Muslims Should Not Panic Over National Register of Citizens: Eminent Lawyer and Activist Mahmood Pracha
The Apex Court Bench Issued Notice To The Centre On A Set Of Pils Challenging The Recent Muslim Women (Protection Of Rights On Marriage) Act 2019
Muslim Personal Law Board Wants To Be Made Party in Uniform Civil Code Case, Petitions HC
Kashmir Is Silent as A Graveyard, Says US Media Report
US Working on Two-Prong Strategy to Ease India-Pak Tensions Over Kashmir: Senior Officials
UN Experts Urge India to End ‘Collective Punishment’ In Kashmir
No Deportation and No Revocation of Residence Status for Zakir Naik Says Mahathir
Al-Qaida Claims Pakistan Detained Wife of Its Chief Zawahiri
Pakistan's Support to Terrorism behind Kashmir Turmoil, Alleges PoK Activist
Israel Blames Islamic Jihad for Gaza Violence, Tells Hamas to Clamp Down
‘AP government propagating Christianity and Islam’: BJP MLA T Raja Singh
Babri Masjid demolition case: Trial judge asks for protection, SC tells UP govt to consider
Probe nails 5 IAF officers for friendly fire that downed chopper in Kashmir killing 6
Despite Pak's anti-India rhetoric, UAE to confer highest civilian award to PM Modi today
SC agrees to examine triple talaq law
Pak targets LoC posts in Rajouri, Army jawan killed
Kashmir peaceful except for scattered protests after Friday prayers: officials
J-K: Govt makes first contact with Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti
Security in Kashmir tightened following call for a public march
Why Democratic Presidential Candidates Need to Listen to American Muslims
America’s support for Israel has damaged US interests: Analyst
Texas governor meets with tech firms to discuss combating extremism
Eastern Syria sits at the crossroads of critical policy decisions in Washington
Saudi Delegation Attends Opening Of Europe’s Largest Mosque
20 NGOs urge France to criticize Egyptian president
UN: 45,000+ refugees enter Europe in 2019
Germany ‘concerned’ over Syrian regime attacks in Idlib
Turks in Greece still being denied their rights
Soyuz spacecraft carrying humanoid robot fails to dock with ISS
Britain continues to back Iran nuclear deal ahead of G7
KL police chief warns public to stay away from anti-Dr Zakir Naik rallies in Brickfields
Respect One Another, Penang Mufti Advises All Races
Indonesian Muslim group upholds Xinjiang condition
Syria Officially Declares Liberation of Khan Shaykhun
Chinese envoy stresses need to continue fighting terrorism in Syria
Israeli Airstrike Hits Weapons Depot in Iraq
Al Qaeda veteran reportedly killed in Idlib
Idlib: Syrian Army Fully Liberates Khan Sheikhoun City
Iraqi Hashd al-Sha’abi Targets Spy Drone Over Baghdad Airspace
Syrian Army Gains Control over All Terrorist-Controlled Areas in Northern Hama
Iraq’s Hezbollah Warns US of Crushing Response to New Attack on Military Positions in Iraq
US Sends Massive Military Equipment to Eastern Euphrates to Support Kurdish Militias
Iraqi Sources: Israeli Military Aircraft Deployed in Ain Al-Assad Military Base
Syrian Army Purges Over 400 sq/km of Hama, Idlib from Terrorists
India could attempt false flag op to divert global attention from Kashmir: Imran Khan
Pakistan denies being ‘blacklisted’ by anti-terror body
Christians Demand Equal Rights In Muslim-Majority Pakistan
Setback for govt as CEC refuses to administer oath to president's ECP candidates
Taliban, US agree on troop pullout time frame
India playing with fire in Occupied Kashmir, says President Alvi
FBR seeks Pakistanis’ Iqama details from UAE
Imran briefs Merkel about Kashmir situation
Pakistan rubbishes Indian claims of terrorist infiltration in Kashmir
Pakistan Supreme Court orders action against judge in ex-PM Nawaz Sharif case
Iran’s Zarif Says Not Possible To Renegotiate Nuclear Deal
Pro-Iranian Iraqi militia threatens missile attacks on US bases after arms depot explosions
Three Turkish soldiers killed in clash with Kurdish militants
Arab Coalition intercepts two Houthi drones targeting Saudi city Khamis Mushait
Suicide rate high among lone Israeli soldiers: Report
Nearly 130 Palestinians wounded by Israeli fire in Gaza
Yemeni forces, allies shoot down Saudi-led surveillance drone in Hajjah
Israeli firms ‘facilitating press freedom abuses worldwide’
Israel deploys large number of forces in occupied West Bank following 'bomb attack'
Homemade bomb kills Israeli teen, wounds two others in West Bank
Even In The Midst Of Afghan Peace Talks, The Taliban Still Deny Al Qaeda Was Behind 9/11
More than 70 Taliban militants killed, wounded in Balkh airstrikes
Muslims from Bangladeshi IDP camps to demonstrate
Afghan Special Forces storm the hideout of a key ISIS facilitator of suicide bombings
UN: Myanmar Military Intended to Perpetrate Genocide against Rohingya Muslims
Sri Lanka ends emergency four months after Easter attacks
President Ghani says Afghanistan will survive after US troop withdrawal
Libyan National Army Accuses Qatar of Being 'Terrorism Base'
Somalia State Key to War on Islamist Militants Re-Elects Leader
Corruption and terrorism: The case of Kenya
AU strongly condemns terrorist attack in Burkina Faso that killed 24 soldiers
Tunisia arrests media mogul presidential candidate: Party
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
New Age Islam News Bureau
Aug 24, 2019
Though the NRC issue has caused panic and serious concerns among the Muslims of the country, eminent lawyer and activist Mahmood Pracha has asked Muslims not to panic over it. In an interview with Media Star World, a news channel on YouTube, Mr Pracha said that the purpose of the NRC was political and has been raised with an eye on assembly elections to divide the voters on communal lines. The government is raising such issues that have communal and emotional aspect to divert the public attention from the serious economic issues plaguing the country. He further said that during the last few years, about 73 per cent of the total wealth of the country had been consolidated in the hands of dozens of business conglomerates or individuals of the country causing severe financial crisis. Therefore the NRC is only a part of the exercise to divert public attention. Mr Pracha said that going by the process of NRC, I am sure 90 let cent of Indians will not be able to prove they are Indians. He further said that only 5-6 thousand Assamese are put in detection camps and they are poor people who do no have the resources to engage lawyers.
Replying to a question on whether Muslims have reasons to be concerned, Mr Pracha said that Muslims had no reasons to panic over NRC because most of the Muslims already have proof of being Indians. He also said that now the Supreme Court had also realised the real nature of the issue. Most of the Muslims in Assam have their documents ready as they had been harassed since 1985. It is the Hindu community who due to complacency were careless about their documents is feeling the heat.
About Bangladeshi immigrants, Mr Pracha said that those Bangladeshi nationals who overstay in India are sent back and there is a diplomatic process involved. It is a normal process but no Assamese Muslim has been deported to Bangladesh. It is not possible.
Questioning the government’s motive behind NRC, Mr Pracha said that had the government been serious on the issue, it would have started diplomatic process with Bangladesh as the government says that Bangladeshis have settled in India. It has not sent any letter to Bangladesh asking it to take back it's nationals.
On the issue of Rohingya Muslims taking refuge in different states of India, said that some leaders of the ruling government had been spreading rumours that Rohingyas were spreading terrorism in the country. He said that there were about 16000 Rohingyas in the country and they are all registered and they have identity cards.
Mr Pracha also said that the process of NRC will only cause disorder and promote corruption as the government officials will seek bribe as it is happening in Assam. Government officials are blackmailing people. If NRC is implemented in the entire country it will give way to rampant corruption. He vowed that he and his colleagues will ensure that no Muslim citizen of India is driven out of the country and so the Muslims have no reason to panic.
August 23, 2019
Living under constant media glare can perhaps unnerve even the judges of the highest court.
On Friday, the bench of Justices NV Ramana and Ajay Rastogi, in a lighter vein, showed their acknowledgment of the large number of reporters gathered in the courtroom.
The apex court bench on Friday issued notice to the Centre on a set of PILs challenging the recent Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019, more popularly known as the triple talaq criminalisation.
The bench decided to issue notice and hear the matter immediately as the matter was called for hearing.
However, the judges then seemed to take note of the reporters, and commented that "some people may be disappointed if we don't ask questions".
The bench then asked senior advocate Salman Khurshid, representing the petitioners, to argue.
Four petitions had been filed before the bench by Maulana Amir Rashadi Madani, the Samastha Kerala Jamiathul Ulema and the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind among others.
The pleas have alleged that the Act is unconstitutional, as it criminalises the "mere pronouncement of triple talaq, which had already been declared unconstitutional and void" by the Supreme Court.
The pleas have also alleged that the law "unjustly and unfairly" criminalises the act of one community, even as desertion of the wife by other communities is not a crime.
The bench, however, asked the petitioners why an objection was being made on religious grounds when the law was made to prohibit a harmful religious practice.
"We have three questions for you. Firstly, if a religious practice is prohibited for social welfare like it was done for dowry, sati pratha. If it is done it's punishable. So why object to criminalisation of triple talaq?" Justice Ramana asked.
The bench also pointed out that while the Act prescribes a maximum sentence of three years, there is no minimum sentence.
"It can be one day, it can be three years. There is no minimum punishment. What's the objection?" the bench said.
"Third issue is that the woman has to be heard before grant of bail. That's the same provision as other laws," the bench noted.
The observations were made as the petitioners have alleged that the law prescribed an "excessive and arbitrary punishment" for pronouncing instant triple talaq, and also created "unfair" barriers to grant of bail.
Khurshid in his arguments told the court that the main issue was that the Act prescribed strict punishment without actually fulfilling its objective of protecting women.
"Do the women actually get their rights?" Khurshid argued.
Speaking to India Today, petitioner Maulana Amir Rashadi Madani said that the Act had failed to actually ensure that women were granted maintenance and protection. "The objective of the Act was to protect women, but it only criminalises an act which is already void, and has no provisions for maintenance. What happens to the woman if the husband goes to jail?" Madani said.
The plea is now likely to be heard in the last week of September.
Muslim personal law board wants to be made party in Uniform Civil Code case, petitions HC
23 August, 2019
New Delhi: The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) Friday filed an affidavit in the Delhi High Court, seeking to be made party to a case in which a BJP leader has sought the framing of a Uniform Civil Code.
The application, sanctioned by AIMPLB secretary general Maulana Wali Rahmani, states that the UCC petition, filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay, desires only to “attack the personal laws of Indian Muslims”.
“The board is concerned with the impact that such a Uniform Civil Code law may have on the practical aspects on the personal laws of the Indian Muslim,” the AIMPLB’s application states.
“The present status quo, wherein Islamic religious laws govern personal matters of the Indian Muslim, is sought to be attacked under the garb of the present mischievous petition.”
What has happened so far
In May this year, the Delhi High Court sought a response from the Centre on Upadhyay’s PIL, which seeks the framing of a Uniform Civil Code — which is provided for in Article 44 of the Constitution — to promote unity, fraternity and national integration. The Centre is set to file its reply by 27 August.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice Rajendra Menon issued a notice to the central government and the Law Commission of India, seeking their stand.
“(Article 44) proceeds on the assumption that there is no connection between religion and personal laws in a civilised society. The object of Article 44 is not to encroach upon religious liberties guaranteed under Article 25,” the plea states.
Upadhyay’s plea seeks directions to the central government to constitute a judicial commission or a high-level expert committee to draft a Uniform Civil Code within three months, while considering the best practices of all religions and sects, civil laws of developed countries and international conventions.
But now, the AIMPLB has questioned the “credibility” of the petitioner, and has quoted two instances when the CJI himself had reprimanded Upadhyay for filing frivolous petitions.
The AIMPLB notes that Muslim personal laws in India are drawn from the Shariat Application Act, 1937, and apply to “interstate succession, special property inherited or obtained under contract or gift, dissolution of marriage, maintenance, dower, gifts, trusts, wakf, properties, etc”.
In 2018, just before its dissolution, the 21st Law Commission of India under Justice (retd) B.S. Chauhan had suggesting amendments in several personal laws of different faiths, but refrained from framing a UCC.
Kashmir Is Silent As A Graveyard, Says US Media Report
Anwar IqbalUpdated August 24, 2019
WASHINGTON: “Kashmir is silent as a graveyard,” Vrinda Grover, an Indian human rights lawyer tells The New York Times, which published a 1,500-word report on Kashmir on Friday, along with pictures and videos depicting the situation in the occupied valley. Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a public intellectual, tells the Economist magazine that the act of supposedly integrating the former state more fully into India has begun by casting the mostly Muslim inhabitants of the Kashmir valley “under a pall of suspicion”.
“Kashmiris’ first experience of Indian law as a union territory is of untrammeled executive power,” Mr Mehta adds.
In an open letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Salman Soz, a Kashmiri at the World Bank, rejects his claim that the move aimed at integrating the valley with the union to bringing prosperity and development to it.
“You may be surprised to know that Jammu and Kashmir is ahead of many states along a number of important development indicators,” he informs Mr Modi.
Mr Soz reminds the Indian leader that J&K’s poverty headcount ratio is only 8.1 percent against the national average of 21.9 percent, which places it among the five best performing states and Union Territories.
On Human Development Index J&K’s score in 2017 was 0.679, much above the national average of 0.639, Mr Soz adds.
A report in India’s Quartz news site points out that “after three weeks of lockdown Jammu & Kashmir remains in a state of shock.
“People have suddenly been transported to a pre-communication era,” Quartz journalist Riyaz Wani reports from Srinagar. “The air is rife with fear and rumour.”
Referring to unconfirmed reports of large-scale demonstrations in Srinagar, Mr. Wani adds: “There is now a sense of paranoia about what might be in store.”
On Thursday, the United Nations Human Rights Office said it was “gravely concerned” about the situation in the occupied valley.
The Economist points out that on Aug 5, the Modi government scrapped whatever constitutional autonomy the occupied territory had, ending its status as a state and divided it into two parts, both to be ruled from Delhi.
The NYT report says that right before and after the Aug 5 action, the BJP government carried out “one of the biggest mass arrests of civilian leaders in decades.”
Quoting local officials, NYT reports that at least 2,000 Kashmiris — including business leaders, human rights defenders, elected representatives, teachers, and students as young as 14 — were rounded up by in the days right before and right after the unconstitutional Indian action.
The detainees have not been able to communicate with their families or meet with lawyers. Their whereabouts remain unknown. Most were taken in the middle of the night, witnesses told NYT.
The report notes that even under India’s tough public safety laws this is illegal, and Mr. Modi “is bending the Indian legal system to cut off any possible criticism in Kashmir and go after anyone with a voice — be that a successful merchant, a politician or a professor.”
The report also notes that the Indian government isn’t revealing what charges the detainees face or how long they will be held.
“Some were reported to have been flown on secret air force flights to jails in Lucknow, Varanasi and Agra.’’
Political analysts told NYT that the mass roundup was the final piece of a step-by-step plan that Mr. Modi’s government set into motion last year.
“Bringing Kashmir to heel has been a Hindu-nationalist dream. It was India’s only Muslim-majority state and a place where Pakistan, India’s archrival, enjoys some support,” the report adds. “Kashmir was an obvious sore for the nationalist political movement that has flourished among India’s Hindu majority, powering Mr. Modi’s stunning rise.”
US working on two-prong strategy to ease India-Pak tensions over Kashmir: Senior officials
WASHINGTON: The US is working on a two-pronged strategy to defuse fresh tensions between India and Pakistan after New Delhi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, senior officials from the Trump administration here said.
The first strategy is to exert pressure on Pakistan to refrain it from indulging in any cross-border infiltration or providing material or financial support to terrorist activities in India, particularly in Kashmir, they said.
The second strategy is to encourage India to bring normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir and ensure that human rights of the people there are protected, political prisoners are released and channels of communications are reopened.
President Donald Trump is "calling" on Pakistan "to prevent the infiltration of militants across the line of control and to crack down on terror groups on its territory that have attacked India in the past", a senior US government official said.
Reflecting on the first part of the strategy, another official said in the midst of the escalating Indo-Pak tensions, it is important that Islamabad demonstrates its commitment to not let its soil being used for cross border terrorism.
Referring to the massive infiltration of terrorists and non-state actors by Pakistan inside India in 1989, the official said the US has warned Islamabad against repeating any such tactics.
"The 1989 playbook was a failure for both the people of Kashmir as well as for Pakistan," the official said, adding that the US does not want Pakistan to use the current Indo-Pak situation for massive infiltration of terrorist and non-state actors inside India.
US officials have also warned Pakistan of facing an imminent prospect of being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) if Islamabad doesn't act on its commitments against terrorism financing.
France-based FATF is an inter-governmental organisation to develop policies to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
Recently, in a telephonic conversation with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Trump asked him to tone down the rhetoric against India and avoid escalating tensions over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
On the second part of the strategy involving India, US officials said the Trump administration is focussing on human rights issues in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in the Kashmir Valley.
The US "continues to be very concerned by reports of detentions" and continued restrictions in the region, a senior state department official said.
"The US urges respect for individual rights, compliance with legal procedures and an inclusive dialogue with those affected," the official added.
The human rights issue, another official said, is likely to come up during the meeting between Modi and Trump in France on the sidelines of the G-7 summit.
"The president will likely want to hear from Prime Minister Modi on how he plans to reduce regional tensions and uphold respect for human rights in Kashmir, as part of India's role as the world's largest democracy," the official said.
UN experts urge India to end ‘collective punishment’ in Kashmir
22 August 2019
A group of UN human rights experts on Thursday urged India to end the communications blackout imposed on Kashmir, warning it amounted to “collective punishment” and risked exacerbating regional tensions.
They voiced alarm over the measures imposed by India since it revoked autonomous rule in the part of Kashmir it controls on August 5, including a near-total communications blackout.
“The shutdown of the internet and telecommunication networks, without justification from the government, are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality,” the five experts, who are independent and do not speak for the world body, said in a statement.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said, describing the restrictions imposed as “intrinsically disproportionate.”
The experts also voiced concern about the curfew imposed across the region, with “massive numbers of troops (brought in) to enforce restrictions on the freedom of movement and of peaceful assembly, particularly in the Kashmir Valley.”
Kashmir has waged a three-decade-long armed rebellion against Indian rule with tens of thousands of lives, mostly civilians, lost in the conflict.
Ahead of its August 5 announcement, India rushed tens of thousands of extra troops to the restive region to join 500,000 already in the valley and imposed a strict clampdown fearing further unrest.
According to security and government forces, at least 4,000 people have been detained in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
The UN experts said they had received information suggesting an increase in arrests of political figures, journalists, human rights activists, protesters, and others.
And they said they were deeply concerned about reports that security forces have been conducting night raids on private homes, rounding up young people.
“Such detentions could constitute serious human rights violations,” the experts said, calling on the authorities to thoroughly investigate all such allegations and to ensure that any confirmed perpetrators are held responsible.
They also expressed grave concern over allegations that the whereabouts of some of those detained were unknown, warning of “the general heightened risk of enforced disappearances, which may proliferate against the backdrop of mass arrests and restricted access to the internet and other communications networks.”
They also noted the “excessive use of force against protesters, including the use of live ammunition.”
“India has the responsibility to use the minimum force necessary when policing protests,” the experts said, insisting that deadly force could only be used as a “last resort and to protect life.”
No deportation and no revocation of residence status for Zakir Naik says Mahathir
August 24, 2019
Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says he is not deporting controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik nor will he order the revocation of his Permanent Residence status.
It maybe a relief for the Indian Muslim man living in Malaysia under strict Permanent Residence, but he is facing a nationwide ban from speaking in public.
In Malaysia, as a permanent resident, he carries a red identification card.
But he cannot engage in any political activities, join a political party or vote in any elections.
The police have barred him from public speeches all over the country.
Dr Mahathir said today (August 23) he has not changed his position on Dr Zakir Naik who is being investigated over recent controversial remarks.
“At this moment, there is no change,” he told reporters after attending a gathering with civil servants.
Dr Mahathir said as a PR Zakir is not supposed to meddle in the political affairs of the country and his speech in Kelantan appears to have violated these rules.
Politicians, including Dr Mahathir, say Zakir interfered in local politics with the Kelantan speech.
His Kelantan speech caused protests from Chinese and Hindu politicians and organisations, calling for his PR status revocation and his deportation to India where he is wanted by the police.
Police summoned Naik to record his statement after more than 115 police reports were lodged against him. Complainants against Zakir made new police reports yesterday, say news reports.
The controversial preacher issued an apology via his Facebook page on August 20, Wednesday, the same day that a ban on his preaching was reported on Malaysian national news agency Bernama.
Dr Zakir had stirred up trouble for himself when he made a speech on August 8, claiming that Hindus in Malaysia are more loyal to Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, than they are to Dr Tun Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s Prime Minister. He also referred to the country’s Malaysian Chinese as its “new guests.” -/TISG
Al-Qaida claims Pakistan detained wife of its chief Zawahiri
ISLAMABAD: Al Qaida has accused Pakistani security forces of detaining the wife of its chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and two other families of the insurgent group's "martyrs" for nearly a year.
In a statement, the leadership of al-Qaida on Friday alleged "treacherous Pakistani forces" captured Zawahiri's wife and others as they left the former Taliban stronghold of Waziristan bordering Afghanistan about a year ago due to continuous airstrikes.
It said: "We ... hold Pakistan's government and its treacherous army and their American masters responsible for their criminal acts."
There was no immediate comment from Pakistan.
Zawahiri, an Egyptian, became leader of al-Qaida following the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan by US Navy SEALS. He is believed to be hiding somewhere in the region.
Pakistan's support to terrorism behind Kashmir turmoil, alleges PoK activist
RAWALAKOT: A political activist has lambasted Pakistan for creating turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir for decades by using terrorism as a tool to set its agenda.
Sardar Saghir, a leader of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) told a local journalist, that Pakistan has been using terrorists as proxies to create instability in Jammu and Kashmir.
"The indigenous movement of Kashmir's liberation was sabotaged in 1947 (by Pakistan) by sending Pashtun tribal forces in the region. In the late 1980s, when the people of Jammu and Kashmir launched another movement, it was hijacked (by Pakistan) in 1989 by forming terror groups such as Hizbul Mujahideen and Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen," Saghir said.
"Later, Hafiz Saeed's Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) was also brought in. In 1992-93, we condemned these non-state actors, which were brought in by Pakistan's spy agencies. It has sabotaged our peaceful struggle. The world community is now looking at it as an act of terrorism," he added.
Saghir is one of the vocal activists in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), where people are suffering from persecution and terrorism.
"After the 9/11 incident, strict measures were taken against terrorism and our peaceful struggle was backtracked. However, we continued to protest. When Pakistan was pressurised by the international community, besides LeT, they further started promoting Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) headed by Maulana Masood Azhar."
Recently, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan confessed that about 30,000-40,000 terrorists have been trained in some parts of Afghanistan and Kashmir.
The activist added that Pakistan has been using PoK's territory as a launchpad for terrorists to infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir.
"Now, JeM terrorists are getting trained at a very large scale to infiltrate into India. The world attention was towards the Kashmir valley, but Pakistan's intelligence agencies have diverted it deliberately. These militants are infiltrating, getting killed and will be killed in future," he said.
Israel blames Islamic Jihad for Gaza violence, tells Hamas to clamp down
22 August 2019
The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday blamed the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad for the recent increase in violence from the Gaza Strip and called for Hamas, the de facto ruler of the enclave, to rein in the terror group.
“We do not plan to accept terror attacks and rocket fire against our citizens,” the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesperson Avichay Adraee tweeted.
Adraee was referring to a number of rocket and mortar attacks directed against southern Israel and infiltration attempts along the border in recent days.
Rockets were fired at Israel from the enclave late Wednesday and early Thursday, prompting Israeli reprisal attacks.
There were no injuries in the Palestinian rocket attacks.
The Islamic Jihad is the second most powerful terror group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas. Israel has routinely accused the Iran-backed group of seeking to derail its unofficial ceasefire agreements with Hamas by carrying out attacks from Gaza.
“Hamas, as the ruler of the Strip, must enforce its authority over Islamic Jihad and prevent these terror attacks and plots,” Adraee said.
The spokesman said Islamic Jihad is responsible for any failure to implement the conditions of the ceasefire agreements and that it will “suffer the consequences” for these activities.
Hamas, an Islamic terror that seeks to destroy Israel, seized control of Gaza from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in a 2007 bloody coup. Israel holds Hamas responsible for preventing attacks from the Strip.
Hamas has sought to distance itself from a series of cross-border attacks over the past month, painting the perpetrators as young lone-wolf Palestinian attackers exasperated by the humanitarian situation in the enclave. On Monday, Hamas leaders expressed concern that popular anger could snowball into another war with Israel.
Last week, Hamas reportedly deployed extra security forces to the border area to stop the cross border attacks. Nonetheless, on Saturday Israel said it identified a group of armed Palestinian approaching the fence to carry out a cross border attack and killed them with tank and helicopter fire.
Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations have recently played key roles in brokering informal ceasefires between Israel and Gaza, which have largely entailed Hamas and other terror groups halting violence in the border area in exchange for the Jewish state scaling back some of the restrictions it has imposed on the coastal enclave.
Thursday morning’s rocket attack was the sixth rocket fired at Israel from the enclave in the past week. One rocket was fired at southern Israel on Friday night, followed by three on Saturday night Saturday. Three of these projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. One rocket struck outside a home in the southern town of Sderot, causing light damage, but no physical injuries.
The Israeli military retaliated to the Friday night attack, bombing two Hamas positions in the coastal enclave. There was no military response to the Saturday night rocket attack.
24th August 2019
HYDERABAD: After the bus ticket for a journey from Tirumala to Tirupati raked up a controversy, BJP’s lone MLA in Telangana T Raja Singh accused the AP government of propagating Christianity and Islam.
Singh said, “Does Jagan Mohan Reddy know about this? If he does then he needs to stop this. Tirupati is a holy place for Hindus and no other religion can be propagated here.” Singh further asked for action to be taken against those responsible for the tickets.
He also said that the “atmosphere” will worsen if no action was taken against this. Meanwhile, AP CMO issued a statement saying that the tickets were printed during the previous TDP government’s term and added that the tickets were supposed to be issued in Nellore depot, not in Tirupati depot.
Singh also said, “There are many who go to Tirupati via buses. And in these buses there are tickets where there is information about Jerusalem -- which means that there is Christianity being propagated here. I want to remind AP CM that it is illegal for any government to propagate any kind of religion.”
The Supreme Court Friday asked Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government to issue orders within two weeks on the extension of tenure of the special judge hearing the Babri Masjid demolition case, PTI has reported. It also asked the state government to consider his request including providing security to him. The development comes after the trial judge, in a letter, appealed for protection.
A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, is hearing the Ayodhya Ram Temple-Babri Masjid land dispute case in the Supreme Court on a daily basis.
On Thursday, the counsel for the temple side told the Supreme Court that affidavits filed by several Muslim residents of Ayodhya before the Faizabad magistrate after idols were placed inside the Babri Masjid spoke about a temple being demolished to make way for the mosque and a willingness to return the land to Hindus.
Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, who appeared for Rajendra Singh — one of the plaintiffs in the original civil suit in the Ayodhya land matter — told the bench that these affidavits had not been accepted as evidence by the Allahabad High Court as the authors of these documents were not examined.
On Wednesday, the counsel for Ramlalla told the Supreme Court that the divinity of Ram Janmabhoomi was not lost even though Babri Masjid was built over the temple which predated it, and thus no one could claim title over the site by adverse possession.
Full report at:
An Indian Air Force (IAF) probe has found five officers blameworthy for shooting down a Mi-17 V5 helicopter near Srinagar on February 27, the day Islamabad launched its jets to target Indian installations in Jammu and Kashmir in response to an Indian airstrike on a terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot, two officers familiar with the development said on Friday.
A surface-to-air missile brought down the Russian-origin utility helicopter and left six IAF personnel on-board and a civilian on ground dead, raising questions about whether ground crew, including air traffic controllers, had followed standard operating procedures (SOPs). The Mi-17 is the mainstay of the IAF’s utility fleet.
The IAF was on its highest alert levels the day when the helicopter was brought down. It expected Pakistan to respond to the unprecedented peace-time cross-border airstrike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot on February 26.
The attack in Balakot was carried out after Pakistan-based JeM claimed responsibility for the February 14 car bomb attack on a paramilitary convoy that left 40 paramilitary troopers dead in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama.
“Even when you are on your highest alert levels, certain SOPs have to be followed before launching a missile. Five officers have been found guilty of violating these SOPs. Had procedures been followed, we would not have lost the chopper,” said one of the officials cited above.
The five officers include the chief operating officer (a group captain) of the Srinagar airbase.
The second officer said no leniency would be shown while awarding punishment to those responsible for the friendly fire incident. A general court-martial trial would follow.
“Fratricide is rare but when it happens, it calls for a thorough investigation and a re-look at procedures to avoid a repeat,” said Centre for Air Power Studies additional director general Air Vice Marshal (retired) Manmohan Bahadur.
Just around the time chopper was shot down, Indian and Pakistani fighter jets were locked in an aerial battle over the Rajouri sector along the the Line of Control (LoC).
The intruding Pakistani warplanes made failed attempts to target a brigade and battalion headquarters as well as a logistics base and forward defences along the LoC.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, 35, scripted military aviation history by downing an F-16 during that aerial battle, seconds before a missile hit his MiG-21 Bison and forced him to eject in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
ABU DHABI [UAE]: As Pakistan continues to cry foul over India's decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the UAE will honour Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the highest civilian award of the Islamic country on Friday.
PM Modi is on the second leg of his three-nation visit — France, UAE and Bahrain. He reached UAE on Friday.
Modi will be receiving the 'Order of Zayed', the highest civilian decoration conferred by the UAE government.
The award, which is named after Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, acquires special significance as it is being awarded to Modi in the birth centenary year of Sheikh Zayed.
This comes despite Pakistan's anti-India rhetoric following India's decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
Uninfluenced by Pakistan's attacks against India on multiple platforms, the UAE became the first country from among the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states to support India over its decision.
Just a day after India scrapped the Article, Abu Dhabi termed New Delhi's action its internal matter, saying it aimed at "reducing regional disparity and improving efficiency".
During his stay in the country, PM Modi will hold talks with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest to deepen relations between the two countries. This is the first engagement between the two leaders after India took the historic decision to reorganise the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
"Reached Abu Dhabi. Looking forward to holding talks with His Highness Crown Prince @MohamedBinZayed and discussing the full range of friendship between India and UAE. Deepening economic relations will also be on the agenda during this visit," Modi tweeted on Friday.
Reached Abu Dhabi.
Looking forward to holding talks with His Highness Crown Prince @MohamedBinZayed and discussing the full range of friendship between India and UAE.
Deepening economic relations will also be on the agenda during this visit.
View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter
11:25 PM - Aug 23, 2019
Twitter Ads info and privacy
5,277 people are talking about this
India and the UAE have close and multi-faceted relations underpinned by cultural, religious and economic linkages which, during the Prime Minister's visit to the UAE in August 2015, stood elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
Modi last visited the UAE in February 2018 as the Chief Guest at the World Government Summit, while the Crown Prince came to India in February 2016 and then again in January 2017 as the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations.
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the law to criminalise triple talaq but told the Deobandi clerics who have challenged its legality that practices followed in other faiths had also been made criminal offences.
As senior advocate Salman Khurshid, appearing for the petitioners, argued that there was no need for the Centre to bring the law as triple talaq had ceased to exist after the apex court declared it illegal and unconstitutional, a bench of Justices N V Ramana and Ajay Rastogi asked what would happen if the practice was still followed despite it being declared illegal and what would be the remedy in that case.
Referring to practices like child marriage and dowry, the bench told Khurshid that such practices too were criminalised. It said it would examine three aspects of the law — criminalising the practice, imprisonment and the provision that a woman has to be heard while granting bail to the accused. The court then issued notice to the Centre seeking its response on a batch of petitions filed against the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019.
One of the petitioners, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, contended that the legislation was discriminatory and inflicted disproportionate punishment for a civil wrong. It said the legislation passed by Parliament on July 31 was unnecessary as the SC had on August 22, 2017, declared the practice of instant divorce through triple talaq as unconstitutional. It termed Section 4 of the Act, prescribing punishment of up to three years’ imprisonment with fine, as an ill-conceived provision imposing excessive and discriminatory penalty on Muslim men resorting to triple talaq.
“Lesser punishment is prescribed in Indian Penal Code for many offences which are far graver — rioting (two years), bribery (one year), food adulteration (six months), causing death due to rash and negligent driving (two years),” the petition said. Jamiat said under Hindu law, desertion by a spouse was not an offence but only a ground for divorce. Moreover, the new legislation made pronouncement of triple talaq a cognizable and non-bailable offence whereas causing death by rash and negligent driving was a bailable offence.
“There are several more grave offences which are not punishable with such stringent punishment and are bailable. In fact, desertion of a wife by the husband under Hindu law is not even an offence. This clearly shows that the provisions, as far as it relates to criminality of pronouncement of triple talaq, are disproportionate and excessive... and deserves to be set aside as being violative of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution,” it said.
Pakistan was placed in the “enhanced expedited follow-up list” by the Asia-Pacific Group for its failure to act credibly against terror financing and money laundering. This is tantamount to being blacklisted, and the APG’s conclusion will have an impact on Pakistan’s prospects at the FATF in October.
Pakistan was found to be non-compliant on 32 parameters out of 40. On 11 effectiveness parameters, Pakistan was found to be “low” on 10.
Pakistan had sent a high level team under the governor of its central bank, to make its case at the Canberra plenary, but given that its actions on the ground did not match its promises it failed to convince the group. In fact, the discussions on Pakistan carried on for over seven hours across two days, indicating that the APG were giving Pakistan a detailed hearing.
Pakistan will find the going tough even in the coming FATF plenary, because the findings of the APG will have an impact.
Technically, sources said, even the FATF does not have a “blacklist”, which is a term for general usage. In FATF, the legal jargon for a blacklist is a “public statement”, while a grey list is called a “compliance document.”
TNN | Aug 23, 2019
JAMMU: An Army jawan from West Bengal was killed in Jammu & Kashmir’s Rajouri district on Friday after Pakistani troops targeted forward posts and villages along the Line of Control (LoC).
Naik Rajib Thapa, 34, was killed in the firing. He is survived by his wife.
The soldier’s death in Sunderbani sector is the third in less than a week — Dehradun native Lance Naik Sandeep Thapa was killed in Rajouri on August 17 and Bihar’s Naik Ravi Ranjan Kumar Singh was killed in Mendhar sector of Poonch district on August 20.
A civilian, too, was killed in Pakistan firing in the same period.
“Pakistani troops on Friday morning continued unprovoked heavy firing in the Sunderbani sector of Rajouri district and we gave back a strong response. Our side responded effectively and inflicted heavy damage upon Pakistan army posts and casualties to Pakistan soldiers,” Lt Col Devender Anand, Jammu-based defence spokesman, said.
“During the exchange of fire, Naik Rajib Thapa attained martyrdom. Thapa belonged to Mechpara village in Jalpaiguri district and is survived by his wife Khusbu Mangar Thapa. He was a brave, highly motivated, and sincere soldier. The nation will always remain indebted to him for the supreme sacrifice and devotion to duty,” Lt Col Anand said.
The Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire on Thursday night, too, by unprovoked firing along the LoC in Sunderbani area of Rajouri district.
Aug 23, 2019
SRINAGAR: The situation in Kashmir's main city and the rest of the Valley remained mostly peaceful on Friday except for scattered protests after the afternoon prayers, officials said as authorities imposed fresh restrictions to ward off trouble.
About 300 people protested in Soura on the outskirts of Srinagar city after the Friday prayers. However, the crowds were dispersed with security forces making repeated announcements and a "mild lathi charge", the officials said.
Restrictions in several parts of Srinagar and other places in the Valley were reimposed after posters issued by separatists came up, calling on people to march to the local United Nations military observer group (UNMOGIP) office, they said.
In the posters, the Joint Resistance Leadership (JLR) of the separatists asked people to march to the UNMOGIP office to voice their protest against the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status.
The separatists claimed the Centre's move to scrap Article 370 is an attempt to change the demography of the state.
Barricades and concertina wires were erected at many places to prevent people from marching to Lal Chowk and Sonawar, where the UN office is located, the officials said, adding that the security forces had been deployed at strength at many places to maintain law and order.
Earlier this week, curbs were eased in most areas of Kashmir with barricades being lifted and the movement of people and traffic increasing gradually.
Markets have been shut and mobile and Internet services suspended since August 5, when the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status and bifurcated the state into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
The Centre has reached out to two former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah of National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, raising the possibility of re-opening some space for political dialogue in the Valley. Omar and Mehbooba have been under detention ever since August 4, a day before the government announced revocation of J&K’s special status and its bifurcation into two Union Territories. While Omar is currently at Hari Niwas Palace, Mehbooba is at the Chashme Shahi in Srinagar.
According to highly placed sources, who did not wish to be identified, some officials from investigating agencies were in communication with the leaders of the two mainstream Valley parties. “The political lockdown cannot continue forever. There has been some movement to sound out the two leaders for possible easing of restrictions on them. There is need to create space,” a source familiar with the developments told The Indian Express.
The sources said while panchayat elections held last year were seen as a “success”, it will be a while for the panch and sarpanch to build any sizeable political base. “That’s a few years away. Right now, we need leaders to spread the right message,” another source said.
23 August 2019
Authorities intensified patrols Friday in Indian-controlled Kashmir’s main city after posters appeared calling for a public march to a United Nations office to protest New Delhi’s tightened grip on the disputed region.
Police and paramilitary soldiers re-imposed restrictions on traffic in areas where they had been eased, putting steel barricades back up and laying razor wire across roads, bridges and intersections.
Schools were scheduled to reopen and some constraints on movement and assembly were lifted this week.
On Aug. 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government revoked Muslim-majority Kashmir’s decades-old special status guaranteed under Article 370 of India’s Constitution and sent thousands of troops to the region, which is split between archrivals Pakistan and India and claimed by both in its entirety.
The move by the Modi government touched off anger among residents of Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Posters bearing the name of the Joint Resistance Leadership comprised of three separatist leaders fighting Indian sovereignty in Kashmir appeared Thursday across Srinagar urging Kashmiris to march to the UN office after Muslim Friday prayers.
The posters called for preachers to educate the public about the “explosive situation arising from India’s political, geographical and demographic plans” in Kashmir.
The changes in Indian-controlled Kashmir’s status allow anyone to buy land in the territory, which some Kashmiris fear could mean an influx of Hindus who would change the region’s culture and demographics.
It was not immediately possible to verify that the posters were connected to the separatist leaders because two are under house arrest and one is being held in a New Delhi jail.
Security forces in riot gear carrying assault rifles surrounded the UN office.
A paramilitary officer said all vehicles and pedestrians were banned in the area to stop any anti-India protest.
“We have directions to not allow even top officials in the area,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy.
Since Monday, two weeks since Kashmir’s special status was abolished, authorities have eased some restrictions, allowing some businesses to reopen in Srinagar. Landline phone service has been restored in some areas. Officials also say they have opened grade schools. But both student and teacher attendance has been sparse.
However, downtown Srinagar, the urban heart of resistance against India where about half a million people live, remained under a blockade. Some vendors and shopkeepers complained that police were forcing them to resume business to “enforce normalcy” in Kashmir.
“They are telling us if you don’t resume business, we will take away the space allotted for vendors,” said Mohammed Akbar, a vendor in the city’s main business center, Lal Chowk. Some taxi drivers also said authorities were forcing them on the roads even without passengers so that roads appeared busy with traffic.
“They are exploiting the concerns of people pertaining to their livelihood. They’re using the same tactics they’ve employed time and again to break our resolve,” said Shakil Ahmed Bhat, a local resident. “But they should know that this people will never surrender.”
By Linda Sarsour
Since childhood, I have never been the quiet one in a room. But on the night Donald Trump was elected president, I sat in my living room speechless. Perhaps it was that I had no words to console my children—three beautiful souls who were already struggling to navigate what it meant to be unapologetically Muslim and Palestinian-American in a country that wasn’t built for them. Or perhaps I was silenced by the weight of the community I had been organizing for 18 years—mothers, fathers, and children in Brooklyn who were now questioning whether they would be safe to pray at their local mosque or wear a hijab in public. For Muslim Americans, the election of Donald Trump was more than just an unprecedented expression of hate and fascism in our country. It was a threat to our very existence.
We had a choice: We could try to blend in and protect our families from the violence and hate around us, or we could rise up, organize, and call for an America that embodied the values of democracy my children read about in their textbooks.
We chose the latter.
I founded MPower Change to build power in the Muslim-American community and combat Islamophobia. Protests against Trump’s Muslim ban and hateful rhetoric made national headlines. We worked with other Muslim advocacy organizations to make a huge impact in local communities and encourage Muslims to become involved in the political process. Those efforts paid off—in 2018, Muslim turnout spiked by 25 percent nationwide, with Muslims voting in record numbers. We elected two Muslim women to Congress—Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar—for the first time in history. In the face of unspeakable hate, the Muslim community chose to point America toward the hope of a greater future. And we won.
When Muslims lift our voices, we make an impact. It’s why no 2020 Democratic primary candidate can win the presidential nomination without the Muslim community. We constitute a significant voting bloc in key battleground states—especially Michigan, where Bernie Sanders pulled off one of the biggest political upsets in US history with an overwhelming majority of votes from the Muslim community in the 2016 Democratic primary.
Indeed, the stakes are even higher for our community in 2020. The attacks on Representatives Tlaib and Omar that began the day they entered office are proof that work still needs to be done, and the recent denial of their entry to Palestine showed that Muslims will be discriminated against regardless of any prestigious position they may hold. In 2020, we will work to gain support for the issues that affect our community and those who represent us.
On August 23, Muslims around the country will organize their local communities for National Muslim Voter Registration Day. Over 50 events nationwide—hosted by MPower Change and its partners the Council on American Islamic Relations, Emgage USA, the American Muslim Advisory Council, the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, and a range of Muslim-led local, state, and regional organizations—will focus on generating record Muslim voter registration and engagement. And long after August 23, we will focus on political education, mass voter registration, and get-out-the-vote efforts in partnership with local, regional, and national Muslim and progressive organizations.
Many candidates are already recognizing that we are key to a primary victory—and that our priorities need to be addressed. Like all Americans, we care about health care, quality education, jobs, and the economy. And like all Americans, we demand respect for our identity and livelihood. We want candidates who will reverse the Muslim ban on their first day in office and who will transform US foreign policy in the Muslim world, centering it on diplomacy and not endless, unjust wars.
Since 2016, our voices and votes have changed the nation, and they remain a testament to the power of our organizing efforts. On August 23, we hope to take progress even further—because this moment in American history calls for it. Success for the Muslim community is success for all Americans—and as we register Muslims in record numbers, it is our hope that our fellow Americans under the boot of marginalization will lift their voices with us.
Muslim communities have discovered the power of our collective voice—and we will be heard. We urge you to join us on August 23.
America’s diplomatic, financial and military support for Israel has been detrimental to the US economy and its international reputation and Washington must immediately discontinue all forms of assistance to the regime, a former US Senate candidate says.
“The United States is going to have a $40 trillion debt by the end of the decade,” partly due to US economic aid to Israel, said Mark Dankof, who is also a broadcaster and pastor in San Antonio, Texas.
“But this is just the tip of the iceberg on this thing,” Dankof told Press TV on Thursday.
“The United States ought to pull the plug on Israel right now, pull every cent and foreign aid, pull our diplomatic support and military support for Israel and move in a direction that enables us to regain our standing in the world, a more solid economy and the good-will of many, many people in the Middle East that we have totally alienated by supporting a criminal regime,” he added.
US Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have been calling for an end to American aid to Israel.
Tlaib and Omar, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, are outspoken critics of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and vocal supporters of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement (BDS).
The United States and Israel signed an agreement in September 2016 to give Israel $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade, the largest such aid package in US history.
US military aid to Israel has skyrocketed over the past several years while the regime’s forces are engaged in blatant human rights violations against Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere.
Omar on Monday said that Congress should reconsider the annual US aid allocated to Israel, after the regime banned her and Tlaib from traveling to Jerusalem al-Quds and the occupied West Bank.
BY REBECCA KLAR
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is reportedly meeting with tech executives on Thursday to discuss combating extremism in the wake of a mass shooting that killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas, earlier this month.
Representatives from Google, Twitter and Facebook are slated to meet with the governor to discuss possible measures to fight the threat of online extremism, The Associated Press reported.
FBI officials and state lawmakers will also be part of the roundtable discussion, according to the AP.
The suspect accused of gunning down 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso allegedly posted a manifesto online ahead of the attack warning of a "Hispanic invasion."
A small group of gun rights advocates rallied outside the state Capitol before Thursday's meeting, the AP reported.
A day after the El Paso attack, nine people were killed in a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio.
Eastern Syria sits at the crossroads of critical policy decisions in Washington. The region is at the center of an escalating crisis in U.S.-Turkey relations, while maintaining America’s presence there blocks Iranian and Russian gains in Syria. It also is key to keeping ISIS defeated. Washington should see eastern Syria as one of the most important strategic pieces of “real estate” to emerge out of the last half-decade of conflict in the Middle East.
The area of northeast Syria where the U.S. today plays a critical role, roughly the size of West Virginia, is now a kind of Gordian Knot. While American adversaries, such as Russia or Iran, have a clear goal in Syria, keeping the Bashar al-Assad regime in power and entrenching their influence, the U.S. policy goal is less clear.
Turkey, a historic U.S. ally, recently threatened to launch a military operation into eastern Syria against key U.S. partners who helped defeat the so-called Islamic State, leaving Washington with a devil’s bargain: leave eastern Syria and watch five years of fighting ISIS and working with local forces collapse, or continue to fuel a crisis with Turkey. The U.S. chose a temporary solution, telling Ankara it would work on a “safe zone” along the Syria-Turkey border.
Is eastern Syria just a sunk cost for Washington? The reality is that the U.S., partly by accident and partly by mission creep, has found itself sitting astride the most important nexus of four foreign policy axes connecting the Middle East and the world. One is Iran’s regional strategy, another is Russia’s plans and a third is Turkey’s goals. Lastly, the area keeps ISIS contained. It’s because it ties in to so many agendas that this triangle of land is so important, and so combustible.
It didn’t begin this way. Northeast Syria was a poor, neglected part of the country for most of the 20th century. The Obama administration deepened U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict initially through support for anti-Assad rebels but shifted to focus on defeating Islamic State after 2015. Eventually a coalition of 75 countries signed on to fight ISIS in Iraq, with a handful supporting U.S. anti-ISIS operations in Syria.
It was an open-ended war with a mandate to defeat the extremists, morphing into supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces as the central partner on the ground fighting ISIS. The Pentagon wanted a “by, with and through” approach that implied a small U.S. footprint, backing mostly Kurdish fighters. President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from Syria in December 2018, then slowed down. ISIS lost its last major foothold in March 2019 but thousands of its former fighters formed sleeper cells.
A Pentagon report released on Aug. 6 says the U.S. has completed a partial withdrawal at a time when the SDF “needed training and equipping to respond to ISIS resurgent cells.” Efforts at stabilization and security, which foresee the training of 110,000 local forces, are continuing but are strained by contradictory policies. U.S. efforts to get the U.K., Germany or France to commit troops to backfill the slow U.S. withdrawal and support a safe zone have come to naught. Leaving eastern Syria now means creating a vacuum and giving ISIS breathing space. It would also mean abandoning partners on the ground, reducing U.S. influence.
A second U.S. policy in Syria emerged in the fall of 2018. Although the Trump administration ended support for the rebels, National Security Adviser John Bolton said the U.S. would remain in Syria until Iran left. Officials realize that controlling a swath of Syria, including a military base at Tanf near the Jordanian border, puts pressure on Iran’s support for the Syrian regime and its entrenchment in Syria. America’s presence stymies the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, keeping it from expanding its activities across Iraq and Syria. This is a key concern for Israel which has carried out more than 1,000 airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria to interdict Iranian support to Hezbollah.
Turkey has slammed the U.S. role in Syria, accusing it of training terrorists linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and creating a “terrorist corridor” that threatens Ankara. Washington attempted to assuage Ankara’s anger, putting a bounty on three PKK leaders in 2018 and agreeing to work jointly with Turkey on a safe zone along the Syrian border. But the tensions with Turkey include other, perhaps larger problems, such as Ankara’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 air defense system.
Some of these contretemps stem in part from Turkey’s dim view of U.S. policy in eastern Syria. In the process, Russia and Turkey have grown closer. Iran also now boasts of its growing ties with Turkey.
Ankara has threatened repeatedly over the last year to launch a military operation into eastern Syria where U.S. forces are based, even saying it has informed Moscow of its intentions.
The U.S. warned it against unilateral action on August 6 and promised to do more to create a “safe zone” for Turkey.
Such solutions are short-term, and Washington has been cagey about playing a grander role, despite its influence on the ground. Meanwhile Iran, Russia and Turkey regularly meet in the framework of the Astana peace talks on Syria, excluding the U.S.
Eastern Syria is now a hinge on which the door to U.S. influence in the region opens or shuts. It is intricately linked to stability in the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, which is a close U.S. partner.
American allies such as the United Arab Emirates, whose regional policies tend to be at odds with Turkey and Qatar, oppose Turkey’s desire to launch an operation. "There is no excuse for Turkish control of Syrian land,” The National in the UAE argued on August 8, building on a similar editorial on July 14. But come what may, the White House doesn’t want another “forever war” like Afghanistan.
Areas from Raqqa to Qamishli in Syria are no longer just an area to be stabilized against the resurgence of ISIS, or a region used as a bargaining chip with Iran. It is too combustible for either simple mission. Moscow, Tehran and Damascus are eager for American humiliation and seeking to exploit U.S.-Turkey tensions. Washington allies, from the Gulf to Israel, would see a setback if the U.S. withdraws suddenly. That means the U.S. also has leverage over these allies and could encourage more buy-in from Riyadh or Abu Dhabi, to support stabilization and reconstruction. They also oppose Iran’s growing influence, and are at odds with Turkey, so for them northeast Syria is important.
Saudi delegation attends opening of Europe’s largest mosque
GROZNY: The minister of Islamic affairs, call and guidance headed the Saudi delegation to the opening of what Chechen authorities said is the largest mosque in Europe on Friday.
Upon his arrival at Grozny International Airport, Sheikh Dr. Abdullatif Al-Asheikh said the construction of the Fakhr Al-Muslimeen Mosque is a source of happiness.
The marble-decorated mosque has capacity for more than 30,000 people and has been described by the Chechen authorities as the “largest and most beautiful” mosque in Europe.
The opening was held under the patronage of Chechen President Ramzan Akhmadovich Kadyrov, with the participation of Islamic delegations from a number of countries.
Al-Asheikh was received by Salah Mezhiev, advisor to Kadyrov and Chechnya’s supreme mufti, as well as other officials. Al-Asheikh said Saudi Arabia works hard to spread moderation throughout the Islamic world.
Muslim World League (MWL) Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa delivered the first Friday sermon to be given in the mosque at the request of President Kadyrov.
Kadyrov welcomed the Saudi delegation and congratulated the Kingdom’s leadership on the success of this year’s Hajj season.
He hailed Saudi support for Islamic unity, spreading moderation and combating all forms of violence, extremism and terrorism.
The secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, also attended the opening of the mosque.
The mosque's grounds, planted with flowers and sprinkled with fountains, can host an additional 70,000 worshippers, local authorities said.
Fatih Hafız Mehmet
Twenty NGOs have urged French President Emmanuel Macron to denounce Egypt's human rights record, criticizing the invitation of Egyptian president to the G7 summit to be held in France on Saturday and Sunday.
"It was a striking choice for France to invite Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to attend the 24-26 August G7 summit in Biarritz, for which the chosen theme is 'the fight against inequality'," the NGOs which included Human Rights Watch, Reporters without Borders, and Egyptian civil society groups said in a statement on Thursday.
The statement said the number of Egyptians under the poverty line has clearly risen according to official Egyptian 2018 statistics, while the World Bank estimates that most of Egypt’s population is either poor or vulnerable.
"Public space has been virtually closed down in Egypt in the midst of a worsening human rights crisis, with a severe rollback of the freedoms of expression, assembly, association and the press. The political sphere is extremely restricted for opposition political parties," the statement stressed.
It said that ahead of the fall 2019 review of Egypt’s rights record at the UN Human Rights Council, 20 rights groups are calling on Macron to speak out on the continuing human rights crisis in Egypt, and urge Sisi during his visit at the G7 to allow Egyptian rights defenders to document violations.
"If these abuses are left unquestioned, the G7 summit will de facto legitimize President al-Sisi’s utter disregard for Egypt’s human rights obligations," the statement said.
It said that the rights groups urge Macron to call on Sisi to drop all charges and unconditionally release all arbitrarily-detained human rights defenders and journalists, and drop abusive probation measures against them.
"Political prisoners detained for peaceful activities should be immediately released, and those jailed after unfair trial procedures or without trial should be tried or re-tried in proceedings that meet Egypt's international human rights obligations," the statement added.
The NGOs also urged Macron to call on Sisi to implement an immediate moratorium on executions, promptly investigating all reported cases of enforced disappearance and bringing an end to torture.
Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak
A total of 45,505 irregular migrants and refugees reached Europe by sea since the beginning of 2019, the UN migration agency said Friday.
Of that figure, 859 died at sea, according to a report published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
During the same period last year, nearly 64,836 refugees and migrants were able to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea, 1,558 of which drowned at sea.
This year, 23,193 irregular migrants and refugees arrived in Greece -- more than half of total arrivals.
On the Eastern Mediterranean route, the number of deaths reportedly reached 57 in 2019.
On the western route, Spain received 14,680 irregular migrants and refugees.
The number of deaths reported on the Western Mediterranean route remained high at 208, compared to 324 in 2018.
"Arrivals this year to Greece and Spain are at 23,193 and 14,680, respectively, (37,873 combined) accounting for about 83 per cent of the regional total, with the balance arriving in much smaller numbers to Italy, Malta and Cyprus,” the IOM said in a statement on the report.
According to IOM report, some 4,664 migrants entered Italy so far in 2019. Some 19,492 migrants entered Italy during the same period in 2018.
Malta received 1,727 refugees and migrants this year, spiking from the same period last year which saw 578 arrivals.
Deaths in the Central Mediterranean route decreased to 594 in 2019, compared to 1,128 in the same period last year.
Germany on Friday expressed concern over recent airstrikes by the Syrian regime and Russia in northwestern Syria.
Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Rainer Breul said Germany was “very concerned” by the escalation of tensions and the deepening of the humanitarian crisis in the Idlib de-escalation zone.
He confirmed a report by German news agency DPA that revealed at least six medical facilities funded by Germany were targeted in the airstrikes in recent months.
Besides these health-care facilities, 12 medical centers and four ambulances of the White Helmets civil defense agency, which is financially supported by Germany, was deliberately targeted in the airstrikes, DPA had reported.
Breul underlined that that number of displaced persons in Idlib since last April has reached to 590,000 raising serious concerns about a new humanitarian emergency amid recent attacks by the regime and its allies.
Turkey and Russia had agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
Fatih Hafiz Mehmet
For decades, the Turkish minority in Greece has faced government-imposed hurdles to exercising its fundamental rights on education, religious affairs, and the recognition of its ethnic identity.
Greece's Western Thrace region -- in the country’s northeast, near the Turkish border -- is home to a substantial, long-established Muslim Turkish minority numbering around 150,000.
Several recent developments have cast a harsh spotlight on the problems of Turks in Greece, including a decree restricting the autonomy of the mufti Muslim clerics, land belonging to a Muslim religious foundation being sold off to a tourism company, and the government-ordered closure of five Turkish minority schools.
The rights of the Turks of Western Thrace were guaranteed under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, a pact forged in the aftermath of World War I, but since then the situation has steadily deteriorated.
After a Greek junta came to power in 1967, the Turks of Western Thrace started to face harsher persecution and rights abuses by the Greek state. Following Turkey's 1974 peace operation on Cyprus, the Greek military junta eventually fell, but the tight restrictions on the Turkish minority persisted, and were even tightened.
By the early 1990s, some rights of the Turkish minority were restored, but only partially. However, problems regarding collective and civil rights continued and additional sufferings emerged.
Turkish identity denied
One of the most pressing problems of the Turkish minority in Western Thrace is the denial of their ethnic identity by the Greek state. Greece recognizes the minority in Western Thrace only in terms of religion -- that is to say, as a Muslim minority.
Greece bases this policy on its misinterpretation of the Treaty of Lausanne, as the treaty in no way excludes consideration of the minority’s Turkish identity.
Indeed, in the 1950s, during an era of good Turkish-Greek relations, Greece used to officially refer to the minority as the “Turkish minority.”
But this stance started to change after the 1967 military junta began referring to the minority as a “Muslim minority,” a policy which still continues today.
Throughout the 1980s, Greece even banned associations that had the word “Turkish” in their names.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled against Greece on this matter in 2008, but Greece has defied the rulings, refusing to implement them.
Under this draconian policy, all Turkish minority associations that contain the word “Turkish” in their names are still forbidden in Greece.
Interference in religious affairs
Another continuing problem of the Turks in Western Thrace is the Greek state’s interference in the religious affairs of the minority.
The election of muftis by Muslims in Greece is regulated by the 1913 Treaty of Athens, a Greek-Ottoman Empire pact which was implemented by Athens in 1920.
But in 1991, in violation of international law, Greece annulled its law implementing the 1913 treaty, and unlawfully started to appoint the muftis itself.
The muftis appointed by the Greek state have since usurped local Muslims’ right of jurisdiction over family and inheritance matters.
The majority of Muslim Turks in Western Thrace do not recognize the muftis appointed by the Greek state and instead, rightfully elect their own muftis. However, since 1991 the Greek state has refused to recognize these elected muftis, and Greek authorities have even put the clerics on trial.
Last June, a Greek presidential decree further restricted the autonomy of the appointed muftis. The decree contains provisions downgrading the status of the muftis into ordinary public officials.
Another law, moreover, enables commissions made up of Orthodox Christian civil servants to control the appointment of imams and Muslim religious instructors, thus further curbing Muslims’ religious freedom.
The administrators of Muslim pious endowments (waqfs) are also appointed by the Greek state, even though Article 40 of the Treaty of Lausanne specifies that they must be elected by the minority.
This policy has led to the mismanagement of the endowments, including the expropriation of their properties.
Currently Western Thrace has Turkish-Greek bilingual primary, secondary, and high schools, institutions largely regulated by a 1951 Turkish-Greek education agreement.
But when kindergarten attendance recently became compulsory in Greece, the need to open minority kindergartens emerged.
Despite kindergarten education being mandatory, Greece does not allow the opening of bilingual minority kindergartens, thus forcing the children of minority families to attend Greek ones.
Over the protests of the minority, in recent years Greece has also closed down several minority primary schools, citing low enrollment as a pretext.
This July 31, Greece’s Education Ministry decided to close five more Turkish minority schools, bringing the total number of closed schools to 65.
The current minority secondary and high schools in Western Thrace’s regions of Komotini (Gumulcine) and Xanthi (Iskece) do not have enough space to enroll all minority students, and so new schools are needed.
In terms of infrastructure, some minority schools also urgently need maintenance and restoration.
The education standards at the minority schools are also low and need improvement.
The Aegean islands of Rhodes and Kos (Istankoy), which are part of Greece’s Dodecanese islands, are home to around 6,000 Muslim Turks.
Greece does not recognize the rights of the Turkish population living there, as these islands were under Italian rule during the time of the Treaty of Lausanne.
These Turks do not have and cannot establish their own schools on the islands, and are subject to policies apparently aimed at their assimilation.
The properties of pious Muslim endowments in the Dodecanese are also governed by Greek-appointed boards, as in Western Thrace.
The assets of these centuries-old endowments in the Dodecanese are often sold off by the boards, using the mosques’ restoration expenses as a pretext.
This June, for instance, 34 acres of land belonging to Muslim pious endowments on Kos were sold to a tourism company for as little as €181,000. The same land had gone on auction 10 years ago, and got a bid of €350,000 -- nearly twice as much as the recent sum -- but was unable to be sold then.
For 44 years, around 60,000 Western Thracian Turks and some Dodecanese Turks were deprived of their Greek citizenship under Article 19 of the Greek citizenship code, enacted in 1955.
This article was only applicable to Greek citizens who were not ethnic Greeks. Thus, 60,000 Greek citizens of Turkish ethnicity who traveled or migrated abroad became stateless due to the Greek state’s interpretation that they lacked any intention of returning home.
Article 19 was repealed in 1998, but not retroactively, thereby leaving the 60,000 people who had lost their Greek citizenship with no way of regaining it.
Another serious problem is the Greek state blocking the minority’s right to democratic representation.
In 1993, Greece introduced a national election threshold of 3%, applicable to political parties as well as independent candidates, in order to prevent the election of independent lawmakers from the Turkish minority.
As the threshold remains in force, the only way Turkish minority candidates can be elected now is from within other mainstream Greek political parties.
Moreover, outside of the Western Thrace region, Greece lacks a single functioning mosque.
Despite continuing requests by the hundreds of thousands of Muslims -- largely migrants from other Muslim countries, along with ethnic Turks -- living in Athens and Thessaloniki, Greece’s most populous cities, they lack even a single functioning mosque.
This situation gives Athens the dubious distinction of being the only European capital without a mosque.
The seemingly endless planning for a mosque in Athens has been under way for several decades.
However, the mosque under construction has yet to be fully inaugurated or utilized for prayers.
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.
Britain under prime minister Boris Johnson continues to back the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, despite being under increasing pressure from the US to abandon it, a British diplomatic source said on Friday.
Speaking to AFP one day ahead of the G7 summit, a British official, who asked not to be named said: "We are strong supporters" of the nuclear deal. I don't think you will find any change in the British government position."
Mr Johnson will hold talks in G7 in Biarritz with US president Donald Trump, who pulled out of the nuclear accord last year.
Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and how best to de-escalate the tensions in the region are expected to be discussed in depth at the summit, which takes place at the resort in southern France over the weekend.
Although British-American relations appeared to have strengthened under Mr Johnson’s leadership, the official said the nuclear deal, which the UK helped negotiate, is important to ensure that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon.
"It is important that it (the deal) continues," the official said.
"I think on this issue there is a sort of expectation that we are going to have a meeting with the American president and our position will change. But our position on Iran is well known."
London’s stance on Tehran toughened after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Stena Impero, a British-flagged tanker with a crew of 23 on July 19.
Iran claimed the move was in retaliation to the British navy seizing their oil tanker the Grace 1, now renamed the Adrian Darya 1, off the coast of Gibraltar. The boat was seized for carrying 2 million barrels of crude oil, reportedly to Syria, which would have breached EU sanctions. But the vessel was released earlier this week and reports suggest the Stena Impero tanker will be released in the coming days.
Tehran has further angered Western powers by publicly declaring that it had breached the uranium limits agreed in the 2015 accord on July 1.
Ahead of the G7 meeting, France has also been looking to align its views on Iran with Britain’s. A French official told Reuters that the so-called "E3" major European powers of France, Britain and Germany needed to stay united on Iran.
"It's important to keep the E3 together on Iran," said the French official.
If the US president has other ideas "we are very happy to talk about them", the official said, adding that for now the nuclear deal was the "best way" of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
French president Emmanuel Macron, who will chair the three-day summit, was on Friday due to meet Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Paris.
Mr Macron admitted in comments he made on Wednesday that there were "true disagreements" within the G7 over Iran but said he would "try to propose things" in the talks with Mr Zarif.
23 August 2019
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 23 — The police have issued a strong warning for the people to stay away from two illegal rallies in ‘Little India’, Brickfields, tonight and tomorrow.
Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Seri Mazlan Lazim said today the rallies are in protest against the proposed introduction of khat (Jawi calligraphy) in Tamil schools and against Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik. He is alleged to have offended Hindus with a remark in Kelantan recently.
Mazlan said the police rejected the notices on the rallies sent to them because they were incomplete and did not meet the legal requirements.
“The police rejected the notices for security reasons and Kuala Lumpur City Hall has also not given permission for the rallies,” he told a press conference here.
He said that if the organisers persist on going ahead with the rallies, the participants will be arrested under Section 9(5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.
Mazlan said the issues raised have been resolved by the government and there is no strong reason to hold the rallies.
He also said that the police have deployed a sufficient number of policemen in the area for the safety of the people in the locality.
Traffic has been diverted from stretches of three roads leading to ‘Little India’, namely Jalan Tun Sambanthan, Jalan Bank Rakyat and the Federal Highway.
“The police will also conduct thorough checks on vehicles and individuals in the area,” he said. — Bernama
Respect one another, Penang mufti advises all races
Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
August 17, 2019
PETALING JAYA: Penang Mufti Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor has called on community leaders to control the speeches and actions of their members to promote greater harmony in the country.
He asked non-Malays to respect the privileges conferred on Bumiputeras, including the position of Islam, the Malay rulers and the national language.
He also urged the Malays not to bring up issues of race supremacy or to deny the rights of other races.
“What is really needed is for all citizens to live together in a peaceful and tolerant environment.
“All races need to accept the fact that Malaysians come from different races and different religions,” he said.
The mufti’s advice comes in the wake of a statement by Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin who criticised those he claimed disregarded the dominance of the Malays in Malaysia.
Asri said the idea that all races are equal in moulding a nation’s identity does not exist in practice, even in the advanced west.
“A country has its identity. China is for Chinese. Is India for the Chinese, too? No, it’s for the Indians,” Asri was reported as saying yesterday during a talk at a mosque.
“What about Malaysia, Tanah Melayu? If China is for the Chinese and the Indian sub-continent is for the Indians, can Tanah Melayu be for all?
“Of course, justice is for all, but there must be a dominant race,” he said
Citing the controversy over the teaching of the Jawi script, Asri said its inclusion in the syllabus is because it is part of the dominant race’s heritage.
China's Xinjiang issue is a separatist one, rather than religious, Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview.
"China's religion policy is more democratic than other Muslim countries, even our country, Indonesia," Siradj told the Global Times. "You can see this from Article 36 in China's Constitution and the white paper of China's policies and practices on protecting freedom of religious belief."
Hoping to inform more Indonesian people about Islam in China as well as the real situation in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which has been twisted by some Western countries, NU released a book titled Indonesian Muslims' China Studies last month, which details what the organization members have seen and experienced in China.
This is the first book in the world that systematically introduces the development and real situation of Islam in China, Siradj said. He hopes the book will change "the negative perceptions of a small group of Indonesian Muslims."
NU, which enjoys more than 90 years of history, has about 40 million members. Former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid once was chairman of NU.
According to Siradj, 23 members from NU wrote this book together which includes their personal experiences and research. He noted that the idea of penning this book came naturally as they wanted to share the truth they have seen.
The organization's members have frequently paid visits to China over the past few years, particularly to places that boast a rich Islamic culture and heritage. They also met with Chinese Islamic scholars to share their experiences during the trips. "We found they are treated by the [Chinese] government very well," he said.
He noted that, after visiting China, he found the Western narrative that "Islam is suppressed in China" could not hold water. "Our finding is Islam is growing in China. They live in peace with other Chinese people and they receive support from the government, such as building mosques, schools and offices."
He added that it's easy for Muslims in China to practice their religion.
During their stay in China, they once joined the Friday prayers in an old mosque with a capacity of 20,000 people. As too many people participated in the prayers that day, some even went outside to pray, according to Siradj.
Syria officially declares liberation of Khan Shaykhun
Syria's military has officially announced the liberation of the strategic town of Khan Shaykhun south of Idlib province along with other localities previously held by terrorists in northern Hama province.
“With great resolve and complete belief in victory, our armed forces in northern Hama and southern Idlib continued with their advances and expulsion of terrorist forces in the region,” a spokesman for Syria's military high command said in a statement on Friday.
The statement confirmed that more than a dozen other towns and villages, including Morek, Latamina, Latmin, M’aerkaba, Kafar Zita, and Lahaya had been liberated and that bomb-clearance operations were currently underway in the recaptured areas.
“Military advances continue very well and the terrorists have failed to stop our brave men who are resolute in liberating all of Syria from the terrorists”, the statement added.
The anticipated capture of Khan Shaykhun, which had been occupied by foreign-backed terrorists since 2014, came after the Syrian military launched an offensive in the region earlier this month.
The offensive took place after Takfiri forces positioned in a previously-agreed de-escalation zone failed to honor a ceasefire and continued to target civilian neighborhoods.
The Turkish military had established a military observation post near the town of Morek in northern Hama as part of the negotiated de-escalation agreement with Russia and Iran in 2017 which gradually eroded due to repeated terrorist violations of the deal.
Details have yet to be released about the fate of the Turkish observation post.
Images shared on social media allegedly showed Syrian forces in vicinity of the military base.
Syria, gripped by a foreign-backed militancy since 2011 that has killed hundreds of thousands, has managed to take back control of many territories from the Takfiri Daesh and other terrorist groups. The war has displaced millions of people inside the Arab country.
DAMASCUS, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Visiting China's special envoy for Syria Xie Xiaoyan on Thursday underscored the need for a continued fight against terrorist groups in Syria.
At a press briefing in Damascus, Xie stressed that the war on terrorism hasn't ended yet.
"There should be a continuation in fighting terrorism because, despite the progress achieved in fighting terrorism, this process hasn't ended yet," he said.
The Islamic State (IS) group, he said, has been largely defeated, but some of its followers are trying to re-emerge.
"We believe that there should be a complete elimination of all the groups that have been branded as terrorists by the UN," he said.
The political process in Syria must serve the reconstruction process, he said.
By Alissa J. Rubin and Ronen Bergman
Aug. 22, 2019
Israel has carried out an airstrike on a weapons depot in Iraq that officials said was being used by Iran to move weapons to Syria, an attack that could destabilize Iraq and thrust it deeper into the conflict between the United States and Iran.
The attack, believed to be the first Israeli bombing in Iraq in nearly four decades, represents an expansion of the military campaign Israel has carried out against Iranian targets in Syria.
The Israeli attack last month was one of several recent attacks on weapons storage facilities controlled by Iraqi militias with ties to Iran. It was not clear who carried out the other attacks, which have set Iraq on edge as it struggles to recover from nearly 40 years of war and instability.
Responding to the attacks on Thursday, Iraq’s national security adviser, Falih al-Fayadh, said that Iraq wanted to avoid taking sides in any struggle between Iran and other countries and being “pushed into a war.”
“The Iraqi government and especially its security agencies and armed forces will take all measures necessary to protect Iraq and its people and to deter any attempts at destabilization,” he said.
He said the government had yet to determine who was behind the attacks.
A senior Middle Eastern intelligence official said that Israel had bombed a base north of Baghdad on July 19.
Two senior American officials, however, said that Israel had carried out several strikes in recent days on munitions storehouses for Iranian-backed groups in Iraq.
In a statement on Wednesday, Jamal Jaafar Al-Ibrahim, the deputy chief of the Iraqi militias known as Popular Mobilization Forces, blamed “American and Israeli aircraft” for carrying out “repeated attacks” on the groups’ local headquarters.
The Israeli military refused to comment on the attacks but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, asked about them on a visit to Kiev, Ukraine on Monday, said “Iran doesn’t have immunity anywhere.”
“A state that says, ‘We are going to destroy you and we will build bases to fire missiles and to send terrorist cells against you’ — as far as I’m concerned, has no immunity,” he told reporters. “We will act — and currently are acting — against them, wherever it is necessary.”
Israel has carried hundreds of airstrikes against Iranian assets in Syria during that country’s eight-year civil war.
In Iraq, there have been four attacks on weapons depots in the last three months. Three of them belong to the Popular Mobilization Forces in or near Salahuddin Province. The fourth was a base in Baghdad used by the federal police and the militias.
The Israeli attack on July 19 struck a base that the Middle Eastern intelligence official said was being used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to transfer weapons to Syria. The Israeli strike, which was launched from within Iraq, the official said, destroyed a cargo of guided missiles with a range of 125 miles.
An Iraqi military official confirmed that a base was hit and said that three people were killed in the strike, including an Iranian.
The most recent attack occurred Monday on the periphery of the vast Balad Airbase, an Iraqi military base that formerly had been used by the United States. The militias have erected storage facilities around the base, and the bombing set off an explosion of Katyusha rockets, mortar shells and grenades into the surrounding area.
No deaths were reported.
The militias, also known as Hasht al Shabi, are officially an arm of the Iraqi Security Forces but a handful operate semi-independently and several have strong ties to Iran. The militias began as informal volunteer forces in 2014 to help defend the country from the Islamic State and are credited with helping defeat the group.
But since then, some of the militias with the closest ties to Iran have been seen as Iranian proxies whose interests align with their sponsors in Tehran rather than the Iraqi government. Some of their leaders are now on the United States terrorism list.
Israeli officials say they have become a conduit for Iran’s transit of weapons to its militias in Syria and to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah. Iran has become a critical partner for the Syrian government, which has allowed it to build a substantial military infrastructure there, which Israel has repeatedly attacked.
Iraq, where multiple foreign forces are still fighting the Islamic State, has made clear it wants no part of that fight. Iraq is a close ally of Iran but Iraqi officials are concerned about being used by Tehran or by Washington, which is trying to punish Iran for its military activities in the Middle East.
The Israeli move also holds potential hazards for the United States, whose troops remain in Iraq in the fight against the Islamic State. Because the United States is a close Israeli ally, Iraqis are quick to blame it for allowing the Israelis to carry out attacks in Iraq.
A senior American official said that Israel was pushing the limits with the strikes in Iraq. Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss delicate diplomatic matters, the official said the airstrikes could get the United States military removed from Iraq.
The last known Israeli attack in Iraq was in 1981, when an airstrike destroyed a nuclear reactor under construction near Baghdad. Israeli officials contended that the reactor was intended to produce nuclear weapons.
Israel had long maintained a policy of silence and ambiguity about its airstrikes in Syria until January, when its outgoing army chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, openly described that campaign in The New York Times. He said Israel had hit Iranian targets or its proxies in Syria and Lebanon “thousands” of times “without claiming responsibility or asking for credit.”
Days later, Mr. Netanyahu, who was campaigning for re-election, confirmed that Israel had bombed an Iranian weapons depot at the Damascus airport, and threatened more such attacks.
In a speech in July, Yossi Cohen, the chief of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, said Israel had taken “a number of overt and covert measures, of which only a small part has been revealed” to prevent Iranian efforts to gain a foothold in Syria.
By Thomas Joscelyn
August 22, 2019
Al Qaeda-affiliated Telegram channels reported earlier today that Abu Khallad al-Muhandis, a veteran jihadist, was killed in a bombing in Idlib. These same channels posted photos of the car he was traveling in when a bomb exploded. It appears he was killed in a targeted assassination, as his car was specifically destroyed. (Another nearby vehicle was collateral damage.)
The jihadist comrades who commented on Muhandis’s death did not blame any specific party. One blamed the “treachery” of some unknown traitors. But the authors of the attack are unknown.
Some of the jihadists who mourned Muhandis posted reminders of his impressive jihadi pedigree. One short biography reminds readers of his time in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, where he was detained.
There are a few men known as Khallad, or Abu Khallad, in al Qaeda circles. But it appears that the recently departed Abu Khallad al-Muhandis (meaning “the engineer”) is the same man who has gone by the name Sari Shihab. (FDD’s Long War Journal will update this report if the identification changes.)
Shihab was a close friend of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, and the two worked together. Shihab, a fellow Jordanian, was also from Zarqa. In Zarqawi: The New Face of Al-Qaeda, Jean-Charles Brisard reports that Shihab was a member of Zarqawi’s “inner circle” and belonged to the “upper echelons of Tawhid wal Jihad,” the precursor to al Qaeda in Iraq. Shihab’s name was sometimes given as Sari Muhammad Hasan Shihab, and his other aliases included Abu Safar and Suhayb.
In 2015, Shihab was among the five senior al Qaeda figures released from Iranian custody as part of a hostage exchange. Al Qaeda’s relations with the Iranians are complex, murky and frequently duplicitous. While the Iranians have held some of al Qaeda’s men in custody, others have been free to operate.
In The Exile, Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark report that at one point Shihab served as “an important facilitator for any Iraq-bound brothers traveling through Iran.”
Also released in the 2015 swap between the Iranians and al Qaeda were: Saif al-Adel, Abu Mohammed al-Masri (a.k.a. Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah), Abu Khayr al-Masri, and Khalid al-Aruri. It turned out that each of these jihadists would play a significant role in Syria’s turbulent jihadi scene.
Abu al-Khayr al-Masri relocated to Syria, where he blessed Al Nusrah Front’s public disassociation from al Qaeda in July 2016. While this move wasn’t immediately controversial, as it sparked only a few protests, it caused significant problems in the months that followed. Some al Qaeda veterans rejected the move and eventually formed their own factions. However, Abu al-Khayr al-Masri, a deputy to Ayman al-Zawahiri, wasn’t around long enough to fully mediate these disputes. He was killed in an apparent US airstrike in late February 2017.
Saif al-Adel and Abu Mohammed al-Masri became involved in the controversy when they rejected Al Nusrah Front’s rebranding as Jabhat Fath al-Sham (JFS). In early 2017, JFS was relaunched once again as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. Both al-Adel and al-Masri were in Iran when they rejected the moves made by Abu Muhammad al-Julani, the leader of Al Nusrah/JFS/HTS. One Julani loyalist dismissed their ruling, saying they were being held in an “enemy state,” meaning the Shiite Iran.
But Khalid al-Aruri (Abu al-Qassam) quickly fired back, saying that al-Adel and al-Masri were free to operate in Iran and weren’t being held. Al-Aruri, who was one of the five released from Iranian custody, had made his way to Syria.
Just recently, the UN Security Council reported that al-Aruri is the leader of Hurras al-Din (the “Guardians of Religion” organization, or HAD), which was established with the blessing of al-Adel and al-Masri. HAD and other jihadist groups operate in Idlib. Despite disagreements between HTS and HAD, the two reached a new accord earlier this year.
It appears that Abu Khallad al-Muhandis was a senior figure in HAD, or was at least working with the group. Some of the eulogies offered on Telegram include condolences for both Saif al-Adel and HAD.
Abu Khallad al-Muhandis has been active on Telegram. He previously ran an account named @mansey3. On that now suspended Telegram channel, al-Muhandis posted writings concern the Taliban, al Qaeda’s relationship with Iran, and various other topics. He also shared a letter from Hamza bin Laden concerning the death of the junior bin Laden’s son. His decision to post the letter created a brief backlash, as some jihadis accused al-Muhandis of violating al Qaeda’s secrecy rules and Hamza’s confidence. Al-Muhandis defended himself against these charges, arguing that he was well aware of al Qaeda’s communications scheme and Hamza’s letter wasn’t a secretive missive. (Recent press reports indicate that Hamza bin Laden is dead, though his demise hasn’t been officially confirmed by the US government or al Qaeda yet.)
Aug 23, 2019
A military source said that after withdrawal of terrorists from the Khan Sheikhoun city and end of mop-up operations there, the government forces fully secured their control over the city.
The sources also pointed to the hoisting of the Syrian Army over Khan Sheikhoun buildings, and reiterated that the Syrian government forces have fully restored security to the city.
The Arabic-language website of the Russian Sputnik news agency, meantime, reported that after the Syrian Army’s control over Khan Sheikhoun, Kafar Zita region, al-Latamnineh, Mourek and Latmin North of Hama, the beseiged terrorist positions in Northern Hama are to collapse any moment.
In a relevant development earlier on Friday, Sputnik reported that the terrorist groups in Northern Syria have collapsed after the Syrian Army liberated and cleansed over 400 square kilometers of the region.
The Russian news agency quoted its war correspondent in Northern Syria as saying that during the military operations in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib a vast area comprising hundreds of square kilometers has been retaken from the terrorists.
The report pointed to the massive collapse of the terrorists, specially Jeish al-Izzeh affiliated to Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay’at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front), and said that the terrorist groups blame Tahrir al-Sham ringleader Abu Mohammad al-Jolani for the recent defeats.
The terrorist groups have been fully driven out of the city of Khan Sheikhoun in Southern Idlib.
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.
The Hashd al-Sha’abi in a statement on Thursday announced that the air defense systems of the popular forces’ Brigade 12 has intercepted a spying drone over its center in Baghdad.
The statement said that Hashd al-Sha’abi prevented the hostile aircraft from conducting its reconnaissance mission.
In a relevant development on Thursday, second-in-command of Hashd al-Sha’abi Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, held the United States fully responsible for recent attacks on the volunteer forces.
He said in a statement that the US, which has contributed to the emergence of terrorist groups in the Middle East, is now considering various ways to violate Iraq’s sovereignty and targeting the Hashd al-Sha’abi .
“We have accurate and credible information that Americans brought in four Israeli drones this year via Azerbaijan to operate within the US fleet to carry out sorties aimed at Iraqi military headquarters. We also have other information, maps and recordings of all types of American aircraft, when they took off, when they landed and the number of hours they flew,” al-Mohandes pointed out.
“Instead of chasing Daesh terrorists, US military aircraft are collecting information and data concerning the brigades of Popular Mobilization Units, and their warehouses and arms depots,” the statement added.
Sayf al-Badr, the spokesman of the Iraqi Health Ministry, said in a statement that at least one person was killed and 29 others were wounded in a powerful explosion, which rocked a military base in Southern Baghdad on August 12.
An unnamed source from Iraq’s Interior Ministry stated that an ammunition warehouse exploded inside a federal police military base, named Falcon, in Owerij area near the Southern district of Doura.
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.
“We consider the US as solely responsible for raids on our military centers and we are aware that they are planning to launch other attacks either directly or indirectly through Zionists,” the statement said.
It noted that the US has now resorted to launching direct attacks on the centers and headquarters of Hezbollah Battalions, and said that the US uses some Iraqi local mercenaries to spy on the country’s military centers.
Iraqi Hezbollah Battalions warned the Washington that any new attack on Iraq’s military centers will receive a rigid response, and said that the US should come to know that commencing any clashes will result in a full expulsion of the US from the entire region.
In a relevant development earlier on Friday, Iraq's Hashd al-Sha’abi (popular mobilization forces) traced and targeted a spy drone over one of its centers near Baghdad.
The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper reported that around 110 US military trucks carrying massive military equipment arrived in Tal Bidar military base in Northern Hasaka via Simalka border crossing.
It noted that the move has taken place in line with US-led coalition’s support for the secessionist goals of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Eastern Euphrates.
Al-Watan newspaper, meantime, pointed to the dispatch of 555 military trucks carrying military equipment and logistical supplies to the US-controlled military base in Ain Issa in Northern Raqqa.
The daily also pointed to the dispatch of weapons and military equipment to the Eastern parts of Euphrates despite the US declaration of end of the ISIL in Eastern Euphrates.
The media activisits in Eastern Syria also pointed to large-scale popular protests against the presence of the US-backed troops in Eastern Syria, and said that the Kurdish militias, backed by the US Air Force, have arrested over 100 residents of the town of al-Tayaneh in Southern part of al-Mayadeen City in Eastern Deir Ezzur.
The Arabic-language al-Mayadeen News TV network quoted Iraqi military commanders sources as saying that as per intel obtained from Hashd al-Sha’abi, the Israeli fighter jets are now in Iraq and they are in the US-controlled military base in Ain al-Assad.
It, meantime, quoted Iraqi sources as saying that Washington is trying to collect information on Baghdad’s official stance after the recent development in Iraq.
A member of Iraq’s Security and Defense Committee, Karim Alivi, said that evidence shows most of the attacks conducted on Iraqi positions, including Amerli and Saqaq garrisons, have been conducted by Israeli fighter jets.
Alivi, meantime, pointed to Israel’s efforts to weaken Hashd al-Sha’abi by conducting such attacks and also to assassinate Hashd al-Sha’abi commanders, and said that the Iraqi airspace is controlled by US Air Force and no drone or F35 aircraft can appear in Iraq’s airspace without prior notification to Washington.
In a relevant development on Thursday, second-in-command of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, held the United States fully responsible for recent attacks on the volunteer forces.
He said in a statement that the US, which has contributed to the emergence of terrorist groups in the Middle East, is now considering various ways to violate Iraq’s sovereignty and targeting the PMU.
The source added that the blast was followed by a series of explosions at the warehouse that sent a large amount of shrapnel to nearby houses.
Arabic-language al-Ahad TV television network reported in mid-July that a drone had dropped explosives onto a base belonging to Popular Mobilization Units near the town of Amerli, located about 170 kilometers North of the capital Baghdad, killing at least one PMU fighter and injuring four others.
Video footage broadcast by Iraqi channels showed a blaze burning at the site and plumes of thick smoke billowing. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Moreover, the Iraqi al-Etejah television network reported that an American B350 reconnaissance plane had flown over the area a few days earlier.
In January, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hinted during a visit to Iraq that the Israeli regime could launch attacks against Hashd al-Sha’abi forces, who played a key role in the Iraqi army’s counter-terrorism battles against the ISIL terrorist group and helped the government to rid the country of the Takfiri outfit in late 2017.
Pompeo was reported to have made it clear to Iraqi officials at a meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi that Washington would not react to possible Israeli attacks against Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters.
Abdul-Mahdi expressed concern about the statement and warned Pompeo that such actions by Israel would have grave consequences, Russia’s RT Arabic television news network reported back then.
Reacting to the reports, Moein al-Kazemi, a Hashd al-Shaabi commander, stated that the force was ready to deliver a “strong” response to any aggression, advising the regime in Tel Aviv not to “play with fire”.
The Israeli regime has a record of attacking the forces fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria.
In June 2018, Hashd al-Shaabi fighters came under attack in Syria’s border town of al-Hari, in the Eastern province of Deir Ezzur, as they were chasing Daesh terrorists out of the area.
The Arabic-language website of the Russian Sputnik news agency quoted its war correspondent in Northern Syria as saying that during the military operations in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib a vast area comprising hundreds of square kilometers has been retaken from the terrorists.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan premier Imran Khan on Friday dismissed reports in Indian media that terrorists from Afghanistan have entered Kashmir and warned the international community that India would possibly attempt a “false flag operation” to divert global attention from the valley.
“I want to warn the international community that the Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation,” Khan said in a tweet, adding that this was aimed at diverting attention from “massive human rights violations and the unleashing of a reign of terror” in Kashmir. He added that the claims about terrorists entering Kashmir from Afghanistan were “predictable”.
Earlier, foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan was ready to open the Kartarpur Corridor and welcome the Sikh pilgrims to the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak despite tensions with India. He was speaking to a delegation of civil society and parliamentarians of Afghanistan, which is currently visiting Pakistan.
Qureshi said the current tensions with India would not affect Islamabad’s relationship with Kabul. “Neither border with Afghanistan will be closed nor trade will stop. Why should Afghans suffer?” he said.
“Despite tensions with India, Pakistan is totally focused on the situation and its role in Afghanistan. It (Kashmir situation) can be a huge distraction but we are very clear about what we need to do in Afghanistan,” he said while responding to a question if escalation with India can distract Pakistan.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday denied that it was “blacklisted” by Asia Pacific Group (APG), the regional affiliate for global watchdog on terror funding and money laundering, Financial Action Task Force (FATF). A statement issued by Pakistan’s finance ministry described as ‘incorrect and baseless’ media reports about Islamabad being ‘blacklisted’.
APG has put Pakistan in ‘enhanced expedited follow-up list’ and has also found that Islamabad was non-compliant on most of the parameters related to terror financing and money laundering.
In its Mutual Evaluation Report (MER), APG noted that the effectiveness of Pakistan’s Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes were of low level.
The finance ministry’s statement said the APG meeting adopted Pakistan’s third MER on strengthening of AML/CFT safeguards that covered the period between February and October 2018.
The meeting identified a number of areas where further actions were required to strengthen the AML/CFT framework. However, the ministry clarified that the APG report does not cover the areas in which Pakistan has made substantial progress since October 2018.
“In line with APG’s Third Round Mutual Evaluation Procedures, Pakistan would be required to submit follow-up progress reports to APG on a quarterly basis,” the ministry said.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (ChurchMilitant.com) - Persecuted Christians in Pakistan are demanding recognition of their human rights.
Pakistan is a Muslim-majority country whose governance closely follows Sharia law under Islam. The Pakistani constitution segregates the country along "majority" and "minority" lines. There is no official definition of "minority" in the Pakistani Constitution, but citizens recognize that it discriminates against Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, non-Sunni Muslims and others.
This group of religious minorities drafted and submitted a 10-point memorandum to Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan on Aug. 21.
The joint resolution seeks the minimum marriage age to be raised from 16 to 18, the creation of a federal ministry for religious minorities; a 5% quota for scholarships; protection for houses of worship; legislation to prevent discrimination in employment, education and society; designated prayer locations in public places; removal of books promoting hate against religious minorities; and criminal justice reforms to protect women from the daily violence they face, including abductions, sexual violence and forced conversions.
Under current law in Pakistan, any perceived disrespect against the Prophet Muhammad, or the Muslim "holy book," the Quran, can lead to imprisonment or death under "blasphemy laws."
In the case of Asia Bibi, which gained international publicity in November of 2010, Bibi was sentenced to death for what she claims was a false charge made after a dispute over drinking water in a berry field. Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was assassinated in 2011 for publicly defending Bibi, who continued to appeal her innocence in prison until she was finally acquitted by the Pakistani Supreme Court in 2018.
After her acquittal, days of violent protests followed by hundreds of thousands of Muslim men across Pakistan demanding that she be hanged.
Bibi's case is just one of many where Christians are targeted and deprived of property and liberty.
Census data for Pakistan in 1998 suggests Christians make up 1.59% of the Pakistani population, with a rough total consisting of 1–3 million citizens.
It is unknown how the increased violence against Christians since 1998 has affected the total numbers of Christians in Pakistan, but indicators throughout the Middle East in such places as Iraq — where Christians numbered around one and a half million in 2003 — have shown their population has sharply dropped to only 500,000 in 2017, suggesting the threat to Christian communities in Muslim countries is an ongoing response demanded under Sharia law.
On the reverse end, current politics in Europe and the United States has led to an increase of refugees from the Middle East and Africa into Western countries and has seen a rise in violence by Muslims within the respective communities.
Even Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany and a major advocate of refugee immigration, admits anti-Semitic violence is on the rise as a result of Muslim immigration.
"We now have another phenomenon, as we have refugees or people of Arab origin who bring another form of anti-Semitism into the country," she said in April 2018.
In the United States, programs and policies are being directed across the country to emphasize the "loving" aspect of Islam, while denying the current and historical cases of violence against women and non-Muslims under Sharia law.
These programs also ignore the stated goals of Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. These Islam-friendly programs offer terms like "Islamophobia" to minimize resistance to policies encouraging a more welcoming attitude toward Sharia law within the United States and Europe.
Muslim refugees tend to be more recent arrivals in America and are seeing immense political protection. Many Christian refugees from the Middle East, however, have been in the United States for decades, after escaping religious persecution from the Muslim majority in their home countries.
With the rise of Islamic violence in America and a policy that would see the United States take Iraq off its travel ban if they allowed Iraqi nationals to be deported back to Iraq, hundreds of Iraqi nationals have been detained and deported by ICE, with the majority being Chaldean Christians, including Jimmy Aldaoud.
Aldaoud had never been to Iraq prior to his deportation. He was born in Greece after his parents fled religious persecution in Iraq and had lived in the United States since infancy.
Aldaoud was a diabetic with a mental handicap. ICE maintains Aldaoud's criminal record was enough to deport him to a country where he could not speak the local language, could not get the necessary medicine he required, nor integrate into society. Aldaoud died in Baghdad the week of Aug. 5.
Aldaoud's case, along with hundreds of others, has led advocacy groups to lobby for legislative protection and an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit being filed for Chaldean Christians who are being deported to Iraq. The majority of the cases are related to decades old non-violent drug charges. Charges leading to a couple years in jail, at most, for the majority of Americans are a death sentence for Chaldean Christians.
The prospects for Christians sent back to Iraq are grim. Many no longer have family there or a community to call home, and persecution by Muslims has led to torture and death for Christian deportees.
Iftikhar A. Khan
ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza on Friday refused to administer the oath of office to the newly appointed members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), saying their appointment was against the Constitution.
The two members, who had been appointed by President Dr Arif Alvi a day earlier, arrived at the ECP headquarters to formally assume charge, but returned dismayed.
The CEC’s refusal to administer oath to the ‘unconstitutionally’ appointed members was termed unconstitutional by the law minister, who argued that the CEC had no authority to examine validity of government notifications. However, the opposition parties praised the CEC for upholding the supremacy of the Constitution and the parliament.
Informed sources told Dawn that when Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui and Munir Ahmad Kakar went to ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad’s office along with their joining reports, the secretary conveyed to them the CEC’s views on their appointment and a communication he had sent to the ministry of parliamentary affairs.
In his letter to the ministry, the CEC had observed that the appointment of ECP members was not in accordance with the relevant articles of the Constitution, the sources said. The CEC also cited a judgement rendered by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court in 2013, holding that the president does not enjoy discretionary power in appointment of CEC and ECP members. He made it clear that he would not administer oath to the ‘unconstitutionally’ appointed members.
Separate letters were also sent to Mr Siddiqui and Mr Kakar, asserting that their joining reports were of no consequence.
The Pakistan Peoples Party welcomed the CEC’s decision not to administer oath 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. In a statement, PPP’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said the procedure for appointment of ECP members had clearly been defined in the Constitution and the government had violated the document.
She said the government bypassed the opposition leader and the parliamentary committee on appointment of ECP members. She said the ECP had upheld the Constitution’s supremacy by the decision. She advised the government to learn giving respect to the Constitution and the parliament, and said the government could not be run through presidential ordinances and notifications. She also asked the government to review its ‘dictatorial’ approach.
Former chairman of Senate and constitutional expert Mian Raza Rabbani said the manner in which the two members were appointed by the president was a clear violation of Articles 213 and 218 of the Constitution. He said it was unfortunate that this attack on parliament and the Constitution had come from within, as under Article 50 of the Constitution, the president happened to be part of the parliament.
“In this instant case, the president has with mala fide intention violated the 18th constitutional amendment by making these appointments in his discretion,” he said, adding that the words ‘in his discretion’ had been omitted from the relevant article of the Constitution.
He said the entire process of appointment had been marred by constitutional violations for and on behalf of the government.
The constitutional requirement of filling these vacancies within 45 days of their occurrence had already been violated, he explained. “Those trying to wear the shoes of Sharifuddin Pirzada should realise that this is not a question of interpretation of an article but deliberate circumvention of the Constitution,” he remarked.
Spokesperson for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Marriyum Aurangzeb regretted that the parliamentary committee on appointment of the ECP members had been ignored and a one-sided decision had been taken. She demanded that the government reverse its ‘unconstitutional’ decision.
PESHAWAR: The Afghan Taliban and the United States have reached an agreement on a time frame of pullout of foreign forces from Afghanistan, Taliban chief spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said on Friday.
“We have an agreement on a time frame for the withdrawal”’ he told Dawn from Doha over the phone. “Discussions are now focused on its implementation mechanism.”
“We have had general discussions today,” he said about the day two of the ninth round of talks between the United States and the Taliban representatives that started on Thursday in Qatar. “Tomorrow, we shall have discussions on the implementation part.”
The US and the Taliban have held eight rounds of negotiations in the past year on issues, including a US troop withdrawal, a ceasefire, intra-Afghan negotiations to follow and Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan will not be a launch pad for global terror attacks.
The Taliban refuse to recognise the Ashraf Ghani government but have been saying that they would sit for an “intra-Afghan dialogue” as part-II of the overall peace agreement once they reached an agreement with the US on troop withdrawal time frame. Taliban say they recognise the Afghan government as a key player only.
Mr Shaheen wouldn’t say anything about the time frame, but Afghan media quoted Taliban sources as telling them that the time frame of withdrawal of US troops would be between 15 months and two years. He avoided to confirm the time frame, but said a formal announcement would come when both sides agreed on the implementation mechanism.
While the US has so far not said anything about the time frame, a State Department official told AFP that US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and his team “have made progress on advancing a peace process”.
Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by Sept 1 — ahead of Afghan polls due the same month, and US presidential polls due in 2020.
“We’ve been there [in Afghanistan] for 18 years, it’s ridiculous,” US President Donald Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “We are negotiating with the government and we are negotiating with the Taliban. We have good talks going and we will see what happens.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday night asserted that his government would see the final draft of a US-Taliban agreement for a “comprehensive discussion” before it was signed.
ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi has said that by changing the status of valley forcefully and then by suppressing resistance via violence, India has landed itself into trouble and is playing with fire.
He expressed this while giving an interview to a foreign media outlet and further states that India is in state of complete delusion if it actually thinks that things will normalise in Kashmire anytime soon.
The President also said that the role of the international community is very crucial at this point and it must continue to exert pressure on India till it reverts the unlawful decision.
Pakistan has always offered assistance to Kashmire without any hidden agenda and will continue to do so, this time, however, more eyes are watching Indian oppression first-hand due to the presence of UN military in the region, he added.
Alvi also expressed concerns over India’s reckless behaviour and said that it could stage another flop show like before to gain sympathies from the world.
Tax authorities have sought details from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of Pakistanis who have obtained Iqama (work permit) from the Arab country in a bid to hide their “illegal wealth”.
In a letter, the Federal Board of Revenue told the UAE authorities it was seeking details over suspicion that some people may have laundered funds to the country in the garb of Iqamas.
In the letter, the FBR’s directorate of internal taxes said information already received from the UAE was “not very substantial” as details of only 3,620 accounts were reported and “the number of material accounts with substantial balance is negligible”.
“This is not only contrary to our expectations but also insignificant in comparison with Pakistan’s other exchange partners,” the FBR wrote in the letter.
“The internal deliberations on the matter indicate that it might be due to the UAE’s domestic laws which allows foreign nationals to obtain residence/Iqama on the basis of investment beyond a certain threshold. This may be pointed out that we have absolutely no problem with the Pakistani nationals investing and doing business in the UAE legally with lawfully remitted funds,” it added.
However, the FBR wrote that it was “gravely concerned with the persons who may have siphoned off funds illegally from Pakistan, parked them in the UAE and now hiding behind Iqama-based residential status to circumvent reporting under the CRS”.
“This is of course not a desired situation for both countries, particular for Pakistan,” it added.
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday in a telephonic conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel apprised her about India’s illegal and unilateral actions aimed at altering the disputed status of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir and changing its demographic structure.
The prime minister informed the German chancellor that India’s actions were in direct contravention of the UNSC resolutions, international law and its own solemn commitments.
He highlighted the dire human rights situation in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, including complete lockdown, communication blackout and a severe shortage of food and medicines.
He stressed that intensified Indian repression could result in a massive loss of Kashmiri lives, which must be prevented at all costs.
The Prime Minister also expressed concern that India could carry out false flag operation or some other ill-conceived step at the Line of Control to divert the world’s attention.
He emphasized that India’s actions had serious implications for peace and security in the region and the international community had the responsibility to act urgently.
Chancellor Merkel stated that Germany was closely observing the situation. She underlined the importance of de-escalation of tensions and the resolution of issues peacefully.
AUGUST 24, 2019
Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday warned the international community of the high risk of India’s attempt to carry out a ‘false flag operation’ to divert attention from its massive human rights violations.
“The Indian leadership will, in all probability, attempt a false flag operation to divert attention from its massive human rights violations & the unleashing of a reign of terror in IOJK,” the prime minister said in a tweet. “We are hearing Indian media claims that some terrorists from Afghanistan have entered IOJK for terrorist activities, while others have entered India’s southern regions,” he wrote in his second tweet. “These claims are predictable, to divert attention from India’s ethnic cleansing & genocide agenda in IOJK,” he said.
Imran Khan has repeatedly warned the international community that there are indications that India may try to cover up its gruesome human rights violations in the Indian-held Kashmir.
On Friday, in a telephonic conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister Imran Khan apprised her about India’s illegal and unilateral actions aimed at altering the disputed status of Indian-held Kashmir and changing its demographic structure. He informed the chancellor that India’s actions are in direct contravention of the UNSC resolutions, international law and its own solemn commitments. He highlighted the dire human rights situation in the occupied valley, including complete lockdown, communication blackout and severe shortage of food and medicines. He stressed that intensified Indian repression can result in massive loss of Kashmiri lives, which must be prevented at all costs.
The prime minister emphasised that India’s actions have serious implications for peace and security in the region and the international community has the responsibility to act urgently.
Chancellor Merkel stated that Germany is closely observing the situation. She underlined the importance of de-escalation of tensions and resolution of issues peacefully.
The two leaders agreed to continue to work together for peace and stability in the region.
Meanwhile, President Dr Arif Alvi Friday said that India is playing with fire in the occupied valley by changing the status of the territory and suppressing the people’s will. “If India feels that this is going to improve situation with these laws, they are living in fool’s paradise… It is playing with fire and it will burn at least the secularity of India,” the president remarked in an interview with Vice News, a Canadian-American media outlet.
He said the international community should continue putting pressure on India to foil its hegemonic intent to swallow the whole Kashmir. He said Pakistan has internationalised the Kashmir issue after a long time and it will continue doing that. He said since the signing of Simla Agreement, no discussion ever took place between Pakistan and India on the bilateral issues. “In his numerous speeches, Indian prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru had said that Kashmir issue should be decided according to the will of people, but the Indian government wants to control the huge population,” he maintained.
He said the Simla Agreement defined the issues to be settled bilaterally between Pakistan and India and those requiring the intervention of multilateral agencies. To a question, he said India is not only refusing to talk to Pakistan but also not acknowledging Kashmir as an issue. The presence of the UN military observers in Kashmir has itself made Kashmir an international issue.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Friday ordered disciplinary action against a judge who convicted former premier Nawaz Sharif, effectively giving a boost to Sharif’s appeal against a seven-year jail term for corruption.
Sharif was convicted and jailed last year after failing to prove the source of income that had led to his ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia. Under Pakistani law, that is taken as proof of corruption.
Sharif denied the charges that he said were politically motivated.
His party in July presented a video at a news conference apparently showing the judge who presided over Sharif’s conviction, Arshad Malik, as saying he had been pressured into handing down a guilty verdict by individuals he did not identify who had compromising footage of him.
Malik later issued a statement denying he had been blackmailed to convict Sharif and saying the video had been manipulated.
Malik had already been removed from his position in an anti-corruption court and the Supreme Court on Friday ordered him to report back to the High Court in the city of Lahore.
“We expect that after his repatriation appropriate departmental disciplinary proceedings shall be initiated against him,” the Supreme Court said in an order.
The court said Malik’s “stinking conduct” in connection with the video scandal was abhorrent, and an appeals court should decide whether to consider it as evidence for any relief for Sharif.
Iran’s Zarif says not possible to renegotiate nuclear deal
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that talks he held on Friday with French President Emmanuel Macron about a landmark 2015 nuclear deal were “productive,” according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA ).
“France had presented some suggestions and we presented some suggestions about how to carry out (the nuclear deal) and the steps that both sides need to take,” Zarif said.
“The talks were good and productive of course it depends on how the European Union can carry out the commitments within (the nuclear deal) and also the commitments that they made after (the nuclear deal) and America’s exit.”
It is not possible to renegotiate the nuclear deal, Zarif said, according to ILNA.
A powerful pro-Iranian militia in Iraq has threatened to attack American bases if explosions such as those at four of its warehouses continued, despite the US denying any involvement.
The Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah, which operates under the pro-Iran Popular Mobilisation Forces, whose warehouses were targets in the attacks, threatened on Thursday to strike back.
“We are sending a final warning to the American enemy that any new targeting will be followed with a decisive and harsh response," the group said on messaging platform Telegram.
“Your forts will not protect you as they are all within our missiles' reach."
David A. Daoud
Kataib Hezbollah: we hold US responsible for strikes on Iraqi sites. US is planning to carry out more attacks - either directly or will use Israel as proxy. They might even try to liquidate certain high-ranking resistance figures.https://t.me/C_Military1/24084 …
الإعلام الحربي المركزي
كتائب حزب الله العراق: - نحمل الأميركيين مسؤولية ما جرى من استهداف للمواقع العسكرية العراقية. - نعلم أن الأميركيين يخططون لشن هجمات أخرى بشكل مباشر أو بدفع الصهاينة لارتكابها. - ليس مستبعداً أن يخطط...
10:51 PM - Aug 22, 2019
See David A. Daoud's other Tweets
The statement follows explosions between July 19 and August 20 at PMF ammunition warehouses.
“The US is not involved in the recent warehouse explosions in Iraq,” a US defence official told The National.
He said the American presence in Iraq was to support efforts against terror groups such as ISIS, and that Washington was adhering to new Iraqi government directives.
Those directives, issued after the first two explosions, require all aircraft to seek permission before flying in Iraqi airspace.
Satellite imagery was released on Thursday of the attack this week that hit near the Balad air base in Salaheddin province:
Replying to @ImageSatIntl
#Before (image: @AuroraIntel) & #after: strike aftereffect in Balad airbase, #Iraq.
View image on Twitter
10:31 PM - Aug 22, 2019
65 people are talking about this
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose government is a main suspect behind the attacks, did not deny responsibility in an appearance on Channel 9 on Thursday.
"We act in many arenas against a country that desires to annihilate us," Mr Netanyahu said.
"Of course, I gave the security forces a free hand and the instruction to do what is needed to thwart these plans of Iran."
Netanyahu seems to confirm Israeli strikes on Iraq, in interview with Kan TV: "We act in many arenas against a country which desires to annihilate us. Of course, i gave the security forces a free hand and the instruction to do what is needed to thwart these plans of Iran" (1)...
2:07 AM - Aug 23, 2019
102 people are talking about this
But this escalation risks dragging US interests and troops in Iraq into the crossfire of possible retaliations between Israel and pro-Iran militias.
Ryan Bohl, a Mena region analyst at US intelligence firm Stratfor, said the escalation represented “a real problem for both the US and Iran".
“The PMF can have a degree of independence that can raise the risk for both, even though neither wants a war triggered by Israeli strikes in Iraq,” Mr Bohl told The National.
He said there was a real risk that Kataib Hezbollah would act against the US or one of its allies in Iraq.
“The major risk is that they decide to follow through [against the US] without Iran’s consent,” Mr Bohl said.
AUGUST 22, 2019
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Three Turkish soldiers were killed in a clash with Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey near the borders with Syria and Iraq, the local governor’s office said on Thursday.
Three militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) were “neutralized” in the fighting, the Sirnak governor’s office said in a written statement.
It said the soldiers were maintaining security for state energy company Turkish Petroleum (TPAO) near the town of Silopi in Sirnak when the clash broke out on Wednesday.
The militants had previously been spotted by a drone in the same area, it said.
24 August 2019
The Arab Coalition intercepted two Houthi drones targeting the southern Saudi city of Khamis Mushait, an Al Arabiya correspondent reported on Saturday.
On Thursday, the Arab Coalition also intercepted two Houthi drones fired from Yemen’s Amran province targeting the southern Saudi city of Khamis Mushait.
“Colonel al-Maliki explained that all attempts by the Iranian-backed terrorist Houthi militia to launch drones are doomed to fail and the coalition takes all operational procedures and best practices of rules of engagement to deal with these aircraft to protect civilians,” a statement on the Saudi Press Agency read.
A new report has criticized foreigners' enlistment in the Israeli military, raising alarm at the spike in the number of lone soldiers committing suicide.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Saturday that close to 3,500 lone soldiers without immediate family in the occupied territories are serving in the Israeli army. About 1,200 of them come from North America, a similar number from the former Soviet Union and the remainder from other countries
Foreigners make up a minor percent of Israeli army personnel, but the suicide rate is high among them, according to the report.
"Although soldiers whose parents do not live in Israel comprise only 2 percent of all recruits to the IDF (the Israeli army), they accounted for a disproportionately high share of military suicides in the past year," it said.
In 2018, the number of overall suicides in the Israeli army dropped by nearly half to nine, compared with the previous year. However among those nine suicides, two were lone soldiers.
In the first six months of 2019, there were another two self-murders by lone soldiers, with a third death under investigation as a possible suicide.
Last week, Major General Moti Almoz, head of the Israeli army's manpower directorate, sent out a letter to all senior commanders with the following subject headline, “Preventing suicide in the IDF,” including a part referring specifically to lone soldiers.
A Haaretz investigation revealed failings in the lone soldier program, adding that the program continues to be nurtured and encouraged because so many fundraising organizations and regime-funded initiatives have a vested interest in keeping it going.
"By the time many of them join the army, it is often too late to address their problems. It shows that Israel does not undertake adequate background checks before putting these young men and women in harm’s way; that many of the young recruits do not sufficiently comprehend what military life in Israel entails; that large numbers lack the proficiency in Hebrew and familiarity with Israeli culture required for successful adaptation; and that many see the army as a form of escape from difficulties and challenges they face back home," it said.
A former high-ranking officer, who had close interaction with many of lone soldiers, said there are problems is the vetting system, noting, “The holes in the filter are way too big."
Arthur Lenk, ex-Israeli ambassador to South Africa and a former lone soldier himself, stressed that in addition to serious holes in the vetting system, foreign volunteers lack information about the army.
“The IDF is not the French Foreign Legion. We are not a volunteer army, nor need we be in 2019,” he said. “We draft lots of our own kids, and there’s no reason we should be taking in mercenaries.”
A., a former lone soldier from Canada, admitted that he had lied about his history of opioid abuse when he joined the Israeli army.
"They just asked if I took drugs in the past and I said that I hadn’t,” he said. “The army didn’t even ask if my parents knew I was enlisting, or try to contact them."
Shifra Shahar, CEO of A Warm Home for Every Soldier NGO, described Machal, a shorter volunteer service, as "totally irrelevant and unnecessary in this day and age."
“Most of them (lone soldiers) come here to escape problems back home. They can’t find work, they have no inclination to study, they’re the black sheep of their families. Many come from broken homes. Some even have criminal records. And someone out there has somehow succeeded in convincing them or their parents that the Israeli army will straighten them out. Unfortunately, in most cases the army only aggravates whatever problems they already have," she said.
Yagil Levy, a political sociology and public policy professor at the Open University of Israel, said he did not anticipate any major rethinking of the lone soldier project despite its problems.
Israeli forces have attacked Palestinian protesters gathering at the fence between the besieged Gaza Strip and the occupied territories, leaving nearly 130 people injured.
The Gazan Health Ministry released the casualty toll on Friday. It said the Israeli forces also wounded three medics.
Palestinians have been holding weekly rallies in the area since last year to protest the siege on Gaza and stress the right to return of the refugees who have fled Israeli aggression since 1948.
At least 305 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces ever since the anti-occupation protest rallies began in the Gaza Strip on March 30, 2018. Over 18,000 Palestinians have also sustained injuries.
In March, a United Nations (UN) fact-finding mission found that Israeli forces committed rights violations during their crackdown against the Palestinian protesters in Gaza that may amount to war crimes.
Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a decline in living standards.
Yemeni army forces, supported by allied fighters from the Popular Committees, have intercepted and targeted an unmanned aerial vehicle belonging to the Saudi-led military coalition as it was flying in the skies over the country’s northwestern province of Hajjah.
An unnamed source in the Yemeni air defense forces told the Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that Yemeni forces and their allies shot down the drone while on a reconnaissance mission west of Jabal Mab'ousah in al-Mazraq area of the Harad district on Friday afternoon.
The media bureau of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, citing the spokesman for Yemeni Armed Forces Brigadier General Yahya Saree, announced in a statement on Wednesday that Yemeni air defense forces and their allies shot down a US-built General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (sometimes called Predator B) drone with a precision missile.
The statement added that the aircraft was struck as it was on a surveillance mission, noting that the domestically-developed missile which brought down the drone will be showcased during a press briefing in the near future.
Also on Friday, Saudi fighter jets bombarded an area in the Haydan district of the northern Yemeni province of Sa’ada. There were no immediate reports about possible casualties and the extent of damage caused.
Earlier in the day, Saudi warplanes had launched four airstrikes against a residential area in the Harf Sufyan district of Yemen's northwestern province of ‘Amran. No reports of fatalities were immediately available though.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing Ansarullah.
The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has accused Israeli surveillance companies of paving the way for attacks on media freedom around the world by easing rules governing the export of offensive cyber weapons, despite grave concerns by human rights and privacy groups that the technologies are used by some governments to spy on political foes and crush dissent.
The New York-based group, which seeks to promote press freedom and defends the rights of journalists, stated that Israeli officials had confirmed that, under a rule change by the ministry of military affairs a year ago, Israeli surveillance companies “are able to obtain exemptions on marketing license for the sale of some products to certain countries.”
The CPJ stated that Israeli-exported technology undermined press freedom globally by allowing authorities to track reporters and potentially identify their sources.
The group then highlighted that the Mexican government had deployed super-stealth Pegasus spyware, developed by Israeli cyberarms firm NSO Group, in order to infiltrate the mobile phones “of at least nine journalists.”
Back in early November 2018, former US National Security Agency contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden said Saudi Arabia might have used Pegasus to track prominent dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed after visiting the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul the previous month.
“Over and over again, we see Israeli technology facilitating press freedom abuses around the world, by lending a hand to governments that want to track and monitor reporters,” CPJ Advocacy Director, Courtney Radsch, said in Washington, D.C.
She added, “An unregulated surveillance industry is bad for press freedom. The Israeli government should heed the UN Special Rapporteur’s call to respect human rights in its export policies.”
The Israeli English-language Haaretz daily newspaper reported on November 26, 2018 that NSO representatives had offered Pegasus 3 technology to high-profile Saudi officials a year earlier.
The report, citing a complaint filed with the Israeli police by an unnamed European businessman, noted that Saudi officials included former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal and Nasser al-Qahtani, who presented himself as the deputy of the current intelligence chief.
The businessman insists that the Pegasus 3 affair began when he was contacted by an Israeli man dealing in cyber-defense technologies and identified only as W., who asked him to use his connections in the Persian Gulf states to help do business in the region.
During a series of meetings, Saudi officials presented a list of software they sought to obtain to hack into the phones of pro-democracy campaigners, Muslim preachers and intellectuals in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
In the summer of 2017, W. negotiated a deal to sell NSO's Pegasus 3 system to the Saudis for $55 million.
Despite an oral agreement with W., the European businessman says that the latter started ignoring his phone calls, when he asked for his 5-percent commission ($2.75 million). The businessman filed the complaint in April this year and has since been interrogated by the Israeli police's fraud department and contacted by income tax authorities.
Separately, WhatsApp, a unit of Facebook, admitted on May 14 that hackers had managed to use the security breach on its messaging app to target human rights activists.
Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, said WhatsApp had informed human rights groups that the spyware was likely developed by Israel's NSO. This was also confirmed by another person familiar with the matter.
Amnesty International later said the Israeli firm behind the security breach that targeted human rights activists using the WhatsApp messenger app must be held into account for its close ties with repressive regimes.
Israel has deployed a large number of forces to the site of an explosion near an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.
The explosion happened near the illegal Israeli settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah on Friday.
The military said at least three people had been wounded as a result of the blast, one of which is in a critical condition. The military said that the explosion was the result of a homemade bomb reportedly thrown from a passing car.
Israeli officials have also said that in a separate incident, a suspect riding a motorcycle threw an explosive device at a military checkpoint near the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.
No further details regarding the two incidents, and whether they could be related, have been released.
More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.
The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.
On July 31, Israeli officials approved the construction of 6,000 new settler units in the West Bank.
JERUSALEM: A rare homemade bomb attack in the occupied West Bank killed an Israeli teen and seriously wounded her father and brother Friday as they visited a spring near a Jewish settlement, officials said.
Israeli security forces deployed throughout the area where the attack took place near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, to search for suspects.
Israeli medics had earlier reported that a 17-year-old had been critically wounded in the attack and officials later announced her death, naming her as Rina Shnerb from the central Israeli city of Lod.
Medics from the Magen David Adom rescue service initially gave the ages of the two wounded as 46 and 20, before amending to 21 in the latter case.
The army said the three victims were a father and his two children.
The two wounded were taken by helicopter to hospital, the army said.
“Three civilians who were in a nearby spring were injured in an IED (improvised explosive device) blast,” it said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “harsh terrorist attack” and sent condolences to the family, while pledging to continue building settlements.
“The security arms are in pursuit after the abhorrent terrorists,” he said in a statement.
“We will apprehend them. The long arm of Israel reaches all those who seek our lives and will settle accounts with them.”
United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov condemned the “shocking, heinous” attack, saying there was nothing heroic in Shnerb’s “murder,” calling it a “despicable, cowardly act.”
“Terror must be unequivocally condemned by ALL,” Mladenov wrote on Twitter.
Israeli forces meanwhile entered the Palestinian village of Beitunia, south of the spring, to take footage from surveillance cameras.
An AFP reporter said Palestinians clashed there with Israeli soldiers, but no casualties were reported.
Chief of the army, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi visited the site of the attack to understand the incident and oversee the efforts to locate the perpetrators, which he was “confident” would happen quickly, the military said.
Later in the day, Shnerb was buried in her hometown Lod, with thousands participating in the funeral.
Shnerb’s father Eitan, who was wounded and couldn’t attend the funeral, relayed through an uncle his request that people focus on “our strength and love and the wonderful nation and our good land” and avoid sinking into “weakness and anger and strife.”
“We should be worthy of the great sacrifice we offered today,” Eitan Shnerb was cited by the uncle as saying.
In a speech on Friday, Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza, praised the attack but did not claim responsibility for it.
He referred to a recent clash between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers at the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem and sought to draw a link between the two incidents.
AFP reporters said thousands of Gazans participated in weekly Friday protests at the Israeli border fence, with some youths using slingshots to launch stones at the barrier and a few approaching it.
The health ministry in the enclave said over 122 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli forces, dozens of them hit by live fire.
Palestinians sporadically clash with Israeli settlers and security forces in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, but bomb blasts have been rare in recent years.
Palestinian attacks have mostly involved guns, knives and car ramming.
There have been concerns about a possible increase in violence in the run up to Israel’s September 17 general election.
A week ago, a Palestinian carried out a car-ramming attack in the West Bank, wounding two Israelis before being shot dead.
On August 8, an off-duty Israeli soldier’s body was found with multiple stab wounds. Two Palestinian suspects were later arrested.
Late Thursday, a Palestinian threw grenades at Israeli soldiers while attempting to cross the Gaza border and was shot by Israeli forces, leaving him wounded, the army and the Gaza health ministry said.
Gaza militants have also launched six missiles at Israel in the past week; the most recent were on Wednesday.
Even in the midst of Afghan peace talks, the Taliban still deny al Qaeda was behind 9/11
By Adam Taylor
The United States is in the midst of peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan that could lead to a deal to withdraw American troops from the country in return for the Taliban disavowing al Qaeda.
But in an interview this week, the Taliban’s top spokesperson claimed that al Qaeda was not the perpetrator of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 in the United States — the act of terrorism that prompted the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and sparked a conflict that has lasted almost two decades.
“It is not known who is behind that,” Suhail Shaheen told CBS News during an interview in Qatar, where talks with the United States are taking place. “If there is proof given to us, we are ready to try him.”
The denial of al Qaeda’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks has a long history in Afghanistan and across the political spectrum there, with conspiracy theories flourishing just as they have in much of the world.
These ideas are not limited to groups like the Taliban, which espouses a fundamentalist view of Islamism that shares similarities with al Qaeda’s worldview: during an interview with Al Jazeera in 2015, former U.S.-backed Afghan president Hamid Karzai said it was a “fact” that 9/11 had not been plotted in Afghanistan and suggested that al Qaeda was a “myth.”
However, Shaheen’s denial of al Qaeda’s involvement in the attacks comes at the start of renewed peace talks where the Taliban’s relationship with the group and its continued presence in Afghanistan are central. The United States has long demanded that the Taliban refuse to let al Qaeda operate in areas it controls, but found the group unwilling to fully cut ties with an old ally.
Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, moved to Afghanistan in 1996 as it came under the rule of the Taliban. Bin Laden, a wealthy founder of al Qaeda from Saudi Arabia, had previously fought in the Soviet-Afghan war in the previous decades along with the mujahideen fighters who would later form the Taliban.
Though Bin Laden initially distanced himself from 9/11 the attacks, in 2004 he released a video statement that claimed responsibility and suggested al Qaeda was motivated to strike the United States again. From the start, the Taliban’s own public statements on the attacks that targeted New York and Washington were similarly muddled.
In the years before September 2001, Taliban representatives had met with U.S. officials to discuss whether they could find an agreeable way to hand over Bin Laden, who had been wanted in connection with bombings against American interests in the Persian Gulf and Africa. Immediately after 9/11, the Taliban’s foreign minister denounced the attacks and said Afghanistan did not know who was behind them.
Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s leader, would go on to reject American demands to hand over Bin Laden, instead calling for evidence of bin Laden’s role in the attacks and suggesting the Taliban would only hand him over to a neutral third party.
“No. We cannot do that," Omar said during an interview with Voice of America in Sept. 2001 when asked if Afghanistan could hand over Bin Laden. "If we did, it means we are not Muslims... that Islam is finished.”
The Taliban continued to distance themselves from the attacks for years after U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, but would not condemn al Qaeda as the perpetrators. Even the death of Bin Laden in 2011 and Omar in 2013 did not end the ambiguous view of al Qaeda’s 9/11 role: as recently as this July, the Taliban released a video that blamed the 9/11 on the United States’ "interventionist policies and not our doing.”
Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has been almost totally overshadowed by other extremist groups. The Taliban emerged as a more structured insurgency after the invasion and a local affiliate of the Islamic State has gained strength and carried out deadly attacks in Kabul.
[The Islamic State is far from defeated. Here’s what you need to know about its affiliate in Afghanistan.]
But al Qaeda is not necessarily totally defeated. During an appearance at an event hosted by The Washington Post in December, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said the group and others like it could reconstitute and plan events like 9/11 again if the United States eased pressure.
With peace talks progressing, some key figures in Washington argue that the Taliban could not be trusted to control al Qaeda, even if they promised to.
“I hope President Trump and his team make sound and sustainable decisions about radical Islamist threats emanating from Afghanistan — the place where 9/11 originated,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement last week.
23 Aug 2019
The security forces conducted a series of airstrikes in northern Balkh province killing or wounding more than 70 Taliban militants.
The 209th Shaheen Corps said in a statement that the security forces conducted the airstrikes in various parts of Zari district.
The statement further added that the security forces used A-29 and MD-530F fighter planes to pound the Taliban positions.
Furthermore, the 209th Shaheen Corps said the airstrikes killed 66 Taliban militants including many of their commanders and wounded 6 others.
Muslims who fled from Myanmar and are living in the IDP camps in Bangladesh are going to wage a demonstration on 25 August for the two year anniversary of being displaced from their homes.
The UN estimated that about 700,000 Muslim people including Hindus fled to Bangladesh following the violent attacks in August 2017, at Maungdaw district in Arakan State.
They waging a demonstration because they want the Myanmar government to take accountability for the incident in 2017, said Mahmed Tar Hare, a leader of the Kutupalong IDP camp in Bangladesh.
“We have arranged to demonstrate to show that we never forget the incident in 2017 and want the government to bear responsibility for it,” Mahmed Tar Hare said.
Abul Tar Lawre , who was from Myo Thu Gyi village in Maungdaw Township and is now staying at an IDP camp, said that he wanted to let known the world what they had suffered.
“I will participate in the demonstration to let the world know what we suffered. We’d like the Myanmar government to take steps to ensure that it takes responsibility to remedy our losses,” Abul Tar Lare said.
U Zaw Htay, spokesperson of the President Office, said on 16 August that Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed to repatriate over 3000 Muslims, who fled from Myanmar to the neighboring country, as of 22 August.
He added that Myanmar could accept them at once if the Bangladeshi government sends them to Myanmar for resettlement.
The Bangladeshi government sent a list including over 20,000 names to Myanmar, the ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population verified the list and informed authorities in Dhaka 3450 of them are cleared for return, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.
Both countries have attempted to repatriate refugees since 2018, but no refugees have been returned home so far.
More than a hundred Hindus and some locals were killed during the violence occurred in August 2017, in Maungdaw region.
The Special Forces stormed the hideout of a key ISIS terrorist in Jalalabad city, the provincial capital of Nangarhar province.
The 201st Silab Corps said in a statement the National Directorate of Security (NDS) forces stormed the hideout of Abdul Basit, a key facilitator of ISIS terrorist group.
The statement further added that the NDS forces conducted the raid late on Thursday night in the 5th district of Jalalabad city.
Furthermore, the 201st Silab Corps said the NDS forces killed Abdul Basit who was involved in transferring suicide bombers and facilitating attacks.
UN: Myanmar Military Intended to Perpetrate Genocide Against Rohingya Muslims
By Margaret Besheer
UNITED NATIONS - A U.N. fact-finding mission has concluded that the Myanmar military intended to perpetrate genocide on ethnic Rohingya Muslims when it drove hundreds of thousands of them from the country in 2017.
The report, released Thursday, also said the government has failed to meet its responsibility under the Genocide Convention to investigate and punish acts of genocide.
"The human rights violations we have been asked to look into, the basic responsibility lies with the Tatmadaw," Radhika Coomaraswamy, an expert with the mission, said at the release of the report. The Tatmadaw is the Myanmar military.
More than 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar's northern Rakhine state in August and September 2017, after attacks by Rohingya militants against state security forces led to military reprisals. They continue to seek shelter in a refugee camp in neighboring Bangladesh.
The fact-finding mission focused on sexual and gender-based violence, which was widely reported by survivors who reached Bangladesh.
It concluded that the Tatmadaw indicated its "genocidal intent" against the Muslim minority group by "deliberately inflicting on the Rohingya women and girls conditions of life calculated to bring about the destruction of the Rohingya in whole or in part." This included the widespread and systematic murder and gang rape of females of reproductive age, mutilation of or injury to their reproductive organs, and attacks on pregnant women and babies.
"We found that. actually, it is basic to the Tatmadaw Ministry strategy — which is called the 'four cuts' strategy — which allows one to use force against the civilian population to intimidate and punish the civilian population as a tactic of war," Coomaraswamy said of the atrocities.
The report also said that such violence against civilians was only possible "in a climate of long-standing tolerance and impunity, where military personnel had no reasonable fear of punishment or disciplinary action."
The fact-finding mission, which was mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council, was not allowed into Myanmar. It interviewed 300 survivors and witnesses outside the country, who also included experts on sexual violence.
"Our general overarching recommendation is the need for security sector reform under civilian oversight of the Tatmadaw," Coomaraswamy said.
She said one aspect of the military's power is its independent economic interests.
"There are conglomerates, companies, run by the military, and a network of businesses — primarily local, but also international — that went into joint ventures and others with the Tatmadaw," she said. "We are not saying not to do business in Myanmar. We are just saying only with the Tatmadaw."
Coomaraswamy said there should be accountability, which she suggests could either be a hybrid court or the International Criminal Court.
"We don't really feel domestic remedies are possible in Myanmar," she said.
Meanwhile, efforts to start sending small groups of Rohingya home from Bangladesh are stalled.
The U.N. refugee agency has surveyed a group of 3,400 Rohingya refugees, whose names have been approved by the government for return, about whether they want to go back to Myanmar.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says a partial withdrawal of US troops from the country will not have a crucial impact on the lives of the Afghan people.
President Ghani told Afghanistan’s TOLOnews on Thursday that the withdrawal of some 5,000 troops from the country “will not bring basic changes in our lives.”
He said the remaining number of forces “will support our Air Force, our Commando Force, and other Defense and Security Forces and will help the Resolute Support to continue [its mission in Afghanistan].”
Currently, there are about 20,000 foreign troops, mostly American, in Afghanistan as part of a US-led mission to purportedly train, assist and advise Afghan forces.
Ghani further said he had called on US President Donald Trump in a letter seven months ago to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan.
“The number of troops has not been mentioned in the bilateral agreement [between Afghanistan and the US] and in multilateral agreement with NATO… Reduction or increase in the number of troops is conditions-based,” he said.
“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Ghani added.
It was reported that some 5,000 US troops will be withdrawn in 135 days from five bases in Afghanistan.
President Ghani said the bases are small and that they will be handed to the Afghan forces.
US, Taliban launch new round of talks in Doha
Ghani made the remarks as representatives from the US and the Taliban militant group resumed a new round of talks in Qatar’s capital city, Doha, on Thursday.
A senior US official said that American negotiator “Zalmay Khalilza will inform the top Afghan leaders about the peace deal and then finalize a declaration to end the war in Afghanistan.”
Ghani, however, said previously that peace was only possible with an agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
The Taliban, which now control or have influence in about half of Afghanistan’s territory, have held several rounds of direct talks with US officials in the Qatari capital since October. The militants say they do not recognize the government in Kabul.
The negotiations take place almost 18 years after the US military invaded Afghanistan to overthrow a ruling Taliban regime.
The exit of foreign troops from Afghanistan is a condition set by the Taliban to extend the talks.
The Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end following the US invasion of the country in 2001.
The Libyan National Army (LNA) – commanded by Chief Marshal Khalifa Haftar – accused Qatar again of becoming a base for terrorism in Libya.
LNA spokesman Ahmed Mesmari described Qatar as the base for terrorism in Libya and other countries that witnessed terrorist attacks.
During a press conference on Wednesday in Benghazi, Mesmari said that the battle of the army is huge because it counters terrorism and countries standing behind it.
Further, Head of Libya's Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj chaired a meeting in Tripoli on Wednesday to discuss the oil topic. During the meeting, which was attended by government officials, Sarraj was briefed on the battle updates.
The meeting also discussed security conditions in Murzuq, and tackling the issue of refugees there as well as aid delivery to them.
Moreover, UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame and Foreign Minister Carmelo Abela stressed during a meeting on Wednesday the necessity of resuming the political process as a sole solution for ending the Libyan crisis.
The UN mission revealed that the meeting tackled the latest developments in Libya and the UN efforts on immigration.
On the field, clashes renewed between the LNA and the Sarraj-pro forces in the area of Ramla near Tripoli International Airport where militias seek to open a route to restore control over the airport, cut supplies of the army, and besiege it through seizing Espiaa.
Sarraj forces revealed that they achieved military progress in Espiaa, that is some 40 km south of the capital.
"Our forces have won ground... and have successfully retaken important positions, including the air force academy," said Mustafa al-Mejii, a spokesman for forces loyal to GNA, told AFP.
However, LNA said that it foiled the attack, revealing indicators that the defense and military systems of militias and terrorist organizations have collapsed in the battle of Tripoli.
By Mohammed Omar Ahmed and David Herbling
Somalia’s southern state of Jubaland extended its leader’s rule by four years in an election that will have repercussions extending beyond a region that’s at the forefront of a battle against al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Mohamed Islam Madobe won 56 votes in the state parliament, while his closest rival, Anab Mohamed Dahir, secured 17, Speaker Sheikh Abdi Mohamed announced Thursday. Madobe has ruled the territory for six years and made some headway in a war with al-Shabaab, an extremist group that stages frequent attacks in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, and has struck nearby countries, including Kenya and Uganda.
The election in Jubaland was closely watched by a central government that’s seeking regional allies before next year’s national election and is struggling to firm up a federation of states that includes Jubaland, Puntland and Somaliland. The states and are jostling for more autonomy and control over oil, gas and other resources. Jubaland won some political autonomy in 2013.
The central government is wary of Madobe, who leads a powerful militia known as Ras Kamboni that’s previously fought alongside Kenyan troops against al-Shabaab to recapture a port in Kismayo city in 2012. Kenya invaded Somalia in 2011 after a spate of kidnappings by the militants in its territory, later joining a multi-national African Union peacekeeping force.
Jubaland was created with Kenya’s blessing, partly “as a buffer zone against al-Shabaab,” said Geoffrey Lugano, a political science lecturer at Kenyatta University in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. “It matters who wins the elections” because the actions its leadership takes against al-Shabaab will determine its strength going forward and whether thousands of Somalian refugees who fled to Kenya can return home, he said.
Madobe said his priorities will be to foster unity and ensure security.
Around the world, corruption poses a major threat, contributing to many of the crises that have plagued economies and democracies over the past decade. One aspect of corruption that receives too little attention is the link between corruption and the success of terrorism. Research has shown that high levels of corruption increase the number of terrorist attacks originating in a country. This impact has been felt in key battlegrounds against extremism, including Afghanistan, Nigeria, Iraq, and Kenya, at times derailing efforts to defeat terrorism.
To illustrate the ways in which corruption can impact and distort a counterterrorism campaign, we look to the case of Kenya, a key recipient of U.S. counterterrorism aid that suffers from severe corruption. Since 2006, Kenya has been a prime target of al-Shabab, an al-Qaida affiliate originating in Somalia. In the past several years, high-profile attacks including the 2013 Westgate shopping mall siege, the 2015 shooting at Garissa University College, and this January’s hotel bombing in Nairobi have galvanized the fight against al-Shabab. Yet, little progress has been made. Widespread corruption has rendered U.S.-funded Kenyan counterterrorism efforts ineffective, and efforts to combat corruption repeatedly fail. The recent high-profile arrest of Kenya’s finance minister, Henry Rotich, on corruption charges has spurned some hopes of a “new era” in the anti-corruption battle. However, this development, which some have questioned as political, leaves more pervasive, banal instances of corruption unaddressed. In the absence of reform, abusive security forces, kleptocratic officials, and lawless local governments all continue to contribute to the persistence and success of extremists, making it possible for al-Shabab to strike the heart of Kenya.
Corruption fuels terrorism by undermining counterterrorism measures and providing extremists with access, funding, and motivation. In Kenya, each of these factors can be seen at play. Kenya’s security and police forces — the country’s first line of defense against terrorism — are notoriously riddled with corruption, often rendering them ineffective against extremists. During the Westgate shopping mall attack, several Kenyan police officers looted the mall instead of fighting the gunmen. Kenyan security forces along the Somali border regularly take bribes in exchange for allowing illegal border crossings, meaning that al-Shabab operatives usually have unencumbered access into Kenya and back across to Somalia. Furthermore, officers in the Kenyan Defense Forces entrusted with fighting al-Shabab in Somalia have in the past instead collaborated with them to smuggle sugar over the border, allegedly resulting in at least $200 million in funding for al-Shabab. On other occasions, Kenyan police officers have been known to detain and extort money from innocent Somali Kenyans under the pretense of finding al-Shabab sympathizers. These abuses contribute to the perception that Somali Kenyans are being discriminated against and generate motivation (at least in part) for jihadis to join the cause in Kenya.
Corruption within security forces is the most direct way in which corruption links to terrorism, but it is hardly the only one. In Kenya, high-level abuses encourage similar practices in other parts of the public sector. As John Githongo, a former presidential advisor on corruption who was called an “anti-corruption czar” by the Kenyan media, put it, “Grand theft by the country’s ruling elite has allowed an attitude of ‘if he can do it so can I’ to permeate the country’s lower ranking security apparatus… We are paying the price in blood.” Kenya loses an estimated one-third of its budget to kleptocratic officials each year, a level of theft that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has admitted poses a threat to national security by leaving the nation without enough money to adequately fund its security forces. At the local level, government services are too often entangled with bribery and extortion, further contributing to the lawlessness and poverty that make some Kenyans susceptible to al-Shabab recruitment. Kenya’s northeastern counties, which are the prime location for al-Shabab recruiters, rank among the most corrupt in Kenya.
Despite the links between corruption and al-Shabab’s success, anti-corruption measures have not featured prominently in Kenya’s counterterrorism campaigns. In 2016, President Kenyatta released a revamped National Strategy for Countering Violent Extremism in 2016, but neglected to mention the role of corruption in fostering terrorism, a failing pointed out by the Kenyan research center CHRIPS. More recently, Kenyatta began a new initiative involving individualized county action plans, modeled after existing programs created in Mombasa and Kwale County. But the Mombasa and Kwale plans — put forth as a model for others to follow — barely mention the word “corruption.”
The issue of corruption does get attention in Kenya outside the framework of counterterrorism, but this focus falls short when it comes to tangible actions. Githongo’s attempts to expose and eliminate corruption in the government led to threats on his life and exile in the United Kingdom. Between 2010 and 2018, Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority only managed to convict three officers, despite receiving over 10,000 complaints. Across the board, the current administration’s anti-corruption efforts have been widely criticized. At one point, Kenyatta called upon youth to “arrest” the corrupt and take them to the police, ignoring the fact that the police themselves are among the most corrupt in the country. In another announcement, the president declared that top officials would be subjected to lie detector tests, a plan that was swiftly criticized given the unreliability of the machines. More recently, there has been some progress, with a handful of senior officials, including Rotich, being arrested and removed from office following corruption allegations. However, many see these arrests as a political maneuver rather than a genuine anti-corruption campaign, and it is not clear that they will result in convictions.
ADDIS ABABA, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, on Thursday condemned a recent terrorist attack that targeted a military base in Burkina Faso that left at least 24 soldiers dead.
Terrorists on Monday attacked a military base in northern Burkina Faso, killing at least 24 soldiers while injuring a dozen others.
"The Chairperson condemns, in the strongest terms possible, the heinous terrorist attack on August 19 on a military base in Koutougou in the north of Burkina Faso that left at least 24 soldiers dead and others wounded," an AU statement issued on Thursday read.
He reiterated the AU's solidarity with the government and people of Burkina Faso "in their efforts in preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism in all their manifestations in the country."
He further reaffirmed the pan African bloc's "strong rejection of all acts of terrorism and violent extremism and stresses the need for enhanced cooperation among the countries of the region and their security services to prevent and counter-terrorism and violent extremism."
Tunisian authorities have arrested a controversial presidential candidate and founder of a major private television channel, Nabil Karoui, his political party said on Friday.
“About 15 police cars blocked the road and rushed to Nabil Karoui’s car before armed civilian police asked him to come with them, saying they had instructions to arrest him,” said Oussama Khlifi of the mogul’s Qalb Tounes party.
Private radio station Mosaique FM quoted a judicial official confirming that an arrest warrant had been issued against Karoui and his brother Ghazi for money laundering.
Authorities did not immediately confirm his arrest.
The tycoon was charged with money laundering in early July shortly after stating his intention to stand in the September 15 polls, but has remained a leading candidate.
His apparent arrest came the same day as electoral and media authorities announced they had banned three local outlets, including his popular Nessma TV, from reporting on the presidential election campaign, after they had broadcast “illegally” without licenses.
Karoui has been accused by regulators and some politicians of using Nessma to bolster his political ambitions.
The station, launched in 2007, has played up his charity work with footage of him handing out food and clothing.
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.
The polls were brought forward from November, following Essebsi’s death last month.
New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism