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Islamic World News (25 Feb 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)


The Shocking Secret Plan for a Muslim State in Australia



















Holy day: Devotees offering prayers on the occasion of Shivratri at the Hanuman Mandir in Srinagar on Friday.   | Photo Credit: NISSAR AHMAD

 

What Does ISIS Think Of Trump? Islamic State Agrees That Muslims Shouldn’t Travel To US

On Shivaratri, J&K Muslims Wash Temple, Organise Puja

Muslims Stand Guard as Hindus Mark Maha Shivaratri in Pakistan

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Australia

The Shocking Secret Plan for a Muslim State in Australia

Muslims Clash in Mass Brawl Outside Of A Melbourne Mosque

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Arab World

What Does ISIS Think Of Trump? Islamic State Agrees That Muslims Shouldn’t Travel To US

Over 2,000 Terrorists Join ISIL after Intra-Militants Deal

Over 35 killed in multiple suicide attacks targeting Syrian military HQs in Homs – reports

Islamic State has been cranking out car bombs on an industrial scale for the battle of Mosul

Saudi foreign minister makes rare visit to Baghdad

Smugglers use Quran to transfer drugs into Saudi Arabia

Iraqi forces enter western Mosul, launch air strikes in Syria

Al-Nusra Suffers Heavy Casualties in Syrian Army Advances in Aleppo Province

Inside the fight against IS sleeper cells in liberated Mosul

Saudi King Salman launches investment drive with Asia tour

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India

On Shivratri, J&K Muslims Wash Temple, Organise Puja

At Militant Hotbed, Kashmiris Throng Martyred Soldier’s Funeral

Jammu and Kashmir: Control on mosques, madrasas & media needed, says MHA’s report

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Pakistan

Muslims Stand Guard as Hindus Mark Maha Shivaratri in Pakistan

Sunni-Shia Scholars Pledge Unity against Takfiri Terrorists In Lahore, Pakistan

Islamic Finance Centre disburses Rs14 million in two months

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North America

ISIL, ISIS, Islamic State, and Daesh: What's The Difference? President Trump Won't

As Muslims Open Mosques, Non-Muslims Come In Droves To Show Support

Muhammad Ali’s son detained by immigration, asked ‘are you a Muslim’

Second Florida Mosque Hit by Arson Attack in 5 Months

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South Asia

ISIS May Develop Regional Power Base in Northwest of Afghanistan: ISW

Nearly A Dozen Afghans Shot To Death by Daesh in Mosque Ambush

6 key ISIS leaders killed in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan

Afghan envoy says Pak-Afghan border may be opened temporarily

Rocket Fire Kills Two Schoolchildren in East Afghanistan

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Europe

UNICEF Delighted Imam Hussain Holy Shrine Supports Children

German Intelligence Warns of Massive Increase in Islamists

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Mideast

'Spying Imams' Spark New Crisis between Europe and Turkey

Promoting Islamic Lifestyle Helps Repel Cultural Invasion

Former Palestinian prisoners work hard to conquer ghosts of their torture

Iran complies with nuclear deal, slashes low-enriched uranium stockpile by half – IAEA

Turkey says Al-Bab completely captured from jihadists

Israeli Bedouin stigmatized by terrorist narrative

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Africa

Mutual Interests Break Ice between Egypt, Saudi Arabia

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/the-shocking-secret-plan-for-a-muslim-state-in-australia/d/110208

 

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The Shocking Secret Plan for a Muslim State in Australia

25 February 2017

'The agenda is to create a country within your country': Islamic leader warns radicals have a shocking secret plan to create a Muslim state inside Australia... funded by taxpayers

Muslim Imam Shaikh Mohammad Tawhidi has warned that an independent state within Australia is the agenda of radicals, according to an upcoming interview on Today Tonight.

The Muslim leader, who has openly spoken out against ISIS and extremists, is interviewed on Seven's Today Tonight and claimed radicals would 'create a country within your country'.

'The agenda is to create a country within your country,' Imam Tawhidi told Today Tonight.

He goes on to claim his religion is suffering at the moment.

'Sadly in my religion, in the current situation, is an absolute mess.'

The episode, on Monday night, will reveal the shocking plan for a Muslim state in Australia, funded by taxpayers and foreign fanatics the show's preview reads.

Muslim community leader Jamal Daoud, a Sunni Muslim and human rights activist, will appear on the episode.

Mr Daoud has spoken out against Muslim women wearing the burqa in the past, claiming the move would help with security.

'This will help with security, national security, and preventing terrorist attacks,' he said.

dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4258692/The-shocking-secret-plan-Muslim-state-Australia.html#ixzz4ZgA1Tm7L

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What Does ISIS Think Of Trump? Islamic State Agrees That Muslims Shouldn’t Travel To US

BY PRANSHU RATHI 02/24/17

Trump's Battle With Judges Over Travel Ban Deemed 'Constitutional Crisis'

President Donald Trump and the Islamic State group are in agreement when it comes to an immigration ban against travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Or at least that's the way one prominent scholar on terrorism tells it.

"ISIS, at official levels, has ignored the Trump executive order banning refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, in spite of the widely voiced claim that it has been a propaganda victory for the group," Simon Cottee, a contributing writer for The Atlantic and a visiting senior fellow with the Freedom Project at Wellesley College in Massachusetts who specializes in terrorism, wrote in an op-ed Thursday in the New York Daily News. "There are several possible reasons for ISIS’ seeming reluctance to engage with Trump and the travel ban. First, ISIS has far more pressing matters to contend with and to propagandize about right now — like trying to show the world that it isn’t losing its strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa. Second, ISIS doesn’t need to propagandize about what it sees as the 'true' thuggish and fascistic face of America, because Trump himself is doing such an effective job at disseminating this image... On the issue of the travel ban, ISIS and Trump are seemingly in alignment: Both are adamant that Muslims should not migrate to the west, least of all America. Whereas Trump and his advisors think that Muslim migrants are a potential threat to U.S. national security, ISIS demonizes the same group as apostates and deserters."

While ISIS supporters did discuss the ban online, generally praising it as a recruiting tool to turn Muslims against Washington, it's true that Islamic State group leaders have stayed mum about it so far. That's because ISIS in general seems to pay little attention to Trump, Cottee said.

ibtimes.com/what-does-isis-think-trump-islamic-state-agrees-muslims-shoudnt-travel-us-2497255

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On Shivratri, J&K Muslims wash temple, organise puja

Peerzada Ashiq SRINAGAR  FEBRUARY 25, 2017 00:20 IST

Holy day: Devotees offering prayers on the occasion of Shivratri at the Hanuman Mandir in Srinagar on Friday.   | Photo Credit: NISSAR AHMAD;NISSAR AHMAD -

‘We want them to perform puja with all reverence and without any sense of insecurity’

From Muslims cleaning up and organising puja at a temple to 1,000 specially-designed ‘Herath’ greeting cards, this Shivratri Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims bonded and reached out to each other, with social media providing a rare platform to relive past memories.

Pandits’ migration

For perhaps the first time since hundreds of Pandit families migrated outside the Valley in the face of raging militancy in the 1990s, villagers, young and old, of Sumbal village in Bandipora, 30 km away from Srinagar, converged on the Nand Kishore temple, located under the shade of mighty chinar trees early in the morning. They were carrying brooms and water containers in hand.

“We have decided to clean up the premises of the temple for the Pandits. We want them to perform puja with all reverence and without any sense of insecurity,” said Rashid Dar, a local.

Several locals were seen carrying placards. “Let’s celebrate next Herath (a term used by Kashmiri Pandits for shivratri) together in the valley,” the placards read, an apparent reference to the return of Pandits to their native places.

The Sumbal area has witnessed growing militancy this year, with around six encounters already reported.

Scores of Valley-based Muslim netizens greeted Pandits on the occasion as social media provided a rare platform to recall old memories.

“I miss water-soaked walnuts that Pandits would offer to Muslims in neighbourhood. For ‘salam’, I would visit Pandits the next day after herath,” recalled Ashraf Kishoo on Facebook.

The tradition

Those Pandits who stayed back followed the tradition of keeping water-soaked walnuts for Muslim neighbours. More than 3,000 families decided to stay back despite the militancy.

The Kashmiri Pandits’ herath is different from the rest of the country. Unlike Hindus elsewhere, Pandits here would cook both fish and meat dishes on the occasion.

“For the first time in my living memory, I heard that some Kashmiri Pandits elsewhere will not celebrate it a day before. I am not sure whether this is about the lunar calendar being uniquely erratic this year or about the reinvention of tradition to eventually erase the differences between Kashmiri Pandits and Indian Hindus,” said Nitasha Kaul, a Pandit novelist who authored Residue.

In another gesture, the government mailed through post offices specially-designed herath greeting cards.

Greeting cards

“Around 1,000 greeting cards were delivered to Pandit families. The card highlights the poetry of Lal Ded, equally revered by Muslims and Pandits. It carries the picture of a stone temple of Mansbal that was restored with the help of locals. The idea is highlight the rich culture the State has nurtured for centuries,” Works Minister and government spokesman Nayeem Akhtar said.

thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/on-shivratri-jk-muslims-wash-temple-organise-puja/article17363225.ece

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Australia

The Shocking Secret Plan for a Muslim State in Australia

25 February 2017

'The agenda is to create a country within your country': Islamic leader warns radicals have a shocking secret plan to create a Muslim state inside Australia... funded by taxpayers

Muslim Imam Shaikh Mohammad Tawhidi has warned that an independent state within Australia is the agenda of radicals, according to an upcoming interview on Today Tonight.

The Muslim leader, who has openly spoken out against ISIS and extremists, is interviewed on Seven's Today Tonight and claimed radicals would 'create a country within your country'.

'The agenda is to create a country within your country,' Imam Tawhidi told Today Tonight.

He goes on to claim his religion is suffering at the moment.

'Sadly in my religion, in the current situation, is an absolute mess.'

The episode, on Monday night, will reveal the shocking plan for a Muslim state in Australia, funded by taxpayers and foreign fanatics the show's preview reads.

Muslim community leader Jamal Daoud, a Sunni Muslim and human rights activist, will appear on the episode.

Mr Daoud has spoken out against Muslim women wearing the burqa in the past, claiming the move would help with security.

'This will help with security, national security, and preventing terrorist attacks,' he said.

dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4258692/The-shocking-secret-plan-Muslim-state-Australia.html#ixzz4ZgA1Tm7L

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Muslims Clash In Mass Brawl Outside Of A Melbourne Mosque

25 February 2017

A scene of unrest outside one of Melbourne's largest mosques has been captured on camera, as conflict rises over treatment of banned Sheikh Mohamad Abou Eid.

The sheikh had been accused of inappropriate behaviour and banned from Preston Mosque, where a large group of men came to blows on Friday, pushing, shoving and shouting at each other.

Sheikh Eid was suspended before standing down from his role - he had been told the claims against him could not be proven, The Age reports.

Shocking moment huge brawl erupts outside of a Melbourne mosque

The video begins as a group of men make their way towards the mosque, one barging into an older gentleman in a blue shirt, who expresses his shock before walking into the group of people.

The blue-shirted gentleman appears to be addressing the group surrounding the sheikh, or perhaps the sheikh himself - who can be seen wearing black clothing and dark glasses.

The sound of shouting grows and the group press on, past the gates and into the area outside the mosque.

The appears to be pushing and shoving between the two groups, with a few men being restrained by their peers.

The aggressive exchanges continue until one point where a man climbs onto a car where he and others attempt to subdue the crowd.

Eventually the crowds dissipates and the shouting quietens. 

Sheikh Abou Eid told worshippers about his concerns over how the mosque was managed to hundreds of worshippers on the street outside last Friday.

He said he feared the mosque may have misappropriated donations, and fees paid for burial and school services, The Age reports.

'The Islamic Society of Victoria and some members of the Board of Imams are involved in something bigger than me and bigger than you,' he said.

The Islamic Society of Victoria reported allegations of inappropriate behaviour by the sheikh to the Board of Imams.

It is alleged he had acted inappropriately with female worshippers, however he has since been informed that the allegations made against him were baseless. 

A Victoria Police spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia that they are aware of a number of allegations and are in the process of making further enquiries.

'However no formal report has been made at this time.

'Police are also aware of a dispute taking place between members of senior management of the Preston mosque.

'We hold no immediate concerns for community safety. As this matter is ongoing, it would not be appropriate to provide further detail at this time.'

dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4258626/Muslims-clash-brawl-outside-Melbourne-mosque.html#ixzz4ZgAIqYmQ

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Arab World

What Does ISIS Think Of Trump? Islamic State Agrees That Muslims Shouldn’t Travel To US

BY PRANSHU RATHI 02/24/17

Trump's Battle With Judges Over Travel Ban Deemed 'Constitutional Crisis'

President Donald Trump and the Islamic State group are in agreement when it comes to an immigration ban against travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Or at least that's the way one prominent scholar on terrorism tells it.

"ISIS, at official levels, has ignored the Trump executive order banning refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, in spite of the widely voiced claim that it has been a propaganda victory for the group," Simon Cottee, a contributing writer for The Atlantic and a visiting senior fellow with the Freedom Project at Wellesley College in Massachusetts who specializes in terrorism, wrote in an op-ed Thursday in the New York Daily News. "There are several possible reasons for ISIS’ seeming reluctance to engage with Trump and the travel ban. First, ISIS has far more pressing matters to contend with and to propagandize about right now — like trying to show the world that it isn’t losing its strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa. Second, ISIS doesn’t need to propagandize about what it sees as the 'true' thuggish and fascistic face of America, because Trump himself is doing such an effective job at disseminating this image... On the issue of the travel ban, ISIS and Trump are seemingly in alignment: Both are adamant that Muslims should not migrate to the west, least of all America. Whereas Trump and his advisors think that Muslim migrants are a potential threat to U.S. national security, ISIS demonizes the same group as apostates and deserters."

While ISIS supporters did discuss the ban online, generally praising it as a recruiting tool to turn Muslims against Washington, it's true that Islamic State group leaders have stayed mum about it so far. That's because ISIS in general seems to pay little attention to Trump, Cottee said.

ibtimes.com/what-does-isis-think-trump-islamic-state-agrees-muslims-shoudnt-travel-us-2497255

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Over 2,000 Terrorists Join ISIL after Intra-Militants Deal

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The al-Qaeda linked Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board) could subjugate the ISIL-backed Liwa al-Aqsa terrorists after besieging them in Khan Sheikhoun and Morek following two weeks of bloody clashes in Northern Hama.

Over 300 rebels were killed in the infighting, most of whom were executed Jeish Al-Nasr prisoners of war. Also three convoys belonging to the Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at terrorists were reportedly ambushed near Khan Sheikhoun.

Faced with the prospects of a protracted siege like Kafraya and Foua’a, Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at negotiated with Liwa al-Aqsa offering a safe exit towards ISIL-held areas East of Hama.

In return, Liwa al-Aqsa would release its Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at prisoners and relinquish its heavy weapons and vehicles.

Prior to the evacuation of the last batch of al-Aqsa militants, the group burnt all its heavy equipment to spite its rival rebels. The evacuation reportedly took place along the Syrian army-controlled Ithriya Highway where a number of convoys belonging to the terror group were ambushed by government troops.

Liwa al-Aqsa is estimated to number between a thousand and two-thousand men with some unconfirmed reports suggesting some 2,100 fighters joining the ISIL in Raqqa.

The ISIL will likely use its much needed manpower boost to counterattack the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Raqqa or the Syrian army in West of Palmyra or even bolster their cracking defenses around Deir Hafer in Eastern Aleppo.

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

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

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

Al-Sheikh resigned from his post in Ahrar al-Sham after he was appointed as the commander of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at.

A number of Ahrar al-Sham's commanders, including the groups' spokesman Abu Yusuf al-Mohajer, Hesam Salameh and Abu al-Fatah al-Farqali Mesri also joined the new coalition.

Terrorist groups' websites claimed that Al-Nusra Commander Abu Mohammad al-Joulani will be the top commander of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at.

Ahrar al-Sham rejected its affiliation to the new coalition, but websites close to the terrorist groups have disclosed that Ahrar al-Sham, Faylaq al-Sham, Jeish al-Izzah, Turkistani party and Liwa al-Tamkin will soon start a new front called Tahrir al-Syria Front.

Nusra terrorists have been attacking positions of other terrorist rivals across Northwestern Syria.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951206000338

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Over 35 killed in multiple suicide attacks targeting Syrian military HQs in Homs – reports

25 Feb, 2017

At least 35 people have been killed and many more injured in several suicide attacks outside Syrian military facilities in the city of Homs, according to RIA Novosti citing a local source.

“The number of fatalities has reached 35 people, dozens are wounded. A total of over six suicide bombers blew themselves up near two security facilities,” a source familiar with the matter told RIA Novosti on Saturday. The Syrian state security service’s local HQ and the military intelligence building were targeted.

Later in the day, the governor of Homs province, Talal al-Barazi, told AP that there have been three blasts in total, which have killed more than 20 people and wounded many others. The official estimate conflicts with previous media reports.

The attackers had attempted to enter the headquarters, al-Barazi added. “The security detail repelled the attack and prevented the militants from breaking into the buildings, but the terrorists managed to detonate their explosive devi?es,” he told Syrian TV channel Al-Ikhbariya, as cited by TASS.

General Hassan Daaboul, chief of provincial military security unit, is said to be among the victims.

The blasts come as Syrian army units continue to move eastwards in a bid to retake the ancient city of Palmyra, located in the Homs province. On Friday, the troops defeated Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) as well as Al Nusra Front militants near the mountain of Al-Hayal that overlooks Palmyra’s western neighborhoods, Syrian news agency SANA reported.

The Syrian army’s 18th Tank Division, Military Shield Forces, as well as elements of the National Defense Forces (NDF), are taking part in the offensive, supported by the Russian air force, according to Al-Masdar.

Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, was where anti-government riots began in 2011. Syrian forces recaptured the opposition stronghold after a major push in late 2015, when rebels withdrew from the last district under their control, leaving the city fully in the hands of the government.

rt.com/news/378566-homs-suicide-bomb-military/

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Islamic State has been cranking out car bombs on an industrial scale for the battle of Mosul

 25 Feb, 2017

That’s when he saw the car bomb, a white Chevy pickup sheathed in plates of armor, barreling forward. 

“I fired two rounds at it, but it kept moving. I knew my weapon would have no effect,” Ghani said. “I shouted, ‘Mufakhakhah! [Car bomb!]’ and ran to the house for cover.”

Ghani, a 22-year-old member of Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service, was facing what has become Islamic State’s weapon of choice — a poor man’s guided missile that militants have found a way to produce on an industrial scale. In Iraq and Syria these days, “car bomb,” has become a bit of a misnomer — these are civilian vehicles outfitted like primitive tanks, assembled in primitive factories.

Of 1,112 suicide bombings carried out by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in 2016, 815 of them used vehicles laden with explosives, according to an infographic released by Amaq, a news agency affiliated with Islamic State.

In the fight launched earlier this month to drive the militants from the western part of Mosul, the city that had become the extremist’s groups de facto capital in Iraq, they are a frequent threat.

“It's the tactic they use the most,” said Staff Lt. Col. Muntadhar Salem, head of the Counter-Terrorism Service’s Mosul regiment.

He recalled the battle for Bartella, a Christian-dominated town east of Mosul recaptured by government forces in October. “In Bartella, my group alone faced seven of them, but altogether there were 23 on the first day of our offensive,” he said.

Vehicles armed with bombs are nothing new. The first arguably dates to 1920, when an anarchist named Mario Buda blew up a horse-drawn wagon on New York’s Wall Street, killing 40 people and injuring more than 200, according to Mike Davis, author of “Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb.”

In Iraq, after the U.S. invasion in 2003, insurgents attacked military convoys and bases with what became known in U.S. military parlance as Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices, or VBIEDs.

During the Sunni-Shiite bloodletting that followed, Al Qaeda and later the Islamic State of Iraq (the precursor of today’s Islamic State) would often park a car bomb in a busy neighborhood and detonate it later. Some bombs were detonated by the drivers, which gave rise to another abbreviation, the SVBIED, or Suicide Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device.

But it wasn’t until after 2011, during the crisis ravaging Syria, that the car bomb came into its own. The rebels often lacked the heavy weaponry needed to punch through government defenses.

That’s what Ghani was facing recently when he spotted the white Chevy pickup. As he recalled later, he already had survived the harrowing rescue that day of a family trapped in their house in eastern Mosul.

Braving Islamic State snipers, Ghani drove his Humvee up to the house, his gunner giving covering fire. Three bullets smacked into the steering wheel, the seat cushion and a window. He stuffed the family into the Humvee, only to have the sniper put a bullet in his gunner’s right hand.

Hours later, he was facing the car bomb. He ran to a house and tried the door. Locked.

“I gave the door two kicks, and went as far to the back as I could,” he said.

Moments later, the explosion ripped through the structure, collapsing its front and hurling shrapnel and glass shards into Ghani’s face, back and legs.

Covering in rubble and bleeding, he crawled to his walkie-talkie 6 feet away. “It felt like it was 2 miles away,” he said. He called for help just before he lost consciousness.

For Islamic State, the car bomb is an ideal weapon. Anyone who can drive can command one. They’re cheap, using explosives made out of ANFO, a mixture of ammonium nitrate (which is found in fertilizer) and diesel oil.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a standard-sized sedan can deliver 1,000 pounds of explosives, with a lethal range of 125 feet.

Meanwhile, Islamic State’s takeover of Mosul in mid-2014, when the group commandeered billions of dollars’ worth of U.S.-supplied military hardware, meant it had in its possession thousands of armored vehicles it could use for bombs as well.

Islamic State has even created SVBIED battalions, such as the Abu Laith Ansari Battalion (named after the group’s Mosul governor).

Its designs also evolved, according to Devin Morrow, a technical advisor at Conflict Armament Research, a group thar tracks weapons in contemporary conflicts.

“We see some really ingenious designs,” she said. “They learn from past mistakes and adapt.”

Hulking and huge, many of these vehicles look to be straight out of “Mad Max.” They boast improvised armor made of pipes or sheet metal welded onto a frame, capable of easily deflecting small arms fire and even the occasional rocket-propelled grenade.

Islamic State is now making car bombs on an industrial scale.

In the basement of the Great Mosul Mosque (once called the Saddam Mosque, after the former Iraqi strongman), a stone’s throw from the Tigris River, are the remains of what apparently was a car bomb factory.

Car doors are stacked off to the side near a neat pile of hoods. Piping, buckets of metal detritus as well as dozens of metal grilles and gates are arrayed against the wall.

“They strip the cars right down to the frame, cut [off] all the doors and then replace them with sheet metal,” Morrow said. “In these shops, we see a division of labor: One cuts off the doors and installs the armored plates, another one places the explosives.”

Although Islamic State has lost territory in the past year, production appears unaffected.

“Up until now, they don’t seem to lack what they need: big containers, some detonating cord, detonators, fertilizer and aluminum,” said Damien Spleeters, Conflict Armament Research’s head of operations in Iraq. “And of course people [ready] to blow themselves up.”

Spleeters added that it would take no more than two days to make such a bomb.

For security forces, the crucial factor that determines if they can stop a car bomb is distance. Security forces routinely deploy bulldozers to build earthen berms to slow, if not stop, a car bomber.

“If they come at you from 1,000 feet, you can get them. But at 300 feet, they’re too close for the missile,” said Hassan Attiyah, 30, as he scanned Islamic State positions in western Mosul through the scope of his anti-tank Kornet missile launcher.

But the close-quarters combat that troops face against Islamic State in urban areas means they often don’t have that luxury. Instead, they rely on the U.S.-led coalition’s drones to destroy car bombs before they’re a threat.

“Even then, Islamic State keep them inside houses or garages. The moment they see us, they go forward and blow themselves up,” Col. Refaq Abdul Baqi, an officer with the Iraqi army’s 16th Division, said from the government-held eastern bank of the city.

Abdul Baqi said residents of western Mosul during the current campaign have been revealing the location of car bombs to security forces so the coalition can destroy them.

Lt. Col. Muntadhar Salam said the first thing his men do when they see a car bomb is use one of their vehicles as a barrier.

“We sacrifice one of our Hummers so it won't go into our convoy, then we start firing RPGs and 50-caliber machine guns,” he said.

“But sometimes, you just have to run.”

latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-iraq-car-bombs-2017-story.html

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Saudi foreign minister makes rare visit to Baghdad

Reuters | Feb 25, 2017

BAGHDAD: Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir made a rare visit to Baghdad on Saturday, meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the premier's media office said.

It was the first visit of a senior Saudi minister since the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, a spokesman for Iraq's foreign ministry told Reuters.

Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad a year ago following a 25-year shutdown.

But Iraq later asked for the ambassador to be replaced after he made comments about Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs and the alleged persecution of Sunni Muslims, angering local Shi'ite politicians and militia leaders.

Saudi Arabia has long accused Iraq of being too close to Shi'ite Iran, its main regional rival, and of encouraging sectarian discrimination against Sunnis, a charge Baghdad denies.

Enmity between Sunni and Shi'ite regional powers has deepened in recent years as sectarian conflicts rage in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/saudi-foreign-minister-makes-rare-visit-to-baghdad/articleshow/57345220.cms

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Smugglers use Quran to transfer drugs into Saudi Arabia

February 25, 2017 - 10:34 AMabna.cc/7wzJ

News Code : 813935Source : Naij

According to Al Arabiya, Saudi authorities are now more vigilant. Some of the incredible pictures of how drugs hidden in a Quran were shared by the website.

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - According to Al Arabiya, Saudi authorities are now more vigilant. Some of the incredible pictures of how drugs hidden in a Quran were shared by the website. Despite the health risk it poses, smugglers even go to the extent of ingesting bundles of drugs.

Recently the most common substance found has been Captagon tablets, which acts as a mental and physical stimulant. Daesh (ISIS) have previously been reported for having taken Captagon tablets to help keep them awake during the gun battles.

The drug has also previously been found hidden in:

Sheep’s intestines

Tangerines

Tomatoes

Peanut kernels

Auto parts

Gas cylinders

Lamps

Books

en.abna24.com/news/middle-east/smugglers-use-quran-to-transfer-drugs-into-saudi-arabia_813935.html

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Iraqi forces enter western Mosul, launch air strikes in Syria

February 25th, 2017

MOSUL: US-backed Iraqi forces pushed into western Mosul on Friday after retaking the city’s airport from the militant Islamic State group. Aid agencies warned the most dangerous phase of the offensive was about to begin for hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Troops disarmed booby traps planted by retreating militant fighters in the airport, which the army plans to use as a base from which to drive Islamic State from Mosul’s western districts and deal a decisive blow to the group.

As they did, Iraqi fighter jets dropped bombs on IS positions inside Syria on Friday. It was the first time the Iraqi government publicly acknowledged striking militant targets inside Syria.

The new offensive comes after government forces and their allies finished clearing IS from eastern Mosul last month, confining the insurgents to the western sector of the city, which is bisected by the Tigris river.

Commanders expect the battle in western Mosul to be more difficult, in part because tanks and armoured vehicles cannot pass through the narrow alleyways that crisscross ancient districts there.

The International Rescue Committee said the most dangerous phase of the battle was about to begin for the 750,000 civilians believed to be trapped inside Mosul.

“There is a real danger that the battle will be raging around them for weeks and possibly months to come,” said acting country director Jason Kajer.

The United Nations has warned up to 400,000 civilians could be displaced by the new offensive amid food and fuel shortages.

Iraqi forces launched attacks on several fronts. Counter-terrorism forces clashed with IS inside the southwestern district of Al Mamoun and took full control of the Ghozlani military base on Friday, Maj Gen Sami al Aridi, a senior commander, said.

Separately, federal police and an elite Interior Ministry unit known as Rapid Response advanced into the Hawi al-Josaq and al-Danadan districts after breaching a berm and a trench set up by IS north of the airport, a spokesman said.

Air strikes

Early raids in the city’s west have so far been restricted to thinly-populated areas. The government encouraged civilians to stay in their homes, but some were caught in the crossfire.

Jamal Abdelnasser, 14, was shot in the leg by IS when the militants stormed his home to take up sniper positions. After crossing the frontline, soldiers unwrapped the blood-soaked bandages around his leg and poured iodine on the bullet wound.

In another incident, a correspondent saw civilians fleeing towards Iraqi security forces from the outskirts of Mamoun.

Defeat in Mosul would likely deal a hammer blow to IS’s self-styled caliphate in areas it seized in 2014. But the group still controls swathes of territory in neighbouring Syria and patches in northern and western Iraq from where it could fight a guerilla-style insurgency in Iraq, and plot attacks on the West.

On the ground in Mosul, Western advisers are increasingly present close to the frontline, helping coordinate air strikes and advising Iraqi forces as the battle unfolds.

The campaign involves a 100,000-strong force of Iraqi troops, Shia militias and Sunni tribal fighters. It is backed by an international coalition that provides vital air support as well as on-the-ground guidance and training.

dawn.com/news/1316903/iraqi-forces-enter-western-mosul-launch-air-strikes-in-syria

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Al-Nusra Suffers Heavy Casualties in Syrian Army Advances in Aleppo Province

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army soldiers, backed up by the country's fighter jets, stormed the positions of Al-Nusra Front (recently renamed to Fatah al-Sham Front) in the Western countryside of Aleppo city, inflicting major losses on the terrorists.

The army troops deployed in Jam'iyat al-Zahra neighborhood in the Western part of Aleppo city attacked Al-Nusra Front's defense lines and managed to take back several buildings near Rasoul Azam grand mosque in the Western countryside of Aleppo.

Field sources confirmed that the army aircraft bombed Al-Nusra's centers in al-Bahouth al-Elmiyeh region West of Aleppo city simultaneous with the ground troops' advances, killing at least 21 terrorists and wounding tens of others.

Sources close to the dissidents reported on Friday that the Syrian air force pounded militants' positions and gathering centers in Western Aleppo, killing at least 31 terrorists.

According to the pro-militant Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the militants were killed during airstrikes on their bases in the Western parts of Aleppo.

The report came after news websites close to the terrorists reported that tens of the members of the newly-formed Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants were killed in the Syrian air force's attacks on al-Bohouth al-Ilmiyah building in the Western parts of Aleppo city.

Meantime, the Syrian army's artillery units targeted the terrorists' centers and moves in al-Rashedeen 4 and 5 regions in Southwestern countryside of Aleppo, inflicting losses and damages on the militants.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951207000306

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Saudi King Salman launches investment drive with Asia tour

Reuters | Updated: Feb 25, 2017, 01.00 PM IST

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's King Salman starts a month-long Asian tour on Sunday to build ties with the world's fastest growing importers of Saudi oil and promote investment opportunities, including the sale of a stake in its giant state firm Saudi Aramco.

The octogenarian monarch+ , who has overseen the launch of an ambitious economic reform plan+ since his accession two years ago, is expected to visit Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and China.

In a sign of the importance which the kingdom places on strengthening economic ties with Asia, Indonesian officials say Salman will be accompanied by a 1,500-strong entourage including 10 ministers.

Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih and Aramco executives will travel with him, sources told Reuters, on the king's first trip outside the Middle East and North Africa since he visited the United States in 2015.

Saudi officials are keen to court Asian investors for the sale of a 5 percent stake in Aramco in 2018, which is expected to be the world's biggest IPO, and have solicited financial advice from banks with links to China.

Asian banks and companies are also expected to play major roles in the kingdom's plans to develop non-oil industries and expand its international investments, all part of the crude exporting giant's attempts to reduce dependence on oil+ revenues.

The kingdom in August signed 15 preliminary agreements with China - ranging from house-building in Saudi Arabia to water projects and oil storage - during a visit by the king's powerful son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is spearheading the economic reform plan+ .

It has also agreed to invest up to $45 billion in a new technology fund with Japan's SoftBank Group.

While it pushes ahead with its diversification efforts+ , Saudi Arabia is at the same time seeking to cement its position as the world's biggest oil exporter and establish itself as the dominant oil supplier to Asia's emerging markets.

In China, which is challenging the United States as the world's biggest oil consumer, Saudi has just been pipped by Russia as the top supplier.

MALAYSIAN DEAL

Saudi Arabia has yet to announce Salman's trip, but officials in Malaysia say he will start his tour there on Sunday, accompanied by his son Prince Mohammed.

Aramco is expected to sign an agreement during the visit to collaborate with Malaysia's state oil firm Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) on its Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project.

The king, who is thought to be 81, will travel to Jakarta and Bali in Indonesia from March 1-9, and Japan from March 12 to 14, officials in those countries told Reuters.

Indonesian Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said the government hopes the visit will bring Saudi investments of up to $25 billion. Jakarta's state-owned energy company Pertamina and Aramco are working together to upgrade Indonesia's largest refinery complex and are looking at other opportunities.

Indonesian television said the Saudi delegation will stay in seven 5-star hotels in the Bali resort area of Nusa Dua.

Salman is also expected to go to China, although neither Saudi nor Chinese officials have confirmed the visit, before spending the last two weeks of March on holiday in the Maldives, according to a Maldives diplomat. Local newspaper Mihaaru reported that three resorts have been reserved for his stay.

MILITARY TIES

Asia also figures in the kingdom's plans for military cooperation, with Malaysia and Indonesia listed as members of a Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance formed just over a year ago.

Riyadh's announcement of the counter-terrorism alliance+ in December 2015 took many people by surprise+ , including officials of some member countries, and it is not yet clear what role it will play.

Washington remains Saudi Arabia's chief military partner, but Riyadh has adopted a more assertive policy in response to what it perceived as U.S. disengagement from the region under former President Barack Obama.

China has traditionally played little role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy, despite its reliance on the region for oil. But it has been trying to get more involved in efforts to end Syria's six-year-old civil war, where Riyadh supports rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad.

Last year China also offered support for Yemen's government, which is backed by a Saudi-led Gulf Arab coalition in a war against the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement+ that controls much of the country.

China has had to tread a careful line, though, as it also has close relations with Iran. President Xi Jinping visited both Saudi Arabia and Iran Tehran in January last year.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/saudi-king-salman-launches-investment-drive-with-asia-tour/articleshow/57342148.cms

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India

On Shivratri, J&K Muslims wash temple, organise puja

Peerzada Ashiq SRINAGAR  FEBRUARY 25, 2017 00:20 IST

Holy day: Devotees offering prayers on the occasion of Shivratri at the Hanuman Mandir in Srinagar on Friday.   | Photo Credit: NISSAR AHMAD;NISSAR AHMAD -

‘We want them to perform puja with all reverence and without any sense of insecurity’

From Muslims cleaning up and organising puja at a temple to 1,000 specially-designed ‘Herath’ greeting cards, this Shivratri Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims bonded and reached out to each other, with social media providing a rare platform to relive past memories.

Pandits’ migration

For perhaps the first time since hundreds of Pandit families migrated outside the Valley in the face of raging militancy in the 1990s, villagers, young and old, of Sumbal village in Bandipora, 30 km away from Srinagar, converged on the Nand Kishore temple, located under the shade of mighty chinar trees early in the morning. They were carrying brooms and water containers in hand.

“We have decided to clean up the premises of the temple for the Pandits. We want them to perform puja with all reverence and without any sense of insecurity,” said Rashid Dar, a local.

Several locals were seen carrying placards. “Let’s celebrate next Herath (a term used by Kashmiri Pandits for shivratri) together in the valley,” the placards read, an apparent reference to the return of Pandits to their native places.

The Sumbal area has witnessed growing militancy this year, with around six encounters already reported.

Scores of Valley-based Muslim netizens greeted Pandits on the occasion as social media provided a rare platform to recall old memories.

“I miss water-soaked walnuts that Pandits would offer to Muslims in neighbourhood. For ‘salam’, I would visit Pandits the next day after herath,” recalled Ashraf Kishoo on Facebook.

The tradition

Those Pandits who stayed back followed the tradition of keeping water-soaked walnuts for Muslim neighbours. More than 3,000 families decided to stay back despite the militancy.

The Kashmiri Pandits’ herath is different from the rest of the country. Unlike Hindus elsewhere, Pandits here would cook both fish and meat dishes on the occasion.

“For the first time in my living memory, I heard that some Kashmiri Pandits elsewhere will not celebrate it a day before. I am not sure whether this is about the lunar calendar being uniquely erratic this year or about the reinvention of tradition to eventually erase the differences between Kashmiri Pandits and Indian Hindus,” said Nitasha Kaul, a Pandit novelist who authored Residue.

In another gesture, the government mailed through post offices specially-designed herath greeting cards.

Greeting cards

“Around 1,000 greeting cards were delivered to Pandit families. The card highlights the poetry of Lal Ded, equally revered by Muslims and Pandits. It carries the picture of a stone temple of Mansbal that was restored with the help of locals. The idea is highlight the rich culture the State has nurtured for centuries,” Works Minister and government spokesman Nayeem Akhtar said.

thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/on-shivratri-jk-muslims-wash-temple-organise-puja/article17363225.ece

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At militant hotbed, Kashmiris throng martyred soldier’s funeral

M Saleem Pandit | TNN | Updated: Feb 25, 2017

Thousands of people came out on Friday in Kashmir to bid a tearful adieu to Lance Naik Ghulam Mohiuddin Rather, who was martyred in an ambush by terrorists.

Rather had left his home at Marhama Mohalla in Bijbehara of south Kashmir last month after celebrating the birthday of his son Aahil

The turnout astonished Kashmir observers considering that south Kashmir villages are known to be militant hotbeds.

One last goodbye: Kashmiri villagers carry the body of Lance Naik Mohiuddin Rather who was killed in Thursday’s attack in Srinagar. (TOI photo by Bilal Bahadur)One last goodbye: Kashmiri villagers carry the body of Lance Naik Mohiuddin Rather who was killed in Thursday’... Read More

ANANTNAG: Thousands of people joined the funeral service of Lance Naik Mohiuddin Rather at a mosque at Punchpora village in Anantnag district of south Kashmir on Friday — a sight rarely witnessed in chronicles of the valley's troubled past.

Mohiuddin, 35, and two of his mates were killed in a militant ambush+ at Mulu Chitragam in Shopian district on Thursday when they were returning from an anti-terror operation near Kungnoo village. Two officers too were wounded in the attack.

When the tricolor-draped body of Mohiuddin was brought in an Army vehicle to be handed over to his family members for the last rites, thousands of residents of Punchpora village poured out of their homes in a spontaneous gesture to pay their respects+ to the dead soldier and console the bereaved family.

Many even came from other villages for the nimaz-i-janazah (last prayers), which took place in the presence of top Rashtriya Rifles officers.

"Mohiuddin has left behind his ailing parents, wife, and a two-year-old son, besides a sister whose wedding was fixed for next month," Manzoor Ahmad Rather, Mohiuddin's friend, said. "He was a kind person who helped people in times of need," he said.

A group of women were seen consoling his young weeping wife, Shahzada Akhtar, 26, and the soldier's unwell mother. Women from the nearby villages walked to the slain soldier's village Punchpora, around 55km from Srinagar, and were seen offering water to the young widow while others tried to cuddle her toddler son. As colleagues bid farewell+ to Mohiuddin, giving him a gun salute, many villagers couldn't control their tears.

The turnout astonished some seasoned Kashmir observers considering that south Kashmir villages are known to be militant hotbeds, particularly for the Hizbul Mujahideen.

Neighbours said Mohiuddin never failed to send medicine for his parents every week. While his father, Ghulam Mohammad Rather, suffers from dementia, his mother was operated on for a tumour last year, friend Manzoor added.

The soldier's mortal remains were sent to his village on Friday morning after a wreath-laying ceremony at 15 Corps headquarters in Srinagar by Army Chief General Bipin Rawat.

Seeing the large response, the district administration made security arrangements to foil any untoward incident at the funeral, official sources said.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/at-militant-hotbed-kashmiris-throng-martyred-soldiers-funeral/articleshow/57338169.cms

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Jammu and Kashmir: Control on mosques, madrasas & media needed, says MHA’s report

Sat, 25 Feb 2017

An assessment report prepared by the union government over the situation prevailing in the Kashmir Valley has suggested a need to control mosques and madrasas, reported Indian Express.

Though the government report has not made any reference to Pakistan, it has suggested the need to control of the mosque, madrasa, print and TV media, strengthening of intelligence set-up and reaching out to the moderate faction of Hurriyat, said the IE report.

The report, compiled after securing inputs from the ground, suggests long-term “actionable points” and has been sent to National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, the report said quoting sources.

The Centre's report has also listed TV channels as pro and anti-India and newspapers that it says should be promoted for 'perception management'. It also stated that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting needed to revive its Jammu and Kashmir division that is largely defunct.

The report said that those indulging in stone-pelting incidents need to be booked under Public Safety Act. It also suggested reviving the Special Operation Group (SOG) to tackle militants from across the border.

A week after warning of tough action against those impeding counterinsurgency operations in Kashmir, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat asked security agencies to synergise efforts to effectively deal with the problem of stone-pelting during operations, an army official said.

The army chief had on February 15, while paying tributes to soldiers killed during two encounters a day earlier in Kashmir, warned of tough action against those civilians who were impeding the counter-insurgency operations in the Valley by resorting to stone-pelting.

dnaindia.com/india/report-jammu-and-kashmir-control-on-the-mosque-madrasa-media-needed-says-mha-s-report-2334313

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Pakistan

Muslims Stand Guard as Hindus Mark Maha Shivaratri in Pakistan

February 25, 2017

PESHAWAR: In an outstanding display of inter-faith harmony, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Muslim residents stood next to their Hindu compatriots as the three-day Maha Shivaratri celebrations kicked off at the Hindu Dargah in Peshawar’s old city on Friday night.

The extraordinary display of inter faith harmony that took place for the first time last year province’s local Muslims– was all the more meaningful this year in the wake of a recent wave of terrorist attacks across the country.

The KP police have maintained strict security and set up a special control room for the festival. Closed-circuit television cameras and scanning machines have been installed at the shrine.

The shrine – located inside the old city at Jhanda Bazaar – has been illuminated with decorative lights, welcoming hundreds of devotees from the city as well as from other parts of the province.

Ghulam Mustafa – nazim of the Union Council Karim Pura – told the reporters that they had arranged this festival even in the most difficult security situation. “This festival has never been cancelled even during the time, when Babri Majid was attacked and destroyed by fanatics in 1992,” Mustafa added.

Mustafa pointed out that Hindu and Muslims have been living together for centuries and they have held on to the centuries- old traditions of standing by each other without any difference of caste or religion. “It has become our religious and social responsibility to ensure their security and protection,” he said.

Shivaratri festival is celebrated by Hindus around the world as it is believed the day when Lord Shiva and Parvati got married. “Maha Shivaratri which also means ‘The Great Night of Shiva’ is celebrated in the beginning of the spring season,” Shiv Nath Sharma, the guardian of shrine, told the reporters.

He said devotees worship and offer sacrifices as part of their prayers and the celebration continues for three days. “On the first day, we fast for half a day and then sing hymns, praising our God till late night. On the second day, we change the covering cloth of the shrine, and on the third day, we offer communal sacrifices,” he said.

Sharma said the sacrifice is not limited to an individual; rather, it is everyone’s sacrifice. “The devotees have brought with themselves over a hundred goats to offer them as sacrifices at the shrine,” he added.

Balwant Raam, an 80-year-old Hindu elder, said the celebration become possible due to the support of locals and the police. “It is not the first time that we have gathered to perform our religious rituals. We have always observed our celebrations without any fear,” he added.

Talking about the history of the Hindu site, he said the Astaana has been here for centuries. The temple building was constructed in the 15th century, but, he added, he was not sure about the actual date of its construction.

The custodian of the shrine expressed his satisfaction over the love and respect given by the people of the city, who have made the festival possible even during the time, when the security forces asked them not to allow any gathering.  “This year, like the past, Hindu women and men from across the province and the Federally Administered Tribal areas are celebrating their religious festival at the Dargah,” he added.

pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/02/25/muslims-stand-guard-as-hindus-mark-maha-shivaratra/

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Sunni-Shia scholars pledge unity against Takfiri terrorists in Lahore, Pakistan

February 25, 2017

Eminent Sunni religious scholars visited the provincial secretariat o Shia religio-political party Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen Punjab chapter in Lahore and endorsed MWM chief’s narrative against the Takfiri terrorists.

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - They held meeting with the Shia religious scholars belonging to the MWM and discussed ongoing security situation of Pakistan and in particular attacks on the innocent Muslim civilians at shrines of Muslim saints and in busy residential and commercial areas.

They announced their full support to the Operation Radd ul Fasaad launched by Pakistan army under army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

They lamented that government failed to act upon the National Action Plan due to which the Takfiri terrorists were emboldened and encouraged to continue terrorism unabated.

They said they were sad on the precious human losses in the bombings in all over Pakistan due to terrorist blasts. However, they also appreciated the successful action of the security and intelligence officials as they arrested facilitators and cracking down the terrorist networks.

Those who vowed unity against Takfiri terrorism at the MWM Punjab secretariat included: Syed Naubahar Shah, Dr Amjad Chishti, Pir S A Jafari, Pir Akhtar Rasool Qadri, Allama Waqar ul Hasnain Naqvi, Sahibzada Bilal Chishti, Maulana Asghar Arif Chishti, Professor Farooq Saeedi, Allama Syed Hasan Raza Hamdani, Syed Nisar Safdar Naqvi advocate, Syed Hassan Kazmi, Allama Mohammad Ali Hasnain Najafi, Rai Nasir Ali, Rana Majid Ali, Mumtaz Bhutta advocate, Fayyaz Gondal advocate, Tahir Hashmi advocate, Syed Zaheer Haider Zaidi, Syed Sadiq Haider Kirmani, Allama Syed Sabeeh Haider Shirazi, Irfan Haider Naqvi advocate, Z H Jafari advocate and Agha Ali Imran Advocate.

They opposed the closure of shrines of Bibi Pak Daman, Data Dabar and others and demanded of the government to ensure foolproof security to the devotees at and around the shrine and to all citizens of Pakistan so that they could enjoy their normal life.

en.abna24.com/news/central-asia-subcontinent/sunni-shia-scholars-pledge-unity-against-takfiri-terrorists-in-lahore-pakistan_813918.html

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Islamic Finance Centre disburses Rs14 million in two months

25-Feb-2017

ISLAMABAD -  The recently established Islamic Finance Centre has disbursed Rs14 million among common people in first two months under Ijarah mode of Islamic financing for purchase of motorcycles and other products.

The Islamic financing facility center was inaugurated by SECP Chairman Zafar Hijazi in Rawalpindi on December 2016. The initiative was taken by the Modaraba sector on the patronage of the SECP chairman for providing Islamic financial products to the masses. Initially four modarabas, Allied Rental Modaraba, First Habib Modaraba, Orix Modaraba and Trust Modaraba has opened their offices in the this Islamic Finance Centre.

The establishment of Modaraba-based Islamic Finance Centre was initiated to promote legal modes of financing and to curb the illegal and unlicensed informal lending practices throughout the country.

The Islamic Finance Centre received overwhelming response and common people are approaching the centre to avail Islamic finance for purchase of motorcycles to cater their conveyance needs. The Modarabas in this centre are providing microfinance to the customers at cheaper rate ranging in between 20 to 25 percent, as against the prevalent market rates of 40 to 45 percent.

The SECP has shown its firm commitment to provide all the support to other Modarabas, which have plans to open similar centres in other parts of the country for the benefits of the common people.

This will increase the outreach of Modarabas to the smaller cities and towns for greater financial inclusion of the underserved sectors.

nation.com.pk/business/25-Feb-2017/islamic-finance-centre-disburses-rs14-million-in-two-months

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North America

ISIL, ISIS, Islamic State, and Daesh: What's The Difference? President Trump Won't Call Extremist Group 'ISIL' Like Obama Did

BY SUMAN VARANDANI  02/25/17

The Islamic State group will be called ISIS under President Donald Trump's administration, rejecting former President Barack Obama's preference for referring to the militants as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said in a Feb. 12 memo that using the term ISIS to refer to the terrorist group, which has occupied large swathes of areas in Iraq and Syria, will create consistency, the Washington Post reported Friday.

While addressing the nation in his speech on terrorism in late 2016, Obama referred to the group as “ISIL” rather than the more commonly used “ISIS.” At the time, Trump said Obama should not have referred to the extremist group as ISIL.

The reason behind Obama using ISIL to refer to the terrorist group was believed to be partly geographical and partly grammatical. In 2013, the group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the group was called the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. The group’s name in Arabic is al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, and “Levant” is sometimes argued to be the more accurate translation for “al-Sham.” The name was later shortened to Islamic State by Baghdadi, who declared that the territory under his control would be a caliphate — a state ruled by a caliph, which is Arabic for "successor," meaning successor to the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.

After the Islamic State group took control of large territories in Iraq in 2014, the world debated over how to refer to the group. The term ISIS stands for “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” while ISIL stands for “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” which means the whole eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, including Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Jordan. Obama reportedly preferred ISIL to avoiding referring to Syria.

Several Arab and European countries refer to the group as Daesh, an Arabic acronym for “al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham.” It can sometimes be spelled  DAIISH , Da'esh or Daech , a popular French version. French President François Hollande began using the term since the November 2015 deadly attacks in Paris.

Some U.S. military officials also use Daesh in support of foreign allies.

ibtimes.com/isil-isis-islamic-state-daesh-whats-difference-president-trump-wont-call-extremist-2497677

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Starbucks Brand Crashes After Announcement of Plan to Hire 10,000 Muslim ‘Refugees’

24 Feb 2017

The Starbucks Coffee brand has taken a major hit since the company’s announcement that it would hire 10,000 Muslim “refugees” in response to President Donald Trump’s temporary travel moratorium in January.

Starbucks was one of those early to criticize President Trump for putting a temporary hold on immigration from a list of seven terror-torn countries flagged by the Obama administration. In response, the coffee house giant pledged to hire 10,000 Muslim refugees over five years in protest against Trump’s order.

But since the company issued its anti-Trump statement its brand name has lost its luster with customers. Perception levels of the Starbucks brand name fell by an incredible two-thirds since its January announcement, according to a YouGov survey, as reported by Yahoo Finance.

The survey measures how potential customers feel about a company’s brand and asks if they have “heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative.”

In the week before the company’s January refugees announcement, 30% of respondents said they would consider spending money at Starbucks. But after the statement that number fell to 24 percent, the survey discovered.

The company’s announcement immediately sparked a #BoycottStarbucks movement on Twitter and brought condemnation from coast to coast.

Not long after Starbucks issued its anti-Trump refugee statement, many Americans began to wonder why Starbucks is slighting the hiring of Americans — especially U.S. military veterans — in favor of refugees.

Ultimately, on the heels of its refugees announcement, the company felt enough pressure to issue a second statement to explain to America’s military veterans that the company doesn’t actually hate them.

breitbart.com/big-government/2017/02/24/starbucks-brand-crashes-after-announcement-of-plan-to-hire-10000-muslim-refugees/

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As Muslims open mosques, non-Muslims come in droves to show support

By Bertrand M. Gutiérrez Winston-Salem Journal

CLEMMONS — Two meetings happened recently, the first in Kernersville, the second in Clemmons. In the first one, a small group of conservatives painted Muslims as a problem, the plotters, the would-be terrorists. In the second, on Friday, Muslims opened their mosques, reaching out, trying to build trust.

The Kernersville group did not show up.

“There are people we need to talk to that are not in this room,” said Wasif Qureshi, president emeritus of the Islamic Center of Greensboro, who was visiting to participate in the open-door event at the Annoor Islamic Center here. Rather, a large crowd showed up made up mostly of ardent supporters, more than 200, spurred by an invitation from the center and Interfaith Winston-Salem.

All three mosques in Forsyth County — the Annoor Islamic Center, the Community Mosque on Waughtown Street and Masjid Al-Muminun on Harriet Tubman Drive — opened their doors. It was their way of responding to the stinging — and violent — comments made at the Kernersville meeting, which was first reported by the Triad City Beat weekly newspaper.

At the Community Mosque in southeastern Winston-Salem, Imam Khalid Griggs said there were about 20 new faces at the prayer service, non-Muslims supporting Muslims.

“They felt it was important to come and let us know the hateful words spoken (in Kernersville) were not felt by everyone in the community,” Griggs said. “Many stayed and ate and talked with us afterward. It was very positive.”

Most had never attended a mosque, he said.

Their presence was encouraging, he said, particularly after comments made by President Donald Trump and the people at the Kernersville meeting.

Citing national security and a need to review the federal government’s vetting of refugees, Trump signed an executive order last month that temporarily froze the U.S. refugee program, indefinitely banned Syrian refugees and banned for three months citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

The executive order has since by blocked in federal court by a lawsuit brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota against the Trump administration — but Trump has signaled that he is working on a new executive order rather than pursue a legal fight.

“The common feeling was that (the comments were) a byproduct of the empowerment that many people felt with the language of our current president targeting Muslims,” Griggs said. “It’s created a climate of hatred.”

Efforts to contact the Al-Muminun mosque were unsuccessful.

At Annoor, members said they have seldom seen the mosque as packed as it was Friday for service and a town hall meeting afterward.

Hamdy Radwan, the chairman of the Islamic center’s council, led the service, providing a synopsis on what it has been like to be on the receiving end of other people’s suspicions about Muslims. At one point, describing how much attention the Kernersville meeting has gotten, he said with humor that he has gotten calls from people from as far as Egypt asking about the town.

“It’s not easy to hear — ‘wipe them out,’” he said, alluding to some of the comments made in the Kernersville meeting.

“We need to come together as one community,” said Radwan, who has been in the United States for 30 years, now working as a physical therapy professor at Winston-Salem State University.

The Kernersville discussion — captured in an audio recording — was referred to the FBI by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Returning to a theme echoing the Golden Rule, Radwan stressed that, every day, about 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide eat, dance and love — they live their lives just like people of any other faith. But, he said, people tend to get their information from snippets of news. Not many may know that Radwan and members of the Islamic center have, for example, fed the hungry or built homes with Habitat for Humanity.

After the service, during the town hall meeting, Radwan at times used humor, other times a measured tone to answer questions from many non-Muslims.

Among them was Marie Davis, who said she is Catholic.

Before the forum, she told a Winston-Salem Journal reporter that she was there to ask some questions, prefacing them with the idea that there are “bad apples in every bunch,” referencing bad deeds committed by the Catholic church.

Many of her questions were about the treatment of women. Examples: Are women forced to marry, and are men allowed to have more than one wife?

Radwan said he does not know anyone with more than one wife.

Dina Shehata, an active member of the Annoor Islamic Center, presented herself as an example of what life can be for Muslim women. Shehata got an undergraduate degree at UNC Chapel Hill and a graduate degree at N.C. State University, focusing on international studies. Recently, she was approved to work at the U.S. State Department, pending a security clearance.

Nobody forces her to wear the hijab, or head covering.

“My father does not force me to wear it. My brother does not force me to wear it. My mother does not, either,” Shehata said. “It’s truly a spiritual connection for women. They have a choice … to wear it or not to wear it. Yes, it is a requirement. But ultimately it’s up to the woman, herself.”

Many Annoor members said they follow the law of the land.

“I chose my own man,” Shehata said with humor, triggering a wave of laughter. “Nobody forced me to choose him.”

Some people at the town hall, including Barry Geller, a Jew, simply expressed support. Referring to the Torah, he said, first in Hebrew, then in English: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

“Jesus said that. It’s also in (the) Quran. The exact same words. The exact same sentence,” Geller said.

journalnow.com/news/local/as-muslims-open-mosques-non-muslims-come-in-droves-to/article_a927bcd1-fab5-5601-a30c-33d0f52013cd.html

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Muhammad Ali’s son detained by immigration, asked ‘are you a Muslim’

By: ANI | New Delhi | Published: February 25, 2017

In a shocking development, it has been revealed that the son of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was detained for hours by immigration officials earlier this month at a Florida airport, and was repeatedly asked about his religion.

Muhammad Ali Jr., 44, and his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, the first wife of Muhammad Ali, were arriving at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on February 7 after an event in Jamaica, when they were pulled aside while going through customs because of their Arabic-sounding names, reports the USA Today quoting Ali’s family friend and lawyer Chris Mancini.

Camacho-Ali was let go after she showed them a photo of herself with her ex-husband, however, her son was not so lucky as he was badgered for two straight hours, where he was repeatedly asked, “Where did you get your name from?” and “Are you Muslim?”

When Ali Jr. responded that yes, he is a Muslim, the officers kept questioning him about his religion and where he was born.

Mancini said he and the Ali family are contemplating filing a federal lawsuit and are currently trying to find out how many other people have been subjected to the same treatment as Ali Jr.

“Imagine walking into an airport and being asked about your religion. This is classic customs profiling,” he said.

Mancini also emphasised that the line of questioning was clearly designed to produce answers that corroborate what officials want to hear, adding that neither Camacho-Ali nor Ali Jr. have ever been subjected to detainment before, despite extensive global travel experience.

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“To the Ali family, it’s crystal clear that this is directly linked to Mr. Trump’s efforts to ban Muslims from the United States,” Mancini said, referring to President Trump’s executive order signed Jan. 27 that instituted a ban for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

financialexpress.com/world-news/muhammad-alis-son-detained-by-immigration-asked-are-you-a-muslim/566001/

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Second Florida Mosque Hit by Arson Attack in 5 Months

by NIKITA BIRYUKOV and ALEXANDRA BACALLAO

A fire at a Florida mosque was ruled arson Friday, the second time an Islam housed of worship was set on fire in the state since September, authorities said.

The Hillsborough County fire department responded to a call of a fire at the Islamic Society of New Tampa, Daarus Salaam Mosque in Thonotosass at around 2:10 a.m. and later determined that the small fire set near a door had been intentionally set, fire department spokesman Cory Dierdorff said.

Play Tampa Mayor Reacts to Mosque Arson Facebook Twitter Google Plus Embed

No one was inside the mosque at the time. The damage appeared minimal, but the fire had worshipper Arshaad Malik upset.

"It's a place of worship to God," Malik told NBC affiliate WESH. "You are trying to burn down a place of worship. Is this the tolerance that we have?"

Related: Growth in Anti-Muslim Hate Groups Seen in 2016, SLPC Report Says

In September, a Fort Pierce, Florida, mosque once attended by Pulse nightclub gunman Omar Mateen was set on fire. It took firefighters five hours to extinguish that blaze, and arrest was made in the case. No one was hurt in either incident.

This handout photo shows damage to the Islamic Society of New Tampa in Thonotosassa, Florida, in a fire that has been ruled arson on Feb. 24, 2017. Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida

"This time another Florida mosque has been targeted in a crime that could have easily taken the life of any worshiper," Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida, said in a statement.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting in the investigation of Friday's fire.

Related: Federal Authorities Investigate Bomb Threats Targeting Jewish Centers

Thonotosassa is a community northeast of Tampa. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the city stands in solidarity with the mosque.

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We cannot allow anyone, for any reason, to be attacked. We stand in solidarity with our Muslim community. We will figure out who did this.

9:27 PM - 24 Feb 2017 • Tampa, FL

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A vigil was held outside the Islamic Society of New Tampa Friday night. Imam Junaid Khan told the crowd that the show of support demonstrates that the act of arson doesn't reflect the community.

"I am thanking God for giving us this beautiful community, who came to us and have reached out to us in solidarity, in unity and showed the haters that this is the America we know," Imam Junaid Khan said, according to WESH. "This is the community we know. This is the Tampa we know."

nbcnews.com/news/us-news/second-florida-mosque-hit-arson-attack-5-months-n725506

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South Asia

ISIS may develop regional power base in Northwest of Afghanistan: ISW

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sat Feb 25 2017

The loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group may develop a regional power base in northwestern Afghanistan, the Institute for the Study of War has said in a report, citing the recent activities by the terror group northern parts of the country.

The institute particularly pointed towards the recent killing of ICRC workers and abduction of some of their workers in northern Jawzjan province.

According to ISW, the loyalists of the terror group may particularly use the opportunity provided to them with the absence of the Junbish-e-Millie fighters led by the Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum.

“ ISIS’s expansion in the region comes as First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, who maintains significant influence in the North through his Junbish Militia, remains confined to his home surrounded by his militia in Kabul City following a scandal involving the alleged assault of former Jowzjan Provincial Governor Ahmad Eschi in November 2016 by his bodyguards,” the US-based think tank said in a report.

The report further added that “The lack of reported Junbish militia action to combat ISIS-linked militants in Northern Afghanistan may represent the absence of Junbish militias. Alternatively, Dostum may be sanctioning the expansion of ISIS in the region in order to demonstrate his significance to Afghan security in an attempt to relieve the political pressure to prosecute him for the alleged assault.”

“Meanwhile, the ANSF is currently undergoing a U.S.-led force regeneration process during their 2016-2017 winter campaign. The Afghan National Unity Government has historically relied on a joint force of ANSF units and Junbish militiamen to provide security in northwestern Afghanistan. The lessened presence of Dostum’s militia while the ANSF rests and refits units may be granting ISIS-linked militants increased freedom of movement in the region,” the report added.

This comes as the Afghan officials have long been expressing concerns regarding the attempts being made by the ISIS loyalists to expand in northern parts of the country as they look to infiltrate further into the Central Asian States.

khaama.com/isis-may-develop-regional-power-base-in-northwest-of-afghanistan-isw-02971

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Nearly a dozen Afghans shot to death by Daesh in mosque ambush

Sat Feb 25, 2017

Nearly a dozen people have been shot dead in an ambush by Takfiri Daesh terrorists in northern Afghanistan, a local official says.

The fatalities, including 10 Afghan police officers and the wife of a police commander, occurred in the country’s northern Jowzjan Province after the victims came under attack while leaving a mosque.

Mohammad Reza Ghafori, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the commander’s wife was gunned down when she rushed to the scene after hearing about her husband being shot.

Afghanistan faces many security challenges years after the US and its allies invaded the country in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but many areas in the country are still beset with insecurity.

Despite the presence of thousands of foreign boots on the ground, Afghanistan has been rocked by a surge in terrorist attacks, some of them carried out by Daesh.

The rise of Daesh in Afghanistan has raised concerns in the Asian country that has already been torn apart by decades of Taliban-led militancy and the US-led invasion.

Civilian casualties in 2016 were the highest recorded by the United Nations since 2009, with nearly 11,500 non-combatants killed or wounded.       

presstv.com/Detail/2017/02/25/512006/Daesh-Jowzjan-Province-Afghanistan-ambush

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6 key ISIS leaders killed in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sat Feb 25 2017

At least six key leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group loyalists were killed during the ongoing operations in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

According to the security officials, the six ISIS leaders were killed in the past 24 hours along with at least 41 other militants.

An official in 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan National Army in Eastern Afghanistan said the militants were killed in Haska Mina district.

The official speaking on the condition of anonymity further added that 25 militants also sustained injuries during the operations.

According to the official, the operations are jointly being conducted by the ground forces and air forces of the Afghan security forces and coalition forces based in Afghanistan.

The Afghan security forces also confiscated several weapons and dozens of weapons were destroyed during the raids.

Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces in eastern Afghanistan but the anti-government armed militant groups are attempting to expand their insurgency in this province during the recent years.

The growing threats posed by Taliban, ISIS and other insurgents forced the Afghan forces and US forces based in Afghanistan to step up operations in a bid to restrict their insurgency activities.

khaama.com/6-key-isis-leaders-killed-in-nangarhar-province-of-afghanistan-02973

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Afghan envoy says Pak-Afghan border may be opened temporarily

Feb 25, 2017

Afghan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal on Saturday said that the border crossings closed by Pakistan in the aftermath of a string of militant attacks will be opened provisionally later on the same day.

The envoy also said in that the border will likely be opened completely within the next 3-4 days.

In the statement, posted to his Facebook account, Zakhilwal also advised Afghans to avoid travelling to Pakistan without proper travel documents.

The envoy said on Thursday that he had written to the Pakistani military leadership to seek the reopening of border crossings.

Pakistan's de facto foreign minister, Sartaj Aziz, in a press conference held on Saturday said the country's border with Afghanistan could not remain closed indefinitely.

The borders were closed in light of security concerns, he said. However, he desisted from providing a timeframe for when the closure would be relaxed.

The closure of the border crossings was ordered by Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Feb 16, hours after militants struck Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine in Sehwan, killing 90.

All traffic between the two countries remained suspended since then, creating logistical difficulties for landlocked Afghanistan, which conducts most of its external trade through Pakistan.

A large number of Afghan nationals were also stranded in Pakistan by the decision.

Pakistan has frequently used border closure to expr­e­ss its annoyance with Afghanistan on different issues.

This time, the military closed the crossings to pressurise Kabul to take action against terror outfits that it accuses of taking up sanctuary on Afghan soil and directing attacks from there.

dawn.com/news/1316916/afghan-envoy-says-pak-afghan-border-may-be-opened-temporarily

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Rocket Fire Kills Two Schoolchildren in East Afghanistan

25.02.2017

A rocket strike killed two children and wounded six others on Saturday at a school in Afghanistan's eastern Laghman province, local media reported.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The Afghan news agency Pajhwok said on social media networks that the rocket had landed inside a school in the largely rural province.

There were no immediate reports as to what group might have been behind the attack, but the Taliban – a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia – has recently captured large rural areas across Afghanistan.

sputniknews.com/middleeast/201702251051033181-afghanistan-rocket-fire/

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Europe

UNICEF delighted Imam Hussain Holy Shrine supports children

February 25, 2017

Within a visit to Iraq to study the child’s situation, a delegation from “UNICEF” visited the Imam Hussein Holy Shrine where reports on the children who left school, and the children who were enlisted by ISIS, were presented to them.

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Within a visit to Iraq to study the child’s situation, a delegation from the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund “UNICEF” visited the Imam Hussein Holy Shrine where reports on the children who left school, and the children who were enlisted by ISIS, were presented to them.

A member of the delegation, Hebeeb El-Meghribi – from Morocco, said to the official website of the Imam Hussein Holy Shrine, “We have been acquainted with some projects Imam Hussein Holy Shrine has achieved; such projects indicate how the holy shrine protects the child, and how they build better future for them.”

"We are delighted to find that the Imam Hussein Holy Shrine has built hospitals for children and a center for family guidance" said El-Meghribi.

Jemal Esh-Shehristani, director of Department of Media of Imam Hussein Holy Shrine, said that the visit was also to find out about the children enlisted by ISIS to execute terrorist attacks.

Reports have recently shown the means ISIS is using to enlist children in Iraq and Syria.

en.abna24.com/news/middle-east/unicef-delighted-imam-hussain-holy-shrine-supports-children_813929.html

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German Intelligence Warns of Massive Increase in Islamists

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 01: A Muslim man stands outside the Bilal mosque in Griesheim district while police investigate inside on February 1, 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. Approximately 1,000 police officers were involved in the anti-terror raids of 54 residences, apartments and businesses across the state of Hesse. Police arrested a Tunisian man whom they suspect of working with the Islamic State (IS) and planning terror attacks in Germany. Authorities say they have also identified 16 other people they suspect as accomplices. (Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

By CHRIS TOMLINSON

25 Feb 20175

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence service, warns that the number of radical Islamists has grown enormously in the last four years.

Since 2013, the number of Islamists has skyrocketed from a mere 100 or so to over 1,600 currently. Chief of the BfV, Hans-Georg Maassen, said the number is increasing more and more every month. Mr Maassen described the current situation saying: “We receive between two and four credible tips on planned terrorist activity in Germany each day,” and added, “We have to recognise that we are living in a different situation now than was normal,”

Mr Maassen described the current situation saying: “We receive between two and four credible tips on planned terrorist activity in Germany each day,” adding: “We have to recognise that we are living in a different situation now than was normal,” Deutsche Welle reports.

The reasons for the massive increase, according to the BfV, are numerous, including the arrests of Islamists plotting attacks, and the ability for Islamists to communicate online and radicalise disaffected young Muslims.

Maasen said it was hard for many friends and family to detect if a person had become radicalised saying: “These are social groups that find each other, let’s say through their mosque community, and the people who see them in the real world don’t necessarily notice any change in behaviour.”

Of the total 1,600 radical Islamists, Maassen said around 560 of them are potentially dangerous and have the ability to plot and possibly carry out acts of terrorism in Germany.

Since the Berlin Christmas market attack in December, authorities in Germany have been working to crack down on radical Islamist groups and have conducted raids all across the country.

Some of the raids have related to direct threats of terrorist activity like the arrest of a 26-year-old Islamist in Lower Saxony who was caught possessing explosive material commonly used by the Islamic state terror group to make bombs. In another case, a 21-year-old in the city of Neuss was arrested, also accused of trying to create an explosive device and had connections with another Islamist terror plotter in Austria.

Others arrested have been on charges of belonging to organisations like the Islamic State terror group. A pair of German-Moroccan brothers were arrested in Bonn over links to ISIS. Prosecutors allege that the two men had travelled to Syria in 2013 where they both joined the Islamic state and participated in various battles on behalf of the group.

In Berlin, a Russian national was arrested for trying to raise money for ISIS through Russian social media and also sold drugs in order to raise money for the group.

breitbart.com/london/2017/02/25/german-intelligence-warns-massive-increase-islamists/

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Mideast

'Spying imams' spark new crisis between Europe and Turkey

Author Zülfikar DoganPosted February 24, 2017

Under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), budget allotment for the Religious Affairs Department (Diyanet) — Turkey's official religious body — has increased every year. In 2017, the Diyanet had more money than 11 ministries.

Summary? Print Because of accusations of espionage, Turkey had to recall religious attaches and official imams from several European countries.

According to Diyanet statistics, today there are 86,760 mosques in Turkey, all under its jurisdiction. With the number of its personnel reaching 117,000, the Diyanet, which is endowed with ample financial resources and has educational and publishing bodies, is like a state within a state.

During the coup attempt of July 15, 2016, on instructions from the Diyanet, state-employed imams (prayer leaders) called upon the people to come out to the streets and resist the coup plotters. Now, the Diyanet is on the agenda with something completely different: spying imams.

The issue of spying imams led to diplomatic tensions first between Turkey and the Netherlands, and then with Germany and Austria. The crisis escalated when the German police searched the residences of four Turkish imams on Feb. 15.

In a report submitted to the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission investigating the coup attempt, there were references to intelligence information provided by imams posted abroad. Diyanet-appointed imams collected intelligence from 38 countries, primarily about the Gulen movement.

Reports submitted by the spying imams covered all Gulenist activities, the names of their adherents and their photos in European, Central Asian and African countries. After the Diyanet reports to the parliamentary inquiry were leaked to the media in December 2016, the first reaction came from the Netherlands. Diyanet reports revealed that official Turkish religious personnel were collecting intelligence about Turkish expatriates praying in 145 mosques in that country. Yusuf Acar, the religious affairs attache of the Turkish Embassy in The Hague, was accused of guiding local imams. The Turkish government was asked to recall Acar, and it did.

But then the crisis extended into Germany, which has the largest Turkish community in Europe. The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), a nongovernmental organization set up in 1984, became the focal point of espionage allegations. Allegations emerged in the German media and parliament that imams assigned to more than 900 mosques were sending intelligence reports to Ankara.

Volker Beck, a deputy for Germany's Green Party, filed a complaint with the federal prosecutor that DITIB imams were engaged in espionage. An investigation was launched on Jan. 18 under the provisions of article 99 of the German penal code that covers "spying for a foreign country." DITIB and more than 900 imams linked to it were investigated. Some German states suspended their cooperation with DITIB on religious education in schools. German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said if it is verified that DITIB, which is subject to German legislation on civil society, was engaged in intelligence activity, then it would be established that this organization was actually an extension of the Turkish state.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said they will not tolerate the spillover into Germany of the domestic strife between the Turkish government and the Gulen movement. According to German laws, as a civil society organization, the DITIB must remain independent, though the Diyanet is allowed to assign its imams to DITIB-associated mosques as part of its assistance program to meet the religious needs of the Turkish expatriates.

On Dec. 19, DITIB Secretary-General Bekir Alboga acknowledged that "some imams had exceeded their authority and were engaged in collecting information." He apologized, saying his organization was against such practices.

With the expansion of the investigations by German security services and prosecutors following the raids on residences, the arrest and deportation of Diyanet imams became likely. German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked for these imams to be recalled during her visit to Ankara Feb. 2. Immediately after her visit, six imams were recalled to Turkey.

Diyanet Director Mehmet Gormez said some imams may have exceeded their duties but he would not accept that they were involved in espionage. Gormez said they had recalled the six imams not to damage the 40-year friendship between Germany and Turkey. He said the Diyanet and the DITIB were above politics and the state never interfered in the operations of the DITIB.

Meanwhile, Turkey's Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag argued that the search of the imams' residences violated German law and could not be reconciled with human rights and freedom of faith.

It appears that Diyanet imams gave the most fervent support to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's call on Turkish ambassadors to struggle against the Gulen movement in the countries they work.

Media organs close to the government said the spying imam crisis was a ploy of Western countries to support and protect the Gulen movement.

Never mind that the Diyanet director said that they don't mix religion with politics. It seems the Diyanet and its imams are already lined up behind Erdogan and the AKP.

al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/02/turkey-europe-new-crisis-spying-imams.html#ixzz4ZgEfOrDN

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Promoting Islamic Lifestyle Helps Repel Cultural Invasion

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Countering cultural invasion is not possible by only putting up fences, but by explaining Islamic lifestyle and its moral, political and cultural values in poems

Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei called on Iranian religious poets to help repulse “cultural invasion” waged by western countries against Iran by promoting Islamic lifestyle in their poems.

In a meeting with poets writing on religious issues in Tehran on Thursday, Ayatollah Khamenei said centers in Europe and US are working to change people’s lifestyles in non-western countries, particularly Iran.

“Countering this attack is not possible by only putting up fences. One could fulfill the [defensive] duty by explaining Islamic lifestyle and its moral, political and cultural values in poems,” Leader.ir quoted him as saying. The Leader has long warned about the cultural invasion waged by western powers, saying it aims to divest the Islamic Republic of its original content, Islamic values and revolutionary spirit.

Cultural invasion happens when a particular group tries to replace the culture and beliefs of the nation with new concepts to reap political or economic benefits.

It differs from cultural interchange, under which nations seek to enrich and develop their culture at their own will. Ayatollah Khamenei said religious poets can also work to promote Islamic guidelines regarding the need to fight oppression and hypocrisy.

“Fighting oppression is not limited to its physical form. In today’s world, publicity campaigns play a very important role, and oppressors can be fought by using the tool of poetry,” he said.

financialtribune.com/articles/national/60287/promoting-islamic-lifestyle-helps-repel-cultural-invasion

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Former Palestinian prisoners work hard to conquer ghosts of their torture

February 24, 2017

“Istiad Ashbah” (Ghost Hunting) is a documentary about attempts by Palestinian prisoners to conquer their ghosts and rebuild their lives.

A co-production between Palestine, France, Switzerland and Qatar, “Ghost Hunting” premiered at the 67th Berlin Film Festival in February, where the film won on Feb. 18 the main documentary prize and one of three audience awards.

Andoni was arrested in 1985. Since then, many Palestinians have been arrested and repressed, especially after the 1987 Palestinian protests that introduced to the world a new term, “intifada.” Andoni spent a year in various Israeli jails, but the trauma stayed with him for years.

As is customary, the detained Palestinian was blindfolded and after some time in the back of a military jeep, he was dumped at the Mascobia jail in Jerusalem. The dreaded Israeli prison, named after the Russian Orthodox Church that is across the street, has been the place where many Palestinians, including Andoni, were held, tortured and abused. Since the 1967 occupation, some 800,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel, roughly 20% of the total population and 40% of the total Palestinian male population.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, Andoni explained the long gap between his arrest and the production of the documentary. “I needed nearly 30 years to be mature enough to be able to produce this film. I needed the self-confidence, the courage, and to have developed enough experience of a cinematic language that allowed me to be involved in this collective production.”

Andoni started his career in the film industry in 1997 as an independent producer. He co-founded Dar Films in Palestine? and? ?Les Films? ?de? ?Zayna ?in? ?Paris. His? ?first? ?documentary? ?as? ?a? ?director, “Improvisation” (2005), is? ?an? ?appealing? ?insight? ?into three Palestinian musicians.? ?For? ?his? ?first feature? ?length? ?film, “?Fix? ?Me” (2009),? ?Andoni? ?filmed? ?20? ?sessions? ?of? ?his? ?own? ?therapy? ?in? ?Ramallah. Andoni travels extensively, especially between Palestine and France.

It was during the 20th therapy session that Andoni came to the idea of the new film. “I first started writing it as a fiction film, but then realized that what was needed was something much more complicated.” Andoni decided he needed a more comprehensive psychological approach. “I decided to search for a plan that would allow me to go all the way emotionally in my search for closure.” In his search, Andoni came up with a plan that combined this emotional search through a new cinematic language.

Andoni spoke to Al-Monitor by phone from France about the unique emotional and cinematic plan that he devised.

In September 2015, he rented a 600-square-meter (6,500-square-foot) empty yard in the city of Ramallah and published an ad calling on former prisoners who were held in Mascobia prison to join him in the experiment. “The only condition was that I was looking for former prisoners who had experience in construction. The idea was that former prisoners who never saw the prisons they were held in because of the blindfolds were going to be tasked with rebuilding a new prison on that empty lot in Ramallah by digging deep in their memory to what they imagined the prison looked like.”

Before actually beginning the building and filming process, Andoni sought the advice of Dr. Fathi Fleifel, the head of mental health at the Red Crescent Society. “I wanted to be sure I wasn’t doing something that could cause more harm than help. But Fleifel was very helpful. He gave me advice, nominated one of his staff to be with us and visited us regularly,” said Andoni.

One of the strongest pieces of advice that Fleifel gave Andoni was that he should not oppose any of his builders' requests to leave the project. “He was adamant that if I forced them to stay, they will have permanent damage.” Andoni agreed and made that announcement before filming started. “Only one former prisoner couldn’t handle the emotions and asked to be relieved after two weeks. All other participants stayed on till the end.”

As the former prisoners began building what they could remember as the physical structure of their prison, cameraman Camille Cottagnoud began filming interviews with the participants.

By the time the prison building was completed, many of the former prisoners brought their families to the site and relived with them what had happened to them when they were held and tortured. “It was such a moving time full of energy and happiness despite the fact that the stories were very emotional. The angry emotion was replaced with emotional relief,” said Andoni.

Andoni conducted the interviews and was also the subject of the interviews in some clips. Palestinian actor Ramzi Maqdisi was tasked with re-enacting some of the stories that the prisoner/builders remembered.

In post-production, Denmark animator Luc Perez was hired to create some animation inserts to help tell the stories of the prisoners. But the biggest problem facing the Palestinian filmmaker was in the editing process. “I worked with Arabic-speaking Lebanese editor Gladys Joujou to review and edit more than 120 hours of filmed interviews and re-enactments,” he told Al-Monitor.

After finalizing the film and before showing it internationally, Andoni brought the film to Ramallah to share it with those who helped make it possible. “We expected about a hundred people to attend, but were surprised that more than 400 people came and they stayed for hours talking after the film and reflecting on their experiences as they conquered their own ghosts.”

In addition to participation in major festivals, Andoni said he would like to have “Istiad Ashbah” tour throughout Palestinian towns and villages, allowing the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian prisoners to use this cinematic experiment to search and hopefully conquer their own ghosts.

al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/02/palestine-film-former-prisoners-israel-torture.html#ixzz4ZgFPvu1e

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Iran complies with nuclear deal, slashes low-enriched uranium stockpile by half – IAEA

25 Feb, 2017

Iran has been found in full compliance with a nuclear deal with leading world powers, a UN nuclear watchdog said in a report. It comes amid heightened fears the US may walk out of the milestone pact, with tensions flaring up between Tehran and Washington.

The latest report on the deal’s implementation produced by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and obtained by Reuters and AFP on Friday confirms that the Islamic Republic is far from exceeding the limit for the amount of the low-enriched uranium it is allowed to keep.

The report, citing data as of February 18, puts Iran’s low-enriched uranium stockpile at 101.7 kg, only the half of the permitted amount of 202.8 kg.

Such a dramatic decrease can largely be attributed to the recent “downblending” of 99.9 kg of low-enriched uranium at Iran`s Isfahan conversion facility, which has been since exempted from the count.

The uranium was stored inside the plant’s processing equipment, namely pipes and other elements, but it has undergone a procedure that reduced its enrichment grade. The material is now considered to be unrecoverable, as ruled by a Joint Commission comprised of representatives of Iran and other parties to the deal.

Iran kept its pledge to not enrich uranium to more than 3.67 percent, the IAEA report confirmed.

READ MORE: Russia disagrees with Trump labeling Iran ‘number one terrorist state’

The amount of heavy water stored by Iran is now under the permitted 130 tons, although at 124.2 tons it is way closer to the upper margin. Since the deal was sealed on July 2015, Iran has gone over the limit at least twice, the latest one in November, igniting the ire of Washington. To stay in line with the target amount, Tehran transferred 11 tons of heavy water to Oman at the time, according to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization’s spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi.

“In view of the progress of talks with several foreign firms and countries to purchase heavy water, some quantities of Iran's surplus production has been transferred to Oman,” Kamalvandi said at the time. He added that as the negotiations with potential byers picked up the pace, another shipment to Oman was a likely option.

Heavy water is used in some types of reactors that can produce plutonium, a material that can be used in a nuclear weapon. The report, however, stated that Iran did not infringe its nuclear commitment in this regard as it “has not pursued the construction of the existing heavy water research reactor.”

The 2015 deal, which was cited by President Barack Obama’s administration as one of its major achievements, has been hanging in the balance ever since Donald Trump moved into the White House in January. Trump has been a vocal critic of the pact, branding it a “disaster” and “the worst deal ever negotiated” during his campaign. Once in office, President Trump was quick to designate Iran the “number one terrorist threat,” further fueling concerns over the nuclear deal.

Both the US and Iran have accused each other of violating the spirit of the atomic agreement while sticking to its letter. The latest heated exchange came after missile and radar tests conducted by Iran early February. Iran argued that the test of a medium-range ballistic missile did not violate the nuclear deal, warning off third countries against meddling into its “defense affairs,” but Trump accused Tehran of “playing with fire.”

“Iran is playing with fire – they don’t appreciate how ‘kind’ President Obama was to them. Not me!” Trump tweeted at the time.

Shortly after the test, Washington slapped Tehran with a new round of restrictive measures related to its missile program.

In December, the US extended the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for another 10 years, causing outrage in Iran. Denouncing the move, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the extension was in clear breach of US commitments under the nuclear deal and “shows the unreliability of the American government.”

The breakthrough deal envisioned the lifting of the economic sanctions from Iran in exchange for significant limitations imposed on its nuclear program. In addition to the US and Iran, China, Russia, Britain, France and the EU took part in negotiating the deal.

rt.com/news/378556-iran-complies-nuclear-deal-report/

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Turkey says Al-Bab completely captured from jihadists

PTI | Updated: Feb 24, 2017

ANKARA: Turkish armed forces and allied Syrian rebels have completely taken the IS bastion of Al-Bab in northern Syria from jihadists, the military said on Friday.

"As of February 24, 2017, control of all neighbourhoods in Al-Bab have been secured" by opposition fighters supported by Ankara against the Islamic State group (IS), the army said in a statement.

"Activities continue to clear areas under control of obstacles, mines and hand-made explosives," the military said.

Al-Bab, which is 25 kilometres south of the Turkish border, was IS's last stronghold in the northern province of Aleppo.

Syrian rebel commanders claimed the day before they had seized the town from IS militants, saying that it had been completely liberated.

Turkey launched its unilateral military operation last August supporting Syrian opposition fighters, targeting IS as well as Syrian Kurdish militia.

At the start of the operation dubbed "Euphrates Shield", the rebels swiftly captured Jarabulus, Al-Rai and Dabiq in northern Syria from IS jihadists.

After the lightning advance, the operation became mired in a drawn-out conflict in Al-Bab lasting two months as jihadists put up a stronger fight to keep the town.

It proved to be the bloodiest battle in Turkey's campaign, where Ankara suffered most of its 71 losses so far, including two soldiers who were killed in a suicide attack today, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/turkey-says-al-bab-completely-captured-from-jihadists/articleshow/57335759.cms

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Africa

Mutual interests break ice between Egypt, Saudi Arabia

February 24, 2017

CAIRO — Despite the strain in Egyptian-Saudi ties since last October, on Jan. 26, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud 's $1.5 billion development plan for the Sinai Peninsula. On Jan. 21, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed quoted an Egyptian diplomatic source as saying that Egypt asked Saudi diplomats to mediate to end Sudanese demands for direct talks on the annexation of the disputed Halayeb and Shalateen areas.

Summary? Print Although tension has been high between Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the past few months, signs of cooperation are emerging over the development of Sinai and other common interests.

The Egyptian-Saudi tension ramped up Oct. 9 after Egypt voted at the UN Security Council in favor of a Russian draft resolution to end the war in Syria, and Saudi Arabia's permanent representative to the UN Abdullah al-Mouallimi expressed resentment. Matters escalated Oct. 10 as Saudi Aramco informed the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation that oil shipments to Egypt were suspended. Aramco told Egypt Nov. 8 that the halt was indefinite, which observers perceived as a Saudi sanction on Egypt for its vote.

On Jan. 16, the Supreme Administrative Court invalidated the maritime border demarcation agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, denying Saudi Arabia sovereignty over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir in the Red Sea.

Signs of a breakthrough appeared in January, with Sisi signing an agreement for a $1.5 billion loan from Saudi Arabia to fund development projects in Sinai. The agreement is known as Salman's development plan for Sinai, the most prominent of which is the establishment of King Salman University.

The memorandum of understanding concerning the Sinai development, among others such as the maritime border demarcation agreement and the Aramco oil products supply deal, had been signed on April 9, 2016, during the Saudi monarch’s visit to Egypt.

Mohammed Saeed Idris, the head of the Arab and regional studies unit at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor, “Egyptian-Saudi relations are not limited to just political tension regarding the situation in Syria, such as when Egypt voted in favor of the Russian draft resolution, or regarding the border demarcation agreement or the oil import and export agreement. The two countries have many issues and goals in common.”

He added, “Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the two largest and most key actors for Middle East stability. The past few years have probably revealed how dangerous the situation in Sinai is and how important development projects are in countering terrorism in the arid area. Despite their differences on the Syrian and border demarcation issues, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are well-aware of how dangerous terrorism is. I believe that the development project is a part of these countries’ efforts to combat terrorism in all areas, most notably in Sinai, because of the danger of terrorism to the entire Arab region.”

But what about the Halayeb and Shalateen areas? On Jan. 17, the Sudan News Agency quoted a Sudanese diplomatic source that it did not name as saying that his government had renewed demands to restore the Halayeb and Shalateen triangle at the UN Security Council. The statement came the day after the maritime border demarcation agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia was invalidated.

The Egyptian Foreign Affairs Ministry responded in an official statement Jan. 18 to the Sudanese news agency, saying that the Halayeb and Shalateen areas belong to Egypt and are under Egyptian sovereignty. It added that in April 2016, Egypt denied the request that Sudan has been repeating for decades.

Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported Jan. 21 that Egyptian officials asked their Saudi counterparts to mediate to halt Sudanese demands that Halayeb and Shalateen be annexed to Sudan, and that during undeclared deliberations the Egyptian and Saudi sides paved the way for the resurrection of the maritime border demarcation agreement.

The report went on that Egyptian officials confirmed that it would be difficult to take any concrete steps in the maritime border demarcation dossier while the Sudanese demands continued, as doing so would further anger the Egyptian street and forces opposing the agreement.

Ahmed Abdel Halim, the former head of Egyptian Geological Survey, told Al-Monitor that the goal behind the maritime border demarcation agreement is to enable oil and gas exploration activities in the Red Sea waters, which are rich in oil and gas resources.

He dismissed the possibility that Egypt sought Saudi mediation to put an end to the Sudanese demands, saying, “The passing of the maritime border agreement is in favor of Saudi Arabia, as it facilitates the oil and gas drilling activities. The Sudanese demands regarding Halayeb and Shalateen … contradict the agreement.”

He explained, “The agreement is an implicit Saudi recognition of the Egyptian ownership of Halayeb and Shalateen. Under the agreement, the maritime border between Egypt and Saudi Arabia along the Egyptian coast on the Red Sea are determined. This area also includes the Halayeb and Shalateen coasts along the Red Sea. Thus, the Sudanese claim regarding its ownership of that territory is a challenge to the agreement.”

The Egyptian-Saudi interests are deep and complex and their ongoing tension will not be a reason for a complete rupture between two countries that have many interests in common.

al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/02/breakthrough-egypt-saudi-ties-mediation-stop-sudan-demands.html#ixzz4ZgFXjDWo

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