Books and Documents

Islamic World News (10 Mar 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)

How ISIS Is Rising In the Philippines As It Dwindles In the Middle East

Saints Oppose Sri Sri’s Name, Muslim Litigants Welcome SC’s Mediation Move in Ayodhya Dispute

Islamabad Objects To India in Anti-Graft Grouping

Khalilzad Says Peace Deal Should Guarantee No Place for Terrorism after Kabul Attack

How ISIS Is Rising In the Philippines As It Dwindles In the Middle East

Iraq Rejects Foreign Forces Deployment, Military Bases On Its Territory: Shia Cleric

Israel Hits Gaza against Hamas Sites in Response To ‘Projectile’

Muslim Council of Foreign Relations Member Condemns Ilhan Omar For Anti-Semitism

Shamima Begum Baby Death a 'Stain On The Conscience' Of UK Government


Southeast Asia

How ISIS Is Rising In the Philippines As It Dwindles In the Middle East

China Protests US Criticism of Policies On Religion

Malaysia deports six Egyptians despite concerns over torture, rights abuses

Be afraid, ex-MP tells Malays as Umno and PAS talk ties

Patriot tells politicians to stop playing the race card




Saints Oppose Sri Sri’s Name, Muslim Litigants Welcome SC’s Mediation Move in Ayodhya Dispute

India Asks Pakistan for Concrete Crackdown on Terror Groups

Mirwaiz, Geelani summoned by NIA to Delhi tomorrow

Terrorists fuelling tensions between India, Pakistan: CENTCOM chief

Babri Masjid Arbitration: Shri Shri Ravi Shankar’s open letter goes viral

No religion whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian preaches terror: Naidu

It was then BJP govt which released Masood Azhar: Rahul Gandhi



Islamabad Objects To India in Anti-Graft Grouping

Dogfight over Pakistan’s 'use and loss of F-16' lands US in awkward spot

Crisis eases as envoys return to Islamabad, Delhi

LHC to hear petition seeking Imran Khan's disqualification on March 11

Iran calls upon Pakistan to take ‘decisive’ action against militants

‘UN Chief continuously monitoring Pak-India situation’

Pakistani politicians condemn Houthi targeting of Saudi civilians


South Asia

Khalilzad Says Peace Deal Should Guarantee No Place for Terrorism after Kabul Attack

Taliban Commander Involved In High Profile Attacks, Assassinations Has Been Killed In Wardak

Nine police killed in attack in Myanmar's Rakhine: police

What went wrong with the BNP, Bangladesh's main opposition party?

Islamists twisted Menon’s speech: WP

More than 60 Taliban militants killed in Special Forces operations and airstrikes

NDS Special Forces kill mastermind of ISIS attack on a construction firm in Nangarhar


Arab World

Iraq Rejects Foreign Forces Deployment, Military Bases On Its Territory: Shia Cleric

US, Israeli Weapons Discovered From Terrorists' Former Positions Near Damascus

Al-Nujaba Spokesman: US Fails in All Plots against Iraq

18 Terrorists Killed in Foiled Attack on Syrian Army in Hama

Senior MP: US Bases Training Terrorists in 3 Iraqi Provinces

UN urges Damascus to grant it full access to returnees

Daesh ploy halts final assault on ‘caliphate’

Syria’s ancient Aleppo souk poised to regain its bustle



Israel Hits Gaza against Hamas Sites in Response To ‘Projectile’

US accuses Palestinians of manufacturing crisis over tax transfer

Rouhani urges Pakistan's decisive action against anti-Iran terrorists

Syrian forces discover US, Israeli-made munitions in militant redoubts

Israel launches fresh Gaza airstrikes, targets Palestinian boat


North America

Muslim Council of Foreign Relations Member Condemns Ilhan Omar For Anti-Semitism

Working to Get China’s Support On Listing Masood Azhar: U.S. Official

Canadian man behind Quebec mosque massacre appeals sentence

Washington protesters demand ‘regime change’ in Iran

Young Democrats Break America’s Biggest Taboo – Criticism of Israel: Writer



Shamima Begum Baby Death a 'Stain On The Conscience' Of UK Government



Khartoum says Turkish naval ship at Port Sudan to boost ‘security’

Forces loyal to Libya's Haftar eyeing Tripoli

Libyans fear showdown as eastern commander eyes capital

Libya’s Tripoli airport closed due to unidentified drone

Several dead in an attack by Boko Haram in southeastern Niger: Sources

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/how-isis-is-rising-in-the-philippines-as-it-dwindles-in-the-middle-east/d/117979



How ISIS is rising in the Philippines as it dwindles in the Middle East

March 10, 2019

Across the islands of the southern Philippines, the black flag of the Islamic State is flying over what the group considers its East Asia province.

Men in the jungle, two oceans away from the arid birthplace of the Islamic State, are taking the terrorist brand name into new battles.

As worshippers gathered in January for Sunday Mass at a Catholic cathedral, two bombs ripped through the church compound, killing 23 people. The Islamic State claimed a pair of its suicide bombers had caused the carnage.

An illustration circulated days later on Islamic State chat groups, showing President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines kneeling on a pile of skulls and a militant standing over him with a dagger. The caption on the picture sounded a warning: “The fighting has just begun.”

The Islamic State’s territory in Iraq and Syria, once the size of Britain, has shriveled after four years of U.S.-backed bombing and ground combat by Kurdish and Shiite militia fighters. What is left is a tiny village in southeast Syria that could fall any day.

But far from defeated, the movement has sprouted elsewhere. And here in the Mindanao island group of the southern Philippines, long a haven for insurgents because of dense wilderness and weak policing, the Islamic State has attracted a range of militant jihadis.

“ISIS has a lot of power,” said Motondan Indama, a former child fighter on the island of Basilan and cousin of Furuji Indama, a militant leader who has pledged fealty to the group. “I don’t know why my cousin joined, but it’s happening all over.”

The group first made a big push for southern Philippines recruitment in 2016, circulating videos online beckoning militants who could not travel to its self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Hundreds of fighters poured in from as far away as Chechnya, Somalia and Yemen, intelligence officials said.

The next year, militants who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State took over the city of Marawi in Mindanao. By the time the army prevailed five months later, the largest Muslim-majority city in the country lay in ruins. At least 900 insurgents were killed, including foreign fighters and Isnilon Hapilon, the Islamic State’s East Asia emir.

Duterte declared victory over the Islamic State. But his triumphalism apparently has not deterred its loyalists from regrouping.

“ISIS has money coming into the Philippines, and they are recruiting fighters,” said Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research. “ISIS is the most complicated, evolving problem for the Philippines today, and we should not pretend that it doesn’t exist because we don’t want it to exist.”

Since the Jan. 27 cathedral bombing on the island of Jolo, the Philippine military has responded with airstrikes and 10,000 soldiers in Jolo, according to Col. Gerry Besana, spokesman for the regional military command in the city of Zamboanga.

US surveillance drones monitor the southern Philippine archipelago, where the nation’s Muslim minority is concentrated and local insurgencies have long battled the Christian-majority state.

But even as the military offensive intensifies, the government avoids conceding that the Philippines is in the global slipstream of Islamic extremism. Top officials have played down incidents in which the Islamic State has sent foreign fighters and financing to the Philippines for deadly attacks. The violence, they often say, is squabbling between Muslim clans, or common banditry.

Within a week of the Jolo cathedral bombing, police declared the case solved, blaming a local militant group, Abu Sayyaf, with scant acknowledgment of how many of its insurgents have partnered with the Islamic State.

Visiting the Jolo cathedral, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Duterte and his entourage trampled over evidence, church officials said. Forensic investigators were kept from the crime scene for days. Dogs gnawed on body parts.

“We are asking for an independent investigation because it was too quick, too soon to say it’s a closed case,” said Jefferson Nadua, a parish priest. “This is a serious matter that needs to be looked at more deeply because the threat is not just local. It’s maybe coming from outside, from ISIS.”

For decades, local insurgencies like Abu Sayyaf, which launched a campaign of bombings and beheadings, have thrived in the lawless wilderness and seas stretching toward Malaysia and Indonesia.

In the 1990s, after Filipinos returned from the mujahedeen battlefields in Afghanistan and hard-line madrassas in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, local grievances fused with global calls for jihad. In a crescent-shaped swath of Southeast Asia, militants dreamed of a caliphate free of secular governance.

Jemaah Islamiyah, the Qaida offshoot that killed more than 200 people in a Bali nightclub in 2002, trained recruits in Philippine jungles.

Later, as the Islamic State constructed its caliphate in the Middle East, it connected disparate militants in the Philippines under one ideological banner, said Sidney Jones, the director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“The government didn’t recognize its strength in attracting everyone from university-educated students to Abu Sayyaf kids in the jungle,” Jones said. “Whatever happens to the pro-ISIS coalition in Mindanao, it has left behind the idea of an Islamic state as a desirable alternative to corrupt democracy.”

Basilan officials say the island is now safe from the Abu Sayyaf separatists who began their fight in 1991. No foreign fighters are hiding in the jungles, the local authorities insist, and they claim that the rebels have been reduced to about 20 trapped stragglers.

But Besana puts the overall number of militants on Basilan at perhaps 200, and their leader has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Indama, the former fighter who says he left Abu Sayyaf last year because he rejected the Islamic State’s ideology, claimed he saw foreign operatives in the Basilan jungle camps.

The idea that no overseas fighters have stolen onto Basilan was shattered last July when it was the site of the first suicide bombing in the Philippines.

The Islamic State claimed that the attack, which killed 11 people, had been the work of a Moroccan recruit. Philippine authorities initially denied the attack had been by a suicide bomber, much less a foreigner. Weeks later, they admitted it had been carried out by a German-Moroccan suicide bomber.

Last year, a Spaniard was arrested in Basilan with bomb-making materials. An Egyptian carrying $19,000 in cash was also stopped on his way to Basilan, according to Mujiv Hataman, the governor of the autonomous Muslim region of the Philippines.

Hataman, who travels by armored convoy, expressed worry that if the bombing raids intensify in Jolo, militants will slip undetected into Basilan via small boats. Already, they travel among Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines over poorly patrolled seas.

“One problem goes away and another starts,” Hataman said.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has blamed the Jolo attack on an Indonesian couple, although Indonesian investigators say there is little evidence.

Besana acknowledged that a number of foreign fighters were hiding in the Jolo hills, under the command of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who is believed to have replaced Hapilon as the regional Islamic State emir.

The Islamic State’s lure seems never far from the surface in the southern Philippines. At a government ceremony in Basilan where houses were awarded to former Abu Sayyaf rebels under a long-gestating peace deal to bring autonomy to the Muslim south, security was so heavy that they were outnumbered by Philippine soldiers.

Jem Habing, 22, a former Abu Sayyaf fighter who said he had joined at age 11, like many children in his village, seemed noncommittal when asked if he might rejoin.

“They convinced me that if you die in battle, you will be rewarded in the hereafter,” he said. “They said it was the right path.”




Saints oppose Sri Sri’s name, Muslim litigants welcome SC’s mediation move in Ayodhya dispute

Pawan Dixit/M Tariq Khan

Mar 09, 2019

Even as the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board and the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Friday welcomed the apex court’s initiative for mediation, the decision evoked a lukewarm response from saints in Ayodhya.

The Supreme Court on Friday constituted a three-member committee for mediation in the Ayodhya dispute. Justice Kalifulla (retd) will head the committee which will have Sri Sri Ravi Shanker and senior advocate Sriram Panchu as its members.

The committee will carry out its mediation in Ayodhya. Starting within a week, the court has set a deadline of four weeks for the committee to complete its work.

“More than a dozen efforts have been made to resolve the Ayodhya dispute through mediation. All of them failed due to stubborn approach of Muslim litigants,” said Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, head of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, the supreme body of saints that has been spearheading the temple movement across the country.

“I am not optimistic that the Supreme Court appointed mediation committee will be able to do much on the issue. The committee does not have any local resident of Ayodhya,” said the Mahant.

Sharad Sharma, regional spokesperson of VHP, also termed the decision a futile exercise. “This will only delay resolution of the issue through court’s verdict,” said Sharma.

The Hindu Mahasabha and the saints’ community of Ayodhya voiced their opposition over Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s inclusion in the mediation committee.

Mahant Dhinendra Das of the Nirmohi Akhara welcomed the court’s decision. “The Nirmohi Akhara has no objection on the inclusion of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s name in the committee,” he said.

Triloki Nath Pandey, a representative of Ram Lalla (the child deity Lord Ram), said: “I am against any form of mediation in the case at this stage. All previous efforts for an out-of-court settlement through mediation have failed.”

Some saints also questioned the absence of any saint in the committee.

Hindu litigants who are opposed to mediation plan consider Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as rank-outsider on the Ram Mandir issue. Earlier too, the Ayodhya saints had boycotted Sri Sri whenever he had tried to mediate on the dispute.

Meanwhile, UP Sunni Central Waqf Board and the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) welcomed the initiative saying they had never said no to talks on the issue.

The only discordant note was struck by AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.

“Sri Sri had threatened that India would become like Syria if Ram Mandir isn’t built. He has asked Muslims to give up their legal claim over the title of ‘Babri Masjid’. How will he be a neutral mediator?” Owaisi tweeted soon after the apex court’s order. AIMPLB secretary and counsel for Babri Masjid Action Committee Zafaryab Jilani said, “In the past, we have participated in negotiations and are again ready for talks but I would not like to say anything more at this stage.”

Waqf Board chairman Zufar Ahmed Faruqi, who has already given his consent in writing to join the mediation process in person to the apex court, said other representatives of Muslim parties in the case may also join them.

Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahli, the Imam of Lucknow Eidgah and an AIMPLB member, welcomed the court’s decision saying he was hopeful that the mediation would yield some positive outcome.

“It’s a title suit, not a faith-related case. We accepted the mediation proposal honouring the Supreme Court. Our stance on Babri Masjid has not changed at all,” said Maulana Umrain Rahmani, secretary, AIMPB.

Muslim litigant Iqbal Ansari welcomed the apex court’s decision but questioned the absence of any local representative in the three-member core committee.

“The Supreme Court move is in the right direction to resolve the Ayodhya dispute. If the temple issue is resolved by this committee then nothing could be more beneficial for the country,” said Ansari.




Islamabad objects to India in Anti-Graft Grouping

Mar 9, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has objected to India’s inclusion in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s Asia-Pacific Group (APG) on money laundering, citing New Delhi’s animosity towards Islamabad as a reason for its objection.

Pakistan’s finance ministry issued a statement on Saturday, stating that finance minister Asad Umar has written to FATF’s president asking him to appoint any other member country besides India as co-chair of the APG to ensure that “the FATF process is fair, unbiased and objective”.

The APG is a FATF-style regional body for Asia-Pacific region, comprising 41 member jurisdictions, a number of observer jurisdictions and international or regional observer organisations.

“The finance minister has cited India’s animosity towards Pakistan, which he said was well known, as the reason for the request. The minister called attention to the recent violation of Pakistan’s airspace and dropping of bombs inside Pakistani territory which he said was another manifestation of India’s hostile attitude” the ministry of finance said.

“The letter referred to Indian finance minister’s statement regarding efforts for global isolation of Pakistan and the Indian call for blacklisting of Pakistan during the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) meeting on February 18, 2019, which demonstrated Indian intentions to hurt Pakistan’s economic interests,” the statement read.

According to the statement, the finance minister sought to reason that given this, Indian presence among the evaluators and as co-chair of the joint group would undermine the impartiality and spirit of the peer review process, which lies at the heart of FATF’s methodology and objective assessment.




Khalilzad says peace deal should guarantee no place for terrorism after Kabul attack

09 Mar 2019

The U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has said that peace deal should guarantee no place for terrorism after a coordinated attack targeted a commemoration ceremony in Kabul on Thursday.

“The ISIS-K attack on civilians gathered to commemorate an Afghan leader demonstrates once again, that a comprehensive #peace agreement must guarantee that terrorism has no place in #Afghanistan’s future,” Ambassador Khalizad said in a Twitter post.

This comes as a group of insurgents targeted a ceremony in Kabul on Thursday which was organized to mark the24th anniversary of the assassination of Abdul Ali Mazari.

The ISIS Khurasan group claimed responsibility for the attack which left at least 11 dead.

However, the Ministry of Interior in a statement said Friday that the Taliban group was involved in the attack.




Iraq rejects foreign forces deployment, military bases on its territory: Shia cleric

Mar 9, 2019

Iraqi Shia cleric and the leader of the National Wisdom Movement says his fellow countrymen and women reject both a permanent foreign military base on Iraq’s territory and the deployment of foreign combat forces to the Arab country.

“Iraq is a sovereign state, not a subordinate or subjugated one. In this sense, we say no to foreign military bases, to foreign combat forces, to foreign missions, to unilateral provocations, or to attacks on neighboring countries from the Iraqi territory and airspace,” Ammar al-Hakim said during a Saturday ceremony marking the 16th death anniversary of senior Iraqi Shia Muslim cleric and political leader Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, who was assassinated in 2003 in the city of Najaf.

He added, “There is an attitude that wants Iraq to be entrenched and a prisoner of interests and narrow ideas.”

“And there is another that wants the country to perform its natural role in the (Middle East) region and decide its own fate. This will not come true unless we build a strong and independent state plus efficient institutions in accordance with a unified national strategy,” he added.

“Let us work together to build a strong and capable state, an independent, stable and prosperous Iraq. Let us work together to develop the existing political system. Systems that do not respond to reforms are doomed to failure,” Hakim pointed out.

During a meeting with Jeanine Hennis- Plasschaert, the special UN chief’s representative for Iraq and the head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), in Najaf on February 6, Iraq's top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani fiercely criticized a statement by US President Donald Trump that American forces must remain in Iraq so Washington can keep a close eye on neighboring Iran.

Ayatollah Sistani said Iraq rejected serving as a launching pad to harm any other country.

He noted that Iraq aspired to have good and balanced relations with all neighboring countries, without interference in their internal affairs.

The remarks came a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi strongly condemned Trump’s comments, stressing that his country would not accept being used for any acts of aggression against other states.

Earlier, Iraqi President Barham Salih had hit back at the US president, saying, “The Iraqi constitution rejects the use of Iraq as a base for hitting or attacking a neighboring country.”

He said Trump had not asked Iraq's permission for US troops stationed there to “watch Iran.”

In an interview with CBS television network broadcast on February 3, Trump highlighted the importance of a military base in Iraq, saying it was crucial to the surveillance of Iran’s activities.

“We spent a fortune on building this incredible base, we might as well keep it. And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran” he said in an apparent reference to Ayn al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq, which he visited during an unannounced trip to the country last December.

When asked whether he planned to use US forces in Iraq to “strike” Iran, Trump responded, “No… all I want to do is be able to watch.”




Israel hits Gaza against Hamas sites in response to ‘projectile’

9 March 2019

Israeli forces said on Saturday they had launched several strikes against Hamas sites in Gaza in response to a projectile launched from the besieged coastal territory the night before.

“IDF fighter jets and aircraft struck several military targets in a Hamas compound in the southern Gaza Strip and underground structures in the northern Gaza Strip,” it said in a statement.

“The strike was conducted in response to the projectile that was launched from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory” as well as the “balloons carrying explosive devices” into Israel and attempts to damage “security infrastructure”, it said.

Security officials in Gaza said the strikes had not caused any casualties.

A Palestinian was killed and at least 45 others wounded in Israeli firing on Friday in new protests and clashes along the Gaza border, the enclave’s health ministry said.

Mass protests, clashes

An Israeli army spokesman said around 8,400 demonstrators had gathered along a barrier between the blockaded territory and Israel, throwing explosive devices and rocks and setting fire to tires.

The Gaza Strip has been the scene of mass protests and clashes since late March last year.

Demonstrators have been calling for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to be allowed to return to former homes now inside Israel.




Muslim Council of Foreign Relations Member Condemns Ilhan Omar For Anti-Semitism

By Zachary Keyser  

MARCH 10, 2019

Dr. Qanta Ahmed, a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, a United States based-think tank, appeared on Fox and Friends this week to discuss her op-ed in which she claims that Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar is "proving to be an enormous liability to America's Muslim's."

"In her remarks, she has branded every Muslim in America as an antisemite, and this is absolutely unacceptable and un-Islamic," Ahmed said.

Some of the interview focused on the comments Ilhan Omar made about AIPAC, in which she hinted that American politicians are paid off or bribed for their support of Israel. Ahmed further explained that there is an "incredible bias that is disturbing," and that Omar fails to mention that Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar spend "tens of millions of dollars more on lobbying than AIPAC does" to push their agenda within the US government each year.

Ahmed said she believed that Omar should be ejected from the House of Foreign Affairs Committee immediately because anything that the Minnesota Representative now proposes can be "interpreted through the lens of antisemitism."

"Also very concerned, I am, that she is affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement, which is legitimizing and normalizing antisemitism. It's a movement that calls for the eradication of the State of Israel, which is unacceptable. It's disguised as a human rights movement, but it's actually antisemitism," Ahmed explained.

Ahmed added that this this the new form of antisemitism, and that this bias is infecting the Islamic community, She quoted a Washington Post op-ed, which claimed that antisemitism is carried through Islam whether Muslims like it or not. Ahmed said that this is anti-ethical to true Islamic belief

Ilhan Omar since apologized for the antisemitic comments she made.

“Antisemitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of antisemitic tropes,” she wrote. “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry.”

However, Ahmed believes that this apology is "hollow" and still concerning. She said that there is no room or justification for antisemitic speech, and that lobbying is a part of liberal democracy and should not be an excuse for the rhetoric used.

"[Antisemitism] is not only hate speech, it is genocidal speech. Antisemitism is the only vilification and prejudice of people that leads directly to genocide," Ahmed explained.

"Islam teaches us to treasure and revere the Torah, Moses, just as it does Jesus and the bible. [This rhetoric] is not coming from Islam, this is de nova, this is a 20th century construction that has been adopted in the modern Arab world and is causing strife against Muslim's who don't have that critical thinking and who see maybe the success of Israel or maybe the intelligence of the Jewish community with resentment and with animus, and I don't accept that this is a means to advocate for the Palestinian people." Ahmed concluded.




Shamima Begum baby death a 'stain on the conscience' of UK government

March 9, 2019

A decision by Britain to strip a teenage girl of her citizenship after she joined ISIS in Syria was described as a "stain on the conscience" of the government on Saturday after her three-week old baby died.

Shamima Begum was stripped of her citizenship on security grounds last month, leaving her in a detention camp in Syria where her baby died, the third of the 19-year-old's infant children to die since she travelled to Syria in 2015.

The opposition Labour party said the move to leave an innocent child in a refugee camp, where infant mortality rates are high, was morally reprehensible. A lawmaker in the ruling Conservative party said it smacked of populism over principle.

"The tragic death of Shamima Begum's baby, Jarrah, is a stain on the conscience of this government," Diane Abbott, the opposition home affairs spokeswoman said.

"The Home Secretary [Sajid Javid] failed this British child and he has a lot to answer for."

Found in a refugee camp in February, an unrepentant Begum sparked a debate in Britain and other European capitals as to whether a teenager with a ISIS fighter's child should be left in a war zone to fend for herself.

More broadly it has shown the predicament that governments face when weighing the ethical, legal and security ramifications of allowing militants and their families to return.

Begum left London aged 15 with two other schoolgirls to join Islamic State. She married Yago Riedijk, a Dutch IS fighter who is being held in a Kurdish detention centre in northeastern Syria.

After giving interviews to the media in which she said she did not regret travelling to Syria and had not been fazed by the sight of severed heads, she asked to be able to return to London to bring up her baby.

However, Mr Javid withdrew Begum's citizenship, saying his priority was the safety and security of Britain and the people who lived there.

On Friday, Switzerland said it will not help bring home adult citizens who joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq, insisting national security was paramount.

The government will not block the return of the around 20 such Swiss men, women and children in the conflict zone, but will take no active measures to repatriate the adults, the cabinet said in a statement. Only children might get help to return.

"For the government, the ultimate goal is clear: Switzerland's security and the protection of its population are top priorities," it said. They would also try to prevent the extremists from slipping back into Switzerland.

Neighbouring Austria said on Wednesday it would not help repatriate any citizens who fought for ISIS and other militant groups, as countries across the West wrestle with how to deal with returning militants.

Hundreds of people are believed to have left Europe to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. With the militant group down to its last shred of territory, some have asked to come home.

Switzerland's justice minister had said last month she would prefer to have citizens who fought for ISIS tried on the spot rather than be brought home to face criminal charges, a stance the government has now reaffirmed



Southeast Asia


China protests US criticism of policies on religion

March 10, 2019

China has issued a protest over remarks made by the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom criticising Beijing's policies toward Muslim and Tibetan Buddhist minorities.

The foreign ministry's office in Hong Kong said a speech Sam Brownback gave on Saturday "slandered" China's religious policies. It said it had registered its dissatisfaction with the US Consulate in the semi-autonomous Chinese region, where the speech was given.

US officials and UN experts say China is believed to be holding 1 million Uighurs, Muslims and members of other majority Muslim ethnic groups in political education camps in Xinjiang.

The government says those camps are vocational training centres designed to rid the region of extremism.

Brownback said China's government "is at war with faith," and called for the release of those being held over religion.




Malaysia deports six Egyptians despite concerns over torture, rights abuses


KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia has deported six Egyptians and a Tunisian suspected of being linked to Islamist militant groups abroad, despite protests from human rights groups.

The suspects include five people who allegedly confessed to being part of Egypt's banned Muslim Brotherhood, Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement on Sunday.

Rights groups say that members of the group face possible torture and persecution in Egypt, which brands them as terrorists.

The Tunisian and one of the Egyptians deported were members of Ansar al-Sharia al-Tunisia, which is listed as a terrorist group by the United Nations, Mohamad Fuzi said.

The two, both in their early 20s, had previously been detained for attempting to enter another country illegally in 2016. They allegedly used fake passports to enter Malaysia with the intention of travelling to and launching an attack in a third country, police said.

"Members of this terror group are suspected of being involved in plans to carry out large-scale attacks in other countries," Mohamad Fuzi said.

The other five Egyptians confessed to being members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and are accused of providing shelter, transport and employment for the two linked to Ansar al-Sharia.

"As the presence of these foreigners constitute a security risk, all suspects have been deported to their native country and... recommendations have been made to blacklist them from entering Malaysia for life," Mohamad Fuzi said, adding that two Malaysians were detained in the counter-terror operation.

Amnesty International Malaysia said the Egyptians deported were now at risk of enforced disappearance, torture, prolonged detention and unfair trials.

"We urge the Malaysian government to respect the principle of non-refoulement and ensure that those at risk of persecution or risk of irreparable harm in another country, including torture, are not deported,” said the group's executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu.

Malaysia has arrested hundreds of people in the past few years for suspected links to militant groups, after gunmen allied with the Islamic State carried out a series of attacks in Jakarta, the capital of neighbouring Indonesia, in January 2016.

Full report at:




Be afraid, ex-MP tells Malays as Umno and PAS talk ties

Adam Abu Bakar

March 9, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: Well-known social worker and PSM politician Dr Michael Jeyakumar today warned that any formal political cooperation between Umno and PAS should worry Malay Muslims, saying both parties represent a conservative ideology that is not in tune with the times.

The former Sungai Siput MP said Malaysian Muslims should view with concern any attempt to take Malaysia to religious conservatism.

“Malays and Muslims should be afraid, because if Umno-PAS is in control of the federal government, what kind of ideology will they use for the Malay and Muslim communities?” he said when met at a labour forum here today.

A PAS and Umno alliance is likely to be formalised, with leaders from both parties negotiating their terms of engagement in a special joint committee formed recently.

PAS and Umno are the two largest Malay-based parties, but lost to the multiracial Pakatan Harapan coalition in the general election last year.

PAS currently rules Kelantan and Terengganu, while Umno has been relegated to Perlis and Pahang following its loss of federal power.

Jeyakumar said although PSM has differences with PH, the socialist party was more comfortable with the image of Islam brought by the coalition’s leaders.

“I feel more at ease with the ways of Mujahid Yusof Rawa and Dzulkefly Ahmad,” he said, referring to the two Amanah leaders who are part of the Cabinet.

He said PSM still prefers PH to be in charge.

“If PH loses and Umno-PAS takes over, for Malaysians, it is a backward move,” he said.

Yesterday, MCA expressed its familiar reservations over a possible Umno-PAS alliance, while MIC said it had no problem working with the Islamist party.

Umno’s acting president Mohamad Hasan has several times assured that the union with PAS would not threaten non-Malays.

Today, Mohamad reportedly said that both parties were in talks to form unity governments in the four states they govern.

Jeyakumar said PH should work hard to convince the Malays who fear the coalition is not able to defend the community.

He said the government should find economic solutions to issues affecting Malays.

Full report at:




Patriot tells politicians to stop playing the race card

09 March 2019

By Jerry Choong

KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 — A group representing security personnel has chastised political leaders for engaging in racism and racial politicking, urging them not to exercise parochialism lest the country and society descend into “permanent destruction”.

Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan president Brigadier General (Rtd) Datuk Mohamed Arshad Raji said the last few by-elections have left them worried.

“Politicians made racially charged speeches aimed to incite hatred just to secure votes, culminating in the ridiculous statement that non-Malays should not be appointed as chief justice, attorney-general, and finance minister,” he said in a statement.

Describing the latest development of asking MCA and MIC to leave BN as “mischievous and bewildering”, Arshad said this goes against the historical grain of strengthening unity among the three major ethnic groups in Malaya.

“This further indicates politics has rolled back into pure racism. Historically it was pragmatic then for race-based political parties to be formed.

“The like-mindedness, understanding and the willingness to strengthen the bond of brotherliness and friendship among the various races that our founding fathers had carved out for this nation is now being threatened by selfish and self-centred politicians, particularly by those who formerly held powerful positions in government,” he said.

Arshad decried both Umno and PAS as having become “one-issue parties” by harping on Malay supremacy and Malay-Muslim unity against others, which has also led certain PH politicians to propagate policies of the Malay agenda.

He said that political parties that are not race-based were one way to start getting rid of racism.

“Patriot urges all parties to move towards achieving that purpose in sync with the multi-racial nature of our Malaysian society.

“Society cannot remain parochial in its outlook any longer after six decades of independence. We ought to be more inclusive and symbiotic in facing the challenges of our country as truly one Malaysian people,” he said.

Adding that Patriot is fed up with the politics of building obstacles instead of building bridges, enough of politics of “them versus us”, and enough of politics of exclusivity and not inclusivity, Arshad said such sentiments are dark clouds shielding the glorious proverbial Malaysian sun.

“Tolerance and understanding were thrashed and replaced with championing racial hatred. The propagation of race and religion now takes centre stage and if this is allowed to fester, there is little hope of ever seeing a united Malaysian society.

Full report at:






India asks Pakistan for concrete crackdown on terror groups

9 March 2019

India on Saturday demanded that Pakistan take concrete steps against terrorists operating from its territory, while at the same time returning its top diplomat to Islamabad amid an easing of tensions between the nuclear rivals.

Pakistan announced earlier this week that its high commissioner to India was returning to New Delhi, weeks after the two countries recalled their top diplomats for consultations as tensions flared after the suicide attack on a convoy of Indian paramilitary soldiers in the Indian-held Kashmir that killed 40 soldiers.

India blamed that attack on a Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and launched a retaliatory airstrike inside Pakistan.

Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said on Saturday that a reported Pakistani crackdown this week on seminaries, mosques, and hospitals belonging to outlawed groups and arrest of dozens of people was not enough.

He said Pakistan should take concrete steps “against terrorists and terror infrastructure” on its territory.

Kumar said a recent United Nations statement also called for “perpetrators, organizers, financiers, and sponsors of terrorism to be held accountable and brought to justice.”

He accused Pakistan of failing to take any credible action against Jaish-e-Mohammed and other terrorist organizations, which he said continued to operate with impunity from Pakistan.

“The widespread presence of terrorist camps in Pakistan is a public knowledge within and outside Pakistan,” he said.

Pakistan says it has arrested 44 people, including the brother of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar who was apparently named in a dossier given to Islamabad by New Delhi. It also says shut a number of facilities and frozen assets of several outlawed organizations.

Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Saturday that his country was acting against the banned militant outfits and it would not allow anyone to “use the Pakistani land for terrorism against any country.”

He also said Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had asked India to send evidence it has against anybody.

“India hasn’t shared yet any actionable information and proof against anybody,” he added.

Chaudhry also said Khan has invited India to take part in a joint investigation and negotiations, but there had been no response from the Indian side.

Retaliatory strike

New Delhi’s retaliatory strike in the northwest Pakistan town of Balakot last month, sent tensions spiraling.

India said its air force hit a terrorist training camp and killed “a very large number” of militants. Pakistan said the strike only damaged three trees in a forest.

Islamabad responded by shooting down two Indian warplanes and capturing a pilot, who was later returned to India as a peace gesture. India said it lost only one aircraft.

Since then, the two sides have exercised restraint amid calls from the international community to avoid war.




Mirwaiz, Geelani summoned by NIA to Delhi tomorrow

Mar 09, 2019

Mir Ehsan

The National Investigative Agency (NIA) on Saturday summoned Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Naseem Geelani, son of hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, to Delhi on Monday for questioning in connection with a terror funding case. Farooq’s secretary, Syed Rehman Shamas, confirmed receiving the summons. “Yes, NIA has summoned Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to Delhi,” he said.

On February 26, the NIA carried out searches at seven locations, including the residences of Farooq, Geelani, JKLF leader Yaseen Malik, Shabir Shah, Ashraf Sehrai and Zaffar Bhat in connection with the same case.

An NIA spokesperson said officials recovered incriminating documents, including property papers, financial transactions receipts and bank account details during the raids. Electronic devices, including laptops, e-tablets, mobile phones, pen drives, communication system and DVRs, were also seized, he added.

Full report at:




Terrorists fuelling tensions between India, Pakistan: CENTCOM chief

Mar 09, 2019

Terrorists operating out of Pakistan and Afghanistan are fuelling tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad according to Chief of US Central Command or CENTCOM General Joseph Votel.

“Militants operating out of Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to threaten Afghan stability as well as stoke tensions between Pakistan and India,” the general said on Thursday afternoon, reported Dawn.

“US security assistance to Pakistan remained suspended, but some military cooperation activities continued, demonstrating the importance of military cooperation, despite challenges in the bilateral relationship,” said General Votel, who also supervises Washington’s military strategy for the Pak-Afghan region.

These remarks come in the wake of tensions between India and Pakistan. A day after India launched a strike against JeM in Pakistan’s Balakot, the fighter jets of the two countries engaged in a dogfight in the skies of Jammu and Kashmir after Pakistani F-16 planes transgressed into the Indian air space.

The US had supported India’s decision to take action against Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror camp on the Pakistani soil on Tuesday.

After the Indian strikes, the US Secretary of State Pompeo had said, “I spoke to Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi to underscore the priority of de-escalating current tensions by avoiding military action, and the urgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil.”

Full report at:




Babri Masjid Arbitration: Shri Shri Ravi Shankar’s open letter goes viral

Mar 10, 2019

New Delhi: Supreme Court of India nominated Shri Shri Ravi Shankar as one of the member of the three member Babri Masjid arbitration committee.

In his open letter which was written earlier, Shri Shri Ravi Shankar had appealed to the Muslim community to be magnanimous to surrender the claim of Babri Masjid.

In his letter, he said that this step will go a long way in creating communal harmony in the country. If the Muslims withdraw their claim, Hindu community will also come forward not only to locate another piece of land but also help construct a beautiful masjid.

Full report at:




No religion whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian preaches terror: Naidu

Mar 10, 2019

San Jose [Costa Rica], Mar 10 (ANI): Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, on Saturday, reinforced that terrorism has no religion while interacting with the Indian community here during his official three-day visit.

"Terrorism isn't an issue for India alone. It's an international issue. Even America that never used to understand our pain are now understanding. Terrorism is the enemy of humanity, terror has no religion. No religion whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian preaches terror," the Vice President said.

He also made an apparent reference to Pakistan during his speech. "We're a peace-loving country. All time Dick and Harry came and attacked us, ruled us, ruined us, cheated us...But we never attacked anyone because we believe in the philosophy that the entire world is one family...But we have a neighbour who is aiding, training, funding terrorists," he said.

Talking about the recent anti-terror strikes, he said: "Our neighbour is aiding terrorists, open secret. Recently after Pulwama attack where 40 security personnel lost their lives, four of our Indian Air Force aircraft went to Pakistan, targeted that training camp, destroyed it and came back without any problem within 21 minutes."

Following the interaction, Naidu embarked for his journey back to New Delhi, wrapping up his first two-nation, five-day visit to Costa Rica and Paraguay.

"¡Hasta la próxima! After a productive visit to Costa Rica, the last leg of the twonation tour of Latin America, VP @MVenkaiahNaidu emplanes for a long ride home. This historic visit has fortified relations with two important countries of the region," Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted on Sunday.

Naidu pushed for closer trade ties between India and Costa Rica during India's first VVIP visit to the Central American country.

On Thursday, Naidu was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate by the University for Peace founded by the United Nations Organisations (UNO) for his contribution "to the Rule of Law, democracy and sustainable development in India".

Full report at:




It was then BJP govt which released Masood Azhar: Rahul Gandhi

Mar 9, 2019

HAVERI: Holding the BJP directly responsible for Pulwama terror attack, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said if the BJP government led by late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had not released the Jaish-eMohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar, the terror attack would not have happened.

Addressing a strong audience of over 75,000 at his maiden poll rally at Haveri’s municipal grounds here on Saturday, Congress chief launched a scathing attack on BJP over Pulwama terror attack. He said BJP was responsible for Pulwama attack, it was the BJP who released the terrorist after Kandahar hijacking episode.

Gandhi said his party would never bow before the terrorists and has the capacity to deal with terrorism. “Prime Minister Modi has forgotten that it was his party when it was in power had released the most wanted terrorist, he should explain it to the nation,” he said.

Rahul Gandhi in his 46-minute long speech highlighted the failure of NDA government led by Prime Minister Modi, he accused him of dividing the nation into two parts, one is for rich and affluent and another one was for poor, dalits, women, downtrodden, who are being neglected in second India. He promised ‘ek Hindustan’, by cleaning the line between two India.

He promised that if the Congress forms the next government in the centre, he would implement a minimum income guarantee scheme for poor. The model was announced in Chhattisgarh already, he said.

Under the scheme, poor would get minimum income directly to their accounts. The BJP has stolen the money from poor, taxpayers and middle class and offered it to Anil Ambani, Adani, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Vijay Mallya and others. BJP helped the thieves but the Congress would help the poor, he promised.

He also assured that Congress would first implement Women Reservation Bill if voted to power. “Women should be involved in major decision making; they are required in the prime elected representative bodies. The Congress party would provide you with that opportunity,” he said.

Rahul said if the Congress voted to power, they would make the Goods and Service Tax (GST) into more simple by bringing rigorous reforms into it. “ I know the pain of the small vendors, small and medium entrepreneurs who went through lots of hardship because of this ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ and demonetisation implemented by this government,” he said.

Touching upon Rafale issue, Rahul questioned why Modi is not answering the nation as to why Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence was selected as a partner instead of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Modi facilitated loot around Rs 35,000 crore in Rafale deal by making Ambani as a partner in the deal.

Full report at:






Dogfight over Pakistan’s 'use and loss of F-16' lands US in awkward spot

Mar 9, 2019

WASHINGTON: India is asking the Trump administration to examine the possible misuse of US-made F-16s by Pakistan during its attempted air incursion across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, saying Islamabad may have violated Washington's terms and conditions of the sale.

New Delhi has presented extensive testimony by American officials to the US Congress in which they assured lawmakers that Washington has a ''very enhanced end-use monitoring program'' of Pakistan’s F-16s, which has long been a symbol of pride and machismo for the Pakistan Air Force, even though it is now largely outdated.

The US commitment was made in a June 2006 hearing by John Hillen, US assistant secretary of state for politico-military affairs in the state department, in response to concerns from the House International Relations Committee about the possible misuse of the fighter jet by Pakistan.

Among the assurances provided by Hillen was that Pakistan must comply with approved security plans for their F-16-related bases and facilities before the US would release any systems in the sale.

"We will have a US presence to monitor compliance with the security plan requirements, a very enhanced end-use monitoring program,'' Hillen told the committee, outlining ''semi-annual inventories of all F-16 aircraft equipment and munitions, including related technical data, and more frequent inventories for other systems."

Hillen pledged a "two-man rule, so to speak, for access to this equipment and restricted areas, and F-16 flights outside of Pakistan or participation in exercises and operations with third nations must be approved in advance by the United States government."

The US also mandated that the F-16 maintenance and parts storage must be in dedicated facilities as part of the overall surveillance plan, and there "will be no delivery of F-16 aircraft equipment and munitions until Pakistan is fully compliant with the security plan requirements."

The assurances suggest Washington can easily determine if Pakistan used the F16s in its air attack on India with the possible loss of one F16 that New Delhi says was shot down by the MiG-21 Bison. After initial reports that F-16 jets were involved in the attack, Pakistan has quickly backed down and claimed only its China-developed JF-17 aircraft was used.

However, New Delhi’s presentation of parts of an Amraam missile discharged on its territory has put Pakistan in a spot.

"Evidence of the use of Amraam Missile, which can only be deployed on the F-16 with Pakistan, has also been shown to the media. We have asked the United States to also examine whether the use of F16 against India is in accordance with the terms and conditions of sale," India’s external affairs ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

The statement also said Pakistan should explain why it continues to deny that its F-16 aircraft has been shot down when there are eye-witness accounts and electronic evidence, and if, as Pakistan claims, a second Indian aircraft was shot down, why it has not shown the fuselage or produced the pilot of that aircraft.

Pakistan initially claimed to have shot down two Indian jets, and some videos posted online showed two pilots bailing out.

Subsequent reports spoke of one of them being the pilot of a Pakistani F-16 who was beaten to death by a mob that mistook him for an Indian pilot.

There were also fervid stories in the Pakistani media that Israel was involved in the attack and an Israeli pilot had been captured by Pakistan.

The Trump administration has not addressed the issue of the F-16 use or loss by Pakistan beyond saying it is looking into the matter.

The fourth-generation fighter jet made by Lockheed Martin has long been the mainstay of the Pakistan Air Force (and many other air forces across the world), and the company has in recent years offered to shift the entire manufacturing line to India to keep it extant.

The dogfight over F16 use/misuse came even as US officials and military commanders trod a delicate line on Pakistan’s continued patronage of terrorism in view of Islamabad’s role in bringing the Taliban to the table to enable an American exit from Afghanistan.

The US Centcom Commander Gen Joseph Votel told American lawmakers last week that "Pakistan based groups like Lashkare-Tayyiba threaten India and carry out attacks that jeopardize regional stability and US strategic interests" but said Pakistan presents both challenges and opportunities and its cooperation is "imperative for the success of our South Asia strategy."

The US South Asia strategy essentially gives India primacy in the region.




Crisis eases as envoys return to Islamabad, Delhi

Baqir Sajjad Syed

March 10, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The recent Pakistan-India crisis eased significantly on Saturday as high commissioners of both countries returned to their places of posting to resume their diplomatic work and New Delhi claimed to have “achieved its objectives”.

High commissioners Sohail Mahmood and Ajay Bisaria returned to New Delhi and Islamabad, respectively, 11 days after the tensions between their countries peaked with Indian aircraft intruding into Pakistani airspace on Feb 26 and claiming to have hit alleged terror bases.

Take a look: Truth about Pulwama will be buried if citizens don't hold the Modi government accountable

The crisis had started after the Feb 14 bombing of a bus belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force, an Indian security force, in Pulwama (Occupied Kashmir) in which over 44 Indian security personnel were killed. Delhi called back HC Bisaria on Feb 15 for consultations, whereas HC Mahmood was asked by the Foreign Office to return to Islamabad on Feb 18.

Tensions began to defuse after intervention by influential world capitals when they saw the escalation rapidly moving on a dangerous track.

On a day the Pakistan Air Force bombed an open space across Line of Control (LoC) to demonstrate its will, capability and resolve to respond to Indian aggression and later downed two Indian fighter jets, and Indian Army further turned up the heat by intensifying shelling along the LoC targeting civilians in addition to, according to Pakistani authorities, planning a missile attack on Pakistan with BrahMos cruise missiles, the diplomatic efforts stepped into top gear to prevent the situation from aggravating further. The United States, China, Saudi Arabia and the European Union all claimed to have contributed to de-escalation.

India, after the initiation of high level diplomacy, shared with Pakistan a dossier on Pulwama attack, containing what it claimed to be proof of banned outfit Jasih-e-Mohammad’s involvement in the incident although it had turned down an earlier offer by Prime Minister Imran Khan for Pakistan’s cooperation in investigations. “If you have any actionable intelligence that a Pakistani was involved, give that information to us. I guarantee that I will take action. We won’t take this action because we feel pressured, we’ll do this because such persons would be enemies of Pakistan,” PM Khan had said on Feb 19 while pledging punishment for the guilty. His offer had come exactly a week before the crisis peaked.

The sharing of the dossier was the first indication of flexibility in India’s position. Islamabad on that occasion announced the release of Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan, who had been captured after the downing of his aircraft on Feb 27.

Later, Pakistan unilaterally took the initiative of announcing the return of its high commissioner to Delhi on March 5, besides reaffirming its commitment to continuing negotiations on proposed Kartarpur Corridor agreement and resuming military hotline communication between the operations directorates at the level of directors general. India took four days to reciprocate and on Friday night announced that its high commissioner Bisaria too would be returning to Pakistan.

Pakistan maintained its ascendency in military sphere throughout the crisis. The only area of weakness with respect to the country was its narrative on its commitment to act against militant organisations. The National Security Committee that met on February 21 had directed law enforcement agencies to expedite ground action against proscribed groups and Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its charity wing Falah-i-Insaaniat were downgraded from the list of under observation entities to banned category. The action on proscribed groups was attributed to the process at the Financial Action Task Force.

The return of the high commissioners marks the resumption of direct contacts at the highest level of the high commissions of the two countries in each other’s capitals.

Talking to HC Mahmood prior to his return, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had emphasised direct contacts with India. Better relations between India and Pakistan would ensure regional peace and stability, Mr Qureshi had told him.

Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Raveesh Kumar, in a statement issued from Delhi on Saturday, said: “Our non-military counter terrorism strike of 26 February achieved the intended objective. It has demonstrated our firm resolve to take decisive action against cross-border terrorism.”

Experts believe that India could not have closed the crisis while accepting failure of the dangerous mission it undertook though it suffered massive military setbacks. Therefore, this claim of attainment of objectives, irrespective of it being contrary to ground realities, means India has finally drawn a line under the latest episode.

Full report at:




LHC to hear petition seeking Imran Khan's disqualification on March 11

March 09, 2019

The Lahore High Court on Saturday accepted for hearing a petition seeking Prime Minister Imran Khan's disqualification on the basis of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.

The appeal, which will be heard on March 11, claims that Khan had concealed the alleged parentage of Tyrian Jade Khan White in his nomination papers for the 2018 election.

Tyrian While is the daughter of Ana-Luisa (Sita) White, the daughter of the late Lord Gordon White. It has often been alleged that Tyrian is Imran Khan's daughter.

"Imran Khan did not mention White as one of his dependants in his nomination papers, and thus he does not measure up to Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution," the petition read. Articles 62 and 63, set the precondition for a member of parliament to be "sadiq and ameen" (honest and righteous).

The petitioner demands that Imran Khan be disqualified by the Lahore High Court.

Earlier this year, on January 21, the Islamabad High Court had also thrown out a similar petition terming it non-maintainable as it involved personal matters.

The petitioner had sought to argue that Prime Minister Khan should be disqualified for 'concealing' his alleged parentage of Tyrian Jade Khan White in his nomination papers for the 2018 election.

Full report at:




Iran calls upon Pakistan to take ‘decisive’ action against militants

MARCH 10, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday called for ‘decisive’ action by Pakistan against a militant group behind a deadly suicide attack in a border area, and said inaction by Islamabad could jeopardise relations between the neighbours.

Iran’s state news agency IRNA said Rouhani’s remarks came in a telephone conversation with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who said he would soon have ‘good news’ for Iran, according to the agency.

A suicide bomber killed 27 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards in mid-February in a southeastern region where security forces are facing a rise in attacks by militants from the country’s Sunni Muslim minority.

The Sunni group Jaish al Adl (Army of Justice), which says it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for the ethnic minority Baluchis, claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We are awaiting your decisive operations against these terrorists,” IRNA quoted Rouhani as telling Khan. “We should not allow decades of friendship and fraternity between the two countries to be affected by the actions of small terrorist groups, the source of whose financing and arms is known to both of us,” Rouhani said.

Iran has blamed its regional rival Saudi Arabia and arch-enemies Israel and the United States for the attack and other cross-border raids, an accusation rejected by the countries.

“It is in Pakistan’s own interest not to allow our territory to be used by terrorist groups, and the Pakistani army is prepared to confront the terrorists more decisively with the information provided by Iran,” IRNA quoted Imran Khan as saying. Khan said Pakistani forces have come close to the terrorists’ hideout and there would soon be ‘good news’ for Iran, IRNA reported.

According to a statement issued by the PM Office in Islamabad, Prime Minister Imran Khan had a telephonic conversation with President of Iran Hassan Rouhani as part of his contacts to brief important regional countries and their leadership about the regional situation. Both leaders reiterated the importance of strengthening bilateral relations, the statement said.

Both sides looked forward to the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Iran in the near future. They agreed that the visit would help deepen bilateral coordination and cooperation.

Prime Minister Imran khan expressed his heartfelt condolences on the recent terrorist attack in which 27 Iranian guards were killed. The two leaders agreed on the need for closer cooperation among the two intelligence agencies in combating terrorism.

Prime Minister Khan also briefed the Iranian president about the latest situation vis-a-vis India, and Pakistan’s untiring efforts to defuse the situation through dialogue and improve bilateral relations with India. He underscored the role of important brotherly countries like Iran to help in this situation.

The prime minister thanked the Iranian leadership for their consistent and principled support for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Full report at:




‘UN Chief continuously monitoring Pak-India situation’

MARCH 10, 2019

UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, is ‘continually’ monitoring the situation between Pakistan and India, and his office remains available to both countries, as relayed by his spokesperson on Saturday.

A spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Stephane Dujarric, was asked by reporters in New York if Guterres had spoken with the two prime ministers to de-escalate tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours. He assured, “The secretary-general and members of his staff are in touch…have been in touch with the parties at various levels.”

“We continually monitor the situation and (are) available to the parties,” Dujarric added.

He claimed that the UN chief was continuously keeping an eye on the political developments.

Previously, UN Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, had slammed India on March 7 over its “divisive policies” for extensively marginalising Muslims among its other minorities.

She remarked while presenting her annual report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, “India’s narrow political agendas are marginalising Muslims and other minorities in an already unequal society.”

She further added that the global peacemaking body was hearing reports of increasing harassment and targeting of minorities, especially Muslims and people from historically disadvantaged and marginalised groups, including Dalits and Adivasis.

Full report at:




Pakistani politicians condemn Houthi targeting of Saudi civilians

March 09, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s major political parties on Saturday condemned a Houthi attempt to target civilians in the southwest Saudi city of Abha, a day after the Royal Air Defense Force shot down a Houthi drone 230 km north of the Yemen border.

Omar Sarfraz Cheema, the ruling party’s central information secretary, told Arab News: “Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf strongly condemns this incident, as it is against international law and the UN charter to target civilians in any conflict.”

He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had already urged the Houthis to engage in “meaningful dialogue” with Saudi Arabia to resolve the conflict.

“This is a divisive issue for the whole Muslim world and should be resolved through negotiations,” he said.

The civil war in Yemen has pitted the Houthis against the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi since 2014, and the Saudi-led coalition intervened on the government’s side the following year, accusing Iran of supplying the Houthis with arms, including drones and missiles.

Since the beginning of the four-year conflict, the Houthis have fired dozens of missiles into Saudi Arabia with most intercepted by the Saudi military. In recent weeks, tensions between warring parties rose after the stalling of a UN-led peace deal.

The attempted attack has been met with unified condemnation across all party lines in Pakistan.

Raja Mohammed Zafarul Haq, of the PML-N and leader of the opposition in the Senate, said that Houthi rebels were trying to undermine the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia “with the complicity of some other countries.”

Naveed Chaudhry, a senior leader of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, said Houthi rebels should understand the human cost of the conflict and abide by recent UN agreements.

“It is better if the conflict is resolved at the OIC level to the satisfaction of all relevant stakeholders,” he said. “It is a historic fact that Pakistan has always stood by the Kingdom and will continue to do so to protect the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia.”

Pakistan’s foreign office has in the past condemned the Houthis for their missile and rocket attacks on Saudi territory, reiterating full support and solidarity to protect the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia and its two holy cities.

Full report at:




South Asia


Taliban commander involved in high profile attacks, assassinations has been killed in Wardak

09 Mar 2019

A top Taliban commander who was involved in high profile attacks and assassinations has been killed in an airstrike in central Maidan Wardak province.

According to the informed military sources, the Taliban leader Ubaid was killed in Sayyidabad district.

The sources further added “An air strike in Sayyidabad district of Wardak province killed Taliban Commander Ubaida, a high profile attack and assassination operative.”

“Ubaida is believed to have been responsible for facilitating, ordering and conducting several assassinations on government employees and other non-combatants,” the sources said.

The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban have not commented regarding the report so far.

Wardak is among the relatively volatile provinces in central parts of Afghanistan. Taliban and other groups are active in some of its districts and often attempt to carry out attacks against the government and security institutions.




Nine police killed in attack in Myanmar's Rakhine: police

March 10, 2019

Nine policemen have been killed in a militant attack in Myanmar's western Rakhine state, police said on Sunday, as tensions ratchet up in a state riven by ethnic and religious conflict.

A bloody military crackdown in 2017 forced some 740,000 Rohingya Muslims over the border into Bangladesh in violence UN investigators have said warrants the prosecution of top generals for genocide and crimes against humanity.

But the armed forces are now waging a war against a militant group claiming to represent the state's ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, a population that also stands accused of aiding soldiers in their expulsion of the Rohingya.

The Arakan Army (AA) has in recent months mounted several attacks on security forces and officials in its struggle for more autonomy and rights for Rakhine people.

The attack late on Saturday took place in Yoetayoke village, just an hour north of Rakhine state's capital Sittwe.

Images seen by AFP showed bodies lying on the ground, covered in blankets with a pool of blood soaking into the dust in the grounds of the ramshackle police station.

"Nine police were killed, one was injured and another one is missing," a senior police officer told AFP, not wanting to be named.

A leaked police report said weapons were also taken from the police post.

No group has yet claimed responsibility and the AA could not immediately be reached for comment.

A local administrator confirmed investigations are under way.

Engulfed in conflict

Northern Rakhine state is inaccessible outside of carefully government-chaperoned trips and information is difficult to verify independently.

But swathes of the state's north are once again engulfed in conflict.

The military has brought in thousands of reinforcements and is bombarding AA positions with heavy artillery.

Several thousand people have been forced from their homes by the violence.

Yet there is widespread support for the AA's cause across much of Rakhine, one of the poorest states in the country, where many feel they have suffered decades of discrimination by the state.

Some 100 local administrators submitted their resignation en masse this month calling for the release of four colleagues reportedly arrested for having links with the AA.

The verdict in a treason trial against a popular Rakhine politician is also expected in the coming days and could prove to be a further flashpoint.

Aye Maung stands accused of treason after allegedly inciting Rakhine people in a speech last year to take arms and rise up against the country's ethnic-Bamar (Burmese) majority.

The AA has expanded its ranks since its formation in 2009 and is now believed to have several thousand recruits.

The group ramped up operations at the end of last year, but it was a deadly attack on four police posts on Independence Day early January that focused the country's attention and triggered the military's swift retaliation.

Thirteen police officers were killed in the brazen attack and in an unprecedented move the civilian government instructed the military to crack down on the insurgents.

This came just a couple of weeks after the military declared a unilateral ceasefire against ethnic armed groups on the other side of Myanmar, allowing the army to concentrate its efforts in Rakhine.

Myanmar's restive borderlands have been plagued by conflict since independence from British colonial rule 70 years ago.

Full report at:




What went wrong with the BNP, Bangladesh's main opposition party?

by Mubashar Hasan   & Arild Engelsen Ruud

Mar 10, 2019

On December 31, 2018, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina secured her third consecutive term with a landslide victory in Bangladesh's national election, raising concerns that the south Asian country of some 160 million may be turning into a "one-party state".

Sheikh Hasina's party, the Awami League (AL), and its allies won almost all the 300 parliamentary seats contested in its best ever result. The main opposition alliance, led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), on the other hand, managed to secure only seven seats.

The BNP's disappointing result in last year's election caused many Bangladesh watchers to question whether the former ruling party, which won four national and two presidential elections since its formation in 1978 but has not been in power since 2006, will ever regain its position as a major political force in the country.

Today, a BNP resurgence in Bangladesh seems unlikely for three main reasons.

Losing the public's support

First, the BNP no longer commands popular support.

The party's Chairperson Khaleda Zia is in jail for corruption charges and her son and the party's Acting Chairman Tarique Rahman has been living in exile in London for more than 10 years. In October 2018, a Bangladeshi court also sentenced Tarique to life in prison over a 2004 assassination attempt on Sheikh Hasina, which killed 24 people and injured many others. Many of the party's other leaders and prominent supporters are also either in jail, exile or hiding and the rest is trying to keep a low profile. The party categorically denies any wrongdoing by any of its leaders and says all charges are politically motivated. Nevertheless, it has lost a significant number of supporters as a result of these accusations.

Moreover, in 2013 the BNP, supported by its ally, the Jamaat-e-Islami, sought to change the election law through general strikes and street protests and announced its intention to boycott the upcoming 2014 general election citing unfair conditions. Sheikh Hasina's government went ahead with the election despite the boycott and easily won a new term in power. In response, the BNP continued the unrest - buses were burned, bombs were thrown, and major disruptions were caused to public life. This caused the public to turn against the main opposition party.

In 2018, the BNP agreed to peacefully participate in the general election, yet failed to regain popular support. With most of its leaders and activists either in hiding or in jail, the party was almost invisible during the campaign and on the day of the vote. In spite of the obvious state bias against it, there was no outpouring of public sympathy for the BNP.

This is not to say that the BNP had no chance of winning the election, or at least making substantial gains, if the vote was completely free and fair. However, the public's apparent disinterest in the injustices facing the BNP and its leaders clearly demonstrated that any gain by the BNP would have been the result of their anger at the incumbent government, not their support for the opposition.

Failing to remain relevant

Second, the BNP has failed to integrate itself into influential public mobilisations in the last few years.

In February 2013, a huge popular protest erupted in Dhaka's Shahbag district, demanding the Bangladeshi state to abide by the secular principles it was built on. A few months later, the Hifazat-e Islam - a coalition of a dozen or so Islamist organisations - started a counterprotest movement aiming to alter the country's secular political culture. Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis took to the streets in favour of these two conflicting movements and ignited a major national debate on the very core values and principles of the state.

However, the BNP failed to find its place in this major national conversation. The Shahbag youth kept it at arm's length, while Hefazat ignored BNP's support because it was already strong - a coalition of organisations based at more than 25,000 religious schools across Bangladesh.

Since 2015, there have been three more significant youth mobilisations: the "No VAT on Education" movement against a government tax on private university education, the quota reform movement for broader intake to government jobs, and the road safety movement. The BNP was neither able to play a role in any of these protests nor was it able to position itself in the debates.

Lacking a clear agenda

Third, the BNP lacks a clear agenda.

In the eyes of the Bangladeshi public, the BNP wants to be in power but offers no explanation as to what exactly it would do - or change - once it forms a government.

It is healthy for a country to have the ruling elite change regularly, but when the main alternative fails to bring an attractive proposition to the table, change for the sake of change becomes a less attractive option for the people.

Moreover, the BNP does not appear to follow a particular ideology, and this makes it an even less attractive opposition force. While most Bangladeshi political parties and groups are mostly clientelist, they still have a kernel of ideology. Even the ruling AL appears to have a (nationalist) ideology, however malleable, derived from the pre-eminent role it played in the war of liberation.

The BNP, on the other hand, has not been built on a legacy that it can transform into a coherent and attractive ideology. From the outset, it was a hotchpotch of elements - leftists dissatisfied with the AL's nationalism, rightists hankering for an Islamist revival, opportunists, and Pakistan-era establishment figures sidelined by the new rulers after Bangladesh's independence.

The main two campaign pledges of the BNP in the run-up to the 2018 election were to free its jailed leader Khaleda Zia from prison and to reform the election system. Apparently, very few people in Bangladesh care much about Khaleda Zia's imprisonment. She is a politician, and all politicians are corrupt, seems to be the general sentiment.

As for reforming the electoral system, many believe the BNP has exhausted its chances. Of course, free and fair elections are desirable in the eyes of most voters. Yet following its botched attempts to bring about election reform in 2013-2014, which caused major suffering and disruption, many Bangladeshis believe the BNP is not capable of doing much to fix the country's problematic election system.

A free and fair election might bring the BNP to power, but for most voters that would only mean giving power to people who have not proven particularly competent in the past. This is why, when faced with a choice between the BNP and the ruling AL, most Bangladeshis ask themselves "What could the BNP do that the Awami League isn't already doing?"

The AL is not invincible

So, now what? The AL has successfully established a firm grip on the state and destabilised the traditional two-party structure of Bangladeshi politics. Moreover, the country is doing quite well on a range of indexes, including economic growth and human development. Has the opposition no chance of regaining the favour of the public and topple the all-powerful AL?

Not necessarily.

Bangladesh is still a country with a lopsided industry, growing inequality, high figures of unemployment or partial employment, a homespun "terrorist" threat, a refugee crisis, a border problem, and a mounting pollution issue.

There is reason to believe the support of the forces that really matter - the army, bureaucracy, police and the "deep state" - for the ruling party is conditional on its successful performance. An economic hiccup or a major political faux-pas can easily cause Sheikh Hasina's party to fall out of favour and lose its grip on power.

Moreover, the public's support for the ruling party is equally apprehensive. Most voters choose the AL not because they believe the party represents all their beliefs and offers solutions to all their grievances, but because they view the ruling party as the best of a bad bunch.

Bangladesh is a huge country with a 160 million-strong population. It has leftists, conservatives, city dwellers and millions living in rural areas. There are nationalists, socialists, Islamists and minorities. There are people concerned with environmental problems, there are women's rights activists. None of these groups has specific political representation in the country at this point in time - as a result, many of them vote for the AL.

Such dissipate orientations cannot for long be kept under one umbrella, especially as state resources are limited. There is also a general disenchantment with the political class, a lack of state legitimacy, huge corruption, a brain-drain, poor infrastructure, and a capital city weighed down by its own enormity.

There is ample chance for an opposition movement to underline the shortcomings of the ruling party, offer some real solutions to the deep-rooted grievances of the public, and carve itself an influential space in Bangladesh's electoral map or even topple the government - despite the ruling party's relentless grip on power. A youthful, focused and goal-oriented opposition force, using imagination and political skill, can easily mobilise the unrepresented but politically sensitive masses in Bangladesh and facilitate change.

However, the BNP is unlikely to be that opposition force.

The main opposition party has not been unsuccessful in last year's elections only because it was repressed and silenced by the incumbent government. It failed because of its old and unimaginative leadership, its inability to present an inspiring agenda and carve out a new path for the country.

There still is a chance for change in Bangladesh - but it is unlikely to be facilitated by the BNP.

Full report at:




Islamists twisted Menon’s speech: WP

Mar 10,2019

The Workers Party of Bangladesh on Saturday said that Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh and some other Islamist organisations twisted party president Rashed Khan Menon’s statement made in Jatiya Sangsad on March 3.

The politburo of the party in a statement said that the groups started staging protests demanding steps against Menon bringing allegation about things which he did not mention in his speech in parliament.

The proceeding of parliament kept record of his speech and Menon did not say anything criticising Islam.

Some Islamist groups, including Hefazat, held protest rallies in Dhaka and elsewhere in on Friday demanding that Menon must apologise for criticising Hefazat in parliament.

They also demanded that Menon’s March 3 speech be expunged from parliamentary proceedings and membership in parliament be cancelled.

Criticising Menon for supporting Ahamadiyya Muslim Jamaat, they said that those who did not thought Ahamadiyyas to be Kafirs were Kafirs.

When country was moving to establish a non-communal democratic Bangladesh, Islamist groups were trying to stop the advancements of the country, the Workers Party politburo said.

Earlier in 1992, the politburo claimed, these groups demanded punishment of Menon, branding him to be a ‘murtad’ (apostate).

Full report at:




More than 60 Taliban militants killed in Special Forces operations and airstrikes

09 Mar 2019

More than 60 Taliban militants were killed during separate operations of the Afghan Special Forces and airstrikes which were conducted in the past 24 hours in various provinces of the country.

According to the informed military sources, at least 29 Taliban militants were killed, one of their commanders was wounded, and vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device was destroyed during the operations of Special Force and airstrikes which were conducted in Baraki Barak and Charkh districts of Logar and Sayyidabad district of Wardak province.

The sources further added that similar operations and airstrike were carried out in Nowzad and Musa Qal’ah districts of Helmand, and Tarink city of Uruzgan province laving 12 militants dead and destroying one Taliban radio tower and an Improvised Explosive Device.

“The Afghan Special Forces also conducted a search operation of a suspected weapons cache in Ahmadabad district of Paktika province and discovered 1 magnetic mine and 16 mine controllers. The bomb making material was removed from the site and destroyed to prevent it from being used in the surrounding village and wounding non-combatants,” the sources said, adding that Afghan Special Forces conducted a separate operation along the highway in Samangan killing 4 Taliban fighters and wounding 3 others.




NDS Special Forces kill mastermind of ISIS attack on a construction firm in Nangarhar

10 Mar 2019

The Special Forces of National Directorate of Security (NDS) have killed the mastermind of a coordinated attack on construction firm in Nangarhar province.

Provincial governor’s spokesman Ataullah Khogyani said the NDS Special Forces conducted a raid in Momandara district of Nangarhar province last night which resulted into killing of a key ISIS group memeber Subhan.

Khogyani further added that Subhan was the main mastermind of a coordinated attack which targeted a private construction firm in Behsud area of Nangarhar last week.

He also added that a number of other suspects were also arrested during the same operation and some weapons, munitions, and explosives were destroyed.

The local officials said last week that the attack on EBE construction firm left at least 11 workers of the company dead while 9 others were wounded.




Arab World


US, Israeli Weapons Discovered From Terrorists' Former Positions Near Damascus

Mar 09, 2019

The Syrian Army's engineering units came across a massive ammunition and arms depot containing US anti-tank and TOW missiles as well as Israeli missiles and some European missiles.

The Syrian Army troops also discovered different types of rifles, ammunition, canon, mortar rounds and hand-grenades made in Israel and the US.

In a relevant development in late February, the Syrian army discovered a large number of US, Western, Israeli and Saudi weapons and equipment near Damascus and Quneitra.

The engineering units of the Syrian army found a cache of weapons, including US-made anti-tank missiles and a large number of West-made guns and heavy machine-guns as well as different types of ammunition, during purging operations in Southwestern Damascus and Quneitra.

They also discovered and seized several US and western communications systems, medical equipment and a large amount of Israeli, Jordanian and Saudi drugs.

Yet in another development last week, the Syrian army discovered a large amount of weapons and military equipment, including US and Israeli missiles, in mop-up operation near Damascus.

The Damascus Army's engineering units continued their cleansing operations around Damascus and retrieved large amount of weapons, ammunition and military equipment, including hundreds of Grad missiles, US-made anti-tank missiles and 128-Caliber missiles made in Israel.

The army troops also discovered an arms cache packed with large amounts of weaponry, ammunition, canons, mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades.




Al-Nujaba Spokesman: US Fails in All Plots against Iraq

Mar 09, 2019

"The US is exerting political, economic and military pressure on the resistance front but they have failed so far," al-Mousavi told reporters in a press conference at FNA in Tehran on Saturday.

He underlined that the resistance groups will not retreat in confrontation against any foreign troops planning to violate the country's sovereignty. "History will record how we forced the US to retreat and defeated it."

Al-Mousavi said that US President Donald Trump's secret visit to Iraq indicated that Washington has been defeated in Iraq, adding, "The US has failed to materialize any of its occupying goals in Iraq."

Asked about the US sanctions against al-Nujaba, he said, "We were not surprised. These sanctions show that our measures have been painful for them and we will continue this path and their sanctions against al-Nujaba are worthless in practice."

The Al-Nujaba Movement had also earlier announced that it would double its efforts to stand against Washington's plots in the region after it was designated by the US State Department as a terrorist group.

"We in the Islamic Resistance are proud that we are always standing in the forefront of confronting the American terrorism against the oppressed nations," Deputy Secretary-General of al-Nujaba Movement Nasr al-Shamri told the Arabic-language Baghdad al-Youm.

"We are the ones who confront the terrorists and destructive occupation of Iraq and their (the Americans') al-Qaeda and ISIL terrorism," he added.

Al-Shamri underlined that al-Nujaba would confront all US plots in the region, adding that the State Department move would strengthen their determination to insist on their position.

The US added al-Nujaba Movement and its leader Akram Abbas al-Ka'abi, to its sanctions list, the State Department said.

"The Department of State has designated the Iranian proxy group Harakat al-Nujaba (HAN) and its leader, Akram 'Abbas al-Kabi, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order 13224," the State Department said in a statement last Tuesday.

Full report at:




18 Terrorists Killed in Foiled Attack on Syrian Army in Hama

Mar 09, 2019

The Damascus Army units engaged in heavy clashes with militants of Ansar al-Tawhid terrorist group who intended to attack the Syrian Army's military positions in Tale Shir Sahab from al-Sarmanieh Foro in Sahl al-Ghab in Northwestern Hama.

All the 18 Ansar al-Tawhid terrorists invading the government troops were killed in fierce clashes in Sahl al-Ghab region.

Meantime, the Syrian Army's missile and artillery units hit the terrorists' communication lines in Jisr al-Shoghour region in Western Idlib, inflicting heavy losses and casualties on them.

In Southern Idlib, the Syrian Army heavily pounded the movements and contact lines of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) in Eastern al-Deir, Khan al-Sabal, Ma'arat Shomarin, Khan Sheikhoun and near Sakik village in Southeastern Idlib, killing and injuring a number of them.

The Syrian Army's missile units also pounded the gathering of Tahrir al-Sham terrorists in al-Tah town Southeast of Idlib, killing several terrorists and destroying their military vehicle.

Meantime, the terrorist groups stationed in Southern Idlib pounded Mahradeh town and its surrounding areas in Northern Hama with nine missiles which caused destruction of a number of houses.

In relevant development on Thursday, the Syrian army repelled militants' attacks from the demilitarized zone on Northern Hama and Southern Idlib, destroying the terrorists' positions and killing 3 of their commanders.

The Syrian army units launched missile and artillery attacks against the terrorists' moves near the village of al-Zakat and Kafr Zita, al-Arbaeen, al-Latamineh and Qal'at al-Maziq regions in Northern Hama, smashing several military vehicles as well as the terrorists' missile platform, and killing a number of militants, including two commanders of Ansar al-Tawhid namely Abu al-Farouq and Ibrahim Hamadi.

The army forces also pounded the positions and moves of several groups of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) terrorists from the villages of al-Shariah and al-Jamasah as well as Sahl al-Qab region towards the army-controlled areas in Northwestern Hama, destroying a number of their hideouts and killing several terrorists.

Full report at:




Senior MP: US Bases Training Terrorists in 3 Iraqi Provinces

Mar 09, 2019

Karim al-Mohammadawi was quoted as saying by the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website that the US forces are training and arming the terrorists at their bases in al-Anbar, Kirkuk and Erbil provinces without the Iraqi government's knowledge.

He added that a large number of terrorists are being trained in Ain al-Assad base in al-Anbar province, K1 base in Kirkuk and a base in Erbil, noting that the main goal behind the move is decreasing the role of Hashd al-Shaabi (Iraqi popular forces) and making them withdraw from the Western provinces because their presence is not in line with the US interests.

Media reports said in February that the US army troops stationed in al-Anbar were plotting to prevent Hashd al-Shaabi forces from getting close to the country's Western provinces.

"The US troops in Ain al-Assad are looking for a way to drive out Hashd al-Shaabi forces from Western Iraqi provinces, including al-Anbar province," al-Maloumeh quoted member of Iraqi Parliament's Security and Defense Committee Ali Jabbar as saying.

He reiterated that the US plot for driving Hashd al-Shaabi forces from bases and regions under their control in al-Anbar, Nineveh and Salaheddin is while the US troops are worried about their confrontation with Hashd al-Shaabi and people's uprising against the illegal presence of the US Army troops in Iraq.

Full report at:




UN urges Damascus to grant it full access to returnees

10 March 2019

The United Nation’s refugee agency said Saturday it has urged Syria’s government to allow it access to all parts of the war-torn country where externally displaced people have returned.

“It is very important that in areas of return, organizations like mine... are present,” said Filippo Grandi, who heads the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR.

“This is the very strong message that I have passed to the Syrian government,” he told reporters in Beirut, after earlier this week undertaking a three-day visit to Syria.

Organizations should be present so they “can observe the returns... have access to the returnees and help them address some of the problems that they face,” he said.

With the war in Syria winding down, neighboring Lebanon has been eager to encourage some of the 1.5 million Syrians it says it hosts to return.

Grandi visited the central provinces of Homs and Hama this week, he said, but access to the Damascus countryside is more difficult. Tens of thousands have returned, according to the Lebanese authorities, but many more have been wary of crossing back over the border.

Without full access to the UN and other organizations, “there is an element of confidence that is missing” among potential returnees, Grandi said.

Going home is not attractive for many refugees living in camps in Lebanon, due to high unemployment and poor basic services, as well as continued clashes on several fronts. But for young men above 18 years old, the chief fear is that they will be conscripted into President Bashar al-Assad’s army.

Eager to welcome Syrians back, Damascus has said it will allow returnees a grace period of six months before they are drafted.

Full report at:




Daesh ploy halts final assault on ‘caliphate’

March 10, 2019

BAGHOUZ, Syria: Kurdish forces and international aid organizations admitted on Saturday they have no idea how many civilians remain inside the last sliver of Daesh territory in northeast Syria.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) paused military operations against Daesh militants holed up in Baghouz on the banks of the Euphrates as more women and children emerged from the village, days after it was thought only a few hundred foreign fighters remained.

“They’re coming from underground... they’re never-ending,” said one SDF official.

More than 62,000 people have flooded Al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria, and thousands more are expected, the UN said. The International Rescue Committee said Al-Hol was at “breaking point.”

“No one could have guessed that such a large number of women and children were still living in Baghouz,” spokeswoman Misty Buswell said.

One of the refugees, Umm Aboud, a mother of four from the northern Syrian city of Al-Bab, said: “There’s still more. You see how many people have come out in the past few days, there’s that many still inside.”

Some experts believe Daesh is merely trying to delay the final destruction of its so-called “caliphate,” while others believe it may be something more sinister.

Daesh have been regularly “releasing certain numbers of people, including fighters, in controlled amounts” in an attempt to buy time, said analyst Mutlu Civiroglu, on the ground in eastern Syria.

“If they really wanted to surrender, they would have ... and if they wanted to fight again, they could have,” he said. The delay was “a deliberate effort, maybe to prepare for something else ... what that is, though, is unclear.”

In Iraq, Daesh have gone to ground, staging waves of killings and kidnappings. In Syria, they hold out in remote desert areas and have carried out bombings in areas controlled by the SDF.

Daesh said on Saturday they had carried out a suicide car bomb attack near the Syrian town of Manbij to signal to foreign troops that they were not safe in the country. Manbij is controlled by a Kurdish militia allied to the SDF.

Meanwhile, the SDF confirmed on Saturday that a baby boy born in a refugee camp to a London teenager who ran away from home to join Daesh in Syria had died.

Full report at:




Syria’s ancient Aleppo souk poised to regain its bustle

March 10, 2019

ALEPPO: On the domed roof of a historical market in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, architect Bassel Al-Daher moves between workers painstakingly working to erase the scars of war.

Men wearing vests and helmets repair parts of the roof still bearing visible traces of the four-year-long battle for the former rebel stronghold.

They cover its charred surface with a fresh coat of white paint as part of a wider effort to rehabilitate the Saqatiya market, or souk in Arabic.

Located in the old quarters of Syria’s second city, the market dates back to the Ottoman period.

“I feel like I’m redrawing history by restoring this souk,” says Daher, 42, one of six architects overseeing its revival as the country’s conflict marks its eighth year next week.

“For me, it’s the project of a lifetime.”

The Saqatiya souk covers an area of more than 1,500 square meters (16,000 square feet) and used to house more than 50 shops before Syria’s conflict landed in Aleppo in 2012.

It is located near other landmarks of Aleppo’s Old City, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site that served as a frontline during clashes that ended in 2016.

Russia-backed regime forces that year retook control of the eastern side of the city, much of which remains in ruins.

The celebrated citadel, a jewel of medieval architecture whose surrounding wall was damaged by a blast in July 2015, is visible from the market’s roof.

The Umayyad mosque, an ancient site that dates back to the 11th century, is within walking distance.

Clashes in April 2013 reduced the mosque’s minaret to an unrecognizable pile of blocks.

UNESCO estimates that as much as 60 percent of the Old City was severely damaged.

Saqatiya market fared better than most, with 30 percent battered during the fighting, says Daher.

It shows signs of major damage but no sign of collapse, Syria’s antiquities authority said in a report last month.

Restoration works began on November 1 after Syrian authorities signed a partnership agreement with the Aga Khan Foundation in Syria.

Renovations are expected to be completed in July, according to Daher.

Workers are focusing on erasing all “signs of war” from the market and correct old construction violations.

“The broader aim is to bring merchants back to their shops,” he says.

Saqatiya market is one of around 37 souks surrounding the Aleppo citadel, the oldest of their kind in the world.

They stretch from the western part of the Old City to the gates of the citadel in the east, covering an area of around 160,000 square meters.

For centuries, they were the commercial heart of the ancient city and served as a key trading hub between the East and the West, says Alaa Al-Sayyed, a historian and specialist on the Old City.

The expert, who is also overseeing the restoration, says “they are more than 2,000 years old.”

“They are the longest and oldest covered markets in the world,” he says.

They consist of dozens of shops, schools, mosques and bathhouses.

In their long history, this is not the first time the markets have had to be restored.

Over two millennia, they have weathered numerous earthquakes and conquests, but “every time they were rebuilt,” he says.

Diyaa Al-Issa, 38, wears a white helmet and uniform as he works on renovating a massive gate in the market.

He is one of around 60 men involved in restoration works.

Before the conflict, Issa used to work in renovation and maintenance of the city’s ancient heritage.

“Renovations today are nothing like those we used to carry out in the past,” he says.

“We used to restore stones affected by moisture, wind and time,” he says.

“But today we are treating stones that have been charred and damaged by shrapnel, and we are rebuilding some domes that have been completely destroyed.”

Issa hopes the souk can be restored in a way that does not alter its historical character or dispense with too may of the original materials.

His colleague, Mohammed Baqiya, 47, is looking forward to the market coming back to life.

“The stone will be restored,” he says.

Full report at:






US accuses Palestinians of manufacturing crisis over tax transfer

9 March 2019

The United States accused the Palestinians on Friday of manufacturing a crisis by rejecting the first 2019 monthly tax transfer from Israel because it slashed a portion designated for financial support to families of militants jailed in Israel.

The United Nations Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss the issue at the request of Kuwait and Indonesia. US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt represented Washington at the meeting.

“It is entirely inappropriate to focus on Israel as the source of this crisis. It is the Palestinian Authority that has chosen to manufacture the current crisis,” Greenblatt told the 15-member council, according to UN diplomats in attendance.

The US mission to the United Nations declined to comment on Greenblatt’s remarks. The Palestinians have condemned the Israeli decision as “piracy.”

Greenblatt and White House adviser Jared Kushner have been working on a plan to mediate peace between Israel and the Palestinians. UN diplomats said Greenblatt gave no details of the plan on Friday.

Destabilizing the Palestinian Authority

Palestinians have refused to discuss any peace blueprint with the United States in the wake of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

The Palestinian decision on the tax transfer came despite increasing cash flow troubles, caused in part by US aid cuts, which could destabilize the Palestinian Authority, an interim self-government body set up following the 1993 Oslo accords between the Palestinians and Israel.

Under the interim accords, Israel collects taxes on imports into the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip and makes monthly transfers of the proceeds to the PA.

The tax transfers make up about half of the PA’s budget, according to Palestinian Finance Ministry data. On February 17, Israel announced a freeze on about 5 percent of that money affecting stipends the PA pays to families of Palestinian militants killed or jailed by Israel.

“It’s a unilateral decision in violation of existing bilateral agreement,” Kuwait’s UN Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi told reporters after the Security Council discussion.

According to diplomats, Greenblatt said the Palestinian payments to militants’ families “creates incentives for further acts of terrorism.” The United States passed legislation last year to reduce aid to the PA unless it stopped the pay-outs.

Greenblatt called on other council members to join the United States in urging the Palestinian Authority to end the payments, diplomats said.




Rouhani urges Pakistan's decisive action against anti-Iran terrorists

Mar 9, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urges Pakistan to take firm action in dealing with terrorists acting against the Islamic Republic.

In a phone conversation with Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday, the Iranian president said that Tehran and Islamabad should not allow "a bunch of terrorists," who are tools in the hands of other countries, to affect their decades-long cordial ties.

He said the Iranian and Pakistani nations enjoyed "exemplary and historical" relations, calling on senior officials of the two countries to help promote bilateral ties.

"We should not allow any third party to impact Iran-Pakistan relations through their measures," Rouhani said.

Pointing to last month’s terrorist bomb attack in Iran’s southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan, Rouhani said Tehran knows well where the terrorist groups that use Pakistan's soil to carry out attacks against the Iranian nation were based, adding, "We are awaiting your (Pakistan’s) decisive action against these terrorists."

"We are fully ready to cooperate with the Pakistani army and government to eradicate these terrorists whose presence is not in favor of us, you or the region," he added.

The Iranian president emphasized that Tehran sought to keep friendly relations with Islamabad.

On February 13, an explosives-laden car rammed into a bus carrying a number of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) forces on a road between the cities of Zahedan and Khash, leaving 27 of them dead and 13 others wounded.

The so-called Jaish ul-Adl terrorist group, which is linked to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei denounced the bloody terrorist attack, saying the spy agencies of certain regional and extra-regional countries certainly had a hand in this crime.

“It is certain that the perpetrators of this crime were linked to spy agencies of certain regional and extra-regional countries and the country’s relevant organizations must focus on that and seriously pursue it,” the Leader said in a message.

The Pakistani prime minister, for his part, said his country's army and government would make their utmost efforts to eliminate terrorists.

Khan added that Islamabad would not allow terrorists to use Pakistan’s soil against neighboring countries, particularly Iran.

Full report at:




Syrian forces discover US, Israeli-made munitions in militant redoubts

Mar 9, 2019

Syrian government forces have carried out a major clean-up operation in the country’s southwestern province of Rif Dimashq, discovering a considerable amount of US-built and Israeli-made munitions from terrorist hideouts.

An unnamed field commander told Syria’s official news agency SANA that Syrian soldiers launched the operation in the town of Yalda, which lies on the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus, on Saturday to clear the area of hidden explosive devices and ordnance left behind by the militants.

The commander added that the munitions included American BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles, Israeli-made M72 LAW anti-tank weapons, mortar launchers, various-caliber mortars, hand grenades as well as rocket-propelled grenades.

Separately, Syrian army units foiled an attack by Takfiri terrorists on a military post in the country's west-central province of Hama.

A Syrian military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Syrian troops engaged in a heavy exchange of gunfire with the extremists in al-Suqaylabiyah city, killing and injuring a number of them in the process.

Initial reports indicate that a number of Syrian soldiers lost their lives or sustained gunshot wounds during the clash.

‘Grave concerns’ over health of 65,000 refugees in al-Hol camp

Meanwhile, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday that international humanitarian agencies had “grave concerns over the fragile health of residents” of al-Hol camp in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah.

Dujarric said that more than 3,000 people, mostly women and children, had reached the camp from Daesh-held areas in the eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr the previous night, bringing the total population of al-Hol camp to more than 65,000.

“Urgent funding is needed to ramp up the response, especially in the areas of shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, health and protection services,” the UN spokesman said.

“There are grave concerns over the fragile health of the camp's residents, with nearly 100 people having died since early last December en route to the site (or) shortly after arrival or referral,” he pointed out.

Dujarric further noted that two-thirds of the people who had died were children under the age of five, with hypothermia, pneumonia, dehydration and complications from malnutrition being the main causes of death.

“At least 243 unaccompanied and separated children have been identified in the camp, of whom 41 have been reunited with their families,” he said.

Full report at:




Israel launches fresh Gaza airstrikes, targets Palestinian boat

Mar 9, 2019

Israeli warplanes have conducted fresh air raids on the Gaza Strip in yet another act of aggression against the besieged Palestinian territory.

In a statement released on Saturday, the Israeli army said that its jets had struck several targets allegedly belonging to the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas in the southern and northern Gaza the night before.

Tel Aviv claimed that the aerial assault came "in response to the projectile that was launched from the Gaza Strip" as well as "balloons carrying explosive devices" and attempts to damage "security infrastructure" in the occupied territories.

Gaza security officials said the Israeli strikes had not caused any casualties.

The attacks, however, damaged Palestinian houses and farming land, according to Wafa news agency.

Also on Saturday, the Israeli navy opened fire at a fishing boat near off the northern Gaza. Palestinian media reported that the incident had no casualties.

The Tel Aviv regime carries out regular attacks on the blockaded coastal sliver under the pretext of hitting positions belonging to Hamas, the movement which runs the Palestinian territory.

The coastal sliver has been under a crippling land, air and sea Israeli blockade since 2007 and witnessed three wars since 2008.

Gaza has also witnessed a fresh wave of tensions since March 30, which marked the start of “The Great March of Return” protests.

So far, at least 253 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during the weekly anti-occupation rallies in Gaza.

Friday's clashes near the Gaza fence left a Palestinian dead and at least 45 others injured.

Full report at:




North America


Working to get China’s support on listing Masood Azhar: U.S. official

Sriram Lakshman

MARCH 10, 2019

The United States is working to convince China to allow the listing of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) Chief Masood Azhar by the UNSC 1267 Committee, a senior administration official, who did not want to be named, said, speaking exclusively to The Hindu.

“We are working hard to convince China. It is not in China’s interest to shield terrorist groups operating in Pakistan, and as a responsible global power, China should take a clear stand against terrorism. So we expect China to join in designating Masood Azhar as a terrorist,” the official said.

The official said that the U.S. felt India’s frustration and that Pakistan has been isolated over the February 14 Pulwama attack and its aftermath. The U.S. was looking for permanent action by Pakistan to end its support for terror.

Pakistan had, last week reportedly detained more than 120 individuals connected to terror groups, taken over madrasas and seized assets of terror groups including those of Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) — a sister organisation of militant outfit Lakshar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its charity arm, Falah –e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) both organisations of Hafiz Saeed, a U.N. designated terrorists, wanted by India in connection with the 2008 Mumbai attack. Nevertheless, Saeed and Azhar have both been detained by Pakistan before and subsequently released.

“We are not going to be satisfied with half-measures or temporary steps like we’ve seen in the past. I do think Pakistan has to consider the reaction of the international community, the senior administration official said in Washington. “There has been a lot of solidarity with India and a lot of frustration with the fact that that Pakistan has still not cracked down on these groups. Pakistan has been pretty isolated over this situation,” the official said.

The U.S. and other world powers have been quick to step forward to help de-escalate the situation between the two nuclear powers.

“Whenever there are crises like these between India and Pakistan, there is a great deal of concern because these are nuclear states. So there is the instinct to de-escalate the situation. But there is also less patience with Pakistan’s support for these groups and more of a sense of sharing India’s frustration over these groups’ ability to operate freely inside Pakistan,” the official said, characterising the U.S. reaction to the India-Pakistan situation.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo met with British National Security Advisor Mark Sedwill on Friday and “support for reducing tension between India and Pakistan” was part of their discussion, the U.S. State Department spokesperson Robert Palladino said.




Canadian man behind Quebec mosque massacre appeals sentence

9 March 2019

A Canadian man sentenced to 40 years in prison without the possibility of parole for the killing of six worshippers at a Quebec mosque in January 2017 has launched an appeal, local media reported Friday.

Alexandre Bissonnette was convicted on February 8 to life imprisonment for the murders, the deadliest attack on a Muslim place of worship in the West.

On Jan. 29, 2017, Bissonette opened fire on around 40 men and four children who were chatting after prayers in the grand hall of the ground floor, killing six men and seriously wounding five others.

In their appeal at the Quebec courthouse, Bisonnette’s lawyers argued that Judge Francois Hout had imposed “an illegal punishment, manifestly unreasonable and not indicated in ordering 40 years imprisonment before being eligible for parole,” according to the public Radio-Canada.

The verdict, preventing Bissonnette from applying for parole before his 67th birthday, was considered too lenient by the president of the mosque, Boufeldja Benabdallah.

Full report at:




Washington protesters demand ‘regime change’ in Iran

9 March 2019

Hundreds of people turned out in Washington Friday demanding regime change in Iran and denouncing “atrocity toward the people” under Tehran’s regime.

Protesters waved Iranian flags as they chanted for “regime change now” – with some holding portraits of Maryam Rajavi, leader of the People’s Mujahedin, an Iranian opposition group banned in the country.

“The regime inside Iran is doing so much atrocity toward the people. Iran in whole has been destroyed by this regime,” said Michael Passi, an Iranian-American engineer.

“There are a lot of executions, a lot of tortures and a lot of export of terrorism by this regime,” he alleged.

“We want separation of religion and the state,” added Mina Entezari, an Arizona-based designer who was a political prisoner in Iran for seven years. “We want freedom for people.”

The administration of US President Donald Trump consistently blasts a lack of freedoms in Iran and its “destabilizing” influence on the Middle East.

Full report at:




Young Democrats break America’s biggest taboo – criticism of Israel: Writer

Mar 10, 2019

Young Democratic stars like Tulsi Gabbard, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar have broken America’s biggest taboo - calling out Israel for its oppression of Palestinians - according to Eric S. Margolis, an American journalist and writer.

“Saying anything negative about Israel has long been the third rail of US politics and media. Israel is our nation’s most sacred cow. Any questioning of its behavior brings furious charges of anti-Semitism and professional oblivion,” Margolis wrote.

He added that a number of US senators and congressmen “lost their positions after rebuking Israel for its mistreatment of Palestinians or daring to suggest that Israel had far too much influence in the US.”

The analyst pointed out that “journalists were not even allowed to write there was an ‘Israel lobby.’”

“Now, young Democratic stars Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a feisty congresswoman from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, have suddenly broken the taboo and said what dared not be said: there is too much rightwing Israeli influence and there must be justice for Palestine,” he wrote.

“Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have come to the defense of Ilhan Omar against the usual charges that she is anti-Semitic. So have black groups and smaller liberal Jewish groups,” he noted.

“The Democratic Party, that once received half its financial support from Jewish sources, is badly split over the Palestine crisis,” he revealed.

Omar, a newly elected Democrat Congresswoman from Minnesota, has sparked a firestorm on Capitol Hill over repeated criticisms of Israel and the powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington that exerts great influence in US politics.

The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a resolution condemning bigotry and hate after backlash from a number of factions across the Democratic Party forced changes to a bill that originally focused on anti-Semitism and remarks about Israel by Omar, whose legitimate criticism of Israel has been deemed anti-Semitic by some colleagues and exposed deep fault lines among Democrats.

House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled the resolution, which she called the "strongest possible opposition" to anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and white supremacist bigotry.

Omar joined the two other Muslims in Congress, Rashida Tlaib and Andre Carson, in praising the measure's passage.

"It's the first time we have voted on a resolution condemning Anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation's history," they said, noting the worrying rise of extremism in America.

The resolution was initially pushed by Zionist organizations and some Jewish members of Congress to rebuke Omar for condemning the Israel lobby, but there was a heated backlash from fellow Democrats who said she was being unfairly singled out by the leadership.

Full report at:






Shamima Begum baby death a 'stain on the conscience' of UK government

March 9, 2019

A decision by Britain to strip a teenage girl of her citizenship after she joined ISIS in Syria was described as a "stain on the conscience" of the government on Saturday after her three-week old baby died.

Shamima Begum was stripped of her citizenship on security grounds last month, leaving her in a detention camp in Syria where her baby died, the third of the 19-year-old's infant children to die since she travelled to Syria in 2015.

The opposition Labour party said the move to leave an innocent child in a refugee camp, where infant mortality rates are high, was morally reprehensible. A lawmaker in the ruling Conservative party said it smacked of populism over principle.

"The tragic death of Shamima Begum's baby, Jarrah, is a stain on the conscience of this government," Diane Abbott, the opposition home affairs spokeswoman said.

"The Home Secretary [Sajid Javid] failed this British child and he has a lot to answer for."

Found in a refugee camp in February, an unrepentant Begum sparked a debate in Britain and other European capitals as to whether a teenager with a ISIS fighter's child should be left in a war zone to fend for herself.

More broadly it has shown the predicament that governments face when weighing the ethical, legal and security ramifications of allowing militants and their families to return.

Begum left London aged 15 with two other schoolgirls to join Islamic State. She married Yago Riedijk, a Dutch IS fighter who is being held in a Kurdish detention centre in northeastern Syria.

After giving interviews to the media in which she said she did not regret travelling to Syria and had not been fazed by the sight of severed heads, she asked to be able to return to London to bring up her baby.

However, Mr Javid withdrew Begum's citizenship, saying his priority was the safety and security of Britain and the people who lived there.

On Friday, Switzerland said it will not help bring home adult citizens who joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq, insisting national security was paramount.

The government will not block the return of the around 20 such Swiss men, women and children in the conflict zone, but will take no active measures to repatriate the adults, the cabinet said in a statement. Only children might get help to return.

"For the government, the ultimate goal is clear: Switzerland's security and the protection of its population are top priorities," it said. They would also try to prevent the extremists from slipping back into Switzerland.

Neighbouring Austria said on Wednesday it would not help repatriate any citizens who fought for ISIS and other militant groups, as countries across the West wrestle with how to deal with returning militants.

Hundreds of people are believed to have left Europe to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. With the militant group down to its last shred of territory, some have asked to come home.

Switzerland's justice minister had said last month she would prefer to have citizens who fought for ISIS tried on the spot rather than be brought home to face criminal charges, a stance the government has now reaffirmed






Khartoum says Turkish naval ship at Port Sudan to boost ‘security’

Mar 9, 2019

A Turkish military ship has been moored near Port Sudan for a three-day stay in the African country purportedly aimed at boosting “security and safety” in the Red Sea region, as Sudan has been the scene of months of protests against President Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year rule.

According to a statement released by the Sudanese military, the Turkish ship, Gojka Ada, arrived at the port, the capital city of Red Sea province, on Saturday morning. The stay will last until March 11.

“The visit reflects the cooperation between the two armed forces and is also part of a diplomatic initiative,” said Sudanese General Mousa Ahmed Mousa, adding, “It will also enhance the security and safety of the Red Sea.”

Relations between Ankara and Khartoum has witnessed a boost since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a visit to the African nation in late 2017 as part of a perceived plan to secure a strategic foothold in Africa.

The visit, which was the first by a Turkish president to the east African country, led to sealing a number of deals between the two sides.

At the time, the Turkish leader said Sudan had agreed to allow Turkey to restore the Red Sea port of Suakin Island.

Suakin, used to be considered the height of medieval luxury on the Red Sea, was Sudan’s major port when it was ruled by the Ottoman Empire, but fell into disuse over the last century following the construction of Port Sudan, 60 kilometers to the north.

The deal aroused concern in Saudi Arabia, a neighbor situated across from the Red Sea in the east, and Egypt, a neighbor to the north. They fear that Turkey is attempting to extend influence in the region to their detriment.

In a bid to alleviate the concern, Erdogan stressed at the time that Ankara had no plan whatsoever to build a military base at Suakin. He emphasized that the renovated island would be used instead to attract Hajj-bound pilgrims to Suakin, in turn strengthening the region’s tourism.

Sudan is struggling with months of persisting protests. On December 17, an anti-government campaign erupted over price hikes and shortages of food and fuel. The demonstrations first erupted in the farming town of Atbara after cash-strapped Khartoum cut a vital subsidy on bread and tripled its prices.

The move infuriated people and triggered protests, which swiftly mushroomed into nationwide anti-government rallies, particularly in the capital and its twin city of Omdurman. That initial public display of anger quickly spiraled into calls for Bashir, who took power in 1989 through a military coup, to step down.

The country’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) has reportedly been carrying out a crackdown on protesters, opposition leaders, activists, and reporters in an attempt to prevent the spread of the rallies, which are viewed as the biggest threat to Bashir’s decades-long rule.

Official figures say 31 people, including some security agents, have lost their lives since the onset of the rallies. Some rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, say at least 51 people have died so far.

Bashir, however, has so far remained defiant, addressing loyalists at a number of rallies across the country and seeking support from regional allies.

The African nation has been suffering from a worsening economic crisis, including a serious shortage of foreign currency. The cost of some commodities, including medicines, has more than doubled and inflation has hit 70 percent. A growing lack of food and fuel has also been regularly reported across several cities, including Khartoum.




Forces loyal to Libya's Haftar eyeing Tripoli

Mar 9, 2019

Forces loyal to Libya’s strongman Khalifa Haftar are pushing through the country, threatening to ruin efforts made by the United Nations to resolve the power vacuum there via democratic elections.

Media reported on Saturday that forces loyal to the 75-year-old commander had swept through the south and took control of its oilfields in recent weeks.

Now, Haftar’s forces are signaling their intention to take the capital Tripoli, from which in nearby Zawiya the country's oil gets exported abroad.

The UN, in an effort to rescue elections planned for later this year, is scrambling to mediate between Haftar and the Tripoli-based unity Government of National Accord (GNA) led by 59-year-old Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj.

The UN is hopeful that Libya will hold national elections by June.

The two main rivaling governments, one in the east and another in the west, are each backed by an array of rival militia factions.

GNA is backed by Western countries, and the UN recognizes it as the official government of Libya.

The other government, known as the House of Representatives, is based in the eastern city of Tobruk, and is run by Haftar's Libya National Army (LNA). Haftar is backed by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 after a NATO military intervention, the UN fears that without free and fair elections there is no chance to end the unrest and violence resulting from rivaling powers running the country.

Full report at:




Libyans fear showdown as eastern commander eyes capital

March 09, 2019

TUNIS: Forces from eastern Libya who have swept through the south and taken control of remaining oilfields in recent weeks have now reinforced a base in the centre of the country and signalled to the capital Tripoli that it may be next.

The United Nations, stunned by the southern advance, is scrambling to mediate between eastern commander Khalifa Haftar and Tripoli's internationally-recognised government led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, Western diplomats say.

They fear it may be the last UN attempt to unify the rival administrations and end the chaos that followed the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 with free elections.

Haftar, a 75-year-old former general, is increasingly taking the situation into his own hands, backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which see him as a bulwark against Islamists and the man to restore order.

He has not said whether he wants to march on Tripoli, which would dramatically escalate tensions. But his Libyan National Army (LNA) has hinted heavily that it might do so -- if Haftar is not recognised as the country's overall military commander, his aim since he began assembling the force in 2014.

"Some military sources say the LNA will move towards Tripoli after the announcement that the south has been secured," read an item on an LNA website.

"The same sources said there is coordination with some units inside Tripoli and its suburbs for the army to enter Tripoli."

The LNA spokesman said a purported order from Haftar for troops to move, seen by Reuters and publicised by his supporters, was not genuine.

But the capital has been rife with rumours of invasion and residents have reported seeing young people driving around playing loud songs praising Haftar from their car radios.

While several LNA units returned this month to Benghazi, Haftar's power base, some units went to Jufra, a city in the desert straddling east and west, LNA sources say.

From there they could go home, or -- the implied threat according to diplomats -- move northwest towards Tripoli, should talks over power sharing and elections fail.

Haftar taps into fatigue among Libyans yearning for electricity, petrol and banknotes scarce in a country which once enjoyed some of highest living standards in the region.

For many, especially in the east, the general is the only one who can end fighting by myriad groups with ever-changing names. For his enemies in western cities and Islamists who were oppressed under the old regime, he is a new Gaddafi.


Haftar took the southern El Sharara and El Feel oilfields last month, completing a campaign which has given him effective control of the country's crude output of around one million barrels a day.

He does not, as yet, have the means to profit from them because oil exports are managed by the state oil firm NOC in Tripoli, which is working with Serraj.

But the situation on the ground is changing fast.

U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame visited the main southern city Sabha just one day before some 80 LNA vehicles drove in through the desert from the east, and Haftar's growing clout was on show again this week.

The NOC agreed to reopen El Sharara, closed since rogue guards and tribesmen seized it in December, after the UAE called two meetings. The first was with Serraj and NOC chairman Mustafa Sanalla to agree on a security plan and the second was between the Tripoli premier and Haftar.

But while some communities in western Libya have signalled support for the LNA, it is far from clear whether Haftar would be able to muster enough.

The LNA says it has 85,000 men but this includes soldiers paid by the central government who it hopes to inherit. Its elite force, Saiqa (Lightning) numbers some 3,500, while Haftar's sons also have well-equipped troops, LNA sources say.

Diplomats say much of the LNA is an umbrella of less trained ex-Gaddafi soldiers, tribesmen and Salafists as well as Sudanese and Chadian fighters; the LNA denies this.

Thanks to covert UAE and Egyptian support documented by the U.N., Haftar has gradually built up superiority since 2014, allowing him to stop Tripoli flying in reinforcements during his southern campaign and pressure the NOC by closing airstrips on oilfields.

Serraj has no real troops -- depending on armed groups who control many of the buildings his ministers work in and who, Tripoli residents say, regularly demand business contracts.

His only asset is his official title and access to state funds, though Western powers have increasingly embraced Haftar - with Italy, for example, addressing him as (Field) Marshal, his official title.

There has been some Western support for Haftar. French special forces in conjunction with Britain and the United States had been advising the LNA during the Benghazi campaign.

On Monday, Serraj unexpectedly praised cooperation with Haftar, saying they needed to work together, in a speech to western mayors just after rumours of approaching LNA troops first surfaced.

Haftar and Serraj could agree to a new transitional government, which would help the commander steadily entrench his power without invading Tripoli.

But it is unclear whether Haftar's supporters would agree to putting him under civilian control as proposed by Western and UN mediators.

"There is no reconciliation with Serraj for power because talks are not with him but with people behind him who do not want Haftar," said Hamad Bandaq, a lawmaker in the eastern parliament.


The biggest obstacle for Haftar is Misrata, a western city home to forces which could at least partly match LNA ground troops, analysts say.

The city is known for a spirit of resisting old regime figures, developed during 2011 when Gaddafi forces besieged it for three months.

Weeks after Haftar started his Benghazi campaign in 2014 Misrata forces moved on Tripoli, expelling a government allied to a Haftar partner in one-month battle that split Libya. The main motive was fear of a Haftar coup.

There have been belligerent comments from Misrata residents in recent days but it is unclear whether they would fight.

"A mix of conflict fatigue, cautiousness and internal divide has so far forestalled a military mobilisation," said Emad Badi, a Libya researcher. "However that could change very quickly."

Tarek Megerisi, a policy fellow at the European Council, said Serraj and Haftar could agree on a transitional government, with the commander steadily entrenching his power without actually invading Tripoli.

Haftar and the UAE have put out feelers to Tripoli forces, and diplomats hope Haftar will agree to negotiate as he needs access to NOC cash after stretching his resources to the limit with his sweep of the south.

The LNA used massive force in the three-year battle over Benghazi but applied a different tactic in the south.

Full report at:




Libya’s Tripoli airport closed due to unidentified drone

March 09, 2019

TRIPOLI: The airport in the Libyan capital Tripoli was closed on Saturday due to an unidentified drone flying in the area, the airport’s director said.

Residents have repeatedly spotted drones flying over Tripoli in the past few days but the reason is not clear.

Flights from Tripoli’s Matiga airport have been halted until further notice, said its director Lutfi Al-Tayeb.

People in the capital have been on edge due to rumors that the eastern-based Libya National Army (LNA) loyal to Khalifa Haftar might seek to take it after gaining control of much of the south.

Haftar has not said he wants to march on Tripoli but a LNA website carried an unsourced report this week saying it could happen, adding that the LNA was working with people inside the city.

Full report at:




Several dead in an attack by Boko Haram in southeastern Niger: Sources

Mar 09, 2019

Nigeria: Several people have died in an attack by the jihadist group Boko Haram in southeastern Niger, local sources said on Saturday. "There have been deaths, including police, and also some wounded, in this attack by Boko Haram," an official in Diffa, a region of Niger close to the birthplace of Boko Haram in neighbouring northeastern Nigeria.

The attack by "heavily armed" assailants travelling in a dozen or so vehicles on Friday targeted a military position near Gueskerou in the Diffa region, according to unconfirmed social media posts by residents.

Full report at:



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