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Islamic World News (26 Feb 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)


Syrian Cinematographer Khaled Khateeb Barred From Attending the Oscars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: 21-year-old Khaled Khateeb won't attend the Oscars 2017

 

Turkish PM Launches 'Yes' Campaign Over Erdogan Powers

Trinidad and Tobago Is Ripe for Islamic State Recruiters

Hindus Speak Up For Silent Mosque in Ahmedabad

Taliban Chief’s Strange Spring Message ‘Everyone Should Plant a Tree’

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Arab World

Syrian Cinematographer Khaled Khateeb Barred From Attending the Oscars

Yemeni Forces Continue Advances in Ta'iz, Sana'a, Kill 13 Saudi-Backed Militias

Islamic State Besiege Iraqi Border Guards Location in Anbar

Bombings, air strikes in Syria rattle Geneva peace talks

Syrian army advances against Islamic State near Aleppo - monitor

Syrian Gov't Grants Amnesty to Hundreds of Militants in Damascus Province

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Mideast

Turkish PM Launches 'Yes' Campaign Over Erdogan Powers

11 PKK Militants Killed in Turkey’s Southeast

Saudi-Backed Militias' Concentration Centers Destroyed by Yemen's Zalzal-2 Missile in Najran Province

Iran holds naval war games amid rising tensions with U.S.

Iran to Launch Most Advanced Home-Made Destroyer Soon

Al-Nusra Centers Devastated in Northern Homs

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North America

Trinidad and Tobago Is Ripe for Islamic State Recruiters

Maryland Mosque Memorializes Islamist Assassin

Muslim Team Distributes Books, Talks to People about Islam in Venezuela

Top US commander for Mideast visits SDF in Syria

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India

Hindus Speak Up For Silent Mosque in Ahmedabad

A Muslim Father and Son Engrave the Headstones at One of India's Oldest Jewish Cemeteries

Kerala jihadist believed to have been killed in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar district

Gujarat ATS foils ‘lone wolf’ attack, arrest two on suspicion of links to Islamic State

Indian doctor rescued from ISIS captivity in Libya

2002 Godhra riots: ‘There were 20 Muslim families in the village; one by one they all left’

Can Mahesh Bhatt Overturn India's Ban On Pakistani Talent?

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South Asia

Taliban Chief’s Strange Spring Message ‘Everyone Should Plant a Tree’

Ghani Confers High state Medal on NATO Senior Civilian Representative

42 civilians rescued from ISIS captivity in Nangarhar province

Taliban shadow governor among 21 killed in counter-terrorism operations

Unity government has clear definition for enemies and friends: Abdullah

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Pakistan

Lahore Literary Festival Cut Down To Single Day Due To Security Issues

Four Killed, 600 Arrested During Crackdown In Punjab

Quetta police claim to foil 'major terror attack' as BDS defuses bomb

Body parts of shrine ‘bomber’ preserved, says CTD

70 Afghan nationals allowed to cross border

Talks with Kabul on terror concerns underway

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Europe

Islamic State Planning Attacks in Britain - Anti-Terrorism Lawyer

Some 20 People Injured In Refugee Shelter Fire In Western Sweden

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Africa

The Emir of Kano Urges Muslims to Unite, Eschew Hatred

Four Killed In Pipeline Blast In Oil-Producing Nigerian State

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Southeast Asia

Indonesia Looking for Long-Term Crude Purchase from Iran

Myanmar: Memorial service for assassinated Muslim lawyer

Malaysia rolls out red carpet as Saudi king kicks off Asia tour

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/syrian-cinematographer-khaled-khateeb-barred-from-attending-the-oscars/d/110211

 

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Syrian cinematographer Khaled Khateeb barred from attending the Oscars

February 26th, 2017

Khaled Khateeb was denied entry into the US after Homeland Security found “derogatory” information about him

21-year-old Khaled Khateeb, the Syrian cinematographer who filmed Netflix’s Oscar-nominated documentary The White Helmets, has been denied entry into the US for the Academy Awards.

Khateeb has been blocked from the country after the Department of Homeland Security found “derogatory” information about him, "an official term that can mean anything from terror connections to passport irregularities", Deadline reports.

This is the second time that Khateeb has borne the brunt of Trump's politics.

Earlier, when Trump's proposed travel ban prohibited entry into the U.S. from seven predominately Muslim countries, including Syria, it looked “unlikely” that Khateeb would be able to attend the Oscars in Los Angeles.

The White Helmets producer Joanna Natasegara told Deadline at the time: “I feel very embarrassed by this and you see what kind of affect [sic] this has on people who have already suffered so much…There’s a complete sense of indignity there that is so offensive and so damaging in ways you can’t see.”

When Trump’s ban was overturned, Khateeb announced he would be attending the Oscars.

“It is important that people understand that Syria has people who want the same things that they want: peace, jobs, family and to live without the fear of bombs,” he had said. “This is what I hope the film does.”

The White Helmets is a 40-minute documentary about the titular force The White Helmets, also called the Syrian Civil Defense. The film, which has been nominated for Best Short this year, profiles the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated warriors who have saved more than 60,000 civilian lives in war-torn Syria.

images.dawn.com/news/1177163/syrian-cinematographer-khaled-khateeb-barred-from-attending-the-oscars

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Turkish PM launches 'yes' campaign over Erdogan powers

AP | Feb 25, 2017

ANKARA: Turkey's prime minister has officially launched his ruling party's campaign for a "yes" vote in a referendum on ushering a presidential system, which critics fear will concentrate too many powers in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Binali Yildirim formally got campaigning going today telling supporters in a sports arena that the proposed new system would build a strong Turkey capable of surmounting terror threats and make its economy more robust. Yildirim said: "We are taking the first steps on the path of a future strong Turkey."

The proposed reforms to be voted on April 16 will give the largely ceremonial presidency executive powers and abolish the office of the prime minister.

Opponents say the proposed system foresees too few checks and balances on Erdogan's rule.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/turkish-pm-launches-yes-campaign-over-erdogan-powers/articleshow/57345297.cms

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Trinidad and Tobago Is Ripe for Islamic State Recruiters

February 26, 2017

Authorities in Trinidad and Tobago are taking steps to stop young Muslims from leaving the country to join terrorist groups, highlighting the ongoing struggle the country faces in preventing its youth from joining organizations dedicated to violence.

Officials from the Caribbean country believe as many as 125 fighters have traveled to the Middle East to fight for the Islamic State over the past four years, reported The New York Times.

The figure makes Trinidad and Tobago, a country of 1.3 million people, the largest per-capita hub of I.S. recruits in the Western Hemisphere.

American authorities are concerned that the country may turn into a hotbed for extremists, who could return from the Middle East and attack American citizens in Trinidad, or even possibly reach the United States via Miami, only a three-and-a-half-hour flight away.

U.S. President Donald Trump recently spoke with Trinidadian Prime Minister Keith Rowley about terrorism and security threats, a White House spokesperson told The Times.

In contrast to the laws of many other countries, I.S. is not legally proscribed in Trinidad and Tobago. This means Trinidadians can travel and train with I.S. fighters and then return to Trinidad and still enjoy the rights and privileges of any other fellow citizen.

Yet the government is reportedly implementing tougher anti-terrorism measures. Authorities have increased surveillance and monitoring of the country’s Islamist movements, while officials have proposed a law to prosecute those sending money to I.S. fighters overseas.

At the same time, U.S. authorities have been sharing intelligence with Trinidad’s government, hoping to crack down on potential new recruits.

An I.S. militant from Trinidad and Tobago. Screen capture via Islamic State propaganda video

InSight Crime analysis

The fact that the Islamic State is allegedly recruiting young Trinidadians raises questions as to why so many of the country’s youth are willing to join illicit organizations.

To be sure, the Islamic State is not the only violent actor looking to recruit young Trinidadians. The country is home to a plethora of criminal gangs, which have thrived as a result of increased contraband and drug trafficking operations across the Caribbean and the deteriorating economic and social conditions of neighboring Venezuela, which allegedly led to an increase in the flow of weapons in the island nation.

Furthermore, the Islamic State is not the first Islamic movement that tried to lure Trinidadians. The country has historically been a breeding ground for radical Islamist movements, the most famous of which, the Jamaat Al Muslimeen, tried to overthrow the government in 1990, making Trinidad the only country in the Western Hemisphere that suffered an Islamic insurgency.

Islamist cells and criminal gangs have both tried to recruit young Trinidadians, who are often unemployed males from poor backgrounds who see few opportunities in an oil-rich country whose economy has suffered as a result of declining oil prices.

Today, the Islamic State appears to be employing similar tactics.

The group has crafted a discourse that draws from the structural conditions that have historically ostracized young Trinidadian Muslims, and speaks to the very same demographics that other criminal organizations have preyed on in the past.

Trinidadian authorities “need to be able to understand what are the conditions that might predispose individuals to become radicalized and then to be able to take steps to try to stop that from occurring before people go down that path,” Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, Commander of U.S. Southern Command, told the Times.

warisboring.com/trinidad-and-tobago-is-a-caribbean-hotbed-for-islamic-state-recruiters-1e1e5581273#.2saj1lge0

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Trinidad and Tobago Is Ripe for Islamic State Recruiters

February 26, 2017

Authorities in Trinidad and Tobago are taking steps to stop young Muslims from leaving the country to join terrorist groups, highlighting the ongoing struggle the country faces in preventing its youth from joining organizations dedicated to violence.

Officials from the Caribbean country believe as many as 125 fighters have traveled to the Middle East to fight for the Islamic State over the past four years, reported The New York Times.

The figure makes Trinidad and Tobago, a country of 1.3 million people, the largest per-capita hub of I.S. recruits in the Western Hemisphere.

American authorities are concerned that the country may turn into a hotbed for extremists, who could return from the Middle East and attack American citizens in Trinidad, or even possibly reach the United States via Miami, only a three-and-a-half-hour flight away.

U.S. President Donald Trump recently spoke with Trinidadian Prime Minister Keith Rowley about terrorism and security threats, a White House spokesperson told The Times.

In contrast to the laws of many other countries, I.S. is not legally proscribed in Trinidad and Tobago. This means Trinidadians can travel and train with I.S. fighters and then return to Trinidad and still enjoy the rights and privileges of any other fellow citizen.

Yet the government is reportedly implementing tougher anti-terrorism measures. Authorities have increased surveillance and monitoring of the country’s Islamist movements, while officials have proposed a law to prosecute those sending money to I.S. fighters overseas.

At the same time, U.S. authorities have been sharing intelligence with Trinidad’s government, hoping to crack down on potential new recruits.

An I.S. militant from Trinidad and Tobago. Screen capture via Islamic State propaganda video

InSight Crime analysis

The fact that the Islamic State is allegedly recruiting young Trinidadians raises questions as to why so many of the country’s youth are willing to join illicit organizations.

To be sure, the Islamic State is not the only violent actor looking to recruit young Trinidadians. The country is home to a plethora of criminal gangs, which have thrived as a result of increased contraband and drug trafficking operations across the Caribbean and the deteriorating economic and social conditions of neighboring Venezuela, which allegedly led to an increase in the flow of weapons in the island nation.

Furthermore, the Islamic State is not the first Islamic movement that tried to lure Trinidadians. The country has historically been a breeding ground for radical Islamist movements, the most famous of which, the Jamaat Al Muslimeen, tried to overthrow the government in 1990, making Trinidad the only country in the Western Hemisphere that suffered an Islamic insurgency.

Islamist cells and criminal gangs have both tried to recruit young Trinidadians, who are often unemployed males from poor backgrounds who see few opportunities in an oil-rich country whose economy has suffered as a result of declining oil prices.

Today, the Islamic State appears to be employing similar tactics.

The group has crafted a discourse that draws from the structural conditions that have historically ostracized young Trinidadian Muslims, and speaks to the very same demographics that other criminal organizations have preyed on in the past.

Trinidadian authorities “need to be able to understand what are the conditions that might predispose individuals to become radicalized and then to be able to take steps to try to stop that from occurring before people go down that path,” Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, Commander of U.S. Southern Command, told the Times.

warisboring.com/trinidad-and-tobago-is-a-caribbean-hotbed-for-islamic-state-recruiters-1e1e5581273#.2saj1lge0

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Hindus Speak Up For Silent Mosque In Ahmedabad

TNN | Updated: Feb 26, 2017

AHMEDABAD: The call to prayer from the mosque near Bakri Pol in the communally sensitive Kalupur area is no ordinary azaan. Heard for the first time in 30 years in March 2016, it signifies the voice of compassion and respect drowning out hatred. Kalupur, a patchwork of Hindu and Muslim ghettos, was bloodied by communal riots in 1984. Since the nearly 100-year-old mosque is located in a Hindu locality — near Ramji, Nagdalla Hanuman, and Shesh Narayan temples — Muslims began to avoid it to avert troubles. Polarization intensified during the riots that broke out after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1993. By then the Kalupur mosque was overrun with foliage and had begun to crumble.

Paradoxically, after the communal riots of 2002, which had riven Gujarat, residents around the mosque were moved by a collective, voluntary desire to save it. Hindus reached out to their Muslim brethren, cleared the wild foliage, and contributed resources for repairs. The mosque reopened in March 2016. A year later, people in the neighbourhood affirm that the reconstruction effort has cemented bonds between communities. So much so, one set of keys to the mosque has been entrusted to Hindus.

"One set of keys is with Poonam Parekh and Kaushik Rami who sell flowers near the mosque," said Aziz Gandhi, social worker in Dariapur. Rami said he lights incense sticks twice a day near the mosque. "We are happy that the mosque that was closed for over three decades is now filled with devotees," he said. The priest of the Nagdalla Hanuman Temple, Chandrakant Sharma, said: "With Haji Usmangani Mansuri and other trustees of the mosque, we renovated the structure." He said that previously Muslim youths had to go to other mosques to offer namaaz. "Now, they they don't have to venture out of their locality," Sharma said. Hamidullah Shaikh, a Dariapur resident, said: "Our Hindu brothers helped us bring labourers to renovate the mosque." It appears a major breach in society has been lovingly repaired.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/hindus-speak-up-for-silent-mosque/articleshow/57350576.cms

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Taliban chief’s strange spring message ‘Everyone should plant a tree’

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Feb 26 2017

The supreme leader of the Taliban group has issued a new statement on upcoming new solar year, calling its fighters and the Afghan people to plant a tree.

Claiming that the group is involved in fight for the freedom of the country, Mawlavi Haibatullah Akhundzada said the group is utilizing all the available resources for the betterment of the country and the Afghan nation.

“The Islamic Emirate – just as it is actively engaged in a struggle against foreign invaders and their hirelings for the attainment of true peace and security – works within the limits of its resources for the prosperity, economic welfare, development and self-reliance of its beloved countrymen,” he claimed in his statement.

Akhundzada further added “Therefore as spring approaches, it calls on its Mujahideen and every individual of its devout nation to plant one or several fruit or non-fruit trees for the beautification of earth and for the benefit of Almighty Allah’s creations.”

“They must understand that with tree plantation, they would be following the practical footsteps of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) and showing appreciation for the blessing of Allah Almighty by developing the earth and protecting the environment,” he added.

The latest statement by Akhundzada comes as the group is blamed for the majority of the destruction and civilian casualties in the country.

According to the latest report by the UN mission in Afghanistan, the anti-government armed militant groups, particularly the Taliban group is behind the two thirds of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

khaama.com/tliban-chiefs-strange-spring-message-everyone-should-plant-a-tree-02982

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Arab World

Syrian cinematographer Khaled Khateeb barred from attending the Oscars

February 26th, 2017

Khaled Khateeb was denied entry into the US after Homeland Security found “derogatory” information about him

21-year-old Khaled Khateeb, the Syrian cinematographer who filmed Netflix’s Oscar-nominated documentary The White Helmets, has been denied entry into the US for the Academy Awards.

Khateeb has been blocked from the country after the Department of Homeland Security found “derogatory” information about him, "an official term that can mean anything from terror connections to passport irregularities", Deadline reports.

This is the second time that Khateeb has borne the brunt of Trump's politics.

Earlier, when Trump's proposed travel ban prohibited entry into the U.S. from seven predominately Muslim countries, including Syria, it looked “unlikely” that Khateeb would be able to attend the Oscars in Los Angeles.

The White Helmets producer Joanna Natasegara told Deadline at the time: “I feel very embarrassed by this and you see what kind of affect [sic] this has on people who have already suffered so much…There’s a complete sense of indignity there that is so offensive and so damaging in ways you can’t see.”

When Trump’s ban was overturned, Khateeb announced he would be attending the Oscars.

“It is important that people understand that Syria has people who want the same things that they want: peace, jobs, family and to live without the fear of bombs,” he had said. “This is what I hope the film does.”

The White Helmets is a 40-minute documentary about the titular force The White Helmets, also called the Syrian Civil Defense. The film, which has been nominated for Best Short this year, profiles the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated warriors who have saved more than 60,000 civilian lives in war-torn Syria.

images.dawn.com/news/1177163/syrian-cinematographer-khaled-khateeb-barred-from-attending-the-oscars

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Yemeni Forces Continue Advances in Ta'iz, Sana'a, Kill 13 Saudi-Backed Militias

February 26th, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Yemeni army and popular forces continued their advances against the Saudi-backed militants in Sana'a and Ta'iz regions, killing over a dozen militias in fierce clashes.

In Sana'a, the Yemeni forces killed six Riyadh-backed militias in two separate attacks in the Ninth district of the city of Sana'a.

In the first attack, two Saudi-hired mercenaries were killed in the Yemeni army's artillery attack on their military positions in al-Houl area of the Ninth district of Sana'a.

In the second attack, four Saudi-backed militias were also killed in al-Mafouq region of the Ninth District of Sana'a city.

In Ta'iz province, at least seven militias loyal to former fugitive President Mansour Hadi were killed in Saleh region, the Arabic-language al-Massira news channel reported.

In a relevant development on Saturday, two Saudi-backed militias were also killed in Asfireh and Saleh regions in Ta'iz province.

Three their military vehicles of the militias were also destroyed in al-Mukha region.

In a relevant development on Thursday, the Yemeni army and popular forces continued their advances against the Saudi-backed militants in Ta'iz province, inflicting major losses on them.

"Over 70 Saudi-hired mercenaries were killed and wounded in a missile attack by the Yemeni forces in the coastal city of al-Mukha in Ta'iz province," a Yemeni security source said.

The source noted that the Saudi-backed militias' military hardware also sustained heavy damage in the missile attack.

Earlier on Sunday, the Yemeni army and popular forces destroyed the military positions of the Saudi-led troops in Najran province in the Southern part of Saudi Arabia with a Zalzal-2 missile.

The Saudi-led forces' concentration centers in Najran province were flattened after they were hit with a Zalzal-2 missile.

The Yemeni military sources confirmed that the Zalzal-2 missile precisely hit the target, killing tens of Saudi-led troops and destroying their military equipment.

No further detail is available now.

Meantime, three Saudi troops were killed by Yemeni army and Ansarullah snipers in Assir and Jizan provinces.

Two Saudi troops were killed in the Northern part of Al-Khubeh in Jizan province, the Arabic-language media quoted local sources as saying.

The sources also said that another Saudi military force was killed by the Yemeni snipers in al-Arez military base in al-Raboua'a region in Assir province.

Another Saudi military force was also killed by the Yemeni snipers in al-Orfeh military base in Jizan province.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951208000872

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Islamic State besiege Iraqi border guards location in Anbar

Feb 26, 2017

Treibil border crossing between Iraq and Jordan.

Anbar (IraqiNews.com) An Iraqi border guard headquarter in Anbar, near the Iraqi borders with Syria, has become under siege by Islamic State militants since Saturday morning, BBC Arabic reported.

Military sources told the network IS militants launched an attack on the checkpoint near Treibil and Arar crossings with Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Soldiers locked up in the facility made distress calls for backup as they ran out of ammunition, BBC added, quoting the sources, adding that, so far, ten commando soldiers were killed in encounters with the extremist group.

Last week, an attack near Treibil killed 15 guards.

The attack comes as the government is employing most of its military and security power in Mosul, IS’s largest stronghold where the group is currently concentrated in its last bastions west of the city.

Anbar’s western regions still host some Islamic State strongholds that sustain occasional bombardments by Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition fighter jets. There has not been an officially-declared military campaign to free those regions, but the province’s military command launched a brief assault early January that managed to recapture some western villages before stopping again. It is believed that the Iraqi government will not aim at western Anbar before its forces are done with retaking Mosul.

Local officials say thousands of civilians are held by the extremist group in western Anbar to use them as human shields against any security offensive.

iraqinews.com/iraq-war/islamic-state-besiege-iraqi-border-guards-location-anbar/

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Bombings, air strikes in Syria rattle Geneva peace talks

February 26th, 2017

A still image taken from a video uploaded to a social media website, on February 25, 2017, purports to show air strikes in the rebel-held al-Waer area of Homs, Syria. Social Media/ via REUTERS TV

By John Irish, Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles | GENEVA

A United Nations peace envoy said a militant attack in Syria on Saturday was a deliberate attempt to wreck peace talks in Geneva, while the warring sides traded blame and appeared no closer to actual negotiations.

Suicide bombers stormed two Syrian security offices in Homs, killing dozens with gunfire and explosions including the head of military security, prompting airstrikes against the last rebel-held enclave in the western city.

"Spoilers were always expected, and should continue to be expected, to try to influence the proceedings of the talks. It is in the interest of all parties who are against terrorism and are committed to a political process in Syria not to allow these attempts to succeed," U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura said in a statement.

De Mistura has met the two sides separately in Geneva while he tries to get agreement on how talks to end the six-year-old conflict should be arranged.

He has warned not to expect any quick breakthrough and to beware of letting the violence derail any fragile progress, as happened repeatedly in the past. A ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey with Iran's support is increasingly being violated by both sides.

The jihadist rebel alliance Tahrir al-Sham, which opposes the talks -- although it has fought alongside factions that are represented there -- said that five suicide bombers had carried out Saturday's attack. It celebrated with the words "thanks be to God" but stopped short of explicitly claiming responsibility.

Tahrir al-Sham was formed this year from several groups including Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which was formerly known as the Nusra Front and was al Qaeda's Syrian branch until it broke formal allegiance to the global jihadist movement in 2016.

After a 2-1/2 hour-long meeting with de Mistura, the Syrian government's lead negotiator Bashar al-Ja'afari spoke to reporters and repeatedly demanded the opposition condemn the attacks or face the consequences.

"If anyone refuses to condemn this terrorist attack then he is an accomplice of terrorism and we will deal with them accordingly," Ja'afari said.

He ruled out leaving the talks, saying he would meet de Mistura again on Tuesday, but he implied that some of the opponents that he had sat face-to-face with at Thursday's opening ceremony were "sponsors of terrorism".

Warplanes also carried out six raids on Douma in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, resulting in six deaths, and earlier, an air raid in Hama killed four people from the same family, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

BLOCKING TALKS

Speaking to Reuters earlier on Saturday, Basma Kodmani, a negotiator from the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said groups backing the talks had abided by the ceasefire. But she questioned the government's commitment and whether Russia, a key Assad ally, was ready to pressure it to curb the violence. [L8N1GA0B1]

After Ja'afari's comments, the opposition condemned the attack but accused the government of trying to use the events to derail the negotiations.

"We condemn all terrorist acts done by all terrorist groups. If the Homs operation was done by any of those, it is clear what I say," lead negotiator Nasr al-Hariri told reporters.

"They just want to remain in power. The regime is trying to block the negotiations," he added, saying they would not walk away from the talks.

Colonel Fateh Hassoun, a member of the opposition negotiating team, pointed the finger squarely at the government forces for the Homs attack.

"What happened today is an operation the regime has implemented to retaliate through another action against civilians besieged for the past 3-1/2 years, and this is to send a message to the people, societies and the world that he is fighting terrorism," he said.

Although Assad's government has controlled most of Homs since 2014, rebels still control its al-Waer district, which warplanes bombed on Saturday, wounding 50, the Observatory said.

De Mistura handed a working paper on procedural issues to delegations at the talks on Friday but there appears little prospect of things moving to the key political issues that he had hoped to be able to begin addressing.

The envoy is looking to lay the foundations for negotiations to end the conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.

"In reality, nothing is happening,” said a senior Western diplomat. "The paper handed out yesterday by de Mistura is procedural. It is not the future of Syria."

(Additional reporting by John Irish, Stephanie Nebehay, Yara Abi Nader, Laila Bassam in Geneva, Angus McDowall and John Davison in Beirut, Ahmed Tolba in Cairo and Kinda Makieh in Damascus, writing by John Irish, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

in.reuters.com/article/mideast-crisis-syria-idINKBN1640L5

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Syrian army advances against Islamic State near Aleppo - monitor

February 26th, 2017

The Syrian army and its allies made a sudden advance on Saturday and Sunday into areas held by Islamic State in northwest Syria, a war monitor said, as the jihadist group retreated after losing the city of al-Bab to Turkey-backed rebels on Thursday.

The eastwards advance in an area south of al-Bab has extended Syrian army control across 14 villages and brought it within 25km (15 miles) of Lake Assad, the stretch of the Euphrates above the Tabqa dam.

Islamic State's holdings in northwest Syria have been eviscerated over recent months by successive advances by three different, rival forces: Syrian Kurdish groups backed by the United States, the Turkey-backed rebels, and the army.

By taking Islamic State territory south of al-Bab, the army is preventing any possible move by Turkey and the rebel groups it supports to expand southwards, and is moving closer to regaining control of water supplies for Aleppo.

Fighting in the area is continuing as the army and its allies advance, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said on Sunday.

Islamic State's loss of al-Bab after weeks of bitter street fighting marks the group's effective departure from northwest Syria, once one of its most fearsome strongholds, and an area of importance because of its location on the Turkish border.

Steady advances since 2015 by the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led alliance of armed groups, had already pushed Islamic State from much of the frontier by the middle of last year and have since then threatened its stronghold in Raqqa.

Turkey's entry into Syria's civil war via the Euphrates Shield campaign in support of rebel groups fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army was intended both to push Islamic State from the border and to stop Kurdish expansion there.

(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Mark Potter)

in.reuters.com/article/mideast-crisis-syria-islamic-state-idINKBN1650AD

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Syrian Gov't Grants Amnesty to Hundreds of Militants in Damascus Province

February 26th, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- Over 1,200 militants ended fight against the Syrian Army in Northwestern Damascus and received government amnesty in two phases, local sources declared on Sunday.

The sources said that 680 militants that had laid down arms and applied for government pardoning in the town of Sarqaya were granted amnesty on Sunday.

The sources added that the Damascus government also pardoned 600 ex-militants that had joined peace agreement with the Syrian government in Sarqaya yesterday.

They went on to say that completion of the peace process in Sarqaya has paved the way for government bodies and services to revive operation in the town.

Earlier this month, Syrian President Bashar Assad extended a decree on amnesty for militants who surrender and hand over their weapons until the end of June.

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

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

Since 2011, Syria has been engaged in war against terrorism, with government forces fighting against numerous militant and terrorist groups, including al-Nusra Front (also known as Fatah al-Sham front) and ISIL.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951208000699

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Mideast

Turkish PM launches 'yes' campaign over Erdogan powers

AP | Feb 25, 2017

ANKARA: Turkey's prime minister has officially launched his ruling party's campaign for a "yes" vote in a referendum on ushering a presidential system, which critics fear will concentrate too many powers in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Binali Yildirim formally got campaigning going today telling supporters in a sports arena that the proposed new system would build a strong Turkey capable of surmounting terror threats and make its economy more robust. Yildirim said: "We are taking the first steps on the path of a future strong Turkey."

The proposed reforms to be voted on April 16 will give the largely ceremonial presidency executive powers and abolish the office of the prime minister.

Opponents say the proposed system foresees too few checks and balances on Erdogan's rule.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/turkish-pm-launches-yes-campaign-over-erdogan-powers/articleshow/57345297.cms

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11 PKK militants killed in Turkey’s southeast

February/25/2017

A total of eleven outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants were killed in operations in the southeastern provinces of Bitlis and Diyarbakır, Doğan News Agency has reported.

Gendarmerie teams engaged in an armed clash with a group of PKK militants on Feb. 24 in a forested area in Bitlis. 10 PKK militants were killed and another two were captured in the operation. One soldier and one village guard were also wounded in the clashes.

Separately, one PKK militant was killed and another was captured during operations in the rural of Lice, Kulp, Silvan and Hazro districts of Diyarbakır, the governor’s office said on Feb. 25.

According to the statement, one gun, two clips and one hand-grenade were seized. A vehicle used by the militants and 250 kilograms of cannabis were also seized during searches nearby.

hurriyetdailynews.com/11-pkk-militants-killed-in-turkeys-southeast.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110175&NewsCatID=341

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Saudi-Backed Militias' Concentration Centers Destroyed by Yemen's Zalzal-2 Missile in Najran Province

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Yemeni army and popular forces destroyed the military positions of the Saudi-led troops in Najran province in the Southern part of Saudi Arabia with a Zalzal-2 missile.

The Saudi-led forces' concentration centers in Najran province were flattened after they were hit with a Zalzal-2 missile.

The Yemeni military sources confirmed that the Zalzal-2 missile precisely hit the target, killing tens of Saudi-led troops and destroying their military equipment.

No further detail is available now.

Meantime, three Saudi troops were killed by Yemeni army and Ansarullah snipers in Assir and Jizan provinces.

Two Saudi troops were killed in the Northern part of Al-Khubeh in Jizan province, the Arabic-language media quoted local sources as saying.

The sources also said that another Saudi military force was killed by the Yemeni snipers in al-Arez military base in al-Raboua'a region in Assir province.

Another Saudi military force was also killed by the Yemeni snipers in al-Orfeh military base in Jizan province.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, the Yemeni army and popular forces' missiles and artillery units pounded a strategic military bases in Najran province.

"The concentration center of the Saudi-led troops in Saudi Arabia's National Guards military base at the entrance of al-Khazra region in Najran province was destroyed in artillery and Katyusha rocket attacks on Tuesday night," the Yemeni army's missile unit announced in a statement.

The Yemeni army also announced that it has fired a mid-range ballistic missile at the gathering centers of the Saudi-backed militias in Bab al-Mandab region.

Also on Tuesday, the Yemeni army and popular forces pounded and destroyed a strategic military base in Jizan province with BM-27 Uragan rockets.

Mostahdas military base in Jizan province was destroyed with at least four BM-2 Uragan rockets fired by the Yemeni forces' missile units.

The Yemeni army's missile unit in a statement confirmed that the Uragan rockets precisely hit the target.

The Yemeni army has announced several times that it will hit Saudi Arabia's military positions if the Saudi-led coalition aircraft continue striking the Yemeni people.

The BM-27 Uragan (GRAU index 9P140) is a self-propelled multiple rocket launcher system designed in the Soviet Union. It began its service with the Soviet Army in the late 1970s, and was its first modern spin and fin stabilized heavy multiple rocket launcher.

Also on Sunday, the Yemeni army fired a ballistic missile at the strategic al-Shaqiq power plant in Jizan province in the kingdom's Southern part in reaction to Riyadh's continued air raids on innocent civilians across Yemen.

"The missile hit the target with high precision," the Arabic-language al-Massira television quoted a military source as saying.

Al-Shaqiq power plant supplies electricity of most of Saudi Arabia's military bases.

There were no immediate reports on the damages caused to the power plant, but the Yemeni missile attacks usually inflict heavy losses on the Saudi forces.

Al-Shaqiq power plant generates 2,640 megawatts of electricity and it has been built by South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries Company at a cost of $3.3 billion.

Also on Monday, the Yemeni army and popular forces in a statement announced that their ballistic missiles are capable of passing through Patriot anti-ballistic missile interceptors.

The missiles possessed by the Yemeni army and Ansarullah have high-precision capabilities so that the third generation of Patriot missile defense systems cannot track them, the Arabic-language al-Massira news channel reported.

The US equipped Saudi Arabia with advanced Patriot anti-ballistic missile interceptors in 2016.

Defense analysts believe that overcoming and evading Patriot anti-ballistic missile system is a major achievement for the Yemeni army and popular forces.

US Arab allies have sought to bolster their ballistic missile capabilities and anti-ballistic missile defense after the Iran nuclear agreement with the world powers.

In May 2015, the United States and Persian Gulf Arab countries agreed to expand defense cooperation. Saudi Arabia was the world’s largest importer of arms in 2014, primarily purchasing weapons from the United States.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951208000334

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Iran holds naval war games amid rising tensions with U.S.

Feb 26, 2017

Iran launched naval drills at the mouth of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean on Sunday, a naval commander said, as tensions with the United States escalated after U.S President Donald Trump put Tehran "on notice".

Since taking office last month, Trump has pledged to get tough with Iran, warning the Islamic Republic after its ballistic missile test on Jan. 29 that it was playing with fire and all U.S. options were on the table.

Iran's annual exercises will be held in the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman, the Bab el-Mandab and northern parts of the Indian Ocean, to train in the fight against terrorism and piracy, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said, according to state media.

Millions of barrels of oil are transported daily to Europe, the United States and Asia through the Bab el-Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz, waterways that run along the coasts of Yemen and Iran.

Navy ships, submarines and helicopters will take part in the drills across an area of about 2 million square kilometres (772,000 square miles) and marines will showcase their skills along Iran's southeastern coast, the state news agency IRNA said.

The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is based in the region and protects shipping lanes in the Gulf and nearby waters.

Last month, a U.S. Navy destroyer fired warning shots at four Iranian fast-attack vessels near the Strait of Hormuz after they closed in at high speed. The vessels belonged to Iran's Revolutionary Guards which are not participating in the current war games.

Trump said earlier this month that "Iran has been put formally put on notice" for firing a ballistic missile, and later imposed new sanctions on Tehran.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Sami Aboudi/Keith Weir)

in.reuters.com/article/iran-navy-wargames-idINKBN1650A5

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Iran to Launch Most Advanced Home-Made Destroyer Soon

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari announced that the country's most state-of-the-art destroyer, 'Sahand', will be launched in the near future.

"Sahand, as our most advanced destroyer, will soon join the naval fleet," Sayyari said in an interview with the state TV on Saturday night.

Elsewhere, he also said that the Iranian Navy's 45th fleet of warships will be sent to China or Pakistan, India and Oman after the 44th flotilla returns to the country early next month, and added, "Sending fleets to Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Turkey is also on agenda."

His remarks came as the final stage of naval drills codenamed 'Velayat 95' started by Iranian navy forces in the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of Oman and North of the Indian Ocean.

Different naval units, including submarines, missile-launching destroyers, surface and subsurface units, missile and electronic warfare systems, drones, fighter jets and marines, started the Velayat 95 wargames on February 13. The naval drills will continue until March 1.

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Rear Admiral Sayyari underlined that Tehran is resolved to boost its deterrence power and has never planned aggression against any other country.

"Our strategy and doctrine is enhancement of defense power based on deterrence and we are not and will not at all think about aggression against others" but if a country thinks of aggression against Iran, it will receive such a response that will make it regret its deeds, Rear Admiral Sayyari said, addressing a gathering of Navy commanders in Tehran.

Describing establishment of security in the region as the result of Iran's defense power, he underlined his country's determination to increase its defense and deterrence power.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951208000354

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Al-Nusra Centers Devastated in Northern Homs

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Syrian Army troops targeted the positions and concentration centers of Al-Nusra Front (recently renamed to Fatah al-Sham Front) in Northern Homs, destroying at least two missile launchers and several key positions.

The army units pounded Al-Nusra's strongholds in al-Hawsh al-Qarbi region near the town of Talbiseh, killing and wounding a number of terrorists and destroying two missile launchers.

In the meantime, the army soldiers hit the positions of Al-Nusra in the village of al-Ameriyeh, destroying a vehicle carrying ammunition and killing a number of terrorists.  

In relevant developments in the province on Thursday, the army units targeted the al-Nusra Front's concentration centers in Northern Homs province, destroying several command posts and centers and an ammunition depot of the terrorists in Tir Ma'ala region.

Several foreign commanders of al-Nusra Front were killed in the Syrian army offensives.

The Syrian fighter jets also pounded the concentration centers and movements of the terrorists in Um Sharshouh, al-Qajar, al-Sa'an and the surrounding farms of Talbiseh in Northern Homs, killing and injuring several terrorists.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951208000375

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North America

Trinidad and Tobago Is Ripe for Islamic State Recruiters

February 26, 2017

Authorities in Trinidad and Tobago are taking steps to stop young Muslims from leaving the country to join terrorist groups, highlighting the ongoing struggle the country faces in preventing its youth from joining organizations dedicated to violence.

Officials from the Caribbean country believe as many as 125 fighters have traveled to the Middle East to fight for the Islamic State over the past four years, reported The New York Times.

The figure makes Trinidad and Tobago, a country of 1.3 million people, the largest per-capita hub of I.S. recruits in the Western Hemisphere.

American authorities are concerned that the country may turn into a hotbed for extremists, who could return from the Middle East and attack American citizens in Trinidad, or even possibly reach the United States via Miami, only a three-and-a-half-hour flight away.

U.S. President Donald Trump recently spoke with Trinidadian Prime Minister Keith Rowley about terrorism and security threats, a White House spokesperson told The Times.

In contrast to the laws of many other countries, I.S. is not legally proscribed in Trinidad and Tobago. This means Trinidadians can travel and train with I.S. fighters and then return to Trinidad and still enjoy the rights and privileges of any other fellow citizen.

Yet the government is reportedly implementing tougher anti-terrorism measures. Authorities have increased surveillance and monitoring of the country’s Islamist movements, while officials have proposed a law to prosecute those sending money to I.S. fighters overseas.

At the same time, U.S. authorities have been sharing intelligence with Trinidad’s government, hoping to crack down on potential new recruits.

An I.S. militant from Trinidad and Tobago. Screen capture via Islamic State propaganda video

InSight Crime analysis

The fact that the Islamic State is allegedly recruiting young Trinidadians raises questions as to why so many of the country’s youth are willing to join illicit organizations.

To be sure, the Islamic State is not the only violent actor looking to recruit young Trinidadians. The country is home to a plethora of criminal gangs, which have thrived as a result of increased contraband and drug trafficking operations across the Caribbean and the deteriorating economic and social conditions of neighboring Venezuela, which allegedly led to an increase in the flow of weapons in the island nation.

Furthermore, the Islamic State is not the first Islamic movement that tried to lure Trinidadians. The country has historically been a breeding ground for radical Islamist movements, the most famous of which, the Jamaat Al Muslimeen, tried to overthrow the government in 1990, making Trinidad the only country in the Western Hemisphere that suffered an Islamic insurgency.

Islamist cells and criminal gangs have both tried to recruit young Trinidadians, who are often unemployed males from poor backgrounds who see few opportunities in an oil-rich country whose economy has suffered as a result of declining oil prices.

Today, the Islamic State appears to be employing similar tactics.

The group has crafted a discourse that draws from the structural conditions that have historically ostracized young Trinidadian Muslims, and speaks to the very same demographics that other criminal organizations have preyed on in the past.

Trinidadian authorities “need to be able to understand what are the conditions that might predispose individuals to become radicalized and then to be able to take steps to try to stop that from occurring before people go down that path,” Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, Commander of U.S. Southern Command, told the Times.

warisboring.com/trinidad-and-tobago-is-a-caribbean-hotbed-for-islamic-state-recruiters-1e1e5581273#.2saj1lge0

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Maryland Mosque Memorializes Islamist Assassin

Thu, February 16, 2017

A celebration was held at a mosque in Pikesville for Mumtaz Qadri who killed a Pakistani governor critical of the country's heinous blasphemy laws.

A mosque in Maryland held a celebration in honor of an Islamist assassin who killed a governor in Pakistan for speaking about against the country’s heinous blasphemy laws.

As reported by Rabwah Times, the Gulzar E. Madina Mosque in Pikesville, Maryland, hosted an Urs celebration, a traditional commemoration reserved for saints and holy people, for Mumtaz Qadri who killed the governor of Punjab province Salman Taseer in 2011.

Qadri was Taseer’s bodyguard and was incensed that Taseer called for the reform of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws. Taseer had also expressed support for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman framed for blasphemy, arrested and sentenced to death in Pakistan.

Blasphemy laws in Pakistan, which carry the death penalty, are often used to exact revenge against Pakistan’s mistreated minority populations. Often, just the hint of a blasphemy accusation will spark mob violence resulting in death for the person charged.

After Qadri shot Taseer to death, he was lauded as a national hero.  More than 100,000 people attended his funeral and riots ensued for weeks after he was arrested, tried and hanged for his crime. He is viewed as a saint by a large sector of the population and a shrine is being built in Pakistan to memorialize him.

The Urs event at the Maryland mosque was advertised in the Urdu Times, the largest Urdu newspaper in the U.S. Rabwah Times reported a robust turnout, with participants including young children and teenagers.

The speakers included Syed Saad Ali, an Islamic scholar based in New Jersey, who chastised the crowd, saying:

“Warrior Mumtaz Qadri kissed the noose in love for Prophet Mohammed When Qadri was in jail for five years. What did we do? What effort did we make (for his release? Why did we not go where he was being held? Qadri did everything for us and for the love of Islam and we could not even stand by him? People say Islam teaches peace…..I say Islam teaches us ghairat (honor). Who will now stand up?”

Ali also praised another killer, Tanveer Ahmad, a British-Pakistani man who stabbed to death Asad Shah, another British-Pakistani in Scotland. Shah, from the Ahmadi sect, made posts on social media that Ahmad deemed blasphemous.

Speaking about Ahmad, Ali said,

“Our warrior Tanveer, who is sitting in a jail in Scotland, I don’t know if someone knows or not, when that Mirzai (Ahmadi) spoke his ‘sacrilegious rubbish,’ he went there and stabbed him 27 times, and the police arrested him and right now he is in a jail in Scotland. So if we just take a step forward, angels will automatically come for our help. But what Mumtaz Qadri has done is something amazing, he has surpassed all these warriors.”

Another speaker, Baltimore-based Imam Ijaz Hussain, stated, “Mumtaz Qadri was not a terrorist and whoever says, “We are with you O Prophet” cannot be a terrorist.”

Hussain praised the American system of free speech, saying it allowed events such as these to be held:

“We have some freedoms here (in the U.S.) which we do not even have in other Muslim countries. This is the beauty of this country. There are some countries where we can’t even praise the prophet, we can’t celebrate the Day of Imam Hussain. This country has freedom of religion, and this is the beauty of this country.”

clarionproject.org/news/maryland-mosque-memorializes-islamist-assassin

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Muslim team distributes books, talks to people about Islam in Venezuela / Pics

February 26, 2017

Daily Advocacy team in several cities in Venezuela distributed pamphlets and books for free to people and talk to them about the mercy of Islam and invited them to embrace.

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Daily Advocacy activities team in several cities in Venezuela distributed pamphlets and books for free to people and talk to them about the mercy of Islam and invited them to embrace.

Daily activities and constant for the center of Tawasul Venezuela is spreading the principles of Islam through books and brochures, responding to queries and questions from the audience in various party in Venezuela.

The People was very interested and made a lot of questions.

en.abna24.com/news/america/muslim-team-distributes-books-talks-to-people-about-islam-in-venezuela_814214.html

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Top US commander for Mideast visits SDF in Syria

February/26/2017

The top U.S. military commander for the Middle East made a secret trip to northern Syria on Feb. 24 to meet a U.S.-backed alliance fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), officials said.

General Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Central Command (Centcom), met with leaders from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Founded in October 2015, the SDF is an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters that has seized swathes of territory from ISIL across northern Syria.

Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing People’s Protection Units (YPG), which make up a major part of the SDF, as terrorists groups and has been demanding the U.S. to cut all its support to the group.

The United States has special operations forces advising the SDF on the ground in Syria, but no combat units.

The trip, unannounced for security reasons, was first such visit under the new U.S. administration, but the third in a series of meetings with the SDF.

SDF spokesman Talal Sello told AFP that Votel “discussed the increase of coordination and support [to the SDF] in the era of Donald Trump.”

“There were promises of heavy weapons in future stages,” Sello said.

However, Votel’s spokesman Colonel John Thomas stressed that the general did not make any specific promises about any type of weaponry.

“During the conversation, General Votel understood their need for logistical support and resources that may be greater than what they have been provided up until now,” Thomas said.

“While assuring them that this was a need he understands, he did not make specific promises.”

In an online statement, Sello said Votel had met with several SDF commanders.

“The results were positive. We discussed the developments in the Euphrates Rage campaign and shared military matters,” Sello said.

He described the meeting as “confirmation of U.S. support for our forces.”

An SDF source told AFP the visit lasted four hours.

According to a senior source in the SDF, “Votel confirmed the coalition’s commitment to protecting Manbij from any attacks waged by Turkey or supported by it, as part of its previous commitment to protecting the area.”

Manbij is a city in Aleppo province.

“We did not discuss opening corridors for Turkish-backed forces to enter areas under our control,” the source said.

But Thomas said that, while Votel supports a peaceful transition of Manbij to a “thriving city,” he did not say if the United States would stop any supposed Turkish move towards it.

Votel “understands that open communication on all sides is the best way to prevent any unfortunate change in the progress that Manbij has made”, Thomas said.

On Feb. 23, Votel told journalists travelling with him in the Middle East that more U.S. troops might be needed in Syria, although he stressed local forces would be the primary force.

“I am very concerned about maintaining momentum,” Votel said, in comments reported by the New York Times and other outlets.

“It could be that we take on a larger burden ourselves.”

hurriyetdailynews.com/top-us-commander-for-mideast-visits-sdf-in-syria----.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110183&NewsCatID=352

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India

Hindus Speak Up For Silent Mosque In Ahmedabad

TNN | Updated: Feb 26, 2017

AHMEDABAD: The call to prayer from the mosque near Bakri Pol in the communally sensitive Kalupur area is no ordinary azaan. Heard for the first time in 30 years in March 2016, it signifies the voice of compassion and respect drowning out hatred. Kalupur, a patchwork of Hindu and Muslim ghettos, was bloodied by communal riots in 1984. Since the nearly 100-year-old mosque is located in a Hindu locality — near Ramji, Nagdalla Hanuman, and Shesh Narayan temples — Muslims began to avoid it to avert troubles. Polarization intensified during the riots that broke out after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1993. By then the Kalupur mosque was overrun with foliage and had begun to crumble.

Paradoxically, after the communal riots of 2002, which had riven Gujarat, residents around the mosque were moved by a collective, voluntary desire to save it. Hindus reached out to their Muslim brethren, cleared the wild foliage, and contributed resources for repairs. The mosque reopened in March 2016. A year later, people in the neighbourhood affirm that the reconstruction effort has cemented bonds between communities. So much so, one set of keys to the mosque has been entrusted to Hindus.

"One set of keys is with Poonam Parekh and Kaushik Rami who sell flowers near the mosque," said Aziz Gandhi, social worker in Dariapur. Rami said he lights incense sticks twice a day near the mosque. "We are happy that the mosque that was closed for over three decades is now filled with devotees," he said. The priest of the Nagdalla Hanuman Temple, Chandrakant Sharma, said: "With Haji Usmangani Mansuri and other trustees of the mosque, we renovated the structure." He said that previously Muslim youths had to go to other mosques to offer namaaz. "Now, they they don't have to venture out of their locality," Sharma said. Hamidullah Shaikh, a Dariapur resident, said: "Our Hindu brothers helped us bring labourers to renovate the mosque." It appears a major breach in society has been lovingly repaired.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/hindus-speak-up-for-silent-mosque/articleshow/57350576.cms

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A Muslim father and son engrave the headstones at one of India's oldest Jewish cemeteries

Feb 26, 2017

Mohammad Abdul Yaseen has carved the gravestones at the main Jewish cemetery in Mumbai, India, since 1969. (Shashank Bengali / Los Angeles Times)

Mohammad Abdul Yaseen sat cross-legged beside a tree, hunched over a smooth marble slab. He moved a metal straightedge into position, making a gentle scraping sound, and drew a small line on the marble with a pencil.

He has done this for half a century, carefully etching the stones that mark the final resting places for members of Mumbai’s dwindling Bene Israel Jewish community.

Behind him, the small graveyard unfolded across a quiet grove of trees in the city’s central business district. More than 6,500 tombstones, most adorned with the Star of David, rose in neat rows from patches of uneven grass. The blare of car horns and thrum of construction crews, the persistent soundtrack of India’s financial capital, seemed to fade inside the tidy cemetery.

Abdul Yaseen, 76, adjusted his glasses and wiped his brow with the sleeve of a crisp button-down shirt that he wore above a loose-fitting cotton dhoti. A small notebook lay in front of him, a stone holding open the page that bore the English epitaph that a family had asked him to sketch, for an 84-year-old woman who died in January:

“Till memory lives

and life departs,

You will live

forever in our hearts.”

At the top of the stone Abdul Yaseen had written a brief prayer in Hebrew. As a boy growing up in the northern agricultural state of Uttar Pradesh, he did not learn how to read or write in any language. When he moved to Mumbai in 1968 to look for work, he met Aaron Menasse Navgavikar, a Bene Israel Jew who engraved the community’s tombstones and was looking for an assistant.

Working with Navgavikar, Abdul Yaseen learned not only Marathi, the language of Mumbai and its surroundings, but also Hindi, English and Hebrew. When Navgavikar moved to Israel in the 1970s, Abdul Yaseen took over the practice.

He arrives at the cemetery, marked by a blue sign along a metal archway, around 9 a.m. and works until 1 p.m., except on Fridays, when he leaves earlier in order to attend prayers at his mosque.

Abdul Yaseen is an unassuming symbol of Mumbai’s polyglot heritage: a Muslim engraving Jewish headstones in a city that, like the rest of the country, is overwhelmingly Hindu. Although tensions between Hindus and Muslims have sometimes devolved into communal violence in India, there is less strife surrounding the smaller Jewish and Christian communities.

“India should always be mixed like this,” Abdul Yaseen said. “It doesn’t matter that I am Muslim. It only matters that the community has taken us in and treated us well.”

He brought his son, Islam, into the trade. Now it is the younger man, 53, who operates the heavy stone cutter and chisels the stone by hand. Abdul Yaseen’s body has grown frail, though his hands remain steady enough to sketch out the letters, which he does with the precision and concentration of a surgeon.

Their work may not pass to another generation. The Bene Israel Jews, who have lived along India’s western coast for two millennia, numbered 20,000 in the 1940s. But with India’s independence in 1947 and the creation of Israel the following year, many began migrating. There are roughly 2,000 Jews left in Mumbai and the surrounding state of Maharashtra, and fewer than 5,000 in all of India.

Islam led a visitor to the oldest grave marker at the cemetery, a simple white slab erected in 1927, and more recently encased in protective concrete. In Hebrew and Marathi, it memorializes Levy Isaac Charikar, who died almost exactly 90 years ago, at the age of 5.

Nowadays, Abdul Yaseen and his son get requests for only two or three headstones every month. Occasionally, a Christian church in one of Mumbai’s suburbs will give them some work. Hindus cremate their dead and Muslim graves rarely feature elaborate markers, so the market for their expertise is limited.

Abdul Yaseen, too, has been invited by community members to move to Israel, where he could continue to work. His wife died 15 years ago and his children — another son and two daughters — all have families of their own.

But he has not seriously considered leaving. He has never been outside India. These days, his life is confined to his small apartment, the cemetery and a mosque, all just minutes from one another on his bicycle.

“I’m as good as retired,” he said.

Islam, who joined the trade at age 19, has his father’s fine, slicked back hair and solemn eyes. Sweat gathered on his forehead as he maneuvered the stone cutter, noisily carving the granite into small squares that would adorn the 84-year-old woman’s grave.

His two sons never gave a thought to working at the graveyard. One got into a four-year training program at an outsourcing company that handles technical support for U.S. businesses. Another works as an engineer in Saudi Arabia and was recently married. With pride, Islam said his son had taken his bride on a honeymoon to Singapore and Malaysia.

“With his own money,” he said, smiling. “That is what boys these days want to do. We worked with our hands so that we could educate them, but it doesn’t mean we should do this forever.”

latimes.com/world/la-fg-india-jewish-cemetery-2017-story.html

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Kerala jihadist believed to have been killed in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar district

February 26, 2017

The family of Hafesudheen Theke Koleth, a Kerala resident believed to have left the country to live in Islamic State-controlled territory in Afghanistan’s war-torn Nangarhar district, has received information that he has been killed, police and intelligence sources have told The Indian Express. Family members learned of the death through a Telegram instant message sent to them by another Kerala jihadist living in Nangarhar on Sunday morning.

Hafesudheen, a resident of Padanna in Kerala’s Kasaragod who turned 24 last year, was part of a group of at least 25 Kerala residents known to have travelled together to Nangarhar, telling friends and family that they wished to participate in building what they considered to be a truly Islamic society.

“Alhamdulliah, Kabar adakki [Praise be to God, he has attained martyrdom”, the message read. “We are waiting for our turn… insha’Allah [God willing)”. “Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties: for the price theirs shall be the paradise”, it concludes quoting a passage from the Quran.

The message was sent by one-time hotel manager Ashfak Majeed Kallukettiya Purayil, who is now thought to be in Nangarhar with his wife Shamsiya Kuriya and small child. It said Hafesudheen had been killed in a drone strike.

Indian Doctor Narrates His 2.5-Year Ordeal In ISIS Captivity

Following his arrival in Nangarhar, Hafesudheen had sent a chat message to his family expressing his happiness: “I am now get the jannat [paradise], here no tax, Sharia law, nobody here catching me, very good place”.

He is the first member of the group, which includes four children, known to have been killed.

Indian intelligence and diplomatic sources in Kabul said Nangarhar had seen intense fighting between Afghan forces and the Islamic State and recent weeks, but that they had no confirmation of whether Hafesudheen was among the dead. “Things are very chaotic on the ground”, one intelligence official said. “There’s simply no way of verifying the identities of individual dead”.

Nangarhar Governor Gulab Mangal said last week that the country’s army had killed at least 34 Islamic State insurgents in air and ground attacks carried out in Nangarhar’s Dih Bala district. The slain, Mangal said, “included several foreigners” Another 17 Afghan soldiers were killed in Islamic State strikes on military check-points.

Last year, Hafesudheen had told his family that he was travelling to Calicut to join a Quran study circle. Two days later, however, he informed them that he was going on to Sri Lanka, to study at a seminary there.

By that time, National Investigations Agency sources say, he had already travelled with the group on a legitimate Indian passport, J0113124, on an Emirates flight from Mumbai to Dubai on June 5, and then on to Iran, and before disappearing into Afghanistan.

Hafesudheen had been among several of the Kerala Islamic State migrants profiled by The Indian Express earlier this month. In brief phone call to the family, his mother Khadeeja Hakim said, he had promised her they would meet in heaven. “The words get stuck in my throat,” she said, speaking from behind a half-closed door. “I cried when he last called”.

He sent several chat messages afterwards. “Sleep doesn’t help when it’s your soul that’s tired,” one reads.

The young man’s conversations with his, Abdul Hakim, were more troubled. “My own son called me a kafir [unbeliever]. Radicalism changed him completely”, said Abdul Hakim. “”I am an Indian, and I don’t even wish to see my son’s corpse”

Hakim said his son began turning to neo-fundamentalist religious practices two years ago, when he came into contact with engineer-turned-proselytiser Abdul Rashid, the central figure who put together the group that migrated to Kerala. Rashid is also now thought to be in Nangarhar with his second wife, Sonia Sebastian, also known as Ayesha, a recent convert to Islam.

Rashid’s, Yasmeen Mohammad Zahid, was charged by the National Investigations Agency earlier this year, after being arrested while seeking to board a flight to Afghanistan.

The group includes several highly qualified individuals, who worked as doctors, nurses and engineers—skills some of the circle have told family are now practicing in Nangarhar.

However, one member, Mohammad Marwan, had texted family to say he intended to engage in military training, asserting he he would come back only after he “finishes work with IS to help the persecuted Muslims in Kashmir, Gujarat and Muzaffarnagar”.

Shihaz Kettiyapuraiyil, and his wife Ajmala, two other members of the group, have had a child while in Afghanistan, as have Ejaz Kettiyapuraiyil, his wife Rahaila, who was three months pregnant when the left the country. Bexin Vincent and his wife have also had a child while in Nangarhar.

indianexpress.com/article/india/islamic-state-kerala-jihadist-believed-to-be-killed-in-afghanistans-nangarhar-district-4544740/

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Gujarat ATS foils ‘lone wolf’ attack, arrest two on suspicion of links to Islamic State

Written by Satish Jha | New Delhi | Updated: February 26, 2017

The Gujarat Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) Sunday claimed to have foiled a lone wolf attack by two brothers who are suspected to have links to the international terror group, Islamic State (IS). According to highly placed sources the duo was planning to attack a famous temple in Surendranagar. This is the first such arrest made in the state which may point towards a possible network of IS operatives, if the links are found to be true. ATS teams picked up the two brothers, identified as Wasim Ramodia and Naem Ramodia, from Rajkot and Bhavnagar. Both are engaged in scrap business. Police claimed to have discovered bomb-making manuals in their possession. They also claimed to have recovered crude bombs, gun powder, masks, mobile phones computers as well as jihadi literature from them.

Briefing the media on the arrests, Joint CP of Crime Branch, IK Bhatt confirmed that they were planning “lone wolf” attack. An officer told The Indian Express that the suspects have been under surveillance for the last two years. They were allegedly using social media and messaging apps such as Twitter, Facebook and Telegram to stay in touch with IS operatives abroad. “They are under watch for the past two years along with dozens of other such people who were openly supporting IS on social media. The intelligence agencies had also been watching these youths even since IS emerged as a major terror threats,” the officer said.  Sources said that the brothers have pursued computer science as undergraduates. Their father Arif Ramodia was associated with the Saurashtra cricket association.

So far, IS has not been able to gain a foothold in India. However, a few cases of people leaving the country to fight for IS in Syria and Iraq have been reported in the past. Also, no major attacks have taken place in India which were planned by IS members. On the other hand, in neighboring countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan, the IS terrorists have carried out major attacks killing scores of people, the most recent being the suicide bombing at Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sindh.

Earlier, on February 14, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had arrested a Kerala resident,  Mouinudheen Parakadavath, in a case related to alleged IS module operating in the state. Moinudheen was picked up from Indira Gandhi International Airport after he arrived here from Abu Dhabi. Last year, the ATS of Rajasthan had arrested an alleged Islamic State operative in Sikar district who was involved in collecting and transferring funds for the terror organisation from Dubai.

Meanwhile, Indian doctor K Ramamurthy who landed in India after being rescued from the clutches of IS, said that the terror outfit is keeping an eye on the development of education and economy in India and wants and wants to push their ideology in the country. Rescued from the Islamic State prison on February 14, Dr Ramamurthy told ANI that the members of the terror outfit are educated youngsters and know everything about India’s growth.

“These IS people are well-educated youngsters and they do know about India and its development and how it has developed in education, economy and everything else. They are interested in India. But, I did understand that they wanted to spread the ideology of their nation to other parts of the world, including India,” he said.

with inputs from ANI

indianexpress.com/article/india/gujarat-anti-terrorism-squad-arrests-two-persons-with-alleged-links-to-islamic-state-isis-4544396/

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Indian doctor rescued from ISIS captivity in Libya

TNN & Agencies | Updated: Feb 26, 201

NEW DELHI: An Indian doctor, who has been rescued from the Islamic State captive, has on Sunday thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, National Security Agency of India and other senior officials for facilitating his release from Libya.

Dr Ramamurthy Kosanam, a native of Andhra Pradesh's Krishna district, said he would never forget the help done by the Indian authorities to get him free from the captivity of the terrorist group.

"They (ISIS) used to force me to get into operation theaters, but I never did any surgery or stitches for them," Kosanam was quoted as saying by ANI.

"These ISIS people are well-educated youngsters and they do know about India and its development and how it has developed in education, economy and everything else. They are interested in India. But, I did understand that they wanted to spread the ideology of their nation to other parts of the world, including India," he said.

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Talking about ISIS cruelty he went on to say, "ISIS people forced us to watch videos of what they did to Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and other places. It was bit difficult to watch them."

"In a camp in the city, they requested me to come and work in their hospitals. But since I was 61 then I had back pain and right leg nerve pain. I told them I was an old man and I couldn't stand for more than 15 minutes at a stretch. I told them I am medically trained, not surgically trained. So they pulled me out of the Mahakama jail and put in another. I saw all kinds of attacks there," the doctor said.

Talking about the cadres of the terror group, Ramamurthy added that all the members of the outfit were extremely dedicated towards their organisation and were strictly following each and every rule.

"The working members of the organisation are mostly youngsters. I saw suicide bombers as young as 10 year old. There were members beyond the age of 65 too," he said.

Kosanam was abducted by ISIS in Libya about 18 months ago.

"We have rescued Dr Ramamurthy Kosanam in Libya. Dr. Kosanam has suffered a bullet injury. We are bringing him to India shortly," External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said, last week.

"With this, we have rescued all the six Indians abducted there. I appreciate the good work done by our mission there," Sushma said in a series of tweet messages.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/indian-doctor-rescued-from-isis-captivity-in-libya/articleshow/57353095.cms

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2002 Godhra riots: ‘There were 20 Muslim families in the village, one by one they all left’

Written by Satish Jha | Published:February 26, 2017

On January 31, following a prolonged trial, an additional district court in Kalol acquitted all the 26 accused in the case. The order said most of the eyewitnesses had turned hostile and a “compromise was struck between the accused and the victims”. While no written documents were submitted, the court accepted the oral information given “about the amount (not mentioned in the order) of compensation given to the victims by the accused”.

The accused had been booked for “rioting, attacking Muslims, burning their houses and destroying properties” and for insulting “their religion by damaging the (Haji Pir Ki) dargah”.

One of the eyewitnesses who the court said had turned hostile was Sakina, who is in her early 60s. She denies this, and both she and Hasinaben, who is a few years younger, say they are still fighting the case. “Woh log 10-20 hazaar de kar samjhauta karna chahte the. Maine mana kar diya (The accused wanted us to compromise by giving us

Rs 10,000-20,000. I refused),” Sakina says, adding that while she has also heard there has been a compromise, she doesn’t know of anyone accepting money to settle the case.

The dargah was one of the places attacked by rioters on the night of February 28, 2002, a day after the fire on the Sabarmati Express at Godhra railway station. Sakina and Hasinaben’s home was destroyed. While the two sisters shifted to the dargah, their brother left Paliyad with his family and their father took shelter at a relief camp, where he later died.

“A mob of 500 to 1,000 men barged in. They thrashed my brother. They destroyed all the houses and robbed this dargah,” Sakina says. “Bees ke kareeb ghar the Musalmanon ke, dheere-dheere sabne gaon chhod diya (There were around 20 families of Muslims in the village, one by one they all left).”

Now the sisters look after the dargah and live on the alms offered by the stray visitors. Hasinaben has difficulty speaking since a paralytic attack some years ago.

Sakina says they are determined to stay. “All our relatives and people from our community left the village soon after the riots. This is our land, our village. We are just trying to keep this place intact. We won’t go anywhere,” she says.

‘Accused No. 1’ in the riot case, Natvarbhai Kalidas Patel, who is among the 26 acquitted, is now the village sarpanch. When The Sunday Express visited, Patel was not at the village.

Rasik K Patel, whose son Nitin, 21, is among those acquitted, says he is not surprised at the court order. “The entire case was bogus and full of lies. Gaon walon ne milke unko samjhaya ki shanti ke liye samjhauta kar lo (The villagers convinced the victims to compromise for peace),” he says.

Vinod S Patel, 42, also acquitted, claims he had no role in the violence. “They dragged my name in just because I was known to them.”

Another accused, Govind Patel, is now chairman of Kalol Nagrik Sahkari Bank, College Road, Kalol.

A villager, Lalobhai Raval, claims the accused paid Rs 2.5 lakh to the dozen or so victims. “I have nothing to do with the case but I attended most of the court hearings,” he says.

The advocate who represented some of the victims expressed disappointment at how things had turned out. “The victims have not been consistent. When I learnt about the compromise, I left the case.” Requesting not to be quoted, he said, “The case was pending since long and the victims are very poor. And that’s the reason they chose to compromise. They couldn’t have fought the legal battle on their own.”

Activist Prita Jha, who was helping the victims, says she too withdrew after hearing about the compromise. “This is the biggest problem with the criminal justice system, and this is not restricted to the 2002 riots-related cases but other serious offences,” Jha says.

One of those who left the village following the 2002 violence was Sakina’s niece Madina Fakir, then 15, who now lives with her family at a relief camp in Nandasan in Mehsana district, about 50 km away. “As news of rioting came from various places, our Hindu neighbours told us to hide in the fields. We spent a day in fear. The mob arrived at midnight. They tried to kill my father Chandmiyan; he was hit with a sword in his left eye,” says Madina.

Her mother Hasinaben says Madina was about to get married in March 2002 and they had arranged the money, and bought all the jewellery. “The rioters took away everything.”

Around 34 other families affected by the 2002 riots live at this relief camp. Hasinaben says they feel reassured living among Muslims. “I won’t go back. There is no mosque, madarasa or even a kabaristan (graveyard) in Paliyad. We survive on alms. We can’t fight legal battles,” she says.

Madina’s husband Jaan Mohammed — the two finally got married a year after the riots — says principles can only take them so far. “We can compromise with the accused if we get a good amount, so that we can end this poverty. Or else we will keep fighting.”

indianexpress.com/article/india/2002-godhra-riots-there-were-20-muslim-families-in-the-village-one-by-one-they-all-left-4543950/

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Can Mahesh Bhatt Overturn India's Ban On Pakistani Talent?

 

The filmmaker is inviting Pakistani singers to contribute to his latest cross-border peace project

You can trust Mahesh Bhatt to be one of the first from Bollywood to challenge the ban on Pakistani talent.

The filmmaker, who has been a strong supporter of Pakistan-India cultural exchange, previously spoke against the ban and now is putting his money where his mouth is.

For his latest project Milne Do, a play on the theme of cross-border peace, Mahesh Bhatt has invited Pakistani artistes Ali Zafar and Shafqat Amanat Ali to sing, reports DNA India's Subhash K Jha. According to his report, Bhatt made a call to Ali Zafar offering him a song. Ali responded favourably. So did Shafqat Amanat Ali who has agreed to contribute a song to Mahesh Bhatt’s endeavour free of cost.

Also read: It was reckless of Pakistani cinemas to indulge in politics, says Mahesh Bhatt

Delhi-based actor Imran Zahid, who is working with Mahesh Bhatt on this project, confirmed the news, “Every Pakistani artiste Bhatt saab has approached has responded enthusiastically. Shafqat Amanat Ali’s manager said he doesn’t want any money for this song. We are also working on getting Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Atif Aslam on board.”

Zahid believes the ban is inconsequential and will not affect their plans to use Pakistani talent.

“We are going to use the voices of the Pakistani artistes for a play called Milne Do, which will be staged in Delhi on June 8 and Mumbai on June 23. Furthermore the Indian government has clarified that it has not banned Pakistani artistes. When the Government has taken a clear stand on the issue, what chance do the protesters stand?”

“Bhatt saab is not new to protests," he continued. "Dialogue with Pakistan must re-start on a cultural level. The Delhi government is supporting our endeavour here in Delhi and in West Bengal Mamata Banerjee has extended support to our mission.”

However, BJP spokesperson Shaina NC doesn't agree. “Relations with Pakistan have deteriorated to such an extent that there is a move now to declare Pakistan a terror state on an international level. Given the current crisis I don’t think we can have Pakistani artistes coming here.”

images.dawn.com/news/1177164/can-mahesh-bhatt-overturn-indias-ban-on-pakistani-talent

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South Asia

Taliban chief’s strange spring message ‘Everyone should plant a tree’

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Feb 26 2017

The supreme leader of the Taliban group has issued a new statement on upcoming new solar year, calling its fighters and the Afghan people to plant a tree.

Claiming that the group is involved in fight for the freedom of the country, Mawlavi Haibatullah Akhundzada said the group is utilizing all the available resources for the betterment of the country and the Afghan nation.

“The Islamic Emirate – just as it is actively engaged in a struggle against foreign invaders and their hirelings for the attainment of true peace and security – works within the limits of its resources for the prosperity, economic welfare, development and self-reliance of its beloved countrymen,” he claimed in his statement.

Akhundzada further added “Therefore as spring approaches, it calls on its Mujahideen and every individual of its devout nation to plant one or several fruit or non-fruit trees for the beautification of earth and for the benefit of Almighty Allah’s creations.”

“They must understand that with tree plantation, they would be following the practical footsteps of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) and showing appreciation for the blessing of Allah Almighty by developing the earth and protecting the environment,” he added.

The latest statement by Akhundzada comes as the group is blamed for the majority of the destruction and civilian casualties in the country.

According to the latest report by the UN mission in Afghanistan, the anti-government armed militant groups, particularly the Taliban group is behind the two thirds of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

khaama.com/tliban-chiefs-strange-spring-message-everyone-should-plant-a-tree-02982

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Ghani Confers High state Medal on NATO Senior Civilian Representative

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Feb 26 2017

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani conferred high state medal of Ghazni Amanullah Khan on NATO Senior Civilian Representative Ismail Aramaz for his services in supporting Afghanistan’s stability.

The Office of the President, ARG Palace, said President Ghani met with Mr. Aramaz in the Presidential Palace on Saturday evening.

The two sides emphasized on continued cooperation between the Afghan government and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

President Ghani thanked Mr. Aramaz for his services and efforts while serving as the senior civilian representative of the alliance, noting that his term is due to end in the near future.

He also conferred the high state medal of Ghazi Amanullah Khan on Mr. Aramaz to appreciate his efforts for attracting international support to the country besides helping to maintain peace and stability in Afghanistan.

In his turn, Mr. Aramaz thanked President Ghani for conferring the high state medal on him and vowed continued support and cooperation with the Afghan government.

Mr. Aramaz was previously serving as the Ambassador of Turkey to Afghanistan and assumed the charge of the NATO senior civilian representative to Afghanistan late in 2014.

khaama.com/ghani-confers-high-state-medal-on-nato-senior-civilian-representative-02980

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42 civilians rescued from ISIS captivity in Nangarhar province

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Feb 26 2017

At least forty two civilians were rescued from the captivity of the loyalists of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group in eastern Nangarhar province.

According to the local security officials, the civilians were abducted from the vicinity of Pacher Agam district around four months ago.

The officials further added that the civilians were rescued due to the efforts of the local government and security officials.

Provincial security chief General Syed Aqa Gul Rohani condemned the act by the loyalists of the terror group for taking ordinary civilians as hostages.

He said the Afghan forces are fully capable to confront ISIS loyalists and vowed that Nangarhar will be turned into their graveyard.

Nangarhar has been among the relatively calm provinces following the fall of the Taliban regime but the anti-government armed militant groups including the loyalists of ISIS terrorist group have increased their insurgency activities in some of its remote parts during the recent years.

In the meantime, the Afghan forces are busy conducting counter-terrorism operations in this province with the support of the US forces who resumed their operations under a broader role granted by the Obama administration earlier last year.

khaama.com/42-civilians-rescued-from-isis-captivity-in-nangarhar-province-02978

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Taliban shadow governor among 21 killed in counter-terrorism operations

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Feb 26 2017

A shadow provincial governor of the Taliban group was killed along with at least 20 others during the counter-terrorism operations, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said Sunday.

According to a statement by MoD, at least twenty three militants were also wounded during the same operations.

The statement further added that the operations were conducted in the past 24 hours in Nangarhar, Kapisa, Paktia, Ghazni, Logar, Khost, Bamyan, Uruzgan, Zabul, Baghlan, and Helmand provinces.

The Taliban shadow governor killed during the operations was in charge of the group for southern Uruzgan province, MoD said, adding that he was identified as Sheikh Hamza.

The ministry also confirmed the death of a top Taliban leader Haji Abdullah whose elimination as confirmed by the provincial government in Bamyan.

According to MoD, the operations were jointly conducted by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in coordination with the Afghan Air Force and the artillery units of the Afghan national army.

This comes as the Afghan security forces are busy conducting their counter-terrorism operations as part of the Shahfaq-2 military operations being conducted to suppress the insurgency activities of the militant groups.

khaama.com/taliban-shadow-governor-among-21-killed-in-counter-terrorism-operations-02984

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Unity government has clear definition for enemies and friends: Abdullah

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Feb 26 2017

The national unity government has a clear definition for friends and foes, the chief executive of the government Abdullah Abdullah said Sunday.

He made the remarks during a meeting with the youths and activists of the Afghanistan Intellectuals Process.

Clarifying the stance of the government in fight against terrorism, Abdullah said a clear definition for the friends and foes currently exist as compared to the previous administration led by Hamid Karzai where there were no definitions for the same.

Abdullah further added that the government of national unity considers an enemy as an enemy and a friend as a friend.

According to Abdullah, the government is committed to continue fighting terrorism based on the definitions created by the government.

He said all necessary preparations are in place to respond to the threats and conspiracies of the enemy, emphasizing that the government and national defense and security forces are prepared to defend their nation and soil.

In regards to the role of the youths in the system, Abdullah said the youths of the country continue to create barriers against the enemies of the country with their commitments and devotions.

Abdullah also pointed towards the modification of the national constitution and said the only to move forward is the establishment of a national grand assembly, Loya Jirga.

khaama.com/unity-government-has-clear-definition-for-enemies-and-friends-abdullah-02983

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Pakistan

Lahore Literary Festival cut down to single day due to security issues

February 26, 2017

Plans for Lahore Literary Festival 2017 did not go as well as expected. According to news in the Express Tribune, the fifth edition of the Lit Fest, originally planned as a three-day event, was confined to a single-day due to security concerns.

“The revised, robust program celebrates the written word, the arts and activism from Pakistan and abroad,” said Razi Ahmed, founder and CEO of LLF. Adding, “We are certain Lahore’s audiences will be thrilled with our latest edition.”

The event took place on February 25 and also included around nine book launches as part of the sessions.

indianexpress.com/article/world/lahore-literary-festival-cut-down-to-single-day-due-to-security-issues-4544202/

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Four killed, 600 arrested during crackdown in Punjab

February 26th, 2017

LAHORE: Four terrorism suspects have been killed and around 600 have been taken into custody during crackdowns jointly conducted by the Counter Terrorism Department of the Punjab Police and the Punjab Rangers in different parts of Layyah and Rawalpindi districts of Punjab.

The law-enforcement agencies also claimed to have seized weapons and banned literature during the crackdowns.

According to a news release issued on Saturday by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the official mouthpiece of the military, the crackdowns were undertaken under the recently launched Raddul Fassad operation by the army.

The news release said: “Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad continues across the country. Punjab Rangers conducted over 200 search operations in various areas of the Punjab including Karor, Layyah and Rawalpindi. Rangers have searched suspicious houses, madrassas and shops in both districts.”

The ISPR claimed that the four suspected terrorists were killed during an exchange of fire with security personnel. It said some Afghan nationals were among the arrested suspects.

Some suspects believed to be facilitators in the recent acts of terrorism in the country are also among the arrested people.

The ISPR said they belonged to the Jamatul Ahrar, a splinter group of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, which has claimed responsibility for some of the recent terrorist attacks in the country, including the one carried out outside the Punjab Assembly building in Lahore on Feb 13. Fifteen people, including two senior police officers, were killed and over 80 others injured in the attack carried out by a suicide bomber during a protest organised by chemists and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The arrested people have been taken to unspecified locations for interrogation.

A senior police official told Dawn that personnel of the Punjab Rangers and police had conducted an operation in Shiyan Wali village in Karor Lal Esan tehsil of Layyah district during which they had arrested four terrorism suspects and seized a rifle, flags with the insignia of a banned outfit and hate literature.

The Pakistan Army launched the Raddul Fassad operation after a series terror attacks in different parts of the country claimed lives of hundreds of people.

dawn.com/news/1317030/four-killed-600-arrested-during-crackdown-in-punjab

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Quetta police claim to foil 'major terror attack' as BDS defuses bomb

 

Police on Sunday claimed to have foiled a major terror plot as the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) defused a bomb found planted at Quetta's Sabzal Road area Sunday, police sources said.

The bomb weighing 5-6 kilograms was planted under a can and spotted by locals who informed the police, the sources added.

Traffic was halted and shops shuttered as the BDS arrived on the scene soon after and defused the bomb.

Security forces have been on high alert and reinvigorated nationwide intelligence operations as the country faces a fresh resurgence in terror attacks.

At least 88 people were killed and hundreds were injured when a bomb ripped through the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan this month ─ the deadliest amongst a series of attacks carried out by militants in recent weeks.

In January, six Frontier Corps personnel were injured in a bomb blast claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army in the western bypass area in Quetta.

According to officials, some militants planted an explosive device on a road linking the FC firing range area with the western bypass. The bomb went off when a vehicle carrying the FC soldiers was passing through the area.

dawn.com/news/1317108/quetta-police-claim-to-foil-major-terror-attack-as-bds-defuses-bomb

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Body parts of shrine ‘bomber’ preserved, says CTD

February 26th, 2017

KARACHI: Investigators have made some progress in the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine blast probe as a team of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) assigned with the job has collected 46 parts of the suspected bomber’s body, which have been preserved for further examination to ascertain his identity, a top official said on Saturday.

CTD SSP Omer Shahid Hamid, who is leading one of the investigation teams, speaking at a press conference and later on speaking to Dawn, said that DNA samples of the suspected attacker had been taken for identification purpose.

However, he regretted that if there had been a nationwide DNA database, it would have helped them to ascertain the identity of the bomber more easily.

Mr Hamid said three separate teams were working on the case — one was led by another CTD SSP, Pervez Chandio, and another by the district police of Jamshoro and Dadu.

He disclosed that several persons had been taken into custody by the CTD and the district police for interrogation but so far no ‘hard and fast’ evidence had emerged during the investigation.

The CTD SSP said they had some leads and were working on them. Mr Hamid said that since 2010, suspected militant Hafeez Brohi, or Pandrani, had been found involved in all terror acts in upper Sindh and that the police suspected his network’s involvement in the deadly bomb blast in Sehwan. He said Brohi had remained associated with the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.

“It did not mean that we are ruling out other options,” he added.

The CTD official said they were also questioning a detained suspect, Usman, who was arrested during a botched suicide bombing in Shikarpur recently.

Earlier, speaking at a press conference, Mr Hamid said the CTD team had arrested three suspected hitmen in Malir’s Jaffar-i-Tayyar Society.

“The held hitmen [have been] identified as Anwar Husain, Asif Mumtaz and Khurram Shaharyar” belonging to the “Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan,” claimed the CTD official.

dawn.com/news/1316999/body-parts-of-shrine-bomber-preserved-says-ctd

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70 Afghan nationals allowed to cross border

February 26th, 2017

QUETTA: Border authorities allowed over 70 Afghan nationals, including women and children, with passports and visas to cross into Afghanistan from the Friendship Gate at the Pak-Afghan border in Chaman on Saturday.

It was the first movement in nine days since the closure of the Chaman border.

“A group of 74 Afghans who were staying in Pakistan with legal documents, including visas and passports, crossed into Afghanistan,” a senior official posted at the Chaman border told Dawn.

“No one is allowed to cross into Pakistan from Afghanistan even if they have travelling documents,” sources said, adding that the government had not taken any decision about the re-opening of the border with Afghanistan and it would remain closed for an indefinite period due to security concerns.

Patients in serious condition were allowed to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan from treatment, added the sources.

“Two serious patients suffering from cancer came to Pakistan from across the border,” a Pakistani border official said, adding that patients suffering from ordinary diseases were not allowed to cross the border.

However, the Pak-Afghan border is completely closed to traffic.

Hundreds of long body trucks and other vehicles involved in transit of trade and Nato supplies for US troops stationed in Afghanistan are stuck at both sides of the border and will not be allowed to move until further notice.

The border authorities imposed Section 144 of the criminal procedure code at the border area to restrict movement and a shoot-on-sight order was issued in case of illegal crossing into or out of Pakistan.

dawn.com/news/1317041/70-afghan-nationals-allowed-to-cross-border

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Talks with Kabul on terror concerns underway

February 26th, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan have started negotiating a mechanism for addressing each other’s concerns over terrorism and can strike a deal next week.

This was disclosed by Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz at a media briefing on the upcoming Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) summit.

“Both sides have said that terrorism is a common enemy and both sides agree that there should be cooperation for dealing with this issue. We are holding discussions for a joint mechanism,” he said.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have long accused each other of harbouring terrorist sanctuaries, and the issue once again came into limelight after the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Pakistan, which claimed over 100 lives. Pakistan reacted angrily and closed border crossings with Afghanistan, demanded hand­over of 76 wanted terrorists and shelled terrorist hideouts on the Afghan side of the border.

Afghanistan responded by demanding handover of 85 leaders of Taliban, Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups and action against 32 alleged terrorist training centres, besides issuing a warning that continued violence would push it to seek international sanctions against “terrorist groups and their supporters”.

Aziz says proposals sent to Afghanistan, hopeful of a deal next week

Behind this public sparring, the two sides, acknowledging the need for cooperating on each other’s concerns, quietly started working on a proposal, which envisages engagement at multiple levels — military, intelligence, and political.

“Pakistan has sent its proposals to Afghanistan,” the adviser disclosed hours before he was to hold a telephonic conversation with Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar.

Last week Afghan presidency had asked Pakistan to implement an agreement on countering terrorism reached during last year’s quadrilateral talks also involving the US and China. “The mechanism devised in the quadrilateral meeting had provided a comprehensive document for grappling with terrorism and at this moment the urgency is being felt more than ever that Pak­istan should implement contents of that document,” it said, emphasising that Pakis­tan should act against Taliban and Haqqani sanctuaries on its soil.

Mr Aziz expressed the hope that an agreement could be formalised during a bilateral meeting with Afghanistan on the sidelines of the ECO summit. “Progress is expected,” he said.

Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani has confirmed his participation in the ECO summit, but Kabul has been holding back an announcement on either President Ashraf Ghani or Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah’s visit to Islamabad for attending the summit because of heightened tensions between the two countries over sanctuaries.

“We want Afghanistan to participate at higher level bec­ause other countries are taking part at higher level,” Mr Aziz told a questioner. “Afghanistan is still deliberating over its participation. Other seven countries have confirmed their participation at head of state/government level.”

The adviser defended closure of border crossings with Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks and said they would be opened soon.

“The over-riding consideration was security. It (the closure) was a temporary measure. We did not want to cause inconvenience to Afghan people,” he said.

Afghan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal said in a statement that Pakistan had agreed to partial relaxation for border crossing for the sick and those stranded on the other side. He said the crossings could be reopened in a few days, but warned his countrymen against travelling to Pakistan after resumption of cross-border traffic.

dawn.com/news/1317032/talks-with-kabul-on-terror-concerns-underway

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Europe

Islamic State planning attacks in Britain - anti-terrorism lawyer

February 26, 2017

Islamic State militants are planning "indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians" in Britain on a scale similar to those staged by the Irish Republican Army 40 years ago, the head of the country's new terrorism watchdog said.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph published on Sunday, Max Hill, the lawyer tasked with overseeing British laws on terrorism, said the militants were targeting cities and posed "an enormous ongoing risk which none of us can ignore".

"In terms of the threat that's represented, I think the intensity and the potential frequency of serious plot planning – with a view to indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians of whatever race or colour in metropolitan areas – represents an enormous ongoing risk that none of us can ignore," he said.

"So I think that there is undoubtedly significant ongoing risk which is at least as great as the threat to London in the 70s when the IRA were active on the mainland."

The IRA abandoned its armed struggle for an end to British control of Northern Ireland and unification with Ireland in a 1998 peace deal. More than 3,600 people were killed, including more than 1,000 members of the British security forces, during a sectarian conflict that began in the late 1960s.

British security officials have repeatedly said that Islamic State militants, who are losing ground in Iraq and Syria, will target Britain.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Dominic Evans)

in.reuters.com/article/mideast-crisis-britain-idINKBN1650E4

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Some 20 People Injured in Refugee Shelter Fire in Western Sweden

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- About 20 people were seriously injured in fire that occurred on Sunday in the largest shelter for refugees in the city of Vanersborg in Western Sweden, local police said in a statement.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, though the police do not rule out arson, Sputnik reported.

"The fire started on the third floor. The two people reportedly jumped from a window to avoid the smoke. Those two persons were taken to the hospital with injuries received due to the fall," police said adding that some 10-20 people suffered from smoke inhalation.

Earlier this week, riots erupted in the Stockholm’s Rinkeby district, which has one of the city’s highest immigrant populations. Rioters set fire to cars and looted local stores. Moreover, the Islamic Cultural Association of Kungalv, a cultural center also used as a mosque, in the Swedish southwestern city of Gothenburg, was set ablaze by unknown arsonists.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951208001241

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Africa

The Emir of Kano urges Muslims to unite, eschew hatred

By NAN           |   26 February 2017       

The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi II, has urged Muslims in the country to unite and eschew hatred.

The emir, who is also the National President General, Jama’at Faedat Tijjaninniya of Nigeria, gave the advice on Sunday in Ilorin at the inauguration of Ansarrudeen Attijanniyya, Kwara Chapter.

Sanusi, who was represented by the National Secretary-General of the society, Sayyidi Yahaya, said that Islam was not by show-off, but by its adherents having clear understanding and practise its tenets.

“Do not hate, Islam is not by hating others, as our mission propagating peace, unity and togetherness,” he said.

According to him, the objective of the society was to become the most peaceful group in Nigeria and bring out the best of humanity in people.

The emir also urged members to integrate to move the society forward.

He said that Ansariddeen Attijaniyya was established in Kawlakh in 1960 by the late Shaykh Ibrahim Inyas.

Also speaking, the Chief Host and Grand Khlifat of Ansarrudeen Attijanniyya in the state, Fadilat Abubakar Yusuf-Akeyede, said the occasion was meant for members to familiarise with one another and chart a way forward.

In his lecture entitled: “Entrepreneurship for Youths,” Mukadam Abdulganiy Akorede, called on Muslim youths to prioritise skill-based education and unite to develop their societies and contribute to world development.

He also advised them to shun restiveness and other negative tendencies and embrace entrepreneurship, saying that they had role play toward development of their immediate society.

The lecturer also called on the youth to adhere to the dictate of Islam and restiveness and other shun negative tendencies.

In his remarks, the state Coordinator of Ansariddeen Attijaniyya, Alhaji Abulrafih Ayinla, said the inauguration of the Kwara branch, showed clear demonstration of love by members of the society.

Highlight at the inauguration was the presentation of the certificate of incorporation to the state coordinator.

guardian.ng/news/sanusi-urges-muslims-to-unite-eschew-hatred/

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Four killed in pipeline blast in oil-producing Nigerian state

February 26, 2017

At least four people were killed following a gas pipeline explosion in Nigeria’s oil-producing south, a local official said today. “We have lost three people” to the explosion in Rivers state on Wednesday afternoon said Chris Idika, a clergy and community leader. He added that another body was discovered Thursday night “in the bush”.

However the co-owners of the pipeline, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) and Nigerian Agip Oil Company, denied the blast caused any deaths. The cause of the explosion remains under investigation, though local Evekwu community leader Ndudirim Amadi told AFP it may have been due to “high pressure on the pipeline”.

The communities are accusing the pipeline owners of neglect, saying they hadn’t visited the blast site to gauge the level of damage to the people and communities. “The incident has caused a lot of damage to the people of the area as farmlands and crops have been destroyed as a result of the explosion,” local chief Ndudirim Amadi.

NLNG external affairs manager Kudo Eresia-Ete responded in a statement, saying that “no injuries or fatalities have been reported”. “Emergency response procedures were immediately activated and the relevant authorities have been notified,” he said.

He added that communities closest to the area of the explosion were “advised not to approach the site in the interest is safety”. Attacks on pipelines by militant groups have slashed Nigeria’s oil production helping to tip the country into recession as it struggles to adapt to the low price of crude globally.

Militant attacks reduced Nigeria’s output in 2016 by one million barrels per day, resulting in a revenue loss of up to USD 100 billion (95 billion euros), according to the government. At the same time, attacks on oil and gas facilities cut production throughout last year. The naira currency has shed value and foreign currency has been in short supply, hitting investors.

The rise in the cost of living in Nigeria has led to increasing anger. Earlier this month, hundreds took to the street to protest against the government’s handling of the economic crisis.

indianexpress.com/article/world/four-killed-in-pipeline-blast-in-oil-producing-nigerian-state-4543839/

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Southeast Asia

Indonesia Looking for Long-Term Crude Purchase from Iran

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Indonesian officials announced that they are mulling purchase of crude oil from Iran through long-term supply agreements.

"Indonesia has purchased one million barrels of oil from Iran for a related compatibility check with its refineries and once the check is successful, Jakarta would proceed with sealing a long-term supply deal with Tehran in the near future," the visiting Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Darmin Nasution said in Tehran on Sunday.

Nasution, who is heading a major trade delegation to Tehran, said that Indonesia was also interested in purchasing liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from Iran.

In a relevant development in late December, Indonesian President Joko Widodo underlined that his country is seeking to take part in the development of two oilfields in Iran.

"I hope a team from here would soon make preparation to the Iranian counterparts that operation of the two oil fields would be awarded to Indonesia," President Joko said in a cabinet meeting discussing the result of his state visit to Iran in December.

The Indonesian president said in addition to the oil sector, the two countries could cooperate in the development of power plants and possible imports of liquefied petroleum gas at a more reasonable price from Iran.

He said during the visit, Indonesia and Iran agreed to build an oil refinery in Indonesia at a cost of US$5 billion with a processing capacity of 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951208001332

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Myanmar: Memorial service for assassinated Muslim lawyer

26.02.2017    

Some 10,000 mourners attend memorial service in Yangon to mark one month of the death of Muslim lawyer Ko Ni

State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday attends a memorial service in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, to mark one month of the death of a high-profile Muslim lawyer and legal advisor to the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD).

Suu Kyi has been criticized for her silence over the assassination of Ko Ni who is credited with the creating the position of State Counselor for her as she is barred from the presidency under the constitution drafted by former junta.

On Sunday, Aung San Suu Kyi led the tribute to Ko Ni at a memorial service held in front of some 10,000 mourners including senior government officials , public figures and family members.

"U Ko Ni´s death is a great loss for party and country," Suu Kyi said at the ceremony, using an honorific for older man.

Ko Ni, 65, was shot in the head at Yangon International Airport on January 29 as he returned from a visit to Indonesia as part of a Myanmar delegation of Muslim leaders and government officials. A taxi driver was also shot dead in the attack.

A gunman, Kyi Lin, was arrested by a group of taxi drivers shortly after the shooting. He was reportedly confessed hired with almost $60,000 by three ex-military officers to assassinate Ko Ni.

Police have arrested two more suspects, Aung Win Zaw and Zayar Phyo, but said main and fourth suspect, Aung Win Khaing, is still at large.

Myanmar’s Presidential Office previously said the incident appears to be an attempt to destabilize the state.

Military-appointed Home Affairs Minister Kyaw Swe said they were motivated by “extreme patriotism”, not part of a bigger conspiracy by the military or ultra-nationalist group, better known as Ma Ba Tha in its Myanmar acronym.

“When we were investigating, we discovered it was a case of patriotism,” Kyaw Swe told a press conference on Saturday.

“This extreme patriotism that led to assassinating him (Ko Ni), according to our findings,” he said.

Police chief Zaw Win said Saturday that the conclusion of the police investigation was that “the murder was because of their personal reasons.”

“Zay Yar Phyo and Aung Win Khine were angry at what U Ko Ni had said and done on social media,” said Zaw Win told the reporters.

“And they acted immaturely.”

aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/myanmar-memorial-service-for-assassinated-muslim-lawyer/759426

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Malaysia rolls out red carpet as Saudi king kicks off Asia tour

Reuters | Updated: Feb 26, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR/DUBAI: Malaysia welcomed Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Sunday for the start of a rare, month-long Asian tour, where the monarch will build ties and seek to draw more investments to the oil-rich gulf nation.

The visit is the first by a Saudi king to Malaysia in more than a decade, as the Arab nation courts Asian investors for the sale of a 5 percent stake in state firm Aramco in 2018, expected to be the world's biggest IPO.

Malaysian state television on Sunday showed live footage of the octogenarian king descending from his plane on an escalator flown in with his delegation. He was received by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak before being whisked away in a heavily guarded convoy for a state ceremony at Malaysia's parliament grounds.

The leader was greeted in parliament with a 21-gun salute, local media reported.

King Salman also plans to visit Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, China, the Maldives and Jordan "to meet with the leaders of those countries to discuss bilateral relations and regional and international issues of common concern," a royal court statement carried on Saudi Arabia's state media SPA reported.

Government sources with knowledge of the visit said a 600-strong delegation will accompany the king on his four-day visit to Malaysia, where cooperation on energy developments will be on the agenda.

State oil firm Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) and Saudi Aramco will sign an agreement on Tuesday to collaborate in Malaysia's Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project, a boost for the Southeast Asian economy which has been reeling under weak global oil prices.

Relations between the two countries have been in the spotlight over the last two years after Saudi Arabia was dragged into a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal at Malaysian state fund 1MDB, founded by Najib.

Najib has denied any wrongdoing in the money-laundering case which is now being investigated by several countries including the U.S, Switzerland and Singapore.

A Malaysian government inquiry found that nearly $700 million transferred to the Prime Minister's bank account in 2013 was a donation from the Saudi royal family and most of it was returned.

The last time a Saudi king visited Malaysia was in 2006, when King Abdullah, King Salman's half-brother and predecessor, flew in with a 300-member delegation.

"Saudi Arabian investment in Malaysia is expected to create thousands of jobs and we are proud that Malaysian firms have been chosen to undertake projects at some of the most prestigious locations in Saudi Arabia," Najib said in a statement on Friday.

Besides travelling with his own private escalator, King Salman has also flown in two personal cars. His entourage has also completely booked out three luxury hotels in Kuala Lumpur for the duration of the visit.

After Malaysia, the King is expected to travel to Jakarta and Bali in Indonesia from March 1-9 with an even larger entourage of 1,500 people, followed by a trip to Japan from March 12 to 14, officials in those countries said.

King Salman is expected to spend the last two weeks of March on holiday in the Maldives, according to a Maldives diplomat. Local newspaper Mihaaru reported that three resorts have been reserved for his stay.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/malaysia-rolls-out-red-carpet-as-saudi-king-kicks-off-asia-tour/articleshow/57355014.cms

 

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/syrian-cinematographer-khaled-khateeb-barred-from-attending-the-oscars/d/110211

 

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