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Islamic World News (04 Mar 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)


Pakistan Should Shut Down Hardline Deobandi Schools: US Congressman Ed Royce
















Pakistan needs to be serious about closing down 600 Deobandi madrassas in the country, an influential US lawmaker has said.(AFPFile Photo)

 

Pakistan Should Shut Down Hardline Deobandi Schools: US Congressman Ed Royce

14 Madrasa Teachers Rescued From ISIS Captivity in East of Afghanistan

German School Bans Muslim Pupils from ‘Provocative’ Praying

Castro Valley: Challenging Views on Muslims, Islam One Meeting at A Time

Money Trail to Zakir Naik’s Schools Focus of ED Probe

 

Pakistan

Pakistan Should Shut Down Hardline Deobandi Schools: US Congressman Ed Royce

Pakistani-American Republican Defends Trump’s Immigration Policies

Khanani group launders billions of dollars: US report

Mainstreaming of Fata to begin after legislation: PM

Six terrorists killed in Khyber operation

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South Asia

14 Madrasa Teachers Rescued From ISIS Captivity in East of Afghanistan

Madrasa Students Get Roped into Islamic Andolon’s Greek Statue Protest

ISIS loyalists behead 2 men in East of Afghanistan

Key Taliban group member arrested in capital Kabul

Ghani discuss Afghan forces development plan, other key issues with Trump’s adviser

Bangladesh Arrests Islamist Militant Who Urged Killing of Foreigners

Dead Bogra militant was a Shibir activist

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Europe

German School Bans Muslim Pupils from ‘Provocative’ Praying

Marine Le Pen Redefining Populist Politics in France

'Algeria's Orwell' urges writers to fight fundamentalism

Geneva peace talks produce clear agenda: UN envoy

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North America

Castro Valley: Challenging Views on Muslims, Islam One Meeting at A Time

US Hate Crime: Threatening Note Signed ‘Muslim Slayer’ Sent To New York City Mosque

Arrest in bomb threat against Canadian Muslim students

Islam In Europe: Muslims Banned From ‘Provocative’ Praying, ‘Ritual Washings’ By School In Germany

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India

Money Trail to Zakir Naik’s Schools Focus of ED Probe

1 Killed, 3 Injured In Jammu & Kashmir after Militants Attack Police Party

Indo-Pak talks on Indus Water Treaty likely this month

S Jaishankar discusses terrorism, Afghanistan with US officials

Rules bent to give govt job to Syed Ali Shah Geelani's grandson during 2016 Kashmir unrest

Babri Masjid Action Committee Leader Syed Shahabuddin Passes Away

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Arab World

Saudi Arabia: Houthis Using Children in Armed Conflict

Clashes Intensified amongst Rival Terrorists in Syria's Idlib

Al-Nusra Centres Hit Hard in Syrian Airstrikes near Border with Lebanon

Terrorists' Command Post in Eastern Damascus Destroyed in Syrian Army Attack

Syrian Army Drives ISIL out of More Territories East of Aleppo Province

Syria: Several ISIL Members Killed in FSA Ambush in Dara'a

Saudi King calls for more moderate Islam

Thousands flee Iraq’s Mosul overnight, as fighting rages on

Terrorists' Command Post in Eastern Damascus Destroyed in Syrian Army Attack

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Southeast Asia

Why China Staged a Fresh Display of Military Might in Xinjiang

Standardization of ' Islamic Boarding Schools ' Aimed At Mainstreaming Moderate Islam: Indonesian Ministry

China says Dalai Lama border visit will damage ties with India

Let Zakir Naik stay, says group of Muslim NGOs

Jakim must stop preaching overzealous bigotry

New Zealand seeks Malaysia’s advice on deradicalisation

Indonesia, Saudi Arabia to Promote Moderate Islam

Maldivian opposition warns against atoll sale to Saudi Arabia

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Mideast

Turkey’s Erdogan Accuses Germany of ‘Aiding and Harbouring Terror’

US Hits Qaeda in Yemen with new wave Of Strikes

US launches 30 airstrikes in two days against al-Qaeda in Yemen

Arrest in bomb threat against Canadian Muslim students

Houthis targeting tribes and suppressing public officials

Mass rally held in Sana’a against Saudi onslaught on Yemen

6 dead as Saudi jets pound northern Yemen with cluster bombs

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Africa

Tunisia, Germany Announce New Immigration Agreement

Libyan National Army loses control of major oil ports to armed faction

Russia says ready to broker talks for unity in Libya

Morocco Boasts Success Fighting Terrorism

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/pakistan-should-shut-down-hardline-deobandi-schools--us-congressman-ed-royce/d/110289

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Pakistan Should Shut Down Hardline Deobandi Schools: US Congressman Ed Royce

Press Trust of India

Washington, Mar 03, 2017: Pakistan needs to be serious about closing down 600 Deobandi madrasas in the country, an influential US lawmaker has said, underlining that there is a prevailing sentiment in the Congress and Trump administration that such schools are breeding ground for terrorists.

"I think, the sentiments are Pakistan needs to be serious about closing down the Deobandi schools, there are about 600 of them as they churn out people who do not know what to do except to really either argue for or carry out jihad," Congressman Ed Royce said at an event hosted by Vivekananda International Foundation, a New Delhi-based think-tank, at the US Capitol here yesterday.

"Pakistan need to crackdown on groups like the LeT, close down those campuses as well. Pakistan needs to understand that if they are not going to bring perpetrators of the terrorist attacks to justice they should turn them over to The Hague so that they can be tried in international tribunals and justice can be served," said the Chairman of powerful House Foreign Relations Committee.

A founding member of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, Royce said the Congress and the new Administration is focused on some new issues.

"One is that concept of $500 billion in trade between India and the US. That is where we are trying to push the policies...So we need an effective bilateral trade agreement treaty with India. We are pushing to liberalise trade further," Royce said.

"At the same time, we are delighted that among the Indian-American population that we have in the United States, one half of them have post graduate degrees. When we think about what that pertains...we know that there is a very bright future for Indian-Americans," he said.

India and the US, he said, should form their policies on the "core values of rule of law, democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of believe".

"We do not always hit the mark in the US. Those are our goals. India does not always hit the mark. But those are India's goals," he said.

India, he said, is now the ninth largest trading partner of the US.

The counter-terrorism co-operation has also increased over the past several years and the defence ties have strengthened in the last one decade, he said.

Source: hindustantimes.com/world-news/pakistan-should-shut-down-hardline-deobandi-schools-us-congressman-ed-royce/story-DgUezKR1pb7lK7VmOt1BEP.html

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14 Madrasa teachers rescued from ISIS captivity in East of Afghanistan

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sat Mar 04 2017

At least fourteen teachers of a religious school (Madrasa) were rescued from the captivity of the loyalists of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

Provincial governor’s spokesman Ataullah Khogyani confirmed that the Madrasa teachers were rescued from ISIS captivity in Haska Mina district.

He said the teachers including two workers of the Madrasa were taken hostage nearly twenty days ago by ISIS loyalists.

The provincial government media office in a statement said the rescued teachers reunited with their family after they were released due to the efforts of the provincial government officials.

Provincial governor Mohammad Gulab Mangal welcomed the release of the kidnapped teachers and thanked those involved in the rescue efforts of the hostages.

According to the local officials, this is not the first time ISIS loyalists have kidnapped civilians from the restive districts of Nangarhar.

Numerous other incidents of kidnappings have taken place in the past but the majority of the hostages were released due to the efforts of the provincial officials, tribal elders and Afghan national security forces.

http://www.khaama.com/14-madrasa-teachers-rescued-from-isis-captivity-in-east-of-afghanistan-02321

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Madrasa students get roped into Islamic Andolon’s Greek statue protest

March 04, 2017

Underage madrasa students demanding removal of a Greek statue is just another instance of children being used in political demonstrations, even though it is prohibited by law in Bangladesh.

The day started as usual on Friday for madrasa student Abdul Malek (not his real name).

The 13-year-old, along with his 200 dorm mates, was woken up by their teacher Mosaddek Hossain at the crack of dawn. They washed themselves up, ate their breakfast and got ready for class.

However, the day took a different turn when Mosaddek told them that there would be no classes. Instead, he said, they would all go to Baitul Mukarram National Mosque in Dhaka to join an anti-government protest.

Malek had not participated in a protest before. Mosaddek did not clarify what it was about, and Malek and the students did not have the courage to ask questions.

Around 11am, all the students of Gendaria Forkaniya Hafezia Madrasa started their march towards the Baitul Mukarram.

The protest was staged by Islami Andolon Bangladesh against the installation of a statue on the premises of the Supreme Court.

Asked if he knew exactly what they were protesting, Malek shook his head.

“Hujur [the teacher] told us the government had put up an idol. Idols are prohibited in Islam, so we are protesting the government’s un-Islamic act,” the boy told the Dhaka Tribune.

Before he could say anything else, the adults intervened and pushed this reporter away – a clear warning to stay away from the children.

Children being involved in political protests is nothing new in Bangladesh.

Madrasa students, with little understanding of the cause, are frequently used in public demonstrations by Islamist groups.

In 2013, Hefazat-e-Islam brought hundreds of madrasa students when they staged a demonstration in Dhaka on May 5 demanding death sentence for “the atheist bloggers” who organised the Shahbagh movement.

According to a 2013 report by human rights organisation Odhikar, some of the children who took part in the Hefazat rally were found missing after the law enforcement cracked down on the protesters. Some are even feared dead.

The practice is not uncommon for mainstream political parties either; child activists are regularly seen in programmes of both ruling parties and opposition parties, said the report.

But it is illegal, as the Children’s Act 2013 prohibits involving anyone under 18 years of age in political activities.

“Using children in political movements is not only unethical, it is also illegal,” said Jyotirmoy Barua, lawyer and human rights activist. “Both Islamist groups and political parties often use children to picket and hurl bombs so the law enforcement officers cannot intervene.”

“Those who get children involved in political movements do so deliberately,” said Abdus Shahid Mahmud, director of Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum. “Even though it is illegal, they make children picket and throw bombs at people”

“There is a law against this practice in Bangladesh, but it is never properly implemented,” said Md Mamunur Rashid, civil society and children’s rights policy manager at Save the Children Bangladesh.

Read More- ‘Hefazat’s demand irrational’

With Friday’s demonstration, Islami Andolon Bangladesh joined the league of other hardliner Islamist groups like Hefazat-e-Islam, Islami Oikya Jote, Olama League and Bangladesh Khilifat Majlish demanding the removal of the statue from the Supreme Court premises.

The Lady Justice statue, a likeness of Greek goddess Themis who is a universal symbol of justice, was installed on the Supreme Court premises in December last year.

Islamist groups started their protest against the statue straight away, terming the sculpture an “idol” and therefore un-Islamic.

Ansar al-Islam, the Bangladesh chapter of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), also recently expressed their support for the protest in a forum discussion.

Addressing Friday’s protest, Islami Andolon Bangladesh Presidium Member Mosaddek Billah Al Madani announced that the group would hold a grand rally at Suhrawardy Udyan in Dhaka on April 21.

http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/law-rights/2017/03/04/madrasa-students-greek-statue-protest/

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Castro Valley: Challenging Views on Muslims, Islam One Meeting at A Time

March 3, 2017

CASTRO VALLEY — When it comes to family, Moina Shaiq see no difference between hers and others whom she meets regularly in coffee shops, churches and community meetings.

The Fremont resident has shuttled her four children between countless soccer practices and games, plus Boy Scout and Girl Scout activities, over the years. She even got to see one of her sons become an Eagle Scout. And she is a regular shopper at Costco, her family’s favourite store.

What perhaps sets her apart, at least at first blush, is her hijab, a headscarf some Muslim women wear as a symbol of modesty and privacy. It is an observation that has prompted stares and glares in recent years, she acknowledged.

“They wonder, you know, ‘This is a Muslim person, and I wonder what’s going on in their mind, what kind of people they are and why are they dressed like that,’ especially when they see a woman in a Hijab,” Shaiq said in a telephone interview.

“When people see a Muslim on the street, which they encounter all the time, I want people to understand all of those things,” she said.

Shaiq has done just that the past year, mostly on her own, and meets regularly with groups of people in small, casual venues, such as homes, coffee shops and libraries to answer any questions they have about Muslims and Islam. On Sunday, her grassroots initiative, called Meet a Muslim, will make a stop at the Castro Valley Library.

“I think people need to get to know each other. That’s the only way to dispel your fear or whatever you have in your mind,” said Shaiq, who emigrated from Karachi, Pakistan, to the United States nearly four decades ago after marrying her husband.

“Until you get to know people, such as people with disabilities, or the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning) community, you are ignorant and you have the fear of the unknown, basically. I think people need to get to know their neighbors and those people who are different than they are, because most people hang out with those who look like them and share the same culture,” she said.

Questions at past events have ranged from differences between Sunnis and Shias, the two main sects of Islam; Muslim women’s rights; what it’s like to be an American Muslim; and current events that make headlines, Shaiq said.

She makes it a point to note that she is not a scholar but a layperson trying to answer questions from her perspective.

“I personally talk very little, because I feel that people have a lot of questions and we need to get to that,” Shaiq said.

Shaiq, who lived in Florida and Texas before moving to California 35 years ago, said she became active and began participating in interfaith activities shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

Then on Dec. 2, 2015, a married couple who had ties to Pakistan and claimed to be Muslim killed 14 people and injured 22 others in a mass shooting in San Bernardino.

Shaiq, who was in Pakistan at the time, said the shootings made her realize she needed to reach a broader group of people.

“I started thinking, ‘When I go back, what can I proactively do to reach those people who don’t come out and we really want to reach out to, or who are ignorant and have misconceptions but don’t take the time or have the desire to come out and listen?’ ” Shaiq said.

She put an advertisement in a local newspaper for her first Meet a Muslim event. No question was off the table, and she vowed to answer any hot-button questions that people brought, such as what is causing Islamic extremism. When the day came, she sat in a Fremont coffee shop and waited for someone, anyone, to come.

“I thought, ‘If nobody comes, it won’t be a waste of time. I’ll just take my laptop, do my work and come back home,’ ” Shaiq said.

More than 100 people showed up.

“It was overwhelming; I had not imagined that, and there was standing-room-only in the coffee shop,” Shaiq said.

She has spoken at more than 50 events, but said reaching out to people is not always easy.

“When I’m talking, I can see some faces are nodding in a way that shows they don’t understand what I’m saying, and I can somewhat understand that,” Shaiq said.

“It’s hard to reconcile when you are watching this negative stuff every day in the news, and this one person is there for an hour talking and giving this beautiful picture of Islam,” she said.

And then there are the risks that sporadically come. She has received several email death threats and interruptions or verbal backlash at meetings. At a recent Meet a Muslim event in San Francisco, a woman approached Shaiq afterward, saying she had no right to make statements critical of the U.S. government because she wore a hijab.

“The climate today is allowing people to be vocal,” Shaiq said.

“They don’t even think once or twice before saying anything because they think they have the right and we don’t. It makes me wonder now, after the (presidential) election, do we really belong here? We are considered second-class citizens here, basically; we don’t have the rights like everybody else does,” she said.

Contact Darin Moriki at 510-293-2480 or follow him at Twitter.com/darinmoriki.

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/03/03/challenging-views-on-muslims-islam-one-meeting-at-a-time/

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Money trail to Zakir Naik’s schools focus of ED probe

by Rashmi Rajput

March 4, 2017

THE FOCUS of the money laundering probe against controversial televangelist Zakir Naik is now on the two schools set up by him and the properties purchased through alleged front companies which purportedly showed “no business activities”. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has pegged Naik’s net worth at Rs 3,000 crore.

According to sources, between 2003 and 2016, the Islamic International School (IIS) received Rs 57 crore from Naik’s now outlawed Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). Of this, IIS made cash withdrawals of Rs 56 crore, which is shown as money spent towards payment of salaries of its teachers/ staff, scholarships and rent for the school premises — Rs 4.48 crore was withdrawn as rent in 2010-2016.

IIS is run by the IRF Education Trust, which was registered with the Charity Commissioner, Mumbai, in 1993. It has one branch in Mumbai and another in Chennai.

NIA conducts raid at Zakir Naik's office

Sources privy to the investigation told The Indian Express that in 2009-10, over Rs 6 crore was transferred from IRF’s account to Longlast Construction Private Ltd, one of the six alleged shell companies floated by Naik to buy real estate in Mumbai and Pune. During this period, Longlast Construction, in which Naik was a director till March 2013, reportedly bought a land parcel in Byculla in South Mumbai for a school building as the IIS operates from rented premises.

After Naik stepped down as the director, his sister, Nailah, and close aide, Abdul Amir Gazdar, became directors of Longlast Constructions. Gazdar, a marble trader by profession, was arrested by the ED last month.

Investigators have recovered application forms of students from weaker financial backgrounds who were granted scholarships. They were reportedly granted admission if they expressed their “intent to become Islamic preachers” on competition of their studies. Most of the students were from the Muslim-dominated suburban pockets of Govandi, Chunabhatti, Mankhurd, Chembur and Behrampada. They constituted close to 20 per cent of the 170 students studying at the Mumbai branch.

“The annual school fee is Rs 3.8 lakh. In all, 170 students were enrolled by the school. We did not find any student from middle-class income group. They are either from the upper class or from under-privileged class. Those from the lower income group managed to get admission through scholarships,” said an official.

“Students who were admitted through scholarships were told to fill an application form where they would mention that the purpose of education was to become Islamic preachers in the future,” said the official. “Naik’s IRF wanted to nurture young children who spoke English, but were deeply religious and followed the tenets of Islam and even preached them in the future. Therefore, they funded many scholarships and other events,” said the official.

The school in Mumbai hired 80 teachers and 30 non-teaching staff.

“Longlast was one of the six companies floated by Naik to round trip his money. These companies showed no business activities of any nature. There were no books maintained to record the minutes of meetings of either their boards of directors or employees,” said the official. “This is a clear case of money laundering through layering of funds.”

Meanwhile, Gazdar’s interrogation has reportedly revealed that Global Broadcast Corporation FZ LLC, a Dubai-based TV broadcasting company, bought media content produced by Harmony Media — a Mumbai-based media production company floated by Naik in which Gazdar is a director — for Rs 42.87 crore. However Global Broadcast Corporation sold the content free of cost to Peace TV, a free-to-air non-profit satellite television network broadcasting globally from Dubai.

The Peace TV website shows that it broadcasts programmes of many internationally renowned scholars and orators, including Naik and Maulana Parekh of India. “We are probing why Peace TV was airing Naik’s content free of cost. We suspect that Naik may have some kind of stake/ interest in Peace TV. The channel was used to air Naik speeches which were pro-terror,” claimed the official.

“Gazdar is a director of Global Broadcasting Corporation, which we suspect is a front company used to round trip the money back to India by showing purchase of media content from Harmony Media, which is again a shell company floated by Naik,” said the official.

Harmony Media, a video and software production company, was incorporated in 2005. Naik was the managing director from May 8, 2006 till he resigned on March 13, 2013. His wife was appointed on the board on May 8, 2006, and resigned on March 15, 2013. In the last couple of years, while Longlast Construction saw a surge in borrowing, Harmony TV saw a steady growth in revenue.

A scrutiny of Naik’s accounts from documents accessed by The Indian Express reveals that Naik remitted Rs 47.69 crore from his Dubai-based accounts (Emirates Islamic Bank) to his Indian account (Union Bank of India). The funds have been shown as proceeds from investments. “The funds were immediately transferred to the accounts held by his late father Abdul Karm Naik, his mother Roshan and sister Nailah Noorani,” said an official.

Of the Rs 25 crore received by Noorani from her parents in her accounts with UBI and Development Credit Bank, Rs 50,000 each was deposited in Majestic Perfumes Pvt. Ltd and Alpha Lubricants Pvt Ltd, Rs 11.57 crore in Longlast Construction Pvt Ltd, and Rs 9.30 crore in Harmony Media Pvt Ltd. “All these are shell companies floated to launder money which was basically unaccounted donations received by IRF. The probe is concentrating on ascertaining the flow of the money,” said the official. Noorani is expected to record her statement before the ED next week.

When contacted, IRF counsel Mubin Solkar said all the six companies were incorporated “to do business” and none of them are sham. “These companies were floated to do business. In some cases they were already doing business, and in other cases they were incorporated to do business. None of them are sham companies and they have Memorandum of Association and Article of Association to state what these company ought to do,” said Solkar.

“We have shared all the documents and the book of accounts with the Mumbai Police which first started probing the case and no case has been registered so far by the Economic Offences Wing of the Mumbai Police which probed the case. We are open to the investigation being done by the ED,” he said.

Solkar added that all the donations given by IRF have been accounted for. “I won’t be able to speak on every donation but every expense has been accounted for,” he said.

Sources close to the Naik family said they would submit all the proof regarding the companies’ investments to the ED. “Nailah has been summoned by the ED and we will submit all the documents pertaining to the company she was director with — the investments and the proposed investments by the company. The same goes for other companies as well,” said a family source.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/money-trail-to-zakir-naiks-schools-focus-of-ed-probe-4553490/

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Pakistan

 

Pakistani-American Republican defends Trump’s immigration policies

Raja Zahid

March 4, 2017

DALLAS: Pakistani-American Muslim Republican and Mayor of Paris Texas Dr. Arjumand Hashmi who supported  Donald Trump in his presidential campaign has said that American Muslims should not be worried about president's immigration policies and travel ban on Muslim countries.

“Reason for the executive order banning people from seven Muslim majority countries is that these countries don’t have credible government institutions which makes it difficult to process  information regarding the people willing to enter US, he said while talking to Jang/Geo at his residence.

Hashmi dispelled the notion that the executive order was an action aimed at Muslims.

Citing an example, he said that Kuwait has stopped issuing visas for Pakistanis, similarly Saudis also have put restrictions on visas for Pakistani workers. .

 He said that this was merely a coincidence that the countries mentioned in the executive order were all Muslim majority nations.

“ Trump has taken strong position against Mexico and  Mexico is not a Muslim country”.

 He said that a better strategy would have been to see why these steps are taken. Dr. Hashmi said that Pakistani passport has a place for religion but there is none in American passport.

He said if an immigration officer asks you what is your religion then what is wrong in answering the question. “If someone asks me what my religion is, I would proudly answer I am a Muslim”.

He said that he recently came back from Pakistan and the custom officer asked him why he went to Pakistan. “I answer the question and the custom officer returned my  passport saying welcome back”. 

Responding to a question, he said that inquiry by custom officers is not harassment.

“Their interrogation is to see if the person entering the US is the right person”.  If you are innocent, then you don’t have to be worried about anything.”

Hashmi said he considers the executive order was little hard and abrupt.

He said Pakistani Americans should not be worried at all. “If you are good citizen with clean record, then you need not worry. If they ask you questions at the airport then there is no harm in answering .This is your country too, and you should also make it as secure as it can be”.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/190160-Pakistani-American-Republican-defends-Trumps-immigration-polices

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Khanani group launders billions of dollars: US report

ANWAR IQBAL

March 4, 2017

WASHINGTON: A US State Department report released on Friday labelled the Altaf Khanani group as a money laundering organisation and accused it of laundering billions of dollars for organised crime and terrorist outfits.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William R. Brownfield told a briefing in Washington that the State Department had delivered its 32nd International Narcotics Control Strategy Report to Congress on Wednesday. “It is, however, the first time that we are discussing and rolling this report out before the media in nine years,” he added.

In its section on Pakistan, the report notes: “The Altaf Khanani money laundering organisation (Khanani MLO) is based in Pakistan. The group, which was designated a transnational organised crime group by the United States in November 2015, facilitates illicit money movement between, among others, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), United States, UK, Canada, and Australia.”

Also read: Javed Khanani dies after falling from building in Karachi, say police

The group “is responsible for laundering billions of dollars in organised crime proceeds annually. The Khanani MLO offers money laundering services to a diverse clientele, including Chinese, Colombian, and Mexican organised crime groups and individuals associated with designated terrorist organisations”, the report adds.

It describes Pakistan as strategically located country at the nexus of south, central and western Asia, with a coastline along the Arabian Sea. The report notes that Pakistan’s porous borders with Afghanistan, Iran and China facilitate the smuggling of narcotics and contraband to overseas markets.

“The country suffers from financial crimes associated with tax evasion, fraud, corruption, trade in counterfeit goods, contraband smuggling, narcotics trafficking, human smuggling/trafficking, terrorism and terrorist financing,” the report points out.

“There is a substantial demand for money laundering and illicit financial services due to the country’s black market economy and challenging security environment.”

The report notes that money laundering in Pakistan affects both the formal and informal financial systems. Pakistan does not have firm control of its borders, which facilitates the flow of illicit goods and monies into and out of Pakistan.

The report, however, acknowledges that most Pakistanis living abroad use legal channels for sending money home. From January to December 2016, the Pakistani diaspora remitted $19.7 billion back to Pakistan via the formal banking sector, up by 2.3 per cent from 2015.

The report notes that while it is illegal to operate a hawala without a licence in Pakistan, the practice remains prevalent because of poor ongoing supervision efforts and a lack of penalties levied against illegally operating businesses. “Unlicensed hawala/hundi operators are also common throughout the broader region and are widely used to transfer and launder illicit money through neighbouring countries,” the report adds.

Common methods for transferring illicit funds include fraudulent trade invoicing, unlicensed hundis and hawalas and bulk cash smuggling.

The report says that criminals exploit import/export firms, front businesses and the charitable sector to carry out their activities. Pakistan’s real estate sector is another common money laundering vehicle, since real estate transactions tend to be poorly documented and cash-based, it adds.

The report notes that in January 2015, Pakistan launched the National Action Plan (NAP), addressing primarily counter-terrorist financing. The government’s implementation of the NAP “has yielded mixed results, which is in part due to the lack of institutional capacity as well as political will,” the report adds.

“Unlicensed hawaladars continue to operate illegally throughout

Pakistan, particularly in Peshawar and Karachi, though under the NAP Pakistan has reportedly been pursuing illegal hawala/hundi dealers and exchange houses.”

The report says that Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency, which is responsible for investigating money laundering cases, lacks the capacity to pursue complicated financial investigations.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1318333/khanani-group-launders-billions-of-dollars-us-report

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Mainstreaming of Fata to begin after legislation: PM

March 4, 2017

SPINWAM: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Friday that the process for bringing Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) into the national mainstream would be initiated soon after a proper legislation.

Mr Sharif, who performed the groundbreaking of the Kurram Tangi dam in the North Waziristan Agency of Fata, was addressing a ceremony on the occasion.

He said development of Fata was the government’s priority and it would get its due share in the National Finance Com­mission award. The centre and all provinces would fulfil their responsibilities for the development of the tribal areas, he added.

Sharif calls for shunning political rivalries, performs groundbreaking of Kurram Tangi dam

He said the Kurram Tangi dam project was an important milestone in the development of Fata.

Mr Sharif said it was high time for all to shun political rivalries and focus their energy on eliminating poverty and illiteracy from the country.

“It is the need of the hour to refrain from negative politics and get united in the interest of Pakistan,” he added. The prime minister said the unity among people could help overcome difficult challenges and make the country economically strong.

“History will be inscribed with the fact whether someone made positive or negative contribution for the country,” he said, adding: “When it comes to Pakistan’s interest, all need to stand by each other.”

Terrorism — the toughest challenge

Mr Sharif said that even terrorism, being the toughest of challenges, was addressed with the unity of the nation as well as consensus of all political forces and the military.

“Now we have to stay united for the prosperity of the country after defeating the menace of terrorism,” he said.

He recalled that the people of North Waziristan and the armed forces had rendered immense sacrifices for the elimination of terrorism, which ultimately led to peace in the area.

“After an era of horror and fright, a new dawn of love and peace has come to North Waziristan,” he added.

The prime minister said his government was pursuing an effective agriculture and water management policy and building dams even on small rivers.

He regretted that previous governments had ignored this key sector and no large dam was built after Tarbela during the past 40 years.

He said his government had taken solid steps for dam-related projects, including Diamer-Bhasha, Neelum-Jhelum, Dasu and Bunji.

Mr Sharif said he had directed the authorities concerned to expedite electricity generation projects, adding that “loadshedding will soon become a tale of the past”.

He said Pakistan was a resource-rich country and it could make revolutionary progress provided the judicious and prudent utilisation of resources. “We can make our destiny ourselves and I believe that a magnificent future is awaiting us.”

The prime minister said as the construction work on Chashma Right Bank Canal was also being initiated soon, this project would bring about a revolutionary change in this area by irrigating thousands of acres of barren land.

He said the irrigation of lands would help generate ample resources for the country, develop every sector of the economy, expand industrial activities, encourage the import of industrial equipment and machinery, augment exports, enhance the inflows of foreign exchange and check inflation.

The prime minister said inflation had already come down as compared to what it was during the tenures of previous governments.

Power projects

He said with 12 to 16 hours of electricity loadshedding, there was darkness in the country in previous years, adding that in such a situation no one could imagine of achieving any socio-economic progress and industrial development.

Now due to the present government’s efforts not only the duration of loadshedding had come down to three to four hours for domestic consumers, but industries were also being supplied electricity round the clock, he added.

Moreover, the prime minister said electricity was being provided at cheaper rates, so that growers and industrialists could compete and have better returns for their produce.

He said various power projects of thousands of megawatts were being installed and completed at a fast pace under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, including coal and LNG-based and solar and wind projects.

He said for the first time coal from Thar in Sindh would be utilised for power projects. Why it did not happen in the past, he questioned.

Mr Sharif said the Neelum Jhelum project had been lingering on for the last 10 years, which augmented the cost of the project manifold.

But now the work on that project was under way on a fast pace and it would add 960MW of electricity to the national grid by February 2018, he added.

The delay on such projects of national importance was very unfortunate, as precious time and public money was wasted, he remarked.

Network of roads

The prime minister said with a network of roads, highways and motorways being constructed across the country from Peshawar to Karachi and Gwadar to Khunjerab, Fata, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), the wheel of progress was moving fast.

He said all the political forces and provinces should join hands and make joint efforts for the development of Fata, AJK and GB.

He also referred to Kachhi Canal Project in Balochistan and said it would irrigate 72,000 acres of land.

“Revolution is coming throughout Pakistan,” he added.

The prime minister said his government had initiated the Lahore- Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway project in 1991. Had this concept continued, Pakistan would have become the Asian Tiger today.

However, he said his government after coming to power in 2013 again started work on motorways and after the completion of various sections, now the work was under way on the Karachi-Hyderabad and Multan-Sukkur sections of the Peshawar-Karachi Motorway.

He said under the CPEC project motorway was being constructed from Mirpur to Muzaffarabad, which would be linked to Mansehra and Khunjrab.

He said tunnels worth billions of rupees were constructed to link Khunjrab with rest of the country.

The prime minister said his government had provided Rs25 billion for Lowari Tunnel Project at Chakdara-Chitral Road, which was lingering on for the last 50 years.

This project would now be completed after four months.

Recalling his government achievements, he said making tall claims was very easy but to translate the dreams into reality needed practical steps.

Similarly, he said, the Golen Gol Hydropower Project in Chitral would generate 106MW electricity, which would change the fate of that area through enhanced industrial and agricultural activities.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1318332/mainstreaming-of-fata-to-begin-after-legislation-pm

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Six terrorists killed in Khyber operation

March 04, 2017

KHYBER AGENCY:- Security forces actively conducted joint raids on Friday as part of the Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad in various regions of Khyber Agency including Jamrud Shakas.The soldiers gunned down six terrorists after an exchange of firing while recovering heavy weaponry and explosives from the hideouts of terror groups.–NNI

It was confirmed that all weapons were advanced in nature.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/04-Mar-2017/six-terrorists-killed-in-khyber-operation

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South Asia

 

Madrasa students get roped into Islamic Andolon’s Greek statue protest

March 04, 2017

Underage madrasa students demanding removal of a Greek statue is just another instance of children being used in political demonstrations, even though it is prohibited by law in Bangladesh.

The day started as usual on Friday for madrasa student Abdul Malek (not his real name).

The 13-year-old, along with his 200 dorm mates, was woken up by their teacher Mosaddek Hossain at the crack of dawn. They washed themselves up, ate their breakfast and got ready for class.

However, the day took a different turn when Mosaddek told them that there would be no classes. Instead, he said, they would all go to Baitul Mukarram National Mosque in Dhaka to join an anti-government protest.

Malek had not participated in a protest before. Mosaddek did not clarify what it was about, and Malek and the students did not have the courage to ask questions.

Around 11am, all the students of Gendaria Forkaniya Hafezia Madrasa started their march towards the Baitul Mukarram.

The protest was staged by Islami Andolon Bangladesh against the installation of a statue on the premises of the Supreme Court.

Asked if he knew exactly what they were protesting, Malek shook his head.

“Hujur [the teacher] told us the government had put up an idol. Idols are prohibited in Islam, so we are protesting the government’s un-Islamic act,” the boy told the Dhaka Tribune.

Before he could say anything else, the adults intervened and pushed this reporter away – a clear warning to stay away from the children.

Children being involved in political protests is nothing new in Bangladesh.

Madrasa students, with little understanding of the cause, are frequently used in public demonstrations by Islamist groups.

In 2013, Hefazat-e-Islam brought hundreds of madrasa students when they staged a demonstration in Dhaka on May 5 demanding death sentence for “the atheist bloggers” who organised the Shahbagh movement.

According to a 2013 report by human rights organisation Odhikar, some of the children who took part in the Hefazat rally were found missing after the law enforcement cracked down on the protesters. Some are even feared dead.

he practice is not uncommon for mainstream political parties either; child activists are regularly seen in programmes of both ruling parties and opposition parties, said the report.

But it is illegal, as the Children’s Act 2013 prohibits involving anyone under 18 years of age in political activities.

“Using children in political movements is not only unethical, it is also illegal,” said Jyotirmoy Barua, lawyer and human rights activist. “Both Islamist groups and political parties often use children to picket and hurl bombs so the law enforcement officers cannot intervene.”

“Those who get children involved in political movements do so deliberately,” said Abdus Shahid Mahmud, director of Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum. “Even though it is illegal, they make children picket and throw bombs at people”

“There is a law against this practice in Bangladesh, but it is never properly implemented,” said Md Mamunur Rashid, civil society and children’s rights policy manager at Save the Children Bangladesh.

Full report at:

http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/law-rights/2017/03/04/madrasa-students-greek-statue-protest/

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ISIS loyalists behead 2 men in East of Afghanistan

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sat Mar 04 2017

The loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group have beheaded two men in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

According to the local government officials, the incident took place on Friday in a remote village of the restive Achin district.

The district administrative chief Esa Khan Zwak quoted has told VOA’s Afghanistan service that the two men were beheaded and their dead bodies were left in an open area.

There are no further details available regarding the identities of the two men and the charges based on which the terror group’s loyalists executed them.

Zwak said efforts are underway to ascertain the identities of the two men and hand over their bodies to the families.

The latest horrific execution of the two men by ISIS loyalists comes as the Afghan forces are busy conducting counter-terrorism operations to suppress the insurgency of the militants in some restive districts of Nangarhar.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/isis-loyalists-behead-2-men-in-east-of-afghanistan-02323

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Key Taliban group member arrested in capital Kabul

Mar 04 2017

A key member of the Taliban group was arrested by the Afghan security forces in capital Kabul.

The Afghan Intelligence, National Directorate of Security (NDS), said the detained militant has been identified as Idrees son of Ahmad Gul who was involved in various terrorist related activities in Kabul.

According to a statement by NDS, Idrees was arrested during an operation conducted in Bagrami district of Kabul.

Idrees was recruited by two key Taliban group members Nikmal and Abdullah who are involved in transportation of landmines and explosives.

NDS further added that Idrees was involved in various insurgency activities including bombings and explosions in Bagrami district of Kabul.

The statement by NDS also added that Idrees was specifically involved in bombings in Hussain Khel district that led to the martyrdom of seven Afghan soldiers and destruction of their three vehicles.

The arrest of the key Taliban member comes as the group has been attempting to expand their activities and insurgency in some key cities of the country, including capital Kabul.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/key-taliban-group-member-arrested-in-capital-kabul-02324

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Ghani discuss Afghan forces development plan, other key issues with Trump’s adviser

Mar 04 2017

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and the US national security adviser Herbert Raymond McMaster discussed issues of mutual interest including security, counter-terrorism, Afghan forces 4-year development plan, and election.

The Office of the President, ARG Palace, in a statement said the two sides discussed the issues during a telephone conversation on Friday evening.

The statement further added that the Afghan national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar, national directorate of security director general Masoom Stanikzai, and presidential adviser Ahmad Nader Naderi were also present as President Ghani and Mr. McMaster held discussions on the issues of bilateral interest.

The latest telephone conversation between the Afghan and US officials came as Afghanistan is going through a critical moment facing a resurgent Taliban and other terrorist networks.

The Afghan government is busy working on the 4-year development plan of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to further bolster the capabilities of the Afghan troops to suppress the insurgency led by several terrorist networks.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/ghani-discuss-afghan-forces-development-plan-other-key-issues-with-trumps-adviser-02322

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Bangladesh arrests Islamist militant who urged killing of foreigners

March 4, 2017

Bangladeshi police have arrested the head of an Islamist militant group accused of inspiring followers to kill foreigners, the chief of the counter-terrorism unit said on Friday.

Shaikh Mohammad Abul Kashem, who founded an offshoot of the larger Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) group, was picked up on Thursday night in the Senpara Parbata area of the capital, Dhaka.

Kashem worked alongside Canadian citizen Tamim Chowdhury and Nurul Islam Marjan, two men police accused of masterminding an attack on an upscale Dhaka cafe in July in which 22 people were killed, most of them foreigners, Monirul Islam, the counter- terrorism chief, said.

"On the basis of a tip-off from a secret source, our force arrested him from the area when he was going to receive money that came through a mobile banking system," Islam said.

According to police, Kashem, who wrote several jihadi books and headed a religious school in northern Bangladesh, taught followers of his group, called Neo JMB, that killing foreigners would ease their path to heaven.

"His followers preferred to kill foreigners," Islam said.

"We have been trying to catch him on the basis of previously arrested militants, but every time he could escape."

Bangladesh has been battling a rise in Islamist-linked violence in the past four years, and since July has arrested or killed several men accused of involvement in the cafe siege.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/03-Mar-2017/bangladesh-arrests-islamist-militant-who-urged-killing-of-foreigners

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Dead Bogra militant was a Shibir activist

March 03, 2017

Azimul alias Al Amin alias Rony was previously linked to Islami Chhatra Shibir

New JMB’s Rajshahi divisional military commander Azimul Islam, who was killed in an alleged gunfight with the police early Thursday, used his foster father’s house to train militants and hold meetings.

Azimul alias Al Amin alias Rony was previously linked to Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami. “He became the military commander of the New JMB’s Rajshahi division in short time because of his efficiency,” OC Md Erfan of Sherpur police in Bogra said yesterday.

Azimul is the son of Durul Haque of Bujruk Rajarampur village under Godagari of Rajshahi. He used to stay at his foster father Ataur Rahman’s house, which was used as a training centre of New JMB, according to police.

Based on a tip-off, a team of Bogra Detective Branch and Sherpur police raided the village and found Azimul on Tuesday night. “But he fled stabbing DB constables Abdus Salam and Ismail Hossain.

“He was later arrested and taken to Bogra. His associates opened fire on the police when they were conducting a drive at Jamnagar village in Sherpur area around 3am on Thursday,” the OC said, adding that Azimul had died as the police retaliated.

Full report at:

http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/nation/2017/03/03/dead-bogra-militant-shibir-activist-2/

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Europe

 

Marine Le Pen Redefining Populist Politics In France

04 March 2017

Makhan Saikia

National Front’s leader’s picturisation of France as a country weakened by both bureaucrats and burqas can impress many, but not beyond a point. Marine Le Pen has an edge, but she should not expect more. It would be worth watching how she scores in the French presidential elections

Populism in France is at its height. The upcoming presidential elections of the country may offer a chance to its far right political party National Front a rare chance to come closer to win the Elysee Palace. To many, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the party, may even win the presidential poll. If it happens, this will create a new history in modern France as the party has been struggling for the last four decades to snatch power from the mainstream parties in the country. With the escalation in the European migrant crisis, the ISIS-backed terror attacks in Paris and Nice, the successful Brexit vote and lastly, Donald Trump’s march towards the White House, her Euroskeptical and ultra-nationalist politics is fast gaining ground in France. Recent polls indicate her as a leading candidate for French presidency, respondents rating her much better over the socialist incumbent Francois Hollande. For many liberal and progressive observers of global politics, her rise is none other than an ominous signal not only for France, but also for entire Europe.

Now let’s find out why populist politics has taken the centre stage in many of the old democracies across the world? What does this brand of politics aspire for? And finally, what is the main agenda of Marine Le Pen for her country?

Truly speaking, many of the world’s oldest citadels of democracies are witnessing the rise of ultra-nationalist parties. They are trying to showcase the issues affecting the commoners which have all been ignored by the major political parties. That is why today the locals are sadly sidelined while accepting the global cosmopolitan political waves in many of these countries. And, the far right parties have quietly come to fill this void to address the pressing problems of the middle, lower middle, working class and particularly the woes of the young generation. But then, these parties, like that of the National Front, have responded much better to the disgruntled than many of the mainstream political actors. Nevertheless, they have not been able to offer any credible solution to the people as they have not got any chance to come to power. Thus, their arguments are gaining grounds in countries like America, France, Germany, etc. But political pundits say this wave will continue. This brings home the fact that political populism for now will equally raise both hopes and fears along with the mainstream political ideologies.

Populism refers to different things to different people, groups and political parties. But what has been on display in France, the US, the UK, Hungary, Germany, etc, can rightly be described as a resurgence of their national identities in a new fashion. While conveying this, populist leaders are employing both real and imaginary threats to their major ethnic groups as a defining moment and urging them to recapture their lost ground from the “outsiders”. “But all versions of populism share a suspicion of hostility towards elites, mainstream politics and established institutions. Populism sees itself as speaking for the forgotten ordinary person and often imagines itself as the voice of genuine patriotism” (Fareed Zakaria 2017). This is exactly how leaders like Marine Le Pen are capable of making her space and is convincing many, while taking the centre stage in France.

To her, political leaders are no more defending their interests, but defending special interests. Therefore, she feels that there is a form of revolt on the part of the people against a system that is no longer serving them, but rather serving itself. She directly showed her support both for Trump and Bernie Sanders who strongly rejected a system that has been only serving itself. In a recent poll campaign, she warned her supporters of “two totalitarianisms: globalisation and Islamism” that want to “subjugate France”. She asked the people of France to say no to the untamed globalisation. This globalisation is imposed at all costs and it is a war against everyone for just the benefit of the few. If this is the case that she is arguing for, she is not doing something very unusual. There have been massive movements by the non-governmental organisations, activists, civil society organizations, etc, throughout the world against the pitfalls of globalisation and post-globalisation.

On the other hand, her concerns against Islamic fundamentalist threats to her countrymen have come at time when she could offer more than sufficient reasons to justify the same. Indeed, France has proved to be a fertile ground for ISIS-sponsored terror suspects and they have really posed a serious threat to the national security. Therefore, she argues that the current Government of Hollande is just doing nothing to protect the country from Islamic terror. For her, France needs to put an urgent cap on the migration flows as many of them are turning towards jehad. Thus, she wanted to put an end to “birthright citizenship” which paves the way for automatic acquisition of French nationality. Beyond this, she advocates that apart from Islam, no other religion causes problems. To her all other religions are subject to the rules of secularism, but Islam is an exception to that, particularly, the fundamentalists within Islam have refused to accept the credentials of secularism and rather favour to be governed by their superior Sharia laws. Thus, she goes further and says that “burkini” is an Islamic uniform, it is not a bathing suit. To her, burkini is one of the many ways in which Islamic fundamentalism flexes its muscles. So she is all in favour of a ban. Besides, she is completely against “communitarianism” — organised communities that live according to their own laws. She regards that an Anglo-Saxon model has nothing to do in France. But then, how millions of Muslims living in France for decades will assimilate in the French society? She wants them to live side by side, with their own lifestyle, own code, own language and with their own mores. However she says that individual freedom does not allow one to call into question the major civilisational choices that France has made in the past. It is really tough to accept her brand of nationalism wherein she is leaving very less space for any debate and dialogue, so to say.

With the Brexit in sight, she has been demanding for a Frexit, which according to her will make France more independent. She says, “Freedom is not isolation. Independence is not isolation. And what strikes me is that France has always been much more powerful being France on its own than being a province of the European Union. I want to rediscover that strength.” She views the EU more as a system which paralyses the independent initiatives of France the way it has been put forwarded by the Brexit supporters. She is directly blaming German Chancellor Angela Merkel for imposing her views on the rest of the Europe and particularly for inviting millions of refugees to the continent.

Now, it’s crystal clear what she stands for. Her France will be entirely different from what we have seen today. She has equal respect for both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. She wants to recapture the lost status of France in global affairs. Her picturisation of France as a country weakened by both bureaucrats and burqas can impress many, but not beyond a point. But then, it would be worth watching how she will score her points in the French presidential elections. Definitely, she will have an edge, but she should not expect more. All will be decided by the people and hence for now, let us leave it to them, not to Marine Le Pen.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/oped/marine-le-pen-redefining-populist-politics-in-france.html

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'Algeria's Orwell' urges writers to fight fundamentalism

2017-03-03

Algiers - Algerian writer Boualem Sansal, whose novel "2084" depicted a dystopian state governed by religious law, says writers and artists need to join the fight against Islamic extremism.

"Literature and the arts are not playing a big role in this struggle against barbarism," he said.

In an interview with AFP, the 67-year-old elder statesman of Algerian letters urged writers to use their freedom of speech and do more to fight "fundamentalism".

An avowed atheist, Sansal has long been a free thinker, criticising both religious fundamentalists and Algeria's government.

He has continued to live in Algeria despite being personally threatened.

The former high-ranking official and economics graduate began his literary career with a 1999 novel, "The Oath of the Barbarians", describing the rise of fundamentalists in Algeria.

The Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) had been poised to win a parliamentary election in 1991 when the army stepped in to cancel it, prompting many FIS members to take up arms. The ensuing "black decade" of violence left some 200 000 dead.

The success of Sansal's first novel launched him on a career that won him prizes in France and Germany.

His books, published in France, are sold freely in Algeria. But he is a controversial figure at home, especially since he visited Israel in 2014 - a taboo in most of the Arab world.

His 2015 novel 2084 (subtitled "The End of the World") described a country, Abistan, governed under extreme laws set by a religion based loosely on Islam.

Citizens were required to pray nine times a day and the main activities were interminable pilgrimages and public punishments.

The book's title was a nod to George Orwell's dystopian classic "1984".

Sansal's work won praise from controversial French novelist Michel Houellebecq, whose 2015 novel "Submission" imagined France ruled by a radical Muslim president.

'Threat' of fundamentalism

Sansal said that nearly 20 years after publishing his first novel on Islamic fundamentalism, he still finds "high-level collective violence... an inexplicable mystery."

His fiction echoes his warnings of what he says is the threat of Islamic fundamentalism in Europe, particularly France, home to five million Muslims.

"I tell them to be careful because Islamism lurks around them, and grows under their feet," he said.

"They have already suffered, and they could suffer a thousand times more if it reaches a critical mass that triggers a chain reaction."

He said institutions that represent Muslims in France are not "playing the game of integration, democracy and secularism."

"Sometimes I have the impression they're doing the exact opposite: they are working to adapt France to Islam," he said.

In 2012, with the Israeli writer David Grossman, Sansal launched the "Strasbourg Appeal for Peace", signed by nearly 200 writers declaring themselves ready to act to advance peace and democracy around the world.

Full report at:

http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/algerias-orwell-urges-writers-to-fight-fundamentalism-20170303

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Geneva peace talks produce clear agenda: UN envoy

Mar 3, 2017

The latest round of the Syrian peace talks has concluded in the Swiss city of Geneva, with the United Nations hailing the negotiations as "substantive" and the talks yielding a “clear agenda” for the future of the war-ravaged Arab country.

Speaking at a press conference after wrapping up the nine-day talks in Geneva on Friday, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said the strategy for battling terrorism would be at the core of another round of peace negotiations between representatives of the Syrian government and those of the armed opposition groups later this month.

“The train is ready, it is in the station, it is warming up the engine. Everything is ready, it just needs an accelerator. I believe that we have a clear agenda now in front of us,” he told reporters.

De Mistura also said the upcoming talks should cover maintaining a nationwide ceasefire, "security governance, immediate confidence-building measures" and "operational counter-terrorism issues," adding that he felt “comfortable” that all sides could “live with” the Geneva agenda.

The UN special envoy reiterated that the negotiations should facilitate humanitarian access to the Arab country, adding that he would travel to New York in the next few days to brief UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the outcome of the talks, dubbed Geneva 4.

This round of the UN-brokered negotiations -- the first since last April -- came shortly after the conclusion of the second round of the Syria peace talks, facilitated by Russia, Turkey and Iran, in the Kazakh capital Astana on February 15 and 16. The negotiations, which were held in a closed-door setting, sought to pave the way for the latest Geneva talks.

The UN official also said that the Astana and Geneva efforts complement each other.

'Political transition discussed in depth'

Meanwhile, the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which serves as an umbrella group for militants and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the peace talks, also announced that it had accepted the 12-point agenda given to delegates by the UN special envoy.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/03/512882/Syria-UN-Staffan-de-Mistura-Geneva-HNC

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North America

 

US hate crime: Threatening note signed ‘Muslim Slayer’ sent to New York city mosque

Mar 03, 2017

New York City police are investigating a threatening note signed “Muslim Slayer” that was sent to a mosque.

Imam Ibrahim Yavas of the American Turkish Eyup (EYE’-oop) Sultan Cultural Center in Brooklyn told police he got the letter Tuesday, mailed to his residence at the center.

The letter said the writer had a “dirty little secret” and fantasized about “killing nonwhites,” including the recipient.

Full report at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/us-hate-crime-threatening-note-signed-muslim-slayer-sent-to-new-york-city-mosque/story-TWN7vNHSKSbcogEPbNuMIP.html

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Arrest in bomb threat against Canadian Muslim students

03 March 2017

One male was arrested Thursday, suspected of making bomb threats that targeted Muslim students at Concordia University in Montreal, Canadian media reported.

Investigators with Montreal police, canine and swat teams, nabbed the unnamed 47-year-old suspect at an apartment in the Cote-des-Neiges neighborhood in Montreal, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). reported.

The arrest follows the bomb threat made by letter and forwarded to several media outlets Wednesday, which forced the evacuation of three buildings of the university in downtown Montreal.

Classes were cancelled for several hundred students as police searched the buildings but no bombs were found. Classes resumed about 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The suspect is not known to police and it was is too early to tell if he had any links to the university, investigators said.

Police searched his apartment for five hours but found no evidence of explosive devices, the CBC reported.

The letter, from a group calling itself the Council of Conservative Citizens of Canada, said everything had changed since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and the group demanded Friday prayers for Muslim students be stopped.

Philippe Couillard, the premier of Quebec, called the letter “reprehensible,” according to the Toronto Star newespaper.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/185669/arrest-in-bomb-threat-against-canadian-muslim-students

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Islam In Europe: Muslims Banned From ‘Provocative’ Praying, ‘Ritual Washings’ By School In Germany

BY JASON LE MIERE

03/03/17

A school in western Germany has banned Muslims from what has been termed “provocative” prayer in what is the latest evidence of anti-Islam sentiment in the country. The grammar school in the small city of Wuppertal sent an internal memo to staff instructing them to prohibit public praying and other associated activities by Muslims on campus.

“In recent weeks it has been increasingly observed that Muslim pupils in the school building are praying, clearly visible to others, signaled by ritual washings in the toilets, the rolling out of prayer mats, and taking up certain postures,” read the note, which was sent two weeks ago and published by German publication Der Westen Wednesday.

“This is not permitted.”

Teachers were also asked to “report” cases to school management and to “identify” the pupils violating the guidelines. The ban should, however, be pointed out to Muslim students in a “friendly manner.”

While the school did not comment on the letter, the local district council confirmed it was genuine and said that it was designed to address “provocative prayer” on school grounds. It said that classmates and teachers had expressed their concerns, causing the school to take action.

“The prohibition of praying in a provocative way in in public at school is intended to promote peaceful coexistence and ensure school peace,” the authority said.

The council defended the ban as being in accordance with the law, pointing to the fact that Muslim girls are required to take part in swimming lessons alongside boys.

However, the body also conceded that the letter had used an “unfortunate choice of words” that could be misconstrued. And a spokeswoman for the local district council said that they were looking at ways for Muslim students to be able to continue to practice their religion.

Full report at:

http://www.ibtimes.com/islam-europe-muslims-banned-provocative-praying-ritual-washings-school-germany-2501819

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India

 

1 killed, 3 injured in Jammu & Kashmir after militants attack police party

Mar 3, 2017

NEW DELHI: One person was killed and three others were injured, after militants this afternoon lobbed a grenade at a police party in Pulwama's Muran Chowk in Jammu and Kashmir.

Among the three injured is a jawan of the Central Reserve Police Force.

This is the second such attack in eight days.

Last week, three Army soldiers were martyred and 4 were injured - two, critically - after militants ambushed an army patrol party in the Shopian district of the state.

This is the fifth encounter in four weeks between militants and security personnel.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/1-killed-3-injured-in-jammu-kashmir-after-militants-attack-police-party/articleshow/57445655.cms

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Indo-Pak talks on Indus Water Treaty likely this month

Mar 3, 2017

NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan are expected to hold parleys on various aspects of the Indus Water Treaty in Islamabad later this month, nearly six months after New Delhi decided to suspend talks on the pact in view of the terror strikes by Pakistan-based groups.

The meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission will be held before March 31 "as it is mandated" under the treaty, government sources said on Thursday.

"Under the treaty, it is required that India and Pakistan meet every financial year. If we don't, then it is going to be a violation of the pact.

"But there are chances we will meet for a day or two in the third or fourth week of this month," they said.

The last meeting of the commission was held in May 2015.

Declaring that "blood and water cannot flow together", Prime Minister Narendra Modi had held a meeting in September to review the treaty in the backdrop of the terror strikes, including the Uri attack.

After the meeting, officials had announced that the government has decided to suspend further talks and increase the utilisation of rivers flowing through Jammu and Kashmir to fully exercise India's rights under the pact.

The commission, which has officials from both the countries as its members, was set up under the 57-year-old treaty to discuss and resolve issues relating to its implementation.

The sources said since the "major issues of dispute" (Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectricity projects in India) were already before the World Bank, these may not be discussed during the commission's meeting.

Pakistan had approached the international bank last year, objecting to design of the two projects in Jammu and Kashmir, alleging these violated the treaty.

"However, the agenda for the meeting is yet to be finalised. Pakistan has issues with some other Indian projects too. Whatever be their concern, India is always ready to discuss the issues," the sources added.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/indo-pak-talks-on-indus-water-treaty-likely-this-month/articleshow/57442070.cms

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Indo-Pak talks on Indus Water Treaty likely this month

Mar 3, 2017

NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan are expected to hold parleys on various aspects of the Indus Water Treaty in Islamabad later this month, nearly six months after New Delhi decided to suspend talks on the pact in view of the terror strikes by Pakistan-based groups.

The meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission will be held before March 31 "as it is mandated" under the treaty, government sources said on Thursday.

"Under the treaty, it is required that India and Pakistan meet every financial year. If we don't, then it is going to be a violation of the pact.

"But there are chances we will meet for a day or two in the third or fourth week of this month," they said.

The last meeting of the commission was held in May 2015.

Declaring that "blood and water cannot flow together", Prime Minister Narendra Modi had held a meeting in September to review the treaty in the backdrop of the terror strikes, including the Uri attack.

After the meeting, officials had announced that the government has decided to suspend further talks and increase the utilisation of rivers flowing through Jammu and Kashmir to fully exercise India's rights under the pact.

The commission, which has officials from both the countries as its members, was set up under the 57-year-old treaty to discuss and resolve issues relating to its implementation.

The sources said since the "major issues of dispute" (Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectricity projects in India) were already before the World Bank, these may not be discussed during the commission's meeting.

Pakistan had approached the international bank last year, objecting to design of the two projects in Jammu and Kashmir, alleging these violated the treaty.

"However, the agenda for the meeting is yet to be finalised. Pakistan has issues with some other Indian projects too. Whatever be their concern, India is always ready to discuss the issues," the sources added.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/indo-pak-talks-on-indus-water-treaty-likely-this-month/articleshow/57442070.cms

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S Jaishankar discusses terrorism, Afghanistan with US officials

March 4, 2017

Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, presently on an U.S. visit, said on Friday the issues such as terrorism, Asia-Pacific and Afghanistan were discussed with senior officials of the Donald Trump administration. While keeping the focus on U.S.-India relationship, certain other issues were also discussed.

“I would characterise our discussions this way. Obviously, a lot of was U.S.-India focus rather than other countries. But we did discuss the global strategic landscape and exchanged ideas. In a sense, we are the continuity part of this relationship. I think in the meetings with the Secretary of the State, with the national security advisor, we discussed Asia-Pacific, Afghanistan. We discussed the challenge of terrorism,” said Jaishankar while addressing the media in Washington.

While responding to a poser on new targets and ambitions, Jaishankar said the current U.S. administration looked interested in working with India in a number of areas. “At this time a lot of it was conceptual. On the economic basket, we saw a very strong interest in growing our trade, increase in investment, in finding various ways of cooperating with each other,” he said.

The Foreign Secretary held meetings with a number of senior U.S. administration officials including Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly, National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, House speaker Paul Ryan along with meetings with senior member of the Congress.

Jaishankar said a wide range of issues were discussed during these meetings. The Foreign Secretary also interacted with American business through the US-India Business Council. He added that overall it has been a very productive visit and that the new administration has a very positive view of India and there was a lot of interest in taking this relationship forward.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/s-jaishankar-discusses-terrorism-afghanistan-with-us-officials-4553622/

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Rules bent to give govt job to Syed Ali Shah Geelani's grandson during 2016 Kashmir unrest

Mar 4, 2017

SRINAGAR: When scores of Kashmiri mothers were receiving bodies of their sons covered in shrouds everyday on calls of strike by pro-Pakistan separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani throughout the latter half of 2016, his grandson managed to get an out-of-turn job with the Jammu & Kashmir government run by the PDP-BJP coalition.

Highly placed sources said Geelani's grandson, Anees-ul-Islam, was appointed research officer in Sher-e-Kashmir international convection complex (SKICC), a subsidiary wing of the J&K tourism department, flouting all rules of recruitment policy of the state government. The pensionable job fetches an annual salary of Rs 12 lakh, sources said.

Anees, an MBA from Jalandhar, Punjab, was refused a passport by the state regional passport office on adverse reports from the J&K CID in 2009.

He was finally granted his passport following a state high court order. Anees went to the UK for another masters in business ad ministration, sources said.

They added that the state tourism department, directly controlled by CM Mehbooba Mufti, did not refer the post to recruiting agencies like J&K State Subordinate Services Recruitment Board or Public Service Commission, mandatory for the selection process. However, tourism secretary Farooq Shah, who was also the chairman of "senior selection committee", said Geelani's grandson Anees's selection was made after following proper rules."We invited applications from candidates; he was found fit for the post."

However, an official at the Sher-e-Kashmir international convection complex (SKICC) told TOI that the tourism secretary had appointed Anees much earlier. The tourism department decided to accommodate Anees when Geelani was calling for protests and shutdowns, and violence, arson and killings were the order of the day , the official said. For want of his CID verification, which is still pending, Anees has not taken any salary yet. It will be paid to him pending clearance.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/rules-bent-to-give-govt-job-to-geelanis-grandson-during-2016-kashmir-unrest/articleshow/57458650.cms

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Babri Masjid Action Committee Leader Syed Shahabuddin Passes Away

March 4, 2017

New Delhi: The leader of All India Babri Masjid Action Committee, Former IFS and MP Syed Shahabuddin passed away on Saturday morning in Noida hospital after a prolonged illness. He has been famously known for he was a leader of Babri Masjid action committee.

He was 82-year-old, born in Ranchi in the year 1935.

Shahabuddin began working as a diplomat for the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), but later became a politician.

He was a member of Parliament of India for three terms between 1979-1996. He was involved with many Muslim institutions and organizations including the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, of which he was the President as well.

Full report at:

http://www.siasat.com/news/babri-masjid-action-committee-leader-syed-shahabuddin-passes-away-1143617/

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Arab World

 

Saudi Arabia: Houthis using children in armed conflict

3 March 2017

Saudi Arabia’s delegation to the United Nations held a press conference on Thursday that was attended by delegation from the Arab coalition.

The press conference discussed the coalition’s efforts in Yemen and the seven truces violation broken by the Houthi militia.

General Misfer al-Ghanim, director of planning and operations management in the joint forces, stated that “the actions of the coalition forces are accurate.”

“We are very cautious in our operations and we try to not target civilians, but the other party is using children in the battlefields,” he said.

In spite of successive truces in Yemen, Ghanim stressed at the conference that the Houthi militias retaliated to seven truces with four 4500 hundred breaches, breaking international law and further deteriorated the humanitarian situation.

Using children as human shields

Houthis using children is nothing new. Recently, the French Foreign Ministry condemned it, as indicated by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and confirmed by Ambassador Abdullah al-Maalami.

Maalami, the Saudi permanent delegate to the United Nations, asserted, "The Houthis are using children in their armed forces, I would also like to emphasize that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the coalition forces cannot be held responsible if they are caught in crossfire in the front line.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/03/03/Saudi-Arabia-Houthis-are-using-children-in-armed-conflict.html

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Clashes Intensified amongst Rival Terrorists in Syria's Idlib

Mar 03, 2017

Clashes erupted between the terrorist groups of Ahrar Al-Sham and Tahrir Al-Sham Hay'at in Saraqib after one of Ahrar Al-Sham regiments announced that defection to Tahrir Al-Sham Hay'at.

The faction that defected played a crucial role in Ahrar al-Sham as they manufactured weapons.

Another group of Ahrar Al-Sham tried to prevent this regiment from taking any weapons or ammunition with them. This led to clashes between the two rival factions, as well as other Tahrir Al-Sham's fighters in the area.

Several injuries were inflicted on both sides and each side arrested some of the opposing group members.

On Thursday, people residing in the Southern parts of Idlib continued protest rallies against a-Nusra (Fatah al-Sham) Front terrorists, urging them to leave their lands.

The people of Tarmala village in Southern Idlib rallied against the al-Nusra and shouted slogans against the terrorist group.

They also underlined allegiance to the Syrian government, asking for al-Nusra's evacuation of its bases and departure from the region.

The rallies were held hours after the Syrian army troops and air force targeted the positions of al-Nusra Front in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib, killing and wounding a large number of terrorists and destroying their arms depot.

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

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

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

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951213000203

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Al-Nusra Centres Hit Hard in Syrian Airstrikes near Border with Lebanon

Mar 03, 2017

The warplanes bombed heavily the positions of Al-Nusra Front near the Lebanese-Syrian border, a security source told the Lebanese LBCI television, adding the fighter jets targeted terrorists' centers in Syria's Western Qalamoun region near the Lebanese border.

A number of terrorists were killed or wounded in the air raids, according to the report.

In the meantime, Al-Mayadeen television reported that the fighter jets bombed militant posts in the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Arsal.

In January, the Lebanese Army Intelligence Directorate announced that members of a terrorist cell linked to Al-Nusra were arrested and referred to Lebanese judiciary officials.

The Intelligence body said in a communiqué that members of the terror ring were arrested in Tripoli and were linked to Shadi Mawlawi, a commander of Fatah al-Sham front who is still at large inside the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain-el-Hilwa, Al Manar reported.

The ring, which includes 11 members, was planning to dispatch booby-trapped cars to the southern suburbs of Beirut (Dahiyeh), in addition to killing civilians and military officers, at the behest of Mawlawi.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951213000447

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Terrorists' Command Post in Eastern Damascus Destroyed in Syrian Army Attack

Mar 03, 2017

A main command post of Al-Nusra Front in Harasta region was destroyed in the artillery attack.

Reports said, at least, 8 terrorists were killed in the attack.

The army soldiers also established control over terrorists' tunnel used for transportation of militants from Harasta to residential areas of Damascus.

Harasta is located 10 kilometers (over 6 miles) from Damascus and is one of the few battlegrounds near the Syrian capital.

Regaining control over the settlement will give the Syrian army an opportunity to ensure safe transport connection between Damascus and the city of Homs.

On Thursday, the army troops and their allies continued military operations against al-Nusra to liberate the two strategic towns of al-Qaboun and Barzeh in Eastern Damascus, and regained control of several farms in the region.

The Syrian army forces engaged in fierce clashes with the militants in Jobar and al-Qaboun, killing a number of terrorists, including al-Nusra Front's commander in al-Qaboun 'Abu Taha Ali'.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951213000266

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Syrian Army Drives ISIL out of More Territories East of Aleppo Province

Mar 03, 2017

The army men engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL in Eastern Aleppo and imposed full control over the villages and towns of Zaaraya, Am Talatel, Umm Al-Amad, Barleen, Abu Tawil, Rahmaniyah, Umm Miyal, and As Safre.

The newly-liberated villages have not been under government control since 2012.

The army soldiers also seized the hill ‘Tal Zaaraya’, some 11km Northeast of Deir Hafer, the last ISIL-held town in Aleppo province.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) officially handed over the adjacent village of Abu Al-Khaf after endorsing a Russian-brokered deal that will allow the Syrian troops to seize control of a large stretch of Kurdish-held territory West of Manbij.

The government troops are no more than 20 kilometers away from the Euphrates River.

Once deployed at the River, the Syrian pro-government forces would be capable of launching an offensive towards Raqqa, the ISIL's capital.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951213000190

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Syria: Several ISIL Members Killed in FSA Ambush in Dara'a

Mar 03, 2017

The FSA carried out an ambush operation against a group of ISIL terrorists along a road connecting Nawa town to the small town of al-Mazirib, killing a number of ISIl fighters and wounding several more. 

Sources in Dara'a province said on Wednesday that intensified clashes between an ISIL-affiliated group and other rival groups inflicted tens of casualties on both sides, adding that the terrorist groups established a joint operation room to stop ISIL's advances in the region.

The sources said that tens of militants were killed in clashes between Jeish (Army of) Khalid Bin Valid affiliated to the ISIL and other rival groups in the Southern province, adding that the latter groups of militants set up a joint operation room to confront ISIL.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said that Jeish Khalid Bin Valid terrorist group kicked off a massive offensive on rival groups in Northwestern Dara'a ten days ago and won control over several villages, towns and key heights.

The SOHR added that at least 163 militants from battling parties were killed since February 20, while a number of civilians, including children have lost their lives in the clashes.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951213000680

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Saudi King calls for more moderate Islam

03 MAR 2017

The king of Saudi Arabia called for a moderation of Islam as a counter to terrorism Thursday during a historic trip to Indonesia, home of the world’s largest Muslim population. The conservative reform and purist movement of Wahhabism, often referred to as Salafism, has long been the dominant strain of Islam in Saudi Arabia.

But in a meeting with the leaders of the country’s major Islamic organizations during the first visit of a Saudi monarch to Indonesia in 47 years, King Salman made the case for a modern interpretation of Islam.

“The two countries have come to an understanding that we would prioritize the promotion of Islam as rahmatan lil alamin [blessing for the universe],” Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifudin, who organized the meeting, said afterward, according to the Jakarta Post. "What is needed to maintain the stability of global civilization is the moderation of Islam."

Last year, Indonesia dealt with double the number of alleged terrorists as it had the previous year, with the country’s police chief attributing the rise to the Islamic State (ISIS) group. In January 2016, four people were killed in a series of gun and bomb attacks in Jakarta, for which ISIS militants claimed responsibility.

“The challenge we, especially Muslims, face now is terrorism,” he said. “We should close ranks in combating terrorism, radicalism and strive to bring world peace for the benefit of all of us.”

Saudi Arabia's King Salman waves as he stands next to Indonesian President Joko Widodo during their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, March 1, 2017. Photo: Reuters

Saudi Arabia is part of a U.S.-led coalition that has carried out strikes against ISIS targets in Syria. However, the country has repeatedly been accused of funding terrorists, including ISIS.

Full report at:

https://www.rawstory.com/2017/03/saudi-king-calls-for-more-moderate-islam/

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Thousands flee Iraq’s Mosul overnight, as fighting rages on

3 March 2017

Thousands of civilians fled Mosul overnight as Iraqi forces advanced north of a sprawling military base near the city’s airport on Friday.

Iraq’s special forces pushed into the Wadi Hajar district in western Mosul and retook the area from the ISIS Friday, according to Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, spokesman of the Joint Military Operations.

Special forces Brig. Gen. Haider al-Obeidi said clearing operations were ongoing in the area and his forces were close to linking up with the militarized federal police forces who were pushing up along the western bank of the Tigris river.

Iraqi forces, including special operations forces and federal police units, launched an attack on the western part of Mosul nearly two weeks ago to dislodge ISIS. Since the offensive began, more than 28,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, according to the United Nations.

Nahla Ahmed, 50 fled Mosul late Thursday night, walking more than five kilometers (three miles) from her home in the Shuhada neighborhood.

“All the families were hiding behind a wall,” she said, explaining how they escaped an ISIS-held part of the city. “We gave the children valium so they wouldn’t cry and (the ISIS fighters) wouldn’t catch us.”

Ahmed, like most of the civilians who have escaped Mosul in the past week, fled through Mamun neighborhood. The district is partially controlled by Iraq’s special forces.

Maj. Saif Ali, who is stationed in Mamun, said huge crowds of civilians began pouring into the area from neighboring districts just after midnight. Ali said civilians in western Mosul are becoming increasingly desperate as food and water supplies begin to run out.

“In total 7,000 people fled through this area last night,” he said. “We were up all night trying to control the crowds.”

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday “the latest figures we have of people recorded leaving western Mosul is 28,400 and that’s since operations in west Mosul started on Feb. 19. However we’re also tracking down reports thousands more people are on the move.”

He said that on average about 4,000 people a day have been fleeing since the beginning of the operation.

“We think about 750,000 civilians are still trapped inside western Mosul, either sheltering from the fighting or waiting to flee,” Dujarric said. “We’re deeply concerned with their well-being and safety and their access to vital resources.”

By late morning nearly all the families had been moved out of Mamun. The neighborhood was littered with discarded clothing and blankets piled up in empty lots and on street corners.

Iraqi forces deployed east of Mamun advanced into Wadi Hajar, a neighborhood north of the Ghazlani military base.

The US-led coalition dropped more than 15 munitions in Mosul on Friday, Ali said, saying they targeted car bombs, sniper positions and small ISIS mortar units.

Brig. Gen. Wathaq al-Hamdani, Nineveh province’s police chief, said ISIS targeted the Al Jazair District in western Mosul with “Katyusha launchers with missiles carrying chlorine gas” in at least two separate incidents over the past few days. He added that five civilians had been taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for asphyxiation.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement Friday that seven patients likely exposed to a toxic chemical agent were currently being treated at Rozhawa hospital, close to Mosul, where fighting is ongoing.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/03/03/Thousands-flee-Iraq-s-Mosul-overnight-as-fighting-rages-on.html

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Terrorists' Command Post in Eastern Damascus Destroyed in Syrian Army Attack

Mar 03, 2017

A main command post of Al-Nusra Front in Harasta region was destroyed in the artillery attack.

Reports said, at least, 8 terrorists were killed in the attack.

The army soldiers also established control over terrorists' tunnel used for transportation of militants from Harasta to residential areas of Damascus.

Harasta is located 10 kilometers (over 6 miles) from Damascus and is one of the few battlegrounds near the Syrian capital.

Regaining control over the settlement will give the Syrian army an opportunity to ensure safe transport connection between Damascus and the city of Homs.

On Thursday, the army troops and their allies continued military operations against al-Nusra to liberate the two strategic towns of al-Qaboun and Barzeh in Eastern Damascus, and regained control of several farms in the region.

The Syrian army forces engaged in fierce clashes with the militants in Jobar and al-Qaboun, killing a number of terrorists, including al-Nusra Front's commander in al-Qaboun 'Abu Taha Ali'.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951213000266

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Southeast Asia

 

Why China staged a fresh display of military might in Xinjiang

Mar 3, 2017

BEIJING: China has staged a fresh display of military might in its western Xinjiang region, sending more than 10,000 armed police, columns of armored vehicles and helicopters rumbling through the regional capital.

A government news website published reports and photos of Monday's exercise in the city of Urumqi, where the region's recently installed Communist Party secretary exhorted soldiers to "bury the corpses of terrorists" in a new people's war.

The rally held on Monday, complete with circling helicopters and armoured vehicles, was at least the fourth such mass display in the region this year, intended as a show of force after a recent uptick in violence.

People's Armed Police (PAP) and military helicopters, as well as 10 civilian aircraft, carried the forces as part of an "all new" air-land mechanism that would bring high-speed armed helicopter patrols anywhere over Xinjiang's vast and rugged territory, a notice posted to the Ministry of Defence's website said. It did not give further details on the patrols.

Xinjiang, home to the predominantly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, has seen hundreds killed in recent years in attacks.

Beijing has blamed the violence on Islamic militants and separatists.

Vowing to plant their flag in China+ and that blood will "flow in rivers", a video released this week purportedly by the Islamic State group shows ethnic Uighur fighters training in Iraq, underscoring what Beijing sees as a serious threat.

The video was released the same day that China held the latest in a series of mass rallies of military police in Xinjiang meant to indicate Chinese resolve in crushing security threats.

The Islamic State video showed fighters, including heavily armed children, giving speeches, praying, and killing other "informants".

In another scene, a man chanting in Uighur says: "Our land of sharia has been constructed with spilt blood."

The video then shows pictures of people who were said to have become "martyrs" and identified as "al-Turkista&hibar;ni&hibar;", or men from Turkestan, the name many Uighurs use for Xinjiang.

Doubts over strength of Uighur militants

Overseas experts have up to now expressed doubts about the strength of Uighur militants, with some saying China exaggerates the threat to justify tough security measures.

A US think tank said in July that tough Chinese religious restrictions on Muslims may have driven more than 100 to join the Islamic State.

Authorities have banned or strictly controlled the observance of certain Muslim practices, such as growing beards, wearing headscarves, and fasting during Ramadan in Xinjiang, saying they were symbols of "Islamic extremism".

Local police in one part of Xinjiang announced earlier this month that every vehicle will be tracked using satellite technology as part of an anti-terror initiative.

In one violence-wracked corner of Xinjiang, authorities are offering rewards of up to 5 million yuan ($730,000) to those who expose terror plots or "struggle, kill, wound, or subdue" any attackers.

Activists say repressive government policies have exacerbated tensions and radicalized local youth.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/why-china-staged-a-fresh-display-of-military-might-in-xinjiang/articleshow/57445617.cms

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Standardization of ' Islamic Boarding Schools ' Aimed At Mainstreaming Moderate Islam: Indonesian Ministry

March 3, 2017

The standardization of pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) is not part of the government’s efforts to deradicalise Islamic extremists, but instead aims to further spread moderate Islam, an official has said.

“It’s not a deradicalisation program. It’s going to take moderate Islam mainstream,” the Religious Affairs Ministry’s Islamic education director general Kamaruddin Amin said as quoted by Antara in Jakarta on Friday.

Perceiving the pesantren standardization to be a deradicalisation attempt could lead to a false understanding that Islamic boarding schools are a base of radicals, or, in a more extreme terminology, “terrorists”, he said.

By mainstreaming moderate Islam, Kamaruddin said, Islamic boarding schools were directed to mainstream an Islam that was peaceful, moderate and served as “rahmatan lil ‘alamin”, or a blessing for the whole world and its contents.

He said pesantren were not radical and it had been proven since Indonesia’s pre-independence era that the non-formal religious education institution had never grown radicalism. Pesantren had continued to develop without creating radicalism problems, but instead by promoting love for the nation.

Full report at:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/03/standardization-of-pesantren-aimed-at-mainstreaming-moderate-islam-ministry.html

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China says Dalai Lama border visit will damage ties with India

March 4, 2017

BEIJING: China is warning of “severe damage” to relations with India and increased regional instability if exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama proceeds with a visit to a disputed area along their still-unsettled border.

Beijing has expressed its concerns to New Delhi on numerous occasions and urged India to “avoid offering a state for the Dalai Lama to carry out anti-China separatist activities,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing on Friday.

“The invitation to the Dalai Lama by the Indian side to the contested area between China and India will inflict severe damage on the China-India relationship and peace and stability in the China-India border area,” Geng said.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1318364/china-says-dalai-lama-border-visit-will-damage-ties-with-india

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Let Zakir Naik stay, says group of Muslim NGOs

March 3, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (Ikram) has welcomed the prospect of controversial preacher Zakir Naik living in Malaysia if he is not allowed to return to his home country of India.

“Malaysia must continue being big-hearted and providing protection to those of various races and religious backgrounds,” said the Islamic NGO’s president Mohd Parid Sheikh Ahmad in a statement today.

He was responding to calls by some quarters urging the government to bar Zakir from entering the country or remaining here if he was already in the country.

Critics, including Hindraf, have accused Zakir of disrupting the country’s racial harmony through his preachings that they claimed insulted other races.

Zakir, who heads the Islamic Research Institute in Mumbai, is reportedly barred from the United Kingdom and Canada for his alleged support of terrorist group, al-Qaeda.

India’s Enforcement Directorate was also reported to have issued a fresh summons to Zakir in connection with its money laundering probe against him.

Times of India quoted officials as saying the agency had issued the fourth summons to Zakir, via his lawyer and through email, to cooperate in the probe after it rejected his plea to depose before investigators via an Internet-based video link from abroad.

On Wednesday, 19 people, including Hindraf chairman P Waythamoorthy and lawyer Siti Kasim, filed a suit against the government for allegedly harbouring Zakir.

But according to Parid, barring Zakir from entering Malaysia was against basic human rights and the principle of freedom of speech and religion.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/03/03/let-zakir-naik-stay-says-group-of-muslim-ngos/

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Jakim must stop preaching overzealous bigotry

March 4, 2017

By Syerleena Abdul Rashid

Last Friday, a Federal Territories mosque went overboard once again during the Friday sermon.

The content of the sermon, reported by Malaysiakini, highlighted Jakim’s (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) questionable methods that seemingly favour religious bigotry and the inability to prioritise pressing issues or even put forth universal values that are in line with Islamic beliefs.

Jakim has a history of singling out so-called “enemies of Islam” and demonising those who disagree with them. Once again, choosing not to address abuses of power or kleptocracy, Jakim had chosen to demonise “loud” women instead.

According to Jakim, championing gender equality and women’s rights are viewed as unnecessary.

According to the government institution, opinionated women are enemies of Islam because raising (what Jakim perceives as) sensitive issues such as encouraging gender equality and questioning the “hukum” of wearing the hijab, will tarnish Islam.

The text also claim that these views and opinions are heavily influenced by Western anti-Islam propaganda. Never mind if some of these women have displayed an impressive knowledge of Islam – history as well as values mentioned in both the Quran and Hadith – harsh interpretations of Jakim’s brand of Islam simply does not favour rational discourse.

But what needs to be addressed is how government-sanctioned platforms that could have been used to preach tolerance, love and respect are instead being used to spread evil gospels that preach hatred and overzealous bigotry.

Who can forget; in 2014, Jakim made the preposterous claim that “Muslims in Malaysia will always be under siege” and were tricked by the Jews and the Christians, who were often identified using the name “Nasrani” (an Arabic form of the word “Nazarene” which originally referred to a sect of Christianity, but has become a general term for Christians).

These hate-filled sermons often caution that there are some Muslims (the liberals, the pluralists and the secularists) who are working together with the Christians, the communists and the Jews to destroy the walls that have stood to protect our sovereignty. Spreading these lies signalled the beginnings of Jakim’s pattern of bigotry that present day Malaysians have become familiar with.

I must reiterate that Muslims in Malaysia are not under siege – never have been and never will be, because of what is already enshrined in our Federal Constitution.

For years, Jakim had magnificently coined the term “enemies of Islam” which has become an “umbrella bogeyman” used to refer to so-called deviants and apostates of Islam. This act of name calling and pitting us against one another is downright evil and destructive.

If Jakim truly claims that its brand of Islam is one that promotes tolerance and should be seen as a blessing to all (rahmatan lil ‘alamin), it should engage in rational discourse and more so, welcome these brave women for championing these issues.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2017/03/04/jakim-must-stop-preaching-overzealous-bigotry/

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New Zealand seeks Malaysia’s advice on deradicalisation

March 4, 2017

PETALING JAYA: New Zealand government officials are seeking advice from the Malaysia government about its “lauded” deradicalisation programmes in the fight against the growing threat of terrorism.

According to the New Zealand Herald, Chris Finlayson, minister for the country’s Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Government Communications and Security Bureau (GCSB), has already met with top officials in Malaysia.

He was accompanied by New Zealand’s Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism Carl Worker.

On Wednesday, Finlayson met with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to discuss a wide range of security issues including countering terrorism and cybercrime.

New Zealand security analyst Paul Buchanan from 36th Parallel Assessments, said, “We have had no deradicalisation programmes in place, as far as I know.

“In spite of all the talk about terrorism, we have only been talking about the stick approach to extremists and we have no carrot.”

The New Zealand Herald reported that in Malaysia, the government worked with mosque leaders and Muslim associations to identify vulnerable youth, and matched them up with moderate, charismatic Muslim role models.

“That has had a lot of success,” Buchanan said. “And if we are asking them to train us in that kind of programme, then I’m all for it.”

Buchanan also reasoned that Malaysia’s often condemned human rights abuses in the form of laws that permitted detention without charge for up to two years, were mostly limited to reactive, counter-terrorism measures.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/03/04/new-zealand-seeks-malaysias-advice-on-deradicalisation/

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Indonesia, Saudi Arabia to Promote Moderate Islam

04 MARCH, 2017

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Indonesian Education and Culture Ministry and the Saudi Arabia Culture and Information Ministry signed cooperation agreement in specialist exchange and cultural promotions.

Hilmar Farid, director general of culture at the Education and Culture Ministry said that the program is aimed at promoting moderate Islam and eradicating terrorism and radicalism in both countries.

Hilmar revealed that the Saudi Arabia Education and Information Minister Adel bin Zaid Al-Toraifi was inspired by the contemporary Islamic culture in Indonesia. Minister Adel expressed his admiration for Indonesians, whom he called as "smiling Muslims".

Hilmar said that the Indonesian government will send Arabic language teachers to Saudi Arabia in the specialist program and vice versa.

The Saudi Arabia government has also invited Indonesia to participate in the Riyadh Book Fair. In addition to promoting books and its publishing industry, Indonesia is expected to feature art performances and artworks.

"Our artworks influenced by Islam will be attractive for people in Saudi Arabia," Hilmar added.

Full report at:

https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2017/03/04/055852520/Indonesia-Saudi-Arabia-to-Promote-Moderate-Islam

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Maldivian opposition warns against atoll sale to Saudi Arabia

Mar 3, 2017

Members of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have warned of the serious consequences of Saudi Arabia’s plan to gain full control of an entire atoll in the South Asian island country.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud will pay a rare visit this month to six Asian countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, China, and the Maldives.

MDP members warned on Friday that the decision by President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s government to “sell” Faafu, one of the 26 atolls, to Saudi Arabia would aggravate Wahhabism in the country.

Maldives is reportedly one of the highest per capita contributors of foreign militants to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, which has been wreaking havoc mainly in Syria and Iraq. 

Wahhabism is the radical ideology dominating Saudi Arabia, freely preached by government-backed clerics there, and inspiring terrorists worldwide. Daesh and other Takfiri terror groups use the ideology to declare people of other faiths as “infidels” and then kill them.

MDP member and former foreign minister, Ahmed Naseem, said the Maldivian government had not bothered to take people's consent.

“In the old days, selling land, which is scarce in Maldives, to foreigners would have been seen as high treason punishable by death,” he said.

The Maldivian government passed a constitutional amendment in 2015, allowing foreigners to possess lands in the country.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/03/512844/Maldives-Saudi-Arabia-India-Maldivian-Democratic-Party-King-Salman-Faafu

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Mideast

 

Turkey’s Erdogan Accuses Germany of ‘Aiding and Harbouring Terror’

3 March 2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday accused Germany of “aiding and harboring terror” and claimed a journalist who was detained this week on terror-related charges was a German agent.

“They need to be put on trial for aiding and harboring terror,” Erdogan said, criticizing German authorities who had allowed outlawed Kurdish leaders to speak yet had blocked rallies where Turkish ministers sought to address the Turkish community.

The president, speaking in Istanbul, also claimed Deniz Yucel, a correspondent for Germany's Die Welt newspaper, who was detained on Monday, was a “German agent.”

Earlier on Friday, Turkey accused Germany of working for a “No” vote ahead of an April referendum on whether to boost President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers in an executive presidency.

“They don't want Turkey to campaign here, they are working for a 'No'. They want to get in the way of a strong Turkey,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara after German local authorities blocked rallies where Turkish ministers were due to speak.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2017/03/03/Turkey-s-Erdogan-accuses-Germany-of-aiding-terror-.html

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US hits Qaeda in Yemen with new wave of strikes

March 4, 2017

ADEN/WASHINGTON - The United States carried out another wave of strikes against al Qaeda in Yemen overnight, residents and US officials said on Friday, in the latest sign of increasing US military focus on a group whose strength has grown during Yemen's civil war. A day after US forces carried out more than 20 air strikes in Yemen, residents reported another US assault in the Wadi Yashbum village in the southern Shabwah province including about 10 to 15 air strikes. Residents said some of the strikes hit civilian homes and a number of civilians were among the wounded.

About three hours later, residents in the Jabal Mugan area of neighbouring Abyan province also reported air strikes.

Residents also cited ground battles involving American soldiers and al Qaeda militants but two US officials told Reuters the latest operations did not involve ground combat.

"None of our troops were involved in a firefight over the last period of darkness," one of the US officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The strikes follow a Jan. 29 raid against AQAP by US commandos, an operation that resulted in the death of 14 militants and a Navy SEAL, as well as civilians.

The White House and other US officials have said the mission yielded valuable intelligence but critics questioned its value and effectiveness.

AQAP has been a persistent concern to the US government since an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 that was traced back to the militant group.

It has exploited a civil war in which the Iran-aligned Houthi movement is fighting the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which is backed by US-aligned Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/04-Mar-2017/us-hits-qaeda-in-yemen-with-new-wave-of-strikes

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US launches 30 airstrikes in two days against al-Qaeda in Yemen

4 March 2017

The United States carried out a second day of air strikes against al-Qaeda in Yemen on Friday, US officials said, in the latest sign of increasing US military focus on a group whose strength has grown during Yemen’s civil war.

Since a January commando raid, the United States has shown a desire to both strike al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and to recover from what US officials acknowledge has been an intelligence shortfall about the group since Yemen’s civil war forced the closure of the US Embassy in 2015.

“We have a lot of gaps in our understanding of the organization,” a US defense official said, adding the pullout of US personnel two years ago “certainly did not help our understanding of the situation.”

Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said at a news briefing that the United States had carried out more than 30 strikes over the past two days in Shabwah, Abyan and Al Bayda provinces.

The US military did not disclose how many al-Qaeda fighters were killed on Friday although Reuters reported that Thursday’s strikes, using manned and unmanned aircraft, left at least nine militants dead.

The US military did not rule out further strikes in the days ahead.

“I don’t want to telegraph future operations but this is part of a plan to go after this very real threat and ensure they are defeated,” Davis said at a Pentagon news briefing.

Vital intelligence?

America’s military strategy in Yemen has become a political lightning rod issue after the late January raid against AQAP, authorized by President Donald Trump, resulted in the death of one of the commandos, US Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens.

Critics questioned the value of the mission. That prompted a fierce rebuttal from Trump, who said during a televised address to Congress that “large amounts of vital intelligence” was seized in the operation. Trump’s speech featured a standing ovation for Owens’ widow.

The US defense official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity on Friday, shied away from describing the intelligence as “vital,” saying that was a subjective term.

The official said the intelligence was “good” and “potentially actionable,” suggesting that phone numbers and other information about AQAP’s network seized in January would require analysis or development before leading to new US strikes or raids.

“It’s definitely helping us understand the network and further develop it out ... This has been good information,” the official said, adding the United States seized “an awful lot of telephone numbers.”

Strikes over the past two days have not been based on intelligence from the January raid, the Pentagon says.

After its pullout in 2015, the US military started returning to Yemen in small numbers last year to support a successful April push orchestrated by the United Arab Emirates, with support from Saudi Arabia, that ejected AQAP from Mukalla, home of Yemen’s third largest port, where AQAP had raised tens of millions of dollars.

The US defense official said losing Mukalla degraded AQAP but also cautioned the group did not leave its money or many of its recruits behind.

Gun battles

Residents told Reuters on Friday that US air strikes were accompanied by gun battles, which they thought involved US soldiers on the ground in Yemen.

The Pentagon denied US involvement in any ground combat and it was unclear if one of the United States’ Gulf allies might have been engaged in gun battles.

US intelligence and military officials still view AQAP as a real threat to the United States, as do allies like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

The group has plotted to down US airliners and claimed responsibility for 2015 attacks on the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris. AQAP also has boasted of the world’s most feared bomb makers, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, and the Pentagon estimates it has between about 2,000 and 3,000 fighters.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/03/04/US-ramps-up-airstrikes-against-al-Qaeda-in-Yemen.html

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Arrest in bomb threat against Canadian Muslim students

02.03.2017

One male was arrested Thursday, suspected of making bomb threats that targeted Muslim students at Concordia University in Montreal, Canadian media reported.

Investigators with Montreal police, canine and swat teams, nabbed the unnamed 47-year-old suspect at an apartment in the Cote-des-Neiges neighborhood in Montreal, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). reported.

The arrest follows the bomb threat made by letter and forwarded to several media outlets Wednesday, which forced the evacuation of three buildings of the university in downtown Montreal.

Classes were cancelled for several hundred students as police searched the buildings but no bombs were found. Classes resumed about 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The suspect is not known to police and it was is too early to tell if he had any links to the university, investigators said.

Police searched his apartment for five hours but found no evidence of explosive devices, the CBC reported.

The letter, from a group calling itself the Council of Conservative Citizens of Canada, said everything had changed since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and the group demanded Friday prayers for Muslim students be stopped.

Philippe Couillard, the premier of Quebec, called the letter “reprehensible,” according to the Toronto Star newespaper.

Full report at:

http://aa.com.tr/en/americas/arrest-in-bomb-threat-against-canadian-muslim-students/762937

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Houthis targeting tribes and suppressing public officials

3 March 2017

Houthi militias have embraced a systematic strategy to distort Yemen social structure designed to create rifts between the country’s different tribes by employing its alliance to eradicate others against the militia.

Ten tribes, based in four different provinces, suffered the most from the despot Houthi’s callous military and economic campaigns inflicting human loss, displacement of families, and mass property damages.

These tribes are:

Sana’a: Arhab and Bani Dubian

Dhumar: Atmah and al-Haddah

Ibb: Al Khafar, al Shawour, al-Adin, Ba’dan, al Radmah, al Oud, al Siyahi

Al Hudaydah: Al-Zaranik

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/03/03/Houthis-targeting-tribes-and-suppressing-public-officials.html

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Mass rally held in Sana’a against Saudi onslaught on Yemen

Mar 3, 2017

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a to express outrage over Saudi Arabia’s deadly military campaign against the impoverished Arab country.

The protesters converged in the Old City of Sana'a following Friday prayers, carrying Yemeni flags and banners in condemnation of the Saudi aggression.

Participants in the demonstration, under the motto “Tough against Disbelievers”, also held up pictures of civilians injured in the deadly Saudi airstrikes, calling on the United Nations to fulfill its responsibilities and stop the Riyadh regime’s atrocious military offensive.

They also warned the Saudi leadership that the continued attacks on the people in Yemen will only strengthen the steadfastness of the nation.

Protesters also accused the United States of being complicit in the Saudi crimes against the Yemeni nation by providing the Al Saud regime with various munitions.

Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a deadly campaign against Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is a close Riyadh ally.

The airstrikes have taken a heavy toll on the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.

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

McGoldrick told reporters in Sana’a earlier this year that the figure was based on casualty counts given by health facilities and that the actual number might be higher.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/03/512867/Yemen-protest-rally-Sanaa-Saudi-Arabia-aggression-airstrikes

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6 dead as Saudi jets pound northern Yemen with cluster bombs

Mar 3, 2017

At least six civilians have lost their lives and several others sustained injuries when Saudi fighter jets carried out fresh aerial attacks against residential areas in northern Yemen, using internationally-banned cluster bombs.

Local sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said five people were killed and ten others injured when Saudi military aircraft struck the al-Barkah area of the northwestern Yemeni province of Sa'ada, located 240 kilometers north of the capital Sana'a, on Friday afternoon, Arabic-language al-Masirah television network reported.

Saudi jets also launched a morning cluster bomb raid in the Hayran district of the northwestern province of Hajjah, located approximately 130 kilometers northwest of Sana’a, killing at least one person and injuring seven others.

Cluster bombs are banned under the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), an international treaty that addresses the humanitarian consequences and unacceptable harm caused to civilians by cluster munitions through a categorical prohibition and a framework for action.

Moreover, Saudi aircraft bombarded an area in the Mustaba district of the same Yemeni province, with no immediate reports of casualties and the extent of damage caused.

Saudi jets pounded the city of Sirwah, which lies about 120 kilometers east of Sana’a, as well, though no reports of casualties were available.

Elsewhere in the Nihm district of Sa’ada province, Yemeni soldiers and fighters from Popular Committees launched a BM-27 Uragan rocket at a gathering of militiamen loyal to resigned Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, leaving scores of the Saudi mercenaries dead and injured.

Yemeni forces and their allies also targeted Kofel military camp in the country’s central province of Ma'rib, with no casualties among Saudi-sponsored militiamen immediately reported.

Yemeni forces, allies take two southwestern Yemen areas

Additionally, Yemeni troopers and Popular Committees fighters have taken control of two areas in the southwestern province of Dhamar.

Local sources told Arabic-language al-Omanaa news website that the forces have completely retaken Sharm al-Ali and Kamat al-Dokhan areas in the Utmah district of the province.

The development came as Yemeni fighters are pushing deeper along the Sharm al-Safel area in the same district, tightening the noose around Saudi-sponsored militiamen led by Abdul Wahhab Muawwizah.

Yemeni soldiers and their allies managed to drive Saudi mercenaries out of Rabi'ah Bani Bahr in Dhamar Province late Thursday night.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/03/512839/Yemenis-killed-Saudi-airstrikes-cluster-bombs-Saada-Hajjah

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Africa

 

Tunisia, Germany announce new immigration agreement

March 4, 2017

TUNIS -   Tunisia and Germany announced a new agreement on tackling illegal migration, during a visit on Friday by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The accord follows frictions between the two countries over the case of a Tunisian rejected asylum seeker blamed for a truck rampage at a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12 people.

This agreement "will satisfy Tunisia and will satisfy Germany," Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi said at a joint press conference.

Merkel, on a two-day trip which also included a stop in Egypt, said Germany and Tunisia agreed on speedier repatriations for rejected asylum seekers and job training for Tunisians.

"We agreed that questions on identities (of Tunisian asylum seekers) from Germany will be answered within 30 days," she said.

"We will also help Tunisia to set up a registration system. Replacement passports are then meant to be issued within one week." Germany has previously said that Tunisian bureaucratic delays meant it could not expel the Tunisian suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack, Anis Amri, even though his asylum application had been rejected six months earlier.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/04-Mar-2017/tunisia-germany-announce-new-immigration-agreement

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Libyan National Army loses control of major oil ports to armed faction

4 March 2017

An armed faction entered two major Libyan oil ports on Friday, pushing back forces that captured and reopened the terminals in September, officials and residents said.

The move risks increasing the fighting around the ports and casts new doubt over Libya's attempt to revive its oil production. The terminals at Es Sider and Ras Lanuf are two of Libya's largest, with potential combined production capacity of about 600,000 barrels per day (bpd).

It was unclear late on Friday to what extent the faction that attacked, the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), had gained control over the area. There was no statement from the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) in Tripoli, which restarted operations at the ports after the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) took them over seven months ago.

Since then the LNA's opponents have launched several unsuccessful attacks against the ports in Libya's eastern Oil Crescent, in a campaign linked to a broader conflict between factions based in eastern and western Libya.

The LNA had said the ports were well secured. But it said the BDB had launched a rapid, three-pronged attack early on Friday that pierced its defenses.

Air strikes repelled an attack targeting a third port, Brega, but the LNA withdrew men and equipment around Es Sider and Ras Lanuf to avoid a damaging fire fight, LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said.

Port engineers, oil sources and residents said the BDB entered both Es Sider and Ras Lanuf ports after the attack.

The BDB posted pictures of its fighters at Ras Lanuf's nearby air strip, though the LNA later said it had retaken control there.

At least nine men loyal to the LNA were killed and eight wounded in the fighting, a medical source said.

The LNA took Es Sider, Ras Lanuf, Brega and Zueitina oil ports in September. All but Brega had long been blockaded. After the NOC reopened them, Libya's oil production more than doubled.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/03/04/Libyan-National-Army-loses-control-of-major-oil-ports.html

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Russia says ready to broker talks for unity in Libya

Mar 3, 2017

Russia says it is ready to broker talks between rival authorities in Libya to help unify the divided North African country.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had on Thursday in Moscow discussed ways to unite Libya with Fayez Seraj, the prime minister of Libya's UN-backed government.

"Moscow confirmed its readiness to work closely with all sides in Libya with the aim of seeking mutually acceptable solutions to create the grounds for the stable development of Libya as a united, sovereign and independent state," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The statement added that Russia sought to cooperate with all parties in Libya, which has experienced violence since NATO's military intervention that followed the 2011 uprising and led to the overthrow and death of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Rival governments were set up in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and the east of the country in 2014.

General Khalifa Haftar is linked to the government based in the eastern port city of Tobruk. He has refused to pledge allegiance to the UN-backed government in Tripoli.

Seraj's visit is apparently an attempt to overcome a deadlock in Libya. A statement from his office quoted the prime minister as saying that Russia could play a positive role in Libya "thanks to its ties with various Libyan parties."

"The passage of time does not allow for the political maneuvers that (some) Libyan groups are trying to play," the statement said.

On February 19, Seraj said he hoped that Russia might act as an intermediary between him and Haftar.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Lavrov and Seraj had discussed the progress of a UN-backed reconciliation dialogue.

"The Russian side stressed the need for an inclusive intra-Libyan dialogue aimed at setting up unified organs of power, including an army and police force capable of maintaining security and law and order and of effectively countering a terrorist threat," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/03/512845/Russia-unity-Libya-Lavrov

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Morocco Boasts Success Fighting Terrorism

3 MARCH 2017

By Willemijn De Koning

As German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Tunisia to discuss refugees and terrorism, Morocco is showing its regional neighbors how it's dealing with the latter. Willemijn de Koning reports from Marrakesh.

In 2003 and 2011 Morocco was targeted by terrorist attacks in Casablanca and Marrakesh - a shock to the country in the Maghreb region. "Morocco was really surprised by those attacks, especially in Casablanca," says Mohammed Benhammou, an adviser to the Moroccan government on how to fight terrorism. With his help, the North African country has been pouring its resources into fighting radical Islam and terrorism to make sure such attacks are not repeated.

One of those instruments is a new law that aims to crack down on terrorism and related activities. Anyone potentially preparing terrorist activities such as traveling to countries like Libya, Syria or Iraq and carrying out attacks either in those countries or in Morocco will face jail. This is where Morocco is going a different way compared to its neighbors, keeping an eye on it nationals not only at home but also abroad.

The Moroccan FBI

To be able to do that efficiently, Morocco launched its own version of the FBI, the Bureau Central d'Investigation Judiciaire (BCJI). Since it started its work in 2015, it has reportedly uncovered 40 terrorist cells and arrested almost 600 people.

The numbers are impressive but, says Benhammou, they come as no surprise. "They work really well together with other countries. That's important, because terrorism outside Morocco can also be dangerous for us. For example, a little while ago terrorist suspects from Chad and Tangier were arrested because they were preparing attacks there. And we share all our information with European countries, because we all have the same enemy - terrorism," he told DW.

Indeed, Morocco was one of the countries to warn Germany about the Tunisian man who was behind the attack last year at a Christmas market in Berlin. But now more than ever the BCJI has to focus on it's own country. Ever since the "Islamic State" (IS) group began expanding in North Africa, Morocco has been facing an increasing threat. According to Adelhak Khiame, director of the BCJI, IS is specifically targeting Morocco by sending people who are not known to the intelligence services to form sleeper cells. "They even try to brainwash young girls on the internet to recruit them for an attack here," Khiame told DW. The BCJI says it recently uncovered a cell made up of mainly minor-aged girls.

School for imams

The bureau is just one part of Morocco's strategy. In an attempt to nip the problem in the bud, the country is going back to school. In an effort to stop muslims from becoming extremists, the country has been educating its own imams for the past 10 years. In 2015 they took that one step further and opened an imam school where imams from all over the world can study and teach moderate Islam.

The school in Rabat currently hosts 250 Moroccans (100 of them are women) and 675 students from Mali, the Ivory Coast, France, Niger and French Guinea. Students are taught to accept different opinions and values. "People have different religions and cultures. Therefore, we need dialogue and acceptence from all sides," the director of the school, Abdessalam Lazaar, told DW.

But becoming an imam is not a cure-all. A lot of young people who are poor see life as a jihadist as an attractive alternative. The institute therefore tries to counter those developments by offering courses in economics, history, philosophy and French. And those that do go on to preach in a mosque in Morocco are under strict vigilance, says Lazaar. "If someone exceeds the limits of the state's religious understanding, then he must be excluded."

Full report at:

http://allafrica.com/stories/201703030595.html

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