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Islamic World News (03 Mar 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)


Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar Calls Polygamy an ‘Injustice’
















US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has condemned Republicans for linking her to the September 11, 2001

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Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar Calls Polygamy an ‘Injustice’

Islamic State's Possession of Land in Iraq and Syria Set It Apart From Other Like-Minded Groups Such As Al Qaeda

Global Muslim Body Urges India, Pakistan to Talk and Resolve Their Issues ‘Through Peaceful Means’

'Strictly Internal', Says India after Islamic Nations' Conclave Adopts Resolution on Kashmir

'Resolve Ayodhya Issue with Dialogue': Muslim Civil Society and Art of Living

Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami Is Recruiting Volunteers If India and Pakistan Go To War

Resolution Submitted In Pakistan Parliament to Endorse Imran Khan for Peace Nobel

Israeli ‘Crime Minister’ Netanyahu in Hot Water as Opponent Gains in Popularity and Corruption Charges Loom

Muslim US Congresswoman Slams Republicans for Linking Her To 9/11

UK Muslims Urge Probe into Tory Handling of Islamophobia

 

Arab World

Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar Calls Polygamy an ‘Injustice’

Islamic State's Possession of Land in Iraq and Syria Set It Apart From Other Like-Minded Groups Such As Al Qaeda

OIC Ministers Call For Peace, Stability in Muslim Countries

Wounded and alone, children emerge from last IS enclave

Turkish Army Resumes Attacks on Kurdish Positions in Aleppo Province

Syrian Army Pounds, Destroys Terrorists' Bases in Hama

Wounded and alone, children emerge from last ISIS enclave

Chlorine likely used in attack on Syria town Douma: OPCW

US-led coalition bombs eastern Syrian town with white phosphorus munitions

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India

Global Muslim Body Urges India, Pakistan to Talk And Resolve Their Issues ‘Through Peaceful Means’

'Strictly Internal', Says India after Islamic Nations' Conclave Adopts Resolution on Kashmir

'Resolve Ayodhya Issue with Dialogue': Muslim Civil Society and Art of Living

Muslim Family in Assam Has Been Looking After 500-Year-Old Shiva Temple Since Generations

Indian Jets Hit School of Jihad, Says Azhar’s Brother in Audio

Abhinandan says was subjected to mental harassment by ISI

Samjhauta Express service restarts from Pakistan today

Bombs used in air strikes had Jaish coordinates fed in, little chance of their missing targets

Operation to flush out terrorists underway in J&K's Babagund area

Naqvi-led Muslim delegation invites PM Modi to Ajmer Sharif Dargah

Jamaat curbs: Official says won’t close any mosques

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Pakistan

Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami Is Recruiting Volunteers If India and Pakistan Go To War

Resolution Submitted In Pakistan Parliament to Endorse Imran Khan for Peace Nobel

'Pakistan to ask UK, EU parliamentarians to play their part for de-escalation of tensions with India'

Pakistan government split wide open over Abhinandan’s release

US to look into violation of F-16 user-agreement by Pak

‘Pak mob thought pilot shot down by Abhi was Indian, lynched him’

Police killed medical student in Karachi during encounter: report

Body of Pakistani prisoner killed in Indian jail handed over by BSF at Wagah

Pakistan welcomes Iran’s offer to help settle Islamabad-New Delhi differences

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Mideast

Israeli ‘Crime Minister’ Netanyahu in Hot Water as Opponent Gains in Popularity and Corruption Charges Loom

Israel Forces Palestinian Man To Demolish Own House In East Jerusalem Al-Quds

Palestine ‘top priority’ for Saudi Arabia: Al-Jubeir

Israel launches air strike on Hamas location in the Gaza Strip

Yemeni government calls on Iran to stop supporting Houthis, as 30 militia killed

Iran condemns UK for listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization

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North America

Muslim US Congresswoman Slams Republicans for Linking Her To 9/11

Trump admits failure of US policies in Syria, Iraq

Anti-Muslim Signs in Statehouse Roil West Virginia, Draw Outrage

US, Taliban resume talks on draft agreement

Syria says US knows where Daesh leader is, denies Iran, Russia rift

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Europe

UK Muslims Urge Probe into Tory Handling of Islamophobia

French court jails two Iraqis, one Iranian for smuggling migrants

Germany calls Assad regime to destroy chemical weapons

EU must accept Turkey's concerns: European commissioner

Meeting set with Turkey to build confidence: Greece

How Brexit will affect British ties with UAE

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Africa

Mossad Chief, Sudanese Spy Chief Met In Munich to Discuss Bashir's Ouster: Report

Somalia vows crackdown after siege that killed 20

More than 50 people missing after pipeline explodes in southern Nigeria

Nigeria: At least 29 killed in armed bandit attack

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South Asia

Taliban sub-commanders killed in Nangarhar airstrike

Kabul hosts first trilateral summit between Afghanistan, India and China

Hayat endorses peace efforts but calls for elimination of enemies refusing reconciliation

Taliban target army corps, kill 23 soldiers

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Southeast Asia

Constitutional for non-Malays to be Chief Justice, AG, or minister, says Malaysian Bar

Three reasons why BN won Semenyih

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/grand-imam-of-egypt’s-al-azhar-calls-polygamy-an-‘injustice’/d/117905

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Grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar calls polygamy an ‘injustice’

3 March 2019

The grand imam of Egypt’s famed Al-Azhar institution, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, has described polygamy as an “injustice” for women.

“Polygamy is often an injustice to women and children,” said the influential cleric, in quotes published on Twitter late Friday by Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious seat of learning.

The practice is the result of “a lack of understanding of the Quran and the tradition of the Prophet,” he added.

Tayeb also addressed the issue in a weekly Friday television show, telling viewers: “Those who say that marriage must be polygamous are all wrong”.

He added the Quran says that in order for a Muslim man to have multiple wives, he “must obey conditions of fairness -- and if there is not fairness it is forbidden to have multiple wives”.

After the grand imam’s comments sparked fervent debate on social media, Al-Azhar on Saturday clarified that he did not call for polygamy to be banned.

In his Friday comments, Tayeb called more broadly for the way women’s issues are addressed to be revamped.

“Women represent half of society, if we don’t care for them it’s like we are walking on one foot only,” he said in the remarks published on Twitter.

The grand imam’s approach was welcomed by Egypt’s National Council for Women.

“The Muslim religion honors women -- it brought justice and numerous rights which didn’t exist before,” said the Council’s president Maya Morsi.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/03/03/Grand-imam-of-Egypt-s-al-Azhar-calls-polygamy-an-injustice-.html

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Islamic State's Possession of Land In Iraq And Syria Set It Apart From Other Like-Minded Groups Such As Al Qaeda

March 2, 2019

Islamic State looks about to lose its last foothold – on the banks of the Euphrates near the Iraq border – but while its era of territorial rule may be over for now, there is near universal agreement that IS remains a threat.

WHAT HAS ITS TERRITORIAL DEFEAT ACCOMPLISHED?

Islamic State’s possession of land in Iraq and Syria set it apart from other like-minded groups such as al Qaeda and became central to its mission when it declared a caliphate in 2014, claiming sovereignty over all Muslim lands and peoples.

The destruction of the quasi-state it built there has denied the group its most potent propaganda and recruiting tool as well as a logistical base from which it could train fighters and plan coordinated attacks overseas.

It also freed its former subjects from summary executions and draconian punishment for breaking its strict laws or, for some minorities, sexual slavery and slaughter.

Warfare wiped out thousands of its fighters. And, financially, its defeat deprives it of greater resources than any modern jihadist movement has enjoyed, including taxes on its inhabitants and the proceeds of oil sales.

WHAT THREAT DOES ISLAMIC STATE STILL POSE IN IRAQ AND SYRIA?

In its previous guise as an al Qaeda offshoot in Iraq a decade ago, IS navigated adversity by going underground, biding its time to rise suddenly again.

Since suffering devastating territorial losses in 2017, IS has steadily turned again to such tactics. Sleeper cells in Iraq have staged a scatter-gun campaign of kidnappings and killings to undermine the Baghdad government.

The group has also carried out many bombings in northeast Syria, which is controlled by US-backed Kurdish forces, including one that killed four Americans in January. Kurdish and US officials say it remains a menace there.

In Syria, IS fighters are on the brink of losing their last foothold of Baghouz at the Iraqi border. But they still have a presence in the sparsely populated territory west of the Euphrates River in an area otherwise held by the Syrian government.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ITS LEADERS, FIGHTERS AND FOLLOWERS?

The fate of the IS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains a mystery. The US government’s top experts strongly believe he is alive and possibly hiding in Iraq, US sources recently said. Other top-echelon leaders have been killed in air strikes.

Thousands of Islamic State insurgents and civilian followers have also been killed and thousands more captured. An unknown number remain at large in both Syria and Iraq.

Iraq is putting on trial, imprisoning and often executing IS detainees. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) holds many hundreds of Islamic State fighters and followers.

Ahead of the final assault on Baghouz, the SDF said it had 800 foreign fighters and more than 2,000 IS wives and children in its hands. The SDF has evacuated a large number of IS followers from Baghouz, so these numbers are now higher.

Many low-level local operatives have been released in Syria.

The SDF complains that Western states are reluctant to take back the foreign fighters, who are widely seen as a security threat at home but who might be hard to legally prosecute.

CAN IT STILL ORGANISE OR INSPIRE ATTACKS OVERSEAS?

As Islamic State clung to its last scrap of land, the head of Britain’s spy agency MI6 warned that the group would return to “asymmetric” attacks.

Even after it began losing ground militarily, IS still claimed responsibility for attacks made in different countries, though often these have been blamed on “lone wolves” without its direction.

It started years ago to call on followers abroad to plan their own attacks, rather than focusing purely on ones staged by trained operatives supported by the group’s hierarchy.

In early 2018 the head of US military central command said Islamic State was resilient and remained capable of “inspiring attacks throughout the region and outside of the Middle East”.

WHAT DOES ITS FALL MEAN FOR THE FUTURE OF GLOBAL JIHAD?

Although Islamic State’s core territory was in Iraq and Syria, jihadists fighting in other countries, notably Nigeria, Yemen and Afghanistan, pledged their allegiance to it.

Whether those groups will still wear its mantle, especially if Baghdadi is captured or killed, is an open question, but there seems little chance they will soon end their campaigns.

Al Qaeda also retains numerous franchises around the world, and other militant Islamist groups operate in countries where normal governance has broken down.

Jihadist ideology has long proven itself able to mutate as circumstances change, and there is no shortage of warfare, injustice, oppression, poverty, sectarianism and naked religious hatred for Islamist militants to exploit.

https://indianexpress.com/article/world/does-islamic-state-still-pose-a-threat-5608286/

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Global Muslim Body Urges India, Pakistan To Talk And Resolve Their Issues ‘Through Peaceful Means’

March 2, 2019

SRINAGAR, India —

Pakistan’s foreign ministry says the world’s largest body of Muslim-majority nations has adopted a resolution urging India and Pakistan to de-escalate tensions and resolve their issues “through peaceful means.”

The ministry said in a statement Saturday that at the end of a meeting in Abu Dhabi, the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation “reaffirmed its unwavering support for the Kashmiri people in their just cause.”

It said the OIC expressed concern over this past week’s “Indian violation of Pakistani airspace; affirmed Pakistan’s right to self-defense; and urged India to refrain from the threat or use of force.”

The resolution came a day after Pakistan’s foreign minister skipped the meeting to protest the host’s decision to invite India, a non-member.

A family member of a Pakistani prisoner Shakir Ullah, who was killed by Indian inmates in an Indian jail, sits next to his body in an ambulance arriving from India at Pakistani-India border post Wagah, near Lahore, Pakistan, Saturday, March 2, 2019. Indian authorities have handed over the body of a Pakistani prisoner Ullah who was beaten to death by Indian inmates this month at an Indian jail apparently in retaliation for the Dec. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 soldiers. (K.M. Chaudary/Associated Press)

Tensions between India and Pakistan have been running high since Indian aircraft launched a strike in Pakistan on Tuesday in response to a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 troops.

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8 p.m.

India’s defense minister has met with the air force pilot who was released from Pakistani custody.

The Press Trust of India news agency reported that Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met with Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman at the Indian air force medical facility in New Delhi on Saturday, with Varthaman debriefing the minister about his detainment in Pakistan.

The news agency said the pilot was undergoing medical tests at the facility.

Varthaman was captured on Wednesday after his plane was shot down by the Pakistani military amid high tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals over the disputed Kashmir region. Pakistan handed Varthaman back to India at a border crossing on Friday.

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7:15 p.m.

India has handed over the body of a Pakistani prisoner who was beaten to death by inmates at an Indian jail last month apparently in retaliation for a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 soldiers.

It was unclear on what charges Shakir Ullah had been held at the jail.

Pakistani government officials say border guards received Ullah’s body Saturday at the same Wagah border crossing in the eastern city of Lahore from where an Indian pilot was handed over to Indian officials a day before.

The pilot was captured this past week after his plane was shot down by the Pakistani military amid high tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals over the disputed Kashmir region.

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6:45 p.m.

Pakistan’s foreign minister says Russia has offered to serve as a mediator to ease tensions between Pakistan and India.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Saturday that Pakistan was ready to accept the Russian offer, but he did not know whether India would agree as well.

Qureshi said at a news conference that Pakistan wants “peace, we don’t war and we have said that war is not solution to problems.”

Qureshi also said a top Saudi diplomat would soon visit Pakistan and India in a bid to ease tensions.

Pakistani officials said China is also expected to send an envoy to Pakistan and India next week.

Tensions between India and Pakistan have been running high since Indian aircraft launched a strike in Pakistan on Tuesday in response to a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 troops.

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6:15 p.m.

A Pakistani Cabinet minister says a key train service between Pakistan and neighboring India will resume on Monday, a sign on easing tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals.

The train service, known as Samjhauta Express, was suspended by Pakistani authorities this past week, stranding people on both sides.

On Saturday, the minister for railways, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, told reporters that the train link would be restored on Monday. The train links Lahore with the Indian border town of Atari.

Tensions between India and Pakistan have been running high since Indian aircraft launched a strike in Pakistan on Tuesday in response to a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 troops.

Officials said Saturday that soldiers from both sides again targeted each other’s posts and villages along their volatile frontier in disputed Kashmir, killing at least six civilians and two Pakistani troops.

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4:15 p.m.

Pakistan’s military says two of its soldiers have been killed in an exchange of fire with Indian forces near the Line of Control that separates the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir between the rivals.

It marked the first fatalities for Pakistani troops since Wednesday, when tensions dramatically escalated between the nuclear-armed neighbors over Kashmir, which is split between them but claimed by both in its entirety.

Pakistan’s army said in a statement Saturday that the soldiers were killed in the Nakiyal region of Kashmir in the past 24 hours. It said there were reports of troop casualties on the Indian side.

Since overnight Friday, a total of at least six civilians have been killed on both sides of Kashmir.

Tensions between India and Pakistan have been running high since Indian aircraft launched a strike in Pakistan on Tuesday in response to a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 troops.

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4:15 p.m.

Indian police say two paramilitary soldiers and two counterinsurgency police officials have been killed in a gunbattle with militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir, while troops fatally shot a civilian during anti-India protests.

Police said Saturday that the fighting began Thursday night in a forested area in the northwestern Handwara area after Indian troops surrounded the area on a tip that militants were hiding there.

Since then, fighting has been on and off. In addition to the fatalities, at least eight soldiers and police have been wounded.

Police said a young man was killed Friday when government forces fired at anti-India protesters who threw stones while trying to reach the site of the fighting. Several people were also injured in the clashes.

The fighting comes amid tensions between India and Pakistan that have been running high since Indian aircraft launched a strike in Pakistan on Tuesday in response to a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 troops.

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2:05 p.m.

Pakistan’s military says Indian troops have fired across the Line of Control into the Pakistan-controlled portion of the disputed region of Kashmir, killing two civilians and wounding two others.

The casualties Saturday bring to six the number of people killed on both sides of Kashmir since overnight Friday.

Pakistan’s military said in a statement that its troops “gave a befitting response by targeting Indian posts.”

The Indian army said Pakistani soldiers attacked Indian posts at several places along the militarized line later Saturday.

The latest exchange of fire between the nuclear-armed rivals came a day after Pakistan released an Indian pilot to defuse tensions. Pakistan arrested the pilot this past week after shooting down two Indian planes in Kashmir, which is split between the countries but claimed in its entirety by both.

Tensions have been running high since Indian aircraft launched a strike in Pakistan on Tuesday in response to a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 troops.

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11:30 a.m.

Hundreds of people who were forced to flee border villagers this week amid a dramatic escalation of hostilities between Pakistan and India have urged the international community to play its role in resolving the issue of Kashmir so that they can live peacefully.

Mohammad Latif, a laborer who is taking refuge at a government building vacated for sheltering displaced families, says, “Whenever India fire mortars, it’s we who suffer.”

Parveez Kazmi, a woman whose married daughter lives in Indian Kashmir, was weeping on a road in Muzafarabad city. She cannot travel to Indian-controlled Kashmir because of recent suspension of a key bus service by New Delhi.

She says people living on both sides of Kashmir often miss funerals and weddings of their dear ones because of tension between Pakistan and India.

On Saturday, people in Pakistan’s part of Kashmir continued fleeing border villages for safety amid a resumption of deadly shelling.

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10 a.m.

A Pakistani government official says Indian troops with heavy weapons have “indiscriminately targeted border villagers” along the two countries’ Line of Control in the Himalayan region of Kashmir, killing a boy and wounding three others.

The official, Umar Azam, said Saturday that Pakistani troops are “befittingly” responding to the Indian fire.

He says several homes were destroyed in Pakistan’s part of Kashmir, which is split between them and claimed by both in its entirety. India said earlier that Pakistani fire killed two siblings and their mother on its side.

Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since their independence from British rule in 1947.

Saturday’s exchange of fire came a day after Pakistan handed over a captured Indian air force pilot to India as a “gesture of peace” to defuse tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors over the disputed Kashmir region.

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9:45 a.m.

Officials say two siblings and their mother have been killed in cross-border shelling between Indian and Pakistani soldiers in disputed Kashmir.

Indian police say the three died overnight after a shell fired by Pakistani soldiers hit their home in Poonch region near the so-called Line of Control that divides the Himalayan territory of Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

Indian army says its soldiers responded.

Tensions have been running high since Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan on Tuesday, carrying out what India called a pre-emptive strike against militants blamed for a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops.

Pakistan retaliated, shooting down a MiG-21 fighter jet Wednesday and its pilot, who was returned to India on Friday in a peace gesture.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/the-latest-pakistan-says-indian-shelling-kills-boy-3-hurt/2019/03/01/6f355ea4-3ca4-11e9-b10b-f05a22e75865_story.html?utm_term=.e300366727f6

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'Strictly Internal', Says India After Islamic Nations' Conclave Adopts Resolution on Kashmir

March 3, 2019

New Delhi: New Delhi has asserted that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and the issue is strictly internal to the country in reaction to a resolution on the matter by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in its two-day foreign ministers’ conclave in Abu Dhabi.

“As regards the resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir, our stand is consistent and well known. We reaffirm that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India and is a matter strictly internal to India,” spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Raveesh Kumar said.

Earlier, the Pakistan Foreign Office said the 46th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of OIC concluded with a resolution that "supported" Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. "In a resolution, the OIC member states reiterated that Jammu and Kashmir remains the core dispute between Pakistan and India and its resolution is indispensable for the dream for peace in South Asia," it claimed.

The resolution also "expressed deep concern" over the alleged human rights violations in Kashmir, the Pakistan Foreign Office claimed, adding that the resolution also reminded the international community of its obligation to ensure implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on the Kashmir dispute.

The OIC is a grouping of 57 countries, majority of which are Muslim-dominated. It has usually been supportive of Pakistan and, often sided with Islamabad on the Kashmir issue.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj attended the inaugural plenary of the 46th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of OIC on Friday. She was the first Indian minister to address the OIC meeting.

India's participation came despite strong demand by Pakistan to rescind the invitation to Swaraj to address the grouping which was turned down by the host UAE, resulting in Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi boycotting the plenary.

Swaraj attended the meeting in Abu Dhabi on March 1 as the guest of honour at the invitation extended by the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates. "We deeply appreciate this historic gesture on the 50th anniversary of their first meeting," the MEA spokesperson said.

The OIC also called for "restraint and de-escalation" in South Asia as well as the need to resolve outstanding issues through peaceful means, the Pakistan Foreign Office said.

https://www.news18.com/news/india/strictly-internal-says-india-after-islamic-nations-conclave-adopts-resolution-on-kashmir-2053711.html

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'Resolve Ayodhya Issue With Dialogue': Muslim Civil Society and Art of Living

Mar 3, 2019

LUCKNOW: The Ayodhya dispute should be resolved through dialogue between Hindus and Muslims, demanded the litigant in the Babri Masjid case, Haji Mehboob along with representatives of the Muslim Civil Society and Art of Living, here on Saturday.

Coming together on one platform through Muslims Intellectual Forum, they stressed on the out-of-court settlement to resolve the Ayodhya issue. They also shot a letter to the president of Jamiat Ulema, Maulana Syed Arshad Madani and All India Muslim Personal Law Board president, Maulana Syed Muhammad Rabey Hasani Nadwi to extend support to Shri Shri Ravi Shankar's effort to amicably resolve the Ayodhya issue and also facilitate talks between Hindus and Muslims.

Talking to mediapersons, litigant Haji Mehboob said, "Political outfits will never want the Ayodhya issue to be resolved... There are some people from both the sides who don't want the dispute to be over. Hence, there is a need to bring intellectuals from both the communities together to hold talks."

"Court cannot bring hearts together, hence Muslim clerics should engage with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to amicably resolve the Ayodhya dispute," said the director of the Art of Living Gautam Vig.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/resolve-ayodhya-issue-with-dialogue/articleshow/68239960.cms

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Pakistan Jamaat-E-Islami Is Recruiting Volunteers If India And Pakistan Go To War

March 2, 2019

Eleven-year-old Aamir Khan is homeless, doesn’t know who his parents are and doesn’t remember much of what happened to him when he was younger. But of one thing he is certain: the future. He is going to fight a war against India.

“We Muslims will set India on fire,” he said. “We will kill them and blow them up. I hope we will win this fight InshaAllah.”

Aamir is one of hundreds of men, women and children, young and old, who have signed up as volunteers to fight, at a registration camp set up by the Jamaat-e-Islami religio-political party in Karachi.

These volunteers are reacting to a series of events triggered on February 14 which nearly brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. Tensions were ratcheted up when a suicide bomber killed 40 Indian soldiers in Indian-Administered Kashmir’s Pulwama. This was deemed the deadliest attack since 2002.

In response, Indian planes violated Pakistani airspace. A day later, Pakistan shot down two Indian planes. One plane crashed in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir and its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan, was captured. However, in an attempt to de-escalate, Pakistan returned the pilot to the Indian authorities as a “gesture of peace” and Prime Minister Imran Khan urged for talks.

This fortnight’s riveting and nerve-wracking developments were significant for the Jamaat-e-Islami for whom Kashmir has long been a cause and a rally cry.

At the JI registration camp at Hasan Square, an office-bearer, Kabir Ahmed, took down the names and phone numbers of volunteers. “We need women and blood donors,” he explained. “Women have given their names as volunteers to protect buildings, bridges and defense installations.” They were preparing people with medical and rescue training in case war broke out with India. People who signed up were told that the party would contact them for training and they may be asked to work with rescue teams if the need arose. Of course, he added, it was fine if India “freed” Kashmir through dialogue but if the war were necessary, then they were ready to fight.

“Over 30,000 people have registered in Karachi alone,” said Hafiz Bilal, the president of the youth wing who happens to be a former student of the University of Karachi. The youth wing, with over 10,000 members, had organized the volunteer drive and set up camps in the city. “We take their names, cell numbers and they all are ready to protect the country with Jazba-e-Jihad (passion for jihad) and Jazba-e-Shahadat (passion for martyrdom).”

The Jamaat-e-Islami has backed a cause to “free” Kashmir for decades with its leaders attending rallies with Kashmiri leaders, including Hizbul Mujahideen head Syed Salahuddin and commander Mast Gul. An intelligence official, who requested anonymity because he is not allowed to comment on political parties, said that the JI had hosted Kashmir leaders at its offices in the past.

Syed Salahuddin interacted with Jamaat-e-Islami workers at its Karachi office a few years ago, the official said, adding that these visits give them a chance to interact with young people and make an impression.

The Indian government has banned the Jamaat-e-Islami in Kashmir for “unlawful association” and for activities “prejudicial to internal security and public order”. India did this, argued senior JI leader Naeem-ur-Rehman, because it knew “who provided the resistance” in the Kashmir jihad.

The JI has its own interpretation of the recent attack on Indian soldiers as well. “The Pulwama attack should not be declared a terrorist attack,” Naeem-ur-Rehman said while talking to SAMAA Digital at his office. “It should be said that the young man committed an act of jihad against state terrorism.” He said they considered jihad a religious duty. He added that no civilian was killed at Pulwama; soldiers were targeted.

This is not the first time the Jamaat-e-Islami has rallied behind a cause and perhaps been seen as influential enough to recruit people. Political analyst Tausif Ahmed Khan recalled how the party had put up banners and posters across the country in 1971 (before the creation of Bangladesh). “The Jamaat-e-Islami ran a similar campaign between September and October, 1971,” he said. “They developed a junoon in people and we all had seen the result.”

Tausif Ahmed Khan was in college in 1971 and remembered JI workers chanting “crush India” at the time. The problem is that Pakistan is isolated because of such groups, he argued. “When they talk about jihad, it is taken as proof that Pakistan interferes in Kashmir,” he added.

Indeed, the Jamaat-e-Islami has been quite public about its support for leaders of the “Kashmir Jihad”.

“Commander Mast Gul was close to the late Jamaat-e-Islami leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed,” said Brigadier (retired) Asad Munir, a former ISI official. “Qazi Hussain Ahmed used to take him to roadside rallies across the country.”

Asad Munir and Tausif Ahmed Khan argued that Pakistan needs to act against groups motivating people, especially young ones, towards violence. For his part, Munir said that the State should act against groups that motivate people towards jihad because, “the world does no longer tolerate jihad”.

“Whoever made this policy is responsible for all of this,” he said.

SAMAA Digital made repeated attempts to contact government officials for comment. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry was sent a message but he had not responded by the time this report was filed. This story will be updated accordingly if and when a response is given.

Meanwhile, 14-year-old Abu Hurairah was signing up at the Jamaat-e-Islami’s camp with his mother. She said she could sacrifice her child for Pakistan. “Our life is for Pakistan,” her son added. “We want Pakistan and India to repair their relationship because both countries will suffer a loss if they go to war.”

https://www.samaa.tv/news/2019/03/jamaat-e-islami-is-recruiting-volunteers-if-india-and-pakistan-go-to-war/

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Resolution submitted in Pakistan parliament to endorse Imran Khan for Peace Nobel

Mar 02, 2019

A resolution was submitted in Pakistan Parliament on Saturday to endorse Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan for the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize due to his efforts to de-escalate resent tension with India.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry Saturday submitted the resolution in the secretariat of National Assembly, the lower house.

The resolution stated that Khan's decision of releasing Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan has de-escalated the hostility between Pakistan and India.

According to the resolution, Khan acted responsibly in the current tension and "deserves the Nobel Peace Prize".

The resolution is expected to be taken up on Monday when it is scheduled to convene its session.

It is also expected to be passed as the government has majority in the House but it will be interesting to see if main opposition parties support the move.

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/resolution-submitted-in-pakistan-parliament-to-endorse-imran-khan-for-peace-nobel/articleshow/68231881.cms

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India refuses to share proof of air strikes in Balakot

March 03, 2019

NEW DELHI: A top Indian minister said on Saturday the government would not share proof that “a very large number of militants” were killed in air strikes inside Pakistan this week, after doubts were raised there were any casualties in the attack that stoked tensions between the two countries.

The flare up appeared to be easing on Saturday after Pakistan handed back a captured Indian fighter pilot on Friday night, amid efforts by global powers to prevent another war between the two states.

However, shelling across the Line of Control continued, said military officials on both sides.

On Tuesday, Indian warplanes carried out air strikes inside Balakot on what New Delhi alleged were militant camps. Islamabad denied any such camps existed, as did local villagers in the area when Reuters visited.

On Wednesday, Pakistan retaliated with its own aerial mission.

Pakistan said the Indian bombs hit a largely empty hillside without hurting anyone. Some Indian opposition leaders have asked the government to share evidence of the strikes.

Take a look: India speaks in riddles after Imran’s peace gesture

But India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s top lieutenants, said “no security agencies ever share operational details”.

“It’s a very irresponsible stand,” Jaitley said at a conference organised by the India Today media group.

“The armed forces must have, and our security and intelligence agencies must have, a full leeway in dealing with situations, and if anybody wants operational details to be made public ... he certainly does not understand the system.”

Jaitley dismissed suggestions that the rapid escalation in tensions with Pak­is­tan had anything to do with India’s domestic politics ahead of a general election due by May. Pollsters expect the ruling party to benefit from the nationalistic passion sweeping the country.

Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman crossed into India from Pakistan at Wagah on Friday night in a high-profile handover shown on live television.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met Abhinan­dan at a New Delhi defence hospital on Saturday, where he was seen in his air force jumpsuit. He will undergo medical checks before re-joining active duty, officials said. The pilot debriefed the minister about his detention in Pakistan.

Pakistan presented Abhi­nandan’s return “as a goodwill gesture aimed at de-escalating rising tensions with India” after weeks of unease that threatened to spiral into war. Global powers, including China and the United States, have urged restraint to prevent another conflict bet­ween the neighbours.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1467273/india-refuses-to-share-proof-of-air-strikes-in-balakot

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Israeli ‘Crime Minister’ Netanyahu in hot water as opponent gains in popularity and corruption charges loom

Mar 3, 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces an increasingly tough time ahead as his biggest political opponent overtakes him in popularity and as calls mount for him to resign over looming corruption charges that could effectively end his political career.

Ex-Israeli military chief of staff Benny Gantz, head of the newly-formed center-left Blue and White political alliance, has both gained in popularity — past that of Netanyahu’s — and urged the Israeli prime minister to resign.

“Netanyahu, I am calling on you to... resign from your position. You can return to politics with your head up when you prove you are innocent,” he said.

The call came after Israeli Attorney General Aluf Avichai Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Netanyahu for fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases, and for bribery in one of them, pending a hearing.

Netanyahu is involved and has been investigated in at least three criminal cases.

So-called Case 1,000 involves allegations that Netanyahu received luxury gifts from international billionaires in exchange for favors. In Case 2,000, he is accused of conspiring with the owner of Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper to undermine a critical daily. Case 4,000 also involves allegations that Netanyahu offered incentives to the Israeli telecom provider Bezeq in return for positive stories in Walla news website.

It is the first time that a serving Israeli prime minister is told he faces criminal charges.

At a press conference on Thursday, Netanyahu called the allegations a “witch hunt intended to topple” his right-wing administration, stressing that he intends to continue as Israeli prime minister “for many more years.” He is running for a fifth term in the April 9 general elections.

But a poll conducted by The Times of Israel on Friday — the first poll since Mandelblit said he would proceed with the public indictment — showed that more than two-thirds of Israelis believed Netanyahu should resign if is indicted.

Another poll, published by the Kan public broadcaster on Saturday, showed that 41 percent of respondents picked Gantz and 40 percent Netanyahu when asked who they thought was most fit to serve as Israel’s prime minister.

It was the first time that Gantz was taking a lead over Netanyahu in the polls.

More resignation calls

Avi Gabbay, head of the Labor Party, also called on Netanyahu to “immediately” resign, saying the prime minister was “shaming” Israel

“He is ruining everything in order to save himself. The people of Israel don’t want a corrupt government,” he said.

Moreover, the Meretz left-wing party called for a special meeting of the Israeli parliament to discuss Netanyahu’s indictment.

“The issue is about a corrupt prime minister,” it said in a statement.

‘Crime Minister’

On Saturday evening, Netanyahu’s opponents took to the streets of Tel Aviv to demand his resignation.

In Tel Aviv, the protesters chanted slogans such as “Corrupt, go home.” They also waved signs reading, “Crime Minister” and “Time for Netanyahu to go.”

In Ramla, near Tel Aviv, Labor activists projected onto a wall of the Maasiyahu prison a giant message reading “Netanyahu, Israel is ashamed.”

Netanyahu’s supporter held a rival rally in Tel Aviv.

Under Israeli law, the prime minister is not obliged to step down unless he is charged, convicted, and loses all appeals, a potentially lengthy process.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/03/590015/Israel-Benjamin-Netanyahu-resign-corruption

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Muslim US Congresswoman slams Republicans for linking her to 9/11

Mar 2, 2019

US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has condemned Republicans for linking her to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, saying it's "no wonder" she is on the "hit list" of a domestic terrorist.

Recently, a poster linking the Muslim lawmaker from Minnesota to the 9/11 attack was reportedly hung in the West Virginia statehouse by Republicans for a “Republicans Take the Rotunda” event. 

The poster showed a photograph of the Twin Towers in flames with the words, "Never forget - you said...." followed by, "I am the proof you have forgotten," alongside a photo of Omar.

"No wonder why I am on the 'Hitlist' of a domestic terrorist and 'Assassinate Ilhan Omar' is written on my local gas stations. Look no further, the GOP's anti-Muslim display likening me to a terrorist rocks in state capitols and no one is condemning them!" the Democratic representative wrote on Twitter.

The September, 11, 2001 attacks, also known as the 9/11 attacks, were a series of strikes in the US which killed nearly 3,000 people and caused about $10 billion worth of property and infrastructure damage.

US officials assert that the attacks were carried out by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists but many experts have raised questions about the official account.

They believe that rogue elements within the US government, such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, orchestrated or at least encouraged the 9/11 attacks in order to accelerate the US war machine and advance the Zionist agenda.

Some pro-Israel US politicians have accused Omar of anti-Semitic comments because she has been a staunch critic of Israel and its anti-Muslim policies in the Middle East. She has also repeatedly slammed the main Israeli lobby in the US, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Speaking on Wednesday night at an event in Washington, DC with fellow Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Omar dismissed anti-Semitic charges against her, saying everything they say about Israel is interpreted as anti-Semitic because they are Muslim.

She added that anti-Semitic accusations are brought up to prevent a “broader debate” about Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinians.

Omar and Tlaib became the first Muslim women elected to the US Congress after winning their seats in November last year.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/02/589983/Muslim-US-Congresswoman-slams-Republicans-for-linking-her-to-911

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UK Muslims urge probe into Tory handling of Islamophobia

Mar 2, 2019

The Muslim Council of Britain has called for an investigation into how the ruling Conservative Party handles Islamophobia within its ranks, saying Tories are mostly ignorant of the discrimination and hate against Muslims.

The call issued on Saturday came hours after some insulting comments against Muslims were posted on a Facebook group page related to senior Tory lawmaker Boris Johnson.

It also came after Dorinda Bailey, a conservative council candidate, posted a message on the same page supporting a user calling for bombing mosques.

Miqdaad Versi, a senior member of the Muslim Council of Britain, said it had become a strategy of the Conservative Party to ignore “Islamophobia until it goes away”, saying a probe should make clear how much the ruling party is gripped by Islamophobic approaches among its members.

Varsi told the Metro newspaper that Islamophobia had become so “expansive” among the Conservative politicians and party members that Muslim communities were feeling its impact on a “daily basis”.

“Just under half of Conservative voters believe Islam is a threat to the British way of life,” he said, citing a report by the Hope Not Hate campaign group.

A Conservative party spokesperson said the page launched by followers of former British foreign minister Johnson was not related to the Conservative Party, saying, however, that if a member posts insulting comments online the party will take action.

However, the accusations come against the backdrop of a clear surge in Islamophobic behavior in the Conservative Party.

Johnson, a main candidate of Tory party leadership in future, sparked huge controversy last summer when he wrote a commentary in the Daily Telegraph and compared Muslim women wearing burqas to “bank robbers” and “letterboxes”.

The article caused hate attacks against Muslim women to increase across Britain, a country home to nearly three million Muslims.

The surge in anti-Muslim approaches among Tory members comes at a time when the Opposition Labour Party is under immense pressure to dispel members over their alleged anti-Semitic conduct. The Labour leadership has found it difficult to convince critics that many of its members only oppose Israel and Zionism and have nothing against the Jews.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/02/589969/UK-Conservative-Party-Islamophobia-accusations

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Arab World

 

OIC ministers call for peace, stability in Muslim countries

March 2, 2019

Ministers are discussing a range of issues including support for Muslim communities outside the Arab world.

Fifty-six foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have gathered in the Capital to discuss various political, economic, religious and social issues, with peace and stability in the Muslim countries topping the agenda.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, who was also announced as the new President for the 46th council of foreign ministers inaugurated the meeting on March 1.

At the two-day Abu Dhabi conference, which coincides with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the OIC, the foreign ministers are discussing a range of issues including support for Muslim communities outside the Arab world and combatting hate speech.

"The UAE welcomes this large number of participating countries and looks forward to a fruitful constructive dialogue for the establishment of cooperation programmes that advance the interests of the OIC member states," said Sheikh Abdullah in his key note speech.

"The UAE is looking forward to seeing this conference strengthen the role of the organisation in strengthening the bonds of joint Islamic action and ending conflicts in Muslim nations."

The annual meeting titled "50 Years of Islamic Cooperation: The Road Map to Prosperity and Development" also saw the ministers tackling the issue of Palestine and counter-terrorism in addition to discussing 131 draft resolutions.

Continued support for Palestinians

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed had in his speech delivered a message of support to the Palestine people to the foreign ministers, reaffirming the country's stance that they have a right to independence.

"We reiterate UAE's support for the right of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state and to exercise self-determination," said Sheikh Abdullah.

He said the UAE is closely monitoring the deteriorating situation in Palestine including the violations carried out by Israel and called on the United Nations to take action to ensure decent living standards for the Palestine people, and bring to an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories.

"Islam is a religion of peace and discourages violence, hatred and injustices of all forms. We call for necessary measures to end extremism of all forms and fight everyone involved in supporting terrorists in any form," Sheikh Abdullah.

He also urged Iran review its measures and policies intended to destabilise the region including financing terror groups and to mend relations with its neighbours to ensure peace and stability among Muslim nations.

"The world is facing transformation of challenges and we call upon all nations to embrace tolerance, fraternity and empowerment of youths and women so as to have a peaceful future," said Sheikh Abdullah.

Dr. Yousef Al Othaimeen, Secretary-General of the OIC, said: "Muslims are facing a lot of challenges including conflicts, terrorism and poverty and this needs our combined efforts to find solutions to these problems.

"The Palestinian people are facing atrocities from the Israelis and they have intentionally been denied peace. We call upon all nations to implement the resolutions that grant the Palestinians sovereignty so as end the threats and killings by the Israels."

According to Al Othaimeen, the conflicts and instabilities in the Islamic states like Syria, Libya, Iraq, Palestine and others, threaten the future of the youths and the social, political and economic developments in these nations.

"I would also like to re-affirm the OIC's solidarity and support to all Islamic states to see that peace and stability prevails everywhere," he said.

"The OIC is working on the implementation of the ten-year development plan including; fighting poverty, educating the youth, empowerment of women and promoting them to higher levels of authority, consolidating families and ensuring of peace in all nations."

All nations deserve peace and stability

Bangladesh Foreign Minister, Dr. A. K. Abdul Momen, who is also the outgoing President of the council of foreign ministers said humanity is above all and that nations should look forward to seeing peace and stability in all nations.

"We must all work towards peace, justice, fraternity and human development. Acts of intolerance, inequality and injustices of all forms should be rejected," he said.

"Terrorism in a real threat to the entire world and we must fight terror collectively. We must not allow terrorists to use our territories to kill people and deprive others of their peace."

The Bangladeshi minister said minority Muslims in some states like Myanmar are marginalized, discriminated and mistreated, and called for the end of such injustices.

"We must find solutions for the root causes of conflicts like that in Rohingya. Bangladesh has tried to support the Muslims from Rohingya but we cannot solve this crisis alone. All OIC states have to join hands to end the injustices and ensure peace in for Muslims in that part of the world," he added.

He discussed the latest situation on the repatriation of the Rohingyas as per the agreement signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar and urged members to extend all possible cooperation and support to Bangladesh for implementation of the terms of the agreement.

The foreign ministers also discussed the issue of integration and cooperation among the OIC members in addition to ways of enhancing development opportunities and inter-cooperation by looking for opportunities to accelerate the pace of economic-cooperative development.

The OIC member states will be putting forth draft resolutions on financial support mechanisms for Palestinians and will continue working on the Development Fund for Palestine Refugees.

The next foreign ministers of OIC meeting will be held in Niger.

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/abu-dhabi/oic-foreign-ministers-call-for-peace-stability-in-muslim-countries-1

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Wounded and alone, children emerge from last IS enclave

March 2, 2019

DEIR AL-ZOR PROVINCE: Hareth Najem fled Islamic State’s last enclave in eastern Syria wounded and alone.

The Iraqi orphan’s family had died two years earlier in air strikes across the border in al-Qaim region.

“I had two brothers and a sister. They all died, and then I was by myself,” Hareth told Reuters, tears filling his eyes.

“My little sister, I loved her a lot. I used to take her with me to the market.”

Lying in a cattle truck beside another injured boy at a desert transit point for US-backed forces, he huddled under a blanket.

His face was covered in dirt and the side of his head wrapped with bandages covering wounds incurred days earlier.

Hareth was 11 years old when Islamic State (IS) carved out its “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, killing thousands of civilians and attracting an array of enemies that have fought from the air and on the ground to uproot the jihadists.

Now 16, he was among the children swept up this week in the civilian evacuation of Baghouz, the last shred of land under the jihadists’ control where they are on the brink of defeat at the hands of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Some of the children are foreigners whose parents brought them to be raised under IS rule, or child fighters conscripted into what the group dubbed “cubs of the caliphate”.

Others, including members of the Yazidi minority, were enslaved by the jihadists.

Many have seen their parents die in the fighting or be detained by rival forces.

As IS faces territorial defeat, their fate remains uncertain.

The SDF investigates all men and teenage boys arriving from Baghouz to determine possible IS links.

‘These kids have nobody’

Around 20 children crossed the frontline on their own this week, including Iraqis, Syrians, Turks and Indonesians, said SDF commander Adnan Afrin.

The fathers of some were identified as IS fighters and arrested immediately.

“These kids have nobody. They need somebody to take care of them, to provide mental health support,” said Afrin, adding that some had gone hungry for a long time.

The SDF plans to hand over the children to aid groups, he said.

Hareth said his family had been running a market stall when IS overran their town and they had no links to the group.

After his family was killed in an aerial bombardment, he crossed into Syria with other Iraqis who feared Shi’ite Muslim militias advancing against IS would take revenge on Sunnis – a fear that other Iraqis have cited as their reason for entering IS-held Syria.

Hareth said he tried to avoid the jihadists and denies attending their schools or receiving military training.

Their morality police would sometimes arrest and whip him.

“They gave speeches at the mosques, jihad and whatnot,” he said. “I was scared of them. My whole family died because of them.”

When he reached Baghouz, he worked in a field in return for a room to sleep in. He tried saving enough money to go home but said the militants stopped him.

Hareth was wounded last week when a shell fell near where he was standing along the Euphrates River, injuring his ear, hand and stomach.

He wants to get medical care and return to relatives still in Iraq.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2019/03/02/wounded-and-alone-children-emerge-from-last-is-enclave/

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Turkish Army Resumes Attacks on Kurdish Positions in Aleppo Province

Mar 02, 2019

The Turkish Army and Ankara-backed militants heavily pounded the military positions of Kurdish Al-Bab Military Council in the village of al-Baqouz East of the city of Al-Bab. The Turkish Army and Ankara-backed militants were stationed in the village of Olashli West of the city of Manbij in Northeastern Aleppo.

Meantime, battlefield sources said that the Turkish Army has dispatched around 70 military vehicles comprising military and logistic supplies as well as a number of soldiers to the war fronts in Northern Syria.

The sources said that the Turkish military convoy has arrived in Mourek in Northern Hama and al-Sarman in the surrounding areas of al-Ma'arat al-Numan South of Idlib after passing through areas under the control of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) in full coordination with the terrorist group.

In a relevant development last Wednesday, sources in Syria said that Turkey was planning to occupy new areas in Idlib to prevent the Syrian Army from conducting its military operations in the region amid terrorists' continued attacks in the demilitarized zone.

"The Turkish Army intends to create six new regions in Tal al-Toufan and Tal al-Sultan West of Abu al-Zohour and in a road linking Saraqib city to Abu al-Zohour town in Southeastern Idlib," field sources close to the militant groups in Syria said.

The sources reiterated that the Turkish Army was looking for blocking military operations against Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at in the demilitarized zone by establishing presence Idlib province.

The report comes as military experts pointed to intensified attacks on safe regions in Northern Syrian by terrorist groups stationed in the demilitarized zone, and said that the Syrian Army will most probably conduct its mop-up operations in the region.

Meantime, the Arabic-language Al-Watan newspaper reported that the Syrian Army's missile and artillery units heavily pounded Tahrir al-Sham terrorists' military positions and movements in al-Qasebiyeh, the surroundings of Khan Sheikhoun, Saraqib, Mogher al-Hanteh, Sakik, Al-Katibeh al-Mahjoureh and near Jisr al-Shoghour.

The Syrian Army attacks came in response to Tahrir al-Sham terrorists' attacks on the town of Abu al-Zohour in Southeastern Idlib.

In Northern Hama, the Syrian Army also shot down two terrorists' drones near Atshan town and warded off their attacks on Qaleh al-Maziq, al-Sharia and al-Jamaseh, inflicting heavy losses and casualties on the terrorists.

Yet in another relevant development last Monday, the Arabic-language media reported that the Turkish intelligence officials and commanders of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at have been meeting on protecting and keeping the terrorist group in Idlib province.

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted sources close to the militants as saying on Monday that Ankara has set conditions for supporting Tahrir al-Sham and its continued control over Idlib, saying that they should follow Ikhwan al-Muslimoun (Muslim Brotherhood) approach.

They added that the two sides have reached an agreement that includes a shift of approach by Tahrir al-Sham. "In return Turkey has promised the terrorist group that it will prolong the demilitarized zone agreement as long as possible, will not participate in any joint military operations against Tahrir al-Sham and will try to prevent such operations."

The paper also referred to the Syrian army's airstrikes against the terrorists in Northern and Northwestern Hama and Southeastern Idlib in response to their attacks, raising the possibility that military operations in Idlib would soon start.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971211000647

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Syrian Army Pounds, Destroys Terrorists' Bases in Hama

Mar 02, 2019

The terrorist groups stationed in the demilitarized zone in Northern Hama targeted the Mahrada city with 40 missiles, leaving heavy damage on the city's power plant and residential areas as well as wounding a number of civilians.

The Syrian army units responded the offensive with heavy missile and artillery attacks, targeting the terrorists' positions and moves South of Mourek town in Northern Hama and a military convoy carrying weapons and military equipment. Several hideouts of the terrorists were destroyed and a number of them were killed in the Syrian Army attacks.

Meantime, the Arabic-language service of the Russian Sputnik news agency reported that Jeish al-Izza terrorists also launched a missile attacked Mahrada City in Northern Hama.

A military source, meantime, pointed to the intensified attacks by terrorists from the demilitarized zone in recent days, and said that Haras ul-Din terrorists, stationed near the Turkish-controlled region in the surrounding areas of Mourek town, attacked residential areas in Souran City with several missiles. This comes as the terrorists' missile attacks have been extended to the towns of al-Mahrouseh, Na'or Shatheh and Tal Bazam in Northern Hama.

Meantime, relevant reports said last Tuesday that Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the al-Nusra Front) had recently delivered 3,000 long-range and mid-range missiles jointly produced by a number of Arab states in one of the North African countries to the underground caches of Jeish al-Izza terrorist group in the towns of Kafr Zita and al-Latamineh in Northern Hama.

The Arabic-language service of Sputnik quoted special sources in Idlib as saying that the operations to deliver the missiles was carried out at night and took for two days, adding that commander of Tahrir al-Sham for weaponry named Abu Ahmad al-Checheni has ordered transfer of the missiles from the depots in Idlib city, Saraqib and Ariha in Idlib province to Jeish al-Izza after coordination with its commander Jamil al-Salih.

During the missile attacks by Jeish al-Izza against the residential areas in the town of al-Saqilbeh and Mahrada in Northern and Northwestern Hama, a civilian was killed and 7 others, including a child, were severely wounded and a large number of houses were destroyed.

Based on the report, the terrorists stationed in Southeastern Idlib also launched missile strikes against the Western parts of the town of Abu al-Zohour, killing 7 Syrian military forces and injuring 20 others near the town of al-Sukriyeh.

Meantime, the Syrian army forces in response targeted the terrorists' moves in Western Abu al-Zohour, inflicting over 25 tolls on them and smashing their military equipment.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971211000593

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Wounded and alone, children emerge from last ISIS enclave

3 March 2019

Hareth Najem fled the last enclave ISIS in eastern Syria wounded and alone. The Iraqi orphan’s family had died two years earlier in air strikes across the border in al-Qaim region.

“I had two brothers and a sister. They all died, and then I was by myself,” Hareth told Reuters, tears filling his eyes. “My little sister, I loved her a lot. I used to take her with me to the market.”

Lying in a cattle truck beside another injured boy at a desert transit point for US-backed forces, he huddled under a blanket. His face was covered in dirt and the side of his head wrapped with bandages covering wounds incurred days earlier.

Hareth was 11 years old when ISIS carved out its “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, killing thousands of civilians and attracting an array of enemies that have fought from the air and on the ground to uproot the extremists.

Now 16, he was among the children swept up this week in the civilian evacuation of Baghouz, the last shred of land under the extremists’ control where they are on the brink of defeat at the hands of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Some of the children are foreigners whose parents brought them to be raised under ISIS rule, or child fighters conscripted into what the group dubbed “cubs of the caliphate”. Others, including members of the Yazidi minority, were enslaved by the extremists.

Many have seen their parents die in the fighting or be detained by rival forces. As ISIS faces territorial defeat, their fate remains uncertain. The SDF investigates all men and teenage boys arriving from Baghouz to determine possible ISIS links.

‘These kids have nobody’

Around 20 children crossed the frontline on their own this week, including Iraqis, Syrians, Turks and Indonesians, said SDF commander Adnan Afrin. The fathers of some were identified as ISIS fighters and arrested immediately.

“These kids have nobody. They need somebody to take care of them, to provide mental health support,” said Afrin, adding that some had gone hungry for a long time. The SDF plans to hand over the children to aid groups, he said.

Hareth said his family had been running a market stall when ISIS overran their town and they had no links to the group.

After his family was killed in an aerial bombardment, he crossed into Syria with other Iraqis who feared Shi’ite Muslim militias advancing against ISIS would take revenge on Sunnis - a fear that other Iraqis have cited as their reason for entering ISIS-held Syria.

Hareth said he tried to avoid the extremists and denies attending their schools or receiving military training. Their morality police would sometimes arrest and whip him.

“They gave speeches at the mosques, jihad and whatnot,” he said. “I was scared of them. My whole family died because of them.”

When he reached Baghouz, he worked in a field in return for a room to sleep in. He tried saving enough money to go home but said the militants stopped him.

Hareth was wounded last week when a shell fell near where he was standing along the Euphrates River, injuring his ear, hand and stomach. He wants to get medical care and return to relatives still in Iraq.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2019/03/03/Wounded-and-alone-children-emerge-from-last-ISIS-enclave.html

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Chlorine likely used in attack on Syria town Douma: OPCW

Mar 2, 2019

A chemical weapons watchdog says chlorine was likely used in a suspected gas attack in Syria's Douma in 2018, stressing that it found no evidence of nerve agent at the site.

The use of chlorine by foreign-backed terrorists is a long-known fact, while nerve agents are usually attributed to the Syrian government which surrendered all its chemical stockpile in 2013.

The new report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) released on Friday, however, did not assign blame for the incident on a Douma suburb in 2018.

The watchdog said there were "reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon has taken place on 7 April 2018."

"This toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine," the Hague-based organization said, noting that it had found no evidence of the use of nerve agents in the Syrian town.

The report was based on a visit by OPCW inspectors to the site of the attack.

The watchdog said it had reached its conclusions based on "witnesses' testimonies, environmental and biomedical samples analysis results, toxicological and ballistic analyses from experts."

The Douma attack occurred at a time when the Syrian army was about to win the battle against the foreign-backed militants there. Witnesses said at least 43 people were killed in the incident.

However, Western states were quick to blame the Syrian government for the attack, which Damascus firmly rejected.

One week after the suspected gas attack, the US, Britain and France launched a coordinated missile strike against sites and research facilities near Damascus and Homs.

Damascus and its allies in the war saw the attack as a bid to prop up terrorists, faulting the invaders for ignoring Syria's repeated requests for an international probe into the incident.

Syria surrendered its entire chemical stockpile in 2013 to a mission led by the OPCW and the United Nations.

Several reports have previously suggested the use of chlorine against civilians by anti-Damascus militants.

Commenting on the OPCW report, Russia which has been assisting Syria in its counter-terrorism fight said that the Douma attack was "staged" by the White Helmets volunteer organization.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/02/589952/Syria-Douma-Chlorine

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US-led coalition bombs eastern Syrian town with white phosphorus munitions

Mar 2, 2019

The US-led military coalition, which is purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria, has used white phosphorus munitions in a bombing raid against an area in Syria’s eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr, local media say.

Syria’s official news agency SANA, citing local sources, reported on Saturday that US-led military aircraft conducted a bombing attack with white phosphorus munitions on the farmlands of the town of Baghouz in the volatile province.

The US-led coalition and the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is supported by Washington, claim that they are fighting against the Daesh militants in the Arab country and that Baghouz, which is the last pocket of territory controlled by remnants of the terror group, is constantly under their fire and expected to be liberated soon.

The flashpoint town is located in the eastern Euphrates River region.

The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. Washington has long been providing the SDF -- a predominantly Kurdish alliance of militants -- with arms and militants, calling them a key partner in the purported fight against Daesh.

The so-called US coalition has in several occasions used internationally banned white phosphorous against various positions in the Arab country, particularly in Dayr al-Zawr province, drawing condemnations from Damascus.

On November 5 last year the US-led warplanes used white phosphorus bombs against Hajin, located some 110 kilometers east of the provincial capital city of Dayr al-Zawr, Sana reported.

On October 13, SANA also reported that the US-led coalition had dropped internationally-banned white phosphorus bombs on Hajin. On September 8, two F-15 warplanes of the US Air Force targeted the same Syrian town with white phosphorous bombs.

In June 2017, Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned that the US-led coalition was deploying white phosphorous bombs in both Iraq and Syria.

On Friday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a report that chlorine was likely used in a suspected gas attack in Syria's Douma in April 2018.

The use of chlorine by foreign-backed terrorists is a long-known fact, while nerve agents are usually attributed to the Syrian government which surrendered its entire chemical stockpile in 2013.

The chemical weapons watchdog, however, did not assign blame for the incident on a Douma suburb last year.

The Douma attack occurred at a time when the Syrian army was about to win the battle against the foreign-backed militants there. Witnesses said at least 43 people were killed in the incident.

However, Western states were quick to blame Damascus for the attack, which the Syrian government strongly rejected.

One week after the suspected gas attack, the US, Britain and France launched a coordinated missile strike against sites and research facilities near Damascus and Homs.

Syria and its allies, including Russia and Iran, saw the attack as a bid to prop up terrorists, faulting the invaders for ignoring Syria's repeated requests for an international probe into the incident.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/02/589997/Syria-USled-coalition-white-phosphorus-Baghouz-Daesh

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India

 

Muslim family in Assam has been looking after 500-year-old Shiva temple since generations

Mar 3, 2019

GUWAHATI: A Muslim family is reportedly looking after a 500-year-old Shiva temple located at Rangamahal village in Guwahati since generations. Both Muslims and Hindus of the area have firm believe in the deity and throng the temple for offering prayers and doing rituals.

The caretaker, Matibar Rehman, said that the deity of 'Lord Shiva' is like his maternal grandfather.

Assam: A Muslim family looks after a Shiva temple for last 500-year in Rangamahal village, Guwahati. The caretaker…

https://t.co/1F3LXAclJQ

— ANI (@ANI) 1551540952000

"I call him Nana (maternal grandfather). It's a 500-year-old temple, our family looks after the temple. People from both the religions - Hindu and Muslim - come here to offer prayers," said Matibar Rehman, the caretaker.

"Muslims perform 'dua' while Hindus perform 'puja' here. Everyone wishes are fulfilled here," he said.

Rehman said that he himself offers 'dua' in the 'Shivalaya' or the Shiva temple.

The family has been the caretaker of the temple and is looking after it since generations. The temple is considered as the epitome of the Hindu-Muslim unity in the region.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/guwahati/muslim-family-in-assam-has-been-looking-after-500-yr-old-shiva-temple-since-generations/articleshow/68239141.cms

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Indian jets hit school of jihad, says Azhar’s brother in audio

Mar 3, 2019

NEW DELHI: Countering denials of the Pakistan government and military, Maulana Ammar, the younger brother of Jaish-e-Muhammed leader Masood Azhar+ , has in an audio confirmed that Indian fighter jets hit the JeM camp near Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunwa province of Pakistan.

In a recording available on social media, the voice identified as Maulana Ammar decries the bombing of the “markaz” (a centre of religious learning) and expresses anguish over India striking a centre where jihad was being taught rather than the headquarters of an official agency.

“Today the enemy has answered all questions itself when the enemy crossed the mountains and entered our land and launched attacks on our Islamic centre,” Maulana Ammar said, adding “This is declaration of war by the enemy.” The speech is understood to have been delivered a day after the air strikes at a gathering of clerics at Peshawar.

“The Indian aircraft did not attack any safe house of any agency. It did not bomb the headquarters of any agency. They bombed a centre where students were learning jihad for the assistance of Muslims of Kashmir,” he said. He is heard saying that the students were learning all about making the distress of Kashmir their own. “This is not a jihad of any agency, by coming out of its territory to attack us, India has ensured we start our jihad against it,” he said.

The Pakistan establishment and sections of western media have raised doubts over whether the bombs did strike the target but the recording seems to suggest that Jaish leadership does acknowledge the hit.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/indian-jets-hit-school-of-jihad-says-azhars-brother-in-audio/articleshow/68238334.cms

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Abhinandan says was subjected to mental harassment by ISI

Mar 3, 2019

NEW DELHI: Contrary to the impression projected by Pakistan that it treated him well, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has told the leadership of IAF that he was subjected to mental harassment while in captivity.

The fighter pilot has told the IAF brass that he was all along in the custody of Pakistan’s notorious external espionage agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, which played a lot of mind games with him in order to break his morale even though he was spared physical torture, official sources said.

Sources said the delay in handing over the IAF pilot to India was part of the harassment by ISI officers who forced him to record the video where he is seen praising Pakistan army and slandering Indian media. However, the mental torture does not seem to have worked. “He seems to be in fine spirit,” said a source after interacting with Varthaman.

Varthaman is yet to undergo an intense scan for injuries he suffered while ejecting as well as in the beating he took from the mob, which had gathered in the area where he landed after bailing out. “It seems he escaped serious harm. However, it is for doctors to declare him fit for flying,” said a source.

Varthaman, who was on patrol duty in J&K in his MiG-21, was downed when he entered Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir while chasing one of the F-16s that had entered Indian air space to target military installations. However, before his plane caught fire, he shot down the intruder F-16, a feat which is expected to earn him a place in aviation legends because of the huge asymmetry between the ageing MIG and contemporary F-16.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/abhinandan-says-was-subjected-to-mental-harassment-by-isi/articleshow/68238364.cms

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Samjhauta Express service restarts from Pakistan today

Mar 3, 2019

NEW DELHI: The Samjhauta Express train service between India and Pakistan will resume from Sunday. The train will leave for Pakistan from Old Delhi railway station on March 3 (Sunday) and the train from Lahore will leave on Monday.

On the Indian side, the train runs from Delhi to Attari and from Lahore to Wagah on the Pakistan side.

Services along the route had been suspended after the face off between the two countries post arrest of Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in Pakistan. The decision to resume the train service comes a day after WC Abhinandan returned home via the Wagah-Attari border crossing.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/samjhauta-express-service-restarts-from-pakistan-today/articleshow/68238406.cms

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Bombs used in air strikes had Jaish coordinates fed in, little chance of their missing targets

Mar 3, 2019

NEW DELHI: The computer memories of Spice-2000 precision guided bombs were fed with satellite images and exact geographical coordinates of the major Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp at Balakot+ in Pakistan before being loaded on IAF Mirage-2000 fighters at Gwalior for the February 26 pre-dawn strikes.

So, when the “clear to launch weapons” signals popped up on the computers of the Mirage-2000 fighters, which were then — depending on their altitude and angle of attack — around 2 km to 10 km across the Line of Control into Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir, there was little chance of the 1,000-kg bombs missing their targets.

“With their navigation\seeker systems, the fire-and-forget Spice-2000 bombs homed into the four to six targets selected within the JeM facility around 50 to 60 km away. The error margin was less than 3 metres,” said a top defence source on Saturday.

The “before and after” images captured by the high-resolution synthetic aperture radars (SARs) mounted on “classified platforms” as well as Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, which were part of the “strike package”, show the designated targets were hit with Though an accurate assessment of casualties on the ground is virtually impossible, the Spice-2000 bombs armed with “digital scene-matching area correlators” penetrated the roofs of the pre-selected buildings in the terror facility, which would have “killed all the inmates in them with shock and blast waves”, said sources.

Interestingly, the IAF also deployed “a decoy package” of fighters ostensibly headed towards the JeM headquarters in Bahawalpur in the Punjab province to lure Pakistani combat air patrols away from the actual “strike package” that had the Balakot facility in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in its cross-hairs in the wee hours of February 26. This was in addition to the Mirage-2000s and Sukhoi-30MKIs, IL-78 mid-air refuellers and AWACS (airborne warning and control system) aircraft being deployed from Gwalior, Agra and Bareilly, instead of forward airbases, which took a circuitous route to the Muzaffarabad sector along the LoC to retain the element of surprise for the strikes, as was earlier reported by TOI.

“The decoy package of Sukhoi-30MKIs, in turn, took off from our Punjab to fake a strike operation towards Bahawalpur.

Pakistan was taken in by the decoy formation and vectored its fighters in the air towards it,” said another source.

“Consequently, there was no Pakistani fighter anywhere near the actual strike package … the closest one would have been well over 150 km away. This also nails Pakistan’s claim that IAF fighters hastily dropped their bombs without achieving anything, much like its other factually incorrect statements like it did not use F-16s in the air intrusion on February 27,” he added.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/bombs-used-in-air-strikes-had-jaish-coordinates-fed-in-little-chance-of-their-missing-targets/articleshow/68238146.cms

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Operation to flush out terrorists underway in J&K's Babagund area

Mar 2, 2019

SRINAGAR: The operation to flush out terrorists from the Babagund area of Jammu and Kashmir's Kupwara district continued for the second day on Saturday, police said.

The encounter began on Friday morning when security forces launched a search operation in the area in north Kashmir, following information about presence of terrorists there.

The operation at Babagund is on, a police official said.

He said security forces have cordoned off the area to stop terrorists from escaping.

After the encounter began on Friday, there was lull in firing several times during the day, but terrorists opened fire as soon as security forces advanced towards a house where they were hiding.

After one such lull, the terrorists opened indiscriminate firing on advancing team of security forces as they were closing in, injuring nine security force personnel.

A police spokesman on Friday said four security force personnel two cops and two CRPF personnel including an inspector later succumbed to injuries.

However, defence officials Friday said two army jawans were also killed in the operation.

Clashes between a group of youngsters and law enforcing agencies took place near the encounter site on Friday in which several protestors were injured in the security forces' action.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/operation-to-flush-out-terrorists-underway-in-jks-babagund-area/articleshow/68236438.cms

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Naqvi-led Muslim delegation invites PM Modi to Ajmer Sharif Dargah

Mar 03, 2019

New Delhi [India]: A 10-member delegation comprising prominent people from the Muslim community, led by Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence here on Saturday to invite him to visit the Ajmer Sharif Dargah on the occasion of ‘Urs’.

During the meeting, several issues related to the community and the current situation in the country were discussed.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Naqvi said, “We congratulate Prime Minister Modi for his leadership in the success and security of the country. He handed over a ‘chaadar’ (ritualistic offering) to be offered at Ajmer Sharif Dargah on the occasion of 807th Urs.”

“We discussed several issues including the situation in the country over the last few days. We pray for his (Prime Minister Modi’s) well-being”, said Sayed Moin Hussain ‘Sarkar’ from Ajmer Sharif Dargah.

Another Khadim of Ajmer Sharif Dargah, Shikzada Abdul Jrar Chishty said, “We had a good interaction with Prime Minister Modi. We thanked him for the development of Ajmer Sharif. Also, we have invited him to Ajmer Sharif and he assured us to pay a visit there”.

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/news/naqvi-led-muslim-delegation-invites-pm-modi-ajmer-sharif-dargah-1473495/

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Jamaat curbs: Official says won’t close any mosques

March 3, 2019

When villagers of Tahab in Pulwama moved towards the main mosque of the village to offer prayers at the break of dawn on Saturday, they were confronted by paramilitary personnel who asked them to go to some other mosque.

“We were surprised to find them all around the mosque. They didn’t allow us inside,” a villager told The Sunday Express. “They said they wouldn’t allow prayers at the Jamaat masjid. How can anybody stop us from offering prayers at a masjid?”

The incident came in the wake of a continuing crackdown against the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) across Kashmir, with detention of over 350 of its activists, notices issued to schools run by the Falah-e-Aam Trust (FAT), a former JeI affiliate, and the sealing of residences of JeI members.

On Thursday, the Union Home Ministry had banned the JeI for being in “close touch with militants”.

As the crackdown intensifies, anger is brewing across Kashmir and the Muslim-majority districts of Jammu province. The government has picked up religious leaders from different schools of thought, including the Jamiat-e-Ahli Hadith (JeH).

One of the biggest Muslim parties of J&K, the JeI, set up in 1942, was part of the electoral politics of the state from 1967 to 1987. The three major mainstream political parties of the Valley — the National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peoples Conference — have termed the ban on the JeI against “the ideals of democracy”. The NC and PDP have taken to the streets to demand that the ban be revoked.

“The Jamaat is not a sect running exclusive mosques,” said a villager of Tahab. “Here people from all schools of thought pray. Everyone is allowed — a Sufi, a Tableegi, a Deobandi or Salafi. You can’t seal a mosque by calling it a Jamaat mosque. We see it as interference in our religion and will resist at any and every cost.”

Khursheed Ganai, an advisor to Governor Satya Pal Malik, told The Sunday Express he had not heard about the Tahab incident. “I very clearly told Mr Vijay Kumar (Advisor, Security) and he agreed with me, I told the divisional commissioner also that there is no question of closing mosques because there are no Jamaati mosques as such,” said Ganai, the lone Kashmiri and Muslim among Malik’s four advisors.

He added, “In the case of (FAT) schools, due enquiry must be held. As it is, we don’t have something that is automatically Jamaat-e-Islami.”

The situation on the ground, however, is different. On Friday, a day after the Jamaat was declared “unlawful” by the Centre, deputy commissioners in the Valley asked police and magistrates to seize all “movable and immovable” JeI properties. At several places, officials sealed personal properties of JeI workers, including their residences.

“On a cold evening, we were thrown out of our house without a reason or a notice,” said Younis Ahmad, whose father Bashir Ahmad Lone is associated with the JeI. “This is our ancestral property. How can they seal personal properties?” In South Kashmir, several JeI activists were asked to vacate houses.

On Friday night, officials admitted their mistake in at least Lone’s case and removed the seal from his house at Harwan.

The crackdown on the JeI runs parallel to the raids conducted by the NIA and Income Tax department. The NIA has raided the houses of separatist leaders including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah, Masarat Alam and Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai. For the first time, the NIA team moved beyond Srinagar and raided the houses of overground workers and the houses of two active militants in South Kashmir.

Though the JeI affiliate FAT has not been banned by the government, officials on Friday sealed at least one school in Bandipore, but removed the seal immediately after the villagers took to the streets. At several other places, government-recognised schools run by the FAT received notices. It runs over 300 schools across the Valley with close to 1 lakh students and 10,000 teachers.

A teacher at a FAT-run school said, “The government is forcing us on a path that we don’t want to tread.”

Political parties in the Valley across the separatist-mainstream divide have said the crackdown on separatists and the JeI ban would be counter-productive. Said PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, “Radicalised Hindu groups representing fringe elements are given carte blanche to spread misinformation and vitiate the atmosphere. But an organisation that has worked tirelessly for Kashmiris is banned. Is being anti-BJP anti national now?… The Jamaat-e-Islami has on many occasions publicly disapproved of violence as a method of political struggle. Banning this organisation will further shrink the space for politics and dialogue and it seems the government is now completely depending on force to subjugate the people of the state.”

Ali Mohammad Sagar, the general secretary of the NC, a rival of the JeI, said, “By banning the JeI, the government will achieve nothing but give it dissident glamour… The GoI is closing the space for political dissent.”

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jamaat-e-islami-curbs-official-says-wont-close-any-mosques-5608556/

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Pakistan

 

'Pakistan to ask UK, EU parliamentarians to play their part for de-escalation of tensions with India'

March 02, 2019

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday announced that Pakistan is going to write to the parliamentarians of Britain and the European Union, asking them to play their part in de-escalation of the ongoing conflict with India.

Qureshi made the announcement during a joint press conference with Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar.

"Governor Punjab and I have taken an initiative, which is to write letters to the House of Commons' members as well as the European parliament and engage them [for de-escalation and peace]," Qureshi said.

"Through this press conference and the letters I ask them to play their roles. The world needs to differentiate between those who want peace and those who want war. The world is seeing that the Taliban and the US are negotiating. At this hour would we want to start a war?"

The foreign minister said that he had an inkling that India would initiate a conflict ahead of their elections, due to which his ministry had started working well in advance.

"As far as the diplomatic front is concerned, the Foreign Office had been activated before even the Pulwama attack," he said. "This was because we had an idea that elections are coming in India and the Modi government was losing its popularity, a clear indication of which was their losses in five states.

"Their performance compelled them to do something to boost their popularity. In India, an easy way to do so is Pakistan bashing. So we knew that a misadventure could happen, through which they could try and regain their lost goodwill.

"Pulwama was not even on the radar when we started briefings. I contacted many foreign ministers and told them. When I went to Moscow, I told them I'm fearing this, and my fears kept on proving true, which resonated with them."

Qureshi negated the notion that international powers are not taking interest in the Pakistan-India conflict, saying: "The US has started playing its role. I have talked to Mike Pompeo and the British foreign minister. But understand India's dilemma. There are question marks on them in their own country. How can they change their attitude at once?"

The minister said that the decision to release the captured Indian pilot was not a sign of weakness but a gesture of goodwill. "The people in power know that to return the Indian pilot was not a weakness but a gesture of goodwill and a peace initiative. This was a message for those millions of Indians who want peace. Only a segment is creating this frenzy," he said.

Qureshi said that the decision to release the captured Indian pilot was "Imran Khan's own initiative and a product of his vision. "There was no international pressure and we did not affix any conditions," he said.

The minister expressed his disappointment of Pakistani inmate Shakirullah's murder in an Indian jail. His body was handed to Pakistan at the time of Qureshi's press conference.

"I am disappointed at what happened with Shakirullah," he said. "It was India's responsibility to protect him. They failed to fulfil that responsibility. When their pilot was caught, you saw what the mob's mentality was. But Pakistan Army went there at once, rescued him, gave him a bath and new clothes, served him tea, gave him first aid, which was our responsibility because these are human and Islamic values."

Qureshi highlighted that the resolution passed by a joint sitting on the entire episode had urged Indian parliamentarians to raise their voice for peace.

"The parliament passed a joint resolution on this issue," he said. "We have given a united front on several issues, but the most important part was the last clause. We, as the joint parliament, told our Indian counterparts that we're playing our part and you should too. There is a large constituency for peace in India that wants peace and not war.

Regarding the Pulwama dossier sent by India, Qureshi said: "It is being examined by the Foreign Office. After that, we will send them a message to come and sit on the basis of that dossier."

Qureshi also paid a tribute to the Pakistani media, whose role throughout the conflict was "exemplary and responsible". "Indian media, on the other hand, added fuel to fire, and created frenzy and hype," he said.

The foreign minister rejected having insinuated in a TV interview that Pakistan will have to put its house in order.

"What does "putting your house in order" mean?" he asked. "It's about making policies that show that we are a peace-loving nation, which we have already done. What hadn't been done, has been done. Our house is already in order."

Furthermore, he rubbished reports that the entire parliament was not in agreement at his decision to skip the Council of Foreign Ministers at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit due to his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj's presence.

"There were no disagreements in the parliament. The resolution passed was unanimous and it bears the signatures of Asif Zardari and Raja Zafarul Haq. Listen to Zardari sahab again, he said 'it's my opinion but I accept the parliament's decision.' The PPP, more than all, talks about parliament's supremacy so when parliament decides something, accept it.

"When Zardari sahab was addressing the parliament, you must have seen that I stood up and told him that 'your senior leadership is [supporting my decision]. He replied that 'you should have contacted me'."

"If anyone wants to do politics, they can. What we did was right," Qureshi added.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1467195/pakistan-to-ask-uk-eu-parliamentarians-to-play-their-part-for-de-escalation-of-tensions-with-india

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Pakistan government split wide open over Abhinandan’s release

Mar 3, 2019

NEW DELHI: There appears to be some dissonance inside Pakistan about the release of IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman from their custody to India within 48 hours of his capture, exposing some faultlines within Pakistan’s infamous “deep state”.

While mainstream opinion looks at it as a gesture to de-escalate the conflict with India, sources said within the middle levels of the government, there is criticism about the haste in giving up an ‘asset’ as valuable as the Indian officer.

Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told an interviewer that Pakistan took the decision to repatriate Abhinandan without any pressure. However, diplomatic sources say there was considerable pressure, particularly from the US and Saudi Arabia. In addition, India had made it amply clear to Pakistan that there would be serious escalation of the conflict from the Indian side if Abhinandan was not returned. This included, according to sources, direct communication with “key interlocutors” inside Pakistan.

It’s difficult to say what was the trigger that forced Pakistan to act — importantly, the final decision to release him would have been the Pakistan army’s, not the civilian leadership led by Imran Khan. However, sources said, two things had to be done to keep events under control.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-government-split-wide-open-over-abhinandans-release/articleshow/68238428.cms

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US to look into violation of F-16 user-agreement by Pak

Mar 3, 2019

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration has said it is examining potential misuse of U.S-made F-16 fighter jets by Pakistan in violation of end-user agreement during its recent spat with India.

This is the third blow to Pakistan from Washington after US officials first acknowledged that India has the right to self defence following the Pulwama terrorist attack and subsequently described Indian strikes in Balakot as counter-terrorism actions.

The formulation effectively rejected Islamabad’s contention that India is the aggressor and Pakistan had the right to self-defense – even though the US and other nations repeatedly called Pakistan out for hosting internationally designated terrorists and terror groups.

The US-made F-16, which the manufacturing company Lockheed Martin has long been trying to hawk to India, is the pride of Pakistan’s Air Force. But after the initial consignment of about three squadrons given in the mid-1980s, mainly as reward for Pakistan’s support during the Afghan War, was loosely conditioned, subsequent supplies and upgrades were subjected to tighter end-user scrutiny after Pakistan illegally crossed the nuclear rubicon and forced Washington to invoke the Pressler Amendment, resulting in suspension of F-16 sales, even those it had paid for.

Although F-16 sales, spare supply and upgrades resumed after 9/11 when the Bush administration sought Pakistan’s help in the so-called war on terror, there was greater Congressional scrutiny and oversight on the sales, resulting in explicit conditions that they be used only for counter-terror operations. The stipulations were mocked by many lawmakers, who warned the F-16s would eventually be used by Pakistan against India.

"I do not believe that these planes will help us or Pakistan in the war against al Qaeda along the Pakistan/Afghan border, unless al Qaeda has suddenly deployed fighter jets of their own,'' New York Congressman Gary Ackerman, who moved legislation aimed at blocking F-16 sales, sneered during a 2006 hearing. In fact, one Congressional panel scorned the Bush administration’s unrelenting push for F-16 upgrades for Pakistan, holding a hearing mockingly titled ''Defeating al-Qaeda’s Air Force: Pakistan’s F-16 Program in the Fight Against Terrorism."

In hindsight, the lawmakers’ scorn seems well-placed at a time the Trump administration -- including President Trump himself --has expressed doubts about Pakistan’s bonafides. ''We are aware of these reports and are seeking more information on the potential misuse of American-made F-16 fighter jets by Pakistan against India in violation of the end-user agreement,'' a State Department official told PTI on Friday, even as a Pentagon spokesman declined to discuss specific end-user agreement because of non-disclosure clauses.

The program to equip Pakistan with F-16s -- ironically titled Peace Gate -- stretches back to 1981 when Islamabad signed a letter of agreement for the purchase of 40 F-16A/B (28 F-16A and 12 F-16B). The first consignment (2 A’s and 4 B’s) was delivered in 1983 and the remaining sent in batches till 1987.

By September 1989, Pakistan had signed a deal for a further 71 f-16s under Peace Gate II, III and IV. The aircraft were being manufactured when Pakistan crossed the nuclear rubicon causing the Pressler Law to kick in.

Delivery of those planes, 28 of them for which Pakistan had paid for, was stopped, and the jets were stored at the AMARC (Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, also known as the Boneyard, between 1990 and 1994. A stop-work order was issued for remaining 43 planes.

Pakistan had already paid $685 million on the contract for the 28 F-16s, and insisted on either having the planes it ordered delivered or getting its money back. The dispute dragged on for eight years before the Clinton administration reached a deal in 1998 with the Nawaz Sharief government agreeing to pay $326.9 million in cash and the remaining in other compensation including wheat and soya bean oil. Some of the 28 planes were subsequently leased to New Zealand.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/us-to-look-into-violation-of-f-16-user-agreement-by-pak/articleshow/68239026.cms

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‘Pak mob thought pilot shot down by Abhi was Indian, lynched him’

Mar 3, 2019

A Pakistani pilot shot down by Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in Wednesday’s dogfight died after being beaten up by a Pakistani lynch mob, a London lawyer has claimed quoting close contacts in the Pakistan Air Force. The mob reportedly mistook him for an Indian pilot.

Pakistan’s F16 was shot down by Abhinandan flying a MiG-21 Bison when the “two sons of air marshals met mid-air over the Nowshera sector on Wednesday”, according to Pakistani-origin UK-based immigration lawyer Khalid Umar. He said the F16 was flown by Wg Cdr Shahzaz Ud Din, also the son of a Pakistani Air Marshal.

TOI had in its Friday edition cited unconfirmed reports that the Pak pilot was the son of an Air Marshal, like Abhinandan. The paper had deliberately not named him or said he was dead.

Islamabad continues to categorically deny any of their jets were shot down, that any of their pilots were killed, or that they had used F-16 planes in Wednesday’s “air strikes” when Pakistan violated Indian airspace.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pak-mob-thought-pilot-shot-down-by-abhi-was-indian-lynched-him/articleshow/68238607.cms

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Police killed medical student in Karachi during encounter: report

Imtiaz Ali

March 03, 2019

KARACHI: A police team investigating the death of a medical student last week at a time when some policemen were engaged in an encounter with robbers has come to the conclusion that the girl was killed by bullets fired by the law-enforcement personnel.

Sources told Dawn on Saturday that after thorough examination of the evidence, careful reading of a forensic report about spent bullets found at the crime scene and perusal of eyewitness accounts, the inquiry team — headed by DIG Arif Hanif of Crime Investigation Agency and comprising DIG Dr Amin Yousufzai, SSP Nouman Siddiqi and SSP Dr Samiullah — concluded that Nimra Baig was hit by bullets fired by the policemen during their encounter with the bandits in North Karachi.

The inquiry team found that the policemen fired “several shots” and one of the bullets hit Baig, who was travelling in a rickshaw, said the sources.

They said the bullet that hit the student of Dow University of Health Sciences was fired from a distance of about 1,000 yards.

The place where the incident took place was deserted and was enveloped in darkness.

In the exchange of fire with the policemen one armed suspect was shot dead while another one was arrested in an injured condition.

The inquiry revealed that the bandits had fired more than seven shots, prompting the policemen to retaliate.

“The details of the inquiry may be made public soon, but the main finding is that the girl lost her life in firing carried out by police.

And definitely it was unintentional and accidental fire,” said a source familiar with the findings.

Police had initially claimed that Baig, 20, was killed by bullets fired by the robbers, but the post-mortem examination carried out at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre revealed that the bullet in question had been fired from a “high-velocity weapon”.

Police had claimed that during a routine patrol, personnel of the Shahrah-i-Noor Jehan police station saw two armed suspects roaming around suspiciously on a motorbike. When the policemen challenged the suspects they opened fire and tried to flee.

They were chased by police and an exchange of gunfire took place near Andaa Mor, within the remit of Sir Syed Town police station.

The claims, however, failed to convince the victim’s family members who called for an independent inquiry into the incident.

Later, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah ordered an inquiry into the tragedy.

The Sindh Assembly also called for a detailed investigation into the incident.

Subsequently, Addi­tional IG Karachi Dr Amir Ahmed Shaikh formed the investigation team.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1467266/police-killed-medical-student-in-karachi-during-encounter-report

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Body of Pakistani prisoner killed in Indian jail handed over by BSF at Wagah

Umar Farooq

March 02, 2019

The body of a Pakistani prisoner killed in India's Jaipur Central Jail was handed over to Punjab Rangers at the Wagah-Attari border by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) on Saturday.

The deceased's family was present at the border to receive his body. Punjab's additional home secretary, retired Captain Fazeel Asghar, was also present as a representative of the Punjab government.

He will be laid to rest in his home town Daska in Punjab's Sialkot district, according to his brother.

The prisoner, identified as Shakirullah, was beaten up by inmates and died on February 20. The release of his body comes after 12 days of his murder.

According to Shakirullah's family, he was arrested in 2003 after mistakenly crossing the border.

Pakistan had lodged a strong protest with the Pakistani High Commission seeking clarity from Indian authorities regarding the incident.

The Foreign Office in a press release on February 21 said that they had been informed that Shakirullah had sustained injuries following a "scuffle" between fellow inmates in the television room of the jail, "which proved fatal".

The FO noted that as per some Indian media reports, Shakirullah was lynched.

"It is incomprehensible how a 'scuffle' between prisoners in an established Government set up was allowed to escalate to the extent that Mr Shakirullah sustained fatal injuries," the statement said.

According to The Hindu, the deceased was undergoing life imprisonment after his conviction in a terror-related case in Jaipur in 2017.

Shakirullah reportedly received serious head injuries caused by a blunt object after an "altercation" with other inmates, the publication added.

The release of the deceased prisoner's body comes a day after Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Abhinandan Varthaman — who was captured by Pakistan after his MiG 21 Bison aircraft was shot down by a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jet — was handed over in a gesture of peace to India at the Wagah border.

There are 537 Indian prisoners in Pak­i­stani jails, whereas 347 Pak­is­­tanis are languishing in Ind­ian prisons, according to the lists exchanged by the two countries on New Year’s day.

'India must answer questions'

The Foreign Office issued a statement following the repatriation of Shakirullah's body.

"The Government of Pakistan condemned the incident and requested India to immediately provide the details of inquiry of the murder and post-mortem report, which have not been provided so far," read the statement.

"Pakistan reiterates its demand that the culprits must be taken to task, findings of the inquiry and post mortem report may be shared urgently and to ensure [the] safety of all Pakistanis, especially Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails to prevent recurrence of such tragic and reprehensible incidents," it added.

Meanwhile, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal, urged India to provide answers regarding the incident in a statement posted on Twitter.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1467196/body-of-pakistani-prisoner-killed-in-indian-jail-handed-over-by-bsf-at-wagah

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Pakistan welcomes Iran’s offer to help settle Islamabad-New Delhi differences

Mar 2, 2019

Pakistan military spokesman has welcomed Iran’s offer to play a mediatory role and help resolve the differences between India and Pakistan amid escalating tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.

“This is what we expect from our friend and brotherly country of Iran,” Major General Asif Ghafoor told IRNA on Saturday.

In a telephone conversation on Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi that Tehran was ready to work with Islamabad and New Delhi to help resolve their differences through dialogue.

Zarif was scheduled to talk to Indian Foreign Minister Vijay Keshav Gokhale over the phone later in the day.

Ghafoor expressed his gratitude to the Iranian government for the offer adding that countries like Iran, Turkey and China can to a great extent help resolve the issue.

Also in a statement on Saturday, Pakistani Embassy in Tehran called on the Islamic republic to play an active role in resolving tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi and help find a diplomatic solution to the problem.

Tensions between India and Pakistan have escalated dramatically since February 14, when Indian paramilitary forces on the New Delhi-controlled side of Kashmir were hit by a deadly bomb attack orchestrated by Pakistan-based militants.

The tensions reached a peak on Tuesday, when India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said his country had conducted “preemptive” airstrikes against what it described as a militant training camp in Balakot near Kashmir, shortly after the Pakistani military accused New Delhi of violating its territory in the Kashmir region.

According to an Indian government source, some 300 militants, were killed in the strikes.

Iran, which has extensive diplomatic and trade ties with both countries, has advised them against escalating the situation.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since partition in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory.

Indian troops are in constant clashes with armed groups seeking Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/02/589968/Pakistan-Army-spokesman-Asif-Ghafoor-Iran-mediation-India-Iran-FM-Zarif

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Mideast

 

Israel forces Palestinian man to demolish own house in East Jerusalem al-Quds

Mar 2, 2019

Israeli authorities have forced a Palestinian man to demolish his own house in East Jerusalem al-Quds as the occupying regime is continuing with its land expropriation and settlement expansion policies in the occupied Palestinian territories irrespective of international outcry.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported that Hussam al-Abbasi was forced to demolish his house, a third-floor apartment in a three-story residential building in Ra’s al-Amud neighborhood on Saturday morning.

It added that the demolition was carried out upon an order by the Israeli municipality of the city that claimed the building lacked a construction license, which was impossible to obtain from the Israeli regime.

Abbasi told Ma’an that he had been summoned by the municipality of the city and was ordered to demolish his own house or else the municipality would fine him for demolition costs.

He further said that he had chosen to demolish his house himself in a bid to minimize damage on two other apartments and other families living in the building. He said his 70-square-meter apartment was built a year ago.

Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds are regularly forced to demolish their own houses upon orders by the Israeli municipality of the city to avoid paying exorbitant demolition fees to the municipality.

Furthermore, Israeli authorities frequently demolish Palestinian buildings and structures in the so-called Area C, with Bedouin and herding communities being particularly vulnerable to that practice.

Area C, which is under full Israeli control, makes up more than 60 percent of the entire occupied West Bank. Eighty-eight percent of the area lies in the strategic Jordan Valley, which comprises a third of the West Bank.

Since 1967, the Israeli regime has been enforcing the draconian policy of demolishing the houses of Palestinians it deems to be behind fatal attacks against Israeli settlers. The practice, however, was temporarily halted from 2005 to 2014, with the exception of 2009, when scores of homes were sealed and razed in East Jerusalem al-Quds.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/02/589979/Palestine-Israel-demolish-West-Bank-East-Jerusalem-alQuds

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Palestine ‘top priority’ for Saudi Arabia: Al-Jubeir

March 02, 2019

ABU DHABI: Saudi Arabia will be relentless in its pursuit of a Palestinian state according to 1967 borders and with Jerusalem as its capital, the Kingdom’s minister of state for foreign affairs told his Islamic counterparts at a meeting in Abu Dhabi.

Adel Al-Jubeir headed the Kingdom’s delegation to the 46th session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Council of Foreign Ministers, which started Friday.

Al-Jubeir emphasized that the Palestinian cause is a priority for the Kingdom and would not rest until the establishment of a Palestinian state.

One of the most important challenges facing the world is terrorism and extremism, he also told fellow delegates, and expressed the Arab group’s disappointment about the continued coup from Iran-backed Houthi militias against Yemen’s legitimate government. He reiterated the group’s support for the UN special envoy’s efforts to reach a political solution to the crisis and said there was also support for efforts to reach a political solution that safeguarded the unity of Syria.

Al-Jubeir remarked that Iran continued with its terrorist activities and aggressive behavior in the region, by fueling sectarian tension and interfering in the affairs of other countries.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1460496/saudi-arabia

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Israel launches air strike on Hamas location in the Gaza Strip

March 02, 2019

GAZA STRIP: Israeli military officials said on Saturday that they had struck a Hamas target in southern Gaza Strip, after balloons carrying explosive devices drifted into its airspace.

Thousands of Palestinians had been demonstrating in recent weeks on the border lines, and on Friday three people were injured, including a medic and a journalist.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1460356/middle-east

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Yemeni government calls on Iran to stop supporting Houthis, as 30 militia killed

March 02, 2019

DUBAI: Yemen’s Foreign Minister has called on Iran to abide by the principles of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and to stop supporting the Houthi militia, who have been at war with the Yemeni government since 2014.

Khalid Al-Yamani urged the Iranian regime to stop funding the militia and to stop providing the group with weapons, in his address to the 46th Ministerial Conference of the OIC in Abu Dhabi.

He said Iran must stop destabilizing the region by supporting armed groups, and respect the principles of international law.

Al-Yamani said the Houthis were stalling the implementation of the Stockholm agreement, and refused to withdraw from Hodeidah in order to open a humanitarian corridor.

This has hindered the work of the United Nations, he stressed, who brokered the agreement between the warring sides in Sweden in December last year.

“The legitimate government does not recognize the attitude of failure to implement the agreements made in Sweden because failure will bring us back to the battleground in Hodeidah and will undermine the momentum created by the Stockholm agreement, and the international support to resolve the Yemeni crisis will be lost,” Al-Yamani said.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1460146/middle-east

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Iran condemns UK for listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization

2 March 2019

Iran criticized Britain for its decision to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, saying on Saturday it ignored the Tehran-backed group’s role in fighting ISIS.

Britain said on Monday it planned to ban all wings of Hezbollah, which is deemed a terrorist organization by Washington, due to its destabilizing influence in the Middle East, having previously proscribed its external security unit and its military wing.

“This British measure signifies deliberately ignoring a large part of the Lebanese people and the legitimacy and the legal position of Hezbollah in Lebanon’s administrative and political structure,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

Hezbollah condemned the decision on Friday, saying the move showed “servile obedience” to the United States.

“In addition to ... helping preserve Lebanon’s territorial integrity over recent decades, Hezbollah has been one of the pillars of the fight against terrorism and terrorist groups such as Islamic State in the region,” Qasemi added.

Jay Solomon, a US veteran national security reporter, told Al Arabiya on Friday that there will likely be a split in European countries’ response to Britain’s decision to ban Lebanese Hezbollah group and classify it as a terrorist organization.

The author of The Iran Wars, said that Hezbollah, the Lebanese government, and the Iranians might try to “drive a wedge between certain European countries, and split the British from the rest of the powers in Europe in order to keep operating as they have.”

Solomon, who is currently an adjunct fellow at a think tank, added that most European countries will not follow Britain’s decision in order to avoid complications with Iran and keep up trade, despite US sanctions and a pull for a more “direct conflict with Iran.”

He said that the countries in Central and Eastern Europe would be more likely to build a coalition against Iran and classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

He added that the United Kingdom’s decision is important in terms of maintaining its “diplomatic relations” with the US and limiting Iran’s trade with Europe.

The Trump administration has “turned the screws more, the financial screws particularly, on Iran and its allies, including Hezbollah”, Solomon said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/03/02/Iran-condemns-UK-for-listing-Hezbollah-as-a-terrorist-organization.html

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North America

 

Trump admits failure of US policies in Syria, Iraq

Kasim Ileri

03.03.2019

WASHINGTON

U.S. president on Saturday criticized his country's foreign policies in Iraq and Syria, saying that his administration will focus on fixing up America's infrastructure rather than fighting "endless wars".

During his two-hour speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Donald Trump said that Daesh will be defeated "hundred percent" in a day or two and reiterated his administration's firmness to pull American troops.

"We will leave a small group of guys and gals [soldiers] but we want to bring our people back home. It is time," Trump said in the annual event in National Harbor, Maryland.

"We would be in Syria for 4 months but we ended up 5 years. Just funny."

He slammed the Middle East policies of former U.S. governments, recalling his first-time visit to Iraq in 2017 when they had to turn off all the lights at the military plane before landing for security purposes.

"Think of this. We spent seven trillion dollars in the Middle East and we can't land a plane with lights on, 20 years later. How bad is that!" Trump said.

He also criticized his former defense secretary James Mattis and other generals in Syria and Iraq for being too slow in finishing Daesh and said that he learns more about what is going on from the soldiers than generals.

The president added that he is not going to be a president who will sit behind his desk, hinting direct involvement in all military policies and commitment to major withdrawal from the Middle East.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/trump-admits-failure-of-us-policies-in-syria-iraq/1407636

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Anti-Muslim Signs in Statehouse Roil West Virginia, Draw Outrage

March 02, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.VA. —

An anti-Muslim poster outside the West Virginia House of Delegates chamber falsely connecting a freshman congresswoman to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has drawn strong rebukes from local and national lawmakers, while causing the resignation of a Capitol staffer and the reported injury of another.

The sign, which loomed over a table loaded with other Islamophobic flyers on a “WV GOP Day” at the legislature Friday, bore an image of the burning World Trade Center juxtaposed with a picture of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat and one of the first Muslim congresswomen ever elected. “‘Never forget’ — You said,” was written over the Twin Towers. On Omar’s picture, a caption read, “I am the proof you have forgotten.”

On Saturday, the West Virginia’s Republican Party condemned the appearance of the anti-Muslim flyers and posters.

“Our party supports freedom of speech, but we do not endorse speech that advances intolerant and hateful views,” West Virginia Republican Party Chairwoman Melody Potter wrote in a statement, which added that they did not approve of the sign and had asked the exhibitor to remove it. No one acknowledged permitting the display.

Designated hate group

The group responsible for the display, ACT for America, has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. Onlookers outside the House chambers Friday snapped photos of the poster and the additional literature.

“Readin’, Writin’, And Jihadin,’ The Islamization of American Public Schools,” read one of the pamphlets. Another flyer warned of “The Four Stages of Islamic Conquest.”

A phone number listed for the organization went straight to a voicemail box that was full and could not accept messages. The answering machine message described the group as “the nation’s largest nonprofit grassroots organization devoted to promoting national security and defeating terrorism.”

'Beyond shameful'

Many House delegates denounced the group just as the body convened. One lawmaker admitted to getting so mad that he kicked a House door open, which resulted in a doorkeeper being physically injured, according to the speaker of the House. Another delegate grew furious, saying he had heard a staffer make an anti-Muslim remark.

“The sergeant of arms of this body, that represents the people of the state of West Virginia, said, ‘All Muslims are terrorists.’ That’s beyond shameful,” said Del. Michael Angelucci, a Democrat, his voice rising to a shout. “And that’s not freedom of speech. That’s hate speech, and it has no place in this house.”

The sergeant of arms, Anne Lieberman, resigned later Friday. She has declined to comment after being reached by phone by The Associated Press.

Republican House Speaker Roger Hanshaw questioned how things had gone so wrong.

“We owe it to ourselves; we owe it our constituents; we owe it to the men and women and children and families that we represent to do better than we are,” Hanshaw told lawmakers.

Full report at:

https://www.voanews.com/a/anti-muslim-signs-in-statehouse-roil-west-virginia-draw-outrage/4811126.html

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US, Taliban resume talks on draft agreement

Anwar IqbalU

March 03, 2019

WASHINGTON: Talks between the United States and Taliban representatives resumed in Doha on Saturday as America’s chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad reported slow but steady progress toward an eventual peace in Afghanistan.

The negotiators went on a two-day recess on Thursday “for internal deliberations… after three days of solid talks,” he tweeted.

“We continue to take slow, steady steps toward an understanding and eventually peace” in Afghanistan, he added.

Mr Khalilzad, who is leading the US team in the talks, said both sides would continue to focus on four key issues: the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban’s cooperation in fighting Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State (IS) group, a ceasefire and the inclusion of all Afghan factions, including the government, in the talks.

“As talks continue in Doha, there is also progress on forming a national team in Kabul ready to engage in intra-Afghan dialogue and talks with the Taliban,” Mr Khalilzad tweeted.

Taliban sources in Qatar told BBC that the initial draft of an agreement between the two sides was ready and could be finalised in this round of talks.

The sources said that representatives of the United Nations and the Norwegian government were providing technical support to the negotiators.

The New York Times reported on Friday that the negotiators in Doha were working on a plan that calls for the withdrawal of all US forces from Afghanistan in five years.

The plan, prepared by the Pentagon, requires all foreign forces to leave Afghanistan during this five-year period, the report added.

But Taliban officials told journalists that so far there’s no agreement on the timing of the withdrawal.

It was also not clear if the Taliban were willing to talk to the Afghan government officials. Despite repeated requests from Kabul, the Taliban continue to refuse to engage with the Afghan government. The United States, however, insists that any final agreement on Afghanistan must include the government.

The United States also insists that a complete ceasefire is necessary for the success of the peace process.

In Kabul, the Afghan government expedited efforts to form an “all inclusive national team” to join the talks in Doha, the Afghan media reported on Saturday.

The reports said that former Afghan envoy to Islamabad Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal and former deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai were in Doha for consultations with Ambassador Khalilzad on issues around the peace talks.

The two Afghan officials have gone to Doha with a proposal that suggests forming a large national team for talks with the Taliban. Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai is likely to lead this team.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1467281/us-taliban-resume-talks-on-draft-agreement

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Syria says US knows where Daesh leader is, denies Iran, Russia rift

Mar 2, 2019

Syria says the US and Turkey know the whereabouts of Daesh leader Ibrahim al-Samarrai, also known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In an interview with Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen television channel on Friday, Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Ja'afari said terrorism is used as a tool by its sponsors and financiers.

He also accused the US-led coalition, which is bombarding what it calls Daesh positions, of transferring Daesh elements.

"Algerian authorities arrested hundreds of terrorists on its borders with Niger, and after interrogating the terrorists it was revealed that they had come from Aleppo’s countryside, wondering who transported these terrorists from Syria to the Algerian-Niger borders," Ja'afari said.

"Americans and Turks know where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is."

The Syrian envoy further denounced a recent deal clinched between the US and Daesh, under which Washington received “tens of tons of gold" in exchange for allowing terrorists out of Syria's Dayr al-Zawr Province.

Daesh started its campaign of terror in Iraq and Syria in 2014, occupying territory in the two Arab countries and establishing a self-proclaimed “caliphate.” 

The Takfiri outfit was gradually stripped of all the land it had occupied, but Daesh remnants are now believed to be hiding in the Iraqi-Syrian border region.

Ja'afari said the West is working "to prolong the crisis in Syria" and that the administration of US President Donald Trump is seeking to keep up "investing in terrorism" in Syria and Iraq in order to pursue its agenda in the region.

He also hailed relations between Syria, Iran and Russia as "excellent," noting that talks about a rift among the trio are just "media propaganda."

"What is the interest of the Arabs in creating hostility with an important country like Iran? What is the interest of the Persian Gulf states in a war that Arabs and Iranians are fueling and Israel is watching?" he asked.

Ja'afari stressed that relations with Iran and Russia serve Syria's interests and that Damascus would not "compromise" its ties with Tehran in any negotiation.

Senior Iranian cleric  Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani said on Friday that certain Arab countries had offered $200 billion to President Bashar al-Assad to cut ties with Iran.

"However, the Syrian president did not succumb to the threats and temptations,” Ayatollah Kermani told worshipers during Friday prayers in Tehran.

The cleric said Assad’s visit to Tehran on Monday marked a turning point in the solidarity of the "resistance front” consisting of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and other anti-terror groups.

The visit sent a clear message to Israel and the US that the Islamic Republic will stay in the Arab country as long as needed, Ayatollah Kermani added.

Syria slams UK's blacklisting of Hezbollah

On Friday, Syria strongly denounced a decision by the UK government to put Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations.

A source at the Syrian Foreign Ministry said the move confirms Britain’s "deep-seated historical hostility against the Arab nation, as Britain is the godfather of fragmenting the Arab nation."

The UK, he added, has "a dark history of enslaving people and usurping their rights," harbors extremists and has been a main partner in all forms of aggression against the Arab nation.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/02/589934/Syria-Daesh-Abu-Bakr-Baghdadi

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Europe

 

French court jails two Iraqis, one Iranian for smuggling migrants

2 March 2019

A French court on Friday jailed two Iraqis and one Iranian man for organizing illegal migrant boat journeys across the English Channel.

The 32-year-old Iraqi, considered the group leader, received an 18-month sentence from the court in Boulogne, on the northern French coast.

His two accomplices, a 30-year-old Iranian and a 39-year-old Iraqi, were each jailed for a year and all three men were banned from French territory.

French border police were first alerted when the manager of a boat supply store contacted them in December over suspect sales of inflatable dinghies, a vessel of choice for people smugglers transporting migrants and refugees from France to Britain.

The subsequent enquiry implicated the three suspects in the organization of migrant boat runs from several northern French ports, including Calais and Sangatte.

Some 500 people - most of them over the last two months of 2018 - attempted to cross the Channel to Britain last year, compared with just 13 known attempts in 2017.

London in December despatched a navy ship to help coastguard boats watch over the 33 km of sea that separate France and Britain at its narrowest point.

France also responded by announcing broader surveillance measures in early January.

The number of Channel crossings was just a tiny fraction of the 55,756 successful attempts made across the Mediterranean to Spain that were recorded by the UN’s refugee agency in 2018.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/03/02/French-court-jails-two-Iraqis-one-Iranian-for-smuggling-migrants-.html

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Germany calls Assad regime to destroy chemical weapons

Erbil Basay

02.03.2019

BERLIN

German Foreign Ministry on Saturday called on Syria’s al-Assad regime to reveal its chemical weapons program and destroy all its chemical weapons under international supervision.

According to a Foreign Ministry statement, what happened in Syria was not an isolated event, where many people were "brutally" murdered and wounded, referring to the report of an international chemical weapons watchdog -- which confirms chemical weapon use in Syria's Douma region on April 7, 2018.

Germany will put effort to stop use of chemical weapons worldwide, including Syria, in United Nations Security Council next week, the statement said.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) released a report on Friday and said it found "reasonable grounds" that chlorine was used as a weapon in the Douma district of Eastern Ghouta, Syria.

The chemical attack took place on April 7, 2018, leaving at least 78 civilians dead.

Usage of the chemical weapons by the Syrian regime caused the withdrawal of the opposition from the region and forced the evacuation of civilians.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the al-Assad regime cracked down on protesters with unexpected ferocity.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/germany-calls-assad-regime-to-destroy-chemical-weapons/1407622

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EU must accept Turkey's concerns: European commissioner

Furkan Naci Top

02.03.2019

The European Union must accept Turkey’s internal security and terrorism concerns, an EU commissioner said Saturday.

“Turkey and Europe need each other,” Dimitris Avramopoulos, commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, told Greece's Delphi Economic Forum.

Avramopoulos stressed that Turkey has fulfilled many criteria for visa liberalization under the 2016 migrant agreement.

Under the pact, Turkey agreed to take stricter measures against human smugglers and discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea, while the EU pledged visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area, provided that Ankara fulfills criteria set out by Brussels.

He said Turkey’s membership would be “beneficial for both EU and Turkey” and have “a positive impact on Greece”.

Telling how Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first to reach out to Turkey after the 2016 defeated coup, Avramopoulos said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “didn’t move away from EU.”

The Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and its U.S.- based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/eu-must-accept-turkeys-concerns-european-commissioner/1407513

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Meeting set with Turkey to build confidence: Greece

Furkan Naci Top

02.03.2019

Greek and Turkish representatives have decided to meet to seek ways to build confidence, Greece’s defense minister said Saturday.

“We continue our efforts to prevent tension [in the Mediterranean],” Evangelos Apostolakis told the Delphi Economic Forum in Greece, but gave no date for the meeting.

He added that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had discussed security issues at a meeting on Feb. 5.

On its recently renamed northern neighbor, Apostolakis said: “NATO membership for Northern Macedonia suits our national interests.”

Northern Macedonia changed its name from Macedonia in order to remove the Greek veto from its NATO and EU membership.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/meeting-set-with-turkey-to-build-confidence-greece/1407419

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How Brexit will affect British ties with UAE

Damien McElroy

March 3, 2019

Brexit has been a divisive force in British life for more than two years but if there is one element of common ground between the factions it is that London’s long relationship with the Gulf will emerge reinvigorated.

Arab ambassadors based in London have spoken of the opportunity for a trade deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council. A deeper investment relationship appears possible. Political and cultural ties look set to deepen as British policymakers re-orientate from a reliance on European integration.

Suleiman Al Mazroui, the UAE ambassador to the UK, told The National that the UAE would entrench its role as a global hub for Britain in the wake of the country’s departure on March 29.

“Whether the UK is in or out of the EU the relationship will always be strong, cordial and fruitful – it can only grow stronger and stronger,” the ambassador, who arrived at the Court of St James in 2016 after a stint as the UAE representative to the EU in Brussels. “Brexit is an internal matter for the UK but outside the EU there is an opportunity to strike a deal for a free trade agreement, though this is dependent on our position in the GCC as a whole.”

Mr Mazroui points out that the UAE is in the top handful of Britain’s trading partners, alongside the EU, and as such the relationship is well placed to withstand developments in the weeks ahead.

“The UK is our strong partner and the UAE is number three, four outside the EU in terms of trade and exports. The UAE is a hub and considers its market as two billion people with the best of infrastructure for exporting goods. I don’t think they will find a better destination for tourism or for the British people living in the region.

“These elements are vital in our relationship with the UK.”

British ministers have used the concept of Global Britain as the post-Brexit platform for overhauling foreign policy. Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, is in the region on visit that both combines a specific mission to promote peace negotiations in Yemen and wider efforts to strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia, Oman and UAE.

Speaking to parliamentarians after taking up his role last year, Mr Hunt stressed the importance of the strategic relationships Britain enjoys with the Gulf countries. He said that it was important to maintain all Britain’s enduring ties.

“As a country with global reach, we have relationships with all shapes and sizes of countries,” he said. “If we are going to have a positive role in the Middle East, as we aspire to, we have to have partnerships with many different countries."

Recent visits to the region have included trips by Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, and Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary. Mr Williamson has spoken of how Brexit will see the British security presence grow around the world, particular in the vibrant Pacific and Indian Ocean regions where historic links are strongest. In a February speech he spoke of the importance of British military facilities at Dubai's Al Minhad airbase, as well as permanent bases in Bahrain and Oman.

“Britain has its greatest opportunity in 50 years to redefine our role,” he said. “As we leave the European Union. And, the world changing so rapidly it is up to us to seize the opportunities that Brexit brings. We will build new alliances, rekindle old ones and most importantly make it clear that we are the country that will act when required. We should be the nation that people turn to when the world needs leadership.”

The relation with Saudi Arabia has been most in the spotlight in recent months and the government has provided an overarching defence of its close ties with Riyadh.

“We have a relationship with Saudi Arabia that is complex and many-layered. It certainly has a security and intelligence element, which has led to the saving of a number of British lives over recent years, so that is an important factor in all this,” Alistair Burt, the Middle East minister told MPs last year. “It is not leverage; it is very much a partnership. As was seen in the visit of the Crown Prince, this relationship goes across the board, well beyond defence and security issues, to trade, culture and a variety of things, bearing in mind the changes coming over Saudi Arabia.”

David Jones, a Conservative MP who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the UAE, has also spoken regularly of Brexit as a new outlook for London. “Brexit provides the United Kingdom with a unique opportunity to renew ties with the wider international community,” he said. “In my view, for too long the UK has been constrained in its outlook by the European Union.”

David Wearing, an expert in Gulf politics, points out that trade with the Gulf has – almost uniquely for the British economy -- been in surplus for Britain for decades. This has seen British business take a leading role in local markets “The states have been trying to build their economies, to develop infrastructure and build-up their education systems. British exporters have trying to help them do these things - there is all kinds of goods and services that have been provided,” he said.

One aspect of this is that the sophisticated British military equipment industry has thrived on local contacts, a factor that enabled London to retain a global military role. “One of the main strategic priorities of the British state in the context of being usurped by America and cope with loss empire has been to be a global military power,” Mr Wearing told a Chatham House interviewer last month. “To have an arms industry can be costly unless your exporting.”

All in all it means that Britain’s relationship with the regional states is hard-wired into international policy. “This is a relationship that has developed over 200 years,” he added.

Neil Quilliam, a senior fellow at Chatham House, wrote late last year that Britain’s ties with the UAE were shifting as international relationships develop, especially with the rise of the dynamic Asian economies, particularly China, as well as in recognition of Russia’s evolving global role. “There are deep historical ties between the UK and the families governing the seven emirates, but the nature of the relationship has changed over the years. The economic power that came with the arrival of oil money has allowed the UAE's leaders to build new military and economic relationships,” according to Mr Quilliam.

For the British the friendship with the UAE has been bedrock of its regional presence for decades. “Indeed, there is a lot at stake,” he added. “The UAE is the UK's largest export market in the Middle East and its fourth largest export market outside the EU. The UK exported £9.8 billion of goods and services in 2016, which marked a 37 per cent increase from 2009.”

Overall the prospect of a Brexit that would disrupt trade with Europe and harm Britain’s economic outlook would have global repercussions for the country’s brand and its international influence. Sir John Sawers, a former head of MI6, warned that a loss of prestige comparable to that suffered in the tumultuous 1970s was on the cards.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/brexit/how-brexit-will-affect-british-ties-with-uae-1.832375

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Africa

 

Mossad chief, Sudanese spy chief met in Munich to discuss Bashir's ouster: Report

Mar 2, 2019

The head of Mossad met his Sudanese counterpart in Germany last month as part of a secret plan by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE to oust President Omar al-Bashir, the London-based Middle East Eye has reported.

Salah Gosh, the head of Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), met with Mossad chief Yossi Cohen on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on February 15-17, it cited a senior Sudanese military source as saying.

The meeting was arranged by Egyptian intermediaries with the backing of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the leading online news outlet added.

According to the source, the three Arab countries consider Salah as “their man” to replace Bashir and put an end to his three-decade rule in Sudan.

“There is a consensus that Bashir will go within the ruling party and the army,” said the source, “The battle is about who is coming after.”

“Gosh has strong links with the Saudis, the Emiratis and the Egyptians. They want Bashir out, and they want their man in his place,” the source added.

Bashir, who has been facing months of protests across the country, was not aware of the “unprecedented” meeting between his intelligence chief and Cohen, the sources said.

According to the news website, Gosh also met with European intelligence chiefs during his stay in Munich.

Gosh is well known in Washington, where he earned a reputation during the 2000s as a spy chief with whom the CIA could work, even visiting the US in 2005.

A report by the Africa Intelligence website last month also said that the CIA had identified Gosh as its preferred successor to Bashir if the Sudanese president's position became untenable.

Citing a report by a Persian Gulf state embassy in Washington, the website said that the CIA was not working to bring about regime change because the Sudanese government was providing valuable intelligence.

But the embassy report said the CIA would work to ensure that Gosh replaced Bashir if the protests could not be contained.

Since December, Sudan has been rocked by a wave of protests calling on Bashir to step down.

In January, Bashir was quoted to have lamented that he had been advised to normalize ties with Israel because a normalization would help stabilize growing unrest sweeping Sudan.

The embattled president declined to specify who gave him the advice but said in a meeting with the religious leaders in the capital Khartoum that he believed “sustenance is in the hands of God.”

Sudan has forged close relations with Saudi Arabia in recent years, reportedly sending troops to Yemen to help the kingdom's invasion of the impoverished nation. 

Israeli media reported in November that the Tel Aviv regime was actively working to establish diplomatic ties with Sudan, as part of wider efforts to upgrade relations with central African countries.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/02/589946/Sudan-Israel-Mossad

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Somalia vows crackdown after siege that killed 20

March 02, 2019

MOGADISHU, Somalia: At least 20 people died in an attack in the Somali capital Mogadishu, which saw Al-Shabab insurgents battling security forces for nearly 24 hours before the siege ended, officials said Saturday.

As the standoff ended, the government vowed to step up efforts to fight the extremists, with the deadly siege the latest in a long line of bombing and assaults claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked group.

“The Somali government will never stop its war on Al-Shabab, our aim is to be done with them, whatever the cost,” Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire told reporters late on Friday.

The premier also praised the courage of the elite soldiers who he said had rescued 35 civilians used as “human shields” by the assailants.

The attack began on Thursday evening at around 1800 GMT, when a Shabab militant in a car blew himself up, causing a huge blast that ripped the front off a major hotel and left several cars in flames on the busy street.

Other fighters then stormed inside a building housing a restaurant, where they were quickly surrounded by police.

Medics pulled five bodies from the wreckage immediately after the explosion, but the recovery of more bodies was blocked for hours by the ensuing fighting.

Sporadic shooting continued until officials finally declared an end to the siege late Friday afternoon.

“Our teams have recovered one more dead body after the operation was over and this makes the overall number of the confirmed dead 20,” Aamin Ambulance director Abdikadir Abdirahman told AFP on Saturday.

At least 112 people were admitted to the city’s three main hospitals, medical sources said.

At a press conference, Somali security forces held up photos showing the alleged bodies of four of the attackers.

In a statement posted on a pro-Shabab website, the militants confirmed that four of their number had been killed, adding that others had managed to escape.

It said the fighters waged a “martyrdom-seeking” operation against a “luxury hotel inhabited by government officials and security service officers.”

Witnesses said the initial car bomb attack occurred as the street was filled with people relaxing after a day at work.

The explosion was so powerful that it tossed several vehicles into the air that then burst into flames.

“The whole area was in flames,” said Abdisamed Mohamed, a witness.

The Shabab emerged out of the Islamic courts system that once controlled central and southern Somalia. The group is believed to have between 5,000 and 9,000 men.

In 2010, the Shabab declared its allegiance to Al-Qaeda.

The following year, its fighters were chased out of Mogadishu by the 22,000-strong African Union peace-enforcement mission, AMISOM.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1460261/world

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More than 50 people missing after pipeline explodes in southern Nigeria

March 02, 2019

WARRI: A local official says more than 50 people are missing after a leaking oil pipeline exploded and caused a stampede in southern Nigeria.

The Nembe Chiefs Council spokesman, Chief Nengi James-Eriworio, tells The Associated Press that the blast early Friday caused massive oil spillage in the Nembe kingdom in Bayelsa state.

The Nembe trunk line is operated by the Port Harcourt-based Aiteo Group and carries crude to the Bonny export terminal. The pipeline is jointly owned by Agip, Oando and Shell Petroleum Development Company.

Aiteo is yet to comment on the explosion. It is not immediately clear if the pipeline has been shut down.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1460246/world

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Nigeria: At least 29 killed in armed bandit attack

02.03.2019

At least 29 people were killed in an attack by armed bandits in Nigeria's northwest Zamfara state, police said in a statement released on Saturday.

Victims were ambushed on Thursday night as they were on their way back from a market in Shinkafi district of Zamfara, said Mohamed Shehu, police spokesman for Zamfara which is ravaged by criminal gangs linked to organized crimes and cattle stealing.

Police found 13 bodies at the scene while 16 others were recovered from the bushes in the area, Shehu added.

Victims were civilians including women who were escorting the traders from Shinkafi to Kwari village, according to the police spokesman.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/nigeria-at-least-29-killed-in-armed-bandit-attack/1407618

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South Asia

 

Taliban sub-commanders killed in Nangarhar airstrike

02 Mar 2019

Two Taliban sub-commanders were killed during an airstrike in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The military sources said Saturday “Two Taliban sub-commanders, Mula Zanzir and Maulawi Shafiq and 5 other Taliban fighters were killed in an air strike in Hisarak district of Nangarhar on February 28.”

The sources further added that Zanzir was responsible for recruiting and Shafiq for directing fighters to carry out attacks against Afghan civilians. Zanzir and Shafiq opposed peace in the Nangarhar region.

This month, more than 43 Taliban fighters have been killed in Nangarhar, the sources said.

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

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-sub-commanders-killed-in-nangarhar-airstrike-03407/

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Kabul hosts first trilateral summit between Afghanistan, India and China

03 Mar 2019

The first trilateral summit between Afghanistan, India, and China was convened in capital Kabul on Saturday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan in a statement said the summit was chaired by deputy foreign minister Edris Zaman and was attended by the Ambassadors of India and China.

The statement further added that Mr. Zaman described both India as historic and good neighbors of Afghanistan and emphasized that more focus should be made on training the civilian and military staff as well as demining, energy, agricultural development, transport, regional connectivity, joint trade chamber between the three countries and other areas which have high economic priority for the three countries.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/kabul-hosts-first-trilateral-summit-between-afghanistan-india-and-china-03409/

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Hayat endorses peace efforts but calls for elimination of enemies refusing reconciliation

02 Mar 2019

The newly-appointed governor of Kandahar Hayatullah Hayat has endorsed ongoing efforts but in the meantime has called for the elimination of the enemies refusing the pleas for reconciliation.

Hayat also showed his support to the Afghan security forces at the 205th Corps headquarters along with local tribal elders and religious scholars, and leadership from the 205th Corps. The over-arching topic for the event was peace with a parade that was attended by over 150 local civilians and children to show their support for their local security forces who protect their province.

Brigadier General Shafiqullah, the executive officer to the 205th Corps welcomed the Kandahar Governor and addressed the crowd.

“All brothers, sisters, mothers, and elders who have supported us are all welcome to the 20th Corps; the door is always open,” he said, “We will be vigilant, never sleep, and provide security. Soon peace will prevail.”

As residents adorned the 205th Corps with flowers and praise to show their support to Security Forces, Provincial Governor Hayat addressed his province and the parade of security forces who were in attendance.

“Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. You chose this career, you could have left for anywhere else in the world but you chose to stay and be defenders of the people.”

Governor Hayat went on to appeal to the people of Afghanistan to support and ask for peace.

“Our President wants peace and our people want peace. I hope these talks lead to peace. We must destroy and kills our enemies who do not want peace.”

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/hayat-endorses-peace-efforts-but-calls-for-elimination-of-enemies-refusing-reconciliation-03403/

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Taliban target army corps, kill 23 soldiers

2 March 2019

An Afghan official says Taliban fighters have attacked a corps of security forces in their camp in southern Helmand province, killing at least 23.

Omar Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor, said on Saturday that 16 other forces were wounded in the attack that ended on Friday night in Washer district.

Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said the insurgent group was responsible for the attack, which came as Taliban negotiators met for talks with the US peace envoy in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/03/02/Official-Taliban-target-army-corps-killing-23-soldiers.html

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Southeast Asia

 

Constitutional for non-Malays to be Chief Justice, AG, or minister, says Malaysian Bar

02 March 2019

BY BOO SU-LYN

KUALA LUMPUR, March 2 — Nothing in the Federal Constitution prohibits a non-Malay or a non-Muslim from holding any official positions in the executive, Parliament, or the judiciary, the Malaysian Bar said today.

The peninsular legal body said the appointments of Attorney General Tommy Thomas, Chief Justice Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, and Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng were made in accordance with the Federal Constitution and their ethnicities and religious backgrounds were totally irrelevant.

“The Malaysian Bar firmly believes that these appointments were just and beyond reproach,” Malaysian Bar president George Varughese said in a statement.

“Further, Article 136 of the Federal Constitution holds that all persons in the service of the Federation shall be treated impartially. Race and religion are thus not, and must never be, determining factors in making appointments.”

Former de facto law minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz from Umno allegedly said on the Semenyih campaign trail that the appointment of non-Muslims as the AG, Chief Justice, and finance minister was causing fear among Malays.

George pointed out today that the amount of experience the three men had in their relevant fields spoke for themselves.

“Since assuming their respective offices, they have been performing their duties in accordance with their oaths of office. Remarks with regard to their racial or religious backgrounds, and that of any other employee of the Federation, are irrelevant and irresponsible, and must cease,” he said.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/03/02/constitutional-for-non-malays-to-be-chief-justice-ag-or-minister-says-malay/1728468

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Three reasons why BN won Semenyih

03 March 2019

By Kenneth Tee and Jerry Choong

SEMENYIH, March 3 — Barisan Nasional (BN) unexpectedly wrested Semenyih from Pakatan Harapan (PH), even though PH is now in federal government and has been administering Selangor for over a decade.

The Semenyih by-election was Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s (PPBM) first test after the 14th general election; an indication of how much Malay support the party could get for PH as PPBM was formed as a Malay-only vehicle specifically for that purpose.

But BN’s Zakaria Hanafi defeated PH candidate Muhammad Aiman Zainali with a majority of 1,914 votes in a race that PAS made way for BN. Semenyih had a healthy voter turnout at about 73 per cent, the highest of all by-elections since the May 9 general election.

In the 14th general election, PPBM had won the Selangor state seat with a majority of almost 9,000 votes in a contest featuring both PAS and BN. Combining both PAS and BN’s vote share then would still come up to about 2,000 votes short of PPBM’s count.

So what happened? These are three reasons why political analysts believe PH lost the race, its second by-election defeat since the 14th general election.

Umno-PAS’ Malay-Muslim card

The combination of Umno and PAS in pushing for Malay-Muslim interests, which gained traction in the previous Cameron Highlands by-election, has been subsequently affirmed in the Malay-majority Semenyih state constituency that comprises 68 per cent Malay voters.

"Affirmed is a good term, as it is simply a re-manifestation of the 75 per cent of Malay voters who voted for either Umno or PAS in GE14, now that the two parties are in 'bed' together," said Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

With PAS now lending its support to Umno, it seems very likely the preservation of religion and race will become the narrative in the months to come.

Independent pollster Merdeka Centre executive director Ibrahim Suffian said the BN win will further cement the identity politics of both parties.

“All the attacks by some PH leaders on PAS regarding the allegations of receiving Umno money will likely anger and embolden PAS supporters, rather than repel them.

“PH should take note that all the decades BN have attacked PAS, the support for its leaders have never diminished but instead made them stronger,” he said.

With PAS already announcing its decision to skip the upcoming Rantau by-election, whose incumbent is Umno acting president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, Ibrahim said it was very likely an Umno-PAS pact will take place again.

“This will make the fight for the Malay hearts and minds the central theme of politics in our country even more prominent going forward,” he said.

Pakatan’s unfulfilled promises

To Ibrahim, BN's victory was a clear sign that the public has gotten tired of PH’s difficulty in delivering their GE14 election manifesto.

“They (voters) do not want the blame game on Datuk Seri Najib Razak and BN to continue, but rather concrete plans and action on how to address these issues such as cost of living,” he said.

The PH campaign had repeatedly attacked the former prime minister as he stumped for BN in Semenyih, the second outing for his working class “Bossku” persona.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia associate professor Kartini Aboo Talib Khalid echoed Ibrahim, saying BN's victory was more because of PH’s failure to deliver their promises.

“The voters are getting tired of the PH new government who [has] yet to deliver the promises and a few compelling comments from Tun M himself that the current government is a bit off and ineffective,” she said referring to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Weak Pakatan candidate

Kartini pointed out that BN's victory in Semenyih was attributed to Zakaria’s credibility.

“First and foremost, Zakaria is an activist and well known among the voters in Semenyih,” she said.

Even though PH’s 30-year-old Muhammad Aiman is also a local, he was widely seen as “awkward” and lacked the eloquence of a representative.

Muhammad Aiman's shortcomings were even acknowledged by PPBM president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who said the young man’s presentation should not be an indication of his performance.

Early in the campaign trail, Muhammad Aiman found it difficult to approach voters as he was not seen much in public prior to the announcement of his candidacy.

Zakaria, who is former Umno Kampung Sesapan Kelubi branch permanent chairman, was seen as a party strongman.

Being a former party branch chief, Zakaria possessed the required grassroots support to back him up and found it easy to campaign among those already familiar with him.

Zakaria's ability to communicate effectively was also seen as a necessary trait for a person who is required to convey the concerns of the people.

“Both BN and PH carried the flag of consociation that connects all major races and minorities.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/03/03/three-reasons-why-bn-won-semenyih/1728533

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TOTAL COMMENTS:-   1


  • // The grand imam of Egypt’s famed Al-Azhar institution, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, has described polygamy as an “injustice” for women//

    This is a very great statement after 1400 years, especially against the backdrop that his great prophet who had multiple wives. Surely the Grand Imam has broken the ice. There will be no more name calling among the wives, less poverty and more education to the children. This single statement, if approved by the ulema and the umma, can take Islam to the higher level with other religions. We fondly hope the Grand Mufti of Mecca and the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran will follow suit.


    By Royalj - 3/9/2019 5:35:48 PM



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