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Islamic World News (29 Dec 2018 NewAgeIslam.Com)


NIA Arrest 10: ‘Group’s Mastermind Found His Friend and Guide on Facebook’















Recovered weapons from the raid in UP and Delhi (Express photo: Anil Sharma)

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NIA Arrest 10: ‘Group’s Mastermind Found His Friend and Guide on Facebook’

Islamic State in Ukraine: A Christmas present from the West – a British Politician

Taliban Seek Image Makeover as Afghan Peace Talks Gain Momentum

Pakistan SC Declares PTICEF as Terrorist Body, Directing the Government to Ban the Turkish Charity Linked With Fethullah Gulen

Sultan Nazrin: State Religious Councils Must Play Role as Think Tanks

US, Israel to Block Planned Palestinian Statehood Initiative at UN

 

Europe

Islamic State in Ukraine: A Christmas present from the West – a British Politician

German troops may leave Afghanistan if US forces withdraw: Report

UK spotter credited with breaking news of Trump's Iraq trip

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India

NIA Arrest 10: ‘Group’s Mastermind Found His Friend and Guide on Facebook’

Hyderabad Local Muslim Organizations Oppose Upcoming Event of Extremist Group, Dawat-e-Islami

LeT militant killed in encounter in J&K’s Pulwama

‘Plotter’ Tried to Radicalise Lucknow Woman’s Son: NIA

ISI plot to target Army foiled, illegal phone exchange busted in Hyderabad

Pakistan link in IS terror module, NIA headquarters was on target

Oppn Signs Resolution Seeking Joint Committee Route for Triple Talaq Bill

Darul Uloom Deoband Opposes Triple Talaq Bill

Azam on Triple Talaq Bill: Muslims Will Follow Only Quran, Hadith

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South Asia

Taliban Seek Image Makeover as Afghan Peace Talks Gain Momentum

Fresh Violence Mars Bangladesh Election as Campaigning Ends

Promising growth, Bangladesh’s iron lady seeks re-election

140 BNP-Jamaat men held in Khulna, Barishal

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Pakistan

Pakistan SC Declares PTICEF as Terrorist Body, Directing the Government to Ban the Turkish Charity Linked With Fethullah Gulen

Pakistan army chief confirms death penalty for 22 'hardcore terrorists'

Power has turned those in Islamabad blind to people’s plight: Zardari

SC wants compensation plan for people hit by violence

‘No plan to impose governor’s rule on Sindh’

MQM-P urges PM to ensure security of leaders

New York city avenue to be named after Jinnah

COAS installs Lt Gen Bilal Akbar as Colonel Commandant of Mujahid Force

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Southeast Asia

Sultan Nazrin: State Religious Councils Must Play Role as Think Tanks

Muhyiddin Blames PAS, Umno for Unrest among Muslims

Malays must change their value system to succeed, says Dr M

Mosque in signature drive against alcohol sale in nearby stores

Malaysian corporate icons reach out to Syrian refugees in Turkey

Police arrest alleged Quran burner in North Sumatra

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North America

US, Israel to Block Planned Palestinian Statehood Initiative at UN

US Security Body: Khashoggi Qatari-Turkish Agent, Washington Post Must Respond

Outgoing Pentagon chief Mattis rejects Netanyahu's appeal: Report

Iran: President Trump's 'sneak trip' a disrespect to Iraq

Syrian refugee teen hospitalised after US school assault

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Africa

Police Deny Dismissing 121 Officers for Absconding From Deployment against Boko Haram

Boko Haram Launches Series of Attacks In North-East Nigeria

Boat carrying over 300 migrants rescued off Libya reaches Spain

Sudan security forces fire tear gas, stun grenades at protesters near Khartoum

How NAF, allied air forces helped to flush Boko Haram out of Baga

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Arab World

Jaysh Al-Islam Sends Large Convoy to Manbij Front-Lines

Saudi Arabia ‘not in crisis’ over Khashoggi affair: FM

Aleppo: Syrian Army Enters Strategic Town of Manbij

Vast Popular Protest Reported in Northeastern Syria against Turkish Occupiers

Hama: Syrian Army Foils Terrorists' Attacks from Demilitarized Zone

Three killed, 10 injured in tourist bus explosion near Egypt's Pyramids

Mauritanian President Abdel Aziz next Arab leader in line to visit Damascus

Kuwait to reopen embassy in Syria for first time in seven years

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Mideast

Yemen: Houthis Prevent Government Delegation from Leaving Hodeidah

Israeli Helicopter Conducts Fresh Airstrike against Blockaded Gaza Strip

Yemeni govt accuses Houthi militias of stalling prisoner swap process

Agreement reached on opening road connecting Yemen’s Sanaa with Hodeidah, Taiz

Israeli troops kill Palestinian in Gaza: Ministry

Turkey will have no business in Syria's Manbij if YPG leaves, says Erdogan

Turkey detains dozens over alleged Daesh links

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Australia

Australia strips citizenship from alleged Daesh recruiter

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/nia-arrest-10--‘group’s-mastermind-found-his-friend-and-guide-on-facebook’/d/117306

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NIA Arrest 10: ‘Group’s Mastermind Found His Friend and Guide on Facebook’

By Deeptiman Tiwary

December 29, 2018

In a bid to attract attention of Islamic State (IS) sympathisers online, Mufti Suhail — the alleged mastermind of an IS-affiliated group busted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on December 26 — had chosen to identify himself on the internet as Abu Basir al Khurasani. The latter part of this moniker, intelligence sources said, was an attempt to indicate his location and allegiance — the Af-Pak-India region and the IS Khorasan, operational in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar, respectively.

As the 29-year-old Islamic preacher from Amroha, began trawling the internet, he soon found a “friend and guide” on Facebook, sources said. This guide, who claimed to be an office bearer of the IS, had allegedly assumed identity of Abu Malik Peshwari. It was this entity that over time not only convinced Suhail to allegedly embrace the ideology of IS, but also egged him on to engage in activities for establishing Shariah law in India.

It was on his directions that Suhail allegedly got in touch with his friends and acquaintences and began motivating them to engage in IS activities.

“After coming in touch with each other on Facebook, the two exchanged numbers and began talking regularly through social media channels, such as Telegram. Suhail, in turn, created a separate online group where he brought in his friends and acquaintances. He alone kept in touch with this foreign handler, who passed on instructions through Suhail to others,” an officer in the know of the investigation details said.

The officer also ruled out any connection between the module led by Hyderabad IS recruit Abdullah Basith and the module led by Suhail. “There is no connection as yet that has come to light. The handlers of the two groups also appear to be different people. The handler of the Abdullah Basith group had the online identity of Abu Huzaifa,” an intelligence source said.

The module, led by Basith, had been busted by NIA in August this year. It was found to be connected to some members of the Islamic State in Jammu and Kashmir.

As reported by The Indian Express on December 23, Abu Huzaifa was found to be in touch with both the ISJK members and Basith, and had allegedly asked one of the ISJK members to help Basith join the group. Two members of this ISJK group had been arrested by the Delhi police from Amroha, from where Mufti Suhail and some of his associates hail.

The NIA had Wednesday arrested 10 people from Delhi and UP for allegedly being a part of a self-appointed module of the IS. The NIA said the group was in an “advanced stage of carrying out a series of blasts” across the country and had “vital installations and important personalities, including politicians” on their target.

The agency said, it had recovered a huge cache of explosives, arms and ammunition from the accused. The arsenal included a rudimentary rocket launcher which two of the accused, the NIA said, had allegedly fashioned out of scrap. The recovery of over 25 kg of explosives, as many as 112 alarm clocks and 134 SIM cards also pointed to the planning of multiple blasts, the NIA said. The agency added it had recovered material that suggested preparation of a suicide vest along with online chatter that suggested fidayeen attacks. Recovery of remote-controlled devices has made the NIA suspect some of the bombs were to be detonated via remote control.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/nia-arrest-10-groups-mastermind-found-his-friend-and-guide-on-facebook-5514454/

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Islamic State in Ukraine: A Christmas present from the West – a British Politician

27 Dec, 2018

Islamist Chechen fighters who honed their combat skills at Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) training camps are at war against Ukrainian rebels, confirms the Times. Tumbleweed.

The report in British newspaper the Times, that Chechen Islamists, many reeling from defeat in Syria and Iraq amongst the alphabet soup of fanaticism, had indeed arrived at the war front in eastern Ukraine, woke me up from any Christmas torpor.

An earlier report in the New York Times had revealed that the Islamist Chechens were under the command of the fascist “Right Sector” and were there to “fight Russians” because “we like fighting Russians” and “will never stop fighting Russians.”

For the Times at Christmas it was enough to quote one of their commanders: “Putin is our common enemy.” A quote which of course could have come from the editor of the Times!

While the report was a wake-up call for me, not so the rest of the British media still less the British political class. Tumbleweed rolled over the media spaces where fear and loathing should have been. There was more interest in Strictly Come Dancing than the long bearded Islamist extremists, who were now, once again, our dancing partners in crime.

But it was always thus.

When I returned to the House of Commons in 2012 after a brief absence, I asked the then Prime Minister David Cameron if he had read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. And if so, if he had read it all the way to the end. The end in which the monster, the good doctor had so carelessly created, broke free from his control and began acting like, well, a monster.

On another occasion I was trapped in a lift briefly with the then Foreign Secretary William (now Lord) Hague. I told him: “William, you’ve been wrong before, in fact you’ve been wrong all your life. But you’ve never been insane before. This policy of putting knives in the hands of Islamist fanatics and allowing them to go to Syria is not just wrong, it’s insane.”

And one day, I added portentously: “Such men with such knives will be in this building and looking for you, looking for me.” Which came true just three years later.

My powers of prediction in parliament go back much further however.

On the eve of the fall of Kabul to the Islamist hordes nearly 30 years ago I told the former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: “You have opened the gates to the barbarians, and a long dark night will now descend upon the people of Afghanistan.”

It was certainly not the worst prediction I have ever made.

If I had been around at the time I would have issued the same alarm call about the British state adoption of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt against President Nasser, about British and US support for the obscurantists in the 1960s civil war in Yemen, about Israel’s adoption of what became Hamas in Gaza against President Arafat, about Western adoption of the extremists of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group against Gaddafi and many others. I would have warned them all: “Read Mary Shelley, read Frankenstein, and read it to the end.”

The policy of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” is a deeply immoral one, and one which has repeatedly failed yet is repeatedly repeated.

In the mid-1990s I gave a lecture to the International Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party about knowledge I had acquired through working with the Saudi opposition in London that someone called Osama Bin Laden had been oriented by the United States towards the Xinjiang region in China to agitate amongst the Uighur Muslim minority there, to exacerbate their alienation from the state, to take advantage of the weaknesses of Chinese State policy towards their Muslim citizens. And to sow terror.

So novel was the name Osama Bin Laden then that the International Department cadres crowded round me at the end asking me to spell his name for them. So important was my news that a week later I had to do it again for the deputy foreign minister of China. Back in 2015, the New York Times was at pains to point out that the fanatics who turned up at Mariupol were “unpaid volunteers” and that neither they nor their Right Sector commanders were paid or instructed by the United States special forces there nor for that matter by US officials. But that’s what they always say.

The US backs “moderate” fanatics only, just like in Syria. If you believe that, I have a bridge here in London I can sell you, going cheap.

It was bad enough when it was the Right Sector itself, assembled from half a dozen ultra-Nationalist groups like White Hammer, the Trident of Stepan Bandera, and the Azov Group which openly uses the “wolf’s hook” symbols of the SS.

These groups are open disciples of the anti-Semitic pogromists who fell upon their Jewish neighbours and murdered them during the Nazi Occupation of Ukraine. There was no need to wait for the trains or the concentration camps. And yet, they became instruments of policy for “liberal” “democracies”.

An axis of evil formed between them and the head-chopping, heart-eating, crucifying killers of Islamist extremism must mark a new low in Western policy. And the worst possible Christmas present for the Christians of eastern Ukraine.

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/447536-isis-chechen-islamists-ukraine/

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Taliban seek image makeover as Afghan peace talks gain momentum

2018-12-28

KABUL/PESHAWAR, Pakistan — As moves toward peace pick up in Afghanistan, the Taliban are trying to show they have changed since the brutal days of the 1990s when they banned music and girls’ education and carried out public executions in Kabul’s football stadium.

“If peace comes and the Taliban return, then our return will not be in the same harsh way as it was in 1996,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said, referring to the year they took over in Kabul before their ouster by US-led troops in 2001.

“We want to assure Afghan nationals that there will be no threat to anyone from our side.”

The comments come as moves toward peace negotiations have intensified, following a series of meetings between US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives over the past three months.

Expectations of a decisive shift have been heightened by reports that more than 5,000 US troops may be withdrawn from Afghanistan, in an abrupt about-turn from the previous US strategy of stepping up military pressure on the insurgents.

“Our opposition is with the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan. Once they are out and a peace deal is reached, then a nationwide amnesty will be announced,” said Mujahid.

“No one, police, army, government employees or anyone, will face revenge behavior from our side.”

Reports of the withdrawal are unconfirmed but they have triggered alarm among many Afghans with bitter memories of the Taliban’s ultra-hardline regime.

“I don’t think their mindset has changed but they have realized that without respecting human rights, they cannot be accepted by the international community,” said Bilal Sediqi, spokesman for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

With Afghanistan likely to remain dependent on foreign aid for years, the Taliban know they cannot return to the past when fighters swept into Kabul after the chaos of the 1990s civil war.

But they insist that as well as the withdrawal of foreign forces, there will be a return to their strict version of Islamic rule and many Afghans doubt their claims to have softened, even while yearning for an end to the war.

In June, Taliban leaders were angry at their fighters swapping selfies with soldiers and government officials and eating ice cream with civilians during a three-day ceasefire. Soon afterward, they launched complex attacks on strategic provinces to try to oust Afghan forces and used civilians as human shields.

“I know there is no place for me if the Taliban return in their old style,” said Abdul, a 12-year police veteran currently working in the western province of Farah.

“...I will stand by the government side whatever it decides. But still I have not lost my hope in the future. The Taliban are not the old ones. We see changes among them. They are also tired of war.”

The Taliban, a predominantly ethnic Pashtun movement, strongest in the south and east of the country, now control large stretches of the countryside, where they levy taxes, run courts and control education.

For many conservative rural Afghans, Taliban rule provides welcome stability and the merciless punishments and rigid controls on women’s rights fit well with traditional practices in many areas.

In the Aqtash district of northern Kunduz province, a hotbed of Taliban insurgents, some women said they are allowed to walk freely and do not have to cover their faces in all-enveloping burqas.

Mujahid said the Taliban were not against women’s education or employment but wanted to maintain cultural and religious codes.

“We are not against women working in government organizations or against their outdoor activities, but we will be against the alien culture clothes worn by women, brought to our country,” Mujahid said.

Omaid Maisam, the deputy spokesman for Afghan Chief Executive officer Abdullah Abdullah, said the government protects human rights and the Taliban must accept the national constitution to shed their hardline image.

“We have seen some signs of changes among them, but they have to show it in their actions that they have really changed,” he said.

Many believe the return on the Taliban would threaten the gains the country has made since 2001. Much work remains to be done to convince women in work or education and skeptical groups of ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras from northern and central Afghanistan.

“I think that these statements that the Taliban have changed are only excuses that are being used by the Taliban to gain acceptance,” said Malina Hamidi, a teacher at a school in the Chamtal district of Balkh province.

“I am 100 percent confident that once they come back to power, they will be the same Taliban that ruled Afghanistan in the nineties.” — Reuters

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/article/551156/World/Asia/Taliban-seek-image-makeover-as-Afghan-peace-talks-gain-momentum

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Pakistan SC Declares PTICEF as Terrorist Body, Directing the Government to Ban the Turkish Charity Linked With Fethullah Gulen

Dec 29, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Friday declared the Pak-Turk International Cag Education Foundation (PTICEF) a terrorist organisation, directing the Government to ban the Turkish charity linked with US-based Muslim cleric and educator Fethullah Gulen and hand over its schools to a pro-Turkish government organisation.

A three-member bench of the apex court announced the verdict, comprising 15 pages and written by Justice Ijazul Ahsan. The court had conducted the hearing of the case on December 13.

It said the PTICEF is declared a terrorist organisation in the light of the decisions of Organisation of Islamic Conference and Asian Parliamentary Assembly, noting that Turkey has also declared the aforementioned organisation a terrorist group, Geo News reported.

The top court after hearing the petition in its verdict asked the Interior ministry to include the name of PTICEF in the first schedule to Section 11-B of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, which listed the banned extremist entities.

PTICEF was established in 1990 and the 28 schools of the foundation in Pakistan kept functioning with the cooperation of Turkish government, the verdict read.

The petitioner also asked the court to give control of educational institutions of PTICEF to Turkiye Maarif Foundation.

The administration of 28 schools functioning in Pakistan under PTICEF should be rearranged in the light of bilateral agreements between Pakistan and Turkey, the court ordered.

Gulen was once an ally of Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan but fell from grace and later was accused for botched coup of July 2016.

He lives in the US and blamed for plotting the overthrow of government of Turkey, a charge he denied.

The court also ordered to freeze the bank accounts of PTICEF and give their custody to Turkiye Maarif Foundation.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-sc-declares-pak-turk-international-cag-education-foundation-as-terrorist-body/articleshow/67296934.cms

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Sultan Nazrin: State religious councils must play role as think tanks

December 28, 2018

GEORGE TOWN: The Islamic Religious Council of the respective states should play the role of a think tank and administrator of Islam under the aegis, supervision and direct monitoring of the king, said Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Nazrin Muizzudin Shah.

He said the councils also needed to act as a link between the Muslim community and rulers, between Muslims and the chosen government, and between Muslims and non-Muslims.

“The role of the Islamic religious councils must be widened and freed from outdated thinking, deliberately constricted by the British colonial masters.

“Their role should be defined wisely and empowered with thinkers and capable implementers so as to come up with sound ideas and dynamic programmes.

“Whatever the political scenario in the country, as long as the actions of the respective councils are not in conflict with the spirit of the Federal Constitution, they should be recognised as an institution with the important role of ensuring the perpetuity of Islam and survival of the ummah (Muslim community).”

Sultan Nazrin said this at the presentation of appointment letters to 14 members of the Penang State Islamic Religious Council and 25 shariah court judges and registrars here today.

Also present were Penang Yang di-Pertua Negeri, Abdul Rahman Abbas and Deputy Chief Minister 1 Ahmad Zakiyuddin Abdul Rahman.

Sultan Nazrin, who is also the Perak ruler, said the loyalty of the appointed council members was to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and his consent must be sought before any policy, directive or activity on Islam were to be implemented.

He said all the council members needed to do re-engineering, removing the old mindset, and drawing up plans and actions that were more substantive for the glory of Islam and well-being of the Muslim community.

Sultan Nazrin also urged the respective religious councils to take on the responsibility of uniting the ummah and be free of any partisan political agenda so that their role would be seen as neutral and accepted without prejudice by the Muslim community.

He said in a situation where Muslims were seen to continue to be at odds on their stand and their spirit of ukhwah (brotherhood) declining, the councils’ unifying role became even more urgent and crucial.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/12/28/sultan-nazrin-state-religious-councils-must-play-role-as-think-tanks/

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US, Israel to block planned Palestinian statehood initiative at UN

Dec 28, 2018

The United States and Israel have planned to block an upcoming Palestinian statehood initiative at the United Nations Security Council.

“We are preparing to stop the initiative,” said Israel’s ‎UN Ambassador Danny Danon in a statement on Thursday.

Danon said his delegation is working with the US administration to counter the Palestinian move.

The Israeli official expressed frustration about the initiative, accusing the Palestinian Authority of “paying salaries to terrorists each month” and having the “audacity” to apply for UN state membership.

“Instead of ‎focusing on building a better and more hopeful future for the Palestinians ‎and helping to ensure stability in the region, the Palestinian leadership is ‎continuing its destructive policies that have encouraged recent terror ‎attacks”, the Israeli envoy claimed.

Danon made the remarks after Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki announced on Wednesday that he intends to initiate an application for UN state membership in mid-January.

Earlier this year, the UN General Assembly voted, by an overwhelming majority, to temporarily grant the “State of Palestine” additional rights and privileges, allowing it to head the "Group of 77", the biggest bloc of developing countries at the UN.

The PA will take over leadership of the group in January. Al-Malki plans to initiate the UN membership application at the related event in mid-January, according to various Palestinian media sources.

The last time the PA had applied for full UN membership was in 2011. UN membership requires approval from at least 9 of the UNSC's 15 members.

The Security Council, however, did not reach such an agreement at the time, and instead recommended that the General Assembly give Palestine the status of a non-member observer state.

Consequently, Palestine's status was upgraded to an observer state after winning 138 favorable votes at the General Assembly on November 29, 2012.

Only 9 countries opposed the measure.

Decisions made at the General Assembly cannot be vetoed by any of the other five permanent council members, including the US.

The US is, however, expected to veto any upcoming Palestinian statehood resolution at the UNSC.

Unilateral statehood for Palestine

The PA's new initiative contrasts with that of past negotiations, such as the Oslo Accords, where Palestinian statehood was to be considered only after a final status agreement with Israel was achieved.

The push for unilateral statehood recognition comes as many believe Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been clearly undermined by illegal Israeli settlement construction and other such violations.

The anticipated Palestinian move comes as US President Donald Trump has yet to unveil his so-called “Deal of the Century”, the president's allegedly new Middle East road map.

The controversial proposal, which has been described to be in line with the US' recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital last year, has drawn condemnation from many Palestinian and international figures.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/28/584165/US-Israel-to-block-Palestinian-statehood

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Europe

 

German troops may leave Afghanistan if US forces withdraw: Report

Dec 28, 2018

Former German Defense Chief General Harald Kujat has warned that a probable American military withdrawal from Afghanistan may jeopardize German troops and force them to leave.

"If the United States reduces itself to a small contingent in Afghanistan there's no reason for us to continue the mission anymore," Kujat told the German Tagesspiegel newspaper on Thursday.

The former head of the Bundeswehr said it was "out of question" for German forces to remain in Afghanistan if they could not be given guaranteed protection and support.

Kujat, however, added that he expected other NATO members to increase contribution to make up for any US troop withdrawal.

Minister of State in the German Foreign Ministry Niels Annen also expressed frustration with the American announcement.

"We have noticed repeatedly that the Trump government does not particularly value close coordination with its allies. We're currently trying to reach clarity by speaking to our colleagues in Washington and Kabul," said Annen.

US President Donald Trump reportedly ordered the withdrawal of some 7,000 troops, half of the total number of American forces in the country, from Afghanistan last week.

'Massive rupture in world order'

Trump's recent comments about ending the US military presence in the Middle East have also alarmed many German politicians.

German Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Norbert Rottgen rejected Trump's statement about America no longer being "the Policeman of the Middle East," arguing that the US was an "irreplaceable" power in maintaining "world order, stability, balance, and diplomacy."

The comments were echoed by Deputy Parliamentary Leader of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, who censured Trump's probable return to what he described as the "failed" American tradition of international "isolationism," referring to a general trend in US foreign policy predating World War II.

"If you think how the US shaped the post-war order after World War II, and was also really the dominating power after the Cold War, then this policy of Donald Trump is really a massive rupture. How far that will go – and it's important I think to make this clear – is unclear."

Germany has about 1,100 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, most of whom are deployed near the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The deployment is part of NATO's "Resolute Support" mission, which claims to train and advise Afghan security forces. The mission also acts as a reconnaissance and intelligence support arm for other NATO troops.

The Bundeswehr's overseas missions require approval from the German parliament. Parliament approval for the Afghanistan mission is set to expire in March 2019.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/28/584215/Germany-Afghanistan-Troops

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UK spotter credited with breaking news of Trump's Iraq trip

December 29, 2018

A British aviation enthusiast has been credited with breaking the news of US President Donald Trump's secret visit to Iraq over Christmas after snapping photos of his plane over northern England.

Alan Meloy, a semi-retired information technology worker from Yorkshire, took the pictures of Air Force One from outside his home with a camera he also uses for bird watching.

He shared the images on his Flickr account, correctly identifying the plane as a VC-25 - one of two highly customised Boeing 747 jumbo jets used as Air Force One.

Other users noted the location and made the connection with a mysterious US military flight winging across Europe, speculating that it could be on its way to the Middle East.

"It's one of those weird moments when you're right place and right time," Mr Meloy, who lives in the suburbs of the industrial city of Sheffield, told The Guardian newspaper.

"If you want to do covert work use a covert plane," he said.

On his Flickr account, Mr Meloy said: "The internet had worked it out several hours before the White House formally confirmed the visit was taking place".

Rumours about the trip spread quickly on social media long before it was reported by media outlets that were respecting a White House embargo.

During the trip, President Trump's first to a combat zone, the US president said the security precautions were unlike anything he had previously experienced.

"If you would have seen what we had to go through in the darkened plane with all windows closed, with no light anywhere - pitch black," he said.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/uk-spotter-credited-with-breaking-news-of-trump-s-iraq-trip-1.807293

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India

 

Hyderabad Local Muslim Organizations Oppose Upcoming Event of Extremist Group, Dawat-e-Islami

December 29, 2018

President of Seerat un-Nabi Academy, Moulana Syed Ali Quadri, on Friday said that they are opposing extremist group Dawat-e-Islami because it's an Pakistan based organisation.

Speaking to ANI Quadri said, "Our main reason to oppose Dawat-e-Islami is because it's an Pakistan based organisation. In our country we don't need any Pakistani organisation. Thousands of Indian religious organizations already exist here. Also, there is a huge difference between our thoughts and their thoughts. We also have objection on their thoughts and way of working. We've always tried to spread peace."

Notably, 'Dawat-e-Islami' has planned a mega event in Telangana's Hyderabad. However, the Muslim groups in the city are unhappy about the event fearing that the youth may get radicalised.

Quadri further told that his organisation has already reported the matter to Hyderabad city police commissioner and South Zone DCP to not grant permission to Dawat-e-Islami to organise a forthcoming event in Hyderabad's old city. Along with Quadri, many other Muslim clerics like Moulana Murtuza Pasha, Moulana Aale Mustafa Ali Pasha, Hafez Muzaffar Khan and others are opposing this event.

DCP South Zone of Hyderabad City, Amber Kishore Jha told ANI that he had received a letter from Dawat-e-Islami to grant permission to organise an event in Hyderabad's old city on December 29 and 30. Dawat-e-Islami had organised events in Hyderabad in 2017 and 2018.

"As of now permission has not been granted to Dawat-e-Islami to organise event. I have also received letters from local religious organisations opposing the event and requested me not to grant permission to Dawat-e-Islami. But we are evaluating and examining the claims and counterclaims," Jha added.

https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/hyderabad-local-muslim-organizations-oppose-upcoming-event-of-extremist-group-118122900053_1.html

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LeT militant killed in encounter in J&K’s Pulwama

by Adil Akhzer

December 29, 2018

A Lashkar-e-Taiba(LeT) militant was killed in a brief encounter between the militants and security forces in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Friday morning.

A J-K police official said the slain militant had joined the outfit around five months ago.

On Friday morning, police said that based on a credible input about the presence of militants in Banderpora area of district Pulwama, a cordon and search operation (CASO) was launched in the morning hours jointly by Police and security forces in the area. “As the searches were going on, the search party was fired upon by the terrorists. The fire was retaliated leading to a gunfight,” said a J-K police spokesperson on Friday.

In the ensuing encounter, police said one militant was killed. The slain militant was identified as Ishfaq Yousuf Wani, a resident of Koil Pulwama in South Kashmir. The area where the encounter took place was an orchard, said police officials.

A senior police official said the Wani had joined militant ranks earlier this year and he was running his own business before joining the militant ranks.

According to J-K police spokesperson, Wani was involved in several “terror crimes”. “He was wanted by the law for his complicity in a series of terror crimes including attacks on security establishments and civilian atrocities,” said the spokesperson.

A large number of people participated in the funeral of the slain militant which was held at his native village Koil in Pulwama on Friday. Soon after the killing of Wani, clashes broke out in some parts of South Kashmir.

The Friday’s police statement further said, “Police has registered a case and initiated investigation in the matter…citizens are requested not to venture inside the encounter zone since such an area can prove dangerous due to stray explosive materials. People are requested to cooperate with police till the area is completely sanitized and cleared of all the explosives materials if any.”

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/let-militant-killed-in-encounter-in-jks-pulwama-5514485/

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‘Plotter’ tried to radicalise Lucknow woman’s son: NIA

Dec 29, 2018

NEW DELHI: Amroha native Mufti Mohammad Suhail alias Hazrath,

arrested for forming an Islamic State (IS)-inspired module called ‘Harkat-ulHarb-e-Islam’, has admitted before investigators that he tried to radicalise the son of a Lucknow-based woman who helped them raise money by selling her gold but the boy turned down his overtures.

Sources claimed that the woman, whom Suhail met on Facebook, wasn’t radicalised but had conservative Islamic thought. “During their interactions, Suhail and the woman discussed religious matters and ideologies of various groups. Suhail even went to Lucknow thrice to meet her,” an official claimed.

The NIA is contemplating pressing charges against the woman, who is in her mid-40s, as she helped the module get around Rs 3 lakh to procure explosive material, guns and timers.

The 29-year-old maulvi from Amroha couldn’t make her son join his module but managed to convince nine young men from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, who were arrested along with him earlier this week.

The investigation found that Suhail’s online IS handler was a Pakistani identified as Abu Malik Peshawari while Suhail used the online identity of Abu Basir Al-Khurasani. The handler could be based anywhere in Pakistan or Afghanistan, sources said.

Suhail and Peshawari, sources said, were in touch for the past several months. They interacted through Telegram and exchanged regular web calls as well.

Suhail told his interrogators that he was inclined towards violent jihad for the past nine years and had even bought countrymade pistols, sources said.

According to sources, he spent most of his life in madrasas and mosques, studying Islamic literature, watching videos of religious speakers and terror groups, and was drawn towards radical Islamic ideology. “It’s not like Suhail was attracted towards a particular terror outfit like Islamic State from the beginning. It’s just that this online IS handler, who was now giving him directions to carry out blasts in Delhi and other places, convinced him to join the outfit,” said an NIA officer.

Meanwhile, discarding conspiracy theories and criticism over the ‘Sutli’ bombs recovered from Suhail and others, NIA officers said the explosive used in these Diwali bombs was of low intensity and could contain ammonium nitrate, potassium chlorate, charcoal etc. These were easily available chemicals and were used in most blasts, they added.

The same low-grade explosive was used by IS’s Kanpur module led by Atif Muzaffar in the March 2017 Bhopal-Ujjain train blast.

In fact, investigation into the Mushtaq Muddabir Sheikh-headed IS module busted by the NIA in early 2016 had found that Sheikh had asked his men to collect matchboxes and firecrackers to retrieve the chemicals from it to make IEDs.

NIA officers said country-made guns and rocket-launchers recovered from Suhail’s module were also not new. A similar gun was used by IS operative Mohammad Saifullah, who was killed by UP ATS in an encounter in Lucknow last year. Country-made rocket-launchers were not sophisticated and getting pipes to make them was not difficult, they added.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/plotter-tried-to-radicalise-lucknow-womans-son-nia/articleshow/67294959.cms

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ISI plot to target Army foiled, illegal phone exchange busted in Hyderabad

Dec 28, 2018

NEW DELHI: Based on inputs provided by a military intelligence unit in J&K, the Telangana Police have unearthed an illegal internet telephony exchange in Hyderabad that was allegedly being used by Pakistan-based ISI sleuths to target Indian defence personnel.

A key player of the syndicate has been arrested and police have recovered large number of illegally procured SIM-box devices and SIM cards, among other things.

The investigation is still under way and more arrests are likely to be made.

“Earlier this month, a unit of MI had shared intelligence pertaining to suspicious illegal VoIP exchanges being run in Hyderabad. It came to the fore that the facility was being exploited by intelligence operatives from Pakistan to make calls to security personnel in J&K and obtain sensitive information by posing as senior officials of the Army,” a senior Telangana Police officer said.

Based on the inputs, Telangana Police detected several illegal SIM cards being used in a certain locality and zeroed in on the prime suspect.

The cops raided the premises in Nallakunta today and recovered two SIM boxes, over 53 illegally procured SIM cards, laptops and computers

According to police, the illegal exchanges enabled callers from other countries to call any Indian number by hiding their identity or displaying an Indian number to the receivers.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/isi-plot-unveiled-illegal-voip-telephone-exchange-busted-in-hyderabad/articleshow/67288720.cms

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Pakistan link in IS terror module, NIA headquarters was on target

Kamaljit Kaur Sandhu

December 29, 2018

The kingpin of the ISIS-inspired terror module that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) busted on Wednesday was in touch with his Pakistani handler, India Today TV has learnt.

Four of the 10 men arrested with arms and ammunition during 16 raids across Delhi and Uttar Pradesh (UP) had also planned to blow up the NIA headquarters in New Delhi as suicide bombers, sources have said.

Earlier, India's apex anti-terror agency had only said that the terrorists were about to target top politicians, government installations and crowded public places across Delhi and NCR.

The agency has now also countered criticism from some quarters over the "primitive" nature of seizures made, saying the weapons have been used by ISIS groups before and they could kill.

NIA Director General YC Modi said "We are on a firm footing. We have enough evidence to nail the accused."

Investigations have revealed that Mufti Hafiz Suhail - a cleric from UP's Amroha who lived in Delhi - was inspired by Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam.

The handler has been identified as Abu Malik Peshawari who taught Suhail how to procure explosives and make bombs.

"Both exchanged secret chats on Telegram and Threema. Suhail used the pseudonym of Abu Basir Al Khurasani. His internet search history shows links on bomb-making procedures," said a source.

Investigators are now probing if Pakistan's spy agency, ISI, was also helping the men who were sent to 10 days of NIA custody soon after their arrest.

Investigations have also revealed that the four highly radicalised men tasked to bomb the NIA building are Anas Younus, Saqib Iftekar, Mohammed Irshad and Suhail himself. NIA has arrested over 100 accused in ISIS-related cases. Most of them are said to be from UP.

"The group was getting ready for bloodbath, but the terror plot was nipped in the bud. It is unfortunate that some people are irresponsibly commenting on the seizures made without knowing the facts of the case," said an official.

NIA has claimed to have recovered a country-made rocket launcher, 25 kg of explosives, 112 alarm clocks, 100 mobile phones, 134 SIM cards, three laptops and some sutli (jute-twined) bombs.

Former J&K CM and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti on Friday also questioned the arrests, saying declaring suspects as terrorists on the basis of 'sutli bombs' is premature. Some said a tractor part has been shown as a rocket launcher.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/pakistan-link-in-is-terror-module-nia-headquarters-was-on-target-1419319-2018-12-29

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Oppn signs resolution seeking joint committee route for Triple Talaq bill

Dec 29, 2018

Preparing the ground for a confrontation with the NDA government, a group of Opposition parties backed by the AIADMK, which has rarely opposed the NDA in Parliament, have signed a resolution seeking to send the Triple Talaq bill to a joint select committee. The resolution will be brought in the Rajya Sabha next week when the government brings the legislation for debate and passage in the Upper House.

The Triple Talaq bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Thursday even as several Opposition parties walked out of the Lok Sabha because their demand to refer the legislation to a joint select committee was spurned by the government.

But in the Upper House, where NDA is in a minority, Opposition will have a different strategy.

It will use its numerical strength to try to send the bill to a joint select panel for review and thereby, apply brakes on the NDA’s hasty push for the legislation.

“Floor leaders of all Opposition parties have already signed the resolution. In the 244-seat-strong Rajya Sabha we have an effective strength of 116 MPs. This time, the AIADMK is also supporting us,” said Trinamool Congress chief whip Derek O’Brien.

The AIADMK’s refusal to support NDA on this bill was evident in the Lok Sabha, where the party spoke against the Triple Talaq legislation in its current form. During the debate in Lok Sabha, the southern party’s senior MP Anwhar Raajhaa alleged that the proposed act is against the provisions of Sharia law. If the AIADMK finally decides to go against the government and stick with its demand for a joint select committee’s review of the bill, it will be one of the rare occasions when it opposes a BJP government’s legislation.

Transgender bill

A senior Congress member said that the transgender bill, too, should be sent to a select committee for proper parliamentary review. Earlier this week the Lok Sabha passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill that corrected the definition of transgender, but omitted the crucial right to self-identify one’s gender and reservations for the community.

O’Brien and this senior Congress leader maintained that they are not going by the “merit” of the individual bills but will oppose the two bills in the Upper House purely on the ground of parliamentary norms and process.

“How can the government go on passing bills without proper scrutiny of the parliamentary committees? Both bills must go to joint select committees,” said the Congress leader who asked not to be named. The government is striving to push as many bills as possible during this session—the penultimate session before the Lok Sabha polls.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/oppn-signs-resolution-seeking-joint-committee-route-for-triple-talaq-bill/story-67dAebLe11uP0FsSZeN8CJ.html

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Darul Uloom Deoband opposes triple talaq bill

29 December 2018

Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband has opposed the triple talaq bill passed by the Lok Sabha on Thursday, terming it as “interference in religious affairs of Muslims”.

Reacting strongly to the triple talaq bill which seeks to criminalise instant divorce, Mohtamin (Vice-Chancellor) of Darul Uloom Deoband, Maulana Mufti Abul Qasim Nomani, said that the bill not only targeted Muslim men but was also against the welfare of Muslim women.

“The move of (Narendra) Modi government to bring a legislation to criminalise triple talaq is a direct interference in the religious freedom of Muslims. It is an infringement of Shariat law. Muslims want to lead their life and conduct their family and social affairs strictly as per provisions of Shariat,” Nomani said.

“It is not a matter of single or triple talaq. With the passage of the bill, divorce will stand void and the man will be sent to jail. But society will see the couple as divorced. If that happens, who will take care of the woman and the children — the court or the government?” Nomani argued.

“In Islam, we have provision for meher (paid to the wife by husband at the time of marriage) and maintenance but the bill is silent on these issues,” he said

Located in Saharanpur district, the 150-year-old Darul Uloom is considered one of the most influential seminaries of Sunni Muslims in India.

Stating that triple talaq was not Islamic and Shariat also forbid it, the Deobandi cleric said, “We wish to categorically state that Muslims of India would never accept the law (on triple talaq). It would have been better had the Prime Minister conducted the affairs of his government as per Constitution and established practice of Indian democracy,” he added.

Another organisation of Deobandi Sunni Muslim clerics, Jamait Ulma Hind, also criticised the bill saying, “Modi government is acting in an arbitrary manner.”

President of the organisation, Maulana Kari Usman, said that the National Democratic Alliance government and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad should have consulted Islamic experts before bringing the bill and by ignoring them they had done great injustice to Muslims.

All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, which also includes prominent clerics from Darul Uloom Deoband, has also asked the NDA government not to pass the bill criminalising instant talaq.

The AIMPLB had urged the Prime Minister to withhold and withdraw the Muslim Women (Protection of Marriage) Bill, 2018, as it was not only “against Shariat but also against the verdict of Supreme Court”.

Meanwhile, Aytiya Sabri and advocate Farah Faiz of Deoband, who petitioned the Supreme Court against triple talaq, criticised the opposition parties for resisting the triple talaq bill.

Sabri said the opposition parties should amend their stand and help the passage of the bill in Rajya Sabha. She praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying, “He not only gave a patient hearing to Muslims and realised the gravity of the problem but also took a decisive step for a solution.”

Full report at:

https://www.dailypioneer.com/2018/state-editions/darul-uloom-deoband-opposes-triple-talaq-bill.html

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Azam on triple talaq bill: Muslims will follow only Quran, Hadith

tnn | Dec 27, 2018

Rampur: Moments after Lok Sabha passed the triple talaq bill on Thursday, senior Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan said 'we will follow Quran and Hadith'. Talking to reporters here, the former minister said: "No matter how many laws they (BJP MPs) make to change the divorce law in Lok Sabha, we will only follow Quran and Hadith. The entire divorce procedure has been mentioned in these two holy books, followed by the entire Muslim world."

"The entire procedure of divorce is given in detail in the Quran. No one can disobey it. Divorce that takes place following the Quran's procedure is divorce, but the one that does not follow this procedure is a sin," he told reporters.

"If any woman does not want to stay with her husband, then you cannot stop her. Muslim woman is also entitle to 'Khula' (divorce pronounced by wife). You can make as many laws as you want.

But what law will you bring for those men who have dumped their wives and are occupying seats of power?" he asked.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bareilly/azam-on-triple-talaq-bill-muslims-will-follow-only-quran-hadith/articleshow/67278139.cms

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South Asia

 

Fresh violence mars Bangladesh election as campaigning ends

Dec 29, 2018

DHAKA: Bangladesh's general election campaign ended Friday with more deadly violence and arrests of opposition activists which have raised international concern as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seeks a record fourth term.

A ruling Awami League party supporter was killed by opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) followers, police said, while the BNP claimed 19 more of its activists had been detained ahead of Sunday's election.

The official campaign ended ended at 8:00 am (0200 GMT) on Friday after seven weeks of widespread street clashes and accusations of an official crackdown on the opposition.

An opinion poll indicated Hasina is favourite to win despite the controversy.

Police said the Awami League supporter was beaten to death in the northeastern city of Sylhet late Thursday.

They had reported two earlier deaths of Awami League activists since the campaign opened on November 8. The BNP says eight of its supporters have been killed in election clashes.

Sylhet police chief Shah Harunur Rashid told AFP that two BNP supporters had been arrested for the latest killing. The BNP said the the man died in a conflict among Awami League supporters.

Nineteen BNP activists were arrested when police and paramilitary guards raided the election camp of a BNP candidate and several villages in southern Bangladesh, police and BNP officials told AFP.

Thousands of Awami League supporters rallied in Dhaka early Friday as candidates made a last-minute pitch for votes.

The BNP, which says thousands of its activists have been locked up in a bid to rig the election, said it had been prevented from holding its final rally in the capital.

Hasina has shrugged off accusations of using authoritarian tactics, and in her final campaign statement urged Bangladesh's 104 million voters to re-elect her to boost the impoverished South Asian nation's economic development.

Bangladesh's economy has grown at an impressive average of 6.3 percent every year since she won a landslide in December 2008.

"Much work is still pending and it depends on the people casting a vote for us. Then we will be able to return to power and complete the work," she said late Thursday.

The BNP accuses the prime minister of clamping down on democracy and freedom of speech -- including over the jailing of its leader Khaleda Zia this year on graft charges.

It says that 9,222 workers and supporters have been arrested during the election campaign and that half of its candidates were attacked by ruling party supporters.

Its Islamist ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, says more than 3,600 of its activists were also detained.

The opposition has depended on social media to lobby for votes, saying that harassment has confined many candidates to their homes.

Bangladeshi authorities slowed internet services across the country on Friday with 3G and 4G services suspended for several hours in an effort to fight "propaganda", an official said.

The BNP stepped up a desperate call for people to vote on Sunday. "On that day this country will be yours. You will take back its ownership," BNP deputy chief Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.

The campaign troubles have put Bangladesh in an international spotlight.

US ambassador Earl Miller said "the United States is concerned by the high level of campaign violence over the last two weeks," following a meeting with Bangladesh's election chief late Thursday.

He added that while all parties have been victims, "it appears opposition party candidates have borne the brunt of most violence." Miller said everyone in Bangladesh must be able to vote "without harassment, intimidation, or violence".

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also called for a vote "free of violence, intimidation and coercion," according to a spokesman.

An opinion poll has showed Hasina is poised for a comfortable win.

The Awami League leader won a landslide victory in 2008 and the BNP boycotted the 2014 election, saying it was not free and fair, gifting her a return to power.

But since her last victory, civil society and rights groups have accused Hasina's government of silencing dissent and muzzling the press.

Zia, an arch-rival of the prime minister, was jailed for 17 years this year on graft charges that her party says are politically motivated.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/fresh-violence-mars-bangladesh-election-as-campaigning-ends/articleshow/67295085.cms

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Promising growth, Bangladesh’s iron lady seeks re-election

December 29, 2018

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is poised to win a record fourth term in Sunday’s elections, drumming up support by promising a development bonanza as her critics question if the South Asian nation’s tremendous economic success has come at the expense of its already fragile democracy.

The polls, the 11th since Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan in 1971, pit 71-year-old Hasina against a united opposition helmed by Kamal Hossain, 82, an Oxford-educated lawyer and former foreign minister. Notably absent is former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, 74, Hasina’s archrival and the head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Courts ruled she was ineligible to run from her colonial-era Dhaka jail cell, where she’s serving a 17-year sentence for corruption.

After a decade of rule by Hasina’s Awami League party and in Zia’s absence, Hossain, once a close aide to Hasina’s father, Bangladesh’s founding president, has risen as the primary challenger, attracting the interest of Bangladesh’s growing middle class and Western diplomats not wholly convinced Hasina’s development gains justify her increasingly heavy-handed rule.

“Development is not only economic growth, it has a far broader meaning which includes human rights, rule of law, inclusivity, accountability and good governance, all (of which) seem to be missing here,” said Illinois State University politics professor Ali Riaz.

The runup to the election has been marred by allegations from Hossain supporters of arrests and jailing of thousands of Hasina opponents. About 600,000 security personnel including thousands of military soldiers and paramilitary border guards have been deployed. State police have barred opposition marches and foiled rallies.

At least six people have been killed in campaign-related clashes that local media report were mostly perpetrated by ruling-party activists backed by police. BNP spokesman Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said more than 12,000 opposition activists have been injured.

Facebook last week shut down a series of fake news sites spreading false information about the opposition that a threat intelligence consultancy determined were created and managed by government associates.

Earlier this year, Hasina spearheaded a draconian new digital law that journalists and some academics charged could be wielded to silence government critics.

Hasina defended it in Parliament as a tool to combat dangerous propaganda. “Journalism is surely not for increasing conflict, or for tarnishing the image of the country,” she said.

With Hasina’s hold on the state machinery increasingly clear, doubts have arisen about the fairness of the vote. The opposition this week demanded the resignation of the Election Commission chief.

“So far the indications do not suggest we have a level playing field in place for the election to be fully free and fair,” said Iftekhar Zaman, head of Paris-based corruption watchdog Transparency International’s Bangladesh chapter.

While rights groups sound the alarms about the erosion of democracy, Hasina has promoted a different narrative, highlighting an ambitious economic agenda that has propelled Bangladesh past larger neighbors Pakistan and India by some development measures.

Bangladesh ranked 136 out of 189 countries on the U.N. Human Development Index, which factors in life expectancy, years of education and gross national income, jumping 7 spots from 2012. The World Bank has praised the country for sharply reducing the percentage of its people living in extreme poverty.

Hasina embarked on a two-story, 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) bridge tapping government coffers rather than the World Bank’s proffered loans. She has formed joint ventures with Japan, India, China and Russia, all clamoring for access to the northern Bay of Bengal. India and Russia jointly built Bangladesh’s first nuclear power plant. Bangladesh launched its first commercial satellite earlier this year.

Bangladesh’s garment industry exports $30 billion a year to supply the racks of Zara, H&M, Uniqlo and other fashion retailers, making it the second-largest in the world after China.

After an assault by Islamic militants in 2016 in which 20 hostages, including 17 foreigners from Italy, Japan and India, were killed, security officials under Hasina launched a massive crackdown, apparently destroying their network. Again, Hasina elected to handle the crisis in-house rather than engaging international players, and successfully suppressed claims that the Islamic State was behind the attack.

Hasina’s security officials have killed more than 60 radical Islamists including some commanders since 2016 in a zero-tolerance campaign against hard-liners.

The same groups who criticize Hasina’s heavy-handedness in civil matters have lauded her treatment of Muslim Rohingya refugees fleeing a military assault in neighboring Myanmar. She ordered border guards to open the frontier for Rohingya fleeing what many call a campaign of ethnic cleansing in August 2017, allowing more than 700,000 refugees to take shelter in camps near the city of Cox’s Bazar. Despite some external pressure, she has maintained a policy of voluntary return.

Still, Hasina’s profile of courage has been tarnished by her intolerance of domestic critics.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/world/promising-growth-bangladeshs-iron-lady-seeks-re-election-sheikh-hasina-5514547/

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140 BNP-Jamaat men held in Khulna, Barishal

DECEMBER 28, 2018

Dhaka, Dec 28 (UNB) – Around 140 leaders and activists of BNP, including the chief agent of a BNP candidate, and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami have been arrested in Khulna, Barishal, Sherpur, Nilphamari and Bhola districts.

In Khulna, 60 BNP activists were arrested during different overnight drives on Thursday.

The arrestees include BNP’s Khalishpur thana unit chief Fazle Halim Liton, Khanjahan Ali thana unit President Meer Kaysed Ali and Daulatpur thana unit Organising Secretary Sazzad Hossain Toton.

Apart from them, Khulna-3 BNP candidate Rakibul Islam Bakul’s chief election agent Sheikh Mosharraf Hossain was arrested when he was going to the returning officer’s office after a press conference.

Khulna Metropolitan Police’s spokesperson Additional Deputy Commissioner Sonali Sen said Mosharraf had a warrant in his name. Police also arrested Jubo Dal’s Khulna city unit General Secretary Nazmul Hasan Sagor.

Meanwhile, police raided the residence of BNP’s Barishal-1 candidate Zahir Uddin Swapan in the early hours of Friday and arrested 19 party activists.

Inspector of Gournadi Model Police Station (Investigation) Md Mahbubur Rahman claimed they had been tipped off about the gathering of criminals at Zahir’s house.

“Over 100 policemen encircled his residence around 10:30pm on Thursday. The stalemate continued for about three hours as he refused to open the door,” Rahman said.

Police said the arrestees include former Jubo Dal central committee member Md Rafiqul Islam and BNP’s Gournadi municipal unit’s former general secretary Md Hannan Sharif.

In Sherpur, police arrested 26 leaders and activists of BNP and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, including central BNP leader Mahbubur Rahman Harej and for Sherpur upazila parishad chairman Dabibur Rahman.

Officer-in-charge of Sreebardi Police Station Ruhul Amin said they arrested Hannan Miah, son of late Mofiz Uddin of the village, while distributing money among voters at Gargaria village in Sreebardi upazila on Friday evening.

In Bhola, Rapid Action Battalion members arrested a BNP man – Babul Bisawas- for plotting to unleash violence in Bhola-3 constituency from where BNP leader Major (retd) Hafizuddin Ahmed is contesting the election.

In Nilphamari, police in a special drive arrested 34 BNP-Jamaat men from different places of the district.

Jamaat leader’s wife, son held in Satkhira

The wife and son of Jamaat’s Satkhira Sadar upazila West unit chief Shahadat Hossain were among four people arrested with fake currencies.

Sadar Police Station OC Mustafizur Rahman said they raided the area after being tipped off about Shahadat’s attempts to bribe voters.

Full report at:

http://www.unb.com.bd/category/Bangladesh/140-bnp-jamaat-men-held-in-khulna-barishal/9430

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan army chief confirms death penalty for 22 'hardcore terrorists'

Dec 28, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has confirmed death sentences handed down to 22 "hardcore terrorists" by military courts, a report said on Friday.

The terrorists were convicted by military courts which were set up after the 2014 Peshawar school attack that killed 150 people, mostly schoolchildren, Radio Pakistan reported.

Their terrorist acts resulted in the deaths of 176 people, including 19 armed forces personnel, 41 police and levies officials and 116 civilians and injured 217 others, it said.

Besides those given death sentences, 15 convicts were imprisoned while two were acquitted.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-army-chief-confirms-death-penalty-for-22-hardcore-terrorists/articleshow/67291943.cms

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Power has turned those in Islamabad blind to people’s plight: Zardari

DECEMBER 29, 2018

Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Friday warned that no one could scare his party’s leadership.

Addressing a public gathering in Khan Gharh, the former president said that power had turned those sitting in Islamabad deaf, dumb and blind to the plight of the people.

He said that the nation is united and is well aware of its rights, adding that no one can scare the PPP leadership. The PPP co-chairman said he would face anyone who attempted to challenge him.

“A country only becomes stronger when its people are happy. We come here to serve the public, not to serve ourselves,” he said.

He said he didn’t pass 18th amendment, ‘it was passed by the Parliament to give their rights to all provinces’. He said the PTI government was working to deny the provinces their rights.

He said the PPP believed that the first right on any development project was that of the inhabitants of an area, adding that history would show who served the people of Pakistan and who worked against their interests.

Earlier, Sindh chief minister Syed Murad Ali Shah also addressed the gathering. He said that Ghotki district was adding more to the federal revenue pool than the amount it was getting from the Centre for its development needs. He assured the gathering that he would take up the matter with the federal government.

He said that it was the first time in a number of years that the federal government was unable to recover enough revenue to beat the previous year’s revenue, adding that those unable to meet revenue targets had no right to rule the state.

Shah said that the Sindh government had given out a loan to the SSGCL to provide gas facilities of remote villages. However, he said the company could not extend gas infrastructure to these areas because of a federal government ban and it was now refusing to return the money to the province.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/338406/power-has-turned-those-in-islamabad-blind-to-peoples-plight-zardari/

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SC wants compensation plan for people hit by violence

December 29, 2018

LAHORE: The Supreme Court on Friday directed the federal and provincial governments to submit their plans for the payment of compensation to those who lost their lives and properties during protests held by religious organisations against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi in a blasphemy case.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar expr­e­ss­ed dissatisfaction over reports submitted by the governments of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtun­khwa about the loss of lives and damage caused to private property by the protesters.

“What action has been taken against those who issued fatwas (edicts) of murder?” the chief justice asked the government’s lawyers.

A Punjab law officer told the bench that as many as 2,936 activists and their leaders had been detained. He said 503 cases were registered, including 26 under terrorism charges. He further stated that the damage caused to public property had been estimated at Rs40.6 million.

“Who will compensate those who lost their vehicles and got injured during the protests?” asked the chief justice.

The law officer said the damage to private property was estimated at Rs3.3m in the province.

The government should have invited the claims through newspaper advertisement, observed Justice Ijazul Ahsan and said the report was not satisfactory, rather a faulty one.

An additional home secretary told the bench that the matter of mode of compensation amount would soon be taken up by the provincial cabinet.

Chief Justice Nisar said he knew that the cabinet decided to take up the issue after the court took notice. “The government has to establish its writ (and) not those who paralysed the country to protest a judgement,” remarked the chief justice.

The Sindh IGP told the bench that 342 protesters were arrested in 41 cases registered by the police. The report filed by the KP government showed that 62 people were arrested. It said the protesters had not caused any major damage to public and private property in the province. An officer from Islamabad said no incident of ransacking or damage was reported in the federal capital.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1454230/sc-wants-compensation-plan-for-people-hit-by-violence

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‘No plan to impose governor’s rule on Sindh’

December 29, 2018

LAHORE: Federal Water Resources Minister Faisal Vawda says there is no plan to impose governor’s rule in Sindh and sees MQM founder Altaf Husain’s hand in the murder of Ali Raza Abidi, while Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid wants the Sindh chief minister to resign.

“There’s neither any talk (in federal government circles) of imposing governor’s rule on Sindh nor dissolving the provincial assembly. What apparent is unrest in the PPP. Some (PPP) people are contacting us for making a forward bloc but we don’t want to become part of the game,” he said at a press conference with Mr Rashid on Friday.

He asserted that Mr Husain was directly involved in the murder of Mr Abidi and claimed that an internal fight among the criminals in Karachi was going on to take the control of the port city.

The minister said he hoped that the chief justice also take notice of the murder that an attempt was made to impose some criminals having murder cases against them, on the city after a “dry-cleaning process”.

He said the most remnants of the MQM supremo had been eliminated and work was on to flush out the remaining ones.

About Indus Water Commissioner Mehr Ali Shah alleged dubious role in talks with his Indian counterpart, Mr Vawda said he was taking briefings from various stakeholders on the issue and would take a decision on the future of the slot without accepting pressure from any side.

He, however, alleged that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was the real friend of his Indian counterpart Modi and defamed the judiciary and armed forces to appease his friend across the borders.

Mr Rashid demanded that Sinch Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah resign after he was blamed for having facilitated money laundering by the PPP leaders.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1454169/no-plan-to-impose-governors-rule-on-sindh

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MQM-P urges PM to ensure security of leaders

December 29, 2018

KARACHI: Federal Minister for Information Technology and convenor of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqi has requested Prime Minister Imran Khan to provide foolproof security to elected members of his party.

Earlier, Prime Minister Khan had ordered an inquiry into the killing of former MQM-P MNA Ali Raza Abidi and had also asked the Sindh government to provide security to MQM leaders.

In a letter to the prime minister, the minister urged Mr Khan to order security agencies to provide foolproof security to elected members of his party and senior leaders who were facing serious threats.

“Given the current wave of terrorist attacks on MQM-P and the deteriorating situation of law and order in Karachi, the lives of the elected and organisational leadership of the party [MQM-P] are in great danger,” the minister wrote in his letter to the prime minister.

“In order to cope with the situation effectively, it is once again requested to kindly issue necessary orders to security agencies for the provision of foolproof security to elected and organisational members of MQM-P,” he added.

Dr Siddiqi recalled recent incidents of targeted killing and attacks on MQM-P leaders and legislators. Apart from the killing of Mr Abidi, he also reminded the prime minister of a bomb attack carried out earlier this month on senior leaders of the party.

On Dec 8, a religious gathering organised by the MQM-P at a residential complex in Gulistan-i-Jauhar had come under a bomb attack, leaving eight people injured. On Tuesday, Ali Raza Abidi was assassinated outside his home in DHA just two days after two workers of the Pak-Sarzameen Party (PSP) were killed in an attack on their office.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1454298/mqm-p-urges-pm-to-ensure-security-of-leaders

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New York city avenue to be named after Jinnah

Dec 29, 2018

NEW YORK: A section of a Brooklyn Avenue, a borough of New York City has been named after the founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Pakistani-American Youth Organisation (PAYO) said.

A resolution was adopted on December 26 by the New York City Council, designating a part of the Coney Island Avenue where the Pakistani-American community is concentrated as “Mohammad Ali Jinnah Way”, President of PAYO Waqil Ahmad announced at a press conference.

The resolution tabled by Jumaane Williams, a city council member from Brooklyn was adopted by a majority vote. “We are delighted over the council’s decision which has met our long-standing demand,” he said. “It is a gift to the Pakistani-American community here as well as to the people of Pakistan.”

Wakil added PAYO members have worked for years for official recognition of the Pakistani community even though the area around Coney Island Avenue has been informally known as “Little Pakistan”.

“We are overjoyed that our efforts succeeded,” he said, explaining the complex procedures and demands involved and which the PAYO members completed.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/12/29/new-york-city-avenue-to-be-named-after-jinnah/

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COAS installs Lt Gen Bilal Akbar as Colonel Commandant of Mujahid Force

DECEMBER 28, 2018

RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday visited Mujahid Force Centre at Bhimber.

COAS installed Lieutenant General Bilal Akbar as Colonel Commandant of Mujahid Force. A large number of serving/retired officers including from Mujahid Force were present at the occasion.

Later while interacting with officers and soldiers of Mujahid Force, COAS appreciated contributions and sacrifices of Mujahid Force particularly along the Line of Control.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/338226/coas-installs-lt-gen-bilal-akbar-as-colonel-commandant-of-mujahid-force/

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Southeast Asia

 

Muhyiddin blames PAS, Umno for unrest among Muslims

Vinodh Pillai

December 28, 2018

PUTRAJAYA: PPBM president Muhyiddin Yassin, on the eve of the party’s first annual general meeting (AGM) after the May 9 polls, slammed PAS and Umno, alleging they were “fanning racial sentiments” and inciting Malays to go against the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

“Their political capital today has not differed,” Muhyiddin said tonight, adding that the PH leadership had agreed to always support and respect the role of Islam as the official religion of the state, as spelt out in the Federal Constitution.

“They spread lies as if Muslims are no longer safe in Malaysia, the position of the Malay rulers as heads of Islam would be affected, Jakim (Malaysian Islamic Development Department) would be done away with, and laws to allow LGBT culture and same-sex marriage would be passed in Parliament.”

But all these have been proven to be wrong, he said.

Muhyiddin said the Malay rulers are still heads of Islam, Jakim is “standing tall”, and it is “impossible” for Muslim and non-Muslim MPs to ever accept LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) culture as it is “at odds with their own religious teachings”.

“Umno and PAS continue to play up racial and religious issues to tarnish the PH government in the eyes of those who profess Islam,” he said.

“This is an extremely unhealthy practice.

“Apart from poisoning the minds of Muslims with lies, the excessive use of religion for narrow political reasons will incite hate among the multiracial and multi-religious communities in Malaysia.

“So, for the Muslims, especially, be careful with the lies that have been peddled by Umno and PAS.”

Muhyiddin was speaking at the opening of the meetings of the PPBM Youth and Srikandi (women’s) wings AGMs at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre here. The AGM proper will start tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, Muhyiddin, who is the home minister, said Umno and PAS should not “daydream” about winning any upcoming elections if they keep this up, saying “the Malays know who these two are”.

“These two are ‘dua kali lima sahaja’ (the same).”

Muhyiddin added that in the past when Umno was still in power, PAS and Umno used  “many Islamic terms” to justify their newfound alliance as if they were “united” in fighting for Islam.

Referring to the 1MDB scandal, Muhyiddin said PAS leaders had said they were satisfied with the explanations provided. “I don’t know what to say now.”

Muhyiddin said this newfound relationship with Umno would not last, adding PAS “only cares for itself” and “does not practise the true teachings of Islam”.

Muhyiddin said while PPBM doesn’t use “Islamic slogans”, the party is determined to combat corruption and improve the country’s economy, which is in line with Islamic teachings.

He reiterated PPBM’s stance that the rights of the Malays would not diminish and the power entrusted by the people to the party would not be misused.

The Pagoh MP also called for party unity and to “give space” to PPBM chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is also the prime minister, to “heal” the country” and take Malaysia to greater heights.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/12/28/muhyiddin-blames-pas-umno-for-unrest-among-muslims/

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Malays must change their value system to succeed, says Dr M

29 Dec 2018

PUTRAJAYA (Bernama): Government affirmative action to help the Malays in this country will not achieve the objectives if the Malays themselves do not want to change their character and value system in order to succeed, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The Prime Minister said the government had introduced many policies and provided support to the Malays through the affirmative action that gave opportunities and support to them but they are the same Malays who have failed.

“That's because you don't change the character of the person. I don't like to say this about my own race but I have to say this. I have to tell them that you are wrong.

"Affirmative action is about support but the changing of character is something that we have to concentrate on. We have realised that affirmative action alone cannot make a success of the Malays.

He said it was important for the Malays to change the value system that they held on to and practised, especially that which was not suitable for success.

“If we do not work, we do not have an income. If we do not strive, we do not progress. When I say the Malays are lazy, people get angry with me, but that is the truth. If we do not want to work, others are ready to work. In the end, foreigners will own this country. Now, we already have seven million (foreign workers) in Malaysia," he said.

Dr Mahathir said that for the Malays, the best values are Islamic values as it proposes many good things but many don't follow it.

“For example, you are not allowed to break up the Muslims, but some people, because of politics, broke up the Muslims saying these Muslims are not Muslims, we are the only Muslims and all that. We have broken up, that is forbidden in Islam.

“(All Muslims) you are all brothers, (but) we don't treat others as brothers. He is from that party, his daughter cannot marry my son. That kind of thing is not Islamic. We want to teach them Islamic values. I am quite sure that if they hold to Islamic values they will succeed,” he said.

Dr Mahathir, who is Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) chairman, said he hoped that it will not be long for the Malays to depend on government or “tongkat” (walking stick) in order to succeed.

“I have always studied the behaviour of people. What makes them succeed or fail is their culture, value system. The Chinese succeed even without any help,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said Malays, while they must know enough about their religion, must also learn other things such as Mathematics, Science, Geography and History, and stressed that the teaching of mathematics and science should be in English.

Full report at:

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/12/29/dr-mahathir-malays-must-change-value-system/

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Mosque in signature drive against alcohol sale in nearby stores

29 December 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 — A mosque in Hulu Selangor is collecting signatures of local residents in protest against the open selling of alcohol in two supermarkets nearby, a report said.

The Masjid Saidina Ali Bukit Sentosa's imam 2 Mohd Azamudin Abdul Aziz reportedly said the supermarket owners should have been sensitive to the local community's sensitivities as alcohol was considered “haram” or forbidden in Islam.

Mohd Azamudin said the stores were located in a neighbourhood where 98 per cent of the residents were Muslims.

“We just succeeded in collecting 800 signatures of residents since this initiative was carried out a year ago with the target of over 3,000 signatures.

“There are over 20,000 residents around Bukit Sentosa, so the mosque will continue efforts to enable this protest to be done as soon as possible,” he was quoted saying by local daily Sinar Harian of the Bukit Sentosa township in Hulu Selangor.

“We see that there is no need for those supermarkets to sell alcohol in an area with a Muslim-majority population so they should stop selling it openly,” he also said.

In the same report by Sinar Harian, Mohd Azamudin said local residents had complained regarding the sale of alcohol due to concern over its negative effect, particularly to youths.

He added that alcohol was allegedly the mother of all vice and that could lead to crimes and threaten the safety of others.

He said empty cans of alcohol were also found at abandoned spots frequented by youths as hangouts, adding: “We are not sure who did it, we worry there are Muslims that will be influenced.”

This is not the first time that the sale of alcohol in Muslim-majority areas in Malaysia has been addressed.

In January 2015, then Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron reportedly said that store owners must immediately stop selling alcohol if Muslims make up more than 90 per cent of the local community.

Local daily Berita Harian had reported Idris as saying then that the matter was agreed upon between the state government, local councils and the management of convenience stores in the state.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/s/1707277/mosque-in-signature-drive-against-alcohol-sale-in-nearby-stores

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Malaysian corporate icons reach out to Syrian refugees in Turkey

29 December 2018

ISTANBUL, Dec 29 ― Two top Malaysian corporate leaders are reaching out to refugees from war-torn Syria who have made Turkey their home for the past six years.

Berjaya Group founder Tan Sri Vincent Tan and Top Glove Corporation Berhad founder Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai are here on a special three-day mission with 25 volunteers to distribute aid to the refugees.

There are four million Syrian refugees in Turkey with 700,000 in Istanbul alone.

Both Tan and Lim are also accredited volunteers of the Tzu Chi Foundation, a Taiwan-based humanitarian relief organisation which has footprints in 57 countries, including Malaysia, and has extended aid to almost 100 countries since its formation 52 years ago.

The Malaysian volunteers spent Friday at a clinic and later a school for refugee children run by Tzu Chi in downtown Sultan Gazi district.

In Malaysia itself, Tzu Chi has 1.2 million members who contribute a minimum of RM5 monthly with some 20,000 volunteers.

Tzu Chi's core value is love and compassion and members have to undergo a two-year training to qualify as a volunteer.

Its operations in Turkey are managed by three Taiwanese, including a couple, Faisal Hu and wife Nadia Chou, both Muslim converts, assisted by over 300 Syrian-born volunteers.

At a briefing for the visiting Malaysian team at the clinic, Faisal said the well-equipped centre had  treated about 270,000 patients since it opened its doors in July 2016, averaging between 9,000 and 12,000 people monthly.

With 13 doctors, it provides services such as family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, gynaecology, opthalmology, orthopaedics, dentistry and total medical treatments.

Later at the El Menahil International School, the Malaysians were warmly welcomed by teachers and students who are streamed into elementary, primary and secondary classes numbering 2,000.

Faisal, who has lived in Turkey for 23 years,  said  the school started with over 500 students and its education model was later adopted by the Turkish Ministry of Education and Unicef for other schools, benefiting 350,000 children of Syrian refugees in other parts of the country.

Tan presented various forms of donations to the school, while Lim handed over boxes of rubber gloves for the clinic. Top Glove Corporation, of which he is chairman, is the world's largest manufacturer of rubber gloves.

The six-year old elementary children performed dances for the visitors and shouted: “ Shukran Malaysia” (Thank You, Malaysia).

A visibly moved Tan told the students, teachers and volunteers: “ I'm very proud of you all for what you are doing and I admire you all”.

The poignant moments in the sessions with the Malaysian delegation came when some refugees spoke of their hopes for the future of their homeland.

Najwa Muhammad Khalf, a 16-year old girl who lost both legs in a bombing in the ravaged city of Allepo said all the other 11 members of her family were killed, while she was rescued by relatives and crossed the border to Turkey some 1,200km away.

She has since been fitted with prosthesis.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/s/1707252/malaysian-corporate-icons-reach-out-to-syrian-refugees-in-turkey

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Police arrest alleged Quran burner in North Sumatra

December 28, 2018

Apriadi Gunawan

The Langkat Police have apprehended a 19-year-old male for allegedly burning a Quran near a mosque in Besitang district, Langkat regency, North Sumatra, on Friday.

North Sumatra Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Tatan Dirsan Atmaja said the man, identified as Zulhamsyah, was caught red-handed burning the Quran. The police were questioning Zulhamsyah to find out his motive.

“We are still looking at what lies behind the perpetrator’s actions. He has been detained at the Langkat Police station,” Tatan said on Friday.

This was the second Quran burning case this week that the Langkat Police has handled, Tatan said. The police were also looking into a potential connection between the recent and previous case in which 20 copies of the Quran were burned by an unidentified man at the Nurul Huda mosque in Stabat district, Langkat, earlier this week.

The North Sumatra Police have been involved in the investigation.

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/12/28/police-arrest-alleged-quran-burner-in-north-sumatra.html

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North America

 

US security body: Khashoggi Qatari-Turkish agent, Washington Post must respond

28 December 2018

The Washington Post has caused a major scandal since it has come to light they and Jamal Khashoggi were publishing anti-Saudi propaganda for Qatar, a prominent security expert has said.

Jim Hanson, president of Security Studies Group, said in an analysis, that Washington Post tried to bury its scandal “in a pre-Christmas Saturday news dump, but that can’t stop the damage this will do to their reputation.”

He was referring to the text messages between Khashoggi and an executive at Qatar Foundation International that show that the executive, Maggie Mitchell Salem, shaped the columns he submitted to The Washington Post, “proposing topics, drafting material and prodding him to take a harder line against the Saudi government,” as the Post wrote December 21.

The Post says they were unaware of this, although Khashoggi’s Qatar connections were well known, Hanson added.

According to him, Washington Post management “will have to answer for what is either incompetence in connecting these dots or simply not caring as Khashoggi’s attacks on President Trump and the Saudis fit right in with their narrative.”

He added that during a Security Studies Group research for a report on the “information operation” led by Qatar and Turkey, after his death, the organization heard from reliable sources familiar with the investigation that documents showing wire transfers from Qatar were found in his apartment in Turkey.

They were immediately put out of reach by Turkish security services, so they did not show the collusion between Khashoggi, Qatar, and Turkey prior to his death. The organization has published as well a new, unredacted set of findings about the case. (You can read them here).

The findings according to Hanson are damning to Qatar, Turkey, and the Washington Post. The findings suggest that Khashoggi have been operating in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act by doing this on behalf of Qatar.

This is the same law that caused both Gen. Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort legal jeopardy by not filing their attempts to influence the U.S. government on behalf of a foreign entity, according to the group.

What is next for the Washington Post after being deceived by Qatar?

Recently, US Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment charging two business associates of Michael T. Flynn with acting as agents of the Turkish government, describing in remarkable detail how the three attempted to convince the United States to expel a rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Flynn, who pleaded guilty as part of a probe into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 election campaign, has joined a Washington firm that lobbies for Qatar. Flynn will be the director of global strategy at Stonington Global LLC.

Federal prosecutors had begun investigating Mr. Flynn after he wrote an op-ed for The Hill newspaper on Election Day 2016 attacking Mr. Gulen as a “radical Islamist” and a “shady Islamic mullah.” The prosecutors began examining whether Mr. Flynn was working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey.

Investigators later learned the op-ed was part of a larger effort by Mr. Flynn on behalf of Turkey. Mr. Flynn’s company was ultimately paid $530,000 to investigate Mr. Gulen by a company run by Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

These incidents reflect the similarities between Michael Flynn’s dealings and the Khashoggi affair that have now unfolded, with the same plan being executed by the same countries; Qatar and Turkey.

Jamal Khashoggi and The Washington Post’s op-eds

Hanson said that the op-eds published in the very influential Washington Post certainly qualify as attempts to change US policy against Saudi Arabia and in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Qatar supports in spite of its status as a terrorist organization with most other Gulf countries.

He added that Turkey had control of the narrative after the killing as the only primary source for the media, with Qatar backing up their tales.

Both had eager partners in western media outlets. Security Studies Group tracked this phenomenon here “Khashoggi case- Analysis of an Information Operation”: “Although Turkish-language media supported and helped to drive the narratives, as did Arabic-language media controlled by Turkish ally Qatar, the main outlets that Turkish intelligence used to execute their operation were major Western English- language journalist outlets.”

The group said that there has been a powerful effort to use this to weaken Saudi Arabia overall and especially to damage its relationship with the United States. Khashoggi’s editor at the Washington Post, Karen Attiah, led her paper’s media crusade that even called for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be deposed.

Hanson stressed that Qatar and Turkey both benefit from these attacks on Saudi Arabia and have tried to parley them into actual gains. He said that Erdogan was bold enough to actually ask for the United States to send him Fethulla Gulen, his main political rival, who resides in US as a green card holder.

The irony of Erdogan using the death of a Saudi opposition activist to ask for the extradition of opposition leaders he would most likely kill is stunning. Qatar has been pushing to stop the Gulf Arab blockade against it without addressing its terrorism financing and other malign actions that led to it, Hanson said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/12/28/US-security-body-Khashoggi-Qatari-Turkish-agent-Washington-Post-must-respond.html

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Outgoing Pentagon chief Mattis rejects Netanyahu's appeal: Report

Dec 28, 2018

Outgoing United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis has rejected an appeal made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to approve an Israeli sale of US-manufactured F-16 fighter jets, a report says.

Washington criticized the sale as a move to weaken and compete with the American arms market, according to an unnamed Israeli official speaking to Israel’s Channel 10 television network on Thursday.

The $500-million sale of 12 F-16 aircraft to Croatia, equipped with Israeli electronic systems, required American approval.

Washington, however, demanded that Israel only sell the planes in their original condition, removing the Israeli upgrades.

Furthermore, Mattis reportedly rejected a personal appeal by Netanyahu two weeks ago, reminding the Israeli prime minister that the United States “goes to great lengths to help its closest ally in the Middle East.”

The Israeli official added that "for reasons we don't fully understand, the Americans hardened their conditions and, apparently, we misread their position on the deal.”

“Practically, the F-16 deal with Croatia is dead and we don't think it is possible to get an agreement that will reconcile the US conditions and the Croatian demands in the tender.”

Last week, Mattis cancelled a planned trip to Israel that had been reportedly set to be focused on talks regarding Iran and Syria. The move came after the defense secretary resigned, citing disagreements with President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria.

As the US government is in shutdown due to a dispute with Congress over the allocation of $5 billion in funds needed for Trump’s proposed southern border wall, the US enforced a whooping 10-year $38-billion aid package to Tel Aviv last October.

The aid package, which includes an annual $3.3-billion contribution, was signed during the tenure of former US President Barack Obama in 2016. The package will provide Israel with free military material until 2028.

Earlier in October, Congress further proposed a motion to legally enforce the aid package, ensuring that future presidents could not suspend the package or use it to pressure Israel.

The motion, which has yet to be approved by the Senate, seeks to set up a special mechanism to fund the aid independently from the annual budget as to protect it from probable budgetary disputes between Congress and the White House.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/28/584199/Mattis-Israel-jets

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Iran: President Trump's 'sneak trip' a disrespect to Iraq

Dec 28, 2018

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi says a "sneak trip" by US President Donald Trump to Iraq Thursday was "outside diplomatic norms and a disrespect of the country's national sovereignty."

"Despite countless interventions and thousands of billions of dollars the US has wasted on its illegitimate presence in the region and in particular in Iraq, Trump still has to visit a regional country in a total secret, or so to speak, sneaky way amid the tightest security measures," he said Friday.

The visit, he said, was strongly opposed by the Iraqi people and widely criticized by experts.

Trump made an unannounced three-hour visit to the al-Asad Air Base near Baghdad on Thursday, sparking a wave of condemnation from Iraqi political and military leaders, with some of them demanding the expulsion of US forces.

Qassemi strongly criticized Trump’s "meddlesome and opportunist" remarks in Iraq and said “regional governments and nations will never allow aggressive and despicable outsiders to sow division among them.”

“It was the vigilant nations of the region – not the greedy US and its staunch support of terrorism – which managed to uproot terrorist groups created, equipped and financed by the US and the Zionists,” he said.

Qassemi said the regional nations routed terrorists by their timely understanding and synergizing of their material and spiritual powers.

"Undoubtedly, all regional states will soon come to the conclusion that the region’s stability and security will be ensured only through relying on their domestic, regional and international resources and capacities and foreign forces, sooner or later, will have to leave the whole region.”

Qassemi also had a piece of advice for the US president.

"Mr Trump had better seriously and inclusively review the developments of the world and the West Asia from the time he assumed office up to now so that he may have a second thought about what he has said, what has happened and what will happen and take necessary lessons."

On Wednesday, Trump spent a few hours at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq’s western Anbar Province but did not visit Baghdad. It was Trump’s first visit to troops in a war zone since becoming president.

In his remarks, Trump acknowledged his security concerns about visiting Iraq, saying it was “pretty sad” that he needed such secrecy to see US troops.

“Pretty sad when you spend $7 trillion in the Middle East, and going in has to be under this massive cover with planes all over and all of the greatest equipment in the world, and you do everything to get in safely,” he said.

A scheduled meeting between Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi was scrapped and they only talked over phone.

Abdul-Mahdi’s office said in a statement that the cancellation came as a result of “disagreement over how to conduct the meeting.”

The US, backed by the UK, invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext that the former regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons, however, were ever found in the country.

The invasion led to the rise of terrorist groups such as Daesh.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/28/584160/Iran-US-Trump-Iraq-visit

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Syrian refugee teen hospitalised after US school assault

28th Dec 2018

Aqila Mumthaz

Criminal charges are pending after a Muslim teen refugee girl was beaten up by another student at her high school bathroom on December 17. The attack was so brutal she required overnight treatment at a hospital for a concussion.

The attack took place inside Chartiers Valley High School located just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Footage of the fight inside the school bathroom went viral when Alexis Work posted the video on her Facebook.

In the video, the hijab-wearing teen comes out of the bathroom stall and is confronted by a blonde girl in a purple shirt who was trying to use the stall to smoke an electronic cigarette.

The altercation turned violent when the attacker then pushed the Syrian refugee. After trying to fight back, hijabi teen is pushed to the ground by the blonde girl and is repeatedly punched in the head.

In the video, the blond girl tells the teen refugee: “You’re lucky you’re from another language because I will crush you,” then pushes her and punches her. The refugee girl yells, “I’m not punching you, you punched me first.” The blond girl continues attacking her, even after she falls to the floor and screams, “Leave me alone!”

The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organisation in the US, demanded that Federal authorities investigate the matter as a hate crime. The group is helping the victim’s family with legal support.

“After this video, she was beaten up some more, and she had to go to go to the hospital,” Zohra Lasania, program director at CAIR-Pittsburg told Anadolu Agency.

Lasania said the teen is now home recovering from her injuries. Her family fled Syria and spent two years in a refugee camp before being granted entry to the US

“They were fleeing anarchy, violence, and the complete breakdown of the social system, a governing system so they came to a civilized place and we all assured them this is the most civilized place in the world,” Safdar Khwaja, President of CAIR-Pittsburg, told local media. “To see this kind of violence take place, it’s very disappointing.”

Police are investigating the incident but a law enforcement official said the incident does not appear to be religiously or racially motivated. Collier Township police have said that they don’t think the incident was a hate crime, something that Khwaja disagrees with.

“We don’t believe the motive was random and was at the spur of the moment, we believe there was a bias,” he said.According to a high school senior Alexis Work, who posted the video, the blond girl wanted to use the bathroom stall to vape but was told she wasn’t allowed to by the Muslim girl, which angered her and led her to attack the refugee girl.

Full report at:

http://muslimnews.co.uk/newspaper/top-stories/34367-2/

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Africa

 

Police deny dismissing 121 officers for absconding from deployment against Boko Haram

29 December 2018

The Nigerian Police Force (NPF), yesterday, said no officer was dismissed among the 2000 Police Mobile Force (PMF) personnel deployed to the North East.

Police Public relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, who disclosed this in Abuja, said officers and men found wanting in any way in the discharge of their statutory duties go through internal disciplinary procedures and if found guilty are either dismissed from the Force or given commensurate punishment(s).

According to him in this case, no officer was tried in orderly trial for any offence (disciplinary or otherwise) that will warrant dismissal from the Force and none was dismissed.

He added that the writer of the story ignorantly and for mischievous reasons relied on forged counterfeit documents which did not emanate from the Force as the basis for his story.

“It is a crime under the penal and criminal code laws to tell falsehood with intent to mislead the public to acts that can cause disturbance of public peace and public disobedience.

He maintained that the Inspector General of Police did not order the dismissal of 121 police officers as claimed by the report.

According to Moshood, “The story is evidently the characteristic mindset and pattern of the writer to deride and castigate public institutions, such as the Nigeria Police Force without any fact whatsoever.

“The pronouncement of dismissal of Police officers from the Force to the public is the responsibility of the Force Public Relations Officer and not that of the writer of the story.

He recalled that “on the 26th December, 2018, the Force debunked a fake and misleading report from premium times online publication that 167 out the 2000 additional Police Officers recently deployed by the IGP to the North East absconded and the attached list of personnel and the police signal were discovered to be forged documents.

“The Force, therefore, implores the public to be aware that the story is ill-motive, orchestrated to puncture the morale of officers and men of the Force engaged in the fight against insurgency in the North East and other Police personnel carrying out core Police duties to protect lives and property of all Nigerians across the country, and this should be condemned by all.

He vowed, “The Force will no longer tolerate or condone deliberate mischief and reckless publications aimed at defaming and derogating the integrity of the service from any individual(s) or group(s). The full weight of the law will be applied to protect the image of the service.”

https://guardian.ng/news/police-deny-dismissing-121-officers-for-absconding-from-deployment-against-boko-haram/

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Boko Haram Launches Series Of Attacks In North-East Nigeria

28 Dec 2018

Boko Haram has launched a series of attacks in north-east Nigeria, hoisting its flags over several towns and overrunning a multinational military base.

Militants from Islamic State West Africa Province, a faction of Boko Haram that split off in 2016, have taken over the former commercial town of Baga near the border with Chad, and seized the nearby multinational joint taskforce base (MNJTF), in a show of force less than two months before Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, seeks reelection.

Hundreds of people fled Baga for Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, which has been the centre of the Boko Haram crisis during the past decade. Escapees said gunshots heralded the arrival of uniformed, turbaned men, who quickly took control of the town. Some said they led prayers in the town on Friday. The army chief of training and operations, however, said the fight was ongoing.

“We are having a ding-dong situation in Baga right now,” he said. “We are not in full control, but Boko Haram have not taken control either.”

Several communities surrounding Baga also fell to the insurgents, according to residents. “Boko Haram are now occupying the MNJTF and positioned their gun truck strategically in Shuwari town,” said Mala Musa, a youth volunteer living in Baga.

Hassan Mahmud, a resident of Kukawa, said they arrived just as he was starting dinner. “Boko Haram has taken over Cross Kauwa, Kukawa and Baga,” he said. “Presently Boko Haram (members) have hoisted their flag in Baga town and are in full control.

“I’d bet my life that Boko Haram are strongly and forcefully retaking the north of Borno state, because they easily sweep the area. No soldiers are in these areas as I speak, and most of our civilian populace have run out of the town.”

Mahmud managed to flee Kukawa, taking most of his family members with him. Arriving into Maiduguri at 9am on Friday morning, he sipped some tea as he recounted the ordeal that led to their 200km journey.

He said the militants headed straight for the military bases, trying to reassure civilians that they would be safe. “Boko Haram were even telling us: ‘Don’t worry, we are not here for you. Stay where you are and don’t panic.’ But can we trust them? Definitely not.”

Baga, previously a bustling town home to 300,000 people, was the site of what Buhari, then in opposition, called “an unspeakable massacre” in 2015. Up to 2,000 people are thought to have died then, but, as one resident said: “No one stayed back to count the bodies.”

Over 100 police officers who were being trained in counter-terrorism were sacked this week after they absconded to avoid having to fight Boko Haram, Nigerian media has reported.

Nigerian soldiers frequently complain of being poorly equipped to fight a group that has killed tens of thousands of people, raped and kidnapped many more, and displaced millions.

“The morale of our military personnel is going lower every day because our strength is daily weakened by the number of casualties.. due to lack of or obsolete equipment,” said an officer who asked for anonymity.

Buhari’s campaign for a second term rests partly on his security record – last week he claimed that “people in the north-east know that we have recorded remarkable improvement in the fight against Boko Haram”.

Full report at:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/28/boko-haram-launches-series-of-attacks-in-north-east-nigeria

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Boat carrying over 300 migrants rescued off Libya reaches Spain

December 28, 2018

SAN ROQUE, Spain: A charity rescue boat carrying 311 mainly African migrants plucked off Libya entered Spanish waters Friday morning and was set to berth in a southern port near Gibraltar.

Proactiva Open Arms, the Spanish charity which runs the Open Arms vessel said the migrants -- who include pregnant women, children and babies -- were mainly from Somalia, Nigeria and Mali.

The ship will dock in the port of Crinavis, in San Roque, near the city of Algeciras.

"Good morning, Open Arms is already in the Bay of Gibraltar and is steering towards the only port available to it in the Mediterranean. Mission accomplished," tweeted the charity's founder Oscar Camps.

The migrants were rescued on December 21 from three vessels but were denied entry by Italy and Malta. Libya, France and Tunisia did not respond to Proactiva Open Arms' requests for permission to dock, Madrid said.

On Saturday, a newborn baby and his mother were helicoptered from the boat to Malta, while a 14-year-old suffering from a serious skin infection was taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Photos and videos posted by the charity showed the rest of the rescued migrants marking Christmas at sea listening to music and singing. Some children wore red Santa hats as they huddled together on the small rescue ship.

Police will identify the migrants before moving them to shelters.

Proactiva Open Arms operates in the sea between Libya and southern Europe, coming to the aid of migrants who get into difficulties during the crossing from northern Africa.

It will be the first time since August that Spain has allowed a charity rescue ship to dock and unload migrants in the country.

The Open Arms resumed its patrols of the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast in late November, along with two other boats run by migrant aid groups.

In August it had suspended its missions, accusing governments, and Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini by name, of "criminalising" migrant rescue charities.

Salvini has denied the groups access to Italy's ports, accusing them of acting as a "taxi service" for migrants. Malta too has been increasingly unwilling to host rescue vessels.

"Your rhetoric and your message will, like everything in this life, end," Proactiva Open Arms' founder Camps told Salvini on Twitter earlier.

"But you should know that in a few decades your descendants will be ashamed of what you do and say."

More than 1,300 migrants have perished trying to reach Italy or Malta since the beginning of the year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

That makes this stretch of the Mediterranean the most deadly for migrants attempting the crossing to Europe.

Spain meanwhile has become Europe's main entry point for migrants this year, overtaking Greece and Italy.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1426981/middle-east

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Sudan security forces fire tear gas, stun grenades at protesters near Khartoum

December 28, 2018

KHARTOUM: Sudanese security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades on Friday at 300-400 chanting worshippers as they left a mosque near the capital, a Reuters witness said, after a call for widespread anti-government protests by opposition groups.

Activists had urged protesters to gather in large numbers following Friday’s weekly Muslim prayers. Civil society groups said authorities arrested nine opposition figures on Thursday evening ahead of the planned demonstrations.

The group in Omdurman, a town near Khartoum, was fired upon as people exited the mosque chanting “peaceful, peaceful,” the witness said. Around 30 SUVs belonging to the security forces had surrounded the square outside the building before noon prayers.

Sudan has been rocked by more than a week of anti-government protests sparked by rising prices, shortages of basic commodities and a cash crisis.

At least 19 people have died during the protests, including two military personnel, according to official figures. Amnesty International said on Tuesday at least 37 had died.

The head of the media office at the National Intelligence and Security Service denied knowledge of Thursday’s arrests.

A committee of professional organizations involved in the protests said in a statement that authorities had raided a meeting of opposition leaders in Khartoum. The nine people they had detained included Siddiq Youssef, a senior leader of Sudan’s Communist Party, as well as leaders from the pan-Arab Ba’ath and Nasserist parties, the statement said.

Fourteen leaders of one of Sudan’s two main opposition groupings were detained last Saturday and then released hours later.

ECONOMIC CRDaesh

Sudan has been gripped by a deep economic crisis that began in 2011 after the southern half of the country voted to secede, taking with it three-quarters of the country’s oil output, and has been aggravated by years of overspending and mismanagement.

Opposition groups blame President Omar Al-Bashir, who has governed Sudan since 1989, for the mismanagement. A series of measures, including a sharp devaluation of the Sudanese pound in October, have failed to shore up the economy.

In January, Sudan was shaken by demonstrations triggered by high bread prices.

But the protests that began on Dec. 19 appear to be more serious. Authorities have shuttered schools and declared curfews and states of emergency in several regions, and residents say police have used tear gas and sometimes live ammunition against demonstrators.

Putting the death toll at 19, Sudan’s information minister on Thursday blamed some of the deaths on scuffles between shopowners and what he described as looters. He said 219 civilians and 187 members of the security forces had been wounded.

Journalists at the daily Al-Sudani said one of their colleagues was beaten by security forces after protesters passed next to the independent newspaper’s offices.

Two UN human rights experts expressed alarm at the escalating violence and urged the government to exercise restraint.

“The Government should respond to legitimate grievances of the Sudanese people,” Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, who reports to the UN Human Rights Council on the right to free assembly in Sudan, said in a statement.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1427081/world

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How NAF, allied air forces helped to flush Boko Haram out of Baga

December 29, 2018

By Nsikak Nseyen

Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has given a detailed account of how the Air Task Force (ATF) of Operation LAFIYA DOLE and Allied Air Forces provided air support to repel an attack by Boko Haram terrorists in Baga.

NAN reports that the fishing town was attacked by so-called members of the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) on the evening of Dec.26.

Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, gave the account, detailing the dozens of aerial strikes against the positions of the terrorists.

“It may be recalled that the Headquarters 7 Brigade Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) Baga came under attack by members of the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the evening of December 26.

“Upon receipt of the information of the attack, the Air Task Force (ATF) of Operation LAFIYA DOLE immediately dispatched a NAF Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), platform along with two Mi-35M Helicopter Gunships to provide support for the troops to repel the attack.

“The NAF ISR aircraft, which was overhead the troops’ location as at 7.15pm, also worked closely with a NAF and another allied ISR aircraft that are also in the operation area at the time of the attack.

“The ISR platforms were in contact with the ground troops and assisted in directing their fire against the terrorists, while the helicopter gunships engaged the terrorists at isolated locations destroying some of their vehicles and neutralising some fighters,” he said.

He said the ATF also provided support for Nigerian Army (NA), and Nigerian Navy (NN), troops at the Naval Base at Doron Baga, “which equally came under attack by ISWAP fighters on the morning of Dec.27 “.

According to Daramola, the ATF deployed two ISR platforms, two Helicopter Gunships and two Alpha Jet aircraft to provide ISR and close air support to the troops.

“After establishing communication with the ground troops, the location of the terrorists was ascertained and engaged by the Alpha Jet aircraft.

“The NAF and allied ISR platforms also spotted two ISWAP vehicles heading southwards from Baga and vectored the Alpha Jet aircraft to attack the vehicles, completely destroying one of them and neutralising the occupants.

“In order to enhance the quality of coordination between the air and ground operations, the Theatre Commander and Maritime Component Commander were carried onboard the ISR platform during one of the flights,” he said.

The spokesman said in all, the ATF conducted 20 missions in 21 sorties with a total of about 39 hours flown on December 26 and 27 in support of operations in Baga general area.”

Full report at:

http://dailypost.ng/2018/12/29/naf-allied-air-forces-helped-flush-boko-haram-baga/

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Arab World

 

Jaysh Al-Islam sends large convoy to Manbij front-lines

By Leith Aboufadel

2018-12-28

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:30 P.M.) – The situation around Manbij is heating up as several Turkish-backed rebel groups head to the front-lines.

Jaysh Al-Islam has now begun amassing their forces at the Manbij front-lines, sending a large number of fighters and vehicles to the northern axis of the city.

Similar to the Hamza Division, Jaysh Al-Islam is a veteran rebel group that participated in the long battle for the East Ghouta region of Damascus.

Since they lost the East Ghouta battle, Jaysh Al-Islam has been active in the Afrin region of Aleppo, where they have carved out a new area of influence near the Turkish border.

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/jaysh-al-islam-sends-large-convoy-to-manbij-front-lines/

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Saudi Arabia ‘not in crisis’ over Khashoggi affair: FM

December 29, 2018

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s new foreign minister voiced defiance on Friday in the face of international out- rage over critic Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, rejecting the kingdom was in crisis and his predecessor was demoted.

“The issue of Jamal Khashoggi... really saddened us, all of us,” Ibrahim al-Assaf said, a day after he was appointed foreign minister in a government reshuffle.

“But all in all, we are not going through a crisis, we are going through a transformation,” he added, referring to social and economic reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The prince, heir to the Saudi throne, has faced intense international scrutiny over the October 2 murder of journalist Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate — which critics say has left the oil-rich Gulf nation diplomatically weakened.

Assaf, a former finance minister who was detained last year in what Riyadh said was an anti-corruption sweep, replaced Adel al-Jubeir as foreign minister in the sweeping government shake-up ordered by King Salman.

Jubeir, who sought to defend the tainted government internationally after Khashoggi’s murder, was appointed minister of state for foreign affairs, which was widely seen as a demotion. “This is far from the truth,” Assaf said.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1454243/saudi-arabia-not-in-crisis-over-khashoggi-affair-fm

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Aleppo: Syrian Army Enters Strategic Town of Manbij

Dec 28, 2018

The statement by the Syrian Armed Forces' Headquarters came after the Syrian Democratic Forces asked for the deployment of the government troops.

The Syrian Army entered Manbij town after the People's Protection Units asked the Syrian Armed Forces to enter the strategic town.

SDF Spokesman Ceyhan Ahmad also confirmed the Syrian Army's arrival in Manbij town.

The local sources in Northern Syria announced that the Ankara-backed militants are fortifying their positions around Manbij in a bid to attack the strategic town concurrent with US troops' withdrawal from there.

Manbij is in a critical situation after US President Donald Trump declared US forces' withdrawal from Manbij town.

In relevant development on Thursday, residents of Manbij called on Damascus to deploy army forces in the strategic town in Northeastern Aleppo.

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted Mojib al-Rahman al-Dandan, the representative of Manbij in the Syrian parliament, as saying on Thursday that as Damascus and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are holding talks on deployment of army forces in the town, the residents are also strongly pressuring the officials to this end.

He added that after US President Donald Trump's declaration of withdrawal of American forces from Syria, the US army retreated from Manbij to Tishrin dam, noting that Manbij residents want immediate deployment of the Syrian army in the town.

Al-Dandan, meantime, said that the SDF leaders are also involved in internal differences as some intend to leave Syria for France and call for the establishment of a no-fly zone and some others want talks with the Syrian government.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971007000668

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Vast Popular Protest Reported in Northeastern Syria against Turkish Occupiers

Dec 28, 2018

The residents of al-Sabkheh town in Raqqa province 30 kilometers Southeast of the province staged protests and condemned the Turkish government's threats to attack Syria again.

The protesters chanted slogans against Turkey's direct support for terrorist groups and lauded the Syrian army's gains against the terrorist groups.

In a relevant development earlier in December, a large number of residents and elites in Hasaka province poured into the streets and condemned presence of Turkish, French and American forces in their country, Syria's state news agency reported on Friday.

SANA reported that a large number of civilians and social and religious characters took to the streets in Hasaka city and in the border town of Qamishli and protested against the Turkish troops' aggressions, hoisting the Syrian government flag.

The protestors gathered in front of the Justice Palace in Hasaka city, the main Cultural Center in Qamishli and in the village of Jarmaz, condemning Turkish military threats and aggressions against the Syrian nation, SANA went on to say, adding that the protestors vowed that Syria will foil all plots by the army's strength and the nation's resistance.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971007000541

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Hama: Syrian Army Foils Terrorists' Attacks from Demilitarized Zone

Dec 28, 2018

The Syrian Army units in Northern Hama targetted the movements of Turkistani Islamic Party in the surrounding areas of al-Ankavi village in Sahl al-Ghab region before they could penetrate into army's military positions.

The terrorists sustained heavy losses, as a large number of terrorists were reportedly killed and many more were injured.

Meantime, the Syrian Army's artillery units pounded the military positions of Kataeb al-Izzah terrorists in al-Latmanieh town who were trying to penetrate into the army positions in Northern Hama, inflicting heavy losses on them.

Several military positions of Kataed al-Izzah were destroyed in the Syrian army attacks and a dozen terrorists were killed.

The Syrian army pounded the terrorists' positions and moves in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib after continued attacks by Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) and other allied terrorists in the weapons-free zone.

The Syrian army troops stationed in areas near the town of Baridij in Northern Hama attacked terrorists' strongholds in regions near the villages of Tal Housh, al-Janabareh, Tal Othman, Ma'arkabeh, Atshan and Murak on Thursday after they came under attack, killing and wounding several of them and destroying their military equipment and vehicles.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971007000485

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Three killed, 10 injured in tourist bus explosion near Egypt's Pyramids

28 December 2018

Three Vietnamese tourists were killed and ten others were injured following an explosion that hit a tourist bus in the Egyptian city of Giza on Friday, according to the Egyptian ministry of interior.

A statement from Egypt's Interior Ministry said the bus was traveling in the Marioutiyah area near the pyramids when the crude roadside bomb, concealed by a wall, went off.

Security forces immediately evacuated the area and moved casualties to hospitals.

A medical source at al-Haram hospital, where the casualties were transferred, said that four of them had fractures and the rest only had bruises.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly said that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was following the incident, stressing that the bus had gone out of its regular way.

The Interior Ministry said that "at about 6 pm, an explosive device that was hidden next to a wall at the Mariouteya Street in Giza blew up during the passage of a tourist bus carrying 14 Vietnamese tourists.”

The ministry added: “11 tourists were injured, in addition to the driver, and three tourists were killed, in addition to the tour guide.”

The tourists were on their way to the pyramids to watch a light and sound show, according to the interior ministry.

Urgent investigation

Attorney General Nabil Ahmed Sadiq ordered an urgent investigation into the incident.

The Attorney General assigned the Supreme State Security Prosecution and the Southern Giza Prosecution Office to move to the scene of the incident and to conduct the necessary examination and to listen to eyewitness and the injured whose conditions are stable.

He ordered an autopsy report on the deceased and the cause of death, and samples were taken from the scene to determine the material used in the explosion.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/12/28/An-explosion-targets-a-tourist-bus-in-Egypt-s-Giza.html

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Mauritanian President Abdel Aziz next Arab leader in line to visit Damascus

Dec 28, 2018

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is reportedly going to pay an official visit to Syria early next year amid promising signs that the incumbent Damascus government led by President Bashar al-Assad is being admitted back into the Arab world.

Mauritania’s Arabic-language el-Jewahir daily newspaper, citing informed sources, reported on Friday that 62-year-old Abdel Aziz has decided to accept his Syrian counterpart’s invitation, and travel to Syria in the first week of next month.

The report added that officials working at the Syrian embassy in the Mauritanian capital city of Nouakchott have also confirmed the news.

On December 18, an Iraqi diplomatic source, requesting not to be named, said President Barham Salih was going to pay an official visit to Damascus.

The report came only two days after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir became the first Arab League leader to visit Damascus.

Syria's official news agency SANA said Bashir was greeted by his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad upon arrival at Damascus International Airport, before they both headed to the presidential palace.

The two leaders discussed bilateral ties and the "situations and crises faced by many Arab countries," the Syrian presidency said in a statement.

SANA quoted the Sudanese leader as saying during the meeting that he hoped Syria will recover its important role in the region as soon as possible.

He also affirmed Khartoum’s readiness to provide all it can to support Syria's territorial integrity.

The Arab League suspended Syria's membership in November 2011, citing alleged crackdown by Damascus on opposition protests. Syria has denounced the move as "illegal and a violation of the organization’s charter.”

On September 24, 2017, Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel urged Syria’s return to the Arab League.

Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'afari called on the Arab League to end its suspension of Syria’s membership in the 22-member pan-Arab body on March 7 last year, stressing that Arabs should reach a consensus on resolving the Syria crisis.

Speaking in an address to a meeting of foreign ministers from the regional organization in the Egyptian capital city of Cairo, Ja’afari said Syria’s absence from the Arab League could not be tolerated anymore.

Arab League does not only represent Arab governments, but also Arab nations and thus should bring an end to the Syria conflict, he pointed out.

Any weakening of an Arab country is tantamount to the weakening of all Arabs, the Iraqi diplomat said, emphasizing that if Arabs cannot unite on Syria, they can at least agree on settling the crisis there.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/28/584214/Mauritanian-President-Abdel-Aziz-next-Arab-leader-in-line-to-visit-Damascus

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Kuwait to reopen embassy in Syria for first time in seven years

Dec 28, 2018

In another sign of thawing relations between the Syrian government and the Arab world after years of diplomatic row in the wake of foreign-sponsored militancy, Kuwait has announced plans to reopen its embassy in Damascus next month.

A Syrian government source, requesting anonymity, said on Friday that Kuwait’s diplomatic mission in the Syrian capital will resume its activities within the next 10 to 14 days, Syria's pro-government al-Masdar news agency reported.

Under pressure from other members of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council, Kuwait withdrew its diplomats from Syria in February 2012, after tensions rose in the region over the foreign-backed crisis in Syria. A month later the Syrian embassy in Kuwait was also closed.

The development came on the same day that Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry announced in a statement that work at the kingdom’s embassy “in the Syrian Arab Republic is going on whilst the Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic to the Kingdom of Bahrain is carrying out its duties and flights connecting the two countries are operational without interruption.”

The statement also affirmed “the Kingdom’s keenness on the continuity of its relations with the Syrian Arab Republic and stresses the significance of enhancing and activating the Arab role in order to maintain Syria's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and avert the hazards of regional interference in its internal affairs and progress.”

On Thursday, the United Arab Emirates officially reopened its embassy in Damascus.

The Emirati Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said the reopening of its embassy “reaffirms the keenness of the United Arab Emirates to restore relations between the two friendly countries to their normal course.”

The move “will strengthen and activate the Arab role in supporting the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and to prevent the dangers of regional interference in Syrian Arab affairs,” the ministry pointed out.

UAE's charge d'affaires Abdul Hakim Naimi visited the embassy in the afternoon, and witnessed his country's flag being raised on the compound in central Damascus.

On December 16, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir became the first Arab League leader to visit Damascus.

Syria's official news agency SANA said Bashir was greeted by his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad upon arrival at Damascus International Airport, before they both headed to the presidential palace.

The two leaders discussed bilateral ties and the "situations and crises faced by many Arab countries," the Syrian presidency said in a statement.

SANA quoted the Sudanese leader as saying during the meeting that he hoped Syria will recover its important role in the region as soon as possible.

He also affirmed Khartoum’s readiness to provide all it can to support Syria's territorial integrity.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/28/584196/Kuwait-to-reopen-embassy-in-Syria-for-first-time-in-seven-years

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Mideast

 

Yemen: Houthis prevent government delegation from leaving Hodeidah

28 December 2018

The Houthi militias prevented on Friday the Yemeni government’s delegation from leaving the port city of Hodeidah, after the conclusion of consultations with the United Nations team, tasked with monitoring the ceasefire between the Houthis and the legitimate government.

The consultations come in the context of the peace deal reached in Sweden between Yemen’s warring parties.

Al-Hadath news channel’s correspondent reported earlier on Friday, that an agreement was reached to open the eastern road (known as Kilo 16) which links Sanaa with the port city of Hodeidah and Taiz on Saturday.

But the legitimate government’s delegation, which was supposed to leave Hodeidah on Friday noon, was prevented by the Houthis from leaving and is still inside a hotel in the city.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/12/28/Yemen-Houthis-prevent-government-delegation-from-leaving-Hodeidah.html

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Israeli helicopter conducts fresh airstrike against blockaded Gaza Strip

Dec 29, 2018

An Israeli combat helicopter has carried out an overnight aerial attack on the southern parts of the besieged Gaza Strip, claiming that the airstrike was conducted in response to a purported rocket attack from the impoverished enclave.

The Israeli military said in a brief statement on its twitter account in the early hours of Saturday that an Israeli “attack helicopter targeted a Hamas military post in southern Gaza.”

There was no immediate report of possible casualties and the extent of damage inflicted in the Israeli airstrike.

The Israeli military also said its airstrike against the Palestinian resistance movement was “in response” to an alleged rocket fire from Gaza into the occupied territories on Friday night that fell in an open area and caused no casualties or damage.

Tel Aviv bombards Gaza from time to time, claiming the assaults are in response to rocket attacks of the resistance groups.

Earlier on Friday, a young Palestinian protester was killed and two others, including a medic, were wounded by Israeli troops’ live rounds east of the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip as thousands took part in a protesting rally along the border that separates Gaza Strip from the occupied territories.

The Gaza Strip has been witnessing tensions since March 30, which marked the start of the “Great March of Return” protests demanding the right to return for the Palestinians driven out of their homeland.

Those tensions saw a sharp rise on May 14, marking the 70th anniversary of the Nakba Day (the Day of Catastrophe), which this year coincided with the US embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

More than 240 Palestinians have so far been killed and over 20,000 others wounded in the renewed Gaza clashes, according to the latest figures released by the Gaza Health Ministry.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/29/584232/Palestine-Israel-airstrike-Gaza-Khan-Yunis

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Yemeni govt accuses Houthi militias of stalling prisoner swap process

29 December 2018

Undersecretary of Hodeidah, Waleed al-Qoudaimi, said on Friday that the Houthi militias are obstructing and seeking to block the previously signed prisoner swap agreement, which was announced in the Sweden talks that took place early December.

A source in the legitimate government’s delegation who are involved in the process of the prisoner swap said that the militias denied the existence of nearly 3,000 detainees in its prisons, whose names were submitted by the government delegation in Sweden as part of the swap deal concluded in Stockholm.

The source added that the Houthis are trying to “stall the process, and avoid fulfilling their obligations in this file which is the one of the most important pillars of the agreement.”

The source also said that the Houthis forcefully disappeared Yemeni politician Muhammad Qahtan and military commander Faisal Rajab, “leaving their fate unknown as mere names on the list.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/12/29/Yemeni-govt-accuses-Houthi-militias-of-stalling-prisoner-swap-process.html

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Agreement reached on opening road connecting Yemen’s Sanaa with Hodeidah, Taiz

28 December 2018

As consultations continued on Friday between representatives of the Yemeni parties involved in Sweden peace talks, al-Hadath news channel’s correspondent reported that an agreement was reached to open the eastern road (known as Kilo 16) which links Sanaa with the port city of Hodeidah and Taiz on Saturday.

On the other hand, the Houthi militias refused to open the northern crossing of Hodeidah or to withdraw from the port, as mentioned in the Sweden deal. The United Nations team tasked with monitoring the ceasefire between the Houthis and the legitimate Yemeni government made no comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, who heads the United Nations team, suggested that the port of Hodeidah be a hub of receiving and distributing of aid to all Yemen’s provinces, a suggestion which was welcomed by the legitimate government, while the Houth militias remained reluctant.

The al-Hadath correspondent further reported that another meeting is expected to convene later on Friday in order to discuss more details regarding the road’s opening and the obstacles regarding the Houthi withdrawal from Hodeidah. On Thursday, the Arab Coalition said that Houthi militias violated the Hodeidah ceasefire 29 times in the past 24 hours.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/12/28/Agreement-to-open-major-road-connecting-Yemen-s-Sanaa-with-Hodeidah-Taiz.html

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Israeli troops kill Palestinian in Gaza: Ministry

Dec 28, 2018

Israeli forces have killed a Palestinian man during protests near the border between the besieged Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied territories, the health ministry says.

Ashraf al-Qedra, the spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry, said Karam Fayyad, 26, was killed by Israeli fire east of the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday.

He added that eight other Palestinians, including a medic and a journalist, were injured during the protests.

A senior official of the Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, says Palestinians will continue the Great March of Return rallies until the end of the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.

Tensions have been running high near the fence separating Gaza from the occupied territories since March 30, which marked the start of the protests.

Palestinian protesters demand the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

The clashes in Gaza reached their peak on May 14, the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day, or the Day of Catastrophe, which coincided this year with Washington's relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

More than 240 Palestinians have so far been killed and over 20,000 others wounded in the renewed Gaza clashes, according to the latest figures released by the Gaza Health Ministry.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/28/584208/Israeli-troops-Gaza

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Turkey will have no business in Syria's Manbij if YPG leaves, says Erdogan

Dec 28, 2018

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country’s military forces will have no business in Syria’s northern town of Manbij once Kurdish militants from the US-backed People's Protection Units (YPG) withdraw from the area.

“These areas belong to Syria. We are against the division of Syria. Our sole aim is to remove all terrorist organizations from there. Once terrorist organizations have left the area, we will have nothing left to do there,” Erdogan told reporters in Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul after Friday prayers.

He added that Ankara’s goal is to teach the YPG terrorist group a lesson, and it is determined to make such a thing happen.

The remarks came after Syria’s military announced it had taken control of Manbij, which lies in mainly Arab territory west of the Euphrates.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Moscow welcomes the reports that Syrian government troops have gained control of the flashpoint town, which is located 30 kilometers west of the Euphrates.

“Of course, this will help in stabilizing the situation. The enlargement of the zone under the control of government forces... is without doubt a positive trend,” he said.

Kurdish forces, who were left exposed by Trump's pledge to pull out American soldiers from Syria, have asked Syrian government forces for help amid indications that Turkey is considering a military campaign against them.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported that Turkish-backed militants from the so-called Free Syria Army (FSA) are sending new military reinforcements to Manbij frontline in Syria.

US troops are reportedly patrolling the town, and have bases on its edge to prevent any possible friction between Kurdish and Turkish-sponsored militants.

Manbij has been a major bone of contention between Turkey and the United States.

Ankara has complained over the slow implementation of a deal reached with Washington in June, which would see the YPG ousted from the town and moved back to the eastern bank of the river.

Over the past few days, the Turkish military has been sending reinforcements to frontline areas with YPG militants in northern Syria.

The Turkish military, with support from allied militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army, has launched two cross-border operations in northern Syria, dubbed “Euphrates Shield” and “Olive Branch”, against the YPG and Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/28/584206/Turkey-will-have-no-business-in-Syrias-Manbij-if-YPG-leaves-says-Erdogan

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Turkey detains dozens over alleged Daesh links

December 28, 2018

ANKARA: Turkish authorities on Friday detained dozens of suspects over alleged links to Daesh during morning raids in two provinces, state news agency Anadolu reported.

In Ankara, 52 people were taken into custody after the capital's chief prosecutor issued 64 arrest warrants as part of a probe into the extremist group.

Raids continued to find the 12 other suspects.

Police discovered weapons including guns and ammunition at the homes of the suspects in Ankara, Anadolu reported.

And in the northern province of Samsun, 10 Iraqis were detained over suspected Daesh ties, the agency said.

Turkish authorities have conducted similar raids in the capital this year.

Just a few days before national elections in June, 14 suspected Daesh members were detained accused of planning an attack on the polls.

Turkey was hit by a series of terror attacks in 2015 and 2016 attributed to Daesh and Kurdish militants. The last attack was in January 2017 when a gunman killed 39 people at an elite Istanbul nightclub during New Year celebrations.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1427016/middle-east

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Australia

 

Australia strips citizenship from alleged Daesh recruiter

December 29, 2018

SYDNEY: The Australian government has stripped citizenship from a man it believes is a top recruiter for Daesh, Australia’s home affairs minister said on Saturday.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said in an emailed statement to Reuters that Melbourne-born Neil Prakash has been stripped of his citizenship.

Prakash has been in Turkey on trial for terrorism-related activities since being caught there in October 2016 after leaving Daesh-controlled territory.

He is wanted in Australia over terrorism-related activities including an alleged plot to behead a Melbourne police officer on Anzac Day.

“My first priority is and always will be the safety and security of all Australians,” Dutton said in his statement. “This Government is determined to deal with foreign terrorist fighters as far from our shores as possible.”

Prakash, whose mother was Cambodian and father was Fijian Indian, held both Australian and Fijian citizenship through his father.

Under Australia’s citizenship laws, a dual national can lose their Australian citizenship if they act contrary to their allegiance to Australia by choosing to be involved in terrorism. Prakash is the 12th person to be stripped of citizenship.

Daesh was declared a terrorist organization in May 2016 for this purpose, the Home Affairs Office said in its statement.

“To be in the service of such a terrorist organization, as Mr.Prakash was, is to act inconsistently with your allegiance to Australia and we will do everything we can to ensure he is brought to account for his crimes,” Dutton said.

The decision came into effect on Dec. 21 when Prakash was notified by letter, and the Fijian government has also been notified according to a source close to the Australian government.

Prakash has been linked to several Australia-based attack plans and has appeared in Daesh videos and magazines. Australia has alleged that he actively recruited Australian men, women and children and encouraged acts of militancy.

Australia has been pressing Turkey to extradite Prakash since he was first detained, but the request was rejected in July. It will remain in place until the conclusion of his case and any custodial sentence, The Australian newspaper reported.

Canberra canceled Prakash’s passport in 2014 and announced financial sanctions in 2015, including anyone giving him financial assistance, with punishment of up to 10 years in jail.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1427331/world

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