• Supreme Leader Orders Armed Forces to Seriously Deal with Faults, Flaws Leading to Ukrainian Plane Incident
• Iran’s Green Movement opposition calls on Iran Supreme Leader to step down
• Iran warns Ukrainian plane crash victims’ families not to speak to media
• In Pakistan, the Army Chief Got an Extension, but the Game Is Still on
• Some Islamic clerics in Bangladesh oppose a breast milk bank
• G25 finds formation of Jakim, National Council of Islamic Affairs unconstitutional
• Somali terrorist group, al-Shabaab, threatens to attack US targets around the world
• Trump: US troops won’t leave Iraq unless it pays for ‘money we put in’
• Ambassador arrest in Tehran violates int’l law, UK says
• Zakir Naik claims Centre offered him safe passage in return for support for its Kashmir policies
• J&K DSP, Davinder Singh arrested with two Hizbul terrorists
• ‘Ideal nation is where the strong don’t oppress weak’: Kerala Guv
• Muslims not considered as human beings, treated like insects in the BJP regime: Badruddin Ajmal
• Why privileged citizens of neighbouring nations must also get India’s succor
• No special relief, J&K land curbs may be for agricultural plots only
• ‘Schedule coincided with UAE visit’: Bangladesh refutes rumours behind minister’s absence at New Delhi event
• SGPC panel denied visa to visit Pakistan’s Nankana Sahib
• Encounter breaks out between terrorists, security forces in Jammu & Kashmir's Pulwama
• Bangladesh's deputy foreign minister cancels visit to India
• Pak's BAT beheaded porter, Army chief says will deal in 'military manner' with such barbaric acts
• US tried 2nd strike in Yemen to kill another Iran commander after Soleimani assassination
• Gazans hold memorial ceremony for Lieutenant General Qassem Soleiman
• Iran arrests UK ambassador for suspecting him of organizing protests: Tasnim
• Commander: Efforts to Precisely Probe into Ukrainian Plane Incident Reason for Delay in Releasing Information
• FM Zarif: Iran Hopes for Keeping Close Ties under New Omani Sultan
• Iranian Speaker Asks for Identification of Those Guilty in Ukrainian Plane Incident
• Iranian President Vows Prosecution of Those Guilty in Ukrainian Plane Incident
• Iran's Judiciary Chief Stresses Acceleration of Probe into Ukrainian Plane Accident
• Eleven migrants die after boat sinks off Turkey
• Protests in Tehran following IRGC admission of Ukrainian plane atrocity
• Iranian semi-official news agency reports anti-government protests
• Soleimani’s man: Abdul Reza Shahlai, Iran’s most senior commander in Yemen
• Iran welcomes global cooperation on plane crash investigation: President Rouhani
• Angry Iranians question authorities for hiding truth from public
• Syriac monk in Turkey jailed on terror charges
• Ukraine prosecutor investigating ‘willful killing’ in Iran plane attack
• Religious discrimination of minorities in Pakistan
• PML-N leader hints at pressure over tenure bill
• Aitzaz calls Nawaz Sharif a ‘sell out’ over extension bills
• Economic stabilisation has failed to bring growth: PM aide
• FIR of Quetta mosque bombing registered
• Shehbaz blasts PTI govt over ‘incompetence’
• Pakistanis protest US assassination of top Iranian General Soleimani
• Cross border flights through Afghanistan increase by 25%
• Taliban hit US military convoy, claim killing 'all troops'
• Two US soldiers killed in bomb blast claimed by Taliban
• Kashmiri students in a limbo on Bangla visas
• First phase of Ijtema ends with Akheri Munajat Sunday
• Herat’s residents demand an immediate investigation into Shindand airstrike
• IED explosion kills two US soldiers in Kandahar
• Violent crime on the rise in Afghanistan’s main cities
• Racial, religious issues have no place in Kimanis, PAS told
• Feature: Xinjiang rises from ashes of terrorism
• Whoever wins, Kimanis villagers just want an end to flooding
• Decide who takes charge of religious education, Putrajaya and state govts told
• Anwar: MACC chief should further explain reasons for exposing phone conversations
• ‘Latheefa must explain why audio involving ex-PM were released publicly’
• South Korea summons Iran envoy over diplomatic threat
• Libyan forces loyal to Haftar announce conditional ceasefire: Spokesman
• Head of UN-recognized Libyan government to visit Turkey
• 5 al-Shabaab terrorists killed in Somalia
• Kenyan police foil Al-Shabaab attack
• Boko Haram militants kill four, kidnap four in Chad: officials
• Republican US congressman apologizes for saying Democrats are 'in love with terrorists'
• Trump backs Iranian anti-government protestors
• Canada’s Trudeau says Iran must take full responsibility for downing plane
• Two US soldiers killed in Afghanistan bomb attack: NATO mission
• Trump repeats Syria intention: US troops are taking the oil
• Trump backs down from his hostile anti-Iran stance because Americans don't support him: Analyst
• British PM Johnson says Iran plane crash shows vital to de-escalate tensions
• Ukraine PM says state, airline will give money to families of Iran crash victims
• Russia’s Putin: Time to hold Libya peace talks in Berlin
• Ukraine, France leaders agree French specialists to decode Iran crash black boxes
• Londoners hold 'No war on Iran' rallies amid tensions in region
• UK: Iran's admission in crash disaster 'important step'
• Turkish president receives head of European Council
• Bank failed to raise alarm over huge write-down of frozen Libyan assets
• British prison stabbing was terror attack
• Saudi Arabia keen to maintain ‘global peace’
• Trump’s sanctions threat reveals true US plot: total colonization of Iraq
• Oman’s new ruler pledges to follow ‘non-interference’ policy
• Hundreds mourn journalists killed after covering Iraq protests
• Hundreds protest in Lebanon as crisis deepens
• Syrian regime air strikes kill 18 civilians in Syria’s Idlib: Monitor
• Iraq PM tells Kurdish leaders he does not seek ‘hostility’ with US
• Bahrain’s Bapco hit by Iranian data wiper malware attack: Report
• Trump remembers late Sultan of Oman as ‘friend to all’
• Saudi Arabia’s leadership sends messages of condolences to Oman’s Sultan Haitham
• KRG supports Baghdad’s decision on US troop pullout from Iraq
• Survey: Most Saudis prefer Japan as Middle East mediator
• Lebanese failure to pay UN dues ‘scandalous’
Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau
Zakir Naik claims Centre offered him safe passage in return for support for its Kashmir policies
January 12, 2020
Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik on Saturday claimed that a representative of the Narendra Modi government had approached him in Malaysia in September, and offered him safe passage to India in return for support for the government’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status, and other related decisions.
Naik has been in self-imposed exile in Malaysia since 2016, when he came to security agencies’ notice because of allegations that he had inspired one of the terrorists who carried out an attack at a Dhaka restaurant in July 2016. The same year his Islamic Research Foundation was banned in India. Naik has repeatedly denied the accusations. In June, New Delhi formally made an extradition request to Kuala Lumpur.
Two months later, the preacher was banned from delivering public speeches in Malaysia after he said the Chinese should leave the country as they were “old guests”. He also said Hindus in Malaysia had “100 times more rights” than Muslims in India, and claimed Hindus were more loyal to Modi than the Malaysian prime minister.
In a YouTube video on Saturday, Naik said the representative told him he had met Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah before visiting him. “I thought, imagine, the same BJP government, who hounded me for three-and-a-half years; the same prime minister of India Narendra Modi, who used my name no less than nine times in a span of two minutes, in an election speech in May 2019, now they are bartering with me for a safe passage?” Naik said. “It is too straight to be true.”
Naik said he was responding to media speculation about Pakistani-American Islamic scholar and preacher Yasir Qadhi, who initially claimed earlier this week that the BJP government had said it would drop money laundering charges against Naik if he supported it on Kashmir. Qadhi had also met Naik on November 9.
Naik claimed the representative told him that the government would like to use the preacher’s connections to improve India’s relationship with other Muslim countries. “And I said, as long as you do not ask me to do anything against the teachings of the Quran, against the teachings of the Sahih Hadith, as long as it benefits the Muslim ummah, I have no problem in cooperating with you,” the preacher added.
Naik claimed he “flatly refused” the government’s offer. “I said according to me revoking Article 370 is unconstitutional, and it is taking away the rights of the people of Kashmir,” he added. “I cannot support an Act of injustice, and neither can I betray the people of Kashmir.”
The preacher claimed he was told that he was free to speak against any enforcement agency in India, but not against the government and Prime Minister Modi. “I told him, according to me, the National Investigation Agency, the Enforcement Directorate...they are not to blame,” Naik added. He said the agencies were just obeying the government.
The preacher claimed he also told the government representative that he was not in Malaysia to speak against any government, but to spread the message of Islam. He added that on December 17, he had given a press statement against the Citizenship Amendment Act, and expressed astonishment at Indian clerics who had backed the government on Kashmir. “Now I realise that these Muslim leaders may have been pressurised, may have been forced to support the unjust BJP government, or face the consequences,” Naik said.
In a message for Indian Muslims, he said: “It is noble to speak against injustice. But if you fear backlash, the least you can do is keep quiet. But supporting an unjust act is un-Islamic.” Naik claimed Muslims supporting the Citizenship Amendment Act were “bartering their place in heaven for security in the material world”.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11 and signed into law by President Ram Nath Kovind on December 13, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. At least 26 people died in last month’s protests against the citizenship law. Of these, 19 died in Uttar Pradesh, five in Assam and two in Karnataka.
Supreme Leader Orders Armed Forces to Seriously Deal with Faults, Flaws Leading to Ukrainian Plane Incident
Jan 11, 2020
In his message, the Leader renewed his most heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the bereaved families of the victims, and reiterated his "order to the General Staff of the Armed Forces to probe into possible faults and flaws in this painful accident," Ayatollah Khamenei said.
He also underscored the need for the relevant Iranian directors and officials to launch the necessary follow-ups to prevent repetition of such incidents in future.
The General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces said in a statement on Saturday that the Ukrainian Boeing 737 plane was shot down as a hostile object due to human error at a time of heightened US threats of war.
The statement said an expert investigation by the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces after the Ukrainian airline company's Boeing 737 incident has found that flight 752 of the Ukrainian airlines has been shot down as a hostile flying object that was approaching a sensitive IRGC center and was shot down due to human error few hours after Iran's missile attack on the US and as Iran's military was expecting attacks by the US army.
A Boeing 737 plane carrying 180 passengers and crew, mostly Iranians, crashed shortly after takeoff from Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran early Wednesday, leaving no survivors.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani extended condolences to the families of those killed in the Ukrainian plane incident, and promised that all those who have been guilty in the unforgivable mistake of shooting down the jet will be prosecuted.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake... My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences," Rouhani said in a statement on Saturday.
The president stressed that "the terrible catastrophe should be thoroughly investigated, and those responsible for this unforgivable mistake will definitely be identified and prosecuted".
Iran warns Ukrainian plane crash victims’ families not to speak to media
12 January 2020
The families of the Iranian victims of the Ukrainian plane shot down by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) earlier this week have reportedly been warned not to speak to foreign media, or they will not receive their loved ones’ bodies.
“Iranian authorities have warned some of the families of the Iranian victims of the Ukrainian plane that if they want to receive their loved ones’ bodies, they must not give interviews to foreign-based, Persian-language media,” London-based, Persian-language TV channel Iran International reported late on Saturday.
The report came hours after exile-run broadcaster Radio Farda published an interview with family members of some of the victims.
Shahram Molani, a brother of Hiva Molani – killed alongside his wife and daughter in the plane crash – told Radio Farda that “not a single official or government entity” has been in contact with the families of the victims since the Ukrainian plane was shot down on Wednesday.
He also added that authorities have not yet returned the bodies of his brother and his family.
The sister of another victim, Ghanimat Azhdari, also spoke to Radio Farda, quoting her father as saying: “We will never forgive this crime.”
After days of denying any involvement, Iran admitted to shooting down flight PS752. All 176 passengers on board were killed.
In Pakistan, the Army Chief Got an Extension, but the Game Is Still on
This past week, the upper and lower houses of Pakistan’s parliament approved three separate bills regarding the appointment, reappointment, extension, tenure and superannuation age of chiefs of the three armed forces.
The unholy haste and the uncanny unison with which the government and opposition – barring a handful of honorable dissensions – rammed those bills through parliament, left no doubt that it was a person-specific amendment for the army chief.
After all, not a single Chief of Naval Staff since 1979 or a Chief of Air Staff since 1986, has served more than three years, but three previous Chiefs of Army Staff (COAS) got extensions in the same time period.
The incumbent COAS, General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s extension had been imperiled by a Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) verdict last month. The SCP had allowed General Bajwa a six-month conditional extension and directed the government to address the terms of service of the army chief, through legislation.
That an all-powerful army chief’s extension had been challenged was a curiosity but a bigger curiosity is that the outfit and its chairperson who moved the petition are perceived to be close to army. Also, the outgoing Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Asif Saeed Khosa taking up and adjudicating the matter days before his retirement, while previous legal challenges to such extensions were rubbished by the courts, was quite interesting.
The bigger and much more immediate concern, however, was the epic capitulation of the Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PMLN) led by the three-time former prime minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led by Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and his father Asif Ali Zardari, and a few Pashtun and Baloch ethno-nationalist parties.
The biggest shock, of course, came to the supporters of the PMLN, who have followed their leader Nawaz Sharif and his daughter and political heir-apparent Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s credo “vote ko izzat do” (honour the people’s vote), which is an implied reference to the army undermining the public mandate over and over again and toppling elected governments.
Sharif had been ousted from power in 2017, through what was perceived as a judicial hatchet job, on behalf of the army. He was replaced by the army’s handpicked PM Imran Khan, who had no qualms about extending General Bajwa’s term by another three years.
The PPP, only a shadow of its previous self under its illustrious leader the late Benazir Bhutto, was not expected to put up any fight, and it certainly didn’t. It seemed like the three main parties were falling over each other to curry favour with General Bajwa and his almighty army. While there is no doubt that the PMLN has been virtually beaten to pulp by the army, it was still seen as a glimmer of hope against the army’s overreach, by its voters, supporters, and indeed the past critics.
But it seemed like the elder Sharif and his daughter had buckled completely and allowed the party faction led by the boss’ younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif – known for his army-appeasing posture – to make peace with the junta. Sharif, who is battling serious health conditions, and Maryam are out on bail, while some of their party stalwarts, including another former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, still remain incarcerated, for not toeing the army’s line.
General Bajwa and his protégé Imran Khan seem to have won this round, but have they secured the game? It may be a bit early to say, but it appears that they haven’t.
Unlike the previous dictators General Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf, who extended their own COAS terms thrice or so each, and General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who was given an extension by the PPP, General Bajwa’s extension not only became controversial outside the army but apparently within its rank and file as well. There is political reason to believe that another opposition leader, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman of the religio-political party Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam (JUI) had launched a protest march against Imran Khan, at the prodding, if not behest, of General Bajwa’s detractors within the army. The maulana is an exquisitely shrewd operator who is unlikely to have bid against a winning horse.
And there is some weight in that argument. Riaz Hanif Rahi, the person who had challenged General Bajwa’s extension, is rather well-known for usually filing petitions that suit the army’s interests. But more important than that is the contemporary history which indicates that even when no petition might have been filed, the contenders to the COAS throne from within the brass, played their cards craftily to ease the incumbent army chief out.
In spring 2007, when General Musharraf unceremoniously dismissed a sitting CJP and later in the year suspended him again along with dozens of other justices of the superior judiciary and incarcerated them with their families, there was a spontaneous outpouring of support for the justices from within the legal fraternity and in the general public. It snowballed into a popular anti-Musharraf campaign, dubbed as the lawyers’ movement, within days.
Anyone who had watched that movement evolve, was struck by the fact that after an initial crackdown against the ousted CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the junta did not come down hard on his restoration campaign itself. Huge rallies, bar association events and corner meetings calling for and plotting Musharraf’s ouster, went on without interruption from the military regime. It was not lost on any keen political eye that the man-in-waiting, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was in no mood to stop the campaign of attrition against his boss General Musharraf.
While there were multiple hypotheses at that time, including Musharraf’s overtures to India over Kashmir, which ostensibly were unacceptable to General Kayani and rest of the brass, it seems that the reasons for their inaction were more mundane and personal. Musharraf giving himself three extensions had abruptly upended many a career in the general staff. And while the army is the chief and chief the army, at times the chief might not always get what he wants. General Kayani’s laissez faire approach to the lawyer’s movement resulted in Musharraf first doffing his uniform and then stepping down as president, and culminated in restoration of the CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry.
It is well within the realm of possibility that before long, General Bajwa would quite likely be in the same predicament as General Musharraf was. Firstly, the verbiage of new legislation is rather dubious – or even mischievous – and gives discretionary powers to the president in the service chiefs’ appointments and extensions etc.
In the current parliamentary system, the president of Pakistan is a figurehead who otherwise is supposed to serve as a rubber stamp for the chief executive i.e. the PM. There is a strong likelihood that an obscure petitioner a la Rahi would challenge, in the SCP, both the text and the intent of this legislation soon after the extension is officially notified. And the wheels within the wheels would likely roll to activate political opposition to the extension and whatever else it entails in the Pakistani polity.
The informed opinion is that Shahbaz Sharif et al have presented themselves to the army brass as a viable political alternative to Imran Khan, whose governance is so wanting that even his backers are having second, third and fourth thoughts. With a tanking economy, a volatile regional and world geopolitical scene, the brass – minus General Bajwa – might be looking for a relatively steady hand at the helm. This scenario, if it were to play out, however, would require the PMLN standing completely abandoning its honour-the-vote sloganeering and agreeing to play second fiddle to the army brass, including the ones that intend to show General Bajwa the door.
The gist of it all is that for now, the fight for civilian supremacy over the praetorian guard has been upended by domestic realpolitik that seeks to oust Imran Khan and potentially his mentor General Bajwa, in the near future.
This, however, bodes ill for the proponents of the supremacy of the constitution, civil and human rights. It doesn’t augur well for the languishing economy either, as making common cause with the elements of the security establishment is bound to augment the latter’s narrow interests, not those of the public and country at large.
Regardless, the impending extension for General Bajwa has started a new round of political games instead of ending them.
Mohammad Taqi is a Pakistani-American columnist. He tweets @mazdaki
Some Islamic clerics in Bangladesh oppose a breast milk bank
Nawaz Farhin Antara
January 11th, 2020
A human milk bank is a repository of breast milk to provide for undernourished children
A faction of Islamic clerics in Bangladesh have staunchly opposed setting up a milk bank, claiming it is in violation of religious laws, and commercializes breast milk.
A human milk bank is a repository of breast milk to provide for undernourished children. It collects breast milk donated by lactating women after a medical clearance. Milk banks operate across North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Middle East, and Australia. In Middle Eastern countries, the concept of a milk bank commonly exists much like having a wet-nurse or milk-mother breastfeeding infants.
The milk bank in Bangladesh was to be a trial conducted by the Special Care Neonatal Unit (SCANU) and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the Institute of Child and Mother Health (ICMH) in Dhaka’s Matuail starting December 1.
Clerics upset over exclusion?
But a faction of Islamic clerics led by Maulana Mufti Gazi Ataur Rahman, joint secretary general of Islami Andolon Bangladesh, sent a legal notice on December 24 to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, ICMH, SCANU, NICU, and the Bangladesh Islamic Foundation (BIF), claiming the joint initiative is un-Islamic and demanded it meets several conditions.
The prophet of Islam, Muhammad (PBUH), was nursed by Halima (RA) in his infancy.
Gazi Ataur claimed they believe the milk bank is not halal. When pointed out the case of the prophet, he said they do not oppose Islam’s approval of foster mothers feeding their breast milk to other children, but oppose how the bank was run.
It was not explained what the clerics knew of the milk bank’s operations even before it began a trial.
Gazi Ataur said: “The bank was opened without discussing with concerned authorities.”
The Islami Andolan Bangladesh is registered as a political party in Bangladesh and has no seats in the parliament. It does not work to regulate or oversee healthcare in Bangladesh in any capacity. They have demanded blasphemy laws to be introduced in Bangladesh and called for arrests of atheist bloggers.
Ataur elaborated their concerns, saying that if two people drink milk from the same person, and grow up to marry, it will violate religious laws. Further citing blood banks, which he claimed were opened on humanitarian grounds but have become commercialized, he forewarned against human milk banks sharing the same fate.
He insisted that the only acceptable outcome was a discussion between Islamic clerics, experts, and stakeholders after the Biswa Ijtema.
However, a reconciliatory tone was struck by Maulana Fariduddun Masud, another prominent cleric who conducts the prayers at the largest Eidgah in Kishoreganj’s Sholakia.
He said: “Other Islamic countries also have milk banks. We should see how they work. But I concur that a discussion is indeed needed to clear any confusion and misgivings.”
Md Abdul Hamid Jamadar, the director general of the BIF, also said the banks may violate Islamic laws: “In Islam, people who share the breast milk from the same person are considered to be siblings. Islam forbids marriages between such siblings. The authorities need to sit down with Islamic clerics and resolve the issue and proceed with the milk bank. It is a good humanitarian initiative. It will help reduce the child mortality rate.”
Milk bank says no issue persists
The milk bank authorities claim they have already fulfilled all the conditions sought by the legal notice, and stressed that misinformation over social media has created confusion among Islamic clerics.
ICMH Associate Professor Mojibur Rahman, also project coordinator of the milk bank, said: “Our systems identify all the donors, and we have a database that registers everyone’s identity that can be easily accessed upon request. We published a 40-page document that details the entire process which covers all religious grounds.”
The milk bank authorities met with 100 Islamic clerics on January 5 to clarify their stance.
Prof Mojibur said that milk banks are needed in Bangladesh to cut down infant deaths from lack of breast milk.
According to the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, the infant mortality rate in Bangladesh was 24 deaths per 1000 in 2017. Brazil has one of the largest networks with 217 milk banks. They have reduced infant mortality by 73% since 1985.
Trump: US troops won’t leave Iraq unless it pays for ‘money we put in’
11 January 2020
US President Donald Trump says American troops should not leave Iraq unless Baghdad pays for “the money we put in” the country over the past several years, defying calls by Iraqi officials for US troops to withdraw.
“If we leave ... you have to pay us for the money we put in," Trump said Friday in an interview with Fox News at the White House.
When host Laura Ingraham asked how Trump planned to collect money from Iraq, the president said: "Well, we have a lot of their money right now. We have a lot of their money. We have $35 billion of their money right now sitting in an account. And I think they’ll agree to pay. I think they’ll agree to pay. Otherwise, we’ll stay there."
"We built one of the world's most expensive airport facilities, anywhere in the world," Trump told Ingraham. "I mean, I wish we had it in New York. I wish we had it in Washington."
Trump had tweeted last week: "The United States has paid Iraq Billions of Dollars a year, for many years.
Earlier this week, Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi called for American troops to leave the country after the country’s parliament approved a resolution that called for the expulsion of all foreign forces from Iraq.
The vote came two days after the US military - acting on Trump’s order - launched a drone strike on top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani upon his arrival in the Iraqi capital at the invitation of the Baghdad government.
The attack also claimed the lives of senior Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and a number of their companions.
Iran subsequently conducted retaliatory missile strikes on two American bases in Iraq.
The US State Department said in a statement on Friday that Washington would not hold discussions with Baghdad regarding US troop withdrawal.
“At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.
“There does, however, need to be a conversation between the US and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership," she added.
The US, backed by the UK, invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext that the former regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons, however, were ever found in the country.
The invasion plunged Iraq into chaos and led to the rise of terrorist groups across the region.
Ambassador arrest in Tehran violates int’l law, UK says
Ahmet Gürhan Kartal
The arrest of U.K.’s ambassador to Iran is a “flagrant violation of international law,” British foreign secretary said Saturday.
“The Iranian government is at a cross-roads moment. It can continue its march towards pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to deescalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards,” Dominic Raab said in a statement.
The statement came shortly after reports of British Ambassador Rob Macaire’s brief detention during a protest following Iran’s admission a Ukrainian passenger jet was shot down by mistake.
The ambassador was detained during a protest Amirkabir University in Tehran but was released after an-hour-long detention, according to local reports.
- Iran’s admission ‘important step’
Iran’s admission that it shot down the Ukrainian passenger plane by mistake last week is “an important step,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday.
“This will be an incredibly difficult time for all those families who lost loved ones in such tragic circumstances,” Johnson said in a statement, adding his government would do anything to support the families of four British victims and “to ensure they get the answers and closure they deserve.”
He said: “We now need a comprehensive, transparent and independent international investigation and the repatriation of those who died.”
Johnson said the U.K. will work closely with Canada, Ukraine and “our other international partners affected by this accident to ensure this happens.”
The British premier added that the “tragic accident only reinforces the importance of de-escalating tensions in the region.”
“We can all see very clearly that further conflict will only lead to more loss and tragedy. It is vital that all leaders now pursue a diplomatic way forward,” he added.
Iran’s General Staff of the Armed Forces said Saturday a Ukrainian aircraft was “accidentally” hit by an Iranian missile early this week that killed 176 people on board.
In a written statement, the top military authority said as a result of a "human error", the plane was accidentally shot down by the air defense system while it was passing over a "sensitive military point.".
J&K DSP, Davinder Singh arrested with two Hizbul terrorists
Jan 11, 2020
SRINAGAR: A J&K police party arrested a decorated deputy superintendent of police (DSP) along with two Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) terrorists near Mir Bazar in Qazigund area of Kulgam district of the newly formed Union Territory when the trio was travelling in a car on Saturday afternoon. DSP Davinder Singh had bagged the prestigious President's Police Medal only on August 15 last year.
The two HM terrorists arrested by the police party, headed by south Kashmir deputy inspector general (DIG) Atul Goel, have been identified as Naveed Babu and Asif Rather. While Naveed is a top HM commander, Rather is a listed terrorist, who had joined the outfit three years ago. Both are from Shopian.
Two AK-47 rifles and some hand grenades were recovered from the white Maruti car used by the trio, top police sources said.
DSP Singh, who was in the anti-hijacking squad of J&K Police, was currently posted at Srinagar International Airport (SIA). Earlier, he was made part of the special operations group (SOG) of J&K Police as an inspector after this elite force was established in 1994. During his SOG tenure, he got an out-of-turn promotion and became DSP because of his successful anti-terror operations.
Later, DSP Singh was removed from the SOG on complaints about extortions and placed under suspension for some time before he was reinstated and posted at Srinagar police control room (PCR). From here, he joined the anti-hijacking squad and was deployed at SIA last year.
Though police are tightlipped about the developments, intelligence sources said that the police party later raided DSP Singh’s Srinagar house and recovered one AK-47 rifle, two pistols and three hand grenades. In Srinagar, he was living in the high security Shivpora locality near the army headquarters at Badamibagh. The police team also raided his ancestral house at Tral in Pulwama district of south Kashmir, the sources said, adding that DSP Singh had taken a four-day leave from Saturday on the pretext of visiting Jammu.
DSP Singh’s name had also come up in the 2001 Parliament attack case when prime accused Afzal Guru, in a letter from Tihar jail, informed his lawyer that he was forced by J&K SOG DSP Davinder Singh, posted at Humhama in Budgam, to take one of the attackers called Mohammad to New Delhi, rent a flat for his stay and purchase a car for him. These revelations were made public by Afzal Guru’s family after he was hanged on February 9, 2013.
Interestingly, Naveed, who was HM’s operational commander for south Kashmir, was also a former police constable who had deserted the force. He was on guard duty at the ration store of the Food and Civil Supplies department in central Kashmir’s Budgam till May 2017 when he fled with two AK-47 rifles and joined HM.
According to intelligence sources, Naveed was the second-in-command in south Kashmir after HM divisional commander Riyaz Naikoo. He is an expert in making IEDs and was involved in several terror activities, sources said.
‘Ideal nation is where the strong don’t oppress weak’: Kerala Guv
January 12, 2020
Addressing students at the 9th convocation ceremony of the Charotar University of Science and Technology (CHARUSAT), Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan said that an ideal and perfect nation is the one where the strong do not oppress the weak.
“An ideal state is where the weak has nothing to be afraid of the strong. And dharma is where there is absence of matsyanyay,” he said.
He further hailed the Indian tradition as being one of the oldest one still alive. “You are armed with your knowledge and skill… you must also be aware of your legacy. This civilization is one of the oldest in the world. So, why does our civilization continue to exist? The secret behind it is that the Indian tradition is a reflective one and asks you to remain in constant pursuit of knowledge. It constantly asks you to think and remain in search of elusive realities,” he said.
Asking the students to put their knowledge to the best of use, he advised them to exploit the power of imagination, which is an ability unique to only humans, and use it for the development of the society.
Dr George Musser, Guest of Honour in his speech, and a scientist and contributing editor for Scientific American, said, “Science as a discipline throughout history has been “individual acts of genius”. However, with the changing world, science has become the collaborative act which contributes towards the building of knowledge.”
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Muslims not considered as human beings, treated like insects in the BJP regime: Badruddin Ajmal
Hemanta Kumar Nath
All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) chief and Lok Sabha MP Badruddin Ajmal has said that the Muslims in India are being targeted in the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) regime.
Badruddin Ajmal said, "Muslims are not being considered as the citizens of India. They are not being considered as human beings and are treated like insects."
The Muslims are being tortured in Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country. The police were also ordered to fire upon them and many cases have come out, but there is no inquiry and interestingly they have been appreciated. Some videos of the BJP leaders have gone viral, it is a very shameful thing. It won’t last long. They(BJP) should try to run the country well. Today, power is in their (BJP) hands and it can go to anyone tomorrow, Ajmal said.
Ajmal also said that BJP has created Hindu-Muslim issues everywhere and their policies will not last for a long time.
Hitting out at the BJP and the Modi-government over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the AUIDF chief said, "the BJP and the Modi-government don’t want to listen to the voices of the people of this country."
"They think that they have the numbers and can do anything. But these are illusions. They think that Article 370 was abrogated following their orders, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill has become the Citizenship (Amendment) Act following their orders and it will be continued. But it will not last long in India, Ajmal said.
Badruddin Ajmal further said, "The way they are working, they will fall into the same trap soon."
"They are being criticized across the world. They should try to come to their senses and rethink these things. The movement, agitation that has begun in the country will not reduce within a short time. In the past too, the big ministry has gone and in the same cycle, their ministry will also go away," Badruddin Ajmal said.
"The entire nation is now burning. They can’t suppress the voices of the people of the country by using lathis. The British had to run away from the country. If the present situation will continue, then they should have to rethink, their power will not last for a long time," Ajmal added.
Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home minister Amit Shah over NRC, Article 370, CAA, the AIUDF chief said, "the situation in the country is now going on as what the Home minister says becomes reality, what the Prime Minister says becomes law."
Why privileged citizens of neighbouring nations must also get India’s succor
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act is a humanistic approach by the Government of India to provide relief to the persecuted persons from the neighbouring Islamic nations. The relief must not be wasted
It has been a strange practice that for almost anything related to India, more specifically to Hindus, is construed as wrong by the American mainstream media. All kinds of accusations against India are freely heaped. A large section of the Indian media and the mainstream world media go by the same tradition. Muslims and Europeans are somewhat perturbed due to loss of large empire and freeload ownership. But they need to wake up.
British truncated India at the behest of the Muslim leadership and then Hindus were driven out from two Islamic theocracies, carved out after the partition and further bifurcation of Pakistan. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, at the least, assures the persecuted persons in these two neighbouring nations of safe habitat in India. The New York Times’ main story on December 10, 2019 (India’s Parliament Takes Step Toward Blocking Naturalization for Muslims) by Jefferey Gettleman and Suhasini Raj is another example of peddling of concocted narratives, laced with acrimony towards India and Hindus.
The fact of the matter is that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act has got nothing to do with any existing citizens of India: Hindus, Muslims, Christians or others. The Act has given some relief in matter of granting asylum in India to the most repressed brutalised section — minorities of three neighbouring Islamic nations. It has not touched rights of any Muslims anywhere in India. Even after the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, any Muslim can anytime apply for citizenship in regular course, as before.
India is trying to deter illegal infiltration. The superpower USA has three times land mass of India, but only one-fourth population and the number of illegal persons estimated at just 11 millions, yet the US enforces stringent regulation to cope with illegal immigrants. While, India, which is fighting against the high unemployment rate and other myriad problems, has about 60 million to 90 million illegal immigrants. Despite that India has kept its gates open for the refugees.
As a normal rule, there is an aversion to religious minorities in Islamic theocracies, and India’s neighbouring Islamic nations are no exception to it. However, depending on regimes there, the persecution intensity differs. Here this Act in India can stem the process of the ethnic cleansing of minorities in the neighbourhood. The hellish brutalisation gives testimony to the fact that 49 million Hindus vanished from Bangladesh since 1947. The condition of Hindus and Sikhs is more precarious in Pakistan. The most recent proof of the persecution of the minority communities in Pakistan was the bid of a mob to lay siege to Nankana Sahib Gurudwara in protest against police action against those accused of forcing a Sikh girl to convert to Islam.
Hindus are the ancestral inhabitants of the soil before Islam arrived in the region. Therefore Hindus connect to India and neighbouring countries. This is why they don’t want to leave their homes in the Islamic states as long as possible. However, the spate in cases of abduction of their women, forced conversion, and ethnic cleansing leave them no option but to seek refuge in the secular India. As they live as refugees, they are unable to avail any relief available to the citizens of India. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act is a move to address that concern. However, the mainstream American media consider these inhuman treatment to minorities “Not fit to print”.
In 1947, the population of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan was 20 per cent of the total, and that of Hindus, Buddhists and Christians in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) was 29 per cent, which now standa at 2 per cent and 7 per cent respectively. The population of Muslims and Hindus in India in 1947 was about 7 per cent and 88 per cent respectively, which now stands at 15 per cent and 78 per cent. Therefore, there is whopping100 per cent percentile growth of Muslims in India. Yet New York Times alleges that Muslims are second-class citizens in India.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act is giving citizenship to the persecuted religious minority refugees from three Islamic nations around India. Because Pakistan and Bangladesh made mockery of the Nehru-Liaqat pact of 1950 to protect the minorities, I think the Act was the only way left to heal the wound of the disenfranchised people.
Muslims in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan are the favoured citizens there. They are not asylum seekers. They are not the victims of Islamic expansionism. This Act is for the relief of persecuted victims, Hindus and other minorities of those nations. Why Muslims in India have to object it?
No special relief, J&K land curbs may be for agricultural plots only
by Deeptiman Tiwary
The protection for land ownership and against acquisition in Jammu and Kashmir may be restricted to just agricultural land, and not be on the lines of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Besides, Ladakh is unlikely to be included under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution which grants tribal regions autonomy of administration and legislation.
Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which is formulating provisions on these issues in consultation with the local administrations of the two Union Territories, said while protection of jobs for local people may be guaranteed through requirement of 15 years of domicile in Jammu and Kashmir, land protection would remain confined to agricultural land.
“Matters are still being discussed, but protection against purchase of property by outsiders as provided in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand does not appear feasible at the moment. It may remain restricted to protection of agricultural land as is there in most states,” an MHA official said.
Since the abrogation of Article 370 stripped the erstwhile state of its special status, there have been calls in Jammu and Kashmir seeking protection of land and jobs for locals. Anxiety in Jammu is higher as few outsiders are expected to venture to Kashmir on account of the fragile law and order.
“Putting too many restrictions on land acquisition will defeat the very purpose of abrogation of Article 370 and the objective of industrialisation and development in the region. Also, with outsiders being allowed to buy land, it will only push up prices and benefit the local people,” the official said.
On the issue of protecting rights of local people in Ladakh, the other UT carved out of Kashmir on August 5, 2019, the ministry has decided not to include it under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. A recommendation in this regard had been made by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes in September last year.
In December, the government told Parliament that it had no such plans yet as the region already has the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) and it was good enough to protect the rights of locals.
“Still we keep getting representations from various groups and civil society members for inclusion of Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule. Even politicians from the region keep demanding it. The Congress said in Parliament that it is required. But Ladakh has the LAHDC, which has more powers than autonomous councils under the Sixth Schedule,” an MHA official said.
The Sixth Schedule provides for creation of autonomous councils in tribal-dominated regions for self-administration. These councils have the right to make laws related to land, forests, fisheries, social security, entertainment, public health etc. They can collect taxes, levy fees, determine the boundaries of the council, decide which Central or state law will apply to their region and with what modification, and even set up village courts to settle local disputes.
The LAHDC has similar powers with minor differences, such as the power to make recruitments at district level but no provision to set up and administer local courts. Also Central and state laws apply to the LAHDC universally unless specifically mentioned in an Act that it shall not apply to Ladakh.
The council was created under the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act 1995, following demands of Ladakhi people to make Leh district a separate Union Territory because of its religious and cultural differences with the rest of Jammu and Kashmir. In October 1993, the Indian Union Government and the Jammu and Kashmir state government agreed to grant Ladakh the status of Autonomous Hill Council. The council came into being with the holding of elections on August 28, 1995.
‘Schedule coincided with UAE visit’: Bangladesh refutes rumours behind minister’s absence at New Delhi event
January 11, 2020
Dispelling rumours that cited the amended Citizenship Act (CAA) to be the issue behind Bangladesh Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam’s absence at the Raisina Dialogue event in New Delhi, India’s eastern neighbour stated Saturday that the visit could not be made because the Minister’s schedule coincided with his UAE visit.
“Ministry of Foreign Affairs has noticed few misleading news items published in different media regarding the supposed visit of State Minister for Foreign Affairs to participate in Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi organized by Overseas Research Foundation (ORF). The Ministry would like to convey that State Minister Md Shahriar Alam was invited as a speaker in the Raisina Dialogue which coincides with his visit to UAE to accompany the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. As such State Minister Alam could not avail the participation,” Bangladeshi government’s statement said.
The statement also emphasised that the inability of Alam’s participation in the event had ‘no other connection’.
“A regret letter, in this regard, has already been communicated with ORF. It may be noted that there was no bilateral engagement scheduled during the visit. The inability of his participation has no other connection,” the statement added.
Bangladesh’s clarification came three weeks after Bangladesh Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen stated that the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) are India’s “internal matters” but any “uncerainty” in the country will likely affect the neighbouring countries.
SGPC panel denied visa to visit Pakistan’s Nankana Sahib
Jan 12, 2020
The Pakistan government has denied visa to a Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) delegation to visit Nankana Sahib, the birth place of Guru Nanak, after Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Nankana Sahib was vandalised by a mob.
Following the vandalization and threats received by the Sikhs living in Pakistan, the apex gurdwara body decided to send a delegation to Nankana Sahib to take stock of situation and express solidarity to the Sikh living in the neighbouring country.
“Denial of visa is not fair. The Pakistan government should review its decision. The SGPC will again move to the Pakistan embassy to request it to grant visa to the delegation,” said SGPC chief Gobind Singh Longowal.
Encounter breaks out between terrorists, security forces in Jammu & Kashmir's Pulwama
Jan 12, 2020
SRINAGAR: An encounter broke out between terrorists and security forces in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, police said.
Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Gulshanpora area of Tral in the south Kashmir district on Sunday morning after receiving specific intelligence about the presence of terrorists there, a police official said.
He said as the forces were conducting the searches, terrorists fired at them, triggering an encounter.
Bangladesh's deputy foreign minister cancels visit to India
DHAKA: Bangladesh's deputy foreign minister Shahriar Alam has cancelled his visit to India to speak at an event in New Delhi as it coincided with the country's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's UAE trip, the foreign office here said on Saturday, rejecting as "misleading" some media reports citing other reasons for cancellation of the visit.
Bangladesh's State Minister for Foreign Affairs Alam was invited to speak at the Indian External Affairs Ministry-backed Raisina Dialogue to be held from January 14-16.
The annual dialogue offers a platform for discussion on global issues and is attended by foreign ministers, diplomats and experts.
"The (Bangladesh foreign) Ministry would like to convey that State Minister Md Shahriar Alam was invited as a speaker at the Raisina Dialogue which coincides with his visit to UAE to accompany the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina," the foreign ministry said
"As such State Minister Alam could not avail the participation," it said in a statement.
Dhaka has sent a regret letter to Overseas Research Foundation (ORF), the organiser of the event in collaboration with India's Ministry of External Affairs, it said.
"It may be noted that there was no bilateral engagement scheduled during the (Delhi) visit. The inability of his participation has no other connection," the statement said.
The foreign ministry described as "misleading" some media reports in India citing other reasons for Alam's non-participation.
The cancellation of Alam's visit comes just a month after two Bangladeshi ministers - Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan - cancelled their scheduled trips to India.
Momen was scheduled to join the ministerial keynote session of Delhi Dialogue and Indian Ocean Dialogue in December and was to meet his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar.
The cancellation came a day after Momen termed as "untrue" Home Minister Amit Shah's comments on persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh.
Both Bangladesh and India at that time, however, maintained that the visit was called off as Momen had to take part in two important national events.
Home Minister Khan also cancelled his private visit to Meghalaya reportedly due to disturbances over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
According to the CAA, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 following religious persecution there will get Indian citizenship.
Bangladesh was also learnt to have been upset following roll out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam around four months ago even though India conveyed to it that the issue was an internal matter of the country.
Pak's BAT beheaded porter, Army chief says will deal in 'military manner' with such barbaric acts
JAMMU: Pakistan's Border Action Team is suspected to have decapitated a porter, who was among two civilians killed along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district on Friday, and taken away the head, officials said here.
This is the first time that any civilian has been beheaded by the BAT, which comprises Pakistani army regulars and terrorists, though similar incidents involving security personnel have taken place in the past, they said.
The body of Mohammad Aslam (28) was badly mutilated and his head was missing, a senior police officer said.
Asked about the killings by Pakistan, Army Chief Gen M M Naravane said on Saturday that professional armies never resort to "barbaric" acts and they "will deal appropriately with such situations in a military manner".
A defence spokesman had earlier said that Aslam and Altaf Hussain (23), both residents of Kassalian village of Gulpur sector, were killed and three others injured after being hit by a mortar shell when Pakistani Army targeted a group of Army porters who were carrying logistics for the troops in a forward area close the LoC on Friday.
However, officials said on Saturday that the head of one of the porters was missing and is believed to have been taken away by the BAT.
"The body of Aslam was headless when handed over to police for completion of legal formalities. The bodies of both the porters were handed over to their families and their last rites were conducted in their village on Friday evening," the police officer said on condition of anonymity.
He said the injured porters -- Mohamamd Saleem (24), Mohammad Showkat (28) and Nawaz Ahmad (35) -- are undergoing treatment in the hospital and their condition is stated to be "stable".
"We will deal appropriately with such situations in a military manner," Gen Naravane said when asked about the incident at a press conference in Delhi ahead of the Army Day.
He said the Indian Army conducts itself in the most professional and ethical manner including on the LoC. "Professional armies never resort to barbaric acts," he said.
The opposition Congress strongly condemned the killings and questioned why Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Rajnath Singh were "silent" on the "barbarism" by Pakistan.
"Is the news of martyrdom run taking into account the government in power?" Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
Randeep Singh Surjewala
पाक के बहशीपन पर मोदी सरकार चुप क्यों?
पाकिस्तानी सैनिक एक पोर्टर का सिर काट ले गए, दो शहीद,
और प्रधानमंत्री व रक्षामंत्री मौन है!
मीडिया के साथी भी चुप हैं!
क्या शहादतों की खबरें सरकारें देखकर चलाई जाती हैं?
पाक की कायराना हरकतों पर मुंहतोड़ जवाब कब?
1के बदले 10सर कब?
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1:37 PM - Jan 11, 2020
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"When will Pakistan's cowardly acts be given a befitting reply? 10 heads for 1 when? Surjewala said on Twitter.
Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma hit out at Pakistan for the "continued misadventure and mischief" and demanded a befitting response.
"When the UPA was in power, two such inhuman acts (beheading of jawans) by Pakistan were questioned by BJP and Narendra Modi termed it a weak government. "Several such shameful mischiefs were done by Pakistan and Modi government should explain why it failed to take effective action to check Pakistan?" Sharma said in a statement here.
He said Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is legally and constitutionally an integral part of India but under illegal occupation of Pakistan for which there is unanimous resolution of Parliament under the then Congress government.
"Now it is the time for the present government to decide the future course of action to take back our territory," he said.
Iran’s Green Movement opposition calls on Iran Supreme Leader to step down
A leader of Iran’s opposition Green Movement, Mehdi Karroubi, called on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the top authority in the Islamic Republic, to step down over the handling of the shooting down of the Ukrainian airliner.
In a statement posted online, Karroubi asked when Khamenei was told about the shooting down of the plane after it took off from Tehran on Wednesday, and why there had been a delay in informing the public about the real reasons for the crash.
Meanwhile, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, in a rare report on anti-government unrest, said protesters in Tehran on Saturday chanted slogans against the nation’s top authorities, after the powerful Revolutionary Guards admitted shooting down a passenger plane.
US tried 2nd strike in Yemen to kill another Iran commander after Soleimani assassination
American military forces reportedly carried out a failed terror attack against another Iranian commander in Yemen the same day they assassinated Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and other Iranian and Iraqi military officers in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
Quoting anonymous American officials, Washington Post and other US-based news outlets reported Friday that the unsuccessful US terror attack in Yemen targeted Abdul Reza Shahlai, identifying him as a “top military commander for Iran’s Quds Force” based in Yemen and active in helping Yemeni forces defend against persisting military aggression by US-backed Saudi kingdom.
A New York Times report further pointed out that the Trump administration had offered a $15 million reward for information about Shahlai, also accusing him of involvement in a shadowy and unsubstantiated plot in 2011 to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington.
According to the reports, the second terror mission by American forces – if true -- would raise questions on whether the assassination of Soleimani was part of Trump administration’s bid to take down the leadership of Iran’s Quds Forces of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) or prevent what the White House has claimed as “an imminent attack on Americans” by Iranian.
The report came as US lawmakers from both dominating political parties have harshly criticized the rationale offered by Trump administration official for launching the terror attack against the senior Iranian military official.
This is while hawkish US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to dodge question on Friday morning inquiring about the specifics of the “imminent attack” claim and other contradictory official statements, which American legislators have dismissed as “insufficient” and unconvincing.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives on Thursday passed a resolution to limit Trump from ordering further military action against Iran, though the vote was largely symbolic and done mostly along party lines.
On January 3, US assassination drones killed Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), among others, after targeting their vehicles in Baghdad. The terror attack took place under the direction of Trump, with the US Department of Defense taking responsibility for the strike.
Both commanders were admired by Muslim nations for eliminating the US-sponsored Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.
Soon after the assassination, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, said Washington was to face a “harsh revenge” for the atrocity.
Early on Wednesday, the IRGC fired volleys of ballistic missiles at the Ain al-Assad air base in Iraq’s Anbar Province, and another outpost in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, both of which housed US forces.
Gazans hold memorial ceremony for Lieutenant General Qassem Soleiman
A memorial ceremony was held in Gaza on Saturday for Iranian Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in a US airstrike on January 3rd.
The event also launched the fifth Resistance Film Festival in the besieged enclave. During the memorial Palestinian Islamic resistance movement Hamas paid tribute to the revered Iranian commander.
The assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani on Trump’s orders has sent shock waves across the West Asia. Organizers of the event stressed the strong ties between Soleimani and all Palestinian resistance groups.
Qassem Soleimani was known for his unwavering support for Palestinians’ struggle for freedom and justice. As they paid tribute to Soleimani, Palestinians vowed to follow in his footsteps.
Iran arrests UK ambassador for suspecting him of organizing protests: Tasnim
The UK ambassador to Iran Rob Macaire has been arrested during the protests in Tehran on Saturday, Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.
Macaire was allegedly present during the Saturday protests in front of Tehran’s Amir Kabir University and was arrested then, according to Tasnim.
Macaire was released a few hours later following a mediation effort by Iran’s Foreign Ministry, according to the report, adding that he will be summoned on Sunday for further investigation.
Commander: Efforts to Precisely Probe into Ukrainian Plane Incident Reason for Delay in Releasing Information
"The delay in releasing information was not aimed at hiding the issue but it is the routine drill that the General Staff should study the case (first); and all information was collected on Friday morning after studies and what had happened became clear then," General Hajizadeh told a press conference in Tehran on Saturday.
He added that the incident was the result of flawed functioning of the military sector and the civil aviation officials are not responsible for the incident, reminding that the civil aviation officials were denying the air defense shooting because they were not informed of the military secrets.
General Hajizadeh elaborated on the happenings which led to the downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane, saying that after the IRGC's retaliatory strikes against the US bases in Iraq, all Iranian air defense systems were on high alert to be prepared for any possible response from the US, and the operator of the air defense system which fired at the plane has mistaken the plane with a cruise missile and due to the short time he had to hit the target and inability to contact the higher ranking officials made the decision on his own.
The Iranian General said that he was informed of hitting a target near Tehran on Wednesday morning and he had speculated that the Ukrainian plane was mistakenly targeted but was not sure, adding that the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces formed a team to scrutinize the incident and quarantined all those involved or related to the incident to keep the investigations intact and unaffected as required by the protocols.
FM Zarif: Iran Hopes for Keeping Close Ties under New Omani Sultan
Foreign Minister Zarif posted an Arabic message on his official Twitter account today where he said, “The demise of Mr. Sultan Qaboos bin Said - God bless him - is a great loss for our region but we pin hope on wise people like him. We condole with our dearly neighboring country of Oman this great disaster.”
“We hope that our bilateral tries preserve its past status and the future be inspired by the past,” the top diplomat added, after offering congratulations on the ascension of Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said to the throne.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman died Saturday, according to the country's Diwan of Royal Court.
A three-day national mourning period was declared.
Sultan Qaboos went abroad for treatment twice since 2014. He went to Belgium in early December because of health problems and returned mid-December, Oman News Agency reported.
Iranian Speaker Asks for Identification of Those Guilty in Ukrainian Plane Incident
"Studying the dimensions of this mistake is an important duty which should be prioritized by the relevant bodies. Also, identification of those whose faulty or flawed actions have caused this tragic incident is a righteous demand which should not be ignored," Larijani said in a statement on Saturday.
He called on all relevant bodies to adopt the necessary measures to zero the possibility for the happening of similar bitter incidents and faults.
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei in a message on Saturday extended his condolences again on the death of the Ukrainian plane's passengers, and ordered the Armed Forces to take the needed measures to find faults and flaws that have led to the bitter incident and prevent repetition of similar incidents in future.
Also, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani extended condolences to the families of those killed in the Ukrainian plane incident, and promised that all those who have been guilty in the unforgivable mistake of shooting down the jet will be prosecuted.
Iranian President Vows Prosecution of Those Guilty in Ukrainian Plane Incident
The General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces said in a statement on Saturday that the Ukrainian Boeing 737 Plane was shot down as a hostile object due to human error at a time of heightened US threats of war.
Iran's Judiciary Chief Stresses Acceleration of Probe into Ukrainian Plane Accident
"The judicial organization of the Armed Forces should receive and collect proofs and evidence of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and Iran Civil Aviation Organization as well as explanations of informed officials to find out the reality and those guilty of the terrible incident through judicial procedures," Rayeesi said.
He called on the relevant judiciary officials to continuously inform him of the results of investigations and measures.
Also, Iran's Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri in a similar satement on Saturday called for accelerated efforts to identify and put on trial those guilty in the incident.
Eleven migrants die after boat sinks off Turkey
Eleven migrants died on Saturday, including eight children, when their vessel sank in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey, state news agency Anadolu reported.
The boat sank off Cesme, a popular tourist resort in western Turkey opposite the Greek island of Chios, Anadolu said, adding that eight others were rescued.
The nationality of the victims was not yet known.
The sinking comes just hours after another boat sank in the Aegean near to the Greek island of Paxi leaving at least 12 dead.
Turkey has taken in around four million migrants and refugees, the majority of them Syrians, and is an important transit country for those fleeing conflicts and seeking to reach Europe largely via Greece.
Protests in Tehran following IRGC admission of Ukrainian plane atrocity
Protests have broken out in the Iranian capital Tehran against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following its admission to downing a civilian airplane near Tehran on Wednesday.
“IRGC, have some shame and let go of the country,” chanted the protesters in Tehran, according to videos shared online.
The protesters, who were gathered in front of Tehran’s Amir Kabir university, also shouted chants against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Al Arabiya English
Watch: Iranian protesters chant slogans against the IRGC and the Supreme Leader following the country’s admission to unintentionally downing a Ukrainian airliner and killing 176. https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/11/Protests-in-Tehran-following-IRGC-admission-of-Ukrainian-plane-atrocity.html …
8:25 PM - Jan 11, 2020
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Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, in a rare report on anti-government unrest, said protesters in Tehran on Saturday chanted slogans against the nation’s top authorities, after the powerful Revolutionary Guards admitted shooting down a passenger plane.
The report said the demonstrators on the street also ripped up pictures of Qassem Soleimani, the prominent commander of the Guard’s Quds Force who was killed in a US drone strike.
Replying to @AlArabiya_Eng
“Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, we’re all together,” protesters chant at Amir Kabir University in Tehran against the regime after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard acknowledged that it accidentally shot down the Ukrainian jetliner.https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/11/Protests-in-Tehran-following-IRGC-admission-of-Ukrainian-plane-atrocity.html …
9:30 PM - Jan 11, 2020
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Iranian semi-official news agency reports anti-government protests
The agency, widely seen as close to the Guards, carried pictures of the gathering and a torn banner of Soleimani. It said the protesters numbered about 700 to 1,000 people.
According to Masoud Alfak, an expert in Iranian affairs, Fars did not report the news in order to support the protesters but rather as a condemnation of the ongoing protests.
“Actually, it takes orders from the Guards and its editor-in-chief is being appointed by the media section of the Revolutionary Guards,” Alfak said in an interview with Al Arabiya.
Iran welcomes global cooperation on plane crash investigation: President Rouhani
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the Islamic Republic welcomes any cooperation in the framework of international regulations to shed more light on a Ukrainian passenger plane crash near Tehran, adding that the country will provide all necessary consular facilities in this regard.
"Useful research has been carried out to find the causes of this crash and complementary investigations are also underway with precision and speed to reach a final concussion," Rouhani said in a phone call with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday.
All 176 people on the Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) Boeing 737-800 died in the crash on Wednesday just after take-off from Imam Khomeini International Airport on a flight to Kiev.
The Iranian president said the crash was a "heartfelt and tragic" incident for Iranians and Canadians as well as all those whose citizens were on board the plane.
Rouhani stated that Iran has made its utmost efforts since the very first moments to find the reasons behind the crash and would inform the world public opinion about any further results.
He emphasized that he has given all necessary orders to relevant authorities and bodies to continue with technical and legal investigations.
"I am keen that the two countries' relations will continue in the future in order to help [improve] welfare of Iranians residing in Canada and to serve the two nations in different issues of mutual interest, including the promotion of regional peace and security," the Iranian president said.
On Saturday, Iran’s General Staff of the Armed Forces put out a statement saying the Ukrainian plane was shot down “unintentionally” due to “human error” and that those guilty would be brought to military justice.
The statement added that "by pursuing fundamental reforms in operational processes at the armed forces' level, we will make it impossible to repeat such errors."
Later on Saturday, Head of the Aerospace Division of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh accepted full responsibility for the downing of the Ukraine aircraft and said he had “wished he could die” after being informed of the matter on the same day the crash took place.
Hajizadeh said he had notified relevant authorities immediately but that public announcement of the matter was pending an investigation of Iran’s General Staff of the Armed Forces as required by existing procedures.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian president warned that meddlesome measures by the United States have endangered security in the sensitive Middle East and called for collective efforts to restore full stability and security to the region.
"The solution to [restoration of] regional stability and security as well as nations' peace is that all act based on law and we believe that security in this region will be established only through cooperation among all regional countries," Rouhani pointed out.
Canada ready to cooperate with Iran on plane crash: Trudeau
The Canadian prime minister, for his part, stressed the importance of determining the exact causes of the incident and said Ottawa is ready to cooperate with Tehran in this regard.
He expressed hope the two countries would hold more talks about issues that have impacts on regional security.
Iran-Ukraine technical cooperation will continue: Rouhani
In a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, the Iranian president said Tehran and Kiev would continue technical cooperation to determine the causes of the incident with seriousness and added that those responsible for the incident would be brought to justice.
Rouhani noted Iran is fully committed to its legal commitments in this regard.
Zelensky, for his part, hailed Iran’s law-abiding attitude and effective cooperation over the issue.
• Jan 11, 2020
A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces:
Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster
Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.
My colleagues in the foreign ministry—and in embassies, missions and consulates worldwide—share the nation’s grief in the aftermath of the tragedy and stand ready to offer any needed assistance to families of the victims.
Iran's Foreign Ministry sets up working group: Spokesman
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Saturday a special working group has been set up at the ministry to manage the consular affairs of the bereaved families of the victims of the plane crash.
Angry Iranians question authorities for hiding truth from public
DUBAI: Iran’s statement on Saturday that a Ukrainian passenger plane was downed by a missile fired unintentionally followed growing pressure from abroad but also at home, and for some Iranians, the authorities’ expressions of condolence were not enough.
For days, Iran had denied Western accusations it was responsible for Wednesday’s crash soon after takeoff from Tehran. Authorities said on Saturday that air defenses had been fired in error while on high alert following Iranian missile strikes on US targets in Iraq.
Expressions of condolence over the incident from supreme leader and President Hassan Rouhani failed to calm angry Iranians, who used social media to express their outrage against the establishment for concealing the truth.
“It is a national tragedy. The way it was handled and it was announced by the authorities was even more tragic,” said Ali Ansari, a moderate cleric, according to Iran’s semi-official ILNA news agency.
Many Iranians asked why authorities did not close down Tehran’s airport and the country’s airspace at a time when they would have been on alert for retaliation after the missile strikes.
There were no fatalities in those strikes, launched to avenge the Jan. 3 US killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad.
“They were so careful not to kill any American in their revenge for Soleimani. But they did not close the airport? This shows how much this regime cares for Iranians,” said Mira Sedaghati in Tehran by telephone.
An Iranian military statement carried by state media said the Ukrainian plane, which was headed for Kiev, was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a sensitive military base of the elite Revolutionary Guards near Tehran, adding that it was a “human error and unintentional.”
“Unintentionally? What does it mean? They concealed this huge tragic news for days just to mourn for Soleimani. Shame on you,” said Reza Ghadyani, in Tabriz city.
The country held three days of funeral processions for Soleimani, who was head of the Revolutionary Guards’ overseas Quds Force and a national hero. Hundreds of thousands of people participated across the country.
Some Iranians called for resignation of officials, dismissing their apologies.
Syriac monk in Turkey jailed on terror charges
JEDDAH: A Turkish court has jailed a Syriac monk for helping the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’s Party (PKK).
Aho Sefer Belican led a community in the Mor Yakup Monastery in Turkey’s southeastern province of Mardin, the Syriacs’ ancient homeland. Two other Syriacs were also detained on Jan. 9 over allegations that the three of them provided food and water to a PKK member.
The PKK, which has waged an insurgency for independence in the country’s southeast for more than three decades, is deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.
David Vergili, a Syriac activist who is also a close friend of Belican’s, said the monk was a humble person who was much admired by his circle and outsiders.
“He was an ascetic for years, living in seclusion from society for religious reasons,” Vergili told Arab News. “He was also actively working for the restoration works of the monastery in a bid to further attract Turkish and foreign visitors. It is very sad and unexpected news to hear that he is imprisoned. Currently all Syriacs around the world talk only about one thing — the imprisonment of their monk.”
Opposition lawmaker Tuma Celik, from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, called on authorities to reverse the decision and said the accusation was based on a single statement in an investigation dossier that was opened two years ago. Hundreds of Syriacs, an ancient Christian population with Aramaic as their mother tongue, have left Turkey since the 1990s to Europe over security and restrictions on religious freedom.
The 1,500-year-old Mor Yakup Monastery lies about 250 meters from the Syrian border and sits atop a rocky hill in a remote place. It was accepted onto UNESCO’s World Heritage tentative list in 2014.
Turkey’s Human Rights Association Commission Against Racism and Discrimination published a report highlighting rights violations against a Syriac nun, Verde Gokmen, who lives alone in the ancient church of St. Dimet in Mardin. She was threatened by a local mob, who said they would kill her if she did not leave the village.
Ukraine prosecutor investigating ‘willful killing’ in Iran plane attack
The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said on Saturday it is investigating possible willful killing and aircraft destruction in its probe of the crash of a Ukrainian airliner in Iran.
Iran said its military mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian plane, killing all 176 aboard, saying air defenses were fired in error while on alert in the tense aftermath of Iranian missile strikes on US targets in Iraq.
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards offered an explanation and apology on Saturday for the shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner in Iran earlier this week, the official IRNA news agency reported.
Religious discrimination of minorities in Pakistan
Dr Ravinder Singh Rana
Non-Muslim citizens of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are treated as separate and unequal citizens in a form of religious apartheid. The Constitution and laws of the land are overwhelmingly preferential to Islam, the State Religion, and Muslims. Systematic exclusion of Hindus and other minorities ranges from humiliations such that a non-Muslim lawyer cannot appear before Federal Shariat Court to Constitutional provisions that the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan must be Muslims. Religious extremism and fanaticism sponsored by the State that disenfranchise its own minority populations have engendered fringe factions that endanger the wellbeing and lives of minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs, Christians. Alleged blasphemy of the Prophet Mohammad carries a mandatory death sentence. Most of these cases are either false accusations or pursuits of personal vendettas-a tool of repression often used against Hindus and other minorities. Several of the judges in the High Courts, as for example, Justice Akhter of the Lahore High Court, are advocating that it is the duty of a Muslim to silence the voice of a blasphemer. (i) A report recently published by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad, notes: “Four primary themes that emerge most strongly as constituting the bulk of the curricula and textbooks…are that Pakistan is for Muslims alone; Islamiat is to be forcibly taught to all the students, whatever their faith, including compulsory reading of Qu’ran; the ideology of Pakistan (sic) is to be internalised as faith, and hate be created against Hindus and India; and students are to be urged to take the path of Jehad and Shahadat.” Further, “Associated with the insistence on the Ideology of Pakistan has been an essential component of hate against India and the Hindus…” (ii) Many of the approximately 2 million Hindus in Pakistan are compelled to pay regular sums, as a type of ransom, to extortionists and local leaders in exchange for the physical security of their families and themselves. (iii) It is conventional wisdom that no job higher than a clerk’s post may be obtained by a Hindu.
Furthermore, Hindus usually need a Muslim as a silent partner in order to run a business. Many Hindu temples have been desecrated, destroyed, or converted into government offices in Pakistan. In 1992 alone, hundreds of Hindu temples were destroyed in Pakistan in response to communal riots in India, in which Pakistani Hindus played no role. Despite official promises to rebuild these temples, in many cases, little or no action has been taken to redress the situation. Illegal encroachments on Hindu temples and lands, molestation and abduction of Hindu girls, demanding of huge ransoms in kidnap cases, and frequent arrests of Hindus on false charges have become commonplace in Pakistan. The plight of Hindus in Pakistan is nowhere more evident than in the fact that the population of Hindus in 1947, at the time of Partition, was estimated to be anywhere from 15 to 24 percent. There is no authoritative claim on these numbers. In 1998 the Hindu population in Pakistan was 1.60 percent. (iv) Where and how have these Hindus disappeared. School textbooks represent the political perspectives and national ideologies of whole educational and government systems. As such, school textbooks are one of the most important indicators of official and popular perspectives of the cultural and political communities they depict both in words and images. The major findings of this report are that the content of Pakistani public school textbooks related to non-Islamic faiths and non-Muslims continue to teach bias, distrust, and inferiority. Moreover, the textbooks portray non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan as sympathetic towards its perceived enemies: Pakistani Christians as Westerners or equal to British colonial oppressors, and Pakistani Hindus as Indians, the arch enemy of Pakistan. These perceptions predispose students early on that the non-Muslim population of Pakistan are outsiders and unpatriotic.
These grossly generalized and stereotypical portrayals of religious minority communities signal that they are untrustworthy, religiously inferior, and ideologically scheming and intolerant. These messages are reinforced by the absence of deeper content addressing the complexity of religions, the rights of religious minorities, and the positive contributions of religious minorities in the development and protection of Pakistan. Outright errors about minority faiths and cultures are a major problem. Another significant issue is the inclusion of widely-disputed historical “facts” presented as settled history. Consider this quote found on page 23 of the tenth grade Urdu textbook: “Because the Muslim religion, culture and social system are different from non-Muslims, it is impossible to cooperate with Hindus.” This kind of education closes all doors for a new generation of Pakistani Muslims to see a peaceful future with Hindus of India, and worse yet, it provides a rationale to treat Pakistani Hindus as outsiders. In contrast, it ignores how Hindus and Muslims have cooperated and coexisted peacefully for centuries in the sub-continent. Another quote from the Sindh province seventh grade Urdu textbook mixes facts and conspiracies, portraying Hindus and Christians as partners to destroy Muslims. Shahid Afridi’s hate for India and Hindu’s is a well established one.
The Pakistani skipper has on several occasions in Pakistani cricketer and former captain of the Pakistan national cricket team Shahid Afridi had once revealed how he had smashed his television set at home when he saw one of his children enacting an ‘aarti’ scene while watching an India drama serial. The past ranted against Indian culture, its people, cricket team and the media. Talking on a chat show hosted by one Nida Yasir, on a Pakistani TV channel, the cricketer brazenly, taking pride in what he did, said he lost his temper when he found one of his children watching a Hindu ritual being shown on the Indian channel Star Plus, and smashed the TV set.
While the interviewer looks delighted on listening to Afridi’s anti-Hindu rants, the Pakistani audience can also be seen applauding the cricketer for his defiance against Hindu rituals and customs. Former Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar had revealed during a chat show that Danish Kaneria was treated unfairly by his Pakistani teammates because he was a Hindu and even barred the spinner from picking up food from the same table as others because of his faith. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to fast-track citizenship for persecuted minority groups in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The six minority groups that have been specifically identified are Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis. This is the reason why this amendment bill is important as minorities are fighting for their survival in neighbouring countries.
PML-N leader hints at pressure over tenure bill
LAHORE: Just a couple of days after extending unconditional support to the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act in parliament, senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khurram Dastgir Khan hinted at pressure on the party leadership for the legislation while its firebrand lawmaker Rana Sanaullah insisted that the PML-N did not step back from its narrative of ‘respect for vote’.
Addressing a session titled Parliament Today at the Afkar-i-Taza ThinkFest at Alhamra on Saturday, MNA Dastgir, who was defence minister in the PML-N government, said: “If there was any pressure to vote for the Army Act, it was on our leadership, not on the parliamentarians like me.”
However, he added, “If it is said that there was no discussion on this Act by parliamentarians, it is not true. The PML-N and PPP parliamentarians held detailed deliberations on it, and eventually decided to vote for it.”
The PML-N lawmaker further said the draft of the proposed bill had been shared with the opposition a week before the legislation but disclosed that an “interesting incident happened only a day before the parliament session that paved the way for the opposition voting for the proposed bill.
“But I cannot provide any details of it,” he said while addressing the session, which was moderated by Pildat’s Ahmed Bilal Mehboob and also attended among others by former senator Javed Jabbar.
Mr Dastgir said there was a need to accept the fact that the army had a stake in politics. “Whether we accept it or not, this will remain a fact,” the former defence minister insisted.
While criticising the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government’s incessant use of ordinances, the PML-N lawmaker said the government should use the option only in “emergency situations”. “The government will accord importance to parliament only when the backdoor [ordinance] for legislation is shut,” he added.
Separately, when asked what happened a day before legislation on empowering Prime Minister Imran Khan to give extension to the services chiefs, a senior PML-N leader confided to Dawn that a senior federal minister managed to persuade the opposition legislators. “A senior federal minister visited us [a group of PML-N and PPP parliamentarians] in Islamabad a day before the legislation and begged us to vote for the bill. He only left after we gave him our word,” he claimed.
While clarifying PML-N’s stance on the Army Act legislation process, party’s Punjab chapter president Rana Sanaullah told a presser that the party had not moved away from its narrative of ‘Respect for vote’. “Nawaz Sharif and his party have not stepped back from this narrative, as we believe in civilian supremacy,” he claimed.
Mr Sanaullah said: “The PML-N voted for the extension in service to the army chief, as it did not want to do politics on this important matter. In fact the inept PTI government had mishandled the issue. Through this [legislation], the office of the prime minister has been empowered [to give extension to the three services chiefs].”
However, Mr Sanaullah was of the opinion that PML-N should not have become part of the ruling party’s agenda of “undue haste” in the passage of the amendment bill. “Our parliamentary party became part of the PTI government’s undue haste that we believe was a bit of an error,” he said.
He recalled that in his message, Nawaz Sharif had said, “do not become part of undue haste which makes it look like that this parliament has become a rubber stamp”.
He claimed that Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, too, had supported the army chief’s extension in principle though he abstained from voting.
In reply to a question about PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz’s silence, Mr Sanaullah said: “Maryam Bibi is worried about the health of her father [Nawaz Sharif].
“No one has asked her to keep mum,” he insisted. He also clarified that she had not resigned from the office of party’s vice president over the issue of voting.
He explained that she wanted “to go abroad to look after her father for six weeks and will return after that”.
Mr Sanaullah also said Prime Minister Imran Khan could easily be removed through an in-house change. “The PM House is not someone’s personal property. The in-house change is very easy. If the country has to move forward, we will have to get rid of Imran Khan and a new prime minister should be elected with consensus,” he said.
Meanwhile, responding to his presser, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan regretted that certain elements were using religious card for political gains, adds APP.
Talking to the media in Islamabad after inaugurating the Smart Expo of Future Development Holdings, Dr Awan said Mr Sanaullah had only been released on bail in narcotics case and not acquitted of the charges, as the narcotics case against him was still under trial.
Instead of ‘misleading’ people, she said he should vent his anger on his party leadership as the government had nothing to do with the PML-N leadership’s approach towards its workers.
Dr Awan said the government was committed to strengthening national institutions and all-out efforts were being made to bring about changes to the system, besides addressing lacunae in the judicial system so that powerful elements could not take undue benefits.
Shahbaz terms it collective decision Talking to the media in London on the issue of Army Act legislation, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif said the PML-N had taken a ‘collective decision’ after consultations within the party regarding its support to the bills pertaining to the tenure of services chiefs, adds monitoring desk.
In the latest instance, the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly said, the decision to grant the extension was taken by the parliament unlike the “past military dictators who extended their tenures themselves”.
Aitzaz calls Nawaz Sharif a ‘sell out’ over extension bills
LAHORE: Leader of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Aitzaz Ahsan on Saturday blasted Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, alleged Nawaz sold out his party’s votes.
Talking about the bills pertaining to the extension in the tenure of the army chief, Aitzaz said the PML-N supremo set the price of his party’s National Assembly members and senators. “Nawaz Sharif has secured his three billion pounds,” Aitzaz Ahsan added.
He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan kept on saying that he would not give an NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance], while NRO has already happened. “Unfortunately civilian supremacy could not be seen in the country at any time,” he claimed.
Commenting on the Army Act, he said the appointment of the army chief was the discretion of the prime minister and president and he could also be relieved from his office.
Economic stabilisation has failed to bring growth: PM aide
KARACHI: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce, Textile, Industry & Production and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood has said though there is economic stabilisation in Pakistan the country has still not seen economic growth.
He was speaking at a talk on ‘Business-Way Forward’ organised by the English Speaking Union of Pakistan at a hotel here on Saturday.
“But there can be no growth without stabilisation,” he pointed out, saying that the challenge for Pakistan is to change from an import consumption country to a country with exports that go up to two hundred million plus.
“We must be able to have at least seven per cent GDP rate for next several years, when Pakistani brands are respected and known to stand for quality and reliability,” he said.
He said that as an import consumption country, Pakistan has been borrowing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In the last 30 years, Pakistan has had to borrow 13 times from the IMF. And then the country has also had to agree to IMF’s conditions. “When this government came in, we were losing foreign currency. I was not even certain about economic stability, but I’m an optimist. Things are improving and moving in the right direction,” he said.
“I know every country has issues. Like, there were Malaysia and Turkey which had a major crisis, but after reforms their economies are back on the path to recovery,” he said.
“And along with that Pakistan also faces a taxation issue. It is a daunting task. People say to us ‘who are you?’ They say they will not pay their taxes as they did not vote for Imran Khan. What is to be done with all this going on? Should we give up or should we fight back? But we have to be able to turn this country around into a country where all people pay taxes,” he said.
Coming back to trade, he said that there was a need to talk more about exports than imports. “We need an export-led growth. Pakistan is a country where 47 per cent of our revenue is used on imports. We have to bring it down but in order for us to do that we have to pay our taxes,” he said.
“Another big challenge we have faced head on is not talked about that much. For the last 30 to 40 years tariff has become a tool for generating revenue. But we need proper checks and balances here if we want proper governance,” he said, adding that they needed a long-term tariff policy along with a long-term industrial policy and a trade policy.
“We also need to see what are our exports and which countries we need to concentrate on for these exports. We should be able to set ourselves a target. A good trade policy will take us in a good direction. But we also need support in technology, marketing, etc. So business people themselves, be they in textiles, rice, fisheries, meat, poultry or anything else should help in developing policies that can help us move forward. We also have to diversify our exports in multiple sectors,” he said.
He further said that one of the best areas for businessmen is in Karachi.
Talking about gas shortage, he said that it was a challenge. Since demand of gas was very high in winter the supply issue was increasing, he added.
He further said that the world was in an economic recession. “India, our neighbouring country, too, is in recession but I want to congratulate you that the exports of our country are going upwards and in the right direction,” he said.
“A day would come when at least 20 or more Pakistani businesses will be listed in Fortune 500. I dream for Pakistani business houses to span across the globe so much so that in a 24-hour period the sun never sets. The tenacity of our business people is such that we may see this in my lifetime,” he said.
“Pakistanis do not have international vision; I will give you,” Mr Dawood said while addressing members of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
According to a press release, he said: “We need to leave domestic policy of trade and business.”
He said things were now moving in the right direction. “We are looking forward to promote exports rather than domestic trade,” he added.
Addressing concerns of high duties, gas shortage, transport strike issues of KCCI members, he said: “When I come here, I feel at home. You all know how was the economic conditions of [the] country; we were losing 2 billion dollars, rupee would have been devalued; reserves are going up now.”
“New tariff has been set and will now be part of industrial process under [the] Ministry of commerce,” he said, adding 26 new sectors have been planned and almost completed.
Mr Dawood was invited to KCCI as a chief guest.
FIR of Quetta mosque bombing registered
QUETTA: The Counter Terrorism Department on Saturday registered a first information report (FIR) of the suicide bombing that killed 15 people and injured 19 others at a mosque here on Friday.
“The CTD registered an FIR against unknown terrorists on a report of the SHO of Satellite Town police station,” a senior police officer said, adding that investigation was under way into the Ghousabad mosque blast.
The evidence collected from the explosion site by the bomb disposal squad confirmed that the tragic incident was a suicide bombing.
“It was a suicide attack,” said Inspector General of Police Mohsin Hasan Butt.
The bomber had blown himself up during evening (Maghreb) prayers.
“The head and legs of the suicide bomber found in a very bad condition and other evidence confirmed that it was suicide bombing,” the police official said.
Balochistan Home Minister Ziaullah Langove also indicated after visiting the blast site that it seemed to be suicide bombing.
Meanwhile, DSP Amanullah and three brothers were buried in local graveyard.
Home Minister Zia Langove, IGP Mohsin Hasan Butt, senior officers of the Frontier Corps and other officials attended the funeral prayers of the DSP in the police line.
Sources said that prominent cleric Sheikh Hakimullah, who is the administrator of a religious seminary, was also injured in the blast. Earlier reports had suggested that he had died in the explosion. “Sheikh Hakimullah is alive and under treatment,” the sources said.
The sources said that the people with minor injuries were discharged from hospital on Saturday.
“The condition of six victims is still critical,” spokesman for civil hospital Dr Wasim Baig said.
Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani visited the trauma centre of the civil hospital and inquired after health of the injured.
He directed the hospital authorities to provide best treatment to the injured and said any negligence in this regard would not be tolerated. prayed for their early recovery.
Mr Alyani said the terrorists who targeted innocent worshipers would not be spared.
He assured that the seriously injured patients would be shifted to Karachi for treatment.
After receiving complaints from under treatment patients and their attendants, the chief minister asked the officials to make some changes inside the trauma centre.
Agencies add: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday said he had called for an immediate report of the cowardly terrorist attack.
On his Twitter account, he posted that he had also directed the Balochistan government to ensure that all the medical facilities were provided to the injured.
Shehbaz blasts PTI govt over ‘incompetence’
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has destroyed the economy with its poor policies.
Speaking to media outside the Avenfield flats after seeing off former Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai, Shehbaz said after the passage of bills that extended the tenure of army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, it was now time to take stock of abysmal economic conditions of the country.
Shehbaz said that it is now time to move on from the topic as discussing a non-issue [of Gen Bajwa extension] will act as a distraction from the real issues of the country.
“The real issues facing Pakistan are poverty, unemployment, joblessness, and the healthcare crisis. Nawaz did the historic job of development to deal with the economic crisis within four months. He will be remembered for the development work, improving economy and dealing with the electricity crisis,” he added.
The former Punjab chief minister said that under the PTI government, all sectors of the economy stood destroyed and there seems to be no governance anywhere.
Pakistanis protest US assassination of top Iranian General Soleimani
Pakistanis have taken to the streets in the northwestern city of Peshawar to protest the US assassination of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.
The protesters held portraits of Gen. Soleimani as they rallied, chanting slogans against the United States and Israel. An effigy of US President Donald Trump was set on fire.
They also called on the Pakistani government to clarify its position on US-Iran tensions.
The Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement saying that Pakistan will not "let its soil be used against any other state," and will not become part of "any regional conflict."
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan has also directed his Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to visit Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States as part of Islamabad’s efforts to defuse increasing tensions in the region.
On January 3, the US assassinated General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy chief of the Iraqi pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), near Baghdad airport.
The Pentagon said Trump directly ordered the US military to assassinate the top Iranian commander.
The assassination prompted Iran to take revenge by pouring more than a dozen ballistic missiles on two military bases housing US troops in Iraq early on Wednesday.
Both commanders were admired for eliminating the US-sponsored Daesh terrorists in the region. General Soleimani, in particular, was an international figure who played a leading role in promoting peace and security in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.
The US assassination of Gen. Soleimani and his comrades has led to large anti-American protests across Iran and Iraq. Protests were also held in countries across the region and other parts of the world.
Cross border flights through Afghanistan increase by 25%
11 Jan 2020
Mohammad Qasim Wafayezada, Head of Afghan Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA), said that with new tensions in the region, the number of flights passing through Afghanistan has increased by 25%.
Following the rise of the regional tensions, the International Civilian Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on Afghanistan and several other countries in the region to accept more cross-border flights, and contribute to enhancing international flights.
Mr. Wafayezada added that the Afghan Aviation Agency is now effectively accepting airline flights from around the world that had been diverted due to security problems in Iran and the Persian Gulf.
Reports say that, on average, more than five flights crossing the Afghan airspace, reaching more than 6,000 flights annually, generating a total sum of over $5 million in transit flights.
Afghanistan has attributed to increasing flights by signing of a €2m contract for the installation of an independent radar project with the French company Thales.
Upon completion of the ongoing project, the Afghan Civil Aviation Authority’s annual revenue will increase from $2 to $5 million annually, the agency added. This will not only generate more revenue but also will open a new window of opportunity for the ACAA to play a prominent role in international flights in the region.
Following the assassination of General Suleimani and the rocket launch of US bases in Iraq, several countries in the region stopped flying over Iran and Iraq due to security issues.
Taliban hit US military convoy, claim killing 'all troops'
11 January 2020
The Taliban have attacked a convoy of US troops in Afghanistan's southern province of Kandahar, a couple of days after American airstrikes killed a commander of the militant group and several other militants in the country.
A roadside bomb struck one of the armored vehicles of the US forces in the district of Dand on Saturday, according to a NATO spokesman who said there were no immediate reports on casualties.
Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the the blast and said all the soldiers in the vehicle had been killed.
The attack came just days after a US airstrike killed a Taliban splinter group commander, identified as Mullah Nangyalay, in the western province of Herat.
More than 60 civilians were also killed or wounded in the attack, local officials said.
Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians along with members of security forces have been killed since the US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001.
The Taliban have been negotiating with the administration of President Donald Trump for more than a year over the withdrawal of US troops in exchange for security guarantees from the militants.
The negotiations take place almost 18 years after the US invaded Afghanistan and overthrew a ruling Taliban regime.
Two US soldiers killed in bomb blast claimed by Taliban
KANDAHAR: Two American soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan on Saturday when a Taliban roadside bomb ripped through an army vehicle, officials said.
Two other soldiers were wounded in the attack in Kandahar province, according to Nato’s Resolute Support mission in the country.
A mission spokesman said the names of those killed were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
The troops were on patrol near Kandahar airport in Dand district, provincial police spokesman Jamal Nasir Barkzai said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, with spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid saying on Twitter that the blast destroyed the vehicle and killed all on board.
Violence in Afghanistan usually recedes as winter sets in. But this year the Taliban have pushed forward with their operations despite heavy snowfall in the mountains — and despite their negotiations with the US for a deal that would see American troops leave the country.
According to details made public so far, the Pentagon would withdraw about 5,000 of its 13,000 or so troops from five bases across Afghanistan, provided the Taliban stick to their security pledges.
The insurgents have said they will renounce Al Qaeda, fight the militant Islamic State group and stop militants using Afghanistan as a safe haven.
Last year was the deadliest for US forces in Afghanistan since combat operations officially finished at the end of 2014, highlighting the challenging security situation that persists.
Kashmiri students in a limbo on Bangla visas
Kashmiri girl Zeenat Shakeel has felt “discriminated against in India” all her young life. Now, cooped up in a small Calcutta hotel for more than three weeks, the would-be doctor wonders if she is facing “discrimination even by Bangladesh”.
Rubena Assadullah, Birjees Habib and Zeenat, three Kashmiri women in their early twenties, have been in the city since December 20, waiting for visas to travel to Dhaka and start classes at the Sirajul Islam Medical College and Hospital, a private medical school where they have enrolled.
Neither have the long overdue visas arrived, nor any updates from the Bangladesh deputy high commission, located less than 100 metres from their central Calcutta hotel.
A senior official of a company that offers consultancy to those seeking overseas education said the Bangladesh high commission in Delhi had stopped issuing visas to applicants from the Valley since December 20 although it had made no official announcement.
While Bangladesh foreign ministry sources have not confirmed any such decision, Kashmiri students have been running across the country --– to the deputy high commissions in Guwahati, Agartala and Calcutta --– to seek remedies.
“Many students from the other north Indian states have got visas from Guwahati or Agartala, but the visa applications of the Kashmiri students haven’t been entertained. Isn’t it discrimination?” asked an official from another education consultancy firm, echoing Zeenat.
Rubena, Birjees and Zeenat, who had been expecting to receive their visas anytime around December 20, had travelled to Calcutta early lest the situation in Kashmir prevent travel outside after the visa arrived from Delhi. Someone they knew was to bring their visas to Calcutta and hand them over.
“We have been waiting in Calcutta since December 20. Students from the other Indian states have already got their visas, travelled to Bangladesh and started their classes, but we don’t know when we will get the green light,” Rubena, a Srinagar resident, said sitting in her 10ftx10ft hotel room.
The trio said they were among at least 350 young men and women from Kashmir who had secured admission to various medical colleges in Bangladesh and were waiting for their visas. All of them had already paid around $20,000 in fees for the first semester MBBS programme.
One of the consultancy company executives said that Kashmiri students, especially aspiring doctors, preferred to study in Bangladesh as the course fees and the cost of living were relatively low there and the medical curriculum was similar to India’s.
Also, they did not expect to face any bias in Bangladesh, which has made their current ordeal that much more dismaying.
The trio are particularly jittery as they already have the experience of losing academic years to the uncertainty in the Valley.
“The situation is not conducive back home; that’s why we want to study elsewhere. But now there is this fresh uncertainty,” said Birjees, who has since childhood dreamt of studying medicine, mindful that Kashmir needs more doctors.
All the three women said they had taken the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), the all-India medical undergraduate entrance exam. They had met the cut-offs for admission to several private medical colleges in India, but the fees had been a barrier.
Medical hopefuls elsewhere may sit the NEET multiple times, hoping to earn better marks and make it to the more affordable government-run institutes, but Kashmiri students cannot afford the luxury of multiple attempts. The trio recalled how last year’s NEET was held amid a shutdown in the Valley, and travelling to the exam centre had been a challenge.
The conversation inevitably turned to the current situation in the Valley.
“We always thought we were Indians, but it’s also true that we felt discriminated against in India,” Zeenat said, referring to Kashmiris’ sufferings under the lockdown imposed since August 5, when the special status was revoked.
“Now it seems there is discrimination against Kashmiris even in Bangladesh. What’s our fault?” she said as her father Shakeel Ahmed, a government employee, listened.
A senior official in the Bangladesh deputy high commission said that visa application centres had region-wise jurisdiction and that students from Kashmir should apply only with the high commission in Delhi.
Told the trio had done so and asked why their visa applications were taking so long to process, he said: “I can tell you only on Monday after our office reopens.”
A source in the Bangladesh foreign ministry said the authorities were waiting for the list of students eligible for visas.
He said the list would be drawn up after checking the “equivalence” of the applicants’ academic achievements against those of Bangladeshi applicants. (The equivalence is determined on the basis of the candidates’ Class X and Class XII results and their scores in the NEET, which the trio had cracked.)
Dissatisfied with this argument, the trio have been asking how the students from other parts of India had got their visas, then.
“We are tired of waiting. We were eager to start a new life in Bangladesh, where we could pursue our education without disruption. But look, we are stuck here,” Birjees said.
Returning to Kashmir and waiting for the visa is a no-no, since keeping in touch with the rest of the world and buying air tickets at short notice may not be possible in the Valley in the coming weeks.
First phase of Ijtema ends with Akheri Munajat Sunday
The death tolls of the devotees in the first phase of the Ijtema stand at nine
The first phase of the 55th Biswa Ijtema is set to end with the Akheri Munajat (final prayer) on Sunday morning along the banks of the Turag River in Tongi, on the outskirts of Dhaka.
Thousands of Muslim devotees from home and abroad have gathered on the Ijtema ground to join the Akheri Munajat during the first phase amid boosted security measures, reports BSS.
Ijtema is the second largest congregation of the Muslim community after Hajj.
During the second day of its first phase on Saturday, Indian Islamic Scholar Mawlana Abdur Rahman delivered sermons on different aspects, including Imaan and Akhlaq, of Islam in the light of the holy Quran and Hadith.
The Muslim devotees including 2,000 foreigners, thronged the Ijtema ground under the open sky despite inclement weather of winter.
During the Akheri Munajat, vehicular movements will remain suspended from 5am on Sunday on the Airport Road to Joydebpur intersection of the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway, Mirer Bazar to Tongi bus stop of the Dhaka-Sylhet highway via Gazipur and Abdullahpur to Bypass of the Abdullahpur-Ashulia road.
However, special train services have been launched for the Akheri Munajat while the Tongi station will offer stoppage for all the intercity express trains for some time.
About 8,500 members of different law enforcement agencies have been deployed to ensure security around the Ijtema ground.
The death tolls of the devotees in the first phase of the Ijtema stood at nine so far as four more devotees died on Friday night.
The second phase of the Ijtema is scheduled to begin on January 17 at the same venue and it will end on January 19.
Herat’s residents demand an immediate investigation into Shindand airstrike
Tribal elders in the southern Herat province called on the government to launch an immediate investigation about the attack that took the lives of innocent civilians on Wednesday.
Reports say that over 30 civilians were killed in the attack, but the exact number of casualty details confirmed by the Defense Ministry is yet to be received. The operation was carried out in collaboration with the Afghan security forces, according to a statement released by the spokesperson of the US forces in Afghanistan.
General Khoshal Saadat, the deputy minister of interior for security said, “an investigation team is conducting comprehensive research on the incident, and it is too early to conclude what truly happened.”
The connection of Mullah Rasul with the Afghan government and his stance against the Taliban network makes the situation rather complicated. Some even raise concern that, indeed, Mullah Nangialai, a loyal commander to Mullah Rasul, was targeted, which caused the death of scores of innocent civilians.
Tur Mohammad Zarifi, a tribal elder in Herat’s Shindand district, said “Mullah Nangialai leads a Taliban splinter faction that fights on the government side, and our concern from the Afghan government is that why those people who abandon war are being killed systematically,”
Abdul Qayoum Rahimi, the governor of Herat, said, “the airstrike case is extra complicated, and the responsible institutions in the central government have to respond to the questions raised by the public.
IED explosion kills two US soldiers in Kandahar
11 Jan 2020
Two US service members were killed in an IED explosion in southern Kandahar province, a Resolute Support statement confirmed.
According to a statement published by the Resolute Support in Afghanistan, two US soldiers were killed and two others have were wounded in action today when their vehicle struck an IED in Kandahar province.
These service members were conducting operations as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, the statement added.
Violent crime on the rise in Afghanistan’s main cities
KABUL: Ali Faraso was sitting at home in a southwestern neighborhood of Kabul when he heard cries. He ignored them, thinking that children were fighting. But a few minutes later, a person was desperately calling for help. Faraso recognized the voice of his cousin and rushed out to find him covered in blood.
A few minutes later, the 20-year-old was dead.
Ale Sena, a student at the American University in Afghanistan, was returning home when a group of men snatched his laptop. As he resisted, they stabbed him and run away.
“I usually do not venture out when it is dark because of fear of poor security, but when I heard Sena’s call for help, I thought there was something wrong,” Faraso told Arab News.
Police arrived at the scene after two hours. The incident took place last week and there has been no follow-up.
At least five other people have lost their lives to armed robbers in Kabul since the beginning of the month. Many more sustained injuries. Kabul police say they have registered 70 crime cases in the past two weeks, including armed conflict, robbery and assassination.
Thousands of roadside and home robbery cases were reported in Kabul and two of the country’s more secure big cities — Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif — last year.
Criminal activity has been on the rise in other regions. On Tuesday, shopkeepers from Kunduz closed their businesses to stage a demonstration against worsening security.
Abdul Khaliq Zazai Watandost, a member of Kabul’s provincial council, told reporters that “in the past three months, more than 100 people have been killed” by criminals in the city.
According to security forces data, 523 people in Kabul were killed and were 638 wounded last year alone. Another 2,632 criminal cases were registered by the police.
Robbers, usually arriving in small groups on motorbikes, use both knives and firearms. Small pistols in Kabul’s black market are sold for less than $100, according to the Hasth Sobh newspaper.
Afzal Hadid, head of the provincial council in Balkh, of which Mazar-i-Sharif is the capital, told reporters that “93 cases of murders related to robberies have occurred in Mazar in the past six months alone.”
The actual numbers may be higher as not all families decide to file police reports.
The rise in criminal activity has been linked to the presence of mafia and illegal armed groups, posing a threat to investment and businesses.
Jan Aqa Naveed, spokesman for Afghanistan’s Chambers of Commerce, said traders are increasingly choosing to leave the country due to the rising crime rate.
Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Monday said that “Kabul residents are increasingly concerned about the gravity of the security situation because of the criminal incidents.”
Kabul residents have been criticizing the government and accusing the police of negligence.
However, according to the Interior Ministry’s adviser, Bahar Mehr, organized crime has drastically reduced in Kabul compared with last year, because police have managed to arrest a number of gang members.
According to Mehr, police have arrested 128 suspected thieves in Kabul over the past month and most of them were boys.
Racial, religious issues have no place in Kimanis, PAS told
Durie Rainer Fong
January 9, 2020
KIMANIS: PH Wanita information chief Aiman Athirah Al-Jundi has told her former party colleagues from PAS to “go home” as their brand of politics has no place in Kimanis.
Aiman, who is also Amanah Wanita national chief, said she had spent over 20 years in the party and knew full well their ways of playing up racial and religious issues.
“I think when you constantly bring up issues pertaining to religion or being prejudiced to other races, it is not appropriate for Sabah and Sarawak.
“Many don’t understand the uniqueness in these states. For instance in Sabah, if a Kadazandusun Murut (KDM) person embraces Islam, not all of his or her family members are Muslims.
“So how can you inculcate a fighting spirit that hates other religions or is prejudicial to other races? If you come here with these ideas then go home, don’t disturb the harmony here,” said the senator.
Aiman, who is the former PAS Dewan Muslimat election machinery director, was speaking to reporters after attending a sewing workshop at Kampung Sri Serbang, Bongawan, near here, today.
PAS has deployed its members to help Barisan Nasional’s candidate Mohamad Alamin in his campaign against Warisan’s Karim Bujang in the Kimanis by-election.
Aiman said PAS’s political tactics had already damaged the family institution among Muslim families in Peninsular Malaysia.
“For instance in Terengganu, a married couple has to re-marry if the kadi is not from PAS.
“And siblings go their different ways because they support different political parties. Don’t bring this to Sabah, enough for it to be in the peninsula.
“In fact, even in the peninsula people do not want this,” she said, urging the Kimanis voters to make the right choice in order to maintain peace and unity in the state.
Meanwhile, Aiman, who is originally from Sabah’s east coast Sandakan district, outlined seven reasons why Kimanis residents should vote for Warisan.
Firstly, she said picking a candidate with the ruling government will ensure continued and smooth development for Kimanis.
A victory for Warisan will also add another Sabahan voice in Parliament to ensure the implementation of the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
She reminded voters that BN and PAS MPs had abstained from voting on a bill in the Dewan Rakyat last April to restore Sabah and Sarawak’s status to an equal footing as the peninsula.
“Because when it comes to things like budget allocation, Sabah and Sarawak should be evaluated as territories and not as states.
“That is why the budget to Sabah is low. Although the state received a bigger allocation in the 2020 Budget, it is still not enough or fair,” Aiman said.
Another reason, she said, was for Kimanis to regain control of its rights as Borneo’s and Malaysia’s gas supply centre.
“When the rights are returned, there is an opportunity to develop Kimanis to be on par with Pengerang in Johor which is an oil and gas hub in the southern corridor.
“Pengerang is the fastest growing area in the country because everything is channelled there. We want the same for Kimanis,” she said.
Feature: Xinjiang rises from ashes of terrorism
12 Jan 2020
Xinjiang is in the spotlight again as the US and West renew their accusations of China violating human rights. But this time around, Beijing is vigorously fighting back.
LAST Monday, four journalists – including me from Sunday Star – were invited to the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur for a briefing on the latest developments in Xinjiang, which to many Malaysians is a romantically colourful place but unsafe.
Xinjiang has a history dating back 2000 years, when the ancient Silk Road linked China with Italy and Greece.
Yet now, the moment you mention Xinjiang, this northwestern Chinese province conjures up images of bloody terrorist attacks and violence in the streets, and the Chinese Embassy is aware of this common reaction.
However, since 2017, many tourists have begun to return to this place famed for a scenic landscape, the Gobi Desert, glaciers, nomads, Uighurs’ charming music and dances, and savoury roast mutton chop.
“From 2016 to 2019, there were no riots and no terrorist attacks in Xinjiang. It is now a safe and peaceful place. You can walk in the streets freely, even at night. I was there last year, ” declared Bai Tian in his Monday briefing.
But before 2017, this region was inundated with news of riots until the Chinese central government cracked down in 2016 to force an end to terrorism and Uighur separatism.
“Between 1990 and 2016, this once backward province of China was a tense battleground between the police and Muslim terrorists, between the Han people and Uighurs, between police and the separatists aiming to form East Turkestan state independent of China. We even saw extremist Muslims killing their moderate brothers, ” Bai Tian noted.
He said terrorists in black robes slashing innocent people with long, sharp knives were a common sight in those dark days, particularly in 2014 – when terror attacks struck almost every day.
Hence, in 2016, Beijing came down hard.
According to news reports, China had in 2016 imprisoned extremist leaders, separatists and terrorists who had joined Islamic State. Beijing did not deny these actions.
But there were those who have escaped to the West. They have formed NGOs, which Beijing says are financially supported by the US, to continue their movement against China.
Bai Tian explained that to bring an end to chaos, the Chinese government also set up numerous vocational training centres to de-radicalise and re-educate the young and misguided Uighurs – who account for 40% of Xinjiang’s 22 million multi-ethnic people.
“Beijing also set up boarding schools for many Uighur children, deprived of formal education due mainly to abject poverty. They have to learn the Han language to increase their job prospects when they graduate, ” he said.
But according to the Western governments and media, these are “detention centres” out to torture political dissidents and brainwash the inmates with communist ideology.
They allege over one million Uighurs have been detained. They also claim China is carrying out ethnic cleansing, suppressing Islam and committing cultural genocide.
Bai Tian pointed out that despite all these accusations, China has shown the world that its 2016-2019 efforts have brought peace and stability back to Xinjiang.
In 2019, Xinjiang attracted 250 million local and foreign tourists, he highlighted.
Late last year, the last batch of students undergoing vocational training “graduated” and returned to society to lead a normal life, China Daily reported.
Xinjiang is also seeing investments, he added. Over the past nine years, it has received a total investment of nearly 120 billion yuan (RM70.5bil).
Bai Tian now wants to promote Xinjiang as a tourist destination for Malaysians. The embassy is working with tour agencies to plan direct or chartered flights for travellers.
“If you have not seen Xinjiang, you do not know how big and how beautiful China is, ” said Bai Tian, adding that the area of the province is equivalent to one-sixth of China.
However, China’s achievement in Xinjiang has not been highlighted by the media as this has been eclipsed by a non-stop smearing campaign and flow of fake news against Beijing, he noted.
Last month, the US House of Representatives passed the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 Bill, raising the Xinjiang issue again.
In the past, Beijing had largely reacted by issuing statements via its foreign office.
This time around, however, many state-owned media organisations have jumped in to help counter what they described as “malicious” allegations.
Xinhua News, China Daily, Global Times and CGTN are among the media groups that have churned out many positive stories on Xinjiang, recounted its success and retorted “fake news”.
In addition, Chinese embassies are stepping up their media offensives.
Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming, who has a powerful command of the English language and a strong grasp of issues, has succinctly put down his hostile interviewers.
Locally, Bai Tian has become proactive. He wrote two articles on Xinjiang last year and is inviting journalists to visit it.
He said: “Seeing is believing.
You will see for yourself how safe, peaceful and prosperous Xinjiang is now. You can talk to any Uighur freely and no police will watch you.”On allegations that China is suppressing Islam, Bai Tian said China’s Constitution guarantees that every individual has religious freedom.
The existence of 24,000 mosques (which translate to 530 Muslims: one mosque) and 30,000 imans in Xinjiang is testimony that Islam is allowed to flourish, he argued.
China has also given “preferential treatment” to Uighurs and Muslims of nine other ethnic groups, compared to the Hans, he added.Unlike the Hans, Muslims were not subject to China’s 1978 one-child policy, he said. Their children enjoy 15 years of free education (nine years for the majority Han people) and lower entry requirements for university enrolment.
In Beijing, the local government even bought a piece of land worth 1.5 billion yuan (RM882mil) in 2018 to reserve it as burial ground for Muslims, he added.
“All these show that Uighurs and Muslims are well treated, better than the Hans (the majority group in China). But the Hans have no complaints as we know the less well-off minorities need help, ” said Bai Tian as he went through his information sheets.
He stated that no government or sovereign will tolerate any form of separatism, hence when Malaysian NGOs protested outside the embassy last month with banners showing “East Turkestan”, their petition was ignored.
Bai Tian reiterated: “The Xinjiang issue is not about race, religion or human rights. It is about fighting against terrorism, stopping violence and tackling the secession issue.”
According to the envoy, the central government is developing and modernising Xinjiang. Last year, the allocation for the province was 40bil yuan (RM23.6bil).
Apart from Beijing’s allocations, Xinjing also receives allocations from other richer provinces in China, he noted.
Last week, Xinhua reported that 19 provinces and municipalities contributed 18.8 billion yuan (RM11bil) to Xinjiang in 2019 for poverty alleviation and people’s wellbeing programmes, as well as economic development.
Xinjiang aims to eradicate absolute poverty this year by lifting 165,000 people out of poverty, according to a Xinhua report.
From 2014 to 2017, China has uplifted 1.85 million Uighur Muslims out of poverty, according to a CGTN documentary.
With a GDP of 1.09 trillion yuan (RM590bil) in 2017, there are now 21 airports in Xinjiang, linked to other regions by bullet trains, it reported.
Today, Xinjiang is viewed as an important economic region under China’s Belt and Road Initiative. About 1,000 trips of freight trains transport goods between China and Europe via Xinjiang annually, CGTN reported recently.
Bai Tian said while the West turns a blind eye to Xinjiang’s economic progress and success in breaking free from terrorism, many other countries – including Muslim nations – are giving Beijing its due recognition.
Last October, a total of 54 countries signed a joint statement at the United Nations voicing support for China’s efforts to rid Xinjiang of extremism and terrorism and praising it for its “remarkable achievements in the field of human rights”, he highlighted.
This was in response to a joint statement by 23 countries led by the US condemning China’s treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Among the 54 were 30 Muslim countries that included Pakistan, Syria, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Whoever wins, Kimanis villagers just want an end to flooding
BEAUFORT: Every time dark clouds form, Gantasin Lingkabai prays that the downpour will not last for too long.
The last time there was prolonged rainfall, he and his family were trapped in their home by floods in Kampung Pusak, a remote village tucked within an oil palm estate in the sub-district of Membakut.
“Our house is on stilts and yet the water reaches the upper floor. It’s like that every time it rains longer than a day,” said the 66-year-old rubber tapper.
His village is one of many flood-prone villages in Membakut, a state constituency that is part of the Kimanis parliamentary constituency, where a by-election will be held on Jan 18.
Last year alone, Gantasin said, his village had been flooded three times, the worst in December. Hundreds of people from various villages were moved to relief centres.
“My family and I have never been evacuated but we can’t go out of our house to get supplies or food, let alone to go out to tap rubber,” said the father of 10.
This is one headache that he and his wife, Rosi Ilo, 75, hope the new Kimanis MP will finally resolve.
“Since moving here 25 years ago, this is the biggest issue for us. Our village has been pleading with the authorities to address this issue, by widening the river or something. We just want the problem to go away,” Gantasin said, adding that Sungai Membakut was just a stone’s throw away from his house.
Karim Bujang of Warisan and Mohamad Alamin of Barisan Nasional are the two contenders for the Kimanis seat.
Severe flooding also affects another village further up the road, Kampung Bambangan, a Muslim Bumiputera-majority area.
Abu Bakar Jabah, 24, said he and his family would stand by with their valuables and personal documents whenever the rain poured up to 24 hours.
“It’s the norm here. My house will be inundated with water up to waist-level. Land-clearing in the nearby hills for oil palm trees causes the run-off to flow into our village.
“And our village doesn’t have a proper drainage system,” he said.
His relative, Najip Anjah, 26, said the villagers had requested for assistance from the time the BN was in power but claimed nothing had been done till now.
“The villagers held a gotong-royong to dig a ditch to alleviate the situation, with only spades and hoes. So, how good can it be? The problem still persists.
“Some of the houses here, like the low-cost homes, would be submerged, with only the roof left to be seen,” he said.
Najip said many of the villagers voted for Warisan in the last general election — Karim eventually lost to former Umno federal minister Anifah Aman — as they wanted change.
“They promised to solve this issue by building a better drainage network but yet nothing has been done.
“Hordes of people continue to be evacuated from their homes because the floods still occur.
“It has been almost two years since Warisan took over the state government. How much longer should we wait?”
He claimed that flood assistance, such as food supplies, also reached only certain people when it should be distributed to every affected villager.
Decide who takes charge of religious education, Putrajaya and state govts told
KUALA LUMPUR: The G25 group of former senior civil servants has urged Putrajaya and state governments to decide once and for all which administration should oversee religious education in the country.
G25 member Hishamudin Yunus said this is necessary as it is unclear who has jurisdiction over religious institutions, including tahfiz schools.
Hishamudin, who is also a Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) commissioner, said multiple incidents involving tahfiz schools have taken place over the past few years, even leading to several deaths.
“Education is a federal matter, but Islam is a state matter. Here, we’re talking about tahfiz, which is religious education. So, this is a grey area. Does it fall under federal jurisdiction as an education matter or does it fall under the state as it concerns Islam?
“It’s time for the state governments and the federal government to sit down and decide once and for all who is responsible for religious education in this country.
“If it’s decided that it should be the state, then the (Federal) Constitution should be amended to make it clear that it falls under the state’s jurisdiction,” he said at a panel discussion in conjunction with the launch of G25’s “Administration of Matters Pertaining to Islam” report.
Hishamudin said he was of the opinion that Putrajaya should take responsibility for anything that pertains to education, including the regulation of tahfiz schools.
However, he said it seems like state governments have “assumed control” over the matter, adding that there are some state laws that require religious groups to register under the state’s religious authority.
The other panellists at the forum were Mohamed Azam Adil, deputy CEO of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies Malaysia, and Musawah executive director Zainah Anwar. Dr Narimah Awin was the moderator.
Last year, a seven-year-old student at an unregistered tahfiz school in Temerloh died after an alleged assault by fellow students, sparking fresh debate on the authorities’ lack of supervision of tahfiz schools following a series of accidents and abuse cases.
It came two years after a fire at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school in Kuala Lumpur killed 21 children and two teachers.
Anwar: MACC chief should further explain reasons for exposing phone conversations
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission chief Latheefa Koya should further explain why she exposed recorded telephone conversations involving a former premier, says PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
"I think she should explain further because there are concerns about privacy and confidentiality in telephone conversations between a husband and wife," he said.
However, he said the arguments that justice needed to be done and the information revealed in the conversations, had to be taken into account.
Anwar said he was unsure if the information would affect Datuk Seri Najib Razak's ongoing criminal trials, but said that the matter should be handed over to the police and referred to the court if it was indeed admissible.
MACC had come under criticism for releasing the recordings, with some saying it was "unprofessional" or would lead to a "trial-by-media" of those implicated.
Anwar, who is also the chairman of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, was speaking to reporters after delivering a keynote address at the Islam and Its Civilisation Forum on Malay-Nusantara perspective here on Saturday (Jan 11).
On Wednesday (Jan 8), the MACC released nine audio recordings said to incriminate former top officials, including former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, alleging a "criminal conspiracy at the highest level".
Latheefa had said that the recordings were made public so that there would not be any more attempts to undermine independent bodies.
She alleged that the audio conversations pointed to "serious power abuse, criminal conspiracy, obstruction of justice and compromising national security".
Anwar also said he had read Attorney General (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas' statement on his decision not to proceed further with a gay sex video implicating PKR deputy president Azmin Ali.
"The AG decided based on evidence adduced to him. Leave it at that," he said.
Earlier in his speech, he said it was time for Malaysia's multi-racial society to appreciate common values and goals.
He noted that the Chinese community's understanding of Islam was based on what they read in the media.
"But as much as we (Muslims) want them to understand us, we should also try to understand them.
‘Latheefa must explain why audio involving ex-PM were released publicly’
KUALA LUMPUR: PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has joined the fray in asking Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner Latheefa Koya to explain why she publicly played audio clips of conversations involving a former premier.
He said Latheefa had to explain this further following public concern over the manner in exposing private conversations between a husband and wife.
“(She) should leave it to the police and refer to the court if there is evidence, ” he said.
Anwar, who is the chairman of International Institute of Islamic Thought, said this after delivering a keynote address at the Islam and Its Civilisation Forum held at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation yesterday.
Latheefa has come under attack after calling for a press conference last Wednesday in which she revealed wire-tapped conversations to highlight alleged abuse of power, criminal conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and attempts to undermine national security.
On PKR vice-president Zuraida Kamaruddin’s claim of a sinister plot to refer her to the party disciplinary board, Anwar said she should answer the charges against her.
“She (Zuraida) should give her answer to the disciplinary board. We did not discuss (the matter) at the political bureau meeting, ” he said.
On Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas’ decision not to proceed further in the case of a sex video implicating PKR deputy president Azmin Ali, Anwar said:
“The AG decided based on evidence adduced to him. Leave it at that.”
Earlier in his speech, Anwar spoke of the need in a multiracial society to appreciate common values and goals.
South Korea summons Iran envoy over diplomatic threat
SEOUL: South Korea on Saturday summoned Iran’s ambassador after he implied bilateral ties could suffer if Seoul dispatched naval forces to the Strait of Hormuz.
Ambassador Badmchi Shabestari, in an interview last week with Seoul daily newspaper Joongang Ilbo, made the remarks at a time of heightened tension in the international community following the assassination of a top Iranian military general.
He suggested a possible deployment of South Korean naval forces to the waterway could affect bilateral ties.
“If another country conducts military activities within the Strait of Hormuz, we will not remain inactive,” Shabestari was reported as saying. “Iran and Korea share a history that dates back 1,000 years to the Silla Dynasty and this moment is the biggest crisis in our history.”
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry lodged a protest over his remarks.
“We called in the ambassador to deliver our concerns of bilateral relations between both governments after the ambassador reportedly talked of the severing of the ties,” a ministry official told reporters. “We listened sufficiently to the ambassador’s explanations.”
According to the official, the Iranian envoy denied directly mentioning the possible severing of diplomatic ties while expressing his concern that Seoul’s participation in a US-led coalition campaign in the Strait of Hormuz could hurt bilateral relations. The US has been pressuring South Korea to join its maritime security campaign in the waters off Iran.
US Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris expressed hope that South Korea would send forces to the strait, especially because the majority of its oil imports were shipped through there. “I believe, especially as a former naval officer, that it is in the interest of all nations to support freedom of the seas and freedom of navigation on the high seas,” Harris told South Korean broadcaster KBS last Tuesday, “and I believe that Korea, who gets so much of your energy from the Middle East, this is a particularly important concept for the Republic (of Korea).”
South Korea is considering sending its Cheonghae Unit, an anti-piracy naval team operating in the Gulf of Aden, to the strait at the request of the US government.
But the assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani has led to concerns that dispatching forces could backfire.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa indicated her caution at a parliamentary session.
“I think the stance of the United States and ours cannot always be the same in political analysis and when considering bilateral ties with Middle East countries,” Kang told lawmakers on Thursday, adding that the government had yet to reach a conclusion about safeguarding the strait.
Deploying the Cheonghae Unit would be a useful measure to patch up ties with the US government over the thorny issue of defense cost-sharing.
Seoul and Washington have been tussling over how to share the cost of stationing US soldiers in South Korea.
The US is said to have called for a 10-percent hike from 2019, when South Korea paid about $870 million. That figure already represents an 8 percent increase from the previous year.
If the US demands we send troops to the Strait of Hormuz, there is little option to avoid it,” Jung Sang-ryul, a professor at the Institute of Middle Eastern Affairs at Myungji University, told Arab News. “The rub is the timing of the dispatch. A troop dispatch at this moment is risky.”
Some believe that South Korea might send the Cheonghae Unit to the strait but not as part of a US coalition, taking its cue from Japan’s naval deployment plan.
Japan’s cabinet approved a plan to send forces to waters around the strait on an intelligence-gathering mission, but the Japanese warship is expected to operate separately from US-led operations in the area.
Libyan forces loyal to Haftar announce conditional ceasefire: Spokesman
Libya forces loyal to eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar announced on Saturday (January 11) a ceasefire starting 00:01 a.m. (22:01 GMT) on Sunday (January 12) conditional on acceptance by their rivals, spokesman Ahmed Mismari said in a statement.
Turkey and Russia urged Libya's warring parties on Wednesday (January 8) to declare a ceasefire on Sunday amid clashes and air strikes in a conflict drawing increasing foreign involvement and concern.
Turkey backs Fayez al-Sarraj's Tripoli-based, internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), while Russian military contractors have been deployed alongside General Khalifa Haftar's eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).
Backed by Egypt and the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Haftar's forces and an array of militia groups loyal to the self-proclaimed Libyan commander launched an offensive against the capital last April to unseat the GNA, which was quickly repelled on the city’s outskirts.
Head of UN-recognized Libyan government to visit Turkey
The head of the UN-recognized government in Libya is due to visit Turkey on Sunday, a diplomatic source said on Saturday.
Fayez al-Sarraj, chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya, is expected to meet with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
Al-Sarraj would arrive in Istanbul in the morning, the source added.
On Jan. 2, upon a request by the Government of National Accord in Libya, Turkey’s parliament passed a motion on sending troops to the country.
On Wednesday, Turkish and Russian presidents have urged for a cease-fire in Libya by midnight of Jan. 12.
5 al-Shabaab terrorists killed in Somalia
At least five al-Shabaab terrorists were killed Friday and others wounded after Jubbaland Security Forces raided a base in Lower Juba region located in southern Somalia, according to a government spokesman. al-Qaeda linked
Jubbaland State Ministry of Security spokesman Abdinur Ibrahim Hussein said “the operation at Ufow village in Lower Juba region was completed as planned.”
He noted five Ak-47 rifles were recovered from the al-Qaeda linked terrorists among other weapons.
Kenyan police foil Al-Shabaab attack
11 JANUARY 2020
Nairobi, Jan 11 (IANS) Kenyan police said they fought off an attack by suspected Al-Shabaab extremists on a police post in Kenya''s Mandera county.
Jeremiah Kossoim, Mandera county police commander, said an unknown number of militants stormed the post at 12.40 p.m. on Saturday in the Olla area and started firing at the police post. Then they went to the nearest mast and sprayed it with bullets, Xinhua reported.
Kossoim said no police officer or civilian from the Kenyan side was injured during the shootout which lasted for some 20 minutes.
He said the militants'' efforts to destroy the mast were immediately thwarted after security officers immediately engaged them.
"I want to confirm that there was an attempted attack by the militants that flopped. All our officers have been accounted for with casualties coming from them since there were traces of blood going towards their escape route to Somalia," Kossoim said.
Kossiom said security officers were currently combing the area in a bid to pursue the militants who are believed to have escaped towards the border.
"We are using the local chief and elders to pursue the militants. We are optimistic about finding them before they cross over to Somalia," he said.
Kossiom urged locals to volunteer information that will assist tackle the Al-Shabaab menace in the region, noting that they have an important role to play.
Boko Haram militants kill four, kidnap four in Chad: officials
12 JANUARY 2020
N''djamena, Jan 12 (AFP) Boko Haram jihadists on Saturday killed at least four villagers and kidnapped four women in western Chad, the local governor and a security official said.
The attack occurred near Lake Chad, a vast area bordering Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon, where small islands and swamps serve as hideouts for Islamist militants to carry out raids on the three countries.
"Around one in the morning, Boko Haram fighters attacked the village of Alom, and there are four dead. When they withdraw they took four women," a senior army source in the region told AFP.
Lake Chad regional governor Nouki Charfadine confirmed four people had been killed by Boko Haram and that four women were also missing.
Alom is close to the border with Nigeria, where Boko Haram militants have been fighting a decade-long Islamist insurgency.
Last month, they killed 14 fishermen in the nearby village of Kaiga, and 13 others disappeared during the attack.
Republican US congressman apologizes for saying Democrats are 'in love with terrorists'
12 January 2020
US Rep. Doug Collins regrets saying Democrats are "in love with terrorists" after some of them criticized President Donald Trump's decision to authorize the killing of an Iranian general.
"Let me be clear: I do not believe Democrats are in love with terrorists, and I apologize for what I said earlier this week," Collins wrote on Twitter.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had called for Collins to apologize to all House Democrats during Friday's floor session. In response, Republican Whip Steve Scalise read Collins' tweet into the record.
"So this gentleman has apologized for that statement," Scalise concluded. "I just want to point that out."
There were some Democratic lawmakers who responded to Collins with gratitude.
"Thank you for your apology, Rep. Collins, and thank you for your service," US Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts said in a Twitter reply. "All of us who have served know that even in these politically divisive times, we need to do better."
But some of Collins' followers on the social media site weren't so charitable. Several pointed out that the Gainesville Republican appeared on Fox News Friday morning and stood by his statements despite several opportunities to walk them back.
Collins' office did not respond to questions about whether he planned to apologize more directly to Democratic colleagues or return to Fox News to retract his statements in the same venue he made them.
"Say it on Fox or it didn't happen," Democratic strategist Adam Parkhomenko said on Twitter.
In his five-tweet thread, Collins said the comments he made on Fox News Wednesday night were in reference to a question about Democrats introducing a resolution to limit Trump's ability to take further military action against Iran. That resolution was approved Thursday mostly along party lines, although it is not binding.
Collins said his passion came from his own military service, including a stint in the Middle East as a chaplain for the Air Force Reserve, but his statements were inappropriate.
Trump backs Iranian anti-government protestors
U.S. President Donald Trump threw his support Saturday behind Iranian anti-government protestors after Tehran's unintentional downing of a Ukraine plane.
"To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I've stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you," Trump said on Twitter.
Protests erupted in Tehran and other cities against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after Iran admitted it "unintentionally" shot down a passenger plane belonging to the Ukraine International Airlines.
According to the New York Times that cited videos, some protestors shouted "Khamenei is a murderer!"
"We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage," said Trump.
He also tweeted the message in Farsi.
In a separate tweet shortly after appealing to anti-government protestors, Trump urged Tehran to let human rights groups monitor demonstrations, saying the world is watching the protests.
"The government of Iran must allow human rights groups to monitor and report facts from the ground on the ongoing protests by the Iranian people. There can not be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching," Trump wrote.
All 176 people, including 57 Canadians, on board the plane were killed in the accident that took place just after takeoff Wednesday from Tehran.
Of the passengers, 138 were flying from Tehran to Ukraine’s capital of Kiev, then were to board connecting flights to Canada.
A few hours before the crash, Iran fired missiles at bases in Iraq where U.S. and coalition troops were stationed. The attack was revenge for the U.S.’s killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
Iranian officials said its military was on high alert in case of American retaliation and it led to believing the doomed plane was an enemy aircraft.
Flight PS752 took off and flew close to a “sensitive military spot” and the plane was brought down due to “human error.”
Canada’s Trudeau says Iran must take full responsibility for downing plane
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday said Iran must take full responsibility and be held accountable for shooting down a Ukrainian plane and killing all 176 aboard, including 57 Canadians.
Iran admitted earlier on Saturday to having shot down the plane in error.
“What Iran has admitted to is very serious. Shooting down a civilian aircraft is horrific. Iran must take full responsibility,” Trudeau told reporters in a news conference.
“Canada will not rest until we get the accountability, justice, and closure that the families deserve,” he said.
He added that many of the Iranian-Canadians on the Ukrainian flight that crashed had fled the Iranian regime to Canada and expressed his regret at their deaths.
He said Canadian investigators are expected to arrive in Tehran within hours, adding that his government expects full cooperation of the Iranian authorities.
When asked about the ongoing protests in Iran, the Canadian prime minister said people around the world should be demanding answers and accountability.
Two US soldiers killed in Afghanistan bomb attack: NATO mission
Two American soldiers were killed and two others injured in a roadside bomb attack on a US Army vehicle in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, the NATO mission there said.
“In accordance with US Department of Defense policy, the names of the service members killed in action will be withheld until 24 hours after notification of next of kin is complete,” the NATO Resolute Support mission said in a statement.
The Taliban earlier claimed responsibility for the attack.
Trump repeats Syria intention: US troops are taking the oil
US President Donald Trump has once again revealed his intention to take possession of Syrian oil in what is seen by experts as a move that would amount to a war crime.
Defending his decision to leave some American troops in the war-torn country, Trump told Fox News Friday night that “they say he left troops in Syria... do you know what I did? I took the oil.”
“The only troops I have are taking the oil, they are protecting the oil,” Trump said, prompting the interviewer, Laura Ingraham, to try to correct him by saying the soldiers were there to guard the facilities. But the president cut her off.
“I don’t know, maybe we should take it, but we have the oil. Right now, the United States has the oil. We have the oil.”
Trump has before too publicly mused about stealing Syria’s oil reserves.
In October, after ordering the withdrawal of American forces from Syria, Trump said he wanted a US oil firm to go to the Arab country to tap its oil.
“What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly,” he said back then.
In a major U-turn in the US military policy, the White House announced on October 6 that the US would be withdrawing its forces from northeastern Syria, clearing the path for an expected Turkish incursion into the region.
Three days later, Turkey launched the offensive with the aim of purging the northern Syrian regions near its border of US-backed Kurdish militants, whom it views as terrorists linked to local autonomy-seeking militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
In late October, the US Defense Department confirmed that “mechanized forces” would be redeployed in eastern Syria to protect oil fields there, a clear departure from Trump’s earlier order to pull out all troops from the country.
In November, the US president made it clear that his only mission to keep troops in Syria was to take possession of the country's oil.
“We’re keeping the oil. We have the oil. The oil is secure. We left troops behind only for the oil,” Trump said.
Trump's remarks contradicted earlier remarks by his Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who tried to justify the presence of "500 to 600-ish troops" in Syria by alleging they were seeking to deny ISIS - an acronym used by US officials to refer to Daesh terrorist group - access to Syrian oil reserves.
Taking hold of a foreign country's oil reserves without permission from the sovereign authority would be a serious breach of international law.
In addition, the Geneva Convention, to which the US is a signatory, explicitly forbids the looting of property during conflict, referring to it as a war crime.
In December, a senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Damascus planned to file a lawsuit against Washington for plundering the Arab country’s oil resources.
Bouthaina Shaaban said the United States had no right to Syria’s oil, warning the US of popular opposition and operations against the presence of its troops at Syrian oil fields.
Shaaban was referring to Trump’s September announcement to retain American forces in Syria to secure oil reserves there.
Benjamin Friedman, policy director at think tank Defense Priorities and adjunct professor at the George Washington University, told The Independent last year, “The president appears to believe that the US can sell the oil, based on his statements in the past about Iraqi oil and Libyan oil ... thinking that we can loot countries.”
Trump backs down from his hostile anti-Iran stance because Americans don't support him: Analyst
US President Donald Trump has backed down from his hostile anti-Iran stance because American people are not actually behind him, according to US scholar Dr. Kevin Barrett.
Last week, Trump ordered the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), while threatening to carry out numerous more attacks against Iranian targets across the country.
Trump to everyone’s surprise unexpectedly backed down from his hostile threats against Iran after US bases in Iraq were attacked by Iranian missiles following the assassination of its popular general .
Barrett told Press TV in an interview on Saturday that Trump’s unpopularity among the Americans had forced him to back down against the adamant Iranian nation.
“Trump has backed down because he knows that the United States people are not really behind him,” according to Barrett.
Barrett noted that “53% of the American people disapproved of the President’s handling of relations with a country that we just went to war with.”
He said such lack support for a US president by the American people was unprecedented in US history.
“I don’t think that has ever happened before in US history, “he said, adding, “It just goes to show how unpopular Donald Trump is here in the United States.”
A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll had found that most American adults disapproved of Trump's ant-Iran policy.
Analysts say Trump's ordering Soleimani’s assassination meant to serve as a “diversion” for the American president, who is presently grappling with an impeachment inquiry.
British PM Johnson says Iran plane crash shows vital to de-escalate tensions
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday that the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet in Iran reinforced the importance of de-escalating tensions in the Middle East.
“Iran’s admission that Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down by mistake by its own armed forces is an important first step,” Johnson said in a statement.
Four British nationals were among the 176 people killed in Wednesday’s crash.
“We now need a comprehensive, transparent, and independent international investigation and the repatriation of those who died. The UK will work closely with Canada, Ukraine, and our other international partners affected by this accident to ensure this happens,” Johnson said.
“We can all see very clearly that further conflict will only lead to more loss and tragedy. It is vital that all leaders now pursue a diplomatic way forward.”
Iran said earlier that its military had mistakenly shot down the plane, saying air defenses were fired in error while on alert in the tense aftermath of Iranian missile strikes on US targets in Iraq. Iran had denied for days after the crash that it brought down the plane.
Ukraine PM says state, airline will give money to families of Iran crash victims
Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk said on Saturday that Ukraine would pay $8,350 (200,000 hryvnia) each to the families of those who died in a plane crash in Iran this week.
He said Ukraine International Airlines would make payments to the families of the crew members who died in the crash. The airline’s spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment. Honcharuk also said Ukrainian diplomats were working on how to receive compensation from the Iranian authorities.
Russia’s Putin: Time to hold Libya peace talks in Berlin
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at a joint press-conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Moscow on Saturday, said it was time to hold Libya peace talks in Berlin, as it was important to end the conflict in the country.
Turkey and Russia this week urged Libya’s warring parties to declare a ceasefire on Sunday as warring factions clashed and carried out air strikes in a conflict drawing increasing foreign involvement and concern.
Ukraine, France leaders agree French specialists to decode Iran crash black boxes
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed on Saturday that French specialists would help decode the black boxes of the Ukrainian plane that crashed in Iran, Zelenskiy’s office said.
Macron told Zelenskiy in a telephone call that France had started a formal procedure to launch an international investigation into the crash, Zelenskiy’s office said in a statement, adding that Macron had agreed to visit Kiev.
Londoners hold 'No war on Iran' rallies amid tensions in region
Anti-war protesters march through central London to call for "de-escalation in the Middle East" following the US assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and the IRGC's retaliatory missile attacks on a US base in Iraq.
The London protests were organized on Saturday by the Stop The War C, a British group established on 21 September 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks, to campaign against what it believes are unjust wars.
UK: Iran's admission in crash disaster 'important step'
Iran’s admission that it shot down the Ukrainian passenger jet by mistake last week is “an important step”, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday.
“This will be an incredibly difficult time for all those families who lost loved ones in such tragic circumstances,” Johnson said in a statement, adding his government would do anything to support the families of four British victims of the incident and “to ensure they get the answers and closure they deserve.”
“We can all see very clearly that further conflict will only lead to more loss and tragedy. It is vital that all leaders now pursue a diplomatic way forward,” he added.
Iran admits accident
Iran’s General Staff of the Armed Forces said Saturday that a Ukrainian aircraft was “accidentally” hit by an Iranian missile early this week that killed 176 people on board.
In a written statement, the top military authority said as a result of a "human error", the plane was accidentally shot down by the air defense system while it was passing over a "sensitive military point".
Iran was on the alert to possible U.S. threats to attack many points in Iran after launching a dozen ballistic missiles targeting the U.S. troops in Iraq, it noted.
Under these sensitive and crisis conditions, the plane approached a delicate military center of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and its height and stance seemed to be hostile, it said.
The plane in question was unintentionally targeted under these conditions, it added.
Canada and the U.K. have said they had evidence that the Ukrainian plane was shot down by a missile fired by Iran last Wednesday.
Canadian and British prime ministers made separate statement regarding the matter and they have urged transparent and fast investigation into the disaster.
A video later surfaced showed what appears to be an explosion mid-air at a location, which was confirmed as the location of the crash by independent investigative teams.
Ukraine International Airlines had received “no warning” from Tehran airport about a possible threat to its safety before it took off, according to a statement.
Thousands of protesters on Saturday marched to Downing Street from central Trafalgar Square.
The protesters chanted anti-war slogans, including “No War on Iran, No War on Iraq, Troops Out of Iraq”.
“The situation remains critical. We need to mount maximum pressure on our Government and on the Trump administration to prevent further escalation,” the organizers, Stop the War Coalition said in a statement.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn also joined the rally.
Turkish president receives head of European Council
Berk Ozkan, Elif Kucuk
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday received Charles Michel, head of the EU Council in Istanbul, according to diplomatic sources.
The closed-door meeting between Erdogan and Michel was held at the Dolmabahce Palace and lasted for nearly two hours.
Michel's visit marked the first visit to Turkey of the EU's new management since taking office last fall.
The EU Council is the EU's main decision-making body, made up of government ministers from every member state.
“The presidents had a discussion on how the EU and Turkey can work together to de-escalate the situation in the Middle East and in Libya,” the EU Council said in a statement.
Michael welcomed the "constructive language" of Erdogan’s joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a cease-fire and support for the Berlin process, the statement said.
Since the ouster of late leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: one in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates and the other in Tripoli, which enjoys the UN and international recognition.
The EU statement said both sides agreed to prevent “a new cycle of violence” in the Middle East through de-escalation and dialogue.
”There is a need for negotiated, political solutions,” it stressed.
On Syria, the statement said the EU understood that Turkey has security concerns with regard to northern and eastern Syria.
“In the context of the EU-Turkey Statement, the EU continues to support projects for refugees and host communities,” it said, adding that schools and hospitals are being built.
Michael expressed his concern on the recent memorandum of understanding between Libya and Turkey.
Referring to Turkey’s activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, the statement said that the EU "stands in full solidarity" with the Greek Cypriot side.
In November last year, Turkey and Libya inked a memorandum of understanding on the delimitation of the maritime jurisdiction areas in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In 1974, following a coup aiming at annexation of Cyprus by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.
Bank failed to raise alarm over huge write-down of frozen Libyan assets
Jan 10, 2020
A financial institution responsible for a huge write-down in the value of Libyan frozen assets held in the UK remains under investigation after it failed to raise the alarm over a multi-million-pound accounting error, the UK government has revealed.
Officials have refused to identify the institution they have been investigating for at least three months after being forced to revise the amount held by UK companies downwards by up to £840 million to £11.2 billion.
The unidentified bank sent in the wrong figures for a 2017/18 government report and failed to report the discrepancy when it sent in drastically lower figures for the next annual review. The mistake was only picked up in 2019, according to a government statement in parliament this week.
The mistake represented a seven per cent cut in the £12 billion previously identified by the government to have frozen in Britain for the future benefit of the Libyan people.
“OFSI identified an inconsistent figure relating to Libyan frozen funds …. and contacted the institution for an explanation of the figure,” according to a government statement in response to questions from veteran Northern Irish politician Reg Empey.
“The financial institution stated that an incorrect figure had been submitted in the previous year as part of its submission,” the statement said. “There is currently no evidence to suggest that frozen funds have been depleted or moved.”
Mr Empey has campaigned for frozen funds to be used to compensate families of victims of Libyan-backed Irish terrorism and criticised the UK government’s failure to follow the lead of countries including France, Germany and the USA.
He had previously told the Belfast News Letter that the write-down was a “massive amount” and added: “Given the government’s handling of this issue over a 20-year period, they cannot expect people to react with anything other than scepticism.”
Victims of terrorist attacks during the 30-year conflict known as The Troubles this week launched a fresh attempt to sue Libya for supplying the Irish Republican Army with plastic explosives during Muammar Qaddafi’s time in power.
The UK Treasury, which has oversight of the body that monitors UK sanctions, declined to say how long it had been investigating the institution involved in the accounting error. It said it could not be named for “legal reasons”.
British prison stabbing was terror attack
British police are treating the stabbing of a prison officer by two inmates wearing fake suicide belts at a top-security jail as a terrorist attack.
Brusthom Ziamani, 24, who was found guilty in 2015 of a plot to behead a British soldier, was identified by the BBC as one of the alleged attackers. The other was said to be a Muslim convert jailed for a violent offence.
The two men are believed to have used improvised weapons to attack on a prison officer, who suffered head and neck injuries.
Four other staff who tackled the knifemen were also injured. All five have now been released from hospital. Both of the men behind the attack remain in prison and no arrests have been made, police said.
The Metropolitan Police’s most senior counter-terrorism officer “has now confirmed the matter is being treated as a terrorist attack and the investigation continues at pace,” according to a force statement.
It said there was nothing to suggest any further continuing threat from inside or outside of Whitemoor Prison, Cambridgeshire, some 150 kilometres north of London.
Ziamani was jailed for 22 years for plotting to behead a soldier after he was inspired by two extremists who ran down soldier Lee Rigby in a car before hacking him to death close to his barracks in southeast London.
Ziamani was arrested in east London carrying a knife and a hammer after telling his girlfriend earlier that day he intended to attack and kill soldiers.
Saudi Arabia keen to maintain ‘global peace’
NEW YORK: The Kingdom condemned Iran’s violation of Iraq sovereignty after two of its military bases were targeted, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, also told a Security Council session that the Kingdom was trying to keep Iraq from war so that its people could live safely and prosperously.
The Kingdom urged the international community to work to compel Iran to respect the sovereignty of states in the Middle East, to respect international laws and treaties, and to stop undermining regional and global security.
Saudi Arabia would, he added, stand with Iraq to overcome anything that threatened its security and stability.
Al-Mouallimi said the Gulf nation was keen since to maintain international security and peace, and to promote collective action under the UN umbrella, based on its firm belief in the principles and goals of the body, and its keenness to spread a peaceful message, prevent wars and conflicts, and maintain international peace and security.
He said: “We meet as the world today, more than ever, needs to maintain international peace and security and adhere to the UN Charter in light of the increasing and accelerating conflicts and tensions. This has not occurred in decades, especially in the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf region.”
Al-Mouallimi said Saudi Arabia urged all countries to adhere to the UN Charter, in addition to urging the international community to carry out its responsibility toward this commitment, particularly regarding the necessity to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Arab lands, which violated UN principles and its charter.
Al-Mouallimi highlighted Saudi efforts in maintaining international peace and security, such as the establishment of the Council of Arab and African States bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
This initiative came from the Kingdom’s faith in the importance of this council for enhancing cooperation, investment, and development among the countries of the region, in addition to helping maintain security and face challenges and threats.
Al-Mouallimi concluded his speech by saying that Saudi Arabia would spare no effort in working with the UN — the Security Council in particular — and the countries that believed in collective action.
Trump’s sanctions threat reveals true US plot: total colonization of Iraq
By Ramin Mazaheri
(Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism.’)
Donald Trump, in his inimitable way, continues to reveal to the world the brutal imperialist truths of “democracy with American characteristics”.
When the Iraqi Parliament voted to expel US troops as a result of Washington’s inhuman slaying of Iran’s Qassem Soleimani, US President Donald Trump made it very clear: Iraq belongs to the
United States, completely.
“We will charge (Iraq) sanctions like they’ve never seen before, ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.” Trump added the sanctions would be imposed on Iraq, “if there’s any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate.”
In my mind this is perhaps the 2nd most important news out of Iraq this year: the public acknowledgment that the US is never leaving Iraq, will never countenance Iraqi dissent and would rather destroy Iraq than recognize its sovereignty.
This was a naked declaration from Trump to Iraq declaring, “We are your imperial masters.”
Iraq cannot even dare to do anything which Washington might consider “inappropriate” - the values of Washington decide what is “inappropriate” in Iraq, not Iraqi values.
Iraqis, I’m sorry to say, should realize that they have become the 51st US state. (Well, the 52nd, after Puerto Rico.) The Iraqi people have zero sovereignty, its votes are worthless nonsense, and
Iraq cannot go against the will of the US federal government any more than Wyoming, Rhode Island or Nebraska can.
My claim here is not an overreaction, and especially when we ask what exactly is it that Iraq did “wrong” in order to “deserve” sanctions?
Iraq is not Iran - they do not keep defending a popular revolution which successfully mixed Islam and democracy, something the West claims is impossible. Iraq is not North Korea, who refuse to let US troops and corporations based in Seoul move up to the China-Russia border. Iraq is not China, which has a government overseen by a party which refuses to let Western high finance control its major industries (however, I note that Iran is even more vigilant in this regard than China, which earns Iran even more Western animosity).
Baghdad has worked with Washington for nearly two decades.
Yes, we can say that this work was done at the barrel of a US cannon, but Iraq has complied with US demands. Iraqis have created links, contacts, contracts and all sorts of entanglements with
Americans and American businesses.
And yet Trump made it clear that without the presence of US troops that all means nothing.
It is now crystal clear that there is zero goodwill from Washington after all these years, zero trust, zero desire to see Iraq stand on its own two feet. Every American smile to an Iraqi inside the Green Zone has been false; every warm word a cold lie.
It’s an amazing declaration by Trump - all the years of talk about “humanitarian intervention” and about the US desire to bring “freedom to Iraq” has been declared a sham. This was guessed at by countless billions of non-Western people, but the threat of sanctions which make the Iran sanctions look “tame”… my God, hasn’t Iraq complied enough to at least avoid that?!
In many ways, this is all a part of the “beauty” of Trump.
Trump came to office in large part because he says things which Main Street knows but which no mainstream politician would even dare to suggest. Trump is such a terror to the Pentagon, Wall Street, Madison Avenue and the Beltway - which concocted an impeachment plan before Trump was even inaugurated - because Trump cannot be trusted to lie properly, and that makes him a risk to US domination.
We cannot imagine Barack Obama bragging about the sanctions he would levy on Iraq if they voted out US troops - he was a smooth-faced liar. Obama would have talked instead about
reconciliation with the past, peace and not justice, patience… and then “temporarily surge” more soldiers to Iraq.
Hillary Clinton had none of Obama’s charm - she would have reacted by boringly referring to the legal obligations of Iraq, the feasibility of processes, what the definition here of “vote” is, etc. And then would have decided on a reaction even more brutal than one Obama or even Trump could conceive.
Any “normal president” would have responded to the Iraqi vote in a way which would have calmed the situation; in a way which would have reassured Westerners that, despite their nagging
consciences, they were actually doing moral and humane things in Iraq; in a way which the Western media could use as a weapon against dissenters of Western capitalism-imperialism and
to further their insistence of TINA (There Is No Alternative).
And this is what so many hate Trump for, yet many others love him for: if the US had a “normal president” many would have complacently and mistakenly continued to believe there is genuine goodwill from Washington towards the Iraqi people. Instead Trump speaks from his gut and makes it clear: “Ha!” It’s a big, fat “Ha!” indeed.
Trump is hated by the US 1% because he egotistically and instinctively wants to take the credit and power inherently contained by this “Ha!”, but by doing so he threatens to upset the whole
enterprise of US domination; he threatens to provoke resentment which could turn revolutionary. The Iraqi people need to understand this sadistic laughing, this murderous contempt, this arrogant gloating.
The world is often fooled by brand repackaging like Obama, (phony, alleged) technocrats like Hillary Clinton and professional foolers like Bill Clinton - nobody is fooled by Trump. Trump’s
egotism makes it impossible to be fooled.
To Trump the Iraqi people do not even have the power of children to mildly rebel, but he is not the only president to hold such an imperial view.
As usual, this was an overreaction by Trump: while I certainly hope it comes to pass (although the US State Department has just officially rejected any troop withdrawal), I will believe there are no US soldiers in Iraq - no “advisers”, “technicians” or “contractors” - when I finally see it. But Trump is undoubtedly on edge over an, empty, superficial, Biden corruption-covering, essentially anti-democratic impeachment process. Incredibly, incredibly lamentably, Trump assassinated Soleimani merely to provide a distraction, and he’s not about to have some puny nobodies like Iraqis make him look weak domestically now.
Iraqis only exist to serve the US - this is what Trump’s threats to terribly sanction Iraq mean. The pity of it is that Iraqis already know all about inhuman Western sanctions: I used to ask Iraqi friends how their family was doing amid the sanctions (1990-2003) and they said, “Please, stop asking - it just gets worse and worse.” You know they were inhuman and starvation-inducing by the very name of the “concession” plan the West finally granted - the “oil-for-food program”.
Ugh. Iraqis should hope for only Iran-level sanctions, compared to that. Indeed, it is not a pleasant past, present or future for Iraq.
Their vote to expel US soldiers and reclaim sovereignty was along sectarian lines, just as Washington would have hoped for (or the French in Lebanon, to give another parallel of “Western democratic culture”). It was unanimous, but missing about 150 public servants - Kurdish and Sunni lawmakers didn’t vote.
Will Iraq’s non-Shia politicians also absent themselves when a vote comes up to denounce Trump’s new sanctions? I really don’t see what Shia theology has to do with voting against foreign occupation - do Iraqis think the US will tolerate Iraqi soldiers and bases in the US? Do they think Washington is kidding? The Washington Post reported the new sanctions are already being drafted.
Oman’s new ruler pledges to follow ‘non-interference’ policy
Oman's new ruler Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said pledged to follow the non-interference foreign policy of the late Sultan Qaboos that made the kingdom an important regional broker.
In a speech broadcast on state television, he also promised to maintain the Gulf Arab state's foreign policy which he said was built on peaceful coexistence and maintaining friendly ties with all nations.
“We will follow the path of the late sultan,” Haitham said in his first public speech after being sworn in as sultan.
He expressed support for “our country’s foreign policy of peaceful living among nations and peoples... and not interfering in the internal affairs of others, respecting nations’ sovereignty and international cooperation.”
He called for efforts to develop the relatively small oil producer, continuing the path of his predecessor Sultan Qaboos bin Said who died on Friday. Qaboos, who built modern Oman, had acted as a regional mediator.
Hundreds mourn journalists killed after covering Iraq protests
BASRA: Hundreds of Iraqis on Saturday mourned two journalists shot dead the previous evening in the country’s southern city of Basra, where they had been covering months of anti-government protests.
Ahmad Abdessamad, a 37-year-old correspondent for local television station Al-Dijla, and his cameraman Safaa Ghali, 26, were killed late on Friday, the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) said.
Hundreds marched through the streets of Basra carrying symbolic coffins, the journalists’ pictures and Iraqi flags.
One mourner said: “What happened was an attempt to scare people. But now, everyone in Basra has come out to mourn Ahmad and his colleague Safaa. It was clearly an attempt to silence the people.”
The two journalists were in a car near a police station in Basra when armed men in a 4x4 approached them and opened fire.
“Armed men attacked them and sprayed them with bullets on Friday night, which killed Abdessamad. His cameraman was taken to the city hospital, where he died,” the JFO said in a statement.
It said that two weeks before he died, Abdessamad had sent the JFO video testimony about “threats he received from militias because of his criticism of Iran in his coverage”.
Demonstrations erupted in October in Iraq’s capital and across its Shia-majority south, railing against government graft and a lack of jobs.
The protests have also slammed neighbouring Iran for economic and political overreach in Iraq and for propping up a ruling class reviled by demonstrators.
As the protests drag on, activists have complained of a growing campaign of intimidation, including assassinations, kidnappings and threats, meant to keep them from the rallies.
Around a dozen activists have been shot dead and are among the more than 460 people killed in protest-related violence since October.
The rallies had been overshadowed in recent weeks by rising tensions between the US and Iran but protesters revived them on Friday, including in Basra, where some demonstrators were arrested.
The Iraqi Journalists’ Union demanded Basra’s police conclude a speedy investigation so that “the criminals be brought to justice”.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, meanwhile, condemned the killing and urged Iraqi authorities to do more to protect reporters covering the movement.
Hundreds protest in Lebanon as crisis deepens
Hundreds protested across Lebanon on Saturday to denounce a crippling economic crisis and the political deadlock that has left the country without a government for over two months.
Chanting anti-government slogans in the capital Beirut, the northern city of Tripoli and the southern city of Nabatieh, they also denounced a class of political leaders they deem incompetent and corrupt.
In Beirut, hundreds of protesters marched to parliament, making stops at the state-run electricity company and the headquarters of the Association of Banks.
“All the reasons that made us take to the streets on October 17 still stand,” said protester Riad Issa, referring to the date Lebanon’s anti-government protest movement started. “Nothing has changed and the political establishment is closing its ears... and shutting its eyes.”
Although protests have declined in size, demonstrations have been ongoing since October, increasingly targeting banks and state institutions blamed for driving the country toward collapse.
The movement has been fueled by a crippling economic crisis, the worst since Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.
The World Bank has warned of an impeding recession that may see the proportion of people living in poverty climb from a third to half the population.
To make matters worse, a liquidity crunch has pushed Lebanese banks to limit dollar withdrawals and transfers since September.
This has forced depositors to deal in the plummeting Lebanese pound, which has lost nearly two thirds of its black market value against the greenback for the first time since it was pegged at 1,500 to the dollar in 1997.
“The country is collapsing. We want a government of independents and a rescue plan,” read a banner carried by demonstrators in Beirut.
Lebanon has been without a government since former Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29, bowing to popular pressure.
His successor, Hassan Diab, was designated on December 19 but is yet to form a government in a delay donors say debt-saddled Lebanon can ill afford.
In a statement on Friday, he said he still stands by his pledge to form a government of independent experts to rescue the country from the brink of collapse, a key demand of protesters.
But he said his efforts were being challenged.
“The pressures, no matter how large, will not change my conviction,” he said on Twitter.
“I will not bow to intimidation.”
The delay in forming a government has drawn the ire of demonstrators.
Syrian regime air strikes kill 18 civilians in Syria’s Idlib: Monitor
Regime air strikes on Syria’s last major opposition bastion killed 18 civilians on Saturday, a war monitor said, one day before a planned ceasefire is due to take effect.
Air strikes on the city of Idlib killed seven civilians, while separate air strikes on two towns near the provincial capital killed 11 others, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Iraq PM tells Kurdish leaders he does not seek ‘hostility’ with US
Iraq’s caretaker premier told Kurdish leaders on Saturday he did not seek a hostile relationship with the United States, in his first visit to the autonomous region since coming to power in 2018.
Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi travelled to Arbil with a delegation of top ministers and his intelligence chief.
The trip came at a time of political turmoil for Iraq, after months of anti-government rallies that saw Abdel Mahdi resign and worsening ties with the US as Iraqi lawmakers push for a withdrawal of foreign troops.
Abdel Mahdi met the region’s Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, President Nechirvan Barzani, and influential powerbroker Masoud Barzani, who heads the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party.
A statement from Abdel Mahdi’s office said he and the Barzanis discussed the ongoing anti-government protests, the presence of foreign troops in Iraq, and broader regional tensions.
“We do not want hostility with anyone, including the United States,” Abdel Mahdi said.
He then travelled to the Kurdistan region’s second city, Sulaymaniyah, to meet leaders of the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) sees Abdel Mahdi as a reliable ally and had hoped he would help rebuild ties between Baghdad and Arbil, which frayed following the KRG’s controversial independence referendum in 2017.
The KRG continued to back him as protests erupted across Baghdad and Iraq’s Shia-majority south in October, which eventually prompted Abdel Mahdi to step down.
Days before his resignation, the KRG had agreed “in principle” with Baghdad on a revenue-sharing deal that granted it a share of the 2020 federal budget in exchange for exporting its oil through the national seller.
The KRG saw the terms of the agreement as favorable and feared that Abdel Mahdi’s replacement would not stick to it, but political factions have not agreed on a candidate.
Kurdish authorities have also been worried by Baghdad’s insistence that foreign troops leave Iraq, following a vote in the federal parliament last week.
No Kurdish parliamentarians attended the vote and many see the US-led coalition’s presence as a counterweight to Iran.
Some 5,200 US troops are stationed across Iraq to back local forces preventing ISIS resurgence.
Bahrain’s Bapco hit by Iranian data wiper malware attack: Report
The Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco) was recently attacked by suspected Iranian state-sponsored hackers who planted malware in the company’s network designed to delete data from infected computers, accordin to a report seen by local media.
According to a report from Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News on Friday, the attack on the company’s data took place last week via suspected Iranian hackers the data-wiping malware called “Dustman.”
A technical report seen by business technology news website ZDNet said the attack did not last long, and that the hackers may have targeted a limited number of computers at Bapco.
“Bapco’s operations and supplies to the local and international market did not face any interruption, and business continued as usual without any impact,” the spokesman,” told Bahraini daily Akhbar al-Khaleej.
According to AFP, Iranian hackers working to penetrate systems, businesses, and governments around the world have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
Trump remembers late Sultan of Oman as ‘friend to all’
US President Donld Trump expressed his condolences on Saturday over the death of Sultan Qaboos of Oman, calling him a friend to America who worked for peace in the Middle East.
“As the longest-serving leader in the Middle East, Sultan Qaboos brought peace and prosperity to his country and was a friend to all,” Trump said in a statement as he joined other world leaders in remembering the ruler, whose death was reported earlier Saturday.
“His unprecedented efforts to engage in dialogue and achieve peace in the region showed us the importance of listening to all viewpoints. Sultan Qaboos was a true partner and friend to the United States, working with nine different American presidents,” Trump said.
Saudi Arabia’s leadership sends messages of condolences to Oman’s Sultan Haitham
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent on Saturday messages of condolences to Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq on the passing of the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said was sworn in as the new ruler of Oman, hours after it was announced that Sultan Qaboos passed away at the age of 79.
“We received with great sadness the news of the death of the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said – may God have mercy on him – and we pray to God Almighty that our brother be blessed with the mercy of the most merciful,” King Salman said in a statement published on the Saudi Press Agency.
Saudi King Salman also congratulated Sultan Haitham bin Tariq on his assumption as ruler of Oman and asked God to bless the new leader in order to “to achieve the aspirations of the Omani people” under his “wise leadership.”
KRG supports Baghdad’s decision on US troop pullout from Iraq
The president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, Nechirvan Barzani, says the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) supports a decision made by the central government in Baghdad concerning the withdrawal of US military forces from the country.
Speaking in a meeting with Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi in Erbil on Saturday, Barzani highlighted that the KRG throws its weight behind any decision taken by Baghdad, and that Kurdish officials back the resolution passed by Iraqi lawmakers that calls for the expulsion of foreign forces.
The Iraqi MPs approved the resolution after the United States assassinated Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and the second-in-command of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in an airstrike near Baghdad International Airport.
Abdul-Mahdi and Barzani also discussed the latest developments in Iraq, tensions between the United States and Iran, and the ongoing anti-government protests in the Arab country.
“Iraq should not be turned into a field for regional and international conflicts,” said a statement by the Kurdistan Region president’s office.
“The importance of the continuation of international aid and support for Iraq and the Kurdistan Region in the fight against terrorism, threats of terror resurgence, and Daesh terrorist activities in Iraq, especially areas located between Peshmerga and Iraqi forces, were also discussed in the meeting,” the statement added.
Abdul-Mahdi said there is “a good opportunity” to resolve issues between the Baghdad government and the KRG with “determination and serious will.”
Late on Thursday, the Iraqi caretaker prime minister called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the withdrawal of US troops from the country.
According to a statement released by the Iraqi premier’s office, Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament's decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The prime minister said Iraq rejects violation of its sovereignty, particularly the US military's violation of Iraqi airspace in the airstrike that assassinated Soleimani last week.
Abdul-Mahdi asked Pompeo to “send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism to carry out the parliament’s resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq,” the statement said.
“The prime minister said American forces had entered Iraq and drones are flying in its airspace without permission from Iraqi authorities and this was a violation of the bilateral agreements,” the statement added.
The US State Department bluntly rejected the request on Friday.
On January 5, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country.
Later in the day, Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said the parliamentary resolution to end the presence of foreign troops in the country had not gone far enough, calling on local and foreign resistance groups to unite.
"I consider this a weak response, insufficient against American violation of Iraqi sovereignty and regional escalation," Sadr, who leads the largest bloc in parliament, was quoted by Reuters as saying in a letter to parliament.
Survey: Most Saudis prefer Japan as Middle East mediator
DUBAI: More than half of Saudis polled as part of a recent YouGov survey said they view Japan as the most neutral mediator of a possible peace deal between Israel and Palestine.
Japan, at 51 percent, led the Middle East’s former biggest powerbroker and mediator, the US, by a hefty 20 percent.
The study, which was commissioned by Arab News, was intended to learn more about Arabs’ perception of Japan on topics as wide ranging as culture, society and economy.
YouGov interviewed 3,033 Arabic speakers, aged 16 years or above, residing in 18 different countries across the Arab world.
Among other Saudi Arabia-related findings, 38 percent believe the emperor of Japan signs the laws, while the numbers who believe that this power lies with the prime minister, the president and the supreme court were 35, 21 and 6 percent respectively.
The results showed that 64 percent of Saudis correctly identified Japan as belonging to the G20, while 59 percent identified it is a member of the G7.
However, 33 percent wrongly said Japan was a member of the UN Security Council.
The majority of respondents were positive about the political relationship between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Japan: 38 percent of Saudis were supportive, 20 percent were neutral, 40 percent answered positively and only one percent negatively. According to Cyril Widdershoven, director of VEROCY, a Dutch consultancy that advises on investments, energy and infrastructure risks and opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the main takeaway was that Saudis assess the position of Japan on the basis of their own system of the distribution of powers.
“As Japan officially is still led by an emperor, Saudis perhaps consider its political system to be royal family led,” he said.
“It is also hard for most Saudis, and in general Arabs in the region, to understand the mechanics of the trias politika system, in which there is a clean and clear power separation between royals, political parties and the judicial system — and the implications of this for the legal and financial systems.”
He said that, in general, people tend to assess other countries’ systems through the lens of their own cultural, political and economic structures, and consider them identical if they appear somewhat similar to their own.
“Furthermore, a democratic system — such as Japan’s — is not a fixed and clear-cut system. It depends on certain arrangements made according to the laws and traditions of the particular country,” he told Arab News.
“It is normal therefore that people don’t take all of this into account. The overall power position of Japan, especially when looking as a Saudi, is somewhat overestimated.”
The main reason for this, Widdershoven says, is that there is a lot of MENA, and especially GCC, media interest in Asian powers such as Japan, and also China and India, because of their status as headline newsmakers.
“Economic and trade relations with these countries are very strong. This produces a general tendency among Arabs to view them as major world powers, something that is not based on facts — except in the case of China — but on information they have received,” Widdershoven said.
“Additionally, Japanese products are major attractions in the Arab world. So the perceived role of Japan is influenced by many different factors except the actual global geopolitical status of Japan.
“Economic power and influence are not the same as hard military and geopolitical power.”
Lebanese failure to pay UN dues ‘scandalous’
BEIRUT: Lebanon has lost its voting rights at the UN General Assembly after failing to pay financial dues for two consecutive years. The news came as a shock to the Lebanese and some described it as “scandalous.”
Lebanon is in a political paralysis preventing the formation of a government, after Hassan Diab was nominated as PM-designate three weeks ago. It faces a dire economic crisis as well, reflected everyday by disputes and fights in banks between clients and employees, due to the lack of liquidity and the rise in the dollar’s price in the black market. Some hospitals in Beirut have even started turning patients away in the absence of medical equipment.
Lebanon’s failure to pay its dues seemed to be a combination of many issues. Former Lebanese Minister Ashraf Rifi considered the news as “a new scandal that can be added to the record of corruption and failures.”
MP Chamel Roukoz said: “We failed to pay our financial dues to the UN while public funds are being stolen and wasted daily. It is a shame to see the image of Lebanon, the country of leadership, sovereignty and glory being distorted this way.”
The Ministries of Finance and of Foreign Affairs both issued statements without specifying who is to blame. While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “it had completed all transactions within the deadline and got in touch with the concerned officials,” the Ministry of Finance confirmed “it had not received any request to make the payment and arrears will be paid on Monday.”
The positions of the two ministries reflected the scale of the political dispute between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement, where Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri was quoted on Saturday as “feeling resentful of the way the government is being formed.” Berri said he insists on a technopolitical government while President Michel Aoun wants a political government and PM-designate insists on a technocrat government. He also confirmed that “he will not participate in such a government.”
Three weeks after his nomination Hassan Diab broke his silence and issued a statement on Friday night stating “he will not allow the government formation to become a battlefield.”
“No matter how much pressure is exerted, I will not change my convictions and will not be intimidated,” he said. Diab also reiterated his commitment to “the standards he had adopted for the government formation.” He said: “I will carry out my duty and I will form a small Cabinet of specialists to protect the Lebanese amid these difficult circumstances and save the country.”
MP Yassin Jaber, a member of Berri’s parliamentary bloc, said: “What is currently happening is very shocking. The country has been facing a political vacuum since Oct 29 (the day Saad Hariri resigned) and caretaker ministers have not been performing their duties to improve the situation.”
“It all started with Gebran Bassil. It took two years and a half to elect a president and nine months to form a government. Today, our country is on the verge of collapsing and Bassil is still opposing to names of candidates who are not used to say ‘yes’ to everything,” he said.
Jaber insisted on the country’s need “for a technopolitical government, because an ill person needs a doctor with expertise to get better and not a fresh medical graduate”.
Salim Jreissaty, minister of state for presidential affairs in the caretaker government, defended the president’s competence and said, “the president is not a mailman nor a ballot box in the nomination process.”
Three major political parties have refused to participate in the government: The Future Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party and the Lebanese Forces Party, and have insisted on a government of experts to save the country for the economic crisis.
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