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Islamic World News (22 Jan 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



The Darul Uloom Deoband, the Muslim Seminary, Has R-Day Tip for Students: Avoid Travelling















Muslim women look for their names at a voting precinct in Maguindanao, on the southern island of Mindanao. (AFP)

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The Darul Uloom Deoband, the Muslim Seminary, Has R-Day Tip for Students: Avoid Travelling

Detained Saudi Cleric, a Former Dean of the Islamic University In Medina, Dies After 'Poisoning' in Saudi Arabia

Bangladesh Ulema League: Ban NGOs, INGOs Working To Curb Child Marriage

Islam Wants People’s Personal Lives Private, Says Islamabad High Court

What’s Behind Autonomy Vote in the Philippines’ Muslim Mindanao?

Muslim-American Congresswomen, Somali-American Ilhan Omar, Prompt Saudi Alarm

Iran Air Force Chief Threatens To Make Israel ‘Vanish From Earth’

Islam, Judaism Leaders to Discuss Interfaith Ties with Pope Francis In Abu Dhabi

 

India

The Darul Uloom Deoband, the Muslim Seminary, Has R-Day Tip for Students: Avoid Travelling

ED Attaches Properties of Radical Islamist Preacher Zakir Naik Worth 16.40 Crores

31 Rohingyas stranded on India-Bangladesh border from Myanmar, says BSF

US pull out from Afghanistan can cost India dear: Report

Pakistan agencies threaten Indian mission staff, Delhi lodges protest

Terror funding case: NIA arrests man from Jaipur

47 IS terrorists tracked, brought back by security agencies

NIA makes fourth arrest in FiF terror funding case; a native of Kuchaman arrested after he arrived from Dubai

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Arab World

Detained Saudi Cleric, a Former Dean of the Islamic University In Medina, Dies After 'Poisoning' in Saudi Arabia

Egypt’s Grand Mufti Lauds Saudi Arabia’s Services To Muslims

‘Pope’s Visit to Help Build Values of Tolerance’

Several SDF Killed, 2 US Soldiers Wounded in Suicide Blast in Hasaka

Senior MP: Iraqi PM under US Pressure Not to Expel American Forces

Aleppo: Several Ankara-Backed Militants Killed in Kurdish Assault in Afrin

Syria downed over 30 Israeli cruise missiles, bombs: Russia

Egypt arrests 24 in demolition protests near pyramids

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South Asia

Bangladesh Ulema League: Ban NGOs, INGOs Working To Curb Child Marriage

AL rejects any connection with Ulama League

Afghan Air Force conduct night airstrikes in Uruzgan leaving 30 militants dead

7 Taliban militants killed, car bomb destroyed in separate coalition airstrikes

Senior Presidential Official Jailed For Violating Ethnic, Religious Equality

Taliban attack on Afghan security base kills over 100

Rohingya Muslim Group Fleeing India to Bangladesh Stuck On 'Zero Line'

3 terrorist networks busted in Kandahar province

Taliban hold talks with Khalilzad in Qatar, hours after attack on security base

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Pakistan

Islam Wants People’s Personal Lives Private, Says Islamabad High Court

Pakistan Quietly Drops Efforts for Fatwa against Afghan Taliban

Sindh Police Book Scores of PTM Workers, Leaders Under Terrorism Charges

Presence of US senator’s guard in PM meeting irks Senate panel

Opposition in Senate dismisses Sahiwal JIT as smokescreen

Pakistan invites Indian delegation to finalise Kartarpur agreement

5 arrested, dozens booked for dogfight

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Southeast Asia

What’s Behind Autonomy Vote in the Philippines’ Muslim Mindanao?

‘Ulema Protection’ Bill Draws Criticism

PAS chief Hadi Awang takes crack at Singapore in Malaysia by-election rally

‘Thaipusam shows Malaysians enjoy freedom of religion’

Indonesia president orders review of planned release of radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir

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North America

Muslim-American Congresswomen, Somali-American Ilhan Omar, Prompt Saudi Alarm

Iran Says Blacks' Rights Violated As US Arrests Muslim Journalist

NY Times writer blasts Israeli abuse in Palestine

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Mideast

Iran Air Force Chief Threatens To Make Israel ‘Vanish From Earth’

Media: Organized ISIL Network Active in Turkey

Israeli Espionage Operations against Hamas Commander Exposed

Palestinian killed by Israeli soldiers in West Bank

Netanyahu: Iran will face consequences for threatening Israel

South African, European demining experts killed in Yemen

Israeli forces fatally shoot Palestinian over an alleged stabbing attempt

Israeli strikes aimed at prolonging crisis in Syria: Damascus

Turkey demands security role in Manbij

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Europe

Islam, Judaism Leaders to Discuss Interfaith Ties with Pope Francis In Abu Dhabi

Germany bans Iranian airline on suspicion of spying, terror

German arms manufacturer may sue Berlin over halt in arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Germany appoints intel official with migrant background

HRW: EU could be guilty of crimes against humanity for migrant deal with Libya

Syrian boy to sue Facebook for spreading fake news

European Union treads fine line on Iran sanctions

Libya turns into battleground between France and Italy

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Africa

Muslim Group Speaks On ‘Plot to Bomb Christians’

Hundreds demonstrate after Sudan protester’s death

HRW criticizes Italy, EU’s Libya migrant policy

Nigerian troops repel series of Boko Haram attacks

Boko Haram: Food, shelter crises hit Borno IDPs camps amid fresh attacks

Kenya repels another suspected al Shabaab attack – police

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/the-darul-uloom-deoband,-the-muslim-seminary,-has-r-day-tip-for-students--avoid-travelling/d/117530

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The Darul Uloom Deoband, the Muslim Seminary, Has R-Day Tip for Students: Avoid Travelling

By Piyush Srivastava

22.01.19

The Darul Uloom Deoband seminary has appealed to its students to avoid travelling on Republic Day if possible, citing the possibility of security checks creating situations that lead to a sense of fear and insecurity.

The Urdu advisory adds that if travel is unavoidable, the students should display restraint, steer clear of “any kind of argument” and return to the seminary immediately after completing their business.

The advisory has been put up on the campus. Neither the seminary nor anyone associated with it has sought to publicise the notice outside the campus. Neither has it been used to stoke panic as at least one critic has alleged.

The sole objective appeared to be to ensure that the students remain unharmed. In fact, a senior official of the seminary said there was no need to blow it out of proportion.

The Telegraph is publishing this report because it offers an insight into fears that prevent sections of Indians from leading normal lives even on a day as reassuring and glorious as Republic Day.

The advisory does not mention it but some instances reported in the past year justify the display of caution.

Darul Uloom’s students have been harassed by police and attacked by mobs in the past, particularly on Republic Day and Independence Day, several past and present members of the seminary said.

Maulana Muneer Uddin Usmani, a senior theology teacher who is in charge of the hostels at the 162-year-old seminary, told reporters in Deoband, 600km northwest of Lucknow that the advisory had been issued after several days of meetings. Maulana Usmani had not convened a media conference but was responding to questions from reporters who had heard about or seen screenshots of the notice.

“Police and other authorities step up security checks during occasions of national importance. Our students have been harassed in the past; even attacked by a section of people. So they need to be extra careful if travelling is unavoidable,” he said.

Mufti Asad Qasmi, a local cleric and former member of the seminary, said: “The police had detained Darul Uloom students two years ago on Republic Day and told the media they were terrorists. Although they were released the next day, the media didn’t clarify they had aired incorrect information. Darul Uloom doesn’t want it to recur.”

He said the seminary’s students had been attacked on trains or railway platforms last year, in Saharanpur and Baghpat, and also on Republic Day 2017 in Saharanpur, but the accused weren’t identified in any of these three instances.

Ashraf Usmani, a senior administrative official at Darul Uloom, told this newspaper the advisory was a “routine exercise” and there was “no need to blow it out of proportion”.

“We keep alerting our students during national festivals and other occasions. We want their safety,” he said.

Questioned by reporters, a police officer in Saharanpur district, where Deoband is located, expressed ignorance about any such advisory.

“Perhaps someone felt harassed in the past when the security agencies didn’t want to take chances and detained students on suspicion. But we never harass someone because they are from a particular institute,” he told local reporters on the condition of anonymity. “The seminary management should have met the administration and protested instead of issuing any such notice.”

Mohammad Anwar, a local leader of the BJP minority cell, called the advisory “strange”. “We have been travelling on Republic Day and Independence Day. Our women too go out wearing veils during national occasions. The police or members of the majority community never harass them. Darul Uloom shouldn’t try to create panic,” Anwar said.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/muslim-seminary-has-r-day-tip-for-students-avoid-travelling/cid/1682438

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Detained Saudi Cleric, a Former Dean Of The Islamic University In Medina, Dies After 'Poisoning' in Saudi Arabia

Jan 21, 2019

A prominent Saudi cleric dies at a hospital in the port city of Jeddah, where he had been transferred from detention after a reported poisoning that had rendered him brain-dead.

Family members and London-based group Al Qst, which is critical of the Saudi regime's human rights record, reported the death of Ahmed al-Amari, a former dean of the Islamic University in Medina, late on Sunday, Reuters reported.

Amari was arrested in August during a raid of his house, and was placed in solitary confinement.

His son, Abdullah, said funeral prayers would be held on Monday afternoon.

Prisoners of Conscience, another group promoting respect for human rights in the kingdom, said in a tweet last Sunday that he had suffered brain hemorrhage after Saudi officials injected him with poisonous substance during brutal torture in prison.

He and some others detained at the same time are believed to be close to influential religious scholar Safar al-Hawali, who was arrested in July 2018 after publishing a book critical of the Saudi royal family.

Saudi activists also reported on Friday that Nayef Ahmed al-Omran, an activist from the Shia-populated region of Qatif in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, had also died after eight years in detention.

Over the past years, Riyadh has redefined its anti-terrorism laws, using the legal basis to carry out sweeping raids against activists and outspoken clerics.

In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who would openly critique Riyadh's policies.

The kingdom, an absolute monarchy where public protests and political parties are banned, however, says it does not have political prisoners and denies torture allegations. Officials have said monitoring of activists is needed to ensure social stability.

The most high-profile incident involving Riyadh over the past year has been the murder of dissident journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi last October. Khashoggi was killed and his body dismembered after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Various reports have verified that some on a team sent to carry out the murder had been drawn from among the personal bodyguards of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, whom Khashoggi would repeatedly criticize before his murder.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/21/586431/Saudi-Arabia-cleric-death-Jeddah-Ahmed-alAmari-human-rights

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Bangladesh Ulema League: Ban NGOs, INGOs Working To Curb Child Marriage

January 21st, 2019

A ruling party-affiliated Islamist organization has demanded a ban on the operation of non-government organizations (NGOs) and international NGOs that are working to curb child marriage in Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh Awami Ulama League, along with 13 other like-minded groups, made the demand at a human chain formed in front of National Press Club in Dhaka on Monday.

Speakers at the human chain specifically mentioned INGOs – including Unicef, Save the Children and Terre des homes – which have been working across the country to prevent child marriage.

Demanding to repel the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2017, Ulama League General Secretary Abul Hasan Sheikh Shariatpuri even enunciated that these “anti-Muslim” and “anti-Islam” organizations had been showing way too much interest on this issue because the government as well as ordinary citizens of Bangladesh have not been paying enough heed to this issue.

Arguing in favour of child marriage, Sheikh Shariatpuri said the legal ban on child marriages imposed by the “kufri” Child Marriage Restraint Act had increased the number of abortions in the country.

“Premarital physical relationships between under-18 boys and girls have led to an alarmingly high rate of abortions and single mothers,” he claimed.

He even called for people involved with the NGOs to be hanged on charge of demeaning Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).

Bangladesh witnessed a decline in the overall child marriage rate in recent years, but continues to have one of the highest rates in the world.

A report by Child Rights Advocacy Coalition, published in 2018, says the rate of child marriage under the age of 15 declined from 62.8% in 2015 to 10.7% in 2017, while the rate of child marriages under the age of 18 years has gone down from 62.8% in 2015 to 59.7% in 2016.

Ulama League wants a ban on BPL too

Sheikh Shariatpuri has also sought a ban on the ongoing Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) Twenty20 cricket tournament, reports multiple news outlets.

“The BPL is turning the country into a breeding ground for gamblers. Ordinary people are being drawn towards gambling during cricket tournaments like the BPL and the IPL [Indian Premier League], which is completely unconstitutional,” he said.

The Islamist group also criticized Bangladesh Football Federation for promoting women’s football.

“Officials at Bangladesh Football Federation are placing restrictions on marriage to encourage immoral activities such as live-together, for which they should be arrested,” said Sheikh Shariatpuri.

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/politics/2019/01/21/ulama-league-ban-ngos-working-to-curb-child-marriage

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Islam Wants People’s Personal Lives Private, Says Islamabad High Court

Obaid Abrar Khan

January 22, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday dismissed petition seeking disqualification of Prime Minister Imran Khan and said fine would be imposed on similar petition if receive in future.

Division bench of Islamabad High Court comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Mian Gul Hasan Aurangzeb resumed the hearing of the petition submitted by Hafiz Ehtesham, spokesperson of the Lal Masjid's Shuhada Foundation.

The petitioner Hafiz Ehtesham alleged that the prime minister did not reveal that he had a daughter ‘Tyrian’ in his nomination papers. “He lied about his daughter that’s why he is not Sadiq and Ameen.”

During hearing Justice Athar Minallah questioned the petitioner that had he read the Article 63 (H)?

Justice Athar further remarked that if he had checked Article 63(h) which deals with moral issues and said the first principle of Islam is to keep someone’s personal life private. Therefore, private matters of any person should not be brought in the court, the judge remarked.

To this petitioner Ehtesham argued in court Imran Khan is public office holder and therefore his personal matters could not be considered beyond scrutiny.

To this Justice Minallah remarked Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution, under which petitioner had sought PM Khan's disqualification. Article 63(1)(h) stipulates that a person convicted of a crime of "moral turpitude" and sentenced to jail for not less than two years can contest elections if five years have lapsed since his release.

The judge further remarked that in Islam, it has been said that one should attempt to brush other’s private matters under the carpet. To this petitioner argued that yes Islam has forbidden to discussed personal lives of other but it is also written in Article 62 (1)(d) that character of member National Assembly should be according to this.

To this justice Athar Minallah remarked that it’s mean we should expunge Article 63 (h). He remarked, “Such petitions are only wastage of time.”

Justice Minallah also warned the petitioner that if such requests were submitted in the future, the petitioner would be fined. PM Imran Khan counsel Dr Babar Awan was present in court. However he did not need to present his arguments, as the court discarded the petition while hearing the petitioner.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/422137-tyrian-white-case-islam-wants-people-s-personal-lives-private-says-ihc

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What’s Behind Autonomy Vote in the Philippines’ Muslim Mindanao?

21 January 2019

Predominantly Muslim areas of the mainly Catholic Philippines took part in a plebiscite on Monday to decide whether power should be devolved to a locally elected administration in one of Southeast Asia’s most conflict-torn regions.

The referendum is the culmination of a tumultuous peace process between the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and successive governments, aimed at ending conflict that has killed at least 120,000 people since the 1970s.

Some 2.8 million registered voters in two Muslim-majority areas of Mindanao, the country’s southernmost region, have been asked if they support a law to create a self-governing area called Bangsamoro, essentially an upgrade and expansion of an existing autonomous setup largely seen as ineffective.

Why is self-rule so important?

The Muslim parts of Mindanao are among Southeast Asia’s most unstable and neglected, lacking in infrastructure, jobs and schools. It is hoped that by managing its own affairs, the region will have more power, budget and political will to address the shortfalls, employ more civil servants, and attract more private investment, especially in agriculture and mining.

More than half of the region’s families live in poverty, compared with a national average of 21.6 percent, according to government data. In 2015-2016, the region had the lowest secondary school enrolment and highest dropout rate, with just a third of youth in school compared with 68 percent nationally.

Advocacy groups say historical narratives of neglect and oppression, and a lack of schooling and opportunity, make the region a fertile recruitment ground for militants inspired by Islamic State, like Dawla Islamiya, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Abu Sayyaf, known for bombings, beheading, kidnappings and piracy.

Will the Bangsamoro plan be approved and what happens after?

The result is likely by Friday and an overwhelming “yes” is expected. A smaller plebiscite will be held on Feb. 6 asking some other areas if they wish to join the newly endorsed entity, once created.

The central government will appoint a Bangsamoro Transition Authority, which will govern until elections in 2022 for an 80-seat legislature, which will choose a chief minister. The MILF enjoys broad support and is expected to dominate the process.

Bangsamoro will have its own legislative, executive and fiscal powers, but defense, security and foreign and monetary policy will remain under Manila’s control. A “yes” outcome will see decommissioning of an estimated 40,000 weapons held by MILF guerrillas and civilians.

How would autonomy impact security?

The hope is that autonomy would eventually address the roots of instability, although it is not expected to be a panacea after years of separatist, Islamist and Maoist rebellion, and lawlessness conflict between clans.

Mindanao has been under martial law since an alliance of local and foreign militants inspired by Islamic State attacked Marawi City in a bid to establish a caliphate in May 2017. The military took five months to recapture it, destroying half of it in the process. There are fears survivors of that battle, and possibly fighters fleeing Iraq and Syria, could regroup and strike again.

Deadly bombings last year at a Cotabato City mall, a street festival in Sultan Kudarat, and a prematurely detonated van bomb in Basilan, suggest there are elements who might try to sabotage the political process.

What if the vote is ‘no’?

The status quo would prevail. Although a “no” vote is highly unlikely, it is possible that some areas invited to join the proposed autonomous area might reject the offer.

Among those is Cotabato City, which has a mix of Muslims and Christians and was, according to some polls, not entirely behind the idea of joining. Cotabato would most likely be the new Bangsamoro authority’s seat of government. It might need to seek out another.

Is the region a government priority?

Historically not, but with Rodrigo Duterte, the first Philippine president to come from Mindanao, this could be its best chance for change.

With Duterte’s 2016 election promises still largely unmet, a successful transition to a Bangsamoro authority would be a feather in his cap. Although the peace deal was agreed by his predecessor, it can expect Duterte’s strong support.

He makes no secret of his determination to help Mindanao and often boasts about having turned Davao City from lawlessness into a thriving commercial center. He has encouraged donors to pour aid into Mindanao and despite security lapses that led to the battle for Marawi, it appears Duterte’s popularity has not been dented.

Duterte is on good terms with separatist leaders and though not a Muslim himself, he often talks about his late grandmother being a native of the Bangsamoro area, and even losing distant relatives to militant recruiters.

With only three years left to deliver an ambitious policy agenda, Mindanao could be his best legacy as president.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2019/01/21/Explainer-What-s-behind-autonomy-vote-in-the-Philippines-Muslim-Mindanao-.html

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Muslim-American Congresswomen, Somali-American Ilhan Omar, Prompt Saudi Alarm

January 21, 2019

WASHINGTON —

Saudi Arabia may learn to regret the political attacks launched from the kingdom on two American Muslim women who won seats for the Democrats in Congress in the U.S. midterm elections. One of them Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, has secured a seat on a House panel that has the power to disrupt U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Somali-American Ilhan Omar, who won a seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, and her fellow congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, have attracted disapproving Saudi attention with the oil-rich kingdom’s government-controlled media outlets, as well as academics and commentators known to reflect the views of the ruling royal family, dubbing them secret Islamists who are in league with the Muslim Brotherhood.

On securing a seat on the House foreign affairs panel Omar said she is determined to “rein in arms sales to human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia.”

The attacks on the two lawmakers, who dub themselves democratic socialists, have not diminished since their mid-term wins when they became the first Muslim women elected to the U.S. Congress. Both are among several politically progressive congressional newcomers who have pledged to shake up the U.S. Congress and their own Democratic party.

A Saudi diplomat kicked off the rhetoric against the lawmakers with a tweet on election night targeting Omar, saying “she will be hostile to the Gulf” and accusing her of being an adherent of the kind of political Islam represented by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Al Arabiya, a news network set up by relatives of the Saudi royal family, ran an op-ed last month saying the two newly-elected congresswomen are part of an anti-Saudi infiltration of American politics, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which aims to undermine U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia. The criticism has been echoed in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi’s Gulf neighbor and ally. The Muslim Brotherhood, a political movement, is banned in both Gulf countries.

“The Democrats’ battle against Republican control of the U.S. Congress, led to an alliance with political Islamist movements in order to restore their control on government, pushing Muslim candidates and women activists of immigrant minorities, onto the electoral scene,” the writer of the Al Arabiya article claimed.

Irony in rhetorical attacks

Supporters of the two congresswomen describe the Saudi media campaign against the pair as a vilification, saying there’s an irony in the rhetorical attacks as both lawmakers share socially progressive views, including strong advocacy of LGBTQ and women’s rights, which are diametrically at odds with political Islam. The Saudi targeting of the two is in response, they say, to the women’s advocacy of human rights and their criticism of the Saudi royals, and especially of the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Both women have criticized Trump over his handling of Saudi Arabia in response to the October killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Omar tweeted after the killing of the journalist, “The Saudi government might have been strategic at covering up the daily atrocities carried out against minorities, women, activists and even the #YemenGenocide, but the murder of #JamalKhashoggi should be the last evil act they are allowed to commit.”

Trump has refrained from severely punishing Saudi Arabia for the killing of Khashoggi in its consulate in Istanbul. The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on 17 Saudis accused of organizing the murder, but says the strategic relationship with Riyadh is too important to do more.

Their ire is not only focused on Saudi Arabia, though. Both lawmakers, ironically considering the Saudi criticism, are firm opponents of Israeli policy and are supporters of a boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

In an interview Thursday with The Intercept, a left-leaning online investigative news site, Rashida Tlaib, the first ever Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, says she won’t support U.S. military aid to Israel or “any country that is not for equality or justice.”

On Palestine, she said, “I have to tell you my grandmother lives there. By me supporting any aid to a country that denies her human dignity, denies her equality, the fact that she has to go and, you know, through checkpoints to get to the hospital for health care, the fact that she is felt as if she’s less than in her own country, that is something I will not be supporting.”

She said military aid should be used as leverage to persuade countries to observe civil rights.

“If we’re not doing that to Israel, Saudi Arabia and other countries, then we’re not doing our job as a country,” she added.

https://www.voanews.com/a/muslim-american-congresswomen-prompt-saudi-alarm/4752263.html

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Iran air force chief threatens to make Israel ‘vanish from earth’

21 January 2019

The commander of Iran’s air force, Brigadier Aziz Nasirzadeh, said that Iran will “eliminate Israel from the Earth” in a fiery statement to the Young Journalist Club, a website supervised by state television.

This comes after Israel’s military said on Monday it struck Iranian Quds targets inside Syria and warned Syrian forces not to attack Israeli territory or forces.

The Israeli air strikes and ground-to-ground missiles killed at least 11 fighters including two Syrians, a Britain-based war monitor said.

“The young people are impatient and fully ready to battle the Zionist regime and make them vanish from the Earth,” Nasirzadeh said.

“Our next generation with the knowledge necessary to learn their strengths are the promised ones who will destroy Israel,” he added in the statement.

The overnight strikes followed cross-border attacks on Sunday in which Syria said it repelled an Israeli air attack. Israel said it intercepted a rocket fired at the Golan Heights.

“We have a permanent policy, to strike at the Iranian entrenchment in Syria and hurt whoever tries to hurt us,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/21/Iran-air-force-chief-threatens-to-make-Israel-vanish-from-earth-.html

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Islam, Judaism leaders to discuss interfaith ties with Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi

21 January 2019

Pope Francis’ upcoming historic visit to Abu Dhabi, which will begin on February 5, will bring together many prominent leaders from Islam, Christianity, and Judaism from various parts of the region.

According to local media reports, these leaders will discuss ways to improve interfaith relations and promote dialogue. The meeting will be part of the series of events planned on the sidelines of the Pope’s visit to the UAE, which would be his first to the Gulf region.

Pope Francis is also scheduled to hold a meeting with Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb of Sheikh of al-Azhar, which organizes meetings of more than 600 spiritual leaders representing different religions.

Mansour al-Mansouri, Director General of the National Media Council of the UAE, said that the Pope’s historic visit “reflects the spirit of tolerance of the United Arab Emirates.”

He said that residents in the United Arab Emirates have embraced 76 churches and temples belonging to different religious beliefs. Al-Mansouri said that the Pope’s visit would attract great media attention, as this is the first visit of its kind to the region.

According to reports, the Pope will lead a mass in Abu Dhabi, which is likely to be attended by 135,000 Catholics from the UAE and other parts of the region.

Secretary-General of the Council of Muslim Scholars, Dr. Sultan al-Rumaithi, said that the meeting would include discussions on the principles of religions, what they have in common, as well challenges and opportunities.

He also highlighted the importance of tolerance, which he said, is an integral part of Islam. Al-Rumaithi also said that there would be significant Saudi participation in the meeting.

He said that this is not a political meeting and would instead focus on interfaith participation and the importance of tolerance that the UAE is trying to highlight.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2019/01/21/Islam-Judaism-leaders-to-discuss-interfaith-ties-with-Pope-Francis-in-Abu-Dhabi.html

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India

 

ED attaches properties of radical Islamist preacher Zakir Naik worth 16.40 crores

22 January 2019

In a massive crackdown, the Enforcement Directorate has reportedly attached properties worth Rs.16.40 crore in Mumbai and Pune, belonging to radical Islamist preacher Zakir Naik, under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

According to reports, the ED investigations have revealed that funds of Rs around 49.20 crores were received in the non-resident external (NRE) bank accounts of accused Zakir Naik in India from his Dubai accounts and the origin of these deposits were unknown.

Earlier in October 2018, the NIA court had ordered the attachment of five properties belonging to Naik in Mumbai’s Mazgaon area.

Zakir Naik reportedly used the funds to the tune of Rs 17.65 crore to buy properties in projects like Fatima Heights and Aafiyah Heights in Mumbai, ENGRACIA in Pune and also a venture at Bhandup, Mumbai. The builders involved include Salim Kodia from M/s MK Enterprises, Munaf Vadgam from M/s Aafiyah Realtors, Sameer Khan from M/s Pacific Orient Genesis Associates, and Musa Lakdawala, partner of M/s Lakdawala & Yash Associates.

In an attempt to disguise the origin of funds and the real ownership of properties, the initial payment from Zakir Naik’s account was diverted to those of his wife, son and niece to buy properties in the name of relatives, as reported by the money trail established by ED. “The total attachment as Proceeds of Crime, in this case, is Rs 50.49 crore including the present attachment. Further investigation is in progress,” said a statement released by ED.

The investigation was initiated by ED on the basis of the charge sheet filed by National Investigation Agency (NIA) on 26 October 2017 before the court of Special Judge, NIA, Mumbai, against Zakir Naik and others under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The criminal case against him was registered in 2016.

According to the charge sheet, Zakir Naik had deliberately and maliciously insulted the religious beliefs of Hindus, Christians as well as Muslims who didn’t follow the Wahhabi-Salafist ideology preached by him. Naik is accused of making abusive remarks against Hindus, Christians, Shia, Sufi and Barelwis, with intention of outraging their religious feelings.

For such activities the accused was receiving funds from the Islamic Research Foundation as well as other unknown sources, states the ED release, adding that the Islamic Research Foundation and M/s. Harmony Media has been instrumental in the maximum circulation of Zakir Naik’s incriminating speeches.

Naik has been notorious in spreading hatred between religious groups and for inciting Muslim youth to join in the jihad against non-believers of Islam. He used to use his NGO ‘Islamic Research Foundation’ (IRF) and a TV channel (Peace TV) to air his hate speeches in the country. The government of India had taken the channel off the air and banned the NGO.

https://www.opindia.com/2019/01/ed-attaches-properties-of-radical-islamist-preacher-zakir-naik-worth-16-40-crores/

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31 Rohingyas stranded on India-Bangladesh border from Myanmar, says BSF

Jan 21, 2019

Thirty-one Rohingyas who are stranded on zero line between the India and Bangladesh international border in Tripura for past 72 hours, are from Rakhine State in Myanmar, said a Border Security Force (BSF) official.

After their preliminary questioning to know their identities on Monday, the BSF said most of them are from four districts of Rakhine State — Mandaw, Bhusidang, Maungdaw and Manandaw.

“We began the questioning today. Many more things like their names, age and also their route of journey are yet to be confirmed. So far, we came to know they are from Myanmar. The questioning will continue tomorrow,” said DIG of BSF CL Belwa.

The BSF provided them food,water and blankets on humanitarian ground as they are staying in the open. They are yet to receive instruction from Delhi on whether to accept them or not.

The 31 Rohingyas, including 16 children, were detained by Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) on January 18 and alleged that the BSF has been pushing them back to their country.

The BSF, however,denied the blame, saying that there is no breach of fence on the Indian side. In their counter reply, they accused the BGB to push them to the Indian side of the international border.

The matter remained unsolved even after two round of flag meetings. The expected third meeting could not be held today as none of the BGB officials turned up.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/31-rohingyas-stranded-on-india-bangladesh-border-from-myanmar-says-bsf/story-ToRCaZxTejZ2PpPiVGEvMO.html

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US pull out from Afghanistan can cost India dear: Report

Jan 21, 2019

Any US decision to drastically reduce troop levels in Afghanistan could draw countries in the region, including India, into the 17-year-old conflict and embolden Pakistan to increase its backing for the Taliban, a report by the Rand Corporation has warned.

Last month, President Donald Trump reportedly directed US authorities to reduce by half the American troop presence in Afghanistan.

This coincided with his decision to order a complete withdrawal of US forces from Syria, and Trump has said repeatedly that he wants to end the US deployment in Afghanistan.

The report, authored for the US-based think tank by James Dobbins, former president George W Bush’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Laurel E Miller, former acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and former defence officials Jason H Campbell and Sean Mann, said US relations with Afghanistan’s most-important neighbours such as Pakistan are “at their lowest point since 2001”. Key players in the region such as Russia, Iran, India and Uzbekistan “have a history of support for Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara warlords” in Afghanistan and could be drawn further into the conflict in the event of a sudden US withdrawal, the report said. “These relationships will likely be reinforced as the (Afghan) central government’s financial base collapses, its writ weakens, and its cohesion erodes,” it said.

Russia and Iran have “generally supported the Kabul government” since 2001, but “have provided limited aid to the Taliban as a hedge” in recent years, it added. “Pakistan has long tolerated and facilitated use of its territory by the Taliban.

In the event of a precipitous US withdrawal, Pakistan will likely become more open in its backing,” the report said.

A sudden drawdown of US troops, the report said, would have other consequences, such as North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces also leaving, US and international civilian presence sharply reducing, external economic and security assistance diminishing, the government in Kabul losing influence and legitimacy, and groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State gaining additional scope to organise and carry out terror attacks against US regional and homeland targets.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/us-pull-out-from-afghanistan-cancost-india-dear-report/story-txxXXdTbhAJVf7B7UyoWeL.html

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Pakistan agencies threaten Indian mission staff, Delhi lodges protest

by Shubhajit Roy

January 22, 2019

Days after a woman in Delhi lodged a police complaint against a Pakistan High Commission staffer for allegedly touching her inappropriately at a market, India has accused Pakistani intelligence agencies of threatening to lodge retaliatory complaints against two of its diplomats.

The Indian Express has learnt that the Indian High Commission in Islamabad has sent a “note verbale”, an unsigned less-formal mode of diplomatic communication, detailing the incident in Pakistan’s capital city.

“On January 15, at 10 am, while going from the High Commission to the World Mart market in Diplomatic enclave, two of the staff members of this mission, were intercepted by Pakistani agency personnel and questioned them about the alleged incident with a Pakistan High Commission official in India on January and why that happened. Further, they threatened mission officials that they would reciprocate in the same way,” the note verbale sent to Pakistan Foreign Ministry recently said.

“The Ministry is requested to kindly investigate this incident and instruct the relevant agency to ensure that such incidents do not recur,” it said, while requesting that “the esteemed ministry may kindly share the results of the investigation with the High Commission”.

The note also pointed out that such incidents of harassment of family members of diplomats are in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic relations of 1961.

On January 13, a staffer of the Pakistan High Commission was taken to Sarojini Nagar police station after a woman alleged that he touched her inappropriately at a popular market in the south Delhi locality. The issue was resolved and the staffer allowed to leave after “he later apologised”, a senior police officer had said.

Sources said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has also expressed concern, in another note verbale, over reports of a speech delivered on January 14 in Lahore by a “so-called Amir of Ansar-ul-Ummah” — Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, a UN-designated terrorist entity — advocating terror and violence against India.

“The ministry registers its strong protest at the use of Pakistan-controlled territory by extremist and terrorist elements to freely promote violence and terror against India,” the note sent by the MEA to Pakistan High Commission said.

Sources said New Delhi called upon the Pakistan government to fulfill its international obligations and abide by its bilateral commitments to not allow any territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India, in any manner.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pakistan-agencies-threaten-indian-mission-staff-delhi-lodges-protest-5549249/

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Terror funding case: NIA arrests man from Jaipur

Deeptiman Tiwary

January 22, 2019

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday arrested a 43-year-old man from Jaipur for allegedly being involved in a terror funding case.

The man, identified as Mohammad Hussain Molani alias Babloo, was sent back from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is an accused in a terror funding case, involving Lashkar-e-Taiba’s front called Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF).

On October 15, The Indian Express had reported on how the FIF funded the construction of a mosque in Haryana’s Palwal district through a man from Delhi’s Nizamuddin.

The man from Delhi, identified as Mohammed Salman, was arrested by the NIA along with Mohammed Salim and Sajjad Abdul Wani on September 26 for allegedly receiving funding for terror activities from Lahore-based FIF, an NGO set up by Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which is the LeT’s parent organisation.

The NIA suspected that the funding was an attempt by the LeT to build a base that could be used later for the outfit’s activities in India. The agency’s probe had found that Salman had received Rs 70 Lakh from a man named Kamran in Dubai. Kamran is alleged to be a Pakistani national who handles FIF operations in Dubai and is in touch with FIF’s second-in-command.

Molani is alleged to be the conduit between Kamran and Salman.

“Kamran used to tell Molani to send money to Salman. Molani would then get in touch with hawala operators in India to facilitate the transfer of funds,” an NIA officer said.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/terror-funding-case-nia-arrests-man-from-jaipur-5549211/

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47 IS terrorists tracked, brought back by security agencies

Abhishek Bhalla

January 21, 2019

India Today TV has exclusive access to a list of Islamic State (IS) recruits who fled the county to join the terror group but were tracked down and brought back to India. Most of them were in West Asia.

Forty-seven IS sympathisers, many of them headhunters sitting outside India were on the prowl to recruit vulnerable misguided Muslim youth. These recruiters were brought back to the country in the past four years as intelligence agencies zeroed in on them.

Many of them were key to tracking down hundreds of others within the country who wanted to go Syria.

Sources said many of these were handlers in touch with Indian youth, arranging finances and logistics to travel to Syria and there were others who were being brainwashed to carry out terror strikes in the country in the name of IS.

India Today TV has accessed a list with 101 names including terror operatives associated with IS, Dawood Ibrahim's D Company, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Khalistani groups that were tracked down in countries like UAE, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France, Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

It was the IS operatives who topped the list and were traced mostly in West Asian countries and brought back to India since 2014.

While many were arrested and are facing terror charges, there were some who helped agencies with vital information to crack the IS outreach within the country.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/47-is-terrorists-tracked-brought-back-by-security-agencies-1435598-2019-01-21

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NIA makes fourth arrest in FiF terror funding case; a native of Kuchaman arrested after he arrived from Dubai

Jan 21, 2019

JAIPUR: In connection to the Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation(FiF) terror funding case, the national investigative agency on Monday arrested a 43-year-old native of Kuchaman city of Nagaur district. He was detained by the sleuths on Sunday evening on landing in Jaipur from Dubai.

Reliable sources of NIA, while talking to TOI on Monday, confirmed that they had lodged a case to probe terror funding module in the months of July and September and then, arrested three persons including a native of Kuchaman.

"While investigating the case it was found that one Mohammad Husain Molani alias Babloo was also involved in getting funds through FiF module. FiF is a Lahore-based organisation established by Jamat-ud-Dawa and was founded by Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who is designated as global terrorist by the USA. He was absconding. We got a specific input that he was coming to Jaipur from Dubai by flight on Sunday. Our team reached and detained him on Sunday. He was arrested on Monday," said a senior officer of NIA on the condition of anonymity.

Sleuths further stated that the accused was evading arrest by hiding in Dubai, following which a look out circular (LOC) was issued by NIA. "He was detained on his arrival at Jaipur International Airport. This is our fourth arrest in this case since September last year which is related to receiving of terror funds being sent by FIF operatives to their associates through Hawala operators for furthering their nefarious activities to create unrest in India. The arrested accused was in close contact with foreign based financers of FIF," the officer added.

He was produced before the special NIA court at Patiala house court, New Delhi where NIA was granted 9 days police custody.

"We will interrogate him to unearth the larger conspiracy, to collect evidence and to arrest other accused persons," the officer added.

NIA has busted a terror funding module in Delhi led by Pakistan-based terrorist Hafiz Saeed's Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF), on September, 27, 2018. An FIR to probe the terror funding module was registered by the agency in July 2018.

What is FiF?

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nia-makes-fourth-arrest-in-fif-terror-funding-case-a-native-of-kuchaman-arrested-after-he-arrived-from-dubai/articleshow/67631160.cms

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Arab World

 

Egypt’s grand mufti lauds Saudi Arabia’s services to Muslims

January 21, 2019

JEDDAH: Dr. Shawki Allam, the grand mufti of Egypt, received the Saudi minister of Islamic affairs, Dr. Abdullatif bin Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh.

Allam hailed the Kingdom’s participation in the 29th International Conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, which was organized by the Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf (religious endowments) and ended on Sunday.

He praised the Kingdom, under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for serving Muslims around the world. He said that Egypt and Saudi Arabia would continue to work together to maintain stability in the Middle East.

Allam also highlighted Saudi Arabia’s supervision of the Hajj and said the country’s organization of the pilgrimage was “getting better and better” every year.

Al-Asheikh said he was delighted to meet Allam. The Saudi minister highlighted the strong relations between the two countries. He said that the Kingdom was steadily moving forward through its program of reforms.

The meeting was also attended by deputy minister of Islamic affairs, Dr. Yousef bin Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz bin Saeed; Undersecretary of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Samil; the director of religious affiliations at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulwahid Al-Arifi; adviser to the grand mufti of Egypt, Dr. Magdy Ashour; the fatwa secretary of Dar al-Ifta, Dr. Ahmed Mamdouh; and Dr. Mustafa Thabet, who is in charge of blasphemy refutation.

Festival

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)’s first festival will start on Feb. 5 in Cairo and allow Muslims around the world to become closer, the body’s secretary-general said on Monday.

Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen said the aim of the festival was to bring people from member and non-member states together so they could engage with each other intellectually, politically and socially, as well as share stories about their traditions. The festival aims to promote solidarity on the basis of a shared religion, he said, and position the OIC as the world’s second-biggest international humanitarian organization after the UN.

The regular event would also highlight the economic opportunities, humanitarian work, and political development successes in member states, in addition to reviewing the situation of Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries. The Cairo festival will feature crafts, traditional costume, fine arts, seminars, poetry sessions, guided tours and even a marathon. It ends Feb. 9.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1439526/saudi-arabia

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‘Pope’s visit to help build values of tolerance’

January 21, 2019

Abu Dhabi: The UAE will be welcoming Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, from February 3 to 5, on his first visit to the Gulf region, to participate in the Global Interfaith Conference on Human Fraternity, officials said on Monday.

The Pope’s visit coincides with the visit of the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Dr Ahmad Al Tayeb, where the two prominent religious figures will hold a historic meeting to launch a global humanitarian message to consolidate the values of tolerance and brotherhood, coexistence and rejection of extremism, Mansour Al Mansouri, director-general of the National Media Council, told a press conference held at the Emirates Palace.

Al Mansouri said the Pope’s historic visit to the Catholic Church in the UAE will make the country a capital of human tolerance, an opportunity to cement the ties of friendship and cooperation that characterised the UAE’s relationship with the Vatican for the benefit of humanity and the service of world peace.

In the Year of Tolerance, the UAE will bring together the two great religious symbols to highlight the role of the country as the capital of human tolerance and highlight the role of the UAE in promoting the values of tolerance, love, coexistence between different religions and sects and rejecting hatred, extremism and racism.

- Mansour Al Mansouri, director-general of the National Media Council

A Roman Catholic Bishop has been seated in the UAE since 1974.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral is the seat of the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, Bishop Paul Hinder. St. Joseph’s was established nine years earlier, six years before the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan united the UAE as a nation in 1971.

Over one million Christians (about one-ninth of the current UAE population) live and work in the country. While many different Christian faiths worship in churches throughout the UAE, most of the Christian population is Roman Catholic.

“In the Year of Tolerance, the UAE will bring together the two great religious symbols to highlight the role of the country as the capital of human tolerance and highlight the role of the UAE in promoting the values of tolerance, love, coexistence between different religions and sects and rejecting hatred, extremism and racism,” Al Mansouri said.

Dr Sultan Al Rumaithi, secretary-general of the Council of Muslim Elders, said the programme will include the inauguration of the region’s first historic mass to be marked by Pope Francis in the presence of 135,000 followers of the Catholic Church.

“During the visit of His Holiness the Pope, the Council of Muslim Elders will organise a conference of human fraternity with the participation of 76 churches and temples from various religions, sects and faiths in the country.”

Al Rumaithi added the Pope will attend the conference, which will bring together more than 700 prominent religious, political and social figures from across the world

The event will highlight the state’s efforts to promote the values of human tolerance and the commitment of the UAE to contribute to the creation of communities living in a spirit of tolerance.

DID YOU KNOW?

An estimated 135,000 Catholics from the UAE and abroad are expected to attend the mass to be marked by Pope Francis which will be held at Zayed Sports City and the roads leading to it.

UAE has always been and remains the land of tolerance and coexistence. The first monastery and church found in the Sir Bani Yas Island dates back to the 7th century.

Today, there are 76 churches and places of worship in the UAE for people of different faiths.

The UAE has had a Roman Catholic bishop since 1974. St. Joseph’s Cathedral is the seat of the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, Bishop Paul Hinder.

Full report at:

https://gulfnews.com/uae/popes-visit-to-help-build-values-of-tolerance-1.61574822?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=am

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Several SDF Killed, 2 US Soldiers Wounded in Suicide Blast in Hasaka

Jan 21, 2019

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Monday that a bomb-laden vehicle was detonated as a US convoy was moving on Hasaka-Raqqa road along with the SDF militants near al-Shadadi region in Southern Hasaka.

It added that a suicide bomber was also inside the vehicle, noting that at least 5 SDF fighters were killed and 2 US forces were wounded in the attack.

The blast came 5 days after several American soldiers were killed in a similar suicide attack in Manbij in Northeastern Syria.

A huge explosion at the center of Manbij in Northeastern Aleppo killed and wounded over 30 people, including several US soldiers on Wednesday.

The Kurdish-language Hawar news reported that the explosion occurred in Kasr al-Umara restaurant at Sondos street, killing at least 10 people, including members of Manbij military council.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971101000826

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Senior MP: Iraqi PM under US Pressure Not to Expel American Forces

Jan 21, 2019

"The US is pressuring the Iraqi government through sanctions against Iran and forcing Iraq to comply with these sanctions so that Abdul Mahdi does not even speak about the quantity and quality of the US military deployment in Iraq," Karim al-Aliwi told the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website on Monday.

He also referred to the US pressures on Baghdad to dissolve 67 groups of Hashd al-Shaabi (popular forces), and said that Washington is also using the Iraqi government's weakness to implement its plans to continue military deployment on Iraq's soil.

In relevant remarks last Thursday, Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of Rai al-Youm newspaper, underlined that Washington's hostile stance towards Hashd al-Shaabi and its quest for dismantling popular groups in the Arab state derived from their opposition to the US forces' occupation of Iraq.

"The US administration in an unprecedented demand called on the Iraqi government on Tuesday to dissolve 67 groups operating in the framework of the Iraqi popular forces, while all these groups were welcomed by Washington when they were fighting against the ISIL alongside the US forces. Then what has changed now," Atwan wrote.

Noting that Iraq's security and national identity is gradually reviving, he said that Hashd al-Shaabi forces or their leaders have demanded withdrawal of all the 5,500 US military troops from Iraq and are opposed to the US use of military bases in Iraq for possible attacks against Syria and Iran.

Atwan added that Hashd al-Shaabi was also hostile to Israel and is in clear solidarity with Syria, which is another reason for the US enmity.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971101000978

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Aleppo: Several Ankara-Backed Militants Killed in Kurdish Assault in Afrin

Jan 21, 2019

The Kurdish fighters during their military operations against the Turkish Army and its affiliated militants in Afrin region pounded the Turkey-backed militants' positions and movements in the village of Khaleteh in Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo, killing at least eight militants of Sultan Murat and Jbahat al-Shamia as well as wounding three others, the Kurdish media Hawar News reported.

It noted that the Kurdish fighters' raid on the military positions of Farqa al-Hamza in the village of Kimar in Shirawa region killed four terrorists, including a terrorist commander and wounded three others.

The Kurdish militants also exploded a bomb in the command center of Faylaq al-Rahman terrorist group and the military police affiliated to Ankara in Marimin village in Shara region, killing four terrorists and wounding two others.

Several other Ankara-backed terrorists were also killed and wounded during the Kurdish fighters' military operations in Shara region.

In a relevant development on Saturday, the Kurdish fighters during their military operations against the Turkish Army and its affiliated militants in Afrin pounded a military position of Ahrar al-Sham terrorists and Turkish army troops in Jandariseh region of Afrin, severely wounding two Turkish Army soldiers and five Ankara-backed militants, Hawar News reported.

It noted that five members of Farqa al-Hamza and Jbahat al-Shamia were killed and three others were wounded in three consecutive military operations by the Kurdish forces against the Turkish Army and Ankara-backed militants in the Center of Afrin as well as Shirawa and Shara regions in recent days.

Meantime, battlefield sources in Northern Aleppo reported that during the Syrian Democratic Forces' missile attack on a military position of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Kimar village in Afrin region, a terrorist was killed and five others were wounded.

Also, the Turkish Army and its affiliated militants launched mortar and tank attacks on Soqankeh village from Kimar village.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, the Turkish Army and Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) in close cooperation dispatched over 10,000 terrorists to Northern Aleppo from Idlib and its surrounding areas to prepare for an upcoming battle with the Kurdish fighters in Eastern Syria.

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted sources close to the Ankara-backed National Liberation Front (NFL) as saying that Hayat al-Tahrir al-Sham and Ankara are running close security cooperation.

The sources also reiterated that the recent attack by Tahrir al-Sham at NFL militants in Idlib and its surrounding areas have taken place in coordination with Turkey and with the aim to push them towards Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo and other areas under the control of the Euphrates Shield militants in a bid to engage in a battle against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters in Eastern Euphrates.

The NFL sources pointed to the forced exit of over 2,000 terrorists from Idlib towards regions dubbed 'Euphrates Shied' and 'Olive Branch', and said that about 500 Jeish al-Ahrar terrorists are slated to leave their positions in Northern Idlib and Lattakia for Northern and Northeastern Aleppo.

The sources reiterated that the number of militants stationed in Idlib, Hama suburbs, Lattakia and Aleppo who are due to join the Syrian National Army affiliated to the Turkish Army in the upcoming battle against the Kurdish forces in Eastern Euphrates has exceeded 10,000 militants.

In a relevant development on Monday, Commander of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at Abu Mohamed al-Jolani underlined support for the imminent military operations by the Turkish army against the Kurdish population in Eastern Syria.

The Arabic-language Enab Baladi news website, affiliated to the militants, quoted Jolani as saying on Monday that "we support Turkey's action to take control over the Eastern Euphrates region".

He added that the Kurdish forces are considered as the enemy of what he called as Tahrir al-Sham's "revolution", noting, "We believe that these forces should be annihilated and this will happen for sure."

It was the first reaction of Jolani after Tahrir al-Sham's occupation of Idlib province that has forced other terrorist groups to leave the region.

Turkey has recently sent several military convoys to the borders with Syria to launch military operations against Kurds in Eastern Euphrates.

Turkey has undertaken to disarm Tahrir al-Sham in a demilitarized zone that stretches across several Northern provinces in Syria under an agreement signed with Russia, known as the Sochi Agreement.

Yet, Tahrir al-Sham is expanding its territories in Northern Syria and launches daily attacks on Syria army from its positions within the demilitarized zone.

Meantime, sources close to the Ankara-backed militants said earlier today that the Turkish army was rendering logistical support to Tahrir al-Sham.

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted sources close to the Ankara-backed National Liberation Front militant group as disclosing that their backers are sending military and logistical aid to Tahrir al-Sham in Northern Syria.

They dismissed Ankara's official claims about their struggle against Tahrir al-Sham in Northern Syria, and even said Turkey has called on the terrorist group to continue occupying Idlib province.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971101000482

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Syria downed over 30 Israeli cruise missiles, bombs: Russia

Jan 21, 2019

Russia says Syria’s air defenses shot down more than 30 cruise missiles and guided bombs during Israel's aerial attacks in the early hours of Monday.

Russia's National Defense Control Center said Israeli airstrikes targeting an airport in southeastern Damascus killed four Syrian soldiers and wounded six others, RIA news agency said.

The announcement came after the Israeli military claimed in a statement that it had struck what it said were Iranian targets in response to alleged rocket fire it blamed on Iran.

The so-called Syria Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group sympathetic to militants, had also claimed that the Israeli air raids killed at least 11 pro-government fighters including two Syrians.

Israel reportedly launched an hour of air attacks over Damascus on a second consecutive night of military action in what appeared to be a face-saving attempt after Syrian air defenses thwarted an attack on Sunday.

The Sunday attack, launched by four Israeli F-16 jets, did not damage its targets, while Syrian air defenses shot down seven missiles fired at an airport near Damascus, Russia's control center said.

Syrian state media, citing a military source, said the country had endured “intense attack through consecutive waves of guided missiles” early Monday, but had destroyed most “hostile targets.”

The Israeli military claimed that Iranian forces operating in Syrian territory had launched a surface-to-surface rocket from Syrian territory aimed at the northern occupied Golan Heights.

"In response to the attack, during the night (Israeli military) fighter jets struck Iranian Quds Forces military targets in Syria in addition to Syrian aerial defense batteries," it said.

Iran says it has military advisers in Syria on the request of the Syrian government to help cleanse the country of foreign-backed terrorists.

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Israeli forces had carried out "hundreds” of attacks against Iranians in Syria and warned them "to get out of there fast."

Head of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Muhammad Ali Jafari dismissed Netanyahu’s threats as "a joke” and warned that the Zionist regime "was playing with a lion’s tail.”

"You should be afraid of the day that our precision-guided missiles roar and fall on your head,” he said. "Be sure, we do not take into account your ridiculous threats,” the Iranian commander said.

"You know that if we have chosen to wait against your hostile measures, some considerations lie behind it,” he added.

General Jafari also said "the Islamic Republic of Iran will keep all its military and revolutionary advisers and its weapons in Syria.”

Israel launches airstrikes on Syria from time to time in what is widely viewed as an attempt to prop up terrorist groups that have been suffering defeat at the hands of Syrian government forces.

Last month, leading Israeli intelligence website DEBKAfile refuted Tel Aviv's claims that a recent aerial raid in Syria had targeted Iranians and Hezbollah fighters, saying the attack actually hit Syrian army positions.

Russia has also warned Israel against carrying out airstrikes near the Damascus International Airport.

The London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper on Friday cited Russian sources as saying that Moscow would not tolerate further airstrikes in the area as it was seeking to renovate the airport.

In September 2018, a Russian reconnaissance aircraft with 15 servicemen on board was downed as Syria was responding to Israeli airstrikes.

Moscow held Israel responsible, saying the regime’s pilots had intentionally used the Russian plane as cover to conduct air raids, effectively putting it in the crosshairs of the Syrian air defenses.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/21/586374/Syria-downed--Israeli-missiles-bombs

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Egypt arrests 24 in demolition protests near pyramids

January 21, 2019

CAIRO: Egyptian security officials say police have arrested 24 people who tried to prevent authorities from demolishing illegal buildings near the Giza pyramids.

They say police used tear gas to disperse residents and shopkeepers in the Nazlet el-Samman village on Monday after they scuffled with police escorting the demolition workers.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Monday’s violence follows a recent announcement that a private Egyptian company will take charge of running the historical site that includes the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx, which are visited by millions every year.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1439421/middle-east

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South Asia

 

AL rejects any connection with Ulama League

January 21st, 2019

Bangladesh Awami League on Monday denied any involvement with the Awami Ulama League, an Islamist organization.

In a signed statement sent to the media by Awami League Office Secretary Abdus Sobhan Golap, it read that the party has observed some media reports of the Awami Ulama League demanding a ban on the operations of NGOs, as well as the BPL T20 cricket tournament.

“We want to clearly state that Awami League right now does not have any associated body called Awami Ulama League or any committee at any level and there is no relationship between the reports published and the Awami League,” it also read.

Conducting such activities in the name of Awami Ulama League is completely unethical and illegal, the statement included.

The ruling party has also demanded legal action against the people involved for conducting activities against Awami League’s policy using the name of Awami Ulama League.

The Bangladesh Awami Ulama League, along with 13 other like-minded groups, demanded a ban on the operation of non-government organizations (NGOs) and international NGOs that are working to curb child marriage in Bangladesh.

In a human chain they formed in front of Jatiya Press Club on Monday, they also demanded a ban on the BPL T20 tournament and has criticized Bangladesh Football Federation for promoting women’s football.

Speakers at the human chain specifically mentioned INGOs – including Unicef, Save the Children and Terre des hommes – which have been working across the country to prevent child marriage.

Demanding to repel the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2017, Ulama League General Secretary Abul Hasan Sheikh Shariatpuri even enunciated that these “anti-Muslim” and “anti-Islam” organizations had been showing way too much interest on this issue because the government as well as ordinary citizens of Bangladesh have not been paying enough heed to this problem.

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/politics/2019/01/21/al-rejects-any-connection-with-ulama-league

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Afghan Air Force conduct night airstrikes in Uruzgan leaving 30 militants dead

21 Jan 2019

The Afghan Air Force has carried out a series of night airstrikes in southern Uruzgan province leaving at least 30 Taliban militants dead.

According to the informed military sources, the Afghan Air Force A29’s conducted night air strikes last night killing 30 Taliban fighters in Khas Uruzgan district of Uruzgan.

The sources further added “The Afghan Air Force’s night strike capabilities greatly minimize the Taliban’s abilities to move and operate at night.”

Uruzgan is among the relatively volatile provinces in South of Afghanistan where Taliban are actively operating in some of its districts and often carry out attacks against the government and security institutions.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-air-force-conduct-night-airstrikes-inuruzgan-leaving-30-militants-dead-03160/

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7 Taliban militants killed, car bomb destroyed in separate coalition airstrikes

22 Jan 2019

At least seven Taliban militants were killed, 3 others were wounded and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device was destroyed during separate airstrikes conducted by the coalition forces.

According to the informed military sources, three coalition air strikes in Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand killed 4 Taliban fighters and wounded 3 others.

Another coalition air strike in Lashkar Gah killed 1 Taliban fighter, the sources said adding that the coalition forces also carried out air strike in Alah Say district of Kapisa province killing 2 Taliban fighters.

In the meantime, a coalition air strike in Musa Khel district of Khost province destroyed a vehicle-borne IED, the officials said adding that “Taliban fighters continue to use VBIEDs and innocent civilians are wounded and killed as a result.”

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/7-taliban-militants-killed-car-bomb-destroyed-in-separate-coalition-airstrikes-03164/

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Senior presidential official jailed for violating ethnic, religious equality

22 Jan 2019

A senior presidential official Sawabuddin Makhkash has been jailed after he was found guilty of violating the ethnic and religious equality by a court in Kabul.

Makhkash, a senior official in the administrative office of the president and a former member of the electoral team of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, was convicted for violating the ethnic and religious equality by the Appellate Court and was awarded a two-year jail term.

Jamshid Rasooli, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said they referred Mr. Makhkash’s case to the court after completing the review of the case nearly a year ago.

He said Makhkash was found not guilty by the preliminary court but since enough documents and evidences were available against him, the case was referred to the Appellate Court which convicted him of violating the ethnic and religious equality and subsequently awarded him two years of jail term.

Makhkash had prepared drafted a plan to hire officials in the government by preferring individuals with a specific ethnic background. The plan leaked into the media after he had shared it in a general group in Telegram.

The leakage of the document sparked a public outcry forcing President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani to instruct the Attorney General’s Office to review the case. 

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/senior-presidential-official-jailed-for-violating-ethnic-religious-equality-03162/

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Taliban attack on Afghan security base kills over 100

21 January 2019

A Taliban attack in central Afghanistan on Monday killed scores of security personnel, officials said, with some estimates putting the death toll at more than 100, amid government silence about one of the most deadly insurgent attacks in months.

Attackers rammed a captured military Humvee packed with explosives into a training center of the National Directorate for Security in Maidan Wardak province, west of the capital Kabul. At least two gunmen followed up, spraying the compound with gunfire before they were shot down.

“We have information that 126 people have been killed in the explosion inside the military training center, eight special commandoes are among the dead,” said a senior official in the defense ministry in Kabul, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Local officials also said that scores of troops and NDS personnel were killed in the attack but there was no official confirmation of the casualty toll, with officials ordered not to talk to media for fear of damaging morale.

“I have been told not to make the death toll figures public. It is frustrating to hide the facts,” said a senior interior ministry official in Kabul.

The complex attack on a highly secured base underlined the heavy pressure facing Afghan security forces as increasingly confident Taliban fighters have stepped up operations, even as diplomatic efforts to agree a peaceful settlement to the conflict have begun.

Taliban insurgents, fighting to drive out international forces from Afghanistan and reintroduce their version of strict Islamic law, claimed responsibility for the attack, which spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said killed 190 people.

The attack, the most serious against Afghan forces in months, occurred on the same day that Taliban representatives met Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, in Qatar.

Last week, Taliban fighters set off a car bomb outside a highly fortified compound killing at least five people and wounding more than 110 in the capital, Kabul but casualties from Monday’s attack appear to have been far higher.

Many dead bodies

Sharif Hotak, a member of the provincial council in Maidan Wardak, said he saw the bodies of 35 members of the Afghan forces in the hospital.

“Many more were killed. Several bodies were transported to Kabul city and many injured were transferred to hospitals in Kabul,” said Hotak, adding that “the government was hiding the accurate casualty figures to prevent a further dip in morale of the Afghan forces.

Monday’s attack caused the biggest casualty total suffered by Afghan forces since August 2018, when the Taliban overran central Ghazni province. That confrontation killed 150 Afghan security forces and 95 civilians dead, as well as hundreds of Taliban fighters, said officials then.

President Ashraf Ghani’s office said in a statement the “enemies of the country” had carried out the attack and had killed and wounded “a number of our beloved and honest sons”.

In recent years the Afghan government has stopped releasing detailed casualty figures but US commanders have said repeatedly that the losses being suffered by Afghan forces are “unsustainable”. Last year Ghani said 28,000 Afghan police officers and soldiers had been killed since 2015.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/01/21/Taliban-attack-on-Afghan-security-base-kills-over-100.html

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Rohingya Muslim group fleeing India to Bangladesh stuck on 'zero line'

Serajul Quadir

JANUARY 21, 2019

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh has denied entry to 31 Rohingya Muslims trying to enter from India and they are stuck in no-man’s land on the border, Bangladesh authorities said on Monday, as India cracks down on members of the community.

The stranded Rohingya, including women and children, had been living in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, according to a Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) official who said he had seen some of their identity cards issued by the U.N. refugee agency in India.

The 31 had been stuck on Bangladesh’s border with northeast India since Friday, said the BGB commander in the area, Golam Kabir.

“We stopped them as they were crossing the border,” Kabir told Reuters by telephone.

“They’ve been on the zero line since the 18th of this month,” he said, referring to the border.Two rounds of talks on what to do with the 31, with India’s Border Security Force on Sunday, had “ended without any conclusive decision”, Kabir said.

Many hundreds of thousands of members of mostly Buddhist Myanmar’s Rohingya community have left their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine Sate over the decades, most fleeing military crackdowns and discrimination.

Many have sought shelter in Bangladesh - where nearly 1 million live - but others have ended up in India, Southeast Asia and beyond.

An Indian border force officer in Tripura state told reporters on Sunday that they were providing food and clothing to the Rohingya, 16 of whom were children.

The force could not be reached for comment on Monday.

India estimates that 40,000 Rohingya are living in scattered settlements in various parts of the country.

But its Hindu nationalist government regards them as illegal aliens and a security threat, and has ordered that they be identified and repatriated.

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, has issued about 16,500 Rohingya in India with identity cards that it says can help “prevent harassment, arbitrary arrests, detention and deportation”. India does not recognize the cards.

Hundreds of Rohingya families have left India for Bangladesh since seven Rohingya men were deported to Myanmar in October. This month, India sent a Rohingya family of five to Myanmar.

The United Nations says conditions are not conducive for Rohingya to return to Myanmar.

In August, the United Nations accused the Myanmar military of mass killings and rapes of Rohingya with “genocidal intent” in a 2017 military operation that drove more than 700,000 of them into Bangladesh, according to U.N. agencies.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-rohingya-india-bangladesh/rohingya-muslim-group-fleeing-india-to-bangladesh-stuck-on-zero-line-idUSKCN1PF0PD

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3 terrorist networks busted in Kandahar province

22 Jan 2019

Three terrorist networks have been busted during the operations of the Afghan Intelligence (National Directorate of Security) forces in southern Kandahar province.

The provincial government media office in a statement said the terrorist networks were busted during the operations which were conducted over the past one week.

The statement further added that the terrorist networks comprised of 30 militants who were all arrested by the intelligence operatives.

The detained militants were involved in major destructive activities including explosions, suicide bombings, and armed attacks, the provincial government added in its statement.

According to the governor’s office, the militants were conducting attacks in Kandahar city and other districts of Kandahar province, mainly targeting security compounds, security check posts, and logistics convoys. 

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/3-terrorist-networks-busted-in-kandahar-province-03161/

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Taliban hold talks with Khalilzad in Qatar, hours after attack on security base

Jan 21, 2019

The Taliban have held talks with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar hours after militants from the group killed scores of Afghan security forces in central Maidan Wardak province.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement on Monday that the Taliban delegation was holding talks with the US representatives in the Qatari capital Doha.

"Talks between Taliban leaders and US officials have started today in Qatar," the statement read.

A source close to the talks also confirmed members of the Taliban's political office were meeting with Khalilzad in Doha, adding, "They will hopefully finalize a timeline and mechanism of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan."

The latest round of talks came hours after the Taliban killed scores of security forces inside a military compound in Maidan Wardak.

Attackers rammed a captured military Humvee packed with explosives into a training center of the National Directorate for Security in the province, west of Kabul. At least two gunmen followed up, spraying the compound with gunfire before they were shot down.

"We have information that 126 people have been killed in the explosion inside the military training center, eight special commandos are among the dead," said a senior official in the Defense Ministry in Kabul, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The developments come as Kabul has stepped up efforts to convince the Taliban to end more than 17 years of militancy amid Washington’s failures on the battleground.

Efforts to negotiate a peace deal to end the US-led war in Afghanistan have been beset by disagreement in recent weeks as leaders of the militant group reject the Kabul government's offer for direct talks.

The US, too, has been holding talks with the Taliban.

Khalilzad has been visiting some regional countries as part of a fresh push to end the long-running Afghan war.

After talks in Abu Dhabi in December, the US envoy said that he had held "productive" meetings in the UAE capital with Afghan and international partners "to promote intra-Afghan dialogue towards ending the conflict."

Khalilzad also said in the Afghan capital on Wednesday that he hoped for fresh talks with the Taliban "very soon" after meetings with them in Doha and Abu Dhabi.

He has said the Taliban seek an agreement on the withdrawal of foreign forces, while the US wants assurances from the militant group that its forces would not be attacked.

The talks in Qatar are the latest in a flurry of diplomatic efforts aimed at putting an end to the war in Afghanistan, which began with the US-led invasion in 2001.

This comes as US President Donald Trump has ordered the start of withdrawing some 7,000 troops from Afghanistan, about half of the total number of American boots on the ground in the war-torn country.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 after the September 11 attacks. US forces have remained bogged down in the war-ravaged country through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now Trump.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/21/586420/Taliban-Afghanistan-Qatar-Doha-Abu-Dhabi

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan quietly drops efforts for fatwa against Afghan Taliban

Imran Muktar

January 21, 2019

Fearing a possible backlash from the Taliban, Pakistan has quietly dropped efforts to obtain a fatwa against carrying out suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Since being removed from power by US-led forces in 2001, the Taliban have waged an armed insurgency against Kabul and international troops, one underpinned by a strong religious ideology. The hardline teachings of the religious duty to carry out a violent struggle against an occupying force have motivated many to take up arms. Nearly 17 years after the invasion, as the US is looking to negotiate a long-term settlement with its stubborn opponent, many looking to degrade the powerful force see a religious decree from prominent Pakistani religious figures as necessary for talks to be successful.

In January last year, religious clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, condemning acts of terrorism in the country as un-Islamic. The decree was endorsed by over 1,800 religious scholars from different schools of Islamic jurisprudence and was hailed as an important step towards curbing extremism and terrorism.

The fatwa was notable for the number of clerics who had signed in the past, been seen as supportive of the Afghan Taliban and were otherwise outspoken critics of liberalism and the West. Among them was Hamid-ul-Haq, the son of a cleric widely regarded as the father of the Afghan Taliban because of the number of high profile militants – including Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar – who graduated from his seminary in Pakistan’s Peshawar.

Hoping to discredit the Taliban, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani criticised the ruling and said it should not have been limited to Pakistan.

"If they [Islamic principles] extend to all [of the world] of Islam, then it [the Pakistani fatwa] should first and foremost be implemented in relation to Afghanistan," Mr Ghani said.

The Taliban, a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement, held power in the country from 1996 to 2001 and enforced their strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The group has long had roots that stretch over the border to Pakistan, with many Taliban leaders graduating from religious schools in Pakistan during their rise fighting the Soviet Union’s invasion of the land-locked country between 1979 and 1989.

Islamabad, as well as being among the first countries to recognise Taliban rule in 1996, has strong military links through Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence. In December, Pakistan used its influence to pave the way for the first direct talks between the US and the Taliban in Abu Dhabi since 2001.

During a visit to Kabul in October 2017, as the details of the fatwa were being agreed in the months before it was issued, Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa promised the Afghan government he would pursue a widened ruling. He said they would look for a ruling that covered Afghanistan, according to Mohammad Amir Rana, the director of an Islamabad-based think-tank Pak Institute for Peace Studies.

“Kabul believes the Taliban would lose significant influence if Pakistani scholars issued a decree against their armed resistance,” Mr Rana said.

However, after discussions at a meeting in Karachi a month after Gen Bajwa’s visit to Kabul, Pakistan’s religious clerics balked at the proposal.

“They unanimously decided not to intervene in internal affairs of Afghanistan,” said Mufti Muhammad Naeem, chancellor of Jamia Binoria International, a Deobandi seminary in Karachi.

Mr Naeem said he was initially in favour of the proposed decree but later changed his mind, fearing it could turn the Taliban against Pakistan.

“We did it for our country, but we can’t do it for Afghanistan,” he said of the first decree approved in January 2018. “If Afghan imams are not willing to issue a decree against jihad in their country, why should we do it? Also, Pakistan enjoys considerable influence over Afghan Taliban, so we don’t want to diminish it by issuing a decree against them.”

A delegation of Afghan religious scholars then visited Pakistan in October last year seeking to convince the clerics of a need to outlaw Pakistanis travelling to Afghanistan for militancy but that effort proved futile.

“Afghan scholars briefed us about their constitution which they claimed is Islamic in nature, and sought our support to issue a decree against the jihad,” Tahir Ashrafi, President of the All Pakistan Ulema Council, told The National.

But the Pakistani clerics demurred. In the past, many of them had issued fatwas in favour of the Afghan Taliban and their struggle against Nato forces. “It was now difficult for them to recede from their positions,” said Mr Ashrafi.

A key difference between the Pakistan and Afghan contexts in relation to the proposed fatwa was the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan, which the Taliban and many Afghans consider invaders, Mr Ashrafi said.

The Taliban bases its claims to legitimacy on a narrative of a religiously justified struggle against foreign occupation and would likely resist an attempt by Pakistan to issue a fatwa against it, according to Mr Rana.

Fearing a loss of influence over the Taliban, by late last year the Pakistani authorities had decided to quietly drop the issue.

Pakistan’s foreign office declined to comment but reports indicate that at some point in November last year, Islamabad quietly told their counterparts in Kabul that the fatwa was off and it seems, at least for now, that whole idea has been shelved.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/asia/pakistan-quietly-drops-efforts-for-fatwa-against-afghan-taliban-1.816173

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Sindh police book scores of PTM workers, leaders under terrorism charges

Imtiaz Ali

January 21, 2019

Sindh police on Monday registered a case against scores of Pashtoon Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leaders and workers under terrorism charges after the party held a rally in Karachi's Sohrab Goth area on Sunday.

According to the FIR of the incident, police accused speakers at the rally of using "undesirable language against state institutions". The FIR (22/2019) was registered on behalf of the State through Sohrab Goth Station House Officer Rao Zakir.

According to the contents of the FIR, the workers of PTM, "under directions of Manzoor Pashteen organized the rally at a ground behind Al-Asif Square on Sunday."

"The complainant SHO, who was patrolling the area, after receiving information rushed to the spot and asked the PTM president of the area, Naurazay Tareen, to furnish permission of the meeting.

“He [the organiser of the rally] became jittery, created hindrance in official work and chanted slogans against state institutions and police, while other people also joined him on the stage in raising slogans,” as per the contents of the FIR.

The police alleged that the organisers did not listen to the SHO and spread provocation, "creating an atmosphere of serious fear and chaos.”

The police invoked Sections 147, 149, 186, 153-A, 500 and 505 of the Pakistan Penal Code and 7-ATA (Anti-Terrorism Act) against 250-300 persons, including 16 identified by name.

Earlier, North Waziristan MNA Mohsin Dawar had taken to Twitter to highlight the arrest and subsequent disappearance of Alamzeb Mehsud, described as an active member of the PTM and a campaigner for missing persons.

The lawmaker said that the young man's arrest was the latest in a series of incidents involving Sindh police and security agencies harassing PTM workers and activists following the party’s successful rally in Karachi on Sunday.

Dawar demanded the immediate release of Alamzaib and other PTM workers in his statement.

A senior official who wished not to be named said that Alamzeb Mehsud was arrested for being an organiser of the said rally.

Videos of what seemed to be mobile phone recordings of the arrest, which were circulated on social media, showed law enforcement officials in uniform and plain clothes brandishing weapons and forcing an unconfirmed number of young men out of their vehicle.

In one of the videos, a plainclothesman can be seen pointing a handgun directly at the car's occupants.

The regional chapter of Amnesty International also expressed concern over the disappearance of the PTM activist.

“We are concerned about reports of the disappearance of PTM activist Alamzeb Mehsud. His whereabouts must be disclosed immediately. Either produce him in court or release him without delay,” read a statement issued by the human rights watchdog.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1458917/sindh-police-book-scores-of-ptm-workers-leaders-under-terrorism-charges

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Presence of US senator’s guard in PM meeting irks Senate panel

Iftikhar A. KhanU

January 22, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A senate panel on Monday lamented the presence of a US senator’s guard during his meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, terming it disgrace to the country.

Senate Standing Committee on Interior chairman and former interior minister Rehman Malik said the members wanted to know why US Senator Lindsey Graham’s guard had been allowed to remain present during the meeting with the prime minister and directed the interior secretary to submit details on the matter.

The committee during its meeting called for a judicial probe into the Sahiwal tragedy in which four people, including three members of a family, were killed in front of their children.

Mr Malik was of the view that the police could not be given the licence to kill and even if there was evidence against them, the Senate committee must be given the reason for not arresting them instead. “It is an alarming situation that how lawlessly unarmed civilians were killed in broad daylight by Punjab police on the main highway in front of dozens of citizens,” he remarked.

The committee sought a detailed report from the interior ministry about all such encounters that took place over the past 10 years. Mr Malik said all questions submitted to the ministry must be responded to in great detail. He directed that a judicial commission be formed under a senior high court judge and its terms and reference be made public.

The committee chairman also stressed the need for clarity whether or not the militant Islamic State group was present in Pakistan and sought a report from the interior ministry on the matter.

He said the Senate committee would like to see if those killed in Sahiwal had any criminal record. He added that the judicial commission must look into the evidence available with the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) against the suspects as well as the reasons why killing of the children was attempted, wondering whether this was an attempt to eliminate witnesses.

Mr Malik ordered a thorough probe into the incident based on ground realities and asked the interior ministry to submit a comprehensive report with answers from the Punjab police chief and home secretary. The committee has sought details and profile of the deceased, including their past criminal record or FIR, if any.

The committee chairman said they wanted to know what made the police to follow the family traveling in a small car and what the concrete evidence was to consider the deceased as prime suspects.

The committee wondered when the alleged suspects had stopped the car on the CTD order, then why the police opened fire on them. It sought full police version on the incident — at what level such action was ordered, was there any FIR wherein these deceased were ever summoned or interrogated, and was there any intelligence report on record against them?

The committee also sought profile and service history of all the CTD personnel involved in the shootout — whether any of them belonged to the local area or had personal animosity towards the deceased or any other members of the victim family?

Another question raised by the committee was that if it was a police encounter, was it being supervised by senior police officers as per laws?

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1459038/presence-of-us-senators-guard-in-pm-meeting-irks-senate-panel

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Opposition in Senate dismisses Sahiwal JIT as smokescreen

January 22, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the Senate on Monday rejected the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) over the Sahiwal tragedy as a mere smokescreen and called for swift action to punish all those responsible for the killings.

Speaking on an adjournment motion, the Senators observed that even if the victims were terrorists — as claimed by the Punjab government — they deserved the due process of law.

They pointed out that the Constitution guarantees the right to live and the state is bound to protect lives, honour and property of its citizens.

They voiced concern over the registration of an FIR against ‘unknown’ assailants and U-turns taken by the Punjab government functionaries who have initially claimed to have killed terrorists to recover ‘abducted children’.

They said the announcement of compensation of Rs20 million was nothing short of confession of brutal murders.

They highlighted that the barbaric incident took place in broad daylight in the presence of a large number of people, with many of them capturing the scenes on their mobile phones that was sufficient to uncover the truth. Many Senators sought a ruling from the chair over the matter.

Taking part in the discussion, Pakistan Peoples Party parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said that the JIT formed by the government appeared to be an attempt at a cover-up.

She criticised the Punjab government for continuously changing positions and was shocked by the disclosure that all that happened was preplanned. She observed that the extrajudicial killings would never stop if the Senate failed to act this time.

Ms Rehman said that the Punjab government had declared the victims terrorists. “If they were terrorists, was there no option but to open fire on them. Now people are asking whether we should go out of houses with children or not,” she said.

She said the counterterrorism department should be held accountable and a reply should come within 24 hours.

Emir of the Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Sirajul Haq said the Sahiwal tragedy was a serious matter. He regretted that the Punjab government kept on changing its position. He said even wild beasts did not attack children like this.

He said responsibility of the brutality should be fixed and it should be known which intelligence agencies provided wrong information about the victims. He argued that even terrorists could not be killed on the road.

“Let all the courts be locked if the police are to decide who is terrorist and then award the punishment themselves,” he remarked.

He called for a complete audit of all the extrajudicial killings by the CTD.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s parliamentary leader Abdul Ghafoor Haidri said the Punjab government had initially told the media that four terrorists had been killed to recover three abducted children from their possession.

He said a story had also been concocted to show that the victims belonged to the militant Islamic State group, which the government claimed had no footprints in Pakistan. He lamented that the Punjab government was still sticking to its claim that those killed were terrorists.

He said those responsible must be held accountable.

Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party said action should also be taken against those who provided wrong information.

Jehanzaib Jamaldini of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal said the horrific incident had rocked the entire country.

There should be less politics and more investigation over it, he said, adding that a commission having representation from both houses of parliament should be formed to expose the characters behind it.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1459028/opposition-in-senate-dismisses-sahiwal-jit-as-smokescreen

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Pakistan invites Indian delegation to finalise Kartarpur agreement

January 22, 2019

Two months after Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone for the Kartarpur Corridor, Pakistan has invited an Indian delegation to Islamabad to finalise the agreement, according to a statement issued by the Foreign Office (FO).

The FO said that the draft agreement between the two countries has been shared with New Delhi through the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

“This was in line with Islamic principles that advocate respect for all religions and Pakistan’s policy of promoting inter-faith harmony and religious tolerance and also in line with Quaid’s vision of a peaceful neighbourhood,” the FO said. The statement added that FO spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal has been appointed as the focal person and it requested New Delhi to do the same.

The Kartarpur Corridor will connect two Sikh holy sites — Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Pakistan and Dera Baba Nanak in India. The corridor will facilitate the Indian Sikh community in visiting the sacred place where their spiritual leader Baba Guru Nanak lived for 18 years until his death in 1539. The groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor was attended by Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa among others.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/01/21/pakistan-invites-indian-delegation-to-finalise-kartarpur-agreement/

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5 arrested, dozens booked for dogfight

January 22, 2019

MANSEHRA: The Mansehra police booked dozens of people and arrested five persons for fighting dogs here on Monday.

“I cannot tolerate brutalities with dogs and those found involved in pitching these wild creatures against each other might be taken to justice under strict relevant laws,” Zaibullah Khan, the district police officer told reporters.

The police captured the dogs along with fighters/owners and kept them at the police station until they were freed by the local court.

The dog fighters and spectators from across Hazara had assembled at Barbir area to hold a dogfight. However, the police raided the area and arrested five dog fighters.

Those arrested included Mohammad Bashir, Gul Nawaz, Yasir Ali, Wali Hanif and Osama Niaz.

He said that a special team of police had been constituted to stop the dogfights.

“We have arrested five key players in organising the dogfight and a case has been lodged against them. The rest would soon be arrested,” said the official. He said that a case was registered.

Mansehra tehsil nazim elected: Umar Farooq was elected Mansehra tehsil nazim on Monday.

The differences that emerged among Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders over the distribution of the party ticket led to the defeat as its contender for the tehsil nazim, Zahid Aziz, withdrew from the race just before polling and surprisingly voted for Umar Farooq.

The newly elected nazim, who later took the oath of his office, secured 36 of 38 votes.

As many as 16 members of the council almost all of PML-N abstained from the election session chaired by the returning officer, Mohammad Moguis Sanaullah, Mansehra assistant commissioner.

The PML-N being the single largest party having a total of 29 councillors in a house of 54 councillors suffered a defeat because of revolt by its members. A meeting of PTI, which was held last night with Member Provincial Assembly Babar Saleem Swati in the chair, had decided to field Umar Farooq, a leader of PML-N dissidents as its contender for the office of tehsil nazim.

The three councillors, including two of the Pakistan People’s Party and one of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl also supported Umar Farooq in the elections and two female councillors of PML-N, who were present in council, voted against him.

“I have no words to thank those councillors who voted for me and I assure you that I would work for the uplift of people in accordance with your wishes,” Umar Farooq told the council after taking oath of office.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/422091-5-arrested-dozens-booked-for-dogfight

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Southeast Asia

 

‘Ulema protection’ bill draws criticism

January 22 2019

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) has promised to pass a bill to protect Muslim clerics, religious figures and religious symbols as part of its bid to retain seats in the House of Representatives after the 2019 general elections.

“For the sake of maintaining the honor and nobility of ulema, religious leaders and religious symbols, and in order to maintain the integrity and harmony of interreligious life, the PKS promises to fight for the protection bill in the upcoming 2019-2024 period,” PKS chairman Sohibul Iman told a press conference recently.

Sohibul cited what he claimed to was an increase in “persecution against ulema” as one of the reasons behind their plan.

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/01/22/ulema-protection-bill-draws-criticism.html

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PAS chief Hadi Awang takes crack at Singapore in Malaysia by-election rally

By Suresh Nair

January 21, 2019

SINGAPORE was strangely singled out by PAS chief Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang (above) as he urged non-Muslim voters to back a Muslim Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate in the Cameron Highlands by-election.

Islamist party Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and its electoral base is in Malaysia’s rural and conservative north. The party has governed the east coast state of Kelantan twice (1959–1977 and 1990–present) and has also, in the past, formed governments in Terengganu (1959–1962, 1999–2004 and 2018–present) and Kedah (2008–2013). It currently holds 18 of the 222 seats in the federal House of Representatives and has elected parliamentarians or state assembly members in eight of the country’s 13 states.

“We have gotten our independence for more than half a century and we have given all the right for non-Muslims,” he says. “The rights we given to non-Muslims here is not given to non-Muslim in other countries.”

Citing Singapore, rather awkwardly, for not encouraging vernacular schools, he lets fly: “In Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, they don’t have vernacular schools despite the fact that they have Chinese and Indians residents. But in Malaysia, we given them the right to have these vernacular schools.”

Hadi Awang claims Islam teaches Muslims to accord non-Muslims rights and urges voters to come out and fulfil their responsibility by voting in the by-election.

He was campaigning for the BN candidate Ramli Mohd Noor in the Cameron Highlands parliamentary by-election on January 26. Ramli will be facing Pakatan Harapan’s M. Manogaran and two independent candidates Sallehudin Ab Talib, a senior lecturer in Institut Aminuddin Baki Genting Highland, and Wong Seng Yee, who is a local farmer and activist.

Hadi also slammed the Democratic Action Party (DAP) saying that it has no concept of sin and heavenly reward. He fell back to his typical form by claiming that it was the religious duty of Muslims to vote for someone of the same faith, a line commonly adopted by Umno and PAS against the multi-racial Pakatan Harapan government.

“Give your trust to a Muslim representative to represent you, as Islam teaches spiritual aspects, such as sin and heavenly reward in leadership. The problem is (the concept) of sin and heavenly reward does not exist within DAP. It does not exist in non-Islamic parties.

“Muslims and the Orang Asli who are Muslims are required (wajib) to choose a representative who can bring the Islamic voice.”

Full report at:

http://theindependent.sg/pas-chief-hadi-awang-takes-crack-at-singapore-in-malaysia-by-election-rally/

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‘Thaipusam shows Malaysians enjoy freedom of religion’

22 Jan 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: The peaceful Thaipusam celebration this year affirms the fact that Malaysians are able to enjoy freedom of religion, says National Unity and Social Well-being Minister P. Waytha Moorthy.

He said that while Malaysia has a majority Muslim population, those from other faiths have always been allowed to practise their faiths.

“This is the unique aspect of this nation which thrives on religious diversity.

“All religions are given space to perform their religious duty to God without any hatred,” he said in his speech during the Thaipusam celebration at Batu Caves yesterday.

Selangor Mentri Besar Amirudin Shari, who was present as well, said that Malaysians stayed united despite certain quarters trying to play up religious and racial sentiments.

Full report at:

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2019/01/22/thaipusam-shows-malaysians-enjoy-freedom-of-religion/

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Indonesia president orders review of planned release of radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir

JAN 22, 2019

JAKARTA - President Joko Widodo has ordered a more in-depth evaluation of the planned release of radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, Indonesia's Coordinating Political Legal and Security Minister Wiranto said on Monday (Jan 21).

The announcement, made at a hastily-called press conference, followed Mr Joko's statement on Friday that the government will this week release the firebrand cleric and spiritual leader of South-east Asia terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiah, on humanitarian grounds because of his deteriorating health. The decision has drawn strong criticism both domestically and internationally.

Bashir, 80, was the mastermind behind the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people.

Mr Wiranto told reporters that the president has asked him to review all aspects of the planned release.

Bashir's family has requested his early release since 2017 because of his poor health.

"President has instructed related officials to immediately conduct a more thorough and comprehensive assessment of the request," said Mr Wiranto.

The announcement has now cast doubt over Bashir's release.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Saturday he had been in contact with the Indonesian government over the issue. Australia lost 88 people in the Bali bombings. "Australia's position on this matter has not changed. We've always expressed the deepest of reservations," he told Reuters.

Families of bombing victims also expressed their disappointment that Bashir might be freed.

Mr Muhammad Mahendradatta, one of Bashir's lawyers, underlined that his client was eligible for parole, having served two thirds of his sentence by Dec 13 last year.

Bashir has been in jail since his arrest in 2009 although he was only sentenced in 2011 for his support of a terrorist training camp in Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh.

Under prevailing laws, a convict is eligible for a conditional release after serving two thirds of his prison sentence. But Bashir has not been freed, as he has refused to fulfil certain requirements, including signing papers to declare his loyalty to the Indonesian state and the founding principles of Pancasila.

Regional terrorism expert Sidney Jones described the legal grounds of Mr Joko's decision as "murky".

"It is clearly not a pardon, because Bashir never requested a pardon," she wrote in her analysis published by Australian think-tank Lowy Institute.

"It is not an amnesty. It would seem to violate Regulation 99 of 2012 from the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, which makes early release for certain categories of offenders, including convicted terrorists, contingent on their willingness to sign a written loyalty oath to the Indonesian government," wrote Ms Jones, who is also the director of Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.

Speculations have emerged over the political motive behind the plan to release Bashir.

Mr Joko, who is seeking re-election on April 17 , has attempted to boost his Muslim credentials, including picking as his running mate conservative cleric Ma'ruf Amin, formerly the chairman of the Indonesia Ulema Council and former supreme leader of Indonesia's biggest Islamic organisation Nahdlatul Ulama.

Full report at:

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/indonesia-president-orders-review-of-planned-release-of-radical-cleric-abu-bakar-bashir

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North America

 

Iran says blacks' rights violated as US arrests Muslim journalist

January 22, 2019

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday accused the United States of violating the civil rights of black people over its arrest of a journalist working for Iranian state television.

Marzieh Hashemi, a US-born black Muslim convert, was detained on arrival at St Louis Lambert International Airport on January 13, according to family and friends cited by her employer, Press TV.

"The US govt needs to explain how Marzieh Hasehmi -- a journalist and grandmother -- is such a flight risk that she must be incarcerated until she finished her testimony to a grand jury," Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Zarif added that "50 years after MLK assassination, the US still violates the civil rights of black men and women," in reference to the murder in the United States of black civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

A US court said on Friday that Hashemi's testimony was required over an unspecified case but that she was not accused of any crimes.

It said Hashemi had been detained on "a material arrest warrant" and would be freed after she gave testimony to a grand jury investigating unspecified "violations of US criminal law".

Hashemi, who changed her name from Melanie Franklin after converting to Islam, had reportedly been visiting her ill brother and other family members in the United States.

Zarif had previously described Hashemi's arrest as a "political" move by the US that "tramples on freedom of speech."

He also said Hashemi was considered an Iranian national through marriage.

https://www.dailysabah.com/americas/2019/01/21/iran-says-blacks-rights-violated-as-us-arrests-muslim-journalist

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NY Times writer blasts Israeli abuse in Palestine

21.01.2019

NEW YORK

A New York Times article penned by Michelle Alexander and published on Sunday has slammed Israeli policies against Palestine.

In the article "Time to break the silence on Palestine," civil rights lawyer and advocate Alexander urges the international community to speak courageously against the "grave injustice of our time," just like Martin Luther King Jr. did so against the war in Vietnam.

"...so, if we are to honor King's message and not merely the man, we must condemn Israel's actions: unrelenting violations of international law, continued occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, home demolitions and land confiscations," writes Alexander.

"We must cry out at the treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints, the routine searches of their homes and restrictions on their movements, and the severely limited access to decent housing, schools, food, hospitals and water that many of them face.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/ny-times-writer-blasts-israeli-abuse-in-palestine/1370107

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Mideast

 

Media: Organized ISIL Network Active in Turkey

Jan 21, 2019

The Kurdish-language Hawar News quoted a Pakistani ISIL terrorist, namely Fazl al-Rahman Abdol Majid, nom de guerre Abu Ana'am al-Muhajir, as revealing on Monday that organized networks of the ISIL are highly active in Turkey.

Al-Muhajir added that he was stationed in one of the ISIL centers in the town of Azneh before entering Syria in 2015, noting that the ISIL militants trafficked in Turkey very easily as if they were members of the Turkish army.

He also revealed the Turkish government's cooperation with the ISIL, and said that he, along with 50 other ISIL militants, was transferred to al-Ra'ei region in Northern Aleppo easily and without being questioned by the Turkish officials.

In relevant remarks last September, a former foreign terrorist commander disclosed that Turkey had armed the ISIL terrorist group in Northern Syria.

Samir Bukana nom de guerre Abu Abdullah al-Mohajer, a former commander of the ISIL with Moroccan origin and Italian nationality, who was responsible for transferring weapons from Turkey to Syria for the ISIL, told the Kurdish-language Hawar News that the foreign terrorists entered Northern Syria with the help of Turkey's intelligence agency.

Bukana, who was arrested by the Kurdish forces as he was running away to Turkey, added that he entered Jabal al-Akrad region in Syria's Lattakia province along with a group of foreign ISIL terrorists after residing in a camp belonging to the Turkish intelligence agency in Antakya.

He said that the ISIL terrorists in Northern Syria received orders from Turkey, and added that they withdrew to the Turkish lands after fighting against the Syrian army forces in Lattakia for a while upon Ankara's order and then were dispatched to Northern Aleppo to fight against the Kurds after receiving weapons and military equipment.

Bukana, who was also ISIL's man in charge of recruiting foreign forces from the European states to fight Syria, said Turkey provided security for the terrorists and, for instance, denied to extradite an Australian terrorist to Canberra in one of such cases.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971101000778

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Israeli Espionage Operations against Hamas Commander Exposed

Jan 21, 2019

The Arabic-language al-Akhbar newspaper quoted informed security sources affiliated to the Palestinian resistance as saying that the system was due to eavesdrop on Mrwan Issa, a senior commander of al-Qassam Brigades, but the resistance forces could find and dismantle it.

The sources said that the system received sound waves from Issa's house and sent it to the receivers inside the occupied territories, adding that it is considered as a new method used by the Israelis to spy on Palestinians.

According to the paper, the resistance forces also could find and arrest the "mercenary who had planted the system in the region.

The military wing of Hamas said earlier this month that the botched undercover Israeli operation in the Palestinian enclave in November was aimed to plant spying devices in their communications network.

The November 11 special forces operation, which Israel said was an intelligence-gathering mission, turned deadly when the undercover soldiers were spotted near Khan Yunis in the Southern Gaza Strip.

The ensuing firefight claimed the lives of an Israeli army officer and seven Palestinians, including a local Hamas military commander.

A spokesman for the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said that 15 members of an elite Israeli military unit had infiltrated Gaza via the border fence and travelled in the enclave using cars disguised as vehicles belonging to a local charity.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971101000636

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Palestinian killed by Israeli soldiers in West Bank

22 January 2019

A Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli soldiers on Monday night south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.

“A Palestinian was killed after the (Israeli) occupation forces opened fire on him,” the ministry said, without elaborating on the details.

The statement came shortly after the Israeli army said its soldiers had “neutralized” a knife-wielding assailant in the same area.

The Israeli army said the first results of an investigation showed the assailant had arrived in a car from Nablus and tried to stab a soldier who was manning a checkpoint.

“Another soldier responded by firing at the terrorist and neutralizing him,” it said in a statement, adding that no soldiers were injured in the attack.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/22/Palestinian-killed-by-Israeli-soldiers-in-West-Bank.html

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Netanyahu: Iran will face consequences for threatening Israel

21 January 2019

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s air strikes on Syria on Monday had mainly targeted military positions set up by Iran, which he warned would face consequences for threatening to destroy Israel.

“We are operating both against Iran and against the Syrian forces that are abetting the Iranian aggression,” Netanyahu said in a speech. “We will strike at anyone who tried to harm us. Whoever threatens to eliminate us, bears full responsibility,” he said.

Earlier, the commander of Iran’s air force, Brigadier Aziz Nasirzadeh, said that Iran will “eliminate Israel from the Earth” in a fiery statement to the Young Journalist Club, a website supervised by state television, Al Arabiya reported.

This comes after Israel’s military said on Monday it struck Iranian Quds targets inside Syria and warned Syrian forces not to attack Israeli territory or forces. The Israeli air strikes and ground-to-ground missiles killed at least 11 fighters including two Syrians, a Britain-based war monitor said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/21/Netanyahu-Iran-will-face-consequences-for-threatening-Israel.html

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South African, European demining experts killed in Yemen

21 January 2019

Five demining experts killed in a weekend explosion in Yemen were from South Africa and several European countries, King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief) in charge of the project said on Monday.

The KSRelief said two South Africans, a Croatian, a Bosnian and a Kosovan were killed on Sunday when a vehicle carrying mines to be destroyed exploded in the central province of Marib.

A British national was injured in the explosion, KSRelief said without naming the casualties.

The Houthi militias have been accused of the widespread and indiscriminate use of landmines.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/01/21/South-African-European-demining-experts-killed-in-Yemen.html

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Israeli forces fatally shoot Palestinian over an alleged stabbing attempt

Jan 22, 2019

Israeli forces have fatally shot a Palestinian man at an Israeli checkpoint in Nablus, in the northern region of the occupied West Bank.

The 36-year-old victim, Muhammad Fouzi Adwi, succumbed to his wounds shortly after being shot, the Palestinian Health Ministry said on Monday.

The Israeli military later claimed in a statement that the man was shot following an alleged stabbing attack. No Israeli soldiers were, however, injured in the incident.

The Israeli military regularly opens fatal fire on Palestinians, accusing them of attempted attacks.

Observers believe Israeli forces continue to adopt a shoot-to-kill policy against Palestinians knowing that Tel Aviv has offered impunity to kill Palestinians based on mere suspicions.

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized the Tel Aviv regime for its policy as a significant number of the killed Palestinians are known to have not posed any immediate threat.

The Israeli regime has also been enforcing the draconian policy of demolishing homes of Palestinians who are deemed to be behind fatal attacks against Israelis in the West Bank.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/22/586432/Israeli-forces-kill

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Israeli strikes aimed at prolonging crisis in Syria: Damascus

Jan 21, 2019

Syria has once again written protest letters to the United Nations, urging the world body to take a decisive step and put an end to Israel's acts of aggression against its territory as Tel Aviv's hostile strikes are aimed at “prolonging” the crisis in the Arab country.

According to SANA official news agency, the development came after Syria’s air defenses shot down more than 30 cruise missiles and guided bombs during Israel's aerial attacks in the early hours of Monday.

In two identical letters to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the head of UN Security Council (UNSC), the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates said the Israeli aerial aggression was an attempt to raise the “morale” of the remaining terrorist hotbeds that are “subservient” to Tel Aviv.

The Syrian government also noted that the Israeli strikes were carried out by the occupying regime in an attempt to escape its “growing internal problems and for reasons precisely known to the international community.”

Slamming the United States for its unbridled support for Israel, the letters said, “Syria affirms that Israel’s persistence in its dangerous aggressive behavior wouldn’t be possible without the unlimited support of the US administration and the immunity provided to it by the US and other Security Council member states.”

The Syrian government also called on the UN Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities as per the UN Charter and take immediate and decisive steps to prevent Israeli attacks from reoccurring, force Israel to respect the Security Council’s resolutions on disengagement, and hold Tel Aviv accountable for its crimes against the Syrians and Palestinians.

On Sunday, SANA cited an unnamed military official as saying that the aerial defense units of the Arab country managed to “thwart” a daylight missile attack conducted by Israeli warplanes against some localities in and around the Syrian capital.

Hours later, SANA said in a separate report that the Israeli regime conducted another aerial aggression in the early hours of Monday in which it conducted “land and air strikes … through successive waves of guided missiles” against the Arab country.

The report added that the Syrian defense system was promptly activated and shot down “most” of the “hostile” projectiles before reaching their designated targets.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/21/586423/Syria-UN-letters-Israel-strikes-terrorists

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Turkey demands security role in Manbij

January 21, 2019

ANKARA: After Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told US President Donald Trump on Sunday that Turkey was ready to take over security keeping in Manbij in northern Syria without delay, eyes are turned toward the parameters and feasibility of such a target.

As Moscow tries to have primacy after the pullout of 2,000 American troops from the country, its reaction toward Turkish maneuvers to assume the security-provider role in the predominantly Arab town is still uncertain.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently expressed the Kremlin’s expectation that the Assad government takes over the territory in eastern Syria after the US withdrawal to establish its sovereignty.

The Kurds are also gradually turning to the regime and the Kremlin for support.

When Russia recently dispatched military police to the western part of Manbij, this move was seen by experts as a counter-maneuver to remind regional partners of Russian presence against any military advancement and to fill the political and military vacuum in the area.

Ankara and Washington are also negotiating the possible creation of a 30-kilometer safe zone along the Turkish frontier with northern Syria to push back Kurdish militants from its border.

Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, thinks that while Washington and Ankara remain locked in negotiating the post-US withdrawal, their core interests in northern Syria are irreconcilable.

“It is difficult to see how the US can reach a deal with Turkey to stabilize Manbij and east of Euphrates River without committing to stay in Syria in the short term, at least to make sure there is no Turkish-Kurdish confrontation,” he told Arab News.

For Macaron, the stakes are high, as both the US and Turkey want a deal to prevent the Russian-backed Syrian regime from filling the vacuum but this deal seems improbable given their widely different views on the Kurdish role in Syria.

In 2016, the town of Manbij, being located 20 miles south of the Syrian-Turkish border, was captured by US-backed alliance of Arab and Kurdish militia, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). However, Ankara has since threatened to launch a military offensive to oblige the Kurdish militia YPG that leads the SDF to withdraw from Manbij, a predominantly Arab town, as Turkey considers the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) a terror group.

Since early November, American and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols around the city of Manbij for averting any clashes between Turkey and Kurdish militia.

Some Syrian Arab tribes in Manbij recently called for Turkish intervention against YPG especially following its call for compulsory enlistment and discrimination against Arab locals.

A recent Daesh-claimed suicide attack in Manbij, in which about 20 people, including US service personnel, were killed, is also seen as a development that may slow the US pullout.

On Monday, a bomb attack against a YPG and US army convoy in Hasakah province in northeastern Syria killed at least five.

“As the US and Turkey are negotiating cooperation in northeastern Syria based on the Manbij model, one of the complications is that the Manbij model itself is not successfully completed yet,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of German Marshall Fund of the US, told Arab News.

“Therefore, successful implementation of the Manbij road map would not only be an important confidence-building measure as far as Turkey is concerned, but also a prerequisite for US-Turkey cooperation in the east of the Euphrates.”

According to Unluhisarcikli, it would also be a litmus test for Turkey’s capabilities before it takes on bigger roles.

“The US cannot realistically withdraw its forces from Syria before the transition in the east of Euphrates is completed, in one form or another, and the current pace of the Manbij road map is not very promising for those who desire a quick withdrawal,” he said.

Kerim Has, a Moscow-based Russia analyst, thinks that the Kremlin will certainly not wish for and try to impede a new, large-scale military Turkish army incursion into Syria, but may have to concede to Turkey’s demands for a ‘symbolic military victory’ before the local elections in Turkey depending on what it gets in return.

“If Turkey takes the control of Manbij, we may assume firstly that, Ankara and Washington have reached a deal; secondly, YPG is withdrawing from the region and Turkish army is not going to fight against YPG and thirdly, the withdrawal of YPG from Manbij will result in favor of Turkey’s advancement in Syria,” Has told Arab News.

According to Has, Moscow can give a consent to the Turkish army for entering Manbij only if Turkey transfers control of the city to regime forces in a short period of time.

“In this case, Turkey will play a ‘subcontractor role’ of saving the face of the US in its relations with Russia and the regime on Syria and Kurds,” he said.

“For Russia, taking Manbij from Turkey, rather than the US, may seems a ‘smooth transition’ of the city’s control to Damascus.”

But, in any case, Has noted, Turkey’s further advancement in Syria is already becoming a risk for Moscow.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1439506/middle-east

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Europe

 

Germany bans Iranian airline on suspicion of spying, terror

21 January 2019

Berlin has revoked Iranian airline Mahan’s right to operate in Germany, a senior government source told Reuters on Monday, giving both safety concerns and the suspicion that the airline was being used for military purposes as reasons.

The government suspects the airline, which has been on a United States sanctions list since 2011, is used for military purposes by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as well as for terrorist activities.

Several European Union countries accuse Iran of carrying out spying operations or planning attacks on the continent. The government source said that the flight did not constitute general sanctions against Iran.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/21/Germany-bans-Iranian-airline-on-suspicion-of-spying-terror.html

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German arms manufacturer may sue Berlin over halt in arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Jan 21, 2019

A major German arms manufacturer has threatened legal action against the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel over its decision to suspend all weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in the wake of the assassination of a dissident journalist in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Citing a letter to the Economy Ministry, German-language news website Spiegel Online said Sunday that Rheinmetall AG — one of Germany’s largest military contractors — plans to file a claim for compensation against Berlin if the suspension is upheld.

The corporation wrote to the ministry that it considered itself eligible for restitution as the government’s decision affected already approved exports worth up to 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion).

The company’s management was said to be concerned that its own shareholders could sue Rheinmetall if the company failed to demand compensation for the loss of revenue.

Chancellor Merkel announced back in October 2018 that Berlin would stop exporting weapons to Riyadh “under current circumstances” surrounding the gruesome murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul earlier that month.

Merkel called Khashoggi’s murder an “atrocity” that “had to be clarified,” calling on fellow European governments to follow suit and suspend arms sales to Riyadh.

The German Economy Ministry said last week that the government had still no plan to approve arms sales to the kingdom.

No other arms manufacturer has so far expressed discontent with the ban.

Last week, the CNN, citing figures from the German Economy Ministry, said Berlin saw its arms exports fall by close to 23 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year. The report quoted an official with the ministry as saying that Merkel’s ban was a reason for the sharp decline.

Before the halt, Germany — one of the world’s five biggest arms exporters — had approved arms exports worth 416.4 million euros ($475.7 million) to Saudi Arabia in 2018 alone.

This had happened despite calls from rights groups for Berlin to halt arms supplies to the regime, which stands accused of committing war crimes in Yemen.

Besides Germany, Norway and Spain also banned weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, whose Crown Prince and defense chief Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have ordered Khashoggi’s murder.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/21/586361/Germany-arms-sale-Rheinmetall-Saudi-Arabia-Khashoggi

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Germany appoints intel official with migrant background

21.01.2019

BERLIN

Sinan Selen, a senior counterterrorism expert with Turkish roots, has been officially appointed as the vice president of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency BfV.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced Selen’s appointment at an official ceremony at the headquarters of the BfV in Cologne on Monday.

The 47-year-old began his career in 2000 at the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and oversaw various investigations into foreign terrorist organizations between 2011 and 2016. He has also served as the head of Counterterrorism Task Force at the Interior Ministry.

Selen’s appointment came after multiple scandals at the BfV in recent years, which have sparked public criticism and led to accusations of operating sympathetically with the far-right groups, and covering up the murders of the neo-Nazi group NSU.

The shadowy NSU group killed eight Turkish and one Greek immigrant between 2000 and 2007, but the murders long remained unresolved.

While recent revelations have shown that the BfV had informants who had contacts with the NSU suspects, officials insisted that they had no prior information about the killings.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/germany-appoints-intel-official-with-migrant-background/1370781

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HRW: EU could be guilty of crimes against humanity for migrant deal with Libya

January 21, 2019

European Union member states could be guilty of crimes against humanity for consciously cooperating with Libyan authorities to intercept migrants leaving by sea and taking them back to the war-torn country, according to a damning report released by Human Rights Watch on Monday.

“Migrants and asylum seekers detained in Libya, including children, are trapped in a nightmare, and what EU governments are doing perpetuates detention instead of getting people out of these abusive conditions,” said Judith Sunderland, associate Europe director at Human Rights Watch.

The report also quotes Nils Melzer, UN special rapporteur on torture, saying that “if European countries are paying Libya to deliberately prevent migrants from reaching the safety of European jurisdiction, we’re talking about complicity in crimes against humanity because these people are knowingly being sent back to camps governed by rape, torture and murder”.

The report found that by pouring millions into the coffers of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord – the UN-backed interim government of Libya – the EU is effectively exposing asylum seekers to the risk of torture, sexual abuse and forced labour in contravention with international law and the principle of non-refoulement.

Officials in the EU and the current governments of France, Germany, the United Kingdom – as well as Italy’s previous government – have all admitted they are aware of abuses against migrants and asylum seekers in Libyan detention centres.

Nonetheless, they continue to work with Libyan authorities to ensure that migrants are kept within its borders.

Elijah, 26, from Sierra Leone, was being detained in Misrata when HRW interviewed him on July 10, 2018. He described the place he found himself in as “hell”. “They pretend to be nice people but then they flog [shock] you with electricity,” he said.

Out of four detention centres visited by HRW in early July 2018, the organization found evidence of low quantity and poor-quality food and water in all of them. No detention centre was equipped with healthcare professionals on staff and in Misrata, Tajoura, and Zuwara, HRW heard disturbing accounts from both adults and children of violence by guards, including beatings, whippings and use of electric shocks. Detainees in all centres said that guards treated them roughly and insulted them.

By providing substantial funding to intercept migrants seeking to leave the Libya by sea, the EU and some of its member states – above all Italy – are facilitating the forced return of migrants to a country that grants no protection.

Italy defended its support of the Libyan coast guard by saying it saves lives at sea by making it more difficult for boats to attempt the journey. While the number of arrivals on European shores have decreased, the rate of death per attempted crossing significantly increased as a consequence of Italy’s crackdown on rescue missions. UNHCR estimated that one in 18 people died or went missing in the period January-July 2018 compared to one in every 42 people in the same period in 2017.

In a case that could set a precedent, Italy now stands accused by seventeen Nigerian survivors of a 2017 migrant boat shipwreck of exercised effective control over the Libyan Coast Guard and bearing therefore responsibility for the tragedy.

The EU has allocated €266 million from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa for migration-related programs in Libya, and an additional €20 million through bilateral assistance. Financial aid is designed both to increase the capacity of Libya’s border control and to address chronic and systemic problems in Libya’s detention regime for migrants.

However, HRW found the situation in Libya to undermine the voluntary nature of the program.

Isaac, a 21-year-old from Nigeria detained in the Zuwara DCIM centre, was quoted by HRW in an interview as saying: “Here, the guards told me I can’t get out unless I agree to go home. So, I’m left with no option.”

HRW argued in the report that asylum seekers may be forced to return to their countries of origins, where they may be at risk of persecution. A humanitarian worker in Libya who wished to remain anonymous told HRW that IOM is essentially deporting people on behalf of the Libyan authorities free of charge.

EU institutions do not directly fund Libya’s Directorate for Illegal Migration (DCIM), but channel all funding to UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations that work to improve conditions in the centres where the detainees are being held.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/hrw-eu-could-be-guilty-of-crimes-against-humanity-for-migrant-deal-with-libya-1.816197

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Syrian boy to sue Facebook for spreading fake news

January 21, 2019

A Syrian refugee boy who was violently attacked in a shocking video that made the rounds on social media is taking legal action against Facebook over claims he attacked an English girl.

Lawyers representing 16-year-old Jamal are preparing to sue the internet giant for allowing far-right rabble-rouser Tommy Robinson to peddle false accusations about the boy in order to make financial profit.

The boy’s legal team says the social media company was “fully aware of the recklessness and pernicious nature” of Mr Robinson’s published content but allowed him to continue because of the traffic generated by his popular posts.

Mr Robinson – whose real name is Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon – is the co-founder and former leader of the controversial English Defence League, a pressure group known for its street demonstrations against Islamism that often drift into racial slurs against the Muslim community.

Since the boy identified as Jamal was assaulted by a gang of classmates and allegedly water boarded, Mr Robinson, 36, has taken to the internet to claim that the boy was “not innocent” as he had previously terrorised other pupils.

In a Facebook video, the far-right activist said Jamal and a group of Muslim students had beaten up a British girl. “He beat the s*** out of an English kid,” he said.

He also purported that the case went to court, but later admitted he had been wrongly informed.

Jamal told British media he felt scared to go to school in fear someone would attack him in retaliation for the alleged act of violence. “I cannot go to my school anymore and there are people who hang around outside my house and video me on their phones. They call me “little rat” if I go outside,” he said. “One of my neighbours threatened me outside my house just yesterday.”

Solicitors Rasnime Akunjee, of Farooq Bajwa and Co Solicitors in London, will argue that Facebook gave Mr Robinson special treatment that contravenes their own regulations over defamatory content and that therefore the company should be held responsible for any damage caused by Mr Robinson’s speech.

Typically, Facebook pages are deleted if they are found to have five or more pieces of content that violate the site’s rules. But more popular pages, including those of far-right activists, have been found to be immune to those rules.

British public-service television broadcaster Channel 4 identified the process, called “shielded review”, in a documentary series in which an undercover reporter took a job as a content moderator in a Dublin-based Facebook contractor, Cpl.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/syrian-boy-to-sue-facebook-for-spreading-fake-news-1.816129

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European Union treads fine line on Iran sanctions

January 21, 2019

European Union officials confirmed plans to stay away from a US-organised regional summit on Iran next month as foreign ministers sought agreement on Monday for a new body to overcome US President Donald Trump’s sanctions on Iran.

A meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday discussed the bloc’s plans to help European businesses trade with Iran despite American sanctions on trade and investment but officials said afterwards the talks did not reach a conclusion.

However Monday's meeting came as European countries were preparing to impose their own punishments on Tehran for its foreign and security policies.

Germany banned an Iranian airline from its airspace over accusations it took weapons and advisers to help support President Bashar Al Assad's forces in Syria's civil war.

A senior German government source said Berlin revoked the landing rights of Mahan Air because of suspicions it was being used for military purposes by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, and also on safety grounds.

Meanwhile asset freezes and travel bans were confirmed for five Syrians linked to strongman Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons programme. The EU also sanctioned the Scientific Studies and Research Centre, an organisation accused of playing a role in the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.

The discussions also touched on EU representation to the coming Middle East summit in Poland, led by the US, on February 13-14. Ministers from several EU states have already said they would not attend.

Ms Mogherini said she will not take part as her officials privately described the event as an anti-Iran conference. Speaking on her way into the meeting, Ms Mogherini said she would be attending an African Union gathering in Ethiopia during the Warsaw meeting. She also revealed that there would be a joint meeting with the Arab League at its February summit.

France is also unlikely to send its foreign minister, according to European diplomats. Luxembourg’s foreign minister said he would miss the event because of a prior arrangement. The UK and Germany have not yet taken any official position but are unlikely to show up.

The big decision facing the EU remains over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as it seeks to create a so-called Special Purpose Vehicle to handle economic ties with Tehran despite the renewed American sanctions.

The SPV is expected to launch later this month but officials warn it will not be operational until later in the year. It will be registered in France, run by Germany and is likely to include Britain as a shareholder.

"There's a feeling of frustration among Britain, France and Germany, and others, after the first phase of diplomacy with Iran," a senior EU diplomat said. "We thought we could get some effort from the Iranians in several areas."

Iran has warned Europe may not be able to safeguard the nuclear deal and accused EU officials of dragging their feet.

Sanctions adopted earlier this month marked an unexpected shift in European diplomacy since the end of last year. Smaller, more dovish EU countries have joined France and Britain in a harder stance on Tehran, including considering new sanctions.

Those could include asset freezes and travel bans on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Iranians developing the country's ballistic missile programme.

The Brussels meeting also confirmed the two most senior officers in Russian military intelligence would face sanctions and formally identified the two agents accused by Britain of carrying out a chemical attack.

The EU accused the Russians -- two agents and the head and the deputy head of the GRU -- of orchestrating the "possession, transport and use" of the nerve agent used in Salisbury, England last March, in a failed attempt to assassinate a defector.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/european-union-treads-fine-line-on-iran-sanctions-1.816042

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Libya turns into battleground between France and Italy

January 22, 2019

Western newspapers have talked about the fierce political and security rivalry between France and Italy over Libya, amid a hindered political process due to the contradicted US project, which aims to establish an Arab military alliance to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region.

The French-language and Geneva-based newspaper Tribune de Genève shed light on the frantic rivalry between France and Italy in Libya, citing deep reasons for Libya’s political hindrance, seven and a half years after the overthrow of Gaddafi’s regime.

Through interviews with some citizens and personalities, the newspaper reached some conclusions, including the existence of a “real war for influence between France and Italy,” according to Swissinfo website.

Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, a human rights activist and former Vice Chairman of the National Transitional Council of Libya during the 2011 revolution, said that “There will be no peace and stability in Libya unless the international community reaches consensus.”

Historical reasons

The newspaper pointed out some recent historical reasons (the decision of former French President Sarkozy to use force to stop the advance of Gaddafi’s forces towards Benghazi to crush the rebels), and other old historical reasons (Omar Mukhtar, leader of the resistance against Italian colonization, who is originally from Cyrenaica) for the popularity France has enjoyed in Benghazi, in contrast to the hostility toward Italy.

In return, the newspaper pointed out that the French military aid is what helped Major General Khalifa Haftar to resolve the battle during which he faced armed groups of different affiliations between 2014 and 2017, to resolve the conflict in his favour, and thus take over the city of Benghazi.

The newspaper quoted Haftar’s army spokesman Ahmed Al-Mesmari as saying: “We had a common interest which is combating terrorism. France wanted to pursue terrorist groups in our neighbouring countries from the south, such as Chad, Mali and Niger, where these groups are heavily spread.”

Al-Mesmari’s statement confirms what a former adviser to the French Ministry of Defence admitted when he said, “Volcano Operation (a military deployment France had carried out in the Sahel years ago to combat terrorist groups) costs us very much. Therefore, the only way to put an end to this operation is to achieve the restoration of stability in Libya. For this reason, the executive authority (the French government) has chosen Haftar,” as he put it.

Political Islam Camp

On the contrary, Italy has chosen the opposite camp (the internationally recognised government in Tripoli) with priority given to ending the flow of migrants. After Rome reopened its embassy in Tripoli (unlike France, which closed it in 2014), it decided to directly negotiate with the militias responsible for the operations of the leading of migrants’ boats to reduce their numbers.

On the political level, Libyan parties in the eastern regions of the country accuse Italy of supporting and backing those described as “supporters of political Islam.” The newspaper quoted Abdel Qadir Qadoura, a former member of the Constituent Assembly of Libya and professor of constitutional law at the University of Benghazi, as saying: “The Italians want the Muslim Brotherhood to take power. They know that the elections that are being currently held will not serve their interests, and that’s why they are doing their utmost to delay it.”

From his side, researcher Jalel Harchaoui, interested in Libyan affairs and living in Paris, points out that France’s allies “have restrained the elections.”

He added: “The United States’ presence at the summit that was held on May 29, 2018, in Paris (following which it was decided to organise a general election on December 10) has raised France’s concerns again.” The United Kingdom and Italy, which were opposed to holding elections so quickly, called France to demand a move.”

Indeed, this seems to have happened. The reshuffling of cards has been reinforced by the appointment of US diplomat Stephanie Williams as assistant to Ghassan Salamé, the UN envoy to Libya. The newspaper considered that “The return of this list with previous works at the US embassy in Tripoli is evidence of the return of the US Department of State – at least behind the scenes – to take care of Libyan affairs.”

Full report at:

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190122-libya-turns-into-battleground-between-france-and-italy/

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Africa

 

Muslim group speaks on ‘plot to bomb Christians’

January 21, 2019

By Wale Odunsi

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has condemned a circulating alert warning Christians not to attend a crusade tagged ‘We Are One’ because Muslims purportedly planned the crusade with the intention of bombing the venue in order to kill Christians.

In a press statement issued on Monday, MURIC described the message as fake news and advised Nigerian Christians to ignore it.

The statement was signed by the director and founder of the organization, Professor Ishaq Akintola, who said; “This is a blatant, wicked and diabolical lie. We assure Christians in Nigeria that there is no such plan. It exists only in the figment of imagination of the devilish authors. It is the handiwork of enemies of Nigeria.

“We cannot rule out disgruntled politicians, particularly looters who are afraid of being exposed. They are looking for all means of causing pandemonium so that the authorities will be too preoccupied with searching for peace to have time for bringing them to book.

“In the same vein, we urge Nigerians to ignore another rumour concerning the hijab. Fake news mongers claim that Muslims in the South West are advocating for the use of hijab by their women and female school children because Muslims plan to launch terrorist attacks.

“They said the hijab would serve as special identity for Muslims so that the attackers would not attack them.

“This is atrocious. It is far from the truth. It is also illogical, false, baseless and unfounded. Nigerians should not allow themselves to be hoodwinked by rumour mongers. How is this possible? If the hijab is to serve the purpose of identifying Muslim women in the event of a terrorist attack, what of the Muslim men?

“If the attack is to happen in schools, what of the male Muslim students? How will the terrorists identify Muslim male students so as not to attack them? It is sheer bunkum, balderdash and poppycock twaddle.

“We urge both Christians and Muslims in the country to go about their businesses without any fear. This is the time to come together putting our heads under the same thinking cap for the sake of our country. Election period is a sensitive time and we should do everything we can to avoid anything capable of undermining the security of the nation.

“Nigerians should ignore baseless information particularly those that have security implication around this time. Any information which cannot be verified should be ignored. Adherents of the two major religions should follow the teachings of their faith regarding fake news.

“The Qur’an commands Muslims to investigate information before taking any action so that innocent people will not be hurt (Qur’an 49:6). The Bible also urges Christians to ‘Investigate all matters and hold on to the truth’ (II Corinthians 5:19 -20).

“We share the same destiny in this country and we should stick together in the interest of peace and progress. Where are the peddlers of hate and animosity today? Where are those who said we should not vote for Muslims? Where are those who said we should not vote for Fulanis?

“They should hide their faces in shame. The last time we checked, the candidates of the two major parties (APC and PDP) are still Muslims. Fulani blood also flows in their veins.”

http://dailypost.ng/2019/01/21/muslim-group-speaks-plot-bomb-christians/

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Hundreds demonstrate after Sudan protester’s death

22 January 2019

Hundreds of people demonstrated in the Sudanese city of Omdurman on Monday after a protester died of wounds suffered at an anti-government rally last week, witnesses said.

Deadly protests have rocked Sudan for more than a month after the government decided to raise the price of bread.

The protests, which quickly turned into nationwide demonstrations calling for an end to President Omar al-Bashir’s three decades of rule, have left 26 people dead so far, according to officials.

Rights group Amnesty International has put the death toll at more than 40.

Witnesses told AFP that late on Monday hundreds of people gathered in Omdurman, the twin city of the capital Khartoum across the Nile, as the body of a protester was brought from the hospital where he died.

“People are chanting freedom, freedom and overthrow, overthrow as they gathered for the funeral of the protester,” said a witness.

A doctors’ committee linked to the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) that is leading the nationwide demonstration confirmed the protester had died.

“He was wounded on Thursday, but today he died in hospital,” the committee said in a statement.

A friend of the victim said he was attending the funeral along with hundreds of other people.

“I’m attending the funeral of my friend who was an engineer,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He added that the dead protester was wounded in the east Khartoum neighbourhood of Burri, which saw clashes between security forces and protesters on Thursday.

Police have confirmed that two other people died during the Burri clashes on Thursday.

One of the victims was a doctor, whose death was also reported by the doctors’ committee.

About 150 doctors held a silent sit-in on Monday to protest the doctor’s killing.

Carrying placards that read “killing a doctor means killing a nation,” they stood in silence outside the Khartoum hospital where the doctor used to work, witnesses said.

Sarah Jackson, Amnesty’s deputy director for East Africa, said it was an “outrage that Sudanese security forces continue to use lethal force on protesters and key service providers like doctors”.

But Bashir rejected the accusations, saying at a rally on Sunday that the doctor was “killed by someone from among the demonstrators”.

Although the protests began last month against the cutting of a vital bread subsidy, they come at as Sudan suffers from an economic crisis driven by an acute shortage of foreign currency and soaring inflation that has more than doubled the price of food and medicine.

The SPA has called for nighttime demonstrations on Tuesday in Khartoum and Omdurman.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/22/Hundreds-demonstrate-after-Sudan-protester-s-death.html

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HRW criticizes Italy, EU’s Libya migrant policy

January 21, 2019

CAIRO: Human Rights Watch is urging Italy and the EU to condition their support to Libya on tangible improvements in detention conditions for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

The New York-based rights group says in a report Monday that unquestioning foreign support for Libya’s coast guard leads to migrants being held in “arbitrary, abusive detention.”

It condemned such efforts to stem migration to Europe as contributing “to a cycle of extreme abuse” against people fleeing war and poverty.

The report documents “severe overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, malnutrition, and lack of adequate health care” in detention centers, including at least four instances of violent abuse by guards.

It says children have also been seen to be held in poor conditions.

Millions of migrants have applied for asylum in Europe, but some countries have toughened their asylum laws and tried to deport more people than they did previously.

On Sunday, a private rescue boat carrying dozens of migrants said that for a second day several nations had not given permission for it to enter a safe port, while another vessel filled with panicky migrants and described as taking on water in the southern Mediterranean was helped by a cargo ship.

The Dutch-flagged boat Sea-Watch 3, run by a German non-governmental group, said it had contacted Italy, Malta, Libya and the Netherlands asking where it could land the 47 migrants it had taken aboard. Sea-Watch tweeted that Libyan officials hung up when it asked for a port assignment.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1439451/middle-east

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Nigerian troops repel series of Boko Haram attacks

JANUARY 21 2019

KANO,

Nigerian soldiers have fought off Boko Haram jihadists in separate attacks, the army and military sources said Monday, as clashes persist while elections approach.

The army said troops "successfully defeated Boko Haram terrorists" who tried to attack a military base in Buni Yadi in Yobe state, northeast Nigeria, on Sunday.

On Saturday, soldiers "inflicted devastating man and equipment casualties" on the group in the Baga area of Borno state, on the shores of Lake Chad, killing five.

Two Islamist fighters were also killed in operations in the Mafa district of Borno, it added in a series of statements.

SCRUTINY

The government's record on tackling Boko Haram is under increased scrutiny as the country heads to the polls to elect a new president and parliament on February 16.

President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, was elected in 2015 on a pledge to defeat the group, whose insurgency has killed more than 27,000 since 2009.

He has said Boko Haram is "technically defeated" but attacks have not stopped, and a faction backed by the Islamic State group has increased its strikes on military positions.

Last week, six soldiers were killed when Boko Haram gunmen attacked Kamuya village near the native home of Nigeria's army chief, Lieutenant-General Tukur Yusuf Buratai.

Two military sources said the IS-allied faction -- Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) -- was behind the weekend attacks in Baga, Kareto and Buni Yadi.

The sources both said four soldiers were killed as they repelled the attack in Buni Yadi during "intense" fighting that involved air strikes.

PRESSURE

Nigerian troops returned to Baga on January 9 after a wave of ISWAP attacks against two military bases in late December that forced more than 30,000 civilians to flee.

Some 10,000 other people displaced by the conflict were also forced to flee after another attack in the remote town of Rann last week.

Full report at:

https://www.nation.co.ke/news/africa/Nigerian-troops-repel-series-of-Boko-Haram-attacks/1066-4944610-xjmhowz/index.html

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Boko Haram: Food, shelter crises hit Borno IDPs camps amid fresh attacks

January 21, 2019

By Wale Odunsi

The massive influx of about 30,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) into Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, amid latest Boko Haram attacks have brought about an increase in the population density of four IDPs camps.

The development has sparked food and shelter crises.

In the wake of the resurgence in terrorists’ activities by ISWAP members, which have claimed several lives, more displaced persons are expected at the camps in the coming day and weeks.

According to PRNigeria, Gubio camp with 23,687 IDPs, recently admitted 4,291 persons; the Teacher Village camp with 28,644 IDPs is increasing on a daily basis; the Stadium camp too is getting overcrowded, while the Madinatu camp got 1,922 new persons in the last few days.

Meanwhile, as part of helping to cushion the hardship faced by the IDPs, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is set to give basic provision items and cash support of N20,000 to each family head, drawn from about 13,000 households.

Also, more than 3,000 households will receive food items that will cover them for 90 days, until more humanitarian and donor agencies take over the job of providing them aids.

The Red Cross is equally planning to provide emergency shelters to about 10,000 households in one of the camps, just as it will build over 200 latrines at the Stadium IDPs camp.

Already, ICRC, in collaboration with the Borno State government, has built a gigantic water plant to supply water to about 200,000 people in Maiduguri.

PRNigeria gathered that ICRC spent more than $3.5 million on the water plant one of the biggest in the world.

Full report at:

http://dailypost.ng/2019/01/21/boko-haram-food-shelter-crises-hit-borno-idps-camps-amid-fresh-attacks/

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Kenya repels another suspected al Shabaab attack - police

21 Jan 2019

NAIROBI: Kenyan police have thwarted an attack by suspected Somali militants al Shabaab on a Chinese-owned construction company in an eastern region, an official said on Monday, days after the Islamist group killed 21 people in Nairobi.

The assailants wounded one person while they attempted to hit the site in Garissa county, not far from the Kenyan-Somali border, owned by a Chinese road construction company that is building the Garissa-Modogashe highway.

"The attackers were repulsed since the security officers were very alert. There was exchange of fire before the attackers escaped," county police commander David Kerina told Reuters by phone, adding that the injured person was a watchman's wife.

"I believe the attackers, who were armed, might be Somali militants. They fled, but we have intensified security operations. So far no arrest has been made."

Kerina give no more details about the attack or the site. Al Shabaab, a Somalia-based al Qaeda affiliate fighting to impose its interpretation of Islamic law, claimed responsibility for Tuesday's assault on the upscale dusitD2 hotel and office compound that has rocked Kenya.

The group has often targeted Kenya in revenge for sending troops to Somalia, but said the dusitDt attack was due to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Police have arrested nine people over the hotel attack, including one listed as a Canadian.

On Sunday, Kenya police circulated by Twitter pictures and names of another eight people it said they were seeking for involvement in the assault or planning fresh attacks.

Al Shabaab also killed 67 people in a 2013 assault on a shopping mall in the same upscale neighbourhood as last week's attack in Nairobi, which is a hub for expatriate businessmen, diplomats and aid workers.

Full report at:

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/kenya-repels-another-suspected-al-shabaab-attack---police-11149276

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