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Islamic World News (25 Aug 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Islamic Nations, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, State Of Palestine, UAE And Bahrain That Honoured PM Modi With Highest Civilian Award







Islamic Nations, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Afghanista, State Of Palestine, UAE And Bahrain That Honoured PM Modi With Highest Civilian Award

National Register of Citizens Is Turning Increasingly Religion-Centric As Deadline Approaches

In Valley Town, Rakesh Khanna, A Member of the Amritsar Vishwa Hindu Parishad Pleads His Detained Kashmiri Friend’s Case

Pakistan Senate Chairman Cancels UAE Trip over PM Narendra Modi’s Visit: Reports

Pakistan Minister Sheikh Rasheed Egged, Punched In UK

Coffee Table Book Reveals Vibrant Cultural Heritage of China’s Muslim Community

In ‘Unity Convention’, Liberalism, Christian Evangelism Again Painted As ‘Threats’ To Malay-Muslims

Largest Muslim Convention in Western Canada Focuses on Working Together

Oakland Muslim community celebrates Muslim-American contributions to U.S.

Sudan Needs $8 Billion Aid to Rebuild Ravaged Economy, New PM Says

There Is another Way for Peace in Afghanistan; Strengthening the Security Forces

 

India

Islamic Nations, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Afghanista, State Of Palestine, UAE And Bahrain That Honoured PM Modi With Highest Civilian Award

National Register of Citizens Is Turning Increasingly Religion-Centric As Deadline Approaches

In Valley Town, Rakesh Khanna, A Member of the Amritsar Vishwa Hindu Parishad Pleads His Detained Kashmiri Friend’s Case

Opposition Delegation Turned Back From Srinagar Airport, Leaders Allege All 'Not Normal' In Jammu and Kashmir

Subramanian Swamy's "Indians Who Were Not Muslims and Christians Were Hindus”, 'Stop Corridor' Talk Stirs Row

Kashmiri Pandits hold rally in US to support revocation of Article 370

MHA ‘reaches out’ to Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti

No politics will be tolerated on Ayodhya issue, says Mahant Nritya Gopal Das

Press Council moves SC, backs J&K restrictions

Restrictions lifted from most of Kashmir, situation improving gradually: Govt

UAE honours PM Modi with highest civilian award ‘Order of Zayed’

Police seeking guest lists, other details, say hoteliers in Kashmir

Landline telephone services restored in most places in Kashmir, says officials

Terror suspects held in Kerala, Tamil Nadu; vigil stepped up

Forces on alert over cross-border terrorism threat in Kashmir

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Pakistan

Pakistan Senate Chairman Cancels UAE Trip over PM Narendra Modi’s Visit: Reports

Pakistan Minister Sheikh Rasheed Egged, Punched In UK

Journos On Their Way To Kashmir Via LoC Stopped By Pakistan Police

LGs disbanded to punish Punjab for voting for PML-N: Ahsan

Govt defends unilateral selection of ECP members

Pakistan’s power chessboard: the general vs the lady

No dialogue with India without Kashmiris: Firdous

Army ready to thwart any Indian misadventure: Bajwa

'If this is how India behaves with its own, what expectation can Pakistan have?' asks FM Qureshi

Pakistan to open Kartarpur Corridor irrespective of ties with India: Firdous

Two killed in DI Khan checkpost attack

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Southeast Asia

Coffee Table Book Reveals Vibrant Cultural Heritage of China’s Muslim Community

In ‘Unity Convention’, Liberalism, Christian Evangelism Again Painted As ‘Threats’ To Malay-Muslims

Zakir Naik: Malaysia’s “hammer” of unity?

Child rights activist voices fears over unilateral conversions

The elephant in the room: Racism in Indonesia

Detachment 88 Arrests Three Suspected Terrorists in East Java

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North America

Largest Muslim Convention in Western Canada Focuses on Working Together

Oakland Muslim community celebrates Muslim-American contributions to U.S.

Iran’s Zarif heading to Asia in push against US sanctions

Warship US sent to ‘deter’ Iran ‘steers clear’ of Iran

US: Turkey-US conduct first reconnaissance flight

US warns of continued ethnic cleansing of Rohingya

US announces rewards for 3 Islamic State leaders

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Europe

How Islamists and Their Sponsors Held Sway Over Muslim Communities in Secular France

NY Rabbi, Head Of Muslim World League Receive 'Children Of Abraham' Award

Thousands Hold Ant-Racism Demo in Germany's Dresden

Syrian regime forces massing to push further into Idlib

Soyuz spacecraft carrying humanoid robot fails to dock with ISS

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Africa

Sudan Needs $8 Billion Aid to Rebuild Ravaged Economy, New PM Says

Tunisia’s electoral commission says media mogul still candidate despite arrest

Ethiopian parliament approves electoral, political parties bill

Twelve dead in Boko Haram Niger attack: Official

Boko Haram burns 73 houses, 28 shops in Konduga —Borno Govt

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South Asia

There Is another Way for Peace in Afghanistan; Strengthening the Security Forces

Kabul Expects US to Share Peace Deal Details

25 Taliban militants killed, wounded in Afghan forces operations: Thunder Corps

Former Jihadi commander killed after clashing with his cousin in Kabul

Naheed Esar introduced as deputy foreign minister as government leaders end rift

U.S. airstrikes kill 6 militants; destroy Taliban radio station in Ghazni

Special Forces Kill 14 Militants; Destroy Multiple Taliban Tunnels and Compounds In Uruzgan

Khalilzad also reacts to reports regarding the U.S.-Taliban agreement on interim govt setup

2 Rohingya refugees killed in Bangladesh camp

Rohingya refugees protest exodus, demand rights in Myanmar

Rohingya mark 2 years since Myanmar army crackdown

Bangladesh police shoot dead two Rohingya Muslims in refugee camp

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Arab World

Tahrir Al-Sham Terrorists Preparing for Large-Scale Attack on Aleppo after Heavy Defeat in Hama, Idlib

Expert: Israel Seeking to Trigger US-Iran War in Iraq by Targeting Holy Shrines in Iraq

Lebanese foreign minister lauds Hezbollah as pillar of national unity

Iraqi Hashd Sha’abi forces cleanse 6 Anbar villages of Daesh remnants

Hundreds of Fresh Syrian Army Troops Arrive in Lattakia for Mop-Up Operations

Syria fires on Israeli missiles over Damascus

Explosion in Iraq near Shiite mosque kills three, wounds dozens

Arab Coalition intercepts Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait

UAE minister: Saudi-Emirati alliance a strategic necessity, Yemen clear example

Yemeni government forces take back control of three STC camps in Shabwa

Lebanon’s Hezbollah says downs two Israeli drones near Beirut

US-Israeli attacks on PMU meant to revive Daesh in Iraq: Kata'ib Hezbollah

Assad forces mass for new attack on opposition stronghold

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to respond to Israeli drone incident Sunday

Syrian Kurds say will help implement US-Turkey ‘safe zone’

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Mideast

Yemeni Forces Take Control of Saudi Bases

Israeli warplanes flying at a low altitude over Lebanon’s Sidon: Report

Hezbollah says Israeli drone that exploded over Beirut damaged media center

Israel arrests Palestinians after deadly West Bank blast

Iran has “highly accurate” secret weapons, says minister

Iranian oil tanker pursued by US says it is going to Turkey

Yemen conducts strikes on Saudi Arabian airport, airbase

Israeli missiles flying over Damascus dealt with ‘efficiently’: Syria’s SANA

Yemeni army unveils two advanced domestically-built missile defense systems

Senior pro-Hadi commander defects to Yemeni army: Official

Israeli jets hit targets in Syria ‘to prevent Iranian drone attack’

Yemen government takes control of city after separatist clashes

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/islamic-nations,-maldives,-saudi-arabia,-afghanista,-state-of-palestine,-uae-and-bahrain-that-honoured-pm-modi-with-highest-civilian-award/d/119560

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Islamic Nations, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Afghanista, State Of Palestine, UAE And Bahrain That Honoured PM Modi With Highest Civilian Award

Himanshu Mishra

August 25, 2019

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was honoured with "The King Hamad Order of the Renaissance" in Manama on Saturday as he held talks with King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on various bilateral and regional issues.

While receiving the award PM Modi said: "It is an honour for entire India. This is a symbol of the close and friendly relations between the Kingdom of Bahrain and India."

PM Modi's visit to Bahrain is significant as it is the first visit of an Indian Prime Minister to the country. The visit strengthens India's close connect with the six-nation powerful Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Earlier on Saturday, PM Modi was also honoured with the 'Order of Zayed', the UAE's highest civilian award, as a mark of appreciation for his efforts to boost bilateral ties between the two nations.

India's relations with the Islamic nations are better than ever before. PM Modi's personal diplomatic outreach has yielded great results for India as far as the Muslim world is concerned. It has got home substantial investment, led to a rise in Haj quota and also ensured that several prisoners in West Asia come back home, united with their loved ones.

Several other Islamic nations also honoured PM Modi with their high civilian award in the recent past. Here's a list of awards PM Modi has been conferred with by Muslim-majority countries:

1. The King Hamad Order of the Renaissance, Bahrain - August 2019

2. Order of Zayed, UAE's highest civilian award - August 2019

3. Grand Collar of the State of Palestine - February 2018

4. Amir Amanullah Khan Award, Afghanistan - June 2016

5. King Abdulaziz Sash Award, Saudi Arabia - April 2016

6. Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen, Maldives - June 2019

Just like in Bahrain, PM Modi has always said that these awards are not merely for a person but for 1.3 billion Indians.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/islamic-nations-that-honoured-pm-modi-with-highest-civilian-award-1591334-2019-08-25

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National Register of Citizens Is Turning Increasingly Religion-Centric As Deadline Approaches

Aug 25, 2019

GUWAHATI: The discourse surrounding the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is turning increasingly religion-centric, as Assam draws closer to the August 31 publication date.

“Many Hindus are not making it to the NRC, many of whom are victims of Partition. But many Bangladeshi Muslims have made it. This is not going to help Assam as far as freeing the state of foreigners is concerned,” BJP legislator Shiladitya Dev said.

The BJP-led government in Assam has already raised a “concern” about fewer exclusions from border districts and sought reverification of the NRC data. While the Supreme Court has rejected appeals for a re-check, Sangh-affiliated organisations like Hindu Jagran Manch and ABVP have taken up the battle on a parallel front.

Muslim organisations said they wanted an error-free NRC. “Whether it is a Muslim or a Hindu, no foreigner should be included in the NRC. Citizens belonging to both the religious (Muslim) and linguistic (Hindu Bengali) minorities have gone through immense hardships in the process of updating the NRC,” All Assam Minority Students’ Union general secretary Abdur Rahman Biswas said on Saturday.

The Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, a confederation of tribal and indigenous ethnic organisations, said the focus is on migrants rather than rights of the indigenous people. “Politics and communalism has taken over the discourse on NRC, which is for safeguarding the indigenouss. Today we are seeing that more concerns is for safeguarding the migrants,” working president Motiur Rahman said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nrc-row-takes-a-religious-hue-as-deadline-approaches/articleshow/70823923.cms

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In Valley Town, Rakesh Khanna, A Member of the Amritsar Vishwa Hindu Parishad Pleads His Detained Kashmiri Friend’s Case

by Nirupama Subramanian

August 25, 2019

Outside the Government Guest House in this north Kashmir town, an improbable scene was unfolding. Rakesh Khanna, a member of the Amritsar Vishwa Hindu Parishad, lamenting the absence of “insaniyat”, was pleading with the guards to let him go past the black iron gates. Because inside was his friend, Aijaz Ahmed Sofi, president of the Handwara market association, now under detention.

Since the night of August 4, ahead of the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and its bifurcation into two Union Territories, hundreds of people, including separatists, mainstream politicians, social activists, trade association leaders, and stone-pelters have been detained in preventive swoops across the Valley. Nobody has a count of the number of detentions.

Sofi, the market association president, and son of a former legislator, was detained on August 9.

Standing at the gates of the guest house, Khanna, a former president of the Amritsar market association and a member of an organisation that had been most vocal in demanding the abrogation of Article 370, said Sofi was “a friend of 29 years” and almost “a family member”.

Khanna, a kirana and textile trader with family business links in Kashmir from his father’s time, took out his mobile phone to show pictures of himself at an RSS shakha, campaigning for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections, and dismantling a Pakistan stall at a textile fair in Amritsar a couple of years ago. “Everything was going well. I camp in a rented house in Srinagar for months at a time because of my business. Things had become peaceful. Tourists had started coming. Ab saara kaam phir se kharab…,” he said.

Khanna said he was all for revoking Article 370. “But this was not the way. They should have tried to reach out to some important people. There are leaders other than mainstream politicians. Now they have arrested everyone. Desh ko mazboot zaroor banao, mein iske khilaaf nahin hoon. Par insaaniyat se kaam lena chahiye na. Why put innocent people in jail? Yeh najaayaz hai. Phir phone bhi kaat diye. See how all the markets are shut. People are suffering. Amarnath yatriyon ko bhi wapas bhej diya,” he said.

Rukaiyah, Sofi’s wife, had sent word to him for help. “That’s why I somehow got here from Srinagar, taking a lift in a private car. She and their children have been trying to meet her husband for days, but they are not being allowed,” Khanna said.

The Sofis are an affluent family. The son is studying to write the IAS exams in Delhi. The two daughters study in Srinagar where they stay at Khanna’s home. At their home, Rukaiyah said the police had come looking for her husband at midnight on August 4, and not believing her when she said he was away in Srinagar, they searched all the rooms. She said they came once more, and when Sofi returned, he went to the SP and gave himself up. “He told me, ‘I don’t have a gun, I am not underground, why this drama of raiding the house? I am going to the police station, and I will ask them to arrest me’,” his wife recalled.

The guest house, where Sofi has been detained, has been turned into a CRPF camp. At its heavily guarded gates, Khanna, wearing trousers and shirt, and sporting gold rimmed glasses, stood out. In the small crowd of Kashmiris gathered there hoping to meet those detained inside, only he cut a figure of authority. But even he sounded helpless as he made his case to the guards.

“He’s my friend, he’s like my brother, he’s a social worker, his wife is ill, his children are crying. Why are you doing this to an innocent man? What is his fault? Why have you arrested him? He hasn’t hurt anyone in his life,” he told the guards.

Sofi’s only fault, Khanna told The Indian Express, was that he had taken part in a dharna in Srinagar some years ago. “There’s a video clip of him raising slogans that resurfaced recently. Now what’s the big deal if someone raises a couple of slogans? Who hasn’t done that?” he said.

The guards told him politely that they did not have the authority to let in any visitors, and that he needed a written letter from the SHO of Handwara police station, but they agreed to bring Sofi to the gate. He stood on tiptoes behind the tall gate, only his face showing, as Khanna gave him an update on his mother, wife and children. As the two friends, one an ardent VHP member, and the other a Kashmiri Muslim who the authorities consider a threat to law and order, faced each other across the closed iron gate, Sofi broke down, and Khanna left for the police station, assuring him he would try his best to see if his wife and children could meet him.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/in-valley-town-vhp-man-pleads-his-detained-kashmiri-friends-case-5934461/

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Pakistan Senate Chairman cancels UAE trip over PM Narendra Modi’s visit: Reports

Aug 25, 2019

Pakistan Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani has decided to cancel his pre-scheduled trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent trip to the Gulf nation, a media report said on Sunday.

The Senate chairman’s visit to the UAE would hurt the feelings of the Kashmiri people; therefore, he has decided to cancel his and a parliamentar delegation’s visit to the country, The Express Tribune said in its report citing an informed sources as saying.

Tensions have escalated between India and Pakistan ever since New Delhi on August 5 revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and divided it into two Union Territories -- Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Also read: PM Modi discusses ties with UAE, unveils RuPay card

Modi, who is on a tri-nation tour to France, the UAE and Bahrain, had reached Abu Dhabi on Friday.

On Saturday, he was conferred the UAE’s highest civilian honour, the “Order of Zayed”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, the UK’s Queen Elizabeth II and Chinese President Xi Jinping have previously been honoured with this honour.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/pakistan-senate-chairman-cancels-uae-trip-over-pm-narendra-modi-s-visit-reports/story-aX38BE7X38wC6u6IRH2T5I.html

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Pakistan Minister Sheikh Rasheed egged, punched in UK

August 23, 2019

PPP officials attacked the minister for using "abusive language" for party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Pakistan Railway Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed was allegedly assaulted in the UK by two officials of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) who pelted him with eggs and also punched him for using "abusive language" for their party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The alleged assault took place on Tuesday when Ahmed, who is also the chief of the Awami Muslim League (AML), came out from a hotel after attending an awards ceremony in London.

The "attackers" fled the scene but on Wednesday two officials of the PPP in the UK -- Asif Ali Khan, President People's Youth Organisation Europe; and Samah Naz, General Secretary for Greater London Women's Wing -- issued a statement saying that they had attacked Ahmed, the News International reported on Friday.

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Eggs thrown at railways minister Sheikh Rasheed in London.

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AML's UK President Saleem Sheikh told the News International that he would be speaking to Ahmed to get his permission for the registration of a police case against the attackers.

"We saw Asif Khan and a woman being involved in the attack but they ran away from the scene and there was no video proof of their shameful act but now both have come out and claimed the attack. We will decide whether to report them to the police or not after speaking to Sheikh Rashid Ahmed," he said.

Saleem Sheikh claimed that the attack was "pre-planned" as not many people knew that Ahmed would be stepping out of the venue using the side exit of the building.

Asif Ali Khan and Samah Naz, meanwhile, claimed that Ahmed had been continuously using "abusive language during interviews against our Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. He should be thankful we only used eggs as a British way of dealing with such uncivilised politician. He started this we ended it".

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/offbeat/video-pakistan-minister-egged-punched-in-uk

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Coffee table book reveals vibrant cultural heritage of China’s Muslim community

AUGUST 25, 2019

BY HARIATI AZIZAN

In her bright head scarves and long, flowy dresses, Yonghua Zheng is a recognisable figure around Sangpo in Henan province, central China. This is because Zheng is an imam – or Ahong – of an all-women mosque in the hamlet.

More amazingly, Zheng is not alone in the province; becoming a female Ahong is a 400-year-old custom in the province where Islam has taken root for over 1,000 years. In the Muslim quarter of Sangpo, there are said to be six women-only mosques while in nearby town Kaifeng, there are reportedly 16.

This is one of the stories about Islam in China being eclipsed by the world’s attention on the Uighur Muslims’ conflict in Xinjiang, says writer and publisher PK Koya.

With a new pictorial book he edited, simply titled Islam in China, the Islamic book publisher, who is popularly known as Haji Koya in the local publishing circle, hopes to shed light on the long history of the religion across vast China, as well as its rich, diverse legacy.

“We want to introduce Malaysians to the history of Islam in China and show that that there are numerous Muslim communities in the world’s most populous country – and there are strong Muslims there,” he says.

Writings by experts in the field – including Yusuf Liu Baojin, Alexander Wain, John Lawton and Aaliyah Green – are framed by a trove of photos, charts and maps to paint the fascinating landscape created by the interaction and intersection of these two great civilisations.

As Haji Koya puts it, Islam has not only peacefully co-existed within Chinese society for over 1,400 years but in many parts of the country, its practice has also interwoven into the mainstream culture and even thrived with distinctive Chinese characteristics.

The female imams and women-only mosques are merely starting points, he says.

According to Dr Maria Jaschok, director of the International Gender Studies Center at Oxford University, who has studied the phenomenon for over two decades, these female mosques serve as community centres for women while the female imams have the same responsibilities as their male counterparts, except for officiating weddings and funerals.

In many parts of the Muslim world, Haji Koya points out, the issue of female imams is still a source of controversy, if not novelty – one of the most well-known women’s mosques outside China, which is in the United States, was only built in 2015.

“Muslims in China are the first ones to introduce a women-only mosque with a woman imam,” he notes.

This long historical tradition, is specifically unique to the Hui Muslim community, the largest Muslim ethnic minority group, and the third largest ethnic group, in China.

The Muslim population in China can be divided into 10 ethnic minority groups (out of 55), making up some 22 million people or 1.6% of its total population.

These ethnic communities practise various Muslim schools of thought from Suni to Shia, Sufi and Chinese-Islamic teachings such as Xidaotang and Yihewani. While many live in the rugged mountains and desert basins of the northwest (Xinjiang, Ningxia, Gansu and Qinghai provinces), the Hui live in compact communities scattered throughout China – with one of the largest enclaves in Beijing.

And while most of the Muslim minority groups are descendants of the Turkic or Central Asian peoples, the Hui are descendants of Chinese Muslim converts or of Chinese intermarriages with Muslim immigrants – Arab warriors who came to China to help various emperors fight their enemies or Arab and Persian merchants through the Silk Routes. Their appearance, language, and other cultural characteristics are hence distinctly Chinese.

This can also be seen in the architecture of their older mosques such as the Niujie Mosque in Beijing and the Great Mosque of Xi’an which boast a brilliant blend of Islamic and Chinese designs.

According to scholars, Muslims in China have enjoyed relative religious freedom over the years, even in the first few years after the founding of the communist state in 1949. It was only during the chaotic early years of the Cultural Revolution that Muslims were prohibited from openly expressing their religious belief.

After the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, the Chinese government adopted more relaxed policies towards Muslim communities.

But tensions have been growing since the 9/11 attacks in the United States, escalating in 2009 with ethnic riots between the Uighurs and Han Chinese in Xinjiang. In the past year, these tensions have heightened according to news reports.

Haji Koya believes that is a political issue, not religious or cultural.

“The Uighurs in the Xinjiang province, which borders other Muslim countries, want their own separate state like Aceh, Kashmir and Punjab.

“But you also have to see it from the Chinese government point of view. They own the border and their security is important. They want to keep China as one country.”

He also thinks the reports, to some extent, are a backlash towards China’s meteoric rise in the world.

“China’s now coming up and may take over America in a few years time. So, all of a sudden the West is going on and on about how China is oppressing the Muslims.”This is why he deliberately avoided politics in the book – to present a view beyond the geopolitical haze, he stresses.

“We looked only at the history, spread and culture of Islam in the country.”

He adds, what many may not also realise is that Muslims were prominent and influential in the government and kingdom of China, starting from the Yuan dynasty through the Ming dynasty.

“The Chinese Muslims are loyal, they are quite proud to be Chinese. And at the same time, they’re quite proud to be Muslim,” says Haji Koya.

The book took two years to complete since it was first conceived, he tells. “There are few books that bring together the whole picture of Islam in China, so that’s why we decided to collect and compile the different articles, photos and documents to illustrate it.”

Architecture is only one area explored in the pictorial book to trace the historical ancestry of Islam in China.

Other areas looked at are the Chinese-Muslim cultural heritage in food, arts and craft, literature and traditional medicine. Then there are famous Chinese Muslims including ancient astronomer Ma Yize, architect Amir al-Din and Admiral Zheng He.

The tome is also peppered with various quirky “Islamic relics” of China: a Muslim wushu grandmaster dubbed the Shaolin Sheikh and the Han Kitab, which contains a collection of Chinese-language Islamic texts.

One point of interest is the Sini script, which is an “intermingling of Chinese artisan craftsmanship and Islamic design” – believed to have been created at the end of the Yuan dynasty (circa 1368).

It is said that in the 17th and 18th centuries, many pieces inscribed with Sini, crafted by the Chinese, were commissioned from the Middle East.

Today, a master calligrapher from the Shandong province, Haji Noor Deen (Chinese name Mi Guang Jiang) has given the Chinese-Muslim calligraphy a global boost with his unique style. He even has a permanent piece in the British Museum called “The 99 Beautiful Names Of God”.

As he describes it, the Sini script is not constrained to the rules of Arabic calligraphy, thus allowing the calligrapher more freedom of expression.

“Imagine Arabic calligraphy shaped into a Chinese character, or Chinese characters shaped into Arabic Quranic verses, and you will get some idea of the intricacy and the brilliance of the Sini calligraphic style,” he says.

For Haji Koya, this is another example of cultural osmosis that Malaysia can “find affinity” with.

China’s experience in the spread and adaptation of Islamic cultural civilisation reflects our experience in South-East Asia in many ways, he says, “where diverse religious faiths have intermingled for centuries as we interact and assimilate each other’s socio-cultural practices and heritage.”

This is what he hopes people will take from the book – that Islam is not a monolithic religion and can co-exist peacefully and even blend harmoniously with others.

“I wanted to highlight with this book that there are many different groups of Muslims in the world. It’s a religion all over the world with diverse cultures, and not a monopoly of the Malays or Arabs or Iranians.

“And crucially, by interacting with Islam or being a Muslim, it does not mean that you will lose your culture and heritage … By being Muslim, you are not going to lose your ‘Chineseness’, look at the Muslims in China, they are still part of China, the Chinese are still Chinese,” he says.

Ironically, this seems to be something that even contemporary China might need to be reminded of, he concedes.

Recently, it was reported that authorities in Beijing ordered for halal restaurants and food stalls to remove Arabic script and symbols associated with Islam from their signs, alleged to be part of an expanding national effort to “Sinicize” its Muslim population.

https://www.star2.com/culture/2019/08/25/coffee-table-book-islam-in-china-culture-heritage-muslim-community/

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In ‘unity convention’, liberalism, Christian evangelism again painted as ‘threats’ to Malay-Muslims

25 August 2019

BY EMMANUEL SANTA MARIA CHIN

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 25 — A convention organised by a coalition of Malay-Muslim groups has today listed several issues it deems “major threats” against the majority community, which included liberalism, Christian evangelism, and human rights movements.

In his opening speech, organiser Gerakan Pembela Ummah chairman Aminuddin Yahaya claimed that liberalism threatens to cloud the understanding of Islam among the community by allegedly masking their values as progressive religious views.

“It is a Western strategy that attempts to confuse the understanding of Islam among the Muslim community to a point where it triggers disputes among themselves,” he said, referring to liberalism.

“If there is no sincere and honest effort to answer and debunk all the confusion by religious scholars, the position of Islam will in the end be a mere ritual.”

Aminuddin, who is also the president of Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), then accused Christian evangelists of becoming more brazen in spreading their beliefs to the community, which he said went against the tenets of the Federal Constitution.

“Christian evangelists are now not shy to spread their flyers from house to house despite it going against the Federal Constitution which does not allow the spread of other religions to Muslims.

“Among their objectives are those contained among the resolutions of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, which is to place as many Christians as possible as the country’s leaders,” he claimed in the National Ummah Unity Convention at the Kuala Lumpur International Hotel.

Another threat he claimed was the push for universal human rights and values, which he alleged would result in Islam being seen as unfair and ultimately sidelined.

“They are highlighting a new mindset which through its interpretation rejects religious values and looks to replace it with the term universal values.

“From here negative elements such as the practice of LGBT between men and women, the freedom to apostate and speak without limits, and other issues will be detrimental not only to individuals, but the country,” he said, using the initials of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Aminuddin added the push by certain quarters to amend laws, such as the Sedition Act, and the repealing of the death penalty was also detrimental to the development of Malays, Islam and the Malay Rulers.

“We are confident this is not coincidental, but a plan by certain quarters to weaken the position of the Pribumi and the religion of Islam,” he said, using the Malay word that refers to the indigenous population.

He also pointed out how the Malays, trailing other races in terms of economic development, paired with the uncertain global geopolitical situation, as having a negative effect on them.

Also in his list was the threat of what he described as an extremist movement looking to challenge the position of Islam and Malays through education.

“There are quarters who are getting braver in challenging the position of Islam and Malays.

“There are those who continue to challenge the education system by bringing up a foreign system that leans more towards learning the history of foreign nations rather the history of their own country,” he claimed.

Liberalism encompasses a wide array of ideas, but its supporters usually push for civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, free trade, private property, and free and fair elections.

Malay-Muslim conservative groups, such as Isma, have also consistently spoken out against Christianisation, human rights, and religious pluralism as alleged threats against the Malay-Muslim community in recent years.

Ummah had in May organised a rally to defend the “sanctity and sovereignty of Islam”, which was lambasted by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as a ploy to draw support for certain political parties.

The convention today also included speakers such as Umno information chief Datuk Shamsul Anuar, former inspector-general of police Tan Sri Musa Hassan, and Malay Consultative Council Datuk Hasan Mad.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/08/25/in-unity-convention-liberalism-christian-evangelism-again-painted-as-threat/1784002

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Largest Muslim convention in Western Canada focuses on working together

August 24, 2019

By Kaylen Small

The importance of interfaith collaboration was the focus as thousands of people went to the largest annual Muslim convention in Western Canada on Saturday.

All were welcome to the workshops and prayers at the Jalsa Salana convention at the Sarcee Seven Chiefs Sportsplex on Tsuut’ina Nation this weekend.

Harim Ahmed, an Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at member, said that in addition to the event building character in young people, it helps boost awareness about Islam.

The convention breaks down walls about the religion, he explained.

“We are very clear about that terrorism and violence has absolutely no place in Islam. Islam is a very peaceful religion,” Ahmed said.

Conferences like this can show the community what Islam is really about, he added.

“We’re showing what Islam can actually be, what Islam actually is, rather than what’s happening in the media, how terrible that’s being shown.

“Islam is a religion of peace. ISIS, other terrorist organizations, have nothing to do with Islam. Literally, the word ‘Islam’ means peace. That’s all we’re trying to do.”

Akbar Ali, an Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at member, said the convention is a great way to give back to society.

“We’re reminded of our duties to our fellow Canadians on how we can contribute to this mosaic of Canadian society. I feel like there’s a lot of meaningful benefit we can derive from this,” he said.

The message is that Muslims are peace-loving people who are trying to build bridges in the spirit of “love for all, hatred for none.”

The event partnered with the Tsuut’ina Nation to form relationships with Indigenous tribes and advocate for interfaith harmony.

“In the spirit of building bridges, we’re also reaching out to our fellow aboriginal communities around us and saying, ‘We would like to work with you in different events.'”

https://globalnews.ca/news/5810090/largest-annual-muslim-convention-western-canada-2019/

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Oakland Muslim community celebrates Muslim-American contributions to U.S.

2019-08-24

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- The Muslim community in Oakland city, Northern California, on Friday celebrated the outstanding contributions made by Muslim Americans to the United States.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf presented a proclamation to the Muslim community at Masjidul Waritheen, a predominantly African American Muslim congregation in Oakland, to honor the designation of August as "Muslim Appreciation and Awareness Month" in California.

She said more than 90,000 Muslim are living in Alameda County and have made innumerable contributions to the cultural, political and economic fabric and wellbeing of California and the United States.

"I want to thank you for the gift that you give your city, your faith, the food, the language, the practices, the fact that we are so (en)rich(ed) by all the traditions and histories that come together and are celebrated and honored in this place," she said.

She slammed U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration policy that places more restrictions on Muslim immigrants who are seeking their dreams in the United States.

"I believe our president is incredibly misguided and ignorant. What makes America great is our diversity," she said.

Talking about Trump's intention to "very seriously" consider ending the right to citizenship for children born in the United States to non-citizens, Schaaf said: "This is un-American in my view. He is misguided. He is a racist, and he is not taking this country to a good direction."

Faheem Shuaibe, resident Imam of Masjidul Waritheen, said Schaaf's visit to the event to celebrate with the Muslim community is "very special."

"Inclusiveness is one of the words that's important at times like this, because there are so many people who are building walls to try to separate people, one from the other, whether those walls be political walls or racial walls or economic walls," he said.

He said Trump's policy to limit immigration from particular countries that are targeting Muslims is very "bad."

Sameena Usman, government relations coordinator of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) California, the largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization in the country, told Xinhua that the celebration aims to show that Muslims have been part of this country since even before its founding.

"We've been in a part and parcel of this community and to have our city of Oakland and the state of California recognized this month really truly means a lot to the Muslim community, especially given the negative rhetoric that we have heard" from other people.

She said the first executive order issued two years ago by President Trump, which was also known as the Muslim Ban, has separated thousands of Muslim families who came from Syria, Somalia, Iran and Sudan.

She noted that her organization will help Muslim immigrants know their rights when they are "encountered by FBI or other law enforcement" and how to manage any situation when they met with hate crimes and incidents.

The California State Assembly first recognized August as "Muslim Appreciation and Awareness Month" in 2016.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-08/24/c_138334983.htm

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Sudan needs $8 billion aid to rebuild ravaged economy, new PM says

24 August 2019

Sudan needs $8 billion in foreign aid over the next two years to cover its import bill and help rebuild its ravaged economy after months of political turmoil, its new prime minister said on Saturday.

Abdalla Hamdok, sworn in three days earlier in to head a transitional ruling body after the ousting of veteran leader Omar al-Bashir, said up to another $2 billion of foreign reserves deposits were needed in the next three months to halt a fall in the currency.

The economist who has worked for the UN Economic Commission for Africa said he had started talks with the IMF and the World Bank to discuss restructuring Sudan’s crippling debt and had approached friendly nations and funding bodies about the aid.

“We are in communication to achieve this,” he said in his first interview with a foreign media outlet. “The foreign reserves in the central bank are weak and very low.”

He also said he had been talking with the United States to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism – a designation which has left Khartoum isolated from the bulk of the international financial system since 1993.

There was no immediate comment from Washington, the IMF or the World Bank.

Sudan has been in economic turmoil since it lost the bulk of its oil production in 2011 when South Sudan seceded after decades of civil war.

It has devalued the pound several times but not been able to halt the fall. One dollar currently fetches 65 pounds on the black market versus the official rate of 45.

“We will work to unify the exchange rate, and to manage the exchange rate using a flexible managed exchange rate,” Hamdok said, without going into details.

“We have already started discussions with funding bodies, including elements from the World Bank, IMF, and the African Development Bank,” in order to come to an understanding about Sudan’s debts, he added.

Mounting public anger over shortages of food, fuel, and hard currency triggered mass demonstrations that eventually forced Bashir from power in April.

The generals that ousted Bashir took over and then, after months of wrangling and further violent protests, agreed to set up a transitional body including civilians to pave the way to elections in three years.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/24/Sudan-needs-8-billion-aid-to-rebuild-ravaged-economy-new-PM-says.html

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There is another way for peace in Afghanistan; Strengthening the Security Forces

25 Aug 2019

The peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban seems more closer than ever, but  anti-government forces such as Daesh attack by martyring hundreds in the capital, seeing  this one might question, if the peace deal will really  bring true peace?

The war between the Taliban and the Afghan government has went on for almost two decades, and the recent tweets and announcements by Zalmay Khalilzad has brought hope to many Afghans, that there can be peace but recent attacks by Daesh and whispers that many faces within the Taliban reject the deal and might separate either into the Daesh or creating a different group altogether. Considering all these, the Afghan government really needs  to reassess the security policy.

Each year the Afghan forces suffer heavy casualties, lose areas and posts  and get their bases infiltrated by Taliban and other anti-governmental forces. The lack of proper training, the lack of proper equipment and proper coordination between the ground and air forces seem to be the biggest of the problems.

To fix this situation the first thing the Afghan government needs to do is reassess the training for all soldiers of the military. Military training is lead by NATO and US forces, a problem with these trainers are as mentioned by Erik Prince the CEO of the private military organization  known as Blackwater, is that these trainers have rotations and each stays only 8 months until his cycle is completed and he returns home, this results in the training to be left incomplete and the newly administrated trainer has to get familiar to the situation and until he gets to know it, he is changed again. This can be helped by the Afghan government permanently hiring experienced trainers and teachers from military forces with experience in successfully combating terrorist and guerrilla forces such as Russia or other NATO countries.

Among the Afghan forces , the special force has been more effective than other branches of the Afghan military an increase in their number would be for the better, a special force training university which is present in Russia is something the Afghan government can model.

The lack of coordination between the air force and the ground force is a deep problem, since many ground forces often attribute the loss of security posts to the late arrival of the air force, the attribution of the air forces to provincial levels should help with this problem.

The military ranks seem to be another problems since many of them are the remnants of the communist or the mujahideen regime, many corrupt officers plague these ranks and the government should take every step to remove these of the military.

In order to establish complete control over all areas of Afghanistan, the government needs to adopt a centralization of power policy in the military. Each officer appointed in a Walaswali should be told his job is to remove all obstacles against government control in the area, whether it be a warlord, a Taliban leader or someone else, in a case if the Walaswali is too large to be controlled by a single officer, it should be split. These  officers should be given an adequate amount of soldiers and equipment and access to the air support on his will and should be  accompanied by an intelligence officer, to help with matters regarding intelligence.

These chiefs should become the prime force in the area and would only be answerable to the provincial security chief. The provincial security chief should act the same way as those in the Walaswali but on a provincial scale and they would only be answerable  to the Defense Minister or the President himself.

In a rather simple point of view  these offices in the Province  and Walaswali would act like Warlords that accumulate power but the difference would be that they would respond to the Government and in order to maintain their loyalty should be awarded greatly based on their success.

Newly trained officers or those whom are clearly not corrupt and liable should be put to use, a separate large training ground and a  military university or multiple is a good idea.

Fixing the problems within the military and  in the military policy would not only bring peace and stability inside Afghanistan but the Afghan forces would also be capable enough to defend Afghanistan against foreign interventions and pave the way for economic development.

https://www.khaama.com/there-is-another-way-for-peace-in-afghanistan-strengthening-the-security-forces-03757/

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India

 

Opposition delegation turned back from Srinagar airport, leaders allege all 'not normal' in Jammu and Kashmir

Aug 24, 2019

NEW DELHI: A 12-member multi-party delegation led by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi reiterated that everything in Kashmir was "not normal", after they were denied permission to enter Srinagar on Saturday on grounds that their presence in the region could stoke tensions in the politically sensitive state.

The delegation comprising Rahul Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and K C Venugopal from Congress, Tiruchi Siva of DMK, Trinamool's Dinesh Trivedi, NCP's Majeed Memon, Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D Raja, RJD's Manoj Jha and JD(S)' Kupendra Reddy and LJP's Sharad Yadav, travelled from Delhi to Srinagar on Saturday afternoon. On landing in Kashmir around 1.30 pm, they were not allowed to exit the Srinagar airport.

A scuffle ensued between media persons and the security personnel and media persons were removed from the terminal. Political leaders, however, were detained inside a room in the Srinagar airport terminal building.

The delegation objected to the district authorities' decision to detain them and submitted a letter to the district magistrate to convey to governor Malik that objections and apprehensions cited by the district authorities regarding the leaders' movement were "baseless".

"We are here at the public invitation of the honourable governor who asked us to visit and see for ourselves the peace and normalcy that prevails. We are responsible political leaders and elected representatives and our intentions are entirely peaceful and humanitarian. We are here to express solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as well as to expedite the process of return to normalcy," the delegation's letter said.

A video of Rahul Gandhi interacting with local authorities surfaced shortly after their return to Delhi, in which he is seen asking officials to permit the delegation to enter Srinagar since they are invited by Jammu and Kashmir governor Satyapal Malik. In the video, Rahul Gandhi also says the group will only visit peaceful parts of the state to interact with local persons and that if they cannot travel as a group, they are willing to spread out individually, also.

The J&K administration, which had on Friday advised the political leaders to refrain from travelling, however, did not permit the leaders, forcing them to return to Delhi the same day.

Videos of a Kashmiri lady interacting with Rahul on board their flight to Srinagar also surfaced. She is seen apprising him of the difficulties she had in communicating with her family in Kashmir.

After the visit, Yechury tweeted, "Denial of entry to leaders of recognised political parties is an outright attack on rights of political parties to meet and address their constituents. Misbehaviour of police with media at Srinagar airport: direct attempt to suppress press freedom, done to conceal ground realities."

Jammu and Kashmir has been under a security lock down with no mobile connectivity since August 5, when the government passed a resolution in Parliament to abrogate Article 370 and to revoke special status to J&K. Since then landlines have been restored in parts of the state, including the Valley.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/opposition-delegation-turned-back-from-srinagar-airport-leaders-allege-all-not-normal-in-jammu-and-kashmir/articleshow/70822961.cms

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Subramanian Swamy's "Indians Who Were Not Muslims and Christians Were Hindus”, 'Stop Corridor' Talk Stirs Row

Aug 25, 2019

CHANDIGARH/AMRITSAR: BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy generated a controversy on Saturday by saying that "Indians who were not Muslims and Christians were Hindus" and "work on the Kartarpur corridor between India and Pakistan should be stopped". The MP's remarks are an echo of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's line on Hindu nation. Taken aback by Swamy's comment, Sikh organizations and the opposition advised Swami to desist from commenting on such emotive issues.

Speaking at a seminar on "vacation of Pakistan occupied Kashmir" at DAV College in Chandigarh, Swami said, "Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists originated in India which was a Hindu state." The BJP MP also claimed that Kashmir was a Hindu state before it was "attacked by Islam" in 1190.

Then Swamy suggested that work on Kartarpur corridor between India and Pakistan should be stopped because "there was no need to work with Pakistan in any way in the given circumstances". "We don't need the corridor now. When we will bi-furcate Pakistan, we will make the corridor on our own. I don't say destroy what has been made already, but it should be stopped now," he said.

On being asked about its imapact on Sikhs' sentiments, Swamy said, "Sikhs are nationalists and they will understand. Only those supporting Khalistan may not understand," he said.

Reacting to this, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Gobind Singh Longowal said the BJP MP should refrain from making such statements. "Sikhs have been praying for the "khulae darshan didar" of gurdwaras in Pakistan and for long, and now when their wish is going to be fulfilled, such statements from BJP leaders are dismaying," he added.

Sikhs awaiting corridor: Taksal

Advising Swamy not to issue statements that have potential to hurt Sikh religious sentiments, chief of prominent Sikh seminary Damdami Taksal Harnam Singh Khalsa said that the community across the globe was eagerly awaiting the fulfilment of their dream of travelling across the international border to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Darbar Singh at Kartarpur Sahib in Narowal district of Pakistan.He also wondered about the timing of the comment.

While reposing faith in the nation’s security agencies, the chief of Damdami Taksal said they were fully capable of thwarting any cross-border misadventure. “Punjab is a border state and we always expect a peaceful atmosphere on the border,” he said.

Punjab cabinet minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who is among the group of ministers who were to cross over to Pakistan to review the Kartarpur corridor work, rejected Swamy’s statement suggesting that work on the project should be halted. He told TOI, “Guru Nanak is respected on both sides of the border and the corridor is an emotive issue for people and should not be clubbed with other political matters. It is fulfilment of a longpending demand of people across the world. Such statements are not in good taste and should be ignored.”

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/subramanian-swamys-indians-hindus-stop-corridor-talk-stirs-row/articleshow/70824815.cms

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Kashmiri Pandits hold rally in US to support revocation of Article 370

Aug 25, 2019

WASHINGTON: The Kashmiri Pandit community in the US held a rally applauding the Indian government's decision to revoke the Article 370 of the Constitution that accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

The Indian government on August 5 revoked Article 370 which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and proposed that the state be bifurcated into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Joined by other members of the Indian-American community, Kashmiri Pandits held the rally last week in front of the CNN headquarters in Atlanta in support of the abrogation of Article 370.

"The rally highlighted the fact that these temporary articles related to Jammu and Kashmir needed these modifications as these were highly discriminatory against almost all Kashmiri minorities (such as Shias, Dalits, Gujjars, Kashmiri Pandits, Kashmiri Sikhs)...," said Subash Razdan, Atlanta resident of Kashmir ancestry and a former president of the National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA).

At the rally, Kashmiri Pandits told personal stories of their hapless exodus and yearning to go back to their homeland which they left in 1990 due to militancy.

"All those present believed that under this new freedom courtesy of the Modi Government, India's Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and other minorities will now have a better chance to be equals before the law!" Razdan said.

Meanwhile, Overseas Physicians of Kashmiri-Origin in a letter to the editor in chief of Lancet magazine Dr Richard Horton said that they are “deeply disappointed” that his recent opinion published on August 17 omits many relevant facts, and thus represents an intellectually dishonest analysis of a complex geopolitical issue.

"We request that the Lancet immediately retracts the editorial, or publish a viewpoint that includes a more thorough set of facts and analysis on Kashmir...," the letter said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/kashmiri-pandits-hold-rally-in-us-to-support-revocation-of-article-370/articleshow/70825166.cms

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MHA ‘reaches out’ to Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti

Aug 24, 2019

SRINAGAR: Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) has reached out to detained J&K leaders Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti in the last two days through a few top intelligence officers, seeking the two former CMs’ cooperation in maintaining peace after they are released, sources said on Saturday.

Though there is no official confirmation or denial of any such meeting, Omar’s National Conference (NC) has rubbished such reports, saying there is “absolutely no basis” for these.

PDP sources, however, said that some “government officials” did meet the two leaders in custody and asked them to help in restoration of normalcy in J&K, particularly in the Valley, in case they are set free from detention. “But both the leaders refused to budge from their stand against Parliament’s decision to nullify Article 370,” a senior PDP leader said on condition of anonymity.

Omar and PDP chief Mehbooba have been in detention since August 5 when the Centre abrogated the state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution. While Omar is kept at Hari Niwas Palace on Gupkar Road, Mehbooba has been detained at the JK Tourism Development Hut in Cheshmashahi in Srinagar.

Both Omar and Mehbooba have been opposing scrapping of J&K’s special status and reorganization of the state into two Union Territories.

Both the former CMs are believed to have been given the offer of release from detention on the condition that they would not organize any public meeting or issue statements against the new political development in J&K.

Political analyst Majid Hyderi said now it was immaterial for the people in the Valley whether Omar and Mehbooba were released or not. “Kashmir people are an angry lot and they seem to have lost faith in mainstream politics now. Even if Omar and Mehbooba are released from detention, people will not listen to them. They are discredited leaders, because both took BJP’s support at some point or the other when they needed to grab power in J&K,” Hyderi said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/mha-reaches-out-to-omar-abdullah-mehbooba-mufti/articleshow/70822885.cms

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No politics will be tolerated on Ayodhya issue, says Mahant Nritya Gopal Das

Siraj Qureshi

August 25, 2019

The Ayodhya case is being heard by the Supreme Court these days with unprecedented swiftness. A bench of five judges is hearing the case every day to provide a quick resolution of this long-pending issue.

However, the politics over this issue is not showing any signs of ending.

Sri Ram Janma Bhumi Nyas Chairman Mahant Nritya Gopal Das has censured any such attempts to further politicise this issue saying that when there is a BJP government in the center and in the state, then what’s stopping them to build the temple now?

"The construction of the Ram temple is a matter of faith and nobody can rob billions of Indians of their faith in Lord Ram. All situations are favourable at this time for the construction of the temple in Ayodhya," he added.

Mahant Nritya Gopal Das said, "Even the Supreme Court understands the sentiments of the people of India and will make a decision soon, allowing the building of Ram temple in Ayodhya."

Answering a question, the seer told India Today that the Supreme Court is demanding proof of Lord Ram’s birth, which is unacceptable and the Hindu community vehemently opposes this demand.

Responding to Das’s statement, Mufti Mudassar Ali Khan Qadri said, "When the Ayodhya case is pending in the court and a bench of five judges is hearing every single argument carefully, then why are the Hindus building pressure on the judges to give a favourable judgement?"

Mufti Mudassar Ali Khan Qadri said, "The Supreme Court’s decision will be honoured by all parties concerned, but until that decision arrives, all parties should keep away from creating any controversies. As far as belief is concerned, even every Muslim has a belief in the mosque that was demolished by a mob in 1992. Even then, the Muslims are ready to accept the judgement of the Supreme Court if it goes in favour of the Hindus, but the same cannot be said about the Hindus who are unnecessarily raising disputes and trying to force the Supreme Court.

Mufti said that the Supreme Court will give a decision on the basis of facts and evidence and faith does not come in the way of facts.

Hindustani Biradari Vice-Chairman Vishal Sharma said that if the matter had been resolved by mutual dialogue between the Hindu and Muslim communities, it would have been a better solution than a forced legal solution that will come after the Supreme Court decision. He said that the entire world knows about the excellent record of India in terms of communal harmony and if this matter is still resolved by mutual understanding, it will send a positive message to the entire world.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/no-politics-will-be-tolerated-on-ayodhya-issue-says-mahant-nritya-gopal-das-1591272-2019-08-25

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Press Council moves SC, backs J&K restrictions

August 25, 2019

The Press Council of India (PCI) has moved the Supreme Court stating that restrictions on communications facilities in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of revocation of special status under Article 370 was in the “interest of security and sovereignty of the nation”.

In an application seeking impleadment in a petition filed by Kashmir Times executive editor Anuradha Bhasin, who has demanded lifting of the “communication blackout” in J&K, the Council said “very aptly, there is no mention in the entire Writ Petition about abrogation of most contentions provision of the Const-itution by Parliament, which has caused the restrictions on communication facilities and other facilities in the interest of security and sovereignty of the nation”.

The plea referred to duties of the Council as laid down in the Press Council of India Act, and said “it is evident” from the provisions that “applicant is duty bound not only to ensure the freedom of press, but also to ensure on the part of newspapers, news agencies and journalists, the maintenance of high standards of public taste and foster a due sense of both rights and responsibilities of citizenship and to keep under review any development likely to restrict the supply and dissemination of news of public interest and importance”.

The application also stated that PCI framed Norms of Journalistic Conduct, and that clause 23 of the Norms “prescribes for self-regulation in reporting by journalists in matter of paramount national, social or individual interests…”. Bhasin’s petition had come up for the SC’s consideration on August 16. The court deferred the hearing saying it would like to give some more time to the issue.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/press-council-moves-sc-backs-jk-restrictions-5934465/

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Restrictions lifted from most of Kashmir, situation improving gradually: Govt

August 24, 2019

A day after authorities had imposed curbs on movement of people in the Valley in view of Friday prayers, restrictions were lifted from most of Kashmir on Saturday. Day-time restrictions have been lifted from 69 police station areas in the Valley, J&K Principal Secretary Rohit Kansal was quoted as saying by PTI.

Officials said traffic movement increased on Saturday and attendance in offices also improved. However, public transport remained off roads and markets in the Valley were shut for the 20th day. Vendors have put up stalls in Batamaloo and Lal Chowk areas of Srinagar.

The curbs notwithstanding, Kansal said, the total dispatch of fruits this year has been 1.20 lakh metric tonnes against 89,000 metric tonnes during the corresponding period last year.

Kansal, who is the administration’s spokesperson, told PTI that about 1,500 primary schools and 1,000 middle schools have reopened since August 5 when the Centre withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and reorganised the state into two Union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. But the attendance of students has remained thin.

He said security forces are maintaining a close watch and local disturbances were being handled at the local level. Incidents of protests and stone pelting have declined steadily in the past one week. “Three incidents were reported on August 21 and two on August 22,” he said.

Commenting on cross-border terrorism, Kansal said the continues to exist and the security forces are maintaining a state of high alert.

He said restoration of landline telephone services is being reviewed continuously and eight new exchanges — comprising 5,300 phones — are likely to be restored “over the weekend”.

The endeavour is to restore landline phones in the 69 police station areas form where day-time restrictions have been lifted, he said.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/restrictions-lifted-from-most-of-kashmir-situation-improving-gradually-govt/

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UAE honours PM Modi with highest civilian award ‘Order of Zayed’

August 24, 2019

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was honoured with the ‘Order of Zayed’, the UAE’s highest civilian award, on Saturday as a mark of appreciation for his efforts to boost bilateral ties between the two nations.

The award has earlier been bestowed on several world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Queen Elizabeth II and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“An incomparable honour reflecting our warm ties. PM @narendramodi conferred with the prestigious ‘Order of Zayed’ by HH Crown Prince of UAE @MohamedBinZayed, the highest civilian honor of UAE for PM’s contribution in strengthening relations between India and UAE,” Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

Raveesh Kumar

@MEAIndia

An incomparable honour reflecting our warm ties

PM @narendramodi conferred with the prestigious ‘Order of Zayed’ by HH Crown Prince of UAE @MohamedBinZayed, the highest civilian honor of UAE for PM's contribution in strengthening relations between India and UAE.

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Modi thanked the UAE government for the honour and dedicated the award to the skills and abilities of 1.3 billion Indians.

“I am humbled to get the ‘Order of Zayed’ a while ago. This award is not for an individual but for the spirit of Indian culture and is dedicated to the skills and abilities of 1.3 billion Indians. I thank the Government of the United Arab Emirates for this honour,” he tweeted.

Ahead of Modi’s visit to the UAE, the MEA in a statement said the award in the name of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, “acquires special significance as it was awarded to Prime Minister Modi in the year of the birth centenary of Sheikh Zayed”.

India and the UAE enjoy warm, close and multi-faceted relations underpinned by cultural, religious and economic linkages which, during the prime minister’s previous visit to the UAE in August 2015, stood elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership, it said.

The UAE in April had announced to confer the country’s highest award on Modi.

In a tweet in April, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said, “We have historical and comprehensive strategic ties with India, reinforced by the pivotal role of my dear friend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who gave these relations a big boost.”

With an annual bilateral trade of about USD 60 billion, the UAE is India’s third-largest trade partner. It is also the fourth-largest exporter of crude oil for India.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/uae-honours-pm-modi-with-highest-civilian-award-5934224/

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Police seeking guest lists, other details, say hoteliers in Kashmir

Ashiq Hussain

Aug 25, 2019

Jammu and Kashmir police have asked hoteliers in the city’s business hub to submit a list of guests staying in their establishments.Policemen from the Kothi Bagh station, dressed in civilian clothes, visited hotels on Residency Road on Friday and Saturday, asking the management to furnish a list of people, both local and non-local, staying on their premises, hoteliers said.

“We have been asked to compile a list and forward it to higher authorities,” a police officer said without elaborating on the reasons for the move.

Most hotels in the city centre including Lal Chowk and Residency Road, leading to the Batamaloo bridge, are empty. Those hotels where journalists or businessmen are staying have started furnishing the details they have been asked for.

“I have no guests in my hotel and I informed the police about the same,” said Imtiyaz Ahmad, owner of a high-end hotel.

Mohammad Yousuf, manager of another prominent hotel on Residency Road, said there were some guests about whom he had informed the police. “There were some 10-12 occupants in our hotel, a few of them journalists. We submitted the details. If a new guest comes, we will have to again inform [the police],” he said.

Yousuf said it was not the first time the police had sought such details as they wanted to be aware of the people who enter the city centre. “By this, they become aware of the people here and if any precaution needs to be taken,” he said.

Restrictions were imposed across Jammu and Kashmir and communication lines blocked on August 5 as the Centre pushed through Parliament provisions effectively revoking the special status of Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two Union territories — J&K and Ladakh.

The restrictions are yet to be completely removed from the Kashmir valley, where shops and businesses have remained closed. Public transport is still off the roads. Telephone landlines have been partially restored.

Hotels and houseboats are mostly deserted after around 20,000 tourists, including foreigners and Amarnath cave shrine pilgrims, left Kashmir on August 3 when the state administration asked non-locals to leave the Valley citing a terror threat.

HT visited some hotels near Dal Lake and in the Old City on Saturday to find out if they too had been asked to furnish a list of guests. But no such directive has been sent to them so far.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/police-seeking-guest-lists-other-details-say-hoteliers-in-kashmir/story-xWI2QIzriSJjHAfEry94UI.html

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Landline telephone services restored in most places in Kashmir, says officials

Aug 25, 2019

The communication curbs in Kashmir have been eased to some extent and landline telephone services restored in most places across the Valley in view of the improving situation, officials said on Sunday.

No untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the Valley on Saturday, they said, adding the restrictions on communication were eased in view of the improving situation.

Landline telephone services have been restored in most areas across the length and breadth of the Valley, the officials said.They said a few more telephone exchanges providing fixed-line phone services, including in Srinagar, were restored on Saturday evening.

The process of fully restoring the landline connectivity, baring in a few pockets, is underway and more telephone lines would be restored soon, they added.

However, the services continued to remain snapped in the commercial hub of Lal Chowk and Press Enclave here.

On Saturday, principal secretary and government spokesperson Rohit Kansal said eight more exchanges – having 5,300 landlines -- would be restored over the weekend.

However, mobile telephone services and internet, including BSNL’s Broadband and private leased-line internet, remain unavailable. They were snapped on August 5 when the Centre abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution and reorganised the state into two Union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Restrictions have been lifted from most areas of the Kashmir valley, but the deployment of security forces continued on the ground to maintain law and order.

Markets across Kashmir continued to remain shut for the 21st consecutive day as shops and other business establishments were closed, while the public transport also was off the roads, the officials said.The weekly flea market was also did not open.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/landline-telephone-services-restored-in-most-places-in-kashmir-says-officials/story-nHDS6Qf9IsK1GAmmPKlINM.html

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Terror suspects held in Kerala, Tamil Nadu; vigil stepped up

Aug 25, 2019

A man suspected to have links with terror outfits was on Saturday taken into custody from a Kerala court premises, while three persons have been detained in Coimbatore in connection with the reported intrusion of six Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) members into Tamil Nadu.

The three were taken into custody for interrogation on suspicion that they were in touch with terrorists and are being interrogated at an undisclosed place, police said in Coimbatore, as strict vigil continued in various parts of Tamil Nadu for the second day on Saturday.

In Kerala, a man suspected to have links with terror outfits was taken into custody by police from the premises of a court at Kochi, officials said.

Malayalam TV channels aired a video of the man being whisked away by police from the district court premises. But police did not answer queries by the media.

His lawyer told a channel that the man from Kodungallur in Thrissur district, who returned from Bahrain two days ago, and a woman were picked up by police as they came to the court to move a plea to “prove his innocence” before law enforcement agencies following reports that he had links with LeT members who had reportedly intruded into Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka.

The Navy has sounded a high alert at sea following intelligence inputs about the intrusion.

Security was tightened in Tamil Nadu on Friday following reports that six LeT members had infiltrated the state by sea from Sri Lanka and moved to different cities, including Coimbatore.

Police said on Saturday that vehicle checks were intensified on arterial roads and highways connecting Coimbatore city with neighbouring states, and baggage thoroughly checked by armed police personnel. Similarly, checks were on in railway stations, bus stands and the airport.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/south/terror-suspects-held-in-kerala-tamil-nadu-vigil-stepped-up/story-mB1ixoBY6rFx0aFxwMWg0J.html

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Forces on alert over cross-border terrorism threat in Kashmir

Aug 25, 2019

Security forces are on high alert along the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir as the threat of cross-border terrorism “continues to exist”, officials said on Saturday.

“The threat of cross-border terrorism continues to exist. The security forces are maintaining a state of high alert,” Rohit Kansal, principal secretary of the J-K government, who is also the state government’s spokesman, said.

Kansal was briefing the reporters about the situation in the state. “The day time restrictions have been lifted from 69 police stations across the length and breadth of the valley, while 81 police stations in Jammu region are without any day-time restrictions,” Kansal said.

Officials said traffic movement increased on Saturday and attendance in offices also improved. However, public transport remained off roads and markets in the Valley were shut for the 20th day. Despite the curbs, Kansal said, the total dispatch of fruits this year has been 1.20 lakh metric tonnes against 89,000 metric tonnes during the corresponding period last year.

Kansal said about 1,500 primary schools and 1,000 middle schools after restrictions were eased. He said security forces are maintaining a close watch and local disturbances were being handled at the local level. Incidents of protests and stone pelting have declined steadily in the past one week. “Three incidents were reported on August 21 and two on August 22,” he said.

He said restoration of landline telephone services is being reviewed continuously and eight new exchanges — comprising 5,300 phones — are likely to be restored “over the weekend”.

Officials also said the block development council polls will be held soon in the state. According to Kansal, the schedule for the BDC polls, the second tier of panchayati raj system, is being drawn up and “we are on course”.

“There has been an important decision taken regarding the elections to the BDC as the next step towards operationalising and institutionalizing the panchayat raj mechanism in the state,” Kansal told reporters.

The secretary, rural development department, Sheetal Nanda, said the elections would be held in 316 block councils across the state and the administration is targeting to complete the process by September end. Of total 316 BDCs, 147 are in Jammu region, 136 in Kashmir and 31 in Ladakh.

Shah stresses internal security

India cannot be a safe and secure country or grow into a developed nation unless its internal security system is strong, Union home minister Amit Shah said on Saturday.

“Our country is facing threat from extremists, narcotic smugglers and cyber criminals, besides terrorists sponsored by neighbouring countries. As IPS officers, you will have to face all these tough challenges ahead in your career. Unless internal security is maintained, the nation cannot be safe,” he said, speaking at the 103rd passing-out parade of Indian Police Service (IPS) probationers at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad. About 92 probationers from across India, six police officers from Nepal and five from Bhutan, graduated.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/forces-on-alert-over-cross-border-terrorism-threat-in-kashmir/story-755mhZCVUuRuxv9Lv5gIsN.html

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Pakistan

 

Journos on their way to Kashmir via LoC stopped by Pakistan police

Aug 24, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Police in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on Saturday stopped hundreds of journalists from symbolically moving towards the Line Of Control in the state.

The journalists riding in several vehicles were stopped about seven kilometers from the LoC.

The journalists said they carried two truckloads of medicines and food for Kashmiris.

The march started from the Central Press Club in Muzaffarabad and about 400 journalists took part it, led by Pakistan's Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) president Afzal Butt and secretary general Lala Asad Pathan.

In a tweet, Butt said the purpose of the march was to report on the situation in Kashmir.

Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after New Delhi abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir's special status and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories on August 5.

India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was an internal matter and also advised Pakistan to accept the reality.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/journos-on-their-way-to-kashmir-via-loc-stopped-by-pakistan-police/articleshow/70822452.cms

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LGs disbanded to punish Punjab for voting for PML-N: Ahsan

August 25, 2019

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal has alleged that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government made Punjab’s local governments (LGs) dysfunctional only to punish the largest province for voting for the PML-N in the last elections.

Depriving 52 per cent population of the country of their elected representatives was a manifestation of enmity towards Punjab and Pakistan by the PTI, he said while addressing a press conference at party secretariat on Saturday along with the elected representatives.

He lamented that the PTI government threw away the mandate of elected LGs, though they were elected for five years on the orders of Supreme Court.

Terming the action a violation of Article 140 of the Constitution, he appealed to the Supreme Court and high court for restoring the local governments after vacation.

Ahsan Iqbal said judge Arshad Malik was removed on charges of misconduct and prejudice, but his judgment against Nawaz Sharif was still valid. Similarly, all provincial governments were re-elected in recent elections, except for the Punjab, though it had showed better performance than others. He said the PML-N was chalking out a unanimous strategy for public agitation in consultation with the opposition parties, adding that all parties would march towards Islamabad, but the time was yet to be decided.

He alleged that election of chairman Senate was done through horse trading, adding that all standing committees were bulldozed to crush the opposition demands. To a question, he claimed that the PTI government had agreed with US President Trump to accept Indian decision on Kashmir, adding that the ruling party was culprit of selling off Kashmir.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/517042-lgs-disbanded-to-punish-punjab-for-voting-for-pml-n-ahsan

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Govt defends unilateral selection of ECP members

Amir Wasim

August 25, 2019

ISLAMABAD: In a bid to defend its decision of unilaterally nominating two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the government on Saturday claimed that President Dr Arif Alvi had made the appointments in line with the Constitution and on the recommendations of the institutions concerned.

Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Khan Swati through a video message expressed his surprise over the refusal of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza to administer the oath of office to the newly appointed ECP members.

However, the CEC’s decision was hailed by the opposition parties which termed the government’s move ‘unconstitutional’. A National Party (NP) leader even called for the trial of President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan under Article 6 of the Constitution.

The CEC had refused to administer the oath of office to the ECP members on Friday, saying their appointment was against the Constitution. The two members, who were appointed by President Alvi on Aug 22, arrived at the ECP headquarters to formally assume charge, but returned dismayed.

The CEC’s refusal to administer the oath of office to the government-appointed members had been termed “unconstitutional” by Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem, who argued that the CEC had no authority to examine validity of government notifications.

President Alvi had notified the appointment of Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui and Munir Ahmad Kakar as ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan, respectively, after months-long deadlock between the government and the opposition over the issue.

The CEC in a letter sent to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs observed that the ECP members’ appointment was not in accordance with the relevant articles of the Constitution. The CEC had cited a judgement rendered by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court in 2013, holding that the president did not enjoy discretionary power in appointment of the CEC and ECP members. He made it clear that he would not administer oath to the ‘unconstitutionally’ appointed members.

The parliamentary affairs minister said President Alvi had appointed the two ECP members in a “just and fair” manner and as an “impartial umpire” after failure of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif to reach a consensus on the names. He said even the parliamentary committee on the appointment of the CEC and the ECP members had failed to break the deadlock.

Mr Swati claimed that his ministry had informed National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser about the deadlock and also sought opinion from the law ministry before forwarding a report to the president with recommendations in the light of which the president made the decision.

The minister said there was no precedent under which the government could refer the matter to the chief justice of Pakistan for a final decision under Article 186 of the Constitution.

Mr Swati said the government could not leave any institution “dysfunctional” under Article 215 of the Constitution. He said the ECP had been incomplete at a time when the local government elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were about to be held.

The minister said he had received a letter from the CEC over the issue and said there had been no such precedent that such a letter had been written by the CEC.

Mr Swati, however, did not elaborate the future course of action and concluded his message with the statement that they would make a “decision” keeping in view the background and to “strengthen the ECP”.

Meanwhile, NP’s Punjab chapter president Ayub Malik alleged that the president and the prime minister had violated the Constitution and, therefore, they should be tried for “sedition” under Article 6 of the Constitution.

The two major opposition parties – Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – welcomed the CEC’s decision not to administer the oath office to the two ECP members, saying that the ECP had set an example by rejecting the unconstitutional move of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government.

PPP’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said the procedure for ECP members’ appointment had clearly been defined in the Constitution and the government had violated the document. She said the government had bypassed the opposition leader and the parliamentary committee on appointment of the ECP members. She said the ECP had upheld the Constitution’s supremacy by the decision.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1501518/govt-defends-unilateral-selection-of-ecp-members

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Pakistan’s power chessboard: the general vs the lady

By IMAD ZAFAR

AUGUST 22, 2019

In any developed country, news of the extension of the tenure of the chief of army staff, or his departure, means nothing, as in most cases, few people in these countries remember who he is. However, in Pakistan, things are different, as it is the military that controls the proceedings, directly or indirectly. So when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government announced three-year extension of the tenure of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, it not only hit the local headlines but global publications also covered the news.

The extension did not come as a surprise, however, as almost every informed person knew that Washington is desperately seeking Islamabad’s help in brokering a deal with the Afghan Taliban and the government could not afford to let Bajwa retire and depend on a new army chief who might have different views from the PTI.

The general is famous for his “Bajwa Doctrine.” For the last two years the Pakistani media have been kept under tight control, with dissenting journalists fired from their jobs or faced with invisible bans from their profession. Opposition leaders are declared corrupt and traitors, and many put behind bars so the puppet government of the military establishment can sail smoothly.

This doctrine of Bajwa is the same as the one General Ayub Khan had in the 1960s, the only difference being that Ayub was leading a coup-installed regime from the front whereas Bajwa cleverly is ruling from behind.

Bajwa is no doubt a capable general who unlike his predecessors does not want to indulge in any sort of direct or indirect conflicts with neighboring countries and thinks that economic progress is the key to the country’s success. However, being the face of the military establishment and famous for his doctrine, he has to face the criticism for his role in designing the country’s artificial political discourse. Three more years in office for Bajwa means that Prime Minister Imran Khan will increase the intensity of the crackdown against the opposition, and possibly against dissenting journalists as well.

The news and print media always try to portray Bajwa as a savior of the nation and convince people that he is indispensable. The political parties are not far behind, and from the ruling PTI to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, every one has congratulated General Bajwa for the extension of his tenure. The surprising thing is that PML-N is the party that has suffered a lot at the hands of the invisible forces and its supremo Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz have been victimized for not taking dictation from the establishment.

Sharif now has been in prison for a year, and Maryam Nawaz is being held in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) without even being convicted in any charge, while PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif is still somehow dreaming like Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote that he will one day mend the fences with the establishment and will get a share of the power chessboard.

Bajwa is not the first army chief who has taken an extension. Ayub Khan, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, General Pervez Musharraf, and General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani too got such extensions, and just like this time, the media and opportunistic politicians and journalists praised them and declared them vital for the country’s survival. However, after the departure of those generals, the same media people and politicians criticized them for worsening Pakistan’s problems.

So General Bajwa, being an avid reader and a good chess player, should know that as long as he enjoys power the opportunistic segment of the media and political parties will hail him and praise him, but as soon as he leaves office the same people will start pointing to his flaws. However, this should not be the main worry for Bajwa at the moment; right now he needs to tackle the issue of Kashmir, as the situation in the Indian side of that region is getting gloomier every day for the people living there. He also needs to convince the warmongers segment of Pakistani society that a direct or indirect war is not the solution for Kashmir. He also needs to deliver the desired results in Afghanistan for Washington, lest the Donald Trump administration again leave Pakistan in isolation.

Bajwa’s main battle remains on the political and economic fronts. Imran Khan, the man selected by the establishment to be the symbolical face of democracy in Pakistan, so far has proved to be a major embarrassment, as neither is he able to garner diplomatic support for Pakistan nor is he able to attract investment or bring new ideas to revive the ailing economy.

On the other hand Maryam Nawaz, the vice-president of PML-N, has to be kept behind bars, as she was not only putting immense pressure on Khan and his government but she was openly challenging the hegemony of the military establishment. In fact, she went to the highest level of risk by openly taking on the establishment in her public gatherings.

A bleeding economy and rising popularity of Maryam Nawaz in Punjab are the real problems for Bajwa and the establishment to address as soon as possible. The problem, however, remains that despite the flow of US dollars and an International Monetary Fund loan package, the economy is still in shambles. The use of the NAB to harass politicians and investors who have sympathy for the opposition parties has closed the doors to local and foreign investment. The stock exchange is witnessing a bloodbath on a daily basis, while the devaluation of the currency and imposing direct taxes on businesspeople has resulted in a decline in the circulation of capital and business in the country.

The Bajwa Doctrine has been successful up to now because it has the power of the state and resources behind it, and that is the reason that despite its miserable performance in the governance and economic domains, the PTI government is still surviving, as it has the backing of the establishment.

However, Maryam Nawaz has made a hole in the ship sailed by PTI and the establishment, first by exposing how a judge was blackmailed into sentencing her father Nawaz Sharif and then by connecting a vibrant youth movement to her party, which even her father was not able to do. She may or may not be able to sink the ship right away, but the hole she has created is enough to sink it at some point.

The establishment can forcefully keep the political discourse intact but it cannot force the economic discourse to act at its will. If the establishment is willing to continue with the same old ideology of keeping a puppet like Imran Khan in power, it is destined to lose the game. On the other hand, if PML-N wants to ride two boats at the same time, it is also destined to drown, as Maryam’s narrative is the one that has given life to the party after the arrest of Sharif.

The stakes are high but so too are the potential rewards for the opponents on the political chessboard. Right now this war is between the doctrine of Bajwa and the narrative of Maryam Nawaz – one a soldier of good repute within his institution and the other a lady with an iron heart and the will to risk everything to turn the tables.

Full report at:

https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/08/opinion/pakistans-power-chessboard-the-general-vs-the-lady/

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No dialogue with India without Kashmiris: Firdous

August 25, 2019

LAHORE: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan chastised Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh for creating war hysteria and warned that “if India ever tried to impose war, Pakistan will end it — not in Srinagar or Jammu, but in Delhi”.

Condemning the minister’s threats, Dr Awan told a press conference at Governor House on Saturday that Pakistan would never initiate war and violate international laws. But in case war was imposed on it, she said, every Pakistani would be fighting alongside its armed forces.

Calling on international organisations and human rights champions, the special assistant said the world must be shown the true face of India that was getting ready for Kashmiri Muslims’ genocide. She said Prime Minister Imran Khan had already raised the Kashmir issue at all international forums and would address the United Nations General Assembly on Sept 27 to explain the Modi government’s mindset that had turned the disputed valley into jail as well as urge the UN to get its 11 resolutions implemented.

Responding to a question about PM Khan telling the international media that there was no point in talking to India anymore, Dr Awan termed the assertion the narrative of a self-respecting nation’s leader. “The statement explains that the next-door neighbour should not take Pakistan’s wish for a peaceful resolution of Kashmir as its weakness or compulsion to sit with India,” she explained. “Pakistan will not enter into any dialogue with India until Kashmiris are present in the talks as a stakeholder.”

In a build-up to PM Khan’s address to the UN General Assembly, she said the federal government would launch a series of events and that Mr Khan had constituted a focal group that he headed to set priorities to ensure that Kashmiris were represented at all levels world over.

As part of the events, Dr Awan said the premier would address the nation and a National Solidarity Day celebrated within a week to give a clear message of unity, harmony and ownership of the Kashmir cause.

She further said minorities in Pakistan, including Sikhs, Christians and Hindus, had also expressed solidarity with the people of held Kashmir as well as Muslims of India. She added that Pakistan was actively working to complete and open Kartarpur Corridor for Sikhs to visit Baba Guru Nanak’s birthplace on the occasion of his 550th birth anniversary. Although the project had started about a year ago, she lamented that India was still reluctant to offer Sikhs a chance to visit their holy place. “Pakistan will open the Kartarpur Corridor at the scheduled time in November irrespective of any situation on the border,” she asserted, adding, “The ball is in India’s court now.”

Answering a question, she said the government had taken some strong decisions to help Pakistan get rid of economic slavery of the world. “The economic reforms agenda is currently appearing as a bitter pill, but will ultimately prove to be a breath of fresh air,” she claimed.

Dr Awan brushed aside the rumours of PM’s special assistant Nadeem Afzal Chan’s resignation and said the latter had not resigned. However, in the same breath, she said the PM had the right to place his players wherever he found appropriate. “The rumour mills should stop, as many other things are needed to be done at this point of time,” she stated.

Calling the PM’s initiative of planting 10 billion trees in five years a revolutionary step, she said it would save the future generations. She also planted a tree in Governor House lawns and dedicated it to Kashmiris.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1501520/no-dialogue-with-india-without-kashmiris-firdous

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Army ready to thwart any Indian misadventure: Bajwa

August 25, 2019

RAWALPINDI: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Saturday said that Pakistan Army was fully prepared to thwart any Indian misadventure and aggression.

“We are alive to threat from eastern border linked to ongoing situation in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and fully prepared to thwart any misadventure or aggression,” he said while addressing formation officers and troops at the formation headquarters in Gilgit, according to a press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations.

Gen Bajwa appreciated the state of readiness and morale of troops despite challenges of weather, terrain and the enemy at the highest battlefield of the world.

The army chief laid a wreath on a Shuhada monument at the formation headquarters.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1501517/army-ready-to-thwart-any-indian-misadventure-bajwa

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'If this is how India behaves with its own, what expectation can Pakistan have?' asks FM Qureshi

August 24, 2019

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday drew attention to the increasingly apparent divisions within India after an 11-member contingent of its opposition parties was prevented from visiting Srinagar, questioning what can realistically be expected in terms of a dialogue over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

"This is the true face of the Indian government which the world is witnessing today," said the foreign minister as he addressed a press conference in Islamabad.

"Today the fascist attitude of the Modi administration was demonstrated at the Srinagar airport," he said, referring to the former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders being barred from entering Srinagar shortly after they landed.

"I call upon democratic nations of the world to view that footage [of the airport]. When they treat their own this way, what expectation can we [Pakistan] have from holding a dialogue with them?" said Qureshi.

India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stripped Kashmiris of the special autonomy they had for seven decades through a rushed presidential order on August 5, a decision which was strongly condemned by Pakistan as well as the opposition parties in India. That same evening, India imposed curfew-like restrictions in the restive region.

Qureshi, in his briefing, highlighted the stifling communications blockade in the disputed territory which had forced media to use whatever "broken equipment" they have to record footage and send it out through their relatives.

"So in this environment, he [Gandhi] goes to assess the situation, wishing to meet the Kashmiri leadership. He is arrested at the airport and transferred to New Delhi on the next flight," said Qureshi.

The foreign minister also spoke of how "the Congress party spokesperson, while attempting to hold a media briefing in protest, was arrested mid conference".

UN Secretary general apprised of latest developments

The foreign minister said that he spoke to the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres about this recent development as well as yesterday's protest in various places after Friday prayers in which "tear gas and pellet guns were employed to injure people".

He said his aim was to apprise the UN secretary general of the situation in occupied Kashmir since the meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to discuss it.

"He is in Paris and I spoke to him. I thanked him for his statement and the way he presented a legally and politically sound stance on the issue. I'm sure Kashmiris must have also gained courage from his statement," he said.

Qureshi said he also thanked the United Nations for convening the UNSC session.

"With the closed-door meeting the message we [Pakistan] got was that it is the wish of all members that the matter be resolved peacefully," said the foreign minister to the UN secretary general.

"But I also wish to draw your attention to the fact that on the one hand we are being advised to move forward peacefully, and [on the other] today is the 20th day of curfew — the curfew continues day and night," said Qureshi to Duterres.

"I also drew his attention to the fact that yesterday, Friday prayers were impeded — a fundamental right of every Muslim — a lot of mosques were locked up, and some people who wished to proceed to the UN office there, were fired upon with pellet guns, were subjected to shelling and tortured," he added.

The foreign minister said he told the UN secretary general that of the three parties to the Kashmir dispute, two had clearly presented their stance regarding the August 5 measures taken by India.

Pakistan, in every possible shade of its political opinion, has rejected the August 5 action which stripped Kashmir of its autonomy, he said. "It has declared the move unconstitutional, illegal, in contravention of the UNSC resolutions, and in violation of the UN charter."

"All the Kashmiris have also rejected these measures," he said.

"The third dispute to the party stands divided. And it was evident in the way things played out at the Srinagar airport today," said Qureshi.

"I also talked about the human rights violations, thousands of detentions, food shortages, medicine shortages because I feel his voice has weight. This is such an organisation. When the secretary general of the United Nations gives a statement, it has moral weightage. And the world listens."

Qureshi said he also spoke of the use of pellet guns and cluster bombs (lobbed from across the Line of Control). Furthermore, he said he had apprised Guterres of Prime Minister Imran Khan's apprehensions of a "false flag operation" and that India is likely preparing to "create a Pulwama-like drama".

'Your words have weight'

He said he urged the secretary general to ensure that the United Nations move forward in addressing this issue with the same spirit that it always has in dealing with conflict.

"I requested him that given his organisation's efforts which have always prioritised preventive measures in a conflict, and as there is a humanitarian crisis in the making, and given the threat in terms of peace and security, that his organisation move forward [and act] immediately."

Qureshi said he presented Guterres with the following points in this regard:

United Nations must play its role for the safety of the lives of the Kashmiris.

Your Security Council's resolution binds you to stand as an obstacle in the face of demographic changes.

We hope that the United Nations will expedite its efforts towards the lifting of the curfew in occupied Kashmir.

Your words have weight, kindly do the following: The P5 leadership must be informed of the sensitivity of the situation and whether or not the security council convenes a session, do keep on briefing them because they should know what the situation is leaning towards as it evolves.

The oppressed and unarmed Kashmiris, their hungry children, and their fearful parents expect that the United Nations Human Rights division will continue to play a lead role in highlighting the situation.

The Kashmiris await justice. They look to the international community with patience and hope it has their back. If it lets them down they will have no choice but to make use of whatever option is available to resist this sort of highhandedness, this undemocratic order and these inhuman actions.

The foreign minister said that he requested, despite knowing full well of the scope of his commitments, that he visit South Asia and Kashmir "as the situation in the region demands it".

"I invite him. The citizens of Azad Kashmir will await his arrival. We are ready to facilitate him for wherever he wishes to go and whomever he wishes to meet.

"And in this situation in which facts are being hidden and twisted, he himself should demand he be allowed to visit [occupied Kashmir] so that he can see the situation for himself, present the facts to the world and play his role in averting a humanitarian crisis," said FM Qureshi.

The foreign minister said that Guterres gave him "a very patient hearing" and assured him that he would speak to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discuss the issues highlighted today. According to the foreign minister, "Guterres said he had offered to play a role in the past to defuse the situation and is ready today too but India had not been forthcoming".

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1501407/if-this-is-how-india-behaves-with-its-own-what-expectation-can-pakistan-have-asks-fm-qureshi

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Pakistan to open Kartarpur Corridor irrespective of ties with India: Firdous

Aug 25, 2019

LAHORE: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan on Saturday said that irrespective of its ties with India, Pakistan’s doors were open to Sikh pilgrims visiting Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in connection with the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak and other religious sites.

Addressing a press conference at Punjab Governor’s House, Firdous rejected the rumours that Pakistan had stalled work on the Kartarpur Corridor after straining of relations with India over the Kashmir issue, saying the corridor would be inaugurated in November.

Pakistan, she said, severed its diplomatic ties with India when the latter abrogated Article 370 of its constitution to annex the occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir against the wishes of its people and the United Nations resolutions. Pakistan also discontinued the train service between the two countries, she added.

She said that Nankana Sahib and other cities in Pakistan were sacred for the Sikhs like Makkah and Madina (for the Muslims because of ‘Khana-e-Kaaba’ and ‘Masjid-e-Nabvi’) as their holy sites were located there. It was the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who had decided to open the border through the Kartarpur Corridor enabling Sikhs on the Indian side of Punjab to visit the shrine (of Baba Guru Nanak) physically after 72 years as most the them could only see the holy site some kilometers away from the across border through heavy binoculars.

Firdous said Pakistan would inaugurate the Kartarpur Corridor as per schedule as terms of reference (ToRs) had been finalised with India. The ball was in India’s court to decide on opening its side of the corridor and show as to how much it cared for the Sikhs, she added.

Condemning Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s irresponsible statements and threats, the special assistant warned him to refrain from war-mongering. Pakistan would not commit any violation of the international borders, however, if India started the war then Pakistan would end it.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/08/24/pakistan-to-open-kartarpur-corridor-irrespective-of-ties-with-india-firdous/

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Two killed in DI Khan checkpost attack

Aug 25, 2019

PESHAWAR: At least two people were killed in Dera Ismail Khan (DI Khan) on Saturday after a police checkpost was attacked by unidentified assailants.

According to police, eight men riding motorcycles attacked police personnel in the Durban area of the district, killing two civilians. One of those killed in the attack was a private security guard. The security personnel remained unhurt in the incident and the attackers managed to escape after police personnel retaliated.

Police said the bodies of the two were transferred to a nearby hospital and a cordon was established around the area after the attack.

Earlier in July, at least nine people were martyred and 30 others injured in a gun attack on a police check post and a subsequent suicide blast at the hospital the wounded were shifted to in DI Khan. Six policemen and three civilians had been slain in the deadly twin attacks.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/08/24/two-killed-in-dik-checkpost-attack/

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Southeast Asia

 

Zakir Naik: Malaysia’s “hammer” of unity?

Sheith Khidhir

24 August 2019

Yesterday, The ASEAN Post published an article on Zakir Naik and the effect he has had on Malaysian society. That article left us with a glaring question: Why was the government of Malaysia so adamant in keeping Naik in the country before his controversial speech in the northern city of Kota Bharu in the state of Kelantan? This article seeks to find an answer to that question.

On 18 August 2019, an article written by local reporter Robin Augustin noted that while Naik and non-Muslim leaders have been engaged in a war of words, there had been “rare goodwill gestures” between Malaysia’s two rival Muslim factions, both of whom defended Naik in the wake of the media’s intense coverage of his recent speeches.

“One faction is that behind Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin. He represents a brand of Islam that has sometimes defied Malaysia’s traditional Islamic practices. The other faction is that of the conservatives, which includes almost all other political figures, which represent mainstream Islam in Malaysia,” the article quoted an anonymous local observer of contemporary Malaysian Islamic movements.

The ASEAN Post also conducted its own interviews to find out if Naik could have been used as a tool to unite more than just Muslims of different schools of thought, in effect, making him valuable to the Malaysian government.

Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, noted that Malaysia’s 14th general election (GE14) last year had cause somewhat of a rift between Malaysia’s majority race, the Malays.

“Some voted for the Pakatan Harpan (Coalition of Hope) alliance while others voted for Barisan Nasional (National Front). While Barisan Nasional lost the election, they still demonstrated strong support among the Malays. This suggests that during the next election they could return to power by invoking common populist themes,” Hashemi, whose expertise include comparative politics and political theory as well as democracy and human rights, told The ASEAN Post.

“Most politicians are interested in obtaining power and keeping power. They will do what is needed to obtain this goal. This often happens by playing the game of populist politics. It goes like this: A politician will claim that he will defend the rights of the majority against internal enemies and foreign threats who seek to subjugate them. Human rights and civil rights are ignored and the collective majoritarian rights are elevated.

“Fearmongering, xenophobia and cultivation of enemies (both foreign and domestic) is a key aspect of this form of politics. The truth is deliberately manipulated and the free press is attacked,” he said, adding that United States (US) President Donald Trump was a prototype of such a politician.

“In Malaysia, there are many similar examples. The politician personally benefits by rallying people around this narrative which propels him into power – but of course at the expense of democracy, national unity and human rights.”

Meanwhile, Associate Professor of Political Science at John Cabot University, Bridget Welsh, who is also an expert at Southeast Asian politics, told The ASEAN Post that she believed the Malays were split long before GE14.

“The Malays have always been split as the idea of 'Malay unity' is a myth. From the independence movement to the support of different Malay parties, division is the norm. What differed about GE14 is that the number of political choices for Malays increased and, importantly, the more liberal alternative captured more of the Malay vote,” she said.

Nevertheless, Welsh did agree that Malaysian politicians would view winning over at least a majority of Malays towards a single cause as a favourable outcome.

“Malays comprise the largest ethnic group so the more they win, the more political power these parties can gain. Together, (excluding Sarawak-based party United Bumiputera Heritage Party (Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu)) they can win a plurality but not a majority of seats. This allows the conservative, racialised and exclusionary religious agenda to gain traction.

“It is also important to keep in mind that Malaysia still holds onto the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) legacy view that legitimacy comes from winning the majority of Malays - which accentuates the push toward mythical 'unity'.”

Jeffrey Kenney, professor of religious studies at DePauw University, however, brought up an interesting point: that it may be more strategic for Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the ruling coalition, the Coalition of Hope (Pakatan Harapan) to maintain a division among the Malays.

“It is unlikely that a ‘majority’ would back some ‘liberal or progressive’ agenda. And it is not altogether clear what Mahathir actually wishes to see develop in the country… how committed he is to undoing some racial damage or ethnic antagonism he contributed to in the past,” he said.

“Perhaps this is where going after Naik enters the picture. Naik’s recent comments allow Mahathir –indeed all centrist politicians – to clearly identify themselves as “moderate” because Naik is so immoderate.”

How to use a preacher

When asked the question whether Naik could be used as a political tool to unite the Malays, both experts agreed, adding that they believed Naik has been used this way at least once in Malaysia.

“He is a political pawn originally in UMNO's (failed) effort to win religiously conservative Malay votes and to further push its racialised Malay nationalist agenda (targeting Indians as well as the Chinese),” Welsh said.

“As the two parties UMNO and PAS (Malaysian Islamic Party) have come together, Zakir has been a unifying tool of supposedly using a Muslim Indian foreigner for 'Malay unity' and 'defending Islam'. It is about maintaining the conservative Malay base.”

Kenney said the possibility of using Naik to unite the Malays was “certainly feasible.”

“And given the attention that this incident is getting in the media, with lots of politicians and public figures piling on, I’m sure some see it as a means of uniting Malays – all Malaysians – against immoderate racism,” he said.

Hashemi said using Naik as a political tool was already happening, but added that this would have grave effects on Malaysia’s future.

“Yes, he can be used in this way but the key question is to what end? If the goal is simply the naked grasp of power under a false sense of unity, then this is possible. I suspect it is already happening. If the goal, however, is a democratic Malaysia, rooted in Islamic ethics where everyone is equal before the law and key national groups have their rights respected and protected – then the politics of Zakir Naik should be firmly repudiated. It is this latter form of unity that really matters. The future of Malaysia depends on it.”

If Zakir Naik was indeed the hammer meant to unite the Malays, then did Malaysia inadvertently end up hitting its own fingers with the very same hammer? What do you think?

https://theaseanpost.com/article/zakir-naik-malaysias-hammer-unity

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Child rights activist voices fears over unilateral conversions

Aug 25, 2019

Ainaa Aiman - August 25, 2019PETALING JAYA: Child rights activist James Nayagam has warned of potential harm to children if the Selangor government goes ahead with its plan to enact a law to allow religious conversion without the consent of one parent.

Acknowledging that such conversions of children would often involve divorce, he said the trauma they would suffer would often be worse than the kind experienced by children in a divorce that did not involve conversion.

He attributed this to the likelihood of greater animosity between parents of different religions.

The trauma would be even worse if a child were to be forcibly taken by one parent, he told FMT.

“A child may even be confined to a particular area where he or she is cut off from other people,” he said.

Claiming that he was talking from his experience with such cases, he said a child would sometimes develop fear of one of the parents.

He also spoke of identity crises and said these would sometimes happen when such children had grown up.

“I’ve spoken to adults as well and some of them don’t practise the religion they were converted to,” he said.

Nagayam said he believed the consent of both parents would be best for a developing child.

Psychologist Geshina Ayu Mat Saat agreed with some points raised by Nayagam.

“Children whose parents practice different religions may experience confusion or distress or may later become apathetic to religion,” she said.

But she said the effect such a conversion would have on a child when he had grown up would depend on his relationship with each of the parents before and after the divorce. It would also depend on how much religion was observed in the family, she added.

She said psychosocial and spiritual distress might occur if the child felt strongly towards one religion but was coerced to practise another religion.

“It may not occur if there already is an apathetic attitude towards religion in the family or if the child’s religious belief is in tune with his or her legal guardian’s.”

Geshina said older children in a divorce would have developed their own world view as well a strong relationship with either parent.

Kindergarten teacher Indira Gandhi, known for her long court battle against the unilateral conversion of her three children, said children should be left to decide on the religion they would follow only when they had reached 18.

She also said she believed the conversion of one parent should not cause the family to break up.

“They can bring up the children together,” she said. “If the father is a Muslim, let him preach to the children the goodness of Islam. If the mother is Hindu, let her preach the religion to them.”

In deciding on Indira’s case, the Federal Court last year declared that the consent of both parents was needed for the conversion of minors, ruling that the word “parent” in the Federal Constitution meant both father and mother.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/08/25/child-rights-activist-voices-fears-over-unilateral-conversions/

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The elephant in the room: Racism in Indonesia

August 25, 2019

Fueled by a viral video that appeared to show alleged security personnel using the derogatory slur “monkey” against Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java, the longstanding racial prejudice against residents of Papua and West Papua boiled over during recent tensions in the two least developed provinces in the country. The 2010 census conducted by Statistics Indonesia (BPS) found that the country had 1,340 etnicities, with the Javanese  formingthe majority at about 40 percent and Papuans comprising only 1.14 percent. Soeharto’s New Order repressed sectarian tensions, including anti-Chinese and anti-Islam sentiments, by banning individuals from public expression of tribal affiliations, religion, race and societal groups (SARA). Enacted during the New Order, Article 156 of the Crimin...

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/08/25/the-elephant-in-the-room-racism-in-indonesia.html

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Detachment 88 Arrests Three Suspected Terrorists in East Java

AUGUST 24, 2019

Jakarta. Indonesian police's anti-terror unit Detachment 88 arrested three suspected terrorists in Blitar, East Java, on Friday night and took them to the East Java Police headquarters to be interrogated, a police spokesman told the Jakarta Globe on Saturday.

"They were arrested last night and brought here to the police headquarters this morning," police spokesman Comr. Frans Barung Mangera said.

The three suspected terrorists were identified as Kurniawan Joko Wicaksono, Subagio and Joan Puji Santoso.

Kurniawan was captured in front of his house in Sentul, a village near Blitar. Subagio was arrested in Beru and Joan was arrested in Kepanjen Kidul.

The arrests were part of a police investigation in which they had already arrested two members of the Islamic State-affiliated militant group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) on Thursday, also in East Java.

One of them was Beni Luqman Hakim, the leader of the JAD branch in Lamongan, East Java. The police also took Beni's wife and children to be questioned.

"These terrorists have changed the way they fund their terror acts. They now earn halal money. In the past, they used to earn money from robberies," Frans said.

He said the suspected terrorists arrested in Blitar, Lamongan and Sampang this week make money from running a small business or working as employees.

Full report at:

https://jakartaglobe.id/context/detachment-88-arrests-three-suspected-terrorists-in-east-java

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North America

 

Iran’s Zarif heading to Asia in push against US sanctions

24 August 2019

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will head to East Asia on Sunday, his office said, as part of a diplomatic push to win relief from biting US sanctions.

Zarif would visit China, Japan and Malaysia fresh on the heels of a tour of Western European nations, spokesman Abbas Mousavi said late Friday on the ministry’s Telegram channel.

“Bilateral relations and most importantly regional and international issues are some of the topics our foreign minister will discuss with the aforementioned countries’ officials during the trip,” said Mousavi.

The United States slapped sanctions on Zarif late last month in a bid to target any assets he has in America and squeeze his ability to function as a globe-trotting diplomat.

But Zarif hailed his visit to France on Friday following trips to Finland, Sweden and Norway.

In a post on Twitter, he said “despite US efforts to destroy diplomacy” he met French President Emmanuel Macron, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and had interviews with media in Paris, including AFP.

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

Despite US efforts to destroy diplomacy, met with French President @EmmanuelMacron and @JY_LeDriane in Paris today.

Interviewed with Euronews, AFP,  & France24.

Multilateralism must be preserved.

Next stops Beijing, Tokyo &  KL after a day in Tehran.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

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9:41 PM - Aug 23, 2019

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Iran and its arch-foe the United States have been at loggerheads since last year when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a 2015 deal under which the Islamic republic agreed to rein in its nuclear activities in return for an easing of sanctions.

Twelve months on from the US pullout, Iran began reducing its commitments by surpassing a uranium enrichment cap and exceeding a limit on its reserves.

The situation has threatened to spiral out of control, with ships attacked in the Gulf, drones downed and oil tankers seized.

During his visit to France, Zarif told AFP in an interview that he was pleased with the efforts of Macron to defuse the crisis.

“President Macron made some suggestions last week to President (Hassan) Rouhani and we believe they are moving in the right direction, although we are not definitely there yet,” Zarif said.

Macron has been seeking to roll back some of the US measures imposed as part of Trump’s campaign of “maximum pressure” on Iran, which insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

French diplomats have raised the idea of US waivers on sanctions affecting Iranian oil exports to India and China, or a new credit line for Tehran that could help the struggling economy.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/08/24/Iran-s-Zarif-heading-to-Asia-in-push-against-US-sanctions.html

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Warship US sent to ‘deter’ Iran ‘steers clear’ of Iran

Aug 25, 2019

A large aircraft carrier strike force that the United States sent to the Middle East in May on an accelerated schedule to “deter” Iran has been “steering clear” of the country since arrival, staying as far away as the Arabian Sea for fear of Iranian military strikes in case of a potential conflict.

The dispatch earlier this year of the USS Abraham Lincoln to the Middle East ahead of schedule was meant by the US “to send a clear and unmistakable message” to Iran. And even as Iranian military officials knew the deployment was not extraordinary — the US’s Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain — it ratcheted up tensions significantly at the time.

Tensions first rose between Iran and the US in May 2018, when US President Donald Trump pulled America out of a multilateral deal with Iran and started attempting to drive Iran’s oil sales presumably to zero.

On May 5, 2019, Trump’s National Security Adviser and known Iran hawk John Bolton said in a statement that the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force were being sent to the Middle East “to send a clear and unmistakable message” to Iran. A US official told Reuters at the time that the forces “have been ordered to the region as a deterrence” against Iran.

But the warship has never ventured anywhere near Iranian waters.

The New York Times said in an article on Friday that, since arriving in the region, the USS Abraham Lincoln naval group has avoided both the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, “the crucial oil-tanker highways it is supposed to protect.”

“The 5,600 men and women aboard this nuclear-powered aircraft carrier do not venture near Iranian waters,” it said.

“[T]he Lincoln remains in the North Arabian Sea, and at times more than 600 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz. Often, the Lincoln is off the coast of Oman, not far from Muscat,” the article said.

Commanders on board the warship and interviewed by the Times said they was staying far from Iran to avoid an “escalation.” However, a fear of Iranian reprisal in case of a potential confrontation seemed to be the real preoccupation of the American forces on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

To avoid Iranian military forces, the American warship is even prepared to go through much worse weather and sea conditions.

“Trolling the North Arabian Sea, with its huge waves and fierce undertow, fighter pilots on a recent Saturday battled wind gusts to catch the wire as they landed on the pitching carrier. Unlike the far calmer Persian Gulf, the North Arabian Sea at this time of the year is ferocious.”

‘The real thing’

The forces on the USS Abraham Lincoln were cited as saying with an air of confidence that they could still potentially engage in offensive attacks against Iran from where they were positioned. But, when actual combat was reportedly imminent in one instance, they were taken over by fear.

On June 21, Trump reportedly ordered airstrikes on Iranian targets in reaction to the downing by Iran of an intruding American spy drone. Shortly later, however, the US president reversed course.

Allegedly preparing to conduct the airstrikes, the forces on board the USS Abraham Lincoln were struck by anxiety.

“The ship was prepared to launch strikes on Iranian targets on the ground. Enlisted sailors and officers had rehearsed and drilled countless times, but suddenly this was the real thing,” the Times said.

“You could feel the stress in the younger sailors,” said Captain William Reed, a fighter pilot who commands the ship’s air wing.

‘Relief? Yeah!’

No less a person than the commander of the carrier strike group, a rear admiral, was “relieved” to learn of the order to stand down.

“All the systems were on, all the lights were green, we were waiting for the order,” Rear Adm. Michael E. Boyle said. “And the order didn’t come.”

“Relief? Yeah! Whatever caused us not to have to push the button, we’re happy,” he told the Times.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/25/604409/Iran-US-USS-Abraham-Lincoln-Persian-Gulf-Arabian-Sea

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US: Turkey-US conduct first reconnaissance flight

Hakan Copur, Kasım İleri 

25.08.2019

WASHINGTON

U.S. and Turkish leaders conducted the first U.S.-Turkey reconnaissance flight, the Pentagon said Saturday. 

Spokesman Sean Robertson told Anadolu Agency that two generals, one from each country, flew on the same helicopter on Saturday.

This “milestone” followed establishment of the joint coordination center earlier this week, Robertson said in an emailed statement.

This flight demonstrates U.S.’s commitment to address “Turkey's legitimate security concerns on their southern border”, the statement underlined.

The statement also reiterated U.S.’s determination to “maintain security in northeast Syria so ISIS cannot reemerge”.

The first joint helicopter flight between the two NATO allies allows the coalition and U.S.’s partners to “remain focused on achieving the enduring defeat of ISIS,” the statement added.

In a phone call Wednesday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper agreed to launch the first phase of the Syria safe zone plan as of Aug. 21.

Akar said a safe zone east of the Euphrates River in Syria should be established within the framework of the principles set out in the calendar without delay, the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Akar and Esper also agreed that military delegations from the two countries will meet in Ankara soon to discuss the next stages of the safe zone plan, it said.

Turkish and U.S. military officials reached an agreement on Aug. 7 that the safe zone in northern Syria will serve as a "peace corridor" for displaced Syrians longing to return home and a Joint Operations Center in Turkey will be set up to coordinate its establishment.

The U.S., which considers the PKK a terrorist organization, changed the YPG’s name to the Syrian Democratic Forces in July 2017 in order to dissociate it with the PKK.

In the last two years, Turkey’s Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations liberated the region from YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists, allowing hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians to return to their homes.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-turkey-us-conduct-first-reconnaissance-flight/1564289

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US warns of continued ethnic cleansing of Rohingya

Gozde Bayar  

24.08.2019

The U.S. warned on Saturday that military abuses against Rohingya Muslims continued in Myanmar as the country’s actions constituted ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State.

Marking the second anniversary of the beginning of the Myanmar security forces' "atrocities" against the Rohingya, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that more than 740,000 Rohingya were forced to flee to Bangladesh.

"Two years ago, Burma [Myanmar]’s security forces engaged in a brutal attack against hundreds of thousands of unarmed men, women, and children in a grossly disproportionate response to attacks by militants on security posts in northern Rakhine State," Ortagus stressed.

Ortagus added that Rakhine State was not the only place in Myanmar where the military committed human rights violations against the country's people over more than seventy years.

She highlighted that the Myanmar military's abuses continue in Kachin, Shan States and elsewhere in the country.

Separately, Ortagus said on Twitter that the military must respect human rights for Myanmar’s democracy to succeed.

Persecuted people

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience".

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-warns-of-continued-ethnic-cleansing-of-rohingya/1564180

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US announces rewards for 3 Islamic State leaders

BY THOMAS JOSCELYN

August 24, 2019

On Aug. 21, the US State Department Rewards for Justice Program announced rewards of up to $5 million each for three wanted Islamic State (ISIS) leaders: Sami Jasim Muhammad al-Jaburi, Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla, and Mu‘taz Numan ‘Abd Nayif Najm al-Jaburi. Respectively, the three are: a money man, a senior ideologue, and an explosives expert.

Interestingly, all three of the so-called caliphate’s men began their jihadist careers with al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the forerunner to the current Islamic State organization. The State Department says al-Mawla “was a religious scholar in ISIS’s predecessor organization,” AQI, while both al-Jaburis are “legacy” AQI members.

It is not clear if the State Department means AQI as it existed before the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in 2006, or the ISI. Either way, the brief biographical details provided for all three men demonstrate that the current Islamic State retains a cadre of veterans who have been with the enterprise for years, and in some cases possibly a decade or more.

Sami Jasim Muhammad al-Jaburi (a.k.a. Hajji Hamid and Haji Hamad) was reportedly killed in 2016, but the newly-released reward announcement indicates the US government thinks he survived.

On Aug. 11, 2016, the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) reported that Sami al-Jaburi and “an aide were killed” in a joint operation involving US Special Forces. The KRSC described al-Jaburi as “responsible” for the Islamic State’s “natural resources in Iraq and Syria.” That part was true, based on other sources, but al-Jaburi apparently wasn’t killed in the raid.

Sami al-Jaburi has long been a key Islamic State money man.

The Treasury Department added him to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorists in 2015, reporting that as of that same year he “supervised” the Islamic State’s “oil and gas, antiquities, and mineral resources operations.”

He had worked with another Islamic State “oil and gas official,” Fathi ben Awn ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi (a.k.a. Abu Sayyaf), to “establish a new funding stream for [ISIS] from increased production at oil fields held by the organization,” Treasury said. That effort took place in Apr. 2015. 

Abu Sayyaf was killed in a US raid in eastern Syria the following month. The raid provided US intelligence officials with a treasure trove of information recovered from Abu Sayyaf’s compound. The Islamic State man’s wife, Umm Sayyaf, was also captured during the operation.

Brett McGurk, who was then the Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition To Counter ISIS, explained months later that the Americans “collected more information off that site than we have in any Special Forces operation in history.” The intelligence led “to a number of operations to really just completely uproot [ISIS’s] economic financial networks in Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria,” McGurk said.

But assuming Sami al-Jaburi is indeed alive, at least some of Abu Sayyaf’s close comrades survived the roll up of his network after the raid in eastern Syria.

Al-Jaburi’s career has followed the Islamic State’s rise to power as a nascent state in 2014 and 2015, as well as its subsequent reversion to guerrilla warfare. Treasury described al-Jaburi as ISIS’s “shari’a council chief and second in command in southern Mosul, Iraq” as of Aug. 2014 — that is, just weeks after the organization declared Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to be “Caliph Ibrahim.”

According to State, whle al-Jaburi was serving as the Islamic State’s “deputy” in southern Mosul, he also “reportedly served as the equivalent of ISIS’s finance minister, supervising the group’s revenue-generating operations from illicit sales of oil, gas, antiquities, and minerals.”  He is presumably still serving in a similar capacity today.

In 2017, the US Treasury Department identified another key Islamic State finance official who was formerly in Mosul as Salim Mustafa Muhammad al-Mansur. After the fall of Mosul, which was once one of the Islamic State’s two most important cities, al-Mansur fled to Turkey. Al-Mansur’s current status is not publicly known. But like al-Jaburi and the two other Islamic State officials added to the State Department’s rewards program this week, al-Mansur’s career began with AQI/ISI.

The photo accompanying al-Jaburi’s reward offer indicates that he was once imprisoned. As has been widely documented, the detention facilities in Iraq proved to be a breeding ground for the Islamic State, as the jihadists used their confinement to recruit new men to their cause, while others’ views hardened. Many of the Islamic State’s top leaders were once imprisoned, only to be freed.

The State Department offers an intriguing assessment in its description of Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla (a.k.a. Hajji ‘Abdallah), saying that he is “a potential successor” to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the head of ISIS. Foggy Bottom doesn’t explain how it arrived at this analysis, and the Islamic State doesn’t publish succession charts. But it may have something to do with al-Mawla’s extensive ideological work inside the organization.

The US government describes al-Mawla as a “senior” ISIS leader who served as a “religious scholar” for AQI. He “steadily rose through the ranks to assume a senior leadership role for ISIS.” Then, as one of Baghdadi’s “most senior ideologues,” al-Mawla “helped drive and justify the abduction, slaughter, and trafficking of the Yazidi religious minority in northwest Iraq.”

The Islamic State’s rampage through Sinjar in northern Iraq forced hundreds of thousands of Yazidis to flee. The jihadists carried out a genocide, enslaving thousands of Yazidi women and children while massacring thousands of men who refused to convert to the Islamic State’s version of Islam. Yazidi women and girls were forced into sex slavery.

And according to the State Department, al-Mawla provided ideological arguments to justify this barbarity. That isn’t all he does for the Islamic State. The US says al-Mawla “is believed to oversee some of the group’s global terrorist operations” — though the Rewards for Justice program didn’t specify what role he plays, exactly.

Mu‘taz Numan ‘Abd Nayif Najm al-Jaburi (a.k.a. Hajji Taysir) is the third and final wanted Islamic State figure. Unlike the other two, the US apparently has no photo of the man, despite the fact that he is considered “one of the most important leaders in ISIS.” As of mid-2017, according to the State Department, al-Jaburi was the “deputy amir of manufacturing in Syria.” And in that role, he oversaw the “Research Department for ISIS’s chemical and biological weapons efforts in Syria.”

The US government has identified other ISIS figures responsible for developing chemical and biological weapons in the past. [See, for example, FDD’s Long War Journal reports: US designates ISIS chemical weapons expert from France as terrorist, US designates 2 Islamic State leaders tied to chemical weapons, US military hits another Islamic State chemical weapons facility in Iraq and Coalition kills Islamic State ‘chemical weapons engineer’.]

Thus far, the Islamic State’s chemical arsenal has been fairly rudimentary, relying on chlorine and mustard agent. The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), the predecessor organization to the current Islamic State, used chlorine gas in a series of suicide bomb attacks in 2007. However, it is always possible that the group has been exploring more sinister and sophisticated weaponry.

Despite losing its territorial caliphate, it is well-known that the Islamic State has thousands of members across Iraq and Syria, perhaps many thousands. Western analysts do not really known how many ISIS men remain on the battlefield, or hidden in sleeper cells, waiting to strike. Thousands of others remain loyal to the organization elsewhere around the globe.

Full report at:

https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2019/08/us-announces-rewards-for-3-islamic-state-leaders.php

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Europe

 

Ny Rabbi, Head Of Muslim World League Receive 'Children Of Abraham' Award

August 24, 2019

NEW YORK – The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding’s (FFEU) Rabbi Marc Schneier and the Muslim World League’s Secretary General Dr. Muhammad Al-Issa were awarded the “Children of Abraham” award by the Florence School of Advanced Studies for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue on Tuesday at the 40th annual Meeting for Friendship Amongst Peoples.

The award was created for spiritual leaders who dedicate their lives to the promotion of understanding and collaboration between religious groups and citizens of different faiths and to the construction of human solidarity.

“We’re proud to honor Rabbi Schneier for his work pioneering Muslim-Jewish relations globally and specifically the work he has spearheaded in Europe for more than a decade,” said Florence School of Advanced Studies for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue President Rabbi Dr. Joseph Levi.

“Since he brought an historic mission of European Muslim and Jewish leaders to New York and Washington D.C. a decade ago with the goal of planting the seeds of a meaningful Muslim-Jewish alliance, Rabbi Schneier has held many conferences with Imams and Rabbis to bring the two faiths together," Levi continued. "His Foundation’s Muslim-Jewish Season of Twinning in Europe and a litany of events involving grassroots activists and high-level representatives of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe have made a tremendous impact in Europe.”

“With [antisemitism] and Islamophobia on the rise in Europe, it is more important than ever before that Muslims and Jews come together,” said Schneier. “It’s an honor to be acknowledged here in Rimini at the 40th annual Meeting for Friendship Amongst Peoples with my colleague from the Muslim World League, Dr. Muhammad Al-Issa. Because of our partners in the Islamic world, we’ve been able to make such a tremendous impact in Europe and globally.”

Founded in 1989, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding is the global address for Muslim-Jewish relations and the national address for African American-Jewish relations. The organization is committed to the belief that direct dialogue between ethnic communities is the most effective path towards reconciliation.

https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Antisemitism/NY-Rabbi-and-head-of-Muslim-World-Leaugue-accept-Children-of-Abraham-award-599560

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Thousands hold ant-racism demo in Germany's Dresden

Aug 25, 2019

Around 35,000 people marched against hate and racism in the eastern German of city Dresden on Saturday, organizers said, a week before state elections when far-right party AfD is projected to make huge gains.

Under the banner "indivisible", a broad coalition of artists, unionists and politicians gathered to urge voters to reject exclusion, which they argue is championed by right-wing extremists.

The three-hour march took place in a relaxed atmosphere under the warm summer sun in the picturesque baroque city, one of the most popular tourism destinations in the former communist east.

But Dresden is also the cradle of the Islamophobic movement Pegida, and the state of Saxony is a stronghold of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party.

Organizers had predicted around 10,000 people to turn up for the march, so 35,000 well exceeded their expectations.

Many at the protest held aloft signs that read: "No place for Nazis" and "Racism is not an alternative".

One of the marchers, 27-year-old Berlin teacher Janna Rakowski, said she wanted "to show the people of Dresden that they are not alone in the fight against racism.

"We want to show our solidarity in this particular situation before the elections in Saxony," she told AFP.

A spokeswoman for the organizers, Susann Riske, said: "We want to do something against the current political climate and support those who oppose hatred and violence every day."

Greta Schmidt, a 66-year-old retiree from Dresden, held up a sign reading "Grandmas against the extreme right".

"The people are very dissatisfied... the big parties have sabotaged their chances," she said.

'Moment of truth'

Before the march started, organizers said they expected at least 10,000 people to turn up at the protest, while about 70 kilometers away, the co-leader of the AfD Alexander Gauland is due to address a rally in the city of Chemnitz.

An AfD candidate in the Saxony election, Nico Koehler, on Saturday denied his party is racist, calling such charges "propaganda designed to get left-wing parties into the state assembly".

He also called on other parties to enter into dialogue with the AfD.

"Democracy starts with interpersonal dialogue ... even with those you consider the enemy," he said at a campaign stall in Chemnitz.

New polls show the AfD party running neck and neck with Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party in Saxony.

In the state of Brandenburg, the region surrounding Berlin, some surveys even see the AfD topping the polls, which would be a major blow for Merkel's junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD).

If a strong showing by the AfD is confirmed in both regional polls, it could throw Merkel's coalition into a new crisis by potentially heightening calls for the SPD to pull the plug on the partnership.

For the organizers of Saturday's march, the regional elections, together with October 27 polls in the state of Thuringia, will be the "moment of truth for democracy".

Under the banner #indivisible, the collective of activists managed to get a quarter of a million people on the streets in Berlin last October to defend inclusion and unity.

That march was organized with Germany still shocked by xenophobic attacks in a Saxony city, Chemnitz, in the aftermath of the stabbing of a German by a migrant.

AfD politicians then also joined in a silent march through Chemnitz alongside the head of Pegida, as well as neo-Nazis.

Since its entry into the Bundestag after the 2017 general election, the far-right AfD has shaken up German politics, including breaching taboos such as openly questioning Germany's atonement culture over World War II.

Its anti-immigrant and anti-Islam rhetoric has proved attractive to those resentful of Merkel's decision to let in more than a million asylum seekers since the 2015 refugee crisis.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/25/604406/Germany-Dresden-Rally-Elections

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Syrian regime forces massing to push further into Idlib

Aug 24, 2019

The Syrian government is massing forces to push further into rebel-held territory in the country's north-west after seizing a key town and surrounding a Turkish military observation post, a war monitor said on Saturday.

The town of Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib region fell on Wednesday after years under rebel control, and on Friday troops overran the countryside to the south, encircling a Turkish observation post there.

"The day after they controlled the area south of Khan Sheikhoun, regime forces are massing in the area north of it," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

They are "preparing to continue their advance towards the area of Maaret Al Numan", a town about 25 kilometres to the north, he said.

That area has come under intense Russian and regime aerial bombardment and been depleted of almost all of its residents in the past two weeks, the Observatory says.

After Khan Sheikhoun, Maaret Al Numan is the next rebel-held town on a highway running from the capital Damascus to the Syria's second city of Aleppo, which was retaken from opposition fighters in late 2016.

The Idlib region of some three million people lies on the border with Turkey. Turkish troops have been deployed at a dozen points around it in an attempt to set up a buffer zone that was part of a failed truce

brokered between Turkey and Russia last year.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the situation in Syria with his Russian counterpart on Friday and will visit Moscow on Tuesday for talks with Vladimir Putin, the Turkish presidency said.

Meanwhile, Turkey's attempt to create a safe zone along its border with north-eastern Syria received a boost on Saturday after the US-backed forces that control the area said they would co-operate.

Mazloum Kobani, the head of the Syrian Democratic Forces led by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, said his alliance would back the agreement reached between Washington and Ankara.

The US Central Command said late on Friday that the SDF – which expelled ISIS from their last patch of territory in eastern Syria in March – had destroyed outposts in the border area.

"This demonstrates SDF's commitment to support implementation of the security mechanism framework," Centcom said.

Turkey and the US have agreed to set up a joint operations centre to oversee the creation of the "safe zone" that Ankara says is necessary to protect it from the YPG, which it considers a terrorist group.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/syrian-regime-forces-massing-to-push-further-into-idlib-1.902064

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Soyuz spacecraft carrying humanoid robot fails to dock with ISS

Aug 24, 2019

A Soyuz spacecraft carrying Russia's first humanoid robot on Saturday failed to dock automatically with the international space station, Moscow news agencies reported.

The craft launched a repeat of the docking manoeuvres after the failure of the first attempt, which had been scheduled for 0530 GMT, the agencies said.

Live broadcast of the event on the Russian space agency Roskomos was interrupted with the Soyuz spacecraft about 100 metres (109 yards) off the ISS.

The life-size robot, named Fedor, was to spend 10 days learning to assist astronauts in the space station.

Short for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research, Fedor is the first ever sent up by Russia.

Fedor blasted off Thursday in a Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and was to stay on the ISS until September 7.

Soyuz ships are normally manned on such trips, but this time no humans were travelling in order to test a new emergency rescue system.

Instead of cosmonauts, Fedor, also known as Skybot F850, was strapped into a specially adapted pilot's seat, with a small Russian flag in hand.

"Let's go. Let's go," the robot was heard saying during launch, repeating the famous phrase used by first man in space Yuri Gagarin.

The silvery anthropomorphic robot stands 1.80 metres tall and weighs 160 kilogrammes.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/soyuz-spacecraft-carrying-humanoid-robot-fails-to-dock-with-iss-1.901813

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Africa

 

Tunisia’s electoral commission says media mogul still candidate despite arrest

24 August 2019

Media magnate Nabil Karoui remains in the race for Tunisia’s upcoming presidential election despite his arrest for alleged money laundering, the head of the country’s electoral commission said on Saturday.

Karoui, one of 26 presidential candidates given preliminary approval this month to run in the September 15 election, was arrested on Friday, his party said.

A judicial official said an arrest warrant had been issued for Karoui and his brother Ghazi for money laundering.

“Nabil Karoui is still a candidate and his name remains on the preliminary and definite list of candidates” who are vying to become Tunisia’s next president, electoral commission (ISIE) head Nabil Baffoun said.

“Following his arrest... as long as there are no changes in his legal status... he remains a presidential candidate,” Baffoun told the private Mosaique FM radio station.

According to Baffoun, candidatures of individuals who have been convicted in Tunisia are accepted as long as the verdict against them does not specifically say they are banned from running in an election.

The tycoon was charged with money laundering in early July shortly after stating his intention to stand in the polls, but has remained a leading candidate.

His party announced his arrest the same day that authorities declared a ban on three local outlets - including Karoui’s Nessma TV - from reporting on the election campaign over unlicensed “illegal” broadcasts.

Karoui has been accused by regulators and some politicians of using Nessma to bolster his political ambitions.

He was nearly removed from the race in June when parliament passed an amended electoral code that would bar any candidate who handed out “favors in cash or in kind” in the year before the vote.

But then-president Beji Caid Essebsi neither rejected nor enacted the bill, leaving the door open for Karoui to run.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/08/24/Tunisia-s-electoral-commission-says-media-mogul-still-candidate-despite-arrest.html

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Ethiopian parliament approves electoral, political parties bill

24 August 2019

Ethiopia’s parliament has approved an electoral and political parties draft bill, the state broadcaster reported on Saturday, paving the way for national elections next year, the first to be held under reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

On August 9 Ethiopia’s ruling coalition said it will hold a national election in 2020, defying worries over security and displaced people within the country that had led some to speculate the election might be postponed.

“The parliament unanimously approved the revised bill,” the Ethiopian Broadcast Corporation (EBC) reported.

National parties will require at least 10,000 founding members, while regional parties need 4,000, EBC said.

Abiy has rolled out a series of political reforms since coming to power last year, including unbanning many political parties, releasing political prisoners and journalists, and welcoming home exiled rebel groups.

But an attempted coup in June by a rogue militia in the northern Amhara region had raised doubts over the ruling party’s ability to ensure security, while an increase in ethnic violence across the country made some query whether the election would be held.

A national census has already been postponed twice, potentially undermining logistics for the polls including the drawing up of constituencies in Africa’s second most populous nation.

Tensions within the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which has ruled with an iron grip since 1991, have risen following the failed coup.

In a rare public feud earlier this month, two of its four ethnic parties traded barbs over who was responsible for the violence.

After decades of harsh rule, Abiy’s reforms have created new freedoms but old grievances and disputes have resurfaced, while local power-brokers seeking to build support by securing power and territory for their ethnic groups have been emboldened.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/08/24/Ethiopian-parliament-approves-electoral-political-parties-bill.html

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Twelve dead in Boko Haram Niger attack: Official

Aug 25, 2019

A night raid blamed on Boko Haram has left a dozen villagers dead in southeast Niger on the frontier with Nigeria, according to a local official.

The attack on Friday night in the border district of Gueskerou is the latest to hit the Diffa region near Lake Chad, which is crisscrossed by fighter groups and traffickers.

"Twelve villagers were killed on Friday at around 8:00pm (19:00 GMT) by Boko Haram elements," a local elected official told AFP on Saturday.

He said 11 of those killed had been shot but did not give further details.

The Gueskerou area, abutting the Komadougou Yobe river that provides a natural frontier between Niger and Nigeria, has been exposed to years of killings and kidnappings at the hands of the Boko Haram.

In March, two attacks in the area left eight civilians and seven police dead.

Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates to "Western education is forbidden", has waged an armed campaign in northeast Nigeria since 2009.

The group wants to establish an Islamic state which will follow a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Some 30,000 people have been killed and more than two million displaced since Boko Haram launched its armed campaign. The fighting has since spilled over to neighbouring Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

The group has repeatedly attacked schools, churches, mosques and markets, but state institutions such as police stations and military facilities have remained its primary targets.

Boko Haram allegedly operates its largest camp in the vast Sambisa forest in Nigeria's northeast.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari promised to crush Boko Haram during his first term election campaign in 2015.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/twelve-dead-boko-haram-niger-attack-official-190824140427226.html

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Boko Haram burns 73 houses, 28 shops in Konduga —Borno Govt

August 24, 2019

Boko Haram insurgents have set ablaze 73 houses and 28 shops in Thursday’s attack on three Borno State villages, the state government revealed on Saturday.

The governor of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum, had on Friday complained to President Muhammadu Buhari about the increased attacks by insurgents in the state.

The governor had said three Local Government Areas; Gubio, Magumeri and Konduga, were attacked in the last one week.

The governor, who arrived the state capital, Maiduguri on Friday evening after meeting with Buhari, revealed he was informed of the loss by the chairperson of the State Emergency Management Agency, Hajiya Yabawa Kolo.

Kolo said that a total of 73 houses and ‎28 shops were torched in the attack by Boko Haram in three villages of Konduga LGA on Thursday night.

In Borri, one of the three villages torched by the insurgents, Kolo told Zulum that around 8:00 p.m. of August 22, the insurgents attacked and set ablaze 17 houses and four shops in the village.

Kolo also told the governor that in Wanori Village, 34 houses and 18 shops were set ablaze and in Kaleri-Abdule Village, 22 houses and six shops were torched.

The Governor, who went round to see things before meeting residents and community leaders affected ‎by the attack, promised the immediate reconstruction of houses destroyed.

He said modern houses will replace those destroyed, he disclosed that he had received assurances from President Buhari on Friday with respect to concerted efforts by the Federal Government to enhance security in Borno State.

During the visit, the governor held discussions with youth volunteers under the Civilian JTF, who have been helping with community policing.

Full report at:

https://punchng.com/boko-haram-burns-73-houses-28-shops-in-konduga-borno-govt/

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South Asia

 

Kabul expects US to share peace deal details

SAYED SALAHUDDIN

August 24, 2019

KABUL: Afghanistan said on Saturday it expects the US to share details of a peace deal with the Taliban before it is signed, having been excluded from all rounds of talks.

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has led diplomats through at least nine rounds of talks with members of the armed group in Qatar since last summer.

A deal could pave the way for a complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and end almost two decades of fighting in the country.

But President Ashraf Ghani’s government has been left out of the talks because of objections from the Taliban, which views his regime as a puppet of the West.

The current round of discussions has been described as crucial because, according to present and former Taliban officials, both parties are expected to soon sign a deal.

“The Afghan government expects that it (agreement) will be shared before it is finalized for signing,” Ghani’s chief spokesman, Sediq Seddiqi, told Arab News.

He said Kabul could not say when the deal would be signed, and that troops’ departure would be condition-based and not based on a timeline set by the Taliban.

“Well, force reduction will be based on conditions, the terrorist threat is potential and we must fight it together for our common safety and in order to prevent any major terrorist attacks on the world’s capitals.

“We must deny terrorists from holding free ground in Afghanistan and turning it into a safe haven. The presence of some forces, and continued and meaningful support to the Afghan security and defense forces, will be key to our success.”

The Taliban wants all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan within a set timetable and, in return, the group says it will not allow Afghan soil to be used against any foreign country or US interests.

Afghan and US officials have warned against a total pullout of troops because, they argue, the Taliban will try to regain power by force and the country will slide back into chaos after troops leave.

But some say a continued presence will prolong the conflict, as neighboring powers oppose the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan and see it as a trigger for extremism.

The Taliban could not be reached immediately for comment about media reports, which cited the group’s former and current officials as saying that a deal with Washington was imminent.

“We have an agreement on a timeframe for the withdrawal,” Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s spokesman for the Qatar talks, told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. “Discussions are now focused on its implementation mechanism. We have had general discussions today,” he added, referring to current discussions in Doha. “Tomorrow, we shall have discussions on the implementation part.”

Another Taliban spokesman said the top US military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller, had taken part in the current talks which, according to some observers, showed the importance of the discussions and the possibility of a final deal.

Washington is keen for the deal to be signed before Sept. 1, weeks ahead of a crucial and controversial presidential poll in Afghanistan.

Ghani, who is standing for re-election, says the polls are his priority. Some politicians believe that peace will have to come first and that the vote will have to be delayed.

Abdul Satar Saadat, who served as an adviser to Ghani, said the Taliban and US were racing against time as any delay would damage trust between the two and prompt the Taliban to fight for another five years.

“Because of this both sides are doing their utmost to sign the deal, delay the polls and begin an intra-Afghan dialogue like Oslo,” he told Arab News.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1544726/world

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25 Taliban militants killed, wounded in Afghan forces operations: Thunder Corps

24 Aug 2019

The Afghan security forces killed or wounded at least 25 Taliban militants during the operations in Ghazni, Wardak, Paktika and Paktiya provinces.

The 203rd Thunder Corps said in a statement that the Afghan air and ground forces conducted operations Shahbaz area of Ghazni city and Mullah Khel and Khonyan areas of Qarabagh district.

The statement further added that the security forces killed 7 Taliban militants during the operations and wounded 2 others.

Furthermore, the security forces killed 6 Taliban militants and wounded 7 others during the operation in Jalrez district of Wardak province.

The 203rd Thunder Corps also added that the security forces killed 3 Taliban militants and confiscated an Ak-47 rifle and motorcycle during the operations in Zurmat district of Paktiya and Gomal district of Paktika.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/25-taliban-militants-killed-wounded-in-afghan-forces-operations-thunder-corps-03754/

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Former Jihadi commander killed after clashing with his cousin in Kabul

24 Aug 2019

A former Jihadi commander lost his life after clashing with his cousin in Kabul, the security officials said Saturday.

Ferdaws Faramurz, a spokesman for Kabul Police Headquarters confirmed that the clash took place late on Friday night in Qarabagh district.

Faramurz further added that Haji Kamil and five others lost their lives after clashing with his cousin Qarabagh Bazar on Friday nigth.

Furthermore, Faramurz said another individual also sustained injuries during the exchange of fire between the two sides.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/former-jihadi-commander-killed-after-clashing-with-his-cousin-in-kabul-03748/

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Naheed Esar introduced as deputy foreign minister as government leaders end rift

24 Aug 2019

Naheed Esar has assumed office as the deputy foreign minister as government leaders put an end to a rift which prevented the introduction of Esar.

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani appointed Naheed Esar as deputy foreign minister for resources management few weeks ago.

However, her introduction was postponed due to the differences and rift between the President and foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani.

Meawhile, the sources said the government leaders put an end to the differences due to the meddling by Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/naheed-esar-introduced-as-deputy-foreign-minister-as-government-leaders-end-rift-03749/

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U.S. airstrikes kill 6 militants; destroy Taliban radio station in Ghazni

25 Aug 2019

The U.S. forces conducted in south-eastern Ghazni province killing at least 6 Taliban militants, the Afghan military said.

The 203rd Thunder Corps said in a statement the U.S. airstrikes killed 6 Taliban militants in Andar and Qarabagh districts.

The statement further added that the airstrikes also destroyed a vehicle of the Taliban militants.

Furthermore, the 203rd Thunder Crops said a separate U.S. airstrike destroyed a radio station of the Taliban in Barakaat area of Khwaja Omari district.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/u-s-airstrikes-kill-6-militants-destroy-taliban-radio-station-in-ghazni-03758/

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Special Forces kill 14 militants, destroy multiple Taliban tunnels and compounds in Uruzgan

25 Aug 2019

The Afghan Special Forces killed 14 Taliban militants and destroyed multiple tunnels and compounds of the group in Uruzgan province.

The Special Operations Corps said in a statement that the Special Forces killed the militants in Mirabad Village of Tarinkot district.

The statement further added that the Special Forces also confiscated 11 improvised explosive devices and destroyed 12 fighting positions, 5 tunnels, 15 compounds and 4 motorcycles of the militants.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/special-forces-kill-14-militants-destroy-multiple-taliban-tunnels-and-compounds-in-uruzgan-03756/

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Khalilzad also reacts to reports regarding the U.S.-Taliban agreement on interim govt setup

24 Aug 2019

The U.S. envoy for Afghan peace Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad also rejected the media reports regarding the U.S.-Taliban agreement on interim government setup.

Ambassador Khalilzad said in a Twitter post “As the Taliban spokesperson stated earlier, we have had no discussions about an interim government. Governance decisions are for Afghans to make in intra-Afghan negotiations.”

Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the political office of Taliban in Qatar had earlier rejected the reports as ‘untrue’.

This comes as reports emerged earlier today suggesting that the U.S. and Taliban have reached to an agreement to establish an interim government.

Certain media outlets reported that the U.S. and Taliban representatives have reached to an agreement to establish an interim government having a 14-month term.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/khalilzad-also-reacts-to-reports-regarding-the-u-s-taliban-agreement-on-interim-govt-setup-03755/

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2 Rohingya refugees killed in Bangladesh camp

August 25, 2019

TEKNAF: Bangladesh police said they had shot dead two Rohingya refugees during a gunfight in a refugee camp on Saturday after the pair were accused of killing a ruling party official.

Nearly a million Rohingya live in squalid camps in southeast Bangladesh, 740,000 of whom fled a 2017 military offensive against the Muslim minority in Myanmar.

Rights activists, who asked not to be named, said they believe the two Rohingya men were killed by police in what appeared to be a staged encounter.

The incident comes two days after a second failed attempt to repatriate the refugees, which saw not a single Rohingya turn up to return across the border to conflict-scarred Rakhine state.

“Both men died as they were rushed to a hospital,” local police inspector Rasel Ahmad told AFP, adding that the incident took place in Jadimura refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar district.

Ahmad said the two Rohingya were shot and critically injured during a manhunt for suspects after a youth wing official of the ruling Awami League party was killed, allegedly by armed refugees.

Awami League official Omar Faruk was shot in the head on Thursday, at a settlement near the border town of Teknaf, Ahmad said.

His murder had sparked anger among the local population, with hundreds of furious people blocking a key highway leading to the camp for hours, burning tyres and vandalising shops visited by refugees.

Ahmad said the two men killed on Saturday had been identified as key suspects in Faruk’s killing and added that they had been shot while the officers were ambushed by the suspected criminals.

“It was wrong of the refugees to agitate the locals. We want justice in the quickest possible time,” said Abdul Matin, a friend of the deceased politician.

Rohingya refugee Mohammad Saber, who narrowly escaped the mob said, said locals had beaten refugees.

“They threatened us, saying we should leave or else they’d kill us. Why should we get punished if others did something bad?” he said.

Other refugees said the recent bloodshed has created an atmosphere of fear in the camp, where security has been tightened.

The usually busy camp was quiet late Saturday, with roads and shops closed.

Ikbal Hossain, deputy police chief for Cox’s Bazar district, said they would take action against those responsible for the violence.

“We have identified some of them. We will bring them to justice at any cost,” he told AFP.

The killings came as the Rohingya are set to commemorate the second anniversary of their mass influx into Bangladesh from Rakhine after the brutal military campaign.

UN investigators have said the 2017 violence warrants the prosecution of top Myanmar generals for “genocide”.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2019/08/25/2-rohingya-refugees-killed-in-bangladesh-camp/

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Rohingya refugees protest exodus, demand rights in Myanmar

25 August 2019

Thousands of angry and frustrated Rohingya refugees have marked the second anniversary of their exodus from Myanmar into Bangladesh by demanding their citizenship and other rights in the country they fled from.

The event comes days after Bangladesh attempted to start the repatriation of 3,450 Rohingya Muslims but none agreed to go back voluntarily.

More than 1 million Rohingya live in Bangladesh.

On Sunday morning, more than 3,000 gathered at a playground in Kutupalong camp. Some carried placards and banners reading “Never Again! Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day,” and “Restore our citizenship.”

Organizer Muhib Ullah says they plan a massive rally later Sunday.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/08/25/Rohingya-refugees-protest-exodus-demand-rights-in-Myanmar.html

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Rohingya mark 2 years since Myanmar army crackdown

Aug 25, 2019

Thousands of Ronhingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh have marked the second anniversary of the Myanmarese army’s deadly crackdown that displaced them.

Over 3,000 Rohingya protesters gathered at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar on Sunday to demand their Myanmarese citizenship and other rights in their homeland.

They held placards and banners reading, “Never Again! Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day,” and “Restore our citizenship.”

The demonstrators were also expected to hold a prayer session for the victims of Myanmar’s brutal military offensive on Rohingya Muslims on August 25, 2017.

The violent raid forced more than 720,000 Rohingya people — more than half of them children — to flee Myanmar’s Rakhine State to neighboring Bangladesh. Thousands of others were killed, raped, or arbitrarily arrested.

The United Nations termed the offensive “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” with soldiers engaging in rape, murder, and the burning down of entire Rohingya villages.

Muhib Ullah, one of the organizers of the Sunday protest, said they planned a massive rally later in the day, when tens of thousands of refugees were expected to join.

“We want to tell the world that we want our rights back, we want citizenship, we want our homes and land back,” he told the crowd. “Myanmar is our country. We are Rohingya.”

Rohingya literally means a resident of Rakhine in Myanmarese.

The rally came three days after a failed attempt to repatriate the refugees to Myanmar.

The Rohingya are not recognized as an ethnic group in Myanmar, despite having lived there for generations. They have been denied citizenship and are rendered stateless.

On Thursday, the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said in a report that the scale of sexual violence against the Rohingya was an indication of the Myanmarese military’s “genocidal intent.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/25/604417/Myanmar-Bangladesh-Rohingya-anniversary

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Bangladesh police shoot dead two Rohingya Muslims in refugee camp

Aug 24, 2019

The Bangladeshi police say they have shot dead two Rohingya Muslims during a gunfight in a refugee camp, accusing the pair of killing a ruling party official.

Local police inspector Rasel Ahmad said that both men succumbed to their wounds in a nearby hospital a few hours after police forces shot live fire at them in Jadimura refugee camp in Cox's Bazar district in the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh on Saturday.

He added that the pair had received critical injuries during a manhunt for suspects after a youth wing official of the ruling Awami League party was killed. Police alleged armed members of Rohingya refugees were behind the killing.

The victim, identified as Awami League official Omar Faruk, was shot in the head on Thursday at a settlement in the vicinity of Teknaf, a border town in Cox's Bazar district, Ahmad said.

He added that the two Rohingya Muslims were regarded by the local police as key suspects in Faruk’s killing, adding that they had been shot during an exchange of fire between police officers and what they called armed people within the refugees.

In the wake of Faruk’s killing on Thursday, hundreds of angry local people blocked a key highway leading to the camps for several hours, torching tires and vandalizing shops visited by members of Rohingya Muslim refugees.

Refugees say the recent incident has caused panic in the squalid camps, where security has been tightened.

More than 740,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Rakhine, their home province in Myanmar, to neighboring Bangladesh following a military offensive against the Muslim minority in Myanmar in 2017 that the United Nations has said was perpetrated with “genocidal intent.”

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims were killed, injured, arbitrarily arrested, or raped by Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs mainly between November 2016 and August 2017.

The Rohingya have inhabited Rakhine for centuries, but the state denies them citizenship.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/24/604349/Bangladesh-Rohingya-Muslims-police-Jadimura-Coxs-Bazar-Myanmar

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Arab World

 

Tahrir Al-Sham Terrorists Preparing for Large-Scale Attack on Aleppo After Heavy Defeat in Hama, Idlib

Aug 25, 2019

The Kurdish-language Hawar News quoted informed sources in Aleppo province as saying that Tahrir al-Sham terrorists are planning to launch massive attack on the center of Aleppo city from Adnan in Northern Aleppo, Haritan and Kafar Hamra in Northwestern Aleppo.

The sources pointed to the Turkish government's direct support for Tahrir al-Sham from four monitoring points in Aleppo Province in a bid to implement Ankara's plans in Syria, and said that the preparation of the terrorist groups for launching attack on Aleppo comes as the Syrian Army has scored major victories in Hama and Idlib provinces.

Meantime, other battlefield sources in Aleppo province said that the Syrian Army has reinforced its military positions Aleppo province and sent hundreds of troops to the region.

In a relevant development on Friday, the Syrian Army continued its military operations in the areas controlled by the terrorists in Northern Hama, and captured the entire regions which were under the control of the Ankara-backed terrorists.

After taking control of the strategic city of Khan Sheikhoun in Southern Idlib, the Syrian Army continued its fierce clashes with the besieged terrorists in Northern Hama and took control of the town of al-Sayyad and Tal al-Sayyad to North of Kafar Zita, Wadi al-Anz and Tal al-Hawir to the East of Mourek and Matmarha region.

The Arabic-language website of the Russian Sputnik news agency also reported that the Syrian Army troops continued their advances in Northern Hama and secured control over al-Latamineh, Latmi, Tal Fas, al-Bouyezeh, Lahaya and Ma’arkabeh.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Right (SOHR) also pointed to the Syrian Army’s control over Mourek, and said that the army troops have taken helm of the entire regions.

On Monday, the Syrian army managed to enter Khan Sheikhoun after five years.

Also reports said on Wednesday that the local population in Ma’aret al-Numan in Southern Idlib were preparing themselves for the imminent entry of the Syrian Army troops into the city, adding that the people were eagerly waiting for the army’s military takeover.

“The next target of the Syrian Arm’s military operations is Ma’aret al-Numan after imposing full control over Khan Sheikhoun,” Syrian lawmaker for Idlib Province Safvan Qorbi said.

He noted that the residents of Idlib and its countryside are expecting the Syrian Army to arrive in areas occupied by the terrorists, and said that large groups of residents of Ma’aret al-Numan and the city of Saraqib in Southern Idlib have visited the joint Syrian-Russian Command Headquarters for the implementation of peace plan.

Qorbi noted the massive presence of the terrorist groups in Ma’aret al-Numan and the Turkish Army’s occupying role in the region, and said that the Syrian Army is prepared to enter Ma’aret al-Numan.

He also pointed to the heavy defeat of the terrorist groups in Khan Sheikhoun city despite massive military backup by the Turkish Army and their retreat from the region, and said that negotiations are currently underway for exit of the Turkish Army troops from areas under its control in Hama.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980602000682

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Expert: Israel Seeking to Trigger US-Iran War in Iraq by Targeting Holy Shrines in Iraq

Aug 24, 2019

Imad Allo told the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website on Saturday that third parties, including Israel and the Persian Gulf Arab states, are attempting to turn Iraq into a scene for confrontation between Washington and Tehran.

He warned that they will likely attempt to target the holy shrines in Iraq to trigger a war in the country and the region which cannot be controlled easily.

His comments came after Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki warned of a “strong response” if it was proven that the Israeli regime had been behind recent airstrikes in the country against the positions of pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

Maliki, who is also secretary-general of the Islamic Dawa Party, said on Friday that if Israel continues to target Iraq, the country “will transform into a battle arena that drags in multiple countries, including Iran”.

He added that “the security of the region, which Iraq is a key part of, is a collective issue, and its protection requires the (full) responsibility of all countries”.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980602001058

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Lebanese foreign minister lauds Hezbollah as pillar of national unity

Aug 24, 2019

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has lauded the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah as a pillar of the country’s stability and unity.

In an interview with Euronews on Saturday, Bassil, the leader of Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), said the alliance between his party and the resistance movement is “definitely …saving the country and its national unity.”

“It’s avoiding that Lebanon slips into a conflict or civil war, something we all want to avoid,” he said.

The Lebanese foreign minister also denounced a US decision to designate the resistance movement as a “terrorist organization.”

“Hezbollah is part, a big part of our population. We cannot accept to accuse them of terrorism,” he said.

Earlier in July, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on two Hezbollah members of Lebanon’s parliament and a security official responsible for coordinating between the resistance movement and the country’s security agencies.

Washington also accused the individuals of “undermining Lebanese financial institutions to assist Hezbollah and to evade US sanctions against” the resistance movement.

It was the first time that the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control put Lebanese parliamentarians on its sanctions list.

Separately, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the designations were meant to counter Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon.

Some 50 Hezbollah individuals and entities have been blacklisted by the Treasury since 2017.

In May 2018, the United States and its partners in the Riyadh-based Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center (TFTC), which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, imposed sanctions on Hezbollah leadership, targeting its Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem.

US President Donald Trump’s administration imposed additional sanctions on Hezbollah in late October last year, targeting individuals and international organizations that do business with the group.

Hezbollah was founded in the 1980s following the Israeli invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon. The movement waged a long resistance campaign against Israeli forces and pushed them out of southern Lebanon in May 2000. Since then, the group has grown into a powerful military force. Israel also suffered a humiliating defeat from Hezbollah in the 2006 war.

Since its inception in 1985, the Lebanese resistance movement has been a thorn in the side of Israel and its foreign backers, including the United States.

Elsewhere in his Saturday interview, the Lebanese top diplomat said his country is making efforts to help de-escalate tensions in the region.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/24/604359/Lebanon-FM-Bassil-Hezbollah-US

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Iraqi Hashd Sha’abi forces cleanse 6 Anbar villages of Daesh remnants

Aug 24, 2019

Members of the pro-government Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), known as Hashd al-Sha'abi in Arabic, have managed to cleanse a number of villages in the country’s western province of Anbar during the fourth phase of a major offensive to hunt down remnants of the terrorist group of Daesh.

The media bureau of Hashd al-Sha’abi announced in a statement on Saturday that the 13th and 19th brigades of the volunteer forces had cleansed five villages south of al-Qa'im district, located nearly 400 kilometers northwest of the capital Baghdad and near the Syrian border, of Daesh extremists.

The statement added that the pro-government fighters had reached the village of Badr al-Dorraj, emphasizing that Hashd al- Sha’abi forces, together with bomb disposal units, were making advances in Wadi Hauran desert region.

Hash al-Sha’abi forces later purged Badr al-Dorraj of the last pockets of Daesh Takfiris, and arrived at Abu al-Shandoukh village to flush out the terrorists there.

Earlier in the day, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense announced the start of the fourth phase of the Will of Victory Operation to defeat Daesh militants in the country’s western deserts.

The media office of the Joint Operations Command said in a statement that the latest phase of the operation will end Daesh’s presence in Anbar province.

The operation incorporates various domestic forces, including the Anbar Operations Command, al-Jazira Operation Command, federal police, the army, the Popular Mobilization Units, Border Guard Command, the Iraqi Air Force, and the US-led coalition purportedly fighting Daesh.

A statement by the media office of the Joint Operations Command said on August 5 that the Iraqi army, police and Hashd al-Sha’abi units, backed by the Iraqi Air Force fighter jets, had launched the third phase of the Will of Victory Operation in the eastern Diyala province and Nineveh province in the north.

The statement said the troops had begun search operations in rural areas near the towns of Miqdadiyah, Jalawla and Khanaqin in Diyala province.

Also in Nineveh province, the troops commenced an operation to clear the rugged areas of al-Atshanah and the mountain ranges of Badush and Sheikh Ibrahim in west and northwest of the provincial capital city of Mosul.

The second-in-command of the Joint Operations Command (JOC), Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Yarallah, said in a statement on July 20 that Iraqi military forces had launched the second phase of the Will of Victory Operation to hunt down Daesh remnants north of Baghdad and areas nearby.

The statement noted that the offensive aims to “beef up security and stability in areas north of Baghdad and surrounding areas in the provinces of Diyala, Salahuddin and Anbar.”

It said that units from the Baghdad Operations Command, command operations from Diyala, Samarra and Anbar, the Federal Police Command, rapid response teams, Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters and the special forces regiment of the Operations Department of the Chief of Staff of the Army as well as the Special Task Force of the Directorate of Military Intelligence were participating in the offensive.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/24/604341/Iraqi-Hashd-Shaabi-forces-cleanse-6-Anbar-villages-of-Daesh-remnants

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Hundreds of Fresh Syrian Army Troops Arrive in Lattakia for Mop-Up Operations

Aug 24, 2019

Sources in Northern Syria reported that the Syrian Army’s military convoy comprises over 1,000 troops along with weapons and military equipment.

The sources said that the Syrian troops have been stationed in Tal al-Zawiqat, Hilltops No. 101, 112 and 154 which set the contact lines with terrorist groups in the town of Kabaneh in Northeastern Lattakia, and added that the Syrian Army is planning to take full control of this strategic region.

They reiterated that the Syrian Army’s artillery and missile units have pounded the military positions and movements of terrorist groups in Kabaneh town, inflicting heavy losses on them.

The dispatch of fresh troops to the region comes as the Syrian Army has officially announced liberating regions in Northern Hama and the city of Khan Sheikhoun in Southern Idlib.

In a relevant development on Friday, the Syrian Army continued its military operations in areas controlled by the terrorists in Northern Hama, and captured the entire regions which were under the control of the Ankara-backed terrorists.

After taking control of the strategic city of Khan Sheikhoun in Southern Idlib, the Syrian Army continued its fierce clashes with the besieged terrorists in Northern Hama and took control of the town of al-Sayyad and Tal al-Sayyad to North of Kafar Zita, Wadi al-Anz and Tal al-Hawir to the East of Mourek and Matmarha region.

The Arabic-language website of the Russian Sputnik news agency also reported that the Syrian Army troops continued their advances in Northern Hama and secured control over al-Latamineh, Latmi, Tal Fas, al-Bouyezeh, Lahaya and Ma’arkabeh.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980602000659

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Syria fires on Israeli missiles over Damascus

25 August 2019

Syrian anti-aircraft defenses on Saturday fired at ‘enemy targets’ over Damascus, state media said, as the Israeli military said it struck to prevent an Iranian force from launching an attack with drones armed with explosives.

 The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported “probable Israeli air strikes.”

“At 2330 (2030 GMT) anti-aircraft defenses detected enemy targets from Golan heading towards the area around Damascus,” said a Syrian military source quoted by the official Sana news agency.

The aggression was immediately confronted and so far the majority of the enemy Israeli missiles have been destroyed before reaching their targets,” the source added.

An AFP correspondent in Damascus heard several large explosions before Sana announced the defensive action.

“The aggression is still going on and the air defense is able to counter the targets, dropping most of them” in the south of the country, the Sana agency said.

Since the beginning of the war in Syria in 2011, Israel has conducted hundreds of strikes in Syria, most of them against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets.

Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shiite militant group that supports Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, who is also backed by Tehran.

Israel says it is determined to prevent its arch-foe Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, where Tehran backs Assad’s regime.

Israel insists that it has the right to continue to target positions held by Iran and its ally Hezbollah out of self-defense.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/25/Syrian-state-television-says-explosions-heard-in-capital-Damascus.html

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Explosion in Iraq near Shiite mosque kills three, wounds dozens

 24 August 2019

Iraqi security officials say a motorcycle rigged with explosives went off near a Shiite mosque south of the capital Baghdad, killing three people and wounding 34.

The officials said Saturday that the blast occurred the previous evening on a commercial street in the village of Mussayyib. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it targeted “gatherings of Shiites” near a Shiite mosque.

Iraq declared victory against ISIS in late 2017, but the group continues to carry out attacks through sleeper cells, particularly in the country’s north.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/24/Explosion-in-Iraq-near-Shiite-mosque-kills-three-wounds-dozens.html

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Arab Coalition intercepts Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait

25 August 2019

The Arab Coalition intercepted and shot down a drone on Sunday by the Iran-backed Houthi militia targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The coalition’s spokesperson Turki al-Maliki said that the drone was targeting civilian areas in the city, adding that all necessary procedures were taken to protect civilians.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/08/25/Arab-Coalition-intercepts-Houthi-drone-targetting-Saudi-Arabia-s-Khamis-Mushait.html

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UAE minister: Saudi-Emirati alliance a strategic necessity, Yemen clear example

25 August 2019

The alliance between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is a strategic necessity, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash says, citing Yemen as a “clear example.”

“The Saudi-UAE alliance is a strategic necessity in light of the surrounding challenges and Yemen is a clear example. The UAE's participation in Operation Decisive Storm and within the Arab alliance came in response to the call of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and our continuation in Yemen within the coalition led by Saudi Arabia is linked to this invitation,” Gargash tweeted on Sunday.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/08/25/UAE-minister-Saudi-Emirati-alliance-a-strategic-necessity.html

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Yemeni government forces take back control of three STC camps in Shabwa

24 August 2019

Yemeni government forces took back control of three military camps from the Southern Transitional Council (STC) in the oil-producing province of Shabwa, and cut off all supply routes to the al-Alam camp where STC forces withdrew with their weapons, military sources told Al Arabiya on Saturday.

The STC earlier this month took over the southern port city of Aden, the interim seat of Yemen's government, and last week extended their control to neighboring Abyan.

Both sides are part of the Arab Coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Iran-aligned Houthi militia.

But the STC, who seek self-rule in the south, turned on the government after accusing a party allied to Hadi of being complicit in a Houthi attack on southern forces.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/08/24/Yemeni-government-forces-take-back-control-of-three-STC-camps-in-Shabwa.html

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Lebanon’s Hezbollah says downs two Israeli drones near Beirut

Aug 25, 2019

Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah says it has shot down two Israeli drones flying over areas near the capital Beirut.

Hezbollah said in statements early on Sunday that its rockets had downed the drones flying over Dhahyeh region, a suburb south of Beirut.

The group said one of the drones fell in Dhahyeh and the second drone exploded near the ground in another nearby suburb.

The statements came after people in southern Beirut reported hearing large explosions.

Hezbollah’s shooting down of the drones came just hours after Israeli forces tried to hit targets in Damascus in neighboring Syria.

Syrian military said the attacks were unsuccessful and that its air defense systems had intercepted the Israeli missiles.

The Israeli regime said the attacks had inflicted damage on targets related to Iran and its allied militia, clearly a reference to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has been assisting the Syrian government in its years-long fight against terrorism in the Arab country.

However, it has denied claims it is fighting for Iran in Syria, saying the mission is meant to prevent a spillover of militancy into Lebanon.

There was no immediate reaction from Israel on Hezbollah’s downing of drones in southern Beirut.

The Tel Aviv regime has been cautious over the past years in its military encounters with Hezbollah, a group which seeks a total eviction of Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories.

It was not also clear whether Hezbollah’s downing of the Israeli drones was a swift attempt to respond to Israeli attacks in southern Damascus late on Saturday.

Hezbollah has previously accused Israel of supporting terrorist groups fighting against the Syrian government.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/25/604396/Hezbollah-Israeli-drones-downing-Beirut

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US-Israeli attacks on PMU meant to revive Daesh in Iraq: Kata'ib Hezbollah

Aug 24, 2019

An Iraqi resistance group says the recent airstrikes on the positions of pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) are an attempt by the US and Israel to revive the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the Arab country.

In an interview with Lebanon's Arabic-language al-Ahed news website published on Friday, Kata'ib Hezbollah spokesman Mohammed Muhyee said the air raids on Hashd al-Sha’abi positions are actually meant to weaken Iraqi resistance factions, empty their weapons stores and end their role in maintaining security in Iraq.

He added that the next stage, which has been planned by the US, is to return thousands of foreign-backed Daesh terrorists to the Iraqi-Syrian border.

The recent attacks "were not accidental," but rather planned in advance after continued monitoring operations by Israeli and American drones, Muhyee pointed out.

He also accused Washington of trying to get Israel conduct the strikes in a bid to prevent reactions from Iraqi resistance groups.

Muhyee further warned of a tough response to any future attack on Iraqi forces.

Earlier this week, a PMU ammunition depot was exploded in Iraq, the fourth in recent months. The attacks began on July 19 when a drone dropped explosives onto a PMU base near the town of Amerli, in Salahuddin Province, killing at least one resistance fighter and injuring four others.

Unnamed American officials confirmed that Israel had been behind the attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted on Thursday at possible Israeli strikes in Iraq.

"We are operating – not just if needed, we are operating in many areas against a state (Iran) that wants to annihilate us. Of course I gave the security forces a free hand and instructed them to do anything necessary to thwart Iran's plans," he said when asked whether Tel Aviv was considering operations in Iraq.

Daesh unleashed a campaign of death and destruction in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks. Iraqi army soldiers and allied fighters then launched operations to eliminate the terror outfit and retake lost territory.

The PMU had a prominent role in flushing Daesh out of the areas it had occupied in Iraq.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/24/604321/Iraq-US-Israel-PMU-Daesh

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Assad forces mass for new attack on opposition stronghold

August 25, 2019

BEIRUT: Assad regime troops massed in northwest Syria on Saturday in preparation for a new drive north toward the border with Turkey.

The border region of Idlib is the last bastion of the Syrian opposition. Until last week, it was controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, an alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

Regime forces backed by Russian airstrikes captured the key town of Khan Sheikhun from the militants on Wednesday, and on Friday they overran the countryside to the south of the town.

“The day after they controlled the area south of Khan Sheikhun, regime forces began massing in the area north of it,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. They were “preparing to continue their advance toward the area of Maaret Al-Noman,” a town about 25km north, he said.

Heavy bombardment hit the area on Saturday in preparation for a further push north. Thick gray smoke billowed up into a clear blue sky after a strike on the outskirts of Maaret Al-Noman. Like Khan Sheikhun, the town sits on the main highway between Damascus and Aleppo, a key target for the regime to recapture.

However, the new offensive that began in April has heightened tension with Turkey, which fears an influx of refugees fleeing the fighting. Turkish troops have been deployed at 12 observation posts around the Idlib region in an attempt to set up a buffer zone to protect civilians.

The regime accuses Turkey of using the observation posts to arm and supply the militants. Last week, airstrikes targeted a Turkish military convoy traveling south down the main highway toward one of the posts at Morek. The convoy was still stranded on Saturday north of Khan Sheikhun.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu denied the Morek observation post had been surrounded and said Turkish troops would not withdraw from the position.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Moscow on Tuesday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Further east in Syria, a joint Turkish-US control center to establish and manage a safe zone is fully operational, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.

“The command of the center is by one US general and one Turkish general,” he said, and the first joint helicopter flight took place on Saturday after Turkish drones carried out surveillance work in the safe zone last week.

Syrian Kurds said on Saturday they would support the implementation of the buffer zone. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) played a key role in the battle against Daesh in Syria, but Ankara views them as terrorists.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1544866/middle-east

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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to respond to Israeli drone incident Sunday

August 25, 2019

BEIRUT: A spokesman for Lebanon's Hezbollah says two Israeli drones crashed in Beirut without the militant group firing on them.

Mohammed Afif says a small, unmanned reconnaissance drone fell on the roof of a building housing Hezbollah's media office in the Moawwad neighborhood in Dahyeh, the group's stronghold in the southern part of the Lebanese capital.

He says a second drone which appeared to have been sent by Israel to search for the first drone less than 45 minutes later exploded in the air and crashed nearby — an explosion heard by residents of the area.

Afif told The Associated Press Sunday: "We did not shoot down or explode any of the drones."

He says Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah will give the "appropriate" response in a televised appearance later Sunday.

Residents of the Iranian-backed group’s stronghold in southern Beirut reported one large explosion that shook the area early Sunday, triggering a fire.

Initially they said the nature of the blast in the Moawwad neighborhood was not immediately clear, but said it might have been caused by an Israeli drone that went down in the area amid Israeli air activity in neighboring Syria.

They said they heard an aircraft flying just before the blast and reported later that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group sealed off the area. The blast occurred near the militant group’s media office in the Moawwad district.

The Hezbollah official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as the person was not authorized to speak on the record to journalists. No details were immediately available.

Israeli warplanes fly over Lebanon regularly and have struck inside neighboring Syria from Lebanese airspace on numerous occasions.

A few hours earlier, late Saturday, the Israeli military attacked targets near Syria’s capital of Damascus in what it said was a successful effort to thwart an imminent Iranian drone strike on Israel, stepping up an already heightened campaign against Iranian military activity in the region.

The late-night airstrike, which triggered Syrian anti-aircraft fire, appeared to be one of the most intense attacks by Israeli forces in several years of hits on Iranian targets in Syria.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Al Quds force, working with allied Shiite militias, had been planning to send a number of explosives-laden attack drones into Israel.

On Twitter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attack by Israeli warplanes a “major operational effort.”

Syrian state TV said the country’s air defenses had responded to “hostile” targets over Damascus and shot down incoming missiles before they reached their targets.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1544906/middle-east

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Syrian Kurds say will help implement US-Turkey ‘safe zone’

August 24, 2019

HASAKAH/SYRIA, BEIRUT: Syria’s Kurds would support the implementation of a US-Turkey deal to set up a buffer zone in their areas along the Turkish border, they said on Saturday.

The “safe zone” agreed by Ankara and Washington earlier this month aims to create a buffer between the Turkish border and Syrian areas controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

The YPG have played a key role in the US-backed battle against Daesh in Syria, but Ankara views them as “terrorists.”

On Saturday, Mazloum Kobani, the head of the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said his alliance would back the deal.

“We will strive to ensure the success of (US) efforts toward implementing the understanding ... with the Turkish state,” he said.

“The SDF will be a positive party toward the success of this operation,” he told journalists in the northeastern town of Hasakah.

US Central Command said late on Friday that the SDF — which expelled Daesh from their last patch of territory in eastern Syria in March — had destroyed outposts in the border area.

“The SDF destroyed military fortifications” on Thursday, it said in a statement on Twitter.

“This demonstrates (the) SDF’s commitment to support implementation of the security mechanism framework.”

On Wednesday, the US and Turkish defense ministers “confirmed their intent to take immediate, coordinated steps to implement the framework,” said a statement by the US Department of Defense.

Also on Saturday, a representative of the US-led coalition fighting Daesh said the buffer area sought to “limit any uncoordinated military operations.”

“We believe that this dialogue is the only way to secure the border area in a sustainable manner,” Brig. Gen. Nicholas Pond said.

On Aug. 7, Turkish and US officials agreed to establish a joint operations center to oversee the creation of the “safe zone.”

Little is known about its size or how it will work, but Ankara has said there would be observation posts and joint patrols.

Damascus has rejected the agreement as serving “Turkey’s expansionist ambitions.”

Syrian Kurds have established an autonomous region in northeast Syria amid the country’s eight-year war. But as the fight against Daesh winds down, the prospect of a US military withdrawal had stoked Kurdish fears of a long-threatened Turkish attack.

Turkey has already carried out two offensives into Syria in 2016 and 2018, the second of which saw it and allied Syrian rebels overrun the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in the northwest.

Meanwhile, a car bomb exploded in the Syrian city of Idlib on Saturday, a war monitor said, as regime airstrikes hit its outskirts in a government offensive on the last major opposition bastion.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and opposition-run Orient News said a car blew up in the Al-Qusoor neighborhood.

The Observatory said the blast killed two and wounded at least 11.

The city and the surrounding Idlib province in northwest Syria form part of the last big rebel stronghold in Syria.

A new push by Syrian government and Russian forces to take the area has seen heavy strikes and advances this week in the south of Idlib province and nearby Hama, prompting a new civilian exodus. Hundreds of people have been killed in the campaign since late April, the United Nations says.

On Friday Russia-backed Syrian troops reclaimed a cluster of towns they had lost early in the eight-year-old war, driving out the last rebel fighters from the Hama countryside.

Idlib city itself has largely been spared air strikes since a major bombing campaign on the territory began in late April, but on Saturday its outskirts were hit from the air, the Observatory and opposition media said.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1544826/middle-east

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Mideast

 

Yemeni Forces Take Control of Saudi Bases

Aug 24, 2019

Yemeni Army and Ansarullah Popular Forces have taken the control of several military bases in the West of the mountainous Jabal al-Nar area of Jizan, located 967 kilometers Southwest of the kingdom’s capital Riyadh, al-Manar news television relayed very early on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the official website of Arabic-language al-Masirah television network reported that Saudi warplanes have pounded the border region of Haradh in Northern Yemen.

The latest field reports are indicating that Yemeni forces have managed to down a Saudi spy drone, a second case in the last week, while flying in the skies over Hajjah Governorate of Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed more than 20,000 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children. Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

Yemen is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with more than 22 million people in need and is seeing a spike in needs, fueled by ongoing conflict, a collapsing economy and diminished social services and livelihoods. The blockade on Yemen has smothered humanitarian deliveries of food and medicine to the import-dependent state.

The UN has repeatedly criticized the Saudi-UAE-led military coalition's bombing campaign and placed it on a blacklist of child rights violators last year.

A UN panel has also compiled a detailed report of civilian casualties caused by the Saudi military and its allies during their war against Yemen, saying the Riyadh-led coalition has used precision-guided munitions in its raids on civilian targets.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980602000625

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Israeli warplanes flying at a low altitude over Lebanon’s Sidon: Report

25 August 2019

Israeli warplanes are flying at a low altitude over the Lebanese city of Sidon, according to a report by Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA).

An Al Arabiya correspondent also reported that an Israeli military reconnaissance aircraft was also flying over a southern Beirut suburb.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/25/Israeli-warplanes-fly-at-a-low-altitude-in-Lebanon-s-Sidon.html

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Hezbollah says Israeli drone that exploded over Beirut damaged media center

25 August 2019

The Israeli drone that exploded over the Lebanese capital Beirut caused extensive damage to Hezbollah's media center, the Iranian proxy’s spokesman said on Sunday, adding that the second drone is in Hezbollah's possession.

“The party will respond harshly at five o’clock this afternoon in the speech of the party's secretary-general, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah,” Afifi told Lebanon’s National News Agency.

He added that the captured drone is being examined.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/25/Hezbollah-says-Israeli-drone-that-exploded-over-Beirut-damaged-media-center.html

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Israel arrests Palestinians after deadly West Bank blast

24 August 2019

Israeli security forces have arrested several Palestinians in the West Bank as part of a manhunt after an explosion that killed an Israeli teenager, the army said Saturday.

The homemade bomb on Friday near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, killed 17-year-old Rina Shnerb and wounded her father Eitan and brother Dvir.

o Palestinian group took responsibility for the blast.

“As part of the ongoing pursuit,” Israel’s army, Shin Bet security service and police “apprehended a number of suspects and transferred them to security forces for further questioning,” the military said in a statement.

An army spokesman could not provide further details or the number of arrests made after what the military has called a terror attack.

Shnerb was buried on Friday in her central Israeli hometown of Lod.

Her father and brother were in stable condition on Saturday, Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/24/Israel-arrests-Palestinians-after-deadly-West-Bank-blast.html

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Iran has “highly accurate” secret weapons, says minister

24 August 2019

Iran has “highly accurate” missiles that it has not made public in order to “surprise the enemies,” said Iran’s deputy defense minister, Ghasem Taghizadeh, on Friday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

“Many achievements cannot be revealed to the media, so we hide them to surprise the enemy,” said Taghizadeh, adding that Iran today has “highly accurate” missiles that have not yet been unveiled.

Iran makes missiles to counter threats, he claimed, adding: “We currently know that the threats against us have a radius of 1,800 kilometers.”

Western military analysts say Iran often exaggerates its weapons capabilities, though concerns about its long-range ballistic missile program contributed to Washington last year exiting the 2015 nuclear deal.

Taghizadeh also appeared to be warning about targeting US military bases in the region, saying: “Americans know very well that we do not have to go to New York to confront them. Today, there are tens of thousands of Americans in the region and it is for this reason that the Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei] said that they will not go to war with us.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/24/Iran-has-highly-accurate-secret-weapons-says-minister.html

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Iranian oil tanker pursued by US says it is going to Turkey

24 August 2019

Iranian-flagged oil tanker Adrian Darya 1, pursued by the US amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington, now lists its destination as a port in Turkey.

The crew of the Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as the Grace 1, changed its listed destination in its Automatic Identification System to Mesrin, Turkey, early Saturday.

However, mariners can input any destination into the AIS, so Turkey may not be its true destination.

The ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com showed the Adrian Darya's position as just south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea, also noting that its destination is Mesrin.

The Adrian Darya was held for weeks off Gibraltar after being seized by authorities there on suspicion of violating EU sanctions on Syria.

The US has a warrant in federal court to seize the ship and has been warning nations not to accept it.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/24/Iranian-oil-tanker-pursued-by-US-says-it-is-going-to-Turkey.html

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Yemen conducts strikes on Saudi Arabian airport, airbase

Aug 25, 2019

Yemen’s popular defense movement Houthi Ansarullah says it has targeted an airport and an airbase in southwestern Saudi Arabia with drone attacks.

The movement announced the retaliatory strikes on Sunday through a spokesman, Yemen’s al-Masirah television network reported.

The spokesman said the drone attacks targeted the Abha Airport and the King Khalid Airbase in Saudi Arabia’s Asir region.

The strike against the airport hit its control tower, said the spokesman, who added that the operation against the airbase used the movement’s indigenously-made Qasef-2K drones.

The group said the strikes came “as a response to US-Saudi aggression and siege” of Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and more than a dozen of its allies have been pounding Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation, since March 2015.

The invasion, which uses heavy American arms and logistical support, has unsuccessfully been seeking to return Yemen’s former Riyadh-allied officials to power and eliminate the Houthi movement.

The coalition strikes, including those targeting civilians, have been found to use US-provided guided bombs, among other ammunition. Experts say the deployment of such precision armaments against civilians shows that the invading coalition has been intentionally choosing the non-combatants as its targets.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/25/604407/Yemen-drone-attack-Saudi-Arabia-airport-airbase

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Senior pro-Hadi commander defects to Yemeni army: Official

Aug 24, 2019

A Yemeni official says a senior commander loyal to Saudi-backed former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has defected to the army and allied fighters from the Popular Committees.

In a post on his Facebook page on Friday, Mohammed Nasser al-Bukhaiti, a member of the political bureau of the Houthi Ansarullah movement, said Lieutenant Colonel Maqbool Ali Ghanem Qahtan, the commander of the artillery in the 156th Brigade in Jawf Province, had joined the Yemeni armed forces.

All those under Qahtan's command have also decided to defect to the army and hand over their equipment to the Yemeni fighters, he added.

Recently, Yemen’s armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Sare'e announced that more than 2,000 mercenaries had left the ranks of the Saudi-led coalition, which have been engaged, since 2015, in a bloody war on Yemen aimed at reinstating Hadi.

The Western-backed military aggression, coupled with a naval blockade, has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis, destroyed the country’s infrastructure, and led to a massive humanitarian crisis.

In another development on Friday, the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera TV network reported that pro-Hadi militants took control of the headquarters of the UAE-sponsored Southern Transitional Council in Ataq district of southern Shabwah Province.

Pro-Hadi sources said that the UAE-backed separatists at the building had surrendered themselves.

In recent weeks, southern Yemen has witnessed clashes between UAE-backed southern separatists and Saudi-led militants loyal to Hadi, exposing split between the once-allied groups. Both camps serve the Riyadh-led coalition.

The clashes erupted in the port city of Aden weeks after the UAE announced a surprise plan to withdraw part of its troops from Yemen in a major blow to its coalition allies.

‘Fresh retaliatory attack’

Also on Saturday, Yemen’s armed forces spokesman Sare'e said the Yemeni forces launched drone strikes on King Khalid air base in Saudi Arabia's southwestern Asir Province in retaliation for the kingdom’s military aggression.

He said that the Yemenis used a number of Qasef-K2 drones in their operation.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/24/604327/Yemen-army-Mansur-Hadi

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Israeli jets hit targets in Syria ‘to prevent Iranian drone attack’

August 25, 2019

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military attacked targets near Damascus late Saturday in what it said was a successful effort to thwart an imminent Iranian drone strike on Israel, stepping up an already heightened campaign against Iranian military activity in the region.

The late-night airstrike, which triggered Syrian anti-aircraft fire, appeared to be one of the most intense attacks by Israeli forces in several years of hits on Iranian targets in Syria.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Al Quds force, working with allied Shiite militias, had been planning to send a number of explosives-laden attack drones into Israel.

Conricus said the Israeli attack took place in Aqraba, southeast of Damascus, and targeted “a number of terror targets and military facilities belonging to the Quds force as well as Shiite militias.”

He said Israel had monitored the plot for several months and on Thursday prevented Iran from making an “advanced attempt” to execute the same plan. Then, Iran tried again late Saturday to carry out the same attack, he said.

“We were able to thwart this attack with fighter jets,” he said, saying the Iranian attack was believed to be “very imminent.”

He said Israel’s chief of staff was meeting with senior officers and forces were on high alert near the Syrian frontier.

On Twitter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attack by Israeli warplanes a “major operational effort.”

“Iran has no immunity anywhere,” he said. “If someone rises up to kill you, kill him first.”

Israel has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in recent years, most of them aimed at arms shipments believed to be headed from Iran to its Shiite proxy Hezbollah. Direct clashes between Israel and Iranian forces have been rare.

“This was a significant plan with significant capabilities that had been planned for a few months,” Conricus said. “It was not something done on a low level, but rather top down from the Quds Force.”

Syrian state TV announced late Saturday that the country’s air defenses had responded to “hostile” targets over Damascus and shot down incoming missiles before they reached their targets.

“At 2330 (2030 GMT) anti-aircraft defenses detected enemy targets from Golan heading toward the area around Damascus,” the state news agency SANA quoted a military official.

“The aggression was immediately confronted and so far the majority of the enemy Israeli missiles have been destroyed before reaching their targets,” the SANA report added.

“The aggression is still going on and the air defense is able to counter the targets, dropping most of them” in the south of the country, it said.

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy and has repeatedly vowed that it will not allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence in Syria, where Iranian troops have been fighting in support of President Bashar Assad during the country’s eight-year civil war.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1544896/middle-east

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Yemen government takes control of city after separatist clashes

August 24, 2019

SANAA: Yemeni government troops took control Saturday of the city of Ataq, two days after deadly clashes between loyalists and southern separatists in the capital of Shabwa province, a pro-government source said.

Fighting between the troops and forces linked to the Southern Transitional Council (STC) broke out in Shabwa on Thursday night, in the latest such confrontation.

At least 11 people have been killed, medical sources told AFP.

Fighters from the Elite Forces, established in 2016 and striving for the independence of southern Yemen, "were forced to retreat after entering a number of government buildings" in Ataq, the source told AFP.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said the government troops took control of one of the Elite Forces' military camps.

"Fighting between the two sides has moved to the outskirts of the city," added the source.

The two have sent reinforcements to the area, the rival sides said on Saturday.

The flare-up in Shabwa comes after deadly clashes earlier this month between the government and troops from the so-called Security Belt, who are dominated by separatists seeking an independent south, erupted in Yemen's de-facto capital Aden.

The STC partially withdrew last week from key sites it occupied in Aden under pressure from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but it retains control of key military sites.

The STC has since driven government troops out of two military camps in Abyan province.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1544676/middle-east

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