Washington Post/Getty Images, Rashida Tlaib Slammed a "Hateful" Note
for Ilhan Omar Left on Her Office Door
Tlaib and Ilhan Omar Accused Of 'Jihad Against The Jews'. 'Hateful and
Bullying' Note Left on Their Office Door
Calls Out China's Hypocrisy of Protecting Masood Azhar and Detaining Country's
Steps up Push to Blacklist Jaish Chief Masood Azhar at UN with British, French
Attacker Gave Cash to Austrian Far-Right Movement
By Trump's Golan Move, Israel Attacks Aleppo
Malad’s Biggest Mosque Sees 45% Drop in Power Bill after Going Solar
Synagogue Renovation in Berlin and the Palestinian Making It Happen
Slams Brunei's New 'Vicious' Islamic Criminal Laws
Seeks 'More Evidence' From India on JeM’s Involvement in Pulwama Attack
Approves Secret Nuclear Power Work for Saudi Arabia
not about the Benjamins,’ Netanyahu says of US support for Israel
Omar slams Netanyahu's speech at AIPAC
Russian missile deal alarms US
Sophia's status to be changed to mosque: Erdogan
Gang Will Guard New Zealand Muslims At Mosque During Friday Prayers
to broaden Muslim dialogue with Morocco visit
demands ‘full transparency’ in Khashoggi case
William visit to honour Christchurch attack victims
PM welcomes Facebook bans on white nationalism, separatism
Golan Move Part of ‘Criminal Project’: Syria At UN
requests urgent Security Council meeting
repels ‘Israeli air aggression’ in Aleppo province: report
pact will open flow of Egyptian workers to Libya
Kurds urge their Syrian cousins to make peace with Damascus
the prison holding IS detainees in northeast Syria
militants killed in south Kashmir’s Shopian
Says No Link Found In Pulwama Attack, Asks US to Help Trace Phones
against Windmills’: Pakistan Responds to India’s Mission Shakti
Naik: Malaysia’s Thorn, Masood Azhar: China’s Game
funding probe: Agencies zero-in on 30 properties in J&K owned by 8
separatists for seizure
leader appears in public as fighting with Israel tails off
leader Haniyeh says Palestinians will not give up resistance
teen killed in clashes with Israeli troops
Muslim Leader Wants 'Shared Idea of Pluralism'
freedom in the restoration of Sarawak's status
chides Khairy for calling him ‘Taliban’ in Dewan Rakyat
Hindu Lawmaker Moves Two Bills In Parliament on Child Marriage, Forced
affiliate not happy with steps to block banned groups funding
chairs meeting on internal security, FATF action plan
shares preliminary findings on Pulwama dossier with India
made AN unwise decision by calling back its envoy: Qureshi
Militants Killed, Wounded In Helmand and Paktika Operations
preparing for war on orders of their foreign masters’: Khalid
commanders among 6 killed, wounded in Surobi district of Kabul: Silab Corps
US pursuit of peace talks, perilous rift opens with Afghan leader
recalls envoy after Pakistan PM’s suggestion for interim govt
Haram Kills 10 People In Eastern Niger
hijacked by rescued migrants off Libyan coast
al-Shabaab militants operate in Mogadishu
wanted Shabaab terrorist killed in Somali town air strike
by New Age Islam News Bureau
Tlaib and Ilhan Omar Accused Of 'Jihad Against The Jews'. 'Hateful And
Bullying' Note Left on Their Office Door
Rashida Tlaib posts picture of 'hateful and bullying' note left on her office
door and addressed to her colleague Ilhan Omar accusing her of 'jihad against
Rashida Tlaib has posted a picture of a 'hateful and bullying' note left on her
office door addressed to her colleague Ilhan Omar accusing her of 'jihad
against the Jews'.
Democrat shared the scribbled message to her Twitter page, telling her followers
the 'fear mongering and blantant (sic) lies' needs to stop.
handwritten post-it note said: 'Rep Omar, stop your disgusting Jew hatred. Your
sign says "Justice for all". That means Jews too. Your Jihad against
the Jews will fail. Am Yisrael Chai!'
last line references a Jewish song that translates to 'the people of Israel
who is Muslim, wrote: 'This is the hateful rhetoric & bullying on my door
today. Stop the fear mongering & blantant (sic) lies. Come here w/ the
value that all beings deserve human rights, including Palestinians.
& I fight for equality & justice for all. There's nothing antisemitic
who is one of the first Muslim women in Congress, provoked outrage last month
when she suggested that supporters of Israel were urging lawmakers to have
'allegiance to a foreign country'.
weeks before that, the congresswoman faced widespread backlash for suggesting
that pro-Israel lobbyist group AIPAC was buying political support from members
all about the Benjamins baby,' read her controversial tweet, which referenced
$100 bills. Omar later apologized.
first-term Minnesota Congresswoman's repeated criticisms of Israel and a
powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington have been widely condemned as
a former Somali refugee, was assailed by Democrats and Republicans alike for
lawmakers expressed outrage, warning that Omar was peddling in age-old
anti-Semitic tropes about Jews having dual allegiances.
politician later apologized for the comment but Republicans have kept citing it
as evidence of creeping bigotry.
faced hundreds of protesters waving Israeli flags in California over the
weekend following her controversial remarks about Israel.
calls out China's hypocrisy of protecting Masood Azhar and detaining country's
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has hit out at China for its "shameful
hypocrisy" over its treatment of Muslims.
Pompeo said China, on one hand, abuses over a million Muslims at home and then
protects Islamic terrorist groups from United Nations sanctions.
world cannot afford China's shameful hypocrisy toward Muslims. On one hand,
China abuses more than a million Muslims at home, but on the other it protects
violent Islamic terrorist groups from sanctions at the UN,"Mike Pompeo
Pompeo was referring to China's move to block India's proposal at the United
Nations to designate Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.
US along with Britain and France had moved a resolution in the UNSC to
designate Azhar a "global terrorist" following the February 14
Pulwama attack, but China blocked it.
put a hold on the resolution arguing that it needs more time to study it. Every
member of the UNSC, except China, had supported the US move.
Azhar's Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility for the February 14 attack
in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama that killed over 40 CRPF personnel.
detention of Uighur minority in China, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said
China has detained more than one million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other
Muslim minorities in internment camps in Xinjiang since April 2017.
must release all those arbitrarily detained and end its repression," Mike
US stands with them and their family members. China must release all those
arbitrarily detained and end its repression, he said.
Wednesday, Pompeo met with survivors and family members of China's campaign of
repression and mass detention against the minority groups in Xinjiang.
call on China to end these counterproductive policies and release all
arbitrarily detained, he said.
United States, Britain and France stepped up a push for the United Nations
Security Council to blacklist the head of Pakistan-based militant group
Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) on Wednesday after China prevented an earlier move two
weeks ago. The United States circulated a resolution – drafted with British and
French support – to the 15-member council that would designate JeM leader
Masood Azhar, subjecting him to an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze,
said it was responsible for a February 14 attack that killed at least 40 CRPF
jawans, making it the deadliest in Kashmir during a 30-year-long insurgency,
increased tensions between Pakistan and India.
United States, Britain and France initially asked the Security Council’s
Islamic State and al Qaeda sanctions committee, which operates by consensus, to
blacklist Azhar. However, China prevented the move.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that China had conducted a
“comprehensive and thorough evaluation” but still needed more time to consider
the proposal. China had previously prevented the committee from sanctioning
Azhar in 2016 and 2017.
of consensus, a resolution only needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by
China, Russia, the United States, France or Britain to pass. It was not
immediately clear when the draft resolution to designate Azhar could be put to
Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request
for comment on the draft text.
is a primarily anti-India group that forged ties with al Qaeda and was
blacklisted by the UN Security Council in 2001. In December 2001, Jaish
fighters, along with members of another Pakistan-based militant group,
Lashkar-e-Taiba, attacked India’s Parliament.
attacker gave cash to Austrian far-right movement
far-right Identitarian Movement received cash from the man charged with killing
50 people in mass shootings at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the
country's chancellor said on Wednesday.
can now confirm that there was financial support and so a link between the New
Zealand attacker and the Identitarian Movement in Austria," Sebastian Kurz
spokesman for prosecutors in Graz said the head of the movement, Martin
Sellner, received €1,500 (Dh6,200) in early 2018 from a donor with the same
name as the man charged over the March 15 Christchurch attacks.
Sellner published two videos on YouTube in which he said he had received a
donation involving an email address that matched the name of the Australian.
one of the videos, he said: "I'm not a member of a terrorist organisation.
I have nothing to do with this man, other than that I passively received a
donation from him."
Sellner said the donation was from early 2018 and that he would give it to a
said police had raided his house over the possible links to the attacker.
Identitarians, who say they want to preserve Europe's identity, are a
relatively new, far-right movement that uses the internet to promote their
action on the streets.
imitate the tactics of more established activist groups such as Greenpeace.
2017 they helped to charter a ship as part of what they said was a campaign to
defend Europe, and they have tried to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean
Bacher, a spokesman for the Graz prosecutors, said an investigation was under
way as to whether there were links between Mr Sellner and the mosque attacker.
Austrian Interior Ministry declined to comment. Mr Kurz said Austria was
looking at dissolving the Identitarian Movement.
position on this is very clear," he said. "No kind of extremism
whatsoever has any place in our society."
Tuesday, Mr Kurz said on Twitter that any connection between the Christchurch
attacker and members of the Identitarian Movement in Austria needed to be fully
Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, of the far-right Freedom Party, said
his political group had nothing to do with the Identitarian Movement.
Zealand has announced a royal commission into the attack on two mosques in
white supremacist has been charged with one count of murder over the Christchurch
shootings and will next appear in court on April 5.
Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the man was not on any watch
lists in New Zealand or Australia.
by Trump's Golan move, Israel attacks Aleppo
Syrian air defense system has responded to multiple missiles fired by Israeli
jets on the northwestern city of Aleppo, intercepting the majority of them
according to Syrian media.
Israeli regime launched the attacks on Shaykh Najjar industrial city located 10
km northeast of Aleppo at around 11 p.m. local time (2100 GMT) on Wednesday,
the official Syrian news agency SANA reported.
quoted a military source as saying that the Syrian air defense has "downed
a number of the hostile missiles”.
Syrian TV said the majority of the missiles had been intercepted by the Arab
country’s air defense, and those that hit their targets only caused material
the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims the airstrikes have
targeted an arms depot in Aleppo airport, causing huge explosions.
attacks have also caused a massive blackout in Aleppo, according to the Syrian
Israeli regime launches airstrikes on the Syrian territory from time to time.
Such aggressive moves are usually viewed as attempts to prop up terrorist
groups suffering defeats at the hands of Syrian government forces.
used to be very careful with its operations over Syria after Russia equipped
Damascus with the advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles in October 2018.
US President Donald Trump's recent decision to recognize the “Israeli
sovereignty” over the Syrian territories of Golan Heights has seemingly
emboldened Tel Aviv to launch new aggression on the Arab country.
signed a decree recognizing Israeli “sovereignty” over the occupied Golan at
the start of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in
Washington on Monday.
then, the US has become the subject of a new round of furor by world countries
over Trump’s controversial decision.
biggest mosque, Noorani Masjid in Pathanwadi, witnessed a 45% drop in its
electricity bill after adopting a rooftop solar system. With centralised air
conditioning and a capacity to host over 5,000 devotees on any given day, power
usage at the six-storey building used to come at a hefty price.
a 25 kilowatt-power (kWp) solar power plant made up of 72 solar panels
primarily focuses on catering to the consumption of 60-ton AC units along with
lights and fans across all common areas.
summer months, the system generates 110 units of electricity. This drops to 80
units during monsoon months. The annual generation of the plant is 35,000 units
against the mosque’s annual consumption of 80,000 units from the grid. This
allows the mosque to save an estimated Rs 4.3 lakh annually.
of the mosque said the electricity bill dropped from Rs 85,300 to Rs 37,400
post-installation. “We were facing huge difficulties with inflated electricity
bills based on high consumption from our AC units. However, after witnessing
the successful projects across south Mumbai and even in Bandra, we opted for
this cost-effective form of electricity generation,” said Rashim Gulam Rasul Maredia,
chairman of the trust that runs of the mosque.
is the eighth mosque in the city to opt for renewable energy sources to power
electricity requirements. Maredia pointed out that the mosque will directly be
responsible for saving 17.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions by using solar
energy. “Our intention will be to spread this message to all our devotees, that
safeguarding the environment is essential for a green future and for our coming
generations,” he said.
private company that installed the project said the mosque plans to move
towards reducing 90% of their electricity bill by 2020. “We will be installing
the second phase of the project which will add another 25 kWp as there is
enough rooftop and shadow free spaces. During Ramzan, there will be a lot of AC
consumption which will lead to high savings,” said Muhammad Sohail Shaikh,
chief operating officer, MSS Green Tech.
plant was installed at a cost of Rs 15.23 lakh, which is estimated to be
recovered within the next three and a half years, said Shaikh. “An average of
90 to 95 units per day will be benefitted by a net metering system, which sends
excess electricity back to the local power grid and the units are credited in
return,” he said adding, “The mosque stands as an example for more such
religious institutions to implement green energy.”
worshippers gathered at the Fraenkelufer Synagogue in Berlin’s Kreuzberg
neighborhood on a recent Shabbat evening. Secular and religiously-observant
Jews alike crowded the room, sang hymns and conversed in many languages –
Hebrew and German among them, but also Spanish, Russian and Italian. The
attendees didn't want to part with the place's ambiance, and stuck around until
the police and guards’ shifts had ended, only then going home.
recent years the small synagogue on the colorful Landwehr Canal has become a
home to a Jewish community that has quickly grown. A large and luxurious
synagogue once stood at the same site, with room for 2,000 worshippers. That
building was set on fire on Kristallnacht, and only a side wing survived.
the help of the chairman off Berlin’s Social Democratic Party, Raed Saleh, a
new building will be built as a cultural center for the Jewish community in
Berlin. Saleh, a German of Palestinian origin, heads the trustees spearheading
the building’s renovations.
initial plans call for a new building to go up next to the renovated structure
for a kindergarten, kosher café, concert hall, library and shared workspace.
The room for religious study planned for the site will be open to all streams
Peretz, 35, heads the organizing association. “There are many new Jewish
initiatives in Berlin, klezmer concerts, kosher restaurants and Jewish art –but
many off these initiatives have no available venues,” she said.
want to invited artists and creators and entrepreneurs and unite them into a
single world,” she said.
Peretz grew up in Germany, her husband, Dekel Peretz, 39, moved to Berlin from
Israel 16 years ago. “With the immigration of many Israelis and other groups of
Jews who speak Hebrew to Berlin, there’s a feeling of pioneering Hebrew culture
in the city. We see not only the rebuilding of a synagogue but of a large and
independent Jewish congregation in Berlin.”
is one of 12 active synagogues today in Berlin. But it’s the first time that
any synagogue destroyed by the Nazis is being rebuilt. The Jewish community in
Berlin, estimated at 40,000 people, grew quickly in the past decade. The rise
isn't solely due to Israeli immigration; Berlin also attracts Jews from the
United States, South America, Hungary and elsewhere.
too long ago, Kreuzberg was far from being a focal point for Jewish life in
Berlin. Its proximity to the Berlin Wall during the Cold War which made it the
second poorest district of the city’s western side. After the wall came down,
the area became a cultural center and a magnet for students, artists and young
families, who moved in alongside immigrants from Turkey who had arrived in the
1960s and 1970s. The relatively low rents and creative atmosphere attracted
many Israelis and Jews as well.
this, the Fraenkelufer synagogue was at risk of being shut down six years ago
after the numbers of its congregants sunk to a point where there was sometimes
no minyan for prayer. A group of volunteers, among them the Peretz couple,
swung into action to revive the congregation. They held joint meals there,
volunteering days and activities for children, and weekly lessons led by
said “we started to conduct activities that would permit wide circles of people
to connect with their Jewish identity and the Jewish community, even if they
weren't interested in participating in prayers.”
the community expanded, the synagogue needed to expand with it. The land there
is owned by the State of Berlin, so the Peretzes looked for local politicians
who might show an interest in the project. They knew Saleh from other social
initiatives, and when they presented him with the idea, Dekel recalls, “He
listened and said nothing. But he listened. A few months later he got in touch
and said ‘what do you think of rebuilding the synagogue that was destroyed?’”
the outset it was clear that the community had no need for 2,000 seats in the
synagogue's prayer space, but, says Nina, “what we do need is a community
center, a place for activities, events, and meetings. Worship is an important
part of Judaism but there are many other things that are a part of it as well.”
was built from 1913-1916 in a neo-classical style designed by Jewish architect
Alexander Barr who died in Thereisenstadt in 1944. It was one of the largest
Orthodox synagogues in Berlin before most of was destroyed in 1938. Like many
others across Europe, the synagogue is protected by a security barrier and
guards. Visitors must coordinate their visits ahead of time.
the Peretzes hope it will be more accessible to the non-Jewish public. “We want
any person passing down the street and spotting a café or exhibit to be able to
walk in without thinking twice,” Nina Peretz said. “Judaism shouldn’t be
something that is only practiced behind closed doors.”
41, was born in the West Bank town of Sebastiya and his family moved to Germany
when he was five. He’s one of the Social Democrats’ youngest and most promising
politicians, and ran for mayor in 2014. He has also been involved in interfaith
dialogue and sees the synagogue’s renovation as a clear statement against a
rise in anti-Semitism in Germany and against racism and hatred of foreigners,
which the Muslim community suffers from as well.
80th anniversary of Kristallnacht passed recently, and I ask myself what we've
learned from history,” Saleh told Haaretz. “People are once again being
attacked because of their faith or their opinions.”
an interview at his office in the Spandau quarter, Saleh expressed concern
about the growing strength of the AfD (Alternative for Germany Party), a
far—right party whose representatives now sit in all 16 of the country's 16
local parliaments. He cautioned that “history is quickly forgotten and that’s
dangerous, but a synagogue built of stone will live on. It’s like a book that
tells stories and evokes history.”
recent years Germany has been rebuilding historic edifices destroyed in the
Second World War and the Communist era. Many are identified with the German
empire or the country’s militaristic past. A year ago Saleh had an article
published in the Frankfurther Algemeine Zeitung in which he wrote that “a
country that rebuilds palaces and churches must also rebuild its synagogues.”
said that rebuilding the Fraenkelufer synagogue in the midst of a neighborhood
where many immigrants live will remind German society that it has always been
comprised of diverse religions and cultures.
are not asking to erase what happened from 1933 to 1945, but to show that
Judaism has always been a part of German identity,” he said. “It’s important to
do this today, especially in such a culturally and ethnically diverse place as
Fraenkelufer,” Saleh said.
recognizes the fact that anti-Semitism in Berlin, which has been on the rise in
recent years, also exists among the city’s immigrants, but warns that “Jews and
Muslims in Germany must not be drawn into mutual divisions.” Saleh feels that
both communities “are in the same boat” in confronting the far right.
someone who sees education and interfaith meetings as vehicles to bring
communities closer and to fight prejudices, he leads tours for Muslim and Arab
youth of Auschwitz death camp. “I wouldn’t be a good Muslim if I didn’t fight for
the Jews, exactly like how a Jew is not a good Jew if he stands on the
sidelines when someone removes a Muslim woman's headscarf.”
slams Brunei's new 'vicious' Islamic criminal laws
Lumpur, Mar 27 Amnesty International on Wednesday slammed plans by Brunei to
implement what the rights group called "vicious" Islamic criminal
laws such as stoning to death for gay sex and amputation for theft.
said in a statement that the new penalties, which also apply to children, are
provided for in new sections under Brunei's Sharia Penal Code and will come
into effect April 3. The legal changes were announced in a discreet notice on
the attorney general's website, it said.
legalize such cruel and inhuman penalties is appalling of itself," said
Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei researcher at Amnesty International. She said some
of the potential offenses "should not even be deemed crimes at all,
including consensual sex between adults of the same gender."
must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments and
revise its penal code in compliance with its human rights obligations,"
international community must urgently condemn Brunei's move to put these cruel
penalties into practice." Brunei's sultan instituted the Sharia Penal Code
in 2014 to bolster the influence of Islam in the tiny, oil-rich monarchy, which
has long been known for conservative policies such as banning the public sale
of liquor. The first stage of the law included fines or jail for offenses such
as pregnancy out of wedlock or failing to pray on Friday.
labeled the Penal Code as a "deeply flawed piece of legislation" with
a range of provisions that violate human rights.
has been no vocal opposition to the law in Brunei, where Sultan Hassanal
Bolkiah rules as head of state with full executive authority. Public criticism
of his policies is extremely rare in Brunei.
Sultan, who has reigned since 1967, has previously said the Shariah Penal Code
should be regarded as a form of "special guidance" from God and would
be "part of the great history" of Brunei. Under secular laws, Brunei
already prescribes caning as a penalty for crimes including immigration
offenses, for which convicts can be flogged with a rattan cane. CPS
Pakistan on Wednesday sought "more information/evidence" from India
on the involvement of the Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) in the deadly Pulwama terror
attack and the presence of camps of the UNproscribed terror outfit in the
high commissioner Ajay Bisaria was called to the foreign ministry by foreign
secretary Tehmina Janjua and the "preliminary findings" on the "Pulwama
incident" were shared with him, the Foreign Office said, referring the
deadly terror attack as an "incident".
preliminary findings were shared with India after examining the Indian dossier
on the Pulwama attack, it said in a statement.
handed over the dossier+ to the Acting High Commissioner of Pakistan in New
Delhi on February 27 with specific details of JeM's complicity in the Pulwama
attack on February 14 and the presence of JeM terror camps and its leadership
JeM had claimed responsibility for the attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were
have sought further information/evidence from India to take the process
forward," the Foreign Office said.
that Prime Minister Imran Khan had offered cooperation in the investigation if
"credible evidence" was provided by India, the FO said, "in
response to this offer, a paper was handed over to Pakistan."
has acted with a high sense of responsibility and extended full cooperation, it
do so in the interest of regional peace and security," the FO said as it
sought more evidence from India to take the process forward.
approves secret nuclear power work for Saudi Arabia
Energy Secretary Rick Perry has approved six secret authorisations by companies
to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia, according to a
copy of a document seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
Trump administration has quietly pursued a wider deal on sharing US nuclear
power technology with Saudi Arabia, which aims to build at least two nuclear
countries including the United States, South Korea and Russia are in
competition for that deal, and the winners are expected to be announced later
this year by Saudi Arabia.
approvals, known as Part 810 authorisations, allow companies to do preliminary
work on nuclear power ahead of the deal, but not ship equipment that would go
into a plant, a source with knowledge of the agreements said on condition of
anonymity. The approvals were first reported by the Daily Beast.
Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said in
the document that the companies had requested that the Trump administration
keep the approvals secret.
this case, each of the companies which received a specific authorisation for
(Saudi Arabia) have provided us written request that their authorisation be
withheld from public release,” the NNSA said in the document.
NNSA and the Department of Energy did not immediately respond to requests for
US lawmakers are concerned that sharing nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia
could eventually lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS last year that the kingdom would
develop nuclear weapons if its rival Iran did.
addition, the kingdom has occasionally pushed back against agreeing to US
standards that would block two paths to potentially making fissile material for
nuclear weapons clandestinely: enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel.
in Congress about sharing nuclear technology and knowledge with Saudi Arabia
rose after Oct. 2, 2018 when US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in
the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Part 810 authorisations were made after November 2017, but it was not clear
from the document whether any of them were made after Khashoggi's killing.
Brad Sherman, a Democrat, called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a
congressional hearing on Wednesday to release the names of the companies that
got the approvals by the middle of April, and Pompeo said he would look into
also said the Trump administration has attempted to evade Congress on sharing
nuclear power with the kingdom. Pompeo said the administration was working to
ensure any shared technology nuclear power would not present proliferation
month, Democratic House members alleged in a report that top White House aides
ignored warnings they could be breaking the law as they worked with former US
officials in a group called IP3 International to advance a multibillion-dollar
plan to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.
did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether it was one
of the companies that got a Part 810 authorisation.
the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, has
accepted a request by Senators Marco Rubio, a Republican and Bob Menendez, a
Democrat, to probe the administration's talks on a nuclear deal with Saudi, a
GAO official who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “it’s not about the Benjamins” as he hit
back on Tuesday against any suggestion that US politicians are paid to support
tweet in February by Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar, a freshman legislator
from Minnesota, was widely seen as echoing an anti-Semitic slur that Jews
influence governments through money.
all about the Benjamins baby,” Omar wrote, using a slang term for $100 bills.
She subsequently apologized, saying she was grateful for “Jewish allies and
colleagues who are educating me on the painful history” of anti-Semitic
addressing a Washington convention of the pro-Israel lobby group American
Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), said via satellite from Tel Aviv:
“Some people will just never get it. They’ll never understand why the vast
majority of Americans - Jews and non-Jews alike - support Israel.”
did not mention Omar by name.
it from this Benjamin: it’s not about the Benjamins,” Netanyahu said. “The
reason the people of America support Israel is not because they want our money,
it’s because they share our values.”
few hours later, Omar responded on Twitter: “This from a man facing indictments
for bribery and other crimes in three separate public corruption affairs.
🤔 This from a
man facing indictments for bribery and other crimes in three separate
public corruption affairs.
from @netanyahu to @IlhanMN at @AIPAC :
this Benjamin: It’s not about the Benjamins!”
PM - Mar 26, 2019
Ads info and privacy
people are talking about this
Israeli attorney-general said on Feb. 28 that he intends to indict Netanyahu on
corruption charges in three cases. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.
another tweet, Omar said: “White supremacist violence is on the rise globally.
Right-wing extremists killed more people in the US in 2018 than any year since
1995. Anti-Semitic violence accounted for 58% of religious hate crimes. Yet the
topic Netanyahu chose to focus on was… me.”
congresswoman Ilhan Omar criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
on Tuesday, saying the focus of his speech at this year’s American Israel
Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, D.C. was on her.
this year’s AIPAC conference, the topic PM Netanyahu chose to focus on
was…me," Omar said on Twitter.
devoted a paragraph of his speech to the Muslim lawmaker while only mentioning
last October’s mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania with a single word.
it from this Benjamin: It’s not about the Benjamins. The reason that the people
of America support Israel is not because they want our money, it’s because they
share our values. They just don’t get it," he said in a video recording to
the conference, implicitly referencing a comment made by Omar.
was scheduled to speak at the conference Tuesday but cut his trip short after a
rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on Monday struck a house in Israel and wounded
Muslim lawmaker has been embroiled in controversy after criticizing U.S.
support of Israel on several occasions.
want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK
for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country," Omar said at a
progressive town hall meeting earlier this month, referring to Israel.
remarks received widespread and bipartisan backlash, with others in Congress
labeling them as anti-Semitic.
has apologized for similar comments, but this time she doubled down, saying she
has "not mischaracterized our relationship with Israel. I have questioned
it, and that has been clear from my end".
of my first acts as a Member of Congress were to cosponsor a bill elevating the
position of Special Envoy to combat anti-Semitism—and my first op-ed after my
election was on the rise of hate crimes," she tweeted.
supremacist violence is on the rise globally. Right-wing extremists killed more
people in the US in 2018 than any year since 1995. Anti-Semitic violence
accounted for 58% of religious hate crimes," she added.
shot back at Netanyahu on Twitter, mentioning that Adam Milstein, an AIPAC
national council member, called her a "terrorist" and that the prime
minister is in an alliance with the political party Otzma Yehudit, which she
referred to as the "KKK of Israel".
noted that the leaders of the party were members of a foreign terror
organization and involved in attempts to target former Israeli Prime Minister
Netanyahu chose to focus on…me," she reiterated.
Netanyahu and AIPAC opposed former U.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts to
secure the Iran nuclear deal. They also opposed the 1993 peace process between
Palestine and Israel and Obama’s proposed freeze of Israeli settlements as part
of the 2010-2011 peace talks between the two states.
links between Nato allies the United States and Turkey are at risk, Washington
says, following Ankara’s recent decision to buy a missile defence system from
has found itself at the centre of the disagreement between Washington and
Ankara by promising to sell Turkey its flagship S-400 surface-to-air missile
system. The US claims that the hardware is not compatible with Nato defence
systems and has threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey if it goes ahead with
Security Adviser John Bolton this month became the latest and and among the
most high-profile American official to call foul during an interview with John
Catsimatidis, a New York-based radio host on 970 AM.
concerned about their purchase of the Russian air defence system called the
S-400 – that's a big problem," Mr Bolton said. “They're still a Nato ally;
we’re trying to work with them. [US President Donald] Trump would like to have
good relationship with Turkey.”
and Turkey brokered the reported $2.5 billion (Dh9.2 bn) missile deal back in
2017 as the two countries were working to repair ties after Turkey shot down a
Russian jet on the Syrian border in the end of 2015.
the years since, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who regularly travels
to Russia, has become a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.
Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani, the presidents are angling for a compromise on
how to rout opposition from the last rebel-held territory in Syria and bring
about an end to the eight-year conflict.
Erdogan says the Russian air defence system is not incompatible with Nato.
"We concluded the S-400 issue, signed a deal with the Russians and will
start co-production," he told Turkish media earlier in March.
US official speaking anonymously last week said that Turkey’s decision to buy
the S-400 did not equate to it leaving Nato, Reuters reported. But the official
stressed that the decision should be seen as a national security issue, just
not from a commercial perspective.
are continuing to work on a range of options to ensure that Turkey’s
participation in the Nato alliance and bilateral relationship can continue
unabated and unimpinged," the official said.
US negotiators are trying to convince Ankara to substitute the S-400 system
with the American patriot system, which would avoid disrupting delivery of
American F-35 jets.
need Turkey to buy the Patriot," US acting defense secretary Patrick
Shanahan told Congress this week.
will take part in the Nato ministerial meeting hosted by Washington next week.
But with Ankara set to start receiving the S-400 parts this summer, to be
deployed in October, the window is closing on the Turkish-American talks.
Turkey obtains the S-400 “they would not have access to Patriot [missiles] and the
F-35” jets, Charlie Summers, Pentagon spokesperson said earlier this month.
deployment of S-400 in Turkey would immediately trigger sanctions under a law
passed by Congress and signed by the US president in August 2017.
law targets anyone dealing with certain Russian intelligence and military
is also moving to halt the sale of at least 100 F-35 jets to Ankara.
its National Defence Authorisation Act, Congress considered the S-400 deal a
threat to the security of the Nato alliance, and enforced a halt on F-35
deliveries until the State Department submits a report to Congress detailing a
“description of plans for the imposition of sanctions, if appropriate” for the
a tough issue," Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford said last week,
adding that the US “would have a hard time" making the sale to a country
that’s obtaining an S-400 system.
Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defence for international security
affairs, explained the issue to Reuters saying, "The S-400 is a computer.
The F-35 is a computer. You don't hook your computer to your adversary's
computer and that's basically what we would be doing.”
US has sharpened its message because “it is running out of time,” Aaron Stein,
the director of the Middle East Programme at the Foreign Policy Research
Institute told The National.
“removal from the F-35 consortium and the blocking of the F-35 delivery to
Ankara” are some of the immediate options under consideration he said. But in the
larger political context, Mr Stein said the the S-400 deal “appears to be a
political arrangement between Mr Erdogan and Putin, so any last minute
cancellation would also have spillover effects on their personal relationship.”
the Soviet era, Russia’s arms agreements have had the dual purpose of deepening
political ties with buyers. Yuri Barmin, a Middle East analyst at the Russia
International Affairs Council, a think tank set up to advise the Kremlin, says
the S-400 deal is no different.
S-400 deal with Turkey is both a political and a commercial project,” Mr Barmin
told The National. “Politically of course it’s hugely important given the fact
that Turkey’s use of S-400 drives a wedge between Ankara and Nato partners. It
also drives Turkey closer to Russia since S-400 comes with a whole package of
training and service.”
deepening alliance with Turkey in Syria means Erdogan would have a difficult
time backing out of the S-400 deal now even if he wanted to says Soner
Cagaptay, Director of the Turkish Programme at The Washington Institute.
Turkey’s military operations in northern Syria against Kurdish rebel groups are
ostensibly sanctioned by Mr Putin, says Mr Cagaptay, that approval comes
predicated on Mr Erdogan’s purchase of the S-400 systems.
in a way Erdogan has been cornered,” Mr Cagaptay told The National. “Even if he
[Erdogan] wants to back out of this for reasons of not rupturing his alliance
with the US, his Syria policy is being completely folded under his commitment
to buy the S400 system.”
S-400, which first entered service in 2007, has become one of the most sought
after missile systems primarily due to its range, analysts said.
Hagia Sophia museum will be converted back into a mosque, Turkish President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday.
(Haghia Sophia) will no longer be called a museum. Its status will change. We
will call it a mosque," Erdogan said during a live televised program.
criticism of the decision by foreign officials, Erdogan recalled their silence
over the attacks on Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
who remain silent when Masjid Al-Aqsa is attacked, trampled, its windows
smashed, cannot tell us what to do about the status of Ayasofya," he said.
Sophia, dubbed "8th Wonder of the World" by historians, is one of the
most visited museums in the world in terms of art and architecture history.
was used as a church for 916 years. In 1453, it was converted into a mosque by
Fatih Sultan Mehmet when the Ottomans conquered Istanbul.
restoration work during the Ottoman era and the adding of minarets by architect
Mimar Sinan, the Hagia Sophia became one of the most important monuments of
Zealanders are rallying around their Muslim neighbors and compatriots following
last week’s white supremacist attack on two mosques in the city of
includes a handful of biker groups that have reached out to the country’s small
Muslim community to express solidarity in the aftermath of the massacre,
according to The New Zealand Herald, and offered to provide voluntary security
at mosques during this week’s jumah, or Friday prayers. Groups that have
promised protection include the Mongrel Mob, Black Power, King Cobras and Hells
president of the Mongrel Mob chapter in Waikato, Sonny Fatu, reportedly offered
to shield the Jamia Masjib Mosque in Hamilton.
will support and assist our Muslim brothers and sisters for however long they
need us,” Fatu told the New Zealand news outlet Stuff. “We will not be armed.
We are peacefully securing the inner gated perimeter, with other community
members, to allow them to feel at ease.”
president of the Waikato Muslim Association, Asad Mohsin, told NZME, “Some
people from the Mongrel Mob had been visiting the mosque during the week, and
said they wanted to come on Friday, show their support and solidarity.”
the Muslim community did not feel scared, Mohsin said, the support was
appreciated. “I feel very good, to receive this support from all different
sections of society, different interests and dispositions, to come forward and
give their love. It all gives us strength to overcome the grief we are
undergoing,” Mohsin told NZME.
instead of asking the bikers to protect the Muslims from outside the mosque, he
invited them inside. “They don't have to stand outside the mosque. They can
come inside, right behind where the sermon is given,” he said. “We would love
everybody to come, but we don't want anybody to show they are scared. We are
not scared. You don't have to stand outside the mosque, we want you to be
inside, with us.”
Friday, a 28-year-old Australian white supremacist attacked two mosques in
Christchurch, killing 50 and injuring dozens more. Brenton Tarrant
live-streamed part of the assault and published a meme-laden far-right
manifesto to accompany the massacre. He is currently in custody facing at least
one murder charge.
CITY: Pope Francis heads to Morocco on Saturday, the first pope to do so in 35
years, with interreligious dialogue and immigration on the agenda.
Argentine pontiff will be welcomed by the North African country’s population of
around 30,000 Roman Catholics, mostly sub-Saharan African students or migrants
headed for Europe.
to 10,000 are expected to attend a mass in a Rabat stadium on Sunday, a first
in the 99 per cent Sunni Muslim country since Jean Paul II visited in 1985.
on from his visit to the United Arab Emirates in January, the papal mass will
come the day after meeting the “Commander of the Faithful” King Mohammed VI and
other senior religious leaders.
spiritual leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics has repeatedly
called for religious tolerance and dialogue and his visit is keenly awaited by
the country’s Christian minority, including those who have converted from
of religion is inscribed in the Moroccan constitution, and during World War II
King Mohammed V famously refused to cooperate with Nazi roundups of Jews.
dream of a free Morocco that takes responsibility for its religious diversity,”
the Christian Moroccan Coordination said ahead of the visit, hoping for a
“historic occasion” for Morocco to “move forward in this direction.”
to the constitution, “Islam is the religion of State, which guarantees freedom
to worship for all.”
in Muslim-majority countries such as the UAE, apostasy in Morocco does not
carry the death penalty.
religious official in Rabat who asked not to be named said that in Morocco
“discretion is the name of the game.”
June, Morocco’s junior minister for human rights, Islamist Mustafa Ramid, said
that freedom of belief was “a threat” to Morocco’s cohesion.
can convert, but proselytising – described as “shaking the faith of a Muslim or
converting them to another religion” – can be punished with up to three years
Francis’s visit is important, for the fight against fanaticism, cultural
blinkeredness, of intolerance but also... for positive interactions between
religions, peoples and civilisations,” said Morocco’s ambassador to Paris,
Francis has said he would have liked to have gone to Marrakesh in December when
over 150 countries signed the United Nations Global Compact for Migration. In
the end he sent the Vatican’s number two, Pietro Parolin.
non-binding pact hoped to draw up a framework to deal with the global
challenges of migration.
will on Saturday meet migrants at the Caritas Diocesan Centre and give a
are increasingly crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to Spain since
Italy all but closed its ports.
Church has set up several such reception centres in different Moroccan cities,
staffed by Christians and Muslims.
says that it has a “humanist” policy towards migrants but is regularly
criticised by rights groups for mass arrests aimed at distancing would-be
migrants from the Mediterranean.
hope that the pope’s visit will help this matter progress,” said Tangiers
archbishop Santiago Angelo Martinez.
Jean-Paul II visited in 1985 he had an interreligious meeting for 80,000 youths
in a stadium.
on Wednesday called on Saudi Arabia to ensure “full transparency” in the trial
of Saudi officials behind the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
expect from the Saudi judiciary to ensure full transparency and compliance with
the rule of law,” Christofer Burger, Germany’s deputy foreign ministry
spokesman, said at a news conference in Berlin.
German Embassy has sought to observe the trial, this has not been granted yet.
We regret this,” Burger added.
Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was killed by Saudi agents last
October, shortly after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Arabia initially denied any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts, claiming he
left the diplomatic facility in good health the same day he went missing.
following a rising number of contradictions in its narrative, Riyadh sought to
blame the journalist's death on a botched rendition operation being carried out
by rogue agents.
has sought the extradition of the Saudi citizens involved in the killing as
well as a fuller accounting of the killing from Riyadh.
New Zealand: Prince William will visit victims of the Christchurch mosque
shootings next month, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced
Thursday on the eve of a national remembrance service being held in the
grieving South Island city.
said the focus of Friday’s service and next month’s royal visit was supporting
the Muslim community, which was devastated when a self-avowed white supremacist
killed 50 people at two mosques in a shooting rampage.
will address the service, which has the theme “We Are One” and will be
broadcast on national television.
said representatives from 59 nations, including Australian Prime Minister Scott
Morrison, were attending the event, which is expected to draw tens of thousands
emphasis will be on the Islamic community, with an invocation ringing out
across Hagley Park, speeches by Muslim leaders and a performance by Cat
Stevens, the British singer who shunned stardom in the 1970s and became a
Muslim, taking the name Yusuf Islam.
is an event that has affected New Zealand deeply, but it was our Muslim New
Zealanders who were targeted in this act of hatred,” Ardern told reporters in
so, that will be reflected in the remembrance service.”
said William, the Duke of Cambridge, was “very keen to show his support for the
city and the Muslim community as it emerges from this attack.”
will represent his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, the official head of state
of the former British colony.
visit will be another sign that this nation will always stand with those
affected by the terror attacks, and the people of Christchurch,” Ardern said.
royals have previously expressed sympathy for the attacks.
Duke will meet with those affected by the attack and will pay tribute to the
extraordinary compassion and solidarity that the people of New Zealand have
displayed in recent weeks,” Kensington Palace said in a statement.
said William already had a strong connection with Christchurch and the
surrounding Canterbury region after visiting in the wake of a devastating 2011
earthquake that killed 185 people.
made a two-day visit to Christchurch following the quake to attend a memorial
service. He and his wife Kate also visited the city in 2014.
the mosque attacks, William, Kate, Prince Harry and wife Meghan sent a message
that ended “Kia kaha,” meaning “be strong” in Maori.
person should ever have to fear attending a sacred place of worship,” they
senseless attack is an affront to the people of Christchurch and New Zealand,
and the broader Muslim community. It is a horrifying assault on a way of life
that embodies decency, community, and friendship.”
has led efforts to support New Zealand’s small, tightly-knit Muslim community
in the wake of the attack.
well as symbolic gestures such as donning a headscarf while comforting
survivors, she has also moved to tighten gun laws and called for social media
giants to do more to combat hate speech.
said New Zealanders were “on a journey” to uphold their core values and her
government wanted to take a leadership role in ensuring that happened.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday that she welcomed
Facebook Inc’s decision to ban praise, support and representation of white
nationalism and white separatism on its social media platforms.
these categories should always fall within the community guidelines of hate
speech, but nevertheless it’s positive the clarification has now been made in
the wake of the attack in Christchurch,” she said at a press conference.
ban was a shift in policy after criticism by civil rights groups that it was
failing to confront extremism.
Golan move part of ‘criminal project’: Syria at UN
ambassador to the United Nations has lashed out at US President Donald Trump's
recognition of “Israeli sovereignty” over the occupied Golan Heights,
describing the move as part of a “criminal project” aimed at prolonging chaos
and destruction in the region.
Jaafari made the remarks at a Wednesday UN Security Council meeting on the
situation of Syria in the wake of Trump’s Monday decision to recognize “Israeli
sovereignty” over the Syrian territories of Golan Heights.
is a criminal project or plan for which the US government and its allies have
used all tools at their disposal,” Jaafari said, adding that the plan is aimed
at guaranteeing chaos and destruction in the region, and dividing the people of
the region on religious and ethnic basis in order to “build a new reality”.
the first day of this terrorist war led by governments of certain known
countries, we said that the main goal of this war was to ensure Israeli
occupation of Arab territories and to ensure that the occupation can go on
forever on the basis of the plan put forward by the United States,” he said.
US president’s recent decision on the occupied Golan Heights “shows just how
correct we were at the time,” the Syrian envoy added.
Turkey, Lebanon, Russia, and the European Union were quick to reject Trump’s
move, which is in obvious contravention of international law.
a declaration issued on Wednesday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini's
office announced that the bloc "does not recognize Israeli sovereignty
over the occupied Golan Heights.”
by the High Representative @FedericaMog on behalf of the EU on the
position of the EU has not changed. The EU does not recognise Israeli
sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.
PM - Mar 27, 2019
people are talking about this
Council rejects Trump’s decision
Wednesday meeting of the Security Council turned into another stage for the
isolation of the US, as other countries on the council opposed Trump’s move on
the occupied Golan Heights.
UN Ambassador Karen Pierce told the council that the US decision was in
contravention of that 1981 resolution, which declared "null and void and
without international legal effect” the Israeli annexation of Golan in 1981.
Deputy UN Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said Washington had violated UN
resolutions and warned it could fuel instability in the Middle East.
Korea also issued a statement backing "the struggle of the Syrian
government and people for taking back the occupied Golan Heights."
European members of the council - France, Britain, Germany, Belgium and Poland
- had earlier on Tuesday raised concerns about "broader consequences of
recognizing illegal annexation and also about the broader regional
on Thursday, Trump tweeted that it was time to back Israeli “sovereignty” over
the Golan Heights, a Syrian territory under Israeli occupation since the 1967
52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s
Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security
importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!" the US
president wrote on Twitter.
1967, Israel waged a full-scale war against Arab territories during which it
occupied a large swathe of Syria’s Golan and annexed it four years later, a
move never recognized by the international community.
has repeatedly reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, saying the
territory must be completely restored to its control.
YORK: Syria asked the UN Security Council on Tuesday to hold an urgent meeting
on the US decision to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.
Donald Trump signed a proclamation Monday in which the US recognized Israel’s
annexation of the strategic plateau, despite UN resolutions that call for
Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan.
a letter, the Syrian mission to the UN asked the council presidency, held by
France, to schedule an urgent meeting to “discuss the situation in the occupied
Syrian Golan and the recent flagrant violation of the relevant Security
Council’s resolution by a permanent member-state.”
French presidency did not immediately schedule the meeting and diplomats said
there would be a discussion at the council about the request.
Friday, Syria wrote a separate letter urging the council to uphold resolutions
demanding that Israel withdraw from the Golan.
acting Ambassador Jonathan Cohen told a council meeting on the Middle East that
Washington had made the decision to stand up to Syrian President Bashar Assad
allow the Golan Heights to be controlled by the likes of the Syrian and Iranian
regimes would turn a blind eye to the atrocities of the Assad regime and malign
and destabilizing presence of Iran in the region,” said Cohen.
decision could be seen as a “God-send” for Iran which will “try to capitalize
on the US-Israeli move to try to fill the void of official Arab leadership” in
the region, said Fawaz Gerges, an international relations expert at the London
School of Economics.
countries, which have long fought for the Palestinian cause, “have been reduced
to extreme fragility and none of them will go to war for Syria,” said Said
Sadeq, a political sociology professor.
said Wednesday Israel had attacked targets just north of the city of Aleppo and
that its defenses had shot down several missiles.
air defenses repel an Israeli air aggression that targeted a number of
industrial sites in Sheikh Najjar industrial zone, north-east of Aleppo and
downed a number of the hostile missiles,” the official SANA news agency said,
citing an unnamed military source.
experts say Aleppo is one of the main areas where Iran’s elite Revolutionary
Guards have a strong military presence where it supports local militias that
have for years been fighting alongside the Syrian army to defeat insurgents.
which considers Iran as its biggest threat, has repeatedly attacked Iranian
targets in Syria and those of allied militia, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
— Egyptian and Libyan security authorities have agreed to coordinate Egyptian
laborers' entry to Libya by opening offices in the border cities of Sallum,
Egypt, and Masaed, Libya. The agreement comes in anticipation of Libya's
reconstruction in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, years of civil war and
the resulting chaos that opened the door to the Islamic State (IS) in 2015.
the agreement signed March 17, Egyptian laborers will undergo security
clearance by Egyptian agencies (which were not identified) affiliated with the
police or army. Then in Libya, the Interior Ministry of the interim government
will be responsible for security clearances for workers to enter that country.
March 7, the Libyan-Egyptian Joint Economic Chamber organized its second
economic forum in Alexandria to discuss ways to overcome obstacles to trade and
people’s movement between the countries. The forum underlined the need to work
on returning Egyptian laborers to Libya and to extend invitations to some
Egyptian businessmen and companies to visit. During his speech at the forum,
Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce head Ahmed al-Wakil called for
allowing the return to Libya of a vast number of more than 2 million Egyptians
who had worked there before the 2011 revolution, many of whom returned to Egypt
because of the political and security instability in Libya.
had completely banned travel to Libya since February 2015 because of the
danger. But as security improved, parliament member Mahdi al-Umda called in
January for reopening the Sallum land crossing to Egyptian laborers.
new agreement is a good move in that direction, said Mohammad Fathi al-Sherif,
a researcher at the media center of the Arab League's Permanent Mission of
Libya. “The agreement has security and organizational aspects, and this is a
key preliminary step for the return of Egyptian labor to Libya," he told
Al-Monitor. "Both countries have the political willingness to make it
Saad al-Din, a spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Labor, told Al-Monitor by
phone that the agreement involves the countries' security forces, and that the
civilian part of the Egyptian government has nothing to do with the pact. He
emphasized, however, that a stable security situation in Libya is key to the
return of Egyptian laborers.
Zuhri, head of the Egyptian Society for Migration Studies and a migration
professor at the American University of Cairo, told Al-Monitor, “Egyptian labor
is the best option for the Libyan market, given the countries' geographic
proximity. Besides, skilled and junior Egyptian labor is available at low
wages, compared with labor from other countries.”
added, “Egyptian workers are the primary candidates for the Libyan market
currently. The number of Egyptian laborers is expected to return to pre-2011
figures, when there were around 1.7 million in Libya." He estimated the
current number at 300,000 at most, while saying official figures are lacking
and some workers cross illegally.
Minister of Work and Rehabilitation Al-Mahdi al-Amen told the Egyptian
Al-Akhbar newspaper in April that Egyptian laborers will have priority over
those of other nationalities in the coming Libyan reconstruction because of
their professional capacities and skills, which were evident in Libya before
al-Shafei, director of the Capital Center for Economic Studies and Research,
told Al-Monitor, “Egyptian companies specializing in construction have
experience in such reconstruction. They will play a major role in the coming
phase, alongside the expected rise in [general] demand for Egyptian labor that
is widely welcomed in the Libyan market.”
said the labor coordination agreement is essential and "will definitely
have a positive impact on the national economy because it will add to the hard
currency of the Egyptian Central Bank.”
to the Egyptian Central Bank, overall remittances of Egyptian laborers abroad
rose in 2018 to $25.5 billion, up 3.1% from 2017. The remittances are the
largest source of hard currency in the Egyptian economy.
Abou Yassine, who worked in Libya from 2012 until 2016, told Al-Monitor, “I
worked in construction in Benghazi city. Unfortunately, I didn't continue my
work there, since I was injured on the job and had to return to Egypt. I didn't
have medical insurance in Libya because I crossed the border illegally.”
added, “Many Egyptian young people want to travel to Libya for work, since
opportunities are available for them there and they have priority over others
in the Libyan market.”
opportunities in Egypt are scarce.
Ali, an Egyptian in his 20s with a bachelor's degree in commerce from the
University of Cairo, is waiting for his chance to work in Libya, but he insists
on using the proper channels. He told Al-Monitor, “I want to work in Libya
legally, and I want a good job opportunity. I choose Libya because it is close
said that the security situation in Libya has improved and that there would be
better than life in Egypt without work. The agreement is important, he said,
because it reopens the door to legal travel to Libya after years of travel bans
and illegal smuggling.
al-Lahouni, who is currently unemployed, told Al-Monitor by phone, “I worked in
Libya from 2008 until 2011, when I returned to Egypt after the deterioration of
the security situation. I am currently getting ready to travel again to Libya,
amid the relatively improving security situation.”
Iraqi Kurdistan — It has been nearly a year and a half since the Iraqi Kurds
held their referendum on independence. The fallout from the referendum, which
faced stiff opposition from Baghdad, the United States, Turkey and Iran, has
forces have driven Kurdish forces out of the disputed territories, most notably
the oil-rich province of Kirkuk. The Iraqi Kurds have yet to form a regional
government since the September parliamentary elections, but they have reached
an informal agreement to make Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani the new
president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, replacing his uncle Massoud Barzani,
who stepped down after the referendum. Relations with Baghdad, Turkey and Iran
are beginning to thaw, but problems remain. Meanwhile, the future of the Kurds
in Syria hangs in the balance as the United States continues to flip flop on
its Syria policy.
spoke with Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani at his headquarters in Erbil on a
wide range of domestic and regional issues. The following is a transcript of
the interview, edited for clarity.
Al-Monitor: My first question is, after this turbulent
period during and in the aftermath of the September 2017 referendum on Kurdish
independence, how are your relations with Baghdad? Have you been able to
overcome some of your differences and establish a good working relationship
with the government in Baghdad?
Barzani: To be sure, we went through a difficult patch
following the referendum. It was probably one of the toughest periods that we
experienced since 1991. But we were able to resolve some of our problems with
the former government, with former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, such as
lifting the embargo on our airspace and the closure of the airports. And we had
the opportunity to participate in the Iraqi national elections. We had
substantial success as the Kurdish bloc, but the Kurdistan Democratic Party
(KDP) is the No. 1 party in terms of seats in the Iraqi parliament. Obviously,
this outcome proved that the political situation in Kurdistan and the
contribution of the political parties in Kurdistan is still important to Iraq.
And particularly those who were banking on the assumption that the KDP would be
marginalized were proven wrong. The KDP clearly remains a power to be reckoned
have also participated in the formation of the government in Baghdad and we are
active in the government. We see a willingness on the part of the present Prime
Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to be more approachable. But the fact remains that
the system in Iraq does not revolve around a single individual. There are many
other actors and elements. But I can say wholeheartedly that the relationship
that we currently enjoy with Baghdad is far better than it used to be.
Al-Monitor: Could you give us any examples?
Barzani: We suffered and went through four difficult
years. We were stuck in a deep, long, dark tunnel. Now we see light at the end
of the tunnel. We have been able to strike a compromise on the budget. It may
not be the exact outcome that we desired, but we have come to some
Al-Monitor: So are you getting your 17% share of the
budget as was originally agreed upon?
Barzani: Look, the budget issue became highly
politicized and kind of a stumbling block for the [Iraqi] prime minister to get
hung up on 17% or any percent for that matter. That’s why we negotiated
something that could work for both sides. We had to be pragmatic. This is a
cooling down period with Baghdad. But that is not to say all of our problems
are resolved. This is a temporary formula that allows us to address the problem
of unpaid salaries of government employees. The salary issue has at least been
fixed. We will have a whole year to discuss all the details of the budget
before the draft national budget for the next fiscal year is drawn up. We want
to avoid quarrels.
Al-Monitor: With salaries being paid, the economy must be
picking up then?
Barzani: Yes, God be praised the economy is improving.
You can feel it when you go downtown, to the bazaar. Some of the infrastructure
and other projects that were stalled due to the financial crisis have resumed.
We owed money to many private companies and private sector banks. We have
started paying them back. This is all good news. We have agreed on the customs
fees with Baghdad. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is harmonizing
customs fees with the central government.
Al-Monitor: Does this apply to the Khabur border crossing
with Turkey as well?
Barzani: Yes, everywhere. We are all Iraqis and the
border problem has been solved. There were many checkpoints between the borders
of KRG territory and those of the central government territory. Now they
removed these checkpoints and by removing these checkpoints they facilitated
Al-Monitor: When you speak about the boundaries of KRG
territory, those have changed since the referendum. Iraqi forces have moved
into all of the disputed territories, including Kirkuk. Can we talk about the
current status of these disputed territories? Now what?
Barzani: The term is quite clear: disputed territory.
This means it does not fully belong to them. Who controls these territories is
a different matter. But this does not alter the fact that they remain in
dispute. When I spoke to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, I told him that if we
are to have a stable Iraq and resolve our differences, the two key issues that
need to be addressed are the revenue sharing arrangements between Baghdad and
the KRG, and the disputed territories. Of course, there are other problems, but
we need to concentrate on these first.
Al-Monitor: As president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq,
will that be one of your priorities?
Barzani: Absolutely. I travel to Baghdad constantly
and I was there only two weeks ago.
Al-Monitor: Can we say you are the person that is now
running that relationship?
Barzani: Yes, of course. Solving these two issues will
be one of my top priorities as president. You mentioned Kirkuk. If we have a
revenue sharing agreement and the KRG gets its fair share, the matter of which
part of Kirkuk belongs to whom will automatically be clarified.
Al-Monitor: Do you still believe that Article 140 of the
Iraqi Constitution, which calls for a referendum on the disputed territories,
needs to be implemented?
Barzani: Yes, of course.
Al-Monitor: Does the Iraqi prime minister understand
Barzani: Look, there is no other politician in Iraq
who understands, who fully absorbs the Kurdish issue as well as Mahdi does.
Al-Monitor: Why is that?
Barzani: Because he’s been with us for many years.
He’s been with us since the 1980s. He was a warrior, part of the opposition,
alongside us. We cooperated with his fellow fighters. I’ve known him since I
was a kid. He’s a friend and he’s willing to address our problems and we
sincerely hope that he will continue to do so.
Al-Monitor: But you also said that the system in Iraq
does not center on individuals, that there is a system. Iran appears to figure
prominently in that system. Iran is a very influential player in Iraq, would
Barzani: For sure Iran has an important role in Iraq.
Relations between Iran and Iraq cannot be reduced to simple bilateral ties.
Iran and Iraq have a very long common border. Relations between the two
countries are complex and multilayered. There are religious dynamics, social
dynamics and trade. Around 45% of Iraq’s electricity comes from Iran. Trade
between Iran and Iraq is about $11 billion.
Al-Monitor: What do you do when the president of the
United States tells you to stop that trade? Doesn’t that place you in a very
awkward position? Is the KRG formulating its own policy on this or is it
coordinating with Baghdad?
Barzani: There is a great deal of cooperation with
Baghdad on this issue. Baghdad says there needs to be certain exemptions on
certain items, for instance on the electrical supply and the natural gas that
is purchased from Iran. The formula for this is that payments for these
services should be made in Iraqi dinars rather than in dollars. Iran has agreed
to this formula. And we consider the decisions made by Baghdad to be binding in
Al-Monitor: How are the Americans reacting? And how much
does their reaction matter, given the deep bitterness felt by the KRG over
Washington’s perceived failure to prevent Iraqi forces from moving into the disputed
territories after the referendum?
Barzani: The whole issue of our differences over the
referendum is behind us now. We cannot look at this from just one side, from
solely our side. They were also clear about their position, that they did not
support the referendum. As far as US sanctions are concerned, we will simply
comply with whatever decisions are made between Washington and Baghdad. Full
Al-Monitor: Your other big, important neighbor is Turkey
and they too were fiercely opposed to the referendum. How are your relations
Barzani: If you consider the period during and after
the referendum, there were several critical levers Turkey could have used
against us and we are deeply grateful that they chose not to. They neither
sealed our borders nor turned off the pipeline that carries our oil to export
terminals in Turkey. Relations are now good between us, they have improved.
Al-Monitor: Turkey seems to be much more active
militarily here now, attacking the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) with
airstrikes and causing civilian deaths. There have been loud protests against
Turkey by the local population because of this. You seem to be stuck in this
perennial position of being caught between Turkey and the PKK. As future
president, are you interested in trying to help revive peace talks between
Turkey and the PKK?
Barzani: Just a reminder, I was present at the
inauguration ceremony last year of [Turkish] President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
And that was the first step in our post-referendum thaw. I have always said
this very openly and explicitly, the PKK is providing the pretext for Turkish
intervention. We cannot accept that the Kurdistan region is used as a safe
haven for such groups to operate against our neighbors. So we need to recognize
Turkey’s legitimate security concerns. However, this situation has persisted
for quite some time. It's clear that a purely military solution will not
provide a lasting solution.
the end of the day, there needs to be dialogue. In the past we were able to
talk Mr. Erdogan, both when he was prime minister and now the president, to
help create an atmosphere that would allow the peace process, for dialogue to
start. We also convinced the other side [the PKK] that peace and dialogue were
the only realistic ways forward.
Al-Monitor: And you continue to believe that dialogue,
peace talks have to happen with this group, the PKK? Because President Erdogan
appears to have ruled out any further talks with them and talks of engaging
with other “non-terrorist” Kurds.
Barzani: If the aim is to resolve this issue fully,
this groups need to be engaged.
Al-Monitor: And should the imprisoned PKK leader,
Abdullah Ocalan, be part of that?
Barzani: Without question. He should be one of the key
But in the meantime the Americans are
trying, supposedly, to separate the PKK from their partners in Syria, the
Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its political arm, the
Democratic Union Party (PYD). They are trying to get both of these Syrian
Kurdish groups to disavow and sever all ties with the PKK leadership in the
Qandil Mountains and to persuade the Turks that they can get along with the
Kurds in Syria and all live together happily ever after. Is this realistic?
Barzani: I don’t believe so. The Kurdish forces
currently dominating northeastern Syria have strong links and ties with the PKK
and all their instructions, orders are being given by Qandil.
Al-Monitor: We are hearing that the Americans have sought
your support in separating the YPG from Qandil. Is that true?
Barzani: No. But the Americans have asked us to
encourage these groups to develop positive ties with Turkey.
Al-Monitor: What is your advice to the Syrian Kurds?
Should they be talking to the Syrian regime?
Barzani: I believe the Kurds of Syria should try to
find a solution within the framework of a united Syria. They should be engaging
in dialogue and negotiations with the regime.
Al-Monitor: They should ignore the Americans who are
telling them not to do that?
Barzani: It's not a matter of ignoring the Americans.
The Americans said their presence in Syria was related to defeating the Islamic
State. That was the original purpose for their intervention. The reality is
that the regime is still there and that the Kurds of Syria should be talking
with the regime in order to gain certain rights.
Al-Monitor: Is President Bashar al-Assad prepared to give
them any rights? The PYD and YPG leaders I spoke to say no.
Barzani: Currently the regime feels that it has the
upper hand, but the reality is that there is still a lot of instability in
Syria. The minute the government regains sovereignty over all of Syria there
will be more stability and the regime will feel confident enough to give the
Kurds their rights. The regime will need to deal with the reality that the
Kurds are there, that they exist and they have power, they control territories
and they have to find the way to solve their problems with the Kurds.
Al-Monitor: Given the level of distrust between the
sides, who can be the guarantor of any deal between the Kurds and the regime?
Is there a role for you to play?
Barzani: For us to a lesser extent, we are ready to
step up to the plate. But this role can be played even more effectively by the
Russians. It's important for all of us to have a stable neighbor such as Syria,
but it's especially important for Russia. They are very clear on this point.
Their strategy is geared toward securing a stable Syria. They can be key
players in negotiating a settlement between the Kurds and the regime.
Al-Monitor: The Russians are becoming rather influential
players here in Iraqi Kurdistan, as well with Rosneft buying a majority stake
in the oil pipeline to Turkey.
Barzani: In economic terms, we do enjoy good relations
with the Russians and they have invested a substantial sum of money here and
they will continue to do so, OK? We are in the process of expanding ties.
Al-Monitor: And the Americans aren’t upset?
Barzani: Our ties with Russia are in the private
sector. They are ready to invest and it's of benefit to us.
Al-Monitor: Getting back to Syria, some of the Kurdish
officials I spoke to in Syria agreed with you, saying their relationship with
the Americans had been beneficial, but that, at this point, the benefits were
beginning to be outweighed by the costs.
Barzani: Yes, the problem derives from the fact that
the United States has never been very clear about its strategy, its policy in
Syria. And this is why the Kurds will probably not wait for too long and they
recognize the American presence for what it is, a temporary one.
Al-Monitor: The fear, though, is that once the Americans
pull out, Turkey will intervene militarily against the YPG in Syria. This may
have consequences for the KRG, too, with a fresh influx of Syrian Kurdish
refugees fleeing Turkish forces.
Barzani: Turkey’s security concerns are legitimate and
need to be taken very seriously. But having a large Turkish military presence
in that region will not provide any solutions. I believe our Kurdish brothers
in Syria have behaved negatively toward Turkey. If you look at the background,
at the start, Turkish policy was not anti-Kurd in Syria. Their concern was
about the PKK and, sadly, our Kurdish brothers in Syria did not hesitate to
provoke Turkey on this particular issue. The Turks were prepared to open the
border crossing with the PYD, but on the sole condition that they remove the
PKK flag, that was back in 2014. And get this, even when we, the KRG, were not
enjoying good relations with the PYD [and its former co-chair] Saleh Muslim,
the Turks offered to mediate between us and the PYD to improve our ties. And I
told them I cannot participate in any such meeting and that I would send
[senior KDP official and current Iraqi finance minister] Fuad Hussein instead. In
response they did the opposite and went to every extreme to provoke the Turks.
For Turkey it's a national security issue and how can they tolerate nearly
their entire border to be controlled by the PKK? We need to hear both sides.
Al-Monitor: Finally, when are we going to see a
government being formed in the KRG? What is holding this up still?
Barzani: We are in intense talks with the [main
opposition] Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and at the same time negotiating
with [the opposition Change movement] Gorran. But the death of [former PUK and
Iraqi president] Jalal Talabani has complicated things within the PUK. There
are now many different factions within the PUK and we are having to negotiate
with all of them and this is clearly a problem. But we have agreed on a
framework of how to work together. The fight now is within the PUK over who
gets what position. They feel the KDP has given Gorran too much and that they
deserve more. Of course, the PUK will remain as a partner and we are pretty
confident that we will soon be forming a government.
Syria — In a dimly lit room the men sit on rows of bunk beds, their legs
crossed or extended. Some smoke or read. Others rock rhythmically to and fro,
mumbling prayers under their breath. Bright pink blankets stand in stark
contrast with the grim atmosphere. A pale, thin man with wire-rimmed spectacles
and a wispy beard stares daggers at a reporter who is allowed to peer briefly
through a grilled window built into the cell’s iron door. He’s from Dagestan
and, like the rest of his fellow prisoners at the Derik Central Prison for
Terrorists in northeastern Syria, he was a fighter for the Islamic State.
is the first Western media outlet to have been granted access to the maximum
security detention center. It is run by the Syrian Kurdish administration,
which controls a swath of northeastern Syrian territory the size of England
that is protected by the US-led coalition battling IS together with the Kurds.
is the main detention center for captive fighters. The most dangerous terrorists
are here,” Murad Ser, who has run the facility since 2014, told Al-Monitor on a
recent afternoon. The converted warehouse currently houses around 400 IS
combatants. “There are Canadians, Europeans, Chinese, Saudi Arabians,
Tunisians, Libyans, Russians, Turks, Moroccans and many other nationalities,”
Ser said, drawing an imaginary globe. Four hundred security guards watch over
issue of what to do with captured foreign fighters is an increasingly pressing
one as Western governments refuse to take their nationals back. The Syrian
Kurdish administration says it cannot cope on its own and is demanding that
they be either repatriated to be prosecuted in their home countries or tried by
an international tribunal in a northeastern Syrian court.
such time, the international community must provide us with money to care for
these people,” Aldar Khalil, a senior official in the Syrian Kurdish
administration, told Al-Monitor in an interview in Qamishli. “So far we have
not received a penny from anyone,” he said. A US official speaking on condition
of strict anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue confirmed that
no funds had been given by the United States to the Syrian Kurds to care for
the IS captives. The cost of just feeding and clothing inmates at the Derik
facility is in excess of $20,000 per month, Ser asserted.
tour of the prison starts in a roomy kitchen. It's ugly but clean. Any filming
or photography inside the prison is strictly forbidden. A giant pot bubbles on
a gas stove. Crates full of vegetables sit on the floor. “Tonight’s menu is
boiled eggs and potatoes,” said Ali, the in-house cook. “There are exactly 425
eggs in there.” The men are fed three times a day inside their cells. The food
is wheeled in on large steel trolleys. But a dining hall will soon be built
where inhabitants of each cell will eat in separate shifts. Special-needs
detainees such as diabetics are given separate meals. Pulses, rice, soups and
salads are daily staples. “Sometimes when they ask for something particular we
order it from outside,” the cook explained.
are given one pack of cigarettes a day. “Everything here is free,” Ser said. A
doctor comes in for weekly health checks.
next stop is a large, empty hall where prison authorities are planning to build
five different workshops so that prisoners can spend time productively outside
their cells. “We also intend to hold seminars and training programs, but most
of these men are already quite educated, you know, like doctors, engineers,” Ser
are allowed to exercise for an hour and a half per day but again only with
their own cellmates. Interaction with other prisoners is strictly forbidden for
security reasons. There are three courtyards where they can walk and smoke.
Barely legible lines of Arabic are etched on the towering gray walls separating
them. One reads, “First we rode the horses.”
are aware of their plans to escape but so far they haven’t tried anything. But
don’t forget, they are Daesh,” said a counter terrorism official who asked not
to be identified by name, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.
Torture, ill treatment and verbal abuse of prisoners are strictly forbidden
here, he insisted. “We abide by the Geneva Convention.” The Red Cross carries out
routine inspections. “In battle these people are the enemy but here they are
treated like human beings,” the official said. Tens of thousands of IS wives
and children are meanwhile struggling to survive in the squalor of overcrowded
outdoor camps while the men bask in the comparative luxury of Derik prison.
all sounds and looks too good to be true. There are other interrogation centers
where IS fighters who either turn themselves in or are captured go through
initial screening. It's hard to believe that conditions there are quite as
clement, considering the brutality inflicted by IS on the Kurds.
cell that was emptied of its residents for Al-Monitor to inspect had 23 bunk
beds with stained, wafer-thin sponge mattresses. There was a medium-sized flat screen
television attached to the wall. Prisoners quarrel over which channels to
watch. They are in either Arabic or Kurdish. “Usually it's about whether the
content is too un-Islamic or not. Otherwise they generally don’t fight,” Ser
well-thumbed Qurans with loose pages sit on a shelf alongside a bottle of olive
oil-based shampoo and two bars of soap. There’s a small toilet with its own
door but no lock. Prisoners can play cards and chess. Some like to sing Islamic
nasheeds. When I ask if there is a separate prayer room, Ser responds with an
icy “No.” The cell has an air conditioner, as do all the rest, Ser said.
am allowed to speak with three inmates. “Pick a nationality and we’ll see if
they’ll talk.” A Turk, a Tunisian and a Trinidadian who holds Canadian
citizenship agree to be interviewed.
Emre, a 46-year-old accountant from Ankara who migrated to the IS “caliphate”
together with his wife and five children in 2014, has been held here since
December 2017 after turning himself into the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces
(SDF) in Deir ez-Zor province. He was radicalized by a bookstore owner called
Kamil in Ankara’s Sincan neighborhood who died later on in Raqqa. “I don’t
remember his last name.” What about the book store? “I can’t remember its
name.” Emre came, he claimed, “to lead an Islamic life.” It all sounded “so
rosy.” He forced his wife to come. “Otherwise, I was going to take the children
and leave. She had to obey.” They crossed in broad daylight by foot from the
southern Turkish province of Gaziantep.
were no Turkish border guards in sight.
denied participating in the jihadi orgy of head-chopping violence and
“regretted coming and starting making plans to flee as soon as I arrived.” But
“it was like being trapped in a spider’s web. The more you flapped your wings
to get out, the more you got enmeshed.”
later tells me that all of the inmates deny involvement in the violence. “They
are lying. Every male who joins Daesh is trained to fight and is sent to the
earned $250 a month assisting an accountant first in Al Bab then Mayadeen. An
armed minder who sits with us throughout the interview briefly steps out. I
seize the opportunity to ask him how he is being treated. “In all fairness, God
is my witness, they treat me very well. There’s no beating or anything, the
food is nice and clean,” he said. “The Red Cross visited me once in my cell.” A
20-year-old from Gaziantep is among his cellmates. His main complaint is that
his wife and children, who are being held in the nearby Roj camp, have not been
permitted to visit him. Considering how he treated her, perhaps it's she who
refuses to come. Asked if he has a message for her — I was supposed to
interview her there in the coming days, but the camp has since been put off
limits to journalists — he says “no.”
Tunisian is next up. I had already interviewed Jamel Ben Moussa last month via
Skype for a piece I did on Tunisian jihadis. “Oh, hello Zaman,” he said as if
greeting an old friend. He seemed very agitated. “What is going to happen to
us? They are sending our brothers to Iraq where they will be executed. We saw
it on the television news. This is criminal,” he said. “Will we be next?” Ben
Moussa was referring to reports in early March that the SDF had handed over at
least 280 IS prisoners, mostly Iraqi nationals, to Iraq. But at least 13 French
IS prisoners were alleged to be among the group. “One of them was my friend. He
wasn’t French, he just had a residence permit,” Ben Moussa claimed.
SDF has formally denied the reports. But in late February, Iraqi President
Barham Salih announced that Iraq would prosecute the French extremists in
accordance with Iraqi law and within the confines of international law,
prompting rebukes from Human Rights Watch. “Detainees are subject to unfair
trials that could still end in the death penalty,” the New York-based watchdog
said in a statement, adding, “Trials of IS suspects fail to meet even the most
basic markers of due process” and that they can be a short as “five minutes.”
will our families do, our children in the camps? Our sons, do you think they
will accept that their fathers are murdered like this? They will seek revenge.
I am warning France, Europe, a new war will start,” he said. I glance at the minder
to gauge his reaction. He seems unfazed. I turn the subject to Ben Moussa’s two
wives, a Syrian and a Swede. He’s had a pair of children with each. “Ah,” he
said, “the difficulty with polygamy in Islam is that you are supposed to treat
the wives equally. But you know there is always a favorite. I love the Swedish
one more. I want to go back with her to Tunisia.” A smile flickers on the the
Ali, a 39-year-old dual Trinidadian and Canadian citizen, says he was recruited
by fellow Trinidadians and joined the Islamic State in 2015 “to help the Syrian
people.” He explained, “I didn’t seek out [IS execution] videos. I was against
all of that. They sent me to Iraq to fight. I refused and fled to Syria on a
bus. I had trauma training. I would go out after coalition bombings and pick up
wounded children and take them to the hospital.” He ended up in Al Bab, where
“people were so kind they would give you the shirts off their backs.” After
Turkish troops captured the town in 2016 he moved on to Raqqa. “People were
much harsher, crueler there.”
is rail thin. His eyes are glazed. He seems weak. “I have terminal Crohn’s
disease,” he said. “They don’t have proper medicine here. I have rectal
bleeding, dizzy spells and blurry vision.” He clutches an inhaler in his hand.
“Asthma,” he explains. He says he is scared but far more concerned for his
wife. It emerges that he is married to Kimberley Gwen Polman, 46, a dual US and
Canadian citizen he met in Raqqa who was profiled by the New York Times.
were married in 2016 and made plans to flee together soon after. They were in
touch with Polman’s family and a Canadian official who handled such cases, he
claimed. The pair was ratted out by spies and briefly imprisoned in Raqqa and
continued to plot their escape once they were freed. “We led the life of
fugitives,” he said, describing a harrowing odyssey that took the couple from
Raqqa to Mayadeen and then Hajin. They finally turned themselves over to SDF
forces a little over a month ago. “We desperately wanted to have children.
Kimberley had five miscarriages,” he said. “I spend all my time thinking about
militants were killed in south Kashmir’s Shopian by security forces after a gun
battle, Indian Army officials said on Thursday.
to officials, weapons have also been recovered during the search and cordon
operation in Yarwan area of Keller of Shopian district.
terrorists eliminated in Op Yarwan Forest in Shopian. Weapons also recovered
and the operation is in progress,” an army spokesperson said.
encounter began in Yaroo area of north Kashmir’s Handwara. “Area under cordon.
Details will follow. @JmuKmrPolice @HandwaraP,” Jammu and Kashmir police
says no link found in Pulwama attack, asks US to help trace phones
has said they are investigating 54 people detained over the Pulwama suicide
attack but claimed that no details linking them to the attack have been found
so far. The February 14 terror attack that killed 40 CRPF soldiers triggered a
major stand-off between India and Pakistan.
statement by the Pakistan Foreign Office said they have examined the 22 pin
locations of alleged training camps shared by India and said no such camps
exist. “Pakistan is willing to allow visits, on request, to these locations,”
the statement said.
dossier had contained extensive evidence on JeM’s involvement in the bombing
carried out by a 22-year-old man from Jammu and Kashmir. It also had
information on JeM’s Pakistan-based chief Masood Azhar and other leaders of the
banned terror group. The dossier was shared after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran
Khan promised to act if “actionable evidence” was provided.
aspects of the information provided by India have been thoroughly examined
including the confessional” video of Adil Dar, “claim” of responsibility for
the attack, Whatsapp and Telegram numbers used to share videos and messages in
support of Pulwama attack, list of 90 individuals suspected of belonging to a
proscribed organization and 22 pin locations of alleged training camps,” the
Pakistan Foreign Office statement said.
said service providers have been requested for data and a request for
assistance from WhatsApp has also been made to the US government.
has sought more information and evidence from India to take forward cooperation
in the investigation into the Pulwama attack.
against windmills’: Pakistan responds to India’s Mission Shakti
said on Wednesday that it was against the militarisation of outer space, hours
after India’s announcement of shooting down a live satellite with a missile - a
rare achievement that puts the country in an exclusive club of space super
Minister Narendra Modi earlier announced that India successfully test-fired an
anti-satellite missile by shooting down a live satellite.
test makes India the fourth country in the world after the US, Russia and China
to acquire the strategic capability to shoot down enemy satellites.
is the common heritage of mankind and every nation has the responsibility to
avoid actions which can lead to the militarisation of this arena,” Foreign
Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said in a statement.
said Pakistan was a “strong proponent of the United Nations resolution on
Prevention of Arms Race in Outer Space”.
of such capabilities (to destroy satellite) is reminiscent of Don Quixote’s
tilting against windmills,” he said, referring to India’s test.
hope that countries which have in the past strongly condemned demonstration of
similar capabilities by others will be prepared to work towards developing
international instruments to prevent military threats relating to outer space,”
Faisal said, without naming any country.
Asif Ullah Khan
1970, Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad wrote a controversial book, The Malay Dilemma. As
prime minister of Malaysia for the second time at the ripe age of 93, he faces
another dilemma—how to deal with the presence of fugitive controversial Islamic
preacher Zakir Naik in his country. In fact, Naik has become a Hafiz Saeed of
sorts for Malaysia.
presence has frayed racial tensions and is posing a headache for the new
Malaysian government. It cannot deport him because of his popularity among the
Malay Muslims but, at the same time, wants to keep a check on his controversial
sermons as they threaten to rip apart the multi-racial fabric of Malaysian
India, where he faces terror and money-laundering charges, the hardline Islamic
preacher is a popular figure in Malaysia where more than 60 percent of the
population is Muslim. This is the reason why both Mahathir and his predecessor,
Najib Razak, refused to deport him to India because it could be interpreted by
hardline Muslim organisations as “anti-Islam”. Murmurs against Naik started in
2016 when it emerged that two of the militants who had stormed into an upmarket
café in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing 22 people, were “inspired by his preaching
about Islam”. At that time, the Barisan Nasional (National Front) government
led by Razak was in power. The Barisan Nasional coalition comprises three major
ethnic political parties—United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Malaysian
Chinese Association (MCA), and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC). For the first
time in the history of Malaysia, the MCA and MIC questioned their government’s
continued support to Naik as they felt that his presence in Malaysia was
detrimental to society.
then health minister in the Razak government and MIC president, S Subramaniam,
was the first one to express his disagreement with Naik’s stay in Malaysia and
said that his activities “are outside the Malaysian context”. “I don’t think
Malaysia needs Zakir Naik. Is he going to contribute to the advancement of
Islam in the country? The answer is no,” said Subramaniam.
issue took a serious turn when a group of 19 human rights activists filed a
civil suit against the Malaysian government in March 2017, accusing it of
failing to protect the country from the controversial televangelist. The suit,
among others, sought a government declaration that Naik was a threat to
national security, called for a ban to prevent him from entering the country,
and sought his arrest and deportation immediately. The group, comprising
different religious and ethnic backgrounds, said that Naik was an “undesirable
person” and “a preacher of hate” who was currently roaming free in Malaysia.
rumours started doing the rounds that the reason why the Razak government was
taking no action against Naik was because it had already granted him Malaysian
nationality. Finally, on April 18, 2017, then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi clarified the government’s position, saying that Naik had
not been granted citizenship but admitted that he was granted permanent
resident (PR) status about five years earlier when Hamidi was not the home
Chinese coalition partner of the then Razak government, Malaysian Chinese
Association (MCA), questioned the granting of PR status to Naik. The MCA’s
religious harmony bureau chairman, Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker, said the government
should not risk the country’s spirit of mutual understanding and respect. “The
government, especially the home ministry, must also account as to why Zakir was
granted PR status and special consideration, seeing that he is known for
creating tension,” he said.
led Naik’s supporters to mount a counter-offensive. The first one to come to
his rescue was PAS (Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party), which made it into an “us”
versus “them” issue. PAS information chief Nasrudin Hassan, hitting out at
Subramaniam said Naik was a renowned scholar, respected by Muslim clerics and
the Muslim world as a whole. He then “advised” Subramaniam not to go overboard
with his statements, especially related to the interests of the Muslims in the
country, and added that being a health minister, he should not interfere in
right-wing group, Perkasa or Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa (Malay for “Mighty
Native Organisation”), which honoured Naik with an award for his contributions
to the struggle for Islam, also jumped into the fray and took offence to
Subramaniam, a Hindu, interfering in Muslim affairs. Perkasa president Datuk
Ibrahim Ali said that Subramaniam should resign from the Razak cabinet if he
could not agree with the government’s decision to grant PR status to Naik.
Perkasa even told its members to campaign against Subramaniam and other MIC
candidates in the general election.
things changed completely when Malaysia’s landmark 2018 general election
brought the 93-year-old Mahathir back to power in his new avatar as the head of
the Alliance of Hope (Pakatan Harapan), which comprises mostly multi-racial,
secular and centre-left parties. Since then, Naik has been lying low. He lives
in a condominium in Putrajaya, the administrative capital of Malaysia, and is
only seen during Friday prayers. He had made repeated attempts to meet Mahathir
and even jostled with the crowd to greet him when the latter came to Putrajaya
mosque to offer prayers. And finally, when he met Mahathir last July, he
thanked the new government for not deporting him to India and vowed that he
would abide by all laws of the country.
on his part, said that as long as Naik was not “creating any problems” in
Malaysia, he would not be deported. But the prime minister has tactfully banned
his public lectures and appearances, although the official government version
denies that there is any ban on Naik’s lectures. All his attempts to appear in
public have been nipped in the bud on the basis of “technical grounds”.
an Islamic NGO called the Islamic Propagation Society International (IPSI) had
sought permission to use the city stadium in the Malaysian state of Penang for
Naik’s lecture but the Penang Island City Council refused the permission on
“technical grounds”. Its community service director, Rashidah Jalaludin, in a
letter dated February 13, said that IPSI’s request “could not be considered” as
the city stadium had been recently upgraded and was being used for sports.
Perhaps the venue was not suitable for the “ceramah” (lecture), the official
Penang Deputy Chief Minister Ramasamy Palanisamy, a member of the Democratic
Action Party (DAP), a coalition partner of Pakatan Harapan, has on numerous
occasions questioned the government’s decision not to extradite Naik to India.
April 2015, Ramasamy called Naik “Satan” and accused him of making speeches
“designed to promote hatred of other faiths”. He urged, via Facebook,
“peace-loving Malaysians” to lodge police reports against Naik so that he can
be banned from entering the country. “Let us get ‘Satan’ Zakir Naik out of this
country! He is a Muslim preacher and evangelist who has nothing but hatred and
contempt for non-Muslims,” wrote Ramasamy.
has been banned in Canada and UK (United Kingdom) for his hate lectures. Even
some sections of the Muslims in India have termed him a liar, man of half-truth
and purveyor of hate,” Ramasamy wrote.
this did not go down well with the Malay Muslims. Not only did he face an
“online onslaught”, even his office in Penang was bombed with a petrol
question is: Can Malaysia afford to defend such a polarising figure at a time
when a very mellowed Mahathir heads a coalition government which comprises
multi-ethnic, secular parties? Many Malaysian commentators say Naik has become
a national dilemma as his presence continues to cause uneasiness and discomfort
in the multi-religious and multiracial community.
say that although Naik talks about propagating Islam and social harmony, there
is a distinct waft of cultural and religious imperialism in his recorded
comments. Among them is the infamous statement to the effect that an Islamic
country should not allow churches to be built because Christianity is a
religion that is “wrong”. Christianity is practised by more than nine percent
of the Malaysian population and there are five Christian ministers in the
Naik worth the rift he is causing in Malaysian society? The reasonable answer
will be a big “No”. But to keep both the Malays and non-Malays happy, Mahathir
has allowed Naik to stay in Malaysia and at the same time has tightened his
leash over him by imposing an unannounced gag order.
Azhar: China’s game
reluctance to declare the JeM chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist is evidence
of its symbiotic ties with Pakistan. It will protect it to keep a check on
India’s influence in the region
Colonel R Hariharan
we missing the wood for the trees by focusing on China putting a “technical
hold” on the listing of Masood Azhar, chief of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed
(JeM), as an international terrorist under the UN sanctions regime? It would
seem so because China’s response was not unexpected; it had been taking the
same stance for the last decade. And it is Pakistan, not China, who is the main
villain of the piece. India’s relentless campaign to get the UN Security
Council (UNSC) to list Azhar as a global terrorist is not the whole, but part,
of its efforts to internationally isolate Pakistan.
fact that 14 members of the UNSC supported listing the JeM leader against
China’s lone negative vote speaks for the success of India’s campaign against
Pakistan for sponsoring and supporting trans-border terrorist operations
proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaida Sanctions Committee of the
UNSC was moved by France, the UK and the US on February 27, nearly two weeks
after a JeM-inspired suicide car bomb attack on a CRPF convoy killed 40 people
in Pulwama in J&K. The committee members had 10 working days to raise any
objection to the proposal.
had put a “technical hold” on the proposal, seeking “more time to examine” it.
It said the move would give it time for a “thorough and in-depth assessment” of
the case and help the parties concerned to engage in more talks to find a
“lasting solution” acceptable to all. China’s explanation would have been
laughable, except for the grim fact that it enables Pakistan to delay concrete
action to dismantle terror groups operating from its soil against India.
anger against China after it blocked the UNSC move was palpable on Indian
social media. People could not understand what was “technical” about
recognising Azhar as a global terrorist. There were calls for boycott of Chinese
goods, though they have become indispensable to trade and commerce and to the
growth of mobile communication and the power industry in the country.
public outrage against China is understandable as the grim sequel to the
Pulwama attack took India and Pakistan to the brink of war. India had responded
to the attack with an air strike on a JeM training centre at Balakot in Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. The Pakistan Air Force’s counter-strike in
J&K two days later and the capture of an Indian fighter pilot, Wing
Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, in Pakistan turned the situation ugly.
deterioration of the situation was averted when the US, China, Saudi Arabia and
UAE intervened and claimed credit for defusing the situation after Pakistan released
the Indian pilot. But the security situation along the India-Pakistan border
and LoC in J&K continues to be anomalous. Pakistan continues to fire across
the border while Indian troops are carrying out operations to eliminate
terrorists and security agencies are uncovering and dismantling sources of
supply and finance of Pakistan-inspired terrorist support networks within the
public expectations on l’affaire Azhar have to be understood in the context of
events that preceded it. India had been regularly briefing foreign diplomats
about the situation leading up to the UNSC meeting. It gave a detailed dossier
on Azhar and JeM involvement in terrorist activity to the members, including
China. The media gave a huge build-up before the UNSC met to consider the
listing of Azhar.
the “friend or foe” binary vision of the visual and social media in the country
got very shrill in the events leading up to the UNSC meeting. As the Indo-Pak
confrontation happened close to the general election, it inevitably led to a
lot of chest-thumping of the ruling party, countered equally and vehemently by
the Opposition. Cumulatively, these developments influenced their understanding
of China’s stand on the Azhar issue. People expected China to be more sensitive
to India’s concerns about terrorism as their hopes were kindled after Prime
Minister Narendra Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Wuhan unofficial
summit last year.
this context, the statement of Liu Zongyi, senior fellow at the Shanghai
Institutes for International Studies, quoted in the Communist Party of China’s
tabloid, Global Times, is interesting. He said the question of whether to list
Azhar as a global terrorist has been a long-lasting dispute between China and
India. In 2017, New Delhi’s demand was partly behind the Doklam stand-off. “If
New Delhi succeeds in having both JeM and its leader black-listed, Islamabad
would be branded a state sponsor of terrorism and isolated on the international
stage. This is what India wants to pursue till the end,” he added.
columnist Fareed Zakaria’s quote that “foreign policy is a matter of costs and
benefits, not theology” applies to China’s negative stand on Azhar. It has
shown that China’s approach to India will be transactional, selective and based
on the hard reality of its national self-interest rather than ephemeral notions
of harmony and bonhomie. China-Pakistan relations are built upon what Chanakya
said long ago: “There is some self-interest behind every friendship. There is
no friendship without self-interest. This is a bitter truth.”
is increasingly becoming dependent on China—strategically, economically,
politically, diplomatically and militarily. China will continue to use
Pakistan’s vulnerability to protect and pamper it, not merely because it is its
long-term friend and strategic ally in South Asia. It suits China that Pakistan
firmly keeps a check on India’s strategic strength and influence in the region.
Pakistan enlarges China’s options in handling India, its potential challenger
in the region and beyond.
China is under pressure to make a success of the China Pakistan Economic
Corridor (CPEC) in which it has invested over $40 billion to showcase the Belt
and Road Initiative which has come under heavy weather. CPEC’s infrastructure
would enable China to flex its strategic naval power to secure its interests in
the Indian Ocean Region and South Asia, which had been dominated by India’s
Gautam Bambawale, who served as India’s ambassador to both Islamabad and
Beijing, while addressing the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs
Correspondents, recently put the Wuhan meeting in perspective. He said he was
averse to the term “Wuhan reset” as some people have described the informal summit.
He said both India and China “saw what happened at Doklam, analysed that
particular experience and drew their own conclusions from it”. Then they
independently came to the decision that it was “much more important to have a
relatively harmonious and balanced relationship between the two most populous
states on the globe”.
cautioned that “if the word (Wuhan) ‘reset’ in any way implies that the
tensions and ill temperedness of Doklam was being brushed aside or under the
carpet, then I strongly object to this term”. He added that he would go along
with the use of the term “reset” if it described “a cool reappraisal of the
relationship and a desire to put it on an even keel”.
the Azhar episode, the diplomat was of the opinion that India must have a transactional
approach to the issue. “Perhaps China will permit the listing to move ahead if
there is something we can do for them or offer them in return? If there is, a
bargain can indeed be struck,” he added.
it is not surprising that despite all the media hoopla over the Azhar episode,
India’s take on the issue was realistic as the Ministry of External Affairs’
(MEA) carefully worded statement showed. The statement did not even name China,
but merely expressed disappointment “by this outcome. This has prevented action
by the international community to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed, a
proscribed and active terrorist organization, which has claimed responsibility
for the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14, 2019”. However, one
wishes the MEA had named China in the statement, at least to signal that India
was not happy with its role.
is here to stay as a powerful neighbour. It is in India’s interest to maintain
a cordial working relationship with it, regardless of the hiccups in bilateral
relations from time to time. Bambawale in his speech suggested an eight-point
Pune Plan to build better relations with China.
include maintaining high-level political relations, enhanced and expanded
military exchanges between both countries, working to increase Chinese tourist
visits to India through public-private partnership, focusing on attracting more
Chinese students, creating a financial model for Chinese firms to modernise our
railway stations, persuading it to join the International Solar Alliance as a
member and expanding engagement with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
some of these proposals might become politically controversial or inconvenient.
But any foreign policy strategy to deal with China runs the risk of getting
mired in political controversy.
Modi took foreign policy initiatives to the political main stage with his
signature showmanship, foreign policy has become one of the mainstream issues
in the national political discourse. In a way, it has become a victim in the
raucous election campaign, with rival political leaders making short shrift of
nuanced policy initiatives to dispense their penny wisdom to the masses. Can
political parties and leaders rise above petty politics to build a consensus on
DELHI: Cracking the whip on terror financing involving Kashmiri separatist
leaders, NIA and ED have identified around 30 properties across Srinagar,
Budgam, Kupwara and Jammu belonging to eight separatists arrested earlier in
J&K terror funding case, for seizure.
the house of Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin in Islamabad, Pakistan,
too figures in the list of properties linked to terror funding in Kashmir.
separatists and alleged terror financiers whose properties are under the
scanner include Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, Nayeem Khan, Altaf Ahmad Shah alias
Funtoosh, Aftab Ahmad Shah alias Shahid-ul-Islam, Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta
Karate, Mohd Akbar Khanday, Raja Mehrajuddin Karwal and Bashir Ahmed Bhat alias
Peer Saifullah. All of them have been chargesheeted by NIA in the J&K
terror funding case.
said properties include sprawling residential houses, agricultural land,
apartment blocks, an apple orchard, plywood mills, a nursing home and a poplar
businessman Zahoor Watali has the largest number of properties either in his
name or that of his sons and wife, identified for seizure over terror funding
linkages. These include a house in Srinagar, measuring 18 marlas and owned by Watali’s
son Yavar Shah & his wife Ozma; raw, undeveloped land in Trison City,
Narbal measuring 117 kanal & 3.5 marlas; three houses on Srinagar bypass
road; a one-storey house in Handwara; sold residential plot in Nagrota;
separate apartment blocks in Jammu owned by his son Yasin Ahmed Shah and
jointly owned by Zahoor and his wife Sarwar Begum; 12 semi-furnished flats in
Trison City, Budgam; nursing home in Budgam; plywood mill in Handwara (already
seized by NIA); apple orchard in Handwara spread over 8-9 kanal; poplar nursery
in Handwara; and a plywood mill in Parimpora, Srinagar.
properties under the scanner in the J&K terror funding case are a
two-storey house owned by Aftab Ahmad Shah alias Shahid-ul-Islam in Sadar,
Srinagar that is an evacuee property; a two-storey house owned by accused Altaf
Ahmad Shah alias Funtoosh in Bemina, Srinagar; a two-storey house allegedly
owned by accused Nayeem Ahmad Khan’s wife in Srinagar; a twostorey house owned
by accused Farooq Ahmad Dar’s mother-in-law Gulam Fatima in Nageen, Srinagar; a
two-storey house owned by accused Mohammad Akbar Khanday in Parimpora, Srinagar
and an alleged property of 12 kanals in Malora, Srinagar; a two-storey house
owned by accused Raja Mehrajuddin Kalwal’s wife in Nowgam,Srinagar; and Bashir
Ahmad Bhat alias Peer Saifullah’s wife’s two-storey house in Rawalpora,
identified during investigation of terror funding case, including Lashkar chief
Hafiz Saeed and Hizbul Mujahideen boss Syed Salahuddin, have been found to be
providing money to all major terrorist groups like LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen as
also Hurriyat leaders, separatists and stone-pelters in J&K.
leader of the militant group Hamas viewed the rubble of his bombed office in
Gaza on Wednesday, appearing in public as an uneasy calm took hold after two
days of cross-border Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes.
while violence eased amid Egyptian mediation, Israeli forces along the Gaza
frontier and militants in the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave were on
deaths have been reported in Gaza and Israel since the latest clashes erupted
on Monday. Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile interceptors have destroyed some
Palestinian rockets and militants in Gaza vacated facilities hit in the air
in southern Israel reopened classrooms and schools were also operating in Gaza,
where streets were filled with traffic.
top leader, Ismail Haniya, emerged from a secret location to see what was left
of his wrecked office, targeted by an Israeli air strike on Monday.
occupation,” he said, referring to Israel, “should not be under the illusion it
can break the will of our people.”
senior Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, retorted: “Haniya
should find himself a new office before he starts sounding off.”
if the crisis subsides, it could shadow Israel’s April 9 election, in which
right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has campaigned on a tough security
is a major issue for Netanyahu, in power for a decade and beset by corruption
allegations that he denies. He is facing his strongest electoral challenge from
a centrist coalition led by a former general.
Israelis were injured in Monday’s initial rocket attack that hit the village of
Mishmeret, 120 km north of Gaza. Twelve Palestinians have been wounded by
Israeli strikes, Gaza health officials said.
a daylight lull on Tuesday, Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli strikes
resumed after dark, but only briefly.
latest escalation is the biggest since November between Israel and Hamas, which
fought three wars between 2008 and 2014 and have come to the brink of a fourth
several times since.
the 2014 Gaza war, more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were
killed in seven weeks of fighting. Sixty-six Israeli soldiers and seven
civilians in Israel were killed.
week’s fighting comes ahead of the first anniversary on March 30 of the start
of weekly Gaza protests at the frontier.
for a one-million-person march
protests’ organizing committee said it was preparing for a one-million-person
march to mark the anniversary on Saturday at five locations along the frontier
200 Gazans have been killed and thousands wounded by Israeli fire in the past
year. One Israeli soldier was killed.
says its use of lethal force is meant to stop attempts to breach the border and
launch attack on its troops and civilians.
protesters are demanding the right to return to lands Palestinians fled or were
forced to leave in Israel during fighting that accompanied its founding in
was expected to pursue further truce talks on Wednesday, said a Palestinian
official involved in the efforts.
Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council on Tuesday he had
been working with Egypt to secure a ceasefire and that a fragile calm had taken
further violence in the West Bank on Wednesday, about 150 Palestinian students
threw firebombs and rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded with tear gas and
rubber-coated metal bullets, a day after an Israeli raid on Birzeit university.
protesters were wounded by rubber bullets, ambulance crews said. There were no
reports of Israeli casualties. The Israeli military said it arrested 11
Palestinians in the West Bank overnight suspected of what it termed terrorist
activities, but gave no specifics.
senior leader of the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, says Palestinians
will not give up resistance in the face of Israeli aggression.
occupation should not be under the illusion it can break the will of our
people,” Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, said on
Wednesday, referring to Israel.
said his group taught a lesson to Israel in the current escalation of violence,
adding that Israel got the message.
resistance has had the last word, and Israel got the message,” he said. “I am
grateful to all parties who helped stop the Zionist arrogance in the Gaza
made the comments following two consecutive nights of heavy Israeli
new Israeli aggression against the coastal enclave began after Tel Aviv
authorities said on Monday that a long-range rocket launched from the Gaza
Strip had struck an area near Tel Aviv in central Israel, wounding seven people.
early morning attack on Mishmeret, an agricultural town north of Tel Aviv, came
a day after Israeli warplanes bombed the besieged enclave ahead of the
anniversary of Gaza fence protests at the weekend.
resistance groups on Wednesday fired rockets into Israel in response to the
regime’s airstrikes on several areas, including the town of Khan Yunis and the
Rafah border crossing south of the Gaza city.
sources in the Gaza Strip say Israeli airstrikes on Rafah damaged residential
homes and electricity network.
has also warned that it is prepared for further military actions in the
Israeli military has also deployed artillery and tank brigades along the
so-called buffer zone with Gaza.
in his remarks, Hanieyh also urged Gazans to participate in mass protests along
the fence separating the Gaza Strip from the occupied territories on Saturday
to mark the first anniversary of the Great March of Return that began on March
30 last year.
than 260 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces ever since the
anti-occupation protest rallies began in the Gaza Strip. Over 26,000
Palestinians have also sustained injuries.
Palestinian Health Ministry says an 18-year-old Palestinian has been shot dead
in West Bank clashes with Israeli troops.
ministry said Israeli soldiers shot Sajed Mizher after stones were thrown at
them early Wednesday during an arrest raid in the Dheisheh refugee camp near
added that two other Palestinians were also wounded in the clashes.
Muslim leader wants 'shared idea of pluralism'
prominent Indonesian Muslim has stressed the urgent need for all religions to
come up with a so-called shared theology that maintains diversity and promotes
move is especially necessary in order to address serious problems facing
mankind, said Din Syamsuddin, co-president of the World Conference on Religions
for Peace and president of the Asian Conference on Religions for Peace.
was speaking to nearly 150 religious leaders attending a one-day gathering in
Moscow, Russia, on March 25.
gathering was discussing the need for a shared theology as religions have
points of tangency in terms of diversity and tolerance despite their different
conceptions of God.
who is also chairman of Advisory Board to the Indonesian Ulema Council, told
the meeting that Islam highlights the humane aspect of religiosity and this can
be seen in the Quran which says that the Prophet Muhammad’s apostolic mission
is to spread his blessing to all people.
now is the time to introduce a shared theology based on such a humane aspect of
religiosity, he said, believing that the problems of mankind can be resolved if
a shared theology is introduced.
to ucanews.com on March 27, Syamsuddin said accumulative global destruction has
generally created problems for humanity, such as poverty, injustice, violence
and environmental destruction.
demand that religions, which serve as problem solvers, speak up for an answer.
That is why a shared theology is needed,” he said, adding that it should serve
as a guideline for each religious community to tackle problems facing humanity
Bishop Adrianus Sunarko of Pangkalpinang, chairman of the Indonesian bishops’
Commission for Theological Concerns, welcomed the idea and said that a common
good must be a priority of each religion.
religion’s theology is different. However, each religion should put forward
their own theologies that encapsulate values that promote the common good. This
is what a shared theology means,” the prelate said.
founding fathers thought about the idea a long time ago. We have the philosophy
of Pancasila [five principles]. But we need to continue promoting this idea,”
Henriette Tabita Lebang, head of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia,
believed that Syamsuddin’s idea is based on the Indonesian model of a plural
can be a contribution to the creation of a humane civilization in which each
individual from whatever religious or ethnic background is respected. This is
what is called true civilization,” she said.
Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) welcomes the forthcoming move to amend
the Constitution of Malaysia to reinstate the original expression of the
establishment of Malaysia as a new enlarged federation consisting of the states
of Malaya and the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak.
is the first step that is being taken arising from the establishment of
Malaysia Agreement Steering Committee.
effort must certainly be directed to ensuring that the intentions of the
formation of Malaysia as reflected in the constitutional documents leading to
the creation of Malaysia are honoured. Sarawak should be restored its rights
with regard to important matters like revenue, education and mineral resources.
rights will however only be meaningfully enjoyed by all of us Sarawakians, if
we can continue to live, strive and thrive as people living out our way of
life, where all races and religions co-exist in peace and harmony, mutually
respecting and celebrating each other’s beliefs and practices. This is and must
be an absolute imperative.
ACS calls on the Sarawak government and our state representatives appointed to
the Steering Committee to ensure that this fundamental pillar of nationhood and
nation building be given the fullest attention that it deserves.
ACS states for the record that religion and religious freedom was one of the
key matters, which had to be resolved by the Borneo state entities and Malaya.
constitutional settlement arrived at are fully recorded in the legislative
history of the Malaysian Constitution of 1963. These consist, among others, of:
and Sarawak” dated 4.1.1962 (Government Paper) by the authority of the
Government of Sarawak;
Borneo and Malaysia” dated 31.1.1962 (Government Paper) by the authority of the
Government of North Borneo;
on Malaysia” by the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee dated 3.2.1962;
of the Commission of Enquiry, North Borneo and Sarawak, 1962”; and
the legislative history which is painstakingly recorded in our constitutional
documents, the intent to be ascribed to the provision in Article 3(1) pertaining
to the provision that Islam is the religion of the Federation and the guarantee
for all other religions to be practiced in peace and harmony throughout
Malaysia is plain and unambiguous.
was retained for the new Malaysian nation with every intent and assurance that:
religious freedoms at the formation of Malaysia will continue to be enjoyed and
will not be impaired;
would be no hindrance placed on the practice of other religions;
civil rights and liberties of non-Muslims will not be violated;
Malaysian nation will remain a non-religious secular state although Islam is
the religion of Federation; and
will be no change to the exercise of religious rights in the way it was then
practiced at the formation of Malaysia.
early 1962, the colonial government of Sarawak issued a government paper to
announce the setting up and work of the Cobbold Commission.
papers explained why the creation of a greater Malaysian nation was desirable
and outlined the framework of the new federation. The government paper
“Malaysia and Sarawak” states unequivocally as follows:
have wondered whether the fact that Islam is the official religion of the
Federation of Malaya would affect religious freedom in Sarawak as part of
Malaysia. This has been clarified at the recent Consultative Committee Meeting.
Malaysia would have Islam as the official religion of the enlarged Federation
there would be no hindrance placed on the practice of other religions. Complete
freedom of religion would be guaranteed in the Federal Constitution. Sarawak
has at the present has no established religion and it would not be required to
accept Islam as its state religion”.
reference to the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee in both Government
Papers is significant. It provides the context to the assurance on religious
freedom will be freely exercisable in a nation which is secular and not a
religious State. The “Memorandum on Malaysia” states as follows:
Committee directed a great deal of attention to the question of Islam as the
religion of the Federation. It is satisfied that the acceptance of Islam would
not endanger religious freedom within Malaysia nor will it make Malaysia any
present Constitution of the Federation of Malaya, which would serve as the
basis for the new Federation has adequately guaranteed that other religions may
be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.”
the governments of the United Kingdom and Federation of Malaya forming the view
that the inclusion of Sabah and Sarawak in the proposed federation of Malaysia
was desirable and in the best interest of the peoples of these state entities,
a Commission of Enquiry was established under the chairmanship of Lord Cobbold.
Cobbold Commission Report records deep anxieties over the position of Article 3
of the Federal Constitution which provides that Islam is to be the religion of
chairperson and members appointed to represent the Bornean entities noted the
reservations, and even outright opposition, of the non-Muslim communities of
the two territories to the provision making Islam the religion of the
anxieties stemmed from the concern over the prospect of Malay/Muslim domination
which will be to put them in a position inferior to that of the Malays and
two Malayan members noted that among non-Muslims there was a range from
outright rejection to non-objection by a “substantial number who would not
object to the present practice in the Federation of Malaya, as they are
satisfied with the provisions for fundamental liberties and freedom of religion
in the Malayan Constitution”.
Cobbold Commission Report was followed up by the Inter-Governmental Committee
(IGC) to work out the constitutional arrangements for the new Malaysian
Federation including safeguards for the special interests of Sabah and Sarawak.
of the items for deliberation was on the matter of religion and religious
freedom. The IGC recommended that the retention of the existing provisions on
religion and religious freedom in Article 3(1).
plain reason for retaining the said Article 3 without any modifications or
further qualifications are based on the guarantee of religious freedom premised
on the essentially secular nature of the nation.
religious freedom, there was a significant reference to the “present practice
in the Federation of Malaya”. Sarawak was prepared to accept the present
practice which existed in the Malaya prior to Malaysia Day.
practised then in 1963, there were no unwarranted intrusions into the religious
freedoms and rights of non-Muslims to profess and to practice their religions
as guaranteed by Articles 3, 11 and 12. The rights of religious groups as
accorded under these articles were honoured. There was no discrimination on the
grounds of religion as assured by Article 8. There were no hardships imposed
upon non-Muslims and their religious institutions in this respect.
ACS is therefore deeply concerned that the then Malayan practice of the
constitutional provision guaranteeing religious freedom with Islam as the
religion of the Federation which Sarawakians had no concerns about is no longer
normative in the Malaysia of today. Racism and religious bigotry blight and
taint our national life and has begun to also threaten the Sarawak way of life.
the years there has been a serious erosion of religious freedom as guaranteed
in Article 3(1), Article 8, Article 11 and Article 12 of the Federal
has occurred in the course of a worrying departure from the fundamental
non-religious secular basis of the new Malaysian federation formed by Sarawak
together with Sabah and the states of Malaya in 1963.
must make every effort to maintain the essence of a non-religious secular
polity which assures religious freedom, and regain its Sarawak way of life of
mutual and reciprocal respect of all faith communities, which was also the
Malayan way of life assured in 1963.
Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
LUMPUR, March 28 — Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Nga Kor Ming today rebuked
Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin for calling him “Taliban”, a remark that the Umno
lawmaker later retracted.
had mentioned “Taliban” when asked by the deputy speaker to clarify his
question to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng during Question Time today in
had posed a question towards Lim, asking if the additional RM19 billion
supplementary budget allocation requested by Lim’s ministry meant an increase
in allocation for bachelors in the Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) scheme.
with the Rantau by-election around the corner, the BSH for bachelors will be
raised to RM450 like practiced under the Barisan Nasional government,” said
Khairy, before Nga asked him to clarify his question.
conjunction with Rantau by-election, experiencing comprehension problems,
Taliban?” replied Khairy.
Rembau, retract Taliban,” an obviously irritated Nga replied, to which Khairy
retracted his statement.
then accepted the retraction and chided Khairy, calling his attitude
non-exemplary and accused him of disrupting the order in the House.
we have it, what we should not learn from where as we try to have this Honorary
House proceed smoothly, and there is obvious provocation.
feel regret, and this is the type of attitude we should not learn from,” said
deputy speaker then gave the floor back to Lim, who denied that such an
announcement concerned an increase in BSH allocations.
will have to consider and evaluate the needs and government’s financial before
we will make an announcement to increase the allocation or not,” said Lim in
had tweeted on March 22 a cartoon of a Malay-Muslim man calling a Chinese man
various names like “anti-Malay”, “chauvinist”, and “communist”, to which Nga
was pictured saying “Taliban” to the angry-looking Malay man.
Fakta Bicara : Terima kasih Sdr Haili atas lukisan di mana mesejnya cukup
AM - Mar 22, 2019
people are talking about this
had replied Nga’s tweet, saying he spent a few weeks in Afghanistan as a
journalist in 1999 to cover the Taliban.
said he witnessed hands of convicted thieves dangling from traffic lights,
girls running around because they were not allowed to go to school, and women
wearing a burqa. Vice squads were armed with AK47s.
Hindu lawmaker moves two bills in Parliament on child marriage, forced
Hindu lawmaker from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party has moved two bills in
Parliament seeking enhancement of punishment for those involved in forced
conversion and for making child marriage a cognisable offence, amid the
nationwide outrage over the alleged forced conversion of two teenage girls from
the minority community.
Ramesh Kumar Vankwani from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) submitted
Child Marriage Restraint Act (Amendment) Bill 2019 and the Criminal Law
(Protection of Minorities) Act 2019 in National Assembly on Tuesday.
reported that the bills, moved in the wake of alleged kidnapping of two Hindu
girls and their forced conversion to Islam, were accompanied by a resolution
with the support of minority lawmakers from all major political parties
condemning such incidents.
Vankwani, PTI legislators Lal Malhi and Shunila Ruth, Pakistan Muslim
League-Nawaz lawmaker Dr Darshan and Pakistan Peoples Party’s Ramesh Lal signed
five-point resolution called for immediate passage of the bill against forced
conversions, which had been unanimously passed by the Sindh Assembly in 2016
and then reverted due to pressure of extremist elements, from all the
the resolution, the lawmakers demanded strict action against the culprits
including controversial religious figures who are involved in forced
those who are preaching hate under the cover of religion must be handled like
banned religious organisations,” the resolution said.
who is also patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC), later told the
media that unfortunately the practice of child marriage was common in all parts
of Pakistan, particularly in poverty-hit areas.
said the bills were intended to serve as a deterrent and to remove the existing
gender disparity in age.
lawmaker said he had moved the bills in line with a PHC resolution that
condemned the recent alleged kidnapping and forced conversion of two Hindu
sisters, Reena and Raveena, and kidnapping of another Hindu girl, Shania, from
of the two bills seeking protection of minorities called for sensitisation of
government officials, police officials and members of judicial service on the
issue. It also suggested setting up of specific courts to hear cases of forced
conversions and shelter homes for victims.
minor who claims to have changed their religion before attaining maturity shall
not be deemed to have changed their religion and no action shall be taken
against him or her for any such claim or action made by the minor,” the bill
bill proposed imprisonment of either description for a minimum of five years
and maximum of life imprisonment and a fine to be paid to the victim by a
person who forcibly converts another person.
person who is an abettor to a forced conversion shall be liable to imprisonment
of either description for a minimum of five years and a fine to be paid to the
victim,” it suggested.
Hindu community in Pakistan has carried out massive demonstrations calling for
strict action to be taken against those responsible for abduction, forced
conversion and marriages of two teenage Hindi girls, while reminding Prime
Minister Khan of his promises to the minorities of the country.
year, Khan during his election campaign had said his party’s agenda was to
uplift the various religious groups across Pakistan and said they would take
effective measures to prevent forced marriages of Hindu girls.
form the biggest minority community in Pakistan.
to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan. Majority of Pakistan’s
Hindu population is settled in Sindh province.
A delegation of the Asia-Pacific Group (APG) on money laundering, a regional
affiliate of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), has expressed serious
reservations over insufficient physical actions on ground against proscribed
organisations (POs) to block flow of funds and activities and is likely to
issue a formal warning before its departure on Thursday (today).
crux of first two days of interactions is that they (APG) consider us very good
on paper — legislation, regulation, data collection and notifications — mostly
involving the federal government, but highly non-performing at provincial and
district levels where such POs and non-profit organisations (NPOs) actually
operate,” a senior official told Dawn.
APG delegation is currently on a three-day visit to Pakistan for mutual
evaluation as part of second country risk assessment report and would conclude
its assessment on Thursday (today). Authorities of the Securities and Exchange
Commission of Pakistan, Financial Monitoring Unit, law enforcement and
intelligence agencies, ministries of foreign affairs and interior, National
Counter Terrorism Authority, Federal Investigation Agency and Counter Terrorism
Departments of the provinces participated in the two-day interaction.
official said the situation was such that Finance Minister Asad Umar had
directed the newly appointed finance secretary to give top priority to ‘problem
areas’ in consultation with the federal and provincial agencies and plug
deficiencies so that a robust report could be submitted to the FATF by third
week of April. This followed a joint commitment of the civil and military
leadership in recent meetings that all institutions had to put their act
together to get the country out of the FATF’s grey list.
official said the APG delegation appreciated the flooding of data on issuance
of suspected transaction reports (STRs), blockade of funds through banking and
other formal channels and strengthening of legal, regulatory and institutional
mechanism, but the team members repeatedly raised questions over specific and
on-ground actions against each of the eight organisations proscribed under
international requirements. They wanted break-up of suspected transaction
report against each PO and specific actions taken against each entity.
impression is that activities of POs and NPOs are still unchecked at the
provincial, district and grass roots level where they can still raise funds and
hold meetings and rallies,” said the official, adding that the delegation
expressed concern over administrative inaction on sustainable basis at the
delegation was satisfied with anti-money laundering law and regulations of the
SECP and controls of the SBP, the official said.
delegation demanded that activities of proscribed organisations and their
workers should be kept under stringent monitoring on a sustainable basis and
their fund raising activities and transportation of their proceeds should be
totally blocked and focus should increase towards informal means like passenger
transport and cash couriers, he said.
sources said the APG was appreciative of action against currency dealers and
exchanges to block money laundering and terror financing through hundi and
hawala in general, but was more interested to know how many of them were
dealing with the eight proscribed organisations.
two sides reviewed action against hundi, hawala, bank robberies, kidnapping for
ransom, extortion, smuggling of precious stones and natural resources, marble
and narcotics through land and sea routes and agreed that all agencies of the
federal and provincial governments, including intelligence agencies, needed to
improve their coordination at every level to act against high risk areas.
has declared as high risk all the eight entities and related elements
specifically named by the FATF as threat to global financial system after
February 18-22 meetings of the global watchdog against financial crimes.
achievement of a series of targets under a 10-point action plan has now become
a top priority for the government. As the FATF meetings were still in progress
(Feb 18-22), the government announced a ban on the Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and
Falah-i-Insanyat Foundation (FIF) to partially address the concerns raised by
India that Pakistan supported these and six similar organisations, including
Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), or at least considered them low-risk entities and then
declared then ‘high risk’.
high risk description means the government has to start monitoring and
re-examining their activities and profiles under heightened security checks at
all layers of legal, administrative, investigative and financial regimes.
FATF had noted that Pakistan had revised its terror financing risk assessment,
but did “not demonstrate a proper understanding of the terror financing risks
posed by the Islamic State group, AQ (Al Qaeda), JuD, FIF, LeT
(Lashkar-e-Taiba), JeM, HQN (Haqqani Network), and persons affiliated with the
Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday chaired a high-level meeting at the Prime
Minister’s Office “to discuss matters of security”, a statement issued by the
PM Office said.
to the statement, Finance Minister Asad Umar, Minister for Education Shafqat
Mehmood, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi, Chief of Army
Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the DG Inter Services Intelligence, Secretary
Foreign Affairs, Secretary Interior, the DG Inter Services Public Relations and
senior officials were in attendance.
matters were discussed during the meeting,” the statement said without further
sources within the PM Office said that a discussion on matters of internal
security was the focus of the meeting, with progress on the implementation of
the Finance Action Task Force (FATF) action plan, the National Action Plan, and
the ongoing crackdown on banned organisations also coming into discussion.
the last such meeting chaired by the premier, held two weeks ago, money
laundering had been the point of focus. The government had decided to make
significant amendments in money laundering and foreign exchange laws and
enhance the maximum imprisonment to 10 years and the fine to Rs5 million for
country has taken several steps since the February 18-22 meetings with FATF
functionaries to comply with latest instructions to meet various deadlines in
order to avoid being included in a money laundering and counter terrorism
has declared as “high risk” all the eight entities and related elements
specifically named by FATF as threats to the global financial system. Achieving
27 targets under a 10-point action plan has now become a top priority for the
government. As the FATF meetings were still in progress in February, the
government had announced a ban on Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniat
Foundation (FiF) and declared them as “high risk”. Under the “high risk”
category, the government is required to start monitoring and re-examining the
groups’ activities and profiles under heightened security checks at all layers
of legal, administrative, investigative and financial regimes.
government on Wednesday shared with the Indian government its initial findings
on the dossier handed over by Delhi on the Pulwama incident, a statement issued
by the Foreign Office said.
to the statement: “The Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad was called to the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the Foreign Secretary and the findings on the
Pulwama incident were shared with him.”
prime minister had earlier offered cooperation in an investigation into the
incident if Delhi shared any actionable evidence concerning the suicide bombing
in occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama area, which had targeted Indian paramilitary
response to the premier’s offer, India had handed over documents to Pakistan on
February 27 amidst soaring tensions.
has acted with a high sense of responsibility and extended full cooperation. We
do so in the interest of regional peace and security,” the Foreign Office said
in its statement.
have sought further information/evidence from India to take the process
forward,” it added.
Ashraf Ghani’s administration has taken an ill-advised decision to call back
its Islamabad-based ambassador as a protest on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s
reported comments regarding installation of interim government in Afghanistan.
officials even did not confirm whether or not Imran Khan had offered such
comments, which they viewed as “interference” in internal affairs in
Atif Mashal, who had returned to Islamabad on Tuesday from Afghanistan, left
for Kabul on Wednesday after he was called back as protest over the reported
comments by Imran Khan.
the Foreign Office clarified that the PM had referred to Pakistan’s model where
elections are held under an interim government. The foreign office insisted
that the “comments should not be misinterpreted to imply interference in
Afghanistan’s internal affairs.” However, the clarification is seemed to have
little impact in Afghanistan as Afghan leaders kept on continuing their
criticism at the prime minister.
Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah said remarks by Pakistani prime minister
are not acceptable to anyone in Afghanistan.
welcome all efforts towards peace in Afghanistan, but will never allow any
country to subvert the right of self-determination of our people or undermine
our sovereignty under the pretext of facilitating peace negotiations,” Abdullah
want to be very clear that the so-called “interim government” provides solution
to nothing in Afghanistan. Our route to peace and stability must pass through
elections,” the Afghan leader said.
home, Pashtoon nationalist leaders also did not spare Imran Khan. The Awami
National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan said Imran Khan’s statement gives an
impression that he “represents the Taliban which will harm existence of this
Khan’s statement regarding an interim government in Afghanistan is interference
in the internal affairs of a sovereign country as a time when peace talks in
Afghanistan are underway,” the ANP chief said in a statement, posted online.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi described Kabul’s decision to call back
its ambassador as a “knee-jerk” reaction and told a private television channel
that Imran Khan did not have any intension of interference in internal affairs.
Ghani’s National Unity Government links withdrawal of its ambassador for
“consultations” with Imran Khan’s latest remarks, the move could be seen in the
context of Kabul’s frustration of being left out of the Taliban-US talks.
is not only Pakistan, but Ghani’s administration is also in direct
confrontation with the United States over the Taliban peace talks. Ghani’s top
security advisor Hamdullah Mohib’s serious allegations against US peace envoy
Zalmay Khalilzad that he wants to keep Kabul out of the peace talks for
personal interests evoked harsh reaction in the US and reports said Washington
has told Mr Ghani the US will no more deal with his advisor.
regime was further isolated when almost all senior political leaders including
Hamid Karzai, Haneef Atmar, Younas Qanooni, Mohammad Mohaqiq, Atta Mohammad
Noor, Ismail Khan, Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami and over 50 other political
leaders sat with the Taliban political envoys in Moscow in February.
second round of the Moscow talks will be held in Qatar on April 14-15,
according to Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef. Ghani gov’t stopped members of the
government-sponsored high peace council from attending the Moscow talks that
was a major step towards the intra-Afghan dialogue. Peace council secretary
Umar Daudzai had confirmed that the council was invited to the Moscow talks,
which was a good opportunity for its members to interact with the Taliban.
war-weary Afghans have attached high hopes to the Taliban-US talks and the
coming round in Qatar is seen important as both sides could reach some sort of
agreement as both had reported progress in the last round.
Khalilzad has already started another visit and Qatar is included in his March
25-April 10 trip. A State Department statement says Khalilzad will travel to
the United Kingdom, Belgium, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Jordan and Qatar as part of
the overall effort to facilitate a peace process that brings all Afghan parties
together in inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations. In Kabul, the Special
Representative will consult with the Afghan government and other Afghans about
the status of U.S. talks with the Taliban, encourage efforts to form an
inclusive negotiating team, and discuss next steps in intra-Afghan discussions
Special Representative will meet with the Allies and partners regarding the
status of peace talks and to coordinate sustained commitment by the
international community to peace and development in Afghanistan.
Taliban militants killed, wounded in Helmand and Paktika operations
least 36 Taliban militants were killed or wounded during the operations of the
Afghan Special Forces and airstrike which were conducted in Helmand and Paktika
provinces in past 24 hours.
to informed military sources, the Afghan Special Forces conducted a ground
assault in Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province in the past 24 hours
killing 30 Taliban fighters and wounding 4 others.
sources further added that an airstrike in Bermal district of Paktika province
killed 2 Taliban fighters.
anti-government armed militants including Taliban have not commented regarding
the operations so far.
acting minister of defense Asadullah Khalid has said that the ministry of
defense has received reports which indicate that enemies of the country are
preparing for war based on orders of their foreign masters.
during a ceremony to introduce the deputy minister of defense, Khalid said the
current year will be a decisive but a dangerous year as reports received by the
ministry of defense indicate that the enemies are preparing for war based on
orders of their foreign masters.
further added that peace process and elections are the two key events scheduled
to take place in current year.
he said that the enemies will be defeated due to the bravery of the Afghan
armed forces, emphasizing that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces
will lead the initiatives.
did not disclose further information in this regard but the urged the political
elites not to interfere in the activities of the armed forces and remain
neutral, insisting that the armed forces have nothing to do with the activities
of the political elites.
the meantime, Khalid assured that the armed forces will use all available
facilities to ensure a dignified election is conducted.
the meantime, the acting minister of defense said that the terrorist groups
have faced immense presssures as he hoped that they would be forced to pursue
he said those who are opposing peace process would be forced to accept peace,
insisting that the armed forces are ready to pursue peace until their last
breath and to spill their blood for a dignified peace.
least six Taliban militants including three of their local commanders were
killed or wounded during an operation in Surobi district of Kabul.
201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in the East said Wednesday that the
operation was conducted by Special Forces of National Directorate of Security
on Monday night.
to a statement released by 201st Silab Corps, at least three Taliban militants
including their commander Rashid were killed and three others including their
two commanders were wounded.
statement further added that some weapons and munitions were also destroyed
during the same operation.
comes as reports had emerged earlier suggesting that five civilians including a
child were also killed in an operation in Surobi district on Monday.
relationship with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appears increasingly at risk of
permanent damage, the consequence of a US policy shift that has so far excluded
his government from talks with the Taliban and of his own determination to
retain power and manage peace efforts himself.
feud threatens to undermine the already narrow chances for a peace accord that
President Donald Trump hopes would end America’s longest war.
and former US officials tell Reuters they believe Ghani is positioning himself
to perhaps be a spoiler in still-fragile negotiations, angry that the Afghan
government has been kept out of talks and worried about the implications for
from Ghani’s perspective, the negotiations themselves, led by US special envoy
Zalmay Khalilzad, feel like a personal betrayal and a capitulation by the
United States that could return the Taliban to power, Afghan officials say.
growing rift between Kabul and Washington over the peace negotiations erupted
in public view on March 14 when Ghani’s national security adviser, Hamdullah
Mohib, slammed Khalilzad and accused the Afghan-born veteran US diplomat of
perhaps trying to steal the Afghan presidency for himself.
worried) there could be some agreement for an interim government and he’ll be
on the outside looking in,” said one US official, speaking on condition of
blow-up over Mohib’s attack has had serious repercussions. The following day,
the State Department decreed that US officials should have no further contact
with Mohib and his presence at a meeting on Monday between Ghani and NATO
diplomats prompted the US delegation to walk out of the presidential palace,
Afghan sources said on condition of anonymity. The State Department did not
respond to a request for comment.
discord carries echoes of tensions under Ghani’s predecessor, Hamid Karzai, who
became an intense critic of the United States during his 13 years in power.
the acrimony is still largely behind closed doors. Ghani is dependent on US
support, as Afghanistan’s main economic, diplomatic and security backer, and
there are signs that he will move to limit the fallout on ties.
a nod to Washington’s outrage over Mohib’s remarks, Ghani is considering
replacing Mohib with the Afghan envoy to London, a second Afghan official said.
round disappoints Ghani
his 2016 election campaign, Trump has made the case to end the Afghan conflict
that began in 2001 and has tied the prospect of troop drawdowns in Afghanistan
to success in peace talks. But it is unclear if Trump will accept a deal at any
cost - something that Ghani and other Afghans increasingly fear.
president has indicated that he hopes for the best in these peace talks but he
also will not accept a bad deal,” a senior Trump administration official said.
Taliban has refused to meet with him.
the US had historically balked at the prospect of unilateral talks with the
Taliban, the Trump administration made a decision to move ahead with them,
something that veteran US officials sharply criticized.
acceding to this Taliban demand, we have ourselves delegitimized the government
we claim to support,” Ryan Crocker, former US ambassador to Afghanistan, wrote
in a Washington Post column, adding that the US move signaled “we were
second round of US-Taliban talks lasting 16 days ended this month in Doha,
Qatar, with discussions including potential US troop withdrawals and Taliban
assurances on counter-terrorism.
those talks disappointed Ghani, who had hoped Khalilzad would make some
progress on negotiating a ceasefire for Afghanistan and convincing the Taliban
to negotiate with Ghani’s government, several Afghan officials said.
Khalilzad flew to Washington without such progress and without discussing the
details of the talks with Ghani, which made the Afghan president paranoid, they
two sides discussed and agreed on issues concerning them but it did not change
anything for the (Afghan) people or the government,” the first Afghan official
Kabul’s frustration, the senior Trump administration official said: “It’s
urgent that we convince the Taliban to sit down with the Afghan government and
other Afghans and engage in a political process.”
Afghan election is shaping up as a major challenge for Ghani’s government, with
speculation that the poll may not be held at all if a peace deal is first
reached with the Taliban. Delayed twice already, it is now slated for Sept. 28.
“thinks that if the peace process goes through and the election doesn’t take
place, he loses everything,” said a former senior Afghan official.
so much in play politically, Ghani is seen as trying to tightly control the
process - something experts fear could exclude opposition elements that would
be crucial for any lasting agreement between the Taliban and Afghan society.
former US official said Ghani’s controlling personality was one reason
Washington long worried he could prove to be “more an obstacle than a help on
the peace process.”
Afghanistan recalled its ambassador from Pakistan on Wednesday; a day after its
premier suggested the creation of an interim government in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also called on Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s
government not to be an obstacle in the peace talks between the Taliban and the
Afghan Foreign Ministry in a statement issued on Wednesday said that it had
summoned its senior Pakistani diplomat in Kabul to protest against Khan’s
remarks, which were published in the Pakistani media.
ministry expressed its grave objection and described Khan’s comments as
statements about the peace process and the establishment of an interim
government are deemed as an obvious example of Pakistan’s interventional policy
and disrespect to the national sovereignty and determination of the people of
Afghanistan,” it said.
ambassador to Pakistan, Atif Mashal, in a statement sent to reporters, said
that he was heading home after the move.
have been called back by my government for consultation and in protest at the
remarks by the PM of Pakistan in relation to the formation of a new interim
government, which is a clear attempt of interference in the internal affairs of
Afghanistan,” he said.
Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad called Khan’s comments
unconstructive, even as Washington steps ups its efforts with the Taliban to
find a peaceful settlement to the Afghan conflict.
to Pakistani journalists on Monday, Khan said that the formation of an interim
Afghan government would help to streamline the peace talks between US and
Taliban officials since the militant group refuses to speak with
representatives from the government.
the published comments, Khan also described Ghani’s government as a “hurdle in
the peace process.” Khan’s comments caused an outcry in Afghanistan, with
Khalilzad praising Pakistan for its role in the peace process but calling
Khan’s comments unproductive.
#Pakistan has made constructive contributions on the #AfghanPeaceProcess, PM
Khan’s comments did not. The future of #Afghanistan is for #Afghans, and only
Afghans, to decide. The role of the international community is to encourage
Afghans to come together so they can do so,” he said in a tweet.
Afghans, including Ghani’s arch-rival in the presidential race, Haneef Atmar —
who has been pushing for the formation of an interim administration when
Ghani’s term ends in late May — criticized Khan’s suggestion.
reported comments come two weeks after he said that peace will be restored in
Afghanistan and that a friendly government will be created in Kabul soon. His
comments had irked Kabul at the time too, with analysts saying that the latest
statements may further sour the already uneasy ties between the two neighbors.
Khan’s proposal about the formation of an interim government in Afghanistan is
a flagrant and direct interference of Pakistan in Afghanistan, and naturally
would further worsen relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Zubair
Shafiqi, an analyst and prominent Afghan writer, told Arab News.
ambassador to Kabul, John R. Bass, in a statement on Tuesday, said that Imran
Khan needed to resist cricket-style “ball tampering with the #Afghanistan peace
process and its internal affairs.”
the anger from Kabul and Khalilzad’s remarks, Pakistan’s Foreign Office on
Tuesday said that Khan’s comments were “misinterpreted.”
Ghazikhail, a commentator who runs a think-tank, said that the statements could
also have an impact on the people of the two countries.
remarks can trouble relations among governments which affect their people
directly,” he told Arab News.
said that Ghani may try to use Khan’s comments to shame those of his rivals who
have been also pushing for the formation of an interim set-up. “Ghani
politicizes Imran Khan’s remarks and seeks to weaken his political
said that Ghani may exploit the comments in his favor after being sidelined from
all rounds of secret talks between Khalilzad and the Taliban, which have been
held mostly in Doha, and will now push to be engaged in direct talks with the
Taliban — not as part of a group of Afghans as demanded by the Taliban.
he said that it cannot help Ghani to fill a legal and constitutional void that
will be created when his tenure comes to an end in May and with the new date
for elections set for Sept. 28.
polls have twice been delayed, largely due to inefficiency in the government.
Ghani, who wants to take charge of peace talks with the Taliban, has not spoken
about what will happen and what he will do when his term ends in May.
Washington, the State Department said that Khalilzad, following his tour of
several nations, will head to Afghanistan for talks with Afghan rulers about
the state of US and Taliban talks.
Kabul, the Special Representative will consult with the Afghan government and
other Afghans about the status of US talks with the Taliban, encourage efforts
to form an inclusive negotiating team, and discuss next steps in the
intra-Afghan discussions and negotiations.”
is expected to have another round of talks with the Taliban in Doha to discuss
the vital part of the talks he had with the group in recent months, which
involve the pullout of foreign troops and a guarantee from the Taliban that
Afghan soil will not be used as a base for an attack against any country.
trip to Kabul comes weeks after Ghani’s National Security Adviser Hamdullah
Mohib publicly accused him in Washington of trying to negotiate with the
Taliban to advance his own political career with the formation of an interim
government, which he said the Afghan-born diplomat wants to lead.
was summoned by the State Department, which protested against him. The US has
barred him from traveling to America and Washington has reportedly said that it
will not deal with Mohib any longer.
Haram kills 10 people in eastern Niger
people were killed along with two bombers in a coordinated attack late Tuesday
by Boko Haram extremists on a town in eastern Niger, the local mayor said.
female ... bombers blew themselves up and gunmen then attacked civilians,"
the mayor of the town of N'Guigmi, Abba Kaya Issa, told AFP on Wednesday.
have a provisional toll of 10 dead plus the two ... bombers," along with
"seven or eight" wounded, he said, blaming "Boko Haram
elements" for the assault.
of the ... bombers blew herself up in the courtyard of a policeman's home,
which is located inside the police barracks, and the second triggered her
explosives belt between the town hall, the police barracks and the
prefecture," he said, referring to the office of the state representative.
local resident said several houses had been burned and wounded children in the
police camp had been taken to the local hospital.
inhabitant said "armed Boko Haram" attacked the district of Dileram,
"killing civilians and torching homes."
lies in the north of the Diffa region, near Lake Chad, which has borne the
brunt of cross-border infiltration by the Nigerian-based extremists.
people were killed last Thursday in the village of Karidi and 14 died in four
attacks on Saturday. Fourteen soldiers have been killed since February 16.
army says it killed "more than 200 terrorists" in the region at the
end of last year, as well as 33 others on March 12.
estimated 27,000 people have been killed and two million displaced since Boko
Haram launched its insurgency in northeastern Nigeria 2009, a campaign that has
spilled over to Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.
on Wednesday hijacked a cargo ship Elhiblu 1, which rescued them off the coast
of Libya, the Italian interior minister said.
are not migrants in distress, they are pirates, they will only see Italy
through a telescope,” Matteo Salvini said in a Twitter post.
is clearly a case of organized crime. Our ports remain closed," Salvini
ship with 108 migrants on board is now sailing towards Malta, said Mediterranea
Saving Humans, a non-governmental organization.
were six-member crew -- including Turkish captain, four Indians and one Libyan
-- in the 52-meter-long ship.
a recent trip to Somaliland in East Africa, I had a chance to engage with some
international contractors who are undertaking projects there or in neighboring
foreigners are always under heavy protection, having their own bodyguards or
employing local soldiers, whenever they go outdoors.
would probably have visited Mogadishu as well, the capital city of Somalia,
which, according to these foreign contractors, is the truly dangerous place in
the entire region, if I had managed to get my visa approved on time.
that didn’t happen and the plan had to be shelved. Still, I picked up something
pretty useful and enlightening, which is, as the foreign friends have taught
me, “how to tell whether a person is a terrorist in Mogadishu”.
present, the most active terrorist group in Somalia is the Harakat al-Shabaab
al-Mujahideen, or “al-Shabaab” for short, meaning “the Youth Party”.
“al-Shabaab” once occupied the entire Mogadishu at the height of its power,
only to be defeated and driven out of the city later by government forces.
even though al-Shabaab militants are no longer in control of the capital, they
remain a force to be reckoned with, and continue to mount terrorist strikes
almost on a weekly basis.
the reason why they still keep on doing this over the years is quite simple: to
generate fear among the local population, to make their presence felt, and,
perhaps most importantly, to prove to the government that they remain
destructive enough to be worth negotiating with.
such, whenever the al-Shabaab has launched a successful attack, it will always
claim responsibility immediately afterwards to make sure everybody learns about
it, otherwise it would be a waste of their resources and efforts.
is also for the same reason that under most circumstances, members of the
al-Shabaab wouldn’t even bother to hide their identity in public, nor would
they mount an attack at all costs, because it is simply against their principle
of the foreign contractors that I met showed me a stack of photos, and drew my
attention to one of them, which he said, based on his observations, is very
likely to be a portrait of a bunch of al-Shabaab insurgents.
to him, one of the most distinguishing features of al-Shabaab militants is that
they always wear a keffiyeh and put on a pair of sandals, as opposed to most
average young Somali men, who are pretty western when it comes to clothing
styles and rarely wear the keffiyeh.
dead giveaway is that, as the contractor pointed out, the men in the photo were
putting both of their hands in their trouser pockets.
people who have been raised under western culture, this small habit has become
so common and spontaneous that people often aren’t aware of it when they are
interestingly though, I was told that the average Somalis actually rarely do
a Somali man who wears traditional clothing puts his hands in his trouser
pockets, chances are, he may have a concealed gun and be ready to draw it if
necessary, the contractor said.
asked my friend if he would put himself in danger by openly taking a picture of
a suspected al-Shabaab insurgent. His answer was: “not really”.
is because, he explained, these militants have a very calculating mind, and are
very careful in choosing their targets: in most cases they would only go after
easy prey in a hit-and-run fashion, namely, foreigners who are either alone or
only slightly guarded when walking on the open streets.
contractor friend also said al-Shabaab militants normally don’t “work” on
weekdays, and mostly strike during weekends, when there are usually more
vulnerable targets, so that they can maximize the “cost-effectiveness” of their
these al-Shabaab terrorists tend to follow a set pattern in choosing their
attack routes, and therefore most locals and expats in Mogadishu are pretty
well-versed on how to avoid dangers.
the fifth time, security forces have reported that Al-Shabaab’s director of
Kenyan operations has been killed in an air strike.
Iman Ali, according to intelligence sources, is reported to have been killed
last Friday when an unidentified aircraft conducted an operation on a building
complex in the town of Bu’aale in middle Juba.
within the ranks indicated that the Kenyan-born terrorism suspect was hit and
killed together with over 40 Al-Shabaab members.
Tuesday, the Kenya Defence Forces’ communication department would not confirm
the information, as the head, Col Paul Njuguna, said he was in a meeting all
of Defence spokesman Bogita Ongeri too did not confirm if the commander was
killed in any attack by KDF or any other forces.
who was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) by the US in
March 2018, took over the leadership of the group in 2012, and is perceived to
have been behind the establishment of various terrorist cells in Kenya, leading
to radicalisation of youth.
is believed to have also spearheaded the establishment of cells in Tanzania,
Mozambique, Uganda, Burundi, and DR Congo.
he was declared an international terrorist, the US said it was denying him the
resources they need to plan and carry out terrorist attacks.
the consequences, all of their property and interests in property subject to US
jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging
in any transactions with them,” the statement from the government read.
brief said that Ali, also known as Abu Zinira, had targeted Kenyan troops
serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), such as the January
2016 attack in El Adde.
is also responsible for Al-Shabaab propaganda targeting the Kenyan government
and civilians, such as a July 2017 video in which he issues threats to Muslims
serving in Kenya’s security forces. Ali has also served as an Al-Shabaab
recruiter, focusing on poor youth in Nairobi slums, and has fundraised at
mosques to support Al-Shabaab activities,” the statement indicated.
2015, Kenyan security forces announced that they were cracking down on
investments they suspected were run by Ali in Nairobi’s Majengo and stalls at
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