proper border management with Afghanistan like all the countries have with their neighbouring countries. We will not allow it (border) to be used as a thoroughfare. Closing the border is our right,” the minister declared in categorical terms.

He said there were nearly 200 entry and exit points along the country’s border with Afghanistan, of which 16 were active and nine most active. He said Afghanistan was “resisting” the efforts to implement a proper management system.

Mr Asif said Pakistan allowed entry to thousands of people from Afghanistan requiring minimum documents, whereas those who travelled from Pakistan to Afghanistan required proper documentation and the “whole process is not even-handed”.

The minister asked the opposition parties not to do politics on the issue since “it is a national security matter”. He said the government believed that the peace in Pakistan and Afghanistan was interlinked, adding that Pakistan was still ready to cooperate with Afghanistan in the war against terrorism.

Imran under attack

The minister indirectly criticised Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan for opposing the idea of holding the final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Lahore. Without naming Mr Khan, he said the people turned out in a large number to witness the match and thus sent a clear message to the terrorists and those who had been terming the decision of holding the match in Pakistan “foolishness”.

Mr Asif’s remarks agitated the otherwise peaceful opposition members, particularly those belonging to the PTI as a number of party members sought the floor to respond to the minister’s remarks.

Sensing the sensitivity of the matter, Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi gave the floor to Leader of the Opposition Syed Khurshid Shah, instead of any PTI lawmaker.

The deputy speaker later allowed PTI’s parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi to speak after Mr Shah in a bid to avert what could have become a confrontation.

The opposition leader said a cold war being fought between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the current situation warranted convening of an in-camera session of parliament. He said the country was facing serious challenges on the diplomatic front, but the government had not so far appointed a foreign minister.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1318936

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PUC strips Maulana Ashrafi off all positions

March 07, 2017

ISLAMABAD - On finding solid evidence of misuse of the office, the Central Executive Body (Majlis-i-Shoora) and the common body (Majlis-i-Amoomi) of the Pakistan Ulema Council unanimously dismissed Maulana Tahir Ashrafi as chairman with voice vote while also cancelled his basic membership of the council.

Flanked by the central leaders of Pakistan Ulema Council, Central Chairman of PUC Sahibzada Zahid Mahmood Qasmi said that there were solid evidence of misuse of office by Maulana Tahir Ashrafi as he had entered into clandestine contracts with the US State Department and other foreign agencies to secure hefty funds so the supreme bodies of PUC had also delinked him from the sub-ordinate bodies of the council Wafaul Masajid Pakistan, Ilm-o-Aman Foundation and Tahaffuz-i-Madaris-i-Diniya.

Announcing the decisions of the council’s meeting held on Monday, Sahibzada Zahid Mahmood Qasmi, who is also member of Islamic Ideology Council, postponed the second annual meeting ‘The Message of Islam Conference’ scheduled to be held on April 12 in Islamabad while it was decided that an all parties Tahaffuz-i-Nnamoos-i-Risalt Conference would be shortly called in Islamabad by the Pakistan Ulema Council.

He further said that the PUC in its meeting condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestation and put its weight behind recently launched operation Raddul Fasaad to hunt down the militants across the country.

Dispelling the negativities associated with seminaries, the PUC demanded of bringing to an end such propaganda as the Ulema and seminaries across the country were standing with the whole nation against terrorism and would be custodian of the geographical boundaries of the country along with the armed forces of the country and would not step back in rendering any sacrifice for it.

The Chairman of PUC also demanded of the government and the law enforcement agencies to take notice of the foreign funding through some NGOs allegedly used against the interests of the country.

To make operation Raddul Fasaad a success, the Pakistan Ulema Council announced holding of Ulema conventions across the country to sensitize the general public about the menace of the militancy and how they could help government in tracking down the supporters of these perpetrators of violence.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/07-Mar-2017/puc-strips-maulana-ashrafi-off-all-positions

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North America

 

Hindu groups, Ro Khanna object to CNN docu’s negative portrayal of religion

MARCH 06, 2017

Made by Reza Aslan, it featured the extreme forms of practice of the Aghoris, including eating of human corpses.

The portrayal of Hinduism in a CNN show on Sunday night has drawn strong protests from many Indian-American groups that found it negative and devoid of adequate understanding of the religion. The episode on Aghoris in the CNN serial ‘Believer’ made by religious scholar Reza Aslan had graphic images of the marginal sect’s extreme forms of practicing their faith. “Eating human corpses? How far would you go to prove your faith? Enter the world of the Aghori,” the CNN said in a tweet promoting the show.

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) were among the organisations that protested. Democratic Congressman from California, Ro Khanna, also expressed his disappointment. “Aslan has free speech! But sad he has made a career of sensationalism over scholarship re: Christianity & Hinduism,” he said on twitter. Mr. Aslan’s works on Christianity have been found offensive by many Christian groups in America.

Shock religion porn: HAF chief

HAF leader Suhag Shukla termed the show “shock religion porn.” “What does it mean to live without fear? It means CNN and “experts” like ‪@rezaaslan don’t engage in shock religion porn,” she said. “It will promote ignorance about Hindu traditions and promote ridicule of Hindu children in the schools. For example, a teacher has requested CNN on Facebook if the Hindu-related episode will be available for teaching ancient Indian history to her sixth grade class! … this will have wider Hinduphobic societal impact,” Ajay Shah, convener of AHAD said. At a time when racial prejudices may be increasing and violence targeting Indians is on the rise, such portrayal of Hinduism is unhelpful, these groups have said.

Full report at:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/hindu-groups-ro-khanna-object-to-cnn-docus-negative-portrayal-of-religion/article17418368.ece

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India

 

The Dilemma Facing Ex-Muslims in Trump's America

MAR 6, 2017

“Challenging Islam as a doctrine,” Ali Rizvi told me, “is very different from demonizing Muslim people.” Rizvi, a self-identified ex-Muslim, is the author of a new book titled The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason. One of the book’s stated aims is to uphold this elementary distinction: “Human beings have rights and are entitled to respect. Ideas, books, and beliefs don’t, and aren’t.”

The problem for Rizvi is that the grain of Western political culture is currently against him. Those in the secular West live in an age when ideas are commonly regarded as “deeds” with the potential to wound. So, on the left, self-critique of Islam is often castigated as critique of Muslims. Meanwhile, the newly elected president of the United States and his inner circle have a tendency to conflate the ideas of radical Islam with the beliefs of the entire Muslim population. So, on the right, the very same self-critique of Islam is used to attack Muslims and legitimize draconian policies against them.

One possible response to this problem is to back down and stay silent. The Atheist Muslim is a sustained argument for why silence is not an option. I met up with Rizvi in his hometown of Toronto recently to discuss his reasoning.

Rizvi told me he wrote his book to give other ex-Muslims and wavering Muslims a reference point. He particularly had in mind those atheists, agnostics, and humanists who live in Muslim-majority countries where the act of renouncing one’s faith is punishable by death. Rizvi, who was born in 1975 in Pakistan, where blasphemy carries a potential death sentence, and who lived for more than a decade in Saudi Arabia prior to becoming a permanent resident in Canada in 1999, knows all too well how dangerous public declarations of disbelief can be.

In contrast to other prominent ex-Muslim activists, like the Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, there is no atrocity, trauma, or turbulence in Rizvi’s narrative. He grew up in a loving and supportive family. His parents are Shia Muslims, but they are “secular and relatively liberal” professors, he said. It wasn’t until his late teens that he began to seriously question his faith. According to Rizvi, when he told his parents about his atheism, “they were fine with it. We had arguments, but I wasn’t going to get disowned.” On the day The Atheist Muslim came out, his mother told him, “Your book will do well, inshallah” (“God willing”). To me, he joked, “If she’d told me that before, I would have put it as a blurb on the cover!”

In Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion, the sociologist Phil Zuckerman makes a distinction between “transformative apostasy” and “mild apostasy.” The former refers to “individuals who were deeply, strongly religious who then went on to reject their religion,” whereas the latter refers to those “who rejected religion but weren’t all that religious in the first place.” Rizvi belongs to the latter category. “I was a nominal believer,” he told me.

One criticism that has been leveled at ex-Muslims is that they are prone to fundamentalism, trading one form of zealotry for another. In Murder in Amsterdam, for example, the Dutch writer and academic Ian Buruma controversially ascribed to Hirsi Ali “hints of zealousness, echoes perhaps of her earlier enthusiasm for the Muslim Brotherhood, before she was converted to the ideals of the European Enlightenment.” This type of psychological observation seems way off in the case of Rizvi, who has a successful career outside of his public role as a former Muslim: He is a medical communications professional and a gifted musician who plays and sings in a rock band. For Rizvi, Islam was never an all-defining identity, and neither is his current ex-Muslim status.

In his book, Rizvi describes himself as an “agnostic atheist,” someone who doesn’t believe in God, but who is open to the possibility that he or she may be wrong. He also admits that when he fully abandoned his faith he was initially reluctant to embrace the “atheist” label. “The stereotype of atheists was of strident, aggressive, arrogant know-it-alls. … This is not how I wanted to identify. I was humbled by everything I did not know, and everything I could not know,” he writes. “It was later that I realized atheism is a position of humility, in contrast to theism, which claims to know the truth, and moreover, deems it divine and absolute.”

In Letters to a Young Contrarian, the anti-theist Christopher Hitchens confided that he found “something suspect even in the humblest believer” on account of their “arrogant” assumption that they are “an object of real interest to a Supreme Being” and their claim “to have at least an inkling of what that Supreme Being desires.” Rizvi, who counts “the Hitch” as an intellectual hero, is clearly opposed to this line of critique. He writes about Muslims with great humanity and feeling. He also remains culturally wedded to Islam, celebrating Eid and enjoying the feasts of Ramadan.

Yet he is trenchantly critical of canonical religious texts. “Most Muslims are moderate, but whoever wrote the Quran, that’s not a moderate person,” he said. Rizvi devotes an entire chapter of his book to exposing what he sees as the flagrantly illiberal elements in Quranic scripture. Referring to the chapter on women, Surah An-Nisa, he writes: “It establishes a hierarchy of authority, where men are deemed to be ‘in charge’ of women. It also asks wives to be obedient to their husbands, and allows their husbands—in the most controversial part of the verse—to beat them if they fear disobedience.”

Rizvi condemns this, but he reserves an almost equal contempt for reformist Muslims who, as he sees it, try to rationalize away such verses. He puts the scholar of religion Reza Aslan in this category, taking him to task for his suggestion that interpretations of scripture have “nothing to do with the text…and everything to do with the cultural, nationalistic, ethnic, political prejudices and preconceived notions that the individual brings to the text.” Rizvi is incredulous at the categorical “nothing” in this claim, and echoes the Islamic studies scholar Michael Cook’s observation that religious texts provide “modern adherents with a set of options that do not determine their choices but do constrain them.” He is skeptical, too, of reformist efforts to reinterpret scripture so as to bring Islam into line with liberal values. “You can’t sanitize scripture,” he insisted. “I think fundamentalists have a more honest approach. … They’re more consistent.”

Rizvi is also opposed to any efforts to sanitize Islam as “a religion of peace.” He is particularly critical of any attempt to separate jihadist violence from Islamic scripture, which he believes is one of its main drivers, though not the only driver. This puts him at odds not only with Donald Trump’s currently embattled deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka, who identifies the “martial” passages in Islamic scripture as the overriding cause of jihadist violence, but also with Gorka’s liberal critics who deny or minimize any such causal link.

The main bête noire of The Atheist Muslim is not the Islamic fundamentalists who would like to see Rizvi’s head on a spike, but the “regressive left,” who, in Rizvi’s view, are the former’s preeminent apologists, and who seek to silence voices like his own. For Rizvi, their suggestion that criticism of Islam equals criticism of Muslims is a form of blackmail, disseminated to shut down any forthright critical engagement with the religion.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/03/dilemma-facing-ex-muslim-atheists-in-trumps-america/518553/

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India calls for early adoption of anti-terror convention by UN

Mar 6, 2017

NEW DELHI: India on Monday renewed its pitch for early adoption of a global convention by the UN to effectively combat terrorism, terming the menace the single biggest threat to international peace and security.

In an obvious reference to Pakistan, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said India has been a victim of "proxy war" for several decades and that there was a need for developing an Asian approach to push the global fight against terror networks.

Calling for early adoption of India-backed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) by the UN, Parrikar said terror remains the "most pervasive and serious challenge" to international security and an united approach to deal with it was very important.

He was speaking at a conference on combating terrorism at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis.

Parrikar said there must be action against entities which fund terror groups, propagate their ideologies and provide safe havens to terror groups and added that India has been seeking inclusion of these provisions in the CCIT.

Talking about issues relating to global security, Parrikar also mentioned about challenges like global uncertainty, revival of populist movements, heightened nationalism, backlash against globalisation and possible closing of borders by several countries.

The Union minister said Asia has been victim of some of the most dreaded terrorist networks and a strong regional push from Asia will exert more pressure on rest of the world to adapt a cohesive framework to combat terror.

Without giving specific details, he said India experienced almost seven per cent of the total terror attacks globally.

"Terrorism remains the most pervasive and serious challenge to international security. Developing a serious and cognitive global response to it is very important but seemingly very difficult to achieve," he said.

Parrikar said India will continue to push for shutting down terror camps, imposing ban on all terror groups, prosecuting all terrorists under special law and making cross-border terror an extraditable offence under the CCIT.

"Terrorism is undoubtedly the single biggest threat to international peace and security. While the threat is transnational, response does not appear to be coordinated even though there is a broad consensus on what constitutes an act of terror," he said.

He said the arch of terrorism was expanding in Asia and there was a need for a regional approach to defeat terror.

Quoting a global report, he said record number of countries have been experiencing a high level of terrorism which surged by 6 per cent in 2016 over the preceding year.

Four groups — ISIS, Boko Haram, Taliban and al-Qaida — were responsible for 74 per cent of all forms of terrorism, he added.

Referring to a UN report, he said ISIS affiliated groups carried out attacks in 29 countries in 2016 which is almost double in comparison to 2014.

He said some 60 million people have been impacted by conflict and violence.

Parrikar also emphasised on the need to combat "complicated webs of terror financing", noting that a holistic approach is needed to combat terror effectively.

He said it is also important to counter the misuse of the internet through social media by terrorist entities.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-calls-for-early-adoption-of-anti-terror-convention-by-un/articleshow/57493124.cms

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North America

 

Hindu groups, Ro Khanna object to CNN docu’s negative portrayal of religion

MARCH 06, 2017

Made by Reza Aslan, it featured the extreme forms of practice of the Aghoris, including eating of human corpses.

The portrayal of Hinduism in a CNN show on Sunday night has drawn strong protests from many Indian-American groups that found it negative and devoid of adequate understanding of the religion. The episode on Aghoris in the CNN serial ‘Believer’ made by religious scholar Reza Aslan had graphic images of the marginal sect’s extreme forms of practicing their faith. “Eating human corpses? How far would you go to prove your faith? Enter the world of the Aghori,” the CNN said in a tweet promoting the show.

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) were among the organisations that protested. Democratic Congressman from California, Ro Khanna, also expressed his disappointment. “Aslan has free speech! But sad he has made a career of sensationalism over scholarship re: Christianity & Hinduism,” he said on twitter. Mr. Aslan’s works on Christianity have been found offensive by many Christian groups in America.

Shock religion porn: HAF chief

HAF leader Suhag Shukla termed the show “shock religion porn.” “What does it mean to live without fear? It means CNN and “experts” like ‪@rezaaslan don’t engage in shock religion porn,” she said. “It will promote ignorance about Hindu traditions and promote ridicule of Hindu children in the schools. For example, a teacher has requested CNN on Facebook if the Hindu-related episode will be available for teaching ancient Indian history to her sixth grade class! … this will have wider Hinduphobic societal impact,” Ajay Shah, convener of AHAD said. At a time when racial prejudices may be increasing and violence targeting Indians is on the rise, such portrayal of Hinduism is unhelpful, these groups have said.

HAF and AHAD also argued that caste system was not a scripturally sanctioned part of Hinduism and accused Mr. Aslan of mirepresenting the community. The episode showed caste as part of the Hindu belief system and the Aghori sect as a rebellion against the notion of the purity-pollution binary that forms the basis of caste system. HAF representative Mat McDermott had met with Mr. Aslan and had a preview of the episode. An HAF statement said the show perpetrates stereotypes about Hinduism and Hindus. “There is the stereotyped image of a naked Aghori sadhu, drinking alcohol from a human skull, literally eating what is ostensibly human flesh, taking Reza on as his disciple, threatening to behead him if he talks any more, and then throwing his own freshly excreted urine at him, all on camera for viewers to see,” said an HAF statement.

'Will he make a film on Islam?'

Both organisations also wondered whether Mr. Aslan would make a similar film on Islam, the religion that he practices. The filmmaker, an Iranian American, told Mr. McDermott that he had to abandon the plan to shoot an episode on the Ashura festival in Pakistan as no insurer was willing to cover the crew. “If and when there’s a second series of Believer, Aslan assured that Islam would definitely be included,” the HAF statement said.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/hindu-groups-ro-khanna-object-to-cnn-docus-negative-portrayal-of-religion/article17418368.ece

--------

 

The Dilemma Facing Ex-Muslims in Trump's America

MAR 6, 2017 

“Challenging Islam as a doctrine,” Ali Rizvi told me, “is very different from demonizing Muslim people.” Rizvi, a self-identified ex-Muslim, is the author of a new book titled The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason. One of the book’s stated aims is to uphold this elementary distinction: “Human beings have rights and are entitled to respect. Ideas, books, and beliefs don’t, and aren’t.”

The problem for Rizvi is that the grain of Western political culture is currently against him. Those in the secular West live in an age when ideas are commonly regarded as “deeds” with the potential to wound. So, on the left, self-critique of Islam is often castigated as critique of Muslims. Meanwhile, the newly elected president of the United States and his inner circle have a tendency to conflate the ideas of radical Islam with the beliefs of the entire Muslim population. So, on the right, the very same self-critique of Islam is used to attack Muslims and legitimize draconian policies against them.

One possible response to this problem is to back down and stay silent. The Atheist Muslim is a sustained argument for why silence is not an option. I met up with Rizvi in his hometown of Toronto recently to discuss his reasoning.

Rizvi told me he wrote his book to give other ex-Muslims and wavering Muslims a reference point. He particularly had in mind those atheists, agnostics, and humanists who live in Muslim-majority countries where the act of renouncing one’s faith is punishable by death. Rizvi, who was born in 1975 in Pakistan, where blasphemy carries a potential death sentence, and who lived for more than a decade in Saudi Arabia prior to becoming a permanent resident in Canada in 1999, knows all too well how dangerous public declarations of disbelief can be.

In contrast to other prominent ex-Muslim activists, like the Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, there is no atrocity, trauma, or turbulence in Rizvi’s narrative. He grew up in a loving and supportive family. His parents are Shia Muslims, but they are “secular and relatively liberal” professors, he said. It wasn’t until his late teens that he began to seriously question his faith. According to Rizvi, when he told his parents about his atheism, “they were fine with it. We had arguments, but I wasn’t going to get disowned.” On the day The Atheist Muslim came out, his mother told him, “Your book will do well, inshallah” (“God willing”). To me, he joked, “If she’d told me that before, I would have put it as a blurb on the cover!”

In Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion, the sociologist Phil Zuckerman makes a distinction between “transformative apostasy” and “mild apostasy.” The former refers to “individuals who were deeply, strongly religious who then went on to reject their religion,” whereas the latter refers to those “who rejected religion but weren’t all that religious in the first place.” Rizvi belongs to the latter category. “I was a nominal believer,” he told me.

Full report at:

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/03/dilemma-facing-ex-muslim-atheists-in-trumps-america/518553/

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Pakistan

 

2 Pak soldiers killed in operation against terrorists in Swabi: ISPR

March 07, 2017

Pakistan Army's two soldiers have been reported killed today in an operation against terrorists in Swabi district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) mentioned.

An intelligence-based operation was being carried out by the security forces against terrorists in Swabi during which soldiers were killed.

According to the ISPR, the soldiers killed in the exchange of fire are Captain Junaid and Sepoy Amjad.

This was a part of the recently launched operation by Pakistan Army called Raddul Fasaad.

A large number of suspected terrorists have reportedly been arrested in hundreds of raids carried out by security personnel since the launch of the operation.

http://nation.com.pk/national/07-Mar-2017/two-pak-army-soldiers-killed-in-operation-against-terrorists-in-swabi-ispr

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Saudi Arabia asked to release Pakistani transgender persons

March 7th, 2017

PESHAWAR: The TransAction Alliance and other civil society organisations have expressed grave concerns over arrest of 35 transgender persons in Saudi Arabia and urged the Saudi government to release the details so that their families could take necessary steps for their release.

Addressing a news conference at Peshawar Press Club on Monday, TransAction Alliance provincial president Farzana Jan shared details about arrest of the transgender persons and death of two of them in police custody in Saudi Arabia.

“We want to know the details, under what charges the people have been arrested, what is their medical condition and if they are alive,” she said and added that she had received information about death of two transgender persons in police custody but no one knew where their bodies were.

Farzana said that her organisation would receive the bodies of the two transgender persons if they were not buried in Saudi Arabia. She demanded of the Saudi government to release the detained persons on humanitarian grounds.

TransAction Alliance chief says two of arrested persons died in custody of Saudi police

Farzana said that a group of transgender persons gathered on February 26 in Riyadh for a meeting when personnel Azizia police station picked them. They were packed into sacks and thrashed with sticks by police as a result two of them, Amina from Swat and Menno from Peshawar, died, she added.

Flanked by rights activist Qamar Naseem, Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network coordination Taimur Kamal, she that she was ready to share the details about the transgender community in Saudi Arabia only to National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) Pakistan and Senator Farhatullah Babar, member of Senate committee on amalgamated persons, because the information could put lives of relevant persons at risk in Saudi Arabia.

Farzana said that the arrested persons should be presented to a court of law if they were involved in any kind of crime.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1318889/saudi-arabia-asked-to-release-pakistani-transgender-persons

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Terrorists can’t weaken nation’s resolve: PM

March 7th, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Express­ing grief over the killing of five army personnel in the cross-border terrorist attack in Mohmand Agency, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday said that sacrifices rendered by the country’s soldiers while defending the motherland were the “real lifeline of nation”.

“The soldiers who sacrificed their life are our real heroes and the nation promises to honour them by standing firm against terrorists’ nefarious designs that attack our way of life,” the prime minister said in a statement.

He said Pakistan would become stronger “because our men in uniform are vigilant at our borders and in urban centres”.

“Terrorists are mistaken if they think they can weaken the resolve of our nation,” he added.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1318930

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Asif lashes out at Kabul over failure to combat terrorists

Mar 6, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Defending the government’s decision to close the country’s border with Afghanistan, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Monday lashed out at the authorities in Kabul over their failure to take action against the terrorists using Afghan soil against Pakistan.

Delivering a fiery speech in the National Assembly on the opening day of its spring session, the minister declared that closing the border was Pakistan’s sovereign right and the government would take every step necessary to defend the “country’s interests”.

The minister took the floor when some opposition members, while speaking on matters of public importance, criticised the government for its decision to close the border with Afghanistan and termed it an act of victimisation against Pakhtuns.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1318936

--------

 

PUC strips Maulana Ashrafi off all positions

March 07, 2017

ISLAMABAD - On finding solid evidence of misuse of the office, the Central Executive Body (Majlis-i-Shoora) and the common body (Majlis-i-Amoomi) of the Pakistan Ulema Council unanimously dismissed Maulana Tahir Ashrafi as chairman with voice vote while also cancelled his basic membership of the council.

Flanked by the central leaders of Pakistan Ulema Council, Central Chairman of PUC Sahibzada Zahid Mahmood Qasmi said that there were solid evidence of misuse of office by Maulana Tahir Ashrafi as he had entered into clandestine contracts with the US State Department and other foreign agencies to secure hefty funds so the supreme bodies of PUC had also delinked him from the sub-ordinate bodies of the council Wafaul Masajid Pakistan, Ilm-o-Aman Foundation and Tahaffuz-i-Madaris-i-Diniya.

Announcing the decisions of the council’s meeting held on Monday, Sahibzada Zahid Mahmood Qasmi, who is also member of Islamic Ideology Council, postponed the second annual meeting ‘The Message of Islam Conference’ scheduled to be held on April 12 in Islamabad while it was decided that an all parties Tahaffuz-i-Nnamoos-i-Risalt Conference would be shortly called in Islamabad by the Pakistan Ulema Council.

He further said that the PUC in its meeting condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestation and put its weight behind recently launched operation Raddul Fasaad to hunt down the militants across the country.

Dispelling the negativities associated with seminaries, the PUC demanded of bringing to an end such propaganda as the Ulema and seminaries across the country were standing with the whole nation against terrorism and would be custodian of the geographical boundaries of the country along with the armed forces of the country and would not step back in rendering any sacrifice for it.

The Chairman of PUC also demanded of the government and the law enforcement agencies to take notice of the foreign funding through some NGOs allegedly used against the interests of the country.

To make operation Raddul Fasaad a success, the Pakistan Ulema Council announced holding of Ulema conventions across the country to sensitize the general public about the menace of the militancy and how they could help government in tracking down the supporters of these perpetrators of violence.

On that occasion, Central Patron-in-Chief, Maulana M Rafiq Jami, Vice Chairman Maulana Obaidur Rehman Zia, Acting Central Secretary General Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani, Provincial President (Punjab) Maulana Hafiz M. Amjad, General Secretary (Punjab) Maulana Abdul Mannan Usmani, Provincial Secretary Information Punjab Maulana Umer Qasmi, Maulana M. Nawas, Maulana Azam Farooq and others were also present.

Responding to a question, the chairman PUC said that they were in favour of military courts for dealing with the terrorism related cases but they were against bringing parallel laws which according to them would create problems in the long run.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/07-Mar-2017/puc-strips-maulana-ashrafi-off-all-positions

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Pakistan protests Afghan border callousness

March 07, 2017

Islamabad/Peshawar/Mohmand Agency - Pakistan yesterday lodged a strong protest with Afghanistan after six soldiers were killed in cross border terrorist attacks Sunday night.

Security sources said at least five soldiers of the Pakistan Army and more than 10 terrorists were killed in the fight after Afghanistan-based terrorists stormed three check-posts in Mohmand Agency late Sunday night.

The attack came in the Gora Pari area, which is 75 kilometres from tehsil Biazai headquarters - Ghalanai.

The sources said the terrorists carrying small arms targeted the border posts around 4:30am. As many as five soldiers and over 10 terrorists were killed in the ensuing fight.

Pakistan Army in a statement said the security forces effectively responded and repulsed the terrorist attack.

Separately, one soldier was killed in Khyber Agency as a result of firing by terrorists from the Afghan territory.

The foreign ministry said the country has launched a strong protest with the Afghan government.

“In this regard, Afghan Deputy Head of Mission (Syed Abdul Nasir Yousafi) was called to the Foreign Office today (March 6) for conveying Pakistan’s grave concern over the (Mohmand) incident,” a statement issued by the foreign ministry read.

“The Afghan government was urged to thoroughly investigate the incident and take firm action against the terrorists operating from its soil to prevent recurrence of such incidents. It was further emphasised that cooperation from Afghan side for effective border management was important for preventing cross-border movement of terrorists and militants,” said.

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Monday appreciated response by Pakistani troops to the terrorists attack on the check posts in Mohmand.

According to ISPR, the Army Chief emphasised need for ‘required physical presence on Afghan side of the border for matching and effective border security.’ He said terrorists are common threat and must be denied freedom of movement or action along the border.

Expressing grief on loss of precious lives, General Bajwa hailed the sacrifices made by brave sons of soil.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed deep grief over the martyrdom of army personnel in the cross boarder terrorist attack.

In his message, he said that the sacrifices given by our brave soldiers while defending the motherland are the real life line of our nation.

Nawaz Sharif said that Pakistan will become more successful and stronger because our men in uniform are vigilant on our borders and in our Urban centers .

He said that terrorists are badly mistaken if they think they can weaken the resolve of our nation.

Operation Radd-ul Fasaad is against every terrorist working from within the country or operating from a foreign territory .

The enemies of Pakistan will be eliminated along with the cancerous Ideology promoting it.

Those soldiers who sacrificed their life are our real heroes and the nation promises to honor them by standing firm against terrorists nefarious designs to hit at our way of life.

Despite the fact that Pakistan has been the victim of terrorist attacks, Afghanistan has been accusing Pakistan of providing safe havens to the militants. Pakistan has always denied the allegations citing its lengthy war against the terrorists in the tribal belt.

Kabul gets encouragement from New Delhi as India tries to discredit Pakistan. In the last Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar, India and Afghanistan also hurled accusations against Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has tightened security arrangements along the Afghan border and with Iran to back the operation Raddul Fassad.

Officials said that additional check posts will be established at the coastal highway and roads along the borders with Afghanistan and Iran. These posts will be manned by the army, Frontier Constabulary, Customs, Federal Investigation Agency, Levies, police and intelligence agencies’ officials.

Funeral of martyrs

The soldiers martyred in Mohmand border posts attack were identified as Naik Sanaullah, Naik Safdar Khan, Sepoy Altaf, Sepoy Naik Muhammad and Sepoy Anwar Khan. Their funeral was offered at Peshawar Garrison on Monday.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governor and chief minister, Corps Commander Peshawar Lt-Gen Nazir Ahmed Butt and other senior civil and military officers and soldiers attended the funeral. The bodies of the martyred soldiers were to be taken to their native areas for burial with full military honour.

From page 1

He said terrorists are common threat and must be denied freedom of movement or action along the border.

Expressing grief on loss of precious lives, General Bajwa hailed the sacrifices made by brave sons of soil.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed deep grief over the martyrdom of army personnel in the cross boarder terrorist attack.

In his message, he said that the sacrifices given by our brave soldiers while defending the motherland are the real life line of our nation.

Nawaz Sharif said that Pakistan will become more successful and stronger because our men in uniform are vigilant on our borders and in our Urban centers . He said that terrorists are badly mistaken if they think they can weaken the resolve of our nation.

Operation Radd-ul Fasaad is against every terrorist working from within the country or operating from a foreign territory .

The enemies of Pakistan will be eliminated along with the cancerous Ideology promoting it.

Those soldiers who sacrificed their life are our real heroes and the nation promises to honor them by standing firm against terrorists nefarious designs to hit at our way of life.

Despite the fact that Pakistan has been the victim of terrorist attacks, Afghanistan has been accusing Pakistan of providing safe havens to the militants. Pakistan has always denied the allegations citing its lengthy war against the terrorists in the tribal belt.

Kabul gets encouragement from New Delhi as India tries to discredit Pakistan. In the last Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar, India and Afghanistan also hurled accusations against Pakistan.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/07-Mar-2017/pakistan-protests-afghan-border-callousness

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Politician Claims BNP-Jamaat Created New JMB for Assassinations

March 06, 2017

The minister alleged the BNP-Jamaat nexus had patronised anti-liberation forces, and JMB founder Shayakh Abdur Rahman and its second-in-command Bangla Bhai

Worker’s Party President Rashed Khan Menon claimed on Monday that the BNP-Jamaat alliance had created terrorist outfit New JMB, a new faction of banned group JMB affiliated with Islamic State, for carrying out secret assassinations across Bangladesh.

“Neo JMB [also known as New JMB] proved its existence through the Holey Artisan Bakery attack at Gulshan in Dhaka,” he said while taking part in the general discussion on thanksgiving motion of President Abdul Hamid’s address to the Jatiya Sangsad on January 22.

The minister claimed that the BNP-Jamaat nexus had patronised anti-liberation forces, JMB founder Shayakh Abdur Rahman and second-in-command Bangla Bhai, which paved the way for the rise of militancy in the country.

“They created Neo JMB to carry out militant attacks and secret killings,” he said.

The Worker’s Party president stressed the need for building a mass awareness campaign against militancy and terrorism under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

“The people of Bangladesh are quite aware of the anarchy unleashed by the BNP-Jamaat,” he added, referring to arson attacks carried out by the faction before and after the January 2014 general elections.

Menon said that the next general elections would be held in 2019 as per the constitution and under the present government, adding that there was no point to including BNP in the election-time government as “the party does not acknowledge the legitimacy of the Election Commission.”

Full report at:

http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/politics/2017/03/06/menon-bnp-jamaat-neo-jmb/

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South Asia

 

Associating terrorism with Islam inappropriate, says Afghan security adviser

Mar 06, 2017

Afghanistan’s national security adviser on Monday said that associating terrorism with Islam was inappropriate given the suffering Muslims have endured at the hands of terrorists and the sacrifices they have made to defeat such violence.

The South Asian region, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, had the “highest concentration of organised terrorists anywhere in the world,” said Hanif Atmar at the Asian Security Conference, being held this year in New Delhi.

He noted that 20 out of 98 groups designated by the US as terrorist organisations were operating in the region.

Afghanistan has lost 10,500 people to terrorism over the last 14 months, with an average of 28 people dying each day, he said.

“It is inappropriate to associate terrorism with Islam, because it fails to understand, to appreciate, the sacrifices that the Muslims are making in order to defeat terrorism, and the suffering that the Muslims have had at the hands of the terrorists,” he told participants.

India’s defence minister Manohar Parrikar said a global response to countering terrorism must come from Asia, since “Asians being subjected to the terrorist violence carried out by four out of five deadliest terror outfits in the world.”

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/associating-terrorism-with-islam-inappropriate-says-afghan-security-adviser/story-qr32ObqxiMgJeJ88S6xyYL.html

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Politician Claims BNP-Jamaat Created New JMB for Assassinations

Hefazat claims arrest warrant issued to deflect Greek idol issue

Bomb hurled at police during regular vehicle search in Comilla

Full report at:

2 heroin factories destroyed by Afghan forces in Nangarhar

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Hefazat claims arrest warrant issued to deflect Greek idol issue

March 07, 2017

Radical Islamist platform Hefazat-e-Islam issued a press release on Monday stating the arrest warrant issued against their leaders was to deflect the idol issue on the Supreme Court premises.

The Shariah law-pursuing group has been actively campaigning to remove the sculpture representing justice, claiming it is a Greek idol. They have also used children in their public protest, a political act which is forbidden in the Children’s Act 2013.

Hefazat Nayeb-e-Ameer Shamshul Alam among many signed the brief, saying there is no place for idols in a Muslim-majority country and that it was strategically placed on the court grounds to undermine Islam.

Hefazat leaders claimed the warrant was issued by anti-Islamic atheists to silence Islamic scholars leading the fight against the anti-Islamic conspiracy.

They further threatened to launch countrywide unrest if the warrant was not withdrawn swiftly.

Earlier on Sunday, a Dhaka court issued an arrest warrant against 25 people including Hefazat leaders, in a four-year-old case for instigating an attack on the Gonojagoron Moncho on February 22, 2013.

A special tribunal issued the arrest warrant based on the charge sheet filed by Shahbagh police accusing 29 people of bombing.

Full report at:

http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/politics/2017/03/07/hefazat-claims-arrest-warrant-issued-deflect-greek-idol-issue/

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Bomb hurled at police during regular vehicle search in Comilla

March 07, 2017

Two men have been caught with four improvised bombs after the attack

Policemen have come under bomb attack in Comilla during the regular search of a passenger bus.

Two passengers of the Dhaka-bound Shyamoli Paribahan bus have been arrested with four improvised bombs after the attack on Tuesday morning, police said.

Identities of the detainees could not be confirmed immediately.

Maynamati Highway police’s Officer-in-Charge Mahbur Rahman said the incident took place at Chandina upazila around 11:30am.

“As soon as police stopped the bus coming from Cox’s Bazar, the miscreants lobbed a bomb at police and tried to flee,” he said.

No policeman was injured.

One of the miscreants was injured in police firing when he was trying to escape. Police detained the other.

Full report at:

http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/crime/2017/03/07/bomb-hurled-police-regular-vehicle-search-comilla/

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Explosion in Kabul leaves one person dead

Mar 07 2017

An explosion took place in Kabul city earlier this morning with preliminary reports suggesting one person was killed in the incident.

The explosion took place in the vicinity of the 6th police district of the city triggered by a magnetic bomb.

Eyewitnesses in the area said the magnetic bomb was planted in a civilian vehicle and went off around 7 am today in the vicinity of Dar-ul-Aman road and the Charqala road.

However, a security official in the 6th police district said the bomb was planted in a government vehicle and one was person killed in the incident.

No group has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.

This comes as a coordinated attack took place in the vicinity of 6th police district last week, leaving scores of people dead or wounded.

The incident near the 6th police district compound took place after a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb with the remaining militants starting clash with the security forces.

Full report at:

The Taliban group claimed responsibility behind the attacks last week.

http://www.khaama.com/explosion-in-kabul-leaves-one-person-dead-02345

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2 heroin factories destroyed by Afghan forces in Nangarhar

Mar 06 2017

The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) personnel discovered an destroyed two heroin factories in the eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

According to the local government officials, the two factories were located in Kambo area of Khogyani district which were discovered by the Special Forces of the Ministry of Interior.

The officials further added that the operation to destroy the two factories was launched around 8 pm local time and concluded in the early hours of Monday morning.

The provincial government media office in a statement said this is not the first time the Afghan forces have discovered and destroyed major heroin factories in this province but several factories were destroyed during the similar operations in the past.

This comes as there has been a sharp rise in opium cultivation, production and smuggling across the country during the recent months.

According to the last survey report, there has been a 43 per cent rise in opium cultivation in Afghanistan.

The survey jointly conducted by the Afghan authorities and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, around 201,000 acres of land were cultivated with opium in 2016.

The report further added that estimates show a total of 4,800 metric tons of opium will be produced in 2016.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/2-heroin-factories-destroyed-by-afghan-forces-in-nangarhar-02343

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Southeast Asia

 

Testimony to close Malaysia-Saudi relations

March 7, 2017

Malaysia has long been recognised as a world leader in promoting and brokering peace through various efforts, spanning from Africa to the Middle East, southern Thailand and the southern Philippines.

Thus, it was a great honour and a feather in the cap when Saudi Arabia announced the setting up of the King Salman Centre for International Peace at the Islamic Science University Malaysia (USIM) in Nilai, Negri Sembilan, to promote world peace and stability.

The centre, which was set up in conjunction with Saudi Arabia ruler King Salman Abdulaziz al-Saud’s state visit to Malaysia last week, will be launched in three months and is testimony to the close and cordial relations between the two countries.

It will be established in collaboration with the Saudi Arabian Defence Ministry’s Intellectual Warfare Centre, Malaysian Defence Ministry’s Security and Defence Centre, USIM and the Muslim World League.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the two governments had agreed to establish the centre in Malaysia.

It will focus on combating extreme narratives as well as the need to intensify joint efforts to combat terrorism in all forms and manifestations, whatever the origin.

USIM Vice-Chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Musa Ahmad said the recognition was a big honour for the university, country and international Muslim community.

The setting up of the centre is pertinent and timely because of numerous conflicts and wars ravaging Muslim nations, such as in Syria and Palestine.

It is the responsibility of all Muslim stakeholders to bring peace and stability back to Muslim nations, as well as elevating the status of the faith. This responsibility can be spearheaded by Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

Both countries have agreed on the need to intensify and concert their efforts to confront extremism, reject sectarianism and move the Islamic world towards a better future.

This is in line with objectives of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), that is to achieve international peace and security.

The vital part is the recognition by Saudi Arabia and the Muslim world that Malaysia can lead efforts to counter the threat of extremism and play a significant role in the global arena.

USIM will do well in managing the centre under the leadership of Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, as well as the Muslim World League.

This is because USIM has the expertise to assist the government in disseminating the true teachings of Islam to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

At the same time, USIM can explain in detail the concept of wasatiyyah, or Islamic moderation, as propagated by both Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

USIM will be able to convey the government’s aspirations as it has abundant Islamic academia at its disposal. Malaysia will be able to disseminate well the message that violence should not be linked with any race, colour or religious background.

It is envisioned that by 2050, the world will have a global population of nine billion people, of which, three billion are Muslims.

It is believed that the resurgence of Islam will not be in the Middle East, but in Asia, of which Malaysia will be at the centre of that growth.

Malaysia is renowned as the biggest issuer of Islamic bonds, a world-class manager of haj pilgrimage and also a major player in Islamic banking.

At a dialogue with students in USIM last month on “Transformasi Nasional 2050: From an Islamic Point of View”, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on the international front, Malaysia would continue to be well regarded among OIC countries because, in the past, it had played a dominant role in resolving disputes.

“There is no place for religious extremists in the Islamic world because studies have shown that 87.5 per cent of extremists from other countries have no basic Islamic background, which is proof that extremism does not originate solely from the Muslim world,” said Zahid.

Zaidi Isham Ismail, a former assistant news editor at the Business Times, is NST’s Negri Sembilan bureau chief.

http://www.nst.com.my/news/2017/03/218277/testimony-close-malaysia-saudi-relations

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Marina ‘glad’ Muslim lawyers standing up for atheists

BY YISWAREE PALANSAMY

March 6, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, March 6 — Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir welcomed today a Muslim lawyers group’s defence of atheists when it protested against making the Rukunegara a preamble to the Federal Constitution.

Malay rights group Perkasa and a group of 31 lawyers and academics at a roundtable talk yesterday strongly opposed the proposal by the group calling themselves “Rukunegara Muqaddimah Perlembagaan” (RMP), which Marina is a part of.

"This is coming from the Muslim lawyer? Well I'm glad he's standing up for atheists Congratulations! I'm glad he believes in freedom of belief," Marina said, referring to Muslim Lawyers Association Malaysia president, Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar.

During the discussion, Zainul lamented that the rights of atheists to not believe in the existence of God would be affected if the Rukunegara was made a preamble of the Federal Constitution, as “belief in God” was one of the five tenets of the National Principles.

Marina however said that the Rukunegara by itself cannot alter the provisions in the Federal Constitution.

"Well I think there is misunderstanding, because the Rukunegara upholds the Federal Constitution. So whatever is in the Constitution, remains unchanged. The preamble by itself, cannot change the Constitution. I don't know what they are talking about.

"But again, I would like to congratulate Datuk Zainul Rijal for considering those who do not believe in God," she told Malay Mail Online when contacted.

RMP head Dr. Chandra Muzaffar also echoed Marina's sentiment, adding that the group proposed the suggestion to enable the Rukunegara to act as a moral compass and not to undermine the special privilege of the Malays and Islam, as alleged by Muslim academics and lawyers during the Sunday discussion.

"No way this will undermine the special position of Malays and those from Sabah and Sarawak.  Why? Because Article 153 and others related to the special position of the Malays and those from Sabah and Sarawak are entrenched in the Constitution and no one can change it.

"Not the Parliament or the electorates can change that. These are protected by the Conference of Rulers. It has iron-clad protection," Chandra said, adding that allegations that the Rukunegara would alter the Federal Constitution were without basis, aimed to create a climate of fear.

Article 153 of the Federal Constitution grants the Yang di-Pertuan Agong responsibility for safeguarding the special position of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak, as well as the legitimate interests of other communities.

It also detailed ways to do this, such as establishing quotas for entry into the civil service, public scholarships and public education.

As for the position of Islam, Chandra said that Article 3 of the Federal Constitution already safeguards Islam's position and the Rukunegara, as per one of its tenets "keluhuran perlembagaan” (nobleness of the Constitution) only aims to uphold that.

"Since the Rukunegara itself upholds the Constitution, why should one worry about the position of Islam?" he questioned.

Full report at:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/marina-glad-muslim-lawyers-standing-up-for-atheists

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Malaysia Takes a Turn for the Religious Sinister Side

March 6, 2017

Two very worrying trends in Malaysia may have come together: the rise of religious intolerance and the use of murder as a political weapon.

The well-organized kidnap and disappearance of a Chinese Christian pastor, Raymond Koh Keng Joo on Feb. 13 in the middle of Petaling Jaya, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, was clearly driven by his promotion of Christianity. His disappearance and the lack of any news or ransom demand suggest he has likely been killed and his body disposed of. If so, whether his corpse was blown up in the manner of Altantuya Shaaribu, the pregnant Mongolian model and translator murdered by then-Defense Minister Najib Razak’s security personnel, or in a drum of concrete like 1MDB investigator from the Attorney General’s department, Kevin Anthomy Morais, or otherwise, remains to be seen.

What is clear is that the broad daylight morning kidnap operation was brazen and highly organized. Witnesses and a video posted on-line reported that three large SUVs, two following cars and two motorcycles were involved, with masked men holding up traffic, blocking Koh’s car, seizing him and bundling him into one of the vehicles. Witnesses reported that there were at least five abductors, who were driving black 4x4s, and that one of them calmly filmed the incident. The operation of less than a minute took place just 100 metres from a police complex.

Despite the evidence of witnesses and the video, the police have made no progress either in identifying the kidnappers or tracing the victim. Koh’s family has offered a RM100,000 (US$22,500) reward for his safe return but there has been no response. It is not clear how much effort an increasingly politicized police force has invested in finding Koh and his kidnappers.

Koh was viewed by some Christian groups as being too high-profile for his own good given the rise in Muslim fanaticism in what is supposed to be multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation. In 2011 Koh was accused by the Selangor Religious Affairs Department of trying to convert Malays to Christianity. However, the issue was dropped due lack of evidence.

The kidnap and possible murder coincides with the introduction into parliament by the head of Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) leader Abdul Hadi Awang of a long-delayed bill to increase the powers of sharia courts which in turn could lead to the introduction of hudud, seventh-century Islamic corporal punishments including amputating limbs of thieves and stoning to death of adulterers, more likely, in this society, adulteresses while their lovers walk free.

Although the bill is unlikely to become law, the massive 1Malaysia Development Bhd. scandal, in which as much as US$1 billion of public funds is suspected to have flowed into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s  bank account, and other scandals besetting the prime minister are making him ever more susceptible to trading religious intolerance for support at the polls, a scenario that the rural-based PAS is only too happy to take advantage of.

Although an absurdly skewed electoral system makes a nonsense of democracy in Malaysia, Najib has become increasingly ruthless in his treatment of critics and is open to all methods of keeping himself in office ranging from asking Chinese state companies to help to bail out 1MDB and Muslim extremists who claim they represent Malay interests but in practice like to impose medieval Arab forms and dress on Malays.

The fate of Koh is evidently meant as a warning to non-Muslims. In the context of Peninsular Malaysia, where Malays are deemed to be children incapable of making their own decisions about religion, it is also a racist message to the non-Malay 30 percent of the population: leave us to our intolerance or we will punish you.

Full report at:

http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/malaysia-turn-religious-sinister-side/

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Judges refuse to hear testimony of Ahok's Muslim godbrother

March 7, 2017

Judges presiding over the blasphemy trial of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama refused to hear testimony on Tuesday from his Muslim godbrother, Analta Amir, as the latter had attended a previous hearing.

Presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto made the decision after complaints from prosecutors, who said Analta had attended one of Ahok’s previous hearings though it was prohibited for a witness to do so.

Analta admitted that he had once attended an earlier hearing, during which the court heard testimony from witnesses presented by prosecutors. 

“As the witness has heard testimonies of other witnesses, the judges believe this witness cannot be questioned,” Dwiarso said during a hearing held by the North Jakarta District Court at the Agriculture Ministry in Ragunan, South Jakarta.

He added that the court’s judges had reminded anyone expected to be presented as a witness in the trial to leave the courtroom before each hearing started.

Dwiarso said Ahok’s lawyers should have reminded Analta to leave the courtroom.

He said witnesses could attend some court hearings but not those that featured witness testimony. He added that Ahok’s lawyers were allowed to present another witness to replace Analta.

Full report at:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/07/judges-refuse-to-hear-testimony-of-ahoks-muslim-godbrother.html

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Mideast

 

Houthis prevent international delegation from entering Sanaa

7 March 2017

In what appears to be a new violation of laws and international treaties, Houthi militias refused to allow the UN sanctions team from entering the Yemeni capital of Sanaa and all areas under its control.

During a meeting with Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed bin Daghr in Aden, UN sanctions team coordinator Ahmed Himmich said in a statement that the delegation seeks to take a stand on the violations that directly affect civilians and brief the UN.

Meanwhile, 14 civilians were killed and injured in a raid carried out by Houthi militias and militias allied to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, which targeted civilian neighborhoods in the center of Taiz City.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/03/07/Houthis-prevent-international-delegation-from-entering-Sanaa.html

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Official admits 2,100 Iran fighters killed in Iraq, Syria

7 March 2017

More than 2,000 fighters sent from Iran have been killed in Iraq and Syria, the head of Iran’s veterans’ affairs office said Tuesday.

“Some 2,100 martyrs have been martyred so far in Iraq or other places defending the holy mausoleums,” Mohammad Ali Shahidi told the state-run IRNA news agency.

Shahidi, who is head of Iran’s Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs, was speaking at a conference on martyrdom culture in Tehran. The figure was more than double the number he gave in November, which referred only to Syria.

Iran is, with Russia, the main military backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and also organizes militias fighting ISIS. Shahidi did not provide details on the nationalities of those killed.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/03/07/Official-admits-2-100-Iran-fighters-killed-in-Iraq-Syria.html

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Trump and Netanyahu talk Iran ‘dangers’ over nuclear deal

7 March 2017

US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday had a long phone conversation about strategic threats posed by Iran, the premier’s office said.

“The two leaders spoke at length about the dangers arising from the nuclear deal with Iran and Iranian aggression in the (Middle East) region and the need to work together to deal with those dangers,” it said in a statement.

The landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was reached in July 2015 and went into effect in January last year.

It saw Iran agree to dismantle part of its nuclear program, surrender enriched fuel and submit to international inspections in exchange for the partial lifting of sanctions.

But critics of the agreement, particularly Netanyahu, argue that when some of the clauses of the deal expire in 10 and 15 years, it will leave Tehran on the threshold of building a bomb.

Trump too is a vociferous opponent of the treaty.

The US president told Netanyahu the nuclear agreement was “one of the worst deals” he had ever seen when the two met at the White House last month.

Trump said his administration had already imposed new sanctions on Iran, and he would do more to prevent Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapon.

Washington last month imposed new sanctions on individuals and companies supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program and on its elite Revolutionary Guards.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/03/07/Trump-and-Netanyahu-talk-Iran-dangers-over-nuclear-deal.html

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US warns of underwater mines planted by Houthis in Bab al-Mandeb

6 March 2017

The US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) warned merchant ships from the dangers of mines that were set by Houthis and militias allied to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Bab al-Mandeb near the Mokha port entrance.

A report issued by the ONI stated that the attacks on ships in the strait, especially commercial ones, will trigger the involvement of other parties, pointing out that the US Navy will deploy all the needed efforts to protect the freedom of ships.

Bab el-Mandeb, which is 25 kilometers wide, is a very important waterway for global navigation, through which merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden sail to the Red Sea, and then to the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea.

It is one of the most crowded waterways for oil transportation in the Middle East and other regions. More than 60 commercial ships cross the strait of Bab al-Mandeb with more than 3.3 million oil barrels per day.

The US warning noted that the closure of this waterway would lead to substantial increases in total energy costs and global oil prices.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/03/06/US-warns-of-underwater-mines-planted-by-Houthis-in-Bab-al-Mandeb.html

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Iran won’t leave US human rights claims unanswered: Judiciary chief

Mar 6, 2017

Iran's Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani has refuted the recent US allegations about human rights violations in the Islamic Republic, saying Tehran will not leave such claims “unanswered.”

Addressing a meeting of senior Iranian judicial officials on Monday, Amoli Larijani added that US reports against the human rights situation in Iran are based on false reports provided by members of the anti-Iran terrorist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO).

“The US claims in this regard have no value in the eyes of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the US government must know that the repetition of such threadbare methods by using the MKO as a tool to attack the Islamic Republic will not remain unanswered,” he said.

He dismissed as routine the US Department of State’s move to level such allegations against Iran in its 2016 human rights report, which was released on March 3.

“The Americans, who are directly or indirectly involved in various anti-human rights crimes in Vietnam, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and other parts of the world, are not entitled to make rights claims against Iran,” Amoli Larijani said.

He called on the Iranian government to give a firm response to such claims.

The judiciary chief’s comments came after Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Saturday that the United States is in no position to make any judgment about other countries’ human rights situation.

“The US government, due to its very bad and dark record of human rights, whether inside the country or at international level, is not in a position to comment on the human rights situation in other countries,” Qassemi said.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/06/513282/Iran-US-Judiciary-Chief-Ayatollah-Sadeq-Amoli-Larijani-human-rights-MKO

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Israeli parliament passes bill barring BDS supporters’ entry

Mar 7, 2017

The Israeli parliament has passed legislation barring the entry of supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

"The Knesset (parliament) passed on its second and third readings of the entry into Israel bill," read a statement released on Monday.

It noted that visas and permanent residency of any manner will not be granted to foreigners if they or their organization which they are active in have issued public calls for the BDS or pledged to take part in it.

"In recent years calls to boycott Israel have been growing… It seems this is a new front in the war against Israel,” added the statement.

Critics of the bill say that its wording leaves it open to target Palestinians temporarily residing in the occupied territories.

The BDS movement was initiated in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations that were pushing for “various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law.”

Thousands of volunteers worldwide have joined the BDS to help promote the Palestinian cause, including scores of Palestinian and international trade unions, NGOs, initiatives, scores of academic societies, business societies, trade unions, and cultural figures.

It has also gained support in countries such as the US, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Romania, South Africa, Australia, and Britain.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/07/513308/bds-israel-bill-ban-foreigner

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Turkey won’t plan Manbij attack without US, Russia coordination

Mar 6, 2017

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says his country will not plan an attack on the Kurdish-held city of Manbij without the coordination of US and Russia.

"(Without such coordination) there wouldn't be much of a result and things could get more complicated," said Yildirim during a televised interview on Monday.

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that when Turkey’s forces complete their operations in al-Bab, they will move towards Manbij, which is held by US-backed Kurdish forces. “Now it is time for Manbij, which belongs to the Arabs, not the PYD or YPG,” he said.

Kurdish forces, mainly the Democratic Union Party, also known as the PYD, and its military wing the YPG, liberated the northern Syrian city of Manbij from Daesh last year. They are now currently in control of nearly all of Syria’s entire northern border with Turkey.

After the announcement, Turkish forces seized two Kurdish-held villages located to the east of al-Bab following heavy clashes with the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF is a coalition of Arab fighters and forces from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), who are currently in control of nearly all of Syria’s entire northern border with Turkey.

In August 2016, Turkey began a major military intervention in Syria, dubbed "Euphrates Shield," sending tanks and warplanes across the border. Ankara claimed that its military campaign was aimed at pushing Daesh from Turkey's border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish forces, but Damascus denounced the operation as a breach of its sovereignty.

US bolstering presence in Manbij

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has announced that it has sent additional US soldiers into northern Syria to deter rival forces in the region from attacking each other instead of Daesh.

Defense Department spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the additional soldiers had been deployed to Manbij over the past few days.

"We have brought in some additional forces to be able to do this reassurance and deterrence mission," he said.

"We have made visible actions in deploying US forces as part of the coalition in and around Manbij to reassure and deter - that's to deter parties from attacking any other parties other than Daesh itself," he added.   

The US has around 500 special operations forces deployed in northern Syria. Their location is usually kept secret.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/06/513300/turkey-syria-us-manbij

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Former South Sudanese general forms anti-government rebel group

Mar 7, 2017

A former South Sudanese army general, who resigned last month, has formed a new anti-government rebel group, pledging to topple President Salva Kiir.

Lieutenant General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, the former deputy head of logistics, quit his position last month, citing abuses by government forces and accusing Kiir of transforming the country’s military into a “tribal army.”

He had said the military, police and other security branches systematically recruited from among the Dinka, the president’s tribe.

Swaka was one of the three senior military officials who resigned in February, accusing Kiir’s government of “tribalism,” “corruption” and other abuses.

The former general announced in a statement on Monday that the new rebel group, called the National Salvation Front (NSF), “is convinced that to restore sanity and normalcy in our country, Kiir must go; he must vacate office.”

He also pledged that his rebel group would “fight to eradicate the malady that has badly tarnished the image of South Sudan.”

Swaka also slammed the “above-the-law culture and mentality,” which he says prevailed among top officials in the military, adding that such an approach is to blame for rampant crime, including robberies, rapes and embezzlement of public funds.

South Sudan’s army spokesman, Brig-Gen Lul Ruai Koang, said he had no immediate comment on the news.

The rebel group will apparently increase instability in the youngest country in Africa, which has already been grappling with violence fueled by another rebel group for more than three years.

A bloody civil war in South Sudan began in December 2013, when Kiir accused his former vice president Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him.

The two sides then got involved in a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the impoverished country along ethnic lines between the Dinka and Nuer communities.

The two sides then got involved in a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the impoverished country along ethnic lines between the Dinka and Nuer communities.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than three million forced to flee their homes in the war.

The two sides eventually signed an agreement in August 2015 to bring the conflict to an end. As part of the deal, Machar returned to Juba in April 2016 to take up the post of vice president in a national unity government.

In July 2016, Kiir sacked Machar again after a new wave of fighting erupted. Machar is currently in exile in South Africa after fleeing the new spate of violence.

The UN and international rights groups have on numerous occasions criticized both Machar’s loyalists and government troops of committing atrocities during their military operations.

In a report obtained by the Associated Press on Monday, the world body said the Juba government is blocking desperately-needed food aid and restricting UN peacekeepers.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/07/513344/South-Sudan-rebel-group-Kiir

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4 policemen killed in 'terrorist' attack in western Niger

Mar 6, 2017

An attack on a police post west of Niger has left at least four officers dead.

A security source said Monday that the attack, which took place a day earlier, struck Wanzarbe, a town located in the western region of Tillaberi.

“The provisional toll is four police officers killed in a clear terrorist attack on Sunday night," said the source, adding that the assault targeted a police station.

The government of Niger on Saturday declared a state of emergency in Tillaberi and other areas near the country’s border with Mali and Burkina Faso.

 Tillaberi and neighboring Tahoua region have witnessed several deadly attacks by militants from MUJAO, a terror outfit mainly operating in West Africa region. Most of those attacks have targeted army posts and refugee camps, including a late February assault in Ouallam, Tillaberi, which killed 16 soldiers and wounded 18 others.

Last October, a daring attack on a refugee camp in Tahoua also left 22 soldiers dead.

Officials say at least 43 people were killed in militant attacks in Tillaberi and Tahoua between October 2016 and February this year.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/06/513274/Niger-terror-attack-Boko-Haram-

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Europe

 

French-Muslim Blog Star Ruined After Anti-Semitic Tweets Revealed

Mar 06, 2017

Mehdi Meklat, a 24-year-old writer once hailed as a voice of France’s immigrant youth community, has fallen from grace following revelations that he has for years been churning out anti-Semitic, mysogynistic, homophobic and pro-jihadi tweets.

Meklat, along with writing partner Badrouine Said Abdallah, shot to fame through the Bondy Blog, a site created for and by sub-Saharan and North African second-generation immigrants seeking to celebrate “ethnic diversity” and insert “the stories from the ‘hood into the larger national debates.”

Meklat has indeed penetrated that debate, but in the position of subject rather than commentator. His more than 50,000 offensive tweets from 2012 to 2014 have exposed France’s complex struggle with freedom of speech, and difficulties integrating the marginalized Muslims immigrants of the suburbs in an era of rising vitriol.

Meklat’s tweets covered the gamut of offensive topics. Before the Césars, the French Oscars, he tweeted: “Bring on Hitler to kill the Jews.” Just before the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, he tweeted about the magazine’s editor Stephane Charbonnier, or “Charb”: “Charb, what I’d really like to do is shove some Laguiole knives up his …” He praised Mohammad Merah, who murdered Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse: “I find the phrase, ‘I love death the way you love life,’ of Mohammed Merah troubling in its beauty.” In blatant homophobia: “Long live the fags, long live AIDS under President Francois Hollande.”

Of far-right French politician Marine Le Pen, he wrote that he would “slit her throat the Muslim way.”

In a lengthy note on Facebook Meklat apologized for the posts while attempting to absolve himself of culpability, claiming to be victim of a time when Twitter was “a digital Wild West. A new object, almost confidential, where no rule was enacted, no moderation exercised.”

He had tweeted under the name Marcelin Deschamps, inspired by French Dada artist Marcel Duchamp. The stunt, he said, was a commentary on the racism of France’s Old Guard, but “quickly became an evil villain … who couldn’t be stopped” in his attempts to “provoke.” The social media alter-ego had “nothing to do with me… It is now dead and should have never existed,” Meklat wrote.

Meklat is a Muslim Algerian who grew up in Seine-Saint-Denis, one of the immigrant-heavy suburbs that last month was enveloped in anti-police riots after the alleged rape of a 22-year-old black man by an officer. To his community, and quickly to the French intelligentsia, Meklat’s literary talents symbolized hope for a racial bridge in a sharply divided France that has struggled to balance the values of multiculturalism against its legally-enshrined (some say militant) principle of “laïcité,” or secularism.

“You have life on your side, you have your experiences, your wanderings, your loves, your past that sticks to your present, anchored in you. But it does not matter until you have no money. You are therefore a slave,” wrote Meklat with his writing partner Badrouine Said Abdallah in their recent novel Minute. As Meklat gained accolades for his creative projects, the media discovered his second Twitter account, but barely responded. That was until a French tweeter, identified by Le Monde as a teacher, expressed outrage at one of Meklat’s television appearances. The teacher pleaded, successfully, for the country to demand the author answer for Meklat’s obscene and offensive tweets.

Muslims, especially, have been in the center of France’s long-brewing national identity crisis. But Meklat’s vast log of tweets have highlighted another, complex layer to the dilemma: the penchant for anti-Semitism among those minority Muslims groups on one hand, and, on the other, the complaisance and impunity for hate speech in the French leftist media.

“The Meklat affair’ happened precisely because this young journalist represents what the press wanted for a rebranding, without any consideration for the lateral damage or for the reality of the problems and difficulties of the neighborhoods from which such people stem,” wrote political scientist Laurent Bouvet in Le Figaro, a French daily.

The “Meklat affair” has also given fuel to France’s rising far-right, including Marine Le Pen’s niece Marion Le Pen, who placed the blame with France’s left-wing media.

Meklat’s fall from grace comes amid tumult in France as well as a rise of a new generation of immigrant artists who walk a fine line between mocking the racism of the country’s traditional establishment and using it themselves. French comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala has built a lucrative career on anti-Semitic jokes and denial of the Holocaust, which in France has in recent years receded into a kind of bunker mentality in the wake of numerous violent attacks, including murders at Jewish elementary schools. Last month, in the first trial of an underage defendant, a court sentenced a teenager to seven years in jail for the January 2016 stabbing of a Jewish teacher in Marseille. Many Jews have fled the country, saying the French government has abandoned its Jewish communities and has taken no steps towards combating radicalization and casual anti-Semitism in those communities.

Mehdi Meklat recently told Télérama magazine that the controversy has caused him to leave France, saying he was “the target of a life-threatening fascist-sphere, waiting for me at every street corner.”

“I created a character, it’s a fictional character,” Meklat told the New York Times last week from an undisclosed location. “He had no morality, his whole business was provocation — massive, extreme provocation, bad jokes. We laughed about it, my friends, the journalists around me.”

But while Meklat seems intent on evading full responsibility, Christiane Taubira, a former justice minister who was featured alongside Meklat and Badrouine Said Abdallah on a recent cover of Inrocks, a French culture magazine, said that she regretted allowing him to take a platform beside her.

“His remarks are worthy of consternation as substantial as an atomic crater,” she posted on Facebook. “And if it was a game, it is too noxious and too dangerous not to be subject to rigorous scrutiny”

http://www.vocativ.com/408367/french-muslim-blog-star-anti-semitic-tweets/

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